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Trying Mint – I likes what I sees.

January 16th, 2010 8 comments

While my initial plan for January was to stick with Windows 7 and perhaps try out Fedora 12, a bad DVD interrupted the Fedora install progress. Out of sheer convenience, I’d planned on running Linux Mint in a VM and had pulled the ISO earlier in the week. “Aha!” I thought. “I’ll install this instead of Fedora and see what’s what.”

My initial impressions are that Mint is perhaps the first Linux distribution that I’d enjoy using on a day-to-day basis. With only a few minor tweaks (activating multiple monitors and using optical out for sound), I have a completely functional desktop environment. Compiz is totally integrated into the experience, degrades gracefully if needed, and is used to enhance the UI rather than provide unneeded eye candy.

Taking a page out of Jon’s book, I also installed Banshee for media playback. What a difference from previous media player experiences – my BlackBerry was automatically detected, synced with my library and folders were built properly in the MediaCard/BlackBerry/music directory. Now, all I need is some better music and I’ll be set!




I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

Linux Mint Helena: C’est fantastique!

December 16th, 2009 No comments

Last night I upgraded to Linux Mint 8 (Helena), x64 edition. Based on Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala), Helena has so far proven to be absolutely great and the panacea to my Linux problems. By far most of my issues with Gloria seemed to come from hardware incompatibility. Well, those are all in the past now.

Audio

There was a minor issue in Gloria with regards to my computer’s sound. Basically, although my laptop’s volume had something like 15 increments, Gloria shoehorned those into four categories: Really Goddamn Loud, Loud, Barely Audible, and Mute. That is no longer the case – I finally have the full spectrum of sound available on my laptop. At last, I can stream terrible YouTube videos and listen to them in the coffee lounge without being worried what the people ten tables down from me think!

Visual

First off, I have to compliment the appearance of Helena. The default theme is slick and very easy on the eyes, and the default background is excellent. I have approximately 50 wallpapers on my computer, and the fact that I haven’t changed it out of an ADD fit really speaks for the choice.

Now, onto more interesting matters: my media players work, my monitor works, and everything works damn well. In an earlier post, I documented Mint’s inability to take advantage of my brand new 1080p monitor. Unlike my previous experience, changing resolutions was a breeze and – most importantly – my monitor finally worked in full 1080p glory. At last, everything looks absolutely gorgeous. Watching videos has also been a much smoother experience in Helena. I’m not having any difficulty jumping to random spots in video files – previously, this would do anything between slowing down the video temporarily to crashing the media player. (As a note, I have no idea if Helena is actually responsible for “fixing” that last bit, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here).

Other bugs

The desktop shift that I occasionally complain about is nowhere to be seen… yet. I never could figure out how to recreate it, so I can’t definitively say whether it has disappeared.

Compliments to the Mint people

Having seen what the open source community can do to improve and support a product, I have to say I’m extremely impressed with the work they’ve done. Just last week I stated that I would probably run a dual boot with Windows 7 as my primary system and Mint or Ubuntu as my secondary system. Well, after installing and using Helena, I have to say I’m strongly considering sticking with Mint and possibly having Windows 7 as a secondary OS for compatibility issues. I can definitely say that I wasn’t expecting a free operating system to work as well as this one does. Bravo.

Categories: GNOME, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Successfully completing a school semester with Linux

December 5th, 2009 10 comments

For those of you who have read my profile, you know that I’m finishing up my math degree. More specifically, I’ve just finished lectures for my last term as an undergraduate student of statistics. One of my main fears about switching to a different operating system was that it would disrupt my studies. Fortunately, this fear was unfounded – in fact, I can confidently say that Linux actually made my school experience much easier and smoother than it would have been had I stuck with Windows Vista or XP.

