Author Topic: Need Help Customizing System  (Read 4460 times)

lm8

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Need Help Customizing System
« on: January 17, 2009, 10:29:51 am »
I really need some tips on how to easily customize a Linux system especially after you update it.  I have a Sony laptop, pentium III MMX, 64 MB, with about 6 GB hard drive.  I just installed Vector Linux 6.0 Light B1.  What's the easiest way to update a system if you only have sneaker net (no direct Internet capability on the system)?  Do you always have to reinstall from CD and wipe everything out or is there a way to just find out what files you need when the next distribution comes out and update those?  Seems like every time I install a Linux distribution from CD, I end up spending hours and hours trying to get the applications I want compiled and get my settings to where I'm comfortable.  Is there a faster way to do this?  Are there any shortcuts you can take?  I program mostly in a Windows environment and when I update Windows, my programs all still work and a lot of my settings can be moved over.  I'm finding it very difficult to adjust to Linux, since every time I get my system near set up and get the programs I like recompiled, some update comes out and I have to re-setup everything again.  Sometimes the latest upgrades don't work in my 64 MB and I end up having to go look for another Linux distribution.  This is the 3rd I've tried on my system.  I did save all my settings files from when I had fluxbox up, but after installing Vector Linux 6.0 Light, I don't see a copy of Fluxbox and am currently attempting to rebuild it. 

Any help on quickly setting up a system that's comfortable to work with would be very greatly appreciated.

Daniel

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2009, 11:31:53 am »
If you mean updating from say VL 6.0 B1 to 6.0 RC3 or something like that, then I believe you will have to install the new version from a CD and redo everything.
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lagagnon

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2009, 01:15:15 pm »
You are placing yourself in a very difficult position by maintaining only 64MB of RAM. Even though VL Light is relatively light you will always have problems attempting to run and OS plus modern applications with that little amount of RAM. For a start I suspect that would be about 60% of your problem right there.

As for settings the way to get around the problem is to ensure you have a seperate /home partition. Then when you reinstall Linux you choose not to format that partition and al your previous settings will be saved.

As to updating a system I never do it. Updating is a Windows/Ubuntu disease that I don't agree with. I only ever update a specific software package if I absolutely need the new functionality it provides, or if there is a very serious security issue. Most security issues are a storm in a teacup, IMHO. Others here will obviously disagree with me.
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GrannyGeek

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2009, 09:15:34 pm »
On a 6-gig hard drive I think you'd have trouble setting up a separate /home partition that's just the right size, not too small or too large.

Nevertheless, it is true that if you preserve your /home partition when you install a new version of VectorLinux, you'll have a lot less work to do. All your settings, customizations, and data are in /home.

But a separate partition is not the only way to save your settings. If you have a Linux-formatted external hard drive availale, you can do a straight copy of your present /home to the external drive and all your permissions and ownership will be preserved. After you install the new VectorLinux, you can copy back whatever you want and save yourself a lot of work. On a computer with just 64 megs of RAM, you may not have a USB2 port. If you can burn a CD, you can tar your home directory and copy that file to CD. Tarring will preserve ownership and permissions. If you have your computer networked, you could copy the tar file to another computer and untar it and restore what you want from your old /home to your new /home.

I don't like to upgrade Windows from one version to another. I nearly always do a clean installation. One time I did do an upgrade and I had mysterious problems and finally wiped the drive and installed "clean." No mysterious problems after that.

On one computer I have three Linux partitions. One contains the latest Gold release of VL Standard. The other two are for beta testing VL Standard in development. I have the latest RC on one of those and the previous testing release on the other. I can do a new installation and have all my programs installed in two hours by copying from the older installation what I want from /home and /opt and a few directories in /usr/share or /usr/local. On a fresh Windows installation it takes me about two weeks to get everything installed that I want. (Needless to say, I'm not installing all this time; I fit installing programs in as time allows between whatever else I'm doing.) It's definitely easier and much faster with Linux.
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caitlyn

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2009, 10:48:25 pm »
Lagagnon:  I've cleaned up the mess after your storm in a teacup.  Sorry, but having been a security professional for more years than I care to admit I really do advise people to do all the security patches.  The amount of work recovering from even one serious incident will make you a believer forever.  The amount of crap you have to deal with if your identity is stolen is amazing nowadays.  Granted, if you don't have internet connectivity this isn't much of an issue.

VL Light on a 6GB partition and just 64MB of RAM really isn't bad.  You need to use lightweight applications like JWM for your desktop, SIAG Office, VL-Hot instead of HAL, HV3 or Dillo for web browsing if you ever do connect the laptop to the internet, vwifi rather than wicd if you ever get an cheap PCMCIA wifi-card to put it on the internet, and so on...  I have an old Toshiba Libretto SS1010, 233MHz Pentium MMX CPU, 2.1GB HDD, and 64MB of RAM and VL 6.0 Light B1 runs reasonably well on it.

A separate /home partition does make life easier.  VL Light takes up less than 3GB even for a full install and there are definitely things you won't want to install on a system that low in RAM.  I'd partition like this:

/  (root partition) = 4GB
swap = 128MB (2x RAM)
/home = everything else

Be sure to preserve your hibernation partition when you repartition.  On a Thinkpad with hardware hibernation turned on that area gets overwritten whether it's in a separate partition or not.

How to get stuff to/from the laptop without Internet?  Yeah, sneakernet, probably with a USB stick.  Download your packages from the VL repository on another system and save them on the stick.  That's what I'd do.

HTH,
Cait
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lm8

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2009, 02:19:42 pm »
I'm kind of stuck at 64 MB until I can find some place I can get more memory from and I think that's probably going to take a long while at the rate things are going.

I'm trying to update the system to keep up with kernel updates and lastest hardware drivers/patches.  I have some external hardware I'm trying to get running with the system and it needs the latest.  Can you just update the kernel and device drivers without updating the whole system when a new revision comes out?  Any advice/how-tos/FAQs on doing so?

Backing up my home directory is no problem.  Doesn't seem to speed up installation time one bit.  Most of the applications I like to run aren't available for download in a precompiled package, which means hours and hours of compile time.  A lot of them are light apps that run well on 64 MB and may not be available in a particular distribution.  I wish there was a shortcut for reusing them.  In Windows, you build your application, you take it with you to the next version.  As long as you have the entire application with all the dlls and related files, it works fine.  You really don't need to go back to source unless you want to write your own enhancements for some reason.  With Linux, I end up having to continually rebuild from source.  I guess there's not a better way on the Linux side?

By the way, I read what I could in the forum and Vector Linux site about building packages from a SlackBuild script.  If I end up writing some for some of these applications, would there be some interest in sharing them with other Vector Linux users via the repository and who do I get in touch with if I do get anywhere on creating some scripts for various Open Source programs?

Thanks.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2009, 02:24:06 pm by lm8 »

caitlyn

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2009, 02:52:00 pm »
Yes, you can preserve software in Windows, like all those wonderful virii, spyware, trojans, worms and other applications of the sort Windows is so well known for.  Sorry, the comparisons to Windows really irk me.

re: upgrading.  Vector Linux releases once a year.  It does NOT support in place upgrades.  A release is typically supported for two years so that's how often you need to reload:  once every two years.  My advice is that you do reload when VL 6.0 Light has its final release and then stick with that for a year or two.  Upgrades are announced regularly and they can be installed in-place for specific packages.  The proceduere for grabbing all the latest updates to your system at the command line is:

Code: [Select]
slapt-get --update
slapt-get --upgrade

I suggest the command line simply because gslapt will be painfully to impossibly slow at 64MB of RAM.  slapt-get and gslapt both correctly handle package and driver upgrades.  For the kernel it's advisable to do it at the command line and install your new kernel side-by-side with the old one.  That way if the new one doesn't work on your system you can still reboot to the old.  The process for installing any package at the command line works equally well for the kernel.  The existing VL docs cover this.  Basically you download the kernel package and kernel modules and do:

installpkg <package name>

That's it.  It's not rocket science :)

Re: packages for things not in the repo:  First, we have a Package Requests section in the forum.  Post there and you may be surprised at just how quickly an app you want appears in the repo.  Second, if you do decide to build packages to VL specs and contribute them they will be gratefully accepted.  If you do that PM JohnB316 and ask him for a vectorcontrib account and access to the Packagers' Board (a closed section of this forum).

HTH,
Cait
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lm8

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2009, 06:28:35 am »
Sorry for irking you with the Windows comparisons, but just trying to get a handle on the binary compatibility issues and am using what I'm most familiar with as a reference. 

As to the package requests, didn't want to overwhelm the package request forum with some 50 or more requests for Open Source programs that currently aren't there.  Some of them, I've done patches just to get them running.  If they're okay with that sort of thing, I'll post requests.  If not, think I'd better just rebuild the stuff on my own.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe my main problem is that most average users who upgrade their systems don't install a ton of Open Source software that doesn't come with their systems.  I happen to like testing out all kinds of new Open Source programs and customizing programs I use a lot.  What better place to test out Open Source software than on an Open Source operating system or so I had been hoping.  Unfortunately, when basic libraries change from one distribution to the next, that means rebuilding all that source all over again. 

So, am I right in assuming average users don't usually install a lot of programs that don't come with their distribution?  If that isn't true, then any tips on what to do to update one's system and still keep all that software running properly (especially if it's not in the repository) would be appreciated.  Updating the look and feel of the windows manager or color of the screen (or other information one might find in one's home directory) was not the problem I was referring to with my original post.  I guess I should have been more clear, but I'm still trying to figure out just exactly why no one else seems to be having so much problem or taking so much time updating a Linux machine as I am when I update a distribution.  I must be doing something different from the average user.  Still attempting to clarify what that is or what I'm using it for that might be so different.  I am using it more for software development purposes and keeping my programming skills up-to-date rather than for just running particular applications that came pre-installed.  Maybe that's the difference.

Thanks to everyone who's offered advice on this.

bigpaws

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2009, 08:16:03 am »
I think I understand what it is your asking maybe I can shed some light on things.

Quote
I program mostly in a Windows environment and when I update Windows, my programs all still work and a lot of my settings can be moved over.

The tools in Windows do not usually make large changes. Which is why you can update in Windows.
The updating process in Windows is changing since some of the core areas in the OS are being
changed. I have many instances where older software designed for Windows did not even make the
transition to Win2000 and XP is about is far as most of it will go.

Quote
Do you always have to reinstall from CD and wipe everything out or is there a way to just find out what files you need when the next distribution comes out and update those?

The degree of difficulty and time consumed would probably prohibit that. Linux and OSS not only change the software the tools are also updated. That makes it hard to make it a once and done deal for a long period of time.

There are others that use that many packages. The request for 50 packages you are asking about may also be packages others will want as well. Make the request maybe add a line of a thank you.
You maybe surprised at how many you get.

On to your true question. There are distributions that you can upgrade from one version to another. I
still would not count on the software you are referring to working. The solution is to stick with a version longer. Most are supported for two years there are others that have even longer support cycles. It does not keep you on the latest and greatest, but you can save time with changes.

I hope that helped in your question.

Bigpaws

lm8

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2009, 08:35:35 am »
Thanks Bigpaws.  That definitely clarified some things.

caitlyn

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2009, 01:58:24 pm »
I agree with everything Bigpaws wrote here.  I also doubt anyone would object to or be upset by a large number of package requests.  I think you are in for a pleasant surprise.

I will point out that some larger distributions like Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE have truly huge repositories.  They also have much larger volunteer communities to build packages.  We simply will never be able to compete with their repositories unless we grow to their size.  Even still, everything I like isn't in the Ubuntu repositories.

Your comment about having to patch things:  look at some of our build scripts and you'll see that the volunteer packagers run into the same issues.  If the packager has enough skills he or she does the patch and builds the package.  If not, well... you know.  I've seen some very clever scripting done by VL packagers.  Just because it needs patching doesn't mean we can't build it.  :D
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rbistolfi

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2009, 03:07:36 pm »
Why not making a list of the packages you want? We could work on them together. So far the apps you suggested are interesting and I think they would make a nice addition to the repos.
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lm8

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2009, 05:01:50 am »
Why not making a list of the packages you want? We could work on them together.

Some help building some of this stuff would be great.  Thanks.  As I mentioned, that's the one thing I can't seem to get the hang of on Linux, updating all my favorite programs from source in a reasonable amount of time when the libraries and toolchains underneath change with a distribution update.  I'd be tempted to leave everything as is on the machine forever once everything's installed and built, but then you don't have the security patches and the latest access to newer device drivers.

I do have a list of programs (probably more than one list).  How do VL packagers currently coordinate what packages they're working on/have worked on to make sure they're not duplicating effort? 

I did get sbbuilder working yesterday and got a few test packages done for xwrits, picaxo and scite, but the SlackBuild scripts are going to need a bit more modifying by hand before I'm happy with them.

Thanks again.

caitlyn

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Re: Need Help Customizing System
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2009, 01:23:25 pm »
Coordination is done on the aforementioned Pacakgers' Board.  You really do need access to that if you're going to be contributing packages.
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