Friday, December 23, 2005

New Job still going well, less time for blogging, though!

All is well at my current job. I have now started my second quarter on my job. I have been extended for at least another quarter - officially. Unless I do something wrong (which, of course, I certainly will avoid) or if there is an unexpected turn of events, I have a good chance of remaining in my current assignment for another year.

I have three books that I have been reading, and I hope to write some book reviews soon. I read the Marcel Gagne book and I am reading the Firefox and Thunderbird garage book now, and I reviewed another general purpose Linux book.

I don't know if it is my age, the ho-hum nature of the titles of the book, the busy work I have been doing, or some combination of these factors, but the exact book titles just are not staying with me these days.

The general purpose book was one of the better ones I have skimmed in quite some time. I believe the publisher is Addison Wesley. The Gagne book distributes a custom version of KNOPPIX called Wftl Linux. Though the book references this distribution several times, it is only included as one easy way to get started. Like the other general purpose book, it really covers desktop Linux computing and does a good job.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Kate OS 2.3 or Belinux still waiting!

I did not get a chance to install either Kate OS 2.3 or Belinux over the past two weeks. Between a busy schedule and K3b not properly installed on my favorite test partition, I had to either boot up another image on another partition or get k3b installed properly. I finally got a version of k3b that works with recent KDE stuff, so I brought in both a new KDE and a new K3b. Now I may want to experiment with the latest KDE on my main system - but I may try it with Kate or SimplyMEPIS - another ISO image that I have downloaded and not yet burned. If it doesn't happen this weekend, it is not likely to happen next weekend, either - Christmas, a time for family. In my house, family gets precidence over this stuff, much as I enjoy it in my limited spare time.

I did just finish burning Kate OS 2.3, and just now received the trumpet sound from K3b, indicating that I now have a good installation of K3b back and I have a successful burn of Kate OS CD 1.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Kate OS and Belenix

I downloaded two ISO images this week, Kate_OS_2.3-CD1.iso, and the bzip2 compressed belenix.iso.bz2. I have not yet burned in either of them or tested them out, perhaps that will come over the weekend.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Firefox 1.5

I have found Firefox 1.5 to be pretty useful, but nothing earth shattering. Just before I downloaded Firefox 1.5, I had a rare crash with Firefox 1.0.7. Shortly after I installed Firefox 1.5, I had another browser crash.

My systems have never been known to frequently crash anything. Last time that happened, I was days away from a total hard disk failure. Hope that is not the case again!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Help keep Libranet alive

Tal Danzig is taking a long leave of absence from activity at Libranet, but has solicited comments concerning the future of Libranet. IF anyone has any bright business ideas for Libranet and/or can take on the business (or pay for it and acquire it), let Tal know. I would like to see a Libranet business model where the software of the system itself was free, but served as a springboard for a support business, perhaps some application engines or application devices, and any other creative ideas. Let me know if you think of anything, and by all means, if you have any great ideas, contact Tal by checking out the Libranet Web site.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Which Debian distro to try next?

Considering trying the latest build of SimplyMEPIS 3.4-1 and also Kanotix 2005-04 RC 17. Tried Kubuntu 5.10 with KDE 3.4.3 recently, and it works very well. Been hacking at my hybrid Libranet system lately, using Debs from other repositories. Starting to break libraries nicely - will have to do some heavy repair work to get things right or just superimpose another entire infrastructure over it (or back out to the original CDs and move forward from there).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I don't know about other people, but unless the blog becomes a part of one's job or one's hobby, I am not sure it is always profitable to use these tools. I have, at times, found news groups, forums, and blogs to be useful sources of information, but I do not see either the blog or technology as an end in itself, merely a tool. Sometimes the tool is useful; other times it gets in the way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Work is keeping me busy

I have not been blogging much at all lately. Work has been keeping me busy, and family time has occupied me when I am home.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Mitrax and Wolvix

I tried out two more Live CD distros this week, first Wolvix, then Mitrax. Of the two of them, Mitrax has a lower release number, but for my interests, it better suits my needs, at least for a Live CD distro. Mitrax boots quite rapidly, nearly as quickly as most of my disk based operating systems, but it is quite functional for the simple kinds of things I do with Live CDs.

