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[aclug-L] Fw: [Lockergnome Penguin Shell] Review Redux

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Subject: [aclug-L] Fw: [Lockergnome Penguin Shell] Review Redux
From: Anthony A Bogardus <abogardus@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2002 12:01:40 -0600
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From: Lockergnome Penguin Shell<subscriptions@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: abogardus@xxxxxxxx
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 11:44:18 -0600
Subject: [Lockergnome Penguin Shell]  Review Redux


  01.11.2002 PenguinREPORT

As I was posting Penguin Shell yesterday, I felt a small tinge of regret.
In reading through the PenguinREPORT, I felt like I'd left the distro
review a bit more open-ended than I should have. My impression on reading
my own writing was that there were still a few high-level items that I
should have covered. So, while I fully intended that the review be
finished as of yesterday's issue, I've decided to wrap things up a bit
more tightly today. Call it the review redux, if you will.
After having been through the install processes, configuring each to my
tastes, and using these distributions for at least a week, here's my list
of recommendations for new Linux users, in order of preference:
    Tie 1. RedHat
    Tie 1. Mandrake
          2. Suse
          3. Slackware
          4. TurboLinux
RedHat and Mandrake are essentially the same distribution. While each has
created tools unique to its distribution, it's really a toss-up as to
which to recommend for new users. In short, if you're looking for more
consumer orientation, pick up Mandrake. If, on the other hand, you're
looking more toward business use, RedHat is the clear winner. Both had
some minor install glitches. In Mandrake, it was sound, USB and very
minor network issues. In RedHat, the problems were sound and (just
discovered last night) an apparent unwillingness to save the /etc/fstab
file. The last means that, for now, I need to "hard mount" my Windows
partitions as needed. None of these problems are insurmountable, nor
should they dissuade you from using one distribution or the other.
Suse comes in a close second to RedHat and Mandrake. While I liked YaST2
once I began using it, there was some lack of descriptive clarity during
the install that could easily leave new users high and dry. If Suse can
work through and revise the descriptive text related to "further
configuration" of hardware, this distribution would certainly contend for
a #1 spot in my book.
Slackware appealed to the hacker in me. A minimal install is, indeed, a
great goal. Slack makes no pretense of being anything other than the
minimal system it is. That allows a user to accomplish two fundamental
goals: a) to start with a lightweight system and, b) to "learn as they
go," provided the user has the time and inclination to tweak and tweak
and tweak. In my mind, though, the greatest single drawback to Slack
wasn't the minimalism. It was the lack of a unified package manager -
something that's been around in other distributions for several years.
Ostensibly, the reason for this intentional omission is that the
dependency-checking routines of rpm make a system more vulnerable to
malicious binaries. While there's some merit in that argument, the market
will, maybe soon, demand such a tool in order for any distribution to
remain viable. The small development team at Slackware should focus hard
on solving this issue and make the .tar.gz installation scheme another
chapter in its colorful history.
TurboLinux left me blank. With no distinguishing tools and a basic
package that seemed woefully out of date, I had to wonder what their real
claim to the market could be.
There we go. Both the writer and the Linux user in me feel much better
for having summed up The Great Distro Review in a more useful way. As I
alluded to yesterday, you've probably not seen the end of these reviews
in Penguin Shell. At a minimum, I may soon do a review of a distribution
based on Debian, since that was the single unsuccessful install. I'm just
too much of a Penguin-head to allow a distribution to defeat me!
I hope you're now feeling that way, too. 
Tony Steidler-Dennison       


Speed Tweak
If you have a real need for speed from your system, you've made a smart
choice in Linux for your OS. Because of the way Linux handles files and
disk writes, it's generally faster than other OSs. The speed of a
machine, though, is a combination of file handling, disk writes, and
hardware settings. Since you're using Linux, we can safely assume that
the first two elements are already optimized. So how can you tweak the
hardware settings to maximize your machine?
hdparm is a Linux tool for measuring and adjusting the throughput of your
box. "Throughput" is defined by Webopedia as, "The amount of data
transferred from one place to another or processed in a specified amount
of time." Hdparm can, in some cases, increase this throughput tenfold,
though your mileage may vary
Before I throw this speed tweak your way, I want complete absolution for
any damage it may cause:
Use these tweaks carefully and at your own risk. They've been know to
occasionally cause unexpected data loss and/or corruption.

Now, if you haven't run screaming from your machine at the thought of
potential data loss, let's get on with the fun.
These tweaks are best applied in single-user mode. That means that you
should reboot, and at the lilo prompt, enter 'linux single' [no quotes,
of course]. This will bring you to, well, single user mode.
Now, let's check the current speed of your first IDE hard drive:
    hdparm -Tt /dev/hda
This command instructs hdparm to [T]est the cache system on your first
ide [h]ard[d]rive and repor[t] back with disk statistics. The results may
look like:
      Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 MB in  1.49 seconds = 86.13 MB/sec
      Timing buffered disk reads:    64 MB in  26.53 seconds = 2.41

So, you've got some room for adjustment. Try the following command:
    hdparm -c3 -m16 /dev/hda
The full set of hdparm options and explanations are available on the
hdparm man page. In short, though, this command sets the I/O support flag
to 3 [I/O support: 32-bit with sync] and multi-count to 16. Now, let's
look at the results again by running the hdparm reporting tool:
    hdparm -Tt /dev/hda
      Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 Mb in  1.18 seconds = 108.47
      Timing buffered disk reads:    64 MB in  3.41 seconds =  18.77
That's a 25% increase in buffer-cache read speed and almost a nine-fold
increase in buffered disk read speed. Definitely faster.
There are many, many options available for hdparm. Again, check the man
page carefully. Another nice thumbnail sketch for using hdparm is
available from the Cherry Hill LUG.
To make these settings permanent, add the adjustment line to the bottom
of /etc/rc.d/rc.local. That will assure that these settings are executed
each time you boot your system.
Heed the above warning carefully and you may be able to satiate your need
for speed.
Send This to a Friend


Samba Recap
Samba is the Linux tool to allow sharing files and printers with Windows
boxes across a network. We've looked this week at configuring Samba to
use SWAT, at setting up shares, and at the smbclient command line
program. All in all, Samba can make life on a heterogeneous network much
easier to manage.
It seems like a good time, at the end of this series, to do a bit of
housecleaning on items not covered. Three elements of Samba we didn't
discuss are smbmount, smbpasswd and Samba's support for encrypted
passwords. While these are essential to gaining the most from Samba, the
discussion is deeper than time or space will allow in Penguin Shell. A
great jumping-off point for further understanding of these issues is the
Samba home page. You'll find links to mailing lists and documentation
aplenty. For the sake of using SWAT, we've also left out a discussion on
hard-coding the configuration via the smb.conf file. Thorough discussions
of all these elements, including first-hand solutions, are available
freely on the web.
All in all, if you're currently administering a network that includes
Windows boxes, or expect to do so either at work or at home, Samba is the
best possible remedy to most interoperability headaches.
Send This to a Friend


Backup Copy 4.1.0 [79 KB]
"Backup Copy will allow you to keep a consistent exact copy of your data.
It will copy multiple files faster than standard cp. Its key features
include copying 'new files only' and deleting files that no longer exist
in the source when copying over a previous backup. When a file is
overwritten or deleted due to a new backup, you have the option of
trashing those files into a trash bin, providing you a backup of your
Send This to a Friend


No Intimidation
Scribbled by tres
"I have always wanted to install Linux, but it always seemed so
intimidating. This is the year of no computer intimidation for me! (Ok,
well, this year started at the beginning of last summer).
"I am about to get my A+ cert, working on my CCNA cert, really delved
into programming and web design, and decided it was high time I jumped on
the Linux bandwagon. The addition of your newsletter to the LockerGnome
family is what really got me motivated to do it, and I found your review
of Mandrake to whet my appetite. So I took it on a couple days ago and
happily set up a tri-boot system.
"Of course, it is both joyous and frustrating to run Linux. In Windows, I
can do anything. I mean, no problem arises that I can't solve. Period.
End of story. With Linux however, it's a whole new ball game. My mouse
suddenly freezes and only a complete reboot fixes, my system takes 7
minutes to boot up, and 2 minutes to shut down, it crashes more than
Windows 98 (ach!)....and why? Well, the same reason Windows did a couple
of years ago.....a small troll inside the computer causes it!
"Ah, I guess I will have to learn the insides and outs before I can
expect to be an expert, but it's about time an OS challenged me(Windows
stopped awhile ago, it only inhibits me now). I guess the purpose of this
writing is to say, 'Thanks, keep up the good work'. Linux isn't so
Send This to a Friend

 GnomeCLICKPhreaking Pioneer
There's some history in this site. It's the home page of John Draper,
also known as "Cap'n Crunch." After a repeat airing of the TLC special
Hackers: Computer Outlaws on Wednesday night, I went looking for more
information on Cap'n Crunch. He's clearly a pioneer. While his feats seem
tame today, 30 years on, he defined the word hacker for an entire
generation of computer users. His site is full of anecdotes and
interesting stories about the days of phone phreaking - before hacking
became something much more sinister.
Send This to a Friend 
Your subscribed e-mail address is: [abogardus@xxxxxxxx] - To unsubscribe
or change your delivery address, please visit the subscription management
page. Use of the Gnome moniker by Penguin Shell does not imply
endorsement of the Gnome Desktop Environment. Penguin Shell is an
equal-opportunity desktop employer. For further information, please refer
to the GnomeCREDITS in the sidebar.


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