Which Linux for a newbie???

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  • #1915
    S80_UK
    Participant

    All,

    Some help needed for a Linux newb…

    I have been running Firefly under Unslung for a year on a slug, but with mixed results. After a while some of the Unslung admin pages become inaccessible. And while it is fine for Firefly, I am limited in the disc space available. I have also been running a server in parallel using Windows 2000 – largely as an easy way of supporting several disc drives. That uses a Via Epia ML6000 (a nice fanless motherboard). That set up has issues with driver stability (Windows forgets the drives have UDMA settings and reverts to PIO every couple of weeks). On that setup I also get bitten by the ffmpeg issue with new FLAC files from time to time.

    It seems like time to try something new – and to learn some new stuff.

    I’d like to set up Linux on the Epia motherboard. Pretty much all I want it to do is to run Firefly and also a Samba share or two for sharing files with my Photobridge, and maybe providing some general backup space on the network. I don’t plan to run any other apps. The server would sit on a router, and so only a basic firewall should suffice based on providing access only to specific local IP addresses. Above all, I’d like to be able to install it and forget it.

    Can anyone suggest a suitable starting point? Which Linux? Keep in mind that I don’t really want loads of office apps or other stuff. I would like the disk drives to spin down when the machine is idle if at all possible (trying to keep power consumption down).

    Thanks for your thoughts (and your patience!).

    Les.

    #14253
    fizze
    Participant

    Debian is always quite nice, and since Ubuntu came so popular, finding packages isn’t a problem. (Ubuntu is just a special flavour of Debian)

    The upside is you could still use Gnome as a GUI (prolly remote/over the network) if you feel like it, but of course everything can be done on the console as well.
    I guess though, that especially if you are new to Linux, an X-Window system comes in handy.

    #14254
    S80_UK
    Participant

    @fizze wrote:

    Debian is always quite nice, and since Ubuntu came so popular, finding packages isn’t a problem. (Ubuntu is just a special flavour of Debian)

    Thanks – I shall look further in that direction.

    @fizze wrote:

    The upside is you could still use Gnome as a GUI (prolly remote/over the network) if you feel like it, but of course everything can be done on the console as well.
    I guess though, that especially if you are new to Linux, an X-Window system comes in handy.

    Sure – that’s an upside, but also maybe a downside I think. I have tried in the past and all the clever UI stuff tends to get in the way of trying to figure out how things work and how to change things.

    From my side the problem is that the distros I have seen in the past seem to be stuffed full of things that I neither want nor understand.

    I’d really like to install just the OS, then drivers as needed, then the apps that I need and leave it at that. But I guess I just need to get further up the learning curve.

    #14255
    fizze
    Participant

    Like I say, even on an emdedded device you _can_ install an X Window system.
    That doesn’t mean you have to use it. In my early days however I found it very helpful for instance.

    These days I dig console environments much more, without all that clutter. So I can definetely see where you come from. 🙂

    #14256
    S80_UK
    Participant

    Thanks. I’ll shout if I get stuck!

    #14257
    rpedde
    Participant

    @fizze wrote:

    These days I dig console environments much more, without all that clutter. So I can definetely see where you come from. 🙂

    Hear hear.

    At my full-time gig, everything is done at the console. It’s nice to be working on a machine in the UK or something just like it’s here, with full abilities to do everything as fast as it is locally. I still run x at work, but I do it because I like desktop pagers over screen sessions. (Plus, I have to grudgingly admit I run a windows vm for outlook).

    Still, on any given day, I’ve got at least two of my monitors in full screen console windows.

    I do think that one can’t know unix without knowing and coming to prefer the console as opposed to the x windowing system. And I could make an argument for learning from the console to begin with, but I would only recommend that to the most persistent type, as it involves a lot of head-bashing, initially.

    The learning curve for unix (at the console, anyway) is pretty steep — more a cliff face than a slope. I think it’s been said that windows makes most things easy, except for hard things, which it makes impossible. Linux, on the other hand, makes all things hard. Even simple things under linux are hard. Interestingly though, things which you might think are impossible are only merely hard on linux.

    So if you are a compulsive fiddler, or someone that sees fighting the system as a challenge rather than an annoyance, I’d say try console only first and see where you get. You’ve gotten a taste of it with the slug already.

    Otherwise, I’d agree with fizze — go with ubuntu and *try* to do everything from the console. Fall back to xwindows where you have to, but try and at least understand what config files the gooey app is touching and what it’s doing.

    And I’d always recommend a debian-based distro, just for the depth of the packages.

    — Ron

    #14258
    S80_UK
    Participant

    Thanks Ron.

    When I started with computers, the “console” was a panel with about 50 LEDs and switches for entering machine code…. Then eventually I moved on to DOS, and lastly to Windows which as you say, makes some stuff easy, other stuff impossible. I still use batch files from the command line some times…

    Thanks for all the advice. I shall give it a go.

    Les.

    #14259
    S80_UK
    Participant

    All,

    OK – so some time has past and I have started on my Linux education…

    I have successfully installed Debian Etch with a basic command console and also running Samba so that I can share / transfer files quite freely with other machines. I installed Firefly with apt-get install mt-daapd which works. It also sets up avahi and the libraries. Of course the standard Firefly in the Debian repository is quite old (svn-1376 I think) but it seems to work well although I have not done long term testing. Also, the version of libflac which is accessed is based on the old 1.1.2 flac, and I really need a much newer one (1.2.1) for compatibility with some of my flac files. Not sure how to proceed with that (due to newb status I suppose) or where to go from there….

    Other things I have played with… (may / may not be helpful)

    I tried to install the svn-1586 .deb for etch from the nightlies site. I ran into various dependency issues. Despite apparently fixing those with apt-get -f I found that avahi would not start and I could not find a way to get it to run. I feel it may be significant that I only get a fraction of the installation messages when doing it that way, so I suspect that a load of stuff may not be set up properly. If instead I installed svn-1586 on top of svn-1376 then that solved the avahi start up issue but the mt-daapd.conf seems not to be compatible. Either way that would not solve the flac problem which I’d really like to tackle first.

    At the moment I am clearly out of my depth. I have no experience of building code under Linux, but I suspect that I may need to go down that road to get an up to date flac library installed.

    Any and all ideas appreciated.

    Actually – just thought of an alternative… Is there an easy way that I can recode my FLAC files (8000 of them) with one of the old versions while keeping the tags (I am not using embedded art or anything fancy)? The problem then seems to be that FLAC 1.1.2 won’t take FLAC as an input. (1.1.3 can do this but it can generate some files which 1.1.2 cannot play.)

    Les.

    #14260
    rpedde
    Participant

    @S80_UK wrote:

    Also, the version of libflac which is accessed is based on the old 1.1.2 flac, and I really need a much newer one (1.2.1) for compatibility with some of my flac files. Not sure how to proceed with that (due to newb status I suppose) or where to go from there….

    Well, no time like the present to learn, I guess. 🙂

    Traditionally, the place to put self-compiled stuff that isn’t integrated into the system as shipped is in /usr/local, or in /opt.

    We can give it a go using /usr/local.

    The key to building your stuff and maintaining your own version of libraries is to do the configure right.

    First, install the packages you’ll need for compiling:

    apt-get install gcc make autoconf automake libtool libc6-dev libsqlite0-dev libid3tag0-dev libflac-dev libvorbis-dev

    That should get you going. Probably will pull in a lot of deps

    You’ll need to make a tree for includes, libraries and whatnot in /usr/local:

    mkdir -p /usr/local/{include,lib,bin,sbin}

    then download the libflac library, untar it, and configure it to be installed in /usr/local. That way the libflac libraries go in /usr/local/lib, and headers go in /usr/local/include when they get installed.

    ./configure –prefix=/usr/local
    make; make install

    that will give you a new version of flac in /usr/local/include and /usr/local/lib. Now you just need to compile mt-daapd for the libs in /usr/local…

    Get rid of the old mt-daapd, making a backup of your config:

    cp /etc/mt-daapd.conf /etc/mt-daapd.conf.old
    apt-get remove mt-daapd –purge

    download, untar…

    ./configure –prefix=/usr/local –enable-flac –enable-sqlite –with-flac-libs=/usr/local/lib –with-flac-includes=/usr/local/include –enable-avahi

    that will make it use the *new* flac rather than the old flac.

    make; make install

    This binary and whatnot will be in /usr/local/sbin. Copy the old config back:

    cp /etc/mt-daapd.conf.old /etc/mt-daapd

    Try starting it, just for fun:

    mt-daapd -c /etc/mt-daapd.conf

    See what that does. If it works, you can copy the debian startup script from contrib, or make a copy of the old debian startup script before you do the apt-get remove –purge.

    Either way, you’ll need ot fix the paths to point to /usr/sbin/mt-daapd rather than /sbin/mt-daapd.

    Actually – just thought of an alternative… Is there an easy way that I can recode my FLAC files (8000 of them) with one of the old versions while keeping the tags (I am not using embedded art or anything fancy)? The problem then seems to be that FLAC 1.1.2 won’t take FLAC as an input. (1.1.3 can do this but it can generate some files which 1.1.2 cannot play.)

    Les.

    Don’t have an answer for that one.

    — Ron

    #14261
    S80_UK
    Participant

    Hey Ron,

    That’s an amazing response! Many thanks indeed. I shall certainly look into this some more.

    I also spent time looking up the status of FLAC within Debian, and there is a build of 1.2.1 under testing, so I may also explore that route.

    You’ve given me loads to work on here, so it will be a while before my next post. I like the idea of building my own stuff. (Believe it or not, I still very occasionally build simple utilities for a DOS machine using MS Quick-C – circa 1986 version…)

    Please… have a virtual beer / coffee / etc on me. You should seriously consider a PayPal account for donations, if only to fund your hardware for all the platforms that you support.

    Thanks once again,

    Les.

    #14262
    rpedde
    Participant

    @S80_UK wrote:

    Hey Ron,

    That’s an amazing response! Many thanks indeed. I shall certainly look into this some more.

    I also spent time looking up the status of FLAC within Debian, and there is a build of 1.2.1 under testing, so I may also explore that route.

    You’ve given me loads to work on here, so it will be a while before my next post. I like the idea of building my own stuff. (Believe it or not, I still very occasionally build simple utilities for a DOS machine using MS Quick-C – circa 1986 version…)

    Please… have a virtual beer / coffee / etc on me. You should seriously consider a PayPal account for donations, if only to fund your hardware for all the platforms that you support.

    Thanks once again,

    Les.

    I’m sure someone has version of it compiled and .debbed for etch. Didn’t see it on backports.org, which is where I usually look for newer stuff on debian.

    I don’t like to install software that’s unpackaged, but sometimes I do anyway. 🙂

    Erm… and I *have* a paypal thing over on sf, but I never link to it or anything. Mostly because it’s really not an issue for me (thankfully).

    Once I get a stable and start working on the web site some more, I was thinking about putting a postcard beg up. I wouldn’t mind getting some postcards from places more exotic than texas. 🙂

    — Ron

    — Ron

    #14263
    S80_UK
    Participant

    @rpedde wrote:

    [I wouldn’t mind getting some postcards from places more exotic than texas. 🙂

    I guess “exotic” is a relative term. But we have some pretty nice countryside around here, and buildings that are older than almost anything in Texas. Folks ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaah’ when they come to visit from overseas, but I prefer to travel, and while I didn’t find Texas (Houston) exotic when I was there, it was certainly interesting to see somewhere very different.

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