Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the month “November, 2006”

Disappointment on the Edge

Weird. I have been using Dapper Drake for a few months now with almost complete satisfaction. The Dapper DVD is a cherished disk in my collection. I like the fact that I get gnome, kde and Xfce installed at the same time. It’s for that reason I downloaded the Edgy DVD a few weeks ago.

As I wrote before, installing it on my laptop was easy. One small issue actually. I created the proper partitions with gparted (i1 Gb swap, 17 Gb ext3), but the install program stated it did not recognize both partitions (black boxes). It was fixed in the next step (setting mount points) so I did not think about it much. Now, looking back, it was the first of a series of strange errors. Of things that work flawlessly in Dapper but appear broken in Edgy. I know since I removed Edgy from the laptop and installed Dapper on it.

A list:
– Sound: works out of the box with Dapper but is non-existent in Edgy.
– Desktop: the Edgy DVD does not install KDE or Xfce (or doesn’t add it to the sessions menu)
– Installing KDE applications: will be added to the menu under Dapper, but Edgy leaves it up to you.
– Add /remove applications: when selecting “all applications” you get error messages about broken packages. Only the open source” option seems to work without glitches. Integration with Synaptic is off. Packages installed with Synaptic do not appear installed in Add/remove and vice versa.

Okay, Edgy is more cutting edge than Dapper (hello, when is Firefox 2 available for Dapper) but the above mentioned things should just work. Heck, it is only an upgrade from 6.0.6 to 6.10 and everything works fresh from the Dapper DVD. Maybe I ran into a bad streak with this particular install. Maybe, but the next install will take place on the virtual test bench.

And the laptop? Is very happy with Dapper Drake, thank you. 😉

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In the end: Ubuntu Edgy Eft

I am playing and fooling with Linux from a Windows migrator’s perspective. After years of development Linux distributions should work out of the box for the most common of tasks. Nothing more, nothing less. The new laptop gave rise to another set of experiments and I am sad to say that Sabayon Linux did not pass the test.

It installed fine and looked like a charm. Really, nothing beats Sabayon Linux as a showcase for the power and strength of Linux. But, and this is a very big but, I do expect a server based operating system to have no problems with maintaining an ethernetbased connection. And Sabayon did have issues. When syncing the portage tree it would close down the connection. When browsing the internet it would close down the connection. No indication of what happened. At all. For this reason alone Sabayon failed. Yes, yes, I know, I could have looked for a solution, but that was not the issue.

Next came Mandriva 2007. Always a nice and userfriendly distro, though 2006 was a bad year for the company and the distro. Install went smoothly, but can someone explain me why after a few reboots both Gnome and KDE won’t work anymore. Sorry, Mandriva was ditched. Fast.

Finally I settled on Ubuntu again. So far no glitches, no problems, everything works as it should be (remember, I am not testing wifi, yet). When you compare the various distro’s like I do Ubuntu starts to shine again.

Sabayon Linux on the Acer 3680

You have to love the mobile telephone market. Well, at least in the Netherlands. Two years ago I needed to renew my subscription (the old subscription no longer being valid) and the search for a new provider left me with a 25 euro a month subscription, a Nokia 6310 cellphone and an xbox with two games (Project Gotham 2 and Fable). This subscription ended so I was curious what the current offerings would be. And, in all honesty, I am no loyal customer. I go for maximizing returns on my “investment”.

My online search brought me to GSM.nl. Ordering a new subscription directly with the provider only results in mediocre cellphone gifts, but ordering the same package through an intermediary brings in the harvest. One of the packages came with a laptop, either for free (very basic setup) or for 99 euro (Windows XP installed and a DVD+/- RW drive). Now, I don’t care much for XP and the drive is a bit expensive, but I decided to go for that option anyway. My previous laptop crashed some time ago (literally, falling from my desk) and this was a nice way to get a new one the cheap way.

The whole package (new subscription plus laptop) arrived yesterday and I am the content owner of an Acer 3680 now. The Acer turned out better than advertised: 512 Mb RAM (instead of 256), a 60 Gb HDD (instead of 40) and a dual layer DVD burner. It’s not a high-end machine with 1,43 Ghz Intel Celeron M and 64 Mb graphics card (shared), but it’s not mediocre either.

Like I said, I don’t really care about Windows XP, but for the sake of Agnes I left it on the laptop. The nice thing is that the Acer ships as Vista capable (yeah, right) and that I am eligible for an express upgrade to Vista once it hits the customer market. Now, that could be interesting.

Anyway, I had already decided to install Linux on the laptop and the choice was Sabayon Linux. Of course I was a bit worried since there have been issues over the years with installing Linux on laptops. Sabayon starts as a live DVD which made a test fairly simple. As before, the boot up was slow but in the end I had a completely functional Sabayon desktop with all the eye candy. The demo games (Quake IV and Cold War) would crash but that was to be expected. I decided to install Sabayon on the machine.

With the partition editor (gparted) the new Linux partitions were made and installing Sabayon doesn’t require a masters degree in computer science either. The anaconda installer is easy to use. The only question that could have been left out is the one about which desktop you want to install (KDE, Gnome, Enlightenment, Flux or Xfce). Whatever the choice, all five are installed by default. It could be a bug, but I don’t mind the whole kitchen-sink. About two hours later there was a complete Sabayon install, with Grub booting both Linux and Windows and the time to reboot.

And yes! It worked. Sabayon is not the fastest Linux to boot up, but once it is up it runs with a fair speed on this laptop. So far there are no issues. If the wifi is working I don’t know, since I don’t use wifi. The eye candy is soooo coooooool! It is a pleasure to work with the various environments. KDE 3.5.1 is a bit cluttered, the price you have to pay for wanting it all. Time to write a complete review of Sabayon. But… first continue with the book.

The River and The Salmon

While life has been moving in the right direction for a long series of months I always kept in mind that things would turn again. It always does and will continue to do so for a time to come. One motivational speaker said that you can expect four serious crises each year and -while I don’t completely agree with the number- my own life experience seems to prove the statement true.

The last couple of weeks have been rocky with no clear end in sight. First, my dad had a cardiac arrest at the age of 61 and what followed where three and a half weeks of travelling up and down to the hospital, motivating and encouraging him, my stepmother and myself, dealing with emotional and physical stress while at the same time contuining with the daily affairs of life. He is okay now and the process of rebuilding his life and confidence has begun. I am glad it all turned out that way. However, the whole time period brought me to the brink of another burnout, the fourth one, and it takes a lot of energy and effort to avert that from happening. Thirdly there is the issue with the book we are writing. There is a strong possibility that the current project will be halted. The best case scenario hints at a delay (meaning a serious re-write of the chapters somewhere next year), the worst case would be a complete cancellation. Due to the inability of the publisher to make amenable agreements with one of the authors we might loose him and his long-time experience in Ubuntu as well.

When things start to move in the negative direction I become more introspective, tapping the source of inner strength and conviction. I start thinking about my life plan which was carefully designed and is in the middle of execution. What are my goals? Why did I choose those goals? Does the current crisis change any of those? Since the life plan and it’s goals are firmly rooted in scriptural principles this kind of introspection also brings me closer to the spiritual man. This time it brought me to the scripture “keep on searching and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened to you, keep on asking and you will receive”. Keep on…. Life and the pursuit of it’s goals is a process. Getting the results is not a one time effort or a one shot affair. Keep on…

The image that came to mind was that of water. Left to it’s own water follows the laws of nature and will take the path of least resistance. Water always runs down a mountain, never the way up. And don’t we say that life is an uphill battle. But when the water runs down, how do we ever get up. The answer was and is simple. Be like a salmon. The salmon is driven by a strong inner instinct to move to the spawning grounds, where new life will be brought into existence. Rapids, rocks, bears and waterfalls.. the salmon doesn’t care about any of them. On the contrary, it results into one of the strongest images in nature. The salmon jumping out of the water, ignoring the claws of the bears in order to reach the next level of it’s journey. The salmon doesn’t follow the current. It fights it, goes against it. Not all salmons reach their destination, only the strongest, the most determined and the ones who were not caught by the bears and fishermen. And yet, what a journey they make.

From there it was a small step to another motivational speaker who discussed the value of goals in life. The goals themselves are unimportant. They are merely the tools for the life you lead in order to pursue them. Pursuing the goals change the person you are into what you want to become. And when the goals are achieved, like the salmon when it reaches the spawning grounds, it brings new life into existence. Now it time to stop introspecting and continue swimming. Blasted rocks.;-)

Looking ahead

I love to write. With the prospect that -maybe- the Ubuntu book may not be published as we expect it to, I look forward to other projects or other forms of publishing.

The OpenSource eLearning project is one channel that I can give more attention to. The texts in Dutch are partly transferred to English and can be added to the website. I also believe there is room for books, even in an already crowded market for computer books. Cheap, pulp style books for a fair price, the price of a paperback novel. Most books have a short shelf life anyway due to the pace of new developments. Beyond that there is a need for good teaching tools about open source software. Rich, multimedia tools.

Another area I wish to explore is writing fiction. Bin is waiting for his tale to be told. Poor Bin.

Challenges

With my dad out of the hospital things should return to normal. But what is normal? My boss is going on a holiday and I will have to fill in for most of his work in the next two weeks. As often happened, part of his instructions are ambiguous which makes it more complicated.

The real challenge is the book we are writing. The writing process goes fine and the three of us work together as a good team. The problem is with the two organizations that ordered the book. Let’s keep it friendly and say they have gotten cold feet about they work together. At this time we know there will be consequences for the contract with us, but not the extent of the consequences

I believe there is a market for a book like ours and I have some ideas about how to market it. But right now we just have to wait and see.

In the mean time an English version about the dual boot installation of Ubuntu next to Windows is shaping up nicely. From the looks of it I think it will be finished somewhere next week and online after that. It kind of grew organically when someone asked for helped in an online forum. With this I also have sharpened the text in Dutch at the same time. Ah… the Digital Realm with all it’s benefits.

Rebuilding a life

Good news. My dad is coming home today. Three and a half weeks after a cardiac arrest and a triple by-pass the next step in rebuilding a life has to be taken. He is quite scared. On one hand he understands that the risks are way smaller than before, but the fact that the cardiac arrest came out of nowhere (for him at least) still frightens him. But we are there to help him and encourage him.

Going Triple with Ubuntu, Fedora and Sabayon

I needed to relax a bit today. My dad’s surgery went well yesterday, but – together with the workload at my job- I felt drained. It was time to play. Over the last few days I dowloaded three Linux distro’s, all DVD images: Ubuntu Edgy Eft, Fedora Core 6 and Sabayon. With a 40 Gb spare disk to play with it was time to install them all, on the same drive.

Ubuntu went fast and smooth. The DVD was installed in less than 30 minutes. With Ubuntu it’s an all or nothing approach, but since it is strictly desktop that makes sense. Fedora allows you some what more choice through the anaconda installer. I decided on the desktop option with both the KDE and Gnome desktops. The speed was a real improvement. The install was finished in somewhat more than 30 minutes, way faster than my experience with previous versions of Fedora.

Sabayon is a Gentoo-based distribution. The live DVD is a beauty, a showcase of what Linux is capable of in terms of eye candy. The two demo games, Quake IV and Cold War, demonstrate the strength as a gaming platform. The DVD has multiple boot options and is filled to the brim. Booting is slow and so is the install process. It took a full two hours, which is long compared to the other two, but decent compared to the 7 Gb footprint. Multiple desktop options (five if I counted correctly) with KDE/AIXGL and Gnome/XGL configured out of the box. Kuroo is available as a graphical front-end to Portage, which is okay for me since I never used Portage before. Installing new software isn’t complicated that way, but the process isn’t fast. Downloading and installing 4 small apps took over five minutes, where I know Ubuntu takes far less time. But, that being said, Sabayon beats both Ubuntu and Fedora in terms of speed. Applications fire up very fast and the spit and polish is breath taking. I like the Human theme of Ubuntu, but it looks bland and dull compared to the default Sabayon desktop. Of course, the desktop is always customizable, but to see it out of the box is just great.

The intention was to have a triple boot system. But I fouled up a bit. I didn’t set the bootsectors up properly for Ubuntu and Fedora, which means I can not boot into them now. Stupid, of course, but it gives me a excuse to continue playing. I will continue to work with Ubuntu for my day-to-day use. I do think Ubuntu made the right choices for creating a balanced desktop and having the Debian repositories at hand gives me access to tons and tons of more software. Way more than Fedora or Sabayon. Fedora has improved in terms of repositories, but it still has a cluttered menustructure. What’s the use of a default menu with submenu’s for each OpenOffice.org part? (something like Office-> Text editing -> OpenOffice.org Writer). There is a logic behind it, but when you see it all over the menu, with items scattered around, it doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Fedora is more geeky than Ubuntu, but so is Sabayon. Sabayon’s suffers from one other problem: overkill. There are so many apps installed that the KDE menu is way too full. It’s somewhat better in Gnome. Despite that -at the end of the day- Sabayon stands as highly recommended.

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