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Yay! Puppy Linux!

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2/27/2011 - Yay! Puppy Linux! (Journal)


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Yay! Puppy Linux!
Sunday, February 27th, 2011
22:11:09 GMT


As I explained in a lengthy addition to a previous post, my computer fan woes are probably not as serious as I thought. The rattly noises (and scary low noise several days ago) might only be a hard drive cooling fan that I installed a long time ago, which I mistakenly(?) thought was broken and doing nothing, and had tried but failed to remove.

I guess if I could get that hard drive cooling fan's power unplugged, I could know for sure whether or not that's the source of the rattling fan noises at start-up - but, I really, really hate doing anything to stuff inside my computer, so, I don't think I'm going to try that.

I played with Puppy Linux on DVD+RWs pretty much all day yesterday and the day before. I first tried Puppy Crypt 4.3, then Puppy Studio 3.3, and Lucid Puppy 5.2.

Today, I'm going to try BrunoPup 2.0 and NYP (Newyearspup02rc7), special Eclipse edition for Java developers.

Playing with Puppy Linux has been quite fun. In some ways, it has been a bit like I imagine going on a camping trip would be - having to do without the familiar comforts of home, but a fun adventure, and a test of your resourcefulness.

Not a very severe test, though. Thanks to the web, it's more like a camping trip where you could call up Survivorman on a cell phone for free advice about any little thing at all, 24/7.

Like a camping trip, I was expecting to have to rough it in the wilderness and do without a ton of things. But instead, what happened was like finding my little tent can magically set itself up mostly automatically, and is pre-equipped with things that make it even more luxurious than home in some ways. And somehow, this tent has room service, and a menu full of additional goodies that can be delivered and installed effortlessly by a magical butler who can teleport. (Just a silly analogy for the convenient software package manager. :-) )

And a lot more luxuries can fit in than I ever would have thought could fit in a little tent. Though, sometimes the tent has to magically rearrange its contents and set itself up again to make the stuff I add to it fit better. (Or in other words, I have to save my session and restart my computer when I run out of RAM, to replenish the RAM. RAM space returns as if by magic after restart, even if I added a bunch of new programs).

So, it hasn't been nearly as cramped and uncomfortable as I thought it would be.

It's still a tent, though (at least the way I have it set up) - not a luxury hotel room, and not quite like home. It definitely is missing some of the comforts of home (at least for now). But perhaps with enough rearranging, it will be just as good as home or even better.

In some ways, it already is better. It's very fast. I'm actually mostly pretty happy with Windows XP's speed overall, but, with Windows XP, I was always annoyed with having to wait several seconds for the programs menu and submenus to load - and that's a problem Puppy lacks.

I also love how Puppy runs in RAM and doesn't even require a hard drive. In Windows XP, it always drove me crazy that even when I wasn't doing anything on my computer, frequently something or other was being done to the hard drive.

I also feel like, in Puppy Linux, I can get away with being less paranoid about viruses, etc. while I'm browsing the web. I will probably still install NoScript in Firefox, anyway, though, just because blocking scripts makes some pages load faster.

By the way, I am definitely not a Windows XP hater. It's probably the most stable OS of any I've ever used. I'm actually pretty fond of it. If only it were open source and free.

I've liked all of the Puppy Linuxes I've tried so far. However, I've been having a hard time figuring out how to install things like Java and XAMPP, so, I decided to go in search of some Puppy Linuxes which have those installed already (as well as some other things I want).

I only found one Puppy so far which has XAMPP pre-installed in it - NYP (Newyearspup02rc7), special Eclipse edition for Java developers. Both that and BrunoPup 2.0 have Java, which I want so I can use the concept-mapping software VUE and the mind-mapping software Freeplane in Puppy.

I want XAMPP so I can run Astroblahhh Desktop, the Astrosorting Music Organization Database (AMODB), and anything else I might write (or want to use) that can run in XAMPP.

Another appealing thing about BrunoPup 2.0 and Newyearspup02rc7 is that they both have Wine, which, astonishingly, can run much Windows software surprisingly well. (Wine is also pre-installed in Puppy Studio 3.3 and was easy to install in Lucid Puppy 5.2. It probably would be easy to install in Puppy Crypt 4.3, but I didn't try to).

It was thrilling to find that I could use my favorite plain text editor, NoteTab Light, in Linux. Unfortunately, though, there's a horrible flicker that happens every few seconds as I type, so, I'm going to try some native Linux text editors.

I'm most interested in trying the renowned Emacs, despite the fact that every time I ever tried it in the past, I found it very confusing. But, given Emacs' reputation for being very powerful and scriptable, perhaps that will make Emacs an adequate substitute for NoteTab with its clip programming - if I can figure Emacs out.

Notepad++, my favorite code editor, worked OK (though not perfectly) and was flicker-free, so, I've been using that as my main text editor in Linux. I was surprised there wasn't a native Linux version of Notepad++. The only bad problem I had with it was when the window got frozen when an alert about a document being modified by some other program came up. I had to forcibly close the program, and once lost a small amount of unsaved data as a result.

I also was astonished to find, while I was running Puppy Studio 3.3, that Wine was capable of running an AutoHotkey (AHK) script .exe I had.

Of course, it was only partly functional, but I was amazed it worked as well as it did. Puppy Studio 3.3 actually displayed that script's icon in the taskbar at the top of the screen, the script's taskbar menu displayed properly, and some of the menu items worked. Double-clicking the taskbar icon to make a certain scripted behavior happen also worked properly. The AHK script wasn't capable of constantly monitoring the clipboard for updates as it could in Windows, but, it was capable of creating a text file and adding data to it.

So, wow! It's possible to make AHK programs in Windows that are actually useful in Linux! They would definitely be missing a lot of the capabilities of AHK in Windows - but, still, how cool. :-)

While running all three of the Puppies I tried so far (Puppy Crypt 4.3, Puppy Studio 3.3, and Lucid Puppy 5.2), there were some glitches. I usually had to run the Alsa Sound Wizard twice to make sound work. In Puppy Crypt 4.3, the sound was crackly (maybe even after I did the sound wizard; can't remember).

With two different Puppies, I initially had the problem of everything on screen being stretched too wide, and some stuff on the right side was partly off-screen.

I was able to fix that by going through the Xorg Wizard (the thing you use to set your screen resolution, graphics driver, etc.) again. You can get there by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Backspace (which will immediately close the Windows-like desktop, and any programs you were running, and put you at a command prompt) and typing "xorgwizard". Choosing "vesa" on the first screen fixed my problem (or going to "Choose" and then picking "nvidia" after I downloaded an nVidia graphics card driver). After going through the Xorg Wizard, type "xwin" at the command prompt to get your Windows-like desktop back.

With all three Puppies I tried so far - sometimes, when first starting Puppy or after going through the Xorg Wizard (to set your screen resolution, graphics driver, etc.), the mouse cursor disappeared, which made it very hard to do anything. Going through the Xorg Wizard again (as described above) helped with that problem as well. When I selected "Probe" in the Xorg Wizard, things tended not to go well, if I recall correctly.

When I tried to install XAMPP in Lucid Puppy 5.2, Puppy crashed so badly the screen suddenly simply went black. I guess it ran out of memory or something.

When I tried to install Java in Lucid Puppy 5.2 using the file at and either the BootManager or SFS-Load (can't remember which), Lucid Puppy 5.2 ran out of RAM at start-up and stopped booting. I guess I'll just have to press F2 when I first boot up, and skip the last saved session, to fix that. I'll probably have to figure out how to delete that last session.

(Edit, 2/28/2011, 5:28 PM: Fixed it! F2 when the Puppy Linux logo screen appeared, and then typing "puppy pfix=1", made it skip the last saved session. I didn't have to delete the session - the session folder I skipped was automatically was marked bad by Puppy. All I had to do was save a new session, and the bad session folder was skipped on all subsequent restarts).

If I recall correctly, it sometimes takes a while for the Puppy Package Manager's window to refresh after installing packages. In general, it seems common for alert pop-ups to be able to prevent the windows of programs they belong with from refreshing or being useable. If a window seems stuck, it's good to look around for some alert pop-ups that need you to click on them.

With some effort, I figured out how to install TrueCrypt in Lucid Puppy 5.2. (If I recall correctly, the following worked in Puppy Studio 3.3 too). TrueCrypt wasn't available in the Puppy Package Manager, but I found a downloadable Puppy package at the following page:

After I downloaded the .pet file, all I had to do was click on it, and then click OK to install it. To open TrueCrypt, I had to go to the Utilities menu, then the General Utilities submenu.

There was only one other thing I had to do to make it work. When I first tried opening one of my encrypted file containers, I got the error "No such file or directory: dmsetup". After searching the web, I discovered that it's necessary to go to the Settings menu, select Preferences, go to the System Integration tab, and put a check in the checkbox labeled "Do not use kernel cryptographic services".

I was a bit dubious about that, because when I did that, an alert came up that said "Disabling the use of kernel cryptographic services can degrade performance. Are you sure?" However, no one seemed concerned by that in this forum thread: Truecrypt 6.3a and Truecrypt 4.3a So, I assume that's safe to do.

I should probably put useful tips like the above in some nice, organized web pages instead of burying them in the journal section of my blog, but, I'm not in the mood to make a really polished page or article yet. I feel comfortable putting drafty, hastily-written stuff in my journal, so, this seems like a decent place for the above for now.

It's probably better to release stuff now in an imperfect form rather than months or years later in a perfected form, which I might never get around to doing at all. (I've doubtless been influenced by Steve Pavlina's recent excellent article Completion vs. Perfection.)

The only really distressing thing that happened while running Puppy - which might not even be Puppy's fault - was, yesterday, while running Lucid Puppy 5.2 (and later, Puppy Studio 3.3), I noticed that my hard drive - which I still haven't disconnected - sometimes starts buzzing softly and continuously despite the fact that I'm not doing anything with it. I guess it might have done that the day before, too, but, I was taking it for granted that probably Puppy had no reason to access my hard drive without me telling it to, and I was wearing headphones a lot of the time - so if it did happen, I didn't notice.

My hard drive often does that in Windows, and, the solution was the same as in Windows - all I had to do was make the hard drive get busy with something other than whatever it was doing. In Puppy, I did that by browsing to a folder on my hard drive that I hadn't visited before. In Windows, I usually just quickly saved whatever file I was working on.

I wasn't expecting that to happen at all while running Linux, so at first, I thought it was maybe just a new fan-related noise. It went on and on for about 4 minutes until I finally thought to browse some files on my hard drive, whereupon it immediately stopped. I probably should have recognized the sound since it sure happens often enough in Windows, but, I was just not expecting it.

I don't know if it's just something that my hard drive can't help but do every once in a while anytime it's on, or if it was the result of something in Linux trying to do something with my hard drive. But, I guess that's a good reason to go through with disconnecting my hard drive, once I become sure there's nothing else I need from it.

(Edit, 2/28/2011, 5:17 PM: I've been doing a lot of restarts to try out all these different Puppies, and, since my computer fan quiets down after my computer has been on for a while, the fan's sound wasn't covering up my hard drive noises at start-up anymore, which made it possible for me to observe that that soft buzzing noise can and does sometimes happen even before any operating system gets going. So, it's definitely not necessarily a result of the operating systems I'm using.)

OK, time for me to try out BrunoPup 2.0 and NYP (Newyearspup02rc7), special Eclipse edition for Java developers. Yay!!

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