Linux Mint 7 – Refreshing!

Let me start with a few disclaimers: I like Red Hat and it's various derivatives. I've never much cared for Debian, and I still think Ubuntu is a bit over-rated. And, I'm not a Gnome fan; I like KDE. I know why I have these preferences: Red Hat 4.2 was the first version of Linux I had running, and KDE was the first desktop environment I used on Linux, so these are what I'm comfortable with. Besides, that default brown Ubuntu theme is just ugly. (Yes, I know you can change it.)

When Gnome first came out, it was noticeably slower on my machine (at that time) than KDE, so I stayed with KDE. I also tried some of the other, lighter, window managers, but being lazy, I stuck mostly with KDE and Red Hat for years, even through a few early versions of Fedora. I became disenchanted with Fedora primarily because of it's rapid release cycle. I don't have time to install a new version every six months, or whatever. I like to find a stable version of a distribution and run it for a few years, hopefully with updates. That's why I ended up using CentOS on my home server, and on a couple of desktops. It's stable and gets updates for a good long time. Having said all that...

I started listening to "Linux in the Ham Shack", "Resonant Frequency", and "Linux Outlaws", and decided it was time to look at something else. My CentOS 4.7 desktop machine that I used at work, an old Dell Dimension 4100 with a 900 MHz processor and 256 MB of memory, ran fine. But I wanted to try the newer version of Firefox, which would require updating a bunch of libraries and these were not forthcoming. Security patches had dwindled, too, so it was time for a change. Maybe I should give one of the Debian-based distros another chance.

I'd heard good things about Linux Mint, and downloaded the live CD ( I dug up a Dell OptiPlex GX240 that was mouldering in a back room. It has a 1.5GHz processor, so that would be a nice update in speed, but only had 256 MB of memory. Well, that was good enough for my current CentOS box, so maybe it would be enough here, too. I plugged in a spare monitor, keyboard and mouse, and booted the live CD. All the hardware was recognized, the network configured itself, and I was off and running. Naturally, running off the CD was a bit slow, but that's to be expected. Since everything seemed to work, I then installed Mint on the hard disk. For those of you that still think Linux is hard to install, give any of the popular distributions a try. Basic installation on reasonably recent hardware (within the last 5 or 6 years) is a breeze. Much easier than Windows, and usually only one reboot at the end. I did have to change from the ALSA sound drivers to the OSS drivers in the Control Center to get sound working. This is no doubt due to the age of this machine.

With the install completed, it was time to move my files, bookmarks and email from the old box to the newer one. Again, not a big deal. I just exported the Firefox bookmarks to a file, and copied the file to a flash drive, along with my Thunderbird default profile directory and various other files I wanted to keep. Then I inserted the flash drive in the Mint box and copied the files to their equivalent places on the new box. I was ready to use it as my main Internet computer at work.

It is pretty! I like the green Mint them, and Gnome has improved a lot since I last played with it. Next, I replaced the old PS/2 mechanical mouse I was using for testing with my preferred Logitech Trackman Wheel. Uh-oh. From the moment X started, if I spun the ball, the cursor would jump around wildly, randomly issuing click events. Not good.

I tried a USB version of the TrackMan Wheel, and it worked perfectly. Evidently, there's something about the PS/2 mouse driver that just isn't right for the PS/2 version of the TrackMan. I found a few suggestions online, but none worked. So, I ended up replacing the PS/2 trackball with a USB version. Sometimes, it's just easier to replace a bit of hardware than spend hours trying to fix software.

I then found that, by default, clicking a link within a message in Thunderbird would not launch Firefox. A bit more Googling revealed that you must create a users.js file within your .mozilla-thunderbird/.default directory containing these lines:

user_pref("", "/usr/bin/firefox");
user_pref("", "/usr/bin/firefox");
user_pref("", "/usr/bin/firefox");

After creating that file, and changing the permissions to 700, that issue was fixed.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Firefox 3.5 available as a package from the repositories within days of the Mozilla release. So far, it has been very stable, and perhaps a bit faster than Firefox 3.0.11. However, for whatever reason, it's still considered "beta" by the repository, so it doesn't install as the default browser, or replace Firefox 3.0.11.

Over the next week or so, it seemed that this machine, though ostensibly 80% faster, didn't feel as fast as the old one. And it seemed to be beating up the hard drive quite a bit. I'm guessing there are several possible causes:

1. Gnome may be more resource hungry than KDE. Just an opinion, not necessarily fact.
2. 256MB, while adequate for CentOS 4.7 and KDE3, isn't enough here.
3. The default setting in MintUpdate to check for updates every 5 minutes (!) is ridiculous.

I changed the MintUpdate setting to check for updates every 4 hours, and maxed out the memory in the machine at 1GB. That did help the performance issues quite a bit. The hard disk has calmed down, and the system feels about as responsive as my older CentOS box.

Then a strange thing happened. I had the screensaver configured to "random", and the Molecule screensaver activated. The screen was blanked, except for the words Constructing Molecules, and the system froze! Nothing would wake it up, and I could not switch to another virtual console to shut it down. I either had to kill the power, or issue the incantation:


to sync the disk, unmount the disk, and boot, respectively.

After some more research, it turns out this bug is old and tenacious. It's been around in the Ubuntu (maybe Debian?) world for at least two years, and is still not fixed. From the bug reports I've read, it seems to be related to the driver for the ATI 128 Rage Pro Ultra video that's installed on this machine, and MANY other Dell products. I did find instructions for de-activating the Molecule screensaver:

Open a Terminal from the menu Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal and type:


The Gnome configuration editor opens. From the hierarchy tree on the left side expand "apps" and then choose "gnome-screensaver". On the right side, you should see the configuration of the screensaver. Look for a property called "themes" and double click it. A window for configuring the themes opens. From the list of values, mark all entries (there should be only one) and click on remove. Then, leave the window by clicking "OK".

Now, open the screensaver configuration by clicking System -> Preferences -> Screensaver. Choose "Blank Screen" and leave the window.

That will revert to just a blank screen screensaver, but at least it won't hang the machine.

Installing applications from the repositories is easy, and I appreciate having access to the amateur radio packages. Other than the few speed bumps described above, I haven't had any other problems. I plan on keeping it.

-Bill Grzanich, KA9WKA

LHS Show Notes #017


  • Don WS4E sent us a pointed email. He uses SuperOS and was even able to get his programming software for his talkies. Likes SatScape for satellites in Linux.
  • Bob K4BB says that you can use MONO for running HRD on Linux. behind on the podcast. And Likes Unetbootin Really likes the quality of the show. Feels the websites need help. Bob had four or five pieces of feedback this time. Thinks the music is a waste.
  • BTW Colin and Martin at ICQ Podcast are our friends 🙂
  • Captain Spauldings Blog, He uses Ubuntu and likes the podcast. (Hooray for Captain Spaulding the African explorer)
  • Donation Mark K. Thanks Mark
  • Richard says “Join the fun and be a guest co-host”
  • The Techie Geek gave us a mention. Thanks for the tip on the Sansa Clip Russ
  • We have appeared again in a comment over at Solder Smoke. Keep spreading the word.
  • Thanks to the guys at TiTradio podcast for the mention
  • Hello to Azimuth, Wayne KB7CFD, Don't fear the badger.
  • Kent VE4KEH sent us a message about forwarding X11 over SSH using xming


  • We now have voice mail. Leave us a message and we will get it on the show +1-888-455-0305

Links and Notes:

  • Russ talks about Java for a while:
  • Its cross platform
  • A little clunkie
  • Side track to Adobe Air
  • Cool stuff available
  • BTW there is a version of Adobe Air for Linux
  • Now that we have our Java, We need a doughnut 😛

  • Drats extravaganza:
  • Terminal for D-Star low speed data on Talkies and Mobile Rigs
  • Dan KK7DS
  • It is cross Platform
  • Written in Python and GTK
  • Not only the terminal but a repeater too
  • Windows installer
  • on Linux you also need a few libraries
  • Easy to use if you have ever used terminal software
  • If you haven't used terminal software before, Still easy to set up to run
  • Auto QST's, Preformatted forms, Weather info, APRS, even internet email.
  • Heard List, APRS data
  • Session activity log
  • Ratflector access for testing

  • The Drats Repeater Proxy:
  • Very simple
  • Setup you own repeater at your house
  • Can be setup for over the air or network operation
  • Don't have to setup the ports for your local network while testing
  • Auto id of repeater
  • Monitor screen shows connected computers and radios
  • Sometimes Simplicity is best
  • Web page has How-to's, Wiki, Info and mailing list for information about Drats
  • Ratflector on ports 9000 and 9001 for testing over at the Drats website
  • Russ says it works on MAC
  • Check out the website at
  • Richard Hopes that Drats becomes the standard for D-Star low speed digital


LHS Show Notes #016


  • KI6FEN – Likes keeping older equipment alive with Linux
  • Rob VE3FRJ – Rob had a little trouble finding his apps after an install
  • Jeff KB5WCK – Left a comment thanking us for mentioning his website and Russ mantioned 73' Then Richard turned it into a real commercial for everybody's websites
  • Gene K8EE – Thinks Linux is in practical, He listens to the podcast but can't figure out why we use Linux and everybody knows we are just Microsoft haters. Russ and Richard respond in kind with extreme prejudice and packet for flavor.


  • Paul M0TZO and Pete M3PHP want everybody to check out we want to take it Viral. Put on your blogs, websites, talk about them in the forums you visit. Talk about them in IRC and you other podcasters talk about them on your shows. Spread the word.

Links and Notes:

  • This time we talk about stuff that just works after a Linux install since one of the emails intimates that everything works in Windows and nothing works in Linux.
  • Web Browsers: Firefox, Iceweasel, Epiphany, Opera, etc. (NO IE)
  • Mail Clients: Evolution, Thunderbird, Icedove, Claws, etc.
  • Word Processing:, gedit, abiword, etc.
  • Media Players: Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Totem, mplayer, xine, etc.
  • CD Burners: Brasero, Gnomebaker, K3B, etc.
  • After trying to sort out chickens and eggs and carts we agreed that talking about stuff that works and from now on we will go back to fixin' problems.
  • We wrapped up by answering some questions for the live audience in the chat room. Check the show schedule at for the next live recording


LHS Show Notes #015


  • Pat on Twitter said "Yes VK's can have 2x4 call signs" and Russ explains
  • Joe NE3R likes Xastir for APRS. Joe is a Windows free Microsoft consultant
  • Some Windows bashing ensued
  • Bill KA9WKA Just found the program and is really enjoying it. Got Xastir running on his EEE PC. and tells us about
  • Reminder that we record the show live. Go to for more information on dates and time
  • Hal W4OE is having problems with his Signal Link USB and KAM packet controllers
  • W9ZEB Just found the podcast and said Thanks for doing it. He even left a nice write up on his blog about us at
  • Joe NE3R Left us some nice words on his blog too at Russ jumped in and squeezed all the goodness out of the post
  • Kent VE4KEH Made the very first donation ever to Linux in the HAM Shack and wants a show on Pulse Audio


  • Monsterb at Linux Cranks said he likes the show the other night on IRC. Go visit Linux Cranks. WARNING! They're show is not family friendly and it is OGG only. you can find them at
  • I found some other useful programs. the first one is The MintCast.  MintCast is a beginner level Linux podcast. You can find them over at
  • The second is Productive Linux. This one is more about getting stuff done on the desktop.

Links and Notes:

  • This install was done on an AMD 1.0 Ghz. Processor with 512 Megs of memory
  • A Jackalope is a critter native to west Texas.
  • Normal upgrade ordeal. clicking the upgrade button never works for me.
  • Downloaded the Ubuntu Live CD and it worked fine except Nautilus did not work for me.
  • Kubuntu live cd loaded and ran just fine with no issues
  • Time to install
  • Installer worked just like it was supposed to.
  • Ran fine after install
  • After install from machine off to desktop ready took 63 seconds to boot.
  • Plenty of good tools Firefox, Gimp, Compiz, Open Office, etc.
  • Default media player is Rhythmbox
  • No animal on the desktop (Thank God)
  • Wireless networking worked with no issues
  • Did not try the EXT4 file system
  • First Richard gave us a description of SSH
  • With towel in hand Russ began to speak about SSH
  • you can use SSH for remote to your machines over the internet or your network
  • SSH uses Port 22
  • You need your port 22 open on your firewall if logging in from out side the local net work
  • you need to install the SSH client and SSH server as needed
  • Russ is so smart
  • Type SSH -y username and remote machines address and you are off to the races
  • you will be ask for a password. then you are in.
  • Now you have a terminal connection to the remote machine matching the user you sign as
  • Forwarding X-Windows is possible but beyond the scope of this episode
  • Russ says that running Firefox over SSH may end in tears
  • Try YFKlog via SSH
  • SCP uses SSH to copy files from a local to remote machine
  • Russ suggest PUTTY for SSH in Windows, Richard suggest CygWin for SSH in Windows
  • In the wrap up Russ suggest Checking the MAN pages and playing with SSH and you will find it to be a great tool
  • We will talk about Debian in a few weeks
  • We are looking to have another round table episode. Let us know if you are interested in being involved
  • Russ finds life between the peaks very lovely