Friday, April 19, 2019

My New-to-Me SunsetMicro PC from Amazon

Windows 10 and old computers is about like cheap paint and old houses -

the more coats, the better it looks.

Windows 10 for several cycles has been miserable on old computers. When Windows upgrades to the next version, the old computers get hung up in a loop of can't update, not just to the new version, but at all.

I try to keep "spare" computers for work so I don't experience a paycheck outage, but my spare computers are not at the ready so they defeat the purpose.

Willing to take the blame, I thought I should get some newer computers to use for spares. 

And so my adventure begins.

I looked at TigerDirect and Amazon. It needed to be as cheap as possible and Windows 10 Pro (NOT Home). Amazon had a Dell Optiplex 7010 Intel I3 quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, dual monitor outputs, and Windows 10 Pro. I couldn't find these exact specs at TigerDirect, and this cheap. Bonus, this was a USFF (Ultra Small Form Factor) so being the size of a small cracker box, it would take a lot of room to store. Awesome!

When my box arrived I knew something was wrong. My wife asked for help with the door because the box was "really heavy". And, that box was way too big to hold a Ultra *Small* PC.

The picture below shows the 4 different sizes of the Dell Optiplex 7010. From left to right


The picture in the ad was a USFF. They sent me a DT.

(actual pictures)

If you zoom in on the first pic, you'll see it has a different model number. Yep, that's right, the picture is NOT what was in the description.

But it gets worse.

3.8GHz *quad*-core processor, 8GB RAM, dual monitor outputs, and Windows 10 *Pro*?

3 out of 4

The processor is a *dual*-core Intel I3 at 3.4GHz. It does hyper-thread, but that makes it a hyper-threading dual-core, not a quad-core.

If you bought a truck, and it was supposed to have a decent V8 in it, but later you discovered a turbocharged 4 cylinder under the hood, you'd be pissed, right? This is how I felt about the processor.

Further investigation into the original ad reveals this: (title, description, more details)

"quad Up to 3.8, Dual-Core 3.2, 3.2 Processor Count 4"

Hmm. Okay, so maybe they need to learn how to properly list items for sale with *accurate* descriptions, and pictures that actually match the description would be great. And, I can't trust Amazon anymore either; I have to pick through listings with fine tooth combs (like eBay). If anything looks amiss, ask questions, and run if things don't smell right.

But, all in all, with what I paid, this was still a good deal.

After letting Windows 10 do its updates, and installing a few pieces of software, it was time to partition the hard drive and make it mine -

Um, what?! No EFI partion? Why did they install Windows 10 in "legacy" mode? Why not utilize the full UEFI? So now I need to wipe the hard drive and reinstall Windows correctly? Really?

Starting to get mad, but, it is still a "fair" deal for what I paid... maybe I'll just leave it as it is and designate it for my wife's spare computer...

The final stroke -

I was taking some pictures to show Amazon what it *really* looks like versus the picture in the ad and I thought, hey, I'll peak inside. My wife says, "what's that wire?".

That wasn't a wire, that was a glue string.

And, the hard drive and its caddy were stuffed in the case at an angle.

The glue strings were from the hot glue that was used to hold the hard drive in place.

Wow, they took the time to put the hard drive IN A hard drive caddy, albeit the wrong one, only to HOT GLUE it in place after stuffing it in there...

This is a company, a REAL company that is pushing this crap

Oh, the Wifi adapter mentioned in the description and eluded to in one of the pictures - didn't get one.

I did get spray paint on the access cover though. I mean, consistent with everything else, they didn't even bother to wipe any dust or debris off of it first; they just shot black spray paint right over it!

There was a bonus boner in the box -

"Anti-splash"?! Water-resistant maybe?

And, what the heck is "thiner"?!


Is this some old English like thee, thou... thiner?

I guess that was my bonus joke box to soothe my pain.

These jokers are not only on Amazon, but they are on eBay too (of course).

SunsetMicro - avoid at all costs.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Linux Distribution Developers, Communication Is Key

It's becoming quite apparent that computers, for the most part, are not made for Linux, but rather,
Linux is (and has to be) made for computers.

[list of sites offering computers with Linux preinstalled]

I had previously commented on a video by EzeeLinux. It would seem best to buy a computer with Linux preinstalled. The alternative is to see what computers are on the "Linux approved" list although personal experience has shown that this may lead to unsatisfactory (downright frustrating) results.

Other people have shared frustrations about getting Linux to work with their particular computer hardware. I thought maybe communication needs to be increased between Linux developers and end users.

The other day I came across this prominently displayed in the Zorin support forum -

"...have always been keen to ensure that when a major release is made, the best possible experience is more often than not guaranteed (E&OE when it comes to some specific hardware - like I have said elsewhere, IT consumer products were never garnered or engineered to run any version of GNU/Linux but that other Operating System that begins with a W)."

read the whole announcement here

Zorin 12.4, their most current release, is based on Ubuntu 16.04.

Ubuntu is currently at 18.04.2. [18.04 was released April, 2018, almost a year ago!]

From what I'm gathering, Zorin has NOT released their latest version based on Ubuntu 18.04 because they want to get it right. They feel the struggle of getting Linux to work with their hardware.

So, the struggle is real.

But Zorin took the time to make a public announcement to it's end users.

I think that right there is what we need -

more communication!

Not just fanboys that troll the forums looking for victims to inflict textual pain on, but real and useful information from the developers.

Zorin has always been good to me. I started with them several years back with a paid version, Zorin Ultimate. This entitled me to realtime support from the people Zorin. They were always patient, polite, and helpful. And please understand, my "problems" were not Zorin problems; I was new and needed "new guy" help. Zorin and it's people are great!

Deepin also displays good and useful communications with me, an end user. I follow them on social media and have them set as a priority in my feed so they always display first or on top. My morning vigil involves a tablet and scrolling social media as my synapses awake, begin to fire, and synchronize for the day. If team Deepin have released any updates, I know right away, and, what is in the update, and what is being patched or fixed.

Good, useful communication...

...straight from the horse's mouth.

Linux distribution developers,

talk to us; we'll listen.

 - -

Friday, March 15, 2019

Linux Computers

One of the best ways to get a computer that runs Linux perfectly is to buy one that is made for
for/with Linux

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fedora 29 Workspace

The next #OSchallenge from Jason Enangelho from Forbes

Fedora 29 Workstation

Since I'm a multi-booter, I attempted to install using manual options. This failed. For some reason there was an error because it couldn't find the EFI partition, nor would it let me find it manually.

I reached out to Jason and told him it didn't work.

His response was to try the "'Reclaim Space' option? The way that option is worded is not very intuitive."

In order to do this, you proceed as if you are doing the automatic installation option. Fedora informed me how much "free space" it needed, but that I didn't have enough. NOW the option to "Reclaim Space" appears. Upon pressing that button, ALL OF MY PARTITIONS are enumerated. I simply selected the one I wanted to use, then pressed "delete".

From there, everything went as it should.

Upon reboot I was greeted with a welcome menu to set things up.

I was a little irked right away because my common password for testing Linux Distributions "was not strong enough". I resorted to foul language and it accepted that one. Let's see if I can remember it...

I mean, seriously, I don't work for the CIA or for the Dept of Homeland Security. I don't use any of Hilary Clinton's email servers either. Do I really need that level of "security" in my password?

Once in, the big test,


I didn't immediately see any tools to obtain addition drivers for my Nvidia card. Configuring the monitors was easily accomplished. Upon restart, the settings remained correct.

Then for updates...

Restart to install updates? Really?

Wow! That felt like a Windows 10 update (upgrade). I wish I would have set a timer, but it felt like it took FOREVER.

And, what's up with the boot menu?

Where's sda3 - sda6?

It might be 'buntu's fault. See, those missing partitions are Ubuntu Mate, Ubuntu Budgie, Lubuntu, and Pop! OS, but in GRUB they all look like Ubuntu 18.04...

Does Fedora think it is cleaning up redundancies?

That's funny.

I had to check the partitions to make sure they were still there. They are, with an addition

sda9 is a new "boot" partition and the new sda12 is where Fedora resides. I'm glad to see the boot partition is 1.1GB in size; somebody at Fedora must know about boot partition sizing. But why is it formatted in EXT4? That doesn't make sense...

On to the rest of it - Firefox installed, Libre Office installed, a screenshot tool, a Software installer/handler that resembles the one in all the 'buntus... Looks good...

...but, what's up with the window buttons? As in, there is only ONE button to close the window, nothing else. If you want to maximize the screen, you have to either drag the edges, or right-click, then select maximize.

That indeed sucks.

At almost a half century old, my click-weary  hand doesn't need extra clicks.

I thought I would peruse around the setting to see if there was a way to remedy this, and IT LOCKED UP.

That means that I have to try to figure out how to download and install Nvidia drivers.

We just moved to a whole new level of "sucks".

I did a quick Google ("install nvidia drivers in fedora") and read through the instructions of the first 4 listings. Each one was different. The last one was the shortest and simplest to understand, but its final stroke was something about modifying a config file so everything worked right.

Um, no.

I remember Jason complaining about people getting instructions for terminal window commands for fixing stuff in Linux Distributions.

Not possessing the ability to just "walk away" I booted back into Fedora and went straight to the Software tool. I searched for "nvidia". And, of course, they have the Nvidia X Server program/widget.

NOW I SEE why you have to alter a config file; I have been down this road before.

I also recall telling myself that ALL OF THIS was unnecessary as demonstrated by any/all 'buntus and Deepin (they all have tools that make it easy and they work perfectly).

And, one other complaint, why is Fedora so slow? It feels like it is trying to pull a fat kid in a wagon that has no wheels.

So, I'm out. I have withdrawn from this #OSchallenge.

Now I have to figure out how to repair GRUB and get my other partitions in the menu...

 - -

Monday, February 25, 2019

Xubuntu 18.04.2

It seems like I have come full circle.

My old standby Linux Distribution used to be Xubuntu 14.04 (released April of 2014).

The 2016 release proved to be problematic so I strayed away.

The 2018 release appeared to have issues, but as I am beginning to understand, it may be the boot partition (EFI) that may be the source of my problem, and other issues...

Today in testing my new 1GB EFI/boot partition, proportionally sized to my 10 separate partitions for different Linux distributions, I installed Xubuntu 18.04.2.

Everything was slick and smooth, just like I remembered it being in spring of 2014 with my originally playtime.

The only thing I noticed was a little bit of screen flicker on the monitor connected to the DVI-I port. That's a driver issue with the Nvidia GT 710 gfx card.

Xubuntu has a little tool marked "Additional Drivers". Select it, and it shows me I can use the opensource drivers (for a flickering monitor) or I can select Nvidia proprietary drivers.

This little tool does ALL the heavy lifting. And the results are splendid.

It took a little while (which I expected). When it was done it prompted me to restart.

From there I arranged and oriented my monitors and I was done.

Simple. Easy. Like it used to be, like it is supposed to be.

Old setup notes

 - -

How Large Should You Make the UEFI System Partition?

@#%&ing UEFI!!!

I used to multi-boot with a whole lot less trouble than I do today.

The good old BIOS machine. You have Windows 7 on a 500GB hard drive. What do you do with all that space? Why, you cut 8 more partitions and install a different Linux distribution on each one!

I'm not making that up.

The beginning of headaches is when I got my first UEFI capable machine. It was an HP with a 1.5TB hard drive and WINDOWS 7.

Yep. You saw that correctly, Windows 7.

Window 7 is NOT UEFI compatible, but you have to have UEFI for a hard drive bigger than 1TB.

There was no problems until I was installing (dual -boot) a Linux distro and it picked up on the UEFI and did a UEFI install instead of doing a regular (now called "legacy") install. It wrote over the entire drive and I lost not only Windows, but ALL THE SOFTWARE that was precious to me in Windows. It took me a few days to recover from that nightmare.

Since then, UEFI has been a blister on my butt that won't go away.

My latest "test" machine is Linux ONLY. This is the machine that I use to try out Linux distributions so I don't accidentally trash my main work horse.

And, since there is no Windows installation to set EFI/boot partitions,

How big should this partition be?

Windows makes it 100MB. In previous research, there were some instances of 256MB.

Then I came across this webpage. I've never seen anything like this in all my Google searches about EFI partitions. This is some heavy stuff.

"The UEFI System Partition should be at least 260 MiB (273 MB) to ensure its properly formatted with FAT32 so that you avoid UEFI implementation compatibility issues."


"Microsoft recommends you set aside 100 MiB for Windows. Unless you decide to get away with the separate /boot partition on Linux, then I recommend you set aside 100 MiB of space per Linux system you intend to install. Keep in mind that you should allocate some space for failed and past installations, upgrade staging, and operating/file system debris as well. There is no reason to try and squeeze down the size of the ESP to a point where it might cause issues for you in the future."

Holy crap! 100MB per Linux system? I've set aside 10 partitions for separate Linux operating systems so I need 1GB now, but more is needed for other stuff.

The author wrote back to me on Twitter and said,

"You could also create 10 separate 100 MiB ESPs for isolation."

I have seen in the Manjaro and Pop! OS installers where you can set the ESP partition. I don't think that is available in other Linux distributions, but then I wasn't looking either...

Wow! I am beginning to understand why I have experienced so much trouble, I did not (do not) understand UEFI ESP partition rules at all.

I also understand why all of my research came up bust (until now) -

People at most dual-boot - Windows and some form of Linux.
I am Multi-booting; I have 4 to 12 different operating systems on a single machine.
There is no Google search for what I do; I just got lucky when I found that article.

This explains some of the X-Files-like problems I've had in the past few months. It baffled me why a computer that had been working fine all of the sudden wouldn't boot a Linux distro. This was after some big updates/upgrades so I'm guessing the boot/ESP partition got clogged.

This may offer insights into why I had issues installing openSUSE and Pop! OS.

So, time to resize the boot/EFI partition (AGAIN!) and see what happens.

 - -

Monday, February 18, 2019

The "Truth" About Linux?

I've had to watch this a few times

2:22 is 4 points that make sense.
  • Linux is not like Windows
  • Linux is not a drop-in replacement for Windows
  • Those who expect Linux to be like Windows will get very frustrated [er, maybe?]
  • Those who are willing to take the time to learn and are open to new ideas do well with Linux.

3:37 He talks about the "latest" computer in a store is designed for Windows.

Yes I agree, but what he says next needs to be taken with a grain, up to a pound of salt - he says do your research.

Not that long ago, I thought I needed to "up my game" and use a more modern laptop. I *did my research* and checked the official "Linux approved list" and found the EXACT MODEL and hardware of a Dell 2 in 1 that was being offered as a refurb at a cool price.

Please note

  • It was NOT new
  • It WAS on the Linux list of "tested" computers
  • I did my research


[dramatic pause]

the $%#@ did NOT work with Linux!

It would run a little while, then without any warning at all it would lock up. It ran fine with Windows 10 though.

Some deep digging on the internet combined with some very masterful Google searches, I was able to find a forum where the Dell rep said Dell "was going to offer a bios patch" for the little 2 in 1 that made it Linux compatible, but by the end of the thread, IT NEVER HAPPENED!

So, how does this piece of electronics make it on the "approved" list when the manufacturer has intentions of, but does NOT FOLLOW THROUGH?!

And people wonder why I get SO mad.

5:25 "Really, honestly, if your hardware is well supported then the driver will already be in the kernel. So you won't have to do anything to get it to work. Or, there will be a propriety driver available in the repositories. And, that is assuming you are running something... that is made easy to use..."

6:01 The only way to have a machine that will work 100% with Linux is to buy one that was made to work with Linux.

That's great, if you are willing to drop $1K to $4K US.

Or, he said to use the Linux distributions that are "easy to use for new users" like Mint, Ubuntu, or Manjaro.

This is all starting to make sense. This may be the "why" behind 6 years of experimentation, frustration, and madness.

7:13 I don't agree with what he says here if everything he said previously is true. Not "a couple years old". I'd say 5 years old to not quite 10 years old. And from experience, that is a huge maybe. Do you research still, and redo it, then make darned sure you get the used machine cheap to minimize your frustration.

11:02 Dual-booting, the great headache. In my experience, I had almost come to the point where it was going to be Linux OR Windows, but not both. Almost...

24:05 Unpleasant people in the community...

I call them fanboys, or @$$holes, depending on my mood.

That is the exact reason why I will not use Linux Lite or MX anymore.

If you want to see what I mean, install MX, install Grub Customizer WHICH IS AVAILABLE IN THEIR REPOSITORIES, then tell them after you installed Grub Customizer you are having trouble. They aren't fanboys, they're...

But, according to the video, I'm the bad guy.

He's wrong. I'm the guy that worked so hard so others didn't have to. The work was unappreciated and underpaid.

I'm not the bad guy; I'm just tired... and pissed!

31:10 "...this is about you. It's about your own personal journey. And, it's about finding out what you want to do."

That's a good close.

What I take away from this, is that, if I had it to do over, I might have been better served if I had pursued acquiring a Apple/Mac computer in order to get away from Microsoft Windows. I could have gotten into a used (2 or 3 year old) Apple/Mac for less than a new "made for Linux" machine. If I pushed myself through the learning curve of a Mac, I would be light years ahead of where I am now struggling through Linux.

But, I don't have a time machine.

So, for me and my 12 - 20 pc-type computers (I lost count), at this point in the game, it looks like I should stick to 'buntu or 'buntu-based distros.

So far Zorin and Peppermint seem to work well; both are 'buntu-based.

I may give Xubuntu 18.04 another try.

Deepin is doing wonderfully. It is debian-based, but the developers are not slack in their work.

The author of the video also mentioned Manjaro. I guess I'll give it a go.

I'm glad I watched the video (several times). I learned a lot, or at least got a good explanation for the trouble I've had.

It's not that I don't like Linux; I really do like Linux, a lot. It's just that I didn't think the past 6 years should have been so hard. And it shouldn't have been...

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