Apple and Mac OS X Computers Linux Music I Like Ubuntu

A professional musician switches from Mac to Ubuntu Linux?

I just read Linux Music Workflow: Switching from Mac OS X to Ubuntu with Kim Cascone, and I have to say I’m shocked, especially after reading Kim Cascone’s Wikipedia entry. Kim is a serious musician, not just some schmoe dinking around in his basement.

I’ve been a full-time Ubuntu user for a little over four years now, having switched from Windows XP. My wife switched around the same time but from Windows to Mac, as she uses Mac for serious graphic design work.

Even though I get annoyed when anti-Linux trolls make it sound as if no one could use Linux just because Linux isn’t great for certain niche commercial applications (AutoCAD, Adobe CS, certain graphics-intensive video games), I have to concede that Linux is not for everyone. And if someone had come up to me yesterday and said, “Hey I’m a professional musician who uses a computer full-time for audio stuff. Should I use Linux?” I would probably laugh in her face and tell her to go with Mac OS X.

Even though I don’t use Linux for serious audio work, I’ve seen enough of the Linux audio mess of Pulse Audio, OSS, and ALSA to know it can be an obstacle for someone seeking to use Linux primarily for audio work. After reading that blog post, though, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

And I also think that, even though there is a myth of meritocracy in the software world, arguing about how freedom is important isn’t going to win over the general public. If open source is really a better development model, it will create better software. There shouldn’t be a choice between functionality and ideology. If the ideology of freedom being better is true, then it should produce the best functionality eventually. And maybe it is slowly getting there.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that if Ubuntu (or some other Linux distro) fixes all its usability issues that all of a sudden hundreds of millions of Windows users (and Mac users?) will just download .iso files, burn them to CD, boot from CD, and install and configure a new operating system themselves. But why have extra obstacles?

Keep on bringing the improvements, Linux communities. This is definitely a cool development.

Computers Linux Writing

Google Chrome OS isn’t Linux?

Add one more to the tech journalism hall of shame.

From PC World‘s “Google’s Chrome OS May Fail Even as It Changes Computing Forever”:

First, Google will compete with another operating system, Linux, that has tried fruitlessly to replace Windows on consumer PCs. The Linux camp will give it another go with a Linux variant called Moblin that has the backing of Intel and is headed for netbooks soon. (No specific partners or dates have been announced.) Dell says it prefers Moblin to Chrome OS.

Hey, Tom Spring—Google Chrome OS is Linux, just as much as Intel’s Moblin is, just as much as Ubuntu is. Linux is a short-hand many people use to designate any operating system that uses the GNU/Linux kernel… and Google Chrome OS uses the Linux kernel!

Maybe this mistake is a good thing.

If even tech “journalists” think Google Chrome OS isn’t Linux, then maybe people will give Chrome a chance because of the Google brand and not be afraid that Linux is only for geeks. After all, no one ever said you had to be a geek to use TiVo.

If Chrome OS is successful, Linux’s “year of the desktop” may not even be recognized as such, because most people (not even supposed journalists) won’t even realize Chrome is Linux. Of course, I don’t buy that Google is directly competing with Microsoft. Yes, Chrome OS is an operating system. Yes, if it’s successful, it will take some marketshare away from Windows. But cloud computing can be only so successful in the near future. Not everyone has broadband internet. Not everyone wants confidential documents on someone else’s servers. Not everyone wants to migrate away from her current platform. Not all applications have “cloud” counterparts.

If Google is successful in taking over the netbook market, it’ll be a huge blow to Microsoft, but people will still be using their Windows desktops and Windows laptops for heavy gaming, for niche business applications, for graphic design (if they aren’t using Macs).

Windows does not need to be totally overthrown, though. Any gain in marketshare for Linux will mean more hardware support for Linux users, which means ultimately more freedom and choice for even those Linux users who use non–Chrome OS distros.

Linux Ubuntu

What’s the point of Ubuntu remixes?

I remember when Ubuntu Christian Edition first came on the scene (don’t look for it any more—the project has since been discontinued). There was an uproar in the Ubuntu Linux community. Why are people bringing religion into software? Free software should be bringing people together, not separating them. And, of course, the objection of Why even bother? Can’t you just create a metapackage? Aren’t all these things in the software repositories? Users can just install GnomeSword and DansGuardian themselves.

Religion aside, there seemed to be (and sometimes continues to be) an objection to the very notion that you might take a Linux distribution, change the default packages and artwork in it, and then re-release it as a modified distribution (or “remix” as the Ubuntu folks like to call it, as per their trademark policy). Even now I still see people on the forums asking “Why? Why would you bother? Why can’t you install those packages yourself?”

To answer this question, let’s imagine Ubuntu stopped distributing itself the way it does now. Right now, the default Ubuntu comes as a CD that has a live session that runs off RAM, and if you want to install it to your hard drive, you can do so. Both the live session and the fresh install give you a set of applications—a web browser, an email client, a bittorrent client, a word processor, an image editor, etc. What if Ubuntu stopped doing that? What if they said “Eh. People can just install applications themselves. Let’s just give them a command prompt after installation”?

Well, I actually know some Ubuntu users would be thrilled with that. There is a reason, though, why the mini.iso is less popular than the Desktop CD .iso, and it’s not just because the Desktop CD is the main download on the Ubuntu website.

Defaults matter.

I can’t tell you how many Windows users I see with the taskbar on the bottom and a green rolling hill with a blue sky for the desktop wallpaper. People use Internet Explorer because it is the default web browser in Windows. A lot of Ubuntu users like Gnome because it has two panels instead of one. Guess what, people—Gnome can easily have one panel. Just delete the bottom panel (or the top one).

Have you ever taken a default installation and tweaked it to be exactly the way you want it? For some people, that can be just a couple of minutes. For others, it can take hours. I’m not kidding.

What if you felt the default Ubuntu packages weren’t a good way to introduce Ubuntu to folks interested in trying Linux? Would you carry around a live CD with you and then say “Hold on. Hold on. I’m going to boot this up, but it’ll take me about forty-five minutes to make this interface presentable and install a bunch of packages… oh, which may not fit in your 512 MB of RAM”? Wouldn’t it be far more effective to have a live CD with Ubuntu exactly the way you want it?

I recently created my own Ubuntu remix called the Ubuntu HP Mini Remix. Yes, you can do all those things in Ubuntu after installation (fix sound, make sound settings stick, have wireless resume more quickly after suspend, consolidate panels to make room for more vertical real estate), but it involves editing configuration text files and doing a lot of annoying little tweaks.

And some folks with HP Minis haven’t been able to get those tweaks working. Maybe it’d be good if I just gave them an .iso they could use right away that had those tweaks in them?

More importantly, though, what’s the harm? You don’t have to use my remix. No one does. In fact, if I were the only person using my remix, I’d still consider it worth the effort. It doesn’t take anything away from Ubuntu. I’m not a developer or programmer. I’m not a graphics artist. The time and energy I put into my remix would not benefit vanilla Ubuntu, since the tweaks I’m making are specifically for the HP Mini 1120nr. Yes, there are some bugs that could be fixed, but I’m not fixing bugs. I’m employing workarounds for those bugs.

Remixes are a good way to make easily available to a niche population a set of default packages that its members can install on multiple systems or demonstrate as live sessions on multiple systems without them having to make an hour’s worth of tweaks to get going.

Defaults matter. That’s why remixes matter.

Computers hp mini Linux Ubuntu

Vanilla Ubuntu on the HP Mini 1120nr

Anyone who read my last post knows I am not a fan at all of the HP Mobile Internet Experience. It was a huge disappointment that made me almost regret buying the HP Mini 1120nr.

Good thing I didn’t give up on it, though, just because of the bad MIE interface. I installed vanilla Ubuntu on it, and it’s great now!

First I had to consider whether to install Ubuntu lpia (lower-powered Intel architecture) or the regular i386 version. Presumably the lpia version is optimized for the Intel Atom processor in my HP Mini, but…

…not to mention the fact that almost all third-party .deb files (TrueCrypt, DropBox, Opera) are compiled for i386. Since the battery life on the HP Mini appears to be between 2 and 2.5 hours (less than the 3 hours I got on my Eee PC 701), an added 12 to 15 minutes of battery life wouldn’t really help anyway. In any case, I don’t travel much, so battery life would be just something to brag about, not necessarily something I would need.

Instead of the hours I spent trying to make the MIE interface usable (to no avail, by the way, and it wasn’t any more responsive even after I switched from 1 GB to 2 GB of RAM), the Ubuntu installation and configuration took me only about 40 minutes and was extremely painless.

I took a vanilla Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), booted it from USB, clicked the Install button on the desktop, answered the easy questions quickly, resized my MIE partition to make way for regular Ubuntu, took 20 minutes to install, then rebooted.

Almost everything worked straight away—Compiz, screen resolution, function keys, resume from suspend. Even wireless worked (and it’s a Broadcom card, which is notoriously Linux-unfriendly). The only thing broken was sound. So I did a quick Google search and came across this fix. I pasted those few commands into the terminal, rebooted, checked a couple of boxes in the sound preferences (check to enable speakers, uncheck to disable PC beep), and everything was running quite smoothly—and with no lag at all.

It’s a shame HP didn’t put more usability testing into their preinstalled version of Ubuntu… or just put more thought into sticking with regular Ubuntu.

Edit (26 May, 2009): Actually, the sound settings would reset after each reboot. Usually, I just suspend to RAM, but every now and then I reboot, and it’s annoying to have to mute the PC Beep and unmute the PC Speaker every time.

The fix is:

  1. Get the volume settings exactly the way you want them.
  2. Paste the command sudo alsactl store into the terminal.
  3. Edit the /etc/rc.local file as root (sudo nano -B /etc/rc.local) and then add in the line alsactl restore before exit 0

Now if you reboot, your sound settings should stay the same.

hp mini Linux Ubuntu

My HP Mini Mobile Internet… Experience

My Linux netbook search
The first (relatively) popular netbook was the Asus Eee PC 700, which came out in late 2007. I waited until mid-2008 to get my Asus Eee PC 701, because I thought the second-generation would be better and worth waiting for.

Turns out I should have waited just another few months until a 1.6 GHz Atom processor with 1 GB of RAM, an 8.9″ screen, and a 16 GB SSD became the standard. I love the size of my Eee PC, and I did adjust to the keyboard. But the dealbreaker for me is the screen size. And I don’t even mind looking at the screen. The real problem is that web designers have abandoned the notion that 800 pixels wide is the limit. And side-scrolling is not fun.

So for months and months, I’ve been searching for a new netbook to replace my old Eee PC. Netbook reviews now are funny to me, because people still complain about the small screens and small keyboards, even when the screen is 10″ and the keyboard is 92% the size of a normal keyboard. Clearly they haven’t used an Eee PC 701 before!

The best netbook I could find was the Asus Eee 1000HE. It’s only US$389 and comes with a 10″ screen, 160 GB hard drive, multi-touch touchpad, 1 GB of RAM, and 9 hours of battery life. But I didn’t end up getting it, because it also came with Windows XP, and I’m not buying another computer with Windows preinstalled.

Unfortunately, the Linux preinstalled options in the US for netbooks are getting slimmer and slimmer (maybe this will change with the new ARM processors, but a decent ARM netbook probably won’t be out for at least another year). On NewEgg, I saw the Linux options go from 8 to 6 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 and then back to 2 again. But the 2 left were older models that were hardly worth the money (or that offered a keyboard the same size as my 701).

The HP Mini Mie: What I was expecting
Eventually, I settled on the HP Mini 1120nr (“Mobile Internet Experience”). I did a fair bit of research and, based on the reviews I read and videos I saw, these were the general pros and cons I thought I would encounter:

On the positive side, it uses a customized version of Ubuntu (my distro of choice) with a beautiful interface, it has a very large (compared to my 701) keyboard, and is relatively affordable (the model I bought was under US$350). Even with a large keyboard, the exterior design of the netbook is gorgeous. It’s slim and sleek.

On the negative side, the Ubuntu interface has its flaws (clicking a Thunderbird message in the preview screen takes you only to Thunderbird and not to the message you clicked on), there are only two USB slots, there’s no VGA, there’s no multi-touch, the trackpad has buttons on the sides instead of the bottom, the battery life isn’t much better than my 701 (unless I buy a 6-cell battery, which costs a lot more and physically juts out the bottom).

Turns out the hardware was more beautiful than I thought it would be, and the software was a lot less usable than I thought it would be.

Major Criticisms
The worst part of the HP Mini MIE as it’s sold is the lack of proper usability testing. Why do major OEMs screw up Linux so badly? Why can’t they just use vanilla Ubuntu or Ubuntu Netbook Remix? Why do they have to create convoluted interfaces that are difficult to use? Yes, on the surface, the MIE interface is pretty and slick, and it looks very simple. You have emails on the left, web stuff in the middle, and music and pictures on the right. One button always takes you back to that screen. The other button helps you cycle through the open applications or launch a new application. Sounds good, right? It’s actually terrible, and not for any reason I found in reviews I read of MIE.

I bought the 10″ screen version with a 16 GB SSD and 1 GB of RAM. You would think (especially with a 1.6 GHz processor, as opposed to the 900 MHz processor on my Eee PC) the performance would be decent. It’s not. It’s barely usable. Seriously. Boot time is rather quick. I didn’t time it with a clock, but it seemed to be about 40 seconds… less than a minute, in any case. Launching applications doesn’t take too long (the requisite few seconds). It’s actually using and switching between applications that is slow and often inelegant.

There is a lag. You still see the last bit of the other application’s window fading out as you begin focusing on the new application, and you often have to wait a second or two in order to start typing in that new application. There’s just a general sluggishness. In fact, when I installed updates with the update manager, Firefox was pretty much unusable because dpkg was CPU spiking.

The Mobile Internet Experience
Not helping in the performance area, the MIE designers replaced the regular Alt-Tab behavior with a custom Alt-Tab command. In a regular Linux (or even Windows) installation, Alt-Tab will allow you to switch applications quickly. Pressing it once automatically switches to the other most recently used application. Hold down Alt while Tabbing will cycle through to the other open applications. In MIE, the first time you press Alt-Tab, the available applications appear but the focus is on the window you already have open. Why would I want to switch to what I already have open? So switching between the current window and the last-used window requires two Alt-Tabs instead of one.

The MIE interface is generally inflexible. The tweaks on the simple interface for the Eee PC were pretty simple and straightforward—edit this text file, paste in this command. Not so with the MIE interface. I’ve looked up tweaks, and I can’t find a way to completely free up the Gnome panel or to make search (and not URL) the default on the web search dialogue. I even tried just installing IceWM and using that instead of the MIE version of Gnome. No go there. If I used IceWM, the Network Manager applet would launch but not work, and resume from suspend-to-RAM did not work either in IceWM. There are some hidden scripts or something in MIE that make things work, and it’s a little annoying.

The startup questions asked if I didn’t want to be prompted for my password, and I thought they were talking about an autologin. But apparently, that just took the password completely off sudo, and I don’t see any simple way to get it back. Maybe I’ll have to dig into the /etc/sudoers file. For any setting you have to change something, you should have another setting to change it back.

Hardware Problems
A couple of other general annoyances: granted, I’ve had this for less than one day, but I’m finding it extremely difficult to adjust to the touchpad buttons being on the sides instead of the bottom of the touchpad. And the touchpad is just too sensitive, even after I installed gsynaptics and tried tweaking the settings. Yes, there is a dedicated button to turn off the touchpad, and that button would be handy if you’re typing a long novel, I guess, but most of the time you want to constantly switch back and forth between typing and mousing on a netbook!

Another annoying thing about it is the display is extremely bright. Even at its lowest setting, it is bright. When you plug in the power cord, the brightness resets to the highest brightness, and even if you unplug the power cord, the brightness resets to the highest brightness. I don’t want my netbook on the highest brightness… ever. I can’t find a setting to change this, though, and I think it’s one of the reasons the battery life is so poor.

The power button is oddly placed on the underside of the front of the HP Mini, and it’s one of those ones you have to pull to a side instead of push. I guess in one sense that’s good because you’ll never accidentally press it. But, really, it’s annoying to pull a button.

Even though WEP is far less secure than WPA, my wife’s Macbook Pro cannot work with WPA reliably, so we use WEP because I still think it’s better than no encryption at all (won’t stop the serious packet sniffers, but it will stop the casual leecher). Unfortunately, the MIE would simply not connect to the type of WEP encryption we were using, so I had to change to another type. Then it connected just fine. But that’s a bit odd.

Other thoughts
Not really a problem, but I did notice the HP Mini came with no carrying case or bag. It didn’t have to. It was a nice touch that Asus included a bag with my Eee PC, though.

Ordinarily in a review I would put the criticisms last, but the MIE interface and the Mini defaults are such a bad implementation of Ubuntu that these defaults seriously hamper the Mini experience so that I cannot overlook them in any moment I’m using the Mini.

The Good Stuff
There are good things about the Mini, though, and that’s why I’m going to stick with it.

As I said before, the physical construction of the netbook is genius. When closed, it looks tiny. When open, the keyboard looks impressively large. The screen is a bit too shiny, but it’s a very nice, large screen. I read one review that complained about the plug not going in all the way, but I didn’t have that problem at all. I like how the SD card slot is a bit recessed, so when I put my SD card in, it’s a bit hidden and doesn’t jut out (as it did on my Eee PC).

The speaker is cleverly placed on the hinge of the netbook so that it doesn’t take up extra space, but it isn’t hidden behind anything either. The sound comes out very strongly.

Even though it’d have been nice to have another USB slot and a proper VGA-out, the slimness of the netbook simply does not allow for it—there’s a lot of machine to cram into such a small package.

Not a big deal to Windows and Mac users, I know, but suspend-to-RAM works perfectly (as long as you use MIE’s custom Gnome and not IceWM). I haven’t tried hibernate yet.

More importantly, there seems to be a relatively rich set of packages available in the HP Mini repositories (which live on Canonical servers). Even though the regular Add/Remove has a pittance of applications, Synaptic is also installed and can be easily reached with an Alt-F2 and gksudo synaptic. Some reviews I read said applications installed this way wouldn’t show up in the regular application menus, but I installed both GIMP and gsynaptics and both made their way into the menus. (Of course, when I tried to do a –force-architecture installation of DropBox that didn’t quite work out.)

I bag on MIE’s usability, but the visual design of it is quite slick, from the USplash theme to the GDM theme, right down to the buttons and window decorations. Everything looks really nice, even though MIE does inherit some of the transitional flaws of Ubuntu (a quick view of terminal text before USplash loads up).

Despite the touchpad’s configuration being a bit annoying, its physical surface has a nice textural feel, and the buttons are not loud when pressed (unlike the serious clicking sound from my Eee PC’s buttons). The keys on the keyboard, likewise, are fairly quiet and easy to press.

I have to say I’m disappointed. All the reviews I’d read of the HP Mini MIE made it sound a little limiting but not a total disaster. Even a few hours of use has made me frustrated, so I would say MIE is a total disaster, definitely.

Since most of the flaws seem to have to do with the MIE interface configuration and general sluggishness, though, I want to give a proper vanilla Ubuntu installation a try on this (especially since I do have a 2 GB RAM stick on the way). The best thing is that with 16 GB of space on my SSD, I can do a proper dual-boot (unlike on my 4 GB SSD Eee PC). More later…

Computers Linux Ubuntu

Inspiron 15n: Dell finally properly prices its Ubuntu option

Every now and then, Linux users get outraged because Dell prices the base model of Ubuntu cheaper than the base model of Windows, but when you match the specs of the two computers, Windows ends up being cheaper. This happened for the Dell Mini 9s when they first came out, for example.

What I’ve noticed is a cycle of Dell pricing Ubuntu cheaper and then offering some kind of promotional discount that makes Windows cheaper. The Linux community complains, and then Dell adjusts the pricing. I created an IdeaStorm idea called Implement a system by which Ubuntu systems automatically get promotional discounts their Windows counterparts get, but it got only 19 votes. No word from Dell on that.

The only official word from Dell on pricing is another IdeaStorm idea (Implemented: Ubuntu Dell is Le$$ Than Windows Dell) that was marked as implemented back in 2007 and that obviously has gone from implemented to unimplemented and back again. A Dell representative wrote on March 24, 2007:

Changed status to **IMPLEMENTED**.

On average, comparably configured Ubuntu systems will be about $50 less than Windows systems.

Well, I’m not sure if they’re going to make this suddenly in favor of Windows again, but I did a price comparison on the Dell Inspiron 15 (Windows Vista) and the Dell Inspiron 15n (Ubuntu Intrepid) today, and Ubuntu is more than US$200 cheaper.

See screenshots for more details:
dell-inspiron-15-with-windows dell-inspiron-15n-with-ubuntu
(American? I haven’t checked the other Dell sites yet) Linux users complaining about pricing? Get them while they’re still hot!

Linux Windows

Software installation in Linux is difficult

Linux is for geeks only. Software installation in Linux is difficult. It is not for the faint-hearted. Let’s take, for example, installing a simple game of Hearts.

In Linux, you’ll have to download source code and have to compile it from source, and then you’ll run into dependency hell and have to track down all the individual dependencies yourself.

Here are some screenshots to show you just how difficult it is…

See? That was quite difficult, and I would not recommend that for the average user. People just want to click and go. They don’t want to have to run a lot of obscure commands just to play a game of Hearts.

It’s much easier in Windows. In Windows, all you have to do is search for the software you want, download it, click next-next-next-finish, and you’re done.

Let’s take a look at how much easier it is to install software in Windows…

See how easy that was? These Linux geeks have to stop pretending that Linux is ready for the average user. Windows is ready to go out of the box, and it’s just more user-friendly.

Computers Linux

Know why software installation is difficult on Linux? It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.

I love this line from Preston Gralla’s latest bit of anti-Linux propaganda:

But when you try to install new software [in Linux], or upgrade existing software, you’ll be in for trouble. I won’t get down and dirty with the details here, but believe me, it’s not pretty.

Actually, I don’t believe you. Why should anyone? I find it quite pretty. I find it beautiful and simple.

Since Gralla doesn’t want to spend the time explaining to you the details of software installation in Linux, I will. I will get down and dirty with the details here.

I’ve been using Ubuntu for the past four years straight. When I want to install software, this is what I do:

  • I click with my mouse on the Applications menu.
  • Then I select with my mouse the menu item Add/Remove.
  • I do a search in a little text search field (which I can click in with my mouse) for the software I want (or what the software does) and then some results come up in the search with little pictures and descriptions next to them.
  • I pick the result I want and check with my mouse the little checkbox next to it.
  • Then I click with my mouse the Apply button.

That’s it. Some pretty dirty details there. If you want to see screenshots of this “not pretty” process, you can visit my Ubuntu software installation page.

And the best part is that I don’t even have to worry about upgrading applications. Every six months when I upgrade Ubuntu, all my applications automatically get upgraded. How easy is that?

Gralla, welcome to 2009 (or actually even 2005). I don’t know why you’re still using Linux distributions from ten years ago. Do I make judgments on Windows based on my experiences with Windows ME?

Computers Linux

Do we have a say in who uses Free software?

Recently, Clem (the lead developer on Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu) posted a blog entry asking that supporters of the Israeli government actions against Palestine refrain from using and donating to Linux Mint. He has since removed the entry from his blog.

A couple of years ago, there was an uproar in the Ubuntu community over a user-modified version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Christian Edition, and similar outrage expressed over a couple supposedly racist versions of Ubuntu.

These incidents all bring up the question “If software freedom means anyone can modify the source and redistribute the software, does that really mean anyone?”

I certainly have my strong political opinions, but I don’t think I would ever post a blog saying racist, antifeminist, anti-Christian, conservative, warmongering homophobes are not welcome to use my Psychocats tutorials in order to get Ubuntu up and running.

Maybe it’s the Christian in me, but I feel that I’m meant to love everyone, especially those I disagree with. I believe Clem has good intentions. He is also probably misguided, though, in his actions and may end up alienating people from Linux Mint rather than making for any real change in Israel and Palestine.

I actually look back fondly on arguments I’ve had with other Ubuntu Forums members. As a feminist who subscribes to more progressive race and gender theories, I definitely was not in the majority in most politically-oriented discussions. Nevertheless, I felt a certain camaraderie with these folks because we all use Ubuntu together. Some are more conservative. Some are more liberal. Some like guns. Some abhor guns. Some are men. Some are women. Some are straight. Some are gay. Some are in the US. Some are in Europe. Some are in Asia. We’re of different ages and economic backgrounds. And that’s a good thing, I think.

Economic sanctions do sometimes have their place, but I think that Linux Mint not being used in Israel will hardly stop the violence. You have to be a country or a multibillion-dollar corporation to make that kind of difference with sanctions.

Clem, I’m definitely not pro-Israel (and I’m sad that some people mistake being against Zionism or the Israeli government for being anti-Semitic). I’m an American, and I can definitely understand people being opposed to US governmental actions without being anti-American-citizen. Hell, even a lot of Americans disagree with the US government (that’s one of the freedoms we’re supposed to be proud of as Americans). Still, I wish you would just welcome everyone back to Linux Mint with open arms. I don’t use Mint personally, but I do recommend it to a lot of new users.

Linux Ubuntu

What I’d love to see in Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)

I have to say I’m very impressed with Ubuntu’s latest 9.04 release (Jaunty Jackalope). I’ve used every single release of Ubuntu since 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog), and Jaunty is by far the best and most polished release. And a couple of the usability bugs I pointed out two years ago have since been fixed (restore from trash, image previews in upload dialogue). Even one of the top ten brainstorm ideas I supported was implemented (giving the proper instructions to repair an interrupted software installation).

We definitely need to go a step further, though, in the next release. I know right now Mark Shuttleworth is thinking about polishing notifications (and hopefully PulseAudio, too) and working a bit more on Ubuntu Netbook Remix and the Ayatana Project. Some of us end users just want a few things fixed, though.

Here’s my current list of top things I’d love to see in the next Ubuntu release (with links to the appropriate Brainstorm idea):

Idea #136: Add a tutorial slideshow to the installation process
I proposed this idea almost immediately after Brainstorm launched. It has none of the drawbacks of a pop-up “Welcome” video when you log in but has all of the benefits. The developers seemed to approve it at the time but deferred it until 8.10. Then when 8.10 came around, they deferred it until 9.04. Now that 9.04 has passed… well, let’s hope the tutorial slideshow makes it into 9.10.

Idea #400: Prevent applications from stealing focus
I can’t tell you how frustrating this is. I never want to be typing in one application and then have a background application start up and have some of my typing appear in one application and some in the other, especially if I’m typing a password. Focus stealing should be off by default and be able to be turned on for only those who want it.

Idea #2298: Automatic reparation of interrupted dpkg
They finally got it so that when your package manager is interrupted during software installation that you’ll correctly be instructed to use

sudo dpkg –configure -a

to correct it instead of

dpkg –configure -a

How about ditching the commands altogether and just having a button that fixes the installation? Or just automatically fixing it the next time you launch the package manager?

Idea #4347: gksudo if I try to do an action I don’t have access to
If I’m an admin user who is able to sudo and gksudo, why would you say access is denied instead of allowing me to authenticate?

This isn’t a security issue, as I am already in the admin group, and I already have the sudo password.

Idea #7792: Use BitTorrent as primary protocol for apt-get
No reason not to do this. Puts less load on the servers. Faster downloads. Everyone’s happy.

Idea #8008: Provide a simple interface for labeling partitions and external drives
If I want to rename my thumb drive, why can’t I just F2 it? Do I have to install mtools and look up cryptic commands off the Wiki?

Idea #11107: Users and Groups should always make sure at least one user is in the admin group
By Users and Groups I mean the graphical menu item System > Administration > Users and Groups. If someone is the last admin, she shouldn’t be able to remove herself from the admin group via the GUI. If she knows what she’s doing and wants to do it from the command-line, that’s fine.

No one should have to reference this sudo fix because of an unchecked box.

Idea #15067: Publish and publicize a developers’ hardware list
The Ubuntu releases inevitably have bugs for certain users with certain hardware configurations. And there’s no way for the developers to test all hardware configurations. Well, what are the developers using? If they have no bugs when Ubuntu is released, I’d love to get the same hardware configurations they have.

Well, I won’t hold my breath on these. It took the Gnome devs about eight years to implement a restore from trash. Let’s see what happens.