| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 507, 13 May 2013
Welcome to this year's 19th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! In the Linux community there are a handful of Linux distributions which produce desktop operating systems intended for business use. These distributions include Red Hat, SUSE Linux Enterprise and Ubuntu LTS releases. The Calculate Linux distribution is another project offering solutions to professionals with their Desktop and Directory Server editions. This week Jesse Smith takes Calculate Linux for a spin and reports on how it performs. With the release of Ubuntu 13.04 behind us the developers at Canonical are looking forward to the next release and upcoming features. This past week a proposal came forward from Ubuntu developer Colin Watson for a new packaging system and we cover the highlights of his idea. We will also talk about new features coming to Linux Mint, a distribution which has become popular for its re-imagining of the Ubuntu desktop. Plus we will discuss how the Haiku project is gaining ground in the exciting world of radio! In this week's Question and Answer column we discuss what to do with spare computers and we invite you to chime in with project ideas in the comments section below. Also this week we cover recent releases, upcoming versions of distributions and link to news, reviews and podcasts from Around The Web. We wish you all a pleasant week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First impressions of Calculate Linux 13.4
Calculate Linux is a distribution based on the Gentoo Linux project. Calculate comes in a variety of flavours giving us the opportunity to choose between Desktop, Directory Server and Media Centre editions. The project's Desktop edition attempts to provide an easy to use alternative to other business desktop operating systems such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE and Microsoft Windows. Users of Calculate's Desktop edition can choose to download specific desktop spins which include GNOME, KDE and Xfce. Each of these spins is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. For my trial with Calculate I opted to try the 32-bit KDE spin. The downloadable ISO image for this spin is approximately 2 GB in size.
Calculate Linux 13.04 - disk partitioning with the installer
(full image size: 340kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Live environment and installation
Booting from the Calculate Linux media brings up a menu asking if we would like to launch the live environment with a full desktop environment or a text console. There is also an option to load the entire operating system into RAM prior to loading the live desktop. The KDE edition of the Calculate live desktop features an unusual desktop layout. Unlike most KDE distributions Calculate places the application menu, task switcher and system tray at the top of the display. A few icons for launching the system installer and accessing documentation are placed on the desktop. The distribution's default background is purple and features a pair of penguins on an ice flow. As it turns out, it's not just the KDE desktop which has an unusual layout, Calculate's system installer also features a unique style. When we launch the graphical installer we start out with the usual screens which ask us to confirm our preferred language and local time zone. We are then shown a screen which asks which installation image we wish to use.
The installer will try to automatically find Calculate Linux source files and offers all sorts of filters to help us select the right group of packages. In my case the installer correctly identified just the single source of packages available. Calculate's approach to partitioning is also quite unusual. There is no manual partitioning option, we can either turn our disk over to the installer for automated partitioning or we can try a guided approach. The guided option provides us with several check boxes with file system features we want, such as special mount points, separate partitions for certain parts of the operating system and whether we want to use swap space. The installer also asks us to choose between using a DOS style or a GPT style partition table. The first time I ran the installer it demanded I set aside at least 19 GB of space for Calculate, quite a bit more space than most other distributions require. The next page of the installer asks us to confirm the partition layout the installer created for us and I found I was not able to change the size of the offered partitions nor the file systems to be used. The only thing we can do is go back and run through the guided partition tool a second time if we don't like what it created for us. This was especially frustrating as the guided partitioning tool created an extra 7 GB partition for me with no file system nor mount point assigned to it.
Moving along I was asked to set a hostname for my computer and confirm the use of a NTP server to keep the system's clock in sync. After that the installer asks us to create a user account and set a password on the root account. We are asked to confirm our system's sound card has been properly detected and then we are asked to select a video driver from a list and set our screen's resolution. This last step stuck me as unnecessary as Calculate's live desktop seems to work just fine without any user input so it is curious we are asked to manually provide video driver information. Finally, we are shown a screen that lists the actions the installer will take and we're asked to confirm our settings. The first time through the installer told me there was a problem and I'd need at least 38 GB of free disk space for my root partition in order to complete an installation. This was a problem as I had only set aside 20 GB. I went back to the guided partitioning screen and whittled down my choices to the bare minimum and tried again. The second time through the installer accepted my choices. Files were copied to the local drive and the installation completed successfully.
When Calculate Linux 13.4 was first released I was away from home and so tried running the distribution on the laptop I had with me (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 4 GB of RAM, Intel video card, Intel wireless card). Calculate and my laptop were not a good match. The distribution took over eight minutes to boot and applications took a surprisingly long time to open. At first I tried to investigate the cause and thought I had found the problem as virtuso-t was taking up nearly 100% of my CPU usage. However, once indexing had been turned off and virtuso-t was stopped I noticed MariaDB and X were combining to, again, use up all my available CPU resources. I decided to put aside Calculate until I could get home and try the distribution on another machine.
When I tried running Calculate Linux on my desktop box (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) I had trouble getting the distribution to boot. It wouldn't load with the default configuration, nor with kernel mode setting disabled. With a little trial and error I found I could get Calculate to boot on my desktop machine if I enabled the distribution's closed source ATI video driver. Once the operating system booted Calculate gave me a good experience on the desktop. The system performed well and the desktop was responsive. My desktop's screen was set to its maximum resolution and sound worked out of the box. I found Calculate's base system, when combined with the KDE desktop, used approximately 300MB of RAM, a little heavier than average, but not overly so. To round out my trial I ran Calculate in VirtualBox and found the distribution ran fairly well in a virtual machine. Some tasks ran a touch slow, but Calculate was certainly usable in the virtual environment.
