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PortableApps in Puppy Linux 1 January, 2009

Posted by aronzak in Linux, portableapps, Puppy Linux.
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Puppy Linux can be installed on your USB stick. So can PortableApps, a collection of cross platform open source software that can run on Windows. Interestingly, nearly all of the apps also run perfectly in wine, except for a few issues. So, I got an idea. Why not try and integrate the two.

I created a simple script that can run at startup to check weather the Portableapps.com suite is installed, and then if wine is installed, offer to start it, and if not, offer to download and install wine. Pretty cool, huh?

Here’s some screenshots of it in use:

First, the obligatory desktop shot.


After copying my script to the ‘Startup’ folder and restarting X, a dialog pops up.


In a new version, the network connection setup comes up so that you can actually set up a connection before you try and download a file (whoops).

3The file will download and then you are prompted to install the package.


All done, wine is now installed.


Just keeping the user clued in.

6And now the desktop with the PortableApps Menu


Ok, and finally, two versions of abiword are running, the PortableApps one on top, and the native one on the bottom.


NB. Take a look at that compatibility page. Abiword doesn’t work that well.

Finally, here’s a new version of the script that I wrote:

# Author: Aronzak
# Download and install wine

if [ -f /mnt/home/PortableApps/PortableAppsMenu/PortableAppsMenu.exe ]; then
 if [ -f /usr/bin/wine ]; then
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --yesno "Wine is installed. \nWould you like to run PortableApps?" 0 0
  [ ! $? -eq 0 ] && exit 0
  wine /mnt/home/PortableApps/PortableAppsMenu/PortableAppsMenu.exe
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --yesno "You have PortableApps installed on your usb stick.\n Congratulations. Would you like to download and\n install wine so that you can run PortableApps in Puppy?\n (Download is around 8MB)" 0 0
  [ ! $? -eq 0 ] && exit 0
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --no-cancel --msgbox "Please use the networking wizard to set up a network connection." 0 0
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --yesno "Would you like to download wine now? \n (Download is around 8MB)" 0 0
  [ ! $? -eq 0 ] && exit 0
  echo "wget http://downloads.sourceforge.net/wine/wine-1.1.10-i486-1kjz.tgz?modtime=1228522686&big_mirror=1" > /tmp/runme
  echo "wait" >> /tmp/runme
  echo "tgz2pet wine-1.1.10-i486-1kjz.tgz 2> /dev/null" >> /tmp/runme
  echo "wait" >> /tmp/runme
  echo "exit" >> /tmp/runme
  chmod +x /tmp/runme
  rxvt -bg "orange" -title "Puppy Universal Installer" -geometry 80x10 -e /tmp/runme
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --no-cancel --msgbox "Wine downloaded. Will now install." 0 0
  pupget /root/wine-1.1.10-i486-1kjz.pet
  Xdialog --title "Run PortableApps" --no-cancel --msgbox "Wine should now be installed. Will now run PortableApps." 0 0
  wine /mnt/home/PortableApps/PortableAppsMenu/PortableAppsMenu.exe

I’d appreciate feedback to improve the script. Does this work for you?

USB Linux Challenge 29 December, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
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In all of the advertising frenzy for Christmas something caught my eye. Flash storage has been getting cheaper and cheaper to the point where a 1 gigabyte usb flash drive now costs less than $10. With flash drives so cheap, you could buy a few. This got me thinking. Here’s my idea:

1 Buy a few cheap usb flash drives
2 Put Linux on them
3 Give them out
4. If someone likes what they see, they can have a copy. If not, no harm done.
If you get the drive back, repeat from step 3.

It’s that simple it could just work.

Fundamental Premises:

1. Use cheap hardware . Buy something cheap enough that you don’t care if it is misplaced or broken. Also, don’t put anything personal on the sticks.

2. It will be easier if you are familiar with the tools used to create bootable USB systems. If you feel confident that you will not destroy your own bootloader, it can be faster to use syslinux manually. Once you are happy with one Linux image, copy it to another stick and install syslinux on the stick to make it bootable.

3. Use a distro with more features. If you have sticks that are 1 GB in size, use a large distro. Go for extras like OpenOffice and a nice graphical environment, as well as rescue utilities that will be useful if someone’s computer is broken. Also, maybe stick a some info with a few links on the stick. You’ll need to explain that people need to use a boot menu on a modern computer (usually by pressing F12 at bootup).

4. Make it clear that there’s no hassle. Carry the sticks with you, so that people know that you’re not going to any great effort to give you software. Make it clear that they’re cheap and you don’t mind giving them out.

5. Talking to people is hard, but it’s easy once you get going. If you’ve ever gone doorknocking, you’ll know that after the first few people you talk to, your fear evaporates and you start enjoying yourself in a way. You’re not trying to force anyone to do anything. If they’re not interested, that’s fine.

I’ve sometimes suggested that I could put Linux on other people’s usb sticks. They are understandably reluctant to give away their hardware, that has their data on it that they are afraid to lose. Fear is an emotion, so rational arguments don’t help. By putting your own hardware on the line, it will send a positive message about open source. You believe in it enough to use it on your own hardware. That speaks more powerfully than words.

So, what do you think? Ready to give it a go?

Ext4, a new Linux Filesystem 4 December, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux.
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Phoronix has tested the new Ext4 filesystem, which is a step up before going to the even newer and better btrfs system. Ext4 will be backwards and forwards compatible, with stable support coming soon in the upcoming 2.6.28 Linux kernel. Ext3 was adopted as default by mainstream Linux distributions, mainly due to its stability. It is not feature rich, however, lacking many useful deatures that are present in the alternative ZFS. Ext4 being a spepping stone should ensure mainstream adoption of new filesystem features.

In the tests, Ext4 outperforms ZFS in 5 of 8 tests. though the differences for ordinary users are not great. The exciting thing to watch will be btrfs, which will probably be released next year.

Promised NSW Laptops: Linux in the wings? 30 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux, Netbooks, Open Office, Windows.
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In the 2007 Australian Federal Election, the incoming Labor leader, now Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, promised federal spending on the state’s education systems, particularly to increace access to computers, calling it an ‘education revolution’. Reading the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, it turns out that the New South Wales (NSW) Government will spend money by buying netbooks, probably 10″ models, for secondary school students.

A prize phrases in the article is

“NSW stands ready to deliver teenager-friendly, custom-built laptops to the nation,”

What does the phrase ‘teenager friendly’ mean? It is likely to refer to the design, being lightweight and portable. But when I read it, it just sounded like the OS. There’s another interesting phrase here:

These custom-made laptops are … powerful enough to support all the IT needs of our high school students.

Just what are the IT needs of the high school students? Facebook? MySpae? But I digress… If you consider the needs of a student to be working on documents in an office suite, then Linux should be fine. In fact Linux may be an advantage, given that it will be harder for students to install games. Unfortunately, OpenOffice is not percieved to be fully compatible yet. Students typing out a document in OO then wanting to work on in on their school computer, that has MS office, there will be problems. Will there be pring servers set up to work?

So, I think that Linux is a good posibility, but the education department probably isn’t that smart. They don’t understand Linux, and that’s a problem. If they go Linux, MS will probably come along and lobby. Nothing is beneath them. When I first heard this issue discussed, over a year ago, the only $500 netbook was the Linux EEE. Now there are plenty of XP models for less.

Those Ruinous Plurilists 29 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Open Office, Open Source Adoption.
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Oh wow. Linux Loop gives a list of things that aren’t liked. At the bottom, and prosumably is thus worst, is:

I just can’t stand those people who think it is OK to have a little closed code on your system. You know, the people who are too spoiled to use gNewSense.

Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be one of “those people“. In fact, just a single of that code will make you guilty as sin. And of course, since you can’t construct a good argument against the proponents of reasonable compromise, they must be ‘spoilt’. Obviously.

How can you stand touching any evil .doc files and MP3’s? Why can’t they just bug people into using other software! If their boss doesn’t like it, they should just get a new job.

Wow man, I thought that we were talking about software, not good and evil. The last prt is good. Imagine the conversation:

– I’ll send you a file
– Ok, thanks

– Umm, I couldn’t open the file
– Quick, quit your job, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
– Umm…

Yes, I tried that once, to a guy that had sent me a .docx. Apparently, Hotmail, IE or both wouldn’t let him download the file, saying that an .odt is a security risk. It’s just not worth it. Use rtf if you can.

Some open formats work and some don’t. HTML is great, the internet wouldn’t really exist without it. But ODF just isn’t. There’s worse things. The sad thing is, some people just don’t get that there’s more to life than software choices. And borrowing from the ad hominem attack above, the software choices you care so much abut would actually make a difference if you had more than one friend.

Apple attacks open source iTunes replacements 28 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in apple, Linux.
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Apple’s moderately popular ipod line has always been a POS. It’s overpriced, uner featured, and generally overrated. It is an expensive toy that has limited use, not being able to open up most media formats known to man (such as .wav or .ogg). Next, if you want to actually plug it into a computer (that is, a real computer, not a boat anchor), you’ll need to use a special proprietary cable that manages to connect to; usb. Why couldn’t they have put in a mini usb connector? Anyway, your computer mounts the device and hey presto, since you don’t have iTunes installed, (and on Linux, can’t), then tough luck, you can’t use it for anything. But wait, a brave team cracked the retarted and useless database system, and miraculously, you can now use the device with a decent media player (sich as Winamp, Songbird, AmaroK, etc).

