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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Introduction

There are lots of things in life that are a mystery. One of the big mysteries is what happens to all those odd socks, buttons and tea spoons.

What has any of this to do with the Raspberry PI or power? Well this article is about the ways that you can provide power to your Raspberry PI.

Now you may think that it is obvious. Connect a power cable to the PI and turn it on. Whilst this certainly works there are issues that the makers of the Raspberry PI have missed and which I intend to cover in this blog post.

I think there is a modern spin to be taken on the whole lost sock and tea spoon problem and that is with USB cables. I can never find the correct USB cable that is used to charge my mobile phone and sure enough no two mobile phones seem to use a USB cable with the same connection at the end.

It isn't just mobile phones that use USB cables however. The Kindle uses a USB cable as does every digital camera, MP3 player and even games consoles such as the Blaze ultimate. Keeping track of the USB cable that goes with my mobile phone is a constant battle.

Anyway on with the article.

Powering the Raspberry PI from a standard mobile phone charger

The most common way to set up the Raspberry PI is to use a standard mobile phone charger with a micro USB connector.

To make your Raspberry PI work simply plug the power cable of the charger into a plug socket and hey presto it starts to boot up.

If you have connected your Raspberry PI using a HDMI cable to the television and you have forgotten to turn the television on first it is highly likely that when you do turn the television on you won't see anything happening. On top of this issue you cannot tell how far through the boot sequence the Raspberry PI is.

There is no on and off switch for the Raspberry PI which means the only way to restart the PI, if the operating system hangs for any reason, is to pull the USB cable out of the PI and plug it back in or to press the switch on the wall.

The lack of a reset switch on the Raspberry PI is for me a design flaw.

Power the Raspberry PI from the television

Modern televisions quite often come with USB ports. If you plan to connect to your Raspberry PI and use a television as the main output then it makes sense to power it via the USB port on the television especially if you are using your Raspberry PI as a media centre.

Powering your Raspberry PI via the USB cable connected to the television means that it doesn't come on until you turn your television on.

As soon as the television is turned on you will see the Raspberry PI boot up. 

Life rarely provides us perfect solutions however. If you now turn the television off your Raspberry PI will also lose power and if you haven't shut down your operating system first then there is a risk that you corrupt it and so subsequent boots may fail.

Power the Raspberry PI from a powered USB hub

For me powering the Raspberry PI using a powered USB hub is the best solution there is. You will almost certainly need a powered hub to run your Raspberry PI as although the Raspberry PI itself can absorb enough power to run itself it will begin to struggle when you have a mouse, keyboard and wireless dongle plugged in. Every device added saps a little more power.

If you intend to use your Raspberry PI as a retro games machine you will certainly feel the benefit of a powered hub.

If you are going to use a powered hub get one with an on/off switch. 

The only real issue with using a hub to power your Raspberry PI is that it uses up one of the USB ports on your hub but there is nothing stopping you daisy chaining hubs.

Battery powered Raspberry PI

The Raspberry PI doesn't have to use power cables. You can actually power a Raspberry PI using a portable mobile phone charger.

If you search on Google there are various do it yourself guides showing you how to power the Raspberry PI with 6 AA batteries but it takes some skill to get it to work which is why the portable phone charger is the simpler solution.

Here is a Youtube video showing exactly how to power your Raspberry PI using batteries.

Solar powered Raspberry PI

There are various solutions provided on the internet for powering the Raspberry PI by sunlight but I think the guide provided on CNET is a good one because instead of sending direct power to your Raspberry PI it actually charges batteries which then powers the Raspberry PI. This ensures that only the right amount of power goes to the Raspberry PI.

This video on Youtube also shows how to run the Raspberry PI from sunlight.

Summary

When you first bought your Raspberry PI I bet the last thought in your mind was how am I going to power this thing.

As you can see the lack of an on/off switch does cause issues but these can be overcome by using the power of your television or a powered hub.

The main issue is that when you log out from Raspbian the display for the Raspberry PI stops and so you have no idea when the shutdown process is complete.

In another of my articles I showed how to connect to the Raspberry PI using a Google Nexus 7. Using this method you could actually place the Raspberry PI anywhere as long as it has a WIFI connection. 

Power the Raspberry PI from your loft, your garden or even the cupboard under the stairs.

Thankyou for reading













Power to the Raspberry PI

Introduction

There are lots of things in life that are a mystery. One of the big mysteries is what happens to all those odd socks, buttons and tea spoons.

What has any of this to do with the Raspberry PI or power? Well this article is about the ways that you can provide power to your Raspberry PI.

Now you may think that it is obvious. Connect a power cable to the PI and turn it on. Whilst this certainly works there are issues that the makers of the Raspberry PI have missed and which I intend to cover in this blog post.

I think there is a modern spin to be taken on the whole lost sock and tea spoon problem and that is with USB cables. I can never find the correct USB cable that is used to charge my mobile phone and sure enough no two mobile phones seem to use a USB cable with the same connection at the end.

It isn't just mobile phones that use USB cables however. The Kindle uses a USB cable as does every digital camera, MP3 player and even games consoles such as the Blaze ultimate. Keeping track of the USB cable that goes with my mobile phone is a constant battle.

Anyway on with the article.

Powering the Raspberry PI from a standard mobile phone charger

The most common way to set up the Raspberry PI is to use a standard mobile phone charger with a micro USB connector.

To make your Raspberry PI work simply plug the power cable of the charger into a plug socket and hey presto it starts to boot up.

If you have connected your Raspberry PI using a HDMI cable to the television and you have forgotten to turn the television on first it is highly likely that when you do turn the television on you won't see anything happening. On top of this issue you cannot tell how far through the boot sequence the Raspberry PI is.

There is no on and off switch for the Raspberry PI which means the only way to restart the PI, if the operating system hangs for any reason, is to pull the USB cable out of the PI and plug it back in or to press the switch on the wall.

The lack of a reset switch on the Raspberry PI is for me a design flaw.

Power the Raspberry PI from the television

Modern televisions quite often come with USB ports. If you plan to connect to your Raspberry PI and use a television as the main output then it makes sense to power it via the USB port on the television especially if you are using your Raspberry PI as a media centre.

Powering your Raspberry PI via the USB cable connected to the television means that it doesn't come on until you turn your television on.

As soon as the television is turned on you will see the Raspberry PI boot up. 

Life rarely provides us perfect solutions however. If you now turn the television off your Raspberry PI will also lose power and if you haven't shut down your operating system first then there is a risk that you corrupt it and so subsequent boots may fail.

Power the Raspberry PI from a powered USB hub

For me powering the Raspberry PI using a powered USB hub is the best solution there is. You will almost certainly need a powered hub to run your Raspberry PI as although the Raspberry PI itself can absorb enough power to run itself it will begin to struggle when you have a mouse, keyboard and wireless dongle plugged in. Every device added saps a little more power.

If you intend to use your Raspberry PI as a retro games machine you will certainly feel the benefit of a powered hub.

If you are going to use a powered hub get one with an on/off switch. 

The only real issue with using a hub to power your Raspberry PI is that it uses up one of the USB ports on your hub but there is nothing stopping you daisy chaining hubs.

Battery powered Raspberry PI

The Raspberry PI doesn't have to use power cables. You can actually power a Raspberry PI using a portable mobile phone charger.

If you search on Google there are various do it yourself guides showing you how to power the Raspberry PI with 6 AA batteries but it takes some skill to get it to work which is why the portable phone charger is the simpler solution.

Here is a Youtube video showing exactly how to power your Raspberry PI using batteries.

Solar powered Raspberry PI

There are various solutions provided on the internet for powering the Raspberry PI by sunlight but I think the guide provided on CNET is a good one because instead of sending direct power to your Raspberry PI it actually charges batteries which then powers the Raspberry PI. This ensures that only the right amount of power goes to the Raspberry PI.

This video on Youtube also shows how to run the Raspberry PI from sunlight.

Summary

When you first bought your Raspberry PI I bet the last thought in your mind was how am I going to power this thing.

As you can see the lack of an on/off switch does cause issues but these can be overcome by using the power of your television or a powered hub.

The main issue is that when you log out from Raspbian the display for the Raspberry PI stops and so you have no idea when the shutdown process is complete.

In another of my articles I showed how to connect to the Raspberry PI using a Google Nexus 7. Using this method you could actually place the Raspberry PI anywhere as long as it has a WIFI connection. 

Power the Raspberry PI from your loft, your garden or even the cupboard under the stairs.

Thankyou for reading













Posted at 23:18 |  by Gary Newell

3 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Introduction

Ok so one of the plans this year was to actually learn some stuff. In order to do this I needed to challenge myself a little bit.

Before I continue this isn't a review of Arch Linux. This is a post highlighting my experience thus far trying to install and get Arch Linux working.

