Penguin Time

Penguin Time…it’s like Goonie Time, but without the pirate ship and the Truffle Shuffle.
When I made the switch to Linux last month, I said that I hoped to someday become the world’s number one Linux cheerleader. This was sort of misquoted, and I’ve read in numerous places that I proclaimed myself “The world’s number one Linux cheerleader,” which has caused me a little bit of grief…I mean, I can’t consider myself the world’s number 6000 Linux cheerleader if I haven’t even recompiled a kernel yet, or built a LAN…but I’m working on it. =]
Anyway, I’m going to spend a little time this morning cheerlead^H^H^H^H^H^H^H talking about my adventures in Linux, thus far, so if you’re here for the nude pictures, you should head elsewhere today.
When I made the switch to Linux about a month ago, I knew that I was entering a Brave New World, and I did it with a little bit of trepidation, but a great sense of excitement, as well. As I wrote back then, “The Open Source movement really appeals to my anarchistic and individualistic tendencies, and everyone I know who uses Linux tells me that I won’t miss Windows at all. I don’t really use any software that’s windows-specific, except Dreamweaver, and I’m told that I can run that under WINE, or find a comparable OS editor.”
Since then, I’ve discovered both the Quanta and Screem editors, which have shown themselves to be fine replacements for Dreamweaver, and the only time I ever miss Windows is when I get the urge to play some games…but a quick trip to the PS2 takes care of that, until I can upgrade this machine with more RAM and a big old video card so I can run WineX 2.1.
Oh, I should have warned earlier: this article will be a little propeller-headed, so if you’re not into that, again, you should really go play somewhere else today.
Before I get to the details, I should address something that I think everyone who makes the switch feels: Fear.
We feel afraid, because even though we’re pretty sure that everything is going to work out fine, we’ve existed on a steady diet of FUD for many years. Maybe we tried to install a distro a few years ago, when Linux wasn’t as newbie-friendly as it is now. Maybe we’re just a bunch of pussies.
I’ll admit it: I was nervous.
Nervous that I was going to do this install, and my magical connection to the largest library of free porn on the planet would cease to exist. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to use a word processor that was as reliable as MS Word had always been.
I was nervous, but also excited.
Excited that I was taking the first step towards joining a global movement based on ideals with which I strongly agreed. I was excited because I know that lots of people read this lame website, and if a lameass like me could make Linux work, that would dispell a great deal of FUD, and maybe empower some people who, like me, suspected that they could live MS-free, but weren’t sure if they could hack it. (“Hack it.” Har.) I was excited because I felt like I was taking a chance, accepting a risk, and anticipating great rewards.
And I had a hole-card. If I managed to completely break everything, I knew that I would be able to format the drive, reinstall the old OS, and wait for a LUG install party.
Grab a cookie…here we go!
The install was shockingly simple: Open the CDROM, shut down the machine, turnthe machine back on, wait for the Mandrake screen to appear, hit return, watch the fun.
This nice, friendly, graphical install is perfect for newbies. Mandrake asked me if I wanted to use an existing partition, or wipe the whole drive. I opted to format the whole drive, let Mandrake build the partitions for me, and get on with the install. A few minutes later, I got a screen where I was asked what packages I wanted to install.
I was presented with a very easy to understand screen, where I could select options like “Game Station,” “Server,” “Office,” and the like. I was asked if I wanted to run services like ftp, ssh, and a firewall. Finally, I was given the opportunity to choose which desktop environment I wanted. I chose both KDE and Gnome, because I knew from previous experience that there were apps from both environments that I liked.
After selecting my packages, I swapped some CDs, added some users, set some passwords, and got to the part that really had me the most afraid: configuring the network so I could get online.
The last time I tried Linux, it was Red Hat 5.2 and I was on dial-up. Getting that bastard to connect was about as easy as getting laid in a convent. There were all these config files I had to edit, and all these strange text commands I had to type in, just to get the modem to turn on…getting it to connect was another problem entirely. For someone who was coming from Windows 95, this song-and-dance to get connected was simply unacceptable, and ultimately it was the main factor which drove me back to Windows.
Boy have we come a long way, baby! Mandrake did this super-cool autodetection, where it found my NIC, used dhcp to get my IP address, and built my network connection for me. This entire process took about 3 minutes.
Somewhere in there Mandrake autodetected my printer, too. The only thing I had to tell it on my own was that my mouse had a wheel!
Finally, I got to a screen where I was asked if I wanted to check for updates to the packages I’d installed. I said “yes,” and walked away to get a drink of water. When I came back a few minutes later, nothing had changed…so I sat down to play some GTA3 while it continued downloading. About 30 minutes later, nothing had changed, and my hard disk had spun down.
This wasn’t a good sign. All that excitement I’d been feeling was completely overwhelmed by the nervousness I’d had, and I felt some panic beginning to rise.
I cursed, kicked, gnashed and paced.
I decided to start over, and when I got to the “do you want to upgrade?” part, I said no. The install finished perfectly this time. I restarted the machine, and was logged into Gnome in about 2 minutes.
First Time
I was immediately impressed with the spiffy desktop. It was enough like Windows to give a sense of familiarity without making me feel like I was running some oddball derivative of W2K.
I poked around the menus for a little bit, and was drawn to a menu which said, “What to do?”
What a great question! This was exactlky what I was wondering, and here was a friendly menu to help me out. It contained sub-menus like, “Enjoy Music and Video,” and “Use Office Tools.” There was aslo “Use the Internet,” and “Administer Your System.”
I thought, “Hmmm…’Administer Your System,’ eh? Okay, I’ll take a look.”
Sitting in that menu were options like “Add or remove programs, Configure Gnome,” and “Download and install Mandrake security updates.”
Ah-hah! I clicked on “Download Mandrake security updates,” and followed the prompts. This started a really cool “Mandrake Update” utility, which is sort of like a non-intrusive version of Windows Update. I was presented with three options: bug fixes, normal updates, and security updates. I selected all three, and clicked “install,” eager to watch…the damn thing spin.
I realized that the reason the install had hung the first time was related to this spinning…the default update site wasn’t responding. I guess there was no timeout set for the normal Mandrake install, which is why it hung before. Far be it from me to tell Mandrake how to do things, but this seems pretty silly to me. A simple “Site isn’t available now, but here’s your system anyway, Jerky.” message would have been nice. Fortunately this time I was able to just cancel the connection, define a different source, and about 20 minutes later my system was up to date.
I spent the rest of the next hour or so exploring the system.
Getting Comfortable
I was eager to make the switch to Linux because mostly I use my computer for 3 things:

  • Internet
  • Email
  • Word Processing

I had done lots of research about Linux, and the impression I had gotten was that if your primary computer use was for these three things, the only thing you’d miss about Windows was the daily reboot.
Let’s take a look.
The browser that ships with Gnome 1.4 is called “Galeon.” It’s based on Gecko, from Mozilla, and it’s really, really cool. I mentioned the other day that I’m using the latest Mozilla build more and more, but as soon as Galeon catches up with Moz, I’ll probably be back with Galeon, for the bookmark editing alone! Although many people’s experiences with Linux will surely vary, I can say without a doubt that once you use Galeon or Mozilla, you’ll be stunned that you ever liked IE. The KDE desktop has it’s own browser also, called Konqueror, but I really don’t like it as much as I like Galeon or Mozilla…but anything is better than IE, and you can quote me on that.
Back when I was new to the internet, and I was getting dial-up shell access from netcom, there wasn’t such a thing as the World Wide Web, unless you were on a connection fast enough to use NCSA Mosaic. Since the ‘net was just text back then, I used it for MUDding (just say no, people!) ircing (mmm…floodbots) and email. The email client I used was called PINE, and it still ships with Linux. I really liked PINE. It was easy to understand and use, even if you were a lamer like me, and I still use it from time to time today.
However, since the Internet is bigger and badder these days, people want bigger and badder email clients, and Linux is happy to oblige. When I was running Windows, I used Eudora, because I hated Outlook’s interface, and I’ve always felt that Outlook’s handling of email is secondary to it’s primary purpose: spreading worms and virii. Now look, I’m not cracking on Outlook users, okay? As a matter of fact, I wrote a great new game just for Outlook users! It is my first try. I wish you would like it.
Seriously, if you like Outlook, you can use a Linux client called “Evolution” from Ximian. It has all of the things you like about Outlook, a better summary screen, and a really cool calendar. It will interface with your Pilot, and it won’t spread worms and virii like Outlook. You can even set up the summary page to load headlines from WWDN, and see if I’ve gotten off my lazy ass to update the site recently.
Personally, I use KMail, which is part of the KDE desktop. Although I am primarily a Gnome user, KDE has numerous features I like, including the calendar, the tea-timer (a silly little applet that sits in your panel, which is the Linux equivalent of the taskbar,) and KMail. KMail is a mail client which is much lighter than Evolution. KMail looks and feels a lot like Eudora to me, handles filters the same way, and deals with different accounts and protocalls nicely.
Both solutions are very, very easy to install and configure, and if you know things like your POP server, SMTP server and stuff, it’s certainly no more difficult than the other clients available for Windows or Mac.
Mozilla also has it’s own email client, but I haven’t used it. I’m sure that, just like everything else Mozilla does, it’s really cool.
This is a place where the FUD really has a firm hold. They’d have you believe that things you author on Linux won’t be readable by Word, with the converse also being true.
Well, it’s simply not true. At G4, everything is written using Word. I do most of my writing from home because it’s easier to concentrate in my quiet home office, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to send files to work if I authored them under Linux. Well, I haven’t had a single problem. I have written 6 episodes since making the switch, and turned in countless rewrites, and the conversion from OpenOffice to Word is seamless.
Mandrake ships with StarOffice, which is put out by Sun Microsystems. It’s a very nice alternative to Word. Each time I looked, StarOffice had the familiar Word command, or it’s equivalent. The only thing I had trouble with was tables. It was grumpy about having a table wrap to the next page, a problem I also encountered in OpenOffice. A few tweaks in the preferences solved this mildly annoying problem.
Having said all that about StarOffice, I don’t use it. I prefer OpenOffice, from In my experience, it loads faster than StarOffice, and I just like the interface better. It doesn’t come standard with Mandrake 8.2, but it’s easily downlaoded and installed, and can be set as a default word processing application with minimal effort. does come with Mandrake 8.2. It didn’t install as part of my default installation, or at least I didn’t see it, so I assumed it wasn’t there. Thank you to everyone who pointed out this amazingly lame error.
