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Linux, Unix, and *nix like Operating Systems Forum

This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: < < 59 ( 1 [2]     
A week without Microsoft Windows.

 7:59 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

In my previous post I wrote up a very brief summary of my findings when I swapped from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux.

At the end of that thread I mentioned I would set of a fair comparison, bu running nothing but Linux for a week. The aim being that as I discovered problems I would try and find solutions, in the hope that these ideas may be of use to other members.

In my previous post I simply installed Ubuntu Linux on my laptop. My laptop if about 5 years old, so this probably wasn't an exactly fair comparison. Today what I did was convert my main desktop machine from Windows to Linux in order to provide a much more balanced comparison. My laptop because of its age will be a limiting factor, my desktop on the other hand is more than up to the task of equal comparison. I have been using this machine for about 18 months as my main work machine. In terms of specifications...

Gigabyte motherboard, external ATI graphics card, 3000+ AMD cpu (duel core) and 3 gig of ram. It's not exactly cutting age by todays standards, but it more than handles what I want it to do.

The main point I had to consider was this is my main work machine. I need to be able to revert back very quickly to my original configuration. Currently my machine has two hard disks, one is used for the main Windows OS disk, the other is installed as a backup disk. The backup disk I use to do nightly copy pastes from my main drive. This is not my only backup, but its the local backup I use on the machine.

What I have done is backed up all documents from both drives onto a combination of DVD, SD memory and external drives. In total I have three backups and have verified them all so that I know they will work. Technically I won't need them, but it always pays to think ahead.

The install
First thing I had to do was download a Ubuntu ISO image. The image can then be burned to CD or in my case loaded into a flash drive. I prefer using a flash drive because it doesn't involve using a CD, and I also feel it is a lot quicker. First you need to find out if it is possible for your machine to book from Flash media. This will be possible on most modern machines. You will be able to check and configure their on your BIOS.

A word of warning.
When ever you make changes in your bios it effects the way your computer responds at boot up time. If you configure your bios wrongly it can prevent your system from booting. If you have never used or edited your bios before I recommend you spend a little time researching your bios. Search for your PC make and model and see if you can learn anything about the bios.

In very general terms insert your USB drive into a USB slot before turning on your machine, you access the bios by pressing F2, F8, F10 or Delete at system start. There are probably other combinations for various systems but these are the most common. Once you are in the bios you will have a number of different areas where you can make changes. The area we are looking for is “Boot priority” USB drives will either be displayed as a hard disk, or USB ZIP. If is is shown, then you will later be able to boot from this.

Getting Ubuntu
In order to use Ubuntu or any form of Linux you need to download an ISO image. The image we will use to boot from Flash drive will be the very same ISO you would use to create a boot-able CD or even a live CD. You can download the latest version from [ubuntu.com...] from there select your download location and click download.

The download is around 650meg so depending on your connection speed this can take quite some time. Whilst you are downloading it is probably a good idea to read through the install tutorials on the Ubuntu site. There is a very detailed explanation of the process, and there is also a download to obtain the software needed to create your boot-able flash drive. Once the ISO and the PenDriveLinux creation tool has been downloaded, you can use the PenDriveLinux tool to create your boot-able drive. This process is very simple, all you need to do is run your PenDriveLinux tool, and select the version of Linux you wish to use. You can then browse for your ISO image and click go. The entire process takes about 10 minutes. This will depend on your PC.

I think it is very important at this stage to test your flash media. What I would recommend doing is shutting down your system, and setting your bios to boot from flash, then when the system boots select “Run Ubuntu from this flash drive”. By doing this it will not install anything on your hard disk, and it will allow you to see if the Ubuntu version of Linux will work with your machine.

Do not select install unless you are prepared to loose everything that is on your hard disk. There is an option within the install to set up a duel boot, but I have not tested this. Always make sure you know what you are doing before actually installing. I took quite a lot of precautions to make sure all my existing data was safe, and that my existing OS disk was removed from the system.

Installing Ubuntu us extremely easy. Insert your flash drive, boot the system and select “Install to hard disk” from the menu. When you do this the rest of the install is automated except for a few simple questions. What disk to use, your name, login and password. On my system the entire install took around 10-15 minutes. This will depend on the speed of your system and also the speed that data can be read from your USB flash device. When the install is finished you will be presented with the default desktop environment Gnome [gnome.org...]

Gnome is a free and open source windows manager and is very popular. My own personal preference is to use a windows manager that has the same sort of look and feel to a Windows based system. For this reason I installed the KDE environment [kde.org...] KDE is another great example of a windows manager.

