Linux

Nifty Linux Monitoring Tool “Netdata”

This week while supplementing my usual coffee intake with Dr Pepper’s Venom Black Mamba energy drink (not a sponsoring plug-I just like it) I’ve been test driving the new MX Linux 19-beta 1.

I installed it on a few low powered laptops, and wanted to get a good idea how it really was performing. So far, it’s been a very smooth experience, but the most interesting part of this endeavor has been using Netdata to monitor my machine in my browser. Usually I’ll use Htop, Glances, and Nmon along with built in Linux shell based tools to analyze and monitor my systems. I decided to give Netdata a spin, and I think I like it.

You’ll probably see this tool’s full potential more applicable to server builds, but I can also see this useful for a standalone machine.

The latest MX Beta I installed – It’s no secret I’m a MX fan.

Latest MX Beta-1 simplified the installation process using Apt

Netdata available options – I stuck with all the default options.

Advanced options

Follow netdata on Twitter @linuxnetdata or facebook for more detailed information and updates.

The web view is very cool. Everyone likes cool graphics. Netdata doesn’t disappoint.

You can view a lot of details and see what your system is doing from CPU usage, memory, processes, network health, system applications and much more.

Yes I still have a Windows 10 machine running the May 2019 release so naturally I have WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) installed to use Debian

Naturally I had to see if it would work on Windows 10 Linux WSL and it did!

This was from the Windows Browser – no need for a Debian GUI

The info page to view Netdata’s configuration on your system.

This was just a brief glance at what you can see with Netdata. You might want to check it out and see if it works for you. You also might want to keep an eye on the next version of MX Linux and future Windows 10 WSL developments. While you do that I think I’ll try a few more energy drinks this week.

Hold steady for now

Another week, another post, but not what I had planned. I’ve been spending more time working with the latest Windows 10 upgrade. Today I just shut it down and went back to MX. There’s nothing about the new version that I really need. It’s not a bad design, and I think it’s probably the best incarnation of Windows OS I’ve ever worked with, but I don’t really need it. It won’t be my daily driver, I tried, but I seemed to spend more time navigating around than I really needed. Having Ubuntu supported was useful, but I could see how things were starting to get a bit busy in that if I’m just working with the Linux shell – why do I need Windows?
It feels like carrying around a huge tool box full of tools when I probably won’t need any of them, or when all I really need is a Swiss Army knife.
Too much noise when I’m really trying to simplify how I work.
I would recommend the New May update to anyone who currently is still using Windows 7. It works. I like it a lot better than 7, but I also don’t recommend Linux to anyone who is already very productive with Windows.
I used to because this version of Windows 10 wasn’t available until this summer. Now it’s here and a lot of Windows OS users should be very happy. I’ll just keep one machine setup for Win 10, but go back to using Linux as a daily driver, and my Chromebook as an occasional lite travel alternative. What works for you may not work for me, and what works for me may not work for you.
I would suggest trying different operating systems out if you can and pick what works best for you. I’ll still use Windows when I need to, but I don’t always need to.
I’ve been following the news lately and “if” there is any economic slow down or recession, I think I’ll try to get more mileage out of my old laptops. I haven’t seen any reason to upgrade my current hardware, and really don’t foresee any compelling reason to on the horizon.
I still get a lot of use out of my budget buy Chromebook. I’m still hoping to get by for the most part with just the Chromebook, but I still find that I can do everything I need with MX Linux on an old Thinkpad. I also don’t feel the need to upgrade my phone just yet, but that too could change. I’d be more inclined to upgrade my phone than to buy a new laptop or even pick up a reasonably priced tablet. My phone is always with me, which at times can be annoying, but that has become my main computer. I just still happen to fall back to working with a laptop for some odd reason. Maybe it’s because I can see the screen a lot easier, and even though I can use a folding keyboard for the phone, the laptop remains what I’m more comfortable with. I try to get the most out of everything I purchase. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but such a challenge can also be fun. This next few months could be very interesting to see where the economy is heading. The market’s going up, the market’s going down – who knows?
It used to be that a new operating system from Microsoft resulted in the perceived notion that one had to upgrade their cpu, ram, storage, or just upgrade their computer completely.
I don’t think that’s a thing anymore. In fact the new Windows 10 has probably extended the life of many systems. That was something I relied on Linux for – to squeeze more useful life out of my laptop.
Throw in a Chromebook for most users, and you probably save even more expenses. There is however usually a new MacBook Pro lurking just around the corner for some, and that would be a nice machine to work with, but I think I’ll muddle through for a while with what I already have. It works, and that’s usually an important consideration.

Forward Thinking?

I had a whole blog post written about using WMIC.exe for anyone still stuck with supporting a Windows 7 OS machine.
It’s a handy little command-line tool for gathering information-about your system, but then I started thinking “this is so backward thinking!” Who still uses Windows 7 in 2019?
We should be “forward thinking”
and realize that nobody’s still using Windows 7 anymore.
Extended support even vaporizes next January for any stragglers out there. Yeah this was probably going to be a bad idea. You could play around with WMIC.exe on Windows 10, but why? I still can’t believe Windows 10 is Microsoft flagship name even though it will be 2020 in less than seven months.
Of course I’m just kidding, I know a lot of corporate staff is still lugging old tired Windows 7 laptops around.  Maybe your IT department is secretly working on the migration to Windows 10. I’m sure it will be less dramatic than the move from XP to 7. sure sure sure
Imagine if you could do all your work with only a Chromebook and web applications. Now that would be forward thinking. It sounds like a pretty simple solution for a lot of the modern work force. It also might be very cost effective in more ways than just hardware purchases. Support would be streamlined, security simplified, and other time and resource overhead scaled back. Wouldn’t this be handy in a time when many companies are looking at their bottom line and contemplating cutting operating costs?
I’m sure this wouldn’t work for everyone, but does everyone need all the licenses and expensive applications we’ve all been told repeatedly over the years that we must have? (No, not a chance.)
There’ll always be those who are stuck working with old tired software and hardware from a bygone era. Some may need a self contained system that won’t always have a network connection, some will always think they need an over abundance of software and hardware resources – even when they probably don’t. Some just want everything and use nothing. Some want nothing and need everything.
It’s hard to let go of your comfort zone, and yes, change can be daunting.
The fleet footed are already operating and producing content with smartphones and tablets. Sure a lot of those happen to be Apple products. Remember when everyone had to have a Blackberry to be constantly accessible and working all the time? How about a typewriter or fax machine. Don’t tell me your company still uses a fax! Emails are even getting long in the tooth. Does anyone even know where to find an actual pencil?
The future is here for some, but not for those who ignore the lessons of the past. Somehow there a few who muddle through for a while continuing to make the same bad decisions over and over.
Is this fear of change or just laziness.
You go into a meeting and are told “We are the future!” And then you look around the room and see everyone using Windows 7. (or the dreaded PowerPoint presentation with default templates) Surely this cant possibly be the future! Get out of there fast if you can before they start handing out printouts of the same exact PPP shown on the projector overview.
I know that often you can’t pick the tools you are given to work with. I’m not even advocating for Linux as I usually prefer, but I do know that everyone has been given ample notice to upgrade before support ends – therefore I would hope you wouldn’t have to wait until the last minute before trying to retrain users, retool hardware, or upgrade a plethora of software applications that may or may not work in their current integration with Windows 10. Keep in mind the transition from 32 to 64 bit architecture also can cause a negative impact on your workflow. Not all programs that may have worked on a 32bit Windows 7 system will run smooth on a newer laptop running a upgraded OS. I hope you have tested all your required applications on your new system builds before the actual roll out. If you haven’t done this yet, then look out!
How many users are running “Virtual XP” in their Windows 7 laptops. You probably should be aware of this. Yes believe it or not, there are still some 16 bit applications floating around. Hopefully you can weed those out and upgrade to newer software. Maybe you’ll discover it’s not only no longer a supported program, but it may no longer be required for any critical or less than critical dependencies. (Possibly no one really needs that software any longer)

If you do move to Linux – which I would prefer, make sure you can still do whatever it is you need to do with Linux applications or by using “Wine” to support some Windows applications.
As with typing “HELP” at the Command prompt in Windows to list available commands you can also run, at the Linux bash shell a command called “compgen”.
Type compgen -c to list all the commands you can run. You can see how much potential a basic LINUX system has. Maybe you should get familiar with some, if not most of the available commands.
Linux has some great applications available in most repositories that do much of – if not more of what you need to be productive in many business environments. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should migrate from Windows 7 to a Debian based Linux distribution, but there are possibilities here.
What I’m looking “Forward “ towards is having a basic business work solution that leverages Chromebooks or IPads and web based applications as a very simplified alternative to the old guard standard of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach. This is really just a procrastination technique that can cause bigger headaches down the road. 
The big question mark will be about security updates and any patches you may need for your system beyond the January 14th 2020 deadline. I’m no Windows 10 super fan, but it is better than Windows 7, and it will be supported beyond the Win 7 support expiration date. Windows 10 will support web based applications via a browser of your choice – so there is some flexibility on how you approach productivity and collaboration among multiple users. I still think it’s way more than most need. I’ll be interested to see how many people start simplifying their approach to productivity via a very streamlined laptop, tablet, and or smartphone setup as they not only “forward think”, but actually “Forward Do”

If you are “the company” or run a small nimble operation you’re probably already way ahead of all this. For sure !

Quiet Please

I like to have a nice quiet place to get some computer work or studying done where the distractions are minimal. Not everyone wants this, needs this, or has such a place This isn’t always the same “work/study space “ some might have in mind. Don’t get this confused with some place to play video games or work on you next music project. It could be at the library (if people still a actually go?)
On a train, in your car, at your kitchen table, you bedroom – whatever works for you.
I’m kind of partial to “workshop “ type setup. A place to fix things that aren’t broken, or break things that shouldn’t be fixed. A halfway decent work bench, some decent lighting, and a few handy tools make for a nice workshop even if it’s in a run down worn out Hockey shed in the swamp. It is what you make of it…..especially if you actually make most of it yourself.
It’s Spring, but Winter still has it’s clutches holding the north fast in swirling snow and ice. (How these tree frogs can be so active when it’s still kind of cold is a mystery to me)
So close to May and still snow in the air. Howling wind, driving rain, and powerful storms swirl across the land. The ground is soggy – mud is a common theme. Thus the swamp designation.
Deep within said inner sanctum the wind is but a faint howl in the distance (actually it’s the insulation that quiets the wind noise). Thunder claps muffled slightly as an old radio’s speakers crackle with each flash of lightning. This is Spring? It feels more like late October than mid April. At least the bitter cold is no longer a frosty issue. The temperature is cool and damp, reminisced of a scene from an Wild Western cowboy story setting.
(One where it rains a lot.)
The generator is prepped in case the power should fail, and the glow of the display monitors light the room.
The room is cold, but dry and pleasant, exactly what you would want for a small work shop. A hot cup of coffee only enhances atmosphere adding a certain pleasantness.
This will have to do as my fortress of solitude away from the noise of Fake News and political nonsense where one can still watch some playoff Hockey in peace.
Isn’t that what a workshop is really for ?
Sure I can putter around and work on a random project here and there, but come on – we’ve all learned to multitask. (Watch Hockey and listen to Baseball)
It’s good to have a small space to hunker down and really concentrate on getting some work done. Something productive like rearranging all my hockey sticks by curve and brand. Stacking pucks, or wondering why the hell I threw my old CCMs out – they were still good. The blades were a bit bent, but who noticed that?
With a few old Linux laptops you can watch the game, and review player stats – sort of a Hockey command center. It’s all good until the power goes out, or the Internet connection fails.
All your tech, now virtually useless unless you decide to drain your battery power and operate in crisis mode. You know you must remain calm.
The power will come back on.
The old radio still works (it’s really just used for local weather updates)
You could start up the generator, but wouldn’t that noise drown out the game. Plus that would Probably draw attention to some “non-hockey” fans more interested in actual survival than what’s going on in the third period. “you got a generator?” Nope – just working on my lawnmower over here.

Oh my goodness, what if there’s another overtime.
There are always headphones, but that won’t help much if the Internet is down. If cell service is down, I’m really in for it.
This is the moment you’ve been prepping for. This is why you brought that extra box of Ho Hos.
Maybe you should have bought some Twinkies like a true survivalist, but they haven’t tasted the same since they came back on the market.
Ho Hos always taste good.
So you pop a Ho Ho in your mouth – don’t even chew it. What would be the point?
Then it hits you! Of course, OTA television! The sad frustrating replacement letdown to the good old analog days.
Find a “old” …not too old television and rig up a Stone Age Antenna.
You’re probably not going to pull in the CBC Hockey Night in Canada, but you can try.
Oh yeah, I guess I would have to start the generator to power the television. (Mental note:
Look for a battery powered television that works with digital signals)
If all else fails you can always try to get some actual work done. Actually “working” in a workshop just sounds wrong.
I hope lighting doesn’t hit the Koho I’m using as an antenna mast. That would not be good.
If there truly is an apocalyptic event coming, I hope it’s in the off season.
Of course it’s always some type of sport’s season.
I guess I could always re-read another Linux manual.
Wait a minute – that’s not such a bad idea.
It’s a perfect night for a little lite reading.
It’s stopped raining and all the swamp critters are making all kinds of weird noises.
The power is on and I just remembered…..my team already played earlier today.
Well, I’m here now, I might as well be productive and get some work done.

Have you checked your system’s BIOS lately?

Have you checked your system’s BIOS lately?

Maybe you should. It’s pretty simple if you are familiar with your operating systems terminal/command line.


Linux:
sudo dmidecode –type bios

Windows:
systeminfo | findstr BIOS

The simplest way to upgrade my Lenovo laptops was to re-install Windows 10 and use the Lenovo utilities to upgrade the bios Revision , then install my Linux Distro again. I could have avoided some of the pain if I had setup my laptops as duel boot systems, but I didn’t.

There are other methods to go about this without relying on Windows, but using Windows was perfect for my situation just for the fact that it was so simple.
Lenovo’s Service Bridge is pretty simple to setup.
It wants you to download .NET 3.5 – which I did, not a big deal either. I figured I’d end up blowing Windows away and Installing MX back on my machines anyway. (I use MX-18.1 a Debian based LINUX OS) – at the moment.
All I really wanted was the BIOS/UEF1 updates
Only the file listed as Jan 31 2019 was the most recent available for my machine. This was newer than my 2017 version installed on my laptop, so it seemed to be worth the slight hassle I had gone through so far – which wasn’t Lenovo’s fault, just my own process of exploring nonlinear routes to get things done. I consider these side tracks as learning experiences. The flash utility appeared to have worked well, and then my machine rebooted. The reboot is where the BIOS actually get updated.
After Windows 10 rebooted I ran a system check again and this time the BIOS version had version 1.25 (12/24/2018) listed. Well, that’s probably as current as I’ll get with this method.
So I did what any rational pc owner would do and re-installed MX-18.1. (Of course I used the entire drive)
Why spend too much time poking around Windows updates?
Once back in MX I verified the BIOS revision as 1.25.

So did this have any benefits other than good housekeeping?
Probably nothing that would jump right out at you.
Yes, BIOS upgrades can sometimes give some performance enhancements, and resolve certain bugs or compatibility issues. It doesn’t usually increase speed, but it can help with some issues that degrade performance such as overheating.
Sometimes upgrading your BIOS may produce undesirable affects. If your computer is operating well, or as expected, you may not wish to chance any damage to your system with an upgrade that doesn’t work properly.
I upgraded my bios more out of curiosity, and waited for my spare test machine to finish before I upgraded my main machine.
My primary goal was to bring the security aspects of the bios up to date. This may be something that some Linux users don’t always focus on, but are usually aware of. Usually I focus more on available Distro updates and upgrades along with common sense proactiveness to keep my systems secure. BIOS upgrades can factor in there as well, and should at least be contemplated with a little research to see if upgrading your BIOS is a worthwhile endeavor. If anything, you should at least know what BIOS revision you currently have on your system.

So check to see what your BIOS are listed as, and if you do decide to upgrade, and there are newer revisions available – proceed with caution.

You may not need to make any changes at all.

Good luck!