Back to XP

I have a netbook – Compaq CQ-10 – which came installed with Windows XP. As this was a machine I was going to be doing limited tasks on I installed Ubuntu to see what the fuss was about. It works but … upgrading a single app without adding repositories was a pain. Adding programs that weren’t in the official repositories was a pain. And the programs I wanted – an authoring program in particular – just did not exist. There were many on Windows, some on Mac and compromises on Linux. So for want of a decent tool off Ubuntu went and back came XP with a Vista bricopack applied. It has just what I need and I’m very happy. I’ve also pared down the services to what is needed and it’s fast too – fastest OS in the house.

Another OS

Have I mentioned I am trying Ubuntu? When I bought the netbook one of the factors was that it was running Windows XP. I didn’t care for later and I knew XP wouldn’t tax the machines like Vista and 7 would. After getting it I considered what precisely I wanted the OS to do and XP came out as doing too much. There was too much OS for what I wanted. So I stuck Ubuntu on it. Latest version, Lucid something? Netbook Remix version it was.
I’ve been quietly impressed. All it has to do is browse, IM, email and music. Maybe IRC if needed. That’s all. I’m not saying Ubuntu can only do that, just that because my needs are deliberately basic I have not had to go round chasing drivers and hunting for different sources. So it’s all set up, I’m pretty happy with the command line stuff I do, I have it secured wirelessly and I have my background of choice which is always important (it’s the Red Bull logo). There are some minor niggles but I have major issues with OS X so the netbook is fine. (When I say major issues that can be broken down into 2 parts. (1) the fanboy “OMG Windoze is so insecure and OS X is great” side of things when they fail to see Apple security updates outnumber Windows ones and (2) Apple’s paternal “We know best, we do, really.”). Anyway, Ubuntu on the netbook is really great and because I didn’t need it to do work on from the start it meant I could take my time to learn and poke around.

Went looking for a blogging client under Ubuntu earlier. On Windows it’s Live Writer, on the Mac I use Marsedit if anything so I was after something similar. Blogtk I couldn’t get working, a Blog Entry program I could not create cats with, another would let me connect as if it were a MT blog but then would not retrieve posts. There were a couple of others from the Ubuntu Software thing in Systems but none worked for me. I was quite surprised that there was nothing. Millions of blogs and no way to create and post remotely. Not that there should be, I’m not saying this out of any sort of entitlement I am just surprised there is nothing there and even that there is no competition. It’s not like there isn’t a market is it?
I chose to use the epiphany browser instead. It is for one blog only and although a client lets me save offline I am never offline. If I am away from the computer I have the Blackberry (until December when I go Android. RIM deserve to go down the pan) so the browser will do the job. I can’t confuse it with Firefox either.

Adding in ubuntu

With Parallels I have XP in the Mac, and for heaven knows why I now have Ubuntu. I thought it was a good idea at the time.
Thing is, XP isn’t what Parallels calls it – a Guest OS. Because of how I use it and what I know I could use it for it becomes a ‘Helper OS’ or a ‘Useful OS’. But Ubuntu? I have no idea what to do with it apart from (1) see if works in anything else but brown (2) check how Flash works. So Ubuntu is currently the ‘Only just met Guest OS’. Not a bad thing but we do need to find some common ground if it’s going to stay. Ubuntu must be useful for something…….. ;)

Returning to XP

Windows XP is now back where it was. The Ubuntu Live and Install CD’s will be passed to people I know will try them out, and the Wireless card is winging it’s way back to Ohio. I did anticipate a learning curve and I was prepared for setbacks. I know it’s only been a couple of days and that someone would say that had I stuck at it things might have improved, but in the same way you can taste something and know you’ll never like it, such is how I feel about Ubuntu Linux.

