Tuesday 17 November 2009

Accessing a Sandisk Sansa Clip+ with Banshee on Ubuntu 9.10

I've been given a Sandisk Sansa Clip+ 4GB mp3 player for my birthday. I requested the Clip+ as it has a microSD card slot (that supports up to 16GB SDHC cards) and I have an 8Gb card to use with it. I am amazed by the clarity of it's sound for the price. The player supports Mp3, WMA, FLAC and Ogg (no AAC), and arrived in a large box compared to the tiny player itself:

It supports replaygain and is gapless, is much cheaper than an Ipod shuffle and has a nice bright little screen. As you can see it looks like an ipod that's shrunk in the wash!

I set the player to use MSC (Mass Storage Class) in it's settings (you can also use MTP - Media Transfer Protocol) and plugged it in to my desktop machine that has Ubuntu 9.10 64bit. With MSC, the player and it's microSD card show up as drives, however it took a little searching on the net to get the Clip+ to show up as a device in Banshee. I'm using the newest version from the Banshee Team Repos (named 'banshee-1'). Eventually i found a solution here, and here. You need to create a text file in the root of the player and it's card called ".is_audio_player" (without the qoutes). The period is essential to make it a hidden system file, press CTRL+H in Nautilus, to show hidden files. Copy and paste this text into each file, then save:


This makes sure the files go in the right folders and with the right format, mp3 in this case. Then safely remove the player, unplug and plug back in, and now it will show up in Banshee in it's side pane like so:

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Finding An Alternative to Winamp, Foobar or iTunes for Ubuntu 9.10

Whenever i am on Windows I prefer Winamp for general use. It has reasonable tagging, good album art and info support, the media library is excellent and it's gapless. For transcoding music files i use Foobar. As a player it is good and has great tagging support but lacks decent visualisations and is tricky to setup. On my Mac i use iTunes mainly as i can access my Firefly (mt-daapd) servers. However, on Windows iTunes is a different, more hideously bloated, beast. I used to really like Amarok 1.4 for awhile before i switched to Exaile, and I'm not keen on Amarok 2. I find it lacks the features I liked in 1.4 and does not fit in well with Gnome, it being a KDE program. There are not many gapless audio player for Linux other than Aqualung, which is a little bit too bare-bones for me, and struggles with large music collections and also Rhythmbox is now gapless. There is also Music Player Daemon but it can be difficult to setup.

What I require in a Linux music player:
  • Gapless playback
  • Last.FM support
  • Album cover support (from embedded and/or folder image, and ability to download covers)
  • Good Mp3 tag support and tag editor
  • A context view with information from the internet (lyrics etc)
  • Reasonable Gnome integration.
  • To just play music, i have VLC or Totem for video files.
  • Shuffle mode and custom playlists - especially Recently Added)
  • Decent visualisations.
  • Firefly (mt-daapd) support

The Linux alternatives:


Exaile was my choice of media player for the Linux desktop, until now. I have just upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10 and sadly it has version 3.0.1 of Exaile. In this version there is a very annoying bug. Exaile refuses to close, even when I attempt to close the player's tray icon it just sits there. if i have the icon disabled and close the player, the music will just keep going without the GUI. When this bug will be fixed is uncertain. It's a shame as if it was not for that bug it would be great player. Consequently I am now looking for a replacement media player, at least until Exaile is fixed.


Rhythmbox is many users' choice as it's the default Gnome music player, however it has it's problems. it takes a long time to scan my music as i have a very large collection but that's not the biggest problem. Unfortunately the main problem with Rhythmbox is it keeps scanning non-audio files and giving error messages, and trying to download codecs for them. It does this on startup whether it has already found them before or not. This is made worse by the lack of a manual rescan library function.


Banshee seemed to take the longest (more than an hour!) of all the players I've tried to scan my music collection as it found my 31299 tracks (i actually have around 27500) then re-scanned them for some reason. Visually, the interface is a bit messy at first but once i had it configured to how i like it, it's fine. It is similar to Rhythmbox really, except with a better interface. the only problem I have at the moment is it is not submitting songs to Last.Fm. I should also say I tested using the Beta from the Banshee Team Repository.

Listen Media Player

This is the first time I have use Listen Media Player for a long time, and it looks a lot better than it used to. Once I set my music folder in it's preferences, Listen scanned my music collection. it was quicker than Banshee but not as quick as Exaile, and gave good feedback along it's progress bar, although it used quite a bit a lot resources doing it. Upon trying to play however it became unresponsive and my CPU peaked out at 100% and memory usage skyrocketed, then Listen crashed with a python error. When I restarted the player, it had to rescan the media library again *sigh*. I managed to get it to play again but with such high resource usage that I had to close it down. So no joy there, which is a shame as it does have a gapless setting.


Well for now it seems I'm going to stick with Rhythmbox but only because Last.Fm scrobbling actually works otherwise I would choose Banshee. I have disabled automatic scanning of tracks though to avoid it trying to find codecs for non-audio files everytime it starts up! If the bugs in Exaile are worked out then I'll switch to it instead. For editing tags in mp3s I use Mp3tag in Wine, and for normalising volume i use Mp3gain in Wine. I long for a decent substitute for Winamp/Foobar on Linux.

Update: I managed to get last.fm plugin to submit tracks on Banshee - it's now vieing to be my choice of player on Linux! My only annoyances: lack of a visible Skip button on the interface - where is it? EDIT: When you disable Shuffle the Skip forward button appears. I use the Cairo Dock Audio Player applet or the media buttons on my keyboard to control the player. the best thing about Banshee is the cover fetcher, it is a lot better than Rhythmbox's.

Resource Usage:

This is the output of 'top' on the command-line, when each player is playing an mp3 (separately):


16998 carl 20 0 779m 141m 22m S 11.9 7.1 64:39.88 banshee-1

21623 carl 20 0 817m 120m 26m S 5.9 6.0 0:19.64 rhythmbox

10958 carl 20 0 565m 27m 15m S 4.6 1.4 0:25.57 aqualung

12041 carl 20 0 1212m 355m 17m R 89.7 17.7 23:00.49 listen

4579 carl 20 0 743m 219m 20m R 94.7 10.9 0:27.39 exaile

Notice the astronomically high resource usage of Listen!

Update 2 - 3/11/09: For some reason, possibly because it uses Mono, I've recently found Banshee (1.6 beta) to be using more and more ram the longer it is left usually around 900mb and peaking the CPU quite a bit, I hope this is fixed soon. Until then I'll keep looking for alternatives.

Update 3 - 29/01/10: I've settled on Gmusicbrowser for now as it does just about everything I want, although transfering to USB drives is a bit cludgy.

Monday 2 November 2009

Re-Enable CTRL + ALT + Backspace to Restart X in Ubuntu karmic

As with Ubuntu 9.0.4, the shortcut to disable restarting of X has been disabled in Ubuntu karmic, and the previous method does not work now. Instead go to System --> Preferences --> keyboard --> Layouts --> Layout Options and tick the option as shown in the screenshots. So next time on that hopefully rare occasion X locks up you can now restart X, instead of resorting to holding the power button in.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.10: First Impressions - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly?

Ubuntu 9.10 (codenamed Karmic Koala) is now available to download, and I've installed it on a fresh hard drive in my HP6120 laptop. So, what's it like?

The Good

The new boot screens that use Xsplash instead of Usplash make the boot process quick (helped by the now default ext4 filesystem) and looks great, with a lot less messy text, it's very smooth. It also now uses Grub2 on fresh installations. The new Humanity theme on Gnome 2.28, is the most obvious improvement on previous releases. This time round I didn't immediately switch to Clearlooks or any of the other themes as the default theme actually looks much better. It has a lot less ugly brownness! The Disk Utility is neat new little feature, which shows hard drive info including SMART status which is rather handy. It's also good to have the (almost) latest version (3.5.3) of Firefox as default browser, hopefully it will be upgraded to 3.5.4 soon. Update: the latest Firefox has now been added to the Ubuntu repos.

The Bad

I think the new Ubuntu Software Centre which replaces Add and Remove Software is an interesting idea, especially for beginners but I felt it seemed more difficult to quickly find programs, or maybe it's because I much prefer Synaptic which is thankfully still in the Administration menu. The new GDM for 9.10 is now very limited, you cannot change it's theme without resorting to hacks, and although it has made boot-up seem faster, it seems to take longer to get from login to desktop than it used to.

Empathy is now the default messenger client, which I think needs more work. My main annoyance was I was unable to get the Facebook plugin to work properly, and there were lots of connection errors. I still prefer pidgin which i am glad you can still install from the repositories.

Another piece of software that is 'almost but not quite there' is Ubuntu one which is similar to other file sync services such as Dropbox, and is now installed by default. Unfortunately it is still unable to connect with the server at the moment, only coming up with an error message. Incidentally I do really like the new libnotify notifications, they look even better now, and are slightly lower on the screen than before. Another disappointment is I'm stuck with the latest feature-lacking version of Exaile. Update : Just received an Ubuntu-One client update and it is now connecting fine. (07:52 GMT) Update 2:

The Ugly?

Well there isn't much ugly in this version of Ubuntu, as it features a much more appealing look. The default theme is more orange than brown, and nautilus looks cleaner this time too. I'm not too keen on the new login theme either, it is dark yucky brown and you cannot easily change it's theme, plus it is more insecure to have your username shhow up at the login screen as it is one less thing for someone to guess.You should be able to change that behaviour by using gconf-editor and go through /apps/gdm/simple-greeter/ and select disable_user_list but I have not got it to work yet.


Well this release sees some interesting changes, and overall it feels like an improvement over 9.0.4. It boots quick and looks great, Ubuntu just keeps getting better and better. The next release, 10.04, will be a Long Term Service release. It will be interesting to see, as i will probably upgrade my servers then, which still run the last LTS - 8.0.4. You can upgrade from LTS to LTS but you can't upgrade from 8.0.4 straight to 9.10, you have to upgrade to 8.10 and 9.0.4 then 9.10.

*The Release notes to Karmic show that you can now more easily re-enable the CTRL ALT Backspace for restarting X action, also other bugs and solutions. I would also suggest using ext4 only for the root filesystem for the time being due to large-filesize bugs.

Friday 9 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.0.4 Reinstallation On HP 6120

I've just had to reinstall Ubuntu on my HP 6120 Laptop, due to the graphics messing up - I was using Intel beta graphics drivers, so I guess the latest ones don't like my 915 chipset much. Consequently I was left with unusable graphics. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long to get a fresh Ubuntu installation back to how I want it.


Firstly I logged in, in safe-graphics mode and backed up my photos, some downloads, documents and my settings, over ftp to my desktop. I backed up the hidden folders for Firefox, and Pidgin which are ".mozilla" and ".purple". After reinstallation I simply copied these back into the new home directory. I used Evolution's own backup/restore function to get my email sorted. I should also say that you could also use a seperate /home partition but this time I wanted as little detritus from the previous install as possible. Also If you upgrade to a new version of Ubuntu, you may get config problems. If you can't boot into the old install you can copy everything over using the Ubuntu livecd.

Fresh Desktop

After the reinstall i was welcomed by a clean, very brown, Ubuntu desktop. This I just have to change! I reinstalled Clear-Blue theme and Human-Azul icons. I also installed wallpaper-tray, a utility that switches wallpapers at preset times, from Synaptic. I then installed Dropbox and pointed wallpaper-tray to my wallpaper folder in the Dropbox folder. For extra eye-candy I installed the Compiz advanced settings tool, I need my wobbly windows and spinning cube!

Essential Programs and Multimedia

For playing all the usual codecs and for some other stuff not included in the default repositories, the easiest solution is Medibuntu. I added the repository (link is to the howto) and installed 'non-free-codecs', 'libdvdcss2' (for encrypted DVD playing), Skype and Google Earth. Make sure to agree to the Google license agreement, otherwise installation will fail.

I installed Avidemux For video editing and to transcode downloaded youtube FLV videos, and Deluge for torrents (Linux distros mostly). I prefer Deluge to Transmission, the default client in Ubuntu as I find it easier to use. For playing videos and streaming video/audio I use VLC media player, it is one of the best players around. All three are cross-platform, running on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Hardware Monitoring

For keeping an eye on my laptops temperature and performance I always install smartmontools, lm-sensors, xsensors, and xsysinfo and they're corresponding applets which can all be found in the Ubuntu repos. For extra configuration I install Webmin, which is good for remote admin too. Do 'sudo sensors-detect' in a terminal (and press return a few times to answer the questions) to configure lm-sensors then reboot to get it working. Another good admin tool is phpsysinfo which gives a nice run down of your hardware in a webpage, a good alternative to Belarc Advisor on Windows. Of course, not for the command-line-phobic, ssh is the daddy of remote access - 'sudo aptitude install ssh'. I also installed the old Gnome network manager, 'gnome-network-admin' as i prefer it to the new one, especially for static connections.

Also of course, I installed the Facebook Pidgin plugin and Swiftfox, both of which I've blogged about before. And that's about it for the moment, last thing I installed was the Sun java plugin 'sun-java-jre', everything else I'll probably install as I need them.

Update 19/03/11

I have since replaced this laptop with another HP6120, (this time a slight upgrade 1.8Ghz, from 1.6Ghz) and I have been running Ubuntu 10.0.4 for quite awhile and is my favourite of my laptops due to it's nice 15 inch screen and keyboard.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Powered by Ubuntu

My "Powered by Ubuntu" stickers arrived today!

A few weeks back, I sent off for them from the System76 website. You can download them from the Free Software Stickers book and print them yourself, but of course you need the right self-adhesive paper and reasonable printer, so it's easier to get these guys to do it for you for free! They are ideal for replacing those Designed for Windows stickers most PCs/laptops come with. I have put the first sticker on my home-built desktop machine.


Friday 2 October 2009

How Dropbox Works (video)

I find Dropbox very useful for syncing config files, wallpapers and sharing files with friends. You get 2GB of free storage and can get more through referals. I've found I don't use my memory sticks as much for smaller files. I like that it's cross-platform (Linux/Mac/Windows). There are other similar programs like Syncplicity (Windows only) and Foldershare (Windows/Mac, now owned by Microsoft) that aren't completely cross-platform. For Linux, there's also Ubuntu One which I have yet to try, but it is limited to Ubuntu 9.0.4 and above at the moment only. Anyway this video explains how Dropbox works in a nice simple way, ideal for encouraging friends to join up. :D

Update: Having tried Ubuntu One, it's similar to Dropbox, though it would be nice if it had similar icons to show what files are updating etc, and a distinctive Ubuntu One folder icon. Although you can of course add your own emblems (Edit --> Backgrounds and Emblems in Nautilus) I'll let you know how I get on with it, when I've tested it thoroughly. Also of course it would be great if it was not restricted to Ubuntu, though you can upload/download files through the web interface, but it is not as intuitive as Dropbox's.

Update 2: I've been tryomg out Ubuntu One a bit more, it's ok when it works but at the moment all i get is an icon with an ominous 'X' on it, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't, maybe it will improve for upcoming Karmic koala, which is not long now.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Debian Lenny on a Compaq N400C

Distro Problems and Decisions

I've been using my Compaq N400C for a while with Ubuntu 8.0.4 and it ran OK, up until just recently. Ever since a recent update, it kept running ok for a while then freezing up, two LEDs would flash and that would be it. I'd have to hold the power button down to force shutdown. I even tried to reinstall with Ubuntu 8.0.4 and 9.0.4, but got a kernel panic during install. I checked RAM and replaced the hard drive (swapped the original 20GB for a 30GB), but still received the same problem. To install anything on this laptop really requires the docking station that has the CD drive (and two extra HDD bays too) that I don't have. I use the minimal install discs with a USB DVD writer, as I never had any luck with a full OS disc, i'd always get errors. So then I thought about a different distro. I didn't fancy having to get used to an RPM based distro again, like Mandriva or Fedora (which I have had bad experiences with) or even Suse which I'd never consider now they are sleeping with Microsoft, besides I'm not keen on YAST. Nope, it'd have to be Debian based or indeed be Debian - so, onto the install:

Installation and Configuration

I used the smallest of the minimal install discs, the business card ISO, and installed it from my Plextor USB/Firewire DVD writer using USB. I chose to just install the commandline only install at first so I could check it booted ok afterwards. All was fine so far, so I rebooted. removed the DVD drive, then installed the Gnome desktop with "aptitude install gnome" as root. I also installed ssh and deluge-torrent, then I rebooted again to be greated by the nice Debian GDM screen. I did notice all the sound mixer faders were all muted for some reason, and discovered the ESS Allegro/Maestro3 soundcard wasn't found. I Googled around and found this post on the the Debian User Forum. What solved it for me I think was installing the firmware (untar then compile it with "./configure", "make" then "make install") then running, as root in the terminal: "rmmod snd_maestro3" and then "modprobe snd_maestro3" and after a reboot it was fine upon unmuting the mixers. Now the volume buttons on the front of the laptop do actually work the master volume.

Making Debian More Palatable For The Desktop

The first thing I needed to do was get my Edimax EW-7108PCg PCMCIA wireless card working, as I used Ethernet during install. For the wireless I needed the Ralink firmware which you can download here or directly from here. Annoyingly, double-clicking a Deb package opens it with 'Archive Manager' and even when I open it with GDebi Package Manager it doesn't work, just crapping out after opening. So to install Deb packages I have to resort to "dpk -i nameofpackage.deb" in a terminal. Upon reboot, my wireless worked, and I connected to my WPA encrypted network.

Next up I just had to replace Iceweasel, which has to be the worse software name ever, with a proper version of Firefox. I did consider installing Firefox manually using the tar.gz package but it's not exactly conveniant, so I installed Swiftfox instead. Swiftfox is an optimised version of Firefox, with versions for Intel and AMD 32bit and 64bit. At the moment it is based on Firefox which is almost the latest version. I then installed Pidgin messenger from the Debian repository and the Facebook plugin.

For playing all the required codecs I added the Debian Multimedia repository by adding "deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org stable main" to the software sources. I've installed w32codecs, flash-player-mozilla and libdvdcss for now. I also transfered my Swiftfox settings from my other laptop by copying the .mozilla folder (in /home/username/). Since I use Dropbox for syncing files I installed that too. This required adding the Dropbox Ubuntu Gutsy repository, as a Debian one isn't provided.

This was a slightly unorthodox install compared to a standard install due to the hardware involved, and is a little bit more fuss than an Ubuntu install, but I'm fairly happy with it, it's a solid stable distro, and feels a bit lighter than Ubuntu which is handy on an 850Mhz laptop with 256MB of RAM!

Update: Swiftfox has now been updated to the latest version, 3.5.3.
Update 2: Found a nice short tutorial on installing the latest Adobe Flash plugin in Debian.
Update 3 14/02/10: I have since gone back to Ubuntu 8.0.4, since various updates seem to have solved the problems I was having.
Update 4 (02/06/10): The hard drive out of this is now in my Toughbook CF-27 and this now has a 40GB drive with Lubuntu 10.0.4 LTS which is running fine, using Chrome for browsing and it also boots extremely quickly.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Sometimes you do get what you wish for...

I used to be a KDE man through and through, until i had some serious stability issues in Kubuntu, and then of course there is KDE 4.x but I'll leave that for now. One of the main reasons I stuck with KDE for a long time was Konqueror. It's such a versatile file manager (and web browser) with it's little Kioslaves and it's split pane file mode. When I switched to Gnome on Ubuntu (Hardy/8.0.4 at the time) I still occasionally used konqueror for that very feature, until now.

Anyway, I have just discovered you can now get dual-pane mode in nautilus! It's essentially a beta version of Nautilus which you install via a PPA (software repository), it is only available for Ubuntu 9.0.4 at the moment. There is an article on how to install it here. I havn't encountered any problems with it so far, and i like the way it removes the background of the pane you are not using, you press F3 to go dual-pane, it works really well.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Firefox Spotted On Electronic Billboard

On a recent trip to Stamford, I spotted this electronic billboard in the entrance of Newark (Nottinghamshire) station. On closer inspection I noticed it was actually using Firefox (instead of IE, for once) unable to find the URL for it's advert. I reckon they used Firefox because of it's fullscreen mode is better than IE's, in that it actually auto-hides the main toolbars at the top, so all you see is the page itself, plus maybe because it's also more secure and standards compliant. You can tell by the 'Try Again' button that it is running on Windows, which always seems to be a bit of a waste of resources to me, using a full blown desktop OS for an application more suited to a slim Linux installation.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Facebook Chat for Pidgin


Facebook have added Jabber/XMPP support to their Facebook Chat protocol so now we don't need any plugins for Facebook in Pidgin/Adium/Empathy! Find out how to add a Fb account here. This renders the following tutorial obsolete!

I like Facebook quite a bit, it means I can keep in touch with my brother in Japan and see what all my friends have been upto, wherever they might be. The one thing that annoys me though is Facebook Chat. It hardly seems to work most of the time and you have to have the web browser open, meaning you need to keep flicking between tabs to hold a conversation and do whatever you are doing in other tabs. You can put Chat in it's own window, but that doesn't solve the other problems. I kept wondering why they didn't just make it available in other messaging programs.

Thankfully, when reading an article on messaging programs I discovered a Pidgin plugin for Facebook. And it's great! It allows you to add Facebook as just like another messaging protocol like MSN or Yahoo! It features options to show Facebook updates as email alerts, edit Friends from within Pidgin and set your Facebook status with your Pidgin status (I'm not sure you would want 'I'm not here right now' as your Facebook status, but there you go).

Of course Pidgin is cross-platform, running on Windows and Linux, and theres a portable Windows version for USB stick. If you have a Mac, you can use Adium, which is based on Pidgin and has the Facebook plugin already installed.

On Ubuntu 8.0.4 you need to install libjson-glib - download it here - before you install the Deb package. On Ubuntu 9.0.4 libjson-glib is in the it's repositories so no need to manually download/install it. If Pidgin is already open restart it, then got to Accounts --> Manage --> Add and it lists facebook alongside the other protocols. So I'm pleased I now no longer have to have Firefox open on the Facebook page to chat to friends on Facebook :)

Friday 17 July 2009


I've followed the blog of Helios for some time, using RSS feed, and it's always well worth visiting! Today more so, as he's blogged about a new game available for Linux. It would be great if more publishers made games available for Linux. It is actually three games created by Thomas Grip and Jens Nilsson called Penumbra.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Firefox 3.5 on Ubuntu 9.0.4 64 Bit

Having looked forward to Firefox 3.5 for awhile I looked forward to it popping up in the Ubuntu repositories, yet it still hasn't appeared in them. Fear not though a quick Google search reveals its easy when you know how, to install the latest version. Great, so I installed it, but then found Flash wasn't working any more. As I'm using the 64 bit version of Ubuntu, I'm used to slight incompatibilities occasionally. Again a quick search on my favourite search engine and I found a solution here. I was also worried my favourite extensions wouldn't work, yet i had no trouble after a few updates. The only plugin that I found to be incompatible was Novell Moonlight, which I hardly use, and will most likely be updated soon. I've found Firefox 3.5 to be impressively fast, even running at a reasonable speed on my old 400Mhz PowerMac G4. I've not explored everything yet, but I am impressed by the new restore feature that allows you to choose which tabs to restore in case one of them crashed the browser, which is a nifty feature and one that I've always wanted.

My Favourite Firefox Extensions:

Adblock Plus - absolutely essential!
Caught Up - allows you to play ITV Play in Firefox on Linux!
Delicious bookmarks - bookmark sharing plugin
Downloadhelper - for easy download of YouTube videos
Download Statusbar - shows downloads on Firefox's status bar
External IP - shows your IP address for your net connection
Fierr - replaces the default error page with a more stylish alternative.
Flashblock - Replaces flash objects with a button so you can selectively play them, ideal on Flash-heavy pages, like the hideous Myspace!
PDF Download - Allows you to choose whether you want to view or download PDF files.
ReloadEvery - reloads web pages every so many secons or minuites.
StumbleUpon - browse through random pages for when you're bored
TabScope - preview and navigate tab contents
VideoSurf - shows stills of videos of sites like youtube, and choose where you want to view the video from.
Xmarks - sync bookmarks between browsers on all your PCs and Macs - usually the second plugin i install after Adblockplus!

It seems my Java plugin is broken :( ah well probably just use Opera for java stuff.

Update 2
I can attest to Firefox 3.5's stability, I've had 30 or more tabs in Firefox on Ubuntu with no problems and no noticable slowdown.

Update 3
I have now switched to Swiftfox 3.5.2 which has optimised builds for different CPUs and also has a PPA for Deb packages. It's setup to be faster than a normal build of Firefox.

Update 4!
Found an even better tutorial on getting 3.5.3 on Ubuntu here

Friday 26 June 2009

Fedora 11: Why i wish i hadn't downloaded it..

I sometimes think i might be really unlucky with some Linux Distros but I know at least one other person who has had some issues with Fedora 11. Firstly I tried the live CD, as always i try it first in Virtualbox, just to check it downloaded OK and have a quick spin. It booted OK but i was unable to get it to install, crashing out on me. OK I thought maybe it is just a VB issue, so I tried it on a spare PC, a socket-A Athlon, (2GHZ/512MB ram, 40GB x2 HDD). I tried the default partition layout: no dice. I then downloaded the DVD (32 bit version) thinking this might be better. I still had trouble installing either in Virtualbox or on my test machine. I searched some forums and tried several different partition layouts but still no luck. This is the buggiest distro I've tried in a long long time! A friend of mine tried the 64 bit version but had similar problems but did manage to get it installed. His major gripe was apparently PulseAudio sets all applications' volume stupidly loud by default, not helped by Gnomes default Pulseaudio mixer which has really been dumbed down so much. On Ubuntu 9.0.4 I have actually installed the old mixer as it allows greater control, especially on line-in and Mic-in. Somehow all of the reviews of Fedora 11 I've read online have been positive, and I can't figure out why!

Anyway, I always like to try out various distros every now and then just to reinforce why i chose my favourite - Ubuntu :) I've also I've just been trying out a nice lightweight, easy to use distro called Nonux. It's a Dutch Slackware based live CD with the Gnome desktop which makes a great combination. It has an installer and gparted (partition editor) is installed so it's good for rescuing PCs and for installing on old PCs.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery

Monstrosity: Windows 7 Theme for Linux

I've occasionally seen a red Fiat Coupé with Ferrari badges all over it. It looks pretty tacky and unconvincing, yet on various desktop customisation pages such as Gnome-Look, Stardock and others, I've seen countless themes that emulate the complete look of another operating system.
Why would you want Linux to look or work like a hideous bloated and buggy closed-source operating system? I've also seen Ubuntu brown themes for Windows, whilst it's nicer to look at than Windows XP and Vista default themes, why not just use Ubuntu, at least in dual boot? I also find the lack of themes on OSX to be a little irritating, what if i don't like brushed metal? The only feature of Mac I emulate in Windows (on the rare occasions I boot into it) and Linux is the dock. For Linux I use Cairo Dock and for Windows I use Object Dock. This is only because I like the way it works and keeps all my favourite programs close to hand. I just don't want my whole desktop to look like or work like OSX, the Starbucks of OS's, or the Mcdonalds of OS's, Windows.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Ubuntu 9.0.4 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Following on from my previous article on 8.10, I thought I'd repeat the process with the latest Ubuntu release - 9.04 codenamed Jaunty Jackalope.

The Good...

The Integrated Brasero for CD/DVD burning is nicely implemented and everything generally feels more speedy, and the boot-time is quicker and neater, I like the new splash screen. Dual desktops worked straight away after I installed the Nvidia drivers, unlike in 8.04, which took a little jiggery-bodgery. I also like the new Remote Desktop applet that shows available remote desktops with one click of the icon.

The Bad...

Kubuntu has abandoned Amarok 1.4 before version 2 is ready and fully featured, although you can still install 1.4.10 using this repository. Last.fm still didn't work for me in Amarok 2 and the gui feels cluttered. As with 8.10, I still don't like the default network manager although I have now found out than you can still install the old one. More annoyingly to please newbies, Ctrl Alt Backspace is disabled. This is an Xorg change rather than Ubuntu specific, and it is fairly easily changed.

...and the Ugly
The default brown theme looks a little better and though I'm still not keen on it, it is easily changed (and is the first thing i change!) Also in the latest Gnome, it is missing two of my favourite themes - Glossy and Clearlooks classic.

overall I am pleased with 9.04, much more than 8.10, and I'm running the 64bit version (I've not noticed any 64bit specific bugs as of now) on my main desktop machine.