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  • February 2018
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Time for an Upgrade

Linux Mint has always been a little temperamental on my HP 6005. It may been that some minor compatibility issues between the OS and the AMD architecture, I don’t know. But over the last few days, it had gotten flakier, locking up more often, and I’d see one or two of my CPU cores hitting 100 percent quite regularly. It was getting very frustrating to say the least and I’d already been flirting with the idea of upgrading my system.

Len-M91pI found a good deal at Micro Center for a refurbished Lenovo M91p with a 3.4GHz i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive with Windows 10 pre-installed. I reserved one the other day and today I drove down and picked it up.

I’d begun a back up of the HP this morning and it was still going when I returned so started getting the new PC set up. My wife’s PC is the same model and I’d already installed 24GB of RAM in it so I took her 8GB modules and put in the 4GB modules from the new computer taking her down to 16GB and raising mine to 16GB.

My original intention had been to wipe the drive clean and install Mint 18.1 Serena but while getting the system data I knew I’d need later, I discovered that I had a 2TB drive in it. With that knowledge, I figured that I had enough room for a dual boot system. I gave 1.5 terabytes to Linux and left the rest for Windows.

I installed Mint as well as some my must have applications and utilities. There are still a few that still need to be installed and the usual tweaking. I don’t know how much use I’ll get out of the Windows 10 partition since I’ve never really liked it much. But maybe I can learn to live with it and eventually eliminate having a separate Windows PC.

After my backup was completed, I decided to go ahead and take the 8GB modules out of the HP and put them into the Lenovo, bringing it to 32GB . Lenovo’s documentation says it will only support 16GB but I’d been running 24GB in my wife’s system for over a year without any problems.

A more powerful laptop would be nice but my Dell Latitude (with its Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM, and 160GB drive) still works well for what I do with it — a little web surfing, email, and some writing.



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.

Dropbox Repository Links

I brought my old Gateway laptop with Mint 17 up for the first in about a year. There were a lot of updates, as one would expect. After the updates I noticed that Dropbox wasn’t synchronizing. After searching forums, I tried various fixes. Finally, I “purged” the existing installation and used apt-get to install nautilus-dropbox. That got it running properly again.

Now I’m getting 404 errors when I run apt-get update or run update manager. These 404 errors refer to the old dropbox repositories that no longer exist.  A Google search on the problem has not produced any useful information.

Failed to fetch http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu/dists/qiana/main/binary-amd64/Packages 404 Not found [IP: 80]

Failed to fetch http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu/dists/qiana/main/binary-i386/Packages 404 Not found [IP: 80]

I’ve not been able to locate these URLs in any of the source.list files under /etc/apt/. Nor can I find  any reference to them in the GUI Software Sources app. Yet when I run Update Manager or apt-get update the URLs are queried, thus producing the aforementioned error messages.

I left a query on the Dropbox support forum so I’m hoping to get a response soon.

Mint on Gateway

Over the weekend, I had planned to copy some files off the Windows partition on my Gateway E-475M but found that it would no longer boot into the Linux partition either. I pulled the drive and copied the data to my Windows 7 PC using a USB adapter. Then, after putting the drive back into the laptop I installed Mint 15 Cinnamon and began getting it set up for use in my yoga room where it will be primarily used to play music, led meditations, YouTube videos and instructional DVDs.

DNS Woes

Yesterday evening I began noticing that Dropbox on my Windows computers was not updating and today I noticed that was was not able to get to web sites that I’d been able to access before and I was not able to update my anti-virus software or get Windows updates.

I ran the network troubleshooting on my Windows 7 machine and it said that it was unable to connect to the DNS server. Strange, I thought. I’ve had no trouble accessing anything on my Linux machines. I did some research and found that the DNS servers on my Uverse gateway are hardwired and cannot be changed. Those particular servers are necessary for the Uverse TV package which I don’t have.

On my Windows 7 box, I manually set the DNS servers to OpenDNS ( and, rebooted and my Internet access was back to normal. Since I don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up a network behind the AT&T gateway, I’ll have to do this on all of my computers.

In the process I discovered that my Mint laptop had had the OpenDNS addresses configured in the /etc/resolv.conf during installation. I went ahead and added it to my main Ubuntu PC.

That’s another strike against the Uverse Internet package. There is no alternative to the the 2-Wire gateway they provide and you can’t change things like the DNS addresses. Time-Warner is starting to look better. At least I’m not tied to their modem/router and I can choose my own DNS servers.

