Ubuntu; Good for Alienware

My daughter recently acquired an Alienware brand laptop for use in her job. It’s not the typical piece of hardware someone in her position would use. But as she works in law enforcement, it is not uncommon to use equipment that was seized as part of a criminal investigation. It’s a nice, fast machine with a quad-core processor, 6 GB of RAM, and it’s sturdy and durable.

The hard drive on this computer had been re-formatted, and a fresh copy of Windows 7 was installed. My daughter asked me for help getting her WiFi connection set up (she was 600 miles away at the time), and since I didn’t have physical access to the machine I could only offer a few suggestions over the phone. Unfortunately, she was unable to get the network connection she needed. Read more

Categories: Blog Posts, Linux, Ubuntu

Window Lists Essential to Unity

window-list-screenshotWith Unity having replaced GNOME as the default user interface for Ubuntu nearly two years ago, I continue to read articles and posts debating the usability of this new user interface. Many long-time Linux users dislike the new interface, and the debate over its usability verses GNOME continues. I have been using Unity since it has appeared in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, its first appearance in an Ubuntu long-term-support release. I like the interface, I have made the switch, and I haven’t looked back. I previously wrote about how I think Unity gets it right. But there is one usability area where Unity is lacking. That, however, can now be addressed with a simple add-on. Read more

OnStar Navigation Disappoints

I use a vehicle GPS whenever I travel for any distance, whether I know how to get there or not. In addition to providing navigational directions, it give me lots of data including estimated time of arrival, distance to the next turn, distance and time remaining, current speed, and an on-screen map. It is an amazing little piece of technology that combines use of radio signals, precise timing, and trigonometry. I have a TomTom brand GPS and am extremely satisfied with it. Read more

Top 10 Reasons for Choosing Ubuntu over Windows

On my personally owned computing equipment, I have one one Windows partition installed; on my laptop (about which I have previously written), which dual boots with Ubuntu. When it comes to my personal computing needs, I use that Windows partition for maintaining a few specific devices for which no Linux-based maintenance software exists, namely my TomTom GPS, iPhone and iPod, and Logitech Harmony remote control. I recently applied an update to one of these devices, and I find the process of even booting up Windows to be absolute misery. So, why do I so strongly prefer Ubuntu to Windows? Here’s my top-ten list. Read more

Categories: Blog Posts, Ubuntu

Precise Pangolin Keeps Old Laptop Alive

I tend to hang on to hardware for a long time. My laptop, for instance, is going on probably 7 or 8 years old. It has been two months now since the latest Ubuntu version, 12.04 LTS, a.k.a. Precise Pangolin, has been released. I have been routinely upgrading (re-installing, actually) to the new Ubuntu release once a year, with each “.04″ release. I like to do a fresh, clean install rather than upgrading; it gives me a chance to “clean house”. But my first attempt to install on this old system, within a week of Precise’s release, was met with a roadblock; it requires PAE (physical address extension) hardware. This long-time friend of a laptop is just getting too old. Read more

Categories: Blog Posts, Ubuntu

Windows Recovery with DEFT Linux

WindowBroken2Every so often, a computer comes my way that is suffering from “Broken Windows”; a perfectly good piece of hardware that is rendered useless by virtue of catastrophic software problems within the Windows operating system. It’s a shame, really. I have see perfectly good computers thrown in the trash just because Windows doesn’t work any more. Of course, there are Windows recovery tools (e.g. restore points) to revert the system to previous configurations, which may or may not get the system working again. Failing the recovery tools, my usual approach (other than eradicating Windows and installing Ubuntu) is to reload the system from the factory restore disks, if available. In that case, I typically set out to recovery as much data (documents, music, videos, etc.) from the user’s computer as possible, before restoring the computer to its original factory condition. That’s where DEFT Linux comes in. Read more

Text-to-Speech, with Ubuntu

I was talking with a friend the other day, and he told me that he had a passage he was working to memorize. He talked about recording the passage and putting it on his iPod so that he could play it repeatedly, but was having some difficulty in converting to the proper file formats. I had done something similar in the past using text-to-speech. Personally, when trying to memorize a passage, I find that listening to my own voice over and over again is distracting. So, my solution was text-to-speech conversion. I offered to do that same type of conversion for my friend. Read more

Categories: Blog Posts, Ubuntu

Easy Time-Lapse Video with Ubuntu

I hate snow. For me, it represents a lot of manual labor for the sole benefit of being able to get out of my driveway. I found myself into about three hours of shoveling the day after an unusual October nor’easter, looking out at my back yard, and reveling in the fact that the predicted warm temperatures for the week ahead will make this 14 inches of snow all go away. Then it hit me. This would make a great time-lapse video; watch it melt over the next eight hours. I have never done time-lapse video before, but I figured I could do it with just a little bit of research and the free software available in Ubuntu. But time was of the essence, and I had to learn quick. Here’s how I did it. Read more

Categories: Blog Posts, Ubuntu

How Unity Gets It Right

Screenshot-Unity-DesktopI have been a user of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system for about five years, and until very recently its default graphical user interface has been GNOME. I have been a GNOME user even longer, having been a Fedora user previous to Ubuntu. The latest version of Ubuntu (11.04) introduced Unity, a new graphical user interface which is now the default UI (GNOME is still available as an alternative). I haven’t seen Unity very well received, based on the reviews I’ve read. I use it on my laptop, and I think it has a lot of promise. It’s different from GNOME and KDE (another popular UI on Linux-based systems), and I suppose that users of those UI’s are resisting the change. I find Unity to be a bit buggy, and there are a number of issues I have, as a software developer, that I think just work better for me in GNOME. But I don’t want to just dismiss the new user interface; I want to give it a fair chance. I do, however, see one major area where Unity really hits the mark. That area is vertical screen real estate. Read more