Debian 10 Buster, Perhaps Your Grandfathers Distro

I have been using Debian for the most part of my twenty years of my using Linux. Debian was always difficult, stodgy, and unfriendly to new users. Nothing has changed, and it feels like I stepped into a time machine, and went back in time with Debian 10 Buster.

Not new user friendly, barely user friendly

I downloaded, installed and used Debian 10 Buster for a short time. Debian Buster, is not targeted for a general audience.

I attempted four installs. Each install was a little different from the previous. The fourth install wanted a proprietary driver for my unused LAN. The second and third installations, for whatever reason would not install Grub correctly. Each of the four installations consisted of superfluous questions, a few different on each install, which should be handled by the installer.

Installation is unbelievably SLOW. For a release that is a few days old, downloading and installing an extra 1220 plus packages for the default is crazy! I could have installed Xubuntu three or four times in the time it took Debian Buster to complete one successful install.

This may have been negated if I had used the DVD version, but if that is the case, why have a CD version? Long time Debian users will say, “Wait a month or two and then install”. Debian is not a cutting edge product and is well tested before final release. This was good advice in the 1990’s, but not in 2019 for a major Linux player.

Debian Buster has bad manners when it comes to disk management. I installed on a 1 gig hard drive split in two with only the first half the drive formatted. Buster agreed to use only the formatted half of the hard drive, but insisted on formatting the second half too!

After a long dreary process, Buster is installed. But we’re not done yet. We are told to remove the installation media, before rebooting. It is not clear wether the installation media is still being used or not at this point. Two of the installs, I removed the usb stick, and perhaps this is the reason for Grub failure.

Debian Buster is pretty sparse. To add insult to injury some of my favorite programs were not only not installed, but not available in the repositories. I find this surprising because they are in Debian 9 repositories. Did I mention, no email program installed?

From my reading, it seems Debian Buster is using AppArmor to Sandbox Firefox. Needless to say, this doesn’t improve the speed department. While some may feel AppArmor or another application like it is a requirement, I am not one of them. My computing time is very web-centric and happens on trusted web sites. AppArmor should be my decision, not the software’s.

In ending what is several paragraphs of negativity, Debian once again has created a release with as little appeal as possible for the general user. If you are not general desktop user, and require only mainstream popular programs, with little browser use, Debian Buster is just what you may want to use. As I read over at Distrowatch some years ago, Debian is not a good Debian Distro (probably paraphrased),

Bionic Pup 8 Linux. Fast, Small, Complete

The latest Puppy Linux is out, named Bionic Pup 8 (BP8), and I think it is a winner! Bionic Pup 8 comes in both 64 and 32 bit flavors, so there is a BP8 for everyone. BP8 has a small footprint, a little less than 400M for the 64 bit ISO. BP8 runs off a usb, and has so many programs, and can perform so many different tasks, one may forget BP8 is a portable Linux, and not an overstuffed, full blown ISO.

I find it amazing that so many programs and features in such a small footprint. From initial setup, to playing a game, there are enough features and potential tweaks to keep everyone happy.

Desktop and initial Setup

If you need audio tools there are more than a handful to choose from. Same goes for video and Graphics tools. Yet there is more. Puppy has a more than acceptable collection of Personal and Office Tools though not in a suite. If you prefer, Libre Office, the download and install option are in the menu. You may find you don’t need it.

For the web, there is Pale Moon web browser, Claws email, Messaging and GTK Radio to name a few programs. Bionic Pup 8 has more programs available than many people will ever use. Persistent storage is an option if you want to use it, showing up on shutdown.

Puppy Linux’ loads into Ram, making it slower on the boot, but very fast when running. I have been playing around with Bionic Pup 8 for about five days now. Once BP8 is loaded, it’s the fastest Distro I have. Using Bionic Puppy 8, I forget I am running off a usb stick, it’s that fast.

Puppy Linux has so much to offer, with several excellent modified Puppy’s. Slacko or Fat Dog used to be my go to Puppy’s, but Bionic Pup 8 has really hit a home run. This version comes with more than needed standard and perhaps not so standard tools depending on your experience level. Every use should be able to do anything that needs attention.

A Menu everyone can love

Now after saying all these great things about Bionic Pup 8, some things haven’t changed. As I spend most of my time in a web browser or editor, I’m not picky about them, but you may be.

Visually, Bionic Pup 8 Desktop is awesome! Some think it’s a little crowded, to each his own. Programs may be the bland side visually – for some, and a little retro looking when compared to large and nicely polished Distros; even the games are fairly light. But comparing footprints megabyte to megabyte, Puppy Linux has the power and speed advantage.

All Puppy Linux flavors expect you can perform the basics. You are expected able to set up your system the way you want. This includes Internet, Printing, and other things you may want, Samba and your Lan name for instance. This sets Bionic Pup 8 apart from hold your hand beginner Distro’s, but not too far apart. If you set up your current Linux Distribution, you can set up and use BP8 too. On the bright side, everything you need or want is a mouse click away, and generally there are ample instructions to help you as you go. You just need to know what you want for your system.

If Bionic Puppy 8 is something you want to check out, and you have a spare usb stick, head on over to the Official Puppy Linux Web Site. You can read about Puppy Linux, check the link options, and view screen shots. If you want more, there is the Official Discussion Forum, Blog, Wiki, along with more discussion forums on other sites. There is even a Puppy School link available on the Wiki. Puppy is well supported.

Puppy Linux has been around a long time, and always delivers a blazingly fast, small (as in usb) footprint, and offers persistent, encrypted and unencrypted storage. Bionic Puppy 8 is worth you checking it out, especially if you are beyond the beginner stage, or you enjoy Distro hopping. Best of all, Puppy Linux is portable.

If needed, I have a previous post about a program named, Etcher which takes care of getting an iso from your hard drive onto a bootable USB stick. Etcher now runs on Linux, Mac and Windows.

Think Your Web Browsing is Really Private? Think Again

How anonymous is your private web browsing? I thought I had all the reasonable requisite Add-ons to keep me fairly anonymous on the Web. Then I read a comment in an article about a file named: ‘machine-id’ which holds all the data about the computer I am using. Machine-id is present on a Windows and Linux computers. It is around in some variation on a Mac, but not as easy to locate.

What this little file does is make your a single computer unique on the ‘Lan’ it is set up on. This information may extend out into the internet to your provider, and perhaps beyond, but in my limited searching, I did not find any reference of that happening. This is called from my understanding…get ready…”Fingerprinting”.

However this made me curious. What else is going out, while I am browsing the web, thinking I am wisely protecting my privacy? I can’t say I was surprised, but a truckload of information is sent to each and every website that is visited, even this one I am guessing, though I never see it.

If you look at this screenshot, Firefox.jpg, you will see the information every web site sees. The list is long, and the shot is clipped to only the top portion, but you get the idea of how privately you browse the web as an average user. Web browsers may as well include a picture, home address and phone number too, as far as privacy matters go.

I thought I was fairly anonymous on the web…

Contained in Firefox browser directory, and likely whatever browser you choose to use is a file called HTTPS. Now this is a really slick little file that works with web sites you visit. It stores the data you see which tells Firefox any site listed in the file can only be accessed using HTTPS at the beginning of the url for a ‘secure’ connection. If HTTP isn’t at the beginning of the URL string, you can’t connect to the website in question. Sounds great, I feel so much better….

The problem with this file is, you can delete the contents and save it as a blank file. Get on the web and surf to a few sites, and you have a long list of sites, including some you did not access and can not visit! Return to a website, and the string contents change My question is, with this file blank, I do not seem to have any problem accessing a website. Why is it needed except for tracking purposes? I think it uses information from machine-id, but I’m not really sure. Monster Cookies anyone?

HTTPS. Just a helpful little file

I never payed attention to the private browsing option until now. The results are disappointing if you think you are really getting private browsing. This is beginning to look like a bad take of, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. All that happens in private browsing is the information normally stored on your computer about your browsing habits is not collected. To the sites you don’t want the world to know you visited, your browser sends the same information it always does. In essence, your family or Boss may not know where you browsed, but everyone else does.

If you want to see this in action, here are two links which collect all the information possible from your computer.

My Browser Info

Panopticlick from Electronic Frontier Foundation

After a quick search, I found a new well thought of web browser named, Epic Browser. It has a slick little VPN feature that really does erase you when you are on the web. I only played with it long enough to verify it works. With the VPN switch turned off, Epic transmits the same information as other browsers. With the VPN switch activated, it’s like being on the onion network with a tor browser. Maybe it is?

If you are serious about your privacy, but not too computer savvy

Which brings me to the Operating System Tails. Tails is so paranoid about privacy it only runs from a USB stick, and does not access any hard drive on the computer on its own. Tails uses the Tor browser and the Onion network. I really prefer using Tails when I want to surf about things I don’t want attached to me like, “How do you get Hemorrhoids”, or some such. You can browse with confidence knowing in your using the best privacy no money can buy when you are on the web. Below is a screenshot of how the sites see me when using tails. This isn’t a how-to about tails, but the web is almost your friend and will lead you to the Tails website.

The most online privacy no money can buy.

The information above is what I was able to find in about an hours worth of searching. Initially I was shocked to see what information about myself and my computer was giving away. After a short amount of time, I became angry, that so much information is built into the system by default. I did learn I don’t need to feel bad when a web site wants me to accept cookies. Websites already have more information than they need.

In wrapping up, I hope you have a better idea of your “privacy” when browsing the Internet. If you want to learn more and perhaps get involved, the, “Electronic Frontier Foundation” is a great place to start. EFF has been around since at least 1990, decries the lack of privacy in the digital age, and fights for our digital rights.

Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation link:  Electronic Frontier Foundation check them out. They do a lot for you.

