Archive for the ‘Dreamlinux’ Category


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.






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.



Fedora Core 6 v Dreamlinux: A Brief Look

January 23, 2007

I ordered some new live CDs last wek some time and they came yesterday.  Linspire 5.0, Dreamlinux 2.2 and Fedora Core 6.  That last one was even a surprise to me, as I thought I had ordered Kubuntu 6.10.  Oh well!


So I decided to take Fedora Core for a spin, since that is the most unusual of all the distros I had or at least the one that I knew the least about.  If you’re going to try various flavors of Linux, I highly recommend trying the most exotic ones you can find. 


Fedora is far from exotic.  In fact, it looks an awful lot like Ubuntu.  A quick tour of the live CD showed be that it used the Gnome desktop, had Firefox as the main web browser, and used Abiword Gnumeric to meet office application needs. 


My tour of Fedora was admittedly brief.  I didn’t find anything there that particularly grabbed my attention.  It seemed like just another fairly generic Linux distro with some fairly generic applications.  When I look at a distro, I pay attention to the look, the feel, the speed and any unusual applications.  Fedora had no feature that made it stand out from any other distro that I’ve tried. 


My tour of Dreamlinux was even more brief, because the battery on my laptop crapped out before I got too far into it.  However, this distro definitely is unique and different compared to anything else I’ve tried.  There are screen shots to be found, and a body can see right away that it looks different. 


There are many more applications on this distro compared to Fedora Core or Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS or most of the other distros I have tried.  Many of these can be accessed right from the desktop or a person can go into the menu.  Not being as familiar with this type of desktop, it took some time to even find the menu.  It also has Firefox plus the full Open Office suite of programs.  It also has The Gimp and several other graphic and media editing tools making it a much more feature-packed distribution.


At the time my laptop crapped out, I was playing chess against the computer and actually doing pretty well 6 moves in.  It seems like if you’re going to offer some games, chess is the ultimate of the geek games and I wonder why more don’t include it.   Dreamlinux has a nifty 3-D version that gives a player a real feel for being at an actual chess board. 


If a body has the urge to try a different distro, I highly encourage you to try Dreamlinux.  It may not replace what you’re already using but I think it will definitely expand your view of what a Linux desktop can be.  I’m not sure if I prefer it to menu-driven XP-like interface, but it is refreshing to find something that represents some unexplored territory.  There is a good mixture of old and new programs to enable a person to get done what they need while trying out some things they may like.  I’m definitely looking at giving this one a more in-depth look.


I haven’t had a chance to try Linspire, yet, but am guessing it is similar enough to Freespire to make it easy to figure out.  I’ll eventually get to it and post about it when I do.









Mepis Results

January 19, 2007


My paras are trying out some Linux distributions because I have a machine that has effectively locked us out of XP.  My friendly IT person, Mr. Khan, hasn’t had a chance to remedy this so I’m using various live CDs to see how some nontechnical folks react to Linux on the desktop.


Their first exposure was Puppy Linux which was adequate but certainly didn’t impress any of them in any way compared to their experiences with Windows.  These are people that simply want their machines to work.  Their patience and time is limited so they are not  going to waste time tweaking.  And you can forget about command lines.  It isn’t happening.  


I asked Coach today what he was looking for in a computer, since they are officially searching for new one.  His wife is more computer literate than him, but he said he wanted a machine that could play music, watch DVD movies, handle pictures, play some games, do email and surf the internet.  He and his wife do online banking and online shopping and might consider doing their taxes using a computer program.


Is there Linux tax software?


They’ve been using Mepis for a week, so I thought I’d get some feedback and pass it along.


All 3 paras preferred Mepis over Puppy Linux.   However each has experienced some frustration with some aspect of Mepis.  Patience was unhappy because I hadn’t configured the printer so it didn’t want to print.  Once I got the printer working, she was happy.  She’s a bit of a Mahjong junkie so it didn’t take her long to find that in the games folder.



Queen is the least comfortable with it, as she is simply not used to the new icons and desktop.  She definitely prefers XP over Mepis. She’s been out for a few days so has the least experience with it and the least feedback to offer.


Coach was the most happy with it, as he really loved having some new games to play around with.  It took him awhile to understand and navigate the menu but once he did he explored around a bit and found what he wanted.  His main issue was not being able to use the CD drive to play a music CD because the drive was occupied by the Mepis CD.


Since none of them have flash or key drives, the whole mounting/unmounting thing hasn’t come up and won’t likely unless I install one of these distros.  I’m sort of waiting for the Dreamlinux CD to arrive before I change the system again.  If it’s not here by Monday, I may give Ubuntu a whirl.


