The DistRogue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just noticed something Google Docs has...

Under the "File" menu in Google Docs, Googles online office suite, there's an option that says "Export as OpenOffice...". I knew Google supported open source, but wow... Never noticed that before.
Just a random post... Glad to see Google not being evil.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Took me long enough

I just got by first taste of virtualization, thanks to QEMU, Damn Small Linux, and a VM management GUI in Fedora. Check it out:

No VMWare, no VirtualBox, no more than 192MB RAM for the guest... All using open-source software. And thanks to the VM manager's wizard, it was incredibly easy. I only needed the ISO image to do it.
From Fedora 8 (or is it Damn Small 4.1-rc1? My laptop's having an identity crisis!),
The DistRogue.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fedora 8: What did they DO?!

I tried out Fedora 8 Test 3. It was atrocious. :-) It was slow, bloated, laggy, ugly, and had bad hardware detection. But something huge happened between the test and the final release, because Fedora 8 absolutely rocks. I honestly thought it was going to bomb, just like version 7, but it received glowing praise from across the Linux blogosphere, and so allow me to add in my own.

Fedora has an unusually long install. It took about 20 minutes from an ISO image (booted off a USB key) with just under 1100 packages selected. It goes through a reasonable number of screens, although some screens could easily be integrated into one (language selection, timezone, root password).
After the installation (which allows for package selection), you have to go through 7 more steps to get everything configured. Annoying, and can be (for the most part) eliminated. Can't the firewall and SELinux set themselves up with the default settings?
Even in Test 3, Fedora looks pretty. Every release has new artwork, but this time, thanks to the Infinity project, Fedora receives a complete overhaul. There's not just a new theme, but a new theme engine, called Nodoka, which supposedly runs lighter than most existing engines. I personally think it looks a little bland, but it's polished. There's also a new Metacity theme to go with it.

The wallpaper is what changes the most often between releases, but in Fedora 8, it changes every hour, instead of every release. The new slideshow wallpaper cycles through 4 different phases, depending on the time of day.

And, of course, the obligatory Compiz screenshot:

Installed Software
Fedora comes with a pretty standard selection of free software (no patent-encumbered or non-GNU software). That means that it lacks, among other things, MP3 support and NVidia/ATI drivers (which don't affect me). (It's worth noting, however, that Fedora is home to the Noveau project to reverse-engineer NVidia drivers and make them open-source.) It is, however, better than Paldo's disastrous GNOME-only selection, including GNOME and KDE, Firefox, GIMP, Totem, Eclipse IDE (new in this release), Linux with CFS, and just about anything they can fit onto a 3.3GB DVD image. Which is a lot.
For Web connectivity, there's Firefox (WWW), Evolution (e-mail), Pidgin/GAIM (IM/IRC), Jigsaw and Transmission (Jigdo and BitTorrent, respectively), and an ancient-looking VNC viewer. Pretty complete to me! There's OpenOffice (unsurprisingly), GIMP (the somewhat-outdated 2.4.0-rc3- isn't Fedora supposed to be cutting-edge?), gThumb, and F-Spot for office tasks. Games are nothing special- just the default GNOME selection- but there's a custom "Gaming Spin" for gamers, which is a live DVD with lots of games on it.
Multimedia apps are sparse. There's the new PulseAudio sound server, replacing ALSA, but other than that, there's Totem (video playback), Rhythmbox (music management), and SoundJuicer (CD ripping), and that's pretty much it. Not only is it sparse, but why opt for Rhythmbox over the much-superior Exaile, like almost everyone else? Sheeple. And I thought Fedora devs liked Python-based apps. These apps are pretty much useless, too, unless all of your music is in Ogg format. But despair not- help is just around the corner thanks to the new Codec Buddy! Oh, wait... That's just a front-end to Fluendo. Want MPEG support? Get it for the low price of 16€! Same for Window Media. MP3 support is free, but...
Enter Livna. Go to the site, download and install the "Fedora 8 Repository RPM", and you get instant access to all the stuff Fedora's missing. Like MP3 support. Just install "gstreamer-plugins-bad" and "gstreamer-plugins-ugly" in Pirut (the GUI package manager with dependency tracking :-) and you're good to go.
Hardware Support
My biggest gripe about F7 and F8T3 by far was that my wireless card wasn't showing up. And, by default, it didn't in this release. All 3 releases used the open-source iwlwifi drivers. In F7, they weren't mature enough to work, and in F8T3... Well, I'm not sure what happened. But in F8, the drivers worked out of the box. The only problem was that I had to go to System > Administration > Services and turn on NetworkManager and NetworkManagerDispatcher, and it worked. Like it should without having to do that. :-(
Also, there were some screen issues. Closing the lid of my laptop didn't cause a crash, like it does on some distros (PCLinuxOS, Debian), but after exiting games, odd stuff happened. OpenArena didn't seem to have any problems, but exiting Tremulous made my mouse clicks not go through, and Sauerbraten caused a complete crash. In both cases, using Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to restart X fixed the problem, and playing on Compiz or XFCE averted it, so it's probably a problem in Metacity.
Fedora is usually slow and laggy, but this release was faster. GLXGears rose 50% over Test 3, even beating Ubuntu for once. Tremulous worked fine, as did OpenArena, and Sauerbraten ran at the normal FPS range (if not a bit higher). CFS seems to help big-time here.
-Sweet artwork
-Completely FOSS
-Enormous software selection
-Decent performance for once
-Assorted quirks in hardware detection
-Somewhat long install
Friendliness: 4/5
- Fedora is famous for being easy to use. The lack of MP3 playback is annoying, but otherwise, it's not too hard to use.
Performance: 3.5/5- Faster than I'm used to for Fedora. Solid.
Features: 4.5/5- Enormous feature list as usual.
intuition of included software: is it just a basic desktop, or is it more advanced?
Packaging: 4.5/5- RPM is slow, but has a fast pre-configuring phase. The dependency-tracking system, yum, and GUI, pirut, are both useful.
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- Beautiful and polished as usual- and groundbreaking.
Community: 2.5/2.5- As usual, Fedora has an enormous online community.

Overall: 4.3/5- A solid release from Fedora, for once. :-)
UPDATE: Tuxmachines now has a poll on whether you liked Fedora 8. The results? 53% Yes, 13% No.
From Fedora 8,
The DistRogue.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Paldo GNU/Linux 1.2: Yet Another Generic Distro

If you've never heard of Paldo, you need to check DistroWatch more. This completely new hybrid distribution (source *and* binary backage management) has started to get some major attention, and one site even went so far as to call it "this year's Sabayon".
Paldo is a completely independent distribution, compiled using Linux From Scratch and with its own package management system, upkg, to manage programs. It works similarly to Gentoo's Portage, with one exception- it can also install binary packages. This makes installation much faster, but if you're after customizability (like Gentoo), then you might want to try compiling. Note that if you try to compile everything from source, you might want to have another working system, along with a few DVDs to watch while you wait.
Paldo's CD image weighs in at 650MB for x86 and 674MB for x86_64, surprisingly tiny. It has boot-time language selection and boots into a fully-functional live CD. I didn't try using it with Syslinux on my USB key.
Paldo's installer is completely new in version 1.12. Before that, it didn't even have an installer. But now, it does, and it works very well. The wizard looks similar to Ubuntu's Ubiquity installer, only going through a few steps before doing the install (language/time zone, partitioning, system setup, user setup, etc). After those screens, the install finished in a scant 10 minutes, complete with a cute progress bar. An important caveat, though: The bootloader setup does NOT detect other OSes!

Paldo doesn't ship with any custom artwork, opting for the default GNOME artwork. Not that this is a bad thing; it gives off an air of purity, as it should- Paldo is a completely independent distribution, and the packages haven't been modified at all. The default icon theme, though, is a tad ugly, and doesn't have any bragging rights over more polished icon sets (especially Ubuntu's "Human" theme).

Installed Software
Paldo's default package selection looks meticulously selected. It has GNOME as the default desktop, along with all the goodies (GIMP, OpenOffice, etc), but with some extra non-free plugins. My screen resolution and wireless card were detected immediately, and MP3 playback worked flawlessly. My main problem was that the developers opted for Epiphany over the far-superior Firefox as a Web browser. On the plus, Epiphany's homepage is set to Google, a smart move.
Upkg does not have a GUI front-end. You'll need to find the package names online via the repository search and install them over the command line. I hope there will be something like Synaptic in the near future, it shouldn't be too hard to write.
Paldo includes a bizarre number of development tools. I know it's supposed to be source-based, but Gentoo doesn't have most of the tools Paldo does. Among the programs were Anjuta, Glade, MonoDevelop, a hex editor, and a diff viewer. Hmm... With MonoDevelop and Glade, maybe the developers want you to code a front-end for upkg!
For media, there's the lightweight Brasero CD burning tool (which absolutely rocks), Totem for movie playback, the ugly, bloated Rhythmbox for music management (Exaile gets my vote), and Sound Juicer for CD ripping. Putting Exaile in should solve the problems here. I'm starting to see a pattern, though: A lot of these apps are GNOME projects (like Rhythmbox and Epiphany). The Paldo devs need to learn that when it comes to GNOME projects, it would be a wise idea to not blindly stick to them, but to look for replacements that can do the job better.
As far as how current it is, there's Linux, the stable until the flurry of updates on Friday, and GIMP 2.4.0, along with the latest GNOME at the time of writing. The latest Firefox is available in the repository (although it should have been on the CD), as is Compiz 0.6.2 (latest, again).
Hardware Support
Like I said, my native 1280x800 screen resolution was detected flawlessly, as was my wireless card (an ipw3945). However, I had two major issues when I tried playing Tremulous. The biggest one was with my mouse. I use both a touchpad and a wireless, optical 3-button mouse (from Logitech). The touchpad worked flawlessly, but the mouse never left the bottom-right-hand corner of my screen in-game- but worked fine on the desktop. Huh...
The second was performance. Tremulous on Paldo plays like Ubuntu, minus swap, and after a week of intense uptime. Nasty. The FPS rates were about 30% lower. GLXGears confirmed this. But this isn't really a hardware issue so much as a software issue- but still, with CFS and heavy optimizaton, where is all this lag coming from?
Upkg is seriously the best package manager I've seen so far. The pre-configuration steps took about 5 seconds, and packages installed quickly from binaries. The source-building process was astoundingly fast. I installed openal and audiofile (a dependency) in order to play OpenArena, and here were the results:
time upkg-build openal
real 0m16.236s
user 0m5.779s
sys 0m0.987s
16 seconds to build two packages. It makes one wonder- is it really compiling them, or just installing them? According to the appropriate wiki page, the upkg-build command I used does, in fact, compile. Wow. That was just amazing.
-Upkg shows promise
-Customizable and flexible
-A clean, basic system
-Slow and bloated
-No front-end to upkg
-Software selection needs tweakage
Friendliness: 4/5
- The lack of a GUI frontend to upkg drags it down a bit.
Performance: 2/5- Seriously, it's almost as bad as Fedora. Not what you'd expect from an x86-optimized distro with CFS.
Features: 3.5/5- Meh, it's a complete desktop, but not much else. And besides, Firefox? Hello?
Packaging: 4/5- Upkg is a great piece of software; it would be even better if someone coded a GUI for it like Portato.
Artwork: 1.5/2.5- Kind of ugly... The developers should at least browse for a bit.
Hardware detection: 2/2.5- Mouse issues, but otherwise, fine. NOTE: This score was originally for "Community", but since Paldo's new, there isn't one, so N/A.

Overall: 3.4/5- Could be a solid distribution with some more programs and a frontend to upkg.
My sights are aimed at Fedora 8 and PC-BSD 1.4.1. PC-BSD is what I'm looking forward to the most, having tried it before back at version 1.11 and not really hated it that much.
From Paldo 1.12,
The DistRogue.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Ulteo: What happened?

Back on December 6, 2006, the Linux world was eagerly awaiting the first pre-release of Ulteo, a Kubuntu-based OS that would supposedly revolutionize how we computed. It came out, there were a few reviews, and the world kept spinning again. So here we are, almost a year later, and what's happened since then?
DistroWatch hasn't updated their page on Ulteo since June. It still has the package list from Ubuntu's now-outdated 6.06 LTS release (which will soon be replaced by the next version, also LTS). Ulteo's News page is effectively useless as well, pretty much having only announced calls for developers since the release. And there haven't been any major changes to the Wikipedia page since April. So what's going on? Will Ulteo ever see the light of day?
Enter the blog.
Gael Duval's blog says that they're still working on Ulteo's online desktop, an idea that's been in motion even before Fedora's online desktop (which just made its debut with version 8). If you want to check it out yourself, try this link. From the blog, it looks like it will have a lot of the features that Fedora's desktop does- easy use of programs over the Internet, easy online collaboration (a la Wiki), a fast proxy connection... And apparently the list is still growing.
Duval said that there would be 3 important technologies in Ulteo 1.0 (codename "Sirius"). One would be an online desktop, and another would be automatic maintenance and updating. And there's still one left, and it's going to be good:
developer with good knowledge in virtualization optimization (kernel level)

(from the "Wanted! (Alive)" section under "Devel")
Something to do with virtualization? Scary. Especially from a visionary like Duval- remember, this is the guy who founded Mandriva.
From Xubuntu 7.10,
The DistRogue.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

dd: The Great Destroyer and Creator

Buried deep in the Linux man pages is a command called dd. You know how short commands like cat, ps, grep, rm or mv are really powerful? dd owns all of them. It copies data between block files- image files or device files. It's simple enough- to use it, just run
dd if=[input] of=[output]

But there are a lot of things you can put in [input] and [output], and some of the could be dangerous. Here are some of the things you can do with it:
-Write a disk image onto a CD, DVD, or USB key:
dd if=[file] of=/dev/sdb1 (as an example)

-Make a compressed backup of a USB key:
dd if=/dev/sdb1 | bzip2 > backup.img.bz2

-Erase your entire hard drive:
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda

-Securely erase your hard drive:
dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sda
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda

-Make an ext3 filesystem and mount it at /media/fs:
mkdir /media/fs
dd if=/dev/zero of=fs.ext3 bs=512k count=
mke3fs fs.ext3
mount fs.ext3 /media/fs

-Add a gigabyte-size swap file without rebooting or making any new partitions:
dd if=/dev/zero of=swap bs=1M count=1024
mkdwap swap
swapon swap

Don't try any of these at home unless you're sure what you're doing. dd is a very powerful and useful command, but don't use it unless you need to.
As for reviews: I'm trying to get Sabayon3.4 Mini to run off of my USB key, but if I can't, on to Fedora 8.
From gOS 1.0,
The DistRogue.
UPDATE: I used angle brackets <> for the examples, but I had to change them to square brackets because [input] (with <> instead of []) is a valid HTML tag. 0.o... Learn from me.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Skype 2.0 Beta for Linux with VIDEO

After much delay, Skype 2.0 for Linux has hit beta stage- finally. And it has video support! w00t! A 64-bit version is supposedly a long way off, but video support is another obstacle Skype on Linux has had to overcome for too long.

read more | digg story
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

gOS package repos for Ubuntu Gutsy

Odds are you've heard of gOS somewhere or another. What if you want to test it, but don't want to download it? What if you just want to install it over Ubuntu? You can. Just add these lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

deb painful main
deb-src painful main

Then, run
sudo apt-get update

and to install a full gOS desktop, use
sudo apt-get install greenos-desktop

and you'll be able to run gOS's Enlightenment-based desktop or Ubuntu's default GNOME via the GDM login.
From Ubuntu 7.10,
The DistRogue.

GIMP roadmap and how you can help

If you're reading my blog, you've probably heard of The GIMP, a free substitute for Photoshop. With the latest release, 2.4, out the door, the developers are planning ahead to version 2.6. You can track the progress by signing up for a mailing list here, but be warned: The volume of mail you get is enormous (at least 25 messages a day), so set up a filter. Anyways, a roadmap is being pieced together, and here's what they have so far:
  • GEGL and Cairo integration. One of the biggest gripes from GIMP users is the lack of CMYK support. Once the GIMP starts using GEGL, all that'll change. Yes, CMYK support will be in version 2.6! And Cairo will add all sorts of eye-candy, like transparent cropping and scaling guides... It'll be cool. Read more about GEGL on Wikipedia.
  • UI redesign. "Floating inspectors"will be better-behaved, and be partially transparent (thanks to Cairo). Also, there will only be one menu bar, and according to the wiki, there will be an optional Photoshop-like single-window mode, another often-asked-for request. The suggestions are many and helpful, and you can add your own- just follow the instructions at the GIMP UI Brainstorm Blog.
The Cairo and GEGL changes are less apparent, but one has to start somewhere... They have some major implications for future releases.
Anyways, you can make your own suggestions. Add your own UI suggestions at the Brainstorm, and participate on the mailing lists. You'll be able to track the progress on the release as it happens instead of waiting for the releases.
From Windows XP (school computer 0.o),
...Do I need to say it?
PS: Expect a lot more updates. Anything that has to do with Linux or open-source that crosses my mind will be on here.