Sunday, August 20, 2017

Running Raspbian Pixel on a P4 Tower PC


Well I’m back again, as I said in the post I did about Raspbian x86 on the Lenovo x61s I was interested to see how the OS would perform on what I now class as very old hardware in the form of a Pentium 4 tower.

We have a spare tower at the Makerspace which gets used to test low resource operating systems to see if they live up to there name, so on Saturday (yesterday as I write this, but a few weeks ago by the time this show goes out) I put the x86 Raspbian image on to this tower to see how it would perform.

Tower specification are: Pentium 4 2.8Gig CPU, 2Gig DDR Ram and a 40Gig HDD, which in its day was a very useful bit of kit, but technology has moved on and most people wouldn’t consider it any use as a working PC today.

First problem I encountered was the DVD drive was duff and I didn’t have the image on a flash drive, luckily I did have my trusty USB DVD in the bag so I hooked that up booted into the boot menu and set the disc off loading the OS. I wont go into this again as I ran through the install process last time, HPR 2362, but the install went well and I was left with a new install of Pixel on the tower.

I went through the new install process and was left with an up to date and password secure PC, I then rebooted to check what the resource use was at first boot, which I was amazed was a consistent 66mb of RAM, and about 1% CPU use. 

 












 




Using the Chromium web browser pushes up RAM usage over a 100 but it was smooth and easily coped with navigating to resource hungry sites such as You Tube and the BBC. So first test passed.

I next opened a Word document in LibreOffice, this took about 10seconds to load but once open was perfectly usable with no lag, so should provide a good office capable PC.

So you can use the Web, Write documents, it has an email client or you can use web mail. And it’s not painfully slow, this PC would now make a very usable homework/first computer for any child, or a computer for an older member of the family that just needs to keep in touch with family and friends without breaking the bank. In fact you could probably pick up a working tower off the likes of Freecycle/Freegle for £0 and you may even get a small 17”/19” TFT monitor from the same place.

Yes it’s not as energy efficient as the latest kit but as I said last time the cost of a new PC/laptop can buy a lot of additional electricity in the time you may run it before it finally expires.






Monday, August 14, 2017

Blackpool Linux User Group Update - We are now a Makerspace as well.

I had forgotten that I had made a post about our LUG in 2012 until I was reviewing my stats on site visits, and someone had viewed this post. Things have changed considerably since that post so here is an update.

These are the new details of what is now a Makerspace and LUG in Blackpool UK

About

Blackpool Makerspace + LUG
The Basement, Crossways Hotel, 64 Tyldesley Road, Blackpool. FY1 5DF

Blackpool Makerspace was founded by members of Blackpool Linux User Group, and was previously known as MakerspaceFY1.
Combined meetings of the LUG and Makerspace take place every Saturday at 10 am, unless otherwise stated on the mailing list.  

https://mailman.lug.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/blackpool

Because the Makerspace combined with the Blackpool Linux User group, the primary method of contacting each other is still the LUG mailing list until further notice.

Mailing List
Subscribe here:- https://mailman.lug.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/blackpool/

post to:- blackpool@mailman.lug.org.uk

Twitter  @makerspacefy1  https://twitter.com/MakerspaceFY1  

If you are based in the North West of UK and want to pay us a visit please do everyone is welcome we just ask that Minors are accompanied by an adult for the safety of all concerned.

  

Distro Review - Raspbian Pixle x86

This post is about putting the new Raspbian image onto one of the Lenovo x61s laptops that I have previously talked about.

These laptops do not have a DVD drive so normally I would create a boot flash drive using USB image writer in Linux Mint, but I had received a DVD of Raspbian with the MagPi magazine so I connected a portable USB DVD drive that I have and used the disc to install to the laptop.

On booting to the DVD drive you get several options including a live session with persistence (this allows the saving of data and system changes to a flash drive during the session if wanted), but the option I chose was to install to hard drive.

This gives a simplified Debian installer and for new users with no previous experience of installing Linux it recommends one of the options at each stage. The only issue I had was at the stage it asks where to install Grub it dose not automatically highlight the main drive (Sda) a small gripe but for a newcomer it could confuse.

That said the install went flawlessly and upon first boot I was left with the PIXEL desktop with the task bar at the top of the screen and a short cut for the recycle bin. The boot time on this laptop with a Core2Duo 4Gig Ram and 120Gig SSD was about 30 seconds which is good also it was only using 87mb of the available RAM on start up, this shows the credentials of an OS built to run on the original 256mb Pi.

First job is to navigate to Raspberry config from the menu bar by going to:

Open Menu > Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration.

From here you have a number of options but the important one is to change the default password from raspberry to something a little more secure.

After this I connected the Laptop to my WiFi network which is flawless on the x61s as it is an Intel WiFi card, I cant comment on other cards here.  

The next task that I did was to run the terminal commands 'sudo apt update' & 'sudo apt upgrade'. This will result in an updated system with all the security fixes installed and any package upgrades that are available.

The one thing I was not happy about is that Raspbian allows 'sudo' access for terminal commands without requesting a password by default, this can be fixed if you feel this is a major issue depending on what you are using the device for. 

https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/7133/how-to-change-user-pi-sudo-permissions-how-to-add-other-accounts-with-different

After completing the upgrade I decided to add the 'Synaptic' package manager to the install as this makes finding software a little easier if you not sure exactly what your looking for. This is as simple as 'sudo apt install synaptic' in the terminal and once installed you'll find a link to it under preferences in the menu.   

One thing that I found that did not work out of the box was Audio, I had to install some Alsa packages and audacity to collect the needed dependencies for the audio to work. So I installed Alsa player, Alsa mixer GUI and Audacity and after this and a reboot miraculously audio now worked.  

Also there was not battery monitor installed so I installed Batmon so that I could check the battery status of the laptop.

On the whole given that Raspbian has been built to be compatible with all iterations of the Raspberry Pi board the software installed by default while minimal includes all the basics for web use - Chromium, email - Claws and office work - Open Office suit, along side all the Pi favourites such as Scratch (including Scratch 2) and Python programming tools.

Would I use Raspbian x86 as a daily driver, with a few tweaks, I might, particularly on an older PC/Laptop. I need to try it on an old Atom Net Book to see if it will work well on a really low specified system but a Pentium 4 with a couple of gig of RAM should work reasonably well as a development and homework PC for a school student so could extend the life of an old machine you may have kicking around. But a cor2Duo is definitely a goer, even with a basic 1Gig of Ram it should work quite well and 2Gig or better no issues at all.