Desktop Environments Distributions Your Choice

No shame in the Linux game

I admit it. In the past I have done a fair share of distro hopping.

If you’ve seen my recent posts, you see that I still do some OS installations to USB just to try them out. My most recent distros burned to USB are Manjaro and Ubuntu 20.04 main desktop version.

However, I’m down to one computer now. It’s a System76 Gazelle bought in 2017. I bought it pretty loaded up with lots of good features, such as the i7 and 32 GB of RAM.
The hard drive dual-boots Windows 10 and Linux without me worrying about running out of disk space any time soon.

But, one computer (UEFI disabled) still reaches a point where things are functioning well, and as expected with no headaches to occupy your time… You know you can get work done, and you do –no question about it. But, as we all know there is a difference between work time and play time. And right now I gotta get work done. Play time will come later. Or maybe when I replace this computer. Right now too much is working well, and I don’t want to mess with it.

I am curious about how Manjaro works. It’s one of the few popular distros I have not yet used. I used to run KaOs (I think it’s name has changed since) and it is a very cool spin of Arch. I quite easily broke it as I was learning all about pacman and other ways to resolve bleeding-edge breakage. It was fun, but the unexpected twists and turns of “It worked yesterday, but today it’s busted” was less-than fun.

I’m not hating on Arch. No. Arch gets my respect for sure.
But, I told myself that I’d try it out, and see if it could be “daily-driver” material. For me, it wasn’t. Arch style is not what I can depend on for stability for the work of my choice. Yes, laziness is included in my view of it as well. I simply don’t have the same amount of free time to learn by breaking it, or learn by having an update break it. Since Majaro is rolling, I know that when i’m ready to do so I can install it from the USB and that I can bring it up to date.

So here I am today, still running KDE Neon (I mentioned in other posts that it’s so fast). Faster than Pop_OS on this machine in my honest opinion, but that was before 20.04 version came out, so I’d bet Pop_OS is even faster today that previous versions. But for desktop environment. I have learned and retained muscle-memory keyboard shortcuts and what-have-you over the years and I like the way Cinnamon does not force to unlearn so many things such as switching virtual desktops, and having tap-to-click just work.

Plasma is nice, I do use it from time to time. Dolphin is a great file manager, and the available themes are very very nice. Plasma is also a lot faster than I remember it back in the Plasma 4 days too. Maybe it was slower due to the available hardware and RAM I had at the time. Maybe. Plasma is not known to be lightweight, and with 32 GB of RAM on the system, it’s not an issue at all.

So, even with the responsiveness of the computer, why not just use Plasma as a daily driver? Because I like Cinnamon a bit better. It too has some very nice theme choices and customization. The File Manager (Nemo) needs to let users increase the font size of the left hand panel. Other than that it’s fine.

Using Cinnamon made me ask myself why…. and should I feel shame for installing a Plasma system only to “not use Plasma” in favor of an environment that can be found (or installed/added to) many other Linux distributions.

Today I declared “No. There is no shame in setting up the bits and pieces of your computing environment that you use daily to be and work just the way that you want it.”
There is no shame in the game where choice is everything. I chose a rolling distro, and I added a well-known desktop environment and set it up to not get in my way. I update it regularly and I can run virtualbox if I want to check out another distro. Maybe down the road I’ll buy an older machine at a bargain and do some install and tests and funtime experiments. Cheers.

Distributions Installing Linux Obtaining Linux Your Choice

Burn the Distro to USB, they said

Years ago, when laptops actually had optical media drives, with the standard disk burning software it was easy to create bootable Linux. Just download a distro, run the checksum (… you did run the checksum with md5sum or other, right???) and then you burned the iso to a CD-Rom or DVD. Reboot machine, tell BIOS to boot from optical first, and you could run the computer from the LIVE media.

If you still want to burn iso’s to CD/DVD and use them with a laptop, it requires an external CD/DVD burner connected over (you guessed it) USB. So yeah, I own an external drive, but it’s more for retrieving data from older backups when needed. I am, otherwise, making best efforts to do all LIVE media creation with USB drives.

