Manjaro Linux – My Current Distribution


manjaroI’ve been running Manjaro Linux Openbox Edition since about November of 2013.  I haven’t re-installed…since Manjaro rolls with it’s releases…I haven’t needed to re-install.  It’s been as steady as a rock for 2 releases and many months of torture and pain from yours truly.

The only other distribution I’ve ever put through its paces like this that remained stable and usable was Salix…which is Slackware based.  Manjaro is Arch based and benefits greatly from the fantastic package manager ‘pacman’.  Oddly enough, Salix has a lot in common with Manjaro in that they both attempt to bring simplicity with easy upgrades/updates.  They also both tap into the community for customized packages…Salix with the ability to install Slack builds and Manjaro with the ability to add on packages from the AUR (Arch User Repository).  Both provide tools that allow a user to interface with these user built repositories.  Both are lightning fast and use a very low amount of resources.

Even though I’d hadn’t noticed before….they do have a lot in common.

I’ve demanded a lot more from my Linux distributions lately…I haven’t picked the ones I use based on what everyone else is using.  I haven’t picked one that has recently released.  I picked one that doesn’t decide what’s best for you.  I think this approach is best…doing less is more.

I don’t want a distribution to install the entire KDE application suite out of the gate taking up tons of space on my hard drive and making my Kmenu a jumbled mess.  I don’t want a distribution that doesn’t install tons of applications but is so bloated and lethargic on the desktop that I can barely function.  I don’t want a distribution that does things the wrong way by requiring me to install more than what I need (thanks meta packages!).  The bottom line is, I want a simple distribution of Linux that truly and wholly supports the ‘less is more’ mantra.  The only two I’ve settled on are Manjaro and Salix.  I’m not saying these are the only ones that ascribe to this mantra…I’m just saying these are the only two I’ve used that I like.  I’m sure there are others you might have found do the same thing and I’d encourage you to leave a comment with this distribution so that I can check it out.

I don’t do a lot of Linux reviews…but I will be doing a Salix and Manjaro one in the near future.  I think they both deserve any amount of press they get because they are fantastically simple distributions.

I am a Linux User

There are some things you just are.

Painters are painters because they paint.  Writers are writers because they write.  Whatever you identify with being (writer, painter, et. al) you are that because of what you DO…what you produce.  I am Linux user because of what I produce with Linux…what I do with it.  I don’t simply use it…I create with it.  I make it do what I want.

People give me a screwdriver and I pry things open with it…I don’t just use it on screws.  If I wanted to just use a flathead screwdriver for screws I’d be using a Mac.  If I wanted attachments for my screwdriver to become a different tool, I’d use Windows.  Instead, I rewrite what my screwdriver is used for by using Linux.

I’m a thinker because of Linux.  I have to be.  I have to think outside of the box…the standard way of thinking.  I find solutions to tech problems more quickly than people around me because of Linux.  I don’t think just of linear solutions.  I’m not just one dimensional…Linux makes me multidimensional.  When a problem arises, I meet it head on instead of waiting for others to fix it.

Linux makes me all of these things.  Without it, I still am a thinker…but Linux makes me a multidimensional, deep thinker.  Without it, I still use tools like a screwdriver but I don’t use them in as many ways.  Without it, I can still solve problems…but I don’t solve them as fast or as creatively.  There are some things you just are.

Linux helps me to be who I am.  Linux just is.

It was almost 10 years ago that I started recording my thoughts, tips and tricks on this blog.  I blog less frequently today then I did back then thanks to more professional responsibility with my work…but just the same, Linux still plays a major part in my every day life.  This website is hosted on a Linux server that I built from the ground up.  I use Linux for my Network Attached Storage at home that contains all of my movies, music and pictures.  My phone runs Linux.  I stay in touch with my friends and family because Linux is so versatile.

