Archive for the ‘Linspire/Freespire’ Category


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.









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. 




Mepis v Freespire

December 20, 2006

I had a task that I thought might be just the thing for a Linux distro.  My wife, Jane, is an avid picture-taker.  She nakes millions of digital pictures.  Millions and billions.  And she is over running our hard drive with all of her pictures of tress, butterflies, fish and kids. Mostly kids.  So we are trying to move them off, archiving them.  She has over 100 CDs crammed with pictures.

In the past, Windows has had issues with simply putting data and pictures on to a DVD.  In the past, I found it easier to burn files on to a DVD using Mepis and the K3b burning program.  In fact, it’s what I used to burn the iso images of Mepis 6.0 and Freespire 1.01.  Te problem today seems to be the media that I’m using.  My 8x burner is not liking the 16x media which is about all you can find in stores nowadays.  I’m looking into a firmware upgrade but in the meantime I still wanted to move Jane’s pictures.

Mepis 3.3.4 was the version I tried first since that is where I had the most success before.  Later versions of Mepis don’t put the drive icons right on the desktop like I like which is why I opted for this seemingly ancient distro.  When Mepis failed to do the job, I decided to boot up Freespire.

I had just found my misplaced copy of this distro and decided to give that a try.  Being newer, I thought there might be less issues.  Turns out that it didn’t like my media either.  However running these two distros in succession gave me a better feel for how both of these work.  And I came away feeling better about Freespire.  Jane was watching me and I could tell that the Freespire interfave was something she could deal with a lot easier than the Mepis interface.  It just “felt” better.

Both of these were run in Live CD mode and took quite awhile to boot up and took time to execute some commands.

So I’m going to spend $30 and get a new 16x burner as well as some 8x DVDs.  The old burner will be reserved for a second machine I’ll be putting together one piece at a time and Freespire just might be the OS I decide to use.  Heaven knows I won’t be buying Vista or XP!

In other news, I just tried to install WINE on my puppy machine (9.22 I think) and it still crapped out when I tried to configure the sound.  So that is a source of irritation.  I might like to play a game or two while Jane is fiddling with her pictures!  Something more sophisticated than frozen bubble.



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.



Freespire: A Quick Look

August 11, 2006

At the recommendation of a commenter identifying himself as Paulo, I decided to burn a Freespire CD. Freespire met my initial criteria of being a live CD and being free. I’ve heard of Linspire before and have had more than one person comment here that is was a good, easy distro. Since I had one successful experience burning a CD and getting it to boot, I decided to try my luck again. It’s nice having access to a speedy connection at work.

The downloading and burning went off without a hitch. It helps that I’m doing this with the Mepis 3.3 version of K3B, because I don’t think the MS XP burning software likes burning ISO images. I was never able to get one to boot, anyway.

I booted Linspire on a machine next to this one right after downloading and began working on this review. Freespire began booting and the initial splash screen gave a few options as far as installing or partitioning or just running as a live CD. I picked the latter and then saw the next screen which was the EULA which is actually a combination of 3 different agreements: Linspire, Freespire and Freespire without the 3rd party stuff. I picked one and agreed to whatever it was that they had written in there. This is a live CD hooked to a non-networked computer so I’m not too worried about the computer police busting down my door.

The next configuration screen was for adjusting the sound, which I thought was different. Since I didn’t have speakers on this machine, I went to the next screen which had many more settings to configure, including one for dial-up. Even though this machine did not have a modem, I decided to look at that and saw the familiar KPPP tool. Nothing new, there. Hmm, I’ll have to see how this works on the home machine. Stay tuned for that. It was nice to at least see it in the initial set up. Mepis was the only other distro to have it available without having to dig around for it.

The Freespire desktop looks sharp and has all of the components that you would expect to find on an XP desktop, It also has this CNR icon. CNR stands for Click ‘n Run, which is their version of apt get, or their way of downloading and installing Linux programs from their repository. Not being networked, I wasn’t able to test it.

The “Launch” menu works just like an XP “Start” menu. I began poking around the programs and do find that there are a lot more options for getting connected to the internet. There are several tools available for connecting to Juno, Netzero, AOL and Earthlink. While Mepis 6.0 has an Earthlink icon on the desktop, no other distro I’ve looked at so far had this many different options. There is also a Linspire tutorial entitled “How to Connect to the Internet” but it is very brief. Basically they say that dial-up is the most complicated and least reliable method of getting on the internet and then refer to a website for more information.

Um. If I can not get hooked to the internet, how would they expect a body to get to their website?

Okay, moving on…

Freespire comes with Open Office, an MP3 player, Kplayer and something called Lphoto. I did not see GIMP. There is also FLASH player and Real MediaPlayer 10. It has an adequate supply of programs to get a person started. Not as robust as Mepis, but it does have some nice features and seems to be fairly user friendly at the outset. This is just a preliminary look and I’ll give it another try this weekend at home for more of a workout. I see many possibilities, here.