Author Archives: Himanshu Arora

About Himanshu Arora

Himanshu Arora is a software programmer, open source enthusiast and Linux researcher. He writes technical articles for various websites and blogs. Some of his articles have been featured on IBM developerworks, ComputerWorld and in Linux Journal. He is the administrator of the blog and also contributes useful posts on the blog. Visit his google+ profile or mail him at himanshuz.chd[at]mylinuxbook[dot]com.

wattOS (R8) ditches Ubuntu in favor of Debian

Looking for an open source Linux distribution that can conserve more power (so that you can have, for example, a longer-lasting laptop battery) and run better on older hardware without compromising on features or performance that you’d expect from a full power system? wattOS could be the answer.

While other lightweight Linux distributions like Puppy Linux, are also energy-saving, as they consume fewer resources to run, what truly differentiates wattOS from them is that it also includes specific optimisations for power saving.

Release 8 specific information

Version 8.0 of the green distribution was released on May 11. As the release announcement notes, the 8.0 release (also known as R8) has switched from Ubuntu to the current stable branch of Debian 7.0, Wheezy (Linux Kernel 3.13.10-1). The latest release includes three flavors : wattOS Mate’ edition, LXDE edition, and the ultra-slim Microwatt edition. While the first two include 32- and 64-bit, the third flavor is 32-bit only.

As wattOS is targeted at low-level hardware, it largely includes lightweight applications which are not the most popular and sophisticated ones, but still can do their job.

Default applications include PCManFM file manager, Shotwell graphics editor, Iceweasel web browser (Qupzilla in case of Microwatt), Filezilla file transfer client, Transmission torrent client, ePDFViewer for PDF viewing, Audacious music player, VLC multimedia player, and more. You can also install the standard Debian packages via the Synaptic Package Manager.

As far as hardware and memory requirements are concerned, all three editions should be able to run on any system that has a Pentium 3 class processor or better. While LXDE and Mate require 192-256MB of RAM to install but less than 128MB after install is complete, the Microwatt edition, which now runs openbox instead of PekWM, should be able to run with a comparatively smaller memory footprint.

History

wattOS is developed and maintained by a Portland-based technology consultant Biff Baxter, real name Ronald Ropp. The idea behind the OS, which was first released in July 2008, was to create a simple, minimal, and fast desktop that can leverage the large Debian/Ubuntu knowledge base and repositories.

Aside from individual users, a Thailand-based company NorhTec that makes the Gecko EduBook, a low power, portable and cost-effective laptop, is using a custom version of wattOS.

A quick review

NOTE – I’ve used the Microwatt edition for this review.

After I downloaded the wattOS ISO from its official website, what grabbed my attention first up was its size, which has increased from 456MB to 650MB in case of Microwatt edition. Although I successfully did a test run of the OS through a live USB, I still decided to install it.

As far as installation is concerned, the process was quick (took around 5-7 minutes), but could be a bit difficult for newbies because unlike some of the popular Linux distros like Ubuntu, that automatically partition your disk during installation, wattOS installer requires you to do manual partitions (using gparted) of your hard drive.

On the positive side, the booting time is really quick. From the moment of selection of boot option in the Grub menu until the moment when I got a login prompt, I only had 16 seconds of waiting time. The desktop, which appears almost instantaneously as you type the password and hit Enter, contains nothing except for dynamic system information and shortcut keys to launch various apps and services. A right-click on the desktop, however, produces a list of app categories each containing one or more apps. Turns out this is the only way to browse the system graphically.

NOTE: A quick look at the R8 specific pictures here reveals that the desktop experience varies from edition to edition.

A freshly booted wattOS system took about 105 Mb of memory, which is quite decent. Talking of software, I am quite used to working on Google Docs, but when I used QupZilla web browser to edit a document stored on Google’s cloud storage service, I got a warning that some fonts couldn’t be loaded correctly, suggesting me to upgrade the browser.

