Normal Operation


...if there is one such thing, of course. I now have around 200 photos sorted through, resized, etc. and the publishable ones have been placed in the photo log. Mail has been taken care of by both SpamAssassin and procmail, and both 0xDECAFBAD and dive into mark have restored my good humour. I've also spotted Cocktail, which seems a nice utility for those afraid of the Terminal window in Mac OS X.

Relaxing with Linux - Not.

Since I needed to fiddle around a bit with iptables, I ended up taking my RedHat 9.0 laptop. Regular readers will know I do a lot of stuff with RedHat servers, and I'm fairly used to it in general. Although I didn't get around to doing actual coding (I ended up devoting a lot more time to photography, relaxing and reading), I did use it a bit - and spent some time fighting the bloody thing.

But first up, the good stuff:

  • Straw is great. Not as good as NetNewsWire on the Mac, but close enough as to be satisfactory. Not only did it allow me to keep abreast of my RSS feeds and news over a GSM connection (although I wish it had an option to disable downloading images), it was fairly intuitive and usable (space lets you skip to the next unread item, scrolls as necessary, etc.). It could, however, highligh unread news items properly - which it doesn't right now.
  • gThumb worked flawlessly with the 200-odd 2048x1536 shots from my DSC-F707 (and so did Nautilus). Browsing pictures and setting up an impromptu slideshow was a breeze. It could, however, perform easier image rotation and zooming - something iPhoto does flawlessly and intuitively.
  • OpenOffice was able to open and display a lot of documents I had brought along for reading, including a humongous 13MB Word file with a lot of diagrams and tables, a business case spreadsheet with non-trivial cell references, and the usual PowerPoint slideware from vendors. It failed, however, to display some diagrams correctly. I didn't edit anything, but for a free office suite bundled with a Linux distro, it's almost (barely) acceptable.

Now for the bad stuff:

  • The desktop and applications are subtly inconsistent in widget layout, font handling and even keyboard shortcuts. It's not a usability nightmare, but it's bad. Bad. Bad. Unnerving, at the very least - but disastrous when you consider clipboard handling. Take your pick.
  • Mozilla takes an inordinate amount of time to do some things (like starting up, for instance) on a not-so-quick 256MB RAM machine. And instead of simply telling me I've already got an instance running, it pops up the usual annoying choose-another-profile-because-I'm stuck dialog.
  • Setting up a GSM modem is an unmitigatedly anal, borderline masochistic and completely non-intuitive variation on sadistic networking. I go through this rigmarole with every RedHat version, and since they keep changing the PPP/modem/dialer setup, it's always a hassle. I'm used to doing this at the command line, but the dialer GUI kept overwriting my settings (I absolutely must have a second initialization string to set up the GSM bearer in a separate once-only AT transaction) and locking up. Forget the GUI - wvdialconf and ifup ppp0 are your friends here.
  • Nautilus still does not work with automount to place flash card storage on the desktop (in my case, cards inserted into a MemoryStick reader). For someone on holiday wanting to just dump the camera contents over and go back outside, it's yet another example of why Linux is still way down in the usability basement. C'mon, guys, it's basic stuff.

All in all it worked, but I can't honestly recommend it - That's why next time I'm taking my iBook.