• Ubuntu in four years

    Last year was me celebrating four years of using the best operating system out there: Linux and the best distro Ubuntu. Ubuntu was my first foray in to Linux; and I haven’t left it since; although I have tried all the other major distros. I started with the first version of Ubuntu; Warthy Warthog:

  • KDE 4.2 Beta 2

    Recently I downloaded the Kubuntu packages of the new KDE 4.2 beta 2. For those of you who don’t know; KDE is the K Desktop Environment; which includes a window manager (KWin), common desktop applications, its own menu (Kickoff), browser (Konqueror), file manager (dolphin) etc. Basically it is the most popular desktop environment on Linux next to Gnome.

    image *KDE 4.2 Beta 2 with Kickoff Menu visible

    * **What is so special about KDE? **
    The philosophy of KDE is the advanced configuration it allows through its Graphical User Interface (GUI), this is versus Gnome which chooses sane defaults and leaves configuration in hard to reach places and out-of-sight. This isn’t to say KDE doesn’t choose sane defaults; it does and is very user-friendly. KDE has always been the more Windows-like of the major desktop environments and this hasn’t really changed in KDE 4.X series. KDE is available in popular distributions of Linux such as Kubuntu, Mandriva, OpenSuse. The special part about 4.X series is that for the first time for any Linux desktop environment; it is fully cross-platform, easily installs and works on Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X.

    image KDE 4.2 Panel; with KOrganizer calendar open

    Whats new in 4.2?
    Stability. Ever since KDE started the really beautiful 4.X branch they have gotten harsh criticism for stability problems. This is not surprising as KDE 3.5 was the result of years of bugfixing and stability fixes and was really rock solid stable; in fact I don’t remember it crashing at all in the times I used it; but I have been a Gnome user for a while. This criticism was deserved; but perhaps premature: KDE always stated this almost ground-up rewrite of everything major wasn’t going to be pretty and it wasn’t. I used KDE 4.0 and KDE 4.1 and both crashed frequently; especially Plasma since it powers almost everything on the desktop.

    Desktop Effects
    With this release comes the introduction of desktop effects; if your graphics card is supported. I think this is a great move since projects like Compiz required hacked in dectection of KDE or Gnome and I suspect this was coded in; it really makes sense to have desktop effects in the core; as it will really help stabilise them as the KDE4.X branch matures.

    • Better Customisation
      You can now control height and length of the menu bar; as well as add many more plasma applets to it. The Kmenu replacement Kickoff has stepped up to the plate in this release and features almost a complete set of icons for any application (much to my chargrin in earlier release a lot of ? icons could be seen). Also more customisation and preference panes of Plasmoids are allowed.

    image Desktop Effects in KDE 4.2 Beta 2

    Full major feature overview is here.

    So whats the final assessment?
    When this is released I definately recommend you try it! This is the first release of the 4.X branch I would be happy to install and support on my family’s desktop. Since I don’t often get to access it physically to fix problems; this is one area I couldn’t trust either 4.0 or 4.1 to behave. It still isn’t as feature-completed or as stable as 3.5 series; but in my opinion it is damn close and approaching fast; get it while its hot!!

    Kubuntu Instructions to get KDE 4.2 Beta 2 on Kubuntu Intrepid 8.10

  • Firefox and Opera lead the web video way

    I downloaded Firefox 3.1 beta 2 (after trialling other development snapshots over the last few months) to see Ogg Theora video support is coming on really well. Opera, as well as Mozilla has committed to including this royalty-free video codec for web use. This is really good news; as one Opera Developer said:

    Something however is still not quite there about web video. The video solutions mentioned above are proprietary closed solutions that rely on plugins to display in a web page - what we need to make video a first-class web citizen is an easy, open solution to integrate video into web pages, and native support for video in browsers.

  • Profiling Firefox Extensions I have installed

    • My Current Firefox Extensions: A-Z*
      imageAdblock Plus; because ads are for people that don’t know how to avoid them! Not only do they stop your banwidth from being wasted; they make a ton of websites more usuable. It takes care of Flash Ads as well as static ones; using a filter that is constantly updated. So even if some of the webs more devious and sneaky advertisers try to circumvent it; AdBlock can have a fix to everyone online within hours. It is definately my favourite extension! I don’t block certain ads like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (the ones with decent reputations) as that is how the people behind really good websites I frequent make a living. But for all the rest trying to do pop-ups and pop-unders; I am sorry your days are numbered! (Some people higly recommend flashblock but I haven’t had a need to use it with AdBlock Plus yet).

    CustomizeGoogle adds neat tricks to Google services such as always using a secure connection to Gmail; links to other search engines, page histories, Favicons to search and streaming results pages. Comes in handy once in a while; but I don’t use it daily.

    imageFireGPG adds the full encryption and signing power of PGP to your Firefox browser. They have built in buttons for Gmail and right click options to sign, decrypt, encrypt and much more. A must have for privacy-aware people out there. Only downside is you need to create a Web of Trust with the keys you choose to use.

    imageFoxmarks: synchronises your bookmarks, passwords accross any computer with Firefox installed (they have plans for Internet Explorer and Safari). It is definately my most used extension; comes in handy almost daily. I use a lot of different computers; and Foxmarks keeps them all in sync! Only thing they are missing is extension syncing (while keeping your preferences); but hopefully that will happen in the future!

    Gears: enables offline access in Google Reader and Google Docs. I have been hoping for awhile that they would extend this to gmail; but no such luck yet. It is mildly useful; but I wouldn’t use it daily.

    imagePingFire allows you to use service to send quick status messages to Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Blogger, and 100’s more. Really useful to alert people to what you are up to!

    image SpeedDial: Opera’s innovative approach has been replicated in 100’s of Firefox Add-ons; not least this one. But this is very handy when you have a handful of websites you visit every day. It has a window with squares filled with images of the websites which you most frequent. It makes checking news and your favourites websites a breeze. Customisation options for the tinkerers among us are quite good also….

  • Research proves video games lack harm

    imageI am not a big gamer; I primarily love systems and how they work. I do own a PS3 (amazing hardware I might add) and I prefer FPS and generally devious natured video games (like the GTA franchise). Does that make me a bad person who wants to kill people? Of course not; nothing could be further from the truth. But some people stick their fingers in their ears and shout “LA LA LA Columbine LALALA Terrorists LALALA Violent Video Games!”. They say it is destructive to childrens young precious minds. The “Think of The Children” argument always disgusted me; its like shouting Fire in a packed room when their is no danger: it is false, just to garner attention and a sickening twisted version of the facts. Are violent video games harmful to kids? Probably; I wouldn’t advocate giving them access since they; just like movies are clearly rated for Adults. *

    imageWhat is so hard to understand about that? Its is clearly an issue of parenting and morals whether you allow your child access to such material. So it is clear the real issue is the lack of proper guidance by parents; either to not bother enforcing the ratings, block their children from receiving them as gifts, or monitor to check if they spend pocket money on such items. They gladly do so for other adult items like adult content, movies, cigarettes and alcohol; why not video games? Today’s consoles even have ratings built-in (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360) which are enforceable by a password the parent can set. This makes it a breeze to block adult games and really hard for the average child (never mind adult) to circumvent. They could still play it at a friends house of course; you can’t lock your children down, but even so you can actively limit their exposure to such material. The study points out what others and I have always known: Video games don’t corrupt a mind by themselves, other factors (mainly social/upbringing) have a much bigger impact (Highlighting mine for brevity):

    Research at Smith & Jones seems to imply that feelings of anger and powerlessness often pre-exist a compulsion to play violent games. In some cases these people find each other in the gaming world and form a bond based on those feelings of alienation and anger.
    Mr Bakker believes that if there was more commitment from parents and other care givers to listen to what their children are saying then these issues of isolation and frustration could be dealt with at source and bring many young people out of the virtual world and back into real life.

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