Friday, November 16, 2007

HOWTO: Get more visualizations in Totem/Rhythmbox

After 4 years, I finally got sick of GOOM and decided to figure out how to get more visualizers in Totem and Rhythmbox.

This looks really trippy when it's in motion

Turns out all you need to do is install the libvisual-0.4-plugins package through Synaptic. Piece of cake.

In Gutsy this buys you eight more visualizers, although I was hoping for more than that*. I feel the urge to write a cool visualizer one day, seems like a good weekend project.

* I was hoping that it'd be like installing xscreensaver-gl-extra and xscreensaver-data-extra, where you get a ton of really funky new screensavers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

So you remember all of those Mac vs. Vista ads...

... and you remember the whole "deny or allow" thing?

Well, I don't know why Apple was making fun of Vista, because they decided to join in on the fun in Leopard:

Yes, I know Skype is an application from the Internet. Where the hell do you think I get 99% of my applications from?

It seems like Linux is the only OS moving forwards these days...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Leopard (kinda) hates Ubuntu

I ended up picking up a MacBook a few weeks ago, and I've been dual booting Ubuntu and OS X (Tiger) on it. Ubuntu's been a bit of a let-down because there's been so many quirks, and so I spend most of my time in OS X on the thing. (I still use Ubuntu on my desktop machine.)

Anyways, I got my Leopard upgrade DVD, and found a nice little surprise when I tried to upgrade: The Leopard upgrader wants to format my whole drive because it can't find my OS X partition or something. The manual and website say that I'm supposed to be able to upgrade if I used a beta version of Bootcamp to dual-boot (which I did), but apparently it wants to format my drive because I've got Linux installed instead of Windows in the other partition.

Did I mention that it wants to format my whole drive? (my old OS X partition too)

It's not like Leopard doesn't have enough problems already....

Update: Arrrrrrg, bloody Apple lingo. The installer says it wants to format my "Macintosh HD", which I forgot isn't actually my whole hard-drive (despite the HD moniker). So it just wants to format my OS X partition.... which is the one I use and store all my data on.... *sigh*

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 Released

Ubuntu 7.10 was released yesterday after another exciting development cycle, bringing a slew of new features and bug fixes. Among my favourites are:

  • New printer setup dialog (System->Administration->Printing) - Looks a lot more complete now:

  • The Firefox plugin finder is integrated into apt now! Not only does the plugin finder detect the correct plugin, but it'll download and install it from the Ubuntu apt repositories. Sweet integrated goodness. (The Add-Ons/Extensions window also has an "Get Ubuntu Add-ons" thing that's tied into apt as well.)

After using the easy codec installation that Ubuntu 7.04 brought along with the new Firefox-apt integration in 7.10, I've realized that my dream of "intelligent package suggestion" has been fulfilled. Way to go Ubuntu/GNOME team!

I've been using Gutsy for almost 2 months now, and I could never go back to an earlier version of Ubuntu. As Dan mentioned, the latest version of Rhythmbox totally kicks ass (it's worth upgrading to Gutsy for that alone). WINE has much nicer integration into the Applications menu now too. There's just tons of nice little features that make Ubuntu 7.10 awesome.

I'm going to try to pick up a laptop this weekend (maybe an Acer TravelMate 6292 or an Acer Aspire 5920), so we'll see how 7.10 handles Intel's new Santa Rosa chipset.

Grappling the Gutsy Gibbon

I've been invited by GameGod to contribute to this blog giving ongoing updates of my foray into the world of Linux. However, I haven't figured out if it's because he thinks some readers may find it illuminating to see how a total newb is getting along with Ubuntu, or if its because he is sick of helping me with this stuff and wants the comments section to take his place. Regardless, here I am.

As far as operating systems go, I've been using Win2K for probably about 5-6 years. Sure, theres probably something nice about XP, but 2K has been good and stable for me and I dont want to rock the boat. However, I've been tinkering around with an old P3 800mhz thats been kicking around, getting it to run Ubuntu 7.04 so I can make a mythtv box. Everything has been going pretty well, except for the fact that while I'm at school I have a hard time justifying the $150 in hardware I need to purchase to get the thing off the ground. The one thing I did learn in that experience though is that iTunes is a piece of garbage and I want to use Rhythmbox full time. Therefore, I've decided to make the plunge and give this "dual booting" nonsense a try so I can have Win2k for gaming, and Ubuntu for living.

My progress so far is as follows:
Downloaded the new version of Ubuntu (7.10). Booted off the CD to give it a shot. Sound doesn't work, wireless doesn't work. The built-in wireless networking app cant detect the network, and freezes the whole system when I try to manually connect. That may just be a problem with the boot cd, or it may be that I dont have the correct drivers at the moment (I've got a USB key with drivers, apps, and instructions so I hope that'll cure what ails me. Also, here's a handy list of supported wireless cards. Link). After wrestling with some HDs for a while (sata is new to me, and thats a long story that has nothing to do with linux) I've got them both up and running.
The game plan is to format the new 100gb drive to ntfs, backup my files from my primary drive to the 100gb, wipe the primary (a 320gb), partition it with about 100gb for windows, 200 gb for Ubuntu. Install windows, install linux, dual boot. Then if I want, format the 100gb to ext3 (or whatever the linux format is), and then use that.
My first HD problem was with gparted. Got the 100gb HD in, set it to delete the current partition, and format it to NTFS. Everything looked good, but it did everything unusually quickly and then crashed. Cool. Thanks gparted. So I booted back into windows, checked it out, and everything looked fine (I threw a file on it, loaded it from the 100gb). I decided though that I'd like to make sure everything was working properly and make sure there wasnt some corrupted section thats going to make me lose my files. I figured I would give gparted another shot so I used the boot CD, got into Ubuntu, performed the same operation as I did before, only this time it failed making the drive NTFS, and would crash every time I tried to do anything with that drive. So then I booted into Win2K, and formatted it via My Computer in less than 2 minutes without any problems. As it stands, I'm copying my folder of files-to-backup over to the 100gb.
Well actually, this is the second time. The first time the operation failed because it said that one of the files couldnt be copied because the name was too long (what the hell? If the name was too long, why didnt they make me rename it when I saved it on my primary drive? I checked the name, and its just a pdf file without any of the banned characters in the name). So I moved the subfolder with that file in it out of the back-up folder to try again. But because half of the stuff was copied on in whichever order, I decided to delete everything and try again. The recycle-bin told me that some of the files had names too long to be put into the recycle bin....

Why do I have the feeling that this is just the beginning?

Update: I think I have figured out the "filename too long" problem. I guess the "filename" isn't just the name of the file itself, but the location of the file as well. So instead of garbage.pdf, its c:\stuff\garbage.pdf. But if you have it on the desktop or something, its c:\documentsandsettings\users\username\desktop\stuff\garbage.pdf. So apparently for whichever reason, theres a limit to how big the filename would go. I always had this folder of stuff right in c:\ so there was never a problem with the largish filenames. However, once I put it on my desktop, or in a subfolder in my backup folder, they became so large that I couldn't open some of the files (which I definitely have done before). So I guess I learned something new there.
Also, there wont be any updates from me until monday at the least. Going home for the weekend, and bringing back my Win2k cd so I can finish this off. I'll also be meeting up with Gamegod, so I'll be able to ask for annoyingly detailed questions about how to get dual-booting set up

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New iPod Firmware Screws Linux Users

Miguel de Icaza writes:

Yesterday after rumors that new iPods require a cryptographic checksum on the song database we confirmed that Banshee can no longer store songs on the new iPods.

The new firmware will now refuse to play any songs that you legally own unless you use Apple's iTunes (which is only supported for Windows and MacOS)

Read on...

In the meantime, I'll be sticking to my iRiver U10. (Cowon MP3 players are supposed to be pretty Linux friendly as well.)

Update: And thus begins the game of cat-and-mouse - The new iPod checksum has been cracked.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ubuntu finally gets graphical X configuration

Almost 3 years after Ubuntu's first release, they've finally added graphical X configuration. Hopefully no more editing your /etc/X11/xorg.conf by hand...

Ubuntu 7.10 users should find it easier to change their graphics settings

Graphics card selection tab

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mark Shuttleworth on MCA Podcast

I was tipped off that the mighty Mark Shuttleworth is going to be talking about the new Ubuntu Mobile on the next Mobile Computing Authority podcast. The show will be broadcast live at 9 AM EST on August 11th, and available for download after that. More information here.

