Monday, December 06, 2010

Computing is fun again...

Before I start on the article, I need to tell you that from time to time I'm astonished by how fortunate I am to be born in the US in the latter half of the 20th century to the parents I have, to have benefited from terrific opportunities in life, to have found Jesus (or be found by him), to be married to a woman with a heart for ministry and spiritual growth, to see my kids turning into awesome young women, to be gainfully employed with great colleagues and a terrific supervisor. I'm aware of all that, but sometimes I whine anyway, as you're about to find out....

Long-time readers may have noted my frustration in the past with printing or with firefox not starting, not to mention unpredictable crashes (and sometimes getting REALLY annoying messages when firefox does eventually come back up).

Well, as I mentioned earlier, we bought a Mac Mini®, which now serves the lovely Carol, and I took her IBM lease return. This is an Intel Pentium4, 3.2 GHz with hyperthreading -- I guess it's a few years old. I loaded it up with openSUSE 11.3, which I like for a number of reasons:

  • SuSE Linux was my second Linux distribution; I started with Red Hat on a Toshiba Satellite 460? in 1998 but switched to "office 99" which had the SuSE Linux 5.3 distribution plus Applix Office. The Toshiba had a whopping 32MB RAM and the Pentium II processor ran at a blazing 133 MHz or thereabouts. I subsequently ran 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, 9.1, 9.3, and 10.2 at least on a half-dozen boxen, at home and work. In other words, I'm accustomed to it.
  • fvwm2 (at one time Linus's favourite -- whoa, Donald Knuth's too!) is on it, and I don't have to do a lot of tweaking in .fvwm2rc &c;
  • This was more important when I bought boxed sets, but Novell were the good guys in the whole SCO boondoggle.
Happily it works great on this old IBM lease return. It's stable, it boots and shuts down quickly, it has "cnf" (for "command not found") -- package management really has gotten better over the years! And on that last I'm happy to report yast2 is just as easy to use as I remember it, but it does more.

I'll add a screen shot and make a few comments; you can click on the image for more detail. You can see Thunderbird email and Emacs windows, an xterm window with some Python code, etc.

The background is a photo I took of the Yosemite Valley; xosview is in the upper right corner, and the fvwm2 pager in the upper left. As the documentation says, "many shy away from it due to the lack of GUI configuration tools." To each his own, I guess, but to me this is like saying people shy away from vi because it doesn't have GUI configuration tools; could I recommend Neal Stephenson's masterful essay, In the Beginning Was the Command Line to you?

No comments: