Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 on a Dell Vostro 1500 laptop

What works, executive summary:

3D graphics (Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT) – yes (minor config required)

Sound output (Intel 82801H HDA controller, ICH8 chipset) – yes (more serious config required)

Sound input (mic, line-in) –untested

Wired network –yes

Wireless network –yes

Firewire (IEEE1394) –yes (more serious config required for MiniDV video camera usage)

SD card slot –yes

Integrated webcam (optional) –yes (but seems unsupported by some older software)

Touchpad pointing device –yes

External CRT video port – only in ‘text’ mode yes, enable with ‘nvidia-settings’ command

PCI Express slot –untested

Here’s the output of lspci so everyone can see exactly what hardware I have, since sometimes Dell changes components within models: Dell Vostro 1500 lspci output

What follows is a review of the hardware features of the laptop that worked out-of-the-box with Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon 7.10, and what I did to fix the few problems that I encountered. Overall, I’m extremely happy with the performance and hardware support of Ubuntu Linux on this notebook, and apart from a fix required for sound support, there were no show-stoppers that would prevent any computer user capable of installing Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX from installing and using Ubuntu happily on this machine.

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Subscribing to YouTube channels in Miro

Here’s a tip for using Miro (formerly Democracy Player), the kick-ass TV-on-your-computer video playing software.

If you want to subscribe to the videos of a particular user on YouTube, you can get an RSS feed of those videos by adding a channel like this to Miro:

http://www.youtube.com/rss/user/[insert username here]/videos.rss

You can also get RSS feeds for all videos with a particular tag, like:

http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/linux.rss

Where in this case, the tag you are interested in is ‘linux’.

I discovered this when trying to figure out to subscribe to somecallmejim’s “Edit” video editing tips videos. He’s been offline for a few months now … hope his problems pass over and he comes back.

Official YouTube docs about this feature are here.

Mounting USB key in Ubuntu Gutsy 7.10, the usefree error

I recently upgraded from Ubuntu Feisty 7.04 to Gutsy 7.10.

The upgrade went reasonably well with no serious breakage worth mentioning … except my FAT formatted USB key would no longer mount. It kept giving an error about not liking the mount option usefree.

Here is the fix, from the Ubuntu forums:

Go into gconf-editor and navigate to /system/storage/default_options/vfat/mount_options

Remove the “usefree” option from the list.

Exit gconf-editor, and try hotplugging your drive again.

Your USB key should mount as expected now.

Cheers to Dan Lenski and Dow Franklin Dudley for providing this fix !

Ubuntu Disappoints, Breaks Promises With Rapid Growth

There is a nice little rant on OSWeekly by Matt Hartley about Ubuntu’s rabid rapid growth and how he thinks the balance has swayed toward too many half-finished and poorly tested new features and not enough polish.

Yes, we all know that with a community produced distro it is OUR job, the role of the USERS, to help test and polish .. yadda yadda … and I’m not denying that … the lack of polish in Feisty is as much MY fault for not helping test and filing bug reports as anyone elses … but the fact remains that there are lots of new features appears before the rough edges in old ones are smoothed over.

As a long-time user of Linux distros, and more recently Ubuntu, I really agree with many of Matt’s points. In most cases, Ubuntu works
great, but there is a real need to fix some of the flaky
utilities that can be real showstoppers for some users (both
experienced and newbies). My personal gripe, to add to the issues with
the Network Manager the author complains about, is that hibernation on
my laptop used to work in Dapper and stopped working for Feisty (searching the Interweb I can see I’m not the only one).
Upgrading shouldn’t *loose* you features or hardware support. Hopefully
there will be a real focus in the next Long Term Support (LTS) release
(Ubuntu 8.04) to not add any flashy new features but just fix and
polish the perfectly usable and snappy OS that we already have. I don’t care if it gets delayed to become Ubuntu 8.10 to do it … just give it polish !!

Wine-Doors : manage Windows apps under GNOME

Wine-doors is a package managment tool for installing Windows apps under Linux, using Wine. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but I really should … it looks like it might do similar things to the excellent CrossOver Office Professional, which is probably bad for CodeWeavers as it’s encroaching on their turf … but good for the rest of us who need to run the occasionally ‘legacy’ Win32 application under Linux.

sk1 : another vector graphics editor for Linux, with some features others don’t have

Just a quick note to highlight sk1, which on the surface looks like yet another vector graphics program for Linux, in the vein of Inkscape, skencil and a loosely like Scribus, but on closer inspection contains one very important feature the others have never done well: CorelDRAW format parsing and import (supporting CorelDRAW version 5 to version 13, according to the sk1 news page).

The same group of coders have also released UniConverter, a commandline vector graphics converter which has import filters for CDR, CMX, AI, CGM, WMF, XFIG, SVG, SK, SK1, AFF formats and export filters for AI, SVG, SK, SK1, CGM, WMF formats.

They haven’t released packages for major distros yet, but I had no trouble compiling UniConverter from source (was flawless on Ubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn). This is going to really useful for me, since many of my collegues still use CorelDRAW, and it is about the only file format left that I haven’t been able to view or edit properly on Linux.

Yippee ! Three cheers for the sk1 team !

Make OpenOffice run faster on Ubuntu (and any other OS) … maybe

I just followed some tips to make OpenOffice run faster on my slightly underpowered laptop. These tweaks generally amount to increasing the size of memory caches, reducing the number of undo levels and turning off Java. I really can’t tell if it has helped or not, but I don’t use OpenOffice with graphics in documents very often. One of the suggestions was to enable the OpenOffice quickstarter, but I didn’t do this since while it definitely increases the speed at which OpenOffice pops up, it also slows down logins, which I don’t like. I’m happy to wait for OpenOffice to load on the occasions that I use it, but I really don’t want my logins to take any longer than they have to.

Ubuntu install on Asus P5K-E, Core2 Duo E6750

I recently bought a new PC. Specs are: Intel Core2 Duo E6750, Asus P5K-E Wifi/AP motherboard (using the new Intel P35 chipset), two 320 Gb Seagate Barracuda SATA hard drives. Video is a PCI-E Nvidia 7900GS based card (FORSA), which I bought from a friendly ebayer since the price/performance is better than the 8600 series cards, and I have no need for DirectX 10.

Here are my experiences installing Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), amd64 Desktop version (yes, amd64 is the 64-bit version also used for Intel Core2 processors. I wish that was advertised more clearly, since it took a bit of hunting to confirm it was the right choice). Continue reading