Saturday, 26 July 2008

Hello Hardy Heron

How appropriate this is, approximately one year after making the leap to Ubuntu I find myself finally upgrading to the latest release, 8.04 LTS Hardy Heron. This has been much applauded by many as being the best and essentially simplest version of Ubuntu to use and install. Many of the features within it will be familiar to users like myself who lived through Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon.

I did not realise it at the time, but I made the jump into the bleeding edge end of Linux. You see, the last LTS (or Long Term Support) version of Ubuntu was 6.06 LTS Dapper Drake with support ending in June 2009 for desktops and June 2011 for servers. Everything after that was essentially a testing ground for the latest features and technology long before other non-free operating systems had put them to use. So the fact that I made the switch and managed to survive says much about how far Linux has come. No longer is it just command lines and the terminal. Virtually the entire install process now is done via 'point & click' with the user only having to resort to the command line for very unique problems.

In my case it was the USB modem I use to dial up to the internet. This of course was a major issue, but a weekend of googling and asking questions in the Ubuntu forums soon had every question answered. In fact it was as simple as 'cut & paste'. Which worked successfully after wrestling with root...since then myself and root have grown closer, I know what sweet nothings to type into terminal and it usually obliges if I sugar coat it enough.

So enough with the past, what about the future? Well I have eventually upgraded to Hardy Heron, the fault prevented one from booting up into Hardy unless you resorted to playing with Grub. This problem has been finally fixed by the computer genius's that give their free time to solving the various bugs that pop up at launchpad. Now here is a brief explanation of how I finally got to upgrade...note that this problem afflicted only certain laptops and the vast majority simply inserted the CD and said “hello” to Hardy Heron.

First I took the Canonical supplied (for free) Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition CD-ROM. I inserted this into my CD-ROM drive and booted up the laptop. Once you get to the screen that asks you what you want to do (Install...test...etc.), I hit 'F6' for other options. The line of code that appeared then at the bottom of the screen I simply deleted the word 'quiet' and pressed enter. The laptop then booted as normal into the Live CD environment.

Once fully loaded I double clicked the install icon and went through the process of installing Ubuntu. Now I partition my hard drive manually since I have a separate partition for my 'Home'. This means every time I do a fresh install of Ubuntu I do not lose any of my settings or files. Of course I keep a back-up just in case for good measure, but this makes upgrading much simpler. So my 3 partitions are basically:

sda1 ext3 / 15GB
sda2 ext3 /home 80GB
sda3 swap 3GB

This is just how I do things, some partition to many more and different sizes, others want to dual-boot with another OS, others may want to just let Ubuntu sort it all out for them and so on! Just go with what you are comfortable with. After that I finished up and installed.

Now for the most difficult bit (really easy though).

When the laptop restarted and the screen came up saying to press 'ESC' for other options I pressed 'ESC'. Not doing so would leave me with the original problem of the laptop freezing during boot. Now this brings you to a screen with a few options. In my case it was very straight forward.

1 – Scroll down to the 'quiet' and press the letter 'd'. This is now deleted.

2 – Scroll up to the kernel and press 'e' to edit. Move along the line and delete the word 'quiet' using the 'delete' or 'backspace' keys. Then press 'enter'.

3 – Press the 'b' key to boot.

(Note that these alterations are one time only. Next time one boots you would have to do it all again or not at all depending on how things work out.)

Now Ubuntu 8.04 booted up! This was indeed a great sight to see after waiting for so long, though it looked just as I left it since my home directory was successfully accessed meaning everything was more or less as it was with Gutsy Gibbon and now I just had to connect to the internet. Then went to 'System – Administration – Software Sources'. Within this I made sure I was connected to the main server and the most important part was ensuring that I had selected the 'hardy-proposed' repos for the updates. After reloading the repos I found that I had some 250 updates (approx 248MB worth) so began the process of updating the system. After which would come the moment of truth...restarting the system and seeing if the latest proposed kernel solved my woe's.

