Monday, 28 October 2013

OS Reflections

You know, I've been thinking about why I've switched from the Linux (or GNU/Linux, if you prefer) distro I was primarily using, and why I chose what I chose to step into the breach.

OK - Ubuntu - a fine servant, and I've been using it (relatively) hassle-free for a few years now, pretty happily. Indeed, my main desktop still runs Kubuntu as the base OS, with everything else in VirtualBox VM's. And Lubuntu is great, too.

But - some of the direction decisions that Canonical/Ubuntu are taking just seem increasingly odd. I mean, Mir?! And that whole Edge thing, and the ridiculously defensive stance that they took (supported by the Ubuntu True Believers (TM)) just turned me off.

I flirted with Manjaro for a while, but the, er, approach of some of the Arch forum denizens put me off, although it is a rocking distro.

PC-BSD, moving away from Linux, sadly failed to really gel on my old laptop, and hung for a while whilst running from USB which put me off that as an option, nice though what little I saw of it working was.

I also tried Salix, Chakra, CentOS, AntiX, Gentoo and others, but they just didn't suit me.

My two final choices are precisely that for two sides of the same coin:

FreeBSD comes stripped back, and you have to get yourself into a particular mode of thinking - basically planning what you want to achieve before you hit the keyboard, which is an approach that I think many computer users have lost in recent years. This tabula rasa approach is really refreshing, and means that, as I found with my NetBSD VM on the desktop, you end up with a superbly quick, lean and flexible system that does what YOU want, the way YOU want it. But you have to know what you want first!

Conversely OpenSUSE comes with KDE pretty tightly integrated, and every fundamental covered with pre-installed applications. IRC? Got it. Torrents? Got it. Image editing? Got it. And so on. After a few weeks of using it I haven't had to install a single additional application. Some will accuse it of bloat, but you could equally argue that it's providing a flexible out-of-the-box system, albeit in a different way than FreeBSD.

Overall I reckon between the three - Kubuntu, FreeBSD and OpenSUSE - I've got a cracking little set of systems.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Work, culture and meaning

Saw a fantastic piece on Newsnight last night...

YouTube has Russell Brand interviewed by Jeremy Paxman here.

Now, the important takeaways here, in my opinion:

1) Just because you want a revolution doesn't mean you have to have an endgame in view - you can simply say that the current system dissatisfies you.
2) Russell Brand came out of this rather well.
3) The comments on Jeremy Paxman on "Who do you think you are?" and "emotional porn" were spot on.
4) I disagree to an extent with Russell Brand's views on voting, but his view that participation in the current system was tacit complicity in its perpetuation was an interesting one, and worth thinking about.

So... for me this echoed nicely with The Partially Examined Life's recent episode on Frithjof Bergmann and "New Work, New Culture".

Seriously, if you haven't listened to it then you should. And then listen again. And then again to make sure you really get how deeply, deeply relevant this is to your life right now.

Then visit the New Work New Culture website and soak even more in.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Calming chameleon

I really am loving this openSUSE stuff, apart from just one thing...

Why will it not detect my Epson SX435SW wifi printer?

I've tried, and tried, and tried in so many ways to add a printer, even getting into CUPS and working through that, and it resolutely refuses to even spot that there is a printer connected to the network.

The documentation is a bit pants, to be honest, so I think I'll have to resort to twitter or G+ to sort this one out.

Other than that... excellent.

Oh yeah, I should also mention that I'm still loving FreeBSD as well :-D

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A mixed bag

So a bit of a mix today, managed to clear a few items off the infamous to-do list, write a new to-do list (lots to do on Monday), and ... er ... go shopping.

Oh yeah, managed as well to fit in getting a tyre on the car fixed, which means I don't have to keep reinflating it every couple of days, as the rim was a bit corroded.

All done now, though.

More in due course.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

What a to-do!

Yep, I'm on openSuSE again - LOVE IT!

So I've been getting a bit handy with the old to-do list today.

I've updated a bunch of stuff on my to-do list (yes, it's all written, not done electronically) - I do really like taskwarrior, and I'll have to get around to installing it on this machine.

So what's still outstanding on that list?

Updating some VMs on my desktop machine (Virtualbox under Kubuntu), mainly Manjaro and netBSD, and running a fresh new FreeBSD install in a VM so I can take some screenshots for Shropshire Linux User Group.

Sending out some emails and stuff around epimetric and loqualia development - maybe a couple of google hangouts, too.

Working out on getting some media ideas going again - too many to bore you with here.

And finally I've got to, at some juncture soon, fire up the old RPi which is sitting a bit neglected behind the telly, so that it can update openelec at the very least!

Recent purchases from Amazon...?

The Norm Chronicles
Doctor Who and Philosophy
What is Good?
The Fabric of the Cosmos
Medieval Philosophy (shouldn't that be "Mediaeval"?)

Monday, 14 October 2013

Synchronisation is fab

I know there are privacy issues and so forth, but I tell you something... the convenience of a Google account where everything can be linked through one login, to give you your shared files and so forth is just... so tempting.

