Catching up

Posted on Saturday, December 17, 2011 | | In , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hello again!  I'm so very bad at actually keeping notes on my Linuxing adventures.  I hang my head in shame.  But not for long, 'cos I do want to actually post an update in here.

In August or thereabouts, Indigo started giving me problems of the 'no GUI for you!' variety.  Seems he thought his root partition was full, except it wasn't.  Two different diagnostics commands gave two contradictory results.  In fact, one said that the root partition was 100% full, but also indicated that there was at least some free space.  Long story short, I asked the Ubuntu Forum people for advice but ultimately wound up reinstalling.  Indigo now sports Kubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, and I like it just fine.  Indigo had the first real Ubuntu install I'd ever done, and with all my installing and uninstalling of programs and window managers and the like, maybe I made a mess of the Ubuntu partition just a wee bit.  Not sure on that one.  But all's well now, and Indigo is going strong.

Cairns has been changed from KDE to Xfce.  I'm strongly considering wiping the Windows partition, since I'm now nearly 100% Windows free (hurray!).  I found that SimpleScan detects and operates the scanner part of my Epson multi-function printer just fine.  That was the last thing that was keeping me from going Linux only on the main study computer.  I'm planning to move Cairns into the bedroom and bring Adelaide back out into the study, a procedure which will involve either a reinstall of Cairns or a monitor swap, because the text on Cairns is so very small when the machine is connected to the monitor in the bedroom.  Mepis, on Adelaide, has some kind of issues with that monitor as well, so I suspect it's at least partly the monitor's fault.

Adelaide has been running Mepis 8.0 very well.  My initial choice for that box was Linux Mint, but my Mint install disc hung mid-install three times, so I grabbed the Mepis one.  I love me some KDE, I do.  I'm thinking of installing Adelaide with something lighter, though I'm pretty sure the minor performance issues (due to low RAM) are mostly because of the heavier footprint of KDE 3.5.  The only machine I have that will run KDE 4.6+ with any real performance is the laptop, I've discovered.

Unity is now the default window manager for Ubuntu, it would seem.  I haven't played with it very much, but I have to bristle at the graphics requirements for it.  Yes, there's a fallback 2D version.  I tried Unity on a LiveCD a month or more ago and was not impressed.  It takes a lot of getting used to, does Unity.  I did a fair bit of 'what the -- where're the settings? Where's the freaking -- why did you hide this at the top of the screen?  Why would I mouse up to the top of the screen to get at these settings, you buncha dorks?' before declaring Unity was, at least for the moment, too frustrating to bother with for now, especially as it'll only run in its full 'glory' on my most advanced machine.  Apparently Virtualbox does in fact support 3D emulation now so Unity might be runnable on that.  I'll give it another shot at some point.

I'm also intrigued by Gnome 3/Gnome Shell.  Looks nifty, but again, you MUST have 3D acceleration to run it.  No fallback there.  Never liked Gnome, honestly.  But if I can get that running in Virtualbox, I'll see what I think of it too.

Yikes, that was a lot of stuff!  See you next time.  Happy Linuxing!

Cains and Kubuntu: The Swap Slog

Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2011 | | In , , , , , , , , , ,

Once I started trying to actually work with Cairns, I discovered a problem: it runs really, really slowly. I had Amarok open, streaming music, a terminal window, and Rekonq open. No problem there. I opened a couple tabs in Rekonq, checked email, etc. At some point it began to bog down. I added a 'tech' activity and tossed a bunch of monitors onto it and discovered 100% of the swap space was being used. This machine, with 640M of RAM, got installed with a swap of 400M or so. Aren't you supposed to make your swap double your RAM? I had let the installer define the terms and hadn't checked the swap size.

At any rate, once I got everything except Konsole and Rekonq shut down, a process that involved me clicking a control, leaving the room for five minutes to do something else, and coming back to see if it had responded to my click yet, then clicking something else if it had, I searched for help on managing my swap space. A few sites talked about 'swappiness', a value that can be modified to tell Kubuntu how often and how aggressively to use the swap space. This value was set to 60 as a default, meaning it was going to swap space fairly often. I reduced it to 10, just to see what it would do.