Freedom of Choice
These three examples bring up a very important distinction which sets Linux apart from Windows: You are not limited to one word processor, or one desktop environment, or a small set of applications. Linux is all about choice, and putting the power to make decisions about the computing experience into the hands of the users. If you’re anything like me, you’ll live the all the defaults for about 2 weeks…and then the tewaking of things will begin: the adding and removing of things from the panel…the moving of the panel…the downloading of things from freshmeat and sourceforge…and the inevitable breaking of something. Here is the only real “advice” I’m going to give the reader: If you like to mess with the nuts and bolts of your computer, and you like to try out all kinds of new programs and toys which are still technically “beta,” do yourself a favor and set up a “development” box. This means investing 50 bucks or so in another drive, and putting Linux on it, and doing all of your fixing und breaking in it, while keeping your main install safe and reliable.
Day to day use
Some people will suggest new users do what’s called a “dual boot” system, where you keep your Windows environment on one partition, and run your Linux partition on another. The advantage of this is that if you mess something up in Linux, you can use your Windows install to get online and get help. It also means that you can access some Windows features through Linux, which is important for some people. The disadvantage of this is that having the “crutch” of Windows will prevent many users from fully enjoying everything Linux has to offer.
When I switched, I did it 100%, and I haven’t looked back since. I am really glad that I did it this way, because I’ve learned something new each day, and grown more secure in my abilities to administer my system. I’d suggest that, unless you’re a hardcore gamer, you do the same.
Which Distro is best?
There are numerous holy wars about Gnome v. KDE, Mandrake v. Red Hat, Red Hat v. Debian, Debian v. Slackware…it goes on and on, and I won’t take a side in these wars. Instead, I will say what I always say about computers: The operating system for you is the one that works best for you. If that’s Windows, or Mac, or even an Atari 800, go nuts. I think that this holds true for Linux, as well. The distro which is “best” is the one that works best for you. Over time, what is “best” for you will probably change, and maybe you’ll want to change your distro. Right now, I’m using Mandrake 8.2, and I’m excitedly looking forward to 9.0, which should be out very soon. Maybe someday I’ll switch to something else…but that’s the beauty of Linux…you get to choose for yourself what you want to use, instead of having The Borg choose for you.
Okay! I’ll switch! Get off my back! Now what?
Well, for the Newbies, I suggest something with a very easy install, and good community support. I have found this in both Red Hat and Mandrake, which is not to say that it doesn’t exist elsewhere. I just know about the support for Mandrake and Red Hat first hand.
Once you’re up and running, join a Linux User Group, where you can get help with problems, answers to questions, and a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being around people who are nerdier than you are. You will also learn very quickly to love the O’Reilly publishing company. Their Linux books are nothing less than required reading for getting the most out of your system.
There is a lot of specific information I’ve left out here…after all, I would like to spend some of Saturday with my family…I didn’t talk about games because I don’t play games on this box. I didn’t talk about Spreadsheets because I don’t use them, either. But I know that you can do both under Linux. Try Google for some examples. There is also a really cool desktop environment which Ximian makes, built on top of Gnome. I’ve used it, and found it to be really, really cool.
I have had a few problems, which I try to view as challenges. Most notably, I couldn’t get audio to work on this machine…but a quick call for help online yielded the answer to the challenge in about 15 minutes. I currently can’t get this box to see my router, but I’m closing in on a solution to that problem daily.
One of us
I will close with what I think is the best benefit from running Linux: when you run Linux, you join a community which is global, and ever-growing. This community is self-sustaining, nurturing, and always welcoming in new members. How much you get out of this community depends on how much you put into it, and it is very rewarding, indeed.
Come on in…there’s always room for one more.

158 thoughts on “Penguin Time”

  1. “Oh, I should have warned earlier: this article will be a little propeller-headed, so if you’re not into that, again, you should really go play somewhere else today.”
    did any of your fuckin complainers read that? jesus. get a life.

  2. You do know that you just wrote a full speel on a computer program right? You really need to get another hobby, one that takes you out doors abit more.
    And the camwhores site, not too impressed by that but hey, you guys do whatever takes your fancy.
    Until next time.

  3. First I see Wil pimping x3D glasses on late night TV last night… now this…
    so will…will x3D’s software work with linux? :)
    (Wesley was SOOOO my herooo…. )
    However…good for you for going to linux.

  4. Crap! sorry for the double-post…. there was supposed to be a /sarcasm tag after that Wesley is soo… line.
    grr… whoops. Looks like this posting system allows HTML tags in the text..big mistake.

  5. I posted this on slashdot, thought you guys might want to see it. Just an idea if you can afford it:
    “One thing that’s saved me a lot of headaches is having 2 boxes. Most people like windoze games anyway, so it works out nice to share your dsl/cable connection between a Linux variant and a MS gaming box.
    It’s pretty invaluable to have a backup system so you can goto google and find out why something crashed in Linux, or vice-a-versa.
    Most broadband modems have routers installed nowadays, then just buy a cheap hub from Linksys to share the connection(or buy a Linksys router). Also it’s very handy to buy one of those computer I/O switch thingies…it allows you to use one keyboard to control both computers(while sharing the monitor)…all I do it ctl-alt-shift 1, or 2 to switch back and forth between computers.
    Anyway Wil’s article mentioned the danger inherant in crashing your only connection to the web while experimenting(where to go for help when you can’t surf?)…and he also mentioned the drawback of not being able to play windows games in Linux…if you can afford a second box, this solves both problems very nicely.

