Sunday, November 22, 2009

Compact discs and Linux

click photo to enlarge
My oldest son offered me an old computer recently, and, because it was of more recent vintage than my existing old computer I accepted it. The other day I transferred the hard drives from my "old" old computer into my "new" old computer and decided I'd wipe them clean and install Ubuntu 9.10, a very recent version of this Linux distribution that is reported to be significantly more user friendly than previous incarnations. In recent years I've tried out a few Linux Live CDs (Slax, Knoppix and Ubuntu) and have been very impressed that you can have a fully functioning operating system with a working internet connection running off a CD in your disk drive. This happens, incidentally without interfering at all with your existing Windows installation, and runs reasonably quickly, though isn't as fast as it would be coming off the hard drive. I've used a Linux Live CD in the past to look at a hard drive when Windows has stopped working, valuing the facility to recover files from such a disk - very useful, and the reason I became interested in them in the first place.

However, though there is much to like about Linux - it's free, open source, constantly being improved, less susceptible to viruses, etc - it is sufficiently different to Windows that new skills need to be learnt to feel compfortable with it. Nonetheless, I like the philosophy behind it, so I thought I'd take the plunge. And there my problems began. It took me a while to figure out how to prepare the hard disk for Linux, but I eventually got there. However, try as I might I could not get Ubuntu 9.10 to install. It hung at the Partitioning stage. I downloaded and burned to CD every variation of the distribution - 32 bit, AMD64, Alternate, etc - but the same problem arose. After a couple of days tinkering and researching I found other people with AMD64 processors and VIA chipsets with the same problems, so I guess that's where my difficulties lay. Fortunately, when I looked out a 64 bit version of Ubuntu that I'd downloaded in June it went on to the hard drive very straightforwardly. So, I now have my Linux installation, though not the precise one I wanted. I'm going to dip it into it regularly and do some photographic processing using Linux open source software to see if I find it a realistic alternative to Windows and its software.

When I was tidying up the stack of Ubuntu and other CDs on my desk the other evening they slipped over. The solitary reading lamp and the glow from my monitor produced rainbow-like patterns on each glossy surface. Seeing the discs shining under the lights reminded me that I'd produced an image that featured CDs a couple of years ago. I reached for the LX3 that was nearby, switched to macro mode and took my second shot of this subject that is shown above. As I did so I reflected that a hand-held photograph of the surprisingly good quality that the little camera produced in these circumstances would have been unthinkable only ten years ago.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 6.8mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On