Mitrax boots in about a minute on my Dell Dimension 4100 desktop system, loads into RAM, ejects the CD, and runs a snappy version of FVWM, which is nicely customized. I did have to set up my network configuration to indicate that I use a DHCP based network, but that step was provided on an easily accessible menu, which gives you choices, including DHCP. From there, Web browsing and other services were readily available.

One of the better efforts in Live CDs, especially considering its early stages of development. Worth downloading and trying out.

I'll stick with Libranet for everyday use, but I'll keep this Live CD around for times when I want a fast system loaded into RAM.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Libranet alive and well

In another blog, I posted an entry, expressing concern over the future of Libranet. Tal Danzig, the primary developer of Libranet, wrote a note to my blog and clearly stated that Libranet was not going away or disappearing, but it wasn't going to be given away to the open community either. I was quite pleased to find out that Tal still plans to continue with Libranet, and that he is merely taking a "breather" to decide which direction to head next.

I am an avid supporter of Libranet, and I am very pleased to find out that Libranet intends to remain what, in my mind, is my preferred system for personal use.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Integration testing work

My current work involves integration testing of financial market data that is processed by both UNIX and Linux servers.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Now working in financial investments

Well, it took six years to get back there, but I am back working at a large financial investments company that utilizes a lot of leading edge software. They use Linux, UNIX, Windows, and all kinds of networking tools. I get to be in near the ground floor effort to revamp their infrastructure to provide very high speed, low latency access to up to the instant access to financial market data.
I like the company and the work very much!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Downloaded DSL 1.5

This evening I downloaded DSL 1.5, which is 48 MB in size. I will give it a test run shortly.

Starting new job on Tuesday

I was hired for the job I interviewed with back on September 2. I will be starting my first day on that job this coming Tuesday.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Interviewing for longer term positions

I had an interview this past Friday with a financial investments company to do some testing of market data feed systems that provide market data for the entire company. The work may involve either UNIX or Linux systems, and it will most certainly involve writing test plans concurrent with development activities. This is right up my alley. I did some work writing test plans for super computer extensions to large scale UNIX systems several years ago, and I wrote many shell scripts to test both individual test cases and a test harness to put all the tests together into a much larger comprehensive test suite.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Working in IT again!

At last I have some employment in my profession - information technology. This past week, I worked four days at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center (SNHMC) as a Windows 2000 security consultant, installing the latest Windows 2000 Professional service pack, the latest Internet Explorer service pack, running the latest hot fixes, then installing the latest version of Symantic Anti Virus software. I personally worked on between sixty and seventy systems during the week.

Yesterday and today, and for the next few days, I will be working in the IT group at Keane State College (KSC) in Keane, NH to provide both field and help desk support for students returning to school. KSC implemented a Cisco Clean Access (CCA), "a software solution that can automatically detect, isolate, and clean infected or vulnerable devices that attempt to access your network". (ref.

Returning students are likely to have difficulty and get initially annoyed with the solution, so KSC hired ten temporary consultants to assist in getting everyone up and on the air. I worked with Freshmen students today, and I will be working with the remaining student population for the next couple of days to get securely connected to this year's network. This hardware and software solution was implemented to help reduce the instances of worm and virus attacks and isolate their accessibility to the campus network.

Both jobs have been interesting, and I am looking to leverage these experiences toward work that I plan to do in the near future.

Friday, August 19, 2005

FreeSBIE 1.1 back on my AMD 400 desktop

I have experimented with FreeSBIE before. It has a nice looking interface, and it simplifies the use and optional installation of FreeBSD software onto a desktop system. FreeSBIE 1.1 is based on FreeBSD 5.3. While strictly speaking, it is not FreeBSD, like some of the Linux distributions that begin with code from a certain base, FreeSBIE is to FreeBSD as CentOS is to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

I may revisit PC-BSD to see if they have any new version. PC-BSD was advancing like mad for a while; haven't heard much about it recently, so I want to see if any more progress has been made. If so, I may put PC-BSD on the AMD, otherwise I will leave FreeSBIE on there a while longer.

Working on my AMD 400

I put Feather Linux on my AMD 400 and I reinstalled Windows XP. I did this after resizing my disk partitions to balance the size so that I could better manage updates. All done with that. Now my attention turns to new distros that may have come out. I want to see what's going on with the Mandriva distros. This release has not worked out well for me so far in Beta testing. I want to try it again and report the problems that I have been having.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Installed Mandriva 2006.0.2

Installed the Beta 2 test of Mandriva 2006.0. Having problems getting a kernel installed that works on my system. That seemed to be what was happening when I briefly tried the Beta 1 test. Will have to try again and report the problem.

Installed Lineox 4.0 Enterprise Linux

I finally installed one of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) alternatives, Lineox. Installation went very cleanly, basic operations worked well. After a while, I had two lockups occur in the latest release of Mozilla Firefox 1.0.6, something I have not seen on other systems. Response in Thunderbird was also sluggish, but did not appear to be hung. Will have to investigate both systems again to see if it was a one time thing caused by my network or if it was a real bug in Lineox or Firefox.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Creating CDs

I downloaded the Beta 2 release of the Mandriva 2006.0 release. Did not get a chance to test out the Beta 1 release. I also had intended to test one or two of the freely available alternatives to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), either White Box 4, CentOS 4, or Lineox 4. I tried to install White Box 4 several weeks ago but had one bad CD, haven't had a chance to go back. Have not had the chance to try out Lineox, which is the next version I have downloaded. Will try to put that on my list.

I do also have a LiveKiosk test CD that I would like to try out. I may get a chance to give it a try before Mandriva or RHEL replacements, but I do intend to come back and test out Mandriva (interested in seeing if I can spot any Joseph Cheek influences yet).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Revamping my system

I made the first significant mistake I have made in a long time on my system about a week ago, just about the time I was becoming ill. I had been installing some systems, specifically some Live CD systems, to disk, and I was removing and adding disk partitions to modify the sizes of a few of them to better accomodate what I was planning to do.

I used fdisk for some of these activities. At one point, I added a volume label to what I thought was the eleventh disk partition. It turned out to be the twelth partition, but I did not see it in time, so I altered my twelth partition. Unfortunately, that partition contained quite a bit of Web browser context and a couple of years of Email content.

I think I will be writing that stuff to CD/RW a bit more often!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Software used this week

I usually use Libranet 3.0, which I have heavily customized, as my desktop system in my basement lab. Libranet has a great collection of software, and it is also easily updated, modified, and maintained. Another desktop Linux distribution, though, is also quite good, and for certain things, such as preconfigured browser plugins, SimplyMEPIS is somewhat easier to use. Both Libranet and SimplyMEPIS have great base software, a recent Linux kernel, an excellent collection of utilities, and the always outstanding Debian packaging and configuration tools.

Sometimes I hack up Libranet, so it is nice to have another option available to me until I have time to fix what I mess up (sometimes I mess things up on purpose, so I can study how they work and how to fix them), other times I just get too aggressive by installing bleeding edge software that breaks the way the packaging is supposed to work, and it also breaks the way some multi media content works.

SimplyMEPIS has some nice plugins that are automatically integrated into the default Web browser that work well; I have been using them a lot this week.

I have also been experimenting with Klax-KDE-3.4.2 to see how well KDE 3.4.2 is working. So far, that experiment is going very well.

Finally, I have installed or attempted to install two additional desktop systems since last week, DragonFly BSD, which I successfully installed on my old AMD 400 system (I do have to install the ports collection, though, as is, my installation is pretty minimal. I attempted to install a base level of the next Beta release of Mandriva 2006 (0.1.3). That did not work. The kernel keeps crashing. I am going to go back to make sure I picked up the correct ISO images and also check to see if there have been problems with this beta test cycle. I may have something to report to the development team if I have the right stuff installed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I must be crazy!

