Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Tale of Two CD's:

I haven't posted anything on the blog for months! Not because of a lack of interest, but because I have been so busy preparing for the release of Vinux 3.2 and rather surprisingly the release of Vinux 3.2.1 just a week or so afterwards. It has taken a lot of effort to adapt the Vinux Build Scripts to work with Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' and we have introduced a number of new packages and scripts. Vinux 3.2  was a cutting edge release featuring the latest versions of Orca and Speech-Dispatcher from the daily build repositories  available as CD and DVD in both 32 and 64 bit editions. The DVD version provided the same software as the CD but with the addition of libreoffice and some non-free multimedia codecs etc. The default desktop was Classic Gnome 2.x but Unity was also available from the GDM login screen if your video card supports 3D. This release included the Pico TTS voices for the first time in addition to Espeak, the Epiphany Internet Browser and new built-in keybindings to quickly organise multiple windows with x-tile. It also featured some new packages including Orca-Teacher and  Talking Clock. This version also played a system bell when the isolinux boot screen appeared allowing you to select different boot options including an experimental 'toram' mode. There was also a Vinux 3.2 PLUS edition which features lots of extra packages for partially sighted users. I  also managed to fit more text tools on the CD edition including: sox gpm screen, splitvt, figlet, cmatrix, txt2html, html2text, pdf2svg, pstotext, units mc, trash-cli, vrms, dict, sc, htop, linuxinfo, w3m, elinks-lite, urlview, finch, axel, calcurse and tdl. However, Vinux 3.2 had a few bugs including: Selecting the Cicero speech synth would crash Orca and you would have to run: orca -t to reset everything back to the way it was. The x-tile keybinding to 'quad tile' open windows was set to 'win+alt+v' by accident - to correct the user had  open the keyboard shortcuts manager and re-assign it to 'win+alt+q' - then the 'vertical tile' option would work as well (win+alt+v). The most serious issue was that Pulseaudio still crashed after boot on a small number of soundcards.
So because of these issues we have now released Vinux 3.2.1 - the main difference between this and the recently released Vinux 3.2 is that by default it boots with Pulseaudio running in 'user' mode rather than 'system' mode. This prevents pulseaudio from crashing at boot on a small number of sound cards, but it means that speakup is not available from the live CD or immediately after installation. However, there are now two simple commands for switching Pulseaudio from user to system mode in conjunction with a reboot of the machine. To switch to system mode and enable speakup, simply run: sudo pulsesystem - in a terminal and to switch back to user mode, simply run: sudo pulseuser - in a terminal. This new release also includes an accessible Zenity front end for Unetbootin which allows users to install Vinux to a USB pendrive with persistent storage. Users who have already installed Vinux 3.2 can upgrade to this version by simply running the following three commands in a terminal:

tar -zxvf upgrade_script.tar.gz

sudo ./

There are two new scripts included in Vinux 3.2.1, usbinstall and cdburn. These are accessible scripts for installing Vinux to a USB pendrive, and for burning a CD/DVD then checking the md5sum of the burnt CD/DVD. They are still prototype scripts with no error checking so I have not included them in the menus yet, they must be launched by pressing alt+f2 and then typing usbinstall or cdburn - then pressing enter.

USBinstall - Instructions.

1. After launching the usbinstall script a zenity file selection dialog will appear. Use this to select the ISO you want to install to the pen drive.

2. Next you will be asked to enter the name/path of the USB pen drive. this will usually be something like /dev/sdb or /dev/sdc - the default entry is /dev/sd - so all you have to do is type one letter 'b' or 'c; etc and press enter. However make sure you provide the correct letter as you could potentially wipe a partition or hard drive if you use for example /dev/sda. The easiest way to find the correct letter is to run 'df' in a terminal after inserting the pendrive - it will be the last one in the list.

3. Now you must enter the size of the persistent storage file in MB - the default value is 9999 which will just use all of the available space (up to 10GB) but you can use less if you want to.

4. Next you must decide how many seconds you want to set the notification for - this will pop up an alert when the build has (probably) finished. the default setting is 1200 (20 minutes) which is a safe setting - if you reduce this there is a chance that when the notification goes off the installation will not have finished. There is no way for us to detect when the installation is finished yet - so this is just a guess, most installations take between 10-15 minutes, so set it for longer if you want to be extra safe.

5. You then have to enter your password and then press enter for the process to start. Do not disconnect the pendrive or make any changes to it until the notification appears. When you are told the process has finished press enter to quit the program, and then remove the pendrive.

CDburn - instructions

1. When you launch the application a Zenity file selection dialog will appear, use this to select the ISO you want to burn. The application will then calculate the md5sum of the ISO file.

2. Next you have to enter the path to the cd/dvd burner, if you only have one optical drive/burner this will be /dev/cdrom (which is the default entry) otherwise you will have to add the appropriate number e.g. /dev/cdrom1 or /dev/cdrom2 etc. Make sure the blank disk is in the drive before you do this.

3. The CD/DVD will now be burned. when it is finished the draw will eject (in most cases) and you will be asked to reinsert the CD and click OK. make sure you close the draw and let the CD/DVD spin up before you click OK (although I have built in a 30 second delay).

4. The application will now calculate the md5sum of the burnt CD/DVD and tell you whether the burn was successful or a failure. When you click OK the CD/DVD will be ejected (in most cases). Close the draw and click OK to exit.