[Techtalk] "I need to use Windows because ..."

Akkana akkana at shallowsky.com
Sat Aug 10 14:12:36 EST 2002

Megan Golding writes:
> 1) SOLVED: For the longest time, I kept retreating to the familiarity
> of Windows to burn CD's. Then I finally re-read the CD-Recording
> HOWTO and realize the commands are actually quite easily. 'cdrecord'
> and 'mkisofs' are all I need to burn data to a CD. One of these days,
> I'll get around to 'xcdroast', but I'm happy with the commands right

That was one of my last few windows uses too!  xcdroast is a little
rough in the UI, but in terms of actual functionality it turns out
that it works better than the windows burning software I had been
using.  gToaster and eroaster both have somewhat nicer UIs, and I've
been experimenting with them lately (they look more like the windows
software, which means they give a little less control than xcdroast
does but they have an easier interface for the specific case of
mirroring a few hard drive directories onto a CD).  Setting up
the kernel to recognize an IDE burner used to be hard, but modern
distros handle that nicely.

> 2) NOT SOLVED: Windows fonts. I do a fair amount of Web work that
> involves making images. Unfortunately, I still have to return to
> Windows when my art director(s) say they want something in Impact
> (insert any Windows True Type font here). Grrr...

Windows truetype fonts work great in linux once you learn the trick!
I've been having great fun prowling the web for free fonts, and adding
them to my system (now I have way more fonts than I have time to explore
in a font picker dialog).  Unfortunately, as is so typical with linux,
the procedure for adding a new font is different on each distro.
I've gotten pretty good at adding fonts on Redhat, so if anyone is
struggling with that and wants a mini-tutorial, let me know and I'll
write one.

One hitch: antialiasing.  I don't personally like antialiased text
(they just looks blurry to me) so I don't have to deal with this, but
Linux has two or three different antialiasing schemes and usually doesn't
antialias by default, so if you want antialiasing you may have to do
lots of fiddling in different programs.  It's really easy in gimp -- the
gimp-freetype plugin has an antialias checkbox, and so does the standard
text tool (but get gimp-freetype anyway -- highly recommended for anyone
who likes playing with fonts, and the bonus is that it reads tt fonts on
its own, so it can handle all of your fonts without requiring you to
fight with X or the font server).

Debian makes fonts easy -- there are a bunch of truetype font packages
available through apt-get, and they install and "just work".  Somehow on
my debian system I ended up with Dragonwicke from the gimp-freefont
package as the font for my menus in mozilla, and even though it's barely
readable it makes me giggle every time I fire up mozilla so I haven't
changed it back (besides, it's pretty :-).

> 3) NOT SOLVED: WYSIWYG web page creation programs as well-developed
> as some Windows alternatives. We've just discussed this topic here,
> on techtalk. I list it as not solved mainly because I don't think the
> Linux apps are quite as well-rounded. Is there a viable alternative
> to Macromedia's Dreamweaver for Linux?

I don't believe there is anything close to that, unfortunately.
I wish we could make Mozilla's Composer that good -- all it takes
is time, lots of time.

Suzi Anvin writes:
> 1) Wordprocessing.  I swear I am cursed.  I cannot get Open Office to 
> work on any machine in this office.  I hear it is what I need.  I tried 

OpenOffice is an impressive program, but it's SO hard to install!
I've fought with it on three different machines, trying different
options each time, and I always end up spending at least an hour
before I get something that works.  I wish someone would package
up an OpenOffice RPM that just sticks the software in the right
place and doesn't require any further installation.  Is it easier
on Debian?

> I'm in the process of trying the latest abiword as it had a new version 

Abiword and kword have both shown lots of improvement, but I have
one frustration with them: neither one can import an html file.
That seems like a simple and common request for a word processor.
Maybe soon ...

> I'd prefer an office suite to a plain word processor because I need some 
> sort of slideshow/presentation maker program.

Redhat comes with MagicPoint as a standalone program, and there's
kpresenter.  I haven't used either of these so I don't know how
they compare.

> 2) Data analysis tools.  I needs an SPSS (Statistical Package for the 
> social sciences) clone for linux.  Something that can do complex 

I'm puzzled by this, because I remember SPSS being a very common thing
in the Unix world some 15 years ago, so I would have assumed that
there would be Unix software available for Linux that handled SPSS,
especially since Linux is quite commonly used at research institutions.
(Of course, most of those packages weren't free.)  Not so?

> 3) turbo tax clone.  I can't afford to pay for an accountant to actually 


> 4) still struggling with general laptop peripheral issues.  Linux laptop 
> and USB support sucks.  Sorry, it just does.  I am having trouble with 
> scanner support, camera support (had trouble getting Gphoto2 to install, 

I'm surprised to hear that.  What distro and version of linux are you
using?  I use a lot of oddball usb hardware, and I used to build my
own kernels with various weird patches to handle my various devices
... but I found that Redhat 7.3's standard kernel handles *all* my
hardware.  It's amazing.  It even includes the sonypi module, to handle
the jogdial on my Vaio laptop (I did have to mknod the device and add
a modules.conf entry), and my wacom tablet (which was such a headache
to get working with my custom kernel, but under 7.3 all I had to do
was edit XF86Config-4; maybe they'll make mouseconfig handle it
automatically in the next release).  Scanner, printer, usb-storage
smartmedia reader, Clie PDA, CD-RW, wireless lan card -- I just love
buying new devices and seeing them work with linux. :-)
(I'd be happy to offer hints or suggestions to people who are
having trouble getting devices working.)

I don't know how the other distros' latest versions compare, but
Redhat is really on the ball with device support these days.

> *sigh*), reading flash cards (it simply doesn't recognise them), CD 

For flash cards in particular, I have one word: Uno.  The Omniflash
Uno! adaptors are generic usb-storage (which means they work with linux
with no special driver needed), plus they're small and inexpensive.  
My husband got one for his MemoryStick camera, I have one for my
SmartMedia, and I'll probably order a few more for other formats. They
get bonus points for mentioning linux compatibility on their web site.

> and have yet to 
> play with the palm pilot software but I worry about that too...

Pilot-link (pilot-link.org) just came out with a new version: if
you have a usb PDA, you definitely want to pick up the latest build
(0.11.*) as it handles USB much better than 0.9.5.  Also a lot of
the extra programs are much improved (you can read a datebook or
addressbook into various formats, modify it, then write it back out,
which used to be really hard with 0.9.5).  Personally, I find pilot-link
MUCH easier to use than the Palm Windows desktop software (but for
people who like the desktop software, jpilot and kpilot are both
pretty good imitations).

There are still hardware issues (a couple of us were working on IRC
yesterday on getting someone's visor going, and haven't succeeded yet)
so it's admittedly not as easy as it could be.  (OTOH, my Sony Clie
isn't supported at all on MacOS, and works pretty well with Linux!)


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