Archive for the ‘PCLinuxOS’ 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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PCLinuxOS 2009

April 22, 2009

I’m not trying to grab a headline or an audience, but I do feel an obligation to at least blog this distro. PCLOS 2007 had totally won my household over when we tried it. Since that time, it became the main distro of the family computer as well as the linux that my wife (a total Linux nOOb) put on her machine. Every machine in the house (my laptop, the family desktop, my wife’s laptop) is dual booted between a Linux and Windows XP. XP still is the main gaming machine and still does the heavy video and graphic work. Linux is mainly surfing the net with a few odd applications thrown in. I really like Open Office for 90% of my office applications but still have to go into my old office XP program for a few specialized templates.

I was totally amped up and waiting for PCLOS to come out with the new version. While 2007 was working fine, it seemed like a lot of the packages needed updating and I was looking forward to some new functionality which other distros were already starting to incorporate. Then one day, it was time. I went for the Big Update. PCLOS is supposed to be a rolling release, which means it sort of updates as it goes along. However very few updates have been issued over the past 6 months and then finally came the Big One. And it was huge, being nearly 500 mb in size. I patiently waited for this thing to download on the old desktop and then it installed. Then it promptly would not allow me to log in. I got to the Grub bootloader, selected PCLOS and it went to the login screen. I selected my icon or typed in my name, then tried the password. the password would not type in after the 2nd or 3rd character and the whole thing froze. It was done.

My initial assumption was that this update overwhelmed my machine, as it was a bit long in the tooth. But I read reviews of other people who were successfully running it on less that what I had, so I wasn’t sure. Maybe the update was munged. So I downloaded and tried a live CD and had the exact same problem. It still froze on the password login. This was odd, but I chalked it up to some sort of hardware thing.

I then decided to try to update my wife’s laptop, which is a lot newer and more powerful. This time I was able to run a good update. The splash screen is very attractive. However, the first glitch was that it totally lost the wireless connection and no amount of cajoling from me (albeit limited) would bring it back. This was a major disappointment for me. And for my wife, who was just really warming up to to Linux. She actually took it a bit better than I did by simply deciding that she would just go back to using Windows XP. Her tolerance for fiddling is lower than mine, but she’s more agnostic about OS’s.

It was at this point when I ran my little comparison where Mandriva 2009 became the distro of choice on the family desktop. But the damage is done because I’m the only one who really uses it. My wife and kids are back to using Windows XP. Mandriva has its share of flaws that I’ll share later, but this release of PCLOS turned out to be less than spectacular for our family. I did briefly visit the the forums and there were many complaints, even so far as one thread comparing PCLOS 2009 to Vista. It’s difficult to argue about that since it did result in our family mostly going back to XP, which Vista has done for a lot of people. But the forums seemed to consist of someone complaining about an issue (somewhat snarkily) and then replies would be:

  1. Give me more specifics so we can help you work it out

  2. We’re a very small development team and can’t configure to every hardware variant

  3. Report your specific problem and hardware configuration

  4. I don’t know why it doesn’t work for you because it works great for me.

  5. I have problems with it too.

  6. I can’t be bothered with it and have moved on to [insert another distro here].

I’m not going to niggle about the responses or which is right or better, especially since I didn’t bother with the support forum at all, but am just blogging it instead and optioning #6. But unlike PCLOS 2007, PCLOS 2009 is not climbing the distrowatch charts. The 2007 version actually dethroned the mighty Ubuntu for several weeks and is the only distro in the past few years to have come as close to really competing in numbers of hits per day, being in excess of 2,000 for several days and weeks. But PCLOS 2009 has never even approached that level of competitiveness even though it remains (barely) in the top 10. In fact, it appears to have gotten less hits per day since the new release came out than the old version! So I know I am not the only one who has found this release disappointing.

I think if the development team had stuck with incremental updates, as they had originally intended, they might have avoided the avalanche of problems. But by going for a Big Update, they invited Big Headaches. Instead of a steady trickle of small adjustments and problems, they ran into a deluge of problems and a large population of formerly happy people who were no longer happy. A 6 month release cycle does seem pretty frequent, but other distros probably figured out that this caused less headaches in the long run and I think the PCLOS team probably are also figuring this out as is Microsoft with a (relatively) speedy Windows 7 release after the Vista debacle.

Is there a way to downgrade back to PCLOS 2007?

So now I’m again searching for a family Linux. As it stands, my laptop is running Mandriva 2008, which is okay. It seems easier for me to work with than Mandriva 2009 at the moment. The 2009 version is also running on a lower powered machine so I’m thinking about considering a lighter distro and Antix might be the answer there. And my wife still has the crippled PCLOS 2009 on it but is totally XP at the moment.

What I liked about PCLOS 2007:

  1. Everything seemed to work out of the box even with older hardware

  2. Lots of useful programs included

  3. Deep repositories (even if some packages were a bit old)

  4. Very easy to set up and maintain

  5. Easily worked with key hardware: wireless and printer. Mandriva 2009 can not deal with our Epson CX7800 printer (let alone the scanner portion of the all-in-one)

  6. KDE interface

  7. Played nice with Google Apps (Google docs, Google Earth, Picasa)

It’s tough watching such a favorite fall from grace, but this is a very key feature of why I like Linux so well. Unlike the proprietary OS’s, Linux offers a ton of options. When Vista sucked, users were left with the sole option of “downgrading” to XP. Like other people, I chose to stick with XP on my laptop rather than hassle with Vista issues. Oddly enough, I’m probably better prepared for a new MS OS after having gotten used to using open source programs than I was a year ago. Even Apple, whose OS X is seen a bulletproof is burdened with getting everything perfect every time. One screw up can be deadly. While PCLOS might hurt as a distro, Linux as a whole remains on a robust trajectory of improvement. No one has to please all of the people all of the time because there are plenty of choices. And I plan on trying s few and look forward to reviewing them here.

D.D.

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Which Will Run?: Mint 6, SuSE 11.1, Mandriva 2009 or Antix 8

February 16, 2009

In this post, I describe how I compared 4 distros to run on the old family desktop.  For reasons unique to this machine and to my own situation and preferences, Mandriva 2009 won this little contest.

I’m presently auditioning for a new distro.  PCLinuxOS 2007 has been the family favorite for the past year or so.  Last weekend I went ahead and did an over-massive upgrade.  I was anxious to get a look at all the new stuff, but could not for life of me, get past the login screen.  It would lock up totally, and there I was stranded.  I tried rebooting several times, but could not proceed.  The new splash screen looked lovely, but not much good when I couldn’t even sign in.  The update must have knocked something out.  Lesson learned: update in small increments.  PCLinuxOS is looking a bit old compared to many of the other distros in the top 10 on Distrowatch, so it is time.  I know the PCLOS team is working on a new release but I’m going to have a look at some others anyway.  I could always use the other OS that came with the machine, but I absolutely love Linux, especially for being online.

I’ve downloaded the ISO’s and burned them to the CD’s.  I’m ready to compare these newer distros on the family desktop.  This desktop is quite old but I’ve tried to string it along as long as I could.  It is a 1.8 G  Celeron with 632 RAM, a 40 G primary HD and a 200 G secondary HD.  It also has two optical drives, a USB 2.0/Firewire card and a video/TV input card.  The display is a garden variety CRT.  XP SP3 resides on the primary drive and PCLinuxOs resides on the second HD.  PCLOS de-throned MEPIS as my distro of choice.  Not only was it more attractive and easier to use, the repositories seemed to be particularly deep.  Extensive repositories and ease of installing new apps rank high on my requirements for any Linux distro I choose.

So I’m going to set up the tasks before trying any of these, and then blog the results as I go.  First, we’re going to run off the live CD for a bit to see what we can do.

1. Boot and load the live CD
2. Detect a USB flash drive
3. Take a screen shot (or two) and save it to the flash
4. Connect to the network via Ethernet
5. Add to this post using Google Docs
6. Watch a Youtube video
7. Play a game

Yes, this is a very superficial review based on live CD’s.  If any of these distros sufficiently impress me, I might do an install and do a more thorough job.    So let’s get cracking…

Open SuSE 11.1

I knew there would be issues with this machine, simply because it is more than 5 years old.  In the case of OpenSuSE, it appears that the integrated video card is the main weakness.  Or at least it was a jumbled display that kept me from getting very far.  I did try several of the screen options from the default to 800×600 to VESA.  Nothing seemed to be working.  I’m sure some of you could have done some command line magic to make it work, but I’m only going so far on a live CD.  The purpose of the live CD is to see if the program works on my hardware, and in this case, OpenSuse would not.  I may try it on my laptop just to see how it looks and does on more modern hardware.

