Stop comparing! You’re doing it all wrong

July 28, 2006

It would be a nice idea to make a sticky out of this or an other well appreciated post already existing. I want to address something which, not only being considered useless by me, but also by many other community members.In a world of commercial software there is always competition and winning. That’s one of the reasons why companies such as Microsoft and Apple try to overrule each other in commercials and conferences. We are all used to that. We frankly don’t even care. It’s a tight market and both companies are what seems to be very capable.Let’s forget the companies. We don’t own them nothing in the first place. Why should we take part of this race? With each year, with each new product, with each new feature and more, one or other company claims itself being innovating and up to date.Well… but none of them is perfect.I don’t understand why most people adopt the A vs. B attitude. There is no such thing as the best Operating System because of quite some factors. There is no such thing as the best software application for the same reason. Not everybody has the same desires and criteria for their needs.But even then a lot of people start to make the wrong comparisons. The most common are of course made about (Ubuntu) Linux vs. Windows, The Gimp vs. Photoshop and OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office.It is well known to almost all members in almost every community that the differences between applications or Operating system (as described above) are and can be very large. When it comes to the amount of features, commercial applications as good as always win. But does that matter? A lot of people hardly use 80% of all Microsoft Office features. There are quite some people who think they need Photoshop but a simple photo edit tool is suffice. Some people spend hundreds of dollars buying an Operating System and additional software while a Linux variant would made their life’s much easier. Also not everybody finds an extensive amount of eye-candy the reason to call a application or Operating System better!In a world where application / OS choice is personal due to the desires and criteria of people there can’t be one better. Even not with Windows Vista coming up. This Operating System is being followed by many people. Yet again multiple Ubuntu vs. Vista threads appear. The funny part is that people express the concerns about Linux having to deal with this. Well for these Linux vs. Vista, Office vs. OpenOffice and Photoshop vs. The Gimp people I’ve got to say only one thing: “Don’t you worry at all, not everybody is playing follow the herd.”For the people who want to compare two applications in order to pick what’s best for them, please use A. compared to B. Look, now you are comparing!


Simple Desktop Enhancements

July 27, 2006

Ubuntu Linux comes with brown. Why brown you might ask? This color fits more with what the word ‘Ubuntu’ means. It reflects humanity and mother earth better than any other color. For those reasons I’ve used the default theme for weeks back then with 5.10 Breezy Badger. But after a while, consistently using my portable, consistently modifying applications, preferences and configuration files I found it was time to use other themes, colors and backgrounds.Who ever read my previous posts knows by now that Ubuntu Linux is a very transparent distribution. It doesn’t takes ages and doesn’t requires you to be a whiz kid in order to understand it’s workings. Though it’s so transparent I didn’t find it a reason to be modifying appearance with the terminal. I wanted to be able to change as much as possible while hardly using a terminal, The Gimp and other tools.In this Absolute Beginners Guide I will explain how you can easily change things as:

  • Backgrounds
  • Window themes
  • Login Manager themes
  • Splash screen themes

But no only that. I will also tell you how to find them. With this information you will be able to customize your Linux installation in no time. As for me, Ubuntu is in my heart and my contribution efforts. So I don’t feel sorry abandoning the colors.

  • Where to find them?

The most popular form of Desktop enhancements are backgrounds. Now, while a lot of people find backgrounds being plain pictures or digital creations I’ve made an hobby out of it. By checking numerous websites almost daily I search and save backgrounds I like. For me a background must apply to certain criteria. Why? Because I don’t want to get hyped by a background and it must match with the rest of my enhancements.For instance I hardly download backgrounds which are mostly white or light-gray. This color, when using only the terminal or some small view size application burns your eyes out after a while. So almost all of my backgrounds are a combination of dark and or neutral colors.Where do I find them? I mostly download them from DeviantArt. This by far the largest community which features a configurable gallery sorting resolutions, subjects and more. For people who can think logical or just know enough French to navigate around Hebus is also a nice resource. Being the same type of community as DeviantArt, Hebus is a bit smaller and a lot of backgrounds are not available in high resolutions. But also Google can help find you specific artists. Pixelgirl Presents is an artist website I found. There you can find a lot of very high resolution wallpapers.But it would be a sin to forget about our own community. Also Linux related websites provide wallpapers and other Desktop enhancements, so let’s name them!When it comes to downloading it all our own community resources have more of everything rather than more of one specific subject. offers not only backgrounds but also Application themes, Window Border themes, Icons, Login Manager themes, Splash screens and even whole GTK+ is a much larger gathering. But the downside is… it’s indeed more KDE oriented, rather than Gnome. But you will still be able to find quite some enhancements only please note that not all enhancements are usable for Gnome.

  • How to install them?

After you have found some interesting stuff of everything it’s time to get them installed. Don’t worry about terminal commands and difficult CLI interpretations. These enhancements are going to be installed using special applications.Installing another background shouldn’t be a problem. When you are looking at your desktop it’s just clicking right with your mouse and selecting ‘Change Desktop Background’. This is usually one of my first enhancements when reinstalling Ubuntu or getting bored of my theme.My second step is almost always changing the Login Manager theme. There’s really no need to follow the enhancements in an particular order anyway. In order to change a Login Manager you have to open a terminal. There execute the following command:sudo gdmsetupAfter a couple of seconds waiting a graphical application appears. This is your Graphical Display Manager setup utility. In the ‘local’ tab you can add and select Login managers to be activated. After adding one and selecting it you are done. You can test your new Login Manager by logging out. It will bring you right up to it.In order to be able to select and switch from Splash screens we need to download a small application using Synaptic. If you are more skilled, try the Terminal and use ‘apt-get install <filename>’. The application we need to add is being called ‘gnome-splashscreen-manager. It might be Synaptic won’t find it at first. In that case not all your included Ubuntu repositories are enabled. If so, go to: settings -> repositories -> addMake sure you select both Universe and Multiverse when (re)adding channels to the repository. After you’ve done that, try again to search for ‘gnome-splashscreen-manager’. Once you’ve downloaded it you will find it under:System -> Preferences -> Splash ScreenThe application works very simple. So it shouldn’t be a problem.If you like the Human Gnome Theme but you’ve had it with brown? Let’s open the Themes:System -> Preferences -> ThemesWhen you scroll down you will see various themes including the Human theme. You can always select a totally different theme. But the Human theme remains one of the newest themes. A lot of other themes really let you see how Gnome looked a few years back. On the right you can always choose ‘Theme details’. There you can choose how windows should look like, which icons should be used and Window Borders there should be used. Within one minute, you’ll have it customized.You can also add more themes for Gnome, Screen Splashes and Login Managers using Synaptic. But that’s your homework.So now let’s see. The login manager looks way better. When logging in a totally different Splash Screen greets us and the background rocks. These are some Absolute Beginner tips on enhancing your Ubuntu installation.

Installing Intel 815/852/855 graphics controller drivers on Ubuntu / Debian

July 26, 2006

If you are new to Ubuntu it may happen that devices won’t work. That’s new, for Windows users. Microsoft Windows is an universal Operating System. That’s why hardware manufacturers have developers working for them to write the drivers. But it doesn’t means those drivers also end up in Linux!. There are various reasons for that:- Linux isn’t being recognized as a grown-up Operating System by certain companies and manufacturers.- Propriety still plays a big role. By default hardware manufacturers are not keen on releasing their product specifications.- Not enough developers in the community to write a driver which sometimes can be complex.These are the most important reasons why driver support sometimes fails under Linux. Also I had to live with that until today. I finally got the puzzle solved in my case.The Intel onboard graphics such as the 810/852/855 family haven’t always been working properly under GNU/Linux distributions. The first stage was a simple driver which made it possible to use your portable with a maximum resolution of 1280×1024. After a while 8xxresolution came into the repositories. With this CLI-application (Command Line Interface) it was possible to configure a pre-made script to use the real maximum resolution your portable and onboard chip supported. In my case that is 1400×1050.As I said before on this blog I’m a beginner myself in many factors and forms. My only advantage compared with an Absolute Beginner is the fact I’ve have been using GNU/Linux distributions since 1999. While writing an other article for my blog (about the happiness of Debra and Ian) I’ve came across an interesting piece! I knew that the Intel 855 drivers where bundled with the drivers for the 810 and 915 chipset drivers but the whole problem was they were only available in .rpm. The Wiki article stated that ‘Alien’ (a small application) is able to create .deb files out of .rpm and other archives. That was exactly what I needed!I did the following terminal work to to install the drivers with enabled hardware acceleration :

  • sudo apt-get install alien

In the meantime I downloaded the driver and browsed in the terminal to the location it would be downloaded to. After the download was complete I used the following commands.

  • sudo alien <filname.rpm>
  • sudo dpkg -i <filename.deb>
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade

If, in your case you still can’t switch to the maximum resolution you should install 915resolution from the repositories. Please note that you might have to enable the multiverse / universe repositories to download and install this application. 915resolution works exactly like 855resolution, only it supports more (new) Intel onboard chipsets. But even without the maximum resolution your onboard chip should now be as fast as under Windows again. I installed and played Planet Penguin Racer to test the graphics card. It worked as it should even configured at a resolution of 1400×1050 or 1280×1024.

I tried XGL/Compiz today

July 24, 2006

This morning I got busy installing XGL/Compiz. I’ve used a community wiki guide to download, install and configure XGL, but especially Compiz. XGL and Compiz (composite manager) are enhancements which make fancy animations, separation of hardware resolution and software resolution possible… and much more according to Novell. Me, being interested in eye-candy and possible Mac OS X look-a-like features tried it for those reasons.The whole technology is still ‘Alpha’ and it is not recommended to be installed on a productive machine. Since I have quite some time to spare and have the Ubuntu CD-Rom lying next to me I decided to give it a try. My portable is equipped with an Intel 855 onboard video chip. Knowing that it isn’t a full-blown video card I didn’t expected very much. Since animations and effects use only more resource I kinda new the outcome.To install XGL I used this guide. After some minutes I continued installing the composite manager (compiz) using this guide. After that was done I only had to configure the composite manager. Being scared of breaking my system before seeing the end result I quickly checked the compiz configuration guide.As I said before, I wasn’t really expecting sunshine. A few weeks ago I installed SLED 10 on my portable to check out XGL/Compiz and it slowed down my notebook with a lot. Browsing the internet, typing a letter or what not was almost all in slow motion. SLED 10 came with too much software pre-installed. A lot of services are enabled and all together they use quite some resources. So maybe my more tweaked and fine-tuned Ubuntu installation would act differently.No difference at all. After booting my Gnome desktop with XGL enabled and the Compiz plugins behind it things went slow motion. Since the project is still alpha and my portable doesn’t have a full-blown video card / standalone video card XGL/Compiz is useless for me.There’s is one thing in particular which I find disappointing. Downloading and installing XGL/Compiz is a breeze. But configuring Compiz is really harsh. When I first started Gset-Compiz I didn’t understood a thing. It took me fifteen minutes get used to the option descriptions and interface made for this application. Since it’s still Alpha I hope this will be changed when it’s beta or near final.

Ubuntu websites / repositories down

July 23, 2006

Just an hour ago a lot of (official) Ubuntu websites and main repositories went down for what seems to be a (large) maintenance operation. As soon as more information will become available I’ll update this post.Update #1:Hours have passed but still Ubuntu websites and the Ubuntuforums servers are down. On #ubuntuforums at various reasons are being mentioned concerning the sudden disappearance:– Major problems with servers / server software.- Compromization / DDos attack.- Power outage at Canonical, which seems to host the Ubuntuforums.As far as known there weren’t any maintenance schedules announced for this weekend. So it safe to assume that it’s a worst case scenario which is taking place. More information (hopefully good) will follow.Update #2:Channel Ubuntu (#ubuntu) over at (IRC) posted a link which holds a cached Google version of you will be able to choose from hundreds of mirrors to download packages and CD-images from if necessary.Update #3:Some Ubuntu websites are (coming) back online. The same goes for the main repositories which were also offline.Update #4:Ubuntuforums are back online.

Ubuntu 6.10 Knot-1

July 22, 2006

Yozef, a forum staff member at Ubuntuforums has posted download and release information about the first milestone CD, 6.10 knot-1. It’s of course a developers release but these milestone releases also reflect how the next version is going to look like and it’s an opportunity to search on a major scale for bugs. So software developers and beta testers have something new to play with.Please read Yozef’s post if you are interested in downloading this release. Note that developer releases are not meant to become used as your primary operating system. Still in development these releases can get broken from time to time.Can I contribute? Yes! If you have a spare computer left or you can make a dual boot or triple boot you can help and search for faults, problems, errors and what not. I’m going to try to write an full guide on contributing this week. But due to time I fear it will be only online next week.

Argumentations, don’t forget them.

July 22, 2006

For many new users, Ubuntu Linux becomes a milestone to achieve. At first, beginning with the GNU/Linux distribution you might feel like your the only one. But as soon as you login for the first time all problems just fade away. You are thrilled you got (Ubuntu) Linux installed. And even if you encounter a device or service not working out of the box you say to yourself: “I’ll fix that later.” Back to exploring!That’s how it went in my case. But I immediately learned an other lesson. When it comes to fixing problems there’s is a chance you’ll have to put 100% against it to get it solved. Also to know more about what you are using and learn the ways of your newly installed OS it can take 200% and a lot of time. Of course you don’t have to do it! But I doubt you’ll stay happy!As glad as an absolute beginner could be I don’t advice to start spreading the word about GNU/Linux. Why? The answer to this question is my reality every time I talk about GNU/Linux with people… and I talk a lot!

Something what’s important when hitting subjects such as GNU/Linux are argumentations. Often both sender and receiver forget to mention them. I’ve been working for four years (busy with my fifth as you read) being a salesman. Without argumentations you won’t be able to inform people. I carefully use the inform because I find it wrong to push people, whether their fears or their ‘I don’t want’ attitude makes sense or not.

Yesterday I was on the phone with a colleague of mine. He was totally hyped about a (relative) new web browser called Shiira. “Yeah you got to check it out, it’s neat and so cool,” he said. Being a man of argumentations and facts my first reaction was: “Why is it so cool?” I had to ask him two more times before he finally started to spit it out. The browser has Mac OS X features such as Expose build in, the browser is made in the same style as Safari, it could import bookmarks from Safari and much more. During the conversation I remembered so many conversations I have had with people about Linux and realized one important thing (the answer to the why?)!Time, experience, some theory and being an example of a satisfied GNU/Linux user is what makes people think, switch and try. In all my conversations I can always reflect and give feedback on statements made by others and answer most of their questions. When people start to use silly argumentations I still can lay down facts on the table making my point without engaging an useless Windows vs. Linux discussion. Those factors I just wrote down even woke the interest of the same colleague. He uses Apple and Windows for years, don’t knows better, didn’t wanted to know better until we talked a couple of times about Linux. By giving him examples, facts, information he really had to change his opinion about GNU/Linux in general. Even more interesting is the fact he agreed to let me install Ubuntu Linux on his (relative) old computer as soon as he gets his new Macbook Pro.The best thing, no matter how much you love Ubuntu as an absolute beginner is to avoid feeding people’s current (but oh so outdated) opinion about GNU/Linux. Telling people that Linux is more secure does not mean much for them. Explaining them about permissions, the file system, root account and password will have maximum effect. Because it are valid argumentations.