Tag Archive for apple

Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu

I finally got around to reinstalling Linux on my desktop PC, and wound up taking both Ubuntu and its KDE-driven sibling Kubuntu for test drives.

My DVD drive didn’t like the Ubuntu CD for some reason; the disk worked fine in other boxes, and Kubuntu and even Xubuntu CD’s worked just fine. Put Ubuntu back in and it would crap out while booting. Oh well, I’m used to KDE, so I went ahead and installed Kubuntu.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with it as I was with Xubuntu. If the look and feel of Windows XP is Fisher-Price, then the default KDE setup of Kubuntu is Little Tikes. I felt more like I was staring at a Nintendo game rather than a workhorse desktop and I quickly started tweaking out the desktop settings to make things a little less soft and pretty. I’m not necessarily looking for sparse, but kindergarten isn’t the right direction.

But hey, functionality is more important, so I restored my personal files using KDE’s Dolphin file manager (think Windows Explorer only much more functional). I did like this, and it had a convenient button to switch to superuser mode and get full access to the system. Very nice.

Next I started installing necessary apps. Kubuntu forgoes the tried-and-true Synaptic in favor of its own front end for APT called Adept. Given the name, one would think the software would be good at what it does. To the extent of browsing packages, it was.

Actually installing packages was another matter. I tried installing the Java browser plug-ins, and the license agreements popped up on the screen. I clicked next, but then the license prompts disappeared and Adept spat out an error and ceased installation, claiming the other packages I selected were not installed.

Yet when I looked in the menu, there were Thunderbird and Firefox (Kubuntu tries to get you to stick with Kmail and Konqueror instead — they’re not bad, but there’s something to be said about standardizing across all my desktops, and in my opinion the Mozilla products are the best at what they do). I filed that particular quirk for future reference and went back in to select a few more packages.

Same error, same result. Deselecting some packages and resetting some other selections didn’t help, and after several tries I got the same error over half the time. Not to mention I was no closer to having a Java-enabled web experience.

I thought about having it suck down the GNOME side of things from the Ubuntu repositories, but why? I had just wiped my Linux partitions clean to change the file system format and resize my partitions, so why not just start fresh again? I hooked an old CD drive to the computer, booted the Ubuntu CD, and this time it worked.

I decided to see what would happen if I just formatted the new root partition and left /home alone so I wouldn’t have to restore my personal files a second time. Then I was prompted with a new question: did I want to import files and personal settings? The installer had not only found my Windows partition, but it had ferreted out the profiles for myself and my wife. I only use Windows for gaming and my wife has never logged on to this Windows install so I didn’t need any of that, but I was impressed that it was presented as an option. A few more clicks and I set the installer loose.

On reboot, GRUB appeared and asked me to select an operating system. Where Kubuntu only gave me a Linux option, Ubuntu automagically configured GRUB to give me Ubuntu, a safe mode install, and a Windows boot option. Also slick, especially since I needed the Windows partition for game night with the guys shortly.

Once inside, I actually found GNOME comforting. Sure, with some tweaking I can easily make one look like the other and vice versa, but I was much more comfortable just sitting down to start working rather than spend another hour or so tweaking things out. A minor victory for Ubuntu to be sure, but at least Canonical seems to understand there aren’t just nine-year-old girls in their install base.

I found my /home partition intact, so I moved on to software. Canonical provides OpenOffice.org by default rather than KOffice, and Firefox is the default browser, so I was already halfway there. I added the Medibuntu package repositories and fired up trusty Synaptic.

Bliss. Not a single error, and in minutes I had Thunderbird and several other packages and plug-ins installed and running. Firefox spat out a Flash error at first, which I thought was odd since I’d installed it from Synaptic. Fortunately just clicking the “get plug-in” options within Firefox had Flash 9 up and running in seconds. Not too shabby.

Ubuntu and Kubuntu may share the same guts, but the presentation is vastly different. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll bother downloading KDE at all, but the Kubuntu guys have some work to do if they want to compete with Canonical, especially in package management.

In the end it’s Ubuntu for the win.

It’s also worth noting that I did all of this in about the same span as it would have taken me to get Windows XP installed and up and running just once. Downloading the various software packages alone, not to mention extra drivers and vendor-specific software, would have taken the better part of a day, and I was up and running with Ubuntu in about half an hour. Not too shabby.

In other tech news, the purchase order for the MacBook for work goes in today. I look forward to comparing the apples and oranges of the two, and getting into the guts of its command line. This should be fun.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Gonna Take a Bite Out of Apple

I’ll soon be writing one of these from a MacBook.

Sadly, it won’t be mine. At least, it won’t belong to me; I’ll just be hammering on it for the next several months. My boss, it turns out, has been impressed by what he’s seen out of Apple software and thinks there’s a lot to take advantage of in an educational setting. I don’t disagree, but the trick is a) working out how to fit it into our network and b) cost. The first isn’t a real obstacle, just something to be aware of. The second is a bit tougher for a small, rural school district.

“Buy one to evaluate,” he said. “We’ll worry about cost later.”

Sounds good to me! Besides, maybe there are ways to help with cost. Apple used to give free copies of OS X to educators when it first hit, so there’s got to be something they’d be willing to do to get a foot in the door at an all-Windows district. So I fired an email off to a rep. The work day was more than half over and we’re headed into a holiday, so I didn’t expect a response until next week. As such, I didn’t bother providing a phone number.

An hour later, I got a phone call. It was the rep, on the road.

He got my email, found our school website, and called, all from his car on his iPhone. Pretty slick iPhone commercial right there (it’s too bad his Cingular/AT&T connection didn’t live up to the same standard).

Next I was impressed by the rep himself. I figured he was just a good salesman out for a commission, but our conversation went very well. He spent more time talking about services and support Apple could provide to both myself and our teachers than how great their hardware/software is and how much money we’d have to spend to see discounts. The latter is all certain other vendors want to talk about.

That is, if they bother to talk to us at all after they find out we’re a small district not purchasing in large volumes. They fax me a quote and I never hear from them again. Some do provide tech support, but I have yet to have one tell me what they can do to help my teachers use technology in the classroom better, and I’ve been at this going on eight years.

If this Apple rep lives up to half of what he promises, it’s easy to see the value for purchasing the hardware. Especially when considering the deep education discounts offered on their software (which, by the way, includes teacher copies for home use, something certain other vendors rarely — if ever — provide).

So a sweet new MacBook will be headed my way next week.

Time to find out if the product itself lives up to the same promises.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Let Me Count the Ways

I’m not a fan of Windows Vista at all. The chief reason is because it’s a resource hog: even on a brand new machine with a fast processor and a gig of RAM, it just kind of pokes along, even without enabling the fancy Aero graphics. And that’s before running an app on it. User Account Control is such a nuisance that most people turn it off, thus voiding all of its protections in the first place.

I’m apparently not the only one, as Vista sales are in decline. More and more people I talk to are considering their first Mac, as am I. Our superintendent was impressed with Garage Band and other tools on the Mac, so I’ll probably have a Mac to play with by Spring and our school will quite possibly have some Macs next year. Dell has to offer XP and Linux machines or face losing sales to Apple. I’ve even sent people to Tiger’s refurbished machines so they can stick with XP at (what is for them) an affordable price.

Now there are two more reasons to hate Windows:

First, they pushed out a new version of Desktop Search that’s bringing machines to their knees. At least half the machines in my district are out of date and have the bare minimum to run Windows, much less Office and all the online stuff the students throw at them. I don’t care what their excuses are, my update servers are set to only install critical updates and security patches on my network without my having to say so, and IMHO this qualifies as neither. Plus, nobody was running Desktop Search, and suddenly it’s on everybody’s taskbar. The number of trouble calls I’ve gotten from people asking “what is this stupid thing?” is bad enough, and the fact that it slows their machine to a crawl is even worse. Inexcusable.

Second, and more important, is there’s a new botnet out there called the Storm Worm that essentially fools your antivirus into thinking there are no viruses on the system. I was wondering if this would be a cross platform problem, but no, it’s not (at least not yet). It essentially infects Windows’ “brain” and delivers its own messages, so you think your antivirus program tells you everything is a-okay. Meanwhile, the botnet has its way with your system. No system is completely secure, but to be subject to such a major security flaw is likewise inexcusable.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with our lab upgrade at work next summer. I’ll probably be stuck with Vista, and to be frank, that scares the hell out of me.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.