Eee PC 701 as a Dedicated Gaming “Console” via Emulation

I took a few hours recently to set my Eee PC 701 2G Surf up as a dedicated emulator machine. I picked up a dirt-cheap 16GB Sandisk Cruzer USB stick for $9 and downloaded an ISO of Mandriva Linux 2011.0.

This thing is pretty sweet! It runs SNES, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Genesis, MAME, and Sega Master System emulators. Pretty much anything 2D it can handle easily.

Even better, I had a bunch of space left over on the USB stick for mp3s and oggs, so I can listen to some decent music while I’m driving in my car thanks to the audio input jack on my car stereo.

Develop Locally With Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP

If you’d like to develop PHP and MySQL web apps in Linux but you’re not sure how to get started then feel free to follow along with this blog post. For the most part, installation and configuration is simple and straightforward.

Though this article is directed toward users of Mandriva Linux (my Linux distribution of choice for a desktop / web-development PC), the same instructions can apply to many of the different Linux distributions including Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and Eeebuntu. For a huge list and up-to-date news of Linux distributions available to you, take a look at the Distrowatch news site.

The easiest way to install all of the software in the LAMP stack (Linux Apache MySQL and PHP) quickly is to do it using the command-line (also known as the console). Since many new users are uncomfortable with the command-line, feel free to do all of these installations graphically using the software installer from your respective distribution.

If you’d like to proceed using the graphical installer built into Mandriva Linux, use the “Install & Remove Software” icon located in the main menu.

To install apache, mysql, and php using the Mandriva command-line, follow these instructions:

  • Open up a terminal by clicking on the Mandriva star and clicking on Terminal
  • Type “su” and press enter (this will log you in as the administrator or “root” user)
  • Enter your root password
  • Type “urpmi apache php mysql phpmyadmin nano”
  • If asked which version of apache, select a stable version to install (likely the first choice)
  • If asked which version of php, select the apache module version (not CGI or CLI)
  • If asked for permission to install extra software that is required for proper operation of the LAMP stack, select “yes” and proceed

Once the software has been installed, you should be able to open up Firefox and navigate to http://localhost . This should bring up a screen that says “It works!”, meaning that apache has been properly installed.

For reference, Mandriva Linux puts your web files in the directory /var/www/html . Straight away you may not be able to access those folders with your regular user so feel free to change the permissions of the directory recursively by using the command

chown -R yourusername:yourusername /var/www/html

Note that this operation is definitely not secure if you plan on actually hosting your website on the live Internet using this computer, but for local development you should be okay. :) To learn more about file and directory permissions in Linux, take a look at the official documentation.

Before you are able to access your databases through phpmyadmin, you will need to set your MySQL root password using the following command (being sure to change NEWPASSWORD to a password of your choice):

 mysqladmin -u root password NEWPASSWORD

Using Firefox (or whatever browser you normally use) navigate to http://localhost/phpmyadmin . Log into MySQL with your “root” user and the password you just entered into the command-line. This should give you access to your MySQL databases. For more information on how to use phpmyadmin, take a look at the official website.

Let’s create a small Hello World PHP web application by navigating to our web directory and creating it. Use the following commands to achieve this:

cd /var/www/html
nano test.php

In the editor screen that appears, enter

<?php echo "Hello World!"; ?>

Press CTRL-X and save the file before quitting. You should now be able to navigate to http://localhost/test.php and see your hello world application :)

Hopefully this has given you enough information to get you up and running. Please feel free to post comments if you’ve run into problems and hopefully I or another person in the community will be able to help you out.

Have fun with PHP on Linux!

A Month With Mandriva

Well, it’s been just over a month since I made the switch to Linux from Windows. My distribution of choice for desktop PCs has always been the fantastic Mandriva Linux. Available for free with plenty of included software (Open Office suite, the Firefox web browser, Kopete messenger, Amarok media player, and much more), it’s always done the trick and looks wonderful doing so.

