Remote Full Upgrade to Linux Mint 17

My Mom lives in Texas and I live in Arizona. So that rules out simply stopping in to upgrade her laptop to the latest Linux Mint Qiana. So the alternatives are, pack up the laptop and send it to me or upgrade via apt and SSH. I imagine you have guessed I picked the latter method. Yes and about three hours later it was finished. No errors this time around.

I am quite impressed with this version of Mint. I have yet to encounter any problems and I am very confident Mom will not either. She loves her Linux computer. And I love the fact that support calls since her days on Windows have ceased to exist and we can talk about something other than a computer problem.

~Jraz

Extremists? Really? According to One Government Agency

This story first broke on a German site, Tagesschau. I first read about this in my Linux Journal email. Apparently Linux Journal is also listed on the NSA extremist list if you go by the scoring system, XKeyscore, that was released. I just have to believe that the NSA has more important things to do than flag the readers of Linux Journal simply because there were some articles on Tor and Tails.

There are as many reasons that people use that software as there are people using it  and more. This is a screwed up world and with the data streams mixing, advertisers getting your every move and add the threat of losing your own identity to a thief, and I can see why people want to remain anonymous. Just because someone wants their web browsing private is not a reason, at least on its own, to flag people or publications as extreme.

What’s in store for the future of this country or the Internet? Will it be commonplace to wear the badge of extremist? Or will the term extremist lose impact when everyone uses Tor and Tails? I really think this is going too far in my opinion. But I don’t have a say in what happens.

~Jraz

Upgraded to Linux Mint 17 Qiana

Last week I upgraded Mint to Qiana. I don’t like to upgrade my main laptop that often, but when I saw that version 17 would be supported to 2019, I had to do it. I downloaded the ISO and prepared a flash drive for the install. I was ready to take the plunge, but during my quick inventory of installed programs, I started thinking of all the little customizations I had done. Not to mention most of the software I use on a regular basis are not in the default Mint image.

I still wanted to upgrade, but not in the traditional method of installing clean and restoring backups. This upgrade was done in almost one command, apt-get dist-upgrade. But first there were a few commands to run in order to prep the system for Qiana. In order for this to be successful, you need to point apt to thee new repositories. This is done with the following commands running them under sudo. I pass thanks for this post for clean instructions. Another of the many reasons I love Linux; when you want to know something, almost every time someone else did it too and wrote about it. The Linux community is world-wide and really does share the wealth of knowledge. You just have to find it. Each command is ran as a single line as sudo or su.

sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list
sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list
Once this is completed, you can proceed with the upgrade. But first some words of caution.
  1. Ensure you have continuous power. This means for laptops to be plugged in.
  2. Set the computer to not sleep. Screen is okay but definitely not the main unit.
  3. Give yourself plenty of time for this to finish. I didn’t time it but it did take a couple of hours.
  4. Have backups ready just in case. You do this anyway, right? Are they tested?
  5. Knowing how to recover if something goes south will always help too.

Once you are ready, from a terminal enter these commands in order.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get upgrade

This will start the upgrade process and once it is finished, I ran the last command again. You may be wondering just how did the upgrade perform for me? Somewhere in the process my upgrade failed on one item and stopped. I rebooted and was given a nice green screen but without the login section. I entered a terminal by pressing ctrl+alt+F2. I logged in and ran the command sudo apt-get clean. Followed by sudo apt-get dist-upgrade. At this point the upgrade re-started finishing in about a half hour. The next reboot brought me to Linux Mint 17 Qiana. I am glad I knew a few commands and especially the alternate method of logging in.

Mint 17 is running without any problems, but one. It is not a deal breaker nor is it interfering with anything I do, but it is there and I haven’t tackled removing it as if yet. On my panel I have two network indicators instead of the normal one. They both show identical information and if you stop one, it stops the other. Strange, yes. But like I mentioned not a big deal. If anyone knows of a solution, I am all ears.

Update: I was checking items in the Startup Applications menu under Preferences, and I noticed two networking items. And yes I removed one and when I rebooted the laptop, the extra network item on the panel was gone and networking still functions. That was easy. :)

That’s all there is to an upgrade of Linux Mint 16 Petra to Linux Mint 17 Qiana. The small problems were indeed small and I would not hesitate to go this route of upgrading once again as long as I am not experiencing any problems before the process, I don’t expect problems during the upgrade.

~Jraz

My Laptop Will Not Start! – Personal Rant

How many times have you heard this: ‘Hey my laptop will not start-up, can you help me?’. My guess is you’ve heard it many times. And if you are like me, you help them out.

This story began a bit more than a year ago. I wanted to help out one of my extended family members. So I bought a used laptop from Craigslist, (I find most of my laptops this way.), I fixed it up and of course installed Linux. In this case Linux Mint. I install Linux for a couple of reasons; first it is freely licensed. Microsoft Windows would need a key and this was something they did not have; secondly on older hardware, Linux simply outperforms Windows, (Opinion yes, but try it yourself and see to believe.).

The laptop in this case was an older HP model. Probably marketed towards lower-end business users. When I bought the laptop it was loaded with Windows XP and was barely chugging. That may have been the norm ten years ago, but now we are used to using quicker computers. Linux Mint was a perfect fit providing functionality, speed and ease of use. The interface is somewhat familiar enough that most people will be able to do almost anything they need to do.

The delivery, questions, all went without a hitch. That was then, this is now. We were visiting a  couple of weeks ago, and on the couch was the laptop. I noticed it and asked how is it working. The reply was not what I was expecting so I picked it up and turned it on. A few seconds later I was greeted at a prompt that ‘ntldr was missing’. I was disappointed to see that message, but I knew exactly what had happened. They had handed it over to someone to install Windows. But it wasn’t done right, or it was pirate copy, or who knows what else.

I left the laptop alone at that point since I had told them in the beginning I would not work on it if someone installs Windows. I had invested money and time in this laptop and I was willing to help with more instructions if I was ever asked. Disappointed yes, but I had to leave this one alone. Perhaps one day we will be visiting again, and I just might be carrying a flash drive in my pocket. Loaded of course with a Linux ISO or two or three.

~Jraz

Microsoft and Linux, really?

Microsoft and Linux are not usually in the same sentence when it comes to new partnerships. Announced at TechEd a few days ago, Microsoft has released to GitHub, DSC for Linux. DSC stands for Desired State Configuration. Essentially, in a very small nutshell, you configure once and apply to many. I will admit this is still very new to me even on the Windows platform and that’s where I earn my living.

I am stunned and amazed by this move. And I am hopeful that this foray into ‘open-source’ territory will become successful. I personally would like to see more of this coming from Redmond. Let me be very clear, I am not any more a fanboy of Microsoft than I am for Linux, but it pays the bills.

I envision a day when the OS becomes less important and functionality becomes the main attraction. Hardware also becomes transparent to the user. Think Ubuntu. Microsoft has the resources to really get behind this kind of movement. Question is, will the two sides embrace? At least it is a start and I for one like what has happened so far.

~Jraz

Installed Ubuntu Server Beta-2 14.04 Trusty Tahr

Last Saturday I decided to change things up and re-install the distribution on my main server. It is really a small desktop, but serves its function as a lonely server. With the release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS just days away, I took the plunge and prepared the partition to hold it. I had not installed Ubuntu server in quite a while and was quite pleased with the ease and speed at which I progressed. Finally, after about fifteen minutes or so, Ubuntu was ready to install Grub. Installing Grub2 has usually gone very well for me and I was expecting no less. Even with a final beta, I was confident the install would finish and I would soon be configuring SSH.

That was until the error landed on-screen announcing itself as fatal. But, I was given an option to try again. Why, I am not sure because the fatal error would return and I wasn’t given any new options, nor any other information. Instead you are left with the only option to quit the Grub install and proceed without a boot-loader. There was a slightly helpful hint right before the reboot and gave a quick how to on booting the system. Apparently I am not the only one to see this bug. It happens right after the message ‘Checking for other operating systems.’. My install was not a dual-boot as I have read in the other cases. I know this was a beta, but confidence was high since this was a final beta release. And I sure didn’t expect this to happen, but it did.

