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Posts Tagged ‘Linux’

Barry: Round Two with the Blogosphere riding Shotgun

September 30th, 2009 2 comments

Given the problems that I’ve been having lately with getting my Blackberry calendar and contacts to synchronize with anything in Linux, I was quite surprised when I almost got it working tonight. Forgetting everything that I’ve learned about the process, I started over, following these helpful tutorials and working through the entire install from the beginning. Unfortunately, aside from some excellent documentation of the install process (finally), the only new idea that those blogs provided me with was to try syncing the phone with different pieces of software. Specifically, Chip recommended KDEPIM, although I opted to  jump through a few more hoops before giving in and dropping the Thunderbird/Lightning combination entirely.

After a bit more mucking about, I decided to give up Lightning and installed Iceowl, Debian’s rebranding of Mozilla Sunbird, instead. Iceowl is the standalone calendar application that Lightning is based on, and is a very lightweight solution that is supposed to cooperate with the opensync-plugin-iceowl package. In theory, this allows calendar data to be shared between my device and the Iceowl calendar after configuring the plugin to read my Iceowl calendar from the /home/username/.mozilla/iceowl/crazyfoldername/storage.sdb file. In practice, the sync process gets locked up every time:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync-1

Why must you tease me?

Well, I’ve tried everything that I can think of to get my phone to synchronize with any Mozilla product. I’m very close to giving up, which is a shame, because they really are superior products. The ridiculousness of the entire thing is that I can easily dump my PIM data to a folder, and Thunderbird stores it’s data in an SQLite database. If this were Windows, I’d have written a VB app to fix my problems hours ago… Anybody know any python?

Update: I’ve also managed to successfully synchronize my phone with the Evolution mail client. Unfortunately, Evolution looks rather pale next to Thunderbird. In fact, the entire reason that I switched to Thunderbird about a week ago is that Evolution mysteriously stopped receiving my IMAP email with no explanation. No new email comes in, and the Send/Receive button is grayed out. Until now, I was happy with my decision, as Thunderbird is a superior application.

How I solved my audio problems

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Short answer: IRC and #fedora

Long answer:

As you may recall I have been without sound for quite some time now. Finally getting sick and tired of it I ventured into the official Fedora IRC channel to try and get some help. Thankfully the people over there are very helpful. After about an hour of trying this, that and the other thing I finally found success by doing the following:

yum install pavucontrol padevchooser

This installed some very easy to use tools for PulseAudio, the component that I long thought was the cause of my problems.

PulseAudio made easy!

PulseAudio made easy!

After pulling this up I noticed that it was sending the master audio stream to my ATi HDMI port for some reason. A quick switch of this to the “Internal Audio” and everything seemed to work fine! Not sure what caused my default audio stream to be switched to the HDMI port that I’m not even using but I’m just glad that after all of this time I have finally solved the problem!

Gaaaaaaaaaaaay(mes) for Linux

September 26th, 2009 5 comments

Ever the Windows enthusiast, I’ve always been deeply involved in the world of PC gaming.  It’s something I’ve always loved to do, and I’ve been through it all – from the early days of Minesweeper and Solitaire, to the casual gaming market of Elastomania and Peggle, to the full-on phase of Bioshock, Halo, Civilization (all of them), and – sadly, yes – World of Warcraft.

Needless to say, I love gaming on computers.  Always have, always will.  I’ve never been a hardcore console man, but I’ve been known to dabble in Nintendo’s awesome selection (SUPER MARIO GALAXY WHAT) every once in a while.  So to say that gaming on Linux would be important to me is just about the understatement of the century.

I had heard a while back that Unreal Tournament III (UT3) was going to be ported to Linux, after being released to the rest of the world about two years ago.  This game has always interested me, mostly because I get to fire ludicrous weapons and blow up aliens again and again and again.  No such luck in Linux, it would seem – the ‘port’ is still under development.

A quick search of ‘gaming in linux’ on Google spits back a modest fifty million results, so you KNOW I’m not the only person interested in doing something like this.  Several of my former WoW buddies (I kicked the habit) played in Linux with impressive results, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to emulate ever since we all started this experiment.  While I have yet to sit down and attempt the installation of a legitimate Windows-only game into Fedora, I have made a selection of a few free (and some open-source!) games I’ve been keeping occupied with in the meantime.  Hope you enjoy!

  • Nexuiz – a free, open-source first-person cross-platform shooter (runs on Windows, Linux and OS/X)
  • Scorched3D – a 3D update of one of my favourite games of all time, Scorched Earth
  • Armacycles-AD – all ready covered by Tyler, this game is addictive as hell

Any other suggestions you might have would be fantastic!  Next up is trying to get some Steam games running…

DNS Not Satisfactory

September 25th, 2009 No comments

While trying to connect to a remote webserver via SSH last night, I found that my machine refused to resolve the hostname to an IP address. I couldn’t ping the server either, but could view a webpage hosted on it. Now this was a new one on me – I figured that my machine was caching a bad DNS record for the webserver, and couldn’t connect because the server’s IP had since changed. That didn’t really explain why I was able to access the server from a webbrowser, but I ran with it. So how do you refresh your DNS cache in Linux? It’s easy to do in Windows, but the Goog and the Bing let me down spectacularly on this issue.

This morning, I tried to connect via SSH from my school network, and couldn’t get a connection there either. This reinforced the idea that a local DNS cache might have an outdated record in it, because at school, I was using a different nameserver than at home, and a whole 12 hours had elapsed. Out of theories, and lacking a method to refresh my local DNS cache, I hit the #debian channel on IRC for some guidance. Unlike my last two trips to this channel, I got help from a number of people within minutes (must be a timezone thing), and found out that unless I manually installed one, Debian does not maintain a DNS cache. Well, there goes that idea.

So where was I getting my DNS lookup service? A quick look at my /etc/resolv.conf file showed that the only entry in it was 192.168.1.1, which is the IP of my home router. The file also has a huge warning banner that claims that any changes will be overwritten by the operating system. Makes sense, as when I connect to a new network, I presumably get DNS resolution from their router, which may have a different IP address than mine. The guys on IRC instructed me to try to connect to the server with it’s IP address instead of it’s hostname, thereby taking the DNS resolution at the router out of the picture. This worked just fine.

They then instructed me to add a line to the file with the IP address of the nameserver that the router is using. In the case of our home network, we use OpenDNS, a local company with static servers. I did so, and could immediately resolve the IP of my remote server, and obtain an SSH connection to it.

Well fine, my problem is solved by bypassing DNS resolution at the router, but it still doesn’t explain what’s going on here. Why, if DNS resolution was failing at the router level (presumably because the router maintains some kind of DNS cache), did it work for my webbrowser, but not the for ssh, scp, or ping commands? Don’t they all resolve nameservers in the same way? Further, if it was the router cache that had a bad record in it, why did the problem also manifest itself at school, where the router is taken entirely out of the picture?

Further, will the file actually be overwritten by the OS the next time I connect to a different wireless network? If so, will my manual entry be erased, and will the problem return? Time will tell. Something smells fishy here, and it all points to the fact that my machine is in fact retaining a local DNS cache. How else can I explain away the problem manifesting itself on the school network? Further, even if I do have a local cache that is corrupted or contains a bad record, why did Iceweasel bypass it and resolve the address of the webserver at the router level (thereby allowing it to connect, even though the ssh, scp, and ping commands could not)?

LINUX!!11

The trouble with patching your kernel to fix a problem…

September 7th, 2009 No comments

If you remember a while back I was having a world of trouble trying to get my ATi drivers to play nicely with my desktop effects. The end result was me having to patch and rebuild my kernel to make things work the way I wanted them to. Well today I applied some system updates and hidden among them was a kernel update. It turns out that applying this update really messed with my system. Thankfully I was able to fix it by running through the original processes again. Unfortunately I think this means that every time a kernel update come down the pipe I will have to repatch and rebuild my kernel again to get things to work…

Ah well. On the plus side this kernel update fixed a lot of my sound issues!

