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Web Development
Which Linux Distribution Should I Install? PDF Print E-mail
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 03 December 2010 23:22
A friend asked,

I am trying to put a Linux OS on a [friend's] computer, and I have found that there are 3 different versions: Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Fedora. Which one are you running, and what do you like about it?

There are many (600?) versions ("distributions") of Linux. I'm using Ubuntu, and recommend it highly. This site can help you pick a distribution that is right for you: http://www.zegeniestudios.net/ldc. I tried Redhat, which became Fedora, from 1999 to about 2006, and always found it either wasn't compatible with my hardware, or I had problems configuring it correctly. Then I tried Ubuntu, and found it installed easily without as many hardware/configuration problems, and I was able to be productive on it. Ubuntu is the most popular distribution (which means better stability & features, and more support from other users), it focuses on being easy to use, and it's known for its broad hardware support. Though I've never tried it, Mint appears to be Ubuntu plus some media codecs and a few other niceties to improve the user experience, so it might be easier to use than Ubuntu. I've installed some of those media codecs myself along the way (by adding the Medibuntu & proprietary hardware drivers repositories), so it might be nice to get them from the outset in Mint. However, I've found that Ubuntu makes it very easy to install those extras when you need them--it prompts you with a popup asking if you want to install what you need. So it's a minor judgment call for you to decide between Ubuntu & Mint; I'd just install Ubuntu since I've had such a good experience with it. As a more major judgment call, I recommend you don't try Fedora, since I only had trouble with it.

I have to say, the design of linuxmint.com (ads, blog layout) vs. ubuntu.com makes me think Mint doesn't have nearly as many users as Ubuntu.

One key way to avoid hardware driver problems is to buy computer hardware that is already known to work fine with Ubuntu (or whatever distribution you're planning to use.) Another way around hardware driver problems is to try out your sound, high screen resolutions, bluetooth, wifi, etc., with your preferred distribution's "Live CD"--just run Linux directly from the CD (or flash drive, which is a bit more convenient).

Another issue in comparing Ubuntu & Fedora is that Fedora's emphasis is on bringing out new versions quickly to push new application features out quickly, and so it leans toward being unstable--things might break when you upgrade, and you might have to fix them. New features are fun, but broken computers aren't. Ubuntu's emphasis is on making Linux easy to use on the desktop, so it's devoted to guaranteeing new versions are stable, and its new versions are more stable than Fedora's. Both Fedora & Ubuntu are on a 6 month release cycle, but the difference is Fedora only maintains old versions for 13 months, while Ubuntu distinguishes some releases (every 2 years) as "Long Term Support" (LTS) versions which are especially stable and supported for 3 years. The underlying reason for this is that Ubuntu is based on Debian, which has a 2 year release cycle, and is divided into three distributions: stable, testing, and unstable (named "sid" after the destructive boy in Toy Story! sid will break your toys.) Regular 6 month Ubuntu versions are based on the previous Ubuntu version and Debian unstable, with enough stability, security, and usability fixes to make it stable. Ubuntu LTS versions are based on the previous version and Debian testing. This creates a blend of new features and stability that I've come to like very much. By way of contrast, Fedora's new features slowly find their way into Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL/CentOS), which is released less frequently, is very stable, but also ends up giving you out of date software. Some other distributions (e.g., SUSE, I think) focus on stability & the enterprise users who want it, and I'd avoid that kind of distribution, because I do want new features too. But more than that, I want it to "just work," and normally Ubuntu does just work for me.

Why I like Linux in general--it provides me all the software I need, for free, and automatically updates it all in one shot.

 
3 Simple Rules that Will Make You A 'Superstar' Developer PDF Print E-mail
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News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Monday, 01 February 2010 14:23

This is hilarious:

http://coderoom.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/3-simple-rules-that-will-make-you-a-superstar-developer

Last Updated on Monday, 01 February 2010 14:28
 
Why I integrate Google Calendars into clients' sites PDF Print E-mail
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News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 10 October 2008 12:46

I integrate Google Calendars into my clients' websites because Google Calendars are free, allow group sharing & editing, integrate multiple calendars into one, and are very easy to syndicate.

Let me explain by way of an example. I have a lot of calendar events to keep track of--my wife and my schedules, anniversaries & birthdays for family & friends, events at church, at my business, clients' calendars, and as a pastor, various community calendars scattered throughout multiple websites and printed publications. I really don't want to compare multiple calendars with each other every time I add an event to my own personal calendar.

Too many calendars!

So I've grouped all the events I can control in separate calendar files under one Google Calendar user account. I open my Google Calendar and all my different events display in one unified view. My wife and I share some calendar files so we can both edit them, even simultaneously from different locations.

Ahh, one calendar

But the events I can't control still live in websites & newsletters where I have to manually enter them into my calendar if I can find the time. What's more, if I install a calendar for my clients that can't easily be syndicated via RSS and thereby integrated into another calendar, too often the client simply doesn't use the calendar. Disconnected calendars are an evil; even a result of the Fall and probably of Babel. But there is a solution.

Not integrated!

Normally I'm not real excited about retyping someone else's calendar events. But in one case I did type them in: I want to go to my local high school's sports events to get to know people in the community, so I added all the high school's sports events to my calendar, in its own calendar file. Google makes it easy to put that calendar into any web page by inserting a little code Google provides, which results in a calendar like the one below.


New and improved!

Works great! So now I know what's going down at the football stadium. And what's cool is all my friends can add these events to their own calendar by clicking the "+ Google Calendar" button at the bottom. But I don't want to add the high school's events to this calendar every time the high school's own calendar changes. Nor do I want to be promoted to the "Calendar editor" position at the high school. They already pay someone to do that.

So I shared the calendar with her and gave her editing privileges. She can give editing privileges to anyone else she needs to in the school, and create and integrate different calendars for other kinds of school events (PTA, School Board, clubs, etc.) Now all that needs to happen for me, my friends, and any parent in the school district to have a perfectly up-to-date calendar is:

  • for the right school administrator to approve replacing the school's current calendar with a Google Calendar,
  • for them to approve posting the little bit of code above into their calendar page on their website,
  • and for people who visit the calendar to add it to their own personal calendar.
Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2008 13:51
 
Pastoral call and transition to subcontractors PDF Print E-mail
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 31 July 2008 02:00
As you may know I have received a call to serve as the pastor of Caney Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Caney, Kansas.  I thank the Lord for this opportunity to serve Him and His church there.  This means I will transition from full time web development (6 days a week) to part time web development (1 day a week). Using that 1 day a week I plan to continue serving my current clients by utilizing my subcontractors more and serving as the project manager over them. Here at Always Reformed Web Development we already successfully use several collaboration tools (Trac, Subversion, and Bazaar) behind the scenes to divide the project into tasks, track the progress of completing each task, and collaboratively manage the code in a version control system, so this transition should not change the level of service we are able to provide our clients. The only noticeable change is that for the past few weeks I’ve been unavailable as I packed, took ordination exams, went house-hunting, and now as I’m moving out to Kansas. I will resume web development work August 11, and soon after will be launching several new sites we’ve been developing.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2008 08:42
 
Ubuntu 8.04 is coming! PDF Print E-mail
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News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 02 April 2008 14:28


I really hope Firefox 3 is faster than FF 2...

UPDATE:  It is!!

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2008 23:09
 
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