Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Over A Year Since My Last Post But What’s Really Changed in Linux?

November 16, 2012

It’s been a while — over a year — since I last posted anything here. A lot’s changed in my life. But what’s really changed in the Linux world?

Last time I posted, the kernel was in the 2.6.x era. Now it’s 3.whatever and ext4 is known to have some serious problems with recent kernel versions. Oops. Other software has evolved, too. Firefox was still in the 3.x era, now I’m running version 17 or something like that and by 2014 they’ll be able to switch to annual (2014.1, 2014.3, etc.) release numbers. Congratulations Mozilla.

A lot has also changed in interfaces. Gnome has undergone an image crisis akin to what pubescent girls do. That’s caused some distros to go out of their way to make it more useful for traditional users (since the Gnome developers didn’t count on so many Luddites continuing to use desktops, laptops, and other archaic devices when they changed their paradigms). I tried Ubuntu Pompous Penis for a while and gave Unity a shot. Then I wanted to shoot it. Other attempts to make Gnome 3 more “comfortable” for recalcitrant Gnome 2 users likewise pissed me off. I wasn’t alone and enough people with mad coding skillz forked G2 into Mate, which just might be the best thing that happened in the Linux world since my last post.

I needed to stay more on the cutting edge so I stuck with the Ubuntu ecosystem and tried Xubuntu (horrid) and Lubuntu. I was going to write that Lubuntu’s not quite as bad as Xubuntu but I just tried installing 12.10, codenamed Queer Quaker or some such, on my netbook — yes, I still use and often loathe it — and aborted only to realize it had made changes to my partitions without ever asking me to confirm that I actually wanted to make them. Don’t think you can make a dry run with Canonical installers in 2012 and not fuck things up. You most certainly will.

Speaking of fuck ups in Queer Quaker, Canonical decided to opt-in commercial searches for users of Unity lens. Which is why I won’t install anything that installs Unity anymore no matter how easy they make it to keep Amazon or anyone else from littering my searches with advertisements. I don’t care that future versions will be opt-in, this is something I won’t forgive/forget. (I’m now waiting for the Debian installer to load in CrunchBang Waldorf, which is what I’m installing on the netbook instead of Lubuntu.)

Hey, speaking of my Aspire One netbook, I replaced the buggy Atheros wifi card that was the thorn on my little white rose. It’s been problem-free ever since. I’m now a big fan of Intel wifi. Never had a problem with them no matter what OS I’m using.

I have a nit to pick about credit people take for others’ work in the FOSS world.This is nothing new. I’ve seen people not get credited for work they’ve done, and I’ve seen people apply stricter (GPL) licenses to changes they’ve made to more open (BSD, etc.) licensed code.

Here’s the deal. I tried contacting the founder/developer of Tiny Core Linux a couple months back but never heard back from him. The problem I have isn’t with him — he’s a good, decent guy I admire and respect. It’s with whoever set up the Tiny Core website and in particular the “about us” page. See, there’s a guy who’s credited with “banner, logo, and icons” who sure as fuck didn’t create the Tiny Core logo or the banners still used on the tinycore.com website.

I know because I created all the logos Robert has gone with, including the current one shaped like a screw with text engraved in it which better reflects the paradigms of TCL than the first logo I made with a CD-looking thing. If I still maintained my old e-mail account (at a site that closed it down due to inactivity for >3 months) I could produce e-mails from Robert telling me he wanted the blue text instead of red or other colors I submitted. I’d also show all of you that he asked me for the logo in SVG so he could get Tiny Core swag (hats in particular) for SCALE.

I recall I told him the license I was offering him the logo was Creative Commons – Attribution, just as I do for stuff I’ve made for my own website.

Did I get an attribution for it? No. And, to be fair, I never asked it to be posted everywhere like some people (howdy M*rga) demand. I didn’t know who else besides Robert and any of the other developers even knew I’d offered the new logo.

But here’s the rub. Someone else — a gentleman named Dale Marks — has been taking credit for my artwork since at least the last time the “about us” page was updated. That was 15 May 2011 — over a year and a half ago as I write this. I don’t know who Dale Marks is, but surely he knows as well as I do that he’s not the one who created the logo or banner.

Just to be clear, I don’t care that I’m not credited (as lucky13 or anything else). But I do care someone else never had the character to say, “Wait, I didn’t make that logo. Don’t give me credit for that.” Why should someone else take full credit for what I did?

Even if he did a variation of it, CC-A is about giving credit where it’s due. Not to him except for his variations on my original. The original was and forever will be mine. I know that. Robert S knows that. And Dale Marks, don’t you also know that?

