Archive: ‘Distributions’

Another Old PC, another Linux install

05.19.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Hi all, this post is being written from another install of Crunchbang Linux.  Why is this worth mentioning? Well, it really isn’t worth mentioning, but I did anyway.

Recently I acquired a PC that belonged to a friend of mine. I offered $20 and, well, it has its limitations, but what do you want for 20 dollars, right? Right. Here’s the technical details: Shuttle XPC with an AMD64 Proc., DVD-ROM Optical Drive, 1GB of RAM, and a 20GB Hard disk.  My intended purpose for this machine is to perform software experiments and testing.  Nothing crazy mind you, so spending money to fix/improve it would be money wasted.

So, being a Linux enthusiast, I gave several Distros a test drive on this machine. Distros such as Mint (Debian, LXDE, Gnome), Crunchbang Linux, and Ubuntu (main Gnome 2/3, and Lubuntu), as these are my recent (and old) favorites. You can say I prefer the Debian Based Linux OS, but that’s a story for another blog post.

The results: (because surely a fair amount of those actually reading this blog are curious to learn what actually happened).

Linux Mint Results:

Mint 12 LXDE would not install, Mint 12 Debian Edition crashed mid-way thru installation, and Mint 11 GNOME was the winner in the Stable Mint environment for this machine.

Ubuntu Results:

Ubuntu 10.04.4 got most of the way through the install and crashed.  Lubuntu 12.04 installed nicely, but had lots of crashing during web browser use, so bye-bye. Ubuntu 11.04 GNOME was ok.  Ubuntu 12.04 GNOME not even a consideration based on inability to install a recent Linux Mint.  My Ubuntu goal was to use a long-term-support release if possible.

Crunchbang Linux Results:

This particular machine has had Crunchbang installed on it several times over the last 2-3 months, for stability tests and Linux multi-boot (GRUB) experiments.  I must say, each and every time the installation was a success, and the speed of the Openbox environment (which are the main reasons I use Crunchbang on my other Linux Desktop PC) performs superbly.

There’s just something about this machine I guess.  With 1GB of Ram, and (seemingly) other hardware-related issues, Crunchbang fits right in with its low-resource footprint.  Based on your hardware, the age and condition of said hardware, some software is just going to work better than others.

This is why I love Linux. When faced with a challenge, try, try again until you find what you want in terms of customization, efficiency of use, and last but not (by a longshot) least —stability. I cannot emphasize this enough.

The next article will discuss SugarCRM, and why it’s awesome to have an extra PC around.

Cheers!

 

Linux Saves Older Computer

01.29.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  1 Comment »

I have an old computer. I say old although I don’t really know what “Old” means. It’s an E-machines T-5048 computer with a P4 Processor running at 3.06GHz with 2 Gig of Ram (the system’s maximum).

When I got the machine, it had Windows XP Media Center, and I got rid of that in favor of Linux. The machine’s sticker read “Vista Ready”. So the machine had hardware that can run Vista. Whoopee. The next question is, “Should I run Vista?”, and based on poor experiences with it on other machines. The answer is a short and quick “No. No Way. Not Now. Not Ever”.

With Linux, the machine ran just fine for years with several different flavors, notably Linux Mint, Crunchbang, and at the end of the summer 2011, Ubuntu. Ubuntu 11.04 ran fine on it, worked right out of the box, no hassles. Eventually, it was time to upgrade to Ubuntu 11.10.

Or was it?

I wanted to do a fresh install from CD. While using the GUI “Update your OS now with this click of a button and when it’s all done you’ll have the latest and greatest” button is nice and convenient, but I wanted a fresh start for better performance. Remember, it’s an old machine. So I downloaded and burned the .iso image for 11.10, installed it, and then…. on restart … no boot. At all. Machine hang on “Waiting for /dev to fully populate“.

Nice. Lovely. Exciting, boring, and scary all at once. I am so happy that I backed up of all my files before attempting the upgrade. Yes, do back up your stuff. Unexpected Boot failures are one of the reasons “why” a backup is so important.

So, being a Linux geek for several years, you learn to keep a toolbox full of rescue CDs, alternate OS downloads, and partitioning software as well.

Being a computer nerd, you learn to troubleshoot things in a way that hopefully make sense. You try to repeat the issue and where possible, isolate the cause of it. Anything “/dev” is usually a tell that somethings wrong with a “device” which is typically hardware-related.

So I checked to see if the CD-burner was bad. I donwloaded a USB version of the Ubuntu Live CD, and got same result, machine would not boot up. Ruled out the CD-rom at that point. Next, on to the hard drive. Bad hard drives don’t always let you know that they are going to fail. I swapped out the current drive with an older drive of the same architecture (ATA). Although it had less storage space, (20 Gig as opposed to 160) it was just perfect for troubleshooting. If I could repeat the same error with a different Hard Drive, then the problem isn’t the hard drive (that is unless both drives were bad for exactly the same reasons).

I then tried other modern Linux Distributions, installing their latest OS. Same problem, so at least that lets Ubuntu off the hook.

At that point, I kind of figured that another piece of hardware, that was probably not worth fixing, was broken or damaged to the point of “no boot up for you” status. If it’s not worth fixing well, the computer has got to go, right? I started shopping around for a good deal on a modern, fast PC with NO Operating System. Makes no sense to pay for the OS when you’re only going to wipe it out anyway in order to put Linux on it. Not interested in dual-booting for my main workstation. It’s Linux. Period. The best price I could find was an HP Machine (with Windows 7 Home Premium) for $300.00 –not a bad price mind you for a new system.

However, instead of immediately breaking out the credit card, I felt there was one last thing I thought I should test. That’s right. Since Linux gives you so many choices of Operating Systems, it was time to experiment in that domain.
Since I tried swapping out current hardware for old hardware to test, it was time to swap out current “software” for older software and then test again.

Knowing that Ubuntu’s normal release cycle is every 6 months, it did not make sense to reload 11.04 as it will (at some point via upgrade) request that I upgrade to the 3.0 kernel. I don’t think this machine can run that kernel. Something to do with ACPI. I’ve written on a few support forums asking why the machine won’t boot up with latest Linux kernels. There has been no “direct” answer, but after a lot of googling it seems that on machines that were able to run Ubuntu 11.04 with no issue, but can’t boot 11.10 claim it’s some sort of issue with ACPI, I figured perhaps that’s my problem as well.

So I would need an older Linux version, but one with longer term support. Enter Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS. Installed and booted this machine (yes, the one that I’m typing this post on right now) with no problems. Got the machine running quite fast as well, and it boots up in a reasonable amount of time too.
Until I find an easy way to make modern Linux run on this machine (and by that I mean the ability to boot up) I’m going to stick with 10.04 LTS until its support lifecycle concludes (April of 2013). By that time, I’d be running that software for more than a full year beyond the day when I thought I’d have to replace this machine. Nice. Linux saves the day, and saved me the cost of buying a new computer.

Cheers,
Adam

Ubuntu 10.10 on Macbook 6,2

03.12.11

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  1 Comment »

Hello all, I write this from the OS-X side of the dual-boot Macbook 6,2

For a few weeks now I’ve been trying out different distros to replace Crunchbang 9.04 as my Linux OS.

It has not gone as well as I would have liked.  I first tried Mint Debian and liked that the sound worked right away but there were a few things that I didn’t like about it (or at least the current state of it):

  • I could not get wifi right away.  This was annoying but solved with a cable.
  • It never seems up-to-date due to problems with the update manager (Mint mentions this, but I proceeded anyway).
  • I didn’t think it would crash “that much”.  I’ve been using Linux since 2003 and the last time I remember crashing an OS was when I tried to run Mandrake on a Compaq 7360 with an AMD K6.  That machine ran Ubuntu and even Fedora Core 4 (slowly yes, but without crashing).  I crashed Yellow Dog Linux several times on a Powermac 7300, but I digress. The point is, maybe I should not depend so heavily on Mint Debian right now.  And again, the good people at Mint do specify that things may happen in the way of stability.  That, i guess, is the downside of using a bleeding-edge distro.  Crashes will occur. Hats off to you Mint, it is a cool distro, but not for me right now.

The next distro that I tried was Crunchbang 10 or “Statler” as I have grown to adore the lightweight Openbox environment and since I ran Crunchbang 9.04 already on this machine, I was thinking “this was the one” for a few other good reasons:

  • It was a newer version of Crunchbang
  • It changed from being Ubuntu-based to Debian-based (Ubuntu-based is NOT a bad thing)
  • Historically-speaking (9.04) was very stable, even though the #! site mentions it might make the system go “Crunch Bang”

So I downloaded the iso, checked its MD5 sum, and burned the installer.  Had some kind of issue where it would not boot after the HD install (maybe the media was a bad CD? dunno.  Maybe I’ll try it again on a new cd).

Next, I was thinking of trying out a different, unknown flavor of Linux altogether: Archbang Linux, which is basically Arch Linux with an Openbox as its default environment.  The only issue, is that I was surprised to find a text-based installer.  I’ve used text-based installers before, but since this is a macbook, there’s a “gotcha” when it comes to installing the boot loader.  You need to install it on the same partition that holds your distro (and not the MBR). So if you do install it on MBR it’s a bit of work to get the system back to where it was before.

The Archbang partitioner just seemed clumsy to me, and I did not want to lose time by accidentally hosing the MBR or deleting any of the mac partitions, so I just bailed out on Archbang.  I can always use the LIVE CD part of it, but I don’t think it’ll help much because it was really the package manager difference that I was planning to learn my way around.

Thanks for reading all the pre-amble (or pre-ramble).

Even though ubuntu has a planned release next month, I needed an OS immediately, so I went with Ubuntu Maverick.  I was impressed right away. I have not used Ubuntu since 7.04 in favor of trying other distros, getting away from GNOME in favor of speed.  I did need to run a cable to get connected to the Internet, but I knew this “Up-Front” as the installer GUI requested that I connect, plug in the AC Charger, etc.

So, I’m happy with 10.10 and will use the onboard tools to upgrade to next version when it’s available.  The boot up time I think could be faster, and for some reason I get a blinking dash for 5-15 seconds before I get to the login prompt.  But I think that’s the worst of my issues for now. It hasn’t crashed at all.

Previously, any ubuntu-based distro needed tweaking to get the sound working on this macbook.  This time, with Ubuntu, it was as simple as running apt-get on the command line to install gnome-alsamixer and the sound was good-to-go!

Cheers, and happy Linux-ing.

Adam

Fix Wifi: Mint Debian on Macbook

02.25.11

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  4 Comments »

Hi all, welcome to my first (I think) post for the year 2011.

I have been planning to replace my Linux OS (Crunchbang 9.04) with a more “modern” OS for my Macbook 13.3 which dual-boots Snow Leopard 10.6 and Linux.  Of course the choices of distros are nearly limitless, but since my “free time to tinker” is not what it used to be, I chose to install the Linux Mint “Debian” Edition (as of this writing, it’s a few months old).

Why Debian from Mint?  That was easy.  Mint is a relatively stable product in general.  I have used it over the last few years with very little problems.  The “Debian” choice from Mint is a “rolling” distro.  The theory is, you install it, and the updates come to you.  Neat eh?

While there are advantages to refreshing your Linux OS once per yer (or so), as I mentioned, I like having a somewhat stable environment for those hours/days that I do have available to tinker.  Also, Crunchbang 9.04 is out of date, although I used it with much success.  They also do not plan to make it a rolling distribution.  A rolling distro would cement my vote.

If you’re reading this, you made it past the intro, (thank you) your patience will now pay off.

After installing Mint Debian 201012, wifi was not working.

Yep, this is a real headache.  Since a Macbook is a LAPTOP, you would think wireless connectivity would work out-of-the-box after installing the distro. HA!. Not so my friends…not so.  This happened to me when I tried out Mint 8 about a year ago, and since I didn’t have time to troubleshoot it back then, I immediately re-installed Crunchbang, who had support for the onboard Broadcom wireless hardware in my Macbook.

I was determined to make my rolling distro get wireless (wifi) connectivity.  I googled. Not much helpful info, other than to preload drivers to a USB.  I suppose this is helpful if you are not able to physically connect a cable to a router.

Get WIFI working on Mint Debian on a Macbook:

  1. Get an Ethernet cable after you have done the install.  Sorry to admit this, but nothing else seemed to work.  More on this in a bit.
  2. Once connected to the internet, use Synaptic and search for any applicable (or all) items matching the search “Broadcom” and either select them for upgrade (if they are marked) or select them for install.
  3. Use Synaptic to “apply” the changes to the system, thus installing (or updating) any Broadcom firmware for your Macbook under Linux.

Ok, I realize that the solution to this problem kinda defeats the purpose of WiFi in the first place.  Many of the blog posts from users experiencing a similar issue (no wifi after installing Linux on a Macbook) described the scenario and there seemed little in the way of resolution. It’s somewhat difficult (if not impossible) to update software if you cannot connect to the internet.  One blogger mentioned that he tethered his iPhone to get “an outside line”.

Since I had access to the router, and an ethernet cable, I figured “why not”.  I know it’s not the most “clever” solution, but I’m sure I’m not alone in deciding to just “GET R DONE” and use the cable to connect to internet and let Synaptic do what it needs to do.

The version I installed is ‘201012’, and there is an earlier version is available if you want to try it out and see if wifi works out of the box.  I don’t recommend it though, because (in general) a later version is better than an earlier version (bug fixes, security patches, etc.)

Best of luck out there. Linux Mint Debian is proving to be a great distro so far.  Openbox is a bit buggy, (wearing “crashy-pants” to coin a phrase) but I can live with that for now.