Redo Backup and Recovery

One of the most critical aspects of setting up a new system is creating a system image. Especially for Windows systems. Who wants to install updates and reboot all day long? Whenever I set up a new system I install all of the updates, drivers and software that are needed on that system. I then create an image of its current, freshly installed state. In the future if my hard drive crashes, my installation becomes corrupt or I simply want to start over with a fresh installation I can very easily. It is much nicer than starting over with a fresh install of an outdated copy of Windows or having to deal with the CRAPware that comes pre-loaded with most consumer desktops and notebooks.

For a few years I was using BartPE with a plugin called SelfImage. It worked tremendously well. The BartPE CD I created must have been trashed when I was in the process of moving. Otherwise, that is probably what I would still be using and I wouldn’t have a reason for writing now. I did try to create a new copy of BartPE but had trouble finding the correct copy of the SelfImage plugin. Frustrated, I started looking for something else. I tried several live Linux distributions that were designed to create and restore drive images. I also tried a couple of free Windows programs. None of them were working. Finally, I came across Redo Backup. I have to tell you that I am VERY excited about this software. It does what a professional grade cloning tool should do, for free! If they were to charge for this application it would be worth every single penny! Though, I hope they don’t because I’m sure it would be expensive!

The feature that I am most excited about is the ability to save and restore images to an FTP server or SMB share. It’s very useful if the machine you are imaging only has one hard drive. It would also be useful in a corporate or educational environment where many machines need to be imaged. I have to tell you that while I did manage to use this feature successfully, I did have problems with it. Many times the process would lock up and the only way to start over was to reboot the machine. Sometimes the screen would go blank only showing the cursor. Like I said, I did manage to successfully backup and restore an image via FTP. But only after many restarts was I successful. The problem could be that the machine I was backing up and restoring was a virtual machine. It could also be a bad connection between the desktop I was running the virtual machine on and the desktop I use as a server.

While I did have issues using the network backup and restore feature; I was completely successful in backing up a hard drive to a secondary internal and external hard drive and restoring the image back to the main hard drive.

In addition to drive imaging you can use Redo Backup to: manage your partitions, use Firefox to download drivers (or just surf the web), synchronize files, recover deleted files, reset your hard drive to factory condition, mount internal or external drives to manage files. You can do all of that and more with software that can be run from an external 256 MB flash drive.

If you’re looking for free drive cloning software, look no further. I have tried them all and I promise you, this is THE ONE to keep in your toolbox!

Redo Backup and Recovery

DiscountLinuxDVD.com

A couple of weeks ago my DVD burner decided to kick the bucket. I was wanting to download Fedora 8 and burn it to a DVD so I could install it onto my computer. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen. I decided that I would seek out a website that sold pressed copies of Linux distributions. I found DiscountLinuxDVD.com and am very pleased with their services.

I was only going to buy Fedora 8 but I wound up purchasing several others because they were a good price and I have been wanting to play with some of the updated distributions. I also prefer carrying around a pressed copy of some of the live Linux distributions that I use. People get weary sometimes of you putting in a home burned CD or DVD. I ordered the following: CentOS 5 DVD, CentOS 5 Live CD, Feespire 2.0, Slax 5.1.8 Live CD, openSUSE 10.3 DVD (i386 32-bit), openSUSE 10.3 (DVD x86_64 64-bit), openSUSE 10.3 (DVD PPC), Mandriva One 2008 Live/Install CD (KDE), Mandriva Free 2008 DVD, Ubuntu Studio 7.10, Fedora 8 (DVD PPC), Fedora 8 (DVD x86_64 64-bit), Fedora 8 (DVD i386 32-bit). All of that for $25.12. I thought that was a great deal to have pressed copies of all those distributions and different versions.

The other reason I enjoyed making my purchase at this site instead of the other sites out there was the fact that I did not have to order with a credit card. I simply ordered with my PayPal account and the funds were automatically deducted from my balance on PayPal. That’s how I like it and I greatly appreciate any company that allows me to do that.

If you’re looking for a easy way to play around with Linux and see what all the fuss is about I would highly recommend going over to DiscountLinuxDVD.com and purchasing a live CD. Slax, Puppy or Damm Small Linux (DSL) are great for older machines.

SMC WiFi Phone for Skype (WSKP100)

The Reason For Purchasing

A couple of years ago I had a no-contract cell phone and before then I had a pre-paid cell phone. I got rid of those in 2005. They were simply too expensive. Ever since then I’ve been using Skype, Gizmo or just using the house land-line to make telephone calls. I’ve recently started getting more calls on my SkypeIn number because that’s what I give to friends, clients, recruiters and potential employers. Lately though, I have not been able to get to the computer quick enough to answer Skype. The problem is I have to go to the computer, sometimes login (usually locked when I am away), un-mute the microphone in Windows volume control, un-mute the microphone on the headset cable, put the headset on and answer the call. Heaven forbid if I’ve been using a piece of software that change’s my Skype input/output devices because if that’s the case I have to change those, too!

So you see the problem! I needed to get something that I could answer very quickly. For a while I had been wanting to get a WiFi phone for Skype. The problem is that they were still really expensive. Most of them were between $150-200. I didn’t want to spend that much. I thought about getting one of the cordless dual-mode phones but the ones that were actually affordable required you to connect them to your computer. There are models that do not require you to connect them to your computer but they cost more than the WiFi phones. The problem for me is, if I’m still in bed and a potential employer calls I wouldn’t know it because I have been turning the computer off during the night because it’s really loud and of course, I’m in sleep land. Also, the idea solution was to get something that I could take with me if I were to go on a trip, interview, vacation (ha, ha, whatever) or somewhere that was out of the area and possibly had a WiFi Internet connection.

I got onto Skype’s website a couple of weeks ago and saw the SMC WiFi Phone for Skype for $99 which I thought was a great deal. Everywhere else has the exact same model for between $130-170. The Belkin model (which is exactly the same as the SMC model other than the color and branding, in my opinion) was more expensive. I pondered on purchasing the SMC model for about an hour and I went ahead and purchased it. I have been using the phone for a week now and although I have already wrote in length about why I purchased the phone, I have a lot more to say about the phone (features, likes, dislikes, etc).

Arrival, setup, included features

The phone was shipped quickly and arrived in packaging that reminds me of typical cell phone packaging. The box contained the SMC Skype WiFi Phone, earphone, power adapter, USB cable, battery and a CD containing the user manual (nothing else is on the CD), printed user manuals (in 3 languages). In the box there is also a gift of 120 SkypeOut minutes and 3 month’s free voicemail. I was pleased with this because with my SkypeIn number I get free voicemail. With the card I was able to extend my voicemail for 3 additional months and I had just extended it a few days prior to receiving the phone. So I won’t have to do that for 6 months which is very nice. Of course I also got the 120 SkypeOut minutes but for me I do not worry much with those as I paid for the entire year of Skype Unlimited. Regardless, it’s still very nice.

Before turning the phone on and setting it up it says to charge it for 8 full hours which is fairly a standard suggestion on almost all electronics. After the phone had been on charge for 3 hours it said that it was charged. I decided to keep my anxious fingers away from the phone for a few more hours and let it continue to charge for the full 8 hours even though it said it was charged. I’m not sure if the battery was charged partially from the factory or if there is a bug with the phone. More than likely it was charged partially from the factory.

Once the phone was charged setting it up was very easy although it did take me a couple of tries getting my password in. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to input upper case letters. The phone joined my wireless network without any issues and once I got the username and password into the phone it logged onto Skype without any issues. The phone said that it was downloading contacts for quite a long time. I turned the phone off after 30 minutes, turned it back on and my contacts were there. Other than getting my contacts to appear, set up was very simple.

What I dislike about the phone

The biggest complaint about the phone that I have is how it handles voicemails. The Skype website states: “Voicemail Support: With the purchase of Skype Voicemail, the SMC WiFi Phone will record a short voice message from the caller when your are away.” I assumed that the phone would work much like the Skype software. I assumed that if I did not answer the phone after a few rings the phone would send the caller to voicemail. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In my tests and when others have called me at no time does the call ever go to voicemail. If you let it ring long enough you will get a busy signal but no voicemail.

Although the phone interface is very easy to use, the actual buttons on the phone are very annoying. I find myself having to press the buttons harder than I should at times to make them work. Sometimes it seems as though there is a delay from the time you press the button until the action you desired happens.

The phone supposedly has the ability to update itself over WiFi. I have not been able to test this because the update that I installed when I got the phone enabled the feature and there have been no updates since I installed the latest firmware. When you first get this phone you will definitely want to update it. The phone I received had year old firmware installed. Unfortunately, if you do need to update the software you can only update it on Microsoft Windows with the included USB cable. I find this amusing considering the fact that the phone is running on an embedded Linux distribution.

The time on this phone is always incorrect. Every single time I go into the time settings and change them it will always go back one hour. No matter how many times I have updated the time on this phone it always goes back one hour. Speaking of time, whenever you hold the phone up to your ear you can hear a ticking sound. It sounds exactly like a ticking watch (and no, I do not wear a wristwatch!).

When you are holding the phone up to your ear, ticking is not the only noise you hear. If you are not in a call you can hear the phone making a continuous electronic noise. If you are listening to your voice messages and you have the phone to your ear you can hear the phone downloading each message one piece at a time onto the phone’s internal memory card.

I have made many calls to the Skype Lady (echo123) and whenever she starts speaking it’s really loud, then really quiet. Then when the bells dings for you to start or stop speaking they are really loud and can really hurt your ears. When I have made SkypeOut and calls to other Skype users it is really difficult to hear sometimes what the person is saying unless you hold the phone really close to your ear. Forget using the included earphone, it’s even worse.

The phone is awkward to hold. I really hate the back of the phone because when your run your fingers across it’s surface it sounds like sandpaper. Fortunately, it doesn’t feel like sandpaper! I wish the entire phone was as smooth as the front.

What I like about the phone

I know this is not the most important aspect of the phone but I am really pleased that it is running on a Linux distribution. I love Linux devices and love to see more and more products putting it to use.

I like the fact that this phone is upgradeable. I think that is extremely important in almost any device you purchase these days. I only hope that SMC will kick out some updates to make this phone even better.

I also love the fact that no PC is required in any aspect of setting up or using this phone (other than the initial update that I made). If I am to go on a vacation (unlikely) it will nice to be able to stay in touch using Skype.

Final thoughts and conclusion

Although the phone has it’s flaws I think the phone is a really great idea, especially for someone like me. My computer is really terrible at running Skype while it is running other applications. I normally have to close Skype if I am using Lightroom or Photoshop. For that alone it is worth it. It’s nice to be able to have a standalone device to be able to use as my phone.

It’s also a great concept for people who travel and need to stay in touch with their family, friends, etc. Skype is free for users calling each other and extremely affordable for calling out of the Skype network. When I am able to move into my own place I do plan on using Skype as my land-line alternative. I do plan on having something for emergency calls, though. Don’t forget that you cannot make emergency calls with this phone.

With all the above said I have hard time trying to decide whether I should keep the phone or smash it to pieces. The phone is useful to me in the fact that it does the primary task that I needed it for, that is to be able to answer it quickly when someone calls. However, the fact that it is very hard to hear, the people on the other end have a hard time hearing me and the problem with voice mail really makes me consider sending the phone back. I don’t want to send the phone back because I really love the concept. Regardless, I feel as though I paid for a device that in my opinion does not live up to my expectations.

Photos of the SMC WiFi Phone on Gizmodo
SMC WiFi Phone Homepage
SMC WiFi Phone Firmware Update Page
SMC WiFi Phone on Skype Store
My photos of the phone on Flickr

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I meant to update this article a long time ago but forgot to. I did send the phone back and received a refund. To my knowledge SMC has not updated the phone’s hardware. Skype has also jacked up the price of this phone from $99 when I bought it to $149. I would definitely stay away from this phone. It’s been almost a year now and I’m still bitter about this phone. I had such high hopes for it. Oh well, at least I got my money back.

e-GeForce MX 4000 on Fedora 7

Last night I decided to go ahead and try to get the official Nvidia drivers installed for my GPU on Fedora 7. I was hesitant to do this because normally whenever I try to do this I break something and wind up having to re-install the entire operating system because I can’t figure out what I need to change in my x.org configuration file to make it work again. Fortunately, last night I had better luck.

I followed the instructions on this site first. When I’d reboot, the X-Server wouldn’t work probably. The text login screen would blink three times then a blue screen would come up saying that X was unable to be started. Eventually it would fix itself and I was able to login graphically. The driver was being installed but it was not directly rendering.

I then found this entry on another site that said SELinux causes the driver to not install correctly. I thought that might have been the issue so I disabled SELinux and the firewall, restarted, still got the same thing.

After about 30 minutes I finally found this entry on another site that made me realize that I was installing the wrong drivers for my video card. The GeForce2, 3 and 4 (including MX) cards are not supported by the 97xx drivers, you have to use the 96xx series.

I finally got the correct drivers installed and everything working properly, even the desktop effects work. I thought in case I have to do this again and in case someone else has the same card that I do I would make an entry about how I got the drivers installed:

  • Open up a terminal window, login as root by entering su – and pressing enter at the prompt. Enter your root password and press enter.
  • Enter the following command: rpm -ivh http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release-7.rpm and press enter.
  • Enter the following command: rpm –import /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-livna and press enter.
  • Enter the following command: yum install kmod-nvidia-96xx xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-96xx and press enter. (Remember to put spaces between the two applications)
  • Once everything has been installed enter the following command service nvidia-96xx restart

At this point, I rebooted the machine just to make sure everything was installed correctly. Upon restart you should see a green Nvidia logo pop up, it may fade up depending on whether or not the desktop effects were enabled during the installation.

I went ahead and posted my own instructions for doing this because I wasn’t able to follow the instructions on the last link the way they had it wrote out. I did link to them so you can see where I got most of the information from.

I’d highly recommend removing the Livna repositories from your YUM sources. I had issues trying to install other software while Livna was still in my sources list. To remove Livna following these steps:

  • Open up a terminal window, login as root by entering su – and pressing enter at the prompt. Enter your root password and press enter.
  • Enter the following: cd /etc/yum.repos.d/ and press enter.
  • For me there were only 3 Livna repository files to remove, I used the following command to remove them: rm livna-devel.repo livna.repo livna-testing.repo. (Remember to put spaces between each file name). When you press Enter you will be asked if you are sure you want to remove the files, enter “Y” for each and press enter.

The only thing I’ve yet to figure out is how to get the TV-Out functionality to work. I know it’s possible, it’s just going to take some tweaking on my part. I got it to where I could see some text on the TV last night but it wasn’t readable, nor was the text on the default display so I had to kill the X server everytime (Ctrl + Alt + Backspace). Luckily it would reset itself back to the standard every time.

Hope someone finds this article useful. I know I will be appreciative of it in the future if I have to re-install Fedora.

Fedora 7 (Moonshine) Review

Finally after many months of it being available I am able to sit down and install the latest version of Fedora, not Fedora Core, simply Fedora. The Fedora group decided to ditch the “Core” and “Extras” versions of Fedora and focus their attention on one version. I think it’s a great idea because it’s a lot less confusing.

The other day I was able to run the LiveCD of Fedora 7 and I was extremely impressed with it’s speed. Earlier this year was the last time I had Fedora installed directly onto my computer. I later removed it because I was unable to get my video card to work. I hope that is something that I can get to work this time. Since then I’ve been using Fedora in a virtual environment. I have several projects coming that will require as much performance as I can get and I’d like to have Fedora installed directly onto the computer so I can get that performance. If the LiveCD is any indication of the performance of the latest version, I think I will be happy, at least I hope so.

Installation

The installation is a fairly standard affair. Not a whole lot has changed, just new graphics in the graphical installer. I had to reboot the installation wizard once when I was configuring my hard drive partitions. I hope that isn’t an indication that I’m going to have problems. Also, hard drives are no longer recognized as “hda1”, “hda2”, they are now recognized as SCSI drives and are labeled “sda1”, “sda2” and so on. The rest of the wizard is pretty much the same as it was in Fedora Core 5 & 6. There aren’t any new applications to report in the applications section of the installation wizard, none that I can tell other than the name change of “GAIM” to “Pidgin.”

The installation of Fedora 7 went pretty quickly, I didn’t have it install anything other than the standard packages. When you reboot and get to the “First Boot” configuration wizard there is a new section that allows you to send a profile of your hardware to the Fedora developers. I highly recommend doing this so they can make Fedora run on more hardware and better.

I am pleased with the installation of Fedora. I am very pleased that I did not have a headache to deal with as far as the video card goes. I am disappointed in that the drivers that were used do not allow me to enable the fancy desktop effects. Although I prefer Fedora, I think this is something that Ubuntu has done a really nice job of. The last time I had Ubuntu on my system it asked me if I wanted to install non-supported drivers for my graphics card, which I did, once I had installed them I was able to use Beryl. I am sure I could install the proper Nvidia drivers on Fedora and I might sometime, but I don’t want to break my system, just yet.

I was also pleased when I rebooted out of Linux and back into Windows and did not receive any error messages. This is usually the case but you never know what might happen with a new version.

Speed of Fedora 7

As I mentioned previously, I ran the Fedora 7 Live CD the other day and was extremely impressed by the speed of the Live CD. Normally Live CD’s are pretty slow. I am pleased to note that Fedora 7 is just as speedy when installed directly onto the computer. It definitely feels a lot faster than Fedora Core 5 & 6.

I also feel as though browsing the Internet is significantly faster. I’ve always felt as though browsing the Internet on Linux, any distribution, is faster than browsing the Internet on Windows or the Mac but it feels even faster on Fedora 7. My video blog seems to just pop right up, but on Windows it takes several seconds for everything to fully load.

Fast User Switching

A new feature in Fedora 7 is fast user switching. This is something that has been available in other distributions for a long time now and it’s nice to see in Fedora.

Package Manager

Once you get Fedora installed you can add more applications by clicking the “Add/Remove Software” menu item under “Applications.” There are a whole lot more applications available once you get Fedora installed. The reason they do this is that they can’t include everything on the DVD so once you get the system installed you can choose to install them then, but you’ll have to be connected to the Internet to do it. There are a lot of things to choose from, games, educational tools, engineering and scientific software. Some of the applications may look confusing, just read the description and it will usually explain what it is.

The “Add/Remove” software isn’t a new feature of Fedora, it’s been there for a long time. What is new are some of the applications that you can now get by using this tool, some of the more popular applications include: Democracy (now called Miro), Rosegarden, and aMSN. I’m sure there are more applications that are new but those are the more popular ones that I recognized. In the Servers section there is now an option for a Clustering server.

One thing to note is that everytime I would go to the Servers section some of the servers would be check marked even though I did not choose them anywhere else and none of the selections I made would require those to be installed.

Power Management

With both Ubuntu and Fedora I have been happy to see that when I have Linux installed directly on my hardware it recognizes my APC battery backup. All of the configuration options are comparable to that of what you get with the Windows software. The only thing that you don’t get is the software does not send information back to APC about the utility company in your area.

A cool feature of the power management software is the Power History charts. At the moment there isn’t anything on my chart due to the fact that I haven’t been running Fedora around the clock. I think it would be an interesting graph to look at though.

My Wishlist

The first thing I’d like to see in an upcoming update or the next version of Fedora is a way to very easily mount FAT & NTFS hard drives. Ubuntu can do it and I think the Fedora developers should be able to easily implement this. I know it’s simple to do it via command line but it would be even simpler to just double click an icon in the “Computer” window.

Secondly. Whenever you open an administration dialog in Fedora 7, you have to enter your password every single time you open one. In older versions of Fedora and RedHat you could enter your password once and the password would remain active for a few minutes so you could open several dialogs without having to enter your password every single time. After a few minutes had went by and you were finished with the admin dialogs and opened another one you had to enter your password again, which wasn’t as annoying as having to enter it every single time.

