Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fedora 13 - Still a Gnome Distribution

Fedora has a history of being a Gnome distribution although things have been changing with the release of KDE 4.x.

Click on any picture for a bigger view.

Fedora 13 with KDE 4.4.3 and Oxygen theme

In the past certain distributions were regarded as having better KDE integration, especially with KDE 3.5.x. OpenSUSE and Mandriva notably had a better KDE experience and were regarded as KDE distributions.

However with the introduction of KDE 4.x I feel things have changed. Looking at my Gentoo KDE desktop, I no longer see OpenSUSE as having an advantage or better KDE integration.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for Mandriva, their KDE 4.x desktop has been heavily customized to look more like KDE 3.5.x. Infact I feel they have ruined KDE 4.x with their customizations. Personally I have never been a Mandriva fan.

Yesterday I decided to download Fedora 13, I went for the Live KDE CD. I prefer KDE over Gnome due to the nicer appearance and additional features. My best feature with KDE is when you drag a file or icon to another location, a context menu appears giving you a variety of choices.

Gnome would either move or copy the file / icon, just like Windows.

Fedora's KDE 4.x seems very nice but is let down by the lack of a few polishing touches.

The logon KDM greeter looks really nice, the desktop looks just like any other KDE 4.x desktop but all is spoilt by some Gnome-ish icons, notification dialogues and graphical interfaces.

The icons

As you can see in the below screenshot, the inconsistency with the icons.

The horror!

Many applications that are related to system settings or administration in Fedora's KDE spin haven't been given a KDE equivalent. Hence the inconsistency and lack of a polished finish.

Gnome-ish dialogue

Next up is the notification dialogue when root access is required. For a minute I thought I was in Gnome.

Root access deserves better, give it KDE!

Gnome has invaded my KDE 4.x desktop, eek!

A system wide application

The next screenshot shows Fedora's (RedHat's) Network Configuration application.

Fedora's devs, you can do better than that!

The Network Configuration application is a system wide application to control your network devices in Fedora and is not exclusive to Fedora, it is a RedHat application.

Looking at it, clearly it is GTK based just like all other RedHat applications.

Overall the lack of a consistent feel and polished result means Fedora's KDE needs more work.

Other applications you can see in the KDE menu screenshot, SELinux, Service Management, Network Device Control, Bootloader Control, Firewall are all RedHat applications. You will also notice some of these and others in CentOS and RedHat Enterprise, they are core RedHat applications and based on GTK.

As it stands, Fedora is still a Gnome centric distribution like its paid / commercial counter part RedHat.

By the way, I changed the fonts to Liberation Sans as the default font in Fedora is pure ugly.

Why not change the default fonts to the Liberation set, which was developed by RedHat?

Perhaps one day Fedora will feature better KDE integration but I have my doubts. All of the core RedHat applications are based on GTK for the obvious reason that RedHat is a Gnome based distribution.

To further explain why I have doubts a few points need to be stated.

Fedora is a RedHat sponsored project.

Fedora is based on the latest and greatest software packages and innovations.

New features in Fedora are incorporated into future RedHat Enterprise releases.

Bearing in mind all of the above, my view is Fedora is simply a development platform for RedHat to try out the latest and greatest. They use it to improve their commercial flagship product which is Gnome orientated.

Additionally any bug fixes, security fixes and enhancements are pushed upstream so overall everyone benefits, RedHat is a big contributor to Linux.

However I do not see any reason for RedHat to tweak their core applications and make it look nicer in KDE.

It is not in their interest unless they wish to release a RedHat Enterprise KDE spin with a professional polished appearance and feel.

As a desktop user I like having a good looking operating system with a polished feel and Fedora with KDE doesn't deliver.

Also bearing in mind the bleeding edge characteristic of Fedora and stability issues which I have encountered in the past, I would not use Fedora or recommend it for desktop use anyway. It is more geared towards developers, Linux enthusiasts, those interested in experiencing some of the latest innovations and those who wish to contribute and file bug reports.

If you are looking for a stable alternative to Windows, Fedora should not be on your list.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Keep your PC clean inside and dust it out regularly

After a while your PC will collect dust not only on the outside but also inside. Many people overlook this but it is extremely important for the life of your PC to keep it clean.

Notice the the dust on the gfx card fan blades

Dust will build up over time and if you fail to clean it you may experience a number of symptoms as a result of overheating.

Fine dust coats everything, over time creating layer upon layer

Having worked on a number of PC's over the years I still cannot believe some of the PC's I have seen and the amount of dust inside.

Some are so dusty, it is like someone poured a hoover bag inside the PC.

I have also seen instances where heatsinks have become so packed with dust that it no longer resembles a heatsink but a solid mass. As a result the cooling fan cannot blow air through the fins.

Where you place your PC can have a big impact on the amount of dust that builds up inside.

Placing your PC on the floor or under a desk will cause dust to build up inside quicker than having it on top the desk.

Do not be afraid to take the side panel off your PC, you should make this a regular habit. If it needs a good dusting out, the best method is to use compressed air.

You can buy compressed air at your local Maplin Electronics store.

Infact Maplin currently have the following compressed air on special offer at a reduced price.

Fellowes Air Duster - £6.99
Order Code: N32HU

http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=389155

The special offer price will end on the 15th June 2010.

It may seem like you are paying for air but it is better than paying for a new PC.

A cool (and clean?) blue fan spinning away!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Halogen Oven - Looking for Recipes or Help and Advice?

The popularity of Halogen Ovens are on the increase.

JML Halogen Oven

These little ovens cook food using a high wattage halogen bulb, the same type of bulb found on a halogen heater.

The advantages of the Halogen Oven are it is quick, easy and convenient but more importantly the results are tasty.

Prices are not too bad either.

The only disadvantage with the Halogen oven is its life span, typically most last just over 1 year under heavy usage but to complicate matters even more most are non servicable.

The common part to fail in the Halogen Oven is the halogen bulb. Replacing it is near impossible. It can be done but only by the more technical minded person, providing you can get the replacement bulb!
 
My Cheese and Tomato Pizza cooking away...

Bearing in mind the price you are more than likely to get your monies worth out of one, so don't be disappointed if it dies after a year.

Learning to cook in the Halogen Oven does take some getting use to and you may end up with an over cooked pizza on your first attempt.

However here is a useful forum containing many Halogen Oven users, sharing their advice and recipes.

So if you need some help or recipes check it out.


The Halogen Oven Recipes Forum - Join the Halogeniuses today!

http://halogenovenrecipes.forumotion.com/

The Halogen Oven Recipes Website 

http://www.halogenovenrecipes.com/


My cooked Cheese and Tomato Pizza

How does my pizza look?

Maybe a bit dry on the top left / center, infact I had the temperature setting slightly too high.

I have been told an extender ring would help create better results but I have had great results with Pizzas using a lower temperature over a longer period of time.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Microsoft Security Essentials – piece of trash?

If you are not aware of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), it is Microsoft's free antivirus / antispyware program for Windows.

Malware is a big problem, especially for Windows users and the very fact that Microsoft felt the need to publish such a program indicates their ever growing concerns.

However I feel this slap in the face approach by Microsoft is a bit of a gimmick.

Windows by design has made it easy for viruses to run and compromise a system, so instead of wasting time on an antivirus program Microsoft need to wake up and sort the problem where it fundamentally lies, the operating system itself.

Those who enthusiastically support Microsoft may feel the need to stress that the way you use your PC has a direct relation to security.

A user's surfing habits and other activities such as downloading torrents and using p2p programs influence the risk of infecting your PC.

But if you do the same on a Linux based operating system there is no risk, therefore I do not buy the user is the problem reply.

Others may like to shout, as long as you have a good antivirus which is kept up to date you are safe from online threats.

I say to those who believe this, you are living in cookoo land.

In simple terms, an antivirus program scans a file and compares it to a list called the virus definition database, if a match occurs a detection occurs.

Now pay attention because here is the biggest flaw of all antivirus programs.

If it isn't on the list a detection cannot occur, hence a virus can run without your knowledge.

That is just the icing on the cake, the real underlying issue and downfall that antivirus vendors face concerns the addition of a new and unknown virus samples to their detection list.

If they are not aware of a new and unknown virus, it will never be added to their detection list and as a result it will never be detected by their antivirus program.

In other words antivirus vendors are playing a losing game, they are always behind and it is a dangerous misconception to believe as a user you are safe from threats as long as you have an up to date reputable antivirus software.

Yes you are safer but you can never be 100% safe.

Methods such as heuristic and generic detection work on the basis that traces of a known virus signature or certain coding techniques are present.

Therefore these also will never be able to detect new and unknown viruses and often cause unreliable results, ie false detections.

I remember an incident many years ago with my then ISP, Blueyonder. They used Kaspersky on their pop3 email servers. One day I received another junk email that contained an attachment. Being the sensible user, I did not open the attachment.

My antivirus at the time (Avast Home Edition) didn't detect anything.

Submitting the file for further analysis to http://virusscan.jotti.org/en-gb, revealed the detection of a virus.

To put this into perspective, a virus was delivered to my system which both Kaspersky and Avast failed to detect.

I then went into a paranoid state, running a full system scan with Avast, Spybot and an online scan using http://housecall.trendmicro.com/uk/

Upon reflection, I find this quite funny...

Back to Microsoft Security Essentials, it is a piece of trash because it causes too much disk activity.

Having installed it on my Laptop I noticed a sharp decrease in battery life and after some time I was able to pin point the culprit, MSE.

Trying MSE on my Desktop PC also resulted in excessive disk activity and the performance degradation was visibly noticeable.

Opening folders and running programs were taking longer to load.

Furthermore when opening a folder containing a quantity of various *.exe, *.zip and *.iso files, the apparent and immediate delay is quite shocking.

I expect better from Microsoft, they have done a “Vista” with MSE.

Other free antivirus programs by AVG, Avast and Avira perform much better and cause an acceptable performance hit.

I haven't tried MSE recently, perhaps it has changed and improved?

If you are interested in much better alternatives to MSE, here are the 3 most popular free antivirus programs in no particular order,

Avast Free: http://www.avast.com/en-gb/index

AVG Free: http://free.avg.com/gb-en/homepage

Avira AntiVir Free: http://www.free-av.com/

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Gentoo KDE 4.x – Epson Stylus C84 Photo Edition support

(Gentoo installation notes - Printing)

What good is a desktop PC if it can't print?

Here are some simple steps to get the above printer and many others working since the gutenprint package contains support for a lot of printers by various vendors such as Cannon, Brother, HP, Dell ......

See the below link for a full list of supported printers.

http://gutenprint.sourceforge.net/p_Supported_Printers.php

Open a terminal and with root access type the following,

emerge -av cups gutenprint
/etc/init.d/cupsd start
rc-update add cupsd default

KDE users can now configure their printer using System Settings > Printer Configuration

Or if you prefer the cups browser interface, http://localhost:631

Friday, 14 May 2010

Steam is coming to Linux !

There are many of us who wish the gaming industry took Linux more seriously and according to:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/7715209/Steam-for-Mac-goes-live.html

Valve have confirmed the development of a Linux Steam client.

This great move by Valve not only has huge potential but is a serious step towards bringing the gaming industry to Linux.

Hopefully it will act as a catalyst and prompt others to follow.


Counter Strike: Source on Linux?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gentoo just makes sense!

After using Gentoo for a just over a month I am beginning to realize it makes sense. An initial conclusion I made about Gentoo was that most people should,

"stick with your current distribution or use something else as the speed improvements are small and for most people not worth the hassle"

http://linuxtweaking.blogspot.com/2010/04/gentoo-sweet-dream-or-beautiful.html

However I am not most people, I say this on the basis that I like to tweak my system for performance.

Unfortunately the problem I have been facing with every binary distribution I have used is the bloat and noticeable sluggish performance.

My solution which doesn't improve things much is to try and tweak various settings / services until I am satisfied. But here is the real problem, I often find myself spending far too much time trying to make it work how I want.

This is why Gentoo makes sense. It is logical, I spend the time installing it with the added benefit that after installation  it works how things should work. Fast, efficient and no bloat.

With other distributions such as OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora after dedicating time to install it, I then have to spend additional time trying to make it work how I want it to work. This isn't right, it is illogical.

Why buy a boat with the intention of using it as a car, you would be better off making a car from scratch.

Out of the recent distributions I have tried, Gentoo has to be the most innovating I have used to date. It has provided me with the ability to create the perfect setup with positive results and in a satisfying manner.

I have lost count the amount of times I have felt disappointed after installing  a recently released distribution. Disappointed with its speed, system responsiveness and general assumptions made as to which applications or services should be running by default.

This disappointment is only further enhanced when I take the plunge in an attempt to try and tweak the system to make it work how I want it to work.

Linux distributions are too generic and performance is compromised as a result. My Gentoo experience has enlightened me even further on this aspect.

Being too generic is a bad thing, some may say it is advantageous because it is more adaptable but desktop users do not require this. If Linux overall is to succeed in taking over the desktop it must become more streamlined to desktop users.

