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Linux Laptop day one

June 16, 2011

My Windows 7 machine is ready for a rebuild (remember when Windows 2000 was going to eliminate Windows crud so we didn’t have to rebuild our machines?) so I need, at least, something to use while the Win 7 machine is out of commission. Since I’ve been getting equal complaints from my users with Mac OS X and my users with Windows I thought maybe I would try a third course. I wiped a ThinkPad X60s and installed Open SUSE 11.4 with GNOME.

I’ve built a number of Linux servers over the years but every time I try to set up a Linux desktop it seems to be an adventure. The good news is that it’s getting better. And it’s even possible I’m starting to figure it out to some degree. But it’s odd what you find whenever you step out of your zone of comfort and familiarity.

The Open SUSE install went smoothly, with no hardware discovery issues. Little details work, like the volume up and down buttons not only work but show an on screen display. The install includes LibreOffice, Firefox, and most utilities you would expect. Installing other software ranged from very simple to weirdly complex, depending mostly on whether it was packaged specifically for SUSE.

Lotus Notes 8.5.2 installed very easily. The one odd thing was that it installed without Sametime support, which installs as a separate package. I had installed FP2 before discovering this, and had to uninstall the fix pack in order to install Sametime.

The Novell Client won’t install on Open SUSE; it’s specific to SLED, SLES and RedHat. But I can access the OES server as if it were a Windows server, which is how the Macs are using it already.

The only other things I felt a need to install immediately were Adobe Reader, Adobe Air, TweetDeck and PandaBear (Quickr access).

Printer setup is easy and simple — as long as you have HP printers. I downloaded the software for a couple of Xerox printers but could find no way to install them. There were ppd files but when trying to set up a printer with them they were reported to have errors. Sticking with generic postscript for now.

One nice thing for me was that the Linux versions of most software behaves much more like the Windows version than does the Mac version — just open up Notes, Firefox or LibreOffice and work as you normally do. Although on both Linux and Mac I miss having a whole field automatically selected, very noticeable in the address window in Firefox for example.

Fairly impressed so far; time will tell.

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