Archive for the ‘Gnome’ Category

Update 20110723 – CentOS 6, Sabayon, Slackware, NetBSD, Etc.

July 23, 2011

Long time no see, haters. Since my last update earlier this year, I’ve been pretty busy. Usual stuff: family, work, and sports injuries.

I have a shiny new Lenovo laptop. One of the reasons I chose this one is because I was able to get a list of the hardware and checked it against lists of supported devices. It’s all supported very well under Linux and the BSDs (Net, Open) I looked at.

First thing I did was reduce the very large NTFS partition someone formatted it with (I never have booted this into Windows 7) so that it’s actually quite small. Then I installed a release candidate for Scientific Linux 6 on it, as that was the first available RHEL6 clone. I’ve since changed that over to CentOS 6 using a net install. And since I have no interest in booting the pre-installed OS, I changed my grub menu.lst to no wait, no options, just load that one in a freaking hurry.

As usual, I found some nits to pick about how certain other things were configured and I had to make some changes to get simple things to work. This goes for software as well as hardware.

First the hardware side of it. I thought the inkjet printer I keep in my room was supported out of the box despite noticing the printer would “eat” up paper upon finishing the job — not fully ejecting it before pulling it back in to the printer. It was only the past few days, though, I realized there was more wrong than met the eye. I needed to make some quick scans and xsane reported back I had no scanner. Hmmm. I checked it via scanimage and it was detected. I also double-checked the drivers and saw that the sane backends for hp and usb were there. I decided to see if the hplip site had a newer RPM than is available in any of the repositories I’ve enabled. I entered the relevant information and downloaded an up-to-date RPM with new drivers. Installing it required removing old RPMs. Then I had to set some permissions so I could use the scanner without escalating my privileges to root. The new hplip RPM also resulted in better printing and no more “eating” paper.

There was a variety of software I installed from the normal as well as third-party repositories. Most of it has been without any trouble — only a couple things from a more bleeding edge repository (EPEL) have conflicted with packages from others. Some of the configuration issues have been simple and straightforward. I’m coming around to accepting pulseaudio, especially as it makes some things easier. My Bluetooth headphones work fine and are able to remotely control playlists in totem. Haven’t tried yet in rhythmbox but mplayer (from rpmforge) needs remuco to work.

Even though I’d be exaggerating to call RHEL6 or its clones bleeding edge, it’s still new enough that repositories lack certain packages that I wanted to install. One solution (other than “wait”):

sudo yum groupinstall 'Development Tools'

I’ve recompiled things that bugged me as well as things that were either unavailable or that I wanted to update. I wanted liferea so I had to compile it myself. Dittos sylpheed (NOT claws) and mew (emacs e-mail client). I also wanted an update of org-mode for emacs, but I’ve also played around with compiling other emacsen. This morning, I decided to try sxemacs.

I wasn’t impressed with the clunky xaw widgetry, let alone the faces available on my laptop (trust me, terminus looked only a little better), and I decided against installing GTK1 headers just to see if that would look any better. Not even some minor color changes helped. I usually run emacs from console anyway because it’s easier to run it in screen and then shell in and out, locally or remotely, as needed. The faces (fonts) bother  me a lot more than the widgets — it’s not about the aesthetics as much as if I can clearly see what the hell I’m doing.

I’m going to try this for a while and see how much work it’ll take to get it working the way I use GNU emacs. Just remembered I forgot to change EDITOR=emacsclient to EDITOR=gnuclient. Also, this (last line!) has to go in the init.el to keep from opening a new sxemacs GUI instance:

(require 'gnuserv)
(gnuserv-start)
(setq gnuserv-frame (selected-frame))

Sheesh! Recompiled –without-x. Much better, too, after removing background color (transparent terminal over black wallpaper).

Now the fun of getting my other emacs stuff to work correctly with this.

I also converted my previous laptop over to CentOS 6. I did a minimal net installation, installed xfce from EPEL, and then added some of my own packages (including dwm and jwm because I decided I don’t care for xfce). My ridiculous Acer Aspire One is still running SL6 and still having issues with the fucking Atheros wireless card. When it starts to flake out on me, I pop in a zyd-based USB wireless adapter. Voila. I should blacklist the module for the Atheros card but, honestly, the AA1 has been such a pain in the ass that I seldom use it. I recently updated XP (30-something packages!) after not even booting it for like half a year and suffered some USB-related issues as a result. The good news is under the RHEL6 clones, all the other AA1’s hardware — including both internal card readers — work properly, without having to boot one side with a card inserted.

Okay. The headline mentions other distros and NetBSD. I’m considering some changes on the other laptop because a lot of stuff I’ve compiled for it would be just as easy from scratch instead of using source RPMs or new source. I tried to get a measure of how many packages are installed by default on a minimal install of various distros. I figure RHEL clones will have the most, followed by Debian, and on the other side of the scale will be Slackware and Gentoo (I haven’t used Sabayon before but I like the option of using a binary or portage depending on my tastes — this is why I’m also considering a BSD and pkgsrc).

There are certain distros I’ve taken off my radar list despite having a fondness for them. As I now use laptops, netbooks, and other portable devices — including portable USB storage — about 90% of the time, encryption is very important to me; one of my parents’ was a victim of identity theft in the past couple years and I was already a bit paranoid about what kind of information could be found in plaintext on my computers. On all my computers, I like the option of installing to, or easily setting up, one encrypted LVM which includes at the very least my /home, /var, /etc, and swap. I used to think it was adequate to encrypt just /home and swap but I’ve changed my mind after auditing “identifying” information available elsewhere on an unencrypted system. For example, plaintext wifi passwords in /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf (or elsewhere on a “non-standard” system) or stuff stored in /tmp. I also think it’s not enough that the “core” of the operating system be protected from threats, such as over the Internet; the biggest vulnerabilities usually stem from applications and user choices, and you can’t reboot those problems away — they’ll still be there if (or because) /home and /usr/local are RW, not read-only. When storage is measured in GB and TB and speedy multi-core processors, it’s harder for me to choose to run my OS in some “embedded” style.

Still on my TODO list is my post about what I use instead of OpenOffice.org. Also, I’ll try to write a post about the minimal install I did with more specifics (need to edit my gnote version of it — wish I could import that into this without reformatting) in the near future. As usual, no promises on time lines.

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Update 20101006: Hardware and Software Changes

October 6, 2010

The past couple months or so have been much more hectic than anticipated due to family health issues. I’ve also experienced a bit of hardware and software trouble and that’s led to some experimentation.

My primary laptop began experiencing issues where my wireless (Broadcom 43xx) would drop off without warning. The first time it happened, I thought the problem was with my router because I was able to scan SSIDs by the time I was aware there was a problem. When the problem next occurred, I checked dmesg and had all kinds of messages which indicated the wifi card was crapping out. The fact that it also happened in a hospital connected through their wifi also indicated the problem wasn’t with my router at home.

Fortunately, I had a backup card from a destroyed laptop I’d found a couple years ago (somoene apparently left a laptop on top of a car or tossed it out of a car; the only parts that were salvageable were the spare memory stick and wireless card). I installed the card and set it up when I rebooted Debian Lenny. Things worked okay for a while but I ran into some glitches with network manager (not sure why) and I was considering various options like reinstalling Debian or trying other distros.

I was going to install Scientific Linux but opted instead for CentOS. There really shouldn’t be much difference since both are RHEL clones and aim for 100% upstream binary compatibility. I’ve been running CentOS 5.5 (standard Gnome desktop) on this laptop for a little over a month now. Nutshell: love it.

The only real issue I’ve had with the “mature” software is getting a newer HP inkjet all-in-one to work — just not possible without updating over what’s available via the repositories. I’ve already done that for my netbook, so I just need to install on my laptop when/if I need to use that printer (I have a couple other printers networked so it hasn’t been a hassle).

Gnome really isn’t my thing even though I’ve come to accept using it. I wish it didn’t require so many resources to do relatively simple things. I’m finally paring some things down.

I installed icewm yesterday. I “borrowed” the Scientific Linux icewm theme — much nicer and cleaner than most I’ve encountered — and switched icons for the menu button (I also did a CentOS one but this is the one I had enabled when I took the screenshot) in that theme. I need to find something lighter than nautilus to manage the desktop. Or just install ratpoison and emacs and be done with it.

With 5.5 (SL and CentOS) comes OpenOffice.org 3.x, which I’m using somewhat reluctantly. I intend to write more about this whole area of software but I just can’t find time. I also want to write an article about shortcomings of OOo and show where and how it’s not a 1:1 replacement for Microsoft Office.

I continue using SL55 on my netbook. I may eventually replace that with CentOS but right now there’s no hurry to change anything. I’m still running Debian (Lenny) on my main home server; I also have CentOS installed on another one but it’s been unplugged since my last trip to care for parents. I have my old ThinkPad set up as a MicroCore media streamer connected to my stereo.

I’m also considering trying other distros on my primary laptop, including TinyCore, again if I can find time. The only time I run TinyCore anymore is from USB and rarely for more than a couple hours. Unfortunately, someone gets sick or needs surgery or dies every time I think I’m going to get finally time to set up something “just right.” Maybe I’ll bite the bullet and take care of it during the next hospital stay (planned later this month) to help kill time and avoid some of the anxiety.

Speaking of which, it could be a while before I get around to more substantive content on here again. It’s not a lack of desire or ideas, it’s just a lack of time.

Update 20100801: Back to Some Old Habits

August 1, 2010

I got fed up with NetworkManager in Scientific Linux. Around the house and around town it’s been okay — it’s been a pain in the ass with a gnome-keyring password after login via gdm if I log out and back in — but there have been a couple other encrypted networks it balked at associating with altogether (visiting family, etc.). Anyway, it’s no longer installed. I’m just using wpa_supplicant, which is a bit convoluted to set up in RHEL clones.

The first thing to do is generate a wpa_supplicant.conf, which is easy enough. After that, chkconfig needs to be run to add wpa_supplicant to whichever runlevels it’s desired. Then files in /etc/sysconfig need to be edited. First, wpa_supplicant needs to be set with the appropriate driver and interface in the appropriate form for wpa_supplicant. That means no space between “-Dwext” and “-iwlan0” or whatever driver and interface you need. Next is the ifcfg-device file so it knows to use WPA (WPA=yes). I set mine to start on boot (ONBOOT=yes).

I got everything working by the second try. Scientific Linux has a lengthy boot time compared to Debian and especially compared to Tiny Core, and waiting for the network to come up only adds to the anticipation.

Next was a more difficult decision because I’ve grown a bit more fond of Gnome than I used to be. It’s still a lot more overhead than I need, especially considering how I use my netbook. I decided to compile jwm since I couldn’t find it in the SL repositories or in the dag repo. I copied over .jwmrc and other files. Once I had it set up to my satisfaction, I had some fun.

It took a few minutes to get rid of all that stuff.

Notice the difference in the screenshots? The first was taken with gnome-screenshot, which wasn’t around to take the second (imagemagick import does the trick).

Next to go will probably be OpenOffice.org, which was updated to 3.x with the release of SL 5.5. I’m doing mostly LaTeX lately and doing that — and seemingly everything else — in emacs. I have a draft I started the other day about all that which I hope to finish soon.

Scientific Linux 5.4 (Live/USB) on my Aspire One

April 17, 2010

I ran Scientific Linux for a little while on my new-old laptop and still have it installed on a spare hard drive in my new desktop (though I’ve been running Debian on that for about a month). Really didn’t have much trouble with it — it’s just what one should expect by something that’s oriented for enterprise use: stable, solid, not flashy, not bleeding edge, no drama.

For those who don’t know about Scientific Linux, it’s compiled from RHEL sources so it’s in the same category as CentOS. The biggest difference between CentOS and SL is the former is a community-run project while SL is based at FermiLab. SL has a more scientific orientation than CentOS, with a focus on packages for use in research and writing and less on games and entertainment (though there are concessions to games and entertainment). If the SL repositories are inadequate for your needs, there are optional third-party repositories of RHEL binary-compatible RPMs which should work across the spectrum of RHEL-compatible distros.

I was playing around with distros while watching the NBA playoffs tonight, since the first two games today were routs. I first decided to look at SL54 live CD on my Aspire One. I first tried the Lite image but it lacked wpa_supplicant, so I grabbed the full Gnome image and put it on USB via unetbootin. For what it’s worth, the Lite image uses icewm (which is also on the Gnome live CD) and comes with Firefox, emacs, vim, xfe, and probably other stuff I didn’t bother looking at very closely. Sorry, but there’s only so much I can do without networking. I did log out of icewm to run emacs in console and I can vouch for its stability.

Once I set up a USB stick with the Gnome image, I booted up. It’s straightforward and comforting because I like to see hardware detection instead of some sexy graphics. I encountered one little problem logging in: Scientific Linux live CD has a pre-login option to set keyboard and passwords (passwords are optional). With the small display of my Aspire One and the large text in the dialog, I was unable to see the area where the prompts were. Fortunately, I’ve used this fine little live CD before so I knew US-English keyboard is 1 and I didn’t bother to choose to set a password since I was just seeing how well it would do on the Aspire One. After hitting return, I went to the gdm login and entered “sluser” and I was quickly in  Gnome.

After a quick look at dmesg and lsmod, I quickly set up my wireless. Voila.

It’s been a while since I spent this much time using Linux on the Aspire One. Other than occasionally logging in to my TinyCore/MicroCore install on this thing, I’ve given up running Linux on it. Search my ath5k entries and you’ll see why. I never did sort out whether it was related to the ath5k driver, something in the 80211 MAC stack, or wpa_supplicant — it could be one, it could be a combination, but I know for sure that it isn’t the card (it works flawlessly in Windows no matter how long I’m on it). It’s quite possible if the problem is with wpa_supplicant that “backing down” to an enterprise-oriented distro like Scientific or CentOS might let me run Linux on this thing since wpa_supplicant most likely is a more stable (okay, older) version with certain patches to fix bugs. The problem with testing that tonight is I was on battery and thus not up long enough to see. (I just plugged in again to reboot and post this.)

The only issue I remember under SL54 on my desktop was having to manually update hplip for my printer. The same would apply to CentOS and other RHEL-compatible distros (what does that leave, Oracle?). That’s a minor consideration compared to the issues I had with repeated wifi timeouts under the following distros (not the fault of the distros, just a summary of ones I ran on the AA1):

  • PCLOS (KDE, Xfce/Phoenix, etc.)
  • Fedora (10, 11, 12)
  • Debian (Lenny and Sid)
  • CrunchBang
  • TinyCore/MicroCore

I think that’s it. There were others I ran off USB but never would install because they weren’t ready for prime time. And when I run off USB (as I did tonight), it’s rarely for hours or days on end. It was more like 45 minutes while I shelled in to my desktop and moved files around (including the above screenshots). Like I wrote above, not enough time for the ath5k to race and panic and then no longer be detected.

I didn’t do a full checklist of hardware compatibility but I don’t think this thing would have any unresolved issues (except maybe the stupid card readers). I was a little surprised after the login thing with the keyboard and password prompts that gdm and X ran perfectly and detected the correct resolution. I didn’t look at the webcam. I presume audio works (the error beep sure did) but didn’t bother with that since I already knew I’d have to download codecs to listen to anything other than ogg files (I was watching the games, not interested in streaming or playing anything). As you can see from the wifi icon, my ath5k card was properly detected and nm-applet did a cursory scan to find available networks; I set it up quickly and was networked with WPA.

I’m still determined to run Linux on this thing even though it’s supposedly been for sale for the past couple months. I’ll probably give this USB stick with SL54 a longer look on the AA1 in the coming days to see if I can get the ath5k to time out again. For now, though, I have to get some sleep.

UPDATE: I’ve posted an update/addendum to this post.

Where the Fuck Are the GPL’ed GNOBSD Sources?

February 12, 2010

The lonewolf developer of GNOBSD doesn’t have much information on his website, but he does offer links to torrents. I’d like to know where he maintains and provides sources. Are they contained in the image(s) or available in a separate location? Since this is based on Gnome, and most of Gnome is GPLv2/3, he is required to provide his sources along with makefiles and patches, etc.

If you want to distribute something like this, there are rules to follow.

