Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 Beta: Compiz Coverflow?

I don't know how, but I've bumbled into a new (to me anyway) Compiz feature, a Coverflow-like ability to view multiple windows on a desktop. I installed KSnapshot in order to get a delayed screenshot of the effect, shown below.

Note the black bar running horizontally across the center of the image. This is an artifact of KSnapshot. It's not a part of the desktop. The effect is triggered by the key combination [Windows][Tab], or [Command][Tab] on the Apple keyboard. When you release the [Window] key on the keyboard then the window in the center is the upper window on the desktop. Very very cool. This is a Compiz feature worth having enabled. And the movement is very smooth, tight, professional, and fast without the crazy wobbles that first afflicted Compiz. And to think all this is running on a slow (1.8GHz) 32-bit Athlon XP with only 512MB of DRAM.

I am properly impressed!


It's available under the CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm), which you have to install via s…

Ubuntu 8.04 Beta: A second install

When I upgraded my 7.10 installation to 8.04, audio support broke during the process. When I went Googling for possible causes (and hopeful fixes) I ran across the rather snarky comment from a developer that 8.04 was an alpha, and as such if you wanted everything To Just Work then you needed to install outright rather than upgrade. Considering that technically he was correct (but flying in the face of personal positive experience with past upgrades) I stuck the 8.04 beta CD in rhea and performed a completely new install. And sure enough, sound support worked again.

The problem was the video screen. I have, up until this release, never had any problems with configuring high resolution after Ubuntu was installed. We're not talking about successful guessing with the Live CD, we're talking about a complete installation (or upgrade) with all the proper bits. And I'm talking about alphas, betas, and final releases. Until now, that is, with Ubuntu 8.04.

I run my monitor, an ancient…

Linux last OS standing, but is it really better?

The last notebook left unbeaten in the Pwn 2 Own contest is a VAIO VGN-TZ37CN running Ubuntu 7.10. The other two, a MacBook Air and a Fujitsu U810 running Vista Ultimate SP1, have fallen. The MacBook was the first and fastest to fall via a Safari exploit. The Vista machine fell due to a bug in Java. I have no idea what version of Java that was, but it's disturbing that (1) we still have security problems with Java after all these years and (2) Vista would allow a compromise in Java to compromise the operating system.

The fact that Ubuntu hasn't been hacked yet does not prove Ubuntu's superiority to either Mac OS X or Vista. There was this interesting comment from the show:
Some of the show's 400 attendees had found bugs in the Linux operating system, she said, but many of them didn't want to put the work into developing the exploit code that would be required to win the contest. So the bugs are there ready to be exploited. All somebody needs…

Microsoft's chickens are coming home to roost

From the article "Study sees Microsoft brand in sharp decline".
Microsoft's brand power has been in sharp decline over the past four years, an indication the company is losing credibility and mindshare with U.S. business users, according to a recent study by market research firm CoreBrand.

According to the CoreBrand Power 100 2007 study, which polled about 12,000 U.S. business decision-makers, Microsoft dropped from number 12 in the ranking of the most powerful U.S. company brands in 2004 to number 59 last year. In 1996, the company ranked number 1 in brand power among 1,200 top companies in about 50 industries, said James Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand.
Gregory said that a decline in and of itself is not indicative that a company is losing its mindshare or reputation among customers. However, what's significant in Microsoft's case is that the decline has been consistent over a number of years, and has plunged dramatically in a brief time.

"When you see something …

Yeah, that Safari browser for Windows is just peachy

With all the lame FUD being slung about how Apple is "forcing" Safari on poor unsuspecting Windows users, and how the EULA only allowed for one copy of Safari (just one!) to be installed only on Apple machines (which has now been fixed), you'd think that it couldn't get worse, PR wise, for Safari and Apple.

Unfortunately it can. A contestant at the CanSecWest security conference's PWN 2 OWN hacking contest broke into a MacBook Air using a Safari exploit in just two minutes. This is no different than last year, when a MacBook was hacked and broken into via a - you guessed it - Safari exploit. Yes, I know that those exploits are on the Mac, and I'm talking about Safari on Windows. But those kind of exploits on one platform (Mac OS X) make me take pause about running it on Windows. I can already get that kind of security with Internet Explorer. But I want better, which is why I use Firefox. Having said that, I hope that Mozilla's upper management can get a be…

Question to Dennis Howlett: Why are you so bloody stupid?

In a post titled "Question to Mozilla CEO: what do you fear?", blogger Dennis "Howler Monkey" Howlett tries to back up a very important question with out-and-out gross distortions of the facts. For example, in the first paragraph:The kerfuffle over Apple’s decision to include the Safari 3.1 ‘update’ with an iTunes update installer for Windows made me smile. John Lilly, CEO Mozilla Foundation seems outraged at Apple’s decision. It only adds to the hilarity. Why? In enterprise land, neither browser is likely to be the number one choice down at the PC/laptop image factory. Not even close. Check the stats at W3schools to see what I mean. Mozilla comes in at a miniscule 1.1% while Safari has just hit the 2% mark.I did check the stats over at W3schools, and you know what I found? Mozilla (Moz) does indeed come in with a mizerly 1.1%. But look over to the left column next to it labeled Fx (for Firefox) and you see that Firefox has a 36.5% share. Add the two together and y…

I, for one, welcome our new Android overlord

It's been a while since I played with Google's Android SDK (and I do mean play), so after after itsurfacedrecently in the tech press I decided to crank it back up and see what was different. So I downloaded the latest Eclipse release (3.3.2) and the latest Android SDK (M5 RC15), installed everything, and fired Eclipse IDE back up again.

First, before you can use the SDK in the IDE you have to install the Eclipse Android plugins, which are at If you've worked any with Eclipse then you know you have to add the https address as a new remote site, then install all plugins found there. One of the two sets of plugins, the editors, requires the Eclipse WTP (Web Tools Platform) plugins as well, so when you go to install new features select the Google Android site as well as teh Europa Discovery Site. When you select both the Google entries the editors selection will have an error indicator. Click WTP. then the "Select Required" b…

Operating systems are not cars

Every once in a while I come across the argument being made that OS choice is like car choice. It's usually in a forum involving Linux, where one poster will lead off that there's too much choice and the follow-up will read something like:But how will we ever choose what car to buy and drive with all this choice.. it's too much..

Or maybe, the user can focus on the device and features it provides rather than the embedded OS. The people who will focus on the embedded OS are not usually the type that are scared by choice.Operating systems and environments are different enough that if cars truly were built the way we build our software there would be far fewer cars and they'd be a lot more expensive. The key to ubiquity is the interface, and the simpler the better. All cars come with the following common user interface:
Ignition or starter (true on/off)
A steering wheelA break pedal on the floor
An accelerator pedal on the floor
A gear selectionSpeedometerGas (or petrol) gauge…

Looks like this Democrat's voting McCain

After ceaseless political faux pas from both Democratic candidates as well as the DNC, I have come to the considered conclusion that I'll once again vote Republican like I did for Ronald Regan. Twice. It's been a long slog getting to this point, and I've been wanting to vent about this. But before I got started I found all of my reasons for switching so sweetly summed up over at Time Magazine.

In an article titled "Will Dean Cost the Dems Florida?", article author Tim Padgett clearly articulated every problem that the current Democratic National Committee under Howard Dean has created and gotten itself into up to this point. I'm going to quote a number of paragraphs from that article, but let me lead off with this one first.
[Howard Dean], along with the other sage bosses of the DNC, has left Democratic voters in what is arguably the nation's most crucial swing state feeling dissed, disenfranchised and, it now seems, disinclined to back whomever the Democra…

Beta spotting: rhea upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 Beta 1

Well, I stuck my neck out again and upgraded rhea, running Ubuntu 7.10, with Ubuntu 8.04 using the command 'upgrade-manager -d'. And in spite of what the upgrade dialog says, it took twice as long to download and install everything.

So far, I've discovered that sound is broken (nothing will play) and Totem, because of the sound problem, will not play back any video. VLC works fine in its place. Everything else works as near as I can tell, especially Compiz. Rhea has the nVidia 7600GS video card, and the restricted drivers provided by Ubuntu work flawlessly with Compiz providing a smooth and satisfying experience.

As an experiment I booted rhea with the Ubuntu 8.04 beta live cd, and sound works. So something during the upgrade farkled up the sound. I have a number of choices at this point:
Live with it and hope that future upgrades magically fix the sound problem without breaking anything else.Do a fresh install of Ubuntu 8.04 beta and then accept the upgrades up until release…

Alpha spotting: openSUSE 11 Alpha 3 stirs cautious optimism

The third alpha of openSUSE 11 was announced yesterday, so while I was puttering about the house before bedtime I downloaded the ISO, specifically the KDE live CD. I then burned the ISO and rebooted europa with my newly minted CD. That's when I ran into my first problem.

I don't know when it first cropped up, but the kernel driver for my NEC DVD/CD burner seems to be broken. While I can use it as a normal DVD/CD burner and player after Linux has booted, using it as the boot device results in failure. It refused to boot in either normal or safe mode using the NEC. It's a good thing I have two DVD/CD devices on europa. The second is an older LiteOn DVD/CD device that will only burn CDROMs. So I swapped the openSUSE CD to the second drive and sure enough, it booted without further ado. openSUSE finished at the graphical KDE 4.0.2 desktop. I poked it prodded it for about 10 minutes and didn't discover anything horribly wrong, then shut 'er down and got some sleep.

This m…

And now for something completely different...

Rhea is a 'constrained' system, primarily in its memory. It has only 512MB. In today's world that's nothing, unless you've got a pocket system along the lines of an iPhone. But the typical desktop system (and notebook too, for that matter) ships with between two and four gig of memory.

And that, from my perspective, is an incredible amount. For personal uses our operating systems and our applications shouldn't keep demanding ever greater amounts of resources every time there's a new release, such as faster processors and more memory just to perform the same tasks. And we've been performing the same tasks since we identified what we wanted to do in the late 1980's, especially in business. In PC gaming it seems to get worse a lot faster. We've grown so enamored over the rendering and the look of the game that we've forgotten plot, game-play, and just general enjoyment (but that's the subject for another rant).

With that mind-set I stumbled a…

Alpha testing, Day 5: Like a monkey with a hand grenade

Well, the grand experiment with Ubuntu 8.04 alpha 6 has come to an ignominious end. That last batch of 10 updates included an update to libc6, which, once I finally got it installed, completely hosed the system. Like the monkey with a hand grenade who figures out how to pull the pin but doesn't know what to do next, the whole thing just blew up in my face. I couldn't log in (it gave multiple malloc errors before crashing back to the prompt in safe mode) and if you tried a normal boot it hung at the point where it was trying to start logging. I tried various 'recovery' methods, but in the end I:
booted into Ubuntu 7.10 live (the DVD), mounted root, opened up a shell, and backed up my home directoryre-installed Ubuntu 7.10restored my home directorygot on with life.This is the first time in years (and I'm talking back before 2000 now) that I've so throughly hosed a Linux installation that I had to just back up and re-install. And it took a lot of work to get there,…

Alpha testing, Day 4: Bunches and bunches of updates

Yep, the day started off bright and early with 108 updates in the pipeline for Ubuntu 8.04 alpha 6. Since I had to go to work I waited till I got home and loaded them up. Buried in that large update were more updates for the kernel. As soon as those updates installed, then another group of 66 showed up. Then a set of three. Right now I'm looking at another 10 in Update Manager. Three of the updates (108, 66, and 10) have updates to the kernel (2.6.24-12). So far none of the updates have fixed the breakage that is currently occurs with the nVidia drivers and kernel 2.6.24-12. I've looked at the Xorg log and dmesg, and the only problem I see is in the Xorg log where Xorg fails to 'initialize GLX extension (Compatible NVIDIA X driver not found)." I have no idea what that means just yet, but I'm sure there's a bug out there already about it. I just haven't had time to chase it down. In the mean time I just continue to boot with 2.6.24-11.

Alpha testing, Day 3: A whole slew of updates

One hundred sixteen updates were sitting in the update manager, ready to come barrelling on in. One update in particular (and one I looked for specifically) was for the kernel:
Version 2.6.24-12.20:

[Ben Collins]

* Enable CONFIG_SOUND at least, so alsa build in lum works
- LP: #200338
That one was good for a smile. Maybe sound will work again after the update.


Rebooted rhea after all the updates had been installed and discovered that the latest version of 2.6.24-12 is even worse than the prior release of 2.6.24-12. Not the sound, but the video. When rhea tried to come up in the graphic desktop it failed and I was left staring at the big 'you must configure the desktop' screen that currently passes for fixing a busted graphics subsystem.

Bugger that.

So I rebooted back into the slightly older but much more functional 2.6.24-11 kernel. Not much else exciting to report.

Alpha testing, Day 2: A new kernel, new problems

Got up this morning and checked to see if rhea was still okay after its upgrade. It was still operational and reporting that about 66 or so new upgrades were ready to drop in, including an upgrade to the kernel (2.6.24-12-generic). So I let all 66 install, rebooted, and low and behold I had no sound. So I rebooted back to the prior kernel (2.6.24-11-generic) and sound worked again.


So I rebooted back into 2.6.24-12-generic, and looked for sound and snd entries in dmesg. Sure enough all the sound devices (drivers) had 'unknown symbols' (lots of them), indicating the kernel hadn't been configured properly before it was built. Oh, well. The -11 kernel worked, so I figured I'd just go and comment out the -12 entries in /boot/grub/menu.lst. No big deal, right?


When I tried to run 'sudo vi menu.lst' I got a failure in sudo: 'unable to resolve host rhea'. I checked in /etc/hosts, and sure enough the 127 entries are missing rhea as an entry. So, how can …

Acid 3, Firefox 3b3, and Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 6

After reading about the new Acid 3 test, I mossied on over and ran the test. Even though it didn't get a 100/100 score I was never-the-less impressed with how well it performed.

I'm somewhat surprised by the scores on Anomalous Anomaly. AA's chart shows Firefox scoring higher than 3.0b3, while my testing shows just the opposite. What's more 3.0b3's rendering is a lot closer to the reference rendering than's. Regardless of the scoring there's one thing I will say about Firefox 3. It's fast. Very, very fast.

rhea upgraded from Ubuntu 7.10 to 8.04 alpha 6

Well, I took the plunge today and upgraded my 'lesser' system, rhea, from Ubuntu 7.10 to Ubuntu 8.04 alpha 6. The upgrade required over 1,200 files be upgraded/deleted/added, and over two hours of time for the whole process to complete. The time was long because the upgrade stopped twice for confirmations and I wasn't sitting in front of the keyboard to immediately make the decision. The good news is that the upgrade succeeded in spite of itself (more below). That's rather remarkable considering that I started with an Ubuntu 7.04 alpha 4 initial installation on this system, and I've been upgrading it every sense.

This is an upgrade to an alpha release, so a few odd events did transpire. Here's my short list of those odd little happenings.
I don't know when or why, but I had VirtualBox OSE (Open Source Edition) installed. It must be old age but I don't ever remember installing it. In any event the attempts to upgrade VirtualBox caused multiple installation…

Ubuntu notes

ATI Driver Update

Version 8.3 was released today (March 5th), and I installed it. Nothing special to report. Performance was no different than before, and DRI (AIGLX) support is still broken under Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy). The release notes give the official changes, and the Unofficial Wiki has been updated.

Linux Mint 4 KDE

I'd like to note a regression with Linux Mint 4 KDE. I booted the live CD on my Gateway M680 notebook and discovered that both wired and wireless networking would not work. I then booted the same notebook into Windows XP (already installed), openSUSE 10.2 (already installed), and Linux Mint 4 Gnome live CD to check out the networking hardware with those operating systems and found it still worked. I then booted back up into Linux Mint 4 KDE one last time and found networking was still inoperative. Everything else I bothered to test worked just fine. It's a shame, really. I was looking to replace openSUSE 10.2 on that machine with Linux Mint 4 KDE. I'll wait f…

Casual viewing: Mandriva 2008 Spring RC1, Fedora 8

In a January post I uttered the asinine comment that I was not going to bother with Mandriva after that posting because it had failed twice in succession to boot on my machines, especially europa. I forgot about that utterance and downloaded Mandriave 2008 Spring RC1 KDE One, and booted it on europa. I can say that it not only booted and ran, but the overall quality ranges from good to excellent.

One of the key features I feel is important and which I always test with a new release is the ability to play back some video (any video, frankly) that I have on my system.

As you can see above Mandriva found and mounted my existing partitions, including my home partition and all its data. I was able to play back a movie with Kaffeine that I had ripped with K3b (MPEG4 video, MPG3 audio) without any problems. The ability to just Do It is still a wonder, both from a technical and ideological perspective. It failed to play back a DVD. Kaffeine started up and played the opening screen and FBI warni…