Linux Mint 6.0

In my last article, I tried several distros and several people commented recommending Mint.  So this was definitely on the short list. Mint 6 (Felicia) is fresh out, and I weas looking forward to trying it out.  However, it did lock up on the hardware I’m testing out now.  It goes on the list, along with SuSE to try out on my laptop later.  Basically, it cycled all the way through the loading process and then simply stopped doing anything on a dark screen after the login.  I rebooted a few times to see if I could catch anything, but it always got stuck on a dark, blank screen.  That’s okay, because it reminds me that my hardware is considered dated.  Moving on….

Antix 8

Antix with a game and some menus

Antix with a game and some menus

Finally!  Something that ran and worked right out of the box!  It might be argued that Antix is a distro made for a machine like mine or older or smaller.  I liked the look straight away and it seemed fairly intuitive.  Since I was wired in, there was no niggling about getting on line. I fired up the Ice Weasel and there I was.  I logged into Google and was able to continue my review in Google docs, no problem.  I could have also used the Dillo browser if I wanted.  This is a light distro, so it booted fairly fast off the live CD.  The screenshot tool was right there.  Easy peasy, except when I tried to get it on to my flash drive.

I plugged in my flash drive and nothing happened.  So I opened “Media” in the menu and was able to find my flash drive and open it.  But getting the picture from the temporary Antix folder to the thimbdrive was a bit of a challenge.  I discovered that resizing for a simple drag and drop was not working and neither was copy and paste.  I eventually was able to drag and drop from the Antix home directory into the opn flash folder on the task bar.  Not elegant, but it worked.  I found the game gweled which was an interesting little puzzle game.  Check that off the list.  Next was Youtube, and Antix gave me no problems there.  I had no problems watching a video and my sound worked well, too.

Antix watching Youtube

Antix watching Youtube

As a final step, I looked at the repositories, which use Synaptic to manage packages.  The collection of programs available was okay but not exceptional.  Unlike PCLOS, which had no problems providing Picasa and Google Earth, the Debian repositories are a bit stricter and more selective.  I’m sure I could find Stepmania and Frets on Fire if I looked around a bit more, but they weren’t there out of the box.

Antix, like the more robust MEPIS from which it came, is a very capable, functional distro.  It reminds me a lot of Puppy Linux, only with a more attractive appearance.  A more direct comparison of these twio light weights might be useful.

Moving on…

Mandriva 2009

Mandriva desktop

Mandriva desktop

This is a cousin of PCLinuxOS, and the look and feel are very familiar.  How familiar?  Well, I’ve been using Mandriva 2008 on my laptop for the past year and the differences are pretty minor.  But the question was; would it work as well on the older family desktop?  The answer to that is a big YES!  No problems with the disply, video or sound.  Youtube worked.  Google docs worked.  TVtime was able to lock on to my video/TV card with no problems.  No problems with KDE 4.1 that I could find in my brief overview.

However, Mandriva did not come with any games on the LiveCD, so that is one strike against it.  Of course, I already know about the repository situation and while not quite as large as PCLOS, I have seen it grow more generous.  I know there are plenty of games to be found if I want but I do want to be fair and point out that one strike, minor as it is.

It makes sense that Mandriva would be well-suited for this particular machine since Mandriva has been geared toward the netbook market where system resources are at a premium.  It also is very easy to use for users new to Linux.  There is also one other feature that makes Mandriva a good match for this particular machine.  This machine is in the family room and is the one used by my two young boys.  My 10 year-old is especially into using the computer and is also the most apt to wander into a site he shouldn’t.  That is why it is in the family room where we can monitor him, as parents.  Mandriva is the only distro that I know of that has any sort of special parental control feature where a parent can whitelist or blacklist certain sites as well as set up a certain time window for internet access.  It isn’t terribly sophisticated, but the gesture is very much appreciated.  Mandriva may be poised to become a distro that is more family and education friendly than any other distro and arguably more friendly than the other two primary commercial OS’s that people are using.  Especially in light of tougher economic times, it really is hard to beat free.  There is a paid version that comes with support that is still a bargain compared to what people are paying for more propietary systems.

Open Suse is the most serious and business-like of the bunch, and also the biggest.  There is a reason this distro is in the top 2, routinely.  I can see this being easily a distro of choice for serious computer developers.  I have no idea what happened to Mint today.  My guess is that it has moved on and is aiming at becoming a more modern distro and leaving older hardware in the dust.  I have run earlier versions of Mint on this machine, but the 4.0 version was not as impressive as Mepis 7 was at that time.  PCLOS blew them both out of the water.  I suspect Mint 6 is more about the latest and greatest, geared toward people running newer hardware.

Antix was a very nice distro.  Not as light as Puppy, but it has a key advantage in having a larger and easier to use repository of other programs.  If my machine was any lighter and older, Antix would be the distro of choice today.  In fact, I have an old 550 MHz machine sitting around with 256 Mb RAM that would be perfect with this little distro.

But the old family computer is still a good machine, well equipped with all the peripherals I could cram on it.  Mandriva 2009 has won the day as being the newest, most powerful and user friendly distro that this machine can handle while being able to detect and handle everything that is attached.  I’ll probably be looking at replacing this with a new desktop in the next year or two and Mandriva should help us with the transition as the XP side of the dual boot becomes more and more obsolete.


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Video Editing in Linux: Kino v Open Movie v KdenLive

August 10, 2008

I have yet to see a decent article on using video with Linux, so I thought I would write one. I’ve been working with video and posting my clips on YouTube using Windows Movie Maker 2. It is an adequate program, but I’d like to find something that could be as good or better in Linux. Could I pull it off? Follow along and see…

I used a Canon Powershot A630 and captured the video on an SD card. The video was only about a minute long, just to keep it as simple as possible.

Would PCLinuxOS be able to read the output? Would I be able to edit it with a title and maybe add some music? Would I be able to post my video on YouTube? Let’s see.

I was looking for some likely video editors and these were on my list:

Kino

Cinalerra

Open Movie

KDEnlive

I’ve been using Movie Maker for all of my videos thus far, so anything I used in Linux would at least have to measure up to that. I had not used any of these but did some research on each of these and downloaded everything except Cinalerra. I’m not opposed to Cinalerra but didn’t want to spend scads of time learning features I would never use. I wouldn’t mind trying it eventually, but this is a basic project. Capture, edit, render and post. Once a body does that, we can experiment and tweak.

PCLOS was able to read my SD card, no problems. That’s more than I can say for my niece’s laptop which is running Vista. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I’m also playing with Ksnapshot for screen capturing. I’m definitely expanding my skill level with this exercise!

Kino

Kino looked pretty simple until I tried to import my .avi file. Then it acted confused as it wasn’t a DV file. I said import anyway, and away it went. It said it might take awhile. Okay. So I waited for a couple of minutes. And then some more. This movie was about 90 seconds long, so I was not going to wait forever. I purposefully made the clip short in order to limit processing and rendering issues.

Finally, it imported, taking a full 3 minutes. Next, I went to the timeline.

The Kino Timeline

The Kino Timeline

This did not look like a timeline view to me. I had a series of clips, each about 6 seconds long. I clicked the Trim button and saw that I could do a little basic editing, but it was not a timeline format I was familiar with using other editors I had fiddle with. Even the editor that comes with Nero seemed more full featured than this!

I looked at the export feature just to see what it looked like and it appeared to support several formats including some DVD options. But I decided to look else where to do this project. I didn’t see anywhere to put titles especially in light of not having a proper time line. Perhaps I missed something? I may need to do more research in order to warm up to Kino. NEXT!

Open Movie

For some reason, my package manager did not install Open Movie in the menu, so I ended up searching for it. Then I put an icon on the desktop.

Now here was an editor that I could understand a bit better. There was a more “normal” timeline with multiple tracks with the capacity to add even more audio and video tracks. But I ran into trouble when trying to add any effects other than a title. Plus, the program would simply disappear whenever I tried to preview my movie.

More research needed. I did look at the export options, and those options looked a bit complicated for someone used to using Movie Maker. Lots of promise here, but I need to be able to preview without the thing crashing.

NEXT!

KDEnlive

I’m running out of options, here. Kdenlive came on to the scene relatively recently, and I was keen to give it a try. I had seen some YouTube videos made with this program, so I knew some people were using it. Could I use it?

The default video format stymied me for a bit. ATSC is something I hadn’t heard of before. Reading a bit, it sounded like a fancy name for mpeg-2. Okay, moving on…

Next I could decide how many audio and video tracks in my project. Movie Maker only allows one video and 2 audio so the flexibility to add more is nice. I decided to stay with the default of 2 and 2.

Next I was greeted by a screen that looked intuitive as it really seemed to fit with the KDE theme. Perhaps this would be the one.

So I went to Project>add clip and was able to browse for my movie clip. I was able to drag it to the timeline. So far so good! Next, clicked the “play” button in the preview window….

Not good. Not good at all.

So I tried it again, and the second time it worked. I have no idea what I did different if anything. So while I knew I might crash at any time, I also knew this program showed promise. So it was time to save before it crashed again.

Time to add a title, which looked like it needed to be a text clip. So I created and added it…or at least I think so.

It didn’t show up in my preview.

Okay, so far so good. Let’s render this thing out, shall we?

Under file, I tried “export timeline.” Good choice.

I had a lot of choices for high and medium quality. Medium is good enough for the moment so I picked mpeg 640×480 high. So far so good. Lots of audio choices, too. Now I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed as there really are a lot of choices here!

I finally clicked the export button and let fly. It said it should be finished in about 5 minutes and had a progress moniter to show me how things were going. This is the furthest I had gone with any of the programs and was looking good.

After rendering, the title still did not make an appearance. I went back and tried to fiddle some more but never was able to make the title appear in the preview window on top of the clip.

There were still choices available in Movie Maker that were lacking here, such as toggling between timeline and storyboard view and number of transiton and effects. But overall, this program is a pretty good fit. Or it would be without the niggling defect of not seeing the Title/text screen I created. I did not play with that many features as I wanted a quick and dirty demonstration just to see if using Linux with TouTube was even possible for a noob like me.

Out of the 3 programs previewed, I liked Kdenlive the best, but not having the Title show up was a real bummer. Kdenlive could eventually become my editor of choice by the time it gets to 1.0 status. The trick is going to be to keep the development moving and thus keep my interest alive. This type of progression is what has helped Linux reach critical mass as desktop choice. It is good enough now to hold the interest of the average user, even if it not totally perfect. Handling video tasks such as screencasting, editing for online viewing and working with webcams are going to be crucial in order to make this OS viable for the future. Video rendering remains one of the most intensive tasks most home computers do and it is becoming more and more necessary for business. The future of computing is in video, and Linux is woefully behind in that area. This is why Macs have seen such a rise in sales is because iLife makes video creation so easy and painless. Most prominent YouTubers are using Macs. It would be nice if Linux could at least make an appearance but right now Linux is in sad, sad shape in the area of allowing average users to generate content.

The finished product isn’t anything too special but here it is:

The good news is that I was able to completely capture and render the video and post to YouTube within Linux without having to go into Windows.  And really, that was the ultimate objective.  I’ll still use Windows for the majority of my video work, just because it is faster at the present time and plays nicely with my webcam on the laptop.

I’m also in search of screencorder software, similar to Camstudio.  Or it would be cool if Camstudio were ported to Linux. I feel this type of software is crucial to further development of Linux.  That is because no one is going to sit down with a book or manual to learn about Linux or software.  But they will watch a series of short, concise video tutorials on the subject.  I can learn more from 4 minutes of video than an hour of reading a technical manual.  I can’t do code, but I could make technical support videos for Linux if there existed the right tools.  The Xvidcapture that I found isn’t quite cutting it, even though it’s a good start.

D.

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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

h1

PCLinux 2007 WINS!

March 19, 2008

I took a big risk repartitioning and installing MEPIS 7.0, risking the beloved XP operating system.  But XP did and still does survive.  But it is no longer the operating system of choice on the family desktop.  Neither is Mepis.

