Monthly Archives: October 2006

Min första kartong

Alla gör vi vår första kartong någon gång i livet. Det är för många en stor händelse som aldrig glöms bort. Själv gjorde jag min debut hösten 2006, strax innan jag fyllde 27. Det som kanske skiljer mig från många andra kartongpionjärer är att min kartong till stor del genererades automatiskt med datorhjälp, den nya tekniken som har revolutionerat informationsvärlden de senaste åren. En annan detalj som gör min kartong unik är det faktum att den inte riktigt gick att vika ihop på grund av att vitala delar av den saknades.

Min första kartong hade dock inte varit möjlig utan det stöd jag fick av Niklas Pettersson, en kartongkonnässör av rang, som hjälpte mig att komma till insikt i relevanta, men bortglömda tekniska detaljer. Med denna nya vetskap i bagaget blickar jag tillbaka med förundran och vördnad över det som just skett.

Slutligen vill jag passa på att ge ett tips till de som ännu inte tagit de första skälvande stegen i sin kartongkarriär: i en EM5 ska längssläde två och framåt naturligtvis få sin position angedd relativt till den föregående längssläden, inget annat!

Mozilla Calendar bugs

Enough bug reporting for today. I’ll be sure to report more of the issues I’ve found with Mozilla Calendar/Sunbird/Lightning in the future.

  • 357329 – Some (dark) calendar colors use black text
  • 357334 – Quick editing of new event requires three clicks
  • 357338 – Show category icons in the actual calendar entries
  • 357339 – Replace Categories with Tags
  • 357340 – Ability to select which calendar events show up in event list

Update: One more bug:

  • 357384 – Wrong sorting of Task priority

Update 2: Couple more bugs:

  • 357502 – Not possible to create task with “All day” dates (no times)
  • 357504 – Repeated title for events spanning over multiple days

The complex world of calendars

Organizing your life digitally is hard.

When it comes to e-mail and calendaring, I’m very picky about keeping it universally accessible. I want my mail available whenever I need it, regardless of where I am and what computer/mobile/OS is the current flavor of the month. My mail and calendars are the most important digital bits of my life.

When it comes to e-mailing, I’ve pretty much found a working solution where I can access my mail anywhere, anytime. A big part of the solution was the switch to a web-based mail solution: GMail (once again, Google comes to rescue). It lets me store all my mail on secure and reliable servers, while at the same time allowing me to access it using Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s a very good combination. If I’m at work or at home, I use Thunderbird and has direct access to all my mail, both sent and received. It doesn’t matter if I’m running Windows XP or Linux, because Thunderbird can share your mail on a dual-boot system. When I’m on the road (actually the rail), I can access my mail using the web browser of my mobile. While it’s not nearly as convenient as using a real computer, it works. Sometimes, it’s a lifesaver to be able to send a quick e-mail when you’re not in front of a computer. It even let me keep contact with my friends while on the Azores.

Now, to the problem: there is no universally accessible calendaring solution.

sneak3_en.png

Since Gmail proved to be so successful in fulfilling all my mailing needs, picking Google Calendar as my calendar of choice was only natural. It has a great web interface with drag-and-drop functionality, multiple calendars support, and the ability to subscribe to public calendars. It also allows you to export your calendars if you would like to switch calendar service in the future. However, you can only use Google’s web interface to modify your calendars. While there is support to display your calendar in e.g. Mozilla Lightning, any attempts to modify it within Lightning will only result in error messages. That’s because Google’s calendars are read-only for other clients. To be fair, I regard Google’s web interface far superior usability-wise compared to Lightning, but not being able to modify your calendar while offline is a great limitation. Also, I have not yet been successful in synchronizing Google Calendar with my mobile, even though there is a program called GCalSync that claims being able to do exactly this.

So my question is, what is the perfect calendaring solution? Is there any free calendar solution out there that supports editing your calendars in any client, and has a decent web interface for those occasions when you’re not using your own computer? Or am I better off trying to set up a CalDAV server myself in Linux?

Replace Evolution with Thunderbird in Ubuntu

Ubuntu ships with Mozilla Firefox as their web browser, and Evolution as their mail client. However, this poll in the Ubuntu forums clearly shows that a majority of Ubuntu’s user base forum regulars prefer Thunderbird:

poll.png

I think Ubuntu should change the default mail client to Thunderbird, especially now when the Thunderbird developers team up with Eudora to make the mail client even better. Asa Dotzler summarizes it in a good way:

The next version of Eudora will ship on top of the Mozilla Thunderbird framework, with some modifications to accommodate users who are familiar with the Eudora user interface. The two teams will be working together in the Mozilla CVS repository and both products will benefit from that collaboration. The two products serve different user bases today so there will be distinct product releases, but it’s still a big win for both.

Think about it for a second. The Eudora developers and the Thunderbird developers working together will result in the most concentrated group of experts on how mail should work on the face of the planet. I think that’s damn cool.

