Archive for April, 2008

Yet another part to the ongoing saga of finding that perfect Linux distro for newbs guide lol..Just when I am starting to think it might never end (and really, it might not; I have issues with never being satisfied lol)
So on to business..
I have a couple of reviews to do this time..just a couple though because I have had other things going on…
First of all, I recently bought more memory so now I am the proud owner of 768 MB RAM now (wooo! lol) Okay not the “latest and greatest” but for a Dimension Desktop 1100, not bad at all..So, once I got the new memory stick installed (that was its own little adventure for someone who never did that before either!) and I decided to go after a couple of the “big dawgs” in Linux Distros..
I started with Ubuntu, the brand new Hardy Heron 8.04..I took forever and downloaded and made a Live CD, on which I tried out the distro..The LiveCD was easy to use (as was Ubuntu) and there were little warnings and popups for things that I was not supposed to mess with until I am not such a newb lol..(This would probably just aggravate a more experienced Linuxer) I liked the look of it (yes, some people hate the brown but I have no problem with the color of caramel and chocolate and besides, even if you don’t like it you will know immediately who Ubuntu is at a glance lol) so at any rate, I liked the way it looked just because it was different. The fact that it comes with Gnome I liked also..sorry KDE’ers but I just like Gnome better. Then I go to install it to hard drive like I do with any other distro I like and that is where I decided I was not having such a good time of it…The install took just this side of forever (like Debian, its ancestor) but not just that..Once I finally remembered, oh yeah, Debian took forever too..then I sat back and relaxed..the install process is nearly identical to Debian so if you have tried Debian you will be in familiar territory…
Once the install was complete..imagine my surprise and dismay when the updater pops up and says I need 479 updates!! I almost had an embolism on the spot…So I say, okay, go for it..well two hours later it was done updating..yipee..So all in all, it took nearly 4 hours to install Ubuntu just to have it suck up all my resources..
Yes, I am irritated with Ubuntu but in all and complete fairness, this distro is probably the most newbie friendly distro I have tried, including PCLinuxOS, who I am quite fond of and am eagerly awaiting the 2008 version. If you have a couple gigs of memory to play with and hate Windows, ran away from Windows or are not technically inclined I absolutely recommend Ubuntu…wholeheartedly..However, if you are a Linux guru, you will probably hate the restrictiveness and the warnings and such which would just be unnecessary for you.
So, then I tried Xubuntu (for those of us with the limited resources..)and I ran the Live CD with no problem at all and Xfce seemed like a slimmer version of Gnome which was both a plus and a minus for me (I like eyecandy and saving resources..yeah yeah I know)
So here I thought Xubuntu would be perfect and so it was..until I tried to install it to hard drive..the install went okay but then I had to go through the same hoop jumping on the updates, just to end up with pretty much the same resource hogging I had before, only not as nice to look at lol..I would still recommend it wholeheartedly, again mostly just to newbs, Linux newbs or those with a lot of resources…
Finally, I tried Linux Mint..it is an offshoot of Ubuntu, based on Ubuntu but yet totally different at the same time..The MintInstaller is very useful, especially to a command-line idiot like myself..and fun to use at that..just type in the name of the application you want, and away you go!
I also like the menu (Mint Menu) which is set up differently than any other distro I have used yet but still (in my opinion) easier to use (some don’t like it but I do) Additionally, the MintUpdater keeps one informed of all critical, important and optional updates by level (1 being utmost and 3 being optional) so I tend to just check it once a week, update the “ones” and that is it…
The install was easy and I have not had any major problems with this distro so far..having said that, I personally picked Linux Mint and will continue to run it, at least until PCLOS releases their newest version……………………..

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All right fellow newbs, in the last post..I tried to make the argument for why GNU/Linux is wonderful and how everyone should make the switch..I may have forgotten some things but hey, I’m still a newb too!
In this post, I will be reviewing the distributions (distros, or “flavors”) of GNU/Linux that I personally have downloaded and tried out, which ones I liked or didn’t and why…all keeping in mind of course that there are features that I am not knowledgeable enough to try out yet lol…with GNU/Linux, one learns humility fast!
Okay, here we go….
We are now at the most fun (and most frustrating) part of the switch to using GNU/Linux..
According to the Wikipedia article on Linux distributions..there are currently over 300 distributions worldwide…(wow)…some of these are commercially backed (have funds to help them) and some are community driven (a few folks doing this because they love it)…Typically the more users a distro has, the more testing it has gone through and the more support it has (like anything else)..
One more thing to note is that all distros (distributions, remember?) are made up of hte kernel (core) and packages..Packages are made up of applications and services…just fyi…
Try exploring DistroWatch, which keeps track of all the various distros of GNU/Linux offered from people around the world, including their websites, features and reviews.
Once you have read a little about some of the major distros on the Major Distributions list (top of the page) you can either visit their sites to learn more about them now, or you can take a “test” made
for us newbs that will help you to make the right choice for you.
There are several tests or “distro choosers” out there.  One of the ones that I used was on the Zegenie Studios website..To start getting help choosing the right distro for you, just remember to answer the questions honestly!! There is no shame in not knowing anything about Linux and there are no “wrong” answers in this quiz..it is just to help you weed out a lot of the distros that will be all wrong for you, such as the ones that are more technical..you don’t want to start out with a technical distro when you are a newb…that would be like getting a graphing calculator when you are in first grade..pointless….Besides, as your skill level rises, you can always hunt down a new distro to fit your changing needs (it is a lot of fun trying them out!)
CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE DISTRO CHOOSER TEST now.  There is a question in the test about whether you are interested in Live CDs..choose yes on this..a Live CD is where you can run the CD and the operating system will run, allowing you to try it out without changing anything on your computer!  Cool, huh!
Okay so you’ve taken the test..Check out your results by visiting the homepages…here are some guidelines as to what to look for…….
1.  A FAQ page or list of common questions asked of the distributor.
2.  A list of requirements:  This is what specifications you need on your computer in order to use that distro.
3.  A place to download the distro…is it a mirror? or a regular page?  and believe it or not, I have come across the odd distro or two where I couldn’t figure out how to download it.  (probably not worth it to a newb)
4.  Support, support, support!!!!  Being able to ask the developers questions is important..that’s right, in Linux  you can email the maker of the application or distro and they actually answer back!!  Another important part of support is a user forum..where other users of the distro ask questions and post answers to help each other.  Another important aspect of this is…how nice is the forum (what did she just say??) lol..seriously though, if you are a newb and have a lot of questions, you don’t want some jerk telling you that you are too stupid for Linux; you want someone who will help you with real solutions that work!
5.  An important part of your distro will be the GUI (Graphical User interface) and Desktop Environment…Sorry, gurus, but us Windows refugees need our point and click lol..and if you are into eye-candy (especially the Vista users) KDE (i think) is the best, then Gnome…
6.  Check out the ‘packages’ listing the distro has..if they have one..if not, maybe they aren’t for the newb..Check and make sure that the things you will be using everyday are there…like the webbrowser you like, or a media player of some kind, email and an instant messenger…Try to find distros that work “out of the box” so to speak..these are the most newbie friendly.
Okay you got a headache yet??
Time for my Personal Review of the Distros I have checked out…All of the following were free dowload versions!!  Here we go!!!!
(In order of how I used them)
1.  Debian GNU/Linux
This distro was the first one I tried because I was a hopeless newb and this is one of the ones that kept popping up when I searched for a distro based on not having much RAM (only 256 MB).  Debian (named for the publisher, Ian, and his wife, Debbie) is very strict about only using free software, so there was no package for downloading Flash Player, which is required for my favorite browser, Opera.  I am also a command-line moron, so a graphical user interface (GUI) is very important to me..(What is it? basically–point and click, which is what Windows uses.)  The Desktop used by Debian is Gnome, which had somewhat of a similar feel to what I was used to..and was not sluggish at all, despite me having limited memory.  Debian has, I believe, the largest package repository in all of Linux-dom, so as long as it is not proprietary (owned by someone and not copyable) Debian has it!  All you do is open Synaptic Package Manager, search for your package, click apply and you are done!  Even better is if it’s a deb package, which has its own installer..open the package with the Deb Installer and you are done!  That is nice!  As a windows refugee and hopeless pointnclicker..I loved right clicking on the desktop to change it..the color picker is loads of amusement and downloading themes is a snap..
Okay what I didn’t like…the install took just this side of forever and was kind of unclear..I was soooo confused the first time I did it..fortunately I enjoy trial and error so I had to completely reinstall about 8 times LOL..so it got easier..but for a newbie it was really murky..I really hated aptitude..it was so hard to figure out..and like i said, command-line moron here! (which is my fault but still not newb friendly)…Also, I had issues with applications freezing solid..although the insty-quit button was nice..i had that right on the desktop for frozen apps..Support was vast, but a little too technical for my comfort.  All in all, under whatever kind of crazy guidelines I have..I give Debian Linux a B+, a little hard to learn to use, but pretty easy to use (does that make sense?)  And I did come back to it after trying out other distros….
2.  KNOPPIX GNU/Linux (two websites: http://www.knoppix.org/ and http://www.knoppix.net/)  (the first is a german based website, the other english based but both available in english)
Designed by a guy with the last name Knopper, this distro of Linux is pretty much the one that came up with the Live CD concept, which enables the user to run an entire operating system completely from a CD disk..I downloaded that and ran it..graphically it was pleasing..on the .net page it  says zero to linux in 5 minutes..true!  I got a tad confused on a couple of set up questions but I mostly chose defaults when that happened…the KDE desktop is my personal favorite and it was very pleasing to the eye..the downfall for me is that Knoppix isn’t really made for hard drive install so that was a deal breaker for me..but if portability is your major concern..Knoppix is great!  I give it a B…
3.  Puppy Linux
Already you have to love a distro that comes complete with a puppy desktop lol..of course, Puppy does refer to its size but hey that is one way to get people to try it out anyway!!   I tried Puppy Linux because it is a small distro, which is necessary for me as I have limited RAM..The Live CD was about 90 MB (yes seriously) and there were many programs jam packed into Puppy.  Great things?  Puppy has a very well organized and easy to understand website that will tell you all you need to know about Puppy..Not so great things?  Call me shallow but I didn’t like the way it looked..lol..sorry!  It really performs well though and if you aren’t as “eye-candy hungry” as I am, then it really is great, especially for older systems…I gave it a B-
4.  Feather Linux
This is another of the “small distros” available out there..I tried it out but I very quickly decided this one was not for me; it didn’t seem to recognize my monitor right..all the colors were messed up on it and of course I didn’t know how to fix it lol..It requires more technical ability than I possess as a newb…At 128 MB this compact OS is also another good choice for an older system..(That’s another great thing about Linux; revive your old PCs) Overall, I gave it a C
5.  Vector Linux
This distro I really liked…so much so that I installed it to my hard drive from the Live CD..Great things:  It came with Opera “out of the box” which I thought was AWESOME!  It also has Seamonkey..one of the Mozilla projects…Multimedia support including for iPods is included and overall, a really great OS.. The not so greats: The installation process is a newbie-nightmare…so I probably did something wrong, as it froze up after I installed it to the hard drive and refused to boot again, except from the CD which was less than I wanted..So, as much as I thought it was an A operating system, i have to give it a C- for freezing up and being an installation nightmare..
6.  PUD Linux
This version of Linux was what I had been looking for..a light version based off Ubuntu..the version of Linux Everyone who is anyone (lol) is talking about..so when I saw this more friendly to my RAM version, I got it…Now bearing in mind that the develper is Taiwanese (people do different things in different ways in different places) right off the bat I wasn’t sure about the website..The main page is in chinese? is there ‘taiwanese’? hmm sorry not sure..but there is an english page, no problem..There is a list of categories but no way to expand them to learn more about the features..Everything I learned about it was on DistroWatch..I can’t really review this distro well because my LiveCD was a little hokey..I’m not sure if it was corrupt or what happened but it froze up right off the bat..so I have to give this an Incomplete lol…
7. PCLinuxOS
Their website is a little hokey and hard to navigate for a newbie but once I downloaded the live CD ( I used the “MiniMe” download) I popped it in, rebooted and in less than 8 minutes I was using this distro…then as I kept using it and kept loving it more and more…I decided to hard drive install it (HDD install) and had no problems, except one; I couldn’t figure out how to install it to HDD..(if you have tried this distro you get the joke) there was an icon right on the desktop to install it to the hard drive LOLOL…my bad!  So anyway, I installed it…The goods: I love KDE desktop..and oddly enough the one thing I thought I wouldn’t like, the lack of applications on the disk, was actually perfect!  I just went to Synaptic Package manager, updated the repository list (places to get packages) and I just started picking what I wanted….and only!! what I wanted….it was great!!  The HDD install was a breeze, with a step by step point and click, pictures and all dream!!  I give this a good solid A…not an A+ because at some point there will be something I don’t like..otherwise, I love it…It’s a keeper!!

As a side note, I have also downloaded one more distro…Slax, based off of Slackware, the oldest continuing distro of GNU/Linux…I just never tried it out because I found what I wanted…
Okay fellow newbs…hopefully my ranting and longwinded discourse was helpful in your choosing of the right distro (for you!)…Just remember, keep in mind what your needs are and don’t worry about what someone else says is “the one you should get”…you may be a newb but you still know what you want!  Do your homework and be willing to learn….Good luck and happy computing!

So, you have decided to be rid of your not so Micro-software and jump into the GNU/Linux world…Great!  The problem is that you are a complete newbie or a Windows refugee…That’s okay!  Linux takes everyone and just about every kind of computer you might have.  You have heard many rumors, no doubt, like “Linux is sooo hard to learn!” or “You can’t do nearly as many things with Linux as you can with Windoze” or some other such thing..
So let’s start off with some clearing of the air about GNU/Linux…
Question and Answer time:
1.  Um, what is GNU/Linux? And what is a GNU?
—It all began with Unix, an operating system for which all the internet was made from.  Taking the Unix system and developing it (freely!!), the GNU project (which stands for Gnu’s not unix) was published in 1985.  Being a not quite complete system, the GNU project combined with the work of the infamous Linus Torvald, who created a kernel for an operating system he called Linux (a combination of his first name and Unix, released in 1992 freely!).  The GNU project and Linux Torvald collaborated and became GNU/Linux which is now used by millions of people who believe that knowledge should be shared freely, rather than monopolized by a few.  GNU is an a large antelope type of animal also known as a wildebeest.
2.  Hmm…okay..but what exactly does GNU/Linux do?
—–GNU/Linux is an operating system for the computer.  An operating system is kind of like the translator between you and your computer…the computer doesn’t speak your language and you don’t speak its language, so you ‘talk’ to the Operating System and it ‘talks’ to the computer.
3.  How is it different from what I have been using? (i.e. Microsoft)
—–GNU/Linux is different by virtue of being free.  When I say free, I don’t mean free as in “free beer” but free as in the liberty to take the source code and change it however you like, without having to pay someone else to be able to do it.  Often times, though, it is also free (as in beer) which makes it hugely different from Windows, especially if you have ever had to replace of copy of that, OUCH!
4.  So why should I be using GNU/Linux?  The name seems complicated by the way!
—–If you enjoy paying a hundred bucks just for the copy of Windows that your computer has, then so be it.  If you don’t have a problem with not being able to put your files where you want to without downloading a special program like TweakUI, then GNU/Linux isn’t for you…If you have never said “I really hate Internet Explorer because it is slow and unsafe” then by all means, keep Windows..but if you like being in complete control of your computer, being able to surf the internet without constant fear of viruses and being able to use a different webbrowser or if you hate Media Player and want to use something else….with GNU/Linux..you can!!  And as for the name..call it Linux if you want, but if you are talking to a guru (i.e. GNU/Linux expert) you might want to call it by its proper name lol. (most people probably have a hard time with the word gnu..)
5.  Okay, then so IS GNU/Linux hard to use?
—–Honestly, it can be, depending on the distribution of GNU/Linux that you choose…if all you have ever used is Windows, then it is probably advisable to start with a version of Linux that is specifically aimed at Windows refugees.  (Don’t worry I will go into detail about that in Part Two of this post.)  As long as you are willing to learn and are good at reading (because there is quite a bit to learn lol) then you should make the transition just fine.  Additionally, there is no need to abandon the safety net until you are ready..there are always Linux versions that will help you set up a dual-boot system, which means you can run Windows and Linux on the same computer.
6.  Okay, I am all about being in charge! What do I do now?
—–The first step to getting GNU/Linux is do to a little research in order to find out which distribution (or “distro”) is right for you…A distribution is a version of GNU/Linux that someone or someones wrote and decided to publish..In other words, some computer geek said “I want my computer to do this…” and designed it to do just that..then, they wanted to show it off and/or share it with the world (“heyyy look at what my computer can do”) and they would publish their version, or distribution…If others liked it, they would get it for themselves, which resulted in several very well known versions of GNU/Linux and many not so well-known versions..

Okay then, if you are hooked on the idea of complete control of your PC and excited about the possibilities of maybe someday designing an operating system that does exactly what you want it to do, then it’s time to “pick your flavor” of Linux.  This is probably the most exciting (and the most frustrating) part of choosing GNU/Linux…remember when I said complete control?  That means all the decision making too!! lol….My next post will specifically deal with several different distros of Linux, in order to help newbies decide which one suits their needs….

This is basically a repeat of the blog I posted on my Opera page…It’s hard for us silly Linux newbs to know where to go for help so the more I reach with this the better…..

I intend to write a brief tutorial for the “hopeless Linux newb” like me! This blog might make it a bit easier for other newbs like me who are hopeless at using command lines (for now) to get Linux, Opera and Flashplayer to hold hands and play nice together..Anyone else who decided a beta version of Opera was way better than no Opera at all can benefit from this..unless of course you are a guru, in which case…don’t rub it in! lol..okay fellow newbs, follow me……

First, you will need your flavor of Linux..I have downloaded a few now and I like my first choice, Debian..so using Epiphany browser (nice little browser, just not Opera lol) I downloaded Opera 9.5 beta to my desktop and installed it with my .deb package Installer (I love you Debian, seriously)

(Sidebar: So why not 9.2x? because somewhere–don’t remember which page–on Adobe it says specifically that the new version of Flash will not work with any other version below 9.5..I tried and failed so maybe they were right or maybe I am just too lame to figure it out lol)

There are other flavors (distros) of Linux that you can get Opera for, for those you will have to see the installation instructions for those (sorry I really am a hopeless newb) but I assume that the distros that are Debian based will have a similar way to install them..if not, and you can actually run a command line successfully then you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with this step.

So now, off we go to Adobe for the Flashplayer newest version download….this package is in the form of either an .rpm, .tgz or yum…i believe it is personal preference which one you go with (i have heard rpm files are easiest to install but like I can’t say enough, I am command line helpless and I couldn’t run the thing with the instructions in front of my face lol)..At any rate I believe I ended up with the tarball (tgz) file on my desktop..and it wanted to go (by default) to /myhomefiles/.mozilla/plugins..which I am pretty sure it is supposed to split up and go into the /usr and /lib places or something (I am so hopeless lol) but like I said I couldn’t manage it so I did it my way..

Now, to get the flashplayer to be used by Opera as well as Firefox (or whatever Mozilla equivalent app)…Open up Opera (woot! almost there!) and click on the Tools menu in the top toolbar…go down to preferences (click) and click the advanced tab..4th option down is content..click on that and you will see a screen that talks about java and options..click on Plugin Options..For thoroughness, I clicked on Find New (plugins) and got nothing of course..at the bottom it says plug-in path and lists the path of the plugin that Opera is looking at..You want to change this path so that Opera will look for the Flashplayer in the exact location that you put it (otherwise it won’t find it..no idea why)
Now the little box that just popped up will say plugin path..and it lists the paths that Opera is looking in..click on the option add at the right..then in the plug in path text box..type the exact path of where you stuck the plugin..(again mine is /home/myfiles/.mozilla/plugins because I couldn’t figure out the command line lol) but if you put yours in the actual right place i believe it should be something like /user/lib/mozilla or firefox etc obviously not a real path but you get the idea i hope..(if not just ask) then you will need to type /user/lib..etc..in the plug in path text box…
the point is that whatever you put in that text box is exactly where Opera will look for flashplayer…then click all the ok, ok, ok etc lol and close out Opera…then restart…go to a page that uses flash..I test mine with Pandora radio (www.pandora.com) or my Myspace Page (www.myspace.com/lady_of_the_castle)…if the pandora radio starts or you can play music on myspace you have done this correctly…if you get a big blank square, white or black…go back and repeat these steps…
I hope this helps..fellow hopeless Linux newbs, don’t despair..I figured out something lol..in time, more will come!!