Thursday, 17 March 2011

Much Ado About Natty

Some quick screenshots from Natty Narwhal which I have been tinkering with since December. Still in Alpha so only use it you are comfortable with your system self-destructing routinely, though it makes the daily updates even more exciting because you never know what will happen when you reboot. The big change this release cycle is 'Unity', the very flash new dock that is not a dock. They rolled this out on the Netbook Edition in 10.10 and I hated it. Used up too much screen space and slowed down my netbook too much, so I just installed the desktop version and 'hey presto' everything worked again. However, it is much better now, more refined and quicker, overall I have been impressed and think they are onto something now. There is much more to come from this and by time the next LTS (Long Term Release) arrives, for the end-users who want stability in April 2012, Unity will be polished to a shine.

Just to go off on a tangent, all this talk of desktop and netbook editions is no more. From 11.04 it will all just be 'Ubuntu'. Ubuntu will run on whatever you install it on, just download and go. Or as Canonical puts it;
So we are going back to our roots. From 11.04 the core product that you run on your PC will be simply, Ubuntu. Therefore the next release will be Ubuntu 11.04 and you can run that, my friend, on anything you like from a netbook to a notebook to a desktop.
Click here for the entire blog post describing the reasoning. Enough about that, here are a few screenshots of my current install:

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal [Alpha] Screenshot

On the left you can see the new Unity 'not a dock' dock. Overall the deskop looks cleaner with just the top panel being the only anchor to traditional desktops

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal [Alpha] Screenshot
This is the new window switcher view, pressing the icon once shows all your virtual desktops, double-click to select the window you want. If you have apps open they will be viewable too in this view.

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal [Alpha] Screenshot
Clicking the folder icon opens up a screen with your most recently used files, downloads and your favourite folders. There is a 'file manager' icon for those that prefer the traditional method of navigating

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal [Alpha] Screenshot
This is the applications view and the various sub sections

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal [Alpha] Screenshot
Clicking the Ubuntu icon in the top left opens this new space with links to take you further down the rabbit hole

And that is just a taster of were things are now but all of it is subject to change at the whims of our benevolent dictator for life Mark Shuttleworth. Yes there have been some development bumps but no show stoppers, which is a very positive sign. There is a debate beginning around having restricted extras (such as flash, mp3 support, etc.) turned on by default during the install process rather then asking the user if they want to check the box to include them. You can follow this at Bug #723831 to see how it develops.

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Monday, 14 March 2011

Counting The Days: Summer Plans, Air Hawks and Highland Rides

The Rock of Cashel in Ireland pictured in the ...Image via Wikipedia
While spring is planning on being fashionably late I am already focusing on the summer riding season and have got the foundations of some trips in the works. Currently there are two definites and one 'probably'.

The first definite is an overnight to the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare. I have not been to these cliffs before and the other sights in the area, so I am looking forward to finally getting a chance to take it all in. I plan on making it an overnight getaway to give me time to visit as much as I can before riding home, and while the route there is relatively direct I often take a less obvious route back, usually decided by locals suggesting 'must see' locations. These excursions can turn out to be worth the extra time to visit.

View Larger Map

The next definite is a run down to Cork city in June, with a second day spent getting lost along the Cork coastline and countryside before the ride back up on the third day. Really looking forward to this, Cork being one of my favourite cities having lived there for a few years and it has been too long since my last visit. Always a great atmosphere down there and lots to enjoy be it the city, countryside or coastline. Also planning on visiting the Rock of Cashel on the way back, you no longer get to drive past it if you take the motorway so might take parts of the old Dublin to Cork road home. Just for old times sake.

View Larger Map

The 'probably' trip will be a little longer then the other two 'staycations'. I have yet to visit Scotland and I have always wanted to travel up to John O' Groats, mainly since I have read so many travel books and articles about the place. I am really looking forward to taking in the Scottish scenery, it is about time I visit the place and get lost in the picturesque landscapes that Scotland is famous for. I do not know if I will be able to make time to visit any of the main cities, other then skirting them on my way to/from John O' Groats, but will see closer to the time.

View Larger Map

The Buell Ulysses XB12XT is perfect for this kind of riding and I am very excited about riding some of those roads. However I did have trouble on the ride to/from the Irish Bikefest last year, nothing wrong with the bike, just my behind! So to help take the edge off I decided to invest in some 'padding', and the winner of that search was the Air Hawk. I did debate the idea of getting a gel seat or some other modification to the existing seat, but it would have been a lot of money for something you can not take with you. Also the Air Hawk seems to get very high praise from all that use it, as long as you spend the time to get the inflation level right. I will start using it now to get a 'feel' for it and hopefully have it perfect for the planned trips.

Air Hawk

Going by the sizing guides online I eventually settled on the 'medium cruiser' for the rider's seat and the 'cruiser pillion' for the rear, and they look like a perfect fit. I have only tried the Air Hawk out in the drive, but will be testing on my daily commute over the next couple of weeks before really racking up the miles with them. Already I am impressed, the quality looks very high and the product even comes with puncture repair kits for minor repairs. Straps are included to hold the cushion in place, but they are not required. The bottom of the cover is very grippy and seems very effective. So far, so good but any final appraisals will not come until the end of the summer after they have both been given a thorough testing.

