Entries Tagged as 'Operating Systems'

Ubuntu 11.04 Quick Review

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So I finally got a chance to update my netbook to Ubuntu 11.04. And I have to say that so far, I’m very pleased with it. At least currently, I’m not running into any wireless issues like I did in 10.10. The overall look and feel has been very clean too, and it’s perfect for any sort of development type of environment.

Overall, I have to say that it’s amusing the application dock bar is almost a direct copy of the Mac OSX docking bar. It’s not completely the same but the similarities are definitely there. What can you say, don’t mess with a good thing when it’s proven to be a good design. I do love the full screen app mode where it takes over the entire screen itself too. The menu system will come up when you hit the alt key, so it’s actually very easy to work with and doesn’t change any of your current working styles, just makes the real estate to work in larger.

One change that I haven’t really tested too much are the differences between LibreOffice and Openoffice. LibreOffice has replaced OO, and it’s actually a fork of it where it’s trying to remove the dependencies of Java. Looks fairly clean, but like I said… haven’t had a change to play with it since I’m usually embedded deep in command line, vi, and terminals.

The only thing that I can see where linux is drastically missing something now, is probably a spectacular email client. There has to be something that can replace Outlook completely, but still have the ease of use and simplicity of Ubuntu. That’s really what has driven Ubuntu’s user experience in my opinion and driven linux use forward. Especially compared to the days when you had to compile X11 and all you had for window managers was something out of the Unix term environment.

If you have an older computer, I definitely recommend checking out Ubuntu 11.04. The speed of it really breaths new life into a computer that you thought couldn’t be worth anything anymore. And with basic browsing, printing, and your average document processing? Ubuntu 11.04 has come a long ways since I first touched linux.

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Tips and Tricks: Upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10 Wireless Fix

So I upgraded to Ubuntu 10.10 today on my HP Mini 210. What was interesting is that the fixes to the touchpad (like two finger scrolling) were wiped out and doesn’t work. Oh well. But initially, there was something else that annoyed the hell out of me.

The wireless didn’t work on the reboot. Everything boots up, and you find out that there is no wireless. Not that the driver doesn’t load, or anything, but your wireless is disabled.

If you go and look at /var/lib/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.state , you’ll find that the wireless was enabled = false.

So you figure, change it to true, reboot, and you’re golden, right?

Wrong.

You have to run this command as root: rfkill unblock all

This will actually get rid of any blocking on the wireless network. For whatever reason, in the update to Ubuntu 10.10, there is a rfkill block command that isn’t taken off after the upgrade. This is also a newer utility so you’d never actually realize it until you found that you couldn’t do anything to take that wireless block off. Now if only they’d fix those touchpad issues for Synaptic touchpads instead of toying with the driver for Apple’s Magic Trackpad.

Workarounds for Ubuntu 10.04 Migration

So far, I’ve upgraded several boxes to Ubuntu’s new 10.04 LTS version and I have to say that this is probably the first version that I’m sort of disappointed with the upgrade procedures.

It wasn’t tested very well. The entire grub-legacy to grub2 configuration is actually not as well tested considering that if you have a one drive system, then it works brilliantly. But who here has more than two harddrives in their system? Also, there were patches and such that I don’t understand from a perspective of kernel commits.

Let’s start with the netbook. I have a HP Mini 210 for work that I upgraded to 10.04 in a hotel room. It was actually fairly good upgrade since it was one drive, although I was hoping for the 10-15 second boot time that Canonical was supposedly working on which didn’t happen. I actually believe that the boot has slowed down a little bit but I haven’t bothered to benchmark it. I think that the worst of the netbook upgrade was the fact that the synaptics clickpad patch that was committed has about half the distance that the original patch to set up clickzones had. This makes right clicking very difficult since the area that is dedicated for the non-pad function is about the width of half of your pinky. Nothing you can do about this until they commit a new kernel patch unless you want to patch the clickpad yourself.

Upgrading a workstation is more painful, especially if you dual boot with Windows. The one thing you have to pay attention to is the grub install. You MUST install the bootloader on the first boot drive, which is usually the one with Windows. Not the one that it detects in the upgrade where your linux install is which is generally the secondary drive. If you don’t do this, then you’ll run into this issue and need to run the fix.

Another annoying part of it was that the install doesn’t really default to vga drivers when proprietary drivers fail. So when I had my GFX5200 fail out and display some messed up things where you couldn’t make heads or tails of it, you couldn’t boot directly into commandline (at least not off the top of my head in grub2). That required me to install a fresh install from CD to fix the issue since I couldn’t access the box if I couldn’t see what was on the screen. Very annoying.

It would be interesting if Canonical actually created a method to define which packages could be installed with the default configurations from the install CD.

Either way, this upgrade has not been the most smooth of the versions. I’m hoping to see that there are changes in this LTS version where it becomes a little bit more stable on upgrade migrations.

Tips and Tricks: Making Your Netbook Touchpad Work with Ubuntu

I recently loaded my work netbook with Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala. What’s interesting is that with the HP Mini 210, the touchpad is an integrated key/touchpad. Which means you can run into some really nastiness when it comes to trying to click or right click since the mouse will move to place where you’re “pressing” for the click.

Annoying.

Fortunately, someone had gone through the trouble of figuring out a patch for the touchpad so that the area where there’s supposed to be clicking buttons deactivates the sensors which makes it infinitely more useful. Just follow the directions there and patch the linux source and create yourself a new patched kernel module to run that actually makes the touchpad function as it should.

Brilliance of open source, eh? Now if only they figured out how to make multi-touch scrolling and such like the Mac… and believe me. Someone is probably already working on it.

Tips and Tricks: Auto-play Powerpoint Presentations in Email

Microsoft PowerPoint
Image via Wikipedia

Recently, a friend asked me how to automatically load a Powerpoint presentation when you open an email in Outlook. While I have never tried it with any other mail program, apparently in Microsoft Windows in Outlook, if you take your Powerpoint and save it as a pps file (Powerpoint Slideshow) and attach it in the email, then whenever the recipient opens the email, Powerpoint will magically load the file.

Well, okay. It’s not magic. But still. Also, another point of reference. If you do not embed the pictures, or audio files, or even some fonts, then the recipient’s system will not play them. Another reason why I tend to stay away from Powerpoint if at all possible.

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Couple Days with the Droid

OREM, UT -  NOVEMBER 5: A manager holds an App...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I have to say that with my first couple days with the Droid, I’ve noticed some things that no one else has really bothered to mention. First, if anyone think that this is a contender for the iPhone, I would say that Apple really has some competition. This is definitely the first phone that I’ve touched that overall has a better feel and the apps actually are close enough to really give Jobs some heartburn.

Likes
Very smooth. If you have it linked to your wifi at home, when the signal disappears, it actually switches off to 3G immediately. No fuss, no muss. The interface moves very well. It does lag sometimes if you don’t have the right apps to shut down the apps that you quit from (why you can’t quit from an app is another annoyance that Google has to fix).

I love the notifications. I mean, that’s one thing that iPhone doesn’t do well, and notifications here are out of the way and are there when you want to look at them.

Maps integration and voice dial? Awesome. The entire Car Mobile feature is sweet and I think Garmin itself might have a contender on its hands. I’ll have to test it out more to find out.

The multimedia station sync is great. Immediately, my phone also became my alarm clock. Will have to note to self not to chuck alarm clock across the room…. not that I do that anyways, but still.

Vibrate function is super powerful. Now this might be somewhat annoying and I sorta wish people would make it so that you could control the level of vibrate sometimes, but a powerful vibrate always helps when you’re in a loud place and your phone goes off. There’s nothing more annoying than waiting for a call and missing it because you didn’t feel the vibrate feature. Entirely useless then, isn’t it?

OpenGL support. Android is basically a flavor of linux (don’t believe me? kernel is 2.6.9….), so we shouldn’t be surprised here but that makes 3D gaming and animation completely possible and with the smaller resolutions, you can guarantee some interesting gaming coming your way.

I’m not fond of keyboards, but the hardware keyboard is actually a nice one and compared to my Nokia n810 Wimax, it feels pretty good. The on-screen one could use a little work when it’s trying to detect what you’re trying to type so it corrects it after learning what letters you hit off in portrait mode.

Android Market is awesome. It might be a little more simple compared to the iTunes store, but when people complain about how there’s just not enough apps? From one geek to another, I’m going to say that there’s plenty out there. Plenty. Sometimes I wish open source apps were this easy to find.

Forget the in-the-box browser. Get Dolphin. Know how iPhone users are all talking about how they can zoom and such? Dolphin can do that. Now if only Google put it in all of their apps like Google Maps and such.

Dislikes
I don’t like the fact that BT headsets don’t have voice dialing. This is a problem of Google’s Android OS, and not the phone itself. Very annoying considering it’s a phone built by Motorola, and every past Motorola phone actually had BT voice dialing. This should have been brought up during testing by product development on Motorola’s side since it’s a feature they’ve had since… well, forever.

Don’t like the fact that you can’t quit from an app. Some apps might need to be persistent but out of the box, there are many that don’t have to run in the background. Very annoying out of the box. Fortunately, I went and grabbed Task Manager, and life is good again.

I also don’t like the fact that you can’t group contacts together from different sources. While an auto-merge might be a little crazy, the fact that you can sync your Facebook contact information with your Google accounts means that you’ll get a lot of duplication. Merging the two in a pseudo-group format would make life a lot easier and provide profile shots for those that you didn’t have profile pictures. Personally, I think the Android is missing out here but then again, somehow I doubt the iPhone can do it too (can anyone tell me one way or another? ).

Camera auto-focus. What? Seriously, the time it takes to auto-focus for certain apps, I’d rather do a manual focus feature. Oh wait, you can’t. But seriously now, this sounds like a fix that can be done via firmware.

In portrait mode, the on-screen keyboard is pretty blech. If you have big hands, it’s hard to type with it on there. Fortunately for landscape mode, eh?

Synopsis
It’s really a blanket bomb of my thoughts, but I really don’t see any reasoning why you can’t send text messages and surf and such while on a call like the iPhone commercial. Having worked in the telecommunications industry for over a decade on the infrastructure side, there’s not really any reason that it couldn’t happen unless the phone itself occupies resources that otherwise can’t be used for a call when on data, or vice versa. Of course, if people wanted to do it, it could still be done by using the same techniques as PTT on CDMA. Think about it.

I still haven’t seen any driving or flying games that require the accelerometer for turning that I’ve seen on the iPhone. But based on the sensitivity of Google Sky, I would say that the Droid can totally pick up the same type of gaming.

Battery life seems a bit lacking, but nothing out of the ordinary with a smartphone. Most of your battery goes to the radio and the LCD in a smartphone anyways. Some power-save features might be nice.

If you get down to the Verizon over AT&T for service? I’d agree completely on voice and data. There’s just no question when you compare the two networks. Part of the reason why I haven’t bothered with an iPhone.

With Google’s coffers, I think the Droid and Android phones in general have a really good shot at taking on the number one smartphone maker. There are a few things that I would start pushing and remind Google that when you’re gunning for the number one spot in mobile devices, your product can’t be in beta. Some of the dislikes that I mentioned above are staples of the mobile industry and need to be patched for all current and future phones. If you just let it be, people won’t want to use your product. Just as RF is finicky, domestic mobile users are finicky. And you just can’t rely on that type of situation when so many vendors are looking to your OS to end the slaughtering.

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Tips and Tricks: Ninite Makes Installing Easy

ninite

As a system administrator, have you ever gone through the annoyance of having to fresh install every single application and have hell trying to download each and every latest versioning? With Ninite, you won’t have to do that anymore.

