Archive for the ‘Crashing Linux’ Category

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Running Second Life?

November 23, 2009

Basically, I am in search of a good, reliable distro that will work.  Of course, every time I review a distro, the definition of “work” changes a bit.  For instance, working within Google Docs is a must-have, as is finding my flash drives and other partitions.  And at the moment, running Second Life is a major quest.

Second Life is a virtual reality program/game in which you interact with the environment and people using an avatar.  It is fun and somewhat addictive, but it also exacts a heavy toll on system resources.  Finding an OS that supports it reliably has been a challenge.

One thing that this hair pulling has resulted in, is me learning more about the command line interface.  CLI is sacred ground unique to Linux.  I know of no Windows users who currently profess the virtues of DOS although there are some geeks who will use the cli in Windows on a rare occasion.  And I don’t know if such a thing even exists in the Mac world.  But to die-hard Linux geeks, CLI remains the ultimate passport to Linux nirvana.

So I’ve worked through a portion of the tutorial at linuxcommand.org.  While I do have an appreciation for the power of the command line and its elegance and power it does rely on memorizing exact syntax in order to be of greatest use.  You can look and poke around with a few basic commands, and there are aspects of it that make it infinitely easier than the old DOS commands of 1989.  Once I get comfortable with it, I might even use it to install packages more often, as it is pretty slick.

But my most fundamental question remains unanswered: how do I get that SL executible shell script to actually run? I can search it, list it, copy it, move it and do all sorts of nifty things.  But somewhere the most fundamental of all commands seems to elude me.  Where is RUN? Or EXECUTE?  LAUNCH?  How do you get a program to actually DO anything other than be redone, renamed, looked at and admired?

In Mandriva 2008, it did run almost without fail, although it did crash.  A lot.  I’m just now learning that this is a constant in SL.  In Windows, it lags hopelessly much of the time.  In Linux, it runs much faster if you can get it going at all.

When I updated to Mandriva 2010, it quit running and constantly opened the file in kwrite or another text program.  Getting the SL viewer to run was impossible.  I then began experimenting with some other distros and options.  I liked Mandriva, and would stay with it if not for that one fatal flaw.  I arrived at a few other possibilities:

1.) A 4 G flash of 0.7 ArtistX I had lying about.  This is built off of Ubuntu 8.10 and holds most media programs in the Ubuntu repositories, and specializes in 2D and 3D graphics.  It actually was the most seamless solution in that it most easily detects and connects to my wireless network.  However, the sound is very flaky (will often cut out and stop) and it is slower.  I would have installed this, except none of the Ubuntu distros to date detect the partitions on my Dell Vostro 1500.  Ubuntu won on my wife’s computer, as it detected all of her partitions but it is a FAIL here for an install.  The settings on the persistent USB do not persist, so I have to re-set each time.  Painfull, but doable.  I would stick with this if the sound stayed on and if it was a smidgin quicker.  The sound it the biggest dealbreaker here.

2.) Puppy Linux 4.1.3 – gave it a shot but never did get it to run.  If thArtistX had the persistence of Puppy and its speed, it would be a natural.  I only mention it because I did try it.  I didn’t think it would work, but definitely worth  a shot.

3.) PCLinuxOS 2009.1 – I have rediscovered PCLOS and really like it.  And I was able to successfully get Second Life to run…at least until I updated from the repositories.  Then I was back in Kwrite land instead of Second Life. But the video was very shaky and erratic, while the sound and speed were superb until then.  I had random visual distortions in the game, but easily this was the best solution of the lot, so far until it crapped out totally.  The other thing was that it had a hard time getting up on my wireless network.  I put my ndiswrapper .inf files on a flash to speed up the configuration process that gave me an idea…

4.) PCLinuxOS Live CD – Obviously, the update after the install spelled doom for my Second Life experience, so I decided to see if I could get it to run in Live CD.  And in fact it did work very well, once I got on my wireless network.  Again, I flashed the Linux version of the software to speed up configuration.  I was able to play for several hours without a single crash or hang, even with conditions that would otherwise have been very laggy.  But the next time I tried, it failed to grab my wireless network.  It detected it, but getting on failed repeatedly.  This would repeat on the installed and updated version in #3 above.

5.) Windows XP – I do have to mention it because it is always a fall back of choice.  The program always executes, every time.  And there are no wireless isues….ever.  However, it is incredibly slow and laggy.  I can not interact or talk to more than one person at a time and it still bogs down to a crawl.  My experience with SL with Windows is not very positive at all.  The Linux experience is much better if not for the flakiness of those other issues.  And Windows will crash and hang…often.

Anyone else playing Second Life?  Which Linux distro works best for you?  I suspect Ubuntu might be a clear winner here, if it wasn’t for the issues I have with installation and sound.  I can more easily compromise video quality than sound.  Second Life as a deaf person is possible but not very much fun.  And I have no idea why Ubuntu’s partition manager fails to detect my windows partition.  Doing fsdisk or whatever the cli is renders up the correct partitions and I am even able to mount them all, but the installation partition manager still fails.  I am ready for Ubuntu but it doesn’t seem ready for me!

Second Life isn’t THE deal maker or breaker in what I need from a distro, which is why running it from removable or temporary media is fine with me.   But it is just one other program and experience that helps to differentiate the strengths and weaknesses of the different flavors of Linux.  And even similar distros across different machines, renders differing experiences as illustrated between installing Ubuntu on my wife’s HP Pavilion and my Dell.  We both have XP NTFS partitions, but hers was detected and mine wasn’t.

Right now, PCLinuxOS occupies the linux partitions and I love the simlicity and little features that make this a great distro.  But if it fails to hang on to my home wireless connection between boots, it will get the boot.  That IS a deal breaker for me on this laptop.

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Just trying to get a job done

November 19, 2007

I’ve really neglected this blog!  Almost as much as I’ve neglected the Linux machine I’ve had sitting here since May.  It is a dust collector, largely because of issues I listed in the last post.  Namely, despite the hoo-ha of the community, Windows programs seem to work better.  Quality is defined as a combination of performance, speed, utility, features, availability and stability.  Only Windows has been offering up this sort of combo on a consistent basis.  And that is disappointing considering my enthusiasm for Linux was fueled by frustration with M$.

 

But that doesn’t mean that Linux has no place around here.  I still read and write extensively with my Zaurus, which is still the dandiest little gadget in my house.  I just never leave home without it.  But I demand more from my desktop machine or even a laptop.  And the following represents a case in point.

 

I had a need this weekend, and for awhile it looked like Linux might prove to be the answer.  This would be highly fortunate, since this would be a public presentation, thus turning others on to Linux or at least showing them an alternative.

 

I had downloaded a 13 minute video that I was going to show in my adult Sunday school class.  The video was downloaded and turned out to be only available in QuickTime’s .mov format.  And that is where the pain started.

 

My first idea was to simply burn this to a DVD and I would play it on the church’s DVD player.  But my DVD burning software choked every time I tried.  My old version of Nero was willing to burn, but the product would have no sound.  I then fiddled with downloading some conversion software to change the .mov to an avi or pretty much anything else.  Again, the programs I tried choked.  Keep in mind; I’m at home working over a modem.  I’d nabbed the video at work earlier in the week.

 

This is when I decided to try Linux, since I know some of these distros had DVD burning capability and just might be able to work.  It was worth a shot.  The only distro I’ve downloaded in the past 6 months is Puppy 3.01, so decided to try that.

 

This was my first go ’round with the newest Puppy and it was it’s nice and easy self, although the desktop seems to have gotten uglier since 2.15.  We were back to the 2.01 Win95ish theme.  But I persisted because we had a job to do.  Unfortunately, Puppy’s DVD authoring software had no more success with burning this video that my Windows programs. 

 

Okay, no problem.  I had my work laptop, and I would simply play it on there for the group that ranges from 5 to 25 people.  Right?

 

That work laptop is under IT lockdown, which means I had limited ability to change much on there.  And it didn’t have QuickTime.  Which means it would not even *play* the video!  ACK!

 

I pulled my Linux distros out again.  First there was Puppy 3.01, because it was the newest and fastest.  Gxine is the default player on this distro.  It played the video nicely except there was no sound.  Crap.  Okay, I’ll move on.

