More Mozilla Replacements

Last time I wrote, I was describing replacement software for Mozilla products. Not because I’m one of those rabid FOSS activists who runs only GNU, open-source, non-proprietary software (I really don’t know how anyone actually does anyway), but because of Mozilla’s politics.

I had replaced my once-beloved Seamonkey with Midori (Xfce’s own awesome lightweight web browser) and Geary (A Gnome project, unsupported for awhile and recently resurrected and updated). Both are wonderful!

Just out of curiosity because of some minor limitations with Geary and Midori, I wanted to try the GNU versions of Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird. They are IceCat (GNU’s version of Firefox) and Icedove (GNU – Thunderbird).

I installed them on my custom Xubuntu-core machine by adding the repository from Trisquel Linux (all GNU software) and using Synaptic to load ’em up.

IceCat refused to display anything with Java until I modified the settings, which I expected. Other than that it’s every bit like Firefox or Seamonkey’s browser, but a whole bunch quicker and more nimble. A good Mozilla replacement!

Icedove is awesome, and right out of the chute it has all the features I loved about Seamonkey’s mail reader and composer, including in-line links and images, Address Book, etc., which Geary lacks, as awesome as it is. Another good Mozilla replacement!

So if you think you can’t do without Mozilla’s great products, but don’t want Mozilla’s branding or to use their products showing, even unwittingly, some support for their political corruption, check out these sweet GNU alternatives.

Xubuntu and Linux Lite

I take special delight in keeping this ancient Dell desktop running and out of the landfill.  With it’s very low resources, it doesn’t really run the full-blown version of Xubuntu as well as it used to, and when 32-bit support ends it’ll finally be time to retire the faithful old box. It runs xubuntu-core like a dream though!  Well-chosen lightweight applications (Geary and Midori instead of Thunderbird and Firefox, for example) and the very basic Xfce desktop with the wonderful Xubuntu default settings (but no compositing, not a bunch of daemons running in the background, etc) make this old beast race along as sweet as ever.

But I also have a laptop with 3 gigs of RAM and a dual-core processor and it’s 64-bit.  So just for grins, I’m giving Linux Lite a try.  It’s Xubuntu-based and designed to be even more novice-friendly (if that is even possible).  It has some pretty special little features that are great for folks trying out Linux for the first time.

lite-welcome

Once installed (using the super-awesome Ubiquity installer that makes all the Ubuntu-based distros installable in minutes with wonderful simplicity), the first boot of Linux Lite offers this interactive step-by-step guide to getting started.  After updating installed software, you can upgrade within a series with a great little Linux Lite application that changes repository settings as needed to the next point within a “series.”  Each series is based on the LTS releases of Ubuntu and compare with point releases.  Very cool.  Now check out the “Tweak tool:”

linux-lite-tweaks-tool_orig

This is a sweet little all-in-one-screen utility that does a little bit of housekeeping and customizing.  Newbies can simply check all the “Safe” options to keep the system clean and fast.  All of this can be done in any Xfce distro from the Settings menu, but Linux Lite has made it more convenient and reassuring for novice users.  Now they can tweak and peak their OS fearlessly.  That extra little safety assurance is similar to what Linux Mint  has done with their Updater, with levels of risk clearly labeled and explained for the user.

SUPPORT

The interactive online Help Manual opens in a tabbed web page and helps users navigate through many of the tasks that sometimes frustrate newbies (and technophobes like me), like getting the wireless to work, finding the right driver (or even updating existing ones!), getting the sound to work, etc.  For most users, all that stuff works right out of the chute anyway!  But if not, this Help Manual is about the simplest and best I’ve ever seen.  Not a Wiki or a searchable database, but a step-by-step guide with pictures and everything.

linux-lite-support-page

CONCLUSION

If you’re installing Linux yourself for the first time, Linux Lite is an awesome beginner’s distro with all of Xubuntu’s awesomeness made super simple and a lot less scary for the technically challenged / phobic novice than most distros, even “beginner friendly” ones.  And it’s lightweight enough to run on most computers that used to run Windows XP or Windows 2K.

If you’re not a “rank beginner” and can find your way around or want to provide a little bit of support for a friend, I still recommend Xubuntu.  I also recommend Xubuntu-core if you’re like me, using an ancient dinosaur relic fossil that can barely manage full-blown Xubuntu or Linux Lite, which is not lighter than Xubuntu in any way, but you don’t need to settle for a bare-bones desktop interface that doesn’t offer the fantabulous configurability and beauty of the Xfce desktop.  I remain a

xubuntubar

but heartily recommend Linux Lite for rookie beginner novices, with older hardware that is too nice to just throw away.

Robin’s Favorite Forever

I think that if I listed all the Linux distributions I have tried, it would number somewhere near two dozen or thirty!  Some didn’t last a day, some not even an hour.  Some lasted for weeks or months, when either some update messed it, or I messed it up myself, one just disappeared, one got political and I dumped it on principle, and one – only one – was the distro I always ran home to when I either got scared off, ticked off, or turned off.

Debian and Debian-based distros.  Slackware and Slackware-based distros.  Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros.  PCLinuxOS (independent, the apparent “heir” of Mandrake).  Red-Hat-based distros.  Everything but Gentoo and Arch.  I am a technophobe still, after all.  Some I loved!  Crunchbang Linux, now unsupported, was most awesome when it was Ubuntu-based.  The switch to Debian brought improvements in some areas but made installation and configuration much harder and more complicated, and one installed, it ran slower too.

In the end, they’re all Linux, all wonderful for the niches they fill.  Whether for servers, tablets, or desktops; whether for super-geeks or novices; grandparents or little kids; students, teachers, heroes, and sidekicks – there’s a Linux for everyone.

For this technophobic sidekick, it really has, after 6 years, boiled down to one single distro that has kept my old relic computer out of the landfill since I first ditched WindowsXP for my first ever alternative OS, Ubuntu 8.04.  One that – once discovered – became my go-to operating system, the one I always ended up falling back to.

When Canonical tamed mighty Debian and made it finally available, installable, and useful for ordinary mortals to use without “mad techno-geek skillz,” they did it better than anyone else had before.  And they still do.  I know a lot of Linux folks enjoy belittling Canonical for their business dealings and Ubuntu (to include the official derivatives, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, etc) users for their lack of computer skills.   So be it.  I have always lacked computer skills when it came to tweaks and fixes and configurations and such.  I kept a diary of whatever I did and what resulted.  I learned to use the terminal like a wonderful, powerful, magic toolbox!  But I always preferred the graphical interface, and the point-and-shoot simplicity of the Synaptic Package Manager instead of sudo apt-get whatever, for example.

I may yet get a few more years out of this old dinsaur before Linux stops offering support for 32-bit architecture.  But even when I no longer need to stick to “lightweight” distros, I’ll stick with the best one I’ve ever used, the one that more than any other, has kept my old desktop running, got me through all my college classes, and inspired this blog.

Robin’s all-time, forever fanboy Linux distro:

xubu-core16-04

XUBUNTU.  Here’s 16.04, built from Xubunu-core (after installing the Ubuntu base with only a terminal) and my own selected lightweight applications.  There’s no Firefox or Thunderbird in my remix, no LibreOffice, none of the usual popular stuff, but ultralight or other lightweight alternatives.  Geary for email (because Claws Mail just refused to cooperate). Midori for web browsing. Abiword and Gnumeric for office stuff. Mostly standard Xfce apps for just about everything else I use my computer for.  All with the awesome Ubuntu base and Xubuntu team community support.

This old Dell still runs faster and better on Xubuntu, now 7 years later, than it did when it was brand new running WindowsXP.

 

Update Garmin Nuvi Maps for Free!

No you don’t have to have either Windows or Mac in order to update your Garmin Nuvi GPS (or Magellan, TomTom, and a few others). And no, you don’t have to pay for updated maps either, even if your GPS is older or unregistered with the company.

I did it, and I’m still as technophobic as I ever was. So if this li’l technophobic sidekick can manage it, it’s likely that any of my readers can. I do the FedEx Ground delivery driver thing, and I have an old hand-me-down Garmin Nuvi that I use on my route. Not for directions, but just as a “rolling map” to tell me where I am and streets are coming up as I travel.

The technique I’ll show you here uses OpenStreetMap, a free and open-source collaborative work. Maps are updated much more often than the official Garmin maps. They also show considerably more detail, judging by my Nuvi’s performance today. I’m just going to write about the Garmin GPS because that’s what I have and all I really know. But according to this wonderful web page, it also works for some other brands.

I navigated to my /home directory and created a new folder named “GarminNuvi.” It has a subfolder called Maps.

I connected my Garmin Nuvi to my computer via a USB port and it was automagically mounted, thanks to Thunar’s awesomeness (Thunar is the Xfce file manager in Linux). I then copied the map file, named gmapprom.img, to /home/robin/GarminNuvi/Map. You can do this in the terminal or just open your file manager as root (“sudo thunar” in a terminal window) and move the file from your Garmin to the “Map” subfolder. This is a safety thing! ALWAYS BACK UP the old map in case something goes wrong! Now you can DELETE gmapprom.img from the Garmin. I renamed this backup file gmapprom-old.img. If I needed to restore it, I’d give it back it’s original name.

Select and download the new maps from http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ It’s easy, just follow the prompts on the screen to select your map by continent, country, state, province, or customize your own. If you customize yours, you’ll need to enter your e-mail address and they’ll notify you when it’s compiled and ready to download. My old map is North America, nearly 3GB in size! Yikes! So I selected only my own state for the new map, because that’s really all I need and it’s just a few hundred MB in size. Easy peasy. And fast! The file you want for the Garmin Nuvi is named osm_generic_gmapsupp.zip.

Move that file to /Garmin/New and extract it there. 7-zip works, most default "archivers" work for decompressing zip files. After unzipping it, you'll have a file called gmapsupp.img. For the Garmin, you must rename that file to gmapprom.img. This is your new map! Copy it back to your Garmin, re-start it, and take it for a test drive.

Save a copy of your new gmapprom.img in the /Garmin/New folder as the next backup. When it's time, that can be moved to the Old subfolder. But until you're sure everything works okay, keep that old one around!

Oh My, Slackware Has No Gnome!

Gnome has been removed from Slackware, some months ago. It’s nothing against Gnome, I guess, but I was surprised when I went to try out a couple of Gnome applications because my favorite web browser (actually, Internet Suite) Seamonkey, has started acting up.

Not available in the repository, not available as a Slackbuild. Salix has a couple of Gnome things in their repository, but not the applications I wanted to try. Geary and maybe Evolution for e-mail and maybe some other browser (besides Firefox).

But I had to use another distro to try them out! Grrrr. Oh well, back to Xubuntu for this trial-and-error experiment. But not exactly full-on Xubuntu.

Xubuntu Core
is a nice little invention. Available as an .iso file from one of the Xubu developers, the official way to get it is to install the Ubuntu Mini iso, which installs only the base Ubuntu system and a terminal without any applications or desktop environment. Then do the

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-core

thing. This installs only the Xfce desktop with some of the wonderful Xubuntu settings that set Xubu apart from other Xfce distros for it’s elegance and classy looks. No bloat, just stripped-down, ultralight Xubuntu awesomeness. Next I installed Synaptic Package Manager and chose some very lightweight applications (Abiword and Gnumeric instead of LibreOffice, for example) and the applications I wanted to try out.

Oh, by the way, note to first-timers with that Ubuntu-mini iso: After it installs and asks you to reboot from the HDD, you must bring up the Grub menu the first time it boots from the hard drive. So that by holding down the Shift key during it’s boot-up. It works better than typing

start
run
begin
commence
engage
do something, dammit!

Trying them out on Xubuntu Core, Geary just plain sucked. Random crashes in the middle of composing an e-mail or even reading one. No wonder the Elementary team forked it (Pantheon Mail). And Evolution (a Novell product, I should have known, I hated it when I had to use their crap in the Fire Department) refused to connect to the Internet. Okay then, lesson learned. No wonder Slackware dropped them, I guess. Not just the Gnome 3 debacle, but these native apps suck.

The lightweight Midori browser no longer crashes randomly, however. It always did before, every time I have given it a try over the last couple of years. Now it’s working just fine! My long-beloved Seamonkey may be replaced by Thunderbird and Midori.

It’s always trial-and-error with Linux, ain’t it? Yeah, that’s really half the fun I guess.

KDE, Krunner, and Baloo

Guest Linux tech tip, written by “Tedel” (tedel)

If you’re running KDE as your desktop environment, you may have run into these issues. Tedel has found an easy way to solve both issues! He writes:

How to solve two minor annoyances on KDE desktop (Krunner & Baloo)

If you use KDE, you may have noticed that, now and then, Krunner or Baloo get crazy. Krunner starts eating resources and even overheating your CPU without explanation (I suffered an 84% CPU consumption once, and my computer turned off automatically because of the overheating); while Baloo sometimes seems to never stop crawling your home folder to build its database.

Fortunately both issues are quite easy to solve. Here the details:

Krunner takes a lot of CPU

The high CPU consumption of Krunner usually comes right after upgrading KDE. Although I cannot tell why because I am not a KDE developer, I was able to find that find out Baloo was causing the problem. It seems that, for some reason, the previous database of files becomes… er… incompatible (or something like that) after the upgrade and drives Krunner crazy. Krunner uses Baloo’s database to search for files as you type, so it makes sense any problem with Baloo might affect Krunner too.

The Fix:

The solution is to erase Baloo’s database and log out (and back in) to force Baloo to create a new database of your home folder, and a clean database usually solves the Krunner high CPU consumption issue.

Your Baloo database is usually on ~/.local/share/baloo/. You can erase every file without concerns. The database will be recreated in your next KDE session.

Baloo fails to index your home folder

This one was trickier for me because there was not any problem with Baloo (congratulations KDE developers!), yet no matter how many times I tried, my database still got stuck after indexing a fixed number of files.

$ balooctl status
Baloo File Indexer is running
Indexer state: Indexing file content
Indexed 10473 / 25555 files
Current size of index is 224.12 MiB

The problem was not a problem. All Baloo wanted to do is to index a corrupt file, but it couldn’t, so it kept trying.

Yet there is a small issue: Baloo does not have a time-out or a notification system in case a file fails to be read or indexed correctly, and there is no way to ask Baloo what file is trying to be indexed but fails. So I had to look for the problem manually playing with Baloo for a while:

The Fix:

First, I created a new folder in my computer.
Next, I moved all my home folder into that new folder I created.
Next, I opened “system settings” and asked Baloo not to search in that location by opening system settings > search > file search > and adding the folder I just created to the list of folders that would be skipped.
Next, I erased current Baloo’s database ~/.local/share/baloo/.
Next, I logged out and logged back in.

After logging back in, I opened a terminal (Konsole is enough, don’t complicate it) and I ran balooctl status to make sure the result gave me zero (no files to index, and nothing indexed).
Then, I began moving one after one each of the subfolders from the temporary folder back to /home, and monitored how they were being indexed by running balooctl status in the terminal window.
Eventually, I found where Baloo stopped indexing, and I began opening file after file in that subfolder until I found the corrupted files Baloo just couldn’t read. After removing those files, Baloo continued indexing the rest of my home folder, and still today…

$ balooctl status
Baloo File Indexer is running
Indexer state: Indexing file content
Indexed 25555 / 25555 files
Current size of index is 374.53 MiB

…my home folder is being indexed and updated without issues.

Round Two: A Technophobe Tries SalixOS Again

I didn’t even mean to do it! All I wanted was to try it on a Live USB stick, just to see what’s new with Salix since Slackware 14.2 came out. Slackware is the oldest Linux distro there is, and is known to be rock-solid stable, but not for newbies to Linux – and certainly not for technophobic sidekicks who just want a ready-out-of-the-box distro that doesn’t require a bunch of setup and tweaking to make it functional. It has some big advantages though:

No systemd being one of the big ones, although opinions on that vary greatly of course. “Do one thing and do it well” is a Linux philosophy that has made Linux awesome, and systemd runs completely counter to it, and many users of the major distros that depend on systemd have found it to be a resource-hogging daemon that imposes itself on every process from boot-up to launching applications. “One ring to rule them all” doesn’t agree with not conform to the keep-it-simple rule that even the geekiest and nerdiest of Slackware users (hereafter called “Slackers”) try to stick to.

Another advantage (again, in my opinion) is ultra-long-term support. Much earlier editions of Slackware are still supported. It’s rock-stable and reliable for many years. In the case of an ancient relic of a computer that isn’t even upgradable anymore hardware-wise, Slackware won’t become obsolete and require an upgrade or reinstall to keep a perfectly good old computer out of the landfill for hopefully (but by no means guaranteed) 3 to 5 years. Even my beloved Xubuntu and LXLE are outrunning this old heap. I still recommend them for newbies and people with newer hardware than mine (it’s an abacus compared to anything built in the last 10 years). But I’m all about making this old relic last as long as I possibly can, just for fun, and I don’t want to limit myself to Debian and Ubuntu-based distros.

But this isn’t a review of Slackware. This is SalixOS – a Slackware spin-off that remains fully compatible with it’s parent distro, which is why I wrote all that stuff. Other Slackware derivatives like Vector Linux and Zenwalk are meant more for newbies and users that want that out-of-the-box readiness where everything “just works.” But to get there they need to distance themselves from their parent, kinda like Ubuntu has done from Debian. If I was to describe SalixOS in a single sentence, it might be “SalixOS is Slackware with automated dependency resolution and some cool tools for compiling and installing software from source.” The developer calls it as a distro “for lazy Slackers.” Sounds perfect!

