site  contact  subhomenews

dnsmasq caching nameserver for Easy

May 27, 2018 — BarryK

I posted earlier today about some issues with my new Telstra mobile connection:

I wondered if maybe Telstra's nameserver is overloaded. I don't always have "unresolved url" problem, so maybe in my area the network is getting stressed at certain times of the day.

So, I am playing with dnsmasq, configured as a local caching nameserver. This website explains how:

I have played with dnsmasq before, and was considering it to use with EasyShare, for network discovery. That's another story. Considering the immediate requirement, as a local caching nameserver...

Easy (and Quirky, and all the pups), use /etc/resolv.conf, which has the IP-address of the nameserver. Summarising, at bootup, 'dhcpcd' is run, which queries a dhcp-server on the network (which is usually in your router-modem), and dhcpcd writes to /etc/resolv.conf.

In my case, this is the content of /etc/resolv.conf:


If dnsmasq is setup as per the above link, /etc/resolv.conf has to be copied to /etc/resolv.dnsmasq, and /etc/resolv.conf changed to:


Then, 'dnsmasq' daemon is started, just by typing it's name in a terminal.

Applications such as SeaMonkey look at /etc/resolv.conf for converting URLs to IP-addresses, and the above changes cause SM to query the local dnsmasq daemon, instead of the remote nameserver ( in my case). The dnsmasq daemon queries, gets the IP-address, and caches it locally, so next time there is a lookup of that URL, dnsmasq already has the IP-address.

This can speed-up web browsing, and I am also wondering if it will solve my name resolution failures.

Testing it now, so far, so good. I wondered if downloading of large files will improve, if multiple queries are made to the nameserver during a download -- don't know if that happens, just a thought.

Downloaded latest firefox, which earlier today kept stopping. Using SM Download Manager, the download stopped once, hit "Pause" then "Resume" and download completed.

The jury is still out. It may be that the Telstra network is less busy right now.

If I decide to make this a permanent feature of Easy, it will require many changes. There are scripts that expect the nameserver IP-address to be in /etc/resolv.conf, and 'dhcpcd' daemon itself will have to be told to write to /etc/resolv.dnsmasq. But, it is doable.

Tags: easy

Contemplations on Easy, Quirky, the forum, the future

May 26, 2018 — BarryK
Ruminating over where EasyOS is heading... I receive helpful advice, not just on the forum, but emails also. I do not think of Easy as ever being a mainstream Linux distribution, just a niche player. Furthermore, I am just doing what interests me. There is no master plan, no ambition for Easy to be widely adopted, I am just meandering along, having fun.

Easy is also a learning tool for me. Hence my implementation of Easy Containers, a grassroots container system, rather than using LXC, Docker, or whatever. Even though they may be considered "better" or "superior". KVM is another one, I might look at it, one day.

A couple of days ago, I communicated with 'rufwoof' (forum name) via email. He has provided helpful testing of the containers in Easy. However, he got banned from the forum, due to some heated exchanges. Hence, we resorted to emails.

What rufwoof objected to is the *Dog distributions, for example DebianDog. He considers them to be too un-Puppy-like to be using the Puppy Forum.

I have seen it happen many times on the forum. Spontaneous responses can wind up, become flame wars. Anyway, this question about the *Dogs...

Consider democracy and personal freedom in the USA, one might argue that it has tipped into chaos. A country full of criminals and neurotic people!

On the otherhand, diversity, what might seem like borderline chaos, might be a rich breeding ground for new ideas and growth. Or maybe not.

The diversity on the Puppy forum has been said to be confusing for newcomers. So, should the forum be reined in?

These are just my ruminations, I do not have admin rights on the forum, nor or I retired from all of that, back in 2013.

Personally, I read bits and pieces from all over the forum, and find the diversity interesting and useful. Cross-pollination does happen. But, I do understand the counter-argument.

I am using the forum for EasyOS and Quirky Linux feedback. But what of the future? If Easy becomes more popular, I can see the argument in favour of a focused forum, EasyOS and nothing else, or maybe a special section for "off topic" or whatever.
So, it is on the cards, might start a new forum.

What about Quirky? One problem for me is that I take on too much. I am seriously considering dropping Quirky development, just keep Easy. Also, on PC platforms only support x86_64. Might add ARM boards, but maybe only aarch64.

Then there is the ability of woofQ to build a distro from binary packages from Ubuntu, Slackware, etc. I recently did a "Easy Beaver" build, but it was a lot of work, and there are still unresolved issues. As usual, I was disappointed by the bloat, the build was 480MB, and that is with far less apps than my Easy Pyro builds.

And, Ubuntu is forcing gtk3 onto me, which is one of my pet peaves.

So, I might focus on only building from packages compiled in my fork of OpenEmbedded. Although Easy Pyro has a small package respository, I can gradually build it up. Of course, it will never get anywhere near the size of the mainstream repos.

I must stress that these are just thoughts for now, not necessarily what will happen.

