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).
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Visit my personal website at http://www.tylerburton.ca.
A fellow Linux Experiment Guinea Pig and I decided that we would start a new podcast showcasing some of the very best (and possibly worst) royalty free and creative commons music available. We’ve devised a short-format creation, so you don’t get bored, that aims to explore a new artist/album combination with each episode. In the podcast we share our thoughts, praise and criticism of each work and also feature a few songs in order to give you a taste of what to expect on the full album.
Check out the podcast over at www.listenerfeedback.net where you can listen to the show, download the episode’s featured album, leave us a comment or make a suggestion as to what we should listen to next. I hope you enjoy.
Well it’s been a couple of months now since the start of Experiment 2.0 and I’ve had plenty of time to learn about Gentoo, see its strengths and… sit waiting through its weaknesses. I don’t think Gentoo is as bad as everyone makes it out to be, in fact, compared to some other distributions out there, Gentoo doesn’t look bad at all.
Now that the experiment is approaching its end I figured it would be a good time to do a quick post about my experiences running Gentoo as a day-to-day desktop machine.
Gentoo is exactly what you want it to be, nothing more. Sure there are special meta-packages that make it easy to install things such as the KDE desktop, but the real key is that you don’t need to install anything that you don’t want to. As a result Gentoo is fast. My startup time is about 10-20 seconds and, if I had the inclination to do so, could be trimmed down even further through optimization.
Packages are also compiled with your own set of custom options and flags so you get exactly what you need, optimized for your exact hardware. Being a more advanced (see expert) oriented distribution it will also teach you quite a bit about Linux and software configuration as a whole.
Sadly Gentoo is not without its faults. As mentioned above Gentoo can be whatever you want it to be. The major problem with this strength in practice is that the average desktop user just wants a desktop that works. When it takes days of configuration and compilation just to get the most basic of programs installed it can be a major deterrent to the vast majority of users.
Speaking of compiling programs, I find this aspect of Gentoo interesting from a theoretical perspective but I honestly have a hard time believing that it makes enough of a difference to make it worth sitting through the
hours days of compiling it takes just to get some things installed. Its so bad that I actually haven’t bothered to re-sync and update my whole system in over 50 days for fear that it would take forever to re-compile and re-install all of the updated programs and libraries.
Worse yet even when I do have programs installed they don’t always play nicely with one another. Gentoo offers a package manager, portage, but it still fails at some dependency resolution – often times making you choose between uninstalling previous programs just to install the new one or to not install the new one at all. Another example of things being more complicated than they should be is my system sound. Even though I have pulseaudio installed and configured my system refuses to play audio from more than one program at a time. These are just a few examples of problems I wouldn’t have to deal with on another distribution.
Well, it’s been interesting but I will not be sticking with Gentoo once this experiment is over. There are just too many little things that make this more of an educational experience than a real day-to-day desktop. While I certainly have learned a lot during this version of the experiment, at the end of the day I’d rather things just work right the first time.
Hosts: Aine B, Dave L, Jake B, Jon F, Matt C, Phil D, Tyler B, & Warren G
Missing in action: Dana H, Sasha D
Show length: 0:31:16
The fifth podcast from the guys at The Linux Experiment. In this reunion episode we kick off the second round of The Linux Experiment.
In this episode:
Get the show:
Listen here (explicit):
The other day I finally managed to get the classic RTS game Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 running on Linux, and running well in fact. I started by following the instructions here with a few tweaks that I found on other forums that I can’t seem to find links to anymore. Essentially the process is as follows:
It is a convoluted process that is, at times, ridiculous but it’s worth it for such a classic game. Even better there is a bit of a ‘hack’ that will allow you to play RA2′s multiplayer IPX network mode but over the more modern TCP/IP protocol. The steps for this hack can also be found at the WineHQ link above.
I wrote a simple script that you can download here that makes it easy to update your Gentoo system. It first re-syncs your portage tree so that you are pointing to the newest source files. Then it performs a deep update including build dependencies on all packages that have new versions or could be rebuilt because you have modified your USE flags. It also upgrades any build dependencies and tools. Finally it removes unused dependencies and attempts to fix any broken packages that now have new dependencies.
emerge –update –deep –with-bdeps=y –newuse –ask world
I also found this excellent website that makes it very easy to search for Gentoo packages and see what use flags you can apply to them.
Continuing where I left off in my previous posts I now had a somewhat working desktop but a few things still had to be done. For one I am running this on my laptop and while the open source radeon drivers are actually pretty decent they’re just not quite good enough when it comes to power management. Thankfully the Linux closed source drivers are up to the job.
After reading through these two sites I was able to install the closed source drivers and get full control over my graphics card. To be perfectly honest I’m not exactly sure what steps got me to this point but I do know it was a mixture of the two sites.
After careful consideration I had come to the conclusion thought I had bricked my wireless. Worse yet after following the guide here (even the parts specific to KDE) I just couldn’t seem to get it to work. Thankfully I stumbled upon this guide which instructed me to install networking components for KDE. Apparently once I had installed this package all was good.
