Saturday, May 24, 2008

TinyMe instilled new life to my HP Deskpro, Thanks to PCLinuxOS Team

pclinuxos tinyme 2008 finalIn my backyard that old HP Deskpro is still there. Decades back it came with windows 98 preinstalled. Then the time changed, so did computing. I could never get satisfactory performance out of this old box from on top of Windows 2000 or XP. I had installed GoblinX and AntiX; and it worked decently. But the latest TinyMe 2008 final really instilled life to it.

Here are the specs of my machine: It has an 8MB memory intel graphics card, onboard intel sounds, 128 MB RAM, 450 MHz PIII CPU, 10 GB HDD, Creative CD RW Drive and 14" CRT monitor. TinyMe installed in 15 minutes flat. I can't say whether it's fast, but after installation the boot up seemed quite surprising - just 50 sec.

This is fast stable version of TinyMe, a PCLinuxOS-based mini-distribution designed with approx. 200 MB that packs kernel 2.6.18.8, xorg-server 1.3 and a good selection of applications that you most frequently use in your daily computing. Besides, if you want more Synaptic is just a click away. The most pleasant experience I got from TinyMe is that it has a nice desktop environment. No other distribution can be as beautiful and responsive as TinyMe on Openbox and iDesk. I could not find any problem with the applications. Even I did some installation/uninstallation of application and some minor manual configuration, still it was felt rock solid. It is fast, sleek and beautiful! Need I say any more?

Here is the list of applications that comes with TinyMe 2008 final:

  • AbiWord (Word Processor)
  • Opera (Web Browser)
  • Audacious (Media Player)
  • GThumb (Photo Viewer)
  • Asunder (CD Ripper)
  • PCC (Control Center)
  • Sylpheed (E-Mail Client)
  • ePDFView (PDF Viewer)
  • SciTE (Text Editor)
Download TinyMe

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Linux is not popular - an alternative view

linux is free that's why it is not popular - an alternative viewI found a very interesting blog that talks a different story about why linux is not popular desktop. While there is hue and cry about why linux userbase is mere 2% and some are blaming for lack of software and poor usability. He added one more point –
'There's one big factor in why Linux isn't popular on the desktop. Linux is free." It sounds true to me…

Here is the gist of his blog. Humans don't believe in things that come too easily or for free. Linux is having the same fate. For example, if one has brought a new computer and is getting ready to install an OS and he/she is not a techie, then he/she will most probably install Windows. Why???

Because:

  • Linux is being offered for free. Good.
  • He has access to pirated copies of windows. Also free. Good.
  • But Windows is sold for over $300, while Linux is offered for free.
Desktop world is rampant with pirated windows copies. (And I am sure Microsoft will never take any strict action against it because piracy actually help Microsoft to rise in popularity) That's why though a user can get both windows and linux for free, he/she will turn to windows because it actually costs money but he/she is fortunate to get it for free. And there is generally belief that good things cost money.

We know that Linux is worth a lot but offered for free. But why will an Average Joe care about it. For him the deal is choosing a free product vs. a $300 product.

Please read the original blog here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Desktop Linux should address these little annoyances

linux annoyances
Users are right when they say linux is not ready for desktop. And they are right when they point to some rough edges of linux for it, such as: lack of device drivers, lack of good application software, problem to sync many portable devices, problem in wireless configuration, slow startup and shutdown, problem in installation/uninstallation of software, vast number of distributions and lack of uniformity among them, lack of a better desktop environment, etc...

I would like to add a small point that many others have missed out, and that is non-critical user annoyances. These annoyances actually don’t hamper computing in Linux but they do drive users away from Linux. I would request readers here that I am no way making a rant here. This blog only tries to make aware linux developers to take care of these things before pushing one release after another...

1. Windows XP is almost 7 years old but it still installs on any pc or notebook. The installation is almost smooth. After installation the users start hunting for device drivers and they always get them on the web and the job is done. Desktop Linux Distros despite improving rapidly after every release, sometimes don’t install on some PCs and Notebooks. It dies with a black screen! Of course, there are many way to land on a text terminal or change the boot options and resume installation, but why should a user care about it?

