Windows on the Dell

A little more then a year ago I bought my very first laptop that came pre-packaged with Linux. My slick, cool, small and light Dell XPS 13 was probably the first laptop I bought that did not have the OEM stickers stuck to the palm rest, removed. Usually I peel off these lame “Windows” or “Intel” stickers, but in this case the shiny orange UBUNTU sticker stayed on as a badge of honor.

I have been using the machine quite frequently over the last year, mostly tinkering with it to get the “pre-installed” version of Ubuntu “just right”. Because quite frankly, as “compatible” as this machine ought to be with Linux, it wasn’t. After several hours spent scrolling through forums, chatting on IRC and posting on Reddit I had rolled back the bios version and edited a bunch of config files just to stop the keyboard from jumping to “aaaaaaaaaaatttttorrrrrrrrrepeat” (very annoying). But like the owner of an Alfa Romeo I enjoyed the process because I love to tinker.

Fast forward about a year and my life is a little bit different. With a full time consultancy gig at one of my clients and quite a few business projects on the side, I don’t have as much free time as I used to have. As a result, the little Dell got started to get left out. Since I needed some business applications like Office, Visio and Outlook (for the gig at the client) I did not get a chance to play around with the Ubuntu sporting Dell as often as I wanted to.

Several times I’ve tried to switch over my workflow to be as “cross platform compatible” as I could, but when you need to send Visio or Word files back and forth, Open Office might be found lacking at times. The other point of sheer frustration was that I could not (neither with my own skills or those of the bluetooth stack developer) get a bluetooth mouse to work under linux. Result ? The XPS started collecting dust in favor of my Surface Pro 4 that went to work with me every day.

So this week I said “no more”. I was fed up with having an expensive laptop just sitting there because it’s OS doesn’t fit into my workflow and I don’t have the time to adjust my workflow. So I wiped it and installed Windows 10 on it gasp!

Have I betrayed my Linux roots? Have I forsaken my sliders promise? No. I have not.

I am still running Linux on it! 🙂 A fast, snappy and dark-themed version of Linux Mint is what i’m using right now, in a VM! Thats right I’ve decided to stop letting hardware issues and workflow incompatibly interfere with my chance to run Linux. Now I just run Linux on all my machines… in Virtual Machines! Along with whatever core OS (Windows, MacOS) sits on top of the hardware.

I’ll write about my experiences more later this week (don’t want to bore you with a mega long post) but suffice to say that thanks to modern day processors and snappy VM apps like VirtualBox, there is no noticeable difference between running Linux in a VM and running Linux natively on the hardware. Aside from the fact that everything just works! And I can just “slide” my mouse across to my second screen and finish up that Visio drawing, using my bluetooth mouse!

In the end everyone wins. I get to have Linux at my fingertips, I still have the power to use “work” related apps whenever I need to and my little Dell XPS 13 is living up to be a good investment because now I finally use it some more. I ended up dual-booting Linux years ago to go native. I’ve not given up running Linux natively; I just want to “slide” from OS to OS and with these VM’s that works just fine.

Image Credit: Pierre Lecourt on Flickr

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Fight Your Digital Redundancy

Device Overload

How About “Just” the iPad?

Whenever I have been pack my bag for my morning commute I get annoyed with the sheer redundancy of the stuff I take with me. Here I am packing not one, but three or four “computer capable” devices into a bag to haul off to some office somewhere.

Not only am I carrying around more devices then I could possibly operate at one time, the software on these devices is redundant as well. For some reason I cannot fathom I have 3 different versions of Microsoft Word on my person. One on my PC, One on my smartphone and one on my tablet. It is possible to dream up a situation in which I might be required to use said trifecta of Microsoft’s favorite text-blender simultaneously… but that would involve an alien invasion and myself in the unlikely role of the geek that saves the world with a bulleted list.

Blame the Lizard Brain

So why do we (still) cling to this redundancy? The answer is simple: because it feels safe. After 7 years in the tablet era we still have not come to “trust” these devices in a way we trust our beloved PC’s (which by now are seriously starting to mimmic our tablets in both appearance and behavior). God knows its not because the tablet apps are by some means sub-standard or don’t offer what we need. The one major hurdle the tablet haters could never get over was the lack of an ‘actual’ filesystem on iOS or Android. Sandboxed applications drove them insane. Yet what do we see today? PC based operating systems are – out of sheer self-preservation – starting to move in a very similar direction. Windows 10 supports installation of unified apps from its app store (in essence a sandbox) and Linux is embracing a more contained approach to applications with their container-oriented Snap packages. With the average smartphone having enough RAM and CPU power to put a PC from 2013 to shame and even the most low-end tablet having a screen resolution that matches the TV in the living room, technical shortcomings are no excuse either. Then what is it that turns us into digital packrats?

The real answer is in the fact that we only think we are carrying around redundant devices because we make them redundant.

We install Word on our phone, our tablet and our laptop because we can. We try to read a spreadsheet on our phone because we can. We even try to edit family photos on a 7 inch laptop using nothing but our stubby fingers. All because we can. Certainly not because we have to.

Somehow with the overabundant availability of identical software on different devices we have started to think that we have to click on “install” everywhere. No wonder it feels redundant.

Specialization is the Key

If we truly where to look at the real strength of each device, we would figure out what do do where pretty quickly. Short messages and communication? Phone. Watching video’s on the go or browsing through news articles while sitting on the train? Tablet. Full blown posture friendly photo editing? PC/Laptop.

You see? No more redundancy. Instead you have a sense that your devices are complementary, depending on the task you do and the situation you are in.

Don’t do a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle with chopsticks. Don’t use a lawnmower to trim your nails. Stay away from the firehose when you want to water that delicate orchid in the living room. Each device has its use, its purpose and its strength (just like you btw). So remember that next time you feel tempted to install Powerpoint on your smartphone: (to quote commander Scott in Star Trek V) “Use the right tool for the right job!” So ask yourself: “is this really the right device for the job? And if it’s not, do it somewhere else.

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KW1105 60 Minutes of Common Sense

The knightwise.com podcast is back this week with a splash of cold water and a dose of plain old common sense. This week we talk about some strategies to keep you, your devices and your data out of nefarious hands. Vigilance, my friends.

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KW1103 The World of Words

This week Knightwise delves into the world of words and how he gets the words out of his head and down onto the virtual page across the myriad platforms that he finds himself.

There are lots of different editors for different kinds of jobs. Check out a whole bunch of them on this week’s episode of the knightwise.com podcast.

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KW1102 Thinking Inside the Box

It’s time to get virtual.

On this installment of the podcast Knightwise delves into the topic of virtualization and talks about how to make the most of a single piece of hardware by letting it do the job of multiple different machines.

We are also joined by special guest Matthew Williams of Open FOSS Training who tells us about his new video tutorial and provides some tips for working with VirtualBox on Windows 10.

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KW1101 The Knightwise Identities

We’re Back!

After a long winter’s nap the Knightwise.com podcast is back for another season of cross-platform goodness. Season 11 kicks off this week with Knightwise doing something he hasn’t done in a few years. Come along for the ride as our intrepid host talks about managing work, life and your multiple selves in the digital age.

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Five new years resolutions for a (budding) Cross Platform Geek.

With another successful orbit around the sun completed, its time for us carbon based lifeforms to dream up some list of ‘Things we would like to improve on’ in 2016. Since we all lack the telepathic mind controlling abilities to force these improvements upon others on a global scale, it is perhaps more prudent to start with ourselves. So here are 5 things you might want to “improve on” for those of you who have not taken the plunge into the wonderful world of cross platform computing.

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1: Stop being such a fanboy.
Are you “This guy/girl” at every party that religiously promotes brand/platform XYZ and gets into countless arguments on which is the better brand/platform/phone with your friends and relatives ? Have you spent most of Christmas eve explaining to your cousin why Android is far superior to IOS ? How about you stop doing that in 2016 ? Seriously. Somehow you are playing out the exact scenario that marketeers have planned out for you. Somewhere, somehow you have developed this religious devotion to a certain brand or platform that is just (for a lack of a better word) STUPID.

If you have ever gotten into a situation where app/platform/brand X has NOT been more then satisfactory, yet ignored this issue (To yourself and your peers.) because it didn’t line up with your beliefs / previous statements, then you’re a fanboy and you need to stop.  So stop droning on about how your iPhone is superiour to all other phones on the planet and actually take the time to try out some of the alternatives. God forbid .. you might like them.

Have you ever gotten into a situation where app/platform/brand X has NOT been more then satisfactory, yet ignored this issue ?

2: Stray away from your favorite applications.
“I can’t move to platform X because I use application Y”. I’ve heard it a dozen times over. ‘Nope, Can’t switch to Linux because I NEED Outlook.’ Surprise: You don’t NEED an application, you need to perform the process that is TIED to that application. You don’t NEED Outlook, you NEED to be able to communicate via Email. The correct statement would actually be: ‘Nope, Can’t switch to Linux because I am afraid to learn how to work with another Email client.’ So try to get out of that sticky situation by NOT devoting ALL your time and energy using JUST your favorite apps. Whether its an app on your phone or one on your desktop .. there are probably plenty alternatives out there that you can tinker with, just for the fun of it.  God forbid … you might like them.

You don’t NEED Outlook, you NEED to be able to communicate via Email.

3: Give one flavor of Linux  a try this year, for real this time.
Any self-respecting geek HAS taken the time to “Play around” with Linux. For some this means a devotion to the platform where they live out their entire geek-lives in the command line, but for most this means just slapping in a live-boot thumb drive, fiddling around with it for 20 minutes before deeming it “too slow” and going back to whatever OS you used before.

This year, try something different. Devote an old PC (and some of your time) to actually giving it a go as a primary operating system for a week. Write up a blogpost about what you like and what you hate. If a complete desktop experience is too much for you, try out something small like playing with a Raspberry Pi and tinkering with one of many interesting projects you can build. God forbid .. you might like it.

Devote an old PC (and some of your time) to actually giving it a go as a primary operating system for a week.

4: Lean on the communities.
You might be spending a lot of your online time aimlessly scrolling through 9gag, Facebook or Tinder. So why not spice things up a little by going out of your way to find some online geek communities you can learn from ? If any of the cross platform endeavors stated above trigger you to learn more or get some help .. lean on the communities ! There are plenty of forums, sub-Reddits and Google+ groups about the topic you are diving into. They will be able to provide you with excellent feedback and support. Why waste hours on Googling when you can just ask the experts. God forbid .. you might like it there.

There are plenty of forums, sub-Reddits and Google+ groups about the topic you are diving into.

5: Give something in return.
And if, on your adventures into cross platform computing, have learned something new ? Why not give some back ? Post your experiences back to the forums, comment in the discussions and put your new found experience to good use by helping others. If you are feeling truly daring, why not try your hand a podcasting. Recording a simple episode on your phone and submitting it to the Hacker Public Radio podcast is a great way to get started. You will learn that the best way to learn,is to teach. God forbid .. you might like it.

You will learn that the best way to learn,is to teach.

So let 2016 be the year for you where you step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Try a new OS, a different brand of phone or some geeky new project that lets you control your home lights from the internet. We at Knightwise.com wish you good luck in your endeavours.

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KW1005 Knightwise on Podnutz Daily

This week we have a special treat. We have a chance to listen to Knightwise answering some questions instead of being on his usual side of the microphone. This week’s show is an interview that Knightwise gave on a recent episode of Podnutz Daily.

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KW1004 Microsoft Surface Pro 3

This week’s show is an in-depth look at the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft. We tackle the hardware, the software and the applications that make this device a contender for a daily driver. We also have another great track from Daniel Messer. Let’s get into it!

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KW1003 Acer Green

This week Knightwise travels to the Acer Green show and brings a couple of interviews with from the show floor as well as some “live” music.

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