Tag Archives: Linux

10 Or 20 Things To Do After Installing Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr


NEW: Very first look at Ubuntu Linux 15.04 Vivid Vervet Beta Mate Flavor

See: Books on Linux and Ubuntu

NOTE: This may not be the blog post you are looking for. If you have installed Ubuntu 14.10 and want to tweak that, GO HERE.

Continue on for 14.04.

Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr has just been released, and I’m sure you are about to install it. I’ve put together a few ideas for what to do after installation in order to make it work better for you. You’ll find that below. First, a bit of ranty background.


Originally, Ubuntu was a great thing. Years ago I used a Unix like system for various things and got comfortable with what we now call the “command line.” Then I used DOS, and that was still a command line operating system (but with different commands) and that was pretty good for the late 20th century. Then Windows came out and I switched to that, and later used both Windows and Mac operating systems to do my work. Eventually, I wanted to get away from those proprietary operating systems and try out Linux, which by then was a Unix like system that had windowing capabilities but also a powerful command line interface.

So, I got a spare computer and installed Fedora. Couldn’t get it to work. I tried SUSE and a couple of other systems, but there was a problem with each one of them. In order to get past the installation and configuration — to the extent that the computer would do silly things like print, or hook up to a network — I needed to already know all the stuff that I was confident I would eventually learn, once I got the system set up. It was a Catch 22 situation.

At one point I came across a new version of Linux called Ubuntu, and the fact that it was from South Africa interested me because I was at the time doing quit a bit of work in South Africa, so that was cool. But the Ubuntu servers were always overloaded and I could never download it. I think I tried one other version of Linux after that, and then decided to give up on Linux because that didn’t work for me either.

But just before I gave up, I tried downloading Ubuntu one more time. And it downloaded. And I installed it and the installation was seamless, and everything worked. And I saw it. And it was good.

Although I messed around with a few other versions of Linux, just for fun, I mainly kept installing various versions of Ubuntu, playing around with all of the know desktops but always coming back to gnome. I became reasonably good (but not high level) at working with Linux on the desktop, spent some effort promoting the operating system, and in short order I stopped using Windows (unless forced to do so) but still using a Mac now and then. I currently use a mac desktop for most things, a Linux laptop as my laptop, and a Linux server for specialized tasks. Every now and then Huxley asks me “Daddy, why do you have nine computers?” and I say “Huxley, I only have six computers, those extra monitors are hooked more than one to a computer in some cases.” And he responds “You don’t need nine computers, daddy.” Kids these days…

Check out our new science podcast, Ikonokast.

Anyway, then Unity came along and for this reason and other reasons Ubuntu became more annoying rather than less annoying with each release. For example, there are applications that now only work with Unity. This may be less true now than it was two months ago, last time I checked, but the Evernote clone for Linux, Everpad, would not give me menus in a non-Unity environment because it was designed to be broken when run in anything other than Ubuntu with Unity. That sort of thing is very annoying. If you want to have some alternative non Ubuntu-approved desktops AND Unity working on one computer, you have to cheat and mess around and trick the computer in to letting you do it. It is no longer safe to install Ubuntu as your basic operating system then configure the computer “exactly how you want it” (a mantra for Linux users) by swapping around desktops and other functionality. Also, Ubuntu took Nautilus, which had evolved to be one of the best file managers around, and removed some of its great features and made it one of the dumbest file managers around. And, the Unity Dashboard eventually became like that big gift shop at most museums these days … all exits lead through the gift shop.

One of the most annoying things about Unity is the disappearing menus that are no longer located on the application title bar. Both being not where I want them and invisible is incredibly annoying. All disappearing menus are stupid and anti-productive and anyone who does not realize that is a sheep. Baa..

And another thing. The simple act of creating an application launcher for your launching bar/thingie became difficult with Ubuntu. This meant that two or three of my most commonly used applications could not be launched the way I wanted them to be launched by using a simple tweak. It turns out that getting desktop launchers to work isn’t that hard, but dammit, why did I have to learn a whole new procedure that is five times more complicated than the old procedure, giving me nothing new, just because Mark Shutleworth never thought of launching emacs with a standard blank file to make his life easier? WHY???

But then Ubuntu Long Term Release 14.04. If you read about this release on the Internet, you’ll notice that people often say “nothing big in this new release, pretty much the same as the old release” but that is not true. One of the big differences is that you can now configure Unity to use normal menus. That is big. Also, somewhere along the way Ubuntu One came (I never got it to work for me either functionally or adaptively) so I couldn’t care less, but it is now gone so that is one annoying thing that has disappeared. Plus, by now, methods of removing other annoying features of Unity have developed nicely.

The irony of all this is that when you install Ubuntu 14.04 with Unity and you want it to be a sane operating system, there is a long list of things you may want to do to. I’ve culled suggestions from a number of helpful web sites (all listed below) and put them in a reasonable order. If you want to do these things, you might consider running through the list and adding all the repositories at once, then doing a sudo apt-get install update command, rather than doing the latter after every one of the former, to save time. I’ve not fully tested everything here. I.e., I’ve installed Skype but I’ve not tested it. Also, I did these things on a system that was already tweaked so several of these things were already done, but I did them again anyway. That mostly resulted in “you’ve already installed that software, dummy” notices, but at least nothing broke.

I opted or command line suggestions for most of these items, though a few send you to the system preferences, etc.

So here’s what I did, and what you may want to do. I guarantee nothing. Good luck.