Sadness. (on Indigo)
The next morning I opened Amarok, Chrome, which I installed after fearing memory issues with Rekonq, and Dolphin. A few minor blips in the music stream were all the difficulties I had, but, then, I opted not to use that machine to get my work done. I'd gotten fantastically little done the day before. (In the grand scheme of 'computers hate me today', my laptop's install of KDE decided it wasn't going to load the plasma desktop, nope, and presented me with a naked gray grid and no little commas to do all the plasma things I usually like to do. *sigh* That machine so needs an upgrade/repair/reinstall/miracle. In reference to the screenshot, my lower panel was working, but was hidden at the time of the shot.)

The changed swappiness setting has helped, I think. I've still not used Cairns for any real work, but the draw on the swap space has reduced. The music streaming in Amarok still hitches from time to time, especially when the hard drive is running for any reason. I'm tempted to install another window manager so I can use the machine for my work, but I'm reluctant to toss Gnome on there because of all the associated apps that will get installed. Fluxbox might be an option. It seems that the machine runs well enough once its programs are started and running, much like my ailing WinXP install on BotanyBay. I'm hesitant to use this machine as a test box, since it's supposed to be a backup for my laptop should the upgrade go blooey, but I do want a real idea of whether or not Cairns can handle KDE 4. Ironically, the real 'test machine', Adelaide, now residing in BotanyBay's spot on the bedroom desk, exhibited only minor glitches when installing Mepis 8 and runs it very well indeed. Computers, if you guys could figure out which of you is gonna hork OS hairballs and which ones are going to behave, I'd appreciate a report. Thanks ever so.

Cairns and Kubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat

Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2011 | | In , , , ,

Meet Cairns

Dell Optiplex GX260
small form factor
One of the computers I received from the local library, a small form factor edition of a Dell Optiplex GX260 tentatively named Cairns, is slated to receive a Kubuntu Maverick install soon. Cairns has 640 MB of memory and ran the Kubuntu Maverick disc without any hitches (aside from the 'cannot boot from this disk' error it threw when I first tried to boot it. A reboot convinced it of the error of its ways). It stayed idle for a day and a half while I forgot I'd left it on (it runs a lot more quietly than Kurdnatta ever did, but he had some hard disk issues), and when I returned, it was as good as it had been when I left it. That was a few weeks ago.

I didn't have the same kind of luck with the disc when I tried installing it a few days ago. The LiveCD hung twice: once before it got to the live desktop and the other after I told it I wanted to install. It worries me that this version kicks out the same getpwuid_r() error that made me rip Lucid off my other test box. Black Screen of Death, they call it. I'm sincerely hoping this edition has fixed that glaring and unforgivable error. The end user, even on a Linux system, should not be forced to hack her own GRUB in order to have a usable system. Even the LiveCD threw that error.

I checked the LiveCD for errors and it came back clean. It doesn't help that the CD drives on these library computers are the slowest ever produced by mankind. The small form factor machine has what amounts to a laptop CD drive. It has no motor to open and shut the door and is therefore a lot smaller, but it sure does make a lot of racket while it takes ten minutes or more to go from the splash screen to the Live desktop. *whirrrr-grindgrindgrindgrind-snick-whirrrrr*

I seem to have a problem with Kubuntu LiveCDs locking up on various machines. BotanyBay wouldn't run an earlier version (Karmic or Lucid, I forget which) for more than half an hour (during which I fiddled and poked at everything I could, 'cos I'm like that) before locking mouse and keyboard and requiring a reset.

My laptop, currently running Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackelope with about five window managers available (KDE is my favourite), is in need of an upgrade. Things have started failing or behaving oddly, and Jaunty is out of support. Having used Windows for so very long and having had odd behaviour from Linuxes in the past, I'm leery. I need to remember to back up the system, or at least my important documents, to my terabyte drive before I do the upgrade. I would burn them to a CD, but K3B is one of the things that's not working properly anymore. *facepalm*

The install

I've managed to get Kubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat installed successfully on Cairns. No real problems: the install was very smooth. It booted up fine and I'm streaming ambient downtempo electronica from from it right now. I haven't had a chance to really work with the system yet. It should ultimately become my new print server (with Windows XP as the only OS choice for the scanner, unfortunately), but before I set it to its new job I may take it into the bedroom to have a machine in there that runs Kubuntu. Once I'm settled in with the new install, I'll make sure everything's backed up here on the laptop and *gulp* set about doing my upgrade to 9.10. I'm hoping that won't be too much of an adventure. More on how Maverick and Cairns get along to come.