Fedora 11 finally released!

The past 2.5 weeks have been a little hairy for me, I finally came back from a month long business trip and, well, I had some computers to update. And another to update at the same time to sync it with the other two instead of updating every 6 months. And, a birthday gift to reformat.

First, the old PIII 450 laptop was a breeze to update; a bit peppier on just about everything, except videos are now completely out of sync instead of occasionally just a bit. Maybe changing from Gnome to XFCE will do the trick … but, obsolescence moves on, my outright need for videos has been … well shifted back to the DVD player at the cottage is back in service with a “new” tv. And, well, read on. In the meantime, the bootup sequence is slightly different from the other systems, the line with the three advancing “line heads” à  la F10 is there instead of the advancing line on the Fedora logo on the other systems.

Next was my P4 2.8. Funny thing happened, the Palimpsest Disk Utility said that there were some fatal errors on my HD. So before doing anything, I got another used HD and reformatted it. What fun to eradicate Ubun… to have an opportunity to enjoy a new installation. 🙂 Palimpsest again comes around and says that the new drive has fatal errors. A quick net search reveals that this apparently isn’t a bug, it’s working like it should and well I have two used drives with “fatal errors”.

Next is a new Acer Aspire One. This one was fun. Over about 6 hours, my brother and I tried to get F11 on the machine; no, my 512meg usb ramstick was not big enough for a CD, and it we couldn’t make it bootable to put in the net install. Couldn’t get his 1gig mp3 player to boot. Several other ways later, we finally tracked down a USB dock and put in a CD player, and it worked.

Then my PIII 550 used-to-be-a-casino-server-then-a-printer’s-server-then-my-main-desktop server formatted nicely on the 80gig drive … which died about 100 packages out of 1100 from the end of the install. Hey, I still have that HD with an install that Palimpsest says has bad errors; things boot up nicely. I still have to put in some of the daemons, my brother is interested.

In between I’ve bought a 16gig usb memory stick. Nice story: The price is $49.99, ok I’ll buy it. The cash register says $67 with tax … hey, that’s not right, and lower down the price says $59.99 before taxes. I show the clerk the price tag on the shelf … and thanks to Quebec’s consumer protection laws, the new price is $10 off the “correct” (lower in this case) price at $39.99. Including all taxes, that’s less than the $49.99 price.

Then I ran out of space on the Acer trying to add Google Earth … what’s the deal? Seems maybe I made a typo or something during the setup, the system said 5.9gig drive when another utility recognizes the full 160gigs. So I decide to reformat today, and I finally get a bootable image onto the USB memory stick and after 3 attempts (the first was good but I had a snag in the setup, something about I can’t do an ext3 filesystem given the existing ext4 on the usb stick, and I can’t do an install under ext4 — I think I forgot to uncheck the usb stick as a target) I finally get the net install iso on the stick. The repo? Duke University. Really good, since a yum update only had ONE update; they keep their images up to date!

I’m finally in the process of doing all the little details and transfers and installs, and all just under the wire — I’m off on another business trip tomorrow!

Oooooops, I was wrong … (so what else is new?)

In a previous post, “I may just have that reason to get rid of Ubuntu” I stated that the thing that killed Ubuntu for me was the difference in how OO.o on Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9 deal with the “notes” function in a document. The versions of OO.o in question were — according to distrowatch.com — 2.4.0 for Ubuntu 8.04 and 2.4.0 for Fedora 9. As of today’s date my F9 notebook has updated itself to 2.4.2, so to be fair I imagine that in the past year Hardy Heron has had some updates as well.

Today I stumble across this little gem from the OpenOffice.org website:

Improved Notes Feature in Writer

“In the past; notes in OpenOffice.org were just displayed as small yellow rectangles within the text. This was not very intuitive and user friendly. With version 3.0, OpenOffice.org got an advanced notes features which displays notes on the side of the document. This makes notes a lot easier to read. In addition, notes from different users are displayed in different colours together with the editing date and time.”

Ooops.

I went off on a holy rant, wondering why the heck Ubuntu has changed a few things more that it arguably needed to, when in fact … well, it apparently hadn’t: The annoying yellow dot was a function of OO.o to begin with. At that time. If anyone was changing things, it was Fedora backporting this function some time last fall, assuming that it wasn’t OO.o doing it, or adding a preview into the version that Fedora grabbed and included in F9 — in keeping with Fedora’s usual policy of not using custom patches not necessary to Fedora integration or backporting updates, instead opting for rapid changes, new releases, and submitting bug and improvement patches upstream instead.

Which is perhaps not saying much since at release time, both distros were using 2.4.0; rather, it only raises the question of why things are different between two nominally identical pieces of software, and perhaps lifts blame away from Ubuntu.

