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The story so far November 3, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Productivity, Software.
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1 comment so far

So here’s the summary of my linux@laptop adventures so far:

I started with Kubuntu, which as it turned out, after some kernel upgrade would not suspend to RAM/disk correctly. For a laptop, this is a no-go apparently, so after I realized that others also had the problem and that it would not be solved any time soon, I decided to give other distributions a chance.

I tried OpenSUSE, but after installation it wouldn’t even start. Without wasting too much time on this, I moved to Fedora 13; and it worked. It installed without problems, booted without problems, suspended without problems. After upgrading to the latest packages, I faced a common issue with newer Nouveau drivers, which wouldn’t work any more. By then, I had already found out about rpmfusion, which includes Nvidia drivers to install at the click of a mouse. Smooth.

Having solved the basics, I started using the system on a day-to-day basis. I thought I’d give a try to Gnome after a few years of faithfully discarding it, only to realize I was very much correct in doing so. Maybe Ubuntu has done a good job in its customizations, I don’t know, but the vanilla flavour in Fedora is ugly and unintuitive. Whoever disagrees, I would like them to walk into the shoes of a gnome-illiterate user and try to make changes such as setting date format to DD/MM/YYYY (instead of MM/DD/YYYY). I’m not interested in changing the whole system locale for that (and let’s forget about the fact that a linux apprentice knows nothing about locales). KDE, on the other hand, just works, and makes full sense when configuring and using it.

Where Gnome shines, is certain applications such as Evolution. It just rocks, especially when compared with Kmail. With the latter I had plenty of problems while using it with IMAP, but moving to disconnected IMAP was a game changer and Kmail now works quite well. In addition, Kmail failed to notify me while one of my IMAP accounts would not authenticate due to a server-side problem. The result was that for 4 days I would not get email there, thinking I was just not the recipient of any. This could have very bad consequences, for reasons irrelevant with this post. In any case, I would have already switched to Thunderbird or Evolution, but I want to have a desktop-wide addressbook that I can sync with a phone in the future, so I’m giving Kmail some more time and one more chance. In addition, Kontact is really nice in its entirety.

One more thing to mention in the “email” category, is spam detection. The default with Fedora/KDE/Kmail, is using SpamBayes, which would leave quite some spam in my mailbox even after some (admittedly, not too much) training. I then installed/tried SpamAssassin, but integration with Kmail was poor and spam would not be moved out of the mailbox even if marked as such. Eventually I went with Bogofilter and am happy to have done so, it works like a charm and improves a lot with training.

The, browser wars commenced. The default of Konqueror is slow and outdated in comparison to other browsers. I tried switching to the webkit kpart, which improved things a lot but didn’t solve many of the various problems such as random crashes. I really insisted, due to desktop integration, but at some point I just gave up. I made Firefox my default browser, and I’m very happy to have done so. Yesterday, I decided I can’t rely on Konqueror even as a second browser (I always keep 2 around). So for the first time, I decided to give Chrome a chance. So far I was resisting, mostly due to my concerns about Google. I must admit, the thing is *fast*. Although I haven’t switched to it as a main/default browser, I have been tempted to do so. In any case, it now serves as my alternative browser, should I need to test something without cleaning up cookies, or if Firefox does not work properly with some site.

Finally, when it comes to every-day usage, Office applications deserve a mention. Being realistic, I had to be able to run MS Office. I’m not interested in booting up virtual machines for this purpose, so I tried CrossOver for Linux. It works beautifully, and did not have a single problem so far. Well done.

PS: The Ubuntu font is amazing. It is my main desktop font.

Who’s the next Apple? March 13, 2010

Posted by CK in IT.
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Seriously, if Apple continues providing its customers with all the reasons to hate it, I can well see a large amount of people moving away from it. Apple made a real difference a few years ago when it started providing systems that not only “just worked”, but they were also a pleasure to use. Marketing and good products made people almost religious about the company and every little gem that was coming out of its labs (and Jobs’ mind, I presume).

But in the last year or so, Apple became greedy. It is turning into the new Microsoft, only worse in the sense that they *do* have the best offerings. I have already decided to move away soon, and I know a number of other people who are considering or even have already taken the same decision.

So the question comes naturally: Who’s the next Apple? Who is the company who will offer secure systems that “just work”, painlessly and effortlessly? Who will grab this opportunity, to build a proper interface around a proper kernel and get a bunch of early adopters on its side? Sure, various Linux distributions are getting better and better, but the lack of coherence is almost dramatic. I’m making the experiment these days on a virtual machine, and there is honestly nothing to compare. My contempt for GNOME is well-known to many, as is also my admiration of KDE. The latter (which I am using), although great, it still does not integrate properly with the underlying system. I assume that the non-centralized development of the three layers (kernel & base system, X server, desktop), great as it is in offering choice and nurturing all those different options, it is also the Achilles’ heel of Linux (ok, GNU/Linux) systems. The same applies to *BSD. Certainly, the lack of control on hardware and Microsoft’s strong-arm practices on all vendors doesn’t help either (see for example what happened to netbooks).

My prediction is that there is now great opportunity for someone to invest in a properly good interface on top of a BSD kernel (or Linux, if licensing is not a problem). KDE is technically sound and can be the basis as it is also offering excellent APIs, but would have to integrate much better with the underlying system — and that, I guess, means getting rid of X. If someone does it though, and strikes a few deals with vendors such as Acer, Asus, and the like, I believe there’s a big market ahead. It would have to be someone big, who has the expertise and the marketing power.

So let me ask: Why not Nokia?

They are the largest seller of mobile devices. They bought Trolltech. They are moving to Linux for their phones. They are now partners with Intel on Meego. Is there anything that really prevents Nokia from making the step into desktop and tablet operating systems?