Disabling the PC Speaker Beep

September 2nd, 2009 5 comments

If you’re like me, you’re still working on your certification as a Linux God. Until graduation day comes around, and you throw your penguin-festooned mortar board into the air, you may find yourself seriously annoyed by that damned PC speaker beep. Apparently leftover from the pre-speaker world of ancient PC computing, this distinctly plaintive and accusatory beep sounds whenever you do something that you aren’t supposed to, including (but not limited to):

  • Trying to scroll down in a window that can’t scroll any further
  • Backspacing into text that doesn’t exist
  • Viewing the login screen
  • Pressing the up arrow too many times while in the terminal
  • Getting any password wrong, anywhere on the system
  • Attempting to do anything of value with your new Linux installation.
  • Looking at the machine the wrong way

Luckily, arsgeek.com has an excellent little tutorial on how to disable the PC speaker by editing the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file. Check it out here, and lose that awful beep until the next time that you’re forced to use the Unix lab at school.

Note: If you attempt to edit the blacklist file and cannot save it, it is because you are not in root mode. At the terminal prompt, type “su”, enter your root password, and then follow the instructions to edit the blacklist file.

Getting Up and Running with Debian

September 1st, 2009 3 comments

Considering that it was my first experience with Linux, the installation of Debian actually went rather smoothly. I popped in the Debian live disc, rebooted my machine, and said goodbye to Windows XP.

The Basics:

I chose the graphical installer, because I’m a big wimp, and because it makes screenshots. You might ask how the installer saves screenshots to a hard drive that is as of yet unpartitioned, and will be wiped/encrypted during the coming hours… I don’t know either, but I guess that’s a part of the Linux magic. (You don’t get any of these pictures, because I lost them when I reinstalled, and forgot to take more the second time around).

The first few settings were fairly straightforward. Debian asked me to choose my default language, geographical location, and keyboard layout. Debian appears to support some 44 different keyboard layouts on install, including Dvorak, and Canadian Multilingual, which is perhaps the most awful layout ever conceived by man. Is it as bad for the Quebecois as it is for us Ontarians?

Next, the installer attempted to detect my hardware settings, and scanned the live disc for required drivers. At this point, the installer notified me that my system would require non-free firmware files to get my wireless card working. In Linux-speak, non-free simply means that the firmware is distributed as a compiled binary, and that the source code is not available. It is, however, free in the sense that I don’t have to pay a dime to use it, although I have to agree to a license to do so. Given the option to load the firmware files from a disc, or to wait and deal with the problem once the desktop was up and running, I chose the latter.

The next step was for the Debian installer to attempt to auto-configure my DHCP settings, and to use my ethernet card to connect to the internet. Since the laptop wasn’t plugged in to an ethernet cable, it didn’t really surprise me that this step failed. I chose to configure the network later, and moved on to giving my machine a name and choosing my timezone instead.

Partitions and Full-Disc Encryption:

When it came time to partition my disks, I chose to take a shot at full-disc encryption. The most basic Linux drive has two partitions – one called /boot that is generally formatted with ext2 and takes the place of Window’s boot sector, and another called / that contains the rest of your data, including the OS. Once the BIOS has finished all of it’s startup checks and initializations, it hands off to GRUB, which is stored on the /boot partition. GRUB does some other stuff, and then boots the operating system, which is stored on the secondary partition, usually formatted with one of the many available file systems that Tyler covered in detail in a previous post. There is a great explanation of the entire boot process available here.

To allow for multiple partitions, Linux utilizes some fancy software called the LVM (logical volume manager), which virtualizes any partitions that you create within the big main one. When enabling full-disc encryption, everything inside of the LVM (all of the partitions except for /boot, because the machine needs to be able to start) is encrypted as it is written to disc, and decrypted as it is read from disc. This method of protecting your data is extremely secure, as the encryption is transparent to the user and operating system, while every file on the system remains encrypted until the correct password is provided by the user.

Debian allows me to put each of the important parts of my root directory on separate drive partitions. For example, I can separate the /home partition from the /usr, /var, and /tmp partitions within the LVM. This would be extremely handy if my machine were running multiple physical discs, and I wanted to put my install on a separate disk from my data so that backups and reinstalls are less painful. Because I’m new at this and have only one disc, I chose to put all of my files in a single partition.

Before proceeding with installation, Debian tried to zero all existing data on my drive. Since that data wasn’t at all sensitive, my hard drive is small, and I don’t care to wait years for the wiping process to finish, I hit the cancel button in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen, which allowed me to skip to the next step. I actually found this out by accident, fully expecting the cancel button to boot me right out of the install process. Silly UI design, that.

The last step in partitioning my drives was to provide a password for the full-disc encryption, and to choose the file system for each of my newly created partitions. As previously noted, my /boot partition is formatted with ext2, and the LVM is using a filesystem called crypto, which I assume is just the name of the encrypted partition container. Linux also creates a root partition for me (located at /), which I’ve chosen to format with the ext3 filesystem, since ext4 does not appear to be supported by my installer. Finally, a partition called /swap is created (the equivalent of the Window’s swap file), that is formatted with the (what else?) swap file system.

It should be noted that the partition manager screen also had a strange UI bug in it – the continue button that had been my friend and companion thus far throughout the install process ceased to have any meaningful functionality. I had to choose to ‘finish partitioning and write changes to disc’ from the partition manager menu before I could continue with the installation.

Just About There:

With all of the setup options behind me, the Debian installer helpfully finished the install all on it’s own, pausing only to demand that I enter a root password, a default user account name and user account password. It should be noted that if you intend to become a l337 system administrator, your root password should be hard to guess but easy to type, as you’ll be forced to enter it whenever you do an action that is outside of the user account security privileges (or in other words, essentially anything of consequence).

Lastly, the installer asked if I wanted to enable the Debian package popularity contest (popcon), and which default software I wanted to install. I chose to add a web server, file server, and SQL database to the default install. That done, the installer went on it’s merry way and actually got down to the business of installing my distribution.

Adding the Tubes (Or Not):

Remember how the Debian installer failed to auto-detect my DHCP settings because my laptop wasn’t plugged into an ethernet cable? Well it also “forgot” to install my ethernet card driver at the same time. Since the machine doesn’t have a network connection, I have no access to the Debian repositories from which I can get the required drivers, but I can’t seem to get them without access to those repositories. I found the driver in question here, but have no idea what to do with the driver once I get it, because it is distributed as a *.rpm package, which is the Fedora package format, and unsupported by Debian. I’ve found various discussions on the Debian website that reveal that tg3, the driver for my network card, was removed from the Debian package, because it is not “free” in the sense that it is distributed as a compiled binary, and not as source.

After spending a half hour scouring the GOOG for instructions on how to install this driver, only to come up empty handed, I’ve decided to simply reinstall, but to plug the ethernet cable in this time, and hope that it works better than it did last time. If anybody knows what the hell happened, I’d love to hear an explanation, and perhaps a method by which I can fix the problem.

Back from the Reinstall:

So after waiting for Debian to reinstall, I got back up and running, and just needed my wireless card active so that I could put my ethernet cable back in my other computer. Luckily, the steps to get it working are very straightforward:

  1. Open the synaptic package manager
  2. Under the settings menu, select repositories, and select the DFSG and Non-DFSG checkboxes. This will allow synaptic to install packages that are non-free.
  3. Search for a package called firmware-ipw2x00, and install it
  4. Agree to the firmware license
  5. Open a root terminal
  6. Type “modprobe ipw2200” to load the firmware kernel module
  7. Navigate to the etc/ directory, and open the file “modules” in the nano editor
  8. add the line “ipw2200” to the end of the file
  9. Hit ctrl-x to close the file, and Y to save the changes.
  10. Restart your machine

Once your machine restarts, the wireless firmware will be loaded, and you should be able to click on the network icon in the taskbar and select an available wireless network to connect to.

So Everything is Cool, Right?

Well, not quite. My system is up and running, supports full-disc encryption, wired and wireless networking; but the GNOME desktop bugs the hell out of me, and so far as I can tell, I don’t have a working sound card yet… More on that one tomorrow. The moral of this story is as follows: NEVER install Debian without a network connection present. It’s just not worth your time.

Fedora HOOOOOOOO!

September 1st, 2009 1 comment

Hi, everyone!  Dana here posting from a successful installation of Fedora 11.  I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get the option to install KDE out of the box, but that’ll be something else to tinker with another day.

For now, just figured I would give a status update.  Wireless works out of the box, as do vertical and horizontal touchpad scrolling.  Screen brightness is set somewhere near the bottom and can’t be adjusted, but I can live with that until tomorrow when I get home from work.

Fun fact: in Russia, Fedora at one time may have been a more popular name with women (for older women now).  These are the things you learn when you have a Russian exchange student living with you.  Thank you, Masha!

More to come tomorrow.

Get the most out of your battery

August 25th, 2009 No comments

After reading this article on Slashdot I did some digging and found LessWatts.org a website designed to help you get the most out of your battery. Just thought I’d take a moment to point it out.

Categories: Tyler B Tags: , , ,

The Distributions of Debian

August 21st, 2009 No comments

Like many of the other varieties of Linux, Debian gives the end user a number of different installation choices. In addition to the choice of installer that Tyler B has already mentioned, the Debian community maintains three different distributions, which means that even though I’ve picked a distribution, I still haven’t picked a distribution! In the case of Debian, these distributions are as follows:

  1. Stable: Last updated on July 27th, 2009, this was the last major Debian release, codenamed “Lenny.” This is the currently supported version of Debian, and receives security patches from the community as they are developed, but no new features. The upside of this feature freeze is that the code is stable and almost bug free, with the downside that the software it contains is somewhat dated.
  2. Testing: Codenamed “Squeeze,” this distribution contains code that is destined for the next major release of Debian. Code is kept in the Testing distribution as long as it doesn’t contain any major bugs that might prevent a proper release (This system is explained here). The upside of running this distribution is that your system always has all of the newest (and mostly) bug free code available to users. The downside is that if a major bug is found, the fix for that bug may be obliged to spend a good deal of time in the Unstable distribution before it is considered stable enough to move over to Testing. As a result, your computer could be left with broken code for weeks on end. Further, this distribution doesn’t get security patches as fast as Stable, which poses a potential danger to the inexperienced user.
  3. Unstable: Nicknamed Sid after the psychotic next door neighbour in Toy Story who destroys toys as a hobby, this is where all of Debian’s newest and potentially buggy code lives. According to what I’ve read, Sid is like a developer’s build – new users who don’t know their way around the system don’t generally use this distribution because the build could break at any time, and there is absolutely no security support.

I’m currently leaning towards running the Testing distribution, mostly because I like new shiny toys, and (I think) want the challenge of becoming a part of the Debian community. Since we’ve been getting a lot of support from the various development communities lately, perhaps some of our readers could set me straight on any information that I might have missed, and perhaps set me straight on which distribution I should run.

Delay?

August 20th, 2009 2 comments

If you have been following my posts on here you’ll know that the hardware I am running this experiment on is relatively new. In fact it’s so new it hasn’t even been shipped to me yet!

Here’s the problem: the large company that I ordered my laptop from seems to be having difficulties getting my order right. Three, count them, 1, 2 and 3, restarts later I finally have an order in production that looks like it might actually be correct. The only problem now is that its new expected delivery date is September 3rd. If it comes down to that and I do miss the start of the experiment does anyone have any suggestions about what I could do for those first couple of days? Let’s hear ’em!

