Point! Clack! Mash! And Hurr! The Clueless User Was Confuzzled

“Move!” the oppressive beeper-equipped geek howls in utter contempt at the perfectly inoffensive white collar worker. The worker has been given no chance to do anything, but he is already condemned of failure. The geek, clearly the master of his domain, wishes to make sure all around know who’s the boss of the computer realm in which they aimlessly wander. And all the normal users, with their completely reasonable requests and questions, are incessantly scorned by the geek’s insane derision.

The worst of the geek stereotype, and more, is ridiculed in this popular Saturday Night Live skit by Jimmy Fallon. I greatly dislike such portrayals. This is certainly an exaggeration for comedic effect, but it is funny to people because it has an air of truth to it. My problem is that the truth is not so easily discernible as appears on the surface.

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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.

Help a fellow techie out?

The primary way I have the time lately to write so much here at Linux Critic is largely due to the fact that I’m currently unemployed.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who’s normally used to having a lot of irons in the fire. I’m always tinkering with things, finding better ways of doing things, and I troubleshoot stuff that I find wrong pretty much compulsively. I normally work in IT (of course), specifically support/helpdesk. In fact, my last “real job” had me managing a helpdesk at a company that hosted hundreds of Windows Terminal Servers for thousands of end users, and I liked it a lot.

Yeah, I know, it was an almost 100% Windows shop, but for what that company does, it’s the Right Tool For The Right Job — that’s still important, remember?

Anyway, being unemployed for an extended amount of time when one is used to that kind of high pressure, fast paced work environment as the norm doesn’t exactly scratch the usual technology itch for me. That’s a big part of why I started this blog to begin with; I’m a very passionate person when it comes to technology.

As I told my wife not too long ago, not only do I like digging into tech and then writing about it here… I have to. It’s part of what I am. I MUST keep moving forward, I HAVE to keep learning more about the world around me, particularly when it comes to technology, pretty much of ANY sort. Linux and open source software is an area of enormous personal interest to me, so it’s a natural choice to scratch that itch for me.

So, with that said, I still need income.

I know, the market sucks right now, and there’s a lot of competition out there. But the only way I’ve ever gotten worthwhile jobs has been networking, and what better way to network than with a technology blog read exclusively by techies?

So if you would be willing to help a fellow techie out, I need a job. I realize that you guys are far-flung, all over the place (there was an argument that at least in part took place in what I think was Hungarian yesterday!), but if any of you know of a job that might be a good fit for a professional troubleshooter and technology expert such as myself that happens to be in the Central Minnesota area, or at least willing to let someone like me telecommute, please let me know.

My email address is Mr.Shifty@gmail.com.

I’m open to temporary positions, consulting, and permanent positions. If someone out there is actually interested in hiring me directly, send me an email and if it’s for real I’ll send you back a copy of my resume and we can talk about it.

Thanks, all!

And thanks for reading! When I started Linux Critic it was really more of a way for me to organize my thoughts on what I’ve been doing in the Linux world lately, and give me something to do… I never thought I’d be getting 12,000+ hits a month with it.

So thanks for the attention, and even more so, thanks for the comments. I love and appreciate the input! Take care!

Trent

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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KDE 3.5.10 packages released on Slackware.com for Slackware 13

Just as an update to my Upgrading KDE 4.2.4 to KDE 3.5.10 in Slackware 13 post, Patrick Volkerding has apparently released KDE 3.5.10 for Slackware 13.0 (link here).

This is probably a better way to go than my procedure, which was more of a proof of concept than an actual workable solution, though I have received some comments that indicate that the KDE 3.5.10 packages from Slackware 12.2 were usable in Slackware 13.0.

This quote from the README is actually one of the things causing me to feel validated in seeking another distro going forward though:

Don’t look for future updates for come from us, though — KDE4 is way to go, and KDE3 is dead. I know how it goes, though… I’ve found over the years that no feature can ever be removed without some fraction of users expressing disappointment (or even anger), and KDE3 was a truly great desktop. However, in my opinion KDE4 has already passed KDE3 in most regards and will only continue to improve.

KDE3 is only dead if people stop using it. To the contrary, there are new KDE3 communities appearing, and renewed interest has been expressed in keeping this “truly great desktop” alive.

But when Patrick states that “KDE4 has already passed KDE3 in most regards”, he must be referring to some version of KDE4 that I haven’t seen, because KDE 4.3 certainly hasn’t surpassed KDE3.

But perhaps he’s using a different definition of the word “surpassed” than I am. I confess I honestly don’t understand how anyone can use it and claim it’s “better” than what came before it when it gives the user a fraction of the options, configurability, and flexibility KDE 3.5.10 provided.

Soapbox aside, this is a great option for those who would like to see a usable desktop environment specifically packaged by Patrick for the latest Slackware release; too bad it’s going to be the last one.

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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My thoughts on Ubuntu

This isn’t so much a review, just a rambling discussion on what comes to mind for me about Ubuntu after using it on my laptop for three months or so. I decided against writing a conventional “review” of Ubuntu… seems like there are enough of those, so I don’t see the value of it.

But I do see some value in a rambling discussion on the subject, so here goes.

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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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