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Back with Ubuntu: An installation review of Ubuntu 8.04 April 27, 2008

Posted by NAyK in First Impressions, Linux, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Software, Ubuntu, Wallpapers, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
7 comments

Cut to the chase: Ubuntu 8.04 is good, not great (from a noob’s perspective). But some things, like internet connectivity, are just excellent! ****/***** (four out of five stars).

Introduction: For almost a year, I’ve stopped experimenting with Linux. That’s partly because I was terribly disappointed with openSUSE 10.3 (It was a disaster on my machine). But more importantly, PCLinuxOS 2007, was more than sufficient for my needs. I wrote about how PCLinuxOS was better than Ubuntu, and believed it! The only advantage I felt that Ubuntu had over PCLinux, was that it was evolving at a much faster rate; it was becoming better and better. As a result, I had to try Ubuntu 8.04. I just did. The following are my installation and first time use impressions of this distribution.

Using metalinks to download

I had use the Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop metalink to download, with the Orbit downloader. It’s much faster and more reliable for me than directly downloading the .iso (bitorrent is not accessible from my computer). Downloading the new Ubuntu took about 2 hours.

I began installing at 10:16pm

At the auspicious hour of 10:16 PM! I started installing Ubuntu 8.04 largely because I knew it wouldn’t take more than an hour. With Windows, a fresh installation can take almost 2 hours, but linux has made so many advances that I just knew it would be a quick process.

I checked the integrity of the disk, it was fine (thank goodness!), and started installation, thinking it would lead me to a live-CD as usual.

Instead, Ubuntu directly lead to me install Ubuntu, asking me for preliminary questions.

I guess that saves time, but I didn’t realise that the Live CD wouldn’t work, and I had already planned to check the system’s network compatibility and was disappointed that I couldn’t.

For partitioning I choose the manual option, largely because I was going to (finally!) wipe out openSUSE 10.3 from my system. I tried to mount the pre-defined swap drive, but it wouldn’t let me. I just had to mount (/) the ext3 partition, the one that had openSUSE, and check format driver.

Note for newbies: for those who’re going to partition their drives for the first time, and don’t want to lose your windows; you can either install Ubuntu on a free partition (like D or E), or you can allow Ubuntu to find it’s own free space. Either way, Ubuntu (and Linux) does a pretty good job of not messing with Windows. Your windows work will be safe.

One of Ubuntu’s key USP’s (unique selling points) has been to include a migration option; that takes the settings from other operating systems and imports them onto Ubuntu settings. It’s a pretty cool feature; but sadly, it didn’t work on this install. I wonder why?

Finally, question time is over…

By around 10:27pm, about 11 minutes since I began, I clicked install… and the computer started installing Ubuntu on my system.

At about 82%, (and the process seemed to take a long long time, in comparison to PCLinux), my internet modem started blinking, suggesting a download was in progress and I wondered how it was possible since I hadn’t configured my modem yet. Still, whether it worked or not, I would have liked it if Ubuntu gave me an option to connect to the internet or not. Thankfully, no damage done.

Reboot and log-in

By 10:42pm, about 25 minutes after I began the install, I was being asked to reboot. In the larger picture, this wasn’t bad, time wise.

Ubuntu has one of the best grub installs, it usually recognises all my operating systems without a problem, and so I didn’t fear the reboot process. Only, I was curious whether they had some artwork in the grub menu. They didn’t. But it was as efficient as ever. No problems there. Well done, Ubuntu! (once again).

At 10:44, I was staring at my new Ubuntu 8.04 system. And the art work, was quite nice too.

And now the test: Internet works!

Internet Connected with Ubuntu

I immediately wanted to configure my network, but I was curious why my modem blinked. So I clicked firefox and tried the internet. Whaaaaat??? It worked. Amazing. Without any configuration, Ubuntu was able to detect my network settings and work out of the box at this point. This was truly amazing and remarkable. Even PCLinux does not do that. 10 points for Ubuntu!

I was pleasantly surprised to see Firefox 3.

And I noticed that it found it difficult to mount

Windows NTFS drives… because the Windows was hibernated. Usually I don’t have the problem, even with PCLinux. But I guess there is a reason.

And finally the screen resolution… I got it to fit my preferred size. And all was fine/great.

Now getting down to work

My first project was to replace ugly GNOME with KDE. So I installed/installed all the relevant KDE packages. Success. But then, to view those changes, I restarted the computer (even though I wasn’t prompted to restart) and I saw that my screen resolution was changed to 800/600. Whaat? Anyway, I tried to change it back, but in KDE there was none of the usual options to change screen resolution. Plus, many of the features that I was used to in KDE were not available. As a result, I just logged out and made GNOME my default. Why mess with Ubuntu’s GNOME orientation? (i thought).

Back with GNOME, I was saddened that basic things like changing the wallpaper was still so complicated (or unintuitive). KDE does such an excellent job in installing latest wallpapers from the internet… why can’t GNOME? But anwyay… that’s just a late rant.

Then I tried installing some codecs, and like the previous version, Ubuntu does a good job in getting you the codecs you need. Only, once I had to install an mpg codec twice… I don’t know why, but I just had to.  So my computer can play mp3s, view movies and also view flash objects on the internet. What else do we need? :)

Finally…

Basically, I was happy to be using the new Ubuntu 8.04 and I was particularly impressed by it’s no-need-to-configure the internet process. Still, it was a limited machine, both because of GNOME and becasue of poor KDE post-install installation. But such things shouldn’t bother us here. I’d recommend this version of Ubuntu with a 4 out of 5 stars.

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K/Ubuntu 7.10 vs PCLinuxOS 2007 showdown October 22, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, First Impressions, Linux, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
75 comments

(updated disclaimer: Any comparison of distro’s can be problematic because each distro has different goals and visions. However, this comparison is written from the point of view of a new (Windows) user who is looking for options to install.)

Due to limited harddisk place, and partly because of my desire to try something new, I erased my PCLinuxOS 2007 to try out the new Ubuntu 7.10 (and also Kubuntu). What I present now are some impressions of my use of both operating systems, and I must say at the onset that even though I do not have any personal stake on either distribution (I am not a fanboy), I am left feeling that PCLinuxOS is by far the best choice for new Linux users available today.

(Because I have previously talked about PCLinuxOS, this article will focus more on my experience with K/Ubuntu in relation to my past PCLinux (basic) experience. Also, since I’ve used both Kubuntu and Ubuntu (or rather I installed KDE from my Ubuntu installation) I will mix both versions together… though being reasonably aware of the look-and-feel differences between KDE and GNOME).

Installation impressions:

Ubuntu: My personal experience in installing Ubuntu’s 7.10 was quite painful, partly because I first got corrupted files from a Taiwan mirror (even though the MDSUMS were correct!). Furthermore, the installation procedure is quite long, took more than 30 minutes, where today the benchmark for one-CD linux installs must be under 30. What is upsetting however is that there was very little information as to what was actually happening to my computer once the installation started… and worse there was no way of configuring what was being installed and what not. The best thing about the Ubuntu installer is the migration assistant, which while I didn’t use this time round (I now have clear differences between what I do with Windows and what I do with Linux), it was a cool trick. The other really cool thing about Ubuntu is its GRUB installer, which recognizes everything!

PCLinux: PCLinux’s installer is also pretty unhelpful. Going for simplicity, you’re eventually left at the mercy of the machine to do what it is programmed to do. But unlike Ubuntu, PCLinux is much faster, even it’s LiveCD feels faster. The other tweaks of Ubuntu can be missed, and I was particularly unhappy with PClinux’s inability to recognise my openSUSE partition. But still, it was pretty ok.

Verdict: In comparison with openSUSE’s excellent configurability during install, both PCLinux and Ubuntu fall short. Ubuntu has more features, while PCLinux has more speed. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLOS = 1 point

Visual impressions:

Ubuntu: I have used Ubuntu since its 5.04 days, and I must say that I am surprised that it “looks” pretty much the same. Of course there have been a world of changes, but I can’t recall the difference being so huge for the beginning user. At least since 2006, there has been no significant changes in Ubuntu to warrant immediate attention, expect perhaps the change in installation; and the bootsplash. This is not to say that the design of Ubuntu is bad. I like it’s simple, brown look. I even like the drum-roll sound, which is a change from the noisy Windows or even the strange KDE music. My only complaint is that Ubuntu doesn’t have that “Wow”.

PCLinuxOS: As mentioned earlier, my first impressions of PCLinux have been “wow”. Especially in its consistent implementation of “blue” a colour I detested before meeting PCLOS. Somehow, PCLOS does a good job visually, and while many design inconsistencies remain (like the installer, which looks very childish/cartoonish), as well as some of the graphics which look too big, PCLOS still it does look good.

Verdict: Ubuntu is more consistent, simple and perhaps even elegant than PCLOS, but PCLOS is really beautiful (esp. if you like blue!). While Ubuntu has many good design implementations, PCLOS seems better thought through and implemented. Particular in comparison with Kubuntu (which uses KDE like PCLOS), PCLOS stands far ahead in terms of visual beauty. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLOS = 2 points.

Out-of-the-box experience:

Ubuntu: It is here that PCLOS beats Ubuntu thoroughly, but it would be unfair to compare this without mentioning something of the Ubuntu philosophy. It seems that Ubuntu is driven by “free” software, though it does have proprietory software in its repositories. Still, because Linux is limited by law to play DVDs and mp3s… without certain codecs that are not open-source? Ubuntu cannot naturally offer then out of the box. As a result, any user of Ubuntu has to install the relevant codecs before using the media. Of late, Ubuntu has simplified this process by downloading the required codec when needed (ie. if you click an mp3 file, it will ask you to download the codec). But the fact remains that to make Ubuntu fully work, you need to do a little bit of fiddling. Personally, I tried to download the codec but the message I got was that there is an old package information and I needed to reload. I eventually found out that I had to enable the repositories (for software download) and then reload. All that, after installation, took another 20 minutes.

Surprisingly, even the internet took some time to configure (I’ve never had this problem with Ubuntu), as even though I gave my correct IP address, still it didn’t recognise my internet connection. Then suddenly while doing something else, it started to work. A bit of a mystery.

PCLinux: I can’t emphasise it enough that for beginners of Linux, for those who don’t know much about the philosophical or legal hassles regarding codecs etc… PCLinux comes as a breath of fresh air. Everything works! Of course I have to enter the IP address of the internet connection (and the network needs to be configured, something that I remember I didn’t need to do in Xandros!), but all the multimedia codecs I need, even the graphics driver, are all enabled. It even recognised my home wi-fi connection without any additional drivers (it was easier to connect than in Windows!). For beginners, it can’t get simpler than PCLinux! (latest update: Please note however that “PCLinuxOS does not ship with Win32codes or DVD decryption software.” While these, like on Ubuntu can be added if you need them, I’ve marvelled at PCLOS being able to play a lot of media (even mp3) right out of the box. So I’m not saying that PCLOS is perfect, but in comparison with Ubuntu, and even Windows for that matter, it is a breath of fresh air).

Verdict: Since this is a beginner user oriented post, I must say that Ubuntu is pretty unfriendly to the beginner. It is better than it was before, but in comparison with PCLinux, it’s far far behind. Ubuntu = 0 points, PCLinux = 2 points.

Packages/Software impressions:

Ubuntu: Both Ubuntu and PCLinux have a good set of software tools, most of what one would need. However, here my preference for KDE is shown where I need (prefer) K3B than Ubuntu’s CD burner… so I have to install a few things here and there. Ubuntu also has (some good) games, which PCLinux doesn’t (Why?). And because Ubuntu is more recent, some of its software packages (like openoffice 2.3) are more recent/updated than PCLinux. Ubuntu also has an excellent update feature, that automatically checks when a software/feature needs updating.

PCLinux: It has good packages, but not games, and in comparison with Ubuntu, some older packages. And sadly, for updates, you have to go to the package manager and find updates by reloading and then applying (a bit of a pain, really).

Verdict: Of course people may argue that I’m not being fair in my comparison. PCLinuxOS is older so obviously it’s packages will be older. But one thing really good about Ubuntu is its regular update cycle. It is dependable and worth looking forward to. It keeps itself up-to-date to the latest in offering, as a result, Ubuntu keeps improving. PCLinuxOS, on the other hand, while an excellent distro, does not have that kind of release cycle (I have no idea when the next one is coming) and as a result, it will obviously fall behind. Also the update tool is excellent in Ubuntu, and much needed in PCLinusOS. Ubuntu = 2 points, PCLinux = 0 points (latest update: After some comments about the efficiency of the upgrade system, I’m upping PCLinux’s package score to 1, still below Ubuntu for now).

Usability impressions:

Ubuntu: I must say that because of its terrible out-of-the-box experience, a lot needs to be done to Ubuntu before you actually use it. And because of its preference for GNOME, it’s a bit of a culture-shock for KDE or Windows users. Using Ubuntu, therefore is not much of a pleasure, until after a few days when everything is configured, then, it’s fun to use an updated distro and keep it in step with the latest.

PCLinux: As said earlier, PCLinux is almost fully ready out of the box. We can pretty much start working on it as soon as it’s installed. Also, there’s not much configuration needed either.

