Tag Archive for: Ubuntu

Revisiting Unity

10 Jun 2011
June 10, 2011

imageBack in the Ubuntu 10.10 era I decided to have a look at this new Ubuntu Unity thing that all the cool kids were blogging about.

At first glance it looked like just the thing for netbooks. My resulting blog post on the topic was so incredibly negative that I ended up deleting the post and just decided to never speak of Unity again…

Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan. It was really that bad.

I’m glad to say that my opinion has changed. On a whim, I installed Unbuntu 11.10 on my new netbook earlier this week. I don’t recall if it was a conscious decision or not, but I ended up with Unity. So far I’m digging it quite a bit.

What’s changed? Usability.

For instance, adding and removing icons from the launcher is easily accomplished with a right-click. Running apps show up in the launcher. If you’re running something  that you want to keep on the launcher just right-click on it and choose “keep in launcher” – a lot like “Pinning” in Windows 7. Remove items from the launcher from the right-click menu as well.

Want to shuffle things around? Click and hold (or click and drag slightly to the right) and then move and drop it where you want it on the launcher.

Those two things alone are dramatic improvements. If they were possible when I first looked at Unity I sure never figured out how.

After I installed it, many of my “typical” Netbook Setup steps still applied so I was able to quickly get to something I was comfortable with.

Do I love the launcher bar on the left? At first I didn’t think I would like it but it works really well with a widescreen. Even one as small as 1024×600 like the netbook has.

Oh, and speaking of the netbook, the dual-core Atom proc seems work well with Ubuntu 11.04. Not a power-house but not gimpy either. It gets the job done just fine (and I bet the upgrade to 2GB RAM doesn’t hurt!). I’m pleased.

Now if I could just solve the Exchange client thing…

Grub 2 Fixes

07 Mar 2011
March 7, 2011

The Linux Tux Penguin logoThese days I find myself spending the majority of my time in a Windows based OS of one flavor or another. However, I still have most of my machines set to dual-boot to a Linux distro (lately that’s usually Ubuntu). That way I still have it very handy when I want or need it.

Grub 2 is the boot-loader I see the most and I find it quite serviceable. And maddening. Until recently it actually drove me nuts for two main reasons. Fortunately, I finally took the time to do 5 minutes of research last weekend and those reasons are no longer issues.

Item 1: Setting the Default boot OS

By default, the top item in the boot menu list is the default OS to boot. And, by default, that’s the most recent Linux kernel. Well, since I spend the majority of my time in Windows that was becoming distressing.

Initially I found a way to modify the config to tell grub which line number was the default OS. However, each time I updated and got a new kernel this line number was no longer correct — the new kernel would get added to the top of the list and push everything down (see item 2).

Fortunately, I found a blog post titled, “Fix Windows as default boot on Ubuntu with Grub2 loader” that offers a very simple solution. Just specify the default OS by name instead of number! So simple… yet I sure struggled to solve it. For details just follow that link.

Item 2: Cluttering up the Boot Menu list with Old Kernels

I alluded to this earlier. Every time you update and get a new kernel you get two more entries into the boot menu. After just a few updates that boot menu gets long and cumbersome.

Cleaning up the boot menu is pretty simple though — and rather automated. Once you’ve verified that the kernel is working there’s really no reason to keep the old one(s) around. Just fire up synaptic and completely remove those old kernels. When you do so, their associated menu entries are removed automagically as well. I picked up this tip from another blog post titled, “Clean up the New Ubuntu Grub2 Boot Menu.”

So there you go, with just those two posts I’ve removed a major “pain point” from my daily dual-booting experiences. Yay blogs!

ThinkPad X40 and Ubuntu Netbook 10.04

06 Sep 2010
September 6, 2010

ThinkPadX40When the ThinkPad X40 first came out, 5 or 6 years ago, I had much lust in my heart. I wanted one so badly but it was just priced out of my reach.  A 12” screen and weighing in around 3 lbs. made it seem to be the ultimate portable rig – the keyboard is quite wonderful too.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to grab one on a “trial basis” (I’m quite sure I’ll be purchasing it) and quickly snapped it up. It was running XP Pro well enough but after I did some updating I ran into a series of BSOD issues. Since I have recently been using Ubuntu Netbook Edition I decided that would be a great OS for this little rig.

Installing it, however, gave me some difficulties.

First I tried booting from the USB stick that I had used when I installed Ubuntu Netbook on my Eee. The X40 just wouldn’t do it. After some research I found some anecdotal notes that seem to indicate that the X40 has issues booting from large USB sticks. Unfortunately, I don’t have any 512 MB sticks laying around to test with – and I don’t think the Netbook Edition install would fit on one.

Fortunately, the unit I have came with the UltraBase dock so I was able to try a CD install. I grabbed the image from the Ubuntu downloads page (scroll down to the Netbook Live CD). The boot process would start OK but then the screen would go black. A quick search turned up a blog post that pointed me to a Bugs page with details about the issue and work-arounds. “Workaround A” worked for me, both to boot from the Live CD but also to permanently resolve the issue once I had it installed.

With the video issue solved, I’m pleased to say that Ubuntu Netbook Edition runs great on this little box. All the more impressive as it currently has just 768 MB of RAM – something I hope to address later today once I dig through the old box ‘o ram in the garage…

Battery life is good. With the included extended battery we seem to be headed for the 4 – 5 hour range.

The wife acceptance factor is huge. She loves the idea of having a little and light portable to float around the house with. This morning I found her curled up on the couch with it running through email and Facebook. Later I found it on the kitchen island with some recipes up as she was preparing for this afternoon’s festivities. The12” panel is small but not too small and the native 1024×768 resolution works well for the majority of the main stream web sites we use.

I think I’ll hold off on buying a netbook for home now Smile

Hamachi2 and Linux and Haguichi

02 Sep 2010
September 2, 2010

LogMeIn Hamachi2 imageI just realized that I haven’t written anything about LogMeIn Hamachi² here. Just like the predecessor Hamachi, Hamachi² is a peer-to-peer VPN service. Free version for non-commercial use and reasonably priced for commercial. I’ve been a fan for years – great way to link my various computers together.

Hamachi² changed things a bit by moving all the network management to a central web site and giving some more options to configuration. For instance, you can now configure “Hub-and-spoke” networks in which the clients can only see the servers (or the “hub”). Not quite as simple to configure as the prior version but I do like the additional security and configuration options so I upgraded last year. Always meant to mention it here, just never got the round ‘tuit…

When V2 was initially released it was only for Windows. Very disappointing. Happily, I recently noticed Linux and Mac beta versions on the LogMeIn Labs page – command line only, but better than nothing (and no, I have no clue when they appeared. Been a long time since I had checked the labs page!).

I installed it on my little Ubuntu Netbook Eee last month and have had no issues running it. Just pop to a terminal window and type hamachi –? to see your various options. It wasn’t too tough to sort out.

haguichi-64x64Today I discovered Haguichi. [hat tip to Web Upd8] A slick little graphical user interface for Hamachi2 on Linux that runs a lot like the original Hamachi for Windows UI but also supports Hamachi2 (as beta). I love it!

Start it up and it runs up in the notification area just like you’d expect. Single click and you get an easy to use interface to see your networks and their contents. Right click a machine and you’ll get some options. All very friendly.

I haven’t analyzed exactly how much space it uses… as a C# app built on the Mono framework there is bit of a footprint here. All I know for sure is I still have space left on the little 4GB SSD drive so I’m happy.

If you’re using this with Ubuntu Netbook Edition you’ll want to make one small change. By default, all apps are maximized when ran – that makes haguichi rather ugly… In a terminal window run gconf-editor In the resulting application, navigate to Apps and then click on maximus. On the right pane, right-click on “exclude_class” and click “edit key.” Now click the add button and type in “Haguichi” (this is case-sensitive, be sure that’s a capital H). Log out and back in and no more maximizing.