Past, present and future laptops

bulky T510 and tiny n135When my Thinkpad x250 broke down last week with what appears to be a motherboard failure, I tried to convince my daughter to hand over her T410 but work-from-home-schooling does not work without a computer, so she refused. Disillusioned in my diminishing parenting powers, I dug up my 10 year old Samsung n135 netbook instead. It still had Ubuntu 14.10 running and the battery was pining for the fjords, but after buying a new battery (€29), updating Ubuntu to 18.04 LTS and switching to Lubuntu it really is usable again.
Now to be honest, I did get replacement laptop (a bulky T510 with only 4GB of RAM) with my own SSD inside from my supplier, so I’m not using that old netbook full-time, but happy to have it running smoothly nonetheless.
The future, to end this old-fashioned geekery off with, will very likely be a Dell XPS-13 9300 (yep, I’ll be cheating on Lenovo) on which I’ll happily install Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on. I’ve upgraded my wife’s x240 to that already and I must say it runs smoothly and looks great when compared to 18.04 which I’m still running.

Feeling the Ubuntu-upgrade pain

I upgraded my Samsung n135 netbook to Ubuntu 11.10 today and encountered some … issues:

  • The upgrade process didn’t disable the powersave schedule, which suspended my computer and the ongoing upgrade
  • After the upgrade (which took hours to complete), the screen flicker problem I already knew proved to have become worse, to the extend it rendered my system unusable. A blunt “rmmod samsung_laptop” stopped the flicker (actually powersaving trying to change the screen brightness).
  • While trying to install the “Linux On My Samsung” deb’s from the ppa:voria/ppa repository (which amongst ohter things contains the samsung_backlight kernel module that solves the flickering) I encountered serious networking issues which eventually proved not to be caused by the upgrade, but by dns-problems at my ISP. After changing my network config to use Google’s public DNS instead, I was able to install “Linux on My Samsung”-debs.

So here we are, working on what seems to be a stable, usable  “Oneiric Ocelot”, having learned some new stuff and having a couple of new gray hairs to prove it. And now: sleep!

Follow-up Friday: Ubuntu Unity, Android security & WordPress Stats

Just a couple of small updates on previous stories to keep you posted really.
We’ll start of with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal; beta 2 has been released earlier today. I’ve downloaded a lot of updated packages over the last few days, so I guess I’m on the second beta as well. The Unity launcher now comes out of hiding perfectly and it scrolls down automatically to show items at the bottom as well. There also was a bug with the menu-items of some applications (e.g. Firefox 4) disappearing which seems fixed. Hope they can get the launcher to behave with Java apps (e.g. my favorite mindmapping application) soon.
On another note: Lookout, the Android app that allows you to locate your handset and -if you have the paying version- remotely wipe it, seems to be getting some serious competition from …. Google. Enterprises who have Google Apps for Business can now locate, encrypt and wipe their Android devices. Especially the encryption is important news, but it really should be available and configurable in the Android OS itself
To finish off with some news about WordPress Stats secretive inclusion of Quantcast behavioral tracking: it seems like WordPress Stats plugin will be replaced by Automattics Jetpack, which according to the site:

supercharges your self‑hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of

Jetpack actually is a “super-plugin” that offers functionality from Stats, Sharedaddy, After the deadline and other previously separately available Automattic plugins. The Jetpack stats module does still include the Quantcast “spyware”, doesn’t disclose this feature and doesn’t provide functionality that warrants Quantcast inclusion (in spite of Matt Mullenweg claiming “We’ve been using Quantcast to get some additional information on uniques that it’s hard for us to calculate”). But there is (some) good news in the Jetpack Stats source code though, because on line 145 it reads:

‘do_not_track’ => true, // @todo

This could mean that blog-owners will one day be able to opt out of 3rd party tracking or it might be that Stats will take e.g. Firefox DNT-header into account for your blog’s visitors. Having both would off course be what I will be rooting for!

Unity launcher auto-hides in Natty Narwal

I just upgraded my Samsung n135 from Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition to Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwal” beta 1 and I’m a happy man:

  • the Unity launcher now auto-hides, which is no luxury on a 1024X600 screen.
  • Mutter has been replace by Compiz, so no more crashes when adding an external monitor.
  • Compiz replacing Mutter also seems to have a (very) positive impact on windowing performance.

But this is beta 1, there are bound to be some bugs and especially the launcher isn’t perfect yet;

  • sometimes only half of Unity launcher appears when it comes out of hiding.
  • I couldn’t make the it scroll down to see the icons at the bottom.
  • And non Unity launcher-related: the screen sometimes flickers while the brightness seem to be auto-adjusting (which shouldn’t happen as there’s no light sensor in my netbook) UPDATE: this got even worse after upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10, but there is a solution

Anyway, beta 2 is expected April 14th and the final release should hit the web on the 28th. Looking forward to a Ubuntu that’s perfect for my teeny weeny netbook. I’m curious to see how Gnome3”s Shell will do in comparison!

Blij met oude brol en een toetsenbord

Aangezien ook dit jaar blijkbaar enkel de brave kindjes speelgoed van Sinterklaas kregen, heb ik mezelf afgelopen weekend dan maar een cadeautje gekocht; een n135 netbook van Samsung. Een beetje tegen de tablet-stroom in, ik weet het, maar ik ben zo tekst-georiënteerd. Geef mij een toetsenbord en ge hoort mij niet meer. En dan is er de kwestie van de prijs natuurlijk. Een 5 maand oud netbookje voor nog geen 200 Euro (met dank aan, daar hebt ge niet veel tablet voor, toch?
Soit, zondagnamiddag thuisgekomen pakte ik blij verrast mijn cadeautje uit om dan 5 minuten schaapachtig naar Windows 7 Starter te kijken. 2 minuten hadden kunnen volstaan, maar Windows 7 op een netbook, echt snel is dat toch niet. Maar zo wist ik dat ik Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition met een gerust hart kon installeren, die Windows zou ik niet missen. Over die installatie valt weinig spannends te vertellen, behalve misschien dat ik een beetje heb getwijfeld over de partitionering van de harde schijf. Uiteindelijk heb ik sda1 en sda2 laten staan, dat lijken de recovery-partities van Samsung (met oa de Windows 7 installatie-bestanden). Voor de rest: smooth sailing!
En op die manier zit ik nu op de trein met m’n netbookje (6 uur autonomie, geen schrik van vertragingen); stukje bloggen, m’n presentatie over website-performantie bijwerken, een eerste versie van een nieuwe WordPress-plugin (DoNotTrack) tweaken … Straks nog een mailtje naar Sinterklaas, beloven dat ik braaf zal zijn en of ik in Juli dan een HTC Desire Z (met toetsenbord) krijg.

‘Cause I’m free, to do what I want, any old time

Freedom comes in many shapes and forms, but give me a computer which is not burdened by corporate software and enforced group policies and give me internet access that is not limited by proxies that prohibit you from using half of the web and I’m a happy little futtta. I cracked the proxy thingie problem at work some time ago already, but the computer/OS-part remained an issue up until now. I tried virtualization with VMWare and Qemu but wasn’t convinced and booting into my “disktop” (Ubuntu 8.04 intalled on an USB-connected external HD) while at work was far from efficient, so I kept jerking around in the uninviting environment which is the maimed Windows XP we have to put up with here.
But some time ago my laptop got a memory upgrade (from 1 to 2 Gb) and last week Paul Cobbaut wrote about Virtualbox on his blog. I installed this example of German craftsmanship (both a “free as in beer” and an open source version are available, version 3 was just released a few hours ago!) and my computer hasn’t been the same since. I’m now running a fullscreen (guest additions rock) Virtualbox virtual machine with Ubuntu 9.04, using an openssh-provided (with some help from corkscrew, off course) socks-proxy for unlimited internet access and I feel like a kid that has just been allowed in a playground.
a screenshot of virtualbox 3 on windows xp
Next to Ubuntu, I also installed Opensolaris (which seems to need a shitload of RAM) and a leaked version of the emulator of that much anticipated (well, by me at least) Palm WebOS. On my disktop I installed the Linux-version of Virtualbox and I’ve got OS-weirdness such as ReactOS, Haiku and Syllable running there. Hell, maybe I’ll even install (a clean version of) Windows XP in a virtual machine there, just to make it full circle. ‘Cause I’m free!

Soup Dragons - "I'm Free"

Joikuspot connection problem with Ubuntu Linux

This weekend I had to resort to Joikuspot (software that turns your 3G-cellphone into a wireless gateway to the internet) for my web-needs. Because I encountered a few problems setting up a connection from my Ubuntu laptop, here’s a quick recap for documentations sake.
The rather fundamental issue was that I couldn’t get my computer (a Dell D620 running Ubuntu 8.04 with the iwl3945 driver) to join the ad-hoc wifi-network which Joikuspot (on a Nokia e61i) created. As connecting from my wife’s Windows XP laptop did work, I googled around a bit and it turned out I had to specifically set the channel used by Joikuspot to 1 or 6 instead of “automatic” or 11. Although NetworkManager still seemed confused, this did allow me to connect from the command line (disabling wireless networking in NM first and then using iwconfig and dhclient). But why joining an ad-hoc wifi-network on channel 11 doesn’t work in Ubuntu, that I still don’t know.
Once connected to the wireless network, I found out that Joikuspot Light requires your browser to auto-detect a proxy. The proxy in Joikuspot seems to be used to limit the functionality of the free version and gently push you towards the non-free Premium product. As my normal web-connection came back soon after I figured this out, I didn’t bother to test if I could tunnel my way out of those limitations. But crippled or not, Joikuspot is great to have around when your broadband connection is down.

