Linux Mint, still my top distro…

As a long time distro hopper, I am surprised to still be using Linux Mint after over a year.  It satisfies and it doesn’t break with updates….I like it.

I just set up my main desktop dual boot KDE/GNOME with a shared home directory…it is wondrous.  Shared firefox, amarok, digikam, kompozer settings folder…reboot into a totally different OS  and Firefox opens with the last thing I was viewing on the other OS…

I guess my hoppin’ days are done….I am no longer a distro hopper, I am a committed Mint user.

I am looking forward to the release of MInt 5 Elyssa, from what I hear of Ubuntu’s bugs it will be interesting to see if the Mint Team can solve them…


Fedora 8–Impressions

Impressions–not a review. I finally got around to downloading and installing Fedora 8. Huge download, uneventful install. All of my hardware was detected and set up correctly–normal for this box as I obtained it with Linux in mind. It has an Nvidia video card, I haven’t installed the driver yet–waiting for software updates, want to wait in case the kernel is upgraded.

Back to those impressions I mentioned. The desktop is beautiful…very nice for Fedora. The desktop feels sluggish…this is a dual core AMD fast machine with 2GB of RAM…the entire box is slow to respond, apps take forever to load.

Oh yeah, the updated manager freezes every time I try to install updates. I’ve disabled the screensaver as that seemed to be making the freeze occur…Am trying it again–attempt 4. Four attempts, still no updates installed.

The new sound stack seems nice (and stable so far)–it will be nice when it finds its way to a more polished distro–and I don’t want to be to quick to criticize, perhaps it will be solid and speedy after the updates get installed–look for additions to this post.

Edit:  I did finally get the updates installed–the secret was to just let the update manager gui remain frozen for well over an hour, even though it was unresponsive and showed no progress, it was doing its job, albeit very slowly.  I installed the Nvidia driver, enabled compiz.

The interface was slow.  I click a menu, a second later the menu opens, click a submenu and wait.

My hardware should be fast enough to push the weightiest of distros, there is no way that Fedora could be that heavy, there must have been some problem.  I will stick with Debian based releases.

How to win friends and influence users–a rant

Note:  This is a modified version of a post I made on the Linux Mint forums.

Most of those with ties to GNU/Linux want to see usage expand. Many are the reasons that folks make the switch, and rarely is it easy–folks must give up the familiar and take a step into the unknown to make the switch. This is never comfortable and boards such as this one exist to give these new (or potential) users a hand.

Choosing an OS is not just about choosing an OS–there is an entirely different ecosystem that is built around each OS and the entire ecosystem may have to be changed. Hardware peripherals may or may not work with the new ecosystem, familiar applications may have to be replaced with unfamiliar ones, procedures for getting stuff done may have to be replaced with new ones, in general switching OS’s is rarely as easy as inserting a CD and rebooting.

Many in the Windows world have outdated views of Linux–how often do we hear “it is too hard”, or “Linux is only for geeks”, or other such views that may have been true 5 years ago but are not true now. (Many in the GNU/Linux world promote these outdated stereotypes in an attempt to maintain their own [self-perceived] elite status–but that is another rant…)

Windows users have major investments in their computing ecosystem, monetary, temporal, emotional, etc… Rarely can you get them to give up this investment and embark on a new journey by running them down. Using terms like Windoze, Microshaft, M$, etc…is not the way to win converts. This sort of attitude only makes the Windows user more entrenched in their world, these attacks may not be meant as personal, the user of such terminology may not even be aware that they are attacks, but they do nothing to win over users and may even do harm.

Earlier I mentioned that many Windows users have outdated views of Linux, in the same way, many Linux users have outdated views of Windows. You can see this when they use terms like MICROS~1 (how long has it been since Windows used Dos naming conventions?) and talk of BSOD’s as if they are still common. The average Windows user is probably no less intelligent than the average Linux user, running down these users with outdated stereotypes that the user knows to be untrue is not doing anything to help win them over.

Some may say that they do not want to win over new users, they fear that if the masses adopt Linux it will become just like Windows or they fear that they may lose their (self-perceived) elite status. As for me, I want new users. When I switched to Linux I had to give up the Amazon MP3 store, Amazon movie rentals, and Movielink rentals. I would like access to these things, but I know it won’t happen until Linux reaches some critical mass. I don’t know what that critical mass is…if I had to make a guess, I would put it at 10% or better.

So I titled this rant, “How to win friends and influence users”, so I should give my take on how to make that happen. Respect. Nothing more, nothing less. People can be enabled to make different choices without running them down. Search any Linux forum for terms like “windoze” or “Microsoft Sucks” and you will see what I mean.  I have no way of knowing what motivates people to such behavior, but as a recent convert myself, I can guarantee you that this only serves to entrench Windows users with a bunker mentality. If you really want to win friends and influence users, try a little respect.

Addendum: I am also guilty of this lack of respect, whether referring to Apple Fanboy or FOSS Zealot…I will try to do better this year…

gOS…Good not Google…

The hoopla is beginning to reside. Two hundred dollar PCs at Walmart got everyone excited for awhile. The reviews have been basically good. The rumors had a Google OS, but it is really a repackaged Ubuntu–nothing to do with Google except that it utilizes Google online services. gOS, the site says it stands for Good OS (Edit: I’ve also heard it called Green OS, so who knows?).

Forsaking GNOME and KDE, gOS uses Enlightenment as its desktop management.

What I don’t get is the choice of included apps. Billed as lightweight, gOS then goes on to include some of the heaviest apps in the Linux arsenal. On my dual core 2 Ghz PC, OpenOffice is a dog, the first thing I do when I install Linux is uninstall that monster.

This is not to say that OOo is not a great product, for businesses it may be necessary and they can get modern hardware. For heavy distros like openSUSE it may be very adequate. But on an enlightenment distro that is billed as light?

Which leads next to Firefox. I love the fox, it is far and away my favorite browser. But it is stodgy, heavy, and slow on old hardware.

And what is up with the website of gOS (linked above)? Did they make it in iWeb? Why is the text images? I really do think they used iWeb to create the site.

With that rant over, I am currently downloading gOS to try it out….

Operating Systems and Usability for the New User

My 71 year old father expressed interest in a computer. He is a retired truck driver who has never sat in front of a computer.

Having an under-utilized Mac Mini, I could have given that to him with either Leopard or Vista installed. Or I could have taken an old computer laying around the office and put Linux Mint on it.

I sat him down in front of Vista and taught him about the common widgets, basic mouse usage, and other tasks. We went through creating files, transferring photos, deleting files, watching DVD’s…. When he showed undue interest in web ads, I thought I can’t really send a naive user home with a Windows computer, not when he lives 700 miles away and I would be called in to solve problems.

So I sat him down in front of Leopard. While I didn’t need to worry about drive by downloads, he was thrown into confusion by the numerous modal operations that the Mac utilizes.  He had questions like why does the garbage turn into a triangle when I click on some things but not on others, what does it mean and how do I know what it will do?  He found the dock much less user friendly than the task bar, why does clicking there start a program but clicking here just fans out more choices, how do I know what to choose?  I couldn’t convince him that the downloads icon was not a camera.  In general, he was much more confused sitting in front of Leopard.

So, setting the Mini aside, I pulled out a computer that would otherwise end up in a landfill and installed Linux Mint on it.  I found it much easier to get him used to the start menu and taskbar than I did the application folder and dock.  Of course he is a novice and has lots of confusion, but he has no problems importing photos from a camera, launching programs, and navigating his home folder.  Since he had no mouse/keyboard experience I set him up with the Gnome Games package to get used to using the mouse.

Does he still get confused sometimes?  Surely.  Will I have to hold his hand for a while?  Surely.  Is Linux the right choice for everyone?  Obviously not.

But for first time users, Linux offers the ease of use for first time users that Windows enjoys and it offers the safety and security that OS X enjoys.  For me it is a no brainer, I’m sending Dad home with a linux box.

One problem that surfaced on all three desktops is when to click and when to double click and how to know the difference?  Good question for which I had no easy answer…you just have to learn.  This is a usability issue that needs addressed by all three desktops.

Your mileage may vary.  But for me, placing a first time computer user in front of the big 3 desktops, Linux was the way to go.  Also Linux Mint comes with all the codecs, so unlike Vista and Leopard, it just works.

Welcome to the computer age, dad.

The End of Linux (again [this time for real!!])

