miércoles, 29 de mayo de 2013

Recent Experiments with Konsole--What a Linux Beginner Can Do

Many people are afraid of the command line interface (CLI) in Linux.  However, once one learns several commands (and after having installed the right software), one can do certain things that most Windows users believe impossible.

1. Steganography (cat, unzip)

Thanks to this post by ambition here, I learned something I really wanted to do: hide a file inside a picture.  I knew this was possible, but I never managed to learn how to perform the feat in Windows.

I discovered that it is truly easy in Linux.  All you need is the command cat to join the files and the command unzip to retrieve the hidden file.

To begin with, you must have an image file (I used *.jpg, *.jpeg, *.png and the three work nicely) and your secret archive as a zipped file.

You use the command:

cat name_of_pic.jpg name_of_secret_file.zip > new_image_name.jpg

That's it!  The new picture containing the secret file is created. 

To get your hidden file back, simply use the command unzip:

unzip new_image_name.jpg

It is amazing how easy this is in Linux.

2. Playing Music (SoX) 

Enock Seth post's here and Megatotoro's quick induction were all I
needed to see konsole playing audio files.  Since Mageia 3 includes SoX, I did not have to install it.

Basically, once you are in the directory containing the audio file, you use the command play and the name of the file:

play beowulfsarrival.mp3

and your file will start playing.  To stop it, you must press CTRL + c once and twice to quit the program.

The ASCII rendition looks great, doesn't it?

3. Browsing the Web (Lynx)

I'm taking my first steps here.  It is good to be able to browse the Web from konsole.
Lynx displaying Megatotoro's blog

(More information on Lynx here)

With these tools, I practically can do all I need for a class if my GUI crashes... Of course, my poor Windows-only students might feel that the computer is possessed or something ;-)

jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013

On Mageia 3 install (not Live DVD)

This is the fastest fully-blown install that I have performed.  I used the Mageia 3 x86_64 install DVD and, in 1:30 minutes, my system was up and running.  This might seem excessive, but the time includes what I used for my personal configurations, printer, scanner, tweaks for multimedia playback, and favorite programs.

What I liked the most was that iBus works perfectly with a Spanish locale and the Japanese IMe anthy.  So, I guess the poor performance of iBus that I  I reported here has to do with the Live install.  Hey, I even checked that the packages needed were on place in the Live install but, even when they were there, iBus would not obey.

iBus package installation, Mageia 3 x86-64 DVD (on VM)

I suspect that Mageia 3 will be a real pleasure to use.

Kudos to the developers!

miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013

Mageia 3, the WONT FIX scim bug, and iBus

Mageia 3 has been released and, so far, the distro is getting very positive reviews.  Well, given the fact that I have been using Mageia since version 1, I believe that the team behind the distro truly deserves words congratulating their efforts.  As a Mageia user, I must say that I am very pleased with the OS and thankful for the work that has been done.

However, I received yesterday an email that, like a cloud on a blue sky, announced that not everything is rosy in the Linux world.

During my walk in Linux land, I have had the chance to read the complaints of users that get angry when developers refused to fix a bug they filed.  They vented their frustration and slashed to the right and left with sarcasm sharp as swords.  I read their sometimes long expositions and missed the spirit of their rants... until yesterday, when I received a reply from a developer concerning a bug that I filed.

First, allow me to present the context.  Three days ago, I described my experience trying to make Mageia 3 work with Japanese IMEs.  My first attempt was iBus, of course, although I knew it was not working properly in Mageia 2.  As it did not go well, I worked with SCIM and, after a battle, I made it work thanks to a package I "borrowed" from a PCLinuxOS repository.  Then, I filed the bug.

That's the point where my new story starts.  The reply came, brandishing a WONT FIX status that made me uneasy.  However, the comment from the developer bit me with angering poison; it read:

"We are promoting ibus for years. So there we do not include all scim packages in live ISOs."

The "live ISOs" part was bad enough because I obviously gathered the packages from the full list of repositories, not just the Live Core and Live Nonfree ones.  Hey, I can presume that, if you enable the Core Release repo, you should have access to the same packages that a Mageia 3 full DVD install gets, right?

The real sting was on the former part, though.  I can understand the efforts to promote iBus, but I tried that IME first to no avail.

Allow me to show you my case.  After installing iBus, anthy, and all required dependencies, you log out and back in to get iBus working. This is what you get:

iBus is active, showing only "English keyboard"

You right click and go to preferences to add extra languages

You scroll down and locate Anthy by expanding "Japanese"
After adding it, Anthy should be working.  But you click on the iBus applet and...back to square 1: English keyboard only. You can repeat that as many times as you like, using all languages that you desire.

Regardless of what you do, iBus simply refuses to "remember" any additional language you choose.  Not a very usable IME, right?

In Mageia 2, iBus would work, but would mess up with the Spanish keyboard map, ruining your chance to type accents correctly.  In Mageia 3, the said IME is simply dysfunctional and the developer won't add the scim-anthy package that is missing in SCIM so that Japanese input works...because the idea is to promote iBus, an IME that is now in a worse state than it was in Mageia 2.

I must confess that, for a moment, I got really angry.  I finally grasped the spirit of the hurt users who got the infamous WONT FIX tag for the bugs they filed.

But then my anger ebbed when I tried to see the position of the developer.  iBus is, in all accounts, a great tool.  SCIM is a good oldie, but it is somewhat difficult to get working.  Developers have the right to work on what they choose, especially when they squash bugs voluntarily and without any monetary compensation.

So, instead using this as an excuse to release all the tension that has accumulated lately (these last two weeks have not been a ball, really), I decided not to show how fluent I am in sarcasm when rabid. Ken Starks said that "rants are best served cold".  He is right.

For my part, I waited until my wrath, the propeller that efficiently takes me to the Land of a Thousand-and-One Regrets, ceased to spin.  Then I filed another bug.  This time, for iBus.

I truly hope they get to fix the problem.

UPDATE (May 23, 0:23)
I recently changed my desktop install from Mageia 3 Live to Mageia 3 DVD.  It turns out that iBus works now like a charm.  I guess the bug only affects Live installs. 

lunes, 20 de mayo de 2013

Happy Anniversary, LinuxMigrante!

Tomorrow Megatotoro's blog, La Esquina de un Migrante a Linux, will celebrate its 3rd Anniversary.

Although Megatotoro migrated to Linux a bit later than I did, he took his migration seriously and learned a lot of Linux tricks before I did, all thanks to Mepis, Pardus, and AntiX, his distros of choice.

I have learned quite a bit reading his entries.

Thank you and happy anniversary!  Keep up the good work!

domingo, 19 de mayo de 2013

Mageia 3: Here's what I gained and what I lost

Mageia 3 was released today and I downloaded the Live DVD version to replace my Mageia 2 Desktop install without further consideration.  Normally, I test the betas and the RC of a distro carefully in a virtual machine.  This time, sadly, I had no time to do that.

In my old Windows days, I would simply install the new release on top of the old one.  If something went wrong, I used the "bear-and-grin philosophy.  With Linux, I have been extra careful before updating the OS, but I guess that this was the time to test whether or not I could leap blindfolded into a new Mageia OS.  So, here is the summary of my adventure:
Mageia 3, here I go!!!

First impressions

I moved from a 32-bit architecture to the x86-64 architecture that the Live DVD includes.  To make my life easier, I wiped out the root partition and left the home partition intact.

The DVD booted without a problem and, after asking me the regular questions (language to use, if I accepted the license, where to install), the process completed in about 16 minutes.  I was prompted to add my root and user password and to reboot.  Again, I chose to use GRUB and not GRUB2 because I am not confident with the latter quite yet.

The system booted picking up my other OSs without a problem.  Then, Mageia 3 enabled the network and started downloading the common repositories.  After this process, I saw my desktop.  Although my wallpapers had been replaced by a solid black color, I simply located my favorite pictures and put them back on.  My personal settings had been preserved (effects, configurations, icons, etc), so I was quite relieved.

With KDE 4.10.2, the system became noticeably faster.  I tried to pinpoint the changes, but they were not so easy to spot for my untrained eye.  However, I gradually noticed that menu translations were more consistent, that the "home" tag had been replaced by "START" under "PLACES", that all my other partitions were listed under "DEVICES" and that the "space available" mini bar that appeared below a connected USB device was gone and only the big bar at the foot of the Dolphin window stayed.  I guess the duplicity was purged.  The notification system seemed to have received a cleaning, too.

I also noticed some new software entries in the general menu.  I decided to explore those later because I wanted to reinstall my favorite programs.  Thus, I fired up MGG (oh, new graphics that match the start screen) and enabled some other repositories (backports, tainted).

Mageia 3 played MP3s out-the-box.  Amarok impressed me with its performance this time!  However, Mageia 3 got stuck on some .mp4, .flv, and .mpeg video files.  I installed VLC (which took care of the video problems), audacious, and audacity.  So far, Mageia 3 was performing as a great substitute for my Mageia 2 install.  I saw myself as a version of Mario, the game character, jumping up and falling on top of mushrooms that could not stop me.  But then...

Watch out, Mario!  Here's the boss!

I installed Wine, the x86-64 version, that is.  Some of my programs were not working...

What do you do then?

I mean, it's not that those Windows-based programs are absolutely required.  However, they are convenient to have around.

So, I uninstalled the 64-bit version of Wine and got the 32-bit one instead.  Problem solved, let's go on!

That was too easy...

Here's the REAL boss!

I must have an IME to type in Japanese.  In Mageia 2, I gave up iBus because it messes up the Spanish tildes (accents) in LibreOffice.  That was not a big deal because I had always used SCIM anyway.

In Mageia 3, iBus refused to display the Anthy Japanese IME regardless of what I did. It also changed my keyboard configuration from Spanish to English and, on top of that, the tildes in LibreOffice were a mess, as expected.
"I'm going to be your opponent, Mario"

"OK, iBus is not an option," I thought. "Fine, let's install SCIM and forget about this problem".

And I installed SCIM only to find out that, after doing all I know to enable it, the IME simply refused to work properly.  Again, Anthy was not showing...

There I was, with a great system that did everything I needed, except accepting Japanese input.

I was a little discouraged, but open MCC and, after a while, discovered that a package was missing: scim-anthy!  Obviously, without it, I could never make SCIM work with Anthy.

I Googled "scim-anthy rpm x64" and landed on RPM pBone.net, where they were hosting a scim-anthy package built for PCLinuxOS.  I downloaded it and, in a desperate move, I installed it to Mageia 3.  MCC simply asked me to install Kasumi along.  I accepted and MCC retrieved Kasumi from the Mageia repositories to do its thing.  The computer did not blow up.

Not a confident Mario any longer, I opened LibreOffice and...Anthy was there!

With SCIM working, I filed a bug and, more at ease, finished adding up the remaining software that I need to work comfortably with my new Mageia 3 Desktop install.

Overall Balance

I got a good scare with the IME, but it's working now.  Aside from that, everything seems to be performing right on cue.  KDE is responding faster, Jovie and its text-to-voice service is working in multiple languages, and I haven't seen any major problem, like a crash or something.

I guess the leap of faith was worth it.

UPDATE (May 21, 7:33PM)

I also updated my laptop from Mageia 2 to Mageia 3.  As with the desktop install, everything worked fine.  However, despite I use the fix I described here to get Mageia 2 pick up the WPA2 wifi of the university, Mageia 3  simply refused to work with it for two hours.  Then, the problem solved by itself (?!).  I hope the rainstorm had something to do with it.

miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

A Journey of Three Years.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of this blog.  Three years already?  Time surely flies by!

I created mandrivachronicles almost a year after I first encountered Linux.  The idea was to record my experiences with the OS and to use them as reference material.  After all, I migrated to Linux on my own: no Linux fan persuaded me to start using this great OS, nor I had used it before.  I had no technical knowledge (I was a long time Windows user).  To be blunt, before migrating, all I knew about Linux was that it was an operating system other than Windows and that it used a penguin as a mascot.

However, after having used Linux daily for a year on my netbook, I decided that it was time to install it to my main desktop computer and to say good-bye to Windows. And so this blog was born.

I never expected my entries to be read by many people and I really did not consider that my experiences could help others.  It was great to see other people also enjoyed reading about my humble steps into Linux land.

I have also discovered that:

  • Through this blog, I met people who inspired me with their tales of courage, knowledge, talents, and efforts.  And it was painful when some of them passed away (R.I.P. Eugeni Dodonov, Mandriva) or got sick (Texstar, PCLinuxOS).
  • Linux interest, despite FUD, is on the rise.  You can take a look at the numbers in Distrowatch.  When I migrated to Linux in 2009, it took Ubuntu 2249 visits to be the first distro ranked.  Today, the 3rd position has 189 visits more than that.  Back in 2009, the last distro had 73 hits. Today, the 100th position is counted with three digits and has almost two times that number of visits.

Source: www.distrowatch.com
  •  It's OK to use the OS that you like, but you must embrace your choice and live with it.  I know that some people get annoyed when they overhear me speaking of free software; it's more annoying for me when they come to me to complain about the poor performance of their Windows computers or want me to fix them.
  • The fate of Linux distros (even those who are relatively strong) is uncertain. When I migrated to Linux, I chose Mandriva, which was #6 back in 2009.  Today, that distro is #46.  Ubuntu and Gnome had their own bumps.  Sadly, Fuduntu disappeared this year.
  • Linux is addictive.  I started using Windows and Mandriva.  Then, it was only Mandriva.  Today, I regularly use Mandriva, Mageia, PCLinuxOS, Mepis, AntiX and, occasionally, Pardus.
  • For non-technical computer users, it is perfectly possible to abandon Windows and MS Office; it only takes an open mind.  I personally know five people who have done it without any problem. Besides, most smartphone users have already done so, but they haven't realized it.
This blog has been a journey, an ongoing learning process in which I changed, adapted, laughed, suffered, and rejoiced.

I did notice one thing.  Since I abandoned Windows, the frustration associated to using my computers has vanished.  The only reminder I've got of that once-too-familiar feeling is the multiple complaints I hear from my colleagues at the office, as they try to work on a non-Linux desktop computer.

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...