Monday, April 18, 2005

Linux Conversion Update

Okay, so I've been running Linux for a few days now. I've managed to get all of my necessary apps and most of my "useful" apps working properly.

KDE provides most of the tools natively but I had to install some things like MPlayer (and Kplayer, a GUI for it), K3B and a few others. I've also downloaded Crossover Office having been disappointed at the conversion capabilities of AbiWord and KOffice (through no fault on the behalf of their authors, I want to add). I haven't got around to installing OpenOffice at the moment and Word 2000 is about the only thing that I will admit that Microsoft has done right so I have no problems with paying money to get that to work. It saves me time playing about, ensures compatibility and means I won't strip or corrupt important info in my DOC files. Similarly for Excel 97/Gnumeric.

Crossover + Word is working perfectly, not a sign of a glitch, but Wine isn't up to running much else that I want at the moment, but luckily most of what I want has nothing to do with actual work. :-) It does run Irfanview, Dreamweaver and Paint Shop Pro, though, and DW and PSP I consider to be my vital apps. I have yet to test it out on every feature of those programs.

I've also installed the nVidia drivers which sped up X's 2D drawing noticeably. That was the only time I needed to shut down X and restart. I'm still using a console login at the moment because I've never been afraid of a command line and I like to see what's been going on at boot before I start up a complex program like X.

Linux still hasn't crashed once so it's definitely better than my previous setup, and even X hasn't crashed out yet (which, from previous Linux experience, I was expecting, especially with a binary display driver).

I managed to download a Knoppix torrent and burn to a CD within an hour of deciding to do it, without meeting any unpassable shortfalls or annoyances along the way (just installed BitTorrent and K3B from LinuxPackages and it all just worked). In fact, K3B is better than most CD-Writing software I've used on Windows and I've pretty much used them all.

KPlayer/MPlayer was a little more tricky but hardly a vital program. The package I was using was missing a few symlinks, which were easily created, a little bit of configuration and I'm only having trouble now with one MPEG-4 avi that seems screwed in MPlayer but works in another, unaccelerated, media player that came with Slackware. I'm assuming that the Win32 codecs are faster but not as well supported as the OS codecs that came with Slackware and that a slight override somewhere will cure this. While fixing this, I did notice that I quite miss using GSpot, a codec-discoverer for any avi/mpg/etc. file. I'll have to find an OS equivalent or get it running under Wine.

Installing new and missing software has been a breeze thanks to, not that I've ever been scared of compiling my own, it just makes it so much easier to keep track of what program is where. Thanks to Slackware's plain tgz packages, if I lose track of where the "executable" went, I can just browse the package in Ark and look for it. That's worth its weight in gold and useful for those packages that didn't have quite as much attention paid to their creation as others on LinuxPackages and might be missing a KDE shortcut icon or similar.

I've been upgrading a few libs like SDL et al and not run into any problems yet, in fact I can say that it's only made things work better. I'm looking at the prospect of upgrading to the latest -current Slackware packages as they include the latest version of KDE. I'm not too worried about the rest of the updates as they are mainly bugfixes and security updates. The computer is firewalled and not running any internet-bound services and the only bugs I've run into are Konqueror crashing a bit more than it should. It's hardly a problem as it doesn't even take down other instances of itself, let alone X or the OS, and a click on the Konqueror icon gets it straight back up.

I haven't managed to test remote SSH yet and I'm a bit worried that my firewall might be being a little overzealous and blocking it as the port appears "stealthed" to any web port-scanner. I'll have to see if that's because of the firewall, the way I've set it up or the SSH config. I've noticed this same problem on another 10.1 machine with this firewall so I will have to look into this. Internet access from the computer itself, though, works just fine, even over P2P and torrenting.

I've been trying out a couple of Linux games and they've been quite fun so far, just the sort of games I like, small, fast, not too fancy but fun. Am missing my other games a bit but knew I would be and will have to wait for a new PC for gaming.

Have yet to try the DVD but I see no reason why it should not work as MPlayer can play MPEG2 files off my hard disk and the computer can see the DVD drive, so there shouldn't be any problems. I have updated packages for libdvdcss etc. on standby just in case.

Had a few teething troubles with the KDE clock as it really messes up when you select timezones, whacking hours on and off of the clock a few seconds after selecting them and simultaneously resisting most attempts to stop it being too clever for it's own good and adding hours for BST etc. In the end, I just set it to a non-timezone until I can be bothered to fight with it again.

Altogether, it's been pretty painless, I haven't lost any work, my main apps are up and running and there's not much functionality that I didn't have before. The computer is more stable, turns itself off EVERY time I ask it to, boots up without issues or any error messages and runs most of the existing hardware (with the only exception being the old scanner) without me having to do anything at all.

Also, I've noticed the benefit of using a local network, printer-server and ADSL router again. To be able to have a network where everything important like printers and internet access are done over a standalone networked device is a real lifesaver but then, Slackware would easily handle my printer and any sort of NAT effortlessly. I have also recently set up a Slackware machine for my brother which does all of the above in one machine so that he just plugs in any computer and it all just works (firewall, NAT, printer sharing, Samba storage, etc.) once it has an IP. This has greatly aided his transition from a 500MHz 98 machine to a new mega-gaming-machine XP.

My entire changeover has gone mostly unnoticed by the other user of my home network, namely my girlfriend. The only comments she had were, when she used the machine once to save turning hers on, that it didn't have a seperate Opera icon for her like the old one did, with her bookmarks and emails. That was because I'd forgotten to transfer her settings across when I'd done mine. That's easily fixed, as all the old Windows drives are still present and mapped into the filesystem and, thanks to Opera being cross-platform again, it's simply a matter of copying them over to the right place.

The other comment was that she couldn't play PartyPoker on it, her favourite online game, because that's a Windows-only piece of software. I had tried that in Wine myself but it really didn't like it at all. She'll just have to stick to her own computer for that, which I knew she would.

Overall, quite happy with it so far and still waiting for the first showstopper.

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