Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why I Use Kubuntu

I was reading this blog entry over here about Kubuntu hating and thought I’d expand my thoughts about why I like Kubuntu.  This expands on my entry on why I chose Linux.

I think the first key point is that I like the Debian underpinnings but without having to deal with constructing a usable system wading through esoterica.  At the time I made my switch to Linux, Debian was pretty strong, and I was not well versed in getting a system running “from scratch”.

I also like the 6 month release cycle of Ubuntu.  That helps keep new features fresh in the distribution without having to wait an indeterminate amount of time before the next version.  However, this is also a shortcoming.  It seems that I just about get my system updated when there is a new release — and the answer to just about every problem is “are you running the latest?”.  In my opinion, this is a problem with Ubuntu in general and there needs to be a better way to fix problems or answer problems without pushing people through the versions.  I have even gotten this answer when using the Long Term Support (LTS) release.  To me, that is unacceptable.  However, I tolerate it because there is more that I like.

In a similar vein, the Ubuntu community was a huge factor.  The Debian and Gentoo communities at the time were practically condescending and even patrnoizing at times.  There is a lot of good information out there, but the people were nearly intolerable.  Thankfully, it appears things have changed.  I was coming over from Red Hat and I didn’t particularly like the community there either.  Again, it appears things have changed some and that is a good thing.  I also looked at OpenSUSE, Arch Linux, Mint, Sabayon, straight FreeBSD, and a few others.  Kubuntu just worked — I liked that.

Looping back to Debian for a moment, I actually, strangely, like the licensing policy.  I like that the install is FOSS to start with and there is the ability to install items that are more restrictively licensed.  I’d at least like to start with a FOSS system and then pick what restricted license items I’ll use.

Software options are another thing I like.  While I know how to compile things, I’d like to use packages so removal is (theoretically) cleaner.  It’s at least cleaner than some windows uninstalls I’ve done…  I dealt with RPM packages and I dislike them enormously.  I have had a better time with DEB packages.

That just about covers the basics of ‘buntu itself.  Now on to the K part of Kubuntu.

I like KDE.  There.  I said it.  I actually like the general window manager paradigm it models, and I think KDE4 is a really good leap.  My particular like is the familiar model as well as the configuration options of KDE in general.  KDE3 was very configurable and KDE4 is catching up.

My software preferences end up playing into it to some extent, but in the end I use a mixed Qt / GTK system.  I like OpenOffice and Firefox (GTK), but greatly prefer Dolphin and Amarok (Qt) over the GTK equivalents.

But what keeps me with Kubuntu itself?  The general ease of install.  I tried Gentoo.  I tried Debian.  I tried Sabayon.  I tried Mint.  I tried Arch Linux, and more.  In the end, I just liked the clean install of Kubuntu, and how much was so easily available for it as part of the Debian-based family.

Despite my likes, I do have my nits.  Do I file bugs with Launchpad (Canonical/Ubuntu) or KDE?  If I want to contribute, where do I contribute?  When something is fixed in KDE it seems to take a month or more to make it into Kubuntu — and then usually only in the Alpha or Beta of the next version.  But my biggest nit is that the Kubuntu mission statement seems to be sorely absent.  I don’t know where they are going with this; and I don’t really know where KDE is going.  Serendipity seems to keep things moving forwards and I keep hoping that it will continue.  And, someday, I hope to have some time to give back… once I figure out how to.


Time, Money and Technology

It seems to be about time for an entry that targets the intent of this blog.  One of the problems with technology is that it usually requires time or money.  I have had little extra of either lately (beyond getting my netbook), so I think I need to establish my next set of events.

I have Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE 4.3.1 running stably on my netbook.  As noted, I needed to reinstall due to partition corruption.  I have not had any trouble since, so I suspect one of two things:  ext4 or suspending while Amarok was playing.  Thus far,  I have really enjoyed my netbook.  There is expected slowness with some things, but this is a writing and surfing machine, not something intended for enormous power.  It is a fun little machine with excellent portability.  I look forward to the day that more powerful computers are this size!

As noted, there was a suspend problem with my netbook.  Since I suspect some things that are reproducible in a VM,  I intend to give that a try at my earliest opportunity.  I think the steps to replicate the problem should be pretty straight forward.

At some point I would like to start doing some development for KDE.  In the spirit of open source, it is because some things are broken that I want fixed.  I still cannot connect to wireless networks that have their SSIDs hidden.  That is very annoying.  I might also try to pitch in on Amarok, but what I really need is time (there’s that time thing again).

Lastly, and this needs to wait until I am at “my other home” again, I need to figure out some things with DSL.  I have to say I am pretty impressed with DSL — I really had no idea how it actually worked and that it used the telephone lines instead of a dedicated line!  I found some things that my VPN connection times out on, so I need to sort that out.  That also includes hopefully getting the Cisco VPN working under Linux (Kubuntu) again.

I think that sums up my technology plans at this point.  We’ll see how that sorts out against the real world.


Review of Tarantula Nebula by David Kantrowitz

Again, breaking from my technology theme to support a friend.

I have to admit to a bias and really liking this book (The Tarantula Nebula) over the first (Reckless Faith).  The characters were more mature and developed in David’s mind and that was so very clear in the writing.  The plot retained the intricacy and pace that the first book did.  Once again, I put it down and immediately wanted the sequel (which is presently being drafted… I have to wait?!).

The crew of the Reckless Faith find themselves at the ship’s AI’s origin.  There they have to resolve issues of planetary occupation and a science research program run amok (the writer’s exploration of the ethics of science for the sake of science?).  In this we learn the origins of Seth, the connection to a heartless pirate named Aldebaran, and the relationship to the planet Umber.

Of course, life is not quite that simple.  The crew finds themselves needing to hunt down some resources for Seth to use to improve the ship, and then the crew runs afoul of pirates and the law.  Even once that is sorted out, there is a long road for the crew to travel to reach their ultimate goal of freeing Umber.

Overall, my nits about this book are small compared to the first.  I think I can count them on less than a hand, and all of which are small — practically easily forgotten, and perhaps not shared by others.  So as for what not to like about this, at this point it comes down to waiting for the sequel.

The one scene that stands out in my mind (in a good way) is a visit the crew pays to a pirate colony.  The colony has been attacked by assassins, and the scene writing where the crew is in the dance club was utterly creepy.  It was some excellent writing (perhaps David showing some Maine influence a la Stephen King?).

My truly personal bias in this book is the exploration of some races and facets of an intergalactic culture of my design.  David used these ideas with his aforementioned elaborate creativity and provided an excellent touch — something for me to consider for my own writing!

I look forward to the sequel — the third and final book — and how this story will wrap up.


Review of Reckless Faith by David Kantrowitz

I am diverting from my normal content to support a friend.  Wikipedia is picky about entries and requires references — and apparently the fact that a book is being sold at Amazon.com is insufficient.

“The Reckless Faith”, by David Kantrowitz, is a sci-fi novel on the level of what Hollywood really should be making for movies.  While it is true that there is little new under the sun (if anything), the trick and art is in how details are mixed together.  That is what I enjoyed about David’s book.  I can see elements from a number of different sci-fi shows, movies, and books that come together to form an entertaining plot of a group of friends — and later associates due to circumstances — who construct a starship under the guidance of an extra-terrestrial AI.  The book concludes nicely which leaves open the possibility for a sequel, or it could have ended as it did given that enough of the plot was resolved.

I have to admit to finding the characters a little underdeveloped at times.  As the story evolves, they remained somewhat stuck though there was great potential in each character.  (That potential I found better explored in the second book “The Tarantula Nebula”.)  This is not to imply the characters were uninteresting, but that I was personally feeling as though an opportunity for character exploration was missed.  That, however, was offset by a swiftly moving plot that had me reading the last page far sooner than I thought I would!  David’s sense of pace and conflict kept the plot moving so smoothly and swiftly that the quibble I have over character development could be set aside.

