Tag Archive: Linux

Why I use Windows

October 23, 2009 11:37 am Published by 2 Comments

If you’re lucky, this is the last time you’ll hear me mention Windows 7 for a while. But I’ve received a number of queries about my continued use of it for a while now. I have some very excellent reasons that I figured I should put in writing for easy reference.

  1. Proactive non-reason: I don’t hate Apple. I think their hardware is beautiful and I think Mac OS X is one of the most usable Operating Systems around (although it’s got a learning curve like any OS does). Their prices are on the high end of reasonable, considering the hardware is generally top-of-the-line and well-built.
  2. Proactive non-reason: I am pro-open-source. I think Linus’ Law is spot on, and I think that “Release Early, Release Often” is a faster way to quality software. But I’m not an ideologue. I run Linux exclusively at work, but also I use plenty of closed-source applications without complaining. I’ll even purchase DRM-ed media without much grumbling.
  3. I like to build my own computers. There’s something about the hundreds of interlocking details that appeals to my nature. The challenge of learning (or re-learning) interfaces and chipsets and how memory works is exciting. (Aside: I find the enjoyment that I get from following sports to be somewhat similar. They’re complex worlds with details that are almost entirely self-consistent. And its the exceptions and quirks that make them enticing.)
  4. Unfortunately, Mac OS X doesn’t work on non-Apple hardware, at least not officially. And I don’t feel comfortable applying a delicate hack that will make that work on my every-day machine.
  5. My wife needs Windows for phone syncing and work applications. As a doctor, there are a number of applications she runs on her phone and at home to access charts and medical databases. Some of them have iPhone options, and a couple have cripped web versions, but none of them that I know of yet have a full-featured client that will work under either Mac OS X or Linux client.
  6. I like to play games. I do it less than I did back in college, but I still spend five or six hours a week playing Team Fortress 2 or Trackmania or a number of other games. There are few Mac OS X or Linux versions of most games: Windows is by far the most popular gaming platform. (Gaming works well in Parallels within Mac OS X, but you still need a Windows install/license.)
  7. Dual booting is more trouble than it’s worth. I have no problem with Windows. In fact, so far, Windows 7 is really nice and stable and it plays nice with all of my hardware. I have several good reasons to use Windows, but no compelling reason to use something else. So I have no reason to go through the effort to set up a second OS.

Gimp 2.2 on RHEL3

October 21, 2005 6:58 am Published by

Red Hat Enterprise Linux has ridiculously old versions of packages — especially those that are intended for a desktop audience. The GIMP 1.2.3 is so old that it’s hardly worth using, so yesterday I spent an hour getting the latest version (2.2.8) working. There were a lot of steps involved because almost all of the prerequisites were a bunch of versions behind, too. So here’s what I had to do to get Gimp installed and working on RHEL3.

  1. You’ll need some Red Hat packages installed. XFree86-devel, libart, and libart-devel are necessary, and you’ll probably want some image libraries, too. I installed libjpeg, libpng, and libtiff, along with their respective -devel packages.
  2. Set environment variables PATH should include /install/dir/bin, LD_LIBRARY_PATH should include /install/dir/lib, and PKG_CONFIG_PATH should include both /install/dir/lib/pkgconfig and /usr/lib/pkgconfig. Don’t use /usr or /usr/local as your install dir. Who knows how these updated libraries could affect things if they clobber the older versions. I installed in /opt/gimp.
  3. Get the sources for pkg-config, glib, fontconfig, freetype2, ATK, cairo, pango, GTK, Gimp. Links are located on the GIMP from Source page, except for cairo which is available from cairographics.org. I got the most recent version of all of these libraries except for freetype2. Version 2.1.10 will cause some problems that I haven’t resolved, so I used 2.1.7.
  4. Unpack all of the sources, and compile them in this order: pkg-config, glib, fontconfig, freetype2, ATK, cairo, pango, GTK, Gimp. (This was the hard part, figuring out the right order.) For each package, just add the argument “–prefix=/install/dir” to configure. Then make and make install. No other flags are necessary.
  5. Gimp will be in /opt/gimp/bin/gimp. Delete the source files.

Sun Ray and Palm syncing

September 23, 2005 1:06 pm Published by

Recently, Sun released version 3.1 of the Sun Ray Server Software. It now has Linux support for USB devices connected to the thin clients. Instead of being kernel-level, this support is user-level — in the form of a modified libusb. Unfortunately, roughly 97% of applications expect kernel devices, and thus lack support for libusb. Luckily, pilot-link belongs to the minority. The following are my (roughly chronological) notes on getting a Palm (in the form of an old Handspring Visor) to sync with my Sun Ray.

  • You’ll need to have libusb 0.1.8 or newer installed. For reference, RHEL3 doesn’t have a new enough version; I needed to find a non-standard RPM.
  • Get the latest version of pilot-link from http://www.pilot-link.org/. I used 0.12.0-pre4. You’ll almost certainly need to compile it, since even if your distro has a package for it, it probably won’t be compiled with libusb support.
  • Be sure to add the –enable-libusb flag when you run configure for pilot-link. (I assume the reader knows how to compile and install stuff under Linux)
  • When you run commands that you want to use the Sun Ray libusb support, you need to run them with the LD_PRELOAD environment variable to include “/opt/SUNWut/lib/libusbut.so.1”.
  • I’m not sure what most of the executables that pilot-link installs do, but I know the important one is pilot-xfer. This command line works for me: bin/pilot-xfer --port usb: -s $HOME/.pilot-link
    This command will fail unless you have the Palm already trying to sync. You’ll also need to run it as root, although the pilot-link guys say they’re working on a fix for that.

I’m still on the hunt for something that will allow me to access data on a USB thumb drive.


September 3, 2005 11:07 am Published by

Yesterday, I passed my Red Hat Certified Engineer exam with flying colors. I’m willing to call it a legitimate certification. The entire test was hands-on troubleshooting (“Here’s a machine that won’t boot. Fix it”) and installation and configuration (“Here’s bare metal, and a four page description of how we want the machine setup. Go”). It’s very indicative of the kind of work I do on a daily basis, so it’s far more useful than a multiple-choice test would have been.

Free (as in water)

August 29, 2005 11:39 am Published by

I’m at Red Hat training this week in Westford, MA. The water bottles here have the logo on them, along with the following in tiny print: “Free (as in water)”. Geek humor at its best. (Read about Gratis versus Libre for an explanation of the joke.)