Hardy Heron: Day 1

Well, I’m back in ubuntu world for today.  It’s been quite the long way around back.  After finishing up my tshirts using Vista and photoshop, I had to prepare for a vacation to Ireland and England (went very well, thanks).  Over the weeks up until the vacation, we were scrambling to plan things and just keep our daily life in order.  It was quite the struggle…so much so that I barely touched my ubuntu.  You see, my wife started a site to help her study for the GRE, but it has broadened in scope to include a forum that we spend most of our time in.  Guess who’s the webmaster?

Anyway, it’s about a week and a half since we’ve returned from our vacation and I’m back in Ubuntu land running Hardy Heron on my XPS m1330.  The good news (of stuff I tried):

1.  Compiz-fusion works!  Finally!

2.  X-Sane works!

3.  cups-pdf works!

4.  kdeprint works!

5.  awn works (cause compiz is working)

and that’s about all I’ve tried thus far.  Now here’s what doesn’t work:

1.  cups-pdf is wonky with scan area.  Had to set some funky offsets to get it right.  Also no multipage PDF creation from what I can tell.

2.  rdp busted

3.  f-spot couldn’t import photos from network share (neither could picasa running in wine).

Anyway, enough head scratching for the night…I’m switching to Vista to sort through my UK photos and upload them to flickr.  We’ll give Ubuntu another try this weekend.

Ubuntu 7.10 on Dell’s XPS M1330 Laptop

WOW!  XPS m1330’s get the official Ubuntu nod from the mothership.

Ubuntu 7.10 on Dell’s XPS M1330 Laptop « Tux Enclave.

If you’d like to get a succinct list of the known issues with the m1330 and Ubuntu, check out Dell’s Linux Wiki.  The list here sums up all of the issues and workarounds that have been found for all Dells that officially ship Ubuntu.

February to Hardy?

Well, here we are in February and I’ve hardly touched Ubuntu in the past month. The Photoshop projects that just have to be done (still another couple of weeks out on that) have kept me busy.  In the midst of my projects, I’ve noticed that Vista is actually getting faster. “WTF, weren’t you just complaining about how slow Vista is?” you must be saying. Well here me out. I took the Vista SP1 RC a while back and I’ve noticed that booting from full hibernate is now very fast on Vista. Also wake from sleep is lightning quick…almost as quick as my wife’s Macbook! Not only that, but network file copies are moving along a bit better now. I’m waiting until the true final release candidate is out to upgrade the server, but as far as my laptop goes, SP1 is turning out to make Vista actually usable. Now if they can only get to SP2 in the next couple of months…

Also, I’ve gotten used to my Yahoo widgets on the desktop. I tried the gdesklets thing on Ubuntu, but they just didn’t look nice. “Who cares?” screams the peanut gallery. For those of you functionalism aficionados, don’t get me wrong, I’m in the trenches with you guys. But I’m slowly starting to see how having some nice eye candy makes my computing life better and more enjoyable, not to mention more functional. This is rather important since I’m on my various rigs at least 8 hours a day, if not more. So let’s look at the lay of the Vista land for me:

My Vista Desktop

You’ll see that I have RocketDock and my various Yahoo widgets running. I check the stock ticker thing about 63 times per minute even though my portfolio is a buy and hold sort of outfit. Also the RocketDock is GREAT. It mimics how the most important part of the Mac UI (for OSX, OS9ers please go home to your straw huts and crazed ranting). I truly enjoy using it because I can customize all of the little icons with great ease. Sure I burnt about a day looking for and downloading every free icon set on the planet and then another day organizing them (I’ve yet to convert the mac-only icons, but we’ll get there someday), and a couple of minutes picking which ones represent my apps the best. Frivolous? Maybe. But all of that upfront investment in my time has led to allowing me to actually have a tiny ounce more of computing joy each and every time I use my m1330. Also both of these helpful little tools are great timesavers. About 98% of the time, I launch apps from RocketDock which is much faster than VistaBubble->All Programs->{sift….sift….sift….ah there it is} or even VistaBubble->{type some random word in the search bar…sift…ah there it is}.

This is not to say that I haven’t kept abreast of the Ubuntu forefront (especially in regards to the XPS m1330). Let’s see…oh biggest news EVAR–well at least for those of us that own a Dell XPS m1330’s with the Intel 965 graphics chipset and want to run Ubuntu.  Apparently Hardy Heron has a fix that allows compiz fusion effects to work on our computers!  If you recall, I tried to get this working and eventually found out that it was busted deep down in the guts of yee old driver and gave up. According to this bug report, it seems that the issue has been fixed or at least mitigated, but it does not seem to be performing well (nor does it seem to look very nice). The very last comment by Timo seems to suggest that the performance enhancements that are needed will not be going into Hardy Heron and thus they may actually remove compiz support. While I lament the thought, I guess it is the right choice since they’re in alpha trials already.

Also, I’ve jettisoned the Gimpshop enhancements for Gimp, but have not had a chance to learn the standard Gimp UI. Things are definitely different. I’ll have to track down some Photoshop->Gimp command map or video tutorials after I’m done with the urgent projects on my plate at the moment.

Anyway, the fact that compiz may actually be working on Hardy Heron means I may take an early upgrade and see how it works.  Maybe I will be able to get a dock thing working and may have to see if I can jimmy gdesklets to run Yahoo widgets.  Sounds like some good fun after my urgent Photoshoppery is complete.

Wow, that was short…

So I was excited to get back into Ubuntu mode last night and tried using Gimp (modified with Gimpshop to make it somewhat familiar) to create a post card for my wife’s upcoming solo art show.  Lo and behold, Gimp seems to be a rather unstable little beast.  I’m not sure if it is Gimp or the Gimpshop mods that make it bork, but I would get random crashes whenever I opened up a few large-ish files (about 5MB each…hardly anything out of the ordinary for compositing work).  So back over to Windows I run to use Photoshop.

Also, my experimentation with Rhythmbox album art embedding didn’t go too well either.  I’m back over in Windows using iTunes (of all things!) to manually copy album art from the iTunes crappish randomly named separate file debacle and pasting them in the ID3 tag using iTunes’ UI since it actually works.

Well, maybe after I get a few of these fires put out I’ll head back over to Ubuntu land for some more experimentation.  There simply has to be a better way.

Round 2008, fight!

So I start out the new year some what exhausted and some what refreshed. I’ve been 100% over in Vista land since I started a project to clean up my new music downloads (skreemr is your friend). Well, it took me quite some time to experiment and I found the tools for music management on Windows are plentiful in number yet lacking in completeness. I was mainly trying to make sure everything I wanted to keep from my “SIFT” folder had proper ID3 tags and embedded image art, but I gave up on the image art for now since Winamp does not embed art into files…it just plops an image into the folder which is rather lame. I tried some other tools but none of them were easy enough that I would use a whole different app for image art embedding after figuring out and getting used to the winamp UI quirks that are actually quite powerful if not terribly confusing for a noob. iTunes is the overall winner in usability, but it too does not automatically embed files with album art. You have to do some wonky cut and paste action for each one of your files…something I’m not up for.

Now that I’m back in Ubuntu-land, I’ll give Rhythmbox a shot at the prize but I’m not going to get my hopes up now that I’ve seen how abysmal things are on the Windows side. Am I doomed to a life of listening to iTunes approved music just so the metadata will be spotless and my album art will be plentiful? Perhaps, but I’m not going down without a fight.

Read Your Linux Partition from Windows with DiskInternals Linux Reader | Tombuntu

Tom, over at TomBuntu (hi Tom, I’m Tommy) has found a little widget called DiskInternals Linux Reader (note: no write access) that allows me to access files on my Ubuntu partition while I’m whiling my time away playing SimCity 4 on the Windows Vista side of my computing house.  Thanks Tom!  There are also suggestions for something called “f-s driver” which the commenters claim does the same thing.  I’ll have to say while it is nice to have access to my ubuntu files, I doubt that I’ll ever use it.  I have been using my Windows partition as my storage drive for music, videos, etc.  That way, I have access to these files on Ubuntu and Vista for free, I also only have one copy of everything in one place (cardinal rule of managing data of any kind!).  At any rate, I’ll try the tools out and keep them around for the just-in-case moment when I accidentally save something to my Ubuntu partition.

Read Your Linux Partition from Windows with DiskInternals Linux Reader | Tombuntu

Finals Done!

I’m am unbelievably tired but had to post…finals are finished.  I took a couple of online courses at foothill.edu (Cultural Anthropology and Sociology) and have just finished my last essay.  Will I continue to study?  Let’s just say it’s off the table for winter and spring quarters.

Now to concern myself with all things Ubuntu.  I’m starting to get tired of not having Compiz Fusion on my machine.  While I generally don’t care too much about the eye candy, it does make life a little more enjoyable when using my computer.  I notice that when I’m using WinXP on my work machine, it’s rather dull and very utilitarian.  It also has major hiccups now and then which cause some major problems.  Using Vista is problematic, but gorgeously so.  I’m sorry, I like the UI, I like the transparencies, I like the fact that I can run RocketDock and that it is very smooth.  Here’s to praying for a video driver for my Intel 965 on my XPS m1330.

OpenOffice2GoogleDocs a bust at the moment

I’ve been using Ubuntu on and off since I’ve been rather busy with finals and financial planning for the new year. There’s a bug with Ubuntu that sometimes leads the wifi to be rather unreliable and causes me to not be able to reconnect if I sleep/hibernate or if I get kicked off accidentally. Of course, it is not something that is really reliably reproducible (now THAT’s alliteration!) so I’ve decided to do my work for school exclusively on Vista since the wifi rarely gets into a wonky state. Also I’ve abandoned SimCity Societies. It’s got a lot of niceness about it, but it’s just not fun. The game is really way too easy and gets boring fast. I’ve since picked up SimCity 4 Deluxe and have been enjoying the oldish-skool way SimCity goodness–unfortunately this requires being over in Vista-land.

