Monday, January 7, 2013

Time to trial Linux

So I’ve got a new PC, repaired my old one and cant be bothered installing WinXP and all its service packs again. Although I know I could run Win7 I don’t want to fork out the cash for it.

Time to trial Linux.

I’ve mostly sorted this out now but decided to write myself some instructions for next time.

Currently I want this new system to:
Watch anime; will have a second HDD, intranet and VLC.
Surf the net; firefox with the sync thing enabled.
Play games; unlikely but the golden grail, apparently steam will now work. No wine, defiantly no winetricks. I have been down that path before.
Sounds like a HTPC; may have to look into XBMC.

Fist I need to decide on a distro:
Lubuntu; works well on my 2003 laptop, uses few resources, doesn’t have LTS versions.
Ubuntu; is fairly mainstream and I think of it as the next windows, has lots of flashy UI features and is easy for anybody to use.
Mint; apparently more mainstream then Ubuntu, never used myself.
Puppy; May try this later as a setup that solely runs emulators (SNES/GBA/Atari)

I’ve settled on Lubuntu because Ubuntu was slow in tests and then it’s the same as my old laptop. It made my old laptop feel new again. Looking around I think it is the best one for games if they ever get ported to linux. Also the XBMCbuntu OS is built on it.

Download an ISO, error check; Burn to CD, error check; boot CD in PC, error check.
Its worth it, the install may be flawed and painful otherwise.
Run the OS from CD, check the feel, surf the net.
Keep the CD around as it will be a good diagnostic tool and can be used to salvage your old OS, whatever it may be.

Use the live CD to partition the drive in preparation for the install.
I’ve always had to check the boot sequence, sometimes more than once.
RAM is cheap at the moment so install a lot of it on the motherboard. 4GB on a 32bit system or 8GB on 64, more if you like as it makes everything faster. On a 32bit system any program cannot use more than 3GB, but with some terminal code the OS can use up to 64GB (apparently)
If you are using a thumb drive like I’ve done make a small (512MiB) Fat32 partition. Thus windows can see that a disk drive is plugged in and wont ask to format it. Everybody can read files in Fat32. Also Win can only see the first logical partition on a SSD.
If you intend to make use of Hibernation or are installing to an internal HDD then make a swap partition at the end of the drive the same size as your RAM. If 1GB ram then 1024MiB of swap.
I haven’t ever bothered with a /home partition as I don’t share my PC.
All the rest gets formatted to ext4 (or8 when it comes out) and this will be for the OS.

Begin the installation process. Other people will give more up to date guides with pictures. My only additions are.
Install GRUB onto the same disk as the OS
Always install all the extras. If you miss an NVIDIA/ATI driver then you will never see any graphics. The only reliable fix is to reinstall the OS again.

After restarting try to play a song. If this works then everything else on the motherboard should be OK. If it doesn’t try to increase the volume/install another audio thing. Failing that check the forums.
Adjust the screen resolution.
Then try a movie. Then try YouTube, if you tube doesn’t work it should tell you why.
Change the “Software Sources” so that it prefers the internode mirror to save the internet before installing anything.
Install Java and Flash through the software center.
Turn the PC off
Unplug everything and but it back in in different sockets if possible. This will eventually happen and its better to find problems today.
Assuming all that works smoothly open the “Software Center” or equivalent and start installing your favorite programs.
Acrobat reader

Run the software updater, hopefully by now you have found all the issues and fixed them and will not be wasting your time with this download. Once done restart the PC and run the updater again to confirm everything went smoothly.

And on the seventh I rested, go to the beach or something, use your other computer for a few hours, anything but linux.

I didn’t know that was a real word, anyway the system should be ready to use but I seem to spend as much time playing with Linux as I do playing on Linux. Surfing the web works fine from the CD but none of your preferences or bookmarks get saved.

Afterwards there are always more tweaks to make, after all linux systems are permenantly stuck in beta:
  • HDMI to TV doesn’t work
Open terminal, type “alsamixer”, go to the section “s/PDIF” and press “M” to toggle the mute.
Esc to exit.

  • Application Launch Bar
The icons here can be changed by right clicking on one of them.

  • VLC doesn’t play midi files
Apparently the Linux version of VLC just can’t handle them. According to Benjamin Hodgetts ( you need to install Timidity++. And then replace the default soundfont with one Shan made.

  • Gamepad/controller
Apparently both an Xbox and PS3 controller can work. Or I could get another Logitech generic device. This place helped to installed the afterglow wired controller on Win7. Strangely enough it had to be done manually. Sourceforge appears to have an equivalent linix artical here. There is also a userspace thingy here, for a belts and bracers approach.

  • Logitech Bluetooth unity compatibility
To use as a HTPC wirelessness is preferable and this preserves USB connections. Can connect two things onto the same dongle in windows and then they remain paired for everything else. I'm currently looking at this wireless controller + keyboard.

  • Creating shortcuts to network locations
Right click “Create New” -> “Shortcut” seems to only work for executable files.
Using the terminal typing “ln –s /home/Raskalnickoff ~/Desktop/” I was able to create a symbolic link on my desktop. Leaving out the ~ places it in my personal folder.
Alternatively holding Ctrl+Shift and the left click dragging a file to the desktop also seems to work, sometimes.

  • Creating shortcuts to secondary HDD
Apparently the program PySDM will automatically mount all drives that are connected. I intend to try this with ell. If it can dynamically add the internal drives of whatever PC I connect ell to that would be great (ell is Lubuntu installed on a 16GB USB).
Alternatively this document may be required AutomaticallyMountPartitions and I could hardcode individually each drive I may come across once I find its UUID.
The symbollic link thing worked for this once the HDD stayed mounted. When the HDD is not connected I get an error before the login screen that needs to be "S"kipped. I think I can change this to after loging as well.
  • Remembering the login for my Win7PC
Apparently I can also creat a mount point to do this, but it sounds like I need to manually edit files. I will have a look at the guide "Mount password protected network folders" later, after I have an easy to use keyboard.