Tag Archives: Floss

Replacing Windows 98, and other seemingly impossible tasks

Sometime during the last decade, I managed to get a reputation as the guy to whom you can donate your old, dusty computer when you don’t want it any more; and while I must confess that I don’t mind in the least (keep it coming folks – I do have a major weakness for free computer hardware, as well as a profound satisfaction in making “trash” useful again), it’s often a challenge to actually make use of a lot of it.


Emacs 24 is here!

Well somehow very quietly last month the worlds greatest text-editor/IDE/anything-you-can-imagine software, Emacs, got ratcheted up to version 24.  Actually, 24.1 to be exact.  Major version releases of Emacs don’t happen very often (between 2 and 6 years, on average), so I’ve been excited to get my hands on some of the new features.  My first attempts to compile it on my Ubuntu boxes failed, but fortunately Damien Cassou came through with a PPA for emacs24, and this past weekend I found time to upgrade my systems to the new version.


New project:KiLauncher

Last night i uploaded a new project to my github page, KiLauncher.  It’s a fullscreen, static (as in not auto-updating) launcher menu aimed at kiosks, kids computers, corporate systems, and any other situation where an administrator wants to be able to both provide a simple interface and exercise some control over what applications are available to the user.

The software is still in the early stages, of course; I’m still working out the best way to structure the config file; yet it meets all its primary goals at this point and works just fine.  It’s built in python and QT of course, and after my positive experience using YAML in wcgbrowser, I’m of course using it for KiLauncher too. Unlike wcgbrowser, I don’t have a real-world use for this software yet, but maybe someone who does can give me some feedback on it.

Backporting with apt-src

So often with Linux distributions, the choice is between running a bleeding-edge system, or sticking with stable (and sometimes stale) software.  Most of us settle in to a distro that balances both to our liking, but there are times when you just have to have a little newer version of a package than the default repositories offer.  While it’s great to find a backport repo or PPA that offers newer stuff, sometimes that’s not possible.

So for times like that, I’m going to describe a method by which Debian or Ubuntu users can backport their own software using handy little tool called “apt-src”.


WCGBrowser updated

I’ve been wanting for some time to update my wcgbrowser code to be python3 compatible, but I’ve been held back by the ambiguity surrounding the configobj library — in a nuthshell, the official project isn’t 3.x compatible, but there is a fork that is. Unfortunately the fork maintainer isn’t putting real effort into a release, and Debian won’t include it until they do.

So fed up with that, I got a wild idea last night to port the code to something more supported. I considered JSON and XML, but settled on YAML, since it seems to be reasonably hand-hackable, well supported, and handles about any data types I need.

I thought this would be a big deal, but surprisingly it only took about 20 minutes to get things working. I decided to keep going with my momentum by adding the remaining command-line configuration parameters to the config file and making sure the whole thing worked with python 3.

I also fixed some logic bugs in the process. Nice.

If anyone out there is actually using it, you can get the latest code on github.  Naturally, the conversion to YAML will break any existing configuration; sorry in advance.  To make up for it, I’ve fully commented the config file so it should be pretty simple to figure out how to port it over.  Also, bear in mind that it’s now looking for a config file called “wcgbrowser.yaml”, not “wcgbrowser.conf”.

The Debian Administrators Handbook arrives, free!

The big news in the Debian world this week is the liberation of the The Debian Administrators Handbook, which, thanks to donations from a crowdfunding campaign, has now been released under free-as-in-speech licenses.  It’s even been packaged up and placed in the Debian repositories, so it’s a quick “aptitude install” away.

I spent some time browsing through the manual online today, and thought I’d share my reactions.

Ubuntu Studio 12.04

A screen cap of the Ubuntu Studio Desktop

The Ubuntu studio 12.04 desktop.

Not so long ago, I posted about my attempts to bring my old DAW system back to life with Lubuntu.  Emboldened by my success, and eager to get it on a nice firm LTS-release foothold, I tried to upgrade it to Precise Pangolin a few weeks ago.  Sadly, the results were not so great:  after upgrading, I ran afoul of a mysterious bug that caused Ardour, Audacity, and Hydrogen (and possibly other programs) to segfault when I started them.  Despite my best efforts to track down the error (probably caused by my liberal use of PPAs and 3rd-party repositories), it became clear I needed to start afresh.

This time I decided to skip a bit of the DIY and just grab a ready-made audio production distro; after all, there are plenty of them out there, aren’t there?  Well, the hunt began for an audio-production oriented distro that would work decently on an older 32-bit system while promising future updates; and yes, believe me, my not-so-fond-of-Ubuntu friends out there, I didn’t limit myself to ‘buntuland.  Yet search as I might, every project I found seemed either at least 18 months stale (if not out-and-out abandoned), or a one-man project based on Debian or Ubuntu anyway.  In the end, Ubuntu studio seemed best to fit the bill.  So I downloaded the nearly 2 GB .iso file, popped it on my flash drive, and loaded it onto the old workhorse; and here, dear reader, are my findings so far…


LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice

Michael Meeks, a Suse developer who is instrumental in the LibreOffice community, has posted a good article on his “Stuff Michael Meeks is doing” blog summarizing the differences between OpenOffice and LibreOffice.  Ok, granted that he’s a LibreOffice guy and it’s a little biased, I think it’s nevertheless a pretty good, factual summary about the history of the two projects, and the differences to the end-user about them.

There still seems to be a lot of confusion out there about this, and sadly a lot of people downloading OpenOffice are not aware of the situation are are downloading something that is way behind technically, and as far as I can see hasn’t got much of a future at this point (though that could change).  The difference is particularly important to Ubuntu users, many of whom may be upgrading in the next few months from 10.04 to 12.04 and (as a result) apparently “switching” to LibreOffice.

Ironically, though, the “OpenOffice” that they’ll be switching from is actually a lot closer to the LibreOffice they’re switching to than anything currently available under the name “OpenOffice”.  You see, before LibreOffice existed, there was a project called Go-OO.  Go-OO was funded primarily by Novell, and essentially consisted of a comprehensive patch set for OpenOffice that added features or fixes which (mainly for licensing reasons) could not be included in the “official” OpenOffice from Sun.

Nearly every major Linux distribution (including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, etc) shipped Go-OO (in addition to other distro-specific patches) in place of Sun OpenOffice, even as far back as 2.x versions.  For the sake of familiarity (I assume) they packaged it under the name OpenOffice, despite the differences.

When LibreOffice was created, the Go-OO patches were among the first things to be folded into the forked codebase, along with various patches from major Linux distributions (e.g. RedHat, Debian, etc).  The Go-OO development community (including Meeks himself) also mostly threw in their lot with LibreOffice.

Anyhow, take a look at Michael’s post, particularly the nice graphic comparison of the two.  I think it’s pretty clear which one you’ll choose.


Trying out Ubuntu 12.04? My tips

Ubuntu 12.04 is nearly upon us, and probably will be by the time anyone bothers to read this post.  With all the excitement and general hubbub around it, I imagine it will result in a lot of people unfamiliar with Ubuntu or GNU/Linux trying it out for the first (or first-in-a-long-) time.

There is a lot of good general advice out there, but I’m going to give a few specific tips of my own for folks trying it out:


Icaros Desktop 1.4

Amiga 1000 imageThe Amiga.  If you weren’t of computing age during the Bush Sr. administration, you may not have heard of this legend wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a white case.  The Amiga inspired frenzied superlatives from its users (including, notably, pop artist Andy Warhol) in a way that only certain fruity computers do today.  In fact, it’s often repeated that, if not for the business bungling of Commodore (who owned Amiga), we might today be reminiscing on the bygone days of Apple computers instead.

Now, I never owned an Amiga, unfortunately; in fact I despised Amigas and anyone who owned one, purely out of an unreasoning sense of sour grapes (the Amiga was, in some ways, more advanced than any computer I’d own for almost another decade).  But now that time and tide have washed the vinegar from my teeth, I’ve been overcome with a bit of morbid curiosity about this platform of the past.  And when I discovered that some fine folks had developed AROS,  an open source remake of the Amiga OS, designed for standard PC hardware, I had to check it out.


« Previous PageNext Page »