May 2007 Archives

Katherine and I are doing a 50 mile bike ride this Saturday (2nd June 2007) to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK.  I know a couple of people who have died from this disease so it means a lot to me. We haven't done a huge amount of training (the poor weather has put a stop to that!), so it's probably going to be painful, but if we pace ourselves it shouldn't be too bad. If you would like to make a donation, please use the following link. Thank you.

Ubuntu 7.04

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The last time I dabbled with Linux was years ago when I installed a version of Mandrake (now called Mandriva). It was awkward and I got rid of it after only a few days playing with it. So, now in 2007 I thought I'd give Linux another go. I picked Ubuntu as my distribution of choice, mainly because it promised to be easy to install and everything should just work. I downloaded 7.04 Feisty Fawn and burnt it to a CD. The installation process was as easy as promised. I simply set my computer to boot from CD, put the disk in, rebooted and in a couple of minutes I was presented with a desktop. I double clicked the install icon from the desktop, it asked me a few questions, asked me to pick where to install (I chose the entire of my spare hard disk) and about 15 mins later it was done. So, in a similar style to my Windows Vista post, I shall list the good and bad points. The Good
  1. Install was easy. I just picked a few options and off it went. I was surprised to hear a welcome sound play when it first dropped onto the desktop so it had obviously been busy detecting my hardware and installing drivers for it.
  2. Internet just works. I plugged in a network cable to my router and it immediately set up an internet connection and I was able to browse the web and update software.
  3. It automatically was able to read data from my Windows Vista (NTFS) disk, by simply double clicking on it. It doesn't seem to automatically mount the disk on boot though, so it loses a point there.
  4. Dual boot was set up for me. It found Windows Vista without me telling it that I already had another OS installed.
  5. The package manager for installing and updating software. This kind of thing didn't really exist in this form when I last tried Linux and it's very welcome.
The Bad
  1. Wireless refuses to work. It had initially installed a driver for my wireless card, so I attempted to use the Gnome network manager to connect to our network, but it was having none of it. After a while searching forums on the internet, I discovered my Broadcom wireless card was one that wasn't directly supported. I had to install ndiswrapper (a piece of software that emulates the Windows driver interface) and install a Windows XP driver for the card into that. I was then able to attempt to connect to the network, but for some reason it still won't accept the WPA2 key for the router. I've spent two evenings trying loads of online solutions to this and still have had no success. This is frankly insane for an OS that's sold on the fact that it does this all for you.
  2. GRUB (the dual boot OS loader) assumes I want Ubuntu to be the default option for dual booting. It took a minute of Googling to find out which config file I had to alter to get Windows Vista back as my default OS, but it should have given me the choice when I installed it.
Essentially, I still think the Linux is not ready for mainstream use. I'll no doubt eventually get to the bottom of the wireless problems as I'm a computer geek, but this just isn't good enough. I've not even attempted to install 3D drivers for my Radeon 9800 Pro yet. Windows has got this easy hardware installation stuff right for several generations, though a lot of this success has depended on its critical mass which has made hardware manufacturers make it a priority in writing driver software. Linux doesn't have this level of support, and as such a lot of hardware drivers are flaky reverse engineered hobby projects. It'd also be nice if the installation CD supplied a utility/driver for reading the ext3 filing system from within Windows (or any other popular OS). I don't know for a fact that such a thing exists, as I've been stuck with the wireless problems and haven't had the chance to find out. Overall, I still draw the same conclusion as I did years ago. Linux is fine for running a secure server, but not as an everyday desktop OS (though it has come forward in leaps and bounds).
I haven't done any music reviews on my blog before, and now two come along at once! Linkin Park have been a bit on and off for me. When I first heard their stuff years ago I quite liked it. Then the whole Nu-Metal bandwagon started, they became really popular with kids five years or so younger than me so I went off them. I think I was in an "Everything popular is crap by definition" phase. I recently found their stuff shared on someone's iTunes at work and quite liked it. Now they've made a return with a new album so I thought I'd give them another chance. I bought the special edition, which was packaged rather exquisitely in what looks like a hardback bound book with the CD at the front, several pages of lyrics and making of info and the DVD at the back. The music is very similar to their older stuff, a mix of soft rock, scratching and some quicker harder rock with an overall vaguely political message. Sticking with what's worked in the past isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I had rather hoped they'd progress a bit further in the intervening years. There are some stand out tracks, like the U2-ish Shadow of the Day and the single What I've Done, though I think the last few tracks on the album let it down a bit. I've not watched the DVD yet, so I shall comment on that in a later post if it deems itself worthy.
This is the latest of Trent Reznor's NIN albums which came out a couple of weeks ago. I've always been a big fan ever since I used to mosh to Closer at the Krazy House, Liverpool in the late 90s. This latest album is great, by any measure, and the production values are incredible (even to the point of having a heat sensitive CD which changes its design from the heat of your player). The musical style is similar to the previous album With Teeth, though it has progressed somewhat, flowing together a lot better as an album rather than just a collection of tracks. However, it seems the style has possibly softened slightly, and the usual NIN choruses that stick in your head are lacking. It's like he's trying to recreate The Downward Spiral, but not quite making it. Even with those criticisms, this is still a great album. EDIT: I’ve since learned there was a clever viral marketing campaign involving lots of websites and TV spots to get people interested in Year Zero. I never saw any of this, so yay for me not being manipulated (I just bought the album cos it was NIN), though maybe living in the UK has insulated me from it. Having listened to the album a few more times, I'm gradually thinking more and more that Year Zero is an absolute piece of genius. It's telling a future story of a potential society in fifteen years time which extrapolates the current US administration to the point of near fascism. Also, there's a rumoured future part two to the album. Yay!

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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