Monday 25 February 2008

More adventures in the land of free operating systems

I didn't get much programming done this weekend because I spent most of my time screwing around with my Linux installation, much of which was just fixing things I'd managed to break somehow. My two goals were to switch to KDE and get some sort of remote desktop solution configured so that I could program on my laptop's Linux environment via my Windows desktop. I'm pleased announce success on both counts! It appears that virtually everything is customizable when running Linux and the desktop environment is no exception. As far as I can tell, the two most popular are GNOME and KDE. Ubuntu comes with GNOME but I wanted to try KDE because I had heard that it was more windowsy and shiny. It turns out there is something called Kubuntu which is Ubuntu with KDE instead of GNOME and so installing the kubuntu-desktop package did the trick. Surprisingly, you can actually have both installed simultaneously and choose which one you want when logging in! So far I prefer KDE's style and plan to stick with it for the time being. The two products differ on many levels beyond the aesthetic but I'm too much of a noob to appreciate most of them. One of the significant aspects of the desktop environments is the extra software they come with such as email client, news client, contacts management, etc. The thing is, I really don't care about this stuff because I use this thing called a "web browser". This magical device is slowly but surely making desktop applications irrelevant. Annoyingly, all these extra apps are somehow dependencies of the kubuntu-desktop and so they will be staying installed for now. I am sure there is some way to get rid of them without blowing the whole thing up but it will no doubt involve editing obscure configuration files and executing cryptic commands. Hang on, if I don't like that stuff, why the hell did I install Linux again?? I was asking myself this very question today when I was summarily dumped into a command line after installing the kubuntu-desktop and then rebooting. So I rebooted again and was greeted by the command line again. Wait a minute, I was supposed to have TWO desktop environments, not zero! Various googling and typing of commands happened and somehow it got fixed - I forget the details. So anyway, the other thing I managed to do this weekend was use some software called freeNX to get a remote desktop solution up and running. I had to research for quite a while before I found a guide that was appropriate for my setup and not horribly out of date. Following the guide carefully, it all went very smoothly. I am happy to report that the Windows NX client operates very similarly to good 'ole mstsc.exe in terms of performance. Now I can do all my ruby/rails/android/etc development in Linux and do so from either machine. All this tinkering is time consuming but not without value. I am learning alot and that is the primary goal, after all.


  1. Hi Paul,
    I can really relate to the issues your having with Ubuntu. I experienced the same sort of things, until I got some advice from a forum on Slashdot.

    Firstly, you need to put on about 30kgs. This can be accomplished relatively easily by ensuring your diet consists entirely of Mountain Dew, pizza and kettle chips. Secondly, grow your hair beyond shoulder lengh, never wash it and, most importantly never leave the house unless it is tied back in a thin greasy pony-tail.

    Thirdly, ensure you spend at least four to five hours a day browsing the Slashdot forums. What you're looking for here is anyone with the gall to suggest some sort of equivalence in language, platform or OS. Once you've identified this 'moron', post multiple replies questioning their intellectual capacity always assuming the high-ground. If they post back a reasoned, well considered reply, don't panic just go to another forum and start gain. This will obviously take some time and it may appear at first that it could compromise your social life - don't worry, you'll be surprised how little social life you now have as an overweight, pony-tailed linux programmer.

    Finally, always remember that anyone who uses Windows is somehow intellectually inferior to you and make sure you never, ever take a job that will expose you to .Net technologies. You can expect to make a lot less money this way which will of course detract from your general wellbeing in a myriad of ways, but you can always smile that smug smile while reading Slashdot knowing that your much, much better than just about everyone else.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Hi Bran,

    Your comment gave me a good chuckle because I have a somewhat unhealthy appreciation for nastyness. You and I both find this stereotype amusing as there are undoubtedly some people out there like that, but lets be honest. It would be pretty easy to write an equally nasty description of windows developers that rings with about the same amount of truth.

    My goal isn't to switch teams and "grow a pony tail". I see Linux and Windows as tools in the developer toolbox - I might aswell get familiar with both of them.