Anyway, I didn’t start out intending to install it, just revisit it in a Live environment to see what has changed. I really liked it before, and only quit using it because one day it just refused to boot at all and even a reinstallation didn’t fix it. Anyway I accidentally downloaded an installation iso instead of a “LiveCD” of Salix. But once I loaded I figured, “what the heck, this should only take about 30 minutes anyway.” WRONG. It took less than half that time! Badda-bing badda boom, done in under 15 minutes. And that’s including the time it took to figure out that graphical-but-not-for-new-users installer.

Three modes of installation are available. Being a technophobe, I installed “everything,” which really isn’t very much. That’s because the one-application-per-task philosophy doesn’t double up on a bunch of applications that do the same job. SalixOS is available in multiple flavors, but being an Xfce fanboy I installed the Xfce flavor and “full” install. You can download a minimal version with just a CLI to completely customize it. But that’s a really geeky option, certainly scary for a technophobe. My gosh, y’all, it’s Slackware and that’s scary enough! But I might have chosen “Basic,” and had Xfce and some GUI tools. So even with “Full” installation and that not-so-newbie-friendly installer, it still took mere minutes to completely install. That’s the fastest install in the history of ever, I think.

It was definitely not ready “out-of-the-box” for instant use though. But hey, cool, Seamonkey is in the Slackware repository! And installing it using the gslapt GUI is as easy as Synaptic Package Manager is in the Debian/Ubuntu-based distros. But the biggest deal and coolest feature of Salix is the automatic dependency resolution that Debian and Ubuntu users take for granted but which most Slackers don’t even want. But simple sidekicks and technophobes need it and depend on it! I’d rather be a “lazy Slacker” than forego the advantages of Slackware altogether. You can choose a repository mirror near you, anywhere in the entire universe. That is done during installation, which is pretty cool. I installed my favorite Internet suite effortlessly in mere seconds. No adding the Ubuntuzilla PPA and going through all that rigmarole to get a single application. Simplicity! That’s why I like Xfce. It’s why I like Xfce. And why Slackware appeals to me in spite of my moderate-to-severe technophobia.

Not in the repos? No problem. I bet Salix’s other cool tool can compile and install it right from the source code! This wonderful geeky application is another super awesome feature of SalixOS! I couldn’t find my old favorite icon themes in the repos, but Sourcery found them and installed them automagically!

So very cool. Again, no need to add a PPA just for an icon set to jazz up my Xfce desktop without adding “weight” to it. I was always warned about adding PPAs in Xubuntu, and LXLE is slap full of extra PPAs for everything from Mozilla stuff to the latest versions of LibreOffice. Probably not a good idea for brand-newbies who would have no idea what to with issues caused by all those extra PPAs. LXLE does get props for having a PPA Manager in LXLE, but I wouldn’t think a newbie would know what to do with it. In Salix there’s no need for PPAs, much less the need to manage an overabundance of them.

The only glitch this time was no sound at startup. Easily fixed by adding Pulseaudio and ALSA to the startup menu – again, and awesomely for a user scared of the terminal, graphically!

However, I did have to create a file a file using Leafpad in /home/user, named “asoundrc”. It simply reads:

pcm.!default {
type hw
card 1
}

ctl.!default {
type hw
card 1
}

Credit for that goes to “Jdemos” who posted it in the Salix forums here.

Here’s the system services menu.  Pulseaudio and ALSA were not ticked.

Maybe it should have been enabled by default at installation, but this is Slackware after all. Simple, not more than the user really needs. I just ticked the services I wanted enabled on startup and un-ticked stuff like Bluetooth and Wireless that I never use on this old relic.

It’s Xfce! Infinitely configurable and beautiful, and best of all, simple enough for a little technophobic sidekick.

Today is only Day Three since installation (during Hurricane Matthew, so I had enough time on my hands to play a little), but rebooting, suspension, and all that have been trouble-free so far. I haven’t decided whether or not to keep it, but unless I have an issue like last time, I’m likely to just leave it in place.

UPDATE:  This system is gorgeous, simple, and fast!  The Slackware repositories are vast, akin to Debian’s, and whatever you don’t find in there can probably be compiled and installed using Salix’s awesome Sourcery tool.  Day 7 and it’s effortless and trouble free after multiple reboots (thunderstorms and stuff around here, so I shut down to protect this old relic) and updates.

My simple, beautiful Xfce desktop with cool SalixOS wallpaper

robinxsalixdesktop

Thanks for reading!