A Summary

October 23, 2006

Linux is not flawless, but neither is Windows.  I think everyone can agree with that.  During my Linux adventures, I’ve managed to discover more flaws in both systems than if I was committing to one or another.  If all you ever use is Windows, you’ll never know how bad (or good) it is until you have something to compare it to.  Many users, like me, do not really even consider a switch until some disaster strikes and we are left with nothing.  Bringing an XP system back up after it goes dark is NOT as easy task, by any stretch.  You need all the license numbers, service packs, updates and patches.  It can take literally days to get a machine running properly after an XP disaster.  I know it, because I’ve been through it, and it was looking like I might have to do it again when I began my Linux odyssey.


While MS has installed a sufficient number of patches to keep my machine running at an acceptable level, that reinstallation experience was not one that I will soon forget nor do I want to experience it again anytime soon. 


Using Firefox , Thunderbird and Open Office certainly helped soften the ground.  Once I began trying live CDs I discovered that Linux could be easy.  I also  found out it could be hard, especially when it came to using modems.  Several readers left helpful and encouraging comments and I ended up going with the external modem for $20 from eBay.


Mepis was initially my distro of choice and it remains my choice for a full-featured distro.  I managed to have it installed and working on one of my work machines for a few months.  However, my thinking has been evolving regarding Linux.  I’m not quite ready to make a full switch from Windows and early on I concluded that since most PCs come loaded with Windows, one might as well use it.  However, it is equally prudent to have a backup and an alternative when the computer pandemic hits.


Puppy Linux 2.10 has become my working distro of choice.  It is lean, mean and fast with just enough tools to get a job done.  It is the most portable and functional distro I have tried so far.  Once a local partition is designated (less than 512 Mb) for the settings, it loads faster than any other distro off of the live CD.  There’s no reason to actually install it if you have over 256 Mb RAM.


So what am I actually using it for?  One is to access tabbed browsing on machines here at work, which are perpetually saddled with IE6.  Another is blogging and websurfing with the laptop when Jane is photo editing on my main desktop.  Many times I actually favor using the laptop, since I can surf while lounging on the bed or the couch.


I also favor Puppy for watching DVDs.  For some reason, XP is not able to handle DVDs very well and likes to hang up or crash.  Puppy will also hang and crash on occasion but seems to do somewhat better than XP.  It is worth noting that Puppy Linux, being an Australian distro, includes sufficient software to play commercial DVDs up front.  This alone won me over pretty quickly.  However, Abiword, the default word processor does not have a dictionary installed for spell checking.  That is annoying.


No distro has everything.  While XP looks like it has everything, it takes time and effort to get everything to work properly and it needs to be constantly nursed, patched and protected to be maintained, making it an expensive OS in terms of resources.  Getting Linux to do something supposedly simple like detect a non-Wintel modem was pretty much impossible, which makes getting newer packages more challenging.


Linux is very close to being all I need, but is not quite there, yet.  I still have the DVD burning/movie making aspect that is unexplored.  Puppy doesn’t play not with Google’s Picasa, so that is another area for which I need to find the right tool.  I’m watching the whole post grad school thing go down the financial drain, so that’s one less application to worry about.  And I still need to explore WINE more before a machine will be considered fully functional.


So I’m just summarizing here for future reference.  Anyone who has been reading me already knows all of this but I was hoping something new might be squeezed out as far as an original idea.  Maybe next time!





  1. “Puppy doesn’t play not with Google’s Picasa, so that is another area for which I need to find the right tool.”

    Well, the big popular one is F-Spot, but I’m not too fond of it… don’t know why – could be the fact that only my iMac runs GNOME and the rest KDE.

    Either way, I use, and have used, DigiKam to manage all our photos, and plan to use it to manage the 19G (yes, 19G) of images we have. Wonder how well it will scale.

    You PROBABLY are aware of this already though.

  2. I did use DigiKam (I think that was in the Puppy Bundle) to edit a batch of photos and it was okay. I’ve come to like Picassa’s interface as I seemed to be able to edit faster with it, and with a lot of pictures (19G!LOL!wow!) speed becomes sort of an issue. But user interface is entirely subjective as my wife prefers MS PictureIt, believe it or not, and she edits many more pictures than I do!


  3. Hmm, tried it on my collection. Well, it scales poorly. At least 0.80 (on Ubuntu) does. 0.72 (on Gentoo) doesn’t take 30 minutes just to load.

    Konq has better thumbnail support generating support than Digikam, but the fastest thumbnail generator/viewer is easily Windows Explorer. Too bad it doesn’t have tag editting or plugins. This is over a SMB collection to a Solaris 10 server, so maybe that’s a speed factor.

    Weird thing is that Digikam 0.7 generates all thumbnails in a folder, and Digikam 0.8 only generates those being viewed. With files 25MB or more in size (some even larger TIFFS) it can take a while to generate unless done overnight. But at least it can be DONE overnight!

    Of course, you and I have different needs. My needs are as such:
    Photos are collections from Corbis, Shutterstock, Stockbyte, Veer, etc. and some personal. So I want mostly management, not editting – that’s what Photoshop is for. […I wonder if I could write a plug-in for image editors that uses WINE to slave Photoshop plugins…]

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