Make available some important repositories that are probably turned off

Use the dash to open Software and Updates

Go to other software and check cannonical parters and probably everything else that looks important, unless it is something Ubuntu turned off that you had previously included. I don’t know what to do about those repositories. You may be asked to approve reloading the cash, or you can do this, or both:

sudo apt-get update

While you are in Software and Updates, check for additional drivers

Check in software and updates for additional drivers, under the “additional drivers” tab. Do something smart with what you find there. I did nothing but you may want to. Be careful.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Install multimedia codecs

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

Install several useful software items:

VLC media player:

sudo apt-get install vlc

Install rar. I don’t know what this is but a lot of people seem to recommend it

sudo apt-get install rar

gimp image manipulation program

sudo apt-get install gimp

gnome tweak tool and unity tweek tool

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

Install pidgin if you want.

I didn’t but a lot of people like it.

sudo apt-get install pidgin

Install skype

Install Skype if you want. This is a huge installation and will take a few minutes.

sudo sh -c ‘echo “deb http://archive.canonical.com/ quantal partner” >> /etc/apt/sources.list’
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install skype

Install Java

sudo apt-get install icedtea–7-plugin openjdk–7-jre

Install extra applets

I’ve not entirely figured out the applets yet. They go on the menu bar, called the panel, along the top of Unity’s screen. There are few recommended tweaks and so far I’ve liked them. For some of these, you run it from command line and it becomes part of the panel. For others, you have to run it from the Dash. For some, when you run the app from the command line the program that puts it on the panel keeps running, so when you exit the terminal or terminate the program, the applet disappears. For some the applet ends up on the panel, for some there is an opening application that shows up and requires configuration then the applet goes in the panel, for others the applet is ready to go next time you log in but won’t show up until then. In other words, there is no standard for how applets are created or installed. I refer to the rant at the top of the page. Ubuntu. A “South African Language Word for ‘WTF’”

sudo apt-get install diodon diodon-plugins

Calendar indicator

This is actually one of the coolest applets. My own calendar is relatively sparse; for many days there is nothing at all, but everything on my calendar is very important, of course. The best way to view a sparse calendar is using the “agenda” method, where days that have nothing on them don’t even show up and everything is a list. This calendar indicator does that. The problem is, it does not stick itself to the panel unless you select “autostart” in the preferences after you’ve started it up from DASH.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install calendar-indicator

Install a weather indicator

This is an excellent indicator for weather.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install my-weather-indicator

Install Copy (instead of Dropbox)

Copy is a less expensive alternative to Dropbox. You should give it a try.

Install dropbox and the app indicator

I’ve not gotten the app indicator to work, but this is the recommended procedure. I’m probably missing something. Truth be told, I’m not sure if dropbox is working on my laptop at all at the moment. Let me know how it goes with you.

sudo apt-get install dropbox

then you might have to do this to get an indicator;

sudo apt-get install libappindicator1

But if you are like me that won’t work. In fact, while Dropbox seems to work on Ububuntu 14.04 unity, autostart does not work; I’m prompted for my system password to start Dropbox on login. For now I think I’ll wait to try to figure out how to get the icon going until this all gets resolved, presumably in one fell swoop. But, again, see rant above: how does Ubuntu fell about itself, killing off Ubuntu One at the same time it makes Dropbox harder to use. Do we users not count? Jeesh.

Anyway, if you want to verify that Dropbox is working, go to the command line and type in

dropbox -h

and you’ll get a list of commands that will allow you to play around with it, including

dropbox status

which will tell you if it is running.

Install classic menu indicator

This is a pretty important applet. With this applet in place you might even consider setting the Unity launcher bar on autohide! It is the standard debian style menu. I recommend going into preferences and changing the icon to the standard (Ubuntu) icon so you know what the heck it is a few days after installing it.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diesch/testing
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator

Remove keyboard indicator

The keyboard langauge is indicated on your panel. Why? If this annoys you you can remove it.

System Settings-> Text Entry and uncheck the Show current input source in the menu bar.

Fix screen brightness controls

On some computers, including mine apparently, Ubuntu broke the ability to change the brightness of the screen. It can be fixed. I’ve not tried it, but you can check out this web page for instructions on how to do that. Good luck.

Add a nifty system load indicator

sudo apt-get install indicator-multiload

Fix the obnoxious stuff on the Unity Dash

You don’t want Ubuntu telling you to buy stuff at Amazon and all that other dumbass stuff it does? This and other annoyances can be fixed.

Go to Settings, security and privacy, and then turn that stuff off. You should turn off “include online seach results” and you may want to turn off the thingie that shows your recently open documents. All this clutters up the dashboard, but if you want this information there, by all means leave it.

Get rid of the shopping suggestions with this code at the console:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Lenses disabled-scopes “[‘more_suggestions-amazon.scope’, ‘more_suggestions-u1ms.scope’, ‘more_suggestions-populartracks.scope’, ‘music-musicstore.scope’, ‘more_suggestions-ebay.scope’, ‘more_suggestions-ubuntushop.scope’, ‘more_suggestions-skimlinks.scope’]”

Disable online searches from dash with
wget -q -O – https://fixubuntu.com/fixubuntu.sh | bash

Fix overheating and extend battery life

There is a good chance Ubuntu is not handling your fan, battery, etc. optimally but there is a nifty utility that probably will. Do this:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw
sudo tlp start

Install Dolphin

Just go to Synaptic package manager or Ubuntu software center and install Dolphin file manager. Other folks are suggesting sunfish, but I don’t recommend it. At the moment, Dolphin is the only file manager I’d recommend for Ubuntu. I’m still waiting for a good file manager to come out.

Install Compiz settings manager

sudo apt-get install
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Then, after you’ve installed it, DON’T TOUCH IT.

