Archive for the ‘PCLinuxOS’ Category

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.

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: 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.

Update 20090701

July 1, 2009

No big news Linux-wise on my AA1. I’ve removed a few more things after tossing a lot of Gnome-related stuff last weekend. I didn’t measure how much space I recovered from the bloatware but I started keeping track of what I deleted after that. Here’s a summary (asterisk denotes things I added and removed):

 kernel (         50 M     original kernel, now on third update
 pidgin                       2.4 M     default
 libpurple                     22 M     holy fuck, 22MB?? is that needed for finch?!
 compiz                       974 k     compiss? wtf?
 compiz-fusion                5.0 M     compiss? wtf?
 compiz-fusion-gnome          1.7 M     compiss? wtf?
*emelfm2                      1.7 M     preferred to nautilus (now using dired and shell)
*lxpanel                      595 k     dumb idea, now considering using dzen
 evolution                     38 M     holy shit, over 50MB for email??
 evolution-data-server         11 M
 evolution-perl               7.6 k
 evolution-webcal             338 k
 bug-buddy                    2.3 M     why does this need evolution?
 nautilus-sendto              413 k
 totem-pl-parser              962 k     another MB saved
*pekwm                        817 k     fluxbox is better
 goffice04                    3.5 M     had already removed abiword
 libabiword                    22 M     abiword is not small
 httpd                        2.7 M     no need for apache, nginx for testing http
 httpd-tools                  129 k
 gnome-user-share             256 k     gnome-no-user-here
 nano                         1.4 M     waste of space - {vi,emacs} rules!
*zile                         217 k     broken commands?
 gok                          9.3 M     no-gnome-no-voice
 b43-fwcutter                  19 k     misc firmware i don't need
 bcm43xx-fwcutter              62 k
 ipw2100-firmware             604 k
 ipw2200-firmware             563 k
 iwl3945-firmware             446 k
 iwl4965-firmware             373 k
 iwl5000-firmware             344 k
 japanese-bitmap-fonts         26 M     greek to me

Note I’ve removed four things I installed. I didn’t like having to set up nautilus to work the way I wanted it to so I installed emelfm2; I prefer two-pane managers like that, mc, vifm, etc. I decided I didn’t need emelfm2 anymore (or zile) when I decided to install emacs (which has its own file manager, a mode called dired). I didn’t know if lxpanel would work well with ratpoison or not. I didn’t like it. From my remark next to pekwm, you can see that I wasn’t blown away.

I’m using emacs for as much as I possibly can and trying to get even more out of it. That includes everything from file management (as noted above) to e-mail (mew) to IRC (erc) to editing. I still prefer vim; viper mode is okay but I’m mostly using the convoluted emacs strokes. BTW, my ratpoison escape sequence is C-space which conflicts with emacs’ set mark; C-@ does the same thing. I may rebind to something else in ratpoison.


Things that have surprised me include the size of all the stuff related to evolution, pidgin, etc. I didn’t notice gok until I played around with festival, which appears to be broken (but text2wave works so I’m keeping it a while) — not sure if it’s broken from having removed pulseaudio or more permission-related problems or what.

I’m on my third updated kernel now. I only removed the original, still have the previous update installed. (I’m running my updates manually. I may set that up in at since I’m using Linux only sporadically right now.)


I haven’t diligently gone through my installed-list to see what else I can remove so there’s probably more stuff that can go.

I’m considering adding X headers so I can compile dmenu, jwm, and/or dzen. No hurries because the rest of my week is going to be hectic before the holiday. I probably won’t bother because I have all I want/need for now.

I also see that PCLOS 2009.2 is out and the roadmap for 2009.3, particularly updating the kernel and GCC, interest me. So, too, does the fact the distro is centralizing the releases of KDE, Gnome, Xfce versions. Also in the works are LXDE and e17 versions. Why not a ratpoison version, you haters?

Re-Installed Fedora 10 on my AA1

June 21, 2009

I quickly realized that the bleeding edge isn’t the place for me, so I’m taking a step back of sorts. I’ve resintalled Fedora 10 (Gnome). I think I had more stuff working faster or without manual reconfiguration using that — most of the reconfiguration I did was to reduce services running and change apps around to reduce initial resource use and to improve performance.

