Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Air HID: More than a Tool for the Lazy

You know why I love holidays? I can be a full-time lazy person for at least one day. So, while I was lazying around in bed, I realized I had to go to the computer and answer some videogame installation prompt. Now, that interfered with my peaking laziness. Hmm, I thought to myself, I have an Android phone, there MUST be some application that allows me to control the computer from afar. I mean, even my old Sony Ericsson K750i had a pretty solid integrated one. Then again, with my old K750i I was able to speak a name in my bluetooth handsfree device and the phone would call it. Can I do this in 2011 inside a modern mobile, smart OS? NOPE! But that's another rant...

Regardless, I fired up the Android market, typed in a bunch of relevant keywords, and lo and behold, there it was: Air HID :WiFi Mouse & KeyBoard. After going through the dodgy English description (admittedly translated by Google from Chinese), I got to the comments section, which was pretty filled with appreciative comments. OK, let's try it! (By now, my laziness turned into geekcitement) . 

As this app requires the use of a Wi-Fi connection between the phone and the PC, you should have a router that will stand as a bridge between the devices. As expected, you also need to run a small Java "receiver" on the machine you want to control. And yes, Java means it will run on both Windows, Linux and MAC platforms. YAY!!!

The receiver is a small window with two large buttons: "Start" and "Stop", followed by the IP address that you need to put inside the Android app, and a status message. If you don't want it on your screen, it can politely hide inside your notification tray. 

Here comes the first bug: on neither Windows or Linux, the receiver couldn't display the correct IP address that you need to insert inside the Android app. What you need to do is go to a site like http://whatismyipaddress.com/ and take your IP from there. You also need to free up some ports from the router. Sadly, I don't know which ones exactly, as I freed them all up! Yay security holes! Oh, I just realized that I can control the target computer through the 3G connection of the phone. Did anyone say awesome prank material? :D

So, once you're up and running, select "Mouse" on your phone, and the screen magically transforms into a quality, responsive touchpad, complete with dragging and scrolling abilities. You also get a keyboard, which is a bit hard to use on a small screen like the Mini, and a numpad, for laptop users in need of one. Simply place the phone on the right side of the laptop, and there you go, you have a perfectly usable numpad!

But the best feature of this application is the ability to create custom setups. Touch the "Draw" button and an empty screen appears. Here, you can create boxes and assign them to certain keys, mouse buttons, and even combinations like "CTRL+C" and "CTRL+V", like I did in the example. I also tried creating a shortcut for showing the desktop, but it sadly didn't register the "Win" key. 

The interface may need a bit more work put into it as selecting modifiers like "ctrl", "shift" can be a bit of a hassle with a big finger-small screen combo, as you can see in the video below, but overall, this app is one of the most useful I have on my phone. 

Oh, any synchronization delays you see in the video did not happen in reality, they were caused by the editing process (two video sources/formats: ogv for the desktop recording, AVI for the phone recording using a digital camera; I tried using the webcam/guvcview combo, but the picture was too blurry. Sorry `bout that.).


  • FREE
  • smooth, stable operation
  • works on Linux, Mac and Windows
  • only 1.36 MBs in size
  • "draw mode" for custom macros and configurations
  • small, non-intrusive, Java receiver


  • can't be installed on SD card
  • the target IP address is wrong
  • the interface is quite bad
  • doesn't provide info on which port to forward
Download the "receiver" from here and have an awesome new year!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Semplice 2.0 Beta 1.1


Good day, people who visit my site! It is with great pleasure that I invite you to yet another pleasant reading break. The theme? As always, my latest visit into the open source awesomeness that is GNU/Linux. I discovered Semplice while reading Distrowatch's Weekly and I was drawn by its purple background. Yep, I am not ashamed to admit it! Staaaaart wearing purple, wearing purpleee. And it's not even Ubuntu's kind of purple, it's the cool purple, lilla, mauve even. Yes, I like mauve. Let's call it mauve. Mauve Linux. Mauve OS. Score!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Fedora 16

Good day, everybody!!! Gloomy autumn days are heavily upon us with winter approaching quickly and temperatures dropping like crazy. I often looked up to the bird kind and felt a bit jealous of how they carelessly leave everything behind once summer is gone and leave to warmer places. Plus, they can fly!! Well, at least we've got our GPUs and monitors to keep us cosy during these awful, cold days. Of course, they alone would only comfort us physically, the software is the one that really puts a geeky smile on our faces.

Ubuntu was the first that made the cold season Tux collection, with Fedora following closely and openSUSE graciously touching the third place - I haven't tried the latter yet, but there's a lot of enthusiasm among users. 

Today I am here to show you Fedora 16 - dubbed Verne. I am sure Mr. Jules would write an exciting story about brave distro hoppers, were he alive today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Latest Y!M Update Brings Voice & Video Chat to My Galaxy Mini

Up until today, trying to download and install the Yahoo Messenger Voice & Video plugin was an impossible mission on my Samsung Galaxy Mini from Orange, even though my device seemed compatible with the requirements. I was starting to believe my Mini was simply underpowered and the 600 MhZ processor was unable to handle video calling.

But, when I woke up this morning, a Yahoo Messenger update was waiting to be installed. Once it was done, I opened it up, quickly pressed the "Options" button, selected "Install Voice & Video plugin" and, lo and behold, the respective Market page appeared and allowed me to seal the deal.

Even so, I highly doubted it would actually work, so I asked my girlfriend to log into her Yahoo Messenger account on the PC and made my first Video call from the Galaxy Mini. Result? CRASH! Undeterred, I cleared the RAM and made a second attempt. Result? IT'S ALIIIIIVEEEEE!!!!!! Yep, I could see and hear (at a reasonable quality - limited of course by the crappy camera on the Mini) whatever was transmitted from the PC's webcam/microphone and viceversa.

There's one weird problem: on the phone screen, my video overlays the video that comes from the PC, which makes no sense and I hope a fix is on its way.

Note that the test was made on a Wi-fi connection, I've yet to try video calling on 3G. When I do, I shall update this post. Update: on 3G/HSDPA, a connection couldn't be established.

Sadly, a Linux Y!M client is still missing in action and until that is fixed, I am upset with Yahoo! Hmph!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quick Tip: Getting Rid of Hard-to-Reach Dust on Your Phone

I've had the Samsung Galaxy Mini for about 6 months now and I've been enjoying the hell out of it. I used to be quite the phone abuser in the past, but I decided to change that the moment I put my hands on my first smartphone. I bought a quality screen protector film and a silicon case to protect the rest of my phone. Even so, a lot of dust and tiny pocket lint can get between the very small gap between the Mini's screen and the casing. To get rid of it, I simply rip a piece of standard printer paper and run it across that gap. As it is quite deep, what comes out of there is often more than one would expect. Here's a quick video showing the whole "procedure". :D

Have a clean day! :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quick Tip: Make GNOME Shell the Default UI in Ubuntu 11.10

For me, there's really no question about it; if I had only two choices: GNOME 3 or Unity, I would choose the first in a blink of an eye. The thing is, I also really like Ubuntu. Installing GNOME 3 on top of Ubuntu is easy as pie and using it is as simple as logout, choose GNOME from the "cogwheel" and log back in. Unfortunately, the otherwise awesome LightDM (display manager) will not remember your choice once you reboot the machine, so you will find yourself back in Unity. I've looked and looked for an option to change the default session, but I couldn't find one in plain sight (if there actually is one, please tell me and accept my apologies).

And so, I began mining for answers within the very heart of Linux: the root folder. I will not disclose the time it took to find my holy grail for the day, but here's what I found.

To use GNOME 3 as your default desktop environment, bring up your favorite terminal and type the following: 

sudo gedit /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

then type your administrator password and edit the last line to look like this:


then save the file and you're pretty much done.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Fedora Spotted on Secret Service Files @ Nat Geo

Heh, I always get giddy when I see Linux on TV. This time, Fedora's appearance inside a Virtual Machine on a Secret Service owned Mac desktop is not so unexpected. Why? Because we're talking about the division that handles electronic fraud.

Update: Here's a "real" installation of Fedora in the same episode:

And yes, that is XChat.

What's really funny is that the show is apparently sponsored by "Windows 7", of which I've seen none in the first 2 episodes. Most of computers were Macs, and those that were indeed Windows, were XP.

And now imagine the secret service using Windows 8... Hilarious! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

GNOME 3.x Revisted

The last time I tried both of GNOME 3's official ISOs, things didn't go as planned. But the recently released 3.2 version deserved another chance, seeing its apparent slew of new features. I downloaded the 946 MBs of data, burnt it and booted from it. This time around, the live environment loaded up pretty quickly and with, I'm happy to report, 0 errors or hiccups. Yay! The "revolutionized" interface worked as expected and I was able to rapidly get to the "Live Install" button that was sitting boldly on top, inside "Activities". Oh, the base for this GNOME 3 showcase is openSUSE. The installation process is quite easy to go through. As I chose to place the distro on my second HDD, I also wanted the bootloader to be installed on the same HDD, so as not to interfere with the primary drive arrangement. Sadly, and I tried several options, the bootloader wouldn't be correctly installed. I finally conceded and overwritten the main one.

Anyway, as I'm here to give you my impressions on the GNOME 3 interface, I will stop complaining about openSUSE. But not until I tell you that Epiphany doesn't work and I can't add my Canon MP250 printer!! There!

The first thing I noticed was the lack of minimize and maximize/restore buttons. Only a metallic grey X on the top-right corner of my windows. With the changes most OSes go through nowadays, even the X in its proper position feels like a welcome reminder of the old days. Other than that, GNOME 3.2 is quite different from what I was used to.

Rather than minimizing windows all the time and looking for the one you need in the application switcher, you now simply move the cursor to the top left corner of the screen (where it says "Activities") and a dashboard will come up, displaying smaller versions of all the windows that are on your desktop. I've always used and recommended the "Scale" plugin in Compiz, so I obviously am very pleased with this one. Of course, you can always use the ALT+TAB key combination to navigate your windows.

But the "Activities" dashboard is much more than that. Once it's open, the left side of the screen hosts a dock that you can customize with your favorite applications (simple as drag&drop). On top, there are two tabs: "Windows" and "Applications". While the first is what I described above, the second one will display all of the installed applications, along with their corresponding categories.

On the right hand side of the screen, you have the workspace switcher. For starters, you get two of them. As you fill them up, more will automatically be added.  

On the bottom lies another cool new feature that is quite controversial among users, but I happen to like it very much. That's where the Empathy chat integration shines. Every time you receive an IM, the message will smoothly raise from the bottom of the screen (even if you don't have the dashboard activated) and will stay there for a few seconds. If you move the cursor down there, the pop-up will expand to give you a writing field, so you can quickly respond. Sadly, if the pop-up disappears there's no in-plain-view way of telling someone tried to reach you through IM. But if you go to the dashboard, that person's avatar will appear in the bottom-right corner, along with the number of IMs you missed from them. And yes, you can chat using the classic empathy windows, just like before, if you want. You don't have to exclusively use the new pop-ups. But they certainly are welcome on my desktop.

Still, the most useful feature in the dashboard is the search function, which worked, during my testing, flawlessly. You don't have to go to the search field and click inside it and only then type what you need. No, no, you just start typing whenever you want regardless of what you were doing inside the dashboard. It patiently waits for you to type a letter and it instantly activates. It searches for files, applications, IM contacts (!) and even gives you links to Wikipedia and Google. Good job on this one, developers! Oh, and the dashboard is also easily activated by pressing the "special/windows" key.

The actual desktop is rather unusable and its only purpose is to display pretty wallpapers. The time and date is graciously displayed in the middle of the top panel and you can click on it to drop down the full calendar.

The "Universal Access" toolbox is a portal to a bunch of settings designed to make GNOME 3 easier for impaired users. I especially liked the on screen keyboard, which not only is sufficiently big and easy to type on, but it also auto activates when you're on a text field. Really, really helpful.

Sadly, I couldn't seem to make the new file preview function work as advertised. In true MacOS spirit, you allegedly select a file, press space and a quick preview will unfold in front of your eyes.

My biggest complaint is that the GNOME people didn't put much effort into shipping their desktop environment on top of a stable, good platform so new users will unmistakeably be attracted.

Other than that, I am definitely inside the "Thumbs up" camp when it comes to the overall experience offered by GNOME 3.2. 
For the complete list of features, visit the RELEASE NOTES.

I'm sure you have an opinion, so don't hesitate; start typing in the comments section below. And thank you for reading! A great day to you all!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Linux Mint Debian Edition 201109 Is Ready to Roll

Good day, everybody! What better way to start my morning other than announcing a new release of Linux Mint Debian! Last time I tried it, there was only a GNOME version available, but now Xfce is here to party as well.

If you're already running LMDE, don't bother getting the new ISO, as that's where the beauty of rolling releases stand: you already have the updates included in this image.


This is only for those who want to install LMDE for the first time, so they don't have to download and install a trillion updates afterwards.

I did a quick install of the XFCE version on my second HDD (getting a separate HDD for hoppin` is the smartest purchase I did in a long time) and everything went as smoothly as possible. Drawbacks: you have to manually edit your partitions (with GParted) and there is no timezone map :(. Pluses (or maybe plusi!): it detected I was in Romania and selected the appropriate language for my system. While I was surprised in a good way, I politely refused and went with the American English. Sadly, that spoiled the auto timezone selection screen, so I had to navigate the list and find Bucharest. I know that's a lame complaint, but I found little to complain about, so there! 

The installation took roughly 4 minutes! But you most know it was done from an USB drive. Still, it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes if you're using DVDs. Oh, by the way, the ISOs are ~1 GB in size. Bye, bye, CD!

Once installed, LMDE takes only 30 seconds to get to the login screen (verbose mode - no pretty animations), but it takes another whooping 30 seconds to fully load the desktop (HDD stops churning).

The developers did a great job keeping the Linux Mint experience alive, even in the Debian Edition: codecs, Flash, out-of-the-boxness, many cool apps and great looking themes.

To finish this article up, here are some more screenshots I took during the little time I spent with this new release:

But fiiiiiirst! Download links! Get it while it's hot! 32-bit: GNOME, Xfce; 64-bit: GNOME, Xfce. Don't forget to choose the country closest to your location, or even consider torrenting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bugs `n` Glitches: mintMenu

Since Linux Mint introduced the awesome mintMenu, I remember it suffering from the same glitch demonstrated in the video below. Yes, this is the latest release.

