March 22, 2011
Desktop Redone

I installed OpenSuse 11.4 on my main desktop computer Saturday. Here is a breakdown of the installation and the result.

The installation was fairly easy. First, I backed up all my important data to my home server. That took a couple of hours. Then I rebooted, inserted the OpenSuse DVD and ran the install. Pretty painless. It asked me a few questions: time zone, how much hard drive to use (all of it, of course!), language, etc. Pretty much what any OS install asks (even Windows). Then the install took about 30 minutes or so. After a reboot all was ready to use. Now, for the customization.

Didn’t have to customize my Logitech wireless keyboard or mouse. Both were recognized during the install. Even the media buttons on the keyboard worked as they should. No driver CD, either! My monitor, a ViewSonic VA2012wb 20″ widescreen, was also detected and configured properly. Also the network was detected and installed so I was able to connect to the internet immediately after rebooting. AWESOME!

The sound wasn’t working at first, but after changing the default sound to the Azalia sound card, everything worked fine.

Next, I added in the repositories that I use on my laptop. For you Windows folk, a repository is where you get your software. No need to go to some random web site and download a file (that could carry a virus) and then run a setup. Just add the repository and it will show up in Yast – Suse’s version of the Control Panel. To add the repositories, simply go into Yast Software Repositories.

Also, I had to configure my two printers, an HP LaserJet 4050 and a Canon PIXMA MP160. The laserjet was easy. It’s a network printer, so I told the Yast Printer app what the IP address of the printer is and then told it what kind of printer it is. No driver CD like Windows (although it is built in to Windows 7). After a few seconds, I successfully printed a nice test page.

The Canon is a multifunction unit, a scanner/copier/printer, and took a bit more. The printer was easy as it is attached USB. No driver CD like all versions of Windows need. I told the Yast Printer app to search the USB ports. It found the printer and detected what model and asked if I wanted to install that driver. Simple. A few seconds later I had a color test page printed. Then I tried to add the scanner. I was told to add the SANE library in Yast Software Management. That took about 10 minutes. Then I scanned a photo and a text page successfully. Wow. It took me a couple of hours of struggling with the driver CD in Windows to get a good scan out of it.

To add software you simply search for it by name (or by function or by… well lots of tags to search by) in Yast Software Management. Then you mark a checkbox, click “Accept” and wait for Yast to do its thing. Dependencies (the Windows equivalents are DLL’s, OCX’s, etc.) are checked and added if needed. The hardest part of all this is getting out of the Windows mindset that you have to go to some web site and download a setup file.

I spent Sunday choosing what apps to install beyond the typical. Finished up tonight. For those of you who don’t know, OpenSuse, like all other Linux distributions, offers literally thousands of applications to choose from for installation. Oh, I also installed one of the Widgets on the desktop, specifically, the Weather Widget. Now I can see the current weather conditions and the thee day forecast.

  • I went with Zimbra Desktop for the email/contacts/calendar client. It’s by Yahoo so I don’t have to pay for a Yahoo Plus mail account to get my Yahoo emails. Tried Thunderbird, which I used in Windows, but Zimbra Desktop is much more complete. I could have gone with Evolution or Kontact but they didn’t have any way to access my Yahoo account.
  • I went with QmmP for the music player. It’s a no-brainer for me. It accepts Winamp skins, playlists and presets, so it’s now looking like the familiar Winamp and playing songs just as well.
  • I went with Cairo Dock for the docking app. I used Object Dock in Windows and it was OK, but tended to take up a lot of resources. Cairo Dock has all the same abilities as Object Dock and then some. Plus there are LOTS of tweaks and configurations that are changeable.
  • Other apps that are installed by default are:
    • LibreOffice, a Microsoft Office replacement that includes Write (MS Word replacement), Calc (MS Excel replacement), Impress (MS Powerpoint replacement), and Base (MS Access replacement)
    • Firefox of course! (I am a Firefox affiliate)
    • Gimp, a Photoshop clone, although not as many features as Photoshop
    • Audacity, an audio editor. I use this to edit out downloaded music that has dead space at the beginning and end of the file
    • VLC, a video player – it plays pretty much any video file
    • Kate, an advanced text editor to use when I work on coding
    • k3b to burn CD’s and DVD’s
  • A host of other programs that are installed by default.