Oh well, I still don’t like Ubuntu. 🙂

In the meantime … I wonder how this is explained given that both distros apparently had the same version of OO.o at release time. I wonder if the feature was backported in Fedora. Or if it was backported by OO.o and Fedora simply passed on the change. Or … ?

And in the meantime as well, I wonder about the notes function in previous versions of the 2.x series of OO.o acting in “the new way” at least back to 2006 — again in the same post, second to last paragraph:

“The appearance of the notes in the margin is not a recent occurrence in OO.o, at least in the 2.0 series: back in August 2006 under CentOS 4.4” OK, this is still the Red Hat family” I received a document with the notes visible in the margin (being a work contract I declined the document and asked that they resend the proper version, please.) I was using the standard OO.o 2.whatever downloaded and installed directly from openoffice.org (since the CentOS 4 series originally came wih OO.o 1.5.something series; I’d been using the OO.o 2.0 series for close to a year at that point under Windows before I’d made the switch to linux.)”

Printing PDFs

I’ve just had an interesting object lesson in the differences between two different pieces of software that have more than essentially the same function.

Today I had an important PDF document to print out at home instead of at the office. For the purposes of practical convenience, it was far better to print it out at home and just deliver it to the office than spend the extra time at the office (5-10 minutes) turning on my office computer and printing it out there on a printer I knew would have no difficulty dealing with it, having printed out a few dozen identically-generated documents on it.

On my pretty much stock Fedora 10 box, I use the Evince Document Viewer 2.24.2 using poppler 0.8.7 (cairo) for the Gnome desktop to display and print PDF documents. So far, I’ve been satisfied.

The PDF’s layout had margins beyond my printer’s abilities. And of course the most important parts of the document, being right at the edges of the margins in this document, were being cut off in the process of printing out the document. A reduction in the print size was not useful since the vital information was on the end of the document being cut off in the margins. I suppose I could have tried rotating the document to try to see if the cut off part would not contain crucial information, which I didn’t think of at the time. Both these strategies, however, miss the point: If the original document has very narrow margins, something is going to get cut off no matter what; not exactly desireable.

I did try something that happened to involve a Windows box (ughh) mostly because it had a different printer, and you never know how things behave differently with different equipment.

Not surprisingly, the windows box happens to have an Adobe viewer installed (I avoid that box as much as possible; I don’t even maintain it, that’s my brother’s job. 🙂 ). I click to print the document and whaddya know, in the print dialog there’s an option to fit the document within the printable area. Document printed, convenience secured.

Now what I would like to know is how much of the print window in my desktop is governed by HPLIP, how much by Gnome, how much by CUPS, and how much by the application invoking it at the moment. So I did a little experiment: Always selecting my printer, I opened a print dialogue in Evince Document Viewer, OpenOffice.org (3.0.1), Firefox (3.0.7), The Gimp (2.6.5), Xpdf (3.02) which I intentionally installed for the purpose of this experiment, and gedit (2.24.3) (on which I’m composing this blog). Besides Xpdf, each appears to have the same base, and except for Evince Document Viewer, each also adds a function tab of its own. Xpdf, on the other hand, has its own stripped-down interface — either invoke the lpr command or print to a file.

Here’s a quick table listing the tabs listed in the print dialogs available in five, off-the-shelf standard installs of Fedora 10 software, with my printer selected, plus Xpdf, which was installed directly from the Fedora repositories without any modification of settings or whatever on my part:

OpenOffice.org*: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Properties
Firefox: General: Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Options; Properties
Document Viewer: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced
The Gimp**: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Image Settings***
Xpdf: Xpdf has its own stripped-down interface
gedit : General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Text Editor

* There is an Options button in the “Page Setup” tab for OpenOffice.org.
** The Gimp treats my “special” PDF as an image much like any other, and automatically sizes it to the current settings, much like it would handle a .png or .jpg image
*** The Gimp has an option to ignore the margins; see above note

Not one, besides The Gimp, has an option to fit the document within the printable range, and The Gimp only indirectly, because of the way it seems to handle PDFs by default as an image to be manipulated. And of the others, to be fair, only Document Viewer and Xpdf deal with PDFs — even FireFox delegates PDFs to the Evince Document Viewer by default.

Then I did another little experiment: I installed Adobe Reader 9.1 (that license is interesting, pretty convoluted, and makes me wonder whether I may use the installation at all; in any case, I’ll be getting rid of it since I really only installed it for the purpose of this experiment, and decided a while ago that having 2 PDF viewers above and beyond that which is available in the basic distro installation is superfluous unless ther’s a particular reason for it.) And what do I see? A new print dialog that reminds me of the one I saw earlier on the windows box. Interestingly, it has “fit to printable area” and “shrink to printable area” options.

So my little experiment has led me to the following conclusions:

– many pieces of software, presumably not wanting to reinvent the wheel, rely either on the OS or I suspect, at least in this case, the desktop environment for its print dialogs;
– some software authors do want to reinvent the wheel, such as to “do it their own way”, or to be completely platform and environment independent, and therefore make their own dialogs;
– some software authors want to do extra things but don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so they have a wrapper for to add extra functionality to an existing base;
– in my documents, I shouldn’t try to stuff as much content as possible into each page too far, at least not by playing around with the margins.

Looks like something for the Evince authors to toss in. Assuming, of course, that — without fundamentally changing a document — resizing a PDF and/or its content to the local printer’s printing range is a really useful feature, such as to deal with awry margins, or PDFs sized for A4 instead of letter sized or vice-versa. 🙂 And that such non-conformities and/or their prevalence make it worth my using the Adobe Reader, licensing issues aside. Or that another PDF reader out there that has that functionality.

Hmmm … OO.o differences, Fedora, and Ubuntu

In my post I may just have that reason to get rid of Ubuntu I whined about minor differences between “stock” OpenOffice.org appearances and functions and those I used straight off the OO.o website as well as what ships with Fedora.

This blog (here’s my archive) explains a bit why: It says “Many Linux distributions ship ooo-build. … Fedora ships a modified OpenOffice.org, but Fedora does not use ooo-build.” Which means that in keeping with Fedora’s usual policy, it ships upstream versions of software with only reasonably required modifications to make it work under Fedora. When I was using CentOS, I was using the vanilla version directly from OO.o.

That explains a few things. It doesn’t necessarily justify my whining — nor all the changes Ubuntu or other distros (or even Fedora) make, but … Why mess with a good thing? 🙂

Vino-server appears to have struck again!

Back a couple of years ago, my CentOS-4.6 system was slowing down to near unuseability. Using the Top command at a command line, there seemed to be this service listed at the top called Vino taking up a good amount of resources. My brother looked at it, researched it, and set up an hourly cron job to kill the vino-server every hour, and the problem was solved.

Back last fall, I was getting this notion, while running Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, that the system had slowed down a bit much the same way that Windows 2000 is a little slower than Win98. When I switched back to Fedora 10, I noticed the same thing. However, I never noticed a return of the infamous vino-server.

Then last week I figure it’s time to get more memory and decided to pull out my 512meg memory stick and go with it, for comparative purposes to make sure I get the right thing, to the store to get a twin for it, or a 1gig stick, in the hopes that either a gig or a 1.5 gigs would improve performance. I’m cheap and was pleased to pick up what appeared to be a nearly-new, opened box of 1gig of SDR2 667mhz for $5.

Well, I guess those of you who actually know what to do around an open computer are chuckling by now and know that my new purchase doesn’t fit in my DDR slots, the little slot in the DDR2 stick being about a millimetre or two over from the same slot in DDR memory sticks.

In the meantime I of course put my original memory stick back and notice over the past week that my computer is becoming increasingly bogged down to unuseability. During the week I found a website that seemed to make my computer freeze, but others didn’t. Today I mention the general slowness that the computer has bogged down to to my brother who looks at things and he has a flash of memory. A quick hourly cron job is set up to kill vino-server, and my computer works fine again.

James Brown was right — I feel good!

I’m installing Fedora 10 on my desktop right now as I type.

Last week I updated months’ worth of blogs. One of the big themes that came out was my long-standing dislike for Ubuntu. Admittedly, unfounded beyond being a bit old (Red Hat) school, slow to adjust to change, and generally distrusting anything attached to big marketing and fanboyism.

The thing that did it involved the admittedly trivial differences with the tool bars under OpenOffice.org (why change them?) and the behaviour of the notes for commenting in Writer.

Hmm, my disk 2 is not good, if I have time tomorrow I’ll have to download another .iso, otherwise the computer will just be in standby for a couple of days, I have to go on a business trip tomorrow afternoon.

to be continued ..

It’s an Ubuntu World After All …

So last night I went to a Linux Meetup up here in the Wonderful City of Montreal, my hometown. I have my laptop up and running. Another participant walks up to it, notices the stylized “F” in the upper left-hand corner of my gnome desktop beside the “Applications” pull-down menu, and says “Ooooo, that’s different …”

The person using my laptop matter-of-factly responds, “Well sure, it’s Fedora” and continues with what he’s doing. I enjoyed that.

(Curiously, at the same time, I wonder what was going through his head as he switched the default keyboard over to US-English. Montreal is a predominantly French-speaking city, the second-largest French speaking city after Paris, in fact; I’m a native-English speaker, operating my computer in English, using a Canadian-French keyboard; he, a native-French speaker, obviously preferring the US-English layout.)

At a previous such meeting, I found it refreshing to observe two people on opposite sides of an heated discussion: One, annoyed that “When people think of Linux they think of Ubuntu” and argues how the wonderful thing about Linux is the diversity and choice, how everyone can drive the colour of car they wish, and it doesn’t have to be black. The other is arguing not so much in favour of Ubuntu per se, but the notion that if one distro is strong enough and helps move the Linux cause forward, so be it, it’s a good thing.

Fedora 9 wireless — out of the box!

One of the things I wanted my laptop to do this past weekend was have reliable wireless. Go figure, a bunch of computer-savvy geocachers invade a New-England Inn on the promise that “Oh yes, the internet works here, we’re setting it up just in time for you” and, whaddya know — they messed it up, and wireless internet is not to be found for most of the weekend. (sheesh)

Anyway, the first impressive thing is that out-of-the-box Fedora 9 recognizes my card and it works; at this point I’d finally put in a wireless router in the house. There’s only two out of four bars, even when the laptop is inches away from the router., but it’s already impressive that it works straight out of the box. Remember, this is Fedora, Ndiswrapper is not a part of the distribution. So Fedora has done a good job of integrating wireless.

Here’s the real clincher: my brother recompiles a vanilla kernel from kernel.org, and we’re going to do some tweaking to get the wireless stronger. Whaddya know, just compilling the latest kernel gives me four bars. I wonder if Ndiswrapper is there? Little matter.

Seems that 1) the Fedora people have done a really good job on its end of integrating wireless, 2) the Gnome desktop people have really done a good job at taking over and doing wireless, and 3) Linus et. al. are doing the right thing too.

Cool.

Laptops, Linux, and US Customs

This weekend I went to meet some friends in the beautiful Commonwealth of Massachussets. I live north of the 45th Parallel in this part of the world (many of you might think “So what?” Think of the 49th Parallel, where the Canada/US border is much of the time out west.) I find crossing the border stressful, I always have all sorts of delusions about the difficulties I’ll be experiencing while answering questions from someone carrying a gun. (Usually the remarkable crossing is returning home: The Canadian guards roll their eyes in a bored kind of way when I pass them my passport, no doubt thinking “Oh, he’s a citizen, we have to let him in.”)

One of the things I was worried about was my laptop. On the advice of my Linux-guru brother, I ask him to set up an automatic login so that should the friendly US border guard ask me to show him my computer, it’ll boot up no trouble and not go through a login that may raise suspicion that I might be logging into a bogus account hiding all sorts of nefarious things. He also recommends that all .mp3’s be absent as well as other, ahem, illicit material (which I don’t normally have anyway), advice I take to heart.

However, besides the nuisance of a possible confiscation of my beloved 5+ year old laptop, what really has me worried is a suspiciously-asked:

“What’s that?”
“The gnome desktop under Fedora Linux.”
“Oh, that looks different.”
“Sure, you can get Linux off the internet for free …” (wince, I shouldn’t have said that, at least not that way …)

And then a bunch of annoying explanations that no Sir, I don’t have any illegally downloaded software, yes Sir it’s free and legal to do so, no Sir, there’s no copyright infringement here, no Sir, I’m not one of those nefarious computer crackers you hear about, think of this the way you might think of a Mac; an alternative to Windows …

Of course, the really nice border guard at the US border couldn’t have been less interested in the fact that I had a laptop with me, let alone that I turn it on.

Fedora 9 to the rescue

So I hate Ubuntu. But in a fit of insanity I wiped the CentOS 4.7 format on my laptop and 5.2 on my desktop because I want my 1 year old HP printer to work, and I installed Ubuntu earlier this summer. The choice was “easy”, I downloaded an Ubuntu live CD and try to print something, which it does without a peep or saying boo.

I said “enough” and while I’ve kept the format on the desktop, I reformatted my laptop with Fedora 9, since I don’t need to use my printer from my laptop. Seems to work, no problems.

I’ve also managed to get a 500Gig drive — Yup, read it and weep, the cheap guy who in 2000 thought my ISP-operating brother was nuts for installing an 80gig hard drive on one of the company servers wondering what the heck even an ISP needed 80 gigs for on one server — to put on my PIII to use now as a file server. Funny, I don’t really need it, there’s already, uh, don’t tell anybody, an 80 gig drive there, and I could have found another hard drive somewhere to replace the OS HD that spun out a few months ago. 🙂 It also has F9 on it now, although installed from the F9 live CD instead of from the full distro disks. Sheesh, AbiWord?!?! 🙂

Now all I need is an excuse to wipe Ubuntu off my desktop.