Monday, December 7, 2009

The Easiest Way to try Linux

I have commented on a variety of different ways to get started with a free operating system and some ways to even have a free computer.

That being said, this has to be the easiest way to get started using Linux from Window's XP.

Go to my thread here and download this exe file (Window's installation program). The download works great with either Internet Explorer or Firefox 3.5, but it may ask for a password if you use a different browser. My thread has suggestions on ways around that or just try one of those two browsers.

If you run it you will have Puppy Linux 4.3.1 installed on your computer. Just like that.

It doesn't change anything about your Window's XP installation (that is the version of Window's it has been tested on) and, if you don't want it for whatever reason, just go to Window's Add/remove software and remove it.

What it does: this program adds a folder in Windows for Puppy Linux, what's called a "frugal install." This puts Puppy's needed files in that folder (around 100MB). The program also modifies Window's bootloader file (it adds one line to the file). This allows that the next time your reboot you will then have the option to run either Window's or Puppy.

You pick. Boot up, run the operating system you want. If you run Puppy it will just do all you want it to, then you can either save the settings or don't save (saving it will create a save file that Puppy will then use the next time you run it).

Doesn't get much easier than that.

(the picture at the top of this post is one of my current Puppy Linux desktops. Takes a couple of seconds and you can modify your desktop however you want)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Easiest Way to Try Linux on a Flash Drive

Many people I know are wanting to give Linux a try, more than at any other time I've known.  Window's users are not wanting to pay all that extra money for a new computer and are interested in trying something different.  With Linux being a free alternative, there really is nothing to lose in at least trying it out.

As I've explained before, Puppy Linux is small, boots up and runs from ram, so nothing needs to be installed to try it out.  You just boot it up, play with it, if you don't like it, take out the disk or flash drive (usb drive) for your next boot and boot back to Windows.  Windows won't even know that's what you did.

Of course, if you like it, including the fact that Window's viruses and malware and such don't work on Linux so none of that cleaning software is needed, then you can begin switching to Linux.

So, if you want to give it a shot, here's the easiest way I know.  

1. First, set your bios to boot a usb device before booting the hard drive.  This link explains it the best way I know: here.  Very easy to do.  You are simply telling the computer to check the other devices, in this case a flash drive, and see if there is something to boot from.  If not, it will boot/start like normal.

2. Next, buy a small flash drive/usb thumb drive.  Really, any size you want.  The more basic and cheap the better.  This program is designed to be used with a regular flash drive that has a fat filesystem on it (most do).  It needs to have at least a couple hundered megabytes (MB) on it (most are at least 512MB and up.  It is pretty standard to find one with a couple of gigabytes space on it for like $5.  1000MB = 1gigabyte (gig)).

3. Then, go to the top of my thread here and download the Window's exe file (standard exe file like any other Window's install).  Better download location from here except this download site asks for a password if you aren't using Internet Explorer or Firefox 3.5 +.

4. Then plug in the usb drive.

5. Run the exe file.  It will go through a series of questions asking it where you want to put the files.  Make sure you pick the flash drive.  It will put the files there.

6. Reboot your computer so that it boots to the flash drive.  It should boot up Linux just fine.

If you have any issues check this thread as the program is continually being improved.  Enjoy Puppy Linux!

Here is an example of what the Puppy Linux desktop looks like:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What do you do if your computer crashes?!

What do you do if your computer crashes?! Here is the easiest process.

You could diagnose the problem, but you have probably already done that to some extent. If you are down to either replacing the hard drive and/or reloading the operating system then here are some things try before opening up your computer case.

There is something called a livecd that you need to get your hands on. It does not need a hard drive to run on, just a cd player on your pc. With a livecd you can do essentially anything, including check your drive for issues, get online and basically any and all computer work. Most livecd’s are free, simply costing the price of a cd. I’ve used computers for years that only use a livecd and have nothing installed.

How do you get your hands on a livecd? Ask a friend of yours to burn one to a cd. They would be burning an iso image file to a cd, so it isn’t exactly the same as just putting data on a cd, but it is very similar. First, download the iso image of your choice (whatever you are downloading would have the ending .iso). Then just look for iso/image burning option on your cd burning software. For example, using Nero (one of the more common cd burning software, although not free) it would be under the option of “Copy ISO image to cd.”

Or you can order one. Most of these types of cd’s are very, very inexpensive, usually only a few dollars, essentially the cost of just the cd itself plus shipping.

