Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

2Oct/06Off

Homecoming

I really am more comfortable in a Linux desktop environment. I've had this Macbook Pro for four months now and tried to work exclusively on it for the entire time that I've owned it. This has been successful to some degree as there are enough things that don't work particularly well under Linux (and I'm talking about Gentoo here just to make things clear and brand name-rific) that work exceedingly well with OS X. Things involving video and sound with stranger codecs are one example although I find myself using Mplayer and VLC more often than anything else rather than the Quicktime player. It probably suffices to say that since I haven't worked on any major chunks of coding for the past couple of months unless you count editing some stray and broken Perl at work which I don't that I've been a pretty happy tourist for the most part with the occasional platform hiccup or realization that I just can't approach a problem in the way I've usually done so. I'd begun to consider myself a full timer until this weekend when I made some discoveries during the course of undoing some badness caused by the Coke of operating systems to Apple's Pepsi.

When I was job hunting more earnestly than I'm doing now I set up a test Windows machine in order to go through some Win32 specific books on desktop stuff. It was a quick and sloppy install on a spare drive that I had laying around so I didn't put a whole lot of thought towards installing for the ages or anything other than just running all of the Windows updates and whatnot. A few months later this yields the sounds of strange and frantic disk activity as I pass through the room. Given my utter lack of patience for fixing my own Windows machines though I've made a living fixing them for other people I decided to just do a quick Debian install and deal with what I imagined were going to be the hardships of setting up a shared printer under Linux. For some reason the idea had worked itself into my head that this procedure was difficult and was going to be time consuming. I was completely and totally wrong as I had a working machine up and running in half an hour and a working printer share (under CUPS -- until yesterday I didn't know that it was a matter of checking a box and little else) plus OpenSWAN and a few other essential goodies in just under an hour. Apparently enough time spend piddling around in Aqua land has tainted my perspective completely.

I'd completely forgotten how at home I was on pretty much any Linux machine. After I'd botched one key setup for OpenSWAN it was just a matter of 'dpkg-reconfigure' and I was functional a few minutes later. Despite all the controversy generated by Dunc-Tank, late releases, and all of the other criticisms of Debian that have pretty much become expected and despised it really is stupidly easy to get up and running provided you don't need a whole lot of desktop slickness to get what you need done. I did install a bunch of desktop crap but it was another matter of a few minutes invested and less configuration questions than I remember being asked in the process. Was it ever a lot? It seemed that way but other than updated and otherwise maintaining Yoon's laptop I haven't laid hands on a Debian machine for real in a couple of years. A lot has changed since the last time I looked at the installer and experienced the hardware detection which has improved drastically to the point where I did almost zero post-install tweaking. The font display still sucks and I can't remember how to make it not totally suck but that is not something I'm overly concerned with especially since the goal of this outing was really to quickly setup a print share.

Speaking of which, CUPS makes this process insanely easy. I thought that Windows printer sharing was okay although somewhat frustrating to configure with non-Win32 machines through Samba. A CUPS share, when set up properly, was auto-detected by both the other Debian laptop and my Macbook Pro. Very, very cool and surprisingly streamlined other than a driver misconfiguration early in the process that momentarily confused me. The path is much simpler this way as well. That's opinion but it brought the configuration time from pretty short to absolute zero. I like that.

During this process I had a epiphany of sorts that I really did like the way my two distributions of choice got things done and found myself actively missing it. I decided to stop with the missing and drag out the other laptop and get it up and active again. This was a longer process as four months of updates with Gentoo is a more significant problem than it is for a Debian machine. The emerge sync took something like 30 minutes as did an emerge -p world which yielded about five screens worth of ebuilds blocking each other. That machine is still sitting unused on my dining room floor as I try to decide whether a reinstall is in order or whether I would save time by trying to manually pick my way through the long series of broken-ness. X.org is already unmerged as it was blocking everything but I haven't been able to update a single thing other than portage itself without portage falling over dead. Despite the passage of time basically breaking the install it was still exciting to hit the terminal with real intent and the knowledge that I was really getting things done and that process was entirely transparent to me.

Things that I noticed immediately when moving from an OS X environment to a Linux environment. Some of these annoyed me and others were closer to mere curiosities:

1. Font display. I know this is a typical complaint made by an OSNews reader about how Linux will never be used in a desktop environment but it is really is startling when moving from OS X where font display is uniformly gorgeous. This wasn't the case on the Gentoo box as it was an old install that I'd already spent a fair amount of time tweaking and configuring but the font display in Debian was pretty bad especially under Fluxbox. Both Gnome and KDE was pretty capable when rendering fonts (after enabling anti-aliasing and switching from the default set to the Bitstream Vera families) but everything else was pretty craprific. I'm tempted to blame this on installing from the tasks installer menu during the Debian install as I've experienced weird difficulties with this in the past. I dunno but it is something I won't take the time to fix until it really starts to bother me. This probably won't be until I do some actually work on the local machine so no time in the immediate future.

2. Tilt wheel. Duh. This should surprise no one much less me but I was a little annoyed the first time I tried to tilt wheel across a wide browser window and nothing happened. Is this even worth mentioning? Probably not but I did notice it. Also, I recently bought a wireless laser mouse for dining room table use and really noticed how sensitive it feels under Linux. OS X seems to purposely slow mouse tracking speed down so the difference between a standard wireless optical mouse and the laser version was imperceptible until now. Again, this is a matter of editing some config files but it was a little weird to watch the pointer dart around the screen wildly the first time I used a desktop. This is somewhat balanced by how much it pissed me off being unable to switch virtual desktops using the mouse wheel like in Fluxbox like God intended it.

3. Widescreen. I wouldn't even have noticed the tilt wheel had it not been for another weird transition from widescreen format to the more traditional layout. Everything seems really boxy and the resolution I usually setup on these machine (1024x768) seemed gigantic and cartoonish. Again, this is really a matter of one laptop being outrageously expensive while the other is insanely cheap but it was a little bit eye straining at first. The effect was less pronounced on a CRT but I still found myself trying to straighten it out in the X.org config files before I figured it that it was just a different screen footprint altogether. This doesn't really fit into the category of annoying or even as a feature of the operating system/platform but it was visually jarring for a little while.

I'd thought of more than rapidly forgot all of them. I will add more to this as I think of them or rather remember them. Does this mean that I have a MBP for sale? No, it doesn't mean anything like that you vulture.

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