Q&A with Mango Parfait
Mango Parfait introduces herself and answers her own questions with astounding facility, and invites you to ask her your own questions. Don't be shy. There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. [This article initially appeared in TUX, issue 2.]by Mango Parfait
Hi. My name is Mango Parfait, or Mango-Pafe in my native language. The publisher of TUX wisely hired me to answer any questions you have about Linux. Ask anything about using Linux, installing Linux, how to fix things when they don't work in Linux and anything else. In fact, feel free to ask me anything at all—except my age. That's not polite.
I will try to answer as many questions as possible, but I humbly apologize in advance that I cannot answer questions by e-mail and that some questions may not make it into this column. I'm a busy girl, and there is only so much room in this magazine.
Here are my qualifications. I started using Linux before Linus Torvalds even thought of it, so I know more than most of the dweeb boys I meet who gush all over me when they find out I use Linux. Eewww, guys, buy some Benzyl Peroxide and learn how to talk to a girl without using the word siskittle (how they pronounce the term sysctl) in every other sentence to try to impress me.
Speaking of being a girl, let me warn you. If you don't think I can answer your questions because I'm a girl, you better not say that to my face. I'm a master of Jew Jitsu (a style of martial arts I picked up during my many visits to Israel, New York and Florida), and I won't hesitate to teach you a lesson in black and blue. And, I don't mean that I'll draw your picture with the graphics program called Gimp. Truly, Gimp will take on a whole new meaning whem I'm through with you.
If you do ask something I don't know, which is really not likely, it's only because I forgot. In that case, I have lots of friends to call who can help me. One of them is ex-boyfriend, Otaku, who builds and pilots huge fighting robots. I think he calls them Powerful and Humungous Aggressive Robot Thingies or something like that. Anyway, these PHARTs are powered by supercomputing Linux clusters. He not only wrote the programs to control the huge fighting robot, he programmed an artificial intelligence system that helps him pilot, helps him fix the robot after battles, gives him fashion advice and can answer questions about Linux that even he doesn't know.
This being the first Q&A with Mango Parfait, I have no reader questions to answer yet. But, I still can answer questions in this issue. Some of them are questions I hear all the time, and some I will just make up.
Q: I am a Windows user and I don't know anything about Linux. What is the easiest way for me to try it?—Saku Shamishou
A: There are some versions of Linux that you don't have to install in order to use them. They run right from the CD. Linux runs slower than usual if you run it from CD, but it is the easiest way to find out if Linux is for you. You can install most of these run-from-CD versions of Linux on your computer if you decide you like it. Then it will run much faster and you will have a lot more you can do.
My favorite run-from-CD versions of Linux are MEPIS and Knoppix. You can find out more about MEPIS by visiting http://www.mepis.com. You can order a MEPIS CD from http://store.mepis.com/home.php for only $9.95 US. You can get MEPIS for free if you download a CD image file and burn your own MEPIS CD. If you are a beginner user, you may not know how to do that, so just send in your $9.95. It is easier and you get a much prettier CD than one you make yourself.
You can find out more about Knoppix at http://www.knoppix.org. The Web page comes up in German. Saku Shamishou doesn't sound like a German name (I know, because I made it up). So when you get to the Knoppix home page, click on the flag that represents a language you understand, like English. I like to pick flags with languages I don't understand. I like Polish, because it has all kinds of funny looking letters and words without any vowels except maybe y, which can save you a lot of money if you play Wheel of Fortune on Polish TV. Russian looks even better, and all those backward letters in Russian makes me wonder if the language was created by a four-year-old. The Japanese site should be the best, but it isn't written in Japanese. It does have two fun Java applets, though.
Scroll down to the bottom of the Knoppix home page. You will find a link where you can download Knoppix and make your own CD, and a link that takes you to a page with lots of stores where you can order a Knoppix CD and do a lot of other fun shopping while you're there. Knoppix is cheap. One store sells it for $3.95 US.
Naturally, you need to know how to start up your computer with the CD instead of the hard drive. That's a good question, and some real person out there should ask it.
By the way, if any of this sounds interesting, make sure you read the column by the publisher Phil Hughes, “Can Anyone Use Linux”?
Q: Which Linux distribution do you use?—Pittsa Feisu
A: I use many distributions. My favorite is Gentoo. Gentoo is not for beginners or for people who want their desktop to be fast and responsive. It is for people who like to watch their computer compile software for hours and hours and hours, which is what slows down the desktop. (The desktop is fast if you don't compile programs when you use it.) I download the latest unstable Gentoo updates every day and watch my computer compile programs all night when I have insomnia. You risk making Gentoo unstable when you update all the time. The most thorough way to cure the problem is to recompile the entire system from scratch. It takes days for Gentoo to compile everything. I like to watch all the compiler messages scroll off the screen day after day. It is hypnotizing.
Q: Which desktop do you recommend, KDE or GNOME?—Nakaguri Shitsugi
A: Definitely KDE. It is much prettier than GNOME. You can change anything about the way KDE looks, including the colors for every detail. I created a color theme for every outfit I own so that I am always color-coordinated with my desktop. GNOME doesn't let me do that, so I don't use GNOME unless I must.
Q: When I open folders within folders in GNOME, it leaves the parent folders open and my screen gets cluttered with lots of open folders. How can I prevent that?—Hakuchi Purogurama
A: There are at least three ways to deal with this problem. You can edit the GNOME registry to change the way folders work. You can right-click on a folder and choose Browse Folder from the menu, which opens a folder window that is easier to navigate.
The third would be my favorite method. If you hold down the Shift key when you open a new folder, GNOME closes the old folder when it opens the new one. I said it would be my favorite method, not that it is my favorite method. I am happy to be delicate and feminine and want to remain so. I do not like to strain my finger by double-clicking everything. So I configure GNOME to let me open folders with a single mouse click like KDE. The Shift key trick doesn't work when GNOME opens folders with a single mouse click.
Q: I changed the clock on my KDE panel to a 12-hour format with AM/PM, but it doesn't work. It is still a 24-hour clock.—Carlotta Tendant
A: It works. You won't see the change until the KDE panel restarts. The next time you log in, you should see the new time format.
Q: Okay, now I see it is in 12-hour format, but it doesn't show AM or PM.—Carlotta
A. You won't see AM/PM if your clock type is anything but a Plain clock. Digital, Analog and Fuzzy themes do not display AM/PM. Here's a trick to get around the problem and still use something other than the Plain clock. Your clock reads 1:00. Look outside. Is it light outside? If so, then it is either 1:00 PM, or you live somewhere very far to the north and it's summertime and you should really move to a place with a warmer climate where you get to wear shorter skirts.
Q. Are you sensitive about anything else besides being patronized because you're a girl?—Macho Mann
A. Yes. I do not like the increasing invasion of our privacy. Did you ever notice how those maps in malls and other buildings mark a place that says “You are here”? How could they know that without secret hidden cameras?
Mango Parfait is a Linux expert, and a cute one too; just ask her. If you want to ask her something she can answer for Q&A with Mango Parfait, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.