And now, the end result is this desktop (of course, by default you have four different desktops in OpenSuse):
My current desktop

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February 17, 2011
20 Days to Go

That’s right. 20 days until OpenSuse 11.4 hits the Internet. And this time, I’m doing it. I’m dropping Windows on my desktop computer and moving to OpenSuse. I’ve been running OpenSuse 11.3 on my laptop for quite a while now and it’s been great! No lockups, **VERY** fast response to programs.

I’ve had Windows XP on my desktop computer for a while. Yeah, it’s OK for stable – I have to reboot it pretty much once a week – and it does run some nice programs, but I have NO pirated software on it. I paid for Windows (a long time ago) and have no other retail software on it unless you count Nero software that was included with a hardware purchase of a DVD drive. Other than that, I have not paid for any software – it’s all been open source or freeware.

I use OpenOffice, now called LibreOffice, for my office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentations, drawing). While is may not cut the mustard in a corporate setting (because power users are quite demanding even of the Microsoft Office suite), it is quite capable for home use. It’s not a full blown MS Office copy, but rather somewhere between Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works (closer to Office than Works).

I use FileZilla for FTP. I use IrfanView to view photos and do quick manipulations. I use The GIMP for more effects on photos and creating textures for my blog. I use Audacity to edit and manipulate sound files (WAV, MP3, etc.). Use CDBurnerXP to burn CDs and DVDs. I use Inkscape to create and edit vector graphics. I use Winamp to listen to music. I use Firefox to browse the web. I use Thunderbird for email along with the Lightening plugin for calendaring (although I’m getting more partial to Zimbra at least in Windows). And I use PSPad to do web development like editing PHP files and CSS files.

When I make the move to OpenSuse, I’ll still be able to use LibreOffice, FileZilla, The GIMP, Audacity, Inkscape, Firefox and Thunderbird. But I probably won’t use Thunderbird. I’ll switch to either the Zimbra desktop or to Evolution. Also, instead of PSPad, I’ll use Kate. And instead of CDBurnerXP I’ll use k3b. And I’ll also use Songbird to listen to music instead of Winamp. Pretty much what I do now on my laptop.

Oh, I’ll still have a copy of Windows if I need it but I’ll be running it in VirtualBox. So I can still fire up Windows if I need to but chances are I won’t need to. Anyway…… 20 days!

Now playing: Halestorm – I Get Off
via FoxyTunes

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August 20, 2009
My First Steps with Windows XP

Being an IT professional has it’s ups and downs, and many of us have a warped sense of humor. I thought this story, reprinted from Matthias Endler’s web site, was quite funny. You see, there are literally hundreds of web posts out there that explain some person’s experiences with some Linux distribution: how they like it or hate it and their conclusions. This article is written from the perspective that Linux is the “big dog” in the operating system world and Windows is just a niche player. Enjoy!

My First Steps with Windows XP

I’ve heard of a new Operating System called Microsoft Windows the other day and wanted to give it a try because it is said to be easy to use and intuitive. Unfortunately the author offers no live-cd to test everything before I have to install. Instead of downloading it from the Internet as I always do I had to go to the computer store and buy it for a price of €150. There is also a so called “Professional Edition” but it would cost even more. The first thing when I came home was to open the box, put the included CD into my DVD-Drive and start my PC. The install screen consisted of a simple blue background and an easy-to-use menu. I wanted to backup my data at first so I tried to open a virtual terminal but the normal CTRL-ALT-F1 didn’t work (WTF?). I had to reboot, make a copy and restart the installation all over again. The menu presented an option called “Install Windows XP” and I selected it.

