Boise Lunux Users August 1st Meeting Report

Darin open the meeting tonight for the early arrivals with a demonstration of both KDE's Dolphin file manager as a tool to convert music tracks from CD's to files you can use on your mobile device.   Dophin makes this a drag'n'drop operation but it has  some limitations such as not being able to change the sampling rate from 128kbits to something higher (or lower), nor does it provide any notification of completion of the tracks as they are converted.  Darin gets around these limitations by using K3B which provides full control over the conversion process including bit rate and audio file formats, plus with K3B, you can burn your collection of music to CD or DVD.

Following Darin, Clint first did a presentation on CrunchBang Linux, a not-necessarily a minimal Linux desktop but one that is based on Debian 7 "Wheezy", which was released on May 4th Meeting, and supports older hardware. Clint setup up with everyone watching and got to see first hand how fast Crunchbang 11 loaded and automatically displayed the screen on both the laptop and overhead with no interaction by Clint.  He was demonstrating Crunchbang 11 i486 version on over 7 year old system. I continued to comment on how it provides an even better out-of-the box experience than even Mint in its base install which includes LibreOffice and full multimedia support in that you can play your favorite DVD movies immediately and flash is installed by default in the browser.  The OpenBox may look a little daunting on first startup with its black minimalistic screen but a simple right click on the desktop brings up the main menu, no start button here, and it also provides alternative menus using the "SuperKey" (you know, that little key with the flag on it or icon it).  Also, out of the box, a Conky display tells you everything you need to know in navigating the system.

Clint played short video which is accessible from theTo Do List After installing Crunchbang Waldorf Debian Wheezy Linux OS where the narrator waxes euphoric over the speed and stability of "Waldorf" Crunchbang. Clint then went on to demonstrate how easy it is to configure and modify the menu system, change wall papers, and install alternative browsers from the menu system. A single click operation form the menu can install Chromium, Chrome and Opera.  In his tour of Crunchbang, several websites were visited including the Crunchbang Wiki as well its home page where you can find links for the usual about section detailing the release of Waldorf and Download links for getting the 486 and 686 32 bit versions as well as the 64 bit version.

We always seem to  talk about backing up your important stuff in our meetings.  Tonight, Clint demontrated LuckyBackup, a simple backup utility that runs on your desktop (no command line here!) and it uses the "rsync" file transfer/backup process for backing up your files. Implementing ssh keys also helps with the application becuse it uses ssh for the actuall file transfers doen by "rsync." LuckyBackup generates a rsync command which is easily viewed in LuckBackup where you can even copy it so you can test it at the command line and see what it does or doesnt' do as you may have "failures" that you don't see in the graphical program but can see when running it from the command line in a terminal session. That command gets ran in the background (under the covers as so to speak), hidden from view. The command generated during the demo (and it is a long one) explained: rsync -h --progress --stats -r -tgo -p -l -D --update --delete-after --protect-args -e "ssh -i /home/tinslecl/.ssh/id_rsa -p 22" /home/tinslecl/images/2008ReunionPhotos tinslecl@172.30.0.76:/home/tinslecl/backups/

What the options do in the command line (set the behavior of rsync):
-h human
--progress -- stats (reporting)
-r recursive -tgo preserve modification times, preserve group own, preserve owner
-p preserve permissions -l preserve symlinks (shortcuts) -D devices
--update
--delete-after (the when)
--protect-args
-e "ssh -i /home/tinslecl/.ssh/id_rsa -p 22" (connection & authentication)
source: destination:
home/tinslecl/images/2008ReunionPhotos tinslecl@172.30.0.76:/home/tinslecl/backups/

He also showed us how we can use Deja-Dup, and the Archive tool, all useful graphical desktop tools for backing up your important files.  The Archive tools is very useful for packaging up your files and directories as a compressed file or archive, supporting a number of compression technologies including zip for storing offline emailing (provided the file is not to big. 

