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    September 2011
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This blog has been on hiatus for most of the summer.  And it is likely to stay so for an indefinite time.  Or maybe just change its frequency and focus.

Not that there was nothing to say – there was simply no time to write.  The summer went by extremely fast.  On the personal side loads of joys and satisfactions from the next generation growing up fast and discovering the world one day at a time.  One sad but inevitable moment was the passing away of my last grandmother.

The Hugin release process has stalled.  I released release candidate 4 three weeks ago but don’t consider it of good enough quality to be declared final.  I announced at the beginning of the cycle that September 5 is my last day of contribution for the foreseeable future as I am embarking on a new and exciting path: law school.  Hugin will do fine without me.  Maybe somebody will pick up where I left; or maybe 2011.2 will be one of those branches that dry out without blooming into a full release.  Trunk development has already moved on.

In August I suffered two hard disk crashes within less than two weeks, losing (temporarily) my netbook and my workstation.  In the recovery process I did not reinstall a Hugin development environment – a convenient way to focus myself on my new commitments.

Also in the recovery process, I learned a lot about setting up and optimizing a Solid State Drive (maybe I’ll write about it later).

I reinstalled Windows.  The exam software at my school works only on Windows or Mac OS X.  Since I already own an unused Windows license that came bundled with my netbook, I might as well give it a try.  If it is not good enough I may buy a Mac.  Student’s life.

Unintended consequence:  I also reconsidered my desktop environment.  Before the crashes my workstation worked well with Kubuntu Lucid 10.04 and my netbook worked well with the newer Kubuntu Natty 11.04.  Since I won’t have time to deal with the unexpected I decided that it is too early for me to jump on the Oneiric cycle and settled for Kubuntu Natty 11.04 on both the workstation and the netbook.  Or so I thought.

The netbook was no surprise.  It ran Natty already before the hard disk crash and on the optimized SSD it runs smoother than before.  Ready for school.

Kubuntu 11.04 on the workstation is an unexpected disappointment.  When more than a few windows are open, the next one will open black and display its content only after downsizing.  As the number of windows grows, the maximum size at which the next window displays shrinks.  I never encountered this phenomenon with 10.4 – same hardware (dual display and nVidia 6150 integrated graphic – this is a very old setup) and same drivers (nVidia proprietary).  I quickly replaced KDE with Unity and the problem is gone.  Extra bonus:  Unity is much faster and responsive than KDE.

KDE has served me well for the past two years.  I find KDE’s functionality works better for me than Gnome’s intentionally designed limitations.  Dolphin is a true help to access my files, while Nautilus feels more like an obstacle than a help to me.

I am aware that fully fledged desktops such as Gnome or KDE are more  taxing on computing resources than lightweight ones.  The trade off is acceptable to me as long as the system is functional and responsive and the overall user experience is fluid.  I was not aware how bad KDE compares to other Linux desktops in terms of resource waste; and how bad they all compare to to Windows.

So why not try to use Windows as my main desktop?  Honestly I find the Windows 7 experience to be better than its reputation.  Smother than my four years old memories of Windows XP.  Smoother than Ubuntu/Gnome 2.x that I used when transitioning.  But also smoother than the KDE 4.x that I am using these days.  Windows Explorer is as useless as Gnome’s Nautilus.  On the positive side bluetooth devices work seamlessly and drivers installation is no longer a painful disk-shuffling.  Microsoft has done its homework.  And yet the bare Windows 7 still feels hollow and devoid of functionality.

The two things that I am missing most in Windows 7 are

  1. An equivalent to the Debian package manager to enable easy access/addition of apps/functionalities.  I guess they will call it an “app store”.
  2. A complete toolchain to empower writing/modification of software and harness the power under the hood of the PC.

There are ways around those limitations.  A credit card helps.  Using a more advanced system helps too.  Apple delivers a complete toolchain free of charge and with the newest Mac OS X 10.7 Lion iteration there is an app store (although I am not sure about the choice inside the walled garden).

App stores are the future,  unfortunately.  Not because they are bad (one could argue that the Ubuntu repository is a big app store) but because they are being used to create walled gardens and restrict consumer choice.  That’s a battle for another day.

For now, my bottom line is that I am back to dual-booting Windows and Linux; and on the Linux side I need to find a usable desktop environment for my workstation because Kubuntu 11.04 fails miserably where Kubuntu 10.04 worked fine.