Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Linux Mint 17.1 and Old P4 Towers

Well thought I'd write about the New Linux Mint update and some old kit I've been getting ready to give away. A while ago a friend asked if I wanted all their old corporate P4 towers which they had recently replaced and I ended up with 12 HP Compaq P4 2 - 2.8gig towers with 512mb - 1Gig Ram and 40-80Gig HDD's.

I've put Mint 17.1 Mate on several of these PC's and after install they Run very well with 768mb DDR Ram and 1 with a P4(HT) 2.8Gig CPU and 512mb DDR2 Ram runs very smooth (I didn't have any compatible Ram to upgrade and not having realised it was a HT (Hyper Thread) CPU so had been surprised how quickly and smoothly the install went.

On the whole all these PC's are running well with such low resource and make capable homework PC's. They’re never going to be modern Gaming PC's or run the latest graphics effects that are available in Mint, but for word processing and office tasks they work well and surf the net without any problems. You can even watch U Tube videos at low resolution and thus it is possible to listen to streaming music and the like. 

The technology in theses PC's is now over 10 years old but with Linux Mint (other Linux Distributions are available) installed they are perfectly capable of having a few more years of use with a secure and modern OS on board. So if you have any old Computer hardware knocking around don't send it to the recycle centre install Linux and use it as a spare PC, set up a print/file server or donate it to a charity or just give it to a younger member of the family as a starter PC/homework Box.  

If you have any other ideas or stories of what you've done with an Older PC let me know via the comments.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Windows Live and missing .dll files

Windows is not normally a topic I cover here on this blog but I have a number of friends and family members that I offer PC support to. Today one of those friends from my church contacted me as she had a problem with her laptop that I recently installed Windows 7 onto for her.

The laptop was having problems with booting, sometimes it would and at others not but she was getting scary messages about something not being right with the PC when it did boot. My first inclination was possibly the HDD was on the way out.

Anyway I went round and found out the issue was with the DVD drive as a disc had been left in it for several months and it was set as the first boot device. Once this was removed the PC booted OK but to be on the safe side I ran a disc check. after completion of this no HDD errors and PC boots OK but when trying to access windows live mail it would not start and was giving an error message that the WLDCore.dll file was missing and windows live mail would need to be reinstalled to rectify the issue.

Problem being I couldn't access the software to back up contacts and email and was not sure if a reinstall would cause all this data to be lost (I suspect it would). A quick search of the internet relieved that this is not an uncommon problem, Windows Live must be quite a flaky application given the number of Help requests I found for the same error.

Luckily a member of the community had found a solution that did not involve re-instillation of windows live. This involved going into the windows live program files shared folder and copying the wldcore.dll and wldlog.dll files from there back into the respective Messenger, contacts and mail folders. This done I reopened Live mail and it started fine. While I was there I showed my friend how to back up mail and contacts just in case.

What bugs me is that given the number of Help posts I found with a similar problem some going back to 2011 Why have Microsoft not fixed the issue yet, if this had been an open source problem this bug would have been fixed ages ago. All Microsoft can offer is reinstall the programme to fix it (that was the official advice in the Microsoft solution centre), not stop the problem happening in the first place.

Lucky for me and others the Community came to the rescue with a simpler solution which did not involve the risk of data loss.

 This was the post that rescued my day:

Thank you to elliottme11 on the Microsoft community site for this solution and saving me a lot of grief in the process.

As for my own day to day computing needs I'll stick with LINUX it does not break its own applications when you do a disc scan.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Ubuntu 14.04

At the Blackpool LUG / Maker space last Saturday we decided install Ubuntu 14.04 on different specification hardware, the recommended minimum specification can be found here: http://aq.be/047dcb

As expected with the minimum specification the unity desktop would not install but more surprisingly neither would the the Lubuntu re-spin which is recommended for older hardware. Also a system with the minimum recommended to run Unity installed it ran dog slow but in hindsight this was probably due to the graphics card not being up to specification to run the more resource heavy DTE.

On a Dual core laptop the install was flawless and so was the user experience after install (if you like the Unity DTE that is, I'm not a fan but that is personal preference). One niggle was that despite ticking the box to download updates during the install and being connected to the internet this was not done, and updates were required post install.

Having done this at the LUG I decided to see what 14.04 would feel like on my old ACER Aspire ONE net-book circa 2008 Specification:

CPU, Atom 1.6Gig single core with hyper threding
HDD, 8Gig SSD  
RAM 1.5Gig 
Graphics - Intel GMA 950

The instillation went OK and took about 35 minutes to complete I then took out the swap partition, on such a small SSD this was eating up much needed space and also older SSD's are less robust with write cycles and constant writing on the swap can lead to problems with the drive.

Again the system said it needed to install updates despite my ticking the said box on install (minor niggle) on first booting up the system is using about 206mb RAM and about 9% of CPU capacity, it opened a new LibreOffice document in 5 seconds which while not lightning fast is very workable. 

I then opened Fire Fox and navigated to UTube to test a video. as you would expect running at higher resolutions were problematic due to the limited Graphics of the Net-Book but I was able to run a music video at 144p in full screen which while not fantastic was viewable so no problem there.

Other things online such as e-mail and documents are a little slow but I put that down to the hardware and not Ubuntu. Would I recommend 14.04 to users, I suppose if you are already using previous versions of Ubuntu with or without unity then you'll have no problems with 14.04 and if you're installing it on hardware less than 5 years old with a 1.5Gig processor or better, 2Gig of RAM and fairly decent graphics then your not going to have any issues and you'll have a modern OS supported for the next 5 years. 

For a new user who has been running windows XP and needs to move to a new OS but is reluctant to pay for a windows Upgrade then I would recommend installing Mint 17 LTS Mate, when it comes out at the end of the month. It will be a more familiar Desktop feel for windows users and as Mate is less resource intensive it will probably work better on older hardware. One point for new users of Linux while there is loads of support on the internet you can't beat having someone who's been there and done that as a new user themselves. My advice is look up your local Linux User Group (LUG) and get some face to face support.

I'll install Mint 17 on the Net-book when it comes out and do a write up to compare the experience.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

OggCamp Part 2

Well the Sunday of OggCamp started a little later as Myself and Olly did not have to be at the venue until 9.30 so we could have a bit of a lay in till 8am. We stopped off at the fast food place for coffee and a bite to eat again, then back up the hill to the venue. This was a little harder as we were both carrying our weekend cases as we couldn't leave them in the hotel. Brownlow Hill is quite steep when you have to lug a case up it :-(

Anyway arrived at the venue and after dumping the said case in the crew room (storage locker under the stairs) I was allocated the registration desk for the morning. I always enjoy doing registration as you get to meet loads of people as they arrive. Some you may know but often new faces, including some new to Barcamp events.

Just before lunch I managed to skive of for a talk given by Mark one of the UUPC presenters and one of the organisers of the event. He was talking about the history of OggCamp and what was involved in organising community events like this. The most interesting thing about his talk was that he said that while the event had been started by the 2 podcast teams there was now ongoing discussion as to how it could be passed on to the community to be more involved in the organisation of the event. Mark invited anyone who was interested in getting more involved to contact the team. This invite extends to anyone wanting to help in any way, such as being part of the crew right through to being part of the main organisation group. Mark also called for ideas on what to do for future events and it was suggested by one person that there should be a young persons track (junior OggCamp) and this was greeted with some enthusiasm as it was felt it would be good have something happening to attract younger attendees to the event.

After Lunch (which was again Pizza and as quickly devoured as the previous day) I was part of the Full Circle podcast Live show along with my co-hosts Les, Olly and Freaky Clown. you can listen to this recording via the website when it gets released soon. Suffice to say we had a good time after we managed to finally get the audio recording equipment set up and negotiated genial heckling from our friend Pete Cannon of Dick Turpin fame.

Then came one of my favorite parts of the week, despite it meaning the event was coming to an end. The live Raffle Cast, it’s always good fun to see Popey running up and down the stairs in the main lecture theater, throwing prizes at all and sundry and getting out of puff in the process. Then sadly it was all over for another year, I helped with a bit of the clearing up but had to miss the after OggCamp drinks and food as I had a train to catch back to Blackpool as I was back at work the next day.

If you have never been to a BarCamp type event have a look on the internet, there are several around the country during the year, Blackpool and Canterbury to name just 2 and of course OggCamp. There is also a thriving community running other events on similar lines such as the Raspberry Pi events (Raspberry Jam's) Python, open hardware and hack days. If you have an interest there is probably a community event that will meet your needs. Also don’t forget your local user groups and hack spaces, its often only a few people meeting over a common interest but it is a case of use it or lose it, if the interest and attendance is not there, these groups go as quickly as they were formed.

Well that's it for now, Happy Geeking and maybe I'll see you at an event sometime, if you see me and you've read this come and say hi.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

OggCamp13 - Part 1

Well what can I say, last weekend I spent 2 days with the wonderful community which is OggCamp.

This was my third time at the event and again I was a member of the infamous crew ably controlled by the more infamous Les Pounder a member of my LUG and the one originally responsible for my involvement back in 2011.

The weekend started with arriving in Liverpool at 7pm Friday evening for the pre OggCamp party at Leaf a bar and cafe in Bold street and just around the corner from my hotel for the weekend. It was a great evening, friendships re visited with members of the community I only get to see in the flesh once or twice a year at events like this, and new friendship made. I retired back to the hotel about 10pm as the Crew call for the morning was 8.15 with a long weekend ahead.

Saturday dawned too early but we (I was sharing with my fellow Full Circle podcast and Blackpool LUG member Olly) got up and headed out for a quick breakfast in a local fast food joint, then a walk up to JMU's art and design centre on Brownlow Hill about 15 minutes walk. After the crew call the first order of business after getting our crew 'T' shirts was taking 250 goody bags up to the main corridor for handing out to attendees as they registered.

Then the doors opened and the usual Melli ensued. Within the space of an hour over 200 people entered the building all looking to find out what talks were scheduled and when they were on, which is not easy as only the main track of talks was pre scheduled all the other three talk tracks were open for attendees to schedule any talks they may want to give (this is why barcamps are often referred to as un-conference's). There was also a glitch in the talk scheduling monitors and apart from the projected screen in the main reception the other monitors did not work, so those not able to access the Internet on a mobile device had problems knowing what talks were offered or where they were. There seems to be a problem with this on an annual basis but we survived.
My highlights of the Saturday were:

The speed that 60+ pizza's were polished off by the attendees

Freeky Clown's (also a co-host on the Full Circle podcast ) talk about his robbing banks and why we should all be worried, for those who don't know him he is a penetration tester of both data and physical system security and gets paid to breach the security of buildings and data systems to identify weaknesses in these systems. Hi talk gave us all a scare about how secure (or not) our data is in the modern world.

The live recording of the TDTRS podcast which is always entertaining if not suitable for the young or those with a sensitive nature, the main topic for the recording was do we need more design specialist to get involved in the open source community. You can access a recording of the show from the TDTRS web site.

My Final highlight of the Saturday was the regular live recording of the organisers podcast. The event was started by the UUPC and Linux outlaws and they do a joint live show at the event each year, this year sadly Fab the co-host of Linux Outlaws was not able to be at the event so the Crew Chief Les Pounder and another Full Circle podcast co-host was press ganged into service. We were entertained by the judging of the swag bag decorating competition. Luckily the audience had good taste and the winners were two younger attenders at the event.

There was also an interactive discussion about the demise or not of Ubuntu, it was interesting that most of the audience run Linux of some sort and about 75% indicated they had run Ubuntu at some time. However when asked if they were current users only about 10-15% indicated yes with the rest almost overwhelmingly stating they now run Mint (as I currently do). I wanted to point out that without Ubuntu many of us would not be using Linux at all and that Mint's success is owed in large part to the work that Ubuntu has done, and continues to do, to make Linux a user friendly OS. However I did not get the chance to make that observation due to shortage of time.
After the live show the days events were over but the day itself was not, there was to be food and drink at a local venue for us to continue to party (for some into the small hours), I'll tell you about Sunday next time. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Linux community

It's been a little while since I posted on this blog as I've been quite busy and as they say life has got in the way.

Anyway I've been reviewing my use of Linux and my support of the community surrounding the Linux operating system. I have been a full time home user of Linux for the last 3 years and used it for a couple of years before that specifically to rescue older PC hardware to save it from the electronic graveyard.

Over the last few years my Distribution of choice has been Linux Mint and I have installed it on a number of my own PC's in various forms, netbooks, laptops and my main desktop PC. I have also used it to rescue hardware for friends replacing a virus infested windows installs on a number of occasions for several people, some of these have come back for seconds, (and we're not talking uber geeks here) so Linux Mint is getting something right.

