May Day (My First Day with Linux)

Easy Peasy 1.1It’s an odd coincidence that I chose to make free open-source software my primary notebook OS on International Worker’s Day, but that’s how it went down when I migrated my calendar, contracts and email to Easy Peasy 1.1 on my new Asus Eee PC yesterday.

If you haven’t been following this developing story, I’ve wanted something smaller than a full-sized laptop to carry around with me for taking notes and getting on the proper Internet as needed. The first piece of the puzzle was actually some software for my mobile phone; JoikuSpot (which is really worthy of a dedicated review) turns my Nokia E71 into a WiFi HotSpot, and my (relatively) fat data-plan from my carrier makes it affordable.

I had tried Nokia’s Internet Tablets but found them to be more geek toys than useful computers. I instead settled on the Eee PC because of its solid state drive and diminutive size – zomg, it fits perfectly in my man-purse! 😉

Unfortunately the stock Xandros-based OS couldn’t reliably connect with JoikuSpot, and after testing a variety of netbook-optimized distros only Easy Peasy could do the job.

So, my PIM data has been moved to Evolution, the stock Ubuntu email and PIM app. For my Nokia I’m bypassing local sync entirely and connecting to a hosted SyncML server via SyncEvolution and Genesis – yeah, that’s right… I’ve finally found a suitable PIM 2.0 client! I just have to get caught up on my PIM 2.0 reviews and all will be revealed.

Stay tuned…

Linux: Access as well as Openness

Today I thought I’d share a stellar bit of customer service, courtesy of the Easy Peasy IRC channel.

If you didn’t know, Easy Peasy is an Ubuntu-based Linux OS optimized for Netbooks like my new Eee PC. This particular Linux distro is fantastic — my inquiry below concerns a minor aesthetic niggle with the splash screen at startup.

(04:30:40 PM) The topic for #easypeasy is: Easy Peasy -for netbooks | Forums: | Wiki:

(07:39:07 PM) acurrie: i was thinking of installing startup manager and getting one of these themes

(07:39:09 PM) acurrie:

(07:39:31 PM) acurrie: but then i read that they might look just as bad

(07:39:35 PM) acurrie: so the question…

(07:39:40 PM) acurrie: should i bother?

(07:40:24 PM) acurrie: to be clear, i’m talking about the splash screen as ep boots up

(07:40:40 PM) lassegul: If you’re able to wait a couple of days i’ll create the default usplash theme for EP 1.1, and i’ll personally give you install instructions if you want.

As you can probably guess, “lassegul” is in fact one of the lead developers for EP. That a busy guy like him would make such an offer to a Linux n00b like me scores major points.

If you’re running Easy Peasy or just want to see EP’s real-time support in action you can get details on where to find the EP IRC channel on their support forums.

Okay, it’s here. Geez… 😉

What is the Deal with WiFi and Linux?

JokuSpoit Fail

Two and a half years ago when Apple made their infamous switch to Intel processors I called bullshit and got myself a cheap generic laptop to join the growing user base of Ubuntu Linux.

Everything worked as advertised, except for the built-in WiFi card. After jumping through many hoops I found a cheap plug-in WiFi adapter on eBay, but the whole experience left me feeling, well… something like this.

Cut to present day, and I’m the proud new owner (if a bit behind the curve) of a new Eee PC.

Just like a Mac, this Asus is a thing of beauty. It fits (barely) into my awesome Japanese man-bag and is a much better technological fit for me than Nokia’s Internet Tablet.

And everything works as advertised, except for one thing: The built-in WiFi.

See, I’ve got this awesome app on my Nokia called JoikuSpot, which basically turns my phone into a WiFi hotspot. It a great way to plow through at least some of my 6GB/month mobile data plan, and works amazingly well with both Mac and Windows computers.

But not, for some reason, with Linux — or at least this otherwise excellent implementation of it.

A kind soul has posted a helpful if kludgy solution which didn’t work at all for me. After almost an entire day of Googling, tweaking and frustration I’ve left a last-ditch call for help on the EeeUser forums. From there I’ll hopefully get some direction on how to proceed, but the whole experience has left me feeling… well, you know.

Despite the folks at Asus coming up with possibly the most user-friendly Linux UI yet, it doesn’t take much to pull back the curtain and find yourself face to face with a screen-full of indecipherable command-line gibberish as in the screen grab above.

What’s your verdict? Am I a total n00b who should just STFU and start learning terminal prompts, or is Linux still not ready for prime time?

Nokia N810: Touch & Go


In a previous post this unabashed Apple user wrote that he would be passing on the iPod touch and opting instead for the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, sight-unseen. Now, after actually using the thing for about a week, I’m not so sure…

For productivity the N810 beats the iPod touch hands-down — despite my particular unit having a bizarro QWERTZ keypad it was still orders of magnitude more usable than Apple’s virtual stand-in. And though the N810 is not a phone per se, Skype comes pre-installed — just be aware that you won’t be able to use it for video calling with the tablet’s front-mounted camera.

Top Gear

For media consumption there’s less of a clear winner here. The iPod obviously benefits from being a part of the iTunes ecosystem. The N810 makes do playing standard MP3s and streaming audio, notably a slick client called Vagalume.

Continuing its proud tradition of Mac support, Nokia has ported its Internet Tablet Video Converter Tool to OS X. Results were okay, but paled in comparison to the specific output requirements for the iPhone & iPod touch. Codec fanatics can see details of the Nokia version here, and compare and contrast to what HandBrake can do here. I’ll just say that the iPhone/touch-friendly video had none of the motion artifacts that I saw on the Nokia.

As far as I got with Android...

Where the N810 leaves iPhone & iPod in the dust is the very moment it steps up to don the role of l33t hax0r sidearm. And that’s where this n00b found it the most frustrating.

Elsewhere on the web tablet gurus have displayed their mad Maemo skillz by installing such entirely useless things as the Windows 3.1 OS; truth be told, this guy bricked WOM World’s N810 for an entire weekend almost immediately after grabbing this screen.

Getting the beta of Google’s smartphone OS up and running is proving to be an unofficial litmus test of Nokia tablet mastery. I’m clearly not worthy, but if you think you’ve got what it takes then step on up!

And if not you can live vicariously through my Flickr photo and screen grab set.

A Little Heavy Lifting = Free Linux Box

Have to head off to rehearsals for my kids’ show in a few minutes, so today I’m passing on an email received from the executive director of the Toronto FreeNet:

Thursday – Call for Volunteers – Free Computer!

In the very near future, Toronto Free-Net will be making available very low cost computers packaged with TFN Internet connections and pre-configured for dial-up with a commercial version of Linux.

We have a lot of computers!

We need some volunteers to help to prepare to move about 20 heavy skids of computers, currently stored near Laird and Eglinton (central northeast Toronto.) If you are interested, we will need you from 9:30 am to 2pm on Thursday, Oct 19th. Lunch and transit tickets will be supplied.

Once we have these computers refurbished, each volunteer will receive one.

To volunteer, please apply by emailing using the same subject as this message, stating any relevant experience.

Ken McCracken

Executive Director

Toronto Free-Net