Hello, World!

Hello, World!

Summary: I have been away from my blog for much too long, and if there is anyone to whom this makes a difference I apologize. A week at a class in the U.


I have been away from my blog for much too long, and if there is anyone to whom this makes a difference I apologize. A week at a class in the U.K., a week of vacation, and a week trying to catch up on neglected work from the previous two weeks, and before you know it a month has slipped by! So, now I am back, and it is time to catch up on neglected writing. Let's have a quick look at what has happened in the Linux distributions I use.

Linux Mint 12 KDE has been released. This is the Ubuntu-derived line from Mint, but it is not from Kubuntu. They have taken their own Linux Mint 12 distribution and integrated KDE with it. The result is very nice - if you are one of the many who want to avoid the current desktop wars going on with Gnome, this could be an excellent alternative.

Linux Mint 12 KDE

Cinnamon 1.2 has been released for Linux Mint 12 Gnome (and others). This is a significant improvement over the previous releases, which were already quite nice. It is fast and smooth, and feels a bit more stable than the previous release. Desktop effects are nicer, if you are into flashy extras. Best of all, in my opinion, is a much-improved "Cinnamon Settings" utility:

Linux Mint 12 Gnome

Using this utility you can change the Panel from bottom to top or both, and auto-hide it; change the calendar date/time format, add and remove various applets on the panel (although still not as many as I would like), and enable/disable the Gnome 3 "Overview" function (accessed by slamming the mouse cursor into the top left corner of the screen, either intentionally or not) and an icon in that corner for it. If you are a rabid Gnome-3 hater, that will be particularly good news, I think.

Debian has released 6.0.4, which is simply a roll-up of all the updates which have been released since 6.0. If you are already running Debian and have kept it up to date, there is no need to reinstall with this release. If you frequently install on different computers, it is worthwhile to pick up the new ISO just so there aren't so many updates to install after the base installation has finished.

PCLinuxOS has released 2012.02 KDE, which is also a roll-up of all the updates since their 2011.09 release. The same comments apply here as were made for Debian above.

Fedora 16 has updated to Linux kernel 3.2. This is not a "new release" from Fedora as such, it is a normal update to Fedora 16. Of the distributions I use regularly, this is the first to include the 3.2 kernel. This brings along quite a few new device drivers, and improvements and bug fixes for a lot of existing drivers, so it is very good news.

Fedora 16

Fedora has also updated to X.org server version 11.4 (most of the others are still on 1.10.4 or earlier). This seems to provide a very welcome solution to my latest head-scratching situation, and I have to say this was one of the strangest I have ever seen. Some time ago I picked up an Acer Aspire One 522 on sale, but it didn't stay with me for long. I passed it along to a friend who travels quite a bit, because his old Aspire One was acting up. The problem with his seemed to be disk-related, so I also gave him an old 2.5" SATA disk drive, but he didn't have time to investigate it much at that time. He subsequently replaced the disk drive and reloaded his old netbook, and it is now working fine again, so the AO522 came back to me last week. I have since been loading it with a variety of Linux distributions, and my first impression of it has been confirmed, I really like it. So far I have loaded Mint 12 Gnome and KDE, Mint Debian Gnome, Ubuntu 11.10, Fedora 16 and openSuSE 12.1.

As I was loading these, I started to realize that there was a very strange problem. If the netbook was turned off overnight, when I tried to boot Linux it would hang after starting the desktop. After a few iterations of this I realized that if I booted Windows first, it would then boot Linux with no problem. But if it had been turned off for a little while, it would then hang on booting Linux again. Very strange. This system has an AMD/ATI Radeon 6290 graphic controller, which is quite new, so the problem is most likely related to that. I tried quite a few different distributions, with various new and old versions of X.org, with no luck. Then the latest batch of Fedora 16 updates hit, with the new Linux kernel and X.org packages, and that is the first that does not have this problem. Hooray! So for the time being, Fedora is the distribution of choice on this little netbook, and I am very happy with it.

