Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upgrading Kubuntu Linux from 9.04 Jaunty to 9.10 Karmic

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Version 9.10 of Ubuntu Linux, nicknamed Karmic Koala, was released earlier this week.
Information and screenshots here:
Ubuntu 9.10: The Koala has landed

I'm running Kubuntu, which is Ubuntu with the KDE window manager (front end GUI).
The Kubuntu site describes the release and has screenshots:
Kubuntu 9.10: Stable, Social and Beautiful

I initiated the upgrade last night and let it run while I was sleeping. This morning I got up and found that it ran in to some problems. I noticed that some things were already upgraded - namely, Firefox was upgraded from 3.0 to 3.5. However, the upgrade could not complete and I had no choice but to cancel it and reboot the computer.

Much to my dismay, I could not even boot back in to Kubuntu. Fortunately my Windows partition could still boot and run fine. After much searching and experimenting, I finally solved the problem, thanks to this thread:
Nabble - kubuntu-users - URGENT: Problem with mounting

I had to:
  • boot a live CD (running Kubuntu 9.04)
  • mount the hard drive partition running my installation of Kubuntu
  • repair the boot loader so that it would boot the new version (9.10 Karmic) instead of the old version (9.04 Jaunty).
  • run the dpkg command to finish the upgrade
Fortunately that all worked and I am now running the new version, Kubuntu 9.10.

There are a couple of things to watch out for during any upgrade of the version of Ubuntu:
  • Any third-party repositories listed in /etc/apt/sources.list will be disabled. They have to be manually un-commented out again. It could also happen to repositories listed in the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ directory. The upgrade process will inform you that it is doing this - it gives you fair enough warning, you just have to remember that it happened.
  • Several configuration files will be modified. If the upgrade process detects that any of them has customizations or changes, it will ask for a decision on how to handle it. Fortunately while upgrading to this release, I only had one instance of this happening (with the file /etc/kde4/kdm/kdmrc). Normally I make a backup copy of the file, and then tell the upgrade process to use the version that comes with the new release. Then I compare the differences between the old (customized) version of the file, and the new one that it is using. If there are any significant changes that I want to retain, I put those back in manually.

Aside from some minor warnings and notifications that popped up, it appeared that everything was functioning normally. The only problem was audio did not work in every application. Music played in Amarok, but no sound was audible from VLC or Flash.

Luckily, this also had an easy fix, it was just a matter of installing alsamixergui and setting all levels to 100%. I got that solution from this thread:
Ubuntu Karmic Koala Bad Sound Quality!:( same problem?? - Ubuntu Forums

Lastly, there were a few cosmetic things I wanted to change, just as a matter of personal preference:
  • Broken icons in Kickoff Start Menu: Right-click the K icon, choose Menu Editor, select the application, and click on the icon image to select a new one, save and quit. If the application is in the list of favorites in the start menu, open the start menu, right-click on the application, and do Add to Favorites again. Likewise if the application is in the task manager panel, removing the shortcut and re-adding it will repair the icon.
  • Change the desktop theme from the new Air theme back to the previous Oxygen theme: Right-click on the desktop, choose Desktop Settings, and set Desktop Theme.
  • Change the Slash Screen Theme: System Settings -> Appearance -> Splash Screen
  • Change the Login Manager Theme: System Settings -> Advanced tab -> Login Manager -> Theme tab
The last thing I want to do is replace the default theme in Firefox with a new one that matches KDE. This one works for Firefox 3.0 but is not compatible with Firefox 3.5 yet.
Kde4 + Firefox3 :: Add-ons for Firefox

The whole process took longer than I had hoped, but I'm happy to be on the new version of Kubuntu 9.10 with everything running smoothly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Install Mercurial distributed version control system and TortoiseHg GUI client on Ubuntu Linux

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TortoiseHg requires a newer version of Mercurial than what is available by default in the Ubuntu repositories. These steps include installing the latest release of Mercurial from their repository. In the following steps, replace "jaunty" with the appropriate Ubuntu version (intrepid, hardy, etc.).

