Ubuntu Hero…


Ubuntu is a pretty and slick Linux distribution.  I used Debian some years back, but I’ve never used Ubuntu before 14.04LTS.  I have a lot of misgivings about the systemd juggernaut; I think it will probably be a Bad Idea (TM).  But, time will tell.  I generally think centralized control eventually winds up sowing the seeds of its own destruction.  Governments that are too centralized become unstable and prone to revolution.  So maybe that applies to software too?  I believe it does.  Is systemd too centralized?  Like I said, time will tell.

In the meantime, I’m just now upgrading from 14.04LTS to 14.10.  I’m even using the graphical update tool instead of the command line tool.  If the system winds up being unbootable, we’ll see how long it takes to recover it and what I learn from that experience.  During my Debian days, I recall having had one serious problem with an upgrade, but nothing that became a true holocaust.  I’m hopeful about this upgrade.  If I have a serious problem, I’m sure I’ll have to sit down and bitch about it.

It’s possible my college-age daughter was cursing into her joystick while I was downloading the upgrade.  But that part seems to be over, and we’re into the software setup now.  Not too bad.

The largest challenge for me is that I don’t really understand an Ubuntu system.  I’m a Slackware guy.  I’m old.  I’m conservative.  I have grey hair.  I don’t run so fast anymore.  I’m used to knowing what happens in a system from POST to login.  And I don’t really understand how Ubuntu works yet.  But I’ll dig into it.  The nice thing about Slackware is that everything is a text file, and I can pretty much snoop around anywhere I want and read what happens in the startup scripts.  I like that.  In 14.04 we had Upstart.  I don’t really understand how that works, but it looks like there are still a lot of scripts.  Okay, I can read those.  That’s good.  As I understand it, systemd is a binary.  Apparently there are a bunch of other somethingd’s that are binaries too.  So unless I get the source code to those and read very carefully on the changelogs, I probably won’t understand those either.  Lots of reading….

I’ve read several heated conversations about systemd.  Did I mention I don’t like change?  That I’m old?  Well, I also want to pride myself on having an open mind.  Time will tell whether that means I have a hole in my head.  I’d like to see what happens.  It might be a revolution followed by anarchy and thermoglobal nuclear digital annihilation.  Or it might be a gas bubble.  If it’s the former, I might switch to FreeBSD!  Or I could devote myself to Slackware, which is about as GreyBeard a Linux distro as there is.  Meanwhile, the upgrade to Ubuntu 14.10 is still going!  No crashes yet!


Slackware Screenshot…


Okay, I’m a geek.  I like blinky lights!

My Linux distro of choice is Slackware.  When I built the computer I am using now, I should have chosen a better processor.  It’s plenty fast enough for Slackware, but Windows would probably slow it down.  Thankfully, Slackware runs plenty fast on it, as does my lightweight but pretty Desktop Environment, XFCE.  As far as lightweight DEs (desktop environments), I actually have an old 486 laptop that runs an older version of FreeBSD and the Blackbox Window Manager.

I use other distributions, and have done since about 1996 or so.  My original Linux Counter number is 49647.  I used to think that was really high back then, and I was even embarrassed for having it, but now as I look in the mirror, my beard is grey and my scalp, um, is reflective….  Time marches on.

But I still like Slackware.  It’s very simple and reliable.  I’ve had Ubuntu updates that didn’t go according to plan and left a machine unbootable.  I’ve gotten stuck in RPM hell before with Red Hat.  But I’ve never been left high and dry by Slackware.  Sure, I’ve had problems, but it was always transparent where they were.  Slackware has always been a CLI (Command Line Interface) kind of distro, and once I learned my way around a shell prompt, that has always seemed like home to me.  In fact, when I see GUI tools for package management, I get suspicious.  To me, that’s just another layer of complexity that will eventually bite me.  Editing config files by hand in my text editor of choice, now that is too simple to go wrong!  Well, unless I screw it up  of course.  But I always know where the back up file is.  And that’s what I love about Slackware.

There’s a learning curve with Slackware.  But unlike many other distros, when you learn Slackware, you learn Linux.  You aren’t simply learning a package tool that applies only to that distro.  You learn the classic UNIX tools that have served admins well for decades.  Once you learn your way around and get comfortable at the xterm, or whatever terminal window you like, there’s no excuse left to not get your work done!  It’s rather nice!  Of course, there’s always time to futz around with screenshots too.

