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Newbies: What to Look For

June 11, 2009 1 comment

As a Linux newbie sure you have a lot of choices out there but what should you look for in a distro? I’ve come up with a few tips to help the new guy decide what he’s going to try first.

Hardware
From full Debian DVD sets to lightweight Mini distros, Linux distributions come in about every size possible. So one of the first things you’ll need to decide is what you’ll be installing this disto on. If it’s an older computer or your hardware is outdated be sure to look at the large selection of lightweight distros like Damn Small Linux, Tiny Core, xPUD, Puppy and many others. Linux distros like this are known for getting the most out of older hardware so you should see some significant improvements on computers that were previous running older versions of Windows.

Desktop Environment
You may have noticed that many Linux distros offer releases that feature GNOME, KDE, Xfce, and many other desktop environments. These desktop environments are basically the interface of your Linux desktop. It is important to decide what environment will work best for you so you can be matched to the best distro. Once you’ve experienced KDE on OpenSUSE for example, that knowledge will be useful while using other distros that offer KDE. Most users find a desktop environment they like and stick to it regardless of distro.

Language
This one seems obvious but needs to be mentioned. Not so much for English speakers but for everyone else. A Linux user that speaks Spanish may have a much more gratifying experience on Mandriva because Spanish languages support has been included in Mandriva for a long time. Some distros have been optimized for specific languages like the recent version of Greenie Linux which focuses on Czech and Slovak speakers. If you’re more comfortable in another language check around to see if distros optimized in your language are available.

Support
I see Linux newbies selecting distributions that aren’t very popular based on one or two things they like about them. Keep in mind that you can make distros like Ubuntu and Fedora do just about anything. How? Support. Without a base of other users that you can talk to in the forum, chat room or at your local LUG, it’s pretty hard to figure things out when you’re stuck. With such a huge number people using distros like Ubuntu finding help will be much easier than if you pick the latest and greatest from distrowatch and try to figure it out on your own.

Many factors go into choosing a distribution, taking some time to think about your needs first may save you some time in the long run.

Categories: Desktop User Tags: , ,

New Linux Help Resource

At some time during your adventure as a Linux newbie you’re going to hit a bump in the road. Sooner or later you’re going to have a problem that you can’t fix. you might even become confused, frustrated and overwhelmed!
Need Help With Linux?
Before you hit this point, seek support, get help, and tap into what makes Linux great. If you’re a Linux user and you have a problem you’re not the first. Use this new Linux resources and you’re sure to find others that have a solution to your Linux related problems.

The BeginLinux community includes many resources for all types of Linux users. Linux videos, screenshots, and courses have been mixed into the community setting. Users can gain access to additional Linux training products through participation at the forum, course and quiz completions, and more. This makes getting access to Linux training products like PDFs, and training CDs as easy as submitting an article, opinion or review. This is all in addition to thousands of Linux desktop and server tutorials, screenshots, and Linux training videos available to everyone..

Categories: Desktop User Tags: , ,

Burning DVDs in Debian Lenny

June 5, 2009 3 comments

Burning DVDs in Debian
Every now and then every user needs to make a permanent copy of something. A system backup, important pictures or documents, backups for the car or whatever. You can still enjoy this burning love with Debian, you just need to install a couple of things first.
There are third party packages that take care of all the burning for you like ‘K3b’ or ‘xcdroast’, but my linux ‘tutor’ insisted I try it this way first.
There is a package called dvd+rw-tools which will install ‘growisofs’ to burn DVD images or create a data DVD, ‘dvd+rw-format’ to format a DVD+RW and ‘dvd+rw-mediainfo’ to give details about the disks.
To install:
#apt-get install dvd+rw-tools
To initialize the disk:
#dvd+rw-format /dev/scd1
To write a directory to DVD:
#growisofs -Z /dev/scd1 -R -J /home/music Change the directories to suit your needs
To burn an image to DVD:
#growisofs -Z /dev/scd1=image.iso
If you want to burn media DVDs then you will need a few other packages. Check your Synaptic package manager for libdvdcss2. This will enable your system to read encrypted media if you want to make a backup of one of them.
If you want to burn movies then you will need gstreamer and w32codecs. These allow you to play around with the source files a bit more. If those two files don’t appear in your repository then you can search for them using the keyword ‘codec’. Worked for me.
The software option we will be using is K9Copy. I like it because it’s simple, straightforward and just does the job. Not much configuration needed. As above, someone also suggested I try K3b for the burning as it is another ‘newbie friendly’ package for burning media. I tried it and liked it. Very easy!

