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After spending a bit of time away from Ubuntu installations and staying with Debian, I finally went back to Kubuntu with Jaunty(9.04) and only because it had KDE4.2 and I’d finally got bored with KDE3.x.x. When KDE4.3 was released I immediately upgraded to it and was extremely impressed, but it simply had something lacking still in Jaunty, I knew it was a backport though, so I waited for the Beta release of Karmic to come out, which I new would have KDE4.3 full-on.

I originally upgraded Kubuntu to Karmic from Jaunty over the net, the install went well and I was pleasantly pleased with my new OS, the only problem is, I was too pleased and I decided to upgrade my laptop as well. The laptop network upgrade did not go well, something happened during the installation (Possibly because I was on wireless while doing the upgrade, who knows?) and it simply failed. This left me with a relatively borked Laptop and only one real option, download the Karmic Koala Kubuntu 9.10 Beta CD and install it from scratch.

Next I encountered more problems, I found the fresh installation (i.e. not an upgrade) so good that I was now disappointed that my upgraded desktop just wasn’t good enough and it required a re-install with a fresh system instead. Now I figured I would download the 64bit version for my desktop, especially since I already had 64bit hardware and that was all about to get upgraded anyway. The 64bit install just went nowhere unfortunately, I’m not sure if the processor was too old for modern 64bit installs (It was a 4 year old AMD Athlon64 Socket939 4000+ after all) or if the processor was damaged, I’m suspecting the former because the processor handled 32 bit installs just fine.

I installed the 32bit system for the time being while I waited for my new hardware and was happy enough, but then my new hardware turned up and the whole ball game changed. I tried to boot up with the existing disk on a new processor, motherboard and RAM, bearing in mind I’d gone from a single core 4 year old processor to a brand new twin core processor, a 4 – 5 year old DFI motherboard to a brand new Asus one and from DDR1 to DDR2 I would have been surprised if it had actually booted, and sure enough it didn’t. Usually Linux tends to handle hardware changes pretty well in my experience, but this just wasn’t going to happen.

What a shame I thought, I’m going to HAVE to install the 64bit system instead, DAMN! ;)

So I set about installing my new 64bit system, completely fresh hardware AND OS, what could be better than that? I am so unbelievably impressed with Karmic Kubuntu that I just can’t express it in words, the problem now, is that the interim upgrades have been suspended now, so I’m left with those last couple of little bugs that are being fixed by Canonical and waiting with baited breath for the full release to happen, so I can download all the Karmicly Krantastic goodies to my system and be even happier!

What’s really new then? Well the interface looks much clearner, much sharper and it just seems “smoother” somehow, programs are faster to load (Even on my older hardware before the upgrade), there are less problems with graphical display errors when using Desktop Effects etc. Kmail is a MASSIVE improvement in my humble opinion, Amarok is just Amarok but the rok part of the name seems to mean even more now if you get my meaning, desktop widgets seem to shine more, have less crashes and be even easier to find and install than ever before. In short I’m completely blown away by Karmic and I couldn’t be happier. Please feel free to share your experiences below, good and bad.

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Author:  Hollow
November 26, 2008



Nexuiz on Debian Linux

Nexuiz on Debian Linux.

When I first got in to Linux as a hobby many years ago, and just like many others did, gaming was an un-spoken subject. I wanted to play Half Life and Counter Strike in Linux and I was pretty much told to forget it. Not being the sort of person to really just forget anything, I didn’t, instead I installed Wine (I think it was on version 0.2 or something back then I can’t remember), and proceeded to install Steam and HL, then CS. Sure enough the graphics had serious issues, there was no sound and I seemed to always have a huge ping on the servers I joined. So I gave it up as a bad job, but safe in the knowledge that Wine would improve and some day I’d be able to play all my favorite games in Linux.

Nexuiz on Debian Linux

Nexuiz on Debian Linux.

Well that day hasn’t quite come yet, we still can’t play EVERYTHING or run EVERY program from Windows in Wine, but we’re getting bloody close now. I can play CSS and HL2 seemlessly in Wine, sound works, graphics are fine, installers, save games etc, everything just works, you can now run programs like Photoshop CS2 (CS3 kinda works I’m told) and Dreamweaver CS2 without any problems that would really phase you and now that the Quake and Doom engines have been OSS’d there are all sorts of open source games, released under the GPL, that are freely available to play on Linux without the aid of Wine.

Nexuiz on Debian Linux

Nexuiz on Debian Linux.

Nexuiz is one I’vebeen toying with recently, it was actually my partner who brought it to my attention, she was looking through the lists of open source programs on wikipedia and just for a laugh decided to take a look at games, she spotted nexuiz and told me to try it on my Debian Lenny system. I was a little apprehensive as I run dual screens and that never seems to work well for games in Linux, but I apt-get install nexuiz anyway. Once installed I disabled my second monitor (Who needs it anyway when you’re gaming and it’s easy as you like with the Nvidia-Settings-Manager these days) and loaded up the game expecting to see a re-vamped Alien Arena or Open Arena, I was surprised to say the least.

Nexuiz on Debian Linux

Nexuiz on Debian Linux.

Nexuiz on Debian Linux

Nexuiz on Debian Linux.

This game is brilliant, yes it looks like it might use the quake engine but I don’t care, it’s just so good. Incredibly playable, the menus work great, the graphics are brilliant and I was just immediately hooked. I played for about half an hour before I remembered I had work to do and reluctantly turned the game off, re-enabled my second screen and began coding again.

The reason for this post, is now to put more propoganda out there for Linux, but to make some of the Linux users realise that just because we can’t run Windows games all the time and perfectly in Linux, doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives out there ready and waiting for us. So if you’re using a Debian or Debian-based system, go ahead and apt-get install nexuiz and try it out for yourself, let me know how you get on and whether you liked the game or not.

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Author:  Hollow
November 19, 2008



Why am I disappointed with Ubuntu?

I started using Ubuntu, or rather Kubuntu in fact, around 6.10 (Edgy) and didn’t reckon much to it in all honesty, I went back to using Gentoo and Debian 4.0 (Etch). When 7.04 (Feisty) was released, so intregued was I by Canonical’s marketing of Ubuntu and the media hype surrounding it, that I tried it out on an old Toshiba Sat Pro laptop (I forget the exact model number) and was reasonably impressed. 7.04 stayed on that laptop until 7.10 (Gutsy) was released and was immediately upgraded, again with an impressive result. I had to relinquish that laptop to another engineer in the company when I moved back to New Zealand, but by this time I had installed 7.10 on my desktop machine and was happy with it. Upon the 8.04 (Hardy) release I immediately upgraded my desktop without fear as the 7.04 to 7.10 upgrade had gone so well previously I figured I had nothing to fear right? Wrong! I had endless problems with the upgrade, eventually resulting in a complete reload of the system. I put the problems down to the upgrade itself and installed 8.04 from scratch on a fresh hard drive, and I must admit it went well, I was rather disappointed at the number of updates which were immediately required but I had become accustomed to this with other distributions so shrugged it off, and since that day my machine has run 8.04 happily.

Intrepid was released

When Intrepid was released I had been counting down the days until it’s release eagerly and was excited at the prospect of yet another release of this easy to use, friendly distribution. I wasn’t keen on the idea of KDE4.1 being used as I had tried KDE4.x a few times during it’s development and just didn’t get on with it, I was also weary of the problems I had upgrading from 7.10 to 8.04, so instead of just hitting that upgrade distribution button, I installed 8.04 in a VM and upgraded to 8.10 within the VM. This did not go well at all and resulted in an unusable system, once again I decided this must be the upgrade that was the problem, so I did a fresh install of 8.10 in the VM instead, hoping it would produce better results, it did not. After install things were flakey to say the least, once I had installed the VirtualBox drivers I could no longer get an X Server at all. Numerous other problems seemed to plague this release so I decided I would wait until bugs had been fixed with it and I might install it then, only to remember I still wasn’t keen on KDE4.1 and just had a general feeling of not wanting this upgrade, so I have decided to skip it.

The IRC Chatrooms

I spend a fair bit of time in the Kubuntu and Ubuntu IRC chat rooms, I don’t use it for help but I offer what help I can to the users who frequent it and maybe don’t have the knowledge that I do. In the week that followed the release of 8.10 I spent most of my time in that chat room, trying to refer back to a VM install of 8.10 to help people that were having numerous problems after upgrade and/or fresh installs of the release. The problems were so abundent that I can honestly say it didn’t seem like a release of Ubuntu/Kubuntu at all, but more like a release of Fedora Core with people new to Linux trying to feel their way through in the dark. People were complaining their X server no longer worked, or they couldn’t install Nvidia drivers, or what happened to KDE3? Now don’t get me wrong “Cutting Edge” is good, but cutting edge to me is brand new stuff, that works. That’s why we also these days have “Bleeding Edge”, which is basically what distributions like Sidux, Fedora Core and the current bleeding edge version of Debian (Sid) are for, they introduce these new features that don’t quite work yet and they have a good following of dedicated users, who will test this software for them and report bugs. Installing things like an X.org server that doesn’t support Nvidia drivers yet just seems more like Bleeding Edge than Cutting Edge, or is it just me?

My love for ubuntu still holds

Never have I liked a distribution more than Ubuntu, for ease of use, friendlyness to new users and popularity in general, and that still holds true for former releases of the distribution, but 8.10 has yet to earn that love. I would still highly recommend that any new user install Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu on their system, so long as they use 8.04 and not 8.10. It seems a crying shame that the so dubbed “darling of Linux” seems to have fallen so short with this release, but I am confident that 9.04 (Jaunty) will redeem itself.


So in conclusion I feel I should coin the words of Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) when he said people should skip Vista, and suggest that most people skip the 8.10 release of Ubuntu and use 8.04 until 9.04 is released. The difference being, the users of Ubuntu only have 5 months to wait instead of a year or more, and more to the point it probably hasn’t cost anyone using Ubuntu a single cent to do so and it won’t cost them anything to upgrade either. I am hopeful that X.org will have fixed any issues with the current release of the X server by then, Nvidia drivers will work properly, KDE4.1 may have become KDE4.2 or even just KDE4.1.something.that.works.better and with any luck the next release will be much better put together, thought out and more stable.

Linux itself is very much on the rise now, the desktop market is being blown wide open by MS cock ups, awareness is being raised by companies like Canonical, Dell, HP, IBM, ASUS etc and the world economy crash couldn’t have come at a better time for Linux to really thrust itself out there and say, “Hey I work perfectly on 99% (Figure I made up but it can’t be far off these days) of hardware and I won’t cost you a penny”, which is exactly what it’s doing. Symsys Ltd as a company is doing it’s part, trying to push the use of Linux and increase it’s awareness, but other companies are joining the fold too, Adobe is releasing more and more software for Linux and talks of open sourcing some of it, IBM are now evangelising Linux more than ever, HP have decided to start OEMing it, Splashtop has become all the rage in new formats like “Fast Boot” and with the trend of things like Googles Android phone and the general concessus, even that admitted by MS themselves, that Windows has turned to turd (Face it XP WAS a good release eventually), all we need to do now is make the people who have no technical interest in Linux and don’t care about the freedoms of it, aware that it exists, it’s a LOT better than it ever was before, it STILL doesn’t cost anything, oh and it works on everything from your toaster to your server, whilst being able to talk to anything MS you might still have in your network as well.

To close then, I urge Canonical to make the 9.04 release more stable than 8.10 was/is, I urge X.org to make things like the Nvidia drivers work so I can maintain my dual screens and other features that require them and I’ll simply coin another phrase which comes from the opening credits of my favorite TV show while growing up in the U.K. and demonstrates effectively my feelings on Linux today, “Power to the People!”

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Author:  Hollow
October 21, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) Installer - Screenshot.

Forget taking the Linux world or even the AIX systems world by storm, Lenny is revolutionary and is going to be (Yes that’s right I’m asserting that it WILL be, not saying I think it will be) one of the singular most important distribution releases of Linux as a whole, EVER!

Let’s start out with the improvements over Debians previous release, Debian 4.0 Etch. Well we now have a very clear menu once the Live CD boots up, it’s unbelievably easy for new users and power users alike to choose which installation procedure they would like to follow. If you’re a completely new user to Linux, you can take the Lenny CD, put it in your drive, select the Graphical Installer as opposed to the options for experts, or simply text based, Then follow a few very simple instructions, click a few buttons and presto, you’ve got a fully installed, totally usable and perfectly working system. It really has never been easier, and I’m talking easier than Ubuntu here, now that’s saying something.

There is also another fundamental difference in Lennys installer options, you can choose an expert installation, WITH a graphical interface, this is brilliant. Just because I’m a power user and an I.T. engineer doesn’t mean I want to spend my life looking at text based installers, just to prove I’m a power user. I can now choose the expert installer, giving me the options I need to configure my system, exactly the way I want it, whilst still feeling that I am choosing this option as a power user, and that I have control over how my system will be installed. An option you don’t get with some other distributions like Ubuntu, and yet I can look at a relatively attractive (Although slightly too pink for my liking) installer at the same time. The expert installer is almost as detailed as following a Gentoo Installation Document, identifying all the really intricate parts of the installation, right down to asking if it should look for PCMCIA devices or not (Pre-empting the possibility that you may be using a laptop). For a graphical installer, I think I can safely say this is the most in depth you could get it, without risking the users options screwing up the installation with conflicts. Which if memory serves me correctly, Gentoo once did back in 2005 and I fell out with their installer from that moment onwards.

During the expert installation we did, we had an option to use a mirror to supplement the software already on our CD, this is an option we usually choose, if it’s given, with all distros, because it allows us less problems (usually) once the installation is finished, because it’s using the absolute, most up to date software out there and requires a lot less effort to get a fully working system. The downside to this however, is that the installation does take a lot longer while it downloads the software required and is very dependent on your connection speed to the internet.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

On to the more important parts of the review. Debian Lenny comes with several installation CD options, a KDE CD, a Gnome CD or an XFCE CD. Since it’s our favorite desktop environment, we chose the KDE install CD, however I love the fact that you have the options available for those users who prefer Gnome or XFCE and want to install it from the first minute of installation, instead of having to install a Gnome desktop, then later once the system is up-to date enough, installing KDE or XFCE as well, which can cause clutter in the menus, excess baggage of programs you don’t want or need, etc. This again really shows how much effort and thought has gone into the Lenny release.

After the first reboot, I found a very much fully working operating system, there were still a few updates required, I had to manually upgrade the kernel so that I could install the VirtualBox drivers and enable seamless mode, but it’s not as if it’s as difficult as it used to be with having to completely re-compile the kernel, so no harm in that. Not great for new users but most new users won’t be using Virtualbox to install Lenny. Possibly the full release of Lenny (Remember this review is based on Beta2 and not a full release) may be a little more intuitive and automatically install the latest kernel during the inevitable apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade, after an installation, which we all have to perform usually with every distro we install.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Lenny Control Center - Screenshot

A couple of updates, reboots and a virtualbox kernel module compilation later, (Not as difficult as that sounds in all honesty, some more apt-gets and a little research if needed into the packages available and how to issue the right commands if you’ve never done it before) and we’re up and running, but wait, installation of the VBox kernel module and drivers has caused an issue with the resolution, it’s defaulting to 1280×768. So I start looking for the control center, only to realize, Lenny still uses the default KDE one, just as etch did. Now although that’s fine for power users who know where everything is already, that’s not the case for new users. In this particular instance for example I wanted to change my screen resolution, so you start opening up the menus, as shown in the screenshot, and you eventually find the display settings under “Peripherals”. Now this hasn’t changed from Etch and there are other distributions that do this as well. But in terms of Lenny for new users this is a real let down to me. I would expect a distribution that is this polished everywhere else, and had this much development put into it, and is this easy to use for all the other things it includes, to have the control center side of things sorted out by now.

Kubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mandriva and several other distros, have a customised control center, which for new users is much much easier to navigate if they want to change simple settings like the resolution, or keyboard settings. Lenny is still lacking the “noob proof” setup here. However from a power user point of view it’s incredible, the control center has just about every setting you could want it to have, plus a few you don’t really need. Short of things which still require command line hacking in EVERY distribution out there, the abilities of the control center in Lenny FAR out weigh those of the distributions which have made it easier to navigate for newer users.

Unfortunately the display configuration is still quite limited as well with the VBox drivers and I had to go back to command line hacking to give my new system a resolution above 1280×768. This is no reflection on Lenny however, as I was in a VirtualBox VM and did not have the NVidia or ATi drivers installed that I inevitably would have, were it on a real system, giving me better configuration tools to configure my display with. This being a virtualbox installation is also the reason we didn’t get to play with any of Lennys really cool new toys on the wireless front.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

It’s worth a mention that Lenny, once installed, comes with a full compliment of programs, both fun, professional and functional. I honestly don’t think you could find a Linux distribution that came this well equipped out of the box.


I can definitely say that Lenny is a big step forward in terms of desktop computing, I haven’t tried out the server installation for Lenny just yet, but you can count on me doing so as I always use Debian for my servers :D . I’m exceptionally happy to see that the KDE release of Lenny is geared around KDE3.5.9 and not KDE4.1, I think choosing the more stable, better known and tried & tested Desktop Environment was the way to go. They’ve ended up with a better product than the distributions who are already incorporating KDE4.1 into their default setup. Don’t get me wrong here, KDE4.1 is a great product, and is getting better all the time, but I still don’t think it’s really all that ready for new users who are booting Linux for the first time. Mandriva did a good job with KDE4.1 in their 2009.0 release, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Lenny installation is and if KDE4.1 is your default desktop you may well need another desktop installed as well, to configure things that KDE4.1 can’t handle yet, I think Debian made the right choice here.

Overall I think Debian have surpassed themselves with this release, I was extremely happy to see the much needed new features, such as the graphical installer, the option to install Grub2.0 (Which I did and was very impressed with) and overall just how well the system installs itself. Well done Debian, I can’t wait for the full release of Lenny. If I hadn’t JUST migrated everything from my Kubuntu 8.04 x86 installation to my Kubuntu 8.04 X64 installation, ready for the Intrepid Ibex (8.10) release, I’d be installing Lenny on my desktop right now instead of writing this review. As it is, I’ll have to resist the temptation for now in order to assure I have a fully working system and am not just “playing around with my system”. :D

For an Operating System release this would be amazing, for a Beta2 release, this is excellence!

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