Category Archives: Technology

My Ubuntu Experience

I recently bought a new computer, so I have my older one to play with. It’s still completely usable (or, was), and probably performs better than most people’s home PCs. This machine was my first (and last) experience putting my own PC together; it’s personally just not worth the time I spend researching, buying, and building, which is why my new machine is a Dell refurb.

I put the old machine together about three or four years ago from the following parts:

  • AMD Athlon64 2200 (approximate clock speed)
  • Gigabyte Socket 939 motherboard
  • 2GB Ram
  • Two hard drives: one 320GB, one 250GB. Each has two separate partitions, totalling four separate partitions.
  • ATI X800XL video card, 256MB RAM 
  • Trendnet 433-PI wireless network card
  • Separate CD and DVD burners.

The machine was dual-booting with XP Pro and Vista Ultimate from the original October 2006 OEM release (thank you, MSDN). Since I never really used the Vista install, as it would’ve been too much of a pain to install and configure everything, I decided to delete the Vista partition. I considered making this either a server or a media center PC, so I thought a dual-boot machine between the existing XP install and a flavor of Linux would be neat.

With that I researched the various flavors of Linux, and decided Ubuntu was easiest to just get up and running. I played with the Live CD before, with both 7.04 and 8.04, albeit on other computers. It was (and is) amazing that you can run a completely working operating system off of a CD. It seemed easy enough, so one Saturday I went at it.

Round one found the first few configuration screens easy to understand, until I got to the disk partitioning screen. I didn’t want it to automatically wipe and combine the partitions, so after playing a bit, I managed to install Linux without losing any data. Or so I thought, as during reboot, I was greeted with “grub error 18”, and an unusable PC.

And this is yet another reason why, folks, Linux will never become mainstream. Thankfully I had the new PC up and running, so I could find exactly what grub error 18 is. Clearly, this was not the problem, so I went back into the Ubuntu installation sequence. This time, i fiddled more with the partition options, and managed to not only install Linux, but maintain a dual-boot system with the current XP installation. This was an exciting development.

I rebooted, chose Ubuntu from the Linux boot manager, and started Ubuntu. Only to find I couldn’t access my wireless network.

Back to the new PC. Seems a lot of Trendnet‘s stuff isn’t supported by Linux. Awesome. I even had a new Trendnet USB wireless adapter… that also wasn’t supported. More research. Turns out they may be supported by using either Ndiswrapper or madwifi (or its somewhat newer but less-supportive relative, ath5k), neither of which I had any clue about, nor seemed to be particularly easy to configure. Also, since I didn’t have a network connection, it would’ve entailed downloading the software, and either burning to a CD or hoping Ubuntu supported my USB thumbdrive. Not worth it to me. At this point, tired, frustrated, and just wanting to be done, I deleted Ubuntu from its partition.

This was my final mistake in the big Ubuntu Experiment: Deleting Ubuntu also removed the information to boot into XP, leaving me with an unbootable system.

And that’s where I am now: it seems the only data I managed to delete was my old Outlook file, which contained about a year and a half of email. I bought a 1TB drive and external enclosure, and moved all of my data (mp3s, videos, pr0n) to either it or the new machine.

At some point, I’ll reinstall XP on the old machine, and never look back.

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Why Linux will never be mainstream

Digg is one of the sites I check several times daily, using the wonderful Klipfolio software. Once again, a top-Digged discussion arose about Linux. And once again, Linux folks don’t get it. I’ve tried Ubuntu, and found it neat. I’m even considering using it for a home file server. But here’s why I think Linux will never achieve the success they hope for:

Linux? Huh?

Despite the fact that IT (Information Technology) folk talk about Linux like it’s the greatest thing since GREP, most people don’t have a clue. They know Mac, they know PC. They don’t have the time to learn about anything else.

Distributions, Anyone?

Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Debian, Slackware, Red Hat? C’mon! People are confused when you ask them if they have XP Home or Professional, and you want them to choose from “flavors” of an operating system? I’ve had people ask me if they can run Office XP on Vista. And even the community shows snobbery: I just read someone referring to “Ubuntards”.

The Command Line

I have a friend who considers himself an intermediate user of Windows and computers. However, when trying to help him with a problem, I told him to open Windows Explorer. I was met with a blank stare.

Sure, geeks know to type cmd and use DOS. In XP, Microsoft hides the command prompt all the way under the Accessories menu. And Linux expects people to compile their applications from it? I know that there are programs to do this for you the majority of the time, but the point remains, most people aren’t going to sudo anything.

The Apps Ain’t Pretty

In general, open-source software is created by programmers for programmers. Making the software look pretty is secondary. No matter how much people say it, the GIMP is not Photoshop, Inkscape is not Illustrator, and OpenOffice is not MS Office (Yes, I’ve tried them all). Designers use Macs because they’re sexy, not because they’re utilitarian. People use iTunes because it’s pretty and simple to use.

The “Community”

Linux advocates will tell anyone who listens that any Linux problem can be solved easily by the oh-so-supportive community of users. However, not everyone has access to either a second computer at home, or a work computer where they can spend idle time interacting with the community to find answers. It’s kind of hard to look up the answer online when your computer can’t connect to your wireless network.

People Don’t Like Change

There’s a reason IE is still a huge part of the browser market: people are scared of “breaking their computer”. Most people can’t fix computer problems themselves, and everyone knows that support these days consists of either “This isn’t our problem, it’s a problem with [insert application here]”, or “reformat and reinstall”. Sure, give someone Firefox and they generally like it more than IE, but most people will use IE because it’s what they’re used to.

People Just Want Their Computer To “Work”

This is why the Mac is making inroads lately. Most people don’t want to know how their computer works, don’t want to tweak settings, they just want to check their email and surf the web, and maybe use Word to type something up. My same “intermediate” Windows user friend recently bought a Mac, and just gushed how nice it is and easy to use.

You Get What You Pay For

You’d think that since Linux is free, people would flock to it. But they’re not. Instead, they’re buying overpriced Macs, and never looking back. Even with all the publicity that Vista is a horrible operating system, Linux’s market share is below even the Mac.

Thoughts?

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New HDTV!

i bought the pioneer 50″ plasma i wanted – pdp-5080hd. there was a price drop, and i’ve been wanting to buy it, but was kinda waiting for S. to look at furniture for it.

on wednesday i went to j&r’s site, which has had the lowest price on it, and it was no longer listed.

fuuuuuuuuck.

so after work yesterday, i trudged up there (it’s only a few blocks from here), saw the TV (again), then went to the sales guy. there’s one left in the warehouse. price was $500 more expensive than on the web site. he didn’t know why the price went back up. but, he could talk to his manager…

comes back with a price that was $100 more than the price i saw on their site. i’m still not sure, but i tell him it was a no-brainer at the web site price. so he matches the price. delivery’s like $150, and no tax on the sale.

i looked at the comparably rated samsung and panasonics while i was waiting for the guy to work his deal, and they just weren’t the same. plus, the samsung was more expensive. they had america’s test kitchen on when i was there, which is most likely what we’ll be watching most of the time…
so i’m going to have this huge freakin’ tv delivered next saturday. it’s going to look really out of place in our apartment, but once we upgrade it will be awesome. or so i’m hoping.

it’s only a 720p set (768p, actually), but as i was waiting at the cashier with the sales guy, i asked him about the 1080p vs 720p thing. he told me that he and a colleague actually set up two blu-ray DVDs next to each other – one on a 720p and one on a 1080p. said that unless you were like 6 inches from the tv, you’d never notice a difference.

edmarsh… .com?

so edmarsh.com was up less than an hour and a half after i changed the nameservers.

i played with wordpress all day (and now looking at drupal again). i’m surprised the ease with which everything is configured; although i have uninstalled and reinstalled both wordpress and drupal a few times already, and broke the themes folder in WP once. i modified the template, and had a little fun. and the cpanel is a whole lot nicer than the windows-based helm.

i find it amazing that a few years ago, i would’ve hand-coded a whole new site. now i simply don’t have the time or inclination. getting this new site up has given me an interest in mysql, so that’s something i’ll learn enough of to just get me in trouble. or disinterested.

my problem, as always, is that i’m diving right in. i need to plan this site out and figure out just what i need it to do. i’m sure i’ll fuck up wordpress again, and i will never be completely satisified of the outcome. and then, after awhile, i’ll lose interest, and move on to something else.