Tag Archive: windows

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.

Portal 2 Review – Single Player

Recently I bought in finished the single player version of Portal 2, which bared, a striking resemblance to the first version of the game. While the general style of the game and fundamentals were the same, it was a lot more voice acting in this game and I would say also more humor. While this game also offered a cooperative play version, I have yet to attend this version of the game mainly due to the fact that coordinating with my friends to play for a few hours it is rather difficult.

So you might be asking what makes Portal 2 different than the original? While generally speaking, the idea of the game was the same, the underlying plot was different driven by a humorous protagonist and often clueless robot “Wheatley”(voiced by Stephen Merchant).the majority of the old-style puzzles were still present, new types of puzzles and solutions were also included, such as three types of goo because various different effects which you can use to your advantage to solve different types of puzzles.

The robots to everybody sees on the box covers including the one in this post, are the two cooperative play robots which are used in cooperative play. Sadly, single player play through’s do not have the advantages of a companion to help solve puzzles. Instead, you get the occasional scene with the halfway named Wheatley which proves to be incredibly humorous and often times following his advice can get you into a bigger pickle.

While many of the reviews I have read claim this game doesn’t have much re-playability, I feel this can be incredibly enjoyable to play more than one time.I’m not sure if this was just my own personal experience or if other reviewers simply had a different idea of what constitutes re-playability.

Generally speaking, however there is usually only one way to solve a puzzle and I could see where this might hinder playing the game multiple times. GLaDOS of course makes a return in this game giving the main character chell a great deal of a hard time, without spoiling the game. I’m not going to go into specifics about exactly how GLaDOS played into this game other than to say if you played the first one. You know that she was deactivated, I will tell you that she accidentally gets reactivated but that’s as much as I’m going to reveal, however that much should be known already , if you watch the commercials.

generally speaking, the game is fairly safe for teenagers to play not having any realistic form of violence, in effect, nobody actually dies in the game. What you can expect however it is the occasional bit of crude humor, coupled with the sadistic personality of a few artificially intelligent robots. You do find out a little bit more about GLaDOS and her origins in this game but they leave just enough of a mystery that a possible third game could be brought up. They don’t however explain much about the main character, aside from what anyone who played the first game would already know.

Bottom line, I feel this game was very enjoyable and if you intend to replay the game at some point in the future, most likely starting with the original and then playing the second one in succession. The gameplay experience may be different on the consoles. I haven’t tried any of these so I can’t exactly speak for, whether it’s easier or more difficult, but given the sheer amount of positive reviews, this game is received I will be willing to say that the console versions aren’t too difficult in terms of controlling. I will say I tried this on the normal difficulty level haven’t tried any of the harder difficulty levels, from what I understand these greatly change how to solve the puzzles, making things more difficult. Hence the hard difficulty level, might give these a try little bit later, however I usually don’t do so well with a game set on a hard difficulty level.

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

Computers – Ram Compatibility, Motherboard, Graphics

Motherboard

I finally got confirmation that my replacement Motherboard has in-fact been shipped from ASUS. The fact that they sent a replacement instead of the repaired board shows me one of two things, Ethier they were not able to fix the board due to the issue being to great, or they broke the board trying to fix it and just decided to pawn it off as unfixable.

Ether way I would have been happy, some people get leery when they hear a refurbished part is being sent in place of what was a brand new part being fixed. I on the other hand feel if the factory is the one doing the Refurb which in this case it is then the board is as good as new. If not it would be free to get replaced.

Ram Compatibility

I got to thinking the other day how alot of companies seem to be terminating support for previous generations of products. I tend to agree with something like XP which has had a predecessor previous to Windows 7. However RAM it seems is never backwards compatible, why is this? I know they use different voltages and what not right?

Well I think that reason is crap, If we can make a freaking car that runs on 4 different types of Gas and Electricity should gas not be present, then why in the name of all that is can we not make a RAM slot that will detect and adjust voltages for the appropriate RAM.

Here is a case scenario where this would be beneficial:

You currently have a Motherboard with 16gb of DDR2 RAM, you want to upgrade the Motherboard to support newer technologies such as SATA 6gb/s, and USB 3.0 support. It however does not support DDR2 RAM that means you would need to purchase all new ram leaving your old RAM useless.

If you were able to use the DDR2 until you acquired enough cash to upgrade to the over priced DDR3 then you would have a much smoother computer upgrade.

Graphics Card

The graphics cards that I got to use with the computer at the time seemed very good but I am finding it to be less then adequate for the current demand by programs.

Sadly the cheapest upgrade I saw was $84 and that is a lower but more acceptable model. This is out of my price range but I am watching it and will most likely get it one day in the far off future

Motherboard issues – Leads me to use Fedora 13 on the Laptop

Well I had an issue with my motherboard Recently which caused me to have to get it repaired/replaced.

ASUS M4A78 PLUS Motherboard

The computer was experiencing some odd behavior with the board so I began to try and trouble shoot it using just about every possible way I could think of to narrow down and eliminate the errors. This proved to not have any change on the state of things, Several things still continued to go wrong and so I was forced to send the Motherboard in and use my laptop.

Well my laptop had Windows vista on in which proved to be a lot more trouble then it was worth, not having an extra windows 7 license (I use my laptop rarely and most of the time when I do I need to access windows specific features such as a domain) I was ether forced to re-install Vista or get rid of it all together.

I chose to get rid of it and put Fedora 13 in its place, this proved to speed things up a great deal as I figured it would. I did run into some issues with the computer getting bogged down at times, however this was more a result of my laptop not having a whole lot of ram Even with this slow down at times the computer still ran faster at full load when compared directly to Windows Vista Business.

Aside from this good news with the laptop running more smoothly, my over all mood is rather annoyed, I did after all have to send in the motherboard for my desktop to be repaired or possible replaced depending on what ASUS decides it wants to do.

Just when I thought it could not get worse, My 2 yr  old Daughter found out where I had the CPU (thought it out of her reach I was wrong) and had thrown it down pretty hard on the kitchen floor. Now it being AMD it has lots of pin on the bottom and as far as I can tell no pins are damaged and it appears no physical damage exists. The real test will be when I try to use it in my desktop one the motherboard returns

Gaming

As well as the laptop runs on Fedora it still can not run my games, I am a rather active gamer at times on StarCraft 2 and World of Warcraft however neither of this seem to work well on Fedora. I can get WoW working on the desktop under Linux just fine but even though WINE claims SC2 will work I have yet to get it to work.

Droid X and Possible New Job Prospect

Job Prospect

Those of you that know me personally or even on a chatting basis, know that I have had one heck of a year with all that has been going on. One among many other things in my life that are less then fortunate, is that I am currently unemployed.

Enter Monster.com, I updated my resume on Monster and did the normal daily grind of late which is find 4-8 jobs and apply for them. Out of the blue one day I get a call from a company looking for someone to represent Sharp Electronics for their Marketing company basically helping educate customers on Sharp HD technology, I passed the initial pre-screen and anxiously awaited the interview.

The following Monday I got a call from who would become my manager should I get the job, The interview seemed to go really well and I am confident that the Interviewer got a similar feel for my experience. Now I should mention I have had experience in this type of job before, I sold Cell Phones for the 3 major carriers (not going to list them here you know who they are) wit a company called Mosaic Sales Solutions, This job i interviewed for was very similar to the cell phone one minus cell phones add HD tvs.

At any rate the interview was last Monday and I followed up on Thursday with a phone call re-emphasising how interested I was in the job and what it entailed. Now comes the waiting game, I should know by the end of this week (hopefully) if i got the job or not.

This job should I land it will require me to get rid of my pre-paid phone and get a regular posting plan phone which will be needed to keep in touch with my boss since I am completely solo on this job should i get it.

This brings me to the Droid X part of the post.

Droid X

Given that I would need a regular Phone and not a pre-paid phone, I began to look into which phone I would get and the more I looked the more it occured to me that if I had a smartphone I could be far more productive in several areas with relation to this job. For one customer questions I could not answer could be easily answered using the phone to do a quick internet search and pull up the information. Second I could use this phone to track my sales and log required information for the daily report at the end of the night.

So knowing I would need a Smartphone I began to narrow down which phone I wanted, would work for what I wanted. I tending to prefer anything other then Windows mobile was left with Palm WebOS phones or Android Powered phones. Having done a little research i found Palm was recently acquired by HP and while i have no beefs with Hewlett Packard, I felt with the buyout things might be a little late to be updated/fixed. Android was my choice of OS, then I began narrowing down Verizon Android powered phones as a means to get the phone I really wanted. Talking to several people and researching bit I found that the upcoming Droid X to be my phone of choice. It was not till after I chose this that I realized just how cool this would be, I could download apps from the Android Market to allow me to use this phone for non-work stuff as well.

True with the above things I researched which apps I would install off the bat as soon as I had network access, Some that came to mind were Seesmic, Bank of America for Android, WordPress, shopsavvy and Blizzards Authenticator app. I am sure I will install many more but for starters these are apps i would consider must haves.

Also Android is obviously powered by Linux which to me is one the best things out there. I use Windows for some things i can not get to work under WINE but for the most part Linux is my OS of choice so a phone powered by Linux just seems to be a logical choice.

All that being said, I will most likely not get a phone should I not get this job (at least not at first) since another monthly bill with no job is not the smartest of moves.

If you know a good (useful, or fun) app for android post it in a comment.