2007.01.23

Buggy Browsers

18.49.34 - Mark

I don't own a windows box, so when I have to test a site in Internet exploder I usually try and get my hands on a windows box. You would think that as flexible as Firefox is someone would have written a hack that emulates the way IE renders pages. Then I thought about it and I don't think anyone is crazy enough to try and recreate all of the bugs in IE.

Which left me with a problem. Try and assemble a working PC from my parts pile and dump windows on it, or get Internet Explorer working on my Ubuntu linux box.

Surprisingly, it was easier to get IE working under linux than it was to work with Windows thanks to ies4linux, a neat little hack that installs IE on Linux, running under WINE (which I already had installed)

I love linux.

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2006.12.16

Too many options

03.19.17 - Mark

90% of the time Ubuntu Linux rocks, and is easy to move to and from in the 4 OS enviroment I'm crazy enough to live in (Mac OS X, "Classic" versions of the mac OS, Windows XP, and Ubuntu)

It's that 10% of the time that keeps it (and linux in general) from being a major desktop OS contender. Sometimes its almost needing a computer science degree to get software installed, fighting with various devices to work, or even occassional wonkiness when going about everyday use that you either find a work around or dig though pages of bug reports and command line hacks. What really keeps it out of reach for many users is the thirty-two thousand ways you can do any one task.

A couple weeks ago on Black Friday I picked up a cheap hard drive figuring I'd need it somewhere eventually. I wasn't dissappointed when my linux box shard crying for more storage space a week later. After getting some better IDE cables (the box has physical space management issues) I went and installed the drive yesterday. On a windows box, I could use the drives included software to format the drive. On a Mac, I could just use Disk Utility.

Under Ubuntu I had to use 7 or 8 seperate software tools, consult help documentation on at least 3 of them. Study several online howtos, actually had to follow two of them, and muck around in a handful of system config files. Yes I like having control over my computer, but I don't happen to like spending an hour and a half partitioning, formatting, and mounting hard drives when I should be able to do it in 10 to 15 minutes.

To save others a bit of time This article covers how to wipe the drive and install a filesystem, then this one tells you how to actually get your new drive to mount on startup.

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2006.09.14

Current Opinion...

00.39.44 - Mark

Computers Suck.

In my unending war on technology failures I've reached some meager high points, followed by plummeting low points.

The slight bit of good news in my computer woes is that a rather nice Pismo that was given to me - in pieces - has been rebuilt. I couldn't make him better than before, as I lack the budget for it right now (I think) but the fact is I literally took a pile of powerbook parts and reassembled it into a quasi-working machine. The CD/DVD drive won't read CDs and it doesn't have wifi or a working battery, but the fact that it boots is more than I can say for most of my computers, because...

Ubuntu crapped out on me, and now refuses to boot. Last week before I helped move my brother into college I started the process of upgrading to the latest version of Ubuntu (my DSL is painfully slow these days). Eventually it claimed it was done upgrading, restarted itself, and hung. For the last few days its been delightfully staring at me refusing to boot. Now I can deal with botched installs, usually I can even bite the bullet and do a full reformatting and reload off a backup. Too bad I have nearly all my backups on part of the drive a reinstall wants to reformat. Apparently linux, or at least Ubuntu is damned near impossible to reinstall from scratch without reformatting. I'm working on it but its a pain in the neck.

Of course there are more problems (both ongoing and new) than I care to recount, but I'm guessing I need to get some of the tech out of my life - since maintaining the computers around the house is feeling a lot like a bad IT support job, minus the pay.

Now, back to fighting with linux...

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2006.03.17

Linux for Human Beings, Even Easier

20.44.48 - Mark

I really like Ubuntu Linux, I've used other linux distros like Fedora and Knompix, unfortunatly even Ubuntu's developers haven't made it easy enough for non-geeks to setup and use enought for it to be functional.

However today I accidentially came across this utility (for Ubuntu) that, while it still doesn't make it as easy as a Mac or Windows, makes it easy to take a default Ubuntu install and make it functional.

The tool is called Automatix, and it automates the process of adding extra applications, drivers, utilities, and codecs.

If you have to install a copy of Ubuntu for something other that a server, go out and get Automatix.

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