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Hard Drive Fixed? And Accidental Email Fix?

Hard Drive Fixed? And Accidental Email Fix?

So after an uneventful afternoon, after my fsck that left my laptop up and running, I shut down my laptop, and made my way home. With no need to fire up my laptop that night, while triaging my emails and Slack messages from my phone, I fired up my laptop the next day for the first time in a while….and initramfs. Well, shit.

So having realized that my Dropbox, Google Drive and email inbox contained most of the things that I needed on this machine, I decided a re-image was the route. Why? Not entirely sure, but I figured, blow it all away, and reinstall the OS and se where that leaves us. I had been running Ubuntu 17.04, and hadn’t had many issues, at least many issues that I couldn’t figure out, but I decided that the LTS was the best for me. If I was using this in production, I wanted it to be stable and stable for the foreseeable future.

Having started a reinstall, I made it about 60% through the install of the OS and we locked up. The installer actually threw an error, and crashed. Well, such is Linux? Maybe? Another failed OS install and I began to think this was hardware related. Since this was a corporate Dell, I knew I was warrantied against hardware failures, but really? A hardware failure this early into the life of the machine? Then it hit me, this was a 7450…the last model laptop that we deployed in the company that might have had a spinning platter hard drive. And that was the culprit.

Well Dell would send me a replacement, but I really didn’t want to replace a dead HDD with another, so I bit the bullet, bought a 256GB SSD and installed. Yes, I only got 256 GB, as I’ve said before, I don’t keep much on my hard drive, so save some money, don’t but extra space!

I decided to keep going with the 16.04 LTS install, and was back up and running in 20 minutes after install. I started installing all my programs again, when it came time to choose an email client. I installed Geary, and just for fun…I decided to install Nylas N1 again. I let it sync, and sync, annnnnnd sync. Then something surprising happened…it finished. AND I was receiving emails.

So rolling back to 16.04, something about Ubuntu 17.04 and N1 didn’t get along, but now, I can happily say that for about 2 weeks or so, I’ve been using Nylas N1 without any issues, aside from some blips with assigning labels/moving to folders, which in the grand scheme of things, I can tolerate. Now…is there a calendar manager available..?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Well it’s been a few weeks. My daily Linux use continues, so far, Ubuntu has been friendly on the Dell E7450, although I did bump the stock 8GB of RAM to 12GB (1 4GB and 1 8GB stick). I’ve been able to solve most of my problems. In a Windows environment, it’s taken some tricks, but I’m getting there.

  • Windows PC in my LAN room + RDP (Remmina Remote Desktop Client) for Active Directory management
  • Chrome/Firefox/Chromium for browsing
  • Sky – Skype for Business on Linux – (I think this is the most pleasant surprise of my switch to full time Linux. I was using the web based SfB client in Office 365 but it’s ok at best, Sky has been a breath of fresh air, I have some complaints, but it seems good overall.)
  • LibreOffice – Office…duh.

There’s still one unfilled need. Email clients. I can hear everyone now…and yes, I’ve tried using webmail, but with 4 email accounts, (2 work, 1 professional, 1 personal/social) it’s pretty shitty tabbing through those in a browser. (Yes I could only focus on the 2 work emails, but still not ideal).

In the last article, I mentioned Thunderbird’s runaway memory use, I haven’t tried it again with the extra 4GB of RAM, but with it being responsible for full system lock ups, I’m wary.  I seemed to have settled on to Geary. It served a need, it showed me my email, and let me send messages, great, barebones but effective. Then I heard Nylas Mail mentioned on Linux Unplugged. I think I came across Nylas in the past, when it was just the email service, not the application, but when I went to the website, I saw there was a free email client. It seemed to fit the needs of what I needed, so I downloaded it and got moving.

Well it seemed too good to be true. The interface was pleasant, I spent some time fiddling with the themes, browsing all the settings, it had great keyboard shortcut support and it just worked! It synced with my exchange account, 2 Gmail accounts and a FastMail account. So far so good. I could files emails in folders, I could send emails, this is good right? But then the problems popped up. It start with my exchange account, it was still syncing my folders for my exchange account DAYS later.

folderlistinNylasMailNow I have a lot of folders in my inbox, around 150, with a 100GB available inbox, everything I have is in my inbox. I’m only using <4GB of total space, but other apps allow me to set only 2 weeks of mail to sync, etc. Maybe I’ve found the practical limit for folders in Nylas, the other accounts were syncing fine, but not my exchange. And now, I wasn’t getting emails in my inbox, maybe the syncing folders was taking all of Nylas’ resources? I could deal with a lack of some synced folders, but no email in my inbox? That’s a basic need of email clients, show me my inbox. There is no way to manually sync email in Nylas, like a “Send/Receive” button or “Refresh”. (There is a “reload”, but it looks like that just refreshes the interface). I found myself needing to quit the app, kill any residual processes, and then relaunch to see new mail. No thanks.

