posted by Mike Reed on Tue 22nd Apr 2003 19:02 UTC

"Linux Just Works, Part II"
I now run Red Hat Linux 9 and Gnome pretty much exclusively, and my WindowsXP partition is gone. Replaced by a virtual machine. I have learned that what you can't accomplish in the Gnome GUI is usually some sysadmin related task. I am forcing myself to use Bash more. I think this is a good thing, and in no way a step backwards. I can create an ISO image of a CD in one line. That's pretty amazing if you ask me. But more importantly, it's testament to underlying philosophies and concepts that are some 40 years old. While Windows struggles to become a true multiuser environment (trust me, it's struggling - I administer WTS/Citrix farms) everything is already there in Linux. Linux has a solid foundation. Windows has its foundations in 'New Technology' which by Bill Gates own admission, NT was to become "more Unix than Unix". If you ask me, Windows has its foundations in mergers, acquisitions and marketing; its underlying philosophy seems to be 'on error resume next'.

So why am I so pleased with Red Hat Linux 9? Surely there must be something I miss? Let's take stock, from basics upwards:

Q: How do I browse the web and read my email?
A: Mozilla. It looks georgeous in Red Hat Linux 9.

Q: What about typing a letter, writing my latest screenplay or doing some spreadsheet sums?
A: OpenOfficeOrg is good enough for me. Again, well integrated into Red Hat Linux 9 (though still takes a while to fire up!)

Q: I hate VI and EMACS with a passion - how do I edit text files from the console?
A: Joe is my current favourite since it doesn't wrap lines by default and has useful help built-in

Q: How do I ensure my PC clock is telling the right time?
A: Easy! Enable NTP via the Gnome clock applet and use one of the preconfigured Red Hat Linux NTP servers. Nice touch.

Q: How do I burn a data CD?
A: Type burn:/// into Nautilus (if it doesn't do it for you when you insert a blank CD) and drag in your data

Q: How do I create an ISO image of a CD? (great for attaching to virtual machines!)
A: In Bash, for example, dd if=/dev/cdrom of=someiso.iso

Q: How do I administer those Microsoft Windows Terminal servers (RDP)?
A: rdesktop someservername

Q: How do I run those Citrix published applications (ICA)?
A: Citrix provide a native ICA client

Q: What about administering non-TS wintel boxes?
A: VNC !!

Q: My two year old daughter broke my CDROM eject button - now what to do!?
A: eject /dev/cdrom

Q: What about multimeda? DVD, MP3, AVI, ASF, WMA, MOV ...
A: There is MPlayer and associated win32 codecs, and an MP3 plugin for XMMS.

Q: And my digital camera?
A: mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/camera - although your actual sda device and mountpoint may vary, and your camera must be a compatible USB mass storage device (most modern ones are)

Q: Games! I need more games! Are there any good games for Linux?
A: Amongst my personal favourites are Quake2, Frozen Bubble, Freedroid and Gxmame (a front end to Mame and all the roms I have downloaded from my collection of arcade machines ;-)

Okay, so far I haven't mentioned the 'killer app' that's going to keep me with Red Hat Linux for the forseeable future. Well, first and foremost I would probably have stuck with SuSE if I didn't get a broadband connection. But with my broadband I discovered the joys of downloading ISOs and testing various Linux distros and .... FreshRPMs. Here's how I quickly overcome my Red Hat Linux woes after a fresh install of Red Hat Linux 9 (I'm not clever enough to use anaconda yet ;-)

1. Download Apt4rpm for Red Hat Linux 9
2. Open a console and su root
3. rpm -Uvh apt*rpm
4. apt-get update
5. apt-get install synaptic
6. synaptic
7. Behold! Aladdin's cave!

Actually, there's a step I perform between 3 and 4, and that's to joe /etc/apt/sources.list and add the following lines:

### Dag Apt Repository for Red Hat 9
rpm Red Hat Linux/9/en/i386 dag
rpm Red Hat Linux/en/i386/9.0 newrpms

That ensures I can easily get hold of Freedroid.

So I've succumbed to the corporate branding of Red Hat Linux? Well, yes (although frankly I detest Bluecurve and use ThinIce/Mist). If Linux is good enough for artists at ILM and throughout the Hollywood CGI effects industry then it's good enough for my everyday desktop use. Red Hat Linux gives me excellent hardware device support and a good balance of new and useful packages via Apt4rpm. Linux could be a Windows killer, it will likely be a proprietry *nix killer. It could just as easily become as successful as OS/2 Warp.

About the Author:
I'm a 31 year old Datacentre Systems Architect and use Linux in conjunction with Citrix, Terminal Services and VMware. I've been known to play the odd game or two, too. In the last few days I've erased my Windows partition in favour of using Red Hat Linux 9 fulltime on my home computer.

Table of contents
  1. "Linux Just Works, Part I"
  2. "Linux Just Works, Part II"
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