Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 Pretty Picture

The obligatory screen shot. The background is from mandolux (right monitor only). The window decoration is Emerald 50977-Aqualook. The icons are Mist, the theme the new ClearLooks. Resolution is 1600 x 1200. All fonts are DejuVu. Visual Effects has been set to Extra. Applications running are Totem and Google Earth 4.2.


Keep in mind that rhea is now considered a 'low-end' machine with a 1.8 GHz Athlon XP 2500+ processor, an nVidia-based 7600 GS video card with 256MB of VDRAM, and 512MB of system DRAM. The drives are older PATA hard disks.

Ubuntu 7.04 upgrades to Ubuntu 7.10

In between chores around the house (wash, mowing, cleaning, shopping, and walking Max) I upgraded rhea from Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10. I used the method documented on the Gutsy Gibbon page. It was almost totally automatic. I had to come back to the computer between tasks to answer a few dialogs asking questions along the way. The questions themselves were simple and straightforward. When the upgrade was finished the system was running Ubuntu 7.10 Beta 1. First, the good news.
  • It was unbelievable that the system upgraded and ran at all, let alone exactly as I had configured it before the upgrade. After reading one horror story after another in various fora about how Ubuntu upgrades had failed, I wasn't sure how it would all finish. But finish it did.
  • Java is up to Java 6 Update 3. I had to check both synaptic as well as 'java -version' just to be sure. This is one upgrade higher than what is available from Sun's site itself. Furthermore, NetBeans 6 Beta 1 ran with the earlier Sun-supplied Java 6 Update 2 without crashing, unlike what I went through on openSUSE 10.3 RC1. I've since removed my older version of Java 6 and re-targeted NetBeans 6 to use the Java supplied in Ubuntu.
  • Considering all the crap I installed along the way (Compiz upgrades and Beryl extensions just to name two categories) the upgrade application simply swept those away, uninstalling Beryl during the process.
  • The desktop came back up and worked with the nVidia drivers. Apparently the installer figured this out and made sure that nVidia drivers were installed along with the new kernel (2.6.22-12). I've never had a problem in the past with minor kernel upgrades (unlike with openSUSE), but a more extensive upgrade? I wouldn't know until I tried, and it went without a hitch.
  • All my streaming media still plays. This includes DVDs, ripped DVDs (mpeg4), MP3s, and a lot of QuickTime trailers. I was even able to go to the Apple Trailers webpage and play a few from there. And of course it plays everything from CNN to YouTube and in between.
  • With Compiz/Visual Effects enabled, Google Earth works just fine, as do all my other OpenGL applications. It appears that Visual Effects has been tamed so that it plays well with others on Ubuntu.
  • It kept all my desktop settings. And I mean all of them.
  • Gnome 2.20 is very nice indeed, especially with the latest version of ClearLooks. Who knows, with the polishing and the Appearance Preferences applet perhaps Linus will again think kindly of Gnome.
And now for the not-quite-so-bad but definitely annoying.
  • Starting applications on this machine is a lot more sluggish than with Ubuntu 7.04. A lot more sluggish. I attribute part of this to the beta quality of the system. Two applications that take the award for slowest starup are Firefox with multiple tabs and NetBeans 6. Performance seems choppy at times such that even 'little' apps like Nautilus take a long time to start.
  • Compiz is still not quite ready. I enabled it and got it to work simply by selecting Normal on the Visual Effects tab of Appearance Preferences. And it came up and provided nice shadow effects and other basic compositing features. But after that the system got even more sluggish and the windows on the desktop started to behave squirrelly. For example, I would grab a window's upper border to move it and it would roll up (window blind effect). After a few moments of trying to figure out how to fix that issue (and others) I simply turned it off or moved Visual Effects up a notch to Extra. On Extra the compositing is much better behaved, but then I get the wobbly windows. I will say this for the wobbly windows, it's a lot more polished and professional than on other implementations and installations. I may just keep the visual effects here.
  • It took nearly four hours to upgrade. Part of this was downloading all the packages. Part of this was waiting for me to show back up and click a dialog. But you may be better off just downloading and installing from scratch if you're impatient.
Just as with openSUSE 10.3 on europa, I'm going to let Ubuntu 7.10 bake for a while on rhea until final release. Then I'll make up my mind which way to switch. I don't like the way Novell has been behaving lately, especially their (marketing) comments with regards to which Linux works with Windows and which does not. Their attitude towards the Linux market, coupled with my less-than-happy experiences with Java and OpenGL on openSUSE 10.3 RC1, are once again pushing me to make a strategic personal choice. This is more than just about eye candy preferences:
  1. Java 6 Update 3 is installed via synaptic on Ubuntu 7.10. openSUSE 10.3 RC1 installs Update 1. Further, Update 2 from Sun has issues running on openSUSE 10.3, while it does not on any Ubuntu 7 release.
  2. OpenGL applications (WorldWind, Google Earth) run just fine on Ubuntu 7.10. GoogleEarth hangs at the splash screen on openSUSE 10.3 RC1, and WorldWind has to work with openSUSE's version of Java 6 Update 1 installed from the openSUSE repositories.
  3. Gnome 2.20 is highly polished. Base on my personal experience with both openSUSE and Ubuntu, Gnome could replace KDE for me without any problems. The KDE applications I like and use are available from synaptic on Ubuntu.
October is going to be an interesting month for me.

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: Issues with Compiz and XGL

I've been trying to get Compiz effects enabled, and so I installed all the Compiz bits available via YaST. To make a long story short the effects, while enabled, were less than desirable. The longer I attempt to work with Compiz (and now Compiz Fusion) the more I've come to hold it in the same low esteem as I hold Vista's Aero interface.

There's also one other direct effect I have no use for. XGL interferes with my other OpenGL work on this platform. After unistalling the compiz packages via YaST (because the tool to turn it off was broken), I attempted to get back to work with my WorldWInd/NetBeans project. I ran it for a test, and discovered that the WorldWindGLCanvas would not render the map. It would render the test and the compass rose, but not the underlying map. So I brought YaST up one more time, searched for opengl-based packages, and discovered that xgl was still installed. Once I uninstalled xgl and restarted the system to make sure everything was flushed, I was able to execute my WorldWind-based project.

There is a lot to like about openSUSE 10.3. And there's a lot to dislike. Most positive change is to software management. Starting any of the YaST tools is now incredibly fast, and finding repositories is very easy. There's a new tool in the YaST suite that lists all the community repositories, and allows you to simply select the ones you want to follow. This beats the older method of having to hand-enter each one in openSUSE 10.2 and earlier. There's also a one-click installation that will enable/install repository URLs just by clicking on a web-page link. Compared to the past this is just so fast and easy.

But then there's the issues with Compiz (it's really not ready yet) as well as the odd quirks I've been running into with regards to OpenGL and Java 6 Update 2 development, as well as the Google Earth application splashscreen hang. I've not had any problems with any of these applications or environments with prior versions of openSUSE, especially version 10.2.

I'll wait for the final release October 4, install it, and see how it turns out.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: ATI drivers installed

I finally installed the latest ATI drivers on openSUSE 10.3. I generally followed the core directions normally given for installing under openSUSE 10.2, and had no problems. I'm going to document the fast way I did this.
  1. Download the ATI binary drivers and put them in a working directory. It doesn't matter where.
  2. Open a shell
  3. Change to the working directory where you stored the downloaded drivers. Run the download as follows:

    bash ati-driver-installer-8.40.4-x86.x86_64.run --buildpkg SuSE/SUSE102-IA32

    There is no SUSE103-IA32. Don't be concerned with using 10.2. And note that this is all one line.
  4. Change directory to /usr/src/packages/RPMS/i386
  5. Type 'rpm -hiv fglrx_7_1_0_SUSE102-8.40.4-1.i386.rpm'
  6. Type 'aticonfig --initial'
  7. Reboot
Once rebooted and logged back in you might want to run the following command inside a shell.
wbeebe@europa:~$ fglrxinfo
display: :0.0 screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: RADEON 9700 PRO
OpenGL version string: 2.0.6747 (8.40.4)
Note that the original directions are quite involved and require that you change the operating state of your system (init 3). I found this to be unnecessary as long as everything else was closed on the desktop. My only concern doing this was prior experience. In the past, upgrading to the ATI drivers for earlier versions while they were still in pre-release was somewhat problematic.

Once upgraded I was able to put the screen in 1600 x 1200. Here's the obligatory KDE screen shot playing a ripped DVD movie. Unlike other reviewers I have not been able to log into the advanced KDE4 and try out some of its features. I have downloaded the KDE4 applications and tried them out. This is the KDE desktop configuration I've had for quite some time now.


This is the Gnome 2.20 screen. I played a bit with it, adding a Zune window decoration and installing the Nodoka theme. Nodoka seems a cross between the new Clearlooks and the old Clearlooks.


One of my little tests includes running Google Earth. Using the latest release (4.2), Google Earth hangs. Thinking I might have a problem with OpenGL support I started glxgears and fgl_glxgears. Both ran without problems. I then started NetBeans 6 and created a simple WorldWind project. WorldWind was recently released as a set of Java libraries, so this test was more than just a test of OpenGL; it also tested some of the distribution's Java 6 capabilties. Following the easy and clear directions I was able to quickly create the simple WorldWind Java client. While it's by no means a Google Earth, it does satisfy a need for development, and who knows? Maybe, in my copious free time, I might just create something to rival Google Earth based on NetBeans 6 and WorldWind.


Yeah, right.

KDE and Gnome on openSUSE 10.3 have matured to the point where either is more than satisfactory to me. In my mixed environment I tend to run Gnome with KDE applications (K3b and Kaffiene for example). I run Gnome because of the tight integration of the Java 6 Update 1 with the Gnome theme engine. Java on the latest Gnome uses all my theme elements as well as my font selections. Running Java apps on KDE doesn't look good at all. That may all change once the Nimbus theme is released. Then it should look good regardless the desktop or platform.

Friday, September 28, 2007

NetBeans 6 Beta 1 running on a constrained system

In an earlier post dinesh left a comment complaining about the poor performance of NetBeans 6 on his system as compared to earlier versions. This led me to upgrade my version rhea, the Ubuntu 7.04 test system, to NetBeans 6 Beta 1 from Milestone 9. I also upgraded to Java 6 Upgrade 2. I then started NetBeans 6 and ran some simple tests to see how well it performed on the desktop. rhea has "only" 512MB of DRAM like dinesh's system. The processor is a single-core 32-bit Athlon XP 2500+ running at 1.8 GHz. dinesh's was a dual-core Pentium 4.


  • Running NetBeans with Firefox is a mistake, especially if Firefox has been up for some time and has multiple tabs open. The keyboard response was horrible. This may be part of dinesh's issues with regards to performance. Of course running anything substantial with Firefox on this machine has been horrible, which is a shame.
  • Once Firefox exited the response in NetBeans 6 was quite good. Even after restarting Firefox the response stayed snappy. I was able to enter text, search for text, and compile and run the application with no issues and in a very timely way.
One other note. I installed the Nodoka theme from the openSUSE factory (funny, that). The controls are from the Nodoka theme, but the window border is not. And the only reason the window border isn't Nodoka is because it didn't show up when the theme was installed. I discovered Nodoka when I booted Fedora 8 Test 2.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

American Politics circa 2004

Found this while rummaging around my drive for something more important.
  • Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
  • Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
  • The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
  • A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
  • Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
  • The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
  • If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
  • A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
  • Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
  • HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
  • Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
  • A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
  • Government should limit itself to the power named in the Constitution, which includes censoring the Internet.
  • The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
  • Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.
  • General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.
  • What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

A World the Color of Goose Shit

I originally wrote this in January 1999 on my old Geocities website. I had a section called Opinions and the article below, written about the DoJ vs Microsoft trial, was the last entry I wrote before time and circumstances got in the way. As I re-read this I've come to realize that nothing has really changed. The PC Week article I quoted has since vanished. This link points to another source of Dr. Fisher's quote.

An interesting article from PC Week danced around the real issue of the DOJ vs Microsoft trial. The following is taken from that article.
The government's star economic witness in the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial lashed out at the company Thursday, denouncing conduct he said was reminiscent of a "pungent" turn of phrase first coined by French songwriter Jacques Brel.

"They want to color the world the color of goose shit," Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Franklin Fisher said. "If Microsoft forced upon the world a single browser, it would make things simpler. But that's not what competition is about. That's not what choice is about. . . . It's not a competitive world, and it's not one that's ultimately consumer driven."
The root issue isn't choice or competition, even those are important. At the root of this battle is control of the direction of computing. If Microsoft controls it, we'll get advances in computing that Microsoft deems is important, when it suits Microsoft to release them. And only enough information about any given sanctioned advance will be released to suit Microsoft's needs, and no more.

An Issue of Control

Microsoft is into control on many levels, from the operating system to Web content, hosting services to tools; they touch, and attempt to control, every aspect of the computing experience from conception to final end-user experience. It isn't as innocent as a competitive company trying to compete in as many markets as possible. Every decision they make, every market they target, all of Microsoft's on-going efforts are towards a single goal: control.

They deliberately set out to control the computing environment from the very beginning with BASIC. And it was in those early days of computing (circa 1975) that Bill Gates ran into two problems that would dog him throughout his business career to this day - piracy and open source software. Bill Gates was not pleased that the first version of BASIC for the Altair, available on paper tape, was being copied and passed around. He got even more incensed when he saw versions of BASIC (Tiny BASIC) begin to crop up. He expressed his displeasure of the situation in a now-famous open letter published in Dr. Dobbs in 1976. Gates and Microsoft later went on to lock down control of the BASIC market by moving MS BASIC into ROM from the Apple 2 to the original IBM PC, and by using strong-armed marketing tactics to make sure alternate BASICs were not allowed on the machines, such as MS BASIC pushing Apple Integer BASIC out of the Apple 2.

