Sunday, March 13, 2016

Debian 8.2 on the Dell Inspiron 5558

Now that the Dell Inspiron 5558 is in place and several Linux distributions have been successfully installed, I've been able to update it and oscillate between this system and my older Gateway 2000 17" PA6A and my Lenovo 3000 Y410 older systems.

They are all working fine, but there is a decidedly large difference in responsiveness and performance advantage on this current generation Dell laptop.  The only thing slowing it down are network or server resources, so usually it is quite fast and responsive.

With 8 GB of system memory, Dual core Intel Core i7-5500U with 4096 K cache,
1000.2GB disk (with 1.3% used), the system has plenty of capacity and excess bandwidth for Debian 8.2 and other current generation software.

A query of resource utilization yields:

inxi -Fxz
System:    Host: debian Kernel: 3.16.0-4-amd64 x86_64 (64 bit gcc: 4.8.4) Desktop: Xfce 4.12.2 (Gtk 2.24.25)
           Distro: Debian GNU/Linux 8
Machine:   System: Dell product: Inspiron 5558 v: 01
           Mobo: Dell model: 086DKN v: A00 Bios: Dell v: A04 date: 08/06/2015
CPU:       Dual core Intel Core i7-5500U (-HT-MCP-) cache: 4096 KB
           flags: (lm nx sse sse2 sse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 ssse3 vmx) bmips: 9576
           clock speeds: max: 3000 MHz 1: 2400 MHz 2: 2515 MHz 3: 2410 MHz 4: 2400 MHz
Graphics:  Card-1: Intel Broadwell-U Integrated Graphics bus-ID: 00:02.0
           Card-2: NVIDIA Device 1299 bus-ID: 08:00.0
           Display Server: X.Org 1.16.4 drivers: intel (unloaded: fbdev,vesa) Resolution: 1366x768@60.00hz
           GLX Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel HD Graphics 5500 (Broadwell GT2)
           GLX Version: 3.0 Mesa 10.3.2 Direct Rendering: Yes
Audio:     Card-1 Intel Wildcat Point-LP High Definition Audio Controller driver: snd_hda_intel bus-ID: 00:1b.0
           Card-2 Intel Broadwell-U Audio Controller driver: snd_hda_intel bus-ID: 00:03.0
           Sound: Advanced Linux Sound Architecture v: k3.16.0-4-amd64
Network:   Card-1: Intel Wireless 3160 bus-ID: 06:00.0
           IF: N/A state: N/A mac: N/A
           Card-2: Realtek RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller
           driver: r8169 v: 2.3LK-NAPI port: e000 bus-ID: 07:00.0
           IF: eth0 state: up speed: 100 Mbps duplex: full mac:
Drives:    HDD Total Size: 1000.2GB (1.3% used) ID-1: /dev/sda model: ST1000LM024_HN size: 1000.2GB temp: 30C
Partition: ID-1: / size: 99G used: 4.3G (5%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda4
           ID-2: swap-1 size: 8.49GB used: 0.00GB (0%) fs: swap dev: /dev/sda2
Sensors:   System Temperatures: cpu: 51.0C mobo: N/A
           Fan Speeds (in rpm): cpu: N/A
Info:      Processes: 155 Uptime: 33 min Memory: 712.4/7914.3MB Init: systemd runlevel: 5 Gcc sys: 4.9.2
           Client: Shell (bash 4.3.301) inxi: 2.2.28

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dell Inspiron 15 - 5558 with GPT, UEFI, filling with Linux distributions

I picked up this system a few months ago, and it came with Windows 10, which was (and as far as I know) still is, in a state of testing prior to its eventual release.

I gave Windows 10 a chance.  I was going to do multiple booting with Windows 10 and other systems.  It has some interesting new application features, including stand-alone Web-based instances of several common Web-based applications, such as Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Kindle, and probably many others too.

This Dell Inspiron 15, Model 5558, has quite a bit of memory - 8 GB, the disk is a ST1000LM024_HN size: 1000.2GB - that's 1 Tera byte or 1000 GB.  So this system has plenty of space, plenty of memory, and plenty of processor capability.

Windows 10 ran "OK", but that was about it.  The system ought to run well.  The problem is that it didn't, not in every respect.  The networking must have been a work in progress, or perhaps a "rework".  It had trouble remaining "up"; connections would regularly drop and reconnect.


So after a trial of several weeks, where I was booting from USB often, just to get a system that would keep the network "upright" (MX-15), I finally canned Windows 10 and sought to find some Linux systems that would work.

I had some unexpected difficulties.  It took me a lot longer than I initially intended to get a good file system configuration and a boot loader that would work properly with it.  I could have - and I did for a while, go to an old fashioned IDE disk configuration, with up to four primary partitions and a few extended partitions, but that is a misuse of this hardware.  I then went to a "GUID Partition Table (GPT) is a standard for the layout of the partition table on a physical hard disk, using globally unique identifiers (GUID). Although it forms a part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) standard (Unified EFI Forum proposed replacement for the PC BIOS), it is also used on some BIOS systems because of the limitations of master boot record (MBR) partition tables, which use 32 bits for storing logical block addresses (LBA) and size information on a traditionally 512 byte disk sector." (quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUID_Partition_Table ).

I now have several Linux-based systems installed: Fedora 23 (Xfce), MX-15 (Xfce), Debian 8.2 (Xfce), Linux Mint 17.3 (Xfce), antiX 15, and openSUSE Leap 42.1 (Xfce).  All of them are 64-bit implementations, all of them are now bootable from the UEFI boot loader, which is implemented on Fedora 23 and openSUSE Leap from the GRUB-EFI implementation.  I used Fedora 23 to get the multiple systems accessible, and I also have multiple USB sticks that I can alternatively use to access not only this, but other systems as well.

After over a month of fiddling around, I now have things in a pretty usable form and all of them readily outperform Windows 10, plus most of them have similar capabilities.  I really don't need Windows any more.  I use Google Docs and Libre Office for the occasional office application and I have no other home needs for anything else.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Have you ever used MX-14?

The MX-14 distribution first appeared in 2014 because the parent distribution, Simply MEPIS, became dormant.  The community project manager approached Warren Woodford, who made it clear that he is more interested in patent consulting than in continued development of MEPIS.

Anticapitalista was approached about modifying his antix distribution to form a compromise distribution based on Xfce instead of KDE.

It was MEPIS "X'd out, Xfce instead, released the first time in 2014, hence MX-14.

Like MEPIS it is very stable.  It is more up to date, so in some respect it is an upgrade.  It's also lighter than MEPIS' KDE, it has newer tools, and because of this it's my current 'stable system' of choice.

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.

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.