“Minimal” Install – Xubuntu 10.04 LTS – Openbox

As per a previous post, here is a breakdown of the installation carried out on a Dell Dimension 4100 with an PIII 833mhz processor and 256mb ram:

#On Install screen press F4 and select Command Line Install
#then Install Xubuntu

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Continue reading

Top Ten Best Linux Distros?

KMandla’s been getting all hot under the collar about Tech Radar’s distro list, so I thought I would have a go:

  1. Xubuntu 10.04 LTS / 10.10
  2. Ubuntu ALT-CD Command Line Installation with Openbox Window Manager
  3. SLiTaZ 3.0
  4. PartedMagic 5.0
  5. Arch Linux
  6. Puppy Linux 5
  7. Crunchbang Linux
  8. XBMC Live
  9. Clonezilla
  10. Struggling here; a toss up between Mint, UNR and Windows 7 :)

No place for Tiny Core Linux, but there, it gets a mention.

I do have modern PC hardware 😉

Windows 7 & Xubuntu (Dual Boot) & Samba File Server: Do’s and Dont’s

Been dual booting W7 and Ubuntu for some time using the RC version, but upon purchasing an Asus EB1012, which is now proudly bolted out of sight to the back of my 24″ Hanns.G screen, I found I had a proper licensed copy of W7 Home Premium to look after, alongside side my 9.10 Xubuntu install. With a linux samba server also on the Lan I needed everything to run smoothly, and after fiddling about for a few weeks, I believe I am finally there.


1. Dual boot W7 with Linux. It makes so much sense, as what you can do in Linux is what you can’t do in W7, and vice versa (although the latter has now almost dimished to zero :))

Setting Up for Samba Server File Access

2. The following to get your samba server working with W7 to stop it BSODing:

edit your /etc/samba/smb.conf on the server and ensure that:

  • Your workgroup name is listed
  • Your netbios name is listed, and is the same as your workgroup (OK, this means you can only have one samba server, but it helps
  • Ensure that your security entry is set to user

So in the [global] section of smb.conf you should have these entries (assumes workgroup of MYHOME)

workgroup = MYHOME
netbios name = MYHOME
security = user

3. Follow all the steps in this howto by stormbringer on ubuntuforums to setup your samba server and shares.

4. Follow all the steps for W7 in this howto by dmizer on ubuntuforums to setup W7 for samba access

5. Add a registry key to W7 for LmCompatibilityLevel=2 – see here

6. Make sure your W7 workgroup matches the one in your smb.conf file

7. Have a look at your Antivirus program. Crashes have bee experienced when using free versions of Avast, Avira and AVG. I have AVG 9 Free installed and have disabled the Resident Shield and Link Scanner (the latter of these is apparently the root cause). If this doesn’t fix things, uninstall your AV all together.

8. Add your linux file server to your lmhosts.sam file in Windows 7. You will need to open notepad as administrator to do this. Simply add the ip, followed by a space or tab, followed by the netbios name you chose:   MYHOME

Save and reboot to get it to take effect.

Sharing Files on the Dual Boot

9. Create an NTFS shared partition separate from Ubuntu or Windows. If you don’t have the space, keep your files on the windows partition somewhere. ntfs file access is facile under ubuntu and you can automount through fstab with a simple line like this:

UUID=05AAD3F54R0B9BDA                           /media/DATA     ntfs-3g defaults 0 0

And of course you would use a similar line for accessing the windows partition.

At the moment, you won’t easily be able to access your Ubuntu partition from windows, well, not with read/write access, but to get at least read access, you would need to do some work prior to installation. I’m not going to recommend this route, as I believe it leads to instability. So you will need to be strong, and always copy or move files to your shared partition when in ubuntu. If you really must have read access, look here


1. Try to use Ext2ifs or Ext2fsd to access your ext4 partition. It doesn’t work, (bar the workaround above) and can cause your W7 to crash.

2. Don’t use EXT3 as your file system for a shared partition. Although it “works”, its just asking for trouble, because you will need to run one of the two programs in 1. above, which can increase instability.

3. Use Samba as your file server when on the ubuntu side of the dual boot. Setup NFS on the server for linux file access. Much better.

As you can probably see, I have set out to keep things as native as possible; give W7 what it expects to find and it will work well, give Ubuntu what it expects to find and the same applies….

Observation, after a recent Windows update, or due to something unrelated to all the above, my Server disappeared from the Network section, so have found the need to create a persistent mapped network drive. Wonder if it will ever come back….? [EDIT] it did, following a cold reboot the next day.

Create GeeXBoX LiveUSB using UnetBootIn on Linux

I know we have the win32 installer,
I know we can install to USB from CD,
but I wanted to use only Linux to
create a live USB that replicates the CD.


UnetBootIn (in Xubuntu repos)
Standard or Custom GeexBox iso ( I used a Custom GeexBox 1.2.3)
USB Flash Drive (Used a Buffalo 1GB)

This all carried out on Xubuntu 9.04

Part I – Create Bootable USB Drive

Insert USB Drive to your PC running Linux (Ubuntu etc)
Start UnetBootIn
Tick the Disk Image Radio Button, ensure ISO is selected in the drop down and then select your GeexBox iso
Select your USB drive from the drop down box
Click OK and Wait until you get the Reboot or Exit buttons appear
Click Exit

Part II – Get the right GEEXBOX directory

Mount the GeexBox iso so you can access files
I use Gmountiso but you can create a directory and issue a command in the terminal

sudo mkdir /media/gb-iso
sudo mount -o loop /path/to/geexbox.iso /media/gb-iso

Go to your root directory of your USB drive and delete (yes, delete!) the entire GEEXBOX directory
Got to /media/gb-iso and copy the GEEXBOX directory, pasting it to the root of your USB drive.

Why have we done this? UnetBootIn does something to the GEEXBOX directory files, you need the unadulterated ones on the iso.

Part III – Edit syslinux.cfg

In a terminal, run the command:

sudo blkid -L

On newer systems (e.g. Karmic) run

sudo blkid


sudo blkid -o full

You will get all the UUID’s from your drives and partitions.
Note down the UUID for your USB drive
Mine was 0633-157B

Open up syslinux.cfg on the USB drive in your favourite text editor
Make it look like this:

default vesamenu.c32
prompt 0
timeout 20

MENU TITLE Welcome to GeeXboX i386 1.2.3 (C) 2002-2009
MENU TABMSG Press [Tab] to edit options, [F1] for boot options.
MENU COLOR sel 7;37;40 #e0000000 #fa833b all
MENU COLOR border 30;44 #00000000 #00000000 none

label ubnentry0
menu label Start GeeXboX …
kernel /GEEXBOX/boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/GEEXBOX/boot/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw rdinit=linuxrc boot=UUID=0633-157B lang=en remote=atiusb receiver=atiusb keymap=qwerty splash=silent vga=789 video=vesafb:ywrap,mtrr quiet

label ubnentry1
menu label Start GeeXboX for HDTV …
kernel /GEEXBOX/boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/GEEXBOX/boot/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw rdinit=linuxrc boot=UUID=0633-157B lang=en remote=atiusb receiver=atiusb keymap=qwerty splash=silent vga=789 video=vesafb:ywrap,mtrr hdtv quiet

label ubnentry2
menu label Install GeeXboX to disk …
kernel /GEEXBOX/boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/GEEXBOX/boot/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw rdinit=linuxrc boot=UUID=0633-157B lang=en remote=atiusb receiver=atiusb keymap=qwerty splash=silent vga=789 video=vesafb:ywrap,mtrr installator quiet

label ubnentry3
menu label Start in debugging mode …
kernel /GEEXBOX/boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/GEEXBOX/boot/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw rdinit=linuxrc boot=UUID=0633-157B lang=en remote=atiusb receiver=atiusb keymap=qwerty splash=0 vga=789 video=vesafb:ywrap,mtrr debugging

label ubnentry4
menu label Start HDTV edition in debugging mode …
kernel /GEEXBOX/boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/GEEXBOX/boot/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw rdinit=linuxrc boot=UUID=0633-157B lang=en remote=atiusb receiver=atiusb keymap=qwerty splash=0 vga=789 video=vesafb:ywrap,mtrr hdtv debugging


Make sure you replace my UUID entry with your own for each stanza

Save syslinux.cfg

Part IV – Clean Up

Unmount the iso

sudo umount /media/gb-iso

Delete the directory if you wish

sudo rmdir /media/gb-iso

You are done. Either safely remove your USB drive, or leave it in and reboot.
You may need to edit your bios settings to allow booting from USB.
And there you have it, LiveUSB, just like the CD, but you can edit settings if you wish.

