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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 :)




 9:24 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Welcome to Linux! I swapped out XP for Ubuntu a year or two ago. I have not gone back since!

The nice part (for me) is how I can map a virtual SSH drive to my server(s). No more remote shell/FTPing files. I simply open a folder that is already securely mounted to my remote servers and I can work on my server like it is local. Very nice.

Good luck this week! =)

brotherhood of LAN

 9:40 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've been using Ubuntu for a while now, my only gripe has been the update manager causing hassles, otherwise I love it.

The online community is strong, searching for software or command line snippets usually results in a quick answer.

I think you'll not run into any major problems in the week mack...


 9:51 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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.

Linux lost the desktop wars to Windows and Macintosh, period.

Mainstream computer users that just want to get their work done won't switch to Linux. This is a fact with Windows when users compare the prices of brand new PCs fully loaded with Microsoft Office vs the prices of PCs to be used with Linux.

Windows 7 beats Linux in terms of user interface and Linux will never catch up as it has constrains in terms of GUI copyrights. Linux distributions in the US won't dare to match the Windows XP or Windows 7 GUI.

In regard to office apps, mainstream computers in the business world won't accept anything else than Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

[edited by: tedster at 1:17 am (utc) on Mar 9, 2010]
[edit reason] fixed the quote box [/edit]


 10:50 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am some years Ubuntu-only now. Its different from Windows, Problems are different.

A plus for web dev is that the local PC runs the same system and setup as the server.

As for software, never download any executable from the web and click on it, like a "Setup.exe" on Windows. Exclusively go via "Applications -> Add/Remove", click on the Program to install and the system does the downloading and installs any required additional software. Updates for each installed program are done automatically. So there are no individual Programs checking for their own "Updates" all the time.


 10:54 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Windows 7 beats Linux in terms of user interface and Linux will never catch up

All I can say is you haven't used Linux in a while :)



 11:01 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

mack - thanks for doing this for us. I first attempted this move with Red Hat about 10 years ago on an MSI 694D machine (2 CPUs). I purchased a second hard drive and changed the boot order in BIOS. I gave up on that installation and later moved on to several more flavors of Linux.

Keep us posted.


 11:26 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

BillyS, I was in the same boat about a decade ago. Tried Suse and Redhat. They both worked to varying levels of success but I never quite managed to get things working exactly as I wanted. I think A lot of people who experimented "back in the day" will still be cautious due to past experiences, but things have sure changed a lot.

I remember spending days trying to get my Suse 8.0 install to connect through a dial up modem.



 11:41 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Windows 7 beats Linux in terms of user interface and Linux will never catch up as it has constrains in terms of GUI copyrights.

Who said that's a bad thing?

All the latest and greatest GUI simply requires more and more horsepower to the point you need to upgrade your hardware in order to run the stuff, most of which is mere CPU time-wasting fluff.

Nothing that's actually useful or needed has really changed since Windows 3.0 for the most part and it ran smoothly on a 386. Besides, the new overhyped Windows "snap" feature was in Win 3.x on a menu called TILE. You could tile your open apps vertically or horizontally to fill the screen. Big whoop and >SNAP!< on that!

I do find some of the Open Source stuff on Linux with the old-style menus like Open Office looking a bit dated but I'm finding it works well and I'm not missing the new graphics menus at all.


 11:58 pm on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I did a little playing about with the 3D cube/sphere effects. With that in mind you could say the GUI is actually ahead of Windows, but does it help with productivity? Not really. It can be a neat effect if you want to switch between your desktop with a mouse gesture, but eye candy isn't for everyone.



 1:28 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interesting read. I have ubuntu installed as virtual machine, as I am not ready to give up on windows, nor do I have the time to switch fully as I can't be hard down for any amount of time, whcih oddly enough I have not been with windows 7 so far...
I look forward to running a *nix box sometime soon, the time I've spent on it was pleasant and the install was quite smooth, but I'm a gamer at heart, and that's the main reason for not switching yet.


 2:49 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Linux lost the desktop wars to Windows and Macintosh, period.

Mainstream computer users that just want to get their work done won't switch to Linux. This is a fact with Windows when users compare the prices of brand new PCs fully loaded with Microsoft Office vs the prices of PCs to be used with Linux.

Windows 7 beats Linux in terms of user interface and Linux will never catch up as it has constrains in terms of GUI copyrights. Linux distributions in the US won't dare to match the Windows XP or Windows 7 GUI.

In regard to office apps, mainstream computers in the business world won't accept anything else than Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

Not to start the old flame war, but all of your points were valid 5 years ago. Most of them are not true today. Linux is arguably comparable to MS products at a minimum and better in some respects. It's probably as good as macs are supposed to be.

