New laptop

In my post last week, Time For A Linux Laptop, I discussed how my options were rather slim when it came to combining Linux, good processing power, and machines on the smaller end of the laptop scale.

The bar by which I had been measuring everything was the now discontinued Darter Ultra, by System76, which was what I had planned to buy this month, at least, until it vanished from their website’s selection of laptop computers back in the end of February.

Well, despite my lack of options, I’ve made a purchase, and it’s arriving today.

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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 ongoing role of my old Toshiba laptop

Bet you guys thought I forgot about this blog, huh?

Well, as I mentioned in my last post (ugh, all the way back in November already?), I’m gainfully employed again, and busier than a one-legged man in an…. well, you get the idea.

I get home from work and the LAST thing on my mind is writing any kind of intelligible technology articles.

That said, I DO need to start contributing some content to my own Linux blog again, so here goes.

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The Laptop Renovation Project: Decisions, Conclusions and Lessons Learned

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I posted about my efforts to revive aging laptop hardware. While there is still a bit of work to be done, the bulk of the project is complete, and the rest is simply detail work and optimization for our particular work environment.
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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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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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Openbox: A fun and lightweight window manager

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.

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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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