Monday, June 9, 2014

New strategy

I came up with a new strategy for my computer configuration(s). I do this a lot. And it's not necessarily because what I'm doing isn't working. I often change things around just due to boredom.

I'd already decided that I don't really like dual-booting. So each of the machines will have only one bootable operating system. No virtual machine wussiness. Just bare metal booting.
  1. My first machine is a Core-i5 laptop with 8GB RAM and a 750GB HD. This will run Windows 8.1. It has enough room for all my data. It will mostly be unused, but will come in handy when I need to do something that Linux or Chrome OS won't do. So far, photo printing is the only thing I care about that is on that list. And that need is so rare, not a big deal.
  2. My second machine is an Acer C720 Chromebook. This will be a good on-the-go laptop with 8+ hours of battery life and zero maintenance. Typically I'd grab this when going somewhere over my Windows laptop due to those factors.
  3. My third machine is an ASUS Chromebox with a 23" monitor. It will sit in the kitchen/front room. This will be a spare computer with zero maintenance. Great for looking up recipes, browsing, or being near my wife while she's out there doing something.
  4. My fourth and main machine is a 23" all-in-one with a 23" second monitor. This will be my geek machine. It will run the Linux "flavor of the week".
One nice thing about the geek machine. I don't need it. If I mess it up and it's not operational I can just hop on another. That's one advantage to having all my data in the cloud.

So last night I bit the bullet and installed Arch Linux on my geek machine. This was exciting for several reasons.
  • Arch Linux is known to be challenging. That means I'm not as likely to get bored with it. And the fact that this will help me learn stuff is a bonus.
  • I wanted to replace my current Linux Mint installation on LVM with Arch Linux without losing my data on other LVM volumes. That made a tricky install even more tricky.
  • Of course the main reason it was exciting is because I was successful at installing it last night, without losing data. And by this morning it's all mostly functional.
For those of you not familiar with Arch Linux... this is a totally do-it-yourself version of Linux. It comes with no GUI or anything installed. You have to roll your own. For example, I had to download, install, and configure a program just to set the desktop background image! There are a zillion little single-purpose programs that are required to do all sorts of things that most computer users take for granted.

This may be more work to set up... but the opportunities for customization are endless. There are typically no two Arch Linux systems that are setup the same. And of course the tinkering is at least half the fun.

I'm not sure if anyone actually reads this blog. But you may notice in past entries... my relationship with Linux is a bit of a love/hate thing. It's fun. I love setting it up and playing with it. But there is no doubt that it's really not a good replacement for Windows. Unless of course you lower your expectations to where Linux will actually meet them.

This is sort of what I did when buying my two Chrome OS devices. With all my data in the Google cloud... I can survive in Chrome OS. And if I can survive in Chrome OS, I can definitely survive with Linux.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shortcomings

I've finally realized something about the various operating systems that I have been playing around with for the past few months.

People keep saying that Windows is on it's way out. And the desktop is dead. But there are currently no suitable replacements (except for Mac OS X).

I consider the ability to print photos to be basic functionality. This is not new technology. People have been printing photos for years. I have a Canon all-in-one printer. It prints great photos... if you're using Windows or OS X. But if you're using Chrome OS or any flavor of Linux... forget it.

Chrome OS just isn't mature enough to have that functionality. And the Linux driver for my printer is so buggy that if I specify any paper type other than "plain paper", it just doesn't print. No really.

This is 2014 right? It is absurd that people think an operating system that doesn't support mainstream printers is actually usable. I could probably hunt down a different printer that has better Linux support. But it's not like Canon is some obscure brand.

I've deliberately scaled-back my requirements for operating systems that I mess with so as to be as tolerant and undemanding as possible. That allows me more room to play. However, one has to draw the line somewhere. And "can't print photos" is a bit of a show-stopper.

But here is the punchline. The first hit that comes up when searching for a list of printers with good Linux support is a list of recommended printers from the free software foundation. Great! Unfortunately it also states that the list is "currently unmaintained". And that... is the story of Linux in a nutshell.