Tag Archives: Ubuntu

Ubuntu 13.04

Last week, I triggered the apt-distupgrade on both my Ubuntu laptops which effectively downloaded Ubuntu 13.04 (“Raring Ringtail”) to these machines. This was actually sort of unexpected as I haven’t been really following Ubuntu’s latest efforts. I’m aware of Canonical’s push to the mobile market: their case to bring Ubuntu to cellphones and other devices received high praise in the media. That is, if Canonical can deliver on speed (UI) and speed (Roadmap).

The reason why I bring up Ubuntu Touch is that Canonical is aware of the slugginess of their current Unity interface. I’m pretty certain I brought this up in an earlier post (when I installed/upgraded to 11.10): it’s by default, a memory hog. What keeps me switching back to KDE or say, Gnome 3 is that Unity is heavily supported by Canonical. This is the main reason what keeps me away from other Ubuntu-descendants like Mint.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that 13.04 is supposed to be having most of the optimizations of Ubuntu Touch. As the release notes say:

Unity 7 brings a lot of performance improvements, reduced memory consumption and a great number of small UI fixes to bring a better overall shell experience.

Unity does feel like it has been improved (besides the fancy new icons for apps and the changes to the launcher): memory wise, I can’t tell the difference. It just generally still feels bloated. Time permitting, I’ll check out Gnome’s state at a later stage.

Update 1: Rebooted back in Gnome 3 and my first impression is that Gnome desktop takes a lot less memory than Unity.

SXSW 2013 music part 1

A week ago, I noticed that the Unofficial SXSW torrent site had started to distribute music for some of the major SXSW acts this year (site). Once again there are two torrents involved here: part 1 is the big 6 gig one, with over 900 files). Part 2 has a limited set of around the 200 music files.

Once again, I will be listening to (or attempt to) all the files in both sets: this year with slight interest tho, meaning with scarce commentary. Document 1 covers the first torrent file. Document 2 covers the last torrent file. To this date, I’ve listened to a total of 176 files or so. I’ve not yet heard amazing music yet: that is the wow factor is fairly low-key this year. We’ll report back in another couple of weeks.

One other thing that I keep forgetting is the part of how I export specific MP3 tags. Yes, I don’t type all the song names, artist names and duration of songs manually. Since most of the (legal) torrents are downloaded on my Linux laptops (previously), obviously I use Linux tools to take care of this. I use a tool called ‘exiftool’, which you may need to add to your package manager. For Ubuntu it would look something like: apt-get install exiftool. To extract specific tags I run the following command in a terminal session:

exiftool -csv *.mp3 -sourcefile -title -artist -duration > tags.txt

Note that you can export other MP3 tags as well: I’ll leave that to yourself to find out.

update 1: All related items are filed under the tag SXSW

Unity dialogs wars

Something that reminded me of the issues regarding Unity new ‘touch-based devices desktop paradigm’ that I noticed earlier, which I was going to mention in the previous posting: When you copy (cut/move) a large set of files, Nautilus will show you the ‘Copy File Dialog’ box. If you minimize this box, you will not be able to re-open ever therefore sort of leaving the user in the dark when the copy operation has finished. In Unity, all minimized windows go to the ‘Unity bar’ (no, NOT that kind of bar). Minimized modal dialogs that are part of applications however, do not. You cannot even re-open this box thru the ALT+TAB switch windows method. Sadly, this is a bug reported in earlier versions of Unity and it seems like it is still hanging around on (bug #887821).

In Gnome 3, they solved this slightly more elegant: Modal windows are treated the same as general system notifications and you should see it fly by in your message event ‘log’ (so to say). Switching to this dialog, however, can be achieved by using ALT-TAB and selecting the Nautilus icon. Not ideal, but definitely some Gnome developer was paying attention to properly implementing modal dialogs.

It would be interesting to see how Microsoft is solving modal dialogs in Windows 8/Metro.

Update 10/21/2012: Looks like the modal dialog issues have been fixed in Ubuntu 12.10 in an overhauled Windows switching system that actually looks pretty(see image screenshot).

Madness du Systeme Linuxi

The previous posting was actually supposed to be detailing the conversion of my DV-5 to Linux, a process that I have done so many times that I can do this with my eyes closed. Sort of. It took a bit longer as I decided to check out OpenSuse and Linux Mint first. Either Linux flavours I disliked from the get-go: OpenSuse is driven by KDE 4, which I really like, except for that it reminds me these days of Lego in both a good and bad way. Mint is where I expect desktop-Gnome 3 to go: only, it behaves very unpredictable. For example, UI elements like menus in NetBeans didn’t work at all. Also, random crashes occurred too many times.

So, back to Unity, which, as you probably already knew, I hate. For now, I can tolerate it: however, in my mind, while I appreciate that the Ubuntu-crew is concentrating on a UI that can work with touchbased devices, it would have been so nice if they had provided users with a good UI choice.

I am pining for both KDE4 and Mint tho. Or, maybe, just maybe, I really should go back to Debian, which to my surpise is now up to version 6. Same apt, same tools and same architecture.

A slight return to Postgres

Years ago, I used to set up postgres on Debian servers. For a couple of test, I had to install Postgres somewhere: Installing on Windows is generally a breeze, but not needing the third-party tools, I decided to go back to Linux and install the database server on my Ubuntu box. While I didn’t have issues with importing test data/databases, there were minor things that had me briefly stumped. So, to install Postgres on Ubuntu and other Debian flavours, here we go:

  1. First install postgres by entering ‘apt-get install postgresql’ in a bash-session/terminal
  2. We need to properly initialize it and I would recommend to add your login user to Postgres: sudo -u postgres createuser -D -P arthur
  3. Optionally, create a new database: sudo -u postgres createdatabase -O username whateveryouhavefordatabasename
  4. Open up pg_hba.cfg (sudo vi /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/pg_hba.conf).
  5. Change the following lines properly (use trust):
    # IPv4 local connections:
    host all all trust
    host all all trust

  6. Open up postgresql.conf and set listen_addresses = ‘*’ properly (* means that postgres will listen to all ip-address as defined in networking)
  7. Restart postgresql
  8. Connect to postgres using the psql client: psql -U arthur -h localhost -d whichever database

The official postgres site has demo databases (or rather links to them): they are around this url

Gnome 3 and Oneiric Ocelot

To my surprise, I saw that Ubuntu’s “Oneiric Ocelot” was released, which I decided to let go through via Ubuntu’s Update manager. I ended up double surprised when I found out that, from version 11.10 and on, only the Unity shell will be part of Ubuntu. I despise Unity (earlier). Despise is a hard word: lets say I can’t get used to that fixed launcher. I found it also very disk-intensive, sort of defeating the purpose of making a light shell. Going way back to Gnome was easy, though:

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

Wherein I ran into the third surprise of the week: Gnome 3 is now part of 11.10. Gnome 3: it reminds of Unity, that is: without the bloat. Everything now centers around the “Activities” panel, which is sort of an overview of what is active and what is currently running. There are a bunch of nice tricks you can do but it leaves me still mixed: Since there is no real task bar, it’s really hard/impossible to find particular process messages (like the file copy windows). Gnome 3 seems also geared towards hot-keys and short-cuts: you’ll find Gnome’s Cheatsheet handy (location). There are definitely improvements: Screencasting is now built-in using the hotkey CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+R (output in WebM format!), effects are used sparingly and geared towards a uniform experience. Do I like Gnome 3? So-so. But, it just has a slightly better feel than Unity.

10/22/2011: I ended up installing the Gnome Shell extensions + an external Dock program (“Dockie”) to take care of the missing features I was looking for.

Out and In

A glorious moment: Today I’m finally retiring my 2004/2005 Centrino laptop: it was initially my work laptop in a previous work life and was eventually passed on to me with the permission of management of said employer. It has served as my main Ubuntu laptop since 2008: as I didn’t have the official permission to carry the laptop’s OS, it made only sense to install Ubuntu on it. I recall, that at that time I had to do some manual stuff to get, for example, the wireless working.

Laptop 2 is another pass-me-down, but obviously a lot more powerful than the Centrino/512MB laptop I’m retiring. I expect this to last me for at least a couple of years, with the traditional host of Ubuntu upgrades. Once again, I refuse to run Unity on this thing: however, I might consider running Gnome 3 on this as I believe the Nvidia 8400 should be able to handle this.

For now.

You asked: Kubuntu or Ubuntu

Just yesterday, Canonical released one of the most important Ubuntu versions of its history: “Natty Narwhal”. The most famous Linux based desktop officially did away with the Gnome shell and replaced it with the Gnome based Unity shell (wikipedia to the rescue).

There was a time (see here) that I really wanted to like KDE 4 as opposed to Gnome. I only reverted back to Gnome, because KDE was slower than a pair of mocassins in a pot of molasses. So, yesterday, I started the regular upgrade process: The upgrade to Unity/Narwhal went fairly smooth and when the much touted shell finally showed up properly, I was fairly impressed. While toy-ish, the window handling appears fairly intuitive (“Mac-like”) and the general layout looks, well, clean. However, it’s buggy and it’s slow, with disk-activity and processor activity spiking out of control without any particular reason.

Returning back to Kubuntu, (you know, all things KDE), I was pleasantly surprised to find out it that is a lot more stable than I’ve seen almost 1 year ago. Heck, it’s even usable. Kubuntu or Ubuntu? Kubuntu, for now. Maybe in another year, I’ll be looking at Unity as my default desktop environment, but as far as it looks like right now, I won’t be looking at Unity for a while.

