How to Downgrade Software/Package in Linux – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


Sometimes Linux packages break. A new update goes through, yet it wasn’t tested well. Maybe you’re running a bleeding edge distribution or a strange custom configuration. You could even just want to keep an older version of a package around for testing or to hold back a change.

There are plenty of reasons that you’d want to roll your Linux install back to an earlier version of a package. The process is dependent on your distribution’s package manager, but it should be possible in most cases.

Show Apt Cache

Apt is one of the most beloved package managers in the Linux world, but in this case it’s easily one of the most awkward and cumbersome options to work with. Apt doesn’t have any set mechanisms to roll back packages, and it doesn’t have a caching system that you can really count on in these situations. That said, you can usually find a way to install an older version of a package.

That will spit out a whole lot of info that you probably don’t need, but it will also show you previously installed versions of the package or additional versions.

Install Previous Package Version

Once you have a package selected, install it by specifying the version.

There’s another option here. If you can find an older version of a package that you want, you can download it separately and install it with dpkg (more on dpkg here). You can even find them from an older release of your distribution. For example, if you’re running Ubuntu Bionic, you can install a package from Xenial. In that case you can do something like the following:

Fedora’s DNF package manager has a couple of very useful mechanisms built in that allow you to install a previous version of a package or roll back past any change or upgrade.

List Available Versions Fedora

First, and probably most simply, you can install a previous version of a package from DNF’s repositories. Begin by listing all available options.

DNF will present you with all versions of the package in your enabled repositories. Pick the one you want, and install it by specifying the version number to DNF.

DNF will install the version of the package that you specified over the existing version.

List DNF History Fedora

As mentioned earlier, DNF keeps a complete history with snapshots. You can use that history to revert your system to an earlier state. Begin by listing DNF’s history.

It should be easy to find the point you want to return to, but you can easily get information on a DNF transaction with its ID number.

When you’re sure you have the right one, undo the transaction.

DNF will reverse that transaction, returning your system to the prior state.

On OpenSUSE you can manage this either graphically with YaST or via the command line with Zypper. This guide will cover Zypper, since it’s both the most direct and the most universal.

To start, search through your Zypper history with grep.

Once you’ve found the version that you want to revert to, install it.

Rolling back packages to an earlier version on Arch Linux is very simple, providing you don’t clear Pacman’s cache too frequently. Pacman, Arch’s package manager, stores every package that you install in a designated cache folder.

As with most things in Arch, this is designed for simplicity. The Arch developers understand that bugs are bound to slip through occasionally in a distribution as fast-paced as Arch, so they’ve made the rollback process as uncomplicated as possible.

Check which versions are available by listing the contents of “/var/cache/pacman/pkg/.” You’ll have an easier time if you search with grep.

Once you’ve located it, install it with Pacman.

Pacman will automatically install the older version over the current package.

That’s all you need to do. Follow the process that fits your distribution, and you’ll be able to return your system to a previous, and hopefully less problematic, version of a package. You should also keep in mind that these methods all go against the regular flow of your distribution, so they may not always work. They’re a great first step, and something you should always try, tough.





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Why MX Linux Is the Windows Alternative You’ve Been Waiting For

Why MX Linux Is the Windows Alternative You’ve Been Waiting For


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If you’re looking for a Windows alternative but have shied away from Linux, MX Linux may be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Linux distributions have always held promise for Windows users to migrate away from an expensive OS. Even Windows 10 has enough quirks and issues that a truly robust and functional Linux alternative could easily entice longtime Windows users to switch.

Let’s take a closer look at MX Linux from the perspective of a longtime Windows user.

Installing MX Linux

MX Linux comes in 32-bit and 64-bit options, so even if you’re looking at installing it on an older machine, you won’t have any problems.

This test installation was done on a 2005 Dell Optiplex GX620.

If you’re unfamiliar with the process of installing a Linux distro, just download the MX Linux ISO and follow our guide for creating a bootable ISO USB or disk


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. Installing the USB ISO to complete installation took less than 15 minutes.

The installation options chosen for our testing included:

  • Selecting the full, single-partition installation on a 32-bit machine
  • Installing GRUB bootloader for MX Linux and Windows on the master boot record (MBR)
  • Chosing option to install Samba server for MS networking
  • Enabling Autologin and Save live desktop changes

The MX Linux Bootup Experience

The boot process after initial setup should be quick. On our machine, it took less than 30 seconds. This is roughly a quarter of the time it took for the previous Windows 7 installation that was running on this same machine.

Take advantage of the initial Welcome window that pops up upon initial boot. It includes a Users Manual that will walk you through how to run Windows applications inside a wrapper or any compatibility layer like Wine.

mx linux welcome screen

If you click Tools on the Welcome menu, you’ll see a window that looks not unlike the Windows Control Panel.

mx linux tools

The first thing I did was install Wine so that I could run any Windows apps that I needed. This also confirmed to me that the internet connection worked.

The Windows Experience on MX Linux

When the OS first boots, things may not look quite right. Don’t worry, with just a few tweaks things will be looking very familiar.

Setting Up the Desktop

Just like in Windows, you can change the desktop background settings by right clicking on the desktop.

mx linux desktop settings

If you’re accustomed to Windows, a lot of this will look familiar. Of course, much will also look unusual. (The extras are features you don’t normally have available in Windows.)

For now, click Desktop Settings.

mx linux desktop background

Just like in Windows, you can adjust the appearance of your desktop and menu system using these settings. Pretty straightforward.

Setting Up the Taskbar

By default, the taskbar (known here as the “Panel”) is set along the left, vertical side of the screen.

You can quickly change this by right clicking on the taskbar and selecting Panel > Panel Preferences.

mx linux taskbar menu

Here, you can change whether the taskbar is vertical or horizontal by changing the Mode selection.

If you want to change the location of the taskbar, make sure to deselect Lock panel.

taskbar adjustments

Once it’s unlocked, you can grab and move the taskbar to the edge of the screen you prefer. I’m a bit old school when it comes to the Windows taskbar so I moved it back to the bottom.

The arrangement of taskbar items by default is also the reverse of Windows, with the “Start” menu on the right and the time on the left. You can change this by right clicking each icon and selecting Move.

move taskbar items

Then just drag it to the location where you want the taskbar to go.

Using Your Brand New Linux OS

Once you’re all set up and things are looking about as close to a Windows desktop as you can get, it’s time to start exploring.

When you click on the Start menu you’ll notice that it looks a bit like an advanced version of how the Windows 7 start menu used to look.

mx linux start menu

Applications are easy to find, grouped into important categories like Favorites, Recently Used, Look out, too, for the Settings or System options, as you’ll need these for configuring things.

When you click on Settings and scroll, you’ll see options for your network cards, Bluetooth connections, new hard disks, or any other hardware you’d like to set up or configure.

mx linux settings menu

If the complexity of having to run all sorts of “sudo” commands


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to do anything useful has been keeping you away from trying Linux, you don’t have to worry about that here.

What’s also wonderful about using MX Linux as a Windows user, is that there’s almost no learning curve.

If you’ve ever tried different Linux distros over the years, then you know that often the window controls are slightly different. That’s really irritating when you’ve adapted for years to the way Microsoft sets up windows controls.

mx linux windows controls

MX Linux’s designers have made the effort to mimic the window controls familiar from Windows. Better still, the native File Manager itself is configured to look almost exactly like you’re used to seeing in Windows.

In the left navigation menu you’ve got the root file system, and below it your home (what you might consider your User directory in Windows), as well as the Trash bin and the network browser.

Your Home directory is also configured as you’d expect in Windows, with the Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music folders.

One slight difference to get used to is the single-click opening of folders, but that’s an easy adjustment to make.

Digging Deeper Into MX Linux

Once you’ve adjusted to this new (but familiar) environment, you’re ready to start digging in.

You’re going to be surprised at the power that’s available at your fingertips, without spending a dime or subscribing to any monthly service plans.

It’s time to install the suite of software you’d like to use on your new OS. Click the Start menu, and search for MX Package Installer.

mx linux package installer

Scroll down through the MX Package Installer and expand each folder to search for applications you’re used to using.

You’ll find lots of categories that include a long list of applications that’ll look very familiar to you.

mx installer

As a starter package, I recommend installing the applications you’re used to using on Windows. This will help make your new OS as familiar and feature-filled as possible.

  • Audacity: Audio editing
  • Chrome or Firefox: Web browsing
  • Filezilla: FTP client
  • GIMP Full: Advanced image editing
  • Kodi or Plex: Media server
  • Skype: Video messaging
  • KeepassX: Password manager
  • Dropbox: File sync for your Dropbox account
  • Adobe Reader: Reading PDF files
  • HP Printing: Managing printing to HP printers
  • Shutter: Taking screenshots

By default, MX Linux comes with LibreOffice preinstalled, so you don’t have to worry about installing any Office apps. You also get FeatherPad as a great Notepad replacement


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.

Additionally, if you like having a stylish dock, make sure to review our guide of the most powerful Linux docks


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to install.

Enjoy Your “New” PC With MX Linux

There is nothing quite like breathing new life into a desktop or laptop that’s been sitting in the closet or basement, collecting dust.

Linux has always had the potential to do this. But MX Linux takes it a step further and brings a brand new OS about as close to a Windows environment as you could ask for, at zero cost.

complete mx linux desktop

In fact, if you’re looking at buying a new computer, you could save a small fortune by buying one without any OS installed. Simply install MX Linux to get a lightning-fast computer without the learning curve of taking on an entirely new OS.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try out a few others from our list of the best Linux distros of 2018


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. I guarantee that you’ll be right back here, downloading your own ISO of MX Linux.


What Is a Linux Beta Release and Should You Try One?



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Three Critical Resources You Should Use to Harden Your Linux Server – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


If you have ever maintained a Linux server with ports accessible to the Internet, you have no doubt had attacks on your server. With so many tools to scan servers, as well as insecure programs and vulnerabilities, no server administrator can take the risk of being complacent. Routine security checks and maintenance are essential to server safety.

There are numerous blogs, books, and websites that offer guidance on server security as well as resources known for their extensiveness and effectiveness. Though these are robust and detailed, take care to not apply these guidelines blindly, ensure you have a backup, and assert that you have a plan for rollback.

The following list are some of the best resources you should refer to to harden the security of your Linux server.

CIS benchmarks provide the best practice configuration guidelines utilized in various areas including academia and government. They contain extensive guidelines across most every operating system and are highly detailed with best-practice security configuration guides. The benchmarks are available for free, but do take note that you need to ensure that you understand what you are applying and have a safe plan for rolling back, if needed.

hardening-stig-viewer

The Security Technical Implementation Guides, also known as STIGs, are guidelines that are utilized by the department of defense and other government institutions. Similar to the CIS benchmarks, STIGs provide guidelines for security across multiple platforms and systems. STIGs can be easily applied to desktop computers, as the higher severity level entries should usually be applied to almost all systems. STIGs are available for free.

Lynis is an auditing tool available for Linux, macOS, and Unix servers.

To use it on your Linux server, you will need to install the Lynis package.

hardening-install-lynis

In Ubuntu, use the following command:

From there, run the following command to audit your system:

hardening-lynis-audit

This will run a system-wide security audit which will let you know of items that you may want to fix in order to harden your server. Once completed, your results will be saved to the file “/var/log/lynis.log.”

One of the benefits using Lynis is that it will check against various benchmarks, including CIS. There are also a number of plugins available that will allow you to add checks that are not included by default.

Another strength of Lynis is the ability to monitor remote servers.

The benefit to this is that you can monitor systems you have access to, store the information to a log, and notify those who need to know.

Ultimately, you may want to create a cron job that will run this script on a regular basis and store the results in a manner that is best for you to review. If this is done, it is suggested that you run the script and enable it to show warnings only:

In general, apply guidelines liberally, but sensibly. Evaluate each aspect to your needs and those who utilize your servers. Finally, be sure to document what has been completed, how to duplicate what was done, and how to review the anticipated remedy. Always stay up to date with common standards and keep notified of emerging exploits.

Applying all of the guidelines can help in protecting your system, but with new programs, users, updates, and configurations, server hardening is an ongoing job. Never let your guard down, but stay confident in the fact that you are protecting your server against most known threats. You are, in essence, planning to succeed.





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How to Fix Ubuntu Update Errors – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


For all its benefits, occasionally Ubuntu can throw some errors when updating the system that can confuse and even worry a new user. I recall the first time I had “broken packages” with a lack of experience – I ended up nuking the OS and reinstalling, vowing never to use the command line again. The reality is far less dramatic, especially now that Ubuntu has matured from the days of 8.04 when I first installed it.

What follows are common error messages and how to fix them with minimal fuss.

As common as this sounds, Ubuntu will unfortunately produce this error generically, meaning it gives little information about the problem, should there not be an Internet issue.  In order to diagnose this, return to the Terminal and type:

A long series of text will scroll across the screen, but within this will be the following line or similar:

In order to fix this, you can enter this into the Terminal:

This will remove all the cached packages and force the system to re-download them again.

This error is more straightforward and usually due to a PPA that you have added which is no longer available or simply not responding.

failed-ubuntu-min

If this a PPA issue, then simply identify which of the PPAs is failing and remove it from sources. Do this as above by entering:

This is another straightforward package error. Simply go to the sources and change the source to the Main Server.

ubuntu-failed-pack-min

ubuntu-sources-min

Changing this means that future downloads might be slightly slower, due to the main server being busier than a local one, but it should be more stable and have a longer up-time than local servers which can be occasionally patchy.

When running an update within the Terminal, users can be presented with the following error:

Run this command to fix the problem:

When another package is using apt, then this error will appear. To explain, perhaps you are installing a .deb package like Google Chrome and then decide to use the Terminal to install something else, like Chromium or Firefox, at the same time.

Usually you can wait for the .deb package to finish installing and simply close the Software Center or gdebi if you use this. However, if the problem continues, you can resolve it by entering the following within the Terminal:

If this should fail, you can kill the process via:

This isn’t really an error as such, just a small matter of configuration. It used to happen a lot with Intel Graphics Drivers when adding the PPA. Trying to update via the Terminal will give:

The solution is to get the public key in the system. Take the key from the message above and enter the following:

Inevitably, this will change based on what you are trying to verify and trying to import, so use the above as a guide.

Hopefully, this will resolve a lot of errors that users experience and will help avoid dramatic re-installations. How do you solve errors within Ubuntu? Let us know in the comments section, especially if you have other methods.





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Using Rclone to Sync to Multiple Cloud Storage Providers in Linux – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


Copying data between servers is the backbone of any System Admin job. Data has to be correct without any errors and accessible to those who needed it. In the distant past, admins could use Rsync to copy data between servers via the Terminal, but with the advent of Cloud computing and storage, now data can be spread over several services and used by hundreds of individuals. This is where Rclone comes into play.

Rclone is Rsync for multiple cloud based storage. It is a Terminal-based utility that syncs folders and files not only to the local filesystem, but also to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and Amazon, among others.

Rclone is available as source from the site or within most repositories of major Linux distributions. As I use Ubuntu, it was just a case of installing it via the Terminal:

terminal-min

Once installed, users need to make some configuration changes. Enter the following:

You will be presented with the following screen:

rclonesetup-min

The terminology is a little ambiguous, but for this we want a new connection, so we choose ‘n.’ The terminal will move along and ask you to select the storage provider type that you want to use. In this case, Google Drive.

storage-min

Rclone will then ask if you want an auto setup. I selected “yes,” and it gave me a link to open. This will lead you to your provider login, so that you can authorize Rclone to use the service.

googleverify-min

The Terminal will then report success and ask if you want to continue  and provide access token details, which I obviously won’t screenshot. One final thing to do is to encrypt your connection and password. This is generally a good idea, as passing the information in plain text is not advised.

encryption-min

With the encryption set, you can type the following to list your cloud files. Note that you need to use the name of the storage you selected, so in my case this was “Google,” but you may have called it something else. I would advise sticking to the company or brand name, especially if you have several cloud storage accounts.

