Review: Edubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal"

GNOME Main Screen
Before I get on with the rest of this post, I need to apologize for not having posted anything this week. It turned out to be a good deal busier than I anticipated, and even otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot to write about, at least at the beginning of the week. I did say in the latest "Featured Comments" article that I would review the latest release of Ubuntu — version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal". That is still happening, but for reasons that will become clearer, I will not write reviews of Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Lubuntu just yet, but will wait a day or maybe a little more.

JAVA Session Welcome Screen
With that aside, I find it interesting that having written this blog for almost 2 years and having reviewed Linux distributions for almost as long, I have never formally tried and reviewed Ubuntu or any of its official other editions (Kubuntu, Edubuntu) or officially-sponsored community derivatives (Xubuntu, and hopefully soon Lubuntu as well). I've reviewed quite a few other derivatives, most notably Linux Mint, but I've never tried straight-up Ubuntu itself. I guess that's because I've always sort of taken Ubuntu for granted; I installed it on the laptop of a member of my family, I've seen people put it on their computers, and I've used it at the Athena clusters here at MIT. Well, that's changing today, with a review of Edubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal".

Why Edubuntu, and not Ubuntu? As mentioned earlier, one reason will become apparent when I publish the review of Ubuntu. The other main reason is that I haven't really seen Edubuntu reviews on the Internet; that could be because of its specific target audience, but in any case, I think it deserves a review, especially given that it is an official Canonical product. For those who don't know, Edubuntu, as you might be able to guess from the name, is a packaging of Ubuntu with lots of education-related software included out-of-the-box.

Thanks to Canonical's efforts in this regard, I was able to test it in two ways: I was able to try it out online from the comfort of my current Linux Mint system, and then I tried it through a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 April 17

There were two posts this week that got a handful of comments, so I'll try to repost most of them.

Joking Around with Professors

Reader Abhijith said, "You're absolutely right about the state of this in India. Let alone school teachers; teachers/lecturers in undergrad were still uptight about having a good chat with students. But then again, not all were. We have attended marriages of lecturers, teased them about it, had pointless chats with some lady teachers(they are more approachable any day). But I still don't think the relationship goes beyond the boundaries of the college. If they met you outside, you would probably be treated as a stranger. Apart from a few, most lecturers don't mix with students outside of class at all."

Adobe Flash Troubles: 64-Bit or 32-Bit PAE?

An anonymous commenter suggested this: "Fix the problem: Hulu checking your Flash version string. Don't attack issues that aren't the direct cause of your symptoms. Spoof the version string." Unfortunately, I couldn't find any further information regarding this or telling how to do this.
Another anonymous reader said, "Try this: they don't seem to update it timely.. but at least it works (on Hulu as well)! http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10_square.html" I tried to avoid this in order to minimize conflicts with the existing installation of Adobe Flash.
Reader John Lewis had this tip: "Did you try the native 64 bit flash? I find it to be a lot more stable and less problematic than the 32 bit version under 64 bit Ubuntu. Follow shameless plug for my own article on the subject :) http://johnlewis.ie/improving-flash-experience-in-ubuntu-64-bit/"
Yet another anonymous commenter had a different take: "Running 64 bit Ubuntu 10.10. I'm using Chrome as my web browser because it works better than Firefox with Flash. Hulu has no problems." This was supported by reader Tim, who said, "I'm running Chromium on 64-bit Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid). I have no problems running Hulu. Also, 64-bit does have some advantages even with less RAM for certain things--compiling code and rendering video, I believe, I are two areas where it is a bit quicker. Unfortunately, the RAM address sizing is bigger so you actually end up with less effective memory. (I could be a bit off on some of the technical details.)"
Still another anonymous commenter clarified, "32bit OS limits your process virtual memory to 2^32 or 4GB of memory. If your laptop has 4GB of RAM, then 64bit OS will not make any difference. In any case, I am running a 64bit Ubuntu 11.04 and have firefox and flash versions of 64 bit and I don't have any issues with hulu. You can also have firefox run flash in 32bit mode using an intermediary library."
Finally, reader piquant00 suggested, "If you're using Firefox, there's an extension to make installing 64-bit flash quick and painless: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/flash-aid/" This was what I tried, and it worked like a charm. Thank you so much for that amazing tip!

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I'm going to be pretty busy this coming week and probably the following week as well, and in any case, I don't really have anything planned...wait, what am I saying, Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" comes out this week! I've been saying a lot of stuff about Unity only based on other people's reviews without having actually tried it myself, so I'd certainly like to see what Unity is like in the final release. Interestingly enough, I have never actually directly reviewed Ubuntu or any of its directly-related variants, so that'll be a first for this blog. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Grades When You Want Them, Not When You Don't?

One of the nice things about freshman year at MIT is the grading system of Pass/No Record. Letter grades are recorded, but they are for the student's personal records only, and if the student gets at least a 'C', the grade is recorded as 'Pass', while if the student gets lower than that, the grade is not recorded at all (though no credit is earned). The big benefit to this is that it helps new freshman proverbially get their feet wet at MIT and explore different areas of study without fear of getting poor grades. For the second semester, however, letter grades of 'A', 'B', and 'C' are recorded instead of just 'Pass', though grades lower than a 'C' aren't recorded at all.

I've been chatting with quite a few people on how the second semester is going generally, and one of the things I keep hearing over and over again is that they did really well and got great (hidden) letter grades, so they wish that those grades could be present on their transcript to give them a good starting GPA. At first, I agreed with this, because I also did pretty well even in terms of hidden letter grades in the first semester, if I may say so myself. But now, as I have thought about it more, it makes sense that all freshman students are treated on the same footing. Why?

Well, suppose a group of MIT students applied for an internship, and the internship organization asked for their transcripts. Furthermore, suppose that some of these students got great grades like mostly 'A's and some 'B's, while some of these students got some 'B's and some 'C's. Finally, suppose that 'A's are recorded as 'A's to give the students a good starting GPA, while 'B's and 'C's are simply recorded as 'Pass's. The internship organization will probably compare the transcripts of the applicants and see that the students with 'Pass's didn't get 'A's, or else they would have 'A's recorded just like the students who did actually get 'A's. In such a situation, 'Pass' becomes a placeholder for "I got a 'B' or a 'C', but not an 'A'", at which point there is only marginal benefit to A/Pass/No Record over A/B/C/No Record. And that's why I think it's important that 'A's are still recorded only as 'Pass's. What do you think? Please let me know in the comments below!

On a side note, I am now officially majoring in MIT Course VIII – Physics, and I further plan to pursue the focused option. Yay! I'm excited!


Adobe Flash Troubles: 64-Bit or 32-Bit PAE?

I am a big fan of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, though unfortunately I haven't been able to watch full episodes of either show in a while because of college work. I have, however, been able to watch clips here and there on their respective websites, but I cannot do the same thing on Hulu, the awesome website that aggregates segments from different TV shows and supports it through advertising. The reason for that is because I supposedly don't have a valid working version of Adobe Flash, and that is probably because I'm running a 64-bit Linux system on my laptop that has a 64-bit processor. As far as I know, Hulu is the only problematic site, because YouTube, online games, and other sites that obviously use Adobe Flash work fine.
I know that 64-bit operating systems are able to recognize RAM amounts greater than 3 GB, which is important for me because my laptop has 4 GB of RAM, and I'd like to put all of that to good use when necessary. I have also heard, though, that using a 32-bit Linux distribution with a PAE modification in the kernel (or something like that) allows the OS to recognize and use up to 4 GB of RAM, up from 3 GB previously. Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" is supported for another 2 years from now, so I'd like to continue using that until either Linux Mint 13 LTS "M[...]a" comes out or, if that doesn't happen, for the next two years, at which point I will likely switch to a snapshot of Debian-based Linux Mint (or maybe #!, I'm not sure). When that happens, I'll choose either between 64-bit or 32-bit with PAE. My question is, do the benefits of a 64-bit OS outweigh the loss of Hulu viewing, or will switching to 32-bit with PAE be the better option with few side effects otherwise? Please let me know in the comments below. Of course, ideally, in one or two years, I'll actually be able to use a working version of Adobe Flash on a 64-bit Linux distribution.


Joking Around with Professors

This was something that I meant to write a few weeks ago, but I haven't been able to get around to it until now.
A few weeks ago, the Society of Physics Students (SPS) along with the Undergraduate Women in Physics (UWIP, and it was actually mostly organized by the latter, though of course men were allowed to participate as well) held an event called "5-Minute Lightning Physics Lectures". I actually gave the 5-minute lecture on the slightly more advanced version of the first physics course, as I took that class last semester and did pretty well.

