A Blog about Linux, Open Source and Code! 
Symsys Inform Blog Home

Symsys Ltd Text logo in the banner area


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 .


Filed under: Linux Reviews ... Comments (5)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  

 





Author:  Hollow
October 18, 2008



 

 

Mandriva (One) Linux

The newer release of Mandriva has also been reviewed – please check our other Linux reviews for the Mandriva 2009.0

Mandriva (one) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Mandriva (one) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

This distribution is of French origin, but it is very much an international distribution. You can localize it’s installation very easily, and after this review we HIGHLY recommended for new Linux users. Mandriva comes fully loaded out of the box, it has the full Open Office Suite installed by default, it comes with Firefox web browser and Thunderbird mail client installed out of the box and in general it just feels professionally done and very very solid.

One of the first things that attracted our attention and put this distro in front of the others was it’s ability to interact immediately with it’s environment. Most Linux distributions require a fair bit of work to get up and running in a Virtualbox Virtual Machine, Mandriva however just worked, both the Live CD and the final installed versions just worked without any intervention. It required NO tweaking whatsoever to get seamless mode working and higher screen resolutions were available immediately.

Mandriva Cascading Menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Cascading Menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

So most of our customers won’t care about a Virtualbox environment, they want to know how it’s going to perform on their own hardware, well let’s put it this way, Virtualbox imitates actual hardware, although some of the hardware your virtual machine uses is the actual hardware on your computer the majority of it is Virtualbox specific, for Mandriva to be able to install all of that hardware itself out of the box, as well as the drivers required to operate in seamless mode, is HIGHLY impressive and it shouldn’t have much of a problem installing normal every day hardware.

On to the good stuff, Mandriva has an excellent layout and design, it just feels like a corporate, yet fun, well put together, professionally designed operating system. I honestly think a Windows user could pick up this operating system in half an hour and be doing almost everything they were doing on their Windows installation in no time flat.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing System Tab - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing System Tab - Screenshot.

Now then all apart from the standard stuff that everyone needs to use a computer effectively Mandriva also has all that really fun stuff you’ve heard Linux can do installed “off the shelf”. It isn’t configured and you will have to play around with the settings yourself to get it up and running in a way you’re happy with, but everything you need to configure your graphical settings is in the main menu, and very easy to understand.

We have to give down sides to our reviews as well, we can’t just have everyone thinking that we only write the good stuff about the things we review now can we.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing Network SharingTab - Screenshot.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing Network SharingTab - Screenshot.

Unfortunately Mandriva has chosen to use Konqueror for it’s default file system browser. To the un-initiated or unfamiliar this will mean nothing until I explain further. One of the things about Linux that makes it so good, is that you have a choice about everything. Not just which distribution you use but once you have your distribution installed, you can choose from an abundance of programs, to carry out almost every task possible. With the KDE (K Desktop Environment) interface (The interface we’ve used in all of our reviews here) there are several possible programs that you can use to view your file system. Many hard core Linux users will tell you that their preferred program for this purpose is Konquerer (A lot of hard core users also prefer Gnome as a desktop environment but for someone migrating from Windows I think KDE is far more intuitive), this I believe is more through force of habit than actual ease of use and practicality. The other main option for a file system browser in KDE is Dolphin (sometimes known as D3lphin). This is a newer program and hasn’t been available for that long, but in my personal opinion it is a far better program for the purpose of browsing a file system and it’s certainly much easier to use and come to grips with when transitioning from a Windows environment and it is far more self explanitory than Konqueror.

Mandriva Linux showing screen resolution menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Linux showing screen resolution menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Something that a lot of Linux distributions suffer from is that the installation media is not usually the most up to date release of all software, now this is something that can’t really be gotten around, making the installation media is a relatively long process and the amount of software that comes pre-installed on Linux by default is so large that with the regular release schedule of most Open Source Software, keeping every single piece of software at it’s most up to date state would be a mammoth task. Mandriva however suffers quite heavily here. After the installation we found over 200 updates were required, this takes a long time and requires a lot of bandwidth, in addition we also found there were quite a few programs that errored during the update and I think new users would find this very worrying. As it turns out the errors were nothing to worry about at all, another update run corrected the errors and installed the required programs perfectly. This is still a very bad point for new users to have to deal with.

The only other real downside to Mandriva for a new user from our point of view is the installation procedure, although being very straight forward and easy to use, has some lengthy surveys for both personal information and useage. Now if a customer is having the installation done by Symsys or another similar company then that’s not an issue, but for some new users who’ve chosen to do the installation themselves this could be quite a put off for them.

Summary

So in summary then Symsys highly recommends Mandriva Linux to new users, it’s extremely easy to install, very easy to use and it really does have an extremely well put together and thought out feel to it. You don’t feel like you’re using a piece of software that has bugs in it or isn’t all that well put together. When you install other operating systems (No manufacturers mentioned) you usually find that a lot of your hardware isn’t installed or doesn’t work out of the box and you have to go off hunting for the drivers and/or installation software you need from the manufacturers site. Worse yet if your network device doesn’t install then you can’t even do that online from the machine you’re trying to install, Mandriva doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem at all. Try downloading Mandriva for yourself or give us a call to have your system installed for you, whether it be a new machine you want or you just want to use it on your existing machine we’ll get it sorted for you.


Filed under: Linux Reviews,Reviews ... Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,
  

 








 

 

Debian (Etch) Linux

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

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot.

Debian is one of the mainstream and most popular distributions out there. It’s main target market is corporate desktops and Servers and it does very well in both fields. There are rumours out there, which do not do it justice, such as “Debian is very hard to install”, it isn’t at all. The installer isn’t very pretty, it’s mostly text based, however it’s functional and it finishes with a very good system installation, not leaving much to update or have to mess around with to get it working.

This is one of our favourite distributions here at Symsys, because it’s extremely functional, quite easy to learn and use and in general is an all-round good operating system. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for new users though.

Debian (Etch) Linux K Menu Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Linux K Menu Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

The layout and design of Debian, although fairly straight forward isn’t really designed for ease of use with new users in mind. Sometimes knowing how to use something, or where you might find something, requires some technical knowledge and in some cases it requires a general knowledge of Linux in general. If you don’t have either then please don’t try this one at home just yet.

On to the good stuff, Debian is an extremely good distribution of Linux, it covers all the bases for both Desktop and Server and can be easily used as either. The distribution doesn’t spend much time making things all that pretty in either it’s KDE or it’s Gnome implementations, so you might end up spending a fair amount of time tweaking and configuring your desktop once it’s installed, just so that you can bare to look at it every day. It does however have a lot of features that allow you to easily modify the desktop, whether it be installing a theme, a font, a new splash screen etc, all of it is relatively straight forward and easy to accomplish in Debian.

Debian using Konqueror as a file explorer - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian using Konqueror as a file explorer - Screenshot.

If you’re after a fun environment, lots of graphical effects, wobbling windows and things that fade in and out like a genies lamp, Debian is probably going to take a fair bit of work to get setup that way, we haven’t tried it but it just isn’t that kind of distribution. Although you’ll be able to do it and the Aptitude package manager is still pretty self explanitory etc this is much easier in a distribution like Ubuntu (Which is based on Debian anyway, it has most of Debians good points and less of it’s bad points) or Mandriva Linux.

Dissapointingly Debian has chosen to use Konqueror for it’s default file system browser, now to the un-initiated or unfamiliar this will mean nothing until I explain further. One of the things about Linux that makes it so good is that you have a choice about everything. Not just which distribution you use, but once you have your distribution installed, you can choose from an abundance of programs to carry out almost every task possible. With the KDE (K Desktop Environment) interface (The interface we’ve used in all of our reviews here) there are several possible programs that you can use to view your filesystem, now many hard core Linux users will tell you that their preferred program for this purpose is Konquerer, this I believe is more through force of habit than actual ease of use and practicallity.

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

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

The other main option for a file system browser in KDE is Dolphin (sometimes known as D3lphin). This is a newer program and hasn’t been available for that long, but in my personal opinion it is a far better program for the purpose of browsing a file system and it’s certainly much easier to use and come to grips with when transitioning from a Windows environment and it is far more self explanitory than Konqueror. This is also the case with many other very good distributions, Mandriva Linux also uses Konqueror as it’s default and to save re-writing the same thing most of this paragraph is from that review.

Unfortunately most Linux distributions have an issue with out of date software being on the installation CD, Debian is much better than some others I can think of and the unavoidable systemwide update, which must be run after a fresh install, is not all that big of a list and nor does it take all that much time to finish in Debian.

For those who might be installing Debian into a Virtual Machine such as Virtualbox you will find that you DO need to run the update FIRST, then install GCC, Linux-Headers-x.x.x-x (where x is your kernel version number) and then run the VboxLinuxAdditions.run file manually from the command line. This can be quite confusing at times if you forget to run the apt-get update apt-get uprgade first.

Debian (Etch) Control Center Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Control Center Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Those coming to Debian from Ubuntu will find although Ubuntu is based on Debian it is actually quite different. If you try to issue a Sudo command without manually adding yourself to the Sudo list you will find that it doesn’t work and you’ll get a message threatening to report you to the system administrator. Also the root user IS enabled by default where it is disabled in Ubuntu so the su command does work and will allow you to change to the root user in the command line.

Summary

If you’re a hardened user then you’ll already know that Debian is good so I don’t need to tell you, if you have a good knowledge of Linux and you understand the file system and how it works, but just haven’t tried Debian yet then I highly recommend doing so. I started out years ago, using Red Hat based systems such as Fedora Core and since I tried Debian and it’s derivitives I now much prefer them. Debian is definitely on my recommended list but not to new users, purely because it assumes some if not a lot of knowledge about Linux in order to tweak it. If you’re a new user and you’re not too familiar with Linux in general don’t go trying Debian yet it might just put you off the whole idea of using Linux as your operating system. We use Debian for a lot of our in-house and customer servers but it’s also very good as a corporate desktop.


Filed under: Linux Reviews,Reviews ... Comments (12)

Tags: , , ,
  

 





Author:  Hollow
October 12, 2008



 

 

You know what, I think it might be!

Click to look at the full elemt inspector and page highlights

LXDE Menu a pleasure to use - screenshot

I’m stuck at home this weekend with a cold and a second head (A Cist) sticking out of my cheek, so I started reading through some Linux news reviews on other sites. Low and behold while I was looking through the release announcement for one of my favorite recovery/helper distributions on distrowatch I noticed they had switched from using XFCE (A Very lightweight desktop based on KDE but not particularly pretty and not all that functional IMHO) to LXDE. Now I’d heard of LXDE and seen some write-ups on it before but never considered it to be all that much use to anyone really. This  opinion changed over the course of this weekend.

After installing LXDE on our company laptop (Dual boot HP NX9420 with Windows XP and Kubuntu 8.04) and logging into it, I found an extremely fast (And I’m talking lightning), relatively attractive (Not gorgeous but doesn’t make you want to look the other way in disgust either), useful and functional desktop infront of me.

Chrome Right Click Features

LXDE Clean desktop, fresh load - screenshot

File manager and My Documents - screenshot

File manager and My Documents - screenshot

I decided to delve further with this new Desktop of mine and see where it would fall over, there had to be a problem with it somewhere, it was too fast and too useful at the same time to be perfect. Sure enough it did struggle to load a couple of the KDE apps I had installed but for the most part it actually handled everything very cleanly.

The menu in LXDE is a pleasure to use, it’s simple, straightforward, does what it says on the tin and it’s very functional. This menu doesn’t have all the bloat of more recent modern menus and just allows you to do what you need to with it, without being over the top.

Why haven’t I used this desktop before, I asked myself? Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be using KDE3.5.9 as my main desktop for another 10 – 20 days until the release of Intrepid Ibex comes out from Kubuntu, that’ll have KDE4.1 on it, if that doesn’t please me I may well be switching my main distribution over to Mandriva, but LXDE is definitely staying on the company laptop and going to be used extensively in the coming months.

Adept package manager and Konqueror Home Page - screenshot

A Linux desktop which not only looks quite nice but is actually functional and super fast, I really do think this might be the new KDE in the next year or two. Several people are unhappy with KDE4.1 (Me being one of them, although I have mentioned in my Mandriva 2009.0 review that they’ve done a great job of making me like it) and KDE4.1 is definitely more of a resource hog than KDE3.5.9 was. Given another year or so and I think LXDE might be the default desktop on several distributions. LXDE ALREADY is the default desktop on some distributions but they’re all the minimal distributions, I’m talking about it being the main desktop for Ubuntu in 9.04. This may all be rubbish and the cough syrup might be finally kicking in but I think LXDE could and will go a lot further than it has up to now.


Filed under: Linux Reviews ... Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  

 





Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner