Archive for February, 2008


Done: Installing MEPIS 7.0

February 29, 2008

I finally did it, and did it successfully, much to my own surprise.  No, I did not get any new distros installed on a flash drive.  I had been working on that for quite some time, but seemed to always run in to some niggling problem.  For instance, Pendrivelinux looked to be easier to install than any other OS.  Just download it and unzip it on to a thumbdrive.  Simple, right?  But the thing would never extract all the way.  Ever.  And I tried with several downloads, machines over several networks and flash drives. 

I reinstalled PCLinuxOS Minime 2008 and it did work but it wouldn’t let me install any packages due to lack of space….on an 8G flash!  That made no sense and was just frustrating.

I tried Puppy Linux, but it could not find my ethernet connection on my home machine.  That was disappointing.  However I did play around with the Puppy a bit and looked at the Gparted utility and made a startling discovery. 

A couple years ago, I maxed out my 40 G hard drive and bought a 200 G hard drive to add on to the system.  When I installed it, I did something or failed to do something so it only installed 127 G and I had no idea what happened to the other 73 G’s.  At the time, I didn’t worry that much about it, because I figured that 127 G should be enough to last forever.  And then I learned the joys of video editing which quickly filled that space.  So I’ve been backing up things and deleting and generally working on making use of the limited space.

But when playing with Gparted, I found the 73 G’s of unallocated space.  So I allocated a 40 G partition and formatted it with FAT32 (while the rest is NTFS) and then considered my next move.

I had avoided trying a dual boot, largely because I had screwed things up on another machine before, and was a bit reluctant to go through that again.  But I was intrigued.  Plus malware threats were getting so annoying and alarming that my wife was even asking about trying our Linux, which she always mispronounces making it sound like Linus from Peanuts fame.  Which makes sense considering the source of Linux.

Anyway, I was staring at that empty partition and decided to go for it.  I decided that Mepis 7.0 was the distro that had worked best with my hardware, detecting my Ethernet easiest and I knew it the best.  So I installed it on that partition.  It took about 30 minutes to get it installed and then it was not without a lot of trepidation that I gave the bootloader the okay to load on the MBR.  And it worked.

I’ll update more about how this arrangement is working later, but it is working.



New Need: Streaming TV Shows

February 23, 2008

So my PC is acting up and is getting infected (and later cleaned up) at an astonishing rate.  I would really, really like to leave Windows for games and assorted picture/video work and not have it on the internet at all.  But I recently discovered that I can watch my favorite TV programs online.  ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX are all offering selected shows and episodes online, some of them in HD programing.  HD is not a big issue for me at present.

I recently tried cruising in using a MEPIS 7.0 live CD and discovered, to my dismay, that the ABC site does not have streaming available for  Linux.  The have it for Mac and Windows Firefox but not Linux.  what is up with that?  I did email them my feedback but haven’t heard anything.  that’s the latest thing that keeps me on a Windows machine.  Trust me, if I could go without it, I would.

I notice that while the programming does not show up, the commercials come through just fine.:-/  What is up with that?!?

With more applications and content being delivered over the web, it will help to loosen more users from the grip of Microsoft.  But if I’m watching stuff with Firefox, why can’t I watch streaming content regardless of the OS?

As it is, I am tired of playing nursemaid to this old Windows machine.



PCLinux OS – Minime 2008

February 12, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve played with and reviewed any distros, so I’m overdue. I do have a need for something I can use other than Windows as there are legions of viral and malware attacks that are attecking my XP everyday. I recently cleaned off over 20 infections thanks to the Spydoctor downloaded from Google. Now that I have a high speed connection, my rate of infections also seem to increase.

I also wanted to try something portable as I do work with and from different machines frequently. I had a 1 G thumb drive just waiting for a linux install but this is still not a lot of room for most full-sized releases. It has been awhile since I looked at PCLinuxOS so I was anxious to see how they had progressed and the Minime version seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Plus it is relatively new, so I’m early to this particular party for once.

I landed at the Pendrive Linux site and was wooed by that screen shot and wanted that snazzy desktop. So I followed the direction given for downloading and installing the Minime distro found here. Things went very smoothly getting my pen drive all set up and ready to go following the directions given. However, I was not able to boot to the machine I really wanted and needed to use it on because this was an aging Celeron 1.8 GHz that must be at least 7 years old. I have over 512 MB RAM and have tricked it out as much as can be done. But when it came to the BIOS, there was no option for booting from a USB flash drive. I tried the USB HDD option but that got me nowhere so I tried it on my laptop. Success!

When installing to a flashdrive, it does divide it into various partitions and I never did get to adjusting those sizes. Minime is a 296 MB distro, so it is not as big as most full-sized linux releases. I figured I would have room to spare for some documents and fun stuff. But I was mistaken.

I was seduced by that snazzy 3D desktop screen shot but I never did get it to work like you see in the picture. But it is still attractive and modern looking all the same. PCLinux looks better and more modern since way back in the day when I last reviewed it. I had no troubles getting it to pick up my wireless connection. But later on when I tried it on my work computer, it seemed to not be able to find the ethernet connection, which I still find odd.