Categories: Tyler B Tags: , , , ,

Hardware Compatibility

August 10th, 2009 1 comment

Just a quickie tonight folks. For those who want to check the compatibility of their hardware with the Linux kernel, check out this page. It’s by no means a full guide (if you have strange hardware, it might not be covered), is aimed primarily at laptops, and doesn’t guarantee distribution compatibility, but if Linux supports the hardware, your distro should too.

Narrowing it down…

August 9th, 2009 2 comments

Two posts in one day!

I am learning quite a bit in my continued research of which Linux distro will be right for me. So far I think I have knocked out a lot of the more… exotic Linux distros and have come up with a bit of a short list with a few pros and cons to go along with them.

The Short List

  • Debian
    • Pros: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.
    • Cons: The distro prioritizes stability over new technology which sometimes seems kind of dull, only F/OSS software.
    • Why I am considering it: This distribution has widespread use and serves as sort of a gold standard and I know using this would be a very practical choice.
  • Fedora
    • Pros: Stable, very secure, a lot of support, constantly adding brand new technology.
    • Cons: Using bleeding edge technology can sometimes be a bad thing (I hear KDE 4.0 didn’t go over so well for example), I don’t know a lot about it, not sure what the software situation is like for example.
    • Why I am considering it: To be honest it intrigues me. It seems like a distro that can have a lot of customization done to it and it has a focus on security which I’m a bit of a nut about.
  • Linux Mint
    • Pros: Ubuntu as a starting point, tried to make the best desktop experience possible, simplified a lot of the UI and made great improvements in the usability.
    • Cons: It’s a relatively new distro and doesn’t quite have the community behind it yet. I’m worried that updates for Mint specific problems might not come frequently enough.
    • Why I am considering it: I am familiar with Ubuntu and this seems like an improved version of that.
  • Mandriva
    • Pros: Mandriva One sounds like it includes everything I could possibly ask for.
    • Cons: It seems to try and push a full computing experience on the user, which for most would be great but for this experiment maybe not so much.
    • Why I am considering it: It seems like an easy out.

Hopefully I can make my decision shortly and read up some more about it before the start of the experiment!

Better than Indy’s own

August 7th, 2009 No comments

Hi, sports fans!  (That’s right, I’ve decided to start addressing you all with stupid and arbitrary tag lines… please deal with it.)  Since Jon has put Tyler and I (and ESPECIALLY) Jake completely to shame with his constant blog posts, I’ve decided to keep up my end of this and, after some research, made a decision…

*drum roll please*

My distribution of choice is, and really always has been (mostly) my main idea – Fedora 11. Why?  I’m glad you asked.  As a relative Linux noobie, Fedora 11 jumped out at me for these reasons:

  • As Jon pointed out in an earlier blog post, Fedora is the choice of Linux grandfather Linus Torvalds.  This guy obviously knows his stuff.  While Linus primarily supports KDE, the supposed ‘lack of maturity’ of the KDE 4.0 user interface caused him to switch to Gnome.
  • Gnome, the same default interface as Ubuntu, is an interface I’m used to.  At this point, I’m not looking to dive in completely to unknown waters; God only knows I’d just drown.
  • NASA also uses it.  NASA is badass (not for using Fedora… for that other stuff they do).
  • It has proven stability.  Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a derived distribution, and that’s a rock solid environment.

While I envy Jon’s trumpeting of KDE 4.3 for now (yes, it looks gorgeous) it’s not something I immediately want to play with.  Perhaps down the road, and believe you me – it’ll get documented here if I do.

Now, I just have to cross fingers that all of my devices work with this, the latest release of Fedora.  I have pretty high hopes for the laptop, but some of my peripherals – like my HTC Dream phone – might run into issues.  I’ll re-list my entire system profile here.  If you have any input (and I’m very interested in Fedora 11’s improved open driver support for nvidia graphics cards), I’d be happy to hear from you.