Air Hawk

Air Hawk

Looking forward I have to keep an eye on the budget and keep refining the plans, but things are looking positive and the advice keeps coming in. The bit of effort before these kind of trips usually makes them much more enjoyable, even if things do not go as planned, but sometimes those unplanned parts end up being the best.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.
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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Dream Is Over - Motus Unveiling Bikes In Daytona

If you are going to the 70th Annual Daytona Bike Week then on March 10th at 2pm make sure you are at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in the Ocean Center, Daytona Beach. Why? Because Motus will be giving spectators a chance to look at their prototype MST and premium MST-R motorcycles. I have been following Motus since I first heard about them as the motorcycles sound like exceptionally fun sport-tourers powered by a "mighty KMV4 "baby block" engine, a gasoline direct injected, 90 degree V4". This 'baby block' will be a 1645cc lump which should produce a minimum of 140bhp or 162Nm (120lb-ft)!

This is what Motus have to say about who this should appeal to: The MST concept will likely appeal to several groups. There is one group of sportbike riders who want an exciting riding experience, but also want to travel longer distances more comfortably. Then, there is another group of American motorcycle enthusiasts that may see a hot-rod sport tourer as an alternative to the Euro and Japanese analogues. Company VP Brian Case adds, “We hope the MST series will appeal to several kinds of riders. Some sportbike riders are looking for more comfort without sacrificing performance. Some cruiser riders want better performance and would love to find an American alternative”.

The aim is to produce a motorcycle that will be "a comfortable sportbike designed for long distance canyon carving, solo or two-up". Though instead of going the route of many motorcycle makers whose engines are more tech then engine, Motus have engineered this from the outset to be easily worked on, no matter where you are. Be it farkling in your garage/shed or relying on a local mechanic, this bike will not require a master's degree to change the oil. Much of this way of thinking I believe comes from the US love affair with muscle cars and the weekend mechanics that work on them. The way things are right now economically, this is not a bad plan, especially if Motus are selling all the parts for the right price. For a complete datasheet on the engine just Click Here

Here is a video to help bring you up up speed with the Motus story and outlook, together with some glimpses at what is waiting for those lucky people at Daytona:

To think what started off as this sketch...

Has been turned into this very promising motorcycle...

Already I am looking at it and thinking, get rid of the Givi luggage for some Hepco & Becker luggage, add handguards, heated grips, keep an eye out for a chin spoiler and in between all that seeing where the road goes. In the photos you can see nice touches like the upside-down forks, a remote preload adjuster for the rear suspension, hopefully the brake fluid reservoir on the handlebars will be billet aluminium on the final version. At first glance it reminds me of the Ducati ST3/ST4 and even my Buell Ulysses XB12XT , motorcycles I really like, but they went the way of the dinosaur. The curvy bodywork of the fairing, and the way the tank flows into the seat all gets the thumbs up from me, but that is just personal preference, preferring that style over the F-117 like samplings on the road today.  

At the moment there is no news on the price other then: "The MST incorporates premium components and the highest level of engineering, but will be affordable to a wide range of riders." Fingers crossed on what that may end up translating into.

I wish all the best for the guys and gals at Motus, I think they are onto something good here. Just do me a favour, do not let a short-sighted motorcycle company buy you out!

Peace & keep the rubber side down.
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Monday, 7 March 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 Will Be Dreamy

The naming of cats is a difficult matter

It isn’t just one of your holiday games.

- T S Eliot, The Naming of Cats

The announcement has been and the project name for the next Ubuntu release revealed as (drum roll) Oneiric Ocelot. Below our benevolent dictator for life, Mark Shuttleworth, explains what helped him choose the name but I imagine that will there will be a push to roll out more minor then major changes as it will also be about stabilising what we have for the 12.04 Long Term Release.

11.04 Natty Narwhal, due April 28th, has seen some significant changes to the desktop environment and the 'cleaning up' of the notification area (or system tray). I have been testing since December and it is currently in Alpha 3 though only play with it now if you can 'unbork' your system, or as Urban Dictionary defines alpha as:

Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in getting user feedback. Alpha is Latin for "doesn't work."

So far I am very impressed with what I am seeing, Unity (the new user interface) makes much more sense on the desktop, and the inclusion of Banshee as the default media player is also a major plus, IMO! For now, I leave you with Mark Shuttleworth's reasoning behind Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot


Amplify’d from

Oneiric means “dreamy”, and the combination with Ocelot reminds me of the way innovation happens: part daydream, part discipline.

We’ll need to keep up the pace of innovation on all fronts post-Natty. Our desktop has come together beautifully, and in the next release we’ll complete the cycle of making it available to all users, with a 2D experience to complement the OpenGL based Unity for those with the hardware to handle it. The introduction of Qt means we’ll be giving developers even more options for how they can produce interfaces that are both functional and aesthetically delightful.

In the cloud, we’ll have to tighten up and make some firm decisions about the platforms we can support for 12.04 LTS. UDS in Budapest will be full of feisty debate on that front, I’m sure, but I’m equally sure we can reach a pragmatic consensus and start to focus our energies on delivering the platform for widespread cloud computing on free and flexible terms.

Ubuntu is now shipping on millions of systems from multiple providers every year. It makes a real difference in the lives of millions, perhaps tens of millions, of people. As MPT said, “what we do is not only art, it’s performance art”. Every six months the curtains part, and we have to be ready for the performance. I’d like to thank the thousands of people who are actively participating in the production of Natty: take the initiative, take responsibility, take action, and your work will make a difference to all of those users. There are very few places in the world where a personal intellectual contribution can have that kind of impact. And very few places where we have such a strong social fabric around those intellectual challenges, too. We each do what we do for our own reasons, but it’s the global impact of Ubuntu which gives meaning to that action.

Natty is a stretch release: we set out to redefine the look and feel of the free desktop. We’ll need all the feedback we can get, so please test today’s daily, or A3, and file bug reports! Keep up the discipline and focus on the Narwhal, and let’s direct our daydreaming to the Ocelot.