This blog has been through 4 major hosting changes and 3 changes of content management systems.  It’s gone through DDOS attacks, smear campaigns and even bumped heads with Groklaw before they shut their doors.  Through all of that, the one constant that remained is that Linux is.  For those of us that use it…Linux is what we use to shape our lives.  I’m glad to be a Linux user and a blogger of all things Linux.  Despite my infrequency of posting, I try to provide original content instead of just recycled news/how-to’s.  I don’t plan on changing this goal in the future…and I plan on being here for as many years as I can.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you who subscribe to my RSS feed and have my content delivered to you there…and those that subscribe to the blog via email.  Thanks to all of you who read the content I produce.  I appreciate your patronage and your support.  I began this journey with many of you over 10 years ago…here’s to the future path we’ll be travelling.  No telling where Linux will take us!


Open Source Software and New Users


Open Source Software CommunityFree/Libre and Open Source software versus closed and proprietary software doesn’t matter.  It’s not the answer to solve all our problems.  It’s not the question we need to ask anyone and everyone either.  It simply doesn’t matter.  Well, it might matter to you and I…but it doesn’t matter to most people out there.

No matter what you say and do.  No matter what ideals you preach to people.  No matter what concepts about freedom you tout to them…it just won’t matter at all.  They want what they want and when they want it.  They turn a power button on and a device powers up giving them the functionality they need.  They open up a piece of software that gives them the features they want.  They don’t care whether they pay for it, if someone can alter it, if someone can distribute it, or if it was free.

It sucks that people don’t care about their own freedom with programs/code, but it’s true.

The Great Debate

The debate that rages on is usually one or two camps that support Free Software, Libre Software, or Open Source Software (or a combination of them) and those folks will lecture the end user who doesn’t care.  Have you ever been lectured about something you don’t care about?  Usually, you won’t remember anything about what is said to you when that happens.  The same is true for end users that couldn’t care less about what software they’re using…as long as it works.

Instead of lecturing these folks and talking down to them about the benefits of FOSS/FLOSS/OSS…I say we try a different approach.  I say we identify with them.  Establish a common ground.  Less like a bull in a ceramics shop.  A common proverb here in the US is that “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  Being tactful and pleasant instead of overbearing a sharp is a good way to win people over to view things as you do.  Education is key…if you see someone using a locked in device, you could tactfully let them know of alternatives and why they might choose them.  I’ve seen the untactful approach and it does nothing but push the person farther away from free and open source software.  Less is more in these cases…no one wants to come off as a know it all…but that’s exactly what I’ve seen happen many times.

The Importance of Free and Open Source Software

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of Open Source software (Free software or Open Source software) but I am trying to downplay the importance/intensity of the debate between the various beliefs (FLOSS/FOSS/OSS).  I’ve seen people get very livid about the idea that all of their software should be completely open source or that it should be free AND open source or else they won’t use it.  I applaud these people for having a stance and sticking to it and I believe the world would be a much better place if we had more of this type of software that everyone could work on collaboratively.  I think it would spur innovation and bring people together.  But here’s the kicker…the end user DOESN’T CARE about your debate.  While it’s great that it means something to you, 9 times out of 10 it won’t mean anything to the end user.   If they’re completely new to these ideologies try easing them into understanding.  This isn’t sink or swim…everyone starts off in the shallow end first and when they’re ready they move into the deep end.  Don’t expect everyone to care right away.

If you have a user of software who will only use Open Source software…a person who staunchly supports this concept…and that person defends their stance any chance they can get, most people see it as a good thing.  In my opinion, rabid defense of ideology is sometimes not a good thing…because many times people lose the defensive stance and go on the offensive one.  The same is true for those who will only use Free and Open Source software…they become incensed at the idea that anyone would ever use anything else or would want to use.  Both of these camps tout altering the code, collaborative design, vendor lock-in, high prices of upgrades for proprietary software, and other ideological points of contention.  As I said, it’s great that these camps are so invested in their ideals…and there is a point where you do more harm than good.

The Perspective of the Uninformed New User

It’s hard for new users to understand the perspective and ideological camps behind  free and open source software because there is nothing else like it in the world.  Insisting that someone adapt immediately to the ideals put forth by FOSS is, in my opinion, an unrealistic expectation.  When someone is new to a group or community, demanding they adhere to a set of rules they don’t understand can be overwhelming.  In my opinion, a welcoming stance from the community members followed by a path of self discovery is what develops new users into the strongest supporters of free and open source software.

