Conclusion of the meltdown!

WordPress / Blogging

We’ve been experimenting with themes for The Robotic Frog. I think we’ve tried all that are available at WordPress.  We had a few surprises, though. Here are some things to consider when choosing a theme for your blog.

Comments

We like comments at The Robotic Frog and encourage you to share your thoughts. I was surprised at the number of themes that don’t have a link for comments. I assumed that every theme had a comment link unless you turned it off from the Dashboard. Not so. If you want comments, make sure your theme includes a link.

Consider where the comment link is located. Once I started looking for it, I found that many themes have links at the top of the post, but not at the bottom. The reader finishes reading at the bottom of the post. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the comment link should be there?

Fonts

I want the text to be as readable as possible. I found many themes that I liked…except the fonts were difficult to read. Make sure your fonts have the look that you want.

Tag Line and Page Links

There are some very nice themes that don’t display your tag line and/or page links. Check for this when choosing a theme. Also, themes display your page links in different orders. If that’s important to you, note how the prospective theme handles page links.

Back to the meltdown…

I decided to start with Whitestar*. “Well you know,” says HE*, “that Fedora probably won’t load from the DVD. We’ve had that problem before.” I know HE’s correct about this, so I have HIM prepare a bootable USB stick with Fedora 16 Xfce…just in case.

HE was right. It wouldn’t load from the DVD. This is a curious problem. The installation begins and then after you’ve made a couple of choices it decides that it can’t find the drive from which it started. I don’t know about you, but that seems really weird. Even more puzzling is that Fedora 14 loaded perfectly from DVD onto Whitestar. The “Honey, I lost the DVD” thing started with Fedora 15. It seems that Fedora 16 perpetuates it. (Fedora isn’t the only Linux distribution that has this problem with Whitestar.) As with Fedora 15, Fedora 16 loaded from the USB stick and all was well.

Fedora 16 Xfce was very attractive. All of our critical software was available in the repositories and most of the odd packages with which we want to experiment were there as well. There was one minor glitch. The Xfce weather applet doesn’t work with Fedora. It worked just fine with Xubuntu (and Arch Linux). That’s annoying, but not a reason to stop using Fedora. We’ve had really good luck with Fedora in the past, so I was hopeful that we were about to end this saga.

On to Defiant*. HE started the installation. Perfect, but what about the Internet connection. Xubuntu had problems maintaining the connection upstairs (see previous post). We ran Defiant from about three o’clock in the afternoon until almost midnight. It didn’t lose the Internet connection a single time. We experienced one minor (to us) problem.

Fedora 16 Xfce clearly recognizes Defiant as a laptop. Trackpad tap and scroll, however, are not enabled. With Xubuntu, the trackpad just worked. As I said, this was a minor problem for us because we know that it’s two lines added to a configuration file for Synaptics (the software that makes the touchpad work). The biggest problem we had was figuring out where Fedora keeps the configuration file. Once that was determined, we added the two lines, rebooted…problem fixed. While this was a minor issue for us, I can see it being a deal-breaker for a new Linux user.

Untouchable* was still running Xubuntu. We use external USB hard drives for our backups and they were connected to Untouchable. We had no problem getting Defiant to talk to Xubuntu. It was drag-n-drop to reload Defiant’s files. All seemed to be working well. We had two machines back up, and so far, no major problems. Time to shutdown and head for bed.

“Huston, we have a problem.”

I got up the next morning and there HE was, staring at Defiant. The shutdown screen was still displayed. Defiant was hung up on something and didn’t turn itself off. We had rebooted Defiant several time last night and didn’t see this problem.

“What was the last last thing YOU did last night?” I always have to keep an eye on HIM.

“Not much. I set up the file sharing.”

Eventually, we determined that this had something to do with disconnecting from the NFS server. We never found a way to correct the problem, but we did find an acceptable way to get Defiant to shut down. It was a bit of a kludge, but it got the job done. Crisis avoided. We’re getting close. Only one more machine to get working.

Out of time and out of gas!

There were no problems loading Fedora onto Untouchable. Not a surprise. Everything loads on Untouchable. Then came the deal-breaker. We moved the backup drives to Whitestar. Backup wasn’t an important issue at RFCC until we started working on this blog and putting a lot of time and effort into creating content. We realized that we were one hard drive crash away from disaster, so we put a lot of thought into figuring out how to do backup as reliably and painlessly as possible. Whitestar is our machine designated for handling backups. That means it must operate as our file server. This is usually a pretty simple thing. We searched for documentation for how to do this with Fedora. The most recent documentation we could find was for Fedora 13. I looked through the online documentation for Fedora 16 and found documentation for Samba (software that can also be used for file sharing), but not NFS (the system we use at RFCC). We tried the instructions from the Fedora 13 manual and they didn’t work (probably our fault). At this point, I looked at HIM and said, “Stop! No more.” I was out of patience, out of time, and out of gas with this entire project. I directed HIM in the strongest terms to get us back to Arch Linux as quickly as possible.

Arch Linux logo

It took a half day to reload Arch Linux, our software, and restore our backups. What a relief after all this to have three systems working perfectly: filemanagers working, weather applets working, file server working, trackpad working, wireless Internet working, and no startup or shutdown issues! Arch Linux with Xfce as our GUI environment continues to be our Linux system of choice.

Conclusion (Finally!)

Let me be clear about how we feel about these Linux distributions. Our preference is Arch Linux, but Arch is not without it’s problems. It’s just that we’ve used it enough that we know where the potholes are and how to steer around them. If Fedora Xfce and Xubuntu were the only choices we had, we would gladly use either of them. The problems we experienced can be overcome or minimized. Linux Mint Xfce is a different story. RoboFrog’s position is that if the installer and updater don’t work, you’re lost before you ever get started. The irony is that if a newcomer asked us for a recommendation for a first Linux system, we would recommend the main Linux Mint distribution (Ubuntu derived). Anthony Venable writes a blog that I follow. He recommends Ubuntu for newcomers and I have no reason to fault that recommendation. It would be The Robotic Frog’s second choice. In fact, we’ve just installed Ubuntu 11.10 on a new machine (Chatterbox) because of Anthony’s recommendations. If you’re a first-timer interested in Linux, check out his blog.

Whew! We’re finished…for now…talking about Linux distributions. Next time, we’re returning to content creation. Thanks for hanging in there!

2 responses to “Conclusion of the meltdown!

  1. The beauty and curse of Linux is choice, too much choice that it can be insanely time consuming with little to show for that time spent, and this scares many new comers.

    ArchLinux works great for my laptops because I can very quickly slam on a basic install and then just run a quick pacman -Syu followed by an install of my standard programs and LXDE being my settled choice of GUI. By far and large the most beautiful tool I use almost every 60 seconds, is Guake to provide a quick and sexy dropdown console.

    I used CentOS on the server I setup to host my original blog, and find CentOS to be very nice as well, although sometimes have to remember the file placements in /etc are largely different. Really enjoyed setting up NginX, mySQL, and wordpress on it, but I find no one maintains as good documentation as ArchLinux. Accurate documentation is perfect for those of us who try to avoid opinionated forums where possible.

    My concerns with ArchLinux, is the lack of recognition in the commercial world, where employers look for RH based experienced in most cases.

    Enough chin-wagging from me. I’ve just found your blog, really enjoying it, although I need to gain understanding about your naming conventions for your boxes, thats on my ToDo list while at work tomorrow.

    • Hey Robert. Thanks for your comments. You’re right, there’s a lot of choice with Linux. That’s one of the things I really like about it. We absolutely agree with you about Arch’s documentation. The Arch-folk have a reputation of being a bit testy when answering questions on the forums. I understand where they’re coming from. Arch isn’t a beginner’s distribution. They’re very clear about that up front. The documentation is so good that I’ve never needed to look to the forums for help. I have had to do some homework. Arch spoils you. There’s nothing like having a system configured exactly the way you want it.

      Check out the Glossary page for a brief description of the boxes and cast of characters on the LilyPad. There’s a new one…Chatterbox. More about that one later. Again, thanks for the comments.

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