Currently I’m running KDE Neon, and as mentioned before, I do like it. The main reasons are that it is a rolling distro and that it has very good performance. The lesser reason (but still important) is that it is built on top of stable Ubuntu sources and I’ve gotten used to the necessary housekeeping with apt commands and so on.

I was running Solus for several years, because it was a rolling distribution and it was fast and had a great look and feel to it. However, over time, it became a bit of work in certain areas that (I feel) should not have been. There are times when being “off the beaten track” is fun and wild. Other times this philosophy can slow you down when you’re trying to get some work done. For example if you wanted to run the MySQL Workbench program, it was not in the package repositories. It was requested, and declined.

What?? Just about every other Linux distro I used as a Developer had this package in their repositories. Not Solus. They have a different application, called “DBeaver” available. I suppose it is good, I’ve never tried it. I found that you can install MySQL Workbench on Solus using Docker: Until a Solus native package is available, if you are willing to use docker, the following works

Ok, I’m getting off-track now.

So, in this time of indoors-mostly, I have been considering replacing KDE Neon as my “linux booter” on my dual boot machine. A very cool System76 Gazelle 12. However, part of me wants to replace it with a cool/trendy distro and part of me wants to fall back on the “tried and true” … what a dilemma.

So, I thought of features over fluff.

What do I like most about Solus and KDE Neon? .. Rolling style. And the Ubuntu base (Neon) as Solus is cool because it is totally it’s own thing. Just like David S. Pumpkins. Any questions?

My choices:
• Manjaro Linux (rolling, cool, and trendy) and it would allow me to utter the l33t expression I use arch btw
• Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (traditional, tried and true)
• In case I change my mind and miss KDE Neon, I can re-install

So I downloaded the current or new iso versions of the above, thinking it would be somewhat consistent (not to mention ‘easy’) to burn the isos to USB using the dd command.

Manjaro burn using the first advice site did not work. Computer did not even detect it upon restart. What worked? The instructions at Manjaro. Of course I have just paid the age-old “DUM-DUM” tax of “why would you not consult the forum/WIKI instead of Google!?” If you are going to burn Manjaro to USB, don’t make the same mistake I did, go here.

For burning the Ubuntu 20.04 iso, I think I got frustrated and went with a GUI tool to install it. It worked. Duh, it’s Ubuntu, it was more likely to work than not-work.

I then burned the latest KDE Neon to USB. That Live install, is still not working. I tried several times with dd and with graphical installers. I have the older version on USB which does boot. Perhaps it is the USB media that is failing me. I can experiment more, but at this point it may not be worth it since a workaround that will basically install the same OS is available.

So, in summary, I don’t think there should be such oddities in installing a Linux iso to USB (and having it be bootable).

Maybe a way to stress-test the installed iso right after it is written to USB? Yeah, that does sound like laziness at work. It is very lazy and you’re right, it does not account for how the BIOS or the UEFI nuttiness comes into play.

Hope you all stay safe and productive (with Linux eh?) during this time of uncertainty, social distancing and quarantining.

Peace out.

Applications Desktop Environments Distributions Web Development

Corona Time is Learning Time 2020

I admit it. I haven’t posted for nearly two years. Since I’m socially-distancing and keeping at home due to Coronavirus COVID-19 concerns. May as well put the time to good use eh?

Since the last written post, so much has happened. I’ve sold all my laptops except one. I’ve set it up as a dual-boot and I’m happy with it. Boots Windows 10 and my distro is KDE Neon 18.04.

It’s a good distro, so far. It does the things I expect of it. I’ve added the Cinnamon desktop environment as I’m used to the key combinations (hotkeys) to do desktop switching. I’ve even got the Nemo file manager properly opening a terminal and this is due in large part to the great Ubuntu and Mint communities out there on the old interwebs.

I have done quite a bit of Development work while in furlough (again thanks Covid-19 => you suck), but mainly the work has focused on Automated Acceptance testing with BDD. Namely:
• Python with Behave
• Eclipse Java with Cucumber
• IntelliJ Java with Cucumber

So far, the easiest I’ve found to set up and run out-of-the box is Python and behave. With IntelliJ as a close second.
With Eclipse, I fell into the old “follow an old tutorial down dependency nightmares in the waiting” trap. Yah. Probably a few changes since 2016 can do that. While I did learn a lot about Cucumber BDD from the lesson, I could not get the most trivial of cucumber-driven IDE functionality to work without error. That is, until I found this really cool tutorial cucumber eclipse maven project that made use of Maven and a pom.xml file, containing just the needed dependencies.
It then requires a few “maven” build and test steps, but then its good to go. About 98% in my view.

Why only 98%? Because if you’re anything like me, you prefer that the IDE show no errors, and no warnings. at. all.
I do get a warning that the cucumber plugin feature of discovering the step implementations will not work because it is not a cucumber project. Yeah. I know that, it’s a maven project.

I guess I’ll have to experiment more to see if I can get to 100 on my own. Hey, I do have the free time, right?

Actually there are a few more courses I’d like to complete on Pluralsight since they were cool enough to give “Free April” which is tick tick ticking away.

Anyway, if you’ve got thoughts to share, feel free to drop me a line.

Desktop Environments Distributions Linux Discussion Using Linux Your Choice

One year to the day

Hard to believe it, but I’ve let a full year go by since writing about Linux.
Make no mistake, I’m still using Linux, both as Dual-Boot and as standalone systems on a laptop.

So, what’s changed or different since last time? Ok, here’s a list:

  • The HP G60 Laptop – sold
  • The Dual-booting 2009 Macbook – sold
  • Desktop PC? No longer own any
  • Acquired two laptops with decent specifications, both run only Linux
  • Still have Dell Laptop, dual boots Windows 10 & (surprised yet?) Fedora.

The Dell laptop underwent an accidental transformation. I spent too many hours “fighting” with the UEFI and Secure boot firmware in order to Dual-boot. And when it worked, it worked. I had (up until recently) the best experience dual-booting with Ubuntu. I switched to Ubuntu Mate (my favorite Ubuntu spin).

So, what is this “accidental transformation” that you speak of? The transformation was the accidental erasure of some data in the Linux partition that rendered the system non-bootable. Completely bricked it and wasted (again) lots of time just trying to get the Windows 10 side of the machine to boot up. No luck – at all. Even using the Boot Repair CD several ways, several times… no joy.

Finally, I just went ahead and did a full-on reset. Starting from 0 with a pure Windows laptop. But you can’t keep a Linux geek down. Why have 2 machines booting Linux, when you can have 2 machines, and a dual-booting windows 10 laptop, right?? Right.

I decided this time around, to align some work-related projects which are remotely-hosted on Redhat derivatives. Hence, Fedora (with its secure boot signed kernel support) seemed like a good choice. Have to admit, following a couple of advice tutorials regarding how to prep the BIOS/Firmware… came in handy and made the Fedora Install a smooth (one-time install) experience. All without needing to repair the MBR. This was the surprising part. The machine simply brought up the GRUB screen, and each system can boot up, no fuss. So happy.

Now, will Fedora actually perform well on that machine? Hmm. Good question. For it is an older laptop by today’s standards.
Even with its 8 GB of Ram and i7 processor, it does feel slow.

Do Linux Geeks give up? NO!! Of course not. I installed the i3 tiling Window Manager. It does give back some speed but you really do have to memorize (and in some cases “un-learn” a lot of keyboard shortcuts. It is worth it to learn though. It is so light on resources.

Desktop Environments Distributions Linux Discussion Using Linux Your Choice

Good Linux Distro for Old Laptop

Many of us Linux enthusiasts are known for trying to squeak as much mileage as possible out of our old or aging laptops. I hear about it all the time, and its true. Us Linux geeks will hand down a laptop, or repurpose an old desktop PC and (with Linux) morph it into something else or simply just extend its lifespan and usefulness.

