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Goodbye openSUSE. Hello Linux Mint. January 8, 2009

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Linux, Linux Mint, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, Recommendation, Reviews, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
12 comments

Disclaimer: openSUSE 11.1 is reported to be an excellent upgrade. However on “my” Lenovo laptop openSUSE 11.1 has been a total disaster. This report is therefore a personal report rather than a universal indictment against openSUSE which I still think is one of the best distributions. (this is also not an openSUSE vs Linux Mint post, even though it feels like one)

Linux MintEnough is enough. After numerous attempts to get openSUSE 11.1 working, including many many reinstalls, I finally erased everything in favour of Linux Mint 6 (Felicia… whatever that means!).

My previous escapades with openSUSE have been documented in earlier posts… except that my last post I actually ended in a happy note. I had finally reinstalled openSUSE 11 and then upgraded to openSUSE 11.1. My boot system was still creating problems with the CD, but things were working so far… so I began to use the system. But things just became bad to worse… no audio… no easy program installations… search not working… and the killer lack… no CD recognition!

So I decided, because I actually NEEDED linux to work (especially for CD burning) I choose to install Linux Mint 6. Why Mint? Because Ubuntu couldn’t recognise my wifi driver/connection (and I ONLY have a wifi connection… no ethernet)… so I was pretty handicapped with Ubuntu. Linux Mint on the other hand (using the oft-used-cliche) just worked.

And I must agree… as so many others have discovered… Linux Mint is Ubuntu done right!

The installation was not as fast as I remembered it… but it was effective. Also, I didn’t like the default partition options… (here I just missed openSUSE that does such an excellent default boot option). But that was fixable using the advanced mode. Also I was disappointed with such limited options during the install… (again missing openSUSE), but it was functional. (basically, it would be nice if Linux Mint depended on more than Ubuntu and learned a few things here and there from openSUSE).

When it installed, I missed KDE… but I don’t think I’m going to try KDE until things become clearer between KDE 3.5 and KDE 4.1 (just not comfortable with the in-between life). However the Linux Mint desktop was pretty and usable enough, so that was ok.

Linux Mint recognised my wireless connection immediately.. which was a huge relief. However, when I tried to make a VPN connection (of my college)… I was just not able to find an easy accessible way of doing it. But that’s ok… I didn’t urgently need it (though that’s another thing keeping me dependent on Windows… yes it was easier to do in Windows). There were huge updates to install… but thankfully my fast internet connection could handle it pretty quickly… I shudder to think what I’d do with the older slower connection I used to use… (which I may be returning to next year!!!… due to financial and other reasons). I wish the .iso files were remastered with the updates… (like it’s possible to buy Windows with the service packs… actually I only know the XP experience, not the VISTA).

And then, problems with skype. And sadly, the audio didn’t work and it seems that both openSUSE and Mint… have problems with something called pulseaudio. I can’t understand how default installations are facing such problems… for so long. In my earlier experience with Mint I had the same audio problems… and the fix was similar… but why is the problem still there, I don’t know.

…I must agree… as so many others have discovered… Linux Mint is Ubuntu done right!

Anyway… my mic is not working… yes it’s working in Windows. And no it wasn’t working in openSUSE (even in 11)… but certainly not here. can’t figure out why… but that’ll probably be another story.

But everything else is ok. I had to install (and use) the K3B programme… and that worked.

Also once the MintInstall messed up… and didn’t allow me to install a new programs (I had to go through Synaptic). And then attempt to reload MintInstall many times (over a few reboots) to allow me to reload… and it’s working now. But I feel that the openSUSE one-place-for-everything approach seems better than the LinuxMint way that has several applications… one for update, one for installations, one for… mintNanny (whatever that is!).

And also… another problem I faced in Mint is that because I installed Mint with the external USB harddisk (accidently) connected… the external harddisk interrupts the Grub when it is plugged in. So I have to remove the harddisk and then boot and then plug it again… a bit of a pain, but it’s ok.

And finally… a big problem… which is not a problem but is still a problem… is the automatic (default) Linux modified google search instead of the pure google search. I was first upset about it until I read this post which said that is the way Linux Mint makes its money (by the default search). Hmmm. Ok. I was less upset when I read it, yet I feel it is problematic since there was no information about it or even a choice offered to participate in it. It’s kind of dictated to you… and at best it feels like a bug… at worst it feels like an invasion. Still… I am now keeping the default search, by choice… but I feel there should be a choice to participate in it or not… but that’s just me.

So, now I have a brand new Linux Mint installed. Apart from the above, it’s been working pretty well… no major problems… unlike openSUSE… and that’s a relief.

I must say that I’ve extremely impressed by the graphics experience of Linux Mint. I don’t have a heavy-duty graphics card… but the basic 3D? graphics are pretty cool… and even helpful… which I mean the desktop switcher (between different workspaces). It is really practical and it works. (no, it didn’t work in my openSUSE!). Also I really like it when the workpaces are switched and you have a FULLY FRESH desktop without the applications from other desktops visible in the panel… openSUSE still has the other desktop applications visible, which I think defeats the purpose. Nice Ubuntu? Linux Mint touch.

Also, I was very impressed with the time/date AND WEATHER! applet installed in the panel by default. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder why other distros didn’t think of that (ie. without depending on third-party plugins). Really nice.

My new desktop (yes, I still like flowers) looks like this, below.

linuxmintdesktop

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7 things making me tear my hair out after installing openSUSE 11.1 (and some good stuff) December 22, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Brasero, Confessions, First Impressions, Internet, K3B, Linux, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, Reviews, Software, Wallpapers, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
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24 comments

openSUSE 11My previous post was honest, but still irresponsible. It could have given the impression that openSUSE 11.1 was not a good distribution. I’m sure it works perfectly for thousands of people. So I admit that my problems with openSUSE 11.1 are probably only my own…  I guess I’m not that lucky to have openSUSE work on my computer… or I must be dumber than I thought. Still, AFTER I reinstalled EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING including Windows), I finally got openSUSE 11.1 working… and then I was faced with problems of ‘using’ the distribution and this is that story. In no particular order, this is a list of some of the problems I faced while USING openSUSE 11.1.

I can’t imagine how this could be universal problems… otherwise  the distro would be super-buggy… but maybe it is a problem of openSUSE not recognising my Lenovo laptop (even though it has worked fine in Lenovo for all these years)… but my experiences with 11.1 have simply been terrible.

1. Confusion over KDE 3.5 or KDE 4.1 ??? Chuck it, let’s go to GNOME… but wait, where’s K3B?

As I said in my earlier post, when I installed KDE 4.1, the window crashed simply when I wanted to change the desktop photo. So I realised that KDE 4.1 could not be my novice desktop manager of choice just yet. But after my previous experiences of crashing my entire system by just meddling with the boot configuration, I decided to work with GNOME. At least there was only one manager to work with. So what that I hate GNOME, how bad could it be in openSUSE?

Well, I was happy that the wi-fi worked in GNOME, but when I wanted to do a simple bittorrent download I found some strange program called Monsoon. OK, I thought, how bad could it be, but I couldn’t change any of the view settings… like if I wanted to see the peers who were giving the highest speeds, I couldn’t adjust the windows. Enough of that, I said, I want Azureus (VUZE). I got it without a problem, but then, when I launched it, it would crash all the time. OK, let’s go for the trusted KTorrent… and I was invited to install half of KDE base systems. But that’s ok… I needed K3B anyway… so might as well install these files, I thought. Well.. KTorrent worked fine (phew). But now it was CD burning time… and that GNOME Brasero burning couldn’t even recognise my blank CD. Instead GNOME kept openning up another CD burning app, that wasn’t allowing me to burn a CD image onto the CD. Hmm… no more waiting, let’s install K3B… but when I launched K3B… nothing happened… no launch, nothing. I was stuck, I really needed that CD burned, but I couldn’t get the GNOME CD burners to work and K3B wasn’t working. My plan, install the entire KDE base and files, which I did, and I even restarted for good-measure. And viola! K3B worked in GNOME (all it took was the support of the ENTIRE KDE interface).. surely there’s an easy way than that.

2. Back to KDE, but wait, what KDE is this???

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I switched back to KDE (3.5) because who wants to be stuck with GNOME anyway. But wait, some of the functionality of KDE was missing, especially the shut down button. There was no shutdown. I had to logout and only then shut down. Whaat? (ok, I know there’s a fix somewhere, but please, this is openSUSE 11.1 !!! should this be happening?)

3. Repair, no repair, but still repaired… whaaat?

As I admitted earlier, I am a windows – linux user (ie. I regularly dual-boot). So I need the openSUSE grub install. However, as expected, when I installed Windows ‘after’ openSUSE, I lost the GRUB, and I knew I had to repair the openSUSE installation to fix the GRUB. I ran the CD and when the GRUB was being fixed, it didn’t recognise my Windows installation. That’s strange, I thought, and I manually entered the Windows booting code, as I remembered it. But the GRUB gave me an error, and I thought I’d rather not mess with it anyway, so I cancelled the installation, it told me that things are not repaired and I went to windows hoping to deal with this problem later.

4. Movies do not play in Kaffiene… so why have it in the first place (hurray for VLC)

Even after installing all the proprietory drivers, I still couldn’t get Kaffiene, the first-choice player, to play my .avi files. I had to install VLC to do that. So, why’s Kaffiene the default if after codecs are installed, it still doesn’t play what I would want to play?

However, when I was rebooting… to go to windows… I found a brand new GRUB installed, with Windows as default. Wow, is my computer haunted or what?

5. External harddisk. My external hard-disk does not work if I do not unmount it properly from Windows. For instance, if I, for whatever reason, pull the hard-disk cord in Windows, in Linux it will not mount the system and tell me to go back to Windows to eject it properly. What?

6. Audio has disappeared

In all this… somewhere along the way, and I have no idea where, I’ve lost the audio of my openSUSE. Either it is when I installed the codecs or when I installed the whole KDE system, I don’t know, but right now I have no audio, and I don’t know why.

7. Terrible default wallpapers. I know this is not a biggie, but couldn’t there be a major revision of what we find in the default wallpapers. That would add so much more value!

(under miscellaneous… big icons, why KDE why? )

AND THE small MERCIES (What is going well)

Not everything is bad. I had to reinstall Windows all of yesterday, and it was a striking constrast to the ease of installing Linux. In the Windows world we laptop owners are spoiled by the drivers being preinstalled… but when I lost everything… including all my drivers, I realised I had to install everything, one by one…. update again and again… restart countless times… and I haven’t even got to my programs yet! So it’s great to know that Linux, and especially openSUSE is actually much more easier to install and certainly more fun. The good things

1. Wi-fi is working. No problems there.In constrast, just to get the internet working in Windows. I had to get the wifi drivers, but before that I needed three other drivers from three different locations, before I could get that driver to work. Of course that’s three restarts as well.

2. No restarts. I know I’ve already said it, but I’ve done so many installations in openSUSE and not once have I needed to restart (besides the point that I choose to restart once, but I didn’t need to… a big relief).

3. and… well… that’s it for now… once my audio starts working, and I start listening to some soothing/relaxing music… I’ll be able to identify a few more positives… I hope.

Below is a screenshot of my gnome version… I know it’s not pretty, but what to do. Gnome-linux is better than no linux.

Gnome-openSUSE

A horrific start with openSUSE 11.1 December 21, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Firefox, First Impressions, Linux, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, samba, Ubuntu, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
32 comments

openSUSE 11In the past 24-hours with the latest openSUSE 11.1, I’ve had a horrific experience. And while I’ve not given up on the distribution, I’m putting down my experiences here neither as a call for help nor as a rant to keep people away. Rather, an honest approach spreads honest knowledge… and hopefully I will be proved wrong, and others will not make the same “mistakes?” I made. What follows is a quick historical recount of my experiences with openSUSE and also my current trauma.

History
Believe it or not, I love openSUSE and have been using it since the 9.3 days. Of course I was, and still remain, a novice. Which means I enjoy installing the new openSUSE, I try to get it working on my machine/s and then, after using it for a few weeks/days… I go back to windows, waiting for the next openSUSE release. I know this just reveals that I am a shallow linux user, without much knowledge of the system, but sadly, that IS me.

I think openSUSE 10.2 was one of my best Linux experience, it really improved from my traumatic experience with openSUSE 10/10.1. I eventually used 10.2 a lot, for a few months, as my primary distribution, and the only reason why I returned to Windows was because I needed Dreamweaver and Photoshop for important (read official web-designing). I did try the linux solutions, but I didn’t have the guts to invest company time and pages on my experiments.

Anyway… openSUSE 10.3 was quite traumatic as well, and when openSUSE 11 was released, I knew openSUSE would only improve. And it did. But then they had started promoting KDE 4 and while I liked it, I couldn’t use it everyday and shifted back to KDE 3.5. However by then it was too difficult to commit entirely to a Linux distro and I went back to Windows primarily, with occasional Linux visits.

One of the chief problems was that I wasn’t able to access my Linux files with explorerFS (the Windows based linux files viewer). I don’t know what happened, but once openSUSE could only be access FROM openSUSE, I couldn’t invest doing too much work in openSUSE in fear that I would waste too much time going back and forth.

I also was upset that I couldn’t access my Windows files from openSUSE when Windows was hibernated. This, is obviously for my safety, yet PCLinux allows this and it is really a useful feature. Still… that’s no excuses… just a reality.

Anyway… in time I suddenly realised that my openSUSE 11 started having problems with the audio. I couldn’t keep the speakers on without a feedback sound. Something like a mic feedback. I didn’t have the time to fix, so I waited for the new openSUSE 11.1

My horrific experience with openSUSE 11.1

downloading: I was one of the first people to start downloading openSUSE 11.1 (right to the minute it was released). I was waiting for it to allow me to download, kept refreshing the page, and when I got the direct ISO link I was delighted. In 2.5 hours I had the entire DVD on my disk, and another .5 hours I had the add-on disk.

burning and media testing: because I did the download in windows, I also burned the iso in windows (i usually prefer KDE). I then had to do a mediacheck in the openSUSE installation, and thankfully there were no problems in the DVD.

installation: The installation began and went quite smoothly… except I wasn’t able to connect to the internet because I am connected through wifi and I am not able to connect to my internet through the ethernet. Don’t ask me why… I called the Bell tech-support and their help wasn’t that great on this matter. (also I was running out of time, and wanted to get started, so I started without network configuration). The openSUSE installation is so swanky and cool (as always) that I didn’t pay attention to the new changes that may have been made. It’s just that things went so smoothly, I had no cause for complaint. I in fact used most of the default settings (I usually play around with the settings to get exactly what I need), because things were just going so well. The whole process took about an hour (the actual installation was about 35 minutes).

getting started: when I had my new KDE 4.1 desktop on my computer, I connected to the wifi connection without problems… which was great (openSUSE has always had a good wifi recogniser). And then got cracking with the updates (two security updates) and configuration.

desktop Configuration: that’s where things started getting buggy. I tried changing the desktop wallpaper, and when I changed it… nothing happened. Then I tried again… and the window crashed. hmmm? Anyway, thinking it was a KDE4 glitch… or a bug… I thought about reporting it… but I had to register as a new user and I wasn’t in the mood to do that… so I went to the KDE 3.5 session. and tried changing the desktop wallpaper there… and even there I had some problems, but I was able to change to one of the default pictures. I had tried installing my own picture… using firefox images right click set as desktop, but that didn’t work.

multimedia codecs: I then did the one-click install for all the multimedia codecs… and hoped I would be able to watch avi files. I wasn’t. I then had to install VLC player to view the avi files I had. Anyway… I didn’t want to get too picky… so I went to sleep with an imperfectly configured openSUSE. (ps I was able to go back to windows, as the grub recognised the windows booting).

The next day…

Boot configuration: the next day I started by configuring the boot… because I wanted to make windows the default. using YAST. Then I restarted and…

BAAM… no operating system! whaat?

I restarted again, and again, no operating system.

I was not concerned, thinking that perhaps the GRUB got messed up, so I tried to repair install using my openSUSE dvd. But when I tried fixing the GRUB, the entire C drive partition was unrecognisable. I wasn’t able to use or mount it. Hmmm.

Another try: I was a little concerned (though not that much because I had my important files backed up, but I didn’t have everything backed up, and I DIDN’T want to do a fresh Windows install because I would lose some preloading programmes). Still… I thought of a workaround. I tried using Ubuntu 8.04 to install and get Windows back… but even there the C drive was unregnisable. (I didn’t install Ubuntu as a result)

OK now I was worried… I returned to openSUSE disk and tried to install just the openSUSE installation, but it told me that the openSUSE root did not exist. Hmmm.

In effect, I was without a computer… with no windows or linux. Only solution, install linux again… I did that… and have found that I can’t access the C drive of windows… only the D and E (thankfully).

And now I have to repair my Windows installation… and hopefully that will be enough (I really don’t want to reinstall my Windows).

Ending… (or pause)… so that’s it… this is NOT a rant… just an experience-tale. To perhaps show my lack of experience.

I’m writing this from my second installation of openSUSE 11.1… and also on Konqueror because the Firefox is not working. What-the-heck? Something must be wrong… but I can’t imagine what.

Anyway, it’s back to repairing Windows and I hope I will return to tell a happier tale.

Revised Top 7 extensions (add-ons) for Firefox 3 July 15, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Firefox, Linux, Open Source, Recommendation, Reviews, Software, Windows, Working with Linux.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

After my previous list of Firefox extension (add-ons) favourites, I had to do some soul searching. I wasn’t actually using some of my supposed favourite extensions, but instead was using a few other extensions not on the list. Then came Firefox 3, and a few of my favourite extensions were not supported… out of the window they went, so it seems. So now, here’s my revised favourite Firefox 3 extensions (add-ons) (note that they are not in any particular importance, they are all pretty important to me):

1. Gmail Manager. This is is still one of my favourite extensions for Firefox and I’m glad Firefox 3 supports it. This extension allows me to check my multiple gmail accounts and is actually the first thing I see each day. Priceless!

2. AdBlock Plus. My previous list did not rate this extension highly… but eventually I realised that this was actually a (demi)god-send. It really helps in getting rid of pesky ads, but doesn’t do that good of a job getting rid of flash-based ads. For that you need to go to the configuration and manually block that frame or object. Still, excellent for a better web-experience. Ps. it also helps in making websites more “Safe for Work”.

3. Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer: This is a recent favourite… and after using it, I can’t imagine how I managed without it. Currently, I use four different operating systems on two computers… and so managing bookmarks can become a pain… unless you use Foxmarks. It’s an excellent tool that synchronizes all my bookmarks (including those on the toolbar) and so far I’ve had no complaints using it. Wow.

4. New Tab Homepage: For a while I thought of reverting back to Firefox 2+ just because it was not compatible with TabMix Plus; whose basic function I used was to open my homepage in the new tab. I really think this should be included and enabled by default… but that’s just me! Anyway… I found this small but extremely useful substitute and yes it opens my homepage everytime I open a new tab. Phew!

5. NoScript: This extension was not in my previous favourite list and I was scolded by a commenter for missing it. I still hesitate to put it up in my favourites… not because it is not useful… it certainly is. Yet it is also extremely irritating. There are some sites where you would want to block scripts, that’s true. But this powerful extension blocks the scripts of every single site and you need to manually enable each and every object in each and every site you trust. After a while, it makes you think you’re using Vista or something. Still, it’s saved me from a few viruses in Windows… and certainly reduced my headache in Linux… all in all, I would say, indespensible for security conscious surfers.

6. Flashgot: This is one really helpful extension especially when attached to a good download manager, like Orbit (in Windows). I’ve really enjoyed using this extension and would rate it as indespensible. In Linux, however, Orbit is not supported and somehow the download managers I have used do not fill me with a sense of security. Still, in linux I use DownThemAll… which has worked on a few ocassions… but I would just simply use the default Firefox downloader when I have to. I don’t really download YouTube/Metacafe videos, so I’m not the target audience for these extensions perhaps… but sometimes both extensions, especially Flashgot, are good to identify hidden links.

7. PDF Download: This is an extension that I have found extremely useful for me… though not everyone would want it. It basically allows me to choose how a pdf is treated in Firefox. I like to download my pdfs and then open them… so this adds that basic feature for me. The PDF Download 2.0 Beta (which I have been fortunate to test) is cooler still… and allows more PDF functionality to webpages… but most of those bells-and-whistles are above the needs of the common man. But still… this is a really good extension, and its getting even better.

(Extensions I thought I’d use, but never really did)

Zotero: In concept, it’s great. It helps in developing bibliographies. But actually I make my academic bibliographies through my word processor, so this is just a little out of my natural workflow.

Firefox Showcase: Occassionally I accidently press the Firefox Showcase button and see all my tabs in single view. But somehow I don’t NEED this extension, mostly because I know what my tabs contain. Still, I’m sure its useful (even indespensible) to many out there.

Customize Google: It was becoming a habit for me to install this add-on everytime I installed a new Firefox. But off late I realied that I never actually used the extra search items. The search-bar in Firefox more than adequately allows me to diversify my specific search needs. And most of the time, google is enough. So well… this one is no longer for me.

…so that’s it for now. I must say that because of most of the extensions (add-ons) in this list, I never use IE 7 or Konqueror or Opera… Firefox really does enhance my web experience.

How Windows helped me fix my Linux May 15, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, How-To, Linux, Microsoft, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
15 comments

Last night, my Linux (PCLinux) broke. And this evening I finally fixed it, with some help from Windows.

I’ll be telling the whole story along with what happened in the post below, but before that let me start with a few disclaimers (warnings/cautions etc).

First, it was clearly my mistake in the start the led to the demise of my Linux. I messed around with my partition table. Yes, yes, I know, shoot me!

Also, I’m a linux noob (which means, I’m more than a newbie, but not at all proficient with Linux when things go wrong). So, I’m sure there are easier solutions “IN” linux itself, but I had/have no idea about them… the few solutions I did know, didn’t work out for me… but again… that’s just me. In the same vein, I’m not a windows/Microsoft fanboy (nor a linux fanboy mind you). So my intention is not to start another uneccessary Windows-is-better-than-Linux flame-war!

The distribution in question (the one I was using) was PCLinuxOS (my current distribution of choice). Yet my comments here do not reflect on my views about how “good” or “bad” the distribution is, but this post is more a confessional on how I messed it up (so that someone may prevent themselves from making a similar mistake… or make things easier for us young-ones).

On to the story.

1. Last night I wanted to update my PCLinux (I hadn’t done it for a long time). For those who know PCLinux, they’ll know that one of it’s weaknesses is that it does not have an auto-update function like Ubuntu or openSUSE. You have to manually got to Synaptic and “reload” and then “mark upgrades” and then “apply”. So, I hadn’t done that for a while, and so I decided now is the time.

2. I realised, after seeing the size of the updates that my were too huge, and so I decided to completely wipe out my openSUSE 10.3 partition and use that space for my home directory. (ie. I’d have my programme in one partition, and my documents in another, like I do in Windows).

3. So I went to the PCLinux Control Center, went to Mount Points, and deleted the openSUSE partition. I also, choose to mount the free space with /home and the computer nicely asked me if I wanted to copy my current home folder to the new location. For which I said, “yes.”.

4. Sadly, when I saw the new configuration, I saw that the new /home partition was only the size of the home files (about 1.5 GB) and I had another 3.5 GB free… so I decided to increase the size of my new /home partition.

5. The partitioner didn’t allow it, giving some error that I obviously forgot to write down. Anyway, after a couple of tries, I decided I’d deal with that later (using gparted or something) and I decided to continue with my upgrade.

6. Just before I started my upgrades, I noticed that my new /home partition file size was about 4.5 GB (It should have been about 5) but then I thought, “oh, it did it, cool!” and I continued the upgrade.

7. I had about 700 MB of upgrades to do (yes, yes, I know, long long time). And my slow internet connection took hours and hours to do it.

8. In the process, when it said about 1 more hour to go, I went to sleep, before all the the updates were applied. But my computer battery died out (I thought it would be done within two hours, because I had about 2.5 left). But I think all the updates weren’t applied.

9. When I woke up next morning (today) and started PCLinux, it just wouldn’t let me get into the login or desktop screen. I realised I had done a foolish thing, and didn’t know what to do. (ps. I know at this point I should be able to go into Linux through some text mode thingy and fix things, but that is just too hard. I really prefer the gentle Windows “safe mode” that looks so easy compared to the text-mode Linux).

10. I realised I had failed, and since I had made backups of my PCLinux documents (yipee!) I decided to reinstall. (The great thing about Linux is that it’s so easy to reinstall, unlike Windows, that we can do it more often. Perhaps, that’s a bad thing, actually! :) )

11. Sadly, I had given away my last PCLinuxOS 2007 CD to a friend (I have already given away about 8 PCLinux OS CDs), so I had to download it again (using its metalink which took about 1.5 hrs).  (Thank God for metalinks!)

12. Then, my first reinstall attempt failed at the partition time, because it said it couldn’t read my partition, and if I tried to change it I could loose all my data, “Do you want to continue” it asked! What? Obviously NOT!!!

13. I tried again, same response. Realising that something was wrong in the partition, I decided to use Ubuntu LIVE CD to change my partitions, but no luck. It couldn’t go past my partitions.

14. I tried openSUSE oneCD installation (thinking it would be more powerful), still no luck. It told me that it couldn’t change the current settings and would use only existing settings (which I thought was not good).

15. Then I got my gParted out (the Linux partitioning specialist, a really cool/small programme). But even that failed. It just wouldn’t read my partitions, let alone let me edit them.

16. Thankfully, in all this, my Windows was still working, though by then my Windows boot was lost. I used super GRUB rescue (some boot rescue programme that I had lying around, it’s a spanish version that I can’t read, but I know a few buttons are press-worthy and times my windows boot has been restored.). And yes, this time I was able to get back to Windows.

17. And here’s how Windows helped me fix my Linux… I went straightway to MyComputer <right click>, “Manage” and then “storage” and so my partitions. Windows cannot normally read Linux partitions, but it does show that some partition exists (represented by a blank).

18. I deleted the Linux partitions, all of them, including the swap drive.

19. And then I used gParted to format the partitions to ext3 and swap….

20. And then I installed PCLinux, which worked…

21. And then I upgraded… and I’m currently typing on my updated/upgraded PCLinuxOS.

Moral of the story… keep your windows copy handy! No seriously, I was actually surprised that my partitions were so messed up that Linux distributions couldn’t read then.  Usually I use Linux to SOLVE my partitioning problems (Especially a programme like gParted) and this was the first time I had to do it the otherway. I wonder what went wrong. Perhaps, my messed up partitioning process (first) and then compounded by my error-red update/upgrade. Whatever, I’m thankful that my computer is now working… bootloader, windows, linux et al.

My Linux wish-list (which obviously is only a wish list because I have no money to give to Linux to get me these things… not even a measly dollar… because I live in the ‘3rd’ world!)… is:

1. I want a system restore in Linux!

2. I want more graphical help in fixing errors in Linux (something like a Windows safe mode).

3. I want better partitioning control, perhaps with more detail… something that actually shows where one partition ends and where one begins (like the good old fragmenting days of Windows 95)… it shows graphically exactly what bytes (sectors) are where and what to move. I’m thinking something that can be moved around like building blocks… so that we can visually see what we’re doing, rather than as lists and numbers.

4. I want automatic backups of the things that need backuping… but that’s the lazy option I guess. But what I mean is that the partitioning control centre said I should backup my partition table, but I didn’t know how to do it (I still don’t). It would have been nice if it asked instead, “do you want me to help you backup your partition table?” and then I could say, yes or no.

5. I want world peace…

ps. Please (linux fans) don’t shoot me for this post. I love Linux you guys, I really do. And I’m just shooting my mouth off, without actually contributing in support forums etc. I know, I know, I’m a bad person. I’m going to Linux hell for this, but can I appeal to linux-mercy and linux-grace.

7 Firefox extensions (add-ons) I can’t live without October 24, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Firefox, Open Source, Software, Working with Linux.
17 comments

(UPDATED on 1 December, 2007… with links to the extensions. I should have thought of that earlier!)

One of the pains of installing so many distros is configuring Firefox exactly as I would want it; especially this means loading the right extensions (add-ons). Seriously, there are some firefox extensions (add-ons) that I can’t live without and the following is the list that I need. It’s personal (of course), suited only to my need, so this list is not normative for anyone.

1. Tab Mix Plus: this extension is important for the simple reason that it allows me to set the new tab as my “home page”. I have my own home page and I need each new tab to open as my homepage, and for now I only know Tab Mix Plus that enables me to do this. Earlier this extension was useful for session saving as well; but now Firefox does it by itself. Still, this is by far the most important feature for me; and one I can’t live without.

2. Gmail manager: I’m not sure about the legality of having more than one gmail account, but I do have more than one. Plus, I manage my spouse’s email account as well as our home account. For that I need an extension to tell me whether I’ve gotten mail or not; and this extension is a life-(time)-saver! It is better than the “Gmail notifier” extension simply because its configurability power. I especially like the fact that a snippet of the mail is visible so that I can choose to open the email immediately or wait.

3. PDF download: A strangely popular extension (I wouldn’t expect it would be), but one that I certainly need. When dealing on-web research, especially within the PDF format, I’m surprised that Firefox doesn’t give options of what to do by default. Regardless, this exension allows me to choose to download a PDF file or open it directly. Extremely helpful.

4. FlashGot: Somehow it seems downloading videos from video sites like youtube.com etc is a big thing… and Firefox has many extensions useful for that (I think Downthemall is very popular too). I don’t usually download videos, however. It’s not my scene. Instead, I find this extension is useful for any download that I am doing… especially when it gives me options to download multiple links simultaneously and links directly to my Windows download manager Orbit and my KDE manager KGET (somehow KGET isn’t as sharp as Orbit, but that’s another story).

5. Firefox Showcase: Since IE7 has is naturally (and I think even Opera does it naturally), I hope Firefox will have it naturally too. But Firefox Showcase, as an extension, is especially useful for seeing what’s on multiple tabs. I don’t use this much, but when I do, it’s indespensable.

6. CustomizeGoogle: Of course google.com is the king of search! But CustomizeGoogle adds certain links to the google.com search page that allows me to search other sites for the thing that I need. It’s always good to have options, I guess.

7. AdBlock plus. I just recently added this extension to block ads after browsing a CLEAN site with some surprisingly embarrassing ads. Doesn’t help if your mother in law is watching you work! :)

Of course there are many more extensions that I use, and sometimes don’t, but the above really improve the browsing experience for me.

RUNNERS UP

MinimizeToTray: This is one extension I’ve only just started using and I’ve been wondering why I didn’t use it sooner. It really helps save screen/desktop space.

GSpace: I haven’t actually tried it (though I’ve installed it). This extension allows your GMail account to be used as an online harddrive. The promise of an online harddrive is attractive, though I don’t know about the legalities about this. I would be more put at ease if Google itself launched an extension like this… so for now, I think simple file transfers/backups would be the order of the day.

DeepestSender: A wordpress blog editor; which allows you to update wordpress blogs without actually going into wordpress. I’ve used it off and on, and sometimes it is helpful because of its speed.

How a Microsoft Piracy Threat almost led us to Open Source… Almost! September 5, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, Linux Mint, News, Open Source, OpenOffice, PCLinuxOS, Piracy, Software, Windows, Working with Linux.
27 comments

Once upon a time there was a ‘school’ that used predominantly Microsoft software. This ‘school’ used PCs with Windows Servers and Windows XPs. The fact that this was a poor ‘school’ meant that they couldn’t afford MS Office. They wanted to, but they couldn’t. So they installed the academic licenses of StarOffice 7. All was good in the world.

Around that time, a new technology entered the world; the wi-fi. And soon, students began to connect their laptops to the ‘school’ wi-fi connection. All was good in this world too.

Then, one day, there was a warning. The ‘school’ servers received a notice from Microsoft that they were using pirated software; using MS products beyond the slated licenses. The IT department was shocked… because according to their internal audit, they were not. Could, heaven forbid, Microsoft be wrong?

As it turned out, Microsoft was not entirely wrong. Many of the students using the wi-fi connections were using pirated software, either operating systems (Windows XP professional) or Office 2007. Since these pirated systems were connected to the ‘school’ network, evidently it looked like the ‘school’ had over-shot their license.

The ‘school’ freaked out and decided to enforce a no-piracy law on all wi-fi users. Every system would be audited and only if it was entirely piracy free would the system be allowed to connect on the wi-fi network. They even devised an audit form and everything. The students were told that they would have to buy their own copies of OS and Office, or install a “Free” Linux Operating system.

Much frustration/guilt/anger/shame from the students followed. But the ‘school’ stuck to its hardline policy.

Immediately, there was a huge demand for information about Linux systems; “what is it?” “is it as good as Windows?” “Is it too different?” “Will it allow me to load my (windows) programmes?” “is it really free?” etc etc.

But then something happened; some call it grace/providence. And some call it simply bad business. But the ‘school’ decided to be gracious and at its own cost procured licenses of Windows XP Professional (academic edition) and lease them very very cheaply to the students. There would be no hope for the ‘school’ to recover its cost, but the school justified this by arguing that their primary concern was for the students.

Before this decision was made, some students had decided to use Linux as a piracy free partition on their pirated machines. Ie. they would dual boot with Linux when on the ‘school’ network, but when at home they would revert to their pirated systems (Smart? They thought so).

But the ‘school’ felt that because there was no way to ensure that the students would ONLY use Linux on the wi-fi network (because students could/would revert back to Windows behind the ‘schools’ back), they decided that in case of Linux implementation, the user must either do a full install or dual boot with only an ORIGINAL Windows partition.

This final decision was a deathknell to Linux implementation. In conjunction with the almost-free Windows OS, it was not worth the trouble (most students felt) to fully install (or partly install) Linux as well.

Thus most/all students adopted Windows as their first-choice OS.

The score: Open Source zero. Microsoft one.

However, there was a minor twist in the tale. This provision by the ‘school’ was only for the Operating System and NOT the MSOffice 2007 suite, which many students had pirated. The college was not willing to subsidize Office and students had to either use free software or buy their own. Without college support MS Office did look really expensive.

As a result, most students in this ‘school’ decided to install OpenOffice or StarOffice 8 (Academic License) instead of MS Office.

The point tally here: OpenSource (and alternatives) one. And Microsoft zero.

So the long and short of this story is that Microsoft Piracy threat almost led people to Linux, but when the students didn’t have to shell out the HUGE amount of money for it, Linux was just too inaccessible. But when the had to shell out money (as in the case of Office), they opted for the cheaper (free) alternatives.

On a brighter note for Open Source advocates, many more students are now aware of Linux and a few are willing to experiment with it as long term alternatives. The distribution that they’ve been given is PCLinux 2007.

The end. Or only the beginning?

Using PCLinux2007: A good-bad report August 30, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, Other Distros, PCLinuxOS, Reviews, Ubuntu, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
15 comments

This is a brief report on my usage-experience with PCLinux2007 (or PCLOS for short). It’s just an op-ed piece, and some of the comments would reflect my ignorance rather than the ability of the operating system. However, considering I am still a linux beginner, a post like this documents the kind of positive experiences and challenges a user can face once he/she is actually using PCLOS.

History: For a while, after my extended tryst with openSUSE 10.2 I started reverting back to Windows XP, because I needed Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Also, since I was in the middle of academic research, I couldn’t shift too much between operating systems, so I settled back to XP. Going back to XP was partly a relief because I didn’t have to struggle to make things work… because I still am not that proficient with Linux… and the major Windows irritants were vanquished by past experience.

But of late I had the opportunity to install PC Linux 2007 on my laptop, my primary work tool. (The story of why I did that is coming soon.) However as I installed PCLOS, I discovered that many of the irritants of Linux were not gone, yet I was enjoying my computing more again.

Still, this is a USAGE REPORT of my recent experience of working with PCLOS and my personal experiences in living with the OS-specific, or Linux specific, quirkiness.

POSITIVES

1. Virus Free! Believe it or not, there is a virus roaming around in our college that affects USB thumb/pen drives. So when you enter the USB drive on your machine it crashes your firefox, orkut and youtube (more information here). Since I go through a reasonable amount of file exchange with USB drive, I found that booting through PCLOS was worth the extra-minute and a half; because it not only allowed for clean file exchange but allowed me to heal the USB drive from the virus! Of course this I could have done through openSUSE as well, but considering openSUSE’s horrific boot-up time, and PCLOS’s good start-up time, this has become my normal modus-operandi even if I am working in Windows.

