My initial thoughts on Google Chrome OS

Last week, as a big surprise to some, but as a long-expected move to others Google announced that they would be releasing their own operating system.

There has been a lot of buzz in the past few days as a result, mostly about netbooks, about Microsoft, and (not surprisingly) about Linux.

It’s too early, I think, to be making a huge deal out of this. Let’s step back a bit and take a look at the situation.

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Fluxbox: How I make it feel like home

In the wars between GNOME and KDE (which now has even split between the two factions warring over KDE4 and KDE3.5), some of the other environments get lost in the shuffle and are often forgotten about.

One which I think is underappreciated is Fluxbox. Based on the original Blackbox 0.61.1 code, Fluxbox is a blindingly fast, simplistic approach to providing a graphical user environment while staying out of one’s way. Easy to use, easy on resources, and easy on the eyes, Fluxbox is an elegant choice that is often overlooked when the options are weighed between other graphical environments on Linux machines.

I started using Fluxbox when I was on some extremely quarrelsome hardware and needed something with a lot less going on than GNOME or KDE so that I could more effectively troubleshoot it. What I found out was that Fluxbox had an extremely tweakable interface… and I like things I can tweak and customize. I also discovered that it ran extremely fast on the limited hardware I had at the time, something else that KDE and GNOME didn’t have.

Intrigued, I stuck with it for a while and over time I learned a few good hacks that I thought I would share with the three or four readers I’ve acquired here.

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The story of how I found Slackware Linux, or “Once You Go Slack, You Never Go Back”

I’ve told this story to a lot of people who have asked me why I use an old-and-crusty distro like Slackware. I do have some pretty good reasons, and most of them lie in this tale.

A long, long time ago — back in 1999 or so — I had a computer that gave me nothing but trouble. It was one which I had bought from a vendor that did business with my employer then, so I got it for cheap. It was a Pentium 3 450 MHz (slot CPU, not socket!) machine with 256 Mb of RAM and a 10 GB hard drive, in a nice coffee-stain beige tower. When I bought it I also bought a Windows 98se license (and they actually shipped it with the full install media!!!!! Remember back in the days when computer vendors still did that?), and that’s what I set up on it when I got it.

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Partitioning: A Different Perspective with Encryption and RAIDs

Introduction

Everybody’s got an opinion, and I’m no different. After reading Trent’s piece yesterday, I thought I’d add my two cents as my partitioning scheme is quite complex (though I can think of several ways to make it worse). For newbies, some of this is unlikely something to try, but you might want to read anyway to get an idea of what can be done.

For starters, I have 1GB of physical RAM, and 4GB of swap space split over two drives. I have two 120GB drives that I use for my primary system that are split into 8 partitions (and a logical ninth). Most of these partitions mirror (RAID-1) each other so that if one drive fails, the other maintains the system until I can replace it. You may note that the swaps are not mirrored, but both swaps and the md08 array are encrypted. Like Trent, I intended a dual boot with Windows, so the first partition on sda is NTFS. (Of course, I haven’t actually had a Windows OS on that partition in about two years, but it’s nice to know I have it if I find a game that won’t play nice in Wine.) Also note that /boot is a mirrored partition, which keeps the data safe, but upon bootup the boot loader (LILO/GRUB) accesses only one of the two drives (i.e., sda3, not md3).

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Giving Ubuntu a real try

Just a really quick blurb on my experience with the latest version of Ubuntu last night.

I managed to, over time, break Slackware on my old Toshiba laptop, and since it needed a reload and I just burned an Ubuntu 9.04 disc the other night, I figured I’d install it on my laptop last night.

I’ll write more regarding this process, but I have to say, while I’m much more of a Slackware guy, the installation went really well, and even though the default interface for Ubuntu is GNOME (which I have never liked much), the folks at Canonical have put together a nice package.

Within minutes of having the OS installed and up and running I had Fluxbox installed, Opera installed, root access enabled, and wireless working without any trouble at all.

I’ll be giving this a try for a little while to see how it goes, but so far, so good.

A quick blurb about Notebooks / Netbooks

I’ve been getting really excited about getting a new laptop of some kind. The recent spate of netbooks from various manufacturers has me thinking lately that I don’t really need a full-blown laptop.

All I really do with my laptop is write, email, surf, and the occasional other little thing here and there… but nothing involving too much heavy lifting for the CPU or graphics. I definitely don’t need any kind of top end gaming laptop or anything.

So as a result, why should I spend close to $2000 on my next laptop?

Answer: I shouldn’t.

Netbooks have gotten me riled up lately, not only because as a product they are now beginning to show offerings of lower-end portables that are in the $500 and below pricepoint, but because most of the main netbook sellers also provide Linux of some sort as an option.

So I’ve been watching the developments in the netbook and notebook market eagerly for the past 6 months or so, and it seems like every week something new is popping up that grabs my attention, particularly from Dell.

HP is also making some really interesting moves in this market, but Dell has been going one step further and making low-priced regular notebooks as well.

A different linux blog which I follow regularly recently talked about the Dell Inspiron 15n, which gave me a total doubletake. I’m not looking for a regular 15″ laptop… I’ve been waiting for Dell to offer better options on their 12″ netbooks… but this made me reconsider that.

Even when I pimped it out with 4GB of memory, the top-end processor option and the slim LED display I still came out under $600. Not bad. Looks like the crappy economy is causing at least one company to make some interesting moves in pricing!

Anyway, it’s something I’m watching. Dell is putting more and more on the line by offering Ubuntu on many more of their products, and they’re not just hiding them in the closet or back room anymore like they were. It’s now possible to get Linux on their flagship models, which is saying something.

Since I’m in the market for a new laptop — be it a netbook or a full blown notebook — I’ll be keeping an eye on them in coming months. This is bound to get interesting.