Archive for September, 2006

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So Much for That

September 22, 2006

Last night, I spent a couple of hours on the laptop with my new serial, external Linux-friendly modem.

Unfortunately, I never did succeed in getting the connection to work, despite using both Puppy and Mepis.  Puppy did eventually get the number dialed but for some reason was not able to bridge the final connection.  So…

I’m going to hook that thing into my Windows machine and see if it works on there.  If Windows handles it, I’ll be thinking the Linux totally sux.  If not, then I’ll think that my modem might be defective, which is possible.

But that is the short version of an update for now.  More later when I either get more time or get the thing working like I want.

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My New Desktop Computers Have Arrived

September 21, 2006

Ghengis Khan, the building IT guy came and delivered 2 machines, each with 512 RAM, 2.8 GHz Pentium Ds and 60 MB HDD along with new 17″ CRT monitors.  these really are lovely machines and the paras “Oooohed” and “Aaahhhed”  over the DVD- ROM and the speed of these things.  

Mr. Khan and his assistant were in a massive hurry so there wasn’t much time to chat.  No, he had not had time to play with the Ubuntu disk.  He didn’t even bother loading the printer or scanner drivers, opting to give me administrator access.  This is lovely, but I still have no idea how to get to the place where I can load and install software.  The first thing I did was to try to install the latest version of Firefox, since the system insists on clinging to IE6.  It wouldn’t let me install it and kept telling me I wasn’t authorized to install.  but I knew I was!

This illustrates perfectly how with any machine, even with an operating system I know well, that there is a learning curve and a level of frustration.  In this case, trying to get around Windows XP Professional when i was more used to the “Home” edition.  There was no control panel to speak of, but I found bits and pieces here and there.  Everything I saw said I had total control over my machine, but reality proved otherwise.  I refuse to run IE6 unless I’m forced into it, and since this machine is my main one, I needed another plan.

And you can already guess what it is.  

What?

No, I said you could guess!  That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you!  I’m using it right now, FYI.  I’m not sure what the “Hemlock” program does in MS windows but I just don’t like the sound of it.

Anyway, I had managed to back up my files just as Mr. Khan brought the machines in.  Getting a few megs of info off of a Win98SE machine is easier said than done.  It did not recognize any of my flash drives and doesn’t have a CD burner.  So I used a certain LiveCD which was able to see my flash drive and the HDD and backed up the stuff I needed to get.  Mr. Khan ended up leaving the machine here anyway, so I may still have to use it until I can figure out how to get the scanner and printer loaded.

Next stop, home with my laptop to see if that modem will work.

Got my fingers crossed.

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It’s Here

September 21, 2006

The serial modem that is supposedly going to enable Linux to kick ass on the internet is here! And very quick, too! Remind me to give that vendor some nice feedback once I get this thing rocking and rolling.

See, while the modem is here, the laptop is not. But tomorrow I will bring it home and it will have its inaugural debut. I hope.

Ghengis Khan, our school’s IT professional informed me that it was my turn to have two new machines installed. They are supposed to have some awesome power, but we’ll see. He’s also going to give me a lesser machine that won’t be crippled up so I can play around and install some of the specialized stuff I need.

Actually I’ll be playing with all of them and putting them through their paces. But I’m anxious to hear if he’s tried the Ubuntu disk I passed along and what he thought of it.

So there’s a big day coming on the computer front. Stay tuned.

dick

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Needs Part 2

September 17, 2006

 

 

On the second day of posting (but maybe my 6th post) to this blog back in June, I discussed what my needs were as far as getting Linux to replace Windows.  I don’t think I was asking for a whole lot, except it was an ambitious agenda coming from totally Windows.  Over time, my thinking has evolved and so have my needs.  Circumstances are a major driving force behind any adjustment a person makes to their lifestyle.  As it turns out, Linux definitely fits very nicely to meet some of my needs but not in a way I would have envisioned back in June.  Back then, it looked like my main desktop was dying a slow and painful death.

 

As it turns out, MS eventually was able to deliver a patch that solved the major problem.  XP is still slow, but at least it is livable for most things.  I can burn DVDs and sometimes watch them again.  But the biggest circumstance dictating some chances is my wife, Jane, becoming more and more of a computer nerd.  She just got a new digital camera, so she is way into downloading, editing and cataloging her pictures and she likes to spend hours and hours doing it.  This is nice that she has a hobby and an interest but it really gets in the way of MY hobby and interest of blogging and fiddling with computers!  So this is why I began hunting for another machine.  I was thinking of buying some old junker of a P3 for $50 (plus $50 postage) and making that my Linux machine to do some stuff on while Jane fiddles with her photos.