The downfall of Mepis began after I reviewed and tried PCLinuxOS.  But I was hesitant to go through another installation and risk losing everything again or a corrupted MBR like I have suffered before.  What finally toppled Mepis from favor was the fact that it only wanted to recognize and “see” its own partition and none of the other hard drives or partitions. I was trying to move some files from my wife’s Mepis desktop and it would not only not read those other hard drives, but gave me fits about moving the files to a USB drive.  What put the nail in the Mepis coffin as it would not even recognize a floppy drive.  That was the end of that.  I had no such problems with earlier versions of Mepis and not sure what caused this glitch.  But Mepis was on its way out as it was, and it just gave me a ready excuse.  This is the double edge of having distros obtained so freely and installed so easily; instead of muddling through or trouble shooting, I canned the thing and put on the distro that “just works.”

And it just does.

The machine: @2001 Celeron 1.8 Gz with 612 RAM with XP home.  HDa = 40 Gb, HDb = 127 GB + 40 Gb (linux) + 20 Gb unclaimed space.

The family: 1 6 yr-old (kindergarten)  1 9 yr. old (2nd grade) and one wife (college graduate)

My wife is relatively new to computers, but thanks to her husband has some experience with Mac OS 7, Win95, Win98 and Win XP and recently Mepis 7.0 and now PCLinuxOS 2007.

All members have successfully learned to use and enjoy the new family OS.  My wife probably has the biggest adjustment, as she still uses XP to play spider solitaire and do editing with her pictures.  However with Picasa downloaded and installed (she was using this on XP) this should be a small matter.  I’ll have to download spider solitaire or some open source variation.  Otherwise she is perfectly pleased with PCLinux.

The two kids could care less what the operating system is.  They like visiting the Disney website and fiddling around with Google Earth and that’s all they care about.  They still like to play a few games occasionally, but mostly they are content with online activities.

And this brings up a very important point, when discussing the digital divide.  When it comes to school-aged kids, computer and online access can mean a world of difference in terms of  school performance.  The state of Georgia is offering practice versions of their state mandated tests online.  Those kids without computers will be left behind and continue to be at a disadvantage when it comes to the new modalities of learning that the digital age is offering.  A computer is as necessary nowadays as paper, pencil and a calculator.  Those who do not have computers in their homes are being given the mathematical technology equivalent to a slide rule!

Linux offers an opportunity for schools and businesses to offer their old PII’s and PIII’s to these disadvantaged youngsters instead of clogging landfills.

dick

h1

Distros that did not make the cut

March 6, 2008

I’ve been downloading and previewing several distros.  A lot of them have done surprisingly well.  Others have done not so well.

I think Linux has really arrived at a place where the average computer user can handle it.  And a lot of people will like Linux.

Distros that have not made the cut:

1.       Open SuSe 11.0 – Went black after the splash screen and never returned

2.       Sabayon 3.4 – Same as #1

3.       Mandriva 2008 – Same as #1 and #2.  These were all disappointing but made those that made the cut look a lot better

4.       Damn Small Linux – This one did load but did not find my Ethernet  connection

Distros that made it:

1.       PCLinuxOS 2007 – It’s taken everything I’ve thrown at it in Live CD mode.  It’s real close to getting installed.  I’ll put Minime 2008 behind this as it does work off a flash drive but has a few niggling issues like not using the 8G of space I’ve given to it to expand out like I’d like.

2.       Mepis 7.0 – This has been my distro of choice for a long time, but one slip up and it will be replaced by #1.  It really does work well, but PCLOS seems to work better with more features.  It’s a tough choice.

3.       Ubuntu 7.10 – Killer graphics make this one very appealing, and it is a very mature distro very much ready for the desktop.  For business users, it could be a Vista killer.  Unlike its predecessor, this one is distinctive and out front in many ways.  I can respect people who choose this one over my choices, which was not the case a year ago.

4.       Puppy Linux 3.01 – This has been another one of my pet favorites the past year, but is falling from favor now that I no longer rely on a modem.  It can not connect with my Ethernet and is unreliable as far as wireless.  I found the look and feel of 2.15 to be better than 3.01 but that may be just me.  I’m ready to look at some other lighter distros for older machines.

5.       Linux Mint 4.0 – I need to give this one some more play time.  It did work well for me, but I chose Mepis mostly because of the familiar interface.  Now that I’ve been playing around with other distros, I can make a fairer comparison here.