A Vaio’s vices overcome

My good friend and Felton Linux User Group co-founder Bob Lewis called: Do you have a home for this old Sony Vaio laptop? If not, I’ll just take it over to Grey Bears (note: Grey Bears is a organization based in Santa Cruz, California, that helps the elderly and which, among other things, recycles computers and has a pretty good selection of old hardware in their store).

Nope, bring it over, I said.

In retrospect, I should have passed.

The Sony Vaio PCG-K15, circa 2004, is a behemoth of a laptop, a bulky piece of hardware weighing in at just under a ton — OK, give or take 1,992.5 pounds, you get the 7.5 pounds it’s supposed to weigh (though, to be honest, it feels heavier). The Pentium 4 2.80 GHz processor coupled with 1 GB of RAM should be enough to run just about anything.

Should be enough.

I don’t know how this machine fared in reviews a decade ago, but today this hardware is the digital equivalent of the Deathmobile in “Animal House.” The urge to paint it black and write “Eat Me” in big red letters was almost overwhelming.

Installed Fedora 20 Desktop (that’s GNOME, for those of you keeping score at home). Nope.

Installed Ubuntu 14.04 Unity. Nope.

Installed OpenSUSE 13.1. Nope.

Installed Debian Wheezy. Worked, sort of, with a lot of hand-holding and tweaking.

Out of all the distros I tried, these three were the ones that worked the best:

Korora 20 Xfce: While there was a lot of hand-holding here, too, once I got Korora where I wanted it on this hardware, it worked well.

CrunchBang 11 Waldorf: This Debian-with-Openbox distro worked well with little effort on this machine.

AntiX Mepis Luddite: This one, Debian Testing with Fluxbox, also worked well after getting used to some of the quirks like wicd as a network manager.

So this 10-year-old laptop now is again a fully functioning member of digital society thanks to Korora, CrunchBang and AntiX.

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Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

Meanwhile, back at the blog . . .

First things first: I hate being a statistic (I’m truly sorry, Mr. President). But as of a few Fridays ago, I have become a minuscule uptick — or at least, in a very infinitesimally small way, preventing a downturn — in the U.S. unemployment rate. In short, the Santa Cruz Sentinel laid me off after 11 years of editing, which capped a 37-year run in various media, mostly in newspapers.

But never mind. Let’s just leave this at “unemployment sucks,” and move on, shall we?

I bring this up to explain my absence. What I have been doing — NSA take note, and pass this on to the Labor Department — is looking for work and hatching some other diabolical schemes, not the least of which is reviving the Lindependence Project to do more events this year. Film at 11.

Now with more free time than I can eat, I can do things like write this blog once again on a regular basis. With this additional time when I’m not looking for work (hello, California Employment Development Department), I also have time to squirrel around with some hardware and software in the home lab which, as you may recall, is dubbed The Jungle Room.

Elvis fans can explain that one to you.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to have with Korora (or Fedora or any other distro I use) is access to Spotify. Over time on the Windows box at my former job, I had a wide range of music to listen to while editing, and I wanted to carry this over to my newly found freedom.

Leave it to Fedora 19 Issues and Tutorials blogger Venkat Heart to come up with the solution in this blog item from back in November 2013.

As Venkat’s blog states — and the full instructions are there — installing Spotify requires you to create a Spotify repository by making a repo file to put into /etc/yum.repos.d/ called spotify.repo (and it gives you a quick and dirty instruction on how to use vi to accomplish this — if not, Venkat says, there’s always Google to learn how to use vi).

The details as laid out in the blog is to copy this into your newly formed file /etc/yum.repos.d/spotify.repo:

name=spotify
baseurl=http://repos.ulyaoth.net/Fedora/$releasever/$basearch/
enabled=1
gpgcheck=0

Then it’s off to yum, using root: #yum install spotify

There are even links on the site to get the Spotify icons and instructions to remove Spotify (spoiler alert: #yum remove spotify).

The Fedora instructions seem to work flawlessly on Korora and now I am a fairly happy camper listening to a wide range of genres and bands — from Johnny Cash to Coldplay (yes, Coldplay. It’s my daughter’s favorite band and they’re not bad) — while I plot my next move on the employment front.

It’s good to be back.

Creative Commons License
Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

ZaReason UltraLap 440 Review Part 1: Baptism by fire

scale12x[BLOGGER’S NOTE: Yeah, it’s unconventional to do a review in two parts this way, but the timing of my receiving the ZaReason UltraLap 440 coincided by chance with the week leading up to SCALE 12X, perhaps the busiest time of my year. All of which is to say, as you’ll see below, that a lot of work was thrown at this machine during the course of the week prior to SCALE 12X, during SCALE 12X itself, and immediately after SCALE 12X. The tl:dr here is that it performed flawlessly and more detail is forthcoming in Part 2].

The e-mail came as expected: ZaReason CEO Cathy Malmrose wrote me the day before asking me if she could introduce me to the new ZaReason marketing manager, Vy Nguyen. “Of course,” I said. Vy wrote me and asked me if I could review the new ZaReason laptop, the UltraLap 440, like I did with the ZaReason Alto 3880 a couple of years ago.

As if you have to twist my arm to try new hardware. Gladly, I said. However, there was a minor detail: With this request coming in February, my attention was locked laser-like on the Southern California Linux Expo and that the rigors of this show had better make this laptop a hard worker with the ability to process a lot of data for long periods of time at the touch of these unusually fat fingers.

In other words, this hardware was going to get slammed under nearly constant 12-hour-a-day-minimum use for the next few weeks.

Long story short, the UltraLap 440 worked like a champ in the weeks leading up to SCALE 12X, during SCALE 12X and immediately after SCALE 12X.

First things first: Off with Ubuntu and on with a distro on which I can get real work done. That would be Korora 20 KDE (though later on, as you’ll read in the next review, other distros were given a test run on this hardware). Copy over my home directory onto the new laptop, make a few adjustments and I am good to go.

As mentioned earlier on many occasions, I’m a ThinkPad guy at heart, so when a smaller, lighter form factor crosses my radar, skepticism rears its ugly head. “So, kid, show me what you’ve got,” was my first response taking the laptop out of the box.

This skepticism was squashed fairly quickly. This hardware is a “lightweight” in form-factor only; the UltraLap 440 did the same tough work, under the same tough conditions under which I put some of the more traditionally hard-core hardware, and it passed this test with flying colors (and, to be honest, I could be easier on hardware. But in my defense I’m not hard on hardware on purpose. I’m just an incredibly clumsy oaf with heavy fingers).

Also, battery life on this hardware deserves special mention. On more than one occasion over the course of the SCALE 12X weekend — usually when picking up the laptop and running with it under my arm, like a football, to some emergency — I had neglected to plug in the laptop. I never ran out of power, noticing at one point that I was somewhere in the 20s, percentage wise, after just over three hours of battery use under some fairly trying conditions that included, but was not limited to, a high number of file exchanges from external drives, USB sticks and SD cards, to say nothing of live streaming video monitoring during the course of the show.

The old saying is essentially correct: Good things actually do come in small packages. The 14-inch screen — the HD display is one of the strong points, despite the fact it took a little getting used to from the nearly square ThinkPad screen — did not hamper my personal work performance. There are even little things that bear big mentions, like the multi-monitor support coming in very handy during the show, or the 8GB of RAM — an optional upgrade for $59 that is well worth the expense — helping to carry a heavy load without breaking a sweat.

For the few weeks around SCALE 12X, the UltraLap 440 gets high marks for grace under pressure, and its use in non-show conditions — let’s call that normal day-to-day use — will be the topic of the next review.

Coming next, ZaReason UltraLap 440 Review Part 2: Daily life with the ZaReason UltraLap 440 that does not include the best Linux/FOSS show of the year, highlighting the upsides of this machine — and there are many — and the downside — primarily one, which is easily overcome.

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Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

Whew

scale12xDecompression can be a killer. A thousand pardons for taking so long to post about it, but the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 12X was nothing short of fantastic on a variety of levels.

No, that’s not hyperbole.

Lawrence Lessig absolutely nailed it in the Friday night keynote. Don’t take my word for it — watch the keynote on the SCALE 12X site here. Also, Lessig is going to need a little help fixing the government, so if you’re so inclined just send an email to SCALE@lessig.org with a description of the sort of commitment/skills you can offer, and if helpful, a description of your background.

The rest was, frankly, a well-choreographed blur of 90 or so talks over three days, punctuated by two days of exhibits with around 100 exhibitors and whirlwind of volunteers who rhetorically knocked it out of the park.

If you were there and want to relate your experience, go for it in the comments.

But back to the “knocking it out of the park” thing, it inspires complete and utter awe how much this show improves every year. It all boils down to one question.

What makes a great show like SCALE 12X?

Everyone: The volunteers, the staff, the speakers, the exhibitors and the sponsors. But most importantly, the attendees tie the ribbon on a fantastic expo, making it the complete and wonderful package it is.

