Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where Peppermint OS fits into mobile computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I encourage those who have read this article with interest to take a look at the antiX offerings.  The antiX site has download locations for those who are interested in trying it out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Which Debian-based Linux distributions work best for me and why

Earlier on Saturday, I was using Semplice 2.0.2 for a few hours, but now I am back using  Debian Sid. After using Lubuntu and then antiX core on the Lenovo laptop, I can tell you that all of them are easy and fast to use, but my favorites are the Debian Sid and its derivatives. I have antiX core and siduction on the Lenovo as my Debian Sid derivatives, and I have antiX core, Semplice, and Debian Sid itself on the Gateway.

If you're going to use a Sid based system, then, to my way of thinking, there is no better one than Sid itself. However, if you are starting fresh from scratch, I'd pick antiX core as the one that gives you a few more tools to work with, and siduction, by a hair, over Semplice, in terms of complete, prepared, ready to go systems. For all of them, I like adding the smxi tool. Yes, I can configure them all without smxi, but smxi just makes the task faster and simpler, regardless of what aptosid and siduction developers say about using the free stuff only and sticking with the core system. If we want to do that, then forget them: use just Debian Sid!

So in the Debian Sid world, Debian Sid and antiX core, for me, get the nod, but I have to say, working with Semplice today, I've pretty much (gradually) taken out their stuff and put in the stuff I use, so there is very little difference between Debian Sid, antiX core, and Semplice for me. Same goes for siduction; they're all quite good.

In the Debian Testing arena, again, what can be better than Debian Testing itself? Once the system is completely set up, no need to go elsewhere. If you are starting from scratch, however, it's hard to beat antiX base. The antiX M12.0 base edition, even though there are some packaging defects, documentation, and tools still to be polished and finished, is one of the best there is, and antiX M11.0, already released, was a great release last year. If I were starting fresh (which I did recently, I would not hesitate to use antiX M12.0 Test 2 base, or any of the internal test builds that are taking place right now. But there are a few other good Debian Testing derivatives that also work quite well. One that I like, and I have installed on my Lenovo, is ZevenOS. I have Version 2.0, the "Neptune Edition". No reason for me to get any newer release, because Neptune looks nice and is just as up to date as any newer releases they may have come out with since then. Starting fresh, sure, grab the latest version, but for me, "Neptune" does very well.

For Debian Stable, that's one area where I think you can do better than the Debian release. SimplyMEPIS, to me, adds demonstrable value. It's much faster and easier to install, and you can choose to either stick with it, as is, and "age" it nicely, as Debian itself does, or you can, as you need them, add newer software packages from the MEPIS CR - their Community Repository. Debian Stable is great, of course, and that's where the great software comes from.

Canonical, though often criticized for not making many direct software contributions to Linux or to Debian, actually DOES provide contributions in several ways. First, the marketing that Canonical does for desktop software is something that not only Debian, but the entire Linux ecosystem has needed for years. Red Hat provides what's needed on the server side of things. SUSE has done good things on both the desktop and the server, but Canonical has made more inroads, offering four or five of their own sponsored derivatives, and they always seem to be in the news about something in free software. But something that not many people see is that they DO give back to the Debian project. There are numerous bug fixes that make their way back to either Debian Sid or Debian Testing from Canonical's efforts, and in addition to that, tools like update-manager have, over the years, seen their way to Debian, and the simplicity that Ubuntu and its derivatives have added to the installation and configuration process have slowly, but surely, made their way into many Debian projects, so that Debian itself is no longer that difficult beast to install or use, so Canonical can be thanked for their role in that.

As far as Ubuntu derivatives that I like, in the Canonical camp, my favorite by far is Xubuntu. I like it nearly as much as my Debian systems (which always end up getting Xfce installed on them). Xubuntu is Canonical's community version of Ubuntu that comes with Xfce instead of GNOME. The first Ubuntu derivative that I actually started using was Kubuntu. I don't find it quite as stable during testing as Xubuntu, but released versions are always pretty solid. For lighter computing than even Xubuntu, the LXDE-based Lubuntu has been quite useful for fast start up and use mainly when browsing is all that's planned for the login session.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of Mint and its derivatives, but there are a couple of them that are quite popular, beginning with the main Mint (GNOME-based) release. Mint, which is, in the main version, a Ubuntu derivative, has done a lot of work to deal with the erratic nature and major changes that have occurred since GNOME 3 was released. Ubuntu came up with Unity as their answer. Mint came up with a couple of alternatives, including Cinnamon and MATE, which have been popular to smooth the transition to the vastly different desktop style introduced with GNOME 3. I'm not a GNOME fan, so I usually ignore this stuff, but Mint also has a KDE edition, an Xfce edition, an LXDE edition, and others as well. But perhaps their best derivative work started as an experiment: a return to Debian rolling release testing repository package archives instead of Ubuntu derived archives. The result is called Linux Mint Debian Edition (abbreviated LXDE), and it's one of the most popular Debian derivatives, and probably second only to Mint itself within their community derivatives. Debian lovers who are also Mint lovers might want to give it a try. One of my friends who likes Debian, but struggles at times with software updates has had good success with LMDE.

That's my summary of what several of the top Debian-based distribution alternatives are out there right now. There are many other good ones in addition to these, but for general purpose use, and also for my own personal use cases, these are the ones that get the most attention from me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

more siduction

A few days ago in another blog, I wrote a note about siduction, asking "What will it seduce?"  Here are a few additional comments I wrote in a follow up blog note:

I found that the biggest attraction for former sidux users was a return to some of what the team and the community had hoped for in their original goals.

Debian Sid is not usually an environment or a system for casual software users, it is an environment for experimenters.  The siduction distribution, based on Debian Sid, follows in those footsteps.

As I indicated yesterday, those who are looking for a trivial system that they plug in, run, and rarely maintain, there may be better alternatives available to them - perhaps something based on one of the stable Debian distributions.

