Quad Power!

I caved in and bought a new PC. The thing that really strikes me is how long it takes to set up a new PC with Windows compared to Ubuntu. In any modern Linux distribution, I just insert the CD, select the software I want from a huge list and let it do the magic while I do something else. And in an hour, everything’s done.

Meanwhile’ I’m in the middle of day two of my Windows installation. Windows itself is a hassle to install: Missing RAID drivers mean I have to bake a new ISO image and can’t use the regular install CD. Which starts by finding a PC with a CD burner, finding the drivers on the net (because Intel only included 32 bit drivers, hooray), finding a floppy drive in the basement because the drivers are distributed as an executable that formats a floppy (oh, how convenient is that?), building the CD, blabla…
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I need a good linux IDE

I admit it: In the choice between emacs and vi, I choose “none of the above”. I want a C++ IDE. I’ve grown up with Borland Pascal, then used the Visual Studio IDE, and I’ve never used anything without a good integrated debugger.

Switching from Visual Studio to emacs + gdb is something I’m no longer able to do. So this weekend, I had a look at some of the IDE offerings that Linux had. It’s not a happy tale.

First there’s eclipse. Many people (Java people) swear by this, and as they point out repeatedly, it isn’t a Java IDE, it’s an IDE for anything you want. Sort of like Visual Studio is (if what you want is a MS language). I downloaded the CDT, and I like the way that’s all done from inside the IDE. But then… I tried to create a managed makefile from the Eressea sources, because if I’m going away from commandline make, I’d like to also go away from makefiles, thank you. very much. Not possible, though. It seems Eclipse has a weird conception of projects being everything that is in one folder, no more, no less. If I have the sources for my library and two executables all in the same folder, for example, I can’t make eclipse build a library and two executables. Instead it tries to mush all of it together. But really, that is academic, because I couldn’t even get it to do that – Eclipse + CDT crashed every 5 minutes. All I get is some java exception, no option to save my work, and then it’s gone and I’m back to square one.

Code::Blocks was my next candidate, because many people on the Ogre3D forums are raving about that. I installed it on Windows from the binaries, and while not pretty, it looked close enough to what I want. So.. debian packages? No dice. No packages for any distribution, actually. Build it from the sources, they say. But even that isn’t easy. It comes without a configure script, and requires me to install automake, but not the automake I had, no, that other version of automake please, and then it would bitch about something or other and completely refuse to do anything at all. No dice. I didn’t even get a configure script. Screw this.

There’s still kdevelop left to test. Like Obi Wan, it is my only hope to run linux on the desktop. Yes, my web browser and office suite run on linux, too, but without an IDE, I have to stick with Windows as my OS, because programming is what I do 90% of the time I’m at the computer.

Software for my precious

I spent this weekend organizing a high-speed game of Eressea, and the noise from the PC running all day long drove me crazy. I have a fan to replace the loud one with, but couldn’t bother putting it in (it needs soldering).

So I shut it down and booted my precious instead. It’s an old Pentium 166 with 64 MB of RAM, and it’s super-silent, with just one tiny little fan.

Compaq Armada 7350. 166 Mhz, yeah baby!

Of course, it doesn’t run any decent software anymore. When I bought it eight years ago for what would now be now 2100 Euros, it came with Windows 95, and that worked fine for a long time, but we all know the expiry date has long gone, and Microsoft says you should be running XP instead, only we’re sorry, it won’t work. So I installed Debian on it. I got drivers for everything in there (well, no sound, but that’s not a driver fault, that’s the stupidity of the Linux sound systems). And hey, playnig mp3s on it would probably suck up 70% of the cpu anyway.

So, what software do you run if you have almost no CPU power, very little memory and an 800×600 LCD screen? Is there software for that? In fact, yes. The first thing I tried was Gnome, Thunderbird and Firefox. Jesus. Gnome takes forever to load, Firefox sucks up all that Memory, and Thunderbird renders its GUI so slow that I want to switch to another application and multitask while it does that, but of course I can’t, because it also hogs all the memory. I still do it reflexively, so there’s only kswapd running, really.

So I did some searching for alternatives. Here’s what I came up with:

Window Manager: IceWM. At university I used this on Sparc4 workstations, which were significantly less powerful than my precious, and it didn’t let me down now either: It’s absolutely no-fluff, just multiple desktops, taskbar, tray with a clock and windows. Very little RAM usage, very fast rendering.

Browser: Links2. It uses 4 MB of RAM, it renders quite fast (it uses SDL), and the layout is acceptable. It does not understand CSS, which makes some pages (like this one) look very different, but readable. Only problem for me is that Der Spiegel does not render very well at all. I can always fall back on Firefox, but for 95% of my browsing, I don’t have to. HTML is great stuff.

Mail: Sylpheed. My requirements for mail are support for IMAP4, GnuPG and SSL, and it supports all three. I have only started it twice so far, so the real verdict is still out, but it is definitely faster than Thunderbird and looks promising enough.

ICQ: gaim. It’s heavy-weight, really, but not as heavy as kopete, which is the only working alternative I found. Ickle didn’t understand server-stored userlists, which makes it useless. I miss Miranda, and I wish there was a Linux port for it.

And that’s all the new software I am using, and it cut my memory usage down so I actually have space left, and don’t need to swap. That harddrive is terribly slow, as you can probably imagine. The one thing I didn’t find (at all) was blog software for Linux. Something like w.bloggar, and that works with nucleus. I need some advice there, I think.

Debian aufs Notebook

Mein Compaq Notebook ist seinerzeit mit Windows 95 ausgeliefert worden. Dafür ist schon vor einiger Zeit der Support ausgelaufen, und ergo habe ich mir Gedanken gemacht, was ich denn nun drauf installiere. Zuerst mal habe ich es mit Windows 2000 probiert – aber auf einem Pentium 166 mit 64 MB Speicher taugt das einfach nichts.

Mit Linux hatte ich vor Jahren schonmal richtig Probleme auf eben diesem Notebook – und war skeptisch, als ich meine Debian Installationsdisks rausgekramt habe. Aber was Wunder, es ging ziemlich glatt. Ich habe mich bei der PCMCIA Installation etwas verfranst, weil die beim Upgrade auf Kernel 2.4 kaputtging, aber dank google war auch das kein Beinbruch.

Debian ist toll, ich bin jetzt seit 3 oder 4 Jahren ein echter Fan des Systems. Man braucht einen Satz Installationsdisketten (6 Stück, gibt’s im Netz zum Download), mit denen man ein relativ altbackenes Grundsystem aufsetzt – und läßt dann alles andere aus dem Netz upgraden und nachinstallieren. Und dank dem Paketmanager apt geht das auch alles echt easy.

Und nix mit “in 5 Jahren kriegst Du keinen Supoprt mehr”. Selbst das allererste Debian Version 0.x läßt sich heut noch auf ein brandaktuelles System updaten. Das ist geil.

Torvalds to SCO: Negotiate what?

Sept. 9, 2003

Open letter to Darl McBride — please grow up.

Dear Darl,

Thank you so much for your letter.

We are happy that you agree that customers need to know that Open Source is legal and stable, and we heartily agree with that sentence of your letter. The others don’t seem to make as much sense, but we find the dialogue refreshing.

However, we have to sadly decline taking business model advice from a company that seems to have squandered all its money (that it made off a Linux IPO, I might add, since there’s a nice bit of irony there), and now seems to play the US legal system as a lottery. We in the Open Source group continue to believe in technology as a way of driving customer interest and demand.

Also, we find your references to a negotiating table somewhat confusing, since there doesn’t seem to be anything to negotiate about. SCO has yet to show any infringing IP in the Open Source domain, but we wait with bated breath for when you will actually care to inform us about what you are blathering about.

All of our source code is out in the open, and we welcome you point to any particular piece you might disagree with.

Until then, please accept our gratitude for your submission,

Yours truly,

Linus Torvalds

(found today at www.linuxworld.com.au)