Tag Archives: review

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.






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.


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.

Short Intro Video For Linux Mint 14 Nadia XFCE Edition

I hope you enjoy this short video demo of Linux Mint 14 XFCE.


Pensive Penguin a Year in Review

Tux Laptop clipart

from Clker.com

The year 2012 has been a fun and interesting ride for Pensive Penguin. I thought it would be fun to highlight what I thought were the top posts of the year. Here they are starting with January and moving forward.

This may not have been the most widely read post of the year but it certainly impacted me the most.
Bash Command Line Blunder Using rm Not to be Repeated
I do not think there was a more important time for the Internet than SOPA/PIPA.Stop SOPA/PIPA Sign the Petition
In April I added mobile support. Site Update: Now Pensive Penguin Delivered in Mobile Formats What took me so long?

I like doing my part to support the Linux community and this was a good cause to get behind. The Debian Administrator’s Handbook Is Available in English The book is really great too. This cannot be said enough. Open Source Projects Are Free But Need to be Funded Projects need support and most of it will come from the community.

In August we had a birthday, Happy Birthday to Pensive Penguin! as well as created a stir in the Ubuntu community. Zeitgeist: Is Your OS Spying on You?  I can see now that my choice of wording did not sit well with them. I could have done better. I still believe that the owners of the distribution have an obligation to its users to be upfront and honest. I think that Ubuntu did not do that very well in the beginning but has since cleared their name in this regard.

Sometimes it is appropriate to simply shout out about how you feel about something. I think I did that pretty well in September here From My Linux Soapbox!

Moving into November we talked about the move to ARM support and Secure Boot (I think the second most important topic of the year).
openSuse Releases v12.2 to Arm
Will Secure Boot Impact You?
A Solution to Secure Boot For Linux

That is it, my list for the top posts for 2012. I am looking forward to a great 2013 and beyond. Thanks for reading.




New Laptop, Windows 8 Gone, Installed Linux Mint 14 Nadia

g580Well I finally took the plunge and purchased a new laptop. I got myself a Lenovo G580 with a B980 PDC CPU sporting 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive and more goodies. For the longest time, 10 years, I have either used a build it yourself desktop or a second hand laptop. It has been a long time since last buying new. While I did not go all out and get the latest i7 or i anything, the B980 compared rather well on Intel’s site with their newer and last years models. And as a bonus it sits atop the Sandy bridge giving it an extra punch in the graphics arena. All said and done I am happy with the purchase so far.

As you might be guessing from the post’s title, Windows 8 did not last very long on this machine. :) First priority was to disable the secure boot in the BIOS. And I do not give Lenovo much credit in making this intuitive. Perhaps there is industry pressure not to? We’ll never know for sure. Once in the BIOS you have to enable the legacy boot option and other OS options. This disables the secure boot but does not tell you it does. But upon checking you will find it is disabled after doing this. Save the settings and boot normally. At this point you can boot Windows 8 or your favorite OS. I booted the former. I wanted to see it first hand and I knew there would be an app to register the computer.

After a rather lengthy install process and a video or slide to show you Windows 8, one slide and not helpful at all, you are finally logged in to the desktop. What surprised me right off was I was wired to the network and it would only choose wireless as an option. My second thoughts were how clunky the interface was. Once in an application, which was not an issue, getting out was. No instructions, no pop ups, nothing. I managed to get out eventually and did indeed register the laptop with Lenovo. That is as far as I wanted to go with Windows 8. I have had my experience now.

I replaced the 500GB hard drive with mine, Linux already installed, faster spindle speed (7200rpm) and booted. Linux roared to life as expected. But that is not to say there was not any issues to deal with. Apparently this laptop comes with a newer network chip that does not have a module in the kernel yet. My first thoughts were that I was running the Debian edition of Mint and that the drivers were in the non-free category. I had been planning on installing Mint 14 Nadia since its debut but had not yet given in to the task.After all nothing was broken or anything. I fired up my employers laptop and downloaded the ISO burning it to a thumb drive in short time. Once again the install went off without errors and I was running Nadia in no time.

But the wired network was not working nor was it detected. The command lspci did indeed show the chip set, Ather03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR8162 Fast Ethernet (rev 10), but nothing was happening network wise on it. Enter the best Linux trouble shooter Google and I found the answer here in the Ubuntu forums. There were other posts from Google but this one had the crucial step of installing build-essentials. Without it the fix does not work. I had Ethernet in short order once again. Wireless was functioning but where I live there are so many signals that it is degraded all the time for serious connections. So I prefer wired over wireless right now. It should also be mentioned that the wireless is the famous B43cutter and worked right off the bat. The non-free driver was also available if desired.

So far this setup is doing great and there are not any issues that are deal breakers. My only complaint and I do not yet know if it is the OS or the hardware, is when I go the click something the mouse pointer hides itself. Annoying to say the least. Oh well if that is the worst thing then I have done pretty well.

I should also mention that after setup sound was working, video was set to a good resolution and everything just worked as it should. Nice work to the Ubuntu teams and to Clem and the Mint team for putting this together.

