Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks for Every Day Linux User!

http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/ has been one of the most helpful and active sites this past year, and I've appreciated reading the well-written articles from Gary Newell this year.

It's interesting, Gary often credits Jim Lynch, author of his own blog at http://desktoplinuxreviews.com/ and his forum at http://desktoplinuxreviews.com/forum/index.php?webtag=DLRFORUM.  I've seen Jim do the same, crediting Gary for some really good articles.  I agree; both have articles worth reading, and I have both on my regular reading list.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Everyday Linux User: An Everyday Linux User Review Of Ubuntu 14.10

Everyday Linux User: An Everyday Linux User Review Of Ubuntu 14.10

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Comments on a recent antiX review and links to the review and other tutorials

AntiX is one of my favorite distributions, and I like it for the following reasons:

1. It is extremely flexible.
2. It is available in three forms under the "antiX" name: Core, Base, and Full.
3. It is a lightweight system, and it runs well on aging systems, and extremely fast on newer systems.

Though the original antiX was developed primarily for older systems, a more recent variation, also developed by the author of antiX, known as "anticapitalista", anti, as he's often called, also has collaborated with the MEPIS Lovers community since the origination of antiX, and over the past year, he also developed another excellent distribution, MX-14, an Xfce desktop distribution that uses a few more of the MEPIS-based tools, and he developed it based on mutual interest and with considerable help and feedback from the MEPIS community.

That same community has also been working on another KDE-based variation of MX-14 that some of the original MEPIS community is experimenting with. At this point, I've not seen an official build of this work. Instead, there are some instructions and tips for those who want to build a KDE version of MX-14 directly from the Xfce-based work. I have not personally verified or checked out that work, but in the past, I've built my own KDE and Xfce custom systems from either antiX Base or Full, and I have an existing Xfce-based system that I built from the ground up with antiX Core. I even wrote a now aged tutorial describing the steps I took in building that system, and a few people have used that tutorial to build their own similar systems.

The ease in which that can be done by someone with a moderate amount of skill shows that while, on one hand, the antiX Core effort may not be the choice for a beginner, it doesn't take years of expertise to put together your own system because antiX provides so many excellent tools. The fact that the current MEPIS Lovers Community has also performed similar work adds evidence to the claim that it's reasonably straightforward to build a wide variety of very usable custom systems from any of the antiX tools found in each one of these excellent distributions.

Creating your very own antiX core system from scratch, my old tutorial, can be found on this blog at: http://brianmasinick.blogspot.com/2012/04/using-my-customized-antix-core-system.html
This article is not the tutorial itself, but it discusses the tutorial, provides links to the original tutorial, and also to additional information about antiX.

I also wrote some comments on the Everyday Linux User blog in the article entitled

Give that old computer a boost with antiX Linux

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where Peppermint OS fits into mobile computing

Tonight I happen to be using a Linux distribution that is desktop based, but takes features from both the classic desktop that most of us have been used to, and the newer cloud-based (read that Internet-based) applications that have become increasingly available as we use more mobile devices - first laptops and portables, then PDAs (Personal Data Assistants), then cell phones, then portable music players, which gained network access, then smart phones, which started to integrate the features of cell phones, music players, and personal data assistants.

More recently, netbooks and tablets have come onto the scene.  The netbooks were popular at first, but when the simpler and more powerful tablets appeared, the netbooks began to fade, though they have not disappeared entirely.

What is common about all of these devices is that they access the Internet and most of these devices can access the Internet without having to be fixed in a single location.  Because of wireless technology, the network can be accessed in many places.  Through what's known as "Wifi", which is really a Wireless Internet Router, you can connect to the Internet anywhere one of these devices exists.  The Wireless Router connects to a wire, which is, in turn, connected to an Internet Service Provider (ISP).  The typical inexpensive router has four wired ports plus the connection to the provider, and it has an antenna that transmits its signal over a limited distance.

People who are smart about configuring their Wireless Router use encrypted signals, and they create an access point with a name, such as MyRouter, TheMasNET, 28Router, or whatever.  Often, your cable or Internet Service Provider will set one of these routers up for you.  Public places, such as malls, coffee shops, and other gathering places offer wireless router services, or "Free Wifi).  This is one way to connect to Internet-based services.

