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I didn’t think Adobe would ever release Creative Suite natively for Linux

And the fact is they still might never do it. But, and believe me this is a big BUT, through the course of something completely different and irrelevant, I had the ear of a Senior Engineering Manager in the Installation, Deployment and Licensing department at Adobe the other day, so I asked the question, not surprisingly his response was that there didn’t appear to be any real requirement for Adobe CS products to be released on Linux natively and so with that in mind it would probably never happen. I replied to his email politely, but with somewhat of a rant about why there was a business requirement for CS to be released on Linux natively, expecting it to be completely ignored, I couldn’t resist while I had his ear though of course.

Senior engineering manager agrees with comments

The reply I got to my Linux rant was rather surprising indeed and even more pleasing, it basically said, “I read through the Linux rant and I agree with a lot of what you said, so I’ve passed it on to our business team”.

Could this mean I’ve made some headway? Or could he just be blowing smoke up my ……. Well I’d like to think of course that I made some sense in my little rant, I’d also more importantly like to think it’ll make some sense to the business team as well. I’m not sat at the machine I wrote the email on at the moment so I can’t simply copy n paste, however the points I made have been on my mind for some time, so I’ll try to summarize them here for you, let me know if you think they make sense or not and if you think the business team will just ignore it, or take heed and actually make a move eventually. I can’t see my little rant being the reason that Adobe suddenly announces it’s going to bring out CS on Linux, but I’d like to think the rant helped if it happens.

Designers are free spirited

And that tends to lead to them wanting to be different from the norm, hence a lot of designers using Macs instead of PCs. I know many designers, including our very own Gremlette, who have dual boot systems with XP and Linux on the same machine, unfortunately the requirement within a designers job to use Adobe products, not just Photoshop and Illustrator which can occasionally be by-passed with GIMP and Inkscape (Although not always as those products are not quite perfect and are meant as an alternative not clones) but things like In-Design and Acrobat Professional which don’t really have any comparitive or competetive products available freely or in fact for Linux at all really, keeps these designers like Gremlette tied to Windows. Given a choice of Linux or Windows XP if both could run Adobe CS4, I know Gremlette would choose the Linux machine and I know many more designers too who would switch from both Mac OSX and Windows to Linux as well.

Microsoft share prices are low, if Windows 7 fails like Vista then

Where does that leave companies like Adobe, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that Windows 7 may well be a complete and utter f**k up just like Vista was, it’s likely to be less of one I admit, but now that Apple have released Snow Leopard and there’s a new Ubuntu release every 6 months, which is MORE than just usable but in actuality fantastic, plus KDE4.3 being an absolute and resounding success with likely an even better release by the time Windows 7 even hits the shelves, not to mention other distributions releasing every year or less, it’s going to be hard for Windows to compete really, let’s also not forget the almighty Google, who lets face it, don’t really fail at anything they try to do, are going to release Chrome OS somewhere between now and 2011, does anyone really think that Windows is going to continue competing for much longer?

Another valid point on this subject is the recent actions of major OEM machine manufacturers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, IBM, ASUS, Acer etc. All of these companies and more, have recently made agreements with companies like Canonical and Novell to use Ubuntu and OpenSUSE as their OEM operating systems, this has started out small time, but my genuine belief as to why they’ve even initiated these deals is that they’re just as aware of the fact that if Microsoft goes bust or at least faces major financial problems that prevent it from keeping it’s position in the market, they’ll be left without an operating system to use OEM. If that happens, what would Adobe do with no native Linux release available to sell to all the customers now running Linux, lose a hell of a lot of money is what.

