Linux is Hard!

Or is it just different?

People used to walk everywhere, which is pretty easy, right? Unless of course you can’t walk, but let’s not be too pedantic here. Eventually, most of us learned to drive or ride a motorbike. Is that inherently easy? Could ease ever be described as something that needs contrast to be so?

I’ve always said that Linux has a steep learning curve, or something to that effect. I appreciate that about Linux now. Yes, it can be a tough nut to crack, particularly when compared to the likes of Windows and Mac. I know it sucks when things don’t work, but guess what, they can get it wrong too.

It took me a while to realise this myself, but a heck of a lot of people go into Linux with Windows firmly in mind, expecting it to be Windows, however, it’s a totally different operating system; an entirely different platform! That’s like stepping into a car and expecting it to drive like a motorbike.

I watched a video recently of a guy raging because he couldn’t deal with Linux not working as he expected. I’m not going to spout nonsense about how Linux always works or something, because the truth is it can be a major PITA. That said, this comes to mind:

“You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” – Master Ryutan.

Granted, you can’t really get a fair chance to mess with your cup if the thing doesn’t even work at all, which is why it took a while to get to the point at which I could learn all this stuff and get so involved with GNU/Linux, as some people insist on calling it.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully accept and understand that it’s not everyone’s idea of fun to fill your screen with virtual terminals and type out command after command. I know many people feel typing jargon is like going back to the days of MS-DOS, when such apparent gibberish meant you got something done.

Well, you still can get things done, and far more efficiently — why do you think the Linux command line has survived all this time, even in the age of such excessive hand-holding like the so-called “free” Windows 10? Your games and programs were created from lines and lines of code, or a program with a UI made from yet more lines and lines of code.

I loved Windows for years, but Windows 10 was the final straw. Ultimately, Micro$oft and Mac lock you down, but, provided it works on your hardware, then Linux will set you free. Is that always a good thing? No, as there are many opportunities to screw up if you overlook something, especially for a “power user” like me who loves to tinker and tweak.

I hope Linux will continue to mature and rise up to the challenge of appealing more to those whom refuse to use a terminal and want a more “user-friendly” environment. I want those things too — I’d love not to need the terminal for anything, and that’s coming from someone who loves it! I want the option not the necessity to use it.

Linux has achieved a lot, but there’s still quite the journey ahead for desktop users.

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Linux and Microsoft

Windows 8.1 is still being supported, and they say will be until  January 9th, 2018. Windows 7 has, according to their site, been cut off though. A terrible decision, in my opinion, given the huge success of that OS. A lot of people have jumped ship because of Windows 10, and I don’t blame them.

Linux has a bit over 3% of the market share, according to Wiki’s graphs. Linux has been gaining ground for many years, while interest in various Windows iterations is dropping. Fewer people are using Windows as time goes by.

I use Linux (PeppermintOS 7, built on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) more than ever now; it’s my primary OS and I rarely go near Windows. Thanks to privacy and glaring security concerns, I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe using Windows anymore, despite having used and loved them since Windows 3.1 at primary school. Linux has opened my eyes to a new way, ‘though it wasn’t an easy journey.

I don’t like the way Microsoft conducts their business and I don’t think they care about the customers at all, only money. I find them deceptive, manipulative, and underhanded.

Linux, however, is open source; it’s all about sharing, creativity, and freedom. There’s even a Hannah Montana distribution; ridiculous? Sure, but wonderful that someone was able to create that and freely share it. At least if you don’t like a developer of your chosen distribution, you can jump to another; it’s not like you’re short of options.

That said, I am, or at least was a gamer. I still dabble. I’d need Windows for gaming. Linux does support games, and I do have Steam on it, but the graphical performance in many games seems terrible or lackluster in comparison, at least in my experience.

I have a feeling I’ll eventually just let go of the many Windows-only games on my Steam account and stick with Linux indefinitely. I barely game anymore anyway.

With Linux gradually gaining ground and Windows steadfastly losing it, that leaves Linux an opportunity to really step up. I think it needs some serious work in both gaming performance and a more approachable UI for those uninterested in the command line interface (Terminal) before it’ll have a shot at some day besting Windows.

I’m all for choice though, so if Microsoft is offering what you want, that’s fine. There’s a lot of Linux fans that generally make it all really personal against users of Windows and probably Mac too, but that’s not where I’m coming from here — not at all.

My issue is with Microsoft.

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Screw You, Technology

I’m so sick and tired of technology.

How is it, after all these fantastic years of discovery and advancements, we have computers so smart they get sent into space, yet here on planet Earth, this Toshiba laptop refuses to use official drivers from two official locations, both Toshiba’s site and AMD’s site, on an operating system with which it was originally sold?

I’m fed up of Windows troubles. I’m sick of Skype not working; dying on Android then dying on my PC for seemingly no reason with no decent help to be found online, for others too. Messages not getting sent or received, calls being dropped, video failing to show, and surely more issues have plagued my various Skype installations for too long.

I’m sick of Microsoft with their questionable business decisions and obnoxious software changes, forcing us into some crap for which some of us frankly don’t give a shit. What exactly was so wrong with Windows Live Messenger with Plus! which worked so well, looked fantastic, and was so popular? Don’t even get me started on the initial XBOX One fiasco!

I’ve had enough of troubleshooting; having to test, remember each and every setting in-case the computer implodes at any given moment, and trying to figure out just how technology has somehow screwed me.

I’m sick of companies like Google sticking their noses up something that was perfectly fine the way it was! Sure, because we really needed Google+ and Google’s interference with what was a perfectly fine and dandy system on YouTube. Yeah, I said it.

Use Linux! I hear you shout. Well, I’ve ran into arguably more issues there than I ever have with modern Windows (7 and 8.1) so I have no clue what the hell to think of Linux. Crash after freeze after failed installation mixed with a terminal and computer jargon with which most probably don’t care to deal—not fun.

I’m tired of technology advancing so fast, making you spend so much money just to play games in a stable and pleasant way, despite having spent a sizable chunk of dosh to have a decent experience. Assuming, of course, the damn companies don’t make a complete and utter, dire, joke of a mess of these so-called AAA games; stutter, horrendous FPS on solid machines, CtDs, freezes, errors, corrupted saves, and so much more await many a modern PC gamer.

Technology, kindly go home, because you’re well and truly wankered.

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Console or Stick with the PC?

Note: some of the following is based on my opinion.

Oh PC, how I love you so, even if you are sometimes a pain in the arse. With the release of Bethesda’s Fallout 4 and the new, updated consoles from Sony and Microsoft, I’m prompted to make a change, but I’m having a hard time deciding!

I’m currently using a PC I built myself, with Windows 8.1 operating system, an ASUS 760 OC graphics card, 8GB RAM, an i5 4690K processor on an ASUS Z97-K motherboard, various HDDs and a SATA III SSD, all housed in a Zalmon Z11 and powered by a Corsair 750TXV2.

I have an XBOX 360 still at my dad’s house, which I will eventually get back, but whether I’ll keep it or sell it is another matter, one that potentially depends on my purchase. I like that now-dated console; it plays some fantastic games, but the graphics don’t always hold up so well to today’s standards.

As mentioned, there’s Fallout 4, and although I’m bitter about the state of it, I still want it, because I love Fallout and RPGs in general. Another thing that’s important to me is that my best friend is on the XBOX One as well, and I know he wants me to get it.

The i5 4690K is a solid processor that likely won’t get old for quite some time, but my ASUS 760 OC is showing its age now with some newer games like Fallout 4. Although I don’t game on anything higher than 1080p (ASUS MX239H) so it’s not like I have some great need for something as absurd as a Titan X best left for high-end 4K gaming, although I admittedly stared at its Amazon page for a while. £829 for a graphics card? No thank you.

I am the sort of gamer who cares about fps, but I also about graphics. I’m not huge on graphics, but fps is a big thing for me; it nips at my OCD when I see invariable fps and anything at or lower than 30. I’m trying to get my head around 30fps because of the potential purchase of the XBOX One or PS4, but it stills gets to me.

As of right now, the XBOX One, on Amazon, is £276.99 without any games and with a 500GB HDD, which is plenty enough for me, I think. I consider it a very good price for such a new console. The price of a decent PC upgrade (probably an ASUS 970 OC) is £267.76. Sony’s Playstation 4 comes in at £261.99 with a 500GB HDD and also no games. The prices are all around the same area.

The current downside with buying the consoles at a good price, is that I would have to buy either one of them online (Amazon) which means if something goes wrong, I have the hassle of posting them back and trusting it all works out—I’d much rather dealing with expensive returns in the shops.

I can’t help but to think a version of the GTX 970 by nVidia would quickly become outdated, whereas the consoles would continue to, not necessarily be improved, but the games would be better-designed to take advantage of its hardware. At approximately £400, the 980 models don’t appeal to me a great deal. I like PhysX whe I can use it, and I’d feel disabled by the AMD cards as many good games seem to favor nVidia.

Fallout 4 has some nasty freezes (as seen here) on the XBOX One, particularly when traveling between certain locations, but these freezes are either non-existent or barely noticeable on the Playstation 4. Microsoft’s new console also has some nasty fps drops that can reach the low 20s. The PC version of Fallout 4, however, is definitely not without issues, such as crashes and similar fps drops.

The bonus of the PC, where Fallout 4 is concerned, is obviously the better performance and ability to raise the graphical settings. I’m not entirely sure what I can expect from an ASUS 760 OC on Fallout 4; I’m happy to sacrifice some settings to keep the 60fps going as often as possible.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just OC the heck out of my current hardware: I generally don’t OC my graphics cards or CPUs anymore as I don’t feel the need and I don’t want the extra heat.

The PC Master Race is probably squirming as I type these words because the very idea of going from PC to console is scrub-like behaviour, as the almighty kids would probably say. There are good points to each side of the fence, though.

As an adult with big-boy problems, I also have to consider the boring things I have to spend my money on, such as food and bills. I’m going to be moving soon which will likely suck a lot of money up.

As much as I’d like to dip into my savings and build something that would give any gamer bloke a woody, there are more important things to consider. If I get a console, it may last a lot longer than if I followed the graphics card lineup of the next few years, and that matters.

This decision is driving me crazy! What would you do?

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Windows 10 and the Privacy Concern

I’m so tired of people like myself being attacked and/or ridiculed for giving a crap about privacy and security. Yes, I have the common sense to actually care what happens to my personal information and data. How could that be anything other than simply looking out for number one?

If you don’t yet know, there are countless articles out there that go into a far deeper detail than I can quite honestly be bothered, as it’s almost two o’clock in the morning and tiredness is hitting me hard. The general gist, is that Windows 10, since the days of the Technical Preview, has had a growing issue of privacy as a result of questionable wording in their EULA and a few other privacy-related issues in the OS itself.

There are a few typical responses I see floating around the interwebs:

“You use Google, Facebook, and who knows what other services; surely they collect your data, too? Why are you then so bothered about Windows 10?”

Simply put, the reason this is not a fair comparison to make is, at least with Facebook, because it’s completely different; this service is optional. The information shared on Facebook is chosen by the user. I don’t like Google and have pretty much despised and avoided most of it since it got its grubby mitts on YouTube, and so I do not have a Google account and if I did, I would restrict its access as much as I could.

I don’t get why so many people don’t seem to understand why choice is so damn important, especially it being such a data-heavy age in which data can so easily be shared.

Microsoft burying very important so-called options for them to have the ability to rummage through my private bits and bobs, which, by the way, are on by default, is not acceptable. Microsoft claiming their new operating system is “free” to those with Windows 7 and 8.1 when it clearly isn’t—it’s merely an eventually-permanent trade-in for the current operating system you own—and shoveling adverts at me while damn-near giving them the keys to the house is not OK.

“Windows 7 and 8.1 already collect your personal information, so why are you bothered now?”

As I understand it, Windows 10 has additional concerns that the previous operating systems didn’t have, but yes, there are definitely similarities. The difference, at least to me, is mainly that Windows 10 doesn’t allow you to disable all these features, and there is apparently data sent to Microsoft regardless of disabling features such as Cortana.

Honestly, Windows 8.1 pissed me right off to begin with, and I’m still unimpressed with what Microsoft did to it, but I still use it, and will probably continue to use it for a long period of time. I found Windows 8.1 to not be too bad of an OS, once I got past the Microsoft Account, the charms bar, revived the start menu they stupidly removed, fiddled like mad to get some decent visuals back, and did various other tweaks to help it feel less jarring and obnoxious.

I had hoped Microsoft would learn from the mess that was Windows 8 before they fixed it up, but they seem to have just made certain things worse. Eventually, Microsoft will be ejected from the face of the Earth, and nobody will give a fying shit, because we’ll all be fed up of their ignorant, almost-oppressive decisions—sure we all wanted you to completely take away that start menu, eejit!

“You’re just paranoid.”