Update: I noticed when changing themes the disappearing cursor is gone. I will have to pay attention to which one it was since I had been switching around on them. This is good to know and I will update again if I notice it.


The Debian Administrator’s Handbook Is Available in English

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook written by Raphaël Hertzog and Roland Mas  was originally published in France and through ULULE a campaign was started in November 2011 to liberate the book to be available to English readers throughout the world.

I am very excited to be able to receive this book in electronic format since I was not a large contributor. These days for my family money is very tight but I could not pass the opportunity to at least donate a few bucks to the project. The donation project was a success and now this highly acclaimed book in Europe is now available to English readers. It is even available on the web for free in HTML format or can be downloaded without donations. I ask that if someone does download that they help the project in any way that they can.

The concept is to keep the book free as is Debian, but printed copies are available for purchase also through LuLu’s print on demand service for about $50 US.

If you are interested in Debian from an administrator’s point of view, then this will be a prize for your collection.


ArchBang 2011.11 Install Review

It should be noted in the beginning that any installation of an Arch based OS will require Linux background or the willingness to read and follow instructions. ArchBang is no exception. The good news is the community behind these platforms does a great job at keeping the documentation updated, clear and well written. In fact I have used their documentation to solve many Linux issues with other more “popular” distros simply since it was so clear and the base of Linux remains pretty much the same no matter what is put on top. The main reason I feel this way about ArchBang is there are things to manually configure in this distribution than in other types such as Linux Mint. Mint install will configure everything for you and leave you at a desktop that will not require anything to be done. You will end up on a desktop in ArchBang too that is ready to use but getting there is a bit different.

The platform I am using for this test, (writing this post with it too.), is a Dell D420 running a Dual Core 1.2Ghz CPU and 1Gb of RAM. It is by most standards considered at the slower end of the hardware spectrum. I have it on loan from work since it was destined for the scrap pile when running Windows XP and performance was too slow to be viable to work with. We are talking a couple of minutes to boot and lots of lag when trying to open the main tools such as MS Office. Now that we have some background this review will have a bit more meaning.

ArchBang’s greatest difference from Arch is that it is a live distro that can be run from CD or USB. It is complete without the need to install anything else. I chose to install from USB using a technique I will outline at the end of this post. Arch on the other hand is a custom build type of distro. You install everything and all the choices are made by you. This doesn’t mean you can’t change anything in ArchBang or that there are not programs you might choose over others. But it is fully functional right from the start with few edits. This is my first successful install of ArchBang and I had tried before but I think my Linux knowledge and willingness to really read was not where it is today.

I followed an excellent How To guide from the ArchVortex blog and was running in minutes. Stan has posted excellent instructions complete with screen captures and I will not repeat them here. If you have plans on installing ArchBang follow his guide and you won’t miss.

Once installed I noticed right away how responsive this old computer became. Booting to the log in screen was less than 20 seconds and signed in to desktop was faster than I could type. My first thoughts were wow! I installed from a cabled connection and proceeded with the recommended post-install updates. My only real frustration was during the install when I set the mirrorlist. I would rather see this file arrive with the mirrors commented out and have me un-comment the ones I need. It is a chore to comment out so many mirrors. On the other hand I can see why this is done this way. If it was forgotten or missed, pacman (package manager), would not work and the initial updates would fail. It is from the popularity that the mirrorlist is so long and after running ArchBang a while I can see why.

I installed from a cabled connection since in the past I had issues trying to install from wireless. This Dell D420 comes with the notorious B43 cutter wireless chip. I have read too many issues getting this started so I chose wired, It is a Broadcom Ethernet chip set too but I had no issues at all with a connection. Once installed and updates were finished, I re-booted with a D-Link DWA 652 PCMCIA card. I had used this card in the past with some success and it uses the athk9 driver. This driver has been supported for quite some time so I was confident of a wireless connection. And I was right. Wireless started but to my surprise both adapters were showing as available. So it seems using Linux kernel 3.1.0-Arch #1 is now supporting the B43 cutter that has plagued so many users in the past. I stuck with the D-Link for the greater speed for now but it is nice to know it works,

I also tested the SD card slot and it recognized a card from my camera without a problem. This is something I have had issues with using LMDE on the Sony laptop.

I am really impressed so far with this version of ArchBang. I have to admit I do not know a lot yet about pacman and have not yet customized this install past adding the terminal, Aurora and file manager links to the main menu. But I’m sure I can learn.

I have to give this distro of ArchBang high marks for everything I can think of is working in this D420 Dell Latitude. I think this is a great distro for someone who isn’t afraid to step out of the comfort zone and learn more or for those in the know a great start to a fully customizable system.

Here is how I created the USB key. I have created a dd shell script that allows me to copy an iso directly to USB. I do have to edit the path before running. I will post the entire process as another post later. I tried Unetbootin on this one too but it failed requiring some edits but the error didn’t say what edits. So I felt dd was a quicker solution. It works great but you better type the path right. :) More later.