While I’m not sure about the different user bases of the products, I’m pretty sure this is a good thing for the future Thunderbird development.

Recovering from broken boot loader

If you’re like me — a fanatic Linux tester using Windows part time — you’ve probably experienced a few installation failures. When that happens, sometimes the Linux installation breaks the grub boot loader, leaving you with a computer that won’t do anything besides displaying a discouraging black grub console. Well, here’s how to actually boot your Windows installation manually from that grub console. If the console isn’t already there when you start the computer, simply hit ‘c’ and then type the following:

rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1
boot

That will boot you into Windows again, so you can e.g. burn a new copy of a working Linux distro which would fix the situation permanently. Obviously, this doesn’t work for the distros that use lilo instead of grub, but most popular distros use grub today, including Ubuntu, Fedora Core, and SuSE.

Note that the numbers in (hd0,0) represent the drive number and the partition number, both starting at zero. So if Windows is e.g. on the second partition of the first disk, use (hd0,1) instead.

Quote of the Day

Remember the old style of Christmas lights where you had a big long string and if one bulb burned out the whole thing burned out and you had to go through each one and find out which single bulb failed? That’s Microsoft.

- Darrin Shewchuk, head of communications with Kanata, Ont.-based QNX Software Systems Ltd.

Fedora Core 6 vs Ubuntu 6.10

I’ve been using Fedora Core 6 pre-release for a couple of days now, and I’m ready to write about my experience so far. Overall, there are both good and bad things about Fedora. Here are some things that I like about it:

  • dna.pngThe default desktop background is stunning. I like the DNA inspired theme and the Fedora logo. It has a professional and trustworthy appeal, but is free from the usual corporate seriousness.
  • Beagle is integrated into Firefox, something that’s actually quite useful. With a regular desktop search, results from both local files and web pages are neatly presented in the same window. A cute puppy icon in the lower right corner of Firefox tells you that Beagle is there indexing the pages you visit. However, the actual search tool is unfortunately well hidden. I had to manually add a search icon to the Gnome panels.
  • The graphical part of the startup process is very polished and professional. It feels like it’s using the native resolution (1440×900) of my screen, although I can’t verify that. See below, though, for my comments about the text-based part of the startup.
  • I like how grub displays a nice image and hides all scary details by default. Ubuntu could learn a few things here — their grub version is not themed at all.
  • The mouse cursor theme is nice. I like the Firefox-like dot spinning when the cursor is busy.

Things that could use some improvements:

  • The icon theme feels really outdated. It’s like going back in time if you compare with the Human (Tango-inspired) icon theme in Ubuntu.
  • firefox.pngSpeaking of outdated, after using Ubuntu 6.10 with Firefox 2.0 (beta) for over three months, Firefox 1.5 feels really old. I know the latest stable release is still 1.5.0.7, but the step back compared to Ubuntu is definitely something you notice, especially when you realize just how much better Firefox 2 is. I find myself searching for a close button on the tabs themselves. Since Fedora already comes with a beta version of Gaim 2, why can’t it also ship with a beta of Firefox 2?
  • Fedora Core starts up and shuts down horribly slow compared to Ubuntu. And it’s not just a perceived difference. Ubuntu starts up in almost half the time of Fedora on the same hardware. The big reason for this, I’m guessing, is the insane amount of system services started by default in Fedora. Not much has changed here since the old Red Hat days (back in the 20th century when I first tried Linux). Processing so many scripts one by one is bound to take a while.
  • The initial text that appears when you start Fedora looks like a scary virus or something. If I wasn’t a nerd, I’d think my computer was broken. Of course, if I wasn’t a nerd, I wouldn’t have written all this, would I? To be fair, Ubuntu is not perfect here either, but it doesn’t display nearly as much mumbo jumbo as Fedora!
  • The system updater struggled a lot when trying to install some sixty new software updates. I got many errors saying e.g. “Package gdm-2.16.0-10.fc6.i386.rpm is not signed.” Every time the error appeared, I had to uncheck the affected package and retry. After about six tries, the remaining updates installed without problems. It must be said, though, that I’ve never ever experienced a problem like this with the Ubuntu updates. It was rather annoying.
  • desktop-effects.pngFedora Core 6 is advertised as coming with “Compiz/AIGLX which provides all those fancy [desktop] effects“. However, it is not installed by default, and enabling it during install is not straightforward. Even if you manually add the compiz package, you’re still left with a non-functioning option in System > Preferences > More > Desktop Effects. You simply get no effects by default.

Fedora Core 6 seems to aim more for the corporate desktop than the end-user desktop. It has shortcut icons for boring applications such as OpenOffice.org’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint equivalents. As if that’s the first thing I want to do with my new computer!