Run “wubi” from usb stick

As we move away from “burnable” media to solid state, then need to be able to use distros on usb sticks becomes more important. I have never yet tried wubi, but with a new PC on the way (with no optical drive) and Windows 7 pre-installed, I am tempted to try wubi as my installation method (even if only for a while! :))

So using unetbootin I setup a 1GB usb stick with Ubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10, booted up into Windows 7 and put in the stick.

Hmmm… no autorun of wubi.exe?

So opt to open folder and double clicked on wubi.exe. Accept the UAT control dialog and the wubi menu pops up. But with one problem. No “Install inside Windows” option. Not much good then.

Google away and find out its a bug. How to fix is quite easy and just takes one more step.

Open up a command window (or go Start > Run)

Type:    X:wubi.exe force-wubi

(where X is the drive letter of your usb stick)

and pass the UAT again and lo and behold,

your “Install inside Windows” option is there.

HOWEVER, wubi still seems to insist on downloading the distro from a torrent, as opposed to using the one you have on a stick. To overcome this, and if you have a big enough stick (!) copy the whole *.iso from your HDD onto the stick, into the same directory as wubi.exe. This will ensure you still have a bootable stick. Alternately, extract the wubi.exe from the iso, then with a blank formatted stick simply copy wubi.exe and *.iso onto the stick. Insert to a booted up Windows and go. You may nned to follow the initial instructions to get an install button, but I found with Xubuntu.9.10 I didn’t have too.

Dual Booting Karmic and Jaunty and then using grub-legacy

What a palava. Grub2 will become the defacto standard in time, but right now I am not quite ready to switch over. Having installed Karmic to a separate partition, and chosen to install grub2 to the local root (not mbr) I could not chainload boot to karmic from grub legacy.

So, bootedup the live cd again and installed Grub2 to the mbr. Instructions on how to do this can be found here.

OK, good. Boot up Karmic now, and run “sudo update-grub” in order to load up all the other OS’s into Grub2 menu.

While you are in Karmic, open up the grub.cfg file and copy out the boot menu info for Karmic (you will need this later to put into your grub-legacy menu.lst) Should look something like this:

“sudo nano /boot/grub/grub.cfg”

menuentry “Ubuntu, Linux 2.6.31-14-generic” {
if [ -n ${have_grubenv} ]; then save_env recordfail; fi
set quiet=1
insmod ext2
set root=(hd0,10)
search –no-floppy –fs-uuid –set b50237f3-c90c-4af6-a275-892a09165ea3
linux    /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.31-14-generic root=UUID=b50237f3-c90c-4af6-a275-892a09165ea3 ro   quiet splash
initrd    /boot/initrd.img-2.6.31-14-generic

Now reboot, and you should be OK to boot back into Jaunty.

In Jaunty, open up menu.lst, and add the following entry to your “Other Operating Systems” section

title       Xubuntu Karmic Koala
uuid       b50237f3-c90c-4af6-a275-892a09165ea3
kernel    /vmlinuz root=UUID=b50237f3-c90c-4af6-a275-892a09165ea3 ro  quiet splash
initrd    /initrd.img

You’ll see why you needed the info from grub.cfg to insert the UUID information. This layout, I believe also has the benefit of coping with kernal updates to Karmic.

Save your menu.lst file, and reboot. You should now have an entry for Karmic and it should boot.  :)

GeeXBoX playback at fullscreen on LCD TV

This has been an issue for me for quite a while, but I have simply overcome it by using the menu to change the aspect ratio.

It all stems from the perplexing confusion of recording dvb tv for later playback. Watching live TV on the TV, the picture fills the screen. It’s a 16:9 42″ TV (720p). When I record dvb tv using my main pc in its raw .ts state it is 720×576 (16:9). If I play this back using the GeexBox, mplayer squeezes the picture to a display of something like Cinemascope, so a change of aspect ratio to 4:3 usually sorts this out. But it got me thinking, if the original video is 16:9 why doesn’t play as such? The Pc in use to run GeexBox has an nvidia 6200 and is connected to the TV using VGA (DVI/HDMI went “pop” a while ago on the TV!).

First off, I tried all sorts of encoding options, changing the aspect ratio and resolution using mencoder. I got some success if I encoded with aspect=4/3 as an option. but this still didn’t make sense; if I had a 16:9 aspect ratio TV, why the original video didn’t fit.

This is what I did to sort things out. I have a HDD install of GeexBox so can ftp in to edit files. If you use a live cd, then you will need to edit the files before you generate a custom iso.

Boot up the GeexBox

FTP in, and make doubly sure you get into the right place


Open up tvout in that directory and change the Aspect Ratio line to this:


and save.
By just making this change alone, it squeezed my display horizontally to make a 4:3 image, so more to do

Browse to /mnt/Geexbox-partition/GEEXBOX/etc/mplayer and open up mplayer.conf
In the [default] section, add the following two lines:



and save. It may be worth noting that I have vo=vidix,vesa in the default section of mplayer.conf

Log out of the ftp and reboot the GeexBox. The Main Menu and background.avi should be filling the screen.

Now try playing any recorded dvb tv or video that was previously letterboxed, even though it was 16:9 ratio or 720×576 resolution. You should see it playback in full screen.

Caveats: This may not work in your setup, and you may not need to make all the adjustments to get this to work, this is what worked for me.

Surely Not? Linux User Moves to Windows 7?

Windows 7 to replace Xubuntu?

Whenever a new version of Windows comes out, I am normally one of the first to go grab a copy. Think into “grab” what you like, from the past, but with the arrival of Windows 7 I went for the RC which was on off for free to use until June 2010.

I thought, we’ll have a look, but I can’t see how they will have learnt any lessons after the resource hog they created with Vista. How wrong, install was under half an hour on my Shuttle SN41, boot up time from cold was under a minute to usable desktop, and ram usage was around 380mb, down by 200 mb on Vista, whilst CPU activity was next to nothing. No drag, no delays, no problems…. hang on, all I have done in the last three years is use linux, and found the need to move towards lighter and lighter systems to maintain speed and productivity. Yep, but W7 seems to be a real contender, until June 2010 comes round!

OK, its one thing to get the OS up and running, can I “do” everything I can do on Xubuntu 9.04, and access my linux server (that one won’t be changing!). This is a work in progress, but here we go so far:

  1. Remove the watermark about evaluation. easily found on the net
  2. ExtFsd – provides access to ext3 partitions on the HDD
  3. Ensure samba server up and running on the linux server (it is, for my kids and their windows PCs)
  4. Install Winrar – I know I will have to download some rar files to get up to speed
  5. Firefox – IE8 shoved politely to one side, all required extensions installed nicely
  6. Putty – now able to ssh into server
  7. UltraVNC – now able to vnc to server and other boxes
  8. Geany – helps to overcome linux text files, and mirrors usage on Xubuntu. No need for any other text editor.
  9. VLC – mplayer won’t do dvb on Windows yet, so VLC for viewing and recording dvb streams. Will have to spend some time writing batch files to ease planned recordings and viewings, but had to do this on Linux.
  10. Brother MFP drivers – original CD no good for W7, but Vista drivers on the Brother site did the job.
  11. Gwhere – yes there is a Windows version – for cataloging DVDs
  12. Skype – and the Eyetoy webcam experience is here at last :)
  13. CDBurnerXP – on trial as I write. My trusty Nero OEM CD proved to be no good for W7

To come:

  • pdf access and creation
  • image editing (this will probably be photofiltre)
  • video encoding will get shunted off to the server for mencoder to deal with, don’t do video editing as a rule

Note: All mail is up on Google, so no need for a mail client, as with Calendar & To Do, and Google Docs will do if I do not install OO.  For work I have to use Windows, and need access to full Acrobat, Illustrator, IE6+ for Management
systems, and Sage for accounting. I try to emulate this at home, so do need Windows in some form.


  1. a. Several little crashes of programs, and on one occasion the vlc.exe file disappeared, requiring a reinstall
  2. Tried, but could not get NFS Services to work, so gave up and used samba instead
  3. vlc is a swine to use for dvb but I’ll get there
  4. mplayer / smplayer crashed and burned when trying to play video over smb shares and killed the Aero effect until I rebooted.
  5. WMP OK for occasional mp3 play, but never saves playlist automatically. Failed to play most of the videos I threw at it
  6. Windows Media Center just so unintuitive, and bring machine to its knees. such a shame, it looks great. Has been “dumbed down” so little chance to configure precisely
  7. Navigating the file system, and the layout of Windows Explorer is quite alien (might seek out something more simple!)
  8. Perhaps most worrying was the dirth of useful information on the net about how to get setup, in particular with regard to dvb and vlc.  (A new user coming from Linux would struggle!!! :)
  9. Seems to grind to a halt after a while, needing a reboot to get back to normal

It scares me just how much I have forgotten about Windows and how it works, but for an underlying OS, it seems pretty  stable and responsive, and very usable on my oldish hardware.

Watch this space for more adventures from a linux user on Windows :)

Acer Aspire One – Xubuntu 9.04, XP and Linpus Triple Boot – My Way

A bit late on the bandwagon, but shelled out for an 8GB SSD Aspire One the other day (factory refurb). A nice blue one. On arrival it refused to charge, so required a bios upgrade to 3309. Told the supplier they need to be aware of this problem. They said thanks.

Linpus Lite….hmmm, I guess it does what it says on the tin, and I like the way it adds the SD card onto your home directory. ButI needed more freedom, and wasn’t in the mood to learn how to yum. So out with the Gparted CD and the SSD was reshaped with a 2GB, a 3GB, and a 2.5GB partition and no swap. I kept the Linpus installation for reference, but it will probably go when things move on, I have the recovery CD after all.

So the1st partition, 2GB is for a Windows XP Pro install, to install from USB, it has to be the first partition.

The 2nd parition, 3GB is Linpus

The third partition, 2.5GB will be for Xubuntu 9.04, not a remix distro, but my own.


Making up the USB XP drive was fun, requiring an XPSP3 disc and some other softs. Instructions said i could do it with multiple partitions but that was just laying down a challenge! If I remember rightly (I didn’t take notes) this is how it was done.

I used, in the main, this tut for creation of the USB drive and installation. Just had to be careful when picking the right partition to format and install.


and this one


Windows will boot quite happily while the USB drive is still in place, but take it out and it borks. I needed to edit the boot.ini file so that it was looking at the right partition, not the one on the USB drive, but the one on the hard drive. After that things were fine.

At this point all I can do it boot into Windows having overwritten the mbr. I’ll get grub back on board and be multi-booting once Xubuntu is installed.

Xubuntu 9.04

To be honest, I went for arch-linux first, but struggled with some of the packages I needed to run on the cli, so gave up and went for good old faithful xubuntu.

Alternate CD, F4, Command Line Install. Openbox, Xorg, Wicd to manage being wired or wireless, vga=788 for framebuffer (won’t go any higher than 800×600) in grub on the kernel line. I didn’t want an xfce desktop environment, as I was seeking to have a mainly CLI setup but to be able to run Openbox with startx if needed.

CLI apps that cut the mustard here were: (link provided where not in the repos)

moc                       music player
mc                         file manager
directvnc               graphical remote control
dvtm                      multiple console windows
screen                   multiple console sessions
fbi                          view images and pdfs
calcurse                 calendar/to do
elinks                     text browser
links2                     text and graphical browser
cmatrix                  matrix like screen
pydf                       colourful df
htop                       colourful top
mplayer                 video player
gpm                       console mouse

For Openbox I installed:

thunar                   file manager
wicd                      network manager
firefox                   browser
xfce4-terminal      terminal
obmenu                menu builder
obconf                  appearance manager
vinagre                 graphical vnc viewer

I needed to add some fixes, drawn mainly from the ubuntu community page for the Aspire One . I followed the SSD life extending suggestions, added the backport modules to get the wireless LED working, made the pciehp entry to help with SD card mounting, and added the acerhdf module to control the fan speed, and some of the tweaks for improving SSD performance. Automounting of USB drives failed due to the bug with hal, so I applied this fix.

Yet to try out skype and webcam under this setup, although I know that the webcam works with cheese, and must do some more research to get all the function (Fn) buttons working, although I know this is a general issue.

My favourite toy is directvnc. Working in the framebuffer is clever enough given that you can run a graphical browser (links2), view images (fbi) and watch video (mplayer) but to be able to run remote graphical sessions from other PCs in the framebuffer knocks me over. I had to resize my remote PCs resolution to 800×600 to get it working right.

Next steps, probably to drop the linpus install, expand the size of XP so I can get Office on it (or Word/Excel/PPoint), and test out battery life – don’t know what happens when the power runs out when I am at the cli :)