Friday, 23 December 2011

Ubuntu 12.04 - Precisely the Linux for Human Beings?

Right, Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin ALPHA is installed, and things seem stable enough at this point in development.

Installation could have gone smoother. I downloaded the torrent for the Alpha 1, created a startup USB, went to install and selected the 'upgrade 11.10 to 12.04' option to try and preserve as many installed applications as possible. However Ubiquity could not finish the job and kept crashing at the end when it would normally display the 'restart' dialogue. This happened three times before I just went the fresh install route and a bug was filed on launchpad.

The Ubuntu Software Centre (USC) kept crashing or simply not responding when I tried to install applications, but that was quickly remedied by opening a Terminal and a quick apt-get install synaptic. Just in case the USC does not play nice then Gdebi is useful for installing .debs like Google Chrome and the Talk plugin. Though there seems to be a problem with the Talk plugin as 'ia32-libs' can not be installed, will look into that further and hopefully it will be a simple fix. Banshee and Tomboy are gone from the default install (BOO). But they are still easily found in the repo's and will be among my list of favourite applications currently being installed.

Rhythmbox looks very naked, no Ubuntu One integration yet and the podcast management tools are still non-existent. It does not seem that Rhythmbox can see/read the Banshee metadata either yet. It is quicker than Banshee, but that is a bit like comparing Ubuntu with Lubuntu. In that sense I still think Banshee is a better fit for the Ubuntu desktop. I am not adverse to change (I really enjoy Unity and Gnome Shell) so if they can make sure I can import my music from Banshee without losing all the track info and playlists, together with comparable podcast handling tools then I would make the switch.

Opening the overview seems faster, but the USC still takes what feels like an age to get going. The default suite of applications seem fine to get anybody going, but right now there really is not anything that really sets this apart with 11.10, bar the removal of Banshee and Tomboy. I would have thought an alternative to Tomboy was at least included, but alas, no. Pre-LTS development tends to be very conservative affairs with the focus being on polish. I am hoping for a Hardy Heron-esque default wallpaper for Pangolin, as I do not have any love for the Ocelot in the current batch, there is the potential for some impressive/fun wallpapers for the end-user this time around.

Still hoping they do 'something' with Gwibber, I would like to see real-time updates or at least something less then 5 min intervals. I have Polly installed on my Desktop and Netbook, but will run Gwibber only on the laptop running the 12.04 development. In fact, other than the Google Chome/Talk PPAs I do not add extra repos until after release. One feature I hope gets brought over from Gnome Shell is the ability to click links in pop-up notifications. Right now with Gwibber I tend to open Tweetdeck in a Chrome browser tab to chase a link...and with the 5 min Gwibber delay this can mean a search.

So far so good. Only very early days! The Alpha 2 is not due until Feb 2nd, then the first Beta around March 1st, and finally April 26th is release day. You can find the full release schedule here. That said, its going to come and go before we know it, but I hope to do what I can filing bug reports and whatever else that crops up. Other then chasing bugs and hopefully the return of Banshee and Tomboy I really do not expect any major changes over the next few weeks.

Post 12.04, I expect Mark to drop a few bombs on us. Talk has already begun on an Gnome Shell Remix for Ubuntu, while the development of Unity and Ubuntu getting deployed everywhere will make the next few development cycles a fun ride!


Monday, 12 December 2011

Gnome Shell Running On A Netbook

I have enjoyed using the Gnome Shell interface instead of Unity over the last two weeks that I have decided to install on my Advent 4211 netbook. In the post were I described installing and tweaking Gnome Shell the focus was on average sized monitors but the default settings of Gnome Shell mean that a netbooks monitor can be overwhelmed. So to slim this down a bit a few quick tweaks will make everything seem a bit more proportional.

My netbook's desktop

For this I have the following PPA's;

GNOME3 Team [ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3] 
GNOME 3 WebUpd8 PPA [ppa:webupd8team/gnome3] 
WebUpd8 Themes Repository [ppa:webupd8team/themes] 

Example of a notification; here I inserted an USB drive

I also used the new Gnome Extensions website but if given a choice between the Gnome Shell (GS) extensions in the Webupd8 ppa or the Gnome Extensions website I choose the ppa for the following reasons. First, the ppa means that the extensions can be updated, at the moment for the website you need to check yourself if the extensions have been updated and that leads to my second issue. The website has no easy way to remove the extension for updating or uninstalling, instead you have to go into hidden folders and delete manually. All these issues will be resolve in Gnome 3.4 due for release in March 2012, but until my system is running that then I will stay with the PPA as my first choice.

Overview window, the Applications tab

Using the Themes PPA above I installed 'Zukitwo' as my Shell theme, GTK+ theme and Window theme, all set via advanced settings (Gnome Tweak Tool). The icon theme is Faience-Azur (Tiheum: Equinox, ppa:tiheum/equinox). And to get the look in the photos I used the following extensions;

  • User Themes Extension (from ppa)
  • noa11y Extension (from ppa)
  • Alternative Status Menu Extension (from ppa)
  • Workspace Indicator Extension (from ppa)
  • Dock Extension (from ppa)
  • Places Status Indicator Extension (from ppa)
  • Status Only Icon Extension (from Gnome Extensions)
  • Weather Indicator Extension (from ppa)

A quick press of Alt+F2 then typing r ... and then the desktop reloads and all the extensions should be active.

Here the Status Only Icon extension helps save some real-estate

Like I said, the default appearance of GS overwhelms the screen real-estate, but after those tweaks the whole thing is much more cosy. Everything seems to be working just fine and I have little to complain about. Underneath is still my favourite OS, Ubuntu, but its great being able to dress it up with a selection of interfaces all there in the repos. Then for real personalisation you add in a few trusted PPA's. 


A version of this was originally posted by me on G+ (11th Dec 2011)

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dr. Leonid Pavel Located

It is believed that the operation to secure Dr Leonid Pavel's release is a go with terms agreed with those currently holding him. What few details that are available are detailed in the leaked document below;

Leaked document detailing Operation Early Bird: Source

More information as it becomes available.
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Where is Dr Leonid Pavel?

Documents, allegedly from the CIA, have leaked out regarding the search for Dr Leonid Pavel. Pavel seems to have been working as a nuclear physicist and first came to the attention of the intelligence community when he presented a controversial theory at an IEEE Symposium three years ago. However, Dr Pavel has disappeared and a militia claiming to be protecting him has contacted US authorities seeking a payment to ensure his continued protection until finally handing him to US authorities. Following initial contact there has been no further known communication between US authorities and Dr Pavel's protector's.

Details regarding the group is unknown, nor is there solid evidence that they indeed have the doctor. Given Pavel's knowledge of nuclear fuel cycle technology and reactor designs confirming his current condition, location and ultimate extraction has been deemed a high priority task of the intelligence services.

Part of Pavel's dossier: Source

Part of transcript with Pavel's "protection": Source

Without a doubt Pavel's knowledge and expertise would be of use to any number of governments and non-state actors, locating the doctor will be in all our interests.

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Friday, 2 December 2011

Running Gnome Shell on Ubuntu 11.10

First I have to say that I am a fan of Unity, not when they first rolled it out on netbooks (crippling them performance wise) but on PC's or laptops it made more sense. No it is not perfect, yet, but I do like the direction it is going and what could be achieved with it in the future. That said, I thought it was about time to see what Gnome Shell was all about, especially after Canonical took the decision not to wait for Gnome Shell and to develop Unity as an alternative desktop environment. As a plus if you are running Ubuntu 11.10 then installing Gnome Shell is a piece of cake, just go into synaptic (sorry, but the Ubuntu Software Centre is just not for me...) and look for Gnome Shell. Select the package to install and restart your computer, then when the login screen appears click the 'gear' icon beside your name and select 'Gnome'. Now login as normal and welcome to Gnome Shell!

Gnome Shell - An idea of what you are greeted with

First question I was wondering was "where is everything?", and its this minimalistic approach that will take some time to get used to. Personally I like it, I do not like a cluttered desktop so this works for me. Getting started with Gnome Shell I highly recommend the Gnome Shell Cheat Sheet, its a clear guide of how to get started using the interface. I could not fathom how to do a restart or shutdown, but its just a matter of holding down the 'Alt' key while the user menu is open and by magic the 'Power Off...' option appears. The cheat sheet covers all this and includes lots of pretty pictures to go along with the explanations.

With a few tweaks, detailed below, my current desktop. Wallpaper is of Neeru Bajwa available from SantaBanta

The Overview on the Windows tab. To the left are pinned and running applications, the right lists the workspaces and the bottom right shows notifications and running services. 

The Overview again, but in the Applications tabs listed on the applications installed

The Right PPA's for the Job

To get started added two PPA's to help me tweak things to my liking;

My Top Extensions for Gnome Shell

Then I reloaded my software sources to check for any updates and got started with the tweaking, installing the following applications;

  • gnome-tweak-tool - tool to adjust advanced configuration settings for GNOME
  • gnome-shell-extension-notesearch - Note Search GNOME Shell extension for Gnote or Tomboy Notes
  • gnome-shell-extensions-common - Extensions to extend functionality of GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-extensions-dock - Dock extension to GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-extensions-mediaplayer - MediaPlayer extension for GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-extensions-places-menu - Places menu extension to GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme - User Theme extension to GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-extensions-weather - Weather extension for GNOME Shell
  • gnome-shell-message-notifier - GNOME Shell IM message notifier
  • gnome-shell-extensions-workspace-indicator - Workspace Indicator extension to GNOME Shell
  • gnome3-globalmenu - GNOME 3 Global Menu

Gnome Tweak Tool

After installing those few applications I restarted the computer but even then you will not even know they are there until you open Advanced Settings (Gnome Tweak Tool). In the section for 'shell extensions' you turn on whatever you like, and to reload the desktop to get them running just press 'Alt + F2' then type 'r'

Above is the Gnome Tweak Tool and the list of installed shell extensions

Dock Extension

Once I started using Gnome Shell one of the most frustrating things was having to constantly go into the 'Overview' window to switch applications as the applications do not minimize anywhere, nor is there a list of open applications on the workspace. So the Dock extension provides much welcome relief. It sits hidden and out of sight until you hover over the small black tab, then it unhides and expands. Of course you could use other alternative docks, but I find that this meets my requirements.

The Dock expanded, the favourites are pinned permanently together with running applications

Media Player Extension for the Sound Menu

Another favourite of mine is being able to control my media from the sound menu, this functionality was missing by default but the Media Player extensions brings it back with a simple and easy to use interface. Even without this, media notifications still pop up in the notification area about what is currently playing.

Thanks to the Media Player extension you can control your default music player from the sound menu

Workspace Extension

One of the things I miss from Unity is a dynamic way of knowing what workspace you are on. Most of the time I do not need to know, but when I am working on a project and have different information spread out over a couple of workspaces I would like to get back and forth easily. The 3rd paty extensions I have tried do not work well on my system. Gnome Shell does not have a set number of workspaces, instead it creates them as you need them. As soon as you open an application in a workspace, a new empty workspace is created below. I have really enjoyed this feature and the workspace extension works flawlessly.

The workspace extension, all I could ask for!

Places Extension

Again to avoid having to go into overview every time I want to access a file the Places Menu extension offers a quick and simple solution. All your favourite places just a click away, without having to go into overview and go on a search. Unity is particularly guilty of this too, I would not mind if the search function actually worked, but until they crack that opening Unity or Overview to go searching for files is a waste of time.

The Places Menu extension, it just works

Weather Extension

Another extension that tends not to work very well in Unity, for me anyway, is the weather indicator. So much so that I just use forecastfox in Google Chrome. So when I saw the weather extension for Gnome Shell I knew I had to give it a go. But it did nothing. Being in Ireland I was surprised that the closest it could get me is Germany, so I carried out a quick Google search and found a very helpful solution on Ask Ubuntu. Bingo, I had weather nicely integrated into my desktop, just a shame I had to jump through that one hoop.

The Weather extension showing the weather, and doing it rather well

IM Notifier Extension

A slightly annoying trait with Gnome Shell, its that it is so minimalistic that it gives you a brief notification when you get a message, then nothing. So if you blinked you might have people on the other end of an IM chat wondering why you have not replied. To fix this there is the Message Notifier extension which works with your IM client, Empathy in my case, currently services like Skype are not supported, but there are ways to do this just have a Google search. The notifier is invisible unless you have a message waiting for you and saves constantly checking you have not missed something.

Hover in the bottom right corner and you see your notifications and running services

Adding the Message Notifier gives you this handy little notifier on the top panel

Global Menu Extension

Finally to add a little bit of Unity functionality I added the Global Menu extension, this works differently then in Unity though. Instead of you hovering over the top panel and having the menu options revealed, in Gnome Shell you click the name of the application (just to the right of  'Activities') and then a drop-down menu appears. The styling has been carried out very well, included sliding buttons like the rest of the default theme. I am not sure if I prefer it over how Unity implements the global menu, but I believe it is the right fir for Gnome Shell.