As a statistics student, I obviously work with numbers. Some courses, such as those dealing with experimental design, have fairly simple mathematical procedures (Note: these usually follow not-so-simple justifications for the procedures). Normally I’m given a small data set and told to carry out an Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA). Since the mathematical work in these assignments is pretty straightforward, I like to carry it out in Excel, or some equivalent. Thankfully, OpenOffice.Org Calc works just as well as Excel and uses essentially the same syntax and commands, so I managed to switch between programs rather seamlessly.

Some of my other assignments require more complicated procedures (and occasionally more complicated ANOVAs), so I have to use R, which is basically a very powerful statistical tool. In Windows XP, I found that adding libraries and updating R could occasionally be a difficult process – my roommates can verify that as a consequence, I often go months without updating my programs. In Mint, there were no such troubles – installing and updating libraries is as easy as opening Synaptic and clicking a few times. Linux also provided some less important benefits, such as not having to alter every slash in a filepath to make sure that R can actually find the file. I’m guessing this has something to do with the difference between a backslash and a frontslash.

Other programs like Do, which I’ve reviewed, and Kate, my preferred text editor, make life so much easier. When I’m working, I usually have several data sets open, and I frequently have to jump between folders to access images, old code, old solutions for reference, etc. Kate simplifies things by letting me have several text files open in one window at once, so I can make better comparisons between data sets or summary tables. This is especially important for when I have data sets that are so large that viewing them in R in the terminal would be ill-advised (tip: don’t try to view anything longer than 1000 lines in terminal). Thanks to Do, I can quickly flip between several folders without ever having to move my hands off of the keyboard. In particular, this comes in handy when I need to reference some old solutions for an obscure-but-suddenly-desireable mathematical quality.

I haven’t done too much writing this term aside from updating my resume, so I won’t dwell on the various word processors. In my opinion, if the word processor can create a decent looking resume – it did, by the way – then it should suffice for any other purpose. I’ve also tried out a few other math programs (eg., gnuplot), but I haven’t used them enough to give a reasonably well-informed opinion. However, the fact that I could install them and try them out with absolutely no effort on my part really speaks well for Linux Mint.

After a long, gruelling term, I can confidently say that I benefitted academically from using Linux Mint. Along with everything I’ve mentioned, Linux has provided less direct benefits, such as faster load times and fewer restarts, which make getting started on an assignment or project easier. Despite having a few bugs ranging from annoying (I really wish Do would load on startup consistently) to catastrophic (oh my god why did my desktop shift what is going on), I will probably have some distribution of Linux running on my machine when I switch to Windows 7, if only to run R and some other math programs. If you like to do any sort of math on your computer, I recommend you give it a go too.

Categories: Free Software, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

A lengthy, detailed meta-analysis of studies of GNOME Do

November 23rd, 2009 11 comments

GNOME Do is a fantastic little program that makes Linux Mint a very comfortable experience. At first glance, GNOME Do just looks like a collection of launchers that can be docked to your window, with a search function attached for completeness. What stands out about Do, though, is that the search function offers a lot of versatility. Through Do, I can launch programs, mount and unmount drives, bring up folders, and execute a variety of actions through the plug-ins. I’ve found that it saves me a lot of mouse movement (yes, I’m that lazy) when I’m working on assignments. In less than two seconds, I can call up Kate to start up my data entry, start up R in terminal, open the folder containing all of my data, and start a conversation in Pidgin. Best of all, since the search function can be called up with the Super+Space key combination, I can do all of this without ever having to switch windows.

I also find that Do helps to clean up the clutter on my desktop. I’ve got it set up as the Docky theme on the bottom of my screen. Since I have no need for the panel, I’ve got it set up to autohide at the top of my monitor. This means when I have something maximized, it legitimately takes up the entire monitor.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

Adding or removing programs to or from Do is a cinch too – it’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

Unfortunately, it’s not all great

Like every other Linux program, Do saves time and effort. Like every other Linux program, Do also costs time and effort in the bugs that it has. The most frustrating bug I’ve had so far is that Do simply disappears on a restart. It runs and in a manner it “exists” since I can resize it on my desktop, but I can’t actually see or use it. Apparently this is a known bug, and I haven’t been able to find a decent solution to it. It’s especially unfortunate because Do provides so much convenience that when it doesn’t work properly, I feel like I’m reverting to some primitive age where I’m dependent on my mouse (the horror!)

