Posts Tagged ubuntu

Ubuntu One shutting down

I saw this coming, I was hopeful it wouldn’t but I knew it would just be a matter of time. How could Ubuntu compete with the likes of Google, Dropbox, Box, etc? There were a ton of other’s in the cloud sync space offering more for less. Granted Ubuntu One had tight integration with Ubuntu desktop tops, but so did Dropbox.

Ubuntu’s attempt at a music store faltered from the get-go as well. I was fully willing to pay a little extra to support them and use their streaming service. However, the service was near impossible to use and finding music was even harder. I purchased a couple songs to try it out and was thoroughly unimpressed. File sync was slow, and streaming music was accomplished via browser plugin that didn’t support playlists or organizing your music. If you wanted to organize your music you had to sync your collection to your local machine and organize it through Rhythmbox. You could tell it where to sync your music to so it all go dropped into a hidden folder in your home directory.

Give that I basically live my life out of Google these days I’ve been dying for a way to get GDrive on my desktop. Why, when Google seems so pro-linux would they hold off on a Linux client? it really makes no sense to me. So given that there is no official client I am all but certain I am going to drop the $15 to buy the insync plus client. I have 15 GB of storage and most of my stuff is there anyway. My entire music collection is there already and I can stream it via the Nuvola player. I can use Google’s music downloader/uploader to keep my music synchronized. If I run out of room for some ungodly reason I can just purchase a ton more for about $24 a year.

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Ok, so I tied insync and I am sold. Tried the 15 day demo and bought a license for insync plus an hour later. This is really good software. Get yours

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Ubu-apps and the like

I couldn’t think of anything to name this post. I just got done reading this thread started by Colon Watson of Canonical. It’s a little dry off-hand so there is a nice summary by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. Long story short, Ubuntu is most likely going to be changing the way apps are packaged, distributed and installed.

To the Linux die-hard, this is nothing short of sheer blasphemy. Spending all evening resolving dependencies on obsolete libraries or some odd cyclical dependency to get an app to install is part of the badge of honor all *nixies wear with elite pride. The thought that an application would be wholly self contained and the only real dependency would be on the base system.. is.. is… an awful lot like OSX does things. No really, have you ever cracked open one of those magical .app program/dirs on a Mac? They are a little self-contained ecosystem of libraries and directory structure that transcends standard application paradigms of Windows and Linux with the libraries being maintained by the OS.

I can see this being hugely popular and convenient for Ubuntu as they spread out from PC’s to phones and tablets. I wonder if Apple ever thought to patent their application structure, and since I am thinking about it, I wonder if that is even something patentable? I hope it isn’t, I dislike software patents enough, and I applaud Google’s efforts to shield the rest of the world from patent trolls. So I suppose we will see how Ubuntu’s efforts pan out. I for one really hope it works. Application installation has always been a pain in Linux. Granted, it seems to work well enough, but the first time something goes wrong you see just how flawed it really is.

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Ubuntu dumbed down, no, really??

I just read this article that is claiming that Ubuntu is starting to be dumbed down. http://www.linuxinsider.com/rsstory/77894.html So the new 13.04 release is getting ‘meh’ reviews since it locks the user out of much of the configurability of the operating system. Really?? They are just coming to this conclusion, Ubuntu has been in the wild for more than a couple years here and it’s managed to do something NONE of the other distros has, getting main stream (Read, Steam) gaming to come to the platform. Granted 13.04 does seem like a pretty minimal release, without many new features, but you are going to get that with a static release schedule. Sometimes stuff just isn’t ready to be released. Better to release a small update than a broken one.

For wide acceptance Linux HAS to be dumbed down a bit. There’s nothing worse than introducing someone to Linux (who is used to Windows) and I have to drop to the command line to get something configured properly. I’ve said this before, if you want Linux to be more than a geek toy you must remove the need for someone to use the command line to configure their system. If simply must configure your system and monkey with the guts..Debian hasn’t been discontinued, and you can really get into the guts there. Or better, yet Gentoo, or even better yet Linux From Scratch!!

Really, Ubuntu has done a ton for getting Linux into the mainstream. The mainstream desktop that is, RedHat still reigns supreme in the Linux server market and they contribute more code back into the baseline kernel than Ubuntu. This is despite the fact that I really dislike RHEL or CentOS for that matter, you can read my rant about CentOS here. This is just personal preference too, many other admins like RHEL (poor bastards)

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XFCE for an old laptop

On one of my previous posts I talk about how I was enjoying Gnome 3, and while it was a much better experience than previously, it still ran a bit slow on my aging Dell D810. I decided to try XFCE, it was always a bit too minimal for my likes. The XFCE team certainly hasn’t been idle since I tried it last…3 years ago. First off, it runs great on my laptop. The old embedded ATI X600 GPU isn’t supported by either Xorg or ATI so I hardware acceleration was out of the question. However, XFCE does do compositing but it’s so minimal that I didn’t notice any sort of performance degradation when I switched it on. So while I did enjoy Gnome Shell I had to uninstall it because I am really liking XFCE.

Orage, the default calendar application is a little odd, its mostly useful, but not terribly helpful overall. It’s almost like it was created as an afterthought, but then started to grow into something slightly more useful, but has never gotten the attention it really needed to become a full fledged effort. Almost like it was a series of minor efforts to add tiny pieces of slightly connected functionality. Anyway, there are some redeeming aspects to it, like it can import .ics files and display daily events and appointments from Google Calendar (Found this useful: http://mwallace.info/2009/08/read-google-calendars-from-orage/)

Battery management is more intelligent as well. If you upgrade to the beta 0.6 version of XFCE terminal it supports dropping down ala Guake terminal, which I find indispensible in everyday usage. One last thing to note, is the keyboard editor is great. It is minimal but makes it super easy to define define keyboard shortcuts for running what-ever you want. The main problem with this is that a lot of XFCE only programs don’t come with a default set of keybindings, you have to read the documentation to find out what you want it to do then go into the keyboard editor and define your keyboard shortcut to run it. Not a deal breaker, but a little odd the first time you encounter it.

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Gnome 3 and new shows

I’ve been pretty much absent for a while. This is in no small part to me being in the final year of my graduate degree. I am now counting down the day by saying what activity this year will be my last whilst enrolled in school (ie. last Christmas, last January 9th, etc.) We got a one of those shiny new iMac’s for Christmas for my wife. That left the old family laptop available to be re-purposed (read:liberated) to be my own personal playground. You know what that means, I started installing Linux on it.

I tried Mint, it didn’t live up to the hype, then I tried Debian, still too rough around the edges for my liking. Then finally I installed Ubuntu, again. While it’s a very polished distro, it ran like crap on my old laptop. I tried shutting down as many desktop effects as I could but it still lagged pretty bad. I liked XFCE but I decided to give Gnome 3 another shot, or Gnome shell or what ever people call it. I remember when I first tried it out when the 3.0 version came out I couldn’t figure out how to make it work, so I quietly uninstalled it and went on my merry way. Now, version 3.8 is out and let me say I am nothing short of impressed. It does present a paradigm shift in how you interact with your desktop, but it took me about 5 minutes to get used to it and now I am zipping around faster than I ever could on Windows/Unity/Gnome2/etc. Most impressive thing for me is that I can interact with the desktop without needing to use my mouse. That’s huge for me, the less I need to use the mouse the faster I go. Rooting through menu’s and sub-menu’s and sub-sub-menu’s takes time and is really annoying. I tend to interact with the same 5-10 programs in any given day so typing their name is faster than rooting through a hierarchical menu system.

It’s snappy too. My laptop is pushing 8 years old with only 2 GB ram and an aging processor, but the whole experience feels fast and I have never experienced desktop lag. Forget what everyone said when this DE first came out, the Gnome devs have been working to make this a quality product and its showing. I installed a few extensions and now I feel right at home.

Oh, and one a side note. The whole time I was messing with this, I was watching past episodes of the CW’s new show Arrow. I didn’t start watching it since most major networks have a tendency to really screw up super hero shows. After it got a ton of really good reviews from places that I would have expected to eviscerate it, I decided to give it a shot. Long story short, this series wrocks. Finally a gritty super hero series that isn’t Melrose Place with capes. I had to pay Amazon on-demand to watch the first couple of episodes (well worth it) but then I was able to pick up the last couple episodes on Hulu. Highly recommended if you want super hero action that doesn’t suck.

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Oneric right around the corner, vpn woes

So according to the countdown timer, we have about a day left until Oneric (Ubuntu 11.10) goes gold and there is a mad rush to download it and complain about Unity. The problem for me is that I have a feeling I will never get to enjoy the new release. At work they recently moved to a new two-factor authentication system where first a certificate is traded then you auth with the usual u/p creds. Great..

First problem, vpnc has been working fine for me, but won’t work with the new scheme. I recompiled vpnc to support ssl certs, but after running it I found it only supports a hybrid client-only cert mode. Not compatible with the new vpn.

Second problem, I can’t get a 64-bit version of the official Cisco vpn client. The Cisco client does support certificate exchange, but I can’t find a 64-bit version that works. I was using this site, but it hasn’t been updated in a while. Then once I get the ipsec module compiled and installed, when I try to connect to it with the vpnclient, it dies a nasty death that takes the whole networking subsystem with it. Only a reboot can get my networking running again.

So what are my options? I am going to request a MacBook, but they take the better part of a year to get. So that means I will have to boot into Windows to use any company resources that require a vpn to access. I can still run Linux when I am at the office, but I end up needing a vpn much, it might become a major pita if I have to keep switching back and forth.

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The Windows 95 paradox

Unknown to most (sarcasm), I am an avid Linux user. I know a great many other Linux users. As Linux users I feel we have a certain free spirit that comes with using our free OS. But I am finding a disturbing paradigm in regard to the response to the Gnome 3/Unity desktop environments that have surfaced recently. The number one rant I have read about online has been about how hard the new interfaces are to use. People want their program button with its flyout menus back.

Now I realize that many of the reviews were knee jerk reactions to the new interfaces. I had much the same reaction, when I upgraded to Natty. I couldn’t figure out how to use it, and I just wanted my familiar interface back. But wait, at some point inmy life, the familiar had to have been unfamiliar. When was that.. lets see, when was a little button in the bottom left corner of the screen for accessing programs and settings introduced… oh yes, Windows 95!! People want their Windows 95 like desktops back! For gods sake, that OS has been setting the desktop top standard for the past 16 years. This is almost the EXACT same reaction I get from people when I try to introduce LibreOffice to people that are used to MS Office.

Them: “This sucks, I can’t find anything.”
Me: “But what about the functionality, how does it compare to Office?”
Them: “Oh that, its fine, I just can’t find anything”
Me: “What options are you having trouble finding precisely?”
Them: “I have found everything I was looking for, it just sucks that I had to look for them.”

The problem isn’t the interface, you can teach old dogs new tricks. Its the fact that people don’t like new things. But wait, what about when MS changed the Office menu bar to the ribbon? Well, people were forced to use it, so they bitched, then got over it. And started to realize, maybe it isn’t so bad after all, they just needed to retrain their brains a little. You never know, you might find that your better with the new interface.

I for one love the Unity interface. There are quirks that annoy me, but what doesn’t have annoying quirks? Usage note with Unity; people love to complain about how hard it is to launch programs. If you have ever used Launchy, or Gnome Do, then this will be easy. Hit the super key, type in the first couple letters of the program you want, hit tab when it shows up, then hit enter, your done. I can launch a program in under a second, try that with a fly out menu and a mouse. Learn the keyboard short cuts, or stop complaining about using your mouse so much.

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PlayonLinux FTW!

This is just cool. I was messing around trying to get an old Windows game to work with Wine on Linux. I wasn’t making a lot of progress, I kept having to start the setup, crash, tweak something in Wineconfig, try setup again, crash, tweak something more. Finally the game installed, but then I had issues playing it. More tweaking Wine. Well, I think you can see where this is going.

Most of the information I was getting on tweaking Wine was from the winehq.com forum. For the most part the advice was good but there was a learning curve to figure out what the people were talking about when they say you need to use certain libraries, and override this or that and install this from winetricks. Anyway, the whole process was long, convoluted, and error prone. Then someone mentioned playonlinux. I had never heard of this, so being the naturally curious person I am I Google it and found their website. Hmm, it looks like simple wrapper script for Wine. WTH, I will give it a try and see if it simplifies my life at all.

I added the Ubu repo’s and installed it. So far so good. I found my game in the list and hit ‘install.’ Wow, the installer went without a hitch, that was easy. There is no way the game is just going to work, after-all, I couldn’t get it running under vanilla Wine. So I double clicked the icon it put on the desktop and..it crashed.. heh, of course.. Not being the most intelligent person on the planet, I thought I would just give it another try. Double click, and… it worked. I was on the main screen, well… there is no way the game is going to work. So I hit play..and..I..can’t..believe..it, it worked..and it worked really well. I bumped the resolution up to native res for my LCD, and…that worked too!

So there you go. PlayOnLinux.com. Check it out, it works for more than just games too.

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UbuntuOne now with more of the GB

UbuntuOne, the service that integrates seamlessly with your Ubuntu desktop to store your files online, now offers 5GB of storage with their free account. The question is, how long will it take the likes of Sugarsync and Dropbox to follow suit? I have been syncing with Dropbox at work and home for so long now, I probably won’t be in a huge hurry to move. But it will most likely happen, probably on my servers first.

One of the things that prevented me from using UbuntuOne was the fact that they didn’t offer the simplicity of Dropbox’s public download URL’s. I use this so much I can’t even count. No work if UbuntuOne has pushed this out, or is still working on it (most likely).

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Blogging with drivel

Well this is new. I was writing the previous post when i thought “I wonder if I can update my site without having to pop open a browser and go through the admin interface.” Well that was answered pretty quick with a search of the Ubu software center, it came up with Drivel. I have to say it appears to work alright. I originally tried BloGTK, but it was missing the python-gtkhtml2 lib, and I couldn’t figure out how to install it on Natty, so I never got a chance to try it out.

So far Drivel seems to do the basics well enough. posting, categories, tags, and basic syntax highlighting . Outside of that, you are on your own. No multiple categories, no tags assist, no sort of WYSIWYG editor for inserting images or the like. Looking at the website it seems that there is an ‘advanced journal editor’ but it doesn’t appear to be available in the version I am running (3.0.2). Oddly, I think the Unity interface is messing with it. Based on the screen shot here: http://drivel.sourceforge.net/drivel-4.png the buttons along the top ar at the bottom of the window, and I don’t have most of the advanced options.

This is fine for what I am going to be using it for though. Give it a shot..

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