A Linux Critic keepalive: The state of my tech

Well, as these things tend to go, having a full time job and hobbies and lots of other things going on means that my Linux blog gets neglected.

I thought I’d post a quick update just as a keepalive and let those of you who still actually pay attention to my little corner of WordPress that I’m still here, I’m still doing stuff with Linux and technology, and I haven’t completely given up on The Linux Critic blog just yet.

What I’m running now

In order of age, here are my primary machines and their roles these days, and how I have them set up.

Azalin

This computer is one I built myself from parts I ordered from all over the place way back in 2005. Ugh, but that seems like a long time ago. And that’s because it IS.

As you might expect, “Azalin”, as I have always had it named on my network, isn’t really that great as a desktop machine any more. It’s running an older, single-core AMD 64-bit CPU that really shows its limitations when trying to do things in 2012, let me tell you.

As a result, Azalin’s role has been reduced to that of a headless, basic-functionality server. I still have it running Linux Mint 9 Fluxbox Edition, and it’s rock-solid stable.

Azalin also serves as an IRC server for a small group of geeky friends I have, and I utilize it as my primary SSH box for if I need to remotely get into my home network for any reason.

I don’t dual-boot any of my Linux systems anymore (and haven’t for years), but I do still have the occasional need for Windows for very specific things, so Azalin acts as a virtual host as well. When I need it, I launch a virtualized Windows XP machine that resides on Azalin via Oracle VirtualBox, which still serves that purpose reasonably well. This doesn’t come up very often, but it’s pretty painless whenever I do utilize it, so that’s the solution I’ve continued to stick with.

Thuron

“Thuron” is a Darter Ultra laptop I bought from System 76 a little over two years ago now. It was decked out when I bought it, with 6 GB of RAM, a speedy (and unfortunately very power-hungry) Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and a 320 GB hard drive.

Currently Thuron is running 64-bit Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon desktop environment. For a two year old laptop, I’m still pretty happy to say that I get around two hours of battery life under load on the thing, which is nice, because the small and lightweight nature of this laptop begs for it to be carried around.

I’ve less and less need for the 320 GB hard drive in this laptop, as I’ve been using Google Music instead of locally-stored MP3s, and I’m only selectively syncing certain Dropbox folders, so I’m finding that the hard drive space is going largely unused here.

Because of that, I’ve been giving serious thought toward replacing the 320 GB SATA drive with a solid state drive of maybe 120 GB, since they have come down in price quite a lot, and I know I would benefit from the faster read/write and reduced power consumption they bring to the table.

In the mean time, this little laptop of mine still gets a lot of use, and I really enjoy using it. It’s one of the best buys I’ve made in terms of computers in a long, long time.

Malvius

I bought a new desktop computer to replace Azalin’s desktop functions last year, and named it “Malvius”. This one is from ZaReason, and it’s a lot beefier than Azalin could ever be, with 8 GB of RAM and a 6-core AMD CPU that blows the doors off of anything else I’ve ever owned.

Malvius is still running 64-bit Linux Mint 11, which is very stable and a pretty enjoyable OS experience for me. I intend to upgrade it to a newer Mint release at some point, but as I’m still kicking the tires on the Cinnamon desktop — and I’m finding that there are some shortcomings to making that leap — I’ll be sticking with Mint 11 on Malvius for a time going forward yet.

Other devices

In the past year or so I have spent a fair amount of time diving into Android too, which, as I was pleased to discover, was pretty familiar to me as a Linux guy once I dug into it a bit.

My phone

I have an HTC EVO 4G that’s (as of two days ago) running CyanogenMod 7 Stable running on it, which is so far a much smoother and FASTER Android experience than Sprint and HTC’s bastardized approach to Gingerbread has been.

I had been holding out for Ice Cream Sandwich, but upon further research, it doesn’t appear that that would be the best choice for a phone that only has 512 MB of system memory, so I went with CyanogenMod 7, which is based on Gingerbread, so I have plenty room for apps after the space the ROM itself takes up.

My tablet

Back in April I bought a Kindle Fire. I spent a couple of months using it as Amazon intended it, namely to play Amazon prime movie/TV content and consume other Amazon stuff.

However, the extremely limited usefulness of the Kindle Fire as a more general-purpose tablet was frustrating to me. This was mostly because of the extremely locked-down default interface and total lack of any of the versatile app ecosystem that any Android device should be able to take advantage of.

Amazon used Gingerbread as their starting point for the Kindle Fire’s OS, so I discovered with some hacking I was able to get Google apps sideloaded on it — Gmail, Google+, et al — but it was painful to do, and completely avoidable if Amazon would have just allowed the Google Marketplace rather than silo everything into the very restricted Amazon app store.

So, after taking the Kindle Fire as far as it could go with its nerfed out-of-the-box configuration, last month I flashed it and installed CyanogenMod 9 on it, which is based on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).

What an incredible improvement. I’m finding that I’m really enjoying this device now as a general-purpose tablet, and I get a ton of use out of it.

Admittedly, had the Google Nexus 7 tablet been out a few months ago, I would have bought one of those instead of a Kindle Fire, hands down. For the same price, the Google 7-incher has much better hardware, and it wouldn’t have required me to do any hacking to get a decent OS on it (since the Nexus 7 ships with Jellybean).

But for what it’s worth, I’m definitely not sorry I bought my Kindle Fire. With Android 4.0 on it, it’s a quality device, and I plan to use it for as long as it continues to work.

Keep watching, folks

So, that’s about it for my keepalive. I’m sorry I haven’t been better with posting here for so long, but I’m going to make a point to at least throw some thoughts together for a quick rant, review, or rumination from time to time again, so for those of you who are still around, keep an eye on this blog.

I haven’t gone anywhere, and I still love to talk about Linux and technology.

Thanks for reading!

– Trent

4 thoughts on “A Linux Critic keepalive: The state of my tech

  1. “I haven’t gone anywhere, and I still love to talk about Linux and technology.”

    And that’s why I have you bookmarked in the “must read ” category

  2. Interesting update. Nice to see people just using their linux setups rather than obsessing about tweaking them :)

    Side Note:For some reason the notification email for your post was marked by Google as spam with a “Many other emails like this have been classified as spam”. I hope there hasn’t been a fan boi campaign against you.

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