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.

Conky config page updated

I think I’ve done enough with my conky configuration and installation for now. I successfully installed and configured conky on two Peppermint 7 Linux installations, on a virtual machine on my main desktop and on a PC I’d built a few years ago. I did have to do a little editing of the .conkyrc file on each. In the VM installation, I had to comment out the line for the second CPU core since there was only one core. It displayed an error about trying to access a core that didn’t exist. On the PC, I had to edit the Network section because the system saw the network interface as enp2s6 rather than eth0. The card was a Netgear FA311 Fast Ethernet card. I don’t know if the device name is a peculiarity with the card or with Peppermint.

Another thing I notice with my script in Peppermint was that the time was slightly to the left of center. In my installations with Ubuntu and Mint, it was always perfectly centered. I was able to fix the problem by changing the ${alignc 35} at the beginning of the penultimate line of the script to ${alignc}. I suspect that the 35 was some sort of an offset of some sort. Removing the 35 from the line on a Mint installation moved the time to a bit right of center. That’s something to be aware of, I guess.

I had installed conky on the VM yesterday and when I started the VM today, conky displayed as expected so adding the conky.desktop file to ~/.config/autostart/ is all that’s needed to launch it at boot-up. After installing it on the PC today, I opened the Autostart GUI and confirmed that conky was listed.

Satisfied that the installation commands were correct, I restructured the My Conky Configuration page. Under the Installation heading, I listed the steps to install conky from the command line. I put the commands in bold text. You can highlight and copy to the clipboard. To paste them in the terminal use the Crtl+Shift+v key combination. Before the actual installation steps, I include commands to check for battery, CPU, and network interface information.

I kept some of the old installation information in case anyone wants to do it that way. Be aware that menus may be different depending on the distro you’re using.

After the script itself, I created a Notes heading that includes the notes I’ve made for each update. It’s kind of a changelog, I guess.

I’ve abandoned the idea of creating a bash script for the installation. There are only three commands and it’s easy enough to copy and paste them into the terminal.

In my instructions, I used gedit but you can use whatever editor you feel comfortable with. A graphical editor such as gedit works well if you need to do much cutting and pasting like when you need to change eth0 to something else on several lines. I like to use nano from the command line for small changes.

Trying VirtualBox

I’d installed VirtualBox on my HP a few days ago and today I decided to check it out. A friend had told about Peppermint Linux so I figured that might be a good to try on a virtual machine. One of the first things I noticed when setting up the VM was that all of my OS options were 32-bit. When I selected my 64-bit Peppermint ISO and try to install it, the VM would just hang.

I did some research and found the processor needed to support Intel’s VT-x or AMD’s AMD-V hardware extensions in order to support 64-bit operating systems. Further research indicated that my processor, an AMD Pheom II X3 B75 supported AMD-V so it probably needed to be enabled in the BIOS settings. In my HP’s BIOS settings, it wasn’t immediately obvious where to find it. I finally located it under Security -> System Security -> Visualization Technology. It was disabled so I enabled it.

I restarted the computer, opened VirtualBox and my 64-bit OS options were available. I successfully created a Peppermint Linux virtual machine. While in the VM, I installed conky and successfully tested the wget commands to download the .conkyrc and conky.desktop files where I needed them.

I noticed that in the VM I was able to see all the computers on my network but I was only able to access files on Windows shares. On the Linux machines, I could only see the printer shares. I need to look into that. I would think that I should be able to see files on at least the host machine. There was probably a setting I missed in VirtualBox. It’s a learning process and virtual machines are relatively uncharted territory for me.

Latest conky update

I spent several hours working on my conky script, bouncing between three machines to make sure it was displaying everything right. I think I finally have it the way I want it. I did make a new comment to conky modifications but that was before I finished for the day.

I added a line to the script to display the processor make and model information, placing it at the top of the PROCESSOR section. It uses grep, sed, and cut to get a string out of the /proc/cpuinfo file. The line will probably needed to be edited to get a string of the proper length for your processor name.  You’ll need to view the cpuinfo file to see how many characters you’ll need to adjust the ‘cat -c 1-xx’ at the end of the line. Or you can run the full command in a terminal, trying different values. You can open it in gedit and copy the command to the clipboard and paste into your terminal using Ctrl-Shift-V.

I also added a few lines to give a numerical and bar graph display of battery power remaining. In the script I have on the web page and the conkyrc.txt file, these lines are commented out. If you’re running the script on a laptop, just remove the hashtags from the appropriate lines.  I wasn’t able to find a reliable way for the script to determine if a battery existed.

I cleaned up the NETWORK section so that the LAN and WLAN displays were consistent and to generally clean things up. I’ve noticed that if my Internet connection is down, the Public IP line will just drop from the display when conky refreshes. For wireless connections my online script had lines to display SSID and Connection quality but they were missing from the actual script I was running on my laptop. I was endeavoring for consistency among my own systems as well.

As always, I updated My Conky Configuration page with the revised script along with the updated conkyrc.txt file and a new screen shot. Below are the conky displays for my laptop and my main desktop PC. This should give you some idea of how it looks.

Keeping the number

The journey to keep the land-line phone number we’ve had for over 20 years was arduous and tumultuous. I had changed my Internet provider from AT&T’s Uverse to Spectrum cable and had set up a new number through Google Voice. Everything was working quite well and I was very happy with it.

But there was pressure to maintain the old number and I discovered that it was possible to also have telephone service through my cable provider and port the number over, so I looked into it. My savings over my old provider would not be as great as they could have been with my original set up after converting back to cable but if it would keep peace, I’d do it.

I changed the plan, picked up the provider’s cable modem that supported the telephone, and installed it. I had to reconfigure my network, changing static IP addresses and default gateway settings but I got everything up and running. The new modem/router/gateway had wireless capability but once I had my WAP configured, I turned off the gateway’s wireless to avoid any potential conflicts. Plus, I didn’t really need wireless coverage in my neighbor’s house. The gateway’s wireless didn’t reach to the other end of my own house.

After waiting a few days for the number to be ported to the new provider, I hooked up a phone to the equipment and got nothing. After spending too much time with tech support and rebooting and resetting the gateway a few times, they scheduled a tech to come out the next day. After doing the hard reset, I had to reconfigure the gateway.

It took a while for the tech to get everything working again. He finally got the phone portion working but I had no Internet access. Then I had Internet access again but no phone. Finally, he closed the work order saying that it might tell the system work properly. After a few minutes, both phone and Internet were up and running.

I also spent quite a bit of time tinkering with the wiring in the phone box on the outside to adapt the house wiring. At this time I don’t know if that’s working since I’m using a set of wireless phones. The main unit is connected to the gateway and the satellite units are on her desk and mine. I’m thinking about moving the VoIP box to my room and connecting the corded phone I have there to it, using the Google Voice number.

Was it worth the trouble and effort? Only time will tell.

502 – Bad Gateway

While working on my blogs earlier today, I suddenly couldn’t connect to anything on my domains, not even my cPanel. I tried to connect on another browser and another computer and got a “502 Error Bad Gateway” message. I put in a ticket with my host and a while later got an email from them stating “We have found that your IP xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx was previously blocked by our server firewall, but for now it is unblocked.” There’s something about the wording that has me a little confused. The IP address was my public IP from my new Internet provider. I’m wondering about the “previously blocked” and “but for now it is unblocked”.

Is this something I need to be concerned about in the future?

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