Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Damm these Windows Promotions

Windows 7 promotions are the order of the day. Specially bad ones are the upgrade from Vista and thats making my life difficult.

A brief history, I have just convinced my wife to replace Windows Vista with Linux Mint on her Vaio. She is ok with it but has a few problems with hibernation and using her iPod Touch. Now she was upset with Vista as resource hog, so Mint was a breath of fresh air and easily accepted. However, from nowhere someone gave her a promotion code to buy Windows 7 upgrade and she did.

As windows 7 was bought without my knowlwdge, I have told her that I cannot offer tech support with it. Lets see how she does it on her own.
I'll post all my observations after 1 week of her trying and getting mad ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Mandriva to Mint

I have liked Mandriva since Mandrake Linux 9.1. Its been an amazing distribution ever since. Pure visual delight and ease of use. I like KDE for the look and feel, GNOME is mostly a no no for me. Mandriva being a KDE centric distro fits the bill perfectly. Mandriva is the default king of our two year old Family Desktop. We all loved the latest version and despite KDE being a little buggy, find it convenient to use.
I gave this info to emphasize that it was not easy for me to think about moving from Mandriva to any other distro, specially a GNOME centric Mint. Here goes the story :

My wife's vaio completed 1 year and ran out of official warranty. Hence she allowed me to dual boot it with Mandriva and Vista. She was already comfortable with Mandriva, so it was supposed to be a smooth move. The problem started right after the first install.

  1. The boot was fast but DKE would come up with plenty fo Akonadi errors. We tried searching for solution, but nothing on net/forums. As this was not causing any usage error so this was low priority.
  2. Keyboard would hang. Yeah, while working all of a sudden keyboard would stop responding. We had to kill X-Server and restart for keyboard to be functional again. This was a big issue and evry frustrating.
  3. The webcam worked with r5u870 drivers, but the inbuilt mic would not agree to work. Now I am using Linux since 5 years and am fairly conversant with Mandriva. Still I could not make it work.
  4. Hibernation sucks. This is the first time I tried Mandriva on Laptop and I must say hibernation is great even in Vista. When I simply close the lid, the system does not go into hybernation. Though this was resolved quickly with some tips from Ubuntu forums, but it should work by default. More troubling is that comming up from hybernation is nto guranteed. Yuck !!! Strange but true. Many times even after clicking hibernate ( and not merely closing lid) the system would not resume. I would see some activity in battery and hard disk lights and some flicker on screen, but thats all. Even command line would not come up. CTRL+ ALT+ BKSP also does not work. My wife was so used to of closing the lid in Vista that she said its better to use Vista itself.
  5. Plasma would crash and cause the X-Server to restart. Now I have seen plasma crashes in Desktop, but restarting X-Server means loosing all the unsaved work. This was unacceptable.

I wanted to stick to Linux, but Mandriva was causing lots of issues. We started looking for more options. My first choice was Arch Linux, which I use on my main desktop, however, my wife wanted something easy to administer with all GUI controls. We went to distrowathc and started looking at distributions as per Page hit ranks. She kind of liked Ubuntu looks, but was floored by Mint screenshots. She said this amazing and she would be happy to use it. Actually despite being a GNOME Desktop Mint 8 looks evry good. Also, due to known Plasma crashes, we were ok to try GNOME.

Now Mint is a pure delight once it boots, the LIVE CD takes a huge time to boot. The looks were as impressive as in the screenshots and operation evry smooth. The webcam mic worked in the LVIE CD itself and even after 24 hours of use there was no crash/ hang. Satisfied with LIVE D test, we went ahead with the install. Here are my thoughts :

  1. All regular hardware works out of box. Things like Wireless, Bluetooth and USB Scanner/Printer require no config at all. Webcam worked fine with r5u870 drivers and Mic was functional with little tweaking.
  2. Despite being GNOME, it looks and feels like KDE and hardly any difference while working.
  3. Huge list of applications in repos, though I would use only a couple which are readily availble in alomst all distros. Package management is a breeze through Synaptic.
  4. Skype download page has a version for Ubuntu and it works perfectly with Mint.
  5. All media formats work out of Box. Youtube, flash, mp3 you name it and it works in Mint.
  6. System config is centralized. Now this is one of the best feature in Mandriva, I was relieved to finid similar one in Mint. Though I must say Mandriav is much more exhaustive and refined.
  7. Hibernation works with little tweaking, though I must say VISTA still outclasses it by leaps and bounds.
  8. Stablity. No crashes even in LIVE CD mode. Installed version looks more promissing.
  9. Speed. I can bet tha Mandriva is anyday faster. Right from bootup to application open time, Mandriva is much faster. However, Mint is not very slow as compared. Though I can feel the slowness, it is not a Black Mark. I will not use this on my main system, which is accustomed to speeds offered by Arch Linux.
  10. Look and Feel. The more you say the less it is. In its default form it just impressed us too much. Compiz bring more eye candy. The transparent Titlebar, translucent windows when dragging, the inactive windows all make you feel wow. I think the implementation is as good as Win 7.

