Wednesday, December 02, 2009

best kept secret in Linux is FOSS

Artist must suffer but you can suffer less. My latest project is resurrecting a slightly older laptop PC. Seemed hopeless, no memory, power supply and dust bunnies. I took it all apart and put it back together. It kept running for 10 minutes and shutting down. The CPU was cooking and the thermo paste failed to make a good seal with the heatsink. I did put on enough thermo paste, but it oozed out when I tightened the heatsink down. Then, I got a thermo pad which looks like a smear of putty, cut square on a strip of tape. I put it in place and screwed down the heatsink. When running it got warm, I was concerned, but it didn't shut down, it now runs all day, must be OK. Older laptops do heat up.

The laptop had XP on it, I burned it off and installed Xubuntu. It was fine except the sound didn't work or the wireless. I went to the Gateway web site and all the chip set drivers were for Microsoft OS. I thought of dual booting and installing Linux inside of XP (you can do it!). I have decided to put XP back on, what an experience!, because the laptop was made for XP. I am enduring all the usual pain of service packs, unknown updates, authenticating and activation and endless anti-virus updating. So, to me, when I boot-up, I always wonder if the PC is going to work without a hitch, get past all this stuff and let me get to my work. I never experience this anxiety with Linux. Linux has updates with descriptions and just works without the drama.

Now for the suffering less part, I am using mostly Free Open Source Software (FOSS). Almost all of my typical Linux applications are available in the XP flavor also. This is a good situation actually, I get to keep a rusty hand in the XP world and still extol the virtues of Linux with software that runs on both platforms. FOSS stands pat to bridge the digital gap.

Earlier in my blog I gave some web links for FOSS, this new one is especially for Microsoft users, These are two DVD iso's, the OpenDisc and the OpenEducationDisc. They each are a DVD sized download, if you don't have a fast connection better buy the discs.

Back on the laptop, I find my time and date settings have to be reset at each boot. My CMOS battery on the motherboard is near dead. Time to hit Radio Shack. I also have a problem when running the laptop and the power supply cord gets accidentally pulled out, it does not switch to battery mode. Then, even if I run it all day, either the battery is not charging or the power reg on the motherboard is shot. New batteries and refurbished or used motherboards are all overpriced for this machine. It seems to be OK as a desk machine (semi-portable), I'll have to take my power brick with me.

I have few comments about the laptop world. First, it is too bad there isn't more standardization in laptop design, or a file format for the chip-set and card drivers that isn't operating system dependent. Then a standard connector for the power cable with a slight snap that can't be pulled out so easily. Finally, I guess I still like display screens in the 4:3 aspect. They seem to be better for document viewing and artwork than the 12:9 aspect screens. But if you get a big wide screen on the laptop you might get by, only that laptop is not so portable. I was in a lawyer office, they had 4:3 aspect displays turned sideways to view 8-1/2 x 11 pages full screen. If you turn a notebook PC sideways and hold it like a book, gee, you can see the full pages on the left and on the right is the mouse pad. Not bad if you must hold a book.

Then for the Linux world I like to see a step-by-step how-to for typical home users. To know how to setup a home network and wireless would be a big help. This would include a Linux only network, a mixed Linux/Win/Mac network, file sharing between network machines and printer sharing. Once you have a typical model explained in simple terms, most can deal with special situations and such. The writer will have to use his/her best mouse-side manner because us typical home users are not system admin or PC wizards.

Linux on the laptop is not as easy as Linux on a desktop, laptops have less standardization in design. There is a web site This has mostly older hardware as the newer stuff seems OK but how would I know, this paragraph brought to you by "this ole laptop PC."

I'm sorry to say there is no know cure for users concerning older hardware. I know, I know, it still works fine. Putting new software on old hardware smacks of the wineskin thing in the Bible. There comes a point when retiring the old stuff is probably the best thing. If money is not the problem then please get newer stuff, please. You will notice PS/2 connectors being missing from newer PC's because keyboards and mice are USB or wireless. Also the cost of memory for older PC's does not lower with age, it goes up because of rarity. Then with improvements in both software and hardware it is a plus to have newer stuff. Withdrawal discomfort, separation anxiety and frugal reasonings will go away if you insist on grieving, let go, please! I would say "buy a little smaller TV so that you can get a new PC" (this is your subliminal techie speaking).

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