Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hardware can get odd over time.

The 'Safecom' ADSL modem we've been using for the last 6 years started failing last week, and died completely this weekend. About 3-4 years ago I bought another for a friend to use, only for her to then go and get a BT broadband package that included modem etc, and so it was surplus to requirements. Because it was more modern than our existing one I tried to install and use it here, but it simply wouldn't work (it was an ADSL 2+ jobby - maybe BT weren't up to date round here?).

Anyway, tonight I thought I'd just 'see' if it could be persuaded into life. Plugged it in, switched on, VOILA, a connection. I didn't even have to set it up - all the settings had been remembered from when they were installed several years before!

Maybe it's windows that wouldn't work (since this machine is Linux) I wondered, so I got Ben to check for a connection wirelessly and that was fine, ditto Chris's accounts PC upstairs. So I've got 40 quid's worth of modem/router that I don't need on the way from Ebuyer - maybe I should keep it for when this one breaks down?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

One of our cats is so lazy

Chris suggested his paws should be soft and his tummy calloused.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The mobile phone question is closer to be ing answered.

Criteria are becoming clearer: looks like it'll have to be O2 as a network (also includes Tesco, since they use O2) and it needs to be able to sync with the Mac, which likely excludes nearly everything except Nokia.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Since I seem to be in a posting mood.... seeking a phone.

Like it says, I'm seeking a replacement phone. There's a strong temptation to defer this until a time when I'm less busy, although the present Sony Ericsson has become tired, with less battery life, occasional hangs and some bad screen artifacts.

The issue is whether to go for a smart phone - will all the advantages and drawbacks of that - or to just do the 'ordinary' candybar thing again that can be used for calls & texts.

Why would I want a smartphone?

Toys aside (and I'm getting a little too old these days to easily justify toys) the advantages would be to collect email and have internet access without having to lug a laptop around, plus as a music/video player when (if?) we travel. Some (like the Nokia N8) also have cameras that actually take pictures that are of acceptable quality.

Why would I NOT want a smartphone?

I think far too few ask this question. The chief arguments against are because they're brick-like, fragile, over-complex, have no battery life to speak of (1 day of 'normal/heavy' usage seems typical) and cost silly amounts of money. With the Christmas deals I've seen this last is less of an issue for some models, although the iPhone loses out really badly in the cost area.

So I don't know.

The Nokia X3.2 candybar looks like a nice compromise, with many advantages (like long battery life, small size - it's beautifully slim, if a little wide, and sensible buttons) while also having a bigger screen with capacitive touch control. And it seems relatively cheap too. Ben has a Sony Ericsson Elm, and that seems good, but it has their daft proprietary headphone connector, making it useless as an MP3 player without an adapter (I can't use typical mini-earphones).

If I'm quick I can probably get almost as good a deal as I have now (600min/500txts/unlimited landline - £20 SIM only) with a phone chucked in. But the offers round here run out 4th Jan.

Maybe waiting is the 'sensible' thing to do - it's rarely good to hurry.

It probably seems like I change operating systems like (some) others change underwear.

Well, hopefully a little less frequently than that - for their sake, rather than mine!

My love affair with openSUSE was on the wain toward the end of the year, with the old irritation of system pauses becoming increasingly evident, as well as overall performance degrading generally and annoying issues with DVD playback that prevented Chris from using the computer. Also that OS tended to use older versions of software, thus Digikam was on v1.2 instead of the current 1.7, KDE on 4.4 instead of 4.5 etc etc and printing was really flakey. To cap it all it refused to access the files in another copy of openSUSE that had been installed on a 250Gb drive  that was no longer being used to boot, and had some images that I'd wanted to recover from there.

So a few days ago I'd decided enough was enough, backed up recent work plus firefox/thunderbird/opera and did the re-install from scratch trick with PCLinuxOS 2010.12.

I've tried this distro before, and although I quite liked it, the branding everywhere gets old very quickly, and it lacked the speed of a new SUSE install while looking less attractive than Sabayon. It also comes with much less 'in the box' - just as a single 700Mb CD with enough to get you up and running, plus automated installers to download open office, language packs etc. It doesn't ship with libdvdcss - more later - or even the usual card games. The upside is that installation is fast - around 20min tops to having the system ready to surf. The downside is that you've then got to spend time finding and dowloading the packages you want to use.

It used the Synaptic package manager - slightly unfamiliar to me, and frustrating in that I couldn't make it open downloaded .rpm files. It does however seem to do a good job, and once I'd told it to refresh repository content, a lot of stuff that I'd wanted to DL & install was available. This includes libdvdcss2 that is essential to play commercial DVDs, and that I'd been trying for ages to install without success - it's available from the refreshed repository and worked fine.

Other hassles included a delay on DVD audio playback, putting voice & image out of sync, but I *think* that's fixed now too with more drivers that were installed 'automatically', but only when I started looking at installed drivers in the hardware manager. Ho hum.

What about the perennial bugbear with Linux distros - screen fonts? Well, they're pretty fair, probably as good as SUSE and only a little behind Sabayon. The display is sharp and crisp, probably thanks to the Nvidia driver being used, athough the Nouveau driver in SUSE looks fine too, but in this case I can use full 3D acceleration for the full set of screen effects.

So how long will I keep this one?

Probably either until it develops a fault that I can't put up with, or until something else more interesting comes along that I really want to try. I'm quite enjoying it at the moment: it doesn't have the 'wow-speed' feeling, but it does seem to work smoothly and, so far, effectively. Sometime I should try windows 7, but since I'll have to buy a real commercial copy of that I may just bung it on the Macbook along with Office.