What more, the browser didn’t display tab icons for various websites (like Google, Gmail, LWN, and more), which makes it harder for you to identify the website while switching tabs. Privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo is the default, but you can also opt for Google powered search in the search bar.

While working on command line, I observed that you cannot paste any text copied from another application, say a text file or a web page. I tried Ctrl+v, Ctrl+Shift+v, right-click->paste, but nothing happened. To clarify, a right click doesn’t produce any option, let alone paste, when done on command line shell.

Another strange problem that I observed was related to the root account. I was able to switch to root account using ‘su -’, but wasn’t able to change the password. The passwd command kept throwing:

“passwd : authentication token manipulation error”.

After googling around for sometime, I found that others are also facing similar problems.

Also, there is no pre-installed email client. That’s weird because not everybody out there is using web-based email clients. Anyway, you can always install an email client (or any other software) from the repos though, and while WattOS prefers lightweight software, you’re obviously not restricted to it. A good thing about WattOS being tied to Debian, one of the big distributions, is that there’s less of a chance of being stuck for an application that you need.

Conclusion

wattOS is not a perfect Linux distro, as it has quite a few quirks that may annoy some users, but the good thing is that it delivers what it is supposed to — a lightweight, fast, and energy-efficient Linux experience. If you are looking for a Linux distro for your old desktop, try wattOS.

5 Ways To Check If Linux OS is 32 bit or 64 Bit

Sometimes Linux newbies get confused while downloading a software because the download page offers them both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of the same software. It is important to know whether your Linux OS is 32-bit or 64-bit, as this information is required while doing various tasks. In this article, we will discuss five different ways to check if your Linux OS is 32-bit or 64-Bit.

Check If Linux is 32-bit or 64-Bit

Please note that the methods mentioned in this article are tested on Ubuntu 13.10.

1. Execute the ‘uname -a’ command

One of the most common way to check if your Linux OS is 32 bit or 64 Bit is by running the uname command.

For example, on my system, it displayed the following information:

$ uname -a
 Linux ubuntu 3.11.0-12-generic #19-Ubuntu SMP Wed Oct 9 16:12:00 UTC 2013 i686 athlon i686 GNU/Linux

The highlighted i686 (or i386 in some cases) signifies that the operating system is 32 bit, but if x86_64 appears, then it means that the OS is 64 bit.

2. Execute the ‘uname -m’ command

A similar but slightly different way is to run the ‘uname -m’ command.

For example, on my system, it displayed the following information:

$ uname -m
 i686

Which means that my Ubuntu Linux is 32-bit. If it would have been 64 bit, the output would have been x86_64.

3. Using the file command

Although it’s a kind of hack, but still it can be used to solve the purpose. In this case, you have run the file command with /sbin/init as an argument.

Here is an example :

$ file /sbin/init
 /sbin/init: ELF 32-bit LSB shared object, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked (uses shared libs), for GNU/Linux 2.6.24, BuildID[sha1]=0xc0d86a25a7abb14cad4a65a1f7d03605bcbd41f6, stripped

The highlighted 32-bit signifies a 32-bit OS, and vice-versa.

4. Using the arch command

Another alternative is to use the arch command, which prints the machine hardware name.

Here is an example:

$ arch
 i686

So you can see that the output was i686, which signifies a 32-bit OS. For a 64-bit OS, the output would have been x86_64.

5. Through system settings

If you are using Ubuntu 12.04 or higher, you can easily check your OS architecture by going to All Settings -> Details.

details

So you can see that the OS type (32-bit) is clearly mentioned here.

Do you know other ways to check if Linux OS is 32 bit or 64 Bit? Share your ideas in comments

tailf : Follows The Growth Of A Log File, Better Than ‘tail -f’

Do you use Linux on your laptop? Do you use ‘tail -f’ command frequently? If the answer to both these questions is YES, there is a better solution in form of Linux tailf command. It works same as ‘tail -f’ but is better than it in terms of saving battery life of your laptop. In this article, we will quickly learn some aspects of this command.
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MegaCmd – A Command Line Utility To Access Kim Dotcom’s Mega Cloud Storage

For all those Linux command line freaks, who want to access Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload replacement http://mega.co.nz through command line, here is a good news. I recently stumbled upon an open source command line client Megacmd, developed specifically for the same purpose. In this article, I will discuss how to download, install, configure and use this command line client.
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dtrx – A Versatile Tool To Easily Extract tar, zip, cpio, rpm, deb, gem, 7z, cab, rar, and InstallShield Archives

If you are an experienced Linux user, you would have definitely dealt with various archive formats. For example, tar, zip, rpm, deb, 7z, and more. Extracting these archives requires either different commands, or different command line arguments in case the command is same. Well, if you always wanted a single command that could extract most of the commonly used archive formats without any complexity, your search ends here. In this article, we will discuss dtrx command, which can extract all the popular archive formats.
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lsblk – Command To Display Block Device Information In Linux

Have you ever dealt with block devices in Linux? Well, it is unlikely if you are not a file system pro, but as a system admin you should know some basic commands that can help you debug a file system-related problem in Linux. In this article, we will discuss the lsblk command, which displays block device related information in Linux.

NOTE – To know basics of block devices in Linux, read this tutorial.

lsblk Command in Linux

Here is a snapshot of the description of lsblk command from its man page :

lsblk-main

Testing Environment

  • OS – Ubuntu 13.04
  • Shell – Bash 4.2.45
  • Application – lsblk 2.20.1-5.1ubuntu8

A Brief Tutorial

Lets understand its usage through some practical examples.

1. List block devices

To list block devices using this command, just run it without any option :

$ lsblk
NAME   MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
sda      8:0    0 232.9G  0 disk 
├─sda1   8:1    0    50G  0 part 
├─sda2   8:2    0    20G  0 part 
├─sda3   8:3    0 132.9G  0 part 
├─sda4   8:4    0     1K  0 part 
├─sda5   8:5    0   1.3G  0 part [SWAP]
└─sda6   8:6    0  28.7G  0 part /
sr0     11:0    1  1024M  0 rom

So you can see that a lot of information related to block devices is displayed in the output.

If it is required to display information corresponding to all the devices, use the -a option.

Here is an example :

$ lsblk -a
NAME   MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
sda      8:0    0 232.9G  0 disk 
├─sda1   8:1    0    50G  0 part 
├─sda2   8:2    0    20G  0 part 
├─sda3   8:3    0 132.9G  0 part 
├─sda4   8:4    0     1K  0 part 
├─sda5   8:5    0   1.3G  0 part [SWAP]
└─sda6   8:6    0  28.7G  0 part /
sr0     11:0    1  1024M  0 rom  
ram0     1:0    0    64M  0 disk 
ram1     1:1    0    64M  0 disk 
ram2     1:2    0    64M  0 disk 
ram3     1:3    0    64M  0 disk 
ram4     1:4    0    64M  0 disk 
ram5     1:5    0    64M  0 disk 
ram6     1:6    0    64M  0 disk 
ram7     1:7    0    64M  0 disk 
ram8     1:8    0    64M  0 disk 
ram9     1:9    0    64M  0 disk 
loop0    7:0    0         0 loop 
loop1    7:1    0         0 loop 
loop2    7:2    0         0 loop 
loop3    7:3    0         0 loop 
loop4    7:4    0         0 loop 
loop5    7:5    0         0 loop 
loop6    7:6    0         0 loop 
loop7    7:7    0         0 loop 
ram10    1:10   0    64M  0 disk 
ram11    1:11   0    64M  0 disk 
ram12    1:12   0    64M  0 disk 
ram13    1:13   0    64M  0 disk 
ram14    1:14   0    64M  0 disk 
ram15    1:15   0    64M  0 disk

So you can see that the information related to all the block devices is displayed in output.

