Very, very interesting! A rolling Xfce release. There seems to be a lot of bloat, though. Still, I’m curious to check this out in a virtual box. I’m especially curious to see if there’s any difference between this and running Debian Testing with Xfce.
“The new tablets are not Windows. Whoah! Didn’t see that coming, did you? According to Forrester’s survey of more than 3,800 people, the N0. 1 operating system people want on a tablet is Windows.”
Yikes! I guess these are the same people who want to buy their cars with flat tires? 🙂
A really neat thread on the benefits of Ubuntu versus Debian (I know Ubuntu is based on Debian. You know what I mean!).
I just couldn’t get an intellectual handle on KDE. Like most people (I think), I learned Linux with GNOME. I tried to switch to Kubuntu and KDE OpenSUSE a few times, but nothing made sense to me in KDE. The menus. The desktop concept. The plasmoids. Doing anything felt way too hard to my GNOME-rutted mind.
GNOME in Ubuntu was starting to feel too bloated and unresponsive to me, so with KDE knocked out as an option, I tried Xubuntu, and I really liked its simplicity.
This isn’t an Xubuntu-centric post. Instead, it’s about what I do when I’m without Xubuntu (or Linux).
My work computer isn’t an issue. Even though it’s Windows 7, I have a virtual machine for any Linuxy things I need to do. And between my browser (Chrome), its extensions, and Notepad++, I’m pretty much always set.
I frequently find myself on other computers, though, and not having all of the tools I need can be a little frustrating.
I used to carry around a USB verison of Puppy Linux. It was a persistent installation, meaning any changes I made, software I installed, or files I created, were saved to the flash drive for the next session. It was pretty nice, but rebooting a machine every time I needed to use it just wasn’t realistic. And things could sometimes get a little sluggish running off of a flash drive. But the flash drive got me through some pretty tough times, including a presentation on a Windows machine that turned out to be hopelessly virus-ridden.
I still use the flash drive concept, but now I take advantage of a bunch of portable applications. This gives me enough of my tools to do what I need to do when I’m not at home or at my desk.
Portable Chrome is useful in that it lets me bookmark web-based tools. The citeulike browser button lets me capture articles. The pinboard bookmark lets me capture web sites. And Simplenote is a solid web-based text editor.
I’m usually not looking for a lot of functionality. I just want to grab some information and/or build very simple files. Simplenote is nice because I don’t have to get any files from my USB drive to my main machines. It’s all in the cloud. When I do need a local client (Simplenote can be a bit laggy for my tastes), I use a portable version of the TED text editor. I haven’t spent much time configuring it, but mostly I like it because it’s more stable than the default Windows text editor, which seems to get flaky if you repeatedly save the same file. I used to use a portable version of Notepad++, but it became corrupted and I just never bothered to re-install it.
Because so many tools are now browser-based, portable apps are a quick and easy way to make sure you have all of your tools when you’re at a strange Windows computer.
I suspect that with the rise in popularity it tablets, soon a lot of people will just work from their personal tablet rather than another desktop machine, but until we get to that point (I have no immediate plans for a tablet myself), my flash drive means I can be productive from just about any Windows machine that’s OK with running applications off of a USB.
Nice overview of Xfce/review of Xfce 4.8. I love that it admits Xfce isn’t necessarily the best choice for low-end hardware but is instead just a nice alternative to GNOME or KDE.
I wanted to post a quick update to my gPodder review.
I still love the podcast manager. The episode syncing isn’t as seamless as I would like, though. I find myself deleting used podcasts from my Sansa Fuze and then deleting them manually from my computer. I haven’t figured out how to get gPodder to remove episodes. It seems that deleting a file in the gPodder interface doesn’t actually remove it from my computer.
It’s hardly a deal-breaker, though. I just go through and delete all of my used podcasts once a week or so.
One component of gPodder I didn’t realize initially was that there’s a web-based component to the tool. You can create an account at gpodder.net and sync your gPodder client to the web interface, allowing you to easily sync multiple devices over multiple computers and to manage your subscriptions from the web interface.
To be honest, I have no need for this functionality. But I am intrigued by the gPodder web directory. Initially, I was using the iTunes preview web interface to find podcasts but the godder.net directory seems pretty good. As one might expect, it skews geeky/techy, but I view that as a feature, not a bug.
Users can tag their own podcasts, so the directory has a social component. In fact, one can share his own podcast subscriptions and favorite episodes via a link gpodder.net will provide. The site will also make podcast recommendations and provide the recommendations in the form of an OPML file that will download the suggested podcasts right into the gPodder client.
For me, I mostly just want to download podcasts and get them onto my device. I’ve got a nice rotation of shows I listen to, so I’m not looking for new content, but as I burn out on my shows, gpodder.net seems like it’ll be a great resource for new content.
It’s social without being intrusive, which is always a nice thing.
Now, if I could just figure out how to tell gPodder my default browser isn’t Opera, I’d be totally set. Xubuntu in general seems to recognize Chromium is my default browser, but gPodder prefers to open gpodder.net with Opera.
I was a little bummed this morning because of a Flash bug that gave YouTube videos a pink tint.
The fix was painless enough (I just blocked YouTube cookies), but it had me a bit down about Linux, and how so many software updates turn into tiny battles.
Not 10 hours later, while at work, a colleague asked me to look at her IE 8, which wouldn’t let her download PDFs via the IE/Adobe Reader plugin. I did some research and discovered this was an Adobe bug. I updated Reader and the bug persisted, so I installed FoxIt and now she can easily save PDFs from IE.
And I realized bugs are just the cost of using any OS.
(And I’m sure it’s just a coincidence both of today’s bugs, across two different operating systems, were courtesy of Adobe).
I’ve been using GIMP on and off for years. Mostly off for most of those years, but recently I’ve found myself using it more frequently.
There are a few reasons. At work, I was upgraded to Windows 7 and lost Adobe Fireworks with the upgrade. That’s forced me to bounce between GIMP and the surprisingly robust paint.net. Between the two programs, I pretty much have 95% of the functionality I had in Fireworks.
On my hockey blog, and here in Tumblr, I’ve also been working with images more, forcing me to use GIMP.
But I’ve also been using GIMP more because I’m finally understanding how to do things better.
GIMP is considered a bit of a joke among users because it is so robust yet so convolutedly complicated to use. The icons often seem deliberately cryptic, like they’re daring you to figure out what they mean and what they do.
But using it more frequently, as I have been doing, has really helped me to get a handle on the program.
Now keep in mind I don’t do anything horribly complicated. I resize images. I crop pictures. I build very simple graphics. But I’m able to accomplish all of those simple tasks in less and less time using GIMP.
I wish I had some magic words of wisdom to explain how I got to this point, but sadly, it seems like practice might be the only path.
However, here are some guiding principles that have helped me get more proficient with GIMP.
- Use layers. When you build and edit images using layers (Ctrl-Shift-N), it makes it much easier to go back and correct a mistake. Layering images has saved me days worth of effort when I need to go back and correct or update an image
- Use the text menus along the top navigation. The icons don’t always make sense but the GIMP menus are usually relatively explicit. If you work the text menus, you can usually find the option you need
- The Tab Trick. The two menus that surround the image editing area are one of the more challenging aspects to GIMP. They’re two separate menus that float around a third box and everything is connected yet disconnected. You often need the menus but they get in the way about just as often. Recently, I learned that clicking Tab will hide the menus, allowing you work with your image. When you want the menus back, just hit Tab again. It’s a simple tip that makes GIMP about ten times more usable.
I’m not here to praise GIMP. I just want people to realize that one can learn to use it. And as you learn to use it, you’ll realize it is a flexible, powerful image editor. It has a steep learning curve, but it is possible to become relatively proficient with it. After a few weeks of being forced to use it, I feel competent with it. So if you’ve played with GIMP for a few hours and then given up, I encourage you to give it more of an extended look. It’s worth the time investment.
GIMP can be learned. I’m living proof.
I’ve been playing with Debian Testing in a virtual box, using Xfce.
It’s hard to talk responsiveness since that always feels a bit relative in virtual machines.
But it’s interesting using it and then comparing it with Xubuntu.
It’s definitely not as nice looking. The fonts are a tiny bit blurry and the icons look a bit flat. I’ve tried playing with the font settings, but I haven’t been able to get things to smooth out.
I’m surprised by some of the software choices, too. OpenOffice.org is the default office software suite, which seems like overkill for Xfce. Gimp also doesn’t ship with the Debian Xfce package. I realize the trend is away from using Gimp as a default anywhere, though, so I understand that choice.
Give Debian’s complicated history with Firefox, I’m surprised IceWeasel is still the default browser. I also can’t recall seeing Midori as a browser option. But Chromium definitely wasn’t a default.
Xfce Debian also doesn’t have a software updater. I was going to download one, but I’m holding off to see if it’s necessary. Once I installed sudo, it’s no big deal to update and then upgrade once a day (I’m embarrassed to publicly admit I don’t know how to do anything without sudo). If things go well with that, I might even remove the updater from my Xubuntu machine.
Xfce Debian also doesn’t include the Synaptic package manager. I install 90% of my software via the command line but Synaptic is helpful when I’m trying to figure out the right package name. For instance, before I installed the Chromium web browser (chromium-browser), I first accidentally installed a game called Chromium (chromium). But again, I’m seeing how things go before I actually take the plunge to install Synaptic.
I’m very curious about stability. A lot of people have talked about the stability of Testing and how it’s a perfectly viable OS. But Testing has been stable as Debian moved toward a stable release. Now, working on a new release that’s further away, I’m wondering if there will be any breakage issues.
So far, after less than a week of use, I can report no stability issues, though, except for a weird HAL power management daemon message that accompanies start-up. It’s innocuous, though.
I don’t get all of the Debian Xfce default choices, but in general, it’s a nice distribution. I’m going to keep an eye on stability but even if there aren’t any major breakage issues, I’m not sure I would switch away from Xubuntu. Xubuntu is bloated, but some of that bloat is what makes it look so nice.
However, playing with Debian Xfce has given me some ideas on bloat I might cut in Xubuntu. Do I really need the software sources manager, Synaptic, and the update manager? I might cut one or all of these for a while and see how things go.
Or, since performance isn’t an issue and they’re occasionally convenient, I might just let them stay.
Either way, playing with a new distro is always refreshing because it gives you ideas on how to re-imagine your current one.