The inevitable announcement of a hiatus

October 29, 2010

The more observant amongst you probably noticed a lack of new content here…apparently, I can’t bring myself to post about my “linux adventures anymore”. As far as I can see, there are three reasons for that.

The most important reason is that I’m just no longer in that place where I have to try and test everything. Used to be I tried every distribution there was, with every possible window manager. Somehow, it’s not as fun as it used to be, but also, I think I have tried them all, and there not much news under the sun. GNOME is gently pushing forward to 3..0, but it’s not here yet, KDE seems to have found it’s groove, XFCE is moving, but at glacial pace as always, and I’m really not sure if anything’s happening with the other window managers. It does feel like there nothing much left to try, at least for a while. I’ve used Linux Mint 9 for a long while, and recently installed Ubuntu 10.10 to try it out…I’m hugely impressed how good and easy this is, and I’m not tinkering with it at all. Even the wallpaper is one of the standard slideshows.

Secondly, Windows playing a bigger part in my life again. Not so much by choice, but I am using it at work and I’m trying to get an MS certificate, so I spend a lot of time in Windows 7. When I take a break studying, I play some Starcraft 2. My PC barely manages it in Windows, and it lags horribly in wine, so using linux there is out too.

And thirdly, I’m getting a bit tired of the open source community. In fact, I’m getting a bit tired of any vocal community on the net. There are so many whiners around, it’s unbelievable. Seems like half of the articles linked on tuxmachines explain why Ubuntu sucks, another quarter explains why everything else sucks too, and the final quarter just bitches that the year of the linux desktop will never come. The few comments my old posts here get are all in the same vein. Like I said, this isn’t restricted to this community…the net has indeed given everyone a voice, and sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing ūüôā

Anyway, this will be the last post for a while. If I suddenly start tinkering again, the results will be posted here. Peace out.


A day at the Opera, part two

July 13, 2010

I’ve blogged about Opera before, and at the time (version 9.5), I didn’t like it at all. It felt too clunky and too difficult to configure to keep it around, and at the time I switched back to Firefox. I semi-regularly kept trying the new versions, and each time came to the same conclusions.

Now, I have switched browsers in the meantime. Firefox became a bit too slow, too outdated for me, and for a while, there was a GTK issue which meant scrolling Google Reader was very cumbersome and slow. That meant I switched to Chrome on Windows XP (at work), Chromium on Linux.

Now however, there is a new version, 10.60, and it’s just so much better. I already like the layout before, but it’s even better now. Tabs are on top, just like Chrome and the new Firefox Beta (but unlike Firefox, the tabs are also on top in the XP version), and the Menu button means there’s even more space for the actual web page. Firefox, again, borrowed this design for the upcoming 4.0 release, but again, not in the XP version. The default skin/colour scheme is modern and unobtrusive without being boring. It’s all good.

It’s fast too, as fast as Chrome, maybe even faster. The only reference I have is how it feels, and if there’s a difference, it’s not very big. It’s definitely faster than Safari and Firefox on the same machine though (a Thinkpad T42).

The only thing that could improve is the download manager. One, it’s displayed in a separate tab. Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer the Chrome way of displaying the downloads at the bottom, with the possibility of opening a download manager in a new tab, but only if you want to. Secondly, I wanted it to store cbr and cbz files automatically in the downloads folder, which has always worked in any browser I used. Opera however keeps asking what to do with the file, and where to store it. I only need to hit Enter twice each time, so it’s not like it’s much extra work, but it’s annoying nonetheless. ¬†Funnily enough, I don’t seem to have the same problem in the Linux version, which I installed on Ubuntu 10.04 yesterday.

In any case, where I couldn’t recommend Opera before, I really think it’s as good as Chrome and Firefox now. Try it out.


Why I’m using Ubuntu now

June 23, 2010

Well, the main reason is because trying out different Linux distributions is so much fun, isn’t it? There was nothing really wrong with Fedora, in fact it did a lot of things right, but I wanted to configure my file server with a lightweight environment and then leave it alone. I’ve spent too much time on that thing already.

Firstly, I replaced Ubuntu with Arch and LXDE, to see if I could get it working with anything else than Ubuntu. I’ve installed Arch probably 50 times before, but this time I couldn’t get the keyboard layout right in X. Hal should take care of that, and yet it didn’t. Also, the screen resolution was way off, and I couldn’t get the nouveau drivers configured, while the chipset was too old for the regular nvidia driver. Exit Arch.

I remembered I had that Fedorea XFCE spin lying around, and I tried that along with Chris Smart’s tips. I got the thunar shares plugin configured, but the share didn’t show up. Using the Samba tool both Windows 7 and my Fedora desktop could SEE the share, but failed to mount it. Both gave an error that the share didn’t seem to exist.

