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

This one bears repeating even though it’s a couple of years old now. I must have had a flash of common sense once, but then soon wandered off. And look where I ended up – right back here again!  So I’m changing the date of this post just to show ehere I keep coming back to.

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 One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability.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.

Principled Action

Dear Readers,

I found an old Gmail account I haven’t used in a while, signed in, and deleted it. Screw you, Google. I deleted Facebook and moved to Diaspora. I’m also toying with MeWe, but probably not for long since it’s centralized and even deleted a friend’s whole group because they disagreed. I also dumped Microsoft Windows®, since I have no wish to contribute to Bill Gates’ bullcrap, in favor of Linux.
Now it’s Mozilla to delete, because of this. New default setting to filter out content the new dictators don’t like. So it’s Brave browser instead of Firefox, and Evolution instead of Thunderbird. I gave Geary a shot, but when I clicked on Preferences in Geary the app would crash (at least on my current Linux distro). My Internet provider, AT&T, owns CNN Fake News. So I’m working on changing my ISP as well.
My own family thinks I’m “paranoid,” but I’d be hypocritical not to put my convictions into action. They agree that Big Tech is a big, evil problem, but they’ll go ahead and continue giving big tech control over their Internet use, social media, and privacy. No, I’m not paranoid, I’m principled and doing what principle demands.

So, those of you have read my previous post about Diaspora are probably wondering what in hell I’m doing going back there again! Well… Here’s the thing:

It’s decentralized. Meaning it’s not under the control of one single person. If one server (“pod,” in Diaspora’s lingo) goes rogue, I can jump to another or for that matter, run my own!

I’ve found ways to clean up the crap and make Diaspora what I want it to be. It takes some time to do that, but I think it’s worth the trouble. Ask me how in the comments if you’d like to try it. And,

MeWe is such a bewildering, cluttered mess by comparison. Diaspora’s user interface is intuitive and simple, in spite of the learning curve which I think is comparable to Fakebook’s. While “Groups” are a thing on MeWe, I’m able to create my own groups on Diaspora, kinda sorta, by dedicating an Aspect (category) to share exclusively with.

Call me paranoid or a conspiracy type if you want, but one thing you can’t call me is a hypocrite. I’m acting on my beliefs, not just whining about what’s wrong with the rest of the world.

You Want a Refund?

When users of an awesome free OS or awesome free software complain about stupid little stuff like spoiled brats, I like to tell them, “You are entitled to a full refund of the purchase price.” Sometimes they get it, and reflect on the fact that a whole buncha people worked really hard to create and maintain the software at their own expense. Sometimes they still whine and I tell them, “well then, stop using the software, or the distro, whatever, and go back to paying big bucks to single vendor. You get what you pay for, right?

Please read the article below, and consider supporting great projects with whatever donations you can afford.

https://mikemcquaid.com/2018/03/19/open-source-maintainers-owe-you-nothing/?fbclid=IwAR3pj4uyM5Efj70XlkCeCTygrtXc3nekeOLki6tFdE1C31G4Nzz0zS-Gpf0

Snaps: Good or Bad?

On older hardware – BAD. Snaps gobble up scarce resources on older hardware. On newer hardware with a zillion and twelve terrabyres of RAM and storage space, not that big a deal, but still a lot less efficient than good ol’ tried-and-true .deb or .rpm packages on Linux.

So why would Ubuntu make snap packaging the default in their distro and it’s flavors? Because it relieves them of the burden of having to maintain all those modified .debs in huge repositories with multiple packagers and maintainers. The burden shifts to the writers and vendors of the software instead of maintainers at Canonical / the Ubuntu family. Saving lots of work and lots of money.

The problem is, though, that updates to software for the operating system can mess up the snap applications, and vice versa! With repositories and maintainers, those problems are avoided most of the time. That’s prob’ly why Linux Mint said “no freaking way” to snaps as the default on Linux Mint. It’s a distro for newcomers to Linux, and having it break all the time because one independent package out of thousands of them borks the system is enough to drive users back to proprietary OSes and imagine, as before, that Linux is “just for geeks and for servers.”

This video is kinda long, but it’s good! More info about snaps, and why they’re unpopular with developers of even Ubuntu-based derivative distros:

Yup, they’re bad.

Moving On

My beloved Xubuntu 18.04 is good until next April, but I won’t wait that long to replace it. In my previous post I wrote about the Future of Ubuntu, and have looked closely at the new default package management, snap. The old .deb packaging will still be around for legacy apps and stuff that we all depend on, but the default in 20.04 is snap packaging. To me this will mean a ton of duplicated libraries and cruft, since snaps are kinda-sorta sandboxed and snaps do not share libraries. Bad for those of us who don’t have super-ultra-mega-terrabyte hard drives, right?

Ordinarily rolling-release distros scare me a bit. But even without selectively updating (other than the kernel), there are cool tools like Timeshift that can put things back to a “restore point” in a few clicks and a few minutes’ time. And I dislike the idea of re-installing an OS from scratch and configuring everything the way I want it, adding and removing applications, fonts, themes, and all the rest of it. Updates breaking things has always been a kind of phobia for me I guess, but maybe it’s one that I have overcome with the reassurance offered by super-simple backup-and-restore tools, and the fact that my new distro of choice has a thorough vetting process for updates that filters out a lot of buggy stuff before it hits the stable repositories.

Experimental, beta, or too-new-to-be-proven stuff appears in Ubuntu (and all it’s flavors and downstream distros) without warning all too often. I still remember how buggy PulseAudio was when it foisted upon us all. I dumped it for ALSA with every new installation for months until it wasn’t possible anymore, but by that time it was stable enough. Then Unity. Then systemd. All buggy as hell at the start, but everyone became a tester, like it or not. In a distro intended for newcomers, novices, simpletons, technophobes, and other “ordinary” desktop users, this buggy experimental stuff thrown in as the new default is – well, bullshit. Snaps is the last straw. While I grant that snap isn’t replacing apt for the time being at least, by making it the default, Ubuntu has again brought buggy beta crud to “ordinary” users. No lessons learned from the last several times they’ve pulled this kinda stuff. I’m all for innovation, but let’s not use the LTS versions for that! Enough surprises.

Goodbye again, Xubuntu. Hello, PCLinuxOS!

New Linux User Questionnaire

Before installing either Xubuntu or Linux Lite on a brand new Linux user’s computer, I always use this questionnaire to customize their machine with the proper applications, themes, panel(s) set-up, icon sets, etc to make their first experience as awesome as possible:

1. What do you want to use your computer for?
2. Are you “technically challenged” and just want to keep it simple, or would you like to explore your “inner geek?”
3. How old is your computer and what Operating System did it ship to you with (example: Windows XP or Vista, OSX, etc)? How big is the Hard Disk Drive and how much RAM?
4. Do you like “eye candy” and pretty special effects on your desktop, or do you prefer a faster, basic desktop with fewer bells and whistles?
5. Please list your favorite and most-used computer applications (programs). Try to categorize them if you can, under headings such as Web Browsing, E-Mail, Music Editing, CD-burning,
Office/Word Processing, Photo Editing, etc.
6. Would you like the latest “bleeding edge” stuff or do you prefer older, proven, rock-stable programs?
7. What’s your favorite color?
8. How will you connect to the Internet (if applicable)? Dial-up, wifi, Cable
9. Will you tell all your friends how awesome Linux is (and how nice Robin is for getting it up and running for you)? Don’t answer this one yet…

 

Peppermint Loss

Very sad news of the Peppermint Linux project’s Lead Developer. Mark Greaves has passed away, no details available yet. Peppermint Linux was a particularly awesome OS, based on Linux Mint but ultralight and largely cloud focused. Even a 22 year old 32-bit Dell desktop ran great on Peppermint when I was a distro-hopper.

But Mark Greaves contributed far more than just Peppermint Linux. He was a huge contributor to desktop Linux in general and will be greatly missed.

Guest Post: Responsible Ownership

Guest Post by “Artim:”

When I got my first car, I wasn’t allowed to drive it until I could demonstrate how to check the oil, coolant, belts, hoses, lights, signals, tires and stuff. A lot of people chipped in and got this special set of elevated pedals for it since I’m very small:

In fact I still get pulled over when I’m not in my own home town, by police responding to reports of “a small child driving a car.” The officers usually just laugh along with me after running my license, and pass the word along to other cops, LOL. The point being that a lot of good people have gone to a lots of trouble to make it possible and easy for me to operate a car, but I am still responsible to know how to maintain it as well as operating it.

Computers are the same way! A lot of good people have done a lot of work to make it possible for li’l ol’ me to use LINUX (Linux Lite, Linux Mint, etc) instead of Windows. But just like my car, I need to be responsible with it. Like any major appliance, a computer needs maintenance and you can’t just “drive” it without updates, cleanup, etc. That’s not just blowing the dust out of the box and keyboard, either. But the operating system needs to be kept up as well, with regular maintenance.

Linux has lots of advantages over Windows! It’s practically virus proof (unless you treat it like Windows, downloading stuff from web sites and installing it), it works on modest hardware or even really old 32-bit computers people used before I was even a twinkle in my daddy’s eyes. It’s amazing how awesome Linux is. It costs nothing, there’s all kindsa software for it for school, web, social media stuff, music and video editing, and even games. All at no cost (but donations are suggested for your favorite stuff).

But like me with my car, learn how to maintain it! And thanks to Linux Lite especially, much more than Linux Mint in my opinion, learning and maintaining your computer with the Linux Lite operating system is the easiest, simplest, and fastest way for new Linux users to do that. The welcome screen gives you all the steps, in order, and with point-and-click simplicity. You can even bring back the Welcome screen any time, even after you’ve been running Linux Lite for a long time. It does the updates, the cleanup, and tune-up stuff so you hardly even have to think about it!

With support for Windows7 ending in a few days, now is the perfect time to try it out. And you don’t even have to install it to try it out, just test-drive it on a USB thumbdrive without making any changes to your computer at all! Then if you like it, click to install. Just be sure you have backups for all your important stuff, like bookmarks, passwords, school papers, pictures, music, and stuff. Oh, and backing up stuff in Linux is super easy too by the way.

Since so many good people did so much hard work to make it possible for a tiny boy like me to drive a car, I drive it carefully and keep up on the maintenance. In the same way, since so many people have worked so hard to make it simple and easy for a kid with no technical expertise to use the amazing Linux Lite operating system, be sure to maintain it, just like my car, and donate if you can to the people who give us so much.

Get Linux Lite here!

Thank you!