31 May 2011

What is the sense of gNewSense?

Linux is famous for its freedom. Freedom is in its blood, to be precise - in its license.
There are 2 types of free things which are usually considered:
  1. Free as beer. Linux OS costs you nothing to license.
  2. Free as freedom. Linux OS can be modified by yourself any way you like.
Most distros (apart from chosen few who violate first type) satisfy both criteria. With small exception. There are too many things around us which are covered by non-free (of second type) license. Most famous examples are MP3 decoder and hardware firmware.
How can free lover Tux live with these restrictions? Different teams of developers solve the issue different ways. Some of them include all the necessary stuff into distro, adding necessary legal notes (e.g.Linux Mint). Others split free and non-free software between repositories which user is free to connect to (e.g.Debian). Third type tries to avoid non-free software as a class. These puristic distros may be very interesting.
Today I will tell you about one of them: gNewSense. It is supported by Free Software Foundation as one of few who satisfies strict restriction to use only really free (as freedom) components.
Latest version of gNewSense was released in September 2009 and has index 2.3. It weights just above 600 Mb, which makes it possible to use on either CD or USB.
Let's try both options.

29 May 2011

Contest Results (2)

Contest which ran on this blog for few days is over.
Unfortunately, I have not received screenshot with 100,000 on the counter.
The closest one was 100,005.
Winner has been notified and will hopefully receive prize soon.

28 May 2011

Fedora 15 KDE: When New Old Is Better Than New New.

My last review was about Fedora 15 with GNOME 3 interface. That is the first ever implementation of GNOME 3 in widely released system.
But Fedora is not GNOME-only oriented system. It features several “spins” with different desktop environments: KDELXDEXFCE. Actually, there are some other spins for specific purposes, but that is not part of our today’s discussion.
Having used different distros for some time, I still prefer KDE to any other desktop environment. That’s why I could not pass by opportunity to try Fedora’s KDE spin.
Image file of this spin is much bigger than Fedora GNOME. It weights just below 700Mb.
As in my previous review, I tried to use Fedora’s tool to “burn” image file to USB stick. Unfortunately, this time I had no luck again. And again, old good dd command worked fine.
USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Chose to boot from USB. Let’s go!

27 May 2011

Dynebolic: forgotten Rasta Tux

There are different Linux distros in the world. Some of them are generic and are suitable for wide range of purposes. Just a few to name: Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, OpenSuSE, CentOS. Others are created for specific purpose and include specific application out of the box. Some of them can be optimized to run specific tasks. Good examples are Scientific Linux, Edubuntu, Alt Linux (School edition), Backtrack.
Of course, there are some distros which account themselves as multimedia-oriented. They appeared not today and not yesterday. They started to appear as soon as multimedia applications and hardware became available for Linux. This post will be about one of these multimedia-oriented Linux distros – Dynebolic.
Latest version of Dynebolic 2.5.2 DHORUBA was released in December 2007. History wise, this is just peanuts. But in terms of Linux history, that is “ages ago”. ISO weights just under 700 Mb, in other terms OS was developed to be used from CD image. It is Live CD which means you can run it without installation.
It is announced on the official page that it supports wide range of hardware and contains wide range of multimedia applications. Let’s check if this is true or not.
I did not create CD with the image, instead Live USB was created by Unetbootin. USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Chose to boot from USB. Let’s go!

25 May 2011

Fedora 15 with GNOME 3: better than Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity, but...

I have already written that there were 2 major events in Linux world this year, from my perspective. Second of them was release of Ubuntu 11.04 with controversial Unity desktop. What was first one? You're right: release of GNOME 3 desktop environment.
There are a lot of information about GNOME 3 working on different systems. But the 24th of May 2011 was an important day for Linux community. This was a day of first ever official release of Linux distributive featuring GNOME 3 as default. This distribution is Fedora 15.
Of course, Fedora has lots of "spins" which include other desktop environments, but who can lose an opportunity to play with new toy? Not me, for sure.
Surprisingly, Fedora 15 with GNOME 3 is pretty light in disk image size, even less than 600 Mb. Fedora also features LiveUSB Creator tool. Unfortunately, it did not work for me. I could only see black screen with blinking cursor in the top left corner after its work. Of course, dd command is also supported by Fedora images, and this time round I found myself in the Fedora boot screen.

24 May 2011

Simplest Contest You Ever Took Part In

Update 28.05.2011: Contest is over. Winners are notified.

Have you ever took part in contest?
Do you know that some of them are difficult, others are not?
If you read my blog for some time, you should already know that my previous contest was rather difficult one.
This is time now to announce new contest!
Drums... Lights... Emcee!!!

All you have to do to win the prize for this contest is:
  1. Subscribe to this blog, either by following me on Twitter, liking Facebook page or getting e-mail subscription. All these options are in the right column.
  2. Take a screenshot of your browser showing counter of pageviews with digits 100,000 on it. Ideally it should also show clocks.
  3. Send me an e-mail with your subscription details and screenshot. If you have clocks shown, please also tell me your time zone.
To make it slightly more difficult and fraud-proof, I'll move this counter from one place of the page to another every day. I will know what is the place of the counter on a day of 100,000th visitor. Your screenshot should prove that very place.
Can't get 100,000 yourself? Don't be upset! I have additional prizes for you! Yes, specially for you, who caught number 100,001 or 100,002 or 100,003. The prizes will be sent to 2 subscribers (yes, you still need to subscribe) who send me closest numbers to 100,000 above this value.

What are the prizes?

  • Main prize is a book! Yes, best prize ever! Book full of knowledge! The book will be sent to subscriber who catches exact 100,000 on counter. It can be any book from "Linux Blog Book Shelf" - you can see it on your left. Feel free to search for whatever book you actually need there, tell me the name and I'll buy it for you. Only 2 conditions:
  1. It should be a book about Linux or Open Source Software;
  2. Price should not exceed 20 British Pounds.
  • Second prize is flash drive. This is 1MB flash drive branded with one of the best magazines on this planet (not Linux-related though). It will be sent to subscriber who sends nearest number to 100,000.
  • Third prize is CD with Linux. This is CD with any Operating System listed on Buy Linux CDs page. It will be sent to subscriber who sends next nearest number to 100,000.
And here is some small print.
  1. Please do not fraud. If I receive several screenshots showing same value on counter (being it 100,000 or number above), respective prize will be given to nobody.
  2. Contest is running by myself (DarkDuck).
  3. There are no official sponsors for this contest.
  4. My decision is last and binding to all parties.
  5. All the communications regarding this contest should be in English only.
  6. Contest terms and conditions can be amended any time, including but not limited to cancelling of contest.
  7. No purchase necessary.
  8. Prizes will be sent via airmail (international) or second class (UK) mail.
  9. If there are any import taxes or surcharges, winner has to pay them.
  10. No cash alternative.
  11. If winner or runner-up does not correspond to e-mails within 2 weeks after announcement, prize will be withheld. 

23 May 2011

FreeSBIE: Is Devil Live or Dead?

This blog is about Linux. I try different Operating systems based on Linux and share my opinion, whether it is good or not.
But is the Linux the only operating system in the world? Surely not! Shall I tell you few words about other systems? Why not?
I see your mouse pointer now rolling towards "close" icon on your window. You most likely think that this my post is about Windows or Mac. Stop, wait a moment. Of course not!
This my post is about BSD. BSD stands for "Berkeley Software Distribution". This is open source operating system developed by University of California in Berkeley. It is UNIX-based, which makes it relative to Linux. By the way, BSD is also "parent" for Mac OS X.
Actually BSD is family name for several Operating systems. It's like Linux has Debian, Slackware, Arch and others. Same way, BSD has FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly... and FreeSBIE.
I think first and seconds of them are most known by people, while others are not so famous.
You maybe know that I prefer to test Live versions of Operating systems. Unfortunately, neither FreeBSD nor OpenBSD have Live versions. Their distributives are for installation purposes only. Though, FreeBSD site has a link to its clone with Live CD: FreeSBIE. Unfortunately, latest available version of FreeSBIE (2.0.1) is dated January 2007, which is just few months younger than my laptop Compaq C300. Let's have a look how well they can live together.
Image file for FreeSBIE weights just under 700 Mb, which means I can burn it to CD-RW for test purposes. OK, CD is ready and placed into the drive. Reboot. Let's go!

19 May 2011

Adventures in Chakra Linux

My previous post was devoted to my attempts to run Chakra Linux on my laptop in Live mode. Neither CD nor Unetbootin'ed flash drive worked. I almost lost my temper, but then decided to look for an answer to my doubts on Chakra Linux's official web page. Are developers aware that Unetbootin does not work with their system?
Seems like they are. Because they offer alternative method. If I had little bit of thought myself, I could guess it. Because this is a method of direct copying of iso image to USB: command dd. It is the method recommended by Chakra Linux's wiki. Did it work? 
Yes! It worked!
Finally I am in Chakra Linux 2011.04 boot menu.

17 May 2011

Bad Chakras of DarkDuck

...or "God Loves Trinity"

There is Russian saying "God Loves Trinity". I don't know English analogue. This saying means that when you have something 2 times, you are very likely to get same for the 3rd time.
My recent experience with two versions of Linux from Southern America was not the best I ever had. Neither of two (Dragora and ImagineOS) started in Live mode on my system. Different reasons, same result.
What did I feel when I downloaded my next Tux from the Internet? It's hard to say. I wanted to get something light and useful, I believe. That's why my choice was for Chakra Linux. It is based on Arch, which makes it very likely to be easy and fast. I had experience with Arch-based distributive only once so far. It was CTK Arch, and it was Fast and Furious.
Chakra image weights just under 700 Mb, which makes it easy to burn to CD-RW. Disk is ready and it is in the drive of my Compaq C300 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go.

15 May 2011

2 Trips to South America

I try to cover different areas of Linux world in my blog. That means I take Linux distributives based on different principles, approaches, roots. And also I try to cover distributives with different geography. Quick list of countries which I have "visited" with my reviews will include Australia, Cambodia, Russia, Latvia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic and USA. I hope that's not full list. I have never travelled to Latin America so far. Is it time to do so?

Instant Messaging Options: An Ever-Growing List

Instant messaging has been popular since its invention, and the number of instant message (IM) systems are growing almost exponentially. Whether embedded in proprietary programs—usable on certain websites only—or via free-standing platforms, there is generally an IM system that suits almost everyone.

In alphabetical order, some of the most popular include:
  1. AOL Instant Messenger: Not only can either two individuals chat 'live,' but several people can join as well. Photo- and file-sharing, voice chat and transcript archiving is up to the individual user. The latest version of AIM includes tie-ins to social networking. Linux version: on-line (AIM Express) only.
  2. Digsby: A multiple-use instant messaging platform, Digsby combines IM, email, and social networking into one package. It allows multiple-platform sign-in with AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber. According to several tech reviews, however, Digsby allows advertising tracking. Linux version: not yet, but promised.
  3. Facebook Chat: A proprietary system, you must be signed into your Facebook page to enable Facebook Chat. By clicking the online friends tool, you can start conversing with friends instantly. The chat tool can also inform you if you have new notifications to view. Linux version: available as embedded service or via Jabber-protocol.
  4. Google Chat: While having a Google email or 'Gmail' address isn't necessary to use many of Google's toys, Google Chat works right from the Gmail inbox. You can communicate with anyone on your Gmail contact list and save the email trades. Be visible to anyone or sit quietly, waiting as invisible, Google Chat gives you the option. Linux version: available as embedded service or via Jabber-protocol.
  5. iChat: iChat enables Apple or Mac users a free, easy-to-use instant messaging system. It offers audio chats for up to ten people at once, and video conferencing or chatting for up to four people at the same time. It allows screen-sharing among contacts. The iChat AV3 version can connect directly with Google Talk and indirectly with Windows Live Messenger, Facebook Chat, and Yahoo! Messenger. Linux version: no.
  6. ICQ: The oldest of the instant messaging systems, the program is named after the ham operators' 'I Seek You' call, asking for a call-back from anyone or a particular call sign. Linux version: available as on-line service or via multiple 3rd party clients.
  7. Meebo: A relative newcomer to the IM arena, Meebo enables any of three IM systems sign-ins or use it among the Meebo chat rooms. The drawback to Meebo is that you cannot use more than one IM sign-in at a time. For that option, see Trillion, below. Linux version: not applicable, this is cloud service.
  8. Nimbuzz: Instant chat, texting and free calls for the mobile phone is the Nimbuzz claim to fame. The program also allows the fairly standard sending of photos, videos, and files. Linux version: as on-line service only.
  9. Pidgin: Another multi-IM platform program, Pidgin integrates Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and others, enabling conversations with multiple contact lists from one condensed window. The usual file, photo and video sharing is still possible. Linux version: yes, this is one of the most popular IMs for Linux.
  10. Skype: Skype is best known for its voice or phone calling capabilities. Call another Skype user via the system for free or call a land line anywhere in the world for a fee. Written chats are still common, though users often find the one-to-one chats are more convenient via voice communication. Linux version: yes.
  11. Trillion: The newly revamped, multiple-platform program offers 250 new functions and massive adaptability. Sign into several IM contact lists via this program, and the fun continues to build. Other multiple-platforms may outshine this updated program in limited areas, but none can beat Trillion for the adaptability and functionality. Linux version: as on-line service only.
  12. Windows Live Messenger: Formerly MSN Messenger, this Microsoft messaging program allows typed chats, video and voice chats via the program without long-distance charges. Like many IM programs, you can automatically save chat transcripts for rereading or for business purposes. Photo and file sharing is common, and it allows select addition or random addition to your contact list. Linux version: directly not supported, although protocol available via various 3rd party messengers.
  13. Yahoo! Messenger: This instant messaging system either stands alone or allows you to chat with Yahoo! Contacts via Windows Live Messenger, above. Voice calls are tolled, however, but you can call an IM contact, a computer or a land line if you wish. Video chats and online radio can enhance the instant messaging experience. Linux version: yes.

About the Author

JC Ryan is a freelance writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them search for online degrees that can help them reach their goals.

14 May 2011

Alternative DNS services: pro and contra

Internet is impossible to imagine without DNS.
DNS stands for Domain Name System. This is a service which translates domain names (like linuxblog.darkduck.com) into IP address (like Browser then connects to the host using IP address.
In other words, Internet would look very much different without DNS. Can you imagine typing IP address into address bar of your browser?
Usually DNS service is part of package which your Internet provider gives you. May be you even do not know how it works. Another service called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) takes care about this.
The issue which your Internet provider may have is that their DNS servers may be down for whatever reasons. Technical glitch, software or hardware upgrade, whatever else. If your provider's DNS servers are down, you cannot use domain names to get access to Internet sites.
Is there any alternatives to your provider's DNS service? Yes!

10 May 2011

CTK Arch: Fast and Furious

When reviewing different distributions, I always try to do this in Live mode, being it Live CD, Live DVD or Live USB. There are some reasons for this.
  1. First of all, Live version can show you hardware support issues which you anyway face in normal install.
  2. Then, Live versions is safe for data on Hard disk. You don't risk to lose data because of bad installer.
  3. And last but not least, installation itself is not the quickest process, and basically is waste of time if I am not going to use the system again.
You may notice that most of the systems I have tried so far are either pillars of Linux world (Ubuntu, Debian, Mandriva, Fedora etc) or derivatives of Ubuntu or Debian. There is no Live version of such pillars as Slackware or Arch Linux.
Saying that I still want to mention that my first ever review was about Slackware-based Live system: SLAX. It means that there are some Live derivatives of Slackware and Arch Linux. But their number is tiny compared to army of Ubuntu/Debian based derivatives.
That's why I was very interested when I first heard about Live operating system based on Arch Linux. Its name is CTK Arch. Image of version 0.7 of this OS weights less than 600Mb. I downloaded it and then used dd command to copy iso file to USB stick, like it is recommended on official howto page.
Everything is ready. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

5 May 2011

4 Terribly Easy Steps To Move Away From Unity In Ubuntu 11.04

Unity is default desktop environment in recently released Linux system Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. It is newly developed product from Canonical.
Unity is very controversial product. There are as much people who love it as people who hate it. Nobody stays aside. You love it or hate it (Marmite).
Unity desktop
Lots of people are determined to abandon Ubuntu 11.04 in favour of other operating systems only because they hate Unity.
But do you know that Ubuntu 11.04 comes with 2 (two!) desktop environments? It also includes GNOME. To be precise, GNOME 2.32.1.
Let me show you how to easy switch from Unity to GNOME.

4 May 2011

Fighting with Ubuntu 11.04 (Unity)

Ubuntu 11.04 is one of the most expected releases this year. Yes, there were lots of pre-release discussions, reviews, controversy and so on. Finally, it was released.
As you may know, my laptop is quadro-boot. One of the systems I had there was Ubuntu 10.10, which was upgraded from 10.04.
Of course, such an event like Ubuntu 11.04 release could not be bypassed by me. This time I decided to go through fresh install route and replace my Ubuntu 10.10 with Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity desktop. Before going for final installation, I ran it in Live mode from Live USB. First impression was positive, so decision was made to go on.

2 May 2011

5 things I like in Ubuntu 11.04 (Unity) and 10 things which I don't

Here we are! Long awaited and much discussed version of Ubuntu is here. It is Ubuntu 11.04.
This version was long awaited because of one 2 main reasons:
1) As of 11.04 Canonical stopped free distribution of CDs with Ubuntu via partner Shipit. It's a pity, because that was a way how I got my first ever Ubuntu CD.
2) Most important, Canonical decided to depart from GNOME as default desktop environment for Ubuntu, and put Unity desktop there.
From my perspective, final release of Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity is second (in terms of timing) most important release this year after GNOME 3 release. Many can argue that other releases happened which are also important: LibreOffice, Open SuSE 11.4 etc. But no one of them affects so many users as GNOME 3 and Unity.
My first ever Ubuntu was 10.04 LTS installed from Shipit's CDs. Then I made an upgrade to 10.10. This time I decided to go for fresh install and downloaded whole iso image myself. It was "burnt" into USB stick using Ubuntu's Startup Disk Creator tool. For the clear experiment(s), persistence was not requested.
As long as I have Live USB, why not run Ubuntu 11.04 in Live mode? Let's do it!
USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!