05/05/2011: It looks like my laptop (equiped with an Intel 9xx GPU) wasn’t the only one with sudden freezes: it seems to have been fixed, right a couple of days ago.

You asked: KDE or Gnome?

I work in both environments: that is, whenever I think there’s a need for working in KDE or Gnome, I just logout and change session (I have both window managers installed). But that wouldn’t really answer the question, I guess.

Obviously, I really like KDE 4: it’s generally more streamlined than Gnome and while the new Plasma ‘paradigm’ was not really well received during launch, it has improved a lot. However, it’s still buggy, which is the reason, why I mostly login to Gnome. Gnome, is not without issues either: compared to KDE it’s visually less appealing and (from a user-perspective) less intuitive. At one time, I strictly logged into KDE because of Amarok: KDE’s music player is superior to the bunch of media players that come with Gnome.

So, for me the answer to the question ‘Gnome vs. KDE’ would be Gnome. We’ll see how the KDE team fares in the next (K)Ubuntu release.

You can

There is nothing as glorious as opening up a terminal session on my spare Ubuntu laptop and log right into my server. That is, without downloading either Putty or a host of other MingW/Cygwin utilities on Windows. You guessed it: My main Windows computer is out of working order and until then, I’ll be working on my “Ubuntus b0xen”. No Steam games, no iPod Touch no nothing. Not that I miss iTunes.

There’s actually no real excuse for me not using this Ubuntu laptop more often: both Firefox and Chrome work like a charm and appear to be faster. I never really had problems using OpenOffice or VLC (remember this is a 512 MB Centrino laptop) nor did I ever run into heavy multi-tasking issues when programming. I noticed that ever since I upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10, MonoDevelop 2.0 was added as the default package, which is something I have not touched for ages (I run a development version of MonoDevelop).

This reminds me that my favourite photoeditor, RawTherapee has officially become open-source, and yes, it runs very well on this machine. I have to admit that it looks weird running it in 1024×768 resolution, but as long as it works and I can get my raw photos to work.


So, with Autumn slowly taking care of the leafs of the trees on our property, the spiders disappearing one by one, a couple of thoughts from computers to the personal stuff:

I like Autumn. In our younger years, our teachers always insisted that Spring marked the start of a new year. I always thought they were wrong and that the actual start of a new year starts around this month. Time to rake up the dead and the forgotten.

Alfons forwarded me a youtube video of the (old) DDR national anthem, ‘Auferstanden aus Ruinen’, which was composed by Hanns Eisler, a protégées and student of the great composer Arnold Schoenberg. Complex and intricate music: Obviously there’s a link between this composition and his ‘Dr Faustus’ Goethe Rhapsodie work. I’ve been planning to add Eisler to my ‘Past the Bridge’ collection of sound fragments. I would not be surprised if a lot of Germans get nostalgic if they hear that anthem.

I worked a bit on my Ubuntu box: I have no idea why the ‘graying’ part was added to Ubuntu (or if this is actually part of X), but I cannot tolerate it (basically, if a program is busy or has 100% CPU, it will temporarily ‘gray out’. It makes it appear that Ubuntu is bad at multi-tasking, which it definitely isn’t.

Update 1: A kind of hilarious: Google translates ‘Auferstanden aus Ruinen’ to ‘The Train Station’. No really.

Update 2: Some call ‘Auferstanden…’ the most beautiful national anthem ever written.

Other than that

On Windows, I’ve beenClever Null solely using Google’s Chrome browser, leaving my Firefox copy at bay: Firefox only gets into action if I need to confirm that Chrome’s cache-loading-stuff has gone amuck again. Yesterday, for example we suddenly lost connection to the Internets and when Chrome decided to go into indefinite looping mode (it does that particularly when its internal cache is screwed up), I started up Firefox only to run into the pretty dialog shown above (or on the right). It seems that Firefox’s updater requires a persistent connection nowadays. What happened to ‘working offline’ if no connection was found?

On my Linux/Ubuntu desktop machine, I use a combination of browsers, of course: On Gnome, Firefox is the main browser and yes, Opera is good second. When I log into KDE, Konqueror is my default browser: Though, with all this Flash stuff (and the Konqueror hang-ups), I always have Firefox ‘on the ready’.

This reminds me that I find Firefox a lot more ‘faster’ on Ubuntu than on Windows (XP/Vista), even if you consider the fact that the Ubuntu machine runs on 2005 hardware (Centrino, 512 MB, yadda-yadda). If you recall, earlier Firefox 3 (beta) releases for Ubuntu were disasters mainly because obscure SQLite transactions happening in the background of a browsing session (earlier here). However, since Chrome for Linux is officially still Alpha (if you’ve seen the images you know what I mean), there’s no rush to switch browsers on the Linux platform.