Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dream Linux 2.2 XGL Review

Installation for Dream Linux has to be the simplest installer I've ever seen. You boot from the live cd like many other distros. Although they don't have an install icon on the desktop, you just select "system" and "Dream Linux installer" from the main menu at the top. The complete install is done from ONE dialog. Enter root's password, the user name you want and their password, set up the partitions, and select options for the boot menu. There's also access to qparted and cfdisk if you need that functionality. Once you've got all your settings done there, you just click install and you're done until it asks you to reboot to use the installed version.

A very cool option of the live cd is that you can install or remove software and customize it to your liking, and then use the "mkdistro easy live remaster" to make your own custom live cd's. Although I didn't test this option, it looks like it would be a snap to do it.

I was very surprised to see how nice the desktop looked, knowing that it uses xfce. Typically distros that use this desktop look like a flash-back to the 90's or something. Their graphics are very professional and polished. They customized the whole desktop to more or less mimic the Mac. Personally, I preferred using the "default" window manager theme instead of the Dream-Milk-XFCE that was in use after installing.

Dream Linux includes an "Easy Install" program for a very limited number of programs. This basically makes it a one click deal to install Skype, Opera, Google Earth, Azureus, NVU, Picasa, Adobe Acrobat, Down Tube (download youtube videos), last fm, and the ATI or Nvidia Drivers. It seems to me like the easy install feature would be a lot more useful if they had a large repository of software instead of being so limited. Aslo, they don't show a progress bar as your software is downloading. You'll just have to guess how far it's gotten.

The Nvidia driver install didn't work on my system. I suspect it's because I have a newer Nvidia card, the 8600GT. Typically I have to download the driver directly from Nvidia and install it manually. Because of this, and a limited amount of time, I didn't get a chance to test the 3D features. The 3D features usually seem to be pretty standard across distros, so I also didn't feel the need to test them on this one.

By default, there is a menu editor in Dream Linux, which seemed like it was intuitive and easy to use.

Although I'm testing this on a desktop and don't have wireless, I noticed they have a wireless drivers install program. Clicking on the wireless driver installation prompts for an .inf file, indicating to me that it takes care of the ndis wrapper install along with the windows driver.

An interesting feature that they include is an "upgrade assistant". Evidently, this saves all your desktop and graphical settings so, after an upgrade, you can restore all the settings that you have customized. I don't know how useful this would be in practice, but it sounds cool.

For being a mulitimedia focused distro, it didn't seem to have many codecs pre-installed. It did play mp3 with no further config, but avi files and dvd's wouldn't play. And there was no easy install option for those codecs. I'm sure I could have installed them easy enough though, since it's a Debian based distro. On that note, I still saw quite a few debian logos that they need to remove and replace with their own, to be their own distro.

Being an xfce based desktop, there was no built in support to browse samba shares. I use a linkstation to store all my music and share it on the network. But I soon discovered the LinNeighborhood tool which browses networks. My linkstation didn't show up automatically, but once I put in the IP, I was able to find it without any problem. It also gave me the option to mount it to a local folder, which now made it possible for me to play my music. The LinNeighborhood looked completely out of place with it's 90's style graphics and fonts, but the funcionality was excellent.

Overall, Dream Linux seems like a very useable distro. It could use a little more polish in places, and some funcionality enhancements as well, but I like it. I'd say they have a bright future ahead of them. And, I wish other distros had the attention to detail and polish of graphics that this distro has.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Linux CPU frequency scaling

I recently built a new computer system with an AMD X2 64 processor. My first shot at installing an OS on it was with Ubuntu 7.04. After the initial install menu, it would just go to a black screen and not continue. So, I booted again and looked for clues in the help menu. It suggested I use noapic and nolapic. Once I put those options in, it installed without any further problems.

Once I got the OS installed, everything was working great. It's a very quick and responsive system. I know that my processor is capable of scaling back to 1 Ghz when it's not under any load. So, I added the cpu frequency scaling monitor to the panel. Right away, it told me that frequency scaling wasn't supported, and confirmed this by always showing it at 100% speed.
At first I figured that Ubuntu must not support frequency scaling. But, after booting with the same options and installing a couple other distros with the same results, I realized it was probably because of the boot options I was putting in.

At this point, all I had to do was boot only with the noapic option, and not nolapic. Frequency scaling, at least on an AMD X2 64 seems to rely on lapic. Lesson learned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Amazon's Windows only Video Service

Haz clic aquí para Español

I was recently browsing the web and saw that Amazon now offers a video download service. A lot of first episodes of TV shows were being offered for free. I thought that would be a great way to see them. After trying to download the video with no success, I looked around for the system requirements. And, here they are.......

Minimum System Requirements

OPERATING SYSTEM: The Amazon Unbox video player application is only compatible with 32-Bit version of Windows including Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition SP2, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2, or Windows Vista (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate). The Amazon Unbox video player is not compatible with Apple/Macintosh operating systems.

So, Windows users can get free TV episodes, but Linux and Mac users are completely screwed. Even though I would probably never buy the paid for episodes, I was enraged that I was being discriminated against only because I'm using a superior operating system.

I immediately fired off an email to Amazon telling them I was boycotting their site until they started supporting Linux users. Here is the email.

Your new TV download service requires a windows operating
system. I use Linux exclusively, and for that reason I refuse to buy
anything from your website until you start offering the video download
feature for Linux and Mac. Microsoft's operating system isn't the
only one, and it's by far the most virus and spyware infected OS
around. It's not fair to exclude other operating systems just because
that's what the majority of mindless people use. Please offer this
service to everyone and make everybody happy.
and Amazon's response.........
Greetings from the Amazon Unbox team.

I realize that you are frustrated by the fact that currently the
Windows based XP or Vista operating systems are required to run the
Amazon Unbox service on your computer, and that because of this Amazon
Unbox is not supported on the Mac OS or Linux.

I will forward your comments and feedback to the appropriate
department for future consideration. While I am not aware of any
specific development plans, I can certainly pass your feedback to the
appropriate team.

Although it may not be entirely positive, we do appreciate the
feedback we receive about our service or offerings. Comments like
yours are taken into consideration and go toward helping Amazon Unbox
provide a more satisfying experience for all our customers. We
appreciate that you took the time to write to us.

We value our customers who experience our site and services through
the Macintosh platform as well as Linux. We hope to be able to better
serve you in the future.

Thank you for contacting Amazon Unbox with your concerns.

So, if you as a Linux user feel that Amazon should support Linux and Mac, join me in my Amazon boycott by sending them an email refusing to buy from their website until they support us with their video service.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The linux spyware challenge

Haz clic aquí para Español

I've been using linux for quite some time now, and I've never had any problem with spyware or virus infections. At the other end of the spectrum we have Windows. On an almost daily basis working in the IT industry, I see windows machines that are infected with spyware and viruses to the point of not being able to access internet, and not being able to clean the infection off the system with the exception of creating a two day project to do nothing but clean that one system. (who has time for that)

I told a co-worker who is a noob to linux that I would pay him $100 if he could, within the period of one week, infect a linux system with viruses and spyware to the point where it would have performance issues. The only condition was that he has to run as a regular user, not root. Anybody who's used linux for any amount of time knows that this is standard linux procedure and to do otherwise would be idiotic (aka windows).

He is absolutely convinced that he can infect the system. Right off, he told me he would just visit all the warez and porn sites that are typically infested with viruses. The only problem with this thinking is that those are all windows virsuses. Sure, you might come out of there with a great collection of windows viruses, but there's no way in hell you would get them to run in linux (maybe in WINE, but that doesn't really count because it is just imitating an inferior operating system).

I actually put this to the test tonight. The first site that comes to my mind is, which is absolutely infested with trojans. Just as I suspected, absolutely nothing happened. I then continued on to many other warez and porn sites and encountered the exact same things. Lots of windows virsuses, none of which could even think about embedding themselves in my file system. After this little experiment of mine, I'm even more confident about my challenge to my co-worker. My system is completely virus free, and I have absolutely no spyware.

Are any Windows users willing to try the same experiment on their almighty OS?