Back to Ubuntu

Well, not completely back, as I’m also running my Windows desktop and my Macbook Air. But yes, I’ve got an Ubuntu laptop now!

rick_h_ in #ubuntu-us-mi put his Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition up for sale (2014 model, so only like 9 months old) and I bought it.

It has a high definition touch screen, a 128 gb SSD, 8 gb of RAM, and runs Ubuntu 14.10 like a champ. I’ve finally got it all set up with most of the software I need (Chrome, Trillian, Geary, Corebird, Hexchat, and Dropbox) and I’m really really liking it.

Physically, this computer is great. The keyboard is very solid and the touchpad has a very satisfying click to it. Not as satisfying as the Macbook touchpad, but Apple really has perfected the touchpad and I’m not sure there are better ones anywhere. The screen is VERY nice and has a very good pixels-per-inch. This is a high-def screen, and the quality really shows. I don’t use the touch aspect of it much but it’s handy if you’re browsing a site and want to scroll down.

There’s a soft-touch material around the keyboard and where you rest your palms. Surprisingly, it picks up oils and dust and stuff, which I’m not happy about, but it is very comfortable to rest my palms on. The lid is aluminum. The hinge has absolutely NO wiggle when you raise the screen up and set it to position. I’m super pleased with the quality and fit and finish of this laptop. Dell really has done a nice job with this machine and is making a name for themselves for more quality goods instead of being a budget supplier. Granted, they still have budget options, but this is a great machine and a consumer shouldn’t make their decision based on a super cheap model.

There are some niggles, just like any linux laptop, but the main one came when I got it: the BIOS did this strange thing wherein it said “No operating system found”. After you got that, just hit “enter” and it boots normally. Well I figured it out. You have to start up the laptop and mash F12 to get to the BIOS menu, then make sure secure boot is on and the UEFI is set to run Ubuntu. If you need to reinstall, go back into the BIOS and set the Legacy boot mode on and set the USB to boot first. After you install and everything is working, then turn the Legacy boot back off and pick Ubuntu.

Another couple of niggles would possibly be the fact that there’s no native Evernote or Wunderlist support. To get around this, I’m using the chrome apps. They’re super easy to create (install the app in chrome, then open it in a new window, and then pin it to the Unity bar). They’re accessible. I’m not sure if I will have access to them without internet, but it’s not a major inconvenience if I don’t. Evernote kind of is, but I can type up a note in a text document and then paste it into Evernote when I get back to a place that has “the cloud”.

What I love the most about Ubuntu is how easy it is, especially now with all of the improvements that keep coming.

I’m not sure about Wayland, but I doubt it will make a huge difference to an end user. If there are issues, I will surely report bugs.

Speaking of bugs, I want to get back involved with the bugsquad! I’ve been lax in helping them recently (work, Nile, having a relationship, then not, and regular self-care) but hope to get back into it. I need to setup my SSH keys and upload them to Launchpad.

Anyway, how about a screenshot?

Screenshot from 2015-03-29 22:12:44

I’m using the Libra GTK3 theme as well as the numix-circle icons. They are awesome. I like customizing my setup a little bit, and linux allows me to do that. Unity isn’t as customizable as say… KDE, but it’s got a very simple and clean layout to start with, and that’s what I really like about it. I do a few things immediately, like resize the launcher, remove all of the Libreoffice icons from the launcher, add the workspaces button, add a terminal button, and then start installing the apps I need. And then I’m up and running very quickly with a full setup.

I’m just really liking this machine. Worth what I paid and I’m liking getting back into ubuntu again.

Android Phone Dump: March 2015

Last year, I got sick of my LG not updating due to lack of space on the onboard memory (really, an android phone should have a MINIMUM of 8 GB onboard; this had a paltry 4 GB and I was running out of space daily) so I broke down and bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII.

It’s a good phone.  Not the highest of the high class, but a robust phone that’s running Android KitKat (and might get Lollipop; we will see) that has 16 GB of onboard space and has sweet 4g connections due to the upgrades at work.  Ahem.

Anyway, I’m rocking the Google Launcher (fuck Touchwhiz) and I’ve got the “OK Google” down for directions and for internet searches.  I love it.  I love “OK Google,” I love the quick right swipe to get to my Google Now cards, I love the simplicity of the whole thing.

Also the phone is a decent size, compared to what else is out there.  No, I do not want a LARGER phone.  This is about as big as I’d like it… the huge size and the super high price tag (seriously, $600) was the reason I did not go for the Samsung S5 when I was in Best Buy and picked this one up.  Bigger isn’t always better; I want my phone to fit in my pockets.  I’m a chick, so pockets are small and in short supply in my pants.

But anyway.  Performance of this thing is awesome.  You can read and watch all the reviews online; I’m not going to rehash it here.  Suffice it to say, I’ve had no problems with it (unless I push it while it’s in a case… the battery gets hot and the phone will restart if it gets too hot.  I let it cool and all is good).

Now for a quick explanation showing how I’ve setup the home screens:

2015-03-04 01.22.36 Here is the main screen.  I’m using the Dashclock widget on my homescreen because I lock my phone with a pattern, so it won’t work there.  But anyway, I’ve got weather, my Wunderlist tasks, a battery info widget, and bluetooth information active right now.  If I’m playing a song or podcast, it shows that as well as upcoming calendar appointments, missed calls, and any hangouts messages.  You can really configure this widget to work for you and you don’t need a million widgets cluttering up your screen serving you information.  This is all contained and I can resize it to suit my whims if I want it smaller.

In the dock area I’ve got my dialer, hangouts, the home button to get me to my app launcher thing, Blue Mail which is now Type Mail (I’ve no clue why they’ve changed the name, but it’s an awesome email app), and Firefox.  I’ll have another post detailing why I’ve switched from Chrome/Chromium to Firefox, but suffice it to say, I was having issues with Chrome and Firefox is working well.

Screen number two:

2015-03-04 01.22.43

Starting at the top, I have a flashlight widget (very handy) and my Noom Walking widget (this is not accurate as I walked a bunch without my phone today).  Next row is Google’s Camera app, Instagram, Roku, and a bunch of games in a folder.  The last row is a folder with my social apps (Untappd, AndroIRC, Swarm, Google+, Fenix, Facebook, Tumblr, Facebook Messenger), my “wallet” folder (Authy, Google Wallet, Chase, Evernote and Meijer), my “Music” folder (Play Music, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Pandora, SomaFM), and then finally my “Web” folder (BaconReader [Reddit app], Flipboard, gReader Pro, Pocket).

I will also be resurrecting my “Android App Series” and making an entry for Pocket Casts, but it’s probably the best podcasting app I’ve used on Android, IOS, AND browser.  Yes, they all cost, but I’m hoping that by paying I won’t lose the syncing that is crucial for my podcast listening.

I do not remember where I got the background from, but it was probably NASA or something like that.

Anyway, my phone (pocket computer?) is simple, quick, and multifunctional!  It also makes and takes phone calls, so there’s that too.

Let’s Talk About Pocket

Pocket, the web bookmarking service, is an invaluable tool for me (and many others) to hold temporary bookmarks. I’m using ifttt to copy my “starred” articles to pinboard, which is my favored bookmarking service.

I really like pocket. I had an account when it was “Read it Later” and I never really got into it. I don’t think I really got it because I wanted something that would sync between my different browsers. It didn’t work that way so quit using it in favor of Instapaper.

I love this service. It is awesome to read things on my phone and ipad because it strips out extraneous formatting and makes it much easier to read. Also, it’s perfect for temporary bookmarks. If I’m reading something in my RSS reader and I want to save it for later I can just send it to my Pocket account. Then the articles sit there waiting for me to have 5 or 10 minutes to read something.

This service is something that is totally worth trying out.  They have apps for your android device, Mac, ipad/iphone, and Chrome.

What’s on my Tablet, September Edition

I haven’t done a lot of writing about my iPad recently, and I’ve especially not done a roundup of my favorite and most used apps.

Here we go!

First, a screenshot:

I have an Adventure Time wallpaper that I found online.  I’m wondering if I should try something like Launch Center Pro.  But I digress.

Along the bottom you’ll see BoxerPocket, iBooks, Reeder 2, and Hangouts.  They are probably my most used apps, with the exception of Chrome.

Along the top I have the calendar app, Yahoo Weather (an awesome weather app that allows for multiple locations, my “Web” folder, which contains the following:

  • BaconReader (Reddit app)
  • Google+
  • Twitterific
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • GoodReads
  • Wikipedia
  • Google Search
  • Mail
  • Facetime
  • Messages
  • Safari
  • Xkit

I am thinking of moving BaconReader (which I will do full review of soon) out of my web fodler and into the bottom “dock” but I’m not sure.  It’s an awesome Reddit reader; I use it on my android phone too.  Most of those apps are standard things that most tablets will have.  I don’t use the last five apps as much.  Xkit isn’t robust enough on the iPad for regular use for Tumblr, but once it gets updated it will be.

My “Games” folder is next to my “Web” folder.  I’m not going to go through the games that I have, but suffice it to say that I have a few and I love each of them, from Candy Crush to Smule.

The next row is my “Entertainment” folder and I have the following in it:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu+
  • TuneIn
  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • 8Tracks
  • Play Music
  • Roku
  • MetroTimes
  • WatchESPN
  • PBS
  • TitanTV (TV grid for OTA/Cable listings)
  • Youtube
  • Videos
  • Music
  • Podcasts

I don’t use the standard Apple Videos, Music, or Podcasts apps, but all the others I get a decent amount of use from.  They are mostly self-explanatory.  MetroTimes is a local alt newspaper in the Metro Detroit area that has local events and some cool writeups about local interests (DEMF and Movement come to mind).

The next folder houses the following under “Utiliities”:

  • M. Cycles
  • Google Maps
  • Chase
  • OverDrive
  • iTunes Store
  • Camera
  • Photos
  • Swiftkey (awesome keyboard app that I use here plus on my android phone)
  • Other iPad apps that I don’t use: Contacts, Notes, Photo Booth, Clock, Maps, Reminders, Newsstand, Tips.

Next is “Productivity”:

  • Evernote
  • Evernote Food
  • Penultimate
  • Skitch
  • UFYH
  • Dropbox

I love the Evernote suite of apps (Evernote, Food, Penultimate, Skitch).  They’re awesome for the iPad, phone, or an Android tablet.  UFYH I bought to support the blog that I use daily and for motivation for keeping my habitat picked up. Dropbox is indespensible for anyone who has more than one internet connected device.

Lastly, I have a guitar tuner (that I use for my ukulele!); Groove Bank, which is a drum machine that can keep me on beat for my uke playing; and Chrome.  I don’t use safari because I need bookmark and tab syncing between devices.

The second page just holds my Settings and App Store icons.

A tablet is a really personal setup.  I have what I need where I need it.  I like to keep things in folders to keep the front page sort of clear so I can see the awesome background I have.

 

New Phone Home screens

I got a Samsung Galaxy SIII recently and I’ve set up the Google Now launcher with three homescreens: Google Now, the main with Dashclock, and another with my most used apps.

I’m not going to show google now, because most should know what that looks like.  Anyway, here’s my main screen:

2014-09-07 22.21.53

I’m using the weather, battery, and g-reader pro widgets on there.  I also have the hangouts and facebook ones enabled, but since I don’t have any messages, they’re not visible.

Now for my second screen:

2014-09-07 22.21.58

I’ve got my apps in folders and my quick-access apps in the second row.  That walking man in the corner is Noom Walk and it shows the number of steps I’ve taken today.  I didn’t have my phone with me for most of the day, so it didn’t really measure very many steps.

And now, the lock screen:

2014-09-07 22.22.57

Simple.

I really like this phone.  It’s a hair big, but it has more internal space than my last one.  Also, it’s running Android Kitkat 4.4.2.  This was Samsung’s flagship two years ago, and it’s still got plenty of power to do what I need it to do.

Records and Music

I got a record player for my birthday. It’s not a huge system, just something to listen to records on and transfer them to my computer if I want to. A Crosley.

crosley_player_turntable_with_usb_connection_record_vinyl_to_digital_cr6017b___ma_6_lgw

It’s not perfect and it’s not huge and it has mixed reviews, but it allows me to wander the aisles at the 2nd and Charles near my apartment and not be limited to what media I can pick up and listen to (CDs and records instead of just CDs).

I found Carole King’s Tapestry, Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E, and The Monkees self-titled album. These are three albums that I’ve always wanted but could never find in CD form.

I got them home last week Wednesday and the first one I put on was Tapestry. Now, I love Carole King and James Taylor, but I’ve not heard a ton of her own work; I’ve mostly heard it through James’ voice or her King-Goffin hits sung by others. I sat on the floor and listened to the whole thing through, and then since I was interrupted, I played the second side a second time.

Wow. Just a great album. The sound would be better with a better speaker, but hey, I live in an apartment, so I don’t need powerful speakers. The small one on the player gets the sound across. Anyway, if I want it louder, I can hook up a pair of headphones to the jack on the front.

That night, I also listened to L-O-V-E. I love Nat King Cole’s work and this is one of his most famous records, so I knew I needed to listen to it. And listen I did! The arrangement is a bit faster than I remember from what I’ve heard before, but I like it. It sounds beautiful.

