Pragmatism in code

Waxing lyrical about life the universe and everything software related since lunchtime 2006.

How To Pass It On

This week has been an interesting time in the Linux driven portion of the household. After struggling with my HTPC in the lounge getting slower and slower, it was finally taking longer to boot up than I had patience - which meant that I had to find some time to have a look at it.

I put the machine together a few years back, it's based on an old Asus A7N8X Deluxe MOBO running an AMD Athlon XP 1250 that I fitted into an Origen AE case. I installed XP Media Centre on it and pretty much left it at that - that is until I decided to try and fix it.

I tried all of the usual suspects - but none made any difference, I ended up trying a repair from the install disk, but the problem with XP MCE is that the media centre part is a hacked on extension to Win XP and not really part of the core. Needless to say - the recovery didn't fix it either,

So left with the choice of a complete reinstallation or updating to Vista I decided to look elsewhere. The XP install would be relatively painless but as support will no doubt end soon upgrading is the sensible option. The only problem with that is that Vista is not really much of an upgrade- I had it on my laptop for less than a week and then junked all Micro$oft apps in favour of open source alternatives - Ubuntu / Open Office etc.

On the subject of Windows... Being a long time user of windows (3.11 > 95 > 98 > 2000 > XP) The transfer from 2000 to XP was a big step. I abstained from changing to XP for a long time as it had a lot of issues running the software that I used (IDE's for Industrial Robot and PLC programming). I nicknamed XP 'Windows for Girls' as it seemed to have no real benefit over earlier versions apart from the horrible little animated icons that automatically appeared to tell you how to do something that you already knew how to do. Whilst it may have looked more polished around the edges, it did not run that much better. It also gave me headaches by forcing me to migrate from a perfectly good VB6 to VB.Net.

The most amusing thing with XP was that not long after it was released SP1 appeared to fix massive seciurity issues (XP was advertised as more secure / faster / etc) The irony was that the patch to fix the security issues slowed the machine down massively and also broke most of the software that was released as XP compatible (afforementioned IDE's etc). As a result many of us ran XP without the SP1 update for quite a while.

When I bought my most recent laptop it came pre-installed with Vista. So I decided to give it a go.

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A Good Time To Try Linux

With the New release of Ubuntu just around the corner and the bloated and expensive Vista requiring a hardware upgrade for most current 2000 / XP users to even be able to install it on thier machines it has never been a better time to try Linux. With the ability to be able to boot off of the disc and try Ubuntu without even having to install anything on your hard drive there is really no excuse - especially as it is free!

5 months and still smiling

It has now been about 5 months that I've been solely using Ubuntu Linux as both my work and 'play' operating systems which means it's being used about 10-12 hours a day. So far I have only had to revert to using Windoze on one or two occasions - and that was only to use an excel file that I had written a bunch of VB code for as open office does not seem to support it. Eventually I will get around to re-writing the file in Javascript as a standalone software package - then my ties with Windoze will be completely gone.

For emergency use I had set up Windows XP as a virtual machine (as well as leaving the Vista installation as dual boot when I initially installed Linux) The vitual machine allowed me to use the Excel file for a client demo, and as the virtual machine integrates quite nicely within the Linux window handling I'll leave it installed (see THIS video I recorded whilst writing this article). The dual boot Vista on the other had has not been booted into since I installed Linux on the machine - when I get some spare time I'll look into removing it.

Another item of note is that I have managed to function using Linux in a solely windows envoironment - everyone else (with the exception of one Mac user) uses Windows at work, the main server is running Windows SBS, most of our clients use Windows. Even considering that I am probably the only person using Linux file sharing and editing of shared files has not caused any problems - Email from the SBS 2003 server has not been a problem - even acessing and creating public exchange folders is possible.

Despite all the success, there are a few things to look out for - occasionally Evolution (the mail client I use) goofs out, Incorrect formatting within office documents seems to get very exaggerated within open office and you will probably need to manually set up some things that you take for granted on windows (such as being able to connect to the internet via bluetooth on my WM6 Smartphone) - Mind you, one point of note is that Ubuntu is a LOT more stable - as well as simply working with my Asus laptop from day 1, it has never suffered one lock up - I cannot say the same for my experience with any windows operating system.


So,why not replace your MCE machine with Linux too?

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