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”

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free: iFixit

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free iFixit.

The problem? An underfunded school needed computers for the classroom. Budget? $0. Staff involved? Just one: Robert Litt, a sixth-grade teacher.

Robert teaches at ASCEND, a small arts K-8 school in the Alameda County School District. He’s a fan of technology and believes that it’s an important part of K-12 education. Yet ASCEND had no computer lab and no computers in classrooms. So in 2007, Robert acquired 18 donated computers. But these computers were less help than he’d anticipated. The operating systems were slow. Some computers had viruses or malware. Students became frustrated.

Brilliant.  I would really like to see this happen more often in public school systems; so many times they’re stuck in the Windows or Apple money spiral that they can’t get out.

I’m not opposed to paying for software, but many schools aren’t in the position to pay for a lot of software or operating systems to run that software.

Glad to see Ubuntu being put to good use on donated school computers.  Fewer viruses, less malware, and a decent experience for the students.  And they can learn something about an alternative to Windows and Apple.

Ubuntu 12.04, Precise Pangolian

I’ve been using the newest long-term support (LTS) release of Ubuntu for awhile now, and I have some thoughts on it.

First, let me say that this release installed very easily to my new desktop.  I had no problems initially with the setup and Ubuntu detected everything.  Considering that I don’t have anything really proprietary on my desktop, everything should be detected without a problem.

I’ve been using it on this machine for a little less than a month.  The sound is solid, the HDMI off the motherboard works (including the integrated graphics).

Unity is amazing.  I’ve been trying out different programs; it’s interesting to see which programs have taken advantage of the Unity quicklists and which haven’t.

Now, onto my problems!

I really only have one problem and that’s a doozy of one:  A complete system crash caused by the shared RAM for graphics on my Ivy Bridge CPU.  It brings the computer to a complete standstill.  I have no keyboard, mouse, or anything, and the only way to fix it is to press the reset button or do a hard shutdown.  It happens randomly as well, so I don’t know what causes it, really.

BUT, it is fixed!

I enabled the “proposed” repository, and I’m running the newest kernel.  That seems to have fixed the problem, and I’m pleased that I can have the machine up and running for hours and not worry about it quitting on me.

Interested parties can find the computers “stats” here as well as some pictures and a desktop screenshot.

I’ve got all my programs I like installed, and even fixed a problem with Banshee.  There was some issue with my databases, and it was causing errors that made the program segfault when I was importing a CD or pulling in new music.  So, I deleted the corresponding dot files and folders, and restarted Banshee and I was in business!  Importing a CD caused no problems, and reimporting my music caused no problems.  We’ll see if it continues to work. I hope so.

I’d rate this release at a 4/5 penguins.  If they’d caught the Ivy Bridge error, I’d give it 5 penguins.

New Desktop!


The joys of new hardware.

I’d been thinking of a new set-up every since I got my new job.

And… I have.

First some pictures, I think:

 The desk with the monitor on it and such.

The computer and printer..

This computer is a dual boot with Ubuntu Precise Pangolin and Windows 7.  Windows is for the games and Ubuntu is for everything else.

I’ve had no issues with either OS on this system, except for Windows just taking forever to update and reboot a bunch of times, but that’s normal.

Now for some specs:

  • Case: Antec 900. 4 fans of cooling.
  • Display: Asus… something.  It’s LCD, 1920×1080.
  • 1 TB Hard drive.
  • 8 GB of RAM.
  • Motherboard: MSI Z77MA-G45
  • CPU: Intel i5 3570K 3.40 GHz, 6MB cache.
  • Logitech speakers.
  • Logitech M510 mouse.
  • Microsoft 4000 keyboard.
  • Random DVD drive (it was like $20).

I don’t have a GPU as of yet.  We’ll see what I need as far as graphics go.

I probably have about $1000 into it, including the keyboard I bought and the monitor.  I’m liking it so far.  The motherboard has several USB 2.0 ports on the back and 2 hookups for the USB 3.0 on the front.  The case has 3, but if I decide to update the motherboard, then I’ll probably look for one that supports 3 USB 3.0 ports on the front.

Screenshot?  Screenshot:

So.  Here we go.  I’ll have a report about my mobile computing solution in another post!  I also might have a writeup about Precise in the near future too.  I’ve been using it for awhile and it’s really solid.

Computer Comparisons…

I’ve been looking at computers again.

This is a bad idea, as I find all kinds of stuff that’s awesome.

So yeah.

Lenovo is having a sale on their Thinkpads right now, and I’ve seen Thinkpads and I’m enamoured with them right now.  They look functional and simple and can hide a bunch of power inside.  The only bad thing?  I have to buy it with a bloody Windows license.

System 76 has a great desktop machine that I’m looking at, but their smallest laptop is 14″ and that’s a little big for a secondary couch-surfing system.  I just want something about 12″ that will run Ubuntu and is (preferably) under $600.  It has to be portable and it has to fit in a bag and be easy to carry around to coffee shops and easy to take home for a weekend.  Also, battery life.  Please be more than 4 hours on a charge…

I think I’ve got a pipe dream here.  ZaReason has an awesome laptop that’s 13″ and has a lot of the things I want, but it’s closer to $800.

I don’t know exactly what to do, but I’ll figure something out.  I’m not planning on pulling the trigger on any of these systems til well after the new year… closer to March maybe.  

You might be asking what I’m looking for in a desktop…  Well, here we go:

  • At least an i5 processor.
  • 6-8 gb of RAM.
  • 500+ gb hard drive.
  • nVidia card… 1 gb thing that’s on S76.  I don’t know what it’s called.
  • Decent cooling.
  • Low power usage.

Same with a laptop:

  • Battery life; at least 4-8 hours worth.
  • 12″ screen is optimal; I’ll go to 13″ or 11″ if I have to.
  • Decent keyboard.
  • 2-4 gb of RAM.
  • 100+ GB hard drive.
  • i3 processor (or equilivent).
  • 3 USB ports.

Both of the machines MUST be able to run Ubuntu with MINIMUM of fuss.  If I have to fight with it, I don’t want any part of dealing with it.  The desktop must run Windows 7 as a secondary OS with minimum of fuss.

I just want my stuff to work without a problem.  An OS shouldn’t get in my way of what I want to do, and both Ubuntu and Windows 7 are at those points.

Maybe I’m picky.  Who knows.

Gwibber vs. Choqok

And why I’m going with Choqok, even in Unity.

I upgraded to the new Gwibber.  For the most part, it’s great.  BUT, there are some really niggling issues I have with it.  List time!

  • I can’t access my lists.  Or, I don’t see an easy way to do this.
  • Slow.  So so so slow.  Once it starts up, it’s not bad, but it sometimes will hang my entire laptop.  I thought the updates were supposed to remove these issues.  Although they’ve been fewer recently.
  • Two clicks to reply to a notice.  Not a huge deal, but now I have to click on the twitter/statusnet icon and then click reply.

Now, only to be fair, onto what I like about it:

  • The new look.  Wow, looks great!
  • Ubuntu integration.  This couldn’t be better.
  • Speed improvements (note that this is under the issues as well… It’s in both because it’s better than it was, but not where it really shoiuld be.).

Now,even with all of the KDE libs, Choqok seems to run faster and easier on both my netbook and my laptop.  It has decent integration with my Unity desktop, goog.l shortening, pictures inline, and the ability to have my lists open so I can see what’s going on.  Oh, and now KDE apps seem to integrate better with Gnome because of QT, so that’s nice.

I really miss the easy-to-see lists feature that the old Gwibber had.  I wish they’d bring back the interface they had becuase it was awesome, and almost perfect.  Not necessarily the prettiest, but it worked really well.

I’m not saying “bring back the old interface” because that’s pretty much impossible right now, but maybe the devs could bring back some of its functionality.  I’m not sure what they wanted to accomplish with making the lists feature more hidden, but it’s made me kind of frustrated.

Now, I’ll go back to Gwibber.  For sure.  I’ll see if there are updates, and definitely give it another go when iti does update.  I’d love to have it working again the way I need.

For now, I’ll be using Choqok.

I’m playing with Gnome Shell

Actually, it’s kind of neat.  I’m figuring out how things “work”. It’s different.

I think I like it.

The computer that it’s installed on will be staying here at my mom’s house til I move to my apartment, so I won’t have a lot of time to play with it.

What I like:

  • The overlays and the shiny.  It’s quite pretty.
  • The default wallpaper.  Very cool.
  • Full screen apps.  Lots of space for work and reading (though this is a netbook, so I have less space than I do on my regular computer).
  • Notifications; they’re down at the bottom, so they stay out of the way.

What I don’t like:

  • So much is hidden.  I’m trying to figure out where my desktops are and everything.  I’ll get it; it’s just different.
  • Settings; I haven’t figured out all the settings.
  • Speed.  It seems a little slow, but I only have 1 gig of RAM, so I don’t have a lot to complain about.

I haven’t had time to play with it a lot, since I installed it last night around 10 pm.  I’ll give it another shot next weekend and try to use it all weekend next weekend.

Do note that Gnome3 is being run on my Starling netbook, 1 gig of ram, Atom processor.  I’m running it on top of Xubuntu 11.10.  I still have to see the new things in Xubuntu 11.10.  I don’t think a lot has changed, but I’m sure there is something.

Anyway, I’ll have a longer write-up when I play with Gnome3 more, and when I play with Ubuntu 11.10 more.  I quite like it so far; it’s speedy and pretty.  I’ll write a review sometime this week.

A thought on Jono’s Menu Discoverability in Ubuntu 11.10

Jono writes on his blog:

My thesis as to why is pretty simple: people learn by exploration. Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down on a piece of paper the last three devices that you purchased. They might televisions, cell phones, kitchen appliances, games consoles, or whatever else. Every one of these devices comes with it’s own interface to operate it. Now, how many of those devices did you sit down and read the instructions for? I am willing to bet it was close to none.

You learned those devices by poking around, trying things out, clicking, pressing, pushing, and otherwise playing with and exploring it. Many of these devices will have had entirely new interfaces to you which you had not used before, yet you figured them out. Some elements of the interfaces will have been obvious (e.g. buttons protruded to indicate that they can be pressed) and some elements less-so.

Now, I don’t disagree with Jono, but I can see how confusing it could be for a new user to not have the close, minimize and maximize buttons up on the top where they are visible.  I was not taken by surprise when I upgraded the netbook, since I new the change was coming.  I can see that if someone wasn’t expecting the change, they’d have a problem, but the new interface isn’t really that different from the old interface.

I got to know Ubuntu by playing with it.  Matter-of-fact, I just installed Ubuntu to a friend’s laptop; I’m hoping she will play with it and learn how things are done.  I think the interface is pretty easy to use, and I hope she will as well.

This experiment would prove to me that anyone can use Ubuntu.  She’s not a computer whiz at all, but I think trying a different OS will help her overcome her fear of “breaking” something.  Seriously; I’ve set up her laptop wtih all the programs she needs, and she can easily find other programs in the software center… Updates won’t be a problem, since I’ve set up her password and automatic updates.

We’ll see.  This project just came into my hands because she hated Vista and I can’t see making her drop $200 for Win7, especially if she just uses email and browsing and some light games.  This way she won’t be stuck with a virus or something.

Yay for spreading the open-source love.