All of the other classes that had prepared presentations were presented by students as well, except for one, and that was the second electricity & magnetism course, and that was presented by the same professor who currently teaches the class. After the whole event was over, I went up to him and jokingly asked him, "All the other classes' lectures were presented by students except for yours. That tells me that students hate your class enough that they don't want to present for it. That means to me that your class is insanely hard, so why should I take it?" (Please do note that I was planning and am still planning to take the class anyway, because it sounds super cool.) He recognized the lightheartedness of my question and took it in good humor, responding, "Well, I'm not really sure why no one stepped up to present a 5-minute lecture for this class, but from what I've heard from past students, they really like this class, and I think you should take it because it's really cool and useful."

My justification for conversing with a professor (who, by the way, is 70 years old) I had never met before in such an informal/irreverent way is that he plays the video game Halo in his spare time, often with other students, and when he does, he stops being the formal professor and turns into just another Halo player. A few months ago, SPS held a Halo party featuring this professor after one of the general body meetings, and apparently the professor lost miserably, which is practically unheard of. The professor later sent a mock angry email demanding a rematch and claiming the match was rigged against him. But all that aside, the point is that I'm glad I could have such light banter with a professor without any repercussions. I told my family and other relatives about this, and they all told me that if I was back in India, they would have thrown me out of the school for such insolence; they didn't mean this to tut-tut me, but more to remind me that I'm lucky that I can do such things here in the US. And I think that it's great that I can; I think it's really sad that teachers my relatives in India have to deal with practically believe themselves to be divine beings who cannot be approached or questioned in any way.

So what do you think? Are your teachers/professors generally OK with such informal banter and do they make efforts to reach out to students, or are they unapproachable and always right (even when they aren't)? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!


The Wonders of Communicating over Computers

A few days ago, I was talking to my family back home on Skype. They were actually helping me fill out college financial aid forms for the next academic year, but we were also chatting about random things at the same time. This was far from the first time we had talked on Skype since I came to college, so why was I particularly amazed with it now? Well, the phone at my family's house rang at one point during our conversation, and I had the video call set to full-screen on my computer. The phone nearest my family's computer is just to the right of the computer, which means in the video call it appeared to the left side of my computer screen. As the phone rang, I instinctively started to reach to the left for the phone until I remembered that I'm not actually there.
That's the beauty of things like video calling; if you allow yourself to be immersed in the conversation, you forget that you aren't actually in the same place as the other person in the conversation. And sometimes, it's nice to stop focusing on super-technical things, take a step back, and let yourself be wowed by modern technology and progress. What do you think?


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 April 10

There were two posts that garnered a handful of comments, so I'll try to repost all of those.

Review: GNOME 3

An anonymous reader had this tip regarding my complaint about the number of steps it takes to shut down: "You get that option if you hold down the alt key after selecting the profile menu. Can't begin to guess the thought process that went into that design decision."
Another anonymous commenter had this counterargument to my overall criticisms of GNOME 3: "I don't agree with your idea that GNOME is for netbooks - I have a 24" monitor and enjoy the experience... You don't understand that the design principle behind banning unnecessary information, like panel-applets, is to reduce distraction from the task at hand and improve focus. It is about information management, not about saving space. I don't want to have to 'figure out' my netbook's homescreen like it was the dashboard of an airplane; that's what ANDROID 3 does, and it's horrible. I just want to get stuff done, and GNOME 3 is brilliant for that."
Another anonymous reader followed up on that, saying, "+1 I really like Gnome 3 with my dual screen setup (and the 40" HDTV when used). A well designed command-line interface minimizes how much information you need to recall/process for common tasks. A well designed GUI interface minimizes how much information you need to recognise/process for common tasks."
Yet another anonymous commenter had this to say: "I like Gnome 2 better. Far better. I almost feel like everything they did goes against everything I loved about Gnome 2. I like the option of making the top panel moved to the bottom, the time in the right-hand corner, menu driven not icon driven, adding launchers to the panel for the top 7 applications I use (kicker, nautilus, firefox, chrome, thunderbird, software updates, VLC) It is like a one click application launch, no need for any extra movements. I don't like the whole name/system menu thing. I know what my name is, I want to have to click on it for options. I would rather have that whole thing under the main applications button (or application launcher). I also don't have the option to add a "lock computer" button in the panel, for those times you need to jump up quickly to answer a call or get some documents from a printer that is at the other side of the room. I place this in the far right corner beside the time so that it is available to me with one click. Fast, Functional... not like Gnome 3, which claims to be forward thinking. Obviously they weren't thinking about office use much. Gnome 3 is nothing but a frustrating experience. The only way I can see myself liking Gnome 3 is if they make it more like Gnome 2... or just continue supporting Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 will become unnecessary."
Another anonymous reader said, "I think that this is a pretty reasonable and nice review. Personally i like GNOME 3 is very much and i am pleasantly surprised by how stable it is. For those who prefer the GNOME 2 way of doing things, the fallback mode can actually be configured to resemble the older GNOME interface pretty well. Once you install gnome-tweak-tool and dconf-editor a lot of hidden options appear - like for example the ability to make nautilus draw the desktop (in a GNOME 2 style), the options to configure fonts and the titlebars buttons. I am also sure that the colour of the panels can be changed to the default GNOME 2 white colour. Right now i am pretty much using a GNOME 2 in the default configuration - i have only changed the icon theme and have added several launchers on the top panel - I already like GNOME 3 but should i decide i can pretty much recreate my old desktop in the GNOME 3 fallback mode - you can put launchers on the panels, make nautilus draw the desktop and configure the fallback mode to more or less appear like a standart GNOME 2 desktop."
Commenter neeraj said, "I have used Gnome 3 for over a week now, and I must admit its well thought out.You quickly get used to the new interface...plus if you know few shortcut keys (like windows/Super key to show activities) you'll never regret the change.Wish all a better experience with Gnome 3"

Wireless Electricity: I Could Have Thought of That

Reader somethingquarky said, "more cool is near-field evanescent coupling of coupling of coils. madd cool science. i can send u the paper if you want, but im certain you have access to the paper at school as well (it was done by a founder of Witricity ;))."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I have a four-day weekend this week (yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the day after that), so I'll have a little more time to write. I do have two posts planned for this coming week, but these are going to be more personal things, not software reviews. Once again, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing (anywhere on the sidebar, though if you subscribe via email, please remember to click the link in a confirmation email to confirm your subscription) and commenting (at the bottom of every post)!


Wireless Electricity: I Could Have Thought of That

A couple days ago, in my Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism class, our professor was teaching us about mutual inductance, and he was telling us how it never seemed very interesting or useful until it became very important in his own research. He, another professor who was a recitation leader for my physics class last semester, and a few other people created a company called WiTricity which sells equipment for wireless power transmission through magnetic fields, which is sort of like the magnetic counterpart to the Tesla coil, which transmits electrical power without wires through electric fields; the latter is quite dangerous, though, whereas the former is not known to have any ill effects on human health. So how does it work?

Well, our professor had mentioned his work on it a few times in the semester prior to that day, so I figured it was something really complicated. As it turns out, it's just a simple pair of RLC-circuits. One circuit must have an alternating driving voltage, an inductor, and other circuit elements. The other circuit must have an inductor parallel to the first inductor as well as other circuit elements. Basically, the first inductor creates a magnetic field when the driving voltage puts a current through it. The changing magnetic field arising from the current in the first inductor interacts with the second inductor to produce a current in that second inductor. As the driving voltage alternates, it has a certain frequency of alternation. The quality factor of the second inductor is the product of that frequency of alternation (because that frequency is retained in the induced current in the second circuit) and the energy stored in the second inductor divided by the power dissipated in resistors connected to the second inductor (i.e. electronic devices). Furthermore, the mutual inductance of the two circuits, as the two inductors are parallel, is the ratio of the induced electromotive force in the second circuit to the time rate of change of current (resulting from the alternating voltage) in the first circuit. As long as the mutual inductance and quality factor are high and the frequency of change in the current is close to that of the frequency of the driving voltage, which is resonance, it is possible to induce large currents efficiently in the second circuit even if the second circuit is physically relatively far away from the first circuit. Hence, wireless electricity!

