Re: The Other White Meat


I'm thinking I'll go Linux for my next purchase.

I've been eyeing those System76 machines. Or maybe an XPS 13. Except I want Fedora, and those all seem to come with Ubuntu.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:08 PM
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I run Linux on a whole bunch of different hone machines, almost all Ubuntu, and its been fine for three years now. I didn't choose any of the machines for compatibility, mostly because they either pre-date my switch to Linux, or because other people cast them off and I didn't want to turn down a free computer.

I can go into more detail when I'm on a non-phone. It is a good idea to check out hardware compatibility, but the only significant issue I've had is a usb port that didn't work right until a kernel update.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:09 PM
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home machines too

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:10 PM
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Although, really I've been thinking of ways to explain to my wife why I need spend a lot of money on something called a ThreadRipper. She'll probably want me to have a good reason.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:11 PM
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AFAICT MS Word won't read Open Office documents properly, but I'm running a clapped out SUSE box, so maybe that's been fixed.

Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:23 PM
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I have trouble with Open Office not reading highly formatted RTF documents correctly. I have to go to my shitty computer and open them in Word 2002.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:34 PM
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That's on a Windows machine.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 5:38 PM
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My last flight from Europe my monitor wasn't working, they rebooted it and turns out it was running Linux.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 6:36 PM
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My last flight from Europe was when MS-DOS was the main operating system.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 6:47 PM
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Several years back I bought an Ubuntu laptop from Zareason, which like System76 specializes in Linux laptop. Coding wise I was satisfied. But I got frustrated with lack of hardware support and inferior consumer apps. There was a glaring bug in the hardware, in which audio would continue playing from the speakers even with headphones plugged in (it'd play from both speakers and headphones). I spent hours googling it on Ubuntu forums to no effect, and when I contacted ZaReason, they said they were aware of the bug but had no solution either.

In general I recall spending many hours on Ubuntu forums dealing with hardware issues, and after that laptop died I decided the price premium of the Mac was worth not spending that much time on forums.

Open Office also sucked then and I don't know if it's gotten better. I write in LaTeX mainly but I'd have to read other people's things in Word which was often badly formatted when opened in OO.

Also, this may be minor depending on your proclivities, but the ugliness relative to Mac interfaces did get to me after a while. I mean, even the Mac version of emacs looks better than regular emacs.

Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 8:39 PM
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I switched from Windows to Ubuntu in 2009, early in my transition from jaded grad student to jaded programmer. 10 hits all the main points of my experience; I never found a word processor I liked and trying to do graphics in GIMP was comprehensively teeth-grinding. After a year or so I moved on to a Mac, but surely some of the glaring annoyances must be cleared up by now.

Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 8:59 PM
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It really depends on what you want to do and what you absolutely have to have, or believe you have to have. I am going to be that-guy-who-writes-too-much-about-open-source here:

I've run Ubuntu on an actual desktop (an Acer model that was the second cheapest new computer I could find in Vancouver in 2012), two netbooks (one Acer, one Sony), a couple of Sony Vaios (one from 2009, one from 2013), an HP Probook, and a Fujitsu laptop from 2006 that has a floppy drive (swappable with a DVD-ROM) and was running XP until I removed it around 2014. At this point I usually just install Ubuntu by itself, but the desktop still is a dual boot with Windows, and I bought a retail copy of Windows 10 recently and dual boot that with Ubuntu on the HP machine. On the newer Vaio, I took the key from the pre-installed Windows 8 and installed Windows 8 in a VM for when I need Windows.

For the vast majority of things that I do, it's been fine. Over time, it seems like the netbooks (and the Fujitsu laptop, which is even lower-powered, so I don't use a GUI on it anymore) only run tolerably fast enough with Linux. I use Windows when I need absolute compatibility with something, usually Microsoft or Adobe applications. I don't need that very much in my personal life, and often people share documents in browser-based things like Google Docs anyway.

If you're using Open Office under the name "Open Office", as far as I know that's been left to wither and die and LibreOffice is where the new development has gone. In my experience, the LibreOffice word processor does a decent job with Word, but Word doesn't go very well in the other direction, and it may have gotten worse over time. I've never used Word newer than 2010 so I don't know how it compares with Office 365 or whatever. The spreadsheet and slideshow compatibility is much worse. Keep Powerpoint Powerpoint.

In terms of hardware, I've had a bit of headphone trouble at times, but I generally don't listen to anything playing out of the computer directly, almost ever, or if I do it's just from the built-in speakers for a short time. 90% of the time I have the sound completely off unless I'm streaming something. But if I stream off the computer, I usually plug into a monitor with HDMI and I've never had an issue there. I've used USB headphones without a problem too, it's only been the headphone jack that didn't always work right.

The Vaio had an issue where the USB 3 port didn't work for about a year after the model came out. I tracked that down and it turned out a whole line of Vaio models had the same problem, people fixed it in the Linux kernel, and eventually the fix got into stock Ubuntu. That kind of sucked, but I didn't get the laptop until a few months before the fix came in, so it wasn't that bad for that long.

The only time I remember having audio problems I couldn't resolve was when I was running a variant of arch, which apparently isn't as good at supporting old crappy hardware, which is most of what I own. I suspect that newer hardware might be subject to more bugs in Linux because so many drivers need to be reverse engineered or modified from their proprietary versions. I have no experience with dedicated off-the-shelf Linux machines but I'm kind of suspicious of claims that they can take care of compatibility problems. I'll also note that Windows 10 out of the box has DVI/HDMI compatibility issued on my HP computer that Linux does not.

