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Archive for the ‘Debian’ Category

Debian, Fedora, Kubuntu

I use Debain since Sarge. Back then, mounting a USB disk was far from trivial. It is so much user friendly now. For a while between 2014-2016, I have used Fedora and Kubuntu instead. Both are more appropriate if you have a modern laptop as they are faster in incorporating new kernels in their distributions (compare a life cycle of 6 month vs 2 years). This particularly affects things like sound, LAN, and wireless. Without an internet connection, it is difficult to update the system in first place, if it cannot recognize your network interface. I have to mention that using geeky tricks, it is doable to get a work around solution, as I usually do not get the bleeding edge new laptops. However a more standard solution is to live with either Fedora or Kubuntu, and a year later install Debian: by then, the latest (testing) kernels usually are modern enough to support the main functions like network.

Doing science and mathematical calculations, it is frustrating to see that a system crashes every now and then for nonsense reasons: Trash crashed, Copy crashed, …. these stuff I have never ever experienced on a  stable Debian system, so the least is that I spent a week to get everything working with Debian before giving it up.

There are also some more fundamental differences in philosophy of Debian versus Fedora or Kubuntu. While you get bug fix and minimal updates for stable software, an update never actually changes a package dramatically. So if you want to see a new functionalities, it does not arrive before a major release. Debian is very stable and it makes it very interesting for systems with heavy jobs.

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Debian 8 (Jessie)

Recently I bought a Lenovo T430 on eBay. The main reason I didn’t like T440 or T540 was it’s absolutely horrible touchpad ! After buying the Lenovo T430 with Windows 7, the most trivial step was to install a Linux on it. For that, I have experienced Debian, Kubuntu, Fedora, and Centos for two weeks on VirtualBox on my old laptop (T530). Since I was using Debian from Debian Sarge (3)  till Debian Wheezy (7), it was not a surprise to me that I converged to Debian.

Debian made a fantastic job and in the live environment, it had no problem with lan, wireless, or sound. I had a familiar package manager, synaptic, and instantly after installation activated some multimedia and backports for non-free libs.

Debian Jessie Desktop

Debian Jessie Desktop

Debian automatically configured the F-keys so all of them work out of the box. The only thing I had to change was the behaviour of the touchpad, so I can tap on the touchpad and the system recognise that as a click.

I installed KDE 4 as my default desktop environment and all of the familiar packages like emacs, kstars, digikam, gimp, etc.

Numeric libraries like ATLAS, LAPACK, BLAS, FFTW, CFITSIO, openmpi, etc can be easily installed either via synaptic or simply running the following as root:

#apt-get install fftw

Compared to old days, Debian is now so user friendly that it does not require much experience to either install or configure it.

Science Packages

Debian also offers “science” packages like science-physics, science-mathematics, etc. Each science package is a group of many packages in that category. So installing one science package will install all of them. There are also -dev version for science packages.

Firefox on Debian

There is no particular advantage over Debian brand of Firefox called icedove and the Mozilla versin of Firefox. However I decided to install Firefox instead of icedove since I had Fedora17 on my previous laptop so I could move all my Firefox profile like bookmarks, saved passwords, etc directly to Debian, and it was fairly easy.

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deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie main contrib non-free

deb http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free

# jessie-updates, previously known as ‘volatile’
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie-updates main contrib non-free

# jessie-backports, previously on backports.debian.org
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie-backports main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ jessie-backports main contrib non-free

# multimedia
deb http://www.deb-multimedia.org/ jessie main non-free
deb http://www.deb-multimedia.org/ jessie-backports main

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Macbookpro with Retina display

Abstract: I strongly recommend you do NOT buy Apple Macbookpro 10,1 with Retina display.

Observations: In an earlier post, I expressed my plan to instal Linux on the new Macbookpro. I have this machine for more than two weeks and I try to show problems I faced. These are are first hand observations. Not only I have not installed Linux, but also I do not plan to do so. No, it is not because I love OS X, it is rather due to useless hardware of this laptop that barely any party except apple support it.

Problems: the new Retina display. This display has a higher pixel density than the standard displays. This sounds like an advantage, but as you will see it is NOT. The problem is that except native Apple programs, barely any other party supports this display at the moment. This cause to have all fonts pixelate (see below examples). It does not matter if you use Mathematica, Firefox, …. An even more, the OS X itself recommends you to stick to an “optimal” resolution (see figure).

another example

There is a special version of Firefox (Nightly) which renders fonts smooth. The standard version does NOT.

The other problem is that if you try to use a Virtualbox, the graphics of a very simple desktop like Gnome2@Centos or Debian will be horribly slow. Why? because they have to render a lot more pixels than other displays. When you move a terminal in a blank window, the terminal lags the mouse position by several seconds !!! This alone makes the Virtualbox practically useless, even when you have the graphics in the “optimal” solution (if you switch to non-optimal, it will be way slower).

I have tried hard to figure out if switching between Intel 4000 and Nvidia graphics helps (using gfxCardstatus). There is no difference in this aspect. This hardware, or better to say display, cannot even support a light weight Virtualbox. It is quite painful considering the decent CPU, RAM, graphics, and SSD that exist in here.

and last but not least, again due to heavy rendering, if you try to use a Virtual Desktop (see the figure), it uses a lot CPU power (up to 7% while doing exactly nothing) and network. As a result, it gets easily disconnected if the network gets a low speed. For me, it takes just 5 minutes to get disconnected while doing exactly nothing.

Discussion: I have no doubt that the ones love Apple product will disagree with me. I had another Apple Macbookpro (4,1) in last four years and some ten different laptops and desktops. Barely any of them had such a decent hardware and at the same time remained useless. It is brilliant and shiny but perhaps is useful only for home users.

In  a year or so, there will be more and more support for this display, hopefully. But what if it ends up like Firewire: the fast data transfer trick that Apple tried to enforce but was not well accepted by other parties. As a result, this new Apple product does NOT have a firewire anymore. It is basically out, and replaced by two USB3. What will happen to Retina? will be clear in the coming years.

Conclusion: I cannot recommend anybody who is going to use the laptop for business to buy it. If you are serious to by an Apple Macbookpro, bye the non-Retina display  models (version 9,1).

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Once again, I have the challenge of installing Linux on  a Macbookpro laptop. The one that I had the first time was a Macbookpro 4,1. Since I like Debian more than  others, I installed Lenny which was testing at that time.  The first kernel was 2.6.26 and it is now 3.2.0. In the meantime, it was upgraded to Squeeze, and then Wheezy. The newer the kernel, the better the system performance.

Now, I have a new Retina display Macbookpro 10,1. With no ethernet card, no optical drive, and NVIDIA graphics, it will be a lot of fun to install any Linux distribution on it, as expressed in thisthis, and this pages, for instance. Sure, it will improve with time but for the moment, perhaps nobody get it working properly.

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This is the repository of the Debian testing, wheezy. It is still in the testing branch and will be stable by end of 2012. I have installed that recently. ################################################################################## deb ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian wheezy main contrib non-free deb-src ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian wheezy main contrib non-free deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian wheezy-proposed-updates main contrib non-free #deb http://security.debian.org/debian-security Wheezy/updates main deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org wheezy main non-free deb http://download.skype.com/linux/repos/debian/ stable non-free  ##################################################################################

The procedure:

Basically I have changed the source file (/etc/apt/sources.list), then run apt-get update, and then apt-get dist-upgrade.  It updated the list, and downloaded all the new packages. After that, the old packages were removed and started to install the new ones.

Problems: Since I have Debian on a MacBookPro, there are basically two issues that I had to solve manually. They are related to NVidia graphics card and Broadcom wireless card. I have installed them using the module-assistant as explained here. At some point during upgrade, it crashed complaining a dependency conflict (libgstreamer, if I remember correctly). I removed some packages using dpkg -r to solve the problem. Then, the upgrade was completed and I got a message about errors during the upgrade. It was basically Nvidia problem, as I expected. I following the instruction and run the module assistant.

That was it. Now, it runs Debian 7 (Wheezy), with an updated kernel (3.1). As far as I have experienced the system so far, it is rather stable.

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Jhead: edit exif information

Sometimes you want to edit the exif information of your images, e.g., Jpeg files. How to do so in Linux command line? This is an important question if you have to do something for many files. For instance, you have to correct the date of a lot of images since your camera had a wrong date. Jhead is an interesting program that does the job properly. Some simple applications:

If the image has no exif information, you can create an exif header
$jhead -mkexif file.jpg

changing the exif date
$jhead -ds2009:07:05  file.jpg

change the file time to Exif time
$jhead -ft *.jpg

add a comment
$jhead -cl “It was a nice photos” file.jpg

Hopefully this makes life easier for Linux users.

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