Debian Sid is primarily for people who either develop software and want a fairly current platform upon which to develop their own work, or a platform where they want to test and use fairly current software, and usually current hardware as well.

It is in this particular area that siduction adds some incremental value to what the Debian Sid project already provides: recently updated software.  The siduction project adds more current Linux-based kernels, which are more likely to support current hardware.

What you don't get as much of with either Debian Sid or siduction are a vast collection of graphically based system packaging and administration tools.  There is a good reason for this: one of the frequently changing components in a developing software ecosystem is, in fact, the graphical drivers and accompanying software.  If you are using all graphical administration tools and the graphical environment itself fails during an update or replacement of the environment, you can potentially be left without any working graphical user interface, and that's what these projects try to avoid, by instead encouraging the use of command-based administration tools.

Today, for example, when I updated the siduction packages, I found that the graphical display server was modified.  Using the command based administration tool, smxi, not directly provided by siduction, but familiar to many community members, I was able to easily install the appropriate X server software, then start up my graphical user environment without any problem.

I may have been able to do that even if I had a graphical administration environment, but I almost certainly would have had to resort to the use of commands anyway to reinstall and restart the graphical environment, and that is why the developers of siduction prefer the use of commands.  The main forum administrators are still not too keen on the use of smxi; they think it promotes laziness and does not teach what's needed to administrate and configure the system properly.

I take a different approach:  I can figure out how to configure what's needed, but only when it's truly needed.  Most of the time, I want convenience, but I do want access to the lower level tools, too, to get the job done.  I prefer to make those choices available, and personally, I go out and get the tools that I want and I use them, regardless of what others prefer or recommend.  For me, the key is to have the choice, and at least, I have those choices in this environment.

siduction 11.1 - what will it seduce?

siduction is a fork from the derivatives of Debian Sid.  Originally starting with the Kanotix project, the sidux project forked in 2006, but within three years, there was dissension, and the aptosid project was formed.  The software was good; the community was not, and that was the reason for forking yet again, creating siduction.

The aim of siduction is to build and regain a distribution that has the "feel" and similar software to what the sidux project once had, but with much more community involvement and guidance in what is produced.

It's not really a beginner-oriented system.  For those types, something like Ubuntu, or one of its derivatives, such as Linux Mint, may be more appropriate.

What siduction provides is an easy way to install and maintain software that comes from the Debian Sid repositories.  The siduction distribution, however, includes more rapidly changing Linux kernels, highly compressed ISO distribution images (that's what you can "burn" onto a CD, DVD, or other media), and packaging conveniences that many community members appreciate.

For someone who may already be using Debian Sid, I can't see that it offers much, other than the custom kernels, that provide much incremental value to existing Sid users, but for those who want to install a new system, it is a little more convenient than installing Sid, but otherwise is more similar to Sid in the software you actually use than something completely unique and different.

If you do like to try out a lot of Linux distributions, though, this is one of the more interesting ones to try out, if you already have a fair amount of experience, especially if a lot of it is Debian-based experience.

Don't expect anything earth shattering, but do expect a system that is easy to install and configure, a development and user community that is more helpful than its ancestors, and an overall experience that is likely to work well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Using my customized antiX core system this evening

One of the operating system distributions that I talk about and write about a lot is the Debian distribution.  Central to well over half of the Linux-based software used today, Debian packages form the core of major well-known distributions like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, Peppermint, as well as SimplyMEPIS and much lesser-known systems like ZevenOS, Snow Linux, Semplice, aptosid, siduction, and numerous others.

One of my favorite distributions is, in fact, Debian.  I especially like the Debian Sid distribution, and my current, every day system is one I built myself.  A couple of years ago now, I took an installable Debian Live daily build, specified a handful of extra packages to add to the custom system, had it custom built on the Debian Live server, and then had the Web page link, containing the location of the customized image mailed to me.

I downloaded that image, installed it, then further customized it, changing the default Debian repository from Testing to Sid (Unstable), then, over time, added more software to suit my specific needs.

Before creating this system, I backed up the entire image of the system I was replacing, plus I also backed up my home directory and the directories beneath it, so that I could use them to build my custom system.  I backed up the previous image in case my experiment failed.  (It was a great success, and I still use it today).

Once I had that custom system in place, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to build when other customization opportunities became available, and that is where antiX core comes in.  The antiX distribution is a relatively small distribution.  Started in 2006, it was originally conceived to provide a smaller, lighter derivative of SimplyMEPIS, a modest, simple, but full featured desktop Linux system, which is also based on Debian software.  SimplyMEPIS uses the most stable Debian software from the Debian Stable archive.  The antiX distribution, by default, uses the Debian Testing archive, but lists the names of all three Debian archives, stable, testing, and unstable in the package configuration files, allowing you to select which ones you want to use, and to comment out the others.

As antiX developed and evolved, within a few years, a second antiX derivative emerged, one called "Base", which still provided a system kernel, the core Linux software utilities, packaging tools, and a basic graphical environment, but few software applications.  From this "Base", you could quickly and easily build your own custom desktop system.  I've used and customized several of these "Base" distributions, and I recently created another one, based on the current antiX M12.0 Test 2 development.

There is another one though.  Now a couple of years into its development, antiX core is even more fundamental.  The core distribution provides a system kernel, essential software packaging utilities, and that's it.  It is quite similar in concept to what Arch Linux has done with its packaging, but very different than Arch because it is based on Debian (and to a very limited extent, SimplyMEPIS).

The latest versions of antiX Full, Base, and Core, now include their own antiX Linux 3.3 series kernel.  Recently, I took my already existing antiX core setup and installed the latest antiX 3.3.1 kernel, then upgraded the Debian Sid-based software.  It has continued to remain solid, fast, flexible, and exactly what I built it to do, and that is, provide me with a light, custom system that I use mostly for Web-based writing and research.  For that specific purpose, I am hard-pressed to find anything that does a better job.  After all, I used excellent building materials, then assembled them precisely the way that I want them.  The result is highly satisfying.

