Back in the Linux Day

As a result of my slow, but steady, progress organizing the basement, I wound up identifying a few extra computer parts, allowing me to fix up my Mom’s old desktop.  I’ve been contemplating setting up a PC to connect to the TV.  Who says you need Hulu Plus to watch Hulu on the TV?

Being, well, me, I was also keen to set this box up with Linux.  Since my old laptop died, I’ve been Linux-less for quite a while now.  After a bit of searching I opted for a distro I’ve heard good things about, Ubuntu.  The install CD burned, I sat down for a good afternoon of bonding with the PC.

I was both pleasantly surprised and a little saddened.

Back in the dark ages when I was first exposed to Linux, it was a fantastic, powerful operating system with a plethora of tools for a young programmer like me–but installing it was a chore.   This OS was not for the faint of heart, those used to putting in an install CD, choosing OK in the appropriate places and setting the time zone before walking away.  Noooo, you had to know all manner of details about your hardware.  There were obscure drivers to be obtained, hard drives to partition and kernels to be re-compiled.  Our University ACM  (Association of Computing Machines) chapter hosted Saturday “Install Parties” so that the more skilled could help indoctrinate the N00bs.  It was its own form of bonding experience.

So, it was a bit of a shock when Ubuntu went on like butter.  Seriously.  It put the easiest Windows install to shame.  I chose a few elements related to the keyboard and the time zone, it chugged a bit, and before I knew it, I was staring at a gorgeous desktop on my TV screen.  Mozilla was installed and launched easily.  Hulu fired right up.  The network allowed me to access my server with no issues.  I pulled over photos which showed up brilliantly on the photo viewer.  Numerous programs and tools were already installed so I could click and begin working in a document, surfing, or pulling up MP3s immediately.  No more booting to a simple command prompt and being forced to go in and tweek the system to boot to a GUI.  No more fighting with the right drivers for my video card.  It was so EASY.  My Mom could have handled this install, and she normally has trouble when she’s prompted to update Adobe Acrobat.

On the one hand, this is great for getting the average user to dabble with Linux.  The initial hurdle involved with getting it installed is no longer a barrier.  You can install in a matter of a half hour and be on your merry, computing way.  Honestly, if you have some old hardware and no access to a cheap copy of Window$, download Ubuntu.

On the other hand–the challenge and the fun are gone for a geek like me.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of fun to be had whipping out the terminal window and tweaking things (I already tweaked get access to the advanced settings and install screen-savers), but there’s a twinge of sadness that I didn’t get that afternoon of frustration with the balm of triumph and self pride after finally getting it all up, running and just-so.  Sure, there are other distros that still provide a geek challenge (I assume–if Slackware got this easy to install, I think it might be a sign of the apocalypse), but I’m pretty sure that many of them are more like this Ubuntu install, and that makes me just a little nostalgic.

Either way, it’s still an awesome, powerful OS.  And I’m now in possession of both a media center for photos, music and video, AND my favorite C compiler and enough PERL packages to make your eyes bleed.

Time Vampire of the Week: Updates

Ever damn piece of software I own, use, or am forced to tolerate decided it needed a lengthy upgrade this week.

Every.

Damn.

Piece.

Normally, this is a minor annoyance about which I swear briefly, then move on.  But not this week, oh no.  This week the updates have all been long, slow, interfered with my attempts to shut down quickly, and generally made my life a living hell.

I timed it yesterday–I spent 20 minutes on Windows updates (the price I pay for rarely rebooting).  And this when I really just wanted to try and get in to check on an e-mail attachment before I went to work, so I wouldn’t have to look at it on my phone.  After 20 minutes I gave up.  I couldn’t spare more time.

And iTunes.  43 minutes.  To add insult to injury?  That update actually failed for some reason.  Which doesn’t matter because even if it had succeeded, it would still have wanted me to update today because apparently Apple has coders working 24/7/365 on iTunes crap.  It’s actually rare I open the program much anymore because I got so tired of the constant prompt to upgrade.

Adobe wanted to update flash or the reader or something.  And Java, as usual, popped up a damn request to update too.

It’s a bloody miracle I got anything done this week other that waiting on patches to download and install.

Final Chapter in Cammy’s MP3 Player Search

Yeah.  I’m one of those Apple people now.  It’s blue and shall henceforth be known as The Smurf.

I caved to recommendations from my brother, who was basically sold on the iPod Nano 5th generation being the player I needed.  He has issues with purchasing anything you can’t handle in a store first and my options either had not yet come out or aren’t carried by any brick-and-mortar establishments in my area. I gave in when I focused on the fact that the other two alternatives I was leaning toward both had touch screens.  And as I told a friend this week, touchscreens and I agreed not to see each other anymore because I’m in love with real buttons.

Given that the new nanos are now touch-screen only, I understand that when this player (inevitably) gives out, I’m going to have to adapt and reexamine my break-up with the touchscreen.  But until then, the Nano has given me the excuse to maintain a little more “time-apart” from the world of touchscreens.

I’m pleased with the operation so far.  It charge easily, loaded the initial dump of total crap and I’m happy to have the ability to set multiple world clocks.  I hadn’t expected to find games on the thing, so that was nice.  I’m getting used to the whole click-wheel thing–I had some misgivings about it when I started trying to navigate, but I think we’ll manage (it’s a much healthier relationship than the touchscreen and I had).

But, it’s not perfect.  There’s no good way to view what percentage charge the thing has while it’s connected–hell, you can’t use the thing while it’s charging, which is also a surprise to me.  And for the contacts?  Seriously?  I have to use Micro$oft “Look Out!” for my contacts?  Thanks but no thanks.  It’s bad enough I’m stuck using Apple’s proprietary crap, I’m NOT going to agree to use Outlook.  You can’t make me!  I already had to give up Songbird for iTunes, and bid farwell to my Ogg and FLAC files (until someone does a stable port of Rockbox for the Nano 5g).

And with that, The Smurf and I are off for more adventures in file syncing.  Then we’re going shopping for some kind of skin to cover the Apple logo on the back….