Saturday, 28 November 2009

Friend of Fedora

A few weeks ago, I would have called you insane for suggesting I'd be using RPM packages, let alone saying that Ubuntu had fallen from graces entirely.

I never thought I'd say it, but damn, RPM is a lot simpler to use than DEB.
I do miss apt-get for terminal commands, and on my laptop's newly installed Fedora, I tried apt-rpm. It's painfully slow in comparison to it's DEB counterpart, and after investigating the DistroWatch website's page on package management, yum has neatly taken over from it.
I like yum. While it's still not familiar to me, it's working on it quite well. I like the layout it uses, and how it does things.
Synaptic isn't used, mainly because it requires apt-rpm, and is therefore considerably slow. I haven't found graphical package manager I like for RPM yet.

Since using Fedora, I've discovered only a few small niggles.
First up Ndiswrapper. Irritatingly, I have a wireless PCMCIA card that has no native alternative. More irritating is that I'm going to have to compile ndiswrapper myself in order to make it work. This isn't exactly something I like the idea of.
Second. The touchpad no longer detects taps for clicking. True, I used the buttons underneath it for left clicking instead, but I did still use it.
Third. On boot up (which is a little longer than Karmic) the screen flashes repeatedly, in a way that people shouldn't look at, until it reaches GDM.
I'd rather it didn't do that, but I think it's just because it's an old laptop.

All that said... first impressions, and using it alongside Ubuntu Karmic on the desktop PC still running it... I'm impressed.
The menus are cleaner and tidier, the games menu I installed an RPM that divides them all into neat categories, installing and uninstalling (yum erase (package), a recently learned command for me) has become relatively easy, and a lot quicker. Adding a new repository seems to be the simple act of installing an RPM that automatically gets the GPG signing key for it.
Beyond the problems, there is little negative to be said about it.
For now, the ex-swap space that Karmic used to use is still an ext3 data partition, because I'm not entirely sure if this is the right distro yet. If I can finally sort out Ndiswrapper, then it'll most likely be put back to swap as normal, which should give a significant boost to the performance.

So the summary? Fedora is neatly winning me over, and Karmic is slowly slipping out of favor. Ubuntu and it's derivative, Linux Mint, may well be good for people new to Linux, but I'm not so new to it anymore. Maybe it's about time I moved on from it to a new distro instead.
And Fedora looks set to be that new one, once the last major issues I have are solved.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Slacking off? Not here

I've been a little busy lately.
I've been looking at replacing Ubuntu Karmic on my ailing laptop.
I've been looking at Slax, Slackware and Fedora.

And I'm looking, to the left of this very screen I'm typing this on, at Fedora 12 installing on my laptop.

Now, considering my laptop has no CD/DVD/Floppy drive, has no working USB, and Karmic taking up all of the Hard drive except for the Swap, this is no mean feat.

The Swap space was taken from Karmic permanently, and changed to an ext3 partition. It was first fed the contents of a custom Slax LiveCD, and (Eventually, with help) booted from.
Slax is not for me.
So I decided to look at the base of Slax, Slackware.
Oh god.
How many different versions? Debian first confused me, until I understood about architectures, but Slackware takes it to another level.

So I gave up, and went looking for Fedora.
Now, my (ex-)Swap partition isn't spacey. It's only just a shade above that required for a LiveCD alone.
So I followed the instructions for a media-less install, and told it where to go to retrieve a file called 'install.img'
And now, thanks to the wonders of a single ethernet cable, my router, and the internet, I have Anaconda, the Fedora installer, sat looking at me as I customize the repositories, and the starting packages - something that Ubuntu doesn't do, and by gods, it needs to do.

Fedora, congratulations. Once you've finished being installed on my laptop, you have a convert in me.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to use yum, RPM packages, and see if I can get good old Synaptic back...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Cloud Storage: Ubuntu One VS Dropbox

Until recently, the only thing I'd ever used cloud-based storage for was the Xmarks extension for Firefox (And other browsers, but I do wish they'd support Opera already), which handily backs up all my bookmarks, and then no matter where I go, I can access them. Lost bookmarks are a thing of the past.
On a side topic, I also recently signed up for, and got into the Xmarks for Chrome (And Chromium) beta. So far, it's good. Chalk up one more in favor of my using Opera.

