Tiny Core Linux.

I have an old Gateway laptop computer that I use to play around with Linux. It bears a sticker proclaiming its design for Windows XP, so the laptop is quite old but still in good shape. I wanted to find a minimal Linux distribution for it that was light on its resources yet still functioned like a full-blown desktop computer.

Bodhi Linux was the first flavor I used and was one of the few distributions I found that supported my wireless card right out of the box, so it didn’t take me long to get it up and running. I was able to browse the web, check my e-mail, and have a little fun with some games.

A few years later I decided to upgrade to a newer version of Bodhi and noticed to my dismay that it no longer saw my wireless card. Downgrading back to the older version proved futile as the servers for downloading the software I needed were no longer reachable. It was time to resume my search for different lightweight flavor of Linux.

Xubuntu has a very nice look but it didn’t see my wireless card, so I used my Ethernet connection to install the system updates in hopes of resolving this issue. Upon rebooting, it crashed to recovery mode, which was as far I got before giving it the boot.

Then I found Tiny Core Linux, which is truly Linux at its bare minimum. I downloaded the ISO image which is a surprisingly small 110 megabytes. Installation on my laptop was extremely swift and I now have a nice, fast-loading system that supports wireless networking with relative ease. I had no problem finding and installing my favorite programs, including Firefox, Thunderbird and DOSBox.

For the first time in my years of using Linux, I have had to install a program by building it from its source code. I needed help doing this and got that help from the Tiny Core Linux chat room on IRC. After some guidance in the right direction, I was able to install KeePassX from compiling its source code. That alone made using Linux all the more rewarding. You just can’t get this feeling from installing programs in Windows.

AT&T vs. Linux, Round one.

At work today I was working with a customer who was having difficulty connecting to the Internet from their desktop computer. Every time they tried going to a web site, they were re-directed to the AT&T High-Speed Installation page, the first page that comes up after setting a new DSL modem. This page guides new users through the process of creating their user accounts and then configures the modem with their logon information. For the customer to keep reaching this page sounded like their modem just needed to be re-configured with their member ID and network password. But when the customer tried entering that information at the Installation page, they got some message about their operating system not being supported. Further probing revealed that operating system to be Linux. I tried to have the customer access their modem’s interface through their web browser but they still got that same Installation page. It didn’t look good.

Fortunately the customer had an iPad handy, and she used that to connect to the Installation page and enter their existing account information. Afterwards the modem was configured accordingly and they were back in business.

During the course of troubleshooting, I did some research about the relationship between AT&T and Linux, and I came across this page which bears an eerie resemblance to the issue at hand. In fact, I found myself making the same references to having a Windows computer handy to configure the modem.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what AT&T has against Linux. It may be too busy trying accommodate Microsoft and Apple to have any time to provide support to alternate operating systems such as Linux. Or maybe it doesn’t want to, for reasons unclear. Still, I sense that Linux is gaining popularity and it’s only going to be a matter of time before it finally catches up to the competition. Maybe then these telecommunication giants will finally take notice and reach the same conclusion that the rest of us have known all along, that Linux is here to stay.

The handy alias.

I frequently hang out on the #bodhilinux IRC chat channel, a friendly place where I can get some help with running Bodhi Linux. As a Linux newbie, I have asked quite a few questions there and have gotten the answers I needed to keep my system running smoothly.
I also pick up some tips to make my Linux life easier, such as creating my own commands for use in the terminal window. In the sharing spirit of the Linux community, I share  the steps for creating your own shell commands here.
To begin, simply open a terminal window and type:

leafpad .bashrc

This launches the Leafpad editor and loads the .bashrc file that contains the commands used by the Unix shell. Any text editor will work, but Leafpad is included with the Bodhi distribution. If you scroll down the .bashrc file, you’ll soon come across a section for aliases, where you can create your own shell commands, such as this one I frequently use:

alias keepfresh=’sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get autoremove && sudo apt-get autoclean’

All I have to do is type keepfresh and the corresponding commands for checking for upgrades and removing any unneeded packages are run. Talk about a time saver.
Here’s another one I use, which checks for upgrades to the operating system and upgrades your system when applicable.

alias upgrade=’sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade’

Finally, here’s an alias that launches the Bleachbit system cleaner, great for deleting temporary files and other unneeded files for recovering disk space.

alias bleach=’sudo bleachbit’

As I type this, those are the only three alias commands I have. After adding them to your own .bashrc file, simply save the file and close the terminal window. The next time you open the terminal window, your new commands will be ready to use.

Hooked on Linux.

It’s been months since I installed Bodhi Linux on my laptop to replace the faltering Windows XP and I have not since looked back. Even on my laptop’s old hardware and limited memory, it boots up quickly and runs great. I’ve never been happier using something besides Windows and still get stuff done, such as browsing the web, checking my e-mail and updating my resume. Recently I installed the Bluetooth manager and use it to transfer pictures and videos to and from my phone. This is without a doubt the farthest I have ever ventured into Linux territory.
I’m also getting more familiar with the concept of open sources and its advantages over commercial, closed-source software. I am under the impression that commercial programmers are constantly getting crunched by deadlines and competition, and are not always able to catch security flaws and other bugs until they show up on the computers of end users all over the world.
Open source programmers on the other hand aren’t so much pressured by deadlines. I am sure there are way more programmers participating in open source projects working in teams to fine-tune their programs to perfection. Take programs like OpenOffice, AbiWord or the VLC media player and the rave reviews that accompany them and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I recently installed the KDE Desktop Environment and was really impressed with the quality of the programs that came with it, programs for doing word processing, checking e-mail, viewing graphics files, listening to music and of course playing games. All of them were highly polished and ran with true class. KPatience remains far and away the coolest solitaire card game I have ever seen. I can’t imagine anything like KDE coming from the commercial software industry.
As much as I enjoy using Linux nowadays, I also develop a renewed appreciation for open source and the tireless efforts of the programming community that go into the fine programs they create.

My favorite Linux.

I have an old laptop with a 2.3GHz processor with 512MB RAM that uses a Linksys PCI wireless card to go online. I was running Windows XP and didn’t have any problems until one day I turned on my laptop only to get a blinking cursor, but no Windows. So I re-installed Windows and everything was fine for about a month before I got the blinking cursor again. Again I re-installed Windows only to have it disappear again a few weeks later.
Soon the task of re-installing and re-installing Windows got so frustrating I decided to get rid of Windows altogether and install Linux in its place. So began my search for a Linux distribution that works with my old hardware and my wireless card, and I have tried plenty of distributions with no luck. I tried Ubuntu, Fedora, FreeBSD, Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux, and a bunch of others. They were either too demanding on my resources or didn’t work well with my wireless card.
After some more searching I have finally found a nice flavor of Linux that’s perfect for my needs, and it’s the one I’m using right now.
Bodhi Linux is a minimalistic distribution that has only the bare essentials to get you going, including the decent Midori web browser, Leafpad text editor, a terminal and of course the excellent wireless networking support that works right out of the box. There are no games, no media players, no graphics tools, none of the tools you might never really need. This is truly a minimal Linux environment in the truest sense of the word.
You can boot Bodhi from the live CD image to try it out and once you feel it’s right for you, there’s a setup program with a simple installation process that guides you every step of the way.
Installing Bodhi was a little bit of a hassle for me. After it finished installing, it needed to restart the computer so I selected the option to restart. Then Bodhi displayed its animated splash screen with no indication as to what it was doing. Should I hit the ENTER key to reboot too soon, then it would only reboot to a plain-text GRUB prompt. What worked for me was to bypass the reboot prompt and continue testing the live CD. From there I would do a poweroff to gracefully power down my laptop and when it ejected the CD, that was my cue to hit the ENTER key to reboot and since then I have had no problems.
I really admire the software download page where I can download additional programs for use with Bodhi, including the essential Firefox browser, Thunderbird e-mail client and the VLC media player. I’m no expert at installing programs in Linux, but I had the easiest time installing those programs from the download page. I just clicked “Install Now” and a few minutes later I had those programs installed and ready to use.
Overall I am very impressed with Bodhi Linux. It runs fine with my old hardware and wireless card, and I was able to easily connect to my wireless router. I am also impressed with the friendly support community, with forums and a live chat room ready to help you with your installation problems and general questions.
After trying out many Linux distributions, it’s nice to have finally found something like Bodhi, one that works well for my needs. Give it a try.

Running Linux applications in Windows.

Ulteo Virtual Desktop is a Linux-based system that integrates seamlessly into Windows. At long last, you can run programs made for Linux quickly and easily in Windows. There are plenty of such programs included with the download, including Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, GIMP, Konqueror and much more. There’s lots to play with here and it’s awesome to be able to be able experience the best of both worlds without having to re-partition my hard drive.

The ultimate boot CD.

The Ultimate Boot CD is a bootable CD that’s packed with all kinds of diagnostic tools for troubleshooting and fixing your computer. Simply download the ISO image file from the web site, burn it your CD and you’re ready to go.
An earlier version of UBCD included a live, bootable Linux environment called INSERT. It had a graphical interface that allowed you to manage your files, edit your disk’s partition, surf the web and much more. I don’t know why INSERT was taken out when UBCD was updated. I really found it to be a valuable tool and really miss having it on the CD.
Other than that, there’s still a great collection of programs to give you an edge and maybe even that big promotion for being so heroic. Hey, it could happen.