Ubuntu 9.04 released!

The newest version of our beloved Linux distro Ubuntu was released on April 21st. Code named Jaunty Jackalope, Ubuntu 9.04 desktop edition brings some nice features:

  • finally OpenOffice 3.0.1 installed;
  • Gnome 2.26 with some improvements for multiple monitors setups, Empathy (multi-protocol instant messenger), Evolution (email client now with MS Exchange support), Volume manager (now integrated with PulseAudio);
  • X.Org server 1.6 to improve support for some 3D video cards;
  • new notification alert system specially designed for Ubuntu;
  • Linux kernel 2.6.28 with ext4 file system support;

I’ve been using Ubuntu almost exclusively for about 2 years now. The improvements made since that time have been enormous and this release although not ground breaking has brought some very nice improvements.

On my desktop (the computer I’m using now to write this post) I just did a distro upgrade and with one click of a button the entire system took care of the entire procedure by itself. I left the computer on overnight but the reason it took so long was that most likely the Ubuntu servers and mirrors are extremely busy.

Now I’m already looking forward to Ubuntu 9.10 in October 🙂

Mobile phones – does the hardware matter anymore?

I was recently using Nokia’s N96 which is an impressive phone. The phone has a great camera, flash, a nice screen size, bluetooth, wifi, an impressive 16GB of storage space and it even plays DTV. I switched it for an Android G1.

A while ago we tended to switch phones when the hardware got better. A lighter phone, a better camera, better screen resolution / size. But, now the mobile OS war has just gotten interesting with Apple leading the new era.

Talking about mobile phone’s operating systems the main players are:

  • Android – google sponsored, open source;
  • Symbian – Nokia recently bought it and promised to open source it;
  • Blackberry – RIM’s OS that is quite famous among enterprises, proprietary closed source;
  • iPhone – developed by Apple, proprietary closed source.

The G1 I’m now using, although it has lower specs than the N96 is making me much more productive. The relatively new Android Marketplace has a lot of very nice stuff for productivity, connectivity, media management, navigation and more.

As mentioned before, the iPhone right now is leading. The Android has quite a bit of potential to be as big, if not bigger. It is open source so a great excuse for cell phone makers to worry more about making hardware and not spending money on software (like Motorola might be doing).

The Android’s future though is not looking as good as it should. I feel it lacks some of the same things missing with Linux – a big marketing sponsor. Although Google launched the Android initiative there doesn’t seem to be an organized continuous push for it.

I’m hoping the situation changes so we don’t see in a few years a 97% market share dominance of a proprietaty mobile phone OS.

Fedora 10 is out!

Fedora 10 has just been released! Open source fans can now enjoy the most updated Fedora release with lots of improvements.

What is new? The release notes state a lot of good improvements such as:

  • Wireless connection sharing;
  • Better setup and use of printers;
  • SecTool, a new security audit and intrusion detection system;
  • RPM 4.6!
  • Glitch free audio and better performance;
  • Improved webcam support.

Want to try it out? Go get it, it is free!

Any reader already tried it? I’d love to read your opinion about it.

Free your iPod with Rockbox

One of the reasons why I don’t like iPods is the entire philosophy of having everything closed and according to the likes of Apple. But, fortunately the open source community is too awesome and have developed a firmware that we can install on several different audio devices.

Rockbox is a bit like an operating system for portable media players. You can install it on several different devices from the following manufactures: Apple, Archos, SanDisk, Toshiba, iriver, and more.

Why install Rockbox? First, the number of features you’ll get with it is huge. For example, your device will be able to support several different audio and video formats (yes, it’ll play video if your device didn’t allow you to). Plus, you might even get some gaming done. If you want even more features you can also add some extra plug-ins to it.

That certainly helps in making my next decision to purchase a media player. The number of devices supported by Rockbox isn’t huge, but quite a few iPod models have been tested well. So, you might even give a new life to an old discarded iPod.

