One more Linux user, one less Windows support headache

If you’re reading articles other than this one here on The Linux Critic, you are probably technical on a level which other people have noticed, i.e., you get asked by the occasional relative to provide assistance with technology, be it “hey, help me get my new printer working”, “HELP! WINDOWS WON’T BOOT!”, or even “I’m buying a laptop, which one should I get?”.

I have a few thoughts on that subject, mostly brought up by a recent experience, and I thought I’d do a writeup to share them with others.

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Moving from Kontact to Thunderbird

In my post expressing my disappointment in the direction Slackware is heading I had mentioned that I would be seeking replacements for a number of KDE based applications to which I have become attached over the years, and would have to learn to live without.

One of those applications is Kontact, which is a combination mail client, contact manager, calendar, scheduler, task tracking application (called a “Personal Information Manager” these days, I suppose). Kontact isn’t a perfect application, but I like it, and I’m unhappy with the version in KDE 4, so I started looking for a replacement some weeks ago.

The closest thing to it in the non-KDE universe is Evolution, which for those of you who have never used it, is a very full-featured Microsoft Outlook clone. I used Evolution on my Ubuntu laptop for a couple of weeks and had quite enough of it. It was constantly failing to connect to my POP servers, constantly locking up, constantly crashing, and was just all around unreliable.

There aren’t many other Personal Information Management applications out there that can do as much as Kontact or Evolution. So I figured a good spot to try and “make do” is Thunderbird. I had a pretty bad experience with Thunderbird the last time I tried it, but that was a couple of years ago now, so I thought it was high time I gave it another chance.

I was pleasantly surprised!

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KDE 4 Fanboys: seriously, knock it off.

When I say “I’m looking for a way to make KDE 3.5.10 work on Slackware 13″ or “I’m looking for applications to replace the ones I’ve gotten used to using in KDE, since I won’t be installing KDE going forward”, what does that mean to you?

I know what it means to me… it means I’m looking for some procedural help to accomplish a task, help from some other technically minded individuals who may offer some useful suggestions on how to make something work.

It means I’m looking for ideas for what kind of applications to try, since the open source universe is a big one, and while I try out and use and write about a lot of apps, there’s no way for me to be up on EVERYTHING.

To me, both of those things seem pretty clear and apparent. But based on what I keep seeing in response to things like that, I guess they somehow aren’t that clear.

So, to clarify, here’s what questions like that DO NOT mean.

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Synergy: A software KVM switch (without the “V”)

A good friend of mine and fellow technology wizard has on several occasions brought up Synergy as a great solution for doing work spanning a couple of local workstations.

I know I have several times added it to my “Mental List Of Apps To Try”, but somewhere along the way I forgot about it. Last weekend Jered was over at my house for dinner and he brought it up again, and this time I installed it.

To make a long story short: I should have been playing with Synergy a long time ago!

For those who like to read a little bit more than that, continue, because I have a writeup.

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Openbox: A fun and lightweight window manager

I am always on the lookout for a new way of doing things when it comes to personal computing, and one of the best ways to do so is to experiment with different window managers for Linux.

Since I have my laptop set up as an Ubuntu test platform, and since APT makes it easy to download and install applications and not find myself in dependency hell, my laptop seemed to be a great way to play around with a window manager about which I’ve been reading for some time: Openbox.

Those of you who are familiar with LXDE will have some experience, albeit limited, with Openbox, as LXDE is based on it (with a bunch of other cohesive applications and a consistent look and feel integrated to complete the transition from “window manager” to “desktop environment”), but Openbox will seem much more familiar to users of Blackbox and Fluxbox, predominately in the sense that Openbox is built very light and minimal, with a desktop bare of icons, and a user-defined right-click menu that is used for launching applications. Like Blackbox and Fluxbox, Openbox is also dockapp friendly, and as a window manager it runs very fast on limited hardware.

I’m a big fan of Fluxbox, so I thought it worthwhile to give Openbox a try, if nothing else to give me material for a Linux Critic writeup, and instead I found that I just liked using Openbox, so this turned out to be more than just a review.

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