burn

So, to burn a movie DVD, launch K9Copy and select the settings menu, then Configure. Select DVD and change the destination directory to whatever you need. Select MP4, the then Xvid option,2 pass. Set the audio to AC3 and your desired file size. The default for a standard DVD is 4.4Gb.
With the configuration done, now it’s time to choose. Do you really need Spanish subtitles or the little interviews or DVD extras? Now you can choose exactly what you want on your new disk. I would suggest ticking the ‘Keep original menus’ box however.
The idea here is to not copy all the stuff you don’t need This will leave more space for a better quality copy. You only have so much space and the more you dedicate to the movie and sound files, the better quality movie you will end up with.
Ensure the ‘ISO image’ output is selected and click on Copy. Then you can sit back and relax as the software takes care of everything else for you!
As usual, I’m not advocating piracy here, but you are allowed to make a single backup of original media you own. For you car pc lovers out there you wouldn’t want all your original DVDs in your glovebox would you?

We have Debian DVDs sets

Network Troubleshooting Using Ping

May 31, 2009 2 comments

If your physical network is set up correctly then the Debian install should pick up all the settings needed to get you straight on to the internet. Connecting you to a network may take a little more input, but is still quite straightforward.
Network protocols and hardware are pretty standard no matter what operating system you use. You still need the same hardware you would if you were still using Windows or Mac. If the machine you installed Debian on was already part of a network then there should be nothing you need to do. When I installed my version of Debian it found all the settings automatically and connected me to the internet without input from me.
As with any system, things can go wrong. You have to troubleshoot in Linux in the same way you would with any other system. Examine the symptoms, figure out the most likely causes and work through them. You have tools which can help in these situations, and one of the most important ones for network issues is Ping.

Ping stands for Packet Internet Groper.
It is usually the first port of call when troubleshooting network issues. Think of it as a virtual wave to the device you are trying to connect to. All it does is send a short ‘hello’ message to the destination asking if it exists or is alive. Then it feeds back the results to you. If it receives a reply then it will tell you how long it took. If it doesn’t receive as reply then you know there is something wrong with the connection.

The command is: ping –c 5 192.169.102.134
Ping is the command. –c 5 is to ping the destination 5 times. If you don’t add this then the ping will be continuous until you press Ctrl C. 192.169.102.134 is the destination address you want to reach.

You can ping to a destination hostname if you like, but it then brings DNS into the mix and that’s a whole other post!

That command would be: ping –c 5 http://www.google.com
In this example the ping succeeds and even tells you how long it took to get a response. The lower the number, the better the network.

$ JKavanagh>ping http://www.google.com

Pinging http://www.l.google.com [209.85.227.147] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 209.85.227.147: bytes=32 time=29ms TTL=242
Reply from 209.85.227.147: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=242
Reply from 209.85.227.147: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=242
Reply from 209.85.227.147: bytes=32 time=25ms TTL=242

Ping statistics for 209.85.227.147:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 25ms, Maximum = 29ms, Average = 26ms

You can see that the system queries the DNS server and gets the IP address of 1.google.com [209.85.227.147]. Then it sends a ping request and gets a reply.

Pinging a known working device will then tell you whether the problem is at the local end, i.e. the machine you are using or the destination or far end. If your ping returns from the known working machine then you know the problem is likely at the far end or somewhere in between depending on your network routing. If the ping doesn’t return then you should look a little closer to home!

Creating Secure Passwords You Can Pronounce

May 28, 2009 2 comments

Generating and using good passwords is a security problem for everyone. The program pwgen helps you with that problem of managing passwords.

Aspects of a Good Password
1. 8 characters or more
2. use numbers in the password
3. use letters in the password
4. use case in the password
5. avoid dictionary words

These five aspects are critical because software programs can employ “brute force” tactics to try to guess passwords on your network. Using the five aspects above will make it more difficult to crack your passwords. Security usually begins with most systems at the user level. One of the most important aspects of user security is the user password. A lot of security can go down the drain with poor passwords that can be easily cracked. Several important elements of a user password are length of the password, randomness and the forced creation of new passwords at regular intervals. Most users resist all of these elements.

Along comes pwgen to help with that problem. The basic advantage of pwgen is that it generates passwords people can pronounce, thus remember more easily. The default will include numbers but as you can see in the options, it will easily create passwords which are secure without numbers.

pwgen
Pwgen is an application you can install from synaptic Package Manager. It will help you create random passwords that people can pronounce. The idea is that good passwords are difficult to create in that either they are too easy and can be broken too easily or they are so difficult they are written down and taped to the bottom of a keyboard.

pwgen

Foh5Nhit shei2aiK Mae4kahD IeHai9ae auDo8oor aede0Ufu eayieH3o bei3EiSo

Uhei7Cea Seeyi8oo Yei0AeBe wo2Vei8i Aex0sohf Ua3XahQu EPo6eija Ooth6ohH

ahd3eiDe Ieb7eeBu Aer1ethu miT5Aiyu eoM9daen ShaiKah3 Taed9iex shaiCoh5

quiP5nae ooPie5ge Ue8reibu ohGoofu7 Ach6aime woh4dahX ooTh3Nin aeg7PuMa

eshuw3Ei Pi3eichu eeTun6ri eez3wa6A zuv8doDi ahV8eice iediaP1e Iugh5apa

Options
-0 Do not generate words with numerals

pwgen -0

vahChaib JaeghoPu iluoKeeW EiVoozee hahConei uveeDaMo huQuahth OoShofie

-B Do not use characters that can be confused

pwgen -B

nai9uJ4O jei3ieNg taeJie4A Doo4phoo Eiy9ain4 ee4Cei4X Ohphai4k too9IFog

-c Include as least one capital letter

pwgen -c

ud3zi1Oo OhLieb0I Xaigh6ri yu7OoT0A ahf4PaeW oid8Ohch iKied7Pa ye2Wu6ah

-C Print the generated passwords in columns

-N Generate this many passwords

pwgen -N5

Ho1faCh0 iuYeene4 ooYud6ie resuu9Ah Kae7aija

-n Include numerals

pwgen -n

Livoh1ph nahl3Toe aaph9iVi hooNaj3k Aed8shue mev6Ebup tho1As8a pohVu5eS

-s Generate completely secure passwords

pwgen -s

nG7d4pCE ZMu45HYh Ieg5B6hP Xkmr3bPE SxE14Mv5 pR8ccVfL TwRIt5GE HgIsNh5W

-v Generate passwords without vowels
pwgen -v

9bc4GFnC XBwQFR42 LSq49Z8s LSW6RGzZ 8jrHHbbq dLC2Q2hQ qwbrfX6x vDTzGqS3

Saving Changes for iptables

May 26, 2009 4 comments

Whenever you make a change to your firewall, on a Fedora/CentOS type system, you will want to save the changes.

The output can be redirected to a file.

# iptables-save > /root/firewall-rules
The following command line restores all rules from /root/firewall-rules assuming that the file /root/firewall-rules exists.

# iptables-restore < /root/firewall-rules

By default, iptables-restore deletes all existing rules before restoring the saved rules. If the saved rules are to be appended to existing rules, use the -n or –noflush option.

Save Your Firewall and Load on Restart

You will need to edit the /etc/sysconfig/iptables-config as root to help iptables save and reload your firewall correctly. Be sure the following settings are changed to “yes”.

# Unload modules on restart and stop
# Value: yes|no, default: yes
# This option has to be ‘yes’ to get to a sane state for a firewall
# restart or stop. Only set to ‘no’ if there are problems unloading netfilter
# modules.
IPTABLES_MODULES_UNLOAD=”yes”

# Save current firewall rules on stop.
# Value: yes|no, default: no
# Saves all firewall rules to /etc/sysconfig/iptables if firewall gets stopped
# (e.g. on system shutdown).
IPTABLES_SAVE_ON_STOP=”yes”

# Save current firewall rules on restart.
# Value: yes|no, default: no
# Saves all firewall rules to /etc/sysconfig/iptables if firewall gets
# restarted.
IPTABLES_SAVE_ON_RESTART=”yes”

iptables Configuration Files

CentOS and other Red Hat based distributions set iptables rules in /etc/sysconfig/iptables, which may be generated by redirecting the output of iptables-save as follows.

# iptables-save > /etc/sysconfig/iptables
The rules are automatically restored by the script /etc/init.d/iptables at startup. No modification to /etc/init.d/iptables is required.

Note that Red Hat based distributions place iptables and related executables in /sbin, not in /usr/sbin.

iptables is not a daemon but it does load rules into memory. This means that rules will not be persistent over a restart. However, if you do the save command it will save the currently loaded rules into a file called: /etc/sysconfig/iptables

service iptables save

Where to Find and Post Linux News

May 22, 2009 29 comments

Two things I do every morning no matter what are drink my morning coffee and read the latest Linux news. A day without either of them would be a disaster. Because getting Linux news is so important to me I’ve kept track of several Linux news sites and tested the value and focus of their articles. I’ve also participated in many of these sites and have noted significant traffic changes as we move deeper into the age of social media. As things change it may be time to re-evaluate where your reading and submitting your Linux news.

If you’re just a Linux user looking to brush up on today’s latest Linux news, you’re in luck. You have a ton of options and more every day. Sites like Lxer, LinuxToday, OSNews, Digg, FSdaily and Linux.com will all likely carry the big stories of the day as many of them share the same users. The question is more about how you want your news displayed. Some sites choose to run large ads, small ads, and even full page ads. Other sites offer full communities, article point systems, and an intricate friend networks.

1) LinuxToday has been around for awhile but pushes an aggressive ad campaign and doesn’t offer the community and discussions I’ve enjoyed on other news sites. Still, LinuxToday features top articles related to Linux and is a vet in the news game.

2) OSNews features a community approach to news and offers registered users a chance to comment on articles, make friends, “star” stories, and more. This site is a great resource for users looking for computing articles but my focus is a little narrower.

3) FSDaily is a community type open-source news site that features articles from around the net. This site includes popular this week, popular today and popular upcoming sections that have proven an effective way to display recent articles. I’m unsure of the voting system and how it effects the stories order. I’ve often wondered, “what’s that doing up there”.

4) Digg includes the top articles from Linux, open-source and everything else you’re curious about. You can also take advantage of photo and video diggs as well as the extremely active digg community with many assets including the recently integrated Facebook features. Digg would be my choice for finding news for users that enjoy the friends, the community and the comments. Digg is a little too political for me sometimes but has an unmatched selection of articles.

5) Lxer, has a great mix of it all. Lxer is simple and produces a consistent flow of news worthy Linux and open-source articles. This dependable news press also includes featured, daily story, and weekly round-up articles which I enjoy very much. The smaller community of Lxer is pleasant, helpful and knowledgeable.

6) LinuxFeeds.org is a WordPress site that has indexed hundreds of Linux feeds, although the site is still in its early stages I suspect many visitor hungry Linux sites will be submitting their RSS feeds there soon. If you’re after news, you can find almost all Linux feeds located here including Youtube feeds and podcasts focused on Linux.

7) After being acquired by the LinuxFoundation, Linux.com has been recently re-designed based on a heavily modified version of Joomla. The site includes state of the art features that allow users to interact, participate and even build up Linux guru status. It’s a little too early to asses the quality and dependability of Linux.com news articles, I think they’re on the right track integrating third party applications like Twitter with their community. More on Linux.com in June.

If you’re an article submitter or depend on Linux news sites for traffic you may be interested to know all of these sites will accept article submissions and potentially send some traffic your way. Traffic from these sources is dwindling as social media networks expand however you may be more likely to find a return visitor from a news site than from your Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace page. I’ve also found that bounce rates are higher and time on site is lower when visitors come from social media sites. Another advantage the news site still has is Google’s response when receiving links from high ranked news sites. So before you count out top news sites remember that few places can offer the targeted traffic and other benefits of good old fashion Linux news sites.

WINNER
If you’re after a site that has all the Linux news you want, friendly staff, and few advertisements, head over to Lxer.com. Lxer is my pick for viewing news because of its consistency and article quality. The site is simple and straight forward while offering all the necessary features for me to enjoy my daily dose of Linux news.

For submitting Linux news articles few sites are as dependable, fair and non-political as Lxer. Traffic and article impressions are often the first thing thought about when submitting articles however as traffic drops on all Linux news sites what would you prefer? A news site lined with more and more Microsoft ads or an honest up front place to submit your articles and meet some new friends?

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