menu

Month: May 2013

Posted on by Arnon Erba in How-To Guides

If you’ve ever dual-booted Ubuntu with another operating system, you’ll be well acquainted with the text-based GRUB boot menu. One entry in this menu is Memtest, which comes with Ubuntu by default. However, if you don’t have a dual-boot system, how do you access this menu? You might think it would be to repeatedly tap F8 like Windows, but the feature is much more Mac-like: hold down the Shift key after the system posts. This will bring up the GRUB menu and allow you to access recovery options and Memtest.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in General

(Editor’s note: I still feel that Crunchbang is one of the best Linux distros that I have ever used. It offers a preconfigured “out-of-the-box” experience while still retaining all the functionality of barebones Linux. Unfortunately, the lead developer discontinued the project in 2015, and while it has been picked up by the community under the name BunsenLabs Linux, I have not yet had the opportunity to try the latest version.)

Crunchbang (#!) Linux is a Debian-based Linux distro that is designed to run on very low-powered hardware. I discovered Crunchbang while trying to find a lightweight OS to run alongside Windows XP on my old Dell Dimension 4100. Here are the specs of the computer:

Processor: Intel Pentium III (single-core) @ 1 GHz
RAM: 512 MB
Hard Drive: 6.61 GB allotted for Crunchbang (18.61 GB total)

As you can probably tell, the Windows XP installation running on the 12 GB partition wasn’t exactly being speedy. In an attempt to see if I could watch YouTube videos on the computer, I googled “Linux for very old hardware”. Multiple distros came up, including Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, and Knoppix. I had already tried Xubuntu, and my lack of Linux knowledge at the time coupled with the fact that it hadn’t run much faster than Windows XP on the Dell had persuaded me to drop it. Then, I noticed Crunchbang. It’s designed to run on really old hardware, even more so than Xubuntu, and has a very cool looking minimalistic desktop.

I downloaded the latest Crunchbang .iso and burned it to a CD (the Dell, as I found out, doesn’t support booting from a USB drive). The installation process took under 15 minutes, and I was ejecting the install CD in no time. Once I rebooted the computer, though, I noticed that Windows XP was absent from the GRUB boot menu. This was soon remedied by running sudo update-grub once I had booted into Crunchbang.

Crunchbang has a very minimalistic user interface, which is why it is capable of running on such old hardware. Nearly everything is located under the right-click menu on the desktop, and there are very few programs that come pre-installed. Use of the terminal is mandatory.

In all, Crunchbang is a pretty awesome Linux distro. It may be designed to run on low-powered hardware, but it’s definitely not a low-powered system.

NOTE: Since this review was written, Crunchbang 11 “Waldorf” was released. It appears to be even more black-and-grey coolness, and I can’t wait to try it out on something. (Ed: Waldorf did turn out to be “even more black-and-grey coolness” and I believe I still have it in a virtual machine somewhere.)

Posted on by Arnon Erba in General

(Editor’s note: This is certainly valid advice, but this old post is light on explanations or examples. Look for a newer post.)

It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog, but today I was reminded of something that I wanted to write about. This is something most generally called crapware, or unwanted programs that piggyback along on other program’s installers and then install themselves on your computer. Well-known specimens include toolbars that only serve to provide completely useless “features” such as slowing down your browser. These programs can also change your homepage and make your browser unstable.

How they get onto your computer is a good question. Programs cannot generally install themselves without some sort of user initiation, but I doubt you planned to go out and intentionally install, say, the Ask.com toolbar. So, how did it get into your browser and why is your default search engine now Ask? These programs usually get hidden into the installers of other, not-so-great programs like video downloaders and fake PC cleaners. Side note: PC cleaning software is almost always a scam, especially if there’s a free trial version. An exception to this rule is CCleaner by Piriform, which is great. If the installer has options for “normal install” and “advanced install”, this may mean that the normal install automatically selects the options to install sponsored crapware and the advanced install process will give you options to deselect these unwanted programs. Usually the deselection options are intentionally confusingly written to try to trick you into installing the crapware.

The moral of the story is: Always try to install legitimate, well-known software. If you need to install something else, watch the install process carefully.