To Do, To Not Do.

I’ve got a 2.6Ghz laptop here, with half a gig of RAM in it, and I can’t get it to play an MP3 without skipping every minute or two. I love Linux.

For those of you playing along at home, here are a few things that you might think that you should install on your regular-personal-use Linux box, but that you really should not:

  1. Flash (flashplayer-mozilla or flashplugin-nonfree)

    Reason: Dims the lights when you turn it on, shivs you in the eye with ads. Bogs your browsing experience to a crawl, once you start closing windows or tabs that have flash animations in them.

  2. mozilla-mplayer

    Reason: Dims the lights when you turn it on, and Linux sounds support continues to suck, so websites that (they exist, horrors!) try to play more than one sound file at the same time will occasionally lock up your interface hard enough that if you can’t ssh into the box and start killing processes, you’ll have to hard-reset the machine.

  3. ATI’s proprietary video drivers.

    Reason: Extreme suckage. If you expect your tv-out jack to work properly, or you’re just not running at one of their four or five prescribed resolutions (4×3, all of them) that’s just too damn bad. And undoing the damage that the installer causes is capital-H Hard.

One thing you absolutely should have installed is Mike Skallas’ ad-blocking hosts file, which prevents a surprising amount of stuff you don’t want to see from hitting your eyeballs. This last bit includes Mac and WIndows users, as well. It’s a good thing!


  1. Sean Ross
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Because I am cruel, I ask with obsequious innocence:

    Why not get a Mac? I looove mine.


  2. Mike Hoye
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 12:49 pm | Permalink


    It is difficult to describe how many sins can be forgiven in the face of the apt tools and the Debian package repositories.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    That was a far more lucid reply than I was expecting (which was something more akin to a steam engine explosion.) For apt-get goodness, you could use Fink, though I doubt the repositories are as chock full as Debian’s.

  4. Amos
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Or Darwin Ports. But actually… more and more open source software comes with a nice little DMG package for Mac OSX. Anyway, if it helps, I felt your pain 3 years ago.

  5. Posted October 17, 2005 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The Flash player can be made tolerable by installing the Flashblock extension. It presents a clickable box of the correct dimensions in the page instead of starting up the player; its policy is deny-by-default, and it supports whitelisting sites.

    Status ← WORKSFORME

  6. Posted October 17, 2005 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    More general advice: Don’t install Linux on a machine that you won’t be dealing with primarily via an SSH client.

  7. Ian Hurst
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    More general advice: Don’t install Linux on a machine that you won’t be dealing with primarily via an SSH client.

    It’s good advice. There aren’t very many good reasons to put Linux on a client machine, and most of those are ideological…

  8. Mike Hoye
    Posted October 17, 2005 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Mine sure are. Or, at least, two-thirds ideology and one third not wanting to take my primarily winadmin work home with me.

  9. Mike Bruce
    Posted October 18, 2005 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    As usual, I can gleefully point out that I never have these problems (except for flash, but I never install that anyway because I hates it).

    My sound works great. I never get any kind of skipping (!). My interactions with linux are almost universally smooth and trouble-free.

    Certainly much better than the irritating lump of crap that is OS X.

    (Though, as Kozlowski can attest, I control my TV from a bash prompt, so I’m probably not a good example of anything.)

    (Mac tangent: what is it with Powerbooks that makes me want one, anyway? OS X gives me hives, I don’t like silver-colored things, and trackpads make me want to set the computer on fire. And yet, I see a powerbook and I want one.)

  10. Mike Hoye
    Posted October 18, 2005 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I want a Powerbook because I can close the lid, and it goes to sleep, and then when I open it up, it will power on. Not, you’d think, too damn much to ask, but Apple is the only brand out there that does power management right reliably.

  11. Mike Bruce
    Posted October 18, 2005 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Amusingly, when I ran Linux on an iBook a few years ago, the power management worked perfectly. Power management is easy to support, as long as you’ve only got one platform.

    It used to work properly on this here thinkpad, but I haven’t tried it since I did a major upgrade, so I can’t say for sure right this second.

  12. mac fanboy
    Posted October 20, 2005 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Since you folks have waded into Mac territory – I’d like to put on my fanboy hat and ask Mike Bruce:

    WTF? “As usual, I can gleefully point out… My interactions are almost universally smooth…”

    Dude, just what part of “It just works” applies to Linux? With Linux, NOTHING “just works,” it is a tinker toy set of geek-toys designed-by-committee cum operating system, not a usable OS(to 99.5% of users). With OS X – that “irritating lump of crap” – I can go months and months without having to even think about the OS. I work in a video production environment (read beaucoup data crunching) where we have more computers than staff. I have to actually do work with my ‘puter, not _make_ it work.

    Oh and you want a PB because they are awesome, aesthetically pleasing, powerful machines. In contrast to this:

    which is funny.

  13. Mike Hoye
    Posted October 20, 2005 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Now, now, Mac Fanboy. If you are who I think you are, I wouldn’t go associating cleanliness of apartment with aesthetic judgement or moral authority here.

  14. Mike Bruce
    Posted October 20, 2005 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m not really sure what your point is w/r/t my apartment…it looks fine to me.

    In my world, everything in linux just works. Occasionally I upgrade or try new apps or whatever, but that’s only because I want to.

    In contrast, in the two or three months I used it, OS X did nothing but annoy me. Sure, it ran properly on the hardware, but that’s not exactly an accomplishment when the same company controls the platform and the software (and is something I’ve also never had a problem with in Linux). Actually using it was another matter. The software was mostly terrible, and every single little program was a $20 shareware app.

    It’s probably a little better now (especially with Safari, so it at least has a decent web browser), but still.

    I managed to leave OS X on an iBook for two or three months, and then I got fed up and replaced it with Debian. It was much, much better. Then the hard drive died and I traded it away (long story).

    Re: the powerbook. What it comes down to is, they are extremely satisfying to look at. But (until the revisions a couple of days ago) the screens were substandard, they’re underpowered for the price, and they only come with a damned trackpad. Trackpads are an instrument of torture, not an input device.

  15. mac fanboy
    Posted October 20, 2005 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Just stirring up the pot, boys. just having a little fun poking where someone was sore – indeed I was hoping that I’d get a response from MB.

    Hey MB, this was my point:

    Macs, OSX and all that are obviously not even remotely in the targeted to your demographic. To what demographic of user you are in I’ll leave up to you, but for the Mac side of things, it tends to be creative people that don’t want to have to fight/massage their computer every time they want to edit video, surf the ‘net, send an email, adjust contrast levels on a photo, upload photos to flickr, author professional dvds… blah blah blah…

    I guess our “much, much better” is different. Cool.

    As for the photo link, I just find posting links to people’s sites interesting, it gives some sense of context. I would say that yes, the apt. looks fine. What is funny is you have it posted.


  16. Mike Bruce
    Posted October 20, 2005 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I don’t doubt that the Mac is great for some people (although the media stuff is improving by leaps and bounds on Linux; f-spot is really solid in terms of photo management, Diva is looking like a good, simple digital video editor, etc. These are all apps focused on simplicity and usability, unlike the baffling xaw apps of yore. It’s not 100% there, but it is gaining ground rapidly).

    I do think that the awfulness of Linux for everyday use is horribly exaggerated. The ubuntu installation on my laptop required no hardware configuration of any kind, for example. You log into it, and you’ve got firefox, openoffice, and all of that stuff. There’s now NetworkManager, so you can easily roam on different wireless networks just like I remember it working on a Mac (that was one of the things I did like about OS X).

    It isn’t perfect, and I’m sure there’s hardware out there that it does have issues with, and there are any number of other quibbles to make. But the nature of the problems are totally different than they were even three years ago.

    (Except, I must admit, ALSA still really sucks.)

    Photos: Most of the photos posted there are there either because I was testing the system (which needs changed/updated in a hundred different ways), or because I wanted to show something to someone. I took the apartment pictures when I first moved in, and I wanted to show it to people. The idea that people I don’t know might actually look at my webpages seems odd. I’ve always looked at is more of an abstract possibility than anything else.

    Finally: I don’t mind being poked; I can pontificate endlessly about stuff like this. Obviously.