I’m currently updating the system. I’ll still have to change software around as I had it before trying Debian. Fortunately it hasn’t been that long ago and I remember just about everything I did before (so I think).

Let me say this: it’s nothing against Debian. I’ve run Debian on many computers and it’s wonderful on conventional (and “classic”) hardware. The stable release just isn’t ideal for certain newer hardware; if that weren’t an issue, I’d probably be running RHEL, SLED, or CentOS on this thing (maybe some day…). I knew the risks of switching to Sid included having more things that might crash (they did: rhythmbox wasn’t the only fly in the ointment) and possibly wouldn’t work (e. g., upgrading xorg broke tapping and scrolling on the Synaptics pad). I acccepted those risks and flaws with the hope of having better support of my AA1 than Lenny provided. Maybe Squeeze would’ve been a happy middle ground. Maybe I’ll try that at some point when I have more time to play.

Not surprisingly, I’d also face many of the same issues with Fedora 11. I already had noticed my Synaptics pad didn’t tap or scroll when trying the different (Gnome, KDE, Xfce) Leonidas Live CDs. I think I could still move to Fedora 11 when more bugs like Synaptics are fixed. I’d also like to be able to install without being forced to use a particular filesystem, especially ext4 which I’m not ready to try.

I’m open to further experimentation with other distros as I have time. I considered going Ubuntu LTS but I’d rather not. I was prepared to do something more drastic (Gentoo, Lunar, etc.) just to get things set up “just so” for my funky tastes. I don’t think this is so bad. Things worked and I was draining ~200 MB at boot using Gnome in Fedora 10, which isn’t much more (20-25%) than I was using in Debian with jwm — the difference being full desktop and file system integration under Gnome.

Nothing’s really lost beyond time (which I’ve had since installing Debian thanks to the flu; I’m just about back to normal). The biggest drawback to regressing to an earlier version of Fedora like this (10) is that it has only a thirteen-month support cycle and we’re already half-way through it. I’m just tired of stuff not working correctly and/or easily, or even crashing.

I deliberated about installing Fedora 10 as a lone distro on my hard drive after realizing Fedora 11 wasn’t going to work for me (yet). Turns out I’m right back where I thought I should’ve stayed. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I installed Debian for two reasons: I wanted a stable distro with long-term support and I wanted to integrate or streamline all my disparate Linux partitions (multiple distros and a large amount of free space) after being so displeased by the questionable way PCLOS automatically set things up. Speaking of which, I let Fedora set up a /boot partition and / (LVM) this time around. I think it’s also important to note that Fedora 10 from USB correctly installed GRUB to  the correct drive (sda rather than sdb), even setting up an entry for Windows (as “unknown”) — hooray, Fedora!

I don’t have the latest version numbers of everything but I’m content that everything works well and is reasonably stable. That’s all I really wanted.

GRUB Issues Revisited: Another Day, Another Friggin’ Mea Culpa

June 15, 2009

I was lost in some random, distorted thoughts in traffic when I realized I was wrong about how GRUB was incorrectly installed on my hard drive when installing from USB. This happened the first time when I installed PCLOS, which I still kick myself in the ass for letting set itself up automatically — including installing GRUB at all. The second time was this past weekend when I installed Debian. Why not when I also installed Fedora 10? Because I wisely added new entries for it to the existing menu.lst from the PCLOS install. Dittos when I copied tinycore to a little partition and made entries to boot it.

Here’s what went wrong. The install image assumes it’s on an optical drive rather than a flash device so it just goes in the standard device order; this presumption carries over after the installation. So since the system was booted from USB, the USB stick was detected at boot as /dev/sda. My SATA hard drive was then detected and assigned /dev/sdb. When GRUB was installed, it was installed to (hd1), which is the second drive or /dev/sdb, rather than (hd0). 

Upon reboot, the SATA hard drive is again /dev/sda but GRUB is supposed to be on /dev/sdb — its former location in the device order during installation. Only there isn’t a /dev/sdb unless I have another USB storage device attached. Doh.

That should’ve been more obvious to me when I went through and reinstalled GRUB to the correct drive Saturday night. What’s interesting, though, is I reinstalled GRUB from USB running Fedora 11. Fedora 11 detected my hard drive as /dev/sda rather than /dev/sdb.

Even though it may not have been fair of me to curse and profane the existence of the developers and all their ancestors back to the protohominid stage, I still think they shouldn’t be let off the hook for this. It’s fairly easy — and increasingly common — for people to boot from non-optical devices like USB sticks. Hopefully more distros will consider that people install from flash rather than CD/DVD and make appropriate images for them and/or configure GRUB so that it installs correctly regardless of device order from installation. That might include an option like some distros (I recall Vector had such an option on their installation image) to boot from another drive and/or correct a bootloader (though I’m not so sure I’d trust something that messed things up the first time around).

Update: Fedora 11 Live CD/USB Fail

June 9, 2009

Note, what follows has been updated in this entry.

I was going to applaud the decision of Red Hat and the Fedora developers for delaying the release of Fedora 11 a couple weeks to iron out some wrinkles. And they deserve to be commended for not rushing something out that they knew would have to be fixed very quickly. I don’t think things should be released as slaves to a calendar but should be released when reasonably ready.

Unfortunately, they didn’t fix enough bugs — or, perhaps, they broke some things along the way (after all, I chose the Gnome version of Fedora 10 after being put off by KDE 4.2 in a preview of 11 which actually booted correctly for me). I couldn’t get the bleeping live usb creator to work with the new image.  Actually, I couldn’t boot with either the Gnome version or the KDE version. When I’d boot from USB, I’d get a white-grey gradient GRUB splash looking thing without anything else visible. I finally got a “boot:” prompt by hitting escape, and I knew the kernel was vmlinuz0. Everything looked fine until the kernel panicked. I was able to get the GRUB menu when trying it in qemu but the boot was too slow and I didn’t have enough time to let it boot all the way. I gave up.

Turns out there are some issues beyond what I was able to discover the hard way. Like how those who want to install from the live CD versions need a very particular partitioning scheme with an ext3 /boot and ext4 /. Fuck that. I wasn’t planning to be yet another guinea pig for ext4. The good news is users maintain more freedom along those lines using the standard CDs rather than the live ones.

No idea if I’ll ever do that. I’m still wavering between going with something a bit more conservative like Slackware or Debian or one of the BSDs (NetBSD most likely, which I’m also about to install on another server here). I’d consider RHEL/CentOS if my hardware were adequately supported yet; I don’t need to be on the bleeding edge every six months, I just want shit to work right and to have support long enough that I don’t have to upgrade or install something twice a year (how old is XP again? and how long has MS supported it?). I ran Debian Live (Xfce version) on the AA1 earlier this evening and was impressed how nimble — from USB — it seemed compared to other things I’ve tried.

Tiny Core is kind of off my radar right now, but not because JWM is back as the default window manager. It’s obviously progressing and maturing quickly; I just don’t think it’s ready for production use yet (at least for what I need). I also want full use of commands which are limited in busybox. By the time I add everything I want, I’m getting very close to what I’d install in a “full” distro. I’ve booted the new release (2.0) a few times now. Haven’t set up wireless yet, but played around a while over wired networking. I was unaware of the Micro Core non-X release from Team TinyCore until I read Robert’s release notes. I’ve booted it now, too, on the AA1. Could be kind of cool to run in a non-X environment (which I do mostly when I use PCLOS) and also to run a full X server in lieu of k-drive. I’ll probably leave Micro Core on here regardless so I don’t have to deal with that wobbly wbar piece of shit at the bottom of the Tiny Core default desktop (bugfix: pkill wbar).

I currently have Windows XP, PCLOS, Fedora 10, and Tiny/Micro Core installed on my AA1. I was hoping to post today about the tedium of backing up stuff and repartitioning, along with my impressions of using and installing Fedora 11 so that my hard drive only had XP and Fedora on it. Now I’m pretty close to scratching it off my list. Just like I’d already done with PCLOS.

Memorial Day Weekend Finale: Ubuntu Netbook Remix on AA1

May 25, 2009

My little Memorial Day Weekend Linux Fest continues with a look at Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), which I probably would never have tried had I not tried Gnome in Fedora.

Here’s my quick summary of UNR: FAIL.


