Sep 202022

September 15th, 2022:
NMGLUG members gathered in person at Violet Crown, 1606 Alcaldesa St, Santa Fe. It is in the Santa Fe Railyard, very near the water tower landmark. There were five members present: Art, Geoff, Jason, Mark and Ted. Art brought his “new” Lenovo Thinkpad x280. He had successfully installed LinuxMint 21, so we had no work to do there. Several of us discussed the advantages of LinuxMint, Ubuntu and Debian as an introductory OS. Community on-line support and longevity of support are important to the new user, so that they can learn how to identify and then solve issues with the help of the Internet community. Ubuntu has a well developed website with a diversity of topics covered and some community sites beyond the official one. LinuxMint is non-corporate, but has good support and web presence currently. However, it is still mainly the work of one developer. Debian has a very good website, a large community and has a breadth of options for live and install iso’s available. I use Debian at home, but still install either LinuxMint or Xubuntu for new users, though that may change in the future as Debian allows tweaks to the system to permit some non-free libs and codexes to allow use of more hardware and commercial media. I am afraid we are in a hybridized state with freedom and copyright issues swirling around control of the digital world and the User’s general expectations.
The biggest amusement at the meeting was connecting to the wifi at Violet Crown. I was using Debian 11, 32 bit on an old Asus Eee. I connected on second try, perhaps because I was distracted for a moment and that allowed whatever authentication process to work. Others had to make several attempts, too. We were connecting to the VCSF-guest access and the theater provides the password at the concession desk. By the way there is food and a variety of beverages. Food is good and beverages to many tastes. I had raspberry iced tea which was very sweet, but went well with the chicken flautas. After connecting several members explored the speed and utility of the connection. Video worked for those with better machines than mine, and other checks seemed to work. As we were not doing an install, a real test will have to be tried another day. Downloading packages may or may not be as smooth.
Some interest was added when Jason introduced us to etherape, a graphical display of network traffic and showing some simple use cases of wireshark. We tried to get a variety of uses to display – so members used different websites to show print, video or other types of traffic among ourselves.
We had plenty of space and reasonable noise level so we could talk across tables. Our group could have been twice as big with no seating or working problem. This day and time for meeting seems good.
I did also connect to the virtual meeting, one other member was there. Due to my 32 bit system the best we could do was use the chat. That was clear, but we concluded it was better for me to say “Hello” to all and then focus on those at the table. So hybridizing meetings is questionable, but a possibility.

Aug 182022

I am working on a laptop to donate for general users, so I have chosen LinuxMint as the distribution. It includes the non-free audio/visual codexes and brings some of the Ubuntu tools including the Languages setting which helps bring in a wide variety of languages other than English.

As I am a bit of a fan of the GUI, while still able to go to the command line, I feel the readily accessible and easier to use “Languages” is easier than re-configuring Locales. In Debian, I can shift the language, but I am not fluent enough to be sure I could use the commandline in a foreign language. Plus, as I am sending this unit into other hands to pass on to yet others, I hope that the idea of using the “Settings” menu and visible options to adjust the Desktop will be familiar to anyone, anywhere with even a small amount of familiarity with computing.

Since we are no longer meeting face to face as often or easily now, I am hoping that GNU/Linux is familiar to enough people and has a visual interface that “just works” for any user. I have been reflecting on freedom and free software this year, especially after attending the Free Software Foundation virtual conference via video. While I rely on a lot of the work that has been done, I am not absolutely “pure” in my hardware and software. In s few discussions of the current situation I find a wide variety of people using free software for various tasks, from simple to complex. And the approaches vary, too.

Some prefer very un-free hardware for reasons of price, quality of display and other parts, some delve into the total freedom of CoreBoot and motherboards free of undisclosed blobs. I have been a hobbyist and scavenger, so I take what I can find, updating hardware as computing demands have advanced, but basically converting an available PC or laptop to Gnu/Linux and then working with the installed parts and replacing and upgrading where I can.

At home I use Debian and have selected a GUI Desktop that I like. I have an editor preference and other choices and I have become familiar with some other programs as the need or interest has arisen. Most of my daily ‘work’ is simple and basic. I alternate between the commandline and Synaptic for maintenance. I have habits, but not a fully established rationale for my choices. I now try to see that others will be the same: have habits, focus on the many advantages of free software and use it to full advantage either in a particular application or as thorough way of working, using the free-est hardware, too. So I have become a little more broad-minded about how to work with free software and also regret that the public meetings we don’t have mean sharing my interest is rather hit or miss.
I do hope we can expand the circle of GNU/Linux users in the future. I am glad the maintainers have kept up all their good work and that all the distros are keeping up with the changes in hardware and the uses that people have for computing.

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:
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 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
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: 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 [] 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 and the Gemini-only
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 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.

Jul 142018

Old hardware can be fun to keep going, especially when one of the branded and expensive operating systems stops support on otherwise very good hardware. For a few friends I have installed Xubuntu 16.04 LTS and act as support and tutor. Recently I picked up a discarded 2004 Toshiba and gave it a try. Well, I think there is a limit to how old a laptop or computer I want to do much work with.

For my friends I suggest they do what I do, hence the Xubuntu installs. This way I can also answer some questions on very short notice and perform rescue if there is a glitch or mistake or a badly needed update. I know the menu and main applications and I can look up others in the repository. These people have acquired a decent machine or even buy one, maybe on sale or re-furbished. My current preference is for a 64-bit, 4GB ram and any hard drive that is newer, these are now measured in 100’s of GB’s. The 2004 Toshiba had a 60 GB hard drive and that was enough for installation in 32-bit, but there were other problems.

The old 2004 machine, excellent in its day, was very limited: only one available slot for ram and an early Celeron(tm) processor, not even a Celeron M(tm). Processors are constantly improved and every decade make a leap of 2^5th, if they double in speed every two years, and therefore allow increase demands from the applications. The 2004 could not do multi-threading and was limited to the 32-bit and single core, single thread processing. As a tool it was limited everywhere one would expect increased ability. The Peppermint 8 OS was maybe not the best choice – it is geared toward Internet connectivity and processing which demanded too much from the bus and processor. The games, for instance, were opened by the ICE-SSB links. The “ICE” name for the launcher is the Peppermint nod to an earlier nickname of their OS. It uses the launcher to open a “single site browser,” that is Chromium locked to a single site and without toolbars.  This technique is used elsewhere for Internet test centers an other kiosk-like controls on the user to focus on only allowed activities. For example on a test of scientific knowledge taken via the web, the browser locks me on the test and I cannot access an encyclopedia to find the answers. Unless I also have a cellphone in my hands, too. The effect of the added overhead on the processor of browser plus controls was too much for the 32-bit processor and ram. Locally installed games worked much better, as one would expect. Typically I could play Solitaire and watch the sensors [‘watch -n 10 sensors’] and see the machine cool down. It heated up when browsing and shut down once when I was not paying attention to the heat. Clearly I was asking too much of this old device.  I have assigned this old machine to re-cycling; taking a few choice working sub-assemblies out for use in newer machines I can get to function reliably.

I have the “Net Install” version of Debian on disk and will be using it on 32-bit machines. The Ubuntu threat to cease 32-bit support makes sense for any really workhorse machine; 64-bit, multi-core, multi-threading and larger ram are expected for Internet and visual applications. Still I know that the 32-bit machine with enough ram and bus speed can adequately do most of what I commonly use my computer to do. Currently I have a Dell from 2005 which has the CeleronM(tm) processor and 2 GB ram and it seems to run much better with the Peppermint OS or the Debian 9, Stretch. I am using the Debian Stretch to see just how well it will work and so far it does well, handling local and network access creditably. It will do as a demonstration machine to bring to meetings, though a bit heavy when compared to current portables. And, alas, the optical drive is noisy, but working for now. Unless I find a replacement that is not quite so worn out I won’t use it for audio disks. All in all it shows that 32-bit is sufficient when given enough ram and is used for the basic tasks of e-mail and Internet browsing and running applications made for the installed OS. It can certainly do as a standby machine to access e-mail if I’m doing repairs for myself or someone else. We have become so accustomed to being connected it seems a necessity.

While experimenting with Peppermint I discovered Quod Libet, a music player with built-in browser and accumulator of Internet streaming audio. This ran well on all the machines tested, even the 2004 Toshiba. I have re-discovered the fun and the frustrations of streaming radio as it exists outside of the services that include an algorithm to play what it thinks I want to hear. You know the ones, you join and put in an artist or song and voilà, hours of homogenized music. Instead, the streams collected by Quod Libet seem to be independent radio stations around the world, always interesting, sometimes almost randomly playing music so disparate as to jar the ear. It is some fun to listen for a while to New South Wales, Australia or Paris, France and get a take on pop and hip hop I might otherwise never imagine. The browser claims over three thousand stations, though I suspect some duplication, still, many more than I can get via fm radio in Santa Fe, NM, USA.

Jul 012018

Getting Started with a Gnu/Linux Installation:

This is an outline and report of recent experiences with installation of a GNU/Linux system on a laptop. The steps would be the same for any computer, but most of the NMGLUG group are now using and bringing laptops to meetings.
1) Get a disk or usb with an installation ISO; there are many choices. In NMGLUG we have had Debian Stretch 9.4, Ubuntu 18.0, Xubuntu 16.04LTS and Peppermint 8 as recent installs. All of these were downloaded on a working computer and copied as ISO images to a flash drive or DVD.
2) Insert and boot from the ISO media and do the install, choosing partitioning and encryption or no encryption. If in doulbt accept the default partitioning. Installation from the ISO is just the start for the process, but in our several cases installation worked. A restart and login are required to do a little testing of keyboard and some applications. This helps the user get a feel for the menus and any gaps in the hardware drivers. For the Ubuntu 16.04LTS and Debian 9.4 we needed to use a usb wireless dongle with a free driver to download the necessary proprietary driver for the built-in Broadcom wireless card. The Peppermint 8 install on a 2004 laptop ran slow and needed removal of the ‘apt-xapian-index’ application which was monopolizing cpu cycles. Further issues arose with the Celeron processor in this older machine, which seems unable to keep up with the needed work, despite a rating of 2.8 GHz.
3) Get the Updates to bring in any improvements in the basic software: This can be done via Update Manager, Synaptic Package Manager, “Software Center” or the commandline. Ubuntu does not include Synaptic, so the easiest is to open the Updater and select “Check for Updates” or in the “Software” application open and wait while it tallies the software and looks for updates, then look for the “Updates” tab and install them. In Synaptic there is a “check for updates” button and then the “Apply” button, once the updates have been loaded. The retrieval of the updates may take two to five minutes and may be anywhere from 200MB to 600MB in size depending on the age of the installation media and the number of updates and rewrites from the software maintainers. Then reboot and put the machine to use for a few basic functions. The browser should work, and office suite and photo display will work. DVD’s won’t play and some music files may need additional codecs. Some codecs are proprietary and while free of cost, are not truly free for source code or sharing. But there are solutions so that DVD’s and MP3’s will play on any current installation, as long as the hardware is capable. (I cannot recommend using a laptop as old as 2004, unless you want constant problems.)
4) Tweak or “tune” the system: Pepermint 8 required removal of the “apt-indexer”, as above, and removal of Samba as a potential problem. I added: sox, lame, fancontrol, vim, vim-runtime, gnome-games, aisleriot and stellarium. I removed the SSB links for games and Gmail. The SSB is “Single Site Browsing” which usese a locked browser to go to one site only and hides all other browser functions. The default browser was a problem for the Celeron CPU/GPU, so I added the elinks browser. The elinks browser works readily in a terminal, thus cutting down on the load for the gpu. Perhaps a graphics problem with the Radeon builtin gpu? The users of the Ubuntu 18.0 and Xubuntu 16.04 will undoubtedly add and remove some different items. Newer machines may not even require removals as hard drives are larger than the 60 GB drive in the old laptop.
As a part of tuning, I take a look at the settings for the automatic updater, usually I want a weekly notification to update. In a newer edition like Ubuntu 18.0 a two-day update cycle might be good for a few weeks, as the software is improved by the developers in the early release period. Set the Update interval so it does not interfere too often with actual use of the machine.
There are enough applications to allow anyone to select the ones suited to one’s areas of interest. Many Gnu/Linux applications are adapted to user modification and adjustment so you can install and then fine tune the application to make it work the way you would like. I found adjusting the Terminal color scheme improved the readability of elinks, for example.
5) Testing and use: Experience with the older laptop and Peppermint and Debian revealed a good enough wireless and audio setup which allowed streaming radio from the Internet via QuodLibet and slow video on YouTube. The latter was not a surprise, but the ability to play a standard DVD adequately was a nice bonus. The SSB/online games we balky and thus removed, the installed games run well if not added to other simultaneous tasks. So there is some reason not to rely on an older processor and motherboard if you can help it. The Peppermint team is focused on having the Internet be the source for applications and storage – not a good approach for my hardware, but I will keep testing for a while. A second hard drive with Debian 9.4 for the older laptop runs a bit better, but still has the slowness in browsing.
6) Do Something! Once the operating system is loaded, updated, tested and tuned it is time to do some work or play. So use the applications, look at all the settings in the display and functions. Pick colors and icons that are convenient and suit your taste. Explore the menu “tree” so you know where to locate settings and applications.

I know GNU/Linux on a computer lets me get to the work and play I want in my computing experience. I think it will do that for you as well. Thank you, Ted P.

May 152018

Hard or Easy; Keeping up with Progress or “What are you going to do?”

There are several styles of computer use: the home and basic Internet user, the DIY hobbyist, the specialist looking for a better tool, the professional dependent on IT for productivity, the network professional, the programmer/developer and the scientific and mathematical specialist in computer science. One can place himself/herself into one of these categories and decide how much energy one expends to get done what is wanted.

The home user is geared to applications that click and work. Now tutored by smartphones, we expect things to just work and update automatically and if not working, just buy the new phone that does work. In GNU/Linux computing buying one’s way out is not really necessary. Why buy new when an upgrade will nicely improve the suite of applications that most people use? Ubuntu fits this user pretty well. Long term support for five years and a guarantee that if the application comes from the repository it will work and not break the system or other applications. The alert user will be aware of update cycles and support. One extra consideration at present is the state of CPU architecture: the 64-bit multiple core processors are going to be more widely supported than the previous 32-bit single core types, at least for Ubuntu. Debian is still working on all architectures. Both are easy to install and update. But they are not the same, so one should think about the level of support to be found in person and via Internet.

The DIY hobbyist is dedicated to a certain kind of work: photography, art, blogging, communication, sales via Internet, etc. He or she has a focused goal and has found a computing solution that works. Sometimes that is available via the GNU/Linux distribution, hereafter ‘distro’, or through a third party cooperating program. In Ubuntu there are ppa’s, “Personal Package Archives” and third party repositories. Ubuntu cooperates with these in the update process. See “” for more information. The list is long, but not endless. You should note that though the packages are labelled “.deb” they are not part of the Debian OS. So far, so good if Ubuntu and your particular third party are still in cooperation when a new upgrade of Ubuntu is released. If not, then there is a very good chance of a broken system. Why? Dependencies.

Linux programming has been based on linking smaller programs already built to do bigger jobs or create new methods of solving a problem. This also follows in Distro: applications make use of existing parts of the system and save time, space and work by using these common parts. These are called dependencies. So if you install an application and look at the process it may say, “depends:” and list a variety of ‘lib_this&that’ items you have no idea were involved. In Ubuntu an example would be installing a KDE application on a Gnome desktop. The libs for each are quite different, as each team worked to coordinate the basics in a different way, so the first KDE application you grab will bring in a group of dependency libs. The libs are called “lib_someTask” these parts of the system make it work better and faster. They work as coordinated teams of linking parts. Except when they are removed as no longer necessary or have been replaced with a total rewrite with a different name. This happens over time as hardware and programmers improve how the computer works.

The Specialist user has gone above the Distro to seek out that very special and useful program not necessarily part of the Distro system. So he/she has either built the new application from source code, or found a set of intermediate libs or equivalent to make an “alien” program run with the Distro. Building an application means compiling from source, which guarantees compatibility with the kernel and hardware. That’s what compiling is about, building an application on the given machine. If you work at this level you accept the workload of compiling and testing till it works. There is also WINE, the non-emulator that offers the equivalent of the libs needed by a certain other software stream. Of course there is also the option of virtualization for running a totally foreign OS on a GNU/Linux machine. There are other ways to find and incorporate the specialist applications by searching the Internet and getting advice from others. Going outside the Distro obligates the specialist user to keep up with how many external sources are used and whether dependencies are met. Upgrading in this condition is not easy as your Distro may alter dependencies and create a new ones. If your third party items match, then all works, if not it’s back to the Internet to see what others are doing. One solution might be to freeze the system at a working point and not upgrade. Off the Internet and with updating turned off this will work, but you are on your own, without one central place to find a solution should something fail.

Network and programming professionals make many more sophisticated decisions on hardware and software on a daily basis. The basic operating system that best suits is just the beginning of their work. The Internet is built on Linux servers, so the choice there is obvious. Programming can be done in any computing environment, but some are better than others. This may explain the use of Linux systems in CGI and the inclusion of the Bash shell in certain commercial/proprietary systems. For those new to GNU/Linux the Bash shell gives a way in to learn about the next level of computing. Also called “the command line,” the text only way of getting work done can be really efficient and helps the user get a feel for how the computer takes input to make output.

The mathematical and scientific users need no help from these notes. They have studied the intricacies of the hardware/software interface, can think in abstract and effective processes to get the electrons to do the necessary computational work to make multiple events flow in nanoseconds, doing vast calculations, gathering, analyzing or distributing data. Getting the fastest processors and the most efficient hardware systems to advance science is a combination of budget for hardware and improvement in computational circuits. The computer is a tool which can handle great volumes of repeated tasks for the user. The nuanced task of choosing which tasks to automate and how to do that is up to us humans.

So, “What do you want to do and how hard do you want to work at it?” Those are the questions to ask yourself. If it’s e-mail and browser with some video, photography or audio work you can have a really full experience with Debian or Ubuntu. I choose Ubuntu as the Internet support and information is copious and the presence of third party applications is sometimes desirable. Debian has more hardware support, is totally community based and is most of what makes Ubuntu anyway. [In a future post I may address the most obvious user difference between them: root vs. sudo for administration.]

Debian and Ubuntu provide fully graphical interfaces. Installation is still a bit easier for Ubuntu, but the difference is small. Either way, a choice must be made, because they are not interchangeable. I believe the variety in the appearance of the desktop is a benefit available in either one, and that GNU/Linux offers the user the best computing experience and customization. Will it work for you? I think so, given the continuum of GNU/Linux users.