Monday, 20 November 2017

In praise of Linux (again)

A few days ago there was an article in the Irish Times praising linux on the desktop for its utility and ability to extend the life of old and otherwise perfectly usable hardware.

I am in fact writing this on my five nearly six year old Linux netbook.


Windows updates. Ever since I had the Windows 10 creators update installed I've had a storm of minor fixes and updates, all off which seem to leave my machine in an odd state requiring not only a reboot but a fifteen minute session of placatory messages while Windows plays with itself.

That said I actually quite like Windows 10 as an environment and am quite happy with the fact that when I eventually replace my elderly Dell Inspiron it'll be with a Windows machine.

However, I can't help but contrast the paind I'm going through with Windows at the moment with the ease at which I ran my latest set of Linux of updates it was a fairly painless exercise.

What's more I even installed a suite of optical character recognition software. Think about it - running OCR software on a six year old Intel Atom powered machine.

That said my first attempt, with OCRfeeder, which I'd successfully used with Debian to OCR a collection Vietnam war era newspaper cuttings from North Vietnam didn't quite work - basically OCRfeeder and Xfce seem to have an incompatibility. Changing to Yagf which uses the same underlying recognition engines, tesseract and cuneiform - seemed to work.

Preliminary, and fairly basic tests, seem to show that it works, if a little slowly, but good enough for some of J's family history stuff where we have some good jpegs of documents.

And that of course is the other great virtue of Linux - there's always more than one way of solving a problem or carrying out a particular task.

Now I'm not going to tell you that Linux is a panacea. It's not. Sometimes it's flexibility is a curse more than a blessing - for example I have never ever been able to get bluetooth to work with Xfce despite having it work successfully with other Linux front ends.

I am not going to tell you to throw out your Macs and your windows machines. My MacBook Air for example remains one of the best machines I have ever owned for travelling and note taking in the field - the only machine that ever came close was the Linux EeePc 701SD. But what I will say that if you need a low cost and effective solution try Linux.

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