Firefox 3rc1 shines in Javascript benchmark

blazing firefox3As the official release of Firefox 3 is getting closer, with Release Candidate 1 being available since May 17th, I decided to boldly go where codinghorror has gone before and do a quick-and-dirty Javascript-performance comparison of the different browsers I’ve got installed on my Dell Latitude D620 laptop, using Webkit’s Sunspider benchmark.

Let’s start with the results for the browsers on my Windows XP SP2 installation, ordered from slowest to fastest. Each test was executed 2 times, clicking on the results will teleport you to the detailed results where you can paste the URL’s of another test to compare.

The MSIE7-results are probably not entirely representative, as I use Tredosoft’s standalone IE7. This is a bit of a hack to have IE7 on my otherwise MSIE6-based system. Moreover my corporate Windows-installation is infested with crapware, notably McAfee OAS and Zonealarm seem to be slowing things down enormously. The codinghorror-tests indeed show significantly better results for this browser, although IE does have serious issues with string concatenation, which should be fixed in IE8.

On the same hardware, but booting in Ubuntu 8.04 (Linux) form my external USB HD (a.k.a. my ‘disktop‘), I got the following results:

Firefox 3 RC1 seems slightly slower then b5, but maybe the Ubuntu-b5-version is compiled with optimizations? Firefox is also faster on Ubuntu, but the anti-virus-bloat is probably messing with our heads here (although Opera is slower on Linux, go figure).

The general conclusion however; Firefox 3 is a huge step forward as far Javascript-performance is concerned. Users of javascript-heavy web-applications such as Gmail, Google Reader, Zoho Office and Zimbra should benefit enormously from this. It would however be very interesting to perform similar tests with regards to ‘normal page rendering’ (html/css). Does anyone know of such benchmarks?

Ubuntu Hardy upgrade a breeze!

I upgraded my Ubuntu “disktop” from 7.10 to the new Ubuntu 8.04 (aka Hardy Heron) today. The entire process took around 1h30 (download of packages was rather slow) and was incredibly straightforward (as shown in upgrade docs). Everything seems to work flawlessly as far as I can tell.
Hardy is running Firefox 3 beta 5, but Ubuntu/ Canonical will provide upgrades as FF3 goes through it’s final release-stages. Strange as including a Beta might seem, this actually is a wise thing. FF3b4 and b5 have proven to be quite stable (i’ve switched from FF2 approx. 2 months ago, haven’t looked back since). Moreover, Hardy is a “Long term support”-release, with the Desktop-version receiving support until 2011 and the Server-version until 2013 and using FF3 ensures Ubuntu of continued support (read: security updates) of the Mozilla-team in the years to come.
Check out the release notes for more details about Ubuntu 8.04 LTS.


Truecrypt 5; meer encryptie, meer platformen

screenshot of truecrypt 5 GUI on ubuntu 7.10Sinds een paar dagen is er een nieuwe versie uitgekomen van één mijner favoriete tools: Truecrypt. De belangrijkste nieuwe features:

  • system disk encryption voor Windows: Truecrypt kan je HD on-the-fly versleutelen en installeert dan een eigen boot loader die, na het invullen van de correcte credentials, de boel decrypteert en Windows opstart. En omdat performantie dan dubbel zo belangrijk is, zou de read/write snelheid dankzij pipelined operations tot 100% hoger zijn dan in versie 4.3.
  • de Linux-versie (er zijn binaries voor Ubuntu en OpenSuse, de rest van de wereld mag zelf compileren) heeft nu ook een propere GUI (zie screenshot hiernaast) en gebruikt daarvoor wxwidgets. Truecrypt nestelt zich mooi in de Gnome notification area en als je dubbelklikt op een gemount volume opent de inhoud daarvan zich proper in Nautilus. Truecrypt voor Linux is ook onder de motorkap grondig herwerkt; het gebruikt nu fuse om te mounten en is daarmee dus minder rechtstreeks afhankelijk van de kernel.
  • En er is nu ook versie voor Mac OS X (10.3 en 10.4, klik voor screenshot), die gebruikt blijkbaar ook wxwidgets en (mac)fuse, overigens.
  • De ‘mode of operation’ is nu XTS ipv LRW (geen idee wat dat betekent, maar u misschien wel, dus there you go!).

Voor de rest biedt Truecrypt als vanouds file- en device-based encrypted volumes, is het nog steeds mogelijk om in het ene Truecrypt-volume een ander volledig onzichtbaar te verbergen en werkt dat vooral allemaal heel intuïtief en transparant. Truecrypt 5 is daarmee een sterke cross-platform (freebsd ontbreekt officieel, maar staat wel vermeld in de makefile Philip 😉 ), gebruiksvriendelijke open source oplossing om data betrekkelijk veilig op te slaan. Een aanrader, zeg ik U!