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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Playing with Linux

For the last couple of weeks I've been playing with SimplyMepis, a Debian based Linux distribution.

I decided to start messing around with it because I missed my (very old) days of using Unix. So I downloaded a couple of different "live CD" distributions. These allow you to boot Linux from a CD.

I built boot CD's for SimplyMepis (3.3.1-1) and Unbuntu Linux. The first thing I noticed was that both had a decent GUI interface, much better than the Xwindows I remembered from HP-UX. But the interfaces were very different. Unbuntu used the GNOME interface, which looks pretty close to a Mac type interface. Mepis uses KDE which is an offshoot of the CDE Unix interface.

Gnome looks better, but I found that KDE,with some tweaking, became more user friendly, though not as pretty.

Both came with Open-Office installed. This is a MS Office replacement, or close to it. All of it's applications will read and write MS files, and save as them, plus in their own XML based styles. It works very well, though it does take some time to get used to a few changed interfaces.

After reading both distro's web sites and forums I decided to install Mepis, as the other one had a lot of folks complaining they lost their Windows install, which I wasn't willing to do.

The Mepis install was quite easy, and it automatically installed the GRUB boot loader which allows me to chose Linux or Windows at startup.

The only major problem I've had so far is that I can't use some of my work websites using either Mozilla Firefox or Opera web browsers, they require IE. That alone will keep me from switching completely, as I need to do my time card :)

Firefox is the default browser, and I've experienced some problems with it both under Windows and Linux. For one, the games at
www.pogo.com seem to crash it. Opera, which is free if you don't mind ad banners does work on that site. For $39.99 you can make the banners go away, and I may pay it for the Windows version, as it is a much nicer browsing environment.

Anyway, I'm enjoying Linux, but I've found that I can't do anything easier, quicker, or more intuitively than with Windows, so it really doesn't make sense to switch to it completely. However, I'm thinking of building another computer, and the free OS sure sounds better than $99.00 for a copy of XP.

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