domingo, 30 de junio de 2013

On my movement to GRUB2

As I wanted to install Pisi Linux Sueño (Beta) to my laptop, I had to take the leap from GRUB to GRUB2.  You know, Megatotoro warned me about the fact that Pisi has a bug and therefore installs its own GRUB2 menu on the MBR regardless of what you choose.

So far, I've been working --rather happily-- with Mageia's legacy GRUB.  Megatotoro taught me how to edit it and, despite some problems here and there, I have been able to manually add the entries for the new distros I installed.

Although Pisi's GRUB2 menu looks great, I wanted to keep my Mageia background in the GRUB menu.  So, I decided to install the packages in Mageia 3 to boot up my laptop and desktop computers with GRUB2.  Those include some dependencies and I also installed the GRUB customizer package.

After installing them, my computers picked up all the present OSs, which was a great relief.

Then I proceeded to install Pisi.  Everything went fine except for the fact that I, being too tired (it was 1AM), did not double check what I was doing and ended up installing the new distro on the laptop partition that I selected for PicarOS.

I then booted up Mageia and reinstalled its GRUB2.
 
The silly mistake gave me the opportunity to put PicarOS back and see if this new GRUB could pick it up.  Sure enough, it did, but used Debian for the default name.  I edited the name and now my Mageia 3 GRUB2 menu shows these entries on my laptop:

Mageia Linux
PCLinuxOS
Pisi GNU/Linux Sueño Beta
PicarOS (Minino Galpon Linux)
Mandriva Linux 2011

I honestly expected this new stage to be a lot more difficult.  No wonder why I kept reading on forums about the need to move to GRUB2.

domingo, 23 de junio de 2013

Random thoughts

Well, thanks to Megatotoro's review of Pisi Linux here (and his output problem), I have been fooling around with my "From-PC-to-TV" output lately.  I finally discovered how to have two different monitors on KDE.  I'll write about it soon.

I need some time to install Pisi myself.  Maybe next weekend.  And I need to learn how to install the newer versions of Firefox on Mageia 3, 64 bits.

The PCLinuxOS update went good.  I only encountered a minor sound problem because my previous sound configuration was invalid in the new KDE 4.10.4.  Yet, it was a matter of changing the position of devices in the hierarchy.  Oh, and the new login screen looks great!  No wonder PCLinuxOS is now ranked #3 on DistroWatch's chart.

Speaking of the chart, OpenMandriva has climbed positions in DistroWatch.com quite rapidly: from #200 it has gone up to #8.



I hope DistroWatch soon includes Pisi, too.

Wheee!  I am still waiting for the new Elive Release...and the Vivaldi tablet...and the Firefox tablet.

And the Jetpack 2 game for Linux.

My life with KDE 4.10.2: Using activities

Despite all the attacks launched on KDE with arguments about how confusing, complicated, and messy it is, I have discovered that non-technical users can learn to use this desktop environment and enjoy it.  My own experience is evidence of that.

I'll be blunt: I don't know how to code.  I am a literature professor, not a programmer.  So, in theory, KDE should be way beyond my league, as some people insist it is too entangled for average computer users who are confused by choices.

KDE does include a lot of choices (perhaps too many).  But you do not need to grasp everything KDE offers at once; you can gradually learn how to use it and, eventually, shape it to fit your workflow best.

When I first saw "Activities", I must confess that I did not find the concept practical.  However, that was exactly the same impression I got when I first saw the virtual workspaces in Linux.  Today, I cannot work without four of them.


This is how my main workspace looks normally

The term is about to finish and I am busy calculating the grades of students, getting ready for my own French exams, and preparing the last lessons of the semester.  In this hectic period, the whole concept of activities made sense to me in a sudden revelation.

This is my customized School activity
Modifying the "School" activity template, I can change the look of my virtual workspaces, so that I can easily access all I need to work and study:
1.  a calculator
2.  a spreadsheet with all the grades
3.  an English dictionary
4.  my notes to plan lessons

I can also have a Japanese and a Korean dictionary a click away with my School activity. 

That is not all, though.  Sometimes, one needs to select students at random.  So, the second workspace of my School activity has a dice widget that facilitates that task, especially because the widget can have as many numbers as students I have in my class.


The third and fourth workspaces sport only black screens.  I use one as a virtual blackboard to doodle freely with the KDE effect:

This is convenient, but you must be good at drawing :-P


The other becomes a curtain, so that I do not have to minimize the programs I need to run for a particular class (e.g. an Impress presentation, a document, or a VYM mind map).





When I am done, I simply revert to my regular workspace.  All the "mess" is cleaned with two clicks.

I find this an extremely neat way to use your computer.  So, there you have it: a non-technical user has learned to benefit from KDE's activities.

Thank you, KDE developers!

domingo, 9 de junio de 2013

Wintel, Office 365, education, and other observations

I just read this feature on HP's position about committing to using only Windows and Intel chips.  As it seems, the marriage between the computer maker and Wintel is going sour.

It might be too late for HP.  Maybe they still have hope.  Whatever it is, it's clear by now that Windows 8 did not help computer makers boost up their sales and, given the fact that Microsoft is not making a big splash in the mobile (phone/tablet) industry, I guess HP is right to try other options.

Some people have argued that Microsoft will have it hard this year because they cannot use their market position to leverage the shortcomings of their software concerning performance and, thus, justify the price they charge for Windows and MS Office.  Microsoft must prove with the performance of its software that it is worth using and paying for.  That is not easy, especially when people do not seem willing to keep paying for newer versions that incorporate newer problems.  Take, for instance, the shortage of sevice in MS Office 365 last year.  Microsoft issued this apology , which became memorable for the irony it contains.  As it turns out, instead of being produced with a MS solution, it was produced with... Google Docs!

It is a fact that people have not been dying to upgrade Windows 7 (and, in some cases, Windows XP!).  What's more, where I work, most people still use MS Office 2007, which means that Microsoft has failed to motivate them to buy Office 2010.  Therefore, for Microsoft, it will be even more difficult to get them to jump on the Office 2013 wagon.

I doubt that many users here will like the idea to "rent" their Office and pay monthly, especially now that it is well known that you can produce documents for free with LibreOffice or other options.

So, the argument of business productivity might not work for Microsoft now as it used to. I guess that this company's greatest hope to remain relevant will be to appeal to the sector where, sadly, the most technology-ignorant people are found: education.  It's already happening.

It's sad to say it but, unfortunately, teachers are the easiest prey for companies like Microsoft because educators normally lack information about free software and they are brainwashed to accept blindly that technology enhances learning.  In addition, most teachers are the product of a monoculture in which "technology" is equivalent to "Windows".

However, I doubt that Microsoft can stop the quick disintegration of its monopoly... even if devices running their questioned Windows 8 OS flood certain schools, for many, Android and iOS are friendly neighbors, whereas Windows 8 is a suspicious stranger.

miércoles, 5 de junio de 2013

Mandriva 2013...What it might look like

Because of all the problems that Mandriva experienced, many people have assumed that the distro is quite dead by now.  However, the foundation OpenMandriva has been busy gathering infrastructure, collecting historical releases, organizing teams and basically, doing everything that they must not to let the distro that freed many from Redmond's OS disappear.

There have been tense moments (both externally and internally) and lines had to be drawn, a process that aimed at being constructive, but resulted a painful one nonetheless.

Decisions were made and not everyone was pleased.   The list includes a name for the foundation, its identifying visual signs, the official release of the distro and, more recently, the name of the distribution.  For some, it was Moondrake, for others, Mandriva; today, we know it has been called OpenMandriva (just like the foundation).

Although not many people talked about this, there was an official alpha released and I decided to install it to a VM to see what it offers.  These are my findings:

Installation
Same installer that we have known (I was relieved to see the infamous "crazy penguin"!) and there were no problems there.  However, one new feature is that it puts GRUB 2 on your system to boot it up.

Login Screen
A bit more elegant and polished than the one on Mandriva 2011

Desktop
The ROSA SimpleWelcome, Rocket Bar, etc, seem to have come to stay.  They are more polished, though.
Default wallpaper ("Moondrake")
A Wallpaper I added to test different elements
The ROSA SimpleWelcome.  It covers your wallpaper
A broom appears if you want to clean your recently accessed files (convenient)
The applications tab.  Not many programs here yet

Time Frame
This includes the new characteristics that the ROSA distribution sports.  Now it has to sections (My Local Documents and Social Networking Sites) that become ready for use after you activate Nepomuk.

Nepomuk did a great job at picking the files I used
When I first saw the ROSA stuff in Mandriva 2011, I did not like it.  However, the Timeframe eventually made me like the concepts because it is a beautiful and convenient way to navigate your documents.  This version is improved; the Timeframe looks cleaner as you can play with the drop down menu for My Local Documents.

The second part, however, is not something I like but I know many people who would fall in love with it: Social Networking.  I have never been a fan of social networking sites.  However, I set up a Facebook account that I have and never use to see how Timeframe would work with it.  The process was quite simple.
You just click on the corresponding icon to get started
The last silliness someone shared jumps in front of your eyes
You can share your own silliness, too!
I must say that OpenMandriva worked very well with all the ROSA stuff.  Of course, this is not a review (it's not wise to review Alphas!), but a simple exploration of a curious Linux user who is still saving a partition for a distro that he cannot abandon... Too many good memories, I guess.

After all, I became a Linux user thanks to Mandriva.  I hope the OpenMandriva team can manage to save the distro that showed me that a different computer paradigm is possible.