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Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Dissapoints 17 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Debian, Distro Wars, Grub, Linux, Ubuntu.
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Ubuntu has a long and sad history of disregarding the needs and wants of power users in their drive for ease for users who are unfamiliar with, and have little inclination to become familiar with Linux. To me, it’s dissapointing. More hardline flamers have become angry at Ubuntu and Canonical. This is my experience.

I have a cheap computer. An old one died, so I simply bought a few cheap components to replace the dead box, reusing some drives. The machine has integrated grpahics, because I haven’t coughed up for a real card yet. Vesa drivers work fine, but both the 2d nv and proprietary nvidia divers don’t work. Probably because the mbo only cost me ~70AUD. I’ve known about this since I’ve had the machine. I can’t be bothered to fix it, because I can use 3d apps on another machine.

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex uses a new version of xorg. Supposedly, it has a very little configuration needed and can dun with no /etc/X11/xorg.conf. This sounds like a good idea. But, for me it means that there are problems.

After finishing the Debian installer, Ubuntu boots. No grub menu is shown, another pet peeve I have. If you do hit escape, you are confrinted with an ugly, black screen. Then you get usplash. Great for some. Then again, if you turn it off you get ugly readouts from a kernel with useless timing enabled. Ok, this is a problem in Debian too, but I compiled my own kernel. Then you get the same ugly gdm theme Ubuntu has been using since forever.

The problem is, gdm didn’t come up. Rather than dropping to a shell to let me diagnose this, there is an ugly black screen with low resolution. I try as few options, none of which work. To finish applying settings, I’m informed that the xserver will restart in one minute. Pressing ok leaves the screen pitch black. The Ubuntu developers must be fond of black.

Dropping to a shell lets me find that there is indeed an xorg.conf. Wonderful. startx works, after killing xinit. And he voila, gnome appears. In SVGA (800×600) resolution. Xrandr will only let me change this down to 640×480. Brilliant. Copying over Debian’s configuration file is no good. Somehow, the new xorg does not accept screen resolutions in the configuration file. Anyway, after trying the other trick I’ve heard of, I remove the file. This works wonders, and now, somehow, my screen size becomes 1024×768 when using startx. No such luck when starting, the xserver still refuses to start. My next move is to uninstall the nv driver. Good thinking, I hear you say. Well, now gdm will start. But somehow, my former trick doesn’t work, and I am stuck with SVGA. So what am I supposed to do? Reinstall a broken driver?

Forget it. I’m sticking with Debian. Debian has failed in interesting ways, but I have always been able to fix it. I don’t like xorg.conf, or for that matter grub’s menu.lst, or fstab. But I’ve just learned to get used to them. Sooner or later I’m going to man up and just use vim. Don’t get me wrong, making the user do less work is great. I like apt, and rarely compile anything from source. I’m not a sadist. But, I think that these ‘miracle’ fixes, like having no configuration files, are a dumb idea. Why? Because there are situations that no developer can foresee, and they will end up just not working. And what do you do then? You edit the configs. I’ve done things the hard way, and my Debian install has more or less worked ever since.

Linux: Get Ready for World Domination 18 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
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The Domino Effect is now in full swing and Linux is on the path to becoming the single world superpower. Indefatigable, she has already taken hold of Brazil and Russia, and is poised to seize new territory with the next wave of assault; low cost and donated PCs. But even now, aside from full Linux control, Open Source is crumbling the enemy’s resistance from the inside. Mozilla Firefox stands unchallenged as the world’s browser of choice for the liberated. OpenOffice makes inroads into the juicy government sector with fears of data being trapped in dead formats. No ultimatum has been issued, no prisoners will be taken. Now, the world waits for the inevitable and complete annihilation of the old empire. Carpe Diem!

The current world order.

The current world order.

By the way, this is only based on what I have heard. There are computers in Africa, I just haven’t heard that much. Also, I couldn’t be bothered with Mac. They;re probably just going to puff in silvery smoke anyway.

By way of explanation:

Russia: All schools running Linux, Open Source pulic sector by 2010

Brazil: Strong ISO protest against OOXML

China: Made Red Flag

France: Parliament, Police Force

US: Evil Microsoft holds schools to ransom

Australia: Tax department issues taxation pack that does not work under wine (NZ is just a bannana republic probably in the same boat)

More to come at a later point. I’m enjoying this! (Maybe a version with geolocation?)

Dell takes Ubuntu seriously 14 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Dell, Linux, Netbooks, Ubuntu.
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The VAR guy has an article showing an advertisement for the Dell inspiron mini 9 featuring Ubuntu, with no mention of a Windows model. Well done Dell. But I was more surprised when I saw this page.

Ubuntu is not hidden. In fact, it says ‘Ubuntu’ 4 times, and gives an opetion to build each of the XP machines with Ubuntu. Dell must be confident.

Google Desktop for Better Linux Help 6 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux.
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There’s heaps of (mostly) good documentation for Linux. Applications have searchable manual pages, Desktop environments like Gnome and KDE have ‘help’ documentation and Linux distributions have their own documentation and support pages.

And yet, I see plenty of users on Linux forums asking questions like ‘what application do I use for xyz or “I had problem xyz, can someone tell me where to look for help”. Help is there, but new users don’t know where to go to find it, or they don’t think to put ‘xyz’ into man or apropos or khelpcenter or yelp, and maybe not even google. My idea is simple; combine application searching, manual pages, desktop documentation, distribution documentation and web searching into one. Google Desktop seems to go some way to do that. A free project could go further.

Google has a Linux repository in which you can find software packages to install Google Desktop and Picasa. I installed Google Desktop and noticed that by default, it scans the following directories:

/usr/share/applnk         < Applications
/usr/man                  < Manual pages

By default it will show a user manual pages and applications. But I think that they are both too clunky. One of the things that is nice with Google Desktop is that it brings a familiar logo and search interface to searching your computer. Clean, useful interface that people would think to use as a first point of reference. Plus, it should be fast.

It would be great if a search feature like this could be integrated into the documantation of a distribution as well as the applications and the desktop. KDE’s khelpcenter and Gnome’s yelp both display man pages as well as the desktop information.

A mockup

A mockup of what this could look like.

Over 50,000 PCs in Government and Business Running Ubuntu 4 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux, Windows.
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The site WorksWithU is a site that shows, with a limited degree of accuracy, the number of PCs knwon to be running Ubuntu in business, bovernment and educational settings. This lists at least 45,570 PCs (or far more, I took the bottom level for some) and 676 servers running Ubuntu Linux. Impressive. The rael number may be much higher, and will continue to grow.

The number of total Linux machines must be far higher.  I can remember a few occurances of other events in the news that show great Linux adoption. Japan has replaced Windows 9x with Dream Linux in some areas, and schools may switch to Linux entirely. In Germany a tax authority moved 12,000 desktops to SuSE Linux. And the BBC has suggested that two thirds of computers in Latin America may be running Linux. And here’s a reason why:

“(Microsoft) are the big monopoly and they come from America. The xenophobic mentality in Brazil actually is what drives people towards open source software in some cases.”

And another:

Gross National Income (GNI) per capita $44,710 $4,710
Cost of Windows Vista Business $186 $364
Cost of MS Office 2007 Standard $289 $587
Cost of Business Licenses as % of GNI per capita 1.06% 20.1%
Cost of Windows Vista Home Basic $116 $252
Cost of Office Home/Student $109 $117
Cost of Home Licenses as % of GNI per capita 0.5% 7.8%
All figures in US dollars. An exchange rate of USD$1 = R$1.70 was used to compute the cost of licenses in Brazil.