 

I reached for Ubuntu 6.06, next.  Dapper Drake was supposed to be the Big Deal, right?  The default player here is Totem.  However, Totem failed to play this video at all, saying it needed more codecs or whatever.  But since Ubuntu can’t spot a modem (we’ve been through THAT before!) it wasn’t going to get more codecs.  I needed something that could run off a live CD.  The video itself was residing on a 1 G memory stick and none of the distros had issues reading the thumb drive.

 

Next, I tried Mepis 6.0.  The default player here is Kaffeine.  And Kaffeine work *marvelously*!  So in this comparison of media players, Kaffeine clearly stole my heart.  And so I determined the Mepis would be a costar of this presentation, and was delighted at the prospect of showing off my nerdliness.

 

But I quickly discovered another problem.  The laptop LCD display was inadequate as you had to be right in front of it to see it.  While I could plug in a regular full-sized monitor, the thought of lugging that thing to church was prohibitive.  But no to worry, because I had bought a 19″ Polaroid LCD TV monitor that also had a VGA connection.  Unfortunately, Mepis was unable to show up on the thing.  I was stuck again.  Windows had no problems showing up, though.  Hmph.  Since there’s no Windows version of Kaffeine, back to square one.

 

I finally downloaded QuickTime Alternative and managed to miraculously install it.  Problem solved.

 

But this further highlights the twin problems of any Linux desktop.  Namely, software and hardware.  More recent versions of Mepis might have worked but I have no way of knowing.  Other distros that made an appearance in working with the monitor were SuSE 10.1 and Dream Linux 2.2.  The live DVD SuSE wouldn’t even boot up and Dream Linux looked dreamy on the laptop but never showed up on the TV. 

 

So Window$ XP wins again.

 

So here are issues that I’ve had to struggle with in my attempts at making Linux work:

– Printer/scanner support

– Modem support – even with a serial modem!

– LCD monitor support

– Media playback out of the box (DVD, QuickTime)     

– Lack of a usable Stepmania package

– Abiword’s lack of dictionary

– Lack of RTS games

– Various programs hang, and most distros rely on a command line kill.  Puppy does not, fortunately.

 

These issues could be overcome with more persistence and skill, perhaps.  But I, as an average Windows power user geek, am not going to invest a whole lot into fiddling with it much when I have a machine that more or less works fine running Windows.  There’s very little that I can do in Linux that can’t be done on Windows but the reverse is definitely not true.  If that machine breaks down, it will be nice to have the other as a back-up.  But Linux has not yet earned a spot in the first string. Many of these issues, like the printer and modem are the most basic of productivity issues.

 

I still have my eye out for the distro that can do the job.  Perhaps I need to make clear my criteria:

– Adequate support for my printer and other hardware

– Modem support

-Basic programs that are completely functional

– A working functional version of WINE

-Adequate multimedia support

– Relative ease of use

 

Mepis would be a clear winner except for the whole modem and WINE thing which is where Puppy fits in as the sole distro that has gotten me online.  Puppy’s other main advantage is speed, since it runs totally in RAM.  Mepis is heavy in the software and packages if one can get online to get them.

 

 

D.

 

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Setting up the machine at home

June 6, 2007

I’ve been playing with an 866 MHz machine with 512 M RAM and loaded with Mepis 6.06 while at work. It has spent time on the network where I’ve been able to use Automatix and RPM to grab what I want to load. The whole games thing has been less than stellar but I decided I could play more once I took it home. Only there, there is no broad band so downloading large files is out of the question.

So I set it up and then proceeded to hook up the external serial modem. The same one I used for the laptop (which had to be turned back in, BTW) and had success with Puppy Linux.

Then I began the process of getting KPPP to work. Jeep in mind, this is an external serial modem. Mepis had no clue it was there. I don’t think it even looked. This version of KPPP did have what I’m sure is a lovely connection wizard…if you live in Europe! USA or U.S. was not even among the countries listed in the setup wizard. Tanks for nuttin’! I’m not sure if England would work or not. I went through the dialog manually and ended up with nothing. It never once detected the modem.

Hmph.

I was getting terribly disgusted with the bulkiness of this distro. So I slipped in the Puppy 2.15 CD and rebooted. Within 15 minutes, I was on the internet. At that time I was tempted to reformat the entire hard drive and let Puppy have it all. But I decided to sleep on it.

I’ve decided that Mepis still has potential, and the way Puppy runs, it doesn’t really need that much space. It boots off the CD at least as fast as Mepis does from the HD, and it runs entirely in RAM, freeing the CD for burning or reading other things.

Puppy isn’t perfect. While surfing, I did manage to lock the system up as I was tab browsing with Seamonkey. I could still access a second desktop and play Yatzee while waiting for it to straighten out but it never did. It just stayed hung up so I ended up rebooting.

This business about Linux being more reliable and stable than Windows may be true but only in relative terms. I’ve have never found a distro I couldn’t hang or freeze no matter the hardware. Nothing is fool proof as us fools are such geniuses! So do not believe the hype and do not peddle it. Linux is nifty and cool and there many things to like. Being free is the main one, and as a free thing it runs very nicely. Perhaps I might be able to string together 3 or 4 distros to make a decent go of replacing Windows. But I’m still looking for something that works for me.

D.

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Setting up the machine at home

June 6, 2007

 

I’ve been playing with an 866 MHz machine with 512 M RAM and loaded with Mepis 6.06 while at work.  It has spent time on the network where I’ve been able to use Automatix and RPM to grab what I want to load.  The whole games thing has been less than stellar but I decided I could play more once I took it home.  Only  there, there is no broad band so downloading large files is out of the question.

 

So I set it up and then proceeded to hook up the external serial modem.  The same one I used for the laptop (which had to be turned back in, BTW) and had success with Puppy Linux.

 

Then I began the process of getting KPPP to work.  Jeep in mind, this is an external serial modem.  Mepis had no clue it was there.  I don’t think it even looked.  This version of KPPP did have what I’m sure is a lovely connection wizard…if you live in Europe!  USA or U.S. was not even among the countries listed in the setup wizard.  Tanks for nuttin’!  I’m not sure if England would work or not. I went through the dialog manually and ended up with nothing.  It never once detected the modem.

 

Hmph.

 

I was getting terribly disgusted with the bulkiness of this distro.  So I slipped in the Puppy 2.15 CD and rebooted.  Within 15 minutes, I was on the internet.  At that time I was tempted to reformat the entire hard drive and let Puppy have it all.  But I decided to sleep on it.

 

I’ve decided that Mepis still has potential, and the way Puppy runs, it doesn’t really need that much space.  It boots off the CD at least as fast as Mepis does from the HD, and it runs entirely in RAM, freeing the CD for burning or reading other things.

 

Puppy isn’t perfect.  While surfing, I did manage to lock the system up as I was tab browsing with Seamonkey.  I could still access a second desktop and play Yatzee while waiting for it to straighten out but it never did.  It just stayed hung up so I ended up rebooting.

 

 This business about Linux being more reliable and stable than Windows may be true but only in relative terms.  I’ve have never found a distro I couldn’t hang or freeze no matter the hardware.  Nothing is fool proof as us fools are such geniuses!  So do not believe the hype and do not peddle it.  Linux is nifty and cool and there many things to like.  Being free is the main one, and as a free thing it runs very nicely.  Perhaps I might be able to string together 3 or 4 distros to make a decent go of replacing Windows.  But I’m still looking for something that works for me.

 

D.

 

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Taking Another Plunge

January 29, 2007

Or my life as a masochist…

I’m back into Linux mode, namely because I need a machine that can run some things that an old PII with 32 MB RAM can no longer handle.  And yes, this may involve running some Windows Apps.  In fact it most definitely will. So it was time to take an old 866 mhz PC with a 10 G hard drive and 320 Mb RAM and seeif I could get something installed.  Can you guess what my first choice was?  How about my second?  Which one actually ran?

Dreamlinux 2.2 was my first choice since it seemed to offer most of what I might want and need right out of the box.  However, perhaps because of the processor or the RAM it never got beyond the “Loading Thundar” screen.  I tried a couple of times to get it to load and behave, but nothing doing.  Dreamlinux 2.2 is brand spankin’ new and ran fine on my new laptop with the Intel Pentium D.  But languished mightily in the PIII environment.  Time to try something else…

Linspire 5.0 might be a possibility,  However that too got hung up twice and failed to boot on this machine.  It was looking like it was going to be a lousy day for Linux.  I wanted and needed a full distro for some potentially heavy lifting, so Puppy wasn’t going to fit the bill (although Puppy was able to play nicely on the old PII and was able to bring that dinosaur back to life).

So I went back to what I know.  And liked.  that would be Simply Mepis 6.0.  it is worth noting that for all the arrows and mud I have slung at Ubuntu, Mepis has so much in common with it as to simply be a more advance Kubuntu.  i read on reviewer who basically said Mepis was a better Kubuntu than Kubuntu.  So the live CD spooled up and I went ahead and committed the entire hard drive to Mepis.  I said goodbye to XP, at least on this machine, and in 30 minutes I had a new OS.

Nest, taking advantage of the high speed connection here, I downloaded several apps using the Synaptic Package manager.  Somewhere along the way, I heard about Automatix and thought I might like to give that a whirl.  And with that quest, I was plunging deeper into the land of the uber geeks.  For it was here that I began doing stuff with the (GASP!) Command Line.

Or at least that was my intent.  This foray was not without its adventures and frustrations.  The Automatix website was forever unavailable.  And then, using whatever voodoo mojo commands that I happened to copy and paste, I managed to get the thing installed.  At least to where it was in my K menu, which is better than I thought I would do.  However, I still get the ubiquitous “some keys could not be installed, try again later.”  I try again later and the same thing happens.  So much for that thing.

I’m eventually packing this machine up and toting it home to further test it out and possibly see what it does with a modem and a game or two.

But I’m back in the game for the time being.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

dick

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Yucky Wine

November 29, 2006

The biggest problem that I had, up to a point, with Wine and Puppy was finding a version for Puppy.  And mike gave me a god idea with the forums. [DOH!]  so
I found what were touted to be the most stable version of the various files and downloaded them.  I then attempted to install them.

 

Okay, this is the major problem with Linux that I thought I had somehow escaped and gotten past.  I mean I got my modem working and had played with several distros.  I sort of fell for the Puppy but now I’m having second thoughts.

 

I didn’t write down the error messages, and sorry I can’t be more specific, but the Pup did not like these new files AT ALL.  I had gotten an earlier version of Wine to sort of work on the old machine I had put an older version of Mepis on.  I thought I knew what I was doing but knowledge of one distro does not always readily transfer to another one.  I can see the benefit of this when it comes to escaping a virus or malware (who’s going to write malicious code for EVERY distro?!?). 

 

The other problem besides the thing obviously not installing and working are the problems describing the process of it not working.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time figuring out exactly WHAT the problem is.  I click on the bone icon (the dotpup packages), expecting stuff to happen and I’m not sure if it did or not.  I click the Wine icon and it opens a window and then closes.  Or nothing happens.  Or I get so far as to a point where it wants to be configured and then it closes when I try to set up sound.  No error, it just closes.  And then I have to start over.  Or I might get an error message that I totally am clueless as to what it means.  And I thought MS could be cryptic.

 

No I did not memorize or write down each and every little thing.  I am a lazy Windows user, remember!  I am clueless and a nOOb!

 

At the moment, I have this delicate configuration of 4 different machines running 4 different OS versions that can do what I need to get done.  It would be really, really nice to have one machine (or better yet, all 4) that was proficient enough to perform as needed with all the different hardware and software that I have.  This seems to be asking too much.  Okay, what I have works for the moment. I’ll just let some hair grow back or wait until necessity drives me to mess around some more!LOL!

 dick

 

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How Linux ruined My Day

November 3, 2006

There are days when I wonder; would I be better off never having heard of Linux? Today was one of those days.