I have two physical hard drives in my PC. The first one is mounted ‘/’ for all my system files and programs. The second drive is my ‘/home’ directory, where all of my documents are kept. All of the system files are kept entirely separate from my documents.This sort of division is done even with one single hard drive automatically by Mandriva so that if I ever need to format or upgrade the operating system I don’t lose any of my pictures, movies, or music, ever.

Me playing Morrowind in Linux
Me playing Morrowind in Linux

Life without Windows is certainly possible. I’m living proof. And the stuff I use my computer for is likely more intense than your average Joe since I’m a web developer. All of the required software that I use on a daily basis is available and runs great in Linux.

All of my games worked out-of-the-box using the Windows games and software emulator* (Read more about the Wine project). I’ve included a screenshot of me playing Morrowind. It runs great. My girlfriend and I played through Max Payne on this PC, as well, and we’re a quarter of the way through the Quest for Glory 2 remake (which is a lot of fun, by the way) on my other Mandriva Linux PC (our media center).

If you’re considering running Linux or if you’ve heard about it and are curious, give Mandriva Linux One a try. It’s pretty simple: You download it and burn it onto a blank CDR. Reboot with the disc in the drive and you can use it right off the disc without actually installing it. If you like it, go ahead and install it. Otherwise, just take the disc out and reboot — nothing has been changed on your computer.

For more information about Linux, try reading some of these sites:

* I realize Wine is technically not an emulator, but when explaining what it does it helps to use that term.

Well, I’ve officially made the switch to Mandriva Linux.

After years of dual-booting between Windows XP and Mandriva, I made the decision to bring the hammer down and get rid of the former. My original intention was to make the switch when I bought a new PC but my hand was forced as I came home from work on Friday to a locked-up Windows XP desktop that never came back.

Fear not: no data was lost as Mandriva can read Windows drives. I backed up my things onto my /home partition and waved goodbye.

It’s been a roller-coaster past with Windows XP: When it first came out, I irrationally hated it. Once I got used to it, I found it actually worked pretty well. Mostly. Sure, it lacked some of the neat features Mandriva had (rotating cube desktop, wallpaper playlists, etc.) and you never quite knew when the next time it would fail was, but it got the job done. Facing a crashed system and being forced to format was always a wonderful experience. Windows doesn’t have separate partitions for your personal files and system files, meaning that when you begin again, you lose everything. Hope you made a backup! Going through the hassle of calling a Microsoft person in India to promise them you only had one copy of Windows installed was always a treat, as well.

When Vista came out I was put off by even more Digital Restriction Management (DRM) but wanted to see how it performed nonetheless. I can honestly say after using it at work for the past year and a half that it will never come close to being installed on my machines. So, that leaves us the little engine that could: Mandriva.

It’s been just over 2 days since breaking up with Windows XP and I have to say, I don’t miss a thing.

Female Counterpart Now Uses Linux

After a frustrating stint with Windows Vista and seeing my enjoyment whilst using Linux, Amy (my girlfriend) has decided to take the plunge and install Mandriva. This is a small recount of what transpired during that introductory period.

I downloaded the release candidate for the new Mandriva 2009.0, burned it to a CD, and attempted to boot up. Unfortunately, there appeared to be several bugs remaining in this distro: After showing the initial Mandriva loading screen, it went straight to a flickering cursor in the top-left of the screen. Oh well, it is a release candidate.

“A ha!”, I thought, “I know what to do.” I had this same problem with the last version on my laptop. I can install it with the ACPI option turned off. (It was at this point that I realized that this was an example of what separates a Linux user from the rest of the world — The rest of the world would throw the disc in the trash and NEVER come back. Me? I was tinkering, trying to get it to work and enjoying every minute.)

acpi=off? No. Hmm.

What?
What?

Sensing that my girlfriend was slightly disappointed, I decided to go to plan B and download last season’s stable release — 2008.1. In my opinion, this is the best release of Mandriva Linux to-date.