Contacting support lead to an “uninstall/reinstall” for a fix, I’m an IT manager, that’s where I started. So after another uninstall, clearing the local email cache, and all that, I’ve started the sync OVER and now I’ll wait another few days and see what happens. Until then, I still don’t have an email client, I guess I’ll install Geary again.

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

Docker Logo
Docker Logo

So in the recent Dockercon announcements, a little dated by the time I wrote this (I move slow it seems), I was very intrigued to hear about Linuxkit. In the blog post announcing LinuxKit, Engineer Justin Cormack said that LinuxKit came about because “users wanted Linuxcontainer support but the platform itself did not ship with Linux included.” Docker was released on Mac OS and Windows, but the need was still there to have a Linux subystem as part of the container system.

What does that mean? Well Docker runs on Linux, configure your Docker containers on your Linux system, and get going. But not everyone in the world uses Linux, and to bring Docker to the Windows and Mac platform, Docker had to build a system to allow them to run the Linux subsystem parts they needed on the non-Linux platforms. That is, if you’re running Docker on Windows or Mac, you’re still running on Linux. Thus, LinuxKit was born. Swapnil Bhartiya said in is CIO Article – “LinuxKit…allows organizations to build their own containerized operating systems that are secure, lean, modular and portable.”

Docker partnered with some big names to make this happen, companies like HPE, Intel, IBM and Microsoft, and of course the Linux Foundation. It’s as architecture compatible as possible, bare metal, Virtual Machine, x86, ARM, LinuxKit allows you to run the subsystem you need for your containers wherever you need.

With LinuxKit, here’s the ability to build a custom subsystem, with only the needs in place that the run time needs, with sizedown to 35MB with the minimal boot-time, and of course, it’s OpenSource. Docker started with the barest of the bare essentials to get this down in size, the kernel, the system libraries, it’s all as small as it can be.

Docker was security minded about this, and in today’s fast paced world, security is paramount. With a read only root filesystem, among other features, container specific OSes remove points of attack, instead of a general purpose OS. Cormack says –  “All system services are containers, which means that everything can be removed or replaced.” This means that services are sandboxed, only given the permissions they need.

Linux Daily Driver (Part 2): Are They Any Good (GUI) Email Clients on Linux?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 2): Are They Any Good (GUI) Email Clients on Linux?

I asked a question. I’ve yet to find an answer, are they ANY good email clients on Linux? Don’t say Mutt. Don’t do it. GUI email clients. Outlook on Windows (and Mac) has me spoiled. Email. That was the first task I needed to solve on this, my quest to use Linux daily, in a decidedly Windows (and Mac) environment. I have five email addresses total, 3 for work, and 2 personal, and ultimately I’d love to be able to access them all in the same client, I’m needy, but let’s see where this leads. Theoretically, I could just access these all in Webmail, even using the user switching in Gmail, (3 accounts are Gmail, 1 exchange, 1 IMAP), it would still take 3 tabs to view my mail, less than ideal.


1. Thunderbird

First up, the ever present Thunderbird. Mozilla was the name of the game in years past. Firefox was the go-to, and I spent a decent amount of time using Thunderbird as my mail client on Linux machines in my early first run with Linux and even on my MacBook Pro in college, before Apple Mail became usable, but alas, the years haven’t been kind to this once strong contender.

Everything looked good at the start, set up all my accounts, imported my signature, (plain text, didn’t bother with HTML). 2 or 3 days into my experiment my machine locked up. Completely. No killing apps, no switching spaces, I was frozen HARD. A hard shotdown later, I rebooted, logged in and returned to my work. No hard no foul, things happen.

And happen. And happen again. Every day for the next 3 days or so I had a lockup, full machine, hard shutdown, try again. I decided to keep a “top” running in the terminal, always on screen, just to see. The culprit was Thunderbird, it just ran away, sometimes after sending a message, sometimes after deleting a folder. (Full disclosure, I used plugins to access Google calendar, and Microsoft Exchange, this may have caused an issue). Sometimes I was left with a zombie process, but the machine remained usable, sometimes, as mentioned before, full stop.

