Categories
Non-Fiction

Sweet Sixteen Penguin

May 3rd, 2004. That was when I wiped the hard drive on my computer, one I’d built with the help of a coworker, installed a second drive that was bigger—a whole-ass 30GB, compared to the first which was maybe 3GB if I remember right—and installed Mandrake Linux with the help of a friend over the phone. The second drive was set up as the /home partition, he had me install the cooker release (unstable), and away we went. I’d dabbled with something else and a dual boot a few years before that, Red Hat maybe? But because I didn’t know what I was doing and desktop Linux wasn’t what it is now, I’d never booted into the Linux partition and never learned what I was doing.

The cold turkey switch happened because at the time I hung on an IRC channel for a stupid hamster comic (Shaw Island, I miss you <3) and a bunch of the people hanging in the channel were Linux nerds. They all badgered me, one of maybe two girls there, that I should switch. So I issued the ultimatum — I’ll do it if one of you will be my on call tech support. One of them made the mistake of taking the deal and that’s what got us to May 3rd’s cold turkey switch.

Some of you reading this probably winced in the first paragraph when I mentioned the cooker release of Mandrake, more of you winced when I clarified that was the name for the unstable release. What was this dude doing putting you on an unstable release? If I’d understood at the time what it meant, I probably would have asked that same question, friends. Well, I started encountering issues not long after install, small stupid shit that someone more experienced would be able to easily fix — they’d know what config files to tinker with, which packages to downgrade, how to get a shell prompt if the gui shits the bed. But I was a totally green AF n00b. He was utterly mystified why I was having so many issues where he was running the exact same thing on his machine, but after a little digging, it turned out he was just so used to putting out the tiny fires he didn’t even noticed how often he was doing it.

To his credit, he did one thing very right; he helped me get on the Mandrake newbie mailing list. At one point I had something that utterly panned my ability to use my computer, and the whole of the situation got sussed out pretty quickly on that mailing list when I couldn’t get in touch with dude and asked the list instead — they not only fixed the problem, but also figured out the root of my general issues and helped me downgrade to the stable release. I have that mailing list to thank for the fact that I didn’t fall off the horse and go crawling back to the Window’s cesspool.

When Mandrake became Mandriva, I jumped ship to Ubuntu, or rather Kubuntu because I was an utter KDE fangirl. I’d tried gnome during the early experiments with dual booting, and disliked it, but took to KDE when that was the default on Mandrake. My friends gave me no end of shit for using KDE, “it’s so bloated” they’d cry and I’d throw a screen shot of my nearly widget-free purple desktop. There are better stripped down desktop environments out there, I know this now, but at the time it was easy to use and I could keep up with it. I did later try Enlightenment and enjoyed it, but alas that’s another dead project and we’ll talk more about that later.

I kicked around for Kubuntu for years, happy enough. The support forums were pretty nice, and given how if you end up in the wrong end of the Linux user base, you get smothered with bullshit like RTFM instead of help, I was very thankful for that community too. Eventually though, my antique laptop couldn’t keep up with KDE anymore, which given how old it was at that point was hardly a surprise, especially given that it’d been the cheapest model in stock at a Best Buy when my (then) boyfriend stopped to buy a birthday gift for me (so he didn’t need to leave his nice Macbook at home for me to use when I was visiting him since he didn’t have a desktop computer and I didn’t have a laptop to bring with me). I ended up switching to Enlightenment at that point, and even as a all but dead project, it was still working better than KDE at that point. I think they were fighting a nasty memory leak at the time?

I think I ended up getting eightish years out of that Toshiba Satellite, which given that it got dropped twice (once on cement and once on tile) and the battery had long since given up the ghost and I’d fucked up the power jack on the damn thing? Utterly Amazing. I finally ended up giving in and dropping a chunk of savings that had really been earmarked for a new car on a Gazelle from System 76. I’m still using that machine and I still love it. The only thing I’m sad about is that maybe a couple months after I bought, they released a new version of this model that included an illuminated keyboard. If I’d known, I may have held out for it… but oh well. RGB may be pretty, but I’ve been doing my wonktastic touch typing for hella years, and while I couldn’t write the letters in on a blank keyboard diagram, once I find my place on the keyboard I can type. Hell, it’s so bad that I can’t put in my password unless I either have food in hand to require one handed typing (but if I one hand it otherwise, doesn’t work), or I can type my password without looking two handed… but fuck if I can tell you where the keys I need to hit at if I’m looking at a keyboard.

Now, here’s where I admit I’m the shittiest Linux user in the world: When I first got this machine, I immediately replaced the perfectly functional version of Ubuntu that System 76 had installed for me before shipment with a fresh install of something called bodhi linux. I’d found Moksha desktop on Kubuntu not long before I bought the new laptop and had reasonable success with it as it was a fork of Enlightenment that was being maintained. Bodhi is a *buntu distro that’s packaged around Moksha, and I figured that if I liked Moksha, I’d probably like Bodhi too. Unfortunately I hadn’t realized before I installed that it was pretty much a one man show. Now, nothing but respect to someone putting that work in… but if you’re someone like me that never really digs that deep into my system, and you encounter a snag you can’t fix yourself, waiting for a one person team to get to the bug that’s making life a pain is no fun. In the end Bodhi wasn’t a good fit for me, and System 76 announced their Pop OS about the time I accepted that. But here’s my source of shame: to this day I don’t know if I just couldn’t RTFM right to burn the iso for pop os to one of my jump drives from shell or something was wrong, but the gui burner software that came with bodhi was broken, and the others I tried installing didn’t work, so I was left with no way to make a usb drive to reinstall my machine with anything else. In the end, I ordered a usb drive with the pop logo screen printed on it, and pre-flashed for install.

I’ve been pretty happy on Pop OS since, which surprised me a bit given that it uses Gnome for the desktop… but Gnome is a far cry from the version I tried way way back when, and given the amount of time that’d passed, I would expect nothing less. Honestly the only thing I’m irked about with it is that there isn’t a gui way for me to customize the colors. I need to take a little time digging into the css files that control the look of the gui and see if I can get my purple shit set up again… but that requires time and fucks. The dark version of the pop os theme is perfectly usable, so I haven’t made the time to fix this minor thing.

At any rate, not sure why I felt the need to chronicle my history here, but yeah, I’m that fucking nerd who has an entry in her calendar for the anniversary of when she made the full time switch to Linux. What of it?

Anyway, sixteen years of being the laziest fucking Linux user, right here.

Categories
Non-Fiction

Raspberry Pi(rate) Box

First step was easy, grab the install image for the Pi via BitTorrent — it was well seeded, so I had that in no time flat. Next step was writing the image to the SD card, which I am ashamed to say was probably harder than it should have been; considering that I’ve been using one flavor of Linux or another as my daily driver OS for 13 years now, I shouldn’t have had such trouble figuring out how to use dd in the terminal window to write the image to the SD card (GUI makes me weak). My first attempt to fit the Pi into the case that was included in the starter kit made me afraid I was going to break it, but after setting it aside a minute, I did eventually figure out how it fitted into place. From there, everything else went pretty smoothly: put the sd card in, powered it up, and connected via wifi from my laptop. Followed the last few steps of setup via ssh, and now I have a default set up working.

I need to do some customization now: need a way to power it off without ssh for those times I’m using it on the go without a devices that I can access it via the shell to tell it to halt, and need to decide if a physical switch added to the case or a hidden and protected webpage will be a better solution. Want to customize the pages it serves to connected users for chat and file sharing. Want to set up bluetooth to connect to a speaker to play back audio. Need to be able to get it on home wifi network, to allow me to be connected to it for shell access while still having access to the internets for irc and forums to access help and tips. Maybe add a QR code sticker to the case that’ll direct people to the landing page since it doesn’t always auto-redirect on my phone (though it does on my laptop),

Overall, I’m pleased that I was able to do a thing and it works. I may buy a larger USB drive and a higher capacity external battery pack, but for now the 16GB drive I already had, and wasn’t using, is enough space, and I don’t expect to run it mobile very much yet, so I can use the existing battery pack I use to charge my phone on the go (ingress eats all the batteries!). Eventually I may upgrade it to a cooler case, or get a second SD card to set up another project.

Categories
Non-Fiction

Penguins and Computers

So, as I mentioned in my last rambling, I bought a new computer. I went with System76, because I felt it was important to buy a machine that was sold as a Linux machine first and foremost. Partially because it meant I knew it wouldn’t take a lot of fussing to get working (and let’s face it, I’m a lazy Linux user, and have been for nearly 13 years now), and partially because I feel it’s very important to vote with my money, and buying a machine that comes with Windows preinstalled is basically a vote for Windows hegemony even if I immediately wipe it and replace it with a flavor of linux.

Now, of course, because I’m the crazy and masochistic sort of Linux user… after I ordered a nice shiny machine that came with a working distro installed on it, all shiny, new, and working perfectly… what do I do with it? I format and reinstall. Granted, part of that was because it didn’t come with /home as its own partition, and part of it was because I thought it would be good to start with an absolutely no bloat distro, instead of just installing the desktop environment I wanted in the default ubuntu install. I had so much fun that first weekend I had my new machine. >.< It took me forever to figure out why I didn’t have a gui preference panel for keyboard stuff (wasn’t installed, yay!), just so I could enable the compose key… because the non gui solution involved preference files that had a lot of other settings I didn’t need to change, and ubuntu based things changed the files I needed to look in to verify that I was copying my current settings… but because ubuntu has a gui solution, it was hard to find command line and preferences based solutions for it when running a derivative without the gui panel. So much fun. And bluetooth still isn’t working the way I want it to. Audio quality was all messed up, and for some reason it didn’t want to pair with the mouse I bought… so I’m stuck usinng the usb dongle I didn’t want to have to use. All that said, I am pretty pleased with the new machine. It’s zippy, has lots of space. It’s lighter than the old machine, bigger screen, number pad. Would have been better if I’d known to leave well enough alone… but what can I say, would I truly be a Linux user if I did? 😁