Microsoft do have a track record of releasing a terrible OS, and then quite a good one to recover

But the fact is a lot of people are truly sick of Microsofts new-found ultra-paranoia, with Windows Genuine Advantage getting worse and worse it’s like the DRM of operating systems, and we all know how many people love DRM don’t we. Now Windows 7 is built on Vista, so it could go one of two ways. Windows Vista is the new Windows ME, just as Windows 98SE was the new Windows 98. Windows 98 was a pretty terrible OS, it crashed more than anything else ever had, it could run much when it first started and it had more problems than a de-hydrated dog with both Mange and Ticks, Windows 98SE however was fantastic in comparison, it was built entirely on Windows 98, it had the same interface, just as Windows 7 appears to have the same interface as Vista (Which is not really a well liked one I must admit). Windows 98SE was definitely a hit, but then they blew it, they released Windows ME, the MOST diabolic operating system MS has released to date, it didn’t just crash it ate hardware, refused to recover things it had deleted itself, half the time it wouldn’t boot up and to make things worse you couldn’t get a refund or an exchange or a downgrade.

Windows XP first release was terrible, SP1 was better, SP2 was fantastic, SP3 made the OS almost unusable and completely in-compatible with hardware and software that had worked perfectly before the SP was installed. Vista was a complete re-write apparently, different kernel, different interface (Although familiar with the start menu etc) even MS themselves admit publicly that it was a complete failure, so will Windows 7 be a slightly better OS like Windows 98SE was to Windows 98 or will it be a completely diabolical re-hash like Windows ME, or will it be like Windows XP SP2, a brilliant re-build of a terrible OS? Only time will tell, unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to save MS as much as they think it is and I’m not only thinking it’ll fail, I hope it will.

Adobe and Linux could be peas in a pod

If Adobe do release the CS on Linux then I think it will be great, not only for Adobe but for the general consumer. The whole thing is a viscous cycle, because Adobe products are not available on Linux, the OEM manufacturers know that designers and web designers will likely decide not to buy a Linux OEM box, likewise because the OEM boxes with Linux installed are not yet so plentiful, Adobe thinks there isn’t enough of a market share to spend the money developing a release for Linux. All it will take is for companies like Adobe, who do have a great deal of vendor-lock-in power out there, to start releasing products for Linux. Once Linux isn’t SO reliant on open source/free software and has corporate software available for it too, the OEM manufacturers will feel far more comfortable about shipping more machines, the customers will feel much happier about buying the OEM machines and the companies like Adobe continue to make money no matter what happens to those lovely people in Redmond.

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Author:  Hollow
November 20, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2 is now my desktop OS

Well anyone who read my review of Lenny last month will probably have expected this, but I’ve dumped my 64bit installation of Ubuntu Hardy in favor of Debian 5.0 (Lenny). I couldn’t be happier in all honesty, it runs faster (Even though it’s only x86/32 bit as opposed to 64 bit like Ubuntu was), it looks nicer, it does what I tell it to (Sort of) and I feel like a grown up again instead of a newbie using an easy OS. No offense to newbies but you are who Ubuntu is designed for to be fair.

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) FF3 Installed - Screenshot.

You can see in the screenshot to the right that I’ve managed to install FF3 instead of being forced to use IceWeasle, which I’m sorry I don’t care who you are or how much you tell me it’s the same, it isn’t ok so shutup! lol. Anyway the point being that Lenny does have it’s downfalls when it comes to installing some programs and drivers that are very easy on Ubuntu/Kubuntu Hardy. For example, when you install Kubuntu Hardy and you have an Nvidia card, Ubuntu pops up and says “I see you have an Nvidia card, would you like to install the drivers for it?” You click yes and you’re on your way, with Lenny however you log into your system and there’s no such pop-up, so you say, “Lenny, I have an Nvidia card and I’d like to install it please”, to which Lenny promptly replies, “Well drop to console and work for it bitch!” Obviously you understand Lenny isn’t a real person and it doesn’t actually talk to you in voice by default, but I had to do it that way for the joke to work. :D

I’ve installed all my usual programs, like Yakuake (Screenshot below, which also includes my dual screen spanning desktop just for good measure), Filezilla, Thunderbird, aMSN, Opera, Netscape, Flock and a host of other simpler but neccessity applications for me like, Flash player, VLC, MPlayer, Audacity etc.

Lenny Yakuake - Screenshot.

Lenny Yakuake - Screenshot.

This last few weeks has seen lots of change in the world, our own fair New Zealand has taken a new government, America elected a new saviour, sorry I mean president, I mean, well you get the point, so I decided it was time for the Symsys-Kubuntu-804 machine to become Symsys-Lenny instead. Change is good!

After installing my applications and installing the wonderful “Breathless” Icon theme, I changed a couple of fonts, uninstalled Open Office 2.4 and installed 3.0 from debs I already had, then decided I’d blog about how great it was.

Lenny 'K' Menu - Screenshot..

Lenny 'K' Menu - Screenshot

So the long and short of this installation is that Nvidia drivers are not yet very easy to install in Lenny, unless you install them immediately after installing your system, unfortunately if you do that you’ll need to re-install them once you update to the 2.6.26 kernel, which will have been compiled from gcc-4.1 and if you’ve updated your kernel you’ve most likely upgraded gcc to gcc-4.3 or higher and the compilation of the Nvidia Kernel module will fail because of that very fact, so just a quick tip for those others out there googling this problem (And I found a few myself during the process as I had other errors too), make sure to download the absolute latest drivers from the Nvidia site, now you won’t be able to do that easily either, their site is now entirely flash/java and doesn’t tend to work well with Konqueror, Opera, Firefox or Netscape until the Nvidia drivers are actually installed (Dumb right?), anyway, visit http://www.nvidia.com/downloads and you’ll get what you need. Once you’ve got the latest drivers from Nvidias site, drop to console (Closing the GUI all together I mean here not just bring up Konsole or dropping to Ctrl Alt F4) make sure you have the correct linux-sources and build-essential installs, then type apt-get install gcc-4.1 then export CC=”gcc-4.1″ then immediately after that cd /usr/src && sh ./NVIDIA*.run agree to the license, say no to downloading a pre-compiled kernel and say ok (No other option) to compiling a new kernel, hopefully all should be well. Obviously don’t take this as a guide to installing Nvidia drivers by default because you may find that they install just fine for you if you have a newer release of Lenny, or a .deb package to install them with etc.

I might actually write a blog about the nvidia drivers installation with a few hints and tips on troubleshooting as well for those who get lost. Have a look for it in the menu on the right, if you can’t find it in there I haven’t written it yet so just stick a comment below here to give me a jab to do it.

I’m really really really impressed with Lenny and I couldn’t be happier to get rid of Kubuntu 64bit, now that’s something I never thought I’d say, Ubuntu/Kubuntu has always been so easy to install and easy to maintain but lately I’ve just been feeling frustrated, it’s so much harder to do “power user stuff” in Ubuntu now BECAUSE it’s so much easier to do the easy stuff. Now that Debian have given us Lenny with a fantastic installer, a brilliant package of programs out of the box and you still have the genious that is aptitude and synaptic if you want to install it, then I think I can now safely say that Debian is well and truly the Ubuntu for professionals and power users, although some may take offense at that so let’s say Ubuntu is the Debian for newbies, but no wait other people will be offended at that, hmmmmmmmmmm, well I like both, I prefer Debian for my pro stuff and Ubuntu for my clients that aren’t so technically minded, yeah that works :D .

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Author:  Hollow
November 19, 2008



Why am I disappointed with Ubuntu?

I started using Ubuntu, or rather Kubuntu in fact, around 6.10 (Edgy) and didn’t reckon much to it in all honesty, I went back to using Gentoo and Debian 4.0 (Etch). When 7.04 (Feisty) was released, so intregued was I by Canonical’s marketing of Ubuntu and the media hype surrounding it, that I tried it out on an old Toshiba Sat Pro laptop (I forget the exact model number) and was reasonably impressed. 7.04 stayed on that laptop until 7.10 (Gutsy) was released and was immediately upgraded, again with an impressive result. I had to relinquish that laptop to another engineer in the company when I moved back to New Zealand, but by this time I had installed 7.10 on my desktop machine and was happy with it. Upon the 8.04 (Hardy) release I immediately upgraded my desktop without fear as the 7.04 to 7.10 upgrade had gone so well previously I figured I had nothing to fear right? Wrong! I had endless problems with the upgrade, eventually resulting in a complete reload of the system. I put the problems down to the upgrade itself and installed 8.04 from scratch on a fresh hard drive, and I must admit it went well, I was rather disappointed at the number of updates which were immediately required but I had become accustomed to this with other distributions so shrugged it off, and since that day my machine has run 8.04 happily.

Intrepid was released

When Intrepid was released I had been counting down the days until it’s release eagerly and was excited at the prospect of yet another release of this easy to use, friendly distribution. I wasn’t keen on the idea of KDE4.1 being used as I had tried KDE4.x a few times during it’s development and just didn’t get on with it, I was also weary of the problems I had upgrading from 7.10 to 8.04, so instead of just hitting that upgrade distribution button, I installed 8.04 in a VM and upgraded to 8.10 within the VM. This did not go well at all and resulted in an unusable system, once again I decided this must be the upgrade that was the problem, so I did a fresh install of 8.10 in the VM instead, hoping it would produce better results, it did not. After install things were flakey to say the least, once I had installed the VirtualBox drivers I could no longer get an X Server at all. Numerous other problems seemed to plague this release so I decided I would wait until bugs had been fixed with it and I might install it then, only to remember I still wasn’t keen on KDE4.1 and just had a general feeling of not wanting this upgrade, so I have decided to skip it.

The IRC Chatrooms

I spend a fair bit of time in the Kubuntu and Ubuntu IRC chat rooms, I don’t use it for help but I offer what help I can to the users who frequent it and maybe don’t have the knowledge that I do. In the week that followed the release of 8.10 I spent most of my time in that chat room, trying to refer back to a VM install of 8.10 to help people that were having numerous problems after upgrade and/or fresh installs of the release. The problems were so abundent that I can honestly say it didn’t seem like a release of Ubuntu/Kubuntu at all, but more like a release of Fedora Core with people new to Linux trying to feel their way through in the dark. People were complaining their X server no longer worked, or they couldn’t install Nvidia drivers, or what happened to KDE3? Now don’t get me wrong “Cutting Edge” is good, but cutting edge to me is brand new stuff, that works. That’s why we also these days have “Bleeding Edge”, which is basically what distributions like Sidux, Fedora Core and the current bleeding edge version of Debian (Sid) are for, they introduce these new features that don’t quite work yet and they have a good following of dedicated users, who will test this software for them and report bugs. Installing things like an X.org server that doesn’t support Nvidia drivers yet just seems more like Bleeding Edge than Cutting Edge, or is it just me?

My love for ubuntu still holds

Never have I liked a distribution more than Ubuntu, for ease of use, friendlyness to new users and popularity in general, and that still holds true for former releases of the distribution, but 8.10 has yet to earn that love. I would still highly recommend that any new user install Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu on their system, so long as they use 8.04 and not 8.10. It seems a crying shame that the so dubbed “darling of Linux” seems to have fallen so short with this release, but I am confident that 9.04 (Jaunty) will redeem itself.


So in conclusion I feel I should coin the words of Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) when he said people should skip Vista, and suggest that most people skip the 8.10 release of Ubuntu and use 8.04 until 9.04 is released. The difference being, the users of Ubuntu only have 5 months to wait instead of a year or more, and more to the point it probably hasn’t cost anyone using Ubuntu a single cent to do so and it won’t cost them anything to upgrade either. I am hopeful that X.org will have fixed any issues with the current release of the X server by then, Nvidia drivers will work properly, KDE4.1 may have become KDE4.2 or even just KDE4.1.something.that.works.better and with any luck the next release will be much better put together, thought out and more stable.

