Tag: Ubuntu

A new browser


Sometimes, things are just under your nose and you completely miss them.

That happened to me.  The default browser in Windows is Internet Explorer / Edge, on the Macintosh, Safari, and on Ubuntu, Firefox.  The first thing I always do when configuring a computer is to add a couple of other browsers, typically Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.  This activity goes back to when not all browsers were created equal – Mosaic and Netscape each had its own way of thinking when it came to rendering webpages so I would always test my web work to make sure that it worked for anyone visiting my sites, regardless of their browser choice.  Put up your hand if you remember the message “This site works best on …”.

Of course, modern browsers all do a much nicer and more consistent job.  These days, the criteria for browser choice involves personal preference, thoughts about privacy, speed, and especially the add-ons that extend the basic function of the web browser.

So, I was a bit surprised when I read this article – “Canonical’s Ubuntu Internet Browser Silently Becomes Awesome – Video“.

I was intrigued by the video and a bit surprised when I saw the icon.

What’s this?  Safari for Ubuntu?

What’s the world coming to?

According to the article, it should already be on my computer since I was running version 15.04 of Ubuntu.  After a little bit of remembering, I did remember poking around and seeing it before.  By way of confession, I thought it was just another file browser to manage things locally and didn’t pay much attention to it.

Now, I decided I better kick the tires and take a look.

Hmmm.  It renders this blog very nicely.

It displayed open tabs a little differently…

So, I did some more reading and realized that this was related to the Ubuntu Touch development.  I shifted my thinking from it being just another desktop web browser and imagined it on a smartphone and it all started to make sense.

I then started to wonder again because the menu I saw was pretty small compared to the one in the video.

According to the software update, everything here was up to date.  I tracked back the source to a launchpad page https://launchpad.net/webbrowser-app and checked the distribution.  For mine, I was running the version packed into Vivid.  There’s another version for Wily that would be the one displayed in the video.  That would explain all of the enhancements.  My aha moment for the day!

I was about to get the new version until I checked the calendar.  Wily, version 15.10 will be released in the near future.  The updated browser will undoubtedly be part of that installation.  I’ll wait until then.

I wonder what else is on my computer that I need to investigate deeper!

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Thinking about technology investments


From the New York Post this morning, check out this story “A Lot Changes in Tech Over Four Years and 1,000 Blog Posts“.

It got me thinking about things.

According to the dashboard for this blog, I’ve made 4,255 posts.  The very first one goes back to January 8, 2008 and was titled “Blogging on First Class“.  It was an encouragement for people to look at FirstClass’ new blogging platform.

The post was actually the second written for this blog – the first one was “I hope this works” and was written just to test WordPress to see if it would do the trick.  While I really hoped that people would use FirstClass for blogging, I needed to test out WordPress.  It turned out to be a better blogging platform.  More importantly, the writing of my first few posts was quite funny.  It was almost infantile which I guess describes my blogging efforts back then.

Anyway, a lot has changed over the course of four years as noted in Bilton’s blog post.  He notes that the iPad wasn’t around then.  Yet, it’s so popular and universally present these days.

It really is the change over the course of four years that is of concern to me.  Four years ago, I bought a computer and, with fingers crossed, assured my wife that this is the last computer I’ll ever need.  It had an i7 processor with 8 cores, 4MB of RAM and a fairly substantial hard drive.  Admittedly, it can run just about anything that I want.  It was, as promised, a laptop that’s a desktop replacement and that’s basically where it’s used today.  Dual booting, I can run Windows 7 and Ubuntu and if you’ve been reading, it’s typically running Ubuntu.

Indeed a lot has changed in four years.  I think of the power and the storage on the machine and it’s a sad commentary that they really aren’t as important to my regular use these days as it was four years ago.

Four years ago, I needed a computer and software to do the word processing and spreadsheet documents (among other things) that I had on a regular basis.  Quite frankly, I can’t remember the last time I opened LibreOffice to do any such work.  In fact, as I type this blog entry, I’ve got a notification that there’s an upgrade to the LibreOffice program.  Four years ago, I would rush to get the upgrade.  Now, I use my Google Apps on the web to handle these things.  Google takes care of the upgrades for me.

Post Christmas, every store that I ever bought anything online is pummeling my mailbox with notifications of great bargains and deals.  I look and don’t feel the need to even wish and dream.  After all, I spend my days in a browser.  As I write this, I’m in one tab with a bunch of others open.

I’d be hard pressed to come up with any plausible reason to go computer shopping tomorrow.

In fact, the more I try to think this through, do I really need something as powerful (expensive) for the future?

How about schools?

I know many school districts are experimenting with Chromebooks and some with Surfaces.  From where I’m sitting, and for my particular use, it seems like a very smart (and affordable) solution.

 

What a Difference an OS Makes


Nerdy post upcoming – you’ve been warned.  But, it just might be worth the read for you anyway…

A good friend of mine had the power supply go on her ancient PC so it wouldn’t boot.  She needed some files from her hard drive and asked for my assistance.  No problem, I says, bring your CPU over.  That was actually step 1.  Step 2 as described below happens a day later.

Now, a little background here at dougpete labs.  I have a Sony VPCF1 with an i7 processor that came loaded with Windows 7 and that was my main operating system for about a week.  At the end of the week, I partitioned the hard drive and installed an instance of Ubuntu and the computer boots there by default and remains there for the most part.  Every now and again I’ll have the urge to program using Visual Basic or Visual F# and I’ll reboot into Windows for that.  I have an on again / off again relationship with Wine.

Back to the problem at hand.  I actually had a similar problem with an old PC of my own and had ordered a Sabrent USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE Hard Drive Adapter from Tiger Connect.  With a wide variety of connectors, it’s just a matter of finding the one that works to connect the PC’s hard drive to the adapter that feeds into a USB 2.0 connection which attaches to the computer.  In my previous case, it had mounted the drive under Windows and I was able to get what I needed.

So, in this case, I figured that I would just replicate the procedure.

I rebooted the laptop to run Windows 7 and immediately was reminded of one of the reasons why it doesn’t stay running Windows for the most part.  The fan roars and you can feel the heat being ejected from the left of the computer.  Sigh.  I’ve tried upgrading the BIOS and I think I’ve read every FAQ about CPU heating / fan combinations on the web.  The best answer was a flippant “you’ve got an i7 processor.  It’s a workhorse and designed to run hot.”  I don’t know if that’s the ultimate answer but it was rationale enough for me.  I mount the hard drive and go to Computer and there the drive is sitting there as Drive Q:  Double click to open and I get the message that I don’t have enough permissions to do that.  Of course; it must be password protected.

I’m sitting here heating the room, listening to the fan, and staring at the error message.  I’m resigned to waiting for her to show up.

Then, I thought, what if I went back to Ubuntu?  I needed to check my email anyway and the fan is really annoying.

Within a minute, I’m looking at my friendly Gnome desktop.  Quietly too.  Hand over the heat vent reveals a little warm and the fan gently sending the heat out.  And, on the desktop is the now connected Windows hard drive.  A double click reveals the contents.  Hmmm.  Conscience kicks in so I leave the setup until she comes over and then we copy the desired files to a memory key and she’s a happy camper.  I’m a happy Ubuntu camper.  The computer is quietly doing its thing and saved the day.

There’s a lesson to be learned here though.  Getting to the hard drive was just a little bit too easy.  Lifehacker has a really good article for reading dealing with all of this.  It’s called “How to Break Into a Windows PC (and Prevent It from Happening to You)“.  It’s definitely a good read and offers some good suggestions.  If you’re concerned, make a point to read the article this morning.

 

A Couple of Days with Ubuntu 13.04


I had a friend try to grind my gears over the weekend.  If you’re such a fan of Ubuntu, why are you carrying around a Macintosh computer?  It’s a valid observation but the reality is that I have both a Mac and a PC (Sony Vaio) and it’s the Vaio that’s running Ubuntu.  At the time of purchase, buying a big hard drive for the Macintosh was too cost prohibitive.  Not so with the Vaio and it was the perfect machine to partition and boot into Ubuntu as well as the Windows 7 that it came with.  Due to its size, I view it more as a desktop replacement than a portable unit.  But, if I have my rolly computer bag, you know it’s in there.

