Ask Klaus!

Knoppix MacBook

Question:

I just tried Knoppix 6 on my MacBook Pro. In the GUI mode, the fonts were giant (about 5cm high), and it was impossible to use. I had exactly the same issue with pure:dyne which also now uses LXDE. What should I do to make LXDE usable, bearing in mind that it's hard to use any GUI tools to edit config files because the big fonts make it unusable.

Answer:

I did not find a solution to this yet but tend to think that it is an error in the xorg server, which simply detects and sets the dots-per-inch resolution wrongly. Because I have no Mac for testing, it is kind of difficult to debug, but adding the -dpi 75 option to the startup files has reduced fonts to a readable size in earlier versions.

I will continue to research this.

Old Laptop

Question:

A friend of mine gave me his old HP OmniBook laptop. I've been looking for a distro that would work on it as it has only 64MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. It runs Windows 2000 so sluggishly that I decided to try Linux. I tried Xubuntu and it is equally sluggish. Another problem I have is that the CD/DVD player is no longer booting CDs, so I also need your advice on how to install directly from the hard disk. I am thinking of something like the old times when you could install Win95 on top of DOS.

PS: Since my literature has given me no real answer on how to back up my Ubuntu system, a simple answer on your part would suffice, but please let it be a tool that has a simple GUI (no cryptic dd commands), so that I can convince my family and friends to switch to Linux.

Answer:

Running any Linux distro on this notebook could be equally as disappointing as your experience with Windows; therefore, I cannot really make a reliable recommendation.

Because your CD-ROM drive does not seem to be bootable, you would also need a floppy disk with a boot manager (try http://linux.simple.be/tools/sbm) that allows you to switch to the CD in the second stage of the boot process.

Your desired goal of using this old computer kind of contradicts your wish for a GUI because you most likely will need the command line to partition the hard drive for enough swap space before even attempting to start anything with graphics.

With only 64MB of RAM, KDE is out of the question. Although you might get decent speed with the LXDE desktop or something similarly lightweight, you might want to have a first try with Damn Small Linux (http://damnsmalllinux.org/) or Puppy Linux (http://www.puppylinux.org/), the CD-only versions, together with the Smart Boot Manager floppy mentioned above.

For backing up your old system, you might want to use a second hard drive to copy over your own files (not necessarily the entire system, unless you want to keep it), cdbackup if you have a CD writer, or both.

WiFi for Ubuntu

Question:

Do you know of an affordable USB WiFi adapter that has a driver that will work with Ubuntu 8? This is the only thing holding me up from saying goodbye to Windows.

Answer:

Because electronics shop employees don't seem to have the knowledge nowadays, it's unlikely that the salesmen will tell you whether or not a specific chipset is installed in a USB WiFi device. In Linux kernel 2.6.28, many new chipsets are supported, but this does not solve the problem that you never know which chipset is used in a device.

So this is what I would do:

  1. Just buy any cheap USB WiFi adapter.
  2. Plug it in, see if it appears in iwconfig as a wireless device.
  3. Now try to get online via network-manager or the WiFi configuration tool of your distro. Check the output of dmesg: It might or might not tell you that a firmware file is missing. If you see such a message, then you have the choice of trying to get hold of the firmware file and installing it under /lib/hotplug/firmware … or
  4. Return the WiFi adapter to the store from which you bought it if it does not work and get a refund. You'd do the same thing with Windows hardware that didn't work, wouldn't you?

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