Linux for the Macbook?

           I have a Macbook Pro, which I enjoy using. Credit where credit is due, it is a good machine. I’m in two minds as to whether I’d get another, but this one ain’t broke so I don’t have to answer the question just yet! I also like OSX, mostly. There are some things I’m not keen on, but like my windows machine before, there are some things I cannot do on Linux, such as Logos Bible software.

On to the question of Linux for the Macbook. Which flavour to go for and why? I cut my teeth on Red Hat 7.1 (which I still have!) and moved to Debian via SimplyMepis. I have tried many others including Ubuntu. For those who are not sure about what I’m talking about there are some websites that go into more detail than I care to here, like Distrowatch.com. Fedora was first on the list so I tried that. It worked well and Fedora 20 is a great improvement over previous versions as this time it felt spritely and the update and package manger were also improved (compared with Fedora 17). But then came “systemd”. This is the new init (basically boot up) system developed by some Red Hat developers to replace the existing aging init system. The problem with systemd is its mission creep. Its slowly becoming the “start” system for everything, and there are some things becoming dependant on it which (in my opinion) shouldn’t be. The Unix philosophy is for lots of small bits to do things exceptionally well, so if one bit falls over or fails it doesn’t take everything else with it. If any part of systemd falls over, it’ll take the whole OS with it. Not good for mission critical systems.

          Unfortunately most of the Linux distros are moving this way, which is a real shame. So if not fedora then what? Of the main Linux flavours it would appear that Debian and Ubuntu offer long term support versions which don’t have systemd, so I’ve gone for Xubuntu LTS (14.04). This will use upstart init system for its lifetime and hopefully by then the mess of systemd will be sorted and Ubuntu might see sense and open source upstart! Even with this I noticed there were “systemd” patches installed to allow apps dependant on systemd to work with upstart. Sort of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          Ubuntu and therefore Xubuntu installs easily along side OSX. The only thing to remember is OSX likes to have space between partitions and without these OSX wont upgrade, but it appears the Xubuntu install takes this into account – a nice touch. Once installed it just remains to reconfigure “refit” so Xubuntu can boot. Proprietary drivers are required for the Broadcom wireless connection and Nvidia for the graphics which Xubuntu has you covered – just install and go! Easy.

         And as far as the work I do on the Macbook is concerned, I use mainly Linux and then only OSX when I have too. Its good to have it around. I would love to go fully open source but some of the stuff just isn’t ready yet. I don’t think its too far away now.
Next: to configure Xubuntu for developing Android roms for the Asus TF201.

Fedora 15 beta – Looking promising!

I first found GNU/Linux on the front cover of a magazine way back in 2000 I think. It was a product called Red Hat 7.1. I proptly installed it onto my then one and only laptop, a Toshiba Satellite 3 with a P3 700MHz and 192M RAM. I wiped off Windows ME and took 3 days to get Red Hat up and running. This took all of 1.5G of a 10G disk!
Fedora 15 takes over 3G of disk and I doubt that it could run on a P3 with 192 M RAM. One of the main reasons I liked Linux and still do is its lightness compared to MS Windows, or even OSX. But it is increasingly getting bigger (more bloat) as hardware becomes more powerful. The problem I have is that like with windows before, if I wanted to upgrade my software, I had to upgrade my hardware first, and now this is becoming more so with Linux. There are not many distros that will run happily on a P3 and 192M RAM, which is a shame, not even the Ubuntu!
So, back to fedora 15 beta. The first one I tried was the live CD to see how it looked and performed. As I like light weight stuff I opted for the LXDE version.

Blogging Clients

It’s been a while since I tried some different blogging clients. I piece is being written with the help of Petrus-blogger, which is a java based client. It is quite straight forward to use and works well. The only thing I have notice (and I’ve submitted a request) is that for wordpress I am unable to write off-line, which is somehing I like to do often. So to use Petrus-blogger I have to write using another editor and then copy/cut and paste when I have internet connection. Other than that, it is stable and useful.

Posting to a blog

I’ve been blogging (albeit on irregular intervals) for a while, here and on blogspot and sometimes on LiveJournal. I moved here because I consider wordpress to be better for several reasons. It is open source, a good reason, and it is standards compliant. I have installed wordpress on my server and it is easy to use and modify because it is standards compliant and well written. Another reason is that I do a fair amount of writing ‘off-line’ and have found that there are off-line blogging clients which work better with wordpress than with blogspot. Blogspot seem to change their system every so often which creates hassles for the clients and their developers (good ol’ Google!). So, on to the clients. I used to have a mac, a G4 iBook. A good machine but I gave it away to a friend as I collecting to many laptops and my wife suggested I ‘loose’ some. Also I found being ‘locked’ into a system was too restrictive. On the mac I used Ecto, which was and is a great blogging client. But, it only runs on mac, although there was a windows version which I think isn’t being developed anymore. As I don’t use a mac anymaore, and I don’t like using windows (too full of bugs to be paying money for), I use linux (as you might of guessed from my previous post) and finding a blogging client to work on linux is difficult. There are some good ones that work on windows which wont work on Linux even with wine (www.winehq.com) but linux does have a few, most of which are fairly simple. There are two that I came across that work and have some good features and both require java. One is petrus-blogger. It is good but it seems a little unstable and for some reason wouldn’t work on my system with wordpress, no matter what I tried. The other is bleezer, which I am using now. It seems to work well, but doesn’t like it when I am off-line with wordpress because it can’t access the list of posts, but other than that it works well. It isn’t the prettiest to look at, as it seems with most java applications, but is functional. It has a full array of formatting options along the adding hyperlinks and posting images, although here it didn’t seem to work and I had to manually upload this screenshot.

Bleezer screenshot

Bleezer screenshot

It also seems stable so far.

For looking at these applications, it seems a shame that so much effort has gone into producing something useful, and then nothing, almost like,”Ok, I’ve made a product, see, it works, now I’m going to stop and do something else”, a bit like a “3-day wonder”. Its satisfied a need, scratched the itch, served a purpose, an now discarded with no thought given to those who’ve pick up the tool and now feel rejected and cast aside, floundering and not knowing where to go or what to do… There come a responsibility when producing a product that people come to rely upon. Is this software still under development or has it run its course? In most cases, most developers act responsibly but there are the odd few who put something really good together, release it into the wild and thats it, leaving it there hanging. Shame.

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Puppy Linux

There has been a bit of talk lately about Puppy Linux in the media, well, when I say media, I mean the media I read! So I thought I write my bit. I came across Puppy Linux quite a while back, I think it was in 2003, but it might of been 2004. Anyway, I found it interesting because it could do so much but packed into such a small package, a bit like DML, but more user friendly and more intuitive for those dragged up on windows. I also found that it didn’t quite work well enough on my hardware of the time, a Toshiba laptop. I also liked the idea of making your own custom version, a bit like "Pimp my Puppy", but never got round to doing it as I didn’t have the time. Another curious character of Puppy Linux was that it is developed in Australia. When I found this out, I understood some of its quirks! I have been to Australia and found they do things slightly different there, which is good. So Puppy Linux is different. Now with version 4.1 I have found it to be really useful. With mounting of drives and partitions and a partitioning tools along with anti-virus tools makes this distro a must have in my "help" box of cd’s. I’ve already helped out a couple of colleagues at work with it and I’m sure a few more will be helped out in the near future. Running Puppy Linux is a breeze from boot up through to desktop going through a keyboard config (which is straight forward) and a display config ( which I wish did an auto test before moving on) which isn’t as straight forward for someone without any knowledge of computers. Then comes setting up the internet connection. Again, for me quite straight forward, but for someone with limited knowledge of computers, they could become stuck… for a while. The wizard is good though and does explain everything well. (If only I’d read before trying!). Once up to desktop, everything is to hand and Puppy Linux zipps along at a good pace. I have a P3 700 Mhz machine with 192 Meg ram and this with Puppy will give a Core duo 1.6GHz with 1 Gig ram a rum for it money with debian Linux, and blows it out of the water with windoze. Personally, if you have an old PC or laptop that you’d like to get going and use or give away, Puppy is a way of doing this with a touch of style.

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The Friday Letter – XP, Vista or Linux or Mac

My father-in-law is staying with us for a while. He decided to buy a laptop. After looking around he went for a Toshiba P300. A good big 17 inch laptop. It came with Vista, but he wanted XP on it. Why? Two reasons, firstly because he was going to run some heavy software and didn’t want Vista getting in the way, and secondly, familiarity. He knows XP and is happy with it.

One day, he might see the light and move over to Linux! The Mac didn’t have a look-in for several reasons. Its expensive for what it is. The Mac ties you into its brand, more so than Microsoft. And its unfamiliar. And the same with Linux for him is that it is unknown territory.

One thing that amazed me was when starting the machine (the P300) and booting into Vista, it had to reboot 8 times before we reached the usable desktop. Overall it took four and a half hours to back up Vista and then install XP and the extra standard applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, Openoffice3, AVG antivirus and Zonealarm firewall.

For me it is a different story. I came across Linux a few years back with a tripple cd pack on a magazine of Red Hat 7.3 and haven’t looked back. I can even run Linux in a window on XP from a USB stick. I now have a Lenovo R61 laptop. I do have XP on it but only because I am doing some studying and some of the software provided only runs on MS XP. I also have Linux on it. It is running Debian Lenny, which was so easy to install and get going. I had a full system up and running with the hour. Try that with XP or even Vista. I also have SimplyMepis8, which again was a dream to set up, and soon I’m going to try Puppy Linux. This is one I tried a while ago and just couldn’t get to grips with but now I feel it would be the best to get to know before I move on to LFS sometime next year. Why Linux? And why Debian Linux? I have tried a multitude of different distros (versions or flavours of Linux), Mandrake (now Mandriva), Fedora, Suse, Gentoo, Ubuntu (based on Debian) Slackware to name a few. There are a number that are based on one of the above like zenwalk and stax based on slackware and ubuntu and mepis based on debian which I have tried. I have come to enjoy using debian and mepis because they are stable as a rock and easy to install and straight forward to understand, and Mepis you can try without even installing. I haven’t had one crash. But obviously, where I have been tinkering with the system, normally on a test install, it has crashed a few times, but it is difficult to get it to crash. It is also secure. It runs smoother than windows, it runs quicker, it is more responsive, it is more configurable, and I can do everything that I want and need to do using it. One other thing I like about Linux is that it is free, and so is the software that you can use on it. And contrary to the MS advertising bandwagon, linux is easy to install and use. I think what holds people back is the unfamilularity with it, but if people would just give it a go, they would be so surprised as it is far more intuitive than MS. I am happy with my laptop running Deian Linux and confident in its ability to do what I want it to do, and that is to just work to allow me to do my work

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