Announcing the new Jolicloud

Announcing the new Jolicloud. Your cloud, beautifully organized. http://t.co/DRLR4ZBj via @jolicloud – Done right this could be big!

Smeegol didn’t work out, but is interesting. Jolicloud back on, but finally got 1.1 beta running.

Smeegol Live CD install. Buried under Applications, Accessories, Settings, Live Installer and there it was!


Tried the OpenSUSE MeeGo edition Smeegol http://news.opensuse.org/2010/10/06/announcing-smeegol-1-0/ today, got it running fine from a liveDVD on the Aspire One, but cannot for the life of me find a way to install it to the hard drive.

I love the MeeGo interface, and this version has the Suse goodness below the surface, and it shows too. Shame I can’t get it to install.

Oh, as for the numpties at the Linux Foundation that think the “Smeegol” name somehow lessens the MeeGo trademark, get real, no one outside a few Linux geeks knows, or cares, what MeeGo is, and until it is stuffed into a few consumer devices never will. Right now the official MeeGo offers nothing outside a GUI, despite the big ideals. Smeegol looks like it beats it hands down for this purpose.

The Best Advert For Ubuntu You Probably Never Saw

Why have we never seen this?

[vimeo 10518151]

Isn’t this exactly what Ubuntu, and Linux, needs?

It will be the best Ubuntu advert we have never seen unless they actually show it!



Perhaps the most ‘iPhone’ like Linux OS available Jolicloud has left the beta stage and is now at RC.


I’ve dabbled with this OS for a while on my admittedly almost unused Acer Aspire One, swapping between an almost flawless Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin, and Jolicloud running on the almost stock configuration (1.5gb Ram installed). I’ve had Jolicloud installed for a couple of weeks now after I figured out that the sleep issues could be solved by removing the SD card before closing the lid.

Ubuntu is pretty good on the machine, but even after a small amount of tweaking to fit still leaves me with a basic desktop system. Moblin has a great interface for a netbook, but leaves me with limited software, and a lack of specific machine tweaks. I also get the impression that there is very little community behind Moblin at a basic to intermediate level. Support is at a very geeky level and while I can figure things out, dislike jumping through hoops to do so. It is a shame, Moblin holds a lot of promise, but the whole project does seem to be a little directionless at the moment.

Jolicloud seems to offer the best of both worlds, and a little more besides. Applications are basically pre-configured web apps (iPhone 2G?) though local apps are perfectly possible, connectivity is great, Ubuntu lies not far beneath so some tweaking from basic easily available sources is easily done.The UI is an amalgam of Ubuntu Netbook and iPhone, so it is simple, but doesn’t require much re-learning, and with the array of applications (web apps) available to connect to a whole range of productivity, media and networking site Jolicoud is shaping up to be an almost perfect netbook OS.


The original OS installed on the Aspire, and the Asus netbooks, had so much promise but were letdown by the lack of upgrades, and limitations imposed from the factory, that it became inevitable they would be replace. Unfortunately up to now that this meant using a cut down desktop OS, which while workable, and exactly what many people wanted, was not the original idea behind a netbook, and not why I bought mine. Jolicloud does change that, and while you do need a connection for it to be really usable, does return to the original premise of a simple, connected device, the Net in netbook, without going to the extremes of Googles Cloud OS. It also retains the Book with locally installed applications.

I wish this project well, though like Twitter, I don’t yet understand the business model, and I will be keeping a close eye on development as they go into a final release. Maybe this time around I’ve found the perfect Linux OS.

An interesting thing almost happened…

Plugging my iPhone into my Ubuntu netbook brought up a dialogue to open the f-Spot photo manager. Opening as a file was also offered, and worked, sort of…

Ok, this is supposed to happen when you connect any camera/mass USB storage device to Windows, Mac, and modern Linux, but it is not supposed to happen with the locked down iPhone.

I said almost, while I could see the relevant photo folders (DCIM?) I could not access them (f-Spot also offered to open the ‘photos’ and started the proccess, but did not import anything).

When I get more time I’ll look this up. I’m pretty sure this is not supposed to happen in this way…

Hey Presto!

I recently posted my quick thoughts on Xandros and it’s new product, Presto. I was initially sceptical, and I remain so, about how this ‘fits’ into the average computer users needs, however a chance closer look has altered my perspective of Presto.
I was surprised to find that you can install many apps into Presto via an application store, so this does make it more like a standard Linux distro, albeit a locked down version in some respects. That may or may not be a bad thing, but it does open up the possibility that a user may decide to stick in Presto rather than boot into Windows if they can find a few apps they need at little or no cost, this could then make a user more inclined to choose a Linux computer more readily in the future. Clever?

My first thoughts were that this would be a more locked version of of Linux than it appears to be, or that it would be similiar to the very restricted similar ideas/products floating around at the moment, most of which if not being marketed by the manufactures themselves seem to only being touted to the computer makers rather than making it onto peoples screens through the normal routes.

I’ll admit I was wrong, or at least hasty, in condeming Presto so quickly, though I do still stand by much of what I said about the product, and the company. I know see Presto as maybe something a bit special, though it depends heavily on take up by either consumer, or manufacturer, and I still wish another software vendor was behind it as my experiance with Xandros the company was never brilliant, though they do seem a little Applesque when it comes to charging for stuff.

It is a pity they have never come close to Apple by way of spit and polish, and general user satisfaction.

Maybe the market for this kind of thing is not just going to be for general computers, but maybe more of a set top box thing. Maybe this is the way things are going to go, the computer as an appliance. I do see this more and more, especially with the mobile phone experience.

I guess I was just wrong about this stuff, and Presto in particular, but time will tell.

‘Presto’ Instant On

Trying to get my head around this, an instant on Linux partition that does your basic email, documents, web stuff.

For Windows users?

So it’s like the average net-book Linux install that no one likes? Digging deeper tells me it is a basic non-configurable XFCE, so it is like the Linpus version that came with the Aspire One, only worse, and as it is from Xandros I guess it will never get updated.

I’ve never been a ‘boot time’ fan, I prefer uptime and proper sleep/suspend/hibernate on any machine. I hate turning Macs or Linux machines off. Windows yes, to reduce that slow creeping corruption of the OS itself, but anything else I want it instantly on the moment I hit the keyboard or open the lid, but right where I left off thank you very much.

Yes I’d agree that for millions of average users a simple mail/web/docs setup is all they really need, but that is reducing the machine to an appliance, which I’m not sure most people want, and this is before you get to all the codec/format stuff that the ‘Internet is a big blue e‘ generation just can’t understand. Fine you may say, they can boot into Windows, but surely that is more time ‘wasted’ logging out of Presto and back into Windows, and if they wanted Windows in the first place surely waiting for the prompt option to get Windows instead of Presto make the boot time longer, and makes an unattended boot impossible!

As you can guess I’ve not tried Presto, and I’m not likely to either. I fell out with Xandros a long time ago over the charging/lack of upgrades, a shame really because this distro was one of the most user friendly versions around, and was easy to fit into a Windows environment. I’d never wish a plague of frogs on any Linux company, but I won’t miss Xandros if they ever go down the pan.

Down the drain, again

Why do I have so little success with Linux systems? Is it me or are they simply unusable in the long term?

My MythTV setup just went tits up and no amount of recovery ideas would work. The Myth part was fine, it is just the SMB server just stopped sharing files over the network, probably it’s most important job. Installing updates and restarting (after 132 days) made it worse, so I’ve pulled the drives and pressed the old FreeNAS file-server back into use for the shared files, leaving the recovery of the important recordings for another day.

Replacement machine? Let’s just say that there is a little bit of Mac magic now tucked away, media server, PVR and file server all rolled into one.
Finally I’m Windows free, Linux free and totally dependent on OSX (and it’s BSD cousin for now).

Good OS, gone bad

How many times do I have to go there? Update Linux OS, end up with a brick…
Ok, not quite a brick, picking an older kernel made it boot, but did I have the time to fully fix this right before I take the damn Aspire One away with me? No. All I wanted to do with it was give it a quick maintenance session and make sure this kind of crap didn’t happen while I’m away.
I played around with a couple of distro’s on CD I’ve got lying around, I even toyed with the idea of putting Linpus back on the thing, but I’ve not got time to fit some of the stock hardware back into the thing, and neither have I got the time to tweak a distro into shape, so I’ve gone over to the dark side and stuck a copy of Tiny Vista on the thing. It simply works.
Hey, who knows, I may even leave it on.

The funniest thing…

One of the fun things about playing with a new OS is poking around and finding all the new stuff.

I’ve just found the Orca screen reader, and more precisely the Lancashire (en-uk-north) speech preference.

This has to be the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages. Dial the speed down a little, and drop the pitch, and that is is, my computer sounds exactly like an android version of a former Time computer call center operative.
They have got the accuracy down to not only Lancashire, but more precisely Asian Blackburn.

This is going to give me hours of fun.

I’m lovin’ it

Ubuntu, and the netbook are finally making a refreshing change.

Ubuntu, because it has a reasonable polish, and despite the usual suspects of broken things in the build, and bluetooth is the only critical one for me at the moment, is an enjoyable experience, and actually is a joy to use. Unlike OSX on it I don’t expect great things, so I am usually pleasently suprised when something workswell, rather than being frustrated then something dosent!

The rest is down to embracing the cloud and looking for true cross-platform, or highly available solutions. This is becoming the real revelation as I’m finding solutions to some of my age old problems of syncing stuff around that are finally accessible, or workable. Sure, they are not without problems, but they do work as they are supposed to do.

One accidental outcome of the last few days has been the switch to Google for most of my ‘cloud’, but by using several different services to get there.
I will outline more on this later.

Microsoft Free

It’s been a while since I was last totally Microsoft free, or more precisely Windows free, but with a need to rationalise my systems I needed something more reliable.
Gone is the Windows MCE set-up, and in its place is a Mythbuntu system, with a little Samba magic to share out 1TB of storage space. Don’t get me wrong, MCE is not a bad system, but I do prefer MythTV, it fits and works better for everything I wanted to do, and will work more reliably as my main shared storage server, result, only one machine needs to run 24/7.
MythTV wins on the media front as it has always been more reliable for me in the past, MCE had a strange habit of needing random restarts to refill the TV Guide, and as it is Windows, a restart of the MCE front end never seemed to be enough, a full system restart always seemed necessary, and this restarting was a sticking point for using it as a 24/7 server. I simply want this to be my media appliance, with central storage tacked on. Oh, and I didn’t want to spend any money.
Result, one old Dell running Mythbuntu 8.01, one nice stock easy to manage MythTV set-up, one simple Samba server, one simple backup routine running on server, and one FreeNAS server waiting to be switched off when all my stuff is moved and verified.
Note to self. Auto-update is switched off, and when security is tightened up all updating will be kept to a minimum…

The two oddest parts of the whole thing are that I had to buy a Microsoft remote from the nice guys at Efficient PC to get a fully working remote control, and that I’ve just started reading the Linux Haters Blog, and I fully agree with almost everything the guy says!

The greatest penguin migration of all time?

I really don’t know what to make of this.


Half of me wants to be pleased, and half of me finds it moderately disturbing that the Penguin is being used in this way.

What does Linus think? or the army of coders contributing code?

I really want to believe that it is the best tool for the job, as I would normally say in any software deployment, it is just the ‘free’ element in this that is giving me the uneasy feeling. Yes I’d love to say that leaving Microsoft would be the correct decision, the thought of Windows powered stuff in a combat situation simply scares me, hell Windows mobile had a job letting me make a phone call easily, correctly and reliably!

No this is about the community ideals of Linux, and the applications that it could be helping power.

Like may people I guess I never give things like this much thought, I’d guessed that Microsoft would be heavily involved in the whole military thing, but thought that most things would be running on custom embedded software systems, with military grade encrypted communications between devices. Part of the shock is that they are running such a mix of OS’s and systems, and I guess I’d have nightmares if I thought about how badly all this could inter-operate. Scarier still is the thought that this is the U-S of A, God alone knows what cobbled together shoestring system the British Army are using.

More than this is the simple spirit and community used to develop the Linux kernel, using it this way feels kind of wrong, and against the principles that the development is founded on, and mentioned in the comments was the surprise that a BSD based system was not used because of it’s different licensing arrangement, though I largely think that the whole question is over the use of the Linux kernel, and the base operating systems, and not applications built using GPL code. Image the code for cruise missile control systems being returned to the open-source community, and finding it freely available on the net!

Maybe I should return to my happy ignorance of such systems, or maybe I should be happy that military systems are not spewing spam, trying to connect to Windows Update and failing on WGA checks, or like my WM5-6 devices needing a daily reboot just to function. Maybe I should be happy that the little Penguin has gained such an important role, and maybe I should be comfortable that such deadly equipment is coded by thousands and is not in the control of one corporation.

Myth busting..

Or busted Myth..

I broke Linux again, or more precisely I broke MythTV by doing an upgrade on Fiesty. I hate it when this happens, and it’s not the first time either.

You have to love apt-get, it is a great way to perform system upgrades, but, and here is the rub, you only get what people have been so kind to package, and without an immediate roll back, especially when it is a full system upgrade, going back to an earlier version of a package(s) can be difficult.

That is what happened this time, a badly fscked up the Xubuntu interface, not terminal, but one hell of a lot of effort to put right. Remarkably using only MythTV was fine, nothing happened to the frontend, and indeed I carried on using it for a couple of weeks before launching into the ‘fix’.

The fix this time is drastic. I’m Linux free again at the moment… though not the Mac only home I’d love it to be.
Digging around in my software CD box brought up a Dell recovery CD, properly acquired with the Dell machine I am using as my Media-center, but I guess not matched to the box as it contained XP with MCE 2005, so now I’ve got it installed, and working, I’m pleased to report it actually works, something I was not quite expecting to be so simple. The install went well, and a little fine tuning, removing the Dell cr@p in the process, a few updates and drivers loaded, and I’ve got a media machine I’m happy with.

I could never understand why standard XP with a PVR center loaded on-top worked so badly when Linux plus MythTV worked so well, well now I’m even more perplexed as both Myth and MCE work so well, when all the stand alone apps didn’t. I guess a proper set-top-box would work even better, but this gives me so much more as like the Ubuntu install before it I get a PVR, 24/7 file server for the two other Macs, and have the option now of a few games, web browsing and mobile connectivity in the living room.

I guess the Myth really was that I’d never go back to Windows, at least for some tasks, but I guess I’m happy with a machine that performs the tasks it should, and I’ll use something else for a different job!

Myth 2

Pasted Graphic

No, not a game, though the title is similar!

No, just an update on my MythTV setup.

I screwed up mstab while trying to add another hard disc to the box, so I did a not so clean install of Ubuntu Feisty, but just could not get the machine to start MythTV. I did a full format of all the discs, and stupidly re-tried Windows as a base for a TV-Media box.

Nothing has changed. No Windows based PVR software will run as it should. They all freeze, or drop, frames, some worse than others. One, and I can’t remember which as I re-tested so many, jerked in and out of frame at a steady 1 second interval. It was like watching an early pop video where this was a favored effect!

I can’t be arsed trying to find the source of these problems. Most of the software is closed, or poorly supported, and to be frank it is too much effort right now. I’d like to try Windows MCE, but I’m not paying for it, and the torrents were slow to non-existant so I’m not even going to bother testing it, I just closed down the box and have only just gone back to it.

I installed Xubuntu, Automatix and MythTV, and this time it worked perfectly. I still cannot understand how TV recording, live TV and timeshifting work perfectly under Linux, when under Windows, with correct drivers etc, does not work period.
Still, its working fully, with a few tweaks to sort out, and hopefully will remain just that, a TV appliance, that also acts as a NAS for all my media files.

The Big Switch

Media Center screenshot

Alright, not a big switch, but an important one.

Remember my battles with Ubuntu and the tribe in the living room? Well, Windows won, at least for now. The last install of Ubuntu went bad on me (totally unresponsive) and I decided to really sort things out. The overiding factor here is:

Keep it simple stupid!

Simply that, and nothing more.

I want to have a simple interface and be able to play all of my music, all my videos, show all my photos and browse the web.

I don’t want to spend much money, God knows that if I could drop the cash on a Mac Mini I could, but I’m prepared to spend a little.

I’ve got a perfectly good machine, non-standard yes, and non-expandable, but I don’t want to add anything more. I don’t need TV, I can’t add anything more than USB addons anyway, video, the onboard should be good enough, sound, a Yamaha amp takes care of that, I just want to do these four tasks, on this simple box, with an easy to use interface.

Linux has not been able to let me do this, I don’t want to have to spend hours just tweaking and poking into the things guts to get it to work. I don’t want to have to baby anything, I just want it to work.
So in rolled a Windows install. Granted not a normal XP version, but a workstation version of Server 2003. Why not? I’ve got the licence, it is the best they make, and less than an hour of my time makes it a stable, safe and secure desktop. One further tweak lays a nice black skin over the awful Luna scheme, and then a few security precautions and we are good to go.
The final stage is the media app, and JRivers Media Center gets the big thumbs up here. With iTunes installed it plays all my media, including iTunes purchased fare, theater mode takes care of the simple interface, though without it everything is just iTunes++, I looked at the other options, and nothing seems to work as well as this. One point to concede is the trade off in functions, version 12 rocks, but because of changes to the software it will not run theater mode on my simple box, I’ve had to settle for version 11 to get round this, now I just need to find out if I can buy a licence for this one.

Apple, take note, this is what I expect iTunes to become….

Year of the Linux desktop (again)?

Scrapped computers.

I’m sick of computers.

There, I’ve said it.

Only its not quite so simple. What I am sick of is lack of interoperatabilty, lack of consistency, the lack of thought that goes into putting things together. What I’m getting at is the almost beta quality of most operating systems, sure some of the apps are stars, but they can be let down by the system they operate on.

Let me elaborate, recently I’ve had the (mis)opportunity to test several OSs on two of my computers. I wanted this to be a fairly simple case of using Ubuntu Edgy Eft on both of them. This was not to be the case. Michelle’s old Samsung laptop has been running various Linux versions for a while, with a brief return to Win2000, and none have offered full functionality or reliability, including Ubuntu Dapper Drake. The other machine is an old small form factor PC from work which has now found a home attached to the TV and needs to offer music and web surfing. Both machines need to connect to a network drive for document storage, neither has a hard drive big enough to to hold a fraction of what they need to serve, and both need to offer a relatively simple program choice, and be easy to use. Neither machine contains exotic hardware, but both offered enough challenges to make me severely doubt that Microsoft’s newly released Vista has any real competition.

Firstly Ubuntu. Installed fine from the live CD on both machines, Automatix was next to install all the codecs and other ‘non free’ stuff I can’t live without. I’m not a ‘free’ software advocate, if it does what it is supposed to do, use it, wether it is proprietary or not. Then it was onto mounting the network drive, and the beginning of problems for both machines.

Something in Edgy is broken. Editing mstab to mount the drive for an ordinary user went ok, but restarting brings up HAL errors. This is a showstopper on both boxes. The laptop compounded the problem with the inability to properly shut down either. This is an error that appears in other distros too, notably Xandros, and understandably recent (Ubuntu based) versions of Mepis. As this is a machine that is turned on and of regularly, unlike some of my other machines, it is disappointing. I’ve tried many differing settings in the BIOS and enabled/disabled ACPI to no avail, it simply wont shut down properly, just hangs at about 80% done.

Ok, next. Freespire. I was very pleasantly surprised here, but I only got it to install on the laptop, not the Compaq. It was much better than I had thought, a little garish in places, but well put together, and if you can deal with the commercially orientated environment, which to be fair is no worse than that in Xandros, only more ‘cheap and cheerful’ in look and feel. I would like to see V2 of Freespire running when it is available.

With the failure of Freespire on one machine it was onto the next distro, PCLinuxOS. I’ve heard some very good things about this OS, and again on the laptop I was not disappointed, everything works exactly the same as it says it will on the tin. Shutdown is clean, software choices are sensible, and the default is good enough, auto mounting the samba share was easy, done through a GUI, wireless works with very little effort, the only fly in the ointment is the occasional boot up without any network, rebooting usually cures this. I would have liked a Debian base, and I would prefer Gnome over KDE, but to have it all working as it should with a pleasing default and minimal effort to tweak it into shape for me was a bonus and so for a month now PClinuxOS has stayed on the laptop.

One down, one to go. The media-player, or more correctly the music player with a GUI front end, as that is basically what it is. Sure, it will also do YouTube, but that stuff is bad for you. Once bitten totally hooked, I have to force myself to turn it off, the hours I’ve lost to meaningless junk over the last few months, though at least you get to chose your own junk, unlike terrestrial TV. PCLINUXOS installed OK, but it would not configure and run Amarok correctly, it’s another story just finding and configuring an actual front end to play my music. The lack of Debian, and ease of updating to alternate versions was frustrating, so I hauled out Xandros again and bunged that on, and with a little configuration got it how I wanted it. Then I hit problems.
I’ve seen this in Xandros before, and not in other distros, but once it starts to become unresponsive, forget it. This mainly involves the Xandros file manager, which I know is not just straight Konqueror, but it often refuses to start. I don’t know what it is, and as this is not supposed to be a bug fixing exercise, I just want this machine to work, reliably and without fuss, but this problem does frustrate me. To top this off the Xandros Music Manager, a re-branded Amarok, somehow corrupted a bunch of music tags, so a proportion of my music collection has become garbage, a job I’m still fixing through iTunes. To add insult to injury the 1st service pack for Xandros 4 then caused problems with the startup/shutdown screens, a problem that they stated they were releasing a fix for, and a problem I didn’t have. C’mon guys, Xandros used to be very slick and professional, and should be a worthy Windows replacement, but you are falling behind the curve, your community is virtually non existent, and there are too many silly problems (that I’ve seen) in this release.

So that was it, another choice had to be made, and i decided to go back to Ubuntu, but visited SuSE on the way, just as a point of reference. One thing I have decided is that Debian is the way to go for me, so I was on a downer with SuSE before I started. I don’t know, but even with YaST I’m no longer happy working in setup, I know that good things are said about SuSE, and it is something that I used to love, but I just get the feeling it is not what it was since Novell took over, and the recent Microsoft deal also ‘concerns’ me. Somethings in it are great, I managed to get the screen resolution to run natively at its proper resolution, something no one else can do, and something I presumed was not possible with this video card, but it is unusable for the application in hand. I need everything set BIG, and with careful setup it is possible to use the LCD TV ‘stretch’ mode, big bold fonts, tuned applications, and have a 20 inch widescreen fully usable at 2 meters +, but not so in native mode, everything becomes too damned small, and SuSE defaults appear horrible. SuSE was never meant to be put on this machine in more than a ‘test’ mode, sitting in the sidelines is Fedora Core, but for similar reasons to SuSE I don’t think I’d stick with it even after the long haul setting it up how I want it.

My decisions are clear now, I’ve put Ubuntu back on, and I’m working on a fix for mounting network drives at boot that doesn’t involve Hal errors. One of the most important things with Ubuntu is Automatix, together I can get a perfect, simple, system very easily, and aside from silly bugs, or hardware problems, I’m very happy with it. I wish it could have been like this from the start on both machines, but the combination of wants, and issues, meant it was not possible. I like the fact that Ubuntu is not American, I used to like the fact that SuSE was not either, I like the fact that although the base install is pretty much clear of proprietary software, it is easy to get the things you want installed, with thanks to the people at Automatix (and Easyubuntu). I love the simplicity of Gnome, a fairly sensible initial software set, and attention to detail in making things ‘just work’. I love the quality of the documentation available, the community forums, the website. In short I really, really want them to succeed, and hope that there is a long way to go with this OS, however, this has hardly been an easy ride, and I didn’t really have any demanding requirements (auto-mounting a network drive excepted, though it is hardly demanding).

Unfortunately Linux has a long way to go to make all of this easy. To put it simply, a Mac Mini sitting in the same place in the living room will do everything I want of it, easily, and a lot more besides. When I can afford to place a Mini in my system this is exactly what it will do, and unfortunately when it does, my use for Linux will become very limited.

Xandros Talk

Chat over the table.

“So, what you been up to this week?”

“Well, I spoke to soon about


, they released version 4 this week, and completely bungled the pre-order download. I pre-registered an interest and come the 21st, release day, nothing happened. I logged on at various times during the day, and checked my mail for the discount link, but nothing. By 10pm they had made the new release available in the shop, but at the full price. It was not until the 22nd, at 4pm, did I get my coupon link, and even then it did not give me any of the options I wanted. I literally had to ‘hack’ the system to get my code and the straight ISO download of the Premium version.

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