Archive: ‘Your Choice’

Good Linux Distro for Old Laptop

07.09.17

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

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.

Arch challenge and KaOS

03.04.15

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

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.

Cheers,
Adam

Robolinux is amazing

09.21.14

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

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.

LXQT Desktop Environment

07.24.14

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

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.

Bye Bye Buntu, hello Solyd

12.22.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

I’ve used Ubuntu for quite a long time now. I would say since 12.04 on my current laptop (Dell Inspiron 15z that I mentioned in another post. Yes, the one with Windows 8 and Secure-boot UEFI). Seemed to be the “good/easy” choice to get up and running with a dual-boot for this newfangled secure-boot BIOS since Ubuntu has “signed kernels” since 12.04 version. Setting this up, was not simple, yet not too complicated once I found advice on the net that actually worked.

After upgrading from 12.10 to 13.04, things simply were not the same. The machine would not boot in secure mode. No big deal, but after a while it makes one think… what changed? what’s different? and the next thought… do i really want to be forced to press and hold the F12 key each and every time I want to boot into Linux properly. The answer to that last part was an obvious ‘no’.

So, it was time for a change of distro. The criteria was kind of simple: Stable (well I think everyone wants stable..) and if possible, a rolling style release, so I wouldn’t have to worry about `upgrades in-place` doing silly things, or having to do fresh installs. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I prefer fresh installs, but also prefer it when the machine itself is easy-to-control. Which I would say is somewhere between the days of Fedora Core 2 (when I was learning Linux) and this new age of Secure-boot BIOS. I feel like this machine’s BIOS is not under my full control (A P.I.T.A if you ask me).

The Linux Action show podcast reviews Distros every now and then, and one week, they mentioned “SolydXK“. The review goes back a few months, so I had forgotten most of the review. It was a positive one, which made me consider trying it. I wanted a KDE environment (as recently) I’ve been using KDE, even in Ubuntu (google for the 3-5 commands it takes to migrate Ubuntu to Kubuntu) if you like Ubuntu but have grown a bit tired of Unity and older GNOME.

My choices came down to Kubuntu 13.10 and SolydK (the KDE version of Solyd). So far, I’m really liking Solydk. There are few weird things, such as flickering splash screen on boot – which occurs whether I have the USB external keyboard/mouse plugged in or not. Also, I’m liking that SolydXK is a rolling distribution. Given that Linux offers choice, I can always switch back if necessary to Kubuntu. But for now… Solyd is working really nice. Really responsive on this computer and gives a great KDE Desktop where stuff basically works as expected in other KDE-based distros.

Some other qualities of Solyd are that it was not derived, but “forked” i believe from Linux Mint (read more here), which I have used and is quite nice. So that puts in the ‘based-on-debian’ category of distros. Solyd is based on Debian testing and uses Synaptic Package Manager. Even though software stores/managers are all the rage these days, I still (from time to time) will use the GUI Synaptic or the more common apt-get install command at the terminal.

If you’re in a similar spot with a relatively new computer (2 yrs old or so) and want a good KDE experience (rolling release) you do (thank goodness) have many great choices. Some of you still reading might be screaming “Arch, Archlinux has all this!” and you’re correct, Arch is well-known for its rolling style. However, it’s not easy or quick to set up and I wanted to get going quick so I can try the distro out.

I recommend SolydK for KDE fans out there, (no shopping lens or other spying apps that send data – as far as I know). And I’m thinking of putting SolydX (the XFCE version) on a friend’s computer (right now the machine runs Puppy Linux from CD-rom).

More new software

11.29.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

With the upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10, I was looking forward to the better performance (which it “does have”) however what I failed to consider – was what things might “stop working” post-upgrade.

I should have paid more attention to the multiple questions during the upgrade process. Questions such as “do you want to keep existing file “fileName” or use new file. I didn’t consider the impact of the decisions. Nor do I remember them to be honest.

