Debian-based distro adventures

Since my previous post, I’ve used:

I’ve compared MEPIS 8 and Ubuntu 9.04, in what was called an unfair comparison by some. I think some of the commenters even indicated that Ubuntu 9.04 would’ve come up tops, but I begged (and still do) to differ.

Since then, I’ve used Mint 7 and Kubuntu 8.04, which one may realize are using GNOME 2 and KDE 3 as well. So I guess a more appropriate comparison would’ve been:

  • MEPIS 8 versus Kubuntu 8.04;
  • Ubuntu 9.04 versus Linux Mint 7.

All of packages I use (e.g. php-pear, imagemagick, mysql-server) have the same names across the four distributions (but that’s probably due to Debian).

All four distributions work fine w/ Oracle Express Edition, which is a great way to try out Oracle database if you don’t happen to work for a large corporation that uses its (probably too-)expensive licenses.

I must say that it wasn’t so much the particular distribution, source distribution or version number that affected the speed of the interface, but rather, the window manager.

GNOME 2 just seems… slow. KDE 3 is well… snappy.

To me, there is no discernable difference between MEPIS and Kubuntu — both use KDE 3, except perhaps Kubuntu uses Adept whilst MEPIS sticks to good old Synaptic. Both are great applications nonetheless.

I’ll gripe about the loss of Dropbox, which is available both Ubuntu and Mint due to GNOME. Apparently there is command-line instructions available. But I digress.

On the upside, I can’t seem to (easily) setup a network printer in either MEPIS or Kubuntu. I followed the instructions on the Ubuntu website, and voila, I could print. Likewise for Mint, which is basically Ubuntu nicely themed. Or maybe I’m just scratching the surface.

Kdesvn and Meld are almost interchangeable, unless you want to view svn logs of course (use the former).

So there you have it. If you’ve got a high-performance, dual- (or quad-) core laptop, Ubuntu or Mint will do fine. But if you’ve got a 2- to 3- year old laptop, consider Kubuntu 8.04 or MEPIS 8. Unfortunately, I can’t access anymore — the site is down, why? — and Canonical maintains fast servers, so I’ll be using Kubuntu for the forseeable future.


Back to KDE 3.5.1

Two nights ago I reverted to KDE 3.5.1, as the UI was getting less and less responsive.

Krunner, Kate, Kdesvn for some reason felt slower than when I first installed KDE 4.1. There was also a silly issue with Kate (my primary text editor) which didn’t help.

Maybe it was the hardware, as my laptop was bought in Aug 2006, I’m not sure. But now I know why Lenny was released with KDE 3.x.y, it just feels more… complete.

Katapult-like functionality on KDE4.1

OK, this post is more about recovering the Katapult functionality that I love. In fact, I started using KDE because of Katapult! But I digress.

In KDE4, which I recently installed there is a program called KRunner. It works exactly like Katapult, but the shortcut key is Alt + F2. This is a VERY poor shortcut; it’s a stretch to hit the Alt and F2 button at the same time. Previously I used the excellent Katapult (Alt + Space) as a launcher/calculator.

To change the shortcut:

K -> System Settings -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> KDE Component (Run Command Interface) -> Run Command.

Click Custom, and then press Alt + Space, or whatever shortcut combination you want. Click “Apply”. Voila.

Please also note that you need to prefix an “=” when typing equations, unlike Katapult; e.g.


instead of



Actually it’s KDE 4.1; apparently this is more stable that the point release, that’s why I waited as long as I did. For more instructions, see here. You probably need to upgrade to Lenny first — I didn’t check as I’m already on Lenny.

Well, late to upgrade (or update) as usual, but the wait (to upgrade) to KDE 4 was well worth it, as there was only one small dependency issue which didn’t affect the boot into KDE 4.

Way to go! Text seem to render much prettier now, which is a good thing!


Alternate Background in Lists

Konquerer’s file listing recently looked like an (unreadable) alternating blue/white color scheme.

I think it had something to do with kwin-baghira, because MacOS does alternate item coloring. I installed and removed it, and I guess the theme must have changed it. For 3 days I was wondering what happened. Google-ing didn’t help, or maybe I was using the wrong keywords.

I found it in the end.

KDE Start > Control Center > Appearance & Themes > Theme Manager > Colors > Widget Color > Alternate Background in Lists.

I changed it to an off-white or something.

Debian 4.0 (Etch i386) netinst

I made the mistake of downloading and installing the netinst version of Etch.

I’d setup MEPIS 6.0 on my sister’s laptop previously, so I imagined it would’ve been a breeze for Debian.

The installation went successfully, except for the network detection part, but I dismissed it thinking that I’d be able to setup once everything was complete. I was so wrong. I had no IP address, so I was bumbling around without network connectivity, and horrors of horrors, it was commandline-only.

I Google-d around looking for some solutions; thankfully there was a spare laptop for use. It turns out that my (new) company’s sysadmin setup the router to NOT assign IP addressed by DHCP. It also happened that he was not around during the time that I was fumbling around, so there was no one to answer my queries.

In the end, the solution was to add entries to:


These settings are initalized upon each boot, since I am afterall using it as a workstation, not a server.

I found there was this apt package manager that was supposed to let me get X, KDE and all those fancy GUI bells and whistles. But it wouldn’t work. My /etc/apt/sources.list looked like this:

deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 r0 _Etch_ - Official i386 NETINST Binary-1 20$

#deb etch/updates main contrib
#deb-src etch/updates main contrib

I was supposed to use the command:

# apt-get install kde

So that I could get KDE up and running. It turns out that you need to comment out the line with the CD-ROM,

and getting the message that there was no such package. Hmmm. To cut the long story short, you have to comment out the cdrom line and add in:

deb etch main non-free contrib

So we get our package listing for wherever is good for you:

# apt-get update
# apt-get install x-window-system x-window-system-core kde kdm kdebase --fix-missing

If you get errors like “md5 checksum mismatch”, it was probably a network issue, so repeat.

# startx

There’s a lengthy wait, but no worries, KDE will come up fine. You won’t be needing to use the wizard since you are currently logged in as ‘root’. Just log out, and then reboot:

# telinit 6

It took me two(!) days to get my desktop up to scratch (aptitude, automatix, gaim, iceweasel, katapult, skype, synaptic,, wine, ..) because of the initial network problem and my inept-ness with apt-*.

My advice? Download the 4GB+ ISO for your installs instead.