I’m typing this post using an old HP G60 laptop purchased in 2009. Originally issued with Vista, it was soon updated to Windows 7. It performed OK when it was new, but of course over time, it began to get slower and slower. There’s a lot of useful information and instructions on basic upkeep (file cleaning, temporary cache and internet clearing) that seemingly never ship with the machine or come in the box when you buy it at a retail outlet? Why?

If I had to take a guess, it’s because the OEMs don’t really want you to keep a clunker around past its expected 3-year lifespan. They want you to refresh your machines and plunk down the money on that new Macbook or that slick-looking Lenovo laptop. It’s marketing without the aggressive tactics. They simply allow you to use your machine and run it into the ground so that you come to the conclusion on your own, that it’s time to upgrade.

When the machine was “handed down” to me it was originally intended as a gaming machine for my kid. Then he tried to play minecraft on it. Even with newer hardware (I maxed the ram to 4GB and put in a Solid State Drive) – the Minecraft experience was still less than ideal and the machine likely came close to overheat temperatures I’m sure.

Hence the machine got pushed forward back up to me. Ok no big deal. As a development machine it works ok. It can run XAMPP without issue, but its BIOS has no virtualization support, so no vagrant/oracle virtualbox…. oh well, it can still run docker, which I mainly use this machine for. Writing emails, and learning Docker. Not bad.

Now on to the main topic… what distro should I put on this old, underpowered rig? I tried several.
For a good long time I ran Ubuntu Mate and it was great. I then wanted to try something else so I went to the BSD side of the world, but on this machine… it just didn’t seem to do well. I guess I wasn’t accustomed to the way it would look and feel on this old machine. Maybe someday I will use this machine as a simple server with FreeBSD and not have any graphical expectations.

I then tried Solus, which was very nice. Very polished distro. I like how it works, until… until I turned off compositing. This PC (I feel) does not need compositing, it needs simple. Within a few days Solus was erased in favor of an experimental spin with Lubuntu. That wasn’t great either. Lubuntu in my opinion just didn’t perform or keep consistent on this machine, so what’s the point. Stuff kept changing, especially with the monitor situation. I use an external monitor (in addition to the laptop screen).

Finally I revisited an OS I used to use a long time ago… crunchbang. Only now crunchbang is no more. There’s Bunsenlabs, and also a counterpart called Crunchbang++. Crunchbang++ is very much the same as Bunsen or Crunchbang in that it uses the Openbox window manager. It responds very fast. And of course I’m used to the configuration (via files) that is provided by openbox, tint, and conky. I’ve invested a fair amount of time overcoming some of the quirks in terms of desktop placement and other things here and there. The Audio is always muted at login. I’ll solve that issue soon. It’s not critical so I let it ride…. for now.

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What *Nix distro now?

Hi all, long time no write.
The time has come, well, it’s always been here I suppose… that lingering feeling that the distro you’re using is in need of replacement.
I’ve been using Ubuntu Mate for years now, and it’s great. No complaints with it, the issue is one that is known to many of us trying to get as much horsepower as possible from an old laptop.
How old you ask? Well it’s from 2009, and is an HP G60 in very good shape. Over the years I have maxed out the RAM, replaced the spinning disc HD with a Solid State Drive, and have replaced the keyboard and the battery. I’m just trying to get best performance out of it while trying to solve a few other problems/challenges in the process.
So glad you’re still reading this!! OK. Recently at work they have enabled Host Checker on the company’s VPN login stage. This basically means that my previous implementation of a 64-bit OS with some additional 32-bit java libraries added in (from mad-scientist directions) is no longer working. This used to work, and now it does not. Host checker fails because it can’t find program to run java applets or find an Antivirus program.

Isn’t that a kicker? Linux, a more secure operation system (in general) than Microsoft Windows…. is not considered “secure enough”…

I’ve been trying a few things to get it working within the scope of “host checker” and found this Perl script called jvpn but it isn’t working. I’ve done all I can within my own coder skill set to try and root out code issue or lack of java library issue, but there simply are no foolproof ways to make it work, and I feel this approach is simply very very hackish.

I was considering using an older 32-bit OS as an alternative, but in this day and age, that feels like going too far backwards in time. 32 bit?
The promising concepts of 32-bit:

  • The Java libraries will be 32-bit from day 1
  • I can install Java-enabled ESR release of Firefox

I’ve also read that FreeBSD is capable of establishing this connection to Juniper VPN, but I’m not convinced. For a week I tried out installing FreeBSD, and then installing TrueOS on top of it for a graphical environment. I may have done something wrong in that the machine felt slower in performance and the desktop (Lumina environment) just seemed to lack polish and if it’s going to be slow, at least it should look better in my opinion.

Does anyone have an idea on how to properly connect a Linux/BSD computer to a Juniper VPN with host checker enabled? Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.

Distributions Installing Linux Using Linux

Ubuntu Mate ROCKS

Hi all, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. But I wanted to take a moment and talk about Ubuntu Mate.

Since Kubuntu 14.04 came out (and I did use 13.04 & 13.10) I used it on my Dell Inspiron 15z laptop. The only issue of installation was the usual pain points of Dual-booting with UEFI and Safe mode. Things that can typically be fixed easily using the Ubuntu Boot Repair CD.

However, over time I did notice recently that the machine under Kubuntu just didn’t feel as responsive as it once was. KDE is a full desktop experience and a good one. I don’t blame KDE for being KDE, but I think it was a good time to consider alternatives ahead of the upcoming 16.04 release.

Still a fan of the Jupiter Broadcast shows (such as Linux Unplugged and the Linux Action Show), there were numerous mentions of Ubuntu Mate. It got my attention.

I installed it, had the same UEFI nonsense and fixed it.
It is a great distro. I recommend the current 15.10 release to anyone who wants a full GTK desktop but one that runs faster than KDE.

I mean, it “isn’t KDE” but that’s beside the point.

I’m very happy with its performance and visuals.


Desktop Environments Distributions Installing Linux Linux Discussion Uncategorized Your Choice

Arch challenge and KaOS

Hi all, as a linux user since 2003, I decided it was time to leave my comfort zone and take an opportunity to learn and do things “the arch way”.

My son has been using our old Macbook 2009 for playing Minecraft and while this isn’t a big deal in and of itself, it has been giving the computer a really sizeable beating in terms of CPU, GPU, and overall computer temperature. I wanted to let him play his game, however on a not-so-critical computer and spare the Mac.

We came into an older (about the same production year) HP G-60 laptop. I bought an SSD for it, and designated the machine as his to use for Minecraft. I now needed an Operating System. Of course, it was not going to be Windows anything. Sorry.

With an faster, empty, open hard drive, I wanted a solid linux distro that I would not have to reinstall every 6 months. The idea of a rolling release came to mind, as opposed to an Ubuntu LTS release, which I use now (Kubuntu 14.04) on my Dell.

That’s when I discovered the super-nathan arch challenge courtesy of the Linux Action show featured here.

I could have chose from among several rolling distros, but I came across KaOS, which is rolling, and arch-based.
KaOS is a lean KDE distribution.
I loved it, and got so taken in with learning how things are done in the Arch Linux world. The only downside I found was, after a while, my son actually wanted to “use” the computer and I found myself trying to get in my learning in the off hours.

That’s fine, but I then also reached a point where I was going against the main purpose and philosophy of Arch itself…I found myself wanting a system that stayed stable and would not require much fuss. I do know this is a conflict or contradiction in terms as Arch does not make this promise. If the computer were purely for my use, it would be no big deal.

Another awesome thing you’ll see with KaOS is that it uses Plasma 5 or KDE5 desktop environment. It really is a big improvement over KDE4, which isn’t bad to begin with.

If you like KDE, and are willing to use an Arch-based system, I recommend KaOS. However, be sure to visit as many pages of the website as you can, including the FAQ and the KCP section of the site to learn how KaOS does its packaging and the new things you can see at github.

Thanks for reading this far, and in good spirits, I’ll say that since I wanted a distro for the HP G-60 that would be easier to maintain and less fuss, I went with Ubuntu Mate, which is based on the 14.04 LTS. This way my kid can play, and when necessary, I can quickly and easily update and maintain the system.


Distributions Installing Linux Using Linux Your Choice

Robolinux is amazing

I recently was given another laptop for “repurposing” – which in my circles – means “bye bye crufty windows vista/7 and hello Linux”.

It’s a somewhat older HP G60 laptop, and I pulled the original HD, and added RAM to the tune of 4Gig and wow, this thing is super fast. Boot up to usable desktop in well under 10 seconds, and the application responsiveness is the fastest I’ve seen in any Linux thus far. Now, onto to the main topic of the post, Robolinux.

I chose the XFCE Version for speed, and it does deliver. It took a while to get used to the XFCE way of doing things again (it’s been ~ 7 years since I’ve used it. I used to rock Xubuntu on an old Dell D600 laptop).

Typically, when I want a ligthweight distro with a great software base, my “go-to” is generally Crunchbang (has the Openbox environment). But this time around, I was going for a more “windowsy” user interface experience for the person I was setting the laptop up for. It would just be “too much” of a shift for them to learn both Openbox and using Linux, so I took a look at Robolinux.

Robolinux is derived from Debian, and has a lot of great software pacakges I didn’t find anywhere else. Not that I have looked high and low mind you – as I typically set up a machine and (if it’s for me) I go all out customizing it for what I want to do with it (which from recent posts, I needed a machine ready to do all kinds of things and was in love with SolydK until I had to cross back into Windows8 world… sigh. but to be fair, Kubuntu 14.04 has been doing really well.

Check out Robolinux, especically if you prefer the VM instead of Dual booting into Windows when (sigh again) necessary to do so.

Good luck.

Desktop Environments Using Linux Your Choice

LXQT Desktop Environment

Hi all. I’m just writing a quick post here about this sort-of new desktop environment called LXQt.
You can find info on the LXQt Desktop Environment by clicking here.

I have my Dell Inspiron 15z for over a year now. Sure, it has Windows 8 and I’ve settled in to the long-term support version of Kubuntu. I like Kubuntu more than Ubuntu (never really loved Unity. I got used to it mind you, but I never saw it as my long-term environment).

Other distros simply gave me too much stress due to the UEFI/MBR/GPT constraints I finally had enough and “started over”, no, I didin’t nuke and pave and reinstall Windows, instead I got rid of a fine distro called SolydK and converted the machine back to a realistic dual-booter with Kubuntu 14.04.

From listening to the Linux Action Show podcast, I found out about LXQt and decided to give it a try. I tried LXQt while learning about OpenSUSE by way installing OpenSUSE in a VM and then adding the LXQt environment. I really enjoyed the fast response so I added it my main host machine (Kubuntu). My machine has 8gb of RAM, and Kubuntu runs well, but of course, a lighter environment is going to be faster.

What I think could be improved with LXQt is the settings. I found them to be “too sticky” in some places, and “not sticky enough” in others. Let me explain:

  • I use a 2nd monitor with my laptop. Each time I logged into LXQt I’d have to reset my monitor settings to make use of the 2nd monitor.
  • Under Kubuntu, the YaKuake terminal loads for me automatically. Under LXQt, this does not occur so you need to add a command to a startup script for that to happen. Easy enough to do, but…log back into the Plasma Kubuntu workspace and YaKuake terminal gets invoked twice.

Other than that it was a very fast and visually appealing Desktop Environment. Enjoy it with one of many distros.