End result – system that previously dual-booted windows and linux now would not boot directly into linux. At all. I then proceeded to turn off Secure Boot in the BIOS and after quite a few tests, trial, and error I wound up being able to get into Linux by holding down F12 at every boot and then selecting UEFI OS. Not ideal to say the least.

Got so irritated, that I was “moments away” from dumping Ubuntu 13.10 in favor of Fedora 19. But before doing that, I first made a backup of files, and followed some easy steps to convert Ubuntu into Kubuntu. Wow, I had not used KDE in such a long time, and I must say that I’m impressed with it. For many years I didn’t use it, as it simply works better on newer machines with decent Ram and hardware. Since I now have a machine with decent specs, I figured “why not” try out KDE again.

I’m writhing this post in KDE as we speak, and it’s wonderful to have the choice of booting into Unity Ubuntu, Ubuntu Flashback, or KDE. I totally enjoy the customizing and how it “gets out of the way”. I put my favorite/most used applications icons in a vertical dock at the right-hand side of my screen and set the bottom panel to auto-hide. Konsole is an awesome terminal and starts immediately.

Still, I find it a nuisance to need to press and hold F12 each time and make a BIOS selection in order to boot the system. I may yet still scrap Ubuntu entirely and go with Fedora and make use of KDE from there. While I got used to Unity via Ubuntu, I can’t say I’m a big fan of it. But then again, that’s the awesomeness that is Linux. We usually always have a choice of what we want to use right out of the box, or customize/add/remove things to our heart’s content.

New Hardware, New Software

11.28.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Well, new is tough to define since computers and technology move so fast.

April 2013: I treated myself to a new laptop: an i7 machine (Dell inspiron 15z) and I’m happy with it. Great specs, such as 8GB of RAM, a touchscreen, and the “dual-drive” thing where one drive is a 5400 RPM in tandem with a 32GB SSD. So far, it’s got the best response time of any computer I’ve owned.

We’ve covered the hardware, on to the Software! The machine has Windows 8 & a UEFI Secure-boot BIOS. Yes, my fellow fans of Linux, I was “well aware of the challenge” of dual-booting that lay ahead. Still, I pressed on.

Information these days it’s available from many sources. For up-to-date Linux info, I trust Chris Fisher and Matt Hartley over at the Linux Action Show podcast and have been a listener for many years – a shout out to you, Brian Lunduke as well. Miss ya bud.

While listening to the podcast, they mentioned the emerging (at the time) technology of Secure Boot computers, and the potential impact it would have on us Linux users. I could have (and there are days that I wish I had) purchased a System76 laptop – however I did want to have “some access” to a late-model windows OS “just in case”. Chris and Matt informed me that Ubuntu and Fedora were (again, at the time) the only distros that would be compatible with the UEFI Secure Boot System.

A few of you still reading this post may be saying “Booooo, down with MS Windows…” – but I must say that having the real “Microsoft word” was critical for my job hunting. Open Office just isn’t there yet (sorry Apache), and Libre Office… disappointing as well. I needed (and used) the “real deal” – I don’t enjoy saying this, but there are just some MS Apps that are not directly replaceable (yet) in the Linux world.

I will say that getting Ubuntu to properly dual-boot was an arduous process. The good thing is that I did eventually get it working with the help of various software (such as EasyBCD for Windows, and Boot Repair Tool for Ubuntu). Things worked great for a long time. Then it was time for upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10, which I now sort-of regret. The upgrade broke a lot of stuff. Broke it to the point where I had to disable a lot of BIOS things just so I could hold down F12 key each and every time I boot.

I was livid, and have so much ire about this, that it deserves to be in it’s own blog post. Stay tuned – more to come.

Old Hardware, Old Software

06.27.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  1 Comment »

Hello all. Feels like it was only yesterday talking about this old Emachines T-5048 computer.  This machine has been through a lot. Many distros tried, several distros failed.

The good news is, that in the process I learned that Old Hardware is just not going to be treated fairly by new software/OS Releases. It’s a reality that I used to think only applied to MS Windows users.  You may remember the days when you wanted to run Windows 2000, but it just would not work right until you made “some” investment in new hardware.  Me, I was lucky. I only needed to purchase a new video card.

This computer has been running Crunchbang 10 for a few months now.  While the response time is really fast, (due to its light resource footprint) I had to heavily modify the grub bootloader to get it to properly boot.  Changes such as turning off ACPI and LAPIC.  I thought the only downside was that I’d have to manually press a button to turn off the machine.  Sadly, I think it goes beyond that.  Playing sound files or CDs  produces a poor experience.  Music would sometimes start and then stop, or stutter (don’t know which is worse) and I attribute this to hardware on the machine.

To know for sure. I installed an old (yet still supported LTS OS version). I first chose Kubuntu 10.04 LTS for two reasons.  First, it is old (below kernel 3). Secondly, it’s KDE4, which I’ve never tried.  I enjoyed the depth of possible customizations, but disliked the slow performance.  I need a responsive desktop, and this machine cannot run KDE properly.

My next (and current) choice was to try one of my favorite “other” distros – Linux Mint 9 XFCE Isadora (an LTS based on Ubuntu 10.04). I chose XFCE version of Mint since I ran a dual-boot Xubuntu with Windows XP on an old DELL Laptop.  Now that I’m dual-booting with 2 Linuxes, I think I will leave Mint XFCE on here, as it seems a great balance of speed and visual appeal. KDE looks better (visually) than XFCE, but again, performance and the ability to get the most out of this aging hardware are crucial to me. Also, in comparison to Crunchbang– Crunchbang is faster, but with XFCE the programs I install wind up in the application menu.  In Crunchbang you have to add just about every program you install in a manual fashion. There might be a tool out there that does this automagically, but I haven’t found it yet.

Edit; Found it. And boy do I feel dumb. I’ve been using Crunchbang Linux for years, and the answer was only a Forum-search away. To access all of your installed applications, follow the advice to show Debian Menu.

So far, music playback works great, and hey, I can also issue the shutdown command and walk away, knowing the machine will power itself off. Yay!

Ubuntu 12.04 on Macbook 6,2

05.20.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS edition installed great on this Macbook.  I chose the 32-bit edition as 32-bit was recommended from the Mint tutorial that I first used as a guide for dual-booting linux and MacOS.

I was running Ubuntu 11.04 on the machine, and was hesitant to try and upgrade it “in place” to Ubuntu 12 based on experiences with my Desktop PC. The Desktop PC I’m referring to is the E-machines T5048 as discussed in my other post “Linux saves older computer“.

Basically, I did not want to run into the same ACPI-related issues where Linux Kernel 3 would not be supported.  Also there was an apprehension towards the Unity desktop environment.  This is, mind you, after trying it out on Ubuntu 11.

I was able to install 12.04 using the CD-rom install.  All went great, no bootup issues at all. Whew, what a relief to not see the forever hanging “waiting for /dev to fully populate”.  And with that, I am now dual booting Mac OSX with Precise Pangolin.  And because it’s an LTS, I can leave it on there for a good long time.  As per wikipedia, “this [12.04] release will be supported for five years“.

Unity

When Ubuntu made Unity the default environment, I did not like it at all.  I found myself immediately searching Google for ways to get that GNOME 2 look and feel back.  I just didn’t like or understand why Unity changed a lot of keyboard shortcuts that I grew to enjoy using either.  But the general ease-of-use, along with large community (interwebs) support of Ubuntu makes it such a “go-to” Operating System.  Of course, this is going to vary from person to person.  Now that I’ve used it for a while, it’s not so bad.

I’ve found that with some patience, and the willingness to learn new things, I can actually function in this environment.  I chose the auto-hide feature of the Unity dock to save on screen real estate (13.3″ macbook).  Another reason I chose auto-hide is I quite love the ‘minimalist desktop appearance’ that Crunchbang (with Openbox) provide, so now I have an all-out Ubuntu long term release, with a lightweight look to it.  Lightweight in looks is fine, as this machine is (so far) keeping fine pace with the resource demands of Ubuntu 12.

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!