A Geek's Online Diary

February 1999
Well, why Linux, you might ask? Actually, I had been toying with the idea of defecting from Windows for quite a while, especially after discovering I'd been unwittingly ripped off by MSN Online (but that is another story), and a Linux Install-Fest held by one of the local Linux User Groups was really the catalyst that set me scuttling off on the path to OS enlightenment. At the fest, however, I was told that my Twinhead Slimnote 9166TZ laptop had an "unconventional configuration" (my interpretation: those geeks there had no idea what they were doing) and as a result, they were unable to repartition my hard drive without losing all my Win95 data (which I didn't want to lose, despite my distaste for Microsoft). Undaunted, I bought a Red Hat 5.2 CD and came home, upgraded my hard drive to 4.3 Gigs and installed a dual-OS system myself, with 50-50 space allocation.

My Linux configuration took much longer than expected as I discovered that I wasn't installing it in a bog-standard machine (a Twinhead laptop is not generally considered such a machine, or so it would appear). Even when I got the basic configuration working, I wanted to create an operating system with the exact same functionality (sic) as my Win95 system. Of course one may argue that 'functionality' and 'Windows' do not cohere in the same sentence, but despite its defects, I rather liked my Win95 system - I had all the freeware/shareware tools I needed and life was good. Or so it seemed for a year - but after the 253rd or 254th inexplicable page fault error (which caused the machine to lock up and lose unsaved data), I began to have little, niggling doubts. I realised that I had taken all these crashes and freezes as part and parcel of PC usage. Well, no longer. And there was also the inherent thrill in exploring and probing the intricacies of a new OS that was just like UNIX. And Linux was reputed to be so very versatile compared to the different UNIX flavours, so much so that most applications would compile and install without a hitch. Oh really? Well, in February 1999, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and venture into where at least 8,000,000 other computer nerds had gone before. An OS nirvana at best. At least I hoped I wasn't going to languish in a purgatory of segmentation faults and stack pointer errors.

So this page is really written for people like me, ex-Win95 users who want something a little more (or people who are just bored and want to discover what this Linux hype is all about). Perhaps after reading this, you might want to take the plunge yourself - then this site would have achieved its objective. After all, I'm writing this as a wholly satisfied convert to Linux.

March 2001
I can't quite believe I've made it here in one piece. Yes, I've been a Linux user for 2 years (and I'm still sporting my stylish Red Hat - 7.0!) but mostly still a casual one. I managed to upgrade my kernel from 2.16-22 to the new 2.4.2 that everyone's talking about in order to get full USB support for my new scanner, but that proved to be unnecessary. Red Hat's 2.4 USB backport worked fine on my 2.2.16-22 kernel, after some initial head-scratching and late-night appeals to mailing lists. Thanks to Karl Heinz Kremer and friends from the SANE (Scanner Access Now Easy) project, my scanner is now up and running. I'm also a convert to the GNOME desktop as I find KDE icons are becoming increasingly garish - however, I still keep updating my KDE versions as I love KMail and wish I didn't have to leave home without it. The other thing on my wishlist is better GUI support in Java for X-Windows; Swing applications still look pretty poor on Linux. The current KDE 2.0 in my PC is still buggy and occasionally behaves like Windoze (tm) but rumours are its getting better with each update. And oh, did I mention that I have totally blown away my Windoze partition on my PC? It is now truly 100% Linux... and I think I deserve some kind of medal for that.

February 2002
Another year, another scribble in the Geek Diary. Just before Christmas last year, I upgraded Red Hat 7.0 to Red Hat 7.2 and the whole process seemed to be rather painless. Kudos to Red Hat for making the install process so slick now, but some niggly things still need to be worked on, namely, some older packages and libs were not removed when they should have been. This caused some minor panic attacks especially when my Gnome desktop started spewing up little rectangles where the fonts should be. Some other programs were also broken. Linux still seems to be the domain of the computer-savvy, and not at all for faint hearted Windows users who prefer to take hints from talking paperclips. KDE 2.2 is a lot more stable than the beta version and KOffice is wonderful and all the MSWord import filters have improved tremendously. LaTeX still seems to be the serious word processor of choice in my household though. Konqueror is also starting to look like a viable alternative to the overly bloated Netscape, although Mozilla and Opera aren't that bad, despite the free Opera's non-support of Javascript. For all the hype about Opera's speed, I haven't yet noticed any huge difference between all my browsers on my 56kbps line. But ADSL is not on the cards! There is indulgence and there is Indulgence, after all.

And I've also managed to convert at least one other person to Linux! Sadly, I can't help but feel that laptop users are relatively ignored by the major Linux distributions. Installing Linux in one is still a touch-and-go process, almost guaranteed to reduce one to a gibbering wreck after too many late nights trying to get X to work properly with the LCD screens. Laptop users are human too, if X crashes repeatedly, do we not feel pain? Anyhow, as for Linux-embedded devices, I'm not about to rush out and get a Linux PDA just yet. Those things are only marginally less useful than mobile phones for me.

February 2003
My wish list for GIMP - a better unsharp mask algorithm, please, for us dedicated penguin-lovers who don't want to resort to using Photoshop or Paintshop on Windoze to process our photo scans? A Dreamweaver port for Linux wouldn't be scoffed at either. A friendlier user interface for GIMP perhaps, but what I am doing, asking for friendlier interfaces when I am a self-confessed, masochistic penguin-lover? Red Hat 8.0 is up and running in my computer and KDE 3.0 looks so absolutely stunning, I can't help mailing around screenshots to friends accompanied by the usual evangelical babble. My favourite Linux applications are Kile (LaTeX front-end), Tinyfugue, KMail (as always) and Konqueror isn't looking bad either. However, mosfet's rants against Red Hat seem well justified, and it is annoying working with a "broken" version of KDE. I suspect my next upgrade may no longer be from the fashionable scarlet trilby-wearing people. Mandrake anyone?

December 2004
A little late in the year to update my Geek Diary but better late than never. I built my first PC last year and then this year, I decided to cast off my battered old Red Hat for a little more sartorial flair, and have started to don a Fedora instead - or rather, Fedora Core 2, the Open Source version of Red Hat. It's a lot better than the previous versions of Red Hat because at least KDE isn't crippled and it's relatively easy to compile and install KDE apps without having to rely on RPM availability. KDE 3.2 has also got a lot more beautiful, although it'll be some time before I put up a screenshot to prove this to any doubting Thomases out there. For sheer beauty alone, as well as Konqueror, it is well worth the hassle of the upgrade. Last year also marked the end of my running a Linux-only system. Frustrations with trying to get SCSI to work with my CanoScan FS4000 forced me to buy a hard drive just to install Win2k and Dreamweaver. Using Win2k occasionally again has just convinced me how much easier it is to be on Linux/KDE.

Installing FC2 almost hosed my Win2k partition, or so I thought. People thinking of doing so should read this Linux Weekly News article before sticking in that installation CD. After I installed FC2 to dual-boot, Win2k just refused to boot up. I managed to salvage my WInk2 partition only with the assistance of the kind denizens on the Linux Questions forum and switched my drive geometry in my BIOS to LBA. Don't even ask me what that means... I'm only a geek! And I finally caved in and signed up for ADSL broadband with PlusNet and am now connected to the internet at the burning speed of 512kbps. My trusty modem has been consigned to the dark dusty space underneath my desk. However, my biggest bandwidth indulgence has so far only been KDE Radio.

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