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TrueCrypt on Linux (Ubuntu) February 6, 2011

Posted by NAyK in Open Source, Ubuntu.
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11 comments

I’m in a security phase… encrypting everything. Working with Windows, TrueCrypt is an excellent solution. However I wanted to see how encryption would work on my Linux distro Ubuntu 10.10.

Downloading TrueCrypt was easy… if you know what to select. I selected standard 32bit.

Installation was a little more tricky. As I wasn’t sure what to do. I double clicked the icon but wasn’t quite sure what to do next to install.I first clicked run, but it didn’t work. Then I clicked “run in terminal” and that seemed to work.

I couldn’t find much help in the beginning (until later after figuring it out I found these excellent sites:

http://www.randyjensenonline.com/blog/installing-truecrypt-51a-on-ubuntu-804

After installation, I wanted to create a TrueCrypt volume. When it asked which file format did I want to encrypt the new partition, I choose EXT4. However, when the formatting finished (and it is much faster to format in Linux than in Windows), I found that TrueCrypt was just not opening. It was giving me a file error saying the partition could not be mounted.

I decided to redo the process and this time choose to create a new TrueCrypt partition as an FAT drive. Again it was quite fast, and this time it worked.

I quickly mounted my drive and put in all the files I wanted to encrypt.

However, I realised that if I closed the TrueCrypt window, I was not able to unmount the partition, because it asked for root privileges. Updated later (after some comments suggested I clarify): There is an icon called truecrypt1 (mounted). And that gives the option to unmount. When I clicked to unmount, it didn’t do it. That was what I was noticing. Similarly, in the Nautilus browser, there was an eject option on the drive. But when I clicked it, it didn’t allow me to unmount with the following error: umount: /media/truecrypt1 is not in the fstab (and you are not root)

Of course there was a TrueCrypt icon in the notification bar. If I clicked that, the TrueCrypt window opened up and I was able to quickly unmount as I have been able to do in Windows. (Back to original post)

As a result, I have had to keep the Window open whenever I use the TrueCrypt programme, which is a pain, but not insurmountable.

I also preferred the windows Drive Letter way of mounting a partition. Somehow the number method felt more… alienating. It’s the same in a Mac (in which I also installed TrueCrypt). Doesn’t feel as inviting, but it does work.

But all in all, TrueCrypt, by itself, is an excellent encryption software. It’s linux version (and the Mac version) doesn’t seem to be as polished as the Windows version (which is surprising, because TrueCrypt is open-source), still it’s handy to use. So far I haven’t found any major glitches, so it is an excellent tool for security enthusiasts.

Another excellent help site: http://linuxandfriends.com/2010/02/03/how-to-truecrypt-setup-on-ubuntu-linux/

Ubuntu 10.10 is a hit! Here’s why. October 15, 2010

Posted by NAyK in Linux, Ubuntu, Working with Linux.
14 comments

Every list is subjective. Even this one. But if you knew my history with Ubuntu, you’d share my excitement with this latest Ubuntu 10.1o (Meerkat) release. It is really easy/fun to use. Makes me remember my PCLinux days, when things just worked. I really am surprised with how functional this Ubuntu really is. Currently, it is my favourite go-to distro. The following are a few features of the latest Ubuntu that I really like. I haven’t listed some others (like Ubuntu One) because I haven’t actually used them, or I haven’t really like it (like Ubuntu Broadcast). So anyway, in no particular order…

1. Really fast shut down (about three seconds!): Ubuntu is not that fast while loading (as I expected), even though it is still faster than Windows. But it is super-fast in shut down. Literally about three seconds after you click shut-down. Wow.

2. Easy writing-ability for my NTFS partition, even on my NTFS external hard disk. It took me a while to realise how cool this was, after I was sharing files between my external harddisk (NTFS) and  Ubuntu without any problem. Even a Mac can’t do that!

3. Automatic internet connection detection: I’ve been saying this again and again, but it is really cool that my internet connection was working without me having to set up anything at all. Plus it doesn’t feel that slow either.

4. It has OpenOffice by default. (unlike PCLinux) OpenOffice is a big file, and if I would have to download it, I would be putting my limited downloads under pressure. So it’s nice to have essential software already uploaded.

5. Similarly, it was nice to have limited updates after installation. There have been times when I have installed new distro’s and still had to updated about 100-200 MB worth of updates. This time only about 10 MB of updates were needed.

6. It installs my VIA chipset graphics drivers (as well as audio) by default. Maybe this should have been the first point. Because without the drivers I wouldn’t have been able to use this distro at all. But now my monitor is set to the right resolution and frequency. Similarly, all the audio drivers are installed without any problem.

7. Very easy to get proprietary video formats to work (like avi and divx). Relatedly, I simply had to click on an avi file, and Ubuntu asked me if I wanted the proprietary drivers, and I said yes… and it installed them. Really nice.

8. Similarly, Flash (and yes I need flash) is easy to install. Again, I must admit that I am shocked that Mac doesn’t support Flash. I really like it, use it, on a daily basis. So I’m glad Flash is supported in Linux (Ubuntu) with an updated.

9. Right click on desktop to change desktop image (long time ago, this never used to be so easy). This was important because earlier only KDE could do it, now even GNOME can, which is nice. Makes customization a little easier, and makes you feel that Gnome is not so bad after all.

That’s it for now. Maybe if I use it more I’ll have more to say. For now, thank you Ubuntu team for an excellent distro.

Ubuntu is finally working on my computer! Ubuntu 10.10 Review October 13, 2010

Posted by NAyK in Linux, Linux Mint, Recommendation, Reviews, Screenshots, Ubuntu, WINE.
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It is with absolute delight that I report that for the first time ever, on my desktop, an Ubuntu distro is finally working.

I’ve always struggled with Linux distros on my via-(integrated graphics)-chipset. Hardly any distro, apart from PCLinux and Mandriva detected my VIA hardware. Previously, all the Ubuntu distros I tested would have a few positives, but also a boat-load of negatives. Usually, Ubuntu would recognise my internet, but at the same time the graphics drivers wouldn’t allow me to go for more than 800/600 resolution. Therefore I would only rely on Linux Mint or on PCLinux etc for my Linux needs.

However, this time, Ubuntu 10.10 (Meerkat) was (and is) working!

The basic installation process:

1. The installation process was relatively smooth, except it took a long time. Longer than usual. (I’m not sure why).

2. The live CD took a long time to load, plus I was suprised by how “primitive” the Ubuntu logo looked during install. (There was a Ubuntu text, plus four dots. What’s what that?)

3. The options of installation were much better than before, especially giving more control over the partition process.

3b. It was great to see that a VIA driver for my chipset and audio was installed automatically. (ie. it detected my hardware and installed something appropriate).

3c. Also, after installation, it was nice to see that there were only a few updates in the update manager. Suggested that it was a fresh/stable release.

Getting started

4. The bootloader, as usual, recognised my Windows partition, though the default boot screen was boring as usual. (primarily text). somehow, with openSUSE and PClinux, even Mint, I have come to expect a more attractive boot loader by default. (ie. I know I can do some tweeking and install one for Ubuntu. Maybe I will do that one day).

5. The default look/feel was functional (as I have come to expect from GNOME), but somehow it didn’t feel so bad as before. Maybe I have become used to GNOME afterall. It certainly looked better than before.

Functionality:

6.  the internet was working, without needing any configuration. An amazing feature!

7. Also, as soon as I tried out an avi file, Ubuntu asked me if I wanted to install the drivers. I said yes, and most of the codecs were automatically installed. Easy-peasy. (I was concerned that there was no audio, but it turned out that audio was in mute, I wonder how.)

8. I had to manually install chrome, flash and a few other software, like K3B. For some I used Ubuntu’s Software Centre, and for others I used Synaptic.

9. I was concerned that there was no file viewer. ie. I wasn’t able to open a file manager. So I installed Dolphin, and even that problem was solved.

9b. I was also able to install Photoshop 7, using WINE (after installing WINE). The only problem I had was that I had to copy the contents of the CD onto the computer and then make the setup.exe file executable for WINE.

10. there were a couple of times when Ubuntu suddenly hung. I think it was during the time I wanted to change the screensaver.

11. I wish there was an option to change GRUB options through GNOME. However, with some google-found guidance, I realised that Ubuntu 10.10 has changed it’s grub editing options, and it was simple enough. Sadly (still) my Windows XP is my default OS. But I am really enjoying fiddling with Ubuntu (spending more time with it than with Windows).

12. Also, I am concerned that the booting time is not that fast, as some were predicting. When I choose Ubuntu, it waits for a few seconds and only then starts loading Ubuntu. I wonder if there is a configuration issue there.

13. I was also unimpressed with the broadcast option (the one that connects Ubuntu with Facebook and Twitter). It took a long time to set up, and the options to view were too limited to be helpful. I much preferred going to the original Facebook/Twitter pages for updates. Perhaps in the future it will be better.

14. On the whole, I have been quite happy with the general functionality and even look/feel of Ubuntu. It has worked pretty well and easily, and for an Ubuntu distro, that is saying much. I don’t think I’ll be needing Linux Mint after all.

Ubuntu Screenshot

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.

Pause December 3, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Linux, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Windows, Working with Linux.
1 comment so far

pauseIt’s been a long while since my previous post, and I’m writing this just to say that it will be some more time before I start updating again. I’m at that stage in life where I’ve stopped experimenting with new distributions. This is largely because of my lack of time.

Also, I’ve pretty much settled in my Linux brand choices… my current favourite is openSUSE and PCLinux. Ubuntu has just not got me… maybe it’s because of the predominantly GNOME interface… though I love the fact that they are keeping the interest going so well.

But another reason for my “pause” from linux writing is that my openSUSE has suddenly started acting funny… the sound of the system suddenly changed so much that everytime I put on the volume, I get feedback (like as if the mic is on). Now I know there must be a simple solution, but because, once again, lack of time, i am not able to pursue a fix.

In effect, I find myself once again in a purely Windows world… and returning to openSUSE only to keep it updated (and even there, somehow, it’s not that fun to just update and go back to windows).

I find myself waiting for openSUSE 11.1, and that’s where I hope to recharge myself towards linux.

But for now, I pause.

Brasero vs K3B: CD Burning in Linux July 13, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Brasero, K3B, Linux, Recommendation, Reviews, Software, Ubuntu, Working with Linux.
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28 comments

In this site I have not hidden my preference for KDE over GNOME, and also my preference for K3B. However, for K3B my comparison was mainly Nero or GNOME’s older default burning application. With Ubuntu 8 point whatever, and thus also in Linux Mint 5 (which I am currently using in one of my computers) came the Ubuntu CD Burner Brasero. And I was keen to see how it worked. Here’s a brief comparison through a real-life incident: (note I’m using Linux Mint 5 (Elyssa I think) here which has GNOME, but I’ve loaded some key KDE applications including K3B).

BRASERO: I tried Brasero (0.7.1) for basic CD burning and it was pretty good… burned iso files and CD data files without problem. I still found it a little too simplistic, but then, that’s GNOME trait, so why blame Brasero? However, recently I tried burning directly out of a video camera. ie. I had digital files that were stored in a video camera and I tried to burn onto a CD using Brasero. When I launched Brasero, it started testing the MDSUMS of the CD (why, I don’t know)… and that process too over four minutes… and without any indication of how much time was passed or remaining. After the checking process, the CD started burning and it too about 3.5 minutes.

K3B: Since I had many video files on my camera (more than 700 MB), I decided to burn the remaining files using K3B (1.0.4), perhaps hoping that the process would be faster. And guess what, K3B almost instantly started burning the files from the camera and took a little more than 4 minutes (4.1) to burn 700 MB. The whole process was almost 50% faster than Brasero (if we take the entire process into account).

Conclusion: I can’t help but think that K3B is an excellent (even superior) CD burning solution, even in comparison to Brasero. Therefore, if Brasero is loaded on GNOME machines I would still personally recommend everyone install and use K3B as their default CD-burner instead.

Linux Mint 5.0: Usage Points June 13, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Firefox, Linux, Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Windows, Working with Linux.
Tags: , ,
9 comments

Unlike my previous review of Ubuntu 8.04, in which I both compared it to PCLinuxOS (which is not fair to both distros) and also criticised it’s GNOME-ic flavour, which I agree is a matter of taste. Instead, I’m focussing simply on my current use of Linux Mint 5.0 and rate my experience (positive/negative).

Note that I remain a Windows-bred beginner… a noob if you will… and so I’m not the typical linux user who goes to Forums for help. I usually expect things to work, and when they don’t I waste time gripping about it in blogs like this! rather than actually finding constructive solutions for myself and others. See, I’m a terrible person, but heck, that’s me. So here’s my gripe. Read with caution.

Points : 10 (highest) to 1 (lowest). Usually I would never use 1 or 10, except in exceptional cases, so in effect my rating is between 2-9

1. Ease of installation =8

Linux Mint 5.0 was pretty easy to install and apart from a little slow response when I clicked “next”, it was painless and error free.

2. Out of the box experience =9

Unlike Ubuntu, which I kept having to install plugins that I desired, I’ve never had to install any plugin or closed-source device apart from what is already installed…. and yes, everything works. I’ve watched DVDs, listened to music and even played flash movies with ease. In fact, it’s easy to take this for granted… and matches something like my experience with PCLinuxOS. Linux Mint has a stellar “out of the box” experience.

3. Nags (problems (bugs?) in the system) = 3

a. Biggest flaw so far… when I load Linux Mint, I get 800×600 resolution. I then have to log out and re-loggin, and then I get the right resolution I desire. The fact that I use VIA chipset (why, oh, why?) could be the problem, but I certainly didn’t face this problem in previous editions.

b. The other biggest flaw is that it doesn’t allow me to hibernate, saying that I don’t have enough memory. Ubuntu said the same thing. Now if it is a “swap” drive problem, and I have 500 MB for my swap, I would think Linux Mint should advise SWAP size while installing, don’t you think?

4. Windows inter-operatability =5

As expected, the GRUB worked perfectly, and recognised my Windows partition. However, like Ubuntu, Linux Mint cannot mount NTFS partitions if Windows is hibernated. Since I usually hibernate my Windows, this is a real pain!

5. Firefox 3 = 5 (but somehow better than Ubuntu)

Perhaps Firefox has updated its Beta version, but somehow the Mint Firefox 3 works better than the Ubuntu Firefox 3. I still find myself longing for Firefox 2+ because so far I haven’t seen anything that great about 3, and perhaps that because it’s still in Beta (I think). It would have been nice to keep 3 optional.

Anyway, the biggest problem in the Mint Firefox is that it messes with the default Google search engine, customizing the look-and-feel and in the process losing some of the traditional Google search links (like images etc).

6. Operating System Navigation = 6

I like the look, even of the Menu Bar, but somehow it’s still difficult to find everything, because of the limited space for each section in the menu bar (we have to scroll down to find what we want, in “system” for instance). This is a pain, and actually makes you wish for more shortcuts (eeks!) or even the Windows ‘open-everything’ taskbar (double eeks!)

TOTAL: 8+9+3+5+5+6 = 36 / 60 = “6” … which actually looks worse than I actually found it. Without this mathematical rating, I think my actual new Linux Mint 5.0 experience is about a “7”… or even “7.5” out of 10. Certainly I would recommended it for the easy-solution seekers (like me).

Linux Mint 5.0 is Simple (in a good way) June 13, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Firefox, First Impressions, Linux Mint, Other Distros, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Wallpapers, Windows, Working with Linux.
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9 comments

Linux Mint 5.0I finally found time to download and install Linux Mint 5.0 today, and happily wiped my already-feeling-outdated Ubuntu 8.04. The moral of the story is, Linux Mint 5.0 (Elyssa) is not a “rock your world” kind of distro, but it certain is easy to use as promised.

INSTALLATION

The installation procedure of Linux Mint 5.0 was very simple. Just put the CD in and after it loads, then click install and follow instructions. The entire installation procedure took about 35 minutes, which is pretty average and expected from a single-CD distro now a days. Unlike Ubuntu though, I did have to configure the internet connection (but I do think that the Ubuntu automatic internet connection is a bit of an anomaly). I also had some problems though… but that could be partly because of taste.

1. No Media Check option before loading the CD. While CD burning (especially using Linux) is getting pretty stable, I would think a Media Check option (to check whether the CD being used to install is defected or not), would be a standard boot-screen option.

