Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy first time Linux users, with Mandriva 2010

I recently setup a new computer for a friend, who’s win98 computer had broken some time ago. Purchased a really cheap new PC, dual core E5300 cpu, 2GB ram, on board everything, with sata disk and dvd writer, plus an 18.5 inch screen, came out to $630 NZD.

Now, I had the difficult call to make, as to Mandriva or Ubuntu, because Ubuntu is very popular in NZ so he might be able to get better community support for it, and their are local mirrors for updates. Anyway, decided that it was going to be Mandriva x86_64, 2010.0 with KDE 4.3, because I know it well and because is has some tools I planned on using.

He received the machine today and was rapped. Plugged his printer in and it just worked!.. and they even got imap with kmail configured without my help.

Now, I usually configure systems for myself, but this was for a real beginner, so I needed to keep things simple and make it easy for him, so I made a few changes to the configuration, however discovered some things that I think need improvement along the way.

First thing was, I installed Mandriva 2010.0 Free, then had to add in a bunch of commercial apps, because you can’t expect a beginner user to go without them or install them himself.. The most notable was Flash Player, I think this should be easier to get, for 2010.0 free. It’s in PLF, but only in the i586 repo, and beginners are not even going to know about PLF. So, my point here is, since it ships with Mandriva one, should be easy to get for Mandriva Free 2010.0 users.

Also installed Skype, Picasa and Google Earth and the necessary codecs to play DVDs, mp3, movies, etc. No packages available for the Google apps so had to install them by downloading the installers from Google.

Next, thought I’d fire up Transfugdrake and pull the configurations from his old hard drive, plugged in via USB. Not so easy, I ended up having to hack the source code in /usr/lib/libDrakX/ to even get it to look at the disk. It should be able to be pointed at a mount point, and told to run.. without having to rely on the auto detection, which did not work at all in my case.

Transfugdrake did import some bookmarks, and the wall paper, plus some documents, although it missed all his documents that were on the desktop in windows. So, some thoughts around transfugdrake is…. it needs some improvements and a lot of testing! It also found his email address, but didn’t import it into anything useful in KDE4.3.

Next I tried to make life simpler for him, so did things like, reduced the number of desktops, added applications to the bottom panel, configured updates, added a link to the documentation, added him to the wheel group and configured sudo.

I wanted passwordless login, so I ran systemsettings as root, then configured KDM to auto-login and to not require passwords if he logged out. Pity this method of configuring auto-login is hidden for the average user.

Next I fired up Amarok, and discovered it wanted to use kwallet.. even when I had not entered any passwords for Amarok. The Last-fm plugin seems to want to open kwallet, even when it’s not storing a password… this brought me to the next thing, which was I wondered if it was possible to make kwallet not require a password for the default wallet. I could not find a way to do this, so ended up just turning off kwallet to keep in simple.

Next was making the configuration tools easy to get to. I set most things in the Mandriva authentication settings to not require a password, but could not find a way to allow access to drakconf without a password, so a quick edit of the .desktop file to run sudo drakconf fixed the problem nicely.

Maybe drakconf should try sudo, if the user can use sudo to run it, then use sudo instead of always requesting the root password.. This would make it easier for users, and is no less secure.

Next was backups, as I remembered drakbackup… however, found draksnapshot, which is even nicer. I created a ext4 partition on his old hard drive and used that for the backups with draksnapshot. It’s nice, but configuration is too simple, and, although it works, it runs on cron, so the user can’t trigger a backup, and it will only do daily backups at 4am by default.. So, was kindof limiting. I reconfigured cron to run the daily backups at a time he might be using the computer, then explained how it works. It would be good if the user could trigger a backup when the backup media is added. This kind of makes sense because draksnapshot initially prompted to use the media for backups in the first place.

I think using rsnapshot is smart, efficient and makes recovery easy, but think we need to work on improving the user interface of draksnapshot… Looking at the Ubuntu solution, of SimpleBackupSuite, it has many more options to control the backup.. Now, sbackup could be packaged for Mandriva, but it creates tar based backups, similar to drakbackup, which don’t seem as good to me as using rsnapshot.

anyway, a happy user, and looks like another couple of Mandriva converts.


Unknown said...

I'm using kwallet without password. Just provide a blank password.

Did you open some bug report ? I'm interested to follow them

Unknown said...

Could have installed and setup BackInTime, instead. It's in the repos. It's based on the same idealism as Apple's Time Machine, only not as fancy, and I think it still lacks network backup support. Probably on the way, though.

Unknown said...

Forgot to add the link:

Glen said...

BackInTime looks nice, thank you ruel24, I'll have a look at it.. maybe it makes draksnapshot obsolete.

Unknown said...

If draksnapshot runs by virtue of a script that it places into /etc/cron.{daily,weekly,monthly}/, then installing anacron will ensure that if any of those jobs were missed due to the system being off, they will run shortly after the next boot. I put it on every system, even ones that normally run 24/7.

yahclo said...

I've never been able to setup sudo on mandriva, and so i can't seem to use truecrypt. could you point me in the right direction please.

one more thing, i setup my friends netbook with 2009.1 and i want to disable the "upgrade to 2010 version' without disabling the usual security and other updates.

Glen said...

Hi tanclo,

sudo is fairly easy to setup on Mandriva. You switch to root using
su -

then type visudo [enter] to open up the sudoers configuration file.

I usually enable sudo for the %wheel group, by removing the comment mark from the line in the sudoers file. You'll need to learn a little on how to drive vi, if you've never used it before, to make the change in the file.

Then, add yourself to the wheel group using: gpasswd -a username wheel

After doing this, when you login next time, you should be able to use sudo.

as far as I know, truecrypt is not part of Mandriva, but Mandriva does have other encryption tools that are not restricted by an unusual license.

Here is a link regarding disabling the distro upgrade in mkdapplet

Palin said...

If you are having problem with vi using visudo, you can enter an alternative editor using VISUAL.

For example, you can type:

VISUAL=gedit visudo

and you will be able to edit the sudoers file with gedit.

Fri13 said...

Can I ask why did you install Picasa and not digiKam? If digiKam would be too difficult for some reason (I know many old users who have computer experience now just a few months, who can manage well to use it to manage photographs like they have used for paper photos. Tagging and writing comments and even sending them to picasa and exporting to emails.) you could always set just gwenview + dolphin. Gwenview has support for kipi-plugins so you can easily export photos to picasa from there.

I have used backintime KDE version and I have liked about it on my computer. But on some computers it fails totally working. It hangs out, does not execute backups and does not even allow making one by manually. Only fix is to remove configs and start from start.

But I hope MDV would fix the draksnapshot so it would work well with removable drives. My friend set up a 1Tb removable USB drive with. Lived happily next few weeks until needed to restart system and noticed terrible problems. Needed to call me to solve it out. First things what I ask them to check is diskspace. That is usually reason why system does not boot longer way than just booting the OS and starting INIT. The draksnapshopt was copied all data multiple times to /media/mountpoint/-1/-2 etc. Reason was simple. Every time the draksnapshot was needed to make a snapshot, it did not check does the path exist. because the path did not exist, it created such. I have not got idea why it made so many -n versions of that as well, other than when mounting the drive itself, it got new name because there was existing directory already.

Hopefully someday we get easy backup function integrated to dolphin. Backup and encryption/decryption with kleopatra.
As far the cryptsetup-LUKS works great, but only on Linux. Truecrypt would be nice if it could have good UI and automounting like cryptsetup.

Glen said...

Hi Fri13,

Picasa was simply to provide an option, as he is keen on playing with photos. I setup digiKam as the default.

He's also used to use windows, so might have used Picasa before.

Re the problem you had with draksnapshot, it's configured by default now to not create the snapshot directory. I also created a directory
on my backup hard disk, for it to use, so that it did not try and do a backup if someone else plugged in a portable hard disk of the same name.

As for improvements with Draksnapshot, it's in the Mandriva ideas page.

Patrick V said...

Good article. I still haven't
chosen a good recovery program.
Yet, I should given the fact
I so often tinker with Mandriva.
Have had issues with my graphics
card in the past.

yahclo said...

Thanks to all of you for the the help. I'll try to setup sudo right after i get my mic and camera to work on skype.
As to alternative encryption, because LUKS seems to be the standard, I would really like to be able to burn a LUKS container to a DVD

Patrick V said...

I have found that first time users can use Mandriva on laptops or desktops quite easily. With printers and other items working out pretty nicely. Now I do have java program issues sometimes and in google chrome some windows plugin issues for codecs. However, overall it all works pretty smoothly.