I downloaded the ISO for Mandriva Linux 2008.1, burned it, and awaited the dreaded blinking cursor yet again. Success! The blinking cursor was nowhere to be found. It went straight into KDE without a hiccup. I walked her through installing it to her hard disc using the “Live Install” icon on the desktop and everything went swell from then on.

I have installed Linux quite a few times over the years on computers of friends and family. It never seems to last past the 15 minute “oh, that’s neat…” phase. I am happy to announce that Amy, two days later, is still using Linux and is very happily zooming around in KDE thanks to Compiz Fusion and all the hard work that has gone into making Mandriva Linux. Thanks, guys and gals!

Amy does all of her web browsing and chatting using Firefox 3 and Kopete. We decided to leave Vista installed so she could dual-boot into Windows and play Team Fortress 2.  As I’ve blogged before, games seem to be the factor holding mainstream Linux adoption back.

I will continue to post articles about this experiment with Linux as time goes on.  In the mean-time: If you haven’t yet converted your girlfriend to Linux, what are you waiting for?

Mandriva 2009.0 Is Almost Here!

The newest version of Mandriva is almost here! Released just a few days ago, the second release candidate of Mandriva includes the long awaited switch to KDE4. A release candidate, for those not aware, is the versions of Mandriva (and other software) that are considered nearest to the final cut. Once these final few versions pass with a minimum of bug reports, the software is released in full.

If you’re interested in trying out Mandriva Linux, you should try last season’s stable 2008.1 version. If you’re a current Mandriva user and want to see the latest and greatest (at the risk of system stability), check out 2009.0 RC2.

For more information, check out the DistroWatch page for Mandriva Linux.

Render Your Sites In IE6 With Free Software

If you’re a web developer like me or even a web designer, there comes a time in the development of your site when you need to verify that everything works with Internet Explorer. For small sites or minor tweaks this can wait until the end of the day without much worry. On larger sites, it’s likely you’ll be checking for IE 6 or IE 7 compatibility several times throughout the project.

For those of us who have moved to greener pastures by switching to Linux or for others who have updated their system to Internet Explorer 7, several options exist to view your website in everyone’s favorite web browser: Internet Explorer 6.

In order of success I’ve had with this software, some of the options for Mandriva Linux users are listed below:

#1 – Wine, Wine-Doors, and Internet Explorer 6.

Wine-Doors is a graphical, easy-to-use point and click program that uses Wine. For those unfamiliar with Wine, it is a Windows “compatibility layer” that, in layman’s terms, allows you to run Windows programs like Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office in Linux.

Installing Wine and Wine-Doors in Mandriva Linux is a breeze. Simply open up the software installer in type Wine in the search box. Install both Wine and Wine-Doors.

Once they are installed, open Wine-Doors and click on Internet Explorer 6 to install it. Wine-Doors will take care of everything, including downloading Windows fonts and the Internet Explorer program itself.

Internet Explorer 6 works great for me this way. IE loads quick and displays websites just as it would if it were running on a Windows computer. With some of the other options listed below, the fonts and performance were not as smooth.

#2 – IE NetRenderer – Web-Based Browser Screenshot

This is a unique solution that is truly cross-platform. It’s not perfect – sometimes divs, table widths, or images are off by a few pixels, but for the most part this is a really reliable and quick solution.  The process is simple: You go to their website, paste your website’s address in a form and it will refresh with a screenshot of what your website looks like in IE5.5, IE6, IE7, and IE8 beta (still in beta as of this article’s creation).

Similar, but not free service: Browsershots. Well… It’s free, but you get put into a queue and it could take hours to get your screenshot. Unless you pay. :)

#3 – IEs4Linux

This is another project that is based off of Wine and installs easily on Mandriva Linux as well. You are able to download and extract the installer program from their homepage, but some of the fonts were off for me and it only loaded once. Once I closed the browser it never re-opened.

Also, the program is able to install IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 though I personally was only able to get IE6 installed. All other options resulted in an error. Your mileage may vary.