The frustrations of Linux (UPDATED)

If Linux really wants to see itself installed on the average Joe’s home computer, it HAS to be better than it’s counter-part, Windows. As an OS (Operating System), it IS — it’s light-years ahead of the Windows architecture, IMHO. However, there is a side to Linux that is SERIOUSLY lacking — error and system messages — they SUCK large.

Now, I don’t claim to be a super-user, but I do my fair share of computing — from websites, to blogging, to programming, to just plain old web-surfing — I’ve used my fair share of computers, right on up from the TRS-80. Accordingly, I am not in the “{whatever} For Dummies” category either. I’m “above average”, as far as the general public would be concerned, simply because of the time I spend on computers. I’ve seen my share of error messages, let me tell you. So, if I’m complaining about them not being descriptive/helpful, what do you think the general public is seeing?

On to the problem…

Read more The frustrations of Linux (UPDATED)

The power of Linux

I have been an Ubuntu Desktop user for almost two months now, so let me update you a bit.

About a week ago, I made a HUGE mistake when running the command line as root (I can just imagine some of you grinning already). No, I was not using the rm command! That has to be the first line in every Linux book you read — WARNING!!! Then an example of wiping out your system with the rm command.

The ‘mistake’ I made, was not actually done on purpose — it was kind of a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ thing — let me explain. I was in the middle of copying some files to a new, shared directory that I setup to share with my LAN. This is when I had to ‘chown’ (CHange OWNership) the copied files — I started to type the command

sudo chown -R langroup:langroup /

when I was interrupted. Can you see it? The FULL command was going to be

sudo chown -R langroup:langroup /home/lan-shared

as I only wanted to change the ownership on that directory and it’s recursive directories (hence the -R option). But I turned around, after my interruption, and hit the enter key without completing the command.

I still wasn’t aware of what I did — it took about 4 or 5 seconds before I looked at the screen and saw it. Then, I realized what I had done! I had, inadvertently, issued a command, as root (sudo) to change the ownership (chown) of directories and files, recursively (-R), to the ‘langroup’ user and group (langroup:langroup), starting from the ROOT directory (/). Obviously, this is NOT what I wanted. 🙁

I quickly escaped the command (Ctrl-c), but it was waaaaay too late. Almost every directory and file on my system was now owned by ‘langroup’ — you can only imagine the havoc that wreaked.

It took quite a long time to get sorted out — I actually gave up on trying to save the system, but I wanted my files! The short and sweet of the recovery process was to boot the LiveCD in another machine and look at the directory structure and, more importantly, the ownership of the directories/files. From there, boot the machine I was having problems with from the LiveCD and get into recovery mode (ie. the command line — or ‘shell’). There you are root and can start changing ownership to what they should be — therein lies the time. Oh, my goal was simply to get network connectivity back so I could transfer my files. Or even get my CD writer back! Something to allow me to get my files. I ended up achieving network connectivity and was able to get my files.

I will now offer you a tip that would have saved my bacon, had I known it at the time. When installing Linux (any flavor) set yourself up a separate partition for your /home directory. Why? Simply because if you set it up in that manner, you save all your files to a separate partition on your hard drive. In the event of a serious problem, such as I have outlined above, you can simply reinstall the OS without touching (ie. without formatting) the /home partition. As an added bonus, you can install a newer version of the OS (say, for example, when Ubuntu Fiesty 7.x is released) as a clean install, and not an upgrade, if you so desire. The structure would be like so (keep in mind, this is for a single boot, Linux only machine — do a Google search if you need dual boot instructions);

Example — you have an 80G drive.

/ (root) ext3 — 10G
/home ext3 — 69G
/swap linux-swap — 1G

10G is plenty for the OS, and the 1G swap can be altered to your needs (depending on the amount of memory you have, etc.), but is a good base. Assign the majority of your drive to your home directory, as this is where the majority of files will be stored. Now, if you ever have to reinstall, you can choose NOT to format the /home partition and your data will be intact upon completion of the install.

This problem actually worked out better for me, in the long run — here’s why;

I initially installed Ubuntu on a P3 machine, and not one of my better ones, simply because I was testing the OS and didn’t know if I’d like it, or stick with it. I quickly found that I did like it, used it the most, and wished I had put it on a better machine. Part two of that is that I also wanted to install Beryl (a Linux Theme Manager — all kinds of cool stuff that’ll give any Vista user a run for their money!), but it just didn’t like the older hardware (especially the ATI video card!) and wouldn’t run.

Well, seeing that I now had to reinstall Ubuntu, now was the perfect time! Instead of reinstalling Ubuntu on that machine, I threw Window$ XP back on it as I still, unfortunately, need a Windows machine (no, I haven’t tried ‘Wine‘… yet!). From there, I copied all the files over from my current XP machine and then installed Ubuntu on that machine — a P4 3.2GHz dual core machine with 2G of ram, 2 x 200G SATA drives, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’m happy to announce that Beryl installed without a hitch — and man, IS IT SWEET! Do a search for ‘Beryl’ over at — there are a bunch of videos there demonstrating Ubuntu & Beryl.

The moral to this post? The ‘chown’ command can be just as dangerous as the ‘rm’ command, if you’re not careful! 😉

Ubuntu update!

It’s been two weeks since I first started using Ubuntu Linux as a desktop machine — there have been a few struggles (read as: learning curve), but all-in-all I am quite pleased with it.



There have been a few times where I’d have to switch to my Windows machine in order to get something specific done… but that was mostly due to my lack of knowledge, and not Ubuntu. 😉

I moved all of my website and programming development files over to my Linux machine and have been developing from here (I’ve been using gedit mostly — a pretty good little editor that comes as part of the Ubuntu install. The PHP highlighting is pretty good. But hey, I’m used to Notepad2 in Windows! I’m not into flashy editors.). Anyway, since I’ve been developing my sites under Linux, I’ve had the need to add a few tools that do not come as part of a standard Ubuntu install.

First thing that I noted I need was an FTP client. For that, a quick Google search led me to gFTP. The install directions were simple;

sudo apt-get install gftp

But that produced a “package not found” error. Arg! A little more Googling and I found my answer — I had to “uncomment the following two lines to add software from the ‘universe’ repository”.

deb edgy universe
deb-src edgy universe

I then had to update the package list with;

sudo apt-get update

Another go at the install and I was in business. From there, the install went smoothly and I was rewarded with a new icon/link in Applications/Internet, accordingly labeled “gFTP”. I am familiar with GUI based FTP on Windows, so the software itself was no problem getting used to.

My next obstacle was image editing. This came in two parts — first, I was used to working with Photoshop… does Adobe have a Linux version? With a little Googling, I found that there wasn’t, but there were people successfully running the Windows version of Photoshop through Wine, but I didn’t particularly want to start messing with that at the present time. 😉

During my Googling, I kept seeing the name “GIMP“, so I Googled that! What do you know? Another piece of Open Source Software that is installed with Ubuntu by default! Cool! I say I’m used to Photoshop, simply because that’s what I’ve always used on Windows. I don’t do any serious image editing, just your basic stuff for my websites, catalogs, etc. — accordingly, the features of GIMP will suit me just fine. That’s one down.

The second part to my image editing I have not figured out a solution for my Linux machine. And that is the scanning of source material. I have a Lexmark PrintTrio that I have used under Windows for something like 2 years and have been, basically, happy with it’s performance. Unfortunately, Lexmark has not developed any drivers for Linux for the X1150. From what I have read in various posts during my searches, it appears that Lexmark is not too fond of Open Source Software. Printing was no problem with the x125 driver, but I needed to scan — so I had no choice but to hook the Lexmark back up to the Windows machine (oh yeah, gotta switch machines for a second and check the driver install… back… all is well!).

OK, so I have scanning back… but still, it’s a PITA having to scan on Windows and then transfer the file to my Linux machine. Oh well, something else to look out for the next time I buy a new printer/scanner!

Well, I think that’s about it for now (hey, I’ve only been using it for two weeks!). For a Linux Desktop noob, I have actually been surprised at how little I have to switch to my Windows machine — and it will only get less and less with each passing day!

Ubuntu, here I come!

For the past couple of years I have run a dedicated server for a few sites that I manage. Accordingly, I have learned a great deal in regards to server management, but more importantly, I have learned to work with Linux.

When I first started, my server being remote, I had to learn how to work with Linux through the CLI (Command Line Interface). And did I hate it! This is like going backwards and working with DOS again! LOL! Well, I’m glad that I stuck with it. Once you learn the ins and outs of the Linux CLI, you will be amazed at the power of the OS. I’m still a Linux noob and learn something new each and every day that still amazes me.

My server runs RedHat Express Linux (RHEL), which is a paid OS that I didn’t want to buy (the license for the copy I am using comes with the “lease” of the server, but cannot be used outside of the server) — but I wanted to learn more about Linux and how to manage my server… without “playing” and “testing” on my live server. So, I bought the Linux Bible and started reading.

It wasn’t long before the book made note of the various Linux distros that were included on the accompanying CD — Knoppix, Debian, SUSE, Yellow Dog, Gentoo, Slackware, Linspire and probably a few more I’m forgetting. I now had a Linux distro that I could install and play with (and even better, an OS that is FREE, built on the foundations of OpenSource Software). Let the install begin!

I grabbed an old P1 machine that I had sitting around, cleaned it off and started looking at which distro I was going to install. A few minutes on Google had me looking at Debian… Debian seemed to be quite popular, so Debian it is. The install was quick and painless — and I had a working command prompt in a very short period of time. Every command that I was leary about running on my live server, I was now able to play with and understand on my new test box. Wow! This is great!

So, I was happy with my new Debian install and worked with it for a couple of months — reading, Googling and learning. It helped a ton by giving me the understanding of how things worked, plus it gave me the ability to test things out without breaking a live server. If I screwed something up here, I could simply start again.

So, I’ll skip forward a bit… to the section of the Linux Bible on Desktop Environments. What? Linux has “windows”? I don’t need to work with the CLI? I can point and click? You betcha! I point apt-get (an application for retrieving and installing software packages under Linux) to the Gnome Desktop and let it install. To my amazement, I had a working desktop in no time at all… and guess what? It looked very much like the “Windows” environment I was used to. Gotta like it.

Finding the desktop environment made me more interested in the Linux OS than ever. I found myself using my new Linux box more than any of my Windows machines… but it was slow. More due to the machine it was on than anything. So, on to the topic of this post (finally, eh?)…. Ubuntu: Linux for human beings.

I belong to a couple of websites for programmers (read as: geeks), so I started asking more and more questions about Linux and what the difference was between the various OpenSource Linux distros. This is when one of the guys pointed me to the Ubuntu website. I waded through pages of features and documentation and decided I liked what I was reading. I grabbed a copy of the latest build (6.10) and started looking at which machine I was going to dump Windows from as I needed something more than the old P1 that I had Debian on. In the interest of shortening this story up, I ended up choosing a P3 800MHz machine with 512K of Ram and a 30Gig HD. Nothing fancy, but it should run a whole lot faster than the P1 I was testing.

So, last night I dove in head first and installed Ubuntu. One feature I liked was when I first put in the install CD, Ubuntu actually loaded up and was usable. Cool! And, unlike the Debian install, the desktop environment was loaded automatically… even better! Once Ubuntu was up and running (as I have said), it gives you the option of simply playing with the OS right from the CD — OR, you can click the “install” icon right on the desktop to start the installation. I clicked install, answered a few questions and the install began. Again, the install was quick and painless.

Anyway, I’m rambling on more than I expected to for the topic of this post — I am using my new Ubuntu install to browse this morning and to make this post. So far, I really like what I see, but as I have stated above, I’m still a Linux noob. I’m sure there are alot of things that I am going to have to learn before I completely unplug the Windows machines. And I’ll probably have to look for some new software packages that are compatible with Linux (for example, I run QuickBooks as my invoicing software… don’t know yet if they offer a Linux version, or if I’ll end up moving away from any piece of software that is specifically written for Windows). Office is another package that I use quie frequently… but that has been replaced with a FREE version, OpenOffice, that comes preloaded with Ubuntu.

I’ve got to go to work, so I’ll end my post here. I’ll make some update posts to fill in some of the holes I have probably left… and once I get used to Ubuntu a little more.

Vista? Microsoft? Microsoft who? Bill, you get no more of my hard earned cash! 😉