Some Tech Notes — Linux and Etc

I’ve been doing a lot of tech stuff at work, wanted to jot a few notes here.

First of all I’m spending a lot of time on Linux. I needed a couple of computers just to act as basic Internet-access terminals, and I didn’t want to spend the money on Windows XP computers (which can still be had a Tiger Direct. I have a thing about not buying a new Microsoft OS until it’s out for a year or so.) I bought a couple of cheapie no OS machines for about $100 each and played with a few Linux installations.

First I tried Xubuntu, which is the lighter version of Ubuntu. I could never get it to work but I don’t know if that was something to do with the OS or something to do with the CD burner on the machine I was using. The next OS I tried was Ubuntu itself. Very easy to use, very user-friendly, and sensible. But SLOW. Hideously, horribly SLOW. Trying to do anything on the machine was a serious wait. The machine I’m testing out the OSes on, Spork, has a lame processor but 1GB of RAM. I think I’m going to try Ubuntu on Teenie, a newer machine with a better processor but less RAM.

Looking around for a lighter Linux install I found and tried Puppy Linux. Puppy is blindingly fast — especially next to Ubuntu. Unfortunately Puppy seems made for running on LiveCD and I found myself going around my elbow to permanently install it on a computer. Just as I was settled in I discovered that Puppy hates some of my USB peripherals, so it’s not really an option.

I haven’t really reached a Linux decision yet. However I am thrilled at how much easier it was to get around Linux than it used to be. Several years ago (1999?) I used an old machine and set up Caldera Linux just to see what it was like. It was interesting but I could not imagine myself installing it, say, for my mother, and having her use it as a day-to-day machine. I can easily imagine doing that with Ubuntu provided I use a strong enough machine.

In addition to Linuxing around I’m also getting deeper into MediaWiki, which I mentioned last November. Instead of trying to start from an RSS archive viewpoint, though, I’m starting for an information-organizing viewpoint. MediaWiki is awkward, but not as bad as I was afraid, and there are elegant things that make up for it (the sidebar is easy to set up, there are some fantastic extensions available, and I love how quickly changes can be implemented/not implemented.) Putting the structure together was a headache. Making sure everybody follows the tenet of the structure will be a bigger headache.

Second Life is on hold for the moment — I’m in the middle of getting more family-friendly land. (I can see the appeal of having an island.) Creating information outlets there is project one. Putting together a Linux machine, a Nabaztag, a couple of scraper scripts and cron is the project two… musn’t get bored….

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