Verdict: While both are eventually good products to use, PCLinux gets you (you being the beginning linux user) working faster than on Ubuntu. Plus, with Ubuntu, I suspect there is more tweaking needed in the command line than in PCLinux, and there again, PCLinux has the edge. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLinux 2 points.

Overall summary: Obviously, if your mathematics is good, PCLinux wins the basic feature by feature impression point. Of course I’m subjective, but focusing on the new user (and some not-so-new users), the experience of PCLinux is more of a relief. I must say that PCLinux is really that good; and I’m surprised that Ubuntu has so much to catch up. Of course, Ubuntu has many great features, and the best being that it is constantly improving. Still, I’m going to be deleting my Ubuntu/Kubuntu soon and reinstalling PCLinux. Ubuntu doesn’t match up to it fully, yet.

…and I thought openSUSE was hard! (Or, the pains of installing the new Ubuntu) October 19, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Ubuntu, Working on Linux.
3 comments

Previously I wrote about the terrible time I was having with downloading and installing openSUSE 10.3. But as I was tempted by and decided to install the new Ubuntu 7.10, I was in for a major shock. I spent all of two days, trying to get any form of Ubuntu/Kubuntu iso… burned it… and have still to get it to work! I’m currently on my third attempt. Basically, this is what happened…

Yesterday I downloaded 7.10. Obviously the servers were very slow so I found a reasonable speed in a Taiwan server. It was also slow (look more the four hours), but it worked. I looked forward eagerly to install it. I checked the mdsums and they were correct (using K3B) so I burned it on a CD.

Usually, a K3B burned CD works fine without needing CD-checks, but I decided to check this installation CD using mediacheck before installing. Surprisingly it found an error in an open office package. I thought there was an error in burning, so I checked MDSUMS and burned again. Once again, at mediacheck, it showed an error.

Frustrated, I decided to try out Kubuntu, hoping for a better result. I downloaded it all day today… took more than 5 hours… and burned the CD. Again, the MDSUMS were correct. And it opened nicely for the installation choices. But when I clicked the mediacheck… nothing happened. I tried clicking installation… nothing happened. The only option I could click was boot from harddisk. I restarted the computer and tried again. Same (non)result. I then tried to let Kubuntu boot by itself… using the 30seconds timeout… same (non)result. I then went to the text based install… and there was… an error in the disk!!!

Frustrated… I tried to install Ubuntu, even though it was corrupted… thinking that since openoffice is one of the last packages… I may be able to get it done… I could then fix Ubuntu from inside. And… for about an hour I went through the whole install… all the options etc… and then, even the packages… installed… crashing once during package install but nicely allowing me to move one. Then, after installing GRUB, I rebooted… and guess what, no Ubuntu Linux. It hadn’t changed my GRUB and there was no way to boot into the new Ubuntu.

So, well… I’m back to trying to install Ubuntu again… this time I’m using Distrowatch’s iso file…. slow yes, but hopefully more dependable.

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.

PCLinuxOS 2007 installation review and first impressions May 26, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, First Impressions, How-To, Linux, OpenSUSE, Other Distros, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Screenshots, Ubuntu, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
77 comments

Never have I had such an incident free installation procedure before. Really! I’m not joking. There’s literally nothing much (in terms of problems) to report. My installation of PCLinuxOS 2007 was simple and error free. What I will say now (about installation) will be comments on certain preferences and perhaps some confusion on (my) part. However, I would say that while PCLinuxOS 2007 installation was one of the most simple and straight-forward linux installations I have ever done, it wasn’t perfect!

Installation Ease? 10/10

Speed of installation? I think I had a whole installation completed in under 30 minutes. That’s excellent, though not as fast as Freespire which I think has a record (on my machine) of about 10-12 minutes!

Configuration capability? Now there’s the problem. I guess every Linux distro has to choose between how “easy” to make an installation and how “configurable”. Well, PCLinuxOS’s installation configuration ability is not thaaaat great. It’s sufficient, but somehow, it is a little scary because when you’re messing with the partition editor, everything looks “fun” even “childlike” and the gravity of the situation just seems to be lacking. The advanced options are limited and often unhelpful. Perhaps to compare, one of the BEST installations in term of configuration was openSUSE 10.2. Now in that installation you can almost change everything (including which windows drives to mount or not)! But I guess, PCLinuxOS just saves the user the trouble and does the thinking for you. Nice, but a little frustrating to non-so-new Linux users.

Bootloader? Well the final bootloader looks pretty, and it even automatically recognises my Windows XP partition, but it failed to recognise my openSUSE 10.2. This was made all the more frustrating because while installing there was no way I could add (or figure out how to add) the full details for openSUSE which was really frustrating. Anyway, all this should not be a problem for those who work only with Windows and PCLinuxOS. I must say though, that the BEST bootloader installation is by Ubuntu, which doesn’t look pretty, but recognises EVERY single distribution that I’ve had on my machine. In fact in times of greatest frustration, I’ve actually loaded an entire Ubuntu just to fix my GRUB. OK… that suggests I’m still a noob, but it also shows how reliable I think Ubuntu’s grubloader is. (latest update: I have eventually fixed my GRUB, but by using a shortcut. Report here)

Internet connectivity? No hassles at all. My DSL modem worked fine as soon as I entered my IP address etc details.

Graphics display? I must add that PCLinuxOS has been one of the BEST (alongside Mandriva) out of the box experiences in terms of my monitor graphics display. Usually, in openSUSE, Ubuntu and any other distro I’ve tried, I’ve usually had to re-configure my Graphics display settings, and even download a VIA driver when available. And even with a VIA drivers, my Ubuntu display blinks! No such problem in PCLinuxOS. It’s working. No configuration needed. And that’s excellent. Really excellent!

Multimedia Codecs? Well, I’ve not tried everything, but so far, everything has worked; EVEN DIVX movies. Can you believe that? (Yes it plays DVDs and mp3s too) No need to install anything. I’m yet to try a Quicktime .mov file, so I’m not sure about that, but any distro that can read my .divx (which even Windows needs a software package for!) out of the box is excellent! (latest update: oops, PCLOS does not play my encrypted DVDs. It seems that is a company policy. So I found out (from a post) that if you want to play DVDs you have to install win32-codecs and libdvdcss2 from the Synaptic. When I did that, it still didn’t play DVD (only .vob file by .vob file). And then I found this post which says that the above solution is will not work for encrypted DVDs: http://www.pclinuxonline.com/wiki/PlayDVDs?show_comments=1 I even installed XINE and still it didn’t work. This is so sad.)

Look and feel? I must say that PCLinuxOS is visually a standout distro! The icons and the desktop look unified, as if they had one designer thinking it all through. We don’t get the modular design look (where many designers work on different programmes to give their own ‘personal’ and contradictory touch). In terms of other distro’s, openSUSE is pretty good, but you still have to work to make it look really good. Ubuntu is just terrible! But PCLinuxOS is just simply beautiful. It did remind me of Dreamlinux, but a better version of Dreamlinux! It even makes the blue look good (and I hate blue distros)! There is one minor drawback. I think because of the lack of ‘proprietary’ fonts, the font-display of my webpages is not as ‘good’ as on openSUSE or on Windows. Well, that can be changed, or gotten used to, but that’s just an additional comment.

Software Packages? I’ve given the packages in PCLinuxOS a quick look-in and I’m surprised that all the major programmes are there… OpenOffice 2.2, GIMP etc. But I’m surprised that the games are missing. That’s sad. Because for such a distro, the games would only help strengthen it. I know where to get the games, but I wish, especially if/when I were to give this distro to a newcomer, the games were already there because it would just be that much more attractive (because the Linux collection of games are actually quite fun… some of them at least).

Summary? Basically, PCLinuxOS 2007 lives up to the hype. And as a single-CD distribution, it looks and feels much better than Ubuntu, at least in its first impression. I find myself missing the power of openSUSE, but then, openSUSE being a multi-CD distro with big-buck-support, is a tough act to beat. I liked PCLinuxOS for all the reasons people are saying that it is a great distro: looks, ease of use, out of the box multimedia functionality etc. And I can’t wait to try and test it out more. Cheers to the PCLinuxOS team. This is really a Linux Plus!

(final screenshot after installation and slight modification below)

PCLinuxOS 2007

Why is Ubuntu no. 1? Because of distrowatch! April 27, 2007

Posted by NAyK in Article Watch, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Internet, Linux, Linux Mint, Other Distros, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Working with Linux.
9 comments

Don’t get me wrong (from the title). Ubuntu has a lot of things going for it. I learned a lot through it, and it eased my entry into Linux from Windows. But what my title is trying to say is this: distrowatch deserves credit for Ubuntu’s meteoric rise to fame.

Distrowatch has become the number one go-to site for information regarding Linux distributions. It’s an excellent collection of reports on the latest linux distros. Heck, without it I would have never heard of or tried, Dreamlinux, Linux Mint, MCNLive, LG3D… and a host of others.

