Mental Drizzle

Not a Brainstorm - Just Some Mental Drizzle

Posts tagged MHVLUG

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The Epic Voyage - a desktop environment saga

I was doing my taxes last weekend. I was using my Dell Inspirion E1505 with Vista Ultimate.  After entering a significant amount of information, the unthinkable happened - Blackscreen!

I was able to suffer through repeated blackscreens and submit my returns. I’ve had to reinstall Vista several times over the life of the machine for various errors.  Never Again.

What follows is a journey through several Linux distributions and several desktop environments.  This Odyssey includes happiness, tragedy and a happy ending.  This happened to occur right before MHVLUG’s desktop shootout.  So if you’re from the MHVLUG, the end of the story is Fedora 16 with Cinnamon on top.  But the story is entertaining, and I’ll throw down some of the pros and cons that I encountered along the way.

Chapter 1 - Ubuntu 11.10 and Unity

I put Vista out of its misery and installed Ubuntu 11.10 on the entire drive annihilating the Vista rescue partition (scary, as Ultimate cost a few $ when I ordered it back in the day).  Installation was easy.  The wireless networking was detected and the drivers were configured without any help from me.  Firefox and Libre Office were pre-installed and I was ready to go. 

The only snag I ran into was creating a launcher for the side panel in Unity.  I found these instructions and I was customized in short order.  The only other criticism was that the response of the Ubuntu button was laggy.  However, that could have been my hardware.

One major philosophical positive for the Unity interface is the location of the launcher bar.  With wide-screen displays being the norm, vertical screen space is at a premium.  Most windows don’t need the full horizontal space to function as the programmer designed.  I think the launcher placement was logical and it worked well while I was using it.

Chapter 2 - Debian based systems: marked for death

An unfortunate pattern has arisen at my house.  Every installation of a Debian based system has been disabled by an electrical fluctuation.  Two instances of Mint, and now two instances of Ubuntu are gone because of a power outage or surge.

While the other three instances were just file corruption, this time was bad.  CMOS was fried and there was no booting after that.  I suppose I could drop a new motherboard in, but the Dell case was terrible and broken.  Maybe someone will want it for parts…

Chapter 3 - PCBSD and Fedora 16

I was relegated to an old laptop that runs Fedora 16 pretty well, but it needs to fall back to Gnome 2 because the hardware won’t run Gnome 3.  Luckily, my brother had a laptop that was built less than 10 years ago. I took the opportunity to have fun with other Linux distributions.

First up was PCBSD.  It installed well and fairly quickly, but I was unimpressed by the LXDE environment.  My guess is that it is installed by default to save space on the install CD and it would be run smoothly in older hardware.

I decided to install KDE on top of PCBSD.  I could swear that the default mirror is connected to the internet through dial-up.  It took a couple hours to download and it looked pretty slick.

You might remember that I tried BSD on my old backup laptop - Joshiba.  After several hours of fiddling I got wireless networking up, but I couldn’t get WPA suplicant to load so I left.  Wireless networking worked “out-of-the-box” with PCBSD.  So I was relieved.

I was disappointed by a couple things with PCBSD.  I had to go get Libre Office.  If that was the only thing, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it.  The deal breaker was that touchpad support was broken.  I tried workarounds, scripts, changing .conf files all to no avail.  It took MANY swipes to move the cursor across the touchpad and edge scrolling was not supported.  I couldn’t even get the touchpad options to load into a manager after manually installing the drivers.  My guess is that the touchpad wasn’t identified as a “synaptics device.”  This led me to try Fedora 16.

I had a great Fedora 16 install.  Everything worked very well.  I’ll post later on the intricacies of getting everything up and running.  But here, I’d rather discuss why I moved from Gnome 3 to Cinnamon.

It was really just a picky thing.  Universal Access sat itself in the top panel.  I never use these options, so I usually just make it go away and I’m happy.  However, this was not possible in Gnome.  I tried JavaScripts, css tweaks, installing other panel editors - all to no avail.  I’ve enjoyed using Linux Mint in the past, so I left for Cinnamon happily.

Cinnamon installed nicely and I’m enjoying it.  It installs with a nice assortment of configuration and settings tools.  I moved my panel to the top; just a personal preference though.

More on Fedora specifics for installation later. 

Filed under Vista blackscreen MHVLUG desktop environment Fedora 16 Cinnamon Ubuntu 11.10 Unity PCBSD LXDE KDE Gnome 3

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Amahi Time Machine

In getting ready for my talk for the Mid-Hudson Valley Linux Users Group, I found Amahi Time Machine.

If you don’t know what Amahi is, check them out at Amahi.org.  Amahi is a robust, open source, home-server solution that has a ton of useful functions.  Aside from data storage and media streaming, Amahi can also be used with Apple’s Time Machine, an automated, incremental backup solution.  

Apple sells a Time Capsule that is intended to be a transparent backup solution for casual users.  The unit is a standard 802.11n wireless base station with four wired ports.  However, it includes a 2TB or 3TB drive to backup your Macs.  

Amahi Time Machine was easy to install on a running Amahi server.  (1) Buy the $0.99 app at Amahi’s application market.  (2) One Click to install from your Amahi Dashboard.  Once you install the app, you are ready to turn on Time Machine on your Mac.

One word of warning:  Time Machine will eventually use all the disk space made available to it on your server.  Amahi’s wiki provides a solution that allows you to limit the amount of space available for backups.  Be sure to do this before starting Time Machine on your Mac. 

Filed under Amahi Apple Time Machine Time Capsule MHVLUG

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Amahi Alphabet Soup - part 3 of 3

This is the final edition of a 3 part blog on Internet protocols and Amahi.  While getting ready for my Amahi presentation on 2/1/2112 to MHVLUG, I decided to lock down my understanding of these terms and phrases.  While you may be with familliar with these terms, I’ve also provided links to associated web apps that are available for Amahi home servers.

Apache - Apache HTTP Server; is web server software notable for playing a key role in the initial growth of the World Wide Web.  In 2009 it became the first web server software to surpass the 100 million website milestone.  Apache was the first viable alternative to the Netscape Communications Corporation web server (currently named Oracle iPlanet Web Server), and since has evolved to rival other web servers in terms of functionality and performance. Typically Apache is run on a Unix-like operating system.  Apache is developed and maintained by an open community of developers under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation. App:  Webmin

Ajax - Asynchronous Javascript And XML; a group of interrelated web development methods used on the client-side to create asynchronous web applications. With Ajax, web applications can send data to, and retrieve data from, a server asynchronously (in the background) without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page.  App:  AjaXplorer, Ajaxterm

Backup - the process of backing up is making copies of data which may be used to restore the original after a data loss event.  App:  Amahi Time Machine, Crash Plan, Redo Backup and Recovery

Drupal - an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. App:  Drupal

Greyhole -an application that uses Samba to create a storage pool of all your available hard drives (whatever their size, however they’re connected), and allows you to create redundant copies of the files you store, in order to prevent data loss when part of your hardware fails. App: Greyhole LogMon

LAMP - Linux Apache MySQL php; an acronym for a solution stack of free, open source software, referring to the first letters of: Linux (operating system), Apache HTTP Server, MySQL (database software) and PHP (or sometimes Perl or Python), principal components to build a viable general purpose web server. App:  [Amahi runs the LAMP stack out of the box]

Man Page - the software documentation for a computer program in a Unix, or Unix-like operating systems. A user may invoke a man page by issuing the  -  man - command. App:  phpMan

Samba - the standard Windows interoperability suite of programs for Linux and Unix.  Samba is Free Software licensed under the GNU General Public License, the Samba project is a member of the Software Freedom Conservancy.  App: [Amahi runs Samba out of the box]

Torrent -  data about a target file, though it contains no information about the content of the file. The only data that the torrent holds is information about the location of different pieces of the target file. Torrents work by dividing the target file into small information chunks, found on an unlimited number of different hosts.  App:  Transmission, Couch Potato, uTorrent, Torrentflux b4rt, torrentflux

Wiki - a website whose users can add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. App:  DokuWiki, MediaWiki, TikiWiki

Wordpress -  is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. App: Wordpress, Blog


Filed under Amahi Presentation MHVLUG Apache Ajax Backup Drupal Greyhole LAMP Man Page Samba Torrent Wiki Wordpress

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Amahi Alphabet Soup - part 2 of 3

As part of my warm-up for a presentation on Amahi to the MHVLUG, I’m dropping’ some knowledge…and links to related Amahi apps.

VNC - Virtual Network Computing;  a graphical desktop sharing system that uses the RFB protocol to remotely control another computer. It transmits the keyboard and mouse events from one computer to another, relaying the graphical screen updates back in the other direction, over a network.  App:  VNC, WebVNC, NoVNC

SSH - Secure Shell; a network protocol for secure data communication.  The best-known application of the protocol is for access to shell accounts on Unix-Like operating systems. App:  MindTerm, Monitorix

SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol; an Internet standard for electronic mail (e-mail) transmission across Internet Protocol (IP) networks. App: Amahi Mail System, Simple Groupware, RoundCube

FTP - File Transfer Protocol; a standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host to another host over a TCP-based network, such as the Internet. FTP is built on a client-server architecture and uses separate control and data connections between the client and server.  FTP users may authenticate themselves using a clear-text sign-in protocol but can connect anonymously if the server is configured to allow it. App:  net2ftp, vsftpd, proftpd, PHFTP

RSS - Really Simple Syndication;  a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.  App:  Rnews, Tiny Tiny RSS, Gregarius

IRC - Internet Relay Chat; a protocol for real-time Internet text messaging (chat).  App:  ZNC

That’s it for the initialisms.  Coming Soon - Part 3 of 3 - Words and Phrases!

Filed under Amahi MHVLUG Presentation VNC SMTP FTP RSS IRC

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Amahi Alphabet Soup - part 1 of 3

Amahi sells itself as a multimedia server for your home.  But it can do a lot more…

While prepping for my presentation on 2/1/2112, I thought it would be useful to research some of the tech jargon related to Amahi.  I’ll also link to the pertinent Amahi apps.

DLNA - Digital Living Network Alliance;  Through a common set of industry design guidelines, it enables multi-branded digital products to inter-operate and share digital content, making it easier to connect and enjoy music, photos, and videos in any room of your home.  App:  DLNA, Media Tomb, uShare

SQL - Structured Query Language; A programming language designed for managing data in relational database management systems.  App:  phpMyAdmin, phpMyBackup

php - PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor; (This confuses many people because the first word of the acronym is the acronym.  This is called a recursive acronym.)  PHP is an HTML-embedded scripting language.  Much of its syntax is borrowed from C, Java, and Perl with some of its own unique features.  The goal of the language is to allow web developers to write dynamically generated pages quickly.  Many Amahi web-apps are written in php.    App:  phpSysInfo

VPN - Virtual Private Network;  A network that uses primarily public telecommunications infrastructure to provide remote offices or traveling users access to central organizational network.  App:  OpenVPN, IpSec VPN

More to come…

Filed under Amahi presentation MHVLUG DLNA SQL php VPN