Category Archives: personal

Tales of a Linux Switcher – Part 2

Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Tales of A Linux Switcher series.

In my search to make the complete switch from the Mac OS (see Tales of a Linux Switcher – Part 1), the biggest research effort has been finding applications that accomplish the same tasks in Linux.  Some of these tasks are pretty obvious, e.g., web browsing or email, while others are not quite so ordinary, e.g., filesystem encryption or software development.

So, with all of that in mind, the subject of this particular post is going to be a discussion of some of the common tasks that I set out to handle and the application I chose to fit the bill.

Chapter 2 – Getting it done

When everything is said and done, the important part of using any desktop (or server really) OS is getting what you need to do accomplished.  The tasks can be office productivity or software development or just casual web surfing.

The arguments about which OS is better, more secure, more extensible, or more “free” are all great and wonderful, but in the end what matters is getting it done.  There are some people that believe that software being free is top priority, while others (like myself) are not as concerned over whether the software is free, cheap, open source, or proprietary, as long as it works to get from point a to point b.

Don’t get me wrong, I like open source software, and it’s even better when it’s FOSS (free, open source software), but when it all shakes out I want a computer setup that I can rely on from day-to-day to do what I need it to do.

Chapter 3 – It’s all about the apps

So in my quest to get to point b, I have found that there are generally any number of application choices to accomplish my tasks in Linux that I did in the Mac OS ecosystem.

Some of the application choices were easy options, like LibreOffice in place of MS Office 2011, while others required more research to replace, e.g., iTunes, 1Password, etc.  With each choice I have tried to find an alternative that gave me the closest experience in terms of usability and feature set of the application being replaced.

When looking for alternatives I used Google for basic searching, but I also found the following sites to be of use:

  1. – Alternatives To The Applications You Want To Replace
  2. – open source as alternative
  3. Linux App Finder – Windows and OS X Software Alternatives
  4. The Linux Alternative Project

Using those sites in combination with various forum posts and basic searches, I have been able to find software to do most everything I was doing on Mac OS X.  Bear in mind that sometimes it’s not quite as easy to set everything up, but I took that as a challenge.  There are some instances that presented particular challenges.  I will be posting on those individually as time permits.

To see the list I have personally come up, have a gander at my Linux Switcher Software Choices spreadsheet.

Tales of a Linux Switcher – Part 1

Prelude: The rubber meets the road

As some of you will no doubt have noticed over the years, I am a die-hard Macintosh fan.  I have run Windows desktops and servers, as well as Linux desktops and servers over the years, but my true love has always been the Apple Macintosh computers.  So it is with some trepidation that I have faced the situation that I no longer have any Macintosh computers of my own.

While the situation was not anticipated, I have faced it head on and am rapidly on my way to filling all my computing needs with the Linux desktop that I have.  This is the first of several posts where I will document that process and the solutions that I have come up with to achieve the same goals in my personal computing experience with Linux that I did with the Mac.

Chapter 1 - Choosing a distribution

As a long time Linux user, dating all the way back to running a specialized distribution of RedHat on the 486 PC card in my PowerPC 6100 like some other folks, I am well acquainted with the passionate arguments that can arise among Linux aficionado when the topic of choosing a distribution arises.

In the beginning many of the arguments centered around the needs of various kernel configurations and packaging systems.  Do you compile your kernel by hand?  Do you go modular or monolithic?  Is RPM a better choice than deb?  Do you go hard core and start a stage 1 Gentoo install where you have to bootstrap the kernel just to compile and install?

Some of these decisions will be familiar to you and some won’t be.  Many of the old arguments don’t apply anymore due to major improvements over the years.  Ofttimes the new arguments center around free vs. non-free, Gnome 2 vs. Gnome 3, Gnome vs. KDE, etc.

With all of this in mind, I developed a rather simple set of criteria based on my personal experience with the philosophy Apple has espoused in it’s ad campaigns of “it just works.”  Here’s the list I came up with:

  1. Community involvement
    With any OS choice, it is very important that there be a large community of users, comprised of multiple skill levels, that can provide innovative solutions and workarounds for usability problems that can be encountered.
  2. Multiple update tracks
    While having a stable only release track makes sense for a production-level environment, as a tech-enthusiast and a geek it is great to have access to testing and unstable release tracks when you want to try something on the bleeding edge.
  3. Robust driver support
    It was important that recent hardware support be available. I don’t want to have to wait until a major point release to get something as important as a network card working.
  4. Eye candy
    Yes, I know that to a lot of die-hard UNIX guys, the concept of eye candy being a major bullet item for picking a distribution is nuts, but coming from the Macintosh environment, which is arguably one of the most visually appealing, it was important.

After doing a large amount of research and testing numerous live cd’s, I settled on Linux Mint 13 with the Cinnamon desktop environment.  Linux Mint is a Ubuntu-based distribution, which means it traces it’s genealogy back to the grand old distribution of Debian.

Ubuntu is known for having a extremely active community base and it has become the distribution of choice for many hardware vendors outside of the server market that are looking to pull Linux users into their product lines.

Being a Ubuntu/Debian based distribution, there are lots of opportunities for bleeding edge development when you want to go there.  For example, Oracle’s Java 7 Update 4 is available as a package through a PPA repo.

Also, since Linux Mint 13 is a Gnome 3-base with the sleek, modern looking Cinnamon environment on top, there is plenty of eye candy to go around.


  1. Fischba, S. (1997, June 06). Running linux on ppc/486 card?. Retrieved from
  2. Lagna, G. (2010, April 23). Apple’s ad campaign, a brief history… Retrieved from
  3. Linux Mint – from freedom came elegance. Ubuntu-based Linux distribution.
  4. Cinnamon – Love your Linux, Feel at Home, Get things Done! Window manager for Linux.
  5. Andrei, A. (2012, January 17). Install oracle java 7 in ubuntu via ppa repository. Retrieved from

Changing the default editor on Dreamhost

While setting up the cronjob for auto archiving data on my Piwik installation, I found that the default editor for Dreamhost shell accounts is set to use joe (Joe’s Own Editor). While this is a nice editor for many users, it is not as familiar to me as using vim, the opensource vi clone.

Combing through the Dreamhost wiki, I found the line in the crontab wiki article talking about exporting the editor setting by adding an entry in the .bashrc file in the root of your account.  This information may have been accurate at one point, but now the shell accounts are configured to use .bashrc for the non-interactive logins and to use .bash_profile for the interactive logins.

So to update you editor on your shell account you need to add the following line to the .bash_profile file:

export editor="/usr/bin/vim"


export editor="/usr/bin/vi"

If you prefer to use emacs, you can change the line to be:

export editor="/usr/bin/emacs"

Leftover Breakfast Hash

For those of you that have children I am sure you have made hamburgers and tatertots at least once for lunch or dinner.  In my experience, unless your kids are really ravenous, you have had some of these leftover after the meal as well.  As with any leftovers, the decision then becomes: do I throw them away or save them for another meal?

Recently I was faced with this same question.  Of course, the answer was pretty easy for me, I saved the leftovers.  I know that many people would have just thrown the food away.  In fact, according to a 2004 study by Timothy Jones of the University of Arizona in Tucson, 40-50% of the food harvested in the United States never gets eaten[1].  This statistic is pretty unconscionable given that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that in 2010 there were 925 million hungry people in the world.[2]

This morning, I got up and looked through the pantry and refrigerator for something to cook for breakfast.  I realized that I had a plastic container half full of leftover tatertots as well as two leftover hamburger patties that needed to be eaten.  So I made some hash.


  • two hamburger patties
  • leftover tatertots
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup of water


  1. Put two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet to heat
  2. Chop the tatertots into small pieces
  3. Cube the hamburger patties
  4. Add the minced tatertots into the oil and begin re-browning them
  5. Add the cubed hamburger patties
  6. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  7. As the mixture heats and browns add water slowly to add moisture back to the food that was lost during refrigeration
  8. Once thoroughly heated, remove from skillet and enjoy!


If you have some onions or peppers, you could add them as well for even more flavor.  Also, for a Southwestern flair you could add leftover corn, tomatoes and chili peppers.


  1. Study: Nation Wastes Nearly Half Its Food. UA News, website.
  2. 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics. World Hunger Education Service, website.

Halloween by Robert Burns (an excerpt)

An excerpt of the poem Halloween by Robert Burns.

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta’en,
Beneath the moon’s pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.

Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin’ clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween
Fu’ blithe that night.

The lasses feat, and cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they’re fine;
Their faces blithe, fu’ sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, and warm, and kin’;
The lads sae trig, wi’ wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, and some wi’ gabs,
Gar lasses’ hearts gang startin’
Whiles fast at night.