I find it ironic when a Linux kernel that is part of a distribution is labeled as a desktop kernel, for example in OpenSUSE 11.2 you may notice the -desktop at the end of your kernel but when you view the kernel configuration it has support for 64 processor cores, extended non-PC platforms and extensive debugging options enabled.

These are simply bumping up the kernel size, adding more subroutines and slowing it down.

Looking at the distribution itself, security features such as AppArmor and SELinux have no real benefit to your average desktop user and further add a performance penalty.

So this is why I have decided to give Gentoo a whopping 500GB of disk space on its own dedicated Samsung F3 hard disk drive.

It works so well, it is fast, has nippy performance and is tailored for my needs. This is exactly the same reason why I always build my own PC's.

Gentoo, a waste of time and effort?

If you have the time and are willing to put in the effort then why not?

Gentoo 10.1 x64 - KDE 4.4.3

I am not giving up on the other distributions and will continue to evaluate their progress but Gentoo has earned its place on my system, at least for now.

Monday, 3 May 2010

How to compile a kernel on Ubuntu 10.04

The Ubuntu wiki does provide the necessary documentation to allow users to build their own Linux kernel but in a rather disorganised way.

They should restructure it and provide clear detailed steps for each release and not the current mish-mash of old and new.

How about giving each release their own dedicated wiki page?

Original Ubuntu wiki: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Kernel/Compile

First steps

Install the required tools and packages.

Open a terminal and type the following,

sudo apt-get install fakeroot kernel-wedge build-essential makedumpfile kernel-package libncurses5 libncurses5-dev

Then run the following command,

sudo apt-get build-dep --no-install-recommends linux-image-$(uname -r)

And finally type,

mkdir ~/src
cd ~/src
apt-get source linux-image-$(uname -r)
cd linux-2.6.32

At the time of writing 2.6.32 was the current kernel source, it should remain at this version throughout the life of Ubuntu 10.04

It is a good idea to start with the same .config as the currently running kernel, so type the following,

cp -vi /boot/config-`uname -r` .config

Now we are ready to customize the build and kernel options.

make menuconfig

Once you have finished, save and exit. It is now time to compile. However to speed up the build if you have a dual core processor type,

export CONCURRENCY_LEVEL=3

The general rule is 1 + the number of processor cores.

make-kpkg clean
fakeroot make-kpkg --initrd --append-to-version=-some-string-here kernel-image kernel-headers

Remember to substitute the writing in green for something else, for example -alpha

After a few minutes or hours your kernel compile will be complete. The next step is to install it.

The kernel package will be created in the parent directory of ~/src/linux-2.6.32 (i.e. ~/src)

cd ~/src
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha_2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha_2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb

Please note the text in green must be changed to reflect your version.

We are almost ready, prior to 10.04 the initramfs kernel image was automatically created. The Ubuntu wiki suggests using the scripts to create the image but I have been unsuccessful in using this method, hence the manual approach.

sudo update-initramfs -c -k all

BUG:  Please use the alternate method described below as this command fails to create an image for your new kernel. Special thanks to Helios38. - 16/06/2010


Alternatively if you know the kernel version, substitute the word all with the kernel version.

Example, sudo update-initramfs -c -k 2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha

Finally we need to add the initramfs image to the grub.cfg file located at /boot/grub/grub.cfg.

For the easy and automatic method as oppose to manually editing the grub.cfg file, just type the following,

sudo update-grub

Now just reboot and your new kernel should automatically load.

How to remove your  kernel

sudo dpkg -r linux-headers-2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha
sudo dpkg -r linux-image-2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha
sudo rm /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32.11+drm33.2-alpha

Enjoy compiling your own kernels.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

How to install Flash Player 64-bit on Ubuntu 10.04 x64

Important: Have you installed the Ubuntu Restricted package?

If you have installed the Ubuntu Restricted package you must first remove the 32-bit Flash plugin before attempting to install the native 64-bit Adobe Flash plugin.

To remove the 32-bit Flash plugin open a terminal and type the following,

sudo apt-get remove flashplugin-installer nspluginwrapper

How to install the 64-bit Adobe Flash Plugin

First, download the 64-bit Flash plugin from Adobe.

http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10_64bit.html

By default Firefox in Ubuntu 10.04 will download all files to the Downloads folder in your home area.

Next open a terminal and type the following,

tar -xf ~/Downloads/libflashplayer-10.0.45.2.linux-x86_64.so.tar.gz

sudo mv libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins

The 64-bit Flash plugin is now installed.

Enjoy.