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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Discovering Linux Commands

I’m reminded of the early stages of language learning; like when I was learning words the likes of die Katze and der Hund in German. It’s quite exciting. Of course, instead of German, it’s computer jargon!

I’ve been quite busy again today, trying to shovel more commands into my brain; really exercising that wonderful hippocampus. My focus for a large part of the day was both security and seeing what Mint 18 with the XFCE desktop environment is like. I wasn’t disappointed.

I now have a much firmer grasp of WAN security. Not in a super-scientific way, but an in-depth look into wifi security without crunching numbers and eating computer science books.

I again looked into Kali Linux (an OS used to test systems and their security) and learned about the little CLI program called wifite which, it turns out, can be installed from the default Mint 18 repositories, and I assume also the PeppermintOS 7 ones.

As for now, I discovered a document online (the link to which I’ve sadly lost) which shows rather a lot of Linux commands, however outdated they may now be. I’m able to tote the incredibly intelligent cal and date commands. However, something occurred to me: would it be possible to insert two commands at once? As it turns out, the answer is yes.

If you type > between commands, you can output the data into a file. If you type | between commands, you can “pipe” the command into another command (such as less) which is very handy for commands that have a rather large output.

Armed with this knowledge, it occurred to me that another similar symbol would suffice for typing in multiple commands. It wasn’t long before I stumbled onto the semi-colon. If you type, for example, cal ; time into the Terminal, it’ll indeed run both commands at the same time. Bonus! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work for 3 or more commands at once.

The oft used sudo apt-get install, sudo apt-get remove, sudo apt-get autoremove, and sudo add-apt-repository ppa:[name] commands are mostly seared onto my head now, thankfully. I remember hating the need to ever type in all that when installing and uninstalling a program; it doesn’t really bother me now.

As I understand it, when you want to install a program that isn’t in your repository, the process is as follows:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:[name]
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install [name]

Usually at this point, it’ll be done and dusted, but in some cases you may need or want to update the program you downloaded, if for some reason it doesn’t come  updated. As for uninstalling, this is my usual method of choice, although I’d like to incorporate the –purge bit at some point:

sudo apt-get-remove [name]
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo add-apt-repository -r ppa:[name]

Of course, if there was no need to add a special repository for the program, you can just ignore the add-apt-repository part. This is what works for me, but I’m lead to believe –purge goes above and beyond the call of duty to clean your system of a program.

You can just skip all the sudo-ing and start the commanding with sudo su, to permanently log in as Root (at least in that session) with an exit command to leave, but I’m advised against doing so as it can apparently be dangerous.

I’m getting tired typing all this out, so I’ll continue this in the next entry! I’m looking forward to some day reading all this again, then laughing at my relative Noob status.

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Back to Linux – PeppermintOS 7

I might continue this as a new series of blog posts regarding my return to and journey through Linux via the distribution (distro) PeppermintOS 7, based on Ubuntu 16.04 with the default desktop environment (DE) of LXDE. If you’d like to see more entries in this area, please do let me know.

My previous experience with Linux was less than favorable, which I posted rather negatively about over in this entry: Linux fails me yet again! Granted, it was more of a rant than anything, but it’s a stark contrast to my recent experience, that’s for sure!

As for now? Glorious. I did run into issues getting Netflix to behave, but it took a few hours to find a solution as to how to get Netflix to work on PeppermintOS 7. So basically Netflix uses either HTML5 or the now discontinued Silverlight, version 4 or 5.

Silverlight is the only option here, it seems. That left me to search for an open-source alternative: the solution was something called Pipelight. There’s another bit of software called Moonlight, but if I remember correctly, it’s not longer in development.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just as simple as installing Pipelight. I had to install an extension called UAControl on Firefox to tell Netflix I’m not on Linux. Because for some reason, the people behind Netflix indeed give a damn, and stop you playing media on it, simply because you’re on Linux. Way to make some money, guys! In the end, the problem was solved.

I’ve been saving notes, links, and other stuff for future reference, which I’m finding is an absolute necessity when dealing with a new language, as well as a new UI with new ways to install things; it can get quite overwhelming. Linux seems to be a case of it’s great if you know what to do, but if not, then it’s painful searches through site after site to find a potential solution.

Everything else seems fine. Skype is installed and working, thanks to the official site being kind enough to put up a deb for it; I’m surprised M$ provided that. Audio is working, video is working, and LAN is working. I’m very pleased. Oh yes, and f.lux is installed and functioning as intended.

I’ve had to do plenty of Terminal stuff, sadly. Some of it was complicated, but I guess prior experience has helped me better understand what I’m doing, rather than my just following commands blindly. The Terminal is required less, sure, but still not yet perfect. Deb files are the best though; they’re like actual setup executables you get in Windows; the way it should be!

In other news, today I got my hands on a nice lil HP 635 laptop on which a barebones, legitimate copy of Windows 7 – Professional was originally installed. Despite its AMD, APU graphics, PeppermintOS 7 seems to work on it just fine, showing the same experience I’ve had on the computer. It somewhat miraculously got the wireless, ethernet, sound, graphics, touchpad, and whatever else to work straight from the LiveUSB without even any Internet connection needed.

I’m feeling more comfortable with the Terminal and its commands, although I’m still far from being anything other than an amateur Terminal user. Now that I have a distro and/or DE that actually works, I feel like I can make some decent progress in better understanding Linux, and with that, better understanding the Windows iterations I’ve been using since I was a lil kid some bazillions of years ago.

On a side note, I learned about Domain Name System attacks recently, which was really eye-opening and helped me better appreciate not only how DNS works, but how to block sites from running or reroute them to something more appropriate, simply by editing the hosts file with a word processor; handy stuff!

I’m excited to see what I’ll discover next.

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Andy – Your Virtual Android Device

I don’t usually give my impressions on a random piece of software I found, but I’ve been hooked to this program since I installed it 2 days ago, so I think an exception can be made here. Let’s nerd up and geek it out.

Andy. So what is it? Well, it’s an Android emulator that I believe rivals Blue Stacks, another Android emulator. However, many—myself included—find Andy to be massively superior, both in features and performance, while remaining entirely free and true to the Android experience.

If you wish to quit reading and get to installing Andy, simply click here. Otherwise, continue through the page to read what else I have to say about this fantastic piece of software.

“Andy breaks down the barrier between desktop and mobile computing, while keeping a user up to date with the latest Android OS feature upgrades. It also provides users with unlimited storage capacity, PC and Mac compatibility, and the freedom to play the most popular mobile games on a desktop, Yes you can now run Android on windows.”taken from andyroid’s official home page.

So, there you have it. There’s more, though.

I expected the software to be absolutely full of bugs, but actually I believe I’ve only really discovered one so far, and that is the inability to set down some widgets on the home screen, which is frustrating, but not a game changer for me. If you rely heavily on widget use, then perhaps this won’t currently be the emulator for you.

I’m currently listening to Heart at 101.7 and all from my computer, presumably without an ariel, so I guess it’s effectively Internet radio. I’m using Radioplayer, an Android app found on the Play Store—yes, you can indeed you your Google accounts as you would with your regular device!

I chose to create my own Google account to be safe and to keep my phone and Andy entirely separate. I did run into an issue initially whereby I couldn’t get the first account I made to authenticate but I created a new account which ended up working.

I’ve had issues with Skype for the PC, so I uninstalled it, and then installed Skype on the virtual, high-spec tablet, which just so happened to have solved all those Skype issues I had on the desktop—score.

I’m finding that games are definitely awesome, with a nice big screen and a really good level of performance, but your mileage may vary, as it will of course depend on your computer’s specifications. I’ve been playing games like Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter and Supercell’s Clash of Clans without issue.

I ran into problems with the controls on a shooter, Dead Trigger 2 by MADFINGER Games, requiring two thumbs on a screen for optimal movement, but I believe this can somehow be resolved, according to the official Andyroid website, by using your phone as a “remote control when playing games.”

“If you have an Android device running Android 2.2 and up you can control Andy with your phone. This let’s you take advantage of multitouch, gyroscope, accelerometer,
location and other various sensors to control your games and apps in Andy.” – Taken from the FAQ page on Andyroid’s official website.

You can actually backup your Andy tablet and create various tablets, or even have profiles for different Andy users on your computer. It’s not just about you anymore! This software is ideal for developers and for those who don’t own an Android device but still wish to check it all out.

Sadly, by default, I’m only on Android version 4.2.2, the “sweeter tasting Jelly Bean.” While I don’t have any real issue with this, it would be nice to try the latest editions of Android, but I’m sure Andy will be updated eventually.

It is fairly easy to exchange files between Andy and Windows. By going to %userprofile%\Andy\ and dropping in files there, you can easily pick those up within Andy. As I discovered, this is especially important when it comes to using apps like Skype to send images to your friends and family.

Oh, and yes, you can even use WhatsApp. Apparently all you need to do is install it as normal from the Play Store, “select the phone call authentication and enter your mobile number,” then you just jot down the code you’re given.

Andy can make use of your XBOX 360 wired controller (potentially others), your webcam, and your PC’s microphone too. I have had no issues using these devices, other than finding the controller to be entirely unlike how you would expect it to be on Windows.

Andy can rotate the screen with the click of a button outside of the main screen; this allows you full use of those apps which function only in either portrait or landscape. I’ve used this in the menus, on games, and regular apps without any problems.

To conclude, Andy is a brilliant, effective program for those looking to emulate an Android device on your PC without the need to hand over your hard-earned cash.

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Linux fails me yet again!

When will I learn?

Sorry Linux fans, I know you’re probably sniggering behind your screens, trying not to have a hernia at my expense, but every single time I delve into the Linux world, it ends up in weird freezes, crashes, choppy sound, random bugs, and even the OS flat-out refusing to boot. It’s disappointing, really it is, because there’s a lot I like about Linux, and I’m gathering a little interest in the Terminal.

Last night, after watching videos and learning more about the Terminal, I installed the 64-bit version of Linux Mint 17.2, codenamed Rafaela, with KDE onto my spare 500GB HDD, and even disconnected my SSD with Windows 8.1 on it. I was enjoying the idea of leaving Windows 8.1 behind, or at least partly.

Because it had been a long time since I installed Linux, I made the newbie mistake of installing the bootloader to the wrong place, although you can thank an incorrect guide for that. I got it right the 3rd time. Unfortunately, even after that hiccup, which, I should add, is not at all “simple” or “easy” as so many of the exclusive Linux users like to say, and if you get it wrong, you risk screwing something up that takes yet more knowhow to fix.

In Windows, you don’t have to worry about where to install the Bootloader and you don’t have to create several NTFS partitions; granted, you don’t in Linux, but I don’t see the point in not doing it. Of course, once you know what to do, and more importantly, what not to do, it’s all fine and dandy, but for a beginner, or, hell, even an old amateur Linux user coming back after a while, it’s hardly straight-forward.

I want to enjoy Linux as a whole, but there are so many things wrong with it and even some of the Linux users seem to acknowledge that, at least to some extent.

Linux has so many distributions, known as distros, which makes things difficult for new users because they probably haven’t a clue which one to use! Fair enough, I get that it encourages creativity, thanks to Linux being open source, allowing people to try different things without the restriction of, say, a version of Windows or Mac.

The Terminal is a big annoyance to me, despite my general interest in it. I honestly feel many Linux users are blinded by loyalty to the point at which they seem to think it’s totally not counter-intuitive to have to use the Terminal so much. By default, for setting up your Linux firewall within, let’s say, the edition of Linux I tried last night, you have to install separate software in order to get just the GUI for the Firewall, which, by the way, is, for some asinine reason, completely and utterly disabled by default! Sure, that’s safe. Nice way to welcome new users, eh?

Linux seems fantastic if you’re already an experienced Linux user and somehow manage to get past the bugs, freezes, crashes, boot fails, and whatever else.

“I never have any of these issues.” – I expect most Linux fanatics say this, and I expect it’s a right load of CL4P-TP, unless you have the perfect hardware for Linux and are otherwise very lucky.

I have to ask myself how Linux users even manage to use Linux, especially for their work! Given how temperamental the Linux versions I’ve tried are, I’d be scared to do any work in-case one simple setting implodes the system. I once changed to a theme readily available from within the installation and Linux crashed then refused to boot again! How the buggery farts is that stable and welcoming for new users? I’m terrified of changing anything in Linux because it’s practically a ticking time bomb.

I have a feeling the standard server-style of Linux with just the command line interface would probably be more stable, but unless you’re running a server or something, I can’t imagine much use in it.

I want to like Linux, I really do, but it doesn’t want me to like it.

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