My first minimal linux distro-a month with unity

Thursday, September 23, 2010
I installed Unity 2010.1 nicknamed Marrianne with kernel and openbox on my laptop about a month ago. I wanted to test out a minimal linux distro. I kept an eye on distrowatch to see the latest releases and since unity came out at that time I decided to give it a try. I also got tired of using desktop linux distributions like OpenSuse, Ubuntu,...because they install all these stuff on your computer that I never need. For instance I never play any games that come with the majority of those linux distributions.

Unity is based on mandriva and mandriva I used way back when I first started using linux because it is a beginner distro. A while back I installed mandriva powerpack 2009 but I did not really use it. Any way I did not really think that I would come across it in any form again but I guess I was wrong. I never much thought of it. Other then a beginner distro to advice people to use. So I was surprised when a friend mentioned it as a possible distro to use for a work environment. Funny now I am using one based on it.

It was easy to install and it was of course very fast since unity is so small. One of the first things that I noticed after installation was a little popup on the right bottom corner saying that a msec scan was made. I am really into these security programs and I was really excited about that. Any way I checked the file where this was written and this is what was said:

*** Security Check, Sep 07 11:13:46 ***
*** Check type: daily ***
*** Check executed from: /etc/cron.daily/msec ***
Report summary:
Test started: Sep 07 11:13:46
Test finished: Sep 07 11:13:49
Total of users whose home directories have unsafe permissions : 1
Total of open network ports: 10
Total of configured firewall rules: 0
Total local users: 29
Total local group: 29

Detailed report:

Security Warning: these home directory should not be owned by someone else or writable :
user=uuidd(491) : home directory is group writable.

These are the ports listening on your machine :
Active Internet connections (only servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address State PID/Program name
tcp 0 0 *:sunrpc *:* LISTEN 2108/rpcbind
tcp 0 0 *:sunrpc *:* LISTEN 2108/rpcbind
udp 0 0 *:sunrpc *:* 2108/rpcbind
udp 0 0 *:5353 *:* 2072/avahi-daemon:
udp 0 0 *:968 *:* 2108/rpcbind
udp 0 0 *:49622 *:* 2072/avahi-daemon:
udp 0 0 *:sunrpc *:* 2108/rpcbind
udp 0 0 *:968 *:* 2108/rpcbind

I may need to fix the permissions for my home directory (may need to check google on how to do that). There are also some open ports but that is all fine as rpcbind is a port that is open on virtualy all linux distros. I may need to install nmap and do a port scan of localhost just to be sure and double check on those ports.

Another great feature that I have noticed about this distro is that you can use it to make your own distribution with it. I did not even know that some thing like that was even possible. I always thought that LFS and suse studio were pretty much the only way to do such a thing so of course I was pretty excited about the idea of making my own distribution. I thought about that for the next week or two.

So I figured that maybe to make my own distribution I would get rid of every thing that appears to come from unity but that turned out to be a lot harder then I thought it would be. The only place where I was sucessfull was with the login screen and the menu bar where unity symbol appeared. Every where else I got mixed results. For instance I changed the boot loader to text only so that the unity logo would not appear but still some where along the text based boot loader it is going to mention unity.

Soon after the instalation though I realized that there were three apparent problems. The USB devices that I pluged in did not seem to work, chaning the wallpaper and I would have to add my self to the sudoers file. The last of course is the simplest to do. Changing the wallpaper was a bit more tricky. I first googled a bit and I found out where the default wallpaper was situated. It is in the /usr/share/gdm/themes/Unity folder so I thought that by replacing it I would in effect change the wallpaper. So I went and did that but nothing happened. So I had no other choice but to seek help on the IRC channel.

Unfortunatelly on there IRC channel they did not have a ready answer on how to change the wallpaper because we had to try out several things before we found the solution. In the process I had to install several things that I did not need like gimp, nitrogen,...It is not a big deal but it was a lousy beggining. I set out to install as few programs as possible and I did not expect to waste half a day on just chaning the wallpaper. Other than that the community seems nice but when they start to talk usually the talk about mandriva and the discussion more or less revolves around issue, problems, and perceptions concerning mandriva and it is hard to jump in and talk. I have here a typical discussion on #unity:

TheMatrix> proyvind: do yhe changes at Mandriva effect you much?
TheMatrix: to be honest, I actually think they'll affect me more in a positive way rather than a negative..
proyvind: well I hope the change will bring some good fortune your way
ashledombos: yo
ashledombos: WDyT aout rda's response to arnaud..?
I kinda think it confirmes the questions I raised earlier in the thread and speculations behind motivations..
proyvind: I think that if the two new parties don't work together it'll be like swimming apart from one another while tied together
of paddling a row boat but in opposite directions
lol :)
devnet: and it's rather obvious who's not interested in working together..
proyvind: shouldn't stop anyone from trying
one bad apple spoils the bunch
devnet: obvious we're trying :)
I think Mandriva the company will fail in the next few years anyway
so it'd be good not to burn bridges
well, mandriva isn't the ones burning bridges..
proyvind: from their perspective they definitely aren't either lol
and mageia isn't really likely to have much success on it's own with it's currently planned organization
people said Unity wouldn't be successful either :)
I see mageia as Unity and Mandriva as PCLinuxOS
I identify with mageia
you don't get 20+ developers leaving 'just because'
devnet: huh, where on earth did you get those numbers?
proyvind: url ?
there are only a few?
last I checked there were a crapton
devnet: do you actually have any knowledge of how many people that were assigned to working on the community distirbution at edge-it?
ashledombos: 'sec
proyvind: I don't need to know, if more than one developer leaves, there is a problem of perception
devnet: I'll answer it for ya
9 former employees
most of the staff working on the distribution has been located at conectiva for quite a while..
proyvind: oh ok, did not subscribed cooker list
ennael, rtp, dams, boklm, rda, sevalienor, and tv
ashledombos: it's cross-posted to both mageia and unity in addition
tv left to move in with his gf outside of paris a year ago
and of those on your list only ennael was assigned to work on the community distribution
well proyvind, there are almost 200 ppl in their irc channel...I'd say there is plenty of interest to get them off the ground
whereas, perception is, at current moment, that Mandriva is doomed
entering a saturated server market in Europe won't be easy
it's a HUGE uphill battle
and I just don't see Mandriva surviving
I'd be suprised if they pulled it off
I'm not upset with Mandriva at all..nor am I upset with Mageia
I'm worried that development will slow down to a trickle and Unity will suffer because of lack of upstream movement
specifically, desktop movement...which won't be Mandriva's focus
devnet: you do realise that the european market i sn't mandriva's main target at all..?
internsting arnaud's response
proyvind: either way, it's a 3 dog race for Linux servers
proyvind: with a new *nix entry into the market (oracle, solaris, sun)
devnet: sure, but linux servers isn't it's main priority anyways
they stated it would be
devnet: amongst other things
hence why the desktop portion of mandriva was liquidated
it's not liquidated at all
I've read over 5 articles now saying exactly that
then they're totally wrong
that's what's gonna kill mandriva
secrets and perception

Any way the way you go around chaning the desktop wallpaper is by installing lxde from the repos. Now three results are going to show up and I installed all three just to be sure. There are also some other things that you probablly wont need that get installed with it like lxterminal, task manager,...So in PCman file manager under options you can then change the wallpaper. It tooke me quite a while to figure this out with the help of the unity community of course and I am very proud of that.

As for the USB devices not being recognized that did not bother me really until I went for vacation and I needed to use my USB wifi adapter. Now I rely on it because it is much better then the one that comes with the laptop. I pluged it in and every thing to go well but when I tried to connect to a wifi internet it said that it can not connect. I kept restarting the comptuer thinking that some how I could fix this but to no avail. It just was not recognizing my USB device. It was not that I could not connect to the internet because I was inside the cyber caffer and the router was just a few feet away. That is what happens some times with my USB key. I plug it in and it works but then I plug in a wifi USB adapter and it does not recognize the USB adapter and mysteriously it does not see the USB key either.

I forgot to take with me my live CD collection so I could not use the internet for serveral days. In a way that is good because I am always on the net but then again I could not send my moms e-mails telling her what a good meal I have made.

Some times when I shut it down it wont shut down but just hangs there. Then I have to hold the power button for five seconds to shut it down. Of course that is not too good for my laptop and I would like not to practice this in the near future.

Another issue that I seem to be having is that in the upper left corner some times firefox, xchat or some other program gets stuck there for the lack of a better word. I have not experienced some thing like that on any other distro and I was told on irc that it may be an x problem. 

I have been thinking of making my own distro with it but at this moment I have some serious doubts. At least until I figure out a way to fix these issues. The last time I was on their IRC channel they did not seem to be in the mood to deal with my problem but I am going to try again. I have not worked so hard in a while with any distro. For the most part in the past year or two I have been using all these desktop distributions that make every thing simple and you do not have to bang your head against the wall over any thing. I kind of like this feeling after so much time where every thing seemed easy. I really feel like I am sweeting over this one. Besides that it is a small community where you have this impression that you are not just another fish in the sea.

Over all the distro has some great features but in the end I believe that it is too much of a burden for me to continue using it. I was looking forward to making my own distro with the help of it but after all of this I have given up that thought. Besides that there is plenty of other stuff that I would like to use and try out. There is no point for me to continue using this distro.


Anonymous said...

"Total firewall rules = 0"
Hope not!!!!!!

lyecdevf said...

The Mandriva security package was probably the best thing about it. I hope one day the unity distro is going to be much better.