My Open Source Oasis

I first started dabbling with Linux almost three years ago. In the past year it became my primary OS at home, and now it’s the sole occupant of my home pc. But at work we run AutoCAD on XP Pro, so there’s no escaping the giant from Redmond I guess. However, I have managed to maintain my little ‘open-source oasis’ in this proprietary desert. Here’s how I cope:

First, I run windows versions of my favourite Linux apps. Inkscape, GIMP, and GVim get a full workout here on my XP box at work. More recently I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that Avidemux (which I use for a bunch of screencasting tasks) has a windows version too. As does Blender, the 3D modelling and animation application that we used to create that 15 second animation for our screencast intros at screencasters.heathenx.org. Oh, and don’t forget Audacity which I use for a bit of audio editing – which has a perfectly serviceable windows version. And let’s not forget OpenOffice which I try to use in lieu of MS-Office whenever I can. Of course Firefox goes without saying.

Next, I run Cygwin, which is a Linux-like environment for Windows. It isn’t an emulator and won’t run native linux apps on windows, but you can recompile linux applications from source to run on Cygwin. However my needs are much simpler. I mostly use it as a terminal for file management and my todo list duties. There is even a port of the X-Window system called Cygwin/X that allows you to run many graphical Linux apps inside of windows. For some reason I can’t seem to get that working – something to do with our proxy server setup here at work. A head-scratcher that is…

Interestingly, I ran Cygwin from a shortcut on my desktop but was frustrated by the fact that it ran inside a DOS window. This limited my font choices to raster fonts or Lucida console 12pt. I could do various things to customize the bash shell (colours etc..) but the font limitation seemed to stick. That is, until I found these instructions for running rxvt on top of Cygwin.

Now I run a shortcut to rxvt and set up the shortcut to launch with whatever font I want. Here’s my current shortcut launch command to get rxvt up and running:
C:\cygwin\bin\run.exe rxvt -sl 1500 -fn “Consolas-14” -bg black -fg grey -sr -e bash –login -i

Now you combine this with the recent excellent blog post (and comments) by Kyle Pott at Lifehacker about turbocharging your terminal, and you’ve got a perfectly serviceable linux terminal inside of XP.

So there you have it. That’s how I get my Linux fix at work. If you’re a lone Linux fish swimming in proprietary waters, how do you cope?

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One Response to “My Open Source Oasis”

  1. Erwin Quita Says:

    Hi Renaissance Man,

    I’m glad to know that even in a windows world you really find ways to use linux apps even though ms apps are mubh available, I’ve seen all your screencast and tutorials. Thanks for sharing them. I’m just a little bit lucky because, here at work it’s a windows world but I manage to work on a linux environment when doing web designing and development using apps like gimp, bluefish and my soon my new addition inkscape. Lastly I’ve put up a linux community http://www.ibatayo.com, I would like to ask if I can post your tutorials on my site. Thanks again and more power!

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