I’m sick of hearing this. When Bob the caveman was about ready to go out and hunt for a snack, do you think he just hopped out of his stone bed and strolled out of his cave, grabbed the nearest stick, and went off into the unknown for some Doritos? Of course not! He was cautious, looked around, and made sure that he wasn’t the snack. Would it totally have been OK for little Bob to just wonder out without a care in the world only to go get himself killed?

Granted, most of us don’t fret much about tigers jumping out of bushes to munch on our bodies, but we do focus our concerns on other things, such as privacy and security, especially when these things are linked to our families, our friendships, our finances, and our work; we’re not paranoid for being cautious and concerned; we’re simply being human.

I could have perhaps given a better example, but I’m right about ready to pass out and thinking up fancy analogies isn’t really my forté, anyway.

“If you don’t like it, don’t use it!”

How the hell has this come to be an argument for just about everything that is put into question? Do people actually think this is clever or justified? Hey, I don’t like paying bills, so I’m not going to eat, leave my home, cancel my Internet contract, never wash, stop drinking clean water, and, … you get the idea. The silliest example I could quickly draw up, but it sure as balls puts the point across, as far as I’m concerned.

For many, Windows is essential, be it for managing finances, playing games, compatibility with their hardware and data, or whether it’s a requirement of their school or work. Simply telling people it’s Microsoft’s way or the highway gets nothing solved and I can’t help but to think this argument—if you can even call it that—is simply a cop-out. At the very crux of it all, it’s stupid of Microsoft to focus on what they want rather than what the customer wants! I hate to sound self-centered, but it’s about us and not them; at some point they seem to have forgotten that.

Mac is often (or always) unnecessarily expensive, Linux can be unnecessarily complicated, and I can’t imagine any other operating system is worth going near for a lot of people, at least currently. Windows is often the choice for a reason.

I apologise for this being a bit ranty—I’ll surely battle this another time when I’m not so tired, but my view on this matter will likely hold true.

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Windows 10 Notification in the Windows 8.1 System Tray

Before I begin, “Windows 10 is coming on 29 July 2015,” to quote Microsoft on the Q&A page of their website. For those that don’t know, the offer explained below is open for a year after release, after which we have to pay for it.

I had mostly kept my distance from Windows 10, thinking it’d just be another mess that would take ages to fix, and end up a PR mess, but I saw my way to being excited when I saw the following on the system tray:

Windows 10

Windows 10 Download,” the highlighted item reads, followed by, “Reserve Free Upgrade,” “Run Windows Update,” and “Get to Know Windows 10.” I say, Microsoft, you sure do know how to whet my appetite.

Upon clicking the download option, we’re met with a nice little window:

Windows 10 2

This window tells us that this free Windows 10 upgrade can be reserved and the download will begin when the upgrade is actually available. Apparently, you can also cancel the reservation at any time, so fear not, if you change your mind, it’s all good. The window also states that the free upgrade is for the full version, and not a test version. I would assume that to be obvious, since you can already freely download the Technical Preview of Windows 10. The download will be 3GB in size, which will fit nicely onto a DVD, assuming they’ll make the ISO available.

Once you’ve set your reservation, you are you to wait for a notification, after which Windows 10 will be downloaded onto your device. Once available, and presumably downloaded, you can carry out the installation another time or immediately.

Microsoft tell us here, “Viel spaß,” German for “Have fun.” I’m not sure if I should make a sarcastic comment about how we’ll probably all have a severe headache on launch day, as opposed to actual fun … oh wait, I just did. After the installation, you’ll have Windows 10 as is currently available.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. If you don’t have Windows 7 or 8.1, then I suppose this will be an interesting read, otherwise I imagine you’ll have already read in on the window itself!

Are you excited for Windows 10?

If you observed the white title bar text atop the black border, then perhaps you might be interested in knowing how to do that. Head on over to The Return of Black within Windows 8.1, to learn how to make your cheerful Windows 8.1 go to the dark side.

Update…

Apologies, I completely missed the arrow that revealed more information!

In a nut-shell, it’s Windows selling their product; making it sound super hot. To translate the German I’m seeing: “Windows 10 is trusted and user-friendly,” Microsoft claim. “The start menu is here again and with that you can use a mouse, keyboard, or touchpad.” Apparently you’ll find, “all the trusted features and much more.”

Microsoft are claiming that Windows 10 “starts and wakes up from standby quickly,” which, to be fair, is exactly what we already have with Windows 8.1—my copy of Windows 8.1, with decent hardware and an SSD, boots up and logs in from nothing extremely quickly, and as far as standby is concerned, well, it typically wakes up and goes to sleep faster than I can sit down and stand up.

Microsoft are showing off the multitasking and ability to have 4 windows on one screen; big deal! We’ve been doing that for ages. Come on, Microsoft, show off something new. Windows 8.1 already lets you tile 4 windows neatly on the screen. Surely people don’t want to buy the same old crap—stick with the new stuff that shows it’s worth the upgrade.

Windows 10 is apparently, “full of innovations.” Microsoft says, like Cortana, your, “entirely personal, digital assistant.” Riiiiight—because we’ve never seen a personal assistent before! Totally innovative, Microsoft. Bravo. I’ll try to hold my pessimism, but it strikes me as a lot easier to do things the normal way, rather than faffing about with some “entirely personal, digital assistant,” that may or may not work reliably.

For those of you interested in apps, Windows 10 looks like it’s going app-crazy. This Windows 10 Download window isn’t really saying anything about what the new app features or the new apps actually are, but I was impressed by their claim of having 47,000,000 popular music titles on the app store, films in HD, TV series, and of course games.

So, that’s really it! We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

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The Return of Black within Windows 8.1

It took me a lot of faffing about over such a long period of time to finally stumble across the right stuff at the right time.

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The reason I put up the timer is because I wanted to demonstrate that it even themes properly with an obscure application like this simple Flash-based one. Notice the title bar isn’t black text? It took me a long time to discover a fix for that little problem. The start menu is there courtesy of a third-party program (obviously) which I’ll get to below.

Before doing this, backup your OS partition(s) using something like the Windows “Shadow Copy” feature, a third-party tool, or just gamble with System Restore; this is just in the event that something goes wrong, and for our peace of mind.

Everything was smooth-sailing for me, but should something go awry for you, I won’t be held responsible, for the decision to follow these instructions are solely your own. I also cannot be held responsibile for the pages to which this blog entry links, nor can I do anything about the software I point you towards. I hope you understand.

Now that we’ve got the prelude out of the way, here are the steps I took in order to finally get a fully-functional black theme going in Windows 8.1:

Step #1:
I enlarged the window borders (preference – further ensures the black stands out) by using a similar (Winaero Tweaker) tool to this: Tiny Windows Borders for Windows 8 It wasn’t damaging, does not need to be repeated, and seems to stick even when other settings change, such as another theme. Please ensure you scan all downloads prior to opening them.

Step #2:
I had previously downloaded and installed a brilliant (entirely free, without ads and nags) application that’s small, functional, and, in my opinion, aesthetically pleasing. You can get ClassicShell here: Classic Shell – Start menu and other Windows enhancements This will bring back the start menu, allowing for extra configurations, as well as most of the usual you’d expect from before this OS. Remember to play with the options to get it how you like, clicking “show all settings”, and especially set the skin to “Windows Aero” in order to get that Windows 7 look that goes so well when this is all done.

Step #3:
I downloaded and used UxStyle, which you can download for free. It’s absolutely imperative that you heed my advice of backing up (I used Windows’ own backup feature; use Google something like, “Shadow Copy Windows 8.1” to discover this hidden gem) just in-case something goes awry. I’ve used it a couple of times (and many more with Windows XP and Windows 7) without a problem, but it’s better safe than sorry, as they say. I had to restart the computer after patching Windows with it.

Step #4:
When I had Windows 7, I would use a sleek, black cursor pack called Obsidian, which you can freely download from this link; it goes very well with almost any black theme, I’ve found.

Step #5:
You can of course choose any background you like – I was gravitated pretty strongly towards this one, because I felt it matched it well.

Step #6:
If you use Firefox and would like the matching theme I use on the browser, then follow this step, but if not, skip to #7:

I use, “FT DeepDark,” version 12.0.1, made freely and publicly available by Stefano Rosselli.

Step #7:
The piece de resistance of it all is the main theme (or ‘skin’) which can be downloaded from this link. This pack containers 3 variations, if you fancy a change.

I’ve also recently discovered another theme that works properly and looks great: Base for Windows 8.1 I strongly recommend it. I also recommend checking out the Ribbon Disabler, which also works in Windows 8.1, because it’s handy for certain themes, and good for those who just hate the new ribbon in Windows 8.1!

That’s all there is to it. If this guide was helpful to you, then it would be fantastic if you would share this blog post so others can also benefit.

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