Sometimes It’s The Little Things – Debian, FORTRAN, and me…

I’ve been “down the rat hole” for the last several days trying to get a new Climate Data Analysis system built.  The oldest one (a “period correct” box with a small Pentium in it) is archived to the garage and could likely be recovered iff needed (I put a picture of it up when I first did the GIStemp port) and the HP Vectra that replaced it about 5 years ago “has issues”.  So I figured “Just install a new Linux and go”.  Easy peasy…

Little Did I Know…

I’d spent a couple of days archiving data off of the Vectra.  I’d figured I’d just update the OS there.  Then I discovered that somewhere between the start and end of the process, the CD / DVD drive was no longer visible…   A day or two passes as I figured all this out, found out it could be seen from the OTHER buss slot on the motherboard, and figured out that it was a failure of the M.B. not the cable or device.  OK, not doing a M.B. upgrade on that old box…  But all the data was found, copied (again…) and the Windows parts moved to the newer ASUS-64 bit box (and really it was time to ‘kiss off’ the Windows 2000 Pro on it anyway ;-)

The Red Hat 7.2 partition had the data saved a couple of ways already, but I made one last archive copy.  And really, it was time to move on from Red Hat 7.2 anyway.  Works fine.  Bullet proof.  But the browsers on it are too archaic to use to get new browser code downloaded… The disk still lives, which is a good thing, as it has all my old GIStemp and GHCN copies on it.  (and on the 1/2 dozen backups…)  So “someday” I may do an organ transplant of the disk to a newer box.  For now, it’s headed for the “deep archive” of the garage…

Which brings us back to the Compaq Evo…  I’d not used the box in about 4 years.  An attempt to install Mepis on it had broken the Windows bootup process and I’d only half heartedly tried to fix it.  Why?  Because mucking about in Windows System Problems makes me feel contaminated…  But I’d resolved to recover all the data on that disk anyway, and had copied it (using Linux boot CDs as I was not trusting Mepis all that much…), again to a couple of places.  By now I’ve got about 1/2 TB of copies of those two disks on those two machines…

In the end, it was a zero length boot.ini file in the Windows partition.  Copied one from the Windows XP on the “new” box I bought at Weird Stuff ( 64 bit no less ;-) and applied it to the Evo (using that Linux rescue CD again) and got both Mepis and Windows XP Pro booting on it just fine. Only to find out that I’d forgotten which password I’d used on it. (Turns out I was trying the ‘3 or 4 year old’ pattern, not the 5 year old pattern that it was… and which I still remembered, but discarded…)

So I took the short path of “crack the password” rather than searching ever older blocks. This code was a great help:

http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/

While Microsoft tells you to give it up, if you forgot the Admin password, you are toast (and this was the admin password), Ophcrack boots a tiny linux, sucks out the password file, and then does a Rainbow Tables attack. Took about 10 minutes.

One Complaint: I don’t know if I grabbed a copy for the wrong language pack or what, but the GUI came up with cryptic headings and text. Looked like about 1/2 the letters were gone and another 1/4 were strange symbols. I did see a familiar string in one box (though all caps and I knew the case was not all caps) and that was, in fact, the password. On the someday list is find a copy with proper English display…

So a few days back I had a working Windoz box with a questionable Linux on it.

The Fateful Decision

At that point, I decided to “replace Mepis”.

Why? It was the boot / install process from Mepis that “had issues” and ate the boot.ini file; or that patch of disk with the boot.ini file just coincidentally failed… so it was a “untrusted” bit. Also for the simple reason that it doesn’t handle the NTFS file systems well, and newer releases do, and, frankly, when an install bites me that hard, I don’t reward it by keeping it around. Oh, and the look of it was a bit too “in your face” for me. I like more subdued.

At any rate, for the last 3 or 4 days I’ve been fighting various things trying to get an install that was stable, and had what I wanted installed.