Then there was a strange message that said “End-User License Agreement” and that I have to accept it in order to continue. I have never heard about something like this in Linux so I read most of the long text. I am not allowed to distribute this product and I may not make copies for my friends. This was somehow the extreme opposite of a license I’ve previously heard of that is called Gnu GPL. After I accepted it with F8 the installation continued. Windows didn’t recognize that I had ext3 and reiserfs partitions on my system and told me that it had found an “unknown filesystem”. I always thought that they were standard but maybe I was wrong. There was an option to erase the whole harddisk and install WinXP and I chose it. The next curious thing was that Windows doesn’t create a separate partition for my precious data but only one big system partition instead. “Maybe Windows has a highly secure file-system that makes automatic backups in case of data loss” I thought. Because I have a relatively big disk I wasn’t able to select Fat32 and had to cope with NTFS. It took a while to format my disk.

Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to select any packages from a list as I always do on Linux – Windows selected everything alone instead. The only adjustments I could make were entering the correct system-time, my username and something called registration key. This is a 25-digit number I had to enter manually before setup continued. After another reboot Windows was finally up and ready – well almost. Windows wanted to be activated at first. Within this procedure Microsoft tries to access the web to verify all registration data. No way! I canceled and Windows told me that I have a 30-days trial until I must register. That sucks!

The new user interface appeared and I began to forget all the initial difficulties. It was a bit strange that there was no prompt to enter a default user for daily work. At the moment I was in administrator mode and had root access. That made me feel a bit uncomfortable because my little sister would have the same rights on that system. There also was no option to adjust file rights (something like chmod) manually and this could be another possible threat on a workstation. I’ve looked for system documentation material to start adjust my new system just as I want it but I couldn’t find anything usable (F1 is really no help). Suddenly an ugly yellow pop up appeared in the bottom right corner. It said something like “New device found.” A window in the middle of my screen told me that I should insert the device driver CD for my printer and click on “Continue”. At first I didn’t know what that means but suddenly I knew that a device driver was something like a module. I remember getting a CD together with my printer and I found it in a box on my attic. I clicked on “Continue”. My new system warned me that the device driver has not passed the hardware compatibility test and that I should try to find another driver. I was a bit afraid to click on “Continue” but finally I brought myself to do it and – everything ran flawlessly. I was a bit irritated why this stupid message annoyed be but I didn’t have time to fuss. Afterward I installed all other hardware and was ready for surfing.

There was no firewall or anti-virus software installed and I felt a bit insecure when I first entered the web. I surfed for maybe two minutes before I received a message from “Al Dick” who offered a six-year-ration of Viagra. Despite I don’t need such things (really!) it was unbelievably annoying. I found a howto on the net to turn off such messages. The Internet Explorer doesn’t have a popup filter and seems to attract ads and after fifteen minutes my taskbar looked like a battlefield full of spam. I had to close every window manually. My former Browser Firefox had tab-functionality included but IE seems to have own browsing rules and standards. But that was just the beginning: When I wanted to chat with my friends I found out that Windows Messenger doesn’t support ICQ, AIM, TOM and Jabber. I was forced to create a so called MSN-Account to continue but I refused. When I wanted to watch a newly bought DVD I got from France Windows Media Player told me that I may not use my dvd on PC because of a so called “region code”. I was a bit confused about all this and asked a friend what to do. He told me that there is data transfer from a PC running Windows directly to Microsoft in order to check my hardware specifications and to make a genuine check of my software. I was shocked. I was paying a lot of money to own a stable, secure system that respects my privacy and not a buggy, talkative piece of crap open to others like a barn door. I wanted to take a look at the source code to see if those recriminations were right but I couldn’t because there was no source included! I don’t want to talk about the so called “file hierarchy” of XP where the systems config files can be accessed via C:\Windows\system32 instead of /etc. You don’t want to know what defragmentation is (there’s no need for it on a linux box), I won’t speak about the lousy terminal called “command” and why you should never ever open email attachments with Outlook Express.

After the system crashed when I wanted to burn a CD with the skinny burning tool included and at the same time do some spreadsheet analysis with Microsoft’s miserable OpenOffice alternative called “Office XP” that cost me another €119 (I got it a bit cheaper because I’m a student) I put everything back into the nice green box and took it back to my trader. At the same day I installed Linux again giving a review on a half-baked, single-user operating system called Windows XP that may be ready for desktop use in about five years. Until then I enjoy freedom with BSD, OpenSolaris and Linux.

The End

Listening to: Silvertide – California Rain
via FoxyTunes

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