Archive for the ‘Moblin’ Category

Gnome RAM Use, LXTerminal, Tiny Core 2.0, FLWM, and a Long Frigging Rant About It All

May 27, 2009

Rebooted into Gnome this morning after giving the latest Tiny Core release candidate I’d downloaded over the weekend a quick spin. I wanted a quick and dirty benchmark for where my AA1 is on a clean boot using Gnome so I can compare to other environments. This is with networking started along with a bit of stuff I could probably slim down a bit (e.  g., I could only start cupsd when I intend to print).

Screenshot-Terminal-start-gnome-f10-01

See, LXDE guys, this is how a terminal should behave; yours doesn’t work right. My shell is running as it’s intended to and I don’t have to force the terminal to read my profile settings to get my prompt or my aliases or any other settings I have (in my .mkshrc). Kind of stupid to have to set up a shell wrapper to invoke the LXTerminal to read ~/.profile (and from that .mkshrc) when it starts so I don’t falsely presume my aliases and other settings are loaded. My complaint last night (in the screenshot) wasn’t about the prompt, which serves as a marker or symptom that a particular file has been properly read, it’s about an application that ignores what should be considered a standard — read particular environment setting files (not just a fucking bashrc because not everyone uses bash) so the proper environment is available to the user. Does that make any sense?

Okay, now about my thoughts of the changes in Tiny Core 2.0. I’m not able to do much with it yet because I didn’t load the modules I need for the AA1 (not close enough to an ethernet cable to connect to the Internet). It’s what I expected: spartan. It’s like an empty canvas just waiting for the artist to express himself. Only instead of painting a few pieces of fruit or a barn or something, users get to add only what they want or need to it. No pretenses, no clutter, just what you need. Alas, people confuse desires with needs and vice versa.

I know there will be lots of bitching about FLWM. I saw some already last week at Distrowatch and also in the TCL forums — some of it was the drawa queen “you’re killing your distro” kind. I don’t know why that’s such a hard thing for users to accept since there are other window managers available in the repository and they’re not limited to what’s in the base. The window manager is only there to manage windows, not to be admired. If you want to admire your computer screen, turn it into a picture frame and don’t bother using applications. You can dress it all up however you want. Seriously, why should aesthetics be a show stopper?

Let’s contrast it with Moblin, which has all the sizzling sexy eye candy but has things that either don’t work yet or that crash over and over again. Every reviewer writes like he or she had multiple orgasms from using it despite the fact that it’s advertised as beta-level (haha, what an overstatement — try alpha) and buggy as hell. Reviews and feedback about stable little Tiny Core (and DSL before it) are filled with complaints that it’s not flashy enough compared to everything else out there. Okay, it may not be the fanciest distro but it doesn’t crash and repeatedly pester you with notices about them so you can decide if you want to e-mail the developers.

Robert and the Tiny Core team are putting out a rock-solid little distro. Why can’t that shine on its own without being all dressed up in Web 2.0 shite shine? Distros are about more than eye candy — at least they should be. What should count most is their efficiency and stability. Tiny Core has that. It’s not the easiest thing to set up and use, but once you get a few concepts down it’s easy to manage and won’t give you much grief because it’s stable.

I tried to help other DSL users who whined about the lack of sex appeal see how they could change JWM from “boring” to “fancy.” In one ear and out the other. As if DSL and Tiny Core are about window managers.

If FLWM is a deal breaker, you’re trying the wrong distro anyway so keep your thoughts to  yourself. Go back to Ubuntu and its sloppy Netbook Remix with the ever-crashing desktop menu. Or go ahead and use Moblin’s preview even though it’s not intended for production (and lives down to that!). Or use some other bloated piece of shit that looks fantastic and awesome and will make you cum all over yourself from the sensory overload. Just remember that there are more stable options available when you get tired of the system failing, breaking, or doing odd things because more concern was given to gussying it up than making it run right.

The irony: people now demand JWM back in the base. Wonder how many of them were complaining when JWM was made DSL’s default window manager over fluxbox.

Can’t please everyone. Can’t please some people at all.

Memorial Day Weekend Finale: Ubuntu Netbook Remix on AA1

May 25, 2009

My little Memorial Day Weekend Linux Fest continues with a look at Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), which I probably would never have tried had I not tried Gnome in Fedora.

Here’s my quick summary of UNR: FAIL.

Screenshot-4

Let’s start backwards so I can complain about one aspect of Ubuntu’s philosophy that makes it less than ideal as far as I’m concerned. I seriously considered installing UNR despite the issues I had with the menu/desktop thing repeatedly crashing (see below). I also hate trying to understand their goofy installer which makes it convoluted to do a “custom” installation. I realize Ubuntu tries to make things more “approachable” for unsophisticated users, but the over-simplification and “recommended” settings make me wonder if their installer really understands what I want to do. Maybe it’s the paranoia from trusting the PCLOS installer to automatically decide what’s best for the space I set aside. But part of it’s also due to a (IIRC) 6.04-era Xubuntu install that ignored everything I tried to do.

My concerns this time with the dumbed-down (retarded even) techniques of Ubuntu began when I read on the UNR wiki that the “preferred” way to get the image to USB was to download and use their bloated software in Windows or Linux rather than dd it via Linux or BSD. I don’t think more steps is necessarily preferable to fewer. But Team Ubuntu is so hung up on doing every damn thing via graphical interface that it’s part of the deal.

Screenshot-dd-unr-002

Anyway, I ignored their preferred way and just used dd if=/path/to/theirnearlyoneGBimage.img of=/dev/myusb from my Fedora installation. La ti da. I rebooted from the USB stick and watched the Ubuntu splash screen hide all the boot processes. That’s another reason I hate Ubuntu. I want to see what process(es) start and might need to be turned off, to see what hardware is or isn’t detected. Ubuntu’s motto may as well be “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe the less noobs know, the less they’ll fuck things up and flood the forums with the same old questions.

When I got the UNR desktop, it wasn’t the standard Gnome desktop but it was a shade of that shit-brown color Ubuntu has always used but really shouldn’t. How the fuck do  they get away with such a boring earthtone when so many noobs insist on bright, shiny eye-candy? Come on, we’re in the 21st century already.

Let me digress and confess that I briefly ran PudX or XPud or whatever the hell it’s called — sorry, but I find it hard to keep a straight face with anything that includes “pud” as part of its name — a couple weeks ago. It has one of these tabbed menu interfaces which I think belongs on devices like phones and PDAs rather than on netbooks. It was more intuitive and cleaner and clearer than the crappy attempt by Moblin. I think I could live with the XPud/PudX (whatever, heh) interface. The one with Moblin deserves a hot corner of Hell for giving me such a headache the other night because it didn’t seem as coherent.

The UNR desktop/menu interface is kind of like the offspring you’d expect if the Moblin interface defiled mated with the PudX/XPud (sorry, told y’all a couple entries ago that these distro names are getting to be too screwy to care anyway and here’s one with PUD in it). It’s a bit clearer but it also has some strange ideas that I think might work on a phone but make me long for a standard desktop instead.

Screenshot-2

Worse, the thing kept fucking crashing on me! The first time was when I looked to see if I could change the shit-brown to something a little more normal for a white Aspire One. I went with ClearLooks and changed the light blue to a richer cobalt-like shade. Then the desktop menu thing disappeared and a few seconds later I was asked if I wanted to see more of these messages and if I cared to send a bug report to the developers. No to both, and restart the desktop menu thing. Opened Firefox, tried to get some streaming (PLS) audio. Had to find the codecs, install them, then it started. Went back to get a screenshot, found it in the menu, then the menu thing crashed again. And again. And again. And again.

