Archive for the ‘Simply Mepis’ Category

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Kubuntu 8.10 vs Mepis 7.9.94 vs Puppy 4.1.2

January 9, 2009

Okay, how about a smack down between 3 of my favorite distros?  Okay, Kubuntu is not my favorite as this is the first time I’ve tried it, but it is a biggy.  I have ragged and ragged on Ubuntu even though I have tried to like it.  I do prefer KDE, so I’m going to give that an honest look and see if that warms me up to the Ubuntu brand.  I’m pitting this distro giant against Mepis which has been a fav of mine since discovering Linux and is responsible for me falling for KDE.  The release I’m running is 7.9.94 which is the RC1 of 8.0.  Not quite as stable or developed so the advantage goes here to Kubuntu before we even start.  Puppy has been my light weight fav for a long time and is an odd one out in this little comparison.  But we’ll see how well this little distro measures up.  Since I’m running totally off of live CD’s, Puppy actually gets an advantage as it runs totally in RAM.

Hardware: Dell VOSTRO 1500 w 2 G RAM and Intel core 2 Duo usually dual booting XP and Mandriva 2008 spring.
Tasks I will be using for comparison:
1. Booting
2. Getting on my wireless network
3. Working on this post in Google docs.
4. Getting a screenshot (or two)
5. Watching a Youtube video
6. Detecting an 8g flash and saving the pictures/screen shots to it
7. Finding my other partitions
8. Find my webcam
9. Play a game
10. Get me a beer

Good luck to the contestants. First up, Mepis Live CD.  Insert and restart…

mepis-menu

It took less that 5 minutes to totally restart but it took another 15 minutes to get on my wireless network.  NDSWrapper is included and I found it by looking in the lower left menu and going SYSTEM/Mepis/Network assistant.  For a nOOb like me, it was not as straight forward as I would like.  It said I would have to completely restart in order for changes in network setting to take effect.  This is obviously not true, but I did logout and log in again but still had to fiddle with the settings until I saw a notification that said I had a network connection.

mepis-network-assistant

I did take a few screenshots using ksnapshot.  Firefox is right in the bottom toolbar, where it should be.  Kmail is the mail client and Open Office handles the office tasks.  All in all, it was a nice full suite of programs and everything was where I expected it to be, since this is running off the familiar KDE 3.5 interface.  One extra I did try was the Kmag under accessibility options, and you can see my network connection and the time.

mepis-network

Mepis had no problems detecting my flash and saving the screen shots there.  Next it was time to go to YouTube, and of course Fred was right there so I gave him a shot.

mepis-youtube

Yeah, he’s really pathetic, but he’s even moreso without sound.  And sure enough, it just occurred to me that I had not heard any sound since booting.  And so, while Mepis was able to view a Youtube video, it failed in the sound department, at least off the live CD.  While it located the Mandriva and backup partitions, it did not detect the main Windows partition.  This is important in case I ever wanted to use this as a rescue disk.

mepis-sound

At this point, the test is over since it is kind of pointless playing a game without sound.  The game selection looked a bit skimpy but this IS a live CD.  It also failed to get me a beer, which was really disappointing since I could really use a beer at only 1/3 of the way through this process.  Next up: Kubuntu.

kubuntuscreen

This might be a bit sketchy as I’m going from a somewhat distant memory.  Kubuntu uses the KDE 4.1 interface, and this was my first experience with that.  It really is an attractive interface, moreso than anything I’ve used thus far.  Getting the wireless to work was a snap…easier than anything else I’ve ever run.  It easily recognized my flash drive where I saved the ksnapshot pics.

kubuntu-toolbarThere was also sound, as I ran Amorok which had a sample file that I could check.  However the rest of the exercises did not go so well.  First off, I was unable to get to Google docs because it does not support the default (and only) web browser, Konquerer.

kubuntu-webwriteKonquerer is supported by other aspects of Google but not online document editing.  So that really crimped me, but it is useful to know that limitation.  Next, I went to YouTube to see if I could watch Fred spaz out.