And I don't want to derail this thread, but you'll notice what the OP has to say about hardware. Linux users don't need to buy new hardware when they upgrade their OS, so comparing new PC buyers isn't a fair comparison.

The only thing linux fails at is market penetration. That's continues to proceed at a snails pace for reasons we can all argue about - as long as it's not that linux is feature or usability deficient. And until something reaches the tipping point, that will continue to be the case. Of course, most folks will agree that macs are better machines and have been for many years, and they are also still 'also-rans' in the OS field.

Back to the OP, it'll be interesting to see what happens when you need to run a windows app. It can happen - and then there are some more choices to make.

Also would be interesting to know if you're doing any web work, and if so, if you're doing stuff like running apache and mysql locally as a testing environment.


 7:22 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

An easy way to install Unbuntu is by using Wubi:

Works a treat. I have Unbuntu on one of my backup laptops. Very impressive.



 7:44 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

In regard to office apps, mainstream computers in the business world won't accept anything else than Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

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

Worked for Lotus, was part of their GUI team, and our dept. used MS Word and Excel at the time because the Lotus Windows office suite stunk.

However, my Vista machine runs Open Office, all my MS Word docs display, edit and print properly, my slide shows work fine and my last PubCon presentation was done in Impress, which worked perfectly fine.

My daughter and fiancee let their pre-installed Office trial expire and now run Open Office as well and so does everyone else I point to Open Office.

It's inevitable, the free tools are good enough now that I don't feel obligated to feed the M$ machine, nor do others.

As part of "a week without Windows", I've been almost a YEAR without Office, a tool I used for most of my adult life and evangelized it, and don't miss it whatsoever now that something free and complete has come along to replace it circa the Office '95 version.

There's only one tool I use that doesn't exist on Linux AFAIK and the minute I find a suitable replacement >POOF!< I'm on Ubuntu.

BTW, remember the Walmart $200 Ubuntu gPC that flew off the shelves?

People that just wanted a basic computer and a web/email appliance snapped that cheap machine up.

That's what we're talking about.

Often, less is more for the right audience.


 11:37 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's only one tool I use that doesn't exist on Linux AFAIK and the minute I find a suitable replacement >POOF!< I'm on Ubuntu.

What tool is that?


 11:41 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I use Windows for playing games, movies, and testing websites in the browsers a lot of my visitors will use. I use Ubuntu for everything work related.

I switched a year or two, maybe even three, ago. I'd started playing with Ubuntu on an extra computer and had my main Windows system croak on me. I was forced to use the dinosaur computer until I was able to get a new system and ended up just sticking with Ubuntu when I discovered I was able to be more productive on the Ubuntu setup.


 1:22 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

There is an interesting extra feature to the Windows-Linux conundrum in the UK: Microsoft has managed to infiltrate itself so completely into the Government/Health/Business nexus that there is very little Linux usage for anyone that will be employed. I stick with Windows not because I want to, but because I have to.


 1:37 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

AlexK points out what we all know is a very large barrier to widespread use of Linux. Corporate organizations are very slow to introduce new technology. For example, our standard is still Windows XP and MS Office 2003. So these same workers look for "compatibility" with their home machines.


 1:54 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

If memory serves the tile feature in Windows 3.0 tiled all of the top level windows currently open. The Windows 7 snap feature gives you control of which two windows you want side-by-side. Not a big deal of a feature but surprisingly useful.


 3:56 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

For those netbook users out there, Ubuntu makes a nice netbook friendly version called "Remix" that is pretty nice. Single click interface/icons, scaled to fit a netbook screen.


 4:38 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 2

Today I feel a lot more comfortable using the OS than I did yesterday. On my laptop Linux is simply used for surfing and email. I have had to set the desktop up in a way that allows me to be productive. Because I do a lot of development work using PHP/MySql it was vital that I had not only the tools but also the development environment set up. On my windows machine I achieve this by installing Xampp. The same option is true on Linux, but I decided to see what I could install through the package managers that are included along with Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu distribution comes with two package managers. “Ubuntu software center” and “Synaptic package manager” Ubuntu software center reminds me a lot of an on-line apps store. Similar to what you would use on an iPhone or through the Android market to obtain apps. You browse applications by category and choose that apps you would like to install. It also displays your installed apps with the option to remove them. When ever you install an application the package manage detects any dependencies and installs they along with your chosen app, The Ubuntu software center contains popular applications. However if you are looking for something more specialized then the Synaptic package manager is where you should look. I simply typed in apache and it located apache 2 and its dependencies and market them to be installed. I did the same for PHP and MySql. I also installed Phpmyadmin. The install went very smooth and after it had finished I was able to go to localhost and see the test page.

By default Apache creates its document root at var/www For a single user system this wouldn't be a problem. All I need to do is create the root of my work at that location, or so I thought!

Ever tried being logged in as a user and trying to save anything that far down the file system :) It wasn't a fun experience. It was possible using shell, but not practical. What I did was create a virtual host entry to point www root to home/mack/Public_html There are GUI based tools that will do this for you, but the entry below works fine for me.

<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerName mack
DocumentRoot /home/mack/Public_html
ServerAdmin mack@localhost
LogLevel debug
ServerSignature off
<Directory /home/mack/Public_html>

Now when I browse to localhost I see the contents of home/mack/Public_html. Note this directory doesn't exist by default and I had to create it. I now have a work space and an HTTP server to display it. Now its time to check that PHP and MySql are working as billed.

localhost/phpmyadmin brings up my standard phpmyadmin page and I am able to connect to the DB as normal.

I then ran an extremely complicated php script :)

echo"Yay! php is working";

This echoed my text and displayed the system info related to PHP. As far as I am concerned I now have a local development environment set up and running. Now its time to actually do some work.

A new site that I am working on is PHP/MySql based. The project requires a fairly simple CMS like system so I guess its time to get to work, but first I need to work out what tools to use. On Windows I general use Expressions Web. I like it because it uses one interface for multiple languages. I also use notepad and have experience with “PHP Edit” and various other text editing packages. Under Linux in the past I have used “Quanta “ and “Blue Fish” Both of these are available through the Ubuntu software center so I have downloaded and installed them.

Everything on Linux comes down to personal choice and for me I like the interface that Blue Fish offers. The simple menu system for inserting code snippets is impressive. For example if you want to connect to a MySql database from within Blue Fish all you need to do is select the PHP tab, select MySql > Connect. Fill out the blanks and it places your connection string within the code. Bluefish also works well for editing/creating HTML/CSS, but you do need to have an understanding of what you are doing. There are menus for adding code snippets, but the majority of your work will be hand coding. I don't think there is a true WYSIWYG HTML editor for Linux, but perhaps that isn't a bad thing. You learn as you go.

Today has been mainly set up. Getting the Linux OS set up as a development environment. But I did manage to get a few hrs of work done. I now have the rough layout for the site, I have the database structure set up and have done a little bit of work on the administration side. Today wasn't quite as productive as I had hoped, but I think the time spend getting things working correctly was time well spent.



 5:23 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have been using Linux Mint which is 98% Ubuntu and 2% eye candy.

You can set it up to look just like OSX with a dock and everything or you can set it up to look like windows.


The only time I use windows is for my Adobe CS3 and I still do web-surfing when working from my "design" box.

The thing I love most is writing little utils in Python that make my word load so much easier to manage.


 6:20 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the beauty of a (yet) hack-free OS.

You'll see that it isn't that hard after all.

The only issue you might have is Flash; being a proprietary system it is giving Ubuntu some headaches, because everything that ships on the Ubuntu install image has to be non-proprietary or free.

Follow this thread for installing a flash plugin/player that works. And bookmark it, it's an amazing thread: [ubuntuforums.org...]


 6:34 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Regarding flash etc there is a package in Ubuntu software center called restricted extras. Install that and you have support for most media types including flash and Windows audio formats.



 10:26 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

>>WYSIWYG HTML editor for Linux

Kompozer has a Ubuntu-specific build. Does that count?

If you wanted a full-featured IDE, both Netbeans and Eclipse should run on Ubuntu.


 10:38 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good work for day 2 - doesn't sound like you lost too much ground.


 10:39 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've been using Ubuntu for a couple of years now and my editor has become BlueFish (the only hack was that I added the colour coding for Classic ASP Vbscript).
I still use HeidiSQL (running thanks to WINE) - haven't found a better MySQL client.

I have to say that Homesite was my favourite editor, but since that's gone the way of the Dinosaur, I probably had to move anyway.

The only time that I still use Windows is to administer MSSQL - I haven't found a substitute for MS' tools yet. That and Cubase (but that's not really relevant to this forum).


 4:40 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Day 3

Today has been a lot more productive. The development environment I set up yesterday is working very well. Having Apache, MySql and PHP on a Linux computer is about as close as you can get to your web hosting environment. I spend the early part of today using “Blue Fish” to finish my layout. All I am really doing is creating a template that will be used by my PHP script.

When ever I am working with PHP and a layout I always create a full template then split it out into header and footer files. Many people simply think the header is what is displayed at the top and footer is what is displayed at the bottom. If you have a template and know where your content will go simply use everything in HTML above the content as header and everything below the content as footer. Its a quick and simple way to use a layout with PHP.

Bluefish is a nice editor, if you already have a fairly good understanding of HTML/CSS. This may pose a bit of a problem to newbies, but I think if anything it gives you a lot more potential to learn. In a Windows environment there are a lot of good WYSIWYG editors. They help with productivity, but they also hinder your learning experience. As you point and click do you really know whats going on behind the scenes? I know any good developer will check code view and carry out any fixes, but if you where learning to design pages, what will keep you right?

With blue Fish there is no point and click. If you want it to do something you have to create the code. The editor does help you by streamlining the process, but at the end of the day you are learning to use REAL CODE. I already feel as if I am getting out of some bad habits.

One small annoyance I discovered in Blue Fish is the preview in browser button doesn't work. To be honest this isn't much of an issue. All you need to do is start your browser and go to localhost. Every time you make a save and want to view your changes simple click refresh on the browser.

For part of the layout I needed to create a simple logo. For this I was able to use “The Gimp” To be honest when you are inside the Gimp's UI you could easily forget you are not using a Windows based machine.

Eye candy
I have always been the type of person who enjoys a fairly minimalistic interface, but I have to admit I do like the 3D desktop effects that are available through Gnome or KDE. If you're anything like me you will probably have about a dozen applications open at a time, and sometimes this can get a little bit confusing. I have been “playing” around with Compiz fusion and I have to say I am impressed. It has to be said a lot of these type of interfaces are designed to be eye candy, and may not be embraced by the power user, but having the ability to simple view all your desktops in a 3D environment and pan around to what you want is in my opinion a great tool.

On my laptop install the usability of Compiz is very limited due to the systems hardware, on my main machine it runs very well. You can view all your desktop work spaces in a cube or sphere view and use the mouse to navigate to the desktop you want to use. You can also use a 3D flip effect to sort through open applications/documents. You can take it a stage further by setting a sky dome as your 3D background, but for me I just like the “basic” ability to treat my four virtual desktops as one large 3D desktop.

Data backup
This is something that cant be stressed enough. Linux is just like any other system. If your hard disk goes the chances are you have lost your data. To be honest there isn't a lot that I need to backup yet, so I have simple make a copy of my Public_html folder do flash media. This is a very simple process, it is almost the same procedure you would use within a Windows environment. Plug in your flash drive, when it is connected the OS will detect it and alert you to the new drive that has been mounted.

You can then access the drive using a file explorer. The default file explorer that runs from KDE is “Dolphin” it is actually very user friendly, and simple to use. Anyone who has used Windows Explorer will have no problems using Dolphin.

So far I have had no problems connecting devices to my system. My flash media was detected by the system as was my memory card reader.

I did however have a bit of a brain failure late on last night and wrongly blamed the OS for my own stupidity. :)

I was trying to play a DVD and for some reason my DVD drive wasn't being mounted. I spent about an hour debugging this issue before realizing my DVD rom was SATA and I had not enabled SATA/ATA within my bios. Once this was connected the drive was recognized right away by the OS.

Playing DVD media
Anyone who has used Linux in the past will probably have experienced problems playing DVD's. A DVD will play with no system modifications required if it is not encrypted, but lets face it all commercial DVD's are encrypted to limit the issue of piracy and to restrict the devices that can play the media.

In the latest Ubuntu build the same problems exist but there is however a very simple workaround. Simple open a console and run the following

$ sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2 && sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/./install-css.sh

You will be asked for your user password unless you are already logged in as su

Once you have done this you may need to restart your system, but you should now be able to play commercial DVD's. Many people will probably wonder, “Why doesn't this just work, it does with Windows?” This is a very good question. The answer comes down to the price you have paid for your OS. With Microsoft Windows you will have support for most media out of the box, because you have paid for it when you licensed your copy of Windows. Most Linux distributors are simply not allowed to freely ship the software required to enable instant support for DVD and other media types.

There is a packages called “Ubuntu restricted extras” and “Kubuntu restricted extras” within the Ubuntu software manager. When you install these you will get immediate support for a wide range of media formats such as Mp3 and flash.

I have to admit I am quite a keen gamer on my Windows machine, and to be honest my games are the only thing I am missing. I am a long time fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator, have been since 2000. If only that would run under Wine hehe

So far happy!



 6:19 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Data backup

"rsync" is a command line tool to synchronize folders. Works locally and remotely (ie to synchronize server and local backup). It transfers only the actual changes within each file, so is very low on bandwidth. As it can be controlled via command line, you can automate it with "cron" to run ever few hours or days. There are some GUI versions too, I think.

But then, maybe there is a Windows version of rsync too?


 6:29 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have used rsync in the past to do full disk cloning and backing up pretty huge mysql databases 100 gig +. Its a very handy tool to have at your disposal.


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