Linux itself is very much on the rise now, the desktop market is being blown wide open by MS cock ups, awareness is being raised by companies like Canonical, Dell, HP, IBM, ASUS etc and the world economy crash couldn’t have come at a better time for Linux to really thrust itself out there and say, “Hey I work perfectly on 99% (Figure I made up but it can’t be far off these days) of hardware and I won’t cost you a penny”, which is exactly what it’s doing. Symsys Ltd as a company is doing it’s part, trying to push the use of Linux and increase it’s awareness, but other companies are joining the fold too, Adobe is releasing more and more software for Linux and talks of open sourcing some of it, IBM are now evangelising Linux more than ever, HP have decided to start OEMing it, Splashtop has become all the rage in new formats like “Fast Boot” and with the trend of things like Googles Android phone and the general concessus, even that admitted by MS themselves, that Windows has turned to turd (Face it XP WAS a good release eventually), all we need to do now is make the people who have no technical interest in Linux and don’t care about the freedoms of it, aware that it exists, it’s a LOT better than it ever was before, it STILL doesn’t cost anything, oh and it works on everything from your toaster to your server, whilst being able to talk to anything MS you might still have in your network as well.

To close then, I urge Canonical to make the 9.04 release more stable than 8.10 was/is, I urge X.org to make things like the Nvidia drivers work so I can maintain my dual screens and other features that require them and I’ll simply coin another phrase which comes from the opening credits of my favorite TV show while growing up in the U.K. and demonstrates effectively my feelings on Linux today, “Power to the People!”

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Author:  Hollow
October 21, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) Installer - Screenshot.

Forget taking the Linux world or even the AIX systems world by storm, Lenny is revolutionary and is going to be (Yes that’s right I’m asserting that it WILL be, not saying I think it will be) one of the singular most important distribution releases of Linux as a whole, EVER!

Let’s start out with the improvements over Debians previous release, Debian 4.0 Etch. Well we now have a very clear menu once the Live CD boots up, it’s unbelievably easy for new users and power users alike to choose which installation procedure they would like to follow. If you’re a completely new user to Linux, you can take the Lenny CD, put it in your drive, select the Graphical Installer as opposed to the options for experts, or simply text based, Then follow a few very simple instructions, click a few buttons and presto, you’ve got a fully installed, totally usable and perfectly working system. It really has never been easier, and I’m talking easier than Ubuntu here, now that’s saying something.

There is also another fundamental difference in Lennys installer options, you can choose an expert installation, WITH a graphical interface, this is brilliant. Just because I’m a power user and an I.T. engineer doesn’t mean I want to spend my life looking at text based installers, just to prove I’m a power user. I can now choose the expert installer, giving me the options I need to configure my system, exactly the way I want it, whilst still feeling that I am choosing this option as a power user, and that I have control over how my system will be installed. An option you don’t get with some other distributions like Ubuntu, and yet I can look at a relatively attractive (Although slightly too pink for my liking) installer at the same time. The expert installer is almost as detailed as following a Gentoo Installation Document, identifying all the really intricate parts of the installation, right down to asking if it should look for PCMCIA devices or not (Pre-empting the possibility that you may be using a laptop). For a graphical installer, I think I can safely say this is the most in depth you could get it, without risking the users options screwing up the installation with conflicts. Which if memory serves me correctly, Gentoo once did back in 2005 and I fell out with their installer from that moment onwards.

During the expert installation we did, we had an option to use a mirror to supplement the software already on our CD, this is an option we usually choose, if it’s given, with all distros, because it allows us less problems (usually) once the installation is finished, because it’s using the absolute, most up to date software out there and requires a lot less effort to get a fully working system. The downside to this however, is that the installation does take a lot longer while it downloads the software required and is very dependent on your connection speed to the internet.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

On to the more important parts of the review. Debian Lenny comes with several installation CD options, a KDE CD, a Gnome CD or an XFCE CD. Since it’s our favorite desktop environment, we chose the KDE install CD, however I love the fact that you have the options available for those users who prefer Gnome or XFCE and want to install it from the first minute of installation, instead of having to install a Gnome desktop, then later once the system is up-to date enough, installing KDE or XFCE as well, which can cause clutter in the menus, excess baggage of programs you don’t want or need, etc. This again really shows how much effort and thought has gone into the Lenny release.

After the first reboot, I found a very much fully working operating system, there were still a few updates required, I had to manually upgrade the kernel so that I could install the VirtualBox drivers and enable seamless mode, but it’s not as if it’s as difficult as it used to be with having to completely re-compile the kernel, so no harm in that. Not great for new users but most new users won’t be using Virtualbox to install Lenny. Possibly the full release of Lenny (Remember this review is based on Beta2 and not a full release) may be a little more intuitive and automatically install the latest kernel during the inevitable apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade, after an installation, which we all have to perform usually with every distro we install.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Lenny Control Center - Screenshot

A couple of updates, reboots and a virtualbox kernel module compilation later, (Not as difficult as that sounds in all honesty, some more apt-gets and a little research if needed into the packages available and how to issue the right commands if you’ve never done it before) and we’re up and running, but wait, installation of the VBox kernel module and drivers has caused an issue with the resolution, it’s defaulting to 1280×768. So I start looking for the control center, only to realize, Lenny still uses the default KDE one, just as etch did. Now although that’s fine for power users who know where everything is already, that’s not the case for new users. In this particular instance for example I wanted to change my screen resolution, so you start opening up the menus, as shown in the screenshot, and you eventually find the display settings under “Peripherals”. Now this hasn’t changed from Etch and there are other distributions that do this as well. But in terms of Lenny for new users this is a real let down to me. I would expect a distribution that is this polished everywhere else, and had this much development put into it, and is this easy to use for all the other things it includes, to have the control center side of things sorted out by now.

Kubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mandriva and several other distros, have a customised control center, which for new users is much much easier to navigate if they want to change simple settings like the resolution, or keyboard settings. Lenny is still lacking the “noob proof” setup here. However from a power user point of view it’s incredible, the control center has just about every setting you could want it to have, plus a few you don’t really need. Short of things which still require command line hacking in EVERY distribution out there, the abilities of the control center in Lenny FAR out weigh those of the distributions which have made it easier to navigate for newer users.

Unfortunately the display configuration is still quite limited as well with the VBox drivers and I had to go back to command line hacking to give my new system a resolution above 1280×768. This is no reflection on Lenny however, as I was in a VirtualBox VM and did not have the NVidia or ATi drivers installed that I inevitably would have, were it on a real system, giving me better configuration tools to configure my display with. This being a virtualbox installation is also the reason we didn’t get to play with any of Lennys really cool new toys on the wireless front.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

It’s worth a mention that Lenny, once installed, comes with a full compliment of programs, both fun, professional and functional. I honestly don’t think you could find a Linux distribution that came this well equipped out of the box.


I can definitely say that Lenny is a big step forward in terms of desktop computing, I haven’t tried out the server installation for Lenny just yet, but you can count on me doing so as I always use Debian for my servers :D . I’m exceptionally happy to see that the KDE release of Lenny is geared around KDE3.5.9 and not KDE4.1, I think choosing the more stable, better known and tried & tested Desktop Environment was the way to go. They’ve ended up with a better product than the distributions who are already incorporating KDE4.1 into their default setup. Don’t get me wrong here, KDE4.1 is a great product, and is getting better all the time, but I still don’t think it’s really all that ready for new users who are booting Linux for the first time. Mandriva did a good job with KDE4.1 in their 2009.0 release, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Lenny installation is and if KDE4.1 is your default desktop you may well need another desktop installed as well, to configure things that KDE4.1 can’t handle yet, I think Debian made the right choice here.

Overall I think Debian have surpassed themselves with this release, I was extremely happy to see the much needed new features, such as the graphical installer, the option to install Grub2.0 (Which I did and was very impressed with) and overall just how well the system installs itself. Well done Debian, I can’t wait for the full release of Lenny. If I hadn’t JUST migrated everything from my Kubuntu 8.04 x86 installation to my Kubuntu 8.04 X64 installation, ready for the Intrepid Ibex (8.10) release, I’d be installing Lenny on my desktop right now instead of writing this review. As it is, I’ll have to resist the temptation for now in order to assure I have a fully working system and am not just “playing around with my system”. :D

For an Operating System release this would be amazing, for a Beta2 release, this is excellence!

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