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Stuff What People Look For

Vintage photograph of two intimate women in a ...

Image via Wikipedia

Can you believe that people come to this site by searching for something specific? No, neither can I. But they do. And lots of the time they are searching for something realistic. Other times they search for … something that I don’t have.

Anyway, enough of that, let’s have a look at my search list to find out how people come to find my site. List is after the jump (which comes after number 17) and will be in reverse order to prolong the agony.

20. lesbian comics – is this graphic novels about lesbians or lesbian comedians?

19. slackware vs. – fairy nuff. distro v distro is common on the internet

18. cartoon lesbians – this answers the question at number 20 I guess

17. give a shitometer – there is a picture on this site called that. I wonder what my ranking is to get someone to come here for it though? Read the rest of this entry

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Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

Long time fans of this space will be aware that I’m a Slacker.  However, when something wasn’t working as easily as it could, I installed Kubuntu to see what the latest version (Hardy Heron) was like and whether it could tempt me to switch permanently.Slackware & Kubuntu Logos

Firstly, even though all Linux distros are pretty identical at heart (largely the same commands, file structures and so on) there are a number of differences that can make one set of users argue incessantly with another set.  Firstly, Slackware is now the oldest distro still in use – Slackware first began in 1993, followed by Debian, followed by Red Hat.  You will notice that I have left off Suse, that’s because it started life using a Slackware base and then used a Red Hat base.  So in terms of “pure” distros, Slackware was first, followed closely by Debian, followed closely by Red Hat.  In fact, almost all Linux distros use one of those three as their base, as shown on the graphical timeline.  And to wind this paragraph up, Kubuntu is the KDE variant of Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.  There may be a large number of available distributions out there, but there are very few distros to base them off.

In terms of approach and use, Kubuntu and Slackware are very different.  The Slackware methodology is that almost everything should be done by hand: installing programs, configuring programs and so on.  Kubuntu focuses on ease of use: installation of programs is via the Adept Package Manager and using the apt command.  There are also wizards and you know when updates are available by the icon in your system tray.  It is also notable that Slackware come with plain vanilla KDE whereas Kubuntu has a very attractive configuration of KDE installed.

The biggest difference, for me, has been in the sheer amount of hand holding Kubuntu does for you – you are told when a package has a new update and are prompted to install it, the wireless network configuring is largely done for you, if a kernel update is available the update is installed and configured along the lines of the existing kernel.  As well, when you first go to your home folder, you are given a number of pre-created directories – for Documents, Pictures, Templates and Music, for example – and really you could quite happily start using it without having to make any sort of major change yourself.  And that is not a bad thing.  Most Linux users were, or are, Windows users and having something familiar is a great way to ease them into using an entirely different operating system.

Slackware users, on the other hand, are largely left to their own devices.  Slackware, on install, drops you directly into a command prompt.  There are no obvious instructions and you are left to figure it out on your own.  This is entirely by design – if you are expecting to be shown a graphical desktop on first boot and don’t get it, many users would be very stuck and unable to continue.  Slackers know how to get from command line to GUI and so are not stuck.  In Slackware, if you want something to run you have to install it and hand configure it.  If you want a new kernel, you can either download a new one from the mirrors or go to http://www.kernel.org and get it yourself.  The only pre-created directories available are the ones KDE creates by default.

In a lot of ways, comparing the two distros is like comparing apples and oranges.  Both have a different target audience, both do things differently by design.  However, that is not to say that one can’t go from one to the other. The desktop environment in both is KDE and so a lot of things are done the same.  If you spend enough time using Kubuntu, you will be able to use Slackware – the directories available are similar and many of the commands available are distro-agnostic.

But with all that said, I am a Slacker.  Kubuntu is an excellent distribution of Linux and there are many reviews of it on the internet to give you an idea of what it can do.  I will say that it’s very stable and has a great range of default programs available.  However, I am constantly finding myself hitting the same barrier I always hit when I use a distro like this: I am reluctant to hand configure or install things for fear of breaking the install.  This is a problem that I have hit when using Fedora and Debian (to an extent) and any other distribution with a package manager or that uses wizards to do anything.  At the finish, I like hand configuring and I like to install programs from scratch.  Finally, the old saying applies: once you go Slack, you’ll never go back.

Slackware Linux Installation Methods

As any reader of this blog will know, I am a big fan of installing from source. My OS of choice, Slackware, makes this very easy and doesn’t break anything if you do this. I am, though, well aware that this isn’t for everyone – in fact, I break my own rule if it’s convenient.

Slackware packages end in .tgz, which can be confusing since that is also the way that normal tar balls can end. The usual way to install these is to type (as root) installpkg <packagename>.tgz and let the dialogue run. This then expands the archived install files into the correct places on your system. Removing or upgrading packages is equally as easy, simply exchange the installpkg for removepkg or upgradepkg. This method is inbuilt to Slackware and is the most basic way of installing Slackware packages. You could also use pkgtool which gives an ncurses frontend to a number of Slackware commands.

If you like automated downloads, you could use Swaret, Slapt-Get or Slackpkg, each of which will download the install files to your system and install them for you. These three methods are very much automated, though, and this can mean that things will break and you won’t immediately know why. Use them at your own risk, though I have only ever broken my system through my own stupidity.

Building your own packages is pretty much the best way to go. There will be no dependency checking, which could be a downside, but on the other hand you know what is in the package because you put it there. There are 3 basic ways to do this which require more or less technical ability. Slackbuilds.org is a site which is a mix of a how to and downloads. Slackbuilds are created in clean environments and are available either as a plain package download or as a set of scripts for you to run to create your own. Rworkman and Alien Bob are both active there and have been known to be extremely helpful over on the official Slackware forum.

Checkinstall substitutes itself for the make install step in a normal source build. It creates a Slackware package as the final step which can then be installed using installpkg as normal. The downside of this method is that it creates an extra step in the install process. The last update on the homepage is from August 2007, this could mean that no changes have been required or that the project is discontinued – I don’t know and don’t wish to speculate further!

Finally, src2pkg is created and maintained by Gilbert Ashley, who posts on LQ as Gnashley. Gnashley posts updates to the program on LQ and is available to answer questions and give support on the tool (as well as anything else Slack and Linux related). This tool, to me, is the easiest to use. All you need to do, once you’ve installed it, is run src2pkg <packagename.tar.gz/bz> and let it do it’s thing. At the end of the run you are presented with a .tgz file in your /tmp directory. /usr/doc/src2pkg-x.x has more information on the tool and ways you can use it.

Now to answer the question that has probably been on your mind: why do this at all since Slackware is so good at using source installs? Good question. Well, for starters, Slackware tends to have relatively very few 3rd party applications prepackaged and sometimes it is far more convenient to not install from source. Additionally, you may have a core of apps that you want to install immediately after you install Slackware and this makes life easier for you. Alternatively, you may want to enable someone else to install an app and this will make it easier.

Please note, none of the above 3 methods have any dependency checking. You will still need to make sure you have all that you need before installing.  Aside from that, though, installation of 3rd party programs is that bit easier.

Amarok Installation

Just like everyone else, I like to listen to music. I have an iPod for when I’m on the train or walking and I have my music files stored in iTunes. Unfortunately, Apple have so locked down their proprietary format that you just can’t listen to your music in the native format on non Windows or Apple computers.

By converting your music to MP3 format you can extend the number of media players it will play on. As a KDE user, I like to use Amarok. I won’t go into the method I used to convert the files here, I’m unsure of the legality and I’m sure you can all use search engines by now. What I will do is to explain, with pictures and words, how I go about installing Amarok to give as full functionality as I need. Your methods may vary, but this works for me. I did something similar in the post Words and Pictures in Linux and that still works as a handy reference for me.

Firstly, I am using Slackware 12.0 with KDE 3.5.7. I will be installing practically everything from source. All of the programs I install will probably have prepackaged versions for your own distro (.rpm, .deb or whatever) and there are also likely to be Slackbuilds available. I still like to install from source so that’s what I’ll be doing.

To begin, go to the Amarok website and click the Download link. You will also need to read the Getting Started page – there you have the Requirements and Installation instructions. One comment I will make is that it’s not obvious how to get to all of these links. At least it wasn’t to me, maybe it’s the way I navigated to the pages. As I am doing this from source, I click the link to the stable sources on the Download page. The stable version as at this time of writing is 1.4.7 – please ensure that you use these instructions in conjunction with the instructions on the Amarok Wiki, the Wiki will always be the most up to date.

There are 4 mandatory dependencies: KDElibs 3.3, Ruby 1.8, TagLib 1.4 and Qt-x11 3.3.8. As I have a version of KDE that is higher than 3.3, the first is covered on my system. By opening a console I can find out whether I have the rest:

$ ruby -v
ruby 1.8.6 (2007-03-13 patchlevel 0) [i486-linux]

$ slocate taglib
< snip>
/var/log/packages/taglib-1.4-i486-3
/var/log/scripts/taglib-1.4-i486-3

Remember I said that I’m a KDE user? You have to have Qt installed to install KDE, and my Qt version is 3.3.8. So those requirements are met. You also need to have a mutimedia backend installed, whether Helix (included with RealPlayer) or xine-lib 1.1.2 – I have xine-lib 1.1.7 installed. You also need a database backend, SQLite is shipped as a part of Amarok and is perfectly fine for my needs. If you need a bigger database, MySQL and PostreSQL will both work with Amarok.

The requirements above will get you Amarok with most of the functionality enabled. One thing you absolutely must remember: when you install, all dependencies will have dependencies of their own. I have no problems with tracking down dependencies on my own, use your package manager or a search engine to find the things you need.

Optional Dependencies:

  • KDEbase 3.3 to enable the sidebar
  • K3B 0.11 will enable you to burn CDs from Amarok
  • Libtunepimp 0.4 or 0.5 will provide MusicBrainz support to look up meta data from song tags
  • KDEmultimedia 3.3 allows the ripping function to, erm, function
  • Libvisual 0.4, Libvisual plugins and SDL 1.2 give you the sexy visuals
  • OpenGL accelerated X-Server allows for the 3D analyzers

It should go without saying that all of the versions are minimum versions, you can go higher if you wish. However, those versions are the ones tested by the Amarok devs and are known to work.

Because I am utterly awesome, I have all of the required dependencies and even the optional ones. All I need now is libgpod to make my iPod at least talk with Amarok.

So, if you’re playing along at home, you’ll now have all the dependencies satisfied with the exception of libgpod. We’ll now start by installing this final dependency.

Download the source file to your PC and then look at the installation instructions. We can see from these instructions that this dependency has it’s own set of dependencies:

  • Gtk 2.x
  • Gettext 0.11 (or higher)
  • LibID3tag

Optional Dependencies:

  • Mpeg4ip (to play Apple’s format)
  • Mp3gain (to normalise volumes) – the GUI version is Windows only the CLI version can be used on Linux
  • A software music player of some description
  • Multisync (to sync your contacts and other non music iPod features)
  • FAAD2
  • FAAC

So, as can be seen, reading the instructions can be very valuable when you are installing. While not installing every dependency isn’t fatal it can leave you scratching your head when something doesn’t work.

All I need to install are mpeg4ip – everything else is already installed to my system or I don’t/can’t use it. Odds are that you’ll be in the same situation, but check first. So I now install mpeg4ip, then faad, then faac (both of these are dependencies for mpeg4ip).

Final reminder to you all: when you run ./configure, make sure you check the output for errors or unmet dependencies.

We’re now ready to do what we came here for: install Amarok. I would run through the steps, but everything I would say has been said better on the Installation page for Amarok. So make sure you follow the instructions!

The output of ./configure --with-libgpod --with-mp4v2 --prefix=`kde-config --prefix` on my system looks like this:

==========================
=== Amarok - PLUGINS ========================================================
==========================
=
= The following extra functionality will NOT be included:
= - NMM-engine
= - Helix-engine
= - yauap-engine
= - MySql Support
= - Postgresql Support
= - iRiver iFP Support
=
= The following extra functionality will be included:
= + xine-engine
= + libvisual Support
= + Konqueror Sidebar
= + MusicBrainz Support
= + MP4/AAC Tag Write Support
= + iPod Support
= + Creative Nomad Jukebox Support
= + MTP Device Support
= + Rio Karma Support
= + DAAP Music Sharing Support
=
===============================================================================

Good - your configure finished. Start make now

So I know I was successful. And since I was successful, I can now run make and su -c "make install". I then check the Multimedia entries in my KDE menu and can see that Amarok is installed.

Using source code may take a little longer but it does make you think about what you’re doing and you don’t end up with unknown dependencies. Obviously, using a package manager or pre-built binaries is quicker, but you are somewhat reliant on the assumption that the packages were built on a clean environment and that the packager hasn’t added anything to the program without telling you.

Screenshots

First Run Wizard(1)

First Run Wizard(2)

First Run Wizard(3)

Once Amarok has run through your music files, it compiles your collection.

Collection List

Amarok also has a context browser which shows your recently played songs and albums.

Context Browser

Amarok allows you to import and create your own playlists

Playlist Browser

Magnatunes works in a similar way to the iTunes Store, except there’s no DRM here and all of these artists get to share in the profits.

Magnatunes

When you plug in your media device, the autodetect window comes up and you can tell Amarok what you have.

Media Device

And then Amarok detects and shows you your music.

Music on the iPod

Amarok also allows you to submit your tracks to Last.fm so as to update your likes and dislikes. In all, this is a very fully featured music player. It minimises to your task bar and has the very nice wolf logo. It works best with mp3 players and costs you only the time to download and install it.

Slackware 12 in Da House

Having tried a number of different distros over the years, I always enjoy reinstalling and running Slackware. For a number of reasons, I was running Kubuntu for a while – if you need to be up and running in little time and have a fully functional and straightforward desktop, you could do a lot worse than use one of the *buntus.

However, Pat released Slackware 12.0 and I had to have it. One of the reasons that I was using Kubuntu was that 12.0 was a release candidate (meaning it was almost finished) and the pain of going from 11.0 to 12.0 via the upgrade route just seemed a bit too much like hard work.

So, what did I do? Well Drew kindly suggested a download site for the .iso (since my torrent download seemed corrupt). I tried getting just CD1 and it wouldn’t work. I even installed the USB boot disk to an old Dell 64mb USB stick I had lying around and still no go. I eventually obtained the full DVD iso file form belnet.de – it was fast, just 4 hours for a full download and the file worked. And lo, I was ready to rock and roll.

So, what’s it like then? Pat has cut down on the number of kernels in this release – in fact, there are just 3 kernels available: speakup, huge and hugesmp. All are 2.6.21.5 kernels and none are acpi enabled. Which is a shame because I liked the old 2.4 bareacpi kernel. Maybe in the next release eh?

KDE is at version 3.5.7 and Pat has moved it out of /opt and into /usr. This will take a little getting used to but is a minor annoyance. X is now far more modular, so there are a lot more packages to choose from than before. Again, fairly minor, but future updates should be quicker as the whole X system is split across many smaller packages. XMMS is gone and replaced by Audacious – no biggie for me as I didn’t use XMMS. And Pidgin is in this release – – I think (though don’t quote me) that this is the first Linux distro to include the new name in the install. Others still have Gaim. As I said, don’t quote me. Also, you are no longer prompted to make a boot floppy, you are now prompted to make a boot USB disk.

The install is very quick and as easy and straightforward as ever. If you dislike the options in the kernel supplied with 12.0 either recompile it or grab the latest kernel (like what I did) and compile it instead. If you wish to take the latter route, the latest kernel is 2.6.22 and Alien Bob has a very easy to follow article on his wiki about compiling a kernel for Slackware. He also has a large number of Slackbuilds and are, I believe, recompiled for 12.0. If that’s not enough, Slackbuilds.org had 12.0 compatible slackbuilds available within hours of 12.0 being released. Incidentally, Alien Bob and at least one of the nice people at Slackbuilds.org post on Linuxquestions.org (the Slackware sub-forum is the official Slackware forum – accept no substitutes – and Pat has endorsed it) and I am one of the moderaters there, so you have no excuse for not believing either of us.

Anyone who has run Slackware before will know what to expect – a lightweight, very configurable system that has most things you need out of the box. Hunt down my post here on installing MPlayer and the mplayer-plugin and you really can’t go wrong. If you are new to Slackware, you are most definitely in for a treat.

Slackware 12.0 Has Been Released

Hey Slack fans! The awaited release of Slackware 12.0 is upon us. Go to the website and get it.

Read the official announcement. Download the disk(s). If you like proper .iso files and don’t want the hassle of torrenting, look here – I know I did!

Revel in the fact that you run the same OS as Team Awesome!