Desktop and software applications
Calculate Linux boots to a graphical login screen. When we sign in the first time a window pops up letting us know the system is setting up our profile. After several seconds this window disappears and the KDE desktop loads. It took me a few minutes to get used to having the KDE interface appear somewhat upside down, but everything worked well. The KDE desktop is quite flexible and so we can move widgets around as we see fit. Once I was logged in I didn't see any pop-ups or notifications. The desktop is fairly empty and there aren't any widgets for detecting updated packages in the repositories nor welcome screens to distract the user.
Calculate Linux 13.04 - browsing documentation and running LibreOffice
(full image size: 206kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Calculate Linux comes with a collection of useful software. Looking through the distribution's application menu we find the Chromium and Konqueror web browsers. The KMail e-mail client is included as are the Skype Voice over IP client and the Kopete chat client. A VNC server is included and we find the Choqok micro-blogging software installed for us. The KPPP dial-up software is in the default install as is the Network Manager network configuration software. The LibreOffice productivity suite is installed for us alongside the Okular document viewer. In the Multimedia sub-menu we find the Amarok music player, the k3b disc burning software and the SMPlayer multimedia player. KsCD is available for playing audio CDs and we are presented with the Kdenlive video editor.
To accompany these multimedia applications Calculate comes with a complete collection of media codecs and Flash. Security and privacy tools such as KGpg and Kleopatra are installed for us and the Marble desktop globe is available. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is installed for us and, for less intensive image editing, we are given KolourPaint. Calculate comes with an archive manager, text editor, calculator and the GNU Compiler Collection. In the background we find the Linux kernel, version 3.8. During my trial I found most of the software included in the distribution worked well. The only exceptions being the SMPlayer and Amarok applications. The latter would often lock-up while loading and SMPlayer frequently crashed while playing videos, though it played audio files without any problems.
Package management and system configuration
Calculate Linux uses the emerge command line utility to handle software packages. The tool is flexible and allows users to work with either pre-built binary packages or we can compile software from source packages. I performed software upgrades and added new software to the system using emerge and found it worked well. I found that emerge was quite a bit slower than its APT and YUM counterparts, especially when it came to resolving dependencies. Still, emerge ran smoothly and I didn't encounter any bugs. I did run into one quirk where emerge asked me to adjust the package manager's configuration in order to install certain binary packages, such as Firefox. While it works, this makes installing some software a little more roundabout than the same process on other distributions.
One feature I was looking forward to exploring while using Calculate was the distribution's Calculate Console utility. This configuration tool is a network transparent utility which has an appearance similar to KDE's System Settings panel. The Console allows us to manipulate aspects of the local machine or, if there are other Calculate boxes on our network, we can connect to these and manage them remotely. On the surface this seems like a good idea and the Console has a friendly interface. However, I found it wasn't always clear what the configuration modules in the Calculate Console would do. Some modules simply give us the option of applying local or remote templates, but I was not entirely sure what one of these templates was. In another instance I went into the Users module and was asked which account I wanted to configure. I selected my own and hit the Next button. The Console then told me my account has been successfully configured and the module closed, though no indication was given as to what actions may have been taken. I did find documentation on the project's website regarding the Console and its templates, but I can't say I found it to be practical, at least not for a standalone desktop machine.
Calculate Linux 13.04 - the Calculate Console
(full image size: 280kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
I feel as though Calculate and I got off on the wrong foot. The distribution didn't perform well on my laptop and it took some work to get Calculate to boot on my desktop. These issues, combined with the unusual installer and its strange approach to both partitioning and display configuration, gave a poor first impression. Once the distribution was up and running things mostly went smoothly. There were a few glitches with the multimedia apps, as I've mentioned above, but otherwise the distribution generally ran well. I do find it odd that a modern desktop distribution doesn't have a graphical front-end for package management. For me package handling from the command line is not a deal breaker, but asking me to make manual configuration changes in order to install binary packages, such as Firefox, is.
Basically what my time with Calculate really boiled down to is there wasn't any single large problem which kept me from enjoying the distribution, however there were several small problems or, if not problems, just oddities. Calculate doesn't appear to have any outstanding feature which would draw people to it and this, combined with the previously mentioned issues, makes me reluctant to recommend the distribution. The one area where I suspect Calculate has an edge is with fans of Gentoo who want a quick way to get up and running. Calculate lets users get started with pre-built packages and a graphical installer and then customize the underlying Gentoo operating system on an as-needed basis. So for Gentoo users Calculate smooths out the installation process, but users of other distributions aren't likely to find a reason to switch to this distribution.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Ubuntu experiments with portable packages, Linux Mint makes driver management easy, Haiku gains recognition
Over the years a number of attempts have been made in an effort to create a portable package format for third-party Linux applications. Despite strong efforts in this area none of the proposed solutions have gained wide spread use, due in part to lack of support from the major Linux distributions. It looks as though Ubuntu is about to change that. Last Wednesday Colin Watson posted to the Ubuntu Development mailing list that he has been working on a new package system for third-party developers. The new package format aims to reduce dependency problems, make sand-boxing and auditing easier and allow applications to be installed by a user without affecting the underlying operating system. Mr Watson writes: "This is not aimed at changing packages that are already part of the Ubuntu archive; for the most part our existing system works well for those, and they tend to have non-trivial dependency structures. We'll continue to use dpkg and apt for building the Ubuntu operating system, syncing with Debian, and so on. There's no point developing a packaging system for apps and making it have the full panoply of features needed for the Ubuntu archive: it'd just be second-system-effect on top of our current packaging system." This could be a useful step forward for third-party developers who wish to deploy their software to Linux users, but have not had their software accepted into existing repositories.
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In recent years the Linux Mint project has earned a reputation for taking packages from the Ubuntu repositories and producing a distribution which is more in line with what desktop users want from their operating system. Last year Canonical decided to drop the independent application which manages proprietary hardware drivers, opting to instead merge driver management in with the Software Sources utility. In an effort to make driver management more straight forward for its users Linux Mint has introduced its own graphical application for handling third-party drivers. "Last month we talked about 'mintSources' and the fact that it was going to replace 'software-properties-gtk'. One of the features handled by 'software-properties-gtk' and which isn't handled by mintSources is the installation of proprietary drivers. In Linux Mint 15, this is handled by a tool called 'mintDrivers'. mintDrivers, the 'Driver Manager', relies on the same Ubuntu backend as 'software-properties-gtk'. The main difference is that 'Driver Manager' isn't just a tab in some other tool but its very own independent application. That makes it easier to discover for novice users and we took the opportunity to improve its user interface a little bit as well." Additional information on how mintDrivers works is available from the Linux Mint blog.
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It's always nice to see companies support open-source software. Open-source software not only puts control back in the hands of the users, it can also make good business sense. Tune Tracker Systems is a company which recognizes the value of open-source and they are bundling their radio automation software with Haiku, the open-source descendant of Be OS. Tune Tracker Systems reports they were looking for a dependable, lightweight platform which would serve up multimedia with minimal latency. The news announcement reads: "Haiku is equally solid and dependable, and runs even faster on the same hardware. Under Haiku, the TuneStacker music selector/program log generator can build an entire day's program log, randomly selecting all the music, even with aggressive proximity protection, in a few seconds. Haiku has the added benefit of being open-source and under active development by programmers around the world." Haiku has been under gradual development for several years and it is nice to see the project's efforts acknowledged.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
What to do with old computer equipment
Collecting-dust asks: I have a bunch of old computers lying around my house. Most of them from family or friends who gave me their old boxes when they upgraded. Do you have suggestions as to what I can do with them, either fun project ideas or places that take hardware donations?
DistroWatch answers: What the extra computers might be used for will vary a bit depending on how well they run and just how old they are. Assuming for a moment that you've checked and they are all running (or some parts can be swapped to make most of them work) we have a lot of options open to us. Personally, I always like to have a spare box on hand in case my main machine goes off-line. Plus it is always nice to have a spare computer on which to run operating systems you might not normally trust on your main machine. My first suggestion would be to set aside one machine to use for experiments. Consider loading it up with an open-source operating system you don't normally use (OpenBSD, Haiku or MINIX) and see how the operating system runs on physical hardware. It is an educational experience and, I find, it often expands into setting up a personal web server, network storage or some other service you may find useful.
Still, you said you have a bunch of spare computers, not just one. Assuming the machines are quick enough to run something like Debian GNU/Linux and the LXDE desktop I would suggest contacting local friends or family and asking them if they would like a low-end machine for web browsing and writing e-mails. I can usually find someone willing to take older computers off my hands if I set them up with a fresh installation and put icons on the desktop which cover most basic tasks.
Assuming no one takes you up on the offer there are other options. Some non-profit organizations accept used computers, make sure they are in good working condition and then give them new homes. The Reglue project is a fine example. They take older machines, load them up with open-source software and give them away. Check for a similar organization in your area or maybe contact a local Linux user group to see if they can find homes for your hardware.
Once you've gone through all of the above possibilities and still have spare computers then I see two options left. The first is to post your equipment on a website like craigslist, eBay or Kijiji. There are always people on those sites looking for spare parts or spare computers. Perhaps someone will give you a few dollars for your leftover rigs. Lastly, if no one wants the computers you have, I suggest taking them to an electronic recycling depot. All computers reach an end of their lives sometime and it's better to have them recycled than taking up space in a landfill.
|Released Last Week
OS4 13.4 "KDE"
Roberto Dohnert has announced the release of a "KDE" edition of OS4 13.4, a desktop Linux distribution with KDE 4.10.2, based on Ubuntu's latest long-term support release (version 12.04): "Today we released the KDE release of OS4 OpenDesktop 13.4. With this we bring you the very best the K Desktop Environment offers along with the ease of use that people have come to expect with OS4 OpenDesktop. This release includes: all core updates to the OS4 OpenDesktop 13.4 release; KDE 4.10; Calligra as the default office suite, LibreOffice 4.0 is available in the repositories; Muon software center; Synaptic; GDebi KDE; Firefox 20; Thunderbird with the Lightening extension; Clementine music player; VLC. We are very happy to add the KDE desktop to our line-up of desktops that we support. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to ask us." Here is the brief release announcement.
CrunchBang Linux 11
Philip Newborough has announced the release of CrunchBang Linux 11, a lightweight Debian-based distribution with Openbox as the default desktop user interface, suitable for both new and older computers: "CrunchBang 11 'Waldorf' released. Debian 7 'Wheezy' was released on May 4th; now that Wheezy has migrated to the stable branch of Debian, this means that Waldorf is the new stable CrunchBang release. To acknowledge this occasion, I have rebuilt the Waldorf images. The new images are available now from the download page. For anyone unaware, Waldorf has been in development for well over a year and has seen numerous development releases. This probably makes Waldorf the most thoroughly tested CrunchBang release to date and as a result, I believe it is also the best CrunchBang release, ever, truly." Visit the CrunchBang Linux forums to read the brief release announcement.
CrunchBang Linux 11 - a lightweight Debian-based distro with Openbox
(full image size: 262kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
openSUSE 12.3 "Edu Li-f-e"
Lars Vogdt has announced the release of openSUSE 12.3 "Edu Li-f-e" edition, a specialist openSUSE variant designed for deployment in educational institutions: "The openSUSE Education Team is proud to present Li-f-e (Linux for Education) 12.3-1. This first release is based on openSUSE 12.3 with all the official updates applied. Li-f-e incorporates the latest stable versions of all popular desktop environments such as KDE, GNOME and Cinnamon and it includes wide range of software catering to the needs of everyone, selection from openSUSE Education repository, multimedia from the Packman repository, development tools, KIWI-LTSP allowing normal PC or diskless thin clients to network boot from a server running Li-f-e and lot more." Here is the full release announcement with a handful of screenshots.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Around The Web
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New distributions added to database|
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 20 May 2013. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
1 • Calculate Linux (by Chanath on 2013-05-13 10:16:45 GMT from Sri Lanka) |
"Basically what my time with Calculate really boiled down to is there wasn't any single large problem which kept me from enjoying the distribution,"
That is true. It has little problems, just like other distros. The only thing that troubles me with calculate Linux is that it won't come with the Gnome-shell--lately I started liking Gnome-shell.
My laptop is more than 3 years old, with Intel graphics and 3GB memory, but it booted Calculate Linux and installed it without a hitch. I would love to see a review of Sabayon 13.04, but would you try the Gnome-shell? If Gnome-shell is not to your liking, Jesse, let it be KDE or XFCE. I am really enjoying Sabayon 13.04 after so many years of Ubuntu.
2 • Sabayon (by Jesse on 2013-05-13 13:08:40 GMT from Canada)
I reviewed Sabayon just two months ago, I doubt it has changed a lot since then.. http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20130311#feature
3 • @ #1 (by Pierre on 2013-05-13 13:11:50 GMT from Germany)
I never tried Calculate. Sabayon used to be my girlfriend's favorite until I showed her Mint because Sabayon was really really buggy the time my girlfriend used it. I cannot say if that improved during the last 2 years I have not tested it again. But back then it even messed up the partition table once so I had to fix this - although I know what I am doing and fixing the partition table was easily done thanks to TestDisk, it's always risky to work at the partition table and it cost me some nervs honestly.
Although I still prefer openSUSE over all the others Mint does a great job and we never had serious problems with it. It's the reason why I keep to recommend Mint to less advanced or novice users. openSUSE is not much more complicated in my opinion. Nevertheless adopting openSUSE seems to be a little more difficult to novice users than Mint.
Maybe this is because Mint comes - other than openSUSE - with everything out of the box and not having YaST seems to be a little more logical as well.
With Sabayon it's ever worse. My girlfriend kept me asking everything. Updates and installs were my tasks. With Mint this seems to be more logical to her, too. She doesn't need me anymore for simply installs and updates.
4 • @2 Jesse (by Chanath on 2013-05-13 14:12:54 GMT from Sri Lanka)
What I meant was a review of Sabayon 13.04, considering Calculate 13.4. They are the only Gentoo based full distros available. You've been reviewing distros, so you'd see pluses, minuses, equalities etc. Would be nice to read a review like that.
Even though both are rolling releases, Sabayon 11 and 13 has a difference. There was a difference in Calculate 11 and 13. You are always reviewing KDE flavour, so how about Gnome 3? Good day!
5 • @3 Pierre (by Chanath on 2013-05-13 14:34:44 GMT from Sri Lanka)
2 years is a long time. There were at least 4 Mint releases for that time. Your GF must've used Sabayon 8 or 9. One of them was somewhat buggy, but it is now 13.04.
I prefer Ubuntu to Mint, as Mint is always slower than Ubuntu. Mint also keeps its user away from updating through the Ubuntu repos--check the sources.list. If you like Cinnamon, all you have to do is add the Mint repos to Ubuntu's sources.list and update and install Cinnamon. Right now, you can have Cinnamon 1.8.2+olivia. You may add that to Raring or Saucy and you'd be much further than Mint 15.
OpenSuse was always nice, but it has a grub problem with my laptop, don't know why.
6 • Calculate Linux review (by Cork on 2013-05-13 15:33:19 GMT from United States)
Many thanks for taking a look at this interesting distribution. I tried to run it several weeks ago on my HP netbook but gave up quickly when my touchpad was erratic and essentially unusable after the install completed. I too found the installation procedure a bit odd. I'm intrigued by the network management tools but finding time to set up Calculate on three or four boxes at home is a tall order after reading of your experience.
7 • Calculat-Linux (by Joachim on 2013-05-13 15:35:55 GMT from Uganda)
I'm running the Calculate-Linux 13.04 cldx (with XFCE) fine on my setup.
I find it is more Gentoo-like than Sabayon, emerge downloads everything from
source and compiles, I have not encountered any ready binaries unlike in Sabayon.
8 • Ubuntu experiments with portable packages (by anandarpm on 2013-05-13 15:38:11 GMT from India)
I believe this is a good development the ubuntu team has to carry forward as this would make installation of packages easier & solve dependency problem.
Though dpkg/apt-get can handle dependency problem well, the novoice users who comes from windows world are uncomfortable in using dpkg, particularly when they are told about dependency errors.
I believe making installation of third party packages easier in linux attracts some more people to use linux.
9 • Not just desktop tests, please (by Thom on 2013-05-13 15:50:26 GMT from Sweden)
Jesse wrote: "Calculate comes in a variety of flavours giving us the opportunity to choose between Desktop, Directory Server and Media Centre editions."
Here's an idea; why not test, say, media centre editions when they are available either alone or in connection with desktop versions?
While I have no criticism to add to the weekly feature of such-and-such a distribution, I do feel looking beyond the desktop could add new interest and broaden the appeal of DW.
10 • Old Unwanted Computers (by gavin on 2013-05-13 18:00:55 GMT from United Kingdom)
Another idea for old computers is to give them to a school, I know the school I teach at would accept old parts for various computer clubs after school
11 • RE: Used Computers (by Michael Ross on 2013-05-13 19:13:28 GMT from Canada)
Free Geek is a very popular recycling centre found in many North American cities. They are Ubuntu centric but will recycle old computers and most hardware without a fee.
A great source for hard to find parts acquired inexpensivley.
They also have help nights and volunteers learn how to dis-assemble and them assemble computers. They are an invaluable resource and are open to opening in other cities.
They may have a presence in countries outside of North America.
I am very pleased to have given away and recycled over 30 computer in the past 8 years.
