linux n00b

Motherboard Transplants, Debian, Fluxbox and Auto Starting Applications

Posted in Distributions, Window Managers by downforce on July 2, 2007

I’ve recently decided that it’s time to stop letting Mark Shuttleworth hold my hand in my Linux experience and start getting my hands more dirty!

As a result, I’ve decided to start installing Debian on my machines as and when required.

Yesterday, after 5 hours of PC transplant surgery, transposing 4 motherboards in 3 PC’s, what is my HTPC decided it didn’t like the transplant. Very strangely, I changed from this C 2.4GHz 478/533FSB MB to a P4 287.GHz 478/800FSB and it handled it fine. Changing the board back again and X-Windows didn’t want to start, kept crashing out after logging in with GDM.

My HTPC was running Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy w/ E17. Now I realise I could have spent some time fixing it, but I couldn’t be bothered as I didn’t want to run E17 as my HTPC environment anymore anyway, mainly due to conflicting keybindings when using MythBrowser.

So I took the plunge and stuck Debian 4.0 Etch on it via a Net Install. Thanks to using a Debian Etch VM not so long ago, my proxy server had cached a fair bit so the install was pretty quick. I selected Standard System only, not Desktop System. After installing the base system, I installed FluxBox, GDM, MythTV Frontend, nVidia Legacy driver from for my MX4000 PCI and Alsa.

All installed fine (subject to installing some dependencies), however as of today, still haven’t got the sound working correctly. TBH this is driving me nuts and sound in Linux has always been my Achilles heel.

Anyway, one of the crucial elements is having MythTV automatically load at startup. Using my Googlefu I discovered 3 methods, involving editing .xinitrc or .fluxbox/startup. Neither was working!

Turned out that to get these to run, need to start FluxBox with /usr/bin/startfluxbox, not /usr/bin/fluxbox, which Debain does by default!

The solution is to change the alternatives!
update-alternatives --install fluxbox x-window-manager /usr/bin/startfluxbox 100
update-alternatives --config x-window-manager

Next time you login, you’re apps will run! I’ve dumped FluxBox 3 times because of this problem. I might install it on my main PC when it get’s rebuilt!

Now just to figure out how to get my Creative SB Live! Value working!


PCLinuxOS 2007

Posted in Distributions by downforce on May 31, 2007

I recently stuck PCLinuxOS 2007 on a 3rd partition on my system, mainly as a test for my fubar’ed video card.

First impression: I really like it.

I never felt comfortable with Kubuntu’s KDE, it installed SOO much crap and you can’t uninstall it because of the kubuntu-desktop meta -package and it tries to uninstall the whole of kubuntu-desktop if you remove some component. PCLinuxOS you can uninstall components that you want with no ill-effect (that I’ve found so far!). Like why do I want Synaptic Touchpad on a desktop PC?

PCLOS07 has inspired me to give KDE a real go, where Kubuntu made me favour GNOME.

Other features I do like is the apt-get/synaptic based on their rpm repo’s. That’s a nice touch as I didn’t like adept and synaptic is good.

I also decided to PCLinuxOS on my laptop and configuration for the wireless was sooo painless. It autodetected the ip2200 wireless card and configuration of WPA2-PSK was so smooth. Huge kudos for that! It was a nightmare under both Elive and Debian. Didn’t try under *buntu.

I haven’t been able to give it a good run, due to the video card, but love to test out pushing it in terms of gaming and memory/cpu usage.

I really like that Yamatku (sp?) console… the dropdown is nice, use it all the time now. I find it better than alt-tabbing between a konsole window. For some reason I don’t really like konsole as a terminal app. Gnomes gnome-terminal is better featured. I really want to terminal client to work like puTTy where selecting auto-copies into system clipboard, not the screens clipboard. Unfortuately konsole doesn’t even auto-copy into konsole's clipboard and there is no keyboard shortcut 😦

Not everything is perfect though. Some of the things I don’t like are:
* The menu structure – God damn what’s with the 19 million sub-menus that have 1 item? Took me a cpl minutes to find Synaptic (I deleted it off the taskbar .. waste of space!)
* The default bash config (.bashrc etc) is pretty basic. I ended up taking some items from the Ubuntu install.

The installer needs a bit of work. For the most part it’s fairly painless and asks some basic questions to get you up and running, however:
* Cancel isn’t obvious – there is an OK button but to cancel you have to use the X, not so intuiative.
* The partitioning/format feature – I accidentally wiped my /home drive. It was my fault really, I forgot I moved data around, getting rid of some NTFS partitions in favour of one big ext3. I would prefer it to be more like GParted where you make all the changes then apply at the end rather than make each change live as you choose it. Luckily the only thing I lost was my settings. It wasn’t a huge deal except loosing .firefox and .opera which had my bookmarks, oh and a couple of custom scripts. Everything else is on my fileserver, mounted with samba on start to subdirectories with a root directory I call /data.

That does remind me to include in my backup scripts a remote backup of my /home/.* directory & file to the file server too!

So far not overly impressed with the repo’s like Ubuntu/Debian … but for general desktop use I’d imagine it’s more than adequate, but finding some less popular or specific applications weren’t there, mainly for development/server features. I tried looking for k3d, an app I tried out for an hour the other day for 3D modelling and that wasn’t there either.

Which leads me to say, it’s most definitely not for a server environment or really a development environment. It does have apache2/mysql/postgres/php5 but no sign of lighttpd which I like to use for localhost testing as it’s nice and light and quick. I couldn’t find eclipse which I’ve just discovered as a pretty decent IDE. I haven’t really taken this part past installing the LAMP components. Nothing is configured and TBH I didn’t even see if http://localhost worked.

I didn’t test any multimedia functionality as I haven’t got the sound working yet. Also I use my MythTV frontend for all videos/DVD’s.

I have 2 sound card, on-board and PCI and it defaulted to the on-board. I havent’ looked into changing it around, but when I did I somehow killed the sound server and get an error on boot up.

Well that’s my recap of PCLinuxOS after 2.5 days.

I seem to have listed more complaints than good features, but it’s more that what it does it does very well and there isn’t much to say. It’s quick and easy to figure out. The control center is a nice feature for system administration and anyone who can use Control Panel in Windows can use the Control Center in PCLinuxOS.

I’d dare to say that PCLinuxOS is more user friendly than Ubuntu and would make a better transition distro for a Microsoft user, well once they sort the partitioner out anyway!

As I said earlier, it’s good enough for me to want to continue using it … I’ll keep you posted if I change my mind!

A Rundown of Top10 Linux Desktops

Posted in Desktop, Distributions by downforce on April 27, 2007

New to linux? Read this!

Found an article today on, Top Ten Distributions.

It’s a good read, especially for the n00b to linux. It gives a really quick rundown of the history, the pro’s, con’s and some alternatives to the different major distributions to be used as a desktop.

My brief flirt with Debian 4.0 Etch

Posted in Desktop, Distributions, General by downforce on April 23, 2007

I feel my Linux journey is coming to the point where trying one distro over another actually means something slightly more rather than looking at the window manager/desktop. Don’t get me wrong I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I’m getting a better feel.

So with that, I went and installed Debian 4.0 Etch via a netinstall. In fact I’ve installed it 3 times now, 2 different VM images and also on a partition of my main rig. I’m mainly dealing with the install on my main rig as that’s the one I really tried to use.

Not surprisingly it installed almost exactly the same as Ubuntu. I even tried it with the installgui option. TBH this is just fluff and without the video card acceleration, it’s painfully slow refreshing.

I decided on a “Standard Installation” and “Desktop Installation” and went with KDE (as I’m tending to favour over Gnome now).

Everything installed great and was working fine, with the exception of sound. Sound under every installation has been painful, woefully painful. Oh I lie, Ubuntu (7.04 beta) with a seperate wajig install kde worked great!

It wasn’t before long I got frustrated. The main reason? The packages in the repo’s are sooo old compared with Ubuntu. As a desktop, I want bleeding edge, I want wine 0.9.35, OpenOffice 2.2, not wine 0.9.25 or OpenOffice 2.0.

In a commercial setting where stability is key I’d go for Debian, as felt nice and stable, not didn’t work. I know if, or should I say when, I need to rebuild my server, I will go for Debian instead of Ubuntu.

I’ve just installed openSUSE instead on that partition. It’s my first non-debian based distro. I’ll let you know how it goes.