Uh Oh…

March 18, 2009

post-parted-02

Following weeks and weeks of intense peer pressure and several hours of backing up files to another computer and defragmenting and other related tasks, I’ve resized my NTFS partition and made about 40 GB worth of room on my Aspire One’s hard drive. That’s out of the 120 GB which was the most available at the time I ordered it. I let out a brief sigh of relief when it fsck’ed okay and rebooted into XP.

I’m still trying to decide if I’m installing Linux or BSD, and which flavor of either. That probably won’t happen until this weekend at the earliest.

So far I’ve run a rawhide version of Fedora (with 2.6.29 that gives me a kerneloops message every boot) and PCLinuxOS, both booted from USB. If I install either of those, I’ll likely try PCLOS because I’m not impressed with KDE 4 (it’s pretty slick but it’s less ready than Fedora is at this point, IMO) and Texstar is conservative and wise enough to not include it in 2009.1; PCLOS will have KDE 4 in the repositories when it’s stable enough, which is as it should be. I’m not exactly jumping for joy about KDE 3, either, but at least it should be a little less work to un-crud. I wish, though, PCLOS had come out with a new MiniMe edition first.

I hope to give Tiny Core a shot on this at some point, too. Don’t be surprised, though, if I end up installing Slackware when all is said and done and then either installing Xfce via slacky or just compiling jwm and/or ratpoison from source (since those are small and I want fewer options in jwm than binary packagers tend to throw in). Gentoo isn’t completely off the radar if I can find the time, but Ubuntu and its derivatives are. Ain’t that ironic? Even with little time to manage software, I still value either doing it myself or going the smaller, more stable/conservative, and finely tuned route.

If I go BSD, it will most likely be NetBSD and I’ll use pkgsrc. Same reasons — a little more time-consuming but damn well worth it.

From DSL to Knoppix to NetBSD in 24 Hours

March 1, 2009

I wrote in a post yesterday that I did a clean install of DSL 4.4.10 on a little old hard drive I found in my desk — and noted I’d use it “at least for a while.” That was short.

Later yesterday I decided to try something with an older version of Knoppix installed as-Debian. After removing a ton of shite with dpkg and seeing how fucked up binary packaging can get (e. g., removing stuff you don’t want can lead to indiscriminate loss of things you might want to keep), I capitulated and started rm’ing everything in sight. I got it down to a manageable level and updated a few things. Then I figured, once again and when weighing what else was left to update, it really is easier to start small and build up.

There’s nothing better for that than BSD. So I installed NetBSD 4.01 this afternoon.

netbsd-freshinstall

The rest of my work on it will be headless via SSH/PuTTY. I’m skipping pkgsrc while updating and installing stuff. This will be used primarily, as I wrote about what I was going to do with DSL on it, for hosting stuff fetched elsewhere (e. g., podcasts, mashup stuff, etc.) and testing some stuff before it gets deployed at work.

Since this is BSD-oriented, the rest of the story will (might) unfold on my BSD blog (linked on the side).

I’ll have a post about DSL and its future on this blog in coming days, and I’ll link up my new blog when I post some stuff about my Aspire One on it.

DSL Redux/Revisited

February 27, 2009

I’ve started a more general (than Linux or BSD) blog which I’ll make more “public” in the very near future. I also have a lot of stuff I’ve written, or started, for this blog. Maybe I will post it.

I’d expected with my Acer Aspire One (AA1) to cut back even further on Linux than I had before I ended up taking care of my family. I still have OpenBSD 4.3 installed on most of my hard drives, including my old laptop which serves as a part time file server. I installed NetBSD 4.01 on another hard drive a couple weeks ago. Then I was digging through my desk and found an old drive that had DSL (hard drive install) on it. Oh, the memories.

Before cutting back on using DSL (again), I’d written some scripts to manage updating from future updates without overwriting changes I’d made to make it more hard drive-friendly. In a nutshell, it would’ve used my separate /home partition for backing up certain files that would be overwritten in the base and then overwrite the new base files with the ones I wanted. I didn’t have a chance to work on it because I knew DSL’s future was waning due to the main developer’s interest in pursuing something DSL’s founder seemed to either object or not care. Between work commitments and my eventual role as caretaker, I didn’t have time to continue working with RS on DSL or on what’s become Tiny Core Linux.

So the other day, with this old DSL hard drive install waiting for a good thrashing, I decided to test my upgrade script with the most recent — and perhaps last — version of DSL 4 (4.10).

