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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Fluxbox and dockapps

In exploring a renewed interest I’ve developed in Fluxbox recently, and spurred by some new stuff I learned from reading Patrick’s wonderful Fluxbox tweaking post a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d do a writeup on another capability that Fluxbox has that I’ve never delved into: dockapps.

Fluxbox has as a part of its toolbox a friendly home on its desktop for dockable utility applications that can provide information, handy functionality, and even dress up the otherwise normally spartan Fluxbox user space. I don’t use many dockapps, but it’s worth using the ones I have as examples in this writeup, if nothing else just to demonstrate how to set this up and take advantage of this capability.

So in this post, I’ll be discussing three dockapps: GKrellM, WMix, and WMWeather.

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Fluxbox on Ubuntu: two more problems, two more solutions

Continuing with my attempt to document the problems I’ve run into running Fluxbox on top of Ubuntu 9.04 and their solutions, I figured I’d present two more things I’ve encountered and resolved since the other day’s rather annoying touchpad fiasco.

These two were both relatively little things, but they’re the kind of things that tend to drive me nuts. The first was a problem with the screen automatically locking (using Xscreensaver‘s built-in lock function — even though I had all such functions disabled), and the second was an issue with sound being muted and the master volume being set to 0% every single time I rebooted — necessitating my manually unmuting it and raising the volume if I wanted sound every day.

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How to disable the touchpad in Ubuntu

As I had mentioned in yesterday’s post about configuring Fluxbox on Ubuntu 9.04 on my old Toshiba laptop, I had one nagging issue I couldn’t figure out, namely the rather simple fact that the touchpad wouldn’t stay disabled.

I know this isn’t a big deal for most people, but for me it’s a rather vexing one, and it bothered me that I had to manually do so every single time I logged in.

So this afternoon I took a deep breath, did some more Google searching on the subject, and arrived at an overly-complex (but doable) solution.
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Now using Fluxbox on Ubuntu 9.04

Even though the jury’s still out on my opinion of Ubuntu 9.04 on my laptop, I finally had enough of GNOME today and configured Fluxbox on it and set it as my default window manager.

I’m running into some weirdness with that even, however, which may color my opinion of Ubuntu as a result… things that I’m not accustomed to fighting with when using Fluxbox.

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Will ARM processors be competitive?

I just ran across this blurb about an ARM-processor based netbook and it got me thinking.

I’ve been skeptical of ARM-based netbooks. While lauded for their low power consumption and versatility, because they’re mostly a PDA/cell phone/router type of CPU, I have trouble envisioning an ARM netbook as being very comparable in performance to one running, say, an Intel Atom.
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My initial thoughts on Google Chrome OS

Last week, as a big surprise to some, but as a long-expected move to others Google announced that they would be releasing their own operating system.

There has been a lot of buzz in the past few days as a result, mostly about netbooks, about Microsoft, and (not surprisingly) about Linux.

It’s too early, I think, to be making a huge deal out of this. Let’s step back a bit and take a look at the situation.

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Ubuntu screenshot time

Just another quick blurb. I’ve uploaded a screenshot of my laptop as it appears now that I’ve tweaked my Ubuntu installation to the way I like it.

I’m more of a KDE 3.5 kind of guy, so I rearrange GNOME to have the main stuff (panels/toolbars whathaveyou) a bit more like I’m used to, but I still like the way this looks so far.

I’m still learning where things are in Ubuntu (well, GNOME, mostly, since that’s the main thing that’s different for me here), but one thing that has struck me is how impressive the speed is. Remember, before this, I was running Slackware 12.0 on this exact same laptop, and I was using Fluxbox as my window manager — not exactly a visually heavy system.

So for me to say that Ubuntu runs pretty snappy on this laptop is saying a lot, and I’m not much of a fan of the bloat in GNOME, so I think that’s significant.

To be fair, I think what this says is how well the Canonical people have their act together at optimizing GNOME for their project. Nice job, guys. Coming from a Slackware guy, I’m here saying that I’m not only impressed with the setup process, but I’m impressed with the performance so far too.

Giving Ubuntu a real try

Just a really quick blurb on my experience with the latest version of Ubuntu last night.

I managed to, over time, break Slackware on my old Toshiba laptop, and since it needed a reload and I just burned an Ubuntu 9.04 disc the other night, I figured I’d install it on my laptop last night.

I’ll write more regarding this process, but I have to say, while I’m much more of a Slackware guy, the installation went really well, and even though the default interface for Ubuntu is GNOME (which I have never liked much), the folks at Canonical have put together a nice package.

Within minutes of having the OS installed and up and running I had Fluxbox installed, Opera installed, root access enabled, and wireless working without any trouble at all.

I’ll be giving this a try for a little while to see how it goes, but so far, so good.

A quick blurb about Notebooks / Netbooks

I’ve been getting really excited about getting a new laptop of some kind. The recent spate of netbooks from various manufacturers has me thinking lately that I don’t really need a full-blown laptop.

All I really do with my laptop is write, email, surf, and the occasional other little thing here and there… but nothing involving too much heavy lifting for the CPU or graphics. I definitely don’t need any kind of top end gaming laptop or anything.

So as a result, why should I spend close to $2000 on my next laptop?

Answer: I shouldn’t.

Netbooks have gotten me riled up lately, not only because as a product they are now beginning to show offerings of lower-end portables that are in the $500 and below pricepoint, but because most of the main netbook sellers also provide Linux of some sort as an option.

So I’ve been watching the developments in the netbook and notebook market eagerly for the past 6 months or so, and it seems like every week something new is popping up that grabs my attention, particularly from Dell.

HP is also making some really interesting moves in this market, but Dell has been going one step further and making low-priced regular notebooks as well.

A different linux blog which I follow regularly recently talked about the Dell Inspiron 15n, which gave me a total doubletake. I’m not looking for a regular 15″ laptop… I’ve been waiting for Dell to offer better options on their 12″ netbooks… but this made me reconsider that.

Even when I pimped it out with 4GB of memory, the top-end processor option and the slim LED display I still came out under $600. Not bad. Looks like the crappy economy is causing at least one company to make some interesting moves in pricing!

Anyway, it’s something I’m watching. Dell is putting more and more on the line by offering Ubuntu on many more of their products, and they’re not just hiding them in the closet or back room anymore like they were. It’s now possible to get Linux on their flagship models, which is saying something.

Since I’m in the market for a new laptop — be it a netbook or a full blown notebook — I’ll be keeping an eye on them in coming months. This is bound to get interesting.