Category Archives: Debian

Catching up with WordPress

I believe that it’s fairly easy to turn just about any Linux server into a WordPress installation. There is even a port of WordPress for OpenBSD. I thought that I’d try to run Movable Type on OpenBSD, but getting PHP and Perl working with the Web server looks incredibly difficult. If somebody else did this and laid out how they managed it (like How to Forge), I could probably follow along, but the difficulty of dealing with the chroot environment in OpenBSD’s default Apache Web server — which isolates the Web server’s files from the rest of the computer for security purposes — makes it extremely difficult for mortals to set up services in the Web server environment.

For a normal Web server with nothing but HTML pages (and no PHP, Perl/CGI), OpenBSD couldn’t be an easier system to use. It’s when things get more complicated that this that the non-OpenBSD geek is especially challenged.

But as I say, there is a WordPress port for OpenBSD, as well as WordPress packages for GNU/Linux systems such as Debian. I also seem to remember talk about a Movable Type package for Debian Lenny, and if it made the installation and configuration of the blogging system easier, I’d be all for it.

As it is now, between installing and configuring MySQL (or PostgreSQL), making sure PHP and Perl are running and getting all the directory permissions correctly set, putting together one of these blogging systems, even on Linux, is no trivial matter. The last time I set up Movable Type, all the MySQL issues I was having prompted me to dump it and use SQLite as my database software. At least MT gives you some options in this regard.

Power Mac G4/466 runs Debian Etch

My latest project has been to load and run Debian GNU/Linux on a Power Macintosh G4/466.

The box came to me with no disk drives and 128 MB of RAM. I upped the RAM to 384 MB, and I installed two hard drives.

Besides the stable Etch distribution of Debian, I experimented with the Fedora
Linux distro as well as OpenBSD.

Fedora installed, but configuring X for the GUI video didn’t go very well. I probably could’ve gotten it to work better with information from the xorg.conf file that Debian built for me automatically, but since the system was extremely slow under Fedora, that only made the choice of Debian Etch (which seems made for and tuned to the G4) that much easier.

I really wanted to see how the G4 would do with OpenBSD, but while I was able to install it on two occasions, on neither of those was I able to get the system to boot. The regular FAQ for OpenBSD has excellent instructions on how to install it on an i386 machine, but the supplementary material for doing the install on MacPPC was less than helpful (or not helpful enough to get the system to boot).

So I went with Debian. I installed the system on one hard drive and am using the other to back up the /home directory via rsync.

A Debian victory for the $15 Laptop

I’ve been toying with removing Debian Etch from the $15 Laptop — the 1999 Compaq Armada 7770dmt with a 233 MHz Pentium II MMX processor and 64 MB of RAM. When most computer users — even those partial to Linux — talk about “old” hardware, they mean either things in the 1 GHz range, even 3 GHz single-core CPU computers with 512 MB of RAM.

For me, a 1.2 GHz Celeron laptop with 1 GB of RAM is good enough to run just about any Linux distribution out there. And my main Windows machine at the office — a 3 GHz Pentium 4 with 512 MB of RAM is way more than adequate for desktop use.

As far as the 233 MHz Compaq laptop goes, I’m probably going to bump up the RAM from the current 64 MB to the maximum of 144 MB, but that’s pretty much besides the point.

When I first got this laptop (yep, it cost me $15, though I had to shell out $10 for the CD-ROM drive on eBay) I ran into a lot of luck, because it wasonly supposed to have 32 MB of RAM but had double that. It wasn’t supposed to have a hard drive, but not only was the hard-drive casing intact, but there was a 3 GB drive inside it. It was loaded with Windows 98 but wouldn’t boot. Once I had the CD drive (the incoluded floppy drive doesn’t work, and I could get another one for $10, but I really don’t need it), I was able to run Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux from live CDs.

At first I loaded Windows 2000 just to see how it ran. Win 2K ran alright, but I’m not in this to run Windows. I had pretty good luck with both Puppy and DSL, but Damn Small Linux is really the more suited of the two for a computer with 64 MB of RAM.

Anyhow, I eventually wanted to try Debian Etch on the Compaq. I’ve done at least four installs of Debian on this computer, but my first began was the “standard” install, which means no X. After that, I added X and Fluxbox, plus all the apps I though I’d need. ROX-filer, AbiWord, Leafpad, Dillo, Lynx, Elinks, Sylpheed (which didn’t work), MtPaint for image editing, and eventually even Iceweasel (aka Debian’s renamed Firefox).

I was able to actually get work done on the laptop, which can connect to the outside world only through the Orinoco WaveLAN Silver 802.11b wireless PCMCIA card I had previously bought for This Old Mac (aka my 1996 Powerbook 1400cs). And since the PCMCIA slot in the much-better $0 Laptop (Gateway Solo 1450) is inoperable (“busted” is the technical term), the wireless card has remained in the Compaq, which has no Ethernet port or USB capability (though it does have a serial port, parallel printer port, built-in telephone modem and a power supply fully enclosed in the case — yes, a 120-volt power cord plugs right into the back). They made these Compaq’s well — this one still runs great.

Anyhow, my “roll-your-own-X” Debian install did OK. The display was a bit slow in Abiword, but I had everything running fairly well. Just not well enough.

Since then, I spent quite a bit of time testing DSL 4.0 on the Compaq. Damn Small Linux runs great on this thing, that much I can tell you. And I even ran Puppy 2.13 for a couple of days this week.

But I always had Debian on the hard drive. Just not the original Debian. I had wiped the drive and experimented with Debian Etch and the Xfce desktop install (desktop=xfce as a boot parameter in the installer) as well as Slackware 12.0 without KDE (Xfce and Fluxbox).

Well, Slackware without KDE means you don’t even get an office suite, and I still had barely any disk space on the 3 GB drive. (I know, I just need to get a bigger drive … I know.)

So I went back to Debian Etch, again the Xfce desktop. Surprisingly, this install includes the full OpenOffice suite and I still have about a full GB of space left on the hard drive. I have a separate /home partition with 800 MB in it, and a root partition with 2 GB, with about 150 MB left. The rest of the space is swap — about 120 MB.

And while on the Gateway laptop (1.2 GHz Celeron CPU) I cannot detect a performance difference between the Xfce and Fluxbox window managers, on this 233 MHz CPU, there’s quite a difference. I was about to give up on Etch altogether when I decided to again install AbiWord (I tried Ted … again … but the RTF word processor still doesn’t work, at least in any Etch install I’ve had), as well as Fluxbox.

Fluxbox makes it a lot snappier. I still have all the Xfce apps, including Thunar, Mousepad and the great Xfmedia.

In fact, I finally got sound working tonight. I don’t think it’ll survive a reoot, so I’ll have to run this line on startup, but for today it did work:

# modprobe sb io=0x220 irq=5 dma=1 mpu_io=0x330

I can’t run alsamixer, but I can play an MP3 in Xfmedia, and it sounds great even on the built-in speakers on this 9-year-old laptop.

I didn’t think I could get sound working in Debian Etch, but since I did, Etch will definitely live to fight another day on this laptop.

Before I close out this entry, let men emphasize that the Xfce install of Debian is a quirky distro, to be sure. It’s nowhere near as complete as Ubuntu’s Xfce variant, Xubuntu.

Etch in its Xfce incarnation includes the full OpenOffice suite, but not Abiword or Gnumeric (which would be good substitutes). There’s no Synaptic or Update Manager, so I’ve been doing what Debian aficionados always tell me to do: use Aptitude. I was running aptitude in a terminal for awhile, but it’s much easier to just run it at the command line:

# aptitude update
# aptitude upgrade
# aptitude install abiword

Yep, just like apt-get and apt-get install, but Aptitude is supposed to do an even better job with dependencies and it keeps track of your changes to the system, should there be any problem.

And if this entry appears on this Blogger blog, it means that the lightweight Dillo browser actually works with the blogging interface — a great thing because Dillo is very, very fast.

Note: I did save a copy of this as text in case Dillo and Blogger aren’t exactly cooperating.

Further note: Dillo and Blogger weren’t exactly getting along, so I completed this post with Iceweasel.

Final note: The fact that Debian Etch — a modern, up-to-date Linux distribution — can run so well in 233 MHz of CPU and 64 MB of RAM is something truly to behold. Again, my thanks to everybody at the Debian Project, past and present, for all they’ve done for the rest of us.

Post-final note: If Debian continues to perform so well, I just might blog the SCALE 6x convention with this 1999-vintage laptop.

Positively the last note: I’ve had trouble with Iceweasel and anything on Google for which I have to log in, so I just cut the fat and posted this to Click. And in case I only mentioned it once above, Fluxbox is really flying on this setup. And since the 1999 Compaq with Debian Etch and Movable Type 4.0 are playing nicely, I think this laptop is definitely going to SCALE 6x.

Sorry, just one more note: Look for a SCALE 6x feature on Click in the days ahead.

gOS may not have a GUI network-configuration utility … but it does have Gparted

And I am using gOS’ version of Gparted to partition the hard drive on which I will eventually install gOS. I haven’t yet used the Gparted from a Ubuntu-derived live CD, since I have Puppy for that purpose. But since the version of Gparted on the last few versions of Puppy Linux have taken up to a half-hour to read the partition table, I’ve since turned to the Gparted and Partition Magic live CDs to do my partitioning.

But since this is gOS test, I figured I’d use it’s version of Gparted. It’s as lousy at reading the partition table in a timely manner as the version in Puppy. Has nobody but me noticed this? It makes Gparted all but unusable.

Not that commercial applications don’t have soul-killing bugs in them, but Gparted has been screwed up for so long now, won’t anybody fix it already? It’s the same thing as the Ted word processor in Debian. I’ve checked — all the dependencies are there. But you can neither open nor create a file in Ted. The RTF word processing app works fine in Damn Small Linux (where it’s the main WP app) and in Puppy (where it is an easily-added package). But it’s useless in Debian. Like Gparted in … just about everything.

But the bright side is that I discovered the Gparted and Partition Magic live CDs. I heard that development on PM is going to cease, and that would be a very bad thing, indeed. Hopefully somebody else will take up the mantle and either continue Partition Magic or start their own live CD focused on partitioning hard drives. That’s the beauty of open source: out of the ashes, a new project can always arise.

Anyhow, I deleted all the partitions from my drive, and I’m waiting the <em>next</em> half-hour for Gparted to scan the drive again so I can create new ones.

P.S. Even though Gparted takes so long to scan the drive, it makes changes to the partitions as quickly as it ever did.

KDE showdown: Slackware vs. Debian

After not being in love with Debian Etch under KDE, I wanted to boot into Slackware to see if it was just me.

It’s not just me.

Since I never ran Debian with KDE before (nor had I run Slackware 12 in GNOME, with such an install being way beyond my capability at this time), I was surprised to see KDE running so much better in Slackware. I knew that Slack was quicker at just about everything than most distros out there, but I had no idea that it was so much quicker than Debian as well.

At this point, and on this slower-than-average box — the VIA C3 Samuel-based converted Maxspeed Maxterm thin client (256 MB of RAM) — I wouldn’t run KDE on anything but Slackware.

But … Slackware with KDE compares very nicely to Debian with GNOME. Makes me wonder how Slack would run with GNOME …

Debian Etch drama

I know … Debian Etch is old news, but I wasn’t about to let my first Debian KDE install go quietly into the night:

I thought it was time to add KDE to my Debian Etch install. So I went to Debian’s KDE maintainer page and found the easy instructions. What they didn’t tell me was that my root partition was too damn small, so I had about half a KDE install when / filled up. I guess when the Debian installer auto-partitions a 14.4 GB drive, it doesn’t leave enough room for GNOME and KDE in the / partition. Live and learn.

If I didn’t have a separate /home partition, it would’ve fit easily, but since the whole thing was pretty much screwed up, I figured I’d start again. I didn’t have much on this install (it’s the Maxspeed Maxterm thin client, VIA C3 Samuel processor, 256 MB RAM) — it’s one of three IDE drives that I can easily switch in and out.

I used the Etch 4.0r1 network install disc and wanted to start with KDE and use the installer GUI. I passed the following boot parameters:
installgui tasks=”kde-desktop, standard”

The graphical installer is nice, and since my $0 Laptop has trouble with the standard Debian text-based installer (the screen looks like a fuzzy Dali painting for some reason), the GUI installer just might be better. On my converted thin client, the text-based installer works great, but it’s nice to see the graphical installer do its thing. Never mind that it’s counterintuitive to NOT have the GUI installer as a menu choice when starting a Debian install. Having to enter installgui as a boot parameter is kind of NOT what having a GUI installer is all about. At least let those who don’t know about the GUI have the choice of using it.

But I quibble. I’ve always thought that Debian had one of the best installers out there, and it’s no hardship to use the text version. I’ve said it before, and I still believe that Debian’s installer is both better and easier to use than Ubuntu’s. And that’s saying a lot. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I’ve never had a serious problem with a Debian install; not so with Ubuntu and Xubuntu.

The Debian KDE install went as flawlessly as every other time I’ve thrown Debian on a box. When you do a KDE install of Debian, you don’t get KOffice. I thought doing apt-get install kde-extras at a # prompt would get me KOffice, but for some reason it didn’t do much. No problem. I just typed in

# apt-get koffice

And the suite started flowing.

One thing that’s pretty nice about KDE in Debian and Slackware — they stay true to what KDE puts out, so they look pretty much the same. Sure, there are differences, but they’re more alike than different at first glance. I understand why Debian includes OpenOffice by default and Slackware doesn’t, but that’s nothing you can’t fix in either distro. Apt is obviously easier than finding a Slackware package for Koffice, but in either case, it’s easily doable.

Yes, the initial “typographical quote marks” in KWord are STILL facing the wrong way (why did they get it right in the older version of KWord but screw it up in this version?). Fix that, as I’ve said a hundred times, and I’d never need OpenOffice, which takes an age to start in comparison to, say, Abiword (and maybe twice as long as KWord takes to load).

Otherwise, opening the Kedit text editor is a tad slower than Gedit in GNOME. The KWrite editor takes WAY too long to load, with Kate falling somewhere in the middle.

As always, the best part about KDE is Konqueror, which loads in a third of the time that it takes Iceweasel (aka Firefox) to start up. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that Konqueror is an integral part of KDE: Besides being the default Web browser, it’s also the file manager, the interface for configuration … and a pretty great FTP program as well. If only GNOME’s Nautilus were as versatile.

The next day: I tried to use KPackage, and I’m not very impressed at all. I never used it in Slackware — I don’t even know if it works in Slack — because of the great pkgtool utility. In Debian, on this marginal hardware, KPackage is slow and barely works. I was able to add individual packages, but “marking” a bunch at once and then clicking “install marked” didn’t work. I’ll have to look into it. At any rate, it’s not as quick or easy as Synaptic.

And is there an equivalent of GNOME’s Update Manager in the KDE version of Debian? I’m not sure I’ll even be notified when there are updates. This is definitely a situation where apt in a terminal window is more necessary than not. I could be missing something … but.

And I’m getting a lot of warnings that a Java script is slowing down KHTML in Konqueror. Why is that happening? I’ll have to try Iceweasel on this same install and see how it reacts.

Nothing’s different here from my other forays into KDE. Yes, the Debian implementation is mercifully quicker than SimplyMepis’ rendition. Yes, I really like a lot of the KDE apps and tools. And yes, the better system you have, the more you’ll like KDE.

But thus far, I have to give Slackware the nod for best KDE implementation. It’s set up the best, has the quickest response. Most distros work better with their main window manager. That’s true for Ubuntu (GNOME), Slackware (KDE) and Debian (GNOME).

I suspect that if I did a GNOME install of Debian and added KDE later, I’d be in a better position. Especially in Ubuntu and Debian, if you’re thinking of running Xfce or Fluxbox, I’d start with the standard GNOME and then add the subsequent window managers. That way, when you want to configure or tweak something, you’ll have the GNOME tools — slow as they might be in comparison — at your disposal. That’s if you have the room for all of it.

That said, I’m probably going back to a GNOME install of Debian when this is all over. It just works that much better. But before I do it, I’ll give KDE in Slackware a spin for comparison’s sake.