15 June, 2008

a la carte

After just a few days of working with Linux I have to say, unabashedly, that it rocks. Not only is it much faster than XP but it feels more powerful as well.
I am still getting to know the operating system itself, but I am coming up to speed pretty quickly. I still recall much of the techniques I used for DOS back before Windows became the standard. Command line interfaces can’t scare me.
But really, with the new desktop interfaces that come with some of the distributions, CLI skills aren’t that important. I only like to be able to tweak, and so I will of course dig deep into the entrails of the OS to make it do just what I want; but it is not necessary.
The glory of it is that it already does a lot of things that I had wished I could have done in Windows, and I didn’t have to do anything to get it to work. The linux army has already thought of it.
Two of the things I really like so far are Konqueror [the browser that comes with KDE, a Debian distro based GUI] and Amarok [the standard sound player in Kubuntu, the particular flavor of Linux I installed]. Lightning fast browsing; faster than I ever achieved even with Firefox. But the thing I really like is the shortcuts it offers for searching. For instance, if I want to search google images of the flooded midwest all I have to do is type “ggi: midwest flooding” in the address bar. If I want to see what IMDB has to say about the Hulk, I just type “imdb:hulk”. And I can add shortcuts to any site I want; it is very configurable, like everything else. That saves a couple of mouse clicks every time, which may not seem like much, but it adds up.
But the coolest thing by far that I have discovered to date is the capabilities of Amarok. Instead of just the standard ‘now playing’ visualizations of most media players, this one has a contextual sidebar that looks at the song file that is playing and automatically downloads information on the band and the lyrics and displays it. I thought that was pretty fucking cool. I could make WMP do that, but I had to import the lyrics by hand.
I have just scratched the surface of what this thing can do, but it is pretty exciting. I am working my way through some textbooks that I downloaded in pdf version; when I learn how to write my own scripts then I will really be using it the way it was meant to be used. Right now I feel like I am just driving a rental sports car; its fast, but it isn’t mine.
Sometimes I really regret all the time I spent in the military. I have been so happy since I went back to school and really started feeding my knowledge appetite. I wish I didn’t wait so long; not that I couldn’t have learned a lot of this stuff while I was in, but I was always so drained from all the bullshit. Or too drunk.  But now I am here, and I can devote the rest of my life to being a nerd. Unless they decide to put me back on active duty.

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