One year and still going

In May of 2009 after hemming and hawing about it for far too long, I finally just bit the bullet and created this blog and registered Linux-Critic.com. I thought at the time that it would be a good way for me to keep track of some of my Linux and technology experiments, a place for me to go when I think “okay, when I was messing around with $whatever, how the heck did I configure that?”.

I also thought it’d be a good way for me to share geeky techie information with some of my close geek friends, particularly the ones who are always tinkering around like I am.

Today marks a year since I made that “Hello World” post, and now The Linux Critic is averaging over 18,000 unique views per month, and I’m still finding a lot of enjoyment in creating content here, even if it’s just the occasional unproductive rant about something that’s bothering me in the Linux world.

Even though I haven’t always been as regular with posts as I probably should have been, a fair number of you have continued to keep an eye on what I and my contributors (Joe and Patrick) have to say whenever we do manage to post a new article, howto, review, or whatever.

For that, and for the wonderful comments many of you continue to post — the ones of encouragement and yes, even the ones of disagreement — I say “thanks!”, because it’s very validating.

Linux is a tinkerer’s dream, and we love it. I know you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be bothering to read this or anything else here!

But going back to my original stated purpose with this blog, Linux can be better, and only by continuing to tinker, continuing to find those weak points, and continuing to point them out can Linux get better.

When I started this, I honestly didn’t think anybody (other than my friends and myself) would bother to read anything here. I said it was very validating to have so many regular readers and so many commenters, and this is why. It makes me feel like there is a wider purpose to this, that all this tinkering and tweaking and evaluating and technology exploration and subsequent discussion can lead to something good. It makes me feel like I’m still on the right track, and that makes it all worth it.

So, a year into this, I say again thanks for reading, following, commenting, and paying attention. It’s appreciated!

But I’m not done here yet. I have a lot more to talk about, a lot more Linux to explore, and a lot more to discuss, so stick around and keep reading!

– Trent

Laptop Renovation Part II – The Community Feeds Back

Upon reading responses to my previous post, I decided to put some of the community’s suggestions to the test and examine some of the other options out there. Of the suggestions given, I primarily focused my attention on Debian (Lenny), Damn Small Linux and the wattOS beta.  All the distros had relative advantages and disadvantages, and this provided me with an opportunity to look at some distros I otherwise might not have.

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Wow, 15,000 hits in one month!

You know, when I started this blog a few months ago, I figured it would be a good place for me to gather my thoughts on a subject in which I have a fair amount of interest, and serve as a kind of howto repository for myself.

I keep a lot of notes when I learn things in the Linux world, and I considered The Linux Critic blog to be an extension of that.

Sure, I felt at the time that others might get some benefit out of my howto posts, and on my other posts where I review applications, wax philosophic on the subject of open source, get snarky on aspects of technology about which I feel strongly… well, I thought that anything that fosters discussion and in some cases “says what needs to be said”, regardless of how unpopular the opinion, still furthers the cause of making things better for those of us using Linux and free and open source software going forward.

That said, I honestly didn’t expect this much traffic. I figured the only people who would pay this any attention would be me and a handful of geeky friends of mine and that’d be about it.

Well, last month I had around 9,000 unique hits on The Linux Critic, and this month I’ve had over 15,000 unique hits, and I gotta say, I didn’t think that anyone but my friends and I would be interested in reading any of this.

So for those of you who have been reading the occasional post here, following regularly, or just popping in while doing a search for how to do something, thanks!

And for those who have bothered to take the time to pound out a comment or two, thanks again! I like the comments, I love the discussion, and I’m thankful, even to those of you with whom I don’t agree. Really.

Cheers!

Remote X

Over at The Complete Geek my friend Jered posted a really nice howto on remote X11 forwarding the other day.

Like many of the uses of Synergy, remote X can be extremely useful when you’re working with multiple machines, or even if you’re working with a virtual machine and need to run some of the applications on the host without constantly flipping windows back and forth. One other useful application of remote X can be if you’re using a machine low on resources, it can act as a terminal of sorts, running remote X applications from other workstations.

