Sunday, December 30, 2007

Upcoming Hardy Heron Features

Desktop Stuff

Third-party apt: Create a signed .apt file format which allows easy adding of third-party repositories to the sources.list file without manually editing anything or pasting the deb entry into synaptic. Seems to be well thought out and thoroughly discussed.

Desktop Effects: There is a great emphasis on getting desktop effects as stable as possible for Hardy. This is currently one of the biggest support issues on the Ubuntu Forums. There is an emphasis on trying to make Compiz behave more like Metacity, which I believe is good for users. Right now, switching between enable and disabled effects means changing keybindings, the method of dragging windows between workspaces, and other problems.

Revamped Logout screen: When you click on "Quit" currently, you are presented with a myriad of choices. Hardy looks to limit this list, but they're not sure to what extent yet. User switching will be pulled out to the fast user switcher applet. Suspend and hibernate will likely be hidden for the average user and initiated by closing the laptop lid. Lock screen will appear on the System menu, and Log out may be pulled out to there, as well. If that's the case, clicking the System menu's Shut Down will leave only Shut Down, Restart, and Cancel. It sounds good to me.

Joining Windows' domains easily: There will probably be a simple GUI dialog for joining Windows' domains.

An emphasis on LTS upgrades: A lot of the LTS users will be upgrading only once every two years. There will be an emphasis on testing the upgrade from 6.06LTS to 8.04LTS.

Kernel 2.6.24: No one is sure which version of the kernel will be used when Hardy comes out, but it will be 2.6.24.x for sure. Gutsy is using 2.6.22. The release of 2.6.23 saw a lot of new device drivers, including wireless, supported, and 2.6.24 has a lot of video driver work done. I'll put together a summary in another blog post.

Audio backend goodness: There is a push to make PulseAudio the default for Hardy, replacing the venerable ESD. Pulse is backwards compatible with ESD and can take several other sources as plugins, as well. It also features decently low latency. It's not quite good enough for pro audio work, but there's talk of making that happen too. No matter what, Pulse will be a big step forward from the current system.

A Robust Installer: Ubiquity will be modified to fail more gracefully and to migrate and upgrade more consistently. Maybe we can finally drop the "backup, install, and restore" advice.

A significant reduction of duplicates: Libraries and applications will be looked at to find places to trim the fat. Some libraries have multiple versions installed. Libraries currently being looked at are db4, libgksu, libgtkhtml, libgtksourceview, libneon, libnet, sqlite, libvw (meaning completely dropping Beagle support), pythong 2.x, cpp,gcc, and libstdc. On the desktop front, there is a big argument over F-Spot and GThumb, including the resulting discussion about inclusion of Mono. Tomboy and Sticky Notes are suffering the same fate. An interesting point is that Sound Juicer's basic functionality is already in Rhythmbox (right-click on the CD and "Copy to Library." Rhythmbox can also create audio CDs from playlists, duplicating Serpentine. Ubuntu is talking to Gnome about this. Ultimately, Ubuntu is looking to cut some stuff out of the install CD to make more space for other functionality which is missing right now..

Server Stuff

Virtualization work: A lot of the stuff marked as "essential" for Hardy is related to virtualization, Jeos (the minimal Ubuntu install designed to host for guest VMs), and kernel upgrades which improve VM work.

eBox for Ubuntu Server: This will make administering a small-business or home server really simple. Imagine if Webmin we rewritten now using modern methods and a clean interface. eBox is quite impressive. Take a look at

Other interesting possibilities: The following are not approved, but show promise...
  • Installing without erasing /home
  • Creating a suite of desktop tests
  • Easy file sharing using Avahi and user-level Samba shares
  • Some changes to Wine are being talked about which would make running Windows apps a lot smoother than it is now, including .deb packaging for open source and freeware apps.
  • Screencasts may be available from within the Ubuntu help system. I've proposed an RSS feed for this, but I think they are leaning towards embedding them into Yelp.
  • There's also talk of making LDAP usable for someone other than an IT god. The conversation involves whether to use OpenLDAP or Fedora Directory Server. I think using the eBox installation (which already has a working LDAP server) is a good place to start.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I read the article linked to in the title. The executive summary of the opinion is that people are doing a disservice to Linux by creating Ubuntu-specific howtos and seeming to talk about Ubuntu as the only Linux distribution.

The bottom line is that it is Ubuntu. That's the distribution name. It's currently the most used one by a fair amount (don't but the Distrowatch numbers which claim that PCLOS is #1 ... though it's a good distro). When I talk about the Linux kernel, it's Linux. When I talk about a package, I use that package's name.

If I want to talk about adding repositories and installing software, it's Ubuntu / Red Hat / Fedora / Debian / Slackware / whatever. For this blog, that means Ubuntu. My stuff is centered on Ubuntu, although a certain amount could be extrapolated to Linux distros in general. Beginners following general Linux howtos (or even Ubuntu howtos for older releases) cause a fair number of headaches when they don't work exactly as written and the user doesn't have enough knowledge of Unix-like systems to adjust.

There's also the matter of Ubuntu users not knowing or caring what Linux is at this point. Many of them are brand new, just over from MS Windows. They don't search for "Install Skype on Linux," they search for "Install Skype on Ubuntu," just as they should. If you want to help these people (or get page views for ad clicks, or whatever your goal is), your Ubuntu howto had better be Ubuntu-specific and come up high in the search for that search term.

I made this blog to be Ubuntu-centric, because I have believed from the first release (4.10) that Ubuntu is something attractive to new users. It wouldn't be my first choice as a ten-year user, but I support several new users and am writing a book about it, so I've felt the need to be extremely familiar with it. As long as Ubuntu sticks to its agenda -- supply the best application in each category in the base install, keeps the community it has carefully built, and has that welcoming feeling for newcomers, it will continue to make waves.

So I say "Yeah, there's more to Linux than Ubuntu, but new users don't care and don't even need to. Let them find out about Linux and free software later, at their leisure. There's no need to force them into a Linux babtism if they just want a usable system."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

eeeXubuntu -- Please, sir, may I have some more?

is a sub-distribution of Xubuntu specifically for the Asus eeePC, which I wrote about last week. I have read several blogs about this new distro which cry "Why another distro? Should we have one for every different computer?"

My answer to them is "Yes ... for laptops, at least."

Laptops are the bane of Ubuntu's existence. They create so many support requests. Getting suspend/hibernate working, configuring the wireless, and setting up the right resolution for the LCD is a time-consuming task. Wouldn't you rather download a version of [U|Ku|Xu]buntu with all those laptop-specific tweaks already in place? Install and use, just like the Windows recovery disk the manufacturer supplied.

What a wonderful world that would be.

If you don't want different .iso images, we could just make dummy packages for each model.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why I Support Using the Default Applications in Ubuntu, Again

Well, I've harped on this before, but I'll rant a little again. Before I start, though, I want to say that I think people can do whatever thay want with their systems. Flexibility is half of what's so great about Linux.

If you are going to use Ubuntu, however, I really believe you should try to stick to the default applications as much as possible. There are two main reasons for this:
  1. Support: Getting support for the default applications is quite easy because everyone has them and the majority of users use the applications. Advanced users get to do whatever they like because they have probably screwed up their systems so many thimes that they know how to get out of any situation. Telling a new Ubuntu user, though, to uninstall fifteen default applications, add another twelve, and change the behavior of everything else on the desktop is a big mistake. The applications that are there work very well for the large percentage of new users. Once they get used to the new system and how it works, they can move into finding and installing alternates. I'm just really tired of trying to support a brand new user on Ubuntu Forums who has followed someone's "How to get the perfect Ubuntu setup" or "Fifteen things you must do to Ubuntu just after installation" howto. They can't use the command line. They're frustrated that programs don't work or aren't consistent, which leads me to my second point.
  2. Consistency: Ubuntu is 95% a Gnome desktop. Gnome has human interface guidelines (HIGs) to ensure that there is a consistent interface on every program and that learning a few basic rules about the system will get a user out of unknown situations. Save is always under File. Preferences are always called exactly that and are under Edit. OK and Cancel are always in the same place. You get the idea. Installing Amarok (a KDE application) breaks all these rules. The new user no longer has a nice, consistent interface to work with and is left having to guess about many things. This is the main reason I support replacing Firefox (an excellent browser) with Epiphany (a decent browser): Epiphany is a Gnome application and is consistent with the rest of the applications in Ubuntu (except for OO.o, but that's another one I'd like to see replaced).
These two reasons are very user-centric: they are good for the new user. From a more developer-centric viewpoint, having Ubuntu users concentrate on the core applications means that these apps will be developed faster with fewer bugs.