This will pull every file that you have, which for some users will be a huge amount, so it is better to search by Directory using:

Now you can copy files to the cloud storage by entering the following commands from the Terminal:

In the above example I wanted to copy the screenshots for this tutorial into the a folder called “Toshiba” within my Google Drive. The screenshots below show the local files and then the files as they are within my cloud storage. Change the above command “path/to” for the directory you want to copy. For instance, in my case it was:

driveuploads-min

localuploads-min

Rclone can also delete files and directories and can be found within the online documentation.

Rclone provides a quick and relatively safe way for users to back up essential files from the Terminal. Whether or not it still has a place within the Linux toolset can be argued. Personally, I find it useful, but less experienced users may struggle with the setup and GUI-less environment. What is your favourite method of backing up? Do you use Rclone, or do you prefer more conventional methods? Let us know in the comments section.





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Turn ON “Night Light” on Ubuntu 17.10 – AvoidErrors

Turn ON “Night Light” on Ubuntu 17.10 - AvoidErrors


In Ubuntu 17.10 there is a cool function of adapting to the dark time of the day, which will help you to fall asleep more easily. In this article, we will tell you how to enable “Night Light” in Ubuntu 17.10, and also explain what kind of scientific idea is behind this addition to the system.

The “Night Light” feature is starting to make the screen warmer after the sunset, by reducing the blue emission. A variety of scientific studies show that the presence of a blue light in the evening does not allow a person to fall asleep quickly, because it affects the rhythms that control the internal clock of the body.

The “Night Light” is a system function, so you do not need to install any 3rd party applications.

The “Night Light” feature will automatically change the amount of blue light allocated by your monitor or laptop display, and all this, depending on the location or time of day.

You will need Ubuntu 17.10 (or higher) with the GNOME desktop environment. The function will be on Wayland as well as Xorg sessions, and will also affect several monitors at once.

To Turn On the “Night Light” feature on Ubuntu

1. Go to “Settings

2. Then “Devices”, click on “Display

3. Switch the “Night Light” toggle to “On

Here you can set up your own schedule or set the “Night Light” to turn on automatically from sunset to sunrise.

The function automatically takes effect at sunset, slowly warming up your screen. It is not tied to your main monitor it applies to any connected screens. When the “Night Light” function is on, you will see a crescent moon in the “Status Menu”.

The “Night Light” can be temporarily or completely disabled through the menu settings in the “Status Menu”.



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How to Fix Windows MBR from Ubuntu – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


If you have tried to dual boot your Windows system with Linux, then you have probably encountered some changes that may not be welcome. When installing Linux in this environment, the GRUB bootloader will overwrite the Windows bootloader within the Master Boot Record (MBR).

This is also true in the reverse: If you installed Linux first and then decide to install Windows, the Windows bootloader will overwrite GRUB, and you will find there is no way to boot into your Linux Desktop. Or perhaps you have decided Linux is not for you and want to remove it entirely, leaving just Windows.

Any of these scenarios can be problematic for the new user, but thankfully with a little patience and care, there are ways to restore the bootloader, and in the process, repair the MBR.

Note: As an additional scenario that will affect a lot of users, it appears the Windows 10 Anniversary Update overwrites the bootloader as a matter of course.

The first step will be to download and create your Linux live CD or USB. Ubuntu is by far the easiest and most accessible distribution to use, although most Linux distributions can be used for this. Using another computer, browse to the Ubuntu website and download the copy that is right for your architecture. If in doubt, grab the 32-bit version, as this will boot on any machine.

ubuntu-desktop-download

Follow this guide to create a Linux live USB on Windows.

With your live media created, the next step is to boot your machine into Ubuntu via the BIOS and select, “Try Ubuntu without installing” from the menu. If this fails, ensure that secure boot is DISABLED in BIOS, or your system will never boot into the GRUB loader to allow a Linux selection.

Once the desktop has launched, you will need to open the Terminal which can be found within the Applications menu.

ubuntu-terminal-select

Note: at this point, be aware you are dealing with your hard disk directly, and read through the guide fully before making any changes, otherwise your entire system may become unstable or corrupted.

By far the easiest way to repair the MBR is by using a small utility called “boot-repair” as opposed to working directly in the Terminal.

First, you’ll need to add the repository. Type:

Once it has installed, find the application within your Applications menu and click to start.

ubuntu-boot-repair

Once the utility starts, select the repair type. For most people this will be the recommended repair.

ubuntu-boot-select

When the utility finishes, you should be able to boot your system and select either Windows or Linux from the GRUB menu. Running the utility will also let you change or investigate some of the other options above if you require a more complex boot repair. Clicking “Restore MBR” will enable you to use the MBR tab.

ubuntu-boot-repair-2

If you get stuck, Ubuntu has a guide on their website.

This is slightly more advanced and requires you to work with the Terminal. If you are not confident, then please stick to the first method.

Open a terminal as before and type:

Once it has finished, type the following, remembering to change the drive name “sda” as appropriate:

Alternatively, you can restore the MBR by typing:

Boot into the live CD or USB, and within the Terminal type:

where “/dev/sda” is your drive name. This should fix your MBR.

