Ubuntu Update

November 9, 2009

First things first, I made a hideous mistake in my last post.  The dexconf command is supposed to generate xorg.conf.  It didn’t for me, by the way.  I had to create the xorg file manually.

I also added my printer, and modified my boot settings.

There is no menu.lst in this version of Ubuntu.  I edited /etc/default/grub, and then ran sudo update-grub, which generates /boot/grub/grub.cfg.

I will be looking at migrating my Firefox profile to Linux, as well as installing some useful software.

So far I can’t say that I’ve been ‘burned’ by Karmic Koala.  I was puzzled by the grub and xorg issues, but have worked around them, and will proceed.


Back in the Harness

November 4, 2009

After a too-long hiatus (I’ve been a bad boy, I know),  mostly trying some distros without success, I downloaded Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala, alt cd image.

I just installed it, in about an hour.  I’ll still have to modify my xorg, add my printer, modify grub preferences, and install some packages.

I had previously tried installing Mepis, which went ok, but then I couldn’t run it.  I also had problems with Debian.

I’m still quite happy with Puppy Linux.

Now I can hack around with 9.10 and explore.  A couple of things I can’t find are xorg.conf, which I can create with the debconf command, and menu.lst.  The first file controls monitor settings, including resolution, and the second grub settings, including which OS is the default.

Now that I have a working linux, I should be more conscientious about updating my page.

Linux Working Again

July 6, 2009

I’ve gotten Sabayon Linux working on my PC, with Windows as the first partition.  Sabayon is based on Gentoo, so I have a learning curve, regarding package updating.  Sabayon and Gentoo use portage, a combination of Python and Bash scripts, which downloads packages and compiles source.  The upside is that packages are optimized for your machine, the downside that installs can take a long time, especially for large packages, like Open Office.

Again I used Puppy Linux to edit my xorg.conf.  Puppy is definitely a must for anyone wanting a live Linux CD, and the capability to work on Linux partitions, or copy files from unresponsive Windows partitions.

I will be posting more as I learn the workings of the Gentoo package manager, and gain an idea of how long installs take.

Repairing Linux

July 5, 2009

After installing an old Sabayon Linux, I found myself unable to log in due to the X server not starting.  I decided to see if I could look at /etc/X11/xorg.conf, the X configuration file with a live Linux distro.  I tried knoppix 5.1.1 on CD, and the latest Puppy.  I was able to edit xorg.conf and /boot/grub/menu.lst with both distros, but with knoppix I have to use sudo vi …, as root permission is required, and Puppy has that automatically.  With Puppy, you just mount the drive, a desktop command, that shows the partitions, including partition type, i.e. NTFS or ext3, etc.  You can then open the file with a text editor.

In this case, I had to adjust HorizSync and VertRefresh in the Monitor section.  Once I got that fixed, it started fine.

I have to go back and check my username and password, but I know that Puppy is definitely the easiest distro to use if you need to fiddle with config files in a Linux partition that isn’t starting up.  Puppy is easy to start up, and all the defaults were correct.

Firefox 3.5

July 2, 2009

I downloaded and installed Firefox 3.5 earlier today, and it’s running quite nicely.  It seems to be noticeably faster than the previous release.  Also, I am finally able to export bookmarks in a html format, and I was able to delete one bookmark, which somehow was unreadable and which I couldn’t delete.

At the moment, I have been having a hell of a time trying to install Linux on my PC.  Debian and Ubuntu have crashed partway through installing software, or been unable to install GRUB, which is even worse.

I want to keep my Windows partition, as I have one machine of half-decent speed/memory/space.  I have been able to install only one Linux distro, an old copy of Sabayon Linux.  Unfortunately, it can’t display the login or desktop.  I have to see if I can’t edit the xorg.conf, and menu.lst so that Windows will boot by default, until I get Linux running.

I have to see if there is something wrong with my partition.  I’ve been looking at testdisk within knoppix.  I’m hoping there’s nothing physically wrong with my PC.  If this is another learning opportunity, it’s taking a while for the lesson to sink in!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

June 11, 2009

Well, I tried re-installing Xubuntu, choosing Canada as my country, to see if my problem with java certificates was fixed, and got a problem on the select and install stage.  I tried Debian, and got another failure.

