Tag Archive for ubuntu

Drinking the Apple Kool-Aid

One of the Apple execs I met yesterday made a good statement about their products: you don’t get it until you try it.

Apple users extol the virtues of their OS all the time. Three of my friends, including (former) die-hard PC user John Roling, have switched to Mac and vow to never go back. A school in Indianapolis employing a 1-to-1 initiative dropped their PC laptops in favor of MacBooks and couldn’t be happier. A Minneapolis-area school switched their 8 buildings from PC to Mac and offered to load Windows for anyone who wanted it; not one teacher requested it.

The rest of us ask “It costs how much?

The MacBook I purchased in December was my first real experience with a Mac, and it’s been growing on me ever since. Wednesday, on the way up to Chicago for our Apple briefing, my superintendent and I stopped off at the New Lenox School District 122. A teacher showed us how she used Macs, and I picked the tech coordinator’s brain about the back end. Both of them couldn’t be any happier with their Macs, and the downside on the back end is far from a deal-breaker.

That night, we hit the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue. I played with an iPod Touch. I fiddled with an iPhone, then browsed the MacBooks, Apple TV, and the iMacs. I chatted with the sales reps, and I damn near came home with an iPod Touch for the Wife.

Yesterday we sat in on the briefing, learned about Apple’s sales and growth, and got a lot of hands-on experience. We created a podcast in Garage Band in minutes (complete with pictures), and fiddled with a lot of the features that would really help in an educational setting, such as the built-in Dictionary and the Speech text-to-speech engine. We even got to see a lot of the thoughtful extras, like Webclips.

We drove home stunned.

Sure, I still have a few beefs. The closed nature of some of their products, for starters (the iPod Touch may be open to more developers soon, but the iPhone will be AT&T-only for some time). The lock-in to iTunes. The lack of true GPS on the iPhone and the Touch (every time someone tried to show me the triangulation feature, it failed or at least failed to build directions off of it). The way the Nike+iPod is restricted to the iPod Nano. And, of course, the price tag.

Yet it’s hard to argue with the value. Like people say, most of this stuff is just cool to use. Apple has put a lot of thought into the layout and design of both the hardware and the software, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the system’s stability. OS X is loaded with features you just don’t get on Windows (or at the very least aren’t as polished in Windows), and the iPhone and Touch interfaces are an order of magnitude better than the Palm’s (there’s no stylus to lose, either).

The Wife scoffed when I told her I almost brought home a Touch for her. She had been looking at one of those credit card-sized photo viewers to show pictures to people, and she carries a calendar and address book in her purse. The Touch would fill all those functions and then some, saving her space in her purse and give her a much better screen and interface to boot. When I got home, I sat her down in front of my MacBook and gave her a tour of the Touch on Apple’s site. Sure enough, she’s impressed and looks forward to getting one in the near future.

Even tonight, despite my irritation in being forced to purchase an iPod Nano if I want to use the Nike+iPod gear when I try the Cool Running 5k plan this Spring, I found myself pricing out both the gadgets and a pair of Nike+ shoes or the Shoe Pouch. All day I’ve been trying to figure out if I should sync the Wife’s iPod Touch with my school MacBook or if I should buy an iMac for the family, and she doesn’t even have the damn thing yet. I yammered about Apple crap all night, and the Wife says I haven’t been this excited about computers in a long time.

Right now, if someone asked me what kind of computer they should buy, I would tell them “If you can afford it, buy a Mac. If you can’t, buy the best machine you can afford and slap Ubuntu on it.”

I feel so dirty.

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.

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.

Xubuntu Impresses

I’ve pretty much written off my good old Dell Inspiron 8000 as an obsolete clunker doomed to crawl along, but I keep it around because I can still run Linux at a reasonable speed on it, connect via wireless in various places, and get some writing done on the road. I most recently ran Fedora Core 5 on it with Fluxbox loaded up as the window manager. Fluxbox is very sparse and minimalist, but it works, and I figured that install would take me through to the laptop’s end of life.

That end of life is looking farther and farther off, however, as I can’t afford to just go out and pick up a cheap laptop, much less a shiny new MacBook. I may as well get the apps as current as possible, so last night I installed Xubuntu 7.10, a spin-off of Ubuntu 7.10 that installs Xfce as the default desktop. Xfce is supposed to run better on older hardware than its more-popular cousins KDE or GNOME, but I saw a negligible difference between it and KDE on my laptop under Flux/FC5.

Not so under Xubuntu. I didn’t see an improvement in boot time (not unexpected), but the desktop did load faster and I didn’t experience a lot of the drag I did before, even under Fluxbox. Flux got the job done, but it’s nice to be back into a fairly modern desktop again.

After that, it’s all Ubuntu candy. The Synaptic package manager impresses me more every time I use it. Firefox and Thunderbird are both current, and the Ubuntu folks didn’t make the idiotic decision to skip Firefox 2 like the Fedora gang. The Software Sources (the sites Synaptic downloads its software from) are much easier to manage, and within five minutes of first login I had Flash 9 up and running. Sound worked out of the box.

Wireless threw me at first. My Orinoco card had a green light to indicate it was running, yet I didn’t have an established connection. Then I spotted the network management applet up by the clock. Click, click, click, voila! At least as easy as using Windows XP’s wireless manager (and easier than some of the vendor-supplied managers).

I started surfing around, and it was a good ten minutes before I noticed the fonts. The fonts are sharper and clearer than I’ve seen on Linux in a while, and they’re at least as sharp and clear as the new IE fonts (which, admittedly, look pretty damn good). It’s not that there was anything wrong with the fonts under FC5, it’s just these are much cleaner and clearer, even under the high resolution. Then it dawned on me that Xubuntu managed to figure out my display resolution on its own, too! I used to have to select a better resolution by hand on this laptop. Under Slackware it meant tweaking X by hand, and under Fedora I had to choose the correct display.

In fact there was zero configuration on this install, period.

The installer asked maybe a half dozen questions: what language I speak, how to partition the disk, my timezone, who I am, and for a password. It then cooked along and presented me with a working system minutes later. People talk about the difficulty of installing XP all the time, but I never saw a major difference until now. This installer runs circles around just about every other installer I’ve ever used.

I still have to dig around and see what else is in there, but it’s looking like I’m going to be an Ubuntu convert. The sticker goes on the laptop chassis this evening, I’ll be installing Ubuntu (or more likely Kubuntu) on the home PC sometime soon, and I look forward to testing Xubuntu on some of the old hardware I’ve got floating around at work.

Linux doesn’t get much more ready for the desktop than this.

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.

A Guide to Gutsy

If you took my advice and downloaded Ubuntu 7.10, aka Gutsy Gibbon, but you don’t know where to begin, try this installation guide. It’ll take you through the install from start to finish, complete with screenshots, and leave you with a complete working desktop that includes everything you need for work and play.

Enjoy!

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.

Try Linux Today

Today marks the official release of the latest version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, making it one of the best times to take Linux for a test drive. Possibly as early as this weekend I will finally be upgrading from an older SuSE distribution to Ubuntu 7.10, aka Gutsy Gibbon.

Join me, won’t you?

Need more incentive? Kim Brebach has 13 reasons Linux should be on your desktop. While I’ve never tried the Simply Mepis distro, his reasoning applies just as well to Ubuntu. What’s more, Ubuntu is the distro Dell now preinstalls on some of their systems, meaning you’re more likely than ever to find someone else using Linux near you.

Or maybe this Wired magazine review will help put you at ease, not to mention Cory Doctorow’s assertion on Boing Boing that Ubuntu’s latest release is both “easy” and “sexy” and he dumped his Apple in favor of a PC running Ubuntu.

What are you waiting for? Download a live CD and enjoy.

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.