By installing KDE you will be able to select your desktop environment from the login screen. Installing KDE is extremely simple and almost entirely automated. At the very top of the Gnome screen there is a “?” icon, this is the help resources. Open help and type KDE into the search box. Click customizing Ubuntu and there is a link you can click to install KDE. You may think I am being a little bit pro KDE by explaining how to install this, but If you do install KDE you will have the choice of launching Gnome or KDE every time you launch the system. I have actually spent quite a lot of time playing with Gnome. It is a very powerful and user friendly environment. I am glad to be able to use both. It's a little bit like having two operating systems from an interface point of view. If you choose to use Gnome your closing and launch screens will contain the Ubuntu logo and sound effects. If you are running KDE the OS launches as Kubuntu( Ubuntu with KDE)

Hardware support
I have now carried out two installs, on my laptop and also on my desktop. What amazes me is that on both occasions everything has worked right out the box. My past experiences with Linux have always been problematic. Sound drivers that either don't exist or cant be installed. Or other hardware items that fail to be recognized by the OS. In this case everything just worked from the moment I booted, Linux is certainly coming of age. Even when I install Windows on this hardware I need to install a wide range of drivers for my graphics hardware and my motherboard. Your millage on this may vary, but so far I'm impressed with how Ubuntu detects hardware.

Day 1

This being day one of my Windows free week. I spent quite a bit of time getting used to the system and getting it set up more or less as a clone of my laptop. Same wallpaper, same menu configurations same software.

The rest of my day was spend doing some link development so all I needed was an email client, a web browser and a spreadsheet application. I choose to use Firefox as my browser. Ubuntu comes with two browsers installed Firefox and Konqueror. My reason for choosing Firefox was simple because it has exactly the same look and feel of Firefox on Windows. When you're using the browser you really could forget you are not on a Windows machine.

For Email I used ”Kontact” Kontact is a very nice contacts manager that looks a lot like Outlook. It has the address book and reminders that will be very useful. It also has very nice integration with Kmail.

For recording link progress I normally use a spreadsheet. My preferred choice on Microsoft Windows is Open Office. The very same software is included with Ubuntu so I was able to use Calc. Although it is now called Open Office SpreadSheet.

All in all, today was very uneventful. I was more or less doing the jobs I would normally do and using tools I was familiar with.

This thread will be continued on a daily basis, explaining what I have been doing and what tools I used to achieve it.

Scary week ahead :)




 6:51 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I use rsync with a GUI called Grsync.

Games: yes, sadly, this is one area where Windows is way ahead. Hard-core gamers are not likely to be happy with Linux. That said, do try the games available for Linux. I hardly ever played games, and only simple ones, but I have recently got addicted to Battle for Wesnoth.

Also, do try customising you desktop, you can gradually get it to suit the way you work. For example, I use KDE 4 with three panels, 1) on left with a start button (not much used), the system tray, system monitor, and frequently used apps and logout and lock buttons, 2) auto hidden at the top, with just a Windows/Next style task bar, and 3) auto hidden at the bottom, with just a desktop "pager" (switcher). Temperature, moon phase and Wastebin are on the otherwise bare desktop. I wish Webmaster World allowed screenshots! I am not suggesting you should copy that, but just that you should not stay with the defaults.

Thanks for this thread Mack. It is the most interesting commentary I have read from someone trying Linux.


 6:48 am on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm one of the oldest hardcore windows fanboys you'll ever meet.

I've been programming since '78 and did Windows 2.x-XP

Greetings, fellow old-timer! You sound like my long-lost twin. I started programming around the same time... done the Windows programming thing starting with 1.03 (no overlapping windows!)

I used to be 'up to my neck' in Windows tech. I used to buy Microsoft Office, upgrade my OS every few years...

Funny thing is, I'm not paying Microsoft any more than I must in order to earn a living. That means forking over a few $ for their Visual Studio tools and an occasional OS upgrade, just so I keep abreast of the UI and APIs.

I've been moving away from Microsoft-land and towards Linux since XP (can't stand the 'Activation' technology, DRM, and other things about MS) -- been doing all web development on LAMP for years -- so they don't get any more of my 'mindshare' there. I stopped paying the Office ransom -- I use OpenOffice exclusively now. It's more than good enough for me.

I still do platform development in C++ and .NET, but as I said, only for clients and only as a way to earn a living, and retirement is coming soon.

So: Even a long-time Windows user/developer, who is steeped in their technology, is moving away from them as soon as he can. I wonder how many others out there are poised to do the same?


 12:54 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have Ubuntu desktop installed as a virtual install to test it out and 'learn the ropes'. The only thing that is preventing me from dumping XP and Win 7 on all my computers is the fact that there is no working alternative to Silverlight - which makes Netflix's Instant Watch feature worthless. The moonlight project seems to have stalled - or at least not making much headway on this front - at least the last I have checked. Anyone know of a working Silverlight alternative for Linux?


