Monday, June 29, 2009

Install Firefox 3.5

Firefox 3.5 has some great features planned. As of the time this article was written it is still in development and some plugins do not work or conflict with new features. If you'd like try out Firefox 3.5 before it's officially included in Ubuntu, there is a is a Personal Package Archives (PPA) with a daily build of Firefox 3.5 that makes installation easy. To install Firefox 3.5, codenamed Shiretoko, you have to add the PPA and its key to your repositories.

Add the PPA To Your Repository:
- Go to the Mozilla Daily PPA Page
- Select the correct packages for your version of Ubuntu (8.04, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10)
- Copy the Mozilla daily repository to your source list
in a terminal:
sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
adding the dialy ppa
- save and exit

Add the Repository Key:
- copy the key from this public key server page
- paste it into a text file

- save and exit

- Go to Software Sources (System->Administration->Software Sources)
import the key
- Under the Authentication Tab select "+ Import Key File..."
- Navigate to where you have saved the PPA key. *This will leave you in the root area of your hard disk, if you saved the key in your Home folder you will have to navigate from your File System->Home->user folder

Update your Repositories
in a terminal type:
sudo apt-get update

Install Firefox 3.5
sudo apt-get install firefox-3.5 firefox-3.5-branding firefox-3.5-gnome-support xulrunner-1.9.1 xulrunner-1.9.1-gnome-support

It will install under it's development name Shiretoko, in Applications->Internet

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 2 "Karmic Koala" on The Dell Mini 9

There are some exciting features planned for Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. The biggest news is the work being done on the Intel video driver. Recently Canonical's Bryce Harrington reported on the improvement of the Intel graphic driver on the Ubuntu developer mailing list. The 2.6.30 kernel will ship with Kernel Mode Setting enabled for Intel graphics and the driver will more than likely switch from the current EXA acceleration method to the new UXA method. GRUB2 has been implemented and the goal is to work towards a 10 second boot. There is a new power management system,DeviceKit-power, that should help improve battery life. A new Fn key maphandler, udev-extras. ext4 has been selected as the default file system and should significantly increase disk performance.

I used a Crucial Gizmo! 4GB USB flash drive and Ubuntu 9.04's USB Startup Disk Creator to install Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 2. Using the default ext4 files system, I setup a 4.8GB partition for the / directory, 7.8 GB for /home directory and 1.9GB for swap. The installation process was smooth. The only issue, and it is a know bug, is that the system will fail to reboot cleanly after the install. You will have to manually power-cycle the system to finish the install reboot. The system will shutdown and reboot properly after this.

Grub 2 & Booting
GRUB 2 is the default boot loader for Karmic, replacing the previous GRUB "Legacy" boot loader. GRUB 2 is a complete rewrite whose goals include making GRUB cleaner, safer, more robust, more portable and more powerful. It does offer a graphical menu but for now it's just a blue screen. As you can see from the video, I toggled between the two kernel entries so you can see how Grub 2 looks at this point in development. So far the only difference is the boot menu is blue. Hopefully Ubuntu can put something together as nice as Debian's Grub 2 menu for Ubuntu 9.10 when it ships.

Booting the Mini in Ubuntu 9.10 is quick but nothing special. Average boot up time, from powering on to a usable desktop, was about 25 seconds. Work is being implemented towards a 10 second boot time but currently 9.10 Alpha 2's times are not much faster than Ubuntu 9.04.

The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 driver has received some significant upgrades. The Intel driver switched the acceleration mode to uxa and have stripped out exa acceleration altogether. Karmic has enabled kernel mode setting for Intel graphic chips. I followed these instructions for setting up uxa acceleration. The uxa acceleration has not crashed or throw up any weird errors throughout my testing. Some have reported problem, developers are asking for testers to report bugs upstream using these guidelines.

Flash Video Playback
  • YouTube's windowed and fullscreen mode work great. No pausing in video or audio during fullscreen/windowed transition. HD video still doesn't work properly, it suffers from choppy audio/video playback and transition pauses. Turn off annotations for best results. Highly watchable.
  •'s playback is much better than 8.04 and 8.10. Windowed and fullscreen videos work well. Transitioning from windowed to fullscreen is still is a problem. Highly watchable.
  •'s video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Highly watchable.
  •'s windowed mode works well, fullscreen causes video to become choppy. Watchable.
  •'s video playback is smooth and fullscreen works well. Highly watchable.
  •'s video is choppy, audio works well. Live streams work very well. Watchable.
  •'s video playback is slightly choppy. Drag to resize does not work. Watchable.
  •'s windowed mode is great, fullscreen causes audio to become choppy. Watchable.
  • Metacafe's video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Highly watchable.
  •'s video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Don't be fooled, the home page video doesn't work but the videos contained in the site are good. Highly watchable.
  •'s video playback is smooth but no full screen. Highly watchable.
  • Vimeo's video and audio was extremely choppy, fullscreen does not work. Unwatchable
  •'s video playback is smooth and fullscreen works well. Highly watchable.

Compiz runs out of the box. It's snappier than Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04. I'm throwing everything I can at it and I haven't had any tearing or stuttering, shadowing, ghosting or bleeding.

Wireless does not work out of the box like Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10 and 9.04. It does work once you install the Broadcom STA wireless driver. I was able to connect to both WEP and WPA networks without a problem. I am getting the same rock solid performance as in Ubuntu 9.04.

Worked out of the box. No problems or speed issues.

Unlike Intrepid and Jaunty, audio works without configuring or having to turn up the speaker volume. The internal mic, external mic and headphone all work.

Worked out of the box. To test the webcam, install Cheese.

Worked out of the box and includes the ability to enter the device PIN codes through the GUI.

Card Reader
Worked out of the box. Secure Digital (SD) & SDHC (High Capacity), MultiMediaCard (MMC) and Memory Stick all worked.

Fn Keys
The brightness, volume, suspend, fullscreen keyboard shortcuts all work with any extra configuration. The wifi on/off (Fn+2) does not.

Suspend & Hibernate
- Suspend works incredibly well. I suspended my computer over and over without a problem.
- Hibernate will not work if you do not have a swap partition. If you have a swap file, Hibernate does not work properly yet. It takes about 15-20 seconds for your machine to turn off and it will only wake up to a blank screen.

Aircraft Manager
Jitender's aircraft manager package for Jaunty works in Karmic Alpha 2 and turning wifi and bluetooth on and off worked flawlessly.

Download Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 2
Pre-releases of Karmic are *not* encouraged for anyone needing a stable
system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even
frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu developers and
those who want to help in testing, reporting, and fixing bugs. The final, stable version will be released on October 29th, 2009.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What Was Dell Thinking With the Mini 10v

Mini 9 owners know how easy it is to mod your system, upgrading the RAM takes less than 5 minutes. This is what pulled me to the system. When Dell released the Mini 9 service manual I had a geek-gasm. The Mini 9 was the perfect netbook for Linux newcomers and enthusiasts. Unfortunately this is not the case for The Dell Mini 10v. It's a nightmare to mod.

These videos detail how many steps it takes and the components you have to remove to get to the RAM. It's not just the RAM, getting to any of the components require you to dismantle the 10v. I personally don't want to pry off the keyboard and palm rest to get to my machine. I can't believe Dell has the nerve to recommend the 10v as suitable replacement to the Mini 9. I feel sorry for 10v users who can't order a machine with more than 1GB of RAM because of Microsoft's Windows XP OEM restrictions and then have to take 27 nerve racking minutes to disassemble and reassemble their machines. I have no problem with taking things apart, but this turned me off to buying a Mini 10v all together.

Remember that you can still get some great deals on a used Mini9 and that the Dell Vostro A90 is available from Dell's business division. It's is just a black version of the Mini 9, the layout and components are exactly the same.

The 3rd Video, wasn't worth embedding because it's just him putting everything back together.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Configure Your System With Ubuntu Tweak

Screenshot-Ubuntu Tweak
Ubuntu Tweak is an application designed to make configuring Ubuntu easier. It provides many useful desktop and system options that the default desktop environment doesn't easily provide. It also offers easy installation of popular programs and 3rd party repositories. It is only designed for an Ubuntu GNOME Desktop, and is available for both Ubuntu 8.10 and Ubuntu 8.04 but not for the lpia architecture.