After a few seconds the laptop came back to life, the grub option came and went followed by the Ubuntu loading progress bar! It had worked and I am typing this now under the freshly installed and 100% functioning Hardy Heron. It may have taken months to get here but It was worth the wait. Hardy Heron looks and feels much like the Gutsy Gibbon, just more refined a few more useful features. That is exactly the point though, this is all about stability and predictability for desktops until April 2011 and servers until 2013. Everything just works and now I begin the process of refining this further with my favorite open source applications.

A huge thank you goes out to all those who give up their free time to make open source software work, even those who help out in the forums. As long as people with questions can go to places were others were in the exact same boat then that is an environment that will be rewarding to all that take part. I look forward to maintaining Hardy on this laptop as the backbone of my computing experiences, I have other machines that I will allow to get bloodied by Ibex and its successors and just in case you forgot, all this is free!

Ubuntu...Linux for human beings.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

That Time of Year

People are running around, making their lists and checking them twice! Shaking our heads at which manufacturers have been naughty and nice...yes, over the next few weeks/months we will be treated to the 2009 model line-ups from the various motorcycle manufacturers.

To give you an idea of what is in store here is a taster thanks to the excellent journalists at MCN:

Triumph 2009 Range

Buell 2009 Range

Harley Davidson 2009 Range

From the above we see that Triumphs worse kept secret (Thunderbird 1600 Cruiser) has been officially launched, H-D are offering a Trike version of their Ultra Glide, while Buell is offering a cafe racer version of last years 1125R.

With the European motorcycle show season kicking off at the end of summer we will get to see all the other official announcements and new model roll outs with all the associated PR machinary. These pictures just serve to wet the appetite until I get to the NEC Motorcycle & Scooter Show 2008 in Birmingham, UK...November can not come quickly enough!

On the plus side my new ride, the Buell Ulysses XB12XT has not had any major improvements other then a tweaked version of the belt on the entire Buell range. Which reminds me, my first service will be this week followed by a quick tour around the Irish coast so expect my first post on owning/living with the Buell in the near future. At the moment there is nothing I want to change, it is such a complete package, well except for a pair of Motolights, then maybe... ;-)

Keep the rubber side down!

Friday, 18 July 2008

A Letter To President Sarkozy

Dear Mr Sarkozy,

You are due here on the 21st of July, so let me say welcome to Ireland, the current speed bump in your plans to ensure that a more cost effective, democratically redundant, easier access to EU customers & militarily integrated European experiment. So the NO vote on Lisbon has created a few waves I imagine as you take over the EU rolling presidency, I am sure you would have preferred to take the helm of this grand ship and navigate her into a bright new future...but I guess we have been the iceberg to your Titanic.

I notice you are calling for a second vote in Ireland on the treaty, because with us being such a minority within the EU why should what we have to say rock the boat for the rest of you? The Lisbon Treaty has ensured that us small fry have little say on how things are done in the future with States being left out of the new system for up to 5 years. Of course you have worked in enough small print to ensure the larger members continue to be there on an effectively permanent basis, I guess much like the UN Security Council. Maybe not the best model for any system due to its inherent weakness, but I guess you believe that the majority know what is best for the rest of us? How American of you, big is better.

Yes, this little thing democracy has gone and messed things up. We see how some countries have upper & lower houses, one based on population then other on equal representation. One would think this is a good idea, to ensure that everyone has their say and that minorities are not overtaken by popularlist agendas. Yet with your recent calls for setting up a Mediterranean Union one is left scratching their head at what your ideas about democracy. You wish to set up a new European alliance, with EU funding, but with very limited membership by EU states (silent/observer status) yet include some very questionable regimes from around the Mediterranean. For someone who wants a more integrated EU this seems to be a novel way of going in the opposite direction. Divide & conquer comes to mind or maybe just a child throwing their toys out of the pram?

For years the UK was the problem state of the EU, always the outside causing trouble. Since the expansion to 27 states states like Poland have been equally subversive to the French centered European model, now with the prospect of Turkey joining and obviously becoming a very substantial player within the EU one can understand why you are shaking your head, this is not what you had in mind when you wanted to turn the Economic Community into something more 'cultured'.

Your ambitions of global military dominance also seems to be taking on water. First question should be why do we need a European army? Yes, it would make things cheaper like how you said just last month that you want to rent one of the UK's aircraft carriers, indeed a novel capitalist approach. Since your armed forces are so cash strapped that in this years equivalent to a defence white paper you have slashed funding and are consolidating the French armed forces. Buying just one aircraft carrier was maybe not a great idea, especially not getting the flight-deck measurements right and being unable to deploy all the aircraft it was supposed to is also a kick in the teeth.

Anyway, if all we need are defence forces then surely NATO and the combined forces of the 27 states of the EU are more then capable of fending off the obvious threat from [insert country here]. As for being able to deploy to trouble spots around the globe, why not increase your commitment to the UN peace keeping missions? Why proceed with expensive EU military integration? Think of it, every 30 man company would need an accompanying company of 27 interpretors. Europe may be a union, but this security idea is not common in any sense. France has decided to do its own thing on many fronts thus meaning you could not even launch your aircraft from the new UK carriers. Maybe this requires a bit more thought?

I welcomed your election as President as you represented a fresh & relatively youthful start for France. Yes you have had your problems and your party did poorly in the recent elections, but look at the bright side, now you have the chance to do right by Europe over the next 6 months. Europe needs France, in fact, Europe needs every single one of its members working towards a single goal. Yet if that goal is not there or not shared then maybe it is best not to push on regardless while resorting to threats and bullying tactics. United we stand and by creating division we will fall. No you may not like the option of renegotiating a new treaty, but maybe that says it all. We are all a bit tired of all the work we have to put into this experiment.

It may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate our goals and direction. There is talk of countries leaving the EMU, Italy being a prime candidate, so there are obviously major issues that need to be addressed. The European experiment should be made to work, but on Europe's terms, not on the wants of the political elites, interested parties, big business and unelected officials...since add up to the a significantly smaller number then those that voted down the Lisbon Treaty. No, lets draw the line and take the hard road, lets do what is best for the European citizenry.

Lets take a step back, take a few deep breaths and count slowly up to 10. Lets make your time in the EU presidency about building for a future together, the NO vote in Ireland was your wake up call. You know that many other countries would have voted the same way across the EU. Lets fix that before we form armies to take our common security agenda abroad. Understanding what the citizens want will do more goon then any Treaty ever could. So lets build that integrated Europe on strong foundations, not bitterness and doubt.

Who am I to say this? Just another disposal citizen of the European experiment I guess, but I sit here writing this with a cup of fair trade coffee from Africa, American peanut butter on a French baguette and Indian Bollywood soundtracks playing in the background. No, I am more then a disposal citizen of Europe, I am a citizen of this world who does not desire to live behind walls & borders but I take to heart the African proverb, "Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far"...

Kind regards,
A citizen

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Help Make Motorcycling Better

Being a motorcycle rider usually goes hand-in-hand with having a rather subdued voice when it comes to policy making and how we are treated. But now here is your chance to have your say.

First we have the annual Rider Power survey carried out by Ride magazine and the results should be available in their November issue of the magazine. If you have some time then please fill it out be CLICKING HERE, it should only take 15-20mins.

Second we have the Saferider survey. This may be more important as the results may help inform policy on what aids may become mandatory and/or optional on motorcycles in the future. Basically they want to take the technology that is now appearing in cars (hazard warning, speed warnings, active lights and so on) and apply the technology to motorcycles. OK at the moment that is not very practical, with all the sensors and equipment every motorcycle would end up looking very substantial in size. Yet this is your chance to have your say so CLICK HERE.

Personally, aspects like the hazard warning do not sound practical...imagine trying to filter through traffic? Yet aspects like the warning light for your speed I believe would be useful. You often see signs turned round in the wind...or have just been removed, maybe you are just out touring? Having a little light that lets you know if you are below/on/above the speed limit would be useful. The active lights? Well, my lights already are, they turn with the handlebars. A simple way around this would be small spotlights mounted to the fork legs. Not high-tech, but would make you more visible to oncoming traffic and let you see through bends. The lights would be aimed down at he road so could stay on all the time.

I love technology and enjoy being at the cutting edge when I can afford to do so. But I also enjoy being able to keep my own motorcycle on the road with the help of a service manual. With all the technology that they are proposing to put into motorcycles then the economics of owning a bike start becoming similar to car, with the owner only being able to give the outside a clean. Aids are great for assisting the rider, but at no stage should they be intrusive or take control away from the rider. Motorcycles will always need the rider! Even just to stay upright, to go around bends, to look ahead and know what speed to go into a corner. Cars may be able to react more aggressively thanks to the extra wheels but that is not an option for motorcycles, the technology will have to be much more refined.

Honda plans to have ABS available as an option on each motorcycle over 250cc in their range by 2010. ABS has used for decades in cars (and bikes) but it has taken that much time to refine it to such a degree that it is viable for sportsbikes from next year. To believe that more intrusive technology could be introduced quickly would be a waste of money and would cost lives.

Once again, get to have your say with the Rider Power 2008 & Saferider surveys.

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Heron Soars

Ubuntu have released the first updated release to Hardy Heron LTS, this being 8.04.1. As with the last LTS (Long Term Support) version of Ubuntu there were releases along its life to include all relevant security updates and upgrades. Basically so that once you were finished installing your brand new OS you then do not need to get 100-200MB worth of updates.

Bare in mind that over the life of Hardy Heron these will only be security updates, you will not get any of the new features included with the 6 monthly release cycle, for instance any new features that come out in Intrepid Ibex in October. The exception to this being Firefox which has been updated from the Firefox 3 Beta to the final release of Firefox 3 in 8.04.1. This may not sound great for those that want to live at the bloody end of new technology, but for those that want a stable, full-featured OS then you could not want more...and for free!

For more details the press release can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Hopefully it will not be much longer before I catch the Heron myself.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Intrepid Dates

Here are the dates for the testing & release schedule for the next release of Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex.

June 26th - Alpha 1
July 10th - Alpha 2
July 24th - Alpha 3
August 14th - Alpha 4
August 28th - Feature Freeze
September 4th - Alpha 5
September 18th - Alpha 6
September 15th - Beta Freeze
October 2nd - Beta Release
October 23rd - Release Candidate
October 30th - Final Release 8.10

Full details of the schedule can be found HERE
While and overview and links to more detailed information can be found HERE.
Also a brief review and screenshots of Intrepid Ibex Alpha 1 can be found HERE. The new darker look is funky, but these are early days and much could change.

I know...where has been my review of Hardy Heron and my fun with it? Well, it will not work on my laptop due to a bug (details here). Basically after attempting to install (via Live CD, Upgrade and so on) the system would freeze up. While turning off the ACPI feature left me with a laptop with many features not working.


The bug may now have been fixed as recent testing in Launchpad seems to indicate the problem has been solved so as soon as the update is included with the Hardy updates then I will be able to finally move over and give a complete review of the 8.04 LTS.

So with Hardy finally on its way to my laptop and Intrepid Ibex on the horizon there is much to look forward too!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Old Friends for Sale

Well Karma is gone...

I have never owned a motorcycle for such a short period & she was the first motorcycle I bought 'new'! So I better make clear that it was I that changed and not her (but could we still be friends?). Overall she is an excellent package which is very hard to find fault with. The engine is brilliant, you keep the revs in just the right range, change up/down around that 4,900rpm 'sweet-spot' and you are in for a tremendously rewarding ride.

She will forgive you most of your mistakes with usually just a brief sound of annoyance. I rode all year with her, right through the winter with snow on the ground and -4C/24F air temperature (not taking wind chill into account). I ride within my limits but when I did push her on a few occasions I found she was more then willing and able. The only time things would get funky is on roads with bad surfaces as the suspension would start to punish you.

With the hard luggage fitted, the MRA screen and baglux there would be no reason why you could not do some serious touring. OK, you might not be a Pan European putting cruising at 241km/150mph all day long but you have to admit there are not many places you could get away with that...but 130-145km/h (80-90mph) is more then possible if the conditions allow it and well within her limits.