2. Slow response to commands… by this I mean, when I clicked “next”, “next” in the installation screen, often I had to wait for a really long time before the next thing happened. For instance, when I clicked “next” after the Keyboard option, I had to wait for close to 30 seconds to start the partitioner. I think that’s a little too long, don’t you think.

3. No grub edit options, as far as I could see. While Linux Mint could be aimed only at the beginner, I would think allowing the user to select which is his/her default operating system would be a good thing.

4. After installation, Linux Mint logged in with a 800×600 resolution screen. With my previous Ubuntu experience I knew what to do… I logged out… and logged back in… and got my 1024×768 resolution. I don’t know if this is a bug or just something acting up in my computer, but it sure is irritating to do it all the time.

5. Interestingly, the Migrate Assistant (The option that allows you to get your Windows user settings onto Linux) worked in Linux Mint and not in Ubuntu 8.04 (for me). However, the migration was not perfect, missing several key bookmarks and even documents.

LOOK AND FEEL

I liked the Linux Mint look. The black and green look is nice. I especially liked the Login screen (I don’t know why), but the low-down login felt better than the windowesque side-login.

Also, multiple options for wallpapers makes up for the GNOME weakness of not having a direct internet connection to upload wallpapers. Some of the wallpapers are pretty cool.

USER FRIENDLY?

Yes, Linux Mint is simple. So, I like the automatic updates detection (as in Ubuntu). However, when I needed to find Firefox, I had to go all the way through it’s multiple columns. This was harder when I was finding more complex menus such as network connection settings and even screen resolution. I would think beginners would find some things hard to find here.

One Linux Mint feature is really irritating. the default search engine (in Firefox) is a LinuxMint customized Google search. That’s fine, except many of the normal links on the Google page are missing, and I have to actually type http://www.google.com to get the exact searches I need. So far, I haven’t found out how to stop that ‘service’.

Apart from that, I like the user experience of Linux Mint. It’s font rendition is fine, and yes, it did play my DVDs and mp3s out of the box. That’s nice! :)

LinuxMint5

SUMMARY

On the whole, I enjoyed the the entire experience of Linux Mint and I can already see myself using it more than I used Ubuntu. I’m not sure why, but perhaps the overall look and feel matters and Linux Mint looks better than Ubuntu. It also feels easier, partly because it seems quite simple (from installation and usage). Still, some weaknesses remain, but that could be simply a matter of preference. I’m now looking forward to help one of my friends install this onto his system!

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.

Linux Mint 5.0 is coming May 12, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Linux, Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu.
4 comments

OK. Rather than complain about Ubuntu (and it’s limited out of the box experience), I am genuinely waiting for Linux Mint 5.0 (Elyssa). And so…

After many sleepless nights and a lot of work I am delighted to announce that the first release candidate for Linux Mint 5 Elyssa was released and that it is now available for download. A lot of changes and improvements were made since Daryna so make sure to read the “What’s new in Elyssa” section of the Release Notes.

Links: Release Notes & Download mirrors

The news of the release candidate (beta 032) was found here: http://www.linuxmint.com/blog/?p=174

Details of the release here: http://www.linuxmint.com/rel_elyssa.php

Of course, keeping in tune with the fact that I’m still a Linux beginner (even after so many years)… I still don’t know what a Release Candidate (or the first beta 032) is… and/or whether or how many other Beta releases coming up. I couldn’t get a date or approximation about when exactly it would be completed, I’m still guessing it’s close. But not that close.

But regardless… at the moment I’ve gotten a request by a prospective Linux user who wants to use Linux Mint and was going to install Linux Mint 4.0 but I told him to wait for 5.0… (which I told him I would help to install) so I have a stake on this release!

My own view of Linux Mint is that I think it’s growing into a more mature distribution in its own right (not just as an Ubuntu derivative), but because of my limited downloads for my internet connection, I’m afraid that I would have to download a lot to make it multimedia friendly (ie. I haven’t tried it recently). Usually a PCLinux kind of distro works for me because it works pretty much out of the box (no need for downloading) and no need for internet connections (ie. it’s easy to pass to other prospective linux users).

Yet, I wonder what’s in store for this one.