Microsoft repeated its tactics with MS DOS, and later with Windows. Through a combination of economic incentives and carefully worded contracts, Microsoft honed a Trojan economic tactic where-by they sold their operating systems [sic] at a low, attractive price in order to get their software sold with the manufacturer's machines. The key to that kingdom was IBM's selection of MS DOS for the original IBM PC. Once that decision was made, Microsoft wrote a contract giving them rights to sell MS DOS to any other PC manufacturer. With that hole in the Microsoft-IBM contract, Microsoft could advertise MS DOS to any and all comers, and tout the fact that IBM had selected it, so it must be good. The rest, as they say, was history.

The PC manufacturer didn't care because they were worried about making money, and the cost of Microsoft software was a very small fraction of the total cost of manufacturing. The customer didn't care because the PC came bundled with software that they could begin to do something with. Like frogs in a slowly heating pot, no one realized what was happening until it was far too late to do anything about it. Because of it we now live in a computing world where Microsoft has near-total dominance (+90%) over the PC market for operating systems.

In spite of inroads in the past 12 months by Linux on the server side (a 212% increase) and Apple on the workstation side (over 800,000 iMacs were sold from August 1998 through December of the same year, pushing Apple's domestic PC share from 5% to 10%), this won't really change much in the near future.

Even though 52% of managers polled would drop Windows in favor of an alternative, it won't happen because Microsoft controls the source where operating systems are pre-loaded -- the PC manufacturers. Until and unless this grip is broken, any alternative operating system will have a nearly impossible task getting established and offered as an alternative to consumers.

With the foundation locked down, Microsoft controls the OS API, one of the most strategic resources in any computer. Without a clearly defined API you will not write applications, nor can you attempt to create a clone of the OS. We have Linux because the Unix APIs are so well documented and so well studied. MS DOS, and later Windows, did not and still does not have completely open APIs. Microsoft may publish documentation on its APIs, but this is by no means complete, as evidenced by the small cottage industry that sprang up with MS DOS and continues to this day documenting unpublished (undocumented) internal APIs. Undocumented APIs that are used by Microsoft applications, usually providing extended functionality and/or enhanced performance. He who controls the API on top of the dominant operating system can control literally every aspect of the market. And if the APIs become too well known, simply change them via updates to key sections through applications that you also sell. Non-Microsoft applications have a habit of breaking when major Microsoft applications with updated operating system components are installed. Such a tidy little system.

With such a large market, new marketing methods become apparent, such as the constant incremental update. This provides a large, steady revenue stream, capable of controlling competitors either by buying them and their technology, hiring enough people to reproducing their key technology and then incorporating it into Windows, or by subsidizing the ability to sell well below a competitor's direct product or service. Microsoft has done all these things, and more, to control its markets and protect its market dominance.

When Microsoft controls an entire industry the way it controls the personal computer software market, it works to stifle creativity and the cross- pollination of inventive thought. Microsoft believes that it can buy all the creative talent it needs and then protect that investment by driving "open" standards, as witnessed by their involvement in the standards community. Microsoft isn't a member for the benefit of the rest, but to push the Microsoft agenda. A classic example of this is the W3C standards for HTML4, cascading style sheets, and other key technologies for the delivery and presentation of content over the web. Furthermore, as evidenced in the 1998 Halloween documents, Microsoft believes it can control the open source software movement by adding proprietary extensions to open standards, thus thwarting alternatives to Microsoft software technology.

We have always thought that thought control would come from Big Government. We've also been led to believe that the best market is a free market, a market that can police and correct itself. But we now have a situation where an unchecked free market company, Microsoft, has accumulated such wealth and influence that, combined with its innate desire to control everything, represents a direct threat to fundamental computer invention and development.

Unless we move to decisively correct the situation, either through government intervention and/or alternate computer technological development, then we will wind up with a world so colored by Redmond goose shit that we won't know or care what a mess we live in, or that it truly could be better.

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: More things are beginning to work

As noted in earlier posts about using Java 6 Update 2 on openSUSE 10.3 with graphical applications, such as NetBeans, I've since discovered a second solution to the Java 6 problem. Use Java 6 Update 1 as provided via the restricted formats page. I've already documented how I did it (in two steps, naturally, instead of one). I should have checked to see if Java 6 U1 as provided by the community would have the same problem as Java 6 U2 downloaded from the Sun site, but I didn't. I automatically assumed that if Java 6 U2 had a problem, then so would the slightly older U1.

If there is no pressing bug fixed in U2 that you have to have, then my advice would be to install U1 and to work with it. That keeps you from having to add the environment hack in order to get applications such as NetBeans 6 Beta 1 working.

Update

I have Eclipse 3.3 installed on this system as well as NetBeans, and Eclipse 3.3 runs as well with Java 6 Update 1 or Update 2. I believe this is possible because Eclipse is based on SWT, the Eclipse Standard Widget Toolkit, while 'pure' Java applications use JFC, the Java Foundation Classes a.k.a. Swing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: Things are beginning to work

Remember when I first installed RC1? And some key features were not working? Like OpenOffice? Tonight, while plunking around openSUSE under KDE, I decided to switch the desktop from KDE to Gnome, just to try Gnome out. So I downloaded all the bits I normally install for Gnome and logged back in under Gnome. Cool. Then I went back and started to look at the list of applications that failed to install. I pulled up YaST and started to install those applications, one at a time. As I installed each application I'd then attempt to start oowrite (OpenOffice Writer). When I installed xli, and then tried to start oowrite, lo and behold it started up and ran. Then I tried all the other applications in the OpenOffice suite, and they worked as well. I always had the feeling that buried somewhere in one of those uninstalled packages was some library or setting that was causing OpenOffice to exit with the message "no suitable windowing system found, exiting."

And one other observation. Gnome is quite nice. I'm not going to say that Gnome is better than KDE. Both are now quite good in their own ways and different enough to satisfy many tastes. My hat is off to both development teams. Excellent work.

The Microsoft millstone around our necks

As I noted in my last post Microsoft has given permission so that PC vendors can allow buyers (both corporate and retail) to substitute Windows XP for Windows Vista when making a new computer purchase. That fact alone should send every anti-trust watchdog into a rabies-like foam-flecked-about-the-mouth attack-mode straight for Microsoft's jugular. Why doesn't it?

This total lack of real competition in the OS market forces the consumer to chose Microsoft's earlier offering rather than going to another vendor. Imagine for a moment if there were only one computer manufacturer, and you were forced to buy last year's notebook or desktop system because this year's model was completely unsuited. That actually happened with the IBM PS/2, and the market voted by purchasing Compaq and HP and others at the time. Today we have a wealth of manufacturers with varying models, and even the processor market has real measurable competition between Intel and AMD. Yet we have only one OS to run on all these systems; Microsoft. We allow Microsoft to continue its lock on the OS market (and the productivity market as a further consequence) because Microsoft has successfully brainwashed us, through it's marketing, into accepting the current situation.

