Quick and Dirty: Installing the openSUSE 12.3 Beta on VirtualBox

This guide is a down-and-dirty visual walkthrough about how I installed the openSUSE 12.3 Beta on VirtualBox 4.6 from the KDE live CD (which is available for download here). (Note: This, of course, is simply how I did it; you could find other ways to accomplish the same thing.)

The reason for this guide is that, although the openSUSE live CD comes with the VirtualBox extensions, the ones on the live CD are incompatible with openSUSE 12.3’s version of X.org. Please look at this bug report.

This guide makes the following assumptions:
1. You have experience creating and installing virtual machines in VirtualBox
2. You have experience using openSUSE
3. You have experience using basic Linux commands, including from the command line

To get started, create a new virtual machine with a virtual hard drive, and set the virtual machine to boot from the openSUSE KDE live CD ISO. Also, have the virtual machine mount the VirtualBox guest additions ISO.

Next, run the virtual machine. OpenSUSE will come to the point where it tries to start KDE, but it will fail due to the incompatibility between the installed VirtualBox video driver and the installed version of X.org. Switch to a console by pressing the combination Right Ctrl + F1. Log in as root (no password is necessary). Next, mount the VirtualBox guest additions ISO by creating a mountpoint (in the screenshot, I used /media/sr1) and mounting the ISO.

Then, run the “VboxLinuxAdditions.run” script.

The main VirtualBox guest additions module will not build correctly because the live CD doesn’t come with the kernel headers, or the necessary compilation software (i.e. gcc and make), but the script will install the correct video driver, which is what we want.

After everything is done, cycle to runlevel 3 and back to runlevel 5 (by issuing the “init 3” and “init 5” commands), and KDE will start. You can then use openSUSE’s installer to install it.

(Installation note: remember to set the installer to put GRUB2 on the MBR, /dev/sda – it seems to default to /dev/sda1.)

After the installation’s finished, exit from the live CD. Of course, before you reboot into your new virtual machine, you’ll need to change the boot order, so that VirtualBox boots from the VM’s hard drive. Unmount the live CD. Keep the Guest Additions ISO mounted.

After you reboot into openSUSE, the first problem you will probably encounter is that the network isn’t up. You can use YaST to set up your virtual network card. I brought up the connection by running the command “dhclient eth0” as root in a console.

After that, you can properly install the VirtualBox guest additions. In order to do so, you’ll need to install the “kernel-devel”, “make”, and “gcc” packages using YaST (or zypper, from the command line), first.

Now that you’ve got openSUSE installed and running, here are some suggestions for next steps:
1. Install all available software updates (if you get an error message, that’s because there is one repo that’s enabled by default — “openSUSE-12.3-Update-Non-Oss” — that doesn’t actually exist)
2. If your installation went like mine, your (virtual) sound card isn’t working. I got it to work by using YaST to disable PulseAudio
3. If your screen resolution is stuck at 640×480, create an “xorg.conf” file to set the resolution as want it to be — that’s a bit too much for this simple guide

Good luck, and, as openSUSE tells you when you log in as root, “Have a lot of fun!” Post any problems or questions you might have to the pre-release/beta section of the openSUSE Forum.


Posted January 26, 2013 by eco2geek in Linux distributions

Linux Deepin 11.12: A unique Ubuntu remix from China

Linux Deepin 11.12 is a Chinese Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. The fact that it’s Chinese is important to any non-Chinese speaker attempting to install it, for the obvious reason that, as of this writing, there’s no online support available in English. Fortunately, the live CD can be run almost entirely in English simply by pressing F2 at startup and selecting English as the language.

Since the switch to GNOME shell has caused some controversy among Linux users, I may as well express my personal biases right up front. There are some features I really want in a user interface. One is a hierarchical menu system rather than a large blob of icons. Another thing I want is for there to be a place where icons for running programs are displayed. As you can probably tell, I dislike GNOME shell because it’s completely done away with those two elements. I dislike Ubuntu’s Unity for the same reason. On the other hand, the GNOME developers also built in ways to allow GNOME shell to be changed and extended, which left the door open for all sorts of small modifications. Deepin’s made some even bigger modifications to GNOME shell, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

I installed the 64-bit version of Deepin on a computer with a quad-core AMD processor, 4GB of RAM, and an onboard NVIDIA 6150SE graphics chipset. The live CD started up using the “nouveau” video driver, and came up running Deepin’s customized version of GNOME shell. Although the desktop icons are in Chinese, everything else is in English.

Before running the installer, you’ll probably want to make a change to the command that runs it, unless you understand Chinese. If you don’t change the command, a customized version of the installer will come up, with dialogs written only in Chinese. To change the command, right-click on the “Install Linux Deepin” icon, then “Properties”, and change the command

ubiquity –automatic –desktop %k gtk_ui


ubiquity –desktop gtk_ui

and you’ll be able to select your language and control all the other aspects of installation.

The installer is Ubuntu’s regular installer, customized for Deepin. It looks quite polished and professional.

At the end of the installation process, the computer will automatically shut down and reboot, unless you cancel out of it. If this is not what you want to happen, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the end of the installation process.

Strangely, the installer installed the legacy NVIDIA 173.x driver on my computer. This was odd for two reasons. First, I’ve never seen Ubuntu itself, or an Ubuntu-based distribution, install an NVIDIA driver without asking. Second, well, it was simply the wrong version of the driver. Although it worked (good to know!), I uninstalled it and installed the current version of the NVIDIA driver.

Using Linux Deepin
Once installed, the default desktop icons are still in Chinese, but they’re the obvious “Computer,” “Home,” and “Trash” icons. A link to a user manual is provided on the desktop as well, but unfortunately for us English speakers, the manual is written in Chinese. (Would someone please translate it into English?) The “virtual keyboard” icon on the right-hand side of the top bar brings up an applet named Fcitx, the “Free Chinese Input Toy for X.”

Deepin’s customized GNOME 3 interface seems to be intended to emulate Windows 7. The launcher icons on the top bar have a blue glow around them when the associated program is running, and a have a box drawn around them when the associated program has the focus. If you hover the mouse over the icon of a running program, a live thumbnail of the window is shown. (If the application’s not running, a tooltip with the name of the program will be displayed.) If an application has more than one window open (for example, if Firefox has a download window open as well its main window open), thumbnails of both windows are shown, and you can bring one to the foreground by clicking on its thumbnail. You can close the application’s window by clicking the “X” in the thumbnail, as well.

Like the regular, unaltered version of GNOME shell, clicking the button at the top left of the screen, or moving the mouse to the very top left corner of the screen, will bring up a window picker and an application picker. But the dash is gone, and the “Windows” and “Applications” buttons, as well as the list of application categories, has been moved to the left-hand side of the screen.

One thing that I really like about Deepin’s customized interface is that you only have to click once to start an application. Once you’ve brought up the window picker by sliding the mouse to the upper left-hand corner of the screen (or clicking the Deepin logo), all you have to do is to slide the mouse over the “Applications” button, and then slide the mouse down over the category you want, and finally slide the mouse over to the application’s icon, and click on it. In my opinion, this is a vast improvement over GNOME shell’s regular interface, although it’d be even better if they switched the position of the “Windows” and “Applications” buttons.

The Software Center
Linux Depin has its own Sofware Center. As an old Debian user, I haven’t spent much time with Ubuntu’s software installer, because I usually use Synaptic. Deepin’s Software Center, however, is pretty nifty. It manages upgrades; has suggestions for new software, and has several themes from which you can choose. Among other things, it also has a checkbox you can tick that tells it to clean out the software cache (the equivalent of doing an “apt-get clean” command) after installing software.

One interesting trick that only became obvious after looking through the user manual is that you can press “Ctrl+Alt+A” from within the default user interface to take screenshots.

In Conclusion…
There are a few cosmetic glitches. For example, sometimes the tooltips on the top bar don’t go away even though you’re no longer hovering your mouse over the associated icon. The startup sound stopped playing once the distro was installed. The custom cursor went back to a default white cursor after the proprietary video driver was installed (something that I’ve noticed on stock Ubuntu as well). When you first log in, the desktop icons show under the top bar until you run a program (also something that I’ve noticed on other
distributions running GNOME shell). But these are just cosmetic issues. So far, I haven’t run across any serious bugs.

Personally, I think Linux Deepin has the potential to garner a following in the English-speaking world. But before it can do so, it probably needs some bilingual fans to take the time to set up a website and support forum in English, as well as to translate the manual.


Update, 1/14/12: There’s now an English website up, as well as a section of the Deepin forum dedicated to English speakers.

eco2geek, aka Andrew Heil, 1/8/12.

Posted January 11, 2012 by eco2geek in Linux distributions

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