I listened to The Monkees self-titled the following night and it was super fun.

The other thing I love about records are the covers. They’re huge and they’re art!

I like this format and will be listening to it for a long time coming, I think.

 

Retina iPad Mini Review

I said I didn’t want an iPad.

Well, I caved and bought one a few months ago.  I’ve been using it for a couple months now and I absolutely love it.  I loved my Nexus 7 (it has a happy home at my friend’s place now) but I had a couple issues with it, namely lack of decent accessories (I know, that’s a stupid excuse) and the nagging feeling that Google will discontinue support now that they are encouraging OEMs to make Google Play editions of devices.

I wanted an update to my tablet (been almost two years) and I felt like the best option for me at the time was the iPad Mini Retina 32 GB.  I got the “smoke grey” version and a blue iPad smart case because I wanted to protect the thing (it was expensive!).  And just today I picked up a Logitech “hinge” case that allows for more options when propping the tablet up for watching films and whatnot.  It actually kind of looks like I covered my iPad with a carpet, but you’ll see that in the pictures.

Speaking of… pictures:

2014-06-16 18.27.11Everyone’s seen an iPad mini by now, but here’s my setup start screen.  You can see the relatively small bezels on the sides.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really don’t mind them at all.

2014-06-16 18.27.23

2014-06-16 18.28.31
These next two are the cases.  I got the smart case at first and I love it, but I don’t see a lot of protection save for scratches and very short drops (like from the couch to the carpeted floor).  I went to Best Buy tonight and found the second case.  It’s a Logitech “hinge” case that is highly adjustable and has more options for propping the tablet up than the smart case.  The smart case is significantly lighter than the Logitech case, but I think the advantage in extra protection is worth it.

Anyway, this little machine went with me to Supreme Session in Omaha and was my main device to take notes and check email on.  I accomplished this with Evernote (I sprung for Premium; totally worth it when I didn’t have any online connectivity).  I love Evernote and I’m using it much more, but that’s another post for another time.  Anyway, I also picked up a stylus but I’ve not used it as much as I thought I would.  I was going to try to use Penultimate but it’s actually faster for me to type my notes directly into Evernote from the on screen keyboard than it is to try to write them in Penultimate.

In the next two pictures, you can see how the tablet is propped by the different cases.

2014-06-16 18.27.59 2014-06-16 18.29.10

So, dear readers, you’re probably wondering where my pro and con lists are.  Right… here.

Pros:

  • Size.  I love this size.  I wouldn’t be able to wrangle an iPad Air easily, but this I can fit in one hand and poke at with the other, much like I could with the Nexus 7.  I like the 7″-8″ form factor; it’s perfect for reading, playing games, watching Netflix/Hulu in bed, and taking notes in Evernote.
  • The screen.  Oh my.  The screen is beautiful.  I’m glad I held out for the retina version and splurged on it instead of the cheaper original mini.
  • Speed.  This thing blazes.  I have a few beefs with iOS but that’s me, not the operating system.  I prefer some things related to Android (the notification shade, for one) but I’ve gotten used to iOS.  It works and generally gets out of your way.
  • Weight.  This thing is light.  It’s a hair heavier than the Nexus 7, but it also has a metal backing instead of plastic (I’m not knocking plastic here, but it’s something to consider) and a slightly larger screen.  Anyway, it’s lighter than the 11″ Macbook Air that I have (not that it’s heavy by any means).
  • Build quality.  Holy shit this thing is built well and has awesome fit-and-finish.  As a mechanical engineer, I really appreciate good fit-and-finish.
  • Battery life.  Holy whoa, I get almost two days between charges, more if it sits in standby.

Cons:

  • iTunes.  This program is really shitty on Windows.  It’s slow and bloated, but luckily, I can manage most of my stuff from the iPad itself and I don’t have to deal with the program.  I could transfer everything to my Macbook, but I’m limited on space there, so I don’t really want to.  I cheat and use dropbox a lot.
  • The aforementioned lack of decent notification shade, which is something I love coming from Android.
  • No back button.  You don’t realize how much you get used to that hard-coded back button on Android till you go to iOS.

So.  This is a definite buy if you’re looking for a new tablet.  If you’re happy with Android, get the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S, but be aware that the storage situation is slim.  I think it starts with 16 GB and doesn’t increase it, but you can expand to more with an SD card.  I’ve never had luck with that, though, so you’re mileage may vary.