Ubuntu on one of those UMPCs... drool...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Evolution 2.11.6: A mail client smarter than I

After putting off doing a fresh install of Ubuntu for almost 2 years (it's just too easy to dist-upgrade), I did a fresh install of Gutsy Gibbon. Among other neat surprises (which I'll try to blog about), this one almost made me fall off my chair:

Being the total klutz that I am, I had forgotten to attach a file to an email I wrote before I clicked send. To my surprise, Evolution made an educated guess that I had done exactly that, and gave me a warning!

I love Evolution + GNOME.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Weekly Blog Round-up

The blogosphere's full of good reads this week:

  • I found Paul Buchheit's Amazingly Bad APIs funny because it chronicles my experience with Java quite nicely. (... and man, people do love over-complicating their abstraction patterns in Java)
  • Benjamin Otte's "Distros..." is another rant I can related to. It'd be nice if the libraries you relied on "upstream" always worked, but the truth is, they don't. I often wonder if we're the only ones who actually use a certain library (who's name I won't mention), because we seem to be the only ones complaining about certain issues we've had. (The solution? Fix it ourselves - we've started getting involved with the upstream guys to help them out....)
  • Free Gamer's still rocking, and I was pleased to read that a Linux build of SoulFu is kicking around. (SoulFu's written by the same author(s) as Egoboo, which was a little 3D hack-and-slash game.)
  • MacSlow's been working on more eye-candy goodness, this time a little video player using gstreamer, OpenGL, Cairo, and GTK+. He's hoping one day some of this stuff might end up helping beautify Totem, which I'm all for.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Lazyweb: Software patent lawsuits?

Dear lazyweb,

A Microsoft exec recently remarked that they're "not litigating". Some people seemed to interpret that as meaning, "we're not going to sue users", although Microsoft wasn't explicit about who they weren't going to sue.

My question for anyone law-savvy is: Can Microsoft (or any other software company) sue users for using software which allegedly violates software patents?

For example, if I buy a DVD player which was manufactured and sold illegally without royalty payments to the DVD consortium (etc.), it's the manufacturer of the DVD player that violated the patents. If I bought and use the DVD player, how on Earth am I the one that broke the law?

Following that logic, how on Earth are users liable when it's the developers who allegedly violated the software patents?

Update: Interesting twist, which supports the growing evidence that Microsoft's statements were/are FUD.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dell to ship preloaded Ubuntu

Dell announced today* that they're going to offer Ubuntu on some of their desktop and notebook models, which I think is great news for everyone. Dell's winning points (and more selling computers) with/to the Linux community, Canonical's completed another step in their plan for world domination, and there's a chance that all Linux users will benefit from better driver support.

A tiny bit more information is available on Canonical's site, and a bunch more on Dell's blog (including a video with Mark Shuttleworth). Check it out!

* I have to point out that I called this one in advance in my last post.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 Released!

It's been a long six-month wait, but she's finally arrived. Ubuntu 7.04 was released today, and brings a slew of improvements to the popular desktop Linux distribution. Even Michael Dell's in on the buzz this time.*

Among the features that the Ubuntu team has been hard at work on are:

  • Restricted Driver Manager - Allows you to easily install proprietary drivers for your hardware (like NVidia and some wifi drivers)
  • Desktop-Effects - Ubuntu now has a single-click way of enabling wobbly windows!
  • Easier codec installation - Suggests which package(s) you need to install in order to playback movies/audio when you don't have the right codec installed. (Hmmm, reminds me of something...)

I've been using Ubuntu 7.04 for a few weeks now, and I've found that it's much more polished than Edgy was (in terms of application stability and nice little touches). If you're going to dist-upgrade to 7.04, you probably won't notice very much difference besides the new artwork and the features I listed above. In fact, if you've already got all the right codecs installed, you'll probably never even see the easy codec installation thing (I haven't). That being said, these are still useful features because they save new users a good chunk of customization time.

Anyways, long story short: 7.04 is the best Ubuntu release since Dapper (6.06), and I think it might be finally worth giving a copy of it to your non-Linux user friends, without fear of total reject. Features like the restricted driver manager, migration assistant, and easy codec installation make Ubuntu an ever more user-friendly OS, and I think it's going to continue to impress people and make waves over the next few years.

* If you haven't been following the whole Dell/Linux thing, Dell launched this IdeaStorm site a while back to help get ideas from their users. They were totally swamped with requests for Linux and now they're trying to figure out which distro people want. Educated speculation: I'm expecting a big announcement sometime in the next few months about Dell offering Ubuntu on their laptops (which is a huge win for both Canonical and Ubuntu users, because it means we'll probably be getting better hardware support for those laptops.) Why? I just don't see them advertising that Michael Dell uses Ubuntu and then turning around and offering SUSE on their laptops.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wine-Doors Screencast

I just noticed a short screencast of Wine-Doors in action over on their site:

Looking pretty slick...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Beryl and Compiz to Merge

I'll be honest - I didn't see this one happening anytime soon, but alas, it is going to happen (and I suppose sooner is better than later.)

A while after Compiz and XGL's initial release as the enabler of crazy wobbly windows on Linux, some developers from the community didn't like David Reeveman's/Novell's slightly restricted (yet open source) development process that was occuring with Compiz. Personally, I thought Compiz's "I'll work on it for 9 months, not bother with releases, and end up with something amazing" development process worked pretty darn well - Before XGL, there were endless discussions about how to make OS X-like graphics a reality on Linux, none of which materialized into anything really usable. Instead of bickering about it (*cough* design by committee) for years, David decided to just do it. And he did it. And for a 0.1 release, Compiz was pretty damn good.

Can't argue with results.

However, some developers from the community who were getting involved with Compiz didn't like the way development looked like it was going to proceed, so they forked, giving us Beryl. Those developers worked on adding more crazy effects and in the short term took the focus away from stability, but within the last few months it seems like the developers efforts to stabilize Beryl have been successful. In the meantime, the Compiz team has also been plugging away and adding new features to Compiz as well.

This brings us to March 23, 2007, when QuinnStorm announced that Beryl will remerge with Compiz. It won't be easy for the teams to merge, but I think they both realize now that the long-term benefits of cooperation far outway the short-term setbacks that each team will incur.

Now that's progress.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Ubuntu Site

I don't know how long it's been up for, but I just noticed the Ubuntu site got a nice overhaul (as did the Ubuntu Forums).

The website looks much more professional now, and feels like it's got a bit more "buzz" to it. Good stuff.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mixxx 1.5.0 Released

If you're looking for good free DJ software, Mixxx is the king of the hill. Not only is it much more mature than any other open source DJ application, but it also beats all the spyware riddled freeware apps that do similar things.

After two years of work, the Mixxx team has released version 1.5.0, which adds a decent amount of new features as well as a ton of bug fixes. Mixxx is an interesting project to take a look into because there's something to be learnt from it's history. It started in 2001 as one of the first "digital DJ" apps, before big commercial competitors like Traktor entered the scene. Unfortunately, after several years of development and a couple of releases, the project ended up somewhat abandoned. However, last year the project was revived by a couple of developers and after many months of hard work, they've whipped the project back into shape and finally made a new release. One of the reasons it took so long to fix Mixxx was because it's development seemed to have lost focus - There were tons of unmaintained features added to it over the years, many of which didn't end up working properly on all platforms. (Mixxx is a cross-platform application, and that makes certain things like hardware controller support very tricky.) However, things are looking much better for Mixxx now.

At the end of the day, Mixxx (as an open source project) is a good example of three things:
1) A very well written program who's original developers thought long and hard when designing it.
2) A project that lost it's way as more developers got involved. It looks like not enough discretion was used when screening patches, which eventually lead to tons of bugs and half-working features.
3) The way in which the open source process can give new life to a dead project. After switching maintainers, the project's focus was tightened up and forced developers to fix bugs rather than create them. Now that the ball's rolling once again, you can certainly expect cool new stuff to come from Mixxx in the future.

That being said, if you're interested in DJing, Mixxx is a must-have application for Linux. For more information, check out Mixxx's features or head on over and give it a download (Windows, OS X, and Linux).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Truth About Switching

I don't usually post specifically about other blog posts, but I'm going to make an exception here. Alan Pope's "The Truth About Switching" is an honest look at what switching to Ubuntu is really like, and I have to say that it summarizes my own feelings very nicely.

If you're thinking about switching from Windows to Ubuntu, it's definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Visio, and another reason I love Linux

Today I had a nice reminder of one of the things I like best about Linux.

I've found myself being forced to draw some UML diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2003, and to be quite honest, I've been totally disappointed with the software. One of the things that bugs me is that Visio seems to have absolutely no intelligence whatsoever when it comes to laying out labels on associations - It'll blindly draw numbers on top of your classes and other diagrams.

You would think after Visio 2000 and Visio 2002 that stupid stuff like this would be fixed, but nope, this is Microsoft, and this is exactly why I love Linux.

Stupid bugs like this get fixed in open source software, because the users are the developers. With each release of Ubuntu (and other good pieces of open source software), there are not only new features added, but also a ton of bug fixes. I've yet to be affected by a bug in Ubuntu that's persisted across releases, and these guys release a new version every six months - not every couple of years (a la Microsoft). That's pretty damn good.

I think another reason why problems get fixed in open source projects is because their software development processes sometimes leave big companies like Microsoft in the dust. Quite honestly, Launchpad and other bug trackers (and the way in which they are used transparently) seems to play a large role in many projects' rapid success by providing developers with organization and a strong continual link to their users. It's this constant interaction, an excellent feedback loop, that some companies seem to lack.

Sure, many open source projects don't follow strict development processes, but you know what?
They not only get their software built, but they get it built faster and better.

Note: If you're looking for a good open source Visio replacement, here's some good ones:

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ubuntu - Intelligent Package Suggestion in Action

Some of you might remember me rambling about how important intelligent package suggestion is to a desktop user, and what a killer feature it would be in Linux.

I've noted earlier that something along these lines was in the works for the next release of Ubuntu (7.04/Feisty Fawn).

Well, I'm glad to say, it looks like it's finally materialized. The new "gnome-app-installer" now automatically suggests what package the user needs to install (and guides them through the process) in order to play DivX/XviD, MP3, and WMV/WMA files.

Check out this Flickr gallery showing off the new system.

Interestingly enough, some of this infrastructure is already enabled in Edgy Eft. I noticed that if I double-click on a .mid file in Nautilus, the app installer pops up and searches for programs that will play MIDI files.

Lastly, I'd like to thank all the hard workers that brought this feature to reality. Sitting on your ass blogging about something isn't that constructive - The Ubuntu guys (and everyone that actually worked on this) deserves a big thanks. They're making Ubuntu a great deal easier to use for new users, and I think the whole community will reap the benefits in the end.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ubuntu: Headed in the Right Direction

Nothing like good news to ring in the new year. Someone on Digg recently noticed that there's a new meta-package in Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn, that allows users to easily install Macromedia Flash, Sun's Java, MP3 playback support in GStreamer apps (eg. Banshee, Rhythmbox), and Microsoft's core TrueType fonts. There's probably a few other big multimedia codecs that I'm missing that are enabled by this as well.

That's a nifty chunk of the common customizations that Ubuntu users perform, hopefully making the distribution that much easier to use. (Although, hopefully there'll be an obvious way for a new user to install this meta-package, without a priori knowledge.)

I've been noticeably lacking on the Ubuntu news lately, and it's certainly not for a lack of news. Ubuntu's made several steps in the right direction towards making the OS more and more usable:

  • Let's start off with the common customizations that are already in the works. These types of tweaks have the potential to made EasyUbuntu and Automatix a thing of the past.
  • Among those common customizations, a big one is enabling the "universe" and "multiverse" repositories by default. This feature will almost definitely make it into Feisty, if it isn't already. Enabling these repositories by default unlocks a huge amount of software to new users, without them having to mess around with the "Software Sources" interface. (Again, prior knowledge is currently needed.)
  • Feisty Fawn will now use hardware acceleration for it's X server out-of-the-box. This will allow Feisty to run Compiz or Beryl out-of-the-box too. However, the biggest boon for users will be the fact that the official NVIDIA and ATI drivers that enable this acceleration will be installed by default. This saves new users from scrambling to figure out why their beloved OpenGL games all run so slowly.
  • Lastly, the Ubuntu developers are now acknowledging the importance of a so called "bullet proof X server". This means not only providing a useful fall-back for when the X server dies, but also giving the user an easy to use interface for fixing their X server.