If you’d like to watch a video review, head over to the Linux Journal and let Shawn Powers show it to you.

Install and setup Ubuntu Eee 8.04

I’m glad to report back saying the attempt to install the Ubuntu Eee 8.04 was a success. Now my Eee 4G is quite a sexy machine. I’ll detail for you the steps involved in the whole installation and tweaks.

1) Install

Head over to the Ubuntu Eee Download and Install page to get the first part done. The steps listed there are pretty easy to do: download the ISO, place it on a USB drive, boot your Eee, and install. I went for the guided installation that took the full disk.

The installation process took about 30 minutes. Of course, the downloading part will depend on your connection speed.

2) Optimizations

After the complete install was done it was the moment for some tweaks:

  1. Apply automatically fixes for the Ubuntu 8.04;
  2. Reduce swappiness and decrease disk writes to relieve strains to the SSD;

3) Hardware

I was a bit surprised that the webcam and mic weren’t working even after all of these steps. But, eventually I got them to work.

  • Fixing the webcam: I restarted the Eee and went to the BIOS. On the hardware components list, for some reason the webcam was turned off. Switch it on and restart.
  • I haven’t been able to completely fix the microphone issue, but I found this tutorial to give a bit of a fix to use the microphone with Skype.

4) Removing and adding programs

My next task was to see how much space I could eliminate to place my favorite productivity programs in. I used some of the tips found here to remove:

  • all packages related to CDs and DVDs;
  • all games;
  • diveintopython;
  • wodim;
  • thunderbird;
  • and I ran localpurge.

With that saved space I felt more comfortable to install some of my favorite apps:

  • Gnome Do (much better not to rely so much on the trackpad);
  • Conduit (awesome to sync stuff to the clouds);
  • KeePassX;
  • Gimp;
  • Empathy (I liked the program so I’m willing to try and use it a bit more).

All of that left me now with 1.1GB of storage. I’m still pretty happy as I also have a couple of other USB drives I use (and the clouds).

5) Visual improvements

7 inches of screen real estate has to be planned out well. So, I spent a bit of extra time to get the best setup possible.

I decided to use only 1 Gnome panel to have as much available space as possible. So, I removed the bottom panel and did the following modifications to the top panel:

  • removed the Menu Bar applet to replace it with the Main Menu applet (now I have only 1 icon instead of 3 pull down menus);

  • removed the User Switcher;
  • added the Window Selector applet so that I could access all of the programs opened (or, ALT+Tab shortcut also works);

  • I also added the Trash, Force Quit, System Monitor, and Workspace Switcher applets.

Now the final adjustments were done for Firefox by installing:

For fun”:

Once everything was installed in Firefox, I right-clicked on an open space of the toolbar area and choose “Customize”. I configured everything to sit nicely in a single toolbar row. It seems a bit cramped now, but for me it works.

One day after the switch, everything is working very well and the Eee seems much more powerful.

Changind the eee OS

I’ve been using the eee PC for about 4 months now with the default Xandros OS. I’ve done a couple of tweaks to install some programs like Gimp and KeePass. But, I’m still not completely satisfied.

The default eee PC OS still doesn’t have the latest versions of Firefox, OpenOffice, and the hassle to update these are a bit time consuming. So, I’ve just decided to make a switch.

As I type this, my little eee PC is installing the Ubuntu EEE (an Ubuntu distro specially made for the eee PC). I’m hoping that it’ll give me a bit more flexibility on what I want on my machine, a bit more stability after all of the updated programs are installed, and improve interoperability between the different OSs that I’m running.

As a side bonus, I’m sure it’ll look a bit nicer.

Cross fingers!

No more Windows XP, will you go with Vista?

Microsoft being smart again saw that Vista wasn’t being very accepted, decided to force people to have no other option. After July 1st, computers can no longer be sold with Windows XP (there are exceptions to the rules such as computer with low specs).

If you bought a computer today would you get it with Windows Vista like Bill wants you to? By the way, Microsoft is planning to release a new OS next year.

Or, will you go with another OS?

IMHO the operating system has lost its critical importance. Users in general need an Office Suite, a web browser, image, video, and audio managers. At this day and age, most known operating systems will work just fine for everyday needs. MacOS will work very well, so will Linux, and even BSD.

Since the operating system itself isn’t that much important anymore, why keep paying for a new one every couple of years? Do you really need a new operating system or do you need one that works well?

For us, Linux is surely the way to go. It is safe, free, easy to use, with Wine many Windows-only programs can be used, and another huge benefit is that a computer will not age quickly over the years. Check out Vista’s minimum requirements and see if you can run it with a computer that is 3-4 years old.

So, dear readers, where will you go without XP?

5 easy steps to install Puppy Linux on your USB drive

I have a 1GB mini SD card inside my cell phone that I barely use the space. So, I thought I’d add a Linux install inside it for those moments I have to use a computer at a cyber café (I’m cautious about security), or just do an emergency data recovery of a computer.

Puppy Linux was my distro of choice for this task. It is very small, the ISO is just 88MB. Also I felt this was the right moment for me with the release of Puppy Linux 4.0 aka Dingo, which seems to be much more user friendly.

  • So, to install Puppy to a USB drive the first step is to download, burn, and run the ISO file.
  • Next, once you see the desktop, the second step is to click on “Menu”, find “Setup” and choose “Puppy Universal installer”. In our case, choose “USB Flash Drive”;

Puppy Universal Installer

  • Third, I just went the easy route and followed with a click on “Install Puppy to … (name of USB drive)”

Install Puppy to usb

  • Fourth, we’re prompted to enter the current location of the Puppy files, in our case CD (since we’re using a live CD)

Install Puppy from live CD

  • Just confirm the next dialogue request and for the last important option, make sure to select the option to create the bootloader “mbr.bin” file. With this mbr file, the computer should be able to load Puppy on boot without a problem.
  • Click on the following OK buttons and in a few minutes a beautiful and highly functional tiny Linux distro was installed on the USB flash drive.

Puppy Linux running

Puppy 4.0 is pretty stable, very easy to work with, and very fast. Best of all, extremely portable! Highly recommended distro to keep around.

Now, I must admit I read about Damn Small Linux but haven’t tested it yet. Any one willing to give their opinion on it?

Make changes to GRUB the easy way with Super Grub

For users who have already made the switch to Linux, first congratulations!!

Most likely you’re now familiar with something called GRUB, the bootloader that will manage your access to the different OSs you have installed. GRUB comes in when you have a dual-boot (or more) installation on your machine.

If you’re sticking with a simple dual-boot Linux install most likely you’ll not have to change anything after you’ve made the OS installation. GRUB should work well. But… in case you start messing around too much with removing or adding other Linux distros or even want to completely remove Linux, things start getting a little complicated.

I had this problem at the beginning of the year. After trying without success to install Linux on my sister’s laptop I gave up, but I was still stuck with GRUB. The safest and easiest way for me to remove GRUB was using Super Grub.

You can run Super Grub from a live CD, floppy disk, or a USB drive. Using it is extremely easy, the developers really made some nice work with their step-by-step information. With it one can easily remove Windows, Linux, from GRUB or add any of these OSs to it.

A highly reccommended live CD for those computer emergencies.

New insight into Android, mobile phone’s open source OS

Android logoGoogle’s Android, a mobile phone’s open source operating system is coming closer and closer to a reality for us. The most recent news shows a really spiffy phone with tons of features and excellently cool!

I haven’t really made that much of an effort to get an iPhone waiting for an Android phone to be released.

I think Android phones will be better then iPhones because there won’t be the entire hacking / unlocking process and being open source the possibilities for growth in the number of add-on apps is enormous. I can’t wait for it to be released.

Meanwhile… I’ll just stick with watchin these videos released by the Android Community: