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Friday, February 20, 2015

Zotac & Linux

Scanned copy of Linux Mint Printer Test Page
My old Windows XP machine has been getting flakey. Programs would lock up, files would disappear. Last night the mouse quit working. At first I thought it might have just been a piece of dirt over the lens (sensor? You know, the giant red spot in the middle of my miniature misshapen model of Jupiter). But no, a short while later it quit again. Tried different mice, checked the mice on another computer, by passed the USB hub, tried other USB ports, nothing. And then I get a notice that 'new hardware has been detected', a USB mouse in fact. Now, isn't that nice. You stupid bag of bolts.

I try looking on the net, but that's no help. To paraphrase engineer Mike, if something is broke that shouldn't be broke, it can't be fixed. We pile up these houses of cards and one day one the cards flakes out and the whole thing collapses. Is there any point in digging through the wreckage to figure out what went wrong? If it was an airliner and hundreds died, well then, yes, we'll do it. But your mouse quit? Throw the whole pile of cards in the trash and buy a new deck.

So now I'm running Linux Mint on my old Zotac Zbox, and it seems to be working pretty well. Last time I tried Linux, which was a couple of years ago, I went with Ubuntu, because that was apparently all the rage. That didn't work so well. Ubuntu was trying out something that was supposed to make it work with phones and tablets. What it did was make it clumsy and slow. It was so bad I gave it up in short order.

Linux Mint seems to be pretty good. Booted and installed off of the DVD, recognized my screen. Even recognized my printer, set up and connected when I asked it to, and even printed a test page. This is looking pretty good. But does the scanner work? Yes, indeedy. Scanned the test page I just printed.

Linux is supposedly all Open Source all the time, but Mint is operating under relaxed rules, which means they allowed Adobe in, which means Adobe flash works. I'm not real happy with Adobe. They seem to be bent enhancing Acrobat until it dominates the universe. I suppose it works for some people, but I prefer Foxit for PDF files. One trick I have found is that by disabling the Adobe Flash extension, most of those video ads that automatically pop up and start playing are blocked, which is really nice. You do have to enable Adobe Flash every time you want to watch a video or play a game, but right now it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

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