I’ve Gone Back To Windows

July 22, 2012

After using Linux as my main desktop operating system for years, I have finally made the move I have been contemplating for some time now. I have returned to Windows on my desktop machines.

It is not that I no longer like Linux. I do, and in fact still run it as my only server operating system. But after using it on my desktop for a long time, I have come to the conclusion that it just does not serve as well on a desktop system as Windows does for my wants and needs. That is not to say that this is true for any other person(s). I speak only for my wants and needs of a desktop machine.

I have off and on again found driver support to be sub-par with driver support on Windows. I do not blame Linux or it’s developers for this. I realize that manufacturers often don’t release driver details to open source developers for a variety of reasons all their own. That forces open source developers to have to reverse engineer or otherwise recreate the code for such drivers, and often many things don’t quite work. Linux coders do a great job given their restraints. But I need drivers that work – that enable all the abilities of my hardware to work right. That’s why I bought this hardware in the first place. Using Windows provides that for me. Linux not always, especially when it comes to newly released hardware.

Then there’s the desktop itself. With Windows, you have a steady, stable, familiar desktop that works. With Linux, you have a multitude of desktop choices, which work to various degrees, but often have instability in part or in whole. And, they work very differently, and in numerous ways and functions, are often incompatible. Now I do understand the whole concept of choice. But Frankly, too much of a blessing can become a curse. And along with all this choice, has come all the infighting over which is best, who shot who, and constant almost religious fanaticism and infighting over them. It has not always shown the Linux community in the best light.

In a similar vein, the almost ridiculous plethora of Linux distributions is once again, in my opinion, become a blessing turned curse. Each has its own configuration of the kernel, its own configuration and init files, its own choice of the version level of drivers and apps, and its own choice of desktop environment or window manager, included apps, even look and feel. So stability varies from distro to distro. You never know when you choose one to install whether it would be stable, or force you to fight with it to get it to work as you need.

And that brings me to the biggest reason of all for my deciding to go back to Windows: stability itself. On a desktop machine, I really value stability. With Windows I have found that stability. With Windows 7 for example, you have a very polished, stable os which overcomes all of my issues mentioned above. But I have noticed stability issues with Linux on the desktop that does lessen the quality of the desktop computing experience for me. Not only does the huge ‘variety’ and mixed quality of distros cause instability on desktops, but also the development process does as well.

I find that developers (kernel and otherwise) are constantly updating their products, changing them, taking out stuff and adding new stuff almost daily. That has meant that every time I update my system, it’s a crap-shoot whether everything will still work afterward as it did before, or whether something will break. And when something does break (which is frequently), it can be a real hassle to find out just what piece broke things, and then either downgrade one or more packages, or do some weird work-around to get it working again. Frankly, I just want to use my computer for things I enjoy. I don’t want to keep on spending my ‘enjoyment’ time fixing the darn thing.

So as a result, after years of using, watching, and hoping that Linux would finally get there for ‘me’ on the desktop, and struggling with the things I mentioned above, I finally decided life is too short. So I have returned to Windows on my desktop machines. Since doing so I have had no problems, my family can play games without problems, all driver features work, nothing keeps breaking, and I am happy. As I said at the beginning of this, I am not saying that anyone one else should see it as I do, or should make the change I have. I am simply explaining why ‘I’ did, because I have taken considerable grief from many Linux users over this decision. An operating system is (or should be), a legitimate individual choice based on individual wants and needs. I have simply made my individual choice. Each person should make there’s.

–Theoden


Linux Left Behind

November 13, 2009

I first started using linux in the early to mid 1990’s. From that time until the last year or so, we linux users have continuously boasted that unlike Windows(tm), linux runs just fine on older and minimal hardware and memory footprints. And indeed, it was true.

But sad to say, we are slowly losing the ability to make that boast. As computer hardware and gaming technology have advanced, so have the basic requirements of the operating systems we run on them; and linux is no exception. More and more, to run the newer versions of linux distributions – distributions by the way that we may have been running for years – requires more memory, bigger processors, and in general, newer and faster everything.

And even with all that, some of those distributions still run some processes and operations more slowly than they used to. The fact is, the ability of linux distributions to run on older hardware with less memory is slowly slipping away. It’s not gone yet … but it’s going.

This is primarily due to the incredible advance in graphics technology and the quality of Desktop Environments which demands that new hardware. All those beautiful looks, those graphics, that eye-candy – it all requires more powerful hardware and more memory. And the sad reality is, those of us who like to keep our older hardware (which is still perfectly good) running and using up-to-date linux are finding it more and more challenging to do so.

Still, there are ways. One such is familiarly referred to as the ‘*box window managers‘. I’m referring to Openbox, Fluxbox, and Blackbox. What does Blackbox, Fluxbox, or Openbox have that the others don’t? All three are very lightweight, designed with lightness and simplicity in mind, providing a bare set of features that are the minimum required for a good start at your desktop. After install, you just have the beginning of a beautiful desktop. Now you get to make it look and run any way you like.

The *box window managers are very fast, light on resource usage, and in general run ‘very well‘ on older hardware as well as newer, and with minimal memory. And you can make them absolutely georgeous with lot’s of eyecandy, or almost none at all. It’s all up to you. The best part is, your old laptop or desktop will run like the wind again, and you will be extremely happy with the configurability of your ‘new‘ old linux computer.

Don’t let that older hardware go to waste, or your hard earned dollars pour out every year on newer systems that you may not need. Give Openbox, Fluxbox, or Blackbox a try. You won’t be disappointed.

–Theoden


Total Openness, Equality, Stalemate, And Anarchy

August 10, 2009

So you and some friends have decided to launch an open source project. Sweet. Then among the many decisions you must make regarding the new project is organization. Just ‘how‘ will you organize the team(s) to get things done, and ‘how‘ will decisions be made, and ‘who‘ will control and safeguard the projects ‘stuff‘ and processes?

Believe me when I tell you, these last questions are the most important you will answer, because if you get them right, everything else you plan and set up in the project will work well and things will get done, and the project will grow. But, get them wrong, and the project will be in trouble from the get-go. Get them wrong, and either internal conflict and anarchy will bring you down, or apathy and the inability to make real decisions will grind you into stagnation. Either way, eventually, people will begin to tire of the whole thing and drop out one by one to move on to other more satisfying projects.

I know of a project that has come into existence as a result of disenchantment with things in a previous project of which they had been a part. It was a leadership conflict – the details are not relevant here. But as a result, a new project was launched by those who left in disenchantment. As a result of the conflict in the old project, they determined to structure the new project in such a way that no one could control the project – so that everyone was ‘equal‘, and everything was ‘open‘ and above board to the entire community, in and out of the project. They called it ‘complete openness.’

When they answered the questions I posed above, they made choices that left everyone ‘equal‘ with a vote on ‘everything‘. People volunteered for team membership because of their ‘interests‘ and ‘skills‘. But no one appointed team leaders – the teams themselves were supposed to do that. Some did, and some didn’t. As a result, no one was really in charge of anything, and it was very difficulty to get anything done. Feet dragged, people fussed with one another over philosophy, style, methodology, etc. Egos got in the way and there was no one to say ‘Stop!‘ No ‘real‘ decisions ever seem to get made. Things seem pretty stagnated on several levels.

As you can see, the wrong answers to the above posed questions has resulted in a fairly troubled project – a great concept behind them – good people involved – but just dragging along getting very little done. And to date, there has been no public result of their efforts after six months of work. You see, they really have no leadership in the sense of ‘real‘ leadership. No one can say, ‘Do this‘ to anyone or any team, no one can say, ‘No‘ without taking a vote.

Frankly, someone ‘has‘ to be in charge of a group effort for it to progress. Even in an elected civil government, once elected, the leaders have to lead, make decisions, say, ‘Yes‘ and say, ‘No!‘ Without that it is just like it says in scriptures: “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And that is a recipe for failure

Total ‘openness‘ sounds great on paper. ‘Equality‘ is a great idea as long as it applies to the right things. But get them wrong, and you will find your project mired in stagnation and/or anarchy. Either way, your project will slowly peter out and ultimately fail. And even if you do manage to at some point to put out a product, the problems won’t go away, and project will continue in ill health, probably for as long as it continues to exist.

Pay attention to ‘how‘ you organize your project, and ‘why‘ you chose that way to do it. It will pay dividends every day!

–Theoden


When Is It Time To Say “Sayōnara”?

July 23, 2009

There are times in our lives when we are filled with exhilaration because of an opportunity to be involved in a project that seems to have real meaning for us.  Those are great times.  They make us feel like we can contribute, like we can make a difference, that what we think and know matters.

But, there are also times when the exhilaration has left us, when we seem to have lost our joy – even direction – in a project in which we have become involved.  The processes frustrate us.  We feel depressed about it.  We know others are depending on us, but we have lost our ‘spiritual connection‘ to the project.  Those are tough times, and leave us wondering whether we should stay or leave.  When do you know it is time to leave a project? to say “Sayōnara” and move on?

Well, there is no tried and true formula to answer that question.  But, if your values aren’t being met by the way the project is being run or the internal culture it is adopting, it may be that time. Maybe the project’s vision is out of sync with your own or it’s ethics conflict with your own.  Either way, you will have a hard time giving your best to the project and feeling fulfilled by it.

Perhaps the people you work with on the project are condescending and no one asks you your opinion or pays any attention to it when you offer one.  In such a situation, it may just be time to begin to consider other options.

And certainly, if your friends and family begin to notice that you’re “not acting like the same person they know you to be“, or they become concerned that something is ‘bothering‘ you, it could be a major indicator that the project is making you unhappy to the point where your mood and your health are being effected.

Finally, if your family circumstances have changed – your personal life (marriage, having children, problems), it ‘may‘ make it necessary for you to leave the project in order to better deal with family and personal issues.

Whether it is one or some of the above reasons, or even another not referenced here, the time may come when you ‘have‘ to ask yourself that question:  “When is it time to say “Sayōnara?”  And when that time comes, it is probably your time to make the break.

It surely won’t be fun, but you will feel a breath of fresh air in your life when it’s done – when you finally face up to and make that decision.  Don’t be afraid to do what is right for you.  You are the only ‘you‘ you will ever get.  Sayōnara!

–Theoden


Getting Tired Of An Old Iceweasel In Lenny?

July 20, 2009

Arguably, one of the most heavily used applications on any linux desktop is the web browser.  But sadly, if you are a user of Debian Stable – ‘Lenny‘, and you run their version of Firefox Browser – which they call Iceweasel – you are way behind latest version.

Now normally, that might not make too great a difference to you, but when there is a ‘major‘ upgrade of Firefox such as the Firefox 3.5 upgrade which contains many really nice new features, and is way faster, you really suffer being stuck at 3.0.6 (the latest version of IceWeasel in Lenny at the time of Firefox 3.5’s release).  And the Debian Project is really slow at bring the latest version to the ‘stable‘ release.

The reasons behind this have to do with a disagreement between the Mozilla Project and the Debian Project regarding Debian’s patched version of Firefox.  The result has been that Mozilla won’t let Debian call their patched version ‘Firefox‘, so they renamed their version ‘Iceweasel.’  The whole thing has been argued ad nauseum.

But if you are getting tired of being behind the times with your Iceweasel web browser, like I was, you can change to the latest Firefox very easily.  Here is how I did it:

First, I downloaded the latest version of Firefox from the Mozilla website. – http://download.mozilla.org/?product=firefox-3.5.1&os=linux&lang=en-US

Second, I created a new folder in my home directory named .mozapps:

~$ mkdir ~/.mozapps

Third, I unpacked the Firefox package into that .mozapps directory.

~$ cd ~/.mozapps
~$ bunzip2 -d ~/<path to Firefox Package>/firefox-3.5.1.tar.bz2

This will put a folder called ‘firefox‘ in your ~/.mozapps directory – this is the new Firefox program directory.

Fourth, create a menu item pointing to ~/.mozapps/firefox/firefox.

You are now ready to the new Firefox.  It will auto-magically use your old profile, extensions, themes, bookmarks, etc., just as they were in Iceweasel.  You can then choose to keep Iceweasel installed (yes, it will still work), or you can remove the program from your system.

– AND –

If you use Icedove (Debian’s version of Thunderbird – yeah I know, same reason), you can install and use the latest version of Thunderbird just like you did with Firefox.

