Open Source Software Solutions

by Jinryu

I’ve got two whole days before summer school starts, so I want to try a few things out.

First of all, I want to try Pepermint Two OS (a Lubuntu based Linux OS, “designed for speed”) on my Netbook. I bought a Samsung NC-211 last semester and it came pre-loaded with Windows 7. To be fair, I was pretty impressed with how far Windows has come. It’d been a long while since I’d used Windows 7 on one of my machines. It came with this rather smart fast boot optimization, that meant I could go from cold to hot in under a minute.

However, the glamour of it all wore off slowly as I was trying to optimize the system. The system was doing all of those troublesome things that I guess are meant to make my life easier, but which also assume that I’m running a desktop. Things like automatic updates or installations when I shutdown. Those are nice if you’re running a desktop and are just going to walk away, but when I’m in class and want to stuff my netbook into my bag, I’m not really interested in having it running a half hour without having any breathing space.

Yes, it’s true, I could probably turn those settings off, but the sheer amount of maintenance of updating constantly would piss me off. Simply, in comparison, using Linux alternatives takes up less maintenance once you get things going. Yes, no matter what OS you use, there will still be updates for security and bugs. However, not updating more than once every month or two isn’t going to kill you on Linux. Most reports seem to suggest that just by virtue of using a non-Windows OS, you’re less vulnerable to attack. Indeed, my parents are running systems with Debian and Lubuntu back home, and I haven’t updated those systems in about 6 months– no problems there.

The other reason why I got tired of Windows is because there’s such a terrible tendency for software makers to try and get you to give them money. There’s nothing wrong with trying to earn a living, and it’s fair that someone needs to find solutions to get paid for their work. But whenever you try to get something free (free as in free beer) for Windows, it usually means installing ad supported software, or something that, a month down the line, is going to grab your screen priority and say “Oh, BTW: How would you like to upgrade to the full version?” On [CM]’s computer, the printer driver, the scanner application app, iTunes, Adobe Flash, and god, Norton Antivirus, are among some of the most persistently annoying programs. Basically, I just feel like these apps are running on your computer, but they go too far. If your computer was a convention hall that showcased all sorts of cool things, those sorts of applications would be like the asshole stalls that put up loudspeakers with an annoying MC and can’t stick to the standardized format.

That’s where a community of free (as in, “libre”) software is really a lot more to my tastes. You install it, and in the vast majority of cases, it doesn’t give you a peep about wanting attention or anything. Done. No popups when I boot up, or launch programs.

Anyways, I’d been running Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10 on my netbook since about two weeks after purchase, and I was pretty impressed with the long strides that the OS had made since I last ran an Ubuntu product. I recently (last week) upgraded to version 11 though, and was a bit saddened to see that this newest release isn’t as good. Though it is a bit buggy, that I can forgive because it’s a newer release and these things usually get pretty well sorted out with time. However, there Ubuntu has gone the direction of further hiding a lot of configuration mechanisms that used to be in place. Things that used to be simple, like starting up the computer with Bluetooth disabled by default, are now things that are out of my control unless I script it manually in a terminal.

I guess what Ubuntu does well is provide strong support and a huge library of apps, but the problem with the shell of all this power is that it feels like it’s trying to go really vanilla. It’s probably part of an overal strategy to make Ubuntu a more mainstream competitor for MacOS and Windows, by hiding all the ugly bits and having something that just works out of the box. 11 feels a bit bloated though, and on a Netbook, there’s a few things that I’m primarily looking to do. I need it to be able to act as a typewriter, a web browser, and a video-phone, and I need it to have outstanding battery life. I don’t really care about bluetooth, social networking plugins, or auto-music syncing features (which means that running heavy background apps like Ubuntu One is a big no no).

This time around, I’m going to try Peppermint Two (http://peppermintos.com/). It’s a bit of a less known distro, but I tried it when Peppermint One and I was pretty impressed. The only reason I didn’t stick with it was because it was too minimalist for the desktop that I had installed it on. For a netbook though, it’d be perfect– easy to set up, still has access to the Ubuntu repositories, and best of all, lightweight and clean. I’m downloading it now, and I’ll try it out later tonight.

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