I have been using computers since I was about 9 years old and I am now 38. I have been writing software for Windows for the past 10 years and I have some Unix and Mainframe programming experience. Therefore when it comes to computing I am not what is termed in the game as a "Noob".

However from a Linux point of view I have never ventured that far in. If Linux was the sea I would say I have probably been no further than waist high. It is high time that I got my face wet.

The Plan

For me it makes sense to have a working computer handy whilst working on something that is technically challenging so that I can use Google search skills to find help and to also download any extras I might need along the way.

I could have achieved my aim in two ways. The first way would have been to have two computers side by side. The second way was to create a virtual machine using Oracle's Virtualbox.

I decided to go for the Virtualbox option. I do intend to install Arch on a separate PC but that is a later story.

For this experiment I just so happen to be using Windows 7 running Oracle Virtualbox but I could just as easily be using Linux Mint or any other version of Linux.

Let the games begin

Now the sensible thing to do first would have been to read the documentation and there is absolutely heaps of it. Just visit https://wiki.archlinux.org/.

I didn't do the sensible thing. I went to www.distrowatch.org and clicked the download link for Arch Linux.

The download page actually links to the installation guide as the first step but I ignored that and went straight to one of the mirror links and downloaded the 64 bit ISO.

If you are thinking of installing Arch for the first time do yourself a favour and visit https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Main_Page and then click the link to the beginners guide.

I did this as my second step and I was glad that I did because it really helped.

Preparation

The first thing I did was to create a Virtual machine in Virtualbox. I allocated 50gb space for this and 2gb ram.

The installation guide starts by showing how to burn the installation medium. In this case I should have taken more notice of the bit that said "Installing on a virtual machine".

I did read this section before starting but it starts off with terminal commands to install virtual box guest utilities using Pacman.

As I am using Windows I knew this didn't really make sense at this point and so skipped the rest of this part of the guide.

The next part of the guide says to boot the installation medium. The guide shows you how to deal with EFI, how to change keyboard layouts and how to change your locale.

Whilst these tips are good I have a recommendation for people who like using graphical tools for partitioning. The Arch guide moves onto partitioning fairly early in the process and there is a whole section showing the best disk layout. What I did at this point was to boot my virtual machine using a Ubuntu live ISO and I used GParted to create the suggested disk layout. 

Installation

With the partitions created I went back to the guide and followed the bit about changing keyboard layouts and locales

The next step was to make sure there was a working internet connection. As I am using a virtual machine the wireless connection actually acts as a wired connection so I set up the internet using the instructions for the wired connection. Obviously when doing this on another laptop I would have to follow the instructions for setting up a wireless connection.

I followed steps for mounting the root and home partition and then edited the Pacman mirrorlist to put the UK mirrors at the top.

Installing the actual system was actually fairly simple. All I had to do was run the Pacman command pacman /mnt base base-devel and the relevant packages installed one by one and after about 15 minutes I was back at the command prompt.

So far so good.

With the packages installed the next step was to create the fstab file and then to chroot into the newly installed system.

As the locale and keyboard maps were set for the live ISO these had to be configured again for the installed version.

Most of the next bit you would do in a normal install such as set up timezones, the hardware clock and internet connections. Within Arch it is all done using the terminal but the principal is the same.

Just a few more steps to go.

One of the last steps is to configure Pacman so that is uses the repositories that you want to use to retrieve packages. This is simply a case of editing the pacman.conf file and commenting and uncommenting the relevant repositories.

I then set the root password and installed the bootloader. As this is a virtual machine and therefore the only operating system going to run I decided to take the easy option and use Syslinux.

All that was left to do was to unmount the partitions and reboot. (Obviously it would have been a good idea at this point to unmount the ISO so that when I rebooted my shiny new Arch Linux installation would have loaded instead of the live image again.)

Second time lucky and bingo. There you are. Arch Linux installed.

Adding a User

Now obviously it isn't a good idea to run as root all the time so I followed the guide to adding a new user to the system. (https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Users_and_Groups#User_management).

Sound

The Arch Linux beginners guide is very good and tells you that Alsa is installed by default but the volume would be turned down. It shows you how to install Alsamixer and how to run it and unmute each level.

When I tried this for the first time I did the sound test and nothing came out. It took me a good couple of minutes to work out that I did actually have the speakers set to mute within Windows and therefore it was still mute within the virtual box.

GUI

By default Arch comes with no graphical user interface. You have to install everything yourself including X.

The guide however takes you through the process of installing X and also the installation of video drivers.

When I tried to start X for the first time it didn't work. 

I did what I always do in this scenario which is to open Google and search using the error message. This usually brings up a list of pages where people who have the same issue have listed it in forums or on Yahoo Answers and I can use the solutions provided by others.

I was a little annoyed to say the least when I found a forum post on the Arch user forums where somebody had asked the exact same question I was basically asking (although I didn't need to actually ask it because it was already answered). The response by two or three users was to check forum etiquette and to read the manual. 

Why do I have a problem with this? Well the guy fell into the same trap I did. He was installing in a Virtual machine and hadn't installed the guest utils. Upon installing the guest utils the Virtualbox video driver is installed and X works perfectly.

Remember at the beginning when I said I skipped this because it was telling me to type Pacman commands before we had even got to the point of booting the Virtual machine from the ISO. It is clear to me that from other people asking very similar questions that whilst the Arch guides are very thorough there is clearly an issue with the ordering of content because something that is not relevant straight away suddenly becomes more relevant later on. The point therefore is that the people did read the manual and fell down because maybe the manual isn't entirely clear. As Eric Morecombe used to say "I'm playing all the correct notes, not necessarily in the right order".

Anyway the upshot is I got X working and it was now time to install a display manager and desktop environment.

Display Manager

I would recommend installing the display manager first and then the desktop environment. 

The desktop manager is responsible for displaying a graphical login screen (although there are command line versions). 

It is worth considering using the appropriate display manager with a matching desktop environment. However you don't have to do this.

My favourite desktop environment is XFCE and so I went for the SLIM display manager. 

Installation and setup of the SLIM display manager was easy especially as Arch has a very well written guide showing you how to configure it.

Desktop Environment

As mentioned in the previous section I decided to go for XFCE. Again Arch comes with an excellent user guide for installing XFCE.

Bing Bang Bosh......



Yes ladies and gentlemen there is my login screen and there is my XFCE desktop. 

Now it is worth noting at this point that it is a vanilla XFCE desktop with absolutely no software. There is no browser for instance. There are a few default stock applications such as a calendar, image viewer and CD burner but that is it.

My next step therefore will be to customise the XFCE a lot more, work harder on the god awful desktop manager settings that I have in place and basically tart it up.

Summary

Actually installing Arch and getting it working took me about 2 or 3 hours and at this stage I have a virtual machine running a fairly blank operating system. 

Was it worth the effort?

For me yes it was. Today I learned a few things such as how to configure the SLIM display manager, how to use Pacman and how to get XFCE to work.

I already knew how to connect to the internet from the command line but had I not then I would have learned that too.

For me this is where Arch can take me. It can let me learn a bit more of what is going on under the hood.

It is however hard for me to imagine ever using Arch as my full time operating system at this stage. I can't believe I will ever get to the stage where I can produce an XFCE based system that is better than Xubuntu and there is no way I'm as skilled as all the people working on Linux Mint.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to buy Arch Linux on DVD or USB


















First steps in Arch Linux

Introduction

Ok so one of the plans this year was to actually learn some stuff. In order to do this I needed to challenge myself a little bit.

Before I continue this isn't a review of Arch Linux. This is a post highlighting my experience thus far trying to install and get Arch Linux working.

I have been using computers since I was about 9 years old and I am now 38. I have been writing software for Windows for the past 10 years and I have some Unix and Mainframe programming experience. Therefore when it comes to computing I am not what is termed in the game as a "Noob".

However from a Linux point of view I have never ventured that far in. If Linux was the sea I would say I have probably been no further than waist high. It is high time that I got my face wet.

The Plan

For me it makes sense to have a working computer handy whilst working on something that is technically challenging so that I can use Google search skills to find help and to also download any extras I might need along the way.

I could have achieved my aim in two ways. The first way would have been to have two computers side by side. The second way was to create a virtual machine using Oracle's Virtualbox.

I decided to go for the Virtualbox option. I do intend to install Arch on a separate PC but that is a later story.

For this experiment I just so happen to be using Windows 7 running Oracle Virtualbox but I could just as easily be using Linux Mint or any other version of Linux.

Let the games begin

Now the sensible thing to do first would have been to read the documentation and there is absolutely heaps of it. Just visit https://wiki.archlinux.org/.

