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LFS 6.8 not ready for prime time!

I was in an experimenting mood today and decided to give LFS (Linux From Scratch) 6.8 a try.  It is intended to be a from the ground up Linux build system that is primarily aimed at being an educational tool.   The goal is excellent!  Sadly, LFS 6.8 is not.  I did not get very far into the book before I began finding evidence that this version, suposedly the “stable” version, needs serious sanity checking.   More than once I found that the directions left me in the wrong directory.   Worse yet, the heart of the build, the GCC compiler build, fails outrageously.   I tried correcting the instructions but found that even with the paths to the files, etc. corrected it still fails.   I have sent note to the developers with what I have found and hope for some good help and feedback.   It is not beyond possibility that I made some bad mistake along the way, but I believe I was following the directions very, very carefully.   I hope the LSF effort continues and a corrected or updated version is released as it would be a wonderful teaching tool.   However, a teaching tool needs to work flawlessly if it is going to succeed in educating rather than confusing or frustrating the student.

ArchLinux, install file compression packages

With a base install of ArchLinux completed, you may find you still do not have all the file compression utilities installed to handle most commpression types.  Run the following to install the most common file compression packages.   Some may already be installed.   This is ok, they will just be refreshed.

pacman -S tar gzip bzip2 zip unzip unrar p7zip arj lha lzma-utils lzop

Xfce 4.8 missing trashcan

If you install Xfce 4.8, you may find the desktop trashcan icon is missing, even though it is selected in the desktop properties visible icons selection.   To get the trashcan icon back, install the gvfs package.

ArchLinux Reviewed

The Linux Action Show guys review ArchLinux. The ArchLinux review is about 30 minutes into the show.

An ArchLinux DVD tweak

This is just a quick tweak for ArchLinux. Many apps, such as VLC Player, that need to read the DVD device default to a setting of /dev/dvd. I found that ArchLinux does not have the DVD device listed in the /dev directory as such. Instead they are using /dev/sr0. You have a couple of choices. Once you know this fact, you can adjust the configuration of every app you use that needs to read the DVD drive to look to /dev/sr0. In my opinion, it is more straight forward to adjust the ArchLinux system to accomodate the use of /dev/dvd by creating an entry for it. Put the following in your /etc/rc.local system startup script and everytime you start the system the /dev/dvd device entry will be created for you automatically.

cp -l /dev/sr0 /dev/dvd

Intro to Linux

Distro Review: ArchLinux

ArchLinux, when old becomes new again

There is an old saying about old things becoming new again.   That is what I thought about as I did an ArchLinux install for the first time this weekend.   The process took me way, way back into the ’90s when I first became involved with Linux.   Back then, it was Slackware and a pre version 1 kernel.   The process was boot from the disk and very carefully follow the directions.   No GUI install back then and you configured your system as you went.   When the install finished, you were were presented with a shell login prompt to logon as root.   Very much the same thing when doing an ArchLinux install today.   I chose to use the net install CD, which is only about 160MB in size, the rest of the distribution is pulled down from mirror sites on the Internet.   The main appeal, to me, was that it was a return to a more technical DIY type of install with every little detail under my control, as opposed to a GUI install that lets you choose the language, time zone and keyboard and all the rest is done for you.   Now, I am not at all complaining about the modern, easy, GUI Linux installs.   These are in fact WONDERFUL!   Without easy installs like these that very nearly garantee a successful install, Linux would have very little chance to spread and be as widely adopted as it is becoming.    However, sometimes us geeks need more.   We need to satisfy that urge to take a look under the hood and tinker.   Sometimes we just need to geek out and do it ‘the hard way’.   So, I jumped in and did an ArchLinux install to satisfy this need.   One thing that I found is that while is very much a lower level install, it is also a very structured and GOOD install process.   You encounter much more detail along the way, but the process is very tightly controlled.  It is also what I would consider a very educational install with the internals exposed to view.   However, one thing it is not is undocumented.   Back in the old days, the install was sparsely documented and you really had to hunt and search to find out what you need to know to get everything right and running.  The documentation on the ArchLinux site, and also provided on the install CD itself, is supperb!   For instance, after I got the base install done, I wanted to do two more things – Get XWindows up so I could have some GUI if and when I wanted it, and get my wireless card going.   Both of these processes were extreemly well documented and I got both accomplished with just the documentation on the ArchLinux site.   I highly recommend ArchLinux to anyone wanting to dig in deeper and learn more of what makes Linux tick by getting back to the basics and doing a more basic install and then building your system, the way you want it, from there.   ArchLinux——– A review of ArchLinux

Linux Desktops, Xfce 4.8

Being able to select a desktop for your computer is a concept that is unfamiliar to the typical Windows user. Windows users can, of course, make a fairly wide selection of themes and configurations to their current desktop, but changing it out wholesale for a completely different desktop with its own set of default applications and functionalities is not part of their operating system experience. This is not true for users of Linux, or any of the other Unix-like operating systems. From the very beginning of the availability of graphical windowing systems in the Unix world with advent of X windowing system, development of new and innovative desktop environmnets has been the name of the game. Some of the available systems have been X11, CDE, GNOME, KDE, Fluxbox, WindowMaker, Englightenment, LXDE, and Xfce. There are many others, and surely I have inadvertantly omitted somebody’s favorite desktop environment. The main point here is that once you leave the world of Microsoft Windows, you enter a world full of choice when it comes to your operating system environment and particularly your graphical desktop environment. Today I would like to point out the Xfce dekstop, which recently came out with its latest release Xfce 4.8

Linux.com has a nice “weekend project” article about Xfce:  http://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/456623-weekend-project-find-hidden-treasures-in-xfce-48

Linux Celebrating 20 Years

Linux Mint, 2 thumbs up!

