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Minor revision to a great Distro

 

I have made no secret here of my love for Mint. In the pantheon of Linux distros (and that is a huge pantheon full of worthies), it is the one that just works for me more than any other that I have tried. I admit I have not tried them all. That would be pretty well impossible. It is not just me that has found success with Mint either: I have corresponded with many people over the years of doing this blog who were having troubles installing Linux, tried Mint, and had it just slide in and solve their problem. Most recently someone with an IBM X30 laptop similar to mine, who was having issues getting their Wifi running with Fedora decided to install  Mint and that was it. Problem solved. This was with a Prism 2.5 chipped PCMCIA card too!.

 

As I recently noted in this blog, I am currently living between two cities.Unless I want to be schlepping hardware all the time that meant I set up a new set of Linux gear in my new office. One of these new systems was a Dell laptop that, while it has been dropped and looks rough, runs OK. It's main problem was that it was running only Windows XP. In my new role, I do use MS Windows for some things: Mostly for VMware's Virtual Center native client.

 

Aside: What in the world is up with that? No Linux native client? VMware started off a Linux based product!  ESX uses Linux on the control console!


Sigh.

 

A web interface would normally be my alternative as a Linux user (and as someone with as many feet as possible in the Web 2.0 world) but even the very most current version of Virtual Center does not support Firefox 3.0, and FF 3 is pretty much all I have everywhere. Grrr.

Mint 5r1 on a Dell Laptop Install

 

While I currently need XP from time to time for Virtual Center, the rest of the time I want to be on Linux, so I took the opportunity to install the new Mint 5 Revision 1 to the Dell laptop. Another aside: Odd nomenclature: Why 5r1 and not 5.1 or 5.0.1 I do not know. I  will take the liberty of call it 5r1 later here, just to speed my typing up.

 

Since I was planning on keeping XP, and it had a ton of tools installed, I needed to set aside 30 GB of the hard drive for XP. I know: Seems like alot, but  those tools look pretty useful, and the hard drive is big enough for both Linux and a 30 GB MSWin partition at 80GB.

 

First off, I ran XP's hard drive optimization program to make sure everything was compacted together, and I also ran chkdisk, just to be sure the hard drive looked healthy. Then I booted up Mint 5r1 and went through the very familiar install sequence.

 

5r1 does not do anything to the time zone picker (The graphical view of the Earth that slips and slides around under the mouse) to make it better. Still easier just to pick the TZ off the menu than to use the graphical selector. A case of a bad use of a graphical interface if there ever was one.

 

Once I got to the disk partitioner, I over-rode the disk size it selected to give XP a bit more room: It wanted to go with 26GB, but I wanted a round 30GB. If it turns out XP never needs it, I can still read and write to the NTFS space from Linux, so it will not be wasted.

 

Partitioner would fail, saying there was an error, but not what it was, or what to do about it. I was confused because I had done a 5.0 install on another Dell without issue at all.

 

I poked around at commandline, invoking the "ntfsresize" command to see what kinds of errors the MSWin disk might be throwing that was causing such a problem, but none of the error messages were all that clear. I thought about it, and decided that the problem must be that the MS Windows disk was "unclean". Even though I had cleaned it before starting the process, something was left undone. A quick boot back to XP, a clean shutdown, and a boot back to Mint 5r1 and now the install / resize went like a champ.

 

Note to self: boot one last time after a chkdisk so that MSWin will mark the NTFS file system clean.

 

The Mint (and therefore, the underlying 8.04 Ubuntu code base) could have been a bit more useful here. I am willing to bet that unclean MSWin NTFS disks are extremely common, and that they are in fact the most common issue when one is trying to install a dual boot setup like this. Instead of 'Error' and little else, a message saying 'Here is something you might try' would have been really nifty.

Mint 5 updates on the Houston Dell

 

Warmed by the success of the 5r1 install, upon returning to Houston I decided to update the other Dell laptop. I decided that a simple MintUpdate would more than likely get me to the Revision 1 version. Nothing is ever simple. Immediately hit a brick wall. The repositories for medibuntu and Hardy security would not refresh no matter what I did. Arg!

 

This one was not directly a Mint or Ubuntu thing either, but a nasty interaction between the "apt-get update" process and the Internet cache inside our firewall. Since I have no control over the way Internet content is cached, it required a bit a research to work around. The solution came from a posting in the Ubuntu forums.

 

sudo bash

apt-get clean
cd /var/lib/apt
mv lists lists.old
mkdir -p lists/partial
apt-get clean
apt-get update

 

I also did this for good measure:

Add the following lines:

Acquire::http::No-Cache "true";
Acquire::http::Max-Age "0";
to the file:
/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/10broken_proxy

 

Finally, just for fun, I refreshed the Medibuntu security keys:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring

 

That did the trick.

Mint Everywhere?

 

One might be tempted to think that I just run Mint on all my computers... and I have to admit that is a temptation sometimes. I do not run Mint everywhere. I would never learn anything about the other Distros if I did that, so I keep some computers in reserve and running other OS's:

 

  • My main Houston Desktop is OpenSUSE 11 as I write this, but it has had some stability issues, and will *not* do a clean shutdown or reboot, so I may move that unit over to Mint in the near future.
  • I have OpenSUSE 11 on my IBM T41 laptop, where it runs very well.
  • My IBM X30 laptop runs plain-vanilla Ubuntu 8.04 at the moment
  • My Acer 5610 dual boots Vista and Mint 5.  
  • Both Dell laptops dual boot XP and Mint 5.
  • Another desktop runs PCLinuxOS.
  • My main Austin desktop runs CentOS 5, and I have an upcoming post about that.

 

There are subtle differences between various distros that sometimes end up making a big difference to me personally: Here is one: OpenSUSE packages NVU (and it is very unstable there), but Mint packages Komposer (much more stable). NVU was developed by Linspire off the Mozilla Composer code base. Linspire stopped developing it some time ago: Well before they were acquired by Xandros in fact. Komposer is an updated NVU, in the sense that it is based off NVU's code but it is still active. There are versions for both Linux and OS.X so no matter which platform I am using I can be writing stuff for one blog or another. That all assume that I can not get to Google Docs of course. I wonder in the Open Source world how many projects there are like Composer / NVU / Komposer. And with Seamonkey actively maintaining the Composer code base, I wonder if they pull back in anything that was done in NVU or Komposer? But I digress.

Mint Still Going Strong

 

I have written about my brothers Mint system, and it bears repeating here as a proof point. My brother is not a computer person, and is not really interested in them other than as tools. Since he is a carpenter by trade, perhaps that is why to him everything is viewed from a tool-centric point of view. I built a computer out of parts that I later installed Ubuntu on and gave to him. Later, during a visit, I put Mint 4.0 on it. Last weekend I was at his house installing a new stick of RAM. He did not really need it: I just came into a spare 1 GB PC2700 stick from my mom and I thought it might fit his computer. It did, and now he has 2 GB RAM. Can you say "Disk Cache"?

 

In all the time he has had that computer, other than the time I had to replace his hard drive and update his video card, he has never called me about it. He and his wife have surfed the net, read email, taken classes at school, done papers in OpenOffice.org, etc. He doesn't even really see any reason to come up to Mint 5... or 5r1. It does everything he needs already. There is one big reason I have a tendency to put Mint everywhere. I don't have to support it. Stark contrast to when he and others in the family had MSWin systems.