12 • old hardware (by mz on 2013-05-13 19:24:07 GMT from United States)
I've been using a firewall distro on a junky old 400MHz IBM for the past few years. My old pfSense box gives me a little extra added security, and it can be extended with things like snort. That BSD distro goes for ever 24/7 and almost never complains or goes down, unless there is a power outage. I could spend a few extra bucks on a UPS, but that would defeat the purpose of having cheap box. I've also got a 2.5 GHz single core machine that I switch distros on every now and then and use for making online purchases. I just switched it to Debian 7, and other than the graphical installer on Wheezy working poorly I'm enjoying the switch. It's fun to try something new on an old PC every now and then.
13 • Re used computers (by Earlybird on 2013-05-13 19:42:06 GMT from Canada)
10) & 11) Excellent ideas. Locally, we have government run "Ecocenters" where you can bring old electronic equipment. Some of the local "big-box" stores such as Staples (Bureau en Gross in Que.) also have free drop-off for recycling. Equipment deposited at these locations (both at the Ecocenters and the big-box stores) goes to local companies that have a contract with the local government to recycle as much as possible of this equipment. This is funded through a local (provincial) "eco-tax" which is applied to the purchase of all electronic goods in the province. Also, the companies contracted to do the recycling, are funded to train out-of-work people in electronics and recycling. This not only helps the environment, it also helps the unemployed upgrade their skills and become productive members of society again.
Personally, I've recycled tons of stuff by arranging to bring usefull stuff down to the local universities (Engineering and physics departments). Even a prehistoric 386 can be used in a lab for doing some elementary data-logging for geophysics (as an example). And parts from printers and floppy drives are useful for robotics.
For anyone interested, you might also check on Amazon for the titles: "Made to Break", and also "High Tech Trash". Really a sad commentary on capitalism, and our continuous need to grow society (Note: I am NOT saying Capitalism is all bad; just that there are some aspects that can be "improved" by borrowing some "socialist" ideas as outlined above).
14 • Portable Package Formats (by Scott Dowdle on 2013-05-13 21:22:00 GMT from United States)
The GNOME developers have been talking about producing a portable package format for a while now. The first I became aware of it was from watching a video entitled, "What are we breaking now?" by Lennart Poettering, Kay Sievers, and Harald Hoyer back in March. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rrpjYD373A around 38:20).
The KDE folks say they were actually first with the concept but I don't know the specifics of that.
15 • What to do with old computer equipment (by Paolo on 2013-05-13 21:26:39 GMT from Italy)
Fist of all thanks to Jesse for this week Q and A.
I am a member of the Milano's association for social promotion "Pcofficina" ( http://www.pcofficina.tk/ )
We are all volunteers and we follow the "I fix it manifesto" (http://www.ifixit.com/Manifesto)
We repair old pc/notebook, install Gnu/Linux (mostly *buntu, pure Debian, Crunchbang,Bodhi,Puppy,Slitaz and now Antix) and we give the refurbished computers to school, free charity group and people without too much money to spend.We also teach them how to use linux for basic work at home.
The pc's are coming from factory and office (mainly) and from private donations.
We have a small laboratory in Milano in wich the member meets thursday evening from the 20:00 to midnight circa. Also sometimes the members meets tuesday evening at the same hours.
Also we as association sometimes have a place in some fair like the linuxday ( http://www.linuxday.it/) in october and some other fair about ethical living.
Personally I use Antix on a 2001's Dell Latitude C600 laptop and on a 2003's Acer 1355LM laptop, both with profit
16 • Calculate Linux plus coments (by LLO on 2013-05-13 21:37:52 GMT from Hungary)
I believe Calculate Linux has some outstanding features of letter size and readability features that many distros lock . With advancing of age one's eyesight is not likely 20/20 forever. When you deal with critical issues using the command line, the least thing you need is fighting undersized purely shaped letters, translucency and other disturbing factors. Once I had to use a 2.5”-by-1.75” x-term window with something like four point size letter just to start the graphic interface that thought me to appreciate properly sized text windows. Calculate however also has a major shortcoming the lock of ability to configure non network printers.
2) OpenSUSE Edu 12.3
Internet through a modem does not work. The previous version 12.2 has worked. Improvement?! I hardly believe.
3) Auto updates
Firefox and Thunderbird have undergone some auto updates in UHU (Hungarian/English 32/64-bit distro). As a result, I cannot watch Distrowatch on Firefox anymore, and the Hungarian Language ad-on of Thunderbird has been declared incompatible. Do they really know what the hell are they doing?
17 • old computers (by zykoda on 2013-05-14 08:14:45 GMT from United Kingdom)
The relative energy cost of running old (5/10 years?) computers compared to a contemporary design is significant (typically £1 per watt p. a.). That Rpi consumes so little energy (24/7) for a capital outlay of say £40, there is no significant cost in using the most modern equipment (should it suffice to do the job!) over a time as short as one year. That most old equipment needs refurbishment (new efficient PSU, more RAM, new OS and apps, display, etc) often outways the cost of brand new. That the deferred disposal of the old contributes significantly to global energy "consumption" needs careful consideration.
18 • @ #16 (by Pierre on 2013-05-14 12:08:08 GMT from Germany)
1) Font sizes can always be adjusted. So I see this hardly as an advantage over others.
2) openSUSE 12.3 no matter what edition works great for me. But modem connections are very rare and I haven't tested this, so I cannot judge this. Nevertheless openSUSE 12.3 saw many improvements over it's predecessor.
3) Don't know about UHU yet. On openSUSE and other distros I know not a single app runs auto updates on it's own. Can't tell about Hungarian Language add-ons here either, but normaly it should be up to the distro too to handle language packs and language pack updates.