Does it happen to you too? If you have any other weird e-happenings captured on camera, I would love to post them here. Leave a link pointing to the "evidence" in the comments or drop me a line (check the bottom of the sidebar for my email address).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: A Quick Look at Lubuntu 11.10 Beta 1

While Mandriva decided to simplify their offering by keeping only the KDE version alive in the latest release, the Ubuntu family has officialy grown yet again. LXDE - Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment - is here to rescue old computers through Lubuntu. My aging Evo n800c Compaq laptop was craving for some attention and what better way to make its wish come true other than starring it in a Distro Hoppin` episode?

So I got the 642 MBs ISO, burnt it to a CD (actually a leftover mini DVD-RW from my camera) and booted right off it! As I didn't want to stress poor old Evo too much, I decided to head straight for the installation, especially since I didn't have anything to lose. I had three options: Install alongside unknown Linux distribution (it was Puppy), Replace unknown Linux distributions and manual partitioning. Hmmm, does the second option mean Ubuntu is now finally able to install itself over existing Linux partitions without the need to manually set it to do so? Well, let me me pop the DVD inside the main machine and see what my options are. BRB! Aaand I'm back! Did you miss me? Do NOT say yes, cause then you will have to kiss me. Sadly, on this machine, the second option was to erase the entire disk. O well. Moving on.

The installation didn't take too long, around 15 minutes and not a single error was given, which is quite a feat in my experience. I've rarely had the pleasure to install a pre-release of *buntu without hitting a bunch of roadblocks on the way.

I rebooted the machine, removed the DVD and 45 seconds later Lubuntu was fully loaded and ready to go. If you're used to Ubuntu's Unity, Lubuntu's look will certainly shock you with its simplicity and minimalistic profile. Only one slim panel at the bottom - and the rest is yours to fill.

Isn't she a beauty?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick Tip: Smooth Compiz Desktop Zooming

Visually impaired or not, full desktop zooming is always a great feature to have, and the Compiz plugin that allows you to do that had always been one of my favorites.

A couple of years ago, when I first tried it, I was impressed by its speed and smoothness, especially on my then 7-year old machine. Sadly, for I think two Ubuntu releases, it became really choppy which badly affected the overall experience. Since then, from time to time, I found myself tinkering with all kinds of settings, but I never got to the bottom of it. It was especially frustrating, as this was happening on a modern computer, with powerful specs.

But finally, just yesterday, while browsing the Ubuntu forums, I came across the solution: go to your Preferences menu, open up CompizConfig Settings Manager and look for "Mouse Position Polling". Inside it, decrease the interval to any value under 10. Done!

This should also be a lesson for all of us to always dig deeper and search under the surface. If I had been curious to learn about every plugin in CCSM, I would've found this solution much earlier. How? The Compiz Wiki page provides this description for the Mousepoll plugin: "How often to poll the mouse position, in milliseconds. Reduce this to reduce choppy behaviour." Well, I'll be damned...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cool Projects: Novacut Collaborative Video Editor

I am not going to retype what Novacut is all about, as it is much better explained by the developers themselves. What I am going to say -and I believe it needs no explanation- is that Linux needs a professional video editor. Will Novacut provide what we've been waiting for? That I do not know, but I sure hope so.

The amount of work, money and passion put into this project is tremendous and, by that alone, I am confident that the team won't stop until they deliver. What they now need is a few more thousand dollars to be pledged on Kickstarter. If the $25,000 goal is reached by Friday, they win them. If not, they get nothing. As of now, $18,617 have been raised. If you have a few dollars to spare, why not invest them in a project you will surely benefit from as well?  And while I am here, you should do that for every open source software you use. If it's free, it doesn't mean it was created for free and even the smallest donation is always more than welcome.

Well, that's it for now. Just getting the word out. Oh, expect a more in-depth article once Novacut is released. ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Annonymous Caught on Camera

Ha! I've never seen/heard anything related to Anonymous in my little Romanian town so I was pretty surprised when I came across this: 

Expect them! :D

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Tip: Install Canon MP250 Drivers in Linux

With all the hoppin` lately, I think it is high time I hit you with a lighter article. This is only for Canon multifunctionals owners, so, if you're not in that group, feel free to do something else. Like chasing squirrels!

I've seen only one Linux distribution that would pull the neccesary drivers for MP250's printer. The scanner worked, surprisingly, out of the box, across all the distros I've happened to host on my HDD.

Happily, the people at Canon, unlike most companies, don't blissfully ignore our presence and they offer Linux drivers for their products.

I've recorded a little step-by-step video to guide you. Granted, the installation process is far from being difficult, so even Linux beginners might be able to handle it without much help. A few notes: my OS is Linux Mint, which is Debian based, so I only worked with the .deb file. But, as you can see, there is also an RPM package (Red Hat, Fedora, etc.) and the source file, for the more exotic distros. :)

Also, if you're using plain Debian, you will have to first login to your root account inside the terminal, before attempting to install the printer. To do that, simply type su, press enter and throw in your password.

Some distros (including Linux Mint) might offer the open-in-terminal nautilus plugin that will allow you to right click inside the extracted .deb folder and open a terminal window with the starting location set to that folder => type only the ./install.sh command and the installation will begin, no need to navigate to that directory.

With that out of the way, here it is:

Oh, if you choose US from the list, you might have a nasty surprise when directed to Canon's support page: there's no "Linux" entry in the operating system drop down menu. If so, simply choose another country. Or just click this direct link. *wink wink*.

What would the world do without Windows ME drivers...

And that would be all! I will hopefully be back with a new article in the near future...  Don't you dare leave me! :) Ok, have an awesome Weekend Eve (if you're reading this on a Friday :D ).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Fusion Linux 14.1

Good day, good day! Do I have a new article for you! Oh, man. So fresh you can almost smell the fonts...

Some of you may have tried Fedora, but found it to be a bit difficult to shape and bend to your needs or desires and went looking elsewhere. For you, and for new users of Linux, I present... Fusion Linux, an OS that is based on Fedora, but is packed with all kinds of goodies to make your e-life more pleasant and hassle-free.

The "packed with goodies" perk comes with the obvious downsize of disc image dimensions, but nowadays, that hurdle is easily hopped over with the help of super cheap DVD-RW drives or unetbootin + USB flash drive. I chose the latter for Fusion's 1709 MBs worth of ISO data.

The live "preview" loaded pretty fast and I was welcomed by a set of pre-activated desktop effects (powered by nouveau), like wobbly windows, Scale or Desktop Cube. After spending a worrying amount of time playing with said wobbly windows, I snapped out of it and double clicked the Install icon.

Much can be said about Fedora's installer, but one can't deny its sheer speed and, most importantly, user-friendliness. One particular component makes me love it: the option of replacing existing Linux partitions, an important timesaver, especially for distro-hoppers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Ubuntu 11.04

Yes, it is here! Probably the most controversial Ubuntu release since EVER hit the servers, as planned, on the 28th of April. Canonical is, if nothing else, to be admired for the courage of sticking to their original plan and pushing their ideas forward, despite all the unrest they caused. On the other hand, this courage is a bit diluted by the fact that the GNOME project has also undergone a major makeover so users are now pretty much stuck between these two. A much riskier move would've been for Canonical to release the Unity-powered desktop well before the GNOME 3 release. On the other other hand, the community has every right to be pissed at the company for ignoring their gripes.

I am now out of hands so we'll move along, please follow. Ubuntu 11.04 – Natty Narwhal – as flashy as it is, still weighs under 700 MBs, so right after you download the ISO from one of the myriad servers worldwide, you can throw it on a CD. Or save the optical disc trees and use the faster alternative: USB flash drive + unetbootin.

The live environment boots and the first question that pops up is if you want to head straight to the installation or stroll around carelessly, checking out the new Ubuntu experience (beware though, the “new” experience won't be exactly new, as the Unity interface will load only after installation (at least when it comes to NVIDIA GPUs)).

I always like to look inside the Examples folder to see what the developers put in there, but this time I was disappointed... the same two files as six months ago – 1 audio .ogg and 1 video .ogg. But, I still love Josh Woodward's Swansong, so I am not THAT upset.

Double clicking that glorious “Install Ubuntu 11.04” icon opens up, wait for it... the Install window! The language is very important, so that's why selecting the one that applies to you is the first step.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Banshee 2.0

Ah, the beautiful sound of music! You might not notice, but you're pretty much surrounded by it wherever you go - even if your MP3 player is not a well-established part of your body. The car, the cab, the train, the mall, the office, the pub, the annoying douchebag listening to douchebaggery on his phone's speaker, the elevator, MUSIC EVERYWHERE!

Whenever asked what kind of tunes I enjoy, I used to say "eh, I don't really listen to music". Then it hit me. O, well.

Some of my friends possess music collections that would put many radio stations to shame. I, on the other hand, have a handful of favorites which follow me from the Ubuntu One cloud up above. Today, I summoned them to help me form an opinion about the Banshee Media Player 2.0, now the default multimedia app in Ubuntu 11.04.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Posting via Blogger for Android

You just can't ask for a simpler way of quickly posting articles on your blog while on the road. The drawback is that you can only edit mobile posts.
But look, you can directly insert pictures from your camera! Enjoy the ceiling!
Oh, you can also activate the location service to ease the lives of your stalkers.
To get the app, go to Android Market, search for blogger and install the Google-produced one. I have yet to try the unofficial bloggerdroid app. I heard it's a tad better. Kbyeee!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GNOME 3 Double Fail

So GNOME 3 was released. I don't know why, but my excitement levels were quite low, until today when I pushed myself into trying it out. Rather than installing the new version on top of some other distro running GNOME 2, I decided to get the intended experience by downloading one of the "official" systems on the GNOME 3 webpage. There were two options: openSUSE and Fedora. As I haven't checked on openSUSE for quite a while now, I chose it. 

I burnt it on a blank CD and fired it up. Result? See below!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Android Chronicles


Good morning, fine people and welcome! I hope you are ready, as you will witness the incredible journey of a man inside his first Android device; actually scratch that, his very first smartphone! Whoaaa, duuuude! But why so late, Danny? Simple and complete answer: price tag. I seriously don't want to pay for a phone the money I could buy a netbook with. Up until now, every Android device was followed by ridiculous price tags, or reasonable price tags, but compensated by tens of euros added to the monthly plan. 

No more! As I was browsing the Internet, I thought I'd check my carrier's page and see what's new in their "Best Deal" category. And there it was, folks, the Samsung Galaxy Mini, singing its mermaid song, luring me into its "More details" page. I opened it and couldn't believe my eyes: I actually had enough fidelity points to buy it for almost no extra cash, with no extra options to buff up my bills. But what got me really hooked? Wi-Fi, GPS and, obviously, a rather recent version of Android - 2.2 or Froyo. Who cares about the ridiculously low resolution (320x240) for a 3.14 screen?  Who cares about the crappy 3ish MP camera with no flash? Who cares about the modest 600 MhZ processor? I certainly didn't! Of course, I did some research (I purpled all the "samsung galaxy mini" links through the first 4 google search pages :D) and, other than the low-res screen, everybody seemed to be pretty excited about the performance and capabilities of this entry-level smartphone. 

I ordered the phone on Thursday, April 7th, and I just missed second-day delivery so I am waiting today, April 11th, for it to be delivered at my door in about 3 or 4 hours. 

Also, with the occasion of this rare non-distro-hoppin` piece, I would like to experiment with constantly updating the article, rather than writing a new post every time I discover something worth sharing. So, expect everything from one-line to one-page additions. Thus, if you're interested, be sure to check back every once in a while. 

And, as I don't want to make my blog's homepage a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG one, I will use the jump break right after this. Be sure to click the title or "continue reading" to get access to the full material.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Saline OS 1.3

Iiiii've been working at the saaaline aaaall the live looong daaaay. Actually, that's a lie, as this Debian-based operating system is quite easy to install, setup and, once that is done, it lets you run about your daily computing routine.

But first of all, you will need a blank DVD or an USB stick with at least 1 GB of space, as the ~900 MBs of data won't fit on a trusty old CD. Well, at least we're still far from BluRay-size distros. :D

As pretty much the de facto nowadays, Saline comes with a live environment with which you can play around and see if you like it and if it likes you and your machine. Just like a blind date; no obligation to meet for a second time.

Everything went well, so I invited Saline OS into my hard drive. I did that by double clicking "Remastersys Installer" on the desktop. I think renaming it to "Installer" would've been a good idea, since Xfce only shows the first 8 letters of each shortcut, leading to a confusing "Remaster..." title, which can be a bit newbie unfriendly. Sure enough, once the user gets curious enough and highlights the icon, it will all be revealed. Moreover, there is also a link to the installer inside the "System" category within the Applications menu.

On the ease of use scale, I would rate the installation process at about 3.5 out of 5. But, if you are ready to step on your pride and actually open the UserManual.pdf, (come on, no one's looking) the process will go on much more smoothly and less trial-and-error-ish. Don't worry, there are no terminal thingies involved. :D

The installation didn't take too long and off I went to test out the now "resident" distro. The booting stage gets you to the desktop in about 20 seconds, which is quite fast in my experience.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Joli OS 1.2

Aaah... what a fine day for a relaxing distro hoppin`, I thought to myself. Little did I know, this wasn’t going to be a regular, down to earth, good old fashioned OS. No, no, it’s time to put on your Amelia Earhart glasses and grab your pilot leather jacket, as we’re heading for the clouuuuds.

I’m sure most of you heard of Jolicloud, the Ubuntu-based, cloud-residing operating system that took the netbooks by storm. As I don’t own such a device, I didn’t get around to test it properly. But, following the enthusiasm with which the previous release was received by critics, I promised myself that I shall take a look at it. Procrastination prevailed once again, but no more! Joli OS 1.2 (yep, name change! - better differentiation between the web app and the distro) was released a few days ago so here I am, sharing my thoughts on it.

Weighing in at an average ~700 MBs, the download doesn’t take that long and a 1 GB thumb drive or a CD will fit it just right. Firing up the live environment isn’t lightning fast, but it gets there in about 3-4 coffee sips, after which everything is snappy. The installation doesn’t yield any surprises and, in no time, you get to the beautiful slideshow, covering some of Joli’s main features. Less than 10 minutes later, a reboot is in order to fully activate the Joli experience.