Similarly the Firefox sync is great when you have a bunch of bookmarks and cookies and so forth to match up, especially when it's forum passwords and so forth. BTW I'm currently loving the "seventies flower pattern" persona.

This openSuSE installation is working away nicely (partly I'm using this 15" laptop rather than the chunky 17" Ubuntu one because it's lighter on the lap!). It's been a great switch so far, and I think this could be - famous last words - a distro I stay with for a while.

I've also posted a whole load of Amazon reviews (well, two or three) and left some feedback for the vet (why not? They provide a great service) and entered a couple of competitions.

Great stuff.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Another day, another OS to choose from

Fresh from my qualified/tainted (see earlier posts) success in installing FreeBSD, I though I'd make use of another recon HDD in the trusty old Novatech laptop with a fresh install of openSuSE.

OK - at this point I will declare a bit of a bias.

The first two Linux distros I tried about 14 or 15 years ago were Mandrake - before it was Mandriva (PLEASE, openMandriva, get it right this time!) - and openSuSE, running KDE. I loved them both.

So, set up a torrent for a 32bit DVD of openSuSE, stuck it on a USB stick (strangely the same one as I'd used for FreeBSD, as it was to hand) and as I'd already got handy with the screwdriver to switch HDD while the torrent downloaded, started up.

First snag - there was a strange Windows partition on the HDD. That was soon wiped, despite the urge to have a peek and see what had been left behind ;-)

Installation was genuinely an absolute breeze - well done openSuSE folks, on a truly fantastic install procedure - with the only ponderous bit my trying to decide between KDE and XFCE.

Now, in my humble opinion, although Kubuntu does a really nice job with KDE (
this is my 64bit desktop setup), I reckon openSuSE has the best KDE integration around, so that's what I went for.

There was one more oddity after firing up the first time when wireless networking wasn't available at all, but this (thanks to a bit of internet searching) was found to be fixed with a reboot.

There was next a bit of time whilst all the requisite updates downloaded and installed, and then I was all set to go. What a fantastically smooth operation it all was - this has often been a sticking point for user adoption for Windows users, but quite honestly this installation was far, far less of a pain - and much quicker, with sensible defaults - than either WinXP or Win7.

So, now I just need to get things set up, get things booting from the SATA to USB HDD caddy I picked up dirt cheap off eBay and I have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in OS terms!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The apology

It had to come.

I need to apologise for a loosely-worded opening to my last blog post, where I may have inadvertently referred to BSD as a "Linux distro".

Someone tweeted me to say:

"great start :/"

I admitted my opening was worded badly, and apologised for doing so. They responded:

"because freebsd has nothing to do with linux and isn't a "distro." it's a little offensive to bsd users when people say that."

(My emphasis).

and followed up with a reply to my next apology, suggesting I wasn't cut out for "BSDclub" with:

"it's not a matter of "wording." you either knew freebsd wasn't linux and made a mistake or you didn't know, either way, now you do"

What a shame that my adoption of FreeBSD has been seriously, seriously soured (for me, at least) by this.

Why can't people just be happy that I'm using FreeBSD, find it powerful, flexible and fun?

What a shame.

Previous post now edited, BTW.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

FreeBSD at last, FreeBSD at last


Story so far.

I wanted to switch Linux distro, and had settled on either Manjaro or, moving away from Linux altogether, FreeBSD as my OS of choice, and had finally got around to starting switching seriously rather than just playing with VMs under Kubuntu.

Bought a 40Gb HDD (SATA, 2.5") off eBay. The one that was sent was an ex-Playstation job, not suitable for laptop use, but after a couple of emails back and forth with the vendor I thought what the hell.

So, into the Novatech laptop (around 6 years old) it went, replacing the already replaced HDD which was dual-booting AntiX and Lubuntu, stuck a USB stick with FreeBSD on it in, switched on and crossed my fingers.

Top tips:



3: Have second machine handy with the Handbook open on it.

4: Learn to love vi.

5: Have a second machine handy with a guide to vi on it.

6: As root set up X (BEWARE - you NEED to read the Handbook to pick up a couple of vital setup steps, using our old friend vi).

7: Install your desktop environment/window manager. I really like awesome but settled on XFCE as a nice balance of lightness and configurability without some of the headscratchiness of awesome or similar.

8: Install your global software as root - I just stuck to Firefox and LibreOffice using pkg_add -r.
One mistake I made was not setting the hostname as fully qualified (something.something.something) during installation which caused resolution timeouts on startup, but a bit of time with my good friend (now) vi helped resolved this in /etc/rc.conf

Make sure that you add yourself to the wheel user group, so that you can use su to install stuff:

#pw user mod username -G wheel

And then you can add software to your heart's content.

Overall, a slightly tense switch from Linux, as you start with a tabula rasa, but this is the beauty of a switch to BSD - YOU choose what YOU want from the off.

I'm really looking forward to getting this "just so".

Some handy links for you: