Fedora 18 Linux

Yesterday I installed Fedora 18 LXDE spin, (which I will refer to as FC18). I have a fair amount of experience with Linux, having started using it in 1996. Fedora redid 'anaconda' the installer program (which is written in python, hence the name). The old installer was ok as far as I was concerned. With the new installer, it is 'streamlined', which means it is hard for me to use. The disk configuration utility is quite bad. The old one was far better. The Mageia disk configuration is quite good, and other Linux distributions disk configuration are pretty good. I had windows XP installed on the disk, along with FC17 and FC16. I wanted to get rid of FC16 and put FC18 in instead. Perhaps there is a way to do that, but I couldn't figure it out. I ended up getting rid of FC16 and FC17 and letting FC18 auto partition the empty space. Even Microsoft Windows does a better job with disk partitioning. I could find no way to specify individual packages during install. Another 'feature' is when you have multiple monitors, the installer runs in 'span' mode. That is the display spans multiple monitors. This may make sense for some hardware, but 'cloning' the display on all monitors is a much safer way. For example, if you have a notebook sitting in a rack with an external display hooked up to it, you will be unable to do a install as critical info is displayed on the notebook display which is inaccessible. You will have to remove the notebook from the rack and do something such as disabling the display or switching to 'clone' mode. I reported this bug with FC16, but it has not been fixed. One nice feature of the installer is once you have selected a few options, it happens without further interaction. When it is done, there is a confusing display, where it says it is done and to reboot, but the button you need to press is 'quit' not something like 'exit' or 'reboot'.

When you boot up FC18, it also comes up in 'span' mode, which is a bug, not a feature. Configuring the firewall should be straightforward, as it was in previous versions of Fedora. There is a new, improved firewall, with a new improved interface. Unfortunately it is a POS. There is the 'runtime' firewall configuration and the 'persistent' firewall configuration. There are 9 different zones. I added a few firewall rules, and nothing happened. I tried reloading the firewall, but that didn't work. There is no onscreen help for it. Actually, there is a help button, which will display the version of the tool. After much thrashing around, I was able to modify the firewall to do what I want. What FC18 needs is decent onscreen help to explain what every option does and how they interact. Next it needs a simple mode which would likely work for 90-95% of users. Next it can have the full monty version (still with help menus). The simple mode could look like the FC17 firewall, which worked quite well.

I tried to configure the 'users and groups'. When I press the button however, it does nothing. I can manually run /usr/bin/system-config-users, which works fine. Another bug. If you want to configure disk partitions and mount points you can use the tool under System Tools->Disk Management. Unfortunately, that isn't the tool you want as it is for users to mount user mountable partitions. As far as I can tell, there is no GUI to do disk management, unlike every other Linux distro I have used. This is not a new FC feature, but a long time bug. Similarly, there are no administration tools I can find in the menu for things like configuring hardware, network, display, and the like. The way you install new software or update existing software is called 'yum extender', which is certainly not obvious for novice users. Fedora needs a whole lot more polish. Perhaps they could start with Mageia's administration tools, which work quite well.

Fedora 24 Linux

A pretty solid OS. There are a few issues. Using their yum/dnf GUI it is unclear how to uninstall software. Installing is easy. It is a crappy user interface. I am running it on an older IBM notebook. I can't run the last 2 versions of the kernel. When I try, I get a completely blank screen during boot. I sent in a bug report @ Nov-02-2016, but I have heard nothing back.

Fedora 25 Linux

Runs well on x86 hardware. On my problem IBM notebook (which has run fedora 18...24) the installer hangs before showing any text or graphics. I reported the bug. The only reply was it was likely a kernel issue. Not very helpful. Fedora 25 is the first version officially supported on the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. I tried it out. You can't install or update any binary packages. So no emacs (unless you build it from source). I sent in a bug report @ Nov-22-2016 or so. No useful feedback, workarounds, or solution yet. Also the wifi doesn't work on the raspberry pi 3 (which is documented).

Mageia 5 Linux

Mageia is a community based linux distribution. I have been running it as long as it existed (that is a long story). It works on machines with small amounts of memory (512mb). It works on 32 bit machines. It works on 64 bit machines. Mageia 6 was supposed to come out in August 2016. It didn't. In December 2016, they released Mageia 5.1, which is Mageia 5, with all the patches since it came out. Mageia 6 is scheduled to come out in Jan 2017. When I send in bug reports, they are usually quickly addressed, but not always.

OpenSuSE Tumbleweed 4.2.2 Raspberry Pi 3 Linux

SuSE Enterprise linux and OpenSuSE are the first 64 bit operating systems for the Raspberry Pi 3. I installed it, and it works pretty well. Unlike Fedora 25, the wifi works. Also unlike Fedora 25, you can install binary programs such as emacs. There are some obscure programs that I can't find a repository for, but overall it is really quite nice.

Microsoft Windows 10

I have run the windows 10 upgrade/installer several times. It has worked a few times, but it has failed many times. For my old HP DV 8305 it downloaded everything and took several hours before it gave an error message. Even though I was running Windows 7 64bit and 64 bit Linux, 64 bit Windows won't install. It turns out the old AMD 64 bit processor doesn't have a 128 bit comparison instruction, and Windows 10 requires it. I could have installed Windows 10 32 bit, but I couldn't do a free upgrade from Windows 7 64 bit to Windows 10 32 bit. So that notebook won't get an update. It would have been nice to determine that before downloading gigabytes of files and taking several hours.

I had many other issues. I was unable to do a fresh install on an existing computer with Windows 7, and my disk was reformatted in the process. So I had to do a fresh install of Windows 7, do an upgrade to Windows 10, and then do a fresh install of Windows 10. It was not a smooth process. At least I learned to download all of the files once, rather than doing it each time. That was a waste of a day and about 6gb or so of wasted bandwidth. I have had other issues with the upgrade, but I have blocked them from my memory. Clearly the update process was not well thought out. Given that many million people used it, it should have been a smoother process.

Today I tried to format a big usb drive to fat32. Windows 10 wouldn't let me do that. I could format it to NTFS or exFAT, both of which are nice, but the hardware I will be using the flash drive for only accepts fat32. There are a few dvd/bluray players with usb ports that only deal with fat32. I did download a utility called SmartDisk fat32 formatter which did the job. Epic fail Microsoft.

So Microsoft is rolling out their anniversary update. One of my computers got it, and when I logged in, I got the "We can't Sign Into Your Account" error. There is a fix. UGetFix I ended up creating another account and using the registry editor. However, I fear this is beyond the skills of the average windows user. One might wonder how this bug got deployed. One would think this sort of thing would be tested before deployment. The web site above has 5 different solutions. I know regression testing can be difficult. I know there are many different configurations of windows. But clearly, this is a widespread issue that should have been detected and corrected before deployment. I am disappointed.

Microsoft Windows 7

DRIVER ISSUES

I ran the Microsoft Windows 7 compatibility checker tool. It mentioned that I would need to update my scanner driver and Nero wouldn't work. I did a fresh install of Windows 7 64 bit. Well, there is a scanner driver for my Epson 3200 scanner for Win7, but only for the 32 bit version. No driver at all for the 64 bit version. My HP LaserJet 2100 printer has a driver, but the link is broken at the HP web site. I manually selected HP 2200 for the PCL driver and HP 2300 for the PS driver. They work ok. I run my display through a KVM switch. It turns out that the KVM switch doesn't pass the 'display data channel', which is needed for plug-and-play. On the other OS's I have used, I could specify the display, but with Win7, there is no way to specify the display, and Dell has decided to not provide a driver for any displays before made before 2007. So, it looks like I will have to upgrade my KVM switch (the resolution is 1920*1200, but Win7 does 1600*1200 which makes everything wide).

I updated an older notebook (my HP DV 8305) to Windows 7, as the operating system it came with (Windows XP) is no longer supported. The install went smoothly, but a few devices were not detected. I don't care much about the modem, but the audio controller was not detected. HP doesn't have a driver for their old notebooks and new operating systems. It turns out that the audio chip is a pretty standard part, but HP had the manufacturer change the hardware IDs so you can't use the manufacturer's drivers. After a few days of failure, I was able to use a HP driver for a different notebook and force the installation. The specific driver file from HP is called sp35558.exe. It is unclear if this is a Microsoft problem or a HP problem, but most likely it is a combination of several issues. Microsoft doesn't want to install an incorrect driver, and so I can understand them being conservative about installing software that doesn't match the hardware. On the other hand, Microsoft didn't include the generic HD audio driver for me to choose from while installing the driver, even though it was known that the hardware was an audio controller. Of course Linux was able to figure out that the audio hardware was, and install a working driver for it.

SOFTWARE ISSUES

There is a bunch of software I used to use which doesn't work any more. I expected some of the issues, but not all of them.

I am sure there will be some more issues I will find. For the driver problem I mainly blame Microsoft. They could have updated existing drivers, if they have the source code for them, for Win7. I also blame HP, Dell, Epson, and anyone else who doesn't provide a driver for Win7, or for Win7-64. It is interesting that most apps are still 32 bit. I also run 64 bit Linux. All the programs are 64 bit. All the drivers work. If Linux can do that without any manufacturers support, than surely Microsoft with its billions should be able to do so also. Stability is reasonably good. I also installed Microsoft's 'WinXP mode' which is their VirtualPC software as well as Sun's VirtualBox. Both seem to work pretty well. I can run my scanner using either virtualization program.

