Maya Brag About Mint?

I mentioned quite a while back how very intensely I hated Unity, the new desktop environment Ubuntu switched to.  It was part of this inexplicable trend to turn desktop and laptop interfaces into something more suitable to a device with a touch screen and, given the intense minimalism of my preferred environment on my tiny netbook, giant icons with full-screen menus are pretty much the opposite of what I want.  I tried Kubuntu and Xubuntu briefly, didn’t click with either, decided to switch distros and then…well, I got a bit busy.

Which brings us to July, when I have time again.  I settle down with a flash drive and my external backup hard drive and do a full system backup.  Then I format the flash drive to install an image for Linux Mint, which came highly recommended.  Except I’m a moron and formatted the back up hard drive.  Three times.  That was a fun afternoon!

It took a while to run the recovery on the backup drive.  (There were files on it that I don’t have anywhere else.  I know, I know, backup fail.)  Then it took a while longer to sort them and be sure I had everything safe and sound.  So it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got around to doing the install.

OMG, this is just like Ubuntu before Unity, and system performance is better, and I’m not inexplicably missing basic programs that should be installed by default and this sentence is run-on to express how very happy I am with this development.If anybody is looking for an operating system that is exactly what Ubuntu was before it turned into molly-coddle central, so far as I can tell, everything you’ve heard about Mint is true.  I had to install Chrome since the included browser is Firefox, but once I did, it still remembered which tabs I’d had opened in the other operating system.  (Yeah, separate /home partition!)  I literally just took five minutes to rearrange the panel and tweak the colors a bit, then went on as if nothing had changed, except happier.

This is, of course, the honeymoon phase, but if you don’t hear shouting, assume I’m still happy.

Things wot I have been up to

First off, everybody in Madison should check out this auction for the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.  Among the really nifty items there is a crit from one of my critique groups.  You know you want to donate money to charity in order to have my tell you how you suck.  Trust me.  I only made somebody cry that once, but for charity, I’ll do it again 😉

I voted for Art.  You’re voting for Art, right?  Not to be repetitive or anything, but Art for Gov.

I finished Udacity’s CS101 course and achieved a Certificate of Accomplishment with High Distinction.  I’m pretty fricken’ proud of that, given that my two week out-of-town-stravaganza coincided with the last two weeks of material for the class.  My current plan is to do one class at a time from them until I feel like I know everything I want to, or I admit that I’m way too busy to recreationally pick up an unaccredited degree just because it’s awesome.  I’m in 212 now.

I sold a story to Penumbra.  More details once signed contracts happen.

Speaking of signed contracts, Realtor me snagged one of those Friday night.  I’ve had a few in the pipeworks for a while now, but this was the first one to finally get ink on paper.  Yay!!

Helped Idi cope with the trauma of having 2/3 of her parents in Ireland.  She’s the loneliest! 

Sure, it looks like I’ve bothered her while she’s napping in the fabulous nest of squishy things that is Sylvie’s bed/laundry-and-yarn storage device.  In reality, she’s in desperate need of solace.

Also, replaced the light bulbs over the steps.  I think they’ve been out for about two years.  Apparently, you can actually see the steps when there are working bulbs in the lights.  Weird.

Really, though, this post was an excuse to shill the RCC auction.  Everything else here is just to make me look cool for people who want to know whether a crit from me is worthwhile.  The answer is that, yes, yes it is.

Oneiric Ocelot

I missed the last Ubuntu upgrade.  I tried once or twice, never got a functioning USB installer put together.  Just finally upgraded and I’m having a violent reaction.  I loathe Unity.  I’m sure it’s great for a desktop, but I have a netbook.  Unity delights in eating my carefully reclaimed screen space.  Worse, it doesn’t appear to be configurable so that I can slap it back to where it belongs.

Bad move, Ubuntu.  If I wanted to get locked into a UI design, I’d use Apple products.

I’m downloading Kubuntu.  Several years ago I decided that Gnome looked better and the performance differences between the two weren’t an issue for me.  I suspect Kubuntu looks better now.  If not, I may go shopping for a wholly new distro altogether.  I have been whining about how Ubuntu’s habit of just plain working was depriving me of organic opportunities to fiddle.  Might be time to start poking at something less mature.

ETA: Apps?!  It’s sorting the programs as Apps?  This isn’t a cloud computer.  It runs PROGRAMS.  Holy hells, I haven’t taken an instant dislike to an OS this potent since the first time I booted into Windows.

Fricken kids on my fricken lawn.

Good ole’ tech support

My modem died last week.  No big deal since I pay Charter outrageous fees to lease a modem from them – they’ll just have to replace it.  I call them to let them know and find out how I can get my internet back right this second (I work from home.  Not having internet literally costs me money) and get addresses for places I can take the dead modem in for a replacement.  The lady on the phone tries to hard sell a modem/router combo job where the built-in wireless has a lamer feature set than the router I currently use (smaller range, narrower bands, no external media port).  I tell her their proffered feature set is lame, especially since I could replace my router three times a year at the lease upcharge, and stick with the modem.