 3:47 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

maybe there is a Windows version of rsync too?


Many implementations, all of which (?) are standard rsync via Cygwin [cygwin.com]. The bundle I use is cwRsync [itefix.no] from ITeF!x (what a dreadful name!). Contains a very bare minimum of Cygwin - just a couple of DLLs. Combining this with Pageant [chiark.greenend.org.uk] from PuTTY plus TextPad [textpad.com] enables one-touch updates direct from Windows home machine to remote Linux server, or backups in the reverse direction.

I also use rsync extensively between a home linux server & remote server via Bash scripts. I have found 2 main advantages of Linux over XP in this experience:
  1. The Linux box takes the full bandwidth on my ADSL line, no `fixes' required (rsync on XP is limited to 2Mb, in spite of TCP fixes in the Registry).
  2. Hard links can be used at both ends, saving vast amounts of time.


 6:36 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 4

All in all today was a pretty good day. I spent quite a lot of time today creating simple templates that I will later modify for future needs. I also finished the majority of my simple CMS system.

I mentioned Blue Fish yesterday, so I though I would have a closer look at “Quanta Plus” today.

On the surface Quanta Plus and Blue Fish are very comparable. They are both HTML editors with menu systems to help speed up the code process. For example if you want to place a simple text link within a document the text I have is “go to example” By simply highlighting the word example, and pressing the anchor tab, a form asks me for information. When I type the address and press ok I get the following in my code

go to <A href="http://www.example.com">example</A>

I admit it only saves a few seconds, but there are lots of occasions where this sort of thing can greatly increase productivity. Page titles and meta tags can all be done using forms. There are also good tools for creating stylesheets, again using forms to create the code. I will experiment some more with Quanta and give some more details tomorrow

I also had to communicate with another developer about possible collaboration. Ubuntu installs Kopete by default. Kopete is a messenger client that supports many of the popular messaging services such as MSN live messenger, Yahoo! AIM and I am happy to report Skype.

I use Skype quite a lot on Windows, and it works just as well on my Ubuntu systems. Call and voice quality where just as good using Linux as opposed to Windows. The Skype application is to be honest more of a Wrapper. Integration is not as smooth between Kopete and Skype as it is with the other services.

The one problem I am having is finding an all in one development environment that I can use to build simple applications. For example on Windows I use the express versions of the Visual Studio tools. I have downloaded Kdevelop, QT Designer, and Qdevelop.

At first glance each of these programs look promising, but each also looks to have a huge learning curve. With vb.net for example (under Windows) you can simply throw a piece of software together and the amount of code you need to write is minimal. For example drag a button onto a Windows form, go to properties and change its text to close. Then double click the button in the designer and within code view “me.close()”

I would like to be able to use something under Linux that has the same basic functionality, and simple coding statements. I'm not sure if it exists or not.

When ever I am working I need music. I copied my music collection over from external disk to local drive. My preferred player on Linux has always been Kafine, its available through the “Ubuntu software center”. Kafine looks a lot different to how I remember it, and I think a lot of its simplicity and usability has been lost. My chosen media player for music is now Rhythmbox. Its got a nice UI and is extremely easy to use. The play-list features are just very simple.

It reminds me a lot of iTunes. You have the main menu items to the left and it opens the content of each item within the main application. Also supports streaming of Internet radio.

Tonight I need to look into two important aspects. I need to somehow be able to sync my Android phone with Kontact, and get to grips with one of the development tool sets.

One major problem I have always had with Linux is having libraries installed that are not required. For example if you install software though one of the package managers, it will install ill required dependencies. If you later choose to remove it, the package manager will only remove the selected items. Ubuntu have a pretty neat application called “computer janitor” when you use this utility it will display all items that are not currently required and gives you the option to remove them. This will prevent your system becoming overly cluttered, and free up disk space.



 8:12 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good for you! When I started on linux, nothing worked. No sound, no video. Why back in my day, we used to DREAM of living in a cardboard box.

Today, pretty much everything is automatic or surmountable. I don't have any problems with video or flash that I can recall, but I use mandriva which has a 'paid' version that gives me access to non-GPL libraries and stuff and I think a lot of the video stuff is there.

When ever you install an application the package manage detects any dependencies and installs they along with your chosen app,

Dependencies isn't something most folks in Windows run into but is an old - now fixed - problem with linux. In fact, the system is now better than windows. It install/deinstalls programs as necessary, by auto downloading from the internet. My system checks for updates daily.

AND! upgrades are now continual. Moving from version A to B to C to whatever now just means keeping your system updates running continually. No more upgrading from version 5 to 6. I love it.

