Monday, March 12, 2012

Linus Torvalds Charlie Rose Interview (Part II) | The Linux Foundation Video Site

Linus Torvalds Charlie Rose Interview (Part II) | The Linux Foundation Video Site

Linus Torvalds Charlie Rose Interview (Part I) | The Linux Foundation Video Site

Linus Torvalds Charlie Rose Interview (Part I) | The Linux Foundation Video Site

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.