I have been doing a lot of software research, but I have ended up staying up most of the night! If I get tired tomorrow or the next day, I have nobody to blame but myself! I did find quite a few interesting sites over night, including some highly opinionated and charged columns - MadCarters was one of them. I think I have read it before, but not recently.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Been using SimplyMEPIS more often

I like using SimplyMEPIS as a base desktop system. For me, it tends to have all the software I need for routine activities already correctly configured for me. For other uses, especially testing and experimenting, I use Libranet as my base system. Libranet has long been my favorite desktop software. But since I sometimes mess it up and it takes a while to get things fixed properly, it sure is nice to have another solid desktop system handy, and that other system is SimplyMEPIS.

Downloaded aLinux Friday, checked it out today

I installed aLinux (formerly Peanut Linux) today. It installed cleanly and ran cleanly, but the choice of Web browser leaves something to be desired. As configured, the Mozilla Web browser, a test version, terminates whenever you attempt to select fonts. Not a good first impression.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Tested two distros tonight

I got Chubby Puppy 1.04 with Mozilla and Open Office, and I also got Klax KDE 3.4.2 this evening, burned and tried each of them, both of which are Live CD desktop systems.

Chubby Puppy, in spite of its name, is very small and compact, bloated only slightly by the presence of two well regarded large applications, the complete Mozilla browser suite, and Open Office, the most complete free and open office software suite. To say that Puppy is fast is an understatement. It is the fastest desktop system that I have ever used.

Klax KDE 3.4.2 is a concept Live CD, intended primarily for the purpose of testing out KDE 3.4.2. It works VERY well, certainly well enough to handle by browsing needs for the past hour or so.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ended up getting the latest SimplyMEPIS 3.3.1-1 instead

Instead of installing White Box Linux 4 or Lineox 4, I downloaded and installed the latest release of SimplyMEPIS. This release simply has a few bug fixes and updates to the previous release. It is really easy to install and I did not feel like a long installation, so I downloaded the single ISO image, burned it, loaded the Live CD, and away I went. Then I clicked on the Install Me icon, indicated which disk partition I wanted to use, told it to retain the contents of /home for me, to install the GRUB boot loader in the root partition instead of the MBR, to create user accounts masinick and root and to set the password for each, and to retain the existing local time zone. That was it, installed quickly, and I am already using it. I also used a Konqueror browser briefly as I was doing the installation, but then I went off onto another system and ran Konqueror from PC-BSD, a KDE based spinoff from the FreeBSD project.

This baby is done, I now have an upgraded MEPIS installation and it is working fine.

White Box or Lineox next?

I have had a good week testing out Puppy Linux 1.0.4 and Kate OS 2.1 before that. Live CDs are easy to run and you can test out their basic functionality and actually use them rather quickly, which is what I have done.

I am hoping to have a bit more time to test out either White Box Linux, Lineox, or both. Each of these distributions are Red Hat Enterprise Linux based distributions, but neither of them are directly produced by Red Hat, they are created from the Red Hat source code by two completely separated and unrelated groups.

More details later.

Puppy Linux 1.0.4 tested: Outstanding!

Puppy Linux has been my favorite small Live CD in the size category that can easily load completely into RAM. This distribution is so carefully optimized that it still has room to install the gigantic Mozilla mail, news, and Web browser suite into memory along with the Linux kernel and a carefully chosen set of utilities. If you have never run an entire operating system directly from RAM (Random Access Memory) before, you are in for a treat!

Running from CD is slow, running from disk, though the norm, is still pretty slow. Booting a moderate sized system live from CD, then loading it into memory and running it is quite the treat.

This latest version of Puppy contains a beta test version of Mozilla that runs better than anything I have ever seen. Starting up a browser directly from memory is downright fast, and so are rendered pages.

I had no problems whatsoever during the entire time that I ran Puppy Linux. Granted, I did not beat every application into a pulp, but I did run the browser for a long time and I attempted (successfully) to install several additional applications during my testing, and they installed and did not adversely affect the running system!

Congratulations to the developer of this fine software!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

KateOS Live CD tests successful

Those tests that I did a few days ago with Kate OS proved to work out very nicely indeed.

I also quickly downloaded DSL 1.3 and tried it out; not much different than the previous version I tested, but quite solid, usable as a Live CD, also installable to disk.

CD Puppy is up to V1.0.4, and I downloaded it this past evening. I have also downloaded White Box Linux 4 and Lineox 4, both Red Hat Enterprise Linux replacements. I have not tried any of these last three distros yet; will probably try Puppy next, simply because Puppy is small and doesn't take much to try it out.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Successfully loading and using Kate OS Live CD

Not only am I using the Live CD, I have also created my own user account, whose information I have stored on a Kate OS saved context file. This means that I can use it just as if everything were saved to disk. The revelant config files and home dir stuff is saved.

So far it is working very well.

Downloading and testing KateOS 2.1 Live CD

I downloaded another Live CD to test out. This time, it's called Kate, and it comes from a development effort in Poland. The software claims to be lightweight, easy to use, and based on Debian GNU/Linux software packaging and the XFCE desktop. Should be interesting.

I want to find out if I can easily install this to disk without having to create my own hack or if KateOS, like many distros these days, provides an easy way to install to disk. If this edition does not easily install to disk, they do have other versions freely available as well.

Anyway, I am burning the CD now; will probably wait until Sunday evening or Monday to actually try it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Been off the air for a while

I had my Internet service cut off for nearly a week. Bills have been piling up because of a lack of income... in between jobs, the one I had hoped to be working for the past three or four weeks did not materialize. Will have to regroup and set new goals and new employment targets.

xref to another blog

Ian Murdock on the Debian Core Consortium and Ubuntu Foundation by ZDNet's Joe Brockmeier -- Yesterday, I promised a follow-up on the Ubuntu Foundation and comments from Debian Founder and Progeny Chairman and Chief Strategist Ian Murdock. One of the things that was up in the air yesterday was the possible creation of an "enterprise" Debian distribution. An eWeek story last week cited sources "close to [...]

Friday, July 01, 2005

Good wrapup on PCLinuxOS

I had a good time testing and installing PCLinuxOS the other day, but I stayed up way to late doing it. I do recommend it as an excellent alternative to Mandrake/Mandriva. It is based on Mandriva LE 2005, but it is actually more current and even easier than Mandriva to install.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Testing PCLinuxOS Preview 9

I was VERY HAPPY with the testing of PCLinuxOS this evening, and I was also VERY HAPPY with the manner in which the wget utility worked earlier today.

We had quite a few thunderstorms in the area. First, I stopped and started wget a few times because I was not happy with the throughput of the mirror site I had selected. I stopped, started again, and was getting a throughput indicative of being connected to a system with a shared modem instead of a broadband connection. Whether the site was just really busy or if it really had a low speed network peripheral, I cannot be sure, but I sure wasn't going to wait. I tried a second mirror. Ten times the throughput, but still only a fourth of what I've been getting lately.

Finally, I selected a third mirror and found the throughput I was looking for, only to have a major thunderstorm directly bearing down on my area. Rather than risk losing a network card and possibly more, I decided to shut my entire system down along with the cable modem and all of my other hardware. I hadn't been off the system for more than five minutes when we lost power to our home for perhaps a half hour.

I waited a while before starting things back up and my patience was rewarded.

I did not get to burn my CD ISO image of PCLinuxOS until evening, then I experimented with the Live CD, then installed it to disk. By the time I read my Email and finished installing the software, it had gotten late.

I'm tired, but I have a nice new system installed on my hard disk, and I was able to keep working while I installed it.

PCLinuxOS (PCL) Preview 9 is a Live CD remake of Mandriva LE 2005 with newer packages, including a brand new KDE 3.4.1 desktop, the latest changes to the Firefox and Thunderbird Web and Mail clients from Mozilla, and many other current versions of software. The Linux kernel is a 2.6.1 kernel that comes from the latest Mandriva cooker. Several other applications have mdk labels, some of them also seem to have indications that they have been either modified or customized specifically for PCL. In any case, I like this software.

Once I had it installed on the hard drive, I used the synaptic package manager to install GNU Emacs, XEmacs, NEdit, and the XFCE desktop with several plugins. All is working very well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hoping to test PCLinuxOS Preview 9

I started downloading PCLinuxOS Preview 9 earlier today, but got sidetracked with a major electrical storm in the area. I played it safe and cut power to my system, my network card, and my Cable modem. Things are back just fine (thanks to shutting down before the lightning bolts hit, but I'm now going to see if I can resume the download - I was using wget to download the software - I will be trying out wget -c to continue the download, then I will see if k3b can still make a clean burn. If all goes well, I may yet get a chance to test out the latest PCLinuxOS preview release.

Yahoo! Mail still leads in my book

Several years ago now I read an article about various Web based Email clients. At that time, I believe one of the reviews gave Netscape's Webmail the top rating. Their reason? More storage than the other offerings! Humph!

By the time the article was published, Yahoo! Mail doubled the amount of storage that they provide free. Since that time, Google has gotten into the Web-based Email fray and everyone is now considerably enlargening the default Web mail storage, typically at least 100 MB, many have 250 MB, soime have 1 GB, and of course, Goggle keeps in front, and by most counts, offers somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.3 GB of disk space with their service, with the comment that it is likely to continue to go up. (I'm guessing that few, if any of us, have hit that target, but if we start saving music and graphcal content embedded within Email messages, anything is possible.

Meanwhile, Yahoo is planning to beta test a system that will allow storage of on line Photo-Email.

For plain, ordinary every day use, I still like and use Yahoo! Mail. A few competitors, Google and My Way, in particular, rival Yahoo in speed, but frankly, I've been using Yahoo since at least 1997 and it still has consistently solid features and performance. The main thing, and the thing that keeps me with Yahoo is simply that it gets the job done every day.

Sometimes I keep Email on the Yahoo Mail Web server, other times I download my mail from their server and keep it on my local system. Both approaches work fine.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Experimenting, results went well

I did some experimentation with DSL (also known as DamnSmall Linux) over the weekend. First of all, I played around with a Live CD of DSL that I had created and briefly used a few months ago, perhaps several months ago. It ran very well, but I was hoping for some newer applications. So I tried an experiment.

First, I installed DSL to disk instead of running from Live CD. That went well. Since DSL is so small in size anyway, it only took minutes to install to disk, including reformatting the existing disk partition.

Next, I ran the software from disk. It ran well, almost as well (but not quite) as it runs from RAMdisk and faster than it runs directly from the slower CD.

I created a few user accounts. That feature worked well. I went into the passwd and group files to make sure that my new accounts had the same group and system accessibility as the default dsl account.

With that all successfully set up, then I went out and changed the apt/sources.lst file to point at the testing sources (etch) instead of the oldstable sources (Woody). That doesn't work by itself on this system because there is only one repository activated, the oldstable (Woody) binaries. Insstead, you also have to change the preferences file to specify testing instead of oldstable. Once I did that, I was able to do a dist-upgrade from Woody to Testing, and it worked great.

Just prior to installing Woody, I added a few of my favorite applications to DSL. When I did the dist-upgrade (using the easy graphical tool, synaptic), I not only got an upgrade to the applications and libraries used by the original DSL system, I also got my newly installed packages upgraded to the testing versions, which was ALSO what I wanted to do.

DSL does a nice job of providing both Debian packages and custom packages, both of which work well.

If you have a somewhat aging system, give DSL a try. It is easy on resources and fast on a four year old system.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Have any of you ever used ICHTHUS?

I am a big fan of Debian-based desktop systems. I've been using them for about four years now, and I've been using GNU/Linux software about ten years (since 1995). About seven years ago, I began to migrate to using GNU/Linux software more actively in my home. The first leap happened once I was able to get a high speed network card and a high speed link into my home. From there, I was able to use desktop Linux for something more than a glorified terminal server. Before that, I would login to my desktop Linux system, then use a modem program to dial up my UNIX workstation in the office. Often, I would upload or download files, and then work on them on my Linux system. But once I was able to actually use my Linux system when I was directly connected to a network, I used it much more actively.

The first time I used Linux when it was directly connected to a high speed network was in 1999. At that time, I installed Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 on my laptop system. I dual booted it with Windows 98 SE at the time because I was also taking online graduate school classes at the University of Phoenix Online, and the courses used Windows based software, primarily Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, but we also had assignments that were written in Word, spreadsheets in Excel, presentations in Power Point, databases in Access, and so on. At that time there were a few Open Source office suites that could read stuff from Microsoft Office, but they were not anywhere near as functional as they are today. Given the limited time I had to work full time, study, and write papers, I dual booted.

Once that work was complete, I went on my full quest to run alternative Open Source Software or other free software as often as possible.

Mandrake was one of the early desktop environments that I used once I purchased a newer system in 2001. My first test system was a Compaq Presario 5000 series desktop system. I figured that Compaq systems would work well with Linux because they were one of the leading systems at the time. Well, they worked with SOME distributions, but not with others. Worse, Compaq had their own proprietary backup scheme set up. Once I started to mess with disk partitions, their entire backup scheme was messed up. I found out that while Compaq desktop systems work with Linux software to a certain extent, there are easier ways.

I found that Dell Dimension 4100 desktop systems make a pretty good platform for testing software. Both Linux and BSD based systems tend to install and configure well on the 4100 line, at least my system.

Once I replaced the Compaq with the Dell, I started to carve up and partition my disk so that I could test and run many different systems. At one time, I think I maxed out with either twelve or thirteen systems. I had Windows 2000 Professional, ten different Linux test systems, and a version of QNX 6.1 residing in a directory on the Windows 2000 partition. It was a lot of fun testing out and running the different systems.

After a while, I removed Windows 2000 and used that primary partition to test out some BSD systems. After that, I decided to reduce the number of partitions somewhat, enlarge the size of the partitions that remained, set up a couple of partitions to hold data for things like Email, documents I wanted to save, and a specific partition for saving software kits, CD ISO images, and things of that nature.

Over the years, the size of the distributions have grown considerably. To jam twelve or more distributions on a single 40 GB disk is no longer practical, and in a few cases, not even possible. I'm now using two primary partitions and one extended partition, which in turn, contains eight logical partitions. One of the logical partitions is a swap partition, so I have seven other locical partitions usable for something. Six of them contain distinct Linux distributions, the remaining partition contains Email and Web browser data. One of the primary partitions now contains Windows XP Professional, and the other primary partition contains software kits and information that I want to save. Whenever I install or test a new system, I add the second primary partition and the last logical partition to my mount points so that I have access to my extra software, my Email, and my browser content.

In addition to testing many hard disk based systems, over the past two years I have developed an interest in testing Live CD systems. I especially like the ones that I can boot as Live CDs, then later install, if I wish, to disk. I also like the really small versions that I can load completely into RAMdisk. These small, RAMdisk versions actually run faster than any other system software I know of because the entire system, applications and all, run from memory rather than from disk.

ICHTHUS is one of the recent Debian Live CDs that I've had a chance to test out. ICHTHUS is a Greek Word for Fish, and is commonly used as a "Fishers of Men" symbol by Christians. I discovered that ICHTHUS has a few Bible study programs and links to various Christian resources prominently installed on the system. It also has a desktop background that contains a quote of scripture. I have found ICHTHUS to be a useful distribution, particularly when I am studying scripture myself. It also happens to be a really solid Debian-based system that has been constructed from components of the Knoppix project. Well done, I like it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tried out Kanotix 2005-03

The other day I downloaded Kanotix 2005-03. Previously I had downloaded 2005-02 and liked it enough to install it on my hard drive. Though I could (and did) update it once or twice using the Debian binary archives that were provided, I decided to try out Kanotix as a Live CD, then install it to disk over the previous version.

This latest edition really isn't much different than the previous version, but it does provide you with the latest KDE changes in KDE 3.4.1, and it also provides a few other application updates that have changed since the previous release.

Kanotix has pretty good hardware detection, a fairly easy hard disk installation program, and up to date software. If you like an easy to use desktop system, it is worth a look. If you are partial to KDE on the desktop, even more reason to use Kanotix.

My one suggestion for the Kanotix developers is this: since you already have a pretty easy to use hard disk installation program, why not go just one step further and associate a Live CD desktop icon with the installation script action? That would make this a first rate way to easily load a Live CD, test to see if it works on your hardware, then quickly and easily install the software to disk. So close, why not make it even easier for the real beginner, instead of making them have to search the Web site to find out the way to install the software? Granted, it's not hard as it stands, but usability factors suggest that filling in just a few more details could turn this into one of the top desktop distributions. As it is, I give it pretty good marks, but I do think that both SimplyMEPIS (which has the desktop installation icon) and Ubuntu, which is less fancy, but also has easy installation tools), tend to steal the visibility. The reasons? An active user community and some really easy hard disk installation tools.

Nice job, nevertheless. Good software. It works quite well, and I like it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Not very active blogging

I have not been active in blogging activity, either here or on any other blog, unless you count activity in various forums "blogging". Even then, I have not been as active as I once was. I have managed to install a few desktop software systems over the past few months and wring some good usage out of them. I successfully migrated from my own custom version of Libranet 2.8.1 to the latest release, Libranet 3.0, whereupon I installed all of the latest packages over the supported versions provided by the release. Libranet is a complete system based on the solid foundations of Debian GNU/Linux software. Though I really like several other desktop systems for simplicity and preconfigured setup, especially SimplyMEPIS, at the end of the day, I still end up running Libranet more than anything else.

Over the years, I've enjoyed long stints running Caldera Open Linux eDesktop 2.4, then several releases of Mandrake (and I still run Mandriva from time to time), then Lycoris, which I used as my default desktop environment for almost two years, then Libranet. Lycoris was probably the best designed of all, from a user interface perspective, so I am looking forward to seeing what Joe Cheek's influence will be on the next desktop release of Mandriva, now that Lycoris and Mandriva have merged and joined forces.

I was very saddened to hear the news that Jon Danzig, founder of Libra Systems, LTD., makers of Libranet, had been having health problems. Shortly after Libranet 3.0 was released, he passed away. He will be greatly missed by many. I have many personal memories of Jon, including receiving a personal note from Jon when I purchased Libranet 2.7, after giving it a glowing software review.

SimplyMEPIS looks really good these days. I think that it is one of the distributions to keep an eye on. Ubuntu is the other distribution that I'd watch, as well as the newly energized Mandriva.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Doing the next thing

I've been using a network in my computing work since at least 1982. I remember using fairly basic Email systems on a private network that far back. In 1985, I started using internationally accessible Email and News networks, including Usenet and cobbled together TCP/IP and UUCP Email networks.

In the nineties, I started using the World Wide Web in conjunction with Email and I joined a number of Web based discussion forums. To this day, I probably still use Email, Web pages, news groups, and discussion forums most, but I've gradually started participating and creating my own Web logs, too. This one is the latest in that string of events.

I do a lot of online research, collecting information about and testing desktop Linux systems. The corporate people seem to have a lot of reservations about the usefulness of desktop Linux systems, thinking either that they cannot get the job done or that the migration from something else to Linux will be too painful or fail to provide sufficient gain to justify the change. Well, I can't speak about someone else's benefit/cost/risk ratio, but I can speak about what works for me. As an Internet user who uses computers at the public school where I work and the home computers that I use, I can tell you without reservation that the Linux software that I use at home is easily every bit as capable for me as the Windows 98, Windows 2003 Server, and Windows XP desktop software I use at work. Frankly, for well over 95% of what I do, all I really need is a good Email client and a good Web browser, and for convenience, a good text editor. For me, I actually have more flexibility at a lower cost by using desktop Linux software than I do using preconfigured XP or 2003 server software where I work. It helps, of course, that I can do what I want with the software at home. Nevertheless, I keep wondering if the pains of making the change to a desktop Linux system would be justified. In my mind, I want to say they would be, but then again, I can remember changes in the office before. I had no problem with the changes, but I have had a long career in the software business. I wonder about the typical knowledge worker or the uninformed casual computer user. What is the impact of change on them?

I think a business CAN make a change, but there are costs: inconvenience, learning to do things a different way, confusion, lost time. Some benefits might be: much lower ongoing licensing costs, access to many ways of solving problems, obtaining a more flexible platform on which to develop solutions. I think that corporate environments could bear that kind of change. I'm less sure about the small business owner. The individual can always do whatever best suits their own interests. Would I make the change? Yes, obviously I have done so. Should you? Depends on whether you're satisfied with what you have or not. Are you curious? Investigate. Are you skeptical? Stand by and watch others and see what they do. You still have that choice.