Install Mercurial


Add the following to /etc/apt/sources.list:
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/mercurial-ppa/releases/ubuntu jaunty main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/mercurial-ppa/releases/ubuntu jaunty main

Then run:
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-key 323293EE
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mercurial


Install TortioseHg

Add the following to /etc/apt/sources.list:
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/tortoisehg-ppa/releases/ubuntu jaunty main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/tortoisehg-ppa/releases/ubuntu jaunty main


Then run:
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-key D5056DDE
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tortoisehg


Install iniparse:
Download http://iniparse.googlecode.com/files/python-iniparse_0.3.1-1_all.deb
Run:
sudo dpkg -i python-iniparse_0.3.1-1_all.deb

You can verify that they installed correctly by running:
hg version
hg help
hgtk version
hgtk help

The main comands for TortoiseHg are:
hgtk log

hgtk status

hgtk commit

hgtk annotate


The interface for commit is actually a superset of the interface for status, so you can easily get away with only using the commit command because it provides all the same operations and more. Both of them support:
diff
add
revert
log (file history)

I prefer to run the following Mercurial operations from command line:
hg pull
hg push

For several commands I like to switch between using the command line and using the GUI client. It's always good to have both options.

References:
Mercurial:
http://mercurial.selenic.com/
Mercurial PPA:
https://launchpad.net/~mercurial-ppa
Mercurial Releases:
https://launchpad.net/~mercurial-ppa/+archive/releases
TortoiseHg PPA:
https://launchpad.net/~tortoisehg-ppa
TortoiseHg releases
https://launchpad.net/~tortoisehg-ppa/+archive/releases
iniparse:
http://code.google.com/p/iniparse/

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Windows 7 Laptops On Sale Now At Amazon - Over 200 Models

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Microsoft's eagerly awaited new operating system Windows 7 has just been released today.

Amazon has over 150 new laptops with Windows 7.

They also have 70+ netbooks with Windows 7: Acer/Gateway, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba, Velocity Micro

Some notes on the specs for the regular notebook models available on Amazon:
  • Brands: Acer/Gateway, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba, Velocity Micro
  • Price range: $399.99 to $999.99
  • Weight: 3 to 10 pounds, except for the 1.4 pound Sony Vaio with 8" screen
  • Display: 11.6 to 18.4 inches diagonal screen size, except for the 8" Sony Vaio
  • CPU: Mostly Intel processors: Atom, Celeron, ULV, Core 2 Duo, Core i7. Only a few with AMD processors, including the Neo.
  • RAM: Almost all have 2GB, 3GB, or 4GB of memory. A couple with 6GB.
  • Optical Drive: Some with no optical drive, many with DVD burners. A decent number with Blu-Ray.
  • Graphics cards: Many cheaper/smaller models have the Intel integrated GMA 4500M graphics chip. The others have NVIDIA or ATA GPU processors.
You can view the entire list as a sortable/filterable spreadsheet or as a web page:
Windows 7 laptops on Amazon comparison spreadsheet
Windows 7 laptops on Amazon comparison web page

Notes on the netbooks with Windows 7:
  • Price range: Around $300 to $550, with most of them in the $300-400 range.
  • Display: All 10 inch screens, except for a few 11.6 inch models (which at that size are sometimes listed as regular notebooks).
  • CPU: All Intel processors, mostly Atom. The Dell uses a ULV, but it barely qualifies as a "netbook".
  • RAM: Almost all have 1GB of memory, which I think is the limitation for Windows 7 Starter. The ones with 2GB or 4GB use Windows 7 Premium.
  • Hard drive: 160GB or 250GB capacity, except for a couple with 320GB.
  • Graphics card: Mostly Intel integrated graphics chip, with one model using the NVIDIA ION.
Windows 7 netbooks on Amazon comparison spreadsheet
Windows 7 netbooks on Amazon comparison web page

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple, Barnes & Noble Announce Impressive New Hardware

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First impressions of Apple's new 27-inch iMac

