Archive for January, 2010

iPads and ChromeOS

Psst! Google! You better hurry up and get a beautiful, intuitive, fun, reliable, fast, and well-designed netbook running ChromeOS out before the iPad arrives. And while you’re at it, why don’t you put together an online index of Excellent WebApps that can be used on ChromeOS and will compete with the miles-ahead-of-you iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad App Store.

Because, quite frankly, I think most people would rather pay $500 for an iPad than $300 for an Internet-only netbook…unless that Internet-only netbook is stinkin’ awesome!

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The iPad…Huh?

Well, let the rumors die: Apple’s come out with a new tablet–the iPad. And I have to go on record as saying I think it’ll be about as successful as Apple’s other tablet–the Newton. Maybe a bit more, just since Apple’s so dang famous nowadays. Why? Because instead of scaling down a MacBook, they scaled up the iPhone/iPod Touch, and made this thing that lacks the portability of the latter and the power of the former. There’s no support for Flash. There’s no support for non-App Store approved applications. There’s not even a ruttin’ keyboard! Is it a great web browser? Yes. A pretty good media player? Yes. A decent ebook reader? Yes. But Apple, listen up–real people have work to do, and can’t spend their days idly watching movies and Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/Digg/Fark/StumbleUpon/MetaFilter-ing. Real people have to write emails, they have to write documents, they have to make spreadsheets, and they don’t have time for touch-screen based shenanigans. And AFAIK, the iPad doesn’t even implement the killer feature of touch screens–handwriting recognition/saving. With a stylus, not a fingernail.

So I don’t really see this taking off except as an expensive indulgence, a, to quote Charlie Brooker, “Fisher-Price activity centre for adults.”

Still–it will take off as an expensive indulgence. If people have the money, it would make sense to own a laptop and an iPad. One for work and one for play. I’m sure the boot speed is going to be impressive, and I really like the idea of being able to whip this out of a backpack (or whatever) and browse the web for half an hour in a coffee shop. Or maybe read an ebook while commuting )if I still lived in Spain and used public transportation). Or watch a TV show if I’m too lazy to get out off bed on a quiet Saturday morning. Multi-purpose machines are always better at some things than others, and owning two would let each one be used for the things it excels at*. And let’s remember this is Apple we’re talking about–they know all about making fancy, expensive stuff that can be criticized with all the logic in the world, but is just pleasant to use. So I don’t think it’s a lost cause–I just don’t think it’ll go over with the average Joe.

* Note: To be honest, I think Kindles et al. are still much better at ebooks–mainly because of the easier-on-the-eyes display, and also because of the battery.

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Lubuntu: I’m Excited

I’ve had a few encounters with Xubuntu, and I wasn’t very impressed–it’s just as fat and heavy as Ubuntu (sometimes more so)–and I like Gnome’s UX better than Xfce’s.

So I’m very excited to hear that there’s a new Ubuntu sibling: Lubuntu (also).

I’ll snag an .iso and test it out (and review it here) when I have time, but I thought I’d pass the word on for now.

Donate towards my web hosting bill!

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Using a Shared Printer in CrunchBang/Ubuntu–Is This So Hard?

Confession: For whatever reason, using the “Browse” button would should me all the workgroups and devices on the network, and crash the window when I tried to get it to show a printer. So I just used that to remind myself of the path to the printer, and typed:
MSHOME/DESKTOP/HP Photosmart c4100
into the address box.

And IIRC, it’s the exact same thing on regular Ubuntu too.

Donate towards my web hosting bill!

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Why I Love Linus Torvalds #43

http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2010/01/embroidery-gaah.html

Way to be like, “The format and device didn’t work right, so I hacked together a solution in my free time…”

And what I really respect is that he just did it. If RMS was in that situation he would’ve written several a letter of complaint to the company involved where he railed against how restrictive and restricted they are and how they need to shrug off the shackles of proprietary hardware and frolic in the leafy meadow of Software Freedom, or whatever. And then he would’ve made a webpage saying how horrible the company was, maybe with templates based on the letter he wrote that the general public could fill out and mail to companies that deserved them. I’m not making this up. At all. OK?

Moral of the story: Be a hacker, not a warmonger.

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Note to Self: Customizing Buttons in CrunchBang / Openbox

I have a plan to write a pretty in-depth post about how happy CrunchBang makes me one of these days weeks, but I want to post the following just so I don’t forget it. I also post in the hopes that it will be useful for random Googlers, but I provide no guarantees.

The Problem

The volume control buttons (Up, Down, Mute) on my Dell Latitude D610 don’t work. Also, I want to add a few more keyboard shortcuts, like having Meta-P launch a terminal with Python already running, and Meta-Q close a window (it’s easier to reach than Alt-F4).

Note: It would be pretty hard to make a grievous error with this, but it’s never a bad idea to back config files up before editing them.

The Volume Solution

Er, Google. Oh, right, I’m posting this so that that isn’t required… For the volume buttons, you need to find out what their names are. To do this, open up a terminal and run xev. Click in the black square of the window that pops up, and then press one of the buttons you need. Then, find it’s name in the terminal output. Like so:

So for this button, the name is XF86AudioRaiseVolume. Remember that  and repeat with the other ones. For me, the three names were XF86AudioRaiseVolume, XF86AudioLowerVolume, and XF86AudioMute.

Now, open up your rc.xml file in a text editor. It’s here: ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml .

Locate the section between <keyboard> and </keyboard>, and paste in the following being sure not to splice other tags:

<keybind key="XF86AudioMute">
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Master toggle</execute>
      </action>
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Headphone toggle</execute>
      </action>
    </keybind>
    <keybind key="XF86AudioRaiseVolume">
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Master 5+</execute>
      </action>
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Headphone 5+</execute>
      </action>
    </keybind>
    <keybind key="XF86AudioLowerVolume">
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Master 5-</execute>
      </action>
      <action name="Execute">
         <execute>amixer sset Headphone 5-</execute>
      </action>
    </keybind>

(Obviously if your buttons have different names, or if you want to accomplish something other than twiddling with the volume, you’ll have to edit as needed.)

The Other Solution

If you’re kind of impatient, you can just look at rc.xml and figure out how to do everything else you want. But here are a few protips:

  • Use your head: I wanted to add a new keybinding for launching an application, so I found the section with a whole bunch of other keybindings for launching applications…hard, no? It even had this nifty comment/title at the top: <!-- Keybindings for running applications -->
    Also, you probably figured out that C, A, S and W stand for Control, Alt, Shift and Meta (Windows key). And that you can chain them together with hyphens.
  • Copy and paste are your friend: Copy an existing entry, change the key value of the <keybind> tag, and change all the unique parts into whatever you want.

So, for my relatively low-key example of adding binding for Python (W-p) and closing the window (W-q), I added:

<keybind key="W-q">
      <action name="Close"/>
</keybind>

<keybind key="W-p">
      <action name="Execute">
        <startupnotify>
          <enabled>true</enabled>
          <name>Python!</name>
        </startupnotify>
        <command>terminator --command=python</command>
      </action>
</keybind>

I also changed the bindings for moving windows between workspaces: editing these lines:

<keybind key="S-C-A-Left">
      <action name="SendToDesktopLeft">
        <dialog>no</dialog>
        <wrap>no</wrap>
      </action>
    </keybind>
    <keybind key="S-C-A-Right">
      <action name="SendToDesktopRight">
        <dialog>no</dialog>
        <wrap>no</wrap>
      </action>
    </keybind>
    <keybind key="S-C-A-Up">
      <action name="SendToDesktopUp">
        <dialog>no</dialog>
        <wrap>no</wrap>
      </action>
    </keybind>
    <keybind key="S-C-A-Down">
      <action name="SendToDesktopDown">
        <dialog>no</dialog>
        <wrap>no</wrap>
      </action>
    </keybind>

Then just save rc.xml, and restart Openbox.

Again, this really isn’t that hard, but I’d rather trust my writing than my memory.

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Using Vim for Python

In the Worth Passing On department, this article explains how to set up tab-completion (which I don’t use, but you might), syntax highlighting and execution (as in: pressing F5 and having the program run) in Vim for Python.

VIM as a Python IDE

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