The attitudes and behavior new users face when initially embarking on their open source journey will stick with them and will shape their opinions for years to come.  A few years ago, I wrote an article titled “A New User Guide to Linux Communities“.  Despite being written in 2008, it is still applicable today.  New users need patience, tolerance, understanding, and empowerment when first trying FOSS.  If we can give them a positive and up-building experience, they’ll definitely come back for more and become more avid supporters.  Leave the politics and ideologies to the wayside.  Try helping the new user without trying to indoctrinate them.  Let them come to the discovery that FOSS is where they should be at.  Let them learn things on their own time and pace.  In the end, if they come to the same conclusions we have as FOSS users on their own, they’ll be more likely to stay that way and more productive community members in the future :)

HostGator, Linux and The Dukes of Hazzard


If you’re old, like me…let’s say, over 30 years old…you might remember the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard”.  Waylon Jennings, a popular country music singer during the late 70’s and early 80’s sang the theme song.  The lyrics are:

Just the good ol boys, never meaning no harm

Beats all you ever saw, been in trouble with the law

since the day they was born

Many times in IT job settings, you’ll find that you need to become one of ‘the good ole boys’ in order to accomplish your job.  You have to like the things others’ like (or pretend to), you have to laugh at the things others’ laugh at.  In other words, you may have to become all things to all people.  It’s stupid that things are this way…but if you don’t change, you’ll find yourself on the outside looking in.  I’ve always been one to try and strike the right balance between becoming what my coworkers wanted me to become versus what I want to be.  Through the almost 10 years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve both sponsored and at one time hosted Ken Starks (aka Helios) blogging efforts and even his Lobby4Linux initiative…and I still consider him to be a great friend as well as an uncompromising voice in the world of Linux.  Over at his blog, he gave the anonymous experience of one HostGator employee.  You can read her experience over at his blog but here is an excerpt:

But my friend did have trouble answering a question and she dutifully IM’ed her tier two technician for help…. Twice. Then three times. And finally a fourth. She didn’t even get a response from a tier three tech or a supervisor. And I’ve been a tier three technician…I played a lot of online games. Help requests were infrequent. We mostly helped supervisors keep track of call times. She was a nervous wreck…and the customer wasn’t happy. She had to take down the customer’s number and promise to call them back when she found the answer to their question. A callback counted against her in her call stats and bonuses can be earned or lost on customer callbacks. She was close to tears, but nothing like she was when she found out why she being ignored when she asked for help. It seems that there is a little initiation when you go to work in that particular call center. It’s a game of sorts and it all boils down to this.

I’ve experienced things just like this in my career in the world of IT…not to the level above…but in some form or another, I’ve been hindered at performing my job by someone else who wanted to ‘initiate’ me into working where they do…or someone who just didn’t like that I spoke in an accent.  It’ seems rather stupid that someone would want you to become part of their ‘good ole boys’ network before they give you the help you need.  It’s unprofessional and counterproductive.  The only real permanent damage it does happens to the end user.

One can’t get too mad at companies though…they may not even know it is going on.  It starts at the mid-management level.  Managers who enable and allow this sort of behavior on their teams or ignore this sort of behavior are to blame.  Having a workplace that isn’t fun to work at unless you’re a part of the ‘good ole boys’ or that makes the end user suffer just for a laugh isn’t a good workplace.  Turnover will be high.  Ego’s will be allowed to cultivate and grow.  Cliques will form.  Boundaries will be crossed. In the end, your workplace suffers because it becomes hostile to those who refuse to adapt their behavior to jive with the few who behave in this way.  If you’re an IT Manager, take note of the story I linked to above.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t let your employees set the tone for the work environment.  Make it your mission to set the tone yourself.  Making your work environment an inviting and supporting place to work isn’t hard to do.

Finding Files Modified in the Past Few Days


It’s said that with age comes distinction and wisdom. If we believe that, then we’re talking about people and not files.  Working with older files doesn’t make you wise beyond your years…one could argue that it makes you a glutton for punishment :).  That doesn’t always have to be the case as we can solve finding and working with older files using the ‘find’ command.