The final tally: There was an uptick of roughly 10 percent in registrations for SCALE 12X, with a new record number of people enjoying three days of presentations, workshops and exhibits.

I must apologize to the Korora Project team and those users who may have been expecting a Birds of a Feather meetup at SCALE 12X. As the publicity chair and with a heightened interest in the show from the mainstream press, I was unable to host the meeting and had to cancel it. I would like to encourage those who might have an interest in a meetup at the next SCALE — SCALE 13X — as well as other shows around the country to ping me and let’s talk about organizing them.

It was great to see old friends and to meet those I have talked to on numerous occasions but finally got to meet in person: Leslie Hawthorn, whose outstanding keynote was SRO, and Steven Rosenberg of the L.A. Daily News, who gave us a pre-show story in the Daily News’ constellation of Southern California publications.

[Yes, I compared SCALE 12X to the Daytona 500 in that article -- an afterthought that the press picked up (shame on me -- I should know better). But the comparison is a valid one: Like NASCAR holding its biggest race first, so FOSS also holds its most important event at the beginning of the year.]

As the publicity chair, the Publicity Team fired on all cylinders for the entire weekend: Hannah Anderson, who handled social media and floor interview duties as if she was born to do these things, kept everyone informed, and a team of photographers and videographers — Dennis Rex, Michelle Klein-Hass, Sam Is, and Sean McCabe — kept the photos and videos flowing throughout the show.

Graphics: Mike Hamanaka and Josh Adler did a fantastic job in the graphics department — Mike with the signage, badges and stickers, and Josh with the publications and T-shirt design. I got a lot of comments on these during the course of the show and it bears special mention.

Again, I would stress that if anyone has any of their own tales of SCALE 12X they’d like to share, please post them in the comments. As for me, I was stuck marshalling the media forces in the press room for a better part of the show and I got most news second- and third-hand, so some first-hand accounts would be appreciated.

One more thing: As I mentioned in a previous item, ZaReason gave me an UltraLap 440 to review right around the time SCALE 12X was happening, so the laptop got a baptism by fire, sort of, at the show. The hardware is running Korora 20 KDE, incidentally. I am still in the process of giving it a month-long, long-term road test, so to speak, and I should point out that at the show, the laptop performed flawlessly as my main machine. More on this will be detailed in an upcoming review.

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Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

One more week

scale12xOK, I could pun it up here: “I was weighed down by SCALE,” or some other eye-rolling line to explain why I haven’t written for the last couple of weeks. The fact of the matter is that I have been swamped with work on what may end up being the best show yet for the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 12X.

No, that’s not hyperbole. And as scary as this prospect might be, I really need more than one of me to do the press work for SCALE 12X, which starts next week.

I’m going to need a bigger boat.

Why? Lawrence Lessig is coming to speak in the Friday night keynote. That’s right: A Friday night keynote to augment the Saturday morning kenote by Brendan Gregg and the Sunday morning keynote by Leslie Hawthorn. There aren’t three speakers who are better suited for a FOSS gathering than that trio.

That alone doesn’t address the great range of speakers throughout the course of the three days.

So I’ve been a little busy stoking the publicity fires for SCALE this year. You need to come — three days, more than 90 speakers, more than 100 exhibitors. All that equals one great event.

Also, this will be a test show this year as well. ZaReason has sent me an UltraLap 440 and I am going to put it through its paces for the show, writing about it here from time to time. I’ve already replaced Ubuntu 13.10 — what a surprise — on the UltraLap with Korora 20 KDE Peach. Heck, my daughter Mimi will probably purloin the laptop somewhere along the line and install the latest Linux Mint Cinnamon version, which is her favorite flavor.

[Insert Neil Young joke here: She is my Cinnamon Girl -- I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon Girl. OK, I was just leaving.]

All of which is to say that while I have sort of been absent last week, expect for me to make up for it going forward with reports from SCALE.

You have been warned.

See you at SCALE 12X.

Creative Commons License
Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

Flocking together at SCALE 12X

scale12xThey say “birds of a feather flock together.” And from that saying comes the terms “Birds of a Feather” meetup at various Linux/FOSS shows. BoFs are places where folks with the same interest get together and talk about them, and certainly it’s a place to exchange ideas and informally discuss their shared interest without a pre-designated agenda.

A shared interest like Korora, for example.

