>The geek's version of the story of creation. ;)


>The good, the bad, and the ugly

>Ok, there is enough Linux hype on the internet to get on anyone's nerves, and no real balanced perspective. People are either seriously anti-Linux or seriously pro-Linux and it is hard to figure out the pros and the cons because of this.

So here you go - from the perspective of a Linux user - the things I love, the things I hate, and the things that are very close to being deal breakers.

Installation & Configuration

Yes, I can install and configure my distro of choice very quickly compared to Windows. Before I switched to Kubuntu as of like 2 days ago, Mepis took me a max installation + configuration time of 20 minutes. Windows, on the other hand, could take me a week. Why? First of all, the default configuration of Windows just seriously, seriously blows. I'm sorry, but it does. That week would mostly be spent on my part dealing with getting rid of everything I didn't need/want and adding on everything I did need/want to the registry, system files, and services. Mind you, I was a rather demanding user on Windows. 10 years on that operating system will do that to you, and I'm not entirely confident I won't grow to be the same way about Linux in 10 years. In that case... I'll probably become a Gentooer.

Now let's discuss that 20 minutes installation and configuration on Linux.

With Windows, a user can just install all the programs/drivers they want and happily go off on their merry way. You don't HAVE to tweak your system out to. But unfortunately, the time spent on Linux with configuration is often neccessary. One major example is Flash. If you don't want websites blocking you from using their Flash content because you don't have the latest version or you actually want sound, you're going to have to deal with changing some configuration files. ATI alone has you jumping through hoops to get their driver installed.

My advice in this area? If you're a power Windows user and cannot live without tweaking Windows out, go the Linux route. If you're an average Windows user that just installs some programs and that's it, stick to Windows, at least for now. If the installation and configuration time for Windows just drives you absolutely batty and you don't care if you have to edit some configuration files or not as long as the time is cut down significantly, go the Linux route. And learn apt or some other form of command line package management. It will greatly cut down on the time you spend if you can simply prep a text file you can cut and paste from to get everything the way you need/want it, plus you won't have to deal with forgetting to do little things.

As for hardware support - Linux is definitely a kingpin with out of the box hardware support. However, since there are almost no 3rd party drivers available for Linux and sometimes hardware manufacturers don't like to release their specifications so drivers can be written for alternative operating systems, there are issues sometimes with box hardware support. Sometimes just trying out different distros will help in these issues. Sometimes not. I can't really complain about this though as I have had no problems with hardware support except for a camera that couldn't be recognized via USB connection. My solution to that was putting the SD card in a different camera I had laying around that no longer worked (getting a card reader will work in this case as well). Anyways, the best way to avoid hardware problems would be of course to try out live cds and make sure everything works before committing to an install.


This is another mixed bag - day to day usage. Hands down, you can get things done quicker and more easily with Linux compared to Windows, and with A LOT more/better eye candy. It also tends to have MUCH better resource management and runs quicker. Plus, you get a lot more power over how your system acts/feels/etc. But as far as applications go, there are some quirks along the way.

  • Video. OSS drivers suck. Proprietary offerings suck. Get used to getting less out of your video card on Linux compared to Windows, especially if you happen to have an ATI card. A special note here is there is genuine and special effort going into improving this area on the behalf of ATI and Nvidia, but for right now, it still sucks. Period. And you will have issues installing ATI's driver. That is almost a guarantee. The reason I don't mention Nvidia is because I don't have an Nvidia card so I can't tell you. ;)

  • Gaming. Ok, I will admit there are some great games offered to Linux, and if you're the type of gamer that cares more about clever gameplay than having the latest and greatest game off the shelf and/or advanced/pretty graphics, you will probably love gaming on Linux. But if you're the latter... better stick to Windows or dual boot.

  • Flash! Flash 9.0 for Linux is coming... supposedly. Right now though you're going to be stuck with Flash 7.0 and your only real options for getting around it are lying to websites that require Flash 8.0 and higher *sometimes this doesn't work because the content uses features that are only in Flash 8.0 and higher* or using Wine to run IE with the Flash 9.0 plugin for Windows installed.

  • Just_forget_about_any_Microsoft_affiliated_website_content. Some of their content they make available to other operating systems/browsers, but there's so little of that you will probably give up on them completely. And you can really forget about playing any video on any Microsoft affiliated website. They all require WMP10. And no, Wine cannot work its way around this one.

  • Wireless networking with WMA encryption. I don't do wireless, but from what I understand this is a pain in the butt to get working.

  • Firewalls. Software firewalls in Linux tend to go more from intermediate to advanced. There aren't really any beginner firewalls to speak of. Firestarter comes about as close as you can get to a beginner firewall. And if you've ever paid any attention to any of my rants in the past about security, I'm of the "you should always run a software firewall!" opinion. A little extra security doesn't hurt.

  • Anti-viruses. Forget about auto-scanning. It is probably not going to happen because it is a pain in the butt to set up. The most you can do is scheduled scanning.