What type of livecd should you get? This one runs and operates basically the same as Windows. Want to try a different option, try this one. It uses the Fluxbox window manager so everything is via the right-click. It happens to be one I put together from various sources. Hate both of those? There are hundreds of other options out there.

Once you have your livecd, you have to make certain your computer will boot (that means “start up” or “run from”) a cd. The easiest way to try this is to start your computer and put the disk in as quick as you can. If it didn’t work, then reboot the computer leaving the disk in and see if it was ‘cause you didn’t get the disk in fast enough. If it still wouldn’t boot then you have to set your BIOS to boot using the cd player.

This is very easy to do. As your computer is starting it usually says something like “Hit F2 to enter Setup.” So, hit F2 and you are now in the BIOS.

Look for something called boot options or something similar. You want the boot order to be the cd player first, then the hard drive. Save it, then close the BIOS leaving the cd in the cd player.

Once the livecd is up and running it will give you certain options. READ THEM. Pick which options you want or don’t. Usually the default settings are ok, but everyone should be in the habit of reading what is posted; that’s why it’s posted. ;-)

Now that you are running your computer, do what you will! Surf, fix your computer, surf to figure out how to fix your computer, whatever. You have a whole new world of options with your livecd. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Learn and Save on Computer Costs

In today's struggling economy there are certain things we are going to need to change.

Need a new computer but can't afford it? Then there are some easy answers, but you may need to make some changes.

The good Lord has blessed me over the years with an amazing life. Among other things, he has blessed me with the need to use learning over spending. Why does that matter?

In my experience (experiences may vary) Windows users (which means typical computer users) would rather spend money than learn. That's fine, if you have the money to spend. Also, Windows users typically don't want a lot of choices; they seem to prefer the choices made for them. Yes, there are times that fewer choices are preferred but this also is something that we may need to get over in this economy.

So, if you are prepared to learn rather than spend and can handle having lot's of choices to do what you want, then this is what you should do to get a new computer.

Check craig'slist, the Goodwill Computer store, or a rich friend that is getting rid of their computer and find a computer. Covered with Window's viruses? Doesn't matter. Need a new hard drive? Get one from one of the same sources and replace it.

With a cheap computer ready to go, we now need to put an operating system on it. Typically, Windows users don't know what an operating system is 'cause they only know Windows. Well, Windows is an operating system, but it is one that costs money ($90-$200) and one with fewer choices (usually).

Now take that old computer and put Linux on it.

Check the picture for an example. This is one I put together for a friend. It looks like Windows, surfs the internet, reads/writes Excel/Word/Powerpoint, uses custom fonts if needed, reads ipods/mp3 players, plays movies or any video, you name it. And it is free.

Did I have to learn things? Sure. Is that bad?

Oh, did I mention that it was free?

I went to a few Linux forums. Actually, there is a ton of information out there and people (like myself) that enjoy posting on the forum and helping people out.

The version of Linux in the picture is Puppy Linux (version 4.1.2). After using many Linux'es, this is the one that I prefer, but it isn't for everyone. So pick one of the HUNDREDS that are out there; pick one that does all media and focuses on that, if you want. Pick one that focuses on Windows users that want to switch. Whatever. Google all your questions and progressively narrow your search till you have what you want.

Learn and grow and save money.

With Linux, there hasn't been a computer project yet that I haven't been able to do. Yes, I've had to learn more and take longer with certain things, but I'd have to do that with Windows too, wouldn't I?

I've converted VHS and audio tapes to digital. I've downloaded youtube videos in bulk, converted them how I wanted and watched 'em. I've used Firefox, played Windows and Linux video games, read PowerPoint, cleaned hard drives, formatted hard drives, whatever. This is not to brag about my geekiness (I swear!) but rather to demonstrate that free software can do whatever you want on a computer with few exceptions.

Plusses of Linux: it's free. Window's viruses don't work on it and, since 99% of the viruses out there are Window's viruses, I've never had to have a virus scanner running or had any virus issues, ever. Stuff doesn't install the same in Linux so malware and spyware really doesn't work the same, so I don't use any scanners of any kind in Linux. Oh, it's free also.

Most computers purchased new these days have Windows installed on them. Yes, you are paying for the operating system. No, you don't have to. Progressively a few companies are selling systems without operating systems or with Linux installed. These are amazingly cheaper, of course.

So, why pay for a new system when you can do everything you want for free? Yes, you might have to learn. So what? You've learned a lot in life so far, this shouldn't be any big deal for you. Just give it a shot and give it a try. If you screw it up royally, so what? You've just been introduced to the world of learning! Note your mistakes, fix them, then move on. Repeat till you get it right. It's a free operating system, so no harm if you have to start over.

If you follow this procedure you can save yourself hundreds of dollars and may actually learn things that are marketable in this need-to-adapt-to-change economy.

Open your mind and save some money. Who knows? If you get good enough at it you can help others or sell newly referbished computers on your own. With a mind open to learning and a willingness to save money its amazing what you can achieve.

Friday, October 31, 2008

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Why would people continually choose an expensive, virus ridden Windows when there is a perfectly good, although different, operating system out there? One that is free and essentially free of viruses (well, at least compared to Windows)?

(disclaimer: Novell Linux is one of the literally hundreds of versions of Linux out there. I believe that Novell is a commercial brand, therefore it costs, but I believe it is inexpensive. If a free operating system is more what you are after, I'm a big Puppy Linux fan as you can see by my other posts. But, search around; there is for sure a free version of Linux for you.)

Neal Stephenson explains it best in his essay/book titled "In the Beginning was the Command Line." I have loved many of Stephenson's books over the years. He is an unique writer with excellent skills and story lines that were unheard of, at least until he wrote them down. "In the Beginning..." is one of his earlier works, but the info in there is as true today as ever. Linux users should read it to understand the origins and reasons behind Linux. Windows users should read it to see why they do what they do. All computer users should read it to broaden their horizons.

In this excerpt, Stephenson gives a comparison between Linux and some of the other operating systems by using the car dealership analogy:

With one exception, that is: Linux, which is right next door, and which is
not a business at all. It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic
domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live
there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet
tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age
materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the
other. But they are better than Army tanks. They've been modified in such a
way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to
use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These
tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast
number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the
ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for

Customers come to this crossroads in throngs, day and night. Ninety percent

of them go straight to the biggest dealership and buy station wagons or
off-road vehicles. They do not even look at the other dealerships.

Of the remaining ten percent, most go and buy a sleek Euro-sedan, pausing

only to turn up their noses at the philistines going to buy the station
wagons and ORVs. If they even notice the people on the opposite side of the
road, selling the cheaper, technically superior vehicles, these customers
deride them cranks and half-wits.

The Batmobile outlet sells a few vehicles to the occasional car nut who

wants a second vehicle to go with his station wagon, but seems to accept,
at least for now, that it's a fringe player.

The group giving away the free tanks only stays alive because it is staffed

by volunteers, who are lined up at the edge of the street with bullhorns,
trying to draw customers' attention to this incredible situation. A typical
conversation goes something like this:

Hacker with bullhorn: "Save your money! Accept one of our free tanks! It is

invulnerable, and can drive across rocks and swamps at ninety miles an hour
while getting a hundred miles to the gallon!"

Prospective station wagon buyer: "I know what you say is don't know how to maintain a tank!"

Bullhorn: "You don't know how to maintain a station wagon either!"

Buyer: "But this dealership has mechanics on staff. If something goes wrong

with my station wagon, I can take a day off work, bring it here, and pay
them to work on it while I sit in the waiting room for hours, listening to
elevator music."

Bullhorn: "But if you accept one of our free tanks we will send volunteers

to your house to fix it for free while you sleep!"

Buyer: "Stay away from my house, you freak!"

Bullhorn: "But..."

Buyer: "Can't you see that everyone is buying station wagons?"

Go out and buy a copy of Stephenson's book and expand your views. Then pick up some of his other books and really stretch the limits of your perspectives; enjoy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Install a New Operating System without Installing It

Ok, the title is a little misleading but it will make sense once you read the post.

And I'm aware that I've talked about Puppy Linux before, but I just can't get over how cool this Linux version is.

Here's the latest: I've installed Puppy Linux to a hard drive without really installing it. Puppy Linux allows for what they call a "frugal" install. The frugal install runs essentially like a linux livecd, in that it is not really installed.

But let me give some background.

A computer essentially works like this: the cpu (central processing unit) requires information. First, it pulls it from RAM (memory in the form of memory sticks) that is quicky, flash, easily accessible memory. If the info is not in RAM, the cpu accesses the hard drive for info. The hard drive is much slower since it is a spinning disk with data on it.

Keeping that in mind, here's how Puppy works: when you put in a livecd and run it, Puppy loads the entire operating system to RAM; it's so small that it can do that. Then the entire operating system runs from RAM, is able to read the hard drive, sees all the hardware, whatever.

A frugal install is essentially putting all of the needed stuff from a livecd onto the hard drive into a saved file. Then, when my computer boots, I tell it, boot that file! It loads Puppy, Puppy puts itself into RAM and it is off and running!

Why does this matter? Well, that's a great question, 'cause for all outward appearances, it looks like Puppy is running just like any other installed operating system. The reasons it matters are these: it is much faster and it is very easy to update/change. Oh, and a frugal install doesn't change/remove any of the data that is already on the hard drive

Oh, and Puppy makes it very easy to do a frugal install; just check the Puppy forum for details on all I've explained.

For ease of installation, great community support and a generally cool operating system, Puppy is definitely one to check out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Linux up that Laptop!

I got the idea the other day that it would be great to sit in my recliner and check my email via my laptop. The only problem was, well, I didn't really have a laptop. Not one that was worth anything.

Hmmm; or did I?

I did have an old IBM Thinkpad 600 with a Pentium II processor. It had an old version of Windows on there, but I wanted to spruce it up a bit and see if I could get it working with wireless.

I went through a great deal of trial and error, using a variety of minimalist versions of Linux, but I was really stonewalled. I couldn't get any of the newer BSD's or any of the Linux's to boot.

Thankfully I found a site that had a link for updating/flashing the bios. It turned out that was the key. You could, of course, download the floppy-bios-update creating file from the manufacturer's website, transfer it to a bootable cd (since I didn't have a floppy drive) but thankfully this guy on this site had done it for me already. After downloading it, all I had to do was put the newly-burned bootable .iso disk in, boot up the laptop and update my bios. Now all the versions that I had been trying before were booting at least.

But many of them still had issues. FreeBSD is probably my top pick, but it had too much on the newer versions for this laptop to handle. Coulnd't get NetBSD to boot. PCFluxboxOS is one of my top Linux picks, but it was too much on the LiveCD for this system's memory to handle. Damn Small Linux (excuse my French) installed great, but there was some stuff that I felt lacking on the desktop, not to mention I was having to battle with ndiswrapper too much trying to get wireless to work.

Well, I had wanted to wait until I had wireless working for sure, but there have been such good reports with the final version I selected that I just couldn't wait. Then when I got it set up after it installed so easy, I just had to post right away.

The winner: Puppy Linux. I had used this version of Linux in the past, but it just looked strange to me in the past. Not any more! Very modern look, easy interface, just a little Linux tweaking but not that much. A great deal of Forum support. Very impressive.

I'll post back to confirm wireless, but here are the pictures of the desktop now. So with a little effort, no purchase for the Linux (the price of a cd; Linux is usually free) I have a modern (newest version of Puppy Linux is from 2007) laptop up and going. Great stuff!

Update: ok, first of all, I had already installed Firefox and the driver for my wireless PCI Linksys card (rt8180 or something). These two and a few other programs I installed by getting them as pre-installable software from the Puppy website; very easy. I put them on the laptop with a flash drive (usb, Puppy finds it right away) and then double clicked them to install them. Then, when I got home to the recliner and my wireless, I right clicked the screen to bring up the menu. I clicked on Network--> Xautoconnect to Wireless Network. Instantly it began running a program that right away found my wireless signal and I was up and running. Puppy rocks!

Update (yet again!): I discovered in the various Puppy Linux options that you can very easily remaster (create your own) Puppy linux. What the heck? So I ran the program followed the instructions and now have a version that has the wallpapers I want and the documents I want already running from the livecd/installation cd. So, if I want to install this to another computer that I put together, I can now start with my own files already on the disk ready to install. Oh, also, I was playing with this newly created installation cd of mine on my main computer, the one that is running on a wireless cantenna and an internal pci card from within the enclosed garage. Would it find my wireless? I just right clicked to bring up the menu, ran the "Xautoconnect to wireless network." Sure enough, out of the box!, Puppy linux found my wireless device. So then I ran "Pwireless wireless scanner." It found my Network, just like that. That never happens with Linux, or Windows for that matter! Awesome!