I didn't do the sensible thing. I went to www.distrowatch.org and clicked the download link for Arch Linux.

The download page actually links to the installation guide as the first step but I ignored that and went straight to one of the mirror links and downloaded the 64 bit ISO.

If you are thinking of installing Arch for the first time do yourself a favour and visit https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Main_Page and then click the link to the beginners guide.

I did this as my second step and I was glad that I did because it really helped.

Preparation

The first thing I did was to create a Virtual machine in Virtualbox. I allocated 50gb space for this and 2gb ram.

The installation guide starts by showing how to burn the installation medium. In this case I should have taken more notice of the bit that said "Installing on a virtual machine".

I did read this section before starting but it starts off with terminal commands to install virtual box guest utilities using Pacman.

As I am using Windows I knew this didn't really make sense at this point and so skipped the rest of this part of the guide.

The next part of the guide says to boot the installation medium. The guide shows you how to deal with EFI, how to change keyboard layouts and how to change your locale.

Whilst these tips are good I have a recommendation for people who like using graphical tools for partitioning. The Arch guide moves onto partitioning fairly early in the process and there is a whole section showing the best disk layout. What I did at this point was to boot my virtual machine using a Ubuntu live ISO and I used GParted to create the suggested disk layout. 

Installation

With the partitions created I went back to the guide and followed the bit about changing keyboard layouts and locales

The next step was to make sure there was a working internet connection. As I am using a virtual machine the wireless connection actually acts as a wired connection so I set up the internet using the instructions for the wired connection. Obviously when doing this on another laptop I would have to follow the instructions for setting up a wireless connection.

I followed steps for mounting the root and home partition and then edited the Pacman mirrorlist to put the UK mirrors at the top.

Installing the actual system was actually fairly simple. All I had to do was run the Pacman command pacman /mnt base base-devel and the relevant packages installed one by one and after about 15 minutes I was back at the command prompt.

So far so good.

With the packages installed the next step was to create the fstab file and then to chroot into the newly installed system.

As the locale and keyboard maps were set for the live ISO these had to be configured again for the installed version.

Most of the next bit you would do in a normal install such as set up timezones, the hardware clock and internet connections. Within Arch it is all done using the terminal but the principal is the same.

Just a few more steps to go.

One of the last steps is to configure Pacman so that is uses the repositories that you want to use to retrieve packages. This is simply a case of editing the pacman.conf file and commenting and uncommenting the relevant repositories.

I then set the root password and installed the bootloader. As this is a virtual machine and therefore the only operating system going to run I decided to take the easy option and use Syslinux.

All that was left to do was to unmount the partitions and reboot. (Obviously it would have been a good idea at this point to unmount the ISO so that when I rebooted my shiny new Arch Linux installation would have loaded instead of the live image again.)

Second time lucky and bingo. There you are. Arch Linux installed.

Adding a User

Now obviously it isn't a good idea to run as root all the time so I followed the guide to adding a new user to the system. (https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Users_and_Groups#User_management).

Sound

The Arch Linux beginners guide is very good and tells you that Alsa is installed by default but the volume would be turned down. It shows you how to install Alsamixer and how to run it and unmute each level.

When I tried this for the first time I did the sound test and nothing came out. It took me a good couple of minutes to work out that I did actually have the speakers set to mute within Windows and therefore it was still mute within the virtual box.

GUI

By default Arch comes with no graphical user interface. You have to install everything yourself including X.

The guide however takes you through the process of installing X and also the installation of video drivers.

When I tried to start X for the first time it didn't work. 

I did what I always do in this scenario which is to open Google and search using the error message. This usually brings up a list of pages where people who have the same issue have listed it in forums or on Yahoo Answers and I can use the solutions provided by others.

I was a little annoyed to say the least when I found a forum post on the Arch user forums where somebody had asked the exact same question I was basically asking (although I didn't need to actually ask it because it was already answered). The response by two or three users was to check forum etiquette and to read the manual. 

Why do I have a problem with this? Well the guy fell into the same trap I did. He was installing in a Virtual machine and hadn't installed the guest utils. Upon installing the guest utils the Virtualbox video driver is installed and X works perfectly.

Remember at the beginning when I said I skipped this because it was telling me to type Pacman commands before we had even got to the point of booting the Virtual machine from the ISO. It is clear to me that from other people asking very similar questions that whilst the Arch guides are very thorough there is clearly an issue with the ordering of content because something that is not relevant straight away suddenly becomes more relevant later on. The point therefore is that the people did read the manual and fell down because maybe the manual isn't entirely clear. As Eric Morecombe used to say "I'm playing all the correct notes, not necessarily in the right order".

Anyway the upshot is I got X working and it was now time to install a display manager and desktop environment.

Display Manager

I would recommend installing the display manager first and then the desktop environment. 

The desktop manager is responsible for displaying a graphical login screen (although there are command line versions). 

It is worth considering using the appropriate display manager with a matching desktop environment. However you don't have to do this.

My favourite desktop environment is XFCE and so I went for the SLIM display manager. 

Installation and setup of the SLIM display manager was easy especially as Arch has a very well written guide showing you how to configure it.

Desktop Environment

As mentioned in the previous section I decided to go for XFCE. Again Arch comes with an excellent user guide for installing XFCE.

Bing Bang Bosh......



Yes ladies and gentlemen there is my login screen and there is my XFCE desktop. 

Now it is worth noting at this point that it is a vanilla XFCE desktop with absolutely no software. There is no browser for instance. There are a few default stock applications such as a calendar, image viewer and CD burner but that is it.

My next step therefore will be to customise the XFCE a lot more, work harder on the god awful desktop manager settings that I have in place and basically tart it up.

Summary

Actually installing Arch and getting it working took me about 2 or 3 hours and at this stage I have a virtual machine running a fairly blank operating system. 

Was it worth the effort?

For me yes it was. Today I learned a few things such as how to configure the SLIM display manager, how to use Pacman and how to get XFCE to work.

I already knew how to connect to the internet from the command line but had I not then I would have learned that too.

For me this is where Arch can take me. It can let me learn a bit more of what is going on under the hood.

It is however hard for me to imagine ever using Arch as my full time operating system at this stage. I can't believe I will ever get to the stage where I can produce an XFCE based system that is better than Xubuntu and there is no way I'm as skilled as all the people working on Linux Mint.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to buy Arch Linux on DVD or USB


















Posted at 00:05 |  by Gary Newell

9 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Everyday Linux User blog up until now has been about me experimenting with different distributions and writing about my experiences.

I have written reviews and how to guides on a number of different subjects ranging from "Connecting to the Raspberry PI using a Nexus 7" to "Customising the Xubuntu desktop".

Some of the articles are very well received and some of them blow around like carrier bags in the wind.

If you have an article that you want to write about Linux to promote your own site or you just want to try your hand at writing without the commitment of starting your own blog why not write an article for the Everyday Linux User blog.

If you are interested email everydaylinuxuser@gmail.com.




Everyday Linux User now accepting guest posts

The Everyday Linux User blog up until now has been about me experimenting with different distributions and writing about my experiences.

I have written reviews and how to guides on a number of different subjects ranging from "Connecting to the Raspberry PI using a Nexus 7" to "Customising the Xubuntu desktop".

Some of the articles are very well received and some of them blow around like carrier bags in the wind.

If you have an article that you want to write about Linux to promote your own site or you just want to try your hand at writing without the commitment of starting your own blog why not write an article for the Everyday Linux User blog.

If you are interested email everydaylinuxuser@gmail.com.




Posted at 22:21 |  by Gary Newell

0 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

I have recently become a user on Reddit and I have to say that out of all the social networking sites it is the one I relate to the most.

I currently subscribe to the following sub-reddits:
  • Linux
  • Linuxnoobs
  • Linuxquestions
  • Raspberry_PI
  • RaspberryPI
  • Distrohopping
In order to be able to discuss more fully the articles on this site and to chat freely about Linux without bombarding the comments section at the bottom of each article I have decided to create an Everyday Linux User Sub-reddit.

So if you are a Reddit user feel free to subscribe to the EVERYDAYLINUXUSER Sub-reddit.


Feel free to discuss anything about Linux on this Sub-reddit. If you have your own Linux blog then I am more than happy for you to promote your own linux blog links and articles.

If you want to become a moderator get in touch.


Everyday Linux User now on Reddit

I have recently become a user on Reddit and I have to say that out of all the social networking sites it is the one I relate to the most.

I currently subscribe to the following sub-reddits:
  • Linux
  • Linuxnoobs
  • Linuxquestions
  • Raspberry_PI
  • RaspberryPI
  • Distrohopping
In order to be able to discuss more fully the articles on this site and to chat freely about Linux without bombarding the comments section at the bottom of each article I have decided to create an Everyday Linux User Sub-reddit.

