The Laptop Renovation Project

At my office, we have a pair of old laptops purchased back in 2003 or 2004, which are terribly slow, woefully underpowered and horribly outdated, but which we still use periodically.  In other words, they made a perfect target for an OS makeover.

Anyone who has run Windows XP on a P4 with 256MB of RAM should be able to appreciate just how sluggish these machines are.  So with my boss’s blessing, I gathered the two machines and tried to breathe some new life into them.

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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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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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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!

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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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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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.

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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.

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