First, I downloaded the latest version of Thunderbird from the Mozilla website. – http://download.mozilla.org/?product=thunderbird-2.0.0.22&os=linux&lang=en-US

Second, I unpacked the Firefox package into that .mozapps directory you created for Firefox.

~$ cd ~/.mozapps
~$ tar -xzvf ~/<path to Firefox Package>/thunderbird-2.0.0.22.tar.gz

This will put a folder called ‘thunderbird‘ in your ~/.mozapps directory – this is the new Thunderbird program directory.

Third, create a menu item pointing to ~/.mozapps/thunderbird/thunderbird.

Fourth, there is one more step necessary.  Icedove uses ~/.mozilla-thunderbird to keep you email, profile, themes, extensions, etc., in, but Thunderbird us a folder called ~/.thunderbird.  To fix this, simply rename your ~/.mozilla-thunderbird directory to ~/.thunderbird.  And Bingo! – You are now ready to the new Thunderbird mail client.  It will auto-magically use your old profile, extensions, themes, email, etc., just as they were in Icedove.  You can then choose to keep Icedove installed (yes, it will still work but you will have to change the ~/.thunderbird directory back to ~/.mozilla-thunderbird), or you can remove the program from your system.

It’s all really that easy.  I am now happily running the latest Firefox and Thunderbird on my Debian ‘Lenny‘ system and enjoying my web experience again.  You can too!

–Theoden


QA – An Often Misunderstood Process

July 17, 2009

QA – standing for ‘Quality Assurance‘ – it a vital part of any project in commercial or open source software and services.  But it seems to me that it is often a misunderstood process by many in and out of such projects.

By definition, ‘quality assurance is any process that is systematic in checking to see whether a product or service that is being developed meets specified project requirements. A quality assurance system increases customer confidence and the credibility of the project’s developers. It improves work processes and enables a project to produce better results and compete more successfully with other projects. Quality assurance systems stress catching defects before they get into the final product.

I am very involved with the QA process for the new Unity Linux Project located at http://unity-linux.org/.  Our goal at Unity is to make sure that bugs get found, reported, assigned to a dev, followed up, and fixed.

I encourage all who become Unity users, or branch developers, to report bugs to our Issue Tracker site at http://issues.unity-linux.org/.  We pledge to you that we will chase those bugs and do what is needed to verify and fix them.

I also encourage all of Unity’s developers to understand the QA people when we come nagging a bit and doing what we have to to move things forward in bug chasing.  We want the Unity project to be the best it can be!

Quality Assurance – it’s what makes a project successful.

–Theoden


Artwork By Committee

June 12, 2009

The artistic temperament is a very tight-wire kind of thing in my experience.

“Van Gogh was not the easiest person in the world to get along with, neither were Picasso, El Greco, or Jackson Pollock. But rightly or wrongly, when we think of artistic temperament, the personality of Michelangelo Buonarroti often comes first to mind. He was independent, arrogant, aggressive, competitive and indispensable. He’s also said to have had a nasty temper.” – Jim Lane (http://www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=g&p=a&a=i&ID=49)

Such temperaments are simply not conducive to committee work on an art project.  With such styles and temperaments, working as a committee only leads to constant criticism of ideas, great lag periods in getting anything done, and endless dust ups between the strongest personalities over one thing or another.  In the end – many stop contributing or saying much, work slows down, and anything that ultimately results is at best, mediocre.

In the open source project I am currently involved in, we are experiencing exactly this issue.  As much as some (who have a lot of skin in the current game) hate to hear it said, this approach is a wrong one and I believe we need to halt it now and start over.  A far better approach in my opinion would be to utilize the artistic temperament in our current graphics team to best advantage.  We should hold a logo contest in which each member (and anyone else interested) develops their own idea(s) and concept(s) to completion.  That way they can fully express their artistic abilities unhindered.  Then the project team as a whole should select a certain number – say the five best – and put them before the community to vote on.  I know of several linux distributions that utilized this exact method with some really stunning results.

Such a method I believe would bring us a lot of very high quality ideas and images from which to choose.  It would also avoid all the pitfalls found in the committee method.  And finally, it would move the project ahead in a more timely manner without all the delay we are currently experiencing.  We need to think about this carefully.

–Theoden


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