Tag Archives: Linux

Reviving my home studio, this time the free software way

Long ago, before I ever knew a lick of BASH or even what an OS kernel was, my passion was not technology but music, music, and more music.  Roughly the first half of my adult life was devoted to the writing, playing, and recording of music, and by around 2002 I’d built for myself a tidy little home recording & mixing setup centered on Cakewalk Sonar, Jeskola Buzz, and Windows XP.  Alas, the years were not kind to my career or gear, and up until recently my music computer was busy being a game & education machine for the kids.

Thanks to a hard drive crash and the purchase of new machines for the kids, I got my old music machine back, albeit lacking a functioning operating system and software.  So, I decided now was a good time to rebuild it.  This time, though, I decided the time was right to kick XP and Cakewalk to the curb and go it Free Software style.


How to install Debian offline

When tinkering with old computers, there is little about an operating system quite as endearing as flexibility at install time.  The “Universal Operating System” is no slouch in this regard; the Debian installer will work quite happily from CD, DVD, USB drive,  PXE boot (my personal fav), and even a Windows executable.

But what if none of those is an option?  Suppose you’re stuck with a system with no optical media, no USB boot, no PXE boot, and no OS?  Can we get Debian on such a machine?

You bet we can!   (more…)

Creating a kiosk with Linux and X11: 2011 edition

Back around 2006 our public library was in need of a cheap way for patrons to browse its web-based INNOPAC catalog. Thin clients running Windows CE had been purchased for this purpose, but they turned out to be buggy and limited. I was tasked with finding a solution to the problem “on the cheap”, and being a fairly new Linux fanatic at the time, I figured I’d see what I could do using free software. This led to my first kiosk project.

Since then, I’ve refined my approach time and again, deploying kiosks throughout my organization just about anywhere a web-browser kiosk can be put to use. The original library system has been completely rebuilt with newer hardware and software, but is fundamentally the same system I set up five years ago.

I often see people asking about how to set up a kiosk system with Linux, and like me they usually start out going about it the wrong way; so I thought I’d write this tutorial based on my years of experience to help those getting started.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part V: the Remixes

In part III of this series, I told you that lightweight Linux distributions can be classified as either “fully lightweight” or “remixes”; and in part IV, we took a look at several “fully lightweight” distributions. Naturally, in this article, we’re going to talk about remixes.

Unlike the last article, however, I’m not just going to go through a bunch of remix distros and blather on with my half-formed impressions of them; not only would that would be unbearably dull for both you and for me, but selecting a three or four remix distros from the zillion-and-a-half out there in the world is an impossible choice. Instead, we’re going to understand what really distinguishes one remix from another with the aim of helping you select one that fits your needs; after which I’ll go through a few example distributions and talk about what makes them different.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part IV: Fully Lightweight Distros

By now, we have established a vocabulary with which we can discuss distributions and their strengths and weaknesses, and thus understand the best uses for them given our needs and resources. So in this article, I’ll talk about some actual “fully lightweight” distributions (for those who didn’t read the last article, “fully lightweight” refers to distros that are built from the ground-up to be small and fast. It doesn’t include lightweight remixes or spinoffs of other distros).


Another item of interest…

For those following the “Revive your old PC with Linux series”, there’s a nice little write-up at “make tech easier” called How to Build a Lightweight Linux for your Low-End Laptop.

It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but later in my series I plan to get into building a lightweight remix from the ground (well, base-system) up, so this is in a similar vein.

Possibly of interest…

For those following the “Revive your old PC with Linux” series, this post over at Ostatic might be of interest:  A Windows User’s Guide to Getting Started with Linux.

Not a lot of meat in the article itself, but it links to several good resources for those new to the field.

Awesome Window manager: my thoughts after the first month.

For years I’ve been a die-hard KDE fan; while I’ll admit to temporarily jumping ship during the tumultuous 4.0 through 4.2 release cycles, and routinely trying out other desktop environments just to see how they schoon, I’ve pretty much stuck with my pal Konqi since back around 3.4.

Screenshot of Awesome window manager

Awesome window manager. Not much to see, but that's kind of the point...

For my desktop, especially at work, KDE still runs the show.  But KDE doesn’t seem to enjoy running properly on my laptop, and frankly does a better job of getting in the way of my workflow than accelerating it.  After some time with XFCE, LXDE, Openbox, and even IceWM, I think I finally found what I’ve been looking for in a desktop environment: Awesome.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part III: Understanding Linux distributions

Now that your hardware is reasonably in order, and you understand the potential issues involved there, it’s time to look at the software side of things. You want to run some kind of Linux distribution on your system, but you don’t know which one to pick.

This is the point at which a lot of people would just lob a lot of funny-sounding distro names at you and expect you to check them all out and blindly try them all. Well, I’ll eventually get to lobbing those names out; but first, let’s to try to understand “lightweight Linux” — and Linux distributions in general — in a theoretical way. (more…)

Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part II: Hardware Compatibility and Prep

Welcome to part II of this series on “Reviving your old computer with Linux”.

In the last article, we classified your computer’s hardware broadly by age or processor type, but there is a lot more to Linux compatibility, performance, and suitability for different tasks than just age or processor speed. So this time, we’ll go over the major hardware components in a computer and what kind of problems you might encounter with them on Linux; as well as some general notes about preparing older hardware for an OS refit.


« Previous PageNext Page »