Planet Xdroop

September 11, 2015

Blather Blog

I Didn't Last A Week With Fedora

So the constant hanging of Windows 10 finally did it: it drove me away from Windows.

Temporarily. Let me explain.

Last week I finally had it with Windows 10. For those of you tuning in late, my issue was that Windows 10 would just... stop. The CPU widget I kept running would show 100% CPU usage, but I didn't believe it because the laptop fan would never start, and when the CPU is running hard that fan screams like a kid being taken to the dentist. Sometimes, if I left it alone for 45 minutes it would come back. Most of the time, no it wouldn't. The only way to get it back would be to hard reboot it.

So, having finally "had it", I downloaded a Fedora Core 22 Workstation Live CD and spent a day playing with it. Nothing bad happened, so at the end of the day I pulled the trigger on installing it to the laptop's hard drive.

The next day I got started with the patching and installing the things I needed to work. And part of the way through that, I had another system crash.

Over the next day I would have the same problem. When the computer appeared to exhaust RAM and began to reach for swap, I would frequently get a hang. Occasionally it would come back in five minutes, showing a load average of something like 25 when it did so. But again, most of the time -- nothing. Hard reboot.

Then on Wednesday something magical happened. My new laptop arrived. I am the proud user of a HP EliteBook 820 G2. And, since I was now blaming hardware for my woes, I decided what the hell, why not start with Linux on this computer and see how that goes.

I did decide to go with Fedora 21 instead of 22 because I figured maybe 22 was less than fully baked, and since 21 had been out longer maybe it would be less... exciting to use. So I dutifully installed Fedora 21 to the disk.

The install, by the way, was amazing. Just click "install to disk" from the live CD, deal with your partitioning, and that was effectively it. Really fast, too. And Fedora recognized all the hardware in the laptop that I wanted to use. Sleeping and hot-plugging monitors just worked like they were supposed to. Fedora automatically detected and installed drivers for the printer on the local network when I wanted to print -- not even Windows can do that! I could even run my old friend xload as a graphical way to keep an eye on the computer's health.

However, there were issues in paradise.

  • Static IP network device profiles seemed to roam around between the wired, wireless, and virtual (VMware) interfaces.
  • Remmina was hopeless in Fedora 21.
  • Minimized applications sometimes became impossible to find again (Skype, I'm looking at you).
  • The font in gnome-terminal was excruciating to look at.
  • The pop-up bar from the bottom of the Gnome screen usually wouldn't pop up.
  • The Ratpoison rpm didn't yield a usable window manager.
  • There's still no good way to read Exchange mail on Fedora.
  • And there's the problem of having all my work files on OneDrive, which would mean I was stuck using them in a Windows VM. 
The usual mix of stupid minor things and serious work impediments.

Over the labour day weekend, I decided to go back to Fedora 22 in the hopes that some of that stuff would be addressed. And it was. Remmina was (more) usable. The pop-up bar from the bottom was replaced with a clickable pop-out bar in the lower left corner. Other things were not fixed such as the roaming static-IP profile.

On Tuesday I again tried to work productively with a Linux laptop. But at the end of the day it was clear to me that I was being seriously impeded by the lack of a usable mail client and by having all my files trapped in a Windows VM.

See, I use OneDrive as a backup-slash-distribution system, so that all my work files are not uniquely stored on any one computer and can be accessed from multiple computers, right now my laptop and a VM I keep running at the office. There is no substitute in Linux. Rsync might be considered something, but I would have to set it up and remember to deal with it manually.

On the email side, we use Exchange and access it via RPC-over-HTTPS. I use the calendaring features pretty heavily because they synchronize with my phone. I find it very useful to have my calendar with me wherever I am. Evolution doesn't work* with the version of Exchange we have, OWA is pretty clunky -- not to mention frustrating when used through a web browser that pops up windows on random screens so you can't find them -- and frankly if I have to run a VM just for email I might as well just run Windows natively.

Not to mention my distrust of Libre Office's "compatibility" with the Microsoft Office ecosystem. I've been burnt by open source tools compatibility before. I know that's unfair given how far the rest of Linux has come, but that's my instinct.

I was faced with an inevitable conclusion: if my files were trapped in Windows, then Windows was the logical platform for me to use for my business computing.

And so, less than a week after I tried to commit to Linux, I've come full circle. Windows 10 installed on my laptop and was pretty much as uneventful as the Linux installs were. Windows went off and found all the drivers for the hardware, so I have not had to manually download and install any myself.

Going back to Windows feels like I am giving up to a certain extent. And maybe I am. But for the way my work and tools have evolved, I think I'm stuck with it.

*I only played with it for a couple hours. In the old days, that'd be nothing, you couldn't give up on an open source product after *only* a couple of hours. But I don't have time to fuck around with this stuff any more, I have work to do and a life away from it.

by David Mackintosh ( at September 11, 2015 03:30 PM

September 10, 2015

Blather Blog

Mon Dieux! Le Reboot!

The reason why we keep getting movie "reboots", "re-imaginings", or the like, is simple: origin stories are both predictable and comforting.

In an origin story, nine times out of ten we know -- or at least have a good idea -- what the end of the movie is going to look like. Tony Stark will be Iron Man. Mad Max will sail off into the sun set. Peter Parker will be Spider Man.

And it is this predictability that we find comforting. We enjoy the details of the road to our ending, and the twists provided in those details are not seriously damaging to the potential of the expected end result.

This even extends to virgin franchises, to movies set in universes we know nothing about. The origin story is about the protagonist discovering himself and his place in that universe, and we go along with that discovery. The discovery is itself an integral part of the story, and of the experience of enjoying that story.

The problem with a sequel is that for the most part the discovery is over. Tony Stark is Iron Man. There isn't really anything new to learn about him. The fact that we know this hero and this universe is itself a trap, because having discovered the universe, we run the risk of not discovering anything worth the time during this second trip through it.

The result of this is one of two things. Firstly, the custodians of the franchise do provide something new for the audience to discover. Stark's poor (and poorly understood) relationship with his father. His father's relationship with the co-inventor of the arc reactor. I'm not saying that these things are themselves worthy items*, but that's what is presented.

The other, far more common result is that the custodians indulge in what I describe as "kicking their characters". They try to crank up the danger that the characters are in, they subject them to harsher trials, all in an attempt to keep the audience engaged. Think Spider-Man 3 with two or three enemy characters. There was so little actual content in the movie, the producers had to fill it with a second bad guy. The problem here is that this is not the trip that the audience signed up for. They wanted another comforting trip through a world of discovery, and constant, amplified peril is something completely different.

(This is also why many TV series "get bad" as they get older; once the majority of the discovery of the characters and universe is complete, cranking up the crisis level is left as a poor substitute.)

So. Based on this, I don't think we're going to see a drop off in the number of series reboots. The movie going public wants something predictable and comforting, and that's what Hollywood is going to give them.

* even though I personally think Iron Man 2 is one of the better movies in the Marvel pantheon.

by David Mackintosh ( at September 10, 2015 07:00 PM