The NVIDIA drivers were automatically installed and configured during the first boot, so thumbs up for that, Joli team! Also, whoever designed the Plymouth animation deserves some kind of award. :D Before getting to the “cloudtop”, you will have to provide your login information, be it a previously created Jolicloud user or your Facebook credentials. If you have neither of these, you can easily create a new account from the same window. Once that is complete you will need to provide some info about the machine you’re using Joli OS on - netbook, desktop, etc. I chose desktop and was asked to provide the brand of my computer. As this is a custom build, I had to choose other and type something in the info box, as I couldn’t proceed without some input. A bit annoying, but totally understandable, as this will help the team figure out their main audience and other relevant information.

The desktop loads to impress you with a tablet/touchscreen-like interface that is not only very sexy but also unexpectedly functional on a desktop computer. At the very top, there’s a thin black bar that hosts the Jolicloud logo for quick desktop access (also activated by pressing the “Super (Windows)” key), followed by an icons-only application switcher and, finally, at the right hand side, notification area plus volume control and clock.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Plant a Linux!

Good day, Lured Ones! I gathered all of you here today not to walk you through another adventure into the distro realm, but to share an awesome piece of news I happened to stumble upon on the openSUSE news channel.

The gist of it? With the help of its sponsors, the openSUSE team gives out promotional openSUSE 11.3 DVDs (complete with fancy covers and all) for you to share wherever you go.

So, rather than spending money on blank DVDs and horrifying people with your sloppy permanent marker handwriting, fire up your email service, ask for a bunch of promo DVDs and the Lizard will ship them to you. Don't judge a book by its covers, they say, but a shiny, colorful packaging will surely attract a lot more attention and increase the operating system credibility.

But there must be a limit, right? Like 10, 15, 20? No, no, no. If you think you'll encounter 200 people that might be interested in freeing their computers, go ahead and ask for 200, the team will be more than happy to send them to you.

Now isn't this project pure awesomeness? Sure, I've never been a huge fan of openSUSE but it is a solid product that will undoubtedly do Linux justice. Also, shipping within a comfy DVD, the best open source applications will also be included by default, so the Live environment should be able to keep the curious busy for quite some time and properly introduce them to GNU/Linux.

I have yet to send in my order, but I will ask for a few and see if I will be able to at least find someone interested in computers inside my "influence area". :D And when the package arrives, I will take a bunch of pictures and post them here! YAY!

Oh, a piece of advice? Don't go door to door and ask people if their computers "have seen the light". Don't be too pushy about it, but do try to explain the advantages and joys of using a free OS.

Read more about the project here. If you're already convinced, order the DVDs at promodvds@opensuse.org.

In other news, the snow is back. GO AWAY, WINTER!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: iGolaware Linux 2.0

Hello, hello, good people of the Internet! I am back with another hop! Will it reach the top? I should stop? OK, I'll stop. The rhyme is strong in me today, don't you think? But let's continue from before embarrassing myself. I will be taking a look at yet another Ubuntu-based distribution, called iGolaware 2.0. Quite a catchy name, right? No? Well, it might not sound like much, but hey, look where UBUNTU is today.

There are some OSes out there that make you feel like /home right from the Live environment. I feel obliged to inform you that, for me, iGolaware is one of those and if I will seem a bit biased towards it, you'll know why. :D I'll try not to, but hey, just in case, there's my disclaimer. It's the first time I've heard about this distribution so I had zero expectations. OK, I'm lying, I was expecting a sloppy remix of Ubuntu, a distro that was simply made out of boredom and had no future ahead of it. But surprise, surprise, iGolaware is quite a serious project included in the portfolio of quite a serious IT consulting/solutions-provider startup in Netherlands.

The image file is ~1.2 GB in size, but is being pushed through quite a fast server, as it reached my computer with speeds of 4-5 MB/s. Bonus points for that! In case you're experiencing slow speeds, there's a handy sourceforge mirror on the download page.

Booting the Live DVD is reasonably fast and the desktop welcomes you with effects like transparency and smooth animations, even though the proprietary graphics driver is not installed. I don't know how the developers managed to do that (Nouveau maybe?), but I like it. Sure, it is a bit on the slow side, but nothing that will sting your eyes. Plus, I was only there for installation purposes. I summoned the Install icon on the desktop and rapidly clicked my way through the steps to reach the customized slideshow that showcases some of iGolaware's features. I also had plenty of time reading them all, as the installation took quite some time - around 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: A Sneak Peek at Bodhi Linux RC

Good day, folks and folkettes! Please, make yourselves comfortable, pour a full glass of your favorite beverage and bring that snacks bowl closer, as a brand new episode of Distro Hoppin` is about to begin.

This time, I'll be finger-talking about a rather interesting project that is in heavy development: Bodhi Linux. I got my hands on an early copy (uuuuu...) of the Release Candidate and I wasn't going to let it slide without sharing the XP with my readers.

Being based on Ubuntu, I expected a full ~700 MB download, but instead I got a tiny 384 MB one. OK, fine by me, but let's see the reasons behind this small size. Obviously, the download + burning of the image didn't take a whole lot of time so I was quickly on board the Bodhi express, also known as the train to Enlightenment. This AKA goes two ways: the name "Bodhi" is Sanskrit for Enlightenment AND the distro's desktop environment IS Enlightenment! You are now enlightened! Ta-da!

The live CD welcomes you with a language selection: English or Espanol, after which you can choose a desktop layout/color profile to best match your current setup: laptop, desktop, netbook, etc. There is even a "bonus" one from developers, called "Fancy", a cool looking but rather nonfunctional design. Each of these layouts have two variants: light and dark, to please just about any set of eyes: morning eyes, 4AM drunk eyes, afternoon office eyes, etc.

I chose the Light Desktop profile and off I went looking for the Install icon. It was right there, in the middle of the screen, sitting patiently within a dock-like bottom "shelf". Once the installer popped up I realized Bodhi was based on the previous stable release of Ubuntu: 10.04.

I am pretty sure I don't have to explain each installation step to you, so I'll just tell you that the whole process ended in about 3 minutes.

After a quick reboot and a pretty dark-green bootsplash (which was a few updates later replaced by Ubuntu's original one - sniff), I was once again asked to choose a language and desktop profile and also choose what icons I want in the quick launch bar at the bottom. Well, how polite! Bodhi is trying (and succeeding) to make you feel like home from the very beginning. Of course, Bodhi has no clue how your home might look like, so instead of force-feeding you its idea of a perfect digital shelter, it gives you a credit card, some tools and lets you build, baby!

Some of the "tools" that will be waiting for you are: the latest Firefox 4 beta, two terminals (normal and root), Synaptic package manager and a ton of tweaks and settings with which you can change just about everything in Enlightenment's behavior. As an example, I really didn't like how the focus followed the mouse cursor, so I took a flashlight, grabbed my army boots and went looking for the corresponding setting. My equipment proved to be unnecessary, as the settings are so nicely arranged and finding what you're looking for is easy as pie.

When I said "some of the tools" up above, I really meant ALL of the tools, as you won't get much else on top of that. What, you want to edit some text? Go ahead and install gedit like I did, you lazy bum! You want to make a screen capture? No, no, no, you first need to fetch a program that will do that. Need to watch a Flash clip? Why, go ahead and install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package and fulfill your dream!

If you feel lost within the Synaptic woods, Bodhi is nice enough to provide a software portal on its homepage, recommending users the best apps within each category. You just need to click "Install Now", "Install", type your password and that's it. So, at the end of the day, you just need Firefox and you'll be creating the perfect Linux environment (for you) in no time. Oh, if you think that using Bodhi on a machine that can't be connected to the Internet would be next to impossible, you're wrong, cause the "Bodhi Software Center" offers customized .bod packages for each application. These .bod files can be downloaded from wherever you have Internet and brought to the Bodhi machine on any sort of removable media. Quick bonus tip: you will have to
right click the file, go to Properties, go to Permissions and check the "Allow executing file as a program" box. Then double click, select Run and you should be set.

The lightweight base package also ensures optimal use on even ancient machines. The few guys who are working on Bodhi state that their OS will run on, drumroll please, a 300 MhZ processor with 128 MBs of RAM and a mere 1.5 GB hard drive. Now that is quite a feat nowadays, considering the fact Bodhi is also a mighty-fine looking specimen. Of course, you can also put some make-up on the natural beauty and enhance it even further: Bodhi is able to run Compiz effects, under the name of Ecomorph. But, it will require you to install proprietary graphics drivers in order to do that, and will, obviously, consume a larger amount of resources.

During my testing, I ran into a couple of problems that I hope will be addressed in the near future: my 3G USB modem was not recognized, though it works just fine on the latest Ubuntu; and the "Install Now" button from Bodhi's online software center stopped working after Firefox was updated to Beta 10. Also, Synaptic threw a bunch of errors at me when I tried installing VLC, but, through the Software Portal, the process ended in success. Oh, and all the grays and whites tend to blend in with eachother so it's quite confusing at times to tell where one window ends and another begins. A discreet border around the them would help a lot!

Enlightened much?

Sure, there are a few critters that need to be squashed before stable release time, but Bodhi is certainly a distro that promises a lot with a little. It is not an OS that can be used as a quick desktop straight from the live CD, as it needs time to get to know you better and viceversa. And once that is done, working with Bodhi will definitely be a pleasure. The ingredients are all there: great speed and responsiveness, user friendly, elegant interface that can easily be customized, up-to-date software and a dedicated team that will surely continue to bring improvements in both stability and usability.

Download Bodhi 0.1.4. The public Release Candidate is expected to show up in just a few days, so do check the project's website regularly.