2. Wi-Fi works. One thing that impressed me about openSUSE, and did NOT impress me about Ubuntu, was the the wireless network just worked. Of course I had to configure it etc. but with Ubuntu it was a nightmare… but openSUSE was just easy. PCLOS, surprisingly, has also, “just worked”. And that’s two-thumbs up!

3. 3D desktop. Yes, yes, I’m cheesy. I’m using the 3D desktop effects. There’s no real point to it. And no one has seen my machine and oohed or aahed, but I like the bouncy feel to it… for now at least. Another pointer to the enjoyable user experience. The only problem I had with the 3D desktop enabled was that it messed up my Pager settings… and wouldn’t allow me to name my own Pagers. So, I’m down to the default Desk-space 1-2-3-4!

4. Synaptic… for those who work with openSUSE know that it’s YAST updates are a pain. Really, while I like openSUSE’s power, it takes just toooo long to install anything new on it. In contrast, PCLOS has done a good job to stick with Synaptic and it’s quite fast in implementing software uploads etc. The only thing I would wish is that like Ubuntu, I wish it would tell me when I had to update my system, rather than me having to “Reload” and “mark upgrades” everytime through synaptic just to make sure.

5. K3B CD burning: Even in my defection to Windows days I used to use Linux for CD/DVD burning. I now use PCLOS and openSUSE depending on my mood, because somehow I trust it more than the Windows variants.

6. Playing DVDs with errors: This is a new one. But a few of my DVDs have gotten errors because of over-use or something, and they crash my windows. But I’m able to manage the player better in PCLOS. Of course I prefer the Windows Player (powerdvd is quite flexible and comfortable to use), but so far using PCLOS my DVDs have not crashed my PCLOS.

NEGATIVES

1. Network quirkiness: There’s something I don’t understand. When I connect to network, and sometimes a link is placed on a folder to the network. When I restart and try to install network, it says timed-out server and its impossible to connect to the network using that link again. I don’t know why, but that is a pain. I usually solve that problem by going to Remote Places and set up the network again, but somehow it has been a pain to keep having to do that.

2. External keyboard/mouse: One of the most irritating things about PCLOS and sometimes openSUSE is their handing of the external keyboard and mouse. I have a USB to serial connector which allows me to connect to both Keyboard and Mouse through one port. In Windows, everytime I return from Hibernation or Suspend, I have to pull the USB cable out and then put it in, to allow me to use the cable. However, when I am unable to use the keyboard/mouse in PCLOS, I try to remove/restore the USB cable and I am only allowed to use the mouse and not the keyboard. That is, unless I restart my machine, then it works fine. Very very irritating.

4. Hiberation/suspend: I was surprised that PCLOS had issues with standby and hiberation and I had to actually install some software or tools to enable me to do it. worse, since it was trial technology, there were no real guarantees. I must say that while I’ve got PCLOS to hibernate and system (I’ve forgotten how I did), I have avoided it. At least, when I shut the monitor of my laptop it suspends, so that’s fine.

5. Printing is still a challenge (for me): There’s something about CUPS I don’t understand. Partly because my newbie attitude has just led me to attempt to print like a bull-in-a-china-shop, rather than actually gather data of how to work it. So I managed to print (and print well) through openSUSE, but PCLOS, I’ve had to struggle a little more. I managed somehow to configure it to print, but after I did, I wasn’t able to add any more printers to it. I know this does not mean that PCLOS is not good, just that I am too “dumb” too know how to use it… but I must admit that I’ve found it difficult to work around the CUPS programme. My current status is that my printer is now disabled… and when I try to install a new printer, the computer just hangs. Anyway… I like the new Ubuntu’s promise of default printing to pdf… perhaps there’s some sense in that. Wish it was as easy for me to do, as in Windows or openSUSE

6. File sharing between PCLOS and Windows: This used to happen with openSUSE as well… and now here… that sometimes (not all the time!) when I work on a file using openoffice and save it… I can’t access it through windows. yes, I have a file-sharing tool that allows me to access linux partitions through windows, but this happens even if I save the file to a FAT drive. I never understood why this happened in openSUSE and it also happens in PCLOS. How I solve it is that when I need to retrieve a linux file, I go back to Linux, save it in multiple locations, hoping that at least in one place I’ll be able to read it, and then it usually works.

7. Keyboard shortcuts… : I’m sure if we were to do a survey of favourite Linux short cuts, ALT F2 would make it to no. 1! But sadly, the ALT F2 does not work on my laptop. I don’t know why (because it works on my desktop), so after a lot of hassles I changed changed the custom shortcut to ATL 2, which is a little irritating since I keep pressing the wrong one now and then, but it is a little quirky. The number 2 keyboard shortcut would probably be CTRL ALT ESC… to shut down programmes. But that also doesn’t work on my laptop. (it does on my desktop). But regardless, CTRL ALT ESC is one of the things I miss most when using Windows. Too often going to CTL ALT DEL and then choosing to close a programme or process is not as effective as the Linux variant!

Anyway… I think I could add to this list, but no time. I have to head back to work. To summarise. I have enjoyed working with PCLOS. I has not replaced my need for Windows, but it once again reminds me that Windows is not that great. I have strangely found using PCLOS better than openSUSE, except on a few issues here and there… so the quest for the perfect distro continues.

Running from Open Source: or how my ‘school’ is avoiding Open Office implementation July 7, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Open Source, OpenOffice, Recommendation, Software, Windows.
29 comments

(this page has been edited on 17 July, 2007)

I have a real open source crisis at my hands. My ‘school’ IT department has been pushing for the implementation of Microsoft Office 2007 in our 60 machines. The funny thing is, since our IT head is also our supplier, he too is pushing for this because he probably gets a commission. I’m the only one who has offered an alternative, Open Office, naturally. But for now I’ve only been able to delay the purchase; and it could only be a matter of time before MS Office hits our desktops. But let me start at the beginning.

A while back I wrote about why my school would not adopt open source. (Post is found here) At that time, I did not have any influence in our IT affairs. Only in the past month I’ve got representation in our IT Committee; and the first major issue I had to discuss was the purchase of 60 Microsoft Office 2007 licenses to replace our current Star Office 7 licenses!!! Why was Office being pushed? Because Office 2007 has grammar check and Star Office doesn’t!

When I heard about this proposal, I spent half the day preparing for the meeting, downloading articles about the positives of Open Office as an alternative, as well as an article about how grammar/spell check deteriorates the language of students etc etc etc. I then drafted a two-page document arguing for Open Office adoption, partly hinting that by Open Office 2.4 they are expected to get Grammar check… blah blah blah.

Well, the IT head, seemed to suggest that “Office 2007 is ‘better’ for the students”, because “it’s faster” and had “better features” etc. And I really had a tough time to get anybody to understand, let alone adopt, my argument.

I eventually got the committee to stall the purchase. Partly because it does COST money, and any caution and the possibility of an alternative was welcome.

Better still, I soon discovered after the meeting that Star Office 8 is ‘free’ for academic institutions, and so at least for now we can upgrade all our Star Office 7s into 8s. Interestingly, our IT guy had told us that Star Office 8 is a paid programme and didn’t do his research that it is free for academic institutions!!! So with this new development, I’m sure I can buy some more time for our ‘school’.

But I have the feeling that since my tenure at the committee is limited, it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable eventually happens; we will probably settle for MS Office 2007!

My thoughts, during/after the incident

When I thought about it, keeping open source philosophy aside, I think if someone was to give us Microsoft Office 2007 for free, we’d take it. I like the new interface, and it really feels like a very good programme for academic writing. That’s what makes the argument in the favour of open source alternatives so difficult. When Open Source advocacy happens outside the philosophical-moral discussion about a “free”/”better” world, the battle is reduced to which programme has the better features. When I compare, MS Office to other programmes (especially if I pretend I am a beginner), it really ‘feels’ better. And I say it again, if I got everything free, even I would find it difficult to despise Office 2007.

This makes it all the harder for academic institutions that use administrative budgets to buy programmes without hurting their own pocket. In effect, it does look like we are getting something free! So why not, people will argue, choose for the best!

Of course, feature-wise speaking, I eventually discovered that MS Office 2003 (we have some copies of that as well) is not the best in everything. It’s grammar check is terrible. It catches only the most basic of errors, but more sophisticated errors are usually missed. (I guess that’s why other suites are a little slow in adoption of grammar check because it is difficult to implement.) I must say in contrast, I prefer and love WordPerfect X3 for all my academic writing, though I found find it difficult to recommend it to simple/normal users. It’s power for full control, as well as it’s long-document stability is quite admirable. Plus, it’s grammar check seems more accurate and powerful.

Ultimately, however, WordPerfect cannot even be considered because it’s a paid programme and why would anyone ‘pay’ for anything but Office 2007, because, with the academic license, it’s only “a few dollars more”!

All this to say, I feel I’m fighting a losing battle. For now we don’t have Office 2007, though we might pretty soon. We will only settle for Open Office if Star Office makes us pay for its software. So, all in all, not a pretty picture for open source implementation in our ‘school’.

Surfing with Windows Safari: and missing Firefox already June 12, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Blogging, Confessions, First Impressions, Internet, Mac, Reviews, Software, Windows, Wordpress.
3 comments

Call it being familiar with the familiar, but I just didn’t like the feel of the Safari browser. Now, I’m not a Firefox fan-boy. I really am not. I like Opera a lot, but it doesn’t open many of the sites I need. Firefox opens most of them, so I use it the most. IE7 obviously opens all, but come on!

Recommended only to people who want to simplify their browsing experience, not enhance it.

Installing Safari wasn’t that hard, perhaps it was too easy. Because once I went to the site, downloaded and UNCHECKED the default Apple software/update options which are really irritating, I waited for a long time for something to happen, and nothing did. Later I realised that it had already finished installing, but just failed to inform me.

Then, when I opened it, found that it did NOT ask me to import bookmarks as it promised. Nor could I figure out how to do it. Perhaps I lost out by not choosing a default install option during install, but already I was disappointed.

Safari’s default look was compact and cute, but a little too morbid (grey) in contrast to Firefox’ orange-y look (which is not thaaat great either, btw). Also, the default font made my webpages look heavier (for font rendition images see this link. But there some cute animation effects though (very Mac-ish, I’m told). It makes a funny (in a good way) addition to browsing for a (little!) while.

When I finally started using Safari, I found a few problems/discomforts. For instance, WordPress does not seem to support Safari for when you go to Code view, it messes up your new paragraph spaces. And even if you correct them, the post will be displayed without para spaces. (I had to correct this post in Firefox after typing it in Safari). Since that may not be Safari’s problem, I guess that’s not so important. I also had a tough time finding the homepage. I was shocked to discover that I had to enable the homepage icon (because I can’t image a browser without the ability to go to a homepage). Perhaps because this is beta, the designers probably felt that the crash report icon is more important than go to home page.

Actually, the biggest problem was that I found myself immediately missing Firefox extensions the most. Now I know the Mac is loaded with Extensions for Safari, I just couldn’t find any Windows ones. Thus, Windows Safari’s claim to be fasted web browser needs to be measured against an extended Firefox’s ability to handle multiple tasks, like blog-editing, calculating, video-downloading, and most importantly multiple GMail Account background checking. Plus, I couldn’t find a Showcase like feature to view multiple tabs, which was both surprising and disappointing. (IE7 even has it by default!)

Safari did have a few promising features. The increasing of the form field option was attractive, and the ability to send a quick screenshot.

Evidently, Firefox has become more of an application rather than just a ‘browser’. And so the ‘simple’ browsing of Windows Safari was actually a little too simple. I wanted more from my most used application on my computer, and Safari just could not fit the bill. To be fair, Safari is still in Beta, and the more it’s out on Windows, the more extensions it will get. But for now, I think I’ll stick to Firefox.

Summary: Very neat interface, especially in its compact use of space. Though heavy fonts and morbid default look may scare a few. The browser feels limited, lacks easy access to widgets or extensions and makes you wish you were using Firefox instead. Recommended only to people who want to simplify their browsing experience, not enhance it.