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Steve Carl

Mint 5 Revision 1

Posted by Steve Carl Aug 28, 2008
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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.

Steve Carl

Ch-ch-changes

Posted by Steve Carl Aug 25, 2008
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Moves and grooves

 

Behind the scenes a great deal has been going on for me personally. I have not been posting a great deal here for a reason, and it is not that I lost interest in it, or ran out of Linux things to say.

 

 

First off, I am changing BMC offices, moving from our headquarters location to Austin, Texas. There is nothing sinister about any of that really: I just want to live in Austin, nearer to the Open Source action... the Bar Camps, and so forth.

 

 

Secondly, you might have noticed a change in the description of my title: I have also left management and returned to 100% technical work. Again, there is nothing deeply mysterious about that either. After being a first line manager for 20 of my 30 year career, I noticed something: I had stayed technical. This blog is part of that, and herein over the last three years I have described in fair detail the technical things my team has been up to. In talking about that to my manager, we decided that perhaps it was time to be a full time techie again, and he helped me make that happen. That is also coincided with my move to Austin is no coincidence either. Everything sort of fell into place at the same time, and I have to say that while scary at first, I have been deeply looking forward to diving back in.

 

 

What that should mean for this blog is *more* material, not less.... once I get settled in to the groove of course. I have been doing my old job here for so long, it has taken me a while to get transitioned over. August also means vacation in Far West Texas for me of course, and I have been talking a little about my vacation adventures over in my personal blog.

 

Torn between two cities

 

Part of being straddled between two offices between now and December, when I make the big jump, is that I have two desks. Two offices. Two sets of machines to maintain. Fortunately, I can build computers with parts from the trash can and they are highly functional. My Houston office was stacked to the rafters with my computer resurrections. My PCLinuxOS unit came West as a place for me to land "here" (I'm in Austin as I write this) for starters. A test CentOS system also came out: the one that Dan had grabbed from me to set up a test system I talked about in the CentOS NAS cluster article series [part two ]. That is up and running, and so my new experiment was to look at CentOS as a user desktop OS. More on that in a different post, and later.

 

 

Another thing was resurrecting a Dell laptop and making it dual boot with WinXP and Mint 5. That too will be a different post. This is using the recently updated Mint 5 R1, so it will essentially be 'new'.

 

 

One other thing keeping me busy has been that, as BMC has bought a few companies, such as BladeLogic, we have had some opportunities to consolidate some of our regional R&D data centers. Here is a fun fact: about three years ago, we had over 15,000 computers in the CMDB listed as being assigned to various R&D missions. As we have moved towards various Green initiatives, and virtualized like crazy, we have taken that number to less than 9,000. I alluded to one small part of that in "Virtually Greener". Two data center consolidations will be coming up between now and next spring, and affect over 1500 of those computers. Getting that done and keeping R&D uninterrupted is a huge project, and this one does not generate a great deal of time with Linux other than as an end user. Lions and Tigers and Spreadsheets, oh my! Thank goodness OpenOffice.org has improved Calc with the 2.x releases!

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I did not actually have any plans to attend LinuxWorld this year, and I suppose that I barely actually did: I was there half a day as it turned out. Even in the little I saw today ("Today" being while I am writing this, which is Wednesday, August 6th, 2008) the show has changed. More about that in a bit.

 

I was in San Francisco for a completely different reason than LinuxWorld. I was in the Silicon Valley to do some work on a potential new BMC R&D datacenter. No new hidden announcements there: just consolidating six regional R&D data centers into one much larger and more modernly designed facility. It is amazing how fast a data center design goes retro.

 

 

Fun Fact: If you stacked all the computers we use for R&D in the Silicon Valley on top of each, in the shortest possible dimension, that would equal a stack of computers 29 stories tall... and this is after we have retired hundreds and hundreds via virtualization.  I know: Utterly useless knowledge, but kind of fun to know. If nothing else it helps me visualize the scope of the task it will be to move all this as smoothly as possible. Fortunately this is not my first time... and this isn't even our biggest R&D data center.

 

 

I finished up what I was in the Bay Area to do a little early, and someone at the BMC office had free passes to go to Linuxworld, and asked if I wanted to attend for a half day. Not one to turn down serendipity, I of course went. I had to pay, but with half a day to spend there I was just going to get a floor pass anyway.