At Blackpool LUG last week we were talking of the community distributions and the popularity of Mint and the amount of financial support it receives from it's community and I realised the value I place on my use of a fantastic operating system but make absolutely no contribution back. Now I'm not a coder so can not help with development of the OS but I am in a position to support those that do, so I have made a small donation to the projects funds, and intend to do this at least once a year. 

Now I know that not all users of Linux have loads of cash to splash about, but if you consider the cost that putting that other OS onto your PC, and given that many Linux users also build their own PC's or rescue older hardware this could amount to a considerable amount of cash over time. Making a small donation of say the price of a drink or a cinema ticket (in the UK this would be £2-7) once or twice a year or a little more if you can afford it, is still very good value for money and you will be helping the developers of you favourite flavour of Linux to continue to develop and improve the software. 

We need to remember that Free in the open source sense is the freedom to use the software in the way we want to, but it still needs to be developed and developers have got to eat and pay their bills as well. If we don't support these projects there is a danger that software freedom will die, as the people with the skills to write the code will move towards the closed source propriety world to earn a living, and we will all be the poorer if that happens.   

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Raspberry Pi

What is it? well to save a lot of waffle from me you can find out more from:


But to cut a long story short, the Pi is a small PC with an integrated CPU/GPU and 256mb Ram, 2xUSB, Ethernet port and HDMI output and a micro USB power input port. Currently what is available is a development board without a case but future builds will be in some form of case. All of this comes at the grand Price of £30 here in the UK. The idea is to provide a cheap PC that can be hooked up to a TV (reminiscent of the 80's PC's, Commodore, Sinclair ZX and the BBC micro to name 3), it is hoped that this will enable children to have access to a PC to develop their skills in hardware and software hacking.

Well I finally got my hands on one. The first thing to do was to install the OS onto a 4GB SD card which I purchased from a local store.

I chose to install the Debian Arm image which can be found here:


Having got the .img file it was time to write this to the SD card.

Having put the SD card into a reader attached to your Linux PC, you need to use the following command to install the image to the card:

sudo dd if=/home/tony/Downloads/debian6-19-04-2012/debian6-19-04-2012.img of=/dev/sd*

replacing (home/tony), with. (home/'your user name')

also you may need to change to directory from /Downloads to where you saved the file to if not in your downloads directory. Also the last part of the command dev/sd* you will need to replace the sd* with sd(and the letter denoting your SD card),

you can find the drive letter using the df -H command and you will get an output something like below:

tony@tony-ThinkCentre-M58 ~/Desktop $ df -H
Filesystem             Size   Used  Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1              154G    83G    64G  57% /
none                   4.1G   717k   4.1G   1% /dev
none                   4.1G   1.2M   4.1G   1% /dev/shm
none                   4.1G   418k   4.1G   1% /var/run
none                   4.1G      0   4.1G   0% /var/lock
/dev/sdc1              501G   334G   167G  67% /media/My Passport
/dev/sdb1              248G   168G    68G  72% /media/6f25f153-eccf-47dc-8ee5-7b70c4882145

Look for a dev/sd* that corresponds to the size of your card, If you not sure run the command with the card out of the reader, then connect it and try again, the new entry in the output will be your SD card.

tony@tony-ThinkCentre-M58 ~/Desktop $ df -H
Filesystem             Size   Used  Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1              154G    83G    64G  57% /
none                   4.1G   750k   4.1G   1% /dev
none                   4.1G   1.3M   4.1G   1% /dev/shm
none                   4.1G   418k   4.1G   1% /var/run
none                   4.1G      0   4.1G   0% /var/lock
/dev/sdc1              501G   334G   167G  67% /media/My Passport
/dev/sdb1              248G   168G    68G  72% /media/6f25f153-eccf-47dc-8ee5-7b70c4882145
/dev/sdf2              7.7G   1.3G   6.0G  18% /media/18c27e44-ad29-4264-9506-c93bb7083f47
/dev/sdf1               43M    29M    15M  68% /media/95F5-0D7A

in this case the /dev/sdf, don't put the number at the end as this is just the partition and the card will be reformatted during the write process.

After pressing return and inserting your password, go and make a coffee as it'll be about 20 minutes to write the image to the disc.

I'll go into what to do next, in my next post.

For a picture of the pi go to:  http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs