A Slimline Debian Install: It's Easier Than You Might Think
There are some superb desktop Linux distributions that are designed to work with very old hardware. For example, Puppy Linux is a great choice to quickly turn an old PC into a secure, easy to use word processing, email and light web browsing workstation. Puppy can work minor miracles on very old hardware, and I carry a Puppy boot CD-ROM around with me as my emergency recovery system.
However, there are a lot of machines floating around that are a bit too good for something as limited as Puppy, yet not powerful enough to run one of the major distributions. I'm taking about machines with maybe 256MB-512MB of memory and a CPU around the 600MHz mark. My new thing in these situations is to deploy the latest Debian in a slimmed down form. The advantage is that you end up with a completely up to date Linux distribution and it's still standard Debian underneath it all. As it's a real Debian install, it gives you security along with something that can be upgraded with standard software. It's a great project if, for example, you've got a structurally sound old laptop that you fancy giving away to a relative.
It's pretty simple stuff really, all you need is an old machine and a working Internet connection. You can start with the Debian netinstall disk (for a PC, you need the i386 image at about 150megs). Once you've burned the ISO, boot from the disk and begin the install, proceeding as normal until you reach the package selection screen. Here, deselect "desktop workstation" and continue while the installer does its stuff.
Pay attention here, you need to tell it not to install the desktop environment.
After completion of the install and a reboot, you should have a complete Linux distribution with a command line, network support and some basic admin tools. For cowards like myself, the most important tool is Aptitude, a textmode package installer that looks like an old DOS utility (anyone who calls me Grandad for remembering DOS gets a slap). Hit Ctrl-T to bring down the menu and then use the cursors to navigate to the search option. You can then use the rather old-fashioned interface to search for packages and select them for installation. I'd recommend the XFCE desktop environment, the Firefox web browser (called Iceweasel in Debian-speak), the ALSA sound system, AbiWord processor and the XDM login manager. Select install, wait a while and reboot again. Voilà, a complete, customized, light-weight setup that should simply fly on older hardware.
A simple but functional desktop that consists of everything that most people need.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
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