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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 20, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2 is now my desktop OS

Well anyone who read my review of Lenny last month will probably have expected this, but I’ve dumped my 64bit installation of Ubuntu Hardy in favor of Debian 5.0 (Lenny). I couldn’t be happier in all honesty, it runs faster (Even though it’s only x86/32 bit as opposed to 64 bit like Ubuntu was), it looks nicer, it does what I tell it to (Sort of) and I feel like a grown up again instead of a newbie using an easy OS. No offense to newbies but you are who Ubuntu is designed for to be fair.

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

Debian (Lenny) FF3 Installed - Screenshot.

You can see in the screenshot to the right that I’ve managed to install FF3 instead of being forced to use IceWeasle, which I’m sorry I don’t care who you are or how much you tell me it’s the same, it isn’t ok so shutup! lol. Anyway the point being that Lenny does have it’s downfalls when it comes to installing some programs and drivers that are very easy on Ubuntu/Kubuntu Hardy. For example, when you install Kubuntu Hardy and you have an Nvidia card, Ubuntu pops up and says “I see you have an Nvidia card, would you like to install the drivers for it?” You click yes and you’re on your way, with Lenny however you log into your system and there’s no such pop-up, so you say, “Lenny, I have an Nvidia card and I’d like to install it please”, to which Lenny promptly replies, “Well drop to console and work for it bitch!” Obviously you understand Lenny isn’t a real person and it doesn’t actually talk to you in voice by default, but I had to do it that way for the joke to work. :D

I’ve installed all my usual programs, like Yakuake (Screenshot below, which also includes my dual screen spanning desktop just for good measure), Filezilla, Thunderbird, aMSN, Opera, Netscape, Flock and a host of other simpler but neccessity applications for me like, Flash player, VLC, MPlayer, Audacity etc.

Lenny Yakuake - Screenshot.

Lenny Yakuake - Screenshot.

This last few weeks has seen lots of change in the world, our own fair New Zealand has taken a new government, America elected a new saviour, sorry I mean president, I mean, well you get the point, so I decided it was time for the Symsys-Kubuntu-804 machine to become Symsys-Lenny instead. Change is good!

After installing my applications and installing the wonderful “Breathless” Icon theme, I changed a couple of fonts, uninstalled Open Office 2.4 and installed 3.0 from debs I already had, then decided I’d blog about how great it was.

Lenny 'K' Menu - Screenshot..

Lenny 'K' Menu - Screenshot

So the long and short of this installation is that Nvidia drivers are not yet very easy to install in Lenny, unless you install them immediately after installing your system, unfortunately if you do that you’ll need to re-install them once you update to the 2.6.26 kernel, which will have been compiled from gcc-4.1 and if you’ve updated your kernel you’ve most likely upgraded gcc to gcc-4.3 or higher and the compilation of the Nvidia Kernel module will fail because of that very fact, so just a quick tip for those others out there googling this problem (And I found a few myself during the process as I had other errors too), make sure to download the absolute latest drivers from the Nvidia site, now you won’t be able to do that easily either, their site is now entirely flash/java and doesn’t tend to work well with Konqueror, Opera, Firefox or Netscape until the Nvidia drivers are actually installed (Dumb right?), anyway, visit http://www.nvidia.com/downloads and you’ll get what you need. Once you’ve got the latest drivers from Nvidias site, drop to console (Closing the GUI all together I mean here not just bring up Konsole or dropping to Ctrl Alt F4) make sure you have the correct linux-sources and build-essential installs, then type apt-get install gcc-4.1 then export CC=”gcc-4.1″ then immediately after that cd /usr/src && sh ./NVIDIA*.run agree to the license, say no to downloading a pre-compiled kernel and say ok (No other option) to compiling a new kernel, hopefully all should be well. Obviously don’t take this as a guide to installing Nvidia drivers by default because you may find that they install just fine for you if you have a newer release of Lenny, or a .deb package to install them with etc.

I might actually write a blog about the nvidia drivers installation with a few hints and tips on troubleshooting as well for those who get lost. Have a look for it in the menu on the right, if you can’t find it in there I haven’t written it yet so just stick a comment below here to give me a jab to do it.

I’m really really really impressed with Lenny and I couldn’t be happier to get rid of Kubuntu 64bit, now that’s something I never thought I’d say, Ubuntu/Kubuntu has always been so easy to install and easy to maintain but lately I’ve just been feeling frustrated, it’s so much harder to do “power user stuff” in Ubuntu now BECAUSE it’s so much easier to do the easy stuff. Now that Debian have given us Lenny with a fantastic installer, a brilliant package of programs out of the box and you still have the genious that is aptitude and synaptic if you want to install it, then I think I can now safely say that Debian is well and truly the Ubuntu for professionals and power users, although some may take offense at that so let’s say Ubuntu is the Debian for newbies, but no wait other people will be offended at that, hmmmmmmmmmm, well I like both, I prefer Debian for my pro stuff and Ubuntu for my clients that aren’t so technically minded, yeah that works :D .

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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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