Saturday, November 26, 2011

Considering a Verizon Wireless 4G LTE MIFI unit

I went to the local Verizon Wireless store, and to my surprise, they had a demo unit of their MIFI unit, a mobile wireless box, about the size of a medium-sized smart phone. Running demos at home, I am using it right now with a Live version of Partition Magic (the one released on 11/24/2011, and it is, so far, working well.

The only thing I still have to check out is whether the mini USB to standard USB connector that is provided will allow me to have "wired" connectivity, which I need when I install a new Linux distribution, and have to download "wireless firmware" before I can run in completely wireless mode. If this connector works - and I hope it does, I will go back to the store and plunk down on my own version. It is still on a weekend "extended Black Friday sale" - so I have until tomorrow to decide if I want this unit. I also have until Tuesday (in case I don't or can't decide), before I have to return the demo unit.

Pretty good sales tactic on the part of Verizon Wireless. They have a decent chance of getting a sale from me. The 4G speed easily beats the Wide Open West (WOW) basic broadband network (not their fastest), that my mom has.

I also want to run some more tests to see how close it comes to the Comcast Broadband network I used in New England. Early indications are that it is at least close. If that connector gives me temporary wired connectivity, it'll probably be a deal for me.

Maybe this blog "came back"!

A while ago this blog seemed inaccessible, when Google was in the process of changing the interface - yet again. Well, at least the good news now is that this blog seems to have reappeared. If I can trust it to remain here, I may start writing articles here once again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My latest antiX-core system

Well, if you read this blog, you undoubtedly know that: 1. I like Debian-based software, 2. I am a big fan of SimplyMEPIS and antiX, and 3. I have more than one version of antiX installed.

Right now, I have three versions of antiX installed, two on my 17" Gateway portable and one on my Lenovo laptop. Each of them I have designed a bit differently to use for different purposes.

The first one is antiX M11.0. Though it's the latest version currently installed, this is the one I have had the longest. It's the "full" version, which has changed a bit over the years. This one comes with two window managers, IceWM and Fluxbox. By default, it uses the Debian Testing repositories as the basis of its software, and it comes with a MEPIS kernel, MEPIS installer, and a few MEPIS tools, plus the extremely flexible smxi packaging and system management tool. It uses default applications that are a bit lighter in resource usage than most general purpose systems, so it runs well on older hardware and faster than most systems on newer hardware. I've added the Xfce desktop to it.

The second one is also on the Gateway, and it is antiX core. Built at a time when anticapitalista was still experimenting with the build, once systems like this are installed, they can be updated indefinitely. I think this one is going on two years old, or whatever the timeframe was when this idea was first germinating. In this version, I began by installing just LXDE and Xfce desktops instead of IceWM and Fluxbox. My first experiment was to compare resource usage between the two desktops. In typical implementations, LXDE comes in a bit lighter in memory use and its default applications tend to be a bit lighter and faster too, but I was surprised to find very little initial difference between the two until I added additional tools to Xfce. In fact, my earliest implementation was actually just slightly smaller, tighter, and faster than LXDE, but that is no longer the case.

With this version of antiX core, once the initial experiments were done, I set this one up on Debian Sid repositories instead of Debian Testing, and I started to use it in companionship with my Debian Sid system to test desktops and the latest software, so it's not as tight and light as it once was, but it's still quite responsive.

The third, and my latest version of antiX, which went on my Lenovo laptop was also antiX core. This one is also set up with Sid, but it has only the Xfce desktop and several additional utilities. I used the xfce task metapackage to pull in pretty much all of Xfce, then I added the Google Chrome and Opera Web browsers to it, and that's about it.

On many of my systems, I add nightly builds of Firefox and Seamonkey, but I did not do that here. I usually run just Chrome for browsing Email, forums, and research news sites, and I use Opera only to view special interest sites and download images and movies, but otherwise I stick with Chrome.

This one is probably tuned about as well as any of my systems with not too many services enabled, so it starts and runs very well. Because of that and because I created it myself, much as one would assemble an Arch Linux system, I like this one very much.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

antiX provides three great ways to build a Linux system to meet your needs

I have been an enthusiastic user and supporter of the antiX distribution since it became available in 2006. The antiX distribution is a lightweight, flexible alternative to its parent distribution, SimplyMEPIS, which is based on the rock solid Debian Stable technology. As configured when installed, antiX uses the Debian Testing repositories instead of the Debian Stable repositories, and it also has entries in the packaging configuration directory /etc/apt for Stable, Testing, or Sid (Unstable).

On my antiX M11.0 system partition, I use the original Testing repositories. In my alternative antiX core distribution, I use Sid instead.

That brings up another discussion point on antiX. Though it is a moderate sized distribution and it is a derivative of SimplyMEPIS and Debian, at each release it now comes with three distinct variations - the "full" distribution, which is the original antiX, equipped with IceWM and Fluxbox as light window managers, along with a full collection of software that features modest memory and system requirements. After the main or "full" distribution was created, a derivative called "Base" was created. In this derivative, the system comes complete with a graphical user environment containing Fluxbox as its window manager, and it contains a complete set of packaging and management tools, but no application software. With this version, you can install and set up the system the way you want it, adding or removing window management software and applications to suit your needs and interests.

If that's not enough, more recently anticapitalista, the originator of antiX, came up with the idea of a core distribution. This idea is quite similar to the idea that the Arch Linux developers came up with, but I like the antiX core idea, because it uses the Debian tools that are somewhat more familiar to me than the Arch tools, and there is a broader selection of software available at your fingertips. In the antiX core implementation, all you get is the core system and tools, no X server and no graphical display environment. Those things, with Debian, are just a single command away with the apt-get Debian packaging tool.

I created my initial antiX core setup with just a single apt-get command, including the core X server, two desktop environments, Xfce and LXDE, and a small handful of software. I got the initial setup working in ten to fifteen minutes. Over time, I changed it from a Debian Testing to a Debian Sid setup, added some window managers, applications, and I eventually added some heavier applications just to see how well they would work out. What resulted was a system that was very close in content and capability to the Debian Sid system that I had created from the Debian Live project, and it was almost completely the result of my own customization. I give a lot of credit, not only to anticapitalista, but also to Harold Hope (h2) for his smxi system management tool, which I added and heavily leaned on early in my antiX core customization process.

How do antiX M11.0 and antiX core compare? Well, because I eventually modified them using different Debian repositories, the M11.0 implementation is the more stable of the two, but both carry similar flexibility and features. I could undoubtedly go backward with M11.0 and strip software out of it and get close to where antiX Base and Core start at, and I could similarly modify antiX core to behave nearly identically to that of its parent. The fact that there is so much flexibility built into all three of the antiX derivatives speaks well for the design and for the upstream software upon which all of these efforts are based. I recommend one of the antiX distributions for anyone looking for a somewhat lighter system to start with. For those not familiar with many of the underlying Debian commands, I'd opt for antiX M11.0 "full". It has enough software to use it as is, and it has graphical system management tools for keeping it up to date. The Base and Core alternatives are fantastic for someone with a bit more experience and interest in making their system precisely what they want it to be, but all of them are first rate in what they offer. I wouldn't quite call any of them beginner distributions, but the primary M11.0 release is not too difficult for anyone to install or use who has previously installed any other system.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More software freedom of choice!

When you work every day during the week as I am doing now, it is not as easy to find moments to collect thoughts that are worthy to share on a technical blog, and so that is why it has been a week or two between my writings and musings. But I have a break today, so I will take some time to collect a few thoughts about systems that I have been investigating and testing.

I have three of them to write about today; one that I tested last night, and two more that I tested today, one of which I am using right now; it's called Webconverger, or webc-8.0. I will mention more about it in a little while.

The first system I worked with to begin the weekend was Sabayon 6.0. I had Sabayon 5.5 previously installed, liked it a lot, had added quite a bit of software to it, and during a recent upgrade it ran out of space. I unsuccessfully tried to clear the cache of enough space to make it worthwhile to keep, but the disk stayed 100% full, so it was an excellent candidate for a replacement. Too bad: it had worked well, and it also only recently started offering rolling release upgrades as an alternative to fresh installations. But I needed a fresh installation, plus installing a new system always shows off the new features - and sometimes the limitations as well. That, at least initially, proved to be the case here. Sabayon is in the middle of making some infrastructure and packaging improvements. Chances are that in the long run these will work very well. In the meantime, though, I ran into problems. When I went to update the system, it told me that there were eight new packages available, but none of them would install for me, and I started getting error messages about something wrong with the package management system. I sent one of them along to Sabayon; hopefully it reaches them, they are aware of whatever issue it was that cropped up, get it fixed soon, and maybe even drop me a note to let me know about the change; I hope that happens!

Until then, Sabayon 6.0 is not quite ready for me to spend much, if any, time with it. So I went looking for others. I had downloaded a version of Fedora 15 Xfce Live, and still had the ISO image on one of my systems, so I checked to see if I had tested it yet. I had downloaded a Beta test version of the same thing back in May, but this was a June 17 download of the released version, so I tried it out. I was very happy with the result, possibly enough so to give the release a try installed; I only ran it live. One thing with Xfce I was able to do was mount my hard disk file systems. I found my main Debian Sid partition, mounted it, then ran Firefox Nightly out of my personal copy in my home directory and it ran well. That gave this Fedora release extra points; I could run software on it from other systems, and at least what I tried out actually worked. That's good.

The system had its usual fine appearance, and Xfce is a well kept secret from most people. I feel it is the most mature (1996 origins, same time frame as KDE) and well developed desktop available. KDE had real growing pains earlier in Version 4 and has finally pretty much recovered; GNOME 3 is currently going through similar pains; Xfce has had only short periods of instability in comparison to KDE and GNOME, has a bit of a more classic appearance and function, tends to be as flexible as KDE, though not quite as full featured, and definitely easier to master than the richness of KDE. It is also lighter and more flexible than GNOME, and though it shares the Gtk+ toolkit with GNOME, it is easily - at least in my opinion, the more wisely designed system. Both KDE and GNOME take leaps in new directions, but it's unclear whether or not they get the ideas for their directions from their user base, whereas it is pretty clear that Xfce develops out of dialog with its user and development base. So Fedora 15 Xfce definitely benefits from that. Fedora 15, also taking steps to provide more spins and to provide more stability, has appeared to have succeeded in both of these areas if my short spin with Xfce is any indication of the possibilities and capabilities of Fedora 15.

I mentioned Webconverger 8.0 to whet your appetite, and though this is not your every day kind of a system, it is great for using as a Kiosk type of system. You run this one without loading anything to disk. I ran it off CD, but I think it would be ultra cool to run it off a quiet USB or SSD technology. It would really be not only quiet then, but fast as well.

I added the cheat codes toram and copy2ram to the boot line, pressing tab as soon as the boot screen appeared, hoping that I could not only run this live, but quietly load it completely into RAM. I did this on not one, not two, but three laptop systems of different vintages: a large, 17" portable Gateway 2000 Series Model PA6A, a similar vintage 15" Lenovo 2000 Series Y410 laptop, and an older, traditional 14" Dell Latitude D620 laptop. All three work well, and once loaded, perform with similar skills and ability because the system speed becomes a minor player; the memory and network access rate become the driving components of performance. Fortunately, all three systems are similar enough in those areas to provide similar performance. The Gateway may still have had a slight edge, being the largest and fastest, but only by a very slight margin. The Dell was probably slowest; again, any difference, if there even was any, was minimal; all three platforms worked virtually the same.

If you are going to be doing all web browsing or you want to create either a home or a business kiosk, then this is a good distribution to evaluate; I like it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Software Freedom of Choice

NOTE: I first wrote these thoughts in response to "Lxer: The Century of the Linux Desktop", an RSS link to an article on LXer. I wrote my initial comments at Desktop Linux Reviews Forum.

When it comes to software, I believe in freedom and I believe in choice; the choice to run all free sofware, the choice to run a pragmatic mix of free and non-free software, and the choice to run commercial and proprietary software as well.

For my personal use at home, I overwhelmingly run free software with preference toward completely free, when possible, but pragmatic, when it comes to doing the things that I want to do, run the applications that I want to run, and save time and money in the process. I do actually have a version of Windows 7 that my part time employer acquired for me, but now we have a new Webserver that is based on Word Press, and the Email function sends mail directly to me, rather than requiring me to login to Front Page to extract the messages, save them and edit them using proprietary programs. Now I can do the complete job from most any system. Not sure that I'd try it on my netbook, but that might actually be an interesting experiment for when I am "on the go" or out of town.

Favorites? In the foreseeable future, it is quite likely that my favorite will be Linux-based unless something even better comes along. Right now, I like Debian-based derivatives the most, but when Debian lags, I try others as well. Sabayon, PCLinuxOS, openSUSE with Tumbleweed rolling release repositories, and Mageia test (Cooker) versions have provided me with early prototypes of new applications to test out. Debian Sid has been somewhat more stable than them, and Debian Testing has been completely stable. Debian Stable has been rock stable, and it works if all I want is to get on a system, read Email and browse the Web. SimplyMEPIS is the finest ready-to-go Debian-based system if that kind of stability is what you look for, so I always keep it around. The MEPIS derivative antiX is a great alternative to run with either Stable, Testing, or Sid (Unstable), and it provides plenty of tools to use to tinker with it. I keep both Live CDs and multiple installed versions of antiX and one of its recent "children", Swift Linux, installed, they work great.

Before closing this dialog, though, I want to not only defend the right to free software, I want to defend the right to proprietary commercial software as well. There is definitely a place for Windows, and there is definitely a place for Mac OS X too. Windows is great for those who don't want to tinker, will pay for a system, but want it simple. You can get something similar in SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS, or Mint, but some people can't be bothered even to learn their subtle distinctions and quirks, and for them, Windows is the right choice. For others, the Mac definitely has an elegance and a richness to it. To me, it is expensive, and it limits choice, but the choice or alternative that it offers, and to quite a few, who are willing to pay the premium price, it is a very good alternative. It's not for me, but I won't argue or contest with those who like it. Based on what I've seen, though it's not my choice, just like the iPad, iPhone, iMac, anything with the "i" prepending the name, the brand suggests something, and it delivers what it suggests, and that's value - at least to those looking for it.

For me, starting with any of several Debian-derived systems as my starting point, I can make something that can deliver 100% of what I need for every day home use, and I can do it for the cost of the system itself, the media, and the network connection, and my time, that's it. That is a pretty good "value proposition" for me, especially since I can get several of them up and running in under fifteen minutes, perhaps a half hour investment, considering download and media creation times, and I can multi-task during those times, so it's well worth my while, and even at $50 an hour, (if I use a round figure to value my time), I can spend an hour or two before I face the expenses that I would face with any commercial sofware system, so it's well worth it to me, and I also happen to enjoy it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Brian Masinick Blog: Peppermint Ice Two - first impressions

Brian Masinick Blog: Peppermint Ice Two - first impressions: "I am now using the newly installed Peppermint OS Two (2), which uses a 2.6.38 Linux kernel, the LXDE (desktop environment) and the Chromium ..."

Peppermint Ice Two - first impressions

I am now using the newly installed Peppermint OS Two (2), which uses a 2.6.38 Linux kernel, the LXDE (desktop environment) and the Chromium 11 Web browser. This is a lightweight hybrid desktop, intended for a significant amount of online computing and social networking, but not a "Cloud-only" experience; it has many traditional type of applications, but it tends to use lighter applications than commonly seen on most "full featured" desktop systems.

This software has just passed a year of service, so Version 2 comes out just slightly after a year of experience, and it is maturing nicely. I would consider this a very stable and useful, fairly flexible, moderately light system, and it's good enough to install and retain this second (major) release.

Not only is this a hybrid in terms of combining traditional and "Cloud-based" services, it is also a hybrid in terms of including some of the best features from Peppermint OS One and Peppermint Ice. Mozilla Prism is gone in this one, so the browser used is the one found in Ice, but the theme is somewhere in between One and Ice, fairly conservative, a dark background with just enough color to make it interesting, but nothing that shouts at you; it is middle of the road, and pretty decent. It may not draw huge accolades, but it shouldn't be blasted either. Fans of Peppermint are likely to like it.

Functionally, the release is maturing and filling an undercrowded niche that fits somewhere in between a traditional desktop and a completely network-based Cloud computing solution. This one makes overtures to network-based computing, but does not exclusively rely upon it, so this is a good bridge release between the current status quo and the emerging future of network computing as it evolves.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Peppermint Two - Is Two Better than One in this case?

Peppermint OS came onto the scene just over a year ago, and it brought out new waves of enthusiasm. It was not quite a complete "Cloud-based" operating system, but it wasn't your completely traditional desktop operating system either. The original design fell somewhere in between the traditional general purpose desktop system and the completely network based mobile system. It's lighter than a traditional system in terms of startup speed and the heft of the overall system, but it's not quite the all or nothing - all in the Cloud approach found in Jolicloud's Joli OS or the imminent release of Google Chrome OS on the Acer and Samsung Chromebooks, which will be coming out this next week - as we reach the "ides" of June - the midway point of the month.

In the past, Peppermint OS has been a good system. From the appearance, I enjoyed the original Peppermint OS One the most, but on a practical level, I used both OS One and OS Ice. I just downloaded the latest version. Since Firefox has focused on Sync and is capable of handling application instances, the earlier Prism research project upon which Peppermint was based has been de-emphasized, so Peppermint Two uses a Google Chromium browser to achieve a Site Specific Behavior in a "Single Site Browser" - which is what Kendall Weaver, founder of Peppermint OS, calls the SSB. Both Mozilla's Prism Project and Google's Chrome and Chromium Web browser projects support the idea of a Single Site Browser. But Prism is more of a prototype, a concept generator; Chrome and Chromium are developing products with a number of incremental releases behind them. The latest version of Peppermint OS Two uses Google Chromium as its core Web browser. Kendall has included a number of SSBs in his distribution, and you can easily create your own by creating a Web instance of a specific page.

If you don't know how to do that and you are interested in finding out, write to me or check out the Peppermint OS site at

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mageia first out the door in June!

The distribution forked after last September's large layoff of Mandriva developers has now reached its first release. Mageia was formed probably less than two months after that shift in Mandriva strategy. I am pretty sure that by November the group had already met, named itself, and put up some public information.

It was from there until about February that Mageia had some of its most difficult struggles - getting the correct infrastructure into place, and attempting to cast a schedule. They were behind a few times until they got the first build actually up and working. From then on, they cast a new project schedule and they kept it very well until release.

I feel that this release feels a lot like Mandriva, because in a lot of ways it IS a lot like Mandriva. The core tools come directly from Mandriva and they are written and maintained by former Mandriva developers. No reasons NOT to use them, since 1. They were maintained by some of these very engineers and 2. If it is licensed under the GPL (GNU General Public License), it had better be freely available, and it is.

I am not sure if Mandriva can recover from twelve years of financial distress, numerous ups and downs in the financial stability and reputation of the company. Mageia, on the other hand, while not ground shattering, implements the functionality previously released in Mandriva, and it is about as stable as I can ever remember it being, so this is a good release; it's just not anything unique, new, or innovative - YET. Give them time; without management interference, they are already doing better than they were under corporate control. Expect some good things and expect them to stay free. You heard it here, and I read it on their site.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Can Chromebook succeed?

Google frequently tests out new ideas, and quite a few of their ideas have long Beta test cycles. Common wisdom is that these products either aren't ready for market or Google is trying to get others to test them. There is definitely some truth in both of those statements, but these comments need to be explored in more detail.

As a case in point, I believe it was approximately 2006 when Google acquired the assets for Android, an operating system with a Linux kernel and a Java application stack, designed to be used with Smart phones. Google had an idea to run with this to make their products and services available to gadget users everywhere. Google modified both the Linux kernel and the Java application stack to create their version of Android, and got quite a few people in both areas all up in arms.

In the case of the Linux kernel, I am pretty sure that several of their changes have, in fact, worked their way back into the Linux kernel. They are too useful and important for that not to have happened. But Oracle had a number of concerns about the way that the Java code (and the name and license that go with it) are being used, and they filed a legal suit. Today, I saw a note that suggests that the case may go on for years unless both Google and Oracle change the way in which they are approaching the suit. At the present time, that delay would seem to favor Google, but Sun did have success in a previous legal suit against Microsoft, and Microsoft simply created C# instead. Could Google have a similar strategy, especially if this drags on? Perhaps by the time anything happens, Google will change the plumbing anyway.

But what about the Chromebook? Could Google have a similar strategy - a long term strategy, to assess the market for Cloud-based netbook (and other form factors) operating system? Could it be that the Cr-48 really WAS just a PROTOTYPE and a pilot project? Could it be that the Acer and Samsung models, which are only planned to be sold over the Internet, are merely test market vehicles to gain additional real world experience, and to further validate the ideas and marketing before creating an all-out, energetic marketing plan?

Some have speculated exactly what I just mentioned. It took from 2006 until 2009 before Google, Verizon Wireless, and Motorola came out with the Droid in a big marketing splash. It took another year for more Android products to come out. The Android is still developing itself in the tablet form factor, but is well established in the smart phone form factor. Could it be that this next year will be a trial period to see what works with the Cloud-based ChromeOS Chromebook?

I have reason to believe that this is the case. I believe that the younger generation, who carry around all kinds of devices, could be sold on a completely network-based system. They use them now in their smart phones and tablets.

Google has shown that they do not need to be the first ones out there in the market with a particular idea to do it right. Jolicloud and Joli OS have certainly beaten Google ChromeOS out, but the Joli OS is not an integrated hardware and software product; the Chromebook on ChromeOS is. The iPhone on iOS is too.

Do you think that Google is on the right track to experiment here? Do you think that Oracle is troubled, perhaps because they have been trying, on and off, for the past decade to create a network computer? Could Oracle and Google strike a deal at some point and finally make a network computer a reality?

What are your thoughts on any of these topics and questions? I would be interested in seeing another dialog on this one.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

antiX derivative still "Looking Good!"

Anyone who follows and reads my journal, blogs, for forum posts anywhere on the Internet, including this blog, knows that I have been a big Debian software enthusiast for many years, and that in recent years, I have developed a particular enthusiasm and attachment to two of the MEPIS projects, SimplyMEPIS (for an easy, stable desktop system) and antiX (for a light, extremely flexible, customizable, and modifiable desktop or server system).

As proof of how flexible MEPIS has been, antiX has been in existence over five years now and it has three derivatives (or "flavors") of its own, the original, "full" version, a cut down "base" version, which includes a graphical user environment and customization tools, but withholds the applications so that you can select the ones you prefer, and then there is an even more minimal approach called antiX "core", which provides the installation and configuration tools, but no graphical user environment or applications, so you completely build what you want from scratch.

In years past, some of the MEPIS Community developers have created revisions, respins, and proof of concept (PoC) builds for various environments and activities. Right when KDE 4.0 came out, for example, a community member who goes by the forum name of Danum, created special MEPIS builds for KDE 4, has created his own derivatives, and continues to guide people on building their own respun distributions, using MEPIS as a base with newer KDE desktop components.

Marcos, a few years ago, did the same, demonstrating how easy it was to build Xfce and LXDE versions with MEPIS themes and applications, but replacing the desktop, inserting either Xfce or LXDE in place of KDE.

The antiX distribution goes all the way back to 2006, is really a lot like the very first MEPIS distribution from May 2003, and it has been officially recognized and sanctioned by Warren Woodford as a supported and acceptable MEPIS derivative.

Now there is an antiX derivative. It's not officially sanctioned as far as I know, but it certainly is a nice derivative, and we've already had a few builds of it, and it's called Swift Linux. Conceived by Jason Hsu, it was originally created to support some contract work involving forensic activities, such as recovering files from old and failing systems that were using Windows. Jason had been using Puppy, but found antiX had more of the tools and applications that he wanted, overall, but Puppy had, for him, easier desktop navigation.

Therefore, as so often happens in free software, Jason took what he considered to be the best features in Puppy Linux and antiX Linux, remembered the humor in the creation of Hannah Montana Linux, which had been built as a fun exercise about a year ago by another developer, based on Ubuntu. The result: Jason created Swift Linux to be a fast, easy to use derivative of antiX and SimplyMEPIS, combining some of the best features seen in Puppy, antiX, and Ubuntu, providing a solid forensic distribution that also works great as a light, every day distribution.

Taking that humor from Hannah Montana, Jason created iCarly Swift Linux, Taylor Swift Linux, NASCAR Swift Linux, and Magnum PI Swift Linux, in addition to a standard Swift Linux and an extra light Swift Linux. This demonstrates the ease in putting themes to systems that are otherwise similar, even identical, and it also demonstrates how to add and remove features, customizing a system for particular needs.

Jason Hsu, in doing so, further builds my case at why antiX makes such a great platform for custom configurations. It isn't the only platform that can do these things; there are many out there these days, but these are some of the best examples, and they even come, not only with great software, but a fun sense of humor as well.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Full Monty stumbles after a great start!

Nothing quite like a different view for a while. At least one person likes the colorful new theme. I'll keep it at least a while before deciding on whether to go to something a bit more muted or to keep with this one a while longer. It certainly beats the drab, default appearance, at least for a change of pace.

Speaking of a change of pace, that's what I did today. I went over to PCLinuxOS and messed around there for a while. I have what is known as the "Full Monty" version of PCLinuxOS installed - it came out around the Holidays. It's big, it has everything you can possibly imagine in it, but it also defaults to turning on an incredible number of services, so it is one of the more sluggish systems I have, but I can also do just about anything I may want or need to do with it, yet I actually came upon not one, but two issues with it today, and how I found them was related.

I started up a torrent to download Fedora 15 in the Xfce desktop edition, one of the four major respins that the community project is now offering. I used Ktorrent to do the download, and it was real quick because quite a few people were grabbing it. I was probably getting somewhere in the 1.5-1.8 Mega Bytes per second throughput; multiply that times eight and I was probably seeing 12 to 15 Mbps on a download, pretty good!

But then I wanted to move the file. First I burned the image. That went well, and since PCLinuxOS is fundamentally KDE based, I used k3b to do the job, and it did that well too.

That's about when the problems began. I have a Western Digital external USB drive, where I store ISO images and Virtualbox images in one partition, movies and videos in another one, Windows backups in a third one and Norton snapshot backups in a fourth one; four partitions; two are ext3 format; two are NTFS format.

I have a script that I use on most of my systems, actually two of them, one to mount the USB drive partitions and another to unmount them: mountUSB.bash and unmountUSB.bash. I mounted /dev/sda8 and created /media/sda8, and that's when I first started to notice a problem. The shell came up, but man, was it sluggish. Creating the directory probably took 10-15 seconds, an eternity when I can do it in 1-2 seconds at the max on most other systems. Then the REAL problem came up: the USB devices were not created, and if there was an automated mechanism to create them and make them accessible, it wasn't working. I didn't mess with it; why bother when I have at least ten other systems that can do this right and quickly?

So the sheen came off of this "Full Monty". It had been working quite well and the overhead hadn't presented any issues until today. But now there are two issues: overhead at the command console level is excessive, and for me, unacceptable. Automatically configuring a USB disk drive that works in Windows and in numerous other Linux distros does not auto mount, auto configure anything, and it seems not to work.

I may replace the "Full Monty" with a more basic PCLinuxOS in the future, but I may just wait until they issue an updated ISO image. This system does a lot of things well, but I finally found a few things where it bombed out. They could undoubtedly be fixed, but it isn't worth it to me; the Debian Sid system I am using now does all of these things effortlessly and it is already my every day default system.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The latest changes - appearance and distro changes

Blogspot recently made some additional themes available, so I decided to mess around with them for a while. I am not sure the one I just selected is going to hang around long - unless I get some feedback in its favor, but I thought it would at least present a topic of conversation for five minutes before we tire of it and go on to something else.

One "Something else" that I spend a lot of time on is distribution testing. Today, right from the start, I fired up the system where I have what I refer to as the "Test Systems": Sabayon 5.5, Linux Mint Xfce 201104 Debian Edition (or LMDE Xfce for short), Mageia 1 - now a release candidate, Swift Linux 0.1.0, with the "Taylor Swift" art work, (creator Jason Hsu's concession to the fact he liked what developers did a year ago, creating a "Hannah Montana" derivative of Ubuntu for their children), Absolute Linux 13.37, openSUSE 11.4 with the newly added "Tumbleweed" rolling release repositories, which turn the 11.4 release into a perpetual rolling release (which works GREAT), Joli OS 1.2, and Xubuntu 11.04, plus the "dark horse" that I run three times a week for my part time evening job, Windows 7.

Today I spent most of the time with Mageia. This morning I went to upgrade it, thinking that if I ran upgrades I would get the current Release Candidate. I was surprised to find no upgrades, and I did not notice any Release Candidate wallpapers or other art work, so I went to get the RC 1 ISO image. The US Mirror, ibiblio, did not have them yet, but at least two of the German mirror sites and a French site DID have it; the German sites had better throughput for me today, so that's where I got the image. 3.7 GB later, I found it filled up the disk, and I discovered that the Mageia partition that I am using right now "only" has 12 GB, whereas the partition where I have Swift Linux (which is where Mandriva USED to be, has around 20 GB. I had originally intended to install Mageia over Mandriva, but I installed it over LMDE instead, which had been on sda5. I wanted to wipe it anyway, but I ended up bringing in LMDE Xfce later. So a future project will probably be to wipe sda8 where Swift Linux is now, and maybe I will do some kind of partition to partition copy, so that I can write about it and tell newcomers some innovative (but possibly complicated for them) ways to accomplish this quickly.

Anyway, after essentially two nearly 4 GB downloads, I got the new Mageia, and then I did the long DVD burn, then finally the install. I then spent some time over at Sabayon 5.5, which I have currently given the task of managing the Master Boot Record (MBR) for booting up multiple systems (the aptosid that used to be in its place previously had this responsibility). So I spent some time with Sabayon 5.5, updated the GRUB boot loader and updated the system, then went back to Mageia. I also spent some time with Linux Mint Xfce and updated it while I was there, because it's partition also has a lot of free space, enough to handle that big DVD, so that's where I created my Mageia DVD image. Mint Xfce is behaving well in Debian rolling release form, much better than the previous LMDE, in fact. Prior to Mint coming out with a Xfce Edition, I had added Xfce to my version, and used it instead of GNOME on my desktop.

So I used Mageia, Sabayon 5.5, and LMDE Xfce Edition in my testing work today. Just prior to switching to Windows 7 tonight for my evening job, I started up Absolute Linux 13.37, a Slackware 13.37 derivative, and this is a nice, light, fast distributtion, a slam it in place and use it type of distribution. The installer looks very plain, just like Slackware, but the installed software looks much nicer than Slackware in its default appearance.

A few comments on Absolute Linux. Several creators of small distributions, especially those who use IceWM in their work, lift ideas and techniques from Paul Sherman's Absolute Linux work, and they frequently comment with highly complementary words on his work. I can echo their sentiments, and tell you that Absolute Linux and antiX (and its remasters) are among the finest in their implementation of IceWM. I think antiX and Absolute Linux are very close in their implementation, but we have to give the nod to Absolute, not antiX, in this regard, for leading the pack, because antiX got several of its ideas from earlier works in Absolute Linux and a few of the helpers on the antiX project encouraged anticapitalista to include IceWM. I also lobbied to make IceWM the default Window Manager in antiX, reasoning that beginners might have a slightly easier time with it, and veterans can easily switch to the Fluxbox that they often prefer.

Anyway, that is enough rambling from my Absolute Linux system; Windows 7 and the evening mailing list are calling! :-)

If I have any readers, let me know if you'd like a dark theme or this loud background theme that I am using right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another brief memory usage study using Debian Sid, Xfce, and Seamonkey

I am using the Nightly Build of the Seamonkey Internet Suite, and as part of that suite I have the Web browser and the Email client currently running. Two features that the recent Seamonkey builds offer that were not present in earlier releases are the standard availability of Sync, the tool which maintains browser, cache, cookie, and password information across browsers on different systems and the availability for the browser tabs and bookmark entries to display Website icons.

The Website icon feature, in particular, seems to result in quite a bit more browser memory being actively used in order to be able to display each Web site icon. In particular, the Seamonkey image now consumes over 700 MB of virtual memory and around 260 MB of resident memory, and even 41 MB of shared memory, all significantly larger amounts than required by the 2.0.13 or 2.0.14 released version of Seamonkey, which usually consume in the 300-400 MB of virtual memory, 90-150 MB of resident memory, and 20-30 MB of shared memory. Performance of the new browser, using more memory, however, easily exceeds that of the previous versions, as well as improved functionality, and since the headroom for more memory has a comfortable ceiling, still only about a quarter utilized, this seems to be a wise optimization in favor of performance at the expense of more memory I/O and fewer disk I/O requests for more virtual memory.

Comparing the total amount of memory on the system needed with this Xfce and Debian Sid combination with the Seamonkey Nightly browser to that we saw recently with PCLinuxOS, we find a total system memory utilization of 369 MB. Several of the scenarios with PCLinuxOS were using as much or more memory; for instance, PCLinuxOS with the "light" IceWM window manager, but the memory hungry Chromium Web browser, was using between 520-550 MB, and around 549 MB with KDE and Chromium. The Chromium browser was the big consumer there with PCLinuxOS, whether running KDE or IceWM. With Firefox replacing Chromium, memory usage dropped a bit, and I found Firefox used 297 MB of memory with IceWM and around 420 MB of memory with KDE.

So what I see here with Debian Sid and Seamonkey is about what I'd expect, though I was a bit surprised to see peak virtual memory requirements as high as they are with Seamonkey, yet I find the actual consumed resources to be more reasonable, and the overall system resources needed to be quite reasonable for the hardware that I am currently using.

Monday, May 16, 2011

LMDE - the Xfce variety

LMDE stands for Linux Mint Debian Edition. Xfce, at one time, stood for the XForms Common Environment because the early editions of Xfce used XForms to create a common desktop environment.

The Xfce project originally began around the same time as another desktop environment project, KDE, around 1996. Xfce, in its early implementation, was similar to CDE, the Common Desktop Environment that was prevalent on UNIX workstations in the mid to late nineties. CDE was pretty ugly, and so were the early implementations of Xfce, but arguably Xfce worked better than CDE ever did, and Xfce became portable to a lot more systems.

Xfce was eventually rewritten to use the Gtk+ in 1999, and that was what was available during the Version 3 life cycle. In Version 4, Xfce migrated further to the Gtk+ 2 libraries, and this opened the way to significant new development, including a solid file manager and a new SVG icon set. The current version, included in the Linux Mint Xfce 201104 Edition (the actual name of the release), which is the Linux Mint Debian Edition for Xfce, adds a number of additional features, provides some interesting history and details, from which I extracted much of this information.

As far as this 201104 release, this is the first LMDE that has been configured for use as a "Debian Edition". Past releases came out after the main Linux Mint versions (which use GNOME for their desktop environment), but this caused quite a bit of delay in their release. The idea for LMDE was first tested with a GNOME desktop, and this Xfce edition is the first of what will probably end up being most of the other Mint editions that will be based on a Debian rolling release core in order to save on development effort and result in more frequently updated software.

The software itself works quite well. For those familiar with traditional versions of Mint, this edition is not quite as finely polished at this stage in its life as the primary Mint editions, but on the other hand, it is a bit more flexible and a lot more current. We can expect it to become slightly more polished over time, though probably not to the extent of the official Mint releases.

For a veteran like me, I definitely prefer these LMDE versions to the primary versions of Mint, but not everyone would agree with that, and that is why it is great to have choices and alternatives. This one is pretty good for those with some Debian experience, and it is somewhat easier to deal with than a stock Debian system, but you can still do most things that you do with a genuine Debian system, so in some ways it adds to the flexibility commonly found on a Debian system. These editions are all based on Debian Testing, a solid core of software.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Debian APT Part 2: Installing Unreleased Software

There is a two part article that was originally written at the Linux Gazette, and it is now referenced in TLDP, The Linux Documentation Project. It is about installing, not just the standard software applications, which is discussed in the first part of the article series, but having the ability to install newer, less rigorously tested versions of software. Debian uses the terms Stable, Testing, Unstable, and Experimental to describe its four main binary software repositories, but perhaps a better description would refer to the extent of testing performed on the software. From my perspective, Stable contains completely tested, verified software that passes all entry criteria. Testing contains software that has passed the basic unit testing done in the Experimental stage, and has also passed the first qualification level of testing, successfully moving from Experimental to Unstable, and passing the intermediate criteria to be considered Testing, which is software that has passed basic functionality and is ready to undergo rigorous tests in order to be a candidate for the next Stable release. is the location of the second part of this series, "Installing Unreleased Software".

Canonical sponsored alternatives to Ubuntu

In recent weeks we have seen the introduction and release of the 11.04 versions of the Canonical Ubuntu-based distributions, Ubuntu, which uses GNOME 3.0, but Canonical substitutes the Unity Shell in place of the GNOME 3 Shell, Kubuntu, which uses the KDE 4.6.2 desktop (current as of April; 4.6.3 was recently released as an update; Personal Package Archives (PPA) can track these changes if you want them), Xubuntu, which uses the Xfce 4.8 desktop introduced at the end of January, with updates and patches included since then (some up to Version 4.8.3), and then Lubuntu, the LXDE-based desktop which just recently was recognized as an official Canonical distribution, which means that in future releases, the Lubuntu packages will be in the Canonical repositories with the lubuntu-desktop metapackage, alongside the desktop metapackages for each of the other three supported desktop environments.

All four of these desktops are usable, but the main one, Ubuntu, is in a bit of a state of transition. I found the fundamental features to work, but the flexibility with it at this stage is limited. A year from now, when the next Long Term Support (LTS) release becomes available, these issues ought to be better handled, and hopefully completely resolved. In the meantime, the other three alternatives represent very solid alternatives to Ubuntu. If you want a full featured desktop with even more flexibility than Ubuntu has ever offered, then try Kubuntu. It continues to evolve and improve, and this may well be the best release they've had. The only complainers I have seen have been those with multi headed displays and an arrogant attitude. Most others have had high praise for Kubuntu. If you would prefer to have something slightly lighter and a bit closer in features and appearance to Ubuntu, then try out Xubuntu. It may be the best overall compromise of the bunch, enough features to handle most every daily chore, but not too many extra bells and whistles. On the light end, Lubuntu is easily the lightest and fastest member of the Ubuntu family. It sacrifices some of the convenience tools and flashy graphical capabilities for a simpler, lighter, faster feel and performance. All of these distributions, however, have common software repositories, so if a certain application is missing from one of them, the software manager is more than capable of finding and installing them.

APT stands for the Advanced Packaging Tool - it is a package management system for Debian GNU/Linux. The apt family of tools can be used from a command console to update the package cache, install or remove one or more packages, to search for packages, and to ensure that any dependent libraries are installed along with whatever applications are installed. Debian includes a number of different command and graphical interfaces to the APT environment. Kubuntu uses Kpackagekit as its default tool; Ubuntu uses the Ubuntu Software Manager, and Xubuntu offers a choice of the Software Manager or Synaptic. Lubuntu makes Synaptic available. Note that you can acquire any of these tools from the Ubuntu repositories for any of these systems, so if you don't see what you want, install it.

The Ubuntu-based distributions are a nice blend and compromise between the tremendous flexibility available in Linux software and the simplicity of the user interface in proprietary systems from Apple and Microsoft. Critics of Linux-based systems claim that Linux is more complicated and difficult, but those who say that are often simply not as familiar and well educated with the differences between Linux and their favorite system. Even the arguments that too many choices are provided and confusing is a weak argument: derivative distributions from other projects, such as the Linux Mint project, the PCLinuxOS project, and the SimplyMEPIS project, clearly demonstrate that the software need not be overwhelming or overly complicated in order to be useful. All three of these projects have derivatives within themselves to promote and exploit several features, which speaks to the flexibility of each one of them and of the underlying Linux systems. In the case of Mint, this software directly descends from the Ubuntu project. It is not a Canonical sponsored project, but it does represent a viable alternative to Ubuntu, and it is one that I expect quite a few people will be investigating; a release candidate of Linux Mint 11, built on the code in Ubuntu 11.04, is now available.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Does the OS really matter all that much?

I am doing a lot of Internet-based computing these days, and I am wondering more and more just how much the operating system really matters. Clearly we need an operating system. The operating system is what controls the devices on the system, allocates resources, not only within the CPU, which is the "Brain" or controller of everything, but also the peripheral devices, from the keyboard to the mouse, the disk drive to the display, and whatever additional devices are on the system.

A flexible, extensible operating system, one which has a good job scheduler, device handler, and can be quickly modified when hardware changes occur, is essential.

We have a lot of operating systems available. In terms of the types of system kernels, we have several camps, and let's keep this confined to Intel compatible hardware, just for discussion; clearly there are more alternatives out there.

First, there is the camp that defined and created what a personal computer is all about: Microsoft, first with MS/DOS, then with Windows. The original MS/DOS and Windows wouldn't be very useful on today's hardware, but Windows has evolved many times over the past two decades, and we can't argue with the fact that it remains the most common operating system on Intel hardware. We can argue about cost, we can argue about security, we can argue about freedom, but the simple fact remains that it is still popular and it actually works. Though many other alternatives threaten its continued dominance and existence, at least right now it continues to lead the pack.

Then there is the Apple and Mac camp. Once upon a time, this was a 100% proprietary operating system space, but many years ago, Apple created OS X. Though the operating system, OS X, itself is very closed and proprietary, the kernel and many of the components that run within it are not, and there are alternatives based on it to prove it: Darwin for the operating system, really a BSD-based kernel, and Fink for the graphical user interface, an alternative to the Apple Aqua interface.

A lesser known, but long time alternative to the highly proprietary Apple camp is the BSD camp. The history of BSD software goes all the way back to the early UNIX systems. BSD developed out of graduate university research at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), and the name BSD stands for Berkeley Standard Distribution. In the early nineties there were legal conflicts between AT&T and UCB over the content in BSD, and also in the content in UNIX System V. AT&T claimed that BSD used code directly from UNIX source code, and UCB claimed that AT&T lifted code directly from several utilities, such as the ex and vi editors, the termcap configurations, and the C shell. AT&T and UCB eventually settled their dispute, but efforts, such as FreeBSD and NetBSD were formed during that time, and represent a rewrite of the UCB UNIX code, and that is what we call BSD today. Several other variations, most notably OpenBSD, which evolved from NetBSD, and others, such as DragonflyBSD and smaller, lesser known projects developed. Many of these exist today, and not only does Apple's OS X come out of this lineage, as well as products from iXsystems, most notably PC-BSD, a consumer-oriented version of FreeBSD.

Then we have the smartphone, tablet, and netbook camp. These spaces have developed their own operating systems, but most of them evolve, at some level, either from BSD or Linux based kernels. For instance, Android was developed using a Linux-based kernel. iOS, used in many Apple products, comes from BSD-based kernels. Blackberry has developed proprietary systems, but if you look closely at them, they have hints of POSIX-based code in them, possibly with some code that originally evolved either from QNX or VxWorks inspired code. Hewlett Packard, after acquiring Palm, inherits a Linux-inspired system with WebOS.

I've alluded to Linux-inspired and Linux-based systems already, and clearly that is another major force to be considered. I have long been a proponent of flexible, freely shared and freely used software. I believe that if you collaborate on the common, core components, you can still create your own unique product, even a semi proprietary one, and yet share many of the base technologies. I see no reason to have to keep inventing and reinventing kernel technologies. Why not share and pool those ideas? Same with common utilities, commands, and commodity applications. We all need them. Why not collaborate on their development? Linux is the champion in this space.

Now that companies like Yahoo, Google, Amazon, and Red Hat have all successfully built solid businesses around a framework of software that has a shared tradition behind it, more companies are believing that this is possible and practical. So I return to the question - does the OS really matter all that much? If you are a consumer, probably not. The combination of price and features that match what you need are what matter the most. I would assert, though, that the free and open development of applications is what has driven both the free-based and commercial-based development, especially over the past decade.

With developing EC2 and other cloud based service offerings as a major business, Yahoo and Google building an entire search and advertising industry around either "free" or "open" based software technology, and Google in particular driving everything they do to draw Internet traffic to their revenue producing businesses - with free software, it seems to me that a free or at least shared software infrastructure makes a great deal of sense. It matters to me because that is where I find the sweet spot of products and services that I use. On the Internet, the majority of things I use are either Yahoo or Google based, or some new free alternative with a similar model. In mobile equipment, nearly everything I have is in one way or another tied to Google, and all of their stuff is based on freely available technology, so for me, I would assert that while the Internet allows you to use any OS technology, I feel it is the freely available technology that has driven the Internet explosion in the first place, and the freely available technology is what continues to drive it, and that's why I think that while the specific OS doesn't matter all that much - it is more of a personal choice, the freedom and the alternatives matter a great deal - including the freedom to utilize a very specific, commercial approach, as Apple and Microsoft do, or a much more open, commodity approach, like Canonical and Red Hat do - matter a great deal.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lubuntu 11.04 is now an official Ubuntu derivative

On, I just noticed an announcement indicating that Lubuntu 11.04 has been granted status as an official Ubuntu derivative. Recent articles had suggested this would be the case; Mark Shuttleworth had recently been quoted as being very pleased with what the Lubuntu team had accomplished with the most current release.

From my perspective, I appreciate this distribution, not so much directly, but in what it contributes to derivatives that use it, and in my case, specifically with Peppermint OS One, which I enjoy using.

Starting to see more systems with Xfce 4.8 and KDE 4.6.3

Xfce and KDE are the two desktop environments that I most commonly use, so it is nice when I see distributions that update these environments and keep them close to the most currently available software. In the case of Xfce, Version 4.8 was released near the end of January, so any distribution that offers Xfce really ought to have Version 4.8 available, and the good news is that most of the distributions that I use are now offering Version 4.8, and most of them have the patches that have been added to Xfce 4.8, and some packages are labelled as high as 4.8.3.

Similarly, KDE 4.6 has been available at least three months now, but not all distributions are keeping up with it, because it does require a large commitment to build the large number of packages contained in the complete KDE Software Collection (SC). There are, however, a number of distributions that are, for the most part, keeping up with KDE. Some of them include Kubuntu 11.04, Sabayon 5.5, PCLinuxOS, Mageia 1 Beta 2, and openSUSE 11.4 "Tumbleweed" rolling release.

As I write this note, I am using Linux Mint Xfce 201104, which is a rolling release based on Debian Testing. On my Debian Sid system, I have had Xfce 4.8 with updates for several weeks now, and as I ran the updates to this rolling release today, I found that the latest Xfce changes have now been promoted from Sid to Testing (Wheezy), so that is good news for Debian based systems.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Using SimplyMEPIS 11.0

The MEPIS distribution has been available even longer than antiX, which became available in 2006. MEPIS has been available in public form since May 2003, and the work started even before that, in November 2002.

Warren Woodford, the founder and sole developer of MEPIS, has a long professional career that spans an incredible forty five years or more in time, is noted for outstanding attention to detail and quality, a conservative approach by today's standards, resulting in excellent software that just works.

SimplyMEPIS is always a pleasure to use, and the current release is no exception. This is, by no means, the newest possible software that you can get. For that, go over to something like Gentoo, Sabayon, a new project under development, such as the very nice Mageia, due for its first release in June, currently in Beta testing. For something you can simply count on, won't waste a lot of your time with needless changes and defects, is simple, straightforward, and functional, it is hard to beat SimplyMEPIS.

Yes, you may be able to find something else that is also stable. Yes, you most certainly can find something newer and fancier. But only distributions like Debian and Slackware, which also tend to be very conservative, well tested, and "older", with mature, tested software, can compare to SimplyMEPIS, but SimplyMEPIS adds value to the Debian proposition. It includes a complete system that is well tested, well integrated, well documented, with a user community behind it. Debian has many of these things, but it is the foundation for solutions like SimplyMEPIS, not necessarily a complete solution in itself, and that is where MEPIS really excels - it is ready to go and it works well. I keep mentioning it, but I will do so again, I recommend this software for a complete, easy to use desktop system.

Using antiX M11.0

Since 2006, antiX has been one of my favorite distributions. There are several reasons for this. 1. I have, for many years, preferred to use Debian based software on my favorite systems. The antiX distribution is based on Debian Testing repositories and MEPIS installation and configuration tools. 2. I like flexible, configurable systems. The antiX configuration tools are among the very best available. 3. I like the MEPIS project, and when the antiX project emerged, I found I liked antiX as well, maybe even better, than the main MEPIS project, which I also like quite a bit.

I used antiX a bit once I installed the new version and now I am using it a bit more today. I did find one thing that represents somewhat of an issue: the default Web browser, Iceape, is prone to oscillate, using high percentages of CPU time, then back off, returning to normal.

Running my own instance of Firefox in my own directory, it has some CPU bursts as well, but they are not as prominent, and do not seem to affect the user interface - such as typing in a Web based text widget, such as this one, as much as with the default Iceape.

I will do some more experimenting, installing my own versions of browsers and see how they behave here. The only things chewing up CPU and memory here are the browsers, so it could be that the version of Iceape in Debian Testing is a bit suspect. More research will tell.

That's a nit for me; I run lots of stuff anyway, and with the great flexibility inherent in antiX, I have no problem at all getting what I want and configuring it the way that I want.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slackware, circa 1995 versus 13.37

I got my "Linux start" with Slackware way back in 1995. I even bought my first home computer in order to do it. Before that time, I figured any computer use at home was probably going to be for work, so I figured that my employer should - and did - provide something, usually a terminal and a modem.

In the Fall of 1995, I started researching Linux distributions, found Slackware to be - at least at that time - the most highly regarded distribution, and the UNIX developers at the company I worked at seemed to use it more than anything else, too. So I looked for a computer system. Back then, I felt that computers were still pretty expensive - doesn't $2500 - $3000 for a home computer seem expensive now? I got a Micron P100, which was at least well built and a solid performer for the price.

Then I had to decide what I wanted to have with it. Windows 95 was available by then, but I couldn't tell if I could "dual boot" with 95 yet or not. Turned out you could, but I did not know that, so I bought the system with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 instead of Windows 95. Then I bought a book containing a CD with Slackware on it, and an explanation of how to install it, configure it, and use it.

I did not know anything about installing Linux, so I did a lot of reading before attempting it. My very first installation was a success, but I discovered that the Diamond Stealth graphics card in my Micron was not yet included in the version of Slackware that I installed, so the best video I could get was eight color VGA, not very impressive. So I got on the news groups at work and found out that the Diamond Stealth card now had a Linux driver. Using the Internet, I downloaded a copy onto my workstation at work, then used my own 3 1/2" floppy to bring the image home. I copied it onto the PC, researching as much of this in advance as possible, and Voila, 256 colors and better resolution - good for its generation.

Fast forward to today. The Slackware 13.37 distribution has been under development for a while now, and last night I saw the announcement that it has been released. As soon as I can get an ISO image of it, I will download it and try it out. It looks to be very well tested according to the announcement, so it should be worthwhile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Web Browser "Kracken" Mozilla Benchmarks

Chrome 10.0 and Seamonkey 2.1b2 lead this set of tests, with Firefox 4.0 very close behind. Everything except Seamonkey 2.0.12, which still uses an older generation of page rendering libraries is really good at something, including Opera 11.01, which manages to "win" one or two tests.

Chrome has a very slight edge over Firefox 4.0 and Seamonkey 2.1b2, but not by much at all.

Chrome 10.0
RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
Total: 17160.7ms +/- 1.4%

ai: 574.5ms +/- 5.4%
astar: 574.5ms +/- 5.4%

audio: 10643.4ms +/- 1.9%
beat-detection: 3747.5ms +/- 1.7%
dft: 2516.7ms +/- 5.2%
fft: 3762.8ms +/- 1.2%
oscillator: 616.4ms +/- 2.1%

imaging: 3934.5ms +/- 1.0%
gaussian-blur: 881.7ms +/- 1.1%
darkroom: 1553.7ms +/- 2.0%
desaturate: 1499.1ms +/- 0.9%

json: 687.4ms +/- 1.1%
parse-financial: 509.7ms +/- 1.3%
stringify-tinderbox: 177.7ms +/- 0.7%

stanford: 1320.9ms +/- 1.1%
crypto-aes: 331.3ms +/- 1.0%
crypto-ccm: 322.3ms +/- 3.0%
crypto-pbkdf2: 425.7ms +/- 2.7%
crypto-sha256-iterative: 241.6ms +/- 2.4%

Firefox 4.0
RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
Total: 19151.2ms +/- 2.3%

ai: 6710.1ms +/- 5.0%
astar: 6710.1ms +/- 5.0%

audio: 6387.3ms +/- 1.9%
beat-detection: 1905.1ms +/- 1.9%
dft: 1619.9ms +/- 3.7%
fft: 1789.2ms +/- 1.3%
oscillator: 1073.1ms +/- 1.7%

imaging: 3649.3ms +/- 0.5%
gaussian-blur: 1482.0ms +/- 1.0%
darkroom: 698.2ms +/- 0.8%
desaturate: 1469.1ms +/- 0.5%

json: 516.5ms +/- 1.0%
parse-financial: 329.1ms +/- 1.0%
stringify-tinderbox: 187.4ms +/- 1.2%

stanford: 1888.0ms +/- 1.8%
crypto-aes: 518.3ms +/- 1.3%
crypto-ccm: 370.4ms +/- 4.0%
crypto-pbkdf2: 700.3ms +/- 1.9%
crypto-sha256-iterative: 299.0ms +/- 2.6%

Seamonkey 2.1b2
RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
Total: 17600.1ms +/- 2.9%

ai: 5513.1ms +/- 9.2%
astar: 5513.1ms +/- 9.2%

audio: 6206.5ms +/- 0.2%
beat-detection: 1903.3ms +/- 0.5%
dft: 1501.3ms +/- 0.8%
fft: 1806.2ms +/- 1.1%
oscillator: 995.7ms +/- 0.5%

imaging: 3586.4ms +/- 0.1%
gaussian-blur: 1461.4ms +/- 0.1%
darkroom: 669.9ms +/- 0.1%
desaturate: 1455.1ms +/- 0.1%

json: 467.9ms +/- 0.3%
parse-financial: 294.8ms +/- 0.4%
stringify-tinderbox: 173.1ms +/- 1.1%

stanford: 1826.2ms +/- 1.9%
crypto-aes: 489.5ms +/- 0.4%
crypto-ccm: 380.8ms +/- 0.8%
crypto-pbkdf2: 685.9ms +/- 5.0%
crypto-sha256-iterative: 270.0ms +/- 5.9%

Seamonkey 2.0.12

RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
Total: 67684.1ms +/- 0.8%

ai: 8871.1ms +/- 5.8%
astar: 8871.1ms +/- 5.8%

audio: 18338.2ms +/- 0.2%
beat-detection: 4712.4ms +/- 0.4%
dft: 4465.2ms +/- 0.5%
fft: 4334.1ms +/- 0.6%
oscillator: 4826.5ms +/- 0.5%

imaging: 23028.0ms +/- 0.1%
gaussian-blur: 11065.0ms +/- 0.1%
darkroom: 2488.4ms +/- 0.2%
desaturate: 9474.6ms +/- 0.3%

json: 1121.9ms +/- 0.1%
parse-financial: 561.9ms +/- 0.1%
stringify-tinderbox: 560.0ms +/- 0.1%

stanford: 16324.9ms +/- 1.7%
crypto-aes: 2392.0ms +/- 0.7%
crypto-ccm: 1699.9ms +/- 0.3%
crypto-pbkdf2: 9088.8ms +/- 3.3%
crypto-sha256-iterative: 3144.2ms +/- 1.0%

Opera 11.01
Total: 30360.4ms +/- 0.5%

ai: 7588.7ms +/- 1.5%
astar: 7588.7ms +/- 1.5%

audio: 8006.8ms +/- 0.5%
beat-detection: 1511.3ms +/- 1.4%
dft: 3297.5ms +/- 0.7%
fft: 1408.1ms +/- 0.6%
oscillator: 1789.9ms +/- 0.7%

imaging: 9015.5ms +/- 1.1%
gaussian-blur: 5836.1ms +/- 0.3%
darkroom: 1364.5ms +/- 0.4%
desaturate: 1814.9ms +/- 5.6%

json: 432.7ms +/- 0.5%
parse-financial: 173.1ms +/- 0.7%
stringify-tinderbox: 259.6ms +/- 0.7%

stanford: 5316.7ms +/- 0.6%
crypto-aes: 424.5ms +/- 2.7%
crypto-ccm: 532.6ms +/- 0.6%
crypto-pbkdf2: 3329.0ms +/- 0.8%
crypto-sha256-iterative: 1030.6ms +/- 0.4%

Friday, February 25, 2011

Using Debian Sid; installing PC-BSD 8.2 in Virtualbox OSE from Sid

Tonight I have a couple of things going on. I downloaded a couple of distributions today: PC-BSD 8.2, a 3.3 GB DVD ISO image, which I copied to my external USB drive, then the debian-testing-kfreebsd-i386-netinst.iso, which is an interesting twist: it is a daily build of Debian Testing, except it does not have the usual Debian GNU/Linux kernel; it uses a FreeBSD kernel, which is why it is labeled kfreebsd – a FreeBSD kernel and some core libraries to go with it that allow the FreeBSD kernel to work with the rest of a Debian based infrastructure. I do not believe that I have ever installed this before, so I want to give it a look too.

The hour is late though, so for tonight, the two systems have been downloaded, but I am finishing up the PC-BSD 8.2 installation in Virtualbox OSE, thereby allowing me to test PC-BSD from a virtual instance on my Debian Sid system.

I will probably do the same with kfreebsd so that I find out whether it uses a BSD file system or the usual Linux file system. BSD file systems, as far as I know, still require the use of a primary disk partition, because their file organization uses “slices”, rather than the usual notion of disk partitions. The collection of slices, from the vantage point of a Linux or Windows system, and from the perspective of fdisk and other partition handling tools, resides within a single primary partition. I will be examining how this implementation works soon, perhaps tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I am about ready to examine the result of the PC-BSD 8.2 installation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Using Jolicloud tonight

I have been experimenting quite a bit with a variety of computing technologies over the past six or seven months. Beginning with Peppermint OS One and antiX core, I started to look a fast, lightweight technologies that could be used on the desktop, but definitely had a higher than usual ratio of Internet-based applications.

Not long after using Peppermint OS One and antiX core, I set up Easy Peasy, a Ubuntu based distribution originally branded as eeeUbuntu, but renamed at the request of Canonical, the owners of the Ubuntu brand. When Easy Peasy changed the brand and came out with their next release, it was not only built for the eeePC, it was built to work with a variety of systems, especially with a high ratio of Internet to local applications, again like Peppermint and antiX.

None of these systems, however, are true, 100% Web based or Cloud based systems, but there are a few systems that are. Of course, we hear about one of them often, Chrome OS, which has still not been officially released, but it has been distributed to about 60,000 users on a non-branded Google Cr-48 pilot project notebook, and I have one of them.

Before I really got my hands on the Cr-48, which I am also evaluating, I tried out a preview release of Jolicloud V1.0, which I first tried on a DVD that came with a magazine. I liked it enough to run it in Virtualbox, and later, when the first release came out, I got a copy of it, liked it enough to install it. But when Version 1.1 came out, it had really been built up even more, and it is, without question, the most social media savvy implementation of a Cloud based system out there. What is nice about it is that you can access their web site, MyJolicloud -!/dashboard from any Web browser on any system, or you can run it as a distribution, and when you login using the distribution, you get that same dashboard - quite an interesting concept.

You do not have to be a social media junkie to like Jolicloud. It is useful for blogging, forum and Wiki use, Email, chat, and all of the other things you usually do on the Web. It's all at your fingertips. Just in case you want some local applications, it provides a few of them for you, and it has access to the Ubuntu repositories, so if you really want, you can create a hybrid distribution with both cloud and local apps. But if you do a lot of that, you may be better off going the other way, using something like antiX or Peppermint, which have the local apps and the ability to work in the Cloud as well.

I like Jolicloud as it is; the distribution is fast, booting quickly; it has a nice default appearance, but like many other distributions, you can easily modify the default appearance. I changed mine. I like water scenes, so I changed my Jolicloud look to have a sea harbor appearance near dusk; muted, mid to dark blues and greens, quite nice.

So it's flexible, fast, easily modified, and based on solid technology. It clearly sticks to what it does best, but allows you plenty of liberty to make it what you want it to be. Those are marks of a solid distribution, at least in my mind.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Are You Here With... and Whatever: Lucid Puppy 5.2

On a couple of my favorite Beehive based web forums, we have a topic entitled simply, "What Are You Here With... and Whatever?" The purpose of the topic is to discuss whatever software and systems we are using, but the title of the topic deliberately gives us plenty of latitude to run off on tangents, discussing nearly anything... whatever, as the title clearly states.

This weekend, I have gone off into running a couple of distributions in Live mode. Today, I downloaded the newest test version of antiX M11.0 pt2, which is, according to anticapitalista, very close to final form, so we could be seeing a Version 11.0 release of antiX M11.0 very soon, and that's good. It is a solid release and I have had very good test results with it.

After running antiX for a while, I decided to come over and run the Lucid Puppy 5.2 release. It is even smaller and simpler than antiX. It runs pretty well, but I did find one thing about Puppy that I do not like as well as antiX - the default fonts.

With antiX, when I ran the browser I was able to get a pretty decent set of default fonts. Turns out I could get them with Puppy, but the default fonts were pretty light and fuzzy. If you find yourself with a similar issue, try using the "Liberation" font series for your Serif, Sans Serif, and Monospace fonts and you may be pleasantly surprised. Those are the default fonts that at least I prefer.