Trying on Arch Linux

These days, I tried to install Arch Linux on VirtualBox. Though the installation steps are quite exhaustive, but after I run GNOME, the feeling is so good!

Features Linux Mint Ubuntu Arch Linux FreeBSD
Available packages with ISO image A lot, with proprietary software A lot, no proprietary software, need to download and install after OS installation Minimalist, need to download and install after OS installation A lot
Configuration needed after installation Little Little A lot A lot
Partition of installation Can be installed in logical partition Can be installed in logical partition Can be installed in logical partitioin Must be installed in primary partition
Init /etc/init.d/ /etc/init.d/ /etc/rc.conf /etc/rc.conf
DistroWatch ranking on 2011-03-22 #2 #1 #7 #15
Rolling release No No Yes No

I tried Arch Linux, because Lifehacker said,

Do dig into Arch Linux if you want to learn way more about Linux, get a system at just the right size and configuration for your needs, and want a crash course in how to tweak a Linux system for better performance.

I tried it. One of features I like is the configuration of the system initialization is using /etc/rc.conf, that is similar to FreeBSD. If comparing Arch Linux and FreeBSD, I will choose over Arch Linux because it can be installed on logical partition, which is important for multiple-boot computer and also multiple partitions hard drive.

However, the biggest drawback I found about Arch Linux is the installation of the packages. Since the ISO image for installation is minimalist, it does not contain any desktop environment like GNOME or KDE. Yet FreeBSD contains these packages with the ISO image. I don’t like this because I prefer “download once, install anywhere”. As a result, internet connection is a requirement for Arch Linux further installation.

If a computer does not have ethernet device, but wireless device, one can select “wireless_tools” during the installation of the package, if using Core Image CD installation. Since I am using VirtualBox, I cannot test the wireless device detection. But in my opinion, if the wireless device needs proprietary driver, that means wireless device is still unable to be used. Unlike Ubuntu or Linux Mint, even the wireless device is unable to be used after installation because of proprietary driver, the usb_modeswitch allows to use the USB 3G modem. Then using the USB 3G modem can download the proprietary wireless device driver. That means, Ubuntu and Linux Mint allows 3 options for internet connection after the installation of the CD.

Arch Linux requires the user to configure a lot of settings. But I feel that the steps of configuration are easier than FreeBSD. The wikis contain a lot of essential information.

One of the advantages of using Arch Linux over Ubuntu or Linux Mint is that Arch Linux is rolling release. For example, Firefox 4 is released, but it is not yet available in Ubuntu or Linux Mint repository. However, it is available in Arch Linux repository.

Currently, I am trying on Archiso, which is able to create Arch Linux LiveCD. I am planning to build a customized Arch Linux for installation, so that I can install all the packages I want without internet connection.

The real installation of Linux for dual boot

Long time ago, I tried Linux LiveCD. Then I liked it. So, from then on, I tried to run Linux on VirtualBox. However, running Linux on VirtualBox requires a lot of memory, and it is not a real OS, the feeling is so bad. Until one day, I came to Wubi Installer, this is really great, computer with a dual boot without losing Windows. Wubi is for Ubuntu, and mint4win is for Linux Mint.

April is coming, Ubuntu 11.04 is also coming. Then I found that, upgrading Ubuntu is almost impossible in Wubi (or mint4win). So, what can I do? I like Linux, especially in software development. The only solution is to partition the hard drive. But I have bad experience of partitioning.

My favourite partition tool is Parted Magic, using GParted. However, partitioning on Windows 7 (or Vista) will make Windows unbootable. Since it is genuine Windows 7 on my computer, I am afraid of losing it. So, I look for an alternative partition software, then I come to Easeus Partition Master Home Edition. It is free. I think Windows 7 partition software should be more compatible than GParted.

Preparing the partition, I need to backup all my precious data. This is the most important step, backup everything precious to you. When I am using Easeus Partition Master, it prompts me to use Easeus Todo Backup Home to backup the data. Since it is also free, I tried it. It is really great, it can be used to backup the whole hard drive including the partitions. And remember to create a bootable CD from Easeus Todo Backup, so that the CD can be used to restore the data to the computer.

Before partitioning, remember to backup all the data, and also prepare all the recovery discs you need, especially Windows 7 System Recovery Disc. Once finish, you will not afraid of partitioning, since all the precious data is backed up. Remember UNIX philosophy: Data dominates.

When partitioning, remember that, a hard drive can have 4 primary partitions, or 3 primary partitions with 1 extended partition. The extended partition can contain multiple logical partitions. Besides that OS such as Windows or FreeBSD must be installed on primary partition, while Linux can be installed on logical partitions.

In Linux, the first hard drive is normally “sda”, and second hard drive is “sdb”, and so on. “sda1” is the first partition of the first hard drive, “sda2” is the second partition, and so on. “sda5” is normally the first logical partition. These are important knowledge so that one can understand how to create partition when installing Linux.

So, I spent several days to prepare and do my backup. Finally, I managed to resize C: drive and make a 20G free space for Linux. Though it is possible to use Windows built-in Disk Manager to resize the hard drive, I choose Easeus Partition Master because my computer has a D: drive at the end. I want to move the D: drive to the end of C: drive so that the 20G free space will be placed at the end. Easeus Partition Master allows to move a partition.

After resize partition, booting Windows 7 does not cause any problem. Great. Then I come to Linux Mint installation. Unlike mint4win previously, now I need to create new partition. At the 20G free space, I created 3 partitions: 8G for “/” mount, 2G for swap, and all the others for “/home” mount. I create a partition for “/home” so that I can just install other OS without destroying “/home” partition.

Finally, my computer can run a real Linux. This is better than Wubi or mint4win, because I can install any other distro in future because of the current partitions. 😀

Sharing my OpenOffice Impress template

Looking at the OpenOffice Impress default templates, they are too dull for me. Then, I am looking for the better template, but cannot find a better one. The main problem is the background. So, I decide to create my own template. I am using the background from deviantART user, PL0. Thanks to his design. Then using the GIMP, to edit the image, then make it as the OpenOffice Impress template. Have a look.

OpenOffice Impress abstract template

Click here to download if you like. It is using Badongo file hosting. I don’t know where is the good place for file hosting. If anyone knows, please suggest.

Using Python as the most powerful calculator

Once I was looking for “expression calculator”. The expression calculator is different from normal calculator like calc.exe, which cannot use variable freely as algebra. But the expression calculator, we can predefine a variable with a value, then evaluate the variables in algebraic expression. It is very useful. My favourite expression calculator is SpeedCrunch.

Then, recently, I want to test a math function in SpeedCrunch, but this is impossible, since expression calculator can only define the variable, but not define a function. I remembered the title of Python Tutorial, “Using Python as a Calculator“. Yes, expression calculator, with ability to define function, then Python will be the one.

So, I tried Python, writing the function in the interactive console, easy as it is. Not only that, one can do the fractions and also calculating the date time using Python. So, Python is now my #1 expression calculator. The only drawback I found is that Python does not have the mathematic constants as SpeedCrunch. That means, one needs to find the constants, and also the the unit conversion by our own.

Besides that, to use math functions such as logarithm and trigonometry functions, one must import the math module.

from math import *
from fractions import Fraction #to use the fraction
from datetime import *

Add another Google Search plugin to Linux Mint Firefox

When I run Firefox of Linux Mint, using the default Google Search from the search bar, it shows an old fashion search result. We can add search engine plugin manually. When we visit Facebook, Youtube, etc, there is a highlight on the search bar icon, click it we can add our own search engine. However, when we visit Google Search, it does not highlight the icon. Then, how?

  1. Visit
  2. Enter ” ” (without quotes) for Search URL
  3. Enter “My Google” (without quotes), or whatever name you want, but not the name already existed in Firefox search engines
  4. Click “Create Plugin”
  5. Then, you will see that your search bar icon is highlighted.
  6. Add the search engine plugin to your Firefox.

With that, we can use the new fashioned Google Search engine in Linux Mint.