If you have read the few posts I made, you might have guessed this. Subtle I was not. I apologise if what I said offended you but I do not apologise for saying what I thought in the manner I did. It’s how I write.
I know that there could be responses about the flavour of Linux, how I’m still in the evil grip of the Microsoft empire, how I should have taken longer, how I should do x y and z but I’m happy where I am now – with a machine that I am not fighting and bouncing my head off the walls trying to understand. Below are some observations of mine, some based on what I’d heard as a Windows user. They are not gospel, they are not an absolute truth – they are just what I think and will serve as a reminder to myself should I again decide to choose to play with Linux.

Why did I do this ?
For something to do. To discover some more about the much-vaunted Linux. Because I’d not had a way to use Linux on my wireless machine before. Probably other small reasons too.

Linux is more secure
A tool is only as good as the person wielding it. So where security is concerned, no matter what your OS if you choose a stupidly simple password then your security has gone. I also subscribe to the belief that I don’t have to make my site and communications rocket-proof – I just have to make them more secure than others. And I also believe that while encrypting some communication might be useful, the Govt and other ‘powers that be’ are perfectly able to detail my life should they choose. So in the matter of security, it’s down to me. If you want to try and access anything on this or any other of my sites, go ahead. While I’m sure I am crackable the fact that my passwords are very long random strings protects me more than your average site. And I’m also fully backed up so any attacks really would be a minor inconvenience. And I found ‘su’ irritating. Yes I can see why it’s there on a shared system – but a home network ? The 4 of us all have admin status and ‘su’ just became a PITA.

Is your partner dog-ugly but cooks really well, does the chores great and is fantastic between the sheets ? Or have you compromised on the deeds by going for something easier on the eye ? Did you figure that although the experience may be the same some factors make things more pleasurable ? Get my drift ?

Information concealing
A criticism I often see thrown at Windows concerns the registry and the concealing of information elsewhere. I installed gFTP. I bookmarked two of my domains. It then crashed a couple of times (things crash in Linux ? Yes, they do) so I used the Package Manager and opted for complete removal. The next day I tried again after being reassured that gFTP was one of the good GUI programs – and it retrieved that bookmarked information. The fact it did so is of little concern – but the behaviour I saw was one that Windows gets criticised for. There may be no registry, but gFTP information was still in my system even after I had told the system to completely remove it. The same was true of other apps. And in the same way that where things are stored is out there to be found, so is the Microsoft stuff. It’s all as bad as each other.

It amused me when, on starting the machine, it said “Click here for Updates” (isn’t that a Window’s exclusive ? you’d think so from what I’ve read over time). So I clicked and let it do what it wanted. This was pretty much the same as I do in XP, though I do read and check that no DRM nonsense is trying to get in and suchlike. But I understand neither. The fact that Linux is OSS and I can choose to view the change log, see what’s what and decide which bytes can be changed just is not going to happen – in the same way it won’t matter if I could choose with Windows code. It’s like telling me that WordPress is OSS and that if I don’t like version 2.0 I can fork it. I don’t know enough – and my guess is that the vast majority of users of both systems do not either. We just want it to work. Painlessly.

Was easy enough – and once I’d been told to upgrade the ‘kernel’ the machine worked better. That’s a criticism.

Machine speed
The only thing I know was faster was The GIMP. Less than 4 seconds from click to working. Neat. Nothing else was notably faster. There may be all manner of tweaks that can be made to get things moving faster – but that applies to Windows as well. You think I just installed XP again and sat back ? hell no – it takes a while to remove services, remove the clutter, get start-up and shut-down working quicker and generally get the system working as I want – and that’s similar to Linux. Any system is as fast as you want it to be. My XP is quick.

