Finally. s/Windows/Linux/g;

6:29pm 24th May 2008

I've been a Linux user for about 4 years now, but only on servers. I have been putting off familiarizing myself with Linux on the desktop for a very, very long time now, due to laziness and complacency. However, finally, I have the motivation needed to switch. And switch I have. A big thanks to Microsoft for making Vista the steaming pile of manure that it is. Had the prospect of having to eventually use it not been so horrifying, I probably would have just ignored Linux yet again and stuck with what I know. The chasm between what I expect my computer to do, and what Windows can actually deliver has been growing over the years, but with Vista, I am no longer able to build a bridge between the two, although my growing list of discontents is the subject of a whole other blog entry.

While this has been happening, Linux distributions have really grown in leaps and bounds. After a short selection process I have settled on Xubuntu as the first distro to try, and wow is it sweet. It's Ubuntu, configured to default to the excellent and very lightweight Xfce desktop system. Most of the hardware works out of the box with no hassles. The only exceptions have been the hardware volume controls (this is a ThinkPad T61p laptop) and the microphone, but those are minor and I think a little more tinkering should get them up and running. I've also got an issue with hibernate, but suspend works fine and I use that most of the time anyway. I think these issues will likely get fixed with the ThinkPad drivers are updated for the hardware in the new models.

Notably, the only windows app that I didn't want to switch away from, UEStudio, was able to run just fine under WINE, and getting it to work proved to be a snap. Moving my Thunderbird email files was as easy as copying the files across and things like USB flash drives, the ThinkPad light and even my Huawei E220 HSDPA modem work fine (although I haven't managed to get it to connect to my Optus service as yet). All in all, it's been a fairly painless process, with minimal tinkering required. I'm going to try the latest version of Kubuntu, with the new KDE4 desktop, just so I can try the alternative but I think I'll skip Gnome, as I've done that before back when I tried Fedora 5.

The other benefit of Xubuntu is its lightweight design. It's perfect for running on low spec hardware, and a full install is under 2gb. That means I can put the same desktop system on an eeePC as I have on my main PC. Perhaps I've spent too much time in the Microsoft world, but I find this amazing. It can run KDE and Gnome apps, so you get the best of both worlds; lightweight desktop with the availability of all the full features, should you need them. And with WINE running most Windows apps these days and approaching a 1.0 release, I don't think there's any reason to even bother setting up a dual boot system to go back. There's just no need.

For me, this really is the year of Linux on the desktop.

Home, out, and home again.

2:27am 17th May 2008

So, since I came back from the Pai CouchSurfing collective, quite a bit has happened. We installed a fingerprint lock on our front door in response to the total mess that was the Gassiep family key management procedure, and I am pleased to report that it has been a total success. I have enrolled two fingers of each family member into the lock, and nobody has been locked out since. Furthermore, there's no more rummaging for Mum who has a handbag like the Tardis, or trying five different keys for Dad who refuses to cull his keyring which must have at least 50 keys on it. The model we have is the FA6600 and I highly recommend these units. They're easy to use, solidly built compared to standard front door latches and seem to have very good fingerprint reading capabilities.

Since then I've been overseas again, I visited friends and family in South Africa as well as making a stop off in Thailand to do another unit of training in Scuba diving. I've just returned home today. While in South Africa I stayed at my Aunt's place in Johannesburg, which is always a pleasant holiday. I accompanied my mother there, and we took Zayd there to meet my cousin's kids. He had a great time, he doesn't get a whole lot of family contact here in Australia, as there just aren't that many kids here that he can relate to at his own level. It was also great seeing everyone there, I haven't been in about 18 months. I didn't stay there for very long, and didn't get to catch up with as many of the people there that I would have like to, sorry if you're one of them!

On my way back I met Gemmell in Thailand, where we completed the next level of PADI diver training, Emergency First Responder and Rescue Diver. These two units are the last ones we needed to do in order to go into professional diving, and the last one before Master Scuba Diver, which is the highest qualification outside of professional diving. In order to get the Master Diver qualification we need to be supervised for 5 specialties. We've already done the first dive for our chosen ones the last time we were in Thailand, we just need to get them logged, and then ensure that we have 50 logged dives in total. In other words, we just need to get some dives logged, and we're there.

So now I'm back at home. I have a few things that I'm working on, including Twerl. Oh well, back to the grindstone again until I find an excuse to flee the country again. I'm thinking of doing some winter dives here in Melbourne so I have an excuse to try out the dry suit that I bought from my first instructor in Thailand. I've never used it, as I've not done any diving in water cold enough to need it. I'll keep you all updated on how that goes, so watch this space! Naz out.