Monthly Archives: June 2014

PCLinuxOS and grub2

Wow! The latest PCLinuxOS update provides the grub2 boot manager. Grub2 replaces the older grub boot manager and I am ecstatic to see PCLinuxOS adopting it!

Grub2, in short, helps Windows users new to Linux to more easily configure a boot menu with both Windows and Linux distributions. The boot menu allows you to boot into either a Windows or Linux distribution.

I configured grub2 to probe for other distributions on my machine and I no longer have to understand chaining. Note that grub2 probing finds other Linux and Windows distributions installed on your machine and adds them as entries to the boot menu.

Here is my change to the grub2 configuration in the /etc/default/grub file to allow probing for other distributions on my machine.

  1. From a terminal window, enter “su –” and press the Enter key.
  2. Provide the root password at the prompt and press the Enter key.
  3. Enter “kwrite /etc/default/grub &” to edit the grub2 configuration file.
  4. Change “GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=true” to “GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=false” so that the boot menu will include your other Linux and Windows distributions as menu entries. Save your change and exit kwrite.

Then, use Configure Your Computer from Menu -> Settings to rebuild the boot menu using grub2:

  1. Enter the root password in the authentication pop-up window and the PCLinuxOS Control Center window appears.
  2. Select Boot from the left panel and then select Set up boot system from the main panel on the right side.
  3. Select GRUB2 with graphical menu for Bootloader to use.
  4. Select Next.
  5. Select Finish. A pop-up asking you to wait appears and then completes.
  6. Reboot to see your results!

Windows users can keep their Windows release as well as install PCLinuxOS and boot into either Windows or (preferably!) PCLinuxOS.

PCLinuxOS provides the KDE, Xfce, and LXDE desktops. Each of these desktops behave similarly to Windows 7 and Windows Xp. I have installed both the KDE and Xfce desktops from the Synaptic Package Manager (from Menu -> System).

  • Install task-kde4 and task-kde4-help to install the KDE desktop from the Synaptics Package Manager.
  • Install task-xfce and task-xfce-plugins to install the Xfce desktop from the Synaptics Package Manager.
  • Install task-lxde to install the LXDE desktop from the Synaptics Package Manager.

So, why do I like the PCLinuxOS distribution so much? For starters, it immediately recognized my nVidia graphics card and Belkin Wireless USB adaptor during the installation. Mostly, though, PCLinuxOS allows me to appreciate the KDE desktop. PCLinuxOS not only defaults the KDE desktop configurations to sane values; but, is fast! Really, KDE is fast!

Slowly, I started logging into the KDE session more and more often after booting into PCLinuxOS from the boot menu. Now, I find myself booting into PCLinuxOS more often than not. Lastly, I like many of the KDE applications like dolphin, Konsole, KateAmarok, digiKam, and kdenlive.

But, I am not a recent Windows convert. I use PCLinuxOS because its software repositories are filled with (a lot of) useful applications; PCLinuxOS is stable, I have not experienced any “crashes” (or “Blue Screens of Death”); and it just works! PCLinuxOS’ adoption of the grub2 boot manager makes it an even better choice.

So, check out the Windows Migration Guide Special Edition of the PCLinuxOS Magazine at the PCLinuxOS web site if you plan to give PCLinuxOS a try!

sparkylinux-3.4-x86_64-e18

I downloaded the latest SparkyLinux Enlightenment e18 release (sparkylinux-3.4-86_64-18.iso) and used the dd command to create a USB Live image. SparkyLinux uses the Debian Test repositories and is a rolling release. I was curious to not only try the Enlightenment desktop but also to install a Debian rolling release.

Tip: At the Live menu, I could not select any items using any of my keyboard’s arrow keys with NumLock enabled (both sets of arrow keys on my keyboard). After disabling NumLock, the arrow keys functioned as expected.

Once in the Live session, I was able to connect to the network with a Belkin WiFi USB Adaptor and my keyboard and mouse functioned as expected. And, I did not get an unusable desktop with graphics errors. The Live session looked nice and the SparkyLinux team has chosen sane, default Enlightenment configurations. The Enlightenment desktop looks nice with the dark colors and shades.

Click on the installation icon on the Live session’s desktop to begin the installation.

  1. Select Language
  2. Select Timezone
  3. Select Keyboard layout
  4. Enter User info
  5. Select Hard drive
  6. Enter Partitioning (details)
    Tip: If you mount a partition such as /opt with data that you do not want erased, be sure not to give /opt a format option (like ext4). Otherwise, the installation will destroy the partition’s data.
  7. Select Advanced options
    GRUB / Plymouth
  8. Review Summary
    Again, carefully note the Filesystem Operations! Especially what partitions are marked to be reformatted.
  9. Click install!

After the installation completes, you can reboot into the SparkyLinux distribution. I chose to install Plymouth at the Advanced options window during the installation, so the boot menu looked nice and correctly showed the other distributions installed on my machine. After logging into the Enlightenment session, a nicely themed desktop greets me with a lot of beautiful wallpapers to choose from.

Notice that by providing a default desktop, SparkyLinux eliminates the burden from you of answering a series of Enlightenment setup questions upon logging into the Enlightenment session for the first time. I thank SparkyLinux for this!

Here is a screenshot of the desktop that greets the user.

e18-default-desktop-shot

I changed the default panel layout because I cannot afford so much vertical space devoted to both top and bottom panels on a widescreen monitor. So, I have one panel at the top. Note that you can move the network icon in the top right corner by Alt-Selecting it and dragging it to another location. I am still trying to figure out how to put the network icon into my panel or at least resize the network icon to a smaller size.

Here is a screenshot of my reconfigured desktop with gnome-system-monitor to show you CPU and memory usage.

e18-system-monitor-shot

In an idle state, the gnome-system-monitor shows high CPU usage but very low memory usage. You will have to decide if the high CPU usage is ok for you.

Also, all “gadgets” that you place in the panel can also free-stand on the desktop, off of the panel. Go to Menu → Desktop → Change Gadgets. Select a gadget and click the Add button. A blue square appears on the desktop. Right-click it to activate it.

As an example, the Music controller gadget interested me, but, it has no effect because the gmusicbrowser application is not installed by default. So, I installed the gmusicbrowser application using Sparky APTus (which executes the APT install commands in a terminal window). Then, run the gmusicbrowser application and the Music controller gadget takes effect. Otherwise, right-click the Music controller gadget and select Settings and select the music player that you have installed and want to control.

Here is an updated screenshot of my reconfigured desktop with free-standing gadgets as an example of the possibilities. It took several segmentation faults and fiddling, but, in the end, I succeeded.

e18-gadgets-desktop-shot

MP3 audio and MP4 video worked out of the box. Very nice! Also, the Gnome MPlayer (video and audio) and gThumb (photo) viewers look especially nice in Enlightenment. Actually, the entire desktop looks great (despite my lack of artistic abilities!)

I did not use the Sparky APTus application to update the installed applications after installation because I am comfortable with the Synaptic Package Manager. I updated the distribution after the installation and a couple of times since the installation without incident, as well as removing orphaned packages after each update using Synaptic.

The lxpolkit process fails when logging into the Enlightenment session and I cannot attach a USB drive and “see” it in the filemanager. I have since turned off starting the lxpolkit process at login and have not noticed any ill side affects. I do not know how to solve the automount issue with USB drives, though. I will probably have to resort to mounting USB drives as the root user.

As far as installed applications, PCManFM supports a tabbed interface and is a very capable filemanager. SparkyLinux installs the entire LibreOffice suite. As mentioned already, multimedia plays out of the box. Iceweasel is the default web browser and Icedove is the default mail client (the Debian Firefox and Thunderbird unbranded versions). XChat and Pidgin provide messaging capabilities. As mentioned, SparkyLinux installs the Synaptic Package Manager for adding, updating, and removing applications (as well as Sparky APTus).

In addition, SparkyLinux installs Teamviewer 9 (for online meetings), Hotot (a twitter client), Liferea (a feed reader), Transmission (a BitTorrent client), gFtp, and PlayOnLinux by default.

I tried to take a screenshot using the Gnome Screenshot application, but it would not capture the desktop. So, I could not include menus in the screenshots above. I wonder how the Enlightenment desktop uses the graphics subsystem such that you must use Enlightenment’s screenshot utility from the Menu?

All in all, if you are an Enlightenment desktop fan, the SparkyLinux distribution does a good job of making the Enlightenment desktop work (despite the Enlightenment desktop problems that I encountered) and offers the latest e18 version in a rolling release.

If you are new to Linux, a rolling release could be challenging for you since, for a Debian based distribution such as SparkyLinux, you will need to become familiar with the Apt package management system. Otherwise, both the Sparky APTus and Synaptic Package Management applications make it easier for you to keep the distribution up to date.

Though I am still not a fan of the Enlightenment desktop, I think I will install the Xfce desktop from Synaptic since I am liking this latest SparkyLinux distribution!