Apple doesn’t like this. They assembled their own crack team of anti-compatibility experts, bringing together the top minds in the field (and then some), creating a newer, and crappier system that messes up your media in a different way to before. Now, if you bought a new generation of i stuff, you won’t be able to use it with a decent player. Sucks to be you. But, again, a group of people have gotten together, and have started sharing ideas on how to crack this new annoyance. (But not to crack the also irritating DRM). They were discussing this on Bluwiki, which has a front page saying:

Imagine a world where everyone can publish online. Without censoring, popups, or banner ads.

Well, imagine away. Unfortuantely Apple has confused discussion over their crap product as a Digital Milenuim Copyright Act (DMCA; Read: Evil) violation. How unexpected. The EFF is seeing red over this, as they should. And good luck to them and the crackers. But couldn’t we all just follow Japan’s lead and not buy the crap? I mean, really you should be using ogg by now. And when you want a player that can actually talk your language, look no further.

OpenSUSE 11 22 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Distro Wars, Linux, Suse, Ubuntu.
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Having been disappointed by Ubuntu 8.10, I moved on to Fedora. Absolute failure. Looked ok, couldn’t set up a network connection. Fro some reason, /bin and /sbin were not in root’s $PATH, so for a moment I was unable to run dhclient and ifconfig. Don’t have a clue why that was. Next, I tried the Red Hat admin GUIs. Why they are GUIs, escapes me. you have to type system-config-x, as there is stupidly system-install-packages and system-control-network, so no tab completion for you. This is exceptionally stupid, as the former is just the program pirut, and the latter is a form of system-config-network. Why there are two escapes me. On the plus side, the graphical installer (anaconda) was good, and the startup display is quite good. It also has a nice gdm setup that does away with usernames (you click on your icon then enter a password).

Next, up, OpenSUSE. This has a very nice version of the old installer, which, on newer hardware, actually runs decently. The installer is very clean with a green and silvery look. On the downside, however, it suffers from the same problems as before. Partitioning is a mess. Surprise surprise, I don’t want to wipe my disc. To get custom partitioning, you have to click on a drop box, then click on partitioning. It’s something most people would want to configure, yet is bundled with useless options in a hard to access location. No warning is given that it is going to format a disk, except for small red text, so noobs could easily just click through and not realise until it is too late that they are going to lose data. That one really should have been addressed by now. Also, even though I am installing from a DVD, it has a funny box that lists the installation media that are in use, along with a total. Looks a bit stupid. The install is extremely slow, compared to others.

Now I start to remember why I dislike Suse. First, it makes you except a EULA. I feel dirty whenever I have to do this. It also makes you accept one for Firefox, something that caused a furore in the Ubuntu crowd.

Next, it comes without nano. This is highly annoying as nano is my primary editor.

Thirdly, it bundles a desktop search called kerry beagle. This may be usefull for some users, but this really should be opt-in, rahter than a difficult opt-out. Somewhere, there should be an explicit option to enable or disable it. It caches the user’s home directory, as well as keeping all of firefox’s web history. Also, even in KDE 3.5, it bundles the stupid ugly menu, which Novell made. Though, it is easy to go back to the getter ‘classic’ menu.

Fourth, it gave me the hostname linux-th98. Whatever the hell that is. I don’t remember a choice. Ubuntu handles this by making the domain username-laptop or somehting, which works fairly well for some.

Fifth, yast blows. Yast2 (graphical) is a pain, and the non graphical one is really difficult to work with (Imagine a UI where instead of having a mouse, you press tab.) I wanted to eliminate the beagle group, but there is no groups settings that I found, other than user 1000. The Gnome settings dialogues are more useful. Flowing from this is that files such as fstab and menu.lst are expected to be edited in a stupid GUI (even though they’re text) and so there is no clean tab format.

So. All in all not too bad, as I can’t find too many things to complain about. Most of these are my personal preference. There are other things that have good defaults, like the screensaver and kdm theme. I’ll hang onto this one for a while if I can figure out how to blast beagle off the face of the Earth.

On the black machine, Suse wins. But generally, I would say that Ubuntu wins thus far for ordinary users. Of cource, Debian is the natural choice for those in the know.

XO 18 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Windows, XP.
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The New York Times is running an article on how media groups are going to donate advertising space to help OLPC. This is intending to sell the pathetic ‘give one, get one’ campaign. I wanted to write a longer post, but I can’t be bothered and there’s no need. First, one of the main problems with OLPC is that they didn’t let countries order a small shipment of the XOs to do pilot testing. Major flaw.

Second, in the rough words of Hans Rosling; you know about two kinds of countries; developed and developing. I know about 200 kinds of countries. While a customised version of Linux with no printing support or interoperability is great in a few of the deepest, darkest corners of the world, you are forgetting the rest, especially Newly Industrialised Countries (NIC’s). There are vast regions of the world that already have power, internet, printers, etc. Think of the number of poor people across China, SE Asia, Middle and South America, and even Europe. Mexico has power. THey also have a lot of slums. Why would you make a computer that needs to be hand cranked? The first thing that Egypt said was something like ‘will these computer work with our WinXP xomputers?’ And the answer is no. Score 0 OLPC.

Third, if the computers are’nt really that great in NICs, they’re crap in developed countries. What can you do with them. FSJ frequently made fun of the freetard idiots that went out to buy ones.This sums it up:


And Finally, a quote from FSJ:

it was never about education or poverty or helping kids and was, rather, all about a bunch of amateur techies trying to prove that they could make a better computer than Microsoft and Intel?

Guess what, freetard morons. You couldn’t. You didn’t.

Check out more of his rants here.

Also check out OVPC.(One Velociraptor Per Child)

Edit: If you want a gift to give at Christmas that isn’t useless junk and will actually help children in developing countries, consider something like usefulgifts.org. Lots of charities do these things.

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Dissapoints 17 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Debian, Distro Wars, Grub, Linux, Ubuntu.
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Ubuntu has a long and sad history of disregarding the needs and wants of power users in their drive for ease for users who are unfamiliar with, and have little inclination to become familiar with Linux. To me, it’s dissapointing. More hardline flamers have become angry at Ubuntu and Canonical. This is my experience.

I have a cheap computer. An old one died, so I simply bought a few cheap components to replace the dead box, reusing some drives. The machine has integrated grpahics, because I haven’t coughed up for a real card yet. Vesa drivers work fine, but both the 2d nv and proprietary nvidia divers don’t work. Probably because the mbo only cost me ~70AUD. I’ve known about this since I’ve had the machine. I can’t be bothered to fix it, because I can use 3d apps on another machine.

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex uses a new version of xorg. Supposedly, it has a very little configuration needed and can dun with no /etc/X11/xorg.conf. This sounds like a good idea. But, for me it means that there are problems.

After finishing the Debian installer, Ubuntu boots. No grub menu is shown, another pet peeve I have. If you do hit escape, you are confrinted with an ugly, black screen. Then you get usplash. Great for some. Then again, if you turn it off you get ugly readouts from a kernel with useless timing enabled. Ok, this is a problem in Debian too, but I compiled my own kernel. Then you get the same ugly gdm theme Ubuntu has been using since forever.

The problem is, gdm didn’t come up. Rather than dropping to a shell to let me diagnose this, there is an ugly black screen with low resolution. I try as few options, none of which work. To finish applying settings, I’m informed that the xserver will restart in one minute. Pressing ok leaves the screen pitch black. The Ubuntu developers must be fond of black.

Dropping to a shell lets me find that there is indeed an xorg.conf. Wonderful. startx works, after killing xinit. And he voila, gnome appears. In SVGA (800×600) resolution. Xrandr will only let me change this down to 640×480. Brilliant. Copying over Debian’s configuration file is no good. Somehow, the new xorg does not accept screen resolutions in the configuration file. Anyway, after trying the other trick I’ve heard of, I remove the file. This works wonders, and now, somehow, my screen size becomes 1024×768 when using startx. No such luck when starting, the xserver still refuses to start. My next move is to uninstall the nv driver. Good thinking, I hear you say. Well, now gdm will start. But somehow, my former trick doesn’t work, and I am stuck with SVGA. So what am I supposed to do? Reinstall a broken driver?

Forget it. I’m sticking with Debian. Debian has failed in interesting ways, but I have always been able to fix it. I don’t like xorg.conf, or for that matter grub’s menu.lst, or fstab. But I’ve just learned to get used to them. Sooner or later I’m going to man up and just use vim. Don’t get me wrong, making the user do less work is great. I like apt, and rarely compile anything from source. I’m not a sadist. But, I think that these ‘miracle’ fixes, like having no configuration files, are a dumb idea. Why? Because there are situations that no developer can foresee, and they will end up just not working. And what do you do then? You edit the configs. I’ve done things the hard way, and my Debian install has more or less worked ever since.

Tweeler: Free Linux Games 13 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux.
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A new site, called tweeler has been launched. At the moment, it has tow ports of games from indie developer Tony Oakden. These are called Atomic Worm and Go Ollie!.

The first is a slightly strange, but fresh take on the old game of snake. You move around a board, needing to complete a chain of flowers of a particular variety. This is complicated by the fact that there are different varieties and only so many moves that you can make on the oddly shaped boards. The game has a slightly surrealist feel to it, with random poetry flashing up now and then. The music and graphics give the game a very solid feel. It’s a game that you’ll get into.

Go Ollie! is a mouse based platformer. You are a worm that jumps around platforms, collecting coins. It has good music and graphics, but I didn’t like the gameplay so much.

WordPress is having some problems. Graphics later.