Monday, September 28, 2009

Install Bash-Completion

In some distros like Ubuntu this useful tool will be pre-installed. I read a tutorial on How To Forge for installing Bash-Completion in Debian. I found in my Debian install Bash-Completion was already installed. I for one hate typing commands and I use my history often. This reduces my mistakes. So when I learned about this little Bash add-on, I was all for it. To use it is simple. Just start a command and press tab once to complete the command and twice for more options. I'm sure there's plenty more so check the man pages for Bash-Completion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Just Run Linux

This short video says it all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Installing Packages In Debian With Synaptic

I have gotten very comfortable installing packages from the command line using apt-get, aptitude and dpkg. In fact I installed Synaptic using aptitude on the command line. So if I can do this why use Synaptic? The problem I have is what to install. Aptitude will install packages with ease this is true. Synaptic will also install packages with ease and I can find the packages I want by either searching or browsing the categories. This is extremely helpful since I really have no idea what packages are available or what they are named. And I also get the benefit of a brief description.

Click to enlarge

If you know what you are installing and are comfortable on the command line then by all means use it. It is very simple and you will see what is going on. But if you are like me and just don't know what is available, then Synaptic is definitely the way to go. Either way installing any of the available packages in Debian is a breeze. And for Debian that means lots of choices.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How To Install Wireless In Linux The Easy Way

The first thing to do is research. The great thing about Linux is someone somewhere has done it before you. So that makes step one Google your Linux choice of distro plus your wireless card's chipset (open terminal and type lspci to identify the chipset) and follow the instructions You will find. This will make the road to wireless easier. Also be sure and read more than one post. Stay away from the posts that have lots of comments like try this and this. If it looks like they are guessing they probably are. You will be able to tell them apart if you read more than one. The specific forums for your chosen distro are also great resources and many have wikis devoted to the distro as well. If you have not yet installed Linux, then now is the time to research your distro and wireless card choices. I have also learned a lot from reading forum posts and from websites like HowToForge. I have been reading in the Craigslist Linux forum for more than a year and now I finally feel like I know just enough to even answer a few questions. You can find me as handle fat32flash. Check it out and any other forum that meets your needs. So there you have it. My definition of installing wireless in Linux the easy way. The only real requirement is you need to be able to read.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

South Park Mac vs. PC vs. Linux

I just love these Mac vs PC commercials. This is a Southpark parody of these famous commercials.

Customizing Debian

One of Debian's features I really like is that everything isn't installed by default. I can customize my installation without having to remove tons of things I don't want. Since I am still dual booting to Windows and will be sharing space on the hard drive with Microsoft's file system NTFS, I will need a way to access those files. Most distros are assuming that we will be accessing and mounting NTFS drives and the truth is quite a few of us will, so they install the driver. But Debian by default doesn't install the needed driver ntfs-3g. So here are he simple steps to install the driver I found on a Google search of 'mount ntfs drives in debian': (if following the directions in the link you will notice #6 for me is different, I had to modify the mount command for my system)
  1. Open a termnal session as root
  2. apt-get install libfuse2
  3. apt-get install ntfs-3g
  4. Identify the ntfs partition using command: fdisk -l | grep NTFS
  5. mkdir /mnt/windows  (you can call this something different)
  6. mount -t ntfs /dev/hda1 /mnt/windows -o defaults,umask=0
Now you will have access to your Windows NTFS partition. If you have more than one just repeat substituting the appropriate partition references. When you are done be sure to un-mount the drive with the umount command (not a typo).

This can also be set at boot time by editing the fstab file in a text editor. Caution!! Messing up this file will render the system to a non-bootable state. Only change what is needed by adding this line to the file: /dev/hda1  /mnt/windows  ntfs-3g    defaults      0 0
Of course you will want to identity of the partition as found from the command step 4 gives you. This will have to be done as root of course and the file is in /etc. Follow these steps as root:
  1. cp -v /etc/fstab /etc/fstabold  (this copies the original)
  2. gedit /etc/fstab  (or your favorite editor)
  3. Add the line:  /dev/hda1  /mnt/windows  ntfs-3g    defaults      0 0
  4. Close the editor and re-boot. The partition will be ready for access each time you boot now.
For someone like me that dual boots, it is important to be able to access files in all partitions. From Windows I use the driver Ext2 IFS in Windows to access Linux partitions. I plan on writing about this in my Working With Windows blog so watch for it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shrinking Windows Partition

When I started this blog my Windows partition was 100GB's. Now I only give it just a tick over 27GB"s. Why you ask? To install Linux. tonight I finished with my install of Debian Lenny complete with wireless. It did take me the better part of two evenings and a lot o command line work but I did learn some things along the way. I plan on sticking with Debian as my main distro. Debian has a lot to offer and I can grow into it for a long time. And let's face it most of the more popular distros are based on Debian anyway. Ubuntu and all of its derivatives, Mepis, AntiX and a host of others are all derived from Debian. That's all for now I still have my favorite game to install along with a few other things.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Linux vs Microsoft At It Again

Here we are poised for another round in the war for desktop supremacy. For now Microsoft will win this battle but with their recent propaganda campaign it is clear that the folks in Redmond are getting worried. What makes Redmond worried? Progress by the competition that's what. And to double their fear Linux is free. (consumers still have to pay for Mac OS) That alone will make the suits in Redmond worry about their bottom line. Windows is the flagship product and it is natural for them to try and protect it. But here's my opinion on why it won't work in the long run.
  1. Microsoft will never be safe from those that prey upon their users. Malware alone will help keep the sales of Mac OS going steadily up and will bring more people seeking stability and safety to Linux. After all it's free to try free to use.
  2. One could argue that Microsoft's flaws have always been a catalyst for those that can, to produce stable alternatives. Can you see why Linux leads in this arena? Linux is ultimately driven by developers who are creating and writing the code because they are passionate about Linux. September 9th the Linux kernel 2.26.31 was officially released. Think about this, over 11,000 patches were added from 200 different companies representing 1100 developers, 19% of those represented themselves.  (source)
  3. End users really don't care what OS is running as long as they can do what they want to do. Whether that is chat, email, write novels or crunch numbers as long as the machine can do these things it simply won't matter what is the underlying OS. Can anyone say cloud computing?
  4. Too many jobs depend on Microsoft Windows and I'm not talking just in Redmond. Techs everywhere and also entire shops depend on Windows breaking to earn their living. Even my own job depends on Windows. 
  5. Ever wonder what keeps the internet running so smooth? The majority are running some kind of Linux server. Routers everywhere run Linux too. Why? Stability and performance. Microsoft may have the lion's share when it comes to business servers but that market is shrinking too. And to date Microsoft has yet to deliver a product completely bug free and never will since there are just too many variables in software and hardware to meet this challenge. And to be fair Linux too will suffer from similar issues in ever changing hardware. It is the passion of developers that will help Linux succeed here. See point number two.
So there you have it, my opinion on why their propaganda campiagn will not succeed. Its a given that Microsoft will succeed in some areas and hurt some companies along the way. Just as they have in the past. But as it always happens new competition, new ideas will always find ways into the market. And as computers evolve, so will the way we interact with them. The market will decide as it always does eventually.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Is Yout Favorite Linux Distribution?

On the main page of Distrowatch is a box for their top 100 page rankings by distro. You can filter by 7 days, 30 days etc. I chose 6 months and the top ten as of today are:

  1. Ubuntu
  2. Fedora
  3. Mint
  4. openSuse
  5. Mandriva
  6. Debian
  7. PCLinuxOS
  8. Puppy
  9. Sabayon
  10. Arch
I found it interesting that I have tried five from this list. I currently use Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 4, carry Fedora 11 on a USB stick, Mint was one of my early Linux experiences, I carry a USB stick with PCLinuxOS too and have used Puppy for quite a while on an older laptop until finally giving all the hard drive space to AntiX. Linux is just plain fun to use and experiment with. There is definitely a distribution for just about everyone and any task. Try it yourself and see just how many of the top ten you have used

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grub Error 17

Have you found yourself booting to error 17? How about the dreaded 18 or 22? This happens when Grub cannot find the bootable Linux files either because of disk corruption (worse case scenario) or corruption of Grub's files mainly menu.lst. This is where Super Grub can be of assistance. It is a specialty distro geared for fixing Grub errors and can even be used to fix a Windows MBR too or both at the same time. This is definitely one tool you want in your toolbox before you need it. I have had to use it on three different occasions. Two for error 17 and one for error 22. Super Grub came through on both occasions and save my system without data loss and minimal effort. I found it pretty straightforward to use as it will guide you every step of the way. Download Super Grub and stick it away safely until the day comes, and it will come, when you need this great little tool. It will simply save the day. If you know of other great tools to fix the boot record let's hear about them in the comments.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Linux Sytem Frozen? Re-boot Safely With REISUB

I know a Linux system is rarely completely frozen but I seem to manage finding the rare moment. If you have been reading these posts for a while you will remember that I am doing a lot of work on a eight year old Toshiba laptop. To refresh memories this is a P3 475Mghz with a whopping 192 MB of RAM. Unfortunately I cannot up the amount of RAM. So my solution is to run AntiX, a lighter version of Mepis, to conserve system resources. But I still have issues once in a while when I get too many tabs open in Iceweasel. I have had the system freeze and I had to re-boot. Well today I learned how to do this safely and I want to share this with you. In the old days of Unix and mainframes programmers included some very low level commands and one of the is REISUB. When using this set of commands the system has a chance to shutdown and re-boot safely preventing system files from being corrupted.  To use the commands press the Alt+SysReq (Print Screen on some systems) + each letter individually in the command allowing a few seconds in between each for the command to complete. When you are done the system will re-boot and you are back in business. I recommend reading the Wikipedia article for more details and information on more commands.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Distribution Upgrade Issues Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 4 Solved

I logged into Ubuntu one morning and was greeted by the Update Manager wanting to update 180 files. Since I had just re-installed and this was an Alpha system I chose to proceed. But for some reason the Update Manager failed reporting a 404 error and unable to fetch the files. Well since I am still somewhat of a newbie, but learning, I wrote that error of to the servers being too busy. After all this version had just been released a few days before. A few days later I tried again but I got the same results. What's up with that? I really didn't feel like digging into it at that time either so I let it go again. Well this morning brought the same results in Update Manager and now I know there are 180 updates waiting so this can't be right. This time I turned to our trusty command shell bash and did it the easy way:
>sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
And after supplying the password and answering Y it took off and did the upgrade. You just have to love the command line for its simplicity and that it will usually work or at least give you information on the errors. For me I learned to trust the command line and I am going to learn more on this powerful tool.