Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Ubuntu Remixed

Maybe it is because I am bored? Maybe because I have not had a decent nights sleep in over 2 weeks? Maybe I just want something to tie me over until Intrepid Ibex goes into the RC period? Whatever the reason a few mornings ago I added a two new repos and downloaded the required bits & pieces that make up Ubuntu Netbook Remix onto my Advent 4211.

UNR Advent Screenshot 01
Ubuntu Netbook Remix, The Desktop

For the uninitiated Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) is basically an 'add-on' to the current release of Ubuntu (in my case 8.04, but 8.10 is available too) to tweak Ubuntu for the much smaller netbook (UMPC, micro-laptop...whatever) screens. “How nice of them”, I hear you proclaim, but do not worry there is a larger agenda to this as manufacturers of netbooks are being targeted to install this as a standard OS. I believe Dell already have one on the way.

UNR Advent Screenshot 02
Desktop again, but with some personal tweaks

Installation is fairly straight forward but you are warned that this is still relatively buggy. The screenshots I had viewed have already been changed. I thought something was wrong and reported a bug but it turns out that the developers had just tweaked the appearance.. So for a simple guide to install just Click Here, this will take you to the MSI Wind forums/guides and the packages are not large so soon you will be logging into your new look desktop. The official information can be found by Clicking Here, you can also help to develop by filing bugs and look for answers to any questions.

UNR Advent Screenshot 04
Browsing the applications menu

So first impressions are that it is different. I like a desktop with nothing in front of me except the upper and lower bars, something has to be very special to earn a place on it. With the Ubuntu Remix though the desktop is filled with your 'application' list on the left and your folders on the right. Now if you have lots of applications then you may need to scroll down to the bottom to see the 'preferences' and 'administration' tabs. Though I would certainly not consider using this on a larger screen laptop or desktop PC this does make sense on this and it is starting to grow on me.

Saying that, the first thing that jumped into my head was “this would be perfect for my Mum”, you see, she is 60+ and only getting into computers now. She mostly uses my oldest laptop with Hardy installed and the UNR environment might be much more 'user friendly' for her on the bigger screen. I will try this out later on once I am happy there are no bugs left. That said I have not found any bugs on the Advent yet, nor have I had any breakage. My only complaint is that the desktop is not very customizable, you are stuck with the installed settings for look and folder options. I really miss the 'add / remove applications' and now have to rely on synaptic for my tweaking (and of course the dreaded terminal...).

UNR Advent Screenshot 05
Browsing the inter-web with UNR & me & me too!

I do not miss compiz, UNR has some nice little features that suit the small screen. Also without compiz the Advent is obviously much quicker to respond as you navigate through the desktop. I have no doubt that things will get better as the development team add more features and further tweak the appearance. Once Intrepid Ibex is released and I have it installed and stable I have a feeling I will soon install the UNR package on top of it. As I said, the only aspect it is missing is better customization features for the end user. Other then that it has so far been a stable and good lucking package.

Ubuntu...Linux for human beings.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Royal Aspirations

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra (001)
Royal Enfield Bullet Electra

Well, I must confess that I have always had royal aspirations, do not get me wrong I have no problem with what everyone else is into but for me there are times when I just want that little bit more and in this case I find myself very excited by the upcoming Royal Enfield C500.

OK, I hear the cries roar out, but for some reason I have always loved the look and sound of those thumping singles. Admittedly the bhp on them will never be arm wrenching but that it not what draws you in. These motorcycles are all character with a great sounding thumper of an engine, true modern classics. So over the last few years the single longest motorcycle that has been in production has undergone a number of changes to bring it in line with current emission regulations. The standard bullet had its relatively untouched engine brought into the 21st Century with the aluminum Electra engine and subsequent range of models.

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra Woodsman (009)
Bullet Electra 'Woodsman', the last Electra model

Now the Electra finally gives way to the latest incarnation of the Bullet, the Royal Enfield C500. Essentially a brand new engine complete with an EFI as the Electra can not meet the latest round of euro emissions regs. This new model is due out in January 2009 with the bike being officially unveiled at the NEC Motorcycle & Scooter Show 2008. Last year we got a good look at the new engine which is called the UCE (Unit Construction Engine). EFI Royal Enfield's are already available in some parts of Europe, via India, but the UK importers Watsonian-Squire insist on high quality standards and thus are holding off.

Royal Enfield UCE (002)
The Unit Construction Engine

Indeed the Electra was such a success that they are now all sold out! You can no longer buy a new one. While there are ever dwindling stocks of the original classic engined bullets still available but you better be quick.

So believe it or not while last year the motorcycle that had be most excited was the latest Suzuki Hayabusa, this year my first stop will probably be Royal Enfield...though it is a close call between that and Buell.

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Advent 4211 SD Card...Solved!

Advent Screenshot - 008
SD Card proudly displayed on screen

If you read my previous post on setting up the Advent 4211 you would note that the only little problem left to fix was the issue with the SD Card reader not mounting the the media when inserted, well with a bit of tinkering I have finally put this to rest, so here is a quick step-by-step.

NOTE I am no Linux guru so please make sure to back-up everything before tinkering!

Firstly, the problem seems to be with Ubuntu thinking it is a CDROM, to correct this open your fstab file, via terminal, with:

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

you should see a line like this at the bottom:

/dev/sdb1 /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto,exec,utf8 0 0

Edit out that line and replace with the following:

/dev/sdb1 /media/MMCSD auto user,auto,exec,rw 0 0

Now save the file and close.

We now need to tell Ubuntu what to do with this MMCSD thing, so open terminal and type the following:

sudo mkdir /media/MMCSD

Now the media has somewhere to mount. Close terminal and try inserting your SD Card, if all has gone to plan then it should automount. It worked for me straight away, I had photos on the SD Card so F-Spot started to import them while the 1.0GB Media appeared on my desktop. I have yet to experience a problem with this fix, but hopefully a future release will patch this up.

Advent Screenshot - 009
F-Spot automatically detected the new media

For more information and advice on the MSI Wind & Advent 4211 family of netbooks head over to the MSI Wind Forums. While as always more Ubuntu specific issues can be usually sorted at the Ubuntu Forums (I am victor9098 in both).

Hope that is of some use to you all!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Ireland Said "No" - But Why?

Ireland said no to the Lisbon Treaty earlier this summer but everyone wanted to know why...OK...not everyone but I did anyway.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has published the findings of the research they undertook after the No vote. So if you want to get your own copy of the findings (an exhaustive 5 page executive summary) just go to the homepage and scroll down to the bottom for the latest news.

Optionally try clicking this link and hopefully a copy should start to download:

Post Lisbon Treaty Referendum Research Findings

The official comments so far on what this means have been vague with a sort of "we will see" attitude. Many expect a second go at the treaty, a few even think we can renegotiate (I personally doubt that), others want Ireland to be punished and pushed out to the fringes of the EU but the least likely option is that nothing will happen.

Just to add, there is a very good breakdown of the Treaty results and some comments from ministers here:

Lack of information was top reason for Lisbon No vote - EUobserver

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Announced - 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

This has just jumped out at me from the RSS feeds, Mark Shuttelworth has just announced that the next version of Ubuntu, following the not yet officially released 8.10 Intrepid Ibex, will be called the "Jaunty Jackalope".

To read what Mr Shuttleworth has to say about this just Click Here. What I understand of Intrepid Ibex is that it is hoped that it will make it easier to connect to the internet no matter where you go via better networking functions. In essence giving the user true mobility. The new Jaunty Jacklope seems to be building on this with faster boot time, "weblications" & making it easier for developers to further enhance the available packages.

I am always excited when I hear about up and coming Ubuntu releases and this has never been truer. The days of the the 'home computer' seem to have come and gone. Our lives are much too dynamic and fluid to be anchored to a single device with all our software/applications located on it. Personally I want a machine that acts as little more as a 'terminal' to my applications and information. With a substantial battery life and enough capacity for some 'eye candy' effects. My latest addition, the Advent 4211, just lacks the battery life to make it perfect.

I have voiced my doubts over the Ubuntu 6 month release cycle, saying it would be better to make it 12 months and have a much more in depth alpha/beta testing period. But I was a new convert and using the latest LTS (8.04.1) I realise that those wanting stability can happily stick with that. Technology moves on so quickly now that it probably would not matter if it was 6/12 months as compatibility issues will always emerge. Not even Microsoft can get it right! No, 6 months does make sense and I can not wait to blog about 9.10 and its successors.

I recently ordered and received the Edubuntu suite and installed it onto my partners nieces laptop, some old Dell laptop with a broken screen. It all installed perfectly and everything worked straight away including the wireless keyboard and mouse. While the niece was soon playing with the various Tux software and even getting onto the net with Firefox, all this by a 5 year old.

Ubuntu is more then linux for human beings, in time it should hopefully be the OS for human beings, not yet, but hopefully by the next LTS release no excuses should remain.

Yamaha 09 Range Revealed

After a glitzy unveiling in Las Vegas over the weekend with all 4 of Yamaha's MotoGP riders present their 2009 Range was officially revealed to the public. You can read all about it & see some pictures thanks to MCN by Clicking Here

So for you Yamaha Fans you can get more information by Clicking Here.

While just to keep things in perspective you have compare your favorite motorcycles specs against the machinery that the current MotoGP championship leader, one Valentino Rossi, rides by Clicking Here!

Keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Advent & Ubuntu, A Perfect Partnership?

Advent Screenshot - 002
Screenshot of Ubuntu on the Advent 4211

No. Sadly not perfect, but it is a close call. I recently purchased an Advent 4211 from PC World, this had not been my original intention as the MSI Wind was what first turned me onto the world of UMPC/Netbooks. The Asus 'effect' never got my attention, it was a lot of money for a fairly basic machine while its strongest attribute was also its smallest, the diminutive SD harddrive. Reliability and long life are assured, but I have hauled laptops all over the world over the last 10 years and via many different modes of transport and have yet to have a 'standard' harddrive fail. Screens and screen hinges seems to have failed on every machine and the harddrive died on my 7 year old Sony Vaio (bought in 1999), so no complaints.

Advent Screenshot - 005
Compiz 3D effects

It is the specs that grabbed my attention with the MSI Wind as it seemed to be a genuine full-featured mini-notebook with a mini-price tag. The only item missing is a CD-ROM/DVD drive, but that is a given for this market. Lets face it, no 7”-10” screen will do a Hollywood blockbuster justice! Anyway, back to the story, After researching the MSI Wind and following it on the net and the various retail sites I noticed a worrying trend, the price kept going up and soon it seemed to be a no better deal then other offerings, I was dismayed and once again turned away from the netbook effect until I read something in the RSS feeds about a rebadged MSI Wind selling in PC World for the price we originally wanted. Off shopping I went and did not look back.

A MSI Wind/Advent 4211 Comparison

Also of note, while Expansys.ie has the MSI Wind for some €491, I purchased the Advent 4211 for €380. I also got 3 years insurance cover at €75. Then a wireless card and 1GB RAM from Dimension4 for €50 delivered. So my final total was €505, now keep in mind no need for anti-virus/firewall/ software subscriptions and I think you have to agree it is excellent value.

First off let me make it clear, I have no interest in Win-doh's being an Ubuntu convert so my first task would be to install Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS Hardy Heron. Now the following should be noted:

1st – The wireless will not work. I have bought an Intel card (detailed below) to get around this
2nd – Upgrading my RAM at the same time, might as well!
3rd – Live CD will have to be from a USB stick or external cd-rom drive. I went USB stick.
4th – Tweaks will have to be made, but tiny ones to make it just right
5th – Everything you need to know is laid out step-by-step on the net. SWEET!

Installing Ubuntu

My main source of info to convert the Advent 4211 into a Ubuntu loving netbook has been the MSI Wind User Wiki. This is an excellent source of information and everything you need to know is linked from there. Just follow the steps like I did and you too can be blogging (or whatever) on the web within no time at all. Seriously, it is pretty straight forward. I elected to install via the UNetbootin method, this worked perfect first time. The only hair-raising stuff will be tearing apart your brand new piece of kit to install the wireless card and ram, while these are optional things, though recommended. Be sure also to go to the 'tweaks' page for loads of tips on how to get the most out of your new OS.

RAM & Wireless Card Install

Installing the upgrades

Installing the RAM and wireless card is rather painless but take note that this may invalidate your warranty. I notice that some machines have a sticker covering some screws but my Advent 4211 does not. Accessing the machine is just a matter of flipping it over, removing the battery, then carefully unscrewing all the screws with a Phillips screwdriver. To make things easy I just left the screws in place as I removed the cover.

Once the cover is removed I found myself staring into the heart of the machine. A screw holds the wireless card in place, the screw is not of great quality so I took care not to round the head. Once out the wireless card popped up towards me. With the wires removed the card pulled away easily. I then took the new Intel (R) PRO/Wireless 3945ABG and slotted it into the empty slot. The wires snapped into position easily, tidy it all up so it looks neat then move over to the RAM.

This is very quick and painless I took the Kensington 1GB PC2-5300 CL5-PIN SODIMM and slided it in at a 45ยบ angle. Then pressed the back of it down and all was done when I heard a satisfying 'snap'. With that I put the case back on and tightened up all the screws. Booting up the computer the wireless was working straight away and a quick look at system monitor saw the new RAM figure (2GB).

Advent 4211 (1)

Advent 4211 (2)
What Was I thinking? Note, top left original wireless card and in the center an empty RAM slot

Advent 4211 (4)
Everything Installed...time for a brew

Advent Screenshot - 006
Extra RAM and the new total memory of some 2GB

Webcam Woe

The webcam failed to work under Ubuntu so I was forced to compile the necessary software. This was the first time I had to compile code so was slightly concerned, but once again the members at Ubuntu forums had already come across this problem and an useful guide can be found here:

NEW Notebook, Fujitsu Siemens Si 2636, Webcam Problem!

This thread had me up and running in no time. Bare in mind though that I had to use Synaptic to download some compliling software.

SD Card Reader

I got an error when I tried to use the 4-in-1 card reader. So back to Google and I began searching for solutions. I have yet to get this working just right. It seems that there is some confusion about the location of the CD-ROM drive, which obviously does not exist. Some have offered the suggestion of editing out the CD-ROM option but I have tried this and has not made a difference. This is not a major issue and not something I will use often on this laptop. It also helps that my SD Cards can also plug into USB slots so certainly no panic.


All-in-all I have really enjoyed my first week with the Advent 4211 running Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04.1 LTS. Note that the earlier 8.04 does not seem to run on the Advent so be sure to install the latest. As updates come along the above process will get easier and some people are already running the Alpha Intrepid Ibex 8.10, though with some bugs, while others are trying the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix, again this is buggy and only recommended for experienced Linux users. I intend to try out 8.10 after it is officially released and once I hear that people have the Netbook Remix running relatively trouble free I will also give that a sample! So early days yet but much can be done. I look forward to making this my daily workhorse and keeping the Sony Vaio as a permanent work station at home.

Advent Screenshot - 003
Normal internet browsing view

Advent Screenshot - 004
Pressing F11 gives you full-screen mode

No, not perfect, but I am very pleased and excited at what is in store. Ubuntu, linux for human beings!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

If Wishes Were Bikes...

AAI 2008 - 088

If wishes were bikes then last weekend (Saturday 30th/Sunday 31st August) at the Annual Across Ireland 2008 we had over 700 of them! Combined with pillions numbers taking part went over a 1,000. The total amount of money raised for the 'Make A Wish Foundation' will not be confirmed for a few weeks but the organisers seemed very confident that we have overtaken last years total of approx €140,000. So the event had succeeded on that front.

Though I believe it right to point out now that there was a downside. I must offer my condolences to family of the rider who was fatally injured in an accident on Saturday as we traveled to Galway. This news had not been confirmed until the Sunday morning just before we began the return leg. The accident occurred behind me so I can offer no account. This is the only death in 9 years of the Annual Across Ireland's history.

AAI 2008 - 001

So now onto the event itself. Registration began at 0930 Saturday morning in and around Dawson Street. A number of roads were sealed from traffic and used as staging areas. Depending on which direction you entered the city from thus determined which street you ended up parking up on. We arrived at around 1030 and were luckily enough to get up to the front of our staging area. This also gave us time to wander around, take photos and chat to all the various participants.

AAI 2008 - 020

Every type of motorcycle seemed to be represented, while no two bikes looked the same! Every owner seems to have made their own mark on whatever they were riding, ranging from various comfort mods, all the way to custom paint & body work. It was like walking around a custom bike show. Everyone was friendly and happy to have a chat, coming over and asking questions about each others rides and so on. We managed to have time to grab a coffee and watch some of the controlled chaos evolve before us.

The marshals did their best to get everyone in position while the Gardai were also out in force, though all that I spoke to were very pleasant and seemed to be enjoying this as much as us. The members of the Bikesafe team were also their offering their services and getting people to sign up. Inside the Mansion House was were everyone gave in the sponsorship money they raised and got a T-shirt, stickers and fluorescent vests (from AON bike insurance) for their efforts.

AAI 2008 - 038

Come 1250 all the barriers holding us back started to come down and the streets were lined with people cheering and really getting into the spirit of the event. As we pulled off at 1300 we snaked through the city centre and were generally very well received by all onlookers. Most seeming surprised by what was going on before their eyes!

Out on the road all seemed to go as plan for the vast majority of us. The marshals and Guards worked very hard at keeping ahead of us to ensure a clear path. We did get bottled up in a few places, like Kinnegad, but we kept moving and enjoyed the streets lined with onlookers waving and cheering us on through every town. Our fuel stop was at Kilmartin's Fuel Station in Athlone, this felt rushed and I think the majority of us were expecting refreshments to be laid on. None the less, with some food and drink thrown down out necks and a drop of fuel in the tank we were rolling towards Galway once again.

AAI 2008 - 072

The ride to Galway was fun and kept at a spirited pace, so we found ourselves in Galway in next to no time. Here we all parked up in Eyre Square and patted ourselves on the backs for a job well done. Now things were a bit chaotic and I would say that at this point the communications between the marshals and the participants broke down. As my partner and I were having a tea & coffee while chatting to some tourists from Wales (whose son rides a Fazer...) a corner of Eyre Square turned on their engines and pulled out!

AAI 2008 - 105

Now most were soon jumping on their bikes to chase them down, but I was happy to go to our hotel and freshen up before heading over to the Clybaun Hotel for the evenings festivities. We were staying in the Galway Bay Hotel, which had been recommended by a family member. Sadly the shower did not work, nor the TV! Both were fixed by the morning but it was a disappoint for such a highly rated (& priced) hotel. The breakfast was very good though and the staff as helpful as they could be. Though the managers comment on Sunday morning after hearing of our problems, “It was not your night was it?”, was not very welcome.

Anyway, we were soon back in the Clybaun Hotel in a taxi where we got some dinner and a few drinks. The atmosphere was upbeat, though no-one seemed to know what was going on. Either way the next thing I know the band was beginning to play...

AAI 2008 - 122

...The next morning after breakfast we were back on the Ulysses and riding up to the Clybaun once again. Here we were all called into the function room to be told the bad news about the accident the day before. Their was an obvious sense of shock in the room and as we solemnly walked out many mutterings of “what a waste”. If nothing else it focused us on the task at hand that day, getting back to Dublin. So soon we were back on the road and heading to Dublin.

AAI 2008 - 128

The weather turned wet for a brief period, with many pulling in to scramble into their wet-suits. My partner kept busy trying to get as many photos she could from her perch on the back of the Buell. Obviously not the fastest hardware on the event, but certainly one of the most comfortable and attracted plenty of queries and fun chats.

AAI 2008 - 143

Now Sundays stop was at Dolans Service Station in Ballinaloe. While Saturdays stop was too short, this stop was too long. That and this is when I believe the marshals decided to change the route, without telling the rest of us! So everything was going according to the script up until we got to Dublin until we reached the M50 slip road. Now we broke up into two separate groups! It turns out the marshals changed the destination & route to the Phoenix Park but there was no marshal blocking the M50 entrance or even giving instruction. So at least 200 of us ended up at the original destination (Xtreme 45 Motorcycle Shop) with just an A4 notice on the door saying the event had been canceled.

AAI 2008 - 163

This was a very disappointing turn of events. In fact, those that went to the Phoenix Park still came over to the motorcycle shop, seemingly not being informed nothing was going on. They also said there was confusion at at The Phoenix Park with the marshals just dispersing without any general announcement. Though the death of the rider the day before had been a bad blow, the failings in communications on Sunday compounded matters to tarnish the event further.

AAI 2008 - 190

Without a doubt this had been a great experience for a very deserving cause and I will not hesitate in getting involved again. There are obviously some organisational issues that need to be improved which leads me to worry that future events either need more marshals or a possible cap on the number taking part. If nothing else communication needs to be improved. I will keep my ear to the ground and update in the future with how much we finally managed to raise.

As always, keep the rubber side down.