Sunday, May 30, 2010

Linux desktop light saber of choice.

Most of my life I have been thrust into jobs I wasn't quite up to the task. You learn on the job, notice holes in your armor and fix them. To date I am not a Linux system administrator in the corporate world. The title implies that all Linux users should have those skills. The fact is that many of those skills aren't needed to care for a single PC, yet when Linux is explained they are customarily unleashed upon new users. I purpose a fork in the System Admin moniker to focus on the skills of desktop maintenance. A Linux Desktop Admin would be a wonderful focus. Though some skills may overlap, it would make things clear to users who need no clue about the depths of server work.

A concise how-to set up a Linux desktop would be wonderful. With live-CDs this is almost instant. But certain things are not always so clear, like configuring sound cards, video cards, embedded sound and video, Linux only networks and of course wireless. Mixed platform networks are well documented.

I've been struggling through several Linux distros trying to find one that would work on my ancient Win98 vintage laptop (Gateway 4026gz). I've tried a dozen or so and most fell short in one way or another. Fedora 9 and 10, OpenSuse 11.2, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, Elive, #!Crunchbang, Mandriva, and a bunch more. The final choice was Ubuntu 9.10.

The reason was setup. Even though all the other distros had strong points, when it came to setup, I was able to setup wireless and sound with ease in Ubuntu. I don't care how savvy a techie you are (savvy = macho), if you are a typical desktop user, setting up wireless and sound should be painless. Like step one scan hardware, step two apply drivers, step three test system, done. Ubuntu has a System Testing module that test various systems that require drivers and protocols. This makes it easy to change drivers if the present one doesn't work.

The reason being not every Linux user is going to be an OS mechanic. The whole idea of a popular Linux is not to dumb it down but make it so it takes less specialized configuration knowledge. Still, if that deep tweak is your passion, your ma-cheese-mo glory, you can do that. I have seen many compile every kernel and application to make their own distro because they could. But please don't think I'm not a true believer because I don't compile. That works for you but not for me. Linux users no longer have to be extra savvy to use it.

So, in my experience I have suffered through many very good looking Linux distros that didn't have the conveniences built-in that Ubuntu has. But Ubuntu is so bloated, it can't run fast! What does fast mean? If you have the resources, it is fast enough, else you need to shut down services, get a leaner desktop or try another distro that suits your needs. That zippy fast distro may require hand tweaking of config files. This is just like sport cars, many like them, few buy them (real need over speed).

Now if you are still hooked into "Linux the sacred OS" it is still there, only now the desktop GUI has been well developed. You can click an icon which is a shortcut to a script or command that runs a function or app. I don't have to remember and type a script or command. I capitalize on the work of others to save me time, effort and mental band-width. I am quite impressed with the variety of Linux desktops, and I can change it if I am not.

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