 

 

I have not presented at the SanFran LinuxWorld for a couple of years, and I have never been as a non-speaking attendee, so it was very interesting. Here are some of things I noticed that seemed the same... and some that seemed very different. This is utterly my subjective experience of course. I was not really there long enough to square root the show, nor did I attend any sessions. From what I could see of the session list, that is still a very rich, fact filled experience.

 

  • Coming in, the lobby and the banners and the way everything was decorated was soothly familiar. Very much like coming home. There was Tux all over the place, and the familiar light blue on white signage I have seen at so many of these events.
  • The T shirts and other stuff at the event store looked to have even more, better selection than ever. I resisted another tie-die Linuxworld shirt only by sheer force of will.
  • There were fewer booths than last time I was here. I talked to one vendor in attendance but who did not have a booth about why that might be, and they said that that they used the Internet for a great deal of the things that they used to get from being on the floor. I get needing to spend the marketing money wisely, but it also made me sad: It looks like we have another endangered species on our hands.
  • The flavor of the vendor mix that was there was also interesting:
  •  
       
    • I saw lots of stuff about 10Gig Ethernet, FC over Ethernet, and 8Gig FC.
    •  
    • Lots of storage : I was especially interested in Promise technology in that regard because of their recently replacing Apples Xserve RAID product as Apples solution for low cost data center storage. We liked our Xserve RAID gear quite a bit, but this gear looks better in every way but one: It is not as cool a physical design. Oh well, you clearly get more bang for your buck than with the Apple product or days gone by. Promise also supports actively Linux, whichmoves it to a new level for me personally.
    •  
    • Rackable systems had a Semi-trailer filled with a portable datacenter. Not the first time for that I know, but the first time I got to touch one. Very cool.
    •  
    • The .org area was as fun as usual: This time I spent some time at the DRBL / Clonezilla booth, and I will definitely be looking into these tools when I get back from vacation.
    •  
  • There must have been 1.5 Bazillion Linux powered netbook class laptops. In vendors booths driving displays and in attendees hands as their mobile computing device. Makes sense, since they have sold those by the truckloads. If it wasn't a netbook, it was an Apple, and several of the Apples were running Linux. The MacBook in the Clonezilla booth was running Ubuntu.
  • When I first started going to LinuxWorld, RedHat, SuSE, Xandros, and so forth were there. Even though Wednesday (the day I was there, which as I write this is still today) was "OpenSUSE day", they had no booth I could find. Neither did RedHat or Xandros or MS. MS dropped out pretty early I think. That just could not have been comfortable.
  •  
       
    • Side Note: RedHat used to give away red Fedora hats at LW: I always thought that was the best gimme ever at a trade show ever, even beating BMC's own combo laser pointer / pen (or, "laserwriter" as I used to call them when I was giving them away)
    •  
  • Ubuntu / Canonical *was* there. There were not before.
  •  
       
    • Is it just me, or is Ubuntu pretty much everywhere now?
    •  
  • I saw several products listing Mandriva as supported: Never noticed that before. Good sign.
  • Saw one vendor listing PCLinuxOS as supported. Also good sign.
  • Linux based hardware appliances were all over the place: WAPS, Cells phones, general handhelds, and on and on.
  • Bumper sticker on an Apple: "My Other Computer is a Data Center": From Google.
  •  
       
    • At one point on this trip I could not get to the Internet... while I was writing this in fact, so I could not use Googles Docs as I often do. Had to go with Komposer, which is better for HTML generation anyway. Looking at all the Linux powered netbooks, and thinking about how Apple pulled the iPhone tethering application recently, it seemed to me that Suns "the network is the computer" is still in force, and that we are still a ways away from ubiquitous network access.
    •  

 

My general feel, after walking around and talking to people and looking at stuff was that Linux had turned a corner sometime between the last time I was here and this time. Where it used to be "Linux can do it" where "it" was defined pretty much as "Anything", from desktop replacement to embedded to server, the claim that it could do "it" was based on the fact that it factually could do it, not that it had huge market uptake or maturity.

 

 

This felt different. This looked like an event that was about something that was utterly mainstream. It felt like a mainframe conference of old, where all the vendors were selling things that made the MF work better  or analyzed it in some way or added missing functionality (Hey!  We do that!).

 

 

In a way it was a little hard to deal with. It was one thing to be an early adopter, but now, looking at all the netbook users running around I realized in some ways the Linux world has caught up to and even passed me a bit. For one thing, I left my XO-1 in Houston, although the netbooks looked more usable in the keyboard department than the XO-1 is in any case. Rats. Time to start saving my pennies.....

 

 

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