Tag Archives: Ubuntu

Some KDE

I runKDE 4.2 a mix of Gnome and KDE on one of my computers: for a couple of Mono related things, I ended up frequently running the Gnome desktop. Just today, I decided to follow-up on the notifications telling me that I needed to do a dist-upgrade (or rather a partial upgrade), which seemed to suggest that the latest KDE version was finally making it to me. Yay.

Everytime I re-open (or rather revisit) KDE I get surprised, and today was not an exception: once again, it looks like the KDE team seems to hammer out excellent releases. I don’t see a point to go through what has changed, this something you can probably find from the release notes, which, today, I don’t feel like pointing out where they are. OK, that was a joke.

But seriously, on this lowly laptop, windows zoom by, close up, roll down and all in a sober and subtle manner. There appears to be less disk activity, which suggests that performance has improved since the latest Neon release I was running here a while ago. I find Konqueror still clunky and not so flawless yet (there’s that evil non-Flash player bit), however, the spelling checker finally seems to be working. There are still too many unnecessary messageboxes popping up (the notifications are pretty good and useful) asking me to confirm too many things at times. I definitely (still) can’t stand the “Plasma” desktop windows. For some kind of reason, I can’t stand the way how the “close bar” seem to automatically appear on the right or left side of the window.

Delicious, nonetheless.

I, Recurse

So, yeah: I was sitting at work and the snow starts falling down in the morning and before I know it, it’s chaos in town. On my way to King’s Square, I was most of the time sliding around or trying to evade snowbanks. However, the good part was that the buses were still (surprisingly) mostly on schedule. So, let me think: this is the 3rd time we had more than 15 cms of snow. Saint John promised me cruise ships, tourists, tropical weather and palm trees with plenty of Bounty chocolate bars. Oh.

So, a 64-bit operating system needs a 64-bits VirtualBox and if I want to install Ubuntu or any other Linux flavoured distro, it needs to be a 64 bits version too. That’s logical? Back in the days, I used to manually select Debian packages, but if you’re in a rush and can’t live without apt-moo, you may just as well start with Ubuntu Server. I was surprised to see that during installation, Ubuntu’s installer offered to include Postgres 8.3 in the setup. This Debian Lenny (which is still in testing) is supposed to include version 8.3 too and Lenny is scheduled to be released in 2009. That sounds so far away.

This is probably a good time to phase out my current Debian Sarge server (“Elsie”)1 and host my Linux stuff in a virtual machine (VM), unless somebody is finally going to see the light and start building low-powered Linux server machines for 100 dollars or less.

1 I consider “Sarge” to be one of the best Debian releases. You can still download and install Sarge if needed. Most likely not. Whatevers.


If you weren’t aware of it, K/Ubuntu 8.10 is about to be released in a couple of days, actually, to be exact, on October 30th. I’ve seen the casual screenshots around of sand-brownish looking desktops and windows-dressing. Those reviews all concentrate on Gnome, of course: As I mentioned earlier, in August, I moved to KDE 4. To say it politically correct, GTK+ is just not my cup of tea.

I read that Kubuntu (The KDE-based Ubuntu) 8.10 will (finally) introduce KDE 4 to the masses (KDE 4.1.2 previously on xsamplex) and, as I then mentioned, visually not too much seem to have changed. There are still silly bugs and (generally) if you were happy with KDE 3, you should probably stick with Ubuntu (which by default will still come with KDE 3.2).

There was a (long) discussion on the Postgres list about how to properly reply to questions to a mailing-list: the issue is (as many of the contributers already suggest) in the ‘stupid MUAs’ that people are using. If I remember correctly (in the days when I actively took part in the development of an e-mailer), when your MUA encounters the X-Mailing-list headers, a ‘Reply To All’ should use the mailing group’s e-mail address and not the individual listed addressees. I think this was even mentioned in an RFC (I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t RFC 822).

Four, then II

Observations on KDE 4.1:

1. Everytime I restarted, Kate (the editor) and Kopete kept starting up: I didn’t find any references to these programs in the regular location (.kde4/Autostart), so I did a grep on ps (as in ‘ps -e | grep kate’ and ‘ps -e | kopete’), killed both instances and this seems to work. There’s probably a file (cache) related to this, but you know, this is Linux and it doesn’t hurt to kill an app so once in a while.

2. The Wifi Manager: Don’t forget to install the WIFI manager (KWifiManager): it doesn’t get installed by default! Additionally, to force autoconnection to your router, you must store the router password in KWallet.

3. I cannot stand the fact that if I choose to Shutdown KDE, that I have to confirm this in a second dialog box.

4. Both Dolphin and Gwenview currently don’t support RAW image view or thumbnail generation. Nautilus (Gnome’s filebrowser) does.

5. If you keep the control key pressed for a couple of seconds, Konqueror will show the shortcut keys for all links and buttons currently in view. This works pretty good.

KDE starts up pretty fast but takes a while to close off, that is, longer than shutting down Gnome. I’ve seen Windows Vista take longer to close off. Heck, even KDE starts up faster than a (fully) loaded Windows XP. Additionally, I have the feeling that (for example) Konqueror doesn’t properly dispose of its resources. However, I will readily admit that I made KDE the default desktop environment for this computer.

Four, then

I decided to give KDE 4.1 a go on my current Ubuntu (Hardy Heron) install: There are many sites around with instructions how to install KDE on your Gnome-enabled installation, so I won’t go in too many details. The idea is to add specific Kubuntu sources to apt, log-out by choosing a different window manager (using a different session, particularly if you plan to keep Gnome) and then log-in as usual.

You still need the install applications of course: So, you may want to look for Konqueror (Firefox works OK, but, will look ‘GTK-ish’), Amorok (audio) and Kaffeine (video), KPhotoAlbum and yes, digiKam: Kubuntu uses the (KDE specific?) Adept application to install 3rd party software.

I’ve used KDE 2 and 3 in the past: KDE 4.1 is generally impressive but still shows inconsistencies so once in a while. For example, during the first startup, a default Folder View shows up empty (Desktop): The point (apparently) is that you’re supposed to drag your frequent used applications in there. There are other quirks, like non-hideable panels (what?) and that widget stuff: uh, don’t count on it working too well because, on the overall, it doesn’t feel thought out.

If you can live with that, there are a lot of excellent applications for KDE. Amarok feels like a work of love and makes all those Gnome music players look like Windows 3.1 applications. Kaffeine looks (a lot) less boring than Gnome’s ‘Movie Player’. Konqueror feels fast, but, be forewarned that you probably have to muck around with settings: for example, GMail refuses to work in Konqueror unless you set it to send the ‘Mozilla 1.7′ or ‘Safari 2.0′ identification strings. This is not entirely Konqueror’s fault: Google itself doesn’t (officially) support Konqueror.

Earlier, I was already surprised about Gnome/AWN’s minimal system requirements. The same is true for KDE 4.1: it runs excellent on the current system (a 512 MB Centrino based laptop with one of those crappy GMA video cards).

Continue reading

En. Ix.

I haven’t touched my (personal) Windows laptop for a while: mainly because, I’ve been (primarily) using Ubuntu for things I normally did on Windows. This is both a good and bad sign: First of all, I’ve settled on using specific Linux tools to process my RAW photos (using UFRaw and The Gimp). Yes, I noticed RawStudio (don’t get me started on F-Spot), but while close to what I’m looking for, it misses features like cropping and that. On the bad side: I’ve not been doing a lot of side-programming, so things I’ve been working on have been lingering around, so to say.

This brings me to a couple of notes of note:

If you’re into making your own (Debian) based Live distribution, you may want to check into the Debian Live Project: I only mention it here because I keep losing the link and whenever I keep thinking of it, I end up looking for it on Google.

Way earlier, I was reminded that people actually buy (Windows) software to help them recover data from (accidentally) erased or formatted hard disks. You can also use the tools on the Knoppix CD for this. Or even better, the Knoppix Security Tools Disk.

And, if you really want to nuke your harddrive, because you’re being chased by a bunch of aliens, you may just as well do it the right way. DBAN, is a self-contained boot disk that can format your drive securely and thoroughly.


So, Avant Window Navigator after the “Ubuntu installation” dust is settling, it’s time to add some ‘candy’ to your desktop. After all, the default Gnome docks look quite boring.

- You can look for Themes and that over at Art at Gnome or GnomeLook. A word of caution: Gnome is not Windows. To install a theme, you download the tar/files, go to System | Preferences | Appearance -> Install. I recommend downloading the ClearLooks Themes (both Application and Window Border themes).

- The next thing is to install AWN, or, the Avant Window Navigator. It’s a sort of Leopard-like Dock and it works seamless with Compiz/Beryl. The good news is that Hardy includes AWN. The bad news is that Hardy doesn’t include the core set of applets. So, include the following lines to Software Sources:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/awn-testing/ubuntu hardy main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/awn-testing/ubuntu hardy main

Then, open up a terminal (you can also use the Synaptic Manager) and enter:

sudo apt-get install awn-manager-trunk awn-extras-applets-trunk

AWN will be installed in your Applications Menu. Additionally, the AWN manager will be installed in your System menu. Before you start up AWN, remove the bottom panel first (you don’t need that one anymore). Currently there are 10 to 15 applets available: You can obviously write your own applets too.

Earlier, I downloaded the trunk of the latest Banshee sources: I’ve opted to discard of RhythmBox Music Player only because Banshee allows the use of bookmarks, something I found handy while downloading and listening to the several CBC and PBS podcasts. The good thing is that most of Banshee’s dependencies (the libraries, the libraries) are included in Hardy (except for the latest GDK/GTK libs).

Dark is the night

There were a couple of interesting things that made it in my reading list, this week:

  • Obviously, you may have heard of the official launch of Ubuntu ‘Hardy Heron’ (or if you’re into version numbering, version 8.04). There’s lots of praise for Ubuntu around the Internet. The issues I’ve been dealing with were the sound issues as mentioned in earlier posts. Is Ubuntu ready to take on Windows? Not yet, but, I don’t think that’s the point of it: However, without a doubt, Ubuntu (and generally any Linux flavour) breathes new life in your older hardware1, 2.
  • Via Metafilter, I found a whole set of Hubble photos dedictated to galactic collisions. The photos are available in different sizes3
  • The same Metafilter has a link to HP’s RPN calculators. I had one of those too: they actually work OK, although, yes, you need to get used to it. Earlier this week, I was a kind surprised to find that Gnome’s calculator doesn’t have an option to set it to an RPN-mode.
  • InformIT has an interview with Donald Knuth. Knuth apparently uses Ubuntu.
  • So, the OLPC (the one laptop per child project) is steering towards making a deal with Microsoft, possibly hinting at dropping Linux for a Windows XP-based platform.

What else?

1 I must admit that I think FireFox 2.0 should have been part of the 8.04 release: the current FireFox 3.0 has definitely some “irregularity” issues.

2 The popularity of Ubuntu apparently is causing slowdowns at the Ubuntu repositories.

3 Related (a whole set of interacting galaxies at NASA, all in one picture)

Huh. huh?

I wasMrs. Clinton trying to play a QuickTime movie on Ubuntu (“Hardy Heron”, 8.04) and was surprised to find out that Totem (the default Mozilla plug-in for streaming movies) had a (ahem) hard time to play the movie. VLC to the rescue: well, almost. It’s the codecs, dude.

First verify if the ‘ubuntu-restricted’ downloads are installed: You can either issue an ‘sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras’ or you can look in the ‘Add/Remove’ option in the Application Menu. Select ‘All Available Applications’ and do a search for ‘ubuntu-restricted’. If not, on to the hard way.

First I recommend to get rid of the default Mozilla/Firefox video plugin (which is Totem and it totally sucks): sudo apt-get remove totem-mozilla mozilla-plugin-vlc xine-plugin kaffeine-mozilla helix-player mozilla-helix-player.

Then, install Mplayer by invoking sudo apt-get install mplayer mozilla-mplayer

After this, you should be able to view Quicktime movies in all of your installed videoplayers (Totem, VLC and MPlayer). When MPlayer is installed, don’t forget to enable the software-mixer in the preferences: and if you’re SOL, you may want to restart the computer right after that (I had some bad luck with my machine which may have been unrelated to the MPlayer installation).

I think my troubles started with the fact that I originally installed ‘Gutsy Gibbon’ on my machine: the dist-upgrade to Hardy Heron, issued just yesterday, most likely didn’t automatically finish the setup of the ‘ubuntu-restricted’ package, so, if you started out from scratch with ‘Hardy Heron’, you should not have any troubles viewing WMV/Quicktime, since it is supposed to have been installed. If you plan to stick to Gutsy (and upgrade to Hardy afterwards) , you most likely want to follow the steps mentioned above.

And now, back to watching Apple trailers or, uh, watching Evil Hillary movies.

Update 1: Notice that even if you issue ‘manual apt commands’, the installed packages will add the correct program icon to the appropriate ‘Application menu’ in Gnome. I assume, the same is true if you’re working with Kubuntu or Xubuntu.

Update 2: If you noticed that Ubuntu has problems playing sound in concurrent sessions (i.e. sound in a Flash player goes OK in FireFox, but no sound in MPlayer/Banshee or vice versa), you should definitely follow these instructions to correct the problem. Requires some editing of resource files: nothing spectacular.

Them links

Via Suzanne Vega’s site, I found out that she nowadays (also) blogs for the New York Time’s ‘Measure for Measure’ periodical. There are other musicians writing for that very same blog: the only (other) familiar author is Roseanne Cash.

You’re probably aware that music and mathematics are quite related: Pythagoras was quite interested in music and his theories form the basis of current musical notation. Anyway: Three music professors have come up with a new way to analyze and categorize music and notes.

I forgot to mention it in earlier (Ubuntu) entries: In a couple of days (5 to be exactly), the new Ubuntu is to be released, properly named ‘Hardy Heron’ (or rather 8.04). You can download (complete) test versions (RC3, I believe) from the ‘Ubuntu testing’ website. You can also upgrade your current 7.10 (“Gutsy Gibbon”) to this test version using Ubuntu’s Update Manager. If you’re curious what’s going to be new, here are “Hardy Heron”‘s release notes.

Update: I just updated to the RC of Hardy Heron. You should definitely install the compiz graphical effects manager by invoking ‘apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager’. The manager will appear in your System menu: have fun playing with the options.

More Ubuntu

MoreA dragonfly annotations on Ubuntu:

  • The installation of MonoDevelop was a no-brainer: I think the .Net runtimes are installed the moment you install Ubuntu. I may port one minor application to Mono, if I have time later this evening.
  • At one time, I despised the multiple ‘desktop’ panels that are part of (most) Linux Windows managers. Nowadays, I’ve learnt to appreciate it: I gather that you should keep them limited to 2 or 4. I chose to keep the default set of panels (2 columns, 1 row)
  • Generally, keyboards shortcuts follow Mac and Windows standards. You may want to see into this document explaining all (or most) known shortcut keys known for Gnome and KDE.
  • I heart Audacity, which was one of the first apps I installed yesterday. Getting the application to both record and play was a bit of a nuisance: Make sure to go into the preferences (Edit | Preferences) and set both PlayBack and Recording sections to the proper sound card devices. I only got this going (both recording and playback) by plainly experimenting. The default Audacity settings definitely won’t work right out of the box.
  • Talking about sound: I haven’t settled on which mediaplayer to use. For now I use Ubuntu’s default one, which is RythmBox.
  • The specific graphical effects (I think these come from Compiz, which is installed by default too) work good on the built-in (and ‘low-end’) Mobile Intel 910 GMA card. So do the transparency effects, but, I have seen these in earlier Knoppix versions (which is KDE based, as you probably know) so these don’t really surprise me.

Without a doubt, you’ll run in a couple of hardware weirdness, all of them generally easy to solve: Ubuntu has started a LaptopTesting wiki where contributers test and write about their experiences installing Ubuntu on older laptops. An excellent resource, particularly for the laptop (an HP NC6120) I used. In my case, the Wifi-LED didn’t reveal if it was active or not while Ubuntu had already correctly made a WIFI connection to my network. This was easily fixed and it actually changed the behaviour of the WIFI-LED: currently the LED is blinking while it tries to make a connection (or whenever it finds wireless networks). That’s even better, not?

Update 1: For more recent versions of software, you should check out GetDeb, from which you can get the latest version of UFRaw (which I mentioned earlier).

The imminent

The CBC has an article about the prediction that Windows is about to ‘collapse’, because of Microsoft’s inaction towards the marked after the introduction of Windows Vista. Other industry experts say that Microsoft knows it’s Windows days are dwindling, which is why it’s pulling so hard at Yahoo so that it can refocus efforts to reclaim the territory lost on the Internet (services and advertisements, that is).

So, just earlier, I decided to go ahead with the installation of Ubuntu on one of the spare computers: I have my share of experience with Debian and Ubuntu (as a virtual machine, for example), so generally, I didn’t encounter problems I couldn’t fix: for example, every piece of hardware was detected correctly. Mind the following notes:

  • If you’re used to vi, you probably still want to install ‘vim’. The default vi version that comes with Gutsy sucks so hard that, well, if you thought vi already sucked… (so, yes, go ahead and apt-get install vim)
  • KeePass, the password manager that I use, is available too: apt-get install keepassx. I haven’t tested if it’s completely compatible with the Windows variant.
  • Skype is also available: you can download the Debian deb file from Skype.com itself and install it right from your favourite browser.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but I like my terminal session to be white letters on a black background and not the other way around.
  • You still have to go through hoops to get DVD to play, but then, this is basically because this is Linux: after all, on your Mac and Windows PC, someone has already paid for being allowed to play DVDs on those computers.

So, yes: if you have a spare computer in your house and you think you may want to give Linux a try, you can’t go wrong with Ubuntu “Gutsy Gibbon”.

Oh. Noes!

Yesterday, my two sets of Ubuntu 7.10 (“Gutsy Gibbon”) arrived by snail-mail, which means that I’ll be upgrading my ‘v1r7u41 b0xen’ this weekend. Once again, the package came with free stickers. Hey, Sun, what’s that? Still no free stickers with your Solaris disks?

Engadget listed PhotoVu’s Digital Frame which comes with an RSS reader. Wait, there’s more: it has a built-in webserver (so that you can set up things and stuff). Wait there’s more: It uses Samba. 1, 2, 3, 4: Why, it runs Debian, of course. Nifty.

And on a completely different note: the .Net Framework (confirmed in 2.0, for sure) doesn’t support serialization of TimeSpans. This is not really a big issue, because you can generally workaround this. It just struck me by surprise.