Linux

Upcoming Fedora 20 Thoughts and impressions

In an upcoming blog I plan to write about my first impressions and experiences with Fedora 20.

I have been out of the Linux environment for some time now due to personal situations and events which have kept me away. And I’m still finishing up the grammar and spelling corrections for this upcoming blog post , once I finished that I should be able to post the blog entry fairly quickly.

Given that I have not used Linux for some time now, some of my views might be considered common knowledge by now given that Fedora 20 has been out for quite a while. However, I’m going to do my best to try to give a unique perspective  on what I found. 🙂

The touch screen phase! Is it to early?

Some may call this post ironic as I am going to talk about why I feel this move to touch interfaces on Deskops is before its time while I write this on an touch enabled device.

Desktop touch solutions are not as common as mobile solutions aside from all in one devices. Currently you can expect to pay close to $600-$1000 for a good 20″ Touch enabled All-in-one, this cost is hard to justify as you could easily buy a higher resolution monitor for a fraction of the cost and upgrade an existing computer.

Yet this seems to not matter as Popular Linux distributions, Apple and even Microsoft are starting to move in this direction. Apple had ben toying with the idea of replacing OS X with IOS as a desktop OS.

Now I am not against change, in fact I welcome it. However, when an company decides to force the use of a specific type of device to get the intended user experience, one begins to question the purpose of this. Cannonical has improved Unity a great deal, but the experience with a keyboard and mouse is not as rohbust as with a touchscreen.

Only time will tell what the consumer thinks, I will try my best to stay open about it.

Updates, goals and struggles

Wow, so it is been a while since I’ve written a post on my blog, I hope to rectify that with a brief update into what’s going on with me.

Linux

Not much different as happened in the world of Linux with regard to me, I have recently picked up an android tablet (recent as in August) which I had to give for school but now that that class is over I have a $500 toy! Okay so it’s not really a toy but now it’s just a gadget I can use to fool around on as the class that needed it is over.

It is the Asus Transformer tablet, the first one that came out not their newer version they just released. I do rather enjoy the tablet even though I have no practical use for currently, however I downloaded a handful of children friendly applications (a drawing application as well as in teaching games) and my daughter absolutely loves playing on it. While I needed one for school it was never said exactly what I had to get I was just told I needed a mobile device, cell phone was out of the question as I’m not going to pay for a cell phone plan, so I did some research to look into what options were available and this is the one I had decided on.

What sold me on this particular tablet over say the iPad 2 is mainly a few factors, price, flexibility, and liberation from iTunes the worst piece of software ever created. Okay so maybe that’s a little harsh iTunes is not the worst software ever created but it certainly ranks up there. Now before I get several common saying you get what you pay for and the quality of the iPad 2 is worth the additional cost, let me just explain my justification behind the price point;

Looking at the tablet from strictly a practical standpoint, what purpose was a going to serve after my class is over. The answer is simply it will serve no practicality other than entertainment value when the class was over , I’m not currently employed so they can help my work life be more productive, I could read electronic versions of my textbooks on it but that’s not really something that would greatly increase productivity in terms of school work.

Based on that information I had to say that I want to spend $600 and get the iPad 2 or spend $400 and get the Transformer, the latter was a much better option because since the practicality of this device is not really going to be there was my class was over I went to spend the least amount of money possible.

This brings me to my next point which was flexibility, while the iPad has thousands if not millions of apps available to it, it is very restrictive with what you can and can’t do with it. I have never been one to be a fan of a company that tries to dictate which can and can’t use their device for. I’m not talking about using it for illegal purposes, I’m mainly talking about choice of content as well as the technologies the browser for example chooses to utilize. While I see great value in the iPad and would recommend it to somebody who is looking for a tablet that was easy to use, and something they could just pick up and go, that was not what I was looking for.

With an android powered device such as the tablet that I have feel much less restricted, it feels much more like a desktop environment with a touchscreen. The more I think about I guess it could kind of the rooted in the fact that I’m a huge supporter of Linux and open source, that’s not to say that I do not like Apple, in fact it’s the opposite I would love to get my hands on a bran new Apple Macintosh with Mac OS X, but until I can get a job that pays me enough to be able to spend extra money that’s just not an option. If somebody were to offer me a free iPad or iPad 2 I wouldn’t even have to think about it I would gladly take it because I am a technology junkie :-). I love getting my hands on new gadgets in various forms technology and just fiddling with them until I know them inside and out.

The last point, the liberation from iTunes, this is huge as I have mentioned I’m no fan of iTunes having been for quite some time, I will admit that iTunes is making strides towards a much better user experience to meet it’s still way too restrictive, has too much overhead, and acts as a freaking lockbox where any items that I purchase are locked tightly away in iTunes and not allowed to be put on any device but an Apple device. Now I’ve heard that iTunes is change their policies recently to where music videos and things that you purchase through iTunes are no longer restricted to only iTunes or only Apple devices, but heard such rumors in the past and I’m not likely to test it out now.

If you’re interested in learning more about the tablet, I did a review on it on my tech site located here

Computers

I have been called by family members and friends a computer geek or nerd or sometimes both, while generally speaking these terms are looked at by some as derogatory I wear them like a badge of honor.

It’s no secret I’m a huge technology buff, I love anything and everything having to do with technology. Last time I had to upgrade my computer I was faced with the dilemma, that I go back to Dell computers (a fantastic company by the way) and have been billed me a computer that would work flawlessly and then turn around and have to replace it five years, or do I save money by all the parts and build it myself. After thinking about it long and hard the choice was obvious, build it myself. Now this is nothing new you can go back and read a post from several years ago where I talk about the new system that I built. However, I have since upgraded the system to the point where I may as well have built an entirely new system.

Basically the upgrade consisted of a new power supply, a new case, new motherboard, a new RAM everything else is the same. I reviewed the case on Tech Jam if you’re interested in reading it and click the link a few words back. Because so many of the elements that I upgraded allow me to essentially have enough spare parts to build a second computer, using my old case and components I rebuilt my old computer and gave it to my wife which was a significant upgrade from the computer she had. The purpose of this upgrade was basically due to a few factors the biggest of which was the fact that being in a Network Administration degree I often times need to run virtual machines with various different types of operating systems, the old components were struggling to keep up with what I needed such with the opportunity to upgrade them, I am now on a system that’s more than capable of running several virtual machines.

I was supposed to do a review of the new motherboard but I just never had time to get this review done, I might try to go back in attempted sometime in the future.

Games

Generally speaking I don’t have a lot of money to spend on video games, nor a lot of time. However, a friend bought me a Christmas present that I just couldn’t pass up, they purchased Star Wars: the Old Republic for me complete with playtime all the way until May! In a way I kind of wish they hadn’t because this game isn’t credibly addicting! I’m loving every minute of it, though I have been trying to balance everything and only really play that game when I get time.

Micah go to into depth about the videogame here, but I will say this if you have the time and the money in your fan of Star Wars this game is for you. One thing I do like about this game is the ability to buy game time cards, this allows you to budget for gameplay or if one month you can afford gameplay you just don’t buy a card and your card is and billed. This is a method that World of Warcraft has been doing for a while, and when I used to play the game all the time (when I had a job on my days off) it was something that I used exclusively.

School

As I mentioned above I’m still in school for network administration and if everything goes well I should be graduating from that of the summer! I’m kind of nervous about this because I feel like I’m going to forget everything I’ve learned, I just don’t want to be thrown into a situation where now all the sudden I’m responsible for this huge corporate network and I have a brain fart and do not remember anything.

I’ve been told by my teachers that school was more or less the foundation, or I will really pick up knowledge and experience is on-the-job. While this was slightly comforting I’m still skeptical but I will do my best. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous about entering a potentially new field especially one that has the potential to change my current financial situation from one of destitute to actually being able to breathe and have the money I need for living expenses and maybe a little extra.

I’ll find out in about six months just what the schooling has prepared me for, there’s only two possibilities I either sink or swim, I am aiming for swimming!

The Job search

Yeah this is the one area that I’m struggling the most at right now, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I can’t seem to get a job because of the large amount of time I’ve been unemployed, and also seems that Michigan is not exactly the best place for jobs. Sadly moving even across town is just out of the question way too expensive.

My game plan going forward is this, I plan to go to the advanced temporary services here Michigan and try to get placed in a temporary position if nothing more than to eliminate that large gap of unemployment, ideally though I would like to see one of those temporary positions turn into a permanent position. As well as that I’m going to also be resubmitting applications to all the fast food chains in the area, and hitting up the department stores such as Walmart, Meijer, Kmart and so on.

I’ve also considered opening up my own business, but I’ll save that for another post.

Everything else

In other news our daughter is turning four at the end of this month, February 28 to be exact! It’s hard to believe she’s already four. We’ve been trying to find a place that’s fairly inexpensive that we could hold her birthday party so she can invite all of her friends from preschool, so far we’ve narrowed it down to one of the fast food chains or possibly a skating rink. I welcome suggestions however, our budget doesn’t really allow for extravagant things like the zoo or places like that.

We do not have enough room at home to have the party here so any suggestions please leave them in the comments.

I can see the finish line! Schools almost over!

Was looking at my remaining portion garments for my degree recently and realized that if I continue on track at the pace that I’m currently going I will be graduating in May 2012! This is huge as it will provide me with the opportunity to get a career and be able to better provide for my family.

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now I’ve been struggling for quite a while with trying to find a job, this degree may be just what the doctor ordered. I’ll be lying if I I wasn’t a little bit nervous and a little scared going into the last part of my degree, not so much because of what I’ll find out, or even what I’ll do (which mind you. Isn’t that bad can be a network administrator after all). No it’s more to do with the fact that I just have this gut feeling. My first job out of the gate will be so overwhelming and I will feel like I don’t know anything with regards to my duties and requirements of the position.

While people say all the time that going into a new career is a bit scary you never really appreciate that fact until you’re close to entering yourself. Upon receiving my degree I will be the first person in my immediate family other than my father to have a college degree! My grandfather had a college degree but unfortunately he’s gone now and out of the living family members in my immediate family (excluding family by marriage members) only my father has a college education. Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not like our families are stupid, actually it’s quite the opposite.

My younger brother chose to pursue his music career instead of going to college and my older brother has several certifications in different areas he just lacks an official college degree.

A lot of people reading this might think that people graduate from college all of the time. So why would this be that big of deal? The answer is that ever since I graduated from high school. I have attended some form of college. However, due to my dyslexia I struggled a great deal in many of those schools so often I would finish my education in an effort to save money. However, in doing so I burned through a little bit of money was set aside when I was younger to assist with paying for college. It wasn’t until many years later that I decided to go back to college. This time I decided to try an online college so that I will be able to work my classes around my family and a job provided that I actually was able to get one. While having to rely on myself for getting assignments in on time without the constant nagging that one may receive the traditional college I realized that I can do this and so, through a combination of student loans and other financial aid. I enrolled at Kaplan University or am currently going to school for network administration.

What makes this so interesting to me is that even despite my ADD and my dyslexia I am actually closer to achieving a goal I set for myself in high school. Without somebody constantly being there to draw my attention back to school work. I can only hope that when I finally graduate in May that I’m able to land a job in my career field fairly quickly and begin at 32 what I set out to accomplish at 17.

Currently however, my hurdles are a lot closer to academia then to my attention span, microeconomics is the bane of my existence, and yet it is necessary in order for me to graduate is much as I try to understand this class and I’m confusing myself more than clearing things up for myself. I guess my mind is just not able to wrap around the deeper concepts that come with economics whether the macro or micro economics.

It’s funny I look back at the very first major I held at the very first college I went to " Business Administration". What’s so funny about this to me is the fact that I know absolutely nothing about business nor did I have a desire to learn anything about business. I wasn’t planning on becoming a businessman nor did I plan to choose any field required Detailed knowledge about business. No, what I originally wanted to do but was advised against was psychology and so when I snapped out of my daze and realized that business administration was not the right major for me. I switched to psychology, only to find that equally as disturbing and at times increasingly difficult. To this day however I still would love to be a psychologist or psychiatrist I enjoy talking things through with people and have been told that I’m a fairly good judge of character, both of which are qualities needed in a psychologist or psychiatrist. Computers however, at the time was not even a thought in my mind, but the more I use them, the more I found I wanted to learn and so begin my obsession with technology and computers.

And now I’m on the verge of having a bachelors degree in network administration, and it feels good, but also scary. I thirst for knowledge. When it comes to computers, it seems to be unquenchable however, and so I’m constantly trying new things. This was the reason for me toying around with Linux and the primary reason I stumbled across Fedora and many other distributions. I still can’t hold a candle to half the people I met the use Linux is much as I love Linux. I still know almost nothing about it. In my free time to be able to learn more about it has been very limited as of late. I’m hoping that once I graduate from college. I can devote more time to exploring the interest and who knows maybe one day I might even be able to contribute some of what I’ve learned back to the Linux community.

Well that’s good, do it for this blog post. Thank you for listening to my rant or reading it, rather. Comments are welcome. Feel free to leave them below. Tell me what you think. Have your experiences mirrored mine at all?

Final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15

For some time now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing my final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15, the reason for me taking so long to figure out if I wanted to write this post in the first place will become clearer after you read this post.

It’s no secret by reading my previous first look review, that I was not a fan of GNOME-Shell, or Unity. While was hoping that the experience would become much more fluid in the final releases, I was still left disappointed.

However, I gave both a fair shot using both for roughly 2 to 3 weeks to try and determine if after using it for a prolonged period of time, my views would change. In addition to my own experience I also turned to the Linux community and looked at both positive and negative reviews centering on both interfaces. Surprisingly, what I found was a mixed set of opinions; however most of them had only a handful of nice things to say about the interface and a bucket full of negative. The main reason for me viewing these reviews was to ensure that I was using them correctly, I did not want to base my opinion solely on the fact that I was struggling to figure certain aspects of it.

While all of the reviews I looked at nitpicked about small things some of which had no relevance to stability or even usability, others touched on small problems that could easily have been fixed prior to release. While I haven’t touched either one of these distributions and about a weeks’ time, last time I did some of these mistakes were still present. To give you an example of how silly some things are in terms of mistakes, I will point out one in Fedora 15 specifically.

Fedora decided to take a different approach and separate the software repository lists tool from the actual updates tool, this in itself is fine in my opinion. Were the silly mistake part comes in is that loading GNOME-Shell, and looking for the update tool to get the current updates for your system. You are presented with two tools with exactly the same icon in virtually identical names; one is called update and the other updates. Through trial and error I discovered that the one with the S at the end of it actually pulls up a repository configuration dialog you can select which repositories are used for installing packages and receiving updates. I know this sounds like nitpicking however it is very confusing and something that is easily corrected, and something that should’ve never ended up in the final version.

Update: as of right now the icons have changed. But they’re both still named exactly the same with the exception of an S

If your computer is not powerful enough to run GNOME-Shell or you just don’t have the proprietary graphics drivers installed, you will go into a fallback session of GNOME 3. This is not to be confused with GNOME 2, I have read a lot of misconceptions that the fallback mode is in fact a stripped down version of GNOME 2. This is in fact false; GNOME-Shell is merely a GUI interface on top of the GNOME 3 libraries. You can tell this by looking at the version of GTK that the fallback session uses, its version 3. Below is a screenshot that might explain why a lot of people confuse the two.

Fallback session

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Warning Dialog

I’m not sure why exactly, but the icon on the dialogue reminds me of the old sad Macintosh, icon that you use to get when your Mac would have a fatal error.

Next to that screenshot you can see one of the desktop that’s loaded in a fallback session.

Fallback Session Desktop

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Desktop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 2

Updates Dialog Panel 2

 

Virtual Box can run GNOME-Shell or unity just fine after you install the guest additions, below is a screenshot of the update, updates, issue I was talking about.

Most other distributions used their repository configuration dialogue with a different name that distinguishes it from the update program, such as sources.

 

Update, Updates issue

Screenshot showing how both tools are named Similarly

I put a circle around the two specific programs to draw attention so that it would be easier to pinpoint them.

To further illustrate how this could be confusing, below are two screenshots that show the two tabs on the updates dialogue, below that is a screenshot from the update dialog.

Update Dialog

Update Dialog

This is not an incredibly huge error; it’s not even one that will affect stability of your system. No this is more a cosmetic and user experience related issue. Some might argue that they’ve been labeled this way for several releases now, however when using GNOME-Shell they show up right next to each other under the applications section, which is the cause for the confusion. In a fallback session, or on previous versions of GNOME, these two tools showed up in completely separate menus, which made it less confusing because you are less likely to see both of them side-by-side.

Again, I know this is a long that of a rant to go on about such a small problem, but I just wanted to make it clear what the confusion was and say that if I’m confused, having used previous versions of Fedora that the average user coming from another distribution might be even more confused.

 

That aside, once you get past GNOME-Shell Fedora 15 is a fairly solid release despite the multiple reviews; I’ve read that point to the contrary. On my last review Fedora 15 was in the alpha stages, and I talked about a lot of the new features that the average user would recognize most of these have not changed (other than getting more stable).

I did notice one quirk they kind of bugged me, while this is not a bug, and it is in fact an intentional change, I don’t understand the methodology behind the change. I’m talking about the fact that if you ever create your own RPMs and Fedora things have become slightly more confusing. It used to be that all you needed to do in order to sign and build RPM packages was to install the development tools group from Yum. It seems for whatever reason they’ve taken the GPG signing integration out of RPM by default. This functionality can of course be added back, but it requires installing a separate package. There’s absolutely no documentation that I’ve been able to find that explains the reasoning behind this change, or even that the change took place. I literally spent three hours trying to sign a package through RPM only to find that some person on a forum somewhere discovered that this RPM signing functionality was moved into a separate package called rpm-sign.

I’m not a developer and certainly not in a position to question Fedora’s policies on what to include and what not to include in a default installation. However, if they insist on breaking this functionality of RPM out into a separate package, then the least they could do is added to the development tools group, this way and somebody does a group install of the development tools this packages pulled down alongside other packages necessary to build and sign rpm’s. As I said, this is not a bug; it’s an intentional step, though the reasoning behind it at least to me is not known.

I did have one other bad experience out of my entire Fedora 15 experience. I’m not sure if this was specific to my machine, or if this happens with everybody. What happened was this, I installed Fedora 15 with the default package set, then once Fedora 15 was loaded I updated it decided I didn’t like GNOME-Shell and didn’t want to use the fallback session. I then began looking at other desktop environments that I could install; naturally, my first replacement was KDE which installed perfectly with no issues. However, upon having installed KDE and booting into it at least once GNOME stopped working altogether, in fact when you try to log into GNOME you we get an error message similar to the one in the screenshot above. The differences this error message would tell you that GNOME had a fatal error, and was not able to start. No amount of logging out and logging back in would make this message go away. Ironically, however, installing Fedora 15 with KDE and GNOME from the installer seems to bypass this issue, at least for me.

I know you guys are pricing report it, file a bug report! The problem is I’m not exactly sure what caused the error so submitting a bug report with the small amount of information I have would not be useful to anybody, especially the person that would help me try to solve the problem. Again, this issue may not be present for everybody; it may have just been some quirk on my specific machine.

Ubuntu – Alternatives

Party did a review of Ubuntu 11.04 stable, some not to repeat the same information. I will however link to that blog entry below. What I will do however is tell you a few alternatives to Ubuntu that I found that are based off of Ubuntu, but don’t have that pesky unity.

This is going to be a very quick section. Basically I’m getting give you a list of two or three distributions that have tried that are derivatives of Ubuntu and give you a brief synopsis of my experience followed by a link to the website to get more information.

Zorin – this distribution is extremely cool looking, and I’m not just saying that because I love the color blue (which this distribution has a lot of). There are a lot of custom tools included that let you change the look of this distribution to match other operating systems, including Mac OS X. This distribution is every bit as user-friendly as Ubuntu is and as I mentioned even includes several tools that are unique to this distribution to make the experience that much easier.

Linux Mint – most of you reading this who have had any experience with Ubuntu it all have probably heard of mint, some like to go into too much detail here. I will however say that the newer version of mint is the best version I have seen to date. I’m not exactly sure which version of Ubuntu. This was based off of, what I do know is that it uses GNOME 2. This is good news for everybody out there who hates unity is much as I did.

Ubuntu with XFCE – yes I understand there is a officials then of Ubuntu that includes this as the default desktop, but in order to get an experience that you’re used to as Ubuntu user, I recommend installing Ubuntu and then going to synaptic and installing XFCE. This will allow you to use XFCE while main containing a lot of the GNOME libraries and utilities that you’re used to.

Well, that wraps up this blog post. Sorry for being so long-winded, but I had a lot to say. As always, comments are welcome, one thing I prefer not to see in the comments are remarks like “unity rocks you’re insane for not liking it”, or “GNOME-Shell makes Fedora faster, it’s the future” those kinds of comments to me serve no constructive purpose as they are opinions usually ones that a majority of the people may not agree with or could agree with. Bottom line if you want to tell me why you think unity or GNOME-Shell is worth keeping around try to do in a constructive way. Don’t just say it rocks.

Ubuntu Unity Review

Ubuntu 11.04 – review of unity interface

In a rather long blog post I wrote several months ago, I compared my first looks at the Fedora 15 Alpha and Ubuntu 11.04 beta. I also promised that once each one of these distributions was released I was going to do a more in depth review of each one. Ubuntu 11.04 has been out now for quite some time, due to the fact the Fedora 15 is not yet in its final stage I’m going to hold off for reviewing that.

This review is going to be focused primarily on the unity interface, my first use of the unity interface was a little skewed back in the alpha. This could have been due partly to the fact that I was running Ubuntu inside of a virtual machine, which is known not to work with the next generation desktop special effects such as unity in Ubuntu and Gnome shell and Gnome 3. To circumvent any problems that may arise with having Ubuntu in a virtual machine, I set up a small partition on a second hard drive and installed it natively having a dual-boot between Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.04.

First impressions of unity were not very good. There were a lot of artifacts on the screen, as well as several black spots blocking text, I found out later that these were due to the fact that the open-source driver for my video card was not up to par for handling the 3-D effects, installing the proprietary drivers using the hardware management tool and Ubuntu fixed this problem.

While I generally enjoyed the overall look of unity, it seemed to be way to stripped and too simplistic for somebody with my level of knowledge (though my level of knowledge is nowhere near as much as other users who use Ubuntu). There were a few things I liked about it, such as the remapping of the Windows key on my keyboard to pull up a search dialogue to be able to search for programs, if you ask me this was a brilliant remapping, the fact is a lot of Windows users switching to Ubuntu use the Windows key fairly often to pull up the start menu in Windows. While was entirely possible to remap the Windows key Using older versions of Ubuntu or clearly any other distribution, the fact that it was remapped by default. To me just seems like a good idea. Now before installing the initial updates that came with Ubuntu.

After installing it, I found unity to be a much more pleasing experience with the exception of one or two features that to me just drove me bonkers, a prime example: pre-update Firefox still had its menu contained within the Firefox window, post update the menus were then moved out of the Firefox window and opened the black taskbar across the top of the screen. Now to most people this might seem like a good change, however somebody who spends the majority of their time in Windows for whatever reason might find this extremely annoying, I know I did. I haven’t yet looked for a solution to convert this back to the way it was, although I’m sure one exists or will shortly. I was trying to keep Ubuntu as close to the default installation is possible so that this review would apply to as many people as possible, if I had gone and customized a bunch of the features my experience might be different than somebody who just installed Ubuntu.

There were some intuitive things that thing could have been worked into unity they would have made it a little more user-friendly, some of these include frequently used programs showing up in the launch bar by default. As it stands under a currently default install of Ubuntu, if you wanted to make a specific program launcher permanently show up in the launcher bar, You would have to right-click it, While the program is open and click pin to launcher or something to that effect. I know it seems like I am just nitpicking but this is something that could drive a new user to Linux, especially one that’s never even touched it before nuts.

Ubuntu claims to be an operating system that’s extremely friendly and even somebody who’s never used Linux before, even specifically targeting somebody switching from Windows to Linux, as using Ubuntu is a good starting point. My beef with this claim is that if they take such simple, intuitive features and make them five or six more steps than they need to be you will only confuse new users. I mean yes of course most of the hardware 95% of time is going to work out-of-the-box, this is something that Ubuntu is extremely popular for.

Unity to me seems like it was geared towards people who wanted a simple experience, and one that was formatted specifically for touch devices such as a tablet PC. This is great for Tablet PCs, this however in my opinion sucks for desktop use, I don’t consider myself to be an advanced Linux user but, I do know enough about settings that I’d like a little more control, and while unity does not constrict any of the functionality of Ubuntu, it makes it feel like you’re restricted to me anyway. Yes, there is a way to disable unity and run in what they call classic mode, however you have to figure how to do this yourself because no documentation I have been able to find comes with Ubuntu explaining how to do it. Yes I could figure it out when it comes time for me to do that.

Now I know a lot of you who are pro-Ubuntu are probably go to say I’m being biased because I’m a Fedora person, I’ll be fair and say that what little bit I’ve seen of gnome shell doesn’t impress me either. I’m not a fan of over simplifying the user experience, simplifying is okay in my opinion but over simplifying just makes me feel stupid. It’s almost as if these distributions are trying to say the average Linux user now has no common sense, So let’s make things as easy as possible, in reality, they often end up making things so much more complicated for somebody who is used to using it the old way.

So I know this post is supposed to be a review about unity and I haven’t talked about many of the features, this is mainly due to the fact that there really aren’t any features that you can’t see when you look at screenshots of unity. I will touch on a few below, just for the sake of a decent review, myself, as well as some of the other people I’ve talked to however seem to think they unity is going to be dragging Ubuntu in the wrong direction. I am not against Ubuntu making a spin specifically geared towards the tablet PC, for such a spin unity would be perfect. When I use a desktop computer, I want to use a desktop computer not a super powerful tablet experience, this is why IOS is not made into a desktop platform, it would make any sense. Just like why was somebody install Android as their primary operating system on their PC.

One thing it did particularly like about unity was the fact that by default it seems to try to organize open windows in a fashion where there no overlapping, however you can still overlap windows if you want, they just don’t open that way. Also, thank God, If you try to maximize a window, it makes that bar that unity bar on the left go away, this is extremely useful, particularly for people with smaller computer monitors. I myself have a 27 inch monitors so screen real estate is almost at an abundance, but somebody with a 15 inch screen or smaller would not have the same amount of screen real estate. Therefore, if that bar didn’t hide when some was full-screen practically all of their screen would be filled with that bar.

Some of the key combinations that people are used to in Windows work with unity as well, such as Alt + Tab which can be used to cycle through open programs. As simplistic as unity is, some shortcuts that advanced users grieving users that have grown accustomed to keyboard shortcuts, might miss is Alt +F2 this key combination. It used open dialogue we could enter a command in the GUI, this would allow for quick launching programs without having to open a terminal window. As far as I can tell there’s no way to enable this in Ubuntu 11.04, I’m sure you could make a custom keyboard shortcut that would do the same thing, but that’s a little out of the scope of being easy to use out-of-the-box. I mean seriously, how much memory could that little feature of possibly taken up that they needed to strip it out of the distribution in a default ship?

Bottom line here if you’re looking with going with Ubuntu as your Linux distribution of choice, and you want a experience is very close To the Way, Windows was set up, then you’re probably either going to want to run 11.04 in classic mode, or run the latest long-term service release. Canonical has made a great product with Ubuntu. Building on free and open source software, so don’t get me wrong by the negativity in this blog post. I’m not being negative about Ubuntu itself.

Ubuntu is a great operating system and know tons of people who use it every day as their primary operating system, unity, however, is an entirely different matter. I was one of those people who was outraged when it was announced that 11.04 was going to have unity and by default, but what really did it in for me was when I found out unity cannot be removed, it just simply cannot be removed. It’s like cancer. Thinking back I know one other piece of software in a popular operating system that cannot be removed and starts with the letter I and ends with the letter R, and uses the abbreviation IE.

If you want to include unity fine, at least give people the chance to remove unity if they don’t like it, and install something else in its place. My honest advic, If you’re going to go with Ubuntu 11.04, think about Kubuntu 11.04 KDE seems to be a lot closer to the kind of experience that I would come to have expected from a desktop operating system.

Oh in case you’re curious the blog post I mentioned at the beginning the one where I compared early versions of February 15 to early versions of Ubuntu 11.04, I can be found by clicking here

as always, please feel welcome to leave comments below, I don’t expect to make a lot of friends with some of the statements of listed above but I’m not about to lie about what I feel. Canonical if you’re reading this which I seriously doubt, great job on Ubuntu 11.04 just ditch unity already in your operating system will be gold in my opinion.

My Life at a Glance–New CPU, Gaming, Windows troubles, Linux Troubles, android tablets and more!

Well it has been a while since I posted anything to my blog, and I thought I would rectify that by making one huge post updating everyone on most aspects of my life currently.

New Computer Hardware

Recently I upgraded my old AMD Athlon II x4 620 to a new AMD Phenom II x6 1090T Black Edition.

The upgrade was relatively painless (typical CPU upgrade) and I did not notice a huge improvement at first in performance, however once the computer ran for a while I noticed some changes in both speed and the Heat the CPU generated.

With my older Quad Core CPU idle CPU temps were somewhere around 38c which is relatively hot I have been told for an idle temp. With the newer six-core the idle temps dropped to around 28c that is a 10 degree difference!

While I primarily upgraded to solve an issue Windows was having with the CPU (mine in particular not necessarily the same for others with it ) where it would frequently spike the CPU usage up and then not fully release capacity as processes slowed. I had tried numerous times to re-install windows in numerous different storage configurations (RAID 0, Use a separate drive for all Data and one specifically for OS and Important programs, Installing a tweaked version where certain features were turned off mainly indexing and what not), while most of these worked one in particular kept causing me to scratch my head as tried to get Windows running on it (RAID 0). With out boring you by going into detail on what I tried I will just say it did not work and ended up causing a new fresh install of Windows 7 using the default installation (which ironically ended up having better throughput). The CPU proved to be a good trade off as it increased windows boot time as well as offered a 6mb L3 Cache where the Quad had no such L3 Cache.

I ran the windows performance scoring tool (just for the hell of it not a big believer in what it says other then to pinpoint what hardware is the current bottleneck) finding that now all areas rated 7.5 where the HDD was the remaining bottleneck coming in at a miserable 5.9. Now I know Windows may not be the best OS when it comes to efficient write commands, but that was a good indicator it was time for a faster drive or to make the plunge into a reasonable SSD.

The issue here is that even though I could move about 95% of all my data to a external HDD and use the SSD as the boot drive, programs would continue to load slowly unless they were installed on the SSD. All that and not to mention the sheer amount that SSD cost per GB, it just was not worth the price at present.

Gaming

This all lead me into my next issue which was stuttering (video wise not audio) in the game Dragon Age 2, I examined this further and found that DA2 seems to see the processor correctly but only sees one core as being available. I then spent about 2 hours talking to EA support via chat to try and correct this, even tried reducing the available Cores it had access to in the affinity setting for the game.

Long story short we were unable to pinpoint the exact issue, but narrowed it down to something to do with the CPU upgrade (seeing as it worked fine on the Quad). The tech was so down that he could not solve my issue that he proceeded to go into the back end for my EA account and enable a whole swarm of free content (not DLC, promotional items mostly) for Dragon Age: Origins and one or two for DA2!. I literally now have so much stuff that when I log into the Bioware User Entitlements area to see what I have access to I have to scroll 3 times, and that is on a 27” monitor at 1920×1080 resolution with the browser full screen!

Did I also mention that earlier this month I had an issue with the DLC authorizing for Dragon Age: Origins? Well EA gave me a $20 voucher for the EA store and so I used that on Dead space 2 which was already on sale for $31 (Digital download version) so I ended up after tax getting a $50 game for $12 dollars!

Linux

Now all of you reading this from the Fedora Planet are by now wondering “what does this have to do with Linux?”

The answer is that had nothing to do with it but the headache did make me want to leave windows and try to install Fedora again on one of my free HDD’s

This brings me to where I had the issue with Fedora, to be fair here I was using the latest build of Fedora 15 alpha so the issues are not at all the fault of Fedora just my own lapse in judgment.

Here is what happened, I tried at first to do a custom install (like I always do when installing multiple OS) but that just caused me a headache because apparently my boot order for my HDD was set differently in the Bios then the physical location they are in (where they are connected on the mother board). That being said I managed to axe the small system partition Windows 7 makes for some reason. I panicked and though If I could install Fedora I could at least boot from Grub into Windows right? Wrong!

Second time installing is where I made the big mistake of choosing use all space when I meant to hit remove all Linux partitions, well as you can imagine this went bad as it wiped now my entire windows drive. While I chalk this up to my own lack of focus, my friend claims it was a sign from the Fedora Gods that Linux did not want Windows anywhere on the system.

I ended up just wiping that re-installing windows (to many good games that do not work in Wine plus school work that requires Windows programs) and just throw Fedora in a VM. So far this has worked well though I miss my dual boot setup and being able to run Fedora natively. I might try it again but making sure to backup my windows install prior to doing so.

Android 3.0

While I myself have not had any hands on experience with Android, I want an Android 3 tablet badly!

I began looking into the options out there and found out that not only do a handful exist but they are all super expensive!!!

I did find one that would have a 399 model but the specs on it were less then acceptable to me. While I generally am not a power user when it comes to mobile devices I found that a 512mb 8gb nand ram drive device to be a little underwhelming! How much could you fit on 8gb now days even if on Android!?

The next model the one I am seriously considering is 499 and has 1gb of ram and a 16gb nand ram drive. This to me seems sufficient and would work nicely, provided I decide to get it. ASUS the manufacture of this tablet apparently has released everything but the device itself in the US as of the time I am writing this. Will  I have the funds to spare when they do release it is yet to be seen but lets hope it gets released soon.

Well that about covers it, that should get most people who care caught up with what has been going on with me (not a lot of people care I get it but a few readers I know who read this do Winking smile ).

Feel free to leave comments below

My first look at Fedora 15 (Pre-Alpha) and Ubuntu 11.04 (alpha)

It is no secret I am not the most knowledgeable person with regards to Linux, however I do enjoy it and often dabble in more then one distribution at a time. This time I have chosen to look at Fedora 15 which will hit Alpha next month and Ubuntu 11.04 which is currently in alpha.

Both of these distribution versions are still in the stage of development where things are ironed out and the kinks get fixed, however by this point most features and the look and feel are pretty much there buggy though they may be. I am going to take the fact they are still being bug squashed into account in my review of them.

To make the comparison easier I am running them inside of a VM with 1gb of ram allotted to each machine and 50gb HDD. They are being run from VirtualBox 4.0.4 from a Windows 7 64bit Professional host.

While both distributions have taken huge steps toward perfecting the joy that is Linux and Open Source, there is still some work to do before the average Joe windows user decides that Linux may be worth checking out.

I am make no attempts to hide the fact that I use Windows and use it often, I am however not of the frame of mind that Windows is in any way superior to Linux just a different method to achieve the same core goals of an OS. Lets be realistic, if Linux had started out early on it would be the OS in everyone’s home not Windows but because we entered the game a bit late we are playing catch up.

Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04 both make huge strides to bridge the gap between stability and Usability, Sleek beautiful artwork and rock solid programing are just a few things I have seen so far. I am not saying they are without bugs, being in this early a stage of the release cycle bugs are expected.

All that Aside let me jump into the areas of interest, keep in mind some of these views I will mention are with full knowledge of how buggy a alpha release can be. That being said, I intent to point out issues I had and then compare them to the finish product when it is released to determine if these were resolved or still exist.

Fedora 15 – Installation

As mentioned above Fedora 15 is not quite to the Alpha stage as such no installer ISO exists yet. I managed an install by using the Fedora GPXE boot installation method and simply changed the paths in the grub menu to point to a Fedora 15 repository. If your reading this you are most likely aware that Fedora now branches their rawhide (normally the development branch) into a new development branch when it gets closer to the alpha release. I used this to my advantage as you can see in the image below I merely altered the fedora 14 development entry to point to this new fedora 15 branch.

bfo1bfo2bfo3

 

Once this is done the install loads up pretty much like normal, however once it loads you get a lot of the types of errors similar to the one below. These errors are frequent and annoying but most of the time repeated presses of the retry button will allow it to successfully download. I am confident this error will disappear with the official Alpha ISO when it is release as the rpms will be present on the image. However, that aside the install will succeeded if you are willing to repeatedly hit retry on more then one file to get it to go. I should note if you accidentally hit reboot your not given any warning and have to start all over again.

f15err

 

The new user wizard that shows up after a fresh install of Fedora is re-vamped as well allowing for more then one user to be made and allowing adding users to the Administrator group which then allows them to use SUDO similar to how Ubuntu does by default.

Ubuntu 11.04 – Installation

Most of the installation for this works the same as the new revamped 10.10 installer. I did run into some issues with the installer not working in a VM and was forced to use the alternate installed for 11.04 to install this version. Again it is worth saying that this will most likely be fixed in the final release. Installing in a VM can also cause issues like this as well.

Issues related to both distributions

Due to VirtualBox only allowing 128mb of video ram to be assigned to each VM I was not able to get the Gnome Shell effect to work in F15 nor the Unity Effect in 11.04 due to this the effect you get is more classic Gnome looking.

Ubuntu 11.04 – Desktop and Menus

Below is an image of the default Ubuntu 11.04 desktop and a few of the menus, the look is very close to the Ubuntu 10.10 style.

ubunutudesktopubuntumenu1ubuntumenu2

 

Most of the menus resemble the ones above, fairly straight forward. From what I have seen so far the Ubuntu menu system is a bit more streamlined and requires less fumbling through menus.

Fedora 15 – Desktop and Menus

The menus for Fedora 15 for me looked the same, this was largely due to the VM not being able to support enough video ram to run the Gnome-Shell. Because of this it had to fall back to the classic gnome look and the menus were pretty much the same.

Of course they changed the wall paper that comes with it again but the one they chose seemed less eye catching then some of the previous ones they released, it is still great quality in terms of art and skill just not as 3dish as the F14 one was for example. I am not sure if this is an area they are still working on or if it has been finalized, either way it is easy enough to change and as such not a big deal.

I tried to install the VirtualBox guest additions to see if gnome-shell would work, and this caused Xorg to stop working altogether so I had to roll back to a snap shot from before the install of the additions.

f15desktop

As you can see from the image above there is a small issue with the GDM login screen, when you select a user as part of the administrator group you get the word Other as the only selectable user. This does not always happen and when it does clicking it will cause GDM to reload and then the correct users are listed. I am sure this is a glitch that will be addressed as the development continues.

Fedora 15 – Significant changes

While most areas of Fedora 15 remain pretty common to how the previous versions looked, some stand out and I am not exactly sure this is a good thing or not. I will show you a picture of the new “Control Panel” like system settings window that now contains all the gnome and Linux gui tools like User admin and more.

f15controlf15useradminf15sysinfogenf15sysinfodefaultf15sysinfogfxf15print

The above images show just a few of the changes to the Fedora 15 GUI windows, there are literally changes in almost ever GUI dialog so I can not possibly post pics of them all so I chose the more popular ones to show it off.

Things are still buggy in places some of those Unlock buttons you see do not work for me they simply do nothing, others work as planned. I over all am impressed with the re-design but the window style feels very Windows 3.1 to me and that would most likely be the first element I would change.

Again these windows might look this way because I had to use the fallback window manager instead of gnome-shell but it could also be due to the distributions being in early development still.

Final Thoughts

Overall I feel both versions are progressing nicely, they will both change what the current user base sees as well as adding functionality as well. Fedora I believe is making the most radical change in terms of look and feel while Ubuntu tends to tweak their current design elements.

As this is just a entry on my first thoughts it might not be in depth to the point of some readers liking, however I do plan to do a more in depth review once the two are officially released. I will post back here during my tinkering to share any huge changes I might have discovered.

Thanks for reading and leave any comments below.

Entry related Links

Fedora 14 Beta did not play nice with My Machine hopefully Final Release Will!

Well as usual I tried to see what was new in the latest Fedora release, waiting till the Beta rolled around to attempt installing. My machine seems to not like the Anaconda installer for Fedora 14, it hangs upon boot in the form of a black screen using both low graphics mode and the regular mode.

I have been able to run Fedora 13 just fine on this machine, even when it was in Beta!

Fedora I know enables a lot of debugging code in pre-releases to help track down errors and squash bugs, I am wondering if it is this code that is not playing nice with my computer, though I can not imagine why it would affect it at all.

I tried this release in a Virtual machine as well to see if the issue could be circumvented using virtual hardware, no change it boots fine until right after it passes the media check (even if you skip it) then it trys to load the kernel and when it gets to t he point where the GUI would take over you get a black screen.

I know the final release is just mere days away so I am not to concerned, however I thought it odd that it gave me this issue. Last release to give me issues when using it in Beta was Fedora 11 and that was a completely different machine.

Anyone have any ideas on how to avoid this in the future? I like trying beta releases on smaller partitions or VMs as it give me a feel for what is coming and helps me decide if I want to upgrade to the new release right away or wait a month or so.

Being that I generally run three Operating systems at any given time on my machine (one version of Fedora, one Ubuntu, and Windows 7) I tend to try the latest Fedora and Ubuntu releases. Ubuntu is taking an approach with the release they are working on that goes against what I feel to be useful (not going to go into depth after all most people reading this are not interested in Ubuntu, but if your interested Google Ubuntu switches to Unity), that being said it is likely that Fedora will become my only Distribution when that day hits so would be nice at that point to have the now populated Ubuntu partition, populated with the next Fedora release and dual boot thus not jeopardizing my data on the main distro.

Now that I have most likely confused a great deal of my readers I will sign of by saying

No content presented in this blog entry weather fact or speculation, is in no way affiliated with Red Hat, the Fedora Project, or Canonical.

Any comments welcome fire them away below

Computer issues resolved

Well alot of you might remember a post a while back about my computer issues, I have recently figured out what the issue was ! Let me recap the problem just for those not familar with it. I began having issues with my computer the video would frequently drop out and I would need to turn off and on the monitor to get the image back Well i immediately thought the monitor was bad so i got on the horn to Samsung. They ensured me that “Their monitor could not possibly be the cause of the issue” like a fool I bought it.

I then looked to the two low end cheap graphics cards i bought I called several tech support people was was assured that was not it. I asked a few friends and the Motherboard was point to as a possible but unlikely cause for the issue seeing as the cards were both solely bus powered. So a RMAing the board will go. The board was RMAed and still nothing!!! The issue was still there I then started RMAing the Graphics cards and with one on its ways to Powercolor to get swapped. I then decided to see if Samsung was accrate in their claim that their monitor could not be the cause.

Well they were wrong, the issue existed when i tried the monitor on a different computer. Was I annoyed? YES! I had decided before this I was going to upgrade the Graphics cards to more solid and powerful cards which i did. Now a replacement monitor is on the way. I decided to get this monitor http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=24-236-091&SortField=0&SummaryType=0&Pagesize=10&PurchaseMark=&SelectedRating=-1&VideoOnlyMark=False&VendorMark=&IsFeedbackTab=true&Page=4#scrollFullInfo

ASUS 27" LCD Monitor

ASUS 27" LCD Monitor

Some people may ask me what did I learn from this experience? I learned that Vendors will Lie like dogs to prevent their hardware being replaced