It all started because I was trying to run an innocuous adaptiv technology program called Boardmaker. Elain and Loraine had recently installed it for me, but had failed to test it. So I thought it would work, and it said I had insufficient priviledges. Which is crap, because I DO have administrative priviledges on this machine and I proceded to attempt to invoke them. But still, the program failed to work properly, largely because it has issues with XP and multiple users. Making it work required all mannerr of jiggery and fiddling. I became frustrated.

Ever gotten frustrated and did something dumb that seemed like a good idea at the time?

I’m under a bit of pressure to produce something and I needed this program to do it. So I came up with the scheme of partitioning this 80 gig hard drive, installing Mepis in a dual boot situation and the using WINE to get Boardmaker to think I was on my home machine with unrestricted administrative rights.

So I used QT Parted to repartition my hard drive and then blindly let it install Grub, thinking I would get some sort of message with an option of which OS to boot at startup. All of this seemed to go swimmingly well. Too well.

While doing all of this, a young lady came to my room with some questions. She had been referred to me by Loraine and Elaine, who are the twins who do most of the basic IT stuff around the school. Apparently the young lady, who I’ll just go ahead and name Halle as in Halle Barry, had just bought a new computer. from Wal-Mart and it came with Linux preinstalled. I asked her which distribution and she said she didn’t know but I guessed Linspire. Yes, it came with Linspire, which I had tried once as FreeSpire. She was having trouble getting online, because she was using dialup and her ISP was Bellsouth.

I was kind of excited to find someone else around getting into Linux but sensed her frustration. I almost suggested she take it back to get an XP machine but she insisted she did kind of like it. So we brainstormed and came up with the fact that there was an ISP provider who had an icon on her desktop to try for 3 months while she looked in the Freespire community for someone who was also using Bellsouth.

While we’re talking, my machine is in the process of becoming the district’s only dual boot XP/Linux machine. Or that was the idea. While talking, I rebooted and then looked over and noticed it wasn’t booting. It kept saying there was no boot disk. It was not locating the hard drive. I went from feeling pretty good to feeling like crap in less than 2 minutes. I was totally distracted from helping Halle at this point, and mumbled something about me maybe not being the best authority since I had apparently fried the school’s computer…one of the brand new ones!

She thanked me and said it had been helpful and went off to lunch or class or wherever. I was now in deep shit. Putting Mepis or whatever distro on an old P3 destined for the scrap heap is one thing. Frying a brand new machine is a different matter entirely. Loraine and Elaine, who live and die by Microsoft and FUD would have a field day. And then there was the head of IT in my building, Ghengis Khan. I don’t call him that just for the hell of it!

Fortunately I had a student out and all my paras were present. They could do most of the real work while I attempted to save my system from my own folly. And so the race was on.

Again, Mepis 6.0 has a few issues that made life harder than it had to be. It’s much more difficult to locate partitions. I did a live CD boot with Mepis 3.1 and those partitions both appeared right on the desktop. Whew! A look around revealed the Windows stuff was all still there. Good. Now I just had to figure out how to get the thing to boot and do it without total administrative access.

I used my other networked machine (the new one I let the paras use) to search for a solution to get the system to boot. I really was not keen on losing all of XP because there are still things that HAVE to be done with XP. Important stuff like grades and attendance.

For the next 4 hours, I was diligently trying various things. Most Master Boot records need the XP install disk in order to be fixed. Since I did not have an XP disk, this was not an acceptable option. I tried copying a few suggested files from the sister machine to fix the crippled one. Nothing doing.

The tool that finally did it was a little program called Gag46 orr something like that. Very simple, very small (fits on a floppy) and fairly elegant. Using this floppy, I could have my dual boot, but more importantly, Windows would boot.

The first thing Windows did when it booted was to “correct” the partitioning work I had done, so now Mepis was knocked off. But that’s okay.

It was a long and frustrating day, and Boardmaker STILL doesn’t want to work!

Grub eventually decided to “work.” Actually, there is no menu to pick the OS like I get with Gag46. No, just a command prompt looking exactly like an old MS DOS prompt, with commands every bit as cryptic. The one I got to work was “reboot” and then used the Gag46 to get XP back up.

As it stands now, I can use the floppy to get back to where I was before I had my bright idea. I’m not saying I’m giving it up entirely, as I still think the idea has merit, but just not this second.

dick