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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Adventures in Open Source Software II

As I noted in the previous post, quite awhile ago I had begun using two major open source software packages: Firefox and Open Office. The latter because I needed my own copy since I'd been illegally and guiltily using Microsoft Office (yes, I confess I confess, throw your stones!), and the former because I was seeking something that would give me better control over annoying things like pop-ups and other security issues that did not generally plague Firefox – eventually I also found it had far more features that I preferred over IE (I still remember the glory of the day I discovered tabs). Every once in awhile I run into a web page that will not function to varying degrees in Firefox, but that has not swayed my preference. And as the title of this post implies my adventures in open source didn't end there.

The next thing I knew, amidst massive frustration in getting certain videos to play in MS Media Player, I found and began using VLC player instead. I've yet to find a file it cannot play and has never required frustrating and forlorn quests for an obscure codec that apparently can only be found in Jimmy Hoffa's jacket pocket. Not surprisingly, in time I preferred it as well and have not used Media Player to any significant degree ever since.

Once again, Africa would propel me further into this adventure. While there at the beginning of 2008 my work laptop died. As it turned out, a windows file somehow became corrupted and it would not boot. And even though a copy of a Windows XP disk could be found, I had left the laptop's external and ONLY optical drive some 10,000 miles away. On top of this, I feared the hard drive may have been on its last leg thus causing the file corruption and threatening a number of important files still there, but inaccessible to me. So, using other computers I began surfing the net looking for possible solutions and one that I came up with was fascinating. Using detailed instruction I created a bootable drive out of my thumb drive utilizing a linux based operating system called Ubuntu. Now, marvel at the coincidence that Ubuntu (oo-boon-too) is a word taken from an AFRICAN language (it's actually found in nearly all central and souther languages)! It's meaning is difficult to nail down, but in essence it refers to a social/cultural philosophy which emphasizes “the human characteristics of generosity, consideration and humane-ness towards others in the community.” Which I can appreciate, though I'm not sure the name of the OS mattered at the time, except its curious African origin and my whereabouts upon first discovering it.

I'd never heard of Ubuntu, but I had heard of Linux. Of course I'd always thought using Linux was akin to using DOS. Come to find out, it can be, but in the case of Ubuntu Linux (and others) it is also a fully interfaced graphical operating system similar to Windows...which as I believe was Apple's idea first. Anyway, to get back to my story: I had no idea what to expect, but the instructions told me I could salvage my files, which I believed were in imminent danger, by booting direct from the USB thumb drive and then running Ubuntu from it. I did just that and I cannot tell you what joy I had when my screen lit up with a lovely wallpaper, menu bars and a functioning mouse. There was a bit of a learning curve, but in no time at all I was able to grab my files and save them to a second thumb drive. Well the hard drive never died and for the remainder of my trip I was tinkering with Ubuntu. If I had been the owner of the laptop I would have simply installed it...but since it was from work I could not and so I ran it via the USB port.

Since that time I decided to learn more about it. Obviously, not being Windows there was a long list of software that cannot run on it and this would be the main issue preventing me from installing it on our only computer. Indeed, for many people this alone kills any prospect of using it. There are Linux programs that will mimic a Windows environment which will then allow you to run some windows based software (e.g. Wine), but even they cannot allow you to run everything...though the list of what can be run by Wine is impressive. I was toying with the idea of using it, but it also became apparent that such a shift really isn't for the faint of heart since Ubuntu isn't as automated as Windows (this actually is a “selling” point as I'd discover later) and there were some programs/games with which I was unwilling to part.

Well as we were preparing to start the 2009-2010 homeschool year, I convinced myself that a second computer in the house just made good sense...I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that it was a decision that both made sense and fulfilled my sinful and potentially stupid consumer passions. Anyway, as coincidence would have it, Dell was offering a deal that if I purchased a nice laptop for Susan and the kids I could get a Mini10v for ½ the price, or $150! The Mini10v could be called a netbook, but in this case it has 1GB of RAM, 120GB HD, no optical drive, and the netbook processor by Intel called “Atom.”
But here is the kicker: I had my choice between Windows XP or Ubuntu. Care to guess for which one I opted?

So for the past few weeks I have been getting a hands on education with Ubuntu and I am very much enjoying it. Innumerable resources are available online and I'm even getting books from the library. I'm readily getting a handle on the Debian/GNU environment, Terminal commands, package downloads, and other things unique to Ubuntu and Linux. I'd have to say mastering package downloads was probably the most foreign aspect, for you see if you wish to download a program you cannot simply get one giant self0extracting/installing *.exe file and click on it. You have more control over your computer than that, and this of course means more responsibility. This is a very good thing IMHO because nothing irks me more than all the crap and bloat one gets for clicking on otherwise useful *.exe files in MS Windows. That's not Microsoft's fault, its just the way it is. Nothing is on my Mini10v that I did not expressly chose to be on there. I've virtually no need for spyware or virus protection software...but for that to be the case it requires me to be proactive. While Ubuntu does do a great deal for me behind the scenes, it's not nearly as “automated” as Windows.

Some kids get hand held Nintendo or Sega games, but I've found that Dell also offers a to be discontinued Mini 9 for about the same price as a hand held gaming system. If I can spend such dollars for my girls, I think I'd prefer the expenditure have educational use as well as entertainment. And if and when I do, they will definitely be running Ubuntu and I expect I will have far less problems with unwanted programs that always seem to popup on our desktop just from seemingly innocuous web surfing.

I'm sure there are many more reasons why I prefer Unbuntu at this point, but I've said enough for now. I'm thankful it is a viable option...the fact that it is free is an added bonus. I do not in any way shape or form believe (as some Open Source proponents might) that software OUGHT to be free; I do not at all begrudge Microsoft's right to profit from their products, in fact my belief in that right is precisely and ironically what started me down this road to free and legal options. I think if I were able to magically redesign the computing world (and I don't expect anyone would, should, or could), numerous Operating Systems would compete freely against one another upon their merits alone and other software such as games or photoshopping programs would be able to function amidst any one of them because one basic foundational operating system came with all PC's that did little more than allow other software to run. LOL! I really don't know enough about computers to know if this is even possible...but...in any event, for better or for worse this blog is now powered almost exclusively (as much as I have a say in the matter) with Open Source software. Ubuntu, Open Office, and Firefox. I recommend them all, but not necessarily to all.

Here's a screen cap from just a little while ago of my desktop:


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:10 PM [+]
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3 comments


3 Comments:

Welcome to Linux. This is rather funny, I suppose, as a first comment from a priest on an Orthodox blog, but what can I say? I used Linux pretty much exclusively in grad school, so now my church computer runs both Windows and Linux (Windows only for our monthly newsletter, which is done in Adobe InDesign, and in case someone other than me needs to use the computer).

By Blogger Virgil Petrisor, at 11:38 AM  

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Hello Father and thank you for the welcome!

I am working on converting my wife...she has a laptop that deserves Ubuntu.
:)

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 3:46 PM  

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Actually, depending on which version of Office you were using, you might not have been in violation anyway (i.e., if it's old). For example, since Windows XP is no longer supported, you can install it on 100 machines and be in perfect conformity with the law.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 AM  

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