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does work since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does function, since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Regardless, I’d recommend Do for anyone who can install it. When it works, it’s great for saving you some time and effort; when it doesn’t, well, ’tis better to have loved and lost….

Resizing batches of images in Nautilus

November 1st, 2009 3 comments

If you’re like me, which you either are or are aspiring to be, then you hate having to manually resize dozens of images. Ubuntu, and Linux Mint, by extension, offers a great image resizing and rotation tool for Nautilus. This tool allows you to resize a batch of images very quickly and easily: you select the images, right-click, and select “Resize images”. You can select how you want to scale the images (the options presented are a preset ratio, a percentage of the original dimensions, or a custom size) and how you want them to be saved (you can append each copy with something like “RESIZED” or choose to simply replace the original image).

This tool is particularly handy if you’re looking to post some of your images online – having it around makes it much simpler and easier to resize several hundred images from, say, a vacation. Smaller images mean faster transfer times, and to some degree less concern about other people pilfering your high-resolution images (this is aimed more at a few social networking websites that like to claim ownership over their users’ photos).

Distribution Upgrades

November 1st, 2009 No comments

As with the release of Karmic Koala, the majority of the other distributions we here at The Linux Experiment have decided to run will also be getting an upgrade. Here is a quick breakdown of what’s to come (in chronological order) to give you a heads up of what you can expect us to be blogging about shortly.

Gentoo – Release Set For: Tonight

OK fine, so technically Gentoo isn’t getting a “major new release” or anything like that but considering the nature of the distribution one could claim that it’s nightly builds are basically the same thing.

openSUSE 11.2 – Release Set For: November 12, 2009

The next step forward for openSUSE is version 11.2. Included in this release of openSUSE are major changes to YaST and zypper as well as a new release strategy whereby all releases are bootable by USB and CD-ROM. Some other incremental improvements in software are:

  • GNOME 2.28/KDE 4.3
  • Firefox 3.5
  • OpenOffice.org 3.1
  • Ext4 is the new default filesystem
  • Support for whole-disk encryption

Fedora 12 “Constantine” – Release Set For: November 17, 2009

Always the cutting edge distribution, Fedora has a massive list of changes for it’s next release. For starters all software packages have been recompiled for i686 which should allow for improved performance, especially on the Intel Atom processor. In addition, all software packages are now compressed with LZMA instead of GZIP which, along with yum presto integration (delta versus full downloads), should offer much faster downloads. Thanks to the newest version of Xorg, spanning desktops (1 desktop on 2+ monitors) is now possible. Other software improvements include:

  • GNOME 2.28/KDE 4.3
  • Firefox 3.5.2
  • PHP 5.3.0
  • Ogg Theora has been updated to the most recent version
  • GRUB now supports Ext4
  • Dynamically rotating wallpapers is now a feature under GNOME
  • NetworkManager has been enhanced to take advantage of Mobile Broadband technologies
  • Bluetooth services are now on-demand meaning they only use system resources when necessary
  • Tons of PulseAudio improvements
  • PackageKit has been improved and can now install software from more places (i.e. right within the web browser)

Linux Mint 8 “Helena” – Release Set For: November 2009

Linux Mint 8 continues the trend by incorporating all of the most recent Ubuntu improvements found in Karmic Koala as well as improving on the Mint specific programs. Specifically Mint improves the boot sequence as well as the Mint tools suite of applications that differentiate this distribution from Ubuntu. The end result should make for one of the most user friendly Linux distributions ever.

Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” – Release Set For: TBD 2010

If you are familiar with Debian’s release cycle then you know that what will become of “Squeeze” is simply what passes muster in the current testing repository. Although this distribution is still quite a ways off, it is promising quite a few interesting improvements including better architecture support and boot performance thanks to parallel processing. kFreeBSD is also now included which makes this the first officially supported non-Linux architecture for a Debian release. While many obsolete libraries are being removed for security reasons many new libraries are also making their first appearance including full IPv6 support. Finally there is preparation going into the packaging formats which will allow for future improvements, including better compression algorithms for smaller download sizes.

It’s going to be a busy month!

Check back soon as we begin our upgrades and blog about our experiences doing so.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 18.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Flash problems in Firefox

October 25th, 2009 5 comments

I mentioned in the podcast that I was having problems viewing Flash stuff in Firefox and I blamed it on KDE. I may have jumped the gun here, because the same issue started cropping up in GNOME. I went on the Linux Mint forums and other users were having similar issues. I’ve run the code that they suggested in the terminal, but I’m not sure if it worked because the problem doesn’t manifest instantly – sometimes it takes over half an hour before websites that run flash white themselves out.

KDE is a terrible tease and the reason we can’t have nice things

October 15th, 2009 5 comments

Last night I installed KDE and I was absolutely thrilled. For starters, it has built in widgets, which I absolutely love (when they work, that is). In general I find it a lot easier to customize than GNOME, and themes are easier to implement and look much nicer. This is a shot of my current desktop:

It's rather pretty

It's rather pretty

KDE also natively supports rotating wallpapers, which is absolutely wonderful – I had spent several futile hours toiling with cronjobs in GNOME desperately trying to get it to work. I’m not particularly proficient with Linux, so the fact that KDE offered this right out of the box really appealed to me.

The widgets range from useless-but-amusing (such as the Fuzzy Clock, which gives inaccurate times) to the practical-but-amusing (I have my frequently used folders in the top right corner) to the wonderful-but-broken (any weather widget). I’m actually a bit frustrated with the last one – I tried using LCD Weather Station, and it worked for the UK and the US, but it couldn’t read Environment Canada’s data. Maybe we could change our name to “United Canada” or something.

It gets a bit ugly

Being rather pleased with my progress, I turned on the computer this morning hoping to get my second monitor working. I plugged it in, started up my laptop and then ohjesusgodwhy my laptop and monitor started blinking on and off furiously, rendering my system unusable. Restarting X seemed to do the trick, and my laptop and monitor were synchronized and working properly. However, my monitor was only running at 1600×900, not its native 1920×1080. I decided to fix this in the most daring manner I could: changing the resolution to “1920×1080”. KDE, seeing through my dirty bag of tricks, had none of it and promptly started blinking and seizing, and to (probably incorrectly) quote Mike Tyson, convulsing like an infantile retard.

I had to restart xserver a few dozen times and finally got my system stable again, albeit without running the monitor. I tried the next most daring thing I could think of: going to the display settings. This enraged KDE so much that it decided to go into convulsions again. I restarted my computer hoping that would fix things. Nope, more convulsions. I tried using Catalyst, but that had no effect – literally – I couldn’t even add the new monitor. All in all, I basically tried restarting xserver/my computer a few times, and once the monitor seemed to work properly, I’d stop fiddling with it and accept my half-hearted victory.

Oh, and when I close my laptop the system assumes I’ve logged out, so I currently have the most useless dual monitor setup. Hopefully that’s easy to change.

So yeah, to hell KDE’s seduction.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, KDE, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Well shit, that was easy

October 12th, 2009 1 comment

One of my big griefs with Mint was that the sound was far too quiet. I assumed this was some sort of hardware compatibility issue. Apparently it’s not and it’s really easy to fix. Essentially, the default “front speaker” volume is not at the max level. While this has given me a great max volume, my latest problem is getting Mint to increment/decrement the volume properly – the master volume is essentially muted at 70%. That being said, I’m glad I can finally watch online videos from my laptop without needing headphones or a soundproof room.

Categories: Hardware, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Suriving September with The Linux

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

It’s been about a month now and my computer hasn’t melted down, so this is a good sign. Additionally, I haven’t been forced to drop out of any of my courses due to technical incompetence.