The backup part of it worked. Unfortunately, there appears to have been a lot more changes than I bargained for between versions. I booted into DSL 4.10 and the first thing I noticed were error messages. These included the usual filesystem errors (thought we were cleaning that up) but also some new ones related to knoppix-autoconfig which led me to conclude some changes had been made that were more frugal-centric and weren’t adjusted to accomodate hard drive installs. I was a little confused because I didn’t read the notes (what passes for DSL’s changelog). Upon further inspection, when changing the hostname (not the usual process because DSL uses the knoppix scripts for that), I noticed some things that had been part of knoppix-autoconfig had been moved elsewhere. I dug around a little more and noticed more things that seemed to be like Tiny Core than DSL — such as a directory for dropbear (small SSH replacement). I got out of the loop and didn’t know what was done, why it was done, or anything like that.

I have a few things I want to say about DSL and where it stands now, but this isn’t the post for that. Suffice for now, I backed out of Tiny Core development when my workload increased dramatically late last summer. I haven’t updated any TCL ISO since at least August, and I’d pretty much stopped doing anything related to DSL (short of asking my GPL’ed extensions be removed until DSL had a plan for making sources available). I’d hoped that DSL could continue and that TCL could be in the same family — after all, a couple years ago I’d wanted to release a more user-friendly drag and drop desktop version of DSL (before Robert included dfm) but only if it could have the same community support because I didn’t want a fork and didn’t want to separate too far from what Robert was doing with “mainline” DSL.

dsl-putty-003

Since so much time had passed since my previous install and I already know there have been a couple updates for OpenSSL and OpenSSH, I decided to build those rather than copy out of my system-backup.tar.bz2 file. I updated OpenSSL and OpenSSH to current. I also compiled a kernel — not for new or different features, but for a smaller footprint (I made my root partition 1 GB so every MB counts). The new kernel has just enough to do what I need and a few extra modules in case I connect my scanner or printer. After getting pissed off because of a “bad magic” error with a tarball, I decided to get the latest version of libarchive and use BSD’s tar and cpio.  Then, just to feel more comfortable in the shell, I again installed mksh (I have to check the DSL scripts because many of them are /bin/bash instead of /bin/sh and then piss off bash).

dsl-putty-004

I have a few more things to do with this. I’m deleting a lot of the base apps because I’m not going to be running X very much. I also have my own preferences for what’s left — like full vim, python, etc. — but this will likely be used to fetch content for mashups and manage podcasts. At least for a while.

dsl-putty-0051

dsl-putty-006-monkey

This is a lot of work to get it “just right,” especially considering what I’ve written about the BSDs on my BSD blog. The BSDs install in a small footprint with low resource demands and allow you to install only what you need. I may have to go ahead and check out Tiny Core and see how it’s matured since its modularity should also fit the needs I have for this. 

One of the reasons I’m open to Linux on this machine is because the BSDs share a bad trait in their USB stacks that prevent me from using a USB ethernet adapter in the same port as my keyboard — I’ve written about this on my BSD blog and my solution was to use a powered hub connected in  that port. It’s not as big a problem as some of the ACPI issues (NetBSD gets a big tip of the hat for handling that best — better than Linux).

In other news…

I’m not installing Linux or BSD on my AA1, at least not before my warranty expires. I chose XP in part because the Linux model had hardware that wasn’t yet supported — including the multi-card reader, microphone, etc. Acer should’ve chosen hardware on the basis of what had immediate support, not what might someday be on par with works under XP (not that everything’s perfect — I’ve had none of the problems with my Atheros card that others reported early on). I’ll have more netbook content on my new blog soon, and some netbook content on this one as well.

Scripting Tip – Calculating Yesterday’s Date

October 8, 2008

Here’s a tip I picked up off rhaen’s blog for setting a date command for the previous day: use a different timezone.

$ echo $(TZ=CEST23CEST date)

He explains: ‘We use the environment variable TZ (timezone) to set a timezone which is 23 hours before our current timezone. As we don’t use EXPORT to set the timezone the environment is changed just for the only command. This is an easy way to get 23 hours back, plenty of time for your cronjob needs. The same method works on every timezone, of course.’

It’s much neater than my twisted solution using an offset (which isn’t adequate when yesterday is the end of month/year):

MONTH=$(date +%m)
DAY=$(date +%d)
OFFSET=${1:-1}
YEAR=$(date +%y)
YESTERDAY=$((DAY - OFFSET))

And then on and on, adjusting everything else for end of month or year.

