My Linux Desktop
Here is an update on my transition from Windows XP to Linux. I've run a Linux Desktop before, but when I bought an iBook, I ran more applications on OS X and for games and syncing up my various devices I used Windows XP.
I still run Mac OS X on my iBook because I love the way that you open the lid and the OS is up and running in seconds. I still use Windows at work and if you have applications that only run on Windows then you might want to stay with Windows. Otherwise you have to decide if you can give up those applications and pick an alternative or find a way to get them running on Linux. I chose to give up my old apps and find new ones.
After a few weeks, my desktop is running great (screenshot on the right) and I haven't booted into Windows XP at all since I started the migration. This is partly due to the fact that I have my essential applications working, and partly due to the fact that I'm using an Apple USB keyboard and I can't seem to select a different operating system in Grub or Lilo with it.. I currently have a ps2 keyboard attached just to select different options. I think I need to upgrade my PC to a newer motherboard as the old one is a getting a bit flaky and slow (no onboard USB-2 for example).
Choosing a Distribution
I chose KDE as my Desktop. I like the look of Gnome, but it still doesn't seem have the same integration and UI consistency as KDE. I think that KDE is more suitable for Microsoft Windows users as it initially looks and works in a similar way. This makes it easier if your switching back and forth between operating systems. If your really trying to get away from Windows, then Gnome might be a good choice. It seems pretty fast and looks nice
Since I was going to be using KDE, I decided to give Kubuntu a try. I love the Debian style package management, but I heard good reports about Ubuntu. I did try the Ubuntu Hoary Hedgehog release when I was building my Mythtv box and it seemed pretty good, although I think I had some problems with it and switched that server to Debian. I have tried Gnome (the default desktop on Ubuntu) and it looks really nice, but I tend to prefer KDE because it's more windows like. KDE version sounded perfect for me, plus it seemed to be one of the few that had KDE 3.5 as standard, plus a reasonably new kernel (2.6.12).
I have to say that I'm very happy with my choice. Kubuntu seems to be pretty quick using KDE. In the past,
KDE always seemed slower than Gnome, but under Kubuntu, it seems to be running pretty well, about the same as my Windows XP desktop (before it started to go really slow for no reason).
Switching to Linux is a lot easier than it used to be. Firefox is a godsend, since this is probably my most used application, I'm glad that the browser works pretty much the same as the Windows and OS X version. Mail is well supported as well. Other applications are a bit harder to find equivalent versions, but it's definitely getting easier. The following is a list of the Linux applications I'm running:
Web Browser - Firefox
Easiest application to choose. Firefox is the best browser on all platforms.
Email - KMail
I started off using Thunderbird, but I found that KMail seemed to integrate better with the rest of the Desktop and it's still pretty nice. I use it as a Kontact component. Kontact is similar to Outlook and can be used as a interface to Mail, Address book, To-do lists, Notes and News. The nice thing about Kontact is that you can disable components so that the application window can run as a completely separate application.
Music - Amarok
Amarok is an amazing music player. I have a few stability problems with it (ie: it just dies for no reason). It also has lots of eye candy, and has support for syncing with iPod's or other mp3 players. The iPod support is still not complete. I managed to sync my iPod but there is currently no support for syncing playlists, although this is on the list for version 1.4.
Amarok supports smart playlists, automatic downloading of album art from Amazon, podcast support, lyric downloads, and artist information from Wikipedia, a "Growl" style album info popup screen. Apart from my stability issues and the iPod sync problems, Amarok has the potential to be an iTunes killer.
Context View shows Album art (downloaded automatically from Amazon), ratings and other track info.
Lyrics can be automatically downloaded for the current track
Clicking on the Artist tab searches Wikipedia for artist information.
The playlist tab lets you create smart playlists and set up podcast subscriptions. Podcast support is pretty good, you can choose how many episodes to keep for each podcast.
The playlist tab lets you create smart playlists and set up podcast subscriptions.
Bittorrent - Azureus
Being Java based, Azureus runs well on Linux but not using the default Java. Sun Java is not available in the Ubuntu or Debian repositories but there is documentation on building a package for Ubuntu. I've also written a how-to which I'll post online when I get my act together. Using Sun Java, Azureus runs a lot faster!
RSS Feed Reader Akregator
I normally use NetNewsWire Lite on OS X. I havent found anything decent on Windows, but Akregator works pretty well on Linux. It integrates well with KDE and can be enabled as a Kontact component so that it appears in the Kontact window.
Burning CDs and DVDs - K3B
K3B is great frontend to a lot of command line utilites for burning cds and dvds. Not as nice as Nero or Toast but it does all the basic stuff that I need.
Instant Messaging - Kopete
Kopete is the default KDE IM client. Its probably not as fully featured as GAIM but it works pretty well and lets me chat with MSN and Jabber (gmail) contacts.
Video Playback - VLC & MPlayer
Mplayer is one of the best media player on any platform. VLC seems to play broken files a bit better though.
Podcast Client - Amarok
This function is handled beautifully using Amarok. I tried iPodder (aka Juice) but it seemed to download zero length files and wouldn't download them again plus it crashed a bit as well for me and the icon in the system tray was blocky.
Wordprocessing and Spreadsheet - Koffice
I could have used OpenOffice and I have It installed in case I need to open a Word document, but for my rare office type functions I use KWord and KSpread from the KOffice suite. I actually prefer the way KWord works with it's frames as it's similar to Pagemaker or Framemaker which I used to use for Desktop Publishing.
