This is a translation of my editorial in EasyLinux 03/2009 (link to german version).
Printer, scanners, and TV cards which do not function at all; popular Windows programs which will never run, except in an emulation with complete virtual Windows installation; configuration tools that differ immensely from distribution to distribution and slightly from version to version; incompatible package formats that make software installation a game of chance, even for native apps — these are criticisms often found in internet forums about questions and problems of new Linux users.
The alternative: using the “standard” operating system that supports all devices, all important programs, and that typically across many OS versions. Installing a Windows program from 1995 on a Vista machine? Likely to be successful. OK, driver availability for a ’95 scanner on Vista isn’t good either, but at least today’s equipment from your local discounter will work.
This is a translation of my editorial in EasyLinux 02/2009 (link to german version).
Help! The Ribbons are coming
The Ribbons are coming. That isn’t father and mother Ribbon with their dodgy son Frank Ribbon who terrorizes the neighborhood — no, the Ribbons are worse: They are little revolutionaries wanting to change the whole world and attack people’s habits… at least, as far as software usage is concerned.
Ribbons are a Microsoft invention and users of the latest MS Office already know them: Gone are the times of navigating through multi-level menus, instead there are many beautiful and context-dependent icons for the program functions that make sense at a given time.
Over the last years all major Linux distributions have made “Xinerama” mode the standard for dual- or multi-head display setup, that is: When you have two or more screens, the system treats them as one big display where you can move windows from one monitor to another or even place them “in between”.
That’s precisely what Windows (and Mac OS X) do when you attach more than one monitor, but I prefer the traditional Unix way of creating distinct desktops (on Linux you’ll then call them :0.0 and :0.1 and may even run different window managers or desktops on the separate screens).
However, with the move to Xinerama mode, it has become harder to setup a classical multi-head environment. Some examples: KDE 4 won’t start on two non-Xinerama screens, just ignoring the second monitor. The latest KDE 3 versions also have problems, and when using the “focus follows mouse” behavior for activating windows, weird stuff happens – focus will move to the other monitor when switching virtual desktops (with Ctrl-F1, Ctrl-F2 etc.).
Who’s still using the classical multi-head with separate screens? Any suggestions for making the KDEs work properly with a recent Linux distro? Comments highly welcome…
Every couple years I hear that Linux World Domination is coming “real soon now”, or at least a recognizable market share for Linux on the desktop or something like that. For example, when Windows Vista appeared, people talked about migrations from XP to Linux for performance and licence reasons, but nothing much happened. The latest idea was that netbooks will pave the way for broad Linux adoption. OK, I am using Linux on a netbook right now, and I think it’s perfect for these small computers. But then, I’ve been using Linux for about 15 years, and I run it on all machines. The pre-installed Windows XP on the netbook was usable, but I found I could not use the small screen very well with a start bar and regular window frames; my Linux distribution (EasyPeasy, a modified Ubuntu) makes better use of the 1024 x 600 screen. Apparently Vista doesn’t run well on the low-fi netbook platform, and Windows 7 might improve this a bit; haven’t tested that.