Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Another small update

Not much has really changed.
My old laptop is still plugging away on Debian, and is actually doing fairly well, using an Openbox session with fbpanel to provide a taskbar.

I've gone off pretty much all Ubuntu derivatives for now, because they're not really very good for solving problems - problems like the desktop with Karmic on, failing to boot, and then after sticking Jaunty on, failing to update properly.

Slackware's being a pain as well, as the ISO downloads take forever, and the torrent ones have no peers or seeds connected to me. Add to that, that the Slackware 13 install CD fails to boot with a kernel panic, and it's enough to annoy anyone.

I have, on the other hand, been looking into making a server on the home network, since if I use CentOS, I can learn a bit about it for business environs. However... given that CentOS and Fedora are fairly similar, I'm wary about using it - past experiences with those kind of distros has not turned out well.

BSD was a recent and fleeting interest of mine, having a look into MidnightBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and MirOS. However, no matter how much I know about Linux, BSD is a whole different can of worms, and not one I'm willing to open right now.

and now, a parting word.
That's all for now.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A return to Debian

As some of you may well know, some time ago before I started this blog, I once tried Debian. At the time, it was Debian 4.

Now, with Ubuntu seeming too simple, and my laptop temporarily unusable, I've gone looking for a new Linux distro to use on the desktop PCs, and thus I turned once again, back to Debian.
This time, it's Debian 5, Lenny.

Not much, visually, has changed since Debian 4. Since I prefer graphic installers over text ones if available, that's what I used to install it with.

The destination is a not too old custom desktop, the specs of which I won't bore you with here.
For some time now, it's second hard drive, though small, has always had a Linux distro on it, primarily for emergency rescue for the Windows XP install still on there, despite it's little use lately, but also because whenever one of the family want to try out a distro, that's where it all starts.

Since no one's after that though, the previous Arch install there is being replaced with Lenny.
The graphic installer, while somewhat bland, nevertheless is clean, clear, and concise, leaving very little doubt about what is happening, and what choices you're being asked to make. I like this; it makes sense, and at only one point did I have any trouble, and that was the partitioning. Until I remembered to do it manually.

Once done, I had a working Debian Lenny install within 15 minutes, which for this old computer is a fair feat.
One old niggle I have with Debian is Firefox. For some reason unknown to me (Because I'm too lazy to find out) they don't like Firefox, and so instead rebrand an older version as Iceweasel.
Now, call mea fanboy, but I prefer to have Firefox say it's Firefox, so I went and downloaded it direct from them, to extract into /opt so I could enjoy my favourite browser just as it is. However, something appears to have gone wrong. I haven't figured out what yet. But, Iceweasel is an adequte replacement until then.
Setting up the NVidia proprietary driver was a bit of a pest at first, until I got Iceweasel to search Debian's help, and then a clean simple explanation solved it. With Compiz installed after, I have the full range of effects I'm used to.

The next little problem is Sudo. By default, Sudo isn't set to work for me.
A little change using Visudo, and that's solved. Almost too easy.
It's nice to know that they warn you about the dangers involved when you first use Sudo though.

A few key - at least to me - apps were missing, however, from the default Debian install. K3B is understandable, but is a standard for me as it's best burning program there is for Linux.
The Compiz Fusion Icon is the next essential, since it allows on the spot management and changing of the window manager. I use this a lot, especially when darting in and out of Openbox when I need a little extra resources that metacity and Compiz hog.
Finally, Wine. I don't really run that much Windows software, but I keep it around because there are times I do need to.

But based on the initial impressions it's made on me so far, I like it a lot better this time. I've actually managed to stick with it long enough to start fiddling around like I always do at post-install and after.
Gnome-look, as always, is the first port of call to get the look and feel I want. Dark themes are the current fad here, so long as the main controls are clear still.

On other distros though...
I thought I'd look into Slackware 13, and (after arguing with a Linux Mint install that was segfaulting) finally got it burnt to a disc. However, trying to install from it gives an inexplicable Kernel Panic. For some reason, I can't help but laugh when I see that, despite that it means something's gone wrong.
Arch was given a try, through the unofficial LiveCD Arch, and it's installer, larchin. However, since it couldn't recognise the wired network interfaces, and I don't have wireless on this computer, it was short lived.
Gentoo once again got a look in from me. I keep coming back and trying to learn more with a kind of morbid curiosity. I always come to it, thinking I'll try it this time, and then go looking to find out more, but always find something that puts it off again.
BSD, for the first time here, also got a look in. I've not tried it yet, but it's possible next time I get bored, I'll have a look.

And finally, in other news, I've decided I prefer deb-based systems, but want RPM's yum package manager. Where this will lead, no one knows.

Have a happy christmas everyone.
Rock on.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Window Managers again, GRUB, and so long and thanks for all the help

It's not really often that I lump so much into a post, but it seems to be becoming a habit. Sorry to anyone that bothers.

Anyway, it's that time again, when I ramble about my ancient laptop.

Some time ago, I made a post talking about various Window Managers. This was under Ubuntu, however, not Fedora.
Under Fedora, GNOME/Metacity works relatively well, and I enjoy the customizability I get from it, but as time has gone past, it's started to cause trouble. Firefox, for example, has begun to inexplicably lock up randomly. This is distressing, because Chromium doesn't work, much to my annoyance, and the only other web browser I have available that I can put up with is Galeon, which is no substitute in my books.
So, I turned once again to an old curiosity of mine, and launched Openbox once more.
Well, that's not entirely accurate - Blackbox and Fluxbox also got a look in, but since I've yet to figure out how to the NetworkManager to work correctly in either, and WICD isn't available to Fedora 12 users, I left them behind.
Openbox, in comparison, is incredibly spartan. There's no panel, unlike Flux and Black. Instead, it's all done through the right-click menu on the desktop.
Unfortunatly, I'm in the habit of using a panel, so I'm trying fbpanel, which despite it's lack of customizability to it's GNOME and XFCE counterparts, is quite impressive, and I'm starting to like. If I could get it to launch itself when I launch an Openbox session, that'd be perfect.
This has got me thinking about Crunchbang Linux, as it uses Openbox, but more on that later.

Now, for GRUB.
The Grand unified Bootloader, and it's younger cousin, GRUB2, are from my point of view, quite impressive little things. It leaves a lot to be understood, however, as dad wants to put Linux Mint on his laptop. Now, Mint Gloria is based on Ubuntu Jaunty, which has no GRUB2 - and I may be wrong, but GRUB doesn't support Windows 7 correctly. GRUB2 I also have no understanding of.
So I'm left being forced to get him to put off using it until I can understand how exactly to manage it.
In ordinary circumstances, I'd simply go to the LQ website, but recently, I've been having a few negative responses there, so I'm letting things cool off before I go back.

Lastly, Fedora. Oh, Fedora.
It made such a good impression, but I'm afraid I have to say goodbye already.
Ubuntu Karmic, as you'll know, has left a very bitter taste for me, which is why I left it. Fedora 12 replaced it, in an attempt to get a little more usability out of my laptop, but with some of the issues I've had, not to mention the somewhat... snobbish community, I'm forced to leave it.
For Slackware.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, Crunchbang has recently appealed to me because it too is based on Ubuntu, which is like an old friend to me, and it uses Openbox, which is my new favourite session. I'm wary about using it though, because I don't like Karmic, and I don't want to use something based on it, at least not until the so called Service Pack for Karmic comes out next year. Also, I'm already uneasy about going back to Ubuntu and it's derivatives because inevitably, I'd have to upgrade, and that once again means Karmic. Karmic, Karmic, Karmic. I don't like it, and I'm sorry to say that unless it picks up, I never will, and that will be the end of Ubuntu in my house, but for anyone else who might use it.
Slackware has been suggested to me before, but until recently, I didn't quite understand the lettering system that explains the software packs. Now, I have a better understanding, and know - I think - what I need.
The problem remains however that I need to understand how to make GRUB - Fedora's GRUB, that is - boot the installer, which is from the LiveCD, but running on a HD partition. Essentially the same way I installed Fedora, except from the LiveCD, and on a HD partition... unlike Fedora, which was actually installed direct from the internet (A novel idea, and quite an interesting one, too).

