Books: Pratchett

If you’ve never read any of Terry Pratchett’s books, then I can say without a doubt that no author comes more highly recommended. As clever as he is witty, always enjoyable books which are so easy to read that they make reading other books seem difficult. The Going Postal book was very enjoyable to be, since it seems to chronicle the Unix saga, BSD and Gnu.

So I’m giving today’s post up to celebrate his wonderful works and to point those who may not have yet read Going Postal to this interesting anthropomorphic comic of the first part of the book, there are about 17 pages and they will give you a very good taste of the book.

And don’t forget that the new book “Nation” is out , and I can’t wait to see what kind of a story it is.

Ubuntu Learning: Sys-Admin Topics

I need your help, yes you, the experienced systems administrator, the helpful Ubuntu guy who knows how to use the command line and you the girl who knows every trick in the man page. I need you guys to go over to the Ubuntu wiki Learning Systems Administration page and help up build a list of essential topics to cover when we build these new Ubuntu Community courses. I’ve seeded some topics I think will be useful, but you don’t want to trust me, I’m a programmer, what do I know about systems administration?

I know you guys love to have input, and this is dead easy, just edit the bullet points and suggest what topics you’d love covered. Add links to useful website that you think will cover the topic or will provide materials for it. Or in the case of background topics, sites that will explain the concepts.

A few weeks ago I asked for help because I wanted to make a sys-admin course for my local community centers, where people were going to need to know how to manage Ubuntu computer labs. Well now that we have an official community learning group which is in the seedling faze (getting together all the resources) I figured during this process I’d try to see if members of the ubuntu community can lend me their brains. Once the topics are compiled then we can decided what topics need to be turned into moodle lessons and then those who are ultra helpful will help create and edit those materials and courses.

Please get involved in course creation, eduction is a highly leverageable activity. One where your help here could help thousands of people by teaching others, who then teach others and so on. Anyone who’s good with graphics, writing, copy editing or any of those not-typical Ubuntu Techy skill sets will be highly prized.

Sane: New Epson Scanner

This blog entry describes how to get Epson Scanners working in Ubuntu, continue through to my rambling story below… Run these commands in a command line, go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal and then copy and paste hit enter and then restart your machine when it’s finished.

sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/doctormo-epson-scanners.list & sudo apt-key adv –keyserver –recv-keys 113659DF & sudo apt-get update & sudo apt-get install iscan iscan-plugins

This is what those commands are doing:

  1. Installing my Epson PPA
  2. Adding my PPA Signing Key (113659DF) to say you trust my packages.
  3. Getting a new list of packages, updating.
  4. Installing iscan and iscan-plugins packages.

I finally managed to get myself a scanner that functions under Ubuntu, although not without some trial and error. The initial scanner I acquired was a Visioneer OneTouch 9520 (which is going back tomorrow). This scanner didn’t work in any material way based as it is on the gl843 chipset and there may or may not be somebody working on making it work in sane.

Scanned Photo: Martin Cooking

So I went out and got myself an Epson Perfection v500 Photo, didn’t work when I plugged that in either. I was about to give up hope when a search of the internet revealed that it worked because of a proprietary driver directly from Epson/Avasys.

So not content with being proprietary, the linux parts required to install the downloads from Avasys are missing in Ubuntu, iscan (LGPL) isn’t installable because of missing dependencies and none of the plugins are installable without iscan. They’re also heavily Debian based, even the pre-install scripts assume sh is bash and cause problems.

So for both of these I rebuilt them all and put them on my Epson PPA for Ubuntu Users. Hopefully some poor soul with an Epson Scanner will find these useful. To install them add my PPA to your repositories and install iscan and iscan-plugins using apt-get install.

Now there are two notes, firstly I had to add a HAL fdi file to order to set the permissions correctly (an idea which is starting to make me wonder about HAL’s setup) and the SANE project’s apparent ugliness and out of date website and hardware lists (although it also seems under-maintained for a project of it’s importance).

Scanning under Ubuntu is yet another thing that needs attention of a dedicated developer to sort out, but for which we just don’t have enough resources to do anything other that the odd enlightened self interested or arch packaging (I believe iscan should be ready to roll in Karmic).

Speʃal Fonetik Powst

Node: This isn’t using standard IPA, this is a post comprised of English variant soft sounds and a couple of borrowed sounds just to make this fun.

Ay hav xalenjd may self tuw kriyeyt a blog powst witx ownly yiwsiz beysik sawnds, mowstliy it wil biy vawl sawnds witx wil xeynj biykos ov θu greyt vawl ʃift in jurmanik langwixis.

θis wil awlso biy difikult for piypul huw hav a difrent dayalekt from miy sinc ay hav a difrent aksent from uθe piypul. It is awlso very laykley θat ay wil meyk meny erors, and iyven θen θur wil biy unriydabul bay eny won huw is eny gud at Ingliʃ.

Olθow, θis is a yuwcful breyn test, sinc may maynd has biyn klawded wiθ speling ruwls witx siym tuw konflikt wiθ iyx uθur and θis is ay θink won ov θur problems θat ay hav wiθ disleksiyer wur ay kan not disayd betwiyn won konvoluwted ruwl and anuθer.

θis siyms layk it wud iyfect enywon huw has a mur ruwl beyst aprowx tuw θinking.

Ubuntu: Jaunty isn't Pretty

Now that I’ve been using Jaunty for a while (netbook and laptop) I have to say, I’m not impressed with the new login theme, background or upslash graphics. I feel like my computer’s gone all red and demon like, but colour is a matter of subjective opinion so I’m willing to admit this entire post is nothing more than my opinion on colour.

What ever happened to orange and brown? I like orange and brown. When done right it can been soothing and food like and there is I read a link between stress and colour, especially in high stress fields where a person is on a computer all day. Someone did point out below that there are cultural connections for colours, although I’m more interested in the biological ones.

Red isn’t good for mood, green is a much better for your mood, relaxing like a forest without tigers. Blue seems refreshing and browns seem earthy and productive. Orange and yellow remind me of food.

So what’s the deal? Well there is a move towards high contrast designs, black colours and all very gothic colours. I’m sure this is a move towards showing off on newer high contrast displays and perhaps a new colour theme is more appropriate for the majority of users.

I know there are loads of artists and designers in the community, hopefully you guys can come and tell me what a load of tosh I’m talking about. But for now I’ll hopefully have my upsplash changed… although on my laptop I already had a nice blue gdm theme and brown gnome theme in place. Only my netbook needs updating now.

Massachusetts: Jaunty Release Party

Last night was our release party, organised by leftyfb (Mike Rushton) and hosted at the Globe Bar and Grill in Boston.

As usual we saw many faces that we don’t see at other events, socialites and canonical employees. And although this event wasn’t as big as our Intrepid or Hardy parties, there was still much good time to be had and lots of discussions and trials of the new version.

There was cake (very important), delightful chocolate dipped strawberries that all looked like little rabbits with horns (thanks Sara), sandwiches and cheese nibbles. There was also plenty of swag, with the Canonical guys brining some lovely stickers, buttons, mouse pads and other things. Mike got some 9.04 disks printed off so we could give them out and we even had that little LED sign welcoming people to the party 🙂

Thanks to all that came, and all those who helped set up and organise various things. Hopefully our next party for Karmic will be organised more in advanced so we can get a good press release out.

The Kind You Don't Bring Home to Mother

Time for another comic recommendation/review.

I’ve been following the exploits of Ryan Estrada for some time, his witty comics and very crisp and well draw graphics have kept me coming back for updates for awhile now. Check out Frank and all the internet memes…

Today’s review is about “The Kind You Don’t Bring Home to Mother“, a new comic posted to Zuda comics in the hope I think of professional publication. Please go and read it if you’ve not yet and give him your support in the voting process if you like his work. Check out the other contestants too while your there.

The story is about the acceptance of multi racial relationships, told through the world of a female werewolf1 being brought to meet the parents of her normal human2 boy friend.
It’s a delightful tale with an interesting narrative, touching on aspects of the modern world, where all cultures touch all other cultures and all world views turn out to be not so different. The only comparison I can make is with the relationship between Captain Carrot of the Ankh-Morpork city watch and Angua von Überwald in the popular Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. In those stories there is much conflict between the ways of the hunted and the hunters, there is also a lot given to the notion that interbreeding in past generations between humans and werewolves causes undesirable offspring who can not change from one form to the other. Although I don’t think Ryan’s story is going to go as deep or as dark as some parts of the Discworld story, I’m curious to see if he’ll touch on some of the same cultural and social clashes as well as some of the more interesting problems with how a creature is able to shift from one form to another.

The graphics are as usual superb, you couldn’t ask for more from any comic. Well formed and shaped characters, bold lines and colours and detailed backgrounds. The attention to detail serves the story well and the style of drawing is fitting for the kind of story being told.

I’m yet again impressed by the work of Ryan Estrada, again I find myself hungry for more story. Hopefully if this story is chosen there will be many more pages to look forward to. I won’t spoil the ending, but go super hearing senses! 5 Stars.

1 Werewolf is lit. Man-Wolf, so she would be a wifwolf Woman-Wolf. see Old English.
2 One assumes he’s human.

Ubuntu: Sound, An Issue of Information

There was a recent upgrade of Savage2 that moved the default sound system from oss to alsa… suddenly my computer wouldn’t play sound any more for this game. Turns out I didn’t have my computer set up quite right, it was loading oss module which when removed allowed Alsa to function correctly.

But this brought up an interesting point which I’d like to share today. Sometimes making things easy is not just able large big buttons with simple text and reducing the number of possible options. Sometimes it’s about increasing the relevance of the information and the way it’s formatted to aid in recognition.

This panel is taken from the Sound settings in Ubuntu 8.10:

Notice how in each drop down list there is a number of different classes of items to choose from. If I was to think about this rationally, I wouldn’t be quite sure what the drop down was asking me to choose. Is it asking me what sound system I want to use? Is it asking me which hardware to use or is it asking me which sound output/input on any device to use?

This is how I would lay it out, but it does require some modifications to HAL/DeviceKit to recognise internal hardware via a pci bus, dmidecode comparison (assuming the PCI Interrupt Routing table):

  • Internal Laptop Soundcard
  • USB Headphones Set (C-Media)
  • Test Sound
  • Disable

And if there is still a need to select the sound server, making it a separate list at the top of the dialogue box would work. Rarely do you ever need to set one output to Alsa and another one to OSS. Now with the above list I’d also add some icons, a little pci card and headphones icon, a bell icon and a warning triangle just to reaffirm what those things meant.

Now I’d be more confident of letting my granny play with the sound preferences.