So if you are a Reddit user feel free to subscribe to the EVERYDAYLINUXUSER Sub-reddit.


Feel free to discuss anything about Linux on this Sub-reddit. If you have your own Linux blog then I am more than happy for you to promote your own linux blog links and articles.

If you want to become a moderator get in touch.


Posted at 22:12 |  by Gary Newell

0 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Monday, 18 March 2013

Introduction

If you go to distrowatch.com and look down the rankings you will see at number 24 a distribution called SLAX.

It is very hard for distro developers to make their particular distribution stand out. SLAX is not one of them.

SLAX weighs in at 210mb and is built to run from a USB drive as opposed to being installed to the hard drive. What you end up with is a fully functional portable operating system.

Installation

To download SLAX go to http://www.slax.org/en/download.php and click on the 32-bit or 64-bit zip file for your particular language.

Now ordinarily when downloading Linux distributions you would download the ISO image and burn it to the USB drive using something like UNetbootin but to install SLAX all you need is a USB drive, the zip file and a program that can extract the zip file to the USB drive.

Once the USB drive has all the files extracted to it you just need to run the bootinst.bat file located in the /slax/boot folder.

You do not need to install SLAX to a hard drive because it is built to run from the USB drive.

First Impressions


The first boot is a little longer than subsequent boots but it isn't that long even on an Acer Aspire One D255 netbook.

As you can see you are greeted with a rather nice green KDE screen with a toolbar at the bottom.

In the bottom left there are three icons which from left to right when clicked, shows the menu, opens a terminal window and starts the Firefox web browser.

In the bottom right there are icons for keyboard layout, audio, display settings, network settings and a clock.

Next to the clock is a little hotspot that when clicked enables you to change the panel settings and add further widgets.

On the desktop itself there are two icons. The first one is a link to the SLAX software repository which I will explain further later and underneath that icon is a help guide which is definitely worth reading as it explains a lot.

In the top right corner is another hotspot which when clicked enables you to log out and change KDE settings.

Connecting to the internet

I had issues when I first tried to connect to the internet. The problem is that this netbook contains an Intel Centrino Wireless-n 1000 card and this driver isn't installed by default.

Now I could tell you the way I got around it which was to:

  1. download the driver iwlwifi-1000-5.ucode
  2. copy the driver to /lib/firmware
  3. open terminal and type: modprobe -r iwlwifi && modprobe iwlwifi 
After following those steps I was able to use the graphical tool to connect to my wireless network.


Later on I'll show you an easier way of making sure you have the correct wireless drivers installed.

Flash and MP3


Rather surprisingly Flash worked out of the box and just as surprisingly I was also able to play MP3 files using the media player (Juk) without having to install extra drivers or libraries.

Applications

SLAX is obviously a lightweight distribution because it is built to run from a USB drive and the applications reflect this.

Games

  • KBounce - Ball bouncing game
  • Bovo - 5 in a row 
  • KPatience - Patience
  • KSudoku - Sudoku
  • KMines - Minesweeper

Graphics

  • GWenview - Image Viewer
  • KSnapshot - Screenshot 
  • Kolourpaint - Paint
  • Okular - Document Viewer
  • KColorChooser - Colour selection

Internet

  • FireFox - Web Browser
  • Pidgin - Messenger
  • KRDC - Remote Desktop
  • KPPP - Internet Dialup
  • KRFB - Desktop Sharing
  • KNetAttach - Network Folder Wizard

Multimedia

  • SMPlayer - Media Player
  • JUK - Audio Player
  • KMix - Sound Mixer
There are various other system tools and utilities such as file browsers and wizards.

Installing Applications.


SLAX doesn't use tools like Synaptic or YUM to install software. Software is installed as modules and can be downloaded from the SLAX website.

To install an application you download it from the website and place it in the /lib/modules folder.

By placing the module in the /lib/modules folder it is available for use everytime you run SLAX.

You can activate and deactivate modules by clicking on the software center icon on the desktop.


The software center has three tabs.

The first tab has the "best picks" from the module library and as you might expect contains applications such as Google Chrome.

The second tab is called "All Modules" and when clicked just shows the following message: "Here will be interface to browse all modules. Soon. Stay tuned! :)".

The third tab is called "Active Modules" and shows all the modules you have installed thus far.

You can choose to active or deactivate modules by clicking the button to the right of each application.

Remember earlier on when I showed the method for installing the wireless drivers? Well instead of doing that I could have gone to the module downloads page and from the drivers section installed the firmware-iwlwifi module.

And finally...

So everything thus far has been fairly standard except for the fact that it all runs as a live USB rather than installing it to a hard drive.

But I found something odd whilst looking for further information on SLAX.

Visit http://old.slax.org/build.php.

You can build your own version of SLAX by adding the modules you want to add and removing the modules you don't need.

When you are happy with your selections you can just download the ISO and install it to a USB drive. There are hundreds of modules available. (Many more than from the main SLAX website).

The main issue I have with this is that it seems to be an old version of the SLAX website. Is this now obsolete or is this still active? If this is still active then do the modules for SLAX on this website work with the version of SLAX from the main website?

I love the idea of being able to build your own ISO. It is like Linux Lego. There is no link from the main SLAX website to the link above. I found the above link by searching for SLAX on Google. 

Summary

This review is just a cursory glance at what I have learned so far about this operating system. I plan to spend quite a bit of time investigating it further.

The operating system works straight away from a USB drive and is easy to create. The modules system also makes it easy to install software.

For those who like to play, the USB base makes SLAX a good sandbox for compiling other modules that don't appear in the module repository. It is a great way to learn how to compile applications without messing up your main distribution.

The portability of SLAX means you can take it anywhere and interchangeable modules means you can get the drivers working without too much fuss.

The main issues I have are as follows:
  • I don't see the point in having a tab in the software center that says "will be implemented shortly". Just hide the tab until it is available.
  • Why is there an old site and a new site? I think this is confusing. Should you use the modules from the old site?
  • A lot of the modules on the old site are shown as  "Not verified" and it isn't recommended that you use modules until they are verified. Will this ever happen now being that this is an old site?
Regardless of these issues, I really like the idea of SLAX and I plan to compile my own modules and explore it further in the next few weeks. It would be good to get a Raspberry PI version.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download SLAX

Click here to buy SLAX on DVD or USB



Everyday Linux User Review of SLAX

Introduction

If you go to distrowatch.com and look down the rankings you will see at number 24 a distribution called SLAX.

It is very hard for distro developers to make their particular distribution stand out. SLAX is not one of them.

SLAX weighs in at 210mb and is built to run from a USB drive as opposed to being installed to the hard drive. What you end up with is a fully functional portable operating system.

Installation

To download SLAX go to http://www.slax.org/en/download.php and click on the 32-bit or 64-bit zip file for your particular language.

Now ordinarily when downloading Linux distributions you would download the ISO image and burn it to the USB drive using something like UNetbootin but to install SLAX all you need is a USB drive, the zip file and a program that can extract the zip file to the USB drive.

Once the USB drive has all the files extracted to it you just need to run the bootinst.bat file located in the /slax/boot folder.

You do not need to install SLAX to a hard drive because it is built to run from the USB drive.

First Impressions


The first boot is a little longer than subsequent boots but it isn't that long even on an Acer Aspire One D255 netbook.

As you can see you are greeted with a rather nice green KDE screen with a toolbar at the bottom.

In the bottom left there are three icons which from left to right when clicked, shows the menu, opens a terminal window and starts the Firefox web browser.

In the bottom right there are icons for keyboard layout, audio, display settings, network settings and a clock.

Next to the clock is a little hotspot that when clicked enables you to change the panel settings and add further widgets.

On the desktop itself there are two icons. The first one is a link to the SLAX software repository which I will explain further later and underneath that icon is a help guide which is definitely worth reading as it explains a lot.

In the top right corner is another hotspot which when clicked enables you to log out and change KDE settings.

Connecting to the internet

I had issues when I first tried to connect to the internet. The problem is that this netbook contains an Intel Centrino Wireless-n 1000 card and this driver isn't installed by default.

Now I could tell you the way I got around it which was to:

  1. download the driver iwlwifi-1000-5.ucode
  2. copy the driver to /lib/firmware
  3. open terminal and type: modprobe -r iwlwifi && modprobe iwlwifi 
After following those steps I was able to use the graphical tool to connect to my wireless network.


Later on I'll show you an easier way of making sure you have the correct wireless drivers installed.

Flash and MP3


Rather surprisingly Flash worked out of the box and just as surprisingly I was also able to play MP3 files using the media player (Juk) without having to install extra drivers or libraries.

Applications

SLAX is obviously a lightweight distribution because it is built to run from a USB drive and the applications reflect this.

Games

  • KBounce - Ball bouncing game
  • Bovo - 5 in a row 
  • KPatience - Patience
  • KSudoku - Sudoku
  • KMines - Minesweeper

Graphics

  • GWenview - Image Viewer
  • KSnapshot - Screenshot 
  • Kolourpaint - Paint
  • Okular - Document Viewer
  • KColorChooser - Colour selection

Internet

  • FireFox - Web Browser
  • Pidgin - Messenger
  • KRDC - Remote Desktop
  • KPPP - Internet Dialup
  • KRFB - Desktop Sharing
  • KNetAttach - Network Folder Wizard

Multimedia

  • SMPlayer - Media Player
  • JUK - Audio Player
  • KMix - Sound Mixer
There are various other system tools and utilities such as file browsers and wizards.

Installing Applications.


SLAX doesn't use tools like Synaptic or YUM to install software. Software is installed as modules and can be downloaded from the SLAX website.

To install an application you download it from the website and place it in the /lib/modules folder.

By placing the module in the /lib/modules folder it is available for use everytime you run SLAX.

You can activate and deactivate modules by clicking on the software center icon on the desktop.


The software center has three tabs.

The first tab has the "best picks" from the module library and as you might expect contains applications such as Google Chrome.

The second tab is called "All Modules" and when clicked just shows the following message: "Here will be interface to browse all modules. Soon. Stay tuned! :)".

The third tab is called "Active Modules" and shows all the modules you have installed thus far.

You can choose to active or deactivate modules by clicking the button to the right of each application.

Remember earlier on when I showed the method for installing the wireless drivers? Well instead of doing that I could have gone to the module downloads page and from the drivers section installed the firmware-iwlwifi module.

And finally...

So everything thus far has been fairly standard except for the fact that it all runs as a live USB rather than installing it to a hard drive.

But I found something odd whilst looking for further information on SLAX.

Visit http://old.slax.org/build.php.

You can build your own version of SLAX by adding the modules you want to add and removing the modules you don't need.

When you are happy with your selections you can just download the ISO and install it to a USB drive. There are hundreds of modules available. (Many more than from the main SLAX website).

The main issue I have with this is that it seems to be an old version of the SLAX website. Is this now obsolete or is this still active? If this is still active then do the modules for SLAX on this website work with the version of SLAX from the main website?

I love the idea of being able to build your own ISO. It is like Linux Lego. There is no link from the main SLAX website to the link above. I found the above link by searching for SLAX on Google. 

Summary

This review is just a cursory glance at what I have learned so far about this operating system. I plan to spend quite a bit of time investigating it further.

The operating system works straight away from a USB drive and is easy to create. The modules system also makes it easy to install software.

For those who like to play, the USB base makes SLAX a good sandbox for compiling other modules that don't appear in the module repository. It is a great way to learn how to compile applications without messing up your main distribution.

The portability of SLAX means you can take it anywhere and interchangeable modules means you can get the drivers working without too much fuss.

The main issues I have are as follows:
  • I don't see the point in having a tab in the software center that says "will be implemented shortly". Just hide the tab until it is available.
  • Why is there an old site and a new site? I think this is confusing. Should you use the modules from the old site?
  • A lot of the modules on the old site are shown as  "Not verified" and it isn't recommended that you use modules until they are verified. Will this ever happen now being that this is an old site?
Regardless of these issues, I really like the idea of SLAX and I plan to compile my own modules and explore it further in the next few weeks. It would be good to get a Raspberry PI version.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download SLAX

Click here to buy SLAX on DVD or USB



Posted at 23:45 |  by Gary Newell

10 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

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Thanks for visiting my blog

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Introduction

I have written quite a few reviews about various Linux distributions and in many cases I give a brief overview how to install the distributions.

There are however things that I have skipped that you really ought to consider before installing your first Linux distribution.

This article lists 5 things that you should consider when installing Linux for the first time.

1. Which Linux distribution should I choose?

I have recently discovered the beauty of Reddit and there are a few sub-reddits that I read regularly such as Linuxnoobs and Linuxquestions.

One of the most common questions is "which distribution should I choose?".

The answer to such questions usually come from the experiences of various contributors and there is a bias towards one distribution or another. Very rarely does anybody ask important questions such as "What is your computer experience level?", "Do you want to it work straight away or are you happy to put some effort in?", "How old is your computer?", "What are the specifications?" and "What do you primarily use the computer for?".

So how can you decide which distribution is best for you if everyone gives an opinion that has a bias to their own needs?

Well first of all there is distrowatch. Distrowatch is the go to place for Linux distributions. Nearly every distribution is listed there and it has a great search facility which enables you to search by category such as distributions for beginners, games, education, distributions for older computers and netbooks. 

Distrowatch also has a chart which lists the popularity of Linux distributions based on the clicks of the download links on the site. This doesn't really prove popularity of course because I might install Ubuntu today and think it is rubbish and therefore choose another distribution straight away.

Rankings are also somewhat self-fulfilling prophecies in that because for instance Linux Mint is top, visitors to the site are much more likely to try the distributions at the top before trying the distribution at 256 in the list thereby making it even more popular. So rankings aren't the only method you should use to choose your distribution.

If you click on the link of any particular distribution within distrowatch you will see links to reviews for that distribution.

Again reviews can be somewhat biased as that is only natural. We all try to be objective with our opinions but we are only human.

What you can really gain from reviews are obvious pitfalls, who the distribution is aimed at, screenshots and by reading the comments at the bottom other people's opinions of a distribution and of course the person who wrote the review because if the reviewer is not credible there are endless streams of people willing to tell them so. (Of course there are internet trolls everywhere so you have to take some of the comments with a pinch of salt).

The best thing you can do is to download a few distributions and create live USB drives and try out the features of a few distributions until you find one you are happy with. 

2. Are you replacing Windows or installing alongside Windows?

If you are using Windows and you have very little experience with Linux then it is probably a good idea to run Linux alongside Windows for a few months until you are happy that all your needs are served by Linux.

It is also a good idea to try out a few of the Linux applications in a Windows environment. Many of the larger open source applications are available for Windows so you can try them in advance of installing Linux.

For example:

3. Have you backed up?

There are loads of guides online showing you how to install various Linux distributions. I am yet to see a guide that actually asks you whether you have backed up your Windows partition even though many of them show how to install Linux alongside Windows.

A lot of modern laptops are sold with Windows 7 pre-installed. What this generally means is that most people don't receive a Windows 7 DVD.

Whether you are going to install Linux or not you should read this next bit. 
"Create a recovery disk and a system image"
What would happen if Windows suddenly stopped working because you accidentally deleted key files or you accidentally contracted some kind of nasty virus or malware?

You need a recovery disk and you need to create a system image. There are loads of guides for doing this online including:


Now there is an inherent issue with the way Windows is installed when you first receive it on your shiny new machine and it causes big issues when creating system images.

Windows is installed on one big partition. (well actually for Windows 7 there is another smaller partition). The problem with this is that when you create a system image it creates a huge image file and you have nowhere to save it off to.

Where you save your system image is very important. You basically have a choice depending on the size of the image that is going to be created. You can backup to an external hard drive, secondary internal hard drive or a series of blank DVDs.  You can also create another partition on your existing hard drive in which to save the image. (many manufacturers already create a partition for this purpose).

Saving a system image to a partition on the same hard drive is potentially dangerous in that if the drive itself is faulty then the system image will be destroyed along with the rest of the data therefore rendering the system image useless.

So what is the solution? You have a 1 terabyte drive with Windows taking the whole kaboodle. How do you back this thing up? You could of course buy lots of very cheap DVDs. This would work but one dodgy DVD and the whole process is pointless and do you really fancy restoring dozens of DVDs to get your Windows working again?

First of all deal with that huge Windows partition. Windows 7 has an option which enables you to shrink it down. 

Read this guide to see how to shrink the Windows partition.

With the Windows partition shrunk down to size you can backup straight to an external hard drive and hopefully not fill it up. 

What I like to do though is create a backup partition on the same drive and create the system image to the backup partition. (Note that I don't use the whole of the unpartitioned space for the backup partition but just enough to store the system image).

There is still the inherent problem that the system image is stored on the same physical drive. I get around this by copying the system image files off onto an external hard drive.

What are the benefits of doing this you might ask? Well if I want to restore quickly I don't need to rely on my external hard drive unless the whole drive is toast. I can use the system image stored on the local backup partition. If the drive is toast I can install a new drive and use the system image on the external hard drive.

4. Partitioning the hard drive

Whether you are installing alongside Windows or installing over the top of Windows you need to consider the partitions that you will create on your hard drive before installing.

There are a few distributions that try and help you partition your drive such as Ubuntu and Mint.

I think that they have the same inherent flaw as Windows does in that they try and create one large partition for everything. (with maybe small partitions for boot and swap). This means your home folder is lumped in with your applications.

So what is wrong with having your applications and data on the same partition? Well if you backup your home folder regularly and you have no plans on removing the chose distribution there is no problem in keeping your home folder on the same partition as every other system file.

For me though the best decision you can make is to create a separate home partition. This separates system files from user files. You will now be able to re-install your chosen version of Linux as many times as you like without affecting your documents, music, videos etc. 

I found this guide to be very useful on the subject on disk partitioning.

5. What is your motive for moving to Linux?

Giving up Windows is a bit like giving up smoking or drinking. If you aren't committed to the idea then you will not really break the habit.

You use Windows because that is what you were taught and what you have used everyday up until now. So why now choose Linux? What is your motive?

You have to want to use Linux and you have to be prepared for new experiences to enjoy it. 

I am going to sound like a self help hypnosis recording now.....

  • You don't need Microsoft Windows
  • You don't need Microsoft Office
  • You don't need Outlook
  • You don't need Internet Explorer
When you can appreciate that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer then you will appreciate Linux.

If you are going to install Linux and try and run all the Windows programs you run already then the question has to be asked "Why?". 

Sure there is the WINE project that allows you to run many Windows applications but in many cases there is a more than viable option in the Linux repositories that is not just equal to but often better than the Windows equivalent.

Chrome (Chromium) for instance is a much better browser than Internet Explorer. (To be honest a blind dog with no sense of smell is better at browsing than Internet Explorer).

LibreOffice has moved on leaps and bounds and is more than useful enough for most users especially at home.

Do you really utilise Outlook at home? Do you really need it? Most people use Webmail now and if you really need an email client then there is Thunderbird which is a great replacement.

I found the key to making the move to Linux all those years ago was to forget the Windows applications because there is always a Linux equivalent. 

I think the biggest mistake someone can make is to install Linux and then complain that it doesn't work the same way as Windows. If you want Windows use Windows.

Summary

If this article has done nothing else I hope it has encouraged a few Windows users to go and back up their computers because I fear there are so many people one bad file deletion away from having an expensive brick. (or they are in for a large PC World bill) 

Another good idea for Windows users is to create a standard user and use that user for most tasks. It is much harder for a virus to penetrate your system if you are logged in as a standard user than as a power user or administrator.

Before I sign off consider this.... how many applications do you use under Windows that are also available via most Linux distributions. For each application that you use regularly check online and see if the the same application has a Linux version. 

I am looking at the list of applications in my Windows launch bar and I can see DropBox, Skype, VirtualBox, Steam and Spotify. All of these are available from within Linux. 

Thankyou for reading.





5 things to consider when installing Linux for the first time

Introduction

I have written quite a few reviews about various Linux distributions and in many cases I give a brief overview how to install the distributions.

There are however things that I have skipped that you really ought to consider before installing your first Linux distribution.

This article lists 5 things that you should consider when installing Linux for the first time.

1. Which Linux distribution should I choose?

I have recently discovered the beauty of Reddit and there are a few sub-reddits that I read regularly such as Linuxnoobs and Linuxquestions.

One of the most common questions is "which distribution should I choose?".

The answer to such questions usually come from the experiences of various contributors and there is a bias towards one distribution or another. Very rarely does anybody ask important questions such as "What is your computer experience level?", "Do you want to it work straight away or are you happy to put some effort in?", "How old is your computer?", "What are the specifications?" and "What do you primarily use the computer for?".

So how can you decide which distribution is best for you if everyone gives an opinion that has a bias to their own needs?

Well first of all there is distrowatch. Distrowatch is the go to place for Linux distributions. Nearly every distribution is listed there and it has a great search facility which enables you to search by category such as distributions for beginners, games, education, distributions for older computers and netbooks. 

Distrowatch also has a chart which lists the popularity of Linux distributions based on the clicks of the download links on the site. This doesn't really prove popularity of course because I might install Ubuntu today and think it is rubbish and therefore choose another distribution straight away.

Rankings are also somewhat self-fulfilling prophecies in that because for instance Linux Mint is top, visitors to the site are much more likely to try the distributions at the top before trying the distribution at 256 in the list thereby making it even more popular. So rankings aren't the only method you should use to choose your distribution.

If you click on the link of any particular distribution within distrowatch you will see links to reviews for that distribution.

Again reviews can be somewhat biased as that is only natural. We all try to be objective with our opinions but we are only human.

What you can really gain from reviews are obvious pitfalls, who the distribution is aimed at, screenshots and by reading the comments at the bottom other people's opinions of a distribution and of course the person who wrote the review because if the reviewer is not credible there are endless streams of people willing to tell them so. (Of course there are internet trolls everywhere so you have to take some of the comments with a pinch of salt).

The best thing you can do is to download a few distributions and create live USB drives and try out the features of a few distributions until you find one you are happy with. 

2. Are you replacing Windows or installing alongside Windows?

If you are using Windows and you have very little experience with Linux then it is probably a good idea to run Linux alongside Windows for a few months until you are happy that all your needs are served by Linux.

It is also a good idea to try out a few of the Linux applications in a Windows environment. Many of the larger open source applications are available for Windows so you can try them in advance of installing Linux.

For example:

3. Have you backed up?

There are loads of guides online showing you how to install various Linux distributions. I am yet to see a guide that actually asks you whether you have backed up your Windows partition even though many of them show how to install Linux alongside Windows.

A lot of modern laptops are sold with Windows 7 pre-installed. What this generally means is that most people don't receive a Windows 7 DVD.

Whether you are going to install Linux or not you should read this next bit. 
"Create a recovery disk and a system image"
What would happen if Windows suddenly stopped working because you accidentally deleted key files or you accidentally contracted some kind of nasty virus or malware?

You need a recovery disk and you need to create a system image. There are loads of guides for doing this online including:


Now there is an inherent issue with the way Windows is installed when you first receive it on your shiny new machine and it causes big issues when creating system images.

Windows is installed on one big partition. (well actually for Windows 7 there is another smaller partition). The problem with this is that when you create a system image it creates a huge image file and you have nowhere to save it off to.

Where you save your system image is very important. You basically have a choice depending on the size of the image that is going to be created. You can backup to an external hard drive, secondary internal hard drive or a series of blank DVDs.  You can also create another partition on your existing hard drive in which to save the image. (many manufacturers already create a partition for this purpose).

Saving a system image to a partition on the same hard drive is potentially dangerous in that if the drive itself is faulty then the system image will be destroyed along with the rest of the data therefore rendering the system image useless.

So what is the solution? You have a 1 terabyte drive with Windows taking the whole kaboodle. How do you back this thing up? You could of course buy lots of very cheap DVDs. This would work but one dodgy DVD and the whole process is pointless and do you really fancy restoring dozens of DVDs to get your Windows working again?

First of all deal with that huge Windows partition. Windows 7 has an option which enables you to shrink it down. 

Read this guide to see how to shrink the Windows partition.

With the Windows partition shrunk down to size you can backup straight to an external hard drive and hopefully not fill it up. 

What I like to do though is create a backup partition on the same drive and create the system image to the backup partition. (Note that I don't use the whole of the unpartitioned space for the backup partition but just enough to store the system image).

There is still the inherent problem that the system image is stored on the same physical drive. I get around this by copying the system image files off onto an external hard drive.

What are the benefits of doing this you might ask? Well if I want to restore quickly I don't need to rely on my external hard drive unless the whole drive is toast. I can use the system image stored on the local backup partition. If the drive is toast I can install a new drive and use the system image on the external hard drive.

4. Partitioning the hard drive

Whether you are installing alongside Windows or installing over the top of Windows you need to consider the partitions that you will create on your hard drive before installing.

There are a few distributions that try and help you partition your drive such as Ubuntu and Mint.

I think that they have the same inherent flaw as Windows does in that they try and create one large partition for everything. (with maybe small partitions for boot and swap). This means your home folder is lumped in with your applications.

So what is wrong with having your applications and data on the same partition? Well if you backup your home folder regularly and you have no plans on removing the chose distribution there is no problem in keeping your home folder on the same partition as every other system file.

For me though the best decision you can make is to create a separate home partition. This separates system files from user files. You will now be able to re-install your chosen version of Linux as many times as you like without affecting your documents, music, videos etc. 

I found this guide to be very useful on the subject on disk partitioning.

5. What is your motive for moving to Linux?

Giving up Windows is a bit like giving up smoking or drinking. If you aren't committed to the idea then you will not really break the habit.

You use Windows because that is what you were taught and what you have used everyday up until now. So why now choose Linux? What is your motive?

You have to want to use Linux and you have to be prepared for new experiences to enjoy it. 

I am going to sound like a self help hypnosis recording now.....

  • You don't need Microsoft Windows
  • You don't need Microsoft Office
  • You don't need Outlook
  • You don't need Internet Explorer
When you can appreciate that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer then you will appreciate Linux.

If you are going to install Linux and try and run all the Windows programs you run already then the question has to be asked "Why?". 

Sure there is the WINE project that allows you to run many Windows applications but in many cases there is a more than viable option in the Linux repositories that is not just equal to but often better than the Windows equivalent.

Chrome (Chromium) for instance is a much better browser than Internet Explorer. (To be honest a blind dog with no sense of smell is better at browsing than Internet Explorer).

LibreOffice has moved on leaps and bounds and is more than useful enough for most users especially at home.

Do you really utilise Outlook at home? Do you really need it? Most people use Webmail now and if you really need an email client then there is Thunderbird which is a great replacement.

I found the key to making the move to Linux all those years ago was to forget the Windows applications because there is always a Linux equivalent. 

I think the biggest mistake someone can make is to install Linux and then complain that it doesn't work the same way as Windows. If you want Windows use Windows.

Summary

If this article has done nothing else I hope it has encouraged a few Windows users to go and back up their computers because I fear there are so many people one bad file deletion away from having an expensive brick. (or they are in for a large PC World bill) 

Another good idea for Windows users is to create a standard user and use that user for most tasks. It is much harder for a virus to penetrate your system if you are logged in as a standard user than as a power user or administrator.

Before I sign off consider this.... how many applications do you use under Windows that are also available via most Linux distributions. For each application that you use regularly check online and see if the the same application has a Linux version. 

I am looking at the list of applications in my Windows launch bar and I can see DropBox, Skype, VirtualBox, Steam and Spotify. All of these are available from within Linux. 

Thankyou for reading.





Posted at 00:38 |  by Gary Newell

4 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Introduction

Ok so I have put off doing this review for sometime. I tried Crunchbang for the first time about a year ago and I was a little underwhelmed.

Actually to tell the truth at the time I was in a position where I had a number of versions of Linux I wanted to try out but I had suffered a hard drive failure and all the distros I had downloaded had been destroyed. I was left with a DVD wallet with old versions of Ubuntu and Mint and two USB drives with live installations available. (One contained Mageia and the other Crunchbang).

At the time I tried Crunchbang first and was immediately alarmed at the incredibly black screen and I switched straight away to Mageia. I used Mageia for about 2 weeks before I downloaded other distributions and started building up a new library. This all reminds me that I never did a review of Mageia either.

I have moved on a lot since those dark days and it is about time I gave Crunchbang the review it deserves.

Download and Installation

To download Crunchbang Linux visit http://crunchbang.org/.

There are two versions of Crunchbang available:
  • 32 bit
  • 64 bit 
I am aware that Crunchbang is very lightweight and therefore I decided to install it on my Samsung R20 laptop which has a mediocre 2gb of ram and is fairly low in specifications.

I installed Crunchbang onto a USB drive using UNetbootin and rebooted the laptop. I was given a choice to start Crunchbang Linux in live mode or to install the software.

I chose to run the live mode first just to make sure there were no glaring problems that would prevent me using Crunchbang on this laptop and the live mode worked perfectly well.

I then looked for the install option from within the live mode but could not find it. I pulled up the alternative menu and typed install and there were various options available but none of them started an installer.

I therefore decided to reboot the computer and install using the "Install" menu option.

The Crunchbang install process was actually pretty good. I like an installer that runs in a clear linear fashion without jumping around.

You basically go through the usual steps of choosing a language, keyboard layout and timezone and you are also asked for a username and password so that you don't have to run Crunchbang as root.

Then comes the partitioning bit. If you are installing Crunchbang so that it overwrites everything on the disk then there is a simple install routine that enables you to do this. You can also choose to create a separate home partition and even separate usr, var and boot partitions.

If you are installing alongside Windows then you would need to know what you are doing with regards to partitioning beforehand. There is no simple Mint or Ubuntu install alongside Windows option.

First Impressions


The Crunchbang Linux screen loads with it's familiar black screen. At the top is a taskbar with icons in the top right for connecting to the internet, clipboard manager, battery monitor, audio settings and a clock.

A really useful feature of Crunchbang is the information on the right side of the screen.

There are two categories of information displayed. The first category is system information and this shows your computer name, uptime, ram, swap usage, disk usage and cpu usage. What is remarkable is how well Crunchbang Linux is performing. Memory usage is just 100 megabytes and of course there is no swap usage. The CPU is sitting at 1%. It is all very slick.

The second category is a list of shortcut keys that can be used. First of all there is the run dialog which can be called up by press Alt and F2.

The run dialog enables you to type in the name of the program and run it. Other shortcut commands bring up various menus. For example Alt and F3 brings up a menu at the bottom of the screen. Again you can start typing a program name but this time a list of available applications is shown with each keystroke.

There are shortcut keys for bringing up the main menu (super key and space) and then there are shortcut keys for bringing up the most commonly used programs such as super and w for bringing up a web browser and super and t for bringing up a terminal window.

Connecting to the internet


Crunchbang automatically detected the wireless card within the laptop and my wireless connections were made instantly available.

All I had to do was enter the security key and I was connected.

Post Installation Tasks



When you run Crunchbang Linux for the first time a terminal window is displayed with post installation instructions.

This is a really useful script that helps you install a few extras. There are 13 installation steps but some of the steps rely on you saying yes to certain options.

The sort of options available in the post installation script include updating the software repositories,  updating the software packages, setting up printer support, installing java, installing LibreOffice and installing development tools.

Change the desktop wallpaper

The main thing that put me off Crunchbang when I first tried it last year and indeed this time is the ultra black wallpaper.

Adjusting the wallpaper is simply a case of bringing up the main menu (right click on the desktop), choose settings and then change wallpaper.


There are a number of wallpapers available but all of them are quite dark or not very inspiring. There are loads of wallpapers available on the internet though so I downloaded one and it appeared in the list within Nitrogen (wallpaper manager).


Applications

Crunchbang Linux is a lightweight distribution and the applications installed by default match the lightweight ethos:

Accessories

  • Catfish - File search tool
  • Archive - File compression
  • Geany - Text editor
  • Task Manager - Task Manager
  • Terminator - Terminal
  • Thunar - File Manager

Graphics

  • GIMP - Graphics editor
  • Viewnior - Image viewer
  • Screenshot - Screengrabber

Multimedia

  • VLC - Media player
  • Volume control 
  • XFBurn - CD/DVD burner

Networks

  • Iceweasel - Web Browser (+ installers for Chrome, Firefox and Opera)
  • gFTP - FTP Client
  • Transmission - Torrents
  • XChat - IRC
  • Gigolo - Remote Connections
  • VNC Viewer - VNC Client (+ installer for VNC Server)
  • SSH
  • Installer for Dropbox

 Office

  • Link to Google Docs
  • Abiword
  • Gnumeric
  • LibreOffice (You can install this from the first run wizard)

Other

  • Synaptic - Package Manager
  • GParted - Partition Editor

Installing Applications


Crunchbang doesn't come with a default audio player. I think you are expected to use VLC.

If I am using a lightweight system then I like to use Guayadeque. Guayadeque has grown on me the more I use it. When I first started using it I really didn't like it all that much because it isn't immediately intuitive but when you get used to the way it works then it does really work.

Guayadeque isn't installed by default so I loaded Synaptic to install Guayadeque. Synaptic is easy to use. Just type the program name or a description of the program in the search box and a list of suitable applications is displayed.

Guayadeque is in the default repositories and therefore is displayed straight away. Simply mark the application and click apply to install.

Synaptic enables you to mark a number of applications and install them all at once and it finds all the dependencies that are required to make the applications run.

One thing that has to be mentioned is that installed applications do not instantly get added to the menu. You have to edit an XML file and then click the reconfigure Openbox menu item for the downloaded application to appear.

Flash and MP3

To test Flash I load up a browser and go to Youtube. The default browser in Crunchbang is Iceweasel. Iceweasel is a forked version of Firefox. You can install other browsers within Crunchbang by going to the Network menu and clicking the installer of the browser you prefer to use.

Flash was installed correctly and I was able to watch videos straight away.


I tried to play a song within Guayadeque and instantly hit the Gstreamer error that is common across many distributions. (Missing plugin)


To get around the missing plugin error I loaded Synaptic and installed the GStreamer Ugly plugin.

I was then able to listen to Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" from the 1980s. Don't ask me why I chose to do that. It really isn't relevant to the review in any way whatsoever.

Summary

There are some distributions that have a lot of glitz and glamour and they lack functionality (if these distributions were people my nan would say they were "all skirt and no knickers"). There are other distributions that are built for do-ers. (and of course there are some that provide Glitz and glamour as well as functionality).

