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Archive for November, 2009

Why Linux is great for web development

November 27th, 2009 1 comment

Linux is great for web development, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. The reason I find developing websites and server programs much better on a Linux machine than on a Windows machine is as simple as the following three letters SSH.

SSH stands for Secure SHell and is a way to remotely log into a server over a secure connection. While you can connect to SSH shares in Windows, connecting to one under Linux is a far more integrated experience. For example in KDE’s Dolphin you can connect to the SSH share right within the file browser itself. Then, as you do work, changes can be reflected instantly to the remote server. This saves you a lot of time instead of having to use (S)FTP to transfer files to and from the server. GNOME also has a similar ability through its Connect to Server menu.

Again there are Windows programs that will mirror changes in a local directory to a remote server through SSH but as far as I know Windows Explorer itself does not have this ability (FTP but no SSH?). So next time you are in the mood for web dev, give Linux a shot!




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

A lengthy, detailed meta-analysis of studies of GNOME Do

November 23rd, 2009 11 comments

GNOME Do is a fantastic little program that makes Linux Mint a very comfortable experience. At first glance, GNOME Do just looks like a collection of launchers that can be docked to your window, with a search function attached for completeness. What stands out about Do, though, is that the search function offers a lot of versatility. Through Do, I can launch programs, mount and unmount drives, bring up folders, and execute a variety of actions through the plug-ins. I’ve found that it saves me a lot of mouse movement (yes, I’m that lazy) when I’m working on assignments. In less than two seconds, I can call up Kate to start up my data entry, start up R in terminal, open the folder containing all of my data, and start a conversation in Pidgin. Best of all, since the search function can be called up with the Super+Space key combination, I can do all of this without ever having to switch windows.

I also find that Do helps to clean up the clutter on my desktop. I’ve got it set up as the Docky theme on the bottom of my screen. Since I have no need for the panel, I’ve got it set up to autohide at the top of my monitor. This means when I have something maximized, it legitimately takes up the entire monitor.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

Adding or removing programs to or from Do is a cinch too – it’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

Unfortunately, it’s not all great

Like every other Linux program, Do saves time and effort. Like every other Linux program, Do also costs time and effort in the bugs that it has. The most frustrating bug I’ve had so far is that Do simply disappears on a restart. It runs and in a manner it “exists” since I can resize it on my desktop, but I can’t actually see or use it. Apparently this is a known bug, and I haven’t been able to find a decent solution to it. It’s especially unfortunate because Do provides so much convenience that when it doesn’t work properly, I feel like I’m reverting to some primitive age where I’m dependent on my mouse (the horror!)

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does work since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does function, since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Regardless, I’d recommend Do for anyone who can install it. When it works, it’s great for saving you some time and effort; when it doesn’t, well, ’tis better to have loved and lost….

Today, the search engines…

November 23rd, 2009 No comments

I would just like to point out that thanks to you the readers, who I’d like to reinforce are fantastic and have been a huge help to us (as well as making us feel good that people are making use of the site!) have catapulted us to previously unknown heights in the world of Canadian search engine fame!

The big three search engines with Canadian domains – Google, Bing, and Yahoo – have all launched us up to top-shelf status on their search pages with a search string of ‘The Linux Experiment’:

Bing.ca – first search result (yay!)

Yahoo.ca – first search result (double yay!)

Google.ca – second search result (darn you, PC World)

Let’s collectively step it up and get us to the top of the Google search charts.  With a scant 38 days left in the Experiment, time is quickly running out!

Today, the search engines… tomorrow, the (PC) world!

Back to relative stability with Funtoo

November 21st, 2009 No comments

In my last post, I’d mentioned that I planned on reinstalling Gentoo to fix several dependency issues that had made upgrading packages an impossibility. I chose to use the Funtoo variant and have since become an expert with the install process.

My first attempt was an installation of Funtoo unstable, which included packages that are normally masked out for stability reasons. This particular installation went fine and worked properly, until the hard drive I’d installed it on decided that it had better things to do than spin up when booting the computer. The end result was a kernel panic on boot and inability to mount the drive. One thing that I did notice under GNOME 2.28 is that “alacarte”, the menu editor, is not installed as a default package or chained as a dependency. As a result, the “Edit Menus” option in GNOME merely displayed a list of installed applications, with no way to add new ones or edit the properties of existing ones.

The latest and most current version I’m running now is Funtoo stable. It’s a very snappy and responsive environment, and I haven’t yet run into package conflicts or dependency problems. Unfortunately, two of my most-used apps (Songbird and VLC) have problems running – VLC refuses to display a user interface (but runs in a terminal seemingly properly), and Songbird insists that my request to play a song should be met with a core media error. I may end up trying the mailing list or IRC channel to see what the level of support is for VLC at least, or the appropriate process for migrating a “stable” release to the “unstable” one.

Update: I’m apparently plagued with the “didn’t read the documentation” curse. Here’s what VLC says when I try to reinstall it:

 * Messages for package media-video/vlc-1.0.3:

 * You have disabled the qt4 useflag, vlc will not have any
 * graphical interface. Maybe that is not what you want...

I’m not sure if I really want to build it with QT support… but in the meantime, I’ve added “media-video/vlc qt4″ to the /etc/portage/package.use file and it seems to work fine.




I am currently running various *BSD variants for this Experiment.
I currently run a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux systems for both work and personal use.
For Linux, I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity and still keep Windows 7 around for gaming.
Check out my profile for more information.

Eclipse… Again

November 21st, 2009 No comments

Man I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. Last night I reinstalled my Debian system. Somewhere along the line, I made a mess with my repositories, and as Wayne suggested in the comments on one of my previous posts, a good way to avoid many of these issues is to install your Testing system directly from a netinst daily build cd image instead of installing Lenny and then upgrading.

So I did. Upon inserting the install disc and attempting to use the graphical installer, I was confronted with a terminal spewing error messages about missing drivers or something. Figuring that this was just an error related to the daily installer build, I backed out of the graphical installer and took a shot at the expert install. Now that I know my way around Linux, the expert installer isn’t so daunting, and the rest of the process went smoothly, although it took awhile.

This morning, I figured I’d be productive and write some Java on my freshly installed system. So I went over to synaptic, and searched out Eclipse… only to find that it didn’t exist in the Testing repositories. How strange. A google and a half later and I had found that eclipse is available in Lenny, as well as Sid, but is conspicuously absent from Testing. What to do?

I hit the #debian IRC channel and asked for a bit of help, which i promptly got, in the form of these instructions:

  1. Add the line deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian sid main non-free contrib to your sources list.
  2. From a root terminal, run apt-get update
  3. From a root terminal, run apt-get install build-essential
  4. Navigate to an empty directory somewhere on your system
  5. Run apt-get build-dep eclipse. This will download almost 200MB of source code to your system. Don’t do it over a wireless connection like I did.
  6. Run apt-get -b source eclipse. Don’t worry if this step takes forever – it took almost an hour on my system.
  7. install the resultant debs. This step is painful, because while all of the dependencies will have been created for you, there is a certain order to installing them that requires a bit of trial and error to figure out.

So after a little over an hour of messing about, I have a working Eclipse install on my system, and can get some real work done. It was frustrating, but hey, thanks to the guys over at #debian, it wasn’t the end of the world.




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Fedora 12: Drenched in glory

November 20th, 2009 6 comments

Let me start off by saying that my experience thus far (over the last 24 hours) with Fedora 12 – Constantine has been the complete opposite from Tyler’s.  For the most part, at any rate.  While I, too attempted to do a preupgrade (from terminal) to Constantine and had it fail due to an insufficiently sized /boot partition – the 200 MB that it suggests on install is simply not enough – my clean install attempt went smooth as silk.

After backing everything important (user folder) up to my server, which over gigabit ethernet took all of 12 minutes, I popped the Fedora 12 x86_64 DVD into my drive and restarted.   Installation and drive partitioning was easy, as was customizing my installation repositories to include Fedora 12 x86_64 and Fedora 12 x86_64 updates – this has saved me a lot of headaches now, I’m sure.  I also decided this time around to add KDE at boot time, just to see if this would simplify my problems with that environment; more on that in a later post, I’m sure.

As of right now I’m running a stable – though desktop effects-less – Gnome environment.  Boot time over Fedora 11 has significantly improved, and the boot animation is a great improvement over the scrolling bar from Fedora 11.  In addition, off the bat my computer automatically supported native resolution (no-go without drivers in Fedora 11) and screen brightness changing (same story there in Leonidas).

One other thing that GREATLY excites me – folder mounting of my Windows Home Server shares has increased in speed tenfold.  It’s almost instant now, much like it would be in Windows – fantastic!

Though frustrated by the idea of having to re-configure Wine and vpnc (that took me FOREVER!), and waiting for nVidia or a kmod driver to come out that supports my GeForce 8600M GS for enabling desktop effects and my beloved Gnome DO, I’m pleasantly surprised by my experience thus far.

More to come soon!

Categories: Dana H, Fedora, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Linux Tags:

Unstable & Not Ready – Uninstalling Fedora 12 24-Hours Later

November 20th, 2009 9 comments

Well it has been 24 hours since I first installed Fedora 12 and I am ready to uninstall it. Even after trying to enable 3D graphics with an experimental graphics driver, because the official ATI is not yet ready, I am still experiencing graphical abnormalities, application crashes, and sluggish performance all over. This is not the kind of experience that I can deal with day after day on my primary machine.

I believe most of these issues are just par for the course with Fedora. By that I mean, the Fedora developers love to live on the bleeding edge of technology and unfortunately this time around they didn’t wait for the basic foundation to be ready before shipping. I’m sure within the next couple of weeks, or months at the most, all of my issues will be ironed out. Until then I am reverting back to trusty “old” Fedora 11.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

I Cannot Has Eclipse?

November 20th, 2009 No comments
Screenshot-Add-Remove Applications

You know, that's interesting, as I'm quite certain that I've installed Eclipse on x86 hardware before...




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Fedora 12 Graphics [Update]

November 19th, 2009 No comments

I stumbled upon this news thread which mentioned open source ATI driver support through the use of the mesa-dri-drivers-experimental package. Promptly installing this

yum install mesa-dri-drivers-experimental

and a quick reboot later and my desktop seems to have actual 3D graphics support! It’s not perfect but it will certainly do until ATI gets in gear with their own Fedora 12 release.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

Installing Fedora 12

November 19th, 2009 1 comment

With the recent release of Fedora 12 it is high time that I upgrade from my existing Fedora 11 install to the new wonders that surely await me. So I hopped over to google and did a quick search and came across the official documentation to upgrade Fedora. My plan was to try and upgrade to see how it works and then eventually do a full re-install just to clear out any cobwebs that have developed over the past couple of months. Without further ado here we go!

Attempt #1: Upgrade

Because the Fedora repositories now use LZMA as the compression algorithm for packages the first thing I needed to do was upgrade rpm

yum update rpm

Next I needed to add rawhide (the current software repository) to my list of repositories.

yum –enablerepo=rawhide –skip-broken upgrade

Once that was done I ran a simple update and was presented with literally thousands of updates.

That's a lot of updates!

That's a lot of updates!

Unfortunately this failed a dependency resolution. Doing some more reading I found out that the dependencies might in fact be OK, but that the older version of yum just can’t resolve them correctly. So I tried updating yum to see if that would make a difference.

yum upgrade yum

Trying once again I was met with utter failure. Still unresolved dependencies! Turning back to the Internet I found out that Fedora actually maintains a separate set of instructions which include the use of a graphical upgrader! Entering:

yum install preupgrade

preupgrade

and I had the upgrade wizard running on my screen. A couple of quick clicks and I was off to the races. I started the download phase and went to bed as I figured it could take a while to complete.

In the morning I was presented with a dialog telling me to restart, which I did. On the next boot a Fedora installer appeared and began to fully install the system. All was going well until disaster struck.

There was an error running your transaction for the following reason(s): insufficient disk space.

Clicking the details arrow gave me more information saying that

You need more space on the following file systems:

18 M on /mnt/sysimage/boot

With no other options I clicked Exit Installer and hopped for the best. Eventually I had to hit the power button on my computer to restart it. Thankfully this allowed me to reboot into my existing Fedora 11 install.

Attempt #2: Re-Install KDE Live CD

After giving up on trying an upgrade I decided to simply download the newest version of the Fedora 12 x64 KDE Live CD. Unfortunately rather than being a smooth installation I had the installer itself crash on me at least 4 different times. Figuring it might be an issue with the x64 version I even tried installing from the Fedora 12 x86 KDE Live CD which ultimately had the same issues. All of these attempts had trashed the data on my hard drive – good thing I did a back up first!

Attempt #3: Re-Install DVD

Getting frustrated I then turned to the old trusty DVD install which I had used previously to install Fedora 11. The unfortunate part about installing Fedora this way is that it defaults to a GNOME desktop. Yes, true, you can select KDE from the installer but last time I did that I got a hodgepodge of KDE with GNOME apps everywhere. Even my network manager was a GNOME application.

Being very careful I inspected the package selections and tried to make this install as KDE-ish as possible. I noticed that even after selecting KDE as your desktop environment, Fedora defaults to installing the GNOME network manager so I deselected that and found knetworkmanager instead. I also added a few other programs, themes, icon sets, etc. that I thought would be useful. Finally I added Armacycles Advanced for install, because honestly it’s great.

If you haven't played it DO IT NOW

If you haven't played it DO IT NOW

Hitting Next the install began. 2,074 packages and counting…

A quick reboot later and I was presented with the install and configuration wizard where I set up my user accounts and system date & time. The install was a success.

Not Problem Free

My install, while complete, is not without its fair share of problems. The graphics module that I had been using with great success under Fedora 11 is just not present in Fedora 12. I googled the problem and it seems that they have yet to release a version for Fedora 12. Without proper graphics drivers my system stability is suffering greatly.

In addition KPackageKit is incredibly slow for some unknown reason. It’s slow to launch, slow to respond, and slow to close. I hope this is something that can be rectified shortly.

Other than that I don’t really have many complaints. The boot time on this version of Fedora is much faster and I can only assume with the new 2.6.31.5-127 kernel that the overall hardware compatibility has improved as well.

Stay tuned for my first impressions in a later post.

My New Desktop

Here is my new desktop. If you look closely you can even see some of the graphical issues that plague my system.

Here is my new desktop. If you look closely you can even see some of the graphical issues that plague my system.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.