The general feeling after using Fedora Core 6 is that it’s not as “polished” as Ubuntu 6.10. Some examples of what I mean:

  • In Ubuntu, the media keys on my laptops (Dell Inspiron 6000, Latitude D620, and Inspiron 8600) work as expected. In Fedora Core, they don’t do anything. You need to configure this manually in System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts.
  • Ubuntu includes a nice sound theme that plays e.g. a melody when logging in and out of Gnome. In Fedora Core, you hear a horrible system BEEP instead when GDM is ready, but no actual sounds. This happens because, for some reason, GDM is configured to play a sound when GDM starts, but the actual sound file is not set. You can activate a sound theme manually in Fedora Core via System > Preferences > Sound, but I recommend not to. The sounds are absolutely horrible.
  • Update IconThe system notification icon about new software updates is not clickable. It doesn’t matter if you click or double-click it — nothing happens. When right-clicking, however, a pop-up menu appears. This is counter-intuitive. Granted, a big balloon with information is shown then first time the icon appears, but clicking the icon should at least bring back the balloon. Not simply ignore the user interaction.
  • In Ubuntu, you are asked for your password when performing administrative tasks. This password is then cached for a few minutes, allowing you to perform other tasks without re-entering the password. In Fedora Core, you are forced to enter the root password every time you administrate your computer. This can be annoying if you need to restart an application to verify changes.
  • Ubuntu detects and enables your network card automatically during installation. Fedora Core detects it, but doesn’t enable it by default. You need to click Edit and enable IPv4 and IPv6 options manually. This is really absurd to me. Who wants to have their network card disabled by default? I hope this is just a bug in the preview version of Fedora Core 6.

Bottom line: Fedora is a great Linux distribution, but not the best. I feel that — now more than ever — there are real reasons why Ubuntu is the most popular distribution. It’s not just a conception, it’s a fact [1]. More specifically, it’s a long list of small things making Ubuntu more thought out. Granted, some things are better in Fedora, but that’s mostly just cosmetic, such as the grub/gdm theme, desktop wallpaper, etc. On the other hand, Fedora has a less appealing icon theme and window borders, so they’re really even in that respect. Anyway, good luck to the Fedora developers! Fix some of the issues above and Fedora will get even better.

[1] Not really; it’s a matter of taste. Your mileage may vary. :-P

Fedora Core 6 – False Marketing?

(Headline intentionally spiced up slightly…) After reading the release notes from the Fedora Core 6 Pre-Release, I just had to download and install it:

The Compiz window manager provides better visual feedback and a variety of desktop effects by using the AIGLX framework. More information is available from the Fedora Rendering Project.

Unlike OpenSuSE 10.2 Alpha 4, Fedora at least had the decency to provide a DVD .iso, which was fairly easy to download once I got bittorrent up and running.

Fedora LogoThe installation went fairly smoothly — on the second try. When I partitioned the 80 GB hard drive of my new computer last week, I intentionally left 6 GB unused because I knew I would eventually like to try installing other flavors of Linux than Ubuntu. However, because I made a mistake and left those 6 GB outside of an extended partition and already had four primary partitions, the empty space was not usable. Instead of notifying me of this, Fedora’s installer Anaconda crashed and forced me to restart the computer. After removing Ubuntu and resizing the extended partition (after all, I had only used Ubuntu on this computer for one week and already broken it with Beryl), the installation proceeded without any hickups.

intro-computer.pngTo make sure I wouldn’t run into any other problems, I chose the default options for everything. The only modification I did was unchecking the “sshd” option for the firewall, because I know I’m never going to want to log in to my laptop remotely using ssh. After waiting for all packages to install, the system rebooted and I was presented with a final walkthrough of some initial settings. Unfortunately, because of a (known) bug, the keyboard was not working during this walkthrough, so I had to skip the step of creating a user and instead restart and log in as root. For the record, I tried hitting Ctrl+Alt+F1 to switch to a terminal and manually add a user before logging in, but for some reason, no terminal would appear. Pressing Ctrl+Alt+F7 got me back to gdm thankfully. The first thing I did as root was to create a normal user, log out and log in again with the new user account instead.

OK, so that was basically my alibi for what I am now going to say to you, my patient reader: Having sticked to the default options, proceeded with the installation and properly logged in to Gnome with a regular user account, I was left in the freezing cold with no desktop effects whatsoever!

The Release Notes has the solution:

To enable the fancy desktop effects, follow these steps:

  1. System > Preferences > More > Desktop Effects
  2. Log out
  3. Log back in. compiz should be enabled now.

Great! Except for one minor problem: There is no System > Preferences > More > Desktop Effects! So I’m still stuck with a regular Gnome desktop using the boring metacity as window manager. Does anyone know what’s wrong?

I’m going to keep Fedora for a while, to get some new impressions after using Ubuntu for two years straight. I will publish another post later, covering my impressions of the distro today compared to the Ubuntu Edgy Eft (6.10).