  • Viruses and malware. You can pretty much forget about these too, as these are probably not going to happen. Linux is rather secure by nature in comparison to Windows *we'll see about Vista*. The only real reason to run an anti-virus is to prevent yourself from unknowingly passing on a virus to a friend that is using Windows (the test of true friendship ;)).

  • Windows-only applications i.e. *.exe files. In case it hasn't dawned upon you, the majority of these are going to be thrown out the window (no pun intended). Don't listen to the hooligans that cry, "but Wine can run most Windows programs!" No, it cannot (at least at a usable level), unless those programs are either rather old or rather simplistic. And if it can you will have a rough time configuring it to do so. It isn't like there aren't any solutions that do work (Vmware, Cedega, Crossover, dual booting, etc.), but the point is Wine is not simple and honestly neither are the other solutions. They do require some amount of technical knowledge to get them up and working.

When Something Is Broken

When something is broken in Windows and you don't know what to do to fix it, most people reinstall. The same is true in Linux, only at least then you get to keep all your personal configuration and settings (wallpaper, double clicking or single clicking on files, your personal files kept in your home folder, etc.) just because the normal default for most Linux distros is to install your personal configuration and files on a seperate partition from your system files. So that, in a way, is a blessing unto itself, because you will probably be doing just as many reinstalls of Linux starting out as you did of Windows starting out. That is not even the beginning of the the fun part, though.

The fun part is fixing it.

Windows gives you a very little window (no pun intented) for actually fixing whatever is wrong. In most cases if the problem is bad enough to interfere with the system going through its normal start up process, it's to safe mode you go and then the Windows cd to try to figure out what's wrong if you can and hope it's something that you can fix from the recovery console.

Meanwhile, in Linux, you have the option of using the command prompt that almost always comes up if something goes wrong with the start up process and even gives you the curtousy of telling you what went wrong (people who remember the days of Windows just being layered over DOS will appreciate this), or you can switch to a live cd and work with it there (a live cd is basically a complete operating system that runs entirely off the cd). And if last comes to last, you can reinstall the system without losing any of your important files or personal configuration/settings.l
I just can't say anything bad about fixing Linux because I have no complaints about it. It's perfect in that department.


Do we even need to discuss features? Honestly, every OS out there kicks WinXP's butt on features, because WinXP is a 5 year old operating system. I will say that I have yet to see anything in Vista that isn't already offered via Linux *or OS X even, for that matter*. Vista just seems to be one giant "catch up" OS. Once it comes out, it seems that there will be no reason to switch to another OS just because of its "features". The differences between one OS and another will be more technical.

So is it worth it to switch?

That's up to you to decide. No one can make that decision for you, and the whole point of this article was to attempt an unbiased opinion of the good and the bad about Linux vs. Windows. I must admit I focused more on the bad abotu Linux in parts because quite honestly, I rarely, if ever, hear these things brought up to potential users and they're what I consider to be important things for them to be prepared for.

That being said, I don't think I've yet seen someone that got used to Linux ever return to Windows except for specific things they couldn't do in or get out of Linux. I would love to see the perspective of someone trying to go from Linux to Windows but unfortunately I have yet to see that. The only reasons I've seen people go back to Windows have been discussed here, and they're very obviously things that one would notice within hours to weeks of switching over to Linux.

So there you have it. :)


>Rediscovering my music

>Amarok just continues to amaze me with 1.4.3.

For beginners, it is A LOT faster then previous 1.4 releases. Opening it up is no longer the impatient, foot-tapping wait it used to be. Think xmms or Rythmbox speed. Yes, it is really that fast now. If you've liked Amarok in the past but given up on it due to bugs or slowness, this is probably the ideal time for you to pick it back up again.

If you've never tried Amarok, now would also be an ideal time to try it out. Combined with last.fm, this is probably the most intuitive music player you will ever come across. You can quite realistically allow it to play on random and have it pick songs out of your collection that you'll not only actually like, but that you probably haven't listened to before as well. If you've ever sat trying to figure out what music in your collection you want to listen to and wished your music player could just pick a random mix for you - this is the music player for you.

Another great thing I've noticed in 1.4.3 is the increased intuitiveness of MusicBrainz tagging. I've had some songs in my collection that were simply named things like "track04.mp3" that MusicBrainz couldn't figure out before, and now it's guessing them perfectly. I'm not sure if this has something to do with the new AFT feature or not, but I must say I am loving it. Amarok is taking the messy parts of my collection and tagging them perfectly, complete with album covers <--*not a new feature, but mention worthy*.

With this music player, you can actually listen to your music and not worry about anything else. It does all the organization, documentation, recommendations, and research for you. Want the current song's lyrics? It's a tab click away. Want to know more about the playing artist? Another tab click away.

I'll let the screenshots do the talking, though. ;)

For the record, that is not the way Amarok looks by default, it's using my desktop theme. :lol:

I only have one wish left. Please, pretty please, give us a "fetch tags" type button for MusicBrainz like we have for album covers. Indulge my laziness even more. :D


>My Mepis tweaks

>This is just a run down of some of the things I do to a fresh install of Mepis. They just might prove helpful to someone. ;)

First I add these to my /etc/apt/sources.list:
    deb http://www.getautomatix.com/apt mepis main
    deb http://archive.czessi.net/ubuntu/ dapper main universe

Next, I get the gpg keys for these repositories with these two commands:
    $ wget http://www.getautomatix.com/apt/key.gpg.asc
    gpg --import key.gpg.asc
    gpg --export --armor 521A9C7C | sudo apt-key add -

    $ wget http://www.czessi.net/kczessi.gpg
    apt-key add kczessi.gpg && rm kczessi.gpg

Then I run apt-get update and install these packages:
    $ apt-get install zenity automatix libtunepimp2c2a libtunepimp2-dev aspell aspell-en zlib1g-dev libjasper-runtime

Zenity is needed by Automatix, the libtunepimp packages replaces Ubuntu's neutered ones that keep you from using MusicBrainz to tag MP3s, Aspell and its corresponding english dictionary are MUCH better than the default spell checker, and the last two packages allow you to use the wizard in Klamav to update Clamav.

Some other packages that may prove useful to know about:

  • Firestarter *easier rule configuration than Guarddog*

  • Mozplugger *for Opera plugin compatability*

  • Gqview *some may like this better than Showfoto*

  • Katapult *desktop search that quite simply rocks*

I then apt-get upgrade and go on to tweak my /etc/mplayerplug-in.conf to match these lines:

This enables those media files to be played in Firefox *I have no idea why they're disabled by default*.

Next is /etc/samba/smb.conf. My LAN IP range is never listed in there so I have to add it in or else I won't be able to see the other computers in the network while using Smb4k.

As a small note, your home folder is shared by default in Samba so if you don't want this make sure to disable it. :)

Then it's on to /etc/ssh/sshd_config, where I check these lines and make sure they match the below:
    PermitRootLogin no
    PermitEmptyPasswords no
    Protocol 2

Of course, don't do the above if you're actually planning on remotely logging in to your computer as admin with no password on protocol 1. ;)

Next it's to /home/*my username*/.mozilla/firefox/pluginreg.dat, where I change every instance of Shockwave Flash 7.0 to Shockwave Flash 9.0. This stops sites from telling you to upgrade your version of Flash.

By this time Automatix will be in K menu > System. You can use this to install packages that are most often wanted *multimedia codecs, Microsoft True Type fonts, etc.*.

If you want proprietary video card drivers - go to System Configuration, System Administration, Mepis Utilities, Mouse and Display, and I think you can take it from there. ;)

If you want to remove OpenOffice.org in favor of Koffice, you need to remove openoffice.org|10n-en-us as opposed to the meta package. Everything else depends on this so they will be removed with it, and it is virtually impossible to remove half of them without removing this first.

I also change KDE & Kaffeine's default sound to ALSA instead of Auto (System Configuration > Sound & Multimedia > Sound System), and uncheck scan for plugins at startup in Konqeror (Settings > Configure Konqueror > Plugins). And since I find them rather annoying, I disable system startup and shutdown sounds (System Configuration > Sound & Multimedia > System Notifications). Also, since I don't use it, I disable Keep's daemon from starting with KDE (System Configuration > KDE Components > Service Manager).

I would have never learned a lot of these if it wasn't for the Mepislovers community. So give these guys a round of applause! :)


>Oh I wish…

>I wish there was some browser, plug in, or extension that allowed one to browse their del.icio.us bookmarks by their tags as if they were physical folders containing bookmarks within your browser. Imagine clicking on the "Bookmarks" menu in Firefox and seeing all your del.icio.us tags as folders and containing automatically updated lists of your del.icio.us bookmarks.

Yes, I know there are sidebars, but they just don't appeal to me - I don't like sidebars, for starters. Second, I have yet to find a sidebar that allows one to view all their tags and then simply click on a tag to show the bookmarks contained in it. I would even settle for just an integrated search somewhere in my browser that allows me to search only my bookmark's names/notes/tags/etc.

This is the reason why: I have a bad habit of losing backups of my bookmarks. I can make a million backups and somehow they will be either lost or destroyed. Because of this, I thought it would be smart of me to simply start regularly backing them up on my del.icio.us account as well as making physical backups. Recently I lost all my bookmarks - again - and was very grateful for my foresight in backing them up on my del.icio.us account. However, when you export them in del.icio.us they're just one long list of bookmarks, no longer contained in categorized folders or tags. So now I'm left with a huge list of unorganized bookmarks.

For now, I have this issue solved by using Katapult whenever I want to find a bookmark, and going to my del.icio.us account whenever I need a more in depth search. But it sure would be nice to have them all in folders within my Bookmarks menu again.

Manually organizing them is a bit out of the question considering there are a ton of them.

So, for now, all I can really do is use my workaround, wish, and wait. ;)