Posted by: duskfire | December 21, 2013

First steps

So on the 15th of this month, I installed Linux Mint 16 on this new laptop, using the 64 bit version. It’s now dual-booting with Windows 8. All in all, the process went well.

The question remains, though: How many things that I used to need Windows for can be done through Linux nowadays?

1. I have gotten Netflix running in Firefox. Quality seems relatively good.  See here for the current instructions on how-to.

sherlock

2. Steam for Linux seems to work okay, I can run Portal and Crusader Kings 2 with no obvious glitches.

3. FIXED: Trying to run Steam for Windows via wine doesn’t work out well at the moment. There’s a bug whereby it needs a DNS lookup library to access the internet, and even after I installed lib32nss-mdns, it still wouldn’t connect for updates. This was using Crossover 13.01, the most recent version. I haven’t tried earlier versions yet.

4. PlayOnLinux probably works fine, but I tried to install DC Universe and it just would not run.

At this point, I’m wondering whether the troubles I have had in the past using a 64-bit OS while running the Windows’ version of Steam are still around. I’d like to install a 32 bit version of Linux and will test a couple of options this weekend. Linux Mint 32-bit was a no-go, I could not get the boot manager for Windows 8 to see any EFI file for it, and I’m reluctant to use Legacy Boot unless I have no other option.

So in one of those curious coincidences, right after I published this post, I checked for updates. It just so happens that one of the updates was for the “libnss3″ libraries that were causing me trouble with Steam for Windows on 64 bit Linux.

After applying all updates, Steam runs fine using Crossover 13.01, and I played Faerie Solitaire, a fairly simple game. I will investigate other more complex graphical games today and tomorrow and post a few results below:

Morrowind – runs, with a minor issue (lower resolution)

Civilization 3 Complete – runs, with the same issue

Skyrim – runs quite well, exits Steam cleanly

Kingdoms of Amalur – not tested

Romance of Rome – runs

Final Fantasy 7 – will not run

Titan Quest – runs, but doesn’t exit Steam cleanly

Posted by: duskfire | December 10, 2013

openSUSE hits a snag

I was going to install openSUSE 13.1 on my old Gateway and report on it, but the 32 bit version doesn’t seem to have any wireless networking wizard in the live version at all. I’m not sure why that is, but since most other recent distros have been able to let me get connected while running live, I just have to conclude that openSUSE dropped the ball this time. I’ve tried both KDE and GNOME editions and in each case, the “wireless” tab is greyed out in Network Manager when I attempt to add a new connection.

Not only that, but with the KDE edition, it seemed very sluggish in live mode – again, behavior which has never shown up in any distribution I’ve tried before. The laptop I’m using only has 2 GB of RAM but that can’t really be the issue – I’ve run KDE live before and it wasn’t noticeably slow.

From what I can tell, the WiFi problem doesn’t affect everyone – but since I’m not willing to try it on my main laptop, it does affect me. I’ve been told this is a bug left over from 12.3. Some folks have tried to give me helpful suggestions, but I’m not really willing to spend too much time fixing the issue. In the meantime, I have installed Fedora 20 (Beta). They will release it soon, and I thought I would check in to see how it looks these days. So far everything works well, and there seem to several neat new features introduced since version 18, which was the last one I reviewed. I’m running the default GNOME 3 edition this time around.

I am also considering the idea of just installing openSUSE from the main DVD. I haven’t made up my mind just yet.

My other project this weekend is going to be an attempt to install Linux Mint 16 in a dual boot setup alongside Windows 8 on the new laptop.

Posted by: duskfire | December 9, 2013

New Laptop and Windows 8

If you had told me six months ago that the next laptop I ended up with would be very similar to the old one that died last spring, I probably would not have believed you. Yet, here I am.  It is an HP Pavillion, with a 17.3″ screen, 8 GB of RAM, a 750 GB capacity hard drive and an AMD processor (Elite Quad Core A10-5750M). It uses the AMD Radeon HD 8650G graphics card. It’s running Windows 8, of course. I picked it up from Walmart at a discount, and most reviews seem to be pretty positive. I should note that it does not have a touchscreen.

Even though I strongly prefer using Linux, my old laptop ran Windows 7, and at work that’s what I use. Windows 7 is really very good, it is Microsoft’s best operating system version by far, and it’s a pleasure to use.

Windows 8 is so VERY different than that. Subjectively so far, it jumps into my way whenever I try to do anything. I’ve been using it in desktop mode whenever possible. It works fine, and lets me play the games I want to, but I don’t appreciate having to constantly switch between the desktop and the tile interface that Windows 8 is trying to get us accustomed to use.

Putting Linux on this is definitely possible, only a little more complicated than before. I have enabled Legacy Boot and made a couple of attempts to boot from a flash drive. I tried 4 different editions of Linux: Linux Mint 16 32 bit, Ubuntu 13.10 64 bit, Kubuntu 13.10 32 bit, and Linux Mint 16 64 bit. I had the best success with Linux Mint 64 bit, which booted up and seems to run in live mode perfectly. Ubuntu 64 bit booted up, but the resolution was off and the only option seemed to be to choose to install, since the dock was off screen. I’m thinking that I picked the wrong file in the /boot folder. I might try to get Kubuntu 64 bit to run also, just to see if it will.

Also, when I enabled Legacy Boot, I made the USB flash drive the priority for both Legacy and Secure Boot. Despite this, I have found that you cannot just turn the computer on with the flash drive in and assume it will use that drive’s bootable OS. You must hit the Escape key to bring up the boot menu choices and manually select the flash drive (which is listed first).

My next post will go into more detail about the process, since I suspect that most HP Pavillions these days will be using this same method.

Posted by: duskfire | November 30, 2013

New reviews are incoming

I’ve taken a longer break from blogging than I intended. Since Ubuntu 13.10 came out on October 17, I installed it and used it until the Release Candidate for Linux Mint 16 came out. I’ve been using that ever since. I just didn’t feel like writing a review for Ubuntu. It’s pretty good, actually, but I think I’ll wait until the LTS release next spring to write up a review.

The main reason I haven’t blogged is that I’ve been distracted playing Baldur’s Gate 1 and a few other games too (such as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Icewind Dale, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, and Planescape: Torment). To play them, I installed PlayonLinux. I am very impressed with PlayonLinux so far, and if you are unwilling or unable to buy Codeweaver’s excellent product (Crossover Linux), i think it’s a better option than just using vanilla wine. One thing I found it necessary to do was to make the dock (or the taskbar) auto-hide. If you don’t do this, many games in fullscreen are partially off screen due to the dock being still shown.

Two weeks ago, I moved 2 of my hard drives around – I’d had an 80 gig with Crunchbang on it, but the laptop it was in wasn’t so good. I took it out and put it into my main laptop (a Gateway M460, with 0.5 GB RAM more than the other one and no screen issues). I’ve now installed Linux Mint 16 RC onto that. Linux Mint only released this RC on the15th, but I didn’t want to wait until the final release.  Crunchbang is an excellent distribution (especially for lower end computers), but I still find Linux Mint to be my “go to” standard when I just want to use the laptop.

The main reason I changed hard drives around was that with more than 3 or 4 Windows games, plus all the DOS and Linux games, my 40 GB drive was actually filling up too fast!

I’m expecting to get a brand new laptop very soon, probably at the upcoming Cyber Monday sales. It will definitely have Windows 8 pre-installed on it, but that won’t take too long to blow away…I will have to make a newer list of distributions that I plan to review. I’m hoping that I can dual-boot Linux Mint (for long term use) with whichever distribution I’m reviewing at the time.

OpenSUSE 13.1 is one of many distributions that I’m interested in checking out, and of course Linux Mint 16 is due soon. The RC for Linux Mint has been doing just fine on this old laptop. I also want to review Fedora 20 when it is released next month.

Posted by: duskfire | October 20, 2013

Korora 19 review

Korora 19 is a Linux distribution that takes Fedora and adds in the non-free bits that you otherwise have to install yourself from a third party (Korora uses the RPMFusion repositories). It’s offered in 32 and 64 bit versions, in either a GNOME or KDE desktop edition. For this review I installed the 32 bit KDE version.

The machine I have been using daily, and for these recent reviews, is a Gateway M460 with 2 GB of RAM and an integrated Intel card. I have noticed that it sometimes has an issue during the bootup sequence where it freezes, but turning it off and back on seems to take care of it. I’m assuming this isn’t an issue with Korora per se, but with this very old laptop.

Installation

The DVD-sized ISO is 2.2 GB, and after you install you will see why it’s so large – it gives you pretty much everything you’d need. Korora uses the same installer as Fedora, and if you set a wireless password while running the live disc, it is carried over to the post-install system.

Korora 19 live desktop

Korora 19 live desktop

However, because it’s identical to Fedora, you cannot use the Unetbootin program to create a live USB stick or CD – for best results I suggest using “dd” on a linux system to directly write the .iso file to the thumb drive. If you have to create it on a Windows system, here is the page that discusses how to do it. The next page will help if you are using Linux and are unfamiliar with the “dd” command.

The release notes are for Fedora 19. Initially there was also a link to the Fedora 18 release notes, but that disappeared fairly soon after I noticed it.

Features and Software

The default browser (Firefox) comes with 5 extensions pre-installed, including AdBlock Plus, Flashblock, and “DownThemAll!”. These are enabled out of the box. I actually never use AdBlock – most ads are not annoying enough, and I don’t want to deprive websites of the revenue they get from ads. Also, you’ll want to disable Flashblock if you actually want to play games that use Flash, or watch most videos.

Just like with Fedora, you get 3 games installed – MahJongg, KPatience, and KMines.

The sheer amount of software installed with Korora is almost overwhelming. Both Apper (the KDE add & remove tool) and Yum Extender can be found in the Administration section of the menu.

In addition to the usual software you expect, you get applications such as Back In Time for backup, Handbrake (media encoder), Audacity (sound editor), kdenlive (video editor), Inkscape, and GIMP. Both Kate and KWrite (text editors) are installed, K3b is there for disk burning, you have digiKam for managing photos, and there’s also a program called LinPhone, apparently a VOIP client.

I had trouble getting a CD to play using Amarok. Usually Amarok works well, but it kept skipping most of the disc for some reason. VLC gave me better results:

VLC seems to be better than Amarok

VLC seems to be better than Amarok

Korora also uses VLC as the default movie player rather than the KDE application (Dragon), which is fine by me, since I have found that VLC is by far the best video player on Linux for any desktop.

playing a movie in Korora

playing a movie in Korora

After all this, I was somewhat surprised that certain KDE applications were NOT installed – namely the Calligra office suite, Kolourpaint, neither Dragon nor Kaffeine (movie players), and Kopete (instant messaging). Although 10 programs are in the development menu (including a CVS frontend), neither QtCreator nor KDevelop are installed by default.

Although the hplip software files were installed, I was unable to get Korora to supply the correct printer file and couldn’t add my printer.

Wine is not installed, but the repositories have version 1.7.2, quite close to the current version.

Games

You can install all of the games that are found in Fedora and in the related nonfree repositories available at RPMFusion. Although a number of games found in Ubuntu aren’t available, most of the best ones are. If there is something you simply must have, your best bet is to download the .deb file, use the “alien” package converter to change it to an RPM file, and then install it.

I had a problem with Knights, the KDE Chess board, which just refused to start once installed. I’m not sure why it didn’t but I know I had a chess engine installed.

Help and support

Firefox and Konqueror both have quite a few links to Fedora and related websites. The Korora project forums are a good place to have questions answered, or you can join their IRC channel. There are also video tutorials on installing or upgrading your system.

Likes

- Lots of useful software installed out of the box

- playing movies and music, using Java, and Flash all work immediately.

- useful administrative tools such as a firewall, a backup tool, and services management are available from the Administration section directly, not simply buried in the KDE system settings.

Dislikes

- it isn’t a “pure” KDE edition.

Final Thoughts

If it’s important to you to be all set up after installation, Korora does improve upon its Fedora base. It provides an excellent desktop and all the main programs that users will want to have.

But the KDE version actually leaves me wanting more. The Calligra suite is not installed as it is in the Fedora spin, there are a few additional KDE programs I felt could have been included – and what’s GIMP doing in a KDE-focused edition?

Fedora 20 is scheduled for a November 20 release, and I intend to install the default version and review it. I haven’t had a chance to look at a GNOME 3 distro in a while, so I’m looking forward to it.  Korora 20 will likely be released very soon afterwards, and if you love Fedora but would like more programs pre-installed, or just want the access to non-free items like Flash and DVD playing, Korora seems to be a very worthwhile option.

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