Screenshot-1

I realize some people think they need to reinvent wheels to differentiate themselves from an upstream distro, but you really shouldn’t fix what’s not broken. I don’t find a tabbed desktop menu any more useful than a traditional one, and one that crashes every 90 seconds is not an improvement — it’s a fucking annoyance. Look at the above screenshot and note that there’s only an icon tray for open windows: two Firefox icons (one for the Firefox browser and the other for the download manager), another for Totem (which I manually selected to play the stream instead of the default Rhythmbox), and the Ubuntu logo which doesn’t pop down a traditional menu but takes you back to the crummy desktop/menu thing.

I decided I didn’t want this on my hard drive even though stuff that hasn’t worked in other distros — like the internal mic, though I didn’t try the card readers, ear phones, etc.  — worked to some extent. That doesn’t mean things worked flawlessly. I mentioned the microphone worked but I could only record clear sounds at the lowest possible settings (for spx, IIRC). Other settings resulted in popping sounds. I didn’t capture any video successfully via Cheese, either, but it did take some clear pictures.

Even though I didn’t want to commit to installing it, I did go through the installer to see if I had reason to be concerned it would override how I’d want to install it. When I got to the partitioner, the whole thing ran off the screen so I had to move the window back and forth to see what was happening. Why? Too many partitions? That’s messed up regardless of why because this is geared towards machines which tend to have 1024×600 resolution. Why can’t you get that set up so it scales to the width of the screen instead of to infinity regardless of how many partitions are set up?!

To Ubuntu’s credit, their installer recognized the other partitions and the distros used on the / for each. I have two Windows partitions (one recovery and one for XP installation), one Linux swap, and five Linux partitions (one entirely unused ~20GB I could use to test another distro), and a big chunk of free space which will most likely be used for an encrypted Windows partition whether I merge or unify my Linux partitions whenever Fedora 11 (coming first week in June, maybe), or a better option, comes along.

Anyway, I stopped everything when the installer looked like it switched from my chosen partition to the “use whole disk” setting — not sure if that happened when I was alt-mouse moving the window so I could see WTF was happening or if it did that itself. I didn’t care because I think I’d just as soon use standard Ubuntu as this remix and its buggy desktop menu. Which means screw Ubuntu, I’ll stick with Fedora.

Just as I was getting ready to shut it down, the desktop/menu thing crashed for the final time. I tried every fucking keystroke combination I could to get a menu to no avail. This was the straw that broke UNR’s back as far as I’m concerned. I couldn’t see what the Ubuntu splash screen was hiding during boot but I decided to see if it disabled the AA1’s on-off button. As soon as I clicked it, I got Ubuntu’s shutdown menu. Yea! I rebooted and will likely wipe the USB stick very soon.

Like Moblin, UNR seems a great idea — on paper. Only problem is, it sucks on the computer. I’ll give Moblin and UNR each an A for effort but have to give both an F for flawed/failed execution. I really think a standard distro will suit my needs better than a machine- or netbook-specific one at this point. I don’t want my netbook to run or look like a cellphone or PDA. It’s a computer and I use it like one (which is why XP models have far outsold the Linux-based cloud versions of  these things — people use them as computers rather than as net appliances). I don’t want some quirky interface (no, ratpoison isn’t quirky and it doesn’t have cascading walls of “m-zones” and other bizzarre novelties getting in the way if the mouse moves too far).

This turned out to be a bad way to spend the weekend, though it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Nothing I tried this weekend (Linux-wise) was much of an improvement over anything else I’ve already installed. XP remains flawless on the Aspire One and will remain my primary OS on this thing. I converted PCLOS from KDE to Xfce/JWM/ratpoison (from slim login manager) and it’s actually okay despite how pissed off I am about its automatic installation and some of the unresolved hardware issues remain unresolved. Fedora has also been surprisingly good on this even though I don’t consider myself a Gnome fan, and Fedora is the direction I’m leaning if I ever settle on a binary-based distro. Maybe PCLOS will get stronger now that Tex has resumed control and in spite of all the defections.

I still may yet give Tiny Core another run because I’m finding myself doing so much tweaking regardless of which distro I use that I may as well go back to the modular concept I wanted. I keep saying that but I never have time to mess with anything anymore. But who knows. I saw someone whining about the aesthetics of FLWM, the new default TC 2.0 window manager, at Distrowatch last week. That sounds very promising after the glitzy do-nothing shite of Moblin.

Substance trumps style. Sometimes less is more, especially when it’s not crashing incessantly and getting in the way of the user. I’ll take stability over fancy every damn time.

Moblin V2 UX Gave Me a Headache

May 23, 2009

I downloaded the new Moblin V2 UX image and booted it up. My initial impressions are tempered by the disclaimer on the Moblin site: “The Moblin platform is still in a preliminary, beta-quality stage.”

Bullshit. It’s more like alpha-quality. A lot of stuff is broken and misconfigured, and quite a bit isn’t configured at all.

I’ll reserve my criticism accordingly and not dwell on things that absolutely didn’t work — like the link to youtube despite the lack of flash in the image, or missing audio codecs without any warning or message.

No, my biggest peeve was the entire graphical interface concept.

I prefer to keep my menus on auto-hide. The problem with Moblin is that there are layered auto-hide menus, or at least that’s the effect with different things dropping down — cascading, even — depending how far up your mouse pointer goes.

I also think the top level menu is an absolute abortion. Some of the icons are kind of peculiar so they’re not exactly intuitive. I don’t like having to work my way through a bunch of BS just to find a terminal to see what’s going on, how much RAM I’m wasting (I was using 975 MB with wifi connected, a browser session running, and a terminal launched), etc. I realize this interface is supposed to represent the new web 2.0 paradigm so maybe it’s the fault of a web 1.0 user. I got a headache (really — just took an Advil) between trying to figure out where things were and having tiers of menus drop down when I moved my mouse too far.

One final complaint. Someone at moblincore or whatever it’s called didn’t get every freaking oops report from my session. I figured three in the f irst ten minutes is enough. For the record, the crashes continued at about the same pace for the next ten minutes before I restarted the ever-crashing browser to find the su password (moblin) so I could halt or reboot my AA1 — if there’s a shutdown menu I couldn’t find the damn thing for the life of me.

Now some positive points. First, I was getting kind of nervous reading comments on the Moblin site about AA1 users unable to get wifi working. I had no trouble connecting to my hidden SSID — name it, add the passphrase, boom. It would’ve been nice to get a message that it was connected but the icon eventually changed to a familiar wifi-looking beacon thingy and I was surfing. Second, if you like shiny interfaces you’re gonna fucking looooove Moblin. Third, it boots and shuts down fairly quickly (not the five seconds stated on the Moblin site, at least not from USB) once you get root and/or a menu entry to shut down (if there’s even such a menu entry).

I can’t attest to any performance benchmarks — they should be extraordinary given Intel’s and Linux Foundation’s running of Moblin –because I was too frigging busy figuring out why the test sound was so awesome but sound via the Internet or anything else wasn’t working, where things were in the disjointed menu, why I was getting yet another notice that the browser or something had crashed, etc. I was too busy using the browser to learn that there wasn’t much working anyway and then repeatedly clicking “send” and then “cancel” for the almost incessant crash reports.

This thing might be kind of cool once they get things ironed out. It should be fast since it’s oriented for a limited set of hardware rather than one size fits all. It also has the flashy look so many users demand today. Unfortunately, I’m a more practical kind of guy and not into aesthetics. Just give me a clear and sensible menu first and worry about eye-candy later.

Right now, Moblin really has the cart before the horse. Even taking into consideration the alpha/beta level readiness of it, I still have to give it a FAIL because the interface is so convoluted that they need to do a revamp before I’d consider installing it on anything. Especially my own computer.