Wow, Apple is on fire. Their stock price hit an all-time high after reporting a great quarter yesterday. Today, they announced a bevy of new hardware updates:
  • New iMacs: I love that they stretched the screen resolutions up to full HD specs: 1920 x 1080 for the 21.5 inch model, and a whopping 2560 x 1440 for the 27 inch model. The 27 inch iMac has a Mini DisplayPort input, so you can use it as an external monitor for a laptop or other device. With all that screen real estate, they should take that 27 inch screen and sell it as a stand alone monitor. The new iMacs also offer upgraded Intel processors and graphics cards, higher capacity hard drives, and built-in SD card slots. They still don't offer Blu-ray, which is too bad because high quality video is the best way to take advantage of the higher resolution displays.
  • Magic Mouse: Apple bills it as the "world’s first Multi-Touch mouse". It comes included with each new iMac, and sells for $69 by itself. Ha, they finally did it! A mouse with no buttons. Personally, I prefer tactile feedback, so I will probably never buy or use one. It looks truly innovative though, and I'm sure other hardware makers will be influenced by its design.
  • MacBook: The venerable white plastic MacBook lives on. The latest incarnation comes with a few upgrades but remains at the $999 price. The biggest difference is the glass multi-touch trackpad, which has no button because the entire surface is a button. It also adopts an LED-backlit display, like on the MacBook Pro. Finally, it is thinner and lighter plus has longer battery life.
  • Mac Mini: The Mac Mini gets minor processor and memory upgrades. Interestingly, for $999 there is a server model with Snow Leopard Server edition and two 500GB hard drives. I wonder if it will easily let you run the drives in RAID configuration, instead of using it for 1TB. If not, perhaps they want to sell more Time Capsules instead.

Barnes & Noble's rumored new e-reader is now official and is called the Nook. It's available for pre-order on their web site along with some accessories:
It has some impressive specs, including (but not limited to) these advantages over Amazon's Kindle:
  • Color touch screen (the bottom secondary screen for navigation): Even though I always say I prefer tactile feedback, in this case it just looks so much better than the Kindle's physical keyboard. Anyway, an e-reader is designed for reading, not writing.
  • Wi-Fi in addition to 3G connectivity: Should provide faster speed using Wi-Fi.
  • Free Wi-Fi in all Barnes & Noble Stores: Cool. Obviously Amazon cannot compete with this unless they partner with Borders or something.
  • Micro SD expansion slot: Now, can you trade books with people this way? If so, that would be so great. If books are protected with DRM, then not so great.
  • Native PDF support: No conversion necessary.
  • Replaceable battery: Only matters if it dies - but if it does, you would be so glad that it can be replaced.
  • Android operating system: Opens the door for third party applications to be developed.
  • Lending: Books can be shared with other people or other devices for up to 14 days.
More from PC World:


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tech News of the Month: October 1-15, 2009

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Danger in the Cloud
Apple
Windows 7
The release of Microsoft Windows 7 is only a week away, and PC makers have been gearing up with new models taking advantage of its new multitouch features. I'm sure the marketing blitz is going to be huge. It will also be interesting to see how Apple responds.
Android
The momentum for Google's Android operating system continues, with more carriers adopting it and more new phones being announced.
E-Readers
While Amazon tries to expand its reach with the Kindle, other companies try to get in on the act.
Upcoming
New Releases / Features
Milestones
Liquidation Events


Great Contrast Between Google and Apple

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There is a very interesting blog post on Newsweek by Daniel Lyons, titled Google Wave. Huh. What Is It Good For?, in which he compares Google vs. Apple. The article is about Google Wave, but in it he makes excellent points citing the fundamental difference in philosophy between Google and Apple:
"... Google represents the antithesis of Apple. With Apple, it's all about simplicity. I once joked that at Apple they don't start with the product, they start with the advertisements. If they can't think up a good ad—if they can't tell you, in a few words, what this product does and why you simply must have it—they probably won't bother making the product."

