sábado, 28 de mayo de 2011

If Microsoft made Linux

Jokingly, I imagined what Linux could be like if Microsoft developed it.

My dear Windows ME, now as Linux ME!

How about Windows Longhorn that never was? VISTAAAA! Yes, this is Linux Vista in all its glory!

And this jewel? Linux Vista/7 Starter edition!

The Cauldron is Bubbling!

Yes, after a good stir provided by the RC, Mageia's Cauldron is bubbling.
It's only three days to the final release and, with it, several questions come for this non-technical user of Mandriva Linux.

Will the Cauldron bubble for a long time, or will magic fade away?
Will this distribution bedazzle a simple computer user who, following a star like one of the Magi, came to the world of Linux to discover a different reality?
In three days, will we see a magical light?

There are some other concerns... too many to list. Despite the nervousness and this horizon of expectations, I know that there are beautiful times ahead!

domingo, 22 de mayo de 2011

Mageia 1 RC1, as seen by a two-year Mandriva user

After installing the Mageia 1 Cauldron Beta 2, updating it to RC1, and using it for a brief period of time, I would like to compare it to Mandriva 2010.2 in terms of performance, ease of use, and general feel. I cannot go beyond that because I have no technical knowledge and, although I am fully aware that the Mageia developers warned everyone about Beta 1 and 2 being test type releases, my modest review provides the perspective of an end user who is relatively new to Linux.

I will not get into installation details because I covered that for the Beta 1 and the process is pretty similar. However, one of the biggest differences between Mageia and Mandriva is that the installation of the Beta 2 of the former lets you choose your IME among SCIM, iBus, and SCIM-bridge and, as far as I tested, both SCIM and iBus work in Mageia, whereas only the first does in Mandriva.

Even though Mandriva picked up my wi-fi without any problem, it did not work in Mageia because the b43 files were missing. I read in the forums that they are planning to correct that problem and I ignore if they did it in the RC1. Anyway, one can get the same situation in Mandriva if one updates the kernel. I described how to solve this unexpected complication in Mageia here.

Mageia handles KWIN's four different desktop wallpapers better: they are easy to set and they stay as you want. The same can be said about the screen capture utility: while the time definition is a little unresponsive in Mandriva, it works almost perfectly in Mageia. I'm saying "almost" because when I specified a 5 second delay, the utility acted as expected and thus I could get these shots of KWIN effects (desktop grid and Cube). However, when I tried to send the snapshots directly to the GIMP, although it fired GIMP, this last program failed to open the files.

Interestingly, once the GIMP is active, it has no problem whatsoever receiving the snapshots sent by the screen capture utility.

I used the GIMP to modify some pictures and create my Mageia wallpapers and the Home and TRASH icons.I modified the trash file, but it is still a little unresponsive to change from empty to full...Oh, well. UPDATE: I fixed it. All one has to do is modify the trash.desktop file in /home/desktop. You open it with KWrite and change these entries:
In the first entry, substitute the red path by the path of the full cauldron. In the second, use the path of the empty cauldron and save the file.

By the way, there is still a Mandriva souvenir in the configuration of the login screen. The logo in the bottom right does not look like the Mageia cauldron one to me :-)

Although Mageia's iBus Japanese IME is easier to use, when used with Libre Office, you must make sure that you change the font to a Japanese one, otherwise you get boxes instead of kana or kanji.

I don't know why, but UMEPLUS made Libre Office crash. It's best to use Droid Sans Japanese in combination with iBus if you want to type Japanese text in Libre Office. I did not have any problem inputting kana or kanji in other applications. iBus works nicely in Firefox 4...

Speaking of Firefox...Some other problems I've seen involve this browser: you have to click twice in the contextual menu to download a picture and, for those who installed the WEBMAIL NOTIFIER add-on, you cannot listen to sound when a new mail comes.

Well, despite those issues, my general impression is that Mageia 1 feels very comfortable and, in general, very usable (for an unfinished OS, that is). I might very well keep it as my main OS if Mandriva 2011 does not convince me that the Rosa panel is a great idea after all.

viernes, 20 de mayo de 2011

Happy Birthday, Esquina de un Migrante!

Megatototoro's blog, La Esquina de un migrante a Linux is celebrating its first anniversary tomorrow.

This blog has brought unforgettable stories, such as "Planning to migrate to Linux? Beware!!!", or curious images, such as the GNU/Linux & BSD Zoo.

I, for one, have profited from the accounts and experiences recorded there. I learned Linux tweaks and about viruses from Megatotoro's blog. And I have had a lot of fun reading his humorous stories, too.

Congratulations and keep up the good work! May this Linux Corner remain among us for a long time!

jueves, 19 de mayo de 2011

Zenwalk 7: Shall We DANCE?

Five days ago, I wrote about my epic fail trying to install Zenwalk 7 to my netbook, a system already running several Linux distros. I described the process as a dance that started calmly and gradually changed into a non-stop frenzy that ended with me messing up the whole system. I was not prepared to face the install but, as I promised, after doing some reading, and supported by the help of readers both in Tuxmachines and Linux Today, I am ready to give it another go. Zenwalk 7, shall we dance?

Upfront, let me clarify that my netbook was a quad-boot (Mandriva 2010.2, Pardus 2011, Mepis 11, Mageia 1 RC1) the second time I attempted to take Zenwalk for a dance again. I know that that quantity might seem excessive given the fact that one can use virtual machines. However, because of the modest configuration of a virtual machine, I consider that they are ideal for testing, but you cannot enjoy the full potential of the Linux distro unless you install it. Why installing so many distros? To maximize writing productivity. Sam Dean might be right about writers and dual monitors, but I have discovered that, when I write, changing not only the workspace, but also the entire OS, gives me a mental relief and the possibility of keeping my projects in "different typewriters".

Of course, that quantity of distros became part of my headache last time. The other part was that was not prepared to carry out a text installation. The good news is that, thanks to the support of readers and their insightful comments, I was better equipped this time.

The Dance

As in the Japanese film "Shall we DANSU?", I was a Sugiyama determined to learn the Zenwalk steps. Like him, my initial performance was deplorable. However, practice makes perfect. Therefore, I was not discouraged and analyzed what I did wrong.

First, the installation problems I was having occurred due to my lack of familiarity with the process. For example, the partitioning tool gives you all the information you need if you go to the appropriate tab. Once you are satisfied with your settings, all you have to do is hit "write" to apply the changes.

Then, the bootloader LILO: I tried first following the suggestion of keeping LILO in the boot sector of the partition, not the MBR. However, it did not work because I couldn't boot it to finish the post-configuration process and the info in lilo.config did no good, either.

I suspected that the problem was caused because of the partition soup that I had. Mageia was located in sda 9, but GRUB showed that it booted from sda8, which was my Zenwalk root partition. So, I tried a more Spartan approach: I deleted all OSs except Mandriva and reorganized the partitions. After that, I reinstalled Pardus, Mepis, and Mageia (I got the RC1, yay!). Now that all the systems were sitting on the correct chairs, the dance with Zenwalk could proceed.

I reinstalled Zenwalk without a glitch (reading and preparing DOES make a difference, right?). This time, however, I changed the location of LILO and put it in the MBR. Of course, that sent my other OSs to the Zen garden again, but I did not mind because I wanted to finish the Zenwalk installation. When Zenwalk was up and running, I grabbed the Mandriva PowerPack DVD and used the utility to restore GRUB. In doing so, I lost Zenwalk, but I mounted its partition and following the process here and opened lilo.config.

My only problem was now to boot Zenwalk. I tried several solutions I found online, but none of them made GRUB stand up and invite Zenwalk to the dancing floor. So, I resorted to Mandriva Control Center. I opened the boot manager and tried to add the entry manually. Again, I was not sure of what I was doing, but I had to give it a try. I added a new Linux entry cutting and pasting info for tag, append, and image from lilo.config. Then, I clicked "advanced" and changed network profile to "default" and copy/pasted the info for initrd.

I rebooted and, when I saw the entry for Zenwalk, I selected it without hope. However, GRUB, full of valor, stood up and walked decisively to the partition where Zenwalk was sitting. Using a trope, I could almost hear in disbelief GRUB say "Shall we DANSU?"

So, now I'm the proud owner of a penta-boot netbook that has Zenwalk 7 as one of its five operating systems.

Dave Spiegel was right when he said that I could have used a distro that does it all for me, but then I wouldn't have learned anything. And Zuru was also right: this was great fun and the sense of accomplishment is irreplaceable!

domingo, 15 de mayo de 2011

The mystery of the missing wi-fi in Mageia/Mandriva

I've been avoiding kernel 2-6.38.4 and 2-6.38.6-1 in Mandriva because last time I found them in an update and installed them, my netbook lost its wi-fi capabilities. Yes, it would not pick any signal or start wireless connections at all. It would tell me that I needed some b43 files from a web site and the installation was beyond my understanding.

Well, I decided that I wanted to install Mageia 1 in my netbook. I will spare you the story of my mistake of installing beta1 and my consequential sadness because iBus would not work. However, when I corrected my mistake and installed beta2, my happiness upon seeing iBus working flawessly quickly faded away because I discovered that the dreadful kernel 2-6.38.4 was what Mageia uses and, therefore, my wi-fi was gone!

