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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Friday, July 01, 2011

Hope and Change Inside My Computer - Part III

Prologue:  In retrospect, I have recently read a large amount of comments and articles on how Linux is not ready for prime time.  Honestly, if I had read even a fraction of these articles, I doubt I would have installed it, even with Mark's endorsement.  In the past two months or so, I can honestly say I can not understand how these writers came to such a conclusion.  Linux works extremely well for me.

With that being said, there are things in Windows I miss.

I find myself in the clumsy position of having to do some last minute editing.  As if mentally linked, my friend Mark and the host of my article, Helios; almost simultaneously informed me that if there is anything I miss about Windows software, we can be happily reunited via a program called VirtualBox.  I have since rejoined the few Windows applications I mention below.  I thought I should bring this up before any readers feel the need to recommend this solution.

Having a second degree in marketing, the advertising duties for my newspaper have been delegated to me.  They are not strenuous or over taxing, but they remain a duty.  In executing that duty, I used Microsoft Visio almost exclusively for that task.  I have to create many charts and graphs to accompany the dog and pony show that most marketing meetings actually become.  Visio was perfect for my purposes.  Plus, please note, I don't have to purchase any of these applications, they are supplied to me by my employer. 

One of the first things I did after getting settled into my new system was to search for alternatives for the software I used in Windows.  Say what you will about Microsoft Office and their operating systems, once you have a great amount of time and effort invested in learning a complex piece of software, it's hard not to resent having to learn something else.

Thus I think I have accidentally exposed one of the major stumbling blocks to Linux adaptation.  Sorry, I am the queen of digression and stating the obvious.

Google has become a close friend in the past couple of months.  Doing a search for "Linux Visio replacement", I found a few candidates, those being Dia, LibreOffice Draw and a KDE application called Kivio.

I'm still working with a couple and again, the learning curve has me leaning sideways a bit, and it is not comfortable.  Dia has some promise, Draw makes me want to bang my face into my desk until all goes dark and Kivio has been changed and is now being worked on under a different name.  Since it too is an under cooked chicken, I will wait until the insides are no longer pink before I go there.

My hesitation with Kivio was that it is (or was) a KDE application and to be honest, I don't want to muddy my pristine Gnome home with a ton of long-staying visitors.  I have heard both pro and con for mixing the two but my Linux mentor and friend Mark has advised against it, at least until I have some more experience and have learned to fix what I break by myself.  He won't fall for the helpless damsel in distress schtick any more unless I buy the pizza.  Mark can eat a lot of pizza.

Another application I used heavily in Windows is Skype.  I used it both professionally and personally and I love it.  The recent bad news that Skype has now been acquired by Microsoft makes me a bit nervous.  I have gotten it to work in Linux and under several distros but in every one of them, I had to fiddle with the sound and mic settings for a long time before I was able to get it to work to my satisfaction.

"Can you hear me now" is not funny anymore.

Neither is the fact that Microsoft now has complete control of Skype.  My worst fear is that Linux support will either stagnate or completely disappear.  I have a couple dozen friends who reside overseas and I've established communications with them exclusively through Skype, both with video and audio.  I am now experimenting with Linux alternatives but the thought of asking all those people to change protocols is not reasonable.  I sure as heck would not do it if asked.

Then there is Photoshop.  Again, as a marketing employee, I must do a large amount of graphic creation.  I have been using Photoshop for my entire college and professional career.  Of course, I immediately found Gimp in my menus and began exploring the possibilities.

Before I say anything that can or will be perceived as negative, let me say that I can do everything I need to do in Gimp that I could do in Photoshop.  I don't have complex photography tasks nor do I need CMYK+ support.  What I do need is a decent working interface.  Anyone seen one for Gimp?

I apologize now in advance for stepping on delicate toes but Holy Cow, what a mess!  I know a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into developing Gimp and I do not mean to denigrate those who have excreted aforementioned liquids.  From searching the forums on Gimp tutorials, I have found literally hundreds of complaints about the "floating" menus.  That being said, I am settling in with Gimp and no doubt will overcome the menus.  If the rumors ever come to pass that Gimp will have a unified menu, I will be happy.  The name however may take a bit longer.

Outside of these picked nits, I am a happy girl.  My computer does not freeze, I am not nagged by update cues and for the love of Pete, I can stop worrying about opening every little Windows attachment that comes my way.  Of course, I am a gmail-ite because I travel extensively and need my email available to me via a number of portable devices.   Since my laptop has gotten extremely long in the tooth, I am looking at the new Samsung Galaxy 10.0.  Mark is buying one when he goes into Forth Worth on the 5th of July so I will see what it is all about then.

I mentioned that my computer does not freeze.  It darn well shouldn't.  It has a 64 bit dual core quad processor with 4 gigs of RAM.  Windows 7 infuriated me just as much as Windows XP did with it's intermittent stalls for no obvious reason.  To be fair, a few Linux distros had momentary freezes with a slight darkening of the screen but after a bit of research, I turned Compiz off and it stopped doing it.  Personally, I don't see the point as I didn't find it useful, just wobbly and shiny.

Well there it is, for what it is worth.  That is my journey thus far into the world of Linux computing.  If I may, I'd like to add an observation.  Given what I have read, it is going to be ignored or put off as impossible but here it is anyway.

Please stop this incessant chest-beating over what Linux distro you use.  When I was doing my research and learning how to use Linux, It never ceased to irritate me, the amount of "mine is bigger and better than yours" I encountered.  The problem seemed to dominate in two of the top five distros and no, the distro I use isn't included, at least not that I noticed.  Look at it through my eyes as a new Linux user and you might get a new perspective.  Of course, a lot of it borders on religious zealotry so I say let those zealots fight it out until attrition wears them down or weeds them out.

Again, this comes from one of the great unwashed.  For what it is worth.

I'll be around.



Cynthia Robinson said...

Chika, absolutely a great article. I found myself nodding my head more and more as I read deeper into your trilogy. I think much of what you say mirrors many of our experiences as well.

I studied journalism at Texas State University but ended up working as a Linux sysadmin for Cisco.

Where did you study?

JRaz said...

Really enjoyed the articles. Especially the last paragraph. I totally agree. A distro is a distro is a distro. They all have pros and they all have cons. Some use the latest and some used the tried and true. To each his own I say.

I too would like to see developers go in a direction that encourages new users and helps them understand things better. Ken has remarked about the naming conventions here before and it certainly makes a difference.

Very well said and you should consider this an ongoing dialog as a blog in itself. I for one would be a regular reader. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, a few Linux distros had momentary freezes with a slight darkening of the screen but after a bit of research, I turned Compiz off and it stopped doing it. Personally, I don't see the point as I didn't find it useful, just wobbly and shiny.

I completely agree. Aside from some minor entertainment and a toy to play with, I do just fine without all the silliness of compiz.

I don't need to drag one field into another screen, I can do that with my applet in the panel if I need to move something from one desktop to another.

My "dark screens" were more than annoying, they stopped my work. I simply don't allow compiz to start any more, resource hog that it is.

chikauuna said...

Just got back from the great state of Colorado. It was good to get away from the heat for a while.

Actually Cynthia, I hail from Oregon originally but completed my undergraduate studies way up in North Idaho at the University of Idaho, not to be confused with Boise State in Boise.

I was hired during a job fair right after finals my senior year and I like Texas so here I am.

Hiker68 said...

I really enjoyed your article, and have had similar experiences changing from Windows to Linux. It's such a great OS, and I'm glad I've made the change. I have written a blog about some of my experiences here:
I try to encourage anyone to try Linux. Some people it really suits, others it doesn't depending on what they use their computers for, but for me, it's the best!

Webster Knight said...

To the Queen of Digression:

Enjoyed your articles, so much wit and even ...intelligence. Wow, do my Windoze family and friends suffer!

Your fellow digressor,


Gavin said...

Ugh, that Skype + MS thing is just a kick in the shin, ain't it?? Someone made a logo funnie about the deal, putting "Sky" next to ".NET" - hilarious! (Seriously, though, keep an eye out for Arnold look-alikes!)

I also agree about the Linux distro wars - get rid of them! But really, it is a vocal minority. The ones who war over Windows are also a vocal minority. And the Apple ones. And the BSD ones. And the UNIX/Unix ones. And, etc. Eventually, towards the end, you realize that there is a vocal minority in every group, and together they make a majority! ;)

Personally, I never liked those wars. That is why I run Windows. And Linux. And Apple. And Unix. And Intel. And AMD. And nVidia. And VMware. And KVM. And... you know what? Just come to my house and ask for the tour! It is quicker than trying to explain that I have massive quantities of disloyalty! :P

Gavin said...

What? No Compiz? Awww...

I like the fancy effects for showing off to people. Not even Apple has anything close to Compiz, and Compiz is already years old! Ok, so you can technically add it to Windows and Mac OS X via some GUI-cranking software, but most of the time Compiz knocks the socks off people.

