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I have a new monitor for the work PC, a 24" full 1080p HD monitor, with 1920x1080 resolution in perfect 16:9, whose utility is somewhat lost when half of the time I seem to be using 80 character wide terminal windows onto Unix (actually, Solaris) boxes to talk to databases. Still, at least I can have a lot of them on screen simultaneously without overlap, now :-)

One thing I really like about Gnome that hasn't yet been migrated to Windows is the ability to define a double-click on the window title bar to maximise said window either vertically, horizontally, or both. See, with 1920 width, a maximised window isn't actually that helpful - it'd be much nicer simply to maximise vertically, leaving me free desktop to the right and left for reference to other panes. Instead I have to drag the corner to fit, which is hardly an ordeal, but it's one example of where these little tricks that Linux offers make quite a difference to how your workspace is organised.
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On the day of release, I've downloaded Karmic Koala, Ubuntu 9.10 (the numbering system in Ubuntu has the year (9 from 2009) followed by the month (10 for October). There are normally two releases per year, and they tend to be six months apart, hence the slightly weird progression: 8.04 -> 8.10 -> 9.04 -> 9.10.

As a Windows alternative, Windows 7 notwithstanding, Ubuntu 9.04 has been pretty good, I think, and I actually prefer the interface to the work's machine's XP install. Since I don't have a valid Windows licence for either machine at Castle Fox, I haven't had the option of the cheap upgrade to 7, and since Ubuntu seems to do most of what I need, for the time being, I haven't yet felt compelled to fork out the required monies for a full licence proper.

I've been dabbling with Linux since '96 - back in the days when you hand-compiled the kernel and had to manually set up X windows - I started off with Slackware, moved on to Debian and then RedHat, Mandrake (before it got rebadged as Mandriva) and SUSE before settling with Fedora for a while. Of them all, Ubuntu is the one I would probably feel the least concerned about handing to my parents to use...

...but there are still issues - if only the restricted format codecs were installed by default, if only NVidia would allow simpler installation of the video drivers, and if only, instead of having seven squillion media players to cover all the different bases, there was just a single media player with a Gnome interface that did the lot, and did it well.

Desktop-wise, I'm a Gnome fan, obviously with Compiz Fusion enabled (wobbly windows FTW).
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</blues>Woke up this morning (da-da, da dum....)</blues

'twas weird indeed, though: there was only my Micra, girly opposite's Micra and bloke two doors down's Focus parked outside our respective houses. All the other residences, from Castle Fox down to the Chinese take-away, had vacant roadspace outside.

This almost never happens: competition for parking spaces can be quite intense outside Castle Fox - sometimes I have to park as much as 10 metres* away from my front door. That said, the lines of parked cars are normally pretty solid, even if the odd sort of Brownian Motion that exists in the whole vehicle storage game 'round these parts does seem to work out in my favour more often than not.

Apple are selling the old, 2nd generation Shuffles off cheap, so I've got one - £31 all in, including my email address engraved on the back. I was going to get the square root of two engraved on it instead (1.4142135623... from memory+), but decided that that would be just a bit too strange. Even for me.

Anyway, the Shuffle seems to play nicely with Banshee under Linux (although obviously not with DRM material), so that's good. The only slight drawback to the Shuffle I've noticed to date is that, when ambling along with the hound, and the Shuffle clipped to my trouser pocket, it's possible to accidentally skip tracks through inadvertant brushing of the controls. So that's what the 'hold' function's for, then...

* - just to annoy [personal profile] glittertine, for whom I know parking is a genuine issue ;-P

+ - why yes, I do have the square roots of the integers from 1 to 10 memorised to 10 decimal places. Because you never know when this knowledge might prove useful...
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I spent a bit of time yesterday playing with Moblin on the netbook.

After a bit of bemusement, I started to get to grips with it - running off a USB drive, rather than actually installed proper, it seemed sufficiently speedy, although the downloadable image doesn't seem to include a word processor, which was a bit of a surprise omission.

Anyway, it's a Linux (of course) distro specifically designed to cater for netbooks (and other Mobile Internet Devices), sponsored by Intel, which seems a little surprising, given how closely tied Intel seem to be to Microsoft.

The netbook had, briefly, been running Ubuntu's netbook remix: that seemed a little sluggish, but I've since added 1GB of RAM to the beast, so perhaps should reinvestigate that option before writing it off completely. The Ubuntu remix did have multiple user management by default, whereas both Linpus and Moblin launch you straight into the user desktop.

Compared to the gloss of Ubuntu and the slick UI with Moblin, Linpus (and here I'm talking about the de-Fisher Priced proper-XFCE-desktop, rather than Acer's awful 'interface') feels old fashioned and rather slow.

Overall, then, I liked Moblin, a discovery which seems to be counter to the general vibe I'd picked up from the Internetz, but I won't really be able to come to a conclusion proper until I've done a full install to disk, and tried the software management and such.

Ah well...

May. 28th, 2009 07:18 am
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...no complaints about being beaten by a better side: Barcelona 2, Manchester United 0 in yesterday evening's Champions' League Final. I missed the first half, because I was collecting P from The Farm. The second half was slightly painful listening, given how obviously Barca were outplaying us.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I'd added some fan control scripts to the Netbook - the difference is amazing: I wouldn't have said that the fan was loud in the first place (two of the four PCs in the office make a terrific racket), but a truly silent machine is bliss. Of course, there's the concern that by raising the fan's kick-in threshold, it may shorten the machine's life, so you need to factor that into your considerations if you're considering doing this hack, but Intel themselves rate the Atom up to 99°C, whereas I've got the fan programmed to kick in at 65°C, so hopefully it should be OK, and I won't end up with a lapfull of molten plastic...

I finished Fever Crumb, Philip Reeve's prequel to his Mortal Engines quartet. Parts of the story were just dazzling, and it's definitely a worthy addition to the series. I particularly loved the corruption of localities' names in the future: Pickled Eel Circus, Effing Forest, Hampsters Heath, 'bankmentside and so on. And of course the notion that London itself is bordered by the Orbital Moatway. Really really good stuff.

If you haven't read Mortal Engines, you should do so. Give it a chance, because yes, the set-up is mindblowingly surreal, but once you've accepted that framework, it's a spellbinding tale. And although, personally, I felt the story stalled in the telling, slightly, in the third instalment, the fourth volume (A Darkling Plain) proved an epic conclusion.

De-Remixed

May. 27th, 2009 07:03 am
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I dallied briefly with Ubuntu's Netbook Rremix for the Acer, but found it a little slow. This is probably more due to the fact that the Acer is one seriously low-end piece of kit than any failing on the part of Ubuntu's, but nonetheless I decided to reimage the thing.

And so it's back running the original Linpus (ghastly name) installation it came with.

With some tweaks:

  • optimize grub.conf for Solid State Drives, using elevator=noop

  • enabling the right-click menu from running xfce-setting-show

  • turning off swap (I'm running 1.5Gb of RAM) by editing /etc/fstab

  • removing the desktop search bar by commenting out all of /usr/share/search-bar/start-search_bar.sh

  • removing the Fisher Price icons from the desktop by editing /usr/bin/xfdesktopnew replacing the 'desktop2' line with just plain 'desktop'. Then edit /usr/bin/xfdesktop and edit line 6 so that it executes xfdesktop-xfce

  • shutting up the fan by downloading acer_ec.pl and acerfand from Jorge's amazing site. Set them executable, put them in /usr/local/bin, and add acerfand to the end of /etc/rc.d/rc.local.

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