No more host

I received my invoice to renew my hosting for two more years last week and with money being a little tight these days, I had to reconsider my need for a hosted site and email. In the past year I’d had a few problems with the DNS servers and email but my host had always been very responsive in resolving every issue. It was just a couple weeks ago I’d finally fixed all of my email problems.

I took a good hard look at my activity on my sited. Because of the email issues, I really hadn’t been using the email accounts much and I use Gmail for most of my correspondence. Most of the content I had on rbromig.org and mojoreisen.com was quite static and hadn’t been updated in quite a while, to include my genealogy data. Two of the three blogs on the site were about the only content that was active, and I had the conky page which has been updated quite a bit lately.

I had been providing email accounts for my son and daughter-in-law and they’ve already told me it was okay to terminate that. I went through recent emails and changed the addresses for most of the ones I cared about. I backed up the entire site to my local computer so I wouldn’t lose any content. I backed up the blogs and exported the two more active ones to WordPress.com so they’re up and running. I may have lost a few readers in the process but I probably didn’t have that many readers anyway. I created a page on this blog for the Conky information and changed the commands to download the script and configuration files from my Dropbox.

Just after midnight this morning, after I’d shut down my computers, I got an email alert on my phone from my bank informing me that the amount for the hosting invoice had hit my account. My invoice had said that it needed to be paid by the 7th so I wasn’t expecting it to go through so soon. I had hoped to have a couple more days to make sure I had everything ready to close my account. I left a message with support explaining the situation, my intention to close out my account by the 7th, and requested a refund. Within a couple of hours, I received confirmation that the money would be refunded and the account would be closed. When I checked my bank account this morning there was both the charge and the refund pending.

They’ve been an excellent hosting provider and they’ve been very responsive to any problems I’ve had. I evaluated my need for hosted email and content and decided it was something that was nice to have but not really necessary. I would like to have a place for my genealogy information so I’ll be looking to see what I can find for that. Some of the information can be put on my “Official” weblog on WordPress.com. But right now, not having some kind of web site up feels strange. I’ve had a personal web site of some kind for many, many years going back to the days when I had a dial-up ISP. I’m going to miss having a personalized domain name.

MultiSystem for Linux

The other day, I found about MultiSystem, a utility that is used to create multi-boot USB drives in Linux using as many bootable distributions as will fit on the drive. I’d seen other multi-boot utilities run from Windows but I was looking for one to use in Linux. This seems to fit the bill.

A Bash script can be be downloaded from http://liveusb.info/multisystem/install-depot-multisystem.sh.tar.bz2. Once you extract it, run it with:

sudo ./install-depot-multisystem.sh

I installed it using their PPA repository.

sudo apt-add-repository ‘deb http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot all main’
wget -q -O – http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot/multisystem.asc | sudo apt-key add –
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install multisystem

Once it’s installed it will automatically open. Just click the Close button to exit.

To use it, plug in a USB drive and launch MultiSystem. (It should be in the Menu under Accessories).

  • Select the USB drive and click Confirm.
  • If the drive doesn’t have a label you’ll get an error message. Click OK and the utility will give it one.
  • Unplug and reinsert the drive (if you got the error message) and launch the utility again. Select the drive and confirm.
  • Confirm the GRUB2 installation on the USB drive and click OK to continue.
  • Drag and drop the ISO files (one at a time) to the box at the bottom of the MultiSystem window. You can also click the CD icon and search for them.
  • The ISO files are select individually. It may take awhile for the utility to extract them and update GRUB.
  • You can add as many distributions as space on the drive will allow. You can go back later and add more.
  • As each distribution is added you’ll see them listed in the main window.
  • Once it’s done updating the last distribution, it’s ready to use.

There are extra options in the menus. You can also test the new drive using QEMU or VirtualBox.

The official documentation is in French but I found it simple to use. The first time I tried booting to it, I got a GRUB error but after booting again, it came up okay. I booted to it several times to each of the distributions I’d installed on the drive.

More information can be found at:

Upgrade gone wrong

I went to update my Dell Optiplex 780 USFF from Mint 17.3 to 18.1. It didn’t really need it but I figured it would be an easy upgrade. I should have known better. I know from years of experience that there are no easy upgrades.

When I tried to boot from my Mint 18.1 Serena Xfce flash drive, I got a kernel panic error on every USB port. Then I attempted to boot to a DVD with Serena with Cinnamon, I got a message saying the device was unavailable. I ran the internal diagnostics which gave me an error code: 2000-0152,”Optical Drive (d): – Incorrect status: (x) (s)”. I was unable to find any of my Dell diagnostic CDs. I pulled the drives out of the other USFF I had lying around, put it in and got the same results. Then the power supply died. I took that as a sign that this upgrade was not to be.

I already had a Dell Latitude E5500 on which I’d already installed Mint 18.1 Xfce so I used it to replace the USFF box. I put it on a docking station, connected it up, and got it running. I’d already installed conky so I just added my Dropbox to it. The primary purpose of the machine will be to have something connected directly to the gateway router for troubleshooting connectivity problems or when I need quick access to a computer at that end of the house. This older laptop will work just fine for that.

I’m still thinking about upgrading my E6500. Hopefully, that will go better. I’m planning to install a larger hard drive so I’ll still have the old drive just in case.

As for the 780s, I’ll donate them, along with a couple of laptops I don’t need any more.

Messing with email

Last night I was thinking about upgrading my laptop to Mint 18.1 even though 17.3 will still be supported for a couple more years. I don’t have much data on it but I figured I’d run a back up and make a list of applications and settings. The laptop was my only Linux machine that was receiving email (but not sending) from my hosted accounts I I figured I’d jot down the settings. I decided to compare them with the Thunderbird settings on my Windows 7 PC which was also receiving but not sending. The settings were different for some reason.

I brought up cPanel and checked the mail setup instructions which were different from either. I got the settings for the laptop and the Win 7 PC from cPanel at different times. Apparently, they occasionally change the recommended settings

I opened up Thunderbird on the main Linux desktop, changed the settings, and they worked. My inboxes began filling up. I successfully sent test messages from both accounts to my gmail. I also made adjustments to the settings in my sbcglobal account which I haven’t used in years except for PPOE login when AT&T was my ISP. And I added my new Time-Warner account.

So far it seems to be working. Another problem solved until the next time something changes.

Bodhi Linux Revisited

I first came across Bodhi Linux five years ago. It looked interesting but after using it for  a while, decided it wasn’t for me. I recently downloaded the latest release, 4.1.0 and decided to take another look at it.

I like that a minimalist distribution, easy on resources, and it fits on a 700MB CD. One of the concepts behind Bodhi is to keep it lean and allow the end user to choose their applications rather than have a lot of pre-installed applications they don’t need. I totally get that and can see how some might be attracted to that level of customization. For the most part, I’m okay with what comes pre-installed with Ubuntu and Mint although I do sometimes install applications that I prefer to the defaults. Perhaps I need to delve into Bodhi a bit deeper and take a good look at what they have to offer.

I found the Bodhi menus a bit confusing but that’s because I’ve been using Mint for quite a while and I’ve gotten used to that. It’s a matter of letting go of expectations and accepting change. Bodhi is not a distribution you just install and run with it. You need to figure out what you want to do with and plan accordingly. I’ll probably be looking at Bodhi again.

My Distro Links

My friend Anthony provided me with a few Linux ISOs that he thought I might be interested in trying out on virtual machines and that got me to thinking about some of the distributions I had lying around. The other day I needed a Live Linux CD to boot an older PC that I couldn’t get to boot from a USB drive. I found copies of old Ubuntu versions (8.04 and 10.04 desktop and server) along with Knoppix v5.0, Damn Small Linux (DSL) 4.4.10, Lucid Puppy, and Bodhi Linux.

I decided to add likes to Absolute Linux, Manjaro, Peppermint Linux, SlitTaz, and Tiny Core LInux to my list. It seemed like a good time to make sure the links I already had were still valid and download the latest ISO files.

I noticed that many of the web sites for the minimalist distributions tended not to be well maintained or kept updated. Some of these sites were more difficult to navigate than they should have been. I know that some of these distributions appeal mainly to developers and techies who think differently than most users.

I also noticed that some of the ISOs dated back to 2013 and beyond. For instance, my DSL live CD that I created in 2013 was the most current ISO. The current Puppy Linux ISO is still based on Ubuntu Trusty (my CD was based on Ubuntu Lucid).

Now I have several distributions to explore on virtual machines. Hopefully, I’ll find a minimal distribution that I really like.  I have plenty to choose from.

Peppemint Linux

A friend had been talking up the Peppermint Linux distro and had given me an ISO for it. The other day, I needed to set up a Linux virtual machine to test out some commands for installing and configuring my conky script so I figured I’d give it a try.

Like most Ubuntu-based distributions, the installation was very straightforward. The ISO was from December so there were about 167 updates which didn’t take long to install. Peppermint has a different look and feel and it took me a while to get familiar with the menus since they are different from those in Mint Linux and I prefer to use an applications dock on my system. But, as I said, the menus in Peppermint are different from I’m used to seeing. Maybe they’re more similar to those used in Ubuntu. It’s been a number of years since I’ve used actual Ubuntu.

I still had the last PC I’d actually built because during my last equipment purge, I keep it around for sentimental reasons. It has an AMD Ahtlon II X2 245 processor (dual core), an ASUS main board, and 4GB of DDR2 RAM. Not much by today’s standards, but pretty good in its day.

Since I wasn’t doing anything with it, I figured it might be good for testing or checking out other operating systems. I put Peppermint 7 on it. Again, the installation went smoothly and it seemed to detect most of the hardware. When I had run Ubuntu on this machine a long time ago there were some on-board devices that didn’t have the right drivers. I know the sound card was one of them.

I checked Additional Drivers under the Software & Updates menu and found one unknown device that was shown as not working. By default the “Do not use this device” radio button was checked. The other radio button gave the option “Using Processor microcode firmware for AMD CPUs from amd64-microcode (proprietary)”. I selected that option, applied it, and rebooted. Now it’s still unknown but that it’s using an alternative driver. I wonder what it was.

Looking at the other tabs under Software and Updates, I saw that Peppermint 7 is based on Ubuntu Xenial, the latest release. That may explain some of the differences from I see in Mint. I’m still on 17.3 which is an LTS supported until April 2019. At this time, I don’t see much point in upgrading. I did download an ISO for 18.1 (xenial based) because I wanted to build a Linux-based USB drive for virus scanning and diagnostics. Should I obtain another system or need to reload one of my current systems, I’ll probably go with 18.1.

One thing I noticed with both Peppermint installations was that the time displayed in my conky script was a bit left of center. I made a slight change to the alignment setting for that line which fixed it. That change on my Mint system moves the time slightly right of center. Just a weird aberration, I guess. On the installation in the Athlon PC, ifconfig showed me that the network interface was called enp2s6 rather than the usual eth0. It seems to be a strange and illogical name for a network interface.

I’ll probably mess around with Peppermint some more but I think I’ll likely stay with Mint as my preferred distribution. I’m used to it and it has worked well for me for a number of years. Since I have VirtualBox and an available computer, I’ll likely explore other distributions and see what they have to offer.

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