Archive for category Linux
Earlier last week I got that strong urge to upgrade my laptop, after having run the XFCE version of mint (9) for months (and loving it the whole time for the most part) I decided it was time for a fresh install at the new version. I was hoping for possibly a bit cleaner interface and for further more stable flash support.
Its at this point that it all went wrong for me.
For the most part things went smoothly there were only 2 things that bugged me
1) Whats with the fairly un-intuitive manual partition manager now during installation? With this being a laptop distribution I had no urge to do fancy partitioning I wanted a single installation on top of one partition using the whole hard drive. Its nothing that takes TOO long to figured out but this seems like a step backwards when it was much simpler in earlier versions
2) Why are you not making new ISO’s that are even close to current in patches? after installation I had over 1000 patches to apply! it took 2x as much time to PATCH my fresh install as it did to actually perform the install and this is on 20Mb internet service
The first thing I noticed is the re-design of the default layout with them having moved the application menu and bar to the top with a launcher box on the bottom. Again I am confused by a seemingly random style change from previous versions that took up more screen real estate that the previous design but in the end it looks a lot like how XFCE used to function so I can get over that it only took 10 min or so to move the bar around and get things back to the way they were before.
This was the point where I tried to walk away from my computer for a bit and went to the application launcher and clicked on lock screen … oh wait they apparently for some reason completely got rid of the lock screen function. No problem Ill just create a launcher icon on the task bar that calles an xscreensaver -lock function no problem.
At this point I needed to change location and wanted to go to shutdown and hibernate to hibernate my laptop, with an older laptop I often do this to save battery life over suspend…. wait they got rid of HIBERNATE (or at least the interface to it).
One of the reasons I always liked mint is that I have had fantastic hardware support for this very same laptop, things just worked everything from the built in hardware (video/sound) to periphrials like USB hard drives and USB attached mobile broadband cards (which is amazing because they don’t even work right in windows)
This is why I became extremely frustrated when this version apparently had issues with my sound card, while music would play (local through a player or via flash from sites like youtube and google music) they would have audio glitches and change in pitch for no apparent reason making the sound unusable from that machine
The Final Failure
After applying a few patches one morning I rebooted (dont remember the reason) when MINT came up and I logged in none of my windows had any of the top bar or action buttons, I tried several reboots to no avail ONE of those updates appears to have completely broken the windows manager unable to move windows or close or minimize them (outside of the menu’s which were still there) I finally gave up on the distro.
I am a problem solver and like to work around these problems but this is my primary laptop, the one I have to get work done on. I picked XFCE Mint in the past as it always was a slick, fast, easy to understand and low amount of configuration needed to get working exactly what I needed for a primary use machine. Having failed at the primary reasons I love THIS distro I decided to move on
I hope they fix the bugs and make this into a worthy sub type, I will continue to evaluate new versions
What did I move on to?
The regular version of MINT of course (Gnome based) 11
I will write a separate review of of this version coming up but so far absolutely loving it everything I missed out of the old versions of XFCE Mint
Within the last month on my mint laptop chromium has been complaining about needing to be updated, and it disabled the plugin.
The manual update process is kind of a pain and to be honest and I had just not gotten around to doing the update. On a whim I decided to try and see if there was a way to do the update via apt-get instead of the manual install procedure and I found it
apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
It updated the plugin in chromium as well … yay flash works again
Awhile ago I did a story about Mint running as a virtual, about 6 months ago I was looking for a Linux solution for my laptop and while I had experience with many different variations over the years I have had mixed results with trying to completely replace windows as the base operating system on my laptops due to all the challenges presented every time I had used any of the main distro’s in the past.
1) Hardware/Driver functionality.
This is an old story laptops on average use more custom drivers (or at least manufacturer developed drivers) than desktops and on average I have had to fight much more with them for things like sound/video card and wireless drivers for one reason or another over the years as well as supporting plug and play hardware (like cellphone tethering or cell usb adapters or external hard drives). Often you could get things working at least in a minimal fashion but it was always a challenge to get everything running smoothly. Some of that was hardware choice a more thorough evaluation of linux compatibility before purchase would help make it easier but not all the systems I had to use could be chosen by me before hand (things like handmedown hardware or work provided hardware)
2) Full functionality as a”Desktop”
Don’t get me wrong I am a huge Linux fan for MANY uses but I had alway struggled using it as my primary operating system, every-time I had to go on the road and use tethering or deal with an NTFS formatted hard drive or weird serial dongle I would get frustrated. I am a virtualization guy and plenty of solutions out there to make sure you can run a windows virtual so you have it available but in the end sometimes it just needs to be on the native hardware to interact with external hardware.
3) Software options
While not a major problem due to my history there always were the last few stragglers in windows replacement softwares that did not work quite as I liked it to usually revolving around media and productivity.
My Experiences with MINT
Like any more modern distro mint provides a slick and intuitive installer so this was of no consequence installing, I wanted to get the feel of its base configuration so I literally left EVERYTHING default I made no significant changes during installation like I normally do.
Installation time ran about as long as normal and away i went all the default stuff you need is in by default from your system tools to software (more on that later)
My first surprise is that EVERYTHING worked by default all needed drivers were installed all hardware detected all features worked OUT OF THE BOX! No problems with video or wireless or sound it just worked and was detected on this particular laptop (Dell E6500) My surprise grew when I realized that I had no problems with any of the plug and play hardware that I normally use.
I do mean ANY, want to tether your windows mobile phone? Yep no problem just plug in and tell the phone to share and it gets picked up as a new network card automatically this surprisingly is even easier than it works on a windows laptop even with a windows mobile phone! Want to use that cell USB card? Yep absolutely just plug the device in go to the wireless manager and tell it what carrier it is to be used for!
These experiences were leaps and bounds better on MINT then they were on my windows platform things just worked quietly and un-obtrousivly as they should no fuss at all.
Like any linux head I have been collecting a whole series of “favorite” softwares for years that I had been dragging around and installing on systems everything from my favorite system performance monitoring tools to my favorite text editors and what not. Now I am not going to say that I still did not install some of those but all in all I have been amazed at the software selection that mint installs.
Things just work, they pick great default apps that are easy to use, reasonably light and powerful without going crazy and installing everything in the world. All the major bases are covered from media players to browsers as well as all the plugins for the browsers which is a nice touch if you have ever had to install Java or flash back in the day you remember what it was like. Again nothing any moderate to advanced user could not have accomplished but thats the point YOU DONT HAVE TO. They make a great starting platform that has all the basics and allow you the freedom to expand above and beyond if you choose to.
Being debian based and with the power of the apt repositories any software you need is right on your fingertips, it is one of the reasons I like debian based distros so much.
In the end it comes down to does it do what you want in the way you want it, that is the power of Linux and having all the choices out there for you. For me the answer is MINT does this for me I am absolutely happy with the distro and could not ask for a single thing more out of it.
This is a really easy one but it took me a bit to figure out actually and the answer turned out to be really easy.
I wanted to be able to sign onto xfire from my laptop which is MINT at this time (by the way my favorite distro ever)
Anyways it is simple as adding the gfire package which is the pidgin plugin for xfire
sudo apt-get install gfire
This adds the option in the dropdown list for the xfire protocol
Its as easy as that
After watching a recent episode of HAK5 I got renewed initiative to resume using a non pre purchased appliance based device as an external router/firewall. As many of you know if you followed my old blog I have done this before with a variaty of softwares both as a hardware and as a virtual device.
In this case I wanted to use smoothwall
For those not familiar smoothwall is a very nice pre-packaged linux based operating system designed to be your edge firewall. The twist I am adding is that I want to run this as a virtual device but keep it simple enough that you would not need specialized hardware to accomplish it (things like VLAN capable switch or such which would be very doable to reduce the NIC count)
A word of warning this post really requires a working knowledge of the basics of vmware (Setting up, configuring ESX itself and a basic level of knowing how to modify virtual hardware and deal with ISO’s) if you are not up this level of knowledge there are plenty of blogs out there that will help you get started, I will also try to write some “basics” but if I miss anything please comment and let me know what I need to add to make it easy for you.
That being said I am using my standard home used tower (Dell SC440) as my virtual device … I have 3 different NIC’s in the device but I am only going to use 2 for this particular project.
As you can see from my networking diagram I have 2 virtual switches with virtual machine port groups on them the inside or green interface will be in the “VM Network” Port group the outside or red interface will be the one in the “Outside” port group
The next step is to create the virtual machine, I created a standard virtual machine marked as “Other Linux 32 bit” as the configuration with the name smoothwall, When creating it leave the default HDD size. I will show you why in a little bit.
As you can see here I created the virtual machine as “Other Linux” With 512 MB of RAM this can be scaled up later if you wish.
Now comes the tricky part, smooth wall does not detect SCSI hard drives which are the standard for ESX.
Step1 is to edit the settings of the smooth wall virtual machine
Step2 is to remove the existing hard disk
Step 3 is to add a new IDE virtual hard disk
This is the only major modification that you have to make to the virtual hardware. You will also need to add a network interface to the “inside” and “outside” port group.
After that is complete you are ready to start installing the hardware
At this point boot to the ISO/CD and follow the menu’s
We are going to want to do a RED+Green configuration for this.
The last trick that makes a virtual environment different than the physical is that we have virtual network cards that are using the same driver set. There are several ways around this but the easiest I found is that wen you do the card assignment it states what MAC address is being used after you assign it.
This MAC address is visiable in the settings of the NIC in vmware
This should point you in the right direction to find which is which. IF you assigned it to the wrong one the nice thing is you can just flip the port assignment at any time.
At this point it is like any other smoothwall deployments out there I would recommend watching HAC5′s Building a High speed Router episode
Well I am not normally one for reviews (Usually configuration / problem solving) But after reading the Linux Critic‘s post on Mint Fluxbox edition I felt that I should go through and evaluate the XFCE version (as it is my personal favourite WM)
Now this review is unique in two ways
- I am doing this on top of workstation (this is my first graphical VM on top of it myself)
- This is absolutely my first install of Mint anywhere ever so I am evaluating both the install as well as first impression of the ease of installation and options
I have a fairly extensive background in linux, most of the majors and some of the not so. Everyone has their own views on what an operating system should be for what they want to do with it (weather that be personal or server) as well as their experience level. My normal choice for both server as well as my desktops is Debian, I feel it is a light weight basic distro with just the right configuration and tools installed by default that make it easy to expand your options easily. As such for a graphical interface on odd hardware (or places where Debian is hard to install) I have relied on ubuntu being still familiar territory with larger install footprint but also more out of the box functionality.
The installation procedure is phenomenal, like any standard bootable distro you simply boot to the disk and select “install” from the desktop shortcut to run through the installation. In this case I left the defaults in place favouring quick setup over any custom procedure, this is also likly the most common way to deploy it
Installed and setup in under 15 minutes as a virtual no problem.
I would also say that the installation of vmware tools was a breese too something that sometimes requires a bunch of extra steps. Unlike some of the Debian distro’s the kernal headers are installed as well as make and a C++ compiler so it was simply mount the tools disk, copy them to my desktop and run the installer perl script.
The tools installed are all the standards needed and seems to be very full featured with a lot of my favorite applications installed out of the gate even the ones that have been traditionally hard to install (and even harder on a 64 bit platform).
It also appears to draw on the large ubuntu repository for additional apt sources making use of a very large repository of applications.
Look and Feel
My overall impression of XFCE Mint can be summed up as “Clean, fast, responsive” While it seems to have all the base apps I am looking for it does not suffer like some of the other “Full” desktop distributions by bogging down due to the extra overhead even running as a VM.
Unlike most distros I also did not have the immediate urge to change the theme, and that is saying a LOT.
That is not to say wont do it anyways!
That being said it also uses compiz and emerald with the effects toned down, this happens to be my first time using them outside of a GNOME environment but they seem to like everything else to be toned just right and not try to be flashy by trading off performance but are there for if you want to do more of the advanced desktop features
Software updates are slick here, of course there is always the command line and with apt and aptitude this is an easy procedure
The update manager needs to be pointed out, it may seem like a simple thing but ranking your updates by the reliability of the package and sources to let a user know which ones should be safe and which ones you are pushing the bleeding edges and need to watch out for is a great feature in my book. You are also able to easily add package exceptions for the update manager to ignore if you know you have something custom or need a particular version to not be updated.
Other software seem to be a fully featured suit of your standard adons and productivity software (such as firefox and openoffice)
I did encounter a problem in my envyronment that is so far un-resolved that should be mentioned. On first setup I logged in set the root account password and installed vmware tools and rebooted. After that point I am unable to log in as my limited account that I created. When trying to log in it just cycles back to the login screen when authenticating and brings be back to the login prompt. No errors and nothing to indicate that there is a problem
I created another limited user and can log in without issue so not to entirely sure what is wrong with the first account
I have also encountered odd behavior out of the browser in the limited account, again without error so hard to track down a why but the browser has problems connecting to websites when I am logged in as the limited users. Sites like google reader and such that work just fine in as the root account or from other machines will just fail to load. Firefox just sits and trys to connect and fails out after a significant period of time. It seems to be hit and miss and if you close and re-open the browser sometimes the sites that would not work do again
I am guessing a permission issue in the browser as the behavior when logged in as root is flawless
A re-installation resolved this problem.
Great distro this one has taken over my first place ranking for favorite desktop operating system.
More efficient and clean full featured systems like this are needed Now all we need to do is have rdesktop catch up with windows remote desktop feature sets and I will have a 100 percent fully functional workstation operating system just how I like it.