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.

Continue reading

Upgrading from KDE 4.2.4 to KDE 3.5.10 in Slackware 13

So a few days ago, Slackware 13.0 was released. Unfortunately, Patrick Volkerding greatly deviated from the basic philosophy to which he’s faithfully adhered for years with nearly every release — one of stability, simplicity, and only including elements in the distro that are thoroughly tested and functional — and replaced the highly stable, robust, and fully tested KDE 3.5.10 with the much less stable, buggy, half-baked and in fact barely usable KDE 4.2.4.

I wrote the other day that I considered this a minimum of a year or so premature, and had decided sight unseen that this was a bad decision, based on my extensive attempts at using KDE 4 releases as recent as 4.3 (on OpenSUSE 11.1).

Turns out I was right. KDE 4.2.4 on Slackware 13 is a disaster. I did a full install of Slackware 13 last night on VirtualBox and found KDE 4.2.4 to be just as unusable on Slackware as I had found it to be in Kubuntu when I tried it out a couple of months ago. Not surprising, since I didn’t expect that Patrick would have been fixing the massive usability issues intrinsic to KDE 4 just by including it in a Slackware release; that just isn’t a realistic expectation. Still, I had to get a baseline, and that baseline was about what I had expected.

Then, I set about finding a way to upgrade KDE 4.2.4 to KDE 3.5.10 on Slackware 13. I was successful in this today, and here is my writeup of how I did it.
Continue reading

The first time I’ve ever been disappointed by Slackware

DISCLAIMER: Be prepared. There is whining ahead. I want to preface this by saying that I’m not interested in having a discussion about why I don’t gush with love over KDE 4, and I’m not particularly interested in suggestions for forcing it to work for me. This post is more about me wrapping my head around planning for how my use of Linux is going to change now that I’m going to have to re-think a lot of things about what has been my favorite Linux distro for years.

Why I’m disappointed

I guess I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, because I knew that Pat Volkerding has been working with my least favorite desktop environment and it’s been in /current for a while now.

But I guess a part of me still was holding out a childish hope that KDE4 was going to be included in /testing only, and that the default version of KDE for the Slackware 13.0 release would be KDE 3.5.10, the last decent release of that desktop environment. Given Patrick’s tendency to play it safe in regular Slackware releases and stick with only stable, fully-developed and thoroughly tested applications and desktop environments, I would have thought that something like KDE 4 — a desktop environment that’s still easily a year’s worth of hard development away from being a suitable replacement for KDE 3 — would be back-burnered in Slackware in favor of what is known to work and work well.

I probably shouldn’t be upset about this; it’s Linux… if I don’t like it, I can just make my own distro, right? If I want to spend the hours and hours it’ll take for that, sure. Well, I’m not to the point of making my own distro yet. But this does mean I’m going to have to significantly change my Linux usage, starting with replacing a bunch of stuff.

Continue reading

5 reasons why I love Linux

Every so often while I’m working on something, I’m struck by how satisfying it can be to be running Linux as my operating system of choice. No, this isn’t about beating up Windows or tearing Microsoft down any notches… as much as I tout the benefits of Linux and as much as I dislike some of Microsoft’s practices, they have their place in the grand scheme of things.

No, this is about the actual good things that come to mind for me when I say “I love Linux”, and why you should too.

Continue reading

Five reasons I prefer Opera over Firefox

I know, I’m a Linux guy, and an advocate of Free/Open Source Software.

However, I’m also a user, and I’m a right-tool-for-the-right-job kind of guy. I’m picky as hell about my software, and I think the simple fact that I choose Linux for my day-to-day desktop use says a lot about its ability to meet my needs.

However, I’ve never been in on the big love affair the open source community has with Firefox. Yes, I think it’s great that it’s taken enough market share away from Microsoft to spur them into action — it’s been argued that IE7 and IE8 would never have existed in any form approaching a “modern” browser if it hadn’t been for Firefox pushing them to catch up.

However, like Linux, Firefox needs critics. It may still be better than what Microsoft offers, but it isn’t perfect by a long shot. It doesn’t meet my needs as an end user, which is why I’m still using a closed-source browser as my primary web surfing tool. So why does an open source advocate like myself use Opera instead of Firefox? Read on.

Continue reading

OpenOffice.org: It’s a little too late for April Fool’s jokes, don’t you think?

Okay, so I ran across this (via Slashdot) yesterday and I was, well, shocked to say the least.

That’s right. The developers of the beloved OpenOffice.org office suite are giving serious development time to the despised and reviled ribbon interface of Microsoft Office 2007.

I swear, with the idiots over at Mozilla contemplating copying IE7 for the next version of Firefox and now the idiots at OpenOffice.org actually copying Microsoft’s failed attempt at a UI redesign in Office 2007, I’m positively baffled here. WHY on earth would anyone WANT to copy failure? Why would they want to ELIMINATE one of the biggest advantages they have over the steaming pile called Microsoft Office 2007? Why?

Let me make one thing clear here. I am not posting this to foster a debate on the merits or disadvantages of the ribbon interface, nor am I doing this to bash Microsoft, or anyone who likes them, or inexplicably likes their retarded ribbon interface that was designed for use by those with severe brain damage.

I am posting this for one primary purpose. To tell the developers of OpenOffice.org TO STOP DOING THAT.

That’s right, guys. You heard me. STOP. Take whatever you have developed of a ribbon interface for ANY AND ALL OpenOffice.org applications, and DELETE IT.

Remember, back when Microsoft Office 2007 came out, there was a sudden surge of downloads of OpenOffice.org? That was because of the godawful interface Microsoft thrust upon its users, and it was a direct response to me (and IT people like me) directing lamenting users to OpenOffice.org to download a GOOD office productivity software suite, with a GOOD interface.

People started using OO.o more because it was a sane alternative to Microsoft going off the deep end.

Please, please, PLEASE do not remove that incentive by copying what could possibly be one of Microsoft’s biggest design faults ever. If you’re looking at this as a “missing feature” or some such nonsense, let me remind you again. The fact that OpenOffice.org has been “missing” this “feature” IS A GOOD THING.

I’m saying this not only as an advocate of Free and Open Source Software — because I think this is a massive mistake that will negatively affect that movement — but as a USER of said software.

At the point OpenOffice.org has the ribbon UI as the default, I will cease directing people to download your product. Period. I will instead be directing people to MY OWN SITE, where I will host, in perpetuity, installers for the last version that has the correct interface for OpenOffice.org, and having them install that. Because at that point, OpenOffice.org’s newer product will have become dead to me.

I know I’m not alone in this. So please. We’re begging you. Stop development on this stupid ribbon UI. If you really feel like doing lots of sweeping code writing, maybe you should instead focus on fixing some of the bugs. Okay?

Okay.

The most useful Linux resource on the web

When I first started using Linux, I came to the table with a grounding in old command line Unix, and a few solid years under my belt managing a couple of Ultrix boxes where I used to work.

So I knew the basic set of commands, the Bourne Shell (or the basics of it, at least), and the general architecture the more Unix-like distros follow.

However, when I started using Linux, I was trying something well outside of my experience and knowledge: I was using it as a desktop OS.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time searching the internet every time I had a problem or a question. In all that searching, I came to find one particular locale that always seemed to have the answers I was looking for.

It was called (and still is) LinuxQuestions.org. LQ is a massive forum, with subforums for the more popular distributions, and (in my experience) a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere for Linux users of all experience levels.

I know that in the fend-for-yourself world of Linux and open source software it can be kind of lonely out in the cold when you just CAN’T get whatever that is you’re working on to just WORK, damn it!

Do what I do. I go to LinuxQuestions.org and use their search page, and 9 times out of 10 I find what I’m looking for without even having to post my question.

So I think it’s worth giving the community at LQ some love, because they have been an invaluable resource for me in my years of using Linux at my primary desktop operating system, and I’m sure they can be for you too.

Will ARM processors be competitive?

I just ran across this blurb about an ARM-processor based netbook and it got me thinking.

I’ve been skeptical of ARM-based netbooks. While lauded for their low power consumption and versatility, because they’re mostly a PDA/cell phone/router type of CPU, I have trouble envisioning an ARM netbook as being very comparable in performance to one running, say, an Intel Atom.
Continue reading

KDE4

For those of you who may be reading this that are expecting a review, you might as well stop reading right now. This is not a review, this is a rant.

I want to like KDE4.  I really do.

But every time I’ve tried it the experience just makes me furious. The entire time I’m struggling with it, I’m thinking “THIS? THIS is what they dumped KDE3.5 in favor of? THIS?”.

I can appreciate moving to Qt4. I can understand the excitement — as someone who has worked as a developer — of developers drooling over a new set of tools and the enthusiasm of “Wow, we can do some REALLY COOL STUFF with this!!!!”. I can understand the appeal of “let’s dump the entire codeset and start from scratch, rather than just migrate KDE3.5 over to Qt4″.

But from every time I’ve played around with KDE4 with the intention of forcing myself to use it for a while to “get used to it”, I abandon it after less than two days. Why? Because it’s garbage, at least at this point.

I know, the common response is “you just don’t like it because it’s different!”. It is different, but that’s not my problem with it. I don’t like it because I can’t DO anything with it. Seriously. The KDE developers have gone off their rockers. I can appreciate the eye candy, but if you are transitioning from KDE3.5 to KDE4.2, you’ll be losing 80% of what you’re used to being able to do with your desktop environment.

And I’m not a GNOME fanboi either. I dislike GNOME, even when it’s relatively well-implemented, like in Ubuntu. It seems like with every release, the GNOME people remove more functionality from their product. I don’t like that kind of philosophy. I want options, damn it! There’s almost nothing more frustrating to me than to click on “preferences” for something and find only two options in there, and NOTHING about the relatively simple thing I want to do.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading