Tag Archives: ubuntu

Well, Shoot.

Since I primarily use a Linux operating system on my computer(s), finding alternatives to popular Windows or Mac software can occasionally be difficult.  For cataloging, organizing, and editing photos, the common Windows players are Adobe products — Lightroom and Photoshop.  In Ubuntu, I used Shotwell for a quite a while, then about 2+ years ago, switched over to DigiKam.

When I recently built a new desktop machine and started running Fedora as my OS, the version of DigiKam in the repos was 3.5 (I had been running version 4).  The switch prompted me to look at Shotwell (the default photo manager for Gnome 3) again.  Like I said, it’s been a couple years, so even though the Fedora 20 repos aren’t up to the latest version of Shotwell, version 0.15.1 constitutes an upgrade from what I was last using.

I started with a (mostly) clean /home directory when I installed Fedora, so I needed to rebuild my Shotwell database completely. I was impressed that this version correctly pulled in all the meta tags and organized my photos into “Events” by date, making them a bit easier to sift through and work with. In the past, the software had trouble with certain cameras or images (particularly those that I had scanned). I haven’t looked through all 23 thousand pictures, but a glance through the last couple years appears to have sorted everything correctly. I also don’t have a folder labeled “Dec 31 1970,” which appeared to the be default applied to those images that made Shotwell throw its hands up in the past.

I haven’t tested all the plugins for web services yet, but it at least offers options for all the popular ones. I want to test out the Flickr plugin for sure, since all accounts come with a terabyte of storage — that means Flickr could be my web-based backup for all my pictures…

It’s probably at least partially a byproduct of the hardware upgrades that I’ve done with this machine (16 gigs of RAM, all SATA-3 SSD drives), but I found that the “helper” apps for editing images loaded up much more quickly than I remember. That gives Shotwell the benefit of being the place you “live” with your photos, while the other programs (like GIMP, RawTherapee, DarkTable) almost function as extensions.

Looks like I’m sold on Shotwell again for the time being.

How Much Weight Can Clouds Hold?

I have been running my computers primarily on an Ubuntu system since Sept 2006.  Over time, through a lot of tinkering and experimenting, I have generally “gunked up” my laptop installation.  With the next Long-Term Service release of Ubuntu now in beta, with the final release due later this month, I decided that the new version will be a good point for a complete format-and-reinstall on that machine.

So if you’re going to roll with that sort of program, you have to do a lot of backing up.  My /home folders are all due for a sound cleaning out; a bigger project than one might realize.  Lifehacker coincidentally had a post late in March that I begrudgingly took to heart (get rid of your ‘Miscellaneous’ filing category) as I set upon this task.  I have always had trouble locating anything on my computers without at least a halfway-decent organizational structure, so a lot of what I need to do is just clean up stuff that’s been straggling, maybe add some new categories here or there.

When I checked out what I have on my server, there are lots of folders that are just going to be huge by nature–Movies, TV, Music, Photos, setup files–all are major data hogs.  I can’t and don’t expect to pare those down much.  After you isolate those big swaths of info, though, what I have left isn’t taking up much room at all– for me, it was just barely over 4 gigs.  This is the area I can attack.

I’m using the free version of Dropbox for a variety of things: it’s an easy way to stash small files (word processing docs, spreadsheets, PDFs, maybe photos) that you’re planning to use in multiple places.  I have a folder for “employment” documents, for example (resumes, cover letters, reference lists), that saves me from worrying if I remembered to grab something that I need before I left the house.  Also, it’s tons smoother than logging in to the server at work for those occasions that I’m working remotely.  Lists that I frequently need all have their place in the Dropbox1

Between the 2 gigs that I can get for zero monies from Dropbox, and another 2 that are available through the Ubuntu One service (almost exactly the same thing as Dropbox), I just about have myself covered.  Why not just leave all this backup stress behind and toss my non-media data into the cloud?  *sigh*  Well, there are a few things:

  • First, and obviously, one 2-gig service isn’t going to give me enough space.  I’d be spreading myself out on multiple services, and that sort of negates the inherent efficiency of moving in this direction.  Do I value the convenience enough to pay a hundred bucks a year (the going Dropbox rate) for 50 GB?
  • Also, we’ve got your typical cloud-pushing paranoia.  “Can I trust someone else to secure my data?”  “I’ve never seen where this data is physically located,” etc., etc., etc.  I have to say I’m starting to get over this one (these services all appropriately tout their security features), but it’s going to take time.
  • Any technical limitations that I wouldn’t have with everything being stored “locally”?  Doesn’t seem like it, but in my experience, you need some thorough real-world testing to know for sure.

I guess the toughest pill for me to swallow right now is the 100 bucks.  You want me to plunk down a fairly significant wad of cash for 25 times more storage.  What I would really prefer is slightly more storage (say, 20 or 25 gigs) at half the annual price.  That would make it easier for me.

But either way, make no mistake – as we link our digital lives to more and more devices, seamless interoperability and access across multiple platforms becomes more and more important.  I don’t know for sure if I’m ready to completely leap into cloud-based storage, but I’m going to have to think long and hard about it2, and this probably won’t be the last time.

  1. Did I mention that I don’t need to sweat having one of *my* computers, with the client installed, immediately available, either?  Because there’s a web interface.  Pretty nice. []
  2. That’s what she said. []

Since You Didn't Ask:

Thought I would share some commentary on a few salient topics of the day…

  1. I didn’t say that I liked the iPad, or that I thought it was cool, or that I wanted one.  I said that I think it will sell.  Granted, Apple is trying to carve out what I think is a pretty narrow niche in this handheld Internet device market, but for all the geeks I’ve talked to that can’t imagine how they would possibly use it or why they would want one, there are 2 or more parents that I think could.
  2. I think cutting off funding for NASA’s Constellation program is stupid.  Trying to encourage more funding in space exploration from private companies is one thing, but effectively giving up on a US presence in the future of humanity in outer space is another.  While we’re at it, let’s graduate a few thousand more physicists, chemists, engineers, and other scientists from overseas at OUR universities, then send them back home.  We obviously won’t need them to work at Starbucks or drive a bus or answer phones in a call center.  Those are them nice American jobs.
  3. On the other hand, at least there are some thoughts and ideas coming out of the White House this week after that State of the Union enema.
  4. I have been frustrated with the samba client and network manager on Ubuntu for long enough.  I finally found a fix that works for me (for now).
  5. After taking a stroll around our local Best Buy store, I’m realizing that a TV is one purchase decision that’s awfully hard to make exclusively on the Internet, no matter how hard I try.  You really have to see the screen, compare the sizes with your eye, and test drive them a little bit.  It also makes you antsy for one when you come back home to your 27″ CRT.

Other than that, had a straight-up weekend.  We went to Milwaukee on Friday evening for Tina’s birthday and had a nice time at Water Street Brewery & The Harp.  Saturday we stayed in, and Sunday was for housework.  Got the Super Bowl coming up next weekend, but I’m not sure it’s going to play too huge in these parts.  I am interested, but not riveted.  Speaking of the Super Bowl and TVs– have you noted the marketing blitz around this football game that all your electronics vendors are pushing?  Is it worse than ever, or have I not noticed it in the past?

New Lappy Setup

This is another in my series of “posts of reference for my future self about computer crap,” so be advised.

So I got my new laptop from the UPS man yesterday. Since I’ve become sort of a hardcore Linux man, I am wiping the hard drive before I use it. I called Lenovo customer service first, and asked about obtaining a refund for the Windows license. I ran out of patience with that process really quickly. I sent them an email instead, and we’ll see what happens. More to come on that front (or not).

After not accepting the software license(s), the next thing I did was boot into SystemRescueCD from my USB drive so I could run GParted and wipe the hard drive.  I found out that the “rescue” partition took up an ungodly THIRTY GIGS of that hard drive.  I mean, this is a 320-gig drive, so you actually have about 290 to work with to start, and then after that rescue partition, you’ve got somewhere between 250 and 260 to go.  Quite a difference.  It was nice to (A) wipe out those unneeded partitions, and (B) know that I’m good enough with these machines now that I DON’T need them.

