As the whole “what happens to Unity” thing unfolds I decided to redouble my efforts in trying different distros again. I’m trying everything from trailing edge (latest Debian) to bleeding edge (Solus). As luck would have it it was time for me to refresh one of my development VMs so I decided to jump that one from Mint to Solus to give it a real world spin. My first impressions are that it is a really interesting distro and one I’ll keep playing with but there is one not-so-tiny problem that hopefully they will grow out of.
As much as I’ve never been a fan of Unity I’ve learned not to hate it as much as my host OS (and even in some of my VMs). Sure, my go-to desktops of late are mostly MATE distros or Cinnamon, but Unity hasn’t been completely unacceptable. With Ubuntu’s recent announcement of the demise of Unity and people openly pontificating on if this means Ubuntu is abandoning the desktop or looking to sell to someone like Microsoft who will then kill it on the desktop I started to analyze what this meant to me as a Linux desktop user. Is this the end of the road for that journey and therefore back to Mac or, god forbid, Windows?
Back in November I started trying to mess around with .NET again, with the twist of I refused to become Windows bound to do it. After some time experimenting holidays got in the way, then work got in the way, and as usual life gets in the way of hobbies. Today I needed to work out some standard C# code samples for interacting with REST services I had written in Java. I could have spent two hours installing Visual Studio in the virgin Windows 10 VM on my laptop, or I could fire up a new Linux VM and give cross platform .NET another try.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.