Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop and Netbook

1 05 2010

With the arrival of the Ubuntu 10.04 Release Candidate I took the plunge and did fresh installations on both my Desktop and Netbook. I’ve previously tried the Alpha and Beta and was generally impressed with the evolution of Ubuntu. My netbook is a ‘never leaves my side’ kind of thing and has to be 100% reliable and operational. My desktop is a compliment to my main desktop, which out of necessity, runs windows. The linux desktop provides my media, social networking, chat/IM, browsing/monitoring and secure access to numerous systems.

10.04 is an evolution but one in an evolutionary process that has visibly slowed down recently.That’s not to say there has not been a lot of work going on or that 10.04 is not impressive, there has and it is. When I say visibly I do mean visibly. Yes its a prettier place to live but, for example, its not got the next generation of Gnome. For that we will wait, hopefully for the next version of Ubuntu, however I do wonder how many who have opted for this latest LTS will not upgrade until the next LTS?

So, what was the install like? Well, it was pretty painless. The Operating System installed quickly, booted with no trouble (and booted fast but don’t believe the hype, its not that fast!). Sound, graphics, media cards all played nicely out of the box. It only took a short while to replace the now, quite frankly, hopeless FireFox with Opera, install the other usual suspects of my daily desktop life and be operational. I’ve always preferred a simple dock to desktop shortcuts or quick launch icons so I installed (as usual) Avant Window Navigator (0.4.0) and replaced the lower panel. I have to say AWN has improved, it feels a little more together than it used to and its not like it was bad before.

My only gripe with the new look and feel is that on a multi desktop system the close, min, max buttons are missing a menu drop down to send the window to another desktop. A right click on the title bar takes care of it but this is something that needs to be covered in the next release when, hopefully, we will see the reason why controls are on the left (ala Mac) and not the right (ala Windows), that space thats opened up on the right is going to have purpose soon we are told.

Media playback is sadly still not there out of the box, licensing and re-distribution can be blamed for this I think. Happily its not difficult to quickly have your MP3’s and DVD’s spinning away. I had one issue with Handbrake, but this was resolved by using the latest snapshot and should be resolved now that 10.04 is on general release. GIMP had to be pulled out of the repo’s as its not part of the standard install, no big deal really but silly in my opinion

BBC iPlayer, Tweetdeck, Filezilla, Dropbox and Skype all worked fine. I installed Sunbird, a screenlet I use to provide weather updates from Weather Underground and my own weather station and that was more or less that, desktop done.

Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop

Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop

The story was barely any different installing the Netbook Remix onto my EeePC901, though the desktop is, of course, the UNR standard.

Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook

Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook

One of the new features in 10.04 is better integration between the desktop and the various social networking offerings, twitter and facebook really. This takes the form of two tools, yes two, why use one when you can make everyone do everything twice? Emapthy (which replaced Pidgin as the standard IM client back in 9) handles chat and Gwibber takes care of social broadcasting to twitter and facebook.

I have to say its good to have the ability to have a single chat client, Empathy, to work with Yahoo, MSN and Facebook but it does not handle Skype – I’m not blaming anyone but this is really a huge shortcoming now for me. Skype remains outside but has become almost ubiquitous for voice and IM communication. Not having integration into a single messaging client is something that needs to be addressed. Always preferring the open route I would prefer to see Empathy (or other) include at the very least Skype IM if not voice, however, I wonder why Skype has not built the IM ability for the other popular clients?

The ‘broadcast’ client, gwibber (come on guys, time to pay someone to come up with better names) is pretty weak and not without its problems. but it works in a pretty neatly integrated fashion and lets be fair and say that with some TLC it will do the job, but it needs some love pretty soon. No one who uses facebook or twitter much already will bother with it, they will install tweetdeck or whatever. But it might help tempt newer users into the social media and networking club. Its  quick to get something out in a hurry but links, pictures, etc, forget it!

Its pretty ironic to think, again as with all things in computing tech, that we have advanced so far only to be no further forward in real terms. In much the same way that cloud was my old mainframe, the latest fancy Excel spreadsheet fails to better my old Lotus 1-2-3, now the new gwibber and empathy and skype still need as many clients as MSN, Yahoo and AIM did before. Anyway, enough of that….

There is a lot more, people are raving about the Ubuntu One Music store, sorry but I cant think of anything less exciting. I dont use iTunes and I cant see me using this. I would like to see a native Spotify client though.

I mentioned above that I installed Dropbox, Ubuntu One has been around for a while but to be quite honest it still feels unreliable, slow and badly made. However the killer is its not got a Windows client (or anything else for that matter) so its useless for me and I suspect many many others. It does however, if you can use it, allow you to synch ANY folder not just a single specified one like Dropbox. Thats a very nice feature.

Performance wise I would say its too close to call. My desktop is nothing special, its getting on and doesn’t have a spec to die for. 9 was fine, 10 doesn’t feel faster in any tangible way but it does feel a little more together and it does boot that little bit faster too. On my netbook, again not the latest hardware, I would say its the same story. In short it all runs fine and I suspect on more modern tin its going to be a real delight. The bottom line here is that I can continue to take advantage of new features, better looking desktops, without having to shell out on new hardware. Thats a big plus with linux and Ubuntu.

There is no question 10.04 is a good operating system, if you already use Ubuntu its a no brainer upgrade. I usually find problems in a week of use and I’ve not had anything so far. Its been stable and reliable and everything works as it would.

Upgrade now, you wont regret it (however if you do don’t come crying to me!)





My Continuing Adventures with a Netbook

28 01 2010

So here we are fast approaching the end of January 2010 and I have itchy Netbook Operating System Syndrome, again. Having played with what i thought were the front runners in the linux distribution stakes for my Netbook OS it seems I may have missed one. One that is about to take an evolutionary step as well.

Eeebuntu currently, as the name implies, is a build of Ubuntu (9.04) for EeePC Netbooks. Now there are plenty of Ubuntu based distributions out there, in fact there are actually precious few not based on Ubuntu; Ubuntu Netbook Remix, JoliCliud, Moblin, ChromeOS, etc all have their roots in Ubuntu. And Ubuntu has its roots in Debian.

Now I’ve never really been a Debian user when it comes to servers or desktops, but truth be known, I’ve never heard a bad comment about it, quite the reverse in fact. Eeebuntu 3 is the current release and as its based on Ubuntu 9.04 the obvious question is where is Eeebuntu 4 which will obviously be based on Ubuntu 9.10, well no, it won’t. Its going back to the top of the food chain, so to speak, and will be based on Debian. So no longer will it be tied to Ubuntu’s coat tails and this could be a good thing. There are plenty of 9.101 ate my desktop stories out there and Ive had a few issues with it myself, nothing serious, but enough to taint my opinion of it.

As a precursor to the (soon hopefully) release of Eeebuntu 4 (name change required I think) I thought I would take version 3 for a spin. I’ve just gotten a little tired of UNR and its lack of finish, its good, don’t get me wrong, but its just like every linux desktop in that it feels unfinished, unpolished and, quite honestly, second class to Windows or OSx. UNR is a remix for Netbooks, but essentially its a screen real estate limited front end to Gnome and not much else.

Eeebuntu has a Netbook friendly Kernel plus EeePC friendly tools for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Screen, Sound and CPU mode. Other than that its a ‘full’ desktop, in so much as the GUI is full on Gnome and not a cut down. If this is a good or bad thing I’ve yet to determine. There are a few flavours to choose from, Base (my choice to start), UNR (a netbook remix, which is what Im getting away from) and a Standard version. As I prefer to pick and choose my applications and not have to remove some else’s clutter I’ve opted to install the base version.

Downloading and burning to an SD card was simple. Running as a live disk to have a quick tour showed everything to be present and correct, all working out of the box. Full installation was the usual uneventful affair and once installed and booted an update offered to update to the underlying Ubuntu 9.10, I declined and just updated the 9.04 install. So here it is, ready to be loaded up with OpenOffice, Putty, Opera 10, Skype, TweetDeck, iPlayer and a few other daily needed applications.

Downloading and burning to an SD card was simple. Running as a live disk to have a quick tour showed everything to be present and correct, all working out of the box. Full installation was the usual uneventful affair and once installed and booted an update offered to update the underlying Ubuntu to 9.10, I declined and just updated the 9.04 install.

So here it is, ready to be loaded up with OpenOffice, Putty, Opera 10, Skype, TweetDeck, iPlayer and a few other daily needed applications.

EeeBuntu

The little display on my EeePC 901 seems to cope fine with a full desktop, where I had previously thought it might not, hence my previous choice of UNR.

There is a certain pleasure in getting a desktop setup just the way you want it, I was happy with the UNR interface but over time found it limiting and ultimately short on delivery of its promise. Let’s see how Eeebuntu performs and hopefully soon how v4 raises the bar for Netbook linux distributions.

Initial impressions are good, everything I use installed without incident, I tend to keep anything other than essential offline data online these days, and this is especially true with the various portable devices I use. Dropbox and my own NAS system serve my purposes perfectly well and the odd SD card full of mp3’s gets me by.

Screen real estate on a Netbook desktop is scarce so the bottom panel bar has to go, the window list moving up into the top panel bar. Date and time was shrunk to just time. I’ve seen quite a few Netbooks running various Docks (like the OSx Dock) and though I find the one I run on my full size desktop linux PC to be a very useful way of getting to key applications there simply isn’t room on a small screen to handover space, that leaves the Gnome menu system, lets say its adequate and leave it at that for now.

EeeBuntu





JoliCloud moves into Pre-Beta

29 12 2009

Previously I wrote about Jolicloud while I was testing different Linux distributions on my EeePC netbook. I chose distributions that were, in theory, better suited to life with a netbook. After some basic trial use of Google ChromeOS, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin and Jolicloud I settled on Ubuntu and for the last month I’ve been using it quite successfully on my little EeePC 901.

The thing I liked about Jolicloud was its ‘Jolicloud application installer’ this provides a whole slew of applications ready to install and not just the off the shelf Linux stuff, this also has applications that would normally require you to compile from source or run through Wine (the pseudo windows emulation library for Linux)

Since that initial look Jolicloud, which is based in Ubuntu so shares the same solid foundation, has gone from alpha to pre-beta. Pre-beta drops the need to be invited to try Jolicloud and opens it up to the wider world, in their words, “We consider the product and its installation stable and simple enough for a broader release.”, I would agree.

Now the thing that potentially interests me again in Jolicloud is the ‘New UI’, reading the Jolicloud blog further reveals this to be a lot of theme and icon redesign with the goal of providing a more consistent feel to the, lets be honest, mixed bag of typical Linux distro’s.

The launcher has been given a HTML5 makeover and looks greatly improved, cleaner, clearer and ultimately more usable. Compare

with the current/old

It seems to me that if Jolicloud roll out the UI update and pull off a good attempt at a cohesive UI for Linux then they will have a success on their hands. Google’s play is to simplify (dumb down?) the UI to a HTML5 browser, but its tomorrow’s toy, Jolicloud looks set to offer this today.

Season the mix with 98% netbook compatibility and a Windows installer that will install Jolicloud alongside Windows on your netbook (assuming you have the disk space) and there might never be a better time to give Jolicloud a spin and see what the latest world of Linux has to offer the daily netbook user.

So I am going to be re-installing Jolicloud soon, once that new UI is available, and quite possibly moving on from Ubuntu Netbook Remix. That is as soon as I get hold of a new SD card to load it onto.

Posted via email from Steve’s Blog





JoliCloud and EeePC901

23 11 2009

I don’t quite remember how I came to be invited to take a look at JoliCloud, its based on Ubuntu Netbook Remix and offers a different UI theme (not that different) and the ‘JoliCloud’.

The JoliCloud is a sort of online portal for updates, applications tracking and contact. It offers applications that are not normally part of a typical linux application vault, for example Spotify is in there. What’s interesting about that is that Spotify does not have a native linux client (come on Spotify, why NOT?) so this is the windows client and Wine.

That makes it a more interesting prospect, the JoliCloud is trying to take the hassle out of installing the apps you had on your windows desktop but cant get out of the box on your linux desktop. Want to run Google Chrome as your browser? No problem, just install it from JoliCloud. Now some of these ‘apps’ are little more than the normal web pages, served in a full screen view, but even so, its making it easier.

So does JoliCloud offer the best linux mix for a netbook? A light weight linux distro based on UNR (Ubuntu) and a pretty well desinged app store that means you need never see a .deb package or have to chant “./configure, make, make install” (though you will be missing out)

In the week where Google announced it was taking over the world… oh sorry, thats next week, announced Google OS and made its starting play in the netbook game what does it all mean for JoliCloud? Well I suspect like many nice projects it will either be absorbed in part of whole by other bigger or more ambitious projects or maybe it will just disappear.

Its all going to come down to the niche’s for the netbook, corporate adoption and how well we all take to really trying to live in the cloud. JoliCloud is an evolutionary step in my opinion, it takes the well established update/app store model that Ubuntu uses and adds more to it. Perhaps its the closest thing to an open app store yet?





Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 and EeePC901

22 11 2009

This is an easy install. I’m installing to my Asus EeePC 901. Download the ISO file from the Ubuntu web site then burn it to a USB, I used an SD card. Your netbook needs to be able to boot from whatever device you choose, if you have a usb CD drive you could use that. In fact I found the getting my EeePC to boot from a USB key impossible, but it would happily boot from the SD card slot.

The default install is perfectly good, but a little package tweaking was needed. I removed the games (it stops the kids wanting to steal the netbook), installed Skype, Opera, Dropbox (I am not happy with Ubuntu ONE and I need something that has a Windows client too) and Tweetdeck.

The screenshots above give a general idea of the look and feel, the terminal window has had its background turned transparent and colours set to green on black. The desktop wallpaper was changed to an image from Desktopnexus.com

I can honestly say this is a solid linux distribution and I can see this being the netbook operating system I stick with after trying out a few of the alternatives.

 





Moblin and EeePC901

22 11 2009

Moblin is an optimized Linux platform that provides a modern, engaging user experience for mobile devices. Installation is a pretty standard affair and follows the usual download the image, burn it to a bootable media (USB or SD), boot it and install. Painless.

Once it boots you’re confronted with a very different UI, one that is very neat and well designed. A floating tool bar appears at the top of the screen when you mouse up to the edge, this is the main navigation and, quite restrictively, is fixed to what you see. I guess adding to it or changing it is there somewhere but its not something you are going to do easily. Thats a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view, for me it wasn’t so good.

The UI is well laid out and quite nice to use, but adding applications not in the Application Installer ‘Garage’ was troublesome and I found myself losing the will to live over getting what I wanted installed. This shouldn’t be viewed as the big problem I am making it out to be, if you don’t need other apps then there is no issue and the garage does have a decent spread. It didn’t have what I wanted though.

I also had problems with WiFi dropping out and refusing to reconnect. I tried this on both the wireless networks here so it wasn’t that, I am guessing its a driver issue on the EeePC901.

I don’t feel like Moblin is quite ready for use in the wild and in fact I don’t think it’s meant to be either, I think we are going to see devices running it soon and as it is built to order for each device I am sure its going to provide a very friendly and effective UI. But for a general purpose geek’s netbook, nah!





Adventures with a Netbook

22 11 2009

Since I first acquired an Asus EeePC its had Windows XP installed. This has worked fine if a little slow and cumbersome. The atom based netbooks are not fast and this one (a 901 with 1G RAM) is no different, but they are perfect for light use and taking everywhere. Anyway, I decided it was time to move on from XP and started to look at options.

Option 1. Stick with Microsoft. This meant Vista or Windows 7. Well I’ve had pretty much no trouble at all with Vista on my desktop, it all works pretty well. This isn’t the usual story though and I cant see it running well on a netbook. So Vista was out on the basis of it being slower than XP unless fed a decent CPU and RAM. I’ve been running Windows 7 since early beta on my laptop and I have to say its very good, this was definitely going to be an option, but I’m not ready to fund Steve Balmer’s retirement (unless he guarantees to retire) yet, so this would have to wait.

Option 2. Hackintosh. I’ve always liked Mac’s. I haven’t actually used one as my own PC for years though and the thought of introducing a 3rd OS into my daily mix isn’t appealing. Conclusion, review again as a choice between OSX and Windows 7.

Option 3. linux. I’ve had Ubuntu 9.10 on a desktop linux PC since it released a little while ago and also as a dual boot on my laptop, so far I’ve not had any trouble and its been a decent operating system for daily use.

So I decided to bin Windows XP on my EeePC and try out some linux based solutions.

My netbook needs are simple

  • Terminal access (via SSH) so I can get at all the systems I look after
  • Web Browsing, preferably using Opera but FireFox will do
  • Skype (plus something for yahoo and messenger)
  • Office suite, light weight ideally but must be word/excel compatible
  • A twitter client (using the web isn’t great)
  • BBC iPlayer would be nice
  • eMail
  • Remote desktop /VNC
  • Media player, though not so important
  • Easy to use

So, will UNR910 cope? What about Google’s newly released ChromeOS? How about Intel’s Moblin project? and what is Jolicloud?