After facing so many frustrations with Ubuntu 11.04 and uncertainties as to where Ubuntu is going in the future, I finally decided to bite the bullet and try different distributions.  The latest two that I have tried I can give 2 big thumbs up.   These were Linux Mint 11 and Linux Mint Xfce.

Linux Mint 11 is based on Ubuntu 11.04, but the Linux Mint team chose to not include the Unity desktop.   This distribution is everything that I would have hoped Ubuntu 11.04 could have been.   In fact, the level of polish and completness in Linux Mint 11 exceeds that typical of most Ubuntu releases.   This is saying a lot, because most Ubuntu releases are quite good.   However, one thing still worries me – GNOME.   Linux Mint kept the GNOME 2.3x desktop, which I prefer, but I must wonder if they will it be forced into GNOME3 in the next release?  I like GNOME2 and am not looking for wholesale changes of my desktop.   This type of uncertainty about the future of the desktop has given me enough pause to cause me to explore other desktops, which leads me to my next big thumbs up.

Linux Mint Xfce is NOT based on the Ubuntu upstream package sources.   Instead, it is based on the upstream Debian Testing packages.   This is also a “rolling” distribution as it is continuously taking updates from Debian Testing rather than being locked in until the next big release.   In essence, there will not be a next big release, or need for a reinstall, or a major “upgrade”.   It will simply update right along with the Debian updates.    I like this!   Also, it is not a GNOME based distribution, it is Xfce.   I have long been a fan of Xfce as an alternative to GNOME.   Like GNOME, it is based on the GTK+ libraries, but is lighterweight in its resource usage.   This is turning out to be what I would consider to be an ideal Debian based distro and may be where I call home for a while.  Were there any issues?  Yes, but only a minor one.   Linux Mint Xfce does not include the jockey-gtk package that the GNOME based distribution does.   This package makes for easier installation of restricted hardware packages, such as the Broadcom STA wireless driver.   I would strongly urge the Linux Mint team to consider its inclusion in the future or provide their own alternative.   However, this was easily overcome once I found the instruction on the Debian site for installation and configuration of the WL package.  This was straightforward and simple.   Here is the link. Debian WL driver install. Also, this distribution came configured with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel.   This is understandable since it was the kernel used in Linux Mint 10, which this is essentially a continuous update of.   I chose to update the Linux 2.6.38 kernel and did so via the Synaptic Package Manager.   This upgraded flawlessly.  I do not know if the update system would have eventually provided the kernel update to me, but it was reported my system as up to date so I am guessing it was not going to do so.

I would recommend either of these offerings from Linux Mint as an alternative to Ubuntu.   For those simply wanting a good GNOME desktop experience with no hickups, go for Linux Mint 11.   For those wanting to try a different desktop altogether, but one similar to GNOME2, give Linux Mint Xfce a try.   I think you will enjoy either of these.   Remember, Linux is all about CHOICE.   You are not locked into any distribution or desktop system.   Don’t be afraid to try out new things.   If enough folks decide not to adopt Ubuntu 11.04 or its Unity desktop, they will get the message.

Ubuntu 11.04, another annoying “feature”

Yes, I am going to harsh on Ubuntu 11.04 some more.  Even once you have turned off Unity and returned to a classic Gnome desktop, all is not back to “normal”.  Ubuntu 11.04 introduces a really stupid feature know as the “overlay” scrollbar.   Basically, it is a scrollbar tab that replaces the traditional scrollbar found on a windowed item.   It hides when not in use and pops back up into view when the mouse is moved into its area at the edge of the window.   HOW STUPID!  Who really wants to be playing hide and seek with windowing elements on their screen?  Even worse, this “feature” is found by default in all the Ubuntu derivatives also based on 11.04 such as Xubuntu and Linux Mint.   I would encourage the providers of derivatives to NOT accept every new feature that might be foisted upon us by the Ubuntu developers.   Fortunately, there is a way to turn the overlay scrollbar off and return to a normal scrollbar.

  1. Go to a terminal.
  2. sudo to get administrative privs
  3. paste the following into the command line and hit enter (then reboot for the change to take effect)
  • echo "export LIBOVERLAY_SCROLLBAR=0" > /etc/X11/Xsession.d/80overlayscrollbars

I found this great tip here: http://www.webupd8.org/2011/04/how-to-disable-overlay-scrollbars-in.html

Another good article that addresses this issue and others in Ubuntu Unity.

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2011/05/03/ubuntu-unity-the-great-divider/