Monday, October 12, 2009

Your computer, it really gets personal

It really is a personal computer. You get this interface and it becomes yours. Like the Twilight Zone, you control the horizontal, the vertical and you learn what to expect when you do this and when you do that. Hey, don't do that or know!

I've used XFCE, Gnome, KDE, Fluxbox, Openbox, Enlightenment and several other Linux desktops. If you are immediately struck with any of them you are bound to learn all the secrets, shortcuts and workarounds to make navigating your personal computer desktop efficient for yourself. I have gone from not tweaking much with one desktop to tweaking everything to get it right on another. I am still hard pressed to recommend one of them, depends on what you are willing to deal with and what looks good to you.

Today I am exploring the world of Ubuntu Linux with KDE eyes. KDE has improved over the years and although I was never a through thick-n-thin fan, I waited for what its become today, pretty impressive. KDE is not a skinny resource sipping desktop, it's robust, a lot of the bells and whistles have been consolidated and trimmed. This is due to all the progress made in desktop effects and a settling down among folks determined to out do MS and Apple (my opinion). Good job KDE folks, good job!

Your Linuxville guide is always in the love/hate mode when it comes to Linux distros. There is stuff in this distro and stuff in that, it is maddening. Sort of like going to buy a car, you want a Chevy Impala, they ask "you want the vanilla version, the sporty version or the luxury version?" The difference? Seat covers, wheel covers and your public image.

There are several distros that flaunt themselves as artist oriented distros. This usually means they come standard with audio,video, graphical software in some mix.

Ubuntu Studio is DVD sized and is multi-media focused.

ArtistX is also Ubuntu based and is multi-media focused and is DVD size.

OpenArtist is DVD size, has some multi-media stuff but is visual art focused. OpenArtist has all kinds of special configuration scripts to make certain apps work better for drawing and then work with each other.

Puppy Artist Workshop is a version of Puppy Linux. This is a CD size distro. It doesn't try to have it all, just what is useful for most of us pixel pushers. Puppy is a special design of its own. It is not based on Ubuntu, Red Hat or Slackware.

The weird thing is that most folks don't even know you can even do anything in Linux, let alone art of any kind. There is a long list of applications both commercial and open source. The open source stuff is free quality software, you just have to use it and get to know it. Gimp and Inkscape have most if not all of the tools and techniques found in Photoshop and Illustrator. The interfaces are different, some work flows are different and some file formats. Like I said there is a long list and I don't think this one has them all. The kicker is most open source software has MS Windows versions and well as the Linux versions.

So, you can change your OS if you want or not. My attitude is this if you got school kids and they need to write reports and papers, use free software. If you need to train for a job and must have MS Office, buy it. I recommend Open Office Write, AbiWord, IBM Symphony, or KDE's KWord, all are great word processors, free and will produce .doc format documents. I think I like KWord the best. But don't blame me if you get reverse sticker shock. If you want to compensate the writers and developers for their free and open source software offerings, most will take donations to continue their efforts. It's sort of like public radio, commercial free and community supported.

And me, my reasons for using open source software, they come with Linux so I use them. I have a kind a liberty where I don't worry about the price or if I can afford to buy commercial software, because I have all what I need in open source. There is a silent chant in the working world that says "everybody's using Microsoft stuff, so I need to do likewise to be compatible." For 99.5% of the computer users, compatible means "makes standard Microsoft document formats." If other programs can do that you are off the hook. That is how I verify wither or not I need to buy a MS based product. It was the same regarding MS Windows as an operating system. This new Windows 7 will be a game changer though, it is looking better than both XP and Vista, time will tell. But for me another big reason for using open source software is near-zero end user agreements or authorizations and no activations, the software I acquired can be installed on all my machines. I can pass them around to friends and they can do the same without threat of legal reprisals.

Ok, there is one problem that users have, it's sort of like stigma. We hate to use stuff that others around us aren't using. No one likes being the odd ball. It's also kind of ironic how we want to be unique but not different. The TV commercials exploit this, notice that while MS and Mac vie, Linux and open source is not mentioned at all. Also you don't see this stuff on the store shelves, so it is not on your radar. Having been thoroughly informed and entertained in the media and assured by seeing MS and Mac stuff on the shelves, it is a no-brainer choice. Now after you spent your money, committed your time and energy, I come along and say Linux can do what the other guys can do and do it for free. All you can say is "but".

Relax, you have entered the "Linux Zone", it is different here, yet you still get the job done.

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