Flash was actually incredibly easy to install. All I had to do was enter the following command in a root terminal and then restart Firefox.
Another big install was the official Oracle Java JRE and JDK. To install just the JRE run the command dev-java/sun-jre-bin. If you want the JDK as well then run the command dev-java/sun-jdk. The only weird part about this was that this package is now considered restricted. To work around it simply download the bin file from Oracle and place it in /usr/portage/distfiles before running the command.
There is still plenty more to do, like install LibreOffice and figure out why my computer currently can’t play audio CDs. I am however thankful that at this point I am at least a bit better off than some other fellow Linux Experiment participants.
The high CPU load was because I had just finished compiling a bunch of stuff
Yeah… apparently the ability to restart or shutdown your system using a normal user account from within KDE SC is not something that is installed by default. In order to accomplish this you need to compile and install the kde-misc/kshutdown package using the following command from a root terminal:
I also had to create a new file called /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords in order for this to work. Inside that file just put the following text
For this version of the experiment I have chosen to try my hand at installing Gentoo. Gentoo, for those who don’t know, or who weren’t following Jake’s posts during the original experiment, is a fully customizable distribution where you have to compile and install all of your applications from source code downloads. Thankfully they do offer some excellent package management tools, Portage in particular, that help automate this process.
I suppose a bit of background is the best place to start. During the original experiment I ran Fedora which, while having a whole host of issues of its own, was more or less a straight forward experience. Since that time I’ve dabbled here and there with other distributions, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Linux Mint, among others. For this experiment I wanted a bit of a challenge. I now know the basics, and then some, about running a day-to-day desktop Linux system but I still don’t fully understand all of the inner workings that are going on under the hood. That’s where my choice of Gentoo comes in.
I began by following the rather excellent Gentoo Handbook which thankfully got me to the point where I was able to boot my machine, without the installation media, into a kernel that I had personally configured and compiled. To say that this was smooth sailing probably isn’t accurate, but considering what was actually involved in getting to this point, and how quickly I managed to do it, is a testament to how easy the guide actually is to follow along with.
One thing I would stress to Linux users who may want to try Gentoo and are coming from a more user friendly distribution like Ubuntu is to make sure to get a list of hardware before you start. Run lshw in your Ubuntu (or whatever) install and save the output somewhere. This will show you the list of hardware devices and more importantly the drivers required to run them correctly. I ran into a snag early on where my network card wasn’t working even though Gentoo claimed to be loading the drivers correctly. A quick modprobe later of the driver that was shown to be in use from my earlier install, tg3, and I was back and Internet enabled. Sadly even the lshw output didn’t provide a whole lot of direction when it came to picking and choosing some of the more obscure configuration options for my kernel.
So what do you do when you can finally turn your computer on and boot into your kernel? Well install X I suppose. Unfortunately it was this step that caused me more grief than any of the others. You see apparently you’re supposed to remember what graphics card is in your machine before you try and build a kernel that supports it…
Following along with the X Server Configuration Guide I made it all the way up until the point when I had to specify which “in-kernel firmware blobs” I wanted to compile into my kernel. After, literally, hours of compiling X and then a series of trial and error attempts I finally found a combination that seemed to work. For my own reference the only firmware blob I seem to require is
I finally had a system that could start X and present me with multiple(!) graphical terminals. By this point I had sunk about ~5 hours into this project. Now it was time to try setting up a desktop environment. My two main choices were GNOME 3.x or KDE SC. I opted for KDE for two reasons:
Pulling up the Gentoo KDE guide I began my compilation of KDE SC.
emerge -av kde-meta
More than 400 packages needed to be compiled and installed. My system, a Core2Duo at 2.4Ghz and 4GB of RAM, took approximately 24 hours to finish this single process. Gentoo is certainly not a system that you can expect to have up and running in an afternoon if you’re expecting to have a fully working desktop environment.
USE Flags are ridiculous. I understand the concept for them but the fact that you have to continuously add to this list in order to compile programs you explicitly told it to install is a bit much. If you don’t know what a USE Flag is consider yourself lucky. For those thinking about installing Gentoo, don’t worry you’ll know soon enough.
Be sure to change the root password and add any user accounts after you chroot into your new installation. Otherwise you’ll end up like me and boot into a system that you can’t log into!
Well I’d like to finish setting up my desktop. I now have KDE installed but there seems to be some missing components that I hope won’t require a re-compilation… I’ll let you know how that turns out. I also need to sort out my wireless card and get that working. But hey at least for now I can browse the web in my new installation!
As Jake pointed out in the previous post we have once again decided to run The Linux Experiment. This iteration will once again following the rule where you are not allowed to use a distribution that you have used in the past. We also have a number of new individuals taking part in the experiment: Aíne B, Matt C, Travis G and Warren G. Be sure to check back often as we post about our experiences running our chosen distributions.
Here are the new rules we are playing by for this version of the experiment:
For fun we’ve decided to create a series of challenges to try throughout the experiment. This list can be found here and may be updated as we add more throughout the course of the experiment.