Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Office Software

As Xubuntu 12.04 is a lightweight OS it comes pre-installed with Abiword. This is a good little word processor and is handy for writing simple documents.

For several years I have been using Libreoffice and its predecessor OpenOffice. The majority of files for my wargames hobby are written in Open office Format. When I opened some of my old documents in Abiword they did not format correctly. I also get sent 2 or 3 Newsletters in MS Office, again they did not format in a legible form in Abiword.

I have therefore had to install LibreOffice Writer to read these documents.

So far the pre-installed spreadsheet software Gnumeric is opening my spreadsheet fine so far, but I don't use complicated Macros in my spreadsheets.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Black Screen of Death - Cure

Further  to my previous post about the black screen of death in Xubuntu on my laptop this was how I installed the nomodeset to the grub2 menu. You require Gedit to be installed on your system.

To permenantely change the boot options open Terminal from system > accessories and type in the following command:

gksudo gedit /etc/default/grub

This will open the grub configuration file

GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`

Alter this as follows:

GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash nomodeset"

In terminal type the following command to update the grub configuration:

sudo update-grub

In my other installation (with Windows Vista on) Grub did not pick up the Windows partition to add to the Grub so I had to do this manually. This is how I did it.

Type the following into terminal:

gksudo gedit /etc/grub.d/40_custom

and add the following lines to the bottom of the file:

menuentry 'Windows Vista' {
set root=’(hd0,msdos2)’
chainloader +1

Since the location of the Windows installation can differ widely, I need to explain the “set root” line because (hd0,msdos2) refers to /dev/sda2 on my machine. More generally, hd0 (or /dev/sda elsewhere) refers to the first hard disk installed in any PC with hd1 (or /dev/sdb elsewhere) being the second and so on. The next line (chainloader) tells GRUB to load the first sector of the Windows drive so that it can boot. After all that decoding, my final comment on what’s above is a simple one: the text “Windows Vista″ is what will appear in the GRUB menu so you can change this as you see fit.

After saving 40_custom, the next step is to issue the following command to update grub.cfg:

sudo update-grub

You can then check  /boot/grub/grub.cfg to check that the text added into 40_custom has found its way into there. That is important because this is the file read by GRUB2 when it builds the menu that appears at start-up time. A system reboot will show that the new entry has been added successfully. Then check to see if Windows loads properly.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


Okay so how did the installation go.

I booted up the Laptop with the Xubuntu CD in the drive. As this is an older laptop the first time I tried to boot I had a black screen. I was aware of this issue so I rebooted and by using the options I chose to boot with nomodeset. This allowed me to boot correctly with a screen I could view. This allowed the laptop to boot to the live CD screen.

On the Xubuntu desktop is an "Install Xubuntu". The wizard then starts which asks a couple of questions:

Time Zone

You then have to select whether to format your entire drive to place Xubuntu as the sole Operating System or to install alongside Windows 7. I opted for the second choice. The wizard suggests the partition size I wanted which I could alter by using a slider.

Once this was completed the only other decision I had to make was my superuser name and password. 20 minutes later Xubuntu was installed the machine rebooted. I was greeted with the Grub boot menu allowing me to boot in either Linux or Windows. Once again when I tried to boot in Xubuntu I had the black screen of death so I had to reboot and edit the grub choice adding nomodeset after the "quick splash" in the menu.

This allowed the correct booting. In the next post I will explain how to permanently add the nomodeset option to the Grub menu permanently without having to manually write it in each time.

So what is the difference in boot times compared to Windows 7:

Windows 7: 2 mins 30 seconds from selection of the menu to all software started (dropbox, anti viruses etc)

Xubuntu 12.04 : 30 seconds.

What is Xubuntu

Xubuntu is a community based derivative of the Ubuntu Operating System. From their website:

Xubuntu is an elegant and easy-to-use operating system. Xubuntu comes with Xfce, which is a stable, light and configurable desktop environment.
Xubuntu is perfect for those who want the most out of their desktops, laptops and netbooks with a modern look and enough features for efficient, daily usage. It works well on older hardware too.

After installing Zorin OS on my old  Fujitsu-Siemens old laptop which has transformed it from a Sluggish machine with Vista on it to a fast laptop again I decided to install a Linux OS on my Acer Aspire which currently has Windows 7.

I researched the Linux OS available having previous experience with Mint Linux a few years ago. I wanted a lightweight OS, that was easily to install and was fun to use.

I narrowed the choices to:

  • Puppy Linux - easy to use from a USB pen and great as a backup but I felt it was not good enough for a fully functional desktop OS.
  • Ubuntu - too large an install for a lightweight OS
  • Mint Linux - again too large an install for what I had in mind
  • Lubuntu - fits the bill and what Zorin OS is based on and a derivative of Ubuntu
  • Zorin OS - installed on my Fujitsu Siemens laptop so I wanted a different OS on the other
  • Xubuntu - similar to Lubuntu but used the Xfce interface. More importantly it has 18 months support under the LTS (Long Term Support).
So Xubuntu was decided as my choice and the ISO was downloaded from the website and burnt to a CD. Next post the installation process.