Archive: ‘Linux Discussion’

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

Solyd is great but I had to switch back

02.25.14

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  3 Comments »

What does this mean? Well, it means that for a good run I was able to use Solydk, the KDE version of the SolydXK Linux Distribution. I recently had to replace Solydk with another distro because I ran into issues with my Dell Inspiron 15z, which is UEFI, Secure Boot with Windows 8 Pre-installed.

I do regret purchasing a Windows-based machine thinking it would be easy to dual-boot with Windows and Linux. More specifically, a non-BIOS machine anyway. It’s been blogged about countless times, that it’s just downright painful to get Linux and Windows 8 (with UEFI) to play nicely and dual-boot without issue. In retrospect, a System76 laptop with a Windows 8 VM would have probably been a better choice.

Here’s what I learned before I first switched to Solydk. That (on this machine so far) Ubuntu and its derivatives (for that matter) will install (in general) without major issues. But I discovered soon after that the Ubuntu Boot Repair CD becomes your best friend soon after. And of course, tutorial sites such as How To Geek come in handy as well. Here is a tutorial which may help with boot repairs. Even though Ubuntu has gone to the trouble of getting their kernels signed and approved by MS, there are still some minor post-install issues where you have to jump through a few hoops to have a reliable dual-boot system.

Then I switched to Solydk, as I recently became a big fan of not only the KDE, but the concept of installing a rolling release – install once, update as necessary. Sadly, because Solydk installed GRUB to the MBR, (my bad choice) I was unable to boot into Windows 8. Thus my machine became a single-boot laptop. It wasn’t bad for a while – but then you reach a point where you need to get at that Windows 8 OS to do something. And it won’t boot.

I reached for the Boot Repair CD, which has a feature to restore the MBR. That part of it worked great, as I was finally able to get to Windows. The bad news was I could no longer get to Solydk. Tried many different things and of course got some really supportive help over at the SolydXK Forums. But did not have any luck in getting the machine back to dual-boot capability.

At that point, it was time to choose a distro that would dual-boot properly and play nice with Windows 8 and all the UEFI/Secure Boot nonsense installed on this computer. I considered Fedora 20, but I could not get my head around the errors I was encountering on the manual partitioning page. I’ve been using Debian derivatives for so long, that I kind of got used to the way they do things. The Fedora partitioner was the deal-breaker for me. Maybe someday I’ll get it working via experimentation in a virtual machine.

The other viable candidate was Kubuntu, so I installed the current latest version (13.10) and had a lot of issues with the well-known “black screen on boot from grub” issue. This occurred whether the Live DVD booted in EFI mode or Legacy mode. It simply didn’t matter. I followed many blog posts that advised adding grub parameters `nomodeset` and `acpi_osi=Linux`, and `acpi_backlight=vendor`. None of these parameter add-ons fixed the issue. So it was time to make a judgment call. Fix the 13.10, or do something else. With April only days away, I decided to move forward toward the long-term support release of version 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” but since it’s not yet officially released, I downloaded and installed the Alpha2 version.

Kubuntu 14.04 Alpha2 installed nicely (the Live DVD booted just fine with the computer in UEFI mode), and the install process did not wipe out the MBR. However it did do some kind of monkey business as I was unable to boot into Windows. Once again, the boot repair DVD to the rescue. I was able to properly purge and reinstall GRUB and of course repair the MBR. After that, I am able to dual-boot Windows 8 and Kubuntu 14.04 with no black screen issue.

I’m seeing two somewhat interesting and strange items, but I can live with them both. One of them is that the grub menu theme is missing a character to the point where my grub boot screen is using “? in a box” as its border character. Also I have the Yakuake terminal set to autostart, where under normal conditions it stays hidden until you press F12 key. Currently, the terminal drops down once the desktop has fully loaded into a usable state. Again these are minor things that are possibly the result of rocking an Alpha2 (Pre-release) version of the OS.

In summary, it’s back to Kubuntu for now, but I can see myself reinstalling Solydk at a later time. Preferably when they implement support or handling of EFI and allow the boot loader to not be put onto the MBR. The SolydXK team is working on it, so hopefully they’ll release this feature soon.

Thanks for reading.

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).

Linux Action Show Podcast

03.16.10

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Linux Action Show – a Linux-based podcast

Hello all.  Today I’m going to use my blog space to promote one of my favorite Linux podcasts, known as “The Linux Action Show”.  Hosted by 2 righteous and knowledgeable dudes named Brian and Chris.  Their episodes are available as audio and Video files in numerous formats at www.jupiterbroadcasting.com.  I find it to be a great resource to learn what IT Industry professionals have to say about Linux.

They abbreviate their show as “LAS” (for Linux Action Show).  The show itself, (in my opinion) is a discussion based show “about” linux, its uses and usefulness in the real world.  The show also discusses compatibility, technical issues, reviews of various Linux distributions, and comparisons to features found in other operating systems.

Here is the LAS OGG audio feed, and the LAS MP3 feed.  While you can get to the files in a variety of ways, the RSS links above are a quick and easy way to get a quick synopsis of each show before you download.  You can also subscribe to lots of other Jupiter Broadcasting shows using the iTunes Subscription button.  One of my favorite non-technical podcasts from Jupiter is called Radio Revolver.  It’s a collection of old-time radio broadcasts.

Enjoy, and remember, Linux has a learning curve.  But then again, so does anything worthwhile.