Saturday, July 31, 2010

schroder weighs in

Carla Schroder expressed many of the same thoughts I've had about the constant flaming that goes on concerning Canonical and Ubuntu in today's piece, "Ubuntu: the Bad, Selfish Linux," where she discusses Greg DeKoenigsberg's "Red Hat 16%, Canonical 1%." Says Schroder:

"I do know that it takes much more than code to make Linux successful: marketing, user interface design, attracting new users, documentation, partnering with Tier 1 and independent vendors, turning users into contributors, getting Linux more into the mainstream, and much more. Isn't it funny how all these years many Linux fans have been wishing for someone to come along and do all these things? And here they are, and what happens? Flames."

Thank you.


I may get flamed for this, but...

Once again, I was struck more by the similarities between Ubuntu and Debian than by their differences -- here staying away from any philosophical differences and trying to concentrate on my impressions as a user:

- My installation notes for Lucid and Squeeze had many of the same steps (the installers looked quite similar), except my Squeeze notes ran a lot longer.

- In both cases I had to install from an installation CD that was not a live CD -- in Ubuntu's case, because they won't release a live CD that doesn't overwrite the MBR; in Debian's case, because they apparently don't believe that a live CD is a good idea.

- Both installations took significantly longer than a Mepis or Mint install, even though Lucid's was much easier than Squeeze's. Seems kinda pointless because whatever the distro, I'm still trying to end up at pretty much the same place. Why not strive to make it simpler and quicker?

- Both left me chasing down a few bugs before I got the systems to a point where I was relatively happy with things. In Squeeze's defense, it's not the "stable" release; and Ubuntu's release cycle prohibits a "stable" release.

- Debian edges ahead because of the system's overall quality, but I didn't think that Lucid was lacking in that department. Ubuntu edges ahead because they have more of the packages, and more of the up-to-date packages, that I think should be available from the start. Ubuntu is a bit better for the non-geek user, but still requires some technical know-how.

- The default for each one is GNOME, and both of them use the standard top and bottom panel set-up (unlike Mint, which uses only the bottom panel in its GNOME releases). Both use the same main menu set-up, or very close to the same one.

- Both seem to boot up very quickly.

- For both, there's a large amount of info out there to refer to when problems arise. The info in the documentation and in the forums is tremendous in each case.

- Each one has what I think is a great spin-off (Mepis and Mint) riding its coat-tails -- but Ubuntu is, of course, doing the same thing!

- And both will likely end up being solid systems to boot into here for a few years to come, although each will likely end up getting a bit long-in-the-tooth towards the end of its life as the respective devs focus more and more on future projects.

- And they're both great Linux distro, in my opinion.


Back to Debian! I added Debian Squeeze to my multi-boot set-up.

This wasn't the first time I've installed Debian -- I had great runs with Etch and Lenny -- but after recently going through quick, easy installations of Ubuntu Lucid and Mint Isadora, I was a bit put off by the long, involved Debian installation process.

Also, I had a few problems with it once it was installed. I guess you can't count on everything being set up perfectly for you out-of-the-box when you're talking about Debian.

Probably the biggest problem I had was that although I'm using the GNOME version, as usual I installed a few KDE apps, like Dolphin, Konqueror, and Krusader. I found that I was unable to get root access with those file browsers. kdesu wasn't working. Apparently, this is a KDE4 issue.

Fortunately, I found a fix at the Debian User Forums. It was simply a matter of running the following command, as root:

ln -s /usr/lib/kde4/libexec/kdesu /usr/bin/kdesu

After that, getting root access via the KDE file browsers was no problem.

I'm a bit aggravated that I can't find a decent automatic wallpaper changer that will work in Squeeze's GNOME. The available ones I've tried won't let me add a directory as the source; I'd have to add photo files one-by-one. That doesn't work for me. My favorites to use in GNOME, wallpaper-tray and Wally, are not available in the Squeeze repos. I think Wally might be there when Squeeze goes into "stable." If not, at that time I may be able to get wallpaper-tray through backports. Or maybe by then I'll have found another solution.

Once installed and set up, there might not be a better distro out there than Debian. I hated going through the installation process, but I'm glad I've gotten things squared away. Looks like an excellent release! Another distro that will probably be sitting on my computer for a few years!

Friday, July 30, 2010

shuttleworth on tribalism

Mark Shuttleworth says it all in "Tribalism is the enemy within."

I've been feeling much the same way for years.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I found Dedoimedo's grub2 tutorial to be very helpful in setting things up in my multi-boot set up, but by now there's plenty of other helpful info out there about grub2. Ubuntu users might want to check out the Ubuntu wiki's "Grub 2" article; for an updated version of that, see the "Grub2" article in Ubuntu's Community Documentation.


I added Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) to my multi-boot set-up.

I had to download the alternate cd .iso because the main version overwrites the MBR upon installation, and I wanted to continue using Mepis 8's grub to boot all of my distros instead of Lucid's grub2.

I think I've fallen in love with Lucid. I seem to prefer the Ubuntu menu set-up over Mints fine main menu. Lucid took a bit longer than Linux Mint Isadora to install and perhaps to set up, but I think it's worth the extra effort (total installation time for Lucid was about half an hour here).

The "window-buttons-on-the-left" controversy? Not an issue here. In fact, I think that I prefer having them on the left.

After playing around in GNOME for about a day, I decided to add LXDE in Lucid. That worked out well, so I went ahead and set up Openbox (which LXDE brings in). Using Openbox right now. I'm using fbpanel with it.
Just to be consistent, I moved the window buttons in LXDE and in Openbox over to the left.

Wonderful experience! Both Isadora and Lucid look very nice, but I think that I'll be using Lucid more than Isadora. I'm considering adding Fluxbox to Isadora (I normally use Xfce in Mepis).

So, right now, I have Mepis 8 and Mint 5 (Elyssa) on my 1st hard drive, and Mint 9 (Isadora) and Ubuntu Lucid on my second drive. I think that when Debian Squeeze moves to "stable" I'll end up having Mepis 10 (or whatever it will be called) and Debian Squeeze on the 1st drive and Isadora and Lucid on the second. If so, all four distros could remain in place for a few years; and, I'd still have room to tinker with another distro or two (Crunchbang, maybe? Pardus?) if I get bored and have time.

My Openbox menu, showing the Openbox menu (accessed from the desktop):

Thursday, July 22, 2010

chromium, finally!

I've had the open Chromium browser instead in Mepis 8 for awhile now. In fact, I have two builds installed there.

One came from the Mepis Community repos. It's an older build, and there hasn't been an update available for it in quite some time.

But I was really looking forward to the day when I'd be able to install Chromium from Linux repos. Google Chrome was already available in Mepis 8 via Synaptic, and so I've been using that -- and it's a very nice web browser. But Google Chrome, which is not open source, is based on Chromium, which is. I'll use proprietary software, but if the open source counterpart is equal or close to being equal, I'll usually choose that instead.

Well, after I installed Linux Mint 9 (Isadora), I realized that Chromium is available in the Lucid repos. Yay! Downloaded and installed it today.

So, I won't be bothering with Google Chrome in Mint Isadora. (Chrome isn't available in the Lucid repos, but it can still be downloaded from the Google Chrome website.) In Isadora, I'll be sticking with two open source browsers (Firefox and Chromium) as my primary browsers -- I know that sounds hypocritical since I do use Linux Mint, which makes use of proprietary software, but that's okay. I really don't care how it sounds.

In Mepis 8, the latest build of google-chrome-unstable looks quite nice. I think it's better than what I've seen of google-chrome-stable. They've added a few new menu options. But what I was most happy about was that google-chrome-unstable finally has up/down arrows on the scroll bars. I think that the Windows versions of Google Chrome have had them all along, but the Linux versions have been missing them. (Last time I looked, they were still not in google-chrome-stable.)

In the Chromium build that I installed in Mint 9 today (Chromium 5.0.375.99 [51029], built on Ubuntu 10.04), the up/down arrows on the scroll bars are not yet implemented, unfortunately. But I can live with that. Hopefully it'll happen soon.

I've got no other complaints about it. I installed three extensions: Adthwart, Xmarks, and Forecastfox Weather. All three appear to be working fine.

I'll be glad when I can install Chromium directly from the repos in every Linux distro I'm running. I see that Chromium is available in Debian sid (unstable), so perhaps it won't be long before it's in testing, at worst. I'm hoping to be able to install it from the Debian repos in the upcoming Mepis 10 (if that's what the next Mepis release will be called), even if I have to open up the testing repos temporarily to get it.

Linux Mint 9 (Isadora)

I finally got around to installing Linux Mint 9 (Isadora), and then I went back and looked over the Dedoimedo review of it that I'd mentioned earlier ("dedoimedo review of mint isadora").

Dedoimedo didn't encounter many problems with Isadora, and I didn't, either. Installing and setting up the main (GNOME) version of Isadora went pretty much without a hitch.

Dedoimedo said, "The bottom panel lacked several important applets, including the workspace switcher and the window list." When I installed Isadora, I had to add a workspace switcher. I think I had to add a window list, too, but I can't quite recall. In any case, he's right, both of those things probably should have been there and working from the start.

He said, "The download of language packs was very slow and it took almost 40 minutes to complete. Skipping it seemed like the best idea, but I did not want to do this." Bad internet connection? I did think that the downloading of language packs seemed to take a while, but from the time I clicked on the "Install Linux Mint" icon to the time I was ready to boot into Isadora, the total installation time here was 11 minutes!

In the end (post-installation), he said, "No problem with the panel applets." True, but I did encounter a problem with the panel that's been bugging me about GNOME panels for a few years now. When the panel is not fully expanded (the default is a to have it fully expanded across the bottom of the window), the panel icons, applets, whatever you want to call them, don't stay put when you start a new session. I had to go through and make sure each item was locked to the panel to keep them in place for when I start new sessions.

My problems with Isadora all centered around KDE apps that I later added to the the main (GNOME) version. That's something that Dedoimedo didn't touch on, and perhaps it's not a fair thing to even mention in a review of of a GNOME distro.

I use Synaptic to install software in Mint instead of the Mint tools that are provided. I don't know if this affects things, but I don't think it should.

Anyway, I installed Krusader and Konqueror. Konqueror brought in Dolphin. I also installed Amarok. In addition, I installed a handful of other KDE apps, but no problems with those, so let me discuss Krusader, Konqueror, Dolphin, and Amarok.

At first, I could not get Krusader, Konqueror, or Dolphin to work. After looking at the error messages and doing a few searches around the internet, I found that the ownership of my ~/.kde directory was set to root instead of to me, the user. I finally fixed this with the following command:

$ sudo chown -R steve:steve /home/steve/.kde

That command changes the ownership and group of ~/.kde to "steve," recursively.

I had to run a similar command to do the same thing for the ~/.ICEauthority directory.

As for Amarok, I couldn't get it to build a collection, even though it seemed to scan my music directories fine. Amarok also wouldn't shut down properly, and it didn't play .mp3 files out of the box (although Rhythmbox did, which is curious!) (in fact, I should mention that I've had no problems at all with Rhythmbox).

I fixed the first problem by adding the Kubuntu PPA with the following command, and then upgrading to the latest Amarok version there:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports

After doing that, no problem building a collection, and no problems with shutting Amarok down.

For .mp3 files, I had to go to Synaptic and install the libxine1-ffmpeg package. Problem solved.

This was my first time dealing with grub2. I am using Mepis 8's grub-legacy to boot my distros, but Mint Isadora comes with grub2. I referred to Dedoimedo's excellent grub2 tutorial for help on this. I simply edited Mepis 8's /boot/grub/menu.lst, adding the following lines:

title Mint 9 (Isadora) at sdb1
root (hd1,0)
kernel /boot/grub/core.img

Then, when I installed Isadora, I installed it's grub2 to /root (you have to use the "Advanced" option when setting up the bootloader installation). This allowed me to boot Isadora (whose / partition sits on my 2nd hard drive, 1st partition).

Not much else to report. I went to the Mozilla site and downloaded Firefox, preferring to go that route instead of using the Firefox that's provided by the distro, but that's my normal approach. Everything else I've done so far involves tweaking the desktop and system and installing applications. Basic stuff, and no real problems.

Overall, Isadora is another nice Mint version. Since it's an LTS version, I'm looking forward to a few years of happily using Mint Isadora!

Friday, July 2, 2010

dedoimedo review of mint isadora

I mentioned this review to the folks at the Mint forums:
Predictably, it was received at those forums with a good amount of hostility.

Dedoimedo has, in the past, delivered some glowing reviews of Mint releases. Isadora apparently didn't live up to his expectations, but actually the review wasn't all that bad.

Dedoimedo is a member of the Ubuntu forums. I think he knows his stuff. I enjoy his reviews; he gives it a lot of effort and goes into detail. I think Dedoimedo does a pretty good job compared to a lot of reviewers. But just about every review I've seen amounts to a quick glance; to really get a feel for things, I need to see a distro in action for at least a few months.

Some other reviews by Dedoimedo:

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx

Linux Mint 6.0 Felicia

Linux Mint 8 Helena

Mepis 8.0

Debian 5.03 Lenny

Check out Dedoimedo's "Computer software & security" page for tutorials, guides, and Linux reviews.