In a sudden revelation, I read the error message and saw that it was indicating the path were the missing files were supposed to be and were not: /lib/firmware/b43

I mounted the Pardus partition and looked for that directory. Pardus had both the b43 and the b34legacy directories, so I copied them to my Mageia home folder.

There was one problem left: How to copy the directory in Mageia's root appropriate folder? The answer is easy, with konsole, of course!

After typying su and inputting my password, I used the following command:
cp -r /home/myname/b43 /lib/firmware/

and PRESTO! in less than one second, the 39 files were copied. Then I did the same and copied the b43legacy folder.

After that, I ran Mageia Control Center, Network config, add a new connection. I selected Wireless and wlan_o. When the system asked me for the file, I located the directory /lib/firmware/b43 and selected the ucode5.fw file.

It worked. Now, I'm posting this entry using the wi-fi in Mageia beta2.

I just don't understand why is it that some people are afraid of the command line. It's so powerful and useful.

Once again, BIG THANKS PARDUS!!!

sábado, 14 de mayo de 2011

Zenwalk 7, it didn't go well...

Yesterday, I downloaded the Live CD of Zenwalk 7 and I must confess that I liked it a lot. Not only did it have full support for Japanese IME via iBus, but also its Xfce desktop was simple enough for a beginner like me. So, I decided to download the standard CD to install it to my now triple-boot netbook (Mandriva 2010.2, Pardus 2011, Mepis 11). And then my dance in the Zen garden began. Little did I know that the predictable, calm Waltz at the beginning of the installation was to morph into a rabid, passionate dance for survival!

After seeing many installations Cds and DVDs before, I expected nothing out of the ordinary when I booted with the Zenwalk 7 CD. Maybe I was not too concerned about the interaction, but there was something different that I had not determined until the process was well advanced: all installation directions were provided in text. Yes, that's right: no GUI for Zenwalk! I checked the info in Distrowatch.com and it's clearly indicated that the installation process is text mode. So, inadvertently, I was attempting my first text mode installation.

I cannot say that the process is complicated or confusing because the different screens provide clear information of each step. However, when I got to the touchy operation of partitioning, the dance switched from a calm Waltz into a furious tango: I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. The partitioning tool located all the partitions in my HD and was telling me that it was going to install in one of them and use the Mandriva swap partition for Zenwalk. Regardless of what I tried to do, the system would just proceed, so I buckled up for a bumpy ride.

And then, LILO! I have never used that for booting but suspected that I was not going to be able to boot Zenwalk without it, so I chose simple install (now I was sure the ride was going to be bumpy!).

The process came to a dead end with the creation of the root and user accounts. The text superimposed, so I could barely read what the system wanted me to input. Basically, I got to a screen that demanded a login and a password and everything I typed was incorrect. Therefore, I rebooted the computer without the CD and, SURPRISE! No GRUB, GREET LILO!

Lilo? I must say I saw more of a "Stitch" because the little mischievous booter only showed an entry there: Zenwalk. All the rest of my operating systems were gone... I presume they took a stroll in a Zen garden somewhere :-P

And, of course, the Zenwalk system was inoperative. A great place to be. From here, the dance became something more like those energetic folk dances in tribes, where a Shaman swirls, twists, and jumps with body contortions that resemble an act of desperation.

Luckily, the Mandriva 2011 PowerPack DVD has a rescue application that restores your GRUB. That was enough to take Mandriva, Pardus and Mepis out of their Zen meditation. But there were some side effects. When I booted Mandriva, it did, but painfully slowly. I switched to verbose mode and saw that some partitions were apparently renamed or something, so Mandriva had problems mounting them.

When I finally got in, I rebooted to see if Mandriva would pick up some speed this time and, pretty fast, I got into my very first Kernel Panic!

The solution? Well, I reinstalled the system leaving the /home partition there, and in a matter of 25 minutes, Mandriva was back to normal. Pardus and Mepis are healthy, too.


I cannot blame Zenwalk 7 at all for this mishap. I understand that it was entirely my fault because I was not prepared to carry out this kind of installation. Zenwalk is a well-built, functional Linux system. That its installation is presently beyond my limited knowledge should not be taken as a negative point at all.

I'm sure that some reading will clarify my questions. When I do that, I'll take Zenwalk 7 again for a dance. Hopefully, I will perform better then.

domingo, 8 de mayo de 2011

No Linux support? An offer I can refuse

In this post, Penguin Pete argued that Linux users are too soft and hence they don't get paid attention to. Well, he is partially right: most of us are outraged by the MS EULA stipulating that we must waive some personal freedoms, like the right to buy a computer as separate from Windows. In general, despite we are fed up with the "we don't support Linux" mantra that companies chant to brush us off, we don't do much about it...especially if we are Linux beginners.

However, there are instances in which we can show companies that, if they want to do business with us, they MUST offer us QUALITY SERVICE which, in my opinion, does not include refusal of support.

I had such opportunity two days ago. You see, because of the new grounds established by a Free Trade Agreement, my ISP (a cable TV company that formerly had to operate in conjunction with the government telecommunications agency) is now trying to get users to change their contracts, so that they essentially dump the government agency. I, therefore, received this call from a representative of the cable company. The guy on the phone went on with his speech, a talk full of rhetoric designed to trick gullible customers. The keynote was "we do this in the behalf of our clients. We charge you the same, but you have to pay only one bill: ours!"

Now, as I pay my bills online, paying one or two bills does not represent any benefit to me if it's the same amount anyway. There is a major consideration for switching, nevertheless. This issue is support: The government agency sent a technician to help my mother once. Given the fact that this unsuspecting techie did not chicken away when he saw that my mother uses Pardus GNU/Linux and solved the problem to the best of his abilities, I decided to ask a question to the overly friendly representative on the phone to assess the real service that they were offering me.

"Excuse me. Before I change my contract, I need to know something. Do you support Linux?" (With an inaudible crack, I could hear the script falling apart)
"Er...uh...Yes, of course. Is that an anti-virus?"

Since he had no idea of what I was talking about, I explained to him that I do not use Windows, but a different OS.

"Let me talk to my supervisor, please". I waited ten seconds and he came back with the rhetoric-covered half-truth I was expecting.

"My supervisor indicated to me that, yes, you can keep any operating system that you like."
"Sure, I already know that but, unfortunately, that's not what I asked you. I want to know if you support Linux. That is, when a client calls you because of any problem, you follow a script to troubleshoot. The script is Windows-based and, therefore, no good for me. I need to know whether or not you will help me if I ever have a problem with your service."

Panic's in the air...or in the line. "I'll transfer the call the my supervisor." (Touché!)

Some more waiting and I get the supervisor, another extra-kind employee. I laid the question on him plainly:

"Listen, they are offering me a change of contract. However, I am concerned about the support you can give me. So, do you support Linux?"
"I'm sorry, we don't..." His answer came with utmost desolation.
"I see. Then my contract stays as it is. Good day."


And that was it. Boy, it's so good to know they are recording calls for quality, hahaha!

Above all, from this interaction, the cable company must learn a rule of competition:

Concerning support, you must make your Linux clients an offer they can't refuse before expecting them to drop an agency that supports them.

(Special thanks to Penguin Pete for the lesson)

miércoles, 4 de mayo de 2011

Some of the faces behind the distros

When I first migrated to Linux, I bought a nice set of stickers and one of them depicted many smiling penguins. As a heading, you could read "The friendly face of Linux". Today, as I saw anticaptalista's encouraging comment in Megatotoro's blog, it suddenly struck me that there is an element that I have been enjoying since the moment of my migration, something subtle, but powerful. You see, as an ex-Windows user, although I could identify Bill Gates' face (and even Ballmer's), I never received any tangible support from Microsoft. Windows was merely a business.

Linux, on the other hand, has represented an unmatched opportunity to learn and grow because of the intense human interaction of its vibrating communities. For example, as soon as I joined Mandriva's community forum, I was received as a human being, not as a number. The same happened when I posted my first question in Mageia's blog: the prompt reply giving me direction was refreshing. And I cannot describe the feeling I experienced yesterday when I opened my email to find a follow-up message from a Mageia developer taking care of the bug I reported.

There are people behind Linux who get in contact with you in a way that I never saw during my decade as a Windows user. And these people listen to you. What's more, sometimes they RELY ON YOU!
As a tribute to them, I tried to track some of the pictures of the people behind those Penguin OSs that made my work with computers a more enjoyable experience. So, here they are. These are some of the faces behind Linux:

  1. Linux Mint's Clement Lefebvre & child (Thanks for your great distro!)
  2. The always active Texstar (Billy Reynolds), from PCLinuxOS (noticed the cool Mandriva cap?)
  3. Eugeni Dodonov, now the face of Mandriva, the distro that made me dump Windows
  4. Anne Nicolas, former Mandriva representative, now Mageia's face.
  5. Ozan Çağlayan, (GO, Pardus!)
  6. Warren Woodford, the famous Mepis Guy. (Kudos to you for Mepis 11)
  7. Sabayon's Fabio Erculiani. (Grazie!)

Steam client crash in OpenMandriva Lx 4.1 Fixed!

After fixing some boot problems (due to a careless update of another OS), I discovered that Steam is now working in OpenMandriva 4.1. Grea...