Jered also points out how useful it is if you’re standing with one foot in the Windows world and one foot in the Linux world, because remote X can make that easier as well.

Give it a read, it’s a great writeup. The post can be found here: Remote X11.

Replacing KDE applications

Those of you who have been following my Linux Critic blog know that I’ve been on an app-hunt to replace some of the applications to which I’ve grown used to in KDE, mostly so that I can break my ties with that desktop and move forward completely without it. So far I’ve had some measure of success in this task, so I thought I’d do a writeup in case anyone else out there is moving on from KDE and needs some ideas about how to do that.

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The other side of the evangelism coin

The other day I wrote an article about the right and wrong ways to bring a user to the Linux world. I stand by my position there, namely that as an IT professional, even if someone’s not ready to embrace Linux as their desktop OS of choice, I still will recommend it down the road… but not until someone is truly ready to take that plunge.

It takes a lot of thought, a lot of work, and the right kind of attitude to embrace a new way of doing things, and for any long term Windows user, Linux is definitely a new way of doing things.

Over at Dedoimedo.com today there is an article aimed at the users, not the Linux evangelists to whom I was addressing the other day.

Dedoimedo’s article makes a really great companion to what I was talking about. It’s one thing to push someone toward Linux for the right reasons, but if you’re a user thinking about moving over to Linux, you need to be thinking about the right reasons as well, and asking yourself some questions about “why?” in particular.

Myself, I had several reasons to be fed up with Windows, most of which having to do with stability, but some of it was also design philosophy. I, as a tinkerer and a very “under the hood” and technically-minded individual, simply desired a lot more control over my own systems than any version of Windows will ever offer me, and I knew that at the time (2001-ish), Linux was able to deliver that, if I were willing to take the plunge.

I also saw Linux as something that wasn’t going away any time soon, and I determined that it was likely something that would benefit me professionally in which to gain expertise.

So to echo Dedoimedo, examine your own situation before taking that plunge. If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s almost sure to be a frustrating failure — it can be pretty frustrating even if you’re doing it for the right reasons — because at the end of the day, you have to want it. Like my Aunt Jean, you have to be willing to embrace a very big change in how you do many things, and change is hard.

But regardless of your reasons, remember this. There are plenty of folks out there like Dedoimedo and myself who will be more than happy to help you out, and part of that includes helping you assess if Linux is the right choice for you. So ask yourself some of those questions before taking the plunge, but don’t be afraid of asking the experts as well. You won’t be sorry!

Fluxconf: configuring Fluxbox the graphical way

Fluxbox is a window manager about which I have written a lot. The reason for that is because I use it every day, and I like it a lot. There’s a lot to like. It’s lightning fast, stable, and tweakable to a degree that will satisfy nearly every tinkerer when it comes to window managers.

But one of the biggest barriers to adopting Fluxbox for the “less tinkery” users out there is its configuration learning curve. Yes, Fluxbox is pretty simple when you get over the fact that you have to edit several configuration files by hand to set up your menu, your keys file, and other aspects. But for many users this is a big deal.

For some of those users, the answer to that dilemma is Fluxconf, a package of three applications that can be used to configure Fluxbox graphically.

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On the subject of Linux evangelism

The other day I made a post about bringing my Aunt Jean into the fold after her spending years and years being exclusively a Windows user. I gave my reasons as multipronged, namely that I have found over the years that supporting friends and relatives who insist on using Windows is a frustrating, tedious, redundant pain that I’d prefer to avoid, and that I’m actually doing Jean a favor by transitioning her to a platform that, while very different from what she’s used to, will ultimately be a better one for her to use.

I thought I’d touch on the subject again briefly today, because I think it bears some clarification. Before you go out knocking on doors and handing out Ubuntu disks and asking people if they’ve discovered the glorious world of Free/Open Source Software, read on and adjust your plans accordingly.

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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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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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