Settling in?

Volume 17, Issue 2; 08 Jan 2014

With the major hurdles behind me, can I learn to live here?

We think in generalities, but we live in detail

Alfred North Whitehead

My new laptop seems to be setup; most of the twists and turns of the long and winding road are behind me, I hope. There's a little residual anxiety about the display drivers. I gather I'd get some hardware acceleration if I could get the NVIDIA drivers to work. I wonder how often kernel upgrades will bite me in the *ss.

The UI isn't as pretty as OS X. Or as consistent; I have a reasonably deep understanding of what's going on, I can adapt to a little inconsistency. I wonder how users with considerably less experience make out. I can't imagine teaching my mother to use Linux. I haven't really succeeded in teaching her how to use her iPad. (You know, those apps aren't as consistent as you've likely been lead to believe.)

Complicated apps like the IntelliJ IDE feel a little klunky. I suppose something like Cinnamon would help. I like to tinker so I'll try it every now and then and eventually, as this hardware ages, the drivers reach maturity, the bugs get fixed, it'll work.

If you live your life in relative freedom, not connected to the corporate enterprise in any material way, I don't see any reason why Linux isn't a perfectly servicable desktop. You live with a particular selection of applications, but that's true no matter what platform you choose.

If you have to use corporate systems (by which I mean Exchange, its evil minion Lookout!, and Office), you are fucked.

It's all a total train wreck. Evolution kind of, sort of works but it is ugly. I expect Thunderbird and some of the other apps work about as well. Which is to say not very. Packages like LibreOffice can open Office documents. Usually. More-or-less. But not really well enough.

I gave up. I run Windows (8.1, subject of another screed someday, perhaps) in a VM. In VMWare, specifically, because their “Unity” view actually seems to work fairly well. So for my calendar, I am in fact using Outlook. On Windows. (No, I haven't worked out how I'm going to download all that data for my own personal archive; DavMail, maybe. Yes, I am concerned.) That approach will work for Evernote too, and with a beefier VM, perhaps Photoshop and Lightroom as well.

The interaction between VMWare, multiple monitors, and Windows 8.1 is a bit of a mess but it doesn't appear to cause any real problems, just a weird scrolling desktop and VMWare occasionally leaping to some “maximized” state where it splashes itself across all the displays. Not usefully, alas.

Just slightly removed from the office enterprise clusterf**k is WebEx. It can kind of, sort of be made to work if you install 32 bit versions of Java and Firefox and line the stars up just right. Or you can do what a colleague does and run WebEx in a Windows VM with a VNC back to your Linux desktop. (No, I am not joking.)

I figure the longer I keep this working, the less likely that I'll give up.

But I don't think I'm out of the woods just yet.


"I can't imagine teaching my mother to use Linux."

For her you just install Ubuntu (leave Unity as-is) and call it a day. I have a couple of older, non-technical friends set up like that who've been doing fine for a couple of years. Honestly, they'd probably also be fine with tablets or chromebooks though.

—Posted by David Cramer on 09 Jan 2014 @ 02:31 UTC #

Yeah, it might work. I'm certainly not saying it couldn't, I just think experienced users absorb a lot of inconsistency without thinking about it.

If you know what all the bits and pieces are, if you understand the abstractions and what they represent, then it's at most annoying.

If it's all fairly mysterious and every action is a bit like casting runes, then I imagine that the fact that "this" does what you want here and "that" does it over there is harder to grok.

Or maybe the fact that those two things should be the same never occurs to you. I dunno.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 09 Jan 2014 @ 04:25 UTC #

I have this same laptop running Linux Mint 15. I also had to enable Discrete Graphics. To get DVI and the dock all working, I had to use a bleeding-edge version of the proprietary NVidia drivers, but it all seems to work now (suspend included).

—Posted by Robert Sayre on 09 Jan 2014 @ 06:12 UTC #

Using Linux in a business environment can be painful, mainly for enterprise-wide services or software, but more we are not giving up, more chance we get to see things change ;-)

In my current company, the Exchange / Outlook (in favor of Zimbra) option have been dropped precisely because more and more user were using Linux and our documentation tool is now an Enterprise wiki (XWiki)

I have to say that concerning Office, we (Linux users) have some difficulties to make ODF the standard, but little by little, trying to never use DOC format... The truth is that people who effectively do things will win in the end, and from my little experience, most Linux users are the more productive ones ;-)

—Posted by motofix on 09 Jan 2014 @ 07:37 UTC #

I wonder whether Exquilla already works (working where I do, I haven't had need to test it actually, and unfortunately the decision has been made to stick with Evolution which I personally detest, so there won’t be a solution for Thunderbird supported by my employer). Also Lightning provider for Microsoft Exchange might work. Yes, Exquilla is not a free program (but neither is VMWare).

And of course, if you have a nice mail administrator, then IMAP and/or LDAP may happen to be switched on (but that's just for emails, I don't think you can persuade Exchange to support some reasonable format for Calendars). There is this post which gives some hope.

—Posted by Matěj Cepl on 11 Jan 2014 @ 11:28 UTC #

Which bleeding edge drivers, do you recall? I tried what I thought was the bleeding edge in the standard repos.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 13 Jan 2014 @ 04:48 UTC #