I’m not dead yet

I haven’t fully stopped trying to use Ubuntu as a desktop replacement yet. But, I am using Windows again right now because I found LibreOffice was not reading Office documents correctly, and embedded visio diagrams do not work. Which forced me into Windows to do some quick work.

I also have a VirtualBox image on my Windows box with a dev environment, and needed to use it for some quick work and did not have time to get it running under Ubuntu.

The reason I’m making this blog post is to point out where Windows is winning.

At least in a Windows vs Ubuntu test. At this point I may just buy myself a Mac and use this Dell laptop as a fishtank.



Dropbox wins over Google Drive

This isn’t really a fair fight. Google Drive doesn’t even have a Linux client.

My real preference is sshfs, though.

For work files, I use sshfs to mount a folder on our secure server to my laptop. Policies frown on sticking sensitive files in the cloud. I’d like to play with services like OwnCloud, or some others, but sshfs works fine for now.


Empathy wins over Pidgin

I tried installing Pidgin to connect to our jabber server. I had alternating trouble getting Pidgin to authenticate, and when I say alternating, I mean it. With no changes it would login, or it would fail. And when it would log in there would be an empty Pidgin buddy list. So empty that clicking on it registered as the desktop, and not the Pidgin app. Purging and reinstalling didn’t help.

Then I noticed that Empathy (the little envelope on Ubuntu’s system bar) had detected Pidgin was installed and was asking to import my Pidgin settings. I gave it a shot, and was able to log in with zero hassles. Yes, it imported my settings from a non function Pidgin, and Empathy worked.

I’m going to test out Empathy and see if there are any features that it doesn’t have that would warrant figuring out how to get Pidgin (or another client) to work.


Thunderbird instead of Outlook

It looks like Thunderbird has come a long way in the last couple of years. I was able to install Lightning 1.9.1 and the Exchange 2007/2010 Calendar and Tasks Provider 1.8.5, and have access to my email and calendar.

I ran into some issues with the email address not matching the account name, and Thunderbird keeping some settings locked away in its memory somewhere even though I had changed them in the GUI (the account name kept the gmail.com value I had type, before correcting it to my work address). I also had to delete the account several times before finally figuring out that it was defaulting to GSSAPI authentication, even though I am not doing GSSAPI authentication.

The address book was a snap to configure. At first I thought I’d have to know the OU and Bind DN, but just putting in the ldap server name was sufficient to search for people.

Calendaring was also a snap. After installing the Exchange 2007/2010 Calendar and Tasks Provider add on I spent some time trying to figure out how to access the calendar and finally figured out there was a teeny tiny calendar and task icon in the top right corner. Clicking on them opens a Calendar and Task tab, and they appear to work quite nicely.

So, now I won’t be late for meetings, and I can edit work documents.


Ubuntu Desktop LibreOffice

Compared to previous attempts at using an open source Office suite (such as KOffice, OpenOffice, and others), LibreOffice actually works enough to use it (sorry other guys).

Setting up the printer was as easy as hitting Add and Find, and then clicking on the awkwardly named “Forward” button. Slightly less awkward than naming the button “Progress”, but if we’re going to depart from the traditional “Next” button, I’d like to go with something more fun, like “Onward Ho!”, or “I Dare You”.

I was relieved to see LibreOffice was able to open most of my documents with a reasonable level of accuracy. The weirdest thing I saw was a Visio diagram saying it was in Portrait mode, but the page dimensions themselves were landscape oriented. When I went to print, the printer thought the page should have been portrait, so it was only going to print a corner of the diagram.

I do find bulk property editing flawed. For example, the font used on the Visio diagram did not exist in LibreOffice, but when I tried to change just the font, it changed all of the font properties, including font size, et al, so the whole document was a jumbled up mess.

But, I can work with this, at the moment.


Rhythmbox High CPU Load

I thought my next post would be about chat clients, but then I noticed my fan was running loud, and a glance at the processes showed Rhythmbox was running at 200% streaming some internet radio.

A Google search showed other users complaining about CPU load reading music from their hard drive, so I’m going to have to move this app into the “does not work out of the box” group as well.

So, I’m four hours in and have four apps that don’t work. (Pidgin, BitchX, Spark, and Rhythmbox).

Maybe I’ll try some productivity apps just to see if I am wasting my time trying to get Ubuntu to work as a desktop replacement.


Ubuntu Desktop Applications – Part 1

After getting a minimal Ubuntu Desktop installation working I’m moving on to the application side.

I like to tune out some of the office “noise” with music. So the first thing I started looking for was a way to play or stream music. Apple iTunes does not work on Linux, but I found the out of the box Rhythmbox a reasonable start of a replacement, but the list of streaming Radio channels only contains 19 stations, which is a very small list compared to iTunes. But, the other features seem to work.

I could not get Pandora to stream via the browser, but I did find the Pithos app to be better than the browser based streaming. http://kevinmehall.net/p/pithos/

Chrome had Flash issues streaming some YouTube content, but after installing the ubuntu-restricted-extras the Flash issues were resolved.  

# sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras


My first application stumbling blocks appear to be chat related. I need to be able to communicate with my team in real time, but so far have not gotten any chat or IRC clients to work.

Sounds like a good topic for my next post.


Ubuntu Desktop Install

First hurdle, my work laptop does not have a DVD burner, and I don’t have a flash drive I can make bootable. Easy solution: use the Ubuntu Windows Installer


A couple of clicks, the installer downloads a bootable iso for you (no need to download the iso on your own). In a few minutes I had booted into Ubuntu.

Initial configuration customization was to un-mirror my dual displays (why is this ever a default?), change the background to black (I’m a design minimalist, and flashy gradient desktops are not my thing), and adjusted the mouse sensitivity.

Issue #1 – There appears to be some known Linux + wireless Microsoft Mouse Scrollwheel bug where the scrollwheel is hyper-sensitive. The “work around” is to unplug the wireless dongle, wait a few seconds for the driver to detect the change, and plug the dongle back in. This worked. Although, if I have to do this repeatedly during the day the Mac users are going to start giving me a hard time.

With a usable desktop interface I then saw a proprietary driver update notice, which would not install. I also wanted to install Chrome, but that would not install either. I ran the system updates, and afterward the proprietary driver notice disappeared and Chrome was able to install.

Since I can log in, and minimally use the desktop, I’d say this has been the most successful initial install ever.

Now to try some applications.


Ubuntu Desktop Replacement

Every few years I give Linux another shot at being a Windows Desktop replacement. 20 years ago I gave it the first shot, and ended up getting tired of downloading sources and compiling EVERYTHING, with multiple conflicts and version dependencies that could not be sorted out. The last time I tried was with Ubuntu two years ago, and while you no longer have to download sources, nothing just worked “out of the box”. I had to troubleshoot wireless drivers, network drives, video drivers, mouse issues, wireless keyboard issues… and that was before I started trying to read Office docs, use OpenOffice and *gasp* expect what was on the screen to actually look like what came out on the printer.

In my new job my focus is less on Windows Server management, and nearly 90% Unix. So, I’m giving Ubuntu Desktop another shot. Half my co-workers use Mac OsX, and the other half use some Linux distro. The Mac folks still joke about the Linux guys having to recompile X-Windows before they can accept meeting invites.

I’ll be posting my experiences as I try out Ubuntu Desktop 12.04.

Hopefully I won’t miss any meetings.