Tag Archives: window managers

… no excuse …

Crawford Lake, ON, Canada

Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada, 2013

… no excuse …

It’s been more than a year since my last post. In the world of blogging, that is an absolute no-no. As they say, there is no excuse for that. But you know that nevertheless I am going to give you some excuse anyhow. Or at least I am going to tell you what I have been up to.

First of all, let me say that my dalliances in the computer world over the last year included hardware as well as software.

On the hardware side of things, the first major new try out involved a ChromeBook notebook PC. The second new element was a Raspberry Pi 2. And the third new element was my first use of an SSD drive (other than the one in the ChromeBook, that is).

Software wise I dabbled in a lot of different things, with very mixed results. A lack of focus and an info overload meant that some of the directions I pursued were not further explored than getting to a fully functional install of a system, rather than actually developing in it.

One of the defining factors on the software side was that I was becoming a bit disenchanted with everything web development related.

Basically it was starting to look more and more as a mess to me. And that was at least half a year before I saw the articles essentially complaining about the same thing. That combined with my old and continued interest in OOP (Object Oriented Programming) led me to looking for a pure OOP software development system, which, contrary to web development, relied on one language system and was mostly self contained. So I had a look at one of the very first OOP systems: SmallTalk.

I also installed Simple Text as an editor. I have hardly used it, although I am writing this blog entry on it. The other thing I did with it, was testing it out guided by some pages in the ‘Coding with JavaScript for Dummies’ book.

On the ChromeBook I installed ‘crouton’, allowing me to run Linux on it. This worked amazingly well.

I also started exploring several JavaScript frameworks. This included installing things like Grunt, Bower, Yeoman, AngularJS and NodeJS. Managed to install these on several computers with different Linux distros, mostly Ubuntu variants. Again hardly used them.

Which brings me to the next item: choice of Linux distros and Linux window managers. If you are not familiar with Linux this must sound strange to you. So let me quickly first point out that contrary to Microsoft and Apple operating systems there are different Linux distros out there, and by that, I do not mean outdated together with new versions, but indeed a choice of distros which are all different, yet all up to date. And second even within the same distro you may have a choice of different but equally up to date window managers.

I have always been interested in using at least two different distibutions, one of which would be a full fledged distro with all kinds of software on it and a rather heavy weight desktop (i.e. KDE as part of Kubuntu). The other one following from attempts to find distro/desktop combinations which start out as lean as possible. The latter has not always been as easy as one would expect. Amongst others I worked for a while with CrunchBang Linux. It got discontinued, but might get a new lease of life as CrunchBang Plus Plus. I also use Xubuntu as a light weight system and have used Lubuntu too.

I mainly use Ubuntu supported versions, including Lubuntu, Xubuntu and Kubuntu, in either long term support versions or the latest versions. You don’t see Ubuntu itself mentioned here, because the Unity desktop Ubuntu comes with is aimed at all kinds of screens, including touch screens,tablets, phones, rather than specifically desktop screens as used typically in development systems. But Ubuntu like many main distros issue new versions on a regular basis (in Ubuntu’s case each April and October). While it is not impossible to upgrade in situ from a previous version, that may well take longer than a fresh install. Because of that I got intrigued by rolling release distros, once I heard about them. Actually, this blog entry is written running a rolling release distro. But it has not been a smooth ride getting going with a rolling release. I even combined the rolling release idea with the light weight system idea. As such I am writing this on a notebook PC running ArchBang Linux. Meanwhile I am also trying out at least two other rolling release distros, be it from within VirtualBox running on Xubuntu. Why? Well I realized I have been spoilt over the years by the Debian based package system (typical for Ubuntu and a lot of other Debian derived distros) and its many available package managers with graphical front ends. Most rolling releases I found were based on Arch Linux with its ‘pacman’ based management. Attempts to find another system not based on Arch have not been successful. Well maybe the one I am installing right now within VirtualBox may be a better choice. More about that in a more detailed blog specific to rolling distros?

There should be more than enough material based on what I have explained here, to come up with a few more posts, talking about the same issues in more detail. So as they say: ‘More to follow!’

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, July 21st, 2015

FOSS … operating systems

ice covered berries

Icestorm – December 2013

Although FOSS advocates, we do use proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft and Apple operating systems for specific tasks (although for some of these tasks we could use FOSS) and most of all for testing our creations on different systems, even if they are developed entirely with FOSS tools. And for development we typically do use FOSS tools, including the operating system.

In our case we use Linux. To keep it simple, just like most people, we speak of Linux as an operating system, but it isn’t. It is a kernel (the core system) around which the operating system is built with all kinds of additional software. Linux (the operating system, not the kernel) also comes in different varieties, called distributions or distros for short. There are an amazing number of Linux distros out there. Amongst the best known are Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and Slackware. Often these come themselves in different varieties, such as desktop versus server varieties, but also often varieties based around different window managers. So it definitely is not a ‘one system fits all’, which it typically is with proprietary systems.

We use a few specific varieties of Ubuntu, according to the different characteristics of different pieces of hardware we use. We are aware that we could use any number of other distros just as effectively, but our familiarity with Ubuntu, and specifically with its package manager (Synaptic), has made us stick with Ubuntu. All be it not the main variety known as Ubuntu, with its Unity window manager. It would take us too far at this moment to explain this. But we would like to point out that this should not at all be interpreted as criticism on the Unity system. As a matter of fact we consider Ubuntu to have been ahead of the curve with Unity, in comparison with its proprietary competition when it comes to integrating smartphone, tablet, netbook, notebook and desktop computing. Development however is typically done on desktop computers, and big screens, and ‘touch’ doesn’t come into it.

A traditional desktop window manager based on KDE or older GNOME derivatives therefore is our preferred choice. Ubuntu officially supports such a version, called Kubuntu. On lower performing hardware, one might want to have a look at Xubuntu, or even Lubuntu. Also note that even on these versions running on older, lower spec equipment, you would still be running a kernel that dates back only a few months and with software which was updated, well, in Linux, that could well be today…

It may surprise you that beneath the surface there are quite a few similarities between the Apple Mac operating system and the Linux distros. The reason being that the Linux kernel was created to mimic the Unix operating system, and years ago Apple switched from its own system to one based on a version of Unix. This stems from Job’s short stint with a company called Next, which after limited success in hardware (NextCube), open sourced its NextStep operating system (Unix based). NextStep led to the new Apple OSX operating system. Of course depending on the window managers used by any given Linux distro, it may look more similar, or less, or even not at all like a Mac system. Some mimicked MS Windows systems, some even the old Amiga systems.

As a matter of fact there are also some Unix distros available for free use, such as FreeBSD and OpenBSD.

Point is, we have an abundance of choice, or what in French may be expressed as: l’embarras du choix’.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014