lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2012

Happy New Year!

Thank you to the developers, moderators, and friends of these wonderful Linux communities for a year of learning.  May 2013 bring you joy, peace, health, and success.

Thank you, Megatotoro, for letting me modify the original image :)

domingo, 30 de diciembre de 2012

Happy New Year from

The New Year is about to begin.  And some great news to start it is that is trying to put things together concerning the information about Mandriva (the distribution).

You can visit the newly born site here.  Be aware that it is work in progress.

(And the penguins are there, too!  I wish they were in my Mandriva 2011 GRUB, as in the Mandriva 2012 Alpha releases...)

Happy New Year!!!

lunes, 24 de diciembre de 2012

A problem with iBus in Mageia 2 and Mandriva 2011

I just found an interesting problem in the way Mageia 2 handles typing Asian languages with iBus, the Input Method Editor (IME) that is configured easily during the installation of the distro.

For work reasons, I need my computers to be able to handle Japanese (and for fun, Korean and Thai).  You can do this with iBus (a more modern IME) or SCIM.  I chose iBus because you can install it during the installation process of Mageia. 

I had not seen this situation before because I have installed iBus only to computers that have an English keyboard.  However, since my main desktop computer has a Spanish keyboard, when I opened LibreOffice, I discovered that iBus was preventing the keyboard to display the accents ("tildes") of Spanish and those of French.

After using the SU command and inputting my root password, I wrote this in the terminal:
cd /etc/sysconfig

export $(dbus-launch)


Then, when the graphical interface of kwrite came up, I opened the file i18n and found these entries related to iBus:

XIM_PROGRAM="ibus-daemon -d -x"

I played with them a bit and the only thing I achieved was to break the IME, which slowed down the session start in Mageia.  Therefore, I tried to install automatically good old SCIM from the locale administrator in the Mageia Control Center.  It told me that there was no scim-tables packages, but I restarted the session anyway to find that SCIM was, effectively, not working

No problem.  I went to the file i18n in /etc/sysconfig again and saw that the following lines had been changed to make SCIM work instead of iBus:

XIM_PROGRAM="scim -d"

The problem was the second line.  It has to read

so I changed it.

The next step was to remove the libreoffice-kde4 integration package.  After doing that, SCIM started to work and I could type the correct Spanish accents.

Mandriva 2011 shows the same problem with iBus if you have a Spanish keyboard.  However, although the locale manager installs SCIM with the missing scim-tables package, it took me more time to get SCIM to work.  It so happened that Mandriva did not install several important dependencies (scim-bridge-gkt, scim-bridge-qt4) and libreoffice-gnome, which were needed for the IME to work (provided you remove the package libreoffice-kde4).

viernes, 21 de diciembre de 2012

Migration stories 3: Good Bye, Mandriva 2010.2!


While my wife's migration was very successful, mine was not a smooth process.  But I know that is bound to happen when you change OSs.  

A.  Mandriva 2011
The day was yesterday.  I've been using Mandriva 2010.2 (Xmas) as the main OS of my desktop.  However, now that I finally reconciled with the Rosa SimpleWelcome, stack folders and rocket launcher, I decided that I wanted to try Mandriva 2011 as the replacement.  To this end, I looked for my Mandriva 2011 DVDs.  The Mandriva 2011 Desktop Live DVD has given my some performance issues in the past, so I settled for the PowerPack edition.

Inspired by my recent success with Mageia 2, I decided that I was not going to format my /home partition.

But this time the change did not go as smoothly as I had expected; I got a message indicating that one installation transaction was not complete.  I continued with the process anyway and, after installing the new distro, I saw that Mandriva 2011 would boot in a sluggish way.  I assumed that it was because of the indexing of all the files I had accumulated in two years, but I knew something had gone wrong.  First, for indexing, the user has to activate Nepomuk once the desktop loads and I hadn't gotten to my desktop yet.  Second, once the log in was complete, there was a bad problem with the graphical server: I had no visible desktop.  It seems that my previous user configuration (Kwin effects) and the new one were overlapping, so the Rocket bar was a real mess.

I gave it another try wiping everything this time.  That solved the problem of the misbehaving graphical server.  I tested sound, video, and the printer; everything seemed fine.  That was until I tried to activate the desktop effects: Mandriva 2011 would not refresh the desktop, so it was basically impossible to work.  I checked the graphical server and found out that, despite the proprietary drivers for my video card were installed, the card was not working correctly.  So, that was my option: Mandriva 2011 was fully operational without desktop effects...which I happen to be very fond of.

I tried the whole thing again using the Mandriva 2012 TP "Bernie Lomax".  Of course, I  know that using such a system as one's production OS is far from advisable, but I wanted to see it running on real hardware.  It ran beautifully, but the problem with the effects persisted.

B.  Mageia 2
Since Mandriva 2011 was not working with me, I placed a Mageia 2 installation DVD on the tray and began the installation.  As usual, this distro did everything it was meant to and in a matter of 45 minutes Mandriva 2011 had been replaced by Mageia 2.

I tested the effects.  They were working, but not to their full power.  For example, when one manually rotates the cube, it gets stuck. Grrr.

 But some effects looked better than no effects, I concluded.  However, I discovered one unexpected problem: the multifunctional printer.  My Epson Stylus TX200 was recognized as a printer, but not as a scanner.

Mandriva 2011 had no problems seeing it and configuring.  Mageia, on the other hand, lacked the drivers for scanning with it.  So, I had to go online to hunt for the appropriate drivers from the manufacturer's page.  That is not a great deal, but it reminded me of my Windows times.

Finally, I got the scanner working and looked at my new Mageia 2 desktop.  I still felt some nostalgia for the gone-too-soon Mandriva 2011 system...

And then I installed Mandriva 2011 back using another partition.  You see, that's the beauty of Linux: you can work with multiple systems if you feel like it.

So, right now I'm using the following OSs:
Desktop: Mageia 2, Mandriva 2011PowerPack, Pardus 2011
Laptop: PCLinuxOS, Mageia 2, Mandriva 2011 Desktop
Netbook: Mandriva 2010.2, Mepis 11, Mageia 2, Mandriva 2011 Desktop, and Pardus 2011.

I'm still waiting to see Mageia 3 and the new iterations of Mandriva and Pardus.  I just gave Rosa Desktop Fresh a run and I must say that it is very good, by the way.

jueves, 20 de diciembre de 2012

Migration Stories, Part 2

Some Windows users that I know (not power users in any sense) state that they do not migrate to Linux because, as they say, "the OS is different".  Of course, they never consider that they had to adapt from XP to Vista and then to 7...(One wonders what they will say after buying a computer with Windows 8).

They also claim familiarity problems about the software that they use to create documents, chat, or, in extreme cases, to log into their Facebook accounts (?!).

Basically, all these arguments can be reduced to a sigle issue: adaptation.

However, I believe that there is more to it.  Adaptation, in the case of using a computer, requires an act of will; the user must be willing to abandon the comfort zone and begin to learn. This challenge, far from reducing one's productivity, increases it in the long run because intellectual numbing does not make you a better worker.  It only gives you an illusion of efficiency. 

I have two cases to support my observations.

1.  A tale of a PC and a phone
My mother, who is in her sixties, took Windows courses hoping not to be left behind in the digital divide.  However, much to her distress, very little that she learned was applicable once MS Office 2007 replaced MS Office 2003.  The learning curve was pronounced thanks to the Ribbon interface, but, in truth, her real problem was viruses: she was terrified to use the computer because it got infected thanks to her friends' USB drives, emails, etc.

When my brother Megatotoro replaced Windows XP with Pardus 2009, she started using the computer freely.  Then she bought a new, more powerful machine and now uses Pardus 2011.  I haven't heard any usability complaints from her.  In fact, she proudly tells me of her new records in the games she likes.

In addition, she recently bought a new cell-phone after having used the same one for almost 15 years.  This new phone has Android, which replaces the old, familiar buttons with-- a tactile interface!  

Yes, she got freaked out a little.  However, I'm sure her determination and her previous experience switching OSs will help her master her droid.

2. A laptop and its OS
My wife loved her Toshiba Satellite laptop running Mandriva 2009 but she got a bit sad when she asked me about using Skype to have video conferences with friends.

I told her that, even if she had to forget about Skype, there was still Google Talk for that particular purpose.  The problem was that Google Talk did not run in her old OS.  The solution: migrating to Mageia 2.  

This is no trivial change: after booting and updating, you have a new version of KDE (4..8.5), different icons, different names for things and there's even that Activities thingy that obviously did not exist in KDE 4.1.2....

Yesterday, I saw her working with her laptop, a rather familiar sight, so I went into my office to read.  After an hour had passed, I remebered that she was using a completely new OS!

I stepped quickly into the room where she was to offer assistance.  Interestingly, all the normal body cues that manifest human frustration were absent from her; she seemed to glide as she was working and turned to me with a smile when she noticed my stare.


From these two experiences, I conclude that adaptation is not the problem.  The real issue at stake is the lack of will to adapt; both my wife and my mother learned how to use their devices because they wanted to use them.  And they wanted it badly.  It had nothing to do with the complexity/ applications/ interfaces.

I guess that also explains why my brother and I, two heavy Windows users, migrated to Linux so successfully by ourselves, despite no one ever introduced the OS to us or helped us ease the transition.

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012

Chakra Linux: What I learned from Claire

One of the plans I had during my vacation time was to try Chakra Linux.  This latest release was named "Claire" to honor the memory of Claire Lotion, a KDE developer whose untimely passing away made the KDE community grieve.

I finally had the opportunity today.  I really liked it.  I also learned certain things, too.

Let's see what happens when one boots the Chakra Live DVD.  A screen asking you to select your language greets you.  I had seen it before.  Back then, I thought that the language selection was rather scarce.

However, I discovered that, when you reach the last language and hit the down arrow, you get many more options. I selected "Spanish" for this particular test.
Then you see the Chakra splash screen. Simple and beautiful.
And, after a short while, voila, you are taken to a KDE desktop.
The wallpaper is nice, but I really liked the fact that Chakra does not hide any information from the user. The box on your desktop clearly tells you about Chakra, the goal of the project, and the unfinished state of certain components. 

For a user with little Linux experience, Pacman might be too complicated.  In addition, the warning about work-in-progress might be scary.

Nevertheless, I loved this blunt honesty; the developers are not fooling anyone to enlarge the distro's user base. Therefore, after reading and evaluating if I can risk using this distro despite my limited Linux knowledge, I decided to continue exploring. 

So, I looked for the browser and found rekonq.  Although my browser of choice is Firefox, rekonq is fine with me.  I browsed some pages and did not find any problem at all.

Then I gave the applications a quick glance. I found Marble and played a bit with it. Quite entertaining, actually.
I also found this cute Youtube client: Minitube. I tried it and liked the concept.
Minitube also lets you download the Youtube videos, something I achieve with an addon in Firefox.

Finally, I tried the Office section. If one is considering Chakra for daily use, then one must be willing to use the Calligra office suite. Although I am satisfied with LibreOffice, the simple layout of Words was very appealing to me.


Chakra is an honest project that implements the KDE desktop and KDE software efficiently.  However, despite the fact that Chakra facilitates certain aspects (such as providing non-free drivers or using Kapudan--Pardus' tool Kaptan during the installation-- to configure KDE), users new to Linux might find it complex (especially because of the software installing method).  The same can be said of those users of Linux who depend exclusively on graphical front ends for installing/upgrading packages.

In other words, Chakra sounds like a challenge.  Especially if you want to learn more because using it will imply adaptation to a new browser, a new office suite, and a new package manager. 

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

Migration season has started

After finishing with all the work this term, including written reports, oral reports in meetings, and two rather risky academic presentations in a Congress (described here by Megatotoro), I can take some free time at last.

Of course, after the crazy rush, I ended a little weak.  But my wife made me an offer I could not refuse: she has been using Mandriva 2009.2 on her Toshiba satellite laptop all this time and wanted me to help her migrate it to a more updated system.

I remember that I had unsuccessfully tried to install Mandriva 2010 Adelie, 2010.1 Farman, and 2010.2 Christmas.  There were some issues with the graphic server.

She asked me to try Mageia 2.  Unfortunately, when I booted this distro from a USB drive,I hit the same problem.

Then, it occurred to me that I had not tried Mageia 1.  I know Mageia 1 has already gone EOL, but I decided to give it a try anyways.

It worked.  Mageia 1 picked up everything: wi-fi, function keys, graphic server, sound, and effects.  But the best part was that my wife's user-defined desktop preferences stayed after installing because I did not format the home partition.

I am going to try to run an upgrade to Mageia 2 later.
UPDATE:  Mageia 1 offered me the possibility to upgrade to Mageia 2.  Although I normally prefer to do clean installs, I accepted and, after a couple hours, my wife was using her brand new Mageia 2 OS.

What comes next is to decide on a system to migrate my desktop.  But I will wait a bit longer because I want to try the next Mandriva release.   

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2012

Mageia 2 on Acer Inspire One

Today I performed the easiest Mageia install ever.  It was on an Acer netbook (an Inspire One D257-1408 that came pre-installed with the curse of Windows 7 Starter).

The machine packs an Intel atom N570, 2GB RAM, and a 160GB HD.  When I first saw it, my worry was the strange keyboard configuration: there are functions scattered all over the keyboard.  Besides, I still had the usual concerns: Graphics server and effects, Wi-fi, sound, and the SD card reader.

Mageia 2
So, I booted it using a Mageia 2 Live USB drive (that part was a piece of cake) and, in few minutes, I was showing the owner of the netbook her potential new system.  I quick-tested everything in live mode.  She was very pleased and I was, to be honest, a little skeptical because everything seemed to behave correctly.  It is not that I am suggesting that Linux is inferior because one can run into a glitch here or there.  As a matter of fact, the owner was marveled when she saw some of the function keys that Windows 7 Starter never put to work being activated for the first time in almost a year!

So, after backing up the information on the HD, I wiped it and ran the Mageia installer and, when the process was over, I turned on the machine expecting to hit a boulder any second.

But nothing happened.  Wi-fi was working, the effects were active, sound was operational, hibernation worked, Youtube videos were showing, KDE was responsive...

We still have to remove the Starter letter, er, scarlet letter.
This is, by far, the most successful Linux install I have ever performed.  Of course, I had to get .mp3, .mp4, and .flv to work, but the process was easy because the repositories had everything I needed.

I took the machine home to restore the information and to update the distro.  The little thing is working perfectly and I am very happy.

I hope the owner enjoys her new OS.  She is a brave young woman who has decided to break away from the MS paradigm because she was fed up with viruses and tech service abuse.  But I suspect that her main reason to jump on board the Linux ship is quite different and has to do with...yes, Korean dramas!

I can't blame her. My Linux story is also strange.  Well, Ken, from the Blog of Helios, said it beautifully here: "many of us came to Linux via odd routes".   

That being the case, I'm sure she will benefit from the computer's new capability--Korean input :-)

So, congratulations, Mari, and enjoy your K-dramas on a computer that will not be afraid of that abundant Windows malware that drove you paranoid before. 


It's the Ides of August!

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Roman general Julius Caesar is given an ominous message by the Soothsayer.  The message is a simple warn...