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8 years of using Linux as my daily drive.

     
10:35 am on Aug 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Quite some time ago I wrote this post…
[webmasterworld.com...] (A week without Microsoft Windows)

I decided to spend a week using Linux as opposed to the Microsoft Windows operating system that I had been using since Windows 95. I used that thread to document my progress and explain what tools and software I was using under Linux to carry out my daily tasks.

That thread is now 8 years old and I feel it’s time to revisit the topic because my journey didn’t end when that week was over, far from it. I became a full-time Linux user.

My current home/office setup consists of a desktop running Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE desktop). My laptop running Kubuntu a couple of phones and tablets all running Android and a LAN server running Ubuntu Server.

The server acts like a web server for developing projects on, I have also set up NFS (Network file system) so that files can simply be dragged from the laptop or desktop to a folder on the server. This is a fairly simple method of backing those systems up, although It’s not enough. The server also has a 2nd HDD that is purely used for storage. I have a script that runs nightly on a cron to create a folder and copy the contents of disk 1 backups and the systems own home folder.

It simply creates a folder called [unix-timestamp] with the backed up files in there. I manually delete these folders as they get outdated to save disk space.

What do I do now compared to then?
Back then I was a designer/Developer and I mainly worked on my own projects although I did have client work as well. Now I continue to work mainly on my own projects, but I am a lot less of a designer. I am still a back-end developer, but I tend to use frameworks or outsource the design stuff.

What tools do I use?

Browsing the web
For surfing my default browser is Firefox. Firefox developers have not focused purely on Windows, every release is also available for Linux and Mac. They have been releasing in parallel for years.

Email
I use Thunderbird email client. It is also from Mozilla (they create Firefox) and I have found it to be very useful and stable. There are other email clients that do perhaps have better integration with a contact manager, but it works for me. It’s light, not obtrusive and just does what I want it to.

Text Editor
When referring to plain text editors people will always think of Notepad. On many Linux distributions, the default tool for .txt files will be Kate. It’s just a simple text editor. The developers have tried to “up the game” with features like projects where you can assign groups of files and tab views where you can open multiple documents.

For an extremely easy way to edit a text document, there are also many tools available through the console (Think command prompt). This sounds daunting and challenging, but after a while, in Linux, the console just becomes another tool to help you get things done.

Code Editor
I only code in HTML/CSS and PHP so my needs aren't that great. I use an IDE called Bluefish for all my coding needs.
It can be great for simply opening a script file and making an edit right down to creating a project from the ground up. It’s good being able to see the project tree to the left whilst having tabs of files open in the main pane. If your needs are much more advanced and you need to be able to work on larger more advanced projects Java, C, Python etc there are many more full-featured IDE’s out there such as Eclipse or Netbeans.

FTP Client
I use Filezilla for FTP, or in my case SFTP. (Secure FTP) There is no reason not to use SFTP in this day and age. If your host doesn’t support it, Move to one that does. The files you upload on a daily basis contain some fairly sensitive information. Think of a database config file with a username and password.

I use FTP for moving files to and from various hosts including my LAN server.

Office
I currently use LibreOffice. When I first became a Linux user OpenOffice was the typical office suite. Libre Office is a port of Open Office and from the user interface point of view, they are almost identical. It’s under the skin where we see real improvements. More reliable and more secure.

On a windows machine, you will typically use Microsoft Office. How does Libra office compare and what files can it work with?

Text-based documents:
Libre Office Writer, This can open or edit documents created with Microsoft Office. It can also save files with an extension that can be understood and opened by Microsoft Office.

Spreadsheets:
Calc is the default tool for opening such documents under LibreOffice. It has a very similar look and feel to Excel and they can open, edit and save the same file types.

Database:
Under Microsoft Office, users will be familiar with Access. With LibreOffice, there is a database package called “Base”. Both do a similar function, just in a very different way.

Presentations:
LibreOffice boasts “Impress” as an alternative to Powerpoint. They are very compatible. Under Impress you can open, edit and save a .ppt file.

Many of the tools available under LibreOffice (Or OpenOffice) are designed to offer a direct replacement for various items in the Microsoft toolchain. The ability to create and edit files that can later be opened and accessed by Microsoft users in no doubt a key consideration.

Under LibreOffice we also have the following…

Draw: For creating graphical documents

Math: Formula editor (for documents, spreadsheets and presentations)

The one area where I think Libra office could improve is far better integration with an email system. Think about how well-integrated Outlook is with Microsoft Office.

Linux has certainly changed a lot since I first tried it back in the dark ages. Now it is certainly a viable alternative for the home user.

Mack.
6:42 pm on Aug 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Blender is the kind of software that I love, and hype me, but, I never succeeded to do anything with it :) Also, in my everyday life , I do not have a use of it, but I wish I could take the time to learn to use it, it looks amazing.
8:06 pm on Aug 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yea I would really like to be able to use Blender well. There are loads of good tutorials on Youtube. I once made a simple animation. I planned to use it as an intro for videos I put on Youtube, but the finished item wasn't good enough. Nothing to do with Blender, just me not making it good enough :-)

I tried using the blender game engine once. It's actually good but has limitations.

Mack.
12:19 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Where you can see that Linux is better at exploiting the resources of a computer than Windows (at least for wed dev), if you run your site on the same computer under windows and linux, dynamic pages are generated much faster under Linux. (same cpu,ram,hard disk, same version of apache, nginx, php, mysql/mariadb, etc...)
5:12 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'm a Windows web server user that's only recently begun moving sites to Linux/PHP on a shared hosting plan (yuck). My problem is, whenever I start looking to have a dedicated cloud web server through my host built around Linux, they offer all these weirdly-named "flavors" that don't mean anything to me.

How does one even begin to decide which "flavor" they should use for basic web serving (using databases)?

The offerings include CentOS, CoreOS, Debian, Fedora, Scientific Linux, Ubuntu and Vyatta. What's a good, basic intuitive Linux OS to start with?

I'd love to progress to being strictly Linux/PHP but that world seems like a Wild West where anything goes and if you didn't get starting with it early on, the transition seems complicated when you've only ever known Windows and IIS.
5:31 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Go with CentOS..it is what most of the hosting companies uses themselves..
5:33 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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And..you can get a copy of CentOS and install it on your own dev box at home to play around with and get used to it..
7:02 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think CentOS is the one that supports cPanel, a popular standard administration panel for web hosting. If you don't care about that and want to manage things yourself, I think Ubuntu is a popular choice on VPS. As for PHP programming, it's the same on all Linux flavors, with a few differences with Windows (some functions about localization that are not compatible, etc). I normally develop locally on Windows with AMP (Apache, MySQL, PHP) with the WAMP application and host on Linux shared hosting with few issues.
10:31 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Ah okay, that is all VERY good to know - thank you all! I've grown accustomed to cPanel through my shared hosting plan so I think I should stay that route going forward.
11:04 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Bear in mind, cpanel on a shared account is often free ( included with the account ) , but on a dedicated server it is WHM ( web host manager ) which allows hosting companies to have multiple cpanel accounts on that server (, each independent of the others ..WHM is usually ( but not always ) charged as an extra when renting a dedicated server..You might also want to look into a VPS ( virtual private server )..not much more than a shared plan, less than a dedicated server, usually comes with a control panel of some sort ( frequently a WHM with the ability to have a set number of cpanel accounts included )..watch out for bandwidth restrictions, ( some server and VPS plans do not allow much traffic before being charged for "overages" ) account size ( data space on hard-drive ) is not so important unless you have a large site ( ram and CPU speed are also important )..if you have the choice between spinning rust and SSD..Get SSD..it is faster on servers as it is on local machines..
4:02 pm on Aug 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If you need a control panel on a "home box" there is always Webmin. The user interface is different to cpanel and WHM but lets you get the job done without needing to get your hands dirty, although getting your hands dirty in the console isn't always a bad thing.