Crunchbang is built for do-ers. The people that use Crunchbang are not bothered about gestures or flashy graphics.

Crunchbang is for people that have a purpose for their computer and the operating system is a tool to help them achieve that purpose. I would imagine that Crunchbang would be great for software development.

The performance of Crunchbang is absolutely brilliant. It is fast and sleek and uses very few of the system resources made available to it. If you have an older computer it is ideal.

I would suggest that Crunchbang is not for people new to Linux unless they are computer savvy to start with. If you have been using a Ubuntu type distribution for a few years and you have become competent enough to not need the pretty menus and graphics then Crunchbang will give you a lot of your computer's power back in your hands.

One thing I would change? the black wallpaper.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download Crunchbang #!

Click here to buy Crunchbang #! on DVD or USB










Everyday Linux User Review of Crunchbang Linux #!

Introduction

Ok so I have put off doing this review for sometime. I tried Crunchbang for the first time about a year ago and I was a little underwhelmed.

Actually to tell the truth at the time I was in a position where I had a number of versions of Linux I wanted to try out but I had suffered a hard drive failure and all the distros I had downloaded had been destroyed. I was left with a DVD wallet with old versions of Ubuntu and Mint and two USB drives with live installations available. (One contained Mageia and the other Crunchbang).

At the time I tried Crunchbang first and was immediately alarmed at the incredibly black screen and I switched straight away to Mageia. I used Mageia for about 2 weeks before I downloaded other distributions and started building up a new library. This all reminds me that I never did a review of Mageia either.

I have moved on a lot since those dark days and it is about time I gave Crunchbang the review it deserves.

Download and Installation

To download Crunchbang Linux visit http://crunchbang.org/.

There are two versions of Crunchbang available:
  • 32 bit
  • 64 bit 
I am aware that Crunchbang is very lightweight and therefore I decided to install it on my Samsung R20 laptop which has a mediocre 2gb of ram and is fairly low in specifications.

I installed Crunchbang onto a USB drive using UNetbootin and rebooted the laptop. I was given a choice to start Crunchbang Linux in live mode or to install the software.

I chose to run the live mode first just to make sure there were no glaring problems that would prevent me using Crunchbang on this laptop and the live mode worked perfectly well.

I then looked for the install option from within the live mode but could not find it. I pulled up the alternative menu and typed install and there were various options available but none of them started an installer.

I therefore decided to reboot the computer and install using the "Install" menu option.

The Crunchbang install process was actually pretty good. I like an installer that runs in a clear linear fashion without jumping around.

You basically go through the usual steps of choosing a language, keyboard layout and timezone and you are also asked for a username and password so that you don't have to run Crunchbang as root.

Then comes the partitioning bit. If you are installing Crunchbang so that it overwrites everything on the disk then there is a simple install routine that enables you to do this. You can also choose to create a separate home partition and even separate usr, var and boot partitions.

If you are installing alongside Windows then you would need to know what you are doing with regards to partitioning beforehand. There is no simple Mint or Ubuntu install alongside Windows option.

First Impressions


The Crunchbang Linux screen loads with it's familiar black screen. At the top is a taskbar with icons in the top right for connecting to the internet, clipboard manager, battery monitor, audio settings and a clock.

A really useful feature of Crunchbang is the information on the right side of the screen.

There are two categories of information displayed. The first category is system information and this shows your computer name, uptime, ram, swap usage, disk usage and cpu usage. What is remarkable is how well Crunchbang Linux is performing. Memory usage is just 100 megabytes and of course there is no swap usage. The CPU is sitting at 1%. It is all very slick.

The second category is a list of shortcut keys that can be used. First of all there is the run dialog which can be called up by press Alt and F2.

The run dialog enables you to type in the name of the program and run it. Other shortcut commands bring up various menus. For example Alt and F3 brings up a menu at the bottom of the screen. Again you can start typing a program name but this time a list of available applications is shown with each keystroke.

There are shortcut keys for bringing up the main menu (super key and space) and then there are shortcut keys for bringing up the most commonly used programs such as super and w for bringing up a web browser and super and t for bringing up a terminal window.

Connecting to the internet


Crunchbang automatically detected the wireless card within the laptop and my wireless connections were made instantly available.

All I had to do was enter the security key and I was connected.

Post Installation Tasks



When you run Crunchbang Linux for the first time a terminal window is displayed with post installation instructions.

This is a really useful script that helps you install a few extras. There are 13 installation steps but some of the steps rely on you saying yes to certain options.

The sort of options available in the post installation script include updating the software repositories,  updating the software packages, setting up printer support, installing java, installing LibreOffice and installing development tools.

Change the desktop wallpaper

The main thing that put me off Crunchbang when I first tried it last year and indeed this time is the ultra black wallpaper.

Adjusting the wallpaper is simply a case of bringing up the main menu (right click on the desktop), choose settings and then change wallpaper.


There are a number of wallpapers available but all of them are quite dark or not very inspiring. There are loads of wallpapers available on the internet though so I downloaded one and it appeared in the list within Nitrogen (wallpaper manager).


Applications

Crunchbang Linux is a lightweight distribution and the applications installed by default match the lightweight ethos:

Accessories

  • Catfish - File search tool
  • Archive - File compression
  • Geany - Text editor
  • Task Manager - Task Manager
  • Terminator - Terminal
  • Thunar - File Manager

Graphics

  • GIMP - Graphics editor
  • Viewnior - Image viewer
  • Screenshot - Screengrabber

Multimedia

  • VLC - Media player
  • Volume control 
  • XFBurn - CD/DVD burner

Networks

  • Iceweasel - Web Browser (+ installers for Chrome, Firefox and Opera)
  • gFTP - FTP Client
  • Transmission - Torrents
  • XChat - IRC
  • Gigolo - Remote Connections
  • VNC Viewer - VNC Client (+ installer for VNC Server)
  • SSH
  • Installer for Dropbox

 Office

  • Link to Google Docs
  • Abiword
  • Gnumeric
  • LibreOffice (You can install this from the first run wizard)

Other

  • Synaptic - Package Manager
  • GParted - Partition Editor

Installing Applications


Crunchbang doesn't come with a default audio player. I think you are expected to use VLC.

If I am using a lightweight system then I like to use Guayadeque. Guayadeque has grown on me the more I use it. When I first started using it I really didn't like it all that much because it isn't immediately intuitive but when you get used to the way it works then it does really work.

Guayadeque isn't installed by default so I loaded Synaptic to install Guayadeque. Synaptic is easy to use. Just type the program name or a description of the program in the search box and a list of suitable applications is displayed.

Guayadeque is in the default repositories and therefore is displayed straight away. Simply mark the application and click apply to install.

Synaptic enables you to mark a number of applications and install them all at once and it finds all the dependencies that are required to make the applications run.

One thing that has to be mentioned is that installed applications do not instantly get added to the menu. You have to edit an XML file and then click the reconfigure Openbox menu item for the downloaded application to appear.

Flash and MP3

To test Flash I load up a browser and go to Youtube. The default browser in Crunchbang is Iceweasel. Iceweasel is a forked version of Firefox. You can install other browsers within Crunchbang by going to the Network menu and clicking the installer of the browser you prefer to use.

Flash was installed correctly and I was able to watch videos straight away.


I tried to play a song within Guayadeque and instantly hit the Gstreamer error that is common across many distributions. (Missing plugin)


To get around the missing plugin error I loaded Synaptic and installed the GStreamer Ugly plugin.

I was then able to listen to Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" from the 1980s. Don't ask me why I chose to do that. It really isn't relevant to the review in any way whatsoever.

Summary

There are some distributions that have a lot of glitz and glamour and they lack functionality (if these distributions were people my nan would say they were "all skirt and no knickers"). There are other distributions that are built for do-ers. (and of course there are some that provide Glitz and glamour as well as functionality).

Crunchbang is built for do-ers. The people that use Crunchbang are not bothered about gestures or flashy graphics.

Crunchbang is for people that have a purpose for their computer and the operating system is a tool to help them achieve that purpose. I would imagine that Crunchbang would be great for software development.

The performance of Crunchbang is absolutely brilliant. It is fast and sleek and uses very few of the system resources made available to it. If you have an older computer it is ideal.

I would suggest that Crunchbang is not for people new to Linux unless they are computer savvy to start with. If you have been using a Ubuntu type distribution for a few years and you have become competent enough to not need the pretty menus and graphics then Crunchbang will give you a lot of your computer's power back in your hands.

One thing I would change? the black wallpaper.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download Crunchbang #!

Click here to buy Crunchbang #! on DVD or USB










Posted at 23:27 |  by Gary Newell

13 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

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