Am I Smart Enough For Ubuntu Linux?
Sure I know about Linux, the variants, the prevalent corporate useage, and the can’t be beat license price.
But I’ve always wondered, am I smart enough to install, configure and run it for some useful purpose on my home network?
I devised the following useful experiment. I’d configure a Linux laptop as an MP3 music server. The laptop, from now on referred to as my music server would stream MP3 files to my Netgear MP101, a cheap device that converts MP3 into audio channels left and right and can be pumped into the back of any decent stereo. No problem.
- Talk one of our IT folks out of an old-ish laptop.
- Identify, download, and install a version of Linux.
- Identify, download, and install windows emulation program on music server
- Install windows Netgear MP 101 media server on music server
- Play music
My Performance Report:
Step 1: Get laptop. I was just rolling of a project that was winding down. There was a pile of old laptops, specifically a Dell Inspiron 4100. In fact, it had been sitting there unused for weeks. I acted, I took it. Proving that our IT staff has a “third sense” about this kind of thing I was immediately caught in the act days later. Bottom line, kept the laptop, but it is officially on loan to me. Level of difficulty to implement – A – relatively easy.
Step 2: Load Linux OS. During the course of my normal technical reading I kept hearing about a new version of Linux called Unbutu (www.ubuntu.com). Besides liking the challenge of properly pronouncing the name (you-bun-two), it was touted as very easy to install. Downloaded file that when clicked created an ISO image of an installation CD. Inserted CD in drive, configured machine to boot from CD, rebooted machine, OS loaded. When satisfied that I liked it, clicked on desktop link to do permanent install. Installer prompted me through the reformatting of the drive (no impossible questions about partitions, etc.), and other installation steps. Worked the first time. Level of difficulty to implement – A easy. Workplan running positive variance.
Step 3: Windows Emulation Software. My strategy here was to search out someone much smarter than myself with a product recommendation. After a few quick emails, I was pointed to WINdows Emulator or WINE (www.winehq.org). WINE has many version based on the flavor of UNIX being used. Frankly, the download and installation process was perplexing. To a rusty UNIX guy, the variability of installation options, the conflicting instructions, the lack of clear communications about how to install the product then run windows products under it was frustrating. But, I got it installed, and was eventually able to determine that it was running. Level of difficulty to implement – C, painful. Positive workplan variance now gone.
Step 4: Install Netgear Music Server. OK, so have no clue how to run this installation package under WINE, so I decide to download the .exe, unzip it, and click on the installation .exe. Amazingly enough, the windows installer launches and appears to run to completion. Now, to launch the server. But how? No desktop icon, not listed in installed applications, etc. After some significant stumbling around, I managed to find it under the application program menu for the WINE emulator. Clicking into WINE, I discovered that the Netgear Music server was listed there. Cool. After launching the server I could see the flash screen blink, but then nothing. Nothing showed up in the system monitor. The MP101 device connected to the network could not find the server. Looks like the Netgear server was not running properly under the WINE emulator. After a good deal of fussing around with all of this, I concluded that getting the Netgear server to run properly was going to be a very tough row to hoe. I’m stuck at this point. Level of difficulty to implement – C painful. Project now running negative variance.
Step 4b) Get Help Running Netgear Music Server Under WINE / Linux. A new, non workplan step. Googled “running MP101 on Linux”. To my surprise, there were two freeware or near freeware music servers that run on Linux that can replace the Netgear server. Selected the one with the best reviews, TwonkyVision (www.twonkyvision.de) Who names these things? Experienced the same pain and fumbling around with installing and starting the server. Especially difficult was figuring out how to administer and configure the server – note to all you shareware vendors, please, create a user manual that goes through the basics (it’s not obvious to everyone that you find an HTML file in the install package and click it to launch the configuration menus). At this point I glanced over to the MP101sitting on the stereo. Amazingly, it had found the TwonkyVision server. Level of difficulty to implement – B somewhat frustrating. Workplan variance still slightly negative.
Step 5) Play Music – First, copy music files onto Linux box. Next, figure out how to tell my TwonkyVision where the music is (now I ask you, if you were designing this software, wouldn’t this be in your FAQs, or, if you had one, your user manual?). A quick trip back to the secret configuration html page solves the problem. What I’d expect, is a message stating that the server was scanning the directory to pick up the music meta data – nope, no message. But, after peaking into the music server database directory I could tell something was happening. After a break, I grabbed the remote for the MP101, and attempted to browse the music. There it was. The moment of truth – press play. Success. Level of difficulty to implement – B, could have been a breeze if basic installation and configuration instructions were provided with my TwonkyVision server.
- Quality of your life is still inversely proportional to the number of computers in your home.
- Linux runs faster than Windows, way, way faster, even on a 5 year old laptop. Note, my Windows laptop that I use daily is now 2 years old (and you know what happens to old, patched versions of Windows used by tech guys that install stuff).
- If your Unix is rusty, or non existent, find a helper, you’ll need it. It ain’t windows.
- Unbutu Linux does not come with everything you need right out of the box, so in a sense you have to build your own OS. Pleasantly, all the parts, tools, and pieces you need are out there, just be prepared to cobble them all together via download and install yourself.
- Digital music is absolutely the way to go.
Would I recommend Linux to your average computer user? This is a very broad statement, and my experiment is very limited, but in a word… no. Not yet. But it’s getting scary close to being a great, free, alternative to you know what.
All in all, a great experiment. Makes me wonder what my next one will be? Maybe life without Microsoft products for a full week? Let me known if you have any suggestions.