Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recommended Linux Distros -- Making a tough decision on which Linux to use.

EVERYONE has their own choices and opinions about which Linux Distro is best. This is simply another HUMBLE OPINION on which Linux Distribution to decide upon. There are literally thousands to choose, I have tried tens of tens, and these are my choice recommendations for a Linux Desktop.

COMPLETE NOOB: (or tired of Ubuntu and want a little more class)
If you are completely new or very novice, I suggest Linux Mint. Mint is easier and a bit more complete than Ubuntu, as it is based from the Ubuntu Distributions with added features and usability. Since it is Ubuntu based, expect updates slightly behind Ubuntu's releases, but the fine-tuning is already there for you.

AVERAGE JOE: (Today's most popular distribution)
If you have a shallow Linux background, you can start with Ubuntu. It's where I learned most of my experience in my second coming into Linux and I recommend it as a great way to start the fun. Ubuntu is highly modified and much easier than base distributions. It is Debian-based with many added features to make using Linux as an every-day desktop very easy.

If you've learned the basics and then some, and are tired of Ubuntu's random breakages, bugs, or user interfaces, then Debian is for you. It is King. There are several branches: Stable, Testing, and Unstable. For a good balance between stable and cutting edge, I always choose testing. There are usually ways to install cutting edge software within Debian regardless of which branch you use. However, I list this under "experienced hacker" with reason.

If all of the above Distros are just too power hungry, try CrunchBang. Previously Ubuntu-based and now Debian-based it's lightweight and quick as lightning. Using CrunchBang makes you the envy of all your dorky friends and upgrades you to an elite class of nerd.

The above mentioned Distros are ALL Debian. If you know commands in one, you know them in the others. The easy ones have done a great deal to lessen the pain such as automatically adding users to the sudoers file and adding paths to environment variable to make command line action easier. That and a hole bunch of eye-candy and applications give them modern pizazz. You could theoretically start with Debian and make your own super-distro. But why do what others have spent millions of dollars doing for you.

The real world work-force tends to use Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But for you and me, we're CHEAP. CentOS is binary compatible, if not equivalent. Updates are generally only a few weeks slower than the official Red Hat Enterprise distribution. If you need a solid, stable, commercial grade system, this is it.
Debian is a highly popular and extremely stable enterprise ready distribution. Be sure to use the stable branch of course.

I still like to distro hop. Some very interesting Distros I've come to enjoy and keep the newset copies of include Slitaz and TinyCore. Stick them in just about any computer boot from CD and you're running linux without even installing. Yes, most distros are LiveCD's lately, but these are super small and super quick. Burn a business-card CD and keep it in your wallet to show your family, friends, or boss just how cool you really are.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Things I install on a fresh Ubuntu 10.04 Installation.

0) 64bit fails to provide me with a functional ability, so I opt for 32bit.

1) Full update
sudo aptitude update ; sudo aptitude full-upgrade
Or if you install from the Mini.iso, then all should be up to date.

2) Install VLC Media player
sudo aptitude install vlc

3) Install NTP services becuase by default Ubuntu only updates the clock on boot-up. Leaving your machine on requires NTP services for continous updating.
sudo aptitude install ntp
edit /etc/ntp.conf to include
as the first server.

4) To use the command "srm" to shred/delete sensitive files, install Secure Delete
sudo aptitude install secure-delete

5) Install Gnome-Do. I recommend "docky" mode as it provides the "do" & a dock-bar.
sudo aptitude install gnome-do gnome-do-docklets

6) I use KeePass 2.10 Portable which requires Mono's winforms2 to run in linux. KeePass Portable is launchable via command line "Mono KeePass". Install winforms first
sudo aptitude install libmono-winforms2.0-cil libmono-system-runtime2.0-cil

7) Install SSH server for remote login and scp
sudo aptitude install openssh-server

8) I use for dynamic DNS services. Install ddclient and ssl socket.
sudo aptitude install ddclient libio-socket-ssl-perl
after configuring ddclient, edit /etc/ddclient.conf to include

9) I prefer x11vnc over ubuntu's default vine-server. For security I only run it from a remote SSH session. There are many options, but this suits my needs. First install x11vnc:
sudo aptitude install x11vnc ; x11vnc -storepasswd

Then from a remote SSH session I can
sudo x11vnc -once -usepw -display :0 -autoport 5900 -nap -noxdamage -nolookup -auth guess &
allowing me to use my vncviewer to connect remotely to the desktop.

10) Firefox plugins: AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, Privacy Plus, Update Notifier, GMail Manager, WOT, NoScript.

11) More than likely at some point you may need to re-install Ubuntu. Remastersys allows to to create your own distribution (with all updates) or a backup cd. You can run "remastersys" from the gui or the command line.
First add
deb karmic/
to synaptic repositories then
sudo aptitude install remastersys

12) Add "Open in Terminal" item to nautilus context menus.
sudo aptitude install nautilus-open-terminal

13) Add "Open as Administrator" item to nautilus context menus.
sudo aptitude install nautilus-gksu

14) Get a more current NVidia driver:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install nvidia-current

15) Sometimes the colors just don't work, install this to edit them:
sudo apt-get install gnome-color-chooser

16) Install webmin for various configuring, including easier iptables firewall setup.  Refer to for installation.

Also take a look at Tips and Tricks for Ubuntu after Installation