Linux

Linux screen-1 300×240Its official, I’ve decided to drop Microsoft Windows completely at home, and use Linux instead. It started off as a little experiment, to see what Linux is like these days (it’s been a few years since I used it last), but after a few days of using it I love it!

I’m currently running Gentoo Linux, with the KDE desktop (3.5). I’ve included some screen shots of what it currently looks like.

If I’m honest I thought that running Linux day to day would be a bit of a drag, but it’s been great so far. I’ve managed to find open-source equivalents of everything I used to use on Windows, like:

  1. Browser – Firefox (same ol’ browser, with the same plugins)
  2. Instant messaging client – Kopete (includes MSN support)
  3. Music Player – Amarok (even includes built in Last.FM support)
  4. Image editing – Gimp (on a par with Adobe Photoshop)
  5. Open Office (Perfect replacement for Microsoft Office in 90% of cases)
  6. VLC & Xine (media and DVD player), Realplayer, Adobe Flash 9 plugin, and Last.FM player

Linux screen-2 300×240The obvious comment to make is that all of the software above is free, so there’s no need to pay for expensive image editing, or office software!

Getting the software is easy too. From previous experience I was expecting to have to either a) compile everything from source code and track down if one program was dependent on another when something broke, or b) use RPM or another package manager to install software that someone else has configured for you, leaving little room for your own configuration. Thankfully Gentoo have Portage, which is a great package manager. You can search their repository online, or from the command line, and it downloads the latest copy of the application and then complies it for you. The best thing is you can easily set flags to control what options you want the program to compile with, and there’s no need to worry about dependencies, if it detects one then it installs whatever is required first.

Linux screen-3 300×240.jpgOne criticism I had, and somewhat still have of Linux, is that it doesn’t look quite as polished as Windows or OS X does, but I’m still learning what to tweak, and what fonts etc to install so I’ll get there. One excellent feature has to be Compiz Fusion, which provides some real eye-candy with window and desktop animations! I’d never really seen the point to having multiple ‘virtual’ desktops running at the same time for the same user, but Compiz really lets you make full use of those additional desktops. Think of it as having multiple monitors, but without having to give up the desk space.

I’m also using Avant as a dock(which you can see at the bottom of these screen shots), and gives you a nice 3D styled launcher, and task bar of running applications.

Here’s some screenshots of Compiz in action. The first shows a linear view of all four desktops with different applications running simultaneously (from left to right: Gimp, Firefox with news.bbc.co.uk, Xine playing Sean of the Dead, and Konsole).

Linux screen-4 300×240.jpg

The second shot is of the cube desktop view, showing the same four desktops with the same applications running, but you can manipulate the 3D cube, and move between desktops.

Linux screen-5 300×240.jpg

The desktop background I’m using at the moment is by 1600 Squirrels you can see the original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/acornsarebitter/2106652468/in/photostream/

Design Update

I’ve just updated some images, and CSS styles to expand the size of the site. It should sit nicely inside a browser at 1024×768. We’ve had quite a debate at work about designing sites to 1024×768 rather than 800×600, especially with the newly designed BBC home page being 1024×768.

I really need to do some more work on the design of this site (well to be honest I need to do some design work in the first place because it’s a bit bland at the moment). Maybe if I get bored over Christmas you’ll see some updates.

For those of you reading in an RSS reader head over to the site and let me know what you think by leaving a comment

Xbox 360 Review

Xbox 360 ConsoleI’ve recently decided to join the growing online gaming world, and purchased an Xbox 360 Premium console (it was second hand, but less than a year old, so I managed to save a considerable amount). The console itself it well designed, it looks sleek, and runs very quietly, although it does get quite hot which could be a problem if you’re playing for a long time.

The premium pack comes with quite a few accessories:

The seller also threw in a free universal remote control, which is used to control the DVD player, and access media content on the local network.

The console setup went relatively smoothly, there’s a switch on the back of the AV cable that changes between the analogue and HD component input, which I had to find (the previous owner was running it on HD, and I’m still on analogue). The network setup went through OK, with the console picking up the relevant details from the DHCP server.

The Xbox live system uses a peer to peer system for online game play, rather than a centralised server architecture, which meant opening up a few ports on my router, before I could host games or conversations.

On the whole the experience that the Xbox 360 gives you is superb, it’s great to be able to play against friends online and chat to them when you’re either playing death-match or going through a game in co-op mode. The graphics are excellent, even on a standard definition TV (they must be outstanding on a HD TV). I’ll post some reviews of games and some other bits in a few weeks when I’ve had more time to play with it.

WordPress Upgrade

Wordpress LogoI’ve just completed an upgrade to my WordPress installation, and it looks like some of my plugins might not be compatible with the latest release. As soon as updates are released I’ll get them installed, but in the mean time tags are disabled. If you see any error messages, or anything that looks odd then drop me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll get it fixed asap.

Updated 05/10/2007 11:54
As mentioned in the comments below WordPress 2.3 supports tagging, you can import tags from existing plugins in the Manage -> Import menu (instruction for adding templates tags are here)

I’ve finally caught up with the 21st century!

BT Openworld Router (Grey Background)Believe it or not, I’m finally writing the post from home, using a broadband connection! I’ve been waiting to get broadband installed for three years, but the local infrastructure couldn’t support ADSL on our line (for those interested, BT installed fiber cabling rather the copper, so they had to overlay copper).

It’s great to be online at the same time as the rest of my family, and not have to wait until the phone line is free before I can get online!

Maybe I’ll be able to get around to updating this blog a bit more often now.

Safari – Must try harder

Well Apple have released the public beta of Safari 3 for Windows, claiming it has “blazing performance” and an “elegant user interface”, judge the last point for yourself!

Safari Screenshot 1

This is a screen shot of the default home page for Safari. There’s no text on the menus, or in the page, and the majority of the buttons haven’t loaded correctly either. I would include a link to this page so you could check it in other browsers, but the address bar doesn’t work, at all!

Apple say “Safari loads pages up to 2 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2.” which might be true, but I’d rather wait a few more seconds to have a page render correctly, especially if it means the Amazon home page doesn’t look like this

Safari Screenshot 2

Here’s a summary of the issues I’ve experienced

  1. Text not being displayed – This includes in menu items, pages, web-page buttons, address bar, search box
  2. Buttons not being displayed – The back, forward and refresh are the only buttons that have any icons
  3. No tool tips – Anywhere. This is especially annoying when buttons and menu items aren’t displayed
  4. Broken address bar – This doesn’t work at all, you can’t see what page you’re currently viewing, or type anything into it, making the browser unusable
  5. Random crashes – The browser keeps crashing for no reason at all

This is a shame, I’d love to have a fully functional version of Safari available on Windows, it would make development and testing a hell of a lot easier, but judging by the experiences of others I’d say it’s a little too early for this beta

Finally…

I’ve finally got my camera back, after my compact flash pin bent but a word of warning, make sure you remove battery before you send your camera off for repair (with a well known high-street photographic shop). I left my battery in my camera when I sent it off and it looks like someone’s helped themselves to it…
On the up-side it’s reminded me to write something on this blog (which I’ve been neglecting).

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