Wheezy Debian Seems Stable on Evo Now

Just a short note.

I’m testing my “experience” using Debian Wheezy on my old Evo box as a dual boot machine. (Long time readers will remember my tale of woe about recovery of XP on the box, and then dumping Mepis that may have caused the failure, but finding all current versions of X Windows seemed to have a ‘hang’ after a couple of minutes.)

Well, I just rebooted it again and it hung again after wiggling the mouse a bit and open / close / move of a window or two. I’d been looking through a dozen different Linux and BSD releases, trying to decide “what to try next?”, but thought “ought to try a simple upgrade first”; just to see if things were fixed between then (install) and now (having ignored it for a couple of months).

reboot (and it was set to open a terminal window on bringup inside the normal X Windows desktop).
Careful not to do anything to move the mouse much (other than activating the text window) nor change any other windows.
#aptitude upate
#aptitude full-upgrade
{wait about 1/2 hour for stuff to complete}

Well, that was a while ago. I’ve been using it about 1/2 hour per “top”. I’d noticed that three X Windows related updates happened, along with some others that might have had an effect. At this time, I’ve launched Iceweasel, browsed a few web sites, posted a comment. Resized and moved windows. Have “top” running it a window of it’s own.

Looks like everything is doing fine. So I decided to see how it likes WordPress, and I’m doing this page edit / posting to test things.

My only complaint so far is that clearly Debian is suffering the same kind of Code Bloat and stupification as Microsoft Windows. The thing is not particularly fast. There is noticable lag time between key stroke and character to the screen. It’s like being on an old 386 in that regard. (In fairness, this might be an Iceweasel thing… Though I note that the spell checker is not active, that is what usually slows down typing in Iceweasel / Firefox… so an ‘alternative browser install’ is on the cards.)

In any case, it is now a workable installation. I’m now clear to proceed with the loading of temperature data sets, porting of GIStemp to this platform, and generally setting it up as a Temperature Data Analysis Station. (Though, frankly, the old Red Hat 7.2 on a machine with 1/10 the memory and about 1/4 the CPU was a faster smoother experience… but no longer had browsers that would work in this brave new animated down your throat advertizing world… Couldn’t even get an updated browser to download…)

With that, I’m going to try spending more time using this platform for day to day browsing / posting / mainentance and such. A ‘shakedown cruise’ if you will. Though if I can’t fix the type ahead / lag I’ll be back on the Chrombox for postings… “Top” reports that of 2 GB of memory, I’ve used 822 MB. While I consider that outrageous (given that I’ve run “top” and a browser on machines with only 64 MB of total memory and had it run faster…) it also means that it is not memory that is limiting. Simlarly, while typing this, CPU is at 90.90 US and 6 Sys, for almost 100%, and moving the mouse puts it over 100%, so it lookes like something is hammering the CPU. My guess is that Iceweasel is not very well written for performance… We will see how other browsers do. Over time.

In Conclusion

So I’m “reasonably happy”. As a climate data station, it will have plenty of performance. (FORTRAN and doing sums are incredibly efficient, especially compared to object oriented ‘eye candy’ cycle suckers). Having a working browser will let me download things as needed, even if it isn’t an effecient browser; and if I can find a nice fast alternative, well, then it will become a ‘daily driver’ too.

For now, thanks to whatever bug was fixed in the last update round, Debian is working and stable (so far…) and I don’t need to spend another day or two trying to find a release with a working X Windows in it. Yay…

So now it is on to the next steps of settling in, moving all those dozens of GB of data from a variety of scattered places to this machine, testing FORTRAN, etc. etc. Maybe I ought to make a “beer run” first… you know, some anesthesia to prevent irritation from all that stuff… ;-)

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...
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20 Responses to Wheezy Debian Seems Stable on Evo Now

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, at one hour of uptime, and using the Chromium browser, it’s even a bit better. While Chromium is not my favorite browser, it was already installed. The spell checker works (unlike in Iceweasel where it was checked, but didn’t function) and the key stroke lag is much less. Given that I type 70 ish WPM when rolling and 50+ most of the time, I expect some amount of key lag.

    So using Chromium it’s “good enough”, and I’ll worry about an even faster browser on another day. Using Chromium it’s showing about 65% CPU used, just enough less to not slam the CPU. I can live with that.

    On to the next steps of moving into a new Daily Driver…

    The Chromebox can now be ‘deprecated’ as Daily Driver and moved to the Living Room as primarily a media / Netflix box. At least until I get the time to set it up as a dual boot Linux box too. Part of why I bought it was “for that day”, but I was unwilling to take that leap while it was the only really stable and usable posting platform I had. The Galaxy tablet is a great browser on the couch, but for typing / input / posting it is sucky. Even with an outboard keyboard. And while the two XP boxes are decent with browsers, they are now “Hack Me!” signs hung out to the world, so for “internal use only” really. Using MacPup LiveCD on one of them was nice, but it isn’t the same experience as having a world that you have customized. I’m still working on setting up a persistent experience from it; but as of now it isn’t seeing the saved config files on the USB drive. So “more to do”… later… For now it is just the “secure system” that’s new each time from read only boot.

    At any rate, that this is a workable combo of OS and Browser and is acting stable in modest use duration is encouraging. I can now “get on with things” that were hanging on stupid bugs issues.

    It’s nice to be back in a full on Linux / Unix world again. It’s been a while…

  2. M Simon says:

    You ought to consider Forth. See my write up in the Controlling The Fusion Plant section at http://protonboron.com/portal/power-grid-frequency-meter/

    I’m 10WPM on a good day one handed. Lag has never been a problem. ;-)

  3. Kelly says:

    This is actually a reply to your old page (from 2011) on oxalates and the various protocols involved.

    Catherine Tamaro (whom you called “this guy”) was the woman who proposed that K deficiency was causing the oxalate problems in kids with autism. I don’t know if she was correct (her group is now defunct) but at the same time Susan Owens (who ran the Trying Low Oxalate group) and was always against anything Tamaro (or anyone else) said that countered her protocol, has since developed multiple sclerosis. Of course this could be the result of many things, but Owens did repeatedly encourage the use of arginine in her protocol, which happens to be linked to MS.

    Meanwhile, while Tamaro seems to have moved on to other things, this study suggests that maybe she might have been correct, at least in some regards, because it helps kidney function:


    “These findings suggest that administration of vitamin K(2) improves renal function and increases cortical bone strength without altering BMD in rats with renal insufficiency.”

    Yes, it was a rat study, but most are. I’m sure one could find studies in humans as well.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @M. Simon:

    My only real “issue” with Forth is that most of what I do these days does not need it.

    Web browser, email, file management / archive maintenance, occasional doc writing.

    When I do something technical, it tends to (these days) involve running a set of some old FORTRAN such as GIStemp to see what it does; so I get no say in the language.

    I learned it once, about 1980? and liked it. In many ways I write a lot of shell scripts since it, too, is a ‘threaded interpreted language’. So I’m “in that camp”, just not in that language…

  5. Eric Barnes says:

    Not sure what Window manager you are using, but I’d say XFCE is the best ever since KDE and gnome went full bloatware.


    I use an old emachine I picked up for a song that has an amd cpu and 2 GB of ram for a mythtv server and running gnome or kde will cause serious problems.

    I actually would like lesstif or motif to be available, but haven’t gone through the trouble (yet :) )

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    I tried lxde but ended up with xfce (IIRC) for just that reason. Never could stand Gnome well, but kde was good… until it wasn’t anymore…

    Same basic error of philosophy as EMACS. The Kitchen Sink effect vs classical Unix “do one small thing well”. I don’t need my editor to be a compiler and file manager, nor do I need my window manager to fetch my mail and be an editor…

    Oh Well… I’m an old classical Surley Curmudgeon

  7. gareth says:

    I’ve been using Mint 13 since XP went off support. Works well for me, with not much tweaking. The only thing I can’t get to run under wine is Lotus 123 (!), but it works fine under a Virtualbox XP VM. A colleague reports that Mint 17 is also OK.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Mint is based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian… so I decided to just go “upstream” and start with Debian. (May be a mistake, as there is some ‘value add’ in the chain of handlers, but I’m a developer sort at least in theory, so like taking it a bit more raw and rolling my own – pain, suffering, and all ;-)

    Then again, I’ve thought about Mint as one of the selling points is the familiar look and feel while another is the speed advantage:



    Linux Mint definitely has an edge when it comes to speed. Ubuntu’s gotten faster over the past few versions, but Mint always feels pretty snappy, even on older or lower-powered hardware (at least compared to Ubuntu). If you’re installing Linux to speed up an old computer, Mint may offer you a better experience.

    I’m not sure where Debian lands on the compile flags and libraries spectrum compared to those two. I may yet give Mint a whirl. One of my longer term objectives is to take raw Debian and make a ‘slimmer’ version of it. Maybe use ulibc for smaller faster libraries like Gentoo lets you do:


    Then again, Gentoo already has a ulibc hardened version so I’m also playing with it. (Almost installed it when I did this install, but something glitched in the whole download forever and then compile a long time process and I lost the ‘mood’ ;-) I think maybe it was the lack of a working Linux to do the download and compile… and having “issues” getting the CD to boot… and maybe I was trying to put it on the ASUS that’s a PITA due to some strange choices for chipset… Oh Well, we’ll see. (Or maybe it was bitten by the hardware issues I was having with the Vectra DVD / CD and Evo memory unseated… I just remember it was a pita then glitched too much.)

    Frankly, after all the pain and suffering to get this box to a workable state again (from re-seating memory to recovering XP to getting past X-windows bugs to…) I’m really most inclined to just LITFA for a while. Maybe I’ll get one of my old White Box machines out of the garage and to an upgrade of it to Mint.

    I’d intended that the HP Vectra would be the experimental box, but the motherboard in it lost an interface to the CD drive and it’s just not worth keeping anymore. I know, I know, I could put a real modern MB in it… but then I have a giant chassis with a lot of fan and power supply and noise and all, and for what? For less money I can get a Chromebook and just install Linux and move on… which comes back to just dual booting the Chromebox… and the ellipse closes on itself again.

    For now, I think my “experimental” use of variety Linux releases will be limited to LiveCD and / or USB boots. Also on my “todo” list is set up something (likely the RPi) as a boot server. If I do that, I can just boot the “flavor of the day” from it and not worry about it. I’d intended that as the last step, after “bring up Linux dual boot” and “Linux dual on Chromebox”, but maybe I ought to just jump it to the front of the queue and be done. Oh well, too many options for playing and not enough time to play…


    Thinking about it… for a small sum I could order a couple of more RPi boards and just move on to that “network infrastructure” stage. The intent being that all the “usual” infrastructure bits live on one RPi (DNS, time server, bittorrent server, etc. Already on one now, except I don’t have a mail server running on it) and the Boot Server and File Server live on another (not even started).

    Then any particular desktop platform can just mount files, or bootp from the boot server and mount files. As the memory chips in the RPi are easily archived, any loss of function becomes “flash a new copy” instead of “buy a new box” or “deal with infected system”. Also, in a “time to worry” scenario it’s a 10 second chip swap and the RPi is an “I Know Nothing!” Schultz Box…

    That’s the long term goal and I could just jump to it.

    Maybe mañana ;-) For now I’m just going to get some work done on this box as it sits. If nothing else, configuring it will freshen the Linux / Unix skills a bit. (I’ve noticed already that DNS lookup is slow, so setting it up to do caching DNS and pointing it at my preferred DNS list including my internal RPi DNS server would be a mondo improvement in speed. Also cut down on external DNS chatter and the info leakage / spoofing opportunities that go with it.)

    We’ll see. I often find that when the urge to hack something hits, well, whatever is around and not critical becomes fodder for the “Hey, I have an idea!” moment…

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    “for a small sum I could order a couple of more RPi boards and just move on to that “network infrastructure” stage.” “That’s the long term goal and I could just jump to it.” “

  10. p.g.sharrow says:

    Damn screwed up that comment!

    “Maybe mañana ;-)

    Grandson has the same problem. 5 RPi’s to network and still tinkering with the box to put them in. :-)
    Meanwhile grandpa is working on other more immediate things.

    Sometimes you just got to hunker down and get her done. ;-) pg

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Yup. And sometimes you grasp the nettle and it’s a killer, other times, you come out clean.

    Short story:

    I am now typing this using CentOS, the “Enterprise Red Hat” that isn’t branded as Red Hat. Essentially a bunch of guys who have to keep data centers running, often at large government agencies, take the source code for Red Hat Enterprise and strip out the branding and such. It is generally a higher end oriented system that just has to work right with commercial and reasearch applications. Not a lot of “eye candy and games”. But you know FORTRAN will work on it…

    So I’d been wanting to try it for a while, and since everything was more or less working, must be time to screw with it, right? 8-0 But I figured I’d just use the LiveCD and no harm in that.

    Well, that worked well, and me thinking it was a bit faster than Debian… decided to install it onto a flash drive. It claims to do it from the LiveCD… sort of… well, really it claims to install to your hard drive, but hey, what’s a hard drive these days? So I do a ‘trial install’… I can always back out before it does anything ‘for real’…

    It’s going great, but it’s a bit Authoritarian… “We’re doing this my way, right?” is sort of the theme. Lots of details hidden, but it will show you what you need to know… I’m presented with a table of “Blow Away ALL the disk” or “Only Blow Away Existing Linux Partitions” or… you get the drift. But one “disk” is a 3.8 GB with an EFI file system type on it. My USB is FAT32. Hmmm… the other partions are NTFS (the XP I want to keep), SWAP (that I want to use for swap), and two Linux partitions…. all on the “other disk” that is my hard disk.

    EFI System partition. The EFI System partition (ESP) is a partition on a data storage device (usually a hard disk drive or solid-state drive) that is used by computers adhering to the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).

    If you go further in the wiki you find out EFI is based on FAT, but not exactly it… So I figure THAT must be my USB drive. Gritting teeth, and checking that backup disk is not connected so I have a copy of MOST of what’s on the hard disk, and trusting that CentOS is made by folks with clue, I mark to make the EFI disk / and install to it. For sure? “Yes”, Return…

    And BOTH the Hard Disk and the CD activity lights start strobing… as it puts up the message “Installing to Hard Disk”… OMG! the stomach tightens… pitty pat pitty pat… What Have I Done? Hopefully nothing bad…

    After a moment thinking, I convince myself it’s either that they both strobe when they strobe (that I know isn’t usually true) or it is that the LiveCD is using the SWAP partition (that I know it saw and used at boot up as “top” showed it in use). But it has no reason to be using SWAP… so I spend what seems like an hour waiting, while lights blink, to find out. Thinking all the time about how to recover if I’ve just blasted my hard disk and about how some installs DO use SWAP for things and …

    Eventually I get to the ‘reboot’ step. Long pause while the BIOS plays with itself… GRUB comes up and gives me the familar choices, so I choose the XP partition… long pause “XP booting”…

    Sigh… Stomach loosens up a bit. Realize I’m out of Scotch…

    And now, after another reboot, but pointing boot to the USB drive, I’m running off of a live USB install of CentOS. And didn’t screw the pooch…

    It’s running a bit faster than Debian. It has lower memory usage ( I have Firefox open, with “top” in a terminal window, with some disk folders open, with a remote Terminal Server application open… and it’s running 75% idle as I type with no typehead in comments and with “only” 900 MB out of 2 GB memory used. Swap of 4 GB is mounted, but the disk is not being hit.

    So I now have a reasonably fast “persistent” system image that lives on a dongle I can just yank out of the box if I so desired. And without the lag and “whirr whirr whirr” noise of the CD drive.

    At some point I want to try making one of these with Tails OS on it for “secure” uses (right now it’s on a CD too). But for now, I think having 3 OSs on the box is enough ;-)

    Windows XP for all things legacy and backwards compatibiltiy with things backwards.

    Debian for development and for a ‘regular home’ where I’ve got a big disk for installing “whatever” to play with from the default package libraries. Place to store my archives of files too.

    CentOS on a USB dongle for semi-secure ‘not a lot of saved stuff or foot prints’ use, and as a test bed for a USB GIStemp. Stuff can come, and go, and I don’t care. If it gets hacked, I’ll just dd if=backupimage of=usbdisk and restore it (once I make the backup image ;-)

    And with that, I’m going to make some warm coco for my knotted stomach to relax a bit more…

    (And resolve to always disconnect the hard drive before doing a LiveCD to USB install again…)

    But I’ve at least managed to move a bit further along toward the “got ‘er done” side, with the running live from USB done, and with a “friendly to FORTRAN” install, and with a “good for daily use hard disk system” running, and with “lessons learned” for making that Tails OS dongle system…

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith’ Congratulations! A Wave Offering to your last night’s success.
    Sometimes after enough mistakes, “learning experiences” success happens. ;-)

    A stable Linux OS that will boot up from a USB stick and allow the selection of the needed computing environment is a great step for the preservation of legacy.
    The OS ability to operate without a lot of background monkey dancing is even better. 8-) pg

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    The place I work made the switch to Centos from Solaris about a year ago. It seems well behaved. Have had no unwelcome surprises I am aware of due to the OS. I don’t get involved in the install process when they roll out a new server, so have never worked through setting up a system with it but it seems to be a good stable OS to work with.

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    My “goal” is to have:

    1) The legacy XP laying around (along with the roughly 20 GB of old crap in Windoz formats and the software to read them…) for occasional use when all else fails. Check!

    2) A selection of LiveCD “OS du Jour” for sampling / taster use, and for secure read only OS use. Something you can boot and go, knowing nothing is trackable and no infection can happen to the CD Rom… Think of this as the “outside the perimeter paranoid Linux”. That, too is: Check!

    3) An installed to disk Linux / BSD that is stable, easily updated, and modestly efficient. “Good Enough” on speed, security, and stability, but not a paranoid OS on security (as that compromises usability some) nor a “speed first all else second” as that, too, has issues; and willing to accept the occasional instability as long as it doesn’t kill the box or erase the disk. This to be the “most of the time” home for “Legacy Unix / Linux files” along with general puttering around place. NOT a “daily driver” for casual wandering into whatever rat infested hell hole is on the internet, though… While I’m not 100% sure Debian is “it” (as last night I did a login with xfce selected instead of the ‘default X’ environment and that ‘hang’ happened again…) for now it is “good enough”. Think of this as the “inside the perimeter” Linux. So I’m giving it a: Check!

    4) A “Daily Driver” for casual wandering around and posting / page reading based on a Linux on a USB Stick. I’m pretty sure I’ve now got that with the CentOS install. It’s a bit spartan, and a bit authoritarian, but having added another browser to it I now have a decent work space. Still a bit experimental (as it is running from a USB stick that is about 20 years old and fairly small / slow and with that era rapid ‘wear rate’) but after “run in” if I like it I can move it to a newer larger USB. The whole idea being to have a ‘persistent’ environment that can be customized for things like home pages and links, maybe even saving some pages and images; yet not be the “whole Magilla” if someone hacks into it or buggers it. Easily backed up / restored, and easily replaced. Also portable and can be “yanked on a bump in the night”. Think of this as the “outside the perimeter but not paranoid” Linux. Check!

    5) The Operatives Space. Probably Tails, though maybe Kylin based.
    This is almost a ‘work in progress’ and basically still in the ‘thinking space’. It must wait until you have a workable place to download things that doesn’t get you tracked and hacked (since as of now searching on the Tails OS is a trigger for NSA attention) and a space to do the ‘build and evaluate before deployment’. Also, as it will go onto a CD and / or USB for me, getting those two “easy and fast” as skills is a precursor. Eventually, if that ends up being the ‘way to go’, you need a non-traceable system to do the download and then do that at a public place with open WiFi (thus my Raspberry Pi “Dongle Pi” effort…
    that needs a portable VNC to drive it, and with the HP fan dying it’s not got one at the moment… so next up is that fan replacement / repair. ) There is also a ‘bit of work’ to figure out how to assure you are getting the ‘real deal’ and not some NSA Special substitute. Non-trivial given how they are playing games with folks DNS servers et. al. … But quite possibly just using an older TOR browser from sources as the first step, and assuring DNS is loaded locally and from a static set from the download of your choice will be ‘enough’. Might need a VPN to a country outside the NSA buggerage range. We’ll see… But China was un-fond of all the USA companies being NSA buggered, so made their own ‘hack resistant’ OS. Oddly enough, based on my favorite Secure OS of choice: BSD. (It is how I have kept a ‘never hacked’ on my resume from all my years at Apple as the guy in charge of network security in Engineering… Locked down BSD.) So knowing they have taken a ‘wise path’, it would be reasonable to look at using it, and adding a torrified browser and such. Plus removing any Chinese Security Service buggerage… The purpose being to have a space where one can feel reasonably secure about “browse where you want and talk to whom you want” without too much fear the NSA is slurping it all up and giving it to Hillary. That whole “secure in your papers and effects” thing… At any rate, this is not done, but more of a: Starting Real Soon Now.

    6) Eventually some “servers” for internal infrastructure. Local DNS with a large set of hard coded values (so NSA DNS swapping can’t touch it) and an internal eMail server (so, like Hillary, it can be kept ‘secure’…) along with a VPN server (so the “OS du Jour” doesn’t need to deal with it, and I can just swap the whole network into an encrypted pipe to ‘some other country’) and a few more. I’ve already got a caching DNS server and Bittorrent server set up (though the DNS just takes what the public servers gives it, so not spoof proof against ‘agencies’). Oh, and a boot server / VM boot server so I can play with more / different OSs without so much hands on media. This is all in the “someday” pile. It is likely overkill for most things, and comes after I have workable solutions that are ‘inside the box’ or even ‘inside the USB dongle’…

    Lot of work? Yup. Security and privacy are a constant battle of sorts. I’ve been dealing with this since about 1980 and it’s just gotten worse. Not because the system crackers are any better, but largely, IMHO, because the Three Letter Agencies have deliberately leaned on manufacturers to do things badly for their cracking convenience. There have been so many times I’ve said “Why on earth would anyone do THAT?” to some brain dead decision on security by a major vendor. After Snowden, now we know why. (I’d suspected it before… but it was nice to have confirmation.) The real stupidity of it all is the typical one: Arrogance. The arrogance to think they would never be caught. The arrogance to think no other country would figure out the weaknesses they had installed and exploit them. Want to know how China is hacking into all sorts of US Government sites? They just figured out how THEY were being exploited, realized it was in “everything”, and started using it themselves (while rolling out their own resistant OS internally). So it goes.

    Oh, and my ‘motivation’? Besides just keeping my skilz up for personal marketing purposes, and besides the general pissedoffedness at agency stupidity, I don’t really have much reason other than the general belief that even if all I’m doing is reading Wikis, it’s only MY Damn Business and nobody else needs to stick their nose in. I don’t need ads for STDs and hospitals showing up (and being flagged to both Google and the NSA) because I was curious about some news article on a new antibiotic, nor do I need flagging and tracking because I was curious about what ISIL is doing and maybe it is a threat to me, so I research it a bit. That The Little O has called folks like me (us Global Warming skeptics and deniers) a major ‘security threat’ does add a bit of sense of plausible urgency, however. That others, including senators, are saying we need to be treated as criminals doesn’t help one feel ‘secure in their papers and effects’; or even much in my living room… So partly it is just to be prepared “for that day”… that I hope will never come and that I will expect to never come if the Republicans win in 2016. But “we will see” and unlike the Russians and Reagan, “suspect and verify”… (Hey, I’m a Unix Sysadmin, they ARE out to get me! It comes with the turf… someone is always trying to hack in…)

    With that, back to work for me…

    And for those wanting to play along at home, I’d suggest trying a couple of liveCD linux releases on some old hardware you have laying around. So far the Puppy series is the easiest to use (with MacPup being very tasty) while some of the others are a bit more robust. If anyone is interested I can make a posting reviewing the ones I’ve tried on my mystery meat hardware collection. Though since ‘install issues’ and various ‘bugs in use’ are often hardware type dependent, I’m not sure how useful that would be. (For example, I’ve had great trouble getting anything to work on the ASUS box as it uses strange video / chipsets. That’s unlikely to impact anyone else as that motherboard isn’t exactly mainstream…) The general strategy is laid out above, more or less, and it ought to be pretty easy to see how to make #1 and #2. (If not, I’m willing to do a ‘walk through’ on a couple of ‘download and burn LiveCD’ examples.)

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    So far, my impressions of CentOS is that it selects stability and reliability over “new” and “variety”. So, for example, it came with my choice of ONE browser and ONE email client and ONE desktop environment. Maybe some larger install DVDs have more, but this CD based install was very specific. Don’t like Firefox browser? Tough. Don’t want Gnome desktop? Tough. They have chosen what you will like and assured it will work well together.

    And that is the flip side. The “kitchen sink” releases often have “failure to test” as it would take an army to test everything in them. That, then, leads to sporadic buggy bits. It is an essential trade off of “controlled choice and reliable” vs “anything goes and may not work right”. So CentOS mostly “just works”. Their way.

    That attitude shows up in the install process as well. It gives you some choices, but you are not driving the install step by step. They drive, you read the GPS…

    I did manage to get an Opera browser installed, but attempts to find an Iceweasel, IceCat, IceMonkey, Chromium all were ‘less than successful’. (Chromium is like Chrome, only a bit more polite, while the Ice series are more ‘open’ and more secure / less ‘tracking’.)

    Also, CentOS tends to lag everyone else by several years. This is so that new bugs are not constantly being introduced. A good thing, but you end up ‘out of date’ on some things. So, for example, those “Ice*” browsers. Often libraries have changed, or release levels have moved on in the wild spaces like Debian and Ubuntu such that the CentOS era stuff is no longer being supported. Thus the “Use what CentOS gives you” motif. Trying to install non-CentOS RPMs will likely run into compatibility issues on the one hand, or ‘old solved bugs’ if using back level versions that are compatible with the OS / Library levels. (Not surprising, BSD gets the same slam as they like to assure things are stable and secure before leaping to a change… I’m OK with that.)

    So if you want “few surprises and it works reliably” at the expense of “not a lot of cutting edge stuff”, it’s a good solution. If you want “bleeding edge new stuff as soon as it is checked into the source tree”, then Debian with one of the newer release levels chosen is for you… Thus my two choices for environments on disk and on USB ;-)

    There are some other differences too. Debian is the ‘desktop du jour’ and you can customize the look and feel and general weight of the surface. CentOS is the “Gnome R Us” and things are clearly defined, but not your choice. For organizations wanting things to be “standardized”, that’s a big feature. It also has more ‘hooks’ for industrial environments like networked file stores and remote authenticators and such. Debian not so much… (in there, but a DIY thing). So for a production organization, CentOS is more “lock downable” and integrates better with industrial sites.

    That’s my take on things, anyway. So far I more or less like it. Straight Jacket not pinching too much ;-) Besides, I can always boot up Debian if I want to play with something full of surprises and / or the newest hairbrained idea…

  16. Paul Hanlon says:

    Well, I was going to suggest Opera in place of Firefox / Iceweasel, but having used it for a while, it is every bit as much a memory hog / CPU fan inducing browser as Firefox. Nice and zippy, but not something to have 30 tabs open with.

    Another OS to maybe add to your list is BackTrack, or it’s successor Kali, the one the hackers use for penetration testing and security. It even has an image for the Raspberry Pi, which I’m just downloading.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul Hanlon:

    For a variety of reasons I typically use at least 2 and preferably 3 browsers on every system. My usual candidate list is: Firefox (or a non-branded variant: IceWeasel, IceApe, IceCat…), Opera, and Chrome in about that order. MS Exploder if it is required by the client or some web site is just so brain dead as to only work with it, and for some reason I must use that web site. Oh, and Safari takes the lead spot if I’m on a Mac.

    Why? Well, for one thing, not all things work with all browsers or work the same way on all browsers… For another, I sometimes like the look of one more than another, or one has more speed or less memory footprint. For example, on the Galaxy Note tablet the Android provided browser works OK, but at about a dozen+ tabs open it can open no more and flips out. I installed FireFox and that has let me leave up to 60 tabs open at one time. ( I think it just flushes cache on them when you get ‘too many’.. but it has sporadically crashed after a couple of days with that many tabs open). Sure, I could use bookmarks. But why get into bookmark maintenance if you just want to ‘keep that around for a posting tomorrow’?

    Opera has a ‘turbo’ feature that lets you speed things up on slow links via a compression and caching scheme, and also lets you save “sessions”. FireFox has a generally decent function everywhere. Chrome is relatively fast and with an OK experience for bare bones things that you don’t mind having tracked by Google. IceApe on one of the LiveCDs has the feature that video doesn’t work, so the terribly annoying video ads on WUWT don’t happen ;-) and I save a lot of bandwidth. So it goes. (Oh, and Midori is low footprint for things like the R.Pi …). Then there is the sporadic “this one has working spell checking and that one doesn’t”…

    This variety also keeps the familiarity up so when at a client and they say “Here, you look this up” and slide the keyboard to you, it isn’t a culture shock on some alien browser…

    But yes, over time they have all tended to bloat up. Too many features being added by too many hands. Oh Well.

    Per Kali:

    Yes, I’ve got a copy or two of it squirreled away. As you pointed out, it is a PenTesting specialized system. So a bit light on some “fun” toys, but heavy on system attack / test tools. At a prior client it was ported to the R.Pi and used for Penetration Testing their WiFi system via a walkaround backpack system. (Shades of my Dongle Pi! but not related…)

    I’ve not tried using it as a daily driver, but it likely is an idea worth checking. If one is sitting in the coffee shop to read the Daily Blog, might as well be able to poke holes in all the security and systems around you ;-) (Actually, it isn’t an exploit to just note how secure things are; it is letting you know how exposed you are on their system.)

    Ah the joys of Linux Systems Admin consuming your days…

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    I broke down and picked up a Toshiba (Satellite) L10-B today from Best Buy. It was only $280 and I like the small size for something I can use on the road but still has a real keyboard. I’ve spent the last few hours trying to strip crap out of it and do updates. (long sigh)
    I am currently at 32 of 116 updates.

    I also have a few default installed programs that it refuses to uninstall. This should probably keep me amused (or frustrated) for the next few hours to get it peeled back to just the essentials I actually might use.
    I might do a linux Mint or Centos install on one of these too, just to have a low cost portable troubleshooting platform on hand.

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    I usually try to have a bootable linux CD and a Linux USB stick if possible. The CD for an always clean OS and system rescue. The USB for daily driver utilities. Any Linux to hard disk is only for special needs (like a climate code workstation).

    That way, when “customs” or ” security” do a back room “inspection” of your laptop, they get generic windows install… Oh, and personal files on SD cards in the camera case. Encrypted files of type extention bitmap holding file systems… beats anyone but really good TLAs… Three Letter Agencies. ..

    At a minimum China and a few other countries regularly clone visitor busness folks laptops. Don’t keep your data on it, and always encrypt. Frankly, I see the Chromebook as a good option there. Nothing on it that matters… (though then Google and NSA get a copy via The Cloud)

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