MICROSOFT UPDATE

Microsoft has serious problems with the Update program. Most of the issues I ran into when doing a fresh Windows 7 install related to the Update program. On several occasions, it seemed to take forever. There is a known issue with that, and by searching the internet, I was able to download a specific fix for the specific issue. However, Update is still unacceptably slow, if you run it manually when it is running in the background it will fail, and it requires the computer to be rebooted too many times. Each of these issues is critical, but all of them together are completely unacceptable. When I was frustrated with Update hanging, I rebooted the computer, installed Linux, and did a complete update. For Linux, the time it takes to figure what needs to be updated is typically 2-5 minutes or so (with a slow 9 year old computer). Then it does an update. On some occasions you need to do a second update. No reboot is needed in between, and you end up with a totally patched system. Why can't Microsoft do that? I think I needed to reboot about 8 or 9 times to go from a fresh Windows 7 install to a fully patched one. Total Linux install and update time was under 2 hours. Total Windows 7 install time was about 4.5 days. Do the math.

Microsoft Windows XP Bugs

You can make a 'boot floppy' with windows XP. This is very useful for installing hardware flash updates for things like motherboards, disk controllers and the like. Just go to 'My Computer' and right click on the floppy drive. Under 'format' select 'Create an MS-DOS startup disk'. Doesn't sound very difficult, does it?

The first problem is if your floppy is write protected, you will not get an error message, and you won't get a startup disk either. Hey Microsoft, can you say 'Error Message' ? The second problem is the disk that is created is not a startup disk. First, it won't boot. What is worse, it does something nasty to the disk, and makes it think there is 4gb of data somewhere on the floppy. And you can't reformat the disk after that. Throw it out.

The solution is to get a different floppy, boot up windows 95/95/ME and type to a DOS prompt "format /s a:". Now you have a boot floppy.

Microsoft Windows 2000 Bugs

I have a system that had Windows 98, and Windows NT 4 workstation on a fat16 partition, and Windows NT server on a different partition. I decided to install Windows 2000 server on yet another partition. The installation went smoothly. It installed the Win2k boot manager on the boot sector. I can now boot win98, winNT, and win2K fine. The problem is, there is something in the win2K boot manager that screws up the com ports for winNT. The event viewer showed some unnamed device driver got the resources of com1. I used to have com1 and com2 enabled. That somehow got switched to com2 and com3. What is worse, is the modem won't work, and can't be reinstalled. I had to restore the winNT boot manager (which won't boot win2k), in order to fix the problem. Say bye bye to win2k.

Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Bugs

When installing NT 4.0 with an all SCSI-II system, the disk blocking size is set incorrectly when you have Three 2 gig disks. The way I found this was by installing Diskeeper which told me how big the blocking was on my disk (D:). Fix by installing another copy of NT, on another disk (E:), and formatting the disk (D:) you care about. Then install NT on disk (D:), and format (E:), and install NT 4.0 on (E:).

If you have a 4mm DAT formatted by some weird program, NT backup can't format the tape, and says the tape is bad. Fix by booting Windows 95, and use Adaptec Backup to format the tapes.

If you install a sound card (in my case on the motherboard) with Windows NT 4.0, and something goes wrong, you cannot simply re-install the software. It may act as if it is being installed, but it simply gets confused. Instead, you must install *a different version* of the software. Then it is possible to install correctly. I found this out when trying to get MIDI playing working with my crystal audio on my Providence motherboard.

If you install a Windows 95 program that doesn't like Windows NT, it hoses up the system, including the Registry. Partial Fix by using Emergency Recover Disk. Full Fix by reinstalling Windows NT from scratch. See below for more details...

I have a machine running Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT Server 4.0. Like a fool, I got a copy of Microsoft Personal Web server, and like an idiot, I tried to install it on Windows NT. This software is available from their web server. Remember kids, don't try this at home. Now this software is designed to run under Windows 95, and not under Windows NT. The web site said that it worked with Windows 95. I made a mistake in trying to install it on Windows NT.

Seems this program has some 16 bit code in it. When I ran the executable, it installed a buncha files, without asking me anything at all, or checking if I was running Windows 95. Somewhere in the install, it blew, saying something about not being able to deal with 16 bit applications. Did it un-install itself? No. So I tried to uninstall it, with the very nice Windows NT uninstall. But it gave me a similar error message about not being able to run some 16 bit application. I was able to disable it to the point where it would not pop up nasty error messages during boot. But there were still all those nasty files around. I deleted them manually, but then I got another nasty error message at startup, saying that it couldn't find a program. I couldn't find where the program was starting up. I am sure that I looked everywhere except where it was started up from.

After spending several hours with the nice folks at Microsoft technical support, I was able to repair my registry, and get rid of the nasty messages at boot. The %$%$!!@ icon for Personal Web Server is still in my Command Panel, and nobody knows how to get rid of it. I can click on it, and change various settings of the program. Looks like I will have to re-install Windows NT from scratch (again).

Microsoft Windows 95 Bugs

If you have 2 SCSI controllers, Windows 95 gets very confused unless you disable one. I found this out when I upgraded to my new motherboard (with onboard SCSI) and kept my disks on my PCI card SCSI controller. Fix by disabling one controller in the control panel.

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