"... Apple is a marketing company that happens to do some engineering. Google is an engineering company that has no clue about marketing. Apple is all about top-down control, while Google is built around the notion of open-source software, where you put your ideas out into the world and let others hack away at them, adding to them and changing them."
I think both models are extremely valid approaches, and obviously each company is extremely successful. After all, these are two leading titans in the technology industry and major players in the US and world economy. Sometimes you want a tool that is as versatile as a Swiss army knife - and at other times, you want a tool that does one thing and does it well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cool Stuff of the Month (Hardware, Electronics) - October 15, 2009

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With the upcoming release of Windows 7 and its multitouch features, several computer makers are releasing all-in-one PCs to take advantage of the new functionality. Each have nice, modern, slim designs. They vary from 20-inch to 24-inch screen sizes. It will be interesting to see how they fare against the iMac.
Related articles from CNET:

Kohjinsha dual-screen swivel netbook prototype hands-on (video)
I don't know if dual-screen netbook will ever make it to market, but it is a very interesting concept. For me the Achilles heel of a netbook is the small screen size and screen resolution. This solves the problem - however, in the process it may defeat the netbook's purpose of being small, lightweight, and having long battery life.


Originally uploaded by nDevilTV

Audi plans to build powerful electric sports car
It seems that Tesla and Fisker will have competition in the electric car market, specifically in the high-performance sports car market. Audi's entry does appear to validate their plans though.

Vacuum icon offers bladeless fan — for $300
Dyson, designer of sophisticated vacuum cleaners, has developed the Air Multiplier, a fan with no blades.


Barnes & Noble is reportedly coming out with an e-reader to compete with Amazon's Kindle. The rumor is that it will run Google's Android operating system. The main distinction in hardware is the use of a color multitouch display instead of physical keyboard.

LG Prototypes Solar-Powered E-Reader
Reportedly it won't be available commercially until 2012. In the meantime, there does exist a solar powered USB charger that works with your iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod, etc.

Western Digital adds e-paper displays to My Book line
The external hard drives show available capacity on labels that are visible even when the drives are not plugged in. Simple but very useful.

Buffalo ships world's first USB 3.0 hard disk drives this month
USB 3.0 is supposed to be faster than eSATA and the current generation of FireWire, while also supplying power. The most convenient part would probably be backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 ports and cables.
This seems like a neat idea for use when offline, or for someone who doesn't regularly have Internet access. However, having a static snapshot kind of defeats the purpose of Wikipedia, which is meant to be a dynamic information resource, doesn't it? Picture here: Is That The Wikipedia In Your Pocket, Or..?

Polaroid instant film cameras are making a comeback! It's refreshing to see classics live on.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Interest articles about Twitter this week

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Twitter Should Decentralize (And Make Money) Via Twitter Server
Great idea, but you have to consider the cost of shifting to this business model, and whether it really lies in Twitter's long-term vision and strategy. I think a better analogy is comparing Google's search engine on its web site vs. the Google search appliance. I haven't looked it up, but I think it is fair to say that Google's search revenue from web traffic is far more lucrative than their revenue from selling their search servers. It would also be such a fundamental shift for the Twitter development team that I would say it is better to focus on scaling out the centralized model they have now, and then start selling secure private networks for companies to use for business purposes.

Twitter Data Analysis: An Investor’s Perspective
Very interesting read. Notably, the "rate of new user acquisition has plateaued at around 8 million per month".

OneRiot aims to make money from Twitter search
Definitely agree with Rafe Needleman's assessment that this is a smart play.

Survey: Over half of U.S. workplaces block social networks
The irony is that I bet that way more then half of social network traffic comes from people when they are at work.

Twitter in Google, Microsoft licensing talks-blog - Details could include Twitter receiving a payment of several million dollars and various types of revenue-sharing agreements to allow Twitter to benefit from the ad revenue that Microsoft and Google generate from search results.

Are We Ready for Twitter 2.0? - Location-based tweeting, sharable lists, and potential data mining deals with Google and Microsoft mean we are entering Twitter 2.0.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tech News of the Month: September 2009

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Apple
Apple had a big launch event on September 9. They announced new iPod models and new versions of iTunes and iPhone OS. On September 25 MMS support for the iPhone went live.
Android
September was a busy for Android phones, with Motorola and LG announcing their first phones for Android. Also Sprint will be a new carrier for Android.
Google
Twitter
Facebook
This Is In (New Laptops)
Upcoming
New Releases
Liquidation Events
Deadpool
  • Microsoft to Drop All Zunes Except for HD Model: call me old-fashioned, but I will miss having options for a cheap high-capacity media player - at least Apple is still continuing the iPod Classic for now.
  • RIP Facebook Beacon (see above)
Show Me The Money