July 21, 2009

New website - jonrogers.co.uk

Quite a while ago I registered a more grown up website for myself and actually started writing stuff for it. If the only webaddress you knew for me was this one, click on over to www.jonrogers.co.uk to see some more up-to-date stuff!

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March 17, 2007

The year of desktop Linux?

Neither of us have posted on here for ages - in fact I have a feeling that the only people who've looked at this site are my year 10 Applied ICT class! Anyway, I used Ubuntu Edgy for a few months, until the next release, the Feisty Fawn, reached alpha 4, at which point the desire to be at the burning edge defeated me and I jumped ahead of the curve.

I've also been using some of the more "blingy" packages available to me, which has really been fun! Beryl is a "compositing window manager", which basically allows me to have fancy effects and transparencies on my computer. Together with the new second display that I have, It actually allows me to work better and more efficiently, as well as being cooler than Vista by streets!

Neil Patel, another Brit, is working on some exceptional apps for Gnome. On the simplest level, Avant is a dock, but it's quite different to the one in OS X. It has now replaced the bottom panel on my desktop, showing running programs and some launchers. It can't yet replace all the functionality - one thing I really miss is the trash applet in the bottom right, and I don't know a better way than the top panel to do the menu and system tray. Affinity is a search front-end (I think I may be moving away from Beagle to Tracker for search, but it does both) that sits in the system tray and looks as hot as Avant when compositing is on! Neil codes it all in C, so it's fast but definitely bling, baby!

I'm using less and less windows on my systems now - I'd consider scrapping it off my laptop if I had a better way of running Adobe CS. I'm playing with the idea of virtualization - using a program called VirtualBox to run a "virtual machine" with Windows while I'm in Linux. I actually use it to update our iPod as well - it can take usb devices over - but predictably, performance is not so hot as doing it straight in the host operating system. Wine has not been a solution for Photoshop et. al, unfortunately.

Keeping at the cutting edge has not been an issue, even with a PC that was average 18 months ago. A little tweaking has gone into the Pundit-R case, and a new graphics card (PNY NVidia GeForce 6200 PCI) allows me to do just about anything I throw at it (except hardcore gaming!)


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October 20, 2006

Ubuntu Edgy Eft

It's been ages since I last posted, and in that time I've been playing with Ubuntu Edgy Eft on my desktop PC at home. It's an Asus Pundit R - a really small "book sized" case with a custom motherboard that just fits! I've had it a year now and the most frustrating thing about it has always been the graphics. It's got an ATi 9100 IGP chipset which may work passably in windows but is very definitely 2D only in linux, neither the ATi binary drivers and open source drivers support 3D acceleration. Terribly frustrating if you want to do anything other than web-surfing and office use.

After a few hacks to quieten the box down with new fans, I bought a 3d Fuzion Geforce 6200 PCI - since the Pundit R has no AGP or PCI-express slots, it's probably the fastest PCI card I could cram in. It plays surprisingly cleanly with the ATi chipset, though auto-detection of graphics cards is sketchy, I have to input the details myself.

Having got that in the box I installed the latest beta of Ubuntu's next release, 6.10, codenamed Edgy Eft (on account of it's cutting-edge and possibly less stable nature, as compared with 6.06 LTS, the Dapper Drake.) Following instructions on Ubuntu Forums, I installed the beta nvidia drivers and the Beryl compositing window manager. If you've not seen videos of the effects that Beryl or Compiz allow, you really should check out some videos (for example on youtube)

screenshotIt allows the desktop and any running programs to be acted on by 3D effects, real time. It takes four "virtual desktops" and makes them four faces of a cube, which you can spin around to access programs running on the other screens. It gives new minimize, maximize, close animations. When a window is moved it jiggles about like it was made of jelly. Beyond this, more effects are being actively worked on, so more exciting things are yet to come.

For the first time in months I feel excited by the new things I can do on my PC (even when it breaks!) I've taken it in to show pupils and other teachers at school and some of them like it enough to look at linux and have a go themselves!

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