But to the point, that was all I'd used it for. With some issues still plaguing my old laptop, and moving around computers meaning I'm often away from where I've put this file, or those documents, I decided to finally look into them.

Ubuntu One was my first target. It's free, it's integrated into Ubuntu, and it looks pretty good.
What was the downside for me? I couldn't get it to synchronize on demand. If I added something to my local folder, I had to log out and back in again to get it to happen.
Also, there's no way of telling who's logged into it - my laptop logged me right in, without asking me for a user name or a password, and provided me with a Ubuntu One folder - but my laptop's and my home's main desktop PC seem to be using two different accounts.

After a little frustration, I moved to Dropbox.
Dropbox is what every app should be - clean, simple and to the point. I enabled the software repository for Karmic via Ubuntu Tweak, but that wasn't essential as they tell you how to do it on-site as well.
I installed it, logged out and back in, because it has to integrate with Nautilus, and since the GNOME desktop is basically an embedded Nautilus, that's the safest option.
Run it from the menu, and it lets you know you have to use their proprietary daemon. After verifying this wasn't going to cost me anything, I let it go ahead and download it.
Now, this download took a while, so I can only assume it's a fairly large one. But the clean and simple dialog allowed me to keep watch, a definate plus, though I would have liked to know where it was downloading to.

Finally, I registered on the site, went through the tour (Because it nabs you +25MB of storage space) and all was done.
Added my laptop as well, and now it syncs whenever there's a change - even when both computers are running Dropbox and both logged in at the same time.
It's also impressively quick at it too.

Ubuntu One needs work, but to my knowledge, it is a beta, so that's understandable. Dropbox, which is also in a testing state really, is still superior to it for now, and thankfully, it works on all three major OS. Or so it claims, I've yet to actually use it on Windows, and I don't even know anyone who owns a Mac.

Ubuntu One vs Dropbox? Dropbox wins me over, no contest.
But, if you're thinking of trying either - take my advice and try it yourself - you may find Ubuntu One does better for you.

Calling all Linux users

Please note that this does not apply to every Linux user.
But it seems to be applicable to an increasing number. So here it is.

Stop being jerks. Stop being arrogant, and stop being so blind.

I asked you simple questions, and both times you provided useless answers.
I asked you to help me understand cross-compiling Windows builds of OpenTTD on Linux, and you told me to download the Windows binaries, instead of answering the question.
I asked you if you could help me identify what I needed to help get a little extra life out of my old laptop, and you ignored me and just told me to get a new laptop, something I cannot do right now.

Read this, and learn the next bit.

If someone asks you a question, answer it. Don't give them a solution that doesn't answer the question, like telling them to download a Windows binary that can't be patched because it's not in source form.
If someone is asking a hardware question, answer it. Don't just tell them to get something else, UNLESS it also answers their question.

So stop being arrogant, self-centered, blinded, hateful jerks, and either help, or shut up.

I'm fed up of you being useless. I'm fed up of being given non-solutions. And I'm in one of my rare incurably bad moods because of it. So learn, damn you.

Anyone who's read my threads on the Linux Questions site regarding the two examples above won't find it hard to see the source of my irritation.

I'm not going to twitter about this post, because I'm not proud of it, and I'm just as annoyed about it as they should be at being such jerks. It's a relief outlet for me, and I'll probably remove it later when I realize that I'm not being any better than them by doing this, but I don't really care right now.

Either help, or leave me alone.
Rock out.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Broadband for all

Have a read of this page, then come back here and carry on reading.

Neat, huh?
What's taken them so long? And why doesn't the rest of the world have this right yet?
We should. Any child of the net-generation would agree with that.

And speaking of net-children, it's interesting to notice that while about a year ago, I ignored and eschewed twitter altogether... now it's become useful, and a part of my daily life.
True, I rarely tweet, and have only re-tweeted once, but it's a handy tool for following people and sites you want to keep up with.
So, with that, if you follow me on Twitter (Look for TheStarLion, that's me) you'll get a tweet from me whenever I make a new blog entry.
And that's about all I'll tweet, really. Except the odd one like about that page.
Twitter is good. I'll give it that.
But I think it's more useful to find out what sites are doing, and when your favorite blogger/webcomic artist/whatever updates their site, than to tell everyone your every move.

Monday, 16 November 2009


As usual, my updates aren't exactly regular. I'm working on that, but as long as people don't mind that if there's nothing to mention, I don't have much reason to post, then that's alright.


As some people may be aware, Ubuntu Karmic has recently left a bit of a bad taste for me. While I'll grant that it's slowly improving - and if what I've read through StumbleUpon (An annoyingly addictive addon for Firefox... and other browsers too, of course) is any indication, then they're doing a first, and putting together SP1 - though, most won't notice it as it'll come with their regularly scheduled updates, and so on.
I'll be looking forward to that, since so far, I still have some issued with Karmic, such as that GNOME no longer works at all on my now revived laptop (Interestinly, XFCE works perfectly... but isn't it also technically GNOME?), or the odd issue that sound randomly mutes itself.

But that's become practically normal for now. I'm looking into changing though.
So far, I've had all kinds of suggestions, but with the assistence of the DistroWatch and Polish Linux websites, along with numerous other sources, I've narrowed it down to 4 or 5. I say or 5 because there may well be one more.
That one is Gentoo. The prospect of compiling everything and tinkering with the code along the way is intriguing, but I suspect my meagre knowledge of Linux isn't quite ready for that just yet. So it's only a possible.
The other four are Fedora, Arch, Slackware and Slax. I understand Slax is a varient of Slackware, like Ubuntu is to Debian perhaps.
With the exception of Arch/Gentoo, all of these use my previously detested enemy, RPM.
However... it appears my fears were ungrounded on that (I really should read up more about these things *before* I decide I don't like them...)
Firstly, it appears that apt-rpm and Synaptic are indeed available in some form even to RPM users, they're not just a couple of DEB packages.
Secondly, it seems like yum, the RPM version of DEB's apt-get, does indeed resolve dependencies, from what I see, fairly well too.
And thirdly, like apt, there's no end of options for how to handle it.

So, I've resolved not to slam it until I know more.
The problem comes with what computer to put it on.
See, my ancient laptop, as regulars will know, is clearly on the way to visit Death in person. The only way left for things to get in and out of it, like this blog post, is via the wireless card - which in turn, has to run through NDisWrapper, but that's another story.
So, given that it's only available drive is the hard drive, which when I first foolishly formatted the entire thing into two partitions - swap, and the root filesystem - I have a little problem when it comes to changing distribution.
I'm not naive enough to try what I once did on a different computer, adding the Ubuntu repositories to a Debian install and try to do dist-upgrade, leaving me with a dreadfully broken system.
What I am going to do, is thank the generous people at the Linux Questions website, for helping me find a solution. Two, actually.
(Original thread here)To quote member AuroraZero's post with the solution:
"hmmm do not fret this can still be done I believe. Two ways off the top of my head are one go to e-bay and see if you can pick up a pcmcia ext cdrom. Second choice go get an adapter that changes the 2.5" PATA to 3.5" PATA and then put the hard drive into a desktop to load what you need. The second choice is the cheaper way to go. I have this before and works quite well actually. Both ways cost some cash but not as much as sending it in to be fixed or having it fixed at a comp shop. I would suggest the second way as it will probably be the cheaper way and save the laptop for a few more years. Also when you are done with it you can take the drive and install it into a desktop which is kinda cool."

The former is an interesting choice, restoring - at the cost of losing wireless, as the wireless card also uses that slot - CD Rom drive to my laptop, a considerable boon.
The second is just as interesting though, as it means that if my laptop does give up finally, as it probably should have done long ago (And probably wishes it had sometimes) I can still use it to nab all my stuff off it.

So I've got a lot of alternatives to think about for now.

In related news, my previously Linux-phobic father has actually done what I never thought I'd see him do - he's not only ordered himself a new laptop without Windows on at all, but one which he intends to install, by himself, Linux Mint on, which means he intends to give up Windows entirely. Personally, I'm proud of him - he's been trying to use Ubuntu once in a while, sometimes asking me how to do something, but mostly by himself, but that's on a PC that dual boots with XP. Now he's going for full Linux, no Windows but for that Wine gives, which is bound to be challenging for him at first, but at least unlike me, he's got someone to help him. Me.
So there you have it - Linux is now beating Windows so badly, that even Dad wants to use it.
(So does mum, her Distro of choice being OpenSuSE, but as it takes some time to help her learn these things, we haven't got around to sorting that out just yet. Plus it means I'd have to Quad-boot one of the desktop PC's between Ubuntu for my brother, Whichever of the four above for me, Mint for Dad and OpenSuSE for mum. What a nightmare that'll be to maintain...)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Thanks given

A rare case for me, but nevertheless... a big thank you to Sylphid, who on the Ubuntu support channel helped me revive my ancient laptop.
As regular readers will know, it's died many times before. Now, I know the cause, the diagnosis, and the cure.

To all of you running Ubuntu, you may want to take note:

Disable Ubuntu X and Ubuntu X (Testing) from Ubuntu Tweak.
Go to a TTY (CLI only, no G/KDM) and completly remove xorg-xserver
sudo apt-get update
then install x/k/ubuntu-desktop, or anything that depends on xorg-xserver, et voila! It works again.
Sylphid, I thank you again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Linux, Linux on the web...

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to look for alternative Linux Distributions to think of trying using the Chooser I linked to.

The results are quite interesting. Where before it listed only Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and the derivatives of each, it now only lists Debian and Ubuntu, along with others. The exact results are as follows:

Debian still holds top spot. I did once, on a previous occasion that I lost patience with Ubuntu (Intrepid, at the time) try Debian. My main issues were that sudo did not automatically have the first user added to it, and the menus were different. Also, their somewhat insistant habit of rejecting software such as Firefox for unbranded versions like their IceWeasel is a pain.

Foresight Linux is a newcomer to my scene. According to the chooser, it boasts the latest and greatest of GNOME - which is appealing, as I like GNOME a lot. People can complain about it's lack of customisability, I say they're wrong. Although I know little about this one as yet, it appears to be a promising candidate for a new Linux to try.

Mandriva isn't new to me, but also isn't tried by me. I've heard much about this distro, and I'm not certain what to make of it. I'd need to know what kind of hardware support for NVidia graphics cards is in there, how it handles packages, and how easy/hard it is to customize.
(Note: I'm no longer opposed to RPM - provided I can install apt-rpm, and manage my RPM packages via Synaptic through the apt-rpm stuff - if not, I'll have to find another way, but apt-rpm and Synaptic are preferred.)

Fedora is an old friend and enemy. It's the very first Linux I used, with Fedora 10 KDE. However, I spent very little time there, as I had trouble with it. This was, I realize now, mostly because of KDE, so it's gained another chance. What brings it down however, is that I've also heard that Fedora isn't very good for normal home use, and that Wine, an essential for me, doesn't work at all. Again, more information on this would be useful.

Ubuntu finds it's way into the results here between Fedora and Gentoo. It used to dominate the top of the boards, but as my knowledge of Linux has grown and changed, and my hatred of RPM has now vanished, it's slipped a lot.
However, I do like Ubuntu. It does have it's many good points, and I will keep it around, even if it means a dual-boot system. It's something I can fall back on.