Clint concluded his presentation with short tutorial on how to use SSH for secure file transfers and how to setup ssh keys for passwordless but authenticated file transfers where automated backups can be done using SSH in unattended mode where you don't have to be at your system to enter the password when the backup or transfer starts. That presentation first showed how you could implement passwordless authentication between linux system using ssh and programs which use the ssh process for secure authentication and file transfers. It is really quite simple as you use ssh-keygen to generate the "keys" as your local user (not the one on the machine where you are going to connect to). You need to do this at the command line, from your home directory. You simply run ssh-keygen, accept defaults for all prompts, no password, and the keys are generated. Then you run the command (again from the command line) 'ssh-copy-id username@host' where the username is the name you are using on the machine you want to connect and/or transfer files to. He prepared a PDF drawing showing the process which he hopes to make available here  or he might send it via email to the list.

Other topics coverd included (More on these later):

Backups

Deja Dup
LuckyBackup (rsync)
Archive tool

synclient touchpadoff=1 (controlling the touchpad when using an external mouse).

In the "after the presentations" section of the meeting, Clint observed a couple of new people in attendance as well as one that had just returned to activity after several years, one of the founding members back in 2003, Jim.  Jim was at the June meeting as well and tonight he showed off a new toy called Leap which is a USB device that can map "gestures" like hand waves including the number of fingers open on the hand and provide output via a SDK (software development kit) and that data can be used in other programs to implement hand gestures as instructions.  Pretty exciting stuff and it runs on Linux as well as that other operating system.  We then had a couple of the other new attendees introduce themselves to the group.  One of them, Ken, who recently moved to Boise, has quite a bit of experience in wireless and network testing using Linux.

The other new person in the room had some questions on useful information for learning Linux.  Clint mentioned Rute and The GNU/Linux Advanced Administration eBook, a 555 page book which is freely downloadable from a number of websites on the net.  Clint also mentioned the LinuxFormat magazine as a valuable resource but it is a bit spend ($16/mo) at Barns and Noble.  LInuxFormat provides a lot of tutorial material as well as a monthy DVD where you will find "Help" on using Linux including the Rute guide and other ebooks.  

Updating: I've had to work on a couple of challenges in working with Crunchbang.

In Virtualbox, I was unable to install the virtualbox guest additions. I found this solution at http://crunchbang.org/forums/viewtopic.php?id=24631

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
Uncomment source for Waldorf
Save and exit

sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get autoclean
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r` dkms

sudo sh ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run
restart your virtual machine

This fixed the installation problem with the guest additions.

Another of my challenges had to do with accessing CIFS or Windows type shared folders on the network.  CIFS is short for Common Internet File Sharing which is based on the windows smb (system message block) sharing protocol which is used by both Windows and Samba on Linux.  I have made peace with Windows and Linux shares.  Its not easy and maybe one reason why people might shy of crunchbang.  To mount personal folders (requiring logging in or authentication), I came up with the solution and I have to do this with root priviledges (only root can mount stuff on crunchbang): mount -o username=tinscl,uid=1000,gid=1000,rw (this sets the username an ownership of the share once mounted)  //192.168.122.20/tinsley (my shared homefolder on the host computer) /home/tinslecl/cifsmount (where I can access the files on the share locally as the tinslecl user using the normal file dialog in the applications).  As to guest shares (no login required), those are fully browseable in thundar (crunchbanks file manager) and I can open those share for access in thundar where it is a simple drag and drop to move files around.  Along the way, I did install libsmbclient:amd64 and smbnetfs, gadmin-samba along along with pyNeighborhood.  Some forums recommended that smb4k be installed as it works well I understand but smb4k is a KDE package and requires a lot of overhead along with supporting packages and dependencies that get installed along with it.  Not going there, do not want to clutter up a clean openbox environment or impact its speedy performance.  The other key to solving the puzzle was to make sure that samba (smb.conf) is properly configured to share out folders (both home directories and other shared folders) and that one has the proper credentials for accessing windows  7 shares and other versions of windows.  It would be nice to have Nautilus on Crunchbang as it is on Ubuntu Desktops but there again there is a lot of overhead to installing that.  Nautilus makes it very easy to attach to and mount CIFS shares.

On 08/06, I found that my USB 2 Gigabit Network adapter is recognized as a wired network adapter but for some reason Crunchbang shows the Network link as down and won't allow me to connect it where Fedora 18 does allow me to use as a second network adapter.  I have boot Crunchbang and Fedora installed as virtual machines in Virtualbox. I suspect that not a lot of people use the USB network adapter to the extend that I can't even find any links to it as associated with Crunchbang and so that is a "personal problem" that I would like to get resolved at some point but not a priority.