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.

Computer Fiddling

I’ve had a heck of a ride the past week.  I decided to install Xubuntu.  I did a backup and then tested everything on the liveCD and everything worked so I installed it.  Wahoo, everything was quick and nice… except things were really quiet when I tried to play my music collection.

So I investigated and… lo and behold, Xubuntu shipped with a faulty sound indicator.  I tried the various hacks to get it working but nothing worked.  Apparently Ubuntu changed the way the indicator worked or something and the fallback indicator didn’t work at all in Xubuntu.

I got frustrated and shut everything down and decided to deal with it later.

Later came on Friday night.  I wanted to give more room to Windows to accommodate my expanding Steam library, so I booted into an Ubuntu disc and ran gParted.

And promptly started messing around with my partitions and accidentally deleted everything.  I didn’t panic because my stuff was all saved on my external drive, but I was bummed that I’d have to reinstall everything.

And so it went.  I repartitioned my drive so Windows would have about 520 GB of space, and Ubuntu would have 475 GB of space, and I’d have about 5 or so of swap.  (Honestly, I could skip the swap because I have 8 GB of RAM but I’ve been conditioned to have swap.  Five GB is probably not enough but oh well.  I’m not going to run out of RAM anytime soon.)

I installed Windows, did the reboot, and then had a small panic attack because I didn’t have any internet connection.  After finding my motherboard driver disc and installing the drivers, I had internet and could start getting everything else installed including my GPU.  I have most of my “stuff” back, but I need to get things off of the external hard drive which seems to not like to play well with both Linux and Windows.  Annoying.

After getting WoW, D3, and Steam installed, I called it a night.

Cue this morning.  I got breakfast and started on my Ubuntu install.  It takes almost no time to install Ubuntu it seems, especially compared to Windows (even though Windows doesn’t take long to install at all; it’s the drivers that are a pain).  I now am back up in business with my dual-boot system and I have more room for Windows and my games.

Ubuntu currently looks like this:

Ubuntu Screenshot
Ubuntu Screenshot

I cannot remember where I got this wallpaper from; perhaps deviantArt?  If you’re the artist, send me a link and I’ll credit you; I apologize that I can’t remember where I got it.  I basically shrunk the launcher down and changed the wallpaper and put the programs I like in the launcher.  Simple and effective.

The Saga that is My Graphics Card


Somehow my graphics card stuff got bunged up.  Again.

This time I am using the Xorg-Edgers PPA, and things seem to be running smoothly.  I added the repo, ran “sudo apt-get update” and then closed my terminal and opened the “ubuntu software center” and downloaded and installed the fglrx driver.  Did a reboot (with all my appendages crossed) and lo and behold, it worked!  Now I’m happy and I think I’ll even be able to play Steam games on my desktop under Ubuntu.

Yay for PPAs in Ubuntu.  Seriously, I’m so happy there are people that make these fixes and then put them in an easy to update package that I can just add to my repository list.  It’s great.

Ubuntu 13.04 New Screenshot

Screenshot from 2013-08-07 18:11:40


New screenshot of my Ubuntu desktop!

Yes, I roll with the pokemon.  That’s Squirtle from Pokemon Red/Blue.  Yes, I’m an old-schooler.  I got the wallpaper from here, and you can download all 493 pokemon wallpapers in one massive .RAR file.  They work great on your phone as well, so get them and save them.  You never know when you need some Pokemon on your phone or computer.

Anyway, I’ve got the following running: Chrome, Pidgin, Birdie (Twitter app), Dropbox, and Banshee.  You can see that I like multiple desktops by my icon under the terminal icon there; I like to keep my stuff minimal and I LOVE a clean desktop.

Also, I’ve set my panel to 0.33 opacity with Ubuntu Tweak so my wallpaper shows through a bit.  I love that app; it lets me do little things to the interface so I get it just the way I want it.  I don’t deviate much from the standard, but I like to have a couple little tweaks (the opacity is one of them; lends a little more fanciness to the interface) here and there.

Ubuntu 13.04

I upgraded to Ubuntu 13.04 last month on the day it came out.  I’ve been running it since then, and I figured I should do a little write-up here because I usually do when the new one comes out.

Anyway, when I upgraded, I found that everything… worked.  This, literally, was the easiest Ubuntu upgrade I’ve done.  I usually do a reinstall when I change versions, but I didn’t this time.  I just ran my updater and let it go.  It took very little time to download the packages, and before I knew it, my computer was running 13.04.

I looked around and noticed some of the polish that Canonical has added to Ubuntu.  I also noticed that the upgrade didn’t muck with my already installed apps like Banshee; it didn’t install Rhythmbox and then force me to remove it later.  Same with Pidgin!  Kudos!  The OS has been improved speed-wise, the dash is much more responsive, and I find that apps load a little quicker than they did in 12.10.

Gwibber was replaced by Friends.  I had to install Friends, and I must say that it’s working pretty well.  I also installed Turpial, Polly, and Birdie, just so I could play with different Twitter clients.  Friends is good but has a ways to go yet; I would recommend adding a “@-replies” tab so I can see who’s replied to my messages on my social networks.  Oh, and the messaging menu works better with Thunderbird and it works with Pidgin now (again!).  Another thing I noticed was better support for my Razor DeathAdder mouse.  In 12.10, I noticed that I couldn’t change the speed and it would zoom all over the place if I looked at it wrong.  Now I can change the speed in the mouse settings and it seems to work a lot better now.  I’d just gotten used to the super-fast mouse acceleration, but being able to turn it down is a great thing.  Now, if my new iPod Nano would work…

This release seems to be polishing up the OS.  It’s not a huge mega update, but it seems to “just work” and with the announcements of Ubuntu phone and tablet and the work that’s been done to reduce resting RAM usage, I see it only getting better.

I’m not sure if I’ll run an Ubuntu tablet or phone in the near future (I love Android) but having a unified system is a grand idea; one which Apple and Microsoft are trying and I’m not sure if they’re going to be successful.

I’m still digging Unity.  It’s still got some niggles (I have to change its size as soon as I update) but I like the keyboard shortcuts and how elegant it looks.

All-in-all, this is a great update.  Polish, speed, and simplicity.  Also, the whole upgrade process had no issues for me and my hardware.

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Quantal Quetzal 12.10 with an old-timey Mario wallpaper.

So I did it.

I went back to Ubuntu after a two-month long foray into Linux Mint.  I did like Linux Mint, but there were some small niggles that I could not wrap my head around.  Anyway, I’d gotten used to Unity and the way things were handled in the shell.  I like many of the programs that are included by default in both Ubuntu and Mint, but I think that Ubuntu is a better fit for me at this time, although Mint has come a long way.

What bugged me about Mint partly was its release schedule.  They adhered to a “when it’s done, it’s done” model, and I tend to like a specific date of release so I can anticipate it and participate in the beta and release candidates.  Mint doesn’t seem to have this.

Anyway, I had to do some modifications, as usual, to get my desktop the way I wanted it.  Namely, it involved installing Gimp, Banshee, Spotify, Pithos, VLC, gpodder, Chromium, Dropbox, NixNote, Pidgin, and the restricted-extras packages.

There’s something about Ubuntu and Unity that keeps bringing me back, and I’m not sure what it is.  Simplicity?  Community?  Speed?  Good design?  I don’t know, but Ubuntu was my first distro and I tend to like it regardless of what it does.  I don’t particularly like the shopping lens, but I think with the outcry from the community, they will be scaling that back quite a bit in the next version, which is a great thing.

Anyway, if I want a more “Mint” experience, I can install Cinnamon, which I had installed before I went to Mint.  I think I’ll install it again; it was a good desktop.

Apple Macbook Air 11″, and why I decided to get one

I said I’d never get a Mac.

I swore I’d never get a Mac.

I thought people who had Macs were pretentious.  I thought people who had Macs had more money than sense.  Linux worked just fine for me and I was also pleased with Windows 7.

That was before I heard about the new ultrabooks that actually came out earlier this year.  I seriously looked at them at Best Buy early in June; the Dell XPS ultrabook looked really nice, but I read some hassles about Ubuntu and there was absolutely no guarantee about battery life (they were advertising almost eight hours of battery life under Windows 7).  I asked some questions, then wandered over to the Apple desk.  I played with both 11″ and 13″ Airs, and was impressed.

(This is long, so we’ll go under a cut.)

Continue reading Apple Macbook Air 11″, and why I decided to get one