PCLinuxOS apparently has a KDE desktop, but I wouldn’t call it a pure KDE interface. I noticed there were many gnome files on it as well as in the Synaptec repository. In my earlier review, someone had corrected me by saying that PCLinux used KDE but my particular live CD at the time had Gnome. The fact is that it looks and works a lot more like Ubuntu 6.06 than a Mepis 6.0 so I can see why there would be confusion. But that really was not an issue for me, because I just wanted it to work.

There’s a reason why this thing is so light. For web browsing, you get Konquerer and nothing else. I did end up going to the repository to get Firefox. Hint to other newbies; make sure to refresh the repository list to get more download choices. I was generally pleased with the repository choices as there were a lot of them. I even managed to find Stepmania 4.0 CVS, which was something I wanted with my Linux. However as I began downloading a few choices, I kept getting a message indicating that my disk space was too limited or the drive was full. Downloading in several bites instead of trying to get many packages at once seemed to help overcome that.

Minime is a bare bones distro. It does not come with any office software to speak of, nor does it have any CD burning software or DVD watching software. In fact it had no multimedia programs at all except on for sound that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t even see any email clients, although I’m sure there was something affiliated with KDE and Konquerer. Since I like Gmail, that’s not a huge issue. But Google kept reminding me that my browser might not be compatible with all of their features which is what prompted me to go get Firefox.

My laptop is a 1.8G Pentium 4 with 512 MB RAM and it was the machine that I spent the bulk of my time trying Minime. As I said, I went looking to see if I could get that nifty 3D box desktop thing working but I never did. While that’s not the deal-breaker, it would have made the experience more fun. As it was, there were times when I managed to get the program to stutter and almost freeze up. It seemed sluggish and slow to me which could have something to do with the flashdrive, but anything that small should be able to use the RAM efficiently enough to have some speed.

The deal breaker is that as it came out of the box it wouldn’t do much more than surf the web. It has some modem tools, which thankfully is no longer an issue for me. But the lack of anything productive would drive a modem user bonkers because they would have to download several packages. So for someone looking to actually do something with a distro on a flash drive is going to be disappointed with PCLinuxOS Minime. Having to download things to make it work is simply going to make it bigger and you might as well get the regular-sized distro with all the stuff.

I liked the look and feel of it, and the full version would be something I might recommend to someone just starting out with Linux with a full install on a machine. The interface was highly intuitive and those programs that I did install were installed in the right places with no fuss. However, this is not the distro or the version of choice for me at the present time. The distro has matured since my last review and will be comfortable on any desktop. And perhaps it might be more comfortable on a larger thumb drive. But for the present time Minime is an interesting toy but not a terribly useful one. I learned a thing or two getting it installed on the flashdrive and that was useful. But I don’t think it will be staying there for very long.



U3 and Linux on Thumbdrives

February 11, 2008

I have a few thumb drives lying about and have been putting them to work carrying executable files from machine to machine. For instance, Intellitools and Boardmaker are huge tools of the special education trade and I often have to run them on multiple machines but not at the same time. Intellitools can be used with a switch, a touch screen or the Intellikeys keyboard plus a regular mouse and keyboard. The students have a workstation where they can access it, but I also have my own workstation that has a printer for making overlays. So I might have a student using a touchscreen while I’m making an overlay on another machine for the Intellikeys or a Gotalk 9+. The way our machines are on IT lockdown, it is impractical to have the software loaded everywhere. So loading it on to a thumb drive gives me portability and flexibility.

I found some inexpensive PNY 1 G thumbdrives last fall and bought a pack of 3 at a local retail store. They are good drives but come with this obnoxious “U3 Smart Drive” technology developed for Windows. Getting rid of the thing is a royal nuisance. The U3 site requires the download of proprietary software in order to remove it. And that requires administrative privileges. Thank goodness I have a home computer with broadband. Yeah, you read right. More on that later.

U3 gives you several nag screen during the removal process, trying to convince you how good this feature is and how you are crippling your drive. Don’t believe them. You can get all the same functionality from Portable Apps without the crippleware that is U3. U3 typically takes several seconds to even a minute or more to load on to a system over a USB 2.0 connection and disconnecting takes longer than a typical flash drive. Plus, if you’re a linux or Mac user, you can’t remove it at all. After finally telling them what I think of their crummy “smart drive” I was finally able to remove the junk. What a pain. It did erase everything on the drive, and they do warn you during the nag process plus I’m warning you here.

I’ve also recently begun purchasing 8G drives direct from Hong Kong through eBay. If you can put up with a 3 week wait you can get these for as little as $25 with free shipping. You’re not going to find that sort of deal anywhere as the going rate is over $50 plus shipping.

And I plan on trying out some new flavors of Linux on these things. has some easy instructions and I’ll be updating here on my latest experiences. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried anything new and since getting broadband I am looking forward to stretching out and learning a bit more plus seeing how far some of these distros have come since I last tried them.