Friday, March 11, 2011

@PeppermintOS ICE - Setting It Up as The Lone Ranger (Updated 3/15/2011)

"Hiyo, Silver! Away!" would call The Lone Ranger. Lots of fun watching that as a kid, but it's amazing how many times anyone with a little experience rescuing files gets called on to help a colleague or friend out.


This evening, I had the opportunity to setup a persistent USB flash drive running Peppermint ICE on it. While I've detailed the steps here, I'm having fun exploring how to enable wireless on it, trying to decide what software to load that would be helpful when working on other systems that traditionally run Windows, etc.

I recreated a persistent, bootable USB flash drive using the steps outlined in a previous blog post and instead of a 4gig drive--like I shared in that blog entry--I decided to use my 16 gig lanyard flash drive. I had been running Ubuntu off that, but think Peppermint ICE is more suited to my needs due to its light-weight, "it just works" nature. Time will tell if I'm right.


Below is my overview--in no particular order--of my "must-have" list for portable awesome solution.




Image Source: http://www.hitechreview.com/uploads/2011/01/Silver-Bullet-USB-Drive.jpg

ANTIVIRUS PROTECTION
One of the first things I noticed when booting up was that I needed an antivirus program...for Windows computers I connect to. Two programs I installed right off included ClamAV, which to be honest, I installed by mistake as I was trying to install ClamTK. I found out about ClamTK by skimming the informative, mostly user maintained Peppermint OS forums (although this was a tutorial):
There is one exception to not needing antivirus, and some users still decide not to go to the trouble. It is considered by some a courtesy to Windows users with whom you share third party files to scan them for viruses first. Just because Linux isn't affected by many viruses out there (they won't run), doesn't mean that it's not "contagious". If going down this route, my recommendation is to download and install clamtk through Software Manager. It is a good, open source antivirus suite and can be called through the Accessories menu. It can scan just one file, or entire directories.


As they point out in the tutorial cited above, antivirus is mostly clean-up after the damage has been done. However, I often need a flash drive I can boot up off, and move files off. More about that below.


Another key tool that's fun to have, although a pain to maintain, is an anti-spyware/malware tool. I've tried several in the past and they work "OK" but aren't great. 

WIRELESS and NVIDIA DRIVERS (Updated 03/15/2011)
The second thing I had to do was think about activating the proprietary wireless--and NVIDIA Graphics--drivers on the netbook I was using. To accomplish that, I had to go to Preferences-->Hardware Drivers. This enabled me to install the wireless card drivers the laptop needed.



After installing the drivers, I had to restart the computer for them to work and changes to take effect. I expect that the process will be similar--but not foolproof--on other laptops. Unfortunately, that didn't work for the NVIDIA card on a laptop I was using. To accomplish that, I first had to do the following (not necessary if you don't have an NVIDIA card on your laptop or netbook):
sudo apt-get install nvidia-common


Once you've installed that, go to PREFERENCES->HARDWARE DRIVERS and you should see NVIDIA driver ready to activate. It will look like this:




I also recommend doing "sudo apt-get update" then "sudo apt-get upgrade" to ensure you have the latest of everything loaded and ready to go.



BACKING UP DATA
Although you can use tools like the one I mention later in this piece to backup individual files--copying them from a failing computer to an external USB drive--it's sometimes necessary to backup your entire hard drive. If you know a little about partitioning, you can use a free utility that I install known as FSArchiver. This is a program that allows you to back up the individual partitions of your hard drive, saving only the files that take-up space on the hard drive. They describe it in this way:
FSArchiver is a system tool that allows you to save the contents of a file-system to a compressed archive file. The file-system can be restored on a partition which has a different size and it can be restored on a different file-system. Unlike tar/dar, FSArchiver also creates the file-system when it extracts the data to partitions. Everything is checksummed in the archive in order to protect the data. If the archive is corrupt, you just loose the current file, not the whole archive. Fsarchiver is released under the GPL-v2 license. It's still under heavy development so it must not be used on critical data. You should read the Quick start guide if you are using FSArchiver for the first time. Read More
This is a real time saver since other backups will try to copy everything--including empty space--but with FSArchiver, you save only what data you have. So, if for some reason, a disk recovery operation goes bad, you have a backup of the machine.





You'll want to spend some time experimenting with FSArchiver before you use it for "real" and there are great tutorials out there, including this one I wrote for my own use and one that appears in the Peppermint Forums.

DESKTOP BACKGROUND
Changing your desktop background--or wallpaper--is pretty easy on any machine. You simply get the appropriate wallpaper off the web, save it some place on your computer (I like to save it in the /home/username/Pictures folder so I can quickly pull it up). After saving it, right-click on your computer's desktop and select Desktop Preferences. There's no reason why you can't look awesome while saving the world from the T-Virus, er, I mean, malware.




If you need to change your desktop wallpaper and encounter problems, you can read this forum post. I encountered the problem with the computer forgetting my wallpaper choice and fixed it with this command and edit:
sudo leafpad /home/peppermint/.config/pcmanfm/pcmanfm.conf
then changed the wallpaper= to reflect the location of my preferred wallpaper selection at:
/home/mg/Pictures/umbrella.jpg
It worked fine. It came right up when I restarted. This could get cumbersome if I changed my wallpapers every day, but...on a bootable flash drive, once every few months is enough.



FILE MANAGEMENT
"The tech came by, couldn't login to Windows and said the only way it could be fixed was to reformat," shared a colleague one afternoon. "But my boss has tons of files on it that she can't lose. Is there any way to get the files off?" My answer was, "Of course!" and in 30 minutes, her files had been copied onto an 8gig flash drive and safely stowed. The ending question from my colleague was, "How come the techs don't know how to do this?" My response was simple--"I'll make sure to show them but why don't you learn how so that way you won't have to depend on others?" We immediately made arrangements for a tutorial.

It's such a simple approach that there is no reason why you can't learn how to do it either...all you need is your own bootable flash drive (doesn't even have to be persistent!) and you can rescue files. One of my favorite tools from the DOS days included Directory Freedom, a simple, configurable Xtree Gold type solution. You can still get it but not much point to it now. However, back in the old days, it was a great tool to use to move files from one place to another.




Now, I use GNOME Commander (pictured above). It's an easy to use GUI for file management. Although Peppermint ICE comes with a file manager (the little file cabinet in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen a.k.a. PCManFM), it's great to have a file manager like that.


TAKING SCREENSHOTS
One of the fun things to be able to do is to take screenshots or pictures of what you're looking at. My favorite tool for the job is Shutter, which not only allows you to snap pictures of your screen (selections, whole screen, etc.) but also annotate them. These images can easily be emailed or shared with other through various online image repositories (e.g. Flickr, Picasaweb, Skitch) or stored in cloud computing solution like Dropbox (easy and supported on Peppermint ICE) or SugarSync (harder on GNU/Linux).


Finally, now that my flash drive is done being all loaded up, I'm going to make a backup copy of it using dd and save it some place. That way, I can be assured that if my drive fails, I have a copy some place to easily restore from.


Here's what the "finished" product looks like....






What would you put on YOUR persistent, bootable flash drive running Peppermint ICE?
Aside: This blog entry was just too much fun to write. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it...but even if you didn't, I still had fun!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure