Keith Gascoigne




I’ve been using modern computers since around 1987 (before that I worked on dedicated computers using valves and designed to control large machines). The first modern computers that I used were IBM twin disk-drive DOS and the migraine-producing green screens at university, then BBC Micro computers and an account on the university main-frame using Latex for formatting and having dozens of stickers all over the keyboard and around the screen filled with commands.

While on a teaching course I had access to one of the first Apple-Mac computers with a GUI and I realized that this was the way computering should go. At the time all I had at home was a basic, Sanyo, twin-disk drive computer, this time with a lurid amber screen, to write my course-work on, saving them (or not as I found out much later) to 5 inch floppies.

Then a DAN 486 which was quite a hardware upgrade but it had MSWindows 3 on it and my first thoughts on seeing that OS was, ‘Is this it? What does it do? It’s rubbish.’ My opinion of MS operating systems has never changed. It never fails to amaze me that the majority of computer users in the world use the world’s worst operating system. Unfortunately, this says an awful lot about people generally.

I stopped using MSWindows around 2000 when XP came out. I couldn’t believe the unreliable garbage Microsoft then rented out and after a few months of using this and losing many of my files because of it I bought a set of disks with GNU-Linux Red Hat 7 and started my road to computering freedom.

The desktop on Red Hat was KDE and I’ve been a fan of KDE ever since. I also tried Red Hat 9 and that was brilliant except it shipped with a broken library or something and kept locking up so I switched to Ubuntu - until I discovered that they were hiding spyware in their systems and at the same time had introduced a puerile desktop. It also became unstable so that went.

I tried Debian and used it for nearly two years but the applications were out of date and caused me problems so I went back to the Red Hat stable - Fedora - the free offshoot and was pleasantly surprised but living in an ADSL Internet Black Hole (courtesy of British Telecoms) I found it difficult, if not impossible, to get Fedora 21 to upgrade. Servers do not tolerate extremely slow connections.

Now (2015) I have a small selection of old laptops (while they still work I keep them) and a 10 years old Dell 4700 PC. As some of my laptops are single-processor and nonPAE I thought that I was limited to the OSs that I could use on them. It took me until this year to discover that I didn’t need to put up with Operating Sytems which did nothing to speed up old computers. I also use an Asus EEPC - one of the old, slow ones with a 4GB primary SSDD and a 12GB secondary SSDD.

I tried many different Operating Systems but on small, old laptops they were always extremely slow and some of the applications were simply not up to scratch. That is, until I tried Mageia 4.


I had tried Mageia before (version 3, I think) but it didn’t quite work well. This year, I tried Mageia 4 after reading some glowing technical reports about it. I downloaded the full iso file (4.5GB taking 7 hours - see later about large downloads) and installed Mageia 4 on the Dell 4700 PC and I was very impressed. It is slightly different (much better) to other OSs but I soon got used to it and now find my way around it easily. The Mageia website is full of useful information on how to get things working as you want them. I have installed all the applications that I need: VLC media player for audio-to-text transcriptions and listening to music and videos; Audacity for sound editing; Audacious music player because I have always liked the XMMS GUI; Clementine for converting MP3s to OGG or FLAC; Scribus for Desk-Top Publishing; Calibre for my ebooks.

So after all my explorations of GNU-Linux I think I have found an OS which suits me perfectly. I am focusing on Mageia because it is sensible to get to know one really good operating system well. Most people who use it rate it highly - and so do I. It has everything that a user could want including a large repository of applications.

Mageia 5

This was released at the end of june 2015 so I tried it using the same overnight download method. Of course, I was somewhat apprehensive as some OSs have a habit of getting slightly worse. If anything, Mageia 5 is better even than 4. I was expecting a lot of problems upgrading from version 4 to version 5 so I tried it on both HDDs on the Dell with no problems whatsoever. I upgraded the lenovo and my partner’s small Acer netbook again with no problems. I used dd (data dump) to get the iso onto a Flash Storage Device (pen drive) and everything works perfectly. Feeling encouraged I installed Mageia 5 LXDE on the little Asus and that works perfectly and is fast again too. I was ‘gobsmacked’ (speech-less, astounded) as they say in Yorkshire.

I recommend Mageia 5 to anyone who wants a first-class, European (French) operating system - especially as the wiki, manuals and webpages are written in excellent, unambiguous language, leaving no doubt about how to do things properly - and this is quite rare today.
Are you enlightened yet? You will be. C'est formidable!

Downloading large files

Being in an area forgotten by BT (and politicians) AKA ‘The North of England’ I use FTP to get Mageia. The Belgian servers are fast and you could try the servers in Germany. The positive aspect of using FTP is that if the download stops for some reason (the server cutting the connection because the download speed is too low or BT’s frequent drop-outs, both long and short) then with a suitable FTP client the download can be restarted and it will carry on where it left off (in theory) unlike browser http downloads where you start again from the beginning (that’s a fact). I use GFTP which is simple to set up and use. FileZilla is said to be good as well but I haven’t tried that yet. I leave GFTP running from around 23:00 to early morning when most normal people in this part of the world are in bed.

Free PDF readers

Are you still using proprietary PDF readers from companies who like to be able to spy on you and your computers if they so wish? Why not try Open Standard, Free Software PDF readers for your computers. I have been using them for over 16 years with no problems and no deeply hidden spyware either.