I remember reading a while ago that Nikola Tesla also sometimes successfully managed to transmit electrical power wirelessly, and at that time I also thought it must be something really complicated. So I find it funny that it turns out that this is all just based on principles of classical electromagnetism set down in the late 19th century. I guess the reason why no one tried further experiments on it until my professors did a couple years ago is because (a) the equipment wasn't good enough and (b) everyone assumed that this sort of resonant induction wouldn't work for distances comparable to the dimensions of a room and so no one bothered trying to test that. I wonder why that is.


Review: GNOME 3

Shell Main Screen
About 2 months ago, I previewed GNOME 3. At that time, it was many weeks away from the final release, so there were still many things to be done. Since then, many things have changed, and a few days ago, GNOME 3 was finally released for the whole world to see.

The biggest change in GNOME 3 is of course the GNOME 3 Shell. This has gotten several changes, updates, and other revisions through its development. Since then, however, a GNOME 3 fallback mode has also been added. One of the common complaints about GNOME 3 has been that the new Mutter WM requires 3D effects to work correctly, and not all computers have this, especially older ones. This is where GNOME 3 fallback mode comes in, so in addition to trying out GNOME 3 Shell, I have also tried GNOME 3 fallback mode.

Fallback Main Screen +
Calendar Applet +
User Profile Menu Applet
I did all this thanks to the efforts of the Fedora developers in building the latest live ISO image of GNOME 3; I made a live USB of it using UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see how much has changed in two months.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 April 3

There were a whole bunch of comments on this past week's posts, so I'll try to repost most of those.

Ditching KDE Applications

An anonymous reader said, "As a kde user, I feel exactly the same about gnome apps - they start slow and perform badly- so the only gnome application I have is firefox, though konqueror with webkit is what I use more and more. I will add that I prefer KDE over gnome because a) KDE apps are MUCH better integrated with each other b) gnome is tightly controlled by RH and ximian and their agendas as opposed to KDE which I believe is a more community based and oriented desktop and c) these entities have acted and are acting a lot like m$ w.r.t. their dictation of policies and agenda in the desktop arena ( not to mention all the FUD they have spread and keep spreading on KDE)"
Commenter Mitsos had this to say: "There are some ultralight apps out there that are fantastic. Epdfview is a great example as you mentioned, and I use it on my openbox machine. On gnome I'd prefer evince which has an option for continuous display of pages (epdfview doesn't), and you already have the gnome dependencies installed. You could also try out FoxitReader. Viewnior is just amazing. My computer is 6-7 years old now, so apps like that make it fly. I mainly use GTK applications, but nothing keeps me back from using a Qt app like SMPlayer, or KDE apps, like K3b. They all run just fine."
There was a bit of back-and-forth about whether Mozilla Firefox is a GTK+ application or not, so an anonymous reader finally came to the rescue with this clarification and insight: "PV and anonymous, you are wrong in the following way- yes, firefox uses XUL for UI toolkit but currently, AFAIK, XUL only has a GTK renderer. There have been unofficial ports to QT that couldn't keep up and so got abandoned. The problem is that GTK is too tightly tied to gnome - the credentials, the VFS, the notifications and for many other features. XUL has nothing to do with gnome so if firefox is 'well integrated' with gnome, WHY is that ? It has to be because of GTK's assimilation into gnome."
Commenter Barnaby said, "Gpicviewer is another good and light weight one. Talking about KDE, I just wiped my Fedora 14 KDE install that I had around since October a few days ago, even upgraded to 4.6 it was still very slow, and that without effects turned on. It depends on the distro though. KDE 4 in Salix, Kongoni and Chakra is markedly faster."

Review: Linux Mint Xfce 201104

For one of the things that I noticed, an anonymous reader suggested, "Firefox is set to be updated from Mozilla. Open it as root (gksudo firefox), update it and close it again," while for another thing that I complained about, another anonymous commenter suggested, "multimedia keys: sudo apt install xfce4-volumed"
Reader Barnaby (again) said, "Thanks for trying this out. I was initially quite excited as well. I now think the most important thing to take away from their announcement is that they are progressively switching over to a Debian base for all but the main edition. The remaining polish will come as time goes on."
Commenter Ed the Red said, "I love and generally use Debian (over Ubuntu, my second choice), but I'm not sure I would have chosen this particular moment for rebasing a XFCE distro on Debian testing. Debian just released Squeeze as stable a couple of months ago and the big changes that always follow a release of stable have yet to really hit the testing repos. Those changes can cause snafus. It does seem like the big changes that normally hit the Debian testing repos after a stable release are taking substantially longer than normal. [...] Although Thunar is a lot faster than Nautilus (though less full-featured), I've never been convinced that XFCE was that much less memory intensive than Gnome (Xubuntu often uses more than the more full featured Gnome version of Ubuntu). And Mint generally seems less responsive than standard Ubuntu to me. But I was impressed by LMDE, I like it much better than the latest Mint Ubuntu spin, it seems faster. [...]"

