New Computer in Seconds

Okay, so I found this advertisement online: It’s safe to click the link, but not to completely believe everything you find here:

https://thiswentviral.net/make-your-computer-like-new/

It’s just whatever Linux distribution on a bootable USB thumbdrive. I’ve been making those and giving them away to people literally for years! The price is kinda high, and I don’t think a 300% markup is arguably within the terms of the GNU license. And there are going to be booting issues sometimes, no matter what distro they’re using. It’s not some new revolutionary “device” either. Just a thumb drive, available at any corner store for a nickel ninety eight.

However, the idea is kinda clever. People who would never ordinarily consider using Linux might see this and think, “gee, a new computer for twenty bucks? Why not!”

Newly Installed Xubuntu 18.04

Ah, I can relax now. I’m back home, and it’s as warm, cozy, familiar, and easy as I remember. And the neighborhood is lovely, upscale but not snobby and uptight.

Home is Xubuntu, of course. I’ve been away a long time! But this is just exactly the way I remember my home distro, except that it seems a little slower than before. That might be just because the last time I was here was before systemd and all that extra junk was foisted on users. But I think I can speed things up a bit with the usual little things, like turning off services I don’t use, adjusting the “swappiness,” maybe going back to Seamonkey instead of the usual separate Firefox and Thunderbird applications.

This time instead of the usual Xfce panel with launchers on the bottom, I thought I’d throw a liiiiiiiiittle bit of eye candy in, so there’s Cairo Dock with weather applet, analog clock applet, and silly bouncing effects when you mouse over them and click them. Yet it’s lightweight, and just prettier than a plain ol’ Xfce panel. And I like that 3D shelf thing.

Lots less bloat than Linux Lite, and all I added was Synaptic Package Manager, because it’s what I’m used to and I think it’s better than “Software Center.” I added SystemBack and MintStick, just because they’re super-simple graphical tools for formatting and writing images to a USB drive, creating restore points and allowing me to make a bootable and installable copy of my installed system and write it to a pendrive. All done in under 40 minutes. On Debian this would have taken me a few days!

But this is Xubuntu. Almost perfect as-is, right out of the box, saving me lots of work and letting me get right to work, doing what I love.

Thoughts on “Linux Legalism”

Where does the line belong, between absolute strict adherence to the Pure and Venerated UNIX/Linux Way, and the practical but not-so-pure approach to a free operating system that simply works on your hardware, stays out of your way, and is elegant and easy to use?

How DARE you use a distro that has those non-free bits of code in it (without which your computer or video card, or sound card, etc wouldn’t work)! How DARE you install more than one web browser (even though one works for most sites but you need the other for one or two sites that won’t function in any other browser)! You know the Law: One application per task! Do One Thing and do it well! That is the Law of Linux!

Legalism nullifies the grace of God in Christianity. Obedience to the Law is the natural result of true conversion, not a prerequisite as in order to become a Christian. In the same way, perhaps, purity from non-free bits, one-app-per-task, etcetra, is a noble goal. But just as no one can become righteous by obeying the law of God, neither can hope to even use most computers, much less share the “gospel” of Linux with others, without enough non-free, impure, proprietary bits of code to make the darn thing turn on, display stuff, connect to the ‘net and do any useful stuff.

Oh, and then there’s the whole evil corporation thing, unreasoning hatred of Novelle, Red Hat, and Canonical for daring to make money on Linux!! Forget the GNU license that allows that. Forget the fact that development and quality and availability of usable Linux OSes would hardly be possible, much less widespread and wonderful, without some deep pockets to bring it to us ordinary users. Canonical, the makers of the Ubuntu family of distros (far and away the most popular and by far the easiest to install, configure, and use), seems to get the brunt of that hatred, for some reason, perhaps because of it’s popularity and the sheer number of spin-off distros that rely on Ubuntu, like Linux Mint, Linux Lite, Zorin, PopOS, and a zillion others. You don’t see that kind of multiplicity of spin-offs from Fedora (RedHat) or SUSE (Novelle). There’s a nice noble little distro called Trisquel which takes all the little non-free bits out of Ubuntu to make a “pure and holy” desktop distro that aims to be as easy to use as Ubuntu but pure as the wind-driven snow when it comes to the righteous UNIX/Linux Way. That’s awesome! So why isn’t Trisquel more popular? Because it doesn’t freaking work on most computers! Without at least some non-free firmware and software, most computers simply won’t run on a “pure, totally free” operating system.

So has Canonical made some mistakes along the way? Sure. But they learn, adapt, and move on. And eventually, even upstream distros take some lessons from Canonical. The Calameres installer, for example, looks and behaves a lot like Canonical’s Ubiquity installer that made Ubuntu so easy to install. Now even Debian Buster is using it! But they resisted for a lonnnnnnng time. “Ew! That’s Ubuntu stuff! Ewwww!” Snobs. Typical of Debian. But they have finally relented. Perhaps after Linus Torvaldes (the inventor of Linux) himself mentioned that even he couldn’t install Debian they decided to consider the idea…

So, anyway: As much as purity and perfection are to be strived for, don’t chase me (and countless others) away from a perfectly working OS and drive us back to Windows just to spite you! You gave me the gospel of Linux, and I believed and converted. Baptized in Ubuntu and life is good. Don’t tell me afterwards that now to be a “real” Linux user I have to abandon the distro I have come to rely on and struggle to get a computer working on Gentoo or Linux-From-Scratch. Just as legalism robs Christians of joy and authentic faith, so it is with Linux. So shut up and leave those Linux Mint / Ubuntu / Zorin / etc users alone.

On One-Man Linux Distros, Stability, Simplicity

It kinda makes you wonder, when you think about the many super-cool Linux OSes out there that are supported by just one person, maybe one or two others helping. Recently the main guy behind the wonderful (and systemd-free) PCLinuxOS announced that he needs to step down for health reasons. Not a surprise, he’s been having health issues lately and everyone knew and had time to prepare. PCLinuxOS will very probably continue it’s awesome run for many years after Texstar, the lead developer, passes on. That’s because the distro has an awesome, large, and loyal community that will no doubt keep PCLOS going.

That may not be the case for one-man distros like Linux Lite, though, if anything happens to Jerry, the lead (and only?) developer. Slackware, God bless it, is the oldest surviving Linux distro. But it’s still basically a one-man show, and struggling financially, and losing popularity to “the big guys” with huge corporations behind them (SUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora/RedHat/CentOS). Maybe the best support for a Linux distro is actually one of those community-based distros. I might count PCLinuxOS amongst them because of the very substantial community around it. I doubt that the same is true for Linux Mint, and smaller distros like Bodhi, Salix, and Linux Lite.

Some real community-built and community-maintained gems can be found in official spin-offs of the big corporate distros. My old favorite, which I will remain a rabid fanboy forever – Xubuntu – is such a distro. Probably the same is true of Lubuntu and Kubuntu as well. Little known but truly community-developed and users can get involved in all kindsa ways. Mine has always been “evangelism” of a sort, though I really don’t do that much “Linux evangelism” anymore; and donating dollars.

Just something else to consider when choosing a distro.

Between Philosophies: Salix OS

This is probably the best review of Salix OS that I’ve ever seen! It doesn’t just look at the esthetics, included software, package management, and performance, but it delves into the philosophy that motivated the development of the distro, and it’s history. Linux used to have one of those. Philosophies, I mean. Principles that mattered more than your distro’s popularity and placement on Distrowatch’s ranking.

“Between philosophies” describes the balance Salix successfully strikes and maintains between Slackware’s bare-bones, terminal-and-text approach to things in the name of simplicity, and a common sense point-and-click approach that saves time and keystrokes. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) doesn’t babysit newbies, nor prevent them from acting without reading the manual first. Being a responsible user is still required. Or to quote the article,

being a Lazy Slacker does not mean being an Ignorant one.

Have a look, see if the challenge doesn’t appeal to some geeky corner of your brain, even if you’re scared of technology like I am!

Likely to Be my Permanent – and my Only – Linux OS

I have kept Linux Lite and MX-Linux around for a long while, mostly to help introduce new users to Linux. Many of them got started because the Microsoft OS they were used to is such a freakin’ resource-hog that you have to buy a new computer every three years or so just to keep up! Why let a perfectly good working machine go to the landfill because Micro$oft has decided not to support it anymore, right? So, Linux to the rescue, right?

Nope, not nearly as much as it ought to be. A trip to the Swap Shop finds a dozen or so vendors offering refurbished computers for $40 or so, but they still have Windows and they’re slower than snails. When I used to brag about how Linux could make them run better than new, and without any need for the dreaded terminal, I won a few “converts,” and a few more by cleaning up and donating old computers with a lightweight “newbie-friendly” distro pre-installed. Of allllllll those people I helped, guess how many are still using Linux?

One. Just one. As far as I know, anyway, we lost touch when I moved away. So maybe none! All of them – and we’re only talking a dozen or so – have since traded up to new computers and – one guess – they’re Windows or Mac.

So, my OS is gonna be for ME, not for anyone else. Not to “show off” to others in hopes of winning them over; not on my computer so I can walk others through the steps of configuring, fixing, tweaking, and installing software. Not for the coolest, awesomest, most thrilling visual effects and eye candy I used to care about. No more of that now… my ‘puter is my own, and it’s just for me, and it’s gonna be what I want: Blazing fast, graphical, simple, uncomplicated, and basic. No systemd. No bloat. Nothing I don’t need or want. One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability. Does anyone know of a Linux distro that offers just that, without all the busy bovine excrement that has to be included in the OS just to make this-or-that other thing work that you actually want? One that is still supported and up-to-date without the instability of the Big Major desktop distros? I can think of one. It’s an old faithful standby that has kept my ancient spare 32-bit Dell out of the landfill for over a year now, with no issues. And it’s mind-bending fast on my higher-end 64-bit desktop and laptop.

I’m so disheartened by the fact that all my enthusiasm, “evangelism,” and newbie support for Linux hasn’t actually changed anyone’s mind for more than a temporary short period, that I think I’m pretty much done with all that now. I’ve got better things to use my computer for than just writing about computers, OSes, software, and why these things should matter to people. In fact they don’t matter to most people, and desktops and laptops have largely been replaced by smart phones and tablets now anyway. You like your Chromebook? Cool. Does it matter to most people that it’s Linux-based? Prob’ly not. Does it matter that it’s a Google gadget and it’s likely spying on you and reporting back to the Mother Ship for targeted ads and to predict what you’re likely to spend money on and where you go every day? Apparently not.

Well, it matters to me. And to maybe 2% of all desktop computer users on Earth. The other 98% are content to be carried along, captive to a single vendor and subject to it’s whims. Fine, fools.

I’m moving on.

Moving on from Diaspora the digital ghetto, moving on from trying to convert others to this truly better way of computing and managing applications, data, and workload. I’ll still advocate for Linux and Free Open Source Software (FOSS) when and if the subject ever comes up at school or work or church or hanging out, and here in this blog from time to time when I feel moved to do so and have something interesting to write about that might be of interest to others who appreciate it’s value.

In Praise of Linux Lite

In reply to someone’s suggestion in another forum that “Linux distros which are derived from other Linux distros contribute nothing new to the larger desktop Linux world:

The thread was entitled Linux Lite vs Xubuntu, and a reader asked what the differences were and why they mattered.

There are important differences. I did a little homework before switching to Linux Lite from my all-time favorite Xubuntu:

In Linux Lite, applications are named for their function, not their “real” names. A newbie wouldn’t know that Evince is a pdf viewer or that Thunar is the file manager. Linux Lite is for novices who don’t know even what they don’t know. This one little thing is very thoughtful, all by itself.

The Xfce desktop is highly customized in Linux Lite, yet still infinitely customizable by the user. Again, with newbies in mind, and simple people like me who would rather run applications than running the operating system.

Linux Lite includes a magnificent set of tools to make maintaining and tweaking the OS effortless and non-stressful, with point-and-click simplicity and explanations for us non-tech types. If unsure, there are explanations and the support of this awesome forum, in which the Lead Developer actively participates. That is rare!

This is better for newbies than even Linux Mint in my opinion. From the start, it has always been designed with newbies and simplicity-loving technophobic users like me in mind. And lastly, and most importantly:

Before Linux Lite, it was an axiom in the desktop Linux world that speed and performance was a trade-off to achieve “user-friendliness” with a GUI. Linux Lite has proven that you can “have your cake and eat it too,” so to speak. No longer does it have to be a trade-off of lost performance to achieve a newbie-friendly GUI.

As in any Ubuntu-based distro, the hidden danger to newcomers and inexperienced Linux users is in the quality of updates from upstream Ubuntu (newbies cannot be expected to update selectively), and in the addition of several PPAs to the standard Ubuntu repositories. The simlest work-around in my opinion is the addition of the Updater adapted for Linux Lite from the Linux Mint treasury. Find it here.