People’s Complaints About Ubuntu’s Release Cycle

I find many people complaining about the six-month release cycle Ubuntu follows. What these people tend to overlook is the fact that Ubuntu releases an LTS, long-term service, version every two years. The LTS version has a longer support and is intended to be more stable than non-LTS releases. Unless you want the latest and greatest features Ubuntu has to offer, you can stick with the LTS release for 3 years while still receiving updates. A six-month release cycle can benefit any Linux distribution because it forces the developer to have a continuous goal to work towards and gives wanting users a new feature set in a fixed interval. Users not wanting the latest feature set can keep their version for the three year period it receives updates and aren’t forced to upgrade to the latest release.

Powered By Ubuntu Stickers in the Mail

I found an envelope with four Powered By Ubuntu stickers in my mail courtesy of System76. The first thing I did was remove the Designed for Windows XP sticker from my everyday computer and replace it with an Ubuntu sticker.


The Stickers


Before


After

If you would like your own Powered by Ubuntu stickers then simply go here. All you need is two stamps and two envelopes.

A Hurdle Preventing New Linux Users From Staying

In order for people to switch to Linux they must have an inner desire to do so. When I first found out about Linux I thought, “Wow, this is great! I should tell everyone about this!” I’ve since come to realize that many people are satisfied with Windows simply because it works for what they want it to do. It doesn’t matter if it is infected with viruses while they do it; just as long as it does what they want done in a timely fashion, they are satisfied.
Once someone from a Windows background actually starts using Linux there are many things that will hold them back and likely frustrate them. For example, installing programs is very different in Ubuntu; you can either download the binaries, which is what many people that are new to Ubuntu try, or you can use apt-get or “Add/Remove Programs” from the main menu. I’ve found that people switching from Windows try to do, in Linux, what they used to do in Windows; bring up their browser, search for the program online, download the program installer, and install the program. When a new user tries to do this in Linux they often download the binaries, assuming that what is downloading will be a ‘.exe’ equivalent file. What they soon find, though, is that what they downloaded is a folder with the entire program inside, not just a consolidated file. This rightfully confuses because it poses a new situation the user hasn’t yet encountered. Little do they know, the program they are trying to install is most likely in the repos and can be easily installed with a simple command. Unless the user has a desire to find out the best way to install programs in Linux they will probably just decide to switch back to Windows because “Linux is too hard.”

Decrease Music File Size With Audacity

You may have an mp3 player that is already filled with music or may be nearing the storage cap. I have a memory stick for my PSP with only 512 MB of storage, with around 100 MB of which being taken up by game-related files. Being able to store as much music on my small memory stick is pretty important to me. I’ll show you how to decrease your music files’ size to maximize the amount of songs you can fit on your mp3 player.

First, download Audacity here; Ubuntu users can type this command into a terminal to install Audacity:

sudo apt-get install audacity

After Audacity is installed, open your desired music file in Audacity by opening Audacity, clicking File >Open, and selecting your file.

Once your file is open in Audacity, click File > Export. Above the Save and Cancel buttons, there will be a choice called “Options.” Click Options and you will be presented with a few choices: Bit Rate Mode, Quality, Variable Speed, and Channel Mode. The choice we will be concerned with is Quality. You will notice that under the drop-down menu for Quality there are numbers in increments of 8 to choose from. A higher kbps number results in a larger file size with higher quality, while a lower kbps number means a smaller file size with lower quality.

The typical kbps number is 128 for many songs. 128 kbps leads to a fairly even ratio for file size and file length. Every minute of a song adds around 1 MB to the file size. For example, a 3 and a half minute song will be around 3.5 MB; not exactly 3.5 MB, but it is a fairly good estimate.

I have found that changing my quality to 96 kbps leaves my file close to half its original size while still keeping its quality in tact. I changed a 4.3 MB, 128 kbps file to a 2.4 MB, 96 kbps file. I saved myself 1.9 MB on my PSP. When you do this to all the music on your mp3 player you can easily find yourself being able to increase the amount of songs on your device by 25%.

Ubuntu Finally Fixed Audio In 8.10

The main thing I hated about Ubuntu was the fact that I could only have one application using sound at a time. I’ve been using 8.10 for a week now and I just noticed that I was watching YouTube videos in Firefox and listening to music with Totem at the same time, something I’ve never been able to do in previous versions of Ubuntu. It’s one of those things that is so important in an OS that most people don’t even notice it until it’s gone. I hadn’t even noticed it was fixed until a week after I should have noticed, after all. So if you haven’t made the switch to 8.10 and multiple applications using sound simultaenously is important to you, I would suggest upgrading.

