Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Must-Have Linux Software, part 1

A follow-up to last year's widely ignored post on must-have software for the mac. I imagine I'd get actual hits, readers and comments if I ever told anyone I had a blog. Anyway, the linux software I've gotta have.

Ubuntu Linux. Let's start off with the basics. I actually use Kubuntu, since I vastly prefer KDE to Gnome, but there's some software that comes with Ubuntu I've gotta have. I could install Kubuntu, then run sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop but I usually go the other way, mainly because it seems that the Ubuntu disk images download faster and install easier. Why, I don't know.

I do know, though, the last time I decided to try a clean install, Ubuntu was the only flavor that would actually install. Kubuntu, nope; Mepis, nope; a couple more I can't remember, no joy. Actually, Puppy would install, and was screaming fast, but a pain to use and ugly to look at. Sorry, pup, I'm lazy and automount is a good thing.

Anyway, once I get Ubuntu installed, a quick trip to the terminal, followed by sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop and I'm in business. Here's some of the software I've got to have installed to be happy. Some of it comes pre-installed, some not.

Epiphany Web Browser
Yes, Firefox is pre-installed, and I use Firefox for almost all of my web-browsing, but Epiphany has one thing going for it that Firefox lacks: If I shift+click on a link, it downloads whatever's on the other end of that link. If Firefox does this, I haven't figured out how yet.

Yes, Adept is installed as part of Kubuntu, and I use apt-get a lot, but when I want a gui for installs and updates, I find Synaptic easier to use.

I needed an ftp program, and of the ones I tried, Filezilla seemed to work the best. Sometimes, though, its faster and easier to use Konqueror's ftp capabilities.

In my oh-so modest opinion, Evolution is the best e-mail program for linux that I've tried.

I need to get dellbuntu to hook up to my wireless router and wifi-radar does a better job for me. I used to use Wireless Assistant, but I had to manually tell it to connect every time I restarted the computer. wifi-radar automatically connects for me.

The best p2p program for linux that I've tried.

Up until recently, KDE's default file browser was Konqueror, the combination file browser, web browser, ftp client and I don't know what else. I prefer Dolphin because it feels faster and more responsive. On the down side, it lacks a couple of features that make Konqueror so damn useful: tabs, multiple split-window capability and the ability to drag & drop onto the side-pane. Maybe they'll show up in the 4.x releases, or maybe not. For that matter, maybe Konqueror 4.x might feel faster.

I usually do system upgrades in konsole. A quick sudo apt-get update/upgrade and I'm done. If a program locks up, a fast top followed by kill -9 <offending pid> and it's sorted.

my basic viewer for video clips and DVDs.

sometimes kaffeine won't play something. When this is the case, vlc will almost always pick up the slack.

not quite as polished as iTunes, but it works and it works damn well.

Open Office
screw microsoft. 'nuff said.

a good all-around text editor. I use it these days for all my html, css and javascript. When I get up off my ass and get back into java and C++, I'll probably use kate for that as well.

everyone needs a good usenet client, and this is the only one I could get to work for me. Two additional features and it'll be as good as Unison on the Mac: group posts by thread/upload, and create separate download folders for each grouping.

KDE4: Not Ready for Prime-Time

I've been using KDE in various flavors of Linux ever since I picked up a copy of Yellow Dog Linux 2.something on eBay for the princely sum of $4.00. That was back in '01 or '02, if I remember aright.

Digressions aside, I've been using KDE for at least 5 or 6 years, on, let's see: the Pismo, the beige G3, the B&W G3 and the G4 Dual-Proc, on the Gateway 400 MHz P-III, the Gateway 900 MHz P-III, the Shuttle 2.8 GHz P-IV and now on my Dell Core2Duo 2.0 GHz, as well as installing various forms of KDE-using Linux on several friends' computers and both of my step-daughters' laptops. Several years on several platforms: I'd say I've been using it. And I've liked it. When I found out that KDE4 was coming out, I was actually counting down the day. Screw Xmas, gimmee KDE4!

Well, now I've got KDE4 - downloaded & tried it on the evening of the 11th, when it came out for general use. My take on it? It's great, and it really sucks.

It's great: it looks fucking awesome! Finally, all the compiz/beryl stuff works, something I could never quite get myself geeked up enough to make work before. It's fast, and it's the basis of something that looks like it's going to be really good.

It really sucks: KDE4 is, actually, KDE4.0. And what do we all know about software releases? That's right, avoid the x.0 release like a skanky hooker with a bad case of Kryptonian Gonorrhea. When it's all grown up, it'll be good, but right now it's a puppy that isn't house-trained. Here's a short list of the things I've seen so far that I don't like:

1: the panel is fixed in size, location and (as far as I can tell) color. It has a limited repertoire of widget/gadgets/whatevers that can be added.

2: the taskbar only has one option/setting: show tool-tips. I pretty much have to be able to turn off "show windows from all desktops" or it's not usable.

3: desktops defaults to 4. I use 8, and I'm used to using the ctrl+<desktop #> to switch desktops. I actually thought they'd removed this capability, because I couldn't switch from d/t1 (online) to d/t8 (dev) unless I clicked on the desktop pager. Turns out that you can only use the keyboard to switch desktops for the first 4 desktops.

4: back to the panel: it disappears completely. Not just to me, either. Check out the Kubuntu and KDE forums and it's happened to a bunch of people. The only cure it to delete ~.kde4, or, possibly, some file or combination of files inside that folder. Some people claim that all you have to do is delete the plasma-related files & you're good to go, but I had to delete the entire thing to get the panel back.

5: it's unstable. This is unforgivable on a weekly basis, much less 5 times in less than two hours. The only way to get out of freeze is to hard-shutdown by pressing and holding the power button.

Bottom line: I like it, a lot, but not nearly enough to use it yet. I keep checking for and installing updates (and there have been quite a few), but until it hits, probably, the magic x.1 roadmark, it's not usable.