Yesterday, despite being nicely connected to my fancypants router, I could not get through to the internet.  The whole setup has been mildly buggy since the modem swap, but not buggy enough for me to actually futz with.  Since the internet chocked while I was working against a deadline, I confirmed that plugging directly into the modem got me a connection, then ignored the problem for the rest of the evening.

Today I decided to fix whatever it is.  I have to hand two routers, a plethora of ethernet cables, and two operating systems.  I troubleshoot the living daylights out of the setup.  All the cables work.  Both routers can see the modem, and are broadcasting wireless networks that both operating systems can see and connect to.  There is not internet.  So I plug straight into the modem again.  No internet.  I call Charter.

“I don’t know, everything looks good.  Let’s button mash until it works,” is the net effect of the phone call.  But hey, button mashing is the modern hoodoo, so for inexplicable reasons, the inexplicably absent internet returns.  I spent the whole call going, “I guess we’re doing this next,” and having the girl say, “Yup.”

Internet back in the modem, I gleefully go back to getting a router working.  Sure, the den is nice and cool, and the chaise near the modem is comfy, but my favorite part of modern life is internet in bed.  That calls for wireless.

“Sorry to call back so fast, but the auto-detect on both of my routers seems to think I have a static IP address.  That seems wrong, but if I do, could you give me the settings I need to get my router working?”

Nope, have dynamic IP.  They have no idea why things don’t work.  We button mash.  I predict the next step out loud the whole way through the phone call.*  By this point, I’m also explaining the reasons I know it won’t work, what with me having tested it on my own already.

So, yeah.  Internet from the modem it is, and I’ll have to rely on my phone for access to the untethered lifestyle.  Maybe this will magically resolve before I care intensely again (Saturday) or maybe the roomies will snap and make it work.

* I must be excruciating to have on the phone for a tech support call.  This didn’t occur to me until after.  Next time I’ll ask whether it’s helpful or annoying.

Ubuntu FTW

A while back the TSA dropped Ifrit, cracking her case and leaving her fully functional, but rather more fragile than I’d like my travelling laptop to be.  There was much hand wringing on my part, but I finally settled on a Toshiba NB505 to replace her.  It’s thinner, lighter, and I like the keyboard on it quite a lot.  The only major problem with the new netbook (named Scarab, for those keeping track) was that when I tried to dual screen at work, it cannot do extended desktop.  This was the case even after re-installing the drivers in Windows.  The option simply isn’t there.  “Well, I got burned on the graphics card,” I said to myself, and dealt with it.

Monday night I discovered a thing of beauty.  The burglars got the hardware I generally use for streaming things to the TV, so when it was time for catching a buddy up on Dr. Who, we called on lowly Scarab to put the magical media on the big TV.  Don’s trial netbook had just caved under the stress of streaming Netflix to the full screen TV.  I assumed we were about to see a similar fail from Scarab.

But we didn’t.

Since I never need more than Scarab’s native 10 inch screen except for consulting work, I’d never hooked it into an external monitor except in Windows.  Imagine my delighted surprise when I discover that, not only does my hearty little beastie play the video without collapsing, but in Ubuntu, extended desktop nearly to the full resolution of my 42″ TV is simply a matter of pressing the right hot key.  No struggle.  No cussing.  Just plug in the cable, press the button and viola, functionality Windows convinced me the hardware could not achieve!

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve blown way past the turning point.  Not only does Ubuntu just work, these days, but it works better than Windows.  Go Canonical, go!

One thing Windows provides that Ubuntu doesn’t – since I’m only ever in Windows for work, it’s very easy for me to know when to bill.  Am I in Windows? If yes, somebody owes me money.  That’s fine by me.


I feel like lately, when I’ve been trying to search for recommendations, Google just tries to sell me things. Instead of taking me to places where people are talking about the subject or thing or whathaveyou, I wind up with Amazon product pages, or lists of retailers who sell varieties of the thing. My search methods haven’t changed – I’m still generating keywords to search with the way I always have, but Google’s been doing a crappy job of returning what I want. I am not used to this. It’s becoming frustrating.

Has anybody else noticed this, or is my google-fu just getting outdated?

Windows fail

My shiny new contract starts Monday and it occurred to me that since the software I’ll be working on doesn’t support a Linux-based working environment, I ought to resurrect my Windows partition on Ifrit. And hey, there was a new release of Ubuntu in October and I should get around to upgrading while I’m at it. So I figured I’d spend a couple hours, first doing the upgrade, then performing some Windows Voodoo. The upgrade worked beautifully. I logged into Ubuntu just long enough to make sure it was still there, back up a couple things I forgot about before doing the upgrade, just in case, and then switched over to letting the Windows recovery partition do its thing.

So of course somehow, while Windows was supposed to be recovering itself, it instead destroyed my entire hard drive, rendering it so unreadable even my dark arts couldn’t do much more than choke at the sight of it. In case anybody wanted to hear my opinion of Windows again, it’s a petulant bitch and I do not like it.

One shiny new hard drive later (twice the capacity of the original and for less than $50, so it could have been worse) I have bummed a Windows startup disc off Sylvie (since my only means of recovering Windows went up in smoke with the hard drive; that’s some really thorough design you’ve got there, Microsoft), installed Windows on the new hard drive, installed the shiny new Ubuntu on the hard drive, and soothe my irritated nerves by hacking my Ubuntu display into my preferred minimalist glory. I’ve opted for a white and gray look, breaking from my long tradition of black, black and more black with maybe a dash of red. Once I’ve done all the display tweaking I can do without going into config files, which I am much too brain dead to risk, I decide it’s time to go make Windows safe for the world. I’ll install a better browser, a better firewall, some virus protection, maybe some anti-spyware stuff, you know, the things one has to do to keep their Windows machine safe from itself.

There’s just a problem. You see, Windows can’t for the life of itself find my networking hardware. “Wireless card? What’s a wireless card?” it says to me. Ubuntu can surf the web with my wireless card before I’ve even installed it, but Windows is fuzzy on the concept of network. It’s not even sure it knows what a network is, but would I like to install software from a disc given to me by my ISP? (To be fair, this is XP, but like hell am I buying Windows 7 or putting Vista on a netbook. I have a legal copy of XP, it works, if petulantly, I’ll stick to it) It literally took me twenty minutes of desperately searching through the drivers manager to realize that I am not in fact stranded with no recourse, but the same machine can get to the internet if I switch OSes, download the driver I need, put it on external media, then boot back for the install.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve just used a Linux install to rescue a Windows install from failure to cope with hardware. We’ve come full circle, except now the roles are reversed. I’m going to slap the next person who says they won’t use Linux, because they want something they can install which “just works.” Why? Because it’s ten hours later, and I have to reboot again to see if maybe Windows will recognize my hardware now so I can look prepared when I show up to work on Monday.

P.S. Thank god I didn’t decide this could wait until Sunday.

ETA: Either this is the latest stage of a vicious nightmare, or the network drivers do now work. I just have to keep telling this rassfracking system to stop being so bleeding helpfully unhelpful.


Some of you were skeptical about my glee over how very pretty my UI is now. This should put an end to that!

From Screenshot

Note: I have the panel at the top set to autohide, but hovered over it for the shot so you can see it in all of its transparent glory. It autohides completely, leaving me my full screen for doing other things.

Lucid Lynx

Something about finals motivates me to ignore studying and tinker with my laptop instead.

I slapped Easy Peasy, a netbook optimized fork of Ubuntu, onto Ifrit immediately after getting her. (Yes, that’s the correct pronoun. No, I don’t know how that happened). I’ve never been happy with it. I hated the menu system it came with and got rid of that. The sound didn’t quite work out of the box. The sound had a tendency to stop working after being booted for a while. I wound up tricking out the interface with a panel on the left side to maximize my vertical window space, but it was ugly. I’d stripped so much out of the interface to maximize my screen space that anybody without keyboard short-cut navigation hardwired couldn’t navigate to check their email. Somewhere along the line it started to get unstable too, I think as a consequence of taking mainstream Ubuntu updates on a fork that wasn’t being maintained. That’s where I started.

Last night, when I should have been studying, I installed the netbook edition of Lucid Lynx onto Ifrit. The liveCD boot (from a 2GB flash drive) was not painfully slow to run. The partition editor is easier to read. The graphics are just lovely. And during the fifteen minutes it took to install there was an informative video showing off the new features Ubuntu offers. Some of them, like the syncing across machines, look very, very cool. I wound up watching the video when I should have been writing up my “Cheat Sheet.” (What kind of class gives you two pages to take notes on for the exam? Either it’s open book or it isn’t, sheesh) Then I rebooted.

Ifrit can run in the 3D session, but she’s a bit slow when she does. If I want to work on a computer with a lag I’ll go for the 42 inch screen and use Edmond. Everything is gorgeous and smooth in the 2d session.

This is the space where I normally take notes on what I tweaked so I can remember for passing along to Clarity or when I tinker again. This time around there are no notes to take. The only changes I’ve made were replacing the things I’d stripped out of the interface before because they fit now and I can have them without eating my entire screen. Flash installed from inside the Firefox plug-in search. Flash installed from inside the Firefox plug-in search. Also, smooth full screen playback of youtube videos. This has never existed before in my Linux universe.

Did I mention that the interface is gorgeous? Seriously, its like I’m using a Mac designed for grown-ups. I’m in love with Ifrit all over again.

Next I’m going to find out of the Chrome beta is more stable on this version of Ubuntu than it was on Easy Peasy because everything is fast enough now that I can tell Firefox is being slow.

I wish this OS had been the one on the early Linux versions of netbooks. Instead of reinforcing panic about scary scary open source OSes we’d be talking about Canonical nibbling away at Microsoft’s market share.

So. Pretty.