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.
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.
In my post expressing my disappointment in the direction Slackware is heading I had mentioned that I would be seeking replacements for a number of KDE based applications to which I have become attached over the years, and would have to learn to live without.
One of those applications is Kontact, which is a combination mail client, contact manager, calendar, scheduler, task tracking application (called a “Personal Information Manager” these days, I suppose). Kontact isn’t a perfect application, but I like it, and I’m unhappy with the version in KDE 4, so I started looking for a replacement some weeks ago.
The closest thing to it in the non-KDE universe is Evolution, which for those of you who have never used it, is a very full-featured Microsoft Outlook clone. I used Evolution on my Ubuntu laptop for a couple of weeks and had quite enough of it. It was constantly failing to connect to my POP servers, constantly locking up, constantly crashing, and was just all around unreliable.
There aren’t many other Personal Information Management applications out there that can do as much as Kontact or Evolution. So I figured a good spot to try and “make do” is Thunderbird. I had a pretty bad experience with Thunderbird the last time I tried it, but that was a couple of years ago now, so I thought it was high time I gave it another chance.
I was pleasantly surprised!
When I say “I’m looking for a way to make KDE 3.5.10 work on Slackware 13″ or “I’m looking for applications to replace the ones I’ve gotten used to using in KDE, since I won’t be installing KDE going forward”, what does that mean to you?
I know what it means to me… it means I’m looking for some procedural help to accomplish a task, help from some other technically minded individuals who may offer some useful suggestions on how to make something work.
It means I’m looking for ideas for what kind of applications to try, since the open source universe is a big one, and while I try out and use and write about a lot of apps, there’s no way for me to be up on EVERYTHING.
To me, both of those things seem pretty clear and apparent. But based on what I keep seeing in response to things like that, I guess they somehow aren’t that clear.
So, to clarify, here’s what questions like that DO NOT mean.
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.
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.
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.