In terms of your screen, something that's available on KDE that I ran into by accident and looks cool, is customizable toolbars (or start bars, whatever they are called). How about 2 or 3 bars? One at the top, one on the left, one on the right? You can do that. You can also have '0' bars, which I discovered to my chagrin.

Have you tried running apache locally yet? It's a great timesaver when testing or setting up new sites.

In fact, if you're just testing html you don't even need to go that far. If you save your html in /home/mack/websites/index.html then your browser will display it without apache, use the url:
:). Yes, that's three slashes not two.


 9:17 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Have you tried running apache locally yet?

Yea thankfully, I got that set up on day 1, you're right, it does save time, and it also provides a great developer environment. Most of what I do is PHP related, so it makes sense to run Apache, PHP and MySql locally.

I like KDE, I think I have it set up pretty well, I dropped the modern task launcher and went with the simpler conventional menu system. On my lower bar I have the app launcher, file browser and show desktop widget. Next to that I have the desktop pager, but I also use Compiz for 3D desktop switching and file/app display. Desktop background from a photo I took, and a Twitter app and clock widget. Its quite basic, but seams to be working for me :)



 2:35 am on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

What I find interesting about what you're doing is how you're approaching this. A new linux user in 2010, you're looking at stuff like a windows user sort of. You're talking about toolbars and widgets, stuff I have no idea how to do.

Linux desktop users from years ago, like myself, are still using the command line all the time. I've got a terminal window open almost all the time. I edit my html at the command line, copy files that way, a whole lot of stuff. I suspect you're doing these types of things through the gui. You certainly have a much better grip on the desktop than I do. My desktop is pretty much unmodified from the default install.

Interesting how that's changed.


 6:34 am on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

neat application called “computer janitor”

Be careful with this one, to not delete too much things.

install ill required dependencies

The package managers usually remove everything not needed, but leaves stuff that might be needed later. But that's at most a few megabytes on the HDD. If you are very low on HDD space, to remove those packages, type "sudo apt-get autoremove" in the command line.


 7:24 am on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Be careful with this one, to not delete too much things.

Agreed. Use with caution. If you are not sure, best leave alone unless you are short of disk space.

My chosen media player for music is now Rhythmbox. Its got a nice UI and is extremely easy to use.

Have you tried Amarok and Quod Libet?

One major problem I have always had with Linux is having libraries installed that are not required

The same happens Windows. I am pretty sure that if you uninstall an app the DLLs it installed are not removed. AFAIK MacOS avoids the problem by having a separate copy of libraries (other than those included with the OS, of course) for each app.

@wheel, command line is very often faster and more powerful, but the learning curve is substantial. That said, I have bee using Linux for nine years and never used the command line that much.


 2:41 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have been using Linux as a Desktop since 2005. I love it. I use Fedora mainly but have tried all the main distros in the past. As with any operating system there is issues but the mp3 and DVD issues are pretty easy to solve with extra RPM sites. I use RPM Fusion for fedora and have access to cutting edge apps and libraries that allow easy mp3 and DVD playing, burining, converting etc. I think it is a comfort level for most people because today Linux is as easy to install and use as any other OS.


 5:44 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 5

Today was a bit of a learning day. The problems I had to overcome where getting my address book from my Android based phone (HTC Hero) to my computer, and I also wanted to find a development environment that I could use to build simple apps on Linux.

When you connect an Android phone to a PC running Linux it will recognize it as a storage device. It will let you drag and drop files between your computer and the phone, but it doesn't actually do any synchronization work. It has to be said the same is true for Windows. To sync my phone I had to install HTC sync on my Windows based PC. I done quite a lot of searching and there just doesn't appear to be a lot of options out there regarding synchronizing contacts.

One thing that did come to mind, and to be honest its a bit of a no brainer is to use the cloud. An Android device will easily sync with your Google account. You can then expert your contacts from Google to your computer in a verity of formats. When I choose to export them as a Vcard, the options I got where save or open with Korganiser . It just so happens Korganiser is part of the “Kontact” suit that I use. All my contacts where imported without error.

I know this isn't exactly Synchronization, but for now it is the best I can come up with. When it comes to updating contacts the best option will probably be to remove the entire address book locally and import a new Vcard from my Google account.

One thing to note is that in order for your contacts to be synchronized with Google they need to be enabled as Google contacts within your Android contact manager. It is only Google contacts that will be synced. Other contacts are purely stored locally on your phone.

A few people have mentioned that I am looking at this from a Windows user point of view, and in fairness I am. I have used Headless Linux boxes in the past where the only access I had to then was via shell. Uusing shell is a very effective way of controlling a system. In this case the system is a pure desktop computer, so I think it is a good idea to keep things as simple as possible. Its quite important to note you can do a lot more damage using shell, if you aren't 100% sure what your doing. Especial if you happen to be logged in as root! I remember years ago trying to do a force removal of a file using -fr and I hit return before I had finished typing he full file path, I ended up wiping out a large chunk of the file system.

I think it is useful to be able to use the console, even to do simple directory browsing and file editing. For example within console typing “ls” will display files and folders at your directory level you can use “cd” to change directory and so on. Most things that a typical user would need are right within the UI.

I Mentioned yesterday that I have been looking for a software development program that I can use to build simple applications. On Windows I use Visual Studio, currently I am trying to learn QT.
QT has a very similar user interface and the GUI builder works a lot like the Windows forms constructor you would use within VS.net. There is however quite a large learning curve. I am not a programmer, so working within the code view of QT does take quite a lot of getting used to. The documentation is however very good. I think I will be able to use it, although so far, all I have been able to use "well" is the GUI builder. I have been trying to build clones of some of my simple Windows applications.

There was a slight fail for Ubuntu during the install of QT, it didn't install all the external tools. I had to look in the build errors to find out what was missing and go to the package manager to install them. Gmake was the missing dependency.

Another IDE that I installed was Eclipse. I don't think I will be able to use this because I simply don't know where to start. I know my limits, and that goes way beyond :)

Going back to my Android phone, it is worth noting that you can tether your Internet connection over USB with no modifications at all. All you need to do is connect your Android based device, then on the phone go to...
Settings > Wireless controls and check the box next to “Mobile network sharing”.

When you do this it will show up as a new network connection and you can use this just like any ather connection.

The lack of true sync between Android and Linux is quite frustrating. When you think they are both open source and both Linux based it should be possible. I imagine the sync procedure is perhaps more related to Firmware within the phones hardware as opposed to being a Linux only issue. For example a pure Android phone will not sync with anything other that your Google account. Its phone manufacturers like HTC who enable sync. I can only assume there is firmware involved within their USB hardware.

There are a lot of voip specific tools within the package manager. There are even IPX solutions. For a small business these tools could be extremely valuable. Asterisk for example is an extremely powerful system. If a company has a voip connection they could simply route incoming calls through a machine running Asterisk. It can then provide an automated system to direct callers to the correct person. It can even handle voice mail features.

You can also use an IPX solution to set up an internal communications system. One central server running Asterisk and client systems running soft phones each set up with an extension number.

The rest of my night will be spent reading through the QT documentation. I want to find out if this is something I will be able to use.



 6:10 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Mack, thanks for a very interesting thread and a great read.

I find your experiences distinctly different from mine. As you noted, you're taking a windows approach. When I transitioned to linux, the gui, and the OS as a desktop, was rudimentary and full of problems that were beyond my novice ability to fix. I probably had a 6 month learning curve, and most stuff that was broken I left untouched. That's part of the reason I'm more command line driven, the tools just didn't exist. And despite having run linux on my desktop for years I suspect you're already way out of my league in terms of knowledge.

For your other questions, you might also consider joining a local lug (Linux users group). Their email lists in most cases are full of people just dying to assist a windows turncoat with their advanced tech issues :).


 6:57 am on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Depending on your needs, another way around the lack of Android sync might be to install the Android apps on your desktop.

A few people have mentioned that I am looking at this from a Windows user point of view, and in fairness I am.

I actually think this - but for a different reason. You are looking for substitutes similar to the Windows apps you use. The next step is to look for stuff that is different: e.g. using Lyx instead of a wordprocessor.

There was a slight fail for Ubuntu during the install of QT, it didn't install all the external tools.

Please report bugs like this. I have not used Ubuntu for a while, but my recent experience with Mandriva has been stuff like this gets fixed quickly so you will save other people the hassle.

Going back to my Android phone, it is worth noting that you can tether your Internet connection over USB with no modifications at all.

Cool. Almost enough to make me buy one (I usually buy the cheapest phone available).

I am not a programmer, so working within the code view of QT does take quite a lot of getting used to.

I suspect the developers of the Linux tools would say it is better to get used to reading the code. A lot of Linux developers use EMACS for everything.....

The fact that you can easily make QT apps cross platform is some compensation for the learning curve.

Wheel is right about joining a LUG. They can be very helpful, especially to people moving from Windows (after all, most of us went through the same transition).


 1:17 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Going back to my Android phone, it is worth noting that you can tether your Internet connection over USB with no modifications at all. All you need to do is connect your Android based device, then on the phone go to...
Settings > Wireless controls and check the box next to “Mobile network sharing”.

I think you *may* have been fooled just like I did unless that feature is fully unlocked on your phone. On Sprint, the tethering appeared to work just as you described it. However, it turned out it was only tethering over my local WiFi network, not the Sprint network.



 1:37 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

the other day Wheel mentioned using a paid version of linux and he thought that might account for better support with audio / video. That's always been a problem for me after doing a linux install. I've always used opensource version, but I wouldn't mind paying if the set was a bit more complete.


 2:12 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

incrediBILL, nope its defiantly using its HSDPA connection. In Europe most Android phones have this feature enabled, most networks promote this as a service.



 5:08 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 6

Being the weekend is seams wrong to be doing any real work so have been learning a little bit more about the system and how it could be used in the home or office.

One thing I feel quite strongly about is the ability to share documents over a network. This can be used simple for sharing files or folders with other systems you use, or as a form of backup. The Ubuntu system makes this fairly easy. To be honest it is very similar to the Windows shared folder concept. You can opt to share a folder from within your system browser and other systems within the network will be able to access, download or update files/folders that are located within your designated shared folder.

If you are running the KDE desktop you will find a little bit of an annoying “bug”. Whilst file sharing can be accesses from the file menu, it doesn't actually work without installing kdenetwork-filesharing, and you will be given no prompts to install this. To install this software you will need to access the “synaptic package manager” this should have been installed by default.

You will then need to install further software to make the options usable within the network sharing setup dialogue. You will need to install NFS and SNB servers. NFS is “network file system”. SMB is short for Samba. Its a server that allows you to share your files within a Windows network. Again you will need to obtain these pieces of software and their dependencies from Synaptic package manager. I think KDE should inform you that you need to install additional software to use file sharing when you try and enable it, as opposed to doing nothing. Even providing a link to a help file would be enough. Once you have installed kdenetwork-filesharing, SNB and NFS you are good to go.

If you go into your file browser and select the folder you would like to share simply right click the folder to bring up its options menu. From the Menu select properties and select the sharing tab. You will then have the option to set up and configure file sharing. You can simply use the enable/disable check box to quickly remove the folder from the sharing pool.

If there are other systems on the network that have got sharing set up you will be able to browse these folders as if they where a part of your file system. They will be default be mounted at root/shared.

NFS in its self is an extremely useful tool. It lets you share one computers file system and allows you to browse it as if it was part of the local file system. In the past I have used NFS mounts to enable me to access multiple remote systems through one WAN IP address, NFS has many uses.

Samba is not quite as powerful, but it allows you to share folders with Windows based machines, in exactly the same way you would of you where using another Windows machine on the same network.

Remote desktop
This is something I have never really had any cause to use, but I can see reasons why this might be very useful. It could be used for providing full access to a remote system for teaching or training. It could also be used as a way of accessing software without having to run it locally. The desktop sharing utility was actually easier to use than I thought it would be. I tested it under Gnome and it worked as planned.

You need to set up the system you want to access as a server, then requests assess to this system from your other system acting as a client computer. You can do this from within Gnome by accessing preferences > Remote desktop
From there you will be presented with a form. You need to check the boxes next to enable sharing and enable control. You can also optionally ask any incoming connection to provide a password. You specify the password within the form.

The computer that wants to connect to your system will then need to access console and run the following...
vncviewer -fullscreen ip.address.of.other.machine

The computer receiving the incoming connection will have the option to allow or refuse the connection. The application used to view the remote desktop is VNC viewer. Performance was good over LAN, but connection speed would be a factor if you where to enable this over a wider network or the Internet.

Thanks to a recommendation from ergophobe [webmasterworld.com...] I how have NetBeans set up and running and have been “playing” with that for most of the day. It is a much closer match to VS.net in terms of the UI, but again there is quite a bit of a learning curve. I am still undecided between NetBeans and QT. Both are very similar, yet each has its strengths and weaknesses. To be honest I think I am the major weakness on both counts :)

It's sad to say but the main thing I miss about Windows is my games. I am a long time fan of Microsoft Flight Sim, and there really isn't a lot that can compete with that game. I have tried FlightGear and it's a nice program, but it doesn't come close to FSX.

Linux does however have a massive selection of games for you to choose from. Most Linux games are fairly simple, but a lot are also very addictive. I found a nice chess game last night and have been using that from time to time. Its fare to say through, that games are not what Linux is all about.

Its been a pretty good week so far, and I have not hit any major problems.



 10:51 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

A point about Samba - or at least, the smb4k app I'm using:

When I set up Clam for the first time it not only scanned the linux disk but also every disk on the other networked machines as well. Useful if that's how you want it but a bit of a nuisance if the other machines AV their own disks. Easy enough to block through the clam config script, of course.

I agree it could be made more obvious that something like smb4k is required on a Windows network. It knows there are Windows machines, why not mention it?

All the machines I need to access remotely are Windows (2000 intranet, 2003 internet), all with Terminal Services (I've never liked VNC on Windows: it's slow and I don't trust its integrity - in my view too many people know how to exploit it and there seem to be a lot of hack attempts). I originally used Terminal Server Client to access the remotes but after some problems with clipboard failing intermittently I followed a tip from a forum and now use Gnome-RDP. This seems to work fine.

My experience of playing audio CDs on the machine whilst I'm working is a bit frustrating. First, several of the apps I've tried seem to want to load track info from web sites, which a) I don't want and b) they get wrong, telling me that the Ring Cycle, for example, was composed by someone completely different and offering no track info at all (early CDs but no reason for not getting it right). They also assume I want to upload info about my CDs to the web site.

The other problem is that there are frequent stutters in the tracks and occasionally a CD will stop, often at the end of a track, and be a devil to re-start. When checked, System Monitor says there is no reason for this: plenty of spare memory and plenty of CPU cycles.

Tried so far: Audio CD Extractor (aka Sound Juicer), my current one; Helix, which seems to give no track info at all; Kaffeine (which I can't make work); Rythmbox (my previous one which stopped more often than SJ); VLC (which I can't get working).

On an earlier point, I don't need contact information but I do use email a lot. Since I'm familiar with Thunderbird on Windows, that's what I use on ubuntu. It works, no problems.

KAlarm works fine for the very few appointments I have (dentist, when to uploading google base, when to renew SSL certs, all long-term stuff).

Firefox with NoScript and several other add-ons for web browsing and site dev: currently have eight windows open with from four to ten tabs open in each. Again, no problem.

I'm a long time Windows user, back to V3 and MSDos almost from day 1 before that (with a brief excursion into Red Hat in early internet days), so like mack I'm channelled into the Windows mentality (I dislike most MS stuff but I was customer driven).

I require few apps but the ones I do need I use either intensively or infrequently: there is little middle ground. The advantage of ubuntu to me is a cleaner, faster environment with tools that I'm familiar with, and in two years I've required no "specialist" linux-only type of apps.

Except, like mack, I miss a few things on Windows, which I'm still forced to use as a secondary desktop machine. I never play games but I'm heavily into genealogy, which ubuntu seems poor at; otherwise I use it as a monitor / controller for my online servers. I also use it for the small amount of graphics I do, since I'm familiar with Corel Paint. Windows is also necessary for testing web sites under the excruciating MSIE.


 2:33 am on Mar 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I blinked when reading
Samba is not quite as powerful
- in what respect? I find it very powerful, esp when it comes to assigning rights to groups and users that also exist on your Windows network. Its flexibility is mainly visible from the "other" side - i.e. when you're logged on to a Win network.

Also, VNC (I use the free version of RealVNC, there are other flavors that essentially do the same thing) can be secured by letting it accept only connections from the local machine, and opening an encrypted tunnel between the two boxes that you want to connect. Like this:

VNC Client <--> localhost...[SSH tunnel]...remote host <--> VNC Server


 11:36 am on Mar 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

the other day Wheel mentioned using a paid version of linux and he thought that might account for better support with audio / video.

Very likely. I do not know what distro he uses, but, for example, the paid version of Mandriva comes with DVD player, a bunch of extra codecs from Fluendo, Flash pre-installed (along with some other proprietary stuff).

None of it is a huge problem (one-off installations, the free alternative may even be entirely legal depending on the patent laws where you live) - on the other hand paying saves you some hassle and helps fund it all.


 2:45 pm on Mar 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some of the distros also provide phone support if you buy the distro and register it. This helped me out years ago when I was just getting into Linux first time round,



 5:04 pm on Mar 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 7

This will be the final day of my week without Windows experiment, but I certainly won't be going back to Windows 100%. Tomorrow I will set up my computer to duel boot between Windows and Linux.

This past week has shown me that Linux has evolved a lot since my last attempts at using it as a desktop environment. To be honest I actually prefer using Kubuntu over Windows just now.

Why do I prefer Linux over Windows?
1)Total freedom to do what I want with the software. I can install it here, on my laptop, on a spare unused PC and not need to even think about licensing or EULA's.

2)Boot up time. From pressing the power button to having a usable system is under 30 seconds, (including time spent typing in a password).

3)Less system intensive. On my laptop the battery life is noticeably extended by running Linux as opposed to Windows

4)Customization. I feel that Gnome and KDE both lend themselves to customization levels far beyond that of Windows.

From a developer point of view I like working on Linux. Having your development environment set up and working well, and having your chosen tools on hand can be very productive. The same could be said about a Windows system. It all comes down to choice.

If you develop mainly for the Windows platform, for example if you use .net technologies them migrating to Linux certainly isn't in your interests. On the other hand if you code mainly for Linux them in my opinion it makes sense to develop on a machine that supports those technologies natively.

The downside
The biggest downside, and I don't think this matter will ever be addresses is software. If you are used to using something on Windows, there will probably not be a version for Linux. There are very good alternatives, but this involves having to re-learn and teach yourself new ways to achieve the same things Most of the large open source projects such as Open Office, The Gimp and Firefox are readily available, so for users who already made use of these tools the learning curve will be reduced.

Did I cheat?
Nope, I haven't been anywhere near a Windows PC since I started this experiment. The only thing I have missed has been my games, but in fairness not having access to them has probably increased productivity. In this week I have built a simple CMS with HTML/CSS layout, done a lot of link development for another site and wrote just over 40 pages of content. That combined with Installing Linux, configuring Apache, PHP, MySql and my tools made for quite an interesting week.

For anyone who has not tried Linux I highly recommend it. Even running Linux from a live CD or flash drive will give you a good idea of what Linux is all about. Its no longer a system for professionals, its a usable consumer system. And totally free to use as you wish.

I will write up a summary of the week, within the next few days. All in all its been enjoyable and a lot smoother than I thought it would be. I look forward to spending more time getting used to Linux in the future.



 5:45 pm on Mar 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your thorough description of what you went through during your week on Linux. Reading your posts Linux seems to have improved significantly the last few years to an OS which can be used by the average computer user with about the same functionality and user-friendliness as a Windows installation.

Hopefully you will come back in a few weeks telling which percentage of the time time you then spend on the Windows side of the dual-boot system, and which percentage on the Linux side. My experience is that because of the larger number of mature applications for Windows, I always tend to go back to the Microsoft part of my dual-boot system, even if I don't really want to.


 4:58 am on Mar 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

There are very good alternatives, but this involves having to re-learn and teach yourself new ways to achieve the same things

That is a one-off. The best way is to go cold turkey on Windows.

Also, why dual boot rather than WINE (if it works for your apps) or running Windows in a VM?

One group of users for whom Linux is now very well suited are those with simple needs (e.g. people who just need a web browser, an email client, a word-processor and a media player). It easy to secure and auto updates.

Its a lot harder for people like those of using here to switch OSes because of the time we invest in learnings the tools we use - on the other hand, a lot of us will be using Linux or Unix server anyway.

One more thing. A lot of people seem to think that Linux means Ubuntu. There are a bunch of other desktop oriented distros including Mandriva (which I use), Mepis, PCLinuxOS and SuSE (Novell), some geekier ones that make good desktops if you learn them (I plan to eventually switch to Chakra/Arch), and a lot of fast and lightweight ones (for old hardware or speed freaks).

One things about the four points you list in favour of Linux, is that, apart from boot time, few people realise how much difference they makes until they have tried it. I am surprised you left out easy software installation, which is the biggest single advantage for me.


 1:58 pm on Mar 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Someone noted above about paid version. Yes, I'm using Mandriva. The few bucks I pay every year for the paid version gives me access to the latest releases, faster downloads, and easier access to some upgrades as noted above. None of those are realistically worth very much these days. I primarily pay to salve my conscience that I'm not freeloading quite as badly. Though honestly, given what I get (multiple PC licenses, multiple servers licenses, licenses for my mother's and sister's computer....).

Mack, rather than dual booting, look into virtualbox. You can install windows natively (you'll need the window's cd's) right inside linux. So it runs as an app. Downside, with one OS running inside another I've found it lags. Upside, no dual booting, I've found dual booting to be a pain. If you're only running the occassional windows app, it's nice to just open a window, run it, then close windows. And because it's just another app, installing virtualbox will be less intrusive than restarting an install with a dual boot.

In terms of the remote desktop, running gui programs through an ssh shell is awesome. Because I run the same versions of linux on my desktop and my servers, I just open an ssh terminal on my server, type in the name of the admin gui, and I'm administering my servers remotely with a gui - with no gui installed on the server. I don't know if Windows has a similiar feature, but it's a great advantage to working on servers under linux.


 5:41 pm on Mar 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Strangely enough I haven't bothered getting My Windows disk back up and running, Dare I say.. Day 8 :)



 10:47 pm on Mar 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wheel - just a note on my own experience of ssh.

I installed ssh on a remote Windows 2003 server with the intention of using my linux machine as an automatic backup download controller. Less than an hour after installing ssh on Windows it was hit by potential exploiters. Within another hour it had been hit hundreds of times at non-stop sub-second intervals. Nothing got through because of strong passwording but it was scary.

I closed the port again (Windows Policy) and haven't gone back to it. I know I should sometime but at present I still don't have time to find out how to harden the Windows installation (presumably using alternative ports etc).


 12:01 am on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Mack... thanks for the report. I've a spare machine getting a bit long in the tooth I just might turn into a linux box and see what happens.

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