This left me with a dual boot PC which wouldn’t boot Windows OR Linux.  I finally got out an old Sabayon CD, a Gentoo-based distribution, and managed to install that.  The problem is, instead of getting a GRUB menu with the option of selecting which OS to boot, it starts up in the GRUB command-interface.  Thankfully, I had printed out my GRUB menu.lst, and was able to enter the following commands to start Windows:

root (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

root with no parameters shows which partition is active, makeactive makes the partition referenced by root active.  chainloader boots the loader of another OS, in this case windows, and boot starts it up.

So even with a wonky menu.lst I was able to start windows at least.  I have burned debian-xfce +lxde on a CD-R, and will try installing it, probably on Sunday.

Learn From Your Mistakes

May 18, 2009

Mistakes or errors can be a good thing, IF you make the effort to learn from them.  I tried addressing two problems with my Xubuntu install today.  One was resolved successfully, and I learned something new (bonus!), one I still have to work on some more.

First my screen resolution was stuck at 800×600, no surprise there, as I need to use a proprietary driver (SiS).  I entered the following command:

sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf

and, found to my surprise an empty file.  A bit of googling found the command dexconf, which will generate an /etc/X11/xorg.conf.  I then edited that to my satisfaction.  End result – I got my desired resolution, learned how to generate an xorg.conf, and found the following link:

The X Server Configuration HOWTO –http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/xorg-config.xml

By default, dexconf will write to /etc/X11/xorg.conf, the -o option allows you to specify another output file.

The other problem, which I have yet to resolve, is trying to update two packages – ca-certificates-java, and doc-base

I started Synaptic Package Manager, following this path:

Synaptic -> Settings -> Repositories -> Download from -> Other -> Select Best Server

Synaptic then pings each of a list of servers, to find the best response.  You can also select Third-Party Software.  After this, you have to click on “Reload” to download the package information.

For any of the above command, you are required to enter your own password, not root’s.  You don’t have to log in as root, minimizing the chance of a major foul-up.

As is, I have some more googling to do.  It’s always good to have another partition, another machine, or a live CD to fall back on for this sort of thing.

Back to Ubuntu

May 15, 2009

I decided to try out Ubuntu again, at least.  After reading up on system requirements, I settled on Xubuntu alternate install.  My machine is seriously underpowered, but the install went quite smoothly.  You don’t get the graphic installation, but you don’t really need it.  You do get XFCE and a default wallpaper that is not totally ugly – it’s a bit dark on my monitor, but the blue isn’t bad.  That default orange-brown wallpaper can make your eyes bleed.

I still have to configure my xorg and add the printer, copy the Firefox settings, and install some useful software.  I can work on that, either this Saturday night or Sunday.

Digging in Deeper

May 10, 2009

Working from the command line, as root, you can dig deeper into your system.

The commands lspci and lsusb prints detailed info for your PCI and USB buses and devices, respectively.

hwinfo and lshw prints detailed info on your hardware (lshw prints a subset of hwinfo).

The proc filesystem contains a load of information on your processes, and needn’t be accessed as root.  This is actually a pseudo-filesystem, mounted on /proc.  It’s generated on the fly, containing a sub-directory for each process, containing files which are listed as 0 bytes in length, but actually contain stuff.

To find out about your current process, type ls -l /proc/self, or cat the individual files withing that sub-directory.

To find out about your current shell, type ls -l /proc/$$, where $$ means the parent PID (process id).

For anyone who’s interested, cygwin (the Linux-like environment for windows) has /proc, although not the commands listed above.

Playing with Live CD distros

April 22, 2009

I’ve recently downloaded and played a wee bit with SliTaz (a mini live CD) and Tiny Core (an even tinier live CD).  Both run JWM (Joe’s Window Manager).

I have inherited an incredibly ancient PC (96M ram, 10G HD, W98), and I thought that it might be fun and instructive to install Linux on it.  Tiny Core might be worth a shot, and I will be writing more on this later.