For those who want their own custom system (which certainly can vary considerably in both appearance and function than the one that I created for myself), antiX core is one of the best ways to go, but if you want just a little bit more of a jump start, then antiX Base is also an excellent alternative, and antiX Full is an excellent, lightweight, but complete system.

Try them all out, if you have never done so before.  You can find out more about them at - the antiX forum, at to get at least some documentation and help on previously released versions, at to get help in the MEPIS Lovers' Forum for antiX, at DistroWatch to get not only the software, but a variety of reviews of it.  The USALUG, Desktop Linux Reviews Forum, and the Newbies Linux Forum are a few of the places I visit, and I would be glad to discuss antiX or help you with it if you are interested.

You may also want to review one of my earlier blog entries in this blog, at Creating your very own antiX core system from scratch if you want to try it out.  Some of the information may be slightly out of date, but following the essence of the work will help you get on your way, if you are serious about trying to build your own custom system.  I hope you try it; if you do, be sure to let me know!

Spending a little time with Sabayon

Sabayon has quietly started to emerge - to use a term that Gentoo Linux uses as the name of its system packaging update utility - as one of the more solid "rolling release" systems.  The term "rolling release" in Linux software refers to the ability to continually (or occasionally) perform software upgrades, without having to install a new release.

Over the past year or so, Sabayon has really refined this technique.  They get the absolute newest software from Gentoo Linux, and their primary developer, Fabio Erculiani, also participates in Gentoo Linux development, so he has a good understanding of how Gentoo Linux works, its advantages, and also some of its shortcomings.  He has created Sabayon Linux as a convenient way to either update from the actual Gentoo Linux source code, or to update using already compiled and tested code, that he packages in the form of weekly updates.

I have found his approach to work very well.  The only thing I'd like to see work better are the mirror sites.  Only one of them performs well for me, and it's not always available to me.  Fortunately, it is available to me today, and so I am taking the opportunity to upgrade my Sabayon system and work with it for a while.

So far, that has been proceeding quite nicely, and in fact, a rather large upgrade just finished.  I am going to refresh the package cache, see if any other new packages have arrived, then check out the resulting system.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

An update on Mom

Some time ago now, I wrote an article about setting Mom, my Mom, up on the Internet using a Linux-based distribution called Linux Mint.  I had noticed previously that the system my Mom was using was an aging Dell Latitude D610, a good, solid system, but that it had an aging copy of Windows XP, and that the performance of that combination was not very good.  It worked, yes, but it took a long time to boot, a long time to login and gain access to Internet Explorer.  I discovered that all my Mom really needed to do was login to Hotmail, and on rare occasions, either read News or search on a topic for her Humanities class.  Certainly, any Web-based system could get the job done for her with those simple requirements, and plenty of alternatives could do a better job at it than Windows XP and Internet Explorer.

So I asked my Mom if she would be willing to use my computer, and I would set her up with a system that was a lot faster and just as easy as what she was using, and I would help her with it.  She agreed.

I already had Xubuntu 11.10 installed on that system, so getting an account for her on that one was no big deal, but Linux Mint 12 had just been released, so I decided to install it and create an account for her there as well.  It worked out quite well.  But other systems are even more responsive and sprightly than Mint, if all you intend to do with them is browse the Web.

Xubuntu 11.10 is one of those systems.  So after a month or two of using Mint 12 occasionally (not more than a few times a week), I set Mom up with Xubuntu and had her run it for a few weeks.  Like Mint, that experiment also worked out fine.

That got me thinking: if Mint and Xubuntu worked out, then it is not the operating system that matters for Mom.  What matters is a consistent interface to what she needs to access, namely the Web browser.  I have had her use Firefox in all of the cases mentioned.

Lubuntu 11.10 comes equipped with Chromium rather than Firefox, but that is an easy issue to handle.  Simply load Firefox from the package manager and install it on the system, then make sure that an easy to find Firefox icon is available.  I try to put application icons that are needed right on the Tool Bar or Task Bar, and that is precisely what I did in this case, and then I tried to get rid of as many other distractions as possible, so that logging in, accessing Firefox, and clicking the X to close the browser, then clicking on Logout or Shutdown were the only other considerations.  Making a clean system with those characteristics is easy with Lubuntu, so that is what I did.

My Mom has now been using Lubuntu 11.10 for a few weeks with the same degree of success as with the other systems.  She can get stuck pretty easily, because she only knows what she has been shown, but she follows directions well.  My oldest sister, a recently retired school teacher, gave my Mom very good instructions on how to get the computer to access Hotmail, so I simply modified those instructions to access Hotmail by logging into Lubuntu instead of Windows XP.

This sets the stage for when I am no longer staying with Mom.  I can install Lubuntu, or some other really light system, such as antiX, Puppy, or Peppermint OS, create some simple instructions, and put it on that aging Dell Latitude D610.  Now I know that it will work.

Speaking of the Latitude, I owned a D600, gave it to my son, and he still runs PCLinuxOS on it, has run sidux, PCLinuxOS, SimplyMEPIS, Kubuntu, and Fedora on it.  He installed Fedora on it, overwriting sidux, PCLinuxOS, and SimplyMEPIS, but I brought him a PCLinuxOS, and he installed it in place of the others.  I gave him enough information to manage the system using synaptic, the PCLinuxOS package manager, and he does that.

Given all of those systems that work on the D600, and the fact that I've tried other distros Live on the D610 and D620, I think that we'll be able to set something up.  Meanwhile, as long as I am staying with Mom, she is more than welcome to use my Lenovo, running Lubuntu 11.10 (or soon, 12.04).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Initial experiences with antiX 12.0 Test 2

For nearly six years now, antiX has been one of my favorite distributions. Started around 2006, antiX was originally based on SimplyMEPIS, returning the MEPIS base to a really light system, similar to the one Warren Woodford, founder of MEPIS, created back in 2003, before he later settled on using the full-featured KDE as the preferred desktop in place of the lighter IceWM (which is what I believe he started with, though my memory is a bit foggy on the details).