Besides, if you actually have a GPU, Compiz adds a few tens of megs to your RAM usage and nothing more. Then again, if your "GPU" name starts with "Intel 9"... yeah... time to think twice about running a GUI at all. Gnome 2 and Win7 Basic both run like a Charlie Chaplin movie in an empty room.

On the plus side, Intel's new HD Graphics inside the CPU package runs like a champ! (relatively speaking) That one should age much better.

Jeff Smith said...

Great article. Thank you for sharing your experience.

I hope the advice below is helpful.

Visio Replacement: Diagramly. It's web based so you can work in either Win or Linux, completely free and easy to use.

GIMP Menu: The next major version release is reportedly supposed to include a unified menu.

Extra note. Might not be very helpful in a printed media business but I feel obliged to note Gantter which can save a lot as a free web based alternative to MS Project.

gewg_ said...

Please stop this incessant chest-beating over what Linux distro you use.[...]The problem seemed to dominate in two of the top five distros and no, the distro I use isn't included, at least not that I noticed.

If your distro of choice is Mint, the level of chest-thumping WRT that distro may change soon.
Mark Shuttleworth's recent monkeying with Ubuntu's user interface has spurred a significant number of defections.
In addition, Mint (currently built on an Ubuntu base) may soon go to a Debian base.

Rather than advocating *for* a particular distro, I tend to point out weaknesses in choices.
In particular, I point out those distros which FAIL on the unprivileged-user meme (aka always run as root, as Win9x did):
Dynebolic; XandrOS; Lindows/Linspire/Freespire; Puppy.
(Dynebolic also has a problem with GPL compliance.)
All except Puppy are ancient/extinct now anyway.

It should be noted that among the extant Pupplets, there ARE two that broke from the ranks and distinguish themselves from the dreck:
The former is lightweight and the latter isn't. Lighthouse (as you might surmise from the name) was spun by a Jesus freak; those with an aversion to proselytizing / wasted disk space many want to avoid that anyway.

Pointing out distros with ancient software repositories (caused by using an ancient Linux kernel) is another critique I make.
Damn Small Linux in particular falls into this category.

OK, I'll go ahead and make a *for* comment: Any place you're thinking about Puppy or DSL, you should give MEPIS antiX a try. (Pronounced "Antiques".)

chikauuna said...

"In addition, Mint (currently built on an Ubuntu base) may soon go to a Debian base."

Awwww, has your computer been broke hon? Let me catch you up so the other kids in the school yard won't pick on you. Mint has been making Debian rolling release for a while now.

That is in fact the distro I use. I simply didn't see any reason to give it a mention. But in the event you are concerned, it works great for me, thank you.

I did not, nor will I "advocate" for anything Linux. I use it, I give money to those I support and I go about my business. I have no interest in your politics or your suggestions.

Can you blame me? If your suggestions are as dated as your knowledge that Mint puts out an Ubuntu and and a Debian release, I think I'll pass on any of your suggestions, but thanks and have a nice day.

chikauuna said...

@ gewg,

Sorry guy, you did not deserve that blast of enraged estrogen. I read too quickly and mistook what you were saying.

My bad cowboy. You bring up some good points.

gewg_ said...

you did not deserve that blast of enraged estrogen. I read too quickly and mistook what you were saying.

I'm a goofy-looking, non-rich nerd. Even when no apology follows, I'm used to gals treating me like something they need to scrape off their shoes. You're going to have to try a lot harder than that to offend me. ;-)

If your suggestions are as dated as your knowledge that Mint puts out an Ubuntu and and a Debian release[...]

Mint actually has MANY editions.

...then there is the OEM edition for those who -don't- find the "intellectual property" laws of the USA/Japan to be completely obnoxious--or for vendors who are put over a barrel by stupid laws.

Lastly, there is LMDE, the (unofficial) Linux Mint Debian Edition.

All of these are based on Ubuntu, with the exception of (again, unofficial) LMDE and the Xfce edition which recently announced a shift to a Debian base.
Expect more Mint editions to make the move away from Ubuntu; several other distros already have.

Anonymous said...

In response to "gewg". Xandros did NOT run as root.

It used a Debian base and had the traditional root/user scheme. It in fact was an excellent distribution with an installer that none today have yet equaled for quality and features.

Might explain why Microsoft went after them with the patent extortion game so early on.

While I agree they blew it by allowing Microsoft to ruin them please don't spread false information about one of the most user friendly distributions we had.

Unknown said...

Nice Article Chika,

I also abandoned the green hills and butterfly flags for Orange and Brown Ubuntu. I too miss some things in Windows (printing coupons is the major pain).

The XP VDI can be malware/spyware/virus infected. It can be tweaked to improve the performance somewhat using this guide-

Anonymous said...

My Gawd, these Wintards seem incapable of perceiving a world without Windoze. Get over it. There is another world out there and you don't need to use Windoze applications. I haven't for many years, and don't miss them. Linux does everything and more than what most of us need to do.

Anonymous said...

chika, you had me agreeing with you until your rude, deameaning, patronizing response to gewg.

Welcome to Linux. You're going to get along great with the other rude Linux users.

Anonymous said...

chika, you had me agreeing with you until your rude, deameaning, patronizing response to gewg.

Welcome to Linux. You're going to get along great with the other rude Linux users.

No she won't. Rude Linux users don't apologize.

gewg_ said...

@Brian Berger
[without] Windows (printing coupons is the major pain)

...which I'm sure you realize is because some clueless Web developers insist on using vendor-specific stupidity (ActiveX controls).

It would be interesting to know exactly how many Windoze users got pwned when they left the (for the longest time non-granular) ActiveX settings enabled in their M$ browsers in order to use a single one of these stupid sites.

...then there is Silver-Lie (M$ Silverlight) in which many sites (e.g. Library of Congress, Bejing Olympics) and many of M$'s loyal sheep^Wfanboy devs made an investment of time/money--a technology which it now appears M$ is abandoning.

Anonymous said...

@ gewg,

I worked along side a couple of Silverlight developers not too long ago during an at-site contract. They were both pretty young, maybe just out of college and they were extremely happy to be developing in this platform.

I wonder how they feel now and I do feel bad for them. They seemed be have the youthful optimism we all displayed at one time, comfortable in the fact that they worked within a platform that was used by Netflix. It was going to last forever.

I wonder how many coming out of college actually look at things like this before the commit to investing that amount of time.

Anonymous said...

Why in hades should you not use both KDE and Gnome applications together? It seems a bit hypocritical to end your piece decrying the Linux distro wars after you've taken a stand as a Gnome partisan.

Michelle Minkin said...

after you've taken a stand as a Gnome partisan.

Moron. She never said Gnome was better over anything. She said she used Gnome and that KDE was too complex for her. THAT makes her a partisan? And if you knew ANYthing about mixing kde and gnome libraries, you would know that mixing them might be fine at first but once you start updating a mixed system, things can go terribly wrong. If it works for you, yayyyy for you. Her Linux mentor did well by advising her to keep her system a Gnome system "Until she learned to fix what she broke".

Copy and paste the part where she is actually a partisan and post it here. Either that or go to and look up the word partisan

Anonymous said...

Nice article with a few good points; too bad you went nuts and tore off that one commenter's head when you misunderstood what s/he had written. Good for you that you said you were sorry afterward, but that doesn't change the fact that you instantly turned on your acid tongue when you thought that the commenter "deserved" to be demeaned. Next time you want to criticize Linux users for acting poorly, look in the mirror first.

Anonymous said...

"decent working interface. Anyone seen one for Gimp?" and the rest of the spiel in the ensuing paragraph.
You obviously question the layout of a GUI without comprehending the merits. As it happens, The Gimp provides a very professional layout that actually improves work-flow. Yes! Photo**** has stuck with it's unified interface- obviously to change it (even for the better) will upset many of it's users. I use The Gimp a lot, AND Cinepaint (which has the same style interface), and on multiple monitors, and I find the highly configurable interface very, very useful. The addition of a unified interface for an upcoming revision of The Gimp will be an option, not a replacement. I personally, do not know of any professionals whom lament the multi-window interface, once they've been shown how it vastly improves how one interacts with one's work.

Anonymous said...

You obviously question the layout of a GUI without comprehending the merits.

Merits for who?

I agree that the floating interface works fine for me, and I am a professional layout guy. I also understand that it took me forever to get used to this interface when I switched from PhotoShop to Gimp.

Gimp is a mess in comparison and a huge headache and learning curve but once you learn it, you come to like it.

She probably will too I am guessing but to say she doesn't comprehend the merits is a bit premature.

Possibly now she does but any new user wont see the "merits", she will see a convoluted bunch of interfaces that she's not used to.

Robert said...

The best Visio replacement I've seen is LucidChart. It's even better than Visio, IMO.