Working on a Virtual Machine

The time is fast approaching when I shall need to upgrade my venerable MacBook Pro. It’s done very well but is beginning to show its age. Partially as a result of this I’ve been thinking a lot recently about ways to be independent of specific machines for my work. I looked at renting a virtual cloud desktop but, while it’s possible, it’s quite expensive.

An alternative was to set up a virtual machine, install and configure all the software I need for work and then keep a copy on a portable drive so that I can use a computer in the office or, in dire need, borrow one from a friend, and have everything I need to be productive readily available.

It turned out to be incredibly easy to set that up, and I now have a nice Ubuntu VM entirely dedicated to work, with all the software I need installed and configured. At the start of the working day I fire it up, connect to the office VPN and off I go. When I’m done I can shut it down and my laptop is all mine. I wish I’d done this years ago.

Firefox 3 Font Rendering

I’ve been playing with the latest pre-release version of Firefox 3 and overall it’s excellent. It’s fast, much more memory-efficient and has some nice new features. There is, however, one major problem. The font rendering is quite simply atrocious. It’s eye-wateringly ugly and nothing I’ve tried so far has improved it to the point where it’s usable.

I should mention here that I’m talking only about the Linux version – from what I’ve seen online, the Windows and Mac versions are fine. I’ve also seen screenshots of it on Linux that look fine, so clearly the problem depends on your precise set up. For the record, I’m using KDE 3.5.7 on OpenSUSE 10.3. I’ve tried Gnome and found that it makes no difference, and I don’t think I would switch to Gnome just so that my browser looked prettier anyway. I love KDE way too much.

I’m sure there’s a solution out there that will work for me. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that when OpenSUSE’s official version of the final release comes out it’ll work beautifully and I’ll be a happy man. It’d be kinda nice to be reassured that all will be well before then, though.

Update: I finally managed to get it sorted, after much messing around. I’m now ready for the launch on Tuesday.