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Showing posts from February, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 4/5? Sudden flood of updates, operational oddities

The Ubuntu developers have been busy. First I got a 133 package update yesterday, followed by something I'd not seen before: a second update that told me it was performing a version update. I'm assuming this is for migrating Alpha 4 to Alpha 5.

Some interesting operational features and oddities:
I've seen this happen before but I've never commented on it. When an application crashes a Gnome dialog appears asking if I want to send in a crash report. If I say yes it gathers information and sends it to the Ubuntu bug site. If it's a new bug I'm told so, otherwise I'm directed to a page with other bug reports matching my problem. From that point I can either enter a new one, attach to an existing, or just not do anything. Two comments on this feature:It's better than Windows, andIt's better than any other Linux distribution I've worked with so far because no other distribution I've worked with had this feature.Compiz is definitely not all there ye…

More Ruby and Rails on NetBeans 6

Just a quick update.
If you start up WEBrick and then kill the IDE, the WEBrick process still runs. I find this to be true on Linux as well as Windows. Using whatever method you know on the platform you're running, find the Java process which is running the current WEBrick instance and kill it. I'm quite sure it will be handled better in later releases. This is the first release.You can start another WEBrick from the properties menu select Run Project.I don't know if it was there before, but after picking up the latest Ruby updates from the update center I noticed that there is an 'IRB - Interactive Ruby Shell' as the first entry under Windows. Sure enough, I get an irb shell. Cool.

Ruby development support advancing in NetBeans 6

As an outsider looking in it's difficult to determine when the time is right to try out new bleeding-edge NetBeans features. One new feature being developed for for NetBeans 6 is Ruby and Rails support. It doesn't come bundled with the latest milestone release (7). Instead you have to download it from the Update Center.

The Update Center modules are in a folder labeled 'Ruby'. With the Ruby modules NetBeans acquires the tools to create Ruby projects as well as create Rails projects that run on top of the Ruby tools. Unlike Eclipse's Ruby support, NetBeans uses JRuby entirely. There might be arguments as to which is better, but having tried both I see no advantage of one over the other. If there is any kind of advantage then it would be with NetBeans, since it can be installed and run without an external Ruby installation. But I can't imagine a Ruby developer not having a Ruby installation. Nor could I imagine a developer choosing JRuby over standard Ruby. JRub…

Why it is.

There's a critique of my recent posts on Ubuntu over on adamw's blog titled "What is it?". He starts off with the following provocative thesis:
Another of those bizarre raves about Ubuntu.It’s a perfect example of the genre, really. The guy installs the distro, installs some updates, runs Firefox, reboots, and concludes it’s the best thing he’s ever seen.Why? Let me give a little background about myself before I answer that question as well as other points in the post. I was introduced to Linux by my long-time friend Jim Smith back in the early 90's when the kernel was at version 0.99pl13 (I think). At least the kernel wasn't at the 1.0 release level yet. The distribution was SLS. Since then I've used Yggdrasil, Slackware, Suse, and Redhat/Fedora Core. I sampled a bit with Mandrake, but never stayed with it for long. I even installed Free BSD when some of my more hard-core Unix friends were around to help with the occasional problem. On the commercial side…

Suse 10.2, part 12: Getting WMV video to work in Firefox, adding VLC

After getting Windows Media Video (WMV) to successfully play within Firefox on Ubuntu 7.04, I attempted to achieve the same functionality within Suse 10.2. I pretty much succeeded.

Installing WMV Playback

When you install Suse and attempt to play WMV from CNN's web site, you get the following dialog.

In order to successfully play back WMV, I installed xine-extra (optional Xine plugins). Everything else had already been installed according to Yast2. What follows is a screen shot of the plugin working.

Faith the two-legged dog.

What's interesting is that there are no controls on the plugin like there are under Ubuntu or Windows. I have no idea why.

Installing VLC

While I was trying to find the right combination of packages that would enable playback, I installed VideoLAN's VLC media player. You can find directions to do this at the VideoLAN site. There is, however, one additional step you need to take for Suse 10.2. You need to add the following repository to your Yast Installatio…

Is it time for me to replace Suse with Ubuntu?

I'm thinking really hard about replacing europa's Suse 10.2 installation with Ubuntu, or possibly Kubuntu. I'm not too crazy about Kubuntu because of its insisting that Konq be the default web browser, not Firefox. Trust me, I like Konq for its file browsing, even more so than Nautilus, but Kubuntu's "pure KDE" philosophy bugs me a bit. That's why I've liked Suse to date; it strikes a good balance between KDE and other applications on the desktop.

Once again, though, while making some minor customizations I was reminded why Ubuntu 7.04 is so "likable". I went hunting for applets to add to the upper panel, and discovered that the "Add to Panel" applet has been cleaned up so that finding anything to add to the panel is a whole lot easier than it used to be.