I won’t list all the blind allies I went down. Not that attempt to install Red Hat 7.2 (in desperation to just get something stable onto the box) where it would not go. Likely the hardware was too “new” for that old a Red Hat… nor the endless hours (about a day?) spent trying to get Fedora Scientific Spin installed (already has a FORTRAN compiler in it along with other neat tools). Seems that the ISO file they give you can’t be put on a CD in quite the usual way. They suggest a couple of particular applications to do the copy. But ImgBurn was not among them. It does a just dandy job for most things.

http://www.imgburn.com/

I spent a little while distracted by a poor level of attention. They said to use a particular raw writing program and I found “rawwrite”, that only writes floppies. They wanted rawrite32, that I had on the laptop that’s got a dying fan, and works very well for making SD card images for the RaspberryPi.

http://www.netbsd.org/~martin/rawrite32/download.html

With that in hand I made a USB drive that didn’t work. It also left my 32 GB USB claiming to only be 3.5 GB… but I’ll fix that later.

One minor irritation was discovering that the Evo would not boot from USB. As I was trying several different configs, I didn’t want to burn each one to a CD / DVD each time. And this tool was a wonderful discovery.

https://www.plop.at/en/bootmanager/index.html

It basically bypasses the regular boot loader and gives you one that lets you try any partition you would like. If I’d had that 4 years ago the EVO would have been a much easier machine to work with… Also the Vectra, that had insisted on replacing GRUB (probably via some HP “enhancement” for “security”?) after happily running dual boot for a long time… and then stubbornly resisted all attempts to get GRUB back in place…)

I’ve not explored all the feature set, but it has more than I used, which it can do. IMHO, it is a permanent addition to the SysAdmin Recovery Tools kit.

So several distribution to USB attempts later, I’ve got a working Puppy Linux that I like for “private browsing” and misc. use. I’ve also got their config file for a version that has FORTRAN in it. On the “someday” list is to make a bootable USB install of Puppy with GIStemp and FORTRAN (and data…) all in a bundle. Then anyone who wants their own portable GIStemp can have one ;-)

I’d tried a couple of Debian versions as it is the base from which many others flow (including Ubuntu and many of the liveCD versions), but was having consistent “issues”. I’d done an initial install without the wire in the ethernet port, and the install CD could not make the wireless dongle work (a new one, so not a big surprise). Did get it to install, but then it would not install a bunch of packages that ought to be installable. (even after editing the package.list entries and moving to the wired ethernet). But it ran.

For a while.

It would sporadically just hang. Dead. Mouse might move, but no click anywhere got anything and the best I could do was a powerfail crash. (Thus the exploration of Fedora, Puppies, Gentoo – where the install is complicated but doable and it was late so I was leaving that for today sometime…). But I really wanted generic Debian…

So this morning I tried a few more things (and found that the Debian live DVD didn’t work in the EVO since it only has a CD drive not a CD/DVD drive… but it does work nicely in the Asus box… where I don’t want to use it as the fan is loud… it is for serious server / recovery / misc use only. I.e. the “shit happened” go to box.) I also found that the USB Fedora was not going to go. I decided to give it one last try for Debian.

I changed to a slightly different release. 7.8.0 XCFE ( I’d tried LXDE before ) on the chance that it was the window manager screwing up. I’d only been running the Linux OS, Xorg services to the W.M., LXDE windows manager, a browser – Iceweasel, a terminal window with ‘top’ in it, and the Synaptic Package manager. It had to be one of them and I was hoping it was not the Linux OS. So I did the install One More Time.

Boot was fine. I opened a couple of terminal windows. In one, ‘top’ ran fine. It gives a report of what is running, using how much memory and CPU, so “gives clue” when you hang with a window image still displayed. In another terminal window, used “apt-get” to manually add FORTRAN ( as gfortran ) and the Chromium browser (in case it was IceWeasel). All was working fine. At this point I had a nice, new Debian, running effortlessly and well, with FORTRAN and a C compiler in place. As I’m typing this on that machine, it is using all up about 25% of the CPU and 1 GB out of 2 GB real memory with 4 GB of empty swap.

So I figured maybe I had things working. And decided to ‘take it for a drive’ for a while. Various small things. Launched IceWeasel and did some browsing. Then, a few pages later, The Hang happened. Reboot…

This time I launched Chromium and did a web search on “Debian IceWeasel hang” and got a load of hits. Exactly the symptoms I was having.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Debian+IceWeasel+Hang

I had the “Smoking Gun”…

As of now, the system has been up and working fine for about 15 minutes. Not long, but far longer than it had been up without a hang before. So I’m going to declare probable victory and start moving all the GIStemp codes, GHCN (and other) temperature data, etc. ad nauseam onto it. Added to the “someday” list is to figure out what version of Mozilla / FireFox / IceWeasel / SeaMonkey / whatever works without hanging. But I’ll install Opera first… ;-)

And with that, I have a working Dual Boot small and quiet machine that can be used as a Daily Driver. I can stop sinking whole days into “down the rat hole”, and get back to doing things that have wider value. I can also spend a few minutes in the garden ‘glowing’ ;-)

Yes, we are on the verge of W.W.III in the middle east as Iran puts ships on the oil supply ‘throat’ of Europe off of Yemen (where it fostered a war) and yes Iran is a few months away from a nuclear bomb (but don’t worry, we will have ‘negotiated’ a deal in a few months… oh, wait… and then a few more to ‘ratify’, or not…) and yes Iran has played a nice game of Go putting stones of conflict all around Saudi – in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, North Africa, … but what does that matter when I’ve finally got this sucker working?! ;-)

So the sun is shining, the day is young, and I’m due for a break after several days of frustration. This evening is soon enough to re-port the GIStemp station, unarchive all the data, consolidate all those backups into a much smaller and more valuable set, and maybe, just maybe, get some of the 40+ posting ideas started in write up.

But for now, hey, I’ve got a beer and a hammock calling my name…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in GISStemp Technical and Source Code, Tech Bits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Sometimes It’s The Little Things – Debian, FORTRAN, and me…

  1. John Andrews says:

    Love it. All the different versions of Linux kenel needed for older or newer machines make life difficult or easy, depending on your ability. You listed the foibles of a refurbisher like me using Linux to make old and newer machines work. I like Mint for newer hardware and LXLE for older stuff. Haven’t tried Fortran; learned it in the ’60s, and never got anything to run using punched cards. Finally used it in 2000’s to unwind some spaghetti code for Westinghouse reactors. 40+! Delicious.

  2. Richard Ilfeld says:

    Lots of folks move to Florida and get old and, er, scatter-brained. My computers have done the same, and maybe yours have too ;<)
    It is truly difficult to tell from your description whether you were performing a technical task, or something occult <:)
    And folks wonder at being nervous about the presumed perfection of self-driving cars; imagine a fleet that has aged as well as your hardware. Bumper car chaos.

  3. Brian says:

    I downloaded Ophcrack 64-bit installer and was immediately warned of a “HackTool:Win32/Fgdump” threat by AVG. Same diagnosis from MSEssentials on a different PC. The MD5 in my download matched the MD5 posted on SourceForge exactly. I uploaded the exe file to my favorite multi-scanner site (virusscan.jotti.org) and got a pretty darn negative response from 9 out of 21 scanners. I’m still reading about this “HackTool” trojan, but it appears to be a file storage backdoor. If so, I don’t see why code or data inside the Ophcrack installer would trigger a false positive. 6 of the 9 alerts mentions a “PWdump” in the threat name. So I suspect they’re detecting the code that reads the Windows password memory. Any thoughts?

  4. poitsplace says:

    Is it odd (and perhaps a bit sad) that when I’m broke or making do with whatever crappy stuff I have, I often sarcastically think to myself…”Maybe I should buy all new stuff with the MILLIONS of big-oil money everyone in forums accuses me I must be paid when I disagree with global warming dogma”?

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, this is a site that has a set of “how to get into Windows and recover the password” tips:
    http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Reset_a_Windows_XP_Password

    It’s what sent me off to Ophcrack.

    Brian: Sourceforge is a generally reliable place and they have it listed:

    http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/ it would be interesting to know if your copy matches theirs (and if it matches anything from other sites). I’d also be prone to expecting a “hacker tool” that has the purpose of breaking security to show up as a security threat in a threat detection sw tool…

    Oh, and I ought to give Honorable Mention to Pendrive for their Universal USB installer.
    http://www.pendrivelinux.com/

    Lets you put a variety of things onto a USB drive including Ophcrack and PLot.

    @Poitsplace:

    Sigh. Yes. I’ve thought the same. On one hand, I like having a collection of “vintage” hardware for various testing purposes and for things like recovering old files in formats no longer supported… It’s also fun to run a fully functioning linux on tiny hardware that would be considered insanely small today ( like 64 Meg memory and a Pentium II) and having it out perform a new 2 GB Wizzy64+ multiprocessor… OTOH, having a disposable $1000 for a new main box would be easier some times….

    In this case, it is easier to recover the old stuff as it has the needed software installed as well and the data already present. (Unpacking old archives is, er, a pain…) There is also the secondary point that I’m “freshening” some skills, like installing recent Linux releases and getting familiar with changes (like the ever growing number of windows managers…). I do have a very nearly new Chromebox for daily driver (using at the moment) that works very well for general blog maintenance and web browsing and very well as a Netflix station.

    But it sure would be nice to find out where to pick up that oil money ;-)

    @John Andrews:

    GIStemp is written in FORTRAN. I learned it in the early ’70s as FORTRAN IV. Learning F77 was trivial and then the F95 versions was a bit more work (GIStemp using both indicating to me the era in which each part was added…)

    Getting “refurbished” stuff to work is complicated by things like which board / processor types are supported and then do the peripherals need the new kernel while the board needs the old… Just got a new TP-Link TL-WN725N wireless adapter to work (add OS headers, add build-essentials, add driver code, make, install, configure…) on an old box too… It’s the kind of thing that keeps the skills up.

    I found working with FORTRAN kind of fun in many ways. C makes I/O a pain with fixed format records and FORTRAN makes it easy. Not everything in the world is CSV or other variable formats.

    @Richard Ilfeld:

    The “collection” was stuff that had accumulated over the years, and some of it had died or developed “issues” over about a decade, then I was away from it for 2 years and it sat. This effort was partly a “catch up” of differed maintenance from those 8 years of accumulated issues (as I had the time now) along with finding out what didn’t handle being in “storage” for 2 years more all that well. It was also a bit of “weeding” in that I wanted to simplify what all I was keeping and keeping up (along with recovering the old work records). The intent being to get a dual boot Windoz /. Linux workstation with GIStemp code and data on it and with the various graphing / writing tools (i.e. I didn’t want to buy new licenses for any MS stuff I already had).

    I’ve now done that and can get back to the “data reduction” on the archives. Over the last couple of decades I’ve just tossed checkpoint copies on various machines at various times. Occasionally there has been a doubling of data as one machine with backups was backed up onto another… It’s time to weed that archive too. ( I don’t really need a dozen copies of GHCNv2 … it doesn’t change any more now that V3 is in use.)

    So at this point my “fleet” is headed for a simpler and more workable mix.

    1) Samsung Note for use when out and about. Just browser / email really. Occasional downloads to be moved immediately to a storage machine.

    2) ChromeBox. Used for “daily driver” when at home for web browsing and blog maintenance. I don’t mind Google getting info on what I’m doing publicly anyway (i.e. blog research / posting) and it is a nice media center. It also is the “Archive Maintainer” for doing large data moves from one USB disk to another. Why? Because it talks to all of them well. Several of the USB disks only work well with one or the other of the various machines, so this is the one that uses all vintages well. Since I can shut down the wireless connection to the internet as desired, I don’t mind using the ChromeBox to move a few hundred GB from one disk to another (as Google could not possibly get anything useful out of that process even if they tried).

    3) Evo. Vintage Windows box with XP and a full suit of MS office tools along with Open Office. Used to work through old Windows archives and figure out what needs to become a new format doc and kept. Also used to deal with any other mandatory Windows needs. Linux on it as my “daily driver” Linux for when I want a real computer ;-) Also will be the GIStemp devo box and data archive. This machine to be “offline” from the internet most of the time as neither side of it is really locked down.

    3.1) I have a Puppy USB full install with a CD to let the EVO boot from the USB. It’s my “private side” browser as I can choose to keep, or not, any particular records. I can also just boot the Puppy CD if I want everything completely disposed on ending (i.e. no records of browser history or anything else once RAM clears on shutdown). I do also still have my RaspberryPi “DonglePi” (that I did an article about) for truly clandestine needs, but since the laptop that drives it still needs a fan replacement, it’s sort of deprecated at the moment… well, that, and I don’t really have any need for really secret browsing. I have it providing caching DNS services at the moment anyway along with being a Bittorrent Server.)

    4) The ASUS 64 bit box. A duplicate XP machine so that should the EVO crap out again I can just plug in a USB drive and keep going. Also a potential candidate for Linux on a USB disk as a testbed for building servers. File Server, Proxy or TOR services, DNS, Email filter, etc. Someday list of things… Also useful for burning DVDs until I get a better CD/DVD drive in the EVO or replace it with “whatever”… or get the fan fixed in the laptop.

    Too complicated? Maybe. I wanted the Samsung Note and Chromebox mostly to become familiar with their technology. “Someday” to put a Linux on each. For now, they are convenient for non-secure daily drivers for browsing and such. Since I have them, may as well use them… The tablet is nice and small for Starbucks browsing of WUWT. The Chromebox does Netflix very well and does a nice job of being a browser and blog operations station. None of those needs real security.

    The “dual boot” does any needed MS compatibility until I get around to turning an archive of old MS format does into something more generic and / or Linux emulation of Windows gets good enough ( and I get around to learning it). The Linux side is what I really wanted. It’s where I really like to “live”. Compilers. Building systems. Setting up services and more. It will let me unpack and “clean” the various archived data from a few decades of other Unix / Linux systems and sort it out, too. (then make a simpler newer copy on that “Archival” service…) That Linux is all I really care about. But if, at some time, I manage to have the ChromeBox locked up trying to put Linux on it, then this Linux is just fine for blog operations and browsing too…

    The ASUS is just insurance, really. And a place to try things without really caring if I lock up the box. At some point I may just make it a dedicated back end server for a “one stop” boot server, DHCP server, DNS server, files archive, etc. etc. Or it might just sit around waiting for something else to break… The fan is a bit noisy and I’ve gotten spoiled by the non-fan of the ChromeBox and the very quiet EVO. They play well in the living room ;-)

    And, at the end of it all, I’ve freshened my Linux skills, reawakened some hardware skills, found my limits and know what to improve. And in any interview I can “name drop” that I found Debian 7.8 easy to install but that the IceWeasel hang was poor form on their part, while the Fedora Scientific Spin was very hard to get onto a working USB… then that getting the driver complied for the WN725N wasn’t hard, but really they need a GUI config tool. That kind of stuff demonstrates to the interviewer that you “have clue” and are not stale…

    Besides, as basically a Unix / Linux Geek sort, it’s fun to play with the toys. Even some of the older smaller ones ;-) ( I do miss “my Cray” some times… “A Cray means never having to say you are waiting for a command. -E.M.Smith” ;-)

  6. Power Grab says:

    Whew! What a journey! Time for a nice relaxing day in the sun. ;-)

    Reminds me how I ended up recovering some unbacked-up files from a friend’s “dead” laptop. Windows, of course, and had gotten to where it would only go the blue screen instead of fully booting. He had taken it to let the Geek Squad look at it. They said they could do a factory reset for $200. Pshaw! Anyone could do that for free, as long as they were willing to lose all their documents, right? Why pay $200 to some guys who said up front they were UNwilling to even attempt to recover any documents – but they still thought it was OK to charge $200 for the “service”.

    My friend figured it was about time to spring for a new laptop anyway, but wanted me to say whether I thought that was (1) really necessary, and/or (2) preferable.

    We ended up with the friend’s buying a new laptop and having it mailed to me, and also mailing me the “dead” laptop.

    I ended up learning some things and using some hardware that I “Just Happened” to have lying around for other purposes. Long story short, I ended up creating an Unbuntu live disk and was able to use that to see everything on the dead laptop. Once I got that far, I called my friend and asked if all the documents were in the My Documents directory, or might they also be elsewhere.

    Well, my friend was describing the most important file he didn’t want to lose. It was about 60+ pages of family history that he had no backup for. I asked what the file name might be. He gave a couple of clues. I could tell he was really concerned about losing it and having to reconstruct it all. While he continued talking, I opened a likely candidate and interrupted him and read some of the text in the document I had opened. He was speechless for a few moments, then proclaimed he could now sleep that night. :-)

    After copying over the documents to the new laptop (which took some finagling because they were different Windows versions and also had different storage-device capabilities), I did do a factory reset on the old laptop, which was destined to be a spare that the grandkids could use. My friend promised he would faithfully backup his documents from here on out.

    But your skills far exceed mine. I bow to your expertise and persistence!

    P.S. FORTRAN IV was the first computer class I ever took. I loved it! But back then, there was no such thing as a computer science or MIS major at college. I heard that companies that wanted to hire programmers were interviewing music majors, among other things!

  7. Jay says:

    EM, I can relate, as I have gone down these rat holes or HW and SW messes.

    I still use my Mepis 12 beta, very solid. Dual boot with the MX-14

    On these old boxen, along the Mepis line, I would recommend MX-14.4 a collaboration with AntiX and the Mepis community . It uses XFCE as DE.
    http://www.mepiscommunity.org/mx

    And for older hardware, I recommend you look at AntiX, a lightweight version with light desktop environments. http://antix.mepis.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

    All are Debian based, and have a still vibrant and helpful Mepis community forum for support.
    http://forum.mepiscommunity.org

    -Jay

  8. gallopingcamel says:

    Fantastic commentary! I have done similar things on a much more mundane level so I picked up a few snippets here and there but have no idea what a “Rainbow Tables” attack is.

  9. gallopingcamel says:

    Or Mepis for that matter.

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    The short version is a rainbow tables attack is a very efficient way to check/crack passwords.
    Passwords on a computer system exist only as a string of garbage characters called a hash. When you type in the open text password it is run through a
    “hash” routine which converts it to a hash string that is the result of a complex calculation/transformation. This is computed from the original password.

    For example here is the MD5 hash for the text string “babyfat55”
    a7d6ae9f30d182bac11fc17a387082cb

    Here is the same text string hashed by the sha1 hash routine
    e66f48ac6fadc499f849519dadef804f4737c6de

    There are dozens of different hash routines used for different purposes, but they are all similar in that if you input a certain string of text and hash it, you always get the same hash output, but it is very difficult or impossible to reverse the transformation and turn the hash directly back into the original text string.

    http://www.sha1-online.com/

    Different operating systems and programs use different hash routines so to break a hash string you need to know something about the system it was generated on and what is it used for to know what hash routine was most likely used to generate it.
    When a hacker “steals passwords” from a system, they are really stealing a list of these hash strings not the actual open text passwords. To turn them into real passwords you need to run the hash function against every possible password and see if you can get a match.

    The rainbow tables is in essence a dictionary of the open text password and the hash that results from that password. By pre-computing the hashes from all likely passwords it is very much faster to compare the text strings for the stolen password hashes against this dictionary to see if any match than it is to actually grind through the process of testing all possible character combinations in each password.

    Since most people use weak passwords, there is a high probability that a fair number of the passwords are already “broken” in the rainbow tables and it takes only minutes to compare them to that table and poof you know the plain text password.

    If I remember correctly most linux distributions use crypt-md5 to do the password hash

    To make things more difficult for crackers, systems add a “salt” to the password you type in, so the result is not a simple conversion.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_%28cryptography%29

  11. beng135 says:

    Well, Chief, after reading this I tried Puppylinux run from my DVD, and it works fine! Certainly far easier than Linux some yrs ago when I had it installed. Detected my hardware and wireless DSL modem (and connected) in a snap. Posting from SeaMonkey browser right now. Debating whether to install on my HD as previously a Linux boot-loader screwed up my access to WindowsNT when booting. So a HD installation would be a risk.

  12. Jay says:

    Gallopingcamel,

    Mepis is a Linux distribution produced by Warren Woodford.
    It was an early easy to use live CD. Warren stopped developing it about a year ago (last was Mepis12 beta- still works better than many released versions) but the community has picked up the work, and MX-14 a collaboration with the Mepis community and another Mepis off shoot for older low power computers Anti-X.
    EM,

    what old version of Mepis were you struggling with?

  13. punmaster52 says:

    @Richard Ilfeld :
    Lots of folks move to Florida and get old and, er, scatter-brained.

    Some of us were born in Florida.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Beng135:

    The only think I don’t like about Puppy Linux is the way they propagate the “cutsy” meme into all sorts of places. Like their alternative “spins” (R.Hat term) or “distros” or “serverlets” or… are called something like “puplets”. Every time you turn around their is an opaque cute term where a generic descriptive term would be self explanatory and better. Like they use “Woof” to do their builds. How about just using “builder”? Or even Puppy-builder? After a while the “cute” becomes annoying.

    But it works well and is very easily customized. Has many “puplets” with custom goals already baked in, and in a ‘head to head’ with several other live disks on my various hardware was the most reliable and least problematic / annoying.

    At some point I’m likely to do a “roll your own” Linux distro and will likely base it on a Puppy architecture (but with hardening and security as the core goal, along with distributed computing / data store). IFF at that time the Woof and Puplet get too me too much, I could always rename them ;-)

    But yes, it’s a very nice low learning threshold way to go.

    BTW, I’d install it to a thumb drive rather than to the hard disk. In some ways it runs faster and better from there anyway. Also avoids the ‘WIndoze Is Cranky and doesn’t share well or play well with others’ problems…

    @Punmaster52:

    And some of us keep going there, but getting tossed out after a year or two… I sure hope it isn’t about me…

    @Jay:

    Don’t know right off the top, but old. Whatever was around about 2012 when I installed it. I’m sure newer would work better, but my goals are not quite the same as the Mepis goals. (Small, light, plain with much line command oriented tech devo work, not so much slick graphics and fancy windows effects). May try it again some day, but on a dedicated box…

    Oh, and just to be clear: MANY Linux releases from that era had issues being dual boot with Windows, and it was a very early version of the NTFS file system support in most Linux releases then that caused the problem (Either that, or the disk lost a bit of oxide…) and they warned that NTFS support was early and dodgy, so to some extent “my bad”…

    @GallopingCamel:

    Looks like others have addressed Rainbow Tables and Mepis. (h/t Larry & Jay)

    Rainbow Tables just being a pre-compute all the password encryptions then it is a ‘lookup’ instead of all those computes (substitute disk space and pre-computing once, for compute on the spot each time) while Mepis is Yet Another Linux Distribution. Like a customized Ubuntu, sort of.

    @Jay:

    I’ll take a look at Antix. Saw it as a name that looked interesting, but skipped by for reasons I don’t remember ;-)

    @PowerGrab:

    Nice story!

    Greater expertise is just more hours banging head against problems… and don’t forget the Law Of Mutual Superiority: Anything I program, you can improve and anything you program I can improve.

    That generalizes to “fix” and “debug” in my experience. We all have a different POV and style on things and when you hit a problem, the other POV is sometimes better. It is ALWAYS true that you are only as good as your last Atta-Boy and will soon run into the Aw-Shit. At that point, remember the Law Of Mutual Superiority and ask someone, anyone, for ideas…

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