To the extent that I've spent time in the Ubuntu forums, it's mostly been about customizing stuff I'm already running, not about problems that prevent me from doing things. Like others, I do think you get better consumer-oriented apps on Windows or OSX, especially for photo editing and I don't think there even is a decent GUI video editor in Linux*. PDF editing is in a similar state. But I think you can often get farther with free apps in Linux than you can elsewhere, it's just a question of is that far enough for what you need.

On the other hand, I love it when I wonder if some app for some task exists, do a quick search, and then install some things to try immediately. On Windows and a Mac the same process generally involves trying to decide which free apps look non-sketchy, avoiding fraudulent "DOWNLOAD" buttons, and then giving them a shot. And then wondering if I should start looking at non-free options. On the other hand, if you use a Mac and install homebrew, you can get much the same.

I thought I'd buy a Mac a couple of years ago, but then I got a laptop someone else rejected (which I'm using right now) and then got another reject laptop, and now it's been seven years since I bought a laptop.

On preview: I'm not even going to proofread this comment it's so damn long.

*ffmpeg is amazing, but not for making decisions where you want to see the effects as you apply them

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 9:31 PM
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Can you get a desktop and ssh to it? For the price of a laptop with 32GB of RAM, you can get a desktop with 64GB of RAM and a faster processor.

That obvously doesn't work if you need a setup that works without network access, but if you expect to have network access, I find working on a "real" desktop, even remotely, to be much more pleasant than working on a laptop. YMMV depending on the workload -- my last couple jobs have had long compile times, but if you're not working on a large, compiled, codebase, a desktop might not offer as much benefit.

Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 06- 9-17 11:01 PM
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Also, this may be minor depending on your proclivities, but the ugliness relative to Mac interfaces did get to me after a while.

I find that the more a Linux tries to look like a Mac or even a PC, the uglier it is, and the less user-friendly. I like CentOS much more than Ubuntu because it's fairly visually clean.

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 4:29 AM
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Just to be clear, you all are talking about entering all your commands on a little black box, one prompt at a time, and using that email program PINE? As your main computer?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 4:30 AM
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Thanks for the comments, all. Very helpful.

Can you get a desktop and ssh to it?

You know, I hadn't considered this. But if I were going to do this, why not just have a cloud instance that I ssh to? Is it because I'd lose the graphical interface?

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 5:27 AM
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Ah, desktop-as-a-service is a thing.

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 5:35 AM
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That seems like more of a hobby project. The thought of getting a VM running in my DaaS, or connecting to another DaaS, is already making me tired.

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 5:40 AM
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Use your mac laptop to remotely connect to your windows machine. From there you can ssh to your linux box and from there you access the cloud.

It's simple, really.

Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 5:54 AM
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19: needs more X Windows forwarding.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 7:26 AM
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I do the cloud instance/ssh thing. Its nice, but what sucks is having to divide your shit between two different computing environments. Inevitably, when I'm doing stuff in one environment, the stuff I need is in the other, and synchronizing is a pain in the ass.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 7:35 AM
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12: fa, with all those open source thoughts, are you secretly Mr. Podestrian? I had to stop him from rhapsodizing about extended 3 file systems (probably? I kind of zoned out) last week. He claims he doesn't read Unfogged, but now I'm suspicious...

Posted by: Antipodestrian | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 9:37 AM
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It's always alarming to be reminded that spouses can read here, if they want to.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 9:49 AM
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15. So help me, I laughed.

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 10:07 AM
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Libre Office I actually prefer to Word, having written the last two books in it. But I have macroed it up a lot for the things I need (movement and deletion by sentence; quick formating tricks; word counting the dialogue in radio scripts; saving files automatically in folders by customer).

I gave up on linux for reasons of sound and photo editing but that was six years ago. For all I know there are tolerable programs for that kind of thing now.

Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 10:23 AM
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Word processing should be such a simple, bread and butter application. But somehow the problems of featuritis and path-dependent file formats have lead to a point where paying $100 a year to get a subscription to Office365 can be seen as a reasonable thing to do. Its kind of bullshit.

I'd like to see AI-based file conversion.... something where a deep learning system is trained on thousands and thousands of Word documents to figure out how to migrate them to a simple, no-cruft file format such that, maybe the underlying data structures get changed, but the document's appearance is not. That way, if there is some Word feature that LibreOffice doesn't do a good job of converting, rather than having programmers figure out how to code it, you just train the model on a bunch of examples of what the end result should look like, and have the AI figure it out.

Of course, this is advocating for my own obsolescence as a software developer, so I should keep my mouth shut.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 11:28 AM
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26: I've wondered for a couple of years now if that would work. I've thought about trying to see if you can map dvi back to latex, just as a proof of concept.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 12:31 PM
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I've run Linux on laptops for years now. It's okay. I have had trouble editing Word documents on LibreOffice and having Word read it (though it works a lot of the time), so I try to edit Word documents on Windows.

I usually will have one nagging hardware issue that I can basically just ignore or work around. For example, on this laptop the wireless doesn't always power up when I open the laptop, but if I close the lid and open it again it works, so I ignore it.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 12:36 PM
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26.1: That's why I run Word 2002 still.

26.2: Somebody wanted me to be part of the training to teach an AI-system to pull out the highlights of articles in medical journals. I was supposed to send them a list of key points from articles I'd been on. I could have chosen to view it as working to advance science or I could have chosen to view it another step toward battering the complexity out of science so people can write stupid headlines. And viewing it that second way required no effort on my part.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 12:49 PM
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15. You can alternatively use GUI programs that were written by people who hate GUIs but Know How They Should Work!!!

25.last. Your optimism is touching.

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06-10-17 4:03 PM
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