Thursday, October 19, 2017

grml live

You won't find Grml in the top 100 of DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking, but this distro has been around since 2004. Based on Debian Testing, Grml can be run live from a flash drive and ships with loads of system administration tools. It comes with the Fluxbox window manager rather than a full-featured desktop environment, and you'll get mc and nano instead of a fancy GUI file manager and text editor, but Firefox ESR is included.

I downloaded the grml64-full_2017.05 iso (the download was only about 600 MB), used dd to put it on a flash drive, and booted up, with no problems. Not much to the default setup:

Here's a shot with the right-click desktop menu opened up:

Here, running Firefox, mc, and xterm:

For a list of included packages, see:

For more info, check out the Grml website:
Grml at DistroWatch:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I have a Compaq Presario CQ57 notebook that doesn't seem to play nicely with any 64-bit Linux installation I try on it. This old notebook has only 2 GB RAM, so I thought maybe it would work better with a 32-bit system.

To test this, I downloaded the 32-bit version of the latest BunsenLabs release, codenamed "Deuterium" (bl-Deuterium-i386_20170429.iso). The Jessie-based Deuterium is the same release that good ol' Dedoimedo ripped to shreds in this review.

Here's a shot from the live session, with the desktop right-click menu opened up:

And here's what the fresh installation looked like:

Doing the installation was a breeze, and Deuterium performed like a champ on this hardware, My intent was to keep just about everything at the defaults, but I've been having so much fun playing around with BunsenLabs and Openbox that I couldn't help but tweak a few things and customize the desktop a little more to my tastes:

I think that BunsenLabs is a great little distro, and I'm anxiously awaiting the Stretch-based release (codename: "Helium"). For another reviewer's take on this distro, see:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

the reality, the mythology

"Kaepernick took it to the next level by pitting the reality of American racism against the mythology of American patriotism."

-- Gary Younge, in "Remember this about Donald Trump. He knows the depths of American bigotry", over at The Guardian.

Monday, September 25, 2017


I switched to using Double Commander as my full-time file manager about six months ago (see: "'go-to' file manager?"), after SpaceFM development ceased.

A few weeks back, I was reading about so-called "Othodox File Managers" (see: and decided that taking the time to really learn to use something like Midnight Commander would provide me with tools to work more effectively with any Norton-style, orthodox file manager.

Learning to use Midnight Commander did help me to use Double Commander better; but, at the same time, after a while I became hooked, and now "mc" is my "new" full-time file manager.

Here, I have Midnight Commander running on a second tab in Terminator, in GNOME 3 (in Debian Stretch):

There are lots of online tutorials and so forth to help get someone started with Midnight Commander, but the manual page that comes with Midnight Commander helped me more than anything else; just type man mc at the command line.

Midnight Commander also comes with a Help document, which appears to contain pretty much the same info as the man page, but is easier to navigate. It's accessible with F1 if the terminal has function key support. Otherwise, press Esc and then 1 to open the Help document, or simply click on the Help button at the bottom-left corner of the window.

Once in the main help screen, it's important to press Enter "to learn more on how to use the interactive help facility." The full key list of the help viewer is shown here:

I studied the documentation, took some notes, got in some practice, and stuck with it for several days. After that, I felt so comfortable with Midnight Commander that I couldn't see any reason to go back to using Double Commander or any other file manager. OFM, FTW.

web standards

Opinion piece by Jesse Smith in the September 25, 2017 issue of DistroWatch Weekly: "The W3C, encrypted media and software freedom"

In conclusion, Smith writes:

At this point it looks like people who value software freedom and an open web have just three options remaining. The first is to file a complaint with the W3C and ask them to reverse their decision. The appeal against baking DRM into the web failed, but perhaps enough protesters can get a vote to repeal the new web standard.

A second option is to boycott web browsers which implement the new, non-free standard. If Safari, Chromium and other mainstream browsers implement non-free code, we should avoid them and promote free software browsers which do not include non-free blobs by default. We can also petition distributions to patch out the non-free parts of otherwise open web browsers. If Firefox includes a non-free decryption module Linux distributions should remove it as part of their build process.

Finally, we should support organizations, such as the EFF, who are actively fighting in favour of software freedom and an open Internet. We should also avoid using websites which provide DRM-protected media. DRM is not good for anyone - it causes more hassles for the user, does not successfully block content piracy and it now introduces security risks for all of us - it should be avoided as much as possible.

Re: that second option, check out what the Pale Moon folks wrote at their Pale Moon Survery 2017 page:

DRM: We're aware that in-browser DRM is being pushed pretty hard by several big players (who, not-so-coincidentally, are also involved in editing and publishing the very HTML specifications that make this possible in-browser) and our approach is that "black-box" DRM content decoding modules have no place in an Open Source browser. It is even debatable whether DRM actually does anything to combat what it is supposed to be designed for.
In light of this, and also following the results from this survey, we remain firm in that, out of principle as well as our users' desire, we will keep the browser completely free of DRM. People who have commented that this approach was (one of) the main reason(s) to choose Pale Moon as their browser can rest easy in the knowledge that it will not find its way into this browser.

Pale Moon is my primary web browser, so I was happy to read that.

reid's op-ed

Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee

Thursday, August 31, 2017

dist-upgrade, full-upgrade

From what I can determine, these two commands do the same thing:

# apt-get dist-upgrade

# apt full-upgrade

The following appears to work the same as the above commands as well, although the option is not explicitly defined in man apt:

# apt dist-upgrade

This is because most (if not all) apt-get commands can also be used as apt commands.

From man apt-get:

           upgrade is used to install the newest versions of all packages currently
           installed on the system from the sources enumerated in
           /etc/apt/sources.list. Packages currently installed with new versions
           available are retrieved and upgraded; under no circumstances are currently
           installed packages removed, or packages not already installed retrieved and
           installed. New versions of currently installed packages that cannot be
           upgraded without changing the install status of another package will be left
           at their current version. An update must be performed first so that apt-get
           knows that new versions of packages are available.

           dist-upgrade in addition to performing the function of upgrade, also
           intelligently handles changing dependencies with new versions of packages;
           apt-get has a "smart" conflict resolution system, and it will attempt to
           upgrade the most important packages at the expense of less important ones if
           necessary. The dist-upgrade command may therefore remove some packages. The
           /etc/apt/sources.list file contains a list of locations from which to
           retrieve desired package files. See also apt_preferences(5) for a mechanism
           for overriding the general settings for individual packages.

From man apt:

       upgrade (apt-get(8))
           upgrade is used to install available upgrades of all packages currently
           installed on the system from the sources configured via sources.list(5). New
           packages will be installed if required to satisfy dependencies, but existing
           packages will never be removed. If an upgrade for a package requires the
           remove of an installed package the upgrade for this package isn't performed.

       full-upgrade (apt-get(8))
           full-upgrade performs the function of upgrade but will remove currently
           installed packages if this is needed to upgrade the system as a whole.