Category5

Blog posts about the show at Category5.tv

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.

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

Category5 – Talks about an open Source program the GIMP touching on basic image enhancement

The GIMP – Basic image enhancement

I am a regular viewer of Category5.tv and recently (last Tuesday) he went over some basic tips on how to edit images to make them look a little better. I thought this was particularly useful and given the tool he used GIMP which is open source i thought i might just briefly touch on it here as well as embed the video for you to watch.

Ok so normally I do not post about shows I watch on-line or otherwise but this particular show I found somewhat useful. To give a quick synopsis he shows you how to lighten pictures and crop it in a way that does not kill the image, In the words of Robbie however “Always make a backup! Never edit your master images”

Some other points he touches on in this episode are

  • Reinstall Linux with a just a  full backup of your home folder – He specifically mentions Ubuntu here since that is his distro but you could use his strategy for any distro Including Fedora with a few minor tweaks that are Distro specific.
  • How do you share iTunes music to Linux?

He covers these points with regards to GIMP

  • Adjusting the levels in a photograph using the GiMP.
  • Zooming in and out of images in the GiMP.
  • Removing blemishes from a photo using the GiMP.
  • Resizing an image in the GiMP.
  • Cropping an image in the GiMP.
  • Resizing a marquee in the GiMP.
  • Saving your image in the GiMP.
  • Preparing images to be shared by email or on a web site or blog.

Now as I said this is mostly a post to show others in the Fedora and other Linux community  that might read this, that editing of images can be done fairly easily and that videos such as the one below do exist to show you how. While there may be videos out there that dive more into the workings of GIMP this one stays pretty simple so anyone can use it to achieve what they want.

I should note that the video is embedded from his video host blip.tv and it has about a 30 second ad prior to the video starting, I have no control over this and as such I do not necessarily condone any of the content that the ad may demo as it changes over time. As it stands when i posted it the ad was about Windows 7, but by the time you watch it the ad could be different.

[bliptv ga4Fge_TEQI]

If you liked the video please make sure you check out Robbie””s site he put a lot of effort into this show. If not then thanks for taking the time to read this post. I will not be making a habit of posting about his show but this one seemed worthy of passing along via the fedora channels and the like.

Again he uses Ubuntu so pardon all the Ubuntu centric stuff most of what he mentions can just as easily be done via Fedora or even a different distro.

Host of the show: Robbie Ferguson

Show notes: http://www.category5.tv/show_notes/episode_148.php