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Suspending a Dell 6410 w/ Mint 11RC May 20, 2011

Posted by CK in Software.
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If you just installed Linux Mind 11 RC on a Dell Latitude 6410 and, while on wireless, your system crashes when trying to suspend it, try this:

sudo mkdir /var/run/wpa_supplicant

This should fix it.

The story so far November 3, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Productivity, Software.
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So here’s the summary of my linux@laptop adventures so far:

I started with Kubuntu, which as it turned out, after some kernel upgrade would not suspend to RAM/disk correctly. For a laptop, this is a no-go apparently, so after I realized that others also had the problem and that it would not be solved any time soon, I decided to give other distributions a chance.

I tried OpenSUSE, but after installation it wouldn’t even start. Without wasting too much time on this, I moved to Fedora 13; and it worked. It installed without problems, booted without problems, suspended without problems. After upgrading to the latest packages, I faced a common issue with newer Nouveau drivers, which wouldn’t work any more. By then, I had already found out about rpmfusion, which includes Nvidia drivers to install at the click of a mouse. Smooth.

Having solved the basics, I started using the system on a day-to-day basis. I thought I’d give a try to Gnome after a few years of faithfully discarding it, only to realize I was very much correct in doing so. Maybe Ubuntu has done a good job in its customizations, I don’t know, but the vanilla flavour in Fedora is ugly and unintuitive. Whoever disagrees, I would like them to walk into the shoes of a gnome-illiterate user and try to make changes such as setting date format to DD/MM/YYYY (instead of MM/DD/YYYY). I’m not interested in changing the whole system locale for that (and let’s forget about the fact that a linux apprentice knows nothing about locales). KDE, on the other hand, just works, and makes full sense when configuring and using it.

Where Gnome shines, is certain applications such as Evolution. It just rocks, especially when compared with Kmail. With the latter I had plenty of problems while using it with IMAP, but moving to disconnected IMAP was a game changer and Kmail now works quite well. In addition, Kmail failed to notify me while one of my IMAP accounts would not authenticate due to a server-side problem. The result was that for 4 days I would not get email there, thinking I was just not the recipient of any. This could have very bad consequences, for reasons irrelevant with this post. In any case, I would have already switched to Thunderbird or Evolution, but I want to have a desktop-wide addressbook that I can sync with a phone in the future, so I’m giving Kmail some more time and one more chance. In addition, Kontact is really nice in its entirety.

One more thing to mention in the “email” category, is spam detection. The default with Fedora/KDE/Kmail, is using SpamBayes, which would leave quite some spam in my mailbox even after some (admittedly, not too much) training. I then installed/tried SpamAssassin, but integration with Kmail was poor and spam would not be moved out of the mailbox even if marked as such. Eventually I went with Bogofilter and am happy to have done so, it works like a charm and improves a lot with training.

The, browser wars commenced. The default of Konqueror is slow and outdated in comparison to other browsers. I tried switching to the webkit kpart, which improved things a lot but didn’t solve many of the various problems such as random crashes. I really insisted, due to desktop integration, but at some point I just gave up. I made Firefox my default browser, and I’m very happy to have done so. Yesterday, I decided I can’t rely on Konqueror even as a second browser (I always keep 2 around). So for the first time, I decided to give Chrome a chance. So far I was resisting, mostly due to my concerns about Google. I must admit, the thing is *fast*. Although I haven’t switched to it as a main/default browser, I have been tempted to do so. In any case, it now serves as my alternative browser, should I need to test something without cleaning up cookies, or if Firefox does not work properly with some site.

Finally, when it comes to every-day usage, Office applications deserve a mention. Being realistic, I had to be able to run MS Office. I’m not interested in booting up virtual machines for this purpose, so I tried CrossOver for Linux. It works beautifully, and did not have a single problem so far. Well done.

PS: The Ubuntu font is amazing. It is my main desktop font.

The linux-on-laptop experiment October 13, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Mobility, Personal, Productivity.
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Eight months ago, I made a pledge: My next laptop would be running on some Linux distribution. Exclusively. At the time, I received various comments, incl. a user satisfaction curve that foresaw disaster. Yesterday evening the pledge became a reality, and it remains to be seen if the curve will also become one.

After also advising with Ubuntu’s “certified hardware” list, I went for a Dell Latitude E6410. The laptop itself is quite fine, but of course from a design point of view there’s nothing to compare with the Macbook; the latter wins hands-down. Having said that, who cares.

Installing Kubuntu 10.10 from a CD was pain, to some extent. The problem apparently has to do with the graphics card, and it took me some time before I find the respective bug report. Thankfully, there was also a seemingly simple solution which worked perfectly well. Eventually Kubuntu installed and (almost) everything worked fine out of the box. I’m quite impressed with how polished it is, and I am mostly impressed with the new default browser, Reconq. It’s dead-simple and, being webkit-based, it renders fast and without problems.

The only problems I currently have are a non-fully-functional trackpad (smart scrolling doesn’t work), and lack of thermal sensor information — which I understand is a problem with Dell and Linux across the board. I can live with both. All of wifi, bluetooth, camera, graphics*, audio, power management (suspend to RAM/disk), etc, work fine. I haven’t tried the fingerprint sensor.

Overall, I’m very happy with my choice, although it’s certainly too early for safe conclusions (and I still regret that I paid for all that MacOSX software which I now put aside). I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

Update (already): Rekonq doesn’t like WordPress. My post was sent in half. Time for the fox.

Who’s the next Apple? March 13, 2010

Posted by CK in IT.
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Seriously, if Apple continues providing its customers with all the reasons to hate it, I can well see a large amount of people moving away from it. Apple made a real difference a few years ago when it started providing systems that not only “just worked”, but they were also a pleasure to use. Marketing and good products made people almost religious about the company and every little gem that was coming out of its labs (and Jobs’ mind, I presume).

But in the last year or so, Apple became greedy. It is turning into the new Microsoft, only worse in the sense that they *do* have the best offerings. I have already decided to move away soon, and I know a number of other people who are considering or even have already taken the same decision.

So the question comes naturally: Who’s the next Apple? Who is the company who will offer secure systems that “just work”, painlessly and effortlessly? Who will grab this opportunity, to build a proper interface around a proper kernel and get a bunch of early adopters on its side? Sure, various Linux distributions are getting better and better, but the lack of coherence is almost dramatic. I’m making the experiment these days on a virtual machine, and there is honestly nothing to compare. My contempt for GNOME is well-known to many, as is also my admiration of KDE. The latter (which I am using), although great, it still does not integrate properly with the underlying system. I assume that the non-centralized development of the three layers (kernel & base system, X server, desktop), great as it is in offering choice and nurturing all those different options, it is also the Achilles’ heel of Linux (ok, GNU/Linux) systems. The same applies to *BSD. Certainly, the lack of control on hardware and Microsoft’s strong-arm practices on all vendors doesn’t help either (see for example what happened to netbooks).

My prediction is that there is now great opportunity for someone to invest in a properly good interface on top of a BSD kernel (or Linux, if licensing is not a problem). KDE is technically sound and can be the basis as it is also offering excellent APIs, but would have to integrate much better with the underlying system — and that, I guess, means getting rid of X. If someone does it though, and strikes a few deals with vendors such as Acer, Asus, and the like, I believe there’s a big market ahead. It would have to be someone big, who has the expertise and the marketing power.

So let me ask: Why not Nokia?

They are the largest seller of mobile devices. They bought Trolltech. They are moving to Linux for their phones. They are now partners with Intel on Meego. Is there anything that really prevents Nokia from making the step into desktop and tablet operating systems?

The “moving to Linux” experience February 23, 2010

Posted by CK in Funny, IT.
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A colleague suggested that, when it happens, it would be like this. I hope not.

Apple no more February 21, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Mobility, Personal.
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Apple is becoming a real pain.

On the iPhone, they decided users cannot be trusted with changing their phone battery. They also decided, no one installs anything unless Apple gets a premium out of it. More recently, they decided that noone has a right to choose even the content on their ridiculously expensive iPhone, even if willing to pay for that, unless Apple says so.

And it’s not only the iPhone. On the newest Macbooks, users can’t change the battery either — a worldwide first. My Macbook’s battery is useless after 20 months of use; literally, yesterday my laptop switched off without any warning whatsoever, while the battery indicator was at 80% or so. And that was 20 months of careful use. Thankfully, I have the previous model and I can just buy a new battery, but if I had the latest one, I’d have to part with the laptop for a considerable number of days, and that’s only because Apple says so.

I had recently decided to upgrade to an iPhone (Android-based phones came a close second). But looking at where Apple is going, also taking the iPad into account, I decided that this is not going to happen. As a matter of fact, although I had decided in the past that I’m not going back to other (existing at the moment) operating systems on the laptop, now I’ve changed my mind. Openness is not just a philosophical issue, it’s a real matter of freedom. I have been using Linux and FreeBSD on various laptops in the past for a long time, and it’s clearly time I return to that practice. Apple desperately wants to lock us in, and Google desperately wants our data, so it’s not Chromium or Android either. With both companies preparing for the mother of all IT battles for advertisements on mobile platforms, I don’t want to be part of it. Any platform whose defaults I can’t override, is not good enough.

So my current plan, as soon as I finish with my academic obligations and as long as things remain the same until then, is to convert to different hardware and some Linux distribution. On the mobile end, I will wait for Nokia’s update to N900; Meego sounds promising.

I only regret the hundreds of euros I spent on software for the Mac OS, and feel sorry I’ll have to part with some favorites such as Things, Journler , BibDesk andOmniGraffle.

Got tagged: Applications meme March 15, 2009

Posted by CK in IT, Miscellaneous.
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It’s been some time from my last post due to work load, and probably it would be even more if I was not tagged by Panagiotis.

I converted from GNU/Linux (see how politically correct I am?) to Mac OS X more than 2 years ago, so I have lost touch with the scene. However, I’ll give it a try. Unavoidably, this will be a post referring to the past.

  1. Which desktop manager do you use more often?
    I was using KDE since the very early days, after trying pretty much everything there was out there.
  2. Which desktop application you would not like to see implemented again on linux? And why?
    I wouldn’t like to see implemented again any application which does the same things as existing applications. The “I can do it better” attitude has a point only when there is real innovation involved. For a long time now, this has not been the case on the Linux desktop world. As an example of innovation, take a look at mobile devices such as the iPhone and now the Palm Pre. That kind of thinking out of the box is needed, and if someone’s planning to build equally innovative applications or interfaces, please do so.
  3. Which desktop application you definitely would like to see implemented on linux? Describe it briefly or point out to a similar application.
    Not sure if there are such things already, perhaps yes; In any case: Butler, Journler, Things.
  4. Write the name of the last project (not the very best, the last!) that made you wish to thank their developers so you can thank them now!
    Since this is about the last application, it will have to be a Mac OS X one: iCompta. Great little gem! I’ll have to donate at some point 🙂
  5. (Optional) Link the blogs of 1-3 people you’d like to take part to this meme. (no more than three). you can skip this question if you like.
    I want one more Mac OS X user in this. Let’s hear from Andy!