Tags: easy, quirky

Easy Pyro 0.9.3 released

May 25, 2018 — BarryK

Yay, another release! Still classified as beta-quality, as some parts need more work, such as containers.

If you are new to EasyOS, please read the release notes for 0.9, as there are introductory details:

If you are able to run any Linux, I strongly recommend using the 'easydd' utility. It will make writing the downloaded file to a USB stick super-easy, but most importantly will give a report on the sustained write-speed of your USB stick.

The importance of read and write speed of the USB drive cannot be emphasised enough. At the bottom of the price range, there is incredible difference in performance. My experience with cheap Verbatim and Mtec drives is that they are abysmal. I have one Verbatim drive with sustained write speed just under 4MB/sec, which gives a very poor experience running Linux.

On the otherhand, cheap home-brand USB3 drives from BigW here in australia have around 20MB/sec sustained write-speed, running in a USB2 socket.


Ok, download from here:

And instructions to obtain 'easydd', write the file and make the USB drive bootable:

Note, recently I have been experiencing problems with downloading from ibiblio. Today, I downloaded Easy 0.9.3, to test that the md5sum is OK, and it kept hanging. I had to resort to using wget with "-c" option, using ctrl-c to kill the download, then restart it. Like this:

# wget -c

...not nice! I will look at mirroring it somewhere else.


Release notes for 0.9.1:

Version 0.9.3 brings some great new features and apps:

  • For container security, there is a patched kernel offering cap_sys_mount capability. Kernel now 4.14.41.
  • The Xorg default mouse cursor can be difficult to see in high-resolution monitors, and easily get lost. There is now a new default, named 'jaguarx', that is a little bit more easy to see.
  • Mime-sensitive right-click has arrived. Previously, there was a fixed "Open With..." menu, now apps are presented based on the mime-type of the file being right-clicked on.
  • Qt5 libraries are now built-in, or rather a subset of the full Qt5 package, and Qt5-based apps Scribus (desktop publishing) and Symphytum (easy database manager). 
  • Audacious is a very nice music player, built with GTK2. Although Xine-ui and Gnome-MPV multimedia players handle playing of music, a dedicated music player is nice.

Desktop publishing, easy GUI database and music player, were identified as three gaps in the collection builtin to Easy, now filled.


One known bug is that LibreOffice Writer displays an error message when save or open a .odt file. Previously, I had only tested .doc and .html files, which open/save ok, so never discovered this bug.
Despite the error message, the file seems to have saved and opened ok. Using LO version

EDIT 20180526:
This bug goes way back. A quick google showed it being reported as far back as 2011. Then reported fixed, then back again.
I compiled LO and that bug has gone. I also noticed LO starting up quicker.

Not a bug, but the mime-sensitive right-click menu needs to be tweaked a bit. I will need to patch ROX-Filer source.


Forum thread for feedback here:

Note, the download is getting a bit too big for my liking, at 426MB. For the next release, plan to trim it a bit, knock off about 10MB I think.

Tags: easy

Easy-to-see mouse pointer

May 24, 2018 — BarryK

I use a small 1080p TV as the monitor for my desktop system, so I run at 1920x1080 pixels. It's nice, plenty of room on the screen, except I sometimes "lose" the mouse pointer.

I then jiggle the mouse, trying to see it. I think that many people reading this can relate to the moment of frustration!

Easy and Quirky have 'Pcur', in the 'Desktop' category of the menu, for selecting a different mouse cursor theme, however, it requires the 'pcur' PET package to be installed. Those themes are installed in /root/.icons

I want a new default cursor theme, seen at first power-up of Easy/Quirky. This link explains how to install cursor themes system-wide:

...except that the correct path for Xorg is /usr/share/icons, not /usr/share/cursors/xorg-x11.

I have put the 'jaguarx' theme into rootfs-skeleton/usr/share/icons/jaguarx, with rootfs-skeleton/usr/share/icons/default setup as explained in the above link.

jaguarx is not a big mouse pointer, but is more visible than the original default. A bit of colour too, with a whirling ball when there is action.

Tags: easy, quirky

Qt5 and Scribus in next Easy Pyro

May 22, 2018 — BarryK

I received an email from John, suggesting that one gap in the app collection in Easy Pyro is a good desktop publisher. Actually, LibreOffice does a pretty good job at that, however, a specialised desktop publishing app would be nice.

Years ago, in one of the pup series, I decided to use Qt4 apps rather than progress from gtk2 to gtk3. In reflective moments, I still find myself asking what is the point of gtk3, when gtk2-based apps have no discernible disadvantage ...anyway, that is a grumble for another time.

One very important reason why I like the progression from Qt4 from gtk2, is that Qt4 can use the current gtk2 theme. This makes theming very simple. It was simply a matter of a few lines in ~/.config/Trolltech.conf:
font="DejaVu Sans,10,-1,5,50,0,0,0,0,0"
Unfortunately, that does not work for Qt5. I think that I read, that ability was taken out at 5.7. I read about it, and the solution, in the Arch Wiki:

It is required to install 'qtstyleplugins', from here:

Grab it:
git clone git:// --depth 1
# mv qtstyleplugins qtstyleplugins-20170311
# cd qtstyleplugins-20170311
# qmake PREFIX='/usr' LIBDIR='/usr/lib'
# make
# new2dir make install
# make install
...the second-last line above, is broken, need to run the last line to install all files.

I then ran scribus, the theme looks correct, however menu font is too small, so I also did this:
export QT_SCALE_FACTOR=1.2
Note, I managed to create a much smaller subset of the full Qt5 package for running scribus and smplayer, that I named 'qt5-basic'.

I plan to include scribus in the next release of Easy Pyro, that should be 0.9.3.

Tags: easy

Improving Linux Capabilities

May 20, 2018 — BarryK

I have been struggling to get Linux Capabilities to work as I want in containers. Various problems...

Applications run as "restricted root" in containers. That much is working OK, but as I want to fine-tune it, hit snags. A very significant capability that is dropped is cap_sys_admin, which among many things, drops the ability to execute mount/umount.

Unfortunately, the only way to restore mount/umount (which I might want to do in certain circumstances) is not to drop cap_sys_admin, but that is very bad because it will give restricted-root too many other powers.

This is a recognised problem, and a chap named Nicolas has created one solution, to break the mount/umount capability out of cap_sys_info, named cap_sys_mount. Some comments on his patches are negative. The patches are here:

I have compiled the 4.14.41 kernel with the cap_sys_mount patches, but it doesn't seem to work, so have sent an email to Nicolas.

Another problem is that the 'getcap' and 'setcap' utilities do not work. After much googling, I finally found a post in a forum, that CONFIG_EXT4_FS_SECURITY needs to be set in the kernel (for the case of ext4 f.s.).

No other documentation that I had read mentioned that little detail. Yes, docs stated to set CONFIG_EXT4_FS_XATTR -- though for the 4.14 kernel, that option is no longer there, as it is always set.

This is what I now have:

# CONFIG_EXT4_DEBUG is not set

Tags: easy

Audacious now in Easy Pyro

May 19, 2018 — BarryK

This is one for the audiophiles!

With Easy Pyro, I have been throwing in everything, lots of heavy-duty apps. The build has grown to 401MB, which, several years ago would have been considered way overweight by Puppy standards. The oldtimers will recall when Puppy was only 20MB!

These days though, with beginner-PCs having at least 2GB RAM, I am not so worried about the size, more about providing an out-of-the-box complete experience.

The recent Easy Pyro releases have a bit of a gap. The current release, 0.9.1, has Xine-ui and Gnome-MPV multimedia players, which do a pretty good job as music players. However, there is room here for a dedicated music player.

Most pups have Pmusic, our in-house music player created by zigbert. Some pups have Aqualung. However, I decided to do something different this time, and have gone for Audacious.

Audacious is a fully-featured music player, with heaps of plugins to do just about everything that an audiophile would want. I googled around, and found Audacious to be highly rated. Website:

I compiled it with GTK2, and also compiled 'audacious-plugins', and added a new dependency, 'mpg123' (for playing mp3 files).

The GUI is nice, but there were some icons missing. Fixed that. One thing, audacious-plugins has skins, but I couldn't see anywhere how to choose a skin.

Easy Pyro is accumulating the big apps, and still keeping the download size reasonably small. We have gimp, inkscape, libreoffice, dia, ...yeah, well, the list goes on. Any other gap in the collection?

Tags: easy

ROX-Filer right-click Open With menu

May 18, 2018 — BarryK

I should have done this years ago. The Right-click-Easy PET created by don570 has reminded me of this. I wrote about his PET recently:

Up until now, woofQ has fixed entries for the right-click Open With (or Send To) menu, that may be totally inappropriate for the file being right-clicked on. For example, Geany text editor is in the menu, but that is not appropriate for, say, an image file.

So, I have written /usr/sbin/build-rox-sendto, which builds a complete mime-sensitive Open With menu in /etc/xdg/, by reading the .desktop files in /usr/share/applications. Note, it also erases everything in /root/.config/

Now, the menu is appropriate to the type of file, for example:


Those applications are all able to open an image from the commandline. The bottom group, Bcrypt and gHasher, will appear in all cases, regardless of mime-type.

Furthermore, the menu is updated when a package is installed or removed by the PPM. The modified scripts are /usr/local/petget/ and

I kept thinking that we need this, amazing how procrastination can keep delaying something year after year!

I have removed don570's PET from the repository, as it will conflict.

EDIT 19 May 2018
Continuing to refine the context-sensitive right-click menu, lots of good things happening. For example, right-click on a PET package:

image you can see, the mime-sensitive choices appear on the top-level, no need to burrow into the "Open With..." sub-menu. For PET packages, there is now the very convenient choice of "pet2dir" which is a utility to expand the PET to a folder, or "petget" to install the PET.

Tags: easy, quirky