Archive: ‘Using Linux’

Ubuntu Mate ROCKS

02.01.16

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

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.

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.

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.

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.

Burning Music CD Backup is not simple

07.12.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Recently, I needed to backup a Music CD with my Linux OS.  Sadly, this was not simple.  This post discusses using Linux to back up a music cd. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t intend to promote or sell my backups.  Yes, I am aware that

  • On Mac and Windows, music cd backup woes aren’t worth discussing since easily-obtainable programs exist
  • This is an area of computer use that can raise eyebrows

Why backup our music CDs?

Safekeeping in a familiar location; your personal computer

If I backed up my Led Zeppelin CD “In Through the Out Door”, then I wouldn’t be upset about it (it’s missing). Of course, music CDs are not as expensive as they were before the days of digital purchase, digital download, and youtube, but it’s the principal of it.

Easily encode & transfer music for different formats & players

For example, you make a digital backup of “In Through the Out Door”. Your wife wants to listen to it on her iPad in high quality audio format.  Your nephew would also like to listen to it, but has limited audio file type support and less storage space on his iPod Touch.  With a full digital backup of the cd, you can easily encode the songs to satisfy both requirements without having to take the original music cd out of its case multiple times.

You covered “why”, ? “how”

I will first give citation to the source of the solution that worked for me. See the first post from user noz in How to dump an Audio CD to ISO from the freebsd forums for the instructions. I found a “gotcha” (possibly) overlooked in the “Playing it” section;  Note: Playing the BIN without conversion will give you an earful of static.  This is notable, it also applies to the burn process.  You want to burn the converted (not original) bin file.  I got this wrong the first time. To avoid the mistake the 2nd time, I did the following:

  • Kept the file names the same for both original and converted bin files.
  • Used sed to replace the source (in TOC) to the converted bin file. Sed was quicker than a GUI text editor to accomplish same [find/replace] task.

For example, if your original bin = in-out-door.bin, converted bin = in-out-door-converted.bin, and TOC file is in-out-door.toc

sed -i -e ‘s/in-out-door.bin/in-out-door-converted.bin/’ in-out-door.toc

You might prefer to rename the .bin files and leave the toc as-is. It’s up to you.

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!

Untar Several Files to a directory

09.10.11

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Today we’re going to talk about the UNIX tar command.

Specifically, how to use tar to extract or unpack several archives (tar.gz files).  Only – instead of extracting them to the same directory, we’re going to extract them to a named directory.

This utility came in handy after downloading close to 10 gkrellm themes from http://www.muhri.net . I have used the Gkrellm Monitoring tool over the years and was always disappointed with the (somewhat) `boring` stock themes.  I mean, if you’re going to have something sitting on your desktop, using resources to report on resources, then why not have it look slick, sick, or at the very least—”easy on the eyes”… right?

Why would anyone want to unpack tar.gz files with the command line in Linux when there are GUI tools available?

Right, the linux OS comes packed with tons of GUIs to handle files and archives.  We have programs such as FileRoller.  I have used it but imagine you have downloaded (oh I don’t know, twelve) archives that are themes for gkrellm.  Would you really want to use the manual effort of unpacking all of them first, directing the GUI (with more clicks) where to save the extracted files to?

What if I told you that you can accomplish the same in the Linux Shell with a basic loop over a set of tar.gz files?  You’d probably want to take the quick way I bet.  I know I did.

Ok, get on to it already.  Right. Here we go.  Firstly, I’d be a bad dude if I didn’t at least name some links that I googled along the way to building the handy-dandy loop I’m about to share with ye.  http://lejalgenes.com/ very simple layout, 2 commands that do the trick.  And http://www.linuxquestions.org/ which has the command, and provides advice too.

Using the basic concept of the command, which unpacks a tar.gz to a named directory:

tar -zxvf tarball.tar.gz -C <directory>

Then, using a loop construct, where the find command provides a list of tar.gz files, we iterate over the list, unpacking each one to the specified directory following the -C.

The setup:

  1. Have all of your (downloaded) tar.gz files in the same directory.  You may want to get rid of archives that are unrelated to gkrellm themes.
  2. CD to that directory.  We will extract to the .gkrellm2/themes.
for fyl in $(find . -type f -name "*gz");\
do tar -zxvf $fyl -C /home/awsmeadam/.gkrellm2/themes; done

And that’s it.  Done.  Did you download more tar.gz themes?  Ok, run the command again.

If I run the command again, the previously-unpacked files will get over-written, won’t they?

Yes, they will.  In most cases, this is bad.  But since this is a theme unpack, you really have little to worry about unless you’ve edited or otherwise customized a theme.

Enjoy, and happy Linux-ing.

 

 

 

Linux and MS Word Documents

04.18.10

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  2 Comments »

I’m going to discuss something that’s a tad awkward.

It’s a call to improve on the Office Suite software available for Linux.  Is this really something worth writing about? It is, and I’ll tell you why.  After nearly 3 years at the same job, I find myself in a position shared by many—seeking work in a struggling economy.

The first thing I did was find a recent electronic copy of my resume.  Good news!  The most recent version just needed a little touching up.  Since I don’t own Microsoft Office software, updating an MS Word doc should be simple using Open Office dot org, yes?? Supposedly Open Office does the job for Word Documents.  Well, in my case…No.  Abysmally, failingly, No. Broke almost all formatting of the original document.  Caused me two to three times the work just to get it back to a ‘normal-looking’ state.  Mind you my resume was not heavily formatted to begin with.

But what about the FONTS?

Yes, fonts are a big deal when saving the document.  For resumes, it’s important to use a highly-readable font and keep the font size nice as well.  Chances are the resume will be scanned (for keywords) and also printed, faxed, and emailed to users of various Operating Systems.  Keeping the font as generic as possible will help.  Using exotic fonts that only come with Mac will not.  To make my text documents play nice, I installed the msttcorefonts (Microsoft TrueType Core Fonts) package.  This package will let you use fonts commonly found on the MS Windows Platform.

Ok, so is Open Office a total waste?

No, it is not.  I happen to like the Spreadsheet implementation.  For basic spreadsheets, it works great.  I have not tried to edit any MS Excel sheets with embedded macros (yet).  This is (from what I’ve heard) is the tricky part where Open Office has to do a lot of extra work to try and match all the macro languages and formulas—and on that—I’ll give them some leeway.

Your resume broke in OO.org; Can’t you use another app?

Usually, the answer to this question (when put to a Linux user) is yes.  With open source linux there are usually a plethora of substitutes available to try out.  However, when it comes to professional documents, it “just has to work” as the cliche goes.  I tried some text document office-suite alternatives.  First I tried Abiword.  Abiword also broke the formatting and made it’s own arbitrary decisions on font rendering, even though I had the correct MSTTCOREFONT installed (in this case, “Times New Roman”).  So, with the correct Font installed, it didn’t matter.  Document got very messed up.  Other alternatives include purchasing a licensed CD of MS Office and to make it work in Linux, Crossover Office (by Codeweavers), which I would consider purchasing.  MS Office (however) is not high on my list of things to buy.

Abiword is not a bad program.  I’ve written college term papers with it.  This was a start-to-finish document saved as *.doc as opposed to a document created in MS Windows.  I would just like to see Linux have the ability to inter-operate with .doc files that have a table as part of their layout.  I’ve used and recommended Open Office both on the Linux and the MS Windows platform and it usually works great.  Maybe I expected too much out of it?  Maybe tables in an MS Word Doc are not consistently imported into Open Office.

Although I like the idea of the Open Document Format, it’s not something I can count on for across-the-board compatibility with the business world.  This is critical.  If an employer can’t open your resume because it’s in .odt format and their version of MS Word is earlier than 2007, they will simply discard your resume.  They will not bother to read a file they can’t open.  It’s also possible that the .odt file format will make someone (not in the know) uneasy.  They are expecting a .doc file, so to keep yourself “in the game” it’s probably best to send them a .doc file for a resume.

Summary: how can we overcome these limitations?

Use whichever word processor program you want to (as long as it can save as MS Word format *doc).  Send your document to a friend or family member that has the “real” Microsoft Word on their computer and let them open, view, and print your document.  If it looks good, and prints as you expect, then you’re all set.  If not, then try another program or possibly take some time to reformat your document.

What did I wind up doing?

My final solution was to create the resume in iWorks for MAC (as I now use a macbook dual-booted with Linux).  Even if you’re writing your resume on MAC, remember fonts.  The Times New Roman font is recommended as the “generic” font most widely used for this purpose.  Do you have to use it?  No, you don’t.  Just remember the person receiving your resume will need to have the font on his/her computer or else your resume runs the risk of breaking while they see it or print it.  Not a good idea.  Resumes are typically given very little attention to start with as they are quickly scanned.  If a resumeI know Linux users typically do not lean towards conformity, but this is one time when it will work to your advantage.

For the Linux side of the computer, I rebuilt the resume, not relying on tables for formatting in cases where you want to “right-align” dates on the job.  This I felt was a safer “universal approach” and this version became my “default” resume version for better performance on as many platforms as possible.

I put the dates on their own line and right-aligned that line. But again, I was trying to get this done in short time to aid in job-hunting.  What works for you may be something altogether different.  Good Luck