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I have one fairly big post coming up, but that's all I have planned, because once again, I'm going to be quite busy with classwork. Once again, if you like what I write, please keep subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint Xfce 201104

Main Screen
Just over 2 weeks ago, I wrote about how Linux Mint is moving the Xfce edition to a Debian base. Well, a few days ago, they released the official Linux Mint Xfce 201104.
For those of you who didn't read that post, in short, Linux Mint Xfce is now Debian-based instead of Ubuntu-based. The developers had a few things to say about this: (1) the desktop will be faster and lighter on resources (114 MB of RAM at idle, 177 MB of RAM with Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice Writer, and LibreOffice Calc open all at the same time), (2) the Xfce edition will now include more mainstream applications like Rhythmbox instead of Exaile, and (3) the Xfce edition, being based on Debian Testing, will be a rolling-release branch. All these things sounded very exciting to me, so I decided to try it out.

Please do note that I have been using Linux Mint for almost 2 years now. I've become quite fond of it, so while I will try to be as critical as possible, don't be surprised if some elements of bias creep into this review.

I tried out the live session on a live USB made with UnetBootin, which is surprising to me because past versions of Linux Mint "Debian" as well as #! (since its switch to a Debian base) haven't worked with UnetBootin. I tried out the installation, just to see if anything has changed since the last version of Linux Mint "Debian" that I've tried, in VirtualBox inside the live USB session with 384 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Ditching KDE Applications

Exactly a year ago to the day, I visited Caltech, and we visited some old family friends; one of the guys there is my age, and he's also a free software enthusiast, like me. Yay! We got into a discussion about free software and the applications we prefer. I mentioned that I prefer using Okular, GwenView, and Amarok compared to the default GNOME counterparts in Linux Mint. He told me that mixing and matching GNOME and KDE applications hurts performance. I remembered that since then, but I never really gave it a second thought until recently. That's because I noticed that opening files in GwenView or Okular would take 3 to 4 seconds, which in these days of being able to open any file almost instantly on a modern computer is unacceptable.

But why should I care now? Shouldn't I have continued being happy with 3 to 4 second wait times to open images and PDF documents? Well, there was one other application that got in the way of that contentment: Gloobus Preview. Follow the jump to read the rest.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 March 27

There were a couple posts this past week that got quite a few comments, so I'll try to repost most of those.

Apple's Stupid Trademark Cases: Now Including Emacs

Before I get to the comments themselves, I would like to say that I wanted to write this article last year, but I decided not to in order to better build up a particular writing style and reputation. With readers coming from LXer, Linux Today, and Tuxmachines to read the articles in this space, and having written this blog for over one and a half years, I think both are now pretty much set.
Reader Innocent Bystander said, "OMG, this is the 3rd time today I felt for these April's fool stories. Blog authors are getting creative these days."
Commenter surja said, "whew!"

Review: Elementary OS 0.1 "Jupiter"

