Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Fedora 15 - How to fix the font rendering

If you are new to Linux, using the terminal is part of the experience!

1. Enable the RPM Fusion Repository

Copy this as one line.

su -c 'yum localinstall --nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm'

2. Install the freetype-freeworld font hinting package

su -c 'yum install freetype-freeworld'

3. For a better web browsing experience, install the Microsoft Core Fonts

Here's one I compiled earlier!

su -c 'rpm -ivh http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16953763/msttcore-fonts-2.0-3.noarch.rpm'

Now reboot your system.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A quick play with Gimp and Fedora 15 KDE - Wallpaper Download

I was not too happy with the default Fedora 15 KDE desktop wallpaper, so decided to create my own. After a quick play around with Gimp, I learned trying to create a cool looking desktop background requires artistic skills beyond that of a 4 year old. I therefore decided it would be easier to modify someone else's work by adding the fedora logo.

The download links are better quality

Download links.

1600x1200 (Standard) - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16953763/1600_standard.png

2560x1600 (Widescreen) - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16953763/2560_wide.png

Full credits to the original author whose work I modified

Original Author http://pr09studio.yolasite.com/wallpapers.php

These works are released under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, including the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5, and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licenses, all of which permit free use, distribution, and creation of derivatives, so long as the license is unchanged and clearly noted, and the original author is attributed.


Friday, 27 May 2011

Gnome (S)hell - Its underlying principles are an insult to users

After trying Gnome (S)hell for the first time I was very optimistic, I thought a good future lies ahead but no longer.

Looking a little bit more into Gnome (S)hell I have become very annoyed at the truth. The truth being Gnome (S)hell is designed for the mentally impaired.

Here is the proof.

Why no window list or dock?


The Shell is designed in order to minimize distraction and interruption and to enable users to focus on the task at hand.

A persistent window list or dock would interfere with this goal, serving as a constant temptation to switch focus.

The separation of window switching functionality into the overview means that an effective solution to switching is provided when it is desired by the user, but that it is hidden from view when it is not necessary.

If this is not an attempt to justify a poor UI decision its an insult to users. I hold the latter view since a lot of time and effort went into Gnome 3.

Why aren't there applets, widgets or gadgets?


Essential functionality aside, an applets, widgets or gadgets framework is essentially aimed towards providing optional and additional functionality, and this does not necessarily fall within the design scope of a desktop shell.

If you are wondering what design scope, as stated here, http://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/Design

Makes it easy for users to focus on their current task and reduces distraction and interruption

Putting it all together, is this a piss take or what?

If anyone can't focus on getting their work done due to the presence of the window list showing what applications are minimized or are distracted by docks and applets, please do not operate any machinery.

A beeping noise or flashing light may break your focus or distract your attention. You know what, I am no longer going to drive with my SatNav.

Gnome Shell is supposedly designed for users like me and you, the design principles behind Gnome Shell are a reflection of what the Devs think about their users.

Even though there is the ability to customize Gnome (S)hell with extensions, the point remains that by default Gnome Shell is an insult to users.

If you feel working with multiple open applications in Gnome (S)hell is awkward and an annoyance, it is now clear why. The Gnome 3 devs intentionally made it to be like this, they do not want you to multitask, correction, they think you are incapable of multitasking. If docks and applets can cause you to lose focus and become distracted why let users multitask between open applications with ease?

This would go against the Gnome 3 design principles...

This is why I no longer feel there is a bright future ahead for Gnome 3, it is designed for the mentally impaired from the ground up, the devs have made the assumption their users are morons, are morons, more ons.....

Sorry, I lost my focus just then, my slick looking Cairo-Dock distracted me.

Unless the Gnome 3 developers change their design principles and remove the 'users are idiots' attitude they can stick Gnome (S)hell up their backsides.

I am commonly seeing the statement in many forums and other online media that Gnome (S)hell is great once you get use to it.

But get use to what, being an idiot??

At least now I can fully appreciate why restart / power off is no longer available to click on directly, because as an idiot you may inadvertently click on it.

Rant over.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Has Debian 6 ended my distro-hopping madness?

With the release of Fedora 15 and all the surrounding talk concerning Gnome (S)hell, I thought now would be a good time to remind myself of what I would miss if I were to switch to Gnome 3.

So here it is, my Debian 6 Gnome 2.x desktop.

Out of the box Gnome 3 does look more modern but Gnome 2.x doesn't have to look boring, a few customizations can make all the difference.

This is a list of my current customizations.

GTK Theme: BSM Simple - http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/BSM+Simple?content=121685

Icon Theme: Dropline Neu - http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Dropline+Neu!?content=38835

X11 Mouse Theme: ComixCursors (Opaque) - http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/ComixCursors?content=32627

Desktop Wallpaper: Carbon Gnome Wide - http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Carbon+Gnome+Wide?content=140430

Has Debian 6 ended my distro-hopping madness?

I have been looking for a solid, reliable and usable distribution for quite a while now and I believe Debian 6 is the answer.

Debian does exactly what I want without any fuss.

Although for a better experience I am using a customized 2.6.39 Kernel, Iceweasel 4 and LibreOffice 3.3.2.

Nonetheless, its long release cycle, good support and documentation from the Debian community, and overall no nonsense characteristic have made a firm impression.

The long release cycle being a major factor, I think by the time Debian 6 goes EOL Gnome 3 will be in a much better state.

Thanks Debian.

Monday, 23 May 2011

What Nils Brauckmann didn't say, for SUSE to grow openSUSE must shrink

In a recent press announcement (see here) the new President and General Manager of SUSE, Nils Brauckmann stated,

"By operating SUSE as a separate business unit focused on the Linux marketplace, we can accelerate our delivery of high-value Linux solutions that help organizations enhance growth, reduce costs, tame complexity and spur innovation,"


"Now we are sharpening our focus on making SUSE Linux Enterprise the preeminent Linux distribution across physical, virtual and cloud environments."

Makes sense, but keep reading.

"I am thrilled to lead this business and team in our pursuit of providing comprehensive Linux solutions that solve real problems for IT and the line of business. With a laser focus on making SUSE successful, we are committed to the products and services that our customers and partners rely on to run their businesses.

Moreover, we recognize and celebrate the value of the openSUSE Project and will remain a strong supporter of the openSUSE community," said Brauckmann.

"We reiterate our long-term commitment to the open source communities at the heart of our ecosystem. Our presence in these communities will help our customers benefit from the rich value of Linux, while encouraging the collaboration that has made Linux the foundation of so many computing environments today."

I have broken the last statement into 3 paragraphs to make things easier to understand.

The action taken by Attachmate so far implies they want to make SUSE a strong and successful competitor, splitting it from Novell, dropping Mono, as Nils stated they want to sharpen their focus on SUSE.

But how can SUSE be successful or maximize its revenue when its strongest competing product is openSUSE?

openSUSE is more than a community project, it is a strong and free alternative to SUSE Enterprise and for that reason those who are interpreting the last statement (I have broken into three) as saying SUSE will continue to support the openSUSE project with the same commitment as Novell could be in for a shock.

A strong supporter but not strong contributor??

Even bearing in mind the last paragraph,

"We reiterate our long-term commitment to the open source communities at the heart of our ecosystem. Our presence in these communities will help our customers benefit from the rich value of Linux, while encouraging the collaboration that has made Linux the foundation of so many computing environments today."

This does not necessarily mean or imply openSUSE, submitting code or patches related to SUSE products upstream is capable of achieving Nils community commitment. In fact when Nils was referring to the open source communities at the heart of our ecosystem, you would be foolish to think that he was referring to openSUSE.

Looking back at Novell/SUSE and their commitment to the openSUSE project, it was a bad business mistake. They effectively provided potential customers with a free alternative. How stupid is that.

They should have adopted a similar approach to RedHat / Fedora. Fedora as a product is not even capable of competing with RedHat's commercial offerings. Not only was this a wise business decision but an intelligent one.

If Nils really is committed to making SUSE a success, openSUSE must be crippled or changed into a non competing product.

Despite Novell's poor attempts to play down openSUSE many continue to deploy openSUSE in a business/corporate environment.

Even openSUSE Ambassador Carl Fletcher, who is also a Novell Knowledge Partner and has written articles for Linux Format Magazine is of the view that

"If it works with SLED, You can expect openSUSE to work reasonably well if not perfectly."


It is common knowledge within the Linux community and IT Professionals that openSUSE is a more than capable product, therefore if Nils wants the SUSE business to grow and succeed, he has to shrink openSUSE.

In its current state openSUSE is too close to SUSE Enterprise and as a result bad for revenue.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

openSUSE 11.4 - How to install Nvidia drivers manually

There is a tendency to refer to the manual method of installing Nvidia drivers as the hard way. If you repeat something often enough, it still doesn't make it true.

There is nothing hard about installing the drivers manually.

This guide uses the terminal and wget command to download the Nvidia driver to your /home/username/Downloads folder. You may if you wish use your web browser although I suggest keeping the Nvidia driver in your Downloads folder as it may be useful at a later date.

Please note the current latest driver 270.41.06 does not support GeForce 5 Series or older. Such users will need to use the legacy drivers instead.

For a list of supported devices see here - http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux-display-amd64-270.41.06-driver.html

1. Start

Open a terminal

2. Install required packages

su -c 'zypper install gcc make kernel-devel'

3. Prevent the nouveau driver from loading

su -c 'echo "blacklist nouveau" > /etc/modprobe.d/nvidia.conf'

Please copy and paste the below as one line, you may have to press enter

su -c '# recreate initrd without KMS, if the use of KMS is enabled in initrd
if grep -q NO_KMS_IN_INITRD=\"no\" /etc/sysconfig/kernel; then
   sed -i 's/NO_KMS_IN_INITRD.*/NO_KMS_IN_INITRD="yes"/g' /etc/sysconfig/kernel

4. Download the Nvidia driver 

(64-bit users)

cd Downloads

wget http://us.download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86_64/270.41.06/NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-270.41.06.run

(32-bit users)

cd Downloads

wget http://us.download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86/270.41.06/NVIDIA-Linux-x86-270.41.06.run

5. Reboot your system into run level 3

At the openSUSE boot screen make sure your Kernel entry is selected, type the number 3 as illustrated in the screenshot and press enter.

This will cause openSUSE to boot to a console terminal, login using your normal user details.

6. Install the Nvidia driver

(64-bit users)

cd Downloads
su -c 'sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-270.41.06.run -a -q'

(32-bit users)

cd Downloads

su -c 'NVIDIA-Linux-x86-270.41.06.run-a -q'

7. Once the installer has completed, reboot your system

su -c 'reboot'

Remember that every time your Kernel is updated you will need to rebuild the Nvidia Kernel module.

8. Rebuilding the Nvidia module after a Kernel update

Boot into run level 3 as described above, login using your normal user details,

(64-bit users)

cd Downloads

su -c 'sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-270.41.06.run -K'

(32-bit users)

cd Downloads

su -c 'sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86-270.41.06.run -K'

Then reboot your system.

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager - Unity is too simple

Pretending to be a Journalist - It's all about twisting the truth...

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager at Canonical Ltd recently made the suggestion of creating a Ubuntu Power User Community, -  http://www.jonobacon.org/2011/05/18/creating-an-ubuntu-power-user-community/

The alleged driving force behind this reason,

"as One key piece of feedback from some Unity users was a concern around the lack of configurability in Unity, and a feeling that it is a little too simple and does not expose enough of the system, for which many more expert Ubuntu users enjoy."

But more interestingly Jono states,

"While traditionally we set out to provide the simplest and easiest to use Ubuntu desktop environment, and this has not changed, this focus is become more and more prevalent as we shave off more and more rough edges on Ubuntu to make it ready for the prime-time. The problem is…some folks don’t want to loose the lack of configurability and control as we move towards the prime-time."

Some may even laugh at the fact that even the Ubuntu community find Unity too simple, although let us be very clear about what is too simple about Unity. It is the usability and functionality that is too simple.

The announcement by Jono has illustrated a clear wedge in the Ubuntu community that may have a long term damaging effect for Ubuntu.

Canonical Ltd have also seriously underestimated how much influence so called power users had on the popularity of Ubuntu.

Power users who do not use Ubuntu often recommend it to friends and family members because of its easy to use/maintain nature but will they continue to do so with Unity?

Jono's announcement has effectively said Unity is for people who can't use a computer, the Community Manager at Canonical Ltd has stated the key feed back about Unity from the Ubuntu community is that it is too simple.

The result is current Ubuntu users are finding Unity to be a very restrictive interface, an interface that dictates what you can do and one that does not let you do things.

Would you therefore recommend Ubuntu with Unity to a friend or family member?

Would you dare insult their intelligence?

You are too stupid to use a computer, you should use Unity.

Ubuntu currently has a reputation for being a newbie friendly Linux distribution, this is a very positive reputation that has helped to encourage the use of Linux.

Unity will overshadow that beneficial image and replace it with, Ubuntu - Linux for the computer illiterate and stupid.

I guess we all now know what the move towards prime time is all about.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Kernel bloat, the responsibility lies with the distribution vendor

It seems as time goes by the Linux Kernel is supporting more hardware and delivering more functionality. This is great but it introduces the problem of bloat. Bloat is bad but the fact of the matter is bloat cannot be avoided although it can be reduced.

Distribution vendors are the ones responsible for including more or less bloat in their Kernels and unfortunately the current trend is to simply include as much as possible without any thought whatsoever.

I was tinkering with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (64-bit) a few days ago and found it very amusing that support for an S3 Trio graphics card was included in the 64-bit Kernel.

And a Voodoo 5, Cirrus Logic, Riva TNT....

Canonical Ltd has included support for various hardware (not just old ancient video cards) that no longer exists or even if it did, would no longer work on modern systems.

Even though most of these are compiled as Kernel modules and the impact on the core Kernel code size is minimal, there is no reason to include its support.

I can therefore only conclude that the reason why Canonical Ltd continue to include support for ancient unusable hardware and various other Kernel functionality that is deprecated is because they are lazy.

When was the last time a Kernel clean up exercise was performed?

But is it just Canonical Ltd who continue to bloat their Kernels unnecessarily with ancient hardware support and unused Kernel functionality?

Equally as time goes by hardware becomes obsolete and certain functionality unused but distribution vendors continue to include such support in their Kernels.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Fedora and Gnome 3, Ubuntu and Unity, will openSUSE and KDE benefit?

Right now it seems like some of the top Linux distributions such as Fedora and Ubuntu are heading down a slippery slope.

Fedora 15 will be based on Gnome 3, it is still early days for the Gnome 3 project and over time I am confident it will get better but many (including myself) feel its not ready for use.

I believe the simplicity of Gnome 2.x is what made it a success, the main menu bar provided a quick and efficient method of accessing your applications / system settings. The ability to minimize to a panel also provided users with a quick and efficient method of accessing minimized programs and by its very nature visually indicated that a program has been minimized.

Gnome 3 on the other hand doesn’t really have a place to minimize applications to and should you use the gnome tweak tool to enable the minimize button to application windows, applications disappear (not minimize) to the activities tab leaving the user with no apparent visual indicator that an application has been banished (minimised) to the activities tab.

Accessing or viewing applications in Gnome 3 generally requires use of the activities tab where you can either browse through all your applications or search for an application. Unfortunately the Gnome 2.x method of using the main menu (a concept featured in all major operating systems) is still a quicker and more efficient method of accessing your applications. The search function works effectively, although it doesn't help if you don't know what you are searching for.

There is also space in the activities tab to place some of your favorite applications in a dock like fashion which will certainly mitigate some of the inefficiency caused by the method of browsing through or searching for applications, but some will always find it a slight annoyance since you have to invoke the activities tab to view it.

People moved away from the command line and into graphical user interfaces because it made doing things easier and quicker, the current implementation of Gnome 3 compared to Gnome 2.x therefore seems like a step in the wrong direction.

However, visually speaking Gnome 3 looks very modern and stylish.

With Fedora being a project that aims to lead the advancement of FOSS the decision to include bleeding edge software and the latest developments such as Gnome 3 is the right decision and inline with the project goals.

Fedora users will be familiar with the possibility that the latest and greatest can sometimes have a detrimental consequence and for many Gnome 3 is no exception. But the sad reality in this instance is for many Fedora users Gnome 3 is unworkable.

So what will these users do? 

I expect many to hop over to another distro that still features Gnome 2.x and come back at a later date providing Gnome 3 has improved. Alternatively, Fedora does have a few other spins but Fedora at heart has always been a Gnome distribution and the majority of its users Gnome users.

What about Ubuntu?

Taking a look at Ubuntu presents a similar situation. Canonical Ltd have recognized that Gnome 3 is not quite ready for the Ubuntu user base and their solution is Unity. Ubuntu 11.04 features the new Unity desktop from Canonical Ltd which is currently a mish mash of Gnome 2.x and Compiz.

Just like Gnome 3, some users like it and others hate it. Quite clearly Unity is not a finished product and I cannot understand why it was decided to make Unity the default desktop in Ubuntu 11.04.

Some users feel Unity is easy to use and if you rarely ever have to go beyond the dock that stands to follow but just like Gnome 3 it also lacks the application menu as featured in Gnome 2.x. A poor decision.

Instead you can view all applications by using the applications tab or the search function, this is the same as Gnome 3.

The simplicity Gnome 2.x provided Ubuntu users has been lost with Unity, the very simplicity that made Ubuntu easier to use.

Personally I think Unity for Ubuntu is a lost cause. There is nothing wrong with trying out new ideas and I give credit to Canonical Ltd for trying but those who are not good at using computers or those who find slick looking 3D GUI's complicated and hard to navigate will not appreciate Unity.

I feel Canonical Ltd have over looked how the simplicity of Gnome 2.x contributed to making Ubuntu easy to use.

So what now for Ubuntu and Fedora users?

If you are one of those users who likes to have the latest version of a distribution the future may be looking quite grim. It has been confirmed that Ubuntu 11.10 will not feature a classic Gnome 2.x interface and future versions of Fedora will have Gnome 3.

Looking ahead, Unity in Ubuntu 11.10 and Gnome 3 in Fedora 16 may be a completely different experience from what we are seeing right now but nothing is for certain. Therefore due to that uncertainty some users may go about looking for another distribution that doesn't use Gnome 3 or is not Ubuntu with Unity.

The quest for another distribution will inevitably spark interest in some of the other desktop environments available and speaking of desktop environments, is there anything worth mentioning over KDE 4.6.x?

Will openSUSE therefore benefit?

With the recent acquisition of Novell by Attachmate now complete, SUSE has been split away from Novell and will be established as its own corporate entity. A positive step in the right direction for SUSE and the openSUSE project.

Despite my own reasons for putting openSUSE behind me, it has the best implementation of KDE 4.6 (although I maintain the view if you have the time and patience, Gentoo with KDE is better) and a powerful system management application called YaST which makes administering your system easy (or at least in some instances that is the idea).

Since the release of KDE 4.6 things have been looking very good for KDE and given openSUSE is a strong KDE distribution with many KDE developers behind it, if you are looking for a solid and usable desktop environment KDE 4.6.x (in other words openSUSE 11.4) is a great choice.

The openSUSE project could do with more users, so if you are looking to try something different openSUSE is definitely worth considering.

Its funny how things can change in just a few months,  not so long ago I would have been quite happy to recommend Ubuntu or Fedora but with current developments this is no longer the case.

And not so long ago I was voicing my annoyance with openSUSE 11.4 but believe me, its nothing compared to Unity and Gnome 3.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Installation advice - Dual booting Windows and Linux with 2 disk drives

Dual booting between Windows and Linux on a single drive is very common and for the most part problem free. However, when it comes to dual booting with 2 disk drives things can be made more complicated than necessary.

I deliberately said 'can be made' as oppose to 'are more...' because the technique most people use and which I have witnessed time and time again on the internet is the direct cause of many headaches.

Well no more, I am going to tell you how to create a fool proof dual boot setup featuring 2 disk drives.

The biggest mistake you can make (bad practice)

Most of the problems in a 2 disk dual boot setup are caused by having your Windows disk drive as the Primary disk drive on your system and the intended Linux drive as the Secondary drive on the system.

With this disk setup, when attempting to install a Linux distribution it will always default to automatically suggesting to install or installing the Grub bootloader to your Primary Windows disk drive.

It is important to note that the reason why Grub wants to install on your Windows drive is because it is the Primary drive on the system.

Assuming you proceed with such a setup the end result is potentially for the majority of users a bad result.

Why is installing Grub on the Primary Windows drive in a 2 disk dual boot setup bad?

/dev/sda ---- > Windows --- > Primary Disk ---- > Bootloader (Grub boot files on /dev/sdb)
/dev/sdb ---- > Linux ---- > Secondary Disk ---- > No Bootloader

If you were to disconnect your Secondary drive or it fails, your Windows operating system will be unbootable because the Secondary drive contained files required by the Grub bootloader to boot the system.

In the opposite situation, if you disconnect the Primary drive or it fails, the Linux operating system will be unbootable because no bootloader is present.

Therefore the biggest disadvantage with this setup is the system is dependant on the presence of both drives. Should either of the drives cease to be present or function you cannot boot into Windows or Linux.

Most Linux distributions do allow you to change the default grub installation settings, and if you plan to keep your Windows drive as the Primary drive on the system make sure you install grub to the Linux drive, /dev/sdb.

It is far more advantageous to have each drive independent from one an other and capable of booting on its own.

But there is a better more fool proof way!

If you want to ensure avoidance of the possible problems the above setup can cause there is a very simple solution. Physically make your Windows drive the Secondary drive on the system and your intended Linux drive the Primary.

By doing this, distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE will always default to installing the bootloader (Grub/Grub2) on your Primary and intended Linux drive. You can therefore blindly install a distribution and your Windows drive will remain untouched.

SATA port 1 > SATA port 2

If you have two SATA hard disk drives, connect your intended Linux drive to SATA port 1 and your Windows drive to SATA port 2. This will permanently make your intended Linux drive the Primary disk drive in the system.

If you are still on IDE drives, remember that the Master end of the cable is the Primary, and that IDE channel 1 takes priorty over IDE channel 2.

Additional guidance for Ubuntu 11.04 users

During the installation choose the "Something else" option and create your partitions manually.

Ubuntu 11.04 - Creating a 2 disk dual boot setup

In the above screenshot, I have placed my intended Linux drive in SATA port 1 and my Windows 7 drive in SATA port 2.

The Ubuntu installer has identified my intended Linux drive as the Primary drive on the system (/dev/sda) and has by default suggested installing the boot loader to /dev/sda.

My Windows 7 drive therefore by default remains untouched.

So if you are the forgetful type or want to ensure no mistakes, making your intended Linux drive the Primary drive on the system will help.