Archive for the ‘Modem’ Category

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A couple of comments on PCLinuc OS 2007

March 19, 2008

This was originally supposed to be a response to comments to the posts below (thanks guys!), but I needed to make it a post of its own.

I will say one thing: It’s a good thing this distro “just works” because trouble shooting on the PCLinuxOS site can be a bit iffy.  It’s a relatively small community, and if it were assailed by too many problems, finding answers might be difficult.  I was trying to install the printer and was getting a bit frustrated until I “discovered” the PCLOS command center right there on the tool bar.  Much of my ignorance comes from having so much Windows experience that my mind couldn’t so easily get around the idea that it could be just that easy to set it up and configure!  But it was just that easy to find and install my Epson CX7800 al-in-one.  I haven’t tried the scanner yet.

However, the online help forums and documentation are not nearly as smooth, easy or fleshed out as the OS itself.  In fact, the support documentation can be descfribed as sparse, at best.  For instance, I’ve been hunting around trying to find what PCLOS’s minimum system requirements are because I have an old PIII 550 MHz with 128 Mb RAM that needs a new look and a new home.  How old and how small can I go with this?

It truly is the closest thing I’ve seen to being a Windows Killer as far as Linux distros go.  Would I wipe Vista out for it?  Considering the Vista retails at over $200, it would be tough to do just from a monetary standpoint.  I’d sooner buy a second hard drive and devote that to PCLinux and let Vista sit around, just in case I wanted to sell the machine.  However, if I was buying a machine without an OS (at a discount) then it would be a no-brainer that this would be the operating system me and my family could live with.

Would I wipe out XP?  Considering MS has said they are no longer going to be selling XP in the near future it’s a tough call.  I’d be more tempted to get a smaller extra hard drive for PCLinuxOS.  If I had a copy of XP or vista just sitting around that was new and authentic, I would be more keen to wipe the OS off.

If I were going to give a Win98 machine away (which is what the PIII was) to someone who needed one this is what I would prefer to have on it at the present time.  However, I have not tested the modem support of this OS.  For people in the market for these older machines, that could be a critical component just as it was for me last year.  The second issue involves finding an affordable ISP that can easily work with this distro.

I expect the PCLOS community to grow along with its popularity, at least until the next best distro comes along.  I did get Minime 2008  to work on my USB drive, and that is fine if you have broadband and all you need is a connection to the internet.  However, for a family desktop machine, the full-featured PCLinux 2007 version works very nicely.

dick

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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. Pendrivelinux.com 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.

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Zaurus: Digital Divide

January 2, 2008

Zaurus 5500

 

I have not been doing a good job with keeping up with desktop Linux news.  Fortunately there are a lot of others who do.

 

Despite my disappointment with Linux for the desktop, the Zaurus has been my best friend.  I read and write more blog entries on this thing than even my Windows desktop machine.  Using flash memory, I’m able to easily move documents back and forth with the desktop being used mostly to upload and polish up and add links with my various blogging interests. I have a work laptop that I can also use but the thing is still much too large and bulky for just reading stuff.  The Zaurus is cozy and comfortable.  I can lie on my back on the bed or couch and have at it.  I can get 4-5 hours of reading on a battery charge if I read on the lowest screen brightness.  But even having to have an outlet close by is not a huge deal as long as I can have some time away from it.

 zaurus.jpg

 I recently ordered a wireless card for my Zaurus that may change how I do business. I ordered a D-link but it is being sent from China!  Hopefully it won’t be a very slow boat.

 

Yeah, we’re still on a modem but there are getting to be more and more wireless places around nowadays.  I am thinking about going high speed with the cable company, which may shift things back in favor of Linux since the modem issue has been such a stickler.  Also high speed would greatly facilitate getting updates and fiddling around.  But I hear Linux has wireless issues so we’ll see.

 

D.

 

Digital Divide Issues

 

The digital divide continues to grow.  Even if I escape the modem by buying DSL or through the cable company, what about single parents who arre being left behind?  Who don’t even have a computer?  

 

This was a big part of why I wanted to make Linux work.  I envisioned taking legacy hardware and  giving it new life to parents of kids with severe disabilities who already have mobility and isolation issues along with financial strain.  Getting them online would help them access information and services already available to everyone else.  Getting online really is becoming more and more of an issue for accessing knowledge and information and parents of kids with severe disabilities have perhaps more need for the access and mobility offered by the internet than anyone else.  But they are being left behind.

 

When a machine finally gets into their price range (which is more or less free) it is obsolete for getting online.  I’m thinking of the countless Win98 machines that are now choking landfills.  Why couldn’t these be given to people who might otherwise not have a machine?  I’m watching our school upgrade and dump off hundreds and hundreds of machines that are otherwise okay.  This seems like such a huge waste.  So my modem quest wasn’t just for me but for many others who have been left behind, technologically.  I also envisioned giving them some simple training on computers to get them up and running.

 

I’m just wondering how to make the idea a reality, or even if it is worth doing.

   

D.

 

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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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WAAAAHOOOO!

October 10, 2006

YYEEEESSS!

SUCCESS!

After however many months of trying to bend Linux to my will and do my bidding, namely trying to get online, I have finally done it.  Using Puppy Linux 2.10 to get this crippled laptop working, I am coming to you LIVE!

Sort of live, anyway.

The difference was,  in fact, what I said suring my last post; the AT&T proprietary software that only works with Windows had some information I had to dig out of it.

It still took a few rounds to get Puppy to play nice with my modem but hopefully that battle is behind me.  Thanks to the three of you following my trials tribulations and escapades with getting connected at home, which is such a key thing.  While I got every distro to work at work, I had other things to do at work like…you know…work!

Now I’ll have to see what I can get this puppy to do.  I still want WINE to work because quite frankly, Linux games suck.  Frozen buble can be sort of addictive, but I’m more partial to RTS games although frozen bubble can be addictive in its own way.

dick