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Linux… for real this time, starring Lubuntu

Since my last update, I had gone back to Windows after a while. I forget why, I think it was because I was giving Guild Wars 2 a try and it didn’t want to cooperate in Linux. Or at least, I wasn’t in the mood to mess around with it.

Last week I installed Linux Mint 14 to try out. Ubuntu-based, so it was easy to do things, but I didn’t quite get into it for some reason. Yesterday I figured I’d give Debian a try again – I had been using that for a long time before and really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t happy with it. Fonts in Ubuntu/variants just look so much better for whatever reason. And then I stumbled across Lubuntu. Which uses LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), a speedy and nice looking desktop environment. So far things have been enjoyable.

Along the way, I discovered a couple of new (to me) apps. First is URxvt, a pretty neat terminal emulator which can have text-based tabs, not the ugly looking graphical stuff that newer terminals have that come with Ubuntu, etc. Currently I have it set up to have transparency which both looks cool and can be useful. Second is WeeChat – a text-based IRC client that is actually being developed and updated, and seems to work pretty well. Has scripting with whatever language you want as well. It reminds me of Irssi, which I used to use, but nicer. So now I’m running it on my local fileserver via screen, so I don’t have to worry about staying connected.

Also, both of the games I currently play either run natively (Minecraft), or works well with Wine (Path of Exile). And YNAB still runs fine with Wine, which was the other important piece of software. Everything else has versions/alternatives on Linux. So I’m determined to stick with it this time.

Linux Again

I decided to install Linux on my main system again, since I ending up having to format my two 1TB drives that were in RAID0 (some sort of error on one of them). So I left them as separate drives this time. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS like my media server/player currently, and I’m testing out various things.

I mentioned YNAB in my last post, and that one does work quite well in Linux using Wine. Even with the Dropbox syncing in the new version. The forum posts about it sounded scary and complicated but it was as simple as just installing and running it.

I haven’t really tried much in the way of games yet, though. Everything else is basically the same app anyway, or a better alternative than Windows (looking at you, annoying iTunes). Most of the games I’ve enjoyed lately have been indie ones anyway, many of which actually have a Linux version. I do need to get around to trying Civilization V and Path of Exile though. And play all of the indie games I’ve picked up recently.

If all goes well, I’ll reinstall everything at some point, using my SSD for the OS and not even bother with Windows on here at all.

Dedicated TV Computer

Well, I finally got around to building a dedicated system [krypton] for the TV. It is also serving as a fileserver, to replace my ReadyNAS NV+ (well, once I finish transferring all of the files). Everything is working quite nicely, with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. It’s nice to have a 5-year support plan for the OS for something that I won’t really need to be fiddling with, other than updating XBMC/SickBeard/SABnzbd as necessary.

I’m fairly impressed by the onboard graphics (HD3000?) on the Intel i3 2105 and Z68 chipset motherboard. Videos run smoothly, a couple of games I tried ran fine. It was only Braid and Crayon Physics Deluxe, but still… and bsnes seems to work well. I just have to get a controller to properly play it.

If not for gaming, I’d be running that on my main system as well. Games like Path of Exile, Torchlight II, Civilization V… I play random other games at times, but those are the main ones. Maybe PokerStars, which I load up every now and then. I guess Wine might work for some, could be potential problems with others though. YNAB is probably the only non-gaming app I would need without a Linux version or equivalent, but apparently that does generally work with Wine. I haven’t used that in many years, but I hear it works much better these days.

Getting back to reading

I’ve been trying to read more again lately – I used to do that constantly. Having the Kindle app on my phone since last year helped a little, and getting an actual Kindle for Christmas was even better :) Plus actual books that I’ve been reading.

Eric Flint was suggested to me as an author to read a long time ago, and I finally got around to starting one of his books this week. 1632, the first in a series/universe of books. I’m only 14% into it, but it’s pretty good so far. A few books in the series are available for free via the Baen Free Library, and other ebooks are reasonbly priced ($4-6), available in multiple formats, and DRM-free. Worth checking out if alternate history science fiction sounds good to you.

Fileserver update

Well, after doing some more research and playing around with things in VirtualBox, I think I’ll be using Debian+XFS after all. ZFS seems like it would be great if I didn’t have plans to extend my RAID array. Now I guess I have to play around more with md+lvm+xfs things to see just how it works. And find out how it handles spreading things out over multiple RAID5 arrays – seems like lvm can do that from the little I read, I just don’t know if it’s a good idea or not.

And make sure that Sick Beard and SABnzbd work fine on there as well. Other than that, I don’t really need anything else running on there that I can think of.

chrisgNL’s photostream

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chrisgNL’s photostream on Flickr.

Pictures of outside of our new place, including the great view!

E-Readers

I finally was able to check out a Kindle in person, since The Source started to sell them. I must say, I was pretty impressed. Page transitions were much faster than the Kobo I tried at Coles, and overall the device just felt better in my hands. I wanted one anyway, but after playing with an actual device a little bit, I’m sure of it now. Not right now, but it’s definitely on my list of toys to get.

Ripping DVDs

I’ve been poking around a bit lately at ripping some of the TV shows I have on DVD to MKV format, so I can store them on my ReadyNAS NV+ and play them via XBMC on whatever computer on my network. After some issues, I think I have it figured out. It doesn’t help that the show I was trying first is Supernatural, and there are more titles on the disc than there are shows, because some have recaps and some don’t. And they aren’t in any sensible order, so you have to watch the video to see which episode it is.

Season 1 Disc 1
title00: S01E01 46:22
title01: S01E04 42:08
title02: S01E04 41:13 (no recap)
title04: S01E02 43:10
title05: S01E03 43:27
title07: S01E02 41:33 (no recap)
title08: S01E03 42:32 (no recap)

See how annoying that is? Hopefully some of my other shows aren’t so bad. It doesn’t help that I haven’t seen past episode 9 of season 1 yet, so I can’t easily tell what episode sometime is.

Anyway, I’ve decided on using MakeMKV to grab things from the disc, and then run it through Handbrake to convert into the format I want. For some reason ripping directly with Handbrake causes it to have all sorts of audio and video glitches (on my Windows system, it does work fine – although slower – on my Mac). But since I don’t want to encode all of it anyway, the extra step works fine.

At some point I plan to pick up a Zotac Zbox HD-ID40-U to use as a HTPC. It’s currently on sale at NCIX but I’m going to wait until at least the summer to see what spare cash I’ll have for something like this. I’ve seen some reviews and video of how well it works, and I’m impressed. Perfect for what I want it for. I already have a hard drive and 4GB of memory lying around from my laptop, so it won’t cost me as much. And I’d likely stick Ubuntu on there so I don’t have to pick up another copy of Windows 7 (I miss playing around with Linux anyway).

HTPC

The Acer Revo AR1600-U914HE is currently on sale on NCIX, and I think I might get one. I’ve been reading some reviews and they seem to be pretty good, and basically what I’m looking for to use as a HTPC. I’ve also been playing with the newest beta of XBMC and that’s working quite well with my fileserver full of movies and tv shows. Sure, it’s not the newest and fastest version, but it’ll be fine. Having HDMI is a definite plus.

Other options I had in mind were Boxee or the Logitech Revue (GoogleTV device). The Boxee is a similar price, though more limited considering how well XBMC works. Plus it’s a weird shape and couldn’t do everything a normal computer can. The Logitech Revue… well, that’s just too damn expensive.

Now, if only Netflix had proper integration with XBMC… I’ve seen some hacks for it though, I’ll have to check into that.

Monitors

I have two new Dell ST2310 monitors on the way (23″, 1920×1080), got them on sale for $159 each. And I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to set things up. My main gaming system has a Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP right now (24″, 1920×1200) but I’d consider a dual monitor setup on some system again. My Mac Mini just has a BenQ FP222WH (22″, 1680×1050) attached. All of them have HDMI input, which is useful. I think I’ll be using one of the new ones to attach to my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 though. And do something else with my 19″ LCD TV, which I don’t actually watch TV on these days.

Also, I’m attempting to use Google Chrome again to see if it is something I can use yet or if it’ll annoy me like it always has in the past. So far so good, though.