Linux These Days

I've been flirting with Linux as a desktop OS on and off over the years, but I've never made a commitment. I'd install Linux on an old machine, but then I'd hit some stumbling block and the machine would sit in the corner gathering dust. A big part of the problem was the interface. Years ago the graphical interface part of Linux didn't ever feel right. The fonts were odd, the Web browsers (even Netscape) rendered pages in strange ways, and the menus were clunky. Not to mention the nightmare of finding drivers for your specific hardware. So I've never really had a Linux machine around the house for testing Web pages, surfing, and writing email.

A couple weeks ago I put Revolution OS into my Netflix queue, and relived the early days of Linux. I even paused and slow-mo'd through the Linux World '99 crowd shots, hoping I'd catch a glimpse of my younger self. (I was there, but not caught on film.) The movie was made in 2001, and the punchline is that it ends with Linux companies like Red Hat storming the stock market, future unlimited—with only a brief mention of the crash that followed in text at the very end.

Anyway, the movie prompted me to give Linux a try again. After looking around for a bit, I decided to try out Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron I'd abandonded for a Powerbook. Ubuntu is a night and day difference from my earlier Linux experiences. It was simple to install, looks good, and comes with Firefox. (I think they actually had some designers working on the interface. No offense, engineers.) I even popped in a wireless card and it just worked! (Thanks, engineers.) I didn't have to go searching for drivers, or edit obscure text files with cryptic settings. The interface still felt a bit odd to me, but I followed this tutorial—HOWTO: Hoary ClearType-like fonts—and suddenly the interface looked very familiar. (Alas, some cryptic text editing is required.)

ubuntu

I'm not going to give up my Powerbook in favor of my new Linux laptop yet. But I'm amazed at how far Linux has come in a few years. I still need to find a good code editor and office-type programs, which might ultimately be the next stumbling block. At least I finally have a Linux machine that's usable, and more importantly, feels like the computer interface I'm used to.

Comments

Eclipse and Open Office, perhaps?
Thanks, yep, maybe. Ubuntu ships with Open Office, so that'll be easy to try. I'm not a Java guy, so Eclipse seems like overkill for the scripting (PHP, Perl, ASP, ColdFusion) I do. And the last two languages are particularly unloved by Linux developers, so it might be a challenge to find an editor that color-codes them nicely. There must be tools out there, I just need to find them.
I am not a code developer myself, but the default text editor in ubuntu (gedit http://www.gnome.org/projects/gedit/ ) does color-code PHP and Perl, as well as C++, Java, HTML, etc.
Most hardcore linux programmers use vim http://www.vim.org/ , I have never tried it, I don't know what it supports. What I do know is that it has a steep learning curve.
Well, I use kubuntu since I am deathly in love with KDE and use Kate for most of my coding. The syntax coloring is great plus I like that kio supports sftp letting me login to remote systems and have it act like a local filesystem.

Anyway, finding text editors is easy as pie for Linux. Remember, it's an OS for nerds, by nerds. Of course there is going to be an abundance of coding tools. Eclipse is for more than just Java. It has great PHP and Ruby plugins giving you a full IDE feel than just a plain text editor. Anjunta is a nice C/C++ IDE for Gnome, and is great with Glade along side. And don't forget Monodevelop for your C# adventures.
If you program on a regular basis, I recommend you take a week and learn either vi or emacs. The learning curve sucks, but after that you'll never need to learn another editor ever again.
same position as you: Mac user who toyed for a few years with Linix (FC2&3). Always felt weird.
Now entirely switched to SuSE 10.1. Magnificent distro, especially once Xgl is activated. Feels solid and unified. On the strength of SuSE I'd say Apple better watch out.
...meant to add the Apps:
TextMate -> vim/Gvim
iTunes -> Amarok
Adium -> Gaim
Camino ->Firefox
iPhoto -> F-spot
FreeHand -> Inkscape
etc.
try codeblocks....it rocks! Very well rounded cross platform ide.
Check out http://bluefish.openoffice.nl/index.html bluefish for your "light" scripting needs. It does have ColdFusion syntax highlighting.
I learned vi 20 years ago in my old college timesharing days. Every few years I would find myself on a *nix system needing to edit a file.

$ vi <filename> always worked

Granted, I'm not nearly as proficient as I used to be, but I don't use it that often. However, its part of evey *nix system I've ever used. And, if I'm going to be doing a bit of editing, it has help built in, so any commands I need, I can figure out as needed.

Good Luck!
Having written hundreds of thousands of lines of code for serious applications (think nuclear, not lame office apps) I'd failed to find any programming environment that works better than emacs. I've tried stuff like Eclipse and Visual Studio, they just don't feel right.

OpenOffice just gets better and better with less kludginess than MS Office. They seem to have overcome the stability issues in the last few releases (or, they aren't any worse than my MS word that bombs out once in a while).
While I've flirted with other editors and IDEs, I keep coming back to Emacs. After being tempted away by some fancy feature, I inevitably find that Emacs can do it too. For example, I didn't even know that I wanted to edit remote files over (s)ftp, until I saw it in a BBEdit feature list. Now I do it all the time in Emacs with Ange-FTP.

As for syntax highlighting, I spend a lot of time using a proprietary scripting language. It has an IDE that does a good job of syntax highlighting and code folding, but is otherwise unremarkable. Emacs is the only other editor I've gotten to handle it to my satisfaction. I think I could have done almost as well with BBEdit, but I'm hooked on outline-minor-mode and foldout, which are in some ways better than simple code folding.

Emacs has an undeniably steep learning curve. To get the most of out of it, you may even need to learn a little Emacs Lisp. If you regularly write code in more than one language, however, compare it to the aggregate learning curve (and context switch) of two or three different IDEs.
You should try jedit (http://www.jedit.org ). Since it is a java text-editor it runs on Mac, Linux, Windows...
Although it is a KDE app rather than Gnome , Quanta Plus is my personal favourite for coding web stuff. I have tried out quite a few editors including Eclipse with the PHP plugin, Bluefish etc and none of them seem to have the same combination of ease of use and features.

Although it may look a little different it functions fine under Gnome. Definately worth a look of you are looking for a good web editor
iTunes -> Listen ( http://listengnome.free.fr/ )
you could use Komodo for script language editing. the personal edition is quite cheap and it's multi platform in case you want to use it on mac/windows/linux.
For office apps look also to the -gnome varients of abiword and gnumeric. I find them to be "lighter" than the open office suite, I'm sure they have less features than open office write/spreadsheet somewhere but I haven't came across them yet.
i second the jEdit suggestion, it is multiplatform (duh *g*) and free. maybe it's not the cat's pajamas for your purposes, but if you haven't yet, give it a try; i'm a mac user and actually prefer it to textmate.
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. You all get a Score:5, Informative. I'll try out as many of these editors as I can and report back. ftp/sftp editing is too handy to give up, so I'll limit testing to editors that can handle remote editing. I haven't used command-line editors like vi since I was in college, but I'm willing to give them another shot. Thanks again!
try scite, and as a bonus it has a win32 port also.
I third jEdit. I've never used it on Linux. I have versions installed in my Win machine, and my Mac laptop.

It's a little bit funky to set up -- you have to download a plugin to do FTP, for example -- but it has syntax highlighting and can parse PHP (with a plugin).

I tried Eclipse on Windows and tried to get it to work as a PHP IDE. It just didn't make sense to me at all.
also if you're interested in backwards compatibility, sheepshaver will boot os9 windowed, if you have the old disks on hand.

http://www.gibix.net/projects/sheepshaver/
A fourth vote for jEdit. It takes a little while to get it lined out properly as there are several must-have extensions (FTP, ErrorList, ProjectViewer) and settings to tweak. But it's great and far less involved that Eclipse. It has syntax highlighting support for ASP and ColdFusion, too.

The FTP plugin also supports SFTP and remote editing.

For light word processing tasks, I'm a huge fan of AbiWord.
Try Puppy - I had many of the same issue that you seem to have had but then found this lovely little OS that in 70MB comes with all of basics ( SeaMonkey - with Composer), Abiword, Gnumeric, Gxine, Firewall, FProt, Ghostview, MtPaint) as its basic install and adding the Wine package at 11MB gave me everything I use notmally. For Powerpoint and Database there is also a OO pack that's a breeze but I very rarely need to use
And its discovery on network and Sound is good (not great but good)
http://www.puppylinux.org
While I've been looking for THE code editor myself, I've been using Kate, though unlike the geezer above, I'm using it on Gnome (which works great btw).
However, I've still not found a single editor to match Kate. With KIOslaves it just treats any file anywhere as if it was local. And it's just solid and good!
For remote file editing, while SSHing, i'm always for Vi. It's unreplacable.
as a current mac user with a similar bent for F/OSS (I'm about to switch to ubuntu on a macbook in the mail) I'd really recommend you try NeoOffice for MacOSX. It's a java based port of OpenOffice.org for osx that has all the features of OOo without the hassle of using X11 emulation (that is, when compared with the unmodified mac os port of open office).

It will give you a sense of how open office works in case you ever want to switch and in any event is a great alternative to having to use M$ garbage every day.

sorry, url is
http://www.neooffice.org/