Free for personal use, this creates a special installer that grabs all of the latest and greatest versions of the applications that you check on their website, and it’ll create a special installer for those. Basically allowing you the freedom of one-stop-shopping for the applications. While this isn’t perfect since there are always things out there that you need that might be special case, this does provide a solution as an in-between to those that install everything from scratch, and those that just start fresh from a cloned image.

This works on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and installs all of the applications on default configurations without toolbars and other extraneous things. Definitely worthwhile to take a look at for your one click install needs.

Tips & Tricks: Adobe Air installation for Linux

air_icon_special If you’re going to install Adobe Air on linux, you have to really do 4 things to get it done. I performed this on Ubuntu 9.04, but these commands are basic for any distribution as long as you have wget and sudo. If you don’t have them, then you’ll have to add them first or get the binary via your browser and install it through your root user:

  1. Open a Terminal
  2. wget http://airdownload.adobe.com/air/lin/download/1.5/AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  3. chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  4. sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

That should actually get Adobe Air installed on any sort of linux distribution as long as you have wget and sudo installed. I haven’t really looked at the memory issue on the linux side, but Adobe Air does have some memory leaking issues on Windows and MacOSX so I assume that it’s not too different here. Regardless, there are a lot of social networking tools that are now using Adobe Air as their platform and it’s useful to know how to get it up in your favorite linux distribution.

Tips and Tricks: Dedicated Server Wipe Commands

Most of the time when you have a dedicated server, you could be colocation or you could have a managed server. Unfortunately, if you own the equipment or buy used equipment, there could a chance that there is proprietary data that could do damage to your company if you left it on there without properly disposing of it. One of the easiest ways to wipe a drive remotely on a *nix based system though is with the command shred.

If you have a console or terminal connection, then you can issue:

shred -f -z -v -u /dev/sda

This will basically wipe a drive instead of doing your normal deletions where the data could possibly be recovered. The shred command is covered more in depth but in essence it overwrites the deleted sectors with other data which essentially destroys the deleted sectors. Probably a good idea for any system administrator that is maintaining servers remotely with no way to access them the drives themselves physically.

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Bandwidth Monitoring If Time Warner Succeeds

Picture of my backlit G15 LCD Panal, taken at ...

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With the recent news from Time Warner Cable, Greensboro residents are up in arms about being a test site for tiered Internet services. Believe me when I say there’s a movement out there.
Don’t believe me? Take a look. Stop Time Warner Cable is already up garnering in over 1000+ diggs at the time of writing. It seems that the unfair practice has actually been sent in as complaints to the NY Attorney General as harboring anti-competitive means.
But just in case none of the complaints by these irate customers work and you’re one of the few people that just like to be bludgeoned by corporations that don’t care what you have to say? I recommend you implement this in your daily lives immediately.
I personally wouldn’t trust a corporation that tags you with a 40G high limit. Sorry, TWC, but you ruined any hope that you had any inkling of technical knowledge there by implementing something that some finance person probably put into place. And so if they tell you how much bandwidth you’re using, I would corroborate the story with something that runs on your system itself.
PCs:
I recommend using some open source bandwidth monitoring like FreeMeter. This basically sits in your tray and you can monitor how much you use up and down and have something to show for it in case you have to go complain to customer service that their network is tracking something outside of what you use.
Macs:
SurplusMeter is another open source goody that allows you to track your monthly usage by volume and can give you all sorts of useful statistics.
Linux:
Do I really have to go over this, if you run a linux box? There are plenty of bandwidth monitors out there and most of them sit on the desktop along with monitoring your cpu/memory/etc.
In any case, good luck with this if you need to track it. Even with the three month grace period, you know that there will always be some issues that will stem from this tiered internet fiasco that grew from some bean counter’s mind (probably doesn’t use the Internet either to implement the 40G limit).

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