  6. For spellchecking in mandrake, there’s a listing in for a spellchecker. I’m currently though using 1.2a with the spellchecker from netscapes ftp for their 7.0 install.
    As regards your experiences though, keep up the good work! I think you hit the nail right on the head with the comment of fear keeping people back, or at least in my case it did for a long time after BeOS fell. Having high profile people who are techy, but not ‘too’ techy dispelling some myths is just what’s called for in the situation.

  7. Wil, you my friend, rule. If it were possible, I would spawn with you…I’m not gay, but you make me want to be 😉 Now that i’ve dispenced with the (un?)pleasentries, i’d like to agree with you on almost ever point about Linux, especially the whole dual boot thing. I, myself, use Gentoo Linux so’as I can always have the newest build of everything, you might want to look into it…It is quite neat. Plus I can type ’emerge apache’ or ’emerge love’ and at least 50% of the time it’ll just download and install said program.

  8. Da Schmiz: No, I haven’t checked out Mandrake, but I will now. I think the last thing I checked out was, um, Yellow Dog? I think. Thanks for the reference.

  9. I had the same problem with MandrakeUpdate.
    So I too decided to run it after the installation. The best way to do that is to run the MandrakeUpdate command from a Terminal window. You then get to see what’s going on in the background. Sometimes it seems that MandrakeUpdate is hanging, but the Terminal window shows that it is still downloading.

  10. Hey there, Wil – this is a very well done article. Thank you for taking the time top post it. It’s very difficult to overcome the ‘extreme tunnel vision’ we all experience after years of running Windows. Like you, I took the plunge just over a year ago and began experimenting with various Linux distributions. It turned out to be the best thing I’ve done in my 14 years of computing. If you get some spare time, stop by and visit us on the forum at because we all love to talk computers. Take care, and keep up the good work! :-)

  11. I’m all for playing with new toys, but did Wil REALLY intend to imply (in the second sentence under Freedom of Choice) that Linux has a larger “set of applications” than Windows? Also, the post talks of sacrifices that must be made to live in Linux (less games and no Dreamweaver). What are the benefits of Linux that do not exsist with Windows (besides living MS free)?

  12. Atari 800… oh the memories!
    Like you Wil, I had tried Linux 1+ years ago and couldn’t believe how user-unfriendly it was. So I installed Mandrake 8.2 a few weeks ago… and once again, immediately went right back to Windows. Of course, part of that reason is cuz I am a hardcore gamer, but man, Linux has a long way to go for most people to think that it doesn’t suck HUGE, let alone think that it’s a viable alternative to Windows.

  13. i installed mandrake after i read your article and i love it, i still have my receipt from when i bought xp can i get my money back? i will never use windows again!

  14. If you like Mandrake, you should give SuSE a go… In terms of hardware detection I have found SuSE to be better.

  15. Drakensykh says: “I’d know more about Linux if more easier “distros” were available for my ol’ PPC604e Mac Clone.”
    You might also wish to look at NetBSD; their goal is to run on as many architectures as possible.
    Disclaimer: I run FreeBSD here, not NetBSD, but they are fairly similar.
    Despite the troll above, I’m pretty happy with FreeBSD, and it’s a good open-source alternative to Linux. However, the initial install is a little less polished than e.g. Mandrake (at the moment, anyway).

  16. If you like Kmail you will absolutely love Balsa. Just because you use Gnome does not mean that you have to use Evolution.
    Try Balsa out and there is a little “Send to” script for Nautilus that works with it and it is nice.

  17. Mandrake is neat. I wish you the best of luck using it…Linux is stable, just becareful what you do as root wil, you can _really_ mess stuff up.
    But it’s all worth it when you never see a BSOD again, the last time you shut down you _really_ meant to shut down, and that was weeks ago – you have about 3 processes running in the background that each would have dragged win2K into oblivion by itself, and you’re still browsing WWDN, listening to your music, and/or watching dvd’s happily. That is multitasking : )
    For games – quake’s and doom’s are available, and many games are runnable under emulation – and UT is gonna be running on my system tonight. remember – google is your friend.

  18. Cool! Glad you’re enjoying your new OS.
    If my comp was used just for internet and word processing I’d consider switching. but I do computer graphics and play games. I wonder if they make Linksys network adaptors that work with Linux…
    Do you know?
    I think your review should be posted on C-net. It’s pretty cool.

  19. It’s actually funny–I just read this and a matter of hours ago, I purchased a new harddrive for the sole purpose of joining the world of Linux users. Now I can rest assured Wil Wheaton approves of such actions!

  20. Mozilla Mail blows shredded wheat chunks.
    Mozilla’s really only got 2 things right (so far). 1> The browser, which is most important. 2> It’s calendar, which isn’t even part of the default installation.

  21. You know I used to hear ‘Linux is really cool, but I’m not ready yet’ sounds occasionally out of W but I never really expected a switch. Big congrats on overcoming FUD and nerves!
    For the record I’m a Debian junky now.
    Also, for people who recommend dual booting or a secondary computer, I have another alternative. Non-graphical login. The most common thing I break is X. (or X somehow manages to break itself) Its the most danger prone part of a system if you have a graphical login as it sort of negates your ability to login. All you need to do is


    when you login. If X gunks, then you still have recourse without Windows or a ‘stable’ box.
    Lastly, it just so happens I’m doing a anti-Microsoft/pro-EverythingElse presentation as part of a university course and would love to see a pic of Wil in front of his brand newen linux boxen.

  22. You’ve been /.ed again, dude.
    The day I switch to Linux will be the day my iPaq is supported on it (the Linux distros available for the iPaq are quite, quite useless at the moment, unfortunately).

  23. To Patrick Martin:
    A) Yes, wil meant it. Don’t let the MS campaign fool you: anything that you can do in windows, you can do in linux
    B) the advantage of linux over windows? Everything’s free, man! Download a mail client, office suite, or a whole new release of the kernel and IT’S ALL FREE!!!!!
    Plus, of course, those tabs.

  24. Hey Wil. It’s nice to see that you are enjoying Linux so far. I am a Slackware fan. I finally made the complete switch from Windows 2000 this year, and I’ve never been happier about computing. I’m thinking that I am getting pretty good at the Linux stuff, but every day I discover all sorts of new tweaks and modifications that you can do to this OS. The beauty of its complexity is its simplicity. And for those of you that don’t like to dig in deep and tweak your OS, distributions like Lycoris and Mandrake are perfect for beginers (or experts). And if you ever have any questions about Linux, feel free to ask us. Just be sure to help support your favorite Linux companies. They can’t keep making great products without our help, even if it is something small.

  25. rock on, wil!! my friend e-mailed me to tell me your post was linked at slashdot where thousands of nerdy ppl will read it. that totally rocks! whoo hoo!! =)

  26. I think this is my first post here (long time visitor).
    I just wanted to chime in with the Debian crowd – Wil, get someone to show you apt-get and explain how it works. (Like Mandrake’s updater only on steroids).
    I wish Debian and Gentoo would merge or something; apt-build for Debian is pretty close.
    I chose Debian mostly because of the ‘militantly free’ atmosphere. I love how their stable release means STABLE… I do run many of the unstable packages though; couldn’t wait for KDE 3.0.2 to hit stable.
    Great news that is for sure. I can’t wait to tell people that Wil Wheaton runs linux.

  27. Wow, wish i saw this 12 hours ago…I suspect that this post won’t be read by Mr. Wheaton since it’s so far down the list, but I just wanted to comment on the gentleman’s mention of Lindows. Don’t let them fool you. I had the opportunity to try it first hand. It’s merely vanilla linux with the option to give your existing windows programs & files respective placement in your X environment (start menu & desktop items). While this creates the illusion that something MAGICAL and WONDEROUS has been infused into the essence that is Linux, as one would expect it just WINE’s your shit like every other Distro. As for ease of use, your actually better off with Mandrake. Lindows lacks some of the powerful-yet-easy-to-use configuration utils that Mandrake has been known for providing.