Maybe I could tolerate it on a home machine, but for my daily drive for work it was a non-starter. No-go. So Thunderbird was sent to the back burner. Gone but not forgotten. It’s a huge bummer, I love Mozilla, I love what they do for the internet community, but until Thunderbird is a little more stable (and maybe Firefox too) I just can’t drive from it 8 hours a day. It’s still installed, I open it once or twice a day to sync mail and see how it performs, but I’m not ready to re-commit. (I do hope to sit down, disable all add-ons, and work through them and see if there is a single culprit).


2. Geary

That lead me to where I’ve currently landed. Geary (taken from their website) “is an email application built around conversations, for the GNOME 3 desktop.” Well that sound ok. I like conversations, I can deal with that. Now believe me when I say this thing is light on features. Email, that’s it. No calendars, no reminders, nothing. (Not saying those are must haves, obviously not, just stating).

Now their website states that they support Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook and other IMAP servers. That being said, I haven’t gotten it to accept my IMAP account (which truthfully is the account I use least), but I may be migrating to Fastmail or a similar service, so I can let it slide. Maybe I’ll file a bug report if further testing fails.

So I guess here we are, found an email client. I haven’t tried out Evolution, I had poor experiences in the past. CLAWS never appealed to me….and that’s it I think? Kmail, N1, the list doesn’t get that long. So for now, I’ll stick with Geary, it fills a need, isn’t terrible to look at, and hasn’t taken my CPU and RAM for a ride, while my computers fans spin fast enough to enter orbit.

I think I need to find a decent calendar program now…

Xubuntu Continues

Xubuntu Continues

Desktop screenshot
Spacey Desktops.

It’s been just about a month and a half since I started using Xubuntu on my Lenovo N22. It’s been a bit of a ride. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not a powerful machine, it’s really meant for portability and no part of that involves heavy lifting. It was less than $200 on Groupon, and so far, I’ve been pleased with it. Windows 10 was always nice and speedy on this machine, as Linux users know, it’s often difficult to separate hardware from Windows. That’s given rise to a lot of misconceptions around Linux and Unix, you’re constantly trying to get things to work, whether it’s drivers for audio, or something in the trackpad (full disclosure – I’ve only encountered an issue I couldn’t resolve with a Linux install not working on a Retina MacBook, trackpads don’t work). The more and more I use Linux on a daily basis, the less and less proof I see behind those statements

I’ve been looking to separate myself from Windows and Mac, and use Linux more, especially as I am currently pursuing some Linux certifications through my employer. And as I’ve stated before, I’m not thrilled with any of the new stuff that Apple is doing, whether it’s the lack of updates on the Mac Pro, the new MacBook Pros (touchbar, Thunderbolt 3 only, etc) or the jackless iPhone 7. I’ve written another article or two about my hunt for a lightweight Linux distribution, but I also wanted something usable, with a decent desktop environment, etc. My sysadmin skills aren’t powerful enough that I can spend all day in a terminal, but I’m getting there!

I passed over the completely minimalist distros, and those meant to be live booted, like Puppy Linux (actually the first distro I even used). I finally settled on Xubuntu, as it seemed to be decently reviewed, and Ubuntu was something I was familiar with. So I took the plunge, Windows was out the…ahem…window, and Xubuntu was installed in its place.

I left it to install while I ran some errands, and came back to the installer, prompting for passwords, etc. I ran through the setup, nothing new there, and ended up at the desktop. I immediately thought I had made a mistake. It was slow. Not unusably slow, BUT definitely noticeable over the stock Windows 10 install. Total bummer. While I wanted to separate myself from Windows and Mac and more into Linux as much as I can, I’m not so staunch in principle that I was willing to give up the usability of my machine for it. I decided to persevere, so I took to the internet and forums, looking for tips and tricks to speed up my install.

A quick search on the interwebs gave me some interesting advice. I found some steps that were stated to be specific for Xubuntu (not sure if this true or not) and some that we’re meant so Linux in general. I’ll head down the list of the ones I implemented in another post, and take it from there. Now I didn’t exactly run benchmarks on my machine before and after, so I have no hard numbers to go on in any way, but I will say, after the tweaks I made, my laptop definitely feels faster. So I’ll take it, works for me.

From Windows 10 to Xubuntu

From Windows 10 to Xubuntu

As those that read my previous posts about my search for a lighter weight/less resource intensive Linux distribution, my end goal was always to install Linux on my Lenovo N22 Laptop and remove the Windows 10 install. But as time went on, I began to get comfortable in my usage of Windows 10, as my larger Acer laptop was running Debian. I had some small difficulties running the games I enjoyed playing on that Debian machine, and even though I’m a tinkerer, I wanted them to work, and not have to fiddle with configurations and settings. With that in mind, I purchased a license for Windows 10, and installed it on the Acer. Linux, was no longer running on any of my machines.

I felt bad, I loved running Linux distros, trying new things, and I feel that the FOSS movement deserves support. I still had a Fedora VM running on my work laptop, but supporting a design lab, and a fleet of MacOS users, I still needed to spend the majority of my day in MacOS to make sure I was up to date with the latest, thus allowing me to better assist my co-workers when something went awry (and it often did).

Last week I had a discussion with my leadership in my company, and was informed that there are options for assistance in paying for IT/Technology certifications. Well this changes everything! My goal to pass the Linux Foundation’s certifications was now back on the main burner if someone else could assist me with the cost! But what about my daily use of Linux, surely if I wanted to pass a test in my Linux proficiency, I would need a machine with a native Linux install. But I’m knee-deep in Owlboy on the Acer…so my sights turned to the Lenovo.

I settled on Xubuntu, why? I don’t have a specific reason, I’ve used it a little in the past, seemed full featured the the XFCE Desktop Environment was light enough to run well on the lower specs of the Lenovo. Despite my worries with UEFI and eMMC in this laptop, there weren’t any issues I encountered with the install. Standard USB installer, reboot, reformat and fresh install. So far…I’m pleased. It feels good to be back in a Linux environment, and now my studying can kick in to high gear!

I’ll be taking some screenshots of the layout of the machine, as I rice it up a little bit, make if a little leaner and lighter to suit my needs, stay tuned!

Lenovo N22 – Thoughts Part 3 – Final

Lenovo N22 – Thoughts Part 3 – Final

The morning of my flight to Las Vegas a month ago, I made the executive decision that I couldn’t travel with my new Lenovo. I was planning on bringing my Retina MacBook, and I needed to bring Dell 7450 for a user, and the addition of another laptop? The TSA would probably think I was a mule. I love the portability of the 12″ Retina MacBook, but it’s not a powerful machine at all, halfway through typing a line for an email, I’ll glance up, and realize that my cursor is still 10-15 characters behind, I couldn’t work for a week from that machine only. Ok, so now a 15″ Dell, and a 15″ Retina MBP? Sorry Thinkpad, you have to stay behind.

That being said, now that I’m back at home, I’ll definitely be getting more time to focus on this little guy and see how it does. Last thing I did before I shut it down before my trip, was to create a system image disk, so I can restore in the event of an issue. This definitely took me a few to figure out, remember, I haven’t used Windows )other than assisting users in the office, and basic Active Directory administration) for years. Some googling, and asking my more Windows-versed friends and I was on the right track. I now have a full 18GB system image (store locally and in Dropbox, 100Mbps bandwidth FTW) as well as all the drivers downloaded from the Lenovo site. This meant I was ready to try a Linux install on this machine.

The first decision, for many Linux users with a new machine, is what Distro to install? Now many users have settled on one main distribution they prefer, in my case, I prefer Debian on my main laptop, (although Fedora is growing on me), but this machine is definitely underpowered compared to my Acer, so thus begins my research into lightweight Linux Distros.

I’ve posted an article or two on here about my my search for a light linux distro, but I have to say, as I use Windows 10 more and more on a daily basis, I don’t hate it. Let me elaborate on that previous statement, (I’ve had more to say about this in other articles, mainly my post about leaving Apple behind and moving more Windows/Linux).

I didn’t move to Windows 10 fro Windows 7. I know a lot of users that were forced into the Windows 10 update from a fully functional Windows 7 install, and they were furious. I know that left a bad taste in their mouth. But for me, I entered the Windows 10 world from MacOS. And I’ve found I can do A LOT more than I could on Mac OS, especially as a power user. I entered Windows 10 voluntarily, I knew it was installed on this Lenovo, and as such, knew what to expect.

I guess the TL;DR for this post is that, I may stick with a Windows install for a bit. I have a Bodhi VM running on my MacBook Pro, and a Debian VM on my Windows 10 Acer, but for now…maybe, I’ll stay put. Who knows? Maybe 2017 is the year of the Linux desktop?

In Search of a Lightweight Linux Distribution

In Search of a Lightweight Linux Distribution

The first decision, for many Linux users with a new machine, is what distro to install? Now I understand that many users that have been using Linux for some time have settled on one main distribution they prefer, that they’ve come to know, etc. In my case, I prefer Debian on my main laptop, (although use of a Fedora VM has me curious about other distros), but the machine I’m hunting for a distro to install isn’t as powerful as my main machine. Thus begins my research into lightweight Linux distributions.

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