Update 20100209 – Debian Lenny, TinyCore, emacs, ratpoison, oroborus, and security of small distros

February 9, 2010

AA1
I’ve intended to sell this thing but haven’t yet. I updated my AA1 page last week to reflect the fact that I really don’t run Linux on it anymore. I still have {Tiny,Micro}Core set up on it, but I’ve booted that maybe three times in the past few months including once this morning to get my emacs-related files. I don’t know if the issues with wireless were related to the network stack, the ath5k driver itself, wpa-supplicant, or a combination of factors. For the last time, it’s NOT a hardware issue because the problem never happened (meaning started) under Windows; it only happened (started) under Linux and persisted after rebooting. I occasionally boot TinyCore from a USB stick on my other computers (see below).

New Desktop/Workstation
It came with Windows XP Pro installed. I first installed Scientific Linux 5.4 via the live CD, which provides a Gnome desktop. I’ve already posted about adding an old hard drive that had OpenBSD 4.3 on it, on which I installed NetBSD 5.0.1 after backing up $HOME. I’ve been too busy to even update SL54 (which I know has updates because I was also running it on my new-old laptop for a while), let alone configure NetBSD beyond the basics (e. g., setting up my network card even though it’s not yet networked, SSH, etc.). I’d hoped to set it up further this past weekend but I’ve been eye-deep in a stack of reports to edit and charts to generate.

New-Old Laptop
I’m still using Debian Lenny, which I installed using net install. I let it go ahead and install the default Gnome desktop even though I initially thought about just doing a minimal installation and adding what I wanted. One of the reasons I did that is because life has been so hectic the past 18-24 months that I care a lot less about bloat than I do about the convenience factor and having everything ready to roll. Otherwise I’d already have the other computer set up and ready to roll, no?

I have switched some apps around, though. I was using xemacs but decided instead to revert to GNU emacs 21.4 from backports so I’ll have more of the modes I’ve come to take for granted and which require either finding via apt or from their developers. I’m posting this now via weblogger.el (which I’ll have to clean up later) from within emacs. I’ve also installed oroborus and am using it instead of metacity within Gnome (edit ~/.gnomerc to include a line “export WINDOW_MANAGER=oroborus”); this is RAM-sparing to some degree but not nearly enough. I already have ratpoison installed as well, and will more likely than not start paring down on the Gnome bloat as I find time. I’ve been running ratpoison mostly under another user account.

Other Computers
My ancient ThinkPad got a minimal install of Debian Lenny several months ago but hasn’t been booted in at least a month. I may use it for TinyCore. Or as I’d intended with Lenny just to be a temporary HTML/blog server for home use. I may just use MicroCore if I do that.

Nothing to report on my old MMX box. I haven’t booted it in so long I don’t even remember what it has on it.

Unfinished Business
Speaking of {Tiny,Micro}Core, I started on a screencast/presentation back before Christmas that I alluded to at least once here. I’ve been too busy to finish it. It’s in response to a question that was asked at the TCL forums about using TCL as an enterprise Linux replacement. I wanted to demonstrate beyond the more obvious answers why I thought it was unsuitable and worked out a quick and dirty concept to show how vulnerable such a distro — based basically on one file — could be. This kind of goes beyond the security of the image being read-only and, accordingly, being able to reboot into its original state; instead, I wanted to see how difficult it would be to take advantage of the fact that the image is on a read-write partition which can be mounted by user tc locally or remotely and then replaced. My little POC requires user interaction at this stage (which was in maybe 20 minutes’ work) to basically get a corrupt image to replace the original so that each subsequent booting of it isn’t actually the “pristine” original tinycore.gz image but instead the corrupted one (which could have any variety of “reconfigurations” in it, but mine basically pings another computer when it has an IP and has a message stored in a file stating what changes have been made to the original image).

I haven’t decided if I’ll go through and see if I can get it to work remotely without user interaction. Even if I do that, I won’t post it here. Sorry, kiddies.

Since these small image-based distros typically lack logging facilities, it would be trivial to pull this off and possibly leverage vulnerabilities in various packages to further make a mess of it. The smaller the distro’s base image, I think the less noticeable it would be. With my download speed, I can download the TinyCore image in just a few seconds.

Also, I tested this on USB. It’s trivial to test if something has been booted from sd{a,b} and contains a directory named boot containing a file called tinycore.gz. The same applies to other small distros which similarly use one file to store the operating system, allows full sudo (or, in the case of some like Puppy, root only), etc. Even though something is running from RAM, it’s still found on a storage device attached to the computer and can be mounted (unless it’s quickly removed). So I don’t think this is inherently more secure than anything else (or inherently secure at all), and the smaller size could be a disadvantage since it would take less time to download and be less likely to be detected by most users.

As improbable as it is that such things can be accomplished without some kind of user interaction or physical contact with a USB stick to install a corrupted image, it’s still possible. Add in potential vulnerabilities from various packages — including browsers, improperly set up servers, etc. — and the possibilities increase both locally and remotely.

No, the sky is not falling, but there is a potential for risk even though the image itself is read-only. The image may be, but its partition isn’t. The risk may be acceptable for most uses. It isn’t acceptable for enterprise use — not without some kinds of safeguards that enterprise distros have to help reduce problems like this from occurring.

I’m not knocking these small distros. I think they have a special niche, but too many people think they can be one-size-fits-all. Enterprise-grade distros — including RHEL and its clones, SLED, etc. — have a variety of safeguards that would be “bloat” in something designed to be small and minimal. Adding those things to a minimalist distro would seem to be counter to their very purposes. That includes everything from security enhancements to logging facilities (you really do want to know who logged into which computer at what time on what day, and having every user named “tc” can’t be of much use if you need a chain of custody for various computer records, file records, changes, etc.). Moreover, the packages or extensions these small distros offer typically don’t undergo the same level of testing as in enterprise distros, are more often than not bleeding edge rather than tested and stable versions, and aren’t signed. Even signed/trusted repositories aren’t free from trouble as the RedHat/Fedora people found out a couple years ago when their mirrors were compromised.

I’ll see if I can finish the presentation and get it posted soon. Then again, I thought I would’ve had that done a month ago. Stay tuned.

Examples of “Unsophisticated Users” I Mentioned at DW

February 5, 2010

I was asked to elaborate on what I meant by “unsophisticated user” before I was banned at Distrowatch earlier this week.

Fortunately, my blog is getting plenty hits for searches related to GNOBSD so now I have some examples of what I meant — just from this morning. The “unsophisticated” classification is for those whose preference is to bypass any learning curve and use a Windows-like starting point. That means no console interaction, boot straight into X and a pre-configured desktop. For example, one of the DW reviewers wants things in a NetBSD-based CD to be more like Linux Windows with automounting and tons of services running by default. And then there’s the whole thing Ladislav started by distorting what actually happened in the OpenBSD lists when GNOBSD guy decided to spam it to notify the project of his fork.

At least these people are using search engines to find information. Some unsophisticated users won’t even try looking it up before rushing to the upstream project and badgering them with questions about something they don’t even support. Which brings me to this:

Attention GNOBSD searchers landing on my blog(s) (see my BSD blog listed in the blog roll on the right): I support and recommend OpenBSD, not GNOBSD. What difference does the underlying operating system mean to you if you’re only going to run a graphical desktop environment anyway? Gnome is Gnome whether it’s on Linux or BSD or OpenSolaris or any other operating system.

Adding gnobsd category so I’ll get even more hits. Woot.

Update 20091219: Debian Lenny on New-Old Laptop, etc.

December 19, 2009

I’ve been tied up with family and work issues, so I’ve been unable to update the blogs as intended. After having issues with X crashing in PCLOS Zen Mini, I decided to find something a bit more stable. For me, that more often than not means Debian, a RedHat clone, Slackware, or one of the BSDs. I opted for Debian Lenny via net install.

I decided on the standard Gnome desktop (the default for net install to a computer intended to be used for a workstation), even though I’m primarily using JWM. I’ve also installed ratpoison. You can see my jwm tray has buttons similar to Gnome’s default top panel. It’s a work in progress; probably no need to add a bottom panel. I took the pager out of the tray but I’m using two desktops. I just switch by keybinding.

As you can also see in the screenshot, I chose Xemacs over GNU emacs this time. No particular reason, just haven’t used it in a while. I was going to stick with vim until I saw that I’d have all kinds of bullshit to install due to the packaging. Come on. At least with Xemacs there are several options beyond X and nox. That’s actually not an option for Xemacs — try MULE versions and Gnome versions. Like most of my applications that only open one window (GIMP sucks like that), it opens maximized without any decorations or borders.

No complaints, everything works like it’s supposed to. I had a few tweaks (permissions issues) to sort out for my printer and had to add the non-free repository to my sources.list to acquire firmware for my card. Piece of cake.

The packaging is a bit hefty compared to what I really want but it owns the full hard drive. There are a few things I wish were packaged differently. I had to go to debian multimedia to get mplayer without the skinned GUI; unfortunately, that version was compiled without dvdnav so I have to count tracks if a DVD has more than one. Wouldn’t you know there’d be one packages not bloated enough for my tastes.

I have a few things to write about third-party repositories and what users most often add to their systems with blind trust, but I want to do in the context of something I left hanging at the TinyCore forums a couple weeks ago. Hopefully, I’ll have time to do that tomorrow both there and here. Stay tuned.

20091125 Update – PCLOS ZenMini Gnome on Laptop

November 25, 2009

Been a while since I put up a screenshot.

Nothing spectacular. I’m still running PCLOS ZenMini with a handful of applications: OpenOffice.org 3.1 (Novell fork), Sylpheed 2.7.1, vlc (which I installed in lieu of mplayer), Skype, some Bluetooth tools, screen, htop, GIMP, and so on. I’ve not been able to spend as much time on this as I’d hoped yet — I’ve had it for almost three months now.

I’ve run into some wireless issues so I’m plugged into my router now. I think the original card is FUBAR but I have a couple more here I can stick in it. I also see a couple things at boot I need to investigate and see if I can fix but everything’s usable.

Over all impressions of PCLOS ZenMini are about the same as in my previous entry. I really appreciate developers who leave more choices to me — the end user — rather than making decisions for me. ZenMini, like MiniMe, provides the user with a minimal but functional desktop upon which the user then adds the applications he or she wants. For me, that meant less uninstalling stuff and fewer settings (e. g., MIME) to reconfigure.

I haven’t had time to play around with many other distros since my previous update. I’m not so happy with this that I’m not considering any change but I have to admit that ZenMini hasn’t given me any reason to look around, either. Like other PCLOS offerings, it’s rock solid and stays out of the user’s way. 

UPDATE: Jinx! I was about to publish this entry when X totally locked up on me and I couldn’t kill. Back on AA1 (XP) now to finish and publish. I’ll look into it later.

20091119 Update – AA1, New-Old Laptop, New Desktop, Etc.

November 19, 2009

Slowly getting back into the rhythm of my own life again and finding more time to set up computers. I’m selling my AA1 as I noted in the previous update.

I’m not running Slackware on the new laptop right now. I downloaded PCLOS Zen Mini to see what a stripped down Gnome desktop system would be like. I ended up installing it on the new-old laptop and have added only packages I want/need. Despite my dislike for bloated packaging typically found in binary distros, this is much preferable to installing something that comes with software packages I don’t care for and end up replacing with the ones I want. I don’t know how much longer I’ll run this before changing again. I’m surprisingly pleased with it so far — even with the sizable updates I ran upon installing it — but I think I’m probably going to ditch anything running Gnome or KDE. I saw that Texstar has Xfce and e17 (coming soon?) versions available as well, in addition to LXDE (which just isn’t my cuppa).

I’m currently burning the Fedora 12 Xfce live ISO. I doubt I’ll install it but who knows.

I’ve also been running TinyCore on this laptop via USB. I may end up setting it up on the hard drive at some point.

I’ve also acquired a new desktop to replace my old one. The old one, which had the funkiest parts and configuration I think I’ve ever encountered in an OEM computer, bit the dust and I don’t feel like finding a new power supply for it; it’s not a standard power supply and the model is no longer supported by the manufacturer. I don’t have an OS installed on it yet and probably won’t get to it until this weekend at the earliest (more likely Thanksgiving weekend since my holiday shopping is done). I haven’t made any choices about distros for it yet but maybe I’ll have some time to look around a bit more before I slap in my USB stick and copy TinyCore to that hard drive.