All-in-all, Mepis has held up well in live CD mode for day-to-day use by my 3 para educators.  I occasionally have to show them how to do something, but once I show one, they share with each other.  The printing issue came up this morning and was the first time in a few days where I had to sit in front of it to get it to work. Otherwise it has worked surprisingly well.





An Experiment

January 17, 2007

Last summer it was kind of exciting talking about all of the various Linux distros coming out and trying them.  But lately, Linux has lost some of its luster.  Many are waiting for Vista to take over all the tech news.  Amazon sent me an email offering to sell me copies for as little as $149.99 for the basic home version.  I do not think I will be buying the newest malware magnet anytime soon.


Okay, my experiences with certain distros may or may not be typical for true newbies.  I’m talking people who are not power users of any sort.  The type who turn on the computer and just expect it to do stuff.  Like my para educator team.  I think I’m going to switch distros on them and see what happens.  They’ve been using Puppy Linux 2.10 for a couple of months now and I haven’t heard a lot of complaints.  They are mainly surfing the web and checking their web-based email accounts and might occasionally write something or print it out.  Sometimes they run across some cute animation, video or song they want to see or listen to.  So I’m going to see how they like and respond to different distros.  As long as it doesn’t get too disruptive, we’ll give each one a week’s worth of try-out time.  That should be plenty for them (and me) to discover any potential issues.  We’re running live CDs at the moment but will see about installing maybe later on.


System Hardware


This is a new Intel D processor machine running 2.67 G with 512 M RAM.  We are plugged into a network and the machine is also hooked to an older HP DeskJet 694c printer.  The machine has a DVD-CDRW and a floppy drive.  I’m not sure the specs on the monitor but since it came with the machine, it is new.  It is not LCD or flat panel but the older, regular 17″ type.


Subjects Participants


These are not geeks by any stretch.  They do not know or care what they are using as long as it works.  They know they are using Puppy because the screen has a giant puppy face on it.   But otherwise could care less.


Queen is around 50 or so, and knows the internet and email.   She has a computer at home but I don’t think uses it that much.   She’ll play an occasional game of solitaire or an online game.  The advent of the cell phone has turned her into a technophile, but computers are something she only knows so much about.


Patience is in her 30’s and is fairly savvy when it comes to surfing the web and technology in general.  She has a laptop that she uses at home where she gets email, plays games and writes on occasion.  She’s brought it in a time or two for me to look at in order to diagnose various annoyances and problems.


Coach is in his 20’s and is totally comfortable with computers and technology.  He’ll be the one wanting to download music or watch movies on his computer at home.  Here, he is mostly surfing the web.  He might actually have a fantasy football team somewhere and would play any sports game we had, if we had any.  I’m not sure what kind of game console he has at home except that he does have one.


But he’s obviously not a power user.  He was telling about how his computer died last night while he was surfing the internet:

Yeah, I was surfing away when it just went blank, so I rebooted it and it got stuck on the Windows 98 screen.” 

Win 98? HELLO?!?  Why don’t you just paint a sign on your virtual back that says “INFECT ME!” Ha!  Seriously, I see a new old desktop in my future.


Oh, and there’s me.  In my 40’s, I take apart computers and put them back together.  I do much of my reading and most of my writing on my Zaurus PDA.  But of the 4 of us, I was the last one to get a cell phone.  I’ve been fiddling with Linux for about a year now.




Puppy was the first one, and they have not complained much about it, at least to my face.  They may have issues they simply haven’t shared.  By switching the interfaces, it should give them something to complain about!


Mepis 6.0 and Ubuntu 6.0 will definitely be tried out.  Freespire and PCLinux are not booting up for some reason on this machine.  They both get so far in the process and then just stall.  I haven’t tried the SuSE DVD, yet.


I also went ahead and ordered a couple more distros that I’m interested in looking at.  One is Kubuntu 6.10.  I keep hearing how wonderful it is so I’ll see for myself how good or bad it is.  I admit my expectations are low so maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.


I’m more looking forward to Dreamlinux 2.2 which is supposed to be targeted for multimedia applications.  It has some new features that make it especially appealing.  One is that it has an installer that will install apps like Google’s Picasa which has given other distros I’ve tried severe indigestion.  It also has WINE preinstalled, which is a winner for me if it works.


Finally, I ordered Linspire 5.0 to see if that does what Freespire isn’t doing for me at the moment, mainly functioning at all. 


All in all, I’ll have several different distros for the paras to try out plus a few that I’ll be playing around with on my own.  Until I get that second desktop, I won’t be trying a full install anytime soon.