kubuntuyoutubeI could neither see nor watch him as flash is not supported out of the box on the live CD of Kubuntu.  I’m not terribly surprised, knowing Ubuntu’s ways as I do, but it still scores as a FAIL in this diagnostic.  And Kubuntu had no games.  Zero, zilch.  Not even mahghong or whatever it is no one ever plays but is included in every other distro.  All in all, Kubuntu is a very attractive and snappy distro that holds a lot of promise.  Too bad Mepis couldn’t have stuck a bit closer to Ubuntu’s development, because I think Mepis does a better job with KDE.  I liked that Kubuntu did so well connecting to my wireless network (TOTALLY painless) but not including flash or Firefox caused problems.  I set these tests up before trying these out, just so you know I was not intentionally trying to trip up Kubuntu.  I didn’t try a webcam test on either Mepis or Kubuntu, but I would not hold my breathe on that one.

So how about the latest Puppy?

puppy-menuMoving along to Puppy, which is the last test of the day.  Puppy, one of my most favorites, actually gave me more problems than the others as far as finding the wireless network.  I ended up getting through it using the NDISWrapper, but it was a bit of a pain.

puppyconnectionThe screenshot program is not as nice as Ksnapshot so not as many screen captures here.  The odd thing is that the default browser on Puppy is SeaMonkey and that had absolutely no problems accessing Google Docs.  Then I went to Youtube and was able to watch and hear Fred with no problems.

puppy-youtubepuppy-xsoldierPuppy does include a fun Galaga-type game called Soldier X that could get a bit addictive to those of us into that genre of game.  But Puppy also failed to get me a beer.

Given the struggles I had with all of the distros of one sort or another, I never did really try to find my webcam,

All in all, I actually enjoyed looking at Kubuntu the best and Puppy the least.  But Puppy succeeded in more of the tasks than any of the other live CDs making it a continued favorite of mine for just working where I  need it.  The purpose of a live CD is to see how a distro will work on a given hardware system, and these three CDs did give me a chance to look at the respective offerings and showed that they do have differences in functionality.  Given this particular demonstration, if I were to recommend a distro to someone new to Linux, Puppy is the only one of these three that is able to do most of the tasks that I tried right out of the box. When you add in the benefits of its small size and its speed, it really whips up on the other two distros handily.   Granted, it does not have a full office suite, but being able to use Google apps helps shore up that problem.

Puppy Wins!

None of these distros got me a beer, but I suppose they all make up for it by being free, as in beer.  Linux made some good gains in 2008 and I see more gains being made in 2009 as long as more apps start being available on the web.  When applications start being less dependent on the operating system, the advantage swings almost entirely over to Linux.

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Screen Capture and Video Editing for Linux

December 31, 2008

I’ve been bemoaning the lack of video-creating support for Linux and apparently, I’m not the only one.  I just caught Steven Vaughan-Nichols’ recent article on the subject and I had wanted to add screen recording to my wish-list of 2009. It sure would be nice if CamStudio were ported to Linux.  But now I think I might not have to.  There are a couple of web apps that might just fit the bill.

ScreenToaster and Screen-O-Matic are two web-based screen recorders that look promising, as long as the microphone functions properly.  And I have yet to test either of these programs nor have I tested my mic in Linux.

As far as I can tell, neither of these have done a lot of testing with Linux.  I saw where Screen-O-Matic claimed minor issues with RedHat Fedore Core 3 with Firefox 2.0, which looks like an old configuration to me.  For Vista, XP and Mac it was all good with Firefox.    So this post serves as a sort of placeholder for me when I want to try this out, as well as an invitation to the rest of you to try it and then let the rest of us know how it works.

And this might be the answer to more and more of the typical Linux woes.  There were several attempts to try online non-linear video editiong in 2007, but most of those are gone as of the end of 2008.  The most promising, so far, looks like it might be JayCut.   Unlike the now defunct YouTube mixer and Jumpcut (which was bought and then abandoned by Yahoo) it does allow downloading of the finished product.  The online video editing is still in its infancy, but perhaps in 2009 there might be something better that comes out for orphaned Linux users who are not using the DOS-like command line.

For screencasting and video editing, the ability to download the finished product is key.  As demonstrated by the Jumpcut fiasco, it is too easy for an outfit to be abandoned and then you can lose all your stuff.  That particular move by Yahoo indicates to me that they might deserve to be bought out by Microsoft.

