Problems with open source on OS X

A couple of weeks ago, I got an old eMac (1 GHz, 640 MB RAM) that is a wonderful addition to my collection of hardware. I've been pretty happy using OS X, and at the moment I don't plan to install Debian on this box. After all, I use Debian already now on an old iBook (600 MHz, 384 MB RAM). Furthermore, using OS X makes it possible for me to edit the Excel and Word documents when necessary for my studies.

I just would love to install more open source applications on this system to make the computing experience even better than it is now. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it is with Linux. It is probably easier even with Windows than with this box.

The problem is caused by the fact that this computer has OS X 10.3.9 installed. Most of the open source projects do not consider it necessary to support a few years old version of OS X - even the Firefox cannot be installed on this old version. Fink project should provide a great selection of open source applications ported to OS X. Unfortunately, Fink has ended the support for 10.3 more than a year ago. MacPorts targets the latest OS X versions, as well.

I am not going to invest in a new version of the OS X just in order to install a few open source applications. It seems that I have to learn to use the OS in the way it is most probably not meant to be used - that is, the hard way.

Building a backup box

A week ago, I wrote about my almost disastrous experience with a LaCie external hard drive. As I realized my data is not at all secured at the moment, I decided to build me a dedicated box for backups.

I've been pretty busy during the last week, and my project has been slow in progress. The hardware chosen for my backup server is almost overkill for this use: it is a box with Asus A7V8X-MX SE motherboard, 1.99 GHz CPU, 256 megabytes RAM and a 500 GB hard disk.

I used this box for years as my main desktop and it would certainly be more than adequate for most of my computing needs even today. Unfortunately the 1 GHz box I own is in another town and the physical distance between these two locations forces me to use this machine for my backups and the HP box as a desktop at least for some time.

Building the backups system is not quite as easy as I thought. My hardware collection keeps growing and the hardware is distributed in three locations in two cities. Furthermore, in addition to the several Linux boxes I use, my wife uses sometimes a laptop with XP. And the latest addition to my hardware is a eMac running OS X 10.3.9. Probably I will only automatize backing up my main desktop.

Unfortunately, the constant growing of my hardware collection means that it becomes more and more difficult to keep all the files in sync between different computers. A dedicated file server would of course be a possible solution, but I don't like the idea of having yet another box running 24/7 even when I'm in another town because of my studies.

In addition, the file server should be accessible over Internet, which I find at least scary as I cannot trust my own abilities in building a system secure enough for my level of paranoia. I don't want my life to be rwx or even r-- for the whole world in case I cannot keep the server secure enough.

dc - A Text Mode Calculator

A few weeks ago, I wrote about bc. It can be used as a simple arbitrary precision calculator text mode and for executing mathematical programs written in bc programming language.

Today I noticed that I have yet another simple text mode calculator installed in my desktop system: dc. It is similar to bc but differs from its cousin as dc uses reverse Polish notation instead of normal mathematical notation.

For example, to add two numbers in dc you first push the numbers into stack, then enter the aritmetic operation which pops the numbers out of stack, adds them and pushes the result in stack. Finally p prints the result:

10 2.2 + p

More information about dc is provided, as usual, by info dc and man dc.

dc is a real oldie in the GNU - it predates even the C programming language. Learning dc is a way to travel back in time to an era when nobody thought computers and operating systems should be user friendly.

You should at least give dc a try, as you can always jump back to the present and continue using GNOME calculator or OpenOffice.Org calc if you really want to!

Backup - Articles and Applications

In this posting, I collect some of the links about backing up a Linux system or at least the /home directory.

The articles and applications mentioned here might be useful for some of my readers - but I wrote this basically to act as a reminder for my own backup project.

Bacula - is a network based open source backup program. Supports many different operating systems.

FreeNAS - is a network attached storage server based on FreeBSD. Good documentation.

Backups to the Future: Eliminate Tape Backups with FreeNAS and Bacula - how to combine FreeNAS and Bacula.

Easy Automated Snapshot-Style Backups with Linux and Rsync - by Mike Rubel.

Time Machine for every Unix out there.

A simple Linux backup method - Steven J. Rosen in

Automatic Backups with rsync and Anacron - by Barry O'Donovan.

BackupPC -- a high-performance, enterprise-grade system for backing up Linux, WinXX and MacOSX PCs and laptops to a server's disk. BackupPC is highly configurable and easy to install and maintain.

Linux Complete Backup and Recovery HOWTO
- by Charles Curley

Backing up Linux and other Unix(-like) systems - by Wiebe Cazemier

Geek to Live: Mirror files across systems with rsync - Gina Trapani / Lifehacker

Debian backup configuration tutorials - Debianhelp

Linux Links - Software - Backup. Links to many different backup apps for Linux.

FlyBack - Apple's Time Machine for Linux.

Creating Incremental Snapshot-style Backups With rSync And SSH - Stephan Jau in HowtoForge.

LuckyBackup - LuckyBackup is an application for data back-up and synchronization powered by the rsync tool.

Duplicity - Duplicity backs directories by producing encrypted tar-format volumes and uploading them to a remote or local file server.

This article is updated at random intervals. Please suggest more links in the comment box!

Rescuing LaCie - thinking about backups again

Today in the morning, I turned my computer on and plugged my LaCie external hard drive on. Nothing happened. No icon appeared on the desktop. Soon I noticed that the led was blinking orange and green light and I heard the hard drive slowly click.

Not again! Only last summer I lost one hard disk drive, and now the rather expensive external hard disk was dead. Fortunately, I had mostly backups on the hard disk and only a few hundred photos that I probably did not have elsewhere.

After some googling around I learned how to open the case by using a thin kitchen knife. What I found was a basic Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive. It turned out to be a fully functioning hard disk that was easy to mount as an internal hard disk in my desktop computer.

Now I have something I should probably call an internal external hard disk :-)

Tomorrow I have to buy yet another hard disk for building some kind of automatic backup system using some old box I have under my desk.

Any suggestions?

Fit-PC Slim from Amazon

I just noticed Amazon sells a cool tiny and noiseless PC for USD 199. The computer even comes with Ubuntu 8.04 and Gentoo 2008.0 preinstalled for dual boot use!

The computer uses an AMD Geode LX800 CPU, has 512 MB RAM and a 60 GB hard drive. For the graphics it uses an Integrated Geode LX display controller that is able to show screen resolutions up to 1920x1440 pixels.

Its size is miniature 4.3 x 4 x 1.2 inches and like the popular netbooks it weighs only about two pounds.

This computer looks like the ultimate Linux desktop computer that would satisfy all my computing needs. Does any of my readers have any personal experience with it?

Text Mode Linux Applications

During the first year of blogging for Lightweight Linux, I have written about many useful text mode applications. Some of them might be considered obsolete by modern standards, but they might well be enough to satisfy the needs of a command line junkie.

Here is a short overview of the applications I have written about.

  1. Twyt is a command line Twitter client. It is a lot more sophisticated than my own simple three-line Twitter script that can only update the status.
  2. e3 is a very lightweight text mode editor that can emulate the keyboard shortcuts of several better known editors like Emacs and vi.
  3. wtf deciphers acronyms.
  4. Adventure is an old text mode adventure game - a classic early example of interactive fiction.
  5. Nethack is another golden oldie. It is even installed on some of the proprietary Unix systems at the University where I used to study.
  6. Alpine is a simple and easy to use email client. The article shows also how to configure it to for gmail.
  7. If you are looking for a text mode contact manager, take a look at abook.
  8. Midnight commander, a.k.a. mc is a text mode file manager.
  9. Burn your CDs and DVDs with cdw.
  10. Create postscript calendars on the command line with pcal.
  11. Text mode reminders can be handled by remind .
  12. Catdoc and antiword are useful for reading Microsoft office formats.
  13. What about reading pdf files in text mode? No problem!
  14. Htop is better than top.
  15. I use wget for downloads.
  16. One can even browse the net with some of the text mode web browsers.
  17. And finally, bc is a command line calculator.

Any suggestions for future articles? What are your favourite text mode Linux applications?

Crunchbang 9.04.1 Released

Crunchbang is an Ubuntu derivative distribution that defaults to lightweight alternatives of the pretty heavy GNOME desktop systems and GNOME applications provided by the default Ubuntu install. Crunchbang is not lightweight enough to be installed on very old computers, but it might be just what you need to be able to comfortably use your single core hardware from around ten years ago.

The latest release is 9.04.01, based on the latest stable Ubuntu release. Downloads availble here.