Another way to connect to Internet-based services is another class of service that is typically provided by cell phone and smart phone service providers.  These providers offer both phone services we're used to with cell phones and data services we've come to know as 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, and who knows what else we'll be given.  The "G" in these names stands for "Generation"; we're now on our fourth generation of wireless data services, which have become increasingly faster and expensive!

Getting back to the Linux distribution I am using tonight, this distribution recognizes that people want access to their information wherever they are, and they often view their information as an application, so this distribution, Peppermint OS 3, has created Web applications, which are nothing more than stand alone instances of Web bookmarks that can be called directly from a menu to invoke a particular application, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google GMail, Google Docs, and so forth.

I currently have an instance of Facebook, Yahoo Mail, Google GMail, a Screensaver program, and a more traditional Web browser active with two Blogger tabs active.  This approach is really nothing more than a blending of a traditional Web browser with a traditional application window appearance.  The Google Chrome and Chromium Web browsers started offering this feature, and Mozilla, along with a number of other Web browser vendors, have their own different implementations.

We have not really seen this approach take off because Smart Phones and Tablets have turned out to be far more popular.  Still, when you have a lot of typing to do - perhaps when you publish your own Blog, having a laptop or a desktop system, or some other form of system with a keyboard to use, you can take advantage of faster typing interfaces, which remain a key reason why many people still use laptop and desktop systems.  That's the reason why Peppermint OS emerged; it is a blending of Web-based technologies from the traditional desktop and the newer Internet-based mobile applications.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Debian Sid, via 19 MB mini.iso image and network installation

I tested the recently advertised Debian 7.0 Beta 1 installer, and Beta 1 was a complete bust.  It would not get past the network detection phase of installation, no matter what I tried, so I entered a bug report against it and it turned out that many encountered the same thing.

Within an hour of my bug report, the maintainer sent a message that the bug was closed.  I wrote back, thanked them for the quick response and asked where I could obtain a new image to test it.  They suggested I grab a mini.iso network image from the daily build tree.  I did so, it was around 19 MB in size, took seconds to download, little time to burn, but on my capped 262 kbps network, it took about two hours to install.

No problem; it worked perfectly, and I am writing this blog note using the Iceweasel (Debian-rebranded Firefox) Extended Support Release (ESR 10.0.6) Web browser.  It's fast; I set mine to use the Xfce desktop and it was a very good choice.

I selected a minimal set of process daemons to run, so this is light and fast too.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

antiX-base M12.0 has been set up for Mother to use!

I installed the antiX-base M12.0 pre-final version on a 2004-vintage Dell Dimension 3000 desktop that I acquired from my sister, and I put it in my Mother's den, and configured it to automatically login to a JWM desktop with Rox icons, containing a Web browser and a terminal.

With the automatic login feature enabled, my Mother can press the power button, wait about half a minute, and have a ready to use system that runs quite a bit faster than the Windows XP that was previously installed on this system. All she has to do is single click on a rather large desktop icon that I've labeled "Web Browser", and I've set up her browser with two tabs; one for Live.com Email, (which my sister had set up for her three years ago), a tab for the Detroit Free Press News, and a search widget in the top of the browser to research anything else that she is interested in.

Who says that Linux is too difficult to use, even for an eighty four year old woman, who is not very familiar with technology? She can use it on her own! I did have to teach her how to do it, but I made it as simple as possible, showed her how to turn on this "new" (for her) system, what to click, how to use the different mouse, and which buttons to use to turn it on, off, and navigate. She's able to use it, and has used it twice now in the past week, including earlier on Tuesday evening.

I give my Mother a lot of credit for being willing to try things out, and I take a little bit of credit for thinking about what can be easy and fast for her to use, and setting up things in such a way, that with a few clicks, she can do all the things that she needs to do, mostly reading Email from her children and from her friends at church and in her social circles - a humanities study group, and some women's travel groups. She is able to do all the things she needs with it, and its set up so that other things stay out of her way and don't confuse her.

Three cheers to anticapitalista and his team for having the wisdom to make both IceWM and JWM, which are easier for novices to deal with than the fancier dwm, wmii, and Fluxbox that the advanced users seem to prefer, for the decision to include a feature to optionally enable automatic login, perfect for someone like my Mom, and the decision to include a tool to switch the default window manager. I used those features to set up JWM with Rox icons, and enable automatic login. These choices make even a distribution normally thought of as a "hobbyist-based", light, flexible system, into something I can set up for nearly anyone to use.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

antiX M12.0 Test 2 - Preparing for another winner!

The antiX distribution began in a fairly low key, unnoticed manner.  Back in 2006, an English speaking educator from Thessaloniki, which is a politically charged city, appeared on the MEPIS Lovers Community Forum as "anticapitalista", and announced that he had created a lightweight alternative to SimplyMEPIS entitled antiX.

A few years earlier in 2003 when MEPIS was formed, it was initially a fairly small, light Linux distribution, formed from Debian GNU/Linux software, capable of running directly from what is called a "Live CD".  That means that you can insert a CD (or DVD) into your system, and start the system, running not from the disk hard drive, but from removable media instead.

When MEPIS was small, it ran well from CD, at least in 2003.  Even today, you can run MEPIS from CD, but since 2004, MEPIS has been a simple, but full featured desktop system, and it is a very good one.

The small, light nature of that first effort also had merit.  The gentleman named Paul, who prefers to use the "handle" anticapitalista, wanted to recapture that light, flexible look and feel, so he respun the MEPIS effort, removing the full featured, somewhat heavier software in favor of light, flexible, configurable software.  Then he approached Warren Woodford and asked for permission to distribute antiX as a derivative of MEPIS.  Warren liked the idea and has allowed anti to distribute his work through the MEPIS community.

I like antiX because it is nearly as stable as SimplyMEPIS, yet in some ways it provides even more flexibility, at only a moderate cost in terms of complexity.  In fact, it's pretty simple, it's just not quite as much of a "drop in and use" system as SimplyMEPIS is; it tends to require just a little bit more experience, particularly in using system tools, and occasionally command-based utilities.  This can scare off some beginners and novices, so it's clear that MEPIS definitely has its place, but so does antiX.  There are times when you want to be able to easily tailor your system to your own specific needs, and that is an area in which antiX truly excels.  It's great for aging hardware, and it's also great for the hobbyist and enthusiast who simply wants to experiment with a variety of configurations.

I happen to have hardware that is over three years old.  At the time I started with antiX in 2006, all I had available to me was a 2000-2001 vintage Dell Dimension 4100 desktop system with a 996 MHz Pentium III processor, 256 MB of RAM (memory) and a single 40 GB Western Digital IDE hard drive disk.  Other systems would work with this configuration, but light systems, such as Puppy, Feather Linux, and antiX, worked much better.  I also tended to take full featured systems and add light window managers and browsers on them so that I could do certain things faster and more effectively.

When antiX was released, it was immediately apparent to me that a system like this could save me time and effort.  Not only that, it had the same proven installation system and configuration tools found in the reliable and familiar SimplyMEPIS, plus it had that feel that I had enjoyed in the earliest builds of the prototype versions of MEPIS.

Since 2006, antiX has grown and evolved in capabilities.  There is now a "full featured" release, still light, using resource conserving window managers in place of heavy, full featured desktop environments, but it has acquired quite a few powerful programs in it.  Not everyone wants the same thing, though, and that is why antiX has developed two additional alternatives, the "Base" version, which still provides a graphical installation and initial login, but strips out applications, and allows you, with the assistance of tools, to create your own customized configuration.  Another version, developed over the past two years or so, called "Core", takes that a step further: all that "Core" includes is a system kernel, essential system utilities, and a core set of tools that allows you to create the system you want.  It does not come with any graphical user environment; you choose the one you want, if you want one, or you can use "Core" to set up a command-based server environment.

I've created several custom distributions of my own using antiX, starting with the original edition, the Base edition, and the Core edition.  All three are nimble, flexible, solid, and very useful, and they have become part of my essential collection of Linux systems that I use on a regular basis.  I wrote this article using antiX M12.0 Base Test 2, which I built back in the third week of March, and have been testing it since that time with excellent results.

I encourage those who have read this article with interest to take a look at the antiX offerings.  The antiX site http://antix.mepis.org/index.php?title=Main_Page#Downloads has download locations for those who are interested in trying it out.