The Good

  • Linux Mint is fast as hell. Coming from a Windows background, I’m amazed at how quickly my computer boots up and shuts down. Installing programs is (usually) a breeze, and I rarely have to restart my computer against my will.
  • It looks very nice for an open-source OS, and there are a bunch of skins offered.
  • I’ve found open source alternatives to pretty much every program I used in Windows. OpenOffice.Org has effectively replaced MS Office, Pidgin matches MSN messenger, and Deluge works just as well as uTorrent.
  • Thanks to the easy-to-use installation manager, I can easily download and run new programs. I’ve been introduced to Opera (which is an excellent broswer, as it turns out) and Picasa. Although these run on Windows, the installation process involves more than “click four times”, and there’s no guarantee they’ll load as quickly as they do on Mint.
  • I finally understand this joke:
XKCD

LOL sudo

The Bad

  • My media experience has been sub-par at best. My sound only works at about half-capacity, which is fine when I’m hooked up to the speaker system in my room, but it’s frustrating when I have to use the laptop’s native speakers. This is especially annoying since a lot of websites (*cough*youtube) have a wildly inconsistent volume level in their videos, meaning going between two linked videos can be jarring. Video has also been an issue – the media players I’ve tried tend to get choppy whenever I have a menu in fullscreen. Moving the mouse while in fullscreen also briefly flashes my desktop wallpaper and returns to the video. Obviously there is room for improvement here.
  • The lockups I experienced were infuriating. I haven’t had any lately (knock on wood), but there are few worse feelings on a computer when you’re halfway through an assignment and a simple google search crashes your computer.
  • Mint doesn’t like coming out of hibernate or standy – apparently the kernel just shits the bed. I’ve been told this is an ATI bug that will be fixed in the next kernel upgrade, but I really needed this yesterday.
  • I still haven’t gotten my monitor working properly. The display manager crashes whenever I open it, and the ATI Catalyst Control Center isn’t co-operating. Ideally my monitor should be running at 1920×1080, but it’s stuck at 1600×900 for now.

The ohjesusgodWHYYYyyyyy

  • A few days ago I experienced a corrupted inode and my computer refused to update or install anything. This was obviously a pretty bad experience and it would’ve taken me hours to figure out what was going on if Tyler and Jake didn’t step in to save the day.

Overall I’m impressed with Mint so far. If it weren’t for the issues I’ve listed in “the bad”, I could see myself using it regularly.

Update: Okay what the hell Mint, I tried to say something nice about you and you go and crash as I’m publishing this post. I guess I’ll amend this infuriating bug.

Another infuriating bug:

  • For some reason, Mint will occasionally decide that my desktop is functioning too well. Out of spite, it will shift everything diagonally by N pixels, where N is some number randomly selected from {1,…,1836} (I have very little data to base this on, but I conjecture that this functions on a uniform distribution or the Cauchy distribution, just to be a bitch). Basically, it selects a new spot on my monitor to anchor the bottom left corner of the graphics. At the same time, it forces me to click where I would have clicked before. It looks something like this:
I tried to be nice, but you had to go and do this to me.

I tried to be nice, but you had to go and do this to me.

So yeah, there go you Mint. Way to ruin this post.

Categories: Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

The Linux and its ability to brick itself.

September 29th, 2009 1 comment

Over the weekend, I started a stats assignment that required me to use R. R runs in the terminal, but when you create plots, it brings up graphics. Normally in Windows, you can just copy the window and paste the new plot into whatever word processor you’re using. Linux Mint wasn’t letting me copy the plot – in fact, it wasn’t even letting me use alt-printscreen. Finally, I gave up and tried to install ksnapshot (I figured I could just screenshot a selected area). This is where my troubles began. Ksnapshot refused to install. Actually, everything refused to install. I restarted the computer and found this ridiculous scene on my desktop:

So many screenshots

So many screenshots

Seeing as I apparently had an abundance of screenshots, I gave up on ksnapshot and moved on with my life.

Today I tried to update my system through mintUpdate. Unfortunately, none of the updates went through. I called Tyler and Jake in and we tried installing something – anything – else. Nothing worked, and I kept getting this message in the console:

“dpkg failed in buffer read”

It turns out that Festival (the text-to-speech program) was completely ruining everything. We tried removing it through the terminal, but to no avail. We tried simply accessing it, but the system was having none of it. In the end, we had to go into recovery mode and do some weird file system stuff (I’ll have to ask Jake and Tyler on the details of what exactly it was I did). So far the system seems to be functioning again, but if Tyler and Jake weren’t around I’m sure I’d still be struggling to figure out what the hell was going on.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

These lockups are getting pretty annoying

September 20th, 2009 4 comments

This morning I was using Firefox with about a dozen tabs open when my computer locked up. It froze and was completely unresponsive – basically DOA. I decided to reboot the system, and everything was working fine until I reopened Firefox. It loaded my previous session, and the computer locked up again. After a second reboot, I opened Firefox and decided to start a new session and so far everything has been running smoothly.

I’m not sure why my system does this, but it’s getting pretty damn annoying. More importantly, the fact that these crashes are forcing me to reboot is really getting on my nerves. While I didn’t have anything important open, in the next few days I’m going to be using R through the terminal, and there’s a chance that a crash like this could lose me a significant amount of work, particularly since R doesn’t have a restore capability like my other programs.

I’m also hesitant to blame Firefox for what’s going on since this has also happened in Thunderbird and in Pidgin. Hopefully I can figure out what’s going on soon – Linux Mint has been pretty fantastic, and this has really put a damper on my experience. Is there any sort of error log I can look at? Ideally I want to be able to replicate the conditions before the crash to see if I can isolate any causes.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

New monitor woes

September 15th, 2009 No comments

So I’ve gone out and purchased myself a gorgeous LG Flatron W2243T. Unfortunately, getting it to work correctly has proven difficult so far. It’s connected to my computer through a DVI-to-HDMI cable. Now, adding a monitor to my Windows XP machine was fairly simple – all I had to do was plug it in, add it through display properties, and then I could futz around with it to my heart’s content. The task has proven more arduous on Mint.

Mint’s display manager really brought my system to its knees – as soon as I opened it, the computer slowed to a crawl and was basically unusable. Some of the information on the display manager was correct: there were two monitors (the laptop monitor and the new LG external monitor), and one was wider than the other; unfortunately, every other piece of information was “unknown”, and trying to change anything killed my system. After I rebooted, the monitor worked right from startup, which was a pleasant surprise, but that’s where the fun ended. I tried to get into my display manager again, but all it did was slow my system down and present me with a blank screen. I’ve tried going in through terminal and finding anything I could online, but I’m not sure what to do. Hopefully Jake can help me out when he gets home – otherwise I’m stuck with a mirrored dual monitor setup in a non-optimal resolution. Thankfully, my monitor and laptop share the same display ratio, so at least everything is in proportion.

Oh God How Did This Happen

Oh God How Did This Happen

Day Five, Still Alive

September 8th, 2009 No comments

Just checking in to say so far so good!

Actually I have quite a bit more to say than that. As you all know, I’ve installed Linux Mint, which is basically Linux for Morons. The install was extremely easy and the operating system often works well. Why only “often”? Well, let me put it this way: when Linux works, goddamn does it work well; when it doesn’t, prepare to spend several hours trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Major issues

Linux Mint seems to have a big problem with going into Stanby or Hibernate mode. Basically, reloading the computer to its previous state crashes everything. I believe Tyler told me that it crashes the kernel, and that this is most likely related to my ATI drivers. Hopefully the next kernel patch fixes this. Additionally, my system has locked up several times once booted. I’m not sure what causes this, but it’s happened in Firefox several times, once in Thunderbird, and once in Pidgin. Basically, clicking on a program would crash it. I have since uninstalled several Firefox add-ons – I suspect that FoxyTunes may have been the culprit, but I’m not sure. If I were a decent computer user, I would have removed them one at a time to see what was wrong. That being said, I was in a rush to identify a car part, so I had other priorities at the time.

