Monday, February 25, 2008

Technology post! Linux joys.

Lately I have returned to the project of installing Ubuntu on my little "Eee" laptop.

There are more than one post in this blog criticizing Linux, and for the most part my criticisms stand. There are only two kinds of people who will be happy with Linux: those who do not know much about computers and never will, and those who are willing to pool hours upon hours reaching a "Nirvana" of expertise empowering them to make Linux do anything they want. There is no middle ground. Linux is either rigidly inflexible, or else mind-bogglingly-Byzantine (a description not wholly unsuited to seminarians, self included).

So even while I hold that criticism, I still fall within the second camp of those people. And let me say that Linux has never failed to reward me for every lesson I've learned. Let me briefly list the steps I had to go through in order to get Ubuntu working on my Eee:

  1. Burned it, booted it, and installed it. Technically three steps.
  2. Had to fix wired ethernet drivers by shutting off and removing the battery (thank goodness somebody else online had the same problem!)
  3. Added repositories (Internet URLs with collections of programs and parts of Linux to download--like Windows Update, but with everything) and downloaded, installed all updates (this took a while).
  4. Ran a fan-made script (a list of computer instructions--just like an actor's "script") that tweaked various parts of Ubuntu for use on the Eee.
  5. Editted a few system text files to keep Ubuntu from using the built-in storage too much (It's not a hard drive; it's a "solid state disk" which can be damaged by too much use).
  6. Downloaded the stuff needed to get Wireless working. Not just a driver, but the actual source code for the driver. My Eee had to compile the code itself. Hey, if you don't like the cakes they sell in the bakery, sometimes you have to just make your own.
  7. Installed a fan-made application that controls the built-in Webcam; installed a program that could use the camera and record (choppy, ugly) video. The sound recording was almost silent--I later discovered a hidden option in the sound options to make it louder.
  8. Installed Firefox plugins.
  9. Moved stuff around in the graphical interface (called "Gnome") so that it looked very Windows-ish; put favorite programs in the "Quick Launch" part. Changed the colors and background pic, etc. Opened up OpenOffice Word Processor and configured the icons, default zoom, etc.
  10. Turned on a couple of special-effects programs ("Compiz" and "Emerald") to make my windows bounce and spin and wiggle.
  11. Replaced a text-based system file called "xorg.conf" with one specific to my machine--allowed me to easily connect and use external monitors.
  12. Unsuccessfully tried to get a Windows program working in "Wine" (a program that can run Windows programs in Linux). Shucks... it worked before, why not now?

After all of that, I could do nothing more but bask in the sweet glow of Linux nirvana. Or is that Nerdvana?

My more recent project has been to configure the Gnome user interface to look and act just like Windows Vista. Actually I tried to do this once with Windows XP, but it was a huge drag on resources. Gnome was meant to be butchered, and a Vista-wannabe setup doesn't necessary take any more computing power than the default. Screenshots to come!

No comments: