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I've been thinking about giving some flavor of Linux a shot for quite some time now, and finally took the plunge. I bought a mini-PC for Home Theater use, and it came with Ubuntu pre-loaded. (A Zotac Zbox ID41 for the morbidly curious.)

I was hoping this would be an easy re-introduction to the *nix world for me. I used a Unix machine many moons ago (about 20 years or so, if I must confess), and taught myself a bit about using it. And since things were already installed, I figured I'd not have to get involved in any of the setup stuff. After all, wouldn't a company at least have their box ready to go so the user would have a good experience?

I guess the answer to that is "no". The initial setup was pretty easy. Just plug in, power on and pick a username and password. But the proverbial *nix stability just isn't there for me.

Perhaps I'm expecting the wrong kind of stability. I'll admit the machine hasn't crashed or done anything like that. But I'm constantly having to fiddle with it.

For example, I get it all set so it plays ripped DVDs with nice surround sound through an optical connection to my audio system. The next day, my son turns it on and has no sound at all. So that night, I fiddle and fiddle and fiddle, and finally get plain old stereo working. Figuring that's good enough to keep the kid happy, I turn it off and go to bed.

The next day, son turns it all on and has no sound. Again. So I fiddle a bunch and get it back. Guess what? Another phone call at work and no sound again. So I ditch the audio system and get a plain stereo cord to run the sound through the TV instead of the audio system. I figure that should cut out a boat load of problems.

So I drop that cable in, fiddle with the system until I get sound going to the TV and then - in a flash of insight - I jot down all of the settings I'm using. For the 3rd night in a row, I drop into bed at 1 am, having spent a couple of hours playing with - and cursing at - the TV and computer.

Today? Yep. No sound. When I get home tonight, I'll take one more look at it. At least the fiddling should be at a minimum, as I just need to check that all of the various settings are where I left them.

But that's what is annoying me. Why don't things stay where I left them? I'm not expecting an answer - as I don't yet really know if anything has changed. But at least this time I have a written record of what was working. If anything has changed, I'll know.

Sorry for the rambling - I really just needed to vent.

But I do have a question that might have an answer. Is there anything out there that would serve to "lock" everything on a Linux system? In the Windows world, there's a handy program called Deep Freeze that locks down an installation. You can make changes, but they're only temporary - a reboot puts them all back. Unfortunately, they don't have a *nix version, just Windows and Mac. I can't guarantee that my son isn't changing things. But if he were, I find it highly unlikely that he'd always be changing the audio system and only the audio system. A kid randomly playing with it would break something different each time, don't you think?

At any rate, so far I'm unimpressed. But I still want to learn and give this a try. I suspect its reasonably likely that the problem is with this user and not the software.

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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