2. If you are a power user of Windows XP, you are probably aware of its event logs. After every session it dumps something to the event log, but very few general users are aware of it. Whereas in Linux most probably you will see a nautilus-debug-log.txt or xyz.core file in the /home/user directory. Some users really get scared about this. May be even after so many years linux lacks a good desktop environment or even if there are KDE and Gnome (and dozen others) they are never better integrated.

3. In Windows the situation is "either it works or it doesn’t". It’s straight forward. But Linux is full of workarounds. A user after facing some problem googles it and most probably lands on a forum. There if he/she is lucky gets a perfect solution, else a workaround. For example, if a user searches for a solution to get his/her xyz driver he gets some suggestions – do this and that and the driver will work, but it won’t deliver certain features, and so on... Who will love a workaround?

4. Desktop Linux comes with many unnecessary blots. Install Fedora 8 or 9 and you will know the situation. Make a default installation and you will see you are no way related to many those default applications. Sometimes many are just duplicates of others. But if you try to remove them you will know that you are loosing some applications that you really need. What an annoyance! Some of you know that it is because of modularity of linux packagement, but again why should a lay user care?

5. The worst annoyance of all in Linux is "rapid change". Before a component is stabilized another release comes up with another unstable version.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Wireless is a Mess in Linux?

wireless is a mess in linuxWhile some people cried "Linux Desktop Year" as early as 5 years ago, it still lacks in many areas and it lacks badly in case of wireless configuration.

These days I am working at vikarta.com for their alwaysonvacation.com. We are a team of SEOs and content writers. SEOs need some windows based software for research and analysis. But the content team just needed an office suite, a web browser and a dictionary. In my view I had openoffice, firefox and wordnet to perfectly fit the bill. At this juncture I thought of deploying Linux for the content team but the wireless mess ruined everything.

I tried Mandriva Powerpack first on my notebook. The installation went pretty smooth and wired networks were detected automatically. But establishing wireless network was an uphill task. I struggled head on for quite long but still could not get it working properly. I have broadcom wlan card. Here I would request everyone to inform me if they find a linux distro that supports this card on the fly. No manual configuration.

First I tried with pulling the mandriva repo for latest drivers. Could not succeed. Then I installed windows drivers with ndiswrapper followed by configuration with iwconfig and ifconfig. Though it worked (not as good as it works in windows xp) like a lame the real problem was switching between wireless and wired interfaces.

Having told the whole story it is really difficult of individual hardware vendors (of wlan cards) to have supply a unified wireless driver stack owing to be multiplicity of distributions and consistency in installation of a particular driver across various releases of a particular distribution. I think the big complaint with migration to Linux is and has always been wireless compatibility.

Some people say Linux has better support for Intel wireless cards, but everybody knows Broadcom rules the race. May be the situation will improve with PCLinuxOS 2008 Full official release or Mepis 7 or Mandriva 2009 but that's a long way to go....

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Break from PCLinuxOS to Test Mandriva 2008

break from pclinuxos to test mandriva 2008We had PCLinuxOS 2007 final sometime in May 2007. It’s almost a year but the good thing is that the release may be anytime soon!

This uncertain delay has led many desktop users to try suitable alternatives such as Mepis, Mint and Mandriva. I have always liked PCLinuxOS but this time, I had it enough. I had to install PCLinuxOS 2007 on several of my friends’ notebooks and desktops on their request. Though installation of pclos on desktops was pretty smooth, it was really problematic while I tried to install on the latest notebooks. There were hiccups related mainly to device drivers and power management. And I did not like to tell every user to do a complete upgradation of their pclos notebook after installation and do some manual configuration each time. Therefore, I tried my hands on Mandriva 2008 Free DVD and it really came to me as a savior. It stood by me in every sorts of hardware across a variety of laptops and desktops.

Mandriva 2008 Free DVD includes a boatload of software alongwith the leading desktop environments such as: KDE 3.5.8 and Gnome 2.20, kernel 2.6.22 and Xorg 7.2.

Installation of Mandy 2008 was like a breeze. Whether I chose KDE or Gnome Desktop it took less than 20 minutes for a complete installation. In Mandy 2008 I noticed some great improvements enviable to many desktop wannabes. They are:

  • Fast Booting: After removing some blots such as beagle, tracker, compiz, some unnecessary applications and disabling some system services, I found it boot in 40 secs even on base notebook and desktop models.
  • Faster OpenOffice: OO.o in Mandriva 2008 seemed me the fastest of all. Just 4 secs and its up and running!
  • Great Package Management: Trimming down an installation has been my passion. I just can't stand those blots, eye-candies and unnecessary apps. So after every installation on my system or on my friends’ systems I get on to uninstallation. Here Mandriva proved to be really rock solid whereas many desktop linux will just break if you do some extreme trimming of your distro (because of the modularity and interdependence between various packages).
I have no complaints against Mandriva 2008 wherever I have installed it. It has been stable, responsive and productive till now.

Comparing PCLinuxOS with Windows XP on a PIII Box

windows xp vs. pclinuxos on pIII boxMy friend Nikhil has been working on a HP Deskpro for more than a decade. It came with 500Mhz PIII CPU, 10GB HDD and 128MB RAM. It had Windows ME preinstalled. Shortly after a few months Nikhil removed that ME and installed Windows 2000, then a few months later Windows XP. He is running the same till now despite having some hiccups of viruses and malware.

He would visit me often and have a breathtaking look at my PCLinuxOS based latest Pentium box and request me to install the same on his old HP box.

I was sceptic at first go, would PCLinuxOS install on 128 MB RAM and 500 MHz CPU? In fact, it did not. Then I tried several others including Zenwalk, Xubuntu, NimbleX, Poppy, DSL and Antix. Of this lot only Mepis Antix worked well, each of the rest had some problems - we could not get a decent GUI after installing Zenwalk and Poppy and NimbleX could not detect the Ethernet card.

Nikhil is broken at heart, he did not like to run Antix. For him everything in Linux except PCLinuxOS is a tradeoff. He just wondered why can’t he install PCLinuxOS while there is no problem in installing XP despite I told several times that XP is almost a decade old software developed to run on the likes of PIII whereas PCLinuxOS is a modern OS which requires more memory and cpu.

He requested me to remaster a PCLinuxOS that will install and run well on his PIII box and would just have the features of XP, and nothing more… I am just planning to remaster one with generic kernel, minimal set of KDE and a set of applications in one app per task basis.

Anybody working towards this? Please send your inputs as comments. I will greatly value them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

PCLinuxOS for EEE PC

pclinuxos for eee pcNow PCLinuxOS is ready for EEE PC too. After Xandros, Mandriva and Xubuntu, it is bringing out its version for eeepc.

ASUS Eee PC is making more news than any other gadget in general public as well as geeks community. A computer designed by ASUS and Intel, it is famous in the subnotebook segment for a combination for great features such as: light weight, small form factor, fast performance, rugged design and low cost. Though previously it used to ship with only a stripped down Xandros Linux, today all the top leading linux distros such as Mandriva, Ubuntu, Fedora and PCLinuxOS are bringing out their version of releases to sit on EEE PC.

According to ASUS, the name EEE derives from "the three Es: Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play". Previous versions of EEE PC had only 2GB of flash drive, but the recent ones come with as big as 20GB of SSD and 1GB of RAM, making it a decent personal computer.

The Eee 900 series are a little larger than the 70x models - measuring 225 × 165 × 35 mm and weighing around 1 kg. The machine has a multi-touch trackpad that allow two-finger scrolling and zooming via a "pinch" gesture. It is available in both Linux and Windows XP configurations. The Linux version is named the EeePC 900 and comes with a 20 GB SSD, while the Windows XP version is named the EeePC 900 Win and has a 12 GB SSD. Reports indicate that the storage is split between two SSD devices - a 4GB SSD installed similarly to that in the 701, and the remainder in a second SSD in the expansion bay. Other important configurations are: 1 GB of RAM, 900 MHz CPU, an 8.9-inch 1024×600 LCD and a 1.3 megapixel webcam.

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