Above is the initial view. Note that custom applications have been moved out of the main window and above it as a pair buttons. The long strip view of older "Add to Panel"…

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha - CNN (WMV) streaming video success

As another example of what I've missed, and how much Ubuntu has progressed, I was able to watch CNN videos for the first time on a Linux distribution. It's a feature I don't even have on any of my Suse installations.

So what? Because if the Linux desktop boosters every want a credible alternative to Windows and Apple's OS X, then it had better learn to do what they do now so effortlessly. And streaming media content is one of the key features that everybody takes for granted and notices not by the inclusion, but by their absence.

I can't tell you exactly how I was able to enable this. I know it wasn't working when I first installed 7.04. But while attempting to make DVDs work, I did install GStreamer extra plugins, VLC media player, and Xine extra plugins. Somewhere within that mix was probably the enabling codec/player that allowed me to stream CNN video.

My next step is to see if I can easily install these packages as RPMs on Suse 10.2 and see if this same featu…

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 3/4 - Trying out the controls

I finally got some more time this evening to try out various applications with Ubuntu 7.04. But before I get started, I need to clarify a statement I made earlier. Not only are the Ubuntu developers deserving of praise, but so are the Debian developers as well. I meant no disrespect to the Debian developers or their hard work.

Firefox and Flash

One of the first and biggest surprises centers around Firefox and the Flash plugin. I went to Distrowatch to tracking down a few leads, and was presented with Firefox's "You need a plugin" banner and button at the top of the page. What the heck. I pressed the button to see what would happen. What happened next was absolutely profound. It worked. By that I mean the Flash plugin was downloaded and installed by Firefox without me being directed to Adobe's Flash download site. After it was downloaded, it was installed, and the Distrowatch front page refreshed so that the Flash content started to work. I was amazed, and just sat ther…

SLED 10 Gnome miraculously heals itself after another update, and then gets NetBeaned

In early January I reported how an update, applied to my SLED (Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 system before the Christmas break, led to the failure of the system's graphic (X11) desktop, and the failure of Gnome's window manager. Well, the same thing happened again this week; I got a whole slew of updates, that led to the failure of X. However, when I finally fixed the X breakage, I checked and discovered that the Gnome desktop was miraculously healed. Not only that, but the theme under Compiz had changed color from blue to green.

Complaint #1

SLED runs with an nVidia graphics card (it's an older Boxx hardware system with an Athlon 64 FX-55). I use the nVidia driver bundle for 64-bit Linux. Every time the kernel is updated, I loose that driver and have to reinstall it. This is what I'd like to see from SLED (or any distribution for that matter) in the future:
Ideally keep track of third-party kernel drivers and move those over when the kernel is updated. That way when …

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 3 - Notebook boot

In an earlier post I enthused about how wonderful the Ubuntu 7.04 installation was on old hardware. One single datapoint does not a trend make, however. Others have attempted to install and work with Ubuntu, and walked away from it back to Windows. With that in mind I decided to boot the 7.04 distribution disk on my Gateway M685 notebook and see how it behaved. A quick rundown of the notebook's features: Core Duo 2.0 GHz, 2GB DRAM, nVidia GeForce Go 7800 w/256MB video memory, 1680 x 1050 17" screen, SATA drive, Intel 975M chipset. As you can see this is a far cry from the system on which I first installed 7.04.

This version did boot on the notebook. The good news: this is the first version of Ubuntu that came up completely, all the way to a working desktop, on the Gateway. The bad news: it came up in 1024 x 768 resolution, and the screen was very slow to redraw. Slow redraws were quite noticeable when dragging or just scrolling windows. The audio also failed to work. I did, ho…

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 3 - Installation

I finally broke down and installed Ubuntu (7.04 Alpha 3) over Fedora Core 6 this evening. I decided to do this after reading about Eric Raymond's rantagainst his installation of FC6. In the end he installed Ubuntu 6.10 over it. So I decided I'd give it a whirl as well.

I've always appreciated Ubuntu's live CDs, considering them to be some of the best, if not the best, I've ever worked with. But I never took that one final step and made a permanent installation, preferring instead to use Suse or Fedora Core. Now that I've finally installed Ubuntu, I have to wonder why I took so long. I mean, considering it's an alpha version, it has got to be the sweetest thing I've ever installed. To be fair to FC6 I've not had the problems that Eric documented. But I have to say that based on my limited exposure so far, Ubuntu 7.04 stands head and shoulders above FC6.

One of Ubuntu's many qualities I've noticed is the clarity of the screen. It is sharp and cl…

World Wind 4.1 vs. Google Maps: Map Viewing in the early 21st century

I like maps. Old, new, hand-drawn, or digital. I like the stories they tell. An offshoot of this fascination with maps is a fascination with the images sent back by probes sent to nearly all the planets of our solar system, including Earth. The two most interesting (for me) applications for viewing Earth images are Google Maps (GM) and Nasa's World Wind (WW) application.

I recently installed World Wind 1.4 and went zooming around the Earth with it. It's slick. On my notebook the response to moving over the surface or zooming in or out is silky smooth and immediate. While I had WW up I decided to compare its satellite imaging with Google Maps. While the majority of sites look identical or nearly identical, some of the sites under World Wind are deliberately obfuscated to the point where, if you want a clear image, you're better off using Google Maps. First example, my favorite paranoia place, Area 51. The first image is from WW, the second from GM.

GM has matured since its in…

OpenOffice 2.1

Folks in the FOSS camp tout OpenOffice (OO) as an alternative to Microsoft Office (MO). The basic argument is that OO, for most uses and users, is every bit as good as MO, but without the high costs of MO. They further like to point out that most documents transfer back and forth between OO and MO, allowing for some degree (YMMV) of interoperability. There's some truth to those arguments, but here's another: to achieve interoperability between OO and MO, you will also give up a good degree of higher quality on the MO side. I define quality here as interoperability between complex objects in documents, and the rendering of said complex documents. Here's an example of where OO fails to match the quality of MO.

The majority of my complaints about OO center around Impress, the PowerPoint alternative. Unless the slides are very simplistic in composition Impress does a poor job displaying them, especially if there were first created by PowerPoint. In the following examples I'…

Starting comparison of IDEs

Booting Knoppix allowed me to play with a number of applications bundled with the distribution. One of them was MonoDevelop, the Mono C# IDE. I was intrigued with the prospect of being able to create cross-platform applications in C# that could be developed equally on Linux using MonoDevelop as well as on Windows using Visual Studio 2005. What I discovered is that MonoDevelop is a simplistic development IDE at best. If you want a powerful IDE under C#, then it's best to stick with Visual Studio under Windows. For other languages, such as Java, there are alternatives to powerful and complete cross-platform editing.

I started this simple experiment under Windows XP on my notebook with VS2005. I wanted to create a complete project with solution file that I could then attempt to open under MonoDevelop running on Linux. I followed a Microsoft walk-through (similar to a Java trail) that allowed me to create a very simple C# application with a single window and some controls. You see it e…

Ghost Rider a fun ride

You're gonna read a lot of bad reviews aimed at "Ghost Rider"; go check RottenTomatoes to get your fill. Every one of them miss the point. This is the kind of movie you go to see for the cheese. It's an adaptation of a comic book with lots of CGI. So sit back, munch the pop corn, and just go with the Rider. It was a great way to spend a few hours Saturday.

I'm no big fan of Nicholas Cage, but I certainly don't have the negative reactions to him that others seem to delight in documenting (the critics). I thought he pulled off a good performance in the movie as Johnny Blaze. I've read that he's a hard-core fan of the Rider, and so he tries to do the role justice. In my opinion, he pulled it off.

The movie starts off with a young Johnny Blaze riding motorcycles with his dad at local carnivals. Peter Fonda shows up one evening as Mephistopheles, the demon who tricks a young Johnny Blaze into selling his soul to save his dad from cancer. But Mephistopheles i…

A quick review of Knoppix 5.1, part 2

It's impossible to write a decent review of any complex distribution, let alone Knoppix. These few posts are a quick pass at features that caught my eye while I had Knoppix up and running. This time I'm going to look at two IDEs, Eclipse and MonoDevelop.

Everybody should know what Eclipse is by now. Along with Sun's NetBeans, it's one of two of the best open and free IDEs on the market. Eclipse, written in Java, started life as a Java IDE. Over time it has grown into a development platform for C and C++, SQL (and database management in general), various dynamic languages such as Perl, Python, Php, and Ruby, as well as software engineering in general. NetBeans is following a similar path. As significant as it is to find Eclipse, it's also notable that NetBeans is not a part of Knoppix. Let me also note that Java 5 is bundled with Knoppix, but not Java 6, which was released in November 2006.

The version of Eclipse bundled with Knoppix 5.1 is the latest release, 3.2.1…

A quick review of Knoppix 5.1, part 1

It's been my dark secret for years that I used Windows 9x, then Windows 2000, then XP, to 'bootstrap' Linux. I'd download an ISO for a given distribution, then use Windows (first Roxio, then Nero) to burn the CD. Then I'd boot into the distro and give Linux a whirl. Up until Suse 10 I never seemed to have the same level of success buring CDs with Linux that I had with Windows. But all that's changed now. Suse is the workhorse that does everything for me now.

Using KDE apps found within Suse 10.2 (and found on other distributions with current KDE tools), I downloaded and burned the Knoppix 5.1.1 DVD ISO and gave Knoppix a whirl. The apps I used were KTorrent to grab the ISO and K3b to burn it. I find the latest KTorrent to be every bit as good as Azureus, and K3b is absolutely great for burning any type of CDROM or DVD.

Why go to the trouble to download and boot the various distributions? Because you learn something new every time, and you get an opportunity to ch…