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.

Desktop Environments Distributions Installing Linux Linux Discussion Obtaining Linux Using Linux

Solyd is great but I had to switch back

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.

Obtaining Linux Using Linux

Save some money

Linux saves money by allowing reuse of an old computer.

Let’s say you have an old (PC-style) machine lying around, and you enjoy “tinkering” with computers.  You’d like to learn more about things such as partitioning, dual-booting, bash shell scripting, or hosting a local PHP-based websites with database connections. Having and old computer available lets you to do this without messing with your “main” computer.  Remember, if it’s PC-style, (Gateway, IBM, HP, or Dell) Mac OS-X cannot be used.  Why throw away a working machine just because the latest Microsoft Operating System won’t run on it? So what are some options?

  1. Purchase a licensed copy of Microsoft Windows (remember, old machines probably cannot run Vista or Windows 7).  If the machine is really old, it may not even be able to run Windows XP.  Even if it could run XP, do you really want to use an outdated or no-longer-supported OS?
  2. Obtain a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows.  I don’t condone this approach, but it happens.  Even though your experimental machine is old, it deserves a stable architecture.  Think about it.  Your OS should be fully-functional so you can perform updates & backups without worrying about crashes or losing your work.
  3. Download & burn a few Linux LIVE CDs.  Use that “main” computer for something awesome without erasing anything on the HD. Go to distrowatch, read some info, check out some screenshots.  If a distro appeals to you—then download and burn the .iso—the cost (monetarily) per Live-CD is one blank CD.  Let the LIVE CD attempt to detect all of the hardware (this is  important if it’s a laptop, as you’d want to ensure that the wifi is working).  It might be best to stick with the more “popular” distros at first.  Most distros are “based on” or “derivatives of” major Linux distributions such as Red Hat, Debian, and (more recently) Debian-Ubuntu.  “Debian-Ubuntu” means that Ubuntu is the base, and Ubuntu is based on the Debian distribution.
Obtaining Linux

Download a distro

Linux Operating systems or “distros” are available for download from a variety of sources.  When downloading a distro, I usually go to At other times I go to the project’s website; for example: Linux Mint, Crunchbang, and Ubuntu.

Why go to distrowatch?  It’s an easy name to type into a web browser.  It lets you search by distribution name and takes you to the “project page” for that distro—where you can get details about the distro—such as country of origin, which releases/editions are available, what software/applications are included, the default desktop manager, and more.

When your download is complete, you should verify your download before you burn the .iso file to a CD or DVD.  Verification is the process where you compare the md5 hash of your downloaded .iso with the expected md5 hash published at the website where you downloaded the .iso from.

There are a few ways to verify a .iso file.  In linux, issue the command md5sum [path-to-iso-file] and press ENTER.  For Mac OS-X, follow these instructions.  Lastly, in MS Windows, follow these instructions.

After verifying the download, burn the .iso to a CD/DVD.  Just make sure that you’re burning a “bootable iso image” (which is different than creating a data CD that includes the .iso file).  Most of the good burning software will have the option to “burn an image to disk”.

Obtaining Linux

Linux: you can try it

You can try Linux before changing anything on your Hard Drive. This is one of the reasons why Linux is so awesome.  This allowed me to try out Linux and I still use it today.  I still try out Linux with LIVE CDs.

Many people purchase computers from online or “in store” retailers.  At Best Buy you can get a Windows-based or Mac OS-X based PC.  Can you get a Linux-based PC?  Well, I didn’t see any in my local Best Buy.   I’m not trying to generalize about all Best Buy & I hope they don’t mind me using their name.  But I’m inclined to believe that Linux-based PCs make less profit than Mac or Windows-based machines.