Thursday, May 28, 2009

"It's better with Windows" Website -- Hoax or Just Ugly?

Designed for Windows XP computer hardware logoImage via Wikipedia
There's a lot of blathering on about the new collaboration between Asus and Microsoft called is real or not. Let's put that to rest by quoting Asus' website:
It's better with Windows® The Eee PC™ 1008HA comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows XP Home and Microsoft Works. With Windows® XP, you can be sure that your Eee PC™ will be compatible with your existing Windows applications and devices. Windows® XP is also easy to use and delivers a dependable experience that Microsoft and a worldwide community of partners stand behind. Visit » to find out more. [1]
QED. It's real, just bad.

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Elisa Media Center Gets a New Look and a New Name -- Moovida

Elisa Media Center has been one of those projects that I really want to like and has almost been there for a long time. It did a lot of cool stuff and did it simply, without the need to rip out or supplement core technologies in your existing Gnome desktop. I kept trying it, but it always lacked something that I really wanted, so I would give it up after a few hours. It continued to move forward quickly, though.

Well, Elisa has a new name (Moovida), a new website, and a completely new look (see right). The spinning wheel is gone and has been replaced with a more familiar look. The menu system used to be pretty deep and a little confusing, so I hope the new direction takes care of that. Breaking Internet services off into their own group will certainly help things.

You can try it out by adding the PPA to your Software Sources and installing the moovida package. If you want to edit your /etc/sources.list file manually, you can add

deb jaunty main
deb-src jaunty main
Best of luck, Moovida devs!

Note: I'll take a video of Moodiva on my TV this evening, post it to YouTube, and place it here.

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Google Playing Around with a Flash-free YouTube

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
HTML5 and the video tag mean that the next generation of browsers won't need a plug-in to play video. Firefox 3.5 already has this, and Mozilla has put its weight behind OGG Theora, even though the HTML5 spec doesn't specify right now what containers or codecs should be used. H.264 originally beat out Theora in tests, but recent advancements in Theora, partially funded by Mozilla, have reversed the outcome.

Google's not blind to these events, and has coded up a Flash-free version of YouTube, using the video tag instead.

"This is an experiment," Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra told developers. "We are not announcing today that YouTube will be built this way. But we wanted to show it to you to get your creative juices flowing."

Google is wholeheartedly  supporting HTML5 and ECMAScript as the way forward and is trying to reduce the need for proprietary plug-ins, first by using HTML and ECMAScript for extensions, then by creating an HTML5 version of GMail for phones, and finally with this new, Flash-free YouTube.

Well, That's One Reason to Support Thin Clients, I Guess

Ubuntu logoImage via Wikipedia
A Canberra area prison is getting some new computers after a successful trial. These computers are running Ubuntu, but instead of being full PCs, they're net-booted and all the applications are run locally. Shutting off a computer remotely is easy, and it can't be bypassed because there's no software on the machine. The guards never even have to leave the server.

There are IT training courses on how to use the machines, and they are full. "The interface we chose was designed to resemble Windows as closely as possible so when prisoners are released back into the community they are still familiar with where things are in the Microsoft [operating system]," Andreas Wullen, business and security systems manager for ACT Corrective Services, told iTnews in Aussie prisoners escape lock-in with Ubuntu PCs.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Linux Mint 7 (Gloria) is Available.

My Linux MintImage by plynoi via Flickr
 Linux Mint vesions normally trail the Ubuntu versions they're based on by about a month. Mint 7 is based on Ubuntu, so it has most of the same new features that Jaunty has, plus the extras normally in Mint.

Mint doesn't think about the problems of software patents and codec licensing, and ships things like restricted codecs and drivers and Flash already installed. The Moonlight plugin (Mono's Silverlight) is also pre-installed. It eschews Gnome's two-panel display and goes for a more Windows-like look. These three "features" make it a great choice for curious users coming from the Windows side of life.

Mint 7 has an updated main menu which sports suggestions which include installing applications if they aren't available in the menu. The installation application has a new set of "recommended" software which are the most requested ones (e.g. Skype, Google Earth, Opera, etc.) and are installable without searching further. The updater has been ... umm ... updated to conform with Gnome's HIG.

Overall, Mint 7 looks to be a solid release. Get the torrent for the CD or the DVD.

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Does Linux Need to be Marketed More?

Linux Insider took on the question in its rehash of the week's news.

A few years ago, there was a fairly large group of Linux advocates who thought that marketing a Linux OS was folly. I was one of those people.

The argument goes like this: Linux and the UI layer needs to be OEMed by hardware makers. The hardware makers need to test it for their machines and offer all services, hardware, and software for their products. In essence, every OEM is as vertically integrated as possible. It's not significantly different from Apple's business model. Apple would be happy to funnel all of the software for OS X through an App Store just like they do for the iPhone (and in some ways, music through iTunes). Apple sells hardware, too. If the average Apple owner wants a wireless router, he buys an Airport.

I saw a bit of this while I was in Thailand between 2003 and 2004. Manufacturers each had a customized version of Linux, or maybe a rebranded popular Thai distro. Because hardware support was not as good as it is now, the OEM offered certified peripherals for the boxes.

Where does that leave distros like Ubuntu? They become contractors, outsourced from the OEM. They do OS customization and hardware testing for the smaller OEMs that can't do it themselves. There is probably even a market for Canonical having standard application and hardware stores that are rebranded for the OEM. The equipment and software comes from Canonical, but the customer sees only the OEM.

That was the argument, anyway. It could work. No, really.

Update: Xandros seems to agree that it could (and does) work. They've doubled their employees since last year.

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Random Thoughts on Random Tech Stories

Some interesting tech stories from this week and a little commentary.
  1. Facebook value plummets $5bn
    Facebook is ad-driven. The ad market is down. Shock!
  2. Apple counts $1bn for mystery data center
    Twice the cost of the average Google data center: XServes cost twice as much as the average Google server. ;)
  3. Ubuntu AppCenter and Android apps on Ubuntu
    The App Center (in other words, an app store) is now high priority for 9.10, and UDS is showing off Android apps. Hmmmm. These couldn't be related in any way, could they?
  4. UNR doesn't have vision
    Summary: Netbooks aren't small notebooks. We need to treat them differently and the Internet has to be woven into every interface.
    Take: I agree on the intent of using a netbook, but the market (and I mean customers) dont, and are pushing to make them small, cheap notebooks. Good luck changing their minds.
  5. Free software will kill Redmond
    Redmond ain't dying any time soon, folks. There's one real truth here, though: Free and Open Source software are going to destroy 90% of the market for software sales (not implying that total software-related income will drop). Once a class of app is commoditized in FOSS, you'll need good luck selling a license for similar software. What will be left? Niche markets and service contracts (including web services).
  6. Linux desktop adoption "easier than expected"
    The Linux desktop is ready for the enterprise. Businesses have the ability to start with more amenable groups and expand the roll-out later. Once the change is obviously permanent, people deal with the change.
  7. Video Editing On Linux: Things are looking up!
    Keep holding your breath. Don't start breathing yet. Pitivi is still massively buggy, but it's getting there.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why You Want a Dell Mini 10v and not a Dell Mini 10

Well, the Dell Mini 10v just came out, and it's cheaper. That's one reason to get it right there. Yes, I'm cheap, too.

The other, real reason to stay away from the Dell Mini 10 is that it has the Atom Z520 processor, which, like all Z-series, uses the GMA500 chipset, codenamed Poulsbo. Sure, you can buy the Mini 10 with Ubuntu already installed, but it's Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) with a video driver that isn't ported to Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty). Blueprints and bugs indicate that there's no movement forward on this.

What does that mean? It means that lots of folks have bought the 10v with the intention of re-installing Ubuntu (maybe UNR) and getting 9.04. Unfortunately, they're left trying to import old packages and make them work. Hours are wasted.

Instead, you can get the Mini 10v, which ships with the N270, a chip which will drain your battery much faster than the Z520. It also comes with the ancient and extremely well supported GMA950 chipset (also a power hog). Installation, though, will be a breeze, and everything will work out of the box.

"V for Victory" I say!

Update: Well, it turns out that there's a new PPA open. Add the following to your sources:
deb jaunty main
deb-src jaunty main


apt-get update
apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-psb

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Geneva to migrate to Ubuntu

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase
The original article is in French, but here's a machine translation, courtesy of Babelfish.

Schools: data processing in free software

Appeared on Friday May 22, 2009
Geneva PARTICIPATIVE step - From here at 2013, the computers of the primary education will turn with an operating system GNU/Linux and software open source.

The Genevese school gradually will migrate towards free software to equip the computers with the teaching body and those of the pupils. As of the autumn, two establishments of the primary education will essuieront the plasters with, in support, a serious support data-processing. Each one of them will be able indeed to count over one half-time of data processing specialist placed at his disposal to operate this change. From here at 2013, the whole of the elementary school should have thus migrated towards free software. After the primary education, since 2010, the Cycle and higher education should couple. With a score of establishments which will have made their data-processing revolution by 2013.
Progressive migration
In light, the operating system Windows XP for Microsoft and MacOS for Macintosh will be gradually abandoned for free software and open (of which the source code is not locked and property of a multinational). The alternative in software “open source” is currently called Ubuntu. It is used relatively little, contrary after office automation Open Office which already was essential on the DIP [1]. Very complete, it comprises, in addition to a word processing, spreadsheves or what to make a presentation of the Powerpoint type.
Participative step
For the State, the advantages are multiple. “The information managed by the State is a strategic resource of which accessibility by the administration and by the citizens, perenniality and safety can be guaranteed only by the use of open standards and of software whose source code is opened to the public”, can one read in the plan of deployment. The process engaged by the Service school-media (SEM) wants to be participative. The process was carried out in a transparent way, on the public place as of the beginning. Result, five schools expressed interest to be pilot project. “It is of very good omen for the continuation”, is delighted Manuel Grandjean, director of the SEM. The state education is for him a good place to implement this migration. “The work of teacher largely integrates collaboration and the pooling of resources”, notes it. In the credit of 26 franc million voted recently by the Great Council to implement the administration on line, a part will be assigned to the installation of the tools allowing this collaboration.
In Geneva and in the world
A platform is being worked out to make it possible to exchange, for example, of the teaching equipment. What is currently already the case, but within a less ergonomic framework and especially partially reserved for the teaching body. The project of the SEM theoretically envisages the provision of this material“, with very whole planet” according to a creative licence common which guarantees the intellectual property but authorizes any noncommercial use. “One is truly in a defense of the community property”, explains Manuel Grandjean. The idea of the free software is well that of a pooling and a resource sharing. Not to plunder the work of the others. “The State of Geneva contributes actively to this software”, underlines the director of the SEM, “for example, we develop a system of multi-media classroom that any school will be able to then use. And if an establishment of another continent contributes a share there, we will be perhaps taking of this improvement.”
All is not transferable
This passage towards the free software will not be complete. “In certain fields, it is not possible to completely do without Microsoft or of Macintosh”, Mr. Grandjean summarizes. Which? “We are testing a system which will replace the laboratories languages equipped with Revox old men, who are thirty years old. However, in this field, it would seem that Macintosh is the reference. One will not change Ferrari for a 2CV just because it is open source.” The step taken on the level of the DIP lies within a vaster scope, namely a progressive migration of the data processing of the State towards free software. Many data-processing waiters of the cantonal administration turn already with GNU/Linux, the platform most adapted for this data processing managed by professionals. But in the more current uses, the next stages will concern, for example, the generalization of Open Office in all the State. I
SEM: plan of deployment 2009-2013

It looks like they're serious.

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Norhtec's Gecko Surfboard -- a Prototype

Michael Barnes, the owner of Norhtec, was nice enough to forward some pictures of a rough prototype they're working on -- a PC in a keyboard similar to the eeePC Keyboard PC. Whereas the Asus model will run $400-600, the Norhtec one will probably run a more modest $250-300, but with a compact number pad instead of the eeePC's 5" mounted LCD.

The system will be based on the same 1GHz, 1.2 watt Xcore86 system on a chip (SoC) that the Gecko EduBook will be based on (Xcore86 is also owned by Michael Barnes). It's likely to have similar specs, too: 512MB RAM upgradeable to 1GB, with the possibility of Android coming as the installed OS. The EduBook comes with Ubuntu Netbook Remix so we'll see what comes when the final announcement is made. The SoC design means that the system will be fast and energy efficient when compared to other x86 chip/motherboard combos running at the same speed.

Let's look at the model. Keep in mind that it's still obviously doen't have a case (the prototype being sheet metal and having a typo in the name), but the internals aren't likely to change. No, it's not sexy now, but if you look at the Panda, you'll realize that the Surfboard (not to be confused with VIA's reference board by the same name) is probably going to see some design work in the next couple of months. Here's the top view.

Nothing ground-breaking, but it's a full size keyboard and a number pad.(and it kind of reminds me of my first computer, a Tandy Model I -- no offense to Norhtec). Looking at the back will tell us more.

Ports (left to right): USB, 2 SD, mic, audio, s-video, TV(?), VGA, network, DE-RN(?), and 3 USB

You can see from the back that there are four USB ports, with three flush on the right and one of those in the recessed area on the left. I'm going to guess that the recessed USB will be used for an add-on like an additional SD drive or maybe wireless. There are a couple of jacks that confuse me. There's a three-hole "TV" jack in addition to the S-Video. There's also one marked "DE-RN," and Google offers me no help. They both look like XLR3 connections, though.

The Gecko Surfboard looks like it will be a great little affordable computer, and it will probably be targetted toward the thin-client market.

The Panda, below, gives an idea of the level of polish that can be expected from the final Gecko Surfboard.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Norhtec and Xcore86 Offer Low-cost Linux Solutions

Xcore86 is a System on Chip (SoC) manufacturer based in Thailand and run by Michael Barnes. He also founded and runs NorhTec, which provides low-cost systems and emphasizes thin clients. The bonus? He is also a columnist for and his bio specifically mentions Linux and Open Source software. Most of Norhtec's products specify whether they work with or include Linux and/or FreeBSD.

The product I'm interested in is the pre-release Gecko Edubook, which will probably retail for about US$250. Watch the video below for information:

The specs:
CPU 1GHz Xcore86 Device on Chip™
Graphics Integrated Graphics Chip
Memory 256MB / 512MB / 1GB DDR2
Display 8.9" WSVGA 1024 x 600 resolution TFT LCD screen with LED
HDD SD Card or IDE Flash Disk
Audio Line-out, Mic-in, Internal Mic, Internal stereo speakers
Ethernet Built in 10/100 Base-T
USB 2.0 ports External : 3 ports, Inernal : 1 port (reserved for WIFI, GPRS,
CDMA, 3G or 3.5G USB dongles)
I/O D-sub 15 pin VGA out, integrated SD card reader, touch pad
Power / Battery Rechargeable AA Battery - NiMH 8 pcs (4 hours max) or
Li+3S (4 hours max) or Li+3S2P (6 hours max)
AC 100V-240V (no external adapter)

Thailand may not be on your top list of computer producers, but they actually do a lot of fabrication work there. I used to live next to the AMD factory in northern Bangkok, and I knew a lot of fab and hard drive engineers. NorhTec may not be a huge company, but they certainly have access to a lot of great factories right on their front door.

When I get back to Thailand and open my charity, maybe I can get a deal from him, eh? One could hope.

Update: My gal is visiting Thailand this week, and the Gecko Edubook is coincidentally being released this week, so she's picking one up for me and I'll review it when she gets back next week.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Project that should be integrated into the Gnome Desktop

I'll be honest with you: I'm not excited about where Gnome 3.0 is going. I don't oppose the project. In fact, I think it has some really cool and innovative ideas. I think that, like many other innovative interfaces, it will be largely rejected by the people who have grown up with the WIMP interface. I think they should instead evolve the WIMP model to make it better. With that in mind, here are some up-and-coming projects that I think Gnome should consider mentoring for inclusion.

Earcandy is an audio system add-on which automatically identifies your running multimedia applications (by inspecting .desktop files) and avoids audio interference between them.

Are you playing music while surfing YouTube? Playing a Flash video mutes the music, and stopping the video unmutes it. Got an incoming VOIP call? Your video is muted. There are reasonable defaults, but the behavior is configurable.

This project is still young, but has great promise and does something immensely useful for desktop users.


As I'll talk about later, I really think that there needs to be an easy and quick way to view files. There's no need to open the mammoth that is OO.o when you just want to read, not edit a file. And let's be honest, most users view files several times as often as they edit them. Can you imagine Audacity audio editor being the default MP3 application? How silly would that be.

Of course, Apple has had Cover Flow (link to video) for a while as a way to easily get large previews of files (and even watch videos). Goobus is kind of a Cover Flow clone for Gnome. It's a little unwieldy because of the hotkeys necessary, but the developer is asking for someone to help develop a Nautilus plugin to integrate Goobus better. Want to help out?

Tracker Search

Tracker was included in Ubuntu early on in its life and was panned as a resource hog. Ubuntu went so far as to disable Tracker search in Nautilus. Fortunately, the guys at Tracker weren't detered and have gone on to develop a n extremely fast and SPARQL-compliant indexing / search engine. The development branch even does thumbnailing, album art lookup, and multi-lingual word stemming.

Integrating Tracker search would allow a lot of application to offload independent work that they do now onto Tracker, making that information available to all applications equally. F-Spot could use it to store tags and meta-data (though why would you really need F-Spot if Tracker and Goobus were adapted to use with Nautilus?). Totem could use movie and music info plus tagging to create a nice little music manager, or Rhythmbox could query Tracker instead of keeping its own database. Even menus could use Tracker to speed up the menu time by querying instead of parsing files. Recent files would be available to all applications by service (Video, Music, etc.) or by MIME-type. Epiphany, Gnome's default browser, could move its tagged-based bookmarks into Tracker and keep browsing history there.

Wow, that's a lot of info. Gnome's Zeitgeist would have access to all of it in one spot. Zeitgeist would no longer need to add filters: the applications would handle that part.

Gnome could then move to a tag-based view in Nautilus. Tags would look like folders to the user, with the possibility to switch between tags and physical disk layout. Users would not be overly confused by a new desktop concept, but their desktop experience would be much more enjoyable.


Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Playing with a D2D update and Debian Pre-Seeds

Debian OpenLogoImage via Wikipedia
I've been mulling over what I want to do to update my D2D project, and I'm considering using Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty because the default inclusion of the Coherence uPnP plugin makes my video-sharing work a lot easier. That and the photo sharing were the two parts I didn't finish last summer. In summary, I need to
  1. Set up a simple uPnP server (likely ushare) on the D2D server automatically sharing /home/Videos, and
  2. Write a DPAP server (iPhoto sharinng protocol) in Perl and install an F-Spot plug-in.
  3. Change the crappy Tangerine DAAP server back to mt-daapd since it has been re-included in Lenny and is also in Jaunty.
These are pretty trivial, actually.

My major problem with D2D right now is the "bug" in Debian Lenny and Ubuntu Jaunty where many ISPs and routers use a .local domain which disables Avahi/Zeroconf. This is not really a bug -- it's desired behavior, but it gets in my way. The check for the .local domain can be disabled, but to do that by default on D2D is not the way to go. Leaving the bad behavior means that D2D doesn't actually "just work" for half of the folks who will install it. I'm kind of at an impass right now.

The Debian Pre-seed project still works as expected and doesn't really need to be updated, but I've been using Google Pages as a cheap host (files up to 10MB), which is now being moved over to Google Sites. The migration is automatic, but I'm likely to lose some files for a few days. I backed them all up in that case.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

About UbuntuOne -- The Post That is Sure to Piss Someone Off

I've been waffling for a couple of days over whether to write this post or not. I finally decided to just speak my mind.

UbuntuOne is a new service from Canonical that's currently in Beta testing. It doesn't differ in any important way from similar services like DropBox or, except that it's integrated and designed specifically for Ubuntu (9.04 Jaunty is required). The client is still immature, but it will probably eventually include useful services like integration into Conduit Sync and desktop settings. Once that kind of integrated functionality appears, people will probably line up to pay the USD10 for 10GB of storage.

Unfortunately, Canonical is playing this on-line service the same way they play their others -- closed source. Just like Launchpad, the server software isn't open (though the client is). Why does it choose to do that?

It's not necessary to keep either closed, you know. Launchpad offers a great way for teams to work together, but its value isn't in the code as much as it's in the community behind it. Facebook could open its code, too without any worry of someone building a copy. Launchpad links teams and code. Nobody is going to replace it.

UbuntuOne will eventually be integrated into Ubuntu. Users will be able to share files with others on the service. It will be half backup and half social. No matter whether there's an open version of the server or not, the vast majority of users will be on UbuntuOne instead of WannabeOne because that's where everyone else is and getting set up is much more convenient to use the included client than downloading a different client setting it up with the other service.

In both cases, Canonical gains little by playing both sides of the fence, offering closed-source solutions as an open-source business, but it loses a lot of community support. Red Hat, on the other hand, is a pure open-source company, and has no problem:
  1. Offering amazing platforms like the Fedora Directory Server completely openly, and
  2. Making money off of the software service.
Very few FOSS advocates have a problem with dual-licensing projects like MySQL or QT (before the acquisition) selling licenses to closed-source projects, but that's not what we're talking about here. This is more like SUSE's old model of keeping YaST closed (it was GPLed in 2004). That, too, kept a lot of people off balance with regard to SUSE. The open source business isn't one that you can stick one foot into -- you have to jump in all the way.

Most Ubuntu users aren't aware of the FOSS philosophical arguments, but that doesn't change the business arguments. You can't promote open source while holding some of your cards close to your chest. How can I trust you when you say one thing and do another?

Ulitimately, it's Canonical's call and it's their code. They get to license it any way they want to. I still think they're shooting themselves in the foot.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Playing Around with Ubuntu Netbook Remix on VirtualBox

Ubuntu Netbook-remixImage by denverfiddler via Flickr
Noticing that the Ubuntu Netbook Remix has been promoted to front page status on the site, I decided to try out the 9.04 version. There are a couple of issues along the way if you don't want to burn the image: the instructions for getting it to work are below.

  1. Install VirtualBox, either by downloading from Sun's site or by installing the FOSS version from the repository.
  2. Download the .img file from the UNR download site. Use BitTorrent if you can -- it's faster and easier on the mirrors.
  3. Convert the.img file into a VirtualBox .vdi file. In order to do that, you'll need to use VirtualBox's command line. Open a terminal and cd to the directory that you've downloaded the ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix-i386.img file to. When there, issue the following command:
    VBoxManage convertdd ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix-i386.img ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix.vdi
    This will leave you with the original file and a new file, ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix.vdi.
  4. Create a new machine in VirtualBox with a 4GB hard disk, choosing "Linux" as the operating system and "Ubuntu" as the version. Give the machine between 512MB and 1GB RAM. Increase the video memory to 16MB. Finish and close the wizard.
  5. Add the Netbook.vdi file as a second hard disk. Open the "Hard disk" tab of the machine's properties, and click the plus icon, setting the new drive as "Primary slave." Select the ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix.vdi file, adding it with the Disk Manager when requested.
  6. Boot the machine and hit F12 to choose to boot from the second hard disk. You'll need to press "2."
  7. Choose your language and to "Install Ubuntu Netbook Remix." I won't explain how to do that here. You can give it the whole disk. It should be a simple, if slow, process.
  8. Reboot the computer. You'll be in the UNR interface, but it will be dog slow because of the generic VESA driver being used. Luckily, there's a way around that problem.
  9. Install the Guest Additions. While the machine is running, go to the machine's VB menu and choose Devices -> Install Guest Additions. If you are using the open source version of VirtualBox, you'll probably be prompted to download the Guest Additions .iso file, which will take a few minutes. The disk will appear in the right-hand menu bar. Click on it to make sure the CD is mounted. Open a terminal (in Accessories) and type the following:
    cd /media/REACTOS
    sudo ./

  10. Install updates. You should be prompted for this. I won't detail it.
  11. Reboot and use the computer. Mine is still a little slower than it should be, but it's OK with the Guest Additions installed.
UNR is an interesting and innovative interface. It gets good use of low screen resolutions, and it does this without creating a one-off interface: all the changes use the Gnome framework (e.g. the panel mods are simply panel applets).
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

April's Quote of the Month

Zune logoImage via Wikipedia
And you know, speaking of The Commons: I trekked over there today (meh, not the sunniest day) and I have to say it's an impressive space. I walked around admiring the scope of the project, thinking "This is what Windows built. This is what Office built." I then reflected on the irony that it's Mr. Robbie Bach's Entertainment and Devices moving into the new campus with The Commons. Windows and Office funded this extravagant place for the folks who managed to burn through $8,000,000,000USD+ on the Xbox, be shown how it's done right from Nintendo with the Wii, dash the Zune against the juggernaut iPod, and have the iPhone drop-kick WinMobile to Mars.

-- Microsoft FY09Q3 Results, MiniMSFT

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Shock and Horror!

Shock and horror! Windows 7 sometimes misidentifies hardware and assigns generic drivers which don't unlock all the features of the hardware, leaving, for example, Ed Bott without a working microphone and no way to get mutli-touch, even with the correct drivers.

Ed Bott also doesn't like the new icon-only taskbar, so he re-enables text+icons.  It took him months to get used to the default icon combination strategy, instead of the "combine when taskbar is full" method he was used to from Vista.

What about the file manager? Well, it now has an "insistence on using namespaces that aren’t tied to a hierarchy with some sort of disk device at the top." Does that sound familiar to anyone? It replaces this with Libraries, making the sidebar look remarkably like another OS I know of. If you thought I meant Nautilus, I was actually talking about OS X, but either OS will work. Bott says that Windows users will need to be trained to use Libraries because they represent an "initial conceptual hurdle of understanding."

Some (very few, apparently) of your legacy programs may not run in Windows 7 so you'll need to use a virtual machine running XP with some shared folders in order to get around that. Luckily, it has seamless mode, also available in VirtualBox.

This may have sounded like a rant against Windows 7 or even Ed Bott. It was no such thing. In fact, I am going to praise Ed. His opinion of Windows 7 is that it could probably be released as ready right now. "From a features and capabilities point of view, Windows 7 is essentially done." His final judgement?
Overall, I’m impressed with how reliable this Windows release has been. It also seems more than adequate in terms of performance. I haven’t taken a stopwatch to measure speeds and feeds, but overall, every common operation in Windows 7 feels snappy and responsive, even on old hardware. I haven’t seen significant changes in startup and shutdown times over Windows Vista on the same hardware.
How did he come to this conclusion with so much that's different and so much that needed tweaking?
Instead of that conventional review approach, I want to share my experiences after six months of using Windows 7 full time. My attitude over that six months has been to keep an open mind, learn how the operating system works, and incorporate its features into my work style. If you’re planning to evaluate Windows 7, I urge you to try the same approach: Keep an open mind, try to figure out how it works, and see if maybe some small changes in old work habits can pay big dividends in productivity.
Thank you, Ed Bott, for taking the time to review an OS properly. I wish more reviewers did that.
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