Tiny Code

Tiny Code

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Life with Linux

I haven't been very good about posting lately. I've recently started a new job and there's lots to learn. I'm dealing with Packet over SONET (POS) now which is somewhat unfamiliar.

I was given my choice of development platforms at the new job - Windows or Linux. I've grown quite tired of the poor performance, hangs, and crashes which seem to come with using Windows a a development platform so I opted for Linux. That also kept me from having to go through the effort of setting up the CygWin utilities to get a reasonable development environment. With CygWin I can almost tolerate Windows. Without, Windows is just too painful to use. The standard command line tools in Windows are not terribly powerful. The telnet client is buggy and poorly featured. And the command shell is decidedly substandard with its broken pipes and terribly weak wildcard support. Give me regular expressions any day!

I had to install Fedora 7 on the laptop my company provided on my first day there. The Linux install has gotten much better over the years but the Fedora install still isn't as good as the Ubuntu install for finding hardware and picking appropriate drivers. The Fedora install did not recognize the Nvidia video adapter which the laptop has. Fortunately, Fedora now comes with an easier method of updating software called yum.

Once I figured out how to use yum, finding the Nvidia driver was easy. With the Nvidia driver installed, the laptop is now able to drive the 22" LCD monitor I now have at work at its maximum resolution. I always like to drive monitors at their highest resolution because it allows me to fit more information on the screen at one time. That makes me a lot more productive because I'm not forced to switch constantly between windows. What would be ideal is multiple large LCD monitors like Al Gore's setup. Maybe someday I'll find that sort of dream setup.

After living with Linux full time for about 6 weeks, I still like it. Would I recommend it to my parents? Not quite yet, but it's getting close. For most tasks, it's pretty easy. But having to fool around with command line tools like yum and using su to change to the superuser mode (yeah, yeah, I know it's the root user but I'm not assuming everyone who reads this is a Unix type) is sufficiently cryptic to keep me from giving it a hearty recommendation to normal users.

Less we assume that everything has been sweetness and light, running Linux has not been without a few gotchas. Being a long time geek, I can't help fiddling to try to improve my setup. Fedora/Gnome has an optional window manager called Compiz which features a very cool way to switch between virtual desktops. It's got a 3-d cube you can rotate by holding down the Ctrl and Alt keys while dragging the mouse. The cube rotates to show the next virtual desktop. It's much cooler than the desktop switcher which sits in the tray. Of course it relies heavily upon the capabilities of the video driver. Fedora by default checks for updates every time you book. Being a compulsive geek, I always want the latest and greatest software running so I always apply these updates as soon as they're available. Last week, an update to the nvidia driver broke Compiz's rotating cube feature which left me with no way to switch to another virtual desktop. That will teach me to use new features. I uninstalled compiz and went back to the simpler and less elegant method of switching virtual desktops. I've learned my lesson... at least for the time being.

1 comment:

Chard said...

Welcome to the cult...er...club.

I guess I've been using Linux as my primary development environment for about 8-9 years now. I also use it as my desktop environment everywhere except my laptop.

Things have improved dramatically since I first used Red Hat back in the day. I currently prefer Mandriva as my Linux, because it offers both a good desktop environment and reasonable access to the guts. Ubuntu (and its cousin, Kubuntu) drives me nuts because by default they try to hide the whole root thing, and I hate sudo. Fedora is pretty reasonable nowadays.

I haven't gotten the 3-D desktop thing to work yet. I had the native nVidia driver working on my newest desktop, but somehow it disappeared, and without it, KDE thinks 3-D is unsupported. *sigh*

I'll go back and play with that one of these days.