Luckily this was hardly an insurmountable error and with a bit of help from Rescatux and chroot, I was happily booting into Ubuntu Server Trusty Tahr for the first time. I really have to hand it to Canonical. They do put out a fine server product and it is definitely getting better and better with each release. I work with servers on a daily basis, but they are nearly all from Redmond. (Not my choice but I do have to provide for the family.) The Grub2 problem aside, total configuration time was less than an hour. This is including setting up SSH and Samba on an Intranet only server. I admit my server needs are not great, but whatever they could be now or in the future, Ubuntu Server 14.04 would most definitely fill the need and then some.

~Jraz

Goodbye Kubuntu, Hello Mint Petra

Yesterday I said goodbye to Kubuntu and my venture into KDE. I have to say it was an overall good experience to use it these last few months. But there was one real deal breaker. At some point, and I can’t really say when, I lost the use of two USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the laptop. In the beginning, I had written off the failures to the possibility a crash to the floor might have damaged them. What would happen is when I plugged a device in, nothing happened except for my mouse, (wireless, dongle plugged into the right side), would go haywire. I would have to reboot to fix this. I searched but found no answers or problems like mine. I also disliked the amount of system resources KDE uses while doing nothing for me. I tweaked KDE some, and tried to shave off a few of the applications I didn’t use, but it was more work to get rid of something and keep the dependencies for other applications, than it was to simply ignore them. My laptop is of modest hardware when compared to current technologies. On more robust equipment I’m sure the few extra clock cycles are never even noticed. But on my system they were noticed. These little widgets, screen enhancements, (many off), all required CPU and RAM. And on my laptop it made for a bit of sluggish performance.

I do applaud the KDE team for creating an environment with so many different objects a person can tweak and use. The KDE desktop is a tweaker’s dream. It seems never-ending in the number of tweaks that can be done. But for me, it is just too much. I like things a bit simpler. But this is just me.

I have come back to Linux Mint but in a new environment for me anyway, Mate. I installed the 64-bit Mint 16, Petra. From the beginning I was totally impressed. The install went very smoothly, and was quicker than I had ever seen. Less than fifteen minutes from the initial boot, to the first login on the new OS. And to top it off, everything is working, including the USB 3.0 ports.  The installer is the same as with previous versions, but it switches a couple of the options to the last and starts copying files very early. I believe this is what gave me the impression of such a quick install. I installed to a Lenovo laptop, G580, with a dual core Pentium, 500GB hard drive and 8GB of RAM.

For right now I am going to stick with Mint and the Mate desktop environment. But who knows what the future will bring. Being able to switch and have a totally new environment, working with about any hardware, and do it all in under thirty minutes is what being a Linux user is all about for me. It boils down to choice. And Linux is my choice.

~Jraz

Linux Openssl Saves the Day

Recently one of my co-workers needed to create a third-party certificate for wireless authentication. Okay that’s easy enough right? Well it turns out that this wasn’t as easy for her as it should have been. She had been running into the same error on every attempt in step 1 of the Cisco instructions for two days. Needless to say she was a bit frustrated. The cert was for Cisco wireless controllers so she was following their instructions and using a tool from them to generate the cert request.

When she showed me the error I almost instantly knew the answer. This is the error she showed me as best as I can remember.

Cannot find file /usr/bin/openssl/openssl.conf

Clearly we have a Linux or BSD path here but she was on a Windows 7 machine as per her instructions. Upon looking at the folder structure of the openssl exe file, I could see the mimicking of the Linux file structure sans /usr. I knew either it was missing or the exe was not ported correctly. Since I carry Parted Magic with me all the time, I booted a laptop with it and sure enough openssl was included.

I opened a terminal window, changed to the directory, (cd /usr/bin), and ran openssl from there. I was able to create the two files she needed for the request and once she processed that with GoDaddy, I created her certificate. Linux to the rescue once again and all it took was noticing the error had nothing to do with Windows and about five minutes of my time.

~Jraz