Gentoo Linux. Ah, much have I heard about this one.
Now, as I understand it, Gentoo doesn't do packages. It does source code. Apparently it compiles the kernel itself on install, which is a daunting prospect - anything I've compiled previously has taken a while to do so, the thought of the massive Linux kernel being compiled is somewhat unnerving - will this take a few minutes, hours or days?
However, the idea of compiling applications rather than using pre-compiled applications is intriguing, and offers me the chance to investigate the source code to help my incessant habit of looking into it just to see how it works.
On the down-side, not all applications I use have source code available, such as once again, Firefox - the more recent ones just aren't available to my knowledge. So, assuming it exists the same on a Gentoo system, I'd have to download it from Mozilla, precompiled, and install it to /opt instead. I've never had to do this before, so like the kernel, I'm a little daunted by this.

Arch Linux is another one I've heard about, and it seems to me to be a lot like Gentoo.
I've looked into it before, but always been put off by the fact that as I understand it, you install and have little more than a command line.
Now, I'm no stranger to the terminal, but it's a Ubuntu- or Debian-like terminal I'm used to, with sudo, apt-get, aptitude and so on, which isn't on Arch. I'd need to know exactly what I'd have to enter into it to get a GDM login screen, and a GNOME session, where I could continue in a graphic environment. I don't have anything against the command line; it's very useful for getting more information on what's happening behind the scenes, so to speak. But I don't like being stuck at one, like my laptop is, and not knowing what to do.

Slackware I know little of, beyond wanting to be stable and easy to use. Ubuntu manages both - despite my opinion of Karmic leaving a bad taste.
Like Foresight Linux, I really need to know more before I can say for sure whether this garners a place on the list of distributions I'll be trying.

Finally, Zenwalk, previously unknown to me. It says it's Slackware based however, which means to me, I'll be considering the two as the same for now.

Now, I'll be posting, as I always do, a tweet about this post on Twitter (it's about all I really actually use Twitter for...)
If you've just come from there, and you use any of these versions of Linux, or for that matter, ANY Linux - have a read through, and see if you can help out on some of the information I'm missing, or - in a rare case of me being unusually nice to people - if you think you can sway me to your favored distro, go right ahead.

If you don't use Linux, pass it on to someone who does, and thinks they can help out - resident Linux fanatics, for example (Be warned though, said fanatics will watch what they say on my blog).

Help a guy out here - Ubuntu Karmic's not doing too well here, so this is your chance to make your favored Linux shine, and maybe net another user for it too - me.
Not that it means much, but I'm sure some people would get a nice feeling from knowing they converted someone.

Karmic Chaos

My initial impressions of Ubuntu Karmic aren't holding up.
I've reluctantly kept it around on the now upgraded desktop that uses it, and I'm not impressed anymore.

Conky now randomly crashes without apparant reason, and I had to rewrite my config file for it.
Audio levels now appear to be completely random and independant for all programs, requiring constant micromanagement in order to not have sounds too loud or quiet.
The option to change from PulseAudio to ALSA and others has been removed from it's easy-accessible spot in Preferences -> Sounds, and moved to Preferences -> Multimedia Systems Selector - which is hidden by default.
Wine, though it works, the metapackage for it not only depends on the package wine1.2, it tries to remove it at the same time. Wait, what? Is that even possible?
Running in a terminal "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade" no longer works - it will fail when trying to run the upgrade half.

And overall, a lot of things run very slow. I put this down to being my ancient laptop (Which has since re-died, by the way) before, but now it seems to be affecting all of Ubuntu Karmic.

Oh, and if you do anything with apt-get, aptitude, Synaptic, Adept, GDebi or the new Software Center - something I'm actually still slightly impressed with - you almost always need to restart because the system slows down even more.

I'm sticking with it though, and hoping that at least most of these issues will solve themselves with updates. But if it gets too much, I'm going to do one of three things.
Go back to Jaunty, and stay there until Lucid.
Go back to trying to put up with Debian (Something I gave up on due to numerous differences, which I had trouble with)
Using the Linux Distribution Chooser I found to help find a different Linux distro - even going so far as to possibly use one that uses my previously hated enemy, RPM, if I have to.

Karmic's first impressions on me were good. Since putting it on the desktop though, they've steadily declined.
Definitely more polish needed for it, I think.