One year and still going

In May of 2009 after hemming and hawing about it for far too long, I finally just bit the bullet and created this blog and registered Linux-Critic.com. I thought at the time that it would be a good way for me to keep track of some of my Linux and technology experiments, a place for me to go when I think “okay, when I was messing around with $whatever, how the heck did I configure that?”.

I also thought it’d be a good way for me to share geeky techie information with some of my close geek friends, particularly the ones who are always tinkering around like I am.

Today marks a year since I made that “Hello World” post, and now The Linux Critic is averaging over 18,000 unique views per month, and I’m still finding a lot of enjoyment in creating content here, even if it’s just the occasional unproductive rant about something that’s bothering me in the Linux world.

Even though I haven’t always been as regular with posts as I probably should have been, a fair number of you have continued to keep an eye on what I and my contributors (Joe and Patrick) have to say whenever we do manage to post a new article, howto, review, or whatever.

For that, and for the wonderful comments many of you continue to post — the ones of encouragement and yes, even the ones of disagreement — I say “thanks!”, because it’s very validating.

Linux is a tinkerer’s dream, and we love it. I know you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be bothering to read this or anything else here!

But going back to my original stated purpose with this blog, Linux can be better, and only by continuing to tinker, continuing to find those weak points, and continuing to point them out can Linux get better.

When I started this, I honestly didn’t think anybody (other than my friends and myself) would bother to read anything here. I said it was very validating to have so many regular readers and so many commenters, and this is why. It makes me feel like there is a wider purpose to this, that all this tinkering and tweaking and evaluating and technology exploration and subsequent discussion can lead to something good. It makes me feel like I’m still on the right track, and that makes it all worth it.

So, a year into this, I say again thanks for reading, following, commenting, and paying attention. It’s appreciated!

But I’m not done here yet. I have a lot more to talk about, a lot more Linux to explore, and a lot more to discuss, so stick around and keep reading!

— Trent

An Eye-Opening Experience

Most of us who are familiar with Linux are familiar with the advantages of running Linux as a desktop OS. We frequently bemoan the fact that others don’t know what we do about the reality of Linux on the desktop, and we seem to be hampered by difficulties in spreading the word outside our own circles. Recently, I was able to get outside the circle of Linux users and perform a live demonstration of Linux (and LXDE) to a group of professionals in a conference setting. Here’s my story.
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Swiftfox: a fast Firefox alternative for Linux users only

In my ongoing search to find the perfect browser, I’ve generally stuck to Opera for the past several years, on Windows and on Linux.

I’ve used Firefox of course, but I’ve discussed a number of issues that I’ve had with Firefox over the years, and in my hunt for a great browser, I’ve always found myself going back to Opera.

Well, today, I’m here to report that this situation might well have changed, due to something called Swiftfox.

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An open letter to Dell regarding Ubuntu, or “go big or go home”

Dear Dell,

I know that in the past you have offered a handful of paltry Ubuntu options, though I confess I don’t understand why you bothered at all.

With the exception of your two netbook offerings, I have yet to have seen you offer anything else that indicates to me that you have any intentions to make Ubuntu a real option for your customers.

Oh, I know… for a while you offered Ubuntu on your Inspiron 15n laptop, and there was even an XPS M1330 notebook for a brief time available on your website.

But both of those were very limited in what was available for CPU options and RAM upgrades. Even the desktop option you offered for a little while was an underpowered, unimpressive castoff compared to what’s available elsewhere on Dell.com.

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The good news and the bad news

Hi all, Trent here with a long-overdue update.

As those of you who have been following The Linux Critic blog for a while now probably already know, I was unemployed for a good chunk of 2009, and one of the things I did to keep myself sharp in the world of technology was this blog.

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
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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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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!

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!