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30 days with PCLinuxOS,


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Days 8-10

 

sorry for not doing any updates on this over the weekend, but I was just using the distro instead of writing about it, and to be honest now that I've installed gnome I've been very happy with it, it's just working very nicely. The firewall crashing incident is down to a bug on the firewall most likely and I havnt done any more testing with that, other than to completely clear the firewall's cache.

 

After using PCLinuxOS now for over a week I am definetly getting to like it, it took some time but i am adjusting to it and liking it, and that's a good thing.

 

I'm stilll waiting on my order of RAM for this laptop, once it arrives i'll start using the computer intensively to see if performance improves as right now it's a bit sluggish on 256mb of ram (caching to swap).

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Sounds like its just another distribution so far. Nothing to particularly shine out of its usage so far? Do you see it as a "better" debian based system than your experiences with ubuntu?

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Day 12

 

well the 1GB of ram has not arrived yet so the testing I wanted to do has to wait a while, but in the meantime i changed my session back from gnome to the default, KDE.

 

if we take a look at the default desktop I'll describe what each icon does starting from the lower left corner

 

post-1-1201016888.jpg

 

Clicking on the blue circle with PC inside it brings up the Applications, tasks and desktop sessions menu which gives you access to pretty much everything, sorted into three main sections which are Most used applications (what you used last), All Applications, and Actions (for configuring the computer, connecting to other computers and so on. To Windows users, this is the equivalent of the Start menu.

 

Next, we have the Show Desktop icon, which does just that, it minimises all running applications so that we can see the desktop.

 

The third icon is called Personal Files and clicking it brings up a konqueror window which allows you to browse your files (media and so on). If you leave your cursor over a photo for example, you will be presented with a nice thumbnail of same along with exif info about the photo. Holding the cursor over an mp3 file or other media file (avi for example) will start playing the audio of that file, rather nice once you are aware of it (as a feature) but can be confusing the first time it happens.

 

post-1-1201017329.png

 

Next up we have Control Center, which is the control center for KDE itself, useful if you want to change how KDE looks and acts.

 

The Configure your computer - Administration Center is the next icon and requires the root password to function as some of the actions in there can make the computer unbootable. Strangely, PCLinuxOS doesn't stay consistant and the name of the application we just started now becomes PCLinuxOS Control Center, it's a small niggle but why not have just called it a mixture of the two, like Configure your PCLinuxOS computer. Anyway, once in you have a wealth of choices shown below which include:-

 

Sharing, Groupware, Online Administration, Boot, Hardware, Mount Points, Network & Internet, Security and System.

 

post-1-1201031954.png

 

So if you want to get wireless configured then you'll probably want to know this area (unless you are happy to play with the CLI - command line interface)

 

Next up we have Package Manager which anyone familiar with a debian based distro (Debian, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva) will know, called synaptic, it's a gui front end for apt-get. This gui is great for installing (and removing) software and it's dependancies easily, however i'd still like to see it improved even further, such as the ability to mark several packages in one fell swoop without having to mark a range of them individually.

 

post-1-1201032987.png

 

While you are in synaptic, take a look at the settings option, followed by repositories. By default there is only one selected, but you can select other ones closer to you (for faster download of packages) or you can add new ones for special software installation.

 

post-1-1201033008.png

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Day 13

 

the 1GB of Corsair ram arrived today so I pulled one 128mb stick out of the laptop and inserted the 1gb module, and then booted back into PCLinuxOS, what a difference in speed the extra ram makes (swap is not being used any more, before it was chewing away at it and the hard disc was chugging away)

 

so for any of you out there with sluggish systems, consider upgrading your RAM before anything else, 1GB of ram today is not that expensive

 

[anyweb@np0013722cba3d ~]$ free

total used free shared buffers cached

Mem: 1156444 366960 789484 0 10740 156724

-/+ buffers/cache: 199496 956948

Swap: 4088500 0 4088500

 

I guess what this also highlights is that a modern day distro like PCLinuxOS does want more ram especially if you are using KDE or Gnome as the desktop manager, 256mb of ram just doesn't cut it any more.

 

 

update on the kernel panic issue i mentioned on week one

 

Today I read that the bbc.co.uk/news problem (causing my smoothwall to reboot) is indeed a known problem with smoothwall 3, and nothing at all to do with PCLinuxOS, well I'm glad that is cleared up, still weird though

 

 

Compiz and Compiz Fusion

 

On this old laptop (ICH4 integrated intel video), I just cannot get Compiz or Compiz Fusion to work properly, well I can enable it but once I restart KDE or Gnome and login again, every window is missing the border so I cannot move them, resize them or do normal things..

 

look at this screenshot with Compiz enabled

 

post-1-1201097594.png

 

I will test this some more to see if I can resolve this problem.

 

Wireless

 

One of the biggest pains with Linux is usually (particularly on laptops) wireless, and this Laptop is no exception with a Broadcom Corporation BCM4309 802.11a/b/g (rev 03) wireless card. I started the Configure your Computer - Administrator center applet, and chose Network & Inernet. Next I selected (or rather tried to) Wireless Connection and it claimed 'no device found', however the results from lspci show the card

 

02:04.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4309 802.11a/b/g (rev 03)

 

and a bit of googling suggest it needs ndiswrapper, so I start up synaptic and search for the ndiswrapper package, doing that reveals that it is already installed, however the Broadcom Wireless Adapter bcmwl5a is not installed, so I select to install that (as it's required for this wireless card). After applying the changes I can see that ndiswrapper has now loaded the bcmwl5a driver via ndiswrapper -l

 

before adding Ndiswrapper support files for the Broadcom Wireless Adapter bcmwl5a we see:-

 

[root@np0013722cba3d ~]# ndiswrapper -l

 

after applying the changes in Synpatic we see:-

[root@np0013722cba3d ~]# ndiswrapper -l

bcmwl5a : driver installed

 

Ok I go back to the Configure your Computer - Administrator center applet and this time choose Setup a new network interface.. option from within the Network & Internet choices. A wizard starts, I select wireless from the list of options then I click next, I'm prompted to use a windows driver with ndiswrapper, and I click next. A drakconnect window pops up with the default choice of 'use the ndiswrapper driver bcmwl5a' i accept it and click next. At this point an error window pops up telling me i need firmware for the card in order to continue and it points me to http://ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/mediawiki/index.php/List

 

i had a quick look there but couldn't find the firmware... so I figured that the firmware is part of the driver, I downloaded the windows driver for my card from here, and then extracted the drivers/files from within there using wine (if wine isn't installed then as root do apt-get install wine -y). Once done I re ran the Setup a new network interface wizard' except this time I click on browse for the driver and point it to the directory holding the bcmwl5a.inf and bcmwl5.inf files. Once done the wizard continues on and prompts me for the usual wireless questions (essid/wep key etc), and now it looks like i'm nearly done

 

iwconfig reports this

wlan0 IEEE 802.11g ESSID:off/any

Mode:Managed Frequency:2.462 GHz Access Point: Not-Associated

Bit Rate:48 Mb/s Tx-Power:25 dBm

RTS thr:2347 B Fragment thr:2346 B

Encryption key:off

Power Management:off

Link Quality:0 Signal level:0 Noise level:0

Rx invalid nwid:0 Rx invalid crypt:0 Rx invalid frag:0

Tx excessive retries:0 Invalid misc:0 Missed beacon:0

 

which is nice except not associated. and ifconfig reports no ip...... its like it just ignored the settings i typed into the wizard so i'll try to manually add the info.

 

iwconfig wlan0 mode managed essid wireloss key 62616d7365

 

this worked ! now I was online with wireless in PCLinuxOS.

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