Saturday, April 26, 2008

Xubuntu renovations in progress

Greetings from Linuxville, excuse the mess. Xubuntu 8.04 has arrived and I've been up to my elbows downloadn', installn' and soon to be tweakn'. Everything downloaded and installed great, except I have a 64-bit machine and a 64-bit Xubuntu, so I needed a "nspluginwrapper" to allow me to use a 32-bit Flash plugin in Firefox. Someone tell Adobe that 64-bit Linux machines are here to stay!! If it weren't for the user fourms, I'd be kickn' my box. Haven't noticed any big changes on the new Xubuntu yet, I'm still nosing around. Did get QGRUBeditor, which is a GUI for managing the Grub boot loader. I still have the older Xubuntu 7.10 on the drive, for now, and I can log into it, my choice. I installed Xubuntu 8.04 right over MS WinXP (ha!) which I plan to reinstall as a virtual machine. The Xubuntu iso file doesn't include a lot of stuff I want, it is after all meant to be lean for lower resource hardware. Being such, it is Ubuntu's best kept secret and I do want to whisper this, Xfce is better than KDE and Gnome!! (my thought). So, after adding some fat apps to my Xubuntu bones, I'm ready to compute.

I have heard some things around town. Firefox, it is said, gets slower when you add too many extensions and plugins. I don't know this to be true, I have no complaints. But if you folks are into the social net thing and photos and such, you should look at the Flock browser, it is made for this stuff. I like downloadn' flash movies and such and found a new app called Miro. Miro hooks you up to video feeds and your saved video files so you can organize and play all day. It is sad that the Linux home entertainment center idea seems to have cooled off some. Many of those projects have not seen recent development updates in a while. You'd think with the advent of digital TV, there be more demand for Linux solutions that aren't so complex. There are a few that are on the download list like Elisa and My Media System, but how to make them work is a mystery to me, meanwhile I got Miro and it works great.

Was at my place of employment (a school) and I overheard a student lament over his "borrowed" software collection and that he can't afford to own his own. The kids here learn on top shelf MS compatible applications, you know, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Win Movie Maker, etc, etc, etc.......but in spite of all the school contracts, discounts, the students still can barely get their own. It is safe to say these kids will eventually buy the apps they learned in school. Why is this so different for cars. You learn to drive any car by taking drivers' training. Does learning Photoshop in school indebt you to use only Photoshop? How can you hone your skills if you can't afford the tools? Open source is the unspoken and misunderstood answer to many questions. Here are some hookups. get a good look at Linux apps that do whatever, this one you see open source stuff that runs on MS Windows (if you must), and then here we have a school focus on Linux apps. The funny thing is that most institutions don't understand GPL or the General Public License. They keep worrying about users agreements and about copy right infringements. Linux is free and there is no catch, open source software, even the MS windows versions are the same. You can get, use and recommend these to your friends, students and co-workers. You can give them as gifts, if you want to. Yeah, we all need a psychology upgrade.

I just had to make an addendum, Ubuntu has two application install programs, one is called 'Add/Remove' and the other Synaptic. If you use the Add/Remove for some applications, it may fail to install all the dependences. This happened with Elisa Media Center, which is why it didn't work for me. I used Synaptic to download and Elisa works beautifully and looks like a winner. Miro is a whiner, but only because it allows video downloads in background. This is fine, if you have a huge hard drive and you don't mind editing channels. I'd like more control over internet content than Miro gives. Miro might be good for some but not for me. So, Elisa Media Center is a must have app. I may have to put a computer in the living room.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The buzz around Linuxville

Hey all, thought I try out a blog face-lift, because I can. I do this in Linux all the time. Linux desktop people all find out eventually they can morph their GUIs a little or a lot depending which one they are using. Again, I like Xfce desktop because the configuration settings are not buried deep in layered menus. And while I can't tweak everything, I can adjust it enough to get a satisfying look without much effort.

In my neck of the woods, things are a brewing. I stopped by my alma mater and discovered Ubuntu loaded on several computers in the computer lab. Perhaps I made an impression on the teachers while I was there. I think up and coming techies should know about Linux and have the opportunity to use it. Not only on the server but on the desktop as well.

Then, I am waiting for the official release of Ubuntu 8.04, known as "Hardy Heron". It is boasting a few improvements but what I want to explore is the virtual machine support built in. I want to install MS XP as a virtual machine so I don't have to dual-boot anymore. But to this end I might have to install more memory so that the virtual machine will run better. Ubuntu 8.04 will also have tools to shrink MS partitions and install Ubuntu while booted into MS Windows. Of course I will be loading Xubuntu 8.04 on my main machine. I am thinking about Ubuntu on my older machine. It is good to know a little about Gnome desktop, but I am a bit biased. KDE, well, it's like a window manager called Enlightenment in the way it has so many configuration settings. I just think it is too much and I wish people quit saying KDE is more like MS Windows. This is just not true. KDE, Gnome, and Xfce are all more adjustable than MS Windows. They may have similar elements but that is all.

I do have some secret wishes I would like to reveal. In Xfce, I would like to assign a different wallpaper to each virtual desktop and assign apps to open on the desktop I assign and save my settings. Then I would like to see better isolation of desktop GUIs when you have multiple desktop GUIs installed. If you have KDE, Gnome and Xfce on one computer for instance, functions are duplicated, menus are confused and clear control over the desktop is denied. On popular distros that feature one of the main desktops should feature also a leaner window manager like Fluxbox, Icewm as a users alternate choice.
I would also like to see a dual hard drive standard in computers. A smaller drive for the OS and applications and a big as you want drive for user files. It is kind of risky to put OS and user files on the same disk. So, if you must repair or upgrade or change your OS or the disk it's on, you don't have to touch your data. Solid state or flash drive cost are coming down, a 20-30 gig drive would be perfect for this. Lastly, at least for now, I would like to see a "Popular Linux Magazine" that targets typical average computer users rather than server techs, system admins and programmer/developers.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Still on the porch

Linuxville is my virtual retreat as you can see I am running a video in VLC media player, I like jazz and here is Bradford Marsalis on soprano sax, sweet! And I have Gnome Sword Bible Guide which has many free bible versions in various languages and is very handy for study. And you can see through the Terminal, the infamous command line. The talk around town is that there is a little something for all your computing needs. I am pretty much satisfied with XFCE as a desktop, though I did play with compositing. I loaded Avant Window Manager to get an animated icon-bar like the one on Macs. It installed smoothly, looked nice but I couldn't drag and drop application icons on the bar and it kept interfering with my Xfce window settings. So, I got rid of it. Like I said, I'm happy with Xfce as it is. You can tweak it to look good and it has good solid functionality. If you want to get work done you don't want to have to hunt for stuff. I would be the first to tell you if eye candy was really useful.

Linux sometimes is the stuff of dreams and I had an idea. I can understand why so many MS struck or stuck folks won't switch to Linux. If KDE, Gnome and XFCE were to be ported over to MS Windows to be an replacement desktop window manager for MS Windows, then coupled with open source software, people could get use to using the GUIs and the programs. Could this be a path to full migration? I guess that remains to be seen, after all it is the GUI that people see. Although I wouldn't like Xfce on top of MS Windows either if it crashed. I did try a port of KDE to MS Windows but it was only to be able to run KDE applications and I don't think the desktop itself was ported. If I'm wrong, it didn't work for me. In my thought, KDE without the desktop is not KDE. But after a final analysis, it is better for you to switch cold turkey yourself than try to pry MS Windows out of your dead hands.

I've seen another version of Ubuntu, this one called OpenGEU 7.10. It is pretty fancy with artist designed looks. It has the Enlightenment 17 window manager mingled with Xfce supported by Gnome libraries. Pretty and lean on resources too is quite a combo. But the best news of all is that Ubuntu 8.04 is days away. So, all Ubuntu versions will be new all over again. The trend is to perfect the art and science of system migration. Ubuntu is making it easier to shrink MS Windows partitions, install Ubuntu, dual-boot, and transfer settings and data. There are probably YouTube videos showing you how to do it, you just have to look. But no matter the excitement over the operating system, the thing everybody wants is applications to do the stuff. So, you Linux folks need to show off how you use Linux. The GIMP has enjoyed an outstanding user support. There is also Krita, Xara Xtreme, mtPaint and others that are extremely useful and fun (do serious work). Today the net shows lots of Linux eye-candy of spinning cubes, how useful is that, so what. Can you do interesting and useful stuff with Linux applications and enrich the community? Well, there is more ahead that has yet to be realized, indeed.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

view from my front porch

Well, here is a shot from my front porch. I have Krita, which is a sweet graphics editor, the faithful calculator called gcalctool and XMMS media player all open on my Xfce desktop. The icon bar below disappears automatically so as to not be in the way and a right click anywhere on the desktop gives a application menu so I don't have to go to the bar at the top of the display to get at it. As far as I can tell, nothing is buried, I can get at everything easily. But you ask, why the fuss over the desktop GUI? The desktop GUI is the face of the operating system. It's what you see and use. Linux has different faces because differences are in the world. Some faces are a little more pleasant to look at, some have more expression, some do disguises really well and some are quite stoic. What I want is a combo of all these things, so I picked XFCE. Each desktop almost makes Linux a different operating system. Yes you can have at the same applications but because the basic libraries are different, different solutions are provided to do the same things. For instance, KDE has the Konqueror web browser which is also a file manager and other things. Gnome has its own and Xfce has its own too. And if you don't like them or you are familiar with another, you can install that one because it is all Linux, the supporting libraries will be loaded also. Forget the notion of the best, it is what is best to and for you. So, you can find within the Linux community folks who are kindred spirits as yourself and some very different. Another way to say it is that Linux is organic and not mechanical. Yeah, some people think that to homogenize or boil down everything to a least common denominator is progress. Sameness and efficiency of a single product makes for easy marketing and administration, but you have to fit yourself to it. Because Linux is designed from many points of view a custom fit is there for you. A car is sold on two things, the looks and its engineering. Linux has curb appeal and a fine engineering reputation. A front porch in Linuxville is not a bad place to be. I'm gonna "google up a soda an pizza" while enjoying the view.