Experiment: Initial Impressions of Mandrake 10.1 Community

This is my first entry in the experiment that I have been volunteered for by my husband. I said I would do this because I like the idea of a free operating system and I’ve always heard my husband talk about how great it would be if we could use linux instead of windows. Here is my chance to find out if this would ever really be an option for us.

I installed Mandrake today with minimal help. I could have done it on my own but I just wanted to get on with things so I asked a few questions. There are a few things about the install that aren’t exactly new user friendly, but if I think back to some windows installs I probably did some guessing then too.

This is my initial impression after a little over an hour of use:

Starting with the criteria, I think the look of the desktop is okay. Nothing fantastic but it’s pretty easy to navigate and that is what is most important to me. I haven’t tried changing anything, I haven’t done much of anything yet. I am very frustrated that I had to ask for help getting the sound to work. This should be really easy to do but for someone who knows nothing about “ALSACONF” it’s a bit of a problem. The very next thing I wanted to do was be able to surf the web and have my own website render properly. This wasn’t going to happen without java. I decided to do a search for java downloads. I found one, downloaded it, easy enough. Opening the file was a different story. I tried everything I could think of but I ended up asking for help. This is a complete turn-off to me. If I was on my own I’d be screwed. I want to give up, however I’ve been informed that I will not be getting out of this so easily. You will be hearing from me in a day or so. Now I get to go feel like an idiot some more. –BTW, the very same keyboard I use in windows is MMMMMMuch more sensitive in linux. I find that odd. Anyway . . .

Anticipated Problem in Fedora Core 3

I’ve hit quite a few snags with FC3 lately.  Very odd that people consider this one of the most new user friendly.  I have a bad feeling that this is actually going to score very low with my wife when she takes it for a test drive.  The reason I say this is that FC3 doesn’t play mp3’s!  That’s right, you heard me correctly, you can’t play mp3s with FC3…I was shocked as well.  I did some snooping and it turns out that Red Hat thinks they can’t distribute the mp3 codec legally…or are just to scared to do so.  Pretty odd considering all of those mp3 players out there seem to be a-ok with being able to play mp3s.  Let me setup what happened and how I came to this conclusion.

I decided to go back to FC3 to do some more messing with it…mainly because quite a few of the Lxer.com crew seem to LOVE FC3.  So…I install and have it up and running.  I mount my shared music drive and decide that I want some mood music while I mess with compiling a few things.  XMMS pops open and decides that mp3’s aren’t something it wants to play.  Here I thought of two things I could do.

  1. Convert all of my mp3s to .wavs immediately so that FC3 would be happy with it and play them.
  2. Find out what in the world was up with this and get a workaround

Now, if this were the review we’ve been building up to for the past couple of months…I’m afraid a new user would be more apt to replace my number 2 above with a “ditch Fedora Core 3” and they’d be perfectly justifiable in doing so.  How many new users have even been to a forum before?  How many have asked for help?  If we’re shooting at being viable competition for Windows, we’ll need a distro that allows a person to operate WITHOUT GOING TO FORUMS or helplines.  It will need documentation available to it immediately after installation and it will need things as simple as listening to mp3s to work out of the box.

Snooping led me to a tips and tricks post on a forum that shows me a bunch more stuff I haven’t even run across that doesn’t work out of the box.  I wouldn’t be too concerned if they didn’t have to deal with really basic tasks such as playing music.  But alas, one cannot wish for too much out of a distro evidently.  Fedora came up majorly short in this department and I suspect that my wife will give up on it if she runs across this problem.  We’ll see what happens I guess 😛

Daniweb.com, free help, free community

TKS has contributed to the DaniWeb community

I’ve been a member of Daniweb.com for about a year now and have seen it grow leaps and bounds in member numbers and content. I’m proud to be a part of what I consider the largest still ‘for free’ support site on the web today.  Daniweb.com isn’t just for windows…it has code snippets for php, C++, VB, webhosting tips, tutorials for linux, soooo much.  This is one of the best places you can possibly go to find help for anything…hardware, software, programming…the whole 9 yards.  If you’re in a bind with something, go on by and check out Daniweb.com.  You won’t be sorry.  Make sure you pass me a PM along too and say hello.

Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding…part II

*Editors note: The following sentence was removed from the first paragraph of #3:

“Even as recently as November 2004, there has been talk from the kernel developers about a fork in the kernel”

It was removed along with the link to an article from November 2004 due to it being an erroneous reference and based on comments taken out of context. However, I neglected to post that I had removed this sentence because I felt that it did little to support or not support the paragraph. I apologize to the readers of the blog for calling into issue my integrity.

Devnet



Some of you may have read my previous entry that sparked quite a bit of debate. Looking back on the content, I realize that the title of the entry could be misinterpreted as FUD or even trolling. Please understand that this wasn’t the intention. The entry simply addressed issues that I see inhibiting open source, specifically Linux, from fully succeeding (i.e. dominating both the server and desktop market for computers). I should have titled the article, “Why enterprise applications may kill open source”. But hindsight is 20/20 right? On request, I will clarify a few points for those that have asked it.

1. Enterprise companies and applications that take from open source CAN KILL open source.

There is a crossroads in today’s enterprise OS. Micro$oft has pushed back Longhorn and the next greatest server application. Companies have begun to wonder what they are going to do for server/desktop OS in the near future. Many are seeing their support for enterprise server applications such as NT 4.0 and Win2k dry up and blow away. Enter Linux. Affordable, stable, and now certified as a ready alternative to M$. So Enterprise Linux begins to flourish this year. Novell, Red Hat, TurboLinux, and others start to churn out a profit and go into the huge server market with actual products that can offer benefits to all. The problem is this…what happens if those companies pull the plug on their open source support? Would they? Wouldn’t they? Why should we count on them? Didn’t Lotus 1-2-3 and OS/2 count on Micro$oft to keep them in the loop as well? Is it really something the community should bet on? Will the community bet on it? I hope not. Will it crush the community entirely? No…but it could fork open source or even set it back quite a bit. Of course, no one can see into the future, but these are valid questions to consider when you bring enterprise applications and business into the open source mix. Most of this will probably mean nothing for the common desktop Linux user or even someone who uses one or two open source applications on their M$ desktop. So why discuss it? Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Why not make foresight 20/20?

2. What do you mean that these companies don’t give back to open source. After all, IBM gave X Million dollars of support back to the community and Sun released X # lines of code…

Yes, that is true. Money being given back to the community and code being released is a good thing. I hope it continues. If business enters the fray, can you really count on it? What if companies decide it isn’t such a good business idea anymore to give back to open source? Will we cry foul and expect them to listen? Instead of investing our support for these companies…I say we should invest our support for those distros and software that aren’t available for enterprise applications. The free as in beer stuff. You know, those that charge 10 bucks to help the author who’s taxed beyond his means and has taken out a mortgage on his home just to put out the last release. Those are the ones we should cheer…not corporations. If I were rallying behind a business when I began with open source in 1995 I would have gotten shunned out of every single BBS and channel I was on. When did it become cool to rally behind business?

A corporation that sells enterprise open source will try to advance it’s own means first and then that of the open source community that supports it. If the open source community gets trampled or the short end of the stick…so be it. If the corporation sees an opportunity to take more than it gives to open source…it will happen (and most likely has happened). Remember that all they have to do to get accepted back into the community is release another few lines of code or donate a fraction of their billion dollar profits…it’s all smiles and “welcome backs” after that.

The problem with business is that business as a whole is incompatible with the spirit of open source…which doesn’t mean they can’t help each other or coexist…it just makes for an unknown future. Right now, companies have found a comfortable balance with open source. This is proving a very rich environment that open source is flourishing in. If FUD isn’t just something spoken of but something that becomes a reality, then where will we be? How do we prevent it? By being aware that it is an issue and NOT putting all of our ducks into the proverbial enterprise application row.

3. What’s this about Linux forking?

Sometimes forks in major projects can be a blessing. Sometimes though, they can kill a project. So, it’s uncertain what would happen if Linux forked. If you’re thinking…hey, nothing in open source will fork…read this and reconsider things…it’s not an impossibility. The good part about a Linux kernel fork is that open source wouldn’t die. Linux might suffer quite a bit, or it might not…but open source Linux would survive. However, if Linux forked it would be used as a “I told you so” by so many FUD brewers (like your favorite and mine Redmond micro-brewery) and with this happening, overall support would most likely suffer. Of course, this is all speculation. It’s not something we should be afraid of. It’s something we should be INFORMED of. It’s not something that should be uncertain…it should be understood. It’s not something that should provide doubt for us…it should provide knowledge of the possibilities.

There is a possibility with businesses supporting Linux that Linux will fork because of decisions that the business makes. If something the community wants conflicts with what the business wants…what is the business going to go with? Will they remove their support when they decide that they’re going with what they want instead of the community? Will they put undue pressure on individual developers in order to sway the development in their direction? Who’s to say they won’t?

Rightly so, we can’t see the future and we can speculate all day long. But we can change our awareness now and we can adapt ourselves back into the original intention of FOSS instead of nipping at the coat tails of businesses and having misplaced alliances.

Continue reading “Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding…part II”

Libranet and Progeny fall flat

Libranet 2.8.1 and Progeny Linux have fallen flat for me.  I don’t have an odd hardware configuration either.  It’s really too bad too.  I was really impressed with Libranet and Progeny mainly because they have the best installs of any distro available today.  Imagine configuring you Xserver and sound BEFORE it installs to disk so that it works before you even login…Libranet is able to do this.  Imagine Red Hat 9.0 Anaconda install and take that with Debian…Progeny is able to do this.  So they have so much going for them…but they failed to detect my network (nforce2 chipset integrated NIC).  Normally, I’d just flap in another NIC, modprobe, and go.  However, since this is a desktop experiment and we need detectability and a ‘less is more’ attitude…I’ll be forced to not use these distros.

So…this makes for a more simple review process and such.  For those that are curious…my hardware config is:

  • Mobo:  Abit NF7 2.0
  • CPU: Athlon XP 2400
  • RAM: Crucial 1024MB (512X2) PC2700 (underclocked for these tests)
  • HD: Maxtor 7200rpm 120GB
  • CD/DVD: NEC DVD-R/RW 8X
  • Video: GeForce 4 Ti 4400 128MB
  • NIC: integrated nforce2

So as you can see…there isn’t much for variety and not much that hasn’t already been available to the Linux scene for some time now.  I’ll probably still add another distro or two to the list to make up for those that have dropped out.  Look for more info on this soon.  I’ll bring a complete list as well as the criteria they’ll be rated on (by mrs.devnet) sometime soon.  Until then…I hate it when good Linux distros only fall short in one area!  :/  But alas, these reviews/tests are for distros that offer as little user interferance as possible. Take care!

The Saga continues…PCLinuxOS 8

PCLinuxOS 8 was installed yesterday on my spare drive.  First impressions are…this is an excellent distro…but only once you get it installed.  They really messed up the install process.  Allow me to explain.
I booted up off the CD and found myself greeted to a plethora of options and programs to run.  I really dig the fact that it retains the Mandrake Control Center but has made it better.  I find the organization of the menu’s FANTASTIC…just as I found the Mandrake 10.1 menu’s well organized.  Thus far, only MEPIS has lacked in this area.  So, I decided to go for the installation to hard disk.  Much improved over version 7 is the shortcut link on the desktop that allows you to not have to search around in the menu’s.  This is a very solid distro…don’t get me wrong.  I’d say that this is actually the most well put together distro I’ve seen thus far.  There is a reason why THIS distro is the fastest moving on distrowatch.  It moved to where it is this year from #44 in 2003 to #9 in 2004.
So I click the install to disk icon and it brings up an interactive menu.  Now, for desktop distros…I choose automatically install for each one.  The main reason being, that is what a common user would do.  They won’t partition like you used to do with Linux.  However, with this interactive menu, it assumes you 1) know what a partition is 2) know what Linux is supposed to have.  I would really like to see if having a blank disk without swap and partitions would detect correctly for PCLinuxOS 8.  It detected my swap and first partition and assigned it with some drop down menu’s.  From there, you are supposed to find /home /usr /var yourself and/or make them yourself.  I immediately stopped the install and formatted the drive as a large ext3.
I called up a friend who knows nothing about partitions and had him attempt the install.  He gave up trying to partition the drive.  This needs to change!  MEPIS installs in 7 clicks from a LIVECD.  There is no reason that this should be any different.  I suggest that they have 2 different menu systems…one for common users and one for advanced.  Something needs to change…they tout this distro for new users.  I know about 2 new users that could even get this installed…and they’re windows guru’s.  Partition creation and management is something that most common users don’t even think about or address.
Overall though, this distro is solid.  Good upgradeability with synaptic.  Great programs installed.  Great organization.  Great menu’s and icons.  Everything is very nice looking.  This distro truly shows Linux in it’s splendor.  That’s it on first impressions.  We’ll press on in a few days with the next on the list.  After finishing all distros and first impressions, my wife will take front stage and give the new users’ perspective.