The Global Menu extension in use on Google Chrome

With regards to choosing a theme there are plenty of options and themes out there. Above I have used my own wallpaper and via the Gnome Tweak Tool you can see my settings in the image below.

Theme settings

Concluding Thoughts

I have only been using Gnome Shell for about a week and I am starting to appreciate it now. At first install it probably is a bit over-the-top in a minimalistic sense, you really are left wondering what are you supposed to do with this. Over a few days I have discovered all the above extensions, got them working and now I have a desktop that works great for me. I do need to solve the Skype integration, but that's just me. Personally I do believe Gnome Shell could come preinstalled with a few more extensions, instead of having to go to a third party site for a PPA, this is not going to win over any new users to Linux operating systems. The experienced user can pull out all the parts they do not want and leave themselves with their preferred set-up, its best to give the new user more to either turn on or off, without having to go hiking through the web.

Other then that, I really enjoy using Gnome Shell. I like that the icons and text seems so much bigger by default, yes things are hidden but when you go looking for them there they are in all their glory! The whole environment has a quality feel and look to it and it is only early days yet. Part of me wonders what could have been if all the effort that has gone into Unity was put into Gnome Shell and what the end-user could have gotten. For me just being able to add and remove extensions 'easily' on the top panel is such a joy! This also highlights the best part of opensource software, if you do not like Unity then swap it out for something else, be it Gnome Shell or something like Mate for those trying to hold onto the Gnome 2 days (the end is nigh for that interface...).

I am going to stick with Gnome Shell for a while and see what comes of it, then again the Alpha 1 of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS has just been released and there is much to be done.

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rhythmbox Prevails over Banshee!? Because Ubuntu 12.04 Wants to Look 10 Years Younger

It is looking more and more likely that 12.04 will ship with Rhythmbox instead of Banshee. Can not say that I am happy about that. Reinstalled Rhytmbox this week to check out how it has developed and nothing has changed. In fact, it probably would not look out of place running on WIn 98.

Suggestions are that a lot of it is down to the removal of mono in 12.04, this applications like Banshee and Tomboy are in trouble. I am not aware of any other note program that syncs with Ubuntu One, I know their is Gnote, but it lacks this functionality. I do use both Banshee and Tomboy daily, so ditching those leaves me with a sour taste.

Canonical (re: Mark) could always change their minds about this, but if they do not they I really hope that they do implement a note taking program with all the functionality of Tomboy. At the same time they ensure that all out settings and metadata kept in both Banshee and Tomboy are easily moved over to the replacements. At present Rhythmbox lacks the functionality to do is just a bare-bones music player.

Based on how they dealt with the Evolution to Thunderbird move I really do not expect this though. Banshee felt like the right application, with the right vision to fit with the progressive direction that Ubuntu has been moving in. Of course the simple solution is to just install Banshee, so what's the bid deal? Well, in that case why bundle any applications with Ubuntu? Users, especially new users, expect a certain level of functionality and capability when they try out their new OS, so first impressions do matter. The move to Thunderbird over Evolution does make some sense as it is more recognisable by users, their will have to be some very intense development of Rhythmbox over the next few weeks to bring it up to scratch.

So far all the other news regarding development sounds positive, especially nailing down Unity. But getting Unity right is still the biggest hurdle that 12.04 faces, I really enjoy the Unity interface, but it does have some strange quirks. Even searching for my minecraft.jar file requires changing lenses, and clicking to see more results...and it does this for most searches I carry out. Nevermind that other then Chrome no other applications have decent default quicklists. I have been using Unity for a few cycles now and here we are, weeks of development to go before slapping this onto LTS users for the next 5 YEARS!

Ubuntu One has been Canonical's success story since 10.04LTS. They have got it right and it has developed at a remarkable pace. At its current level of development it is arguably too good compared to the rest of the desktop, yet so few default applications make use of this service. Why is my profile information, Empathy and Gwibber settings all not synced across computers? Toying with default local email and music applications just feels petty compared to the untapped potential we are missing out on.

I am happy to stand by Ubuntu and I feel it is certainly the best OS for me. I like the direction it is going and I am probably impatient that the year of the Linux desktop has not arrived yet. But that does not bother me, anyone who has seen my machines running Ubuntu have always been impressed, and I covert a couple of people each year. I myself only came aboard with 7.04 back in the Summer of 2007, but never looked back.

So roll on 12.04, lets see if this Precise Pangolin lives up to its potential.


(Originally Posted on Google+)

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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Oneiric Ocelot - Ubuntu's Field of Dreams

Having been running Ubuntu 11.10 ALPHA & now BETA on an Advent 4211 and it would seem the Alpha ran better, no more normal desktop, have to log into the 2D version since Beta. Also performance is very poor right now, everything is laggy or takes significant time to load. The performance of the Unity bar is as predictable and as jumpy as a groundhog. Right now it has nothing but potential! Chrome is working pretty good though.

11.10 - The 2D Desktop

I do not like how the standard indicators stretch almost half-way across the top-panel, and this is before anything useful like weather or workspace indicators are added. Moving the status indicator from your name to the mail indicator I think is a regression. Setting my availability from my name seems to make more sense, with notifications reserved for the mail icon. Thunderbird also seems to be poorly integrated, clicking contacts opens a whole new window for instance, rather then simply switching to a contacts section within Thunderbird, requiring you to close out of contacts to go back to mail. Also without an integrated calendar why bother with an email application an office suite? One would think all these would be essential for those who want to work from their local machine rather then the cloud.

The software centre icon looks like an exploding handbag! Not sure if this is a comical gesture, but the previous icon was much more clear, on message and Ubuntu branded. Again, replacing synaptic with the software centre still feels like form over function, especially as the software center is currently so slow, and keeps showing up double entries. But there is potential!

The Dash refuses to resize correctly on the screen. In fact I had no idea that the lenses lived on the far right if it was not for a screenshot I saw online. I keep using the maximise and minimise buttons to try and get it right, but having to do it every time I open the dash is becoming a chore. Also why on earth has the dash been given those buttons? They are poorly integrated into the dash appearance.

OK...this is BETA and there is still several weeks to go in development, and this is the last major push of new features before the 12.04LTS (codename expected anytime now). I have been involved in Alpha and Beta testing of Ubuntu releases since 2007, so I know this can be a bumpy road with possible borking of machines.

Personally I think there are confused signals from Ubuntu/Canonical right now. They have the amazing Ubuntu One service in the cloud, and quietly integrated Zoho docs a few release ago (instead of Google Docs as the former does not require a login). One of the huge plus points of most Linux distros are the vast repo's of software available to use and download. Looking at Chrome OS, or any other OS, you get a bare bones system with links to download all the full featured stuff. There has been talk of Ubuntu moving from the 700mb download to even larger, I would argue the exact opposite, go much smaller! Give the end user an OS but with options to add-on whatever they want during or after the install. On the website have example's of a home, business or government (police and more) user, many of us submit statistics to Canonical, surely they can figure out the rest? 

Overall I have really loved 11.04 and the Unity interface, I disliked mutter on the netbook and that initially made me very sceptical of Unity, but I think what they have now is on the right track and gives Ubuntu a nice slick user interface that is different from the others. I just hope that they are asking the right questions or focusing on the right things with the focus groups they have been running. 11.10 is going to set the tone for 12.04 and potentially most home users Ubuntu experience until maybe 2014. 

Ubuntu, should it still be aiming to be linux for human beings or dare it be the OS for human beings?

Originally Posted on Google Plus

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Installing Ubuntu 11.04 on Packard Bell Imedia S1800

I have recently installed Ubuntu 11.04 onto a Packard Bell Imedia S1800 with a Pentium Dual-Core E5800 (@3.20 GHz), 3GB Ram, 1TB HDD and an AOC e2043Fs Series 20" LED monitor. For the most part everything is running as expected with only one bug cropping up, which I will get to below, but for now I will briefly go through the steps I took to get my desktop up and running as I like it.
I always follow the same procedure for every fresh/new install when it comes to partitioning the HDD (all in ext4 format):
  • 10-15 GB for / (root)
  • x2 the installed RAM for swap (so 3GB x 2 = 6GB swap)
  • The remaining is left for the /home

Other users may not bother with this, others might install several partitions, but the main advantage of having a /home partition is that your personal data is separate from the operating system. In the future should you perform a fresh install of Ubuntu, which I usually do instead of an upgrade when each new release comes out, you just keep the above partitions but DO NOT format the /home. Once the install is complete all your files and folders are sitting there, as well as all your preferences. In cases were something has gone horribly wrong with your install, maybe due to an unintended terminal command, your personal data is often left perfectly safe as you use a Live CD to recover. Of course this is no excuse for not having a safe backup, which I also highly recommend.

The above is the most complex stage of any Ubuntu install should you decide to partition. The rest now is adding personal settings. First things first, turn on your repos for updates. The easiest way to do this is press the 'super' (windows) key and then start typing 'synaptic', then click 'synaptic package manager' when it appears. In synaptic select 'setting - repositories', here I usually select all except the 'source code' option. In the next tab, 'other software' I make sure the repos are all selected, in the 'updates' tab I select all the options and set the auto updates to daily, then in the final 'statistics' tab I always choose to submit information. Once all that is done I reload the repo's, mark all upgrades and apply!

Turning on the software sources in Synaptic Package Manager

The next step is to download the latest version of Ubuntu Tweak. There does seem to be a love/hate divide when it comes to this software, but I just find that it makes life with Ubuntu that bit more convenient, it is also a really useful tool for adding popular software and adding further personal tweaks. Anything that Ubuntu Tweak does can be done via synaptic, or a few terminal commands, but this is nicely packaged in an user-friendly GUI. Personally I find that Ubuntu Tweak bridges the divide between synaptic (function before form) and the Ubuntu Software Center (form before function). Here you can go through picking all your favourite software and adding any repo's you would like to try out. Do not dismiss the warning about enabling repo's lightly!

Tweaking with Ubuntu Tweak

The next step can potenttially get you into bother so I just mention it to make you aware! You may notice that if you try to watch a DVD that it probably will not work, in the Ubuntu Software Center you will find the option to purchase the Fluendo Complete Playback Pack, which is what you are supposed to do.

Ubuntu Software Center and the Fluendo media pack

Others use Medibuntu as an alternative to this option, after following the instructions to add the Medibuntu repo on their website the following two terminal commands would be required to fulfil all your multimedia needs:
  • sudo apt-get install non-free-codecs 
  • sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2

    DVD playing as normal, and one of my favorite detectives too!

    By this stage almost everything I need is up and running but some really useful applications are (via synaptic):
    • compizconfig-settings-manager (for adjusting your various desktop effects)
    • gufw (for managing your firewall settings)
    • banshee-community-extensions (loads of useful extras for Banshee media player)
    • boinc-manager (if you like helping with world community grid or SETI)
    • calibre (manage your ebook collection and ereader, like my Kindle)
    • deja-dup (backup tool, encrypts and can store in the cloud or locally)
    • gimp (powerful image manipulation program, think Photoshop!)
    • postr (or Flickr Uploader, shotwell is good, but this is better at some things)
    • skype (very useful voip service)

      Lots of option in the Compiz settings manager

      Via Ubuntu Tweak you can add PPA's for:
      • Google Chrome (web browser)
      • Shutter (a great screen capture tool, lots of options)
      • Faenza Icons/Theme (they are just plain cool!)
      • Weather Indicator (if you want some useful info in the top panel)

        The Weather Indicator in use

        But all those are just little things I do, there are just too many to mention and you can tweak to your hearts content. Really helps that they are all free, but donations are always welcome of course! You can also find Google Earth out there and for those that like to converse via Chrome you will need the Google Voice and Chat Plugin. Another useful tweak is to add a quicklist, for more on those you can check this blog post for more information.

        The only bug that I have to mention with the Packard Bell Imedia S1800 is to do with the headphone jack, normally the speakers should auto-mute when you plug in the headphone jack, but this does not happen here. The sound continues to be played from both the headphones and speakers! You can follow the bug report here.

        Hopefully you found something up there useful and most will apply to any Ubuntu install, though 11.10 is supposed to do away with synaptic, which is probably another Empathy-esque mistake as they implement stylish replacements for solid applications with the promise of future feature implementation.

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        Thursday, 28 July 2011

        Ubuntu 11.04 Quicklists

        Ubuntu's new Unity interface has been a cause of some debate, but overall the majority seem to be growing to love it, especially as more ways of tweaking it become more easily accessible. Most application indicators have been removed in favour of cleaning up the top panel, with the respective applications grouped under their specific groups. This idea has generally worked, though obvious examples such as the Skype indicator stand out as items that still need work. The coming 11.10 release will see further refinements with items like the 'MeMenu' being redesigned and moved, but for now lets have a look at one method of making the Unity 'not-a-dock' a little more useful.

         Which one of these things do not belong?

        One quick tweak to make life a bit easier is using Quicklists to make common application tasks that bit easier to access, currently I am using a quicklist on my Home Folder

        Home Folder Quicklist

        To create your own quicklist just like this, then just follow these few quick steps;
        • We begin by copying the Home Folder launcher file to the home directory, do this by opening a Terminal then copy and paste the following:
        cp /usr/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
        • Now we have to open the text file for editing with:
        gedit ~/.local/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop
        • Look for the following line:
        • Then change it to the following:
        • Then below the last line of text copy and paste the following:
        [Documents Shortcut Group]
        Exec=nautilus Documents
        [Downloads Shortcut Group]
        Exec=nautilus Downloads
        [Pictures Shortcut Group]
        Exec=nautilus Pictures
        [Music Shortcut Group]
        Exec=nautilus Music
        [Videos Shortcut Group]
        Exec=nautilus Videos

        • Now save the file before closing, log out and log back in. Right-clicking the Home Folder launcher will now give you your new quicklist

        It should go something like this

        If this impress's you then you are in for a treat as there is no end to what you can create quicklists for, to give yourself an idea have a look at the ever increasing list of examples on the Ask Ubuntu thread 'List of custom Launchers & Quicklists for Unity'. There is a good chance you will find one there for your favourite application and makes your Ubuntu experience that little bit more efficient.

        And for those wondering, the next bleeding edge release of Ubuntu, 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, is due for release on the 24th October. Since it is the release before the 12.04 Long Term Release this will be the last chance for any big changes to land, and so far we are looking at the removal of Evolution in favour of Thunderbird, the MeMenu refinements mentioned above, no more 'classic' desktop and a raft of other refinement. But all this is subject to change of course ;-)


        Tuesday, 12 July 2011

        Exploring Meath's Heritage - Battle of the Boyne

        The largest land battle ever to take place in Ireland occurred just outside of the coastal town of Drogheda when some 61,000 men faced off to decide who got to sit on the throne of England, the Battle of the Boyne website describes it as;

        Both kings commanded their armies in person. William had 36,000 men and James had 25,000 - the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while Jame’s men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.
        William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river as the vastly outnumbered Jacobite defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.
        The princer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.
        Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.
        Battle of the Boyne
        The Battle of the Boyne visitor center

        Part of the site today is owned by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and there now stands the Battle of the Boyne visitor center which is opened all year round. The location is easy to find, just come off the M1 at Drogheda or just come from the direction of Slane, the roads are great fun especially if you are coming from Navan so a great day out. There is free car parking and if you decide not to enter the visitor center then everything else is free too, the walled gardens, several walks and the 'living history' displays throughout the day. If you pay a little extra then you get entry into the visitor center which lets you walk through full size mock-ups of the general's tents the night before battle. In the following room there are various weapons that would have been used and an interactive map of the battlefield that plays out the days events.

        Battle of the Boyne
        The artillery yard

        Following this you enter into a courtyard which has all the artillery pieces and their various support equipment out in the open with an information point providing full descriptions. There is also an audio visual room with a 13 min film that gives a very good account of what happened on that day in 1690. All this is what you pay the entry fee for, but there is plenty of other things to do too.

        Part of the living history display with the infantry soldier

        The 'living history' shows are hourly, which are essentially mini-reenactments, the people involved are dressed in the attire and I got to see one who played the role of an infantry man and a second who played the  part of a cavalry soldier. Each person gave a full account of what life for each was like, the infantry man brought along and fired two types of muskets and each session ended in a Q&A session. Each lasted about 30mins and they had microphones so that could always be heard, not bad for free!

        Here comes the cavalry

        There are also several walks which are well marked on various maps and sign-posted. Nothing too rigorous as most of the walking just involves crossing fields. There is also a very nice 'tea pavilion' which looks out over the walled gardens, which do not seem to be completely finished but they still are nice to walk around and get a feel for what more is to come.

        Battle of the Boyne
        View from the bottom of the walled garden towards the tea pavilion and visitor center

        There are picnic tables dotted around and plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the well maintained grounds,  overall I had a really good day there and recommend. Go along, enjoy some Irish history, together with some muskets and gun-powder. For some more picture you can go to my Flickr album here.

        Battle of the Boyne
        View of the bothy, dog kennels, sculpture and peach house

        Peace and keep the rubber side down.
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        Saturday, 9 July 2011

        A Brief Step Into The West

        Just back from an overnight trip to County Clare and some of its best known attractions, though for me the Cliffs of Moher was the main reason for going. Thanks to the M4 you can travel from one side of Ireland to the other relatively swiftly, though at the cost of 2 tolls (90c x 2 for a motorcycle), but any decent GPS can be set to avoid them. The weather was not going to be the best, but here in Ireland if you don't ride in the rain then you don't ride! Though motorcyclists are usually the best prepared for visiting Ireland's outdoor attractions since we are usually well prepared for the worst of the weather while other huddle indoors and for the first time do not stop to ask "but don't you get hot in all that?".

        The first destination was Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey center, though I had often heard of the cave the Birds of Prey I knew little of and it turned out to be the real highlight of the trip and well worth the journey. Let me just mention now that for anyone visiting any of the following attractions to go to their websites and book online beforehand, you will save a nice bit of change by doing this and in some cases you have 12 months to use the ticket. All the grounds and aviaries were in excellent condition and you could get close enough to get some really good pictures. During the day, and depending on the weather, there are displays with the birds and the audience get multiple chances to participate. The staff are very friendly and overall I can highly recommend.

        Aillwee Cave - Birds of Prey
        This is 'Owly' in action, he is a bit dim but lovable

        Following the Birds of Prey center the next destination was the actual Aillwee Cave, which is a 5 minute walk up a hill, but you can also drive up or take a bus that goes back and forth all day long. Here you get a guided tour through the 400m long cave which lasts approx 30-40mins, the tour guide was very friendly and was very comfortable dealing with the children on the tour. The story behind how the cave was found is almost as interesting as anything you see in there, also you only really get to see a fraction of the entire cave with much of it (and three underground lakes) not easily accessible. Overall an interesting experience.

        Aillwee Cave
        The waterfall inside Aillwee Cave

        Following Aillwee Cave the next destination on the trip was the Poulnabrone Dolmen, just 6km's south of Aillwee. The site is of a portal tomb, some 4000+ years old, it has good parking and information points along the path to the dolmen explaining the rich history of the site. This is well worth visiting, especially since it is free, and also you get your first real sample of the burren's bleak landscape which has been described as "a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him" (Edmund Ludlow, 1651-52).

        Poulnabrone Dolmen
        At 4000+ years it is not looking too bad

        After the dolmen the final destination for the first day was Logues Hotel in the coastal town of Liscannor. Upon arrival we were immediately greeted by a cat who seemed to be a resident of the hotel, we would see it again the following morning as we left curled up in the sun room. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful, WiFi is available throughout, the food in the restaurant was good quality, rooms were clean and warm, so overall can happily recommend. There was not too much to see in the town, but we did go for an evening stroll to visit Liscannor castle at the rear of the the local school. The next morning we had full breakfast to kick off the day and a pot of coffee, with the poor weather that had arrived this was a necessity.

        Liscannor Castle

        The final destination of the trip was the Cliffs of Moher, just a few km's north of Liscannor along the coast. Despite the wind and rain we were determined to make the most of the visit, but thanks to the bike gear we were much better prepared then some people coming off the tour buses in shorts and sandals! If you have booked online for the visitor center then you will have saved some money but as it turns it this is not a must, especially if you have a motorcycle. If is more than possible for you to find a location outside the car-park and then just walk to the cliffs, thus bypassing any entry fee's. Even on a bad day the cliff's looked impressive and easily accessible thanks to the paths along the cliff, though avoid using the telescope's, most seemed to be broken.

        Cliffs of Moher
        The Cliffs of Moher

        After the cliffs it was back on the road home in the pouring rain, but even in these conditions the R478 is great fun to ride, but have liked to have tried it on a dry day to get a real feel for it. I have posted photo albums on Flickr for Aillwee Cave (and birds of prey), Ballyallaban, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher. Looking forward to exploring the roads around the Burren again, but hopefully with better weather next time.

        Peace and keep the rubber side down.