The Windows 7 release candidate just came out, so I thought it might be worth it to test an install of THAT OS on the new laptop, since I have the space for it, and I’m sort of curious.  I installed Windows first, because when I add Ubuntu, it’s going to very polite about the boot loader (adding more options, not over-writing), where Windows is usually a dick.

I was thinking of taking Joe’s advice and setting up encryption with Ubuntu to protect my data in case of loss/theft.  I even found a nice guide on how to do multiple partitions inside an encypted volume.  However, since I am restoring my /home partition from my old machine, I don’t believe encrypting will be possible.  Maybe next time I do a total reinstallation (but I don’t know when that will be).  And I don’t believe I would be able to dual-boot with that setup, either…

When I booted up the Ubuntu installation disc, I was pretty stoked about how nice it looked immediately (without any extraneous drivers), and quickly set up the drive to partition the way I like.  From the time I clicked the “INSTALL” button, it took about 15 minutes to be ready to boot into Linux.

So with my OS of choice ready to go, I was all set to restore the /home partition.  This is the part that took longest.  I had the data backed up to my server, so transferring it all over the network was going to take some time.  And I needed to copy over 32 gigs.

I will need to pick up a small bluetooth adapter for the laptop.  I found a bluetooth adapter on NewEgg that apparently works with Ubuntu pretty well.  The other nice part is that it’s small enough that you can just leave it plugged in forever and forget about it.  There are still two more USB ports on the other side, so that should be plenty.  I’m also going to have to reinstall a bunch of extra software that doesn’t get included by default, but that’s not too tough with APT.

Pretty smooth overall, all things considered.

Another Little Linux Project

In case you didn’t infer it from the title of this post, there is some serious geekery ahead.  You’ve been warned…

So last night, just before I went to sleep, I fired up the laptop to do whip out a little blog post for Friday, and in the midst of doing that, the system just totally froze up.  Like, it came to a screeching halt.  And when I tried to reboot later, I had a system that would power on, but not actually boot or do anything useful.  I did just a little troubleshooting, and I figured out that that problem lay somewhere besides the hard drive.  That was good and bad.  Good that I still have that data, bad that I now have no way of accessing it (for the time being).

So, during the day today, I spent a little time shopping around the internets for new laptops.  Wanted to get the lay of the land and figure out what could be had at what price.  I have recently been thinking about a netbook for later in 2009, but without a reliable, “full-size” laptop to fall back on, I’m just not sure.  I looked at the offerings from Dell, Lenovo, and HP, and I decided that if I am getting a new one, I should probably go ahead and get something with a 64-bit processor.  I’d like a new machine to last a while.

This got me into researching the advantages and drawbacks of 64-bit Ubuntu.  There’s a thread in the forums there where they’ve been discussing it for about 2 years now, but the good news is that at this point, there don’t seem to be any serious shortcomings at all; in the early 64-bit days, there wasn’t enough software that worked on those processors, but this is no longer an issue.

So, blah-blah-blah, reading-reading-reading, and I realize, “hey– I think my desktop machine, although not a dual-core, could run a 64-bit OS…”  Kept hunting about on the ‘tubes, and ultimately found that, yes: my P4 HT processor can do it.  What with Ubuntu 9.04 hitting the web just a couple days ago, this seems like a reasonable time to give it a try.  I had been planning on waiting for the bugs to settle out of the new version, but I figure if I’m going to make a big change like this and do a clean install, I might as well go for broke.

I do continue to keep /home on its own partition, so I never lose my personal data, program settings, etc., but I will need to reinstall all my software.  I found an easy way to do that, but with the switchover from 32- to 64-bit, there will probably be plenty of packages in that list that I can’t use anymore.  I’m hoping that the ones that won’t work will simply error out in apt.  One thing that I imagine will actually work BETTER with a 64-bit OS is the video card support– I am running the server kernel on my desktop machine at present, in order to take advantage of the 5 gigs of RAM I have installed in this 32-bit environment.  I had to do a bit of dicking around to get the nVidia drivers to work appropriately with this kernel (the standard one was easy).

Well, my disc image will be done downloading in a few seconds, so I’ll be back to report to myself here on how it went…

Notes For Myself About Changing Server Hardware

Sorry this won’t be very interesting to most of my regular readers, but I find the blog to be a good place to deposit notes about my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experiences my server and generally learning about Linux, too.  So, you’ve been warned…

I was able to image over my server partitions without any problems.  Two things that I initially forgot to consider:
• I need a boot loader in the MBR on the new drive
• Since I was switching from an IDE to SATA interface, my fstab was all messed up on the other side– even trying to boot the system with a boot disc didn’t work, because fstab was looking to mount a device that didn’t exist anymore (I believe that if I had just moved over to a new IDE drive, this wouldn’t have happened, so long as the partitions were named the same way).
I tried to use nano to edit fstab from the command line right on the Slackware box.  That didn’t work, because the file I was trying to edit was on a read-only filesystem.  Rather than dick around with learning new commands, I will try tried to boot into an Ubuntu live environment, mount the root partition on the hard disc, edit the file with gedit, and then attempt to reboot with the Slackware disc.  THAT WORKED.

After that, I booted from the Slackware install disc and skipped through everything other than reinstalling LILO.  I made a “boot USB stick,” too, but I think that might have actually screwed up the MBR in a different way; now I can boot from the hard drive, but I need to actively be there to choose Linux (rather than Windows ???) as the system to start.  Might try installing again, this time without making a USB booter.

It's All On the Googles, Man.

I should know better by now: every idea or thought worth having has probably been had already, and indexed by Google.

I have periodically ruminated at my desk in the afternoons, “Hmm, it sure would be nice to scrobble my Pandora listening to last.fm,” but I never bothered to do anything about it.  One quick G-search for “scrobble pandora list to last.fm” turned up this post about one’s options for marrying the two services.  Who knew?  Apparently, this Ted chap in Columbus did, and almost two years ago at that, but hey… *shrug*

I am trying out the OpenPandora app on my computer @ work (seein as it runs Windows), but will probably give a shot to PandoraFM at home on Ubuntu. **Some edits: well, I guess info on the Internet gets old, too.  Seems that I got a little excited too quickly on this one; can’t get OpenPandora OR PandoraFM to scrobble a frakkin thing.  I found some other leads, though, including a Firefox extension that I’ll try out.  Will update as appropriate. Might be an interesting way for people who don’t have a huge music collection or minute-to-minute access to it to start scrobbling

Carry on, my wayward son; have a good weekend.

Windows 7 & the Growth of Linux

Lifehacker had a post on this topic today.  It’s a relatively geeky group that follows that blog, so the comment traffic was understandably dense and heated.  I haven’t had a chance to read through all the commentary, but it raised an interesting thought for me, as I now consider myself an experienced Ubuntu user, and I’m also participating in the Windows 7 beta…

There seems to be some effort on the part of Microsoft to shore up several of their OS’s shortcomings over the last 10 years or so with this newest release.  A few of the features that are being added and more development going in to certain aspects of the software that have been lacking is a big step in the right direction.

I was brought back to the reason I actively switched over to Ubuntu, though: in Linux land, you are a participant in a community of users and developers sharing ideas and helping each other make things work (if I sound like some goddamned hippie socialist, stay tuned…).  With Windows, you pretty much always have (and probably always will) had an easier out-of-the-box experience, and considering the market share that the operating system commands in the developed world, there’s no reason to think that will change any time soon.

However, there are certain ways that even paying customers are made to feel like they’re being punished in Windows (DRM and Genuine Windows validation are my favorites), and that’s not the case for Linux.  I switched because I don’t want to pay a license fee for a piece of software I can get by without.  That is the MARKET working at its best, Commies!  The growth of computing in the developing/third world during this century is one way that I could see Linux “winning” in the long run.  If Microsoft fails at either marketing themselves in these developing areas, or if their product simply proves to be too costly, Linux will eat up that market share, and quickly.

But even then, what is “winning” in this context?  In my mind, the existence of multiple platforms and competing products is what leads to the best consumer experience.  Do you think there would be an Internet Explorer 7 or a Google Chrome if there hadn’t been Mozilla and Firefox?  Of course not.  Same goes for the new Windows.  Being pushed to innovation by your competitors is what American capitalism is all about.

Will a new and improved Windows OS make Linux shrivel up and go away?  Unlikely; the latter has far too passionate a group of enthusiasts working on this software because they ENJOY IT as much as any other reason.  A better and easier Windows might stifle the interest in Linux for some, but that reciprocal challenge is how software development should work.

Satisfactory

Not a bad Saturday, even if the rest of it goes to hell.

It’s a rare thing for me to set some goals of wrestling with technology and actually manage to knock them all out in less than a day.  When I got up this morning, I wanted to fix some busted plugins on the blog, maybe upgrade to WordPress 2.7, get my desktop machine with a freshly installed copy of Ubuntu 8.10 fully rokkin with all my favorite software, and also make that second display work just like anyone could expect on Windows.

Finished everything by about noon and still had plenty of time to do some prep for this evening’s podcast, AND create an “album cover” for the Last 80’s Rewind show.

Carry on, and make good on your Saturday…

Damn You, iPod. DAMN. YOU.

Michelle is in the air at the moment, probably rapidly descending into New York by now.  Last night, one of the things that she asked me to help her out with was getting access to the iTunes Music Store and her iPod itself on her computer at home.

She runs the latest version of Ubuntu, at her own request.*  I thought that this should pretty easy anyway, since she has a virtual Windows installation on there for stuff that you, well, y’know, have to have Windows for.**  I would just make sure I could get the USB rokkin on the virtual machine, install iTunes, and she’d be done and done.

That turned out to be a lot more complex than I thought it would be.  I never did manage to get USB working in VirtualBox OSE, but I’ve got it all set in my VMWare Windows machine on the laptop.  I probably spent an hour or more trying to get it fixed on her desktop.  The recent upgrade that I did complicated running the virtual machine itself, so there was a good chunk of that hour wasted right there…

Then when I moved this iTunes-installing-and-using operation over to MY laptop, there was a whole different problem of just being able to get the virtual machine to recognize that the iPod was plugged in.  It was as if Ubuntu didn’t want to completely give it up.  Finally, I managed to get that to happen, too, but I quickly managed to initiate a process of “sync”-ing the iPod, which, apparently, will go ahead and wipe everything off of it.  Which is on one hand, total bullshit, and on the other, awfully disheartening when you’ve been working on getting this damn thing to work for 3 hours.  This is not to mention to fact that the syncing process took FOREVER, given that the USB support, while present in VMWare, is merely of the version 1.1 variety (versus the standard, commonly recognized, vastly superior, HIGH-SPEED USB 2.0).

I do understand, on a basic level, why these frakkin iPods are so locked down and a pain the ass to try to work with.  I dig that you can’t use the Music Store with anything but a Mac or a Windows PC.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it.  I thought it was a profound drag that I spent so much time dicking around with this problem that I’ve never had copying mp3s over to an SD card and plugging it into my PDA, for example.

What this did make me decide I should do, though, is come up with an more effective means of using Windows on the desktop machine.  Dual-booting would be one option, but I don’t know if I’m interested in blowing the hard disk space or the partitioning effort on that.  How often do I really need to use Windows?  I think I can count all the occasions in the year on one hand.  I’ve become much more interested in scoping out this Windows-on-a-thumb-drive option.  Not only is it more complex than re-partitioning and installing Windows on the side, I’ve never done it before, so it will require quite a bit more effort.  Right up my alley, where personal computing is concerned.

I think I’ll get started on it now, since it’s relatively early and the Brewers are getting smoked once again

* – Granted, her request was not necessarily for Ubuntu, but when I set up this machine that she has right now and offered to install XP, she said, “Well, I don’t really want Windows…”  Very sexy.

** – Those would be things Netflix, TurboTax, and goddamned iTunes.