As has been mentioned you can run a Linux box at home in lesser hardware, so an old system can easily be "recycled" as a test/dev server. Having the same OS environment as your host always makes sense.

Mack.
4:58 am on Aug 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Just converted my wife to 100% Linux last year at about this time. I've been running it full time since 2009 - In the beginning I would set up the dual-boot - Started doing that in 2004.
I ran with Firefox until about version 56 or so. It had become such a resource hog by then (even on Linux) that I just started using chromium. I've used Thunderbird forever it seems.

I don't use an ftp client. I just run it directly. Though I still have Macromedia Dreamweaver (MX 2004) installed in WINE, I mostly just use the Text Editor whilst coding. Took me about 9 weeks, through trial and error, total to install all of the libraries and other dependencies needed to run an older version of Photoshop in WINE (Photoshop CS2) but I've been farming out the graphics lately so I barely even use that as well. (One day I'll write a piece on just exactly what libraries and other dependencies WINE needs in order to run the version of Photoshop I'm running). GIMP is nice, and I use it on occasion.

Right now we're running Linux Mint (cinnamon) kernel 4.15.10 and my wife is using it skinned with windows 10.

In 2012 I started to refurbish PC's and Laptops (plus offered repair services) so I still keep a version or two of Windows around (windows 7 and 10).
5:12 am on Aug 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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mcneely, for my very old laptop, I found the Mate version of Linux Mint to be snappier and less resources hungry than Cinnamon, which tended to heat it up too much and sometimes crashed.
5:40 am on Aug 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I found the Mate version of Linux Mint to be snappier and less resources hungry than Cinnamon


I agree. 32 bit Cinnamon can be somewhat of a drag on resources. MATE, Lubuntu, and Puppy Linux can all provide a fairly decent user experience for those older machines. I've got an older 32 bit MSI Netbook that runs Cinnamon with an AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 processor in it and that's about as far as it gets. Anything less than that would do much better with MATE.

All of our other machines are 64 bit I3's and I5's, so using Cinnamon on those is like a walk in the park.
10:58 am on Aug 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@CommandDork there is more help and documentation for the popular distros, and you want something relatively easy so that really cuts it down from that list to CentOS and Debian.

My opinion about CPanel is that in the long run the command line is easier to use and more flexible and better documented.
1:53 pm on Sept 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Understood and thanks all. This points me in the right direction.
12:40 pm on Sept 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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heh... Then there's FreeBSD.
1:37 pm on Sept 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If you do think of using FreeBSD..if not as a server , maybe as a desktop / laptop OS.
You might begin by reading this..re the similarities and differences between FreeBSD and linux..
[digitalocean.com...]
3:32 pm on Sept 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yes, and the philosophy and licensing differences do matter. For example, Apple were able to use large chunks of BSD in their closed/proprietary OS, which do matter.

Some linux distros have a more BSD like philosophy in terms of keeping things like upstream.

I did not know about the difference in shells. In any case I prefer zsh to either bash or tcsh. Also the shell you use for shell scripts does not have to be what you use in a terminal: a shell script will specify what shell if calls.
4:08 pm on Sept 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Ubuntu user here, I'd maybe switch to Debian due to familiarity.

The latest tool I've been using is Vagrant (available on multiple OS's) which... basically gives you the choice of running lots of virtual OS's. I've just been using it for a virtual Debian setup so I can keep track of what dependencies have been installed.
4:56 pm on Sept 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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<aside>"vagrant"
the word always bring back the superb performance of Patricia ( "I am not the vagrant" ) Hayes in Edna, the Inebriate Woman
[imdb.com...]
Watch it..weep..

She will always own that word..lovely woman..
</aside>
5:32 pm on Sept 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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<aside>
The original use of the word is something I haven't heard in a long time.

Still, there are some quirky names for playing with programs, right enough. You have to watch which crowds you mention 'playing around in gimp' to.
/
5:47 pm on Sept 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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:)
7:30 am on Sept 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I set up a machine with Mandrake about 15 years ago, and I enjoyed using it but for one tiny little problem... I had to keep flipping back over to Windows to make sure that everything I built looked right. So when I got a new laptop, it was just too much trouble to set up the dual boot; if I was having to flip back to Windows, anyway, then it was easier to just stay there.

So for those of you that are developing websites on your Linux machine, do you still have to have a Windows dual boot? If not, how do you ensure that everything looks right on Windows? Or are you just that confident? lol

I really need to update from Windows 7 to Win 10, but honestly, I don't have the time and I'd love to not have to deal with it. Since I use CentOS for the managed server, it would make a lot more sense to use Linux or CentOS on the development machine, too.

This might sound bad, but the worst part about using Mandrake to me was that my old Paint Shop Pro 4.12 wouldn't transfer over. I know, I know... Gimp is great, but it's waaay too bulky for 99.999% of my needs. PSP 4 is only about 1MB in size and has all of the features I ever really use :-) I just checked, and I have 14 photo editors installed on my laptop, but I haven't use anything but PSP 4 in well over a year.
4:23 pm on Sept 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Regarding seeing what a site will look like on other systems. You can have a native install of Firefox and Chrome. Edge will run under wine (I believe) if you need that for testing purposes.

Regarding PSP and Gimp. This is another area of user choice. I have been using gimp for years and can't imagine using anything else, in your case, it appears to be the opposite. That might be enough of a reason for you to retain Windows if you have software that you want to keep using.

I think the key is to have a system that does exactly what you need it to do regardless of the OS.

Mack.
5:38 pm on Sept 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'd be amazed if you cant run PSP4 on a linux install nowadays..PSP 7 will run on mint using wine.
re ..Checking "How do sites look on windows?"
i dont dual boot
( I have enough machines not to need to..But the windows machines are never allowed to connect to the internet, life is too short )
One windows machine runs XP pro SP3 ..because it is the only one that can talk to an old HP Deskjet printer, which is very economical on ink..
The others run Win7 Ulti..both are kept for "batching photos" with DXO..
One of them has a Bitnami install ( you can also run Bitnami from a thumb drive ..btw ..it is freeware ) of an apache server.
I copy sites into it and check display there..

No intention of downgrading either of those machines to win10..

To see how sites look on Edge ( or whatever MS are going to foist upon the world next ) , I put them on a server under password ( amongst other things ) protected access..and then go visit one of the people whose Win machines I take care of ( back up, fix, clean the crap out etc ..done for free ) , then "log in " to the staging site and verify it all works and looks how I want..

Likewise with mac.. I don't own a mac..( I like to be able to "work under the hood" of whatever I have )..But I know people who do..

If you do go the dual boot road..
Bear in mind that you must do it in the following order..
you must have the win ( whatever ) in place first..and then install the "nix" whatever along side it..that way when you boot the box you'll be able to choose which OS to boot into..
If you have the "nix" installed first, when you install the "Win"..it will wipe the "nix" install..it will treat it as "free space" and write itself over the top..
You could also try "a virtual machine" installation..Install a "virtual machine" on your win box and then install "nix" into that..
If you do that..the virtual machine will run more slowly than it would if it was installed directly..
5:48 pm on Sept 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I forgot..I do have a laptop ( haven't used it in ages ) that has a Vlited version I made of win7 Ulti*..that can connect to the innerwebs ,..
( it is locked down, but if it caught "a nasty" , I can reinstall it in 15 minutes )
I have used that in the past to check that all was behaving as it should on sites..

I have another laptop with a version of XP that I nlited down to 128 MB ..that installs in less than 10 minutes..runs on only 32MB of RAM too :)..That is useful for checking things against those who have really old versions of XP / IE..but then as really old versions can't do SNI..I don't really care about them..

I care more about the Mac users..
Anyone who has a Mac has money ( or had ..they are not cheap ), likewise any other Apple gear..
When part of your business is creating, making , and selling "luxury products"..
Apple owners are an important part of the market..They usually have more disposable income than Win ( whatever owners ) ..
12:19 am on Sept 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Made a little bit of a change to my setup today (quite a big one actually) My backup process of now Rsync based. For those who don't know what Rsync is, it's a remote synchronisation utility that syncronises files over a network. It can be a local network or over the internet. It's a very powerful and useful tool. The key word to note is synchronisation. It doesn't just copy your files to a remote location, it syncronises, so it only copies new files or files that have changed. My previous solution was not very efficient.

The process is still manually controlled. It could be automated, but I have been manually backing up for decades so at least when I do it, I know it has been done.

I run the command to synchronise my home directory onto another system (old pc running ubuntu server). Once that part is finished I then run a 2nd command make a compressed copy of that backup and copy the archive to the 2nd HDD on the server. It saves it as the date stamp. That way if I need to I can recover data from a specific date.

One thing I do that many of you may disagree with is allow deleted files to be removed from the target machine during synchronization. My thinking behind this is a file that has been removed was removed for a reason. If I really do wish to recover it I can always go back into an earlier archive. I try to keep the synced backup as closely paired to the live system as possible. If I just kept every file and never remove deleted files from the backups it would be difficult to manage in the event I needed to run a restore.

The command I run also excludes all .profile files and folders. I do this because I back this data up separately once a month. The profile files and folders allow you to recover application settings very quickly.

In theory, I can now have an OS or hardware failure. Get a clean install and simply push the files and folders back into my home directory simply by issuing a command on the server.

Mack.
2:09 am on Sept 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I agree with you about the "deleted" files, otherwise the total file space just keeps growing like Topsy and I already have two boxen with 12 Terra in each and more in others..I found another a machine this afternoon that I had forgotten all about..I think I might follow your lead there and put it in the outhouse, run some "blindé" cat45 out to it and rsync to it for "in case of fire"..Now to see how many multi Terra drives I can fit into it..

Do you find that compressing really gains you that much space..? I suppose it depends on what file types are in there prior to compression..and what the compression system is..I have some old XP versions around that were compressed down to 10MB that expand back up to huge, and at least on win7 That is 100MB that expands back up to 4.3 or 4.7 Gigs, But I cant remember what on earth was used to compress them..might have even been some win software..They are old..
8:59 am on Sept 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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It probably doesn't provide a great deal of space saving, but if nothing else it keeps the backups in manageable blocks. Glad you agree about the deleted files part. I was a little torn over that one, but the file will be somewhere if I really need it (previous backup) and realistically would you ever delete a file and empty the recycle bin on a file that was required?

This part gets interesting. Thinking of killing two birds with one stone. On the same box I use for the backup, I also use it as my test server. I am thinking about having www root at the same location I backup my websites folder. That would mean I can FTP files to the dev server and have them immediately available. Then when I run a full backup, that area will just sync.

I think my next step might be to switch the command I am using from push to pull. Run it on the server as opposed to the PC. In theory, I can then use one single command to grab the back up, and compress it and copy it to the other disk. Generally, one command will run, then the other will run when the first has finished (in a single entry multi-command ) I think I need to test rather than guess... Maybe even have it all done with an icon click if I can get a script to run that way :-)

So... I will be clicking an icon on the pc, that triggers a script on the server to issue a command to pull files from the pc to the server then compress then on HDD1 and copy them to HDD2. Yea that sounds easy lol. (sarcasm)

Mack.
2:07 pm on Sept 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Deleting files with rsync can be an issue if you drive is failing or you accidentally change permissions. If your backup cannot read the source, it may delete it from the backup. Just some things to consider before using the delete option.
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