Anticapitalista (known in real life as Paul), sought to create a light distribution based on MEPIS that would run on older hardware. He started in 2006 by removing KDE and the full featured applications, replacing them with the light Fluxbox window manager and a variety of lighter applications that still provided plenty of usable software.

Over time, anticapitalista and the community that enthusiastically used, endorsed, and modified antiX, created their own variations of antiX, myself included. I tended to install other window managers, such as IceWM, fvwm, fvwm-crystal, and later Openbox and the desktop environments Xfce and LXDE. Anti took notice; he liked to experiment too. He created an antiX base image as an experiment, and in it, he included an X server and the Fluxbox window manager, but no application software, just Debian-based tools to make it easy to create your own customized system. Two of the excellent tools he added to ease the creation of custom systems were the metapackage-installer, which was used about five years ago by members of the sidux community. Along with it, he added another tool, also widely used in the old sidux community - a tool that later lead to a major splinter and sharp arguments within that community, the excellent smxi tool, authored by Harold Hope.

These two tools help make it trivial to customize any of the antiX releases into whatever you want.

For this particular experience, I grabbed the fuif ll Test 2 version of the antiX 12.0 software. You can get it at
Check out the forum for more details and comments, too:

The installation program used to install antiX is the familiar SimplyMEPIS installer. This installer has been around for a long time. Some people may prefer newer, fancier installers, but this one is quite functional; that means it works and does what it is intended to do in a fast and efficient manner. I could be wrong, but it also seems to have a few additional features that I do not remember (but it's been nearly a year since I installed either MEPIS or antiX using this particular installer, so I may have forgotten how it works). In any case, the installation program has everything you need to install a system in anywhere from five minutes to perhaps twenty minutes. I think it took me about ten minutes to overwrite my previous installation with the new one without repartitioning or erasing the data from the previous installation, simply replacing the old software with the new software. It worked flawlessly, though I did notice one omission, at least for me - the wireless firmware that I usually use did not seem to be there.

To get my wireless configuration working, I connected to the wired Ethernet network, then I visited the excellent Debian Wiki at

I also visited to tweak my wireless firmware (I have the Broadcom 4311 interface on the system where I installed antiX 12.0 Test 2), so I also visited which helps me to get problematical firmware working on any Debian-based system. In a nutshell, I typically install

firmware-b43-installer. If that gives me any trouble, I open a terminal console as root and type in these commands:

modprobe -r b43
echo options b43 pio=1 qos=0 >> /etc/modprobe.d/local.conf
modprobe b43

With the firmware-b43-installer and these commands - if I even need them,
I have never had to do more. 95% of the time, I don't even have to do this much, but I mention it here, both for my sake, in case I forget these steps, and for others, should they run into any wireless configuration issues.

That aside, I also take the time to install wicd, but antiX comes with wicd, and that is one of the many things I appreciate about antiX.

With everything configured, I set out to take a look at my antiX setup. One thing that may either be a help or a hindrance, depending on your setup, is the option to reuse your home partition and the previous contents of your prior installation, if you have used antiX before. It may help because there may be fewer things to set up, but it may hinder you if you have customized things that have either changed or have been added or replaced. In that case, you may want to get rid of any prior configuration files - for example, IceWM configurations, particularly for menus that may have changed.

I like having my home directories available though because I install a lot of my own software in their own subdirectories, for instance, nightly Web browser builds, and sometimes custom versions of editors and development tools.

I encourage anyone who likes to test software to give antiX 12.0 Test 2 a try. Since it is in testing, this is a great time to get a system that already works pretty well, because it is solid enough to use, but not cast in stone, if there are any issues that you have with it. The feature set is fairly firm, though it may not be too late to suggest something, if you have a great suggestion.  If the suggestion requires significant change, it is a bit late in the game for that, but if the suggestion helps to improve the software, there is a good chance that the suggestion could make it into future efforts. Being a fairly nimble, community based effort, it may not be as long as you have experienced elsewhere before someone either suggests a way to set the system up according to your suggestion, or even creates the configuration suggested.

Visit the antiX forum and help test, find areas to further improve, or just thank the team for the fine work they've done for half of a decade.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Creating your very own antiX core system from scratch

Creating your very own antiX core system from scratch

Written by Brian Masinick on October 1, 2011, republishing on my newer blog...

Creating your own customized system really does not have to be a huge exercise, nor does it require a PhD in software development or thirty years of practical experience. Understanding all the parts and pieces may benefit from that kind of expertise, but let's face it. Most of us drive cars or take public transportation, and we couldn't even begin to fathom the components that go into those things. We all use appliances every day. We know how to use them, but not how to build them. Perhaps a few of us do have experience and expertise in one or two of those areas, but we definitely do not know all of them, and yet we use many electronic and mechanical devices in our every day lives, and we can use them effectively.
When someone mentions building a new, unknown system, especially customized, tailored to your own specific requirements, that sounds out of most people's level of experience and understanding. That's reasonable and expected, but it doesn't mean that it is impossible for someone to still create such a system.
In the tutorial that follows, I am going to provide you with a set of steps that you can use to create your very own customized version of antiX core. In the set of steps, I am copying and sharing with you the actual steps that I used. If you know anything about how to do such things, you can change the steps I took and create something different, more suitable to your needs than to mine, but if you are new to all of this, let me just suggest to you that you copy and paste the steps I show below and create your own system, similar to the one I created in a very short period of time. Veterans may want to skip all the way down to the set of steps to create the customized system, but I'd appreciate many eyes on this work so it can be tuned and streamlined until it is usable by people from many backgrounds.
The first thing I did was obtain the antiX core software image. This image is in a form which can be written to either a CD or DVD device – a CD or DVD “burner”. Many of you probably do that kind of thing already, burning songs and movies for entertainment. You use a similar, but not identical, approach to “burn” computer software images, known as “ISO” images. The ISO is shorthand for ISO 9660, a format defined many years ago by an international standards organization so that there would be a common “plastic disk” format, now widely used on CD and DVD media.
Note that I said that this format is similar, but not identical, to the format used to “burn” music and movie images. You need to use software that is capable of burning images in this ISO format.
For those who are currently using Windows-based software, one popular CD, DVD, and other media transfer software is stuff called “Nero”. It's not the only software available, but it is quite common, and they have both commercial and free versions of software available. If you need some CD or DVD burning software, I suggest checking out and Again, it's not the only choice, but it's free and it is known to work. If you want to check out other alternatives instead, take a look at for more ideas, or search the Web and decide for yourself.
If you want more information about what an ISO image is and how to create an ISO image, please refer to There is enough information on that page for the purposes of what we want to do here.

For those of you already using Linux software, you may be familiar with K3B, xfburn, Brasero, or some other tool. The three I mention here are really easy to use. Use which ever one is conveniently available and familiar to you to create an ISO image CD or DVD.
OK, hopefully a few of the prerequisites are now adequately covered. If something needed is still missing or not well understood, please contact me. I would like to make simple software installation understandable. For those who already are familiar with such things, please feel free to move on.
Of course, you need to know where to find the antiX core images. There is not only antiX core, there is antiX M11.0 “full” and base also available. The discussion here is about antiX core; the others are excellent choices as well, just not what is being discussed in this tutorial.
The main antiX page at provides some information about antiX and it also provides a few suggestions about it. I recommend taking a bit of time and learning more about it. Even if you ultimately choose not to install antiX core, perhaps one of the other variants would be just right for you, especially if you are looking for a reasonable, resource efficient system that is suitable for hardware that is between three and ten years old. is the section of the antiX home page that points to the download sites. If you are familiar with torrent software, you can get antiX core from one of these locations: for 686-based systems or for 486-based systems. is a good location for getting the core image if you have a reasonably current system. If that site does not work well for you, check one of the many other mirror sites that are available.
Do you think you are ready to go now?
Just to outline what you need to do, first use a Web browser and download the ISO image to be used, such as the one from Surfnet that I just mentioned above. Then use CD or DVD burning software to create the ISO image on CD or DVD media, using a tool equivalent to Nero on Windows or its equivalent on a Linux system, such as Brasero, K3B, or xfburn.
Once you have your CD or DVD burned – antiX will easily fit on a small CD. The image for systems compatible with Intel 686-based processors is 118 MB, so it should not take long to either download or burn.
Building antiX core does assume a few things:
  1. You have reasonable access to the Internet so that you can download software and you know how to download software from a Web page link.
  2. You have CD (or DVD) burning software and hardware.
If this is not the case, do not fret; there are still other options available to you. There are several places that will burn CDs or DVDs for you and sell them to you at a pretty reasonable price. has antiX, but I did not notice the antiX core variation there; they do have antiX M11.0 full there on both CD and multiple types of USB devices, including flash cards and flash drives of various sizes. If you want to run antiX live or install it, that is one great option.
IF you need to have a CD made for you because you do not have the means to do so yourself, try out this service:

Booting and installing antiX core

By this time, most of us should be ready to install antiX core. Insert the CD into the drive and boot or reboot your system. provides a fairly complete background on how to use the command line interface (CLI) installation tool. Don't be intimidated; just follow the directions; it really is not all that difficult.
Once you get the cli-installer going, you are recommended to press F1 to see more information about which options are available, should you need them. Hopefully you can use most of the defaults, but it is a good idea to press F2 to confirm the language selection (this software is available in many languages; make sure it doesn't come up in Turkish or something you cannot understand by using this option as you are booting the system. It is also a good idea to press F3 to select the time zone that you want to use, otherwise it may default to a value that you are not expecting.
After setting the desired installation options, press Enter.
One other detail: if you do not have an entire disk, or at least a disk partition already set up, you will need to do so. Gparted is a useful tool for managing disk partitions. The antiX installation can provide you with a boot loader called GRUB. If it is not installed and you need a boot loader, you can view the resources I provide here: shows how to use a Gparted CD to create or modify disk partitions. To see Gparted in action on Youtube with a British tutor, check out
In this video, the author shows us how to create multiple NTFS partitions, such as the ones you would use on a Windows-based system. is another tutorial that shows you where to get Gparted, and also how to create either Windows NTFS partitions or Linux ext4 partitions. is a third video, just to give you a few more examples of how to handle disk partitions. shows you where to get Gparted, in case you missed it in the previous videos.
GRUB is another challenging tool for users who are not veterans to installing and configuring software. Most Linux distributions come with it. If you need it in antiX core and do not see it installed, you can run the command, apt-cache search grub
to see which GRUB packages are available; there are a bunch of them available in the Debian repositories. Using the directions I provide below, I get the grub-common package and the grub-gfxboot package, which provide a graphical user interface (GUI) to the boot loader, which is the most common way to use a good looking boot loader. There are all kinds of ways to modify the appearance of the boot loader; I'll leave that to your own imagination, experience, and interest (I can't cover everything in a single article, but I will be willing to cover any areas where there are questions or interest in subsequent articles, if there is sufficient interest).
With that preparation, I believe we are ready to proceed with the installation and customization of antiX core.

Starting the cli-installer

This is the fun part, right? At least it is if you are interested in creating your own unique system. Obviously not everyone will want to do this the way I have done it, but this will serve as a good example for someone trying antiX core and customization for the first time.
We left off with the cli-installer. Once it starts up, you are ready to customize your system. The first step is to login. Again, the tutorial can guide you through the specific steps if you need more details, but it is pretty easy to at least get started, so you may or may not need to reference it, depending on your experience and comfort level. I did not need to refer to it; a beginner or first time antiX user may want to review it.
Here are the steps provided by the cli-installer page for your convenience:

1. Boot live-medium. At grub/menu Press F1 for information and cheatcodes available, F2 to set the language you want, F3 to set the Timezone. If your locale is not shown in F2, simply type the language like this: lang=ca_ES for Catalan. If the timezone is not shown in F3, simply type like this: tz=Europe/Madrid Press Enter when ready.  (I happen to use TZ='America/New_York' from a utility called "tzselect" when my system is installed, should I need to change it for any reason, but if you set things up here, you will not have to bother with this step later on).
2. Login as root, password root. If your locale uses a non US keyboard, you may need to toggle Alt Shift to type correctly. Then type cli-installer
3. You will be asked if you want to repartition the disk. Default reply is No. If you choose to repartion the disk, then cli-installer will start cfdisk. If you need help with cfdisk, see here (thanks to TinyCore): You will be asked to choose type of file system for the partition from ext2, ext3 or ext4.
4. Once the partitions have been set up, you will then be asked where the root partition will be. Make sure you type the correct partition label eg sda1 or hda1 or sda2 etc. cli-installer tells you it is deleting the contents of chosen partition.
5. You are asked if you want to use separate /home yes/no? Default is No. If you chose yes, you will be prompted to type in the partition address eg sda3. You will then be asked to choose type of file system for the partition from ext2, ext3 or ext4.
cli-installer will inform you that antiX-M11 will be installed to chosen partition and when finished it will say 'File copy done'.
6. You will be asked where to place the grub bootloader, Install grub on MBR? Y/n. Default is Yes. No will install to your root partition.
7. You will be asked for a Computer name? Accept default or type in your own.
8. You will be asked to set up your user account. You are asked to type a User name then Password and Password again
9. You will be asked to set up your root(admin) account by typing Password for root and the Password again
10. Once finished you should get a message that installation was ok and prompted to reboot.
11. Type Reboot.

Configuring antiX core

Now we are ready to do the things to turn antiX core into something really special!
Login as root. Initially there is no password, but if you followed the steps above, you should have created a password. Login using that root account and password. You can use your personal login account once this work is complete.
As root, once logged in, you should receive a # prompt. From the # prompt, enter each of the following commands in order to set up a system that is identical to the one I created this past week.
cd /etc/default/

We want to modify the rcS file. If you are willing to have your computer clock set to UTC and you know what that is, you can ignore this step, but otherwise, proceed as follows:
The ls command is used to confirm the files that are present in this directory. If you also want to be certain that you are in the correct directory, precede this with a pwd command to print the current working directory. If you do enter the pwd command, you want to see /etc/default as the current working directory. In the listing provided by ls, you want to see several files, and one of them should be rcS. This is a configuration file that runs at system startup. We want to change the setting for UTC.

nano rcS

Nano is a simple command-based text editor that can run from a console, without a graphical user interface (GUI). When you edit rcS using nano, you should see a line that reads
Change this to read UTC=no, then press Ctrl X (noted by ^X in the simple command menu at the bottom of the nano editor. You will see a dialog that says: Save modified buffer (ANSWERINGNoWILL DESTROY CHANGES) ?
You want to type y. The next prompt should say, File Name to Write: rcS
Simply press Enter to confirm this.
(NOTE: UTC=yes means that your clock is set to the "universal time", which is the same time used in military operations, and it also happens to be the GMT timezone, used in Western Europe.  Most people not in that time zone would prefer to use their own local time zone, and therefore, setting UTC=no makes sense).

Next, you want to confirm the date and time to make sure it is correct. The following command will display the current date and time.

Next, we want to change the default Debian repository from Debian Stable to Debian Sid. Type in the following commands, first to navigate to the correct directory, then check the contents of the directory, then edit the repositories.
cd /etc/apt/
This changes to the working directory where the repository configuration is stored
This verifies the names of the files in the configuration directory.
nano sources.list
This edits the repositories listed. What we want to do is to comment out every line, using an # in column 1 for every line except for those that we intend to use.
The following is what my file currently looks like:

# See sources.list(5) for more information

# Note:If you want maximum stability, only use the stable/squeeze repos.

# MEPIS 11 series.
# Uncomment all MEPIS repos shown here to install headers and linux-kbuild
# from MEPIS repo for latest MEPIS kernel (2.6.36). Then comment back once installed.
#deb mepis-11.0 main
#deb mepis-11.0 main
#deb mepis-11.0 main

# Mepis Community Main, Restricted, and Test Repos
# Use these repos ONLY if you enable Debian STABLE (squeeze) repo.
#deb mepis11cr main
#deb mepis11cr restricted
#deb mepis11cr test
#deb mepis11cr test-restricted

# Debian Testing. Default for antiX.
# Testing enabled for 'rolling' release.
#deb testing main contrib
#deb testing/updates main contrib
#deb-src testing main contrib

# Debian Stable.
# Since 06-Feb-2011 this is known as "Squeeze". Use for maximum stability INSTEAD of
# the 'rolling' TESTING release concept.
# So, for max stability, UNCOMMENT the next two 'deb' lines and
# COMMENT-OUT the corresponding 'deb' lines in TESTING above.
#deb squeeze main contrib
#deb squeeze/updates main contrib
#deb-src squeeze main contrib
# Multimedia Stable and Testing
# Use to install libdvdcss2 and codecs.
#deb testing main non-free
#deb stable main non-free

# virtualbox
#deb squeeze contrib

# liquorix kernels
deb sid main
deb sid main

# Libre-kernel
#deb planet main

###### Debian Unstable/Sid##########
###### Use at your own risk! ########
deb unstable main contrib
deb unstable main non-free

#### Trinity KDE 3.5 project. Best to use squeeze repos.####
#### Use at your own risk! ####
#### A base install of KDE 3.5 # apt-get install kde-core-trinity desktop-base-trinity####
#deb squeeze main
#deb-src squeeze main
#deb squeeze main
#deb-src squeeze main

# Opera sources added by smxi
deb sid non-free
OK, if your file does not look the same, change it, adding the lines that I added, and comment-out the lines I commented out, (using #), then save and exit the nano editor (^X, a.k.a. Ctrl x), then confirm, as explained earlier.
Now we are ready to begin upgrading the system. Enter the following command:
apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade

This does two things: first, it updates the cache, in effect, replacing whatever is there, if anything, with the contents of the current list of repositories. If you've made any editing errors, this should help you spot them. If there are errors, use nano again and correct them, then run this command again.
When you get it right and your network is up and available, you will have a base system that uses the most current Debian packages. Sid is the code name for the “unstable” Debian packages. Named after the Toy Story movie character, Sid, the boy who was “unstable” and enjoyed blowing up toys with firecrackers, Debian Sid can be a volatile packaging system at times, but the applications themselves are quite reliable. We'll take some steps later in this exercise to minimize exposure to instabilities that can sometimes occur.
Now we are ready to clean things up, then customize our environment.
apt-get clean is the command to run to clear the entire package cache. You can alternatively use the command apt-get autoclean. One of these two commands should be used periodically when you are using command-based packaging, as we are doing here. Do this to conserve disk space and also keep apt-get operating smoothly.
apt-cache search b43-fwcutter | more
This command can be used to search for specific commands. I was looking for the wireless firmware for the Broadcom 4311 wireless card. I did not find the exact command I was looking for, so I ran the next command instead:
apt-cache search b43 | more and this helped me locate the package used in the next command:
apt-get install firmware-b43-installer installs the b43 firmware used in several Broadcom wireless cards. It included the b43-fwcutter command to grab the firmware from the Broadcom site, but it also takes care of all necessary steps to actually install it. If you have this card, run this step; otherwise you can skip this step or replace it with a step that matches your system's configuration.
I recommend the next command:
apt-get install wicd if you are interested in using wireless and wired networks on this system, wicd is the network manager that works consistently best, and it is also found in the antiX M11.0 full installation as well.
Next, I wanted to find a meta package to install the entire Xfce desktop environment, so I searched for “task” meta packages using the command:
apt-cache search xfce | grep task | more
Finding the one I wanted, I then installed it, and added two other Web browsers, the open source version of the Google Chrome browser, called Chromium-browser, and I also installed the elinks text-based Web browser, which I happen to use in several of my shell scripts for grabbing the weather forecast.
apt-get install task-xfce-desktop chromium-browser elinks is the command to install this specific configuration.

Getting the great configuration tool to simplify administration

elinks brings you to the Web site where Harold Hope's fantastic system administration tool, smxi, can be found. On his site, he has the following directions to get smxi in one fast step:
cd /usr/local/bin ; wget -Nc
Check to make sure you have it by running the ls directory listing command:
Once you confirm that you have it, run the command:
smxi and configure your system with anything else you may want.
I often later run the command either this way:
smxi -piej3 to give it a different appearance, or smxi -piekj3 if I do not want to check for a new kernel update (you can install a kernel later; smxi provides several ways to do that in its rich set of menu options. I recommend checking out the site to become familiar with its capabilities; there is a link to a full set of documentation on that page and it is very good, as is the software; highly recommended.
Finally, you can get some additional Xfce themes, tools, and extras. I won't go into the details for every command, but here is the way that I did it, including searching for the things I was interested in:
apt-get install shiki-colors-xfwm-theme

apt-get install xfwm4-themes

apt-get install xfdesktop4-data

apt-get install xfce4-weather-plugin

apt-cache search mouse | more

apt-get install comixcursors-righthanded comixcursors-righthanded-opaque

apt-get install crystalcursors

apt-cache search mouse | more

apt-cache search mouse | grep cursor | more

apt-get install oxygencursors

Next, I wanted to install a few more system-based tools.
apt-get install sux installs a tool that allows you to run root commands that use a graphical interface. The other tools, such as su and sudo do not always work properly when you want to start something like synaptic from the command line. Speaking of that, I installed synaptic next:
apt-get install synaptic
and then later called it up:
At that point, I was able to graphically access my system. I did not run the synaptic command until I logged out and restarted the system, booting up into full graphical user mode, and, Woo-Hoo! It came right up with a login manager. I did not install a fancy login manager, so I just got the default login manager that comes with the X Window System, xdm, which is small, simple, and fast. If you want something different, install Slim, kdm, gdm, or whatever you would be more comfortable using. Since I am only using one desktop, Xfce, on this system, xdm is fine for me.
By all means, do things differently once you understand how all of this works, but this is one way to very quickly come up with a system that not only works, it is fast and efficient. With just the Libre Office writer, the Xfce Terminal application, and the desktop environment itself, I am only using 164 MB out of an available 2015 MB, according to htop, a resource management utility (you can install it with the command apt-get install htop.
When I add the Chromium-browser, resource usage jumps up to 300 MB+, and quickly climbs to between 435-440 MB out of 2015 MB with the browser open with three tabs, but idle, and the other applications mentioned also open. That is plenty of headroom on this hardware, 2007-2008 vintage Gateway 2000 Series portable, with a 160 GB hard drive, 2 GB of memory, and a Broadcom 4311 wireless card and an Intel PRO/100 VE Ethernet card. This setup works really well, using the steps outlined in this tutorial.
Please send comments and responses in the blogs and forums where I post this information, and I would be happy to either modify this tutorial or explain the steps as needed. I look forward to reading your feedback and comments, both on the tutorial, its contents, and the antiX core customization. Please do comment. It is the only way that I can determine whether or not this information is useful or not. I am looking forward to hearing back soon from many of you. Meanwhile, try this; I really enjoyed it; you should try it, you'll like it. Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, who used similar words in an antacid commercial, you won't think you're “gonna die” when you try it. The antiX core system won't be for everyone, but if you have enough interest to read this entire tutorial, I am confident that it will be helpful to you, and I predict that you will enjoy both antiX and the Xfce desktop environment.