Quicksilver - Katapult
During an upgrade, I noticed that I got a download of a program called Katapult. I didn't really know what it was, but as soon as it popped up an icon and I started typing, I knew what it was doing. It seems to work like Quicksilver, although it's nowhere near as advanced. At least it lets me find my applications quickly which is one of the things I miss the most, especially the applications I don't use a lot as all my other stuff is on my dock panel. I'm starting to love my Linux desktop more than my OS X desktop at the moment! It's a bit of a mix between Linux, Windows and OS X, and it's generally customisable enough to make it work the way you want it.
Quicksilver on OS X is a fantastic application. One of those applications that changes the way you use your computer. If you've never heard of it, then here is a brief description on how it works.
Pressing a hot key pops up a window. By typing the name of what your looking for, Quicksilver finds applications, documents, songs, bookmarks, contacts, etc and displays them as you type. When you find the name of the object your looking for you can launch it, send an email, play the song, etc. I guess you could sort of describe it as a more advanced version of Bash's command line completion. It's a weird concept to get used to, but once you start using it, you really miss it. I searched for ages trying to find an equivalent application for Linux and I only found one for Gnome (gnome-launch-box), and under KDE it's a bit clunky and ugly and it found my bookmarks but it didn't seem to find my applications so I didn't continue using it.
Firewall - Peerguardian for Linux
No need for Zonealarm with the built-in iptables firewall support. There are hundreds of firewall scripts available. For Peer-to-peer protection I run Peerguardian for Linux. The Linux version is a bit different from the Windows version. It runs as a daemon process in the background. It still needs a bit of scripting to get updates automatically so it's not as easy to use as the windows version. Resource utilization is pretty good though.
Virus protection - none
I might install Clam AV to weed out anything that appears.
Applications that aren't working or missing
I think there is a way to get this working under Linux but I haven't tried it yet.
Update: There is a great how-to on installing Google Earth on the Gentoo Wiki. I'll post a guide when I've got it running.
This is supposed to work using Raki and SynCE. I got it to connect (and there was much rejoicing) but it's stopped working and I don't know why, or what to do to get it working again. This is next on the to-do list.
I might be using a VMware virtual machine for this application as I doubt if there is anything for my phone as it's not a common item.
TV guide widget
I have a TV guide widget that tells me what's on TV on my iBook. I can't find anything similar on Linux though. Instead, I signed up to yourtv.com.au on my mobile phone ($1 a month). It tells me what's on TV on my mobile so I can check on the way home from work.
Currency exchange Widget
I like the conversion widget on Mac OS X. It's great for converting prices from overseas shops into Aussie dollars.
Update: I found a currency exchange plugin for Firefox called Exch which can run in the sidebar or as a standalone application.
I like the little IMDB widget on Mac OS X for checking if a movie's any good of looking up information on an actor.
Update: I just added an IMDB search engine to Firefox. If you click on the google icon in the little search bar in the top right of the browser, you will see the option to Add Search Engine. This will take you to addons.mozilla.org where you can choose a number of different search engines.
There are a stack of games that I would like to get working under WineX. Top of the list is Battlefield 2. Unfortunately it only works with an NVidia card. Hopefully this is fixed soon. Until then I'll probably play some more MAME games.
Some Cool Things That I Like on Linux
Yakuake is a cool little console application. It's kind of like the Quake console you get when you hit the ~ button. When you hit the hot key (by default it's F12), a tabbed Terminal console drops from the top of the screen. It looks cool, and once you get used to it, it's really convenient because you can just pop open the console when ever you need it.
Kompose is very similar to Expose' on Mac OS X. It allows you to view all your windows with the press of a button, and then activate the one you want. It's pretty handy when you have virtual screens. I tend to use it more on Linux than I do on the Mac. It's pretty nice eye candy as well.
Konqueror has some really nice features as a file browser. As a Web browser it's a little clunky, but browsing files is pretty quick. It also has some nice options for previews, and one of the neatest features is File Size view mode. If you've ever used SpaceMonger for Windows then you'll know exactly what this mode does. It provides a graphical view of the file usage of a directory and all it's subdirectories, so you can graphically see where all your disk space is being used.
Speedcrunch is the default calculator under Kubuntu. It's a nice little calculator that lets you type expressions on a command line with full line editing functions and history. So if you are doing a long calculation and you only typed the last couple of numbers wrong then it's easy to edit the line and do the calculation again.
On the subject of calcuators, typing numbers into Katapult makes it work like a calculator in a pop up window. It's pretty cool.
Window management in Linux is much nicer than Mac or Windows (or at least, by default. There are probably ways to set it up on other OS's but I don't know them). Active windows don't always pop to the top. Some times, an active window allows input without popping on top. This is nice when you can see the little section of the window that you need to type into without disrupting the window on top.
I also like the way you can scroll a window using the scroll window without clicking on the window and bringing it to the top. This allows you to just hover the mouse pointer and use the scroll wheel to scroll the window contents of the lower window. Also, hovering the mouse pointer over the horizontal scroll bar lets you scroll left and right.
System Settings (the Control Panel) on Kubuntu looks a lot like the Systems Preferences window on Mac OS X, and fortunately, it works in a similar way. I don't know if this is a Kubuntu thing or a KDE thing, but it works well.
Typing in the search field helps you find the appropriate icon to click on to change something.
Here I've typed in "fonts". You can see that there are relevant entries in Appearance, The Font installer and the Login Manager. Any sections that don't have a fonts setting will appear as greyed out icons. Hopefully, one of these will be relevant.
If you have any apps you think I should try then let me know.