This is a lot better:

YESTERDAY=$(TZ=CEST23CEST date +%Y%m%d)

(edited to correct link)

Site News, New Blogroll Link

June 10, 2008

I don’t keep tabs on my stats because I haven’t bothered to do much to get the word out about this blog except in certain places, such as my links in the DSL forums and other places where I post a lot. Sometimes I look and see I’m getting a bit more traffic than I ever expected, and sometimes I look and see that my lack of regular posts equates to a lack of new traffic.

Looking at my stats at lunch, some things make me snicker. Like search terms that people used to find this blog. Some aren’t too surprising since I have a lot of content related to Damn Small Linux, GNU screen, jwm themes, and pwn2own, not to mention a little content about other distros and apps. Other search terms are more surprising.

  • lucky13 hotplug
  • make damn small linux look like windows
  • install dwm slackware
  • dsl linux tiny core
  • cloned animals and humans

I don’t know what this blog has to do with cloned animals and humans (I think I’ve had only one link to an article about glow in the dark cats — a landmark, crowning achievement GM technology!), but I’m grateful someone actually clicked through to see. That means more to me than all the screenshot searches and clicks.

Note: I’ve added a link to Productive Linux in my blogroll.

And if Steven from Click ever reads this, my “favorite free, open-source text editor for Windows” is gvim (I think scite is also pretty good in Windows but I haven’t used it as much as gvim or Notepad++). I registered before to post comments on your blog but it’s not letting me in.

What’s In a Number? Various Thoughts

May 1, 2008

What’s in a number?

I got to thinking about this when a question was asked about the kernel version I’m running on my desktop. The question presumes that just because I don’t have the most ecent kernel version, or rather kernel line, that somehow I’m shortchanged or missing something.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

HOW OLD IS YOUR EQUIPMENT?
Age is relevant to the question about loss of utility. The kernel I’m running was released last week — it isn’t archaic and it isn’t out of date. This computer is older than the 2.4 kernel. It has a 400mhz Celeron processor and over the years it’s received what I consider very minor upgrades over the decade or so I’ve had it. First there was the doubling of RAM from its original 64 to 128. Then this past winter I doubled it again to 256. Hardly impressive, but it makes a big difference in how it functions. This computer will probably outlast me and I don’t intend to toss it out while it still works.

When I bought this computer, Linux was still in 2.2 — 2.4 was available. I think I installed my first 2.4 kernel some time in 2003 when 2.2 development ceased. It was 2.4.10, IIRC (I’m not 100% sure of 2.4 version but I know it was 2003 when 2.2 development stopped — same year MS was supposed to drop NT4 life cycle support), when I switched. I think I could still resort to 2.2 and have nearly full function for everything this computer needs except (maybe) the particular USB adapter I use now (I’d been able to use CDCEther previously but that required connecting directly via bridge). I’d have to check changelogs and see if the adapter would work with 2.2. But 2.4 is very manageable for this particular computer (and would be reasonable, imo, even for my 1.4ghz Athlon box).

HOW OLD IS YOUR KERNEL?
The kernel is probably the one part of the system that can continue to be updated even when various software — especially window managers, desktop environments, and GTK+ applications — become too hefty to keep updated. I wasn’t enthralled with KDE or Gnome when I first used them. They’ve become much to cumbersome since then to use on this computer. Even Xfce is a bit too much now, imo.

WHAT’S THE BEST GUIDELINE BETWEEN HARDWARE AND KERNEL VERSION?
How do kernel changes relate to your own hardware? I don’t think too much has changed in terms of function between what was contemporary when this computer was bleeding edge. Many changes in kernel versions are bug fixes and security patches and the like. There’s some performance enhancements and lots of new drivers for newer hardware — I’d appreciate performance gains I might get from 2.6 (threading?) but I don’t need support for stuff this computer doesn’t and won’t have. I’m not hamstrung or limited or reducing anything. It freaking works.

If you have much more recent hardware, you obviously need a newer kernel with newer drivers; some of the newer drivers (including SATA support) are also in 2.4 so you don’t necessarily need 2.6.

If you’re still using older hardware — and I am — how new does your kernel really need to be? I think it’s a testament to the wisdom of Linus Torvalds and all the contributors to his kernel that what was efficient on this computer nearly a decade ago doesn’t really need much improvement. Certainly there are bug fixes and security issues that have been dealt with in the interim. Those don’t require the size of a 2.6 kernel.

I think it’s also fair to make this kind of comparison with other operating systems. When this computer was new, it had all kinds of stickers about how it was engineered for Windows 98. Windows 98 was gone shortly (as in hours) after I got it home, and the stickers still decorate an old desk like little war trophies.

Could this computer run XP? Yeah, but it would crawl. Even with 256MB of RAM now, I wouldn’t care to see how it runs. I wouldn’t even think of installing Vista on it. I thought of using my WinNT license with it but the only way to get USB support is via third party (Dell has a free driver) and Microsoft no longer issues SPs for NT. So what’s the point?

Yet that’s what I see so many people doing in equivalence with Linux. They’re taking bleeding edge distros intended for XP/Vista-era hardware and installing on Win95/98-era hardware. Sometimes the results are acceptable, but I’ve used KDE on this computer (last version: 3.5.8 iirc) and it was too slow for my tastes despite my best efforts to reduce icon sizes and other factors that can bog it down. The question I was asked isn’t asked in reverse — “Do you really need such new software on older hardware?”

I don’t think anyone does unless they have some new device that has only recently gotten driver support somewhere in the kernel. That’s the case with my laptop because I sold and loaned out my other two wireless devices that were 2.4-capable and my current card — Broadcom 43xx — has had kernel support since 2.6.19.

I mentioned something above about contemporary hardware:software relationships. While development continues, hardware is a snapshot in time. One of the things that many people observe when trying to keep bleeding edge software on vintage hardware is that it rarely works better than the software that was bleeding edge when the hardware was. Isn’t that to be expected when the software is being targeted at hardware made at that particular point in time?

That’s one of the reasons why I think Linux advocates are off-base when they suggest that newer distro versions are appropriate for older hardware. They rarely are. There are some that work better than others, and some that are oriented for older hardware. Truth be told, it rarely makes sense to upgrade more than two years after your computer becomes kind of “old” — which I put around five, six years. In the case of this old desktop, I could still happily run Slackware 8 which is still supported with updates (security, bugs, etc.).

There’s also something else to be said here about support cycles. Microsoft tries to keep its OS support on about seven year cycles. They take a lot of flack for doing that from users and critics alike. Ubuntu has LTS (long term service) which runs in five year cycles. They seem to get praise for five year cycles from the very people most willing to criticize Microsoft for seven year support cycles. Hypocrisy. But the point is, you can find adequate support for average hardware life cycles without having to stay bleeding edge — Windows does it, Slackware does it, and even Ubuntu does (though they’re relatively new to the game).

I think what matters most, though, is matching software to hardware with respect to era. What’s in 2.6.25 that I need on this desktop? Nothing. This computer is Linux 2.2/2.4-era — the same time frame as pre-XP. I have legitimate needs for 2.6 on a couple of my other computers — such as for bcm43xx support for the laptop and some of the new (proprietary) video drivers for the new desktop (I think I also scrolled past what I need in menuconfig for 2.4.36.3…).

In conclusion, don’t presume that the higher version number is inherently better for everything. It may be, it may not be.

CNET Podcast: Mac IIe versus Commodore 64

December 11, 2007

Podcast: Old-school operating-system battle ||| CNET News.com:

Forget about Aero graphics and Vista security for just a second, and hearken back to the days of Basic programming, green monitors, and cassette drives.
podcast MP3 here

CompUSA to Liquidate

December 7, 2007

CompUSA to Close All Stores – WSJ.com:

Gordon Brothers Group, a Boston-based retail store liquidator, will oversee a piecemeal sale of the Dallas-based business, the company said in a statement. Financial terms were not disclosed. Stores will remain open through year-end under the supervision of Gordon Brothers, which will also negotiate the sale of real estate and other assets. Two law firms were hired to represent creditors, CompUSA said.

“An orderly and expedited wind-down and asset sale process is the best option for CompUSA and its creditors,” Bill Weinstein, a principal at Gordon Brothers, said in a statement. Mr. Weinstein was named interim president of the firm. He was unavailable for immediate comment.

NYT: Mobile Web So Close Yet So Far

November 25, 2007

Mobile Web: So Close Yet So Far:

“People talk about the mobile Web, and it’s just assumed that it’ll be a replica of the desktop experience,” Mr. Eagle said. “But they’re fundamentally different devices.” He says he thinks that the basic Web experience for most of the world’s three billion cellphones will never involve trying to thumb-type Web addresses or squint at e-mail messages. Instead, he says, it will be voice-driven. “People want to use their phone as a phone,” he says.

The author seems to presume that technological change and adoption of standards is smooth and linear. It isn’t. There are bumps on the way and many fads to overcome.