Let’s start backwards so I can complain about one aspect of Ubuntu’s philosophy that makes it less than ideal as far as I’m concerned. I seriously considered installing UNR despite the issues I had with the menu/desktop thing repeatedly crashing (see below). I also hate trying to understand their goofy installer which makes it convoluted to do a “custom” installation. I realize Ubuntu tries to make things more “approachable” for unsophisticated users, but the over-simplification and “recommended” settings make me wonder if their installer really understands what I want to do. Maybe it’s the paranoia from trusting the PCLOS installer to automatically decide what’s best for the space I set aside. But part of it’s also due to a (IIRC) 6.04-era Xubuntu install that ignored everything I tried to do.

My concerns this time with the dumbed-down (retarded even) techniques of Ubuntu began when I read on the UNR wiki that the “preferred” way to get the image to USB was to download and use their bloated software in Windows or Linux rather than dd it via Linux or BSD. I don’t think more steps is necessarily preferable to fewer. But Team Ubuntu is so hung up on doing every damn thing via graphical interface that it’s part of the deal.


Anyway, I ignored their preferred way and just used dd if=/path/to/theirnearlyoneGBimage.img of=/dev/myusb from my Fedora installation. La ti da. I rebooted from the USB stick and watched the Ubuntu splash screen hide all the boot processes. That’s another reason I hate Ubuntu. I want to see what process(es) start and might need to be turned off, to see what hardware is or isn’t detected. Ubuntu’s motto may as well be “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe the less noobs know, the less they’ll fuck things up and flood the forums with the same old questions.

When I got the UNR desktop, it wasn’t the standard Gnome desktop but it was a shade of that shit-brown color Ubuntu has always used but really shouldn’t. How the fuck do  they get away with such a boring earthtone when so many noobs insist on bright, shiny eye-candy? Come on, we’re in the 21st century already.

Let me digress and confess that I briefly ran PudX or XPud or whatever the hell it’s called — sorry, but I find it hard to keep a straight face with anything that includes “pud” as part of its name — a couple weeks ago. It has one of these tabbed menu interfaces which I think belongs on devices like phones and PDAs rather than on netbooks. It was more intuitive and cleaner and clearer than the crappy attempt by Moblin. I think I could live with the XPud/PudX (whatever, heh) interface. The one with Moblin deserves a hot corner of Hell for giving me such a headache the other night because it didn’t seem as coherent.

The UNR desktop/menu interface is kind of like the offspring you’d expect if the Moblin interface defiled mated with the PudX/XPud (sorry, told y’all a couple entries ago that these distro names are getting to be too screwy to care anyway and here’s one with PUD in it). It’s a bit clearer but it also has some strange ideas that I think might work on a phone but make me long for a standard desktop instead.


Worse, the thing kept fucking crashing on me! The first time was when I looked to see if I could change the shit-brown to something a little more normal for a white Aspire One. I went with ClearLooks and changed the light blue to a richer cobalt-like shade. Then the desktop menu thing disappeared and a few seconds later I was asked if I wanted to see more of these messages and if I cared to send a bug report to the developers. No to both, and restart the desktop menu thing. Opened Firefox, tried to get some streaming (PLS) audio. Had to find the codecs, install them, then it started. Went back to get a screenshot, found it in the menu, then the menu thing crashed again. And again. And again. And again.


I realize some people think they need to reinvent wheels to differentiate themselves from an upstream distro, but you really shouldn’t fix what’s not broken. I don’t find a tabbed desktop menu any more useful than a traditional one, and one that crashes every 90 seconds is not an improvement — it’s a fucking annoyance. Look at the above screenshot and note that there’s only an icon tray for open windows: two Firefox icons (one for the Firefox browser and the other for the download manager), another for Totem (which I manually selected to play the stream instead of the default Rhythmbox), and the Ubuntu logo which doesn’t pop down a traditional menu but takes you back to the crummy desktop/menu thing.

I decided I didn’t want this on my hard drive even though stuff that hasn’t worked in other distros — like the internal mic, though I didn’t try the card readers, ear phones, etc.  — worked to some extent. That doesn’t mean things worked flawlessly. I mentioned the microphone worked but I could only record clear sounds at the lowest possible settings (for spx, IIRC). Other settings resulted in popping sounds. I didn’t capture any video successfully via Cheese, either, but it did take some clear pictures.

Even though I didn’t want to commit to installing it, I did go through the installer to see if I had reason to be concerned it would override how I’d want to install it. When I got to the partitioner, the whole thing ran off the screen so I had to move the window back and forth to see what was happening. Why? Too many partitions? That’s messed up regardless of why because this is geared towards machines which tend to have 1024×600 resolution. Why can’t you get that set up so it scales to the width of the screen instead of to infinity regardless of how many partitions are set up?!

To Ubuntu’s credit, their installer recognized the other partitions and the distros used on the / for each. I have two Windows partitions (one recovery and one for XP installation), one Linux swap, and five Linux partitions (one entirely unused ~20GB I could use to test another distro), and a big chunk of free space which will most likely be used for an encrypted Windows partition whether I merge or unify my Linux partitions whenever Fedora 11 (coming first week in June, maybe), or a better option, comes along.

Anyway, I stopped everything when the installer looked like it switched from my chosen partition to the “use whole disk” setting — not sure if that happened when I was alt-mouse moving the window so I could see WTF was happening or if it did that itself. I didn’t care because I think I’d just as soon use standard Ubuntu as this remix and its buggy desktop menu. Which means screw Ubuntu, I’ll stick with Fedora.

Just as I was getting ready to shut it down, the desktop/menu thing crashed for the final time. I tried every fucking keystroke combination I could to get a menu to no avail. This was the straw that broke UNR’s back as far as I’m concerned. I couldn’t see what the Ubuntu splash screen was hiding during boot but I decided to see if it disabled the AA1’s on-off button. As soon as I clicked it, I got Ubuntu’s shutdown menu. Yea! I rebooted and will likely wipe the USB stick very soon.

Like Moblin, UNR seems a great idea — on paper. Only problem is, it sucks on the computer. I’ll give Moblin and UNR each an A for effort but have to give both an F for flawed/failed execution. I really think a standard distro will suit my needs better than a machine- or netbook-specific one at this point. I don’t want my netbook to run or look like a cellphone or PDA. It’s a computer and I use it like one (which is why XP models have far outsold the Linux-based cloud versions of  these things — people use them as computers rather than as net appliances). I don’t want some quirky interface (no, ratpoison isn’t quirky and it doesn’t have cascading walls of “m-zones” and other bizzarre novelties getting in the way if the mouse moves too far).

This turned out to be a bad way to spend the weekend, though it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Nothing I tried this weekend (Linux-wise) was much of an improvement over anything else I’ve already installed. XP remains flawless on the Aspire One and will remain my primary OS on this thing. I converted PCLOS from KDE to Xfce/JWM/ratpoison (from slim login manager) and it’s actually okay despite how pissed off I am about its automatic installation and some of the unresolved hardware issues remain unresolved. Fedora has also been surprisingly good on this even though I don’t consider myself a Gnome fan, and Fedora is the direction I’m leaning if I ever settle on a binary-based distro. Maybe PCLOS will get stronger now that Tex has resumed control and in spite of all the defections.

I still may yet give Tiny Core another run because I’m finding myself doing so much tweaking regardless of which distro I use that I may as well go back to the modular concept I wanted. I keep saying that but I never have time to mess with anything anymore. But who knows. I saw someone whining about the aesthetics of FLWM, the new default TC 2.0 window manager, at Distrowatch last week. That sounds very promising after the glitzy do-nothing shite of Moblin.

Substance trumps style. Sometimes less is more, especially when it’s not crashing incessantly and getting in the way of the user. I’ll take stability over fancy every damn time.

Update – Installed Fedora 10 on AA1

May 22, 2009

I finally had some time last night to do something with the enormous 54+ GB partition I had left over from what I consider a very fucked-up automatic installation of PCLinuxOS. Maybe I didn’t really have that much time, but I needed something to divert my mind for a while (re the most recent entry on “my new blog” linked on the side of my front page).

I’d converted the PCLOS swap partition — which it set up using 4 GB! — to my /home partition for PCLOS and was running without swap since I’d changed the inittab to start at runlevel 3 and ran mostly in console or in X using ratpoison. I’d also given up trying to get certain hardware to work. In fact, the only time I boot into PCLOS any more is to do some testing to make sure something works cross-platform.

I divided the 54 GB into a couple new Linux partitions and a Linux swap (only about a quarter of what PCLOS set up). I also have a bit left over to try out another distro or two before committing to one or another (or more).

Last night I installed Fedora 10, which makes this the first Gnome-based distro or version I’ve installed in this decade. I’d written about my impressions of KDE4 from using a preview of Fedora 11. I think KDE4 needs a bit more work before I’ll commit to using it.

Speaking of Fedora 11, I think I’ll end up clearing off the PCLOS install and starting from scratch with the non-Windows partitions on this thing when it’s released within the next couple weeks. Whether I stick with Fedora after that or switch to Debian, I think PCLOS is coming off. Nothing against it, it just isn’t going to work for me. I think it’s geared more towards people who can live with default pre-configuration. I can’t. I want a little more control over my system.

Fedora 10 installed rather quickly from the Live CD (via USB) without any trouble. I didn’t let it do any default installation — I set up my partitions, and I didn’t let it overwrite my MBR to reinstall GRUB, and I manually edited my GRUB menu.lst to add Fedora.The only things I removed were the internationalization support. I just installed and removed Abiword. I also found out what I had to do to get beyond Fedora’s/Red Hat’s doctrinaire positions (e. g., no mp3 support).

As biased as I am against Gnome, I have to admit it’s much smoother than I thought it would be given its drain on system resources. At the same time, I think I’m going to use a different desktop environment or window manager given my own small set of preferred applications. I don’t need the overhead of Gnome or KDE. I’ll most likely end up with Xfce, LXDE, or some small window manager (jwm, ratpoison, dwm, ion3, etc.). My app choices in Linux/BSD tend to revolve around OpenOffice, Sylpheed, Firefox, Dillo, and various console apps and networking tools. I don’t need a full desktop environment for those.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to using Linux more than half the time with this. It doesn’t help that libmtp is broken and my devices unsupported. I was relieved when I saw that Fedora 10 suspended and resumed flawlessly with this thing; I also had more hardware working, including the card reader (I don’t like the lack of hotplug-ability; still have to boot with the card inserted or else it doesn’t work).

I don’t know yet if I’ll install NetBSD 5 or OpenSolaris on this. I hadn’t planned on doing anything else with Linux but got a wild hair last night and most things are working better than with PCLOS. After using a friend’s Eee with Windows 7, I’m more inclined to install Windows 7 on this when it’s released. More on that shortly.

PCLOS Card Readers: My Temporary Workaround

April 16, 2009

Let me preface that my real workaround right now is just using Windows. I’m hardly booting Linux at all, and then it’s only to try to get stuff working right rather than actually using it.

I admittedly have had very little time to work on getting the card readers on my AA1 to work, but the various things I’ve tried have all failed. The end result is most often a complete freeze.

That includes booting with a card inserted in one or even both slots — freeze during boot. I’ve also tried loading the pciehd module from /etc/rc.local and manually. The system freezes if and when there’s a card inserted.

The only way I’ve been able to get pictures from card to computer in Linux on the AA1 is to connect one of my cameras with a USB cable and download them that way. This has worked with digikam in KDE and gtkam elsewhere (ratpoison, jwm). Simple work around but it means I have to have a camera and cable with me to transfer files. Or carry around a USB adapter for the cards. That sucks, though.


I was going to compile a new kernel to see if I could get things resolved that way but PCLOS 2009.1 comes with a version of gcc (4.1.1?) that the kernel doesn’t want to compile with. Rather than screw around with it any more (just not enough time right now), I’ve thrown up my hands. I’m probably going to try a few more distros while waiting for NetBSD 5.0 and seeing how well it handles this hardware; no idea how soon I’ll do anything else because of work and family commitments.

Til then, Windows XP works beautifully.

Things that work perfectly in XP that are still messed up in Linux: card readers, resume from suspend/hibernate (various issues), switching between screen and VGA-out doesn’t work right, speaker doesn’t mute when earphones are inserted in jack, internal microphone doesn’t work at all, function key controls don’t work correctly, and probably more things that aren’t coming to mind immediately. The deal breakers for me right now are the resume and VGA issues because I need to be able to use my projector for presentations. I’d also like to be able to use my cards without going through another device (camera, phone, audio player) or adapter.

Speaking of audio players, we have a couple devices — purchased because they’re ogg-friendly — that use MTP and I’ve been unable to use them under Linux thus far. No, enabling MTP in amarok didn’t help. Not sure if the problem is specific to the distro or what, but, like I keep saying, right now I don’t have time to delve further into it.