Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Using Linux on a Day to Day basis

I was sitting here thinking as I was working away, and I started to think about what it is like using Linux on a day to day basis. Is it really that different than using Windows, or Mac OS X? Are there really big differences between these platforms for me?

I have several Linux machines in my household, and I have several Mac's. I used to use Windows in my day to day work environment, but I have been free of that for quite some time. I use Linux everyday, and I really don't have anything that I miss, or need, that the other platforms offer. Yes, there might be a feature here or there that is on one platform vs. another, but nothing that I just have to have. In fact, when I look at what I need to do my daily job, it boils down to these things.

My day almost always starts with reading e-mail. Well, there are certainly no issues there. Linux has quite a few decent mail clients to choose from. I have been using Evolution, and it has served my purposes quite well. Between the e-mail, calendar and task features, along with filters for sorting through e-mail and filing them in appropriate folders, I have a very productive environment. After going through e-mail, and working through whatever that brings, I usually transition to doing some technology reading.

In this regard, the trusty Firefox is my primary tool, along with Google's Reader (Their RSS/Atom Feed AJAX client), I can read through all the latest technology news, and technology articles that are relevant to me. After that, I usually do work around process related items.

In this regard, OpenOffice.org 2.0.x has been the tool of choice. I have to deal with budgets, products, development processes, etc., and they invaritably are encompassed in some form of business document. My co-workers almost all use Microsoft Office, so I have to use the Office formats often. What has been impressive, is that I have been working with Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and Word documents of almost every kind, including budget and planning spreadsheets with macros. So far, OpenOffice.org has been able to read and write each and everyone, even the ones with macros, with no apparent issues at all. I have even used OpenOffice to publish documentation in DocBook format using the XML transforms for DocBook. The only thing it didn't do correctly is include my embedded images. A quike edit of the XML using VIM, and I had my embedded images. It even intelligently kept my footnotes, and appended them to the end of the document. Very clever way of dealing with footnotes. Finally, I usually turn my attention to development type tasks.

In this case, I use Eclipse, with JBoss IDE, and other Eclipse plugins. Eclipse works beautifully on Linux, and I have no problems working with our CVS repositories through Eclipse. Also, I use MySQL as my database, and have been using the GUI administration and query browser tools as well. The database is rock solid, and runs beautifully on my laptop. The GUI tools have progressed since they first became available, and I have used the query browser to do data analysis on a corporate database. Once I figured out how the bookmarking features work for queries, I was able to save, with descriptive names, all of my analysis queries for later use. It was very nice indeed. One thing that I have yet to put into practice, but will soon, is an application called gvidcap. This application will record what you are doing on your computer, complete with your voice (as long as you have a microphone). Last but not least, has been Skype. I have used Skype for work and I must say that I have been impressed. Conference calls and individual calls work very well. On conference calls, sometimes network latency issues and/or CPU issues on the peers involved, may degrade the experience, but overall I have to give it high marks. Besides work, I also use Linux for my personal business as well.

Where personal use of Linux is concerned, I certainly broaden the things I do. For instance, ripping some of my personal CD's, and putting together a music library for my own enjoyment. In Fedora Core 5, this is as easy as pie. Other things are burning CD and DVD's. I have come to like the simplicity of the CD/DVD creator in Fedora Core. In fact, with Fedora Core 5 you can now duplicate CD's and DVD's through it quite easily. Just put a CD in, and right-click on the desktop icon, and select "Copy Disc...". It doesn't get much simpler than that. Some of the other day to day activities where Linux really helps me out is the new Tomboy and Beagle applications. Tomboy is a very nice and simple note taking application. I have started to use it and it has filled a real need. Instead of typing a document and saving it away, and then not having it very accessible, I can just type a quick not, and it is right there within the panel applet, right where I can get at it, so I don't have to remember what I called it, and where I saved it. It is cutting down on the document clutter that everyone experiences. And finally, Beagle has been very impressive. When I want to find something, searching is now extremely fast, and complete, since the search technology doesn't just work on file names, but on the content. It has been wonderful, and it finds things in places that sometimes I wouldn't think to look. Very useful!

One last thing about personal use of Linux, is playing games. I have become addicted to Chromium. If you are old enough to remember Galaga, then you will like Chromium. Different in its approach, and much better graphics and sound then Galaga, but similar. Try it out! As far as commercial games, I actually have quite a few. Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004, Quake 3 Arena, Return to Castle Wolfenstein are just some of the titles that I have that are native Linux ports. They all work great, and have been real fun. I hope the trend continues to offer native Linux ports for commercial games.

In conclusion, I would have to say that using Linux on a day to day basis is easy, productive and fits my needs very well. I would bet that if you spent some time with Linux, you would probably find the same thing.

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