Living with Linux

August 30, 2009

After a recent spate of malware infections I had come to the end of my patience with Windows.


Through the magic of Twitter my plight was made public.


The answering call came from from Mr.Mac, as you can see, suggesting I try a version of Linux called Mint. He also very kindly sent me a long email explaining a partitioning scheme and other useful tips.

So I had a play around with it, I wasn’t a complete newbie having played around with some live-cd installs before, oddly enough almost exactly a year ago! In fact, it was a live-cd of Ubuntu that I used to retrieve a lot of the files from my recently screwed up Windows install.

First off I installed Mint on my laptop, I’ll confess it wasn’t absolutely smooth sailing and I had some learning to do. In my typical fashion, I didn’t carefully read the instructions provided by Mr.Mac, leaving me playing around with the partitions for a few days. I couldn’t get the installer to create the ntfs partition I wanted to use as a shared area. Once I figured out to create the partitions in partition editor before running the installer I was away. My next step was installing on our desktop machine which, thanks to my laptop pain, went a lot smoother.

Once everything was up and running, I spent some time setting things up to share things across the Windows/Linux divide, for example I can open Thunderbird and since emails are on the shared partition are available to me in in either. My Firefox bookmarks are synchronised across all 4 installs using a handy program called Xmarks.

Things are simple in Linux and just seem to work, I haven’t had a problem so far that hasn’t been fixed by the first answer given on the Mint forums. You see those pictures up there, the ones taken from Twitter and Tweet deck? I grabbed them in moment using the Take Screenshot app that’s installed from the start. In Windows I would have been fiddling around with picture editing to produce the same result, in fact so ingrained is this behaviour that I fired up Gimp before remembering that I’d seen the screenshot app in the menu.

One of the main reasons I’d held off on going further with Linux on previous forays was my darling Paul. In practice this hasn’t been a problem, there has been the odd comment but mostly he has taken to it easily. The main things he does are web and email so there isn’t a lot of differences to get used to. He also likes to watch movies and that’s taken care of easily with the default programs, plus there is a version of VLC for Linux to make the change even easier. I’m missing utorrent a bit but the Linux client Transmission does the job easily and simply.

In conclusion, I’m sold on Linux, its ironic really the time I spent making things share across the divide far outweighs the actual time I have needed to boot into Windows. This week I booted into Windows once, I just need to get the Nokia PC Suite working in Linux and find a photo management app that I like and I think that might be me using Linux 100% of the time 🙂

If you are thinking about an alternative to Windows, I urge you to give it a go, you wont be sorry. If you want any advice, i’m no expert but I’m learning all the time, feel free to ask 🙂

New Adventures in Linux…..

August 19, 2008

… or Don’t laugh at the newbie!

Since we got back from Prague things have been pretty quiet around here. There is a reason for this, and that reason is Linux.

It’s a really odd feeling for me to go back to the beginning and have to learn how to “do” computers again. Just today in work, I reflected on this when I was asked several times (not uncommonly so) to fix this or that, reconnect new profiles to old to regain access to systems etc. We have a tech coordinator guy on site but people often come to me first. Actually, I’d almost forgot that I used to do the tech-co job until about 5 years ago!

So as I said, its an odd feeling to be the newbie, but interesting and unlike when I was learning PC’s back in the day, there is a lot of help out there in the form of forums and blogs 🙂 So far I’ve tried about 5 different Linux distros, unlike Windows there are different branches of Linux. Usually these projects are separated by their aim to be faster, smaller or more compatible than other branches.

Here is a quick run down, of my adventures (so far) in Linux.

PCLinuxOS is a popular distro, and I liked it a lot. It felt very similar to using Windows, probably intentionally, and I would be using it now if I could fix the wireless lan driver problem I encountered.

Damn Small Linux is very interesting, small enough to fit on and boot from a pen-drive, meaning you can boot a “strangers” PC, so get your familar desktop to work on, use it for a time to work or surf, then save your session and leve no trace on the host machine. Pretty cool, eh?

Ubuntu is probably one of the most popular as far as I can tell, this is, I think due to it being very stable and highly compatible. I felt that this also meant it ran pretty slowly.

Kubuntu a branch of the above, and I felt it had the edge speed-wise but the pre-installed software was all a bit obscure for me, for example Konquerer browser rather than Firefox.

Xubuntu is another Ubuntu branch, feels faster in many ways but includes Firefox and other more familiar software versions than the above. So far for me it has the edge and is the version I’m still playing around with, though it also suffers some issues with my wireless card. Can you imagine the stress its giving me having an actual wire running to the router? I know! A wire!

So, like, yeah, I’m a newbie, and I’m going to try and stick with it, (does going dual boot count?) so please don’t be a hater if I offended your fave distro, this is just my opinion, right?

Life in widescreen

March 17, 2008

Its performance bonus time again and although I dont get it until payday on Wednesday, I went a bit weak at the knees when I saw this little beauty. Of course, Paul agreed that a little treat out of said bonus was entirely appropriate 🙂

Widescreen Monitor

Look at that screen resolution, 1680 by 1050!!

Here is the moment when the current 19″ model met its replacement, a 22″ widescreen number.

Old meets new

Do you think it felt a bit inadequete?

Secrets, Lies and no more video-tapes.

December 8, 2007

I’m feeling pretty relieved this afternoon, after a week of sneaking around I can finally come clean.

I’ve been hiding something from Paul all week. In fact I’ve been dreading him catching me out, I’ve almost tripped myself up a couple of times.

Ok, Ok,I’ll stop being so sensationalist!

Paul has been wanting Sky+ for a couple of months, they had been doing a £50 deal but we missed it and they put it back up to £150. I said we could have it after Christmas when they were sure to reduce it again.

In fact, I was planning to order in secret despite the cost and make it an extra Christmas gift for Paul this year.  As it turned out I ordered it online last week and they had knocked £50 off so that wasn’t too bad.

Paul’s Mum almost blew it last Sunday when she started talking about Sky+, luckily she figured out my frantic “finger on lips” gesture and dropped it. I later explained to her what I was planning!

Paul brought it up a few more times this week, each time it was advertised on TV, each time I was able to keep a straight face and say “We said next year some time didn’t we?”

The closest call came when we got home on Friday and the Sky fitter had left a message on the machine, rather helpfully, he was letting us know he would be here around 07:45 Saturday morning.  

I managed to talk over the message and pretend it was just the Sky call centre making a sales call. The final scary moment came at 21:30 when our conscientious Sky fitter called again to confirm his visit.

“Yes, I got your message, tomorrow morning is great, see you then” I hurriedly answered.

 I said to Paul , “Oh, them Sky people, trying to sell us the movie channel for Christmas, they don’t give up do they!”

I had set the alarm for 7:20 and got up, waking Paul in the progress. I told him to go back to sleep and went downstairs to get ready for the Sky engineer. When I saw him pulling up in his van, went back upstairs and woke Paul.

“Quick Paul, look out the window, Santa is here” I said. 

“Huh?” Paul replied

“He’s bringing your presents early! Go and look” I persisted.

Reaching the window, Paul gasped “That’s not Santa, that’s Bart Simpson” spotting the brightly decorated Sky van.

“Happy Christmas, babe” say I.

“Aaaww, thanks” Says Paul.

Once it was all fitted and working and the engineer had left, Paul turned to me and said, “Does this mean we have got a squariel?” He’s stuck in the 80’s that boy! 

So all the lies and deceptions are over and everything is back to normal. well almost normal, except that now when I get back from holidays, I’ll still have the “opportunity” to watch whichever reality show I would have otherwise missed. 

I guess that’s the price we pay for progress 🙂

High hopes fulfilled.

December 2, 2007

Just before we went on holiday, I put through an order with Be* for superfast broadband. Its what they call a LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) service, basically they have their own equipment in the local BT telephone exchange and can offer much higher speeds than BT.

With a BT based “up to 8meg” product, the best I could hope for was the 2 meg I was already getting, you can see how I felt about this by studying the green face on the chart. 

Be* SpeedTest 

With the new Be* connection promising up to 24meg, I’m getting around 8 meg, you can see how this makes me feel by studying the chart, this time reffering to the yellow face.

I did the speed test very soon after hooking it, the modem currently suggests that it may be syncing a bit faster now, I just cant be bothered to turn off all my downloads to test it at the moment.  

In fact, I may need some new hard drives for christmas, the current 4 x 250Gb are pretty full and now my machine is sucking the entire Internet into itself at an alarming rate!

Desktop Freeview Meme

October 22, 2007

Ms Mac tagged me for a meme with specific instructions.

Here’s what you need to do :

A. Upon receiving this tag, immediately perform a screen capture of your desktop. It is best that no icons be deleted before the screen capture so as to add to the element of fun.

You can do a screen capture by going to your desktop and pressing the Print Scrn key (located on the right side of the F12 key). For Macs, press shift-option-3 then look for the .png file on your desktop. Open a graphics program (like Picture Manager, Paint, or Photoshop) and do a Paste (CTRL + V). If you wish, you can “edit” the image, before saving it.

B. Post the picture in your blog. You can also give a short explanation on the look of your desktop just below it if you want. You can explain why you preferred such look or why is it full of icons. Things like that.

C. Tag five of your friends and ask them to give you a Free View of their desktop as well.

D. Add your name to the list of Free Viewers below with a link pointing directly to your Desktop Free View post to promote it to succeeding participants.

The list of Free Viewers so far is:

  • iRonnie – I Set No Corner
  • Thess– Thesserie
  • Rebecca – Skippy Heart
  • Knoizki – A Dialogue With K
  • Beng– Kauderwelch
  • Tina – My Good Finds
  • Rachel – Heart of Rachel
  • Alice – Hello, My Name Is Alice
  • Julia – Julia’s Books Corner!
  • Darla– Nichtszusagen
  • Marg – Reading Adventures
  • Holly – What Were you Expecting?
  • Ames – Thrifty Reader
  • Dev – Good Reads
  • Rosie – Nobody asked me…
  • Gabrielle – Diary of an Adult Runaway
  • Jo– Chez le laquet!
  • Ms Mac – Ms Mac
  • Andy–
  • So.

    A) Done!



    Oh god, it’s so boring isn’t it? I cant even claim its because of my recent re-install of Windows. Its always like that, well, I VERY occasionally add a wallpaper if I’m really into something. I picked up this minimalist habit way back in the days of 486 CPU’s. This was when every ounce of performance was needed and cosmetic touches like wallpapers and shadows under mouse pointers were deffo not needed. Maybe in these days of mega CPU horsepower I could relax a little 😉 

    Stuff.txt is a little file that I’ve been using for a 5 years. Its a sort of scratchpad/jotter thing,  ideas for blog posts, stolen memes, addresses for people that I send birthday and Christmas cards to, all kinds of junk really. In fact I just found this in there 🙂

    ´*•.¸(´*•.¸ ¸.•*´)¸.•*´
    «´¨`•°   Andy    °•´¨`»
    ¸.•*´(¸.•*´ `*•.¸)`*•.¸ 

    Yeah, I know, its a bit lame really but I must have liked it whenever I copied it from somewhere.

    Photo project.txt contains an idea I am working on for (you guessed) a photo project. I don’t want to say too much but its an idea to illustrate a song through photos, probably been done before but I (think) I have a twist.

    Perhaps I ought to have done this meme on the laptop, it actually has wallpaper, albeit a pre-installed Vista one. 

    C) I don’t really know the etiquette of tagging anyone but here goes, Michael , Rob7534 now that he is back from Camp and just to give him an excuse to blog, Jon.

    D) Done and Done.

    When I’m Cleaning Windows.

    September 22, 2007

    Computers are meant to make life easier, but somehow it doesn’t always work out that way.

    Take my desktop machine for example, a couple of weeks ago it started being quite annoying. Firstly some programs refused to load, any attempt to open them would cause a blue screen error that shut the PC down completely. The programs seem quite innocuous and unconnected, a webcam thingy, a video editing thing and a Sega Megadrive emulator. There may be a connection in the way they all access some video hardware or something but I’m just guessing.

    Anyway, a few days later and Quicktime movies stop working and similar crashes occur when you try. Actually that video connection seems stronger now. I’ve tried the System Restore feature of Windows but it wont go back very far, probably due to the drive letter and partition changes I made a few days before.

    At this stage I’m beginning to think that a clean install of Windows may be in order. The problem with this is that the drive that Windows is installed on is more than half full of various movies, music and other downloaded detritus.

    The machine actually has 4 200gb hard drives installed and they are all getting close to full! Where did all that stuff come from? Actually, that’s a rhetorical question since I know exactly where it came form. There are 2 of us using the machine and both download lots of “Art” films from the Internet, I’m also a voracious gatherer of tunes, so really 700gb isn’t a lot really 🙂

    Whatever the reason, the fact is its going to take some fancy juggling to get everything off the C: drive before I can restore Windows.

    Can you believe that I actually woke up at 4am one morning last week and spent an hour thinking about this? That’s right! I was on holiday thousands of miles away from the machine and I woke up and couldn’t sleep until I had a plan.

    What a geek!

    So, I have a plan and now just need the time to do the juggling, to back up the most important stuff and then go for it. Afterwards of course I’ll need to re-install all the programs I use, Nero, Winamp, etc etc. So that’s going to be my Sunday I suppose.

    In theory, I should still have access to the Internet through the Laptop, since the router will remain connected independent of the desktop machine. Well that’s the theory anyway, If I disappear for a few days that will be why. However, given the frequency of my blog posts recently you may not even notice.

    Fingers crossed.

    Buyer’s remorse.

    August 30, 2007

    Buying the laptop the other day got me thinking about something that happened years ago and which I hadn’t thought about for years.

    These days I guess I take it for granted that I can pretty much have anything (within reason of course) I want. When I was younger things weren’t so easy, I mean to say that we weren’t totally poor but neither were we affluent.

    I’d been given a Commodore VIC-20 for Christmas of 1982 by my Mum and step-Dad and I loved it. You could “make” your own games by typing in code published in magazines. You could borrow games from friends and even Video Libraries and copy them using 2 cassette recorders connected together. The possibilities seemed endless and from then until now, I’ve been hooked on computers.

    A year or 2 later I was hoping for something new and had decided I wanted a Spectrum Plus, this was basically just a Spectrum with a new case including a “proper” keyboard.

    My Dad took me to the Woolworths store in Rotherham, where they had some good deals on offer, to get my Christmas Gift.

    So far so good, I’m a very happy boy and in great spirits, looking forward to having my new computer for Christmas. However, it wasn’t to stay that way, in fact this day was to change me forever ( please excuse the drama.)

    We spent some time in the store looking at the deals and I chose the one I wanted, then had a couple of rounds of Dad confirming if I was sure, it would have to last me, I wouldn’t get any other gifts etc etc.

    So Dad found an available salesman and to my surprise we were led to an office at the back of the store. this felt a bit odd, a bit like something I’d seen on TV about a shoplifter taken to the Managers office! Of course it wasn’t that at all, it was because there was paperwork to be done. The paperwork
    was for a credit agreement or maybe it was called a hire purchase agreement back then.

    Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t like it. Back then, credit wasn’t as free and easily available as it is now, only the rich had credit cards and most ordinary people could only access credit at expensive rates or even worse through some other dodgy means. At my Mums house I was trained in the
    “save up for it, if you want it” school of thought. At Dads house it was more common to order things from the catalogue and pay it off at 32p a week for 48 weeks. I think that because I spent most time living with Mum, that’s the side that had most dominance for me.

    So back to the store. The man is going through the paperwork, speaking to Dad about Interest rates and repayments and I realised that this was not a good thing. This was the time of the Miners strike (Dad was a coal miner) and things were hard money-wise.

    The thing that changed in me was that I realised two things, on a concious level, for the first time.

    Sometimes the things we are given come at an unseen price.

    People will make sacrifices for those they love.

    The trouble was that as soon as I realised this, I also realised that I didn’t want him to make this sacrifice. The hard part is how does a 14 year old boy tell his proud working-class Dad that he doesn’t want him to get in debt for the sake of a Christmas present that he cant afford.

    I couldn’t think of a way to do it like that without wounding Dads pride. The only thing I could come up with was, to say that I wasn’t sure it was what I really wanted after all, maybe there was something better. It came across as petulant and spoiled, in short I was an ungrateful boy.

    It is only now, looking back, that I realise that I made a sacrifice of my own on that day, I remained an ungrateful boy because I never told my Dad why I’d rejected the gift. I thought I’d tell him later but it never came up again. Its too late now of course.

    I still think I did the right thing.

    Everybody cut loose

    August 30, 2007

    Click on this picture, figure out whats wrong, then come back.


    Did you see it?

    I’m totally not qualified to be in the spelling Police but come on! I’m pretty sure Microsoft can employ at least one member of the Grammar Gestapo.

    Now, for all I know it is ok in the USA to use “Loose” as an alternative spelling of “Lose” but here in AndyLand its not allowed!

    Staring at the blank page before me

    August 28, 2007

    I’m feeling a bit blocked as far as blogging is concerned, lots has been happening but I havent felt inclined to sit and type about any of it.

    I’m hoping that this little non-post will kick-start me, if only due to the novelty of where I’m posting from. On Friday I treated us to a laptop, a great deal came up and since we’ve been thinking about one for a while we decided to take the plunge and buy it. So, I’m currently laid on the bed, tapping out this entry by the magic of wireless networking 🙂

    BTW, setting up a wireless modem router was not the breeze it promised on the box!

    The main idea is that we can take it away on holiday with us, loaded with music and movies, thus saving us from local TV if we want to stay in of an evening. On our last trip we had a choice of Sky news or FX. The news consisted of hourly updates on the Iran boat crew crisis and FX gave us its daily Nash Bridges & NCIS marathon!

    Thats the plan anyway, I’ll let you know how it works out