If you are dual-booting Windows and Linux, it is very easy to overwrite the MBR. The above steps should help you restore your MBR. Hopefully you now have a working bootable Windows system.



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How to Use The Solarized Color Scheme to Prevent Eyes Strain – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


When you’re reading a book outside, a shady spot can offer respite from the sun’s bright rays on your book’s pages. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring the effects of a shady environment to your computer screen, saving your eyes from the harshness of black-on-white backlit text? Solarized can make that wish a reality.

Solarized, a color scheme developed by Ethan Schoonover, transforms your Linux terminals and applications with a simple 16-color palette you can apply in a matter of minutes. It offers a mix of low contrast, reduced brightness and readability to reduce eye strain and maximize ease of use.

In this article we will discuss the theory behind Schoonover’s creation and dig into the basics of how you can apply his color scheme to your favorite terminal.

Schoonover indicates in his website that he loves to read outside and in the shade. He tries to find a place under a tree where the shade offers a nice dimming effect from the harsh direct sunlight – a place where “shaded paper contrasts with … crisp text nicely.”

In that setting, the contrast between the text and its white background is lower than the contrast you would find on your computer monitor that displays black text on a white backdrop. The latter situation, unfortunately, can strain the eyes; it is also a situation many computer users find themselves in.

Solarized combats this with sixteen colors (eight base tones and eight accent colors) that replicate the subdued nature of a shady spot. The colors come from the CIELAB color space and are designed with fixed lightness relationships so that, when they’re grouped together, they don’t strain your eyes. Check out Schoonover’s website for a quick look at the color space.

Solarized website screenshot

The color swatches at the top of that screenshot match the colors used in the light- and dark-style terminals shown below them. You can apply either the light or dark color scheme to your own terminals with a simple copy/paste into an “.Xresources” file.

If you haven’t yet grabbed the necessary files from the Solarized website, do so now with git:

git clone git://github.com/altercation/solarized.git

or download the zip file here.

Unpack the zip file if necessary. Then enter the Solarized directory and its “xresources” subdirectory.

Now copy the entire text from the “./solarized” text file into your “$HOME/.Xresources” file.

Each line in the “.Xresources” file preceded by an exclamation point is commented out. You can see that the collection of light colors is commented out, so if you used Solarized now, your terminal would apply the dark theme. If you want to apply the light theme, uncomment the light colors and comment the dark colors so your text looks like the following image.

Solarized .Xresources

To apply the changes, reload your “.Xresources” file.

Open a new terminal to reveal the new color scheme.

This application of new colors will work well in many terminals, but Schoonover has also developed color swatches for specific applications.

In your base “solarized” directory, you can find specific installation instructions for terminal applications such as Vim, Emacs, and Mutt and graphical applications such as Photoshop and GIMP. The “README.md” text file in each directory explains these instructions.

Some terminals like the Xfce terminal also rely on config files other than “.Xresources,” so you may find your chosen terminal listed in its own directory. If our .Xresources instructions listed above did not work, you may need to follow a README.

Note: In Photoshop and GIMP you are installing a color palette, not forcing the GUI elements of the program to use the Solarized color scheme. Schoonover marks these variations of use in the name of each subdirectory, including “vim-colors-solarized” and “adobe-swatches-solarized.” The words “colors” and “swatches” in those names respectively denote whether you will change the look of an application or will offer the application a selection of colors to use in its operation.

The major difference between the “.Xresources” installation covered here and these additional installation procedures is that you may be asked to edit unique configuration files. Instructions for Vim ask that you edit its “.vimrc” file, for instance. You may also have to restart the application to see any changes take effect.

Applying the Solarized color palette only takes a few minutes, but its effects can be dramatic. I began using it several years ago to decrease my headaches associated with eye strain. It helped so much that I continued using it every day.

I now recommend Solarized every chance I get for its practicality and attractiveness. It has made computer use a much more pleasant experience for me. I hope you also find it worthwhile.



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How to Use Netctl in Arch Linux to Set Up a Network Connection – Make Tech Easier

Make Tech Easier


Systemd has become a primary feature of many Linux distributions, including Arch Linux. It completes the boot process, starts and stops services, and even works closely alongside the netctl utility for connecting to the Internet.

Arch Linux developers created Netctl, as its man page states, to “control the state of the Systemd services for the network profile manager.” In short, they created Netctl to make it easy to use Systemd-like commands to enable and disable network profiles you create.

This article will show you how to use Netctl to create wired and wireless profiles and manipulate them to start manually or at boot.

If you’re using Arch Linux, Netctl should have been installed with the base group of utilities. If for any reason you don’t have it on Arch, install with the command:

For other systems, you can find the source code here.

One thing you’ll need to do before making your own network profiles is find out the names of your network devices. Use ip link to get what you need.

iplink command

This machine’s wired device shows up as “enp19s0.” Its wireless card shows up as “wlp18s0b1.” You will use similar values to edit Netctl’s example profiles to make them unique to your machine.

Speaking of examples, look what’s available in Netctl’s default samples directory, “/etc/netctl/examples.”

Netctl example profiles

This collection of text files gives you a basis for creating your own custom profiles. The title of each profile here applies to specific situations, including a DHCP-driven wired ethernet connection and a WPA-encrypted wireless connection — both of which you will see below.

First, take a look at the text of the sample “/etc/netctl/examples/ethernet-dhcp” file.

Netctl ethernet example

By default, many of the options in this file are commented out. You can explore them in depth on the Netctl profile man page with man 5 netctl.profile. For now, you should focus on the “Interface…” line.

You can make use of this profile by copying it to Netctl’s main directory.

1. Change the directories with the command:

2. Copy the example file to that directory:

cp ./examples/ethernet-dhcp ./custom-wired-profile

The filename “custom-wired-profile” can be anything you like; try to make it something easy to remember.

3. From there, all you need to do is edit “Interface …” to reflect the name of your network card you found earlier with ip link. In this case, the line should read “Interface=enp19s0.”

4. Now look at the contents of “/etc/netctl/examples/wireless-wpa.”

Netctl wireless profile

You will also need to copy the sample wireless profile to the base Netctl directory:

cp ./examples/ethernet-dhcp ./custom-wireless-profile

When you edit this file, you will again change “Interface …” to match your card name. For this article “Interface=wlp18s0b1” is appropriate.

You must also change the “ESSID=…” and “Key=…” lines to match the name and password of your wireless connection, respectively. Remember to keep your name and password inside the provided single quotes.

Now you’re ready to start a wired or wireless connection. In both cases, the syntax is the same:

netctl start <profile-name>

You will need to cd /etc/netctl/ into the base directory to access your saved profiles.

Netctl commands all look nearly identical as they follow the form netctl command [profile]. Netctl’s help page offers this overview of its commands.

Netctl commands

Any of the above commands that list “[PROFILE]” as part of their listing require a profile name, like “custom-wired-profile.” The others, such as netctl stop-all, do not require a profile name.

Systemd users should find these commands similar to their use of services. If a user was to enable the NTP daemon with Systemd, for instance, they would use the systemctl enable ntpd.service.

In that same way, Netctl users can enable their profiles to start at boot with netctl enable <profile-name>. You can just as easily disable a profile to stop it from starting at boot by using “disable” instead of “enable” in that same style command.

You now know enough to edit, start, stop, enable, and disable your custom network profiles.

If you edited your device name, network name, and password lines properly, Netctl should connect without any errors. Should something go wrong, however, you can always diagnose the problem with

netctl status <profile-name>

or



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How to Build a Cheap Android PC With Inexpensive Parts

How to Build a Cheap Android PC With Inexpensive Parts


Want a functioning Android PC? You can try installing Android on a computer or laptop, but consider yourself lucky if it works! Certain cheap parts, though, function without problems.

Here are some of the parts that you can use to build an Android PC.

Operating Systems

Before looking at the hardware, consider the operating systems on offer. You have a few options when it comes to running an Android computer.

  • Phoenix OS: The best installable version of Android—as of 2018—is Phoenix OS. The installation can be a little complicated. Read our Phoenix OS installation tutorial


    Create Your Own Android PC With Phoenix OS




    Create Your Own Android PC With Phoenix OS

    Could installing Android on your PC make you more efficient? It will certainly let you play mobile games. It’s easy to install Android on your PC with Phoenix OS, just follow these steps!
    Read More

    to save you time and effort
    .
  • Android-x86 Project: The Android-x86 Project can install Android on a PC. While it isn’t optimized for a desktop interface, it is relatively easy to install.
  • Android for ARM: Some Single Board Computers come with installable Android versions, such as the Raspberry Pi.
  • Chromium OS At present, Chromium OS (which is the installable version of Chrome OS) cannot run Android apps. However, Android support is pending.

The Best Parts for Building an Android PC

Because Android uses a lot of Linux drivers, some computer parts work with x86 versions of Android. Unfortunately, Android isn’t fully compatible, which is where the problems come from.

Of these parts, the most important are the motherboard and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card. The motherboard determines whether or not your build will start up and the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card determines whether your device will connect to the internet.

Single-Board Computers

build an android pc - Single-Board Computers

If you just want an all-in-one computer to run Android, look no further than a single-board computer (SBC). We’ve rounded up the best SBC units around, and almost all of them are capable of running Android.

On the downside, only a few of them seem to be able to run modern Android versions. Many don’t have better support than Android 4.4 (KitKat) for some reason. The exceptions to this rule include the following SBC models:

  • Raspberry Pi 3: While the Raspberry Pi 3 is by no means the best Android SBC on this list, it will receive the longest period of support and operating system updates. And with the latest incarnation out (at the same $35 price point), expect a long support cycle. (There are other operating systems you can install on a Raspberry Pi


    10 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi




    10 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi

    The hardware of the Raspberry Pi alone is only one side of the story: Today I explore 10 different Operating Systems you can install.
    Read More

    .)
  • Orange Pi Prime: The Orange Pi Prime is a compact board with 2GB RAM on board.
  • Banana Pi M3: This is the most powerful out of the SBCs listed here. However, it comes with a high price of over $100.
  • Rock64: The Rock64 would be the perfect SBC, except that it lacks integrated wireless. That means you would need to either use its Ethernet data connection or it would require a USB dongle.
  • Asus Tinkerboard: The Tinkerboard is a solid alternative to the Raspberry Pi 3. It has strong Android support and overall good specifications.

Motherboard

The most complicated component of your computer is its motherboard. It’s the only part that will single-handedly determine whether or not your build will boot with Phoenix OS installed. You can also test whether or not your existing computer will run Phoenix OS by simply burning a bootable USB drive with Phoenix OS and running it.

If it boots, then you can probably install Phoenix OS. Out of the components that I personally tested, motherboards using the Atom processor (specifically the Q1900 system-on-a-chip) offered the best compatibility with Phoenix OS.

Motherboards Tested Working (Some with Problems)

  • ASRock Q1900-ITX: The Q1900-ITX worked perfectly. I’ve tested its sleep function, screen saver, HDMI audio, and most of its ports—except the Parallel ports—with Phoenix OS.
  • ECS KBN-E1/2100 (with serious problems): Like most AMD embedded boards, the KBN-E1/2100’s HDMI audio didn’t work and it wouldn’t sleep or activate a screen saver. Otherwise, the board worked fine.
  • MSI AM1-ITX (with serious problems): Another AMD board, the AM1I’s HDMI audio didn’t work and it wouldn’t sleep or activate its screen saver. Otherwise, it worked fine.

Motherboards That Should Work Without Problems

  • ASRock Q1900B-ITX: The Q1900B-ITX doesn’t have anything crazy in it. It’s a standard Bay Trail motherboard and is otherwise almost identical to the motherboard that I successfully installed Android on. It’s actually even more simple and shouldn’t have any problems. It uses the same audio chipset as the Q1900, the Realtek ALC662.
  • ASRock Q1900M microATX: This motherboard is microATX, not mini-ITX. That means it requires a microATX case. Otherwise, it uses the same processor and audio chipset as the Q1900-ITX, meaning it should be fully compatible.
  • ASRock Q1800B-ITX: This motherboard (selling at Newegg for $55 as of February 2018) should work as it uses the same audio chipset (ALC662) and a slightly older, but similar, processor as the Q1900.
  • ASRock Q1900DC-ITX: This is the DC-version of the Q1900-ITX motherboard, which means it should work because it has the same audio chipset and processor. It also doesn’t require a power supply unit. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find at an acceptable price.
  • GIGABYTE GA-J1800N-D2H: This motherboard also uses the ALC662 chipset and a Bay Trail (not Braswell) processor. It should be compatible.

Motherboards That Might Work

  • ASRock J3455B-ITX: This motherboard uses an Apollo Lake processor, but is otherwise similar in specifications to the Q1900 series. That means it uses an Intel processor along with a Realtek chipset. However, it uses a slightly different Realtek chipset than the Q1900, so audio may be an issue.
  • ASUS PRIME J3355I-C: This motherboard has an Apollo Lake processor, which means it’s still current, but isn’t guaranteed compatible with Phoenix OS.

There are some general compatibility rules. Most newer Atom-based motherboards should work properly. I tested Phoenix OS on an ASRock Q1900-ITX motherboard. The Bay Trail processor and Realtek ALC662 audio chipset are known to work properly with Android. That means motherboards with a similar configuration should also work properly. The ALC792 and ALC892 chipsets may or may not work properly, which would necessitate using Bluetooth speakers.

The Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Combo Card

Older Intel Atom motherboards use PCIe, mSATA, or mini-PCIe ports for slotting in Wi-Fi cards. Laptops also include these cards, although sometimes changing them can be a huge hassle. Like many upgradeable computer parts, mini-PCIe wireless cards can have compatibility problems when used with Linux or Android (which is based on Linux).

I recommend trying to use whatever device you have on hand and—if that doesn’t work—buying a model with proven Linux support as an upgrade. If you’re building from scratch, you will want to buy an Intel wireless card. For its mainstream mini-PCIe cards, Bluetooth compatibility comes standard.

Of the models that I’ve tested, the best include Intel’s budget line of 802.11ac card. While the Intel 7260 series of Wi-Fi cards works perfectly in Phoenix OS, I recommend the Intel 3160 for its combination of rock-bottom pricing and decent performance.

build an android pc - wifi bluetooth combo board



Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 AC3160 3160 AC WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 Mini PCIe card 3160HMW USE FOR INTEL 3160AC Supports 2.4 and 5.8Ghz A/B/G/N & AC


Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 AC3160 3160 AC WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 Mini PCIe card 3160HMW USE FOR INTEL 3160AC Supports 2.4 and 5.8Ghz A/B/G/N & AC

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$13.99

The Intel 3160 is a 1×1 (two antennas, each capable of handling transmission and reception) version of the Intel 7260. It’s produced for budget laptops and, for the most part, works across almost all distributions of Linux. In my experience, it’s perfect for Android. Note, though, that the Intel 7260 works just as well with better performance. Both are very good options.

I’ve compared it to other wireless cards and to be honest, you won’t see much of a performance difference between a dual-band N card and the 3160. What you will notice, though, is that the 3160 works without any issues, including Bluetooth. Just make sure you have two SMA plugs and antennas. Otherwise, you may suffer from connectivity issues, particularly for Bluetooth.

You might wonder why Bluetooth is so important. A functioning Bluetooth card means that if your 3.5mm speakers don’t work, you can use a Bluetooth speaker. If your USB keyboard and mouse don’t work, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The point is, if you have a functioning Bluetooth card, you need to worry less about compatibility issues with other hardware.

Android PC Parts That Don’t Matter

The other parts don’t matter as far as operability and driver compatibility go. For the most part, I would recommend going with the smallest and cheapest components. The smaller and less power intensive your build, the more roles it can function in, such as carputer or set-top-box.

Computer Case

As far as tiny Mini-ITX computer cases go, the best options include two Wi-Fi SMA connector holes inside of the case. There are a few reasons why you need SMA connector holes in the case.

First, most budget motherboards with embedded processors do not include onboard Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. That necessitates drilling holes into the I/O shield in order to support the Wi-Fi plugs. Second, both Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combination cards require two separate antennae. A single antenna may experience wireless connectivity issues. At the very least, it will reduce connection distance and coherency.

There are just a few cases that I would recommend for an Android build, and they aren’t exactly amazing. They are generally good enough to support some uses.

  • M350: The M350 can store a single 2.5-inch drive along with a forward-mounted USB device. It’s overall very sturdy, a bit heavy, and enough for most people’s needs. On the downside, it only includes a single SMA connector port, which means you’ll have problems with Bluetooth if you are using a two-antenna wireless card.
  • Antec ISK110: The ISK110 is a pretty solid case, combining plastic and metal. It has a few shortcomings. While it can store two 2.5-inch drives, it lacks dedicated SMA holes, which forces you to use a dongle for wireless connectivity. It also includes an 80-watt integrated picoPSU—it’s the best deal out of the small Mini-ITX cases.
  • MX500: This is probably the best Mini-ITX case available. It supports two 2.5-inch drives and includes three SMA holes. I have never built on this system before, unfortunately, so I cannot say anything about its quality.

RAM

The least important component for an Android PC is the RAM. Some motherboards use a feature known as dual-channel RAM for better GPU performance. Unfortunately, almost all embedded motherboards do not support dual-channel memory.

So you can oftentimes get away with using just one stick of RAM. Either 2GB or 4GB works fine and the speed of the RAM largely doesn’t matter. At least, most users won’t notice a performance difference between fast and slow RAM.

The one thing to watch out (aside from RAM generation, like DDR3) for is Small Outline DIMM (SO-DIMM) versus dual in-line memory module (DIMM). Some smaller motherboards, like Mini-ITX, use SO-DIMM laptop RAM. Double check to see if your motherboard supports it.

Data Drive

Android is designed for solid state storage (what’s an SSD?


101 Guide To Solid State Drives




101 Guide To Solid State Drives

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have really taken the mid-range to high end computing world by storm. But what are they?
Read More

) and doesn’t take up much space on a storage drive when installed. On top of that, Android apps are generally pretty tiny.

Unless you’re creating an Android gaming computer, a 16GB SSD is more than enough for most users. However, if you already have a hard disc drive (HDD), feel free to use one. Just don’t expect snappy performance.

If you’re looking for a bargain-basement-priced drive, Adata’s SP600 64GB drive currently clocks in as an affordable entry-level SSD.



ADATA Premier SP600 64 GB 2.5″ SATA III 6 Gb/s Read up to 550MB/s Solid State Drive (ASP600S3-64GM-C)


ADATA Premier SP600 64 GB 2.5″ SATA III 6 Gb/s Read up to 550MB/s Solid State Drive (ASP600S3-64GM-C)

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$29.90

Power Supply and Adapter

I prefer using the cheapest possible power supply unit (PSU): a picoPSU. A picoPSU leverages a combination of low power consumption, efficiency, and low cost. If your build consumes 20W of power or less while active, you can use the cheapest class of picoPSU, which costs around $40 for both the adapter and the supply.

I recommend pairing an 80-watt picoPSU with a 60-watt adapter.



PicoPSU-80 + 60W Adapter ATX/Mini-ATX Silent PC Complete Power Kit Cyncronix Rating


PicoPSU-80 + 60W Adapter ATX/Mini-ATX Silent PC Complete Power Kit Cyncronix Rating

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$43.00

Sample Android PC Builds

If you do build an Android-specific computer, I recommend using the cheapest possible parts. Use as many used and pulled components as possible in order to reduce build costs. On top of that, keep in mind that you should always update the firmware (BIOS) of the motherboard. A lot of motherboards do not work with Linux until they receive the latest firmware update.

Sample Build: Super Cheap Modular Android PC

This build costs very little. However, you may want to buy a USB dongle for wireless connectivity because the M350 case has a special cage for it. If you do buy a dongle, you won’t need the Intel 7260 card or the SMA plug + antenna.

Sample Build: Single-Board Computer With a Case

An even cheaper build uses an SBC. Some SBC boards already include RAM, storage, and wireless. The overall price is well below that of an Android computer.



ASUS SBC Tinker board RK3288 SoC 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU, 600MHz Mali-T764 GPU, 2GB


ASUS SBC Tinker board RK3288 SoC 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU, 600MHz Mali-T764 GPU, 2GB

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$55.15

What Parts Should You Use for an Android PC?

Some possible build roles include carputer, Point of Sale head unit, emulator machine, and a high-end HTPC. These aren’t expensive computers. Use the cheapest possible parts you can find.

Try using parts you already own or can pull from working machines. If they don’t work, then consider buying parts with a reputation for functioning in your preferred version of Android. If you do not have parts already on hand, you are mostly better off with an SBC build.

Before actually building an Android computer, I highly recommend reading about how to save on buying PC parts


3 Simple Ways to Save Money When Building a New Computer




3 Simple Ways to Save Money When Building a New Computer

There are a few tips and tricks you should know to save even more money when building a PC.
Read More

.


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