Archive for the ‘ubuntu’ Category

Desktop Nirvana

November 26, 2007

I was a little disappointed to hear the lack of love for the Openbox window manager during the most recent LinuxLinkTechShow. I’ve been happily using Openbox on top of Ubuntu for a few months now. I like it so much that I’m using it in on the Gutsy VM I have running on my XP-pro box at work too. I like it’s tweakability, it’s speed and the simplicity of it.

There is simply no quicker way to get to an application on some other desktop than middle clicking the desktop which brings up a list of applications across all desktops. Like I said, simple and fast.

But even with this success, I’m far from what you might call an ‘experienced’ Openbox user. That’s why I was so thankful for this amazingly useful post by Urukrama. It covers Openbox on Ubuntu from installation right down to customizing options. So if you’re interested in trying out Openbox, make sure you check it out.

I found this post by way of K.Mandla’s excellent Linux blog. There’s tons of good Ubuntu and Linux related stuff to be found there.

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Ubuntu Upgrade – surprising!

November 18, 2007

I’ve never had complete satisfaction with a distribution upgrade although they seem to get substantially less painful for me with each iteration.

So in the midst of vacuuming the house this morning, I decided what the hell.. I’ll do the Gutsy upgrade. I logged out of Openbox and into my old standard Beryl/Metacity setup. I did a few package upgrades that were waiting and then hit the button at the top of the upgrade manager.

Two hours later I was done and rebooting with crossed fingers. It likely would have taken substantially less time but it stopped to ask me to confirm about 4 configuration file changes (I ok’d them all) and seeing as how I was vacuuming and not sitting in front of my computer watching the install, I likely added about 15 or 20 minutes of delay to the process.

The startup into Gutsy with my previous Metacity theming went fine. I turned on some high level desktop effects just to see if it picked up on my ancient Intel 810 video card. Yep. No problem, but more on that in a second. I then checked out internet connectivity and some other bits and bobs – they all worked fine.

For the final test, I logged out of that session and back into my Openbox setup. Everything seems to work A-ok. I’m duly impressed!

A note about compiz: As an engineer I am stupified as to how smoothly Compiz effects work on my bottom rung Intel 810 card. It’s got 32MB of *shared* ram and that’s it. And yet it all works beautifully. I’ve played with MS Vista and while some things look nice, the system requirements for Aero seem out of this world.

I’m by no means much of a Compiz fanboy – I love some of the effects and find some of them very useful – but the speed, simplicity and hackability of Openbox has really stolen my attention for the moment. But man, you have to give them credit for being able to do what they do when compared to other OS’s.

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Intel Onboard Graphics Performance Upgrade in 10 Seconds

July 21, 2007

I’ve had this desktop computer for two and a half years. I’ve been running Linux pretty steadily since October 2005.

Today, July 20, 2007, I figured out that I could enter the bios upon bootup and increase my onboard video card’s shared ram (default 8MB) to 32MB. This took a total of about 10 seconds.

Performance is now significantly improved everywhere on my system.

I, faithful reader, am an idiot.

So if you own a pc with an Intel onboard graphics chip (mine is an i915) and it uses shared ram, do yourself a favour and check if your bios will let you increase the default amount.

Now excuse me while I go tar and feather myself.

Ubuntu To Jump Shark – free admission

May 2, 2007

Given the impending news of Dell shipping systems preloaded with Ubuntu, I guess there is no doubt now that Ubuntu has jumped the shark. What’s next? Trying to get Linux slapped on the side of an IRL race car? At this rate, there will be people using Linux who’ve never even compiled a kernel before!

Oh the humanity!

Honestly, I don’t see the march towards free and open source salvation (or disaster depending on your point of view) stopping any time soon either. I’m not going to join the geeky hordes in calling this the ‘Year of the Linux Desktop’ – even though this year it seems somewhat more realistic than the last ten, but looking at the surroundings, it does give you pause for thought.

Some interesting things from my perspective:

1. Free and open source development is not slowing – people not getting directly paid for developing things hasn’t been a major stumbling block to this point.

2. The general public is getting more tech saavy. It doesn’t matter if they are switching to Macintosh. At least they are beginning to realize that there are completely viable non-Microsoft alternatives. While awareness is growing at what seems like a snail’s pace, it is growing – inexorably.

3. If Vista hasn’t been a failure, it sure hasn’t been the runaway success that it needed to be to maintain utter long term dominance.

4. Virtualization may make the choice obsolete. If I can run XP in VMWare, or XP in Parallels on a Mac, then the sacrifice of moving from one platform to another will vanish.

5. The pace is relentless. Who can move faster? Microsoft, Apple or FOSS developers? Doesn’t releasing an OS every 5 years leave you a little hog-tied when technologies rise and fall so quickly? Apple sounds like it is trying to make some big steps with Leopard. It has to. I haven’t heard of one thing in Vista that could be considered a big step ahead. Linux will undoubtedly scramble, catch up and likely surpass Apple’s best efforts within a year anyway. Such is the tenacity of riled up developers when the gauntlet is thrown.

6. Free and open-source software is empowering the people who make and do interesting things. Open vs. closed models is becoming the big debate more and more often. Witness Silverlight v. Adobe.

7. If you can succeed as wildly as Ubuntu has, with a default brown theme, you can do just about anything! 😉

So the shark-jumping is not the end. It’s hopefully only the beginning.

Increasing the Linux user base by 1

February 19, 2007

About two weeks ago, right around the launch of Vista, I had a few conversations with various colleagues here at work about Microsoft’s new product. This gave me the opportunity to let them know that I was running “something called Linux” at home. And while they might have heard the term “Linux” before, they sure looked puzzled when I mentioned that the specific system I ran at home was called Ubuntu.

Anyway, nothing much came of it, except that a couple of days later, a colleague of mine asked me about Ubuntu. He said that he’d checked it out online and wondered if it would run on a machine he had at home. It was a PC he had put together himself about 5 years ago.

While no computer expert, he is a very intelligent guy (a structural engineer like myself) and quite enthusiastic in terms of technology for someone probably 35 years my senior.

I asked him about the specs of the machine, and while he couldn’t recall much detail he did tell me a few things: he thought it was a P4, it was something like 1.5 GHz, it had a 40GB hard drive and was currently running Windows 98 – poorly.
He also said it wasn’t connected to the internet. He wanted to be able to do some basic office and digital photo work on it.

I told him I thought Ubuntu would *probably* work ok for him, and then explained what a live CD was and asked if he wanted me to burn one for him. He agreed and would give it a go.

I gave him the Ubuntu Edgy live CD. I got him to reboot his work machine just to show him the menu system and how to install it at home if he wanted to. I showed him that the CD would give him basic photo management, image manipulation, office productivity apps and other basic things.

Based on my experiences with creating a dual boot setup (and my assumption that he knew nothing about partitioning), I advised him to back up his existing windows 98 data and wipe out the old drive completely if he decided to install it.

He didn’t take my advice…

Arriving back at work on the Monday, he told me that he installed Edgy no problem and that it ran great on his system – miles better than Windows 98. To be honest, I was relieved. I asked him if he’d backed up the data or just scrapped it. He told me he’d done neither. I looked puzzled. He told me that when it asked him if he wanted to create a dual boot system, he agreed, confirmed the partition sizes, and it worked like a charm.

He was a bit puzzled by my visible relief. I have been bitten several times before getting dual booting to work on my system (a dual drive configuration with a Sata and IDE drive)

He came to me a day or two later and said it was running great, but asked if he needed to install something special to work with his digital camera (a Nikon D70). I told him to just plug it in and find out. The next day he said he couldn’t believe it just worked so simply and correctly.

He really didn’t think there was an alternative to Microsoft. A real happy camper.

I know that not all stories of this nature are so positive. And I’m no Linux zealot here at work (I can’t afford to be a tech support guy either). But it really isn’t that difficult to spread the word about Linux.

And when I say spreading the word, I don’t mean touting that it’s so much better, not shouting that it’s all about the freedom, I just mean making people aware of what Linux is. Making people aware that there are completely viable alternative systems to run on their computers.

Burn a linux ISO of a live CD. Keep it in your desk. You’ll never know when it might come in handy. 🙂


February 14, 2007

From the “Why hasn’t this been done before?” file…

If you’re a fan of the GIMP image editing program, you might want to check out Gimparoo! which, besides having an ultra-cool name, is a new blog dedicated to “Adapting Photoshop tutorials for The GIMP”. I found it via the Ubuntu Blog. He’s currently basking in his new found popularity so give him a visit and continue to make his day 🙂

It looks to be a very useful feed for those looking to expand their GIMP repertoire.