posted by Will Gunadi on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:11 UTC

"Linux laptops, Page 4/4"
Another excellent program that I use in conjunction with Scribus is Inkscape. This is one of the easiest to pick up vector-based drawing program. It's using the new SVG format that is based on XML. This results in an open file format where you can actually use a text editor to modify the graphics file. So let's say if you change the spelling of your company from "Acme" to "Acne", and you've spent 100 hours creating a very intricate logo using Inkscape, you can simply go to the file and replace every occurrence of "Acme" to "Acne" and your logo will be modified instantly, you don't even have to startup Inkspace to correct it. How cool is that? Here's a screenshot with a diagram that I've created for my project's documentation:

One of my biggest dissapointment with Gnome is that there is still not an easy way to edit files located in a remote machine. Since that is what I mostly do at work, I need this capability badly. Fear not, KDE comes to the rescue. First I installed Kate (my editor of choice in Linux) and when I tried to open a remote file, I was told that "kio slaves" are not present. Hmm... could it be that "kio" stands for KDE I/O something? following this hunch, I typed in "kio" in Synaptic, and sure enough, I can install it separately from KDE and it allows me to open a remote file using the fish:// protocol in Kate.

Awesome! Big kudos to the KDE team on modularity! I hope this serves as an example to illustrate that the KDE vs Gnome "Mine DM is better than Thine" arguments are pure silliness. The main beauty of using Linux is the flexibility to choose what works for you, and sometimes the answer is to use both.

Here's another shot of Gnome running KDE apps, with MC in the back, and Kate in front showing some Python code on the top view and this article on the bottom view.

NOTE: Another program that also allows me to traverse remote filesystems is the venerable Midnight Commander.

So far there is only one negative experience that I have. It seems to stem from a driver conflict or a bug in Gnome that causes a very frustrating behavior. Some applications (gnome, nautilus) but not the others (firefox, synaptic, kate) hangs for a long time (10-20 mins) before they come up, sometimes Gnome pops a message saying that the application has crashed and offered to report it as a bug, which I gladly did, however, bug-buddy (the bug reporting tool) hangs for a long time and it crashes too. This leads me to believe that the affected applications are deadlocking for a resource that has to do with either a working eth1 (wireless) or the non-working eth0 (wired) connection. I have reported this as a bug to the Gnome team, so far I haven't heard anything from them.

Although you can argue that a problem with wireless will shoot down any reviews about Linux running on laptop nowadays, we need to keep in mind that built-in wireless hasn't been around that long. We need to give time to the Linux developers (kernel, drivers, DM, distro, etc.) to work out the kinks. And I'm sure as it has been demonstrated consistently in the past, this problem will be resolved probably sooner than we think. I for that matter, am willing to wait.

These are several reasons that this problem doesn't become a showstopper for me:
1. This only happens when I use the wireless network. It never happens when the laptop is wired to the network. Neither when the laptop is not connected at all.
2. This only happens to applications that I do not use regularly (except nautilus file browser)
3. I hope Ubuntu team take a note of this and will be able to fix this themselves (or help the Gnome team) in time for the next version (Hoary).

All Work and No Play Makes Us Dull Geeks, right? so I have to throw in some multimedia goodness into the mix. I love the Sound Juicer ripper that is installed by default by Ubuntu because it outputs .ogg by default and it does what it supposed to do without clutter and hassle. I settle down with Beep Media Player (BMP) to listen to music (.ogg files of course). For some occasional adrenaline rush, I was amazed that I can play Tuxracer on the supposedly very dinky Intel Extreme 3D Accelerator that comes with this laptop. As for DVD's, I find myself using the QuickPlay feature quite a bit. And since it's running on Linux, it just adds to the "coolness" factor.

NOTE: Lest you guys think I am a complete wimp, I *do* have a gaming rig at home, but that's for another article.

Lesson learned:
- nautilus . (a'la explorer .)
- ms core font is installed automatically (better than Knoppix)
- Gnome cannot edit remote file (over ssh)
- KDE to the rescue
- Midnight Commander to the rescue
- negative experience with some Gnome "native" applications (gedit, nautilus) hanging when the wireless networking is active
- VPN Connection works after installing the "tun" loadable kernel module. I was able to install "vpnc" and connect to my office's VPN server from home
- Rippin' Sound Juicer CD ripper

Conclusion:

Linux has gone a long way from where it was just a few years ago in terms of laptop installations, ease of use, application choice, and maturity. I am but one of the living proofs that using Linux both professionally and personally is not only making sense but is also a joy. The breadth of applications that are available and their quality is a great testament to the Open Source movement which Linux has helped to pioneer. The fact that amazes me so much is how smooth the experience of installing and using Linux on a laptop. Despite some to-be-expected rough edges, it has exceeded all my expectation and I am actually proud to show my laptop to my Windows running colleagues and be able to debunk the myths that Linux is not useable on the desktop (let alone on a laptop).

About the author:
Will Gunadi is a Software Developer by trade and a certified geek at heart. When he's not writing or tinkering with the latest Open Source software, you may spot him with his camera. Will lives with his wife and daughter in Dallas. His blog can be reached here
If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.
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