2. Print the SIZE column in bytes

Use the -b option to achieve this :

$ lsblk -b
NAME   MAJ:MIN RM         SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
sda      8:0    0 250059350016  0 disk 
├─sda1   8:1    0  53686370304  0 part 
├─sda2   8:2    0  21476206080  0 part 
├─sda3   8:3    0 142683932160  0 part 
├─sda4   8:4    0         1024  0 part 
├─sda5   8:5    0   1372585984  0 part [SWAP]
└─sda6   8:6    0  30836523008  0 part /
sr0     11:0    1   1073741312  0 rom

So you can see that the SIZE column displays values in bytes.

3. Hide the information related to slaves

In the last example, observe that information related to sda and its slaves was displayed in the output. If you do not want to display slave related information, use the -d option.

$ lsblk -d
NAME MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
sda    8:0    0 232.9G  0 disk 
sr0   11:0    1  1024M  0 rom

So you can see that the information related to slaves is not displayed in the output.

4. Output information about the owner, group and mode

To display information related to the owner, group and mode of the block device, use the -m option.

$ lsblk -m
NAME     SIZE OWNER GROUP MODE
sda    232.9G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda1    50G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda2    20G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda3 132.9G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda4     1K root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda5   1.3G root  disk  brw-rw----
└─sda6  28.7G root  disk  brw-rw----
sr0     1024M root  cdrom brw-rw----

5. Use key=value output format

This can be achieved by using -P options.

Here is an example :

$ lsblk -P
NAME="sda" MAJ:MIN="8:0" RM="0" SIZE="232.9G" RO="0" TYPE="disk" MOUNTPOINT=""
NAME="sda1" MAJ:MIN="8:1" RM="0" SIZE="50G" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT=""
NAME="sda2" MAJ:MIN="8:2" RM="0" SIZE="20G" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT=""
NAME="sda3" MAJ:MIN="8:3" RM="0" SIZE="132.9G" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT=""
NAME="sda4" MAJ:MIN="8:4" RM="0" SIZE="1K" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT=""
NAME="sda5" MAJ:MIN="8:5" RM="0" SIZE="1.3G" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT="[SWAP]"
NAME="sda6" MAJ:MIN="8:6" RM="0" SIZE="28.7G" RO="0" TYPE="part" MOUNTPOINT="/"
NAME="sr0" MAJ:MIN="11:0" RM="1" SIZE="1024M" RO="0" TYPE="rom" MOUNTPOINT=""

So you can see that the output is displayed in a key=value format.

This command provides a lot of other options, read this man page for more options.

Download/Install/Configure

Here are some of the important links related to the lsblk command :

  • Home Page [Let me know if you find home page of this utility]
  • Download Link

The lsblk command comes as a part of util-linux package which is pre-installed in most of the Linux distributions.

Pros

  • Pre-installed in most Linux distributions
  • Provides lots of options

Cons

  • Some options require good knowledge of block devices in Linux

Conclusion

lsblk is a good utility for fetching information related to block devices. Though it is not for normal users but a handy tool for system administrators and Linux pros. Keep it in your tool set, it’ll definitely help you some day.

Have you ever used lsblk command or any other similar command line utility? Share your experience with us.

look : Linux Command To Verify Spellings And Display Lines Beginning With A String

Have you ever felt the need of a command line utility in Linux through which you can verify spellings? A utility that can display lines in file which contain a particular string as a prefix? Well, in this article we will discuss the look command in Linux that is capable of doing both these tasks.

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Quick Open : A Gedit Plugin That Lets You Quickly Open Files

Gedit is one of my favourite GUI-based text editor in Linux, I really like its simple UI. But, I always felt the need of a better alternative or rather quicker alternative to open files especially when it is required to be done frequently. This was the situation until I stumbled upon Quick Open, a gedit plugin that lets you quickly open files. In this article, we will understand the way it works.
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Plank : A Simple And Lightweight Dock For Lean Desktops

In one of our earlier article, we covered Cairo-Dock — a MAC OS X style desktop interface that provides a graphic rich dock for launching applications. But, the fact is that not everybody wants animation-rick dock, especially if you are working on lean desktops like XFCE. In this article, we will discuss Plank — a simple dock with minimalistic look and feel.
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