p.s. Yes, I change up my desktop, but mostly for the sake of consistency. HEre is a list of extra applications or changes I make (beyond themes)
  • Firefox to Epiphany, explained above. Epiphany is also significanty faster and more stable than Firefox.
  • Deluge-torrent: Deluge is a GTK application and works well with Gnome. The standard Bittorrent client doesn't allow me to run multiple torrents simply while shutting down and restarting. I rarely use it for anything bu Jamendo, anyway.
  • In Preferences -> Removable drives and media, I change the default photo importer from gthumb --import to f-spot-import because I otherwise have to import my photos twice or click ignor, open F-Spot, then import. What a waste of time. Let's choose one photo manager and stick with it.
  • I install Lyx and Referencer to do most of my writing because I want a Latex workfow. OO.o doesn't have that. In addition, OO.o is so bloated that I'd rather use Google Docs. How bad is that?
  • I change my preferred music player from Totem to Rhythmbox so that I get more consistency. I use Rhythmbox to play my music, anyway. Why do I need to open another player?
  • I install and use Empathy instead of Pidgin even though Empathy has fewer features because it is a light, Gome application (Pidgin is not) which will be the default IM client in Gnome 2.22. It has some cool features that Pidgin doesn't have like serverless zeroconf chat and panel applets for my favorite contacts, but I think the best is yet to come for Empathy.
  • I add my most-used applications to the quick launch area on the top panel.
  • I add the Tomboy Notes panel applet because I can easily add or find recent notes there.
  • I change the preferences on the Deskbar applet to include web history, recent documents, and a few others.
That's it. No sweeping changes. I tried AWN, for example, but prefer a taskbar. Just about every change I make tried to improve the consistency Of the desktop. I wish there were a nice, GUIfied Latex editor for Gnome. Lyx is great, but it sticks out and is inconsistent.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Top 10 Improved Ubuntu Applications of 2007

Tomboy Notes

Applications -> Accessories -> Tomboy Notes
Tomboy is a C# (Mono) application that burst onto the scene and became the default note manager in Ubuntu, replacing the long-time champ Gnome Sticky Notes applet. Tomboy features sync between computers and a wiki-like style of cross-note linking.


System -> Preferences -> Appearance
The boys at Compiz and Beryl finally got together and worked their problems out. Compiz appeared by default in Ubuntu 7.04, but wasn't enabled. The big push to enable it was made for 7.10. Desktop effects are high on the list of a lot of new Ubuntu-heads. The plugins continue to race forward at a full sprint.


Applications -> Accessories -> Tracker Search Tool
While Tomboy is a C# application which replaced one written in C, Beagle Search's C# drag finally got to enough people that Trackerd came in and immediately replaced the more featureful indexer. Tracker is now the default on Ubuntu 7.10.


System -> Administration -> Screens and Graphics System -> Preferences -> Screen Resolution
Xorg finally got two things it has needed for ages: changing configuration (like screen resolution or adding a monitor) without restarting, and a graphical interface. I expect Xorg to make the list again in 2008, when Bulletproof X finally takes away many new users' worry of booting into a blinking termnal cursor.


Applications -> Add/Remove -> Sun Java
Java didn't really improve. Installing Java, however, did. Sun released Java under a FLOSS-friendly license, making it installable in the same manner as other applications. The open source versions of Java also progressed enough to run' advanced features.


Applications -> Sound and Video -> Rhythmbox Music Player
Just about the most important thing for most Rhythmbox users, a plugin was finally included for MTP support, so all those MTP-enabled portable players suddenly became drag-and-drop with Rhythmbox. Suddenly, there was no more need for a command line to update that MTP database.


Applications -> Graphics -> F-Spot Photo Manager
Whatever you think about Mono (it is controvesial), it continues to show its ability to quickly produce full-featured apps. F-Spot has gone from virtually nothing to a great photo manager (with export to virtually every major online service) in just a year. We're still waiting for the plugins to start appearing, though.


Applications -> Add/Remove -> gstreamer0.10-plugins
GStreamer got many new plugins, the ability to use Windows DLLs, and, most importantly, the ability for on-demand installation of codecs. Suddenly, the back end for Gnome's audio and video became viable enough for other desktops to begin looking at using it.


Applications -> Internet -> Firefox Web Browser
The actual application didn't improve much this year becaue all the development work is being done on Firfox 3, but Ubuntu made its own contribution by adding easy system-wide installation of common plugins and extensions like flash and java. Ubuntu also put in the apt: handler by default, which means that it's really easy for me to write web-based howtos now.

The Deskbar Applet

Deskbar became the default place to search for stuff in Ubuntu. Whether you wanted to look through your files, open recent documents, or do a quick web search, Deskbar was the place to go.

Honorable Mention:

These applications aren't installed by default, but they deserve to be mentioned because they are so popular.


VirtualBox isn't really an Ubuntu application, but it is easily installable, and the open source edition is perfect for anyone who needs to run Windows for that odd application or for testing a new Linux distribution. Of course, KVM, QEMU, and VMWare still remain viable ptions for the average desktop user, too.

Least Improved


This monolithic beast continues to stick out like a sore thumb in a Unix world of "do one task and do it well." It is slow and bloated. It has been sitting at virtually the same place for a couple of years, and major bugs in the e-mail client have yet to be solved. I don't know anyone who wants to use it.

Apps which use Telepathy

I know you've probably never heard of Telepathy, but it is the not-so-new "new" Gnome backend for unified chat, VOIP, and video chat. It has so many backends. It connects to the MSNnetwork, Jabber servers like GTalk, AIM, and IRC. It even has this cool little Zeroconf backend which will identify other users on your network and connect to them without a server. It's great. So why is it in the section on disappointments? No one is using it.
Specifically, I've tried to get voice/video over Jabber working on Ubuntu for a friend. There were some mockups of the functionality in 2005. There were some more in 2006. There's still no real way to do it, short of writing my own aplication which uses Telepathy. The framework is there, but no one is writing a frontend to it. Sad. Dissapointing. We need you, Empathy. You're our only hope.


This application let you choose various networks and move between them without major hassle in 2006. People heralded it. Then it broke. Then it broke again. Ubuntu 7.10 shipped without being able to control several open source wireless drivers. Connectios drop. People are frustrated. I'm tired of answering posts about this on Ubuntu Forums.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Savage 2: A Tortured Soul

Want something new? Want something different? Yet don't want to learn a completely different style of game? We've got the answer!

Savage 2: A Tortured Soul is a fast paced strategy shooter that takes team based game play to another level. Each match is a war for dominance where two teams of 5 to 32 players attempt to destroy each other. It will take more than guns to finish the job. Assume your position as a fighter, armed with swords, guns, and magic; or take the field as a support character that builds, heals, and resurrects fallen comrades.

That's how describes itself.

Did you ever play Warcraft? No, not Wow. Think back before that to the real-time strategy game. Yeah that one. The on that oddly played like Starcraft, also from Blizzard. Well, imagine if every unit on the field of play were an individual player.

But that's Wow, I hear you say.

WoW is an MMORPG. Imagine a cross between Warcraft and Counter Strike. Now you've got the idea...

Savage2 is definitely different. Playing it feels like Wow, but without the long-term character development. It also has elements of a first-person shooter, but the games are significantly longer. Normal FPS games don't require you to develop units, stake out ground, etc.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. It seems too long for the twitch players and too short for the RPG players. I don't know how well a random team will work with one player being the "general," overseeing and directing everything.

But it's definitely different, and that's a good thing in a market where every game seems the same with slightly different graphics or gameplay. New genres are hard to come by.

Linux beta clients ow available for testing.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

LinuxMCE is the Sexiest Thing I've Ever Seen!

Highlights of the video

  • Simple installation with video assistance during installation
  • Full-screen media at all times
  • DVDs play when inserted
  • Windows IR remotes are plug and play
    • The remote operation uses only three buttons
    • The gyro in the remote helps in navigation
    • Either relative or absolute movement in a video
    • Extremely simple operation emphasizing the most common activities, with less common activities still accessible
  • Simple DVR setup
    • Customizable guides with icons
    • Bookmarked TV shows appear at the top of the guide
    • Filter and search
    • Commercial skip
  • Network storage devices with media automatically recognized and imported
  • Powers A/V equipment on and off automatically
  • Cable PVR boxes need to be set up manually, but all functions work
    • Cable can be streamed to any room with A/V equipment
    • Able to receive HD content with seamless changing between the MCE and the cable box
    • Any remote set up in MCE will control the cable box
  • DVD jukebox is plug and play
  • Web browsing
  • Control lighting and other household functions
    • Can auto-dim lights in any room where the TV is playing
    • One-click "go to bed" will turn all lights off, set the security, and forward calls
  • Additional media locations only need a tiny thin client
    • Remote will automatically bind to the closest thin client
    • Cable, including pay-per-view, can be forwaded to any room
    • Media will even follow you from room to room with one click
      • walk out of the bedroom and the movie moves to the kitchen with you
      • A/V equipment powers on and off automatically
  • Network audio stations can supply music to any room
  • Bluetooth phones can controll everything, too
    • View status from your phone
    • Even talk to the intruder
  • Security system with webcams, motion detectors, and audio
  • IP phones
  • Integrated voice mail
  • Floor plans of your house control everything intuitively
  • Many more advanced features
Unbelievable. I've been talking about my future A/V system in my permanent house in Thailand for a couple of years now. I've found my dream system!

The ASUS Eee PC is coming to Korea!

First, the press release:

ASUS announced the launch of its flagship notebook pc 'Eee PC' in Japan market. Weighting 980g, it adopted 7-inch LCD display and 4GB~16GB SSD.

It is expected to be available in February 2008 in Japan market as well as Korea market.

Now, a review:

And another one:

Finally, my thoughts:

If this appears in Korea at the same price point, I'm getting one the first month. I'll probably replace the system with Ubuntu, so my work, home, and laptop are all consistent, but we'll see.

p.s. I already broke the bad news to Gale.

I bought a for Gale last night form the local Home Plus. The biggest chanllenge in getting it set up was changing the menu from Korean t a language we understand. The good news is that there are probably fifty different languages supported, so Gale can get either English or Thai. I guess she'll choose English, because teh Thai font is too small to be easily readable.

Why did I buy an off brand like this one (and one without OGG support, either)? It was 49K won. That's USD52 for a 2GB MP3 player that uses a simple USB mass storage device protocol to interface with the computer.

Speaking of interface, it's sparse. There are few buttons and figuring out how to work the device was a little tricky. Once Gale gets used to it, though, it should be fine. You don't really need to change your play options that often, do you?

Since we have a few songs in OGG and FLAC, I was worried about how to keep Gale from getting frusrated, then I remembered the .is_audio_player file format. I set up the file on her device and Rhythmbox can pull directly from our DAAP (iTunes) server, convert to MP3 if necessary, and deposit in a nice directory structure on the Q10 in one drag-and-drop motion. On Gale's Core 2 Duo machine, the transmission over the network takes longer than the reencoding.

It's a cheap, large-capacity MP3 player. Yay! ;)

The Press Release

Safa rolled out its new mp3 player 'Q10' in Korea market. By applying IMD method, it features ergonomic design with round corners. It is designed to be easy to handle by eliminating buttons on the front that are not used frequently. It supports seven equalizer sound effects and SRS WOW. It also has 2-color STN LCD and various additional functions including voice recording, phone book, A-B repeat, and data storage with password support to protect important personal files.

It runs on internal lithium-ion battery and supports 12 hours of music play and 22 hours of recording. Suggested price is 79,000(KRW) for 1GB and 99,000(KRW) for 2GB.

Installing Ubuntu 7.10 - AMD64

I decided to take my previously installed machine and switch from 32 bits to 64 bits. I was more than a little nervous about the switch since I had done a ton of work customizing the old one.

Some background:
This computer was purchased specifically to work with Ubuntu, so it's almost entirely an Intel machine. As much as I root for AMD, Intel releases all of its specs and writes open source drivers for almost all of its stuff. Here's the spec:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
HDD: SATA 250GB Samsung
Chipset: i801
Graphics: Onboard i945
NIC: rt8139
Wifi: RaLink rt73usb

My first step was to back up my data. I attached the external drive, hit CTRL-h to show hidden files in my home folder, hit CTRL-a to select everything, then went item by item, deselecting the parts I knew I didn't need, like my .wine directory. Finally, I dragged everything onto the removable drive (46GB!!) and waited. And waited.

While I waited, I burned the Ubuntu 7.10 AMD64 disk image that I had downloaded the night before. It was too easy: I stuck a blank CD in the drive, clicked "Ignore," right-clicked on the image, and chose "Write to disk." Nothing could have been simpler, except that the first CD had an error during write, so I had to repeat the process, this time at a lower speed just to be safe. I used the md5sum command to check the hashes of the burned CD and the image to make sure that they were the same. (I had previously checked the hash of the image.)

I rebooted with the CD in the drive, hit F4 to change the resolution to 1280x1024, and hit enter. Once the live CD was up and running, I immediately ran the install and surfed the web while I waited.

Then I ran into my first problem. The wireless dropped the connection and wouldn't come back up. The security updates failed due to the lack of an Internet connection. Indeed, once I rebooted into the installed system, the RaLink 73 USB device wasn't even recognized, so I busted out the LAN cables. Meh.

Then I started the restore process suing the same method I had used earlier, only in reverse.

I went to Software Sources, activated all the extra repositories and updated the package list. I used Add/Remove to install my normal additions to Ubuntu: ubuntu-restricted-extras (for all the codecs and plugins), Lyx (for writing), Referencer (for my bibliographies), Epiphany (which I prefer to Firefox), Devede (a DVD creator), Pitivi (a VERY simple video editor), Istanbul (for taking screencasts), and the Empathy / Telepathy set (the upcoming Gnome IM / VOIP / Video chat solution integrated into every application). I also updated all the software.

So here I am, typing on my newly reinstalled and configured, barely an hour after I first started the process. F-Spot has all my photos. Rhythmbox still has my songs. Best of all, my documents are all here and Tracker has the index of them. My bookmarks and passwords are even in place. Computational tasks like encoding seem faster, but I didn't do any benchmarks. My 2GB of RAM can now be handled natively, instead of in 1GB chinks. Reinstallation couldn't get any easier. Next time, I won't even have to restore because I've given myself a separate /home partition. I'll still back up before the upgrade, though. Always back up.

Now I need to get to work on the wireless driver ....

Well, that's done. Download the from and grag the sole directory onto the desktop. Install build-essential to set up the build environment. Enter the Module directory in rt73 and type "make" then "sudo strip -S rt73.ko" and finally "sudo make install" to finish the installation. Blacklist the regular rt modules in the kernel and load the new rt73 module.

In /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist:
# Blacklist rt73usb
# Blacklist rt2570
blacklist rt2570
# Other modules
blacklist rt2500usb
blacklist rt2x00lib

Set up networking. Done. Maybe ten minutes.

On a side note, this shouldn't have to be done at all. RaLink wireless devices used to work fine. There are many people like me who went out of theri way to buy RaLink specifically because they were supported. I'm pissed at Canonical for shipping drivers which it knew to be bad. They drop. They crash. They just don't work. I filed bugs during the alpha phase. Nothing happened. Friggin' don't ship them if you can't fix them! This situation had better be fixed by Hardy, or the LTS moniker won't mean shit.

Well, I found another problem. Flash isn't installed. Normally, in 32 bit, ubuntu-restricted-extras would install flash, but that didn't happen here. Installing flash-plugin-nonfree appeared to work, but the browser experience is the same as if I hadn't installed it.

It turns out that there's a bug in the 64-bit version, and the fix is linked to in the bug tracker. Installing this fixed all problems. NOTE: Installing packages from untrusted sources is a bad idea.

Next on the agenda is to get a seamless backup and restore system working. TimeVault is my preferrred application for this, but no 64 bit version exists. Compiling my own fails, and there's almost no documentation on dependencies required, etc. Stay tuned for this one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dell Moving Forward With Ubuntu 7.10

While I've been pragmatic about Ubuntu 7.10 -- it has many great new features and an equal number of new piquadillos -- I think Dell putting it on their Ubuntu anemic line-up is a good sign of company support for the line.