For now, Openbox/Fedora 12 is managing, despite problems still finding there way in to bother me. But as soon as I've decided on either Crunchbang or Slackware, and I know how to do it, I'm changing once more.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

SELinux and more

My little laptop is pretty much back to normal, or rather the new normal, now I've had a chance to sort it out. I still have some small problems with it, but apparently they're either there to help the community, and be a pest to me, or they're there because there's no other reason except to be a pest.

For example, SELinux.
Now, my understanding is that it's meant to aid in system security. I have never had a single problem on my network. I run exactly zero antivirus guard with a resident shield. Periodic scans for both viruses and malware return nothing. If there is a network problem, it either originates with a mistake I made, or a mistake on the computer having the problem.
I have no need for SELinux.

However, it seems to be built into Fedora 12, and it seems to fall into the category of "There to help the community, but be a pest to the user" as in it's Enforcing mode, it allows me to do nothing beyond log in, and log out.
In Permissive mode, it allows me to do some more, then waits until I have something I don't want to lose, crashes everything, and then forces me to hard-reset.
So I've disabled it, and now everyone's busy telling me it's a bad idea.
Why? It's done nothing useful for me. It's sat there and been a pest. Since I'm told it's not removable, it can stay disabled. Someone suggested tweaking it, however I distrust this on the grounds that it just seems to be a varient of Permissive settings.

My main nag with it is that with it enabled, I cannot run anything through Wine - not even Winecfg, the configuration tool. And I do use Wine a lot, because some of the programs I used have not been ported to Linux in one form or another yet.

Yet I'm told that's a 'feature' of Wine/SELinux.

You're kidding me. Stopping people from using Wine is a feature?
I could understand if there were ports for all Windows programs. But this is just sheer wrongheaded stupidity.

Finally, it was suggested I change distribution.
Now, unless someone wants to tell me which Slackware ISO I need to download to get the Slackware equivalent of your standard Ubuntu LiveCD using Gnome, there is no alternative except Gentoo or Arch, neither of which are useful candidates because of the amount of work needed for them, and the amount of bandwidth I'd need - more than can be afforded.

So in response to those on various forums but mostly on the Fedora IRC channel - where they could be a little more polite to newbies, rather than being as abusive as they were to me - No, I'm not changing distribution. Slackware I might consider if someone explained, as above. But other than that? I'm on Fedora, and I'm here to stay, so live with it.

And while you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to actually listen to your users once in a while.
SELinux could be made OPTIONAL. But it's mandatory.
They could have used the right branch of GDM, one that had the gdmsetup graphic tool for configuring the GDM login screen, but no, they went and used a different branch, losing gdmsetup, and since forcing them to listen to the 'whining' (Read complaints) of their users demanding it back.
For gods sakes, if your users are doing that, don't just ignore them and call it whining, clearly you made a mistake, so fix it by putting things back again! Or at least wait until the branch you're using has gdmsetup again.
Or as one annoying person on the Fedora so-called-support IRC channel told me, program your own.
Now, that'd be a good idea. If I knew how to program in a language useful to Linux. I know VB. I have some very limited extremely basic C++ knowledge, useful for fixing conflicts in patches applied to OpenTTD, and little more.
But nope, I'm somehow expected to have a sudden burst of inspiration, know how to program in whatever language I need, know exactly what to write, compile it, and become some kind of saviour of the community, because they're too lazy to A: Fix their mistake by using the correct branch of GDM ro B: Write a tool for the users, so they don't have to put up with their whining complaints.

Fedora seems to have as many issues and people being jerks, as it does good points, at the moment.

On a side note, can anyone actually explain how LVM (Logical Volume Management) is meant to be useful?

That's all from me.
Rock on.