An anonymous reader said, "Unfortunately Midori will NEVER be replaced by the Elementary team. They have extremely tight ties to the Midori devs. google would drop gmail before elementary drops midori, lol."
Another anonymous commenter had this suggestion, of sorts: "Midori is an awesome browser if people actually take the time to configure it to their likings and investigate its features, which include being able to identify as another browser so some pages work better. You can always add another browser and keep Midori for backup."
The original Elementary developer DanRabbit said, "Hey There, Just wanted to thank you for writing the review :D But also to point out that nobody ever said Pantheon would be finished for Jupiter (in fact we weren't going to even tell anyone we were working on it yet). I'm sorry you were disappointed it wasn't included, but it wouldn't have been a good reflection of what Pantheon will be all about :) As far as the next version of elementary OS, there have been no promises to ship Gnome 3 or GTK3. We'll have to see what the future holds!"
Fuduntu creator FEWT asked, "I have a question (because I'm curious :), why the name 'Jupiter' when there is already an established FOSS product with the same name? It is a fantastic name though, I'm rather fond of it for some strange reason." For those who don't know, the other Jupiter application is the laptop hardware and power management tool included by default in Fuduntu.
Bodhi Linux creator Jeff91 had this to say: "Just wanted to say Midori is a great browser (posting this from it). The Elementary OS team just need to give it some sane default settings. You can easily resolve a few of Midori larger quirks with the right configuration. Personally I think if Elementary OS sticks with Gnome 2 it could be that drop in Ubuntu deriv for Gnome with the main distro jumping to that silly unity thing."
Reader G said, "My Major issue is not with Midori which worked quite well. I found the Major issue is the mail client they shipped with, which has no support for smtp authentication or any other custom options. So for me if was unusable referring to the email client. Other than that the OS itself worked as expected and allowed me to pull in firefox and evolution. Overall nice clean product. Another recommendation is on the software store you change the heading to say Elementary instead of Ubuntu and that will give it a more polished look."
Commenter Dillon had this to say: " @PV: Just wanted to say, great review. Very thorough. Agree with you on just about everything. @DanRabbit: if you're reading this, keep up the good work! Also, where can I send bug reports? Do you have an official forum where followers like myself could discuss the next release? Looking forward to seeing your secret projects in action come next release! Thanks."
Reader Ankleface Wroughtlandmire asked, "Hi, can Elementary be used without 3D effects? I have no need for another layer of bugs and complexity on top of the mess of bugs and complexity that is Xorg. And there are many machines that at least initially do not support 3D compositing out of the box. Apart from its 3D dependencies, Elementary OS is looking very promising."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I hope to be less busy, but I only have two posts planned. We'll see what happens. Remember, if you like what I write, please keep subscribing and commenting!


Review: Elementary OS 0.1 "Jupiter"

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Well, after quite a long wait, it has finally happened: the first official release of Elementary OS is here! Codenamed version 0.1 "Jupiter", it's based on Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat", so you may be thinking to yourself, "Why should I care about yet another Ubuntu derivative?" I'll admit that I had (and still have) slightly bought into the hype about Elementary OS, but there are plenty of reasons to care about Elementary OS. Let's look at some history.

Elementary OS has a rather unconventional history. It first started out as just an icon theme. Shortly thereafter, it grew GTK+ and Metacity themes. Along the way came a mod for the Nautilus file browser, default in Ubuntu and most other distributions with GNOME, called Nautilus Elementary; I've mentioned that mod before here, but for those who don't know, this mod organizes the side panel items by category (Personal, Devices, Network), beautifies the breadcrumb-style pathbar, removes some redundant navigation buttons, and compacts the menubar into a button. Then, the project started to expand its focus to include applications alongside aesthetics, with the Postler mail client and the accompanying Dexter address book program. Alongside these efforts came many other mockups for various other applications, such as Mozilla Firefox, Pidgin, Empathy, FileZilla, and others. More recently, the Elementary developers created a new panel called the WingPanel to replace the GNOME Panel on top, along with a new application launcher called Slingshot, all combined along with all the other applications into a new shell for GNOME called Pantheon.

I tested Elementary OS on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Although this is an Ubuntu-based distribution, I tested the installation just for fun (and to see if the developers have made any changes there) in a virtual machine with 384 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what this icon theme-turned-full-fledged distribution is like.

Apple's Stupid Trademark Cases: Now Including Emacs

Apple has become progressively more aggressive about its products' trademarks lately. The more talked-about example has been its aggression regarding the term "App Store" The problem is that Apple itself would refer to "app store" generically and even talked about other companies' possible "app stores", yet now, when Microsoft wants to make an "app store" for the Windows Phone operating system, Apple is claiming that "App" is short for "Apple". This is truly disingenuous because practically every app developer on the face of this planet and many users out there too know that "app" has always stood for "application", not "Apple". Well, this sort of behavior has gone on even further. Many thanks to the good folks at Tuxmachines and LXer for providing the links; you can go to those sites to follow the original links. Follow the jump to read more.