Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gadget Goodies 26 -- The Experiment Continues

Screenshot copyright James King, August 4, 2014
As we mentioned, last time, we've been pretty happy with Linux Mint 17. There are both ups and downs.  We'll look at some of those, today.

Our illustration is a screenshot by James King of his Linux Mint 17 xfce setup.  On my 10" screen, things get too crowded if I throw on things like the conky window with system info that James has on his. And I wanted to show something better than the shot I had, last week, of my netbook.  Done right, like James' screen, linux can easily look and work better than Windows.  Let's talk about that.

When I first installed LM17, it was the version with the Cinnamon UI.  And it had been several years since I did anything more than install updates.  So, when installing the new version, I missed that a couple of things were in the software repositories and, instead, did manual installations that may have included some extras that didn't install properly.  Overall, it went well.  But there were some minor glitches that left a sense of slight dissatisfaction.  All of it pretty much pointed right back to my own inexperience.

Back in the day, when I was trying all sorts of distros and UIs, gnome was kind of clunky and flat, KDE was fancy (sometimes to the extreme), and xfce was lean and mean with few frills.  When I got to LM13, people were talking about Cinnamon.  So, I decided to try it.  And it seemed to have the best of all three.  I really liked it.  As a result, when I decided to see if LM17 would get my tablet PC features working, I went for the Cinnamon version without even thinking about it.  Then they announced that the xfce version was available.  And people were saying it was faster.  Being halfway between a nerd and a geek, I just had to try it.  Which is the next thing we want to focus on.

In the old days, it could be daunting to set up a linux machine.  When I decided to see if I liked xfce better, I already had most of what I wanted to run under WINE in my Dropbox and the DVD for one other.  Once the xfce DVD was burned, I had it installed and most of what I wanted to use in about an hour or so.  And I avoided some of my previous mistakes.  I agree that xfce seems faster and I do like it.  But I wasn't 100% convinced that some of the speed difference wasn't from my own mistakes on the Cinnamon install.  And I really like the look and feel of Cinnamon!  So, I did it all over again. Still a bit slower.  

I've been told the MATE UI is even leaner and meaner than xfce.  And I've seen screens that look closer to Cinnamon than flat xfce.  So, that was my next part of the experiment.  Lean, not necessarily mean.  It didn't seem as stable as xfce.  While not having as much eye candy as MATE or Cinnamon, xfce is nice looking and rock solid.  But back to Linux Mint in general.

I'm known online for having an oddball sense of humor, but also because I'm a Christian blogger and writer.  So, whatever OS I'm using, Bible and writing software is essential.  The linux Bible software seems to be good.  But downloading the modules is painfully slow.  Often that slow download speed is to the point of never downloading.  The site for the module repository and some sites on SourceForge seem to have the same speed issues.  Other sites work fine.  But it was difficult enough that I looked at what Windows options might work under WINE.  As always, one of my favorites, e-Sword, works like a champ and even recognizes the stylus as a mouse pointer.  So, it works in both tablet and laptop mode.  I have an old copy of the commercial program noted for its depth in the Biblical languages.  That works, too.

Then there's the writing part.  First, there's LibreOffice.  That's indispensable and there's a version native to linux.  Just the fact that it can convert just about anything to a pdf makes it a "must have". About the best book writing software is a program called Scrivener.  There is a native linux beta, but it has limits.  The Windows version runs under WINE like it was designed for it.  I use Evernote for references, quotes and cataloging ideas -- the Win version runs well under WINE.

Once I've studied and written, there's social media.  On a computer I access Facebook and Google+ via browser.  So, that doesn't change.  I mostly use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets.  That wouldn't work for me, under WINE.  But there is a web version available by browser.

I also like my online music and I prefer the widgets to always using the browser.  Fortunately, Adobe Air installs properly under WINE.  As do the widgets that require Air.  So, I have my Jazz, Classical, New Age, and Chill.

If you haven't noticed, there's a growing recurring theme, here.  First, linux isn't a bear to install. Second, pretty much everything I use in Windows is accessible.  Depending on what you use, your mileage may vary.  At least for me, I'm no longer feeling like I need to go back into Windows to get things done and to have fun.  Enough so that it's impressive.  Sometimes, there are things I just can't figure out on my own.  There's a Google+ Linux Mint community and a forum where we can get answers.  That holds true for all the major linux distros.  There's no longer any need for fear and trembling at the mere mention of the word "linux".

For painless installation and ease of use, I'm sold on Linux Mint 17.  Ready to give it a try?

Android has been a part of the experimentation process.  We'll discuss that, next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment