14 Aug 2012

Taming of (open)mamba - part 2

Last week Darrel Johnston wrote about his adventures in openmamba KDE. He had too many issues when running it in the virtual machine, that he finally gave up.

The story did not end there...

I had already decided that it would be a lot of work to trim down the excessive packages to what I actually wanted in the installation. I prefer to start with a minimal installation, then add what I want.

With that in mind, I downloaded the LXDE "light" version of the openmamba CD and rebooted the VM from the live CD. Next, I started the hard drive installation from the Install icon on the desktop. This time, there was no opportunity to set the system date, time and timezone. The only fields available in the localization manager window were to set the keyboard type.

The rest of the installation process was the same as before. Except that only 2179 Mbytes were copied in 4 minutes. I completed the installation, then rebooted. The openmamba base network installations window came up again. Unlike last time, all of the options could be selected or unselected.

I chose to install only the system base packages. The choice had been preselected by default. This way, I could install only the packages I actually wanted, instead of installing entire groups of packages. Or, so I thought.

After all packages had been downloaded from the repository, I checked the menu. The entire Wine program group had been installed as part of the "minimum" set. This is another choice that baffles me. If openmamba intends to offer only libre software by default, why include the framework to run Windows programs that are designed to run on a proprietary operating system? It simply makes no sense to me.

After installing the VirtualBox guest additions again, the first packages I deleted using the Smart Program Manager were all of the Wine packages, including libraries. I simply have no use for them.

It was about this time that I noticed the CPU usage meter in the lxpanel. It showed to be running at 100%. A quick check of the LXDE task manager confirmed the CPU running at 100%. But, although I configured it to show all running tasks, lxtask showed nothing using more than 2%.

I quickly loaded Smart Package Manager and installed htop. I then saw that there was some kind of race condition going on between the X server, xbindkeys and htop itself, if the readings could be believed. The tasks took turns between using 100%, or 50%, or different combinations totalling 100%.

I closed htop and rebooted the VM. After logging in to a desktop session again, things were back to normal, as confirmed by the CPU indicator in the lxpanel, htop and the LXDE task manager.

Without further testing, I can only speculate on the cause of the race condition. The only significant system change had been the removal of all the Wine packages. The race condition did not seem to affect the system's overall responsiveness. Nevertheless, it was not a good sign. My next chosen task was to set the correct date, time and timezone. This time, there was no convenient GUI provided with the desktop to change the settings. I resorted to the old fashioned CLI configuration.

[root@openmamba ~]# date +%T -s "03:09:00"
[root@openmamba ~]# mv /etc/localtime  /etc/localtime-old
[root@openmamba ~]# ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/US/Central /etc/localtime
[root@openmamba ~]#

Logging out and back in again did not show the correct time in the lxpanel. It was time to reboot yet once again. After logging in again, the correct date and time were showing in the desktop panel.

I started the Smart Package Manager to do some adding and removing of packages. I removed the printing packages cups-bjnp, ghostscript-cups and hplip and all of its dependencies. I also removed the Chromium web browser and X11VNC Server. I wanted to remove the Midori web browser, but that would also have removed the lxde and lxde-common packages. Removing lxmusic would have removed lxde, and removing xmms2 would have removed lxmusic and lxde. Clearly, there was something wrong with the Midori, lxmusic and xmms2 package dependencies.

I chose to install Firefox web browser, which came with the xulrunner package dependency. On the first attempt, I received an error from the Smart Package Manager:
Output from firefox-13.0.1-1mamba2@i586:
error: rpmdbRemove: cannot read header at 0x2cd
After checking, I saw that neither Firefox nor xulrunner had been installed. I marked them both again, and elected to install. This time, I received another similar error message:
Output from xulrunner-13.0.1-1mamba2@i586:
error: rpmdbRemove: cannot read header at 0x2cd
After checking, Firefox was installed, but xulrunner, a dependency, was not. I marked xulrunner for installation again, and was finally successful.

I was going to install Midnight Commander, but found it was already installed, minus a menu entry. I normally use the search terms "midnight" or "commander" to locate the package, because the search term "mc" gives too many package matches. Not so with the "Smart" Package Manager. "midnight" and "commander" return NO matches. "mc" returns one match, the mc package. I intended to install the lightweight Mirage image viewer, but it's not in the repositories. A search for "wbar" and "cairo" showed the program launchers are not in the repository. I will have to use the one in the lxpanel, instead.

Smart Package Manager is listed in the menu both in the Other and Preferences sections, neither of which are appropriate. It should have an entry in the System section of the menu. Editing the desktop file and storing a copy in ~/.local/share/applications will correct that, and survive any changes to the desktop file in /usr/share/applications. I'll have to do the same with the Midnight Commander's desktop file, in order to get a menu entry at all.

The PCManFM file manager preferences were missing a default terminal definition. In addition, the switch user command was missing from the system. I elected to install gksu to handle the task. I also checked for the packages that DarkDuck had looked for during his live DVD testlive DVD test. I did find and install Pidgin, Transmission and Abiword, along with the samba-swat and samba-winbind packages. The Samba packages included the samba filesystem package. I suspect he had the same problems I did with search terms used within the package manager.

[root@openmamba ~]# locate smbfs
[root@openmamba ~]# apt-get --version
Segmentation fault
[root@openmamba ~]# apt-get --help
Segmentation fault
[root@openmamba ~]# rpm --version
rpm (RPM) 5.2.1
[root@openmamba ~]#

I don't know why calling apt-get from a command line gives segmentation faults. Smart Package Manager is supposed to be a front end to APT, so the segfaults are worrisome.

In addition, the Documents folder on the desktop is not a link to the ~/Documents directory. The Documents folder showing on the desktop is actually the ~/Desktop/Documents directory. Additionally, the Documents directory contains the Downloads, Images, Music, Texts and Video directories. So, one's personal data is actually stored in subdirectories of the Desktop directory, instead of subdirectories of the user's home directory.

The openmamba distribution's download page has a lot more versions than the two I have tested. The difference between the KDE4 live DVD and the LXDE live CD is that the first has many programs included by default and the latter doesn't. My biggest disappointment in testing this distribution is their use of Smart Package Manager instead of Synaptic.

I cannot recommend this distribution to first time users, as there are too many obstacles to overcome.

This is a guest post by Darrel Johnston


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