Aug 182021
 

Debian11, Bullseye was released on August 14, 2021.
I have already had a chance to upgrade a 32 bit machine to the new release and it runs well. The laptop is circa 2010 with an Atom processor. Of course it is a bit slow, but that is not surprising. Kernel 5.10 is working well with this older laptop. I managed the upgrade by editing /etc/apt/sources.list by hand. It worked, but I had to check my edits a few times and almost reverted to Buster. One important change is the name change for Debian security line in /etc/apt/sources.list. This is explained in the release notes on the Debian wiki website, and is due to apt syntax symbols. this difference is between “release/security” and “release-security”; replacing the slash with a hyphen. I worked this out by reading the update warnings before I read the release nots. If I had read the notes first I might have taken longer to upgrade, beacause it was very easy to A) do the Buster updates, B) Edit my /etc/apt/sources.list and C) update and upgrade to Bullseye. There are a half dozen steps to clear up obsolete files and settings, remove non-Debian repositories and other obstacles to a simple Buster to Bullseye upgrade. Luckily for me I was running a basic system and had no complications or special settings.

The release notes are here: https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/release-notes/
Note the architecture is specific, though much is the same across all architectures. The main sections are: 1- Introduction, 2- What’s new in Debian 11, 3- Installation system, 4- Upgrades from Debian 10, 5- Issues to be aware of for bullseye, 6- More information on Debian.

I took the sections out of order, doing my own simplified upgrade routine (#4). It worked, but it is certainly better to follow the directions. I omitteed study of the installation system (#3) as I was upgrading. There is some good information in that section also, as well as links to a wide variety of installation images, including a discussion of the firmware issues sometimes encountered due to hardware and solutions and alternative media. Tracking these down involves reading the offerings on the various mirrors and the accompanying notes to select the best ISO image for your circumstances.

Section 2 “What’s New” is very interesting and well laid out to give those with particular interests news of improvements.
Printing (2.2.2); Indicates progress on printing without the need for proprietary firmware for particular printers. I have long preferred HP printers as HP was much more forthcoming with firmware. The section on printing is called “Driverless scanning and printing.” The goal of driverless printing and better interoperability seems to have been reached. I don’t print too often and I do not have any problematic printers or scanners, so I cannot give any firsthand report on this. Still, the progress is good news and I hope somebody will be able to give us a report sometime this year.
Journal and systemd (2.2.5); For the techincally minded this short section may be of interest in decisions about which logs and journals to use to monitor system health. I will look into this in the future, but may have a new tool for evaluating system health.

Section 5 “Issues to be aware of for bullseye” gives some specific guidance on what one may encounter due to the changes in the system and applications. There are many of these and I am not addressing them all here, only those that I have read and applied myself which is not representative of all the issues.
Security (5.1.3) As above the repository for security updates from Debian security has changed, mainly relplacement of the forward slash in the name. I was glad to read the note and to check my sources.list to be sure to stay in conformity with the security notices and updates.
Limitations in security support (5.2.1) Applies mainly to browsers and web protocols. the short story is that Firefox-ESR and Chromium are supported. From the notes: “Therefore, browsers built upon e.g. the webkit and khtml engines[6] are included in bullseye, but not covered by security support. These browsers should not be used against untrusted websites. The webkit2gtk and wpewebkit engines are covered by security support.” From my use that means Web/epiphany-browser is not such a good idea. It was also not working well with my particular email and some other sites. Of interest is that Web/epiphany-browser is sandboxed and that also causes problems with some websites or interactions, like downloads and printing from the web. So, I have removed Web and will use Firefox.
The rescue boot option (5.2.3) The rescue option in the boot menu has limitations as noted in this section. This is for security and applies if there are problems booting. Solutions and advice are given in the notes.
Deprecated components for bullseye (5.3.2) Here I skip over the obsolete package list, but found the discussion of the merge of /bin and /usr/bin very interesting. Essentially there will be a change in the directory tree to eliminate separate /bin, /sbin and /lib and move these to sub-directories of /usr. This brings the tree in line with other Unix and unix like systems. The reason for the separate directories was in part based on hardware limitations during boot which are no longer an issue. I checked my system and it now conforms to the transitional state with a symlink in the separate directories and the files in the appropriate sub-directroy of /usr.
Know severe bugs (5.4) makes for good reading and is important to be aware of know issues to avoid user panic. I am forewarned that the xfce4-settings may go black after a suspend initiated by closing the lid. There are other issues and, of course, someone is working on them.

Sectin 6 is More information on Debian, available at https://www.debian.org/doc A good place to start if you ahve any questions.

In the main my Xfce desktop is the same, with new artwork, an empty “Favorites” section of the app menu that I am adding to, and some settings set to the new defaults that I am re-tweaking. The previous “Favorites” submenu was pre-populated with the maintainer’s choices, mostly okay, but I don’t mind starting with a blank slate and filling in my own choices.
I have purged ‘quodlibet’ and ‘exfalso’ and installed ‘audacious’ and ‘streamtuner2’: this to get music streams from the Internet.
Early use and exploration of the 32 bit laptop has been pleasing. I had decided to give up on 32-bit computing, but as Debian supports it, I will do some more testing.

Jun 142021
 

Topic of the Day:

Gopher – file search – University of Minnesota, 1991, did not last when web protocols changed, and the university licensed it as copyrighted. By the time the licensing was reversed in 2000, Mosaic had surpassed it in features and use as the web expanded.
Gopher is a client/server directory system that allowed people to quickly browse resources on the networks.

Gemini – a new Internet protocol, file search and markup language; Not Gopher, Not Web, in-between. Art has posted to the mailing list some details.

Other topics

  • Firefox 89 rewrite and some temporary work-arounds;
  • Cherrytree for note taking;
  • Spider-web charts for multi-demnsional comparisons;
  • Spreadsheet preferences – LibreOffice, Gnumeric, csv;
  • Systemd and systemctl – see the recent article at https://www.2daygeek.com/linux-systemctl-command-manage-systemd-units-service/
Mar 162021
 

After a brief email discussion we have resolved to move to the other alternate Thursdays beginning in April 2021. We will meet April 1, 15 and 29 at the usual time, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Art B. will be adding content for us as follows:

April 1: Replace Excel with RStudio
April 15: Write documents in Pandoc Markdown, exploring documentation formats
April 29: Make a website in Markdown with Static Site Generators like Hugo
May 13: Make a website with Gemini/Gemtext
May 27: Replace Word with Overleaf/Latex
June 10: Replace Powerpoint with Overleaf/Latex/Beamer/Metropolis
June 24: Alternate shells: Fish shell & object shells
July 8: Keep track of RLY BIG files with Git-Annex

Please note that we meet every other Thursday and that the dates have changed beginning in April 2021. We will continue every other Thursday as noted in the Events page. As of March 2021 we are still meeting via video conference at the virtual meeting place: https://meet.jit.si/nmglug We continue to discuss the possibility of in person meetings based on pandemic recommendations and rules from the State and City.

Jan 312021
 

Art B. will present some work he has done at our Feb. 11, 2021 Virtual Meeting – see Meetings page for link to the meetup

FROM: Art B. Deduplicating backup software and version control for large binary files

Deduplicating backup software includes the likes of Borg, Restic and the horribly named Duplicacy. This is the current state-of-the-art in backup and makes efficient use of disk space while giving more flexibility in pruning old backups compared to backup software based on differential/incremental snapshots. I was thinking to give an overview of how Borg/Restic/Duplicacy stack against each other, the concepts behind how they work, and an example of using one of them. My current personal project [https://github.com/akbarnes/dupver] is a deduplicating version control system that I started at the beginning of the pandemic. I deal a lot with binary files that have a lot of structure like Sqlite databases and was lacking for a good way to keep track of versions. I’m thinking to give an overview of the design behind it along with a usage example. Warning! It’s an ambitious project at alpha-level quality.

The slow web – Gemini, Gopher & the tildeverse

In another area of interest and throwing out an idea for a future presentation if someone wants to take it on. Gopher has been making a comeback along with its younger brother Gemini. I’m old enough to miss the old days of forum culture. This along with the tildeverse scratches my nostalgia itch pretty hard. Maybe someone is familiar with setting up a Gemini server? I got playing around with Gemini and thought I’d share my experience in advance of this week’s meeting.
For folks that haven’t heard of Gopher, it’s a text-based predecessor and, briefly, competitor to the WWW. It lost out when folks saw WWW which was almost Hypercard over the internet and didn’t charge licensing fees as was the case for Gopher. Gemini is a re-imagined Gopher from some alternate cyberpunk universe with a cleaner document format and which runs over TLS. Project names borrow from the early days of the space race. It’s totally impractical, as it could have been implemented more easily with a subset of HTML or even as an alternate text/gmni MIME type on top of HTTPS. I still love it as it tickles my nostalgia centers for the earlier days of the internet. I’ll admit to having rose-colored glasses here. The modern internet is a place where you can get actual work done, but I sure miss the old times of weird personal interest pages and discussion forums. Gemini really brings me back to those days, especially since people don’t seem to quite know what to do with it yet.

Amphora and bombadillo are nice clients and there are a number of servers out there (jet force, molly brown, twins and agate are the most mature, with agate appearing to be the easiest to set up). Ironically it’s a little tricky to set up a server on account of TLS. There are some other hosting alternatives on the tildeverse, notably tilde.team and the Gemini-only tilde.pink
For those unfamiliar with the tildeverse, it’s a stupidly simple concept that has gained surprising traction: set up a VPS running Linux, give people accounts and let them create webpages in old-timey 90s html style.

Feb 102020
 

“Goals: Our primary intention is to grow the community of GNU/Linux users; both in their numbers and in the level of their expertise. Also we intend to do it while having a good time.” (from the nmglug.org Home page)

On the theme of really growing a community, it is time to review how to be most helpful. How to be welcoming and able to get to the level of a beginner who wants to try Linux. It may be difficult to think like the basic user or curious hobbyist who are not used to thinking of themselves as system administrators. The 2020 termination of Microsoft support for one of their popular systems gives an opportunity to spread the message of freedom of Gnu/Linux. Has anybody asked for release from the tedium of un-free software? It takes time and a little patience to tutor new users on the shift to any of the Linux flavors. And that is one of the assets of Gnu/Linux, the many options and levels of freedom and ‘curation.’ The variety of Flavors.

A recent encounter I had was to install Ubuntu 18.04 on a used laptop a user purchased specifically for a Gnu/Linux install. I had the ISO and installed it on some good, if used hardware: Intel i7 processor, 8 GB ram and 128 GB ssd. This user needed more speed and had shopped for good hardware, even asking for advice a few times before the purchase. The smaller ssd was no problem as the user has a large external drive for files. Gnome3 turned out to be a stumbling block that I was unable to smooth out for her. Mate desktop was different, but still not right for either of us. She requested Linux Mint 19.3, Cinnamon. After I obtained the ISO we proceeded to do a fresh install. Cinnamon and the curation by the Mint community were what she wanted. Feedback was all good.

I am also working with a another indiviual, referred by a neighbor already using Xubuntu 18.04, the going is slower, but not without progress. Here there will be less depth of learning, but due to the ubiquity of computing and a real need to be connected there is the desire to stay on the Internet. So I will work to see how the user works in the old system and adapt my tutoring and selection of an ISO that is most likely to present a shallow learning curve. I believe it can be done.

Four weeks ago NMGLUG helped clear up a file system error that prevented booting. We used edits to grub, a nice trick and the simplest way through the problem, telling grub to force fsck before mounting the system. there were two commands to enter in the “Linux” line in grub, and the caveat to rerun it till it reported no errors. This was accomplished with the assist of a Linux-savvy user with experience and understanding of the boot process. It is fun to work with people with a skill base that is ready to pick up a new idea.

Speaking of rescue, a quicker conversion happened over a recent weekend: a dropped laptop resulted in hard drive damage and inconsistencies. The remedy was to switch out the drive and install a spare from my closet. I installed the Linux Mint 19.3 here as the user was familiar with an Ubuntu loaner from a previous time I suggested help. It will take some time before I hear back on this, but the user is alert and has specific, mostly web related, habits and needs, so the shift should not be too great a problem. I remind each user that the computer will do the same things, but the buttons may have different colors and names. I try to pick distributions with static, visible menus which are less of an obstacle for users accustomed to selecting files or applications from such menus.

Thinking about a recent install, an old Compaq laptop – 32bit Xubuntu 18.04 worked. My Debian 8 Live did not work and I have tossed that DVD. Time to focus on newer equipment for installs, I think. In order to learn about Linux there is no need to hamper the user with a slow system that may not have the capacity for the demands of today’s Internet. A system that is compromised by a slow processor and limited by 1GB of ram is okay for me to practice with, but if it won’t accept imbedded video on the Internet it is too old and an impediment, not an asset, to advertise the merits of Gnu/Linux. I have an older Asus EEE, which is portable, but without web video capability it is not really good enough to pass on to others. There is better hardware in many a closet, or available for purchase.

Apr 162018
 

NMGLUG is meeting at The New Baking Company on Cordova Road. They have re-opened in the same location as before. We are informal,  but try to assemble by 5:30 P.M. so that we have some time before 7 P.M. closing to tutor or do an installation or upgrade. There is WiFi at the Baking Company. They have remodeled, so it is cleaner and brighter. There is no longer a public computer and the WiFi is managed by another party, as the new ownership found that more convenient for them. We can assist with logging in as the process is a little murky.

Recent club work has included some up-grades and installs, at meetings and at other times. Members can be available sometimes for help at other hours. There is a growing number of non-club members using mostly Ubuntu variants now. We have helped them to  install and use Free Software as an alternative to other computer operating systems. Of course, Linux and Debian based systems can support, and keep current, a variety of older hardware. Please contact us if you need some help for your computing upgrade to Free Software, as in license and at no cost, and a community of support spanning the globe!

Aug 222016
 

Only a few days left to pledge support and pre-order!!

eoma-micro-card_jpg_project-body

The Earth-friendly EOMA68 Computing Devices project is a crowdfunding campaign run on Crowd Supply to produce a line of hardware products that are ecologically responsible, and built based on royalty-free, unencumbered hardware standards.

They write:

“Now imagine if you owned a computing device that you could easily fix yourself and inexpensively upgrade as needed. So, instead of having to shell out for a completely new computer, you could simply spend around US$50 to upgrade — which, by the way, you could easily do in SECONDS, by pushing a button on the side of your device and just popping in a new computer card. Doesn’t that sound like the way it should be?”


https://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/support-the-libre-tea-computer-card-a-candidate-for-respects-your-freedom-certification

https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/micro-desktop

 Posted by at 2:36 pm
Feb 102015
 

NMGLugers, I have edited the recurring meeting location to the Whole Foods St. Francis (meeting space on Cordova) location. This seems to make more sense that using the Santa Fe Baking Co.. We meet at the Whole Foods location this week and we can discuss this further. Thank you. Ted P.

Update: We seem to have stably (for now at least) settled on Warehouse 21 upstairs in the Media Lab. – Arlo James Barnes, October 2015