Microsoft furthers its monopolistic lock by hiding critical interfaces to its products and systems. Those interfaces include data definitions, such as the data structures in all its Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio). Without unencumbered and clearly defined interface definitions, the cost of interoperability with any Microsoft system becomes prohibitively expensive. Microsoft adds costs by forcing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to be signed, and Microsoft will only sign an NDA with a company it deems as non-competitive and integral with its existing product line. Further, Microsoft charges for access to its interface definitions. Finally, Microsoft's IDDs, like the software it documents, are bloated and overly complicated to the point of incomprehensibility.

My personal preferences notwithstanding, Linux is not a commercially viable desktop alternative to Windows on the Intel platform. Most vendors won't touch it because of decades of Microsoft PR and the fear of angering Microsoft if they do. What few companies that do offer Linux are too small for Microsoft to care about or big enough to keep them at arms length. Even then their offers are extremely limited.

Dell's offering of Ubuntu is an excellent example of how limited the choices still are. Dell's site only offers three systems, limited to only one distribution, Ubuntu. I can't go to any other part of Dell's site to order any of their systems with the Linux distribution of my choice, let alone Ubuntu. I certainly have my choices of which version of Windows I would like to install on those systems, but as I noted above, choices of a Windows version is no choice at all. Instead I have to navigate to their special site and place my order.

We're going nowhere fighting Microsoft the way we are now. And until somebody big enough really stands up and slaps Microsoft down, we never will.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nearly a year after its official release, Vista is still a mess

You'd think that getting Vista squared away would be job one to hear Microsoft talk. Instead you hear the steady drumbeat of stories about just how sorry Vista is and continues to be. Here's a brief sample of today's tasty selections.
  • Vista Ultimate buyers fume over missing Extras - So you spent all that money ($400) and all that extra cash on hardware to run it, and you're upset that those 'Extras' haven't appeared? Is that's what's bothering you, Bunky? Yeah, well, welcome to the wonderful world of Microsoft promises. Always late, never functioning as promised, and costing far more in the end than you budgeted for. See what it's like to live under the thumb of a monopoly?

  • Unbundling Microsoft Windows -In which someone, this time in the European Union, woke up to the fact that bundling Microsoft's operating system is a bad thing. Gosh. Who'd of thought, after nearly 15 years of abuse, that we'd one day wake up and realize that bundling the OS with the hardware would lead to a situation where Microsoft's "dominant position both has slowed technical improvements and prevented new alternatives entering from the marketplace?" You think?

  • Vista failing to win over the enterprise - They're pining away for Windows XP, they are! Pining for the fjords... oh wait, wrong skit. Best part of this article was from Rob Enderle:
    "XP is a much better product than people think it is," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Ender le Group, told vnunet.com. "People are not screaming to get off of XP, and Vista is not providing a compelling reason to do so."
    Not screaming to get off of XP? Compared to the volume of people screaming to get off Vista, then perhaps you're right.

  • PC users still prefer Windows to Vistas - I'm assuming the title is plural Vista to indicate all versions of Vista. Nice to see that the same offer is being made to consumers that Microsoft offered to corporate buyers several months ago. The article offers a few very interesting facts:
    1. "Microsoft says it has sold more than 60m Vista licences to date, but hardware sales have disappointed." That means Microsoft has been stuffing the channel. Microsoft will of course get its money, because that's the way contracts are set up. You buy no matter what, and it's up to you to move it.
    2. "DSG International, which owns PC World and Currys, said it was forced to discount laptops after a lacklustre response to Vista." And here's one way to do it. Heavy discounting of inventory. So to add insult to injury, you not only lose money on the hardware, but you take a hit on the operating system as well.
    3. "Users complain that computers running Vista crash frequently and many of their favourite programmes such as Windows Mobile do not work with the new operating system." Windows Mobile? Excuse me? Windows Mobile??? As in PDAs and smart phones? Golly, I guess Sir Bill's vision of "information at your fingertips" with everything highly connected has grown a bit dim with age. Pardon me while I go off and roll on the floor laughing my you-know-what off.
And finally, this little video that sums up what so many of us feel about Vista courtesy Blimp TV.

Has Linus become a liability?

I don't mean a technical liability, I mean a diplomatic liability, and as a consequence, a dis-unifying forced for future Linux kernel development. Linus' flame posts are quite famous and you can find them if you search, but the one post that makes me wonder just what medications Linus failed to take the day he posted his current gem concerns the use of C++. In yet another trademark post, this one in a newsgroup for git, Linus opined the following:
C++ is a horrible language. It's made more horrible by the fact that a lot of substandard programmers use it, to the point where it's much much easier to generate total and utter crap with it. Quite frankly, even if the choice of C were to do *nothing* but keep the C++ programmers out, that in itself would be a huge reason to use C.

In other words: the choice of C is the only sane choice. I know Miles Bader jokingly said "to piss you off", but it's actually true. I've come to the conclusion that any programmer that would prefer the project to be in C++ over C is likely a programmer that I really *would* prefer to piss off, so that he doesn't come and screw up any project I'm involved with.
I guess Linus must have forgotten about his expression of undying love for KDE, when in December of 2005 Linus opined yet again:
I personally just encourage people to switch to KDE.

This "users are idiots, and are confused by functionality" mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do.

Please, just tell people to use KDE.
I hate to break it to you Linus old buddy, but KDE is based on Trolltech's Qt, and it's written in C++. While Gnome is written in good solid Linus-approved C code. Gee, I wonder which way you really truly feel?

But it must be great to work with Linus. Never a dull moment, I can sure tell you. I would probably run around screaming that Linux was doomed if it weren't for other developers like Andrew Morton. Thank God for grownups working on Linux.

What were they thinking?

Got in this morning, read through my mail, checked on the latest work-related emergencies, then hit some of my favorite news sites. One spot I check on a regular basis is LinuxDevices.com. It's for folk who want to keep track on how Linux is being used throughout the electronics industry. One of the entries that caught my eye was a blurb about a new book Robert Love has published, the cover of which you may observe below. Which finally brings me to my point.

What were they thinking when they decided to put a Rube Goldberg non-flying machine on the front cover of the book? I guess somebody thought this was cute, but I cringe to look at it because it subtly and unfortunately implies two ideas; that programming Linux is poor and Linux itself is a Rube Goldberg collection of software subsystems wrapped up as a distribution. As the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. But I'll probably wait until it arrives at a regular brick-and-mortar book store rather than rush right out and order it online. Just so I can look it over to make sure the contents are better than the cover. Even if it is written by Robert Love.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: problem with X11 and Java 6

I ran across a rather bazaar problem with Java 6 Update 2 and NetBeans 6. First, a copy of the terminal with the exception that was thrown when I tried to run NetBeans 6.


I then went googling for the error message:
java: xcb_xlib.c:52: xcb_xlib_unlock: Assertion `c->xlib.lock' failed.
I found the same problem and a solution on another forum, and the solution is to add the following to your environment:
export LIBXCB_ALLOW_SLOPPY_LOCK=1
Sure enough I added it to the local window's environment and it started right up. I need to add it to my login environment. In all the time I've run any distribution I've never run across the problem. They currently run just fine on openSUSE 10.2 and Ubuntu 7.04. Must be clean living and lots of dumb luck. Here's another one to check and see if it still exists when openSUSE 10.3 final is released.

openSUSE 10.3 RC1: Advanced Software Installation

I commented in the earlier post about Java 5 being installed instead of Java 6. Turns out I should have clicked the Advanced Mode check box at the bottom of the Software Installation dialog.

Look down at the very bottom and click 'Advanced mode.' Then click 'Next'.

You want all the repositories listed, so just leave the alone and click 'Next'.

Since I've already run this once, I don't need all the applications checked. For this next run of the tool I will uncheck them all. If this is the first time you've run this then leave them alone and go to the next step.

As you scroll down you'll see more applications you can install. I only want the two checked, in RealPlayer 10 and Java 6.

We've seen this before, so just click 'Next'.

It's at this point that YaST really begins to show some sophistication. First of all YaST checks to make sure that all dependencies are met. In this example, because I'd already installed Java 5 I needed to uninstall it before installing Java 6. One dialog not captured was a resolution dialog asking me if I wanted to also remove non-OSS Java. Since that was the only dependency on that dialog I said yes and told it to try again. I was then presented with the more sophisticated YaST software management screen, in which Java 5 was going to be removed and Java 6 installed in its place.

While in software management tool I checked the version number for Java 6. It is 1.6.0 update 1. I then clicked 'Accep'. Later, I went back in and installed the Java 6 development kit and ant 1.7.0. This closes one of my earlier complaints about Java versions. Now on to other issues.

openSUSE 10.3 RC1 from DVD installed with very mixed results

As I noted in my last post I downloaded both Live CDs as well as the DVD installation image. The Live CDs were downloaded, while the DVD was grabbed via BitTorrent using Azureas 3.0.2.2 (the why of this will become apparent later). Francis left a comment on the last post asking if I'd attempted to install RC1 from the DVD, because the Live CDs "are no way as well-tested as the installation CDs." OK. So later that evening (Orlando FL time), throwing caution to the wind, I installed RC1 on europa, the DIY box.

I've had a lot of good experiences over the years running SuSE and openSUSE on europa. Every experience from installation to working in the environment has been solid, with few issues or problems that couldn't be sorted out. Installing openSUSE 10.3 RC1 has been a lot rougher than any other installation of Suse to date, or any other installation I've touched, such as Ubuntu and Fedora.

Booting into the RC1 DVD went well, and I was able to configure how I wanted everything installed and set up. I noticed that during the hard drive setup that my drive designations went from hda# to sda#, hdb# to sdb#, and what was originally /dev/sda (the only real SATA drive in the box) was bumped down to /dev/sdc. No problem, just an observation. During installation I choose KDE only since this is a KDE box anyway.

I also noticed, for the first time, that the installation checks your network connection and adds external repositories before you do your initial software selection/installation. This change helped save my bacon during the installation process or I would have yanked the RC1 DVD out and re-installed openSUSE 10.2.

The problems with RC1 began when the installer started to install packages. I would get dialog boxes that one package after another failed an integrity check. I was given the options to retry, abort, or skip. Since I was already well past the point where I could abort (having reformatted the root partition), I first tried retry, then when that didn't work after several attempts, just skipped the entry. Here is a list of packages that failed integrity and were not installed in the first stage:
strace, portaudio, wireless-tools, xorg-x11-libXext, ppp, xli, sharutils, xorg-x11-libXprintUtil, setserial, xinetd, procmail, xdg-menu, xclockmore, apparmor-profiles, poppler-qt, spamassassin, xine-lib, xorg-x11, kpowersave, syslog-ng, openoffice_org-draw
That failure to install xorg-x11 was going to bite me in the ass later on. As a consequence of the failures, I had to sit in front of the computer and hit the damn dialogs all the way through until it was finished.

When the first stage finished it then rebooted to move on to the next stage. That's when the big shock hit. When the installation process came back up both a second and third times, it came back up into text mode. I haven't installed Suse in text mode since it was SuSE Professional, and that was version 7. It was 2am in the morning, and here I am trying to finish just so I can go get some sleep, and this damn installation has a borked X11 installation and can only finish in text mode. Hells bells. It's a shame that Francis, the poster mentioned, was not next to me while this was happening. I would have been quite keen to share my feelings about the situation and he would have been quite keen to be somewhere else.

As bad as it seemed to be at that particular moment, it actually got better. First off it seems that the system realized that packages were missing/broken and it looks like they were downloaded from the network repositories. You'll recall that the installation process connected to the network very early on. It seemed to find and install xorg-x11 and a number of other packages and install them. I thought that the final installation procedure would be under graphics, but instead it was text-based as well. In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose. The finally text-based installation was the setup of accounts and final hardware configuration, as well as some additional package installations. When it was finished, it exited, and openSUSE 10.3 restarted.

And came up in graphics mode.

It also came up in my standard login. I always keep my login as I move from version to version, desktop to desktop. So when I logged back in it was as if nothing had changed. Same wallpaper, fonts, settings. Changes were subtle. Except one. My screen resolution had dropped form 1600 x 1200 to 1280 x 1024. This is a limitation of the free ATI driver and can only be fixed by running the ATI native driver.

Post Installation

There is a new page on the openSUSE community wiki for setting up and installing the restricted multimedia formats. The openSUSE developer community has added the ability for 'one-click install'. A yum file is now associated with a YaST2 installation wizard, such that clicking on the link will download the file and launch the installation wizard, all from your browser. This makes post setup and installation of other packages a snap, and is a feature that will go a long way to making openSUSE extremely easy to manage. In this particular case the link installed all those extra repositories everyone always installs (VLC, packman, etc) and then has to scramble to install all the extra codecs. All those separate steps are now wrapped up into one.

I will note that Java was installed already, but it was downloaded yet again.

Your first warning about treading where no free software user should tread.

An interesting warning. It should actually be even bigger. This is an important security issue, and you are running as root when you install these packages.

Now I'm asked to kick off YaST2.

One of the interesting busy dialogs that is new to openSUSE.

One of two public key warning dialogs (the other was for packman). Again, this is indeed an important security issue. At least somebody is noting it.

One of many dialogs that pops up for each package. Nothing exciting as once finished the dialog is automatically removed from the desktop. However it would have been better to combine download status with the main window. While a nice feature, it comes across as unfinished and inferior to other YaST software management tools.

And the final finishing dialog.

Once installed I could indeed play DVDs and music CDs. Flash was already installed in the base installation for me so I could hit CNN and Yahoo and YouTube and watch streaming video.

Current State

First of all, there are no ATI drivers updated for 10.3. I downloaded the latest ATI drivers released mid-August, but there is no explicit support for openSUSE 10.3. So I am running with the free driver. The issues of the free driver, outside of the screen resolution, is the poor OpenGL support. Google Earth is broken again, as is any development I was doing at the moment with Jogl and Trolltech's Qt 4.3.1. Java installed by openSUSE is still locked one generation back at 1.5.0 update 12. I've been using Java 6 since it was released in December of 2006. Java 6 is now up to Update 2. Gcc has been upgraded to version 4.2.1 and python is at version 2.5.1, so that's all good news. All the other tools I depend on are either up-to-date, or else I have them off to the side and use them (for example, Java 6). I wouldn't exactly call europa a production box, but this is why you're warned not to install on a production system. Things break. But then europa is the point of the spear for moving forward.

OpenOffice doesn't work. Starting it form the command line give the cryptic error "no suitable windowing system found, exiting." I use OpenOffice Writer and Calc, and the fact they're missing in action is extremely annoying.

Current Conclusions

I don't know why all the packages listed above failed their integrity checks, but I have a theory, and it's based on BitTorrent. I have had nothing but issues using torrents to grab DVDs for this cycle of openSUSE development. Ktorrent is horribly slow, and Azureus, while much faster, now seems to have issues with downloading all the bits. Again, this isn't the first time I've had a torrent-based DVD ISO fail integrity check after a supposedly successful download. What I also find annoying is that the DVD check was removed for RC1. It should go back and remain permanently. I'm also waiting for the final release in the hope that a direct download for the DVD ISO is available. If it's still torrent-based I may just wait until I can buy a boxed set. I no longer trust openSUSE torrents.

The apparent ability to replace the corrupt packages further into the installation, while quite welcome, would have been even better if the corrupt packages had been replaced during the first stage installation. Remember that openSUSE 10.3 had already established a network connection before installing any packages. It would seem to me that if you can replace a corrupt package during the second stage of install then you should replace it during the first stage by going to the network-based repository. This could have avoided the text-mode throwback experience completely in later stages.

Management via one-click download is a welcome addition to openSUSE. I no longer have to go to the Jem Report. And this puts a nice professional polish on the whole process. As good as it is it could be improved even further with a special start page in the browser that points directly to these links. The only reason I know about the downloads was because it was a link in a comment on the RC1 announcement page.

Mostly everything is back to normal. This post was written from Firefox running on openSUSE 10.3 RC1. Europa's up for the most part and I'll be using her to further discover what else is new and working/broken. I did not install KDE 4. I'll probably do that when I get a few other issues fixed, like the ATI drivers and OpenOffice.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 RC1 - Not quite there yet for me

I downloaded three ISOs; the Gnome and KDE Live CDs, and the binary DVD. I burned all three and tested three machines with the two live CDs.

Test Machines
  1. Gateway M680 with 2.13 GHz Pentium M, 1GB memory, ATI Mobility X700
  2. Gateway M685 with 2 GHz Core Duo, 2GB memory, nVidia Go 7800
  3. DIY with 2GHz Athlon XP 3200+, 1GB memory, ATI 9700 Pro
All three machines currently dual boot between Windows XP SP2 and openSuse 10.2. All features work on each platform.

General Results

All Live CDs booted successfully on all three platforms. Every major subsystem worked including video, audio, hard drives, CD/DVD drives, networking (note exceptions below), and USB devices. The graphic rendering on the notebooks in was particularly crisp, especially with regards to text. It should be noted however that the use of DejaVu Condensed is the preferred font for both Sans and Sans Serif for just about any rendering, especially on the Firefox browser. DejaVu gives the best user experience when rendering complex text or web pages, matching what can be found on Windows and Mac OS X.

Specific Problems
  • The Live CDs could not enable wireless networking on the Gateway M685. The M685 is equipped with an Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 ABG chip set. I have not had problems with this chip set for some time, with either older versions of openSuse or other live CDs such as Ubuntu 7.04/7.10 and Fedora 8. The older M680 notebook's wireless chipset worked flawlessly.
  • The 'Install Software' icon on the KDE desktop does not work. It fails with an 'SU failure' message.
  • Attempts to enable hardware acceleration or to enable desktop effects failed across all three machines. For the Gateway and the DIY platforms Desktop Effects Settings reported that my graphic card was not in the Xgl database. Sorry, folks, but after all this time I would expect the ancient 9700 Pro (Radeon R300) to be there, and since the nVidia is in a notebook that is nearly two years old, I would expect the GeForce Go 7800 to be in there as well.
Final Comments

Overall the Live CDs were solid performers when all subsystems worked, and regardless of problems they were fast and stable. When the Gateway M685 was plugged into a wired network connector I was able to reach the network. While the eye candy parts failed, the 2D rendering was as expected. Every machine's display was working at it's default maximum, which on the notebooks was 1680 x 1050, something I found impressive. I have not booted any distribution's Live CD to date that would boot both notebook's screens into 1680 x 1050; it was either one or the other, but never both. Whatever is in running underneath Xorg (RandR 1.2?), it's impressive and bodes very well for a much more robust display subsystem in upcoming distributions, not just openSUSE.

I found the Gnome Live CD desktop to be the most pleasant to work with, which was quite surprising to a KDE user such as myself. Of the three openSUSE 10.2 desktops I use, two of them are KDE. The third is Gnome, and only because of Java. The KDE desktops I have are highly configured; for example I use the Polyester theme, which is very much like the Gnome Clearlooks/Nodoka themes I currently use and have seen. If I upgrade to 10.3, I may very well switch to Gnome overall and pick up the KDE applications I use, particularly Konqueror and K3b. I'm no longer interested in trying to figure out how to make the latest KDE look like Gnome.

I had high hopes that I would migrate the DIY platform, europa, to 10.3 RC1, but I will hold back to RC2 or final. I've spent too much time setting things up, and I have neither time nor desire spending more time upgrading and then tweaking again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Groklaw continues its bad old ways

I'm no friend of Pamela Jones, owner and proprietress of Groklaw. I've never posted on Groklaw and never will, preferring to watch at the edges, primarily there to dig out the facts of the various SCO cases. Most of the time I've had no issues, but from time to time over the years I've stumbled upon the odd post and thread that, for whatever reason, would disappear over time, expunged by She Who Must Be Obeyed.

I came across this post by raoulduke_esq on the Yahoo SCO board early this morning and decided to grab a copy before the message, and the entire board, go the way of all flesh September 27th. It's just another example of Pamela Jones' (P.J. to her fawning admirers) inability to deal with alternate points of view.
There used to be a post pointing out IV [Investor Village] post #44067 for AllParadox's take on the Tibitts white-collar crime, right below the inoffensive and content-free "Enron" post here:

http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=...

From my snapshot of the page, there were nine child & grandchild posts under it, including the ominous "Not Allowed" by sycophant "rocky". When I returned to PJ's blog after reading the IV post and thread, they were all gone.

http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=...
http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=...
http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=...
http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=...

et cetera.

I thought maybe she'd let go of the extreme pettiness of years past as things settled down, but I guess it has just become ingrained. Through (self) selective cultivation of the echo-chamber population, no act that betrays the purity of the cult of PJ can be countenanced. The stain must be scoured off before the flock becomes confused.

So sad. If she can't see how that makes her more like Dan Lyons than not, she's delusional. It's no wonder outsiders see the extreme group-think of her blog - especially when it's enforced by rigid idea censorship - and come away shaking their heads. I've been around for years and I shake my head. It can't be "freedom" if ideas are filtered.

Those are just my thoughts. If that puts me in the center of the MS & proprietary software/patents/copyright camp, you're certainly free to think what you may. As for me; color me disappointed.

raoul
The awards and recognition given to Groklaw over time have created yet another petty little monster over on Groklaw. The work of gathering and documenting the facts of the various cases was critical, and should be recognized and commended. Unfortunately P.J.s ego has become too entangled with the good work, such that one can't live without the other, and we can't have the facts without the odor of P.J.s presence. The success of Groklaw is the success of the community, not of P.J. Her public statements to the contrary, she'll never truly understand that. Her actions towards others who threaten her pristine vision will always expose the truth of what she really is; an ugly little troll beneath the bridge leading into Groklaw. With the eminent demise of The SCO Group, such a victory becomes ever so bitter sweet, stained by the mere presence of P.J.

Update September 22nd

This was posted the next day. Raoul caught a lot of grief from P.J. I guess the poor old girl feels all put upon. I decided to wait a few days and check the responses. You can go here and read for yourselves the juvenile comments made in support of P.J.
Re: http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/Stocks...

At first I thought it was an odd coincidence that this morning I found a message from PJ in my mailbox, asking if the "_esq" suffix on my pseudonym indicated that I am, in fact, a lawyer. I politely informed her that no, I am not a lawyer, I just wanted to use the 'nym "raoulduke" for personal reasons. However, it had been claimed by someone else, so I added the suffix to disambiguate it.

She responded to tell me that it's illegal to pretend to be a lawyer, so I would have to change my nym and reregister for another GL account. I replied that I expected the whole SCOX deal to wind down immediately, and that I intended to move on, and good luck in the post-SCOX era.

By now, I'm getting suspicious that this was not a random event. Why should she care now, after, what, 3 or 4 years? I discontinued using the 'nym as the first Grokwars broke out and I saw an ugly underside to the way the site was run. This was after the 2004 SCOForum reporting, and the scan of the program verifying Enderle's keynote speech title was originally titled "Free Software and the Fools Who Use It" that I sent her.

I am no enemy of FOSS, no friend of SCO or MS, and the record shows it. But it appears that I am about to be "disappeared" from GL because there is suddenly some problem with my 'nym. Not that I really care at this point, because I can't wait for this thing to die and I can devote my energies elsewhere.

But it gets worse. I just received a response from PJ after I declined to continue my relationship with GL due to a lack of interest. And I quote the entire text of the message here: "Do you think I don't know what you are writing about me elsewhere?"

Yes, that is the entire text of the message. It appears I was wrong to call it "pettiness"; this is so far beyond that I can not pick a word for it.

From this experience, I have learned a lot about maintaining personal privacy, and sharing 'nyms across multiple communities. And a little bit about net groups and personalities that I have never encountered before. I regret my naivete of expecting the same level of reasonableness of others that I do of myself.

Now, we know that PJ would not troll Y!SCOX of on her own initiative because she thinks very lowly of this board. So someone must have "tipped" her off that her name was being used in vain. All I have to ask of PJ's mole: is it worth it? There is every reason to expect that this incident will be picked as fodder by her detractors, and my response is "Go for it!" I did not initiate this, nor did I blow it out of proportion. I stand by my words and actions. Any blowback on GL from this is purely deserved and not my doing.

Good job, squealer. And all you apologists must be feeling a nice warm glow. I see that SCOX has no corner on the market of hypocrisy. Now I recall why I ditched GL in the first place.

raoul

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dan Lyons: "So Profoundly Wrong"

Dan Lyons has done something that I thought he'd never do. He's proven that he actually does have a shred of integrity. He's written a piece on Forbes' titled "Snowed by SCO" where he admits he was wrong. About SCO. About Linux. About all us "crunchies" who were defending Linux with the facts.

Ahhh... Savor this moment...

The final paragraph pretty much sums up his apology piece:
SCO is road kill. Its lawsuit long ago ceased to represent any threat to Linux. That operating system has become far too successful to be dislodged. Someday soon the SCO lawsuits will go away, and I will never have to write another article about SCO ever again. I can't wait.
I'm curious to see if Rob Enderle will now write such a piece. My take is he won't. I think Rob would sooner die in abject poverty than admit he was wrong about anything, let alone SCO and Linux.

I'm also curious to see how this will affect another "profoundly wrong" and rather odious opinion piece written by Roger Parloff of Fortune titled "Did SCO get Linux-mob justice?" That article was paid for by somebody; if not SCO, then one of Linux's detractors, probably Microsoft.

Maybe some justice will come out of this after all.

Dear Spammers: Bugger Off

I have my modest little blog set up to send me posting responses before they become an immortal part of my blog. The sole reason I do this now is blog spam. What's blog spam? It's a message that has one or more links to other blogs or websites for the sole purpose of inflating or leading you off to another site. A blog spam response usually starts with a single effusive sentence telling you how wonderful your blog is and how glad they are to have found it. Then all the other trash follows.

The worse example occurred earlier this year when some persistent spammer kept trying to post, repeatedly, the same spam to the same blog entry. And when I say persistent I mean at least ten times. In this particular case they were attempting to spam "Suse 10.2, Part 3: Looking at KDE." For some reason it became the target of blog spam, and it eventually forced me to close the comments and have them mailed to me for moderation. Since that time I've had the odd blog spam come tumbling through, the last being against "NetBeans 6 Beta 1 nano review." Every single time I get a spam comment, I nuke it.

I like my little corner of the blogosphere. It's peaceful and quiet. Folks that show up and comment are polite and thoughtful, even those of a contrary opinion. I have no ads on my sight because I hate web advertising of any stripe, and I intend to keep my blog clean. If you're a spammer and you're here to piggy-back off my ever-so-rare and fleeting fame (high ranking) then you'll be sorely disappointed. Don't bother. Go away.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mint Linux: The way Linux was meant to be

I've had a couple of folks tell me to try out Mint Linux. Last night, I downloaded Celena BETA 017. Tonight, I burned the CD and booted it up on europa.

Europa is my increasingly ancient Athlon XP 32-bit DIY system with the equally ancient ATI 9700 Pro video card (R300). It currently hosts Windows XP SP2 and openSuse 10.2, with the system's primary boot openSuse. Tonight I got a chance to sample a new Linux distribution that puts both all the other distributions I've sampled to shame.

Not only did Mint boot up the old warhorse, but it was able to do the following without any trouble what-so-ever:
  • It enabled hardware acceleration with the ATI 9700 Pro card.
  • I was able to enable Compiz effects; transparency, the cube, everything. What was very nice about the effects is that there was none of the damn wobbling and wiggling. It was smooth as glass as it rotated the faces of the cube.
  • I was able to go to YouTube and play videos without having to download and install anything.
  • I was able to go to Apple's trailer page and play QuickTime movies, including the latest Iron Man trailer without having to download and install anything. *sigh* I WANT THE SUIT...I WANT THE SUIT...
  • Because I built europa, it has two DVD players. With the Mint CD in one drive, I was able to play a sample of my DVD collection in the other, again without having to download and install anything. Totem, for the first time ever, came up and played the DVD automatically without any issues. On openSuse I had to replace it with a version that would play DVDs, and on Ubuntu I had to go through gyrations downloading and installing 'forbidden' codecs.
  • No problems. No issues. It booted quickly. It ran without any crashes in any applications. It Just Worked, and It Just Worked Flawlessly.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the distribution that Dell should be shipping in place of Ubuntu. This is the way a Linux distribution should behave out of the chute. I don't have enough time right now to run it through its paces and give it a detailed evaluation (especially its development support capabilities), but I know one thing for certain. It's replacing Ubuntu on rhea at the first opportunity.

The only complaint I have is the look and feel, and that is minor and easily fixable. The best Gnome look and feel I've seen to date is currently Fedora 8's Nodoka. The icons are the same on Mint Celena as they are on Fedora 8, which was quite nice. Nodoka on Mint, combined with Mint's It Just Works capabilities, would make a really sweet distribution indeed.

Mint shows how Linux can truly soar when it's not hamstrung by the ideological B.S. of the R.M.S. gang.

NetBeans 6 Beta 1 nano review

NetBeans 6 Beta 1 was finally released today. I've been anticipating this for some time. I was able to grab a copy and give it a spin, first on Windows SP SP2 and then on Linux. The test machine was my Gateway M685 Core Duo notebook. What follows are a quick set of 'unboxing' screen shots as I install NetBeans 6, load an existing project, add a new repository, and then create a new project based on the new repository.

NetBeans 6 has a nice, professional looking installer that allows you to easily pick the various features you want from a single installation package. If you've been working with NetBeans 6 since about Milestone 9, then you'll know what I'm talking about. For this very simplistic evaluation I installed the Base IDE, Java SE, Web & Java EE, UML, Ruby and C/C++. What I didn't install were the Mobility tools, SOA, GlassFish V2, and Open ESB V2 Preview 3. I may add them later as the installer allows you to add them after the initial installation.

This is what the IDE looks like when it's fired up for the first time. Somebody has taken some trouble to smooth down the 'geek' graphics and make it look a little more polished. Drastic changes took place on the Start page. One immediate complaint I have is that the text is too small and the large text is too light. The overall design is certainly nicer than before but it could stand a few tweaks.

The Start page is subdivided into a Welcome page and a 'My NetBeans' page. The 'My NetBeans' page contains the 'News and Tutorials' and 'Blogs' sections that were introduced with the older NetBeans 5.x series. What's been added is a section at the upper left for currently used projects. I haven't worked enough yet to know the why of what goes there.


It's interesting is that the 'My NetBeans' page looks a lot like the opening page for Visual Studio 2005 (see below).


The first thing I do when I install a new version of NetBeans is test it by opening up an older project. Older can mean a project created with an older release (such as 5.5.1) or an older build (such as Milestone 10). In this case I loaded an old warhorse of a project that I've carted along since I created it during the NetBeans 5 beta series, Roumen's old demo form.

I found, to my satisfaction, that Beta 1 loaded this particular form without any trouble as well as additional, more complex projects. Note how I've also tweaked the interface, adding additional controls as well as making them small, and collapsed the File and Services views off to the left.

The next step was to tweak more of the IDE's look and feel. The Options dialog has changed between NetBeans 5.x and NetBeans 6. To me, the information seems richer and better organized.


Just as NetBeans 5.x followed the layout from Firefox 1.5, NetBeans 6's Option dialog (above) borrows its design from Firefox 2's Options layout (below). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I wonder if the Firefox crew feel flattered?


I have one complaint about the Option dialog. If you want to turn on line numbers in the editor, you still have to go into Advanced mode, find the Editor section, and click the line numbering checkbox (below). Please guys, put all the Advanced Editor features on the main Editor tab. These features are actually fundamental to editing.


Once done, my IDE is a little closer to how I want it to look and operate. The color scheme chosen is close to my all-time favorite editing color scheme that I first used in Brief, and later, when Borland purchased Brief, in Borland's C++ IDE. This is from the 1989-1993 time period when I was enjoying C++ development on early versions of Windows.


The next task I performed was to install the NetBeans OpenGL Pack. If you haven't checked it out then you should. Installing the modules necessary to develop OpenGL-based applications is an easy two-step process. Step one: Go to the site, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the first link in the Download section. You're presented with a file to download named net-java-nboglpack-updatecenter.nbm. This NetBeans Module contains the links necessary to add the OpenGL Pack's repository links. Download and save this file and install it with the Plugins Dialog.


Step two: bring up the Plugins Dialog (above) click on the Downloaded tab, then click on the Add Plugins button. Navigate to where you stored the downloaded NetBeans Module and select it. That action will add a new entry on the Downloaded tab. Select (click) the check box, then click the Install button. You'll be led step-by-step through a series of dialogs that will install the repository, but not the modules.


Now we go back to the Available Plugins and click the Reload Catalog button. When that's finished click the Category column head to sort by Category, and then scroll down to the modules marked OpenGL. Select them all to install the pack.




You'll get a Validation Warning about the modules. Don't Panic. Click Continue.


Yes, you want to restart the IDE.


Once you've restarted the IDE create a new OpenGL demo project. You can see which one I selected below. Go through the necessary steps to create it, then build it, then run it. One minor observation; a horizontal split-pane to hold the Description at the bottom and the Categories/Projects at the top. It would be nice to adjust the Description, which I attempted to do more than once.


And now I have the mystic glass bunny running on my laptop under Windows. From here you can begin to hack the project, morphing it into an application that is limited only by imagination and ability.


NetBeans 6 makes it dead simple to create many different types of projects, from bare beginnings to fully populated demos using Java, Ruby, or C/C++. From installation to full-up editing, NetBeans 6 is a strong and quite welcome evolutionary advancement over NetBeans 5.5.1, which was certainly no slouch itself. With this release of NetBeans I have completely shaken off my need for Eclipse. My only real complaint is the slow startup speed. I hope that startup performance is addressed in the next betas before a final release in November.

Update

It was pointed out in one of the responses that line numbering can be turned on or off by right-clicking in the editor pane gutter to pull up its sub-menu, and then selecting from there. Which is, of course, absolutely correct. It just goes to show how much trouble an old geek can get into when he doesn't keep up with all the advances and sticks to his Old Ways. And there's no telling how long that feature has been available in NetBeans.