Minor issues

I’m still having a problem with parts of the screen going black. It doesn’t appear in screenshots, so I’m guessing this is also a driver issue. The video players available really leave a lot to be desired. The main problems are noticeably poorer video when in fullscreen with an interface visible, and that switching between full screen and windowed mode is clumsy and looks like the computer just vomited. I’ve also noticed that the sound on this laptop is significantly quieter than on any of my other machines. When Tyler upgraded his kernel, his sound came back in full force.

Hopefully these issues will be resolved with the new kernel.

Current software

I’ve given up on aMSN and tried out Pidgin, which is a pretty fantastic piece of software. My only complaint is that it doesn’t support webcam, although I’ve been told that that will be coming soon. It also gives me the stupid little plug-ins I so desperately crave, such as virtual dice, 8-balls, and a test-to-speech reader that indulges my juvenile sense of humour. I’ve successfully installed R for statistical analysis, and it was really rather painless once I realized that it’s a terminal program even in Windows (durrr oops). Installing packages and libraries is much easier through Linux than it was on Windows too, but I guess this makes sense since it’s a GNU project. I’ve also started using SongBird instead of RhythmBox, but so far I’ve found that it doesn’t support my keyboard commands. It does, however, support FoxyTunes, which is as frustrating as it is promising because this might be crashing Firefox.

I’ve found that CRON-o-Meter is a suitable calorie counter, although it took a stupid amount of work and a clever script to get going. Creating desktop icons is also extremely easy, if a bit counter-intuitive- just right click the shortcut, click properties, and left-click the icon in the new window.

It also turns out that I’m only running Firefox 3.0, and I can only use Firefox 3.5 as Shiretoko (the development name), which is pretty damn annoying. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much the same thing as Firefox, just with a different logo.

To-do list

My next two projects are to get my computer to read the network (this is probably Jon’s fault) and to get a rotating wallpaper. Look, I just got a 900p monitor, and it’s about damn time that I had some pretty pictures to look at!

I’m also trying to set up some programs (Thunderbird and SongBird primarily) to always minimize to the tray through AllTray.

Screenshots

The blackening issue

The blackening issue

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Linux Mint

September 3rd, 2009 1 comment

I picked a distribution at random, and Linux Mint turned out to be a pretty good choice for someone like me – ie, completely incompetent with electronics.

Installation

The installation was actually really quick, easy, and painless. It consisted of a few clicks, a few passwords, and that was about it really. Almost everything I needed was installed from the beginning, and installing programs, drivers, etc, turned out to be very simple thanks to the assorted managers. The main issue I’ve run into is compatilibility – right now I’m struggling to figure out how to get EnigMail to work in Thunderbird (the program claims that it is not supported for 64-bit Linux) – [resolved while typing this post].

Software

So far, most of the software I use is open source (Firefox, Thunderbird, R) or already has an open source alternative (Open Office). However, this doesn’t mean that the alternatives are solid replacements for their proprietary inspirations. Take Windows Live Messenger and the Plus! extension. While aMSN gets the job done and has webcam support, it doesn’t offer creature comforts like floating desktop contacts, merged consecutive messages, or support for games with Windows Live contacts. I also completely forgot that most fonts are proprietary – my beloved Georgia is gone!

One of the more annoying things is that I can’t figure out how the hell to access R. Unlike my other programs, I had to install this through the terminal, and it doesn’t appear in my list of applications. Installing it always confused me even when I used it in Windows, so I’ll probably have to work at it a bit before I get anywhere.

My main gripe with all of this free software is that, frankly, it looks like crap. Every program seems dull and grey, and if you want to change it, you need to go and get a plug-in. I’m currently running Mint with the Max OS X theme because I couldn’t stand how everything looked. I tried the Vista theme, but it just wasn’t working, so I gave up, whored out, and went crawling to Apple (sort of, anyway). As I mentioned before, a lot of the applications are missing creature comforts – stuff like having the play/pause key be the same in RhythmBox, or having those stupid little taglines in Windows Live Messenger. In no way do I require these features, but it’s little things like this that keep a user interested in a product. We’re all quite easily distracted by blinkenlights.

Installing and  updating software was extremely easy. I went into the either mintInstall, mintUpdate, or the package manger and got what I needed. I used the package manager to install R, but found that it didn’t have the latest version, so unfortunately I had to install it through the terminal.

Media

Linux Mint came with several media players and codecs installed, and they all worked very well. Unfortunately, my two preferred video players (The Core Media Player and Media Player Classic) don’t have Linux versions. The default players are decent enough and I’m definitely familiar with VLC, but my videos seem to run slowly when they’re in windowed mode. It’s not choppy by any means, but there’s a noticeable difference between full-screen and windowed mode. Switching between full-screen and windowed mode did have an odd issue – when going between them, my machine would briefly flash the desktop at me. Seeing as this is Linux, though, I think the most important thing to mention is that my videos worked, and they worked on the first try.

In my opinion, RhythmBox is about as easy to use as iTunes, with the added feature that when I add songs, the program actually adds their names properly.

Hardware

My external hard drive worked perfectly – the OS instantly recognized it and I could use it to my heart’s content. Similarly, when I popped in my SD card, it appeared on my desktop and I could view everything. The webcam works as desired, and the effects available are far more impressive than the crap Dell offers. Linux Mint lets you throw in “filters”, if you will, and you can combine them. For example, you can blur motion and have the room move (as if you were dizzy), creating an excellent inebriation simulator. Dell’s default (and Vista’s too I guess) simply superimposes a cheesey image reminiscent of clipart so you look like you’re in a spaceship or some dumb shit like that. Overall, I’m very impressed with what I can do, especially after hearing Jake and Jon curse for several days about trivial issues like getting the mouse to work.

On a negative note, the OS seems to have trouble finding my monitor. Whenever I try to detect it, the system slows down significantly and never seems to get anywhere. I’m not sure if this is because it needs an updated driver and it’s not working correctly, or if this is standard for a first-time installation.

Other issues

Linux seems to be fond of flashing me. When I switch between full-screen and windowed mode in any of my media players, it briefly flashes the desktop at me and then works as desired. Occasionally the bottom part of my browser goes black for a short period of time. And the jelly windows, while fantastic in their novelty, have a minor issue where the borders look grainy while I’m jiggling them. Yes, I’m a superficial consumer whore.

I’ve also had to endure a few slowdowns at seemingly random intervals. I’m not sure what causes them, but it’s probably one of my useless Firefox widgets.

Overall

All in all my experience with Linux Mint has been positive. I don’t think I’ll stick with Linux for too long (meaning I’ll end up with Vista soon), but so far Mint has impressed me. At the very least, I’ll almost certainly have Linux Mint on my computer for a VM. I’m impressed with how easy and intuitive the system has been for me – while I’ve had experience with computers and different operating systems, I’m still a newbie at most computer-related tasks, so being able to survive the installation and configuration of Mint and coming out relatively unscathed has been a major boon.

Categories: Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

I hereby welcome myself

August 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Hi everybody! I’m Sasha, and I’ve joined the project experiment. I will be running some Linux distribution, essentially chosen without any forethought or regard for the consequences of my decision. Probably Linux Mint. It’s green, and green is environmentally friendly.

Like Tyler, I’ll be doing this on a brand new laptop, which is scheduled to ship and/or arrive August 24.  Unlike Tyler, I haven’t bothered to contact Dell about the status of my laptop, so I take it on good faith that it will arrive on time and properly built (ha!).

I’m not particularly good with computers. To give you an idea: I just spent 25 minutes trying to add this e-mail account to Thunderbird. Hopefully I can learn something from this experience. Wish me luck!

Categories: Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags: