Thursday, February 27, 2014

Markdown Editor Roundup: gedit vs. UberWriter vs. ReText

Very much inspired by my interview with Bryan Behrenshausen, I’ve been spending a lot more time working with Markdown. Day-to-day, at work and at home, I usually work with either HTML or word processed documents. I’m fast with HTML and proficient with word processors, and I rarely need to convert one to the other, but I liked the idea of simplifying my process and using Markdown for everything, with pandoc to convert it.

Markdown is simple enough, but there is a learning curve, so while one of the advantages of it is that it doesn’t require any kind of special editor, the reality is that I needed something with a preview so I could make sure my syntax looked OK (which it often did not). As a result, I went through a few Markdown editors, trying to find the one I like best (and because I love a good rabbit hole).

I eventually narrowed my list to three: ReText, UberWriter, and gedit-markdown. When choosing software, I can usually tell if something will work for me in the first hour or so of use. All three of these editors were very usable to me, which is why I wound up needing a bake-off. I still haven’t really picked one, although I do spend the most time in gedit, mostly because it’s where I do everything. And even as I’ve gotten a handle on Markdown, I appreciate the preview all three provide, just to get a sense of how the final product will look.

ReText
ReText is simple. It’s just a text window. It has a spellcheck and a live preview. It lets you natively export to HTML, ODT, or PDF. It also lets you grab the HTML as source. There’s not much to it, which I see as a feature. My main issue with it is that it’s black text on white background and I prefer white text on a dark background. There’s a CSS file that can be tweaked, but I haven’t explored that part of ReText yet. Also, Linux Setup interviewee Amy Cavender is a ReText user.

screenshot of ReText editor
ReText

UberWriter
UberWriter is beautiful (as I’ve mentioned before). It’s got the same basic export options as ReText, plus an advanced export menu I’ve never had to use. It has a spellcheck, a running word count, and a dark mode. It also lets you copy the Markdown into HTML without having to do a formal export, which is a nice feature. There’s also a focus mode, which puts an emphasis on your current line and de-emphasizes previous ones. It’s great, but I have a few issues with UberWriter. One is that it doesn’t remember the dark color scheme — it has to be set each time it’s open. I think it’s under review as a feature, though. There’s also no search and replace ability, although that’s also on the roadmap. Another issue is that there’s no preview for me, which I believe is because I’m on Ubuntu 12.04 and there’s some kind of dependency issue (I’m not sure it’s supported for 12.04, although it runs fine otherwise). UberWriter is $5 through the Ubuntu Software Center and despite those few issues, it’s well worth the money.

screenshot of UberWriter editor
UberWriter

gedit-markdown
gedit-markdown is gedit with a preview window. The preview isn’t live — you have to manually update it, but other than that, it does everything gedit does, which for me, a gedit lover is a nice thing. I assumed that as I got used to Markdown (it’s really not super complicated), I’d just phase out the preview window, but it’s actually proven to be very helpful to me, just in terms of checking the formatting of stuff I’m writing.

screenshot of gedit-markdown editor
gedit-markdown

So for now, I’m sticking with gedit for my Markdown needs, although I’m keeping an eye on UberWriter, simply because it has a great look and feel and seems to be continually improved. But ReText is also a strong option for anyone who wants a simple Markdown editor.

A final note. At work, on Windows 7, I’ve been using MarkdownPad. It’s great. It has live preview and easily exports HTML — it even has a copy code as HTML function that converts Markdown to HTML on the fly. It doesn’t export into any kind of word processed format, so you need pandoc if you’re going to use it for that sort of thing. If you’re stuck in Windows, MarkdownPad is a great option. I’ve been using it for all kinds of writing, from articles to blog posts.

screenshot of MarkPad editor
MarkPad

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Linux Setup - James Love, Knowledge Ecology International

A few things strike me about James’ interview. For one thing, he finds Linux easier to install and maintain than Windows and OS X. I find the same thing. Maybe it’s not the same in enterprise situations, but at home, I can get most Linux (non-Arch-based…) distros up-and-running in less than two hours. Configuring a Windows machine takes days. James also mentions that he’s gotten used to Unity, which seems to be the book on it. I’m not sure of the extent to which people love Unity the way KDE people love their desktop, but more and more, Unity is something people use, and that says a lot. Finally, James is a gedit guy. Like him, I miss it when I don’t have it on a machine. I actually use the Windows version at work, but it’s just not quite the same.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My names is James Love, and I am the Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a non-profit organization with offices in Washington, DC and Geneva, Switzerland. We focus on better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources. This includes work on a diverse set of issues including policies on patents, copyright and other types of intellectual property, standards, global norms for supporting research and development, and new production models for knowledge. This year we worked closely with the World Blind Union and others on the successful conclusion of a UN new treaty on copyright exceptions for persons with disabilities (the Marrakesh treaty for the blind), on compulsory licenses on patents for cancer and HIV/AIDS drugs, and on a variety of efforts to use innovation inducement prizes as a substitute for patent monopolies as the incentive to develop new drugs, vaccines and medical diagnostic tests.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I had used Unix some in graduate school, but began using Linux in 1998, at first just to see if it worked, and if it could provide an alternative to the Microsoft Windows monopoly. Over time Linux has become my favorite operating system, and I find it easier to install and maintain than Microsoft Windows or the Apple operating systems. I actually use several computers at work, home and on the road, and provide some support for other staff. Linux has a lot of advantages, although in our office people are roughly divided between Linux and OS.X I should also say that I am attracted to Linux in part because the production model is driven by user interests, and in part because open and free software is important for maintaining openness and user focused innovations for the desktop and the continued development of the Internet.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    Over time I have used several distributions. My first distribution was Caldera, back in the day when my cousin Ramson Love was involved in the company, and they were playing a positive role in the development of Linux. I switched to Red Hat, and then Fedora for some time. More recently I have used Debian-based distributions, preferring the .deb package management. Currently I use Ubuntu for most computers, but for some older computers in our office, I have Lubuntu installed, which is a light and fast LXDE environment. I also have a Chromebook, which I find useful at times.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    When Ubuntu switched to Unity, I was pretty unhappy at first, and switched briefly to Mint and Lubuntu to have the older style menus back. But in two subsequent releases Unity improved a lot, and now I really like it. What I want is an interface that does not get in the way too much and makes it easy to do basic things like find and launch applications, switch between applications and work spaces, and manage the computer’s resources. As a bonus, I find Ubuntu’s Unity interface requires almost no training for new users.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    It’s hard for me to mention just one application. Like most people, I use a browser more than anything else, and I typically use Chromium, but sometimes Firefox. I use and like gedit a lot, particularly for converting data so I can import it into applications, and as an intermediate step in reformating and editing text. I use LibreOffice, when I am not using Google Docs, and I use GIMP, OpenShot for video editing, and R for statistics. If there is one application that I miss the most when I’m not using Linux, it is gedit.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    At work I have a Gateway desktop with 8GB of RAM and an i7 processor. At home I use a home-built desktop with 8GB of RAM and an i5 processor. For the road I’m currently using a fairly low-end laptop, an HP DM1 with an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, an SSD, an 11.6-inch screen, and a keyboard with a key missing. I am dying to get a better laptop, but waiting for new models with a Haswell CPU, good battery life, at least a 900p screen, maybe a 13.3- or 14-inch screen, and under four pounds.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes.

James Love's desktop

Interview conducted October 21, 2013


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Linux Setup - Bryan Behrenshausen, Academic

Bryan makes some great arguments for using Linux: that it works well and lets people work exactly the way they want to. It’s the main reason I use it. He has some great stuff about his workflow. Using gedit as a content hub and pandoc as a transformation tool is an interesting idea (also, I didn’t think anyone else loved gedit as much as I do). One of the things I appreciated about cascading style sheets was that they separated content from design; Bryan’s setup is very much a logical extension of that concept. The major lesson of Bryan’s interview is that work (and workflow) need to come before technology. He’s done a great job of figuring things out for himself. My only suggestion to Bryan would be that he expand his pen world to include Sharpie Fine Points, which have been a revelation for me.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    I’m Bryan Behrenshausen, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I teach classes and do research in media and cultural studies, and I’m currently working on a dissertation about the cultural politics of information. I also write about open source culture at opensource.com, where I’m the site’s perpetual intern (three years running!). Online, I go by semioticrobotic.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Here’s the thing: Linux-based, open source computing technologies simply work better for me than any proprietary option I’ve ever encountered. Open source software allows me to do what I want to do, in precisely the way I want to do it, with results I know I can trust. I rely on open standards to ensure the work I do and the products I both create and collect survive this age of rapidly changing platforms—one in which, it seems, people who don’t have my best interests at heart are keen on having a hand in what I can and can’t do. Open source technologies traffic primarily in these standards, so I tend to gravitate to them.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    I spend every day with the Precise Pangolin—Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. For years I installed each new version of Ubuntu on its release day, but because I never perform anything other than fresh installations (same goes for everyone else, right?), I eventually grew tired of upending my work environment every six months. Now I sit on every LTS release like it’s an egg. And besides, I’m such a habitual person—I walk the same university paths every day and buy my pens in bulk so I introduce as little variability into my routine as possible—that the LTS rhythm just suits me.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    I use GNOME Shell. There. I said it. And you know what? I love it. Not everyone does. I realize that. A desktop environment is like any other environment people frequently inhabit—a complex ecology that facilitates certain kinds of knowing and doing. Desktop environments aren’t just “tools;” they’re atmospheres. So selecting one is an extraordinarily personal endeavor. The beauty of open source software is that users can architect for themselves the environments that make them most comfortable—rather than resign themselves to inhabiting something that someone else thinks is best for them. The first time I used GNOME Shell, I felt like I was home. It’s simple, elegant, intuitive, and efficient—love at first byte.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    Just one, eh? Oh, but you are cruel. In that case, I choose the magnificent pandoc, document conversion “Swiss army knife.” As a writer and academic, I spend the bulk of my time in a text editor composing essays, lectures, research notes, outlines, student quizzes, dissertation chapters, and emails. And for doing all this, I use one application: gedit. This single-application approach means I never spend unnecessary time considering which tool X I’ll need in order to complete task Y. In my case, the answer is always the same: gedit. For everything. I make a point of writing every day (all the great ones say that’s what you’re supposed to do), and the best way to ensure writing proceeds as smoothly as possible is to eliminate any unnecessary cognitive activity that would detract from the actual task of writing (again—routine!). So every day it’s the same: sit down, open lid, click gedit, start writing.

    And yet gedit is not my “pick” here—because when I’ve finished something, the next question is: What is it going to do? Where is this piece headed? This is where pandoc becomes indispensable. It’ll accept my Markdown’ed text and turn it into whatever I need: an ODT file, an HTML file—even an ePub ebook, if that’s what I require. Only when the writing is done do I start considering all the technical nonsense that would have otherwise kept me from writing as soon as possible (and believe me, I love the technical nonsense; fiddling with LibreOffice styles or reading HTML5 documentation are my absolute favorite distractions). Pandoc simply obviates so much of the post-writing rigmarole—the stuff that would preoccupy me before and during the actual writing (is this the right tool for this job? how does this font look instead? will so-and-so be able to work with this when I’m done? will I be able to access this next year?)—and in this way is even more important than the text editor itself. It’s the tool that facilitates the harmonious synchrony of all others.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My one and only machine is a Lenovo ThinkPad x131e with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. It’s a notebook computer designed for use by primary school students, so I figured it could withstand everything a PhD candidate could throw at it (those early morning library sessions can get pretty treacherous, you know). And to date it hasn’t disappointed me.

    But I chose this computer primarily for its size. For years I experimented with Linux notebooks of varying dimensions. First there was the Eee PC 701. Then the Eee PC 901. Then the Acer Aspire 1410. Then the System76 Lemur UltraThin. Each machine had its own merits, but I’ve now discovered that 11.6 diagonal inches is my “sweet spot”—small enough to be truly portable, yet large enough to house a full-size keyboard. The ThinkPad X131e combines everything I liked about my former computers into what I consider the perfect package. Plus, it runs Linux without much coaxing. And the keyboard is a friggin’ dream.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    I sure will.

Bryan Behrenshausen's desktop

Bryan Behrenshausen's desktop launcher

(Image: "Network" by Mrrk at Simple Desktops)

Interview conducted August 28, 2013


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Return to Xubuntu: A Review

screenshot of my Xubuntu desktop

A few months ago, I had a Linux first — I reached the end-of-support of a distro. I never thought of myself as a distro hopper, especially with my main laptop, but I guess I hop around enough to have never made it to the end-of-support.

I was using OpenSUSE 12.1 GNOME, and I loved it, but I saw end-of-support as a chance to really explore my options. I’ve messed around with a few distros on my testing machine, but nothing really grabbed my attention, other than the dearly-depart Fuduntu.

The Search

OpenSUSE actually lets you upgrade via disk (and rather scarily, live), but I didn’t want to upgrade two versions (12.1-12.2 and then 12.2-12.3), having to back up all of my work and settings, only to be back in a similar situation in less than 18 months (assuming nothing horribly broke). So even though I love OpenSUSE, it didn’t seem like the right option for me at this point in time.

OpenSUSE has a rolling release concept, Tumbleweed, that interested me, but I was never able to get it to work on my testing machine, a ThinkPad T43. I suspect the problem might have had to do with bouncing between GNOME versions, but I was never really able to pin the issue down.

I played with Manjaro’s GNOME edition on my testing machine for a few weeks, and that seemed pretty nice, but eventually an update broke my setup and I wasn’t able to even triangulate on what the issue might be. I don’t blame Manjaro, though. Part of running an Arch-based distribution means accepting a willingness to go through log files. I thought I was willing to do that right up until I couldn’t figure out the issue in less than a few hours. I enjoy trouble-shooting a lot of different Linux issues, but reviewing log files is completely unrewarding to me. It’s not a knock on Arch or Manjaro — it’s more a self-realization.

I also played with Linux Mint Debian Edition, another rolling release, but aesthetically it was a bit raw, and there seemed to be some concerns about the rate at which Mint pushes out security updates. In general, it’s a nice enough distro, but it felt and looked old to me.

The Bake-Off

With rolling releases ruled out, I decided to focus on long-term stability. That meant either an Ubuntu Long Term Support release (LTS; 12.04.2) or a Linux Mint one (Maya 13).

Now down to two distros, I had to think about the desktop environment issue. I love GNOME, but I haven’t had the most luck getting GNOME shell working in Ubuntu. In the past it’s been glitchy in a way I haven’t seen in other distros. Ubuntu now has a GNOME edition, but because it’s brand new, there’s no LTS version.

Poking around Ubuntu, I remembered how much I enjoyed Xubuntu back when I ran it a few years ago. While Xubuntu won’t push out Xfce-related updates as long as it will push the general Ubuntu ones, it felt long-term enough for my purposes.

Looking at Mint, I’m not a huge fan of Cinnamon or Mate, so I decided to try Mint’s Xfce version, too.

I installed Mint and Xubuntu side-by-side on my testing machine. As you might expect, they’re both very, very similar, what with Mint based upon Ubuntu. In the end, I decided to go with Xubuntu for purely aesthetic reasons. The default Xfce configuration was nicer, with a single panel across the top of the screen, much like my beloved GNOME. There was more contrast due to a darker theme. It shipped with the beautiful elementary icons already installed. The fonts and rendering were all sharper within Xubuntu (say what you will about Ubuntu, but no distro renders fonts better). Obviously, I could have configured Mint to look just like Xubuntu (it even has the elementary icons in its repositories), but it seemed like an unnecessary step. Why bother going to the trouble of getting Mint to look like Xubuntu when I can just use Xubuntu?

screenshot of Linux Mint Xfce desktop
Linux Mint Xfce

And so, with that, I was settled on Xubuntu as my new distro. Now, I had to get it on my main work machine, a ThinkPad T420.

The Switch

I moved my files over to the testing machine, just to make sure there were no issues with file versions. It was time well spent. OpenSUSE was using KeePassX 2 while Xubuntu is still on 0.4.3. Despite what the numbers imply, they are two completely different programs. The Linux version of KeePassX 2 won’t let you roll back a file to version 0.4.3, so I had to do it in a Windows version of KeePassX via a virtual machine. It represented work, but far less work than losing all of my passwords.

I had some PDFs zipped up with a password. For some reason, the PDFs wouldn’t open on Xubuntu. I had occasionally had the same thing happen on OpenSUSE, so I’m not quite sure that issue was, but the files weren’t anything irreplaceable, so I didn’t even bother trying to resolve the issue.

I had a virtual Windows XP machine in OpenSUSE. I archived it and reinstalled it in Xubuntu without any drama, other than that my flash drive was formatted as FAT32 and couldn’t handle the archive size until I reformatted it as NTFS. I didn’t pick up on the FAT32 size limitation until the Xubuntu virtual machine told me the archived image was defective. Once I reformatted the flash drive, moving the virtual machine over was effortless (and much faster than reinstalling a Windows image from scratch).

Once everything was working on my testing machine, I quickly installed Xubuntu on my main laptop. It was quick and easy, like most Ubuntu installs are. I appreciated that Xubuntu didn’t require me to manually configure my TrackPoint scroll, like so many other distros do. Although I had my files backed up on my testing machine, I was able to move them over using SpiderOak, and that was shockingly quick.