Finally, I slapped regular Ubuntu on the server, and shared both a folder and the printer, which worked immediately. Again, I don’t know how Ubuntu does it, but it does it right. Afterwards I uninstalled things I didn’t need like OpenOffice etc, installed Lubuntu-desktop, and finally got a compromise I’m reasonably happy with. I’d still prefer it if I knew what was actually¬†happening¬†there, but for the moment things work so I’ll leave them alone.

Now, because my (L)Ubuntu cross-breed worked well on the server, because Fedora had one or two niggling problems (it saw two shared printers, but only printed to one and cups crashed if I tried to use the other, and Nautilus and the panels apparently had crashed the day before), and mainly because I hadn’t installed the final version of Ubuntu yet, I installed it on my main desktop.

As always, installing and using Ubuntu is a very agreeable experience. As with Fedora, all hardware worked out of the box, and installing extra codecs and suchlike was a bit easier. It doesn’t look as sleek as Fedora, but it doesn’t look bad either. A bit heavy for a theme called “Light”, but otherwise okay. I do think the focus on looks is a good thing, and I must admit that picture of a PC that runs Ubuntu looks very good.

There was a bit of confusion the first time I had to use the Close-Minimise-Maximise buttons the the top left corner, but it’s something you soon get used to, so I left them there. I didn’t enable the nvidia drivers…I don’t care for desktop effects anyway.

I know I said Ubuntu wasn’t for me a couple of months ago, but I also said things change rapidly…and in fact, there’s still an Arch + LXDE partition on my hard drive, where I have Virtualbox installed so I can study for those Window7 exams…


Why I’m still using Fedora 13

June 9, 2010

I must say I’m impressed with the latest Fedora. I haven’t met any deal-breakers for me yet, but then again, I’ve only used it for a week. Still, there’s much to like.

[Updated with more likes and less dislikes!]

  • I like the speed. I haven’t enabled desktop effects which helps in that department, but nonetheless the system feels snappy and responsive. I have the impression that Ubuntu boots a bit faster, but performs a bit slower when logged in.
  • I like the looks. Of course, that’s¬†subjective, but again it feels lighter than Ubuntu (which is a bit ironic I guess, since their theme is called “Light”). I don’t hate the default Ubuntu colour scheme as many seem to do, but it isn’t¬†particularly¬†attractive to me either. I think blue’s a good choice, and the default background looks fantastic.
    The Plymouth Charge theme is back too, which marks the first time ever that I think booting the PC looks better in Linux than it does in Windows or OSX.
    Of course, I did change background, theme and icon theme since installing Fedora, but that’s beside the point. Why? Because I said so!
  • I like how I read everywhere that I SELinux is annoying and I’d best disable it…I haven’t, and didn’t notice any problems at all.
  • I like how the screen gets locked after a short time. I always forget to do that. This may well be the default behaviour in other distributions too, but in Arch I never got around to enabling it.
  • I like yum. By now, I’ve been using CLI package management for so long, I dislike using the GUI for it. It’s not as fast as pacman, but commands are a bit easier, and information is presented in an orderly and attractive way.
  • I like how this is the first time ever Thunar shows the thumbnails of cbr (rar) and cbz (zip) files. Using Comix, these always showed in Nautilus and have never ever showed up in any other file manager. This is a first.
  • I like the firewall running by default. I know I should set this up myself (after all, using Linux doesn’t mean you’re safe from the worst the interwebs have to offer), but I can never be bothered. Fedora feeds my laziness.
  • I like Adam Williamson.

There are some dislikes too though. In climbing order of annoyance:

  • Every time I open my Downloads folders in Nautilus, I get a prompt, telling me I can share this folder with Bluetooth. Great. I don’t want to. Leave me alone. Solved this by uninstalling gnome-user-share. It’s not ideal, but I don’t need it anyway.
  • Emelfm2 never fails to crash when I try to create a new directory. I had this same problem in Archlinux a couple of months ago, but it has been fixed since then. I have still to check if Fedora is using an older build. Miraculously solved itself…now it sometimes fails to crash. Most of the time, it still does though.
  • Brasero refused to burn audio cds this morning, telling me it failed because of an Unknown Error. I’m planning to look into that this evening, and I hope I can either fix it or find a replacement for Brasero. Probably due to a weird character in one of the filenames. I renamed all the files I wanted to burn and now the problem’s gone.
  • Nautilus can’t determina the name of the Samba file shares on the fileserver I have running. I enabled smbclient in the firewall. Obvious, really.

So there you have it. Fedora somehow turns out to be perfect.


