Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Linux Mint 13 Saves the Day

I'm back running Linux on my PC again, after 18 months with Windows 7.

This time I decided to go with Linux Mint, since I don't really like the look and feel of the new Ubuntu, and reports indicated Mint would work well on my older hardware.

Why the switch back? Well, last night I got a nasty notice informing me that "This copy of Windows is not Genuine" It popped up when I started the computer and stayed in the corner of my screen like a piece of digital graffiti. And there was a link I could click that would make this go away so long as I forked over a credit card number.

I really have no idea whether the copy is genuine or not, since I bought the PC third hand. But I wondered, if it's not, why did it take them so long to catch on? And what is Microsoft doing, reaching into my home and under the hood of my computer, monkeying around without my permission?

I really didn't feel like calling them up and arguing the point, so I did a bit of googling and ran some awkward utility that did who knows what-all and locked up my system, but when I restarted it, the message was gone.

Still, I was shaken. The proprietary beast had reared its ugly head in again, reminding me that my computer wasn't really mine. All the tools I've started to rely on could be snatched away if I didn't provide a flow of bullshit and revenue on a predictable schedule. And I shouldn't have to turn to buggy, untrusted utilities just to keep using my computer, wondering if they've installed some back-door or trojan in the process.

So I downloaded the new Linux Mint ISO, burned the DVD, and ran it in trial mode for just long enough to discover it's bloody fantastic.

Some of the more pleasant surprises from this release:
  • The MATE desktop saved the best and simplest aspects of the Gnome desktop, which has been discontinued in pursuit of Unity's flashy tablet-style interface.
  • The selection of pre-installed utilities is perfect. Every time I went to install something I thought I needed, I discovered it was already there. At the same time, it didn't come with much that I won't use. Other than instant messaging and IRC chatting, I'll probably use just about every application on here.
  • The default music management program, Banshee, can manage my iPod! It does a much better job of it than the third party application I was using in Windows. Not to mention it's much simpler than iTunes, and doesn't advertise to me every time I just want to play some music.
  • The disc-burning tool, Brasero, provides the most intuitive method for burning CDs and DVDs that I've ever encountered.
  • It installed in just 15 minutes and runs great on my old Pentium-4 computer. So I decided to put it on my antique netbook, which is the original Eee701. That little netbook has no optical drive, so I had to put the ISO installation file on a USB stick. This took all of ten minutes with Imagewriter, another utility that was installed by default.
What am I going to miss about Windows? (And why had I been using it for 18 months?) Evernote, I guess. That had been the Killer App for me, even though it nagged me about updates and begged for money. (Sorry, but I'm not about to subscribe to software.) Solution: Tomboy Notes seems to handle the Evernote workload pretty well, minus images, and I still have access to my old work through the web-interface. (Which in itself is rather creepy.)

My guilty pleasures of Minecraft and Second Life will take some fiddling, but I think I can make them work in Linux eventually.

My old student copy of Photoshop from 1998 fit me like a well-worn glove. Figuring out the Gimp for image manipulation is going to be a pain in the ass. I understand it's a powerful program, but I just can't wrap my head around that interface.  Can anyone suggest a decent online tutorial for it?

Then there's the scanning for viruses and malware and all the rest...

Oh wait, I'm not going to miss that at all.


  1. Gimp, I'm afraid, is not photoshop. I've never gotten used to how it orientates from the wrong side, and is so poorly disorganised.

    I'm pretty happy with using Mac these days, but I occasionally stop in on the Windows and Linux worlds to see where thing are at. I believe that the next version of Windows is going to be the first to actually be reasonably priced. But I doubt I'll be swayed back across from a system that has worked flawlessly for years, without a single re-instal in sight.

  2. Scott - Gimp's going to be an uphill battle, then, huh? Too bad. At least the most I do with my photos is a little cropping and exposure-adjusting.

    The Mac OS is pretty stable--and if you learn the Linux command line you can do lots of tricks on the Mac as well. But the premium for the hardware--good grief!

    I started to steer away from OS X when I decided I wouldn't be buying another Mac. Plus, I wasn't exactly happy when they notified me my OS--I was using "Tiger"--wouldn't be supported any more and it was a couple hundred dollars for an upgrade.