The Ubuntu side has always been considerably quicker than Windows.  When you spend most of your connected time in a browser, speed and ease is appreciated and you can’t beat it with Ubuntu.  Ironically, it was over the weekend as well that I decided to upgrade Ubuntu to 13.04, Raring Ringtail.  I didn’t really have time to explore at the time – I did the installation and then just starting using it.

It was only when I thought about it that I was surprised that there wasn’t any big exciting change in the release.  It wasn’t like there was a new and refined Dash or anything.  It was just working.  But, as I think about it, it’s working pretty well.  Everything  was functional but noticeably faster.  I wondered – is there something I’m missing?  I ran across this article “Press Reaction to Ubuntu 13.04 Is a Muted, “Meh” Affair“.  Surely, there must be more.

My next read took me to this article. “Get More Out of Ubuntu 13.04 With These Awesome Apps” and this “10 Things to Do After Installing Ubuntu 13.04“.  I’ll be honest, many of the recommendations were already in place but “Geary Mail” was a nice new find.  Quite frankly, many of the things that I do, I do in the browser.  If it’s not in the browser, it might be LibreOffice, VLC, or Gimp that’s my go-to application.  And, of course, they’re already there.  There was, of course, the ability to manipulate the various search lenses in the Dash.  That’s always fun but not necessarily a life and death change.

What is kind of neat is social integration right in the Dash.  No need to flip to a new tab to see what’s up.  I really like the concept of the lens and there’s so much to choose from.

Twitter

I’ve got to be missing something.  So, I watched a video.

I guess I wasn’t missing too much.  This release is just a snappier, nicer experience.  So far, on this end, it seems to be pretty solid.  It’s definitely more responsive.  I always found it a better actor than Windows 7 on this machine.  With the new release, it’s even more noticeable.  I’m a really happy user.

Having it all


I’ve mentioned before that I use Symbaloo as one of the start tabs on my computers.  It’s a great way to have links to a lot of resources.  Here’s one of my home pages.  If you care to, go ahead and psycho analyze my browsing habits!

These webmixes can be created and shared with others, if you wish.  The nice thing about finding a great one is that it reflects a great deal of curating that someone has done on a particular topic.  Add their efforts to your Symbaloo account and you’re enjoying the benefits of their work.

It’s almost like a super Google or Bing search where every result is relevant!

Where would you find a need for something like this?

Well, let’s say you wanted a collection of resources for the iPad.

Just enter a search….

and sit back to enjoy the results.  Here was one webmix that provided some interesting new resources to explore.

Recently, I was showing a friend Ubuntu and demonstrated how the same principle can be applied there to grab Ubuntu resources.

When you are able to cobble together resources on a theme, it’s a powerful way to put them all together in one spot.

As a launch pad for students, just consider how easy it is to describe a button and have the student click on it and they’re there!

Don’t forget also that Symbaloo has an iOS application as well! Download it from here.  And there’s an educational program.  Could you ask for more?

Check out the top 10 most popular educational webmixes here.

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A New Sketching Program (and why you need it)


From the fertile mind of Brian Aspinall comes another classroom ready application.  This one has special appeal as I think you’ll find as we dig into it.  You may recall a previous mention of another web application written by Brian, Clipkwik, that I had blogged about last November.

What’s unique about Brian’s efforts is that he’s both a programmer and a teacher.  As such, he’s got the ability to create a resource for his classroom when he sees a need.  He did that with Clipkwik a video search engine that looks for video everywhere and he’s done it again with Sketchlot, an online drawing tool.

So, why does the world need another drawing program?  After all, there’s an app for that.  Actually, there are quite a few apps for that.  Here’s why I think you need to take a special look at this.

First, it’s web-based, so load your modern browser, and you have two ways to enter the program.  One as a teacher and the other as a student.

As a teacher, you log in, create a class code and then add your students to that class.

As a student, you log in via class code and your password.  This gets you ready to do some drawing.  You’ll see my artwork above drawn on a trackpad.  Across the bottom, you have the ability to pick a colour, use a draw tool, eraser, line tool, box tool, move the canvas so that you’re not limited to the physical screen size, and the eyedropper to pick up a colour.  Then, clear the screen, step backwards or forwards through the steps to your current drawing, and zoom in and zoom out.  In the bottom right corner, you’re presented with a number to let you know the magnification level of your drawing.

Once a student has saved a drawing, they can share it with their teacher, pin it to Pinterest, Tweet it out, or take an embed code to insert it into their wiki.  There’s lots of drawing options – admittedly not as many as with Photoshop Elements but certainly full-featured enough for particular classes.

But, I think it gets better and that’s why we need to take particular note.  In a couple of back and forths on Twitter, Brian had sent this message.

That’s a pretty good indication as to where he’s headed with the development.  So, here in dougpete labs, I added a few more platforms to the mix.  I ran it on a MacBook Pro, a Galaxy smartphone, and on Ubuntu with a Wacom tablet.  All worked very nicely.

Why is this significant?  The response from some will still be “I have an app for that”.  Yes, but are you in a BYOD classroom where one student might have an iPad, another a Playbook, another a smartphone, another a Windows machine, a Mac, someone running Linux, … ?  Your app for that solution plays to one or two of the platforms.  View the source of Sketchlot and you’re in for some good reading…  He’s developing so that it’s universally available.  That’s why I think it’s important that people look for applications developed for all platforms rather that just head to your device’s store and grab an application thinking that it will solve all your problems.

Sketchlot is still listed as “Beta” so there may well be more features on the way.  During my testing, it all seemed to work nicely so I don’t have a hesitation in recommending that you take a look and see if it’s got a place in your classroom repertoire.  While at it, follow @mraspinall on Twitter and see the examples that Brian and his colleagues are tweeting as they test it.

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Still Relevant


Part of my regular Saturday routines involves maintenance to my computers.  On this machine, it’s the one day that I reliably boot into Windows.  That lets me grab any/all of the updates from Microsoft from the past week; run a defragging utility; I update my anti-virus; and I scan the computer.  Thankfully, all goes well and I move on.  Last week, instead of rebooting into Ubuntu, I put it to sleep in Windows 7.  Later on, I awoke the computer and gave a “oh no” as I watched the computer struggle to awake.  Just like a boot into Windows, the ol’ hard drive is going like crazy awaking everything that was either sleeping or hybernating.  It took quite a while and was a reminder why the computer spends most of its time in Ubuntu.  When I wake it from sleeping, it’s almost instant on.

I’m still not at the point where I would move it to Ubuntu fulltime and forget about Windows.  There is software on the Windows side that I paid for, there’s software that I’ve spent half a lifetime learning and mastering, I play around with C# there, and I just like to keep my hand in it when I get asked a question.

But life in Ubuntu has spoiled me.  I’ll confess that I do most everything on the web now so really I just need a good acting web browser.  Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox get workouts regularly.  I’m a fan of both products.

As it happens, I read an article recently “Never been convinced by Linux? Here is a challenge for you.

I shared it with Twitter which is my place to share interesting articles with others and a temporary holding place for me so that I can go back and read the article thoroughly when I have the time.

Later that day, I did in fact re-read the article.  It was one that had me nodding my head in agreement.  I recall when I first tried to work wtih Ubuntu – it was just a curiosity that took up some time in a summer.  However, the more I used it, the more I liked it.  I wished that I had taken the advice from this article sooner.  I think I would have become a regular Ubuntu user much sooner than I did.

I chuckled as I read some of the replies to the post.  Some talked about Vista and Windows XP doing just a fine job for them.  Again, I chuckled.  I wondered – why aren’t they talking Windows 7 or 8?

Then, this dummy confesses, I looked at the date on the article.  It was December 23, 2007.  I guess that Zite had just picked it up because of a recent revision or something.  I was just dumbfounded.

I think that the advice in the article is even more relevant today than it was in 2007.   Actually, it’s probably more relevant.  Ubuntu and Windows have certainly both become better products since then.  If you’re using the web for your work, browsers absolutely have become so much better.

Reading and experiencing the article is time well spent.  Reading the replies (170 pages of them) can take a while but there’s a world of education in the replies.  Of course, as one would expect, there’s your share of Windows-bashing or Linux-bashing but in between some very good reading.

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