But what about upgrades you ask?  Well, they’re surprisingly simple.  I actually had a vintage computer from 2004 in my office.  I hadn’t done much with it since installing Slackware 9.0 on it back then.  For whatever reason, that computer just languished for years until about the middle of last year (2014).  Just for old time’s sake, I decided to upgrade it as far as I could with later versions of Slackware.  Since it was an old AMD Athlon with a 80GB hard drive, it was a very humble machine by today’s standards.  But that computer took the upgrades and is now running Slackware 14.0.  I was starting to run out of disk space and it couldn’t quite handle 14.1.  But I found a 500GB drive and tossed it in that same box, and that hard drive now runs Slackware 14.1–current.  No problems at all.  In fact, I’ll have to upload a screenshot from that box sometime.  I think it’s running LXDE and OpenBox.  I boosted the RAM up to about 2GB, and now it thinks it’s a racehorse.  (It’s not.)

Slackware is a very easy to use distribution.  It rewards time invested learning it.  And best of all, no systemd!  Slackware is the most traditionally UNIX like distro around, and I started with Slackware 3.0 way back when installation was still from floppy disks.  I think 3.0 was one of the first distributions on CDROM.  I got it in a book entitled Linux Secrets by Naba Barkakati.  I still have that book and CD around somewhere.  I’m sure it still works.  There were chapters about DOSEMU and how to get your sound card working, using Mosaic, configuring dial-up with SLIP,  text processing with ed and groff, configuring the Motif WM, if you were lucky enough to have a supported XFree-supported video card.  We didn’t really have anything like Libre Office, so we used xspread.  It was a humbler time for Linux!

I think it’s fun to remember back at where we came from.  My Slackware box doesn’t resemble that first Slackware 3.0 box very much, but the tools running today have their roots in many of those old projects.  I haven’t had to configure a SLIP interface in decades, but as I type this post on my browser, which has a dedicated connection to the internet (which I don’t even capitalize anymore), I remember these humble beginnings.  Now, we take so much for granted.  But I actually remember when X11 was not a given.  It was a luxury.  And we still got work done!  Slackware has come a very long way.



This image reminds me of a wonderful time some years ago on a family vacation.  My daughter was a tyke, running around on the beach at Treasure Island in FL, and her mom and I had nothing better to do than watch her chase seaguls and squeal with laughter.  I don’t have a picture of that, unfortunately, but it is as securely stored in my mind as it could be.  As is the image of my wife smiling back at me, marveling over the wonder of our child.

My wife died of cancer about 10 years ago, and my daughter is a judgmental young woman–judgmental toward me at least.  I guess that’s to be expected at her age.  I keep telling myself it’s good to practice my shame resilience!  She gives me lots of practice.

This image reminds me to notice everyday small things.  Appreciate even the simple–especially the simple!!–pleasures of life.  Herein lie the treasures of life.  They are hidden in ordinary moments.

Hello Again World!

I’ve had several blogs over the years, but they all come back to the same problem: how do I publish an emotionally vulnerable and genuine blog without sharing that vulnerability with scammers and thieves and nosy gossipers?  I can’t.  It’s like having your cake and eating it too.  When the internet was smaller, I could get away with it a little more easily, but now, there’s no way.  There are entire industries built around snarfing up every bit of personal information that isn’t nailed down.  And now there are engines that will rip even those bits of personal info right out of the ground.  So, just having a Facebook page or a Twitter account, it’s something you’d better think about these days.  Everything is recorded.  Forever.

And yet, I sometimes have trouble finding my car keys or my wallet.  So where’s technology when you need it?  Yep.  It’s mostly there when you don’t need it.  Or whenever it’s most embarrassing.  But, life is embarrassing.

This WordPress adventure started today because I was reactivating my Linux Counter page.  I’m user 49649 apparently.  I thought that was a high number, but they’re much higher now.  I was simply wondering how I could improve my Gravatar, and I learned that they came free with a WordPress account.  Which was also free.  Cool.  So Hello Again, World!