Back in March I announced I was throwing in the towel on Linux as mu primary laptop operating system. It’s strange that 7 months have passed. Windows has not been perfect during that time but it has done its job. In a couple of days, Ubuntu 8.10 will be released. I cringe at the idea but I will one again make the attempt to use Linux as my primary operating system.
Two things have changed (and one has not) and one is new.
- First, Ubuntu 8.10 is reported to be even better at hardware compatibility.
- Second, OpenOffice is reported to have better MS Office compatibility. If a recent PowerPoint presentation is any indication, the compatibility still sucks. I can only hope the file I received was OO-2.x.
- Lest I forget, there is still no Blackberry support so no matter what I do, I will need a VMware image of the RIM software for the two or three times a year when I need to reset my device and for those occasions when I need a tethered modem.
- Lastly, there is a new challenge for Ubuntu – I need support for ActivClient. They have a client but they only report working with RHEL 3 and 4 as well as Suse 9.3 and 10. I will be running Ubuntu which is based on Debian.
So, in a few days, I will take my test machine and install Ubuntu 8.10. I’m not so stupid as using my real machine for the first attempt. Give me some credit !
So, the fact I will have a small VM image is telling. Linux is still not ready for the corporate world, if for no other reason that the Blackberry *is* for the corporate world. Still, I’m crazy enough to throw myself into the breach once more.
We use IBM Lotus Notes for email and a number of useful applications where I work. There has been a significant shift with Notes since the introduction of it’s Eclipse framework – or more correctly the addition of Expeditor. This made a big difference for me when I was using Ubuntu as primary work environment. Notes with Expeditor – officially called “Notes Standard” – runs on Linux and Mac. The older style – now officially called “Notes Basic” – is still available but only runs on Windows.
Well, with my switch back to Windows for my work PC, I now have the option of using the new and richer Notes Standard client and adding lots of cool plug-ins to the side panel, or go back to Notes Basic. I chose the latter. “Why ?!” I hear people asking. Simple – “performance” was my number one reason. Notes 8.0.2 is reported to have improved performance and I will definitely watch for it. My favorite comment on the subject was “I already set ClientRunFaster=1″.
Secondary was that some events in the Eclipse framework tend to “single thread” everything else. In switching, I do lose one of my most favored capabilities. With Notes Standard, I ran Sametime in the side panel and that allowed me to save my chats directly into my mail file. I really like that. But I will give it up and run Sametime as a separate application to keep my machine running smoothly (and quickly).
BTW – savvy readies with elephant memories will recall I’ve reverted to Notes Basic before. … and who said, “there’s no going back” ?
I’ve blogged that I am switching back from Ubuntu Linux for my work PC. I still have not gone back. I have been trying to build a “useful PC”. It has not been easy. I’ve become spoiled by some very basic functions that are standard on Ubuntu (and most Linux).
My latest problem is a solution for virtual desktops. I keep multiple applications open for much of my work day and one of my computers only has 1024×768 screen.
Forget about Compiz and 3D and spinning cubes and glitz and glamor. I use the very simple and very useful default “workspace switcher” …
Ubuntu Workspace Switcher (enlarged for your viewing pleasure)
real size is only about 150 pixels wide
The simple virtual desktop gives me 4 virtual screens. The four box interface sits in the taskbar. It takes about 150 pixels of space. With it I can …
- the switcher UI sits in the taskbar
- switch to a virtual screen and open an application
- easily see which virtual screens have applications -
- the ability to see where my apps are is a major advantage
- in the image above I have Lotus Notes on screen 1, Pidgin and a chat on screen 2, and a file browser on screen 3
- quickly drag an app from one screen to another by dragging the little iconic thumbnails
- switch virtual screens
- hotkey back and forth
- click on the associated box in the taskbar
I have tried 5 or six different virtual desktop products for Windows. None even get close. Why is that ?!
Is there a product for Windows that will do what I list above ? What virtual desktop solution do you use ?
ffmpeg is a very useful command line tool for converting lots of different audio and video formats. It sits quietly hidden under a number of popular video conversion software targeted at the iPod consumers.
This post is targeted for a very specific audience – Linux users who want a non-neutered ffmpeg for audio and video file conversion. Windows users don’t have this problem but because of various licensing issues, the most common ffmpeg packages for Linux have all been built without MP3 or ACC support. This makes things like “converting for iPod” a PITA.
There are loads of site that tell you how to fetch the source code and build ffmpeg with the right switches to add the support back in but there is no need. It is nicely documented at the ffmpeg Wiki …
Install ffmpeg with MP3 support:
deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org stable main
apt-get install ffmpeg
Another place to get the media support you need is at www.medibuntu.org. That’s all there is to it. Enjoy !
Oh, by the way, to convert a video for the iPod (iPod video in my case) I use one of the following commands …
ffmpeg -y -i <inputfile> -f mp4 -acodec aac -ac 2 -ab 48 -vcodec xvid -qscale 4 <outputfile>
ffmpeg -y -i <inputfile> -f mp4 -acodec aac -ac 2 -ab 48 -vcodec xvid -qscale 4 -s 512x384 <outputfile>
ffmpeg -y -i <inputfile> -f mp4 -acodec aac -ac 2 -ab 48 -vcodec xvid -qscale 4 -s 720x304 <outputfile>
ffmpeg -y -i <inputfile> -f mp4 -acodec aac -ac 2 -ab 48 -vcodec xvid -qscale 4 -s <customXxcustomY> <outputfile>
common custom resolutions:
624x352 (16-9) widescreen
512x384 (4-3) tv
Well, in a week’s time, I will no longer use Ubuntu for my work laptop. I really like the clean efficient experience I get from Ubuntu but my corporate support and the applications I need for work just don’t give Linux the same credence that comes to Windows XP. The downfall came in three parts:
- I need good blackberry support (both sync’ing and use as a tethered modem)
- while it is theoretically possible to use a Blackberry with Ubuntu, it is difficult at best and some things like a full resync and updating certificates is a Windows only proposition. The same is true for using the Blackberry as a modem (unless you are a *nix God).
- I need my documents to look perfect when I share them with colleagues and executives
- no matter how you cut it, an OpenOffice document is not 100% the same as a Microsoft Office document and the same goes in reverse. It is this last bit that was one of the fatal nails. I could not reliably round trip a document or presentation with coworkers and worse, if the presentation went up to an executive, odds were nearly 100% something would look wrong.
- I need my heavy use apps to work and be supported by corporate IT
- the two most used applications in my office are Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime. They both are available on Linux but neither is 100% as functional as on Windows. I realize that Ubuntu is not yet supported by the Lotus products but that just means every issue is answered by “sorry”. And I know some of these exist on Windows but I can’t do much about that until I switch back. I have lived with so many PITAs that shouldn’t exist – and this is not just “the first Linux release”, but after subsequent releases.
The good news is that some of my favorite things will travel back with me. Tools like GIMP for graphics arts work; Thunderbird as my blogging client; SystemRescueCD (installed on the HDD or course) as my full image backup strategy; and while I can’t take my very clean TAR-GZ daily backup solution back to Windows, I will take the strategy and implement it with DataSafe Backup or Comodo Backup.
There will be some things I will miss. But it’s all about productivity and Windows for my corporate life has provien too difficult to rebuff. Fortunately, Ubuntu remains on my personal laptop. <yippie>
I nuked my Ubuntu Linux work laptop a couple of weeks ago – on purpose. The ATI video was unpredictable and my Thinkpad T60p would not sleep or hibernate (both known issues due to the ATI chipset). I took a bit of extra time before completely building it back up. I didn’t want to mess it up like before.
- I did not install the ATI video driver
- I did not attempt to get Compiz Fusion working
- I installed and later removed xcompmgr (initially to get AWN working)
- I did configure, but later disabled, Avant Windows Navigator
- I did ‘theme’ Ubuntu to look a bit like OS X (I’ve gotten comfortable with the look and having my window controls on the left)
I am left with a 24 pixel panel at the top and bottom of my screen. The one at the bottom is for my “open windows” but I seldom use it so it will be the next thing to go. The one at the top has icons for the most used apps, the default desktop switcher, and my status icons. With this setup, I have all nearly all of my screen real estate for work and I have nearly all the same function as my “cool desktop”.
I miss the 3D effects but I have not really given up much in the way of functionality. What I have gained is a faster startup time, hibernate and sleep functions, more available memory, and a few less distractions. Most of all, the machine is more stable and less vulnerable to system updates that trash the video.