  1. Howdy Brian, Just one comment. You might want to comment on how much space your finished core install takes up on / partition for EEEPC users who have only a 4 gig SSD internal drive.

    Like on my AntiX core install on my Amrel RT 786 Laptop 30 gig (/=10gig ext3, /data fat32=the rest) that has LXDE only and which has the kitchen sink thrown in with LXDE default apps, MC, PCmanfm, Thunar, Geany, Leafpad, Iceape, Opera, Iron Browser Static, Synaptic, Gdebi, Daves repository scripts, Gimp, Mule,Jitsi, Pidgin, Flash, Java, Liqourix via smxi and graphics drivers via smxi, Gparted and a ton of other stuff I can't remember right now comes out to 3.1 gig on / so far.

    If I missed it (my bad). Some of your blog lettering is small on my EEEPC 9" screen like the pasted cli installer page which I had to copy and paste in leafpad to read. Nice read for me all in all Brian.

    A inxi -F readout would be cool beans also. There. I lied about only being one comment. I am a gabby biker.
  2. A great tutorial and I hope others do try out antiX-core as well.

    A couple of points to make.

    Latest available antiX-core already has the smxi/inxi tools installed as well as htop.

    Don't forget that users need to install xorg as for some strange reason it is not automatically pulled by installing xfce4.

    Future antiX (all versions) will expand on its remaster-on-the-fly feature so users can run antiX-core in live mode (frugal from a hard drive or on a usb device), install what they want, run persist-save and reboot into new customised desktop. If user wants to keep, then user can remaster to create a bootable live version.

    I did that earlier today.
    Using Debian stable repos, I installed xorg, xfce4, xfce4-goodies, mplayer, iceape, audacious, slim, rox-filer, roxterm, sux, gnome-icon-theme, gnumeric, abiword, epdfview (and probably a few others) and live iso was just over 300MB.

    Have fun!

  3. Rocky, a df gives me this info:

    Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
    /dev/sda10 13100844 3191816 9243540 26% /

    inxi -F gives me this info:

    inxi -F
    System: Host: antiX-core Kernel: 2.6.32-1-mepis-smp i686 (32 bit)
    Desktop Xfce 4.8.3 Distro: antiX-M11-core-squeeze-686 Jayaben Desai 31 March 2011
    Machine: System: Gateway product: MX8738 version: 3408450R
    Mobo: Gateway model: N/A version: 72.15 Bios: Phoenix version: 72.15 date: 04/16/2007
    CPU: Dual core Intel CPU T2080 (-MCP-) cache: 1024 KB flags: (nx sse sse2 sse3)
    Clock Speeds: 1: 800.00 MHz 2: 800.00 MHz
    Graphics: Card: Intel Mobile 945GM/GMS 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller
    X.Org: 1.11.1 driver: intel Resolution: 1440x900@60.0hz
    GLX Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel 945GM x86/MMX/SSE2 GLX Version: 1.4 Mesa 7.11
    Audio: Card: Intel N10/ICH 7 Family High Definition Audio Controller driver: HDA Intel Sound: ALSA ver: 1.0.21
    Network: Card-1: Intel PRO/100 VE Network Connection driver: e100
    IF: eth0 state: down speed: N/A duplex: N/A mac: 00:e0:b8:d8:13:be
    Card-2: Broadcom BCM4311 802.11b/g WLAN driver: b43-pci-bridge
    IF: N/A state: N/A mac: N/A
    Drives: HDD Total Size: 160.0GB (9.2% used) 1: /dev/sda WDC_WD1600BEVS 160.0GB
    Partition: ID: / size: 13G used: 3.1G (26%) fs: auto ID: swap-1 size: 2.05GB used: 0.00GB (0%) fs: swap
    Sensors: System Temperatures: cpu: 40.0C mobo: N/A
    Fan Speeds (in rpm): cpu: N/A
    Info: Processes: 129 Uptime: 1 day Memory: 919.2/2015.7MB Client: Shell inxi: 1.7.23

    Anti says that smxi is now included in antiX core; was not aware of that; it wasn't there in the first release. Also, anti says that just installing xfce4 is not enough; in that case you need to install the X server. However, IF you take care and install the task-xfce-desktop instead, you will get more than enough, including the X server, a Web browser, and a bunch of other stuff, even a media player. That may be too much for some people who want to do things in a more granular fashion, but if you install task-xfce-desktop with antiX core, you can get a nice, usable system up in under a half hour, as long as you have a fat broadband network available to you.
  4. Do look for a follow up with a much shorter report that more specifically focuses just on antiX core. I wanted to include a few of the extras for the novices in the crowd. In my case, I did not have to either repartition or mess with GRUB because I had a pre-existing partition and I just reran update-grub on my system controlling the MBR, so I did not mess with either Parted or GRUB.

    As for smxi, I did install it using h2's routine, but according to anti, it was there already; no harm, no foul there.

    Thanks again for the feedback! I will write more reviews, tutorials, and articles about the various M11.0 releases because I think many people are really missing out. Even if they are not IceWM or Fluxbox fans, with the tools we have available, it is only minutes (if that) to snag either a LXDE or Xfce desktop, and maybe a dozen minutes to configure a full blown KDE setup from antiX, and it is really easy. The meta packages turn it into a snap!
  5. Thanks Mas! It probably is going to be sometime in November before I can return to my antiX-core project and this will help greatly!

    Meanwhile M-11 runs without incident on my 16 Gig jump-drive so it will be traveling with me shortly. Still by far the most versatile light system around.
  6. Thanks Brian. Great write up. Would love to polish things up with this.