Or at least: a foot through the door. Or maybe both feet, with a hand resting on the door frame.
I’m getting moved in at 1776 Freedom Lane. Just a few boxes unpacked so far. I have backups set up going to the slug, and am getting mail in Thunderbird. I knew the house came furnished with some nice accessories, but was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to use one of the features.
One thing that really stands out is I can waste time wandering around the web in GNU/Linux just as effectively as I could in Windows. (This post should have come out on Monday.)
I wiped out Windows on Zodiac Thursday night and installed Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) GNU/Linux. It felt very liberating, although a bit reckless, like I might be overlooking something in my rush to move past Windows. Hurling (well, not really) myself in to the void. My main goal was to get data backups and email in place over the weekend. I enjoyed getting settled in. You really do start learning faster if you’re actually using a system as your primary machine.
First, I had to have my backups. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months on this so there wasn’t much to figure out, but I spent more time streamlining my previous setup from Prometheus (the system76 AMD64 system I had been working on).
Very easy to get both TrueCrypt and EncFS installed and working. I’d need Truecrypt to read from my encrypted Windows stuff, and EncFS for that stuff in its new home. Mostly needed for financial stuff, mail, and my personal writing. (That is: it’s not just for pr0n.)
Mail (Thunderbird) / Web (Firefox)
By Sunday I had been without mail for over two days and was feeling out of touch. I could have checked all my accounts on the web at any time, but I wasn’t getting the shakes or anything so I figured I’d just relax and be less connected during the initial transition. (I don’t do a lot of email anyway.) I didn’t expect much trouble moving my Thunderbird folder from Windows to Ubuntu. There was just one problem: installing Thunderbird through Synaptic gave me version 1.5 and I wanted 2.0. I learned Ubuntu doesn’t have an easy way built in to let you upgrade Thunderbird and Firefox. Firefox was at 220.127.116.11, which is almost up-to-date, but this was a concern. I don’t want to wait for the latest patched versions of these two programs.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find the excellent Ubuntuzilla scripts that handled the updates with no problems. (If you look at that URL, you might notice it has the word “key logger” in it, which may be disturbing to you. The PyKeyLogger looks relatively innocuous, though. It’s a good use of a key logger that I hadn’t considered before, which is to log everything as a universal backup solution. Reading about the project and learning the author just used the PyKeyLogger site as a convenient host for the scripts hasn’t raised my suspicions. I don’t think visiting either page or using the script will result in a key logger being installed on your machine. The author encourages you to review his work, which I did but only briefly.
Once Thunderbird was upgraded, it didn’t take long to copy my old Windows data folder over and start it up. Although expecting things to be compatible, I was still surprised at how easy it was to drop it in and start using it with all my old settings. And I knew already that Unix symbolic links are at least a million times better than Windows shortcuts, but I basked in the ease with which I could link from the standard
.mozilla directory in my home directory to an EncFS encrypted directory.
POPFile Spam Filter
Getting fifty spam in my movingtofreedom.org mailbox from 2+ days (I know, it’s not that much compared to some people’s mailboxes, but it’s still aggravating to have to pick through it) caused me to then go to work on setting up POPFile. That took some tinkering. I found that there is a nice package for it in the Ubuntu “Universe” repository, apt-gettable with
sudo apt-get install popfile, but I didn’t want to run it with the system popfile user it set up. (Partly because I don’t think it warrants another user for the way I use it, and partly because I wanted it to use my EncFS encrypted directories and they are only visible to my user account.) So I tried learning a few things about the various directories it was using and why, and then I’m sure I did something uncouth to get it working under my own ID. (At one point I removed it with apt-get and tried for a complete manual install, but ran in to problems getting the Perl module DBD::SQLLite installed.)
All this stuff just reinforced to me how much better it was to be immersed in the system. Necessity forces you to work on it instead of turning back to your comfortable Windows environment where you can continue happily suckling at Microsoft’s teat.
And it’s just a constant source of… amazement? joy? to me, to be using free software. Even with the occasional frustrations involved, I love it. It just feels so right to me that we should all be using and working on free software, and that it’s going to spur on some huge beneficial changes as it becomes the norm. Everyone should be free to copy and work on any bits that they want to…
I’ve heard frightening stories about Unix printing, but also had hopes that it’s gotten better and that Ubuntu would make it easy. My HP LaserJet wasn’t automatically setup, but it was easy to find System » Administration » Printing and click on “New Printer.” Ubuntu recognized the printer and had the right driver. The first couple of test prints were… lacking. I braced myself for possible hardship, and instantly fired up the doubt machine. What if it never prints well? I occasionally need a good printout. Oh, no! What have I gotten myself in to?!
But let’s be calm and check some settings. Ah: “US Letter” may work better than the default “A4.” I don’t think the United States is the center of the universe, but it seems like this setting should be localized correctly on install. Not a big deal, though. Next test looked better, and the one after that even better yet after bumping up the DPI from 300 to 600. Now we’re looking good. I knew I could count on you, Ubuntu.
I’ve griped and complained about some of the challenges I’ve faced in GNU/Linux where things seemed harder than I’ve encountered in Windows, and now it’s a pleasure to talk about an example of something being easy.
I bought the new Rush album (Snakes & Arrows) and wanted to rip it to ogg files, so I popped the CD in the drive. Sound Juicer started up and after checking and setting a few preferences, I was extracting the tracks in minutes.
Out of curiosity, I also pulled them off in the FLAC format. I wasn’t familiar with “Free Lossless Audio Codec,” but quickly gathered that it’s an improved and free replacement for the venerable WAV format. Although, I don’t know: Is WAV encumbered? I search sometimes and it’s hard to figure out the status of the various formats. In any case, and aside from what I’ve read that suggests FLAC is better technically, I like things with the word “free” in them, so I’ll start using it over the WAV format when I have reason to work with lossless audio. (Which isn’t all that often.)
Then I decided I’d make a copy of the disc to use in my car rather than risk the original. When I put a blank CDR in the drive, Serpentine started up. A nice simple interface for burning a nice simple audio CD. (Using the FLAC files.) I had previously tried it for burning a data CD and it wasn’t so hot for that, but it definitely can burn an audio CD, and I liked that it was all setup and simple to use for that purpose.
Those two applications and Rhythmbox all seem to work well, and one or the other is good at looking up song titles in an online database and one of them even shows a thumbnail of the album cover when playing. (I forget which ones did which things, and am too lazy to verify everything before posting.) I know there are more sophisticated applications out there, but it’s good to have simple programs for simple needs, with more features always available when and if you need them.
This is the kind of stuff that could really pull in new computer users. The base install has software that can do basic things so well; the things most people want to do when they start using a computer. And it would be good for those people who have been using Windows but keep getting it tied in knots. I so want to get my father-in-law setup with Ubuntu and not give him sudo access.
Still a lot to do. Next up I think will be dual monitors. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.