A Few Thoughts on Three Arch Child Distributions

I never had the desire to install Arch Linux from scratch. When I started with Linux, I installed Suse Linux using 3.5” floppy disks. I didn’t like it much, as I thought the mousing was too, “Precise” for me back in the day. Well, it is a long time since those days, and I have done so many installs and added software to them, it no longer gets me excited.

These days, most Linux distribution’s, mainstream distributions anyway, are becoming so plain vanilla, there is little need to start from bare bones system and build it up for home desktop use. Which brings me to the Children of Arch Linux. I have installed and used Arco Linux, Antergos Linux, and Manjaro Linux over the last few months.

I think I can safely write, these distributions have more in common than they are different. Each distribution is rock solid, as stable as Arch can be, and they each pretty much give me the desktop and looks I want. Arco Linux is different, in one of the its purposes to grow the user. By growing, I mean installing different desktop, adding programs, etc. Arco Linux is a great little distribution as is, if you do not wish to take it any further, or if you wish even better with video support (videos) to increase your Linux skills.

Antergos Linux shines in what it offers in the desktop realm. They have enough desktops to choose from upon install, that every user should be able to find what suits them. If you want to explore desktops, an Antergos is the way to go. If you try a new desktop and do not like it, just another desktop. Antergos has been tested with each of the desktops it offers on install, so one of the desktop choices should please just about everyone.

Manjaro Linux, with its new release, 18.xx, is a winner by a printer in my book, when compared to other Arch Children distributions. What sets Manjaro Linux ahead of the pack for me besides delivering a painless install, is my Brother Printer installed without a second thought, straight from the system settings. No more downloading Brother printer drivers from the Brother website and doing a manual install. I had given up on ever seeing such a smooth Brother printer install with Linux. I own a Brother MFC-L2707DW printer, if that is any help to you.

Manjaro Linux takes Best of Breed!

One rather unfair criticism I read about Manjaro Linux is terminal opacity. If the opacity of the terminal bothers you, click on settings as make the terminal as solid as you wish. I would think, if you are considering Arch or a Child of Arch, this would not be an issue for you.

Arch and Children of Arch have some serious side effects you may wish to consider, part of the Arch lineups dark side. Updates are fast and furious, you need some high speed bandwidth or you will reach new levels of frustration. Of course you may selectively choose to install only certain updated programs. Secondly, if you stray too far from the main road when installing programs you may find your favorite program needs some tender loving care. I had two programs, one of which refused to load, and the second refused to quit. Manjaro at least, has a pop up asking if you wish to terminate the program. You may also go through the terminal.

If you have installed a few Linux distribution’s and feel a little bored or daring, Give one of the Children of Arch a spin. Unfortunately, it is looking like you may still get a little bored with either Antergos or Manjaro. Depending on your pain tolerance, boredom is a good thing when using Linux. While Children of Arch distributions are a ways from being a beginning Linux Distribution, they are a long way from the expert level installation requirements of Arch Linux itself. If you can install Ubuntu Linux, Children of Arch Linux distributions are not out of your reach.

Etcher, the Cross Platform ISO Flash Drive Installer You Need

Etcher is the best image flasher you have never heard of? Huh? what’s an image flasher? In plain language, Etcher lets you create a bootable copy of a downloaded ISO to a flash drive in a way that won’t let you destroy your hard-drive in the process.

Etcher lets you painlessly burn iso images to flash (usb) drives.

Etcher is cross platform. I use it in Linux, and here is how I do it:

1. Have a downloaded .iso file. I downloaded Lubuntu to give it a test run as a live ISO. I thought Lubuntu has made great strides in this current release for those interested.

2. Insert a flash drive. This is the most dangerous part of the process! Etcher will overwrite everything on the flash drive, so only use a flash drive where the data on it can be deleted without pain. If your flash drive has information you want, copy it off to your hard drive before using the flash drive with Etcher.

2. Run Etcher. I open my file manager, and open the Etcher folder I created previously.

3. Double click on the Etcher Icon.

4. Etcher starts, asks for an iso and brings up a folder directory. Search and select the .ISO file you want to copy on your flash drive.

6. Enter your correct password.

7. Etcher searches for a flash drive. At this step Etcher gives you the option of picking a different flash drive than the flash drive Etcher found.

8. Click on the label, “Flash” on the right side of the screen.

Etcher does the rest, conveniently copying the selected .iso file to the flash drive making a bootable flash drive in the process. Once completed, Etcher asks if you want to create another.

8. Close Etcher. All done! The flash drive created by Etcher is bootable, and can be used as you want.

One interesting option Etcher offers is to purchase Etcher Pro. Etcher Pro will flash several flash drives at a time. Etcher Pro is for high volume users.

Etcher is cross platform. Etcher is free as in free beer. Etcher is as safe as can be in protecting your hard drive by only flashing a flash drive.

I really like Etcher as it replaces any number of DVD burns. Especially now that CD’s and DVDs are quickly fading into the background.

Here is a link to a Wikipedia article, if you want more detail.

Here is the link to the Etcher website