19 • @17, old computers (by Jon Wright on 2013-05-14 12:15:20 GMT from Vietnam)
That's what I was going to say. Utilizing a high-powered-monster-that-was as a fileserver is only for those that live in an extremely cold basement - note that if the ambient temperature is on the cold side then that 'waste' electricity is what you would have spent on heating your home anyway - whereas if you live somewhere hot and steamy then it's making your aircon work harder so you lose out twice.
20 • @19, and I know it was partly in jest (by Marco on 2013-05-14 14:15:45 GMT from United States)
> 'waste' electricity is what you would have spent on heating your home anyway.
If you heat you house with electricity, yes, but otherwise, if you use as more efficient energy source, you still lose something. For example you can burn natural gas at home or in the electrical power plant, generate electricity, then transmit and distribute the electricity, only to convert it back to heat, something must be lost along the way. I will leave it to others to estimate the loss.
21 • Energy @20, 19, 17 (by fernbap on 2013-05-14 18:19:46 GMT from Portugal)
There is a lot of angles considering electricity as a source of energy, but the main issue here is how that electricity is generated.
If you use a coal, oil, wood or gas to generate electricity, there is a theoretical limit of the efficiency in the process. It typically is around 20-25%, which means that for each Kw you consume you need 4 or 5 Kw to generate the corrsponding electricity. Much more efficient would be to burn that coal, wood, gas directly in order to produce heat.
There is an issue of proportion here as well. You are discussing a few watts and comparing that to the watts needed to heat a room in the winter (2 Kw typically).
In most of the countries, electricity is still in a large portion produced by burning oil.
22 • old computers in schools (by linuxuser on 2013-05-14 21:47:32 GMT from Greece)
Old computers ( even PII 400 MH or PIII 600MH machines ) can be used in school laboratories as thin clients (terminals). A relatively modern computer must be used as server. More details in ubuntu WIKI pages (LTSP - the Linux Terminal Server Project)
So we can donate old computers to schools.
23 • Recycling used computers (by dace on 2013-05-15 02:29:35 GMT from Kuwait)
Most recent versions of Linux require a processor that supports Physical Address Extension (PAE). My laptop with a Pentium M processor doesn't support PAE. I can't even boot from a Mint 14, Lubuntu 13 or Debian 7 CD. I had to use older CDs for Mint 13 or Ubuntu 12.04 to make it work.
24 • Recycling used computers @23 (by fernbap on 2013-05-15 05:06:42 GMT from Portugal)
Several distros make 486 and 686 builds.
I would recomend Crunchbang, 486 build. Had excelent result with it.
Puppy is always an option, of course.
25 • @ #23 and the energy related posts (by Pierre on 2013-05-15 06:12:09 GMT from Germany)
As fernbap already posted, there are many distros out there that are delivering 486 and 686 builds and don't require PAE. So you definitely have alternative to using old distros.
Crunchbang is really great and worth a try here. You could use antix or Puppy as well. Debian delivers 486 or even 386 builds - if I am not wrong here - which you can give a try, too.
Or if that is not enough, make a search here on distrowatch for 'older computer'. This will give you plenty of choice.
Energy consumtion is always a topic especially on older and once powerful hardware. But for most of the tasks you might use these older PCs at home, you could let it run for a few years until it has consumed the costs of a new and more energy efficient / low voltage PC. Especially if we assume that it's not running 24/7. You could shut it down at night when you go to bed and start it in the morning after you woke up. Additionally the time it is not used it will be in power safe mode - even old(er) hardware is capeable of that. And maybe we should start to learn again that it had cost energy and resources to build that (now old) hardware, too.
Greetings from Germany!
26 • too many spare computers? (by jay on 2013-05-15 13:01:33 GMT from Canada)
set up a huge cluster
or set up a big network of servers
I love crunchbang! I've been building crunchbang on various *buntu's for about a year now. Crunchbang Linux has some great documentation on their wiki and forum! It's sightly tedious at first but if you keep a back up of your config files and using a bash script it's pretty easy to set up on most any distro!
27 • old computers (by Jon Wright on 2013-05-15 14:05:35 GMT from Sweden)
I just worked out, 50w 24x7 gets you a nice new $400 laptop after 100 months. My choice would be to unplug the old machine and get the new $400 laptop as my main machine and follow Jesse's first suggestion of occasionally booting up the old machine just to do a bit of testing.
#26: "... building crunchbang on various *buntu's ... pretty easy to set up on most any distro"
Care to expand?
28 • #27 (by zykoda on 2013-05-15 17:03:08 GMT from United Kingdom)
If energy continues to increase in cost at the present rate, the 100 months will shrink to 50. But I have no idea about electricity tariffs in Sweden. My experience with laptops also suggests that 100 months is a long life for such. Admittedly, I may be entirely wrong.
29 • too many computers (by RyanEpod on 2013-05-16 05:08:22 GMT from United States)
Reminds me of when I had 40 IBM Netiva's laying around I got them all for 4$ so I kind of felt compelled at the time. about 3-4 months I realized the horrible mistake I made now this was back in 2008-09ish and they all had Pentium 4's (about 30 of them ran and had Ram and harddrives the other ones ran but didnt have ram a harddrive or both) but 30 working systems was pretty good for 4$ I got pretty good use out of about 5 of them for various projects I had a BSD box, Open Solaris Box, Solaris 10 Box, one of them ended up being my firewall box, and my last one was an experimental box which had off shoot BSD (like dragonfly) I decided to put Windows 3.11 on it for a little bit which was funny i dabbled briefly in trying to keep a Debian Sid/Experimental box which was most Debian Experimental I used Minix on it which is interesting and I even tried React OS on it which has good intentions i guess but manages to fall completely flat in execution for the 35+ Machines I didn't use I mostly ended up selling the Ram out them first ( for some reason in 2008 DDR ram was all the rage ) i sold the Pentium 4 processors for like 2$ not sure why anyone would have wanted one of those but I didn't ask and almost all of them had AGP video cards ( Nvidia somethings) which people bought up for seriously unknown reasons I know they here pretty lowend even for 2008 after I finished parting them out I just sold them to the melter I got like 40$ and my 5 machines I used I eventually installed Ubuntu ( 9.04 i think ) on all of them and sold them for 10$ a piece w/ Maxed out ram that was the last time I took someones bargain PCs though I mean all in all there pretty limited I felt like I was working as a A+ Techie again and was happy to see them all go the only bargin PCs ill still take nowadays are Highend Power Mac G4 ( mostly just Quicksilvers though Ill take anything Zif-Digital Audio if the processor is aftermarket ) I'll also take Power Mac G5's with atleast dual processors but prefer G4's I'll even take B&W G3's as long as the chipset is Rev B and has a Zif G4 processor or aftermarket G3 processor PowerPCs are just a hobby though I like running BSD on them I'm just sitting on 3 Computers at the moment though an iMac Intel, a Toshiba Satellite with the newish APU processor that dual boots Windows 7 and Xubuntu 12.04 LTS and I have a Yikes! G4 lol I overclocked it to 387 MHz but it currently resides in my closet with an undiagnosed problem that I'm probably never going to fix. and I'm done rambling on here..... .. Laters -Epod.
30 • old computers? (by Dean on 2013-05-16 11:03:06 GMT from United States)
Jesse, the Fire Department of the little town you live in has 17 old donated computers running various flavors of Linux, mostly Peppermint 3 modified with remastersys and a few Lubuntu 13.04's. Small world, huh. You can borrow one if you want...[vpn will probably show me from Chicago area...]
31 • Mint 14 - Ext4 errors (by Verndog on 2013-05-16 18:03:09 GMT from United States)
I installed Mint 14, and have experienced Ext4 journal erros. It only happens using the Mint partition. Using Ubuntu's partition , Ext4 is clear.
I read the Distrowatch's message: "http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20121105#qa", and many other sites, but I'm thinking its Mints shutdown timing that may be the issue.
The only way to know if your having the issue is to either boot from another partition or use a live cd, then "sudo fsck /dev/sdaX" on the Mint install. Otherwise you may not know your having issue as well.
Another command to check is "cat /var/log/syslog | grep -i recovery".
I would like to know if anyone else has this problem.
BTW, I did install several kernels hoping it was fixed. All the way up to kernel 3.10. Stall errors. Which leads me to believe its Mints shutdown timing.
32 • Donated computers (by Jesse on 2013-05-16 18:23:20 GMT from Canada)
Dean, I am impressed. The local fire department is quite small, 17 computers would be just about enough for each firefighter to have their own machine. Glad to hear they have found a home and new life running light distributions.
33 • old computers? (by Dean on 2013-05-16 20:22:54 GMT from United States)
Jesse, the Fire Department of the little town you live in has 17 old donated computers running various flavors of Linux, mostly Peppermint 3 modified with remastersys and a few Lubuntu 13.04's. Small world, huh. You can borrow one if you want...[vpn will probably show me from Chicago area...]
34 • Linux Mint 15 RC (by Chanath on 2013-05-17 10:53:43 GMT from Sri Lanka)
I was thinking, whether I should write about this this week, or in the next DWW, maybe I'd do that in both.
It says it is Linux Mint 15 RC, but what is this not-yet-ready RC here? Mint 15 is based on Raring, which is already released. So, whatever parts of Ubuntu, which is anyway largest part of Mint is already ready. What might not be ready would be the Mint parts of it. So, if you mark out (#) the Mint repos and leave the Ubuntu ones, when updating and upgrading, you'd not break the distro.
Whatever that might be not up to the release level is with the Mint Olivia repos, and not with the Ubuntu Raring repos, so, the user could wait until the final day and take off the # in front of Mint Olivia repos and would have a perfect Mint 15, without downloading it again.
By the way this is the same with all other Raring based distros.
35 • @ #34 and Linux Mint 15 RC (by Pierre on 2013-05-17 15:04:26 GMT from Germany)
Although Mint is based on Ubuntu and Ubuntu got already released does not mean it is really ready.
Ubuntu is pushing out distros in time always and sees very buggy releases from time to time. Additionally the Mint team does not only highly customize the Ubuntu base but also are sometimes fixing bugs etc.
If you ask me it's no good idea commenting out the Mint Olivia repos. If you do so you could install Ubuntu and use that instead. Furthermore I think it's no good idea to use operating systems in RC state in productive environments either.
It isn't so hard to wait for the final and stable release.
@Mint 15 RC
I personally like the changes and new features. At least this release is much more exciting than the Ubuntu release - well, shouldn't be hard to beat that anyway, should it?
Whatsoever, one thing I don't understand that Mint somewhat takes the same direction like Ubuntu in redeveloping many things on it's own, that already has really good options available.
One good example at this point is the MDM.
Why develop a completely new display manager if there are so many out there already, like GDM, KDM, LightDM, LXDM, SDDM and even more... Reminds me a little about the Wayland/Mir-thing that Canonical started.
Anyway, looks like a nice and exciting release.
Just my two cents... Greetings from Germany.
36 • @35 Pierre (by Chanath on 2013-05-17 23:00:34 GMT from Sri Lanka)
Thanks for commenting. Just because Ubuntu releases distros on given days doesn't mean it is buggy. If you look at Mint sources.list, you'd find nothing there. The sources had been moved to the folder sources.list.d If you want to add a ppa, even after installing missing apps to enable adding ppa, you'd still have a problem after adding the ppa. Why?
It'd come as olivia main, not raring main. You'd never get any successful updating to install a ppa. You have to go into that folder and change a lot, so apt-get would recognize it. That's not tweaking by the Mint devs, but spoiling the works. If I am to use Mint, I always change mdm to anything else. Now it had become so large, it looks ancient.
