Thursday, May 29, 2008

The apple orchard next door

As a techie I get to contend with "other" technologies. Well for the first time I had to deal with Macs. It was a good time to test all the hype surrounding it. Yes the emperor is naked indeed. I had to install some network monitoring software on Macs with OS X 9 and 10.** (Leopard, Jaguar and Tiger) and I got to tell you that some folks are snowed and some deluded to believe the ads. No matter what folks say, Macs are Unix, even Linux like, sorta. It maybe covered by a very attractive wrapper, but you can't deny the truth, if you know. Of course if you were never told this up front it would go right past you. Macs are not more or less intuitive than other operating systems, you still have to learn where things are and how things work, but if you were told how easy this is over and over again, you tend to believe it and repeat it. Thus comes the saying that Linux is too hard and not ready for the desktop. The rub is that when you push past the friendly interface to get at the settings you need to have things explained to set them correctly. The manual comes in handy, how intuitive is that?? So, you are told Macs are easy and that they are the other choice besides MS PC's. If you have to do any power things on your Mac, the Unix comes out. We won't go into how I dislike Mac hardware, the ultimate in vendor lock. As long as it all works, it looks nice and does interesting stuff, this is one case where you do get what you pay for. Then again if it breaks, you pay to get it fixed. There is no thriving open community the likes of Linux to get help when you need it. If you tear that little annoying tab off, the men in white coats will arrest you. My verdict is simple, I can't afford a Mac, period. I don't like the hardware and the support sucks. If it all works for you, you are blessed, in a funny kind of way, sorta. Back in Linuxville I am surrounded by what I know and luv, but it is good to once and a while hop the fence to tinker with the neighbor's toys. I just don't believe his grass is greener because he tells me so.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm living in a virtual world, and I am a........

The orange barrels are up in Linuxville and I am really into tweaking and improving things. I have been exploring the virtual machine world and have found gold. In the Mepis docs there is a section that explains how to get and install Virtualbox. It involves typing a few lines into the terminal to install something called linux-headers, checking the repository listing in Synaptic, typing in another line in the terminal to provide an access key, installing Virtualbox and playing with the new software. There were a few curveballs but in all it went well. The first test was with Geexbox, a multimedia front-end that is actually a very small Linux distro. It worked but the video had flickering and jumping. I had to attach the "Guest Additions" to supposedly fix the problem. I applied the fix and it didn't fix it. Then I tried LIMP and Womp, they worked pretty good but because these are other operating systems, they need to be set up to see shared resources on my main or host operating system. I also installed two small footprint Linux distros, DSL and Puppy. They both worked perfectly. Then I did the ultimate test, I installed MS WinXP into a virtual machine. It was a normal install and it runs great, even added service pack 2. Now I got to configure all that backroom stuff, like antivirus, shared drives, internet and network connections. I must say that Virtualbox is a whole lot faster than Qemu, even MS WinXP is pretty snappy. I really have to LOL when I see WinXP in a window and not owning and dominating my computer. May the live-cd or .iso image should become the standard for all operating systems. You could try it and if you like it, install it or virtuallize it and all is well in the world. Perhaps the next big thing in computers is a solidstate drive just for the operating system and installed applications. There are still things to come and Linuxville has a thumb on the pulse.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wish you were here, virtually

Linuxville is such an interesting place, every knook and kranny has details and depths to explore. Besides being able to take it with you (live-CD's), you can as if you had a computer in your computer, run a second OS to see if the grass is greener. It is called a virtual machine and it is all the rage. There are realities in running virtual machines called sharing resources. So, if you only have 512MB of memory, you would use 256MB of it to run the other operating system. That other operating system would appear to be just another application running but would "Virtually" be another computer (with less resources) running at the same time as your main OS. The effect is that things respond slower depending upon the load. It is not that bad if you have a lot of memory and a higher CPU speed. So, why on earth would you want to do this madness? What is the reason you might want more than one OS anyway?? Well, if the Wine emulator isn't working for you, you could install MS Windows as a virtual machine and run window's apps. Or like I said you could see if other Linux distros are better than what you have now. It is actually more cool because you don't have to burn a CD, just download the ISO file and run it virtually.
Virtual Machine software comes in various packages and depends upon your distro if you can easily use them. VMware is probably the oldest, most well known, then there is VirtualBox which is new and very nice to use. It is a wrestling match to install Virtualbox in Mepis but I will make the effort and tell you all about it. What I am using now is Qemu and it is so slow as I only have 512MB of memory and using KDE eats up a lot of that. But, Qemu is very easy to use. OK, here is one thing in Linux I really want and virtual machines is a big part of it. I want one application that allows me to play or view all the media files on my system. The separate programs are wonderful, but one "front-end" to manage and view it all would be great. I have raved before about Elisa Media Center as being a good looking application for this purpose. I have had terrible luck installing and getting it to run on my Mepis system, no problem in Xubuntu. I have discovered a few more apps that will do the job. They happen to be mini-Linux distros. The first one is called Geexbox. It has quirks but works on my system. Then there is LIMP which also works and Womp which works too. These distros are tiny and are just meant for playing media. I will have to see if they are fit for my needs as I don't need them to stream video or drive a TV tuner card, just view and play what I already have on my computer. Then to have the ability to use or play with all those small Linux distros is great fun. DSL or Damn Small Linux, Wolvix and Puppy Linux and several more are all great to explore. I can save my CD's for permanent collections. Those big distros I'd rather just use the live-CD, they seem to run better. The bottom line is that having as much system memory as you can afford is useful for any OS. Use older hardware if you must but realize how hard it is to support it. You will end up running older versions of Linux to do the job. Please let go of your 8088 and your 386, even 486 cpu's are a trial to support! I would consider a serious upgrade if your stuff is hitting 6 to 8 years old. Then you can enjoy all the modern gadgets and widgets.
Here is another edition of "Linux Truths", this time with a question attached. There is no one Linux that does it all because developer groups tend to focus on certain out comes, so that you can have an out-of-the-box experience. Which Linux distros seems to have the most extensive assortment of popular applications in their repositories, allow app installation without extra steps and have all this without resorting to a DVD size ISO? I ask this because .deb's compiled for one distro might not work in another. Is there a distro that has the depth and breath? Don't say Debian because I know of many applications I can't find in Debian, you have to compile them from source yourself to run in Debian. Ultimately compiling source code allows you to have custom distros. That is the very mechanism that makes software run in your distro, on your computer, specifically. To have software compiled to the "Debian" standard is a general specification. If Ubuntu, based on Debian, is designed differently than Debian, you can't actually expect all software compiled for Ubuntu to run on Debian and vice-versa. The differences might be small, but are just enough for stuff to not install or run. This is why distros usually stock repositories with software compiled to run in their distro. Same source but compiled to run in a different situation. I want to tell all you standardization cheerleaders that it is not a Linux flaw, it's a feature. This is why the same "Linux" can run on so many different types of hardware.
Does this take the fun out of Linux, no, we just see what other folks are using and experiencing. Then we try it, if we have problems or success we share it, voice it, blog it for others to be warned or encouraged. In Linuxville we call that community!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Life after Home Makeover in Linuxville

Ever wonder how life goes on after Home Makeover has left and the rush from so much newness and people and cameras and hugs have faded. You might have to gather yourself and try to find how your old life can cope with the new environment. You yourself haven't changed, but now there are all these possibilities. After some time you might even get the boldness to change something or add something. While the gift of newness is wonderful, it begins to sink in that the tastes and choices they made on your behave are not truly reflective of yours. Eventually the custom designed themed bedrooms, though exciting, need changing because the kids grow up. Growth and change are fluid yet constant and rarely consistent and always enviable. The out-of-the-box experience, though a great impact statement is still just the beginning. Wait now, I am getting to Mepis! What I am getting at is that each distro seems to have there own ways of doing things. This is partly why some .deb packages compiled on one Debian based distro will not install correctly on other distros also based on Debian. Files are put in different places so when programs run and they ask for a file in a certain location, it is not there. Sometimes it is a matter of dependencies which are not in the repositories or that you have to add the URL of repositories and security code keys to access them. It is not very open if you ask me, but you must protect your assets and your access, these days. Standardization is a nasty word in Linuxville. And Linux mechanics will fight you to keep the freedom to devise different ways of doing things with Linux. But in my humble opinion, just a little standardization might be a welcome tonic for users. A .deb package should be a .deb package and just work on Debian based distros, no matter the flavor. Or a converter program is needed to insure a .deb package will install in that distro. Maybe even something like Alien which converts from one package system to another (.deb to .rpm) could do the job. Oh, we already got this, it is called compiling!! Yeah, we do, but then you have to teach the world to sing and with 95% of us off key too! So, maybe there should be one giant repository for .deb files and every distro have a compliance converter to insure that .deb's install properly in that distro. Maybe Synaptic needs built-in compiling tools and be distro aware. Does the compiling process need to be streamlined then put behind a front-end (a GUI)?? Why is it that some distros have full catalogs of pre-complied software that fit their distro and some do not? Standardization of some sort could combine resources or locations of resources, then common tools to access them, then modules added for specializations, exceptions, uniquenesses, differentiallities, quirks, radical departures, etc, to insure the .deb file installs in the particular distro. Every distro might come equipped with the "Universal Linux Package Distro Compliance Converter" so that you can throw any Linux package at it and it will make that package fit any distro. Standardization need not mean sameness, just better resource management and deployment. You have to ask if the different packaging systems amount to closed systems within the open source arena?! Packaging is a standard and it has to be or Linux is hindered. The Alien software program crosses the package barrier, what will cross the distro barrier? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put compiling on the desktop in a way that is fully accessible. To find code and dependencies, compile it, install it and run it, should be an effortless workflow in Linuxville. To sum it all up, in Linuxville we all wear shirts, different shirts, but shirts. Different styles, colors, materials, shapes, sizes, still shirts (or blouses). Do we continue to endure the sweatshops? (to make shirts or command line compiling) or do we utilize more friendly and accessible tools to do the same job???? There is lots to argue about but that is what Linux communities are all about, throwing minds at problems. Life goes on!!!!
Mepis is just fine and the blurb above is a concern encountered upon installing apps in Mepis that were a breeze in Xubuntu. Ease of use and user friendliness are two different qualities. You need two mints in one if you intend to relieve user frustration. OK, you got the car with all the toys, but it has a standard shift. Multitasking behind the wheel just became complicated. Some will say that this is closer to the real Linux, requiring savvy and skill. Even Slackware had to address dependency hell and make software installs more friendly. If the Debian software catalog is more extensive than the rpm or the tarball ones, why can't some Debian based distros use all those .debs?? Within the open Linux world are closed, distro and cpu architecture dependent systems. I understand cpu architecture differences, but not distro differences. I mean so different that you have to resort to compiling from source code to make it run on your distro. I'm starting to repeat my anguish. We all are searching for the Linux sweet spot. The cries from the Linux choir are worst than a rampage of used car salesmen. There is no one Linux distro that is all things for all people, does all things well or is so able to run on mainframe or laptop, server or desktop, new or old hardware and accommodate skilled and unskilled users. Linux is the ultimate in customization and can be made to fit the hardware, the process and the user. But there is still room for improvements. Even in Linuxville, the streets are paved with orange barrels, at times.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Home Makeover comes to Linuxville

In Linuxville there is always the opportunity to re-evaluate your whole situation and change it if necessary. One of the best ways to do this is to have a separate partition for your /home directory. This way when you change your linux install you can better preserve your user files and data. In practice though, you shouldn't have to change anything for years. In fact the hot OS idea is counter the practical design of Linux. Once you have a distro installed, you should be able to upgrade portions of it as necessary be it the kernel, the libraries or the whole distro. I've become a "distro hopper" and it has got to stop. Is there really a better Linux distro just around the corner?? Does having the latest and greatest and being on the cutting-edge of things really matter?? Will I fall behind if I don't have the newest?? My hardware isn't getting any newer and the applications haven't changed significantly, why am I striving so hard to be first on my block?? A Linux OS is meant to last a long time, just like that gum they advertise on TV, where they beg you to chew a second piece. With the incremental improvements you don't have to get upgrade fever. The server folks have known this for ever and we in the desktop crowd should not be overcome by this sickness either. Linux choice is about considerate choosing of appropriate tools, reasonable look and feel and ease of use. To market Linux based on wallpaper and screensaver experiences is not a good thing.
Well, one thing leads to another and in Linuxville you get to see and experience a lot. Trying stuff is what keeps this whole thing interesting. Not having a business, I don't have to have a locked down user environment. Sameness is more maintainable from a system admin point of view. So, you heard of my love for Xfce desktop and how much I am weary of extreme eyecandy. I want to hip you to a couple of things I think are striking enough for serious thought. The first is a desktop called Kuartet. Kuartet is a desktop that runs on top of KDE and uses something called Superkaramba. Superkaramba allows you to design desktop wigets and gadgets, you know, clocks and gages, status bars, etc, etc, etc. Kuartet escapes the menu metaphor with info screens and desktop hotspots. It is cool looking and functional. The catch is that it is a project that has escaped notice and did not catch on (ahead of it's time??). If Oprah can promote books, I can promote this. We should consider a Kuartet revival and proceed to push the envelope of the desktop. The second thing before me is the window manager Fluxbox. I've played with it before and now have it on AntiX, the Mepis spin. Fluxbox is a looker and you can change the look with a flick. Fluxbox is simplicity inspite of requiring a little tweaking to set it up. Fluxbox is swift. If you want to turn in your SUV for something greener, Fluxbox is the one. Sorry, you can't just install Fluxbox from Synaptic and run it. Fluxbox is not a desktop environment like Gnome or KDE or Xfce. It is a window manager that requires the help of other apps to fill it out (you get to choose, yeah!!!). In the Mepis docs is a Wiki on how to install Fluxbox, configure it and what to put with it so you have a complete desktop. I will try it all out and report it here, live, for your enjoyment and deployment.
Another Linuxville truth!!! There is no Linux expert or single person who contains all there is to know about Linux. This is why user groups and forums are so cool. If you have a question or concern, you can inquire within the Linux "social network", "community", "distro docs" for the benefit of our combined knowledge and experience. Excuse us if our "mouse-side manner" (user hand holding technique) needs work, but ask. Life in Linuxville is fun and challenging.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More adventures with Mepis

Had a real busy day, the battery in my car which is supposed to put out 600 cold cranking amps only kicked out 21. It is a wonder the car still started, but Chevy's turnover fairly easy anyway. The 30 minute replacement operation turned into a couple of hours. I called a friend to assist me and we got it done. Things don't usually go as smoothly as we'd like. I had better luck with my computers. As you know I made the switch to Mepis 7.0 and it just works. I am learning to like KDE desktop, it has so much stuff, but I miss Xfce. So, I installed Xfce as an alternate desktop and am in the process of setting it up. To see all the tools Mepis offers in Xfce is making me feel I made a good choice. Mepis does something that other distros should pick up on. Instead of the missing manual that nobody provides anymore, Mepis comes with a desktop link to a manual installed on the live-CD or your hard drive. Not an internet link to a web site or a help file. It is clear it is the manual, you don't have to look for it. Then I read that Mepis uses Ubuntu repositories, but the truth is that it uses some, not all. Mepis is compiled from Debian "Etch" which is the latest stable version. So a better choice is to seek out the Debian repository sites. I am not clear which Ubuntu versions Mepis 7.0 is compatible with. Some Ubuntu based .deb packages will not work properly on Mepis.
My second machine, a 32 bitter took a major change, I removed Mepis 7.0 (is this guy fickle or what?) and swapped and reformatted the drives. In the Mepis camp, there is this distro called AntiX. It is Mepis, but very skinny. It reminds me of Wolvix, small with lots of tools and apps. It is just over 350MB in size and is full of light weight stuff. It has Fluxbox and Icewm for the desktop and looks great. As a hit and run live-CD it is adequate for rescue work or an office you take with you. And as I will use it, to manage files on my network and explore and tinker and tweak and general geeking out. What happens to all those other live-CD distros stacked on your desk? I like to from time to time revisit neighborhoods I have known and do demos for friends. Promoting Linux is not easy as one distro is good at somethings but not at others. The coolness factor depends on how much Linux you understand and appreciate. Eventually you get past all the flash and want the functionality too. Mepis and AntiX are an interesting combo.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the Linuxville Mepis report

Linuxville has it's quirks, one being that distros become the brain-child of groups of developers. One distro might have a better way (at least to you) of doing a thing. Similar distros might feature that unique way compared to another distros. Then some distros are popular inspite of lacking better ways of doing things. Wouldn't it be cool if all the best stuff showed up in one distro? Well I have found that what works well and easy in one distro is a trial in another. There is not usually a problem with the common applications but a few refuse to work even when nudged. This is all in the realm of learning Linux. How is Mepis on my desktop? Mepis is getting a workout as I find out how to do all the stuff I want. While I don't have a single interface to view all my pictures and videos (like Elisa Media Center), I do have several video and picture viewers that do the job well. The saying in Mepis is that it just works, this has been my experience. Not as flashy and exciting as my trek into Ubuntu, but a very good experience none the less. Mepis is very solid and the just works thing takes the edge off many newbie concerns. My only complaint has been the KDE menu which takes time to get use to. So, the trade off is finding where the application or tool is over hunting it down and making it work. Actually, I haven't progressed much beyond the out-of-the-box Mepis as some like whirling and blinking displays as proof of their geekness. Most users don't have the time or the interest to tweak till you geek. Mepis is pleasant to look at from the get. There is a lot to like. Mepis is not on the cutting-edge, not in the back of the pack, not funded by millionaires, not pushed by fanfare and stigma fighters. It is sort of like my Chevy, dependable, capable and reliable, looks good and rides nice.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The awlful truth about Linux

The awful truth about Linux is that there is more than one way to do things. So, when you change from one distribution, say Xubuntu, to another, Mepis, you gain some things and lose others. This is like the days of my youth, combing through a Boy Scout catalog and seeing a Swiss army knife. My dad buys me this other knife. It was twice as big and had three times as many tools. It did the job and then some, but was hard on the pockets. Xubuntu is slim in function, though you can nudge it to do anything. Mepis on the other hand has all the stuff and just works. Mepis is very impressive but I can see that certain applications are not in the repositories and might have to be compiled to run on my system. This is unfortunate for a point and click guy like me. I might have to learn something new. There is a lot to be said about simplicity. I bought a Pontiac car a while back. It had a lot of dashboard dials and buttons for extra stuff. Sort of made you feel you were in an airplane cockpit. They were not really needed to drive the car, but boy was it cool looking. I am working my way around KDE desktop. It looks spiffy but it is hard to settle on what I like, I keep tweaking this and that. I have a status panel on the top and a application icon panel in the bottom, that disappears. Not radical but very workable. I noticed that Mepis doesn't have quite the web presents that Ubuntu has and perhaps a smaller community too. But the Mepis forums are not filled with minor new user questions either. This is because Mepis just works for most people. Hey, it worked for me. Another truth is that the applications that matter are available for most distributions leaving the awkward installs for those projects that aren't so popular. Yeah, yeah, I could have moved to Ubuntu or Kubuntu but due to the compromises needed to make a distro popular, I don't think I would have gained as much. So, if you have a lean machine, give Xubuntu a try but don't expect to control the world without some work. Mepis is full-bodied and robust. The KDE menus are a bit much to remember where things are kept. The icon panels help out a lot. And so far I didn't have to install flash on the 64-bit Firefox, it just worked. And the video downloader extension installed and works too. Mepis is a little less work than Kubuntu and I like that.
Now, Elisa Media Center is not a convenient install on Mepis and I am looking into have it or something like it on my computer. But as I go around tweaking and adjusting my system, I will eventually will find a solution. Stay tuned, you'll hear it from me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

To all you purest, loyalist and devotees of Linux

One of the hardest things to deal with in Linuxville is distro love. Often you hear of folks who swear by a particular distribution of Linux. We get so personal with our connection to the distro we are using as if it has the ability to do all and be all. These are of course good and confident feelings and my intent is not to discourage them but to insist on a little reality. While most distros seem well thought out it is obvious that not all can do things exactly the way we wish. Choices and compromises and decisions have been made to produce something so that you might have an out-of-the-box Linux experience. We should not expect that provided solution to be optimum for everyone. This is why so much attention has been spent on being able to delete and install portions of Linux. Then the GUI desktop itself has become a large part of what is provided in the distro. The major desktops are based on a particular library, Gnome and Xfce use the gtk and KDE uses the qt libraries. Then developers have written similar solutions from those libraries that integrate well with the desktops also written from those libraries. Of course you can use a mix of these solutions in your installation of Linux with various degrees of success. So you can be GUI focused which reveals that different distros function the same when sharing the same GUI. Or a name brand loyalist, pushing and recommending a particular distro. Or a mix of the extremes. You have to ask the question, if the new car out of the box experience is so great, so satisfying, why do you see fuzzy dice, new hub caps, seat blankets, beads, knick-knacks, tissue boxes, trim lights, hood scoops and assorted stuff in the new car by the first weekend of ownership ? The out of the box thing may be a great concept for business transport but the drive to personalize and accessorize makes it mine. Being able to cover all of the user choices in one distro is near impossible, but you should always have the feeling you can personalize and accessorize. I drove Ford cars for years, I now own a Chevy. I've had 4 station wagons in a row, I now have a sporty sedan. I have had Slackware and Red Hat, now I have Debian. Eventually you discover what works for you, what you are willing to deal with and who supplies what you need? My moto, "It's all Linux inside."

My latest move is SimplyMepis 7.0. It uses KDE desktop and the Ubuntu repositories. It has good looks and feels solid. Similar to Kubuntu? Yes, but lets not split hairs. I am looking away from the millionaire's OS's to see what else is out there. Mepis has the coolness factor without the political/social philosophy thing Ubuntu has. Gosh, what people do to sale cars!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New developments and winds of change

Well folks, in my personal Linux adventure, I was tortured by the question of wither to install a full featured Linux distro or a small trimmed down one. Is it better to delete redundancy or install what's needed. I still can't answer that question. But my computing needs did indeed change and I find that Xubuntu does not stand up to the challenge. When inquiring about my new direction, the response was good but not clear cut as I had hoped. To accomplish the things I want and have to use all sorts of command line tweaks and such is not the kind of person I am. Some of you kind and helpful folks really like to dig into the flesh of Linux and make it work. My self, for the purpose of pursuing a more "popular" Linux, prefer to see application and GUI solutions. While I root for the Ubuntu crowd, I have had trouble with the new Hardy Heron 8.04 on both of my machines. The 64-bit one works but web browser extensions are problematic. On the 32-bit one, the install failed a number of times and the desktop settings did not hold once I did get it installed. This was with Xubuntu and with Ubuntu (with Gnome). The 7.10 versions worked without a problem. I wonder what are the underlying causes of these problems, but I really don't have the skills to probe them or the interest to use work-arounds. Oh, I did not mention Kubuntu, I really don't care for KDE desktop but, this has become a part of my new direction. So, you can guess that I am not a true distro loyalist, not a make it work or die kind of person. I have loaded a distro called Mepis onto my second machine. While I don't like the KDE menu or the extensiveness of the tweakability of KDE it does look and feel just fine once you become accustom to it. Mepis is Debian based and does use Ubuntu repositories. I don't know what it has in comparison to Ubuntu but when I installed it, it worked, period. You can't ask for more than that. I of course am looking into the background of Mepis as I want to know about the support community and such things. Then this KDE thing is interesting for one reason, I want the tools to do what I want. Xubuntu lacks networking apps and the path to gather which tools are useful, to download, install and configure is not so clear. You system mechanics might holler "what's the problem?" and "you can do it like this!". This is fine but it is probing too deep into the inner workings of Linux and I really don't have the inclination to 'figure it out'. Back to the question of full or skimpy distro, Mepis has the tools to do everything and to my taste I might have to uninstall a few things and add others, but the tools are there. What I need to do is see my network, share files and remote. I shouldn't have to make it work, from my perspective. I guess the idea of a single computer using Linux is fine but being part of a network is different. And it is not a dedicated server and I am not a Linux system mechanic, so I look for simpler, more complete and accessible solutions. To sum this all up I would say that the new Hardy Heron needs work, is not as cool as the previous version. The KDE desktop, which I am not rah-rah over is not that bad to deal with (takes time) and while Ubuntu enjoys the spotlight, is not all there is to Linux. I am tipping my hat to the Mepis crew. Mepis or SimplyMepis as it is called, uses the KDE 3.5 and I wonder if the new 4.0 would be better but at this point it does not matter, it all just works. That is the point!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

doing some yard work in Linuxville

Here in Linuxville you don't need a builder's permit to do that special project that's going to upgrade your property, but then again you are not assured to have all the stuff you need available to do the job. I have dubbed it "the land of not". As a big fan of Xubuntu, I was expecting to have what was needed to do some expansion work, not!! What I was wanting to do was setup a MS Windowless network consisting of two Xubuntu computers, a router and a DSL modem. Yeah, I got it physically wired alright, but the software side is "not" happening. Not only does Xubuntu not have adequate network tools, but there is not one how-to that explains it in a simple, step by step way so that the average Joe or Josephine could understand it. If you use Samba, which I think is for connecting to MS Windows computers, there is lots of info. If you have only Linux machines, there is zilch. Then to top it all off, Xubuntu does not come with a network browser. Sure, if you are a techie who enjoys digging into the inner workings behind the GUI, you can make it all work. But if you want Linux to be the fairly popular desktop that might rival MS Windows, you have to have clear cut GUI ways to access these things. That also means that system mechanics need to swallow their savvy and condense the complicated path they took to make it all work into point-n-click simplicity. Xubuntu, Xubuntu, Xubuntu, you have it going for you and yet you come with missing parts. To be able to connect to a network is a simple thing. A network browser is not too much to ask for, even if it is an application that can be installed later. I have heard it from techs but the point is I shouldn't have to know so much to be able to do this. Every little detail requires an explanation and those explanations are scattered across the internet. I realize that Linux distributions tend not to do everything well, which is why folks try out many different ones. Alas, even I, must join the ranks of folks who say Linux is crap because something does not work on "my machine". No, Linux is evolving and growing and is better than previous versions, that is for sure. But, in the explanation of things, certain assumptions have been made. My complaint is that my particular needs have not been addressed and my skills have not progressed to where I can do-it-myself without help. My project is to have two Linux computers, share one internet connection via a router, see each other, have one remote into the other, share folders and a printer. In MS Windows, these things are not so complicated. Why are they so hard to do in Linux which was designed with networking in mind? Again, I am looking through Xubuntu glasses. This is like typical yard work at home, I can see what I want but don't have a tool to get it done easily and rightly. I mow, then it rains, the dandelions stand up like soldiers, 'ya missed me', where is agent orange when you need it? I call tech support, I want to install a "package", then point-n-click and get it done.
Somewhere, deep in the heart of the urban jungle of Linuxville in a small obscure curio shop with dusty shelves, strange lights and noises come from a back room, a couple of surviving machine code wizards motion to their young protege, faces still glowing from the ancient CRTs on the table, "oh, you can do that in Xubuntu can you?", "yeah, but can you manage it with a mouse and make a simple how-to anybody can use?" I wish........

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Linuxville bragging rights revisited.

When you get brand new software it always is a concern as to if it is a finished product or if you are the second rung beta tester (guinea pig). I guess I could have taken the upgrade path where you install the new software on top of the old, but that does not work so cleanly all the time. So I, as you will recall, installed the new Ubuntu 8.04 on my older machine and it hung. I tried three times and the third time (the charm) it loaded with no problems. Now I have on my main box, Xubuntu 8.04 and 7.10. My older machine sports Ubuntu 8.04. Being a Xfce fanboy, I am a bit biased toward Xubuntu but, Gnome does have some points. It is a solid desktop with some things I like. I really like the snappy windows in Xfce, Gnome sort of fast fades in and out. I am not a slow motion kind of guy, I like the crisp popping in and out of my windows. I think fades and hesitation promotes an un-assured feeling when working the desktop compared to a crisp response. But don't get all click happy, we must learn patience, computers still don't provide the swiftness of mental agility. Ubuntu 8.04 is on a 32-bit machine so I don't expect any problems getting web browser extensions to work. Gnome is like a whole new neighborhood, similar to Xfce but different enough to notice. In Xfce, the Icon panels or tool bars are more configurable. You can in Gnome add fancy icon bars that rival the one on Macs, but I really hate adding to the overhead of the desktop when the point is to get to the programs. You might think otherwise and that is your right. What do you do with two computers when you are the only real user in the house? If I had some money I'd get a couple of large hard drives and use one computer as a server to the other. But the truth is that my needs are not that great and I don't tend to collect stuff I don't use. I do intend to try out networking and remote desktop and virtual machines and all that sort of thing. I was considering installing MS XP as a virtual machine but I can't think of any software that runs on MS Windows I must have that doesn't run in Wine on Linux. Yes, I am practically MS free.

One of my latest interest is multimedia as I am impressed with a little item, the digital picture frame. Just sitting there on the mantle or desk, flicking scene after scene is so cool. Then I installed a program called Elisa Media Center. It is wonderful as it allows one interface to all the media on your computer, it is very sweet. I'm not much into the MythTV kind of thing, the computer/TV connection is there but, I'm still hedging about putting a computer in the living room, I guess it could happen. Like the days of the hifi stereo setup, TV and computer arrangements tend to get techie. Does Elisa need anything? Yes, it allows you to explore YouTube, but only YouTube and there is no search function so you can only see the most viewed and tagged stuff. To be able to load any internet video source site and have search criteria would make it even cooler. In the meantime, you can download videos to the hard drive and watch them that way at your leisure. Also to be able to download the stuff you find while in Elisa would be nice. Maybe combine Elisa with some Flock browser type functions would be cool. The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades!!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Standing room only and somebody yelled 'Fire!!'

Yes folks, the mad rush to download the new Ubuntu 8.04 is on and I jumped into the fray. Of course I used bit torrent like a good boy and it all went smoothly. I installed the 64-bit Xubuntu on my main machine, an HP Pavilion desktop, 2.20 ghz AMD Athlon 64, 512kb memory and 80gig HD and Nvidia Geforce 5200 video card. It is not extreme at all and the install was slow but perfect. Like I said previously, there were some typical 64-bit issues with Firefox and Flash but they are being worked out. I am now able to view flash movies but still I can't download any. In the Ubuntu repositories, there is Gnash and swfdec, which are the two Flash choices available, but I don't know if they are 64-bit or 32-bit. I do know that if they are 32-bit, they require a nspluginwrapper to let them work in a 64-bit Firefox browser. I installed them and don't recall installing the wrapper. I will have to peek inside to see what was installed. Anyway, at least the video watching problem is solved. I still don't understand why the download extensions for Firefox don't work. I even installed SeaMonkey, which is the Mozilla continuation of Netscape browser (very nice). Download extensions won't even install for SeaMonkey. Alas, so much mystery!!
My second computer is one I pieced together, a 850mgz AMD Duron, 256mb, 20gig HD and ATI Radeon 7200 video card. For it I downloaded Ubuntu 8.04 and wanted to see just how long it took to install. I can't tell you because it hung. When the install reach the point of configuring the locales, it hung and I had to go to work, so I shut her down. The saga continues..........
The trauma fuels a discussion as to whether it is more worthwhile to install 32-bit over the 64-bit versions, even on 64-bit hardware. Opinions vary but in reality 32-bit hardware is slowly being replaced by 64-bit, even though many, many 32-bit softwares are not changing over. In this mix, backward compatibility is built-in but I wonder at what cost.
More adventures are coming, stay tuned.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Linuxville's critic's corner

You all know the thrill of getting a shiny new car only to find a few flaws that spoil the allure. I wonder what was the rush to get Hardy Heron on my computer was all about. This is the latest Xubuntu 8.04 and it indeed was sweet for a while. Being a 64-bit kind of guy, I was braced for some trauma and I wasn't disappointed. But what troubles me is a deeper concern, I now can not download videos, the helper extensions won't install in Firefox. I even reinstalled an earlier Firefox to no avail. The combo of new Xubuntu and Firefox 3 beta 5 does not play well together. I also tried Mozilla Seamonkey browser and suffered the same fate. I also went throught a bought of browser crashes which seems to have subsided. I was having MS like flashbacks and wondering if my install CD's were corrupt. I did an original install instead of an upgrade, I still have Xubuntu 7.10 and it works just fine. There are a few other things that bother me about this 8.04. I don't have access to my whole hard drive. I can't even see my 7.04 installation. From within 7.04 I can see the 8.04 partitions just fine. Actually that's not too bad, just two items out of all the stuff I could complain about. I will see what other citizens are saying in the forums and perhaps return some sweetness to Xubuntu. I am wondering if the 32-bit crowd is hurting also. Anyway, it's back to the dealership and I'm glad I still have my old ride.