Disable the boneheaded overlay scrollbars

What is more annoying than disappearing menus? Disappearing scroll bars that are located at a specific position that YOU CAN’T KNOW WHAT IT IS BECAUSE YOU CAN’T SEE IT. Get rid of that.

gsettings set com.canonical.desktop.interface scrollbar-mode normal

Put the username back on the the panel

Why Ubuntu thinks you need to know what keyboard is running but not which user is behind the keyboard is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel true

Install Adobe Flash plugin

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer

The, spend the next hour trying to get that to work consistently.

Install some Codecs and Enable DVD Playback:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly libxine1-ffmpeg gxine mencoder libdvdread4 totem-mozilla icedax tagtool easytag id3tool lame nautilus-script-audio-convert libmad0 mpg321 libavcodec-extra

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

Add workspaces

Type “appearances” at the dash (or get there from system settings), click behavior, show workspaces. A violation of the Prime Directive (have no widgets on the launcher because we broke that) will happen and a widget will appear on the launcher that shows you what workspace you are in and gives you a workspace switcher.

Integrate Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Configure social media with “online accounts” from the dashboard

Make some customized launcers

Use these instructions to set up launcher icon thingies in your unity launcher for apps that require special conditions not already installed. For example, I have emacs open with a file from the desktop called “blank.txt” which is sometimes blank and sometimes just contains the last stuff I wrote into that file.

That is all.

Other posts of interest:

Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, set in the Congo.

Copy vs Dropbox UPDATED: iOS and Linux

UPDATE: Linux Install.

Installing Copy on Linux was pretty easy. You go to the web page, download a tarball, upack it, then inside the tarball figure out the folder that matches your OS (i.e., 32 vs 64 bit) and go into that folder. Then run the Agent. That may, if you are good, put a thingie on your notification area. Click on that and then sign in and install and stuff, that’s it.

There are two pages you might find useful, one for Ubuntu the other for Copy more generally if needed.

Notably, the install on Linux was easier for Copy than for Dropbox. Dropbox install LOOKS easy but never goes as planned, in my (extensive) experience with it.

Copy is a new cloud storage service that may be a serious competitor to Drobbox. I just installed it and I like it.

Dropbox gives 2 Gigabytes for free, 100 Gigabytes for 9.99 a month, 200 Gigabytes for 19.99 a month, and 500 Gigabytes for 49.99 a month.

Copy gives 15 Gigabytes for free, 250 Gigabytes for $10.00 a month, and 500 Gigabytes for 15.00 a month (cheaper if you pay by the year).

I know for a fact that Dropbox works well with Linux and Mac and I assume Windows. Copy claims to be compatible and well integrated with all of these system. I’ve not thoroughly tested Copy yet, but they do seem to work differently.

To make Copy work on my Mac, I installed the app from the menu by downloading the image file and doing the drag and drop thingie. I then ran the application and after a few short steps I had a new folder on my computer called “Copy.” It was place within my home directory, though I had the option of using a different folder. The installation program conveniently (or obnoxiously depending on how well you keep your lawn trimmed) placed a short cut on the shortcut bar in “finder.”

At a couple of times during the process of signing up and installing I was given the option to just move everything from my computer, or from “another cloud storage device” to Copy, which I chose not to do because that would have certainly involved upgrading to a paid account; I wanted to try this out with the free storage first, though I’m not adverse to buying storage if I need it, especially at rates so much lower than Dropbox.

The first thing I did was to attempt to drag and drop a folder that has several files in it into Copy. The folder held a handful of subdirectories, several hundred files, and was in all about 1.2 gigabytes in size. Within a few seconds upload started. Seemed to be about on par with Dropbox, but I did not take any measurements for comparison. Copy allows local syncing, which of course I’ve not tested yet.

It is difficult to recommend for or against Copy until it has been out a while longer, but at the moment it seems to be essentially the same as Dropbox but cheaper. Will Dropbox lower its price? Will Copy be amazing like Dropbox is? Will this work just as well on my Linux machine?

Tune in next week for another installment of …. “Copy vs. Drobox”

UPDATE: I’ve installed the iPad app. Installed cleanly, much crisper, easier to use, better laid out than Dropbox, a total win. And it functions fine.

Tomorrow PM I plan to install Copy on my Linux laptop. Later in the week, on the Linux workstation.

Ubuntu One Is Closing Shop

Hey, wait! Ubuntu One was the next big thing. It was better than dropbox and iTunes and everything! I never personally got it to work for me, though I did sign up for it. Just now, I got an email from The Ubuntu One team telling me the file service system would be gone effective June 1, 2014.

Ubuntu has this blog post about it. This news is a few days old, so you probably already knew about it, but just in case, have a look: Shutting down Ubuntu One file services.

Today we are announcing plans to shut down the Ubuntu One file services. This is a tough decision, particularly when our users rely so heavily on the functionality that Ubuntu One provides. However, like any company, we want to focus our efforts on our most important strategic initiatives and ensure we are not spread too thin.

Our strategic priority for Ubuntu is making the best converged operating system for phones, tablets, desktops and more. In fact, our user experience, developer tools for apps and scopes, and commercial relationships have been constructed specifically to highlight third party content and services (as opposed to our own); this is one of our many differentiators from our competitors. Additionally, the free storage wars aren’t a sustainable place for us to be, particularly with other services now regularly offering 25GB-50GB free storage. If we offer a service, we want it to compete on a global scale, and for Ubuntu One to continue to do that would require more investment than we are willing to make. We choose instead to invest in making the absolute best, open platform and to highlight the best of our partners’ services and content.

Etc. Etc.

Interesting. Seems to me a convergent system like they want to build would have a kick-butt cloud. On the other hand, having an open source operating system not married to a particular cloud may be a good way to go. Less Microsofty.

Linux Journal Readers’ Choice Awards: Ubuntu Weak, Unity Shunned

The Linux Journal Readers’ Choice Awards are out with the current issue. Let’s talk about some of them.

The number one distribution was, as usual Ubuntu. But, Ubuntu only got 16 percent, with Debian coming in second at 14.1 percent. So, one could say that Debian is strong since Ubuntu is based on Debian. One could also say that Ubuntu is surprisingly weak. One would think it would be higher. One possibility is that Linux Journal readers are pretty hard core, and might often eschew Ubuntu for other distributions that cause more pain. Face it. Real Linux users like to wear hair shirts.

I myself voted for Ubuntu when the poll came around even though at the time I was following Shawn Powers dangerous advice and had installed one of the original Unix desktops on my laptop. I totally messed up the workings of my computer and managed to simulate a recurring hardware glitch that was really just a software conflict involving the power management system. I fixed that by putting Ubuntu with Unity on a fresh install and things have been working fine since then. It was a fun trip, though, totally worth it.

The point is, I don’t like Unity, I’m unhappy with Ubuntu, but Ubuntu is the system that first got me to have a working Linux box (all prior efforts failed) and even if the Unity interface and Ubuntu’s business model compete with each other for Most Annoying Thing in the Universe I still think Ubuntu is the distribution that keeps Linux afloat at the moment. Based on Debian.

The nature of the Linux Journal Reader is revealed by examining the next few distributions in line that have numbers nearly as strong as the first two: Arch Linux at 10.8%, Linux Mint at 10.5%, Fedora at 6.9% and openSuse at 5.2 %. Remembering that Debian is pretty pure geek (I’d love to know what percentage of users compiled their own kernel) this is a list that seems to demonstrate the duality of Linux at the cutting edge. Love-hate Ubuntu, favor and use other more geeked–out distributions but there are so many Ubuntu rises to the top by default. There are, by the way, 30 distributions on the list.

Linux Journal didn’t used to give the full list of candidates and percentages, but we can look back at some old issues and see how things have changed.

During the late middle ages, in 2003, the top three distributions were, in order, something called “Debian GNU/Linux” (that’s Debian spelled PC), Mandrakelinux (one word) and Gentoo. The first incarnation of Ubuntu was 2004, and the 2005 awards have it on top already, with CentOS and Fedora Core in second and third. By 2009 Ubuntu was number one with 45%, with Debian getting an honorable mention at 10%. So, in that year, Ubuntu was far ahead of the pack with all other distributions coming in at or below 10%. That’s interesting

I don’t have the percentages for 2010 (I think you can get them somewhere) but Ubuntu is selected as best distro, with honorable mention/runner up being PCLinuxOS, with third, fourth and fifth place going to Debian, Fedora and Pardus. The following year (2011) it was Ubuntu with Debian as the runner-up. In 2012 we have the first all-data listing and that year has Ubuntu at 30.1 percent, with Debian at 14.7 followed by Mint, Arc, Fedora and so on with only Debian and Mint getting above 10%.

That looks like a big change, from 2012 to 2013, but it is partly a matter of how the counting is done. The 2012 number for Ubuntu includes all flavors, but the 2013 numbers break them down. So, Ubuntu-presumably-with-Unity gets 16, Kubuntu 2.8, Xubunto 2, Server 1.6 adding up to 23.9%

So it has been a complex horse race among various distributions post-dating 2004, with Ubuntu always on top and generally with a strong lead and other distros moving around in the lower slots. However, despite methodological changes in the polling, it does seem that Ubuntu is weakening. A separate category for best distro for netbooks or other baby hardware put Ubuntu with Unity on top with Android second, but by a nose (10.6 vs 10.4%)

Now, skipping past all the categories that I am not interested in…

The best distribution for high performa computing award is an interesting category, especially because I was thinking about doing some of that. I’m not completely sure what it is but it sounds cool. The top distros with percentages are CentOS (11.4), Other (8.6), Gentoo (7.3), Mint (7.2) and so on. This sounds like a lot of people randomly guessing to me. In any event, I’m sure the best distribution for high performance computing is the one where you compile the kernel yourself. Right?

There is a category for best desktop (as opposed to overall) distro and it runs like this: Ubuntu (23.3), Mint (16), Fedora (8.6), Debian (8.1), and so on.

The next category of interest is important. This is the best desktop environment. In some ways it is hard to separate this category from best distro because some of the distros are distinct because of their desktop (i.e, Kubuntu vs. Ubuntu with Unity). But it is a distinct category, of course. To me the most important question is where is Unity on this list. Turns out KDE is first at 17.9% with Unity running close behind at 12.9%

But there’s a catch. The third place desktop is KDE Plasma with 12.7 percent, and then, the next named desktops on the list are mostly variants of old fashioned Gnome, including Xfce, Gnome 3, Cinnamon and Gnome 2. In other words, even though Ubuntu’s Unity (which is billed as though it only runs on Ubuntu, which is funny) is just a tiny bit behind KDE, combining the desktops realistically gives us this:

KDE: 30.6
Gnomish Not Unity or KDE: 25.2
Gnome 3 cuz it’s not Unity even though it looks like Unity: 14.1
Unity: 12.9

(Other had 4.5 percent and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that “other” would fit into “Gnomish Not Unity” bringing it nearly tied with KDE.)

The Raspberry Pi was, naturally, the best gadget with nearly 70% and nobody cares about the other gadgets mainly because many of them, like the Amazon Kindle or the Roku, are not gadgets. System 76 came in as the best Linux Laptop Vender. I’d like one of those. Lenovo held second place by a tiny margin.

The best Linux Friendly hardware vendor is a strange category because what the heck is a hardware vendor? First place is Intel, second place Raspberry, third place System76 (which makes desktops and laptops), third place AMD, fourth place, Lenovo, etc. This category is a bit like the “Best Vehicle” category where number one is a Leer jet, number two is a Subaru, number three is a company that makes mountain bikes and number four is NASA’s Space Shuttle division. This category may need some reworking.

For web browsers, Firefox came in first place at 52.8 while Chrome/Chromium took second with 35.4 percent and all other browsers maxed out below 5% each. So there are two Linux browsers. Firefox is the default browser on many desktop distros, so that probably helps keep it in the lead. I stopped using Firefox years ago and I’ve not checked it out. I wonder if it still sucks compared to Chrome?

This is one worth going into the past for. In 2004, the top browser was “Mozilla” which you can think of as Firefox if you want. Second and third were Konqueror and Opera. In 2005 one and two were Mozilla Firefox and Konqueror. So, the one that was default in Gnome was first and the one that was default with KDE was second, in the old days.

Firefox (“Mozilla” label dropped) had an amazing 87% of the vote in 2009, was number one with “Chrome” in second place in 2010. The editors note that

We suggested last year that by awards time in 2010, you should “look for an inevitable battle royale if Google can deliver a polished Chrome for Linux in time for you to give it a test-drive”. Well, folks, that battle has ensued, and the era of unchallenged Firefox supremacy is over. Chrome leaped from a barely perceptible 0.35% of the vote in 2009 to 24% this year.

By 2012 Firefox had 50.3% of the votes and Chromium had 40.8%. So we seem to have reached a two year long equilibrium. Or, maybe, Firefox has improved a little and I haven’t noticed that but others have. I’ll probably build a version from source for my High Performance Computing Machine and see how it flies.

It is interesting to see LibreOffice holding supreme in the Office Suit area at 71.8%. Google drive is 11.8 percent. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that Apache is only at 6.7%, even though I get the impression Apache has more current and quicker updates. LibreOffice surpassed OpenOffice in 2011, probably because of a perception that OpenOffice had gone evil. But I’m pretty sure the Evil Empire thing is over now and it is OK to use OpenOffice. If you can get LibreOffice uninstalled from your Ubuntu distribution, that is. Good luck with that… it is installed using unholy links so you may need a priest. Another one to build from scratch for my new supercomputer.

Interestingly Nvidia took a strong first place for best video chipset, despite this:

For the cloud, Dropbox came in with a strong first at 35.5% and Ubuntu One at a weak 7.1% Your doing it wrong, Ubuntu, though I’m not sure what it is your are doing wrong exactly. I do know that the one time I tried to install Ubuntu One it simply didn’t work, and the first time I tried to install Dropbox it did.

The best package management tool was voted as apt-get with 38.5%, second best as Synaptic at 13.7. You know this is a lie, in a way. Synaptic is a graphical-ish front end for apt-get and probably gets more use. But, the truth is, you use apt-get when you want to do it quick and dirty, and either one of two things applies: You totally know exactly what you want or you totally have no clue what you want. You can use apt-get to specify the installation of a particular package you know about, or you can just guess that there might be a package out there that does a certain thing and has a certain name!

Git killed Subversion 78.3 to 11.8.

One of the most important of categories is, of course, best text editor. This is the number one thing I do on any computer. In some ways it is more important than the operating system. Here’s how that one broke down. 90.4% of those polled are going to hell. 9.6% are true believers.

What I’m waiting for is a Linux Port of BBEdit. I’ll pay for it.

File systems are important. Best Journaling Filesystem went to ext4, by a large margin. I would say don’t bother with anything else. I will be using it with my new high-powered supercomputer.

Linux file managers reached a peak with an earlier version of Nautilus and have been ruined since then. I’m seriously thinking of giving up GUI file manager totally. Anyway, Dolphin won with Nautilus close behind. But check this out:bash had 10.4% (and took third place), the Command line got 10.34 percent, Midnight Commander got 7.9% and Emacs got 1.4 %. Clearly, the majority of Linux Journal readers are unhappy with GUI file management systems in Linux at this time. But is anyone listening? ARE THEY?

The best Linux Journal Column was Shaw Powers’ “The Open-Source Classroom,” and that’s appropriate. The best Linux/OSS advocate was Linus Torvalds followed by a fair margin by a piece of software and with Richard Stallman in third place. For some reason I am not on that list.

The Worst Idea Ever award went to Gnome 3, naturally. Second, “Creating a new distro instead of a new application” and fourth Mir. Not the space station, but rather, the esoteric inner working of the computer system thingie. But since “Ubuntu going it alone” and “Ubuntu” (just by itself) adds up to a greater amount, Ubuntu is actually in third place in this important category . The LibreOffice fork is on the list, by the way. Just sayin’

Sadly, Raspberry Pi won the best new open source project for the year. Why is this sad? Because “Open Source Project” should be software and there should be a separate category for “Open Source Hardware Project.” Also sad because there is hardly anything new going on in the software area. Firefox came in second and a bunch of other stuff I never heard of is on the list.

The “Product of the Year” went to Raspberry Pi, which is perfect, then a thing called Jolla/Sailfish which is a phone, then Firefox, then a bunch of other stuff. The Roku is on that list, which I think is legit.

Beyond that the only thing I’m really interested in is the graphics stuff, and I do think this category should be broken down more. Gimp came in first with Inkscape second and Blender third, but those three applications are entirely different and do entirely different, mostly unrelated things.

Go check it out. There are a gazillion other categories that I did not mention but that you will want to know about.

Linux Shell Scripting

I just finished Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook – Third Edition by Shantanu Tushar and Sarath Lakshman. This is a beginner’s guide to using shell scripting (bash) on linux.

Usually, a “cookbook” is set up more like a series of projects organized around a set of themes, and is usually less introductory than this book. “Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook” might be better titled “Introduction to Linux Shell Scripting” because it is more like a tutorial and a how too book than like a cookbook. Nonetheless, it is an excellent tutorial that includes over 100 “recipes” that address a diversity of applications. It’s just that they are organized more like a tutorial. What this means is that a beginner can use only the resources in this book and get results. The various recipes are organized in an order that brings the reader through basics (like how to use the terminal, how to mess with environment variables, etc.) then on to more complex topics such as regular expressions, manipulating text, accessing web pages, and archiving. One very nice set of scripts that is not often found in intro books addresses networking. The book also covers MySQL database use.

All of the scripts are available from the publisher in a well organized zip archive.

I read the e-version of the book, in iBooks, but the PDF version is very nice as well. I don’t know how this would translate as at Kindle book. But, importantly (and this may be more common now than not) the ebook uses all text, unlike some earlier versions of ebooks that used photographs of key text snippets as graphics which essentially renders them useless. Of course, copy and paste from a ebook is difficult, and that is where the zip file of scrips comes in. You can open the PDF file, get the zip archive, and as you read through examples simply open up (or copy and paste) the scripts from the zip archive and modify or run them. Also, the ebook is cheaper than a paper edition and clearly takes up way less space!

If I was going to recommend a starting out guide to shell scripting this is the book I’d recommend right now. It is well organized and well executed.

I do have a small rant that applies to virtually ALL tech-related books I’ve seen. There is an old tradition in *nix style documentation of putting certain information in the front matter. Books always have front matter, of course, but computer documents tend to have more front matter than usual. A typical example is this reference resource for Debian.

Notice all that stuff in the beginning. Like anybody reads any of that, especially the “conventions” section. Proper typography in a code-rich book does not have to be explained in detail. You can see what is code, what are comments, etc. etc. Most of this information should be added as an appendix at the end of the book where it is out of the way and can be ignored.

On a web page like the one shown here all you have to do is scan down, but in a book you have to leaf (virtually or meatspacelly) past all that stuff to get to the actual book contents. The Linux Shell Scripting book being discussed here has the first actual text on actual page 25 or so (though it is numbered page 8). I recommend moving as much of this front matter as possible to the back.

But that is a general rant about all books of this sort, which I happen to think of while reviewing this book.

Some Linux/Ubuntu related books:
Ubuntu Unleashed 2016 Edition: Covering 15.10 and 16.04 (11th Edition)
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop: Applications and Administration
The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

iOS and Android edge out Windows and Linux

On this blog.

Below is the relative percentage of operating system use by the readers of this blog from a four month longs sample form the middle of the year last year compared to the most recent six months this year. There is not a lot of change, but notice the nearly five percent drop i nWindows use, which seems to be taken up mainly by an increase in the use of iOS.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 6.09.02 PM

In addition, Linux use has dropped a worrying two percent.

However, really, OSX and Android etc. are all based on Unix-like operating systems, so the numbers for this year can be recalculated to look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 7.14.13 PM

But really, Linux use is actually close to 100% among the readers of this blog. You are using Linux right now, since this web page is being served up on a Linux server. Also, Android. Adding this to the other Unix-flavor OS use, we get this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 7.13.35 PM

Ubuntu Linux Made Easy

I checked out the book Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux by Rickford Grant and Phil Bull (No Starch Press). With any book like this, the trick is matching it to the correct user. If you are the kind of person inclined to install the latest version of Ubuntu on your computer, you probably have already done enough with Linux to not need this book. If you are the kind of person who believes the trash talk about how bad Linux is, or who is frightened of the idea of stepping away from Windows or your Mac for any reason, run away now. This book is not for you. But, if you are the kind of person who has been thinking about installing Linux on that second or older computer you’ve got sitting there and want to do it in a relatively painless way, then this is a good choice. You can get all the info you need off the internet, but then you have to deal with snarky self aggrandizing technogeek obfuscation which is annoying.

I happened to be in need of a new installation of a Linux system when this book arrived; I had just gotten a new Solid State Drive and wanted to try it out in an old laptop. Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux comes with a Ubuntu install disk, like in the old days when computer books always came with disks. Just for the heck of it I pulled out the disk and tried installing the most current version of Ubuntu Linux on the system free laptop. That worked fine, and I had Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin up an running.

I think I should mention that I may be one of the few people you’ll ever meet (if you meet me) who has Pangolin on his computer and has eaten pangolin. But I digress.

The newer Ubuntu systems have a new desktop environment called Unity. When Unity first came out, I, like may others, hated it. I prefer, and probably still prefer, the older Gnome 2.0 style desktop. But, since I had Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux in hand I went through with the process of using the text to inform me about using Unity and I actually changed my mind. I still hate it .. in particular, I hate the way Unity has ruined the functionality of menus and scroll bars, two of the most important things in any desktop environment. But, I also like it now in certain ways. In particular, I like the fact that I can press the “Super” key (formerly known as the Windows key) and then type in a string of text that corresponds to a known piece of software and run it. This is using the Heads Up display which at first I thought I would not like but now realize is cool. In the near future, I will attempt to install a heads up display on a more traditional version of gnome

In general, one of the things you’ll find most valuable about this book is the tutorial on how to navigate among your software and stuff on the Unity desktop. A little time with that will save a lot of time later. this includes using software like MyUnity (chapter 9) to fix up the Unity desktop more to your liking.

Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux also guides you through the use of the standard software, not just the system, such as the various office and graphics applications as well as Shotwell, the only photo management software I’ve ever let near my real photographs. (In this book I learned about Phatch Photo Batch Processor which looks like a functioning and very nice version of some of my own bash scripts I’ve had to write.)

I’ve always ignored Linux games, but the chapter on games in Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux included a lot more than I remembered ever being there and I may have to revisit that activity. Overall, you’ll get a summary of some of the software in each category of possible software, and if you are installing Linux for the fist time you’ll want to sample in each area. Installing software in Linux is very easy. If someone tells you it is not, that “compiling from source” and/or “dependencies” will make it difficult, ignore them they know not of what they speak. That’s like saying “Windows is hard because all the software is written in C++ and that is hard to program in” or “driving a Subaru is difficult because it was really hard to engineer that balanced drive train thingie they are famous for.” Yes there are hard way to run any OS. Just don’t do it the hard way. The book will help here.

All books I’ve ever read about setting up Linux have a fair percentage of the text devoted to running you through some of the more esoteric (to the average person) functionality that you will probably never use, but is mainly only easily available on a Linux machine, like programming in Python or using vim as a text editor, etc. etc. This book has some of that but much less than other books. As with any system or software guide, you simply have to give yourself permission to skip some of the chapters. Having said that, do work your way through the chapters on using the command line because it is easy, fun, and sometimes useful.

Go ahead and try installing Linux, using this book as a guide. Just remember, Linux is not for everybody.

Some Linux/Ubuntu related books:
Ubuntu Unleashed 2016 Edition: Covering 15.10 and 16.04 (11th Edition)
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop: Applications and Administration
The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

Canadian Scientists Create Virtual Human Brain

A large scale model of a human brain has been created by a team of scientists at the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, University of Waterloo, Ontario. This is a virtual model, inside a computer, that involves 2,5 million virtual neurons structures in a pattern resembling the overall human brain’s anatomy, including cortical regions, motor control regions, etc. There are two components of the model: Visual processing including input and visual memory, and motor control sufficient to make a relatively simple, but 3D, arm move so it can draw things. The brain is called Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network, or, rather creepily, “Spaun.” Continue reading Canadian Scientists Create Virtual Human Brain

Wildebeest Crashes Into Window…s Event

A wild GNU was spotted at some sort of event organized by a computer company named “Microsoft” which was launching a new version of its operating system. The GNU, accompanied by some friends carrying literature related to the widely used Unix-like operating system, GNU/Linux, did not cause any damage or harm to the attendees, but is it reported that later in the evening several Windows using people took out their old hardware, the hardware that would no longer run on Windows, and installed the GNU/Linux system so they would have a computer that worked just in case the new “Windows Bites” (funny name) operating system did not function as advertised.

Oh, wait, hold on for a correction… I’ve just been informed that the new operating system is “Windows Ate” not “Windows Bites” … whatever. The real New operating system is GNU.

Photo courtesy of the Free Software Foundation.

Which Linux Do I Turn To In My Hour of Need?

RIP Ubuntu. Ubuntu was great. For years, I kept trying to get my own Linux box up and running, initially so I could relive the halcyon days of UNIX and later so I could avoid Windows. But every time I tried to get Linux working some key thing would not be configurable or would not work. Well, I’m sure it was configurable and could work but configuring it and making it work was beyond me. Those were also the days when what little support was available on the Internet was limited mostly to the sort of geeks who prefer to give answers that are harder to parse than one’s original problem. In other words, studied unhelpfulness was all that was available to the novice. Then, one day, two or three forms of Linux that were supposed to be installable and usable by the average computer-savvy person came on the scene at once, including Suse Linux, some thing called Lindows or Winlux or something, and Ubuntu. I tried the first two because they seemed to have more support, and I got results, but the results still sucked. Meanwhile, I has a computer working on downloading an install disk for this strange African thing, Ubuntu, which seemed to have a problem with their server being really slow. But, because it was South African, and at the time I was living about one fifth the time in South Africa, I thought that was cool so I stuck with it.

Eventually, I had a usable install disk for Ubuntu, I installed it, it worked. I installed it on a laptop as a dual boot system with Windows, and on a spare desktop. Within a few months, I installed it on my main desktop instead of Windows, and a few months after that, I realized that I had never booted up the Windows system on the dual boot laptop, so I reconfigured that computer to be Linux only. And that was it.

Ubuntu was based on a version of Linux called Debian. There are many Linux families out there, but the two biggies are Debian and Red Hat/Fedora. The former is very non-commercial and very free-as-in-software free Open Sourcey, while the latter is all that but also has a significant business model. People like to pay for their operating systems, so Red Hat/Fedora gave large companies and institutions the opportunity to pay for what was really free, and in so doing, they would get (paid for) support and training.

In a way, Debian is what makes Linux go around, and Fedora Linux is what makes the world (of the internet, etc.) go around. Sort of.

Debian and Fedora are two different systems in a number of fundamental ways. All Linux families use the same kernels, the underlying deep part of the system. But this kernel is associated with a bunch of other stuff that makes for a complete system. This includes the way in which software is installed, upgraded, or removed, and some other stuff. Each family has it’s own (very similar) version of the original UNIX file system, and so on. Back when I was first messing around, I did get to play with Fedora and its system a bit, and I quickly came to like Debian’s system better than Red Hat/Fedora, especially because of the software management system (apt/synaptic) which I thought worked much better than the Fedora system (yum).

As I said, Ubuntu was based on Debian, but from the very start, Ubuntu included some differences from the standard. For example, the exact configuration of the underlying file system was different. The original Debian file system was there so that software would know what to do, but everything in that file system (or almost everything) was a pointer to the Ubuntu file system. This actually made messing around under the hood difficult until, eventually, a strong Ubuntu-only community developed. You would see people refer to Ubuntu as opposed to Linux, which is a noob mistake and wrong, but over time, in fact, Ubuntu, even though it was based on Debian, became fundamentally different from both Debian and Red Hat/Fedora to the extent that it really had to be thought of as a different family of Linux.

And that was fine as long as Ubuntu was doing what most other Linux systems did, meaning, remain configurable, don’t change the work flow or how things operate too dramatically, don’t make up new ways of doing things just to make everyone upgrade to a new product, don’t try to be Windows, don’t try to be a Mac, and always follow the UNIX Philosophy, more or less. Over the last several months, though, Ubuntu has in my view, and the view of many, jumped the shark. It may well be that future new desktop users will appreciate Ubuntu as a system, and that’s great. If Ubuntu continues to bring more people into the fold, then I support the idea. I just don’t want it on my computers any more.

I have a desktop that I’ve not upgraded in way too many releases because I’ve not liked the new versions of Ubuntu. I have a laptop that I upgraded to the most current version of Ubuntu, then undid a lot of the features, and I’m using the desktop Xfce instead of Unity, the desktop that Ubuntu installs by default. And, I want to put Linux on a G5 Power PC.

So, this is the part where I ask for suggestions. I have a feeling that there will be more suggestions on Google+ when I post this there, so please be warned: I’ll transfer actual suggestions from G+ over to the original blog post comments sections, at least in the beginning of this discussion, unless a commenter tells me not to.

The following table shows what I want to do. Notice the question marks. There is an advantage to having the same system on all three machines, but that is not a requirement. The desktop has two monitors, and assume I want to run a 64 bit system on it, and the laptop is a bit slow. The primary uses for all the computers are simple: Web browser and running emacs for text writing, and a handful of homemade utilities for managing graphics and files, and a bit of statistical processing with R-cran now and then.

So, what do I fill into this table?

Hardware Base System (Ubuntu, Fedora, Etc)? Desktop
Older intel dual core HP workstation ? ?
Dell laptop ? ?
Mac G4 PowerPC ? ?

I’m intentionally avoiding a lot of details. I’ll get a new graphics card for the desktop if I need it, and other adjustments can be made. Also, this workstation may well get replaced with a different computer that makes less noise than a Boeing 747 taking off during a hurricane. The point is, desktop with dual monitors running a 64 bit system.

What do you think?

Some Linux/Ubuntu related books:
Ubuntu Unleashed 2016 Edition: Covering 15.10 and 16.04 (11th Edition)
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop: Applications and Administration
The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

The Linux Command Line

I just got a copy of The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction. I read one review of it a while back which was quite positive, suggesting that the book was both really useful and really not boring. Here’s the description from the publisher:

You’ve experienced the shiny, point-and-click surface of your Linux computer—now dive below and explore its depths with the power of the command line.

The Linux Command Line by William Shotts. No Starch Press. Image from the publisher.
The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

In addition to that practical knowledge, author William Shotts reveals the philosophy behind these tools and the rich heritage that your desktop Linux machine has inherited from Unix supercomputers of yore.

As you make your way through the book’s short, easily-digestible chapters, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create and delete files, directories, and symlinks
  • Administer your system, including networking, package installation, and process management
  • Use standard input and output, redirection, and pipelines
  • Edit files with Vi, the world’s most popular text editor
  • Write shell scripts to automate common or boring tasks
  • Slice and dice text files with cut, paste, grep, patch, and sed

Once you overcome your initial “shell shock,” you’ll find that the command line is a natural and expressive way to communicate with your computer. Just don’t be surprised if your mouse starts to gather dust.

I will be reporting back on this later, but it looks good so far.

Nvidia support for Linux UPDATED!

Linux inventer Linus Torvalds gave a talk recently at Aalto University in Finland. It is a very interesting talk that anyone involved in Open Source technology or computer software development would enjoy. During the talk, the issue of support for Linux from hardware manufacturers came up, and Linus had a comment for Nvidia, which it seems is not only non-supportive but maybe even anti-OpenSource. Linus’s comment is below the fold becuase it is not work safe:

If your browser does not support moving GIF’s then you may want to go to the source, here.

UPDATE: Nvidia has responded. They say everything is fine. See: NVIDIA PR Responds To Torvalds’ Harsh Words

Firefox menu, FreeDOS, bash, Mint, question

The big new of the day in the OpenSource world is that FreeDOS’s web site, revised and updated, is out of Beta and fully up and running, here. If you click through you’ll find an update on a number of recent changes and updates to the operating system.

Just in case you need to know how to figure out what day of the week it is using only bash scripting (including some awk) click here.

Apparently Windows users have something Linux users don’t. But there’s a fix, so it no longer matters:

It is done. Almost. As predicted here on this blog but denied by many, it is probably true that with Windows 8, new hardware will be required by Microsoft to refuse to run Linux unless you mess with it a lot. This will make the act of simply installing Linux on that hardware hard enough that a lot of potential newbies will not bother. Also, it may make dual booting difficult (I’m just guessing at that).

Mint 13 is out.

Anybody know how to make a G5 boot to an install CD? A way that works?