One last note, from the opposite end of the "I am quite happy" spectrum. I took my HP Pavilion dm1-3105 with me to England, and used it exclusively for the week that I was there. I can now say that it is absolutely impossible for a normal human being to use that blasted Synaptic "ClickPad". I thought that I would get used to it after a while, but it just didn't happen, and it won't ever happen. Ugh. I would advise in the strongest possible terms, avoid any laptop or netbook which has a "Click Pad", period. They are easy to identify, because the "buttons" are integrated in the surface of the touchpad, rather than being separate (real) buttons, and there are generally lines drawn on the touchpad to give some indication of where the buttons might possibly be.

That's it for now. More catching-up still to come.

jw 17/2/2012

P.S. By the way, all the screen shots above were made on the Aspire One 522

Update: A bit more checking, testing, and searching the web, and it appears that I made the wrong assumption about the AO522 hanging on boot. The problem appears to be with the Atheros WiFi driver, not the graphics. Also, even more unfortunately, even Fedora 16 with the latest updates still hangs - sigh. I will continue trying to figure this out. For the time being, the "work-around" I mentioned above is still valid - boot Windows first, then any of the Linux distributions will boot. You don't even have to login on Windows, just start it up and then immediately reboot from the login screen. This situation does not make me very happy...


Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • Apology accepted!

    Cinnamon looks really promising. Since Ubuntu 11.04, I've found it hard to recommend linux to anyway as I haven't had a distribution that I could trust them to install themselves. Maybe Linux 13 will be the answer?

    I'm not quite sure what your obsession/need of netbook computers are, but have you looked at the thinkpad X series? For the price of a netbook, I got a refurbished X series laptop, which is almost as small, has excellent battery life, graphics good enough for gnome shell/unity etc and a full-size keyboard.
    duncan j murray
  • @duncanmurray - Hmmm, I hadn't thought of it as an "obsession", but looking at it objectively perhaps you are right. I actually have quite a few laptop/notebook and desktop systems around here has well, but I am fascinated by netbooks, their combination of size, speed and power. Besides, because of their price and what they are used for, and the fact that I can help out various friends and acquaintances by giving, lending or selling a netbook, they tend to turn over pretty rapidly, and that is what I end up writing about.

    By the way, please note the update to the original article above, new info on the Linux hang after boot.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • @jw - I own a Acer AO722 and faced a similar problem (with a strange solution).
    Here's what I did to solve it: made "Network Boot : Atheros Boot Agent" first in Boot priority order in BIOS.
    No idea why this worked though. Perhaps it initializes the network card and makes it easier for the kernel to detect it correctly.
  • @duncanmurray. I do use a Thinkpad X61 for trying out Windows 8 (without the tiles), Unity and and Gnome3. As you say it's not so much bigger than a netbook but it's not wide screen and the screen is not so sharp. I think the ideal is an 11 (or 12) inch wide screen laptop, neither of which have really established market share and hence seem overpriced and/or under performing.
    The Former Moley
  • @sahilahuja - Thanks so much for telling me this. Much to my surprise, it works perfectly! I will be writing a follow-up post in a few minutes with all the details.

    @duncanmurray - I have not tried the X series yet. Thanks for the suggestion, I will keep my eyes open.

    @Moley - You might be right about the 11"/12" sub-notebooks. I have tried a few, including several from the HP dm1 series, and the price/performance never seemed quite right compared to the significantly lower priced 10" netbooks or the significantly better performing 15" notebooks. That might be changing now, as the newest ones (HP dm1-4010 and Samsung 305U for example) having the AMD E450 cpu, Radeon graphics, 4GB of memory and 500GB of disk, and at the same time netbooks seem to be setting on E-50/E-60 cpu, 1-2GB of memory and 250-320GB of disk.

    Thanks for reading and commenting to all.

  • This problem reminds me of a problem I had with my Amiga A1200 and it's hard drive. The harddrive didn't spin up quickly enough to be recognised by the BIOS, so it needed a soft reboot in order to boot the harddrive's OS.

    I'm sure your problem has nothing to do with this, though...

    @moley - I don't get what's the deal with widescreen! I use a 14" T series thinkpad, which is 8 years old, and enjoy the height of the screen. The newer versions seem not to be 'widescreen' but 'shortscreen', with two thick bands of plastic instead of LCD goodness.
    duncan j murray