I’m looking forward to seeing what new discoveries I can make with Linux in 2009.  My 2009 wishlist includes:

1. Simple and stable nonlinear video editor

2. Simple screen recorder with the possibility of adding annotations ala Camstudio

3. A Linux capable of finding my Dell laptop webcam

4. A more complete WINE capable of running at least all of the old Win98 programs instead of trying to keep up with the latest stuff.  I have a ton of old apps and games that could use a new lease on life with my kids.

5. A painless way to export my Thunderbird and Firefox settings to either windows or to another machine or just so I can upgrade to another Linux distro.  Mandriva has worked okay on my Dell Vostro 1500 but I’d like to try the latest Mepis without losing all my stuff.

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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

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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.

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Ubuntu 7.10:Just About Worth the Hype

March 6, 2008

I’ve was critical of Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake and the hype surrounding it and wasn’t terribly anxious to try the Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 release.  However, since I’ve been trying out various distros, not trying Ubuntu would be an embarrassing oversight.  So I downloaded and burned the live CD and booted it up.

If you’re a Windows user and get one of these CD’s, you can put it in the CD tray and install MS versions of Firefox, Abiword and Thunderbird, but these are not the unknown or fancy applications that they were back when Dapper Drake first came out.  6.06 also came with GAIM and the Gimp but I’m guessing the newer version didn’t have room for too many Windows toys.

Ubuntu succeeded where other distros failed to even get anywhere past the splash screen.  But that is not all.  Once loaded, I began playing around with Ubuntu.  Even without Compiz, this distro was clearly targeting a Vista-type of graphic experience.  And it was faster and superior to anything I’ve ever seen on a Vista machine that had more hardware than this one did.  Ubuntu has arrived and I’m willing to give it the respect it deserves.  And there’s more.

Unlike other distros I’ve tried, Ubuntu detected and connected to the ethernet connection right out of the box with absolutely no configuration necessary.  It also detected and was able to read my hard drive which I had not previously tasked other distros to do.  And with Open Office 2.3 it was able to open and read Office 2007 documents.  That was a big plus!  It was able to detect the Microsoft networking neighborhood, which others had not seemed to be able to handle.

This edition of Ubuntu has a lot going for it and a lot to like.  So is this a contender for my home desktop?

No.  Ubuntu is at the top of its game, especially with the ease of use in working with the various types of hardware.   But it is a very basic distro with very basic features that look very nice.  It does things no other distro I’ve tried can do.  But those things are not especially critical to my present needs and desires.  The synaptac repository seemed a bit on the shallow side, especially compared to what PCLinuxOS is offering.  But even compared to Mepis, it is looking like I might have to do extra work to get Picasa, Google Earth and Stepmania on and running.  I’d be willing to try it, if Ubuntu had anything else that sufficiently grabbed my attention and interest.  The appearance and speed is clearly an attention-getter, but it is the applications that are going to compel me to stay with an outfit for any length of time.  Ubuntu came very, very close this time around and perhaps a future release will win me over.  If my work machine didn’t have a NTFS hard drive, I would have been sorely tempted to partition it right there and then and give the dual boot a whirl.  But my home needs are a bit different and more eclectic than my work needs. 

For my money, PCLinuxOS still has earned its way to the top of Distrowatch, but Ubuntu has definitely earned its way into the top 10, especially compared to 6.06.  The features are there and they are unique but the targeted audience seems to be more business oriented than home desktop oriented.

 

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PCLinuxOS 2007: It really is as good as the Hype!

March 6, 2008

Oh my. I may have found myself a new favorite distro.

I nearly overlooked this one because of my difficulties with PCLOS Minime 2008 on the flashdrive. I will say one thing about Minime: it does work and works well. I do like the look and feel of it and if I could get the package manager to work, I would be all over it.

I downloaded and burned the live CD of the 2007 version and must say that I really like it. The latest PCLinux 2007 is the Gnome version, but the default is the KDE version. If you don’t understand what I just wrote, don’t sweat it. I have always preferred the KDE but that’s just me.

PCLinuxOS has been riding very, very high in the Distrowatch charts, toppling Ubuntu from #1. Ubuntu sat there for about a year, until PCLOS knocked it off. And it’s for a very good reason, because this is a very good distro packed with a lot of good, attractive features that just work. One doesn’t fully appreciate the “just works” aspect until they try a bunch of things that don’t work. I’ve been trying several distros on my work machine (2.66 Ghs Dual core P4 with 512 RAM and ATI Radeon 9500 graphics card, DVD/CD-RW) and have run into a few that are not working as of yet.

PCLinuxOS found all my hardware, the Ethernet and booted up just fine. In fact I decided to go ahead and work on this post using it, and I”m really liking the look and feel of it. It will seriously give Mepis a run for its money and may seriously end up replacing it. It’s that good.

Aside from simply working, there’s other things I’m discovering that I like. For instance, when you open a new distro’s Firefox, they often have some generic bookmarks. PCLinux actually has some interesting and helpful bookmarks, like PCLinux, PCLinux Extra, PCLinux Hardware data base, something called Lortal and LinFX.com. If you can’t find help and answers in these places, you’ve got some serious issues!

I like how easy it was to find things and the richly populated Synaptic libraries of goodies that the Mepis library seemed to be sparse with. Mepis didn’t have Picasa, Google Earth or Stepmania. PCLinuxOS has them all.

Ksnapshot was right there.

desktop

Pretty cool, eh? I don’t include many screen captures because I’m such a nOOB but PCLinux made it just so easy!

dick

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Mepis 7.0: Everybody’s on Board

March 5, 2008

About a week ago, I installed Mepis 7.0 on some vacant space on my hard drive.  (1.8 GHz Celeron, 640 Mb RAM) The installation was as painless as one could ever imagine.  In about 30 minutes, I had a working Linux with the GRUB bootloader installed so I could get to XP when necessary.  It’s been about 3 days since XP has seen the light of day in our house.

Having an ethernet/high speed connection has made all the difference in the world.  While Mepis comes with pretty m uch everything one needs, I was able to apt-get updates and a few other things I wanted.  So how is it working out?

My wife, Jane, has been pretty bold in trying this thing out, perhaps out of necessity.  When I boot the computer it goes to GRUB and gives a person 20 seconds or so to choose a boot option.  If you do nothing, it goes right to the Mepis login.  I have 4 different user accounts: Mine, hers, the two kids share one and the Root account. We had set up XP to run passwords to keep the kids from raiding the computer, so doing this in Mepis was a small matter.  And the Mepis login looks better than XP.

I showed Jane how to get to XP but I’m not sure she remembers but she hasn’t complained much.  Her biggest complaint was not having the printer loaded, which I got around to finally doing when I had my oldest (a second grader) type some homework in Open Office which he needed to print.  Mepis 6.0 did not support our Epson CX7800 printer, but Mepis 7.0 installed and ran it flawlessly.  The print installer is mostly intuitive, but there were a few niggling decisions I had to make which turned out to be correct ones, so far.  Once I got a working test page, printing the homework was easy.  And the boys have no idea and don’t care about the OS when they are watching Thomas the Train on YouTube.  They sort of like the fact that the computer looks new.  And they’ll be mastering Tuxracer in no time.

Jane has done her surfing and email (we use Gmail) and even downloaded some files.  I thought downloading the files was a gitsy move, since she is totally in the dark about the Linux file system.  But she did, and she was pretty happy overall with the performance.  She’ll be totally in heaven if we get her digital camera hooked up.

Mepis 7.0 does work with my hardware better than 6.0 did, especially evidenced by the printer.  However, compared to the Ubuntu repositories, the Debian looked a bit sparse and I’ve had some issues with downloading and installing Picasa and Google Earth.  Jane does most of her editing with Picasa and the boys like playing with Google Earth.  These are both ported to Linux but there are issues with the installation I’m fiddling with.  In my brief foray into the PCLinuxOS repositories, there were a lot more programs available in that library.

I lurve the KDE  desktop that comes with Mepis which is going to make it very difficult for any other distro to make me want to change.  but that’s not to say there are not some others that I’m looking at.  I just downloaded SuSe Alpha 11.0 and Saybayon Mini edition for grins and giggles.  I still have a ways to go before I’m ready to settle down or at least I’d like to look at some other distros that might work with my minimal and aging system.

I also have some tasks to perform with a neighbor’s aging hardware that has different requirements, but that’s for another post.

dick