Of course, the more people came to distrowatch and learned about Ubuntu, meant that more people would look for Ubuntu and come to distrowatch. So perhaps there is more mutuality than I have suggested.

More importantly, it’s much maligned and appreciated stats page, that records the hits for a site have been a helpful (though qualified) guide to what’s out there and how ‘popular’ it (probably) is. Notice, the key word is popular, not best.

However, human beings being human beings, we gravitate towards the “best” movie according to the highest rating, the restaurant with the best “review” and in this case, the distro with the “most” hits. Distrowatch, by its stats that have consistently shown Ubuntu as number 1 for the last two years… has drawn people, even like me, to try Ubuntu first.

Of course now I use other distros. I like other distros. However the first-time user, if given a choice, often invariably chooses Ubuntu. I mean, they (first time users) don’t even choose Kubuntu, which according to me is better equipped for Windows defectors like me. But that’s because Kubuntu is rated a lowly 15 today!

So what am I trying to say, finally? I’m saying that while Ubuntu has many things going for it (and a single-CD concept is one of them)… Distrowatch has led the way in Ubuntu’s popularity. Of course, the more people came to distrowatch and learned about Ubuntu, means that more people will look for Ubuntu and come to distrowatch. So perhaps there is more mutuality than I have suggested.

But still, this post celebrates (and emphasizes) the role of distrowatch in the rise of Ubuntu.

And just to let you know that I’m not the only one who would think like this, check out this site (http://useopensource.blogspot.com/2007/03/unscientific-linux-popularity-contest.html ) especially the first comment by Jay Ellington which reads:

Its too bad you don’t give distrowatch.com the credit they rightfully deserve in your post. Yes the numbers on the ticker can be fudged but I can remember going to distrowatch right after its first publishing and it just blowing up in the following months, it is an incredible site that still today remains quite unbiased towards the different distros on the market. I still read distrowatch weekly regularly and at the time it was one of the only sites that had quality news for open source os’s compared to today when linux has every poser organization claims they are the news site for the masses. At my university (EWU, very small school) we used it almost daily for tracking our currently installed distribution’s default packages and new up and coming distributions onto the market like sorcerer…

—–

Actually, my post is written in response to this post http://blog.lejer.ro/2007/04/26/why-the-ubuntu-linux-os-have-such-great-popularity/ which is a typical entry that one would expect that tells the “merits” of distro as the reason for its success while missing the sociological (and marketing) reasons around it.

ps. check out Distrowatch’s report of Ubuntu’s recent success. The section is in “miscellaneous news.” http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20070423#topten

Ubuntu ‘Feisty Fawn’ Installation: impressions April 26, 2007

Posted by NAyK in First Impressions, How-To, Linux, OpenSUSE, Recommendation, Reviews, Screenshots, Ubuntu, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
7 comments

The following are just some impressions of events during my installation of Ubuntu “Feisty Fawn” 7.04 on my Desktop. The aim is not to be thorough, but to just give a sample perspective of what an installer might face while installing the new (and nice) distro.

Interestingly, I installed the latest Ubuntu not because I needed it, but simply because I wanted it. That’s partly because I’ve been very happy with openSUSE 10.2… and between openSUSE and Windows XP I get all my work done.

Still, how can one resist a new Ubuntu distro? Well I downloaded it through the metalink (the speed continues to amaze me).

When I started installing, I did it without much fanfare or excitement. And sadly, Feisty did not have anything in it to excite me either… not until the *migrate assistant* A window popped up that somehow recognised all my WindowsXP and openSUSE users and asked if I wanted to import their preferences (settings) for a particular login. I checked two preferences and then set up an Ubuntu user… and hoped for (anything).

MigrateUbuntu

I must say that it was a really cool addition, and I wish it will be more finely tuned. When I finally tested it, it only copied the MyDocuments from WindowsXP (and didn’t get anything from openSUSE). Neither did it get my Firefox/IE bookmarks settings. But I guess that’s ok. There is certainly scope here. Perhaps some information on what exactly will be migrated would have made my expectations more realistic.

On other installation events, I did get an error while partitioning. And I’m not sure what it was about. Some error in one of my drives. I “ignored” and “ignored” and “ignore” about five times and then it let me move on.

UbuntuError

The installation was the usual “copy to disk” procedure that took a long time… but that’s only relative to the speed of some other Linux distros (obviously nothing in comparison to Windows XP, or even multi-disk Linux distros like openSUSE).

When the system finally installed… and rebooted… I logged on to the user that I had created for migration (excited to see what exactly happened). I learned later on that the migrated user is NOT an ADMIN. Thus, sudo etc does not work. It’s a limited account, and you must log-in to the admin user account that is not related to the migration. It’s no big deal, but I had to learn this after going to a forum. The link for this problem and solution are here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=421791

Then came the other cool thing about the new Ubuntu. It loads the proprietary drivers as and when you need them. So I needed “flash” for a page, and viola! it asked if I wanted to install the driver and it did it! It even installed Flash 9! Which is cool.

flashagree

However, I tried this same thing with a divx movie and even a DVD. It tried to install the codec, but the movie (and maybe codec) failed to install. It reached to the point of finding the driver for me, but when I installed, it just refused to play the media saying that the codec was missing. I wonder why, but the concept it extremely exciting. Very very good!

Interestingly, I tried to connect to the internet through the live-cd, but it refused to connect. However, I’ve had a very good time with internet connectivity and Ubuntu… and so, I hoped that it would just work when installed the distro (after putting the network details in the live cd network tools). And guess what! It did work!

Also, Ubuntu recognised all the distro’s I was using for GRUB, ie. it rightly located WindowsXP and openSUSE. I’m saying this now, because I’ve come to take Ubuntu’s GRUB management for granted… but actually, not all Linux distro’s do such a good job in locating all the operating systems on the computer and give them a good GRUB boot link. Another good job, there.

ubuntudesktop

The above image is the look I’ve chosen, simply to get rid of the now-too-old brown of Ubuntu. The default Ubuntu look is actually so ‘boring’ one wonders whether any thought went into the design at all. Still, not that my own design is better. And so I’ll probably liven this Ubuntu desktop later. Apart from all this, I have nothing much to report. The installation was relatively painless, even eventless, certainly not bad at all.

Summary: the new Ubuntu looks irritatingly like the old one… but two new innovations are certainly worth watching out for: the migrate assistant and the codec installer. The latter alone (the codec installer) makes it worth installing and trying out “Feisty Fawn”!

Speed: OK, Look-Feel: boring, innovations: worth-checking out. Overall: Good distro to try.

Flawless wi-fi (wireless network) recognition by openSUSE 10.2 January 22, 2007

Posted by NAyK in How-To, Linux, OpenSUSE, Reviews, Screenshots, Software, Ubuntu, Working with Linux.
7 comments

As I continue to work with openSUSE I continue to be impressed. Ever since I started working with this distro (openSUSE 10.2), I had been stuck in the office and never had a chance to get out to test its wi-fi connection. Today I did, and unlike my harrowing experience with Ubuntu, openSUSE was extremely painless and simple.

The only thing I had to do was <right click> on the KNetworkManager and then <click> the wi-fi network. And viola! It worked. No configuring needed at all. Of course, I had to figure that on my own, since there was no sign saying that I had to swap networks, But that, I think is a minor detail. (latest update: Just today, when I returned to the wireless network, I didn’t even have to click wireless. It automatically detected the connection… and I’m working on it.)

The wi-fi connection is through a D-Link modem, and I’m not sure what wi-fi card I have. But I know that it has worked.

Screenshot of KNetworkManager below. All I had to do was select the current service (radio) being provided shown in Wireless Networks.

KNetworkManager

Playing VCDs on (Ubuntu) Linux: HOW-TO January 20, 2007

Posted by NAyK in How-To, Linux, Screenshots, Ubuntu, Ubuntu Christian, Working with Linux.
42 comments

Yes, DVDs are in. But VCDs are still not out. And strangely, while Automatix in Ubuntu enables all the codecs to play almost any format, Ubuntu still can’t play VCD’s. Many of the Forum solutions provided usually say that you must install this or that codec. This post assumes that you have install all the needed codecs… ie. a post Automatix install.

Usually, after an Automatix download, Totem becomes the default media player (it even plays the music and you need to configure that separately). Totem is pretty ok… but when you put in a VCD an error is reported which reads…

Totem could not play ‘vcd:///media/cdrom0’
There is no input plugin to handle the location of this movie.

(Screenshot below)

Totem Error while Reading VCDs

I looked around for solutions in a few Linux forums and surprisingly the solution is not that evident… (though it is quite simple)… and so I’m posting the two main solutions offered.

1. In terminal, type: mplayer vcd://2

(or mplayer vcd://1 or mplayer vcd:// basically whatenver works).

This is helpful especially if you want to test whether your VCD reads ok in the first place. However, as a viewer, it is quite limited… there is no full screen… and no way of fast forwarding.

2. The better and simpler solution is to install gxine through synaptic. And believe it or not, it works! Once you open gxine, then there will be an option for DVD/VCD etc… choose VCD and you have a player that plays VCDs. The Screenshot below is of the gxine menu.

gxine option for playing VCDs

VCDs now work for me, in Ubuntu, I hope they work for you, too.

More on Ubuntu Christian January 20, 2007

Posted by NAyK in First Impressions, Linux, Reviews, Ubuntu, Ubuntu Christian, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
1 comment so far

Some (internal) impressions on Ubuntu…

(latest update: Most of the following impressions are based on Ubuntu CE 2.0 even though I have more recently upgraded to Ubuntu CE 2.1. Ubuntu CE 2.1 actually feels like a better system, simply because they give flexibility over dansguardian).

My internet connection is feeling uncharacteristically slow. (my feeling is that it could be b/c of the dansguardian parental control)

Plus, I’ve ‘fixed’ my screen resolution so that it’s more visible fonts at least, but I’m still losing about an inch of space. (latest update: I’ve changed the screen settings to 1024×768 at 85Hz and size wise this is the best, however it is a darker screen… suggesting that the illumination in this resolution is dim… also it keeps flickering about every minute).

And I’ve just got my first (unfair) parental control of a site, I needed access to (trust me, it was non-problematic), and it didn’t open. Now I have to figure out the settings.

I solved this by installing a script found here that enables and disables dansguardian. It’s stopped it effectively, but I have to check whether it enables it as well. Note, you need to be a member of Ubuntu forums to be able to download the script.

(latest update: as of Ubuntu Christian 2.1, it is easier to install or disable Parental dansguardian. But now it is too easy. It only asks for password once, and after that anyone can disable dansguardian. Not the ideal control!)

…and some external comments on Ubuntu Christian.

This site had a helpful review.

Overall I think that Ubuntu Christian Edition is a good example of a market-specific Linux distribution. It includes features specific to it’s focus but doesn’t break compatibility with it’s parent. It could use a little stronger Christian theme, some introductory documentation for newbies (especially with the Automatix2 legal warnings), and a few more church-related applications. An alternative version for older systems would help to gain access to a wider audience.

Another review, more about the feature of parental control, here.

A Need That Has Finally Been Met. Regardless of your religious feelings with a Linux distribution, the fact is that the inclusion of parental controls (thanks to integrating Dans Guardian features) will mean that Linux using parents everywhere will give Ubuntu CE a very serious look. In actuality, parental controls should not simply be something that is assigned to only one off-shoot version, such as Ubuntu CE. I just can’t believe that Ubuntu standard and Kubuntu have not taken this opportunity by the horns and followed suit. Instead, Edgy is released to the world and we are still in “DIY land” with parental controls, something that should be made available on all home-use operating systems.

And then there’s this extensive review, which even discusses differences between Ubuntu and Ubuntu CE. A recommended read, even though it’s about Ubuntu 6.06. Quote:

Religion on ExtremeTech? Before I get into the details of this review, I want to note that some folks might be irritated or surprised that we’re covering a version of Linux with a religious slant. Personally, I don’t see the problem with it as we aren’t trying to convert anybody to Christianity or any other faith, and people of all faiths (and people without faith) are always welcome here at ExtremeTech. So don’t let the Christian slant bother you if you aren’t a Christian.

From time to time we will be covering off-the-beaten-trail versions of software that you might not have heard of or that might not be your cup of tea. No problem, to each his own in all things. And some non-Christian parents might actually find the content filters in the Christian version of Ubuntu useful for their own family. You don’t need to be a Christian to want to filter out some of the smut available on the Internet.

And finally, some genuinely funny (and some not so funny) lines about Ubuntu Christian, are found here. Samples below:

In Ubuntu Christian Edition, all documents are saved by grace through faith.

In Ubuntu Christian Edition you can burn heretic cds only.

With Ubuntu Christian Edition, you don’t need to surf the web. You can walk on it.

Ubuntu Christian Edition was made in only seven days.

Viruses are not quarantined in Ubuntu Christian Edition… they are handled by a special confessor process who listens to their sins.

Ubuntu Christian Edition’s media player automatically discovers hidden backward messages in rock music.

Ubuntu Christian Edition has an automatic alarm clock every Sunday at 6 AM.

Ubuntu Christian Edition does not have daemons.