News Flash — Linux spotted in the wilds of Montreal — again!

Back in January I mentioned a chance meeting with someone on a commuter train using Fedora on their laptop. Well this afternoon, I had another such chance meeting in a pub.

At a 5 à  7 (Quebec speak for “Happy Hour”) at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent Street this afternoon, I walked by someone with a laptop listening to the Irish musicians, and almost walked by, the Ubuntu icon in the corner of the screen was so familiar (despite being a die-hard Fedora user). I realized my error and exclaimed “Wow Ubuntu in the wild!

I got a quick look at Ubuntu Netbook Remix using Chrome. Dan, the user, said that though he uses Firefox at home on his desktop, he finds that Chrome is way faster at least on his netbook. He said that the machine came with another Linux distro when he bought it, which he didn’t much like, so he reformatted.

Well, Dan, you made my day!

Ubuntu and Fedora LiveCDs — Ubuntu a clear winner!

I’m trying to convince a certain group to wipe their virus infected (and no doubt with trojan horses, key loggers, and spyware) computer over to linux, and so I’ve burned the Fedora 12 Live CD and the Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD.

I don’t want to bother giving them the Fedora Live CD. The Ubuntu CD is far too slick. And, the Fedora Live CD is far too vanilla. And that’s despite my usual rivalry with Ubuntu; at first glance, the killer is the inclusion of OpenOffice.org on the Ubuntu CD, while Fedora has the lightweight (albeit otherwise capable) AbiWord. Even the brown looks bright and welcoming, as opposed to Fedora’s more conservative, dull greyish-blue.

Add to that the directory of various files introducing Ubuntu, what it’s about, and even a sample mortgage calculator, and it’s little wonder that Ubuntu gets a whole lot of first timers straight out of the gate, or that first timers settle on Ubuntu after trying a bunch of other distros. As a marketing tool (at least for the desktop), the Ubuntu CD wins hands down; I’m not even sure that fully set up via traditional means from the DVD or full set of CD’s Fedora is this flashy.

I’ve been telling people for a while that “I use Fedora, but you’ll find Ubuntu easier”. I’ve just seen the proof. Seeing the CD, I would want to start afresh with it. I won’t of course, but I was impressed.

I’m wondering, though, which is the real killer — the inclusion of OpenOffice.org, or the directory introducing Ubuntu? I bet that were Fedora to mount a similar directory, including how to expand upon the base supplied on the CD, that people might take it up a bit more. I’m thinking of things like “Accustomed to OpenOffice.org? Go here and this is what you do.” or a “top five” “what to do once you install the Fedora base (or even just the Live-CD)” based on “Common desktop tasks”, “Setting up a home file and media server”, or the usual choices found in the standard anaconda setup.

I’m even thinking that the Ubuntu Live CD is productive — and “complete” — right away with its little directory, forget having little tutorials.

I guess that I should find out about whether or not Fedora does something like this, though … 🙂

It’s tax time, and the Government of Canada supports linux!

Doing a bit of research for tax-time, I went to Service Canada’s website to get some extra information needed. I finally figured out how to navigate through some pages, and whaddya know, they support two linux distributions: Fedora (they added, incorrectly, “Core”) 8 — which of course now is out of date — and Ubuntu 7.1, which I suppose was really 7.10. I suppose to some government person who doesn’t quite understand Ubuntu’s version numbering system, 7.1 and 7.10 are “about the same” — of course, were there any validity at all, it would represent the January 2007 release of Ubuntu, which never existed, as opposed to the October 2007 release. 🙂

I was pleased to see them finally picking up the slack, even if this was put in place about 2 years ago. 🙂

And of course, here’s the screenshot, with the appropriate areas highlighted.

Service Canada Supports Linux!

Linux, the mainstream, and market penetration

Back in January, I related a story of a billboard I’d seen in October and how the software being advertised happened to be available for Windows, Mac, AND Linux.

Everyone who cares (that’s about, what, five of us) knows about “MovieOS” or “Hollywod OS” — computer sceenshots that are obviously custom shots that are in-house artwork. You know, either the animated PlaySkool shots showing people to click on the “GO” button regarding going to their store to spend lots of money on their wares, or, it’s a screenshot that “looks” like it’s a functional computer screen but doesn’t look like any computer desktop people are familiar with or any other computer desktop on the next show or movie you watch.

I’ve been noticing things on occasion in the mainstream media for a couple of years regarding computer screenshots: Not only is it not Windows or Mac, it’s not “MovieOS” either. What you see is a variant of the Gnome desktop, usually on Ubuntu (for those of you who have no clue what to look for, watch for two white lines on the screen, one on the top of the screen, and one on the bottom, and a light brown background to the rest of the screen.)

Listen up folks, here’s one of the moments that I think Mr. Shuttleworth’s little darling is doing some good.

In late 2007, there was a CBC Marketplace report on the various download speeds of the various high-speed internet suppliers across Canada. A closeup of the download progress window made it clear that each participant was downloading the Ubuntu CD of the day.

Just today on CNN I noticed in an ad for AT&T 3G USB key for highspeed mobile internet — this is the one with Bill Curtis in a boxing ring bragging about how fast he is — and the laptops appear to be running Ubuntu.

These are the two that come to mind. However, every couple of months, what do I see? An Ubuntu screen. I rather suspect that the reason for this trend as well as most instances of “MovieOS” is that it’s cheaper — including the cost of paying the computer technician in the back the time to reformat a computer, assuming that they didn’t just ask the guys in back to lend them their laptop, or of course asking the art department to make up something that looks nice — than paying any licensing fees to MS, Apple, or anyone else. Or, they didn’t get a sweet enough product placement deal from MS or Apple or whatever computer manufacturer in the advertising department’s rolodex.

I’d say that Linux — be it Linux in general, Ubuntu, any other distro, or the fact that there is a wide choice out there, in this case I don’t care — seems to be making some headway. Here’s one of the examples where I’ll concede the point that if people think Linux, they think Ubuntu, and that that’s OK.

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.)”

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? 🙂

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.

Uggghh … I need a bar of soap

I think I’m going to be sick. 🙁

I never cared for Debian and derivatives because Debian never seems organized enough to get a new release out. In all honesty I’ve never tried Debian. I hate Ubuntu, mostly because I’m very suspicious of anything with great marketing hype and hordes of fanboys to boot. (So much for my initial suspicion of the Stargate movie in 1994 and all of its over-hyping; I have long since wished I had overcome this and gone to see it in the theatres, and I do love SG1 in reruns. 🙂 )

Last week my brother and I were jumping hoops again and again to get my printer working under Centos 5.2. Last January we’d gone to a lot of trouble to get it to work under Centos 4.6 (I finally upgraded to the 5.0 series about a month ago.) No matter how many hoops we’d jump through and resolve there were still more, or another set would surface. Realize that this is a relatively new printer that must have come out at least last fall if not earlier, my brother received it as part of a “throw it in with the new laptop he bought” kind of deal. Red Hat therefore had gone through at least one update, if not two (at least 5.2 if not also 5.1) to add the appropriate drivers or move to the next HPLIP version that would support the printer. To give you an idea, Centos 5.2 comes with HPLIP 1.6.something, my printer needs at least 1.7.something, and the current version is 2.8.something.

Seems to me that commodity printers should be supported, it’s not as though a corporate situation doesn’t use printers. Though they would probably say that my line of printers is too commodity for an enterprise to be interested in, they probably want high-capacity, high-quality printers, not an inkjet meant for the consumer market.

I knew that the printer worked under ubuntu since I tried a live CD from them and it worked without saying boo. My brother was “willing” to continue trying to get it to work but was pushing hard to switch. “You can always switch back to Centos you know.”

The printer was a killer. So is getting wireless on my laptop, using a several years old (about 4 years old) pcmcia wireless card; under CentOS 4.6 I had a kernel under which it worked but any time there was a kernel upgrade I would have to switch back if I wanted to use the wireless. We hadn’t done anything yet about the wireless but had a plan.

I still haven’t gotten the wireless to work under Ubuntu but to be fair I haven’t tried yet at all.

My first reaction was that Ubuntu was the Playskool version of linux.

I also HATE the fact that the default user under Ubuntu is a defacto root user — first thing I did was get rid of the annoying sudo requirement by assigning a password to root, but it’s not of much value because so far I haven’t come across anything in Ubuntu that really requires root the way it would under ANY other linux distribution, other than the fact that it constantly asks for passwords to do anything. Also annoying is that I can’t log root into a gui to do things that way (including to REMOVE the default user from the admin ring.)

This may be the undoing of Ubuntu along the lines of the way that Windows is plagued with problems because most of the time the default user has admin rights and can install and run just about anything unless the Admin user shuts it down. The only upside is that it always asks for your password, but I expect that most windows converts would find this annoying and just mindlessly enter their password just to get on with things.

Once I got over the shock, the problem now is that the user experience, other than the administration to which I’m accustomed mostly doing under a command line instead of gui, is identical to Centos. (The main ubuntu distro desktop is gnome, as is the case for Centos.) Admittedly, the Synaptic gui package manager along with the extensive Ubuntu repo vs. the Centos repos is as good as they say, and worth the switch. And 8.04.1 is an LTS version, meaning that it’s supported for 3 years instead of having to go through the reformat treadmill every 6 months (OK, Fedora supports versions for a month after the release of the second release following, meaning about 12-13 months.)

I hope that RHEL (and hence Centos) shapes up and realizes that some people like using as a desktop, and that making it at least vaguely usable without pulling teeth and hair is as important as making it stable.

I have to go now and wash my mouth out with soap.