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Ubuntu 11.04 Review -The Basics

It has been a year since I last posted and I’m going to pick up where I left off. I last posted about how my laptop was broken and that thus I was thus not willing to attempt to reinstall Fedora. This left me stuct with Ubuntu 10.04. a year and two versions of Ubuntu later and I still haven’t gone back to Fedora (at least not full time). I had Ubuntu on my laptop because it had just come out and I installed it to write a review. So I think it is fitting that I should pick back up with a review of ubuntu 11.04 Natty narwhal (which sounds like the name that would be given to a “craft” version of cheap Busch beer marketed towards some sub-culture)

Before I jump into that, I would like to explain a bit about why I have not moved back to Fedora. Like I said in my last post my laptop was broken and trying to install Fedora would have been difficult or impossible. That laptop quickly became unusable and I had to switch to a Dell gx150 that I had laying around. the gx150s were on the low end of the pc spectrum when they came out a decade (or whatever) ago. being that I had two laptops die in 2 years I decided investing in a desktop might be a better option. So I harvested what I could from the laptop and pieced together a desktop from whatever I could find on sale or craigslist. now I have a desktop with a intel core 2 quad q84000, 6gb of ram, and an nvidia 9600 video card. It may not be the fastest machine on the block, but it is certainly a few steps up from my laptop. (I also just finally upgraded from an old dying crt to a used lcd monitor that I was given by someone who claimed it didn’t work)

Now on to the review. I’m going to break this up into two posts so if you are reading this much after the post date you should be able to follow the link below to continue, if not you will just have to come back for more. Also as is usual if you find spelling and grammatical errors it is because I don’t care enough to proof read any of this stuff. It takes long enough to write it in the first place, if I were to proof read it, I would never post it.

Installation as far as I can tell/remember is identical to 10.10. There is really nothing special or interesting here. Below is a screen shot of what 11.04 looks like right after install (minus the folder on the desktop). Its pretty sleek looking (click to enlarge).

The only real change of notice in Natty Narwhal is Unity, which I actually rather like. Unity is by no means perfect (see next post), but I’m hoping that with time it could be great. I heard a few people complaining bitterly about unity when it was first included in the netbook edition, but I have always liked docks (which is essentially what this is) in just about any form, including the windows taskbar. The Launcher (as canonical calls it) is not the only feature of Unity. There is also a mac os/compiz style virtual desktop viewer called expo (as seen below). One really cool feature that expo has is that you can drag windows around between the desktops. You can also use expo without ever touching your mouse. Meta(win)+s opens expo and the arrow keys can be used to select the desktops. When you have found the desktop you want just hit enter.

Unity also features a new search/launch thing called the dash that is very similar to the one in Gnome 3 (press the meta(win) key to access). unfortunately I could not get a screenshot of this because print screen is disabled while the dash is open. I’m sure I could get a picture if I really cared, but I don’t. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dash like thing in Gnome 3 but this one is actually quite usable. I think the difference maybe the ease of use from a keyboard. If my memory serves me correctly it was difficult to use the one in Gnome 3 without the mouse. I am basing this on the version of Gnome 3 that the fedora 15 alpha used so things may have changed (it is also possible that unity has these problems but I haven’t noticed them as much for whatever reason). I absolutely hated Gnome3 and I thought I was going to hate unity but I actually like it a lot (except for a few fairly minor things which I will discuss next time). There are two other less impressive new features which should be noted; one is the new rating system built into the software center (bad screen shot of software center below). and the other I will discuss in the complaints section and the other I will discuss in the complaints section. It is probably worth mentioning at this point that the launcher, the dash, and expo all require graphics acceleration and therefore for most people also require that you install proprietary video drivers. I’m not a complete FLOSS zealot so I don’t really mind this but I’m sure a lot of people out there will. If you are one of those people or if you just have a old graphics card Canonical has graciously provided a default mode (just in the same way Gnome 3 does) which looks very similar to gnome 2.x.

So lets talk about the launcher for a bit. The launcher will dodge out of the way of windows as you can see in the next two screenshots. This is the major source of my complains about Unity. The launcher needs a good polishing. It is the face of Unity and frankly I’m not sure it is really ready for mainstream use. though I have had no problems with Unity crashing, it seems that many people have. I believe I read that almost every user in a test group for the release candidate crashed it. I would be willing to bet that many of the people experiencing crashing with Unity have under powered graphics and thus anyone with a decent graphics card should not have this issue. This might be fixed by now so don’t take what I say for granted. Despite its problems as I have said a few times already, I like it. One feature of note (though I think it is kind of annoying) is that when the launcher is hidden if when a program wants you attention it will pop out and wiggle (which I believe is also a feature found in mac os). Despite the constant referencing of mac os, I think the launcher more resembles the windows taskbar than Apple’s dock. You can think of it as something that is in between.

Moving applications around in the launcher is not intuitive and it took me a day or two of using Unity before I figured out how to do it. The two pictures below show the process. You can not simply click on an icon and drag it up or down, nor can you right click and select move like you could in gnome. In order to move an icon you must drag it to the right out of the launcher and then move it up and down. When the icon is dragged out, a little gray line appear indicated where the icon will be dropped when you let it go. I discovered this only after seeing if I could remove an icon from the launcher by dragging it out like in just about every other similar program (you can’t).

The last bit about the launcher is how it keeps track of multiple windows. As you can see in the picture below there are dots on the left of the icon and an arrow on the right. the dots indicate the number of total windows for that application and the arrow on the right indicates that at least one window is open. If the application only has one window the dots are replaced by a single arrow as can be seen in a few of the other screenshots.

The next thing to point out is that the menu bar is gone! As you can see in the picture below, application menus and the window buttons have been moved to the top panel like in mac os. Unlike mac os however, you can only see the menus while mousing over them. When you do not have your mouse over the top panel the window title is displayed. I’m not sure if I really need to say this or not, but I’m going to just for good measure. This is really freaking annoying.

One last thing I just noticed. If you drag a window to the left or right the window will “maximize” to fill half of the screen or the full screen in the case of the top. I don’t believe gnome does/did this, but if I’m just being forgetful let me know. Even if gnome didn’t do this its still not terribly impressive, but it does need to be mentioned.

As you can see and may experience the only thing to really talk about in Natty Narwhal is Unity. As I have said several times now, I like unity but it needs a lot of polish. I think they did a really grate job on this so far. It looks and acts very very similarly to Gnome 3, yet somehow I don’t hate it. I actually like it! Anyway, if you have been afraid to upgrade to 11.04 you should probably get over your fears and take the plunge because while it may not be perfect and it might take you a day to get used to the launcher and the dash, I don’t think it will negatively affect your productivity and you just might like it as much or more than I do. If you are still on the fence because I keep talking about how there are lots of little problems without ever telling you quite what they are you should come back later/check out the link below to see my next and final installment on this review.

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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in foss, linux, opinion, review, ubuntu

 

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No Fedora for me (for a while at least)

My computer is broken (half working) so I don’t want to try to install Fedora on it and have it not work and then not have an os. I guess I get to use Ubuntu a bit longer…

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2010 in linux, ubuntu

 

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appropriate

Ubuntu kung-Fu

For more information on my opinion of Ubuntu see my previous entry

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2009 in humor, joke, linux, ubuntu

 

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These are the things which make people not want to use linux.

All I want to do is type a few macrons and acutes so I can do my latin homework, but no. Instead I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to do this in Gnome. I first found scim, but that was not useful at all and I’m not even sure if it can do what I want. So I discovered that Gnome has intl. keyboard layouts. I thought ok this is what i want! I added the Dvoark intl. keyboard layout and began to try to type with it. No luck with this one either. Gnomes keyboard viewer shows an additional set of characters available on the keyboard, but no where could I find information on how to use these characters. Maybe it is easy to do. Maybe I am juts being an idiot. The fact still remains that I can’t even type an acute after spending over 30 minutes trying to figure out how. I normally use my mac for these kind of things and figured out how do use its international keyboard layouts in only a few minutes (however my mac is kind of indisposed at the moment so I will not be using it.)

It seems from what I have read that it is much easier in KDE than it is in Gnome (or maybe that Gnome just doesn’t work and KDE does), but I like Gnome and don’t want to have to switch to KDE just to be able to type. It may be unfair to say a thing like this will stop people from using linux as this problem does not really seem to be with linux but with Gnome, However most people do not look at a computer and see a desktop manager and applications running on it; they see magic. If they can’t use this magic the whole thing is bad.

The point I am trying to make is that if it takes more than 5 minutes to figure out how to do a basic (gui) function than the process is broken.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2009 in linux

 

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Fedora 10 is here! all praise Red Hat

Fedora 10 has finally been released today. As you know, if you read this blog anyway, I am an avid supporter of Fedora. Normally I try one of the betas before the release but this time around I have been busy with school so I did not have time. I am only now working on aquireing a copy for myself and will be trying it in the next few days. The last version had a few problems I would like to see worked out in this version but I am not too hopeful. With any luck this version will actually run on my iBook! (it does say it works on all macs built after 1999 and mine was built in 2005 or so.) I might write something up and let you know how it is, if I have time. But in the meanwhile GO GET A COPY!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2008 in linux

 

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Useful Commandline Tools

These are some of the most useful, commonly used, or coolest command line tools that I know of. That doesn’t mean that you will find them useful or use them much; I can only go off of what I know and that is what I do myself :).

You should be able to find most of these pre-installed on any *nix (including mac os).

1. wget
wget is a download manager and is by far my favorite download manager. Some people prefer curl, but I don’t. The most basic usage of wget is just wget (url).

2. rsync
rsync is a very simple but powerful tool. If you aren’t using it you probably should be. It simply “syncs” two folders, meaning that all files from one folder will be copied to another folder (this is a simplistic explanation). The most basic usage you will probably need is rsync -av source/ destination/. This will move any files from source/ that are not already in destination/ to destination/ and replace any files in destination/ that are in both but differ(say destination/ has an old version it will be replaced by the one from source/), note that the v flag is for verbose and may be left off. rsync -av –delete source/ destination/ may be used if you want the contents of destination/ to be exactly the sam as source/.

3. lsof
lsof lists all open files. So want to see what your users are doing? No problem just type lsof as root.

4. history
Ok, you really should know this one. It list terminal history. So you forgot that command you used yesterday to do something, just type history into bash and see every command you have an in the last however long your history is set to store.

5. link/ln
linux links two files together. The syntax is linux source Target. I don’t want to get into the whole hard v symbolic links right now so I will just quote the man page ” A hard link to a file is indistinguishable from the original directory entry; any changes to a file are effectively independent of the name used to reference the file.” ” A symbolic link contains the name of the file to which it is linked. The referenced file is used when an open(2) operation is performed on the link. A stat(2) on a symbolic link will return the linked-to file; an lstat(2) must be done to obtain information about the link. The readlink(2) call may be used to read the contents of a symbolic link.”
note that link and ln are the same thing.

6. periodic
nixen have scripts that they need to run on a periodic bases to keep your system running well. If you don’t leave your computer on 24 7 some of them won’t be ran. If you don’t leave your computer on all the time to keep your system in good heath it is a good idea to run sudo periodic -v daily weekly monthly

7. scp
scp is cp over ssh. It is really nice, trust me. To use it type scp source destination in the terminal. scp is meant to transfer files from one computer to another so either the source or destination will need to look something like username@ipaddress:path. You will also need the user password to transfer files, of course.

8. at
at allows you to run a command in the future. I don’t really use it much and I’m not 100% sure how it all works and its late so I’m going to have to just refer you to the man page. (this is one of the ones that is just cool)

9. clear
clear clears the terminal of all your old garbage. So if you have been working for a while and you want a clean working area just type clear.

For more on any of these refer to your friendly system man (as in man (name of program)…).

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2008 in bash, Commandline, linux

 

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A Brief Review of Gentoo.

As I promised here is my review of gentoo. I’ve been wanting to try gentoo for a while now but I could never get it installed quite right. Amazingly despite my isp’s block of rsync causing gentoo to believe that I didn’t have internet I finally installed it with success! The only thing of interest that I can think of to mention at this point was that the screen saver didn’t work. So once I got my isp to stop blocking Rsync (that took a about a week…) I decided I should update my system; I hoped this would fix the problem with the screen saver. So I ran emerge –update –world and that was when the trouble started. Gentoo is obviously a very manual distro which is fine but it can be annoying times. I won’t complain about that too much because I know the reasons for it and actually kind of like it in some way, however, I don’t have time to worry about software conflicts and updating config files every times I update something.

The trouble that I mentioned was that my computer stopped running the gdm on log in and once I did get into gnome it had lost all of my settings and half of everything simply didn’t work (including dvorak). I wasn’t really in the mood to try to fix this and I had no idea what was wrong so I decide to update gnome and see what happened. It fixed it thats what happened. (the first review was better; this one sucks pretty bad.) Once Gnome was functioning again I decide to install vlc (because that is how I roll). vlc had no gui interface so I’m assuming that somehow I got the cdl version or something. I believe I may have had one or two other minor problems, but I can’t remember what they were as it has been a little while.

Don’t think that gentoo is bad just because I had a few annoyances. I’m sure I would use gentoo if I had more time (and knowledge?) to invest in getting the thing to work properly (and then never touch it), but with school and everything I don’t. For me, Fedora is still the best distribution because it requires a lower level of maintenance (though it has been giving me problems on this install…)

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2008 in linux, review

 

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