While I stand by my glowing review of Xubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), I have yet to find any release of any Linux distribution which was free of bugs or quirky behavior. The latest releases of the Ubuntu family of distributions are no different.
One of the nice things about Xfce4 is that it is very easy to customize and reconfigure any way you like. However, if you go into Settings -> User Interface Preferences to change around your desktop theme be careful about then also changing your icon theme. Some work, some don’t. Changing the theme to either default or Grounation crashes Xfce. It won’t start again, either. The fix is to restore your .config directory from backup. If you don’t have a backup you can copy it from another user directory or even /root and then
sudo chmod -R : .config
If you copy from another user Xfce will start normally but your menu will not work since it still points to another user’s .config. Simply delete the menu from the panel and add it again to restore the menu. You will, of course, have the settings that the other user chose, not your own. Still, copying the whole .config is easier than figuring out which file really is broken, at least for me, and then hand probably editing xml. I probably will poke around further, though.
I haven’t been able to reproduce this bug in Vector Linux 5.8 either, but that distro uses Xfce 4.3.99 rc2 while Xubuntu still uses rc1.
Oh, and yes, I’ve been a responsible user and reported this bug (see bug #77445).
The perpetual debate over the legality, practicality, and wisdom of
using, distributing, producing, and supporting binary-only drivers flared
up again recently, with a recent
debate on the Linux Kernel Mailing List over the legality of binary-only
drivers simmering down and Ubuntu company Canonical considering enabling
binary drivers by default in the next release.
Neither of those address entirely whether end-users should use
David Nielsen has started a pledge drive to fund nouveau development. (nouveau is a project to produce complete and free open source drivers for NVidia video cards.)
This pledge drive does not have the official support of the nouveau developers, but what a wonderful idea to be able to present them with $10,000 to support their work!
If you would like to use the hardware you’ve already paid for under terms that respect your freedom and choice, consider pledging $10 to this effort. (I’ll discuss the pragmatics and politics of free drivers more in a subsequent weblog soon.)
Edgy Eft (version 6.10), the second release of Xubuntu, a variant of Ubuntu Linux built around the Xfce4 desktop and designed to be lightweight, was released in October. I’ve been using it since then and I’ve been impressed. The bugs and rough edges seen in the first release, Dapper Drake (6.06) are gone and the end result is a solid, reliable distribution that’s a pleasure to use. The introduction to the Xubuntu Desktop Guide says, in part:
You may want to think of Xfce as the BMW MINI of Linux Desktops. Combining it with Ubuntu gives you the full power and ease of use that Ubuntu is known for, while providing a snappy desktop even for those using older hardware
Xubuntu generally uses GTK+ 2 apps that don’t have KDE and Gnome dependencies and, in general, performance is definitely improved compared to the heavier desktop environments. In my opinion Xubuntu is not just for older equipment that needs a more lightweight distribution. It’s polished enough for use anywhere.
Want to build a new generation of free software users? Support projects such as Edubuntu.
Last week I had an interview for a new consulting gig with three technical management type people. It turned into a 90 minute technical discussion on a variety of Linux and UNIX issues. That’s fine. I usually do well in that kind of interview. At one point the discussion turned to Open Source applications in the enterprise. One of the comments by one of my interviewers was that Open Source apps are usually “hero applications”, meaning that one system administrator knows about them and when that admin leaves nobody knows anything about them and support just isn’t there.
Is he right? Only to a point. Yes, I’ve seen many places where a given systems administrator is the sole source of knowledge on a given subject. That situation isn’t limited to Open Source software. Often the systems administrator is, at least in part, at fault. Either they aren’t good at sharing information and cross training or else they simply have no desire to do so. Some consciously try to build their own little fiefdom and make themselves indispensable to the organization.
It’s almost always management’s fault, again at least in part. Some technical managers do little to encourage or insist on cross training, particularly if it makes a valuable systems administrator unhappy. In other cases upper management has cut IT in general and systems administration in particular to the bone or even deep into the bone, to the point where the remaining staff simply hasn’t the time to properly maintain and patch the servers they have, let alone roll out new systems, write documentation, and to get training for themselves and train others.
Having said all that there is also a problem of the perception many managers who are accustomed to dealing with strictly commercial, proprietary software have when it comes to Open Source. The “hero applications” comment is a perfect example of how such managers misunderstand the community support model. Most even modestly popular Open Source projects have excellent support. It just may not be in the form of a corporate help desk owned by the company who produces the software.
LiveCDs are the coolest things since microbrews. (Funny how certain “innovative” proprietary software companies never manage to come up with neat stuff like this.) The latest entry in my Cool LiveCDs List is BeleniX, which is OpenSolaris + KDE and XFCE. Solaris can be a bit of a booger to install. BeleniX lets you try it out without installing it to a hard drive, and it also comes with a nice utility for a hard drive installation. Solaris has a lot of advanced stuff you don’t find anywhere else, like DTrace and the ZFS filesystem.
This here article which I wrote my own self, and now shamelessly tout, has some good links for getting up and running:
Tip of the Trade: BeleniX
Last month a new update of SIAG Office, version 3.6.1 was released. It’s a minor update, mainly bugfixes. Still, it was an update I was very glad to see since it had been nearly a year since the previous release.
Why is this release important? In addition to fixing a few bugs and unbundling antiword it showed that SIAG is still being maintained and developed. OK, so you’re probably asking why SIAG is important at all. It’s feature poor when compared to OpenOffice or even AbiWord and Gnumeric.
Where SIAG scores over it’s more capable competition is in size and speed. The SIAG spreadsheet is included in a number of lightweight Linux distributions including Damn Small Linux. Granted the support for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets is limited but for stand alone use it has a very decent feature set that includes the functions that are most used in popular spreadsheet software. The suite’s word processor, PW, short for Pathetic Writer, is anything but pathetic. It’s certainly has a nice interface and is at least as capable as other lightweight word processors like Ted and FLWriter. I haven’t used Egon Animator so I really can’t comment on that piece.
Lightweight apps aren’t just for the sort of Atticware (old systems) I’ve written about from time to time. Keeping things small is also critical for embedded devices. It’s important for systems using compact flash cards and other RAM devices in lieu of hard drives where it’s highly desirable to cache the OS and as much of the applications as possible in traditional RAM to reduce read-write I/O and extend the lifespan of the storage device. One company I consulted for wanted truly silent point of sale systems with no moving parts. They wanted the OS, lightweight apps including a word processor and spreadsheet, and store data all on a single CF card. At the time in 2005 the spec called for 512MB cards. SIAG Office is perfect for their application. Something huge like OpenOffice simply wouldn’t do.
SIAG Office clearly has a place. It’s fits a growing and increasingly important niche in the Linux world. Seeing it continue to improve is important. By unbundling antiword version 3.6.1 offers those deploying SIAG Office the possibility of an even smaller footprint. Thanks to Ulric Eriksson and anyone else involved in the development of SIAG Office for your ongoing work. It is appreciated.