Computer issues

I’ve been running into numerous computer issues at home lately. It started when my son fired up his laptop for the first time in over a year and couldn’t connect to my wireless network. It turns out that he was still on XP Service Pack 2 which didn’t support WPA2. (I had switched from WEP to WPA2 over a year ago when I purchased the X2000 router. I installed SP3 and got him connected. Then after running a gazillion MS updates, he had virtually no free disk space and was only running on 512MB of RAM. I found 2GB of memory for him and a a larger hard drive. I attempted to clone the drive but for whatever reason my cloning attempts failed. I reloaded Windows from scratch. It still ran like crap and I attributed the slowness to his outdated Celeron processor. I had a reasonably nice Dell laptop so I put a 250GB drive into it, loaded Windows and got it configured for him. It’ll be a Christmas present for him, definitely an improvement over what he has.

While working on my son’s laptop, the Windows on my dual-boot Gateway laptop went tango-uniform. I can’t boot into Windows at all but the Linux partition is still good. I really don’t want to reinstall Windows on it because I’d have to reinstall Linux as well. I recall that I had to slipstream drivers to install Windows. I probably still have the CD I made. I haven’t decided what to do with it. I definitely need to pull some data files from the Windows partition so I can install my genealogy program on my Windows PC. Other than that, I’ll probably set it aside for a while. I might just put Linux on it and donate it to a good cause.

Last weekend, one of the grandchildren told me that their computer was shutting down unexpectedly. I had recently upgraded my wife to a better computer so I wiped her old one and set it up for them. The first time they used it was yesterday evening and it crashed with the dreaded “NTLDR missing or corrupt” error. I tested the hard drive and it seems to be healthy. I’m tempted to install Mint on it.

I took a look at the PC that had allegedly been shutting down. I inspected the motherboard and found no questionable capacitors or anything else amiss. I tested the hard drive and the memory and found them both to be in good working order. It didn’t shut down during testing so I turned my attention to the operating system. I ran a virus scan with Avast and another with Malwarebytes and found incredible amounts of malware, mostly browser toolbars and search enhancers. I cleaned it up and it’s running much better. Not having a desk for it, I installed a Cisco wireless card and set it up as a “mobile” PC. I installed the PC in a small TV cart with wheels, added a monitor and a wireless keyboard and mouse.

I’ve been running Linux Mint (Cinnamon) on a Dell E5500 for nearly two months and I’m quite happy with it. I had found a great deal on a Logitech wireless mouse and used that with it for a while, before finally getting myself a Logitech wireless trackball. The trackball is a bit bigger than the mouse but I generally prefer trackballs anyway.

With the end of Microsoft support for Windows XP coming up in a few months, I am definitely looking to decrease my reliance on Windows and expand the use of Linux in my household. For those tasks that are currently bound to Windows applications, I’m looking for Linux alternatives.

To make my administrative life a little easier, I took my AD login batch file, modified it a bit and put it in the All Users Startup Menu so that the shares on the NAS are automatically mapped, to include the appropriate home folder.

Fun with Linux

This past weekend I installed Mint 15 on a Dell E5500 laptop. I had fiddle around a bit in Windows first because the utility I had downloaded to install the ISO to a flash drive didn’t work as expected. I went back to another utility I’ve used successfully and it worked just fine. The install went without a hitch as did the installation of several of my favorite applications. Connecting to my HP printers went well too.

I’ve been using it at work during my lunch break and I haven’t had any problems connecting to the public wireless there. It also makes the transition to my home wireless seamlessly. I’m liking it a lot.

I still have the Gateway laptop and I’ve had issues connecting to hotel wireless networks under Linux when I’ve been on the road. I guess I need to migrate my Windows genealogy software and data to my XP computer and find a good Linux-based genealogy software to use on the new laptop.

While I’m at it, I may was well install Apache on at least a couple Linux and Windows computers so I can work on my web pages should I get the urge. I probably need to take a look at my web sites and see what I can eliminate and what needs to be updated. That sounds like a project for a cold, winter weekend.

I tried installing the latest HPLIP on my main Linux computer and it kind of messed up my printer connections. I installed the GUI version through Synaptic but it wouldn’t stay running. Finally I went into System Settings, deleted the printer and reinstalled it. Surprisingly, it saw the All-in-One so I installed that as well.

Since I had different versions of Bluefish on the laptop and the PC, I decided to update it on the PC using apt-get and ended up with version 2.2.5 beta 1. I still have differing versions but I think I can live with it. If nothing else, I can tell which computer I last used to edit my HTML files.

I have a few other minor projects to get done before the weather turns too cool. I have a couple of home improvement/repair projects that involve getting up in the attic so that might be a good opportunity to run a cable from the switch to the bedroom for the Roku. Maybe I can run a raceway behind the TV to hide the cables. It’s either that or obtain another access point or a signal booster for that end of the house.

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