Ubuntu Tweak provides system information:
Screenshot-Ubuntu Tweak-1
- these screenshots are from my desktop, not my Dell Mini 9.

Easy installation of popular applications & 3rd party repositories:
Screenshot-Ubuntu Tweak-5
- I recommend Ubuntu Tweak as the easy and safe way to install OpenOffice 3.0 Wine, Banshee, Mail Notification, Gnome Do and many other programs.

Configuring your startup programs (Autostart):
Screenshot-Ubuntu Tweak-3
- Great for stopping unneeded wanted programs from booting at start up. Making your PC boot faster.

System, Gnome & Nautilus Tweaks:
Screenshot-Ubuntu Tweak-4

I enjoy using Ubuntu Tweak, even though it is just a graphical user interface for other graphical user interfaces. All these 'tweaks' can be done through Gconf and editing source lists. The advantage of Ubuntu Tweak is that it has all these options together in one place, listed and presented in a easy to understand format. You still can mess up your install or nerf your system if you are not careful.

Installating Ubuntu Tweak
1. Download the lastest version of Ubuntu Tweak
2. Install the Ubuntu Tweak Repository
In a terminal type:
sudo apt-key adv --recv-keys --keyserver FE85409EEAB40ECCB65740816AF0E1940624A220
- to add the repository key

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
- to open your repository source list

Add the repository for your version of Ubuntu at the end of your source list
-for Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy heron
deb hardy main
deb-src hardy main
- for Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex
deb intrepid main
deb-src intrepid main

In a terminal type:
sudo apt-get update
- to update your sources
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak
- to install Ubuntu Tweak

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Get Your Microsoft Out of My Linux

This week's article was going to be about Gnome-Do & Docky, but those programs are dead to me, as well as Banshee, Tomboy and Beagle. This is sad because I really liked Gnome-Do, Banshee and Beagle. The problem is that they use Mono, an open source implementation of the .NET development framework.

Christopher Smart has written an excellent article, Mono: An Infectious Disease about the dangers of using Mono. I encourage everyone to take the time to read this article. There are very serious consequences with allowing Mono to infiltrate GNU/Linux. Novell and Miguel de Icaza have been pushing Mono dependency into Gnome, giving Microsoft a foothold into Linux's most popular desktop environment.

An excerpt from the article:
Through the recent TomTom case it is clear that Microsoft is using patents to leverage power over open source. Microsoft knows that if they do nothing, free software will eventually destroy their bottom line. They have to do something, which they certainly are. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted, "Linux is a serious competitor" and promised that the company will outsmart open source. So what’s their game plan?

One of the ways they are trying to gain the upper hand is by introducing their own proprietary programming framework into free software, which is called ‘.NET‘. While some parts of the .NET framework such as CLI and C# have been submitted to Ecma for standardisation, others have not. Even so, Microsoft still holds patents in relation to these standards, although the company grants “licenses on reasonable terms and conditions”, but only so long as the corresponding Ecma standard remains valid. The non-standard components also pose a risk.

Microsoft has ulterior motives for wanting support for .NET under Linux. They might not be able to destroy free software, but they sure want to control it. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said: "I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows".
Mono will be the trojan horse that will add a ‘Microsoft tax’ to your GNU/Linux. I agree, Mono poses a real threat to free software. Richard Stallman said it best,
Microsoft has declared itself our enemy and we know that Microsoft is getting patents on some features of C#. So I think it's dangerous to use C#, and it may be dangerous to use Mono. There's nothing wrong with Mono. Mono is a free implementation of a language that users use. It's good to provide free implementations. We should have free implementations of every language. But, depending on it is dangerous, and we better not do that.
This is why more projects like Gnote, a port of Tomboy written in C++, need to be started and maintained. Free and proprietary software can co-exist and should, but free software doesn't need Microsoft's backhanded help.

Mono: An Infectious Disease excerpt was used with permission by the author Christopher Smart / CC BY 2.5

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.