But it’s Open Source ! It’s Free !
So ? My OS is an invisible cost, and given the march of the OSS movement it’ll be an ever smaller cost of a new machine. The fact that it is Free and I can do what I want makes not a jot of difference if I do not possess the knowledge to manipulate the data. It’s like me saying that there are trees and clay and water so build a house because then it’ll be free. No it won’t – and would the effort be worth the reward ? It’s like saying WordPress is free, or phpMyAdmin is free. In the OSS sense, they are, but unless you can afford the cost of a computer, and internet connection and some webspace then it’s not free is it ? I am beholden to whoever codes the OS – and whether that is a group of people in Redmond VA or a group of people spread over the world it matters not. Yes there are philosophical issues and OSS could be described as an ideology but when it actually comes down to it there is but one issue for many people, myself included – it costs nothing. (This is changing the subject…) If you were to start charging for a currently free to download OSS product, it’s usage would drop wouldn’t it ? Because there are free competitors – and people do not want to pay if possible. There is also the issue of mechanisms of actually paying. Whatever – this is a separate issue. The point I’m trying to make is that the ‘Free / OSS’ bit is wasted on me. It just does not matter because no matter how you look at it, I don’t code.

Grub Error 17 – that was nice. Uninstall Ubuntu and it takes the Master Boot record with it. Google ‘Error 17’ and nearly every occurrence is Linux related. If you haven’t seen this little wonder, here’s what happens: press power switch on machine, 3 words appear; ‘Grub Error 17’. The machine goes no further than that. Error 17 = reformat for most of us, me included. Nice. It was when this happened that I remembered something – Ubuntu did this to me before. I had installed it fully hoping that the full version + a wired connection would help me get drivers for the FD7010 card I have. It didn’t, so I restored the machine – and got the same grub error. That’s twice I have uninstalled Ubuntu and twice my HD has been rendered unbootable. There will not be a third time. So if you are pondering this, go get a copy of the Ultimate Boot CD so that the MBR can be repaired. Don’t wait for the uninstall – just get it now :)

I must thank Skippy for the card and the ongoing support. I feel guilty that in some way I have let you down Skippy because of you both lending me the card and encouraging me. And I must thank tinster and godzirra again from #wordpress, Justin for his support and others who have made positive noises in my direction. I did try !

What I use my computer for
I don’t use it to make money. It does not ’employ’ me in the traditional manner. I use it to escape. This machine is a means for me to lose myself in other things, other places. It’s primary purpose is to make my life better. Easier. It does this by not frustrating me. That makes my life infinitely more intolerable – I have to have a direction to look in that does not stress me. XP does not stress me. Windows never frustrated me as much as these last few days. I do want something to learn, but not at such a high cost. I do not mind a challenge – I crave distractions – I do mind reading the hype and experiencing something very different. Example: gFTP crashed on me several times. It’s meant to be the best of the somewhat limited bunch of GUI ftp programs. A google for ‘gftp crash’ produces more than a few results. A search for ‘Filezilla crash’ produces less than one-third of that number. Make learning this code part of a job that you will give me and I will learn it.

Lessons to be learned…..
Do not believe the hype.
Passwords and where they apply needs to be better documented.
Keypairs is something I will look into.
Arrange to be offline – tell people you are going away. On a cruise. Around both Poles.

Will I try Linux again ?
Never say never. I suppose I am better prepared now to do so. I know that I must do better homework in many ways if I do. Do I regret it ? No. I have learned from this, and learning is always a good thing.

Should you listen to me ?
Good grief no. This is neither a pulpit nor a lecture theatre.
It’s my website and I’ll say it as I felt it. I might not be right but just like you, I’m not wrong either :)

Decision time

I played a wee bit last night.

The GIMP opens much faster in Ubuntu than Windows. (I also messed about with it too and it’s not so bad!).

gFTP. Open. Move to Workspace 2. Open connection and set WP to be uploaded. Flick back to Workspace 1. Wait a minute or two. Flick back to Workspace 2. It’s crashed. Tried that 3 times and it happened every time. Given that this is touted as the leading GUI FTP program, and that I use FTP daily, this is a no-no.

I didn’t do it side by side, but I think FF is faster in Ubuntu.

Booting and closing Windows is faster. By a long way – and that’s on a machine with a slower processor (1.8Ghz) and less ram (384 as opposed to 700+).

I really like nano – but I can use that on any machine with shell access.