  28. Yay, Wil. Good story, and despite what people say about Linux, it’s never really been that hard to do. Back in 96 when I was getting started in the cybercafe biz, a kind yankee by the name of Bill Gray came by and left a 15 CD distro of Slackware, Yggdrasil flavored. ENTEL (crummy version of an ISP) had done the install after we lent the CD’s to them, and I had to run the thing. Ran fine for a quite a time, but I had had a smattering of Unix garnered elsewhere, so it helped. My real test came when we were robbed and sabotaged, specifically of the Linux server (the bastards cut all the cables and stole it). Within 12 hours I had a new server up and running again, mail, lan & routing, httpd configured, and about 90% of the web site back up.
    Nowadays installing a distro can be done pretty well un-attended. That’s progress for you.

  29. Games are one of the weak areas of Linux if you mean commercial games like Diablo. A few have been ported by the companies that own them, but most are Windows only. Windows emulators do allow some of them to run on Linux but can also be difficult to set up.
    That said, there is a thriving community of open source game developers for Linux so there are lots of good games if you are willing to be tolerant of the graphics. Programmers aren’t usually the best artists.
    The best news site I know of for Linux games is The Linux Game Tome at
    Anyway, happy gaming.

  30. Wow dude, you are one versatile writer. You’re not only funny, you also write highly readable and accessible tech review type stuff. Thanks for the excellent info! And I heard that the ousted royal family of Nigeria loves your Outlook game.
    Unfortunately I feel compelled to provide a little balance to all the Mandrake cheerleading. I ordered the basic Mandrake 8.2 3-CD set plus manuals on September 3rd and it’s still not here. It took almost a week to get a non-automated email response from their staff. While they trace the order I gave up and downloaded the CDs. The point of ordering the set was to avoid doing that, and to support their efforts. But if the boxed set ever does get here, those manuals better be major works of great literature.
    In addition to the sound and update troubles you had, I ran into one called the “no-hlt” problem, which prevents Linux from booting, and have yet to be able to get Gnome or KDE to set the resolution properly on either of my two monitors, both of which work fine with Windows. I’ve managed to find solutions to most of the problems, but none of the solutions came from the Mandrake website, although I did look there first.
    Although still doggedly enthusiastic about getting away from the Empire, I am not presently a big Mandrake cheerleader and am happy to remain one of those sensible dual-boot weenies until this stuff actually works.
    Best of luck exploring beyond the frontiers of the empire. Thanks to everybody who posted tips and info.

  31. I just wanted to voice that I’m part of the minority that loves OS X. Nothing older than Jaguar, though. 😉
    I agree with Mike Cohen, this is like a “switch” commercial. Heh.

  32. Wil, you may have just done more for Linux advocacy than 90% of the Linux users out there, including me. Bravo.
    I ran Mandrake myself awhile back; it’s a good distro, and has only gotten better over time. One of their nice features is that they build all the packages with Pentium optimizations, so they tend to run faster than the equivalent Red Hat packages (which are built to run on 386 or better).
    These days, I use Debian-unstable, which seems to be the choice of a lot of developer types. (That’s how I got turned on to it, by a bunch of co-developers on a project who used Debian-unstable exclusively.) It’s got its own fancy self-updating system (“apt”), so it’s easy to keep up with the latest fixes. (Incidentally, “unstable” is a relative term in the Debian world. Even Debian-unstable tends to be more stable than, say, Red Hat.) However, YMMV. Distros like Mandrake are just fine, and many people use them, or they wouldn’t all be around.
    I’ve been using the Gnumeric spreadsheet recently, from GNOME. OpenOffice should also have its own spreadsheet you may like better.
    Anyhow, keep on truckin’…once you’ve had penguin, you’ll never go back :-).

  33. Did anyone else catch this?
    “When I made the switch to Linux last month, …”
    “I have written 6 episodes since making the switch, and turned in countless rewrites, …”
    This got me curious whether His Wheatiness was being overworked, or whether G4 was perhaps producing shovelware television.
    I asked our satellite service (DirectTV in Los Angeles) for G4, but no love. You’d think at least LA would have it.
    Then I looked up g4 tv and g4 television on google. Clicked on the obvious top links and, and pouf, non-existant pages. I distinctly remember a G4 website before it launched, but it appears to have gone missing.
    Has anyone seen his show, Arcade?
    Has the network closed without bothering to inform Wil?
    Visions of Wil clutching his red Swingline stapler, unconsciously mumbling incendiary plots…

  34. I’m gonna roll the dice and hope someone reads down to the bottom because I have a couple of questions.
    First tho, I have to say that I used to be a victim of the FUD. My husband talked about installing Linux on his computer, and I said “Do what you want, but no way I’m switchin! I’ll stay right here with my windows and my horse and buggy thank-you-very-much!” But after wiping my hard drive for the nth time because of a virus or more likely because W2K decided to eat itself, I am trying to reload everything on my computer and its not going well. I was thinking you had to be SuperGeek(tm) to run Linux and I didn’t feel I quite fit into that category. But after reading Wil’s simple, yet comprehensive and helpful review of his own experience, it no longer seems quite so scary.
    I’m not a gamer, so thats not an issue for me. However, I am planning to start using photoshop and illustrator. Will they work with Linux or is there an equivelent? Point me in a good direction to look this stuff up and I will be very grateful. I am with you Wil, on the mainly needing my computer for email, internet and word processing, and add web building and such to that. It Still looks pretty promising.
    The other question, I know this is a really lame question, but I have only been a minor geek for a while, way amateur status, and every now and then, Wil or someone uses some kinda geek code that I dont understand…
    What the frel does H^H^H^H^H^H mean???

  35. Great update Wil. Informative and amusing as usual.
    Dear sir, I hereby extend an invitation to join one of the most elite internet forums. Super Evil Industries welcomes you to join as a member. . We know you are a busy man, but it would give the troops a real boost. Thanks.

  36. Wil, you mentioned you … dislike… Outlook.. well heres a nifty little (EH-HEM) trick to use when the boss has you down and your on your wway out the door on a week long vacation…
    Set up your Office Assistant to automatically reply to any e-mails incomming… yeah, simple enough, but you have it reply to the whole “world”. In essence, each time you get an e-mail, the office assistant reply’s to everyone on your network. So if you get 50 e-mails in one day, the rest of the network gets 50 also… ask any network administrator how much e-mail their servers can handle!! … If you want to be nasty you can attach a small file, a wav perhaps that everyone might think is humorous the first 15 or 20 times they receive it. Or to be really nasty, you could include your own e-mail address in your O-A’s replys, which simply sends you another e-mail, immediately kicking off the O-A’s reply, which in turn sends off another e-mail, which again sends another O-A Directed reply..
    And i worked in the Air Force in computer security… hehehehe

  37. Angel Gypsy…
    There is an open source alternative to Photoshop called The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program. I have to say that one problem I have with the Open Source Movement is the habit of using cutesy, sometimes mildly offensive names for software.) It has all the power of Photoshop and it comes standard with most/all Linux distributions. I don’t know about Illustrator…I haven’t used it so I’m not sure how you might be able to replace it.

  38. Wil, don’t forget your machine is now a server, too. Specifically, you can run the Apache Web Server on it, if you’re not already. You’ll be able to keep a mirror of WWDN on it for development purposes. Also, GET THEE TO THE COMMAND LINE. You haven’t felt the power until you use a shell prompt to administer your server. After making changes on your local development site, you can use command line ftp/telnet to move it out to the live internet server. This, as you alluded to, is the true power of Linux: the ability to get ‘under the hood.’

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