  • Motherboard: LG P300-U.APB3A9 with Intel GM965 Mobile Chipset
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 3 MB L2 cache
  • RAM: 4096 MB
  • Video: nVidia GeForce 8600 M GS (256 MB)
  • Audio: Realtek ALC88x series HD audio codec
  • Hard drive: 320 GB Seagate 5400 RPM
  • Optical drive: LG USB 2.0 slim external DVD+/- RW
  • Networking: Intel 4965 A/G/N wireless networking card (I don’t use wired on this)

Looking forward to the adventure ahead, that’s for sure.  Also, my apologies in advance for intermittent blog posts; I just started a new job this week and the training is a good time.

Categories: Dana H, Linux Tags: , , , , ,

Debian! I Choose You!

August 6th, 2009 2 comments

After a little bit of research, I’ve chosen to use Debian as my distribution for the duration of the experiment. While the decision was more or less arbitrary, it was based on a few core ideals:

  1. The Social Contract: These guys believe in free software to such an extent that they wrote up a social contract that governs the user experience with Debian, ensuring that the system and it’s derivatives will forever remain free for use, distribution, and modification. As a part of the contract, they define their use of the term free software to ensure that nobody can question their motives. Although I run a lot of free software on a daily basis, I’ve always been locked into proprietary software and formats in one way or another. It will be interesting to try and figure out how to emulate my current workflow in its entirety with free and open-source software.
  2. A Solid System: Debian is known to be such a solid distribution that Ubuntu (currently the most popular Linux distribution around) uses it as a basis for each of their own releases, and then backports any fixes that they make into the Debian stream. Further, Debian is available as one of three code forks (unstable, testing, and stable), allowing the user to choose from a rock solid stable experience, a less stable one that supports the latest packages, or a potentially buggy one that runs along the bleeding edge of new development.
  3. 100% Community Driven: Unlike other distributions, Debian development is not backed or sponsored by a corporate entity of any kind – it is simply an organization of (almost 1200) like-minded people working towards a common goal through the power of the internet. You really can’t get a better taste for the ideals of open-source software in any other distribution.
  4. Huge User Community: Check out this massive list of people and organizations that currently use Debian as their distribution of choice.
  5. Lots O’ Warez: The stable distribution of Debian contains thousands upon thousands available packages. With access to all of this software, replacing my current setup should be fairly easy (although it might require a bunch of research).

With the release of KDE 4.3 today, I’ve also decided to try using it as my display manager (mostly because it looks really pretty, and I like pretty things). Now I can only hope that Debian has the drivers for my laptop:

  • Motherboard: IBM ThinkPad R52 (Product#: 1859B7U) with Mobile Intel Alviso-G i915GM Chipset
  • Processor: Mobile Intel Pentium M 740, 1733 MHz (13 x 133)
  • RAM: 758 MB  (DDR2 SDRAM)
  • Video: Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family  (128 MB), Intel GMA 900
  • Audio: Analog Devices AD1981B(L) @ Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – AC’97 Audio Controller [B-1]
  • Storage Controller: Intel(R) 82801FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2653 with AE9GMGLK IDE Controller
  • Disk Drive: FUJITSU MHV2040AH  (40 GB, 5400 RPM, Ultra-ATA/100)
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD/CDRW UJDA770  (DVD:8x, CD:24x/24x/24x DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
  • Ethernet: Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wireless: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection  (192.168.1.173)
  • USB Controller: Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – USB Universal Host Controller [B-1]
  • BIOS: IBM 70ET69WW (1.29 )
  • Battery: Sony IBM-92P1089

The Linux File System Explained

August 3rd, 2009 1 comment

From one Linux newbie to another, read up on the basic file system organization of a Linux machine here. It’s a very basic overview of where the system puts certain types of files, but is a good starting point for anybody who (like me) is trying to wrap their windows-centric head around a new operating system.

Categories: Jon F, Linux Tags: , , , ,

So Many Fruity Flavours…

July 30th, 2009 No comments

I think that I’m the only member of the group with absolutely zero experience with Linux. Sure, I’ve used TightVNC to check the status of a Ubuntu-based file server, and I may even have dropped a live CD into my machine once or twice before in vain attempts to save my files from a bricked Windows install, but I have roughly zero actual experience with any of the distributions. Due to my lack of knowledge and the antique laptop that I’ll likely be using during the experiment, I’ve decided to stick to one of the more popular distributions to ensure ease of use and a wide base of drivers to draw from. So far, the Top Ten Distributions page over at DistroWatch has been very helpful, and I’ve managed to narrow my choice down to just a few of the hundreds of available flavours of Linux (ordered by my current preference):

  • Debian: Over 1000 developers, 20 000 packages, and no corporate backing – the definition of open source community development
  • Fedora: Strictly adheres to the free software philosophy; used by Linus Torvalds himself (If that ain’t street cred…)
  • openSUSE: A pretty looking desktop, with corporate backing from Novell.

While doing my research, I have purposely avoided Ubuntu Linux and it’s variants, as they seem to be “the” distribution of choice these days. To really get a taste of what it’s like to make the switch from Windows with zero previous experience, I’ve decided to stay away from Ubuntu. It’s just too common, and I’m non-conformist as can be.

The Search Begins

July 29th, 2009 1 comment

100% fat free

Picking a flavour of Linux is like picking what you want to eat for dinner; sure some items may taste better than others but in the end you’re still full. At least I hope, the satisfied part still remains to be seen.

Where to begin?

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that the sheer number of Linux distributions, and thus choices, can be very overwhelming. Thankfully because of my past experience with Ubuntu I can at least remove it and it’s immediate variants, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, from this list of potential candidates. That should only leave me with… well that hardly narrowed it down at all!

Seriously... the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Seriously... the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Learning from others’ experience

My next thought was to use the Internet for what it was designed to do: letting other people do your work for you! To start Wikipedia has a list of popular distributions. I figured if these distributions have somehow managed to make a name for themselves, among all of the possibilities, there must be a reason for that. Removing the direct Ubuntu variants, the site lists these as Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, gOS, Knoppix, Linux Mint, Mandriva, MontaVista Linux, OpenGEU, openSUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Pardus, PCLinuxOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Sabayon Linux, Slackware and, finally, Slax.

Doing a both a Google and a Bing search for “linux distributions” I found a number of additional websites that seem as though they might prove to be very useful. All of these websites aim to provide information about the various distributions or help point you in the direction of the one that’s right for you.

Only the start

Things are just getting started. There is plenty more research to do as I compare and narrow down the distributions until I finally arrive at the one that I will install come September 1st. Hopefully I can wrap my head around things by then.

Choices, choices, and more choices!

July 29th, 2009 2 comments

Howdy, everyone! Dana here with what looks like the very first blog post on all of The Linux Experiment. Let me take the time to welcome you here; we have high hopes for the site, and hope you enjoy the process every bit as much as we’re hoping to.

As you know (or may not know!), Linux comes in a wide variety of “flavours”, also known as distributions. Each distribution has its own little personality; some are built for users with no Linux experience and are very user-friendly out of the box, while others require you to compile the kernel itself before you can do anything useful with it. Sounds fun, right?

Part of the challenge we face before the September 1st deadline is picking a distribution to install as our operating system of choice for the four months to follow. As documented in the Rules section of this site, we’re not allowed to install any distribution we’ve touched before – which knocks out a few for me, even though I have limited overall Linux experience.

A few that I’ve been considering so far:

Fedora 11 – this is far and away my front-runner. Reading up, I’m intrigued by its improved open-source driver support, and I’ve heard wonderful things about the new version just released in June.

Slackware – my grandfather’s distribution of choice. Never toyed with it, but he seems amused enough.

Knoppix – I’ve used Debian, but not this one.

I pose the question to you, the reader – what would you have me do? Do you have any input on any of these, or maybe some that I didn’t list? Let me know!