Tag: DSL

Linux Text Processing
By Levi Reiss

DSL-logoDamn Small Linux can be an excellent tool for learning Linux commands and running the Linux operating system. But what if you are not interested in becoming a computer nerd; can this software still be useful to regular people? The answer is a resounding yes; you can make use of this tiny operating system whether or not you want to learn the sometimes gruesome details of operating systems. This article introduces the text editors that come with your free Damn Small Linux that runs on even obsolete Windows computers. You can use these applications to compose simple text or programs of any level of complexity.

Once you have downloaded and installed Damn Small Linux there are several equivalent ways of launching its text editors. You can click on the DSL button in the lower-left hand corner or on the Apps/ icon toward the top of the screen. Then open the Editors: there are four, Beaver, Nano, Notepad, and vi (actually vim). We will look at these editors in order plus an additional one.

beaver_pref_window

Beaver is my choice for creating and editing the text files used in my Damn Small Linux tutorials. The name Beaver stands for Beaver is an Early AdVanced EditoR which is the kind of joke that many Linux and Unix people find funny. This editor is particularly useful for programming and web page editing. Among Beaver’s special features are color coding and the ability to convert text to Upper Case, Lower Case or to capitalize the first letter of every word. You can convert text among the following formats: Unix, DOS, and Mac. Programmers will be happy to learn that Beaver formats code for the following programming languages: C/C++, HTML, Perl, JavaScript, PHP, and Bash. Unfortunately the Help function is not available. To learn more about this editor access their website at nongnu.org/beaver.

The nano program is especially used for email messages. It stems from the widely-used Pico email program that is not available for some versions of Linux. I have not had the pleasure of working with nano but am told that many Linux and Unix people like it.

What the Damn Small Linux people call Notepad is actually another text processor that is similar to the DOS/Windows Notepad. I haven’t used it because Beaver is more powerful, and just about as easy to use.

The final application in this group is VIM, vi IMproved. The original vi was a very-widely used text editor for Unix and Linux systems. Today most Unix and Linux people work with other, more sophisticated text editors. When I teach Linux on systems other than Damn Small Linux I teach a reduced version of vi. This editor is cumbersome, but you make like the improved version. Damn Small Linux offers you a choice.

The Office folder contains Ted, a word processor that is compatible with Microsoft Word. Ted saves documents in RTF (rich text format) that can be read by Microsoft Word and other word processors including Open Office. Ted and Beaver belong to different worlds; you can’t take documents back and forth between these two applications.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He loves the occasional glass of wine as exemplified by his wine websites including http://www.theworldwidewine.com. He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website http://www.linux4windows.com which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are “obsolete.”

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Important Concepts For Linux Beginners – Shells and Utilities
By Levi Reiss

A shell is the command interpreter program that serves as an interface between some users and 250px-Bash_demothe operating system itself. We say some users because most users rely on the graphical user interface. The Windows shell is the DOS command line interface accessed by clicking on Run and then entering the cmd command. The Windows graphical user interface is Explorer. This article describes the Damn Small Linux shell interface and several utilities, useful programs that may be launched from the shell. A subsequent article will describe the corresponding graphical user interface.

Why would anyone want to bother with a shell when the prettier, easier-to-learn and easier-to-use graphical interface is available? The answer is: It depends who you are and what you want to do. For system administrators or their associates it’s often much less cumbersome to use the shell rather than the graphical user interface. While Damn Small Linux commands may be quite arcane, they are often very powerful. And efficient. The Linux way of performing administrative and other technical tasks admittedly takes time to learn and master. But it does the job and does it well. In all fairness, many Windows systems administrators often apply command-line utilities. But they don’t have a powerful shell to help them do their work.

Historically Unix used the Bourne shell, the C shell which resembles the C programming language, and the Korn shell. Linux’s most widely used shell is Bash, also spelled BASH, the (Bourne-Again Shell). Damn Small Linux offers many shells but most people go with Bash both to communicate interactively with the operating system and to write programs known as shell scripts. If you program in Linux no matter which programming language you use you should learn some Bash specifics.

Utilities enable you to handle some very sophisticated processing. You can think of them as commands or as prewritten programs. Unix-Linux people often send the output of one command or utility to another command or utility for further processing. For example, the ps command displays active processes. It tends to generate voluminous output, especially in a busy system. Let’s say that you are interested only in the processes associated with a given terminal. You send (the technical term is pipe, expressed by the | character) the output of the ps command to the grep utility which looks for patterns within the input. You code a single line, multipart command to obtain the list of processes associated with that particular terminal. Unix and Linux are well known for elegant solutions. In contrast the Windows solution to this information need is much more clumsy.

The grep utility has many other uses including validating e-mail addresses. Let’s say that your web site asks potential subscribers to furnish their e-mail accounts when signing up for a newsletter. A sophisticated but relatively short statement coded in grep could validate e-mail accounts.

DSL-logoOther Damn Small Linux text processing utilities include the related egrep and fgrep commands, mawk a pattern scanning and text processing language, sed an editor that handles large files, and diff a utility that compares files. DSL provides utilities that compress and archive files, and a wide range of other utilities. If you need them, these Linux utilities can be very useful and time-saving.

Our next subject is Linux programming support.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He loves the occasional glass of wine as exemplified by his wine websites including http://www.theworldwidewine.com. He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website http://www.linux4windows.com which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are “obsolete.”

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Free Linux Games – Part 1
By Levi Reiss

Damn Small Linux can be an excellent tool for learning Linux commands and running the Linux operating system. But what if you are not interested in becoming a computer nerd; can this software still be useful to regular people? The answer is a resounding yes; you can make use of this tiny operating system whether or not you want to learn the sometimes gruesome details of operating systems. This article presents several free games that are immediately available once you have downloaded and installed Damn Small Linux.

To access these games either click on the DSL button in the lower-left hand corner or on the Apps icon toward the top of the screen. Then open the 17Games: there are eleven; Canfield, Freecell, Golf, Mastermind, Minesweeper, Pegged, Slide_Puzzle, Solitaire, Taipei, Thornq, and Xtris and Taiedit which is not a game, but a game editor. We will examine the first six games in this article saving the rest of them for a companion article. As with any gaming systems, be careful not to get addicted.

Canfield is a relatively complicated single-deck solitaire card game. If you are not familiar with this game you’ll have to go to a source such as Google to find out how to play it. There is no help function. And sometimes the cards move fast, too fast to learn what is happening if you don’t know the game.

Freecell is a relatively complicated single-deck solitaire card game. I think that it’s easier to win than Canfield but maybe that’s because I am an ex-semi-Freecell-addict. It’s a lot easier to get addicted to Freecell on Windows because their version includes a seed number that lets you replay it. There is no such seed number in this version of Freecell.

In spite of its name, Golf is yet another card game one that is fairly well known. For more information about this game access http://www.delorie.com/store/ace/docs/golf.html

3Mastermind is a game in which you use a mouse to drag colors from the palette (on the left) to the empty cells in the guess row. When the four cells in the guess row are full, right-click on the right of the screen to see how you did. There will be one black peg for each cell that is the correct color, and one white for a color that is not in the correct sequence. Keep going and you can eventually figure out all the colors in the row. If that’s your thing.

Some people will remember Minesweeper from the days of Windows 3.1. The goal is to clear a field of mines by clicking on a square that has no mines and right-clicking on a mined square to deactivate it. The screen indicates how many mines are adjacent to a square that has been deactivated or clicked on. One false move and you lose. When you start the game you can choose from four levels by enter 1 (the easiest), 2, 3, or 4. I vaguely recall that Windows 3.1 gave me more options, but frankly Damn Small Linux’s Minesweeper is a good time waster.

Pegged is a field of thirty penguins and thirty-one spaces. Initially one space is empty. A move consists of one Penguin jumping over another generating an additional empty space. You win if at the end of the game there is a single penguin. You really win if the solitary penguin is in the center square. Some would say that you really, really win if you close the Games menu and get back to work.


Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He loves the occasional glass of wine as exemplified by his wine websites including http://www.theworldwidewine.com. He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website http://www.linux4windows.com which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are “obsolete.”

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Free Linux Games – Part 2
By Levi Reiss

Damn Small Linux can be an excellent tool for learning Linux commands and running the Linux operating system. But it’s also great for playing games. This article presents several free games that are immediately available once you have downloaded and installed Damn Small Linux.

To access these games either click on the DSL button in the lower-left hand corner or on the Apps/ icon toward the top of the screen. Then open the Games: there are eleven. A previous article discussed several. Now we will look at Slide_Puzzle, Solitaire, Taipei, Thornq, and Xtris and Taiedit which is not a game, but a game editor. As with any gaming systems, be careful not to get addicted.

Do you remember a hand-held non-electronic game in which there were fifteen moveable tiles and sixteen squares? By moving the tiles correctly you could reconstitute a series of numbers. Slide_puzzle is similar but even more challenging. First you load an image, a graphics file such as a jpg file. I didn’t have one readily available so I opened dsl-4.2.xFirefox went to google images and downloaded into the /home/dsl directory the first crayfish image that Google offered me. Then I loaded it into the game which chopped into into pieces to be reassembled. Left-click on a tile to slide it into the adjacent empty space. Right-click to see the original image. If you are really good you won’t have to take a peek at the original image. It helps if you have chosen an image that’s easy to reconstitute. I don’t recommend crayfish.

Solitaire is the good-old Klondike solitaire card game. While testing it for this article I did win twice in a row and came close the third time. This is the solitaire that I remember as a kid. Watch out, it’s moderately addictive.

Taipei is a very addictive game in which you try to remove pairs of corresponding tiles. Of course if a tile is covered by another tile you must first remove the covering tile. To find out if a tile may be removed right-click on it. If it changes colors it may be removed by clicking on its available partner. The partner tile is usually a copy (9 and 9, Heart and Heart) but any direction tile may be paired with any direction tile, and any color tile may be paired with any color tile. The numbers in the lower left hand corner of the screen indicate the number of remaining tiles and the number of tiles that are presently removable. In one game I started with 144 and 12. By judiciously removing two tiles I went to 142 and 15. I lost that game, like I lose most of the time. If the rules sound a bit complicated, they are. But you can learn by playing. And you can always press the Backspace key to undo your latest tile removal. The last time I played I was blocked, pressed the Backspace key, and went on to win. Some would say beginner’s luck. The instructions claim that every game can be won. I don’t believe it.

Taiedit lets you modify the game of Taipei. Good luck, this application looks moderately sophisticated.

Thornq is yet another solitaire card game. For more information about this game access delorie.com/store/ace/docs/thornq.html

You may not believe me, but I won this game without knowing how to play it. Beginner’s luck. The point is that Damn Small Linux offers a wide variety of solitaire card games. The final game offered with the system is xtris, a version of Tetris, the game in which you arrange falling blocks. This version offers a few controls including the possibility of playing several games at once.


Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He loves the occasional glass of wine as exemplified by his wine websites including http://www.theworldwidewine.com. He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website http://www.linux4windows.com which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are “obsolete.”

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I am currently trying to find the best live Linux CD for an old notebook computer I have, a Compaq Presario 1700 XL260. This computer has a 500 MHz Pentium III processor, 192 MB of RAM, and over 5 GB of hard drive space. It looks like it also has a DVD-ROM, two USB ports –One currently used by my mouse, the other buy either a USB memory stick, or a USB wi-fi adapter.
Compaq Presario 1700
Initially I tried to get the PC working with a Linux distro that would allow me to get online wirelessly with my router using that USB wireless-G adapter mentioned earlier. I was pretty sure that I’d have to use a lightweight distro since the dearth of RAM would be probably the biggest limiter in my distro selection choices.


My first try was with …. DSL — Damn Small Linux. dsl-42xWeighing in at 50MB, the highly-regarded, extremely light weight distribution proved to live up to its billing, however it certainly wasn’t as user friendly as I would have liked. It comes with JWM and Fluxbox, no Gnome, or KDE with this one, obviously. One big problem I encountered with this version as I occasionally did with subsequent ones is that getting Linux to talk to a USB wi-fi adapter is much tougher than I would suspect a PCI wi-fi adapter. Not to mention I’m sure all distros will connect to a network with no problem these days using a hard-wired ethernet.

My next Linux distro to try was Puppy Linux, the 100MB powerhouse. This was truly an exciting version to use since it had so many advanced elements for such a small size that it really seemed like that could be a daily user that could keep up with the big fellas in the Linux world. puppy-linux-4-2-was-released-2It was really fast, too, since it booted itself entirely into the minuscule RAM on the computer! The distro ships with JWM / IceWM + ROX Desktop user interfaces for your convenience. So, it’s still a small distro but it has more modern desktop environments than the previously mentioned DSL.

I eventually tested around a dozen distros, and understandably the more “packed-with-features” distros like the Ubuntus and the Arch Linux types were really too much for the mature system. Unfortunately since the system doesn’t have an ethernet port, it really limits the functionality of the networking aspect.

It’s certainly true that there are some modern albeit light-weight distros out there today that can certainly bring life back to this baby. It still has Windows 98se installed on its hard drive, and I certainly wouldn’t consider trying XP but it’s a lot of fun looking at the latest in mini-Linux and seeing what this machine is still capable of.

Buy Linux today

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