Category Archives: Software Engineering

I Want My Linux Laptop Now! (A Voluntary Simplicity Exercise)

I’m being impatient, and it’s my own fault.  I started that Linux Craptop experiment to see how much mileage I could get out of a decade old laptop running a lean(ish) Linux.  That actually became my only home laptop while my 6+ year old (I think) MacBook Air was getting its battery replaced.  I was going to “suffer” through it for just the few days and then the MacBook would hold me over for at least another couple of years.  At this point however I’m really chomping at the bit to retire that Mac and go Linux full bore.

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Yes, you can survive with a ten year old laptop running Mint MATE

At the beginning of January I decided to try my hand at using a ten year old laptop running Linux Mint MATE as my daily at home machine. While there is certainly some cruft associated with using such an old machine for the most part the experience was perfectly fine.  In fact I’m using it right now to write out this article.  I wouldn’t recommend running out and buying one solely for the purpose, but the fact remains that Linux Mint MATE, and probably Ubuntu MATE as well, provide a great average user load experience on underpowered hardware.

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VS Code Saved My Linux Mint VM

I’ve been a huge convert to Linux Mint and Ubuntu for several years now.  In the last year I went so far as to be running Linux as my bare metal OS on both my work laptop and home desktop.  I’ve never had an update for Mint or Ubuntu get so borked up that the UI refused to function properly…until now.

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What’s missing most from my Linux Craptop? Gestures

I was away for a week so couldn’t do my Linux craptop experiment.  Sorry, but I refuse to be beholden to a ten year old laptop while on travel.  So now, today, is the second day that I’m using this as my primary machine for when I’m browsing the Internet and doing things while I’m watching TV on the couch.  Yes that seems like a limited subset, but I spend a good amount of time vegging in that state so it’s not as insignificant as it seems.  I’ll have a thorough breakdown of my experiment at some point but by far the biggest nuisance I have that is driving me crazy is the lack of trackpad gestures.

When gestures first came out for laptops I thought they were mostly gimmicky, but once I had my first laptop that really had them I was hooked and didn’t know it.  Now that I’m trying to use a laptop without them I’m finding it very cumbersome.  It’s not a total loss however because this trackpad has the beginning of gestures in the form of scroll bars on the right and bottom sides.  I can simulate the scrolling to some extent which is a big part of my gestures, but it really isn’t the same thing. How did we live without gestures all this time? At least Linux Mint Mate 18 supported these limited gestures out of the box for this ancient laptop.

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Ancient Craptop Linux Experiment

Sometime in 2016 the Linux Action Show podcast on a yarn decided to run both a modern and then a contemporary version of Linux on ten year old equipment.  As luck would have it along with my other eccentric hobbies I also have a classic computer collection.  One of the computers in my collection that I ran across recently is a Dell XPS M1530 from late-2007 (specs).  I bought it as not too crappy but not so great home laptop suitable for browsing the internet, doing my home finances, et cetera.  Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess, I have decided to try to use this laptop as a modern browsing computer for a little while.  With a 2.6 GHz Intel Core2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM it shouldn’t do too bad, especially with the 4 GB of RAM.  I’m going to run Linux Mint MATE18.1 to give it a fighting chance.  Ubuntu and Cinnamon require a bit more graphics and CPU horsepower and while the 4GB of memory should allow it to hold its own to some extent, the ten year old processors and graphics cards will suffer.  MATE on the other hand is far lighter weight and more streamlined.

Probably the biggest hiccup is going to be the battery.  This is the original battery from ten years ago.  I doubt that it is going to hold up well to being unplugged.  That’s okay though, I’ll be able to leave it plugged in while I’m using it without much inconvenience.  I’m not going to make this my primary laptop or anything so if I can only use it while tethered to the couch then so be it.

I’m currently finishing up patching the system, getting printers setup, and doing software installs for things like Chrome.  I look forward to playing around with this in the coming weeks and reporting on it.  In fact I’m writing this very blog post in FireFox on it right now while the OS patches continue to progress…

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Non-Windows .NET is Still Second Class Citizen

I am very early in the Linux .NET development experiment.  I am pretty busy with work and life so that I don’t have a ton of time to play around with these things.  Having come from a background where most of my recent development (last several years) has been technologies other than .NET I have a double hurdle to clear: getting used to .NET and getting used to doing .NET on Linux.  Therein lies the rub.

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.NET on Linux–An Experiment

I may have cut my teeth on non-Microsoft systems but the better part of my career was spent building most of my software with and for Visual Studio.  It was only in the last few years that the landscape changed and my work has been dominated by Linux, Java, and generally non-Microsoft systems.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the explosion of open source software and the ability to contribute to and use it.  I’ve also enjoyed being able to extricate myself from Windows.  But with Microsoft’s recent foray into open source and with the increasing stagnation and calamities in the Java community I’ve decided to give the .NET stack a while again, but with a twist.

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Wix/WordPress Argument Shows Viral Nature of GPL

Over on Slashdot there is an article about an IP saga of sorts between Wix and the makers of WordPress.  While the Slashdot title accuses Wix of “stealing” code, not even WordPress’s Matt Mullenweg accused him of that in the original post.  What happened is pretty simple.  The Wix engineers decided to wrap a WordPress rich text control so it would work well with React Native.  The Wix engineers made that project under an MIT license and then dutifully used it in their proprietary iOS application.  The WordPress control they wrapped was licensed under GPL, and that is where the problem is.

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MacBook Pro’s, Way Improved But Meh

With the release of the latest MacBook Pro’s Apple has finally returned to some semblance of modernity with their product line in the laptop regime.  They have left their desktop line to languish at least for another six months though.  That makes my recent purchase of a Hackintosh Rig (that I admittedly still happily run Linux on without even considering the need to go back to OSX) seem like an even better idea.  Even with my embrace of Linux I still would have kicked myself if a dream iMac came forward, but thankfully nope!  Which brings me back to the latest laptops.  They are obviously a welcome upgrade to a laptop line that time forgot.  They have some very neat features.  They have the usual Apple Tax, in this case about $400 for a comparably priced Dell and about the same dollar price for a much better System 76 laptop.  But Apple has far better battery life than either of those two machines ever would.

Is it a great upgrade? Yes.  Is it worth the money?  Probably/maybe/depends.  Is it something I’m dying to buy?  No.  At this point none of the Apple laptop offerings are drawing me in.  My MacBook Air mostly gets the job done, even if it’s starting to show it’s five year age.  But the processor isn’t the thing that’s killing me, it’s mostly the memory limit when I try to run VMs.  So to spend $1500-$1800 just to fix that problem seems outrageous. At this point I’m going to go with my original plan: play around with my seven year old Dell running Linux and then give a System 76 laptop for a whirl.

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Google Experiment Over Before It Begins?

I’ve been prepping for potentially jumping from iPhone to Android for my personal phone.  I’m getting sick of the quality of iOS and apps going down.  I’m getting sick of vendor lock.  My problem with vendor lock has a lot to do with a feeling that I’m not in control of my data.  Based on what I’ve been reading, and this article on TechCrunch it seems like the problem is becoming far more exacerbated on Android with the Google platform.   I could already see it with the latest service offerings that Google has been pitching with the new Pixel.  As I played around with the Google apps it seems they were at least as wonky if not more so and on top of that they seem to be far more invasive about how they deal with your data.  They also seem to do a lot more of the insipid “opting out” versus “opting in” problem that I see on iOS.  While I may be buying into a supposedly more open platform, would I be doing it at the expense of my own data control?  Do I need to look further than Android to Ubuntu phones or something? SMH.