I’ve been tweaking Xubuntu and the level of customization is very impressive. As I’ve mentioned, I really loved GNOME, but there isn’t much you can do to change its look. Xfce is quite the opposite. Of course, I’ve been using that customizability to make Xubuntu look more like GNOME. I turned off the button labels so it just shows program icons in the top panel. I’ve mostly been ignoring the bottom dock, since it autohides. I might remove it at some point, but so far, I rarely see it. I installed the Microsoft fonts from the repositories and manually added Courier Prime, my favorite font. I set PCManFM as the default file manager and configured the application finder/launcher to come up with the Super/Windows button (one of my first Xubuntu tricks). I miss not being able to open specific files from the launcher, like I could in GNOME, but it’s really not much of an adjustment — especially with the gedit dashboard plugin enabled.

annotated screenshot of my Xubuntu desktop
Annotated Xubuntu

screenshot of my OpenSUSE GNOME desktop
My old GNOME desktop

Xfce is great at making tweaks very easy to implement. Keyboard shortcuts take a few seconds, where in GNOME they could be hidden in gconf and dconf configurations. Once you know what you want to do with Xfce, making changes is remarkably quick.

The biggest compliment I can pay my current setup is that it doesn’t feel different from my old one. I’m still able to launch things by clicking the Super button. If I have that ability in any operating system, I’m pretty happy. I appreciate the range of software available within the Ubuntu repositories. Everything is in there, where with OpenSUSE I often had to enable certain separate repositories to get software I wanted.

Lessons Learned

Changing distros is stressful. The main lesson, which I’m sure everyone knows, is to make sure all of your files are backed up. I back up everything to SpiderOak, but I also backed up my files to a flash drive, just in case something went sideways with SpiderOak (which it didn’t).

I’m lucky enough to have an old laptop I can use as a test machine. That was huge. It let me flag problems and resolve them before they were live on my main laptop. If you have a second machine you can test on, I strongly encourage you to do so. Especially if you’re going between different distributions.

Also, in general, when choosing a distro, think about what you really want. I started looking at rolling releases because I didn’t want to deal with reinstallations down the line. But with rolling releases, the cost for having to do a reinstallation every few years is having to be vigilant and observant on a regular basis. In the end, I realized I’d rather spend a day or two on a reinstall every few years than constantly watching and maintaining my system. I just don’t have the skillset to understand the implications of each update. I need a distribution that parses that information for me.

On a related note, try and spend a few weeks with a rolling release. Just about all of them are easy to manage at the beginning. But as you make changes and as updates come in, things can become more complex. Testing over time will give you more of a sense of if you have the tools to keep a rolling system running.

Finally, I really urge people to take Xubuntu for a spin. It’s a beautiful distribution that has a lot of nice default settings. I really thought more people would flock to Xfce when GNOME 3 came up. Some of the default implementations, or lack of implementation, can make Xfce seem old-fashioned and kind of ugly. Xubuntu does a great job of showing how contemporary Xfce can look and feel. It’s got that familiar, menu-driven interface that so many people seem to like, but it also works well via its own application launcher/finder. It’s fast and simple. I loved GNOME 3, but Xfce is just as impressive. Plus, it’s really nice to have my weather applet back.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Review and Endorsement of Sabayon LXDE

screenshot of my Sabayon LXDE desktop

So I recently discussed my move to Lubuntu on my new ThinkPad.

Before moving to Lubuntu, I briefly gave Sabayon Xfce a spin. It was interesting, but there was a little bit more of a learning curve than I was prepared to commit to at the time.

But once I had my new machine working, I decided to try out Sabayon on the old one, a ThinkPad T43. Since I’ve fallen in love with LXDE as a desktop environment, I wanted to see Sabayon’s take on it. I liked it so much on the T43, I wound up installing it on the T420, my everyday laptop.

Sabayon is an intriguing distro. It’s based on Gentoo, but is much more user-friendly. From what I understand, a lot of Gentoo packages need to be manually compiled. Sabayon includes a standard package manager with a very nice selection of software. Adding and removing software is pretty ordinary, once you’ve played with Entropy, the package manager, for a little bit. I also found the advanced interface a little easier to use, since that gives you the option of searching the repositories or your installed programs.