Recently, I was tasked with finding files that had been modified in the past 5 days. I was to copy these files from a SAN Snapshot and move them over to a recover area that anyone could get to (read: Windows File Share).

We were doing this in Linux because the snapshot, which was a NTFS filesystem would only mount in Linux.  It seems that Linux is more forgiving of errors on a hard disk than Windows is when dealing with NTFS.

So, the snapshot was located on a server designated as X.X.X.X below.  I decided to use the find command to locate all files that were modified in the past 5 days.  The find command can be summarized succinctly using the following logic statement:  find where-to-look criteria what-to-do.  Keeping this logic in mind, I used the following command to get what I needed:

find . -mtime 4 -daystart -exec cp -a {} /home/devnet/fileshare\$ on\ X.X.X.X/RECOVER/ \;

Let’s break down what the above command is doing.  First and foremost, the find command when used in conjunction with a period means to search the current directory (where-to-look in logic statement above).  If you need to specify where to search via path, replace the period with the path to the directory you’ll be searching in  Next, I’ve added the following flags (criteria in logic statement above) which I’ll define:

  1. -mtime:  stands for ‘modified time’.  This means I’m searching for only files modified in the past 4 days.
  2. -daystart:  This flag is used to measure time from the beginning of the current day instead of 24 hours ago which is default.  So in the example above, it would find files 4 days from the start of today (which equates to 5 days from midnight versus 4 days from 24 hours ago for my task)
  3. -exec:  specifies that with the results, a new command should be executed.

The {} above is where the results of our find command are passed.  It will do the command after -exec for each result from the find command.

So, we’re copying with the cp -a command and flag, which will copy recursively, preserving file structure and attributes thanks to our -a flag.  That command copies all the files we’ve found using the find command to the path stated next (what-to-do in our logic statement above).  The last symbols \; are the end statement for our -exec flag.  This must always be present for our -exec command…and the exec flag should be the last option given in the find command as well.

It’s important to note above that I mounted the NTFS SAN snapshot using the GUI like I would any NTFS volume on a Linux desktop and that I executed this find command while I was located in the root of the directory I wanted to search on that snapshot.  The server I was copying the files to noted as X.X.X.X above was a Windows File Server on our network that had open permissions for me to copy to.  I used Samba to mount this server in the directory ‘fileshare’ in my home directory.  The RECOVER directory was made by me to house all the files I’ve found so I could keep them separate from any other files in the root of the file server directory.  I had to manually create this folder prior to issuing the command.

There are more than a couple of different ways to do what I did above.  There are also numerous ways to alter the command and adapt it for your needs.  For example, perhaps you want to find all files that are 3 days old and delete them…and you’re not a stickler for the -daystart option.  In this case:

find . -mtime -3 -exec rm -rf {} \;

Maybe you want to copy mp3’s from a directory to a separate location:

find . -name '*.mp3' -exec cp -a {} /path/to/copy/stuff/to \;

There are lots of ways to adapt this to help locate and deal with files.  The command line/shell are always more than powerful enough to help you get what you need.  I hope this helps you and if you have questions or just want to say thanks…please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

Would You Like a Native Client for Google Drive?


If you’re like me, you think that the more native applications that are available to Linux users, the better.  In the case of Google Drive, there isn’t a native synchronization enabled client for Linux.  This is especially sad if you think about how Google got to where it is today…building its entire search infrastructure on the backs of customized Debian servers.  Not to mention that Android…which is powered by Linux…has a native client available in the Google Play store.

Why would we want a native client for Google Drive when we can just use unofficial software to do it or mount it like a command line commando would?  The answer is simple…uniformity and solidarity.  The experience that is already present for Windows and Mac users should be present in Linux as well…instead, Linux continues to be the ‘red headed stepchild’ of the desktop experience.

There are some people who feel this same way and they have started an online petition asking Google to release a native Drive client for Linux.  You can sign the petition here if you’d like to.  As of the writing of this post, there were 15,648 signatures…let’s see if we can push above 20k shall we?  I think online petitions are sometimes silly but Google might not.  Hopefully, we’ll get that native client and uniform experience for Linux desktops everywhere.