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Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – iii

Posted 2006.10.26 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Last time, I got Damn Small Linux installed, broke a bunch of it, repaired the damage my own way, and got linux working almost exactly the way I wanted it.

My Damn Small Linux installation is no longer Damn Small. It’s pretty small though. My / filesystem is 500MB in size, of which 215MB are currently in use. That’s a fair bit bigger than the 50MB limit to Damn Small Linux’s live CD size. Most of those increases came after I installed the dpkg and apt-get functionality, and then installed the complete perl and perl-modules system. My /home filesystem is still almost empty – 11.3MB used out of 96MB – and almost all of that is junk stored in my Firefox web browser’s history / cache.

The important thing though is, my Libretto 100CT is running about as fast as can be expected, for a 166MHz Pentium with 64MB of RAM. Not just fast – but looking good, too!

Damn Small Linux defaults to the fluxbox window manager. I’d never heard of it before, but then my favorite application is terminal so I don’t think much about GUIs as long as they work. Anyhow, I started learning about fluxbox and finding out how to make it work better. By better, I mean, how to make it work the way I wanted it to.

Here’s a primer on fluxbox – I just found it now, after making all my changes, but it looks good so I’ll give it a read later and see what else I can learn about it: Using the Fluxbox Window Manager

An important note about the Toshiba Libretto: It is tiny, and has a tiny screen. 7 inches diagonal. SVGA, but a non-standard layout. 800 pixels wide, 480 pixels high. What I’m saying is, there’s very little screen real-estate. So what little there is, I don’t want it covered with crap floating around that I can’t get rid of. This was my first mission: Clean up the GUI and get rid of the crap I didn’t need or want.

First two things to go, were the workspace boxes in the lower left, and the whatever the heck thing was floating in the lower right. I’m sorry I can’t describe it, I don’t know what it was or what it did. Anyhow, here’s what I did: In your home directory, there’s a file called .xinitrc and in that file, are three lines I deleted:
dillo /usr/share/doc/dsl/getting_started.html & > /dev/null &
fluxter & > /dev/null &
wmswallow -geometery 70×80 docked docked lua &

The first line got rid of the ‘getting started’ thing that kept popping up. The second and third lines got rid of the workspace boxes and the thing in the right-hand corner. I don’t even know which was which.

Next was cleaning up all the icons in the upper-left corner. I only kept five of them: Aterminal, Emelfm, Firefox, Sylpheed, and Xzgv. To delete the others, from the home directory, go into .xtdesktop and in there, delete all the *.lnk and *.png or *.gif files you don’t need. When you restart X, whatever isn’t deleted will be in the upper left corner.

Finally, I really liked the system information in the upper right corner, but there was way too much and the font was too big. This stuff is all controlled by the .torsmorc file in your home directory. I changed mine to be smaller, focus only on what I wanted, and with a smaller font.

Check back again for part iv, for continued info on customizing the GUI. I’ll try and get a screenshot, as well as upload some of the key files and my style / wallpaper.

Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – ii

Posted 2006.10.24 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Last time, I introduced my Toshiba Libretto, and got as far as trying out the Damn Small Linux distribution.

Damn Small Linux is designed to fit a full Linux GUI Desktop onto a 50MB CD – or even a USB thumbdrive, or a PCMCIA card. It is designed in fact as a Live CD – meaning, you boot from the CD (or USB drive or PCMCIA card) and can use Linux without having to lose your normal operating system, and without having to make changes to your hard drive. This is all well and good, but useless for me. The Libretto doesn’t have a CD drive, or a USB port, and can’t boot from PCMCIA cards. And anyways, I wanted linux on the hard drive as my primary / only operating system, not as a sampler CD.

I had a spare laptop hard drive that was ready to go – an 800MB Toshiba drive that came with another old Toshiba. I partitioned it as /dev/hda1 with 500MB, /dev/hda2 with 100MB, and /dev/hda3 with 128MB. The first partition would be mounted as /, the second partition would be mounted as /home, and the third partition would be the swap space. This left almost 100MB of unused space on the hard drive. This is one of those little things about the Toshiba Librettos – they have a hardware / bios Hibernate function. If it ever goes into Hibernate, it will copy the contents of RAM onto the hard drive, starting at the end. So for 64MB of RAM, you need to leave at least the last 64MB of hard drive unused. If you don’t… the BIOS will still copy the RAM into the last 64MB of hard drive, happily overwriting whatever you have in there. It’s a “feature”, not a “bug” ;-). Anyhow, just something to keep in mind: always leave at least 64MB unused at the end of your hard drive, on a Libretto 100.

Anyhow, Damn Small Linux of course comes with tools to allow you to install it off the Live CD and onto a partition of your hard drive. Naturally, I didn’t read all the instructions and details. I got as far as finding the name of the tool, and that’s as far as I read.

Installing to a hard drive was easy enough, and before long my Xubuntu distro was archived and removed to an external drive, and Damn Small Linux was my only OS. That’s when I ran into trouble.

As near as I can tell (I still haven’t read all the documentation) the hard drive install uses the same methodology as the Live-CD, to save settings and files and configurations. In other words, any changes made during a session are rounded up and archived somewhere, then when rebooting, the archive is copied back onto your home directory etc and things pick up where you left off. This is the only way to do it with a live CD — you can’t make changes to a burned disk on-the-fly like you do to a hard drive filesystem. But on a hard drive, it’s really not necessary IMHO. It also confused the heck out of me. See, I saw all these files and things that I didn’t want or need, didn’t think they were important, so I deleted them all….

And every time I rebooted, all my settings were gone, networking didn’t work, it just kept reverting to the defaults. GRRRRR! Well, I’m no Linux guru, but I’ve been using it for 8 years now, and I do know my way around some of it. I found the scripts in /etc/rc#.d were my problem. I deleted them, and deleted the stuff in /opt and the other files that did the archiving game with the settings. Then I added my own bootlocal script, to ensure that when the booting was finished, everything was set up the way I wanted it. And, voilla! It’s a Damn Small Linux distribution, but it’s not quite Damn Small Linux any more.

Along the way, I found more documentation and got a few more things working right, like apt-get and all the perl modules. I’ve got my /home directory on its own partition (always good for easy backups and to keep /home safe if you need to re-install the OS or whatever). My wireless lan card works great. My SSH daemon starts automatically. Next, I will look into getting a build environment working, with gcc and make and all those goodies.

Another great resource are the Damn Small Linux Forums – a bulletin board where thousands of other DSL users post questions and answeres to various problems, tips, and tricks.

In the next installment, I’ll cover some customizations to the GUI, tweaks that I’ve done to make it just exactly the way I like it.

Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – i

Posted 2006.10.22 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Recently, I blew the dust off an old sub-mini laptop, and decided to fire it up and make it useful again. It’s a Toshiba Libretto, model 100CT. This ‘laptop’ was made in 1998 I think. I bought it as a factory refurb, probably in 1999. It’s just bigger than a VHS cassette box. It has a 7″ SVGA screen, a keyboard that you can touchtype on if you practice a bit, a Pentium MMX 166MHz processor, and a maximum of 64MB of Ram. It takes normal laptop hard drives. If you saw it, you might think it was an oversize PDA but it’s not. It’s a real computer.

I’ve had it running Linux before, RedHat 7 I believe, with the X desktop gui. However, that was then, this is now. What seemed like acceptable performance back then is now grindingly slow today. In order to get a Linux GUI running in any way that would be acceptable, I needed a small, light Linux, that had low overhead requirements.

Don’t get me wrong, command-line linux is great. I spend most of my time in a terminal window, and that’s always damn fast. The problem is, I also like surfing while I work, so I want a graphical browser, which means I need a GUI.

My first thought of course was Ubuntu, or more specifcically, Xubuntu. Xubuntu is a lighter version, based around the XFCE Desktop environment. It’s designed to work better on older or low-end machines. So I installed it and gave it a whirl.

Xubuntu worked fairly well, and has the benefits of being a very modern, actively developed distribution. It has all the technological and philosophical benefits of Ubuntu. However…it was still slow as molasses as a GUI solution for my old Libretto.

While reading a website with some Ubuntu tutorials, I found a mention of Damn Small Linux – a distro designed for systems with limited RAM and older slower resources.

Damn Small Linux is a mostly modern linux distro, that was designed to fit a complete usable GUI Desktop Linux onto a 50MB mini CD. It’s ideal for older systems, mini-systems, embedded systems, and so on.

Now, one of the problems with the Libretto is it’s so small, it has very limited options in certain ways. No built-in floppy drive. No CD drive. It has a proprietary external PCMCIA floppy that it can boot from, but mostly the only boot option is the internal hard drive. So to try out the Damn Small Linux CD, I had to make a new hard drive partition, copy the DSL iso file onto that partition, and then use grub to boot from the partition as if it were a CD. Anyhow, it worked and I gave it a try. I liked it. There’d be some minor issues, but it looked to be about 90% perfect.

In the next installment, I’ll cover how I got Damn Small Linux installed on its own hard drive; how I screwed it up and broke the My-DSL tools that managed all the customizations and personalizations; and how I solved most of those problems and got things 99% perfect.

Linux for Humans and Cat Girls

Posted 2006.07.10 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

I found this wallpaper for Ubuntu Linux while surfing around.

Thought it was kind of fun.

XFCE Look

Ubuntu Linux

Linux for Humans and Cat Girls
Image by xxxatarixxx