Why I’m using Fedora 13 now

June 7, 2010

There’s a reason I don’t update that much anymore: I’m no longer as excited by Linux as I was before. What I mean is, I no longer install every OS and every application anymore, just to know what it’s like. Linux is Linux, and no matter what major distribution you install, you get more or less the same product.

I was using Arch and KDE and while everything ran more or less smoothly, I disliked two things about it:

1) As I’ve said before, I prefer GTK applications over Qt ones. I use Pidgin, Chromium, Audacious, Comix and Emelfm2 no matter what DE I’m using, and I prefer Rhythmbox over Amarok, and Thunar over no matter what other file manager because of it’s excellent batch renaming capabilities.

2) I find Dolphin to be slow, and it inexplicably doesn’t sort files alphabetically anymore whenever I want it to sort them by type.

The main reason I used KDE was because it’s fast, beautiful, configurable, easy, and KWin is a far superior window manager than Metacity. GNOME even needs a totally unrelated window manager (Compiz) to have any kind of desktop effects, and even then configuration is a total mess.

But as I said, as my excitement about (but not enjoyment of) Linux ebbed, I found that I no longer needed the latest and greatest of whatever the open source community had to offer, and I planned to install Arch with XFCE or GNOME on a spare partition, use my favourite software, and forget about desktop effects or any other bells and whistles.

I hit a snag though: whenever I installed any DE or WM that used GTK the system became¬†unbearably¬†slow after I was done configuring it. Because the problem didn’t show up right after the fresh install, obviously it had something to do with my configuration. It mainly happened in “Open File” dialogs, and upon logging in. It wasn’t WM or DE specific: it happened in GNOME, XFCE, PekWM and Openbox. It wasn’t distribution specific: I had the same problem in Ubuntu, Mint, and finally Fedora, which I had installed because reviews were raving.

At that moment, I had enough and devoted an entire evening to solving the problem. I looked at logfiles. I installed Arch again, checking speeds every step of the way. I browsed every forum I could find. SVG based icon themes might have been the cause, but it turned out the problem was there with basic icon themes too. GDM was a possible suspect, because that would explain why I didn’t have the problem in KDE, but using SLIM or even “startx” didn’t solve everything. I searched through the logfiles and noticed gnome-vfs errors, which did provide the explanation of that but not a solution. And I still hadn’t found the reason why a fresh install of any distribution would run smoothly as anything.

Finally, I discovered that /etc/fstab (which contained a couple of lines I copy-pasted every time) was the problem, specifically the line that mounted the file server. Prejudice got the best of me for a moment and I briefly blamed Ubuntu, because that was what the server was running. That didn’t make any sense, however. As usual, the fault was entirely mine: I mounted a directory containing over 6000 mp3s, and most of them weren’t categorised into folders. And some movies. And some games. Creating a bit of order in the mounted directory took 5 minutes and solved the problem immediately. Which of course left me feeling a right fool, but I’m used to that.

Of course, at the time I was running Fedora, which was running fine, fast and stable, and had found by network printer just by looking at it. RPMFusion took care of the necessary media codecs and the nvidia driver (although that disabled the pretty plymouth theme, but I can live with that), and while I was surpised I didn’t find Chromium in the repositories, instructions on how to install it can be found here.

In short, I’m not running the latest versions of applications anymore, because Fedora doesn’t have a rolling release schedule. This used to be a big deal for me, now I find that I don’t care. The repositories are extensive, but of course Arch has the AUR which contains almost all open software known to man…but I’m not running anything exotic anymore.

In short, I like it. Let’s see how long it stays.


Ubuntu 10.04 Beta

March 26, 2010

I have the beta of the latest Ubuntu on a spare partition on my HD, mainly out of curiosity. My impressions in one sentence:

“Looks okay, but it’s not for me.”

Basically, the same reaction as I have to Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

The install was fast and painless, boot times up to GDM were quick (quicker than my main Arch install, even), but Ubuntu’s GNOME is as slow as ever and starts a load of services I don’t need (bluetooth? I don’t even have bluetooth hardware in my PC), but deselecting them doesn’t seem to make any difference.

The new Software Install Center looks good and works well, and the new look doesn’t bother me, but neither did the old one. I think it now looks marginally better. I moved the window buttons to the right, and completely failed to throw a hissy fit about it. Afterwards, I uninstalled empathy and installed Pidgin and Chromium.

There were some issues…I couldn’t get the USB Disk creator to work, for example, and I don’t like Compiz one bit. More importantly, it detects but doesn’t automount any of my USB sticks, and I noticed this in Karmic and Mint 8 too.

In any case, after my look around I quickly booted back into Arch. Ubuntu’s just fine if you want Ubuntu. I however want to use anything I like, and what I like changes every month.


My take on the whole Ubuntu hullapalooza

March 23, 2010

Basically, I agree with everything in this article.

There, that was easy ūüôā