Monday, 28 January 2008

Dead Dragons & Broken Monkies

Much to my disappointment my experience of Kubuntu was sort lived and rather painful. Everything had gone very well up until the updates had finished downloading. After restarting I could no longer connect to the net with my USB modem no matter what I tried. After deciding to go back to Ubuntu I made a mistake with the uninstall and broke the monkey!

So, no way to connect to the Internet a dead dragon and a broken monkey and all on a Friday night, well to some it might sound like a great start to the evening but for me I simply turned off and left alone...

...Sunday I decided to fix this mess. Since I only had an 'Alternate CD' I had no full version of Gutsy Gibbon so with the help (and VERY considerable patience) of my partner I downloaded from a mirror site via Ubuntu. Came home. Inserted CD, commenced install...oh wait...better just verify the CD integrity. What is this? 1 file has an error. Oh joy. So back on the motorcycle and downloaded another copy from a different mirror. Guess what? Same error. So after getting the second bad MD5 Checksum I decided to do the honourable thing and went to the Ubuntu Forums for some sage advice.

Sure enough it came. Use Torrent (I used bittorrent) to download a .torrent version of the Gutsy Gibbon .iso, this would compare both files and only download/fix the corrupted portions. Sure enough it fixed the problem in a matter of seconds. One 500Kb file was ruining it for the other 695MB, damn free-riders eh?

So home. Verified the CD integrity (again) commenced install. 30mins later I was staring at Ubuntu once again. The monkey was back. Then I wrote my wvdial.conf file for my 3G HUAWEI USB Modem and connected to the world wide web the first time. Then in came all the upgrade. Less then 2 hours later my updated and tweaked Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon was as I remembered it.

...Or was it?

What is this? Sleek graphics, windows that wobble...and yes windows that explode into flames when closed

...and yes the cube!

All there, working perfectly, no jumping, no slow down, just perfect sleek compiz generated eye-candy. The monkey was back and better then ever. It seems that my fresh install of Ubuntu was better then my original upgrade. Returning all the sexy eye-candy that Feisty Fawn had given me.

So now things are better then ever. Who says a bit of eye-candy is not good for improving a relationship? In my case I could not be happier and with no hesitation I can say that this is truly the most versatile and impressive operating system out there today. So the dragon may be dead, but long live the monkey (well until April when the Heron arrives!).

Until then I stand by open source for the open minded and Ubuntu, Linux for human beings.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Chasing The Dragon

In this case the dragon being the mascot of KDE (the K Desktop Enviroment). Or the gears behind Kubuntu. One of the official Ubuntu distributions. Or as Kubuntu better explains "Kubuntu is one the variants available from the Ubuntu project. Our Kubuntu CDs are made up of Ubuntu's base plus KDE. You can get exactly the same effect by installing Ubuntu Desktop and adding the KDE packages (and removing the Gnome packages) from the Ubuntu archives".

I originally gave this flavour a taste a few weeks after originally moving to Ubuntu in June 07. Now at the time I was still very fresh to linux and the whole Ubuntu environment and way of doing things. Essentially constantly battling with some weed called 'root' that would not let me do anything. So when I gave Kubuntu a try and could not even connect to the net I quickly went back to Gnome and signed a peace treaty with root.

After 6 months of Ubuntu and armed with a bit more knowledge I am facing Kubuntu again and today I went into Synaptic and selected 'kubuntu-desktop'. The download went flawlessly. At the end I was asked to choose 'kdm' or 'gdm', always loving to try something new I selected 'kdm' and then restarted my laptop. Watching the new ice cool blue Kubuntu splash screen I looked forward to playing with this alternative Ubuntu distro.

So I was faced with the new 'kdm' login screen. Entered my details and...wait a second...nothing has changed. What the F$@K? Oh, Ubuntu will always start in the last session settings. So log out. Back to the login page. Then select KDE from the list. What do you know, I have caught the dragon.

Initially there was a shiver as it looks similar to a previous OS that I placed in the recycle bin some time ago. But that is were similarity ends because the blue in Kubuntu desktop does not mean your system has died. Took me 10mins to sort the USB modem issue and now I have a few upgrades and tweaking to do to get this just the way I will like it. But the fact that I am here typing this shows that all has gone well up to now and time to see how everything works.

I will probably only post reporting problems, but if Ubuntu is any guide, then do not expect many posts. Time to reboot now after getting my upgrades and updates.

Ubuntu...Kubuntu, Linux for human beings.

KD Returns

After 3 appearances in 2007 between the pages of MCN (January 23rd) I return once again in 2008 with hopefully my first of many.

You should find me in the letters (or Inbox) pages with a comment along the lines of my previous posting on 'uncrashable' motorcycles. Though I have been edited slightly the meaning is still clear.

That and it is always good to see one's name in print for positive reasons.

Keep the rubber side down.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Suzuki Announces...My Next Motorcycle?

At the NEC in late November 2007 I plead guilty for not giving this latest announcement from Suzuki my full I was too swept up looking at their new Hayabusa, but now I am giving it the attention it deserves. On the 15th January 2008 Suzuki announced that the new Bandit 1250SA Grand Touring should be in show rooms in the UK within a month.

Basically they have taken the standard Bandit 1250 then added an upper and lower fairing, 3 case luggage system and a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS all for £6799! Yip, not bad at all, all that for £1500 more then the naked Bandit. Everything about it seems to make huge sense. OK, for the type of biker I am. My first (and usually only modifications) are an alarm, hard cases, crash bungs and a scottoiler.

I consider my Kawasaki ER-6F (or Ninja 650) to be the best budget all-rounder, commute, tour and fun all in one great package. So the new Bandit GT would be a perfect step up, as long as none of the other manufacturer's try to play Suzuki at their own game by offering similar packages. But this motorcycle is certainly worth more attention then I gave it originally and you never know, in 3 years time I might be going back to the manufacturer who I got my first motorcycle from all those years ago, one Suzuki Intruder 125!

Keep the rubber side down.

Where Did All The Events Go?

Well, arguably Ireland's two most popular motorcycle events are off the calendar this year.

First, British Superbikes will not be coming to Mondello this year (2008). I have not heard the full reason but I believe it has something to do with not getting a grant off the Irish tourist board. No matter the reason it is a great shame and loss. Though to compensate I am tempted to kill two birds with one stone as I may be in the UK the weekend of the Cadwell Park race (Monday 25th August).

Second, no Irish Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2008 this year either. But having refused to go to it the last two years it is no great loss, except for the general promotion of motorcycles. Well, I had been prepared to face it this year but that is no longer option. Hang on, there is another option though, February 1st - 3rd will be the Northern Ireland Motorcycle Show in Belfast (King's Hall). So looks like I will be having a nice ride up and down one day that weekend. My first trip 'abroad' with Karma.

So as they say, when one door closes another opens. The organisers of the events here in Ireland only have themselves to blame as there will always be that core who are prepared to support various motorcycle events & causes whenever they can.

Keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Uncrashable But Not Unbreakable

To those of you that read MCN you will have seen last week (Weds 9th January) the article on BMW's motorcycle that should be virtually uncrashable. Thought up by Josef Seidl the design is brilliant. Essentially creating the ultimate in rider aids. The motorcycle that should forgive you of most of your sins.

Though a few shivers did run up my spin. First the idea that this technology may make it to the racetrack. Could you imagine Valentino Rossi or James Toseland being replaced by rider's more like Steve Jobs and Mark Shuttleworth. If I want to see uncrashable motorcycles racing each other I can buy a computer game. With racing we want to see skill rule and mistakes punished. Even the current level of technology in racing is controversial and is threatened with regression. Which I can only support.

Then other issues come to mind. What of you and I, the average motorcyclist. In awe of the skill of our motorcycle hero's. It is one thing getting the replica paint schemes and gear, but actually getting on a bike in the belief that the technology will allow us to copy them. Kawasaki is one of the manufacturer's that use traction control systems in it's motorcycles, but unlike BMW, you will not see them organising press shoots and driving their machines at wild speeds over gravel. Instead they do not want to give the rider a false sense of security. For at the end of the day it is our sense of vulnerability that keeps us alive. Aids should be welcomed and indeed we should get as much if not more then our car driving companions. Yes, ABS, traction control and 'longitudinal dynamics' might stop the motorcylce from parting with the rider, but none of it will help at a junction when that car does not see you.

Another reason why this should be welcomed is in response to people like Rune Elvik who have started to call for the removal of motorcycles from the roads of Europe. Usually voices like this could be dismissed, but Mr Elvik is actually a respected road safety expert who has previously authored the "Handbook of Road Safety Measure's" and is currently a scientist at Norway's Institute of Transport Economics. While his calls for the removal of 'toys' like motorcycles, even extending to high performance & classic cars, the introduction of increased safety measures should ensure that voices like his does not herald the demise of motorcycles.

Indeed the situation for the motorist here in Europe does look dire, as we are increasingly strangled by further regulation, small minded people and having to be prepared to allow our motorcycles to control most of the ride. I find myself looking across to pond with some envy at a place where the idea of wearing a helmet is considered an infringement of one's liberty.

Keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Gone With The Wind

Below I speak about the Dakar Rally but now, returning to the fun that is the Irish winter, I am currently looking for a higher screen for Karma. The current front runner is the MRA VarioTouring Screen which will hopefully do a very good job of keeping the wind off my front on my daily 90KM commutes. The importance of tackling the wind at this time of year is usually forgotten, mostly since the number of motorcycles on the roads now usually dips significantly.

Most of us realise the key is layering our clothes. A wind-proof and waterproof (and crash-proof!) outer layer, with a synthetic layer close to your skin (as it does not soak up moisture) and then your wool/fleece layer in the middle. This should help most. While an assortment of heated gear (via air/electrical/chemical means) are available to us now.

To help put into perspective the effects of wind chill there is a useful table at the top.

Of course this is just one element of winter riding. The road conditions and dozy drivers being other major factors. But even as electronic aids continue to help us, being alert is probably the best defence we have. So being warm and fully aware of our surroundings is key.

Keep the rubber side down...

Dakar 2008...Not Now

I imagine most of you are now well aware of the news concerning this year's Dakar Rally, that being, it has been cancelled due to safety concerns.

Of course when I say safety I am not referring to the risk the participants put themselves in, no, the risk this year has come from instability in Mauritania. 4 French tourists had been murdered there recently and several of the Rally's stages were due to take place within that country. Following the organisers speaking to the French foreign ministry it was decided to call of the rally due to the risk that these groups posed.

So after 30 years the rally is cancelled, though the organisers insist that this does not put the future of the Dakar Rally at risk, "The Dakar is a symbol and nothing can destroy symbols. The cancellation of the 2008 edition does not endanger the future of the Dakar".

So now we look forward to next year and the return of one of the greatest races on earth. For more information and the official Dakar website point your browser HERE.