 

But fate has a way of intervening.  And new circumstances intersected and worked out in my favor.  Mainly, all of us teachers were given new laptop computers.  Actually, not all of us.  We are actually sharing in groups of 3.  But not a lot of teachers have much use for a new laptop because each of us is also getting 3 new desktops in our classrooms.  So I was designated keeper of the new laptop for my little group.  It is a Dell with a Celeron M, 512 RAM and a 1.75 GHz processor and a 60 Mb HD with a DVD-CDRW.  Very nice, except it is loaded with administrative crippleware which means we can’t even log in until we get some specialized training so they can remove some of the administrative shackles.  So no one can use their shiny new laptops.  Except me.

 

Why me?

 

Because I can take it home and bypass the HD entirely by virtue of a Linux live CD, specifically Puppy Linux!  And I can watch a DVD movie if I want, or fiddle with files I have on my jumpdrive while Jane plays with our desktop.

 

So my needs have altered just a bit, because having a second computer changes things a bit.  It means I don’t necessarily have to give up Windows (which I never really had to, by virtue of dual booting and Live CDs).  I don’t really need to edit video on my 2nd machine or even do things with photos.  I’d rather use it for blogging mainly, and occasionally some other simple tasks that can all be save on a jumpdrive and moved to either another Linux desktop or a Windows machine.  Since this laptop isn’t all “mine” as such, the live CD option is truly a good way to go because I can use the machine’s muscle without ever having to save anything on it.

 

This is why I went ahead and bought a Best Data serial modem on eBay, paying a total of $20 (which includes postage) instead of continuing to fight the fight of the PCI modem.  If someone gives me an old desktop or laptop, I’ll have the modem already.  I’m looking forward to seeing if the serial modem option is as easy as everyone keeps saying.

 

dick

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Puppy Linux 2.10

September 15, 2006

Oh my.  This distro just keeps getting better!  I’m also getting better at finding my way around Linux.  I’m getting closer to finding my distro.  I can feel it.  And it might just be this one.  Stay tuned for a big shout out if this one makes the final cut.  We are in a third round of testing right now, with previous ones documented here and here.

One of the problems I had with Puppylinux the last 2 times out was it did not automatically detect my netwrok settings on my work machine.  After readinig another review, I had a better idea of what to look for.  The answer was right there; the network wizard.  As I said previously, Puppy has wizards for everything.  Windows users frequently complain about the lack of wizards in Linux systems.  There can be no such complaint here.  So now I am able to use this distro at work in a similar fashion as I’ve been using Mepis.

Version 2.10 is an upgrade from the previous version I had previously tested.  One thing I noticed was that this version seems to use a bit less RAM than previous versions.  Supposedly there is more modem support in this version.  From what I read, there might actually be support for my old Smartlink modem (which is a Win softmodem) as opposed to the US Robotics that I presently have on my home machine.  The good news is that the way Puppylinux runs, it is a viable alternative if I lose Windows or my hard drive.  With sufficient RAM (at least 128 Mb) a machine wouldn’t even really need a hard drive.  a flash drive would work just fine.  This is exactly what I intend on doing with a work laptop that I’ll be taking home this weekend.  It looks like it has a modem jack, so we might be able to conduct some business that way.

One of Puppy’s claims to fame is speed, which I have covered before.  But speed in program opening and execution is only part of it.  The first bit is the fact that Puppy boots faster from the CD than any other distro I’ve tried.  It boots faster than either Windows or Mepis from the hard drive.  With the ability to save my settings on a keydrive, the hard drive or a CDRW, there isn’t a real reason to run a dual boot system.  Having a partition to store settings, files and programs might be very useful, but this is not strictly necessary as thumb drives are easily large enough to handle most regular file saving chores and CD/DVDs can handle larger jobs.

It is worth a serious look for the nOOb, as well as the enthusiast.  There are many developer tools available for those who like tweaking around.  I like the way this distro runs.  I might have to do a thing or two to get it to look more like I would like it to look, but making it do what I want is the first job.

dick

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Will Preinstalling Linux Make it more Popular?

September 13, 2006

I was reading an article where the author said the Linux would never be widely adopted on the desktop because it was primarily designed for and by geeks. The author then goes on to explain how geeks are different from ordinary Joes.

 

In the comments, one person made an astute observation: all software is essentially written by geeks! Those folks in Redmond are geeks! They just happen to be big corporate geeks. But they have just as many problems dealing with the using public as Linux-using geeks.

 

This is similar to Scoble claiming that the reason Linux hasn’t taken off is because of the poor quality fonts. Okay, so he’s an aesthetic geek. But it just goes to show that everyone is trying to come up with a reason why Linux isn’t making it.

 

The major consensus seems to be that if computer makers were to preinstall Linux, then the computer buying public would have a chance to see and get used to Linux. And all they have to do is use it and they will see how much better it is and then they will like it and tell all their friends and they will tell their friends who will tell their friends and so on and so on and so on…

 

I think I saw the tip of the iceburg in making Linux move with the Ubuntu hype, and I eluded to how it became successful. Ubuntu is following an AOL model as well as appealing to altruism with Nelson Mandela as a spokesperson. That is a very slick campaign. Making free disks available (in lots of 5, 10 or more) will have an effect. AOL managed to saturate the market and quickly build up an empire in short order long before it was preinstalled on so many machines. The first distro that decides to just send out a billion live CD’s is going to become THE linux distro that everyone is talking about. Put them in boxes of cereal, have them sitting in check-out stands at Wal-Mart, turn them into stocking stuffers, and make them so ubiquitous that every person in the country will be saying, “Oh, yeah. Linux. You must be talking about Ubuntu, right?” and people may get sick and tired of hearing about Linux.

 

Like AOL’s former legions, people will eventually seek out other distros and settle on other favorites.

 

Right now, a Linux desktop is not going to draw people to linux because they will simply avoid the unknown devil in favor of the one they know. Yes, Vista is going to be quite expensive and will render an entirely new generation of machines obsolete just like XP did to the P3’s. I may still buy a new machine and it will have Vista preinstalled. But when XP craps out, what will I do with my old machine?

 

When XP replaced the Win98 machines, Linux did not seem to have as much to offer. But look how many distros are blossoming up just in the past year? Linux is picking up steam. I think Vista is actually going to hasten and help Linux gain a greater foothold. People will still have it on their new machines but once everything is migrated over they will begin thinking; do they still want to be paying for yearly updates to their anti-malware packages on an old machine, while having to pay for the new one? Do they still want to continue babysitting an old machine?

 

Placing the OS on a few desktops at the store will not be the turning points to getting Linux on more desktops (or laptops) because people do not know Linux and are not comfortable with it. Make it extraordinarily common, and the common folks will check it out. If they like it, they will adopt it.

 

Which means giving up the command line.

 

I’m still trying to decide if I really want Linux to be as popular as Windows. I think that is a question folks might really want to ponder.

 

 

dick

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Desktop Update

September 13, 2006

Since the last post, I went ahead and gave Puppy Linux another go on my work machine. This is the machine that is presently running Mepis 6.0, after I replaced the hard drive.

 

Here’s another great review of the Puppy Linux Distro.

 

I gave it another whirl, because my regular Mepis login wasn’t working even though the ‘root’ account still works. I’m not sure if it’s just the old hardware or something buggy in the distro. I’m still using it, in anycase.

 

The biggest thing I like about Puppy is its raw speed. When you open the office-like application it opens within 2 seconds, max. And this is on a 550 Mhz machine so it isn’t dual core anything. For a light little distro it is pretty loaded.

 

The one drawback to me using it all the time is the fact it has no idea where to find the internet on the network. And it did not (unsurprisingly) locate my modem at home. The modem thing has been a persistent issue and I’m past being hung up with that although Puppy Linux has more support for modems than any other distro I looked at. But the fact that it couldn’t locate the connection at work was a novel experience. All other distros I’ve tested have had no problems with the ethernet connection, and neither did the reviewers linked to above. It was just odd. I may yet try to force the issue again, later on.

 

There’s a lot to like with this little distro, especially on older hardware. It makes it all seem new again and makes it run as well as machines several years newer. Linux, in general, does well with older hardware but one would be hard pressed to find another distro that does as well on flat-out speed.

 

dick