Korora, which doesn’t have a booth at SCALE 12X (at least not this year), will be having a Birds of a Feather, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., -8 from GMT. That last part is to help everyone calculate the time at which the event takes place, in case you want to join. I’ve invited Korora founder and lead developer Chris Smart, and co-lead developer Ian Firns doesn’t know it yet (until now), but he’ll be getting an invite, too, to use the magic of a Google Hangout to join us from Australia on Chris’ and Ian’s Sunday.

The BoF will introduce folks to Korora and, with the developers on-hand (hopefully), we can get an in-depth look at the distro. I will have live CDs burned for those who want to give it a shot, as well as my collection of live USB sticks with each desktop flavor (no, you can’t keep it, but I’ll let you run Korora with it, if need be).

So if you’re going to SCALE 12X, feel free to stop in at the Korora Birds of a Feather meetup.

That’s all the news for now. See you next week, if not sooner.

Creative Commons License
Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

Read all about it

First, the unfortunate word of a passing in the family: Korora 18 “Flo” has reached EOL (that’s end of life, for those of you keeping score at home), as noted in this missive from Chris Smart here.

Yet that’s not all the news that’s fit to print. With Korora 20 “Peach” now out in the wide world — and hopefully on your hardware — there have been several reviews of the new release.

A blog called Linuxed — which is coined “a non-techie’s view of the Linux world” — wrote an extensive review of Korora 20, and while it’s basically KDE-oriented, it also goes into minute detail about what the blogger likes and dislikes about “Peach.”

“In my assessment, Korora gets a 8.4/10 for it’s easy installation, fast boot up enviable ensemble of applications, neat aesthetics and good hardware recognition,” the blogger writes.

With all the detailed graphs and charts included in this blog, it’s high praise, and worth a read. Right now, in fact: Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Another review, this one by Bill Toulas on his blog “World of Gnome,” puts Korora 20 with GNOME 3.10 through its paces.

The blog, a wonderful look at the GNOME version of “Peach” (not “Peachy,” as he calls it), concludes with a couple of sentences in the final paragraph: “Thankfully, systems like Korora are still alive and well offering a great choice for those who don’t want to chastise themselves with semi-working, semi-automated systems and just need a graphic installer to get a system that will fulfill (most of) their needs out of the box. Give it a try!”

I don’t mean to be a spoiler here, and it’s certainly worth a read.

In any case, with reviews rolling in, so far Korora 20 is getting high marks.

Haven’t tried Korora yet? Give it a try.

One more thing on the radar: For those who are inclined to participate in torrent seeding, the Korora 20 torrent files are ready to download. There was a glitch with the 32-bit KDE torrent, but that has been fixed.

That’s all the news for now. See you next week, if not sooner.

Creative Commons License
Larry the Korora Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

G’day, world

Welcome to Larry the Korora Guy, one of the new electronic screed in the Larry the Free Software Guy‘s League of Extraordinary Blogs. This blog, running on Saturdays starting on Jan. 18, will talk about developments in Korora, tips and tricks for using it, and anything else that crosses the radar on all things Korora.

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Simple. As Larry the Free Software Guy, I have a history with Korora, having tried it first back in the day when it had two A’s at the end of its name. Recently, I spent a week with Korora 19.1 KDE and liked it enough to keep it on a dual-core laptop that I now use on a regular basis.

For those who may not know much about the distro, Korora is a Fedora remix that “aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts.” It’s a noble effort, to say the least: Fedora, which as I’ve said on a million occasions, does everything right, especially building and maintaining the distro’s software, as well as building or maintaining the community supporting it. The principles driving Fedora are excellent ones to emulate, and to provide an option of a Fedora respin in which everything works right out of the box (*cough* Flash *cough*) is indeed a noble task.

Great things are in store for Korora. Don’t take my word for it: Blogger Steven Rosenberg, who works at the Los Angeles Daily News, thinks the same thing in his item here.

Since this blog starts next week, you have a chance to go to the website, download the newly released Korora 20 and give it a run. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Give it a try and if you like it, post a comment below.

Meanwhile, here is a bit of Korora trivia: Debian bases its release names on “Toy Story” characters. CrunchBang, a Debian derivative, bases its release names on “The Muppet Show” characters starting with the same letter as the Debian release name. Whether or not by design, Korora also uses the same method of using fictional characters by naming its releases after characters in “Finding Nemo.” Korora 20′s release name is Peach. In “Nemo,” Peach is “voiced” by one of my all-time favorite actresses, Allison Janney, who will always be press secretary C.J. Cregg on “The West Wing” to me.

All of which is to say, if you have the temptation to say, “Can’t hear you, Peach,” while using Korora, we’ll understand.

See you next week.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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