For anyone looking for a fresher take on sci-fi, read this book.  Instead of the same droll “boy meets girl” sort of story, David employs something Hollywood should rediscover:  elaborate imagination.


partition failed to mount

I am not really sure what I did wrong, but today my root and home partitions failed to mount on my netbook.

  • I left it within 10″ of a fan all night, but it started this morning just fine.  I am inclined to rule this out.
  • I have been using ext4 as my filesystem.  I know it is technically not “production ready”, but it has been working fine anyway.  Maybe this is a or the source?
  • I almost never suspend any of my computers, but this netbook has been doing very well with that.  The issue arose when I returned from a suspend and was forced to reboot because sound did not come back.
  • When the machine suspended, it was wireless, running on battery and playing music through Amarok.  I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it, but I thought I would note that.
  • Netbooks don’t necessary ship with the best components.  Maybe the HDD isn’t all that great?
  • After the reboot, Kubuntu went straight into busybox after the HDD clicked for a little bit.
  • Upon a full reinstall, there was no HDD clicking, so I am not sure whether to chalk that noise up to a corrupt partition or a bad HDD.

I think I will try to reproduce this error on a VM, but I also wonder if it might be a hardware issue.  I find it incredibly suspicious that this problem happened on a resume from suspect when the machine suspended while Amarok was playing.  It is the only time a resume has been a problem.


Script for Upgrading to KDE 4.3.1

I have had to run this more than twice.  I thought also keeping this up here as an easy way to find it again would be good.  This assumes starting from Kubuntu 9.04.

#!/bin/sh

sudo apt-get install kde-icons-oxygen kdebase-runtime-data-common kdebase-workspace-libs4+5 kdelibs-bin kdelibs5 kdelibs5-data kdepimlibs-data ksysguardd libakonadiprivate1 libeet1 libkdecorations4 libkexiv2-7 libkipi6 libkonq5-templates libkwineffects1 libokularcore1 libplasma3 libqedje0 libqt4-assistant libqt4-core libqt4-dbus libqt4-designer libqt4-help libqt4-network libqt4-opengl libqt4-qt3support libqt4-script libqt4-sql libqt4-sql-mysql libqt4-sql-sqlite libqt4-svg libqt4-test libqt4-webkit libqt4-xml libqt4-xmlpatterns libqtcore4 libqtgui4 libqzion0 libsoprano4 policykit-kde python-qt4-dbus qt4-qtconfig soprano-daemon system-config-printer-kde

sudo apt-get install akregator amarok amarok-common ark dolphin dragonplayer gwenview kaddressbook kamera kate kde-printer-applet kde-window-manager kde-zeroconf kdebase-bin kdebase-data kdebase-plasma kdebase-runtime kdebase-runtime-bin-kde4 kdebase-runtime-data kdebase-workspace-bin kdebase-workspace-data kdegraphics-strigi-plugins kdemultimedia-kio-plugins kdepasswd kdepim-kresources kdepim-strigi-plugins kdepim-wizards kdepimlibs5 kdeplasma-addons kdm kfind khelpcenter4 klipper kmag kmail kmix kmousetool knotes konqueror konqueror-nsplugins konsole kontact kopete korganizer krdc krfb ksnapshot ksysguard ksystemlog ktimetracker kuser kwalletmanager libkcddb4 libkdepim4 libkleo4 libkonq5 libkpgp4 libksieve4 libmimelib4 okular okular-extra-backends plasma-widget-network-manager python-kde4 python-qt4 python-sip4 systemsettings kdeartwork-emoticons python-kde4-dbg python-qt4-dbg konq-plugins kdebase akonadi-server

exit


Script for Installing My Favorite Packages

I have done a number of installs and wanted to make a script that would install my favorite things.  I finally got around to it and plan to keep this post updated as things are added or removed.  This assumes a basic Kubuntu install as a starting point.

#!/bin/sh

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install firefox yakuake lame msttcorefonts sun-java6-bin sun-java6-doc sun-java6-fonts sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin flashplugin-nonfree cheese

exit

I am pretty sure I have missed something.  But that’s a start.