I've been playing with Mints for sometime, and know where their problem lurk. It is not a big deal to make a Mint any more, when you have the released Ubuntu and the new Mint repo.
There are only 2 Ubuntu based Mints, Cinnamon & Mate. These are made just not to use Unity or Gnome shell. Mate is Gnome 2, so it is staying in the past. Cinnamon is Gnome 3, but still trying to stay in the past. Let's say, Mint is somewhat polished than Ubuntu, so one likes to use it, but neither Unity nor Gnome shell is there. I can't get used to Unity yet, maybe to Unity Next. But, I am quite fond of Gnome shell, which is getting better and better.
So, download the Mint 15RC, mark off Mint Olivia repo, as nothing in it is needed for further use or update, leave the Ubuntu repos as it is, install Gnome 3.6 or 3.8, you have a "polished" Gnome shell distro. Mint Update, Mint Software Manager, Mint Updater, Mint Sources, MDM etc are not needed for the distro's work, neither is Cinnamon.
I don't like the thickness of top bars in Gnome shell Firefox, but like the thinness of Firefox in Mint, but don't like to work with old fashioned menus, panels etc, so I get myself a semi Mint based, more Ubuntu based Gnome 3shell distro. I hope you understood, what I am trying to say, Pierre.
37 • Writing again after an 8 month break (by Caitlyn Martin on 2013-05-18 01:01:06 GMT from United States)
I've started writing about Linux again after a much needed 8 month break. (I had been writing for 8 years straight before that.) I've started in my own blog, which I just revived, by following up on a Linux Advocates article which expressed one, but by no means all, the reasons I recommend Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the various free clones: CentOS, Scientific Linux and Springdale Linux. The post is business-centric, but if anyone is interested you can find it at: http://thelinuxworks.blogspot.com/2013/05/linux-standards-and-enterprise-why-red.html
I've also been invited to write for Linux Advocates. I may even submit the occasional review or how-to here if Ladislav will have me back :) Don't worry, I'm no threat to Jesse and his excellent reviews. I'd just be here now and again given the chance.
38 • Selling the product (by Ben Myers on 2013-05-18 02:07:38 GMT from United States)
The people who announce their products need to sell what the product is and what the product does. Not to pick on Mint, which is a very nice distro, the Mint announcement says: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 15 'Olivia' RC. Linux Mint 15 is the most ambitious release since the start of the project. MATE 1.6 is greatly improved and Cinnamon 1.8 offers a ton of new features, including a screensaver and a unified control center. The login screen can now be themed in HTML 5 and two new tools, 'Software Sources' and 'Driver Manager', make their first appearance in Linux Mint. MDM now features 3 greeters: a GTK+ greeter; a themeable GDM greeter for which hundreds of themes are available; a brand new HTML greeter, also themeable which supports a new generation of animated and interactive themes."
That's all well and good. But tell me and others what sets Mint apart from the thousands of other distro. SELL the darned thing! Even just a couple of sentences would suffice. Same thing with most of the distro home pages, which pre-suppose that you know what the product does. And we all wonder why all the Linuxes have not had greater success? Even with Windows 8 to compete against! ... Ben
39 • 38 • Selling the product Ben Myers (by Chanath on 2013-05-18 02:34:37 GMT from Sri Lanka)
What sets Mint apart from others--Ubuntu based distros--is the Cinnamon and Mate desktops. Maybe also the Mint apps like Mint Update, Mint Software Centre, MDM etc. Moving into Cinnamon, when Ubuntu went Unity and Gnome went Gnome3 was good business point at that time, when both Unity and Gnome3 were just trying to crawl, but now?
There was such criticism against Unity & Gnome3, even Clem joined that.
Unity is coming out with Unity Next, Gnome 3 is evolving so fast, would the old-fashioned panels and menus keep up with that? Cinnamon is mostly a menu and a panel and with some 3D effects. What else?
I installed Gnome 3.8 in Mint 15RC. I don't need Cinnamon, so do I need Olivia repos?
40 • Linux Mint Saucy Gnome 3.8 (by Chanath on 2013-05-18 06:22:44 GMT from Sri Lanka)
Uninstalled Cinnamon, Nemo went with it, not a big deal as Nautilus had come with Gnome 3.8. Changed Raring to Saucy In the sources.list, marked off Olivia repos, updated and upgraded. I have now the bleeding edge Linux Mint Saucy Gnome 3 edition with Linux kernel 3.9. Don't know how to call it, maybe Mint 16 RC or just Saucy-Mint. So far so good! It works. It is bleeding edge. It can break any time, but I won't believe it would do that. I was with Raring all the way until it was finally released. Nothing broke down in that, so I'm sure nothing would break in Saucy-Mint. It'd be fun!
41 • Latest kernel on all my 'buntu distros, incl Mint 16 RC, easily. (by gregzeng on 2013-05-18 13:19:47 GMT from Australia)
Multiboot from a choice of 6 distros, on two hardware drives. The 'buntus, including Mint 16 rc, allow installing the compiled version of the latest kernel. These latest kernels appear a few days after the pre-compiled version appears.
Had to remove the last Mint, because it is inflexible, compared to Zorin and XFCE-based distros. My 24-inch landscape screen favors the task bar on the left (a la Unity). Mint only allows space wasting the top and/ or botton areas, mocking my slit-eyed look of my East-Asian face. Ergonomically, it is easier to speed-read text in vertical columns, than in forcing the text into 16:9 landscape mode.
Now trialling the non-Debian distros, such as the 'rolling releases' based on Slackware, etc. When I allow updating after installing, they seem not to install the latest version, unlike my 'buntu experiences.
42 • old computers (by knsridhar on 2013-05-18 16:20:23 GMT from India)
Puppy linux performs very good on any old computer including 486 , P1 etc .it has got all what a desktop needs
Number of Comments: 42
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