It Sounds Kinda Like Slackware – But With Gnome Stuff!

…That is, if you like and want Gnome stuff, like Geary, one of my e-mail favorite clients.  Gnome stuff is unavailable in Slackware (and therefore unavailable in Salix).  I might have switched permanently to Salix from Xubuntu if not for that, because of the systemd thing.  I know, I know, before you jump all over me for having such great reservations about systemd, it’s simply this:  Systemd removes a lot of choice and control from the end-user, leaving it up to developers and maintainers.  So much stuff is dependent on systemd in Linux distros that have switched to it – including all the Big Ones like Debian, Ubuntu (and all it’s derivative distros like Xubu, Lubu, Kubu etc., Linux Mint), and Red Hat (Fedora and family).  Slackware and it’s derivatives remain systemd-free, as does PCLinuxOS and a shrinking number of others.

So what’s this new systemd-unencumbered distro?  It’s a virtual unknown called Void Linux.  Not a fork, not built or derived from any other Linux distro, Void is described as “the most BSD-like Linux distribution out there.”  Users describe it as superduperultramega lightning fast on even ancient hardware. It needs only 96 megabytes of RAM!  Available in “flavors” from KDE and Gnome to LXDE, Xfce, LXQt, and even Enlightenment, Void Linux is a rolling-release distro that uses runit instead of systemd.  It just sounds awesomely perfect for hopefully bringing my old “dead” relic back to life, if I can fix the hardware issue.

VoidLinux

So, naturally, I’ll have to try this thing out.  It’s not for beginners, probably not for technophobes either, but curiosity has got the better of me and I’ll at least experiment with the Live Xfce version, and if my hardware issue can be fixed on the old Dell, I’ll throw Void Linux on there and write about it here.  Stay tuned!

 

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Treat Your Moderate-to-Severe Technophobia With Linux Lite!

I’ve written before on both my own fear of technology, and about Linux Lite. Today I’ll combine both subjects. It all started with a flare-up of my moderate-to-severe technophobia that started last week, triggered by a discussion on Diaspora about systemd, the evil “one ring to rule them all” program manager used by most Linux distros these days. Just click on the systemd tag for a little more about it (but not much – I’m no expert).

But it’s big and intrusive and “does too much.” Some people complain that it’s an attempt to wrest control of Linux from it’s end-users to the developers, maybe more. The interest of so many “big evil corporations” in adopting it has the same familiar red-flag properties that have people running scared of Google and Facebook, using TOR and proxies online and that kinda stuff. Well I guess it just got to me, having gone on for so long.

I mean, it just depends on how you look at it, right? Or maybe…

I had already dumped Google, killed my gmail account, and quit facebook over fear of becoming a commodity for these companies to sell to advertisers and government agencies or whatever. Now, oh my Lord, systemd is threatening even the sacred refuge I fled to for privacy and safety and dignity! I’ve never experienced any issues – that I know of – with systemd as far as functionality. My Linux OS does what I want it to, does it well, and stays out of my way (unlike Microsoft’s OS). But still…

So…. I went and did something really stupid. Please don’t laugh (at least not where I’ll see you or hear you).

Instead of just switching back to Salix, PCLinuxOS, or any number of other systemd-free Linux distros that I have run before (because there’s no Gnome in any of the Slackware derivatives and PCLOS is too resource-hungry), I tried to rid Xubuntu of it’s horrific, demonic, intrusive systemd. I read on how to do it “safely” before I gathered my courage and ventured into the dark, fearful, mysterious netherworld of the command line interface (CLI). I didn’t do so recklessly or without a plan. I checked and double checked, referred to several official and unofficial sources, and proceeded with all deliberate caution.

I don’t care what the experts say. The only Ubuntu-based stuff that is free of systemd and that can function without it, is based on version 12.04 and older. None of those are supported anymore. I not only crippled my operating system, but apparently something I did in my efforts to exorcise the evil systemd demon from my machine seems to have physically damaged it somehow. Every technophobe’s worst case scenario! Push the wrong button and

Poor old Dell Dimension desktop. It served me so well for so many many years! Linux kept that old relic out of the landfill for decades! And then killed it, mercifully fast. No, I killed it, in a fit of technophobic panic over something that I really know too little about to be so worried about. Rest in peace, you trusty old friend. <sniffle>

But I didn’t spend a dime for my new one. An HP all-in-one with a huuuuge 500 GB hard disk drive! It was unresponsive after an upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10. My partner used it to play one of those Windows-based MMPORPGs (Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game) on Windows, and bought a new one to keep playing, and for Skype and other stuff she absolutely has to have for her job… All of which, by the way, will run in WINE on Linux. Now’s my chance to show her just how effective Linux can be as a drop-in replacement for that bloated, expensive OD from Redmond!

So:

I’ve loaded up Linux Lite again, because it has cool tools, Xfce desktop’s simplicity and beauty, and readiness for the tasks I want to demonstrate for my Windows-addicted partner. This new computer is many times more powerful than the noble old relic that preceded it, and I hope it will help me win over one of the most challenging Windows addicts I know.

Stay tuned!

It Ain’t Broke So Stop Fixing It!

So this morning I’m looking at a web page when Seamonkey becomes unresponsive. Then I remember that it’s Tuesday, and that’s when I have set up the Xubuntu Updater to do it’s weekly update.

“Oh, fine, just let the thing run,” I think. “I’ll get back to the web later.”

If it’s just updating software, I have it set to just go ahead and put in the latest version of whatever software is installed. But if it’s a system update, then I have to enter the root password and authorize it. And sure enough, like almost every Tuesday since I installed Xubu 14.04, the Updater wants to update the Linux kernel again. Uh-oh. Every time it tells me I need another kernel update, I’m like

No, not again! This is terrifying stuff to me, even though most kernel updates are safe haven’t borked my system, it has happened before. And even though I can reboot to an older kernel, it leaves me wondering what was wrong with the old one that it needed to be updated anyway. If it’s a security thing, well, I guess that’s different. But most of the big scary kernel and firmware updates aren’t addressing some security vulnerability, they’re “improving” some existing feature or adding new ones.

I’ve got a lot of college course work going on and I need a rock-stable OS that isn’t gonna be suddenly slowed or crippled by the next “improvement.” Updates to programs like my browser and stuff are fine, but what “improvements” to vital stuff like the Linux kernel do I really need to keep this ancient relic of a perfectly good computer running? Older versions of Xubuntu were considerably faster than the latest version. I used to be able to multi-task without having things hesitate or grind to a complete halt. While I understand that some updated applications probably use more resources than the older versions, why do the kernel and firmware require more resources? And for cryin’ out loud,

It ain’t broke! So stop fixing it!

So there’s another advantage to using an OS that is based on Debian Stable. It’s stable! It doesn’t get “fixed” unless it needs fixing. Even as I write this post, the computer halts and balks and makes me wait until it finishes with some other invisible process it has going on in the background.

If I had a newer computer I’d probably switch to Linux Mint because the ingenious updater helps technophobes and newbies use it intelligently. But on this old relic, it’s gonna be MX-14, the wonderful AntiX/Xfce mixture built from Debian Stable with “the magic of Mepis” in support.

My distro-hopping days may be over, even after I upgrade this old hardware some day when I have money for that. And this blog may just get really boring after that, since it’s such a trouble-free system.

Fixing Up Xubuntu 12.04 LTS

Well allrighty then!

Back on my wonderful favorite old default Linux, Xubuntu! And like the true wimpy scardycat I am, I’ll only use the LTS editions. I’ve found a way to make it a little bit leaner and meaner, and that effort continues. One way is to simply add an Ad-Blocker to Firefox. Another way is super easy: Simply remove some of the startup daemons and stuff that use resources but that I don’t need. Bluetooth, for example. This old relic doesn’t have Bluetooth, so why have a Bluetooth daemon running, right?

I unchecked the ones I don’t need, and the ones I don’t need running right at startup. Printing, for example. When I need it then I’ll run it. In the meantime I don’t need it gobbling up my meager little resources. Y’see the one I added? It’s a very resource-miserly little one called gdesklets that has a prettier clock and calendar than the ones offered in the Xfce panel. If there was a prettier weather desklet I’d use it too, but gdesklets doesn’t offer one. Waaaah.

Oh well, there’s always the weather applet in the panel, right? WRONG!!! The one that comes on the Xubu CD doesn’t work anymore. Oh, you can add the PPA and upgrade the whole desktop environment to Xfce 4.10, but that creates new problems on Xubu 12.04, like buttons that quit working.

So here is a way to get that wonderful Xfce weather applet working again without picking up new bugs that get dragged along with an upgrade of the whole Xfce desktop: First use Synaptic Package Manager to completely remove Xfce4-weather-plugin. Then open a terminal and type these four commands one at a time. Enter your root password when prompted:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:dtl131/mediahacks
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xfce4-weather-plugin
sudo add-apt-repository –remove ppa:dtl131/mediahacks

Now your xfce4 weather panel plugin will work!

So have a look at my awesome Xubuntu 12.04 LTS desktop now! I’m using the High-contrast icon set, gdesklets, and the now-restored weather panel applet (not in the picture, lol):

If any readers have some other ideas on how to make my Xubu leaner and meaner yet, please pretty pretty pleeeeease offer them in the comments below. Thanks!

My First Rolling Linux

I’ve always been scared of rolling-release Linux distributions. Perhaps because I’ve seen updates break things in other “distros” (geek shorthand for “distributions”). But re-installing the operating system every 6 months is out of the question, and even Ubuntu’s “long term support” versions require re-installation at intervals. I like the idea of a install-and-forget operating system that is maintained in a few simple mouse clicks. Here’s the one I’m testing today, just for grins while I have a half a day of free time.

The Mini KDE desktop with analog clock and weather widget
The Mini KDE desktop with analog clock and weather widget

When I first installed PCLinuxOS I decided ahead of time that KDE would be far too resource-hungry for this modest, aging hardware. I used the “mini” CD to install a minimal KDE version of PCLinuxOS, and figured I’d just tie Xfce on and go with what was not only familiar but proven to run superbly on my computer.

But before I did so, I thought I’d explore this KDE desktop a little just for grins. It wasn’t slow! Maybe adding all the goodies and extras would slow it down, but this “mini” version is quite speedy. KMail is broken (not even installed – I added it, tried it, tried to make it do something, then deleted it after reading a “don’t bother with KMail” post in their forums), but Konquorer is plenty fast, and doubles as a file manager! Not that Dolphin, the default file manager in KDE, is anything to sneeze at. Seems as simple as Thunar and just as fast.

Installation of PCLinuxOS mini is a snap. Once installed, it needs to be updated straight away before adding any new software. Open Synaptic Package Manager, Refresh, Mark All Upgrades, and Apply. That’s basically all the user does to maintain the operating system, presumably for years! It’s an all-or-nothing approach which is kinda scary to a noob like me who fears the “broken after update” scenario more than even having to reinstall. But I’ll explore this KDE desktop a little further and who knows – if it keeps behaving the way it has thus far in PCLinuxOS, maybe I’ll just keep it! PCLOS has some sweet configuration tools that make it simple enough for a sidekick.

My hopes are:

  • That KDE won’t become a resource hog before I’ve had a chance to plumb its depths and learn a little,
  • that this all-or-nothing update maintenance approach doesn’t prove to be as dangerous as I fear, and
  • that even if KDE disappoints me, Xfce will work as reliably on PCLOS as it always did in Xubuntu.

I don’t know what’s going on the “Ubuntu community” lately, but reading their forums one gets the idea that the community is feeling abandoned by the company behind the most popular Linux distro. There’s never been any such corporate shenanigans in the PCLOS community. Us ordinary folks can find the Supreme Developer hanging out in the forums and mailing lists, and the community is vibrant, friendly, and enthusiastic. Most are “ordinary end users” like me, several help develop this sweet distro (also frequently found in the forums), and all are equally enthusiastic about the distro and it’s users.