Most notable in the announcement is encrypted DVD playback via bundling of a proprietary DVD player called LinDVD and the inclusion of a DVD recovery image which doesn't need to take up your precious hard-disk space.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Worry-free Backups with TimeVault

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across TimeVault while looking for a seamless backup solution. I wanted something that watched my files and only backed up when something changed. I also wanted the restore process to be as easy as possible.

TimeVault is hands-off and restore is accessed directly from your file browser, as seen in the screenshot above. You can take snapshots every five minutes or every day .... That's up to you.

Howtoforge has a nice ... howto ... on it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Too lazy to build your own file/torrent server?

I recently wrote about how to build your own file and torrent server. Well, it turns out a nice new NAS device has tons of room for storage and even includes a torrent client standard. Wow. Check out the from Taiwan.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Back up your data

Urgent help needed - data retrieval - is the data gone?
Hi everyone

I was trying to install Ubuntu on the D drive of my sisters computer. However when it came to installing Ubuntu from the live CD I stupidly chose guided partition. The partition was aborted (rather late) and I know that one partition (a recovery partition) wasn't deleted.

How much data is retrievable after reformatting a drive (from NTFS to ext3)?
How can I get it back?
Do I need to go (and pay) to a data retrieval specialist?

The Hard drive contains 1 year and a half of my sisters work (doctor researching aids in Africa). It is essential that I try to get this data back...

Thanks for any help

I'll repeat the title of this post. Back up your data. Back up your data. Back up your data.

Always do a backup of important data before repartitioning. Always.

The bad news is that our friend probably overwrote large portions of the data. At least he caught the mistake later on and aborted before the entire process finished. Depending on the program that was used, the remaining data may or may not be usable: if the data was compressed (likely), the achive might not be recoverable.

Best of luck to him.

Always back up before a potentially dangerous activity.

Install SimpleBackup now.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Running Windows Applications in Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) Using VirtualBox

VirtualBox is a virtual machine that's available in Ubuntu 7.10 and that will allow you to run those stubborn Windows applications that you can't get read of. Watch the video to learn how to make one of your system's workspaces a Windows XP one.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Elisa Media Center

Elisa is a light, easy-to-use front end to the Gnome (Ubuntu) multimedia backend, called GStreamer. Since reviewing a media player in an article seemed to lack some punch, I made a screencast showing how it works. There was no script, so please excuse the "ummm"s.
Since you've seen the screenshots, you should be motivated enough to watch

Great Ubuntu Videos

John Bradbury
There's a nice little three-part video series by John Bradbury ( ), an experienced Windows adminisrator who is looking at Ubuntu for the first time and trying to give his impression of it. The videos pull no punches, describing what he likes, what he thinks is doable for him, and what he thinks would confuse the average user.

The first video, "Ubuntu -- First Impressions," deals with booting the live CD, installing, and trying to figure out the method behind doing daily tasks on the desktop. Most things work fairly well but operate slightly differently than Windows. Please let me answer two of his questions in the video:
  1. The update manager keeps track of every piece of software that you install through Add/Remove or the Synaptic Package Manager, and
  2. Using Add/Remove (in the Applications menu) is much easier than using Synaptic. Use Synaptic only for those situations where you require a much more detailed search and know exactly what you want.

The second video, "Ubuntu -- Office Functionality" gets into the ability of Ubuntu to use common types of files. Ubuntu surprises on many points and fails in a few. He didn't, however , get very finicky about the format of MS Word docs in Writer, which is a real complaint, but which is also a problem across different versions of MS Word (or sometimes even different machines with the same version). I applaud him for that.

The final installment, "Ubuntu -- Multimedia Support" tries to play the most common formats of multimedia files, with many successes and one not-so-surprising failure. Please visit my codec page on how to get the codecs working once without being nagged for new codes all the time (this also solves the failure in his video).

From the screencast team:
Skype on Ubuntu

Watching Video on Ubuntu

Connecting to Printers

Tour of the Places and System Menus

Tour of the Ubuntu Applications

Files and Folders

Users and Fast User Switching

Installing Applications on Ubuntu

Updating and Upgrading Ubuntu
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