Category Archives: Distributions

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

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

Have You Tried Parted Magic?

In my humble opinion, Parted Magic is simply the best multi-purpose tool-kit anywhere. I know there are competitors if you want to call them that. And they comprise some pretty good tools themselves. But Patrick Verner takes this project to a whole new level. Boot this tool one time and you will see what I mean. The interface is clean, simple and effective. The most used tools are on the desktop and the rest in a simple menu tree categorized by function. Parted Magic will boot on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. One of my favourite features is its ability to run completely in RAM, but has several other boot options. The ISO can be burned to a CD or run from a USB drive. You will find instructions to do both on the website. One more item I like is that the Linux kernel will be very close to the most current release. This one fact should be a clue to anyone that some real work is behind this project and that the kernel will be providing the latest innovations available.

You might be wondering just how do I get this for myself? It is pretty simple actually, head over to the website and donate $5 and download. But wait, isn’t this open source and free? That is what usually will follow the visit to the download site. Yes it is ‘free’ according to the license under which it is released. I for one do not mind the small fee for such a quality set of tools. I carry Parted Magic everyday on a USB drive and a CD sits in my desk drawer too. Thankfully I don’t use it everyday because when I do it is usually rescuing someone’s computer or data. But when I do, I am glad it is there. Everything I could need to rescue data or a system, test a disk, benchmark a system, clone a disk, remove a virus or just move files and so much more is already there in a small footprint, organized and updated. What more can one ask for? I have thrown a few bucks towards this project in the past, but I could have done more and will from now on. If you still think $5 bucks is too much, then you need to read this from Phoronix.

I am behind Parted Magic 100% and encourage everyone who reads this to do the same. This is a project someone can feel really good about supporting and using.

~Jraz

 

 

 

 

Installed KDE via Kubuntu v13.04 – My First Thoughts

I moved to Kubuntu early Sunday morning, and it was not without a few minor perils. I wanted a clean install, thus formatting /home was a must. I was coming from Linux Mint 14 XFCE  to Kubuntu 13.04 which of course uses KDE as the default desktop manager. I really didn’t want any cross contamination in /home nor did I want to dual-boot. It was all in or nothing. So I chose the all in and I am glad I did.

I want to first talk about the install and we will get to the minor perils later. The installer uses a very simple but efficient interface and for me was really quick including updates, (An option during the install.). I went with the manual option and reused the partitions already in place, but as mentioned above, I did format all of them except for /swap. The first boot was very fast to the desktop. Something I did not expect at all was that my Atheros wired connection was up and running with the alx driver. I wrote about having to build the kernel module for this driver in the past.

KDE Desktop

KDE Desktop
Original background image was obtained from the desktop applet and DesktopNexus.com.

The next screen capture shows both wired and wireless detected and connected. I really liked having both available without doing anything. I am glad that the devs at Kubuntu chose to add this module or chose this kernel that includes the alx driver. Definitely saves some time and frustration.

Showing the networks.

Showing the networks.

This brings us to our first minor peril, after suspending the session the wired network is unresponsive. In fact it doesn’t even show that it exists at all. Open manage networks and under the wired tab is nothing. Running ifup or dhclient do nothing either. After some failed attempts at a fix from Google searches, I finally found one that works. Apparently this has been a bug since v12.04. Fix this by adding nomsi to the /ect/default/grub file as root. Be sure to run sudo update-grub after if you need to alter grub.

Most of the visual default settings were okay, but I did alter some of the eye candy  effects since I am only running a moderate speed dual core. I am a bit pragmatic about those things anyway so it was not a loss in my book. I do think they look cool and I’m sure plenty of people love those effects. I was surprised that I can honestly report that even though I removed about 75% of the effects, there was not a noticeable improvement in system responsiveness. Perhaps I am running a system at the level it was designed for basic usage?

One of KDE’s main attractions is the levels of customizations someone can do to the desktop. I can clearly understand why people want to do this since KDE offers so many options. It can seem daunting at first, but diving in can be fun and even slightly captivating. My wrist was getting sore from the constant use of the mouse as I explored one option after another. :)

I did find one more small annoyance and that is the Leave button on the main menu does nothing. Right clicking the desktop runs the appropriate action, but not the button in the menu. Hmm…anyone else see this behaviour or lack of it?

The basic installation does give someone all the applications to do everyday computing needs. Installing more programs is easy to do through the Muon Software Center.

Muan Software Center

Muon Software Center

I used this almost exclusively to install some of my favourite applications only using the command line once. I did try to search for applications and for some reason nothing resulted from this. So I just went down the list and installed as I wanted. Now this may seem petty and probably is, but every time an installation finished the screen would refresh and leave the focus back at the top. This minor annoyance wouldn’t be one if the list was only a couple of hundred of choices long, but as most of us know Ubuntu has thousands of choices. This forces one to resume scrolling over and over to get back to where you were when the last choice to install was made. Anyone at Kubuntu reading? Break this into categories or remove the refresh for the entire screen. I did install everything I wanted and a few more that in the past I had passed on because of the KDE overhead. Not an issue now.

Speaking of KDE overhead, it is pretty massive compared to what I am used to running in XFCE or Openbox. This is something I am going to be looking into later. I have no plans to use about half or more of the applications that are running resident, but it is not really clear what removing them will do to the system. I like some of the widgets available for the panel and configured it the way I wanted. Rebooting during one of the network down periods messed up all the changes I did and I still have not found the Dropbox widget. Having the icon does nothing apparent to the eye. The options available in the panel are something I will explore in more detail later.

I like having an application like LibreOffice install with a current version. There is definitely something with Kubuntu for everyone and installing more applications is really easy despite the one minor annoyance. I am pleased with the overall look and feel, comfortable with the speed of the system, and I am looking forward to seeing what KDE has in store for me to learn. I am planning on giving Kmoney a try also and if it goes well, I can finally stop using Windows in a virtual machine (Virtual Box installed flawlessly.). :)

For now I am going to stick with this configuration and only make a few minor tweaks as I learn more about KDE. It has certainly changed from the last time I used it via Mepis and that was several years ago.

~Jraz

Edit: Today I am happy to say that the Muon Software Center did behave as it should. I had categories to choose from and I searched for the same item that refused to appear on Sunday. I did install updates and there were plenty. I can only assume that was a bug that was quickly caught or an install error the updates fixed. Either way it worked a lot better.