Redhat and Novell have been sued for patent infringement by a company called IP Innovation LLC, a subsidiary of Acacia Technologies. Since I am not a patent attorney, here is the patent (5,072,412) from the USPTO. From a lay person’s cursory reading it seems that the patent covers tabs–I could be wrong. The folks at Groklaw have broken out the tinfoil hats and concluded that this is Microsoft’s doing. Earlier this year Apple Electronics settled for an undisclosed sum a similar suit.

Without a doubt the company is a patent troll. They make nothing, they do nothing useful for society. They simply buy intellectual property and make money suing companies.

But that is not what I want to write about…it is being covered elsewhere. What I want to discuss is the defeatist, chicken little attitudes of those who profess to speak for the Linux community. Yep, we’re hearing it again…”the end of Linux”…just like we heard when SCO filed its lawsuit. Even though no credible source gave SCO a chance of succeeding, this did not stop the chicken littles from cackling doom. I guess they view these lawsuits as fund raising opportunities. “The end is nigh!!” “Help us save Linux!!” and various other types of hyperbole.

The opensource folks have mirrored the French in WW II. Basically they have created a Maginot Line called the Open Invention Network (OIN). The OIN have been amassing patents so they could counter-sue any tech company that sued open source. But like the French, the OIN has been prepping for the wrong war. IP Innovation is not a tech company, they make nothing, they are not infringing on any patents. OIN is sidelined with their pants down while the battle moves elsewhere.

Is Linux under assault? Sure. Does it have the ability to shut it down? No. Do the folks who profess to speak for the community get something for playing chicken little? Yep, they get to claim that they saved Linux. And what is wrong with that? The folks who build Linux get marginalized…the coders, the monetary supporters, the corporate parents, they all get marginalized and people who built nothing–lawyers and other non-producers, who are really no better than the trolls at IP Innovation, take credit for a non-event. Lawyers are bugs, needing to be squished–no matter what side they claim to be on. They bring nothing to the table, they are as worthless as dust, and twice as damaging.

This is just another hurdle on the way to the finish line–it isn’t a roadblock, it is a minor setback–ignore the chicken littles.

I want to end with a question.  Who does more to unsettle the FOSS/Linux waters, Microsoft with its patent threats and FUD or the OSS folks who are always screaming this is the end of Linux?

Mandriva 2008 Released

Mandriva Linux 2008 released, a great KDE distro gets better.  Just installed it on my laptop, all hardware supported, pretty, works as expected, easy install.  My soundcard is supported, that is a first on Linux.

It is nice to see a polished KDE in this time of GNOME.  Until recently, I only used KDE–but now I am a GNOME person.  But I still prefer KDE apps, Amarok, k3b, and digikam are all leagues ahead of their GNOME counterparts.

I heartily recommend Mandriva 2008 as the best KDE distro out there.  Linux Mint is still my favorite distro overall.

OpenSUSE 10.3 released

I downloaded both the KDE and GNOME CDs, burned the ISOs and I hope to get the time later today to install them on my laptop.
I’ve liked SUSE for quite some time. When I first tried to make the jump to Linux, it was SUSE that I tried. Even though it did not stick, I still have a fondness for OpenSUSE. I also think the OpenSUSE team get a bum rap from the Linux community.
People talk about Microsoft and Novel attempting to split the Linux community, but to me it seems that the GNU/Linux fundamentalists are the ones doing the splitting. Is fundamentalism always based in irrationality?
Fundies, weather they be of the Isamic or Christian bent, or of the Apple fanboy bent, or of the FOSS sort–they all suffer from the same disease. The disease manifests itself in the inability to listen, the inability to see the other side. And you cannot be rational with a fundie, best to turn away and go on about your day.
But this is not a post about fundies… I have an hour or two of work this morning (I am presently procrastinating) then take the dogs to the park, then maybe I can play with this new release.
Oh yeah, get openSUSE here.

And have a great weekend.

Update: openSUSE remains the best KDE distribution. I installed both the gnome version and the kde version on my laptop, they may take the prize for the longest install…perhaps even as long as a windows install. But you end up with a polished desktop that works. With that stated, I remain a Mint loyalist and look forward to future releases.

Gotta love Ubuntu..

Well, I actually use Linux Mint…an Ubuntu derivative.

This morning there were 5 updates/patches. I glanced through them and there was an update for Amarok (the world’s best music manager/player). As this was downloading I surfed over to Digg where the new release had just made the front page. Way to be on the ball Ubuntu.