Conclusion :

Mint is not just one of the best looking distribution I have come across, its also one of the most easier to use. 90% of things work out of box and for the remaining there is Mint and Ubuntu Forums ;). Its an eye candy, which is eaqually easy to administer and at the same time very stable. Long time KDE users like me would be at ease with Mint's GNOME implementation.

Its a distribution which I can easily give to my Windows friends to try and be assured that they will atleast use it often as a LIVE CD if not install it on hard disk. The menu and options are evry intutive to a Windows Guy and would make the transition easy. The GUI is as good looking as Win 7 and would appeal to all.

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. Even Mint has some issues. If the devs can improve the speed and make hibernation less painfull, Mint has all the possibilities to become the default option for Home users.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The future of package manager.

I truly believe that dpkg ( Debian/Ubuntu) and rpm ( Red Hat/OpenSUSE/PCLinuxOS) are all dated package managers which have not evolved enough with time. Not to undermine any of the two -- they have been performing well since ages and have given us some excellent distributions.
However, like everything, technology also ages; enters the newer breed like emerge(gentoo/Sabayon), pacman (Arch/Frugalware), PBI(PC-BSD) and conary(Foresight/r-path).

Unfortunately Gentoo development team has gone crazy and are busy in doing everything but development. Check out a small review of the other three by lazytechguy.

Of the three mentioned Conary seems to be the most technically advanced. I came across an interview with the developer of Foresight Linux and was impressed by the description of Conary by the dev. Check out some of the fine points.

  1. Foresight Linux seems to have an interesting release cycle, can you explain it in-depth?
    - Our package manager, Conary, follows many of the principles found in version control systems. Not only does it maintain the source of our packages in the same place as the binaries created, but there are branches. So we have development, QA, and release branches. We are able to do our development on the development branch, without affecting our users. We then promote packages to our QA branch, and test them as a group. The entire operating system is defined in a group, and the packages are built together for optimal compatibility. We test the group of packages together, as a whole, when the QA cycle is complete the entire group is promoted to the release label for user consumption.
    NOTE: Foresight is the first distribution to make a release immediately after a GNOME release.
  2. When did you come to realize that Foresight Linux was needed?
    - Well mostly frustration with existing distros. At the time I was working for a large enterprise where we managed a very large scale linux infrastructure. We struggled with maintenance and deployment issues, as well as the “we have to customize red hat mentality”. I always hated rpm spec files, and hated that our environment was never easily reproducable. Using Conary, I was able to very quickly build a distro that was made up of what I defined as of proper desktop OS using the latest GNOME.
    NOTE: Foresight follows a rolling release so we need not wait for 6 months to get a new package as in Ubuntu or one year in case of Red Hat
  3. How does Conary differ to other popular package management systems (such as dkpg, Portage, and Yum) and why is it a better method of doing things?
    - Whew… where to start :) Conary does so much more than legacy packaging systems such as apt(dpkg) and yum(rpm). Conary melds version control concepts into package management. Not only on the build/packaging side of things, but even for system maintenance. Conary stores sources with the binaries, in the same package, supports branching, merging, etc. On the flip side of that, Conary does some other very nice things. For example, every operation is a transaction. So you can actually rollback your last update or even all the way back to when the system was installed. And, these rollbacks contain local changes that get merged. Also being transactional, Conary breaks updates into smaller “jobs”. These jobs are dep complete, so if at anytime an update fails Conary will rollback to the previous job leaving your system dep complete and fully functional. Conary also breaks packages down into manageable components, :runtime, :lib, :devel, :devellib, :doc, etc. So unlike other packaging systems, where you might have 2 packages, firefox and firefox-devel, Conary would have one package with the devel headers split into firefox:devel. This is a great thing, you no longer end up installing -devel packages from random repos in your sources.list just because it looks like a newer version. The devel headers are just part of the same package, you just don’t have to have them installed. These components combined with rich dependancy information really shines.
    NOTE: This means that even if we subscribe to dev repository we will be shielded from a development version of an application.
All the above statements( except for my comments in form of NOTE) are copied verbatim from fscking.com.
Enjoy the full article there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

ATI/NVIDIA Driver install in PCLInuxOS 2008

PCLinuxOS 2008 Minime is a boon for so-called advanced users, who like to keep their system free of flab.
It comes with a minimal set of applications and an amazing artwork.
This ultra small release also comes with a few good utilities including an easy setup for ATI/NVIDIA drivers.
Check out the images below and see for yourself how easy is it to install NVIDIA driver.

The Utilities Folder

The Video Installation Tool

Click the NVIDIA Tab

Click the "Install Driver" Button
Install Driver

NVIDIA Driver installation in Progress

At the End, the installer gives an option to restart X Server ( I missed taking a screenshot of that), and on X restart, the correct NVIDIA drivers are installed and used. I think PCLinuxOS 2008 has made ATI/NVIDIA drivers install very easy, however it is still not as easy as the Restricted Drivers Manager of Ubuntu, which not only correctly auto-detects the driver for the card but also gives a pop-up to install it, making the user aware that there is a better driver for his hardware.
Nevertheless, this is a very good attempt by PCLOS devs.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to install KDE 4.0 in OpenSUSE 10.3 - 1-Click install

I saw this excellent tutorial on ubuntu-tutorials about steps to install KDE4.0 in ubuntu. Its easy, actually fairly easy.
However, it involves use of command line, vim and warns to remove any previous installation of KDE 4.0.
Basically the steps are
  1. Remove any previous KDe 4.0 install

    sudo aptitude remove kdelibs5 kde4base-data kde4libs-data

  2. edit the /etc/apt/sources.list

    sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list

    and append this line

    deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/kubuntu-members-kde4/ubuntu gutsy main
  3. Finally install the KDE 4.0 packages by these two commands

    sudo aptitude update
    sudo aptitude install kde4-core

so a total of 3 steps involving command line.
Hey why am I mentioning command line this often ? This is Linux and command line is an integral part of it, specially for installing packages ;right ?
Well !! its partially right, true that command line is integral to Linux, however, for trivial tasks like installing KDE 4.0 its not required, provided the distribution you choose is OpenSUSE 10.3.

Lets check the OpenSUSE KDE4 webpage for the steps required to install KDE 4.0.
Bingo !! OpenSUSE guys have integrated KDE4 install with their famed 1-Click install service and now KDE4 could be installed just by clicking this single icon .

Just a minute, what about any previous installation of KDE 4.0. Intrestingly, you are lucky if you already have a KDE4 version installed, as all you need to do is open YAST GUI and update all pacakges. All the KDE4 packages will be updated to the latest version.
OpenSUSE has truly eliminated command line from KDE4 install and I love mouse clicks.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

KDE4 System Settings

In KDE4 they have changed the KControlCenter and named it System Settings.
I found it to be easy to navigate and very intuitive. Lets start the visual review.
The start page looks very similar to KControl of KDE3.

Lets start with Look and Feel section.
  1. Appearance :: Configure Theme, Colors, Style

  2. Desktop: Configure Cool desktop Effects and Screen Saver

  3. Notification : System Notifications and Bell

  4. Splash Screen

  5. Window Behavior : Titlebar Actions, Windows Actions, Focus, Moving Actions etc.

Second Section is the personal Settings
  1. About Me. Configure user details

  2. Accessibility. Improve accessibility for differently abled people

  3. Default Application

  4. Regional and Language Settings

Going over to Network and Connectivity Section
  1. Network Settings: Set Connection preferences, proxy etc.

  2. Setting for Samba Client (Not Server) Windows Share

KDE4 System Setting also provide some Computer Administration settings
  1. Date & Time

  2. Display Settings

  3. Font Installer

  4. Joystick configuration

  5. Keyboard & Mouse Settings

  6. Sound Settings

These are normal settings. The Settings manager considers some more settings are part of Advanced Settings

  1. File Associations

  2. Input Actions

  3. KDE Resources

  4. KDE Wallet

  5. Service Manager

  6. Session Manager

  7. Solid Configuration

  8. Samba Configuration. I do not have Samba installed so got this message
All in all, I can say that KDE4 System Settings provide and exhaustive interface for almost full system settings.
I liked the new and crisp interface, please do share with me how you liked this screenshot tour.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

KDE 4.0 Final packages released.

I have installed KDE 4 on OpenSUSE 10.3, you may read the detail in my previous Article. Today morning, I fired up YAST and found that there was an update available. The KDE4 packages now have version 4.0.X instead of the previous 3.97.X. If its available in YAST that means that KDE team has released the KDE 4.0 final source and OpenSUSE team is quick enough to package them.

I found the package kdebase4 having a version number 4.0-1.3 against the previous 3.97.2-4.5. Same goes for most of KDE 4 packages.
Now I am here in India and its already January 11, 2008, however, in NewYork it will still take more than 4 hours before the clock ticks 0:00.
A strange thing I noticed is that the following KDE PIM packages are marked to be deleted. ::
  1. libkdepim4
  2. libakonadi1
  3. kdepim4
  4. kdepim4-wizards
  5. kde4-korn
  6. kde4-korganizer
  7. kde4-knotes
  8. kde4-knode
  9. kde4-kmail
  10. kde4-kaddressbook
  11. kde4-kakregator and
  12. akonadi.
At the same time "oxygen icon theme scalable" package was marked to be installed.
Looks like the KDE4 PIM is still not stable so KDE devs have removed them from the official release.
I had to come to office so could not install and check the packages, surely this will be the first thing to do when I get back home.

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