Stripped down with maybe just the top case she is brilliant for beating the congestion. Now 9 times out of 10 I would have the hard cases but when I did not she was superb. Now the tires would not entertain the white lines with even a rain drop on them. She would just slide off them, so I tended to keep clear of anything painted on the road regardless of how dry they appeared.

Quality was very good overall. Under the fairing there were a few untidy wires but I never had a problem, we all know not to power wash our bikes anyway as it is exactly little things like that, that would have us in trouble. The only rust on her was on the Givi luggage racks were the nuts fit them together and were the cases attach to the rack. For the cost of the Givi equipment you would think they would simply coat the frame in thick plastic which would guarantee a very long life.

The bike itself was well maintained with a full service history, after every wet ride (once she was cool) I would spray on Scottoil FS365 and hose down every Sunday. These were simply little things that kept her looking fresh and effectively beat the rust. The nuts on the rear wheel spindle and nuts on the front wheel brake calliper were the only parts to go 'furry'. The fairing is a nightmare to take off though and changing a light bulb at the side of the road with just a mobile phone for light takes approx 40mins!!!

In the end I can not recommend this make and model highly enough, she is a great motorcycle that never gave me a seconds trouble. If economy would allow I certainly would not have parted company. She did everything I asked of her and knew when to say no...and I am sad to see her gone.

Hopefully she will have a long life keeping the rubber side down.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Day Dreaming Rides (But What If?)

While Karma (my Kawasaki Er-6f/Ninja 650r) was being repaired and I had the hire bike it gave me a couple of weeks to think about what if she had been written off? What would I consider as a next bike? So over the weeks I drew up a short list of what I considered to be viable options for a possible next bike, my requirements were pretty straight forward.

First, above all else, was seat height. Something sub 800mm would be perfect while Karma comes in at 790mm making her perfect. This is down to my short height and wanting to feel confident while manoeuvring at slow speed, two-up and fully loaded. Which leads to my other requirements, the bike would have to be able to carry a full 3 box luggage system (side cases & top box), be comfortable for two-up touring, weather protection from a screen and/or fairing. The engine would have to be versatile enough to be comfortable commuting in stop & go traffic, while also strong enough for touring duties. I prefer a 'sit-up & beg' seating position due to a damaged spine (another story) while also being easy to live with and ultimately well priced! On all of the bikes I would still have to fit an alarm, while on chain driven bikes a scottoiler would be fitted too. Of course my partners input was also highly valued...

From these requirements I drew up a short list of the following bikes (in no preferred order):

- Honda NT700V Deauville
- Suzuki Bandit 1250GT
- BMW F800ST
- Buell Ulysses XB12XT
- Triumph Sprint ST

First off, the Honda Deauville. Right I know the jibes will come thick and fast but this is something that does have reliability on its side and is tried and tested. Together with the built in luggage (26.7L right, 27.4L left) and the option of a top box. Honda has a substantial accessory list to go with this bike and you can make it into the effective little tourer. My issues with this are that the engine only makes 64bhp and seat height is 806mm. I have been on the bike and the seat height I can live with but two-up & loaded may pose issues, in fact in may be a regression from my current bike. Thus it may just barely meet my requirements.

Key Figures
Price: €11,299
Seat Height: 806mm
Engine: 680cc V-twin four-stroke / 64bhp
Fuel: 19.7L (3.5L reserve)
Weight: 236kg
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 26.7L right/27.4 Left
Luggage Optional: Side Cases expandable to 35.1L right/36.2L left & 45L Top Case

The Suzuki Bandit 1250GT has been a favourite of mine since it came out. The side cases are the same as mine but with the much larger top-box. Even comes with a Garmin Zumo GPS included with the price. This is obviously an alternative to the standard GSF1250 Bandit series but for a complete package it seems to make superb sense and at a very reasonable price. The engine makes 97bhp and all that is mainly torque, thus making it an effective machine while two-up. While looking into this further I did come across some worrying owner reports HERE concerning the position of the top-box which effectively prevents two-up travel. This seems to be a major oversight and thus limits the bikes potential.

Key Figures
Price: €11,950
Seat Height: 790mm
Engine: 1255cc four-cylinder four-stroke / 97bhp
Fuel: 19L
Weight: 229kg
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 35L Each, Top Case 49L

This BMW F800ST has always appealed to me while this year BMW have introduced a package to lower the bike even further for shorter riders for a reasonable cost. The owner reviews and ride reports I have read all sing the praises of the BMW and I can not find fault with the bike itself. I find it a very comfortable fit with plenty of space for myself and pillion with an engine that is highly rated. Just to bare in mind though that the price covers just the bike, by time you add on accessories, luggage and so on you are looking at €14,000. My only complaint is about the panniers provided with the bike. They are made of a tough material but are not hard cases as such and are of limited size, they will not take my helmet, not even the top-box will! This is a shame as the luggage is the only aspect that hurts what is a very appealing package.

Key Figures
Price: €11,500
Seat Height: 820mm
Engine: 800cc parallel twin / 85bhp
Fuel: 16L (4L reserve)
Weight: 182kg
Luggage Standard: None
Luggage Optional: Side Cases (Expandable) 17-25L & 28L Top Case

The Buell Ulysses XB12XT I covered recently in another post. Again, I was highly impressed with this bike. It meets all my requirements above while also having some very unique traits of its own. It did have its faults, but nothing that would rule it out as a serious contender. Though the price should be noted. You do have to pay for all this and when you look around the Hayabusa and ZZR1400 are not much more expensive. Then again, all of these cater for unique tastes. I admit to admiring those bikes, but they do not fit into my idea of being a biker. Anyway, this is certainly the motorcycle that I feel fits me with only a few minor niggles as spoken about in the previous post with the only thing to add being the included side cases have a capacity of some 42L each and a top-box of 40L.

Key Figures
Price: €14,950
Seat Height: 780mm (laden, with design rider)
Engine: 1203cc V-twin / 94bhp
Fuel: 16.7L (3.1L reserve)
Weight: 211kg
Luggage Standard: Side Case 42L each & 40L Top Case

Finally the Triumph Sprint ST, since the original 'curvy' version to the new 'sleeker' model this bike has always made me grin. It is a highly rated sports tourer from critics and owners alike and over the last few years Triumph has continued to refine one of the best sport tourers available. Now the Sprint comes with side cases as standard so offers even more value for money. Though with 123bhp available it certainly lives up to its sporty credentials. For this category of motorcycle the Sprint is unique in that it has a chain final drive which obviously means a bit more care and attention while my only real complaint with this is similar to the BMW F800GS, in that the cases seem relatively small (at 24L per side) while the top-box is adequate (at 34L). Though these would be a regression to my current situation. Yet the design is understandable as it suits the bike perfectly.

Key Figures
Price: €13,600
Seat Height: 805mm
Engine: 1050cc in-line triple / 123bhp
Fuel: 20L
Weight: 210kg
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 24L each
Luggage Optional: 34L Top Case

Purchasing anything, especially at these figures, usually involves a careful weighing of needs versus wants. A vehicle is probably the next most expensive item one will spend money on after a house. Thus we try to make the best choice that we can live with, not wanting to go too far yet also not regretting not making a few sacrifices for something we really want. As someone once said, "If you can afford to do something, then it probably is not worth doing". I believe I am most accurately described as a motorcyclist, it is not a leisure item for me though I admit it is a lifestyle choice, as are most things in the world we live in. I can happily tell people it is better for the environment, cuts down on congestion, fuel efficient and so on...but before all that, for me, it means freedom from who we all are. No matter my destination, even if it is some maintenance in the yard, my motorcycle is an escape and in the end an extension of myself.

Which probably explains why a week after taking the Buell for a test ride I went back with a deposit & I am collecting from Dublin Harley Davidson today. It took several weeks to have the bike delivered since Buell is keeping very limited stock in Europe due to the credit crunch, thus the motorcycle is literally built to order, now is that in itself not worth the money...

Keep the rubber side down.