Thunderbird. I’ve thought Id’ been going mad since I installed Ubuntu – though I did not connect the events – because I could hear random beeps. Now I know it was new mail. I assume this is a workspace thing but why not use an icon like liferea and change it’s appearance like the Windows version ?

Firefox. It’s much uglier in Ubuntu. (Is there a geek fear that if they make something look nice they will be scorned ? That’s as much a genuine question as anything else because nothing I have come across yet has been ‘pretty’ – except for the screensavers, some of which are fantastic. I want them for Windows).

Those bits apart, I looked again at what I need this machine to do and what Ubuntu was offering me.

  1. It has no spyware / virus worries but that doesn’t count as I use the machine decently anyway.
  2. Speed …. I couldn’t compare properly as this machine hasn’t been messed with to the same extent as it’s the ‘family’ computer and even it is it a wee bit faster, that’s no real reason to change.
  3. Software …. hmm. Aesthetics aside what I have used has been unstable (Konqueror crashed too, and Krusader threw errors). The lack of a GUI ? makes the curve steeper. I think it was midnight commander I tried again and I looked through all the settings. One option was the keys to use – and apparently the setting was on ‘Intuitive’ – that really made me laugh. So I went looking for instructions – and they too assumed a level of familiarity with things your average desktop user would not know. Here’s an example from a different scenario – phpmyadmin. When I first used WP, the only page that dealt with phpmyadmin was this one in the old wiki. What it says is true, but it’s not friendly. Even the MySql page is lacking. That’s not a criticism – but if all the help at stayed at that level, arguably WP wouldn’t be as widely adopted as it is. So you need to look at help / instruction – and I find very very little. Not good. If people research a blogging tool before choosing one and they look at support, then I’m certainly going to do that before investing heavily in an Operating System. I do not feel happy with what I found. You might, I don’t.
  4. Stability. I honestly cannot remember when Windows or any program crashed on me. Really.

The time away from it, along with losing lots more NDS MK to P (she is very good) and the longest dog walk yesterday meant that I calmed down and tried hard to think objectively about what the move will mean. Obviously I’m biased – but no more so than anyone who has commented here. Today is the fifth day it’s sat in the machine and today – while on another long dog walk because you have to pick a time to make these decisions – I’ll make my mind up.
Can ubuntu do what I need and want ? Yes, of course it can. Am I prepared to climb the curve when, at the end of it, I will be in the same place ? Will the scenery on the way be worth it ? Will any new skills be worth it ? Could I enjoy it ? I shall ponder while trudging through mud.

A day away

I’m on the other computer.
I am fed up totally with trying to get things working how I want, I’m fed up with finding things which I was lead to believe Linux did better than windows, I fed up with ‘su’ (it’s MY DAMN MACHINE) and I’m fed up with the dullness that is Ubuntu. So I’m leaving the other machine switched off.

So far, Linux may be great for servers and huge systems, but it sucks big ones for desktops. I cannot remember being so frustrated at software before.

Still on Day 3

The world just got faster !
Tinster and godzirra in #wordpress advised that I ‘update the kernel to 686’ which I ‘apt-get’ted’ then rebooted and then installed FireFox 1.5 manually.
Much much better. Firefox is just a whole lot better in every respect and things seem to be less treacle-like.
I’m smiling again …. but for how much longer is anyone’s guess.

Start of day 3

I need some help here….

I’m a desktop user. I’m not a geek, I don’t own any sandals and have no more problem with Microsoft than I do any other multinational. I had XP working the way I wanted. I used freeware that did ‘exactly what it said on the tin’ and was bloatfree. I had a machine that I could work quickly, effectively and safely on. Arguments about viruses / spyware are not on – I knew what I was doing there and could get rid of any spyware (and that only happened as a cost of me doing something ‘dodgy’).

I was lead to believe that Linux was ‘better’, not ‘bloated’, faster. This is not the case. I’m not talking appearance, i’m talking functionality.

So remind me – why is Ubuntu better ? Specifics appreciated :)

(And I’m not planning on geting rid of it just yet – but the light at the end of the tunnel is very dim right now)