Conclusion

Fedora 7 is a great update and I feel as though it is a much needed update. Everything feels a lot fresher with the better looking graphics. Everything works “out of the box” so to speak. I didn’t have any issues getting a GUI on my screen as I did with Fedora Core 6, that I am very pleased with. I’m not pleased with the fact that the driver that was installed isn’t one that is compatible with the desktop effects. However, I do understand that the driver that was installed was an open source driver and not one from Nvidia. I’m sure the open source community will continue to make the open source driver even better.

I am also extremely pleased with the responsiveness of the system. It feels a lot faster, a lot more crisp. I don’t see jagged edges whenever a menu item drops down. I think the developers done an amazing job with this release and I hope that Fedora 8 will be even better.

Now, with that said I have to point out that I think Ubuntu has got Fedora beat in some aspects. I think when it comes to packages there are a ton more packages that are much more easily installed with Ubuntu. In Ubuntu you can use the package manager to install non-supported software and drivers which drastically improve the systems usefulness. Also, now that Dell has taken on Ubuntu as one of the operating systems they are offering on their computer lineup, more people are going to be using Ubuntu and there is going to be even more development going into it. That means: better drivers, better looks, more software.

Now, as a long time RedHat/Fedora user, with the above said I have to say that I’m still partial to Fedora. I primarily use Fedora as a server. I also prefer Fedora because of the RedHat underpinnings. I’m more familiar with that environment and prefer it. I think it’s a great operating system, especially for servers. On the desktop side of things, it has some catching up to do. However, don’t let what I’ve said in the past couple of paragraphs negate the fact that I think Fedora 7 is a great release.

The Fedora Project Homepage

Wubi

If you’ve ever wanted to try out Linux and you’re a PC user. Now you can and you don’t even have to worry about destroying your Windows installation and the best part of it is that you don’t even have to set up a separate partition for it. There are no longer any excuses for not trying Linux out. Ubuntu Linux, that is.

Wubi is a very simple application. You run the application and you give it your preferred username and password. You can change advanced options such as where you want to have Ubuntu installed, which version of Ubuntu Linux you want to use (standard Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Ubuntu Studio). Once you complete the two step wizard the program will download the version you chose. You’ll then have to reboot and choose Ubuntu from the operating system list. Ubuntu will then be installed into a directory on your computer inside of your Windows installation. Once Ubuntu is installed you’ll reboot and choose Ubuntu from the list again, then login to your newly installed Ubuntu Linux desktop. Once you are finished using Ubuntu you can simply reboot your system and choose Windows from the list, which is selected by default. So remember when you reboot you have to choose Ubuntu from the list if you want to get back into it.

The great thing about Wubi installing Ubuntu Linux is the fact that it is a really good distribution, especially for people who are more familiar with Windows. With Ubuntu Linux you’ll still have access to the files on your computer by going to Places >> Computer and double clicking on the drive where your files are located.

Also, if you have a good graphics card in your system you can take advantage of it by going ahead and allowing the restricted drivers to be installed onto your system. Don’t worry, in this case restricted means that there are copyrights on some of the drivers and they can’t be used in some countries. Also, I don’t think Ubuntu will support these. However, by using the restricted drivers I was able to enable the desktop effects and put some really awesome eye candy onto my Ubuntu Linux desktop: wobbly windows, virtual desktops that spin on a cube, fancy menu effects, etc. If you’d like to see some of these effects, check out this video I found on YouTube.

If you get tired of having Ubuntu Linux installed you simply reboot into Windows and un-install it like any other application.

Although I think Ubuntu Linux is a great distribution, I still prefer Fedora because that is what I am most familiar with. I would like to see the Wubi project expand. Maybe they could offer an API for other Linux distribution vendor’s to create an installer for their specific Linux distribution.

A suggestion to the developers that I would make is instead of having users click on “Advanced Settings” to make advanced changes such as where you want Linux installed, make it a part of the wizard. My first time going through the wizard, I did not notice it.

Also, one thing that annoyed me was the fact that as Ubuntu Linux downloaded with the Wubi installer program, three pressed copies of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) were sitting right beside me. It would be good if you could choose to either download the ISO image, allow you to insert your disc into the drive and create an ISO image or to select an ISO image that you may have already downloaded. The only reason that I can think of as to why they would force you to download a copy of Ubuntu is that it is a custom version with a specific installer.

Like I said earlier, if you’ve been wanting to try out Linux, here is your extremely easy option for getting Linux up and running very quickly.

Wubi – The Easiest Way To Linux

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I have updated the screenshots for this article so that they look nice with the new TechButter theme. Unfortunately, I was unable to download the version of Wubi I wrote about in this article. The article talks about Wubi for Ubuntu 7.04 and the screenshots are for Wubi Ubuntu 8.04.

The software looks the same. The only difference is that there is no longer a wizard. All of the options are on one page. When you click “Next” wubi begins downloading the Ubuntu installer.

In looking for the original version of Wubi I found out that there is a project that is currently in the planning stages that will allow you to install any Linux distribution you choose. The project is called WubiX. Hopefully the project will be out of the planning stage and into production soon.

OLPC Live CD Distribution

I was on the OLPC Wiki and realized that I could download a Live CD of the latest version of the OLPC operating system. The OLPC is based on the RedHat operating system (not Fedora). I downloaded it and ran it in a virtual machine. Here are my initial reactions.

When you first start up the system it starts up pretty quickly. I gave the virtual machine I put the Live CD into 256 MB of RAM. The PC I am using has a 1.5 GHz AMD processor. Live CD’s are usually always slower since everything has to load into the system’s memory to be able to run. However, it started up pretty quickly.

Once you get to the login screen. You type in your name and you choose a color. You have to click several times on the human icon to choose a color. Personally, I would have found a drop down menu or color wheel much more handy. Also, the cursor icon is huge. Once you login the color you chose is the color of the icon in the middle of your desktop.

Once you login and get to the desktop everything is pretty simple. There are a few icons on the bottom of the desktop. An interesting thing to note is that there is an option to use Classic Gnome. I decided to click on this and switch over to it. However, it appeared as though Gnome had been stripped down. There was no Application, Places or System menu. On the desktop you could access a file manager, developer information as well as a terminal.

After not being able to quickly get back to the Sugar interface I rebooted the LiveCD and started playing around with some of the other applications. The applications are designed for school children, none of the functionality you would expect is there. It’s also not very easy to figure out how to get back to your desktop once you have an application open. Now, this might be something they are going to correct with a button on the actual OLPC. I just found it extremely annoying to get back and forth between open applications or get out of applications. When you hover over an icon you don’t get a tooltip to explain what it means.

Whenever you open the web browser and open a website, you get a zoomed in view of the website. This, too, may be a feature they are going to allow you to control with hardware based controls.

Overall, I have to say that I am not very impressed with the OLPC operating system development. It really bothers me that the interface has been dumbed down. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that due to the limited resources of the OLPC they had to make some sacrifices somewhere. It still bothers me though. I feel as though the OLPC project is overly simplifying the operating system and not giving the children in the countries where the OLPC will go a chance to learn how to use a real operating system. Or at the very least, an operating system that resembles others.

Also, the fact may be that I am simply overly privileged to have a good computer and the children/families/people who are recipients of these machines will probably be more than happy with them.

With all the above said, I have to say that I think the project is a great idea. I think more people need to be able to gain access to computers for research and school projects. Personally, I wish they’d sell more to the United States. Some people in this country still cannot afford a decent computer.

Download the OLPC Live CD

Fedora Core 6 Test 3 Preview

Its that time of year again. Time for the next version of Fedora Core to be released. I thought I would install the latest version of the test releases (Test 3, currently) and see what is new and exciting in the upcoming version of Fedora Core 6 scheduled for release October 24 which is just next week (at the time of this writing).

Unfortunately I don't have a computer I can use to install this on so I'm doing it virtually. I will have to make some sacrifices in what I can install but if there is something interesting that is being installed by default I will be sure to let you know. I just created the virtual machine and popped the DVD into the drive so lets get started!

Installation

The first thing you will notice when you begin the installation is the new artwork. I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the new artwork, but I like it. It says to me “Connected” or maybe even a DNA look. In any case, I think it looks great.

During the installation you get a warning stating that this is a pre-release version of Fedora Core. So, remember what I say in this preview may change in the final version. I usually wait to review things until they come out, however, I'm anxious to see what is new! Just keep in mind that this is a pre-release! Ok, clicking “Install Anyway.”

Partitioning/Disk Selection

The partition/disk selection looks a little different in this version. It looks as though they are trying to make it a lot simpler for people to install Fedora onto their computers. They give you the standard “Remove all partitions and install”, “Remove linux partitions and install”, etc. They also give you an advanced storage configuration option.

Application Selection

There is a really neat feature available in the installer that I hope is carried over to the final version of FC6. If you have additional repositories that you would like to add you can add them during the installation. From my understanding this would allow you to get all of your applications installed during the installation so you didn't have to spend several hours trying to get all of your apps installed after you had installed the base operating system. I was not able to test this feature out. In fact, it crashed my virtual machine and I had to start the installation over.

An interesting thing to note is that when you are telling the installation what type of system you want to install, if you choose web server or development it will tell you that an ethernet card is required. However, if you don't choose those options and move forward you can still choose those options but it will not tell you that an ethernet card is required.

New Applications

The only new application that I see to the lineup is that you can choose to install the Xen virtual machine monitoring software. Xen is the open source alternative to VMware or Microsoft's VirtualPC software. I look forward to reading more about it and playing with Xen, I've heard a lot about it but have not done anything with it, yet!

As far as the other applications go, I don't see anything new. I do see newer versions, thankfully.

I know there is always something that everyone wants to include during the installation, however, I really wish they would keep XFCE in the desktop environments. It is simple enough to install after the installation but it would be nice if I didn't have to install it afterwards.

I added a couple of additional applications to the installation, it has checked for dependencies (which took forever. Granted, I am running in a virtual machine) and it is now installing. It will probably take a while since it is installing in a virtual machine so I will let that run for a while and get back with you!

About 45 minutes later I have successfully installed Fedora Core 6 Test 3. Let’s reboot and do the usual first boot configuration and see if any of that has changed.

First Boot Configuration

During the last part of the installation which is called “first boot” you set up a user for the system. I was not able to set up a user because when I would click into the field it would enter several q's. Not sure why but again, I'm not running on native hardware and this is a pre-release version. Luckily, I can login as root which is dangerous but I think for testing we can safely log in as root and have a look around.

First Login

I'm at the new login screen. It looks rather nice. It actually reminds me of some themes that I saw a while back for the Gnome login manager.

I just logged into the system and am now at the desktop. I have to say, the new wallpaper is REALLY nice. I was just starting to appreciate the one in 5 but this one is REALLY nice. WOW! It makes the desktop stand out a whole lot more. Use to, the wallpaper was the first thing I would change. I like this one a lot though.

The desktop icons are still the plain Bluecurve icons that have been used since RedHat version 8. They look decent but I think its time for an update. I've been looking through the menus and it appears as though there are a few new icons for some of the options so maybe they'll be some desktop icon changes in the final release. The new icons in the menus may also be a part of the latest GNOME which is in use in FC6.

Performance

I've opened up a couple of application since I have logged in and I am VERY impressed with the performance. I have Fedora Core 5 installed in another virtual machine. It isn't currently running, but FC6 T3 definitely out performs FC5 in my opinion. The GIMP opened nice and fast! I only gave the virtual machine 284 megs of RAM. I bet if I installed the VMware tools package that it would be even faster! I am VERY impressed! Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org Writer and Firefox took a little longer to open. It is still a lot faster than the time it takes to open them in my FC5 installation that is running XFCE as the desktop manager with un-needed services stopped! I'm anxious to see how fast this thing runs when I disable some services and install XFCE.

I know I said this in the last paragraph but I am very impressed. I thought I was going to have to make a lot of sacrifices since I was installing in a virtual machine environment. I am running Gnome, Firefox and OpenOffice.org without any problems. I've also not stopped any services that I don't need, like I usually do. I just can't get over the performance increase in version 6.

Final first look thoughts

From what I can tell so far I think this will be a great update to FC5. Of course, we'll have to see how many applications don't run on it yet! However, that is what you get when you want to run bleeding edge technology.

I look forward to downloading the non-beta version of Fedora next week.