Free “Powered By Ubuntu” Stickers

System76, a computer manufacturer focused on offering Ubuntu-loaded computers, is offering free “Powered By Ubuntu” stickers. These stickers are just like the common “Designed For Windows” stickers that you find on a standard Dell or Compaq pre-built computer. I always remove the Windows stickers from my computers and this will be a good way to make Linux look a little bit more professional when I use my laptop in public.

Check out System76 for details on how to get some Ubuntu stickers. I just sent off for mine. I’ll show them off once I get them.

Why is XFCE the Most Popular “Lightweight” Choice?

When I first started playing with Linux I found myself looking at a lot of articles and forum posts to help me build Linux to my liking. The computers I was messing around with were generally old and slow: around 500 Mhz processor and 128 MB RAM. Most of the things I read suggested that I should try out Xubuntu or another XFCE-based distribution. As I tried Xubuntu I realized that even though it may have ran slightly faster than Ubuntu, it was still definitely slow on the computers I was using. After a long while of trying to tweak XFCE for the best performance I stumbled upon Fluxbox.

After installing Fluxbox for the first time I was really perplexed, as most people find themselves after looking at the default Fluxbox desktop, but after I figured out how to use it I was happily surprised at how fast it was. Fluxbox is much faster than any full desktop environment and I find it surprising that the majority of people suggest XFCE as a lightweight alternative most of the time. It makes sense if someone wants a desktop environment, but if they are interested in making their aging hardware as fast as possible they should definitely consider Fluxbox, or any window manager instead of a desktop environment, before being dissapointed with XFCE. Fluxbox easily can take an unusable computer and make it functional, maybe even usable for everyday tasks.

What I Would Like to See Implemented in Ubuntu 9.04

Ubuntu 9.04, Jaunty Jackalope, will be the first release of Ubuntu in 2009.  There have been a few things officially mentioned by Canonical stating that 9.04 will focus on speeding up the distro. This is a great thing to spend time on, as I always find myself taking a lot of time to customize a new Ubuntu installation to make things faster. I understand there will always be ways to customize any operating system for speed, but Ubuntu always has a few options that should be disabled by default or the installer should make an intelligent decision for certain options.

Ubuntu does a lot of things, but I don’t use all of the things Ubuntu offers. For example, my computer doesn’t have a Bluetooth adapter, but Ubuntu starts Bluetooth services every time my computer boots up. This doesn’t make sense; Bluetooth shouldn’t be started unless you have a Bluetooth adapter present in your hardware configuration when Ubuntu is started or you plug in a Bluetooth adapter while Ubuntu is running. It just makes no sense for my computer to uselessly start Bluetooth services when I will never use any Bluetooth device.

Another thing I always have to do after a fresh installation is install BUM. This boot-up manager allows you to enable and disable scripts that execute as Ubuntu boots up. Generally, the more you disable, the faster your computer boots. There are three services I always disable on my desktop: acpi-support, apmd, and hotkey-setup. All three of these services are for hotkeys and battery monitors for laptops, and they are always enabled when I install Ubuntu on my desktop. I am certain there is a way to determine if a computer is desktop or laptop in Ubuntu (i.e. processor, memory type, connections), so 9.04 just has to determine what type the computer is and choose options accordingly.

Something very noticeable while using 8.04 and 8.10 is the amount of time it takes to log in, from entering your log in information to seeing the panels and desktop appear. The panels try to swiftly move into frame, but it usually pops halfway into frame and then pops the rest of the way into frame. Ubuntu is obviously trying to be sexy by making the panels move into place, but I have never seen them do anything but jerk until they are in place. I would rather see my panels just pop in than fail at trying to move into frame.

Hard drive size detection doesn’t relate to the speed of 9.04, but it is something that has always been wrong with Ubuntu in my past experiences. I have a 160 GB HDD on my desktop but the Disk Usage Analyzer displays a 144 GB HDD. It would be great if I could know the exact amount of space I am currently using in case I need to back up my files and need to judge how to distribute the files to the back up drives. The correct size is shown during installation, but the Disk Usage Analyzer displays incorrect information once Ubuntu is installed.

Essentially, there are a few things like intelligent service disabling that should be performed during installation. This alone will decrease boot up times out of the gate and will save an average user from having to disable services that should already be disabled.