I did some experimentation with a tip Luke left on my post regarding VMWare booting my Vista partition but ran into the same crashing issue upon boot with VMWare Workstation that I did with the hack-ish method of getting Vista to bootup with VMWare Player. Oh well, I suppose I’ll setup a WinXP SP3 and/or Vista virtual disk that I can use with some manner of virtualization tool on Ubuntu. If I find it fits my needs performance and stability wise, then Vista will walk the proverbial plank on my M1330.

The good news is that I’ve completely kicked the Microsoft Office habit and have moved over to Google Docs and Open Office completely. I found the OpenOffice2GoogleDocs plugin but have been unable to get it to function with my GDocs account since the plugin will only display files that I have hidden in my GDocs…funky. Nevertheless, my financial tracking spreadsheet that I’ve been carrying around for many years will be retired at the end of the year and will be replaced with a new set of Google Spreadsheets that I will (hopefully) be able to seemlessly use with OpenOffice since I’ve hit upon performance issues with GS when it comes to having large sheets open. I’m sure the big G knows about these issues and is working on a fix…I only wish they would put an intern on helping out the OO2GD guy and get that all locked up. Of course, my time is rather limited as I do way too much driving back an forth between Berkeley and Mountain View.

Anyway, I was bumming around del.icio.us and found a great set of tips for the n00b like myself. Unfortunately, most of the tips are for those who are able to run compiz fusion (I am not able to do this)….sigh. Oh well, they’re nice to know about for when I finally get an updated graphics driver for my laptop:

Eight features you didn’t know about in Ubuntu « Richard’s linux, web design and e-learning collection

Oh Vista, You So Slow!

After reading this article, I would have to agree that Vista is simply a dog.  It’s not even close to XP, let alone Ubuntu in the performance department.  I do give it points for eye candy, but I have enough trouble with it that I only keep the Vista side for gaming and do most of my daily tasks in Ubuntu (and XP since we use Visual Studio at work).

One of the major sticking points of Vista is the absolute doggedness in which it copies large files over my network.  Sometimes it plain just doesn’t work!  I’ll try to watch some Divx files and they’ll transfer over so slowly that it’s just unwatchable (that’s if they even transfer at all).  This is even a known bug and is supposedly addressed in SP1…we’ll see!  When I switch over to Ubuntu, it just works and smoothly at that.

I’ve also run into a several occasions where not only does the Vista-side not sleep or hibernate properly, but it will actually bork power management thus not allowing the m1330 to charge its battery until I reboot.  Oops!  So not only will my machine not hibernate, but it will not charge when plugged in!  Doh!

Anyway, I’m thinking of having moving my home server back over to XP since all I really need it to do is  download TV torrents to protect against Tivo snafus, SyncToy files around my network, run mozy backup, and host my top secret financial spreadsheets.  I’m sure XP SP3 would be a great candidate for this.  Of course I’m considering Ubuntu on this machine as it’s free and I’m getting pretty good at using it on a regular basis.  My main concern however is to ensure that my designated backup solutions just work.  In this case, mozy would need something that runs on Ubuntu (which they do not have yet).  The least trouble would to just let Vista live on that machine, take the patches as they roll in, and not rock the multiplicative onsite/offsite auto-backup rube-goldberg machine that I have cobbled together.  This will most likely be the case but I’ll probably end up cleaning things out on the server and XP will probably be my go-to OS.

I’m rather curious why Microsoft would invest so much time and effort to ship SP3 on XP when Vista is supposed to be the new flagship.  I mean, being a former MS employee, I know of the inner-workings and can see how this could happen, but honestly this sort of thing just confuses everyone.  Can anyone tell me the difference between MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger, Office Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger?  I’ll give you a hint…two of them are the same exact thing with different names, but the other two had distinct teams working on them even though 95% of the functionality overlaps.

Ok, ok, how about this one:  Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Desktop.  Two separate apps that do just about the same thing except one is bundled in Windows and another comes as a download from Windows Live.  As you can see, confusion and duplicative efforts are Microsoft’s middle name even when it comes to their flagship Windows products.

Windows XP Speed Boost Coming with SP3 – Yahoo! News

Turkey Day Gaming

I’ve been over in Vista-land since getting a copy of SimCity Societies.  My take on the game:  it’s fun, but way too easy.  I think I’ll try to up the difficulty on my next city (probably cyberpunk or capitalistic).  I’ve also been playing with Yahoo Widgets more and more and loving them.  I’m going to try to see if there is a way to get these over on Ubuntu since there are a few that I really like the large, orange clock and at the neon gauges.

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