The Sabayon LXDE default applications are fairly vanilla. I immediately added gedit, Chromium, Firefox, and GIMP. I also installed the xfce4-appfinder, which I use as an application launcher. I was also going to install Clipman as my clipboard manager, when I noticed Parcellite in the repositories. It’s comparable to Clipman and seemed to have less dependencies.

There’s also some kind of issue with the GNOME keyring and Network Manager, where every login also requires you to authenticate the keyring before Network Manager will connect. It was annoying more than anything, so I removed Network Manager and swapped in Wicd, a very nice and very underrated network manager.

The default Sabayon LXDE icons weren’t great, so I popped in Lubuntu’s. And since Lubuntu doesn’t have Wicd art, I replaced the Wicd icons with the Lubuntu Network Manager ones, which just involved messing about with /usr/share/pixmaps/wicd and changing some file names. It’s silly, but I really like the Lubuntu wifi indicators.

I was able to get the ThinkPad trackpad scroll working relatively easily, once I figured out what most other distros call .xsessionrc is .xprofile in Gentoo/Sabayon.

Wireless printing was also effortless to implement.

Sabayon is solid. It needed some work to perfect, but once I set up some Openbox key launchers (I’ve become very dependent upon Ctrl-Alt-T to launch a terminal Ctrl-Alt-E to open the file manager — the T43 lacks a Windows/super key), it began to feel comfortable.

Entropy has a nice selection of programs, which I appreciate since I’m not huge on compiling my own packages (and the Sabayon documentation kind of warns new users off of doing so). I was able to find SpiderOak, my new backup tool, in the repositories, but they also have packages for DropBox.

Because Sabayon is a rolling distribution, there are also, as one might expect, very up-to-date packages available, like the new version of GIMP that includes single window mode. Closing GIMP no longer feels like Whac-a-Mole and has probably added hours of free time to my year.

It’s still early, but so far, Sabayon has been relatively stable. It doesn’t have the out-of-the-box beauty and seamlessness of Lubuntu, but using Lubuntu as a template, I’ve been able to give Sabayon that same kind of ease and convenience. But there are some issues. Suspend doesn’t work on the T420, although it was fine on the T43. gedit is also a little buggy. There seems to be an issue with the snippets plugin that’s causing some crashing.

Sabayon comes with a few desktop environment options. There’s KDE, GNOME, Xfce and Enlightenment versions. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Xfce version, but I think that might have had more to do with Xfce 4.8 than Sabayon’s implementation.

Finally, a note about support. Sabayon has a forums area, but it’s not the same volume of answers as you’ll find with a Debian-based distribution. Google seems to know to direct Sabayon queries to Gentoo areas, and a lot of times, the answer you need can be found in the Gentoo forums, which seem a little busier than the Sabayon ones. Online Linux help tends to skew Ubuntu-related, so troubleshooting can take a little longer than you might be used to. The answers are out there, but they’re not as readily available as the Ubuntu-related ones.

But Sabayon is well-worth the extra effort. Especially given that it’s a rolling distribution, meaning all of my hard work configuring things won’t have to be re-done in a few years. Ubuntu-derived distributions are great. They usually work out of the box and a lot of thought goes into the UI (whether you personally agree with the thoughts or not). The tradeoff is that the distributions can often feel a little bloated, and sometimes it can be hard to track down what part of Ubuntu is controlling what. Sabayon is a nice halfway point between the ease of Ubuntu and the full-on control-every-aspect-of-your-distro experience of something like Arch.

So far, it’s been great for someone likes me, who likes to play with his OS, but doesn’t want it to be his full-time job.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

linuxeveryday asked: Hey Steve, I'm a long time reader of both your hockey blog as well as this one. I loved the making sausage with puck update post you did a few years back, and I would love to see an updated and more in depth post on what software, hardware, and tips and trick you use in your day to day life since you've become a full time linux user. Thanks! Danny

Danny is referring to this post from my hockey blog.

It’s pretty amazing how little has changed. I’m using Lubuntu 11.04 right now (as discussed here). I do all of my writing in gedit. I use Chromium as my main browser, but other than that, my tools are pretty much the same. I still use GIMP to edit photos (and Filezilla to upload them). I’m still a heavy GCal user, only because I can’t find anything better. And my hockey blog now runs on WordPress.

Apparently, once I find a tool I like, I hang on for dear life. It’s been three years since I wrote that Making the Sausage… post and my tools are slightly different, but also very much the same.


Friday, April 22, 2011