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June 18, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» OCLUG and “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon

I have started reading this book, I am about half way through.
I have already found useful info that I can use in OCLUG.

I consider my role as President of OCLUG to be similar to the role of Community Manager that Bacon describes. The committees that we struck at the AGM have “objectives” that would be “objectives” for the club, as the book defines them. We would need to add other objectives as defined at the AGM and in recent board meetings, but this is a great start on a “Strategic Plan”.

As someone said in a committee meeting recently, “talking about mission … again”. Well, maybe. Jono Bacon considers a Mission Statement to be useful, but I think we have one already. It’s somewhere in the minutes and I will make it more prominent Real Soon Now(tm, but not by me).

The book is a detailed how-to, a tool for planning, executing on the plan, tracking progress on the plan, and reporting. In fact, I intend to take his notes on “Reporting”, and use them at work. I will also apply his recommendations on reporting transparently at work and in the club.

Speaking of work – Bacon even tells a story of what not to take from work and apply to community, thereby highlighting that this can be an issue, and to remember it.

I appreciate the work that Jono Bacon has put into this book. It will be a reference that I will keep and refer to, and recommend to others involved in leadership of any sort of community, from festival to software project.

I must note that my copy is missing all its “Figures”, which probably means it is a pre-release copy. I am curious to see several of them, (What does the “dot” family look like?) but it has not hindered my learning.

I have learned about organising a group from one of the best – Toastmasters International – and from numerous short training courses. This book brings together a lot that I have learned, packages it for theoretical consistency, and adds new material that I can act on. And I still have half of it to read yet.

Tagged: process, review, team tools

January 23, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Blog tools in Linux

I decided to look at what blog tools are available in Linux. I want to  use them with my blog, of course, so that is how I tested them.

I have only checked out a couple of tools, but I find them mostly not working very well with The only one that has worked at all is QTM, so far.


This is the recommended tool for Linux, according to the WordPress site. It won’t install in Oneiric. I expect I could make it work if I fiddled with some settings for apt-get, maybe. But the author is not working on it, so no real desire to try.


Broken. Intended for Gnome 2. One of the libraries is not compatible with Gnome 3: “python-gnomeapplet”. Maybe there is no concept of applet in Gnome 3?


I tried it. Editing a new post worked. There were error messages connecting to I was not able to post the blog because it could not get permission to write.


This one was able to post a message, but left the message in the “draft” state on That may be my fault – there is a “draft/publish” drop down on the app.

Because it was “posted”, it put the file into some sort of archive state, so that the next time I went to edit, I had to fiddle around to be able to see it. Finished editing the post on

Other options

There is at least one plugin for FireFox for editing blogs. But I was looking for tools for Gnome so I can try out Gnome 3, so I haven’t tried it yet.

Tagged: Gnome3, Linux, software review

January 17, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Installing Mint 12

I installed Mint on my laptop the other day. Then I installed Cinnamon, which is Mint’s Gnome 3 based interface. I wanted to learn about Gnome 3′s powers, but without all the Gnome 3 hassle.

Installing Mint

I have to get some DVD’s – they want to put a GB in the installer. Fortunately there is a CD version without Office software and without codecs. Somepages indicate there are Windows installers, but I didn’t find one. It would be nice to have one for my work computer.

Installing Cinnamon

Installing Cinnamon was easy. Select Cinnamon in Synaptic and install it. Err, no, not in the list of selected items when I tried to choose at login time. Select cinnamon-session and install that (the notes said to do that). And now I am in Cinnamon.

Actually, I liked “Nate”, Mint’s Gnome 2 interface, a bit better. I liked having the menu as one of the choices when you select the thingy in the top left corner. In Cinnamon, the menu is in the bottom left.

Cinnamon Menu

In the Cinnamon menu, there are three columns. The left column is favorites, with some stuff you can’t get rid of like shutdown and lock screen. When the mouse is over an item, the bottom of the menu block, on the right (as far away from the favorites as possible) is the name and one line description of that application.

It actually makes sense to be on the bottom right, you should soon know what your favorites are, and the right column is the apps of the highlighted category in the middle column.

Faves can be removed using the right click menu. Also, you can right-click on a program to add it to favorites.

Firefox mysterious disappearing menus

By default, the Firefox menu system is missing. It turns out that Ubuntu disappeared it by installing a plugin that moved it to the Unity menu location, which is presumably some Mac-like common menu location.

So I could not use Firefox menus to get at the Addon Manager to kill the creepy addon.

I used a command line parameter to get at it, which I got from some web page I can’t find now. However, you can type “about:addons” in the address bar to get there.

The Guilty Addon is called “Global Menu Bar Integration”, and you can’t uninstall it, you can only disable it.

Broadcom Drivers

My laptop has Broadcom wifi, 4318 style. On all the other Ubuntu versions I have installed, I had to install the right thing, run the right script and then maybe remove the right lines from a config file.

This time, I was able to search in Synaptic for “Broadcom”, and install the package b43-fwcutter, and it worked! Wow!

Tagged: Linux, review

March 17, 2011

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Review: Ottawa Android Developers Group

The Ottawa Android group met at 6:30pm at The Code Factory. More people should know about this group. It was a lively meeting with useful information every minute.

About the Meeting Space

It’s The Code Factory. It works well for small groups up to 30 people, and has room for larger groups, up to 80 people in theory.

About the Group


Yeah, there were just 9 of us. Most were developers. Several are new to Android and Apps. No women this time. Mature, err “experienced” group, probably two under 30.

Group interaction

We had a great time! Banter and side tracks were fun and valuable. There is a mail list and the web site has recent posts.

About the meeting


Chris presented a report on the Android Developers Convention, AnDevCon The First. Gee, that sounds formal. Actually we sidetracked him and asked questions while he tried to get through his list of seminars and classes. It seems to have been targeted at people new to Android.


Some people were there when I arrived at 6:25pm. I think it actually started about 6:40pm. We left just before 8:00pm.

After the meeting gathering

My favourite size for an after-meeting pub discussion is now 5 people, as that was how many of us were at the Royal Oak. Informative, relevant. entertaining discussion and jive continued down the street and into the bar. We left just before 10:00pm.

Cost? My half-Guinness and dessert came to $13 with tax.

Tagged: groups, Ottawa, Ottawa groups, review

November 16, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Redmine, please copy Bugzilla

And other projects with multiple dependencies that depend on other things, please copy Bugzilla.

Redmine, like Bugzilla, has this library installation problem. I installed Redmine yesterday, and installed it and installed it and installed it.

I had just installed Xubuntu, so I didn’t even have ruby on the system, and then I couldn’t install the gems, until I found out the package name for “gem” is “rubygems”. That was my second guess, so I didn’t even have to go to Google.

You might think that a place like Redmine would have the list of dependencies in order, but no, the installer page lists “gem install rake” and “gem install rails” before they list “Rubygems 1.3.1 is required”. It’s something you only notice when you are new to installing apps for a specific language. (Note to self: set up an account on their bug site and tell them directly. :-) )

Yup, I just said I found the answer on their web page, one inch below the question, or maybe 3 cm.


After only 10 years, Bugzilla finally solved this problem in version 3.2, with a little help from Perl and CPAN. When you install Bugzilla, or update it, it checks if all the requirements are in place. That’s where it used to stop, with a list of work for you. Now it installs them for you. Yup, it asks first, because it wants to know if you want them in the “global” site library for Perl, or the “local” one for the Bugzilla user.

And then it goes off and gets them, and their dependencies, and their dependencies dependencies, and compiles things that need to be compiled and generally works hard while you work on something else, checking for any questions it might have.

Redmine, and many other apps, could learn from this.

Maybe Ruby can go one better, as a community, and create a generic dependency tool that takes your list of dependencies, and calls “gem” for you, installing the rubygem package, if necessary. You could call it an obvious name like “gemcase” if it’s available or come up with something creative.

This may seem obvious, but I will say it anyway: This gem installer thing can’t be a gem. More obvious stuff: The gem installer thing needs to know how to install rubygem on several OSes or platforms, including Microsoft platforms, by whatever name or means necessary on that platform. You should have it available in your top level folder when you untar your new toy, kinda like configure, although hopefully not so slow.

And no, you don’t want me to scratch this itch, or you might end up with a shell script. Although, maybe that’s just what you need here? ;-) Nah, you can assume Ruby is installed.

Tagged: frustration, review, software, tools

March 28, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Cherrypal underdelivers

I got my Charrypal ‘Africa’ Linux on Thursday. I am happy to report that it works. Except for some pages that the broswer doesn’t like – it crashes consistently on

Delivery? They promised 5 days, and delivered in 6 weeks + 6 days.

Browser? ‘Konqueror’ – no version info. Doesn’t have Flash. Doesn’t remember its new home page setting after computer turns off – reverts to No bookmarks. No menu.

Linux? Apparently, but no command line, no way to open or see files outside the data area called “C:/”. The CPU is a jz4750, which Wikipedia thinks is compatible with the ‘MIPSII’. Maybe there’s a distro I can put on an SD card?

Good points:

Networking – wired works, but yellow light on Belkin router – 10Mb? Wireless also works, but you must not hide your ESSID or it can’t connect – there is no way for you to enter the ESSID.

Text editing: I found a way to write text files – use AbiWord.

Spreadsheet: Gnumeric works OK, so I can share these files with the desktop.

Storage: USB works. It also reads SD cards OK.

I will keep it and probably have fun hacking it, but I would not recommend it for giving to your kids. :-)

Tagged: review

March 7, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Review: IGDA round table

The International Game Developers Association, Ottawa chapter, had a round-table meeting. I enjoyed the round-table called “Managing Your Way Through a Project Lifecycle”. I found the active presence of software managers a useful part of the meeting.

About the meeting space

Getting there

Carleton is not the normal location for this group, however, the following info is relevant for other groups meeting there. Carleton University is easy to find, but for anyone except Carleton grads, a link to a map of the campus would have been useful, showing where buildings are. One panel member was 10 minutes late through not finding Paterson Hall.

Parking is expensive at Carleton, unless you park at the south end of the campus, far from everything. Bus and O-Train access are more central. The O-Train provides access at 20 min intervals until late at night.


The classroom where we met was 129 Paterson Hall. It could hole about 30 people seated at tables. The chairs were comfortable. The people present could see clearly for the round table format. The temperature was fine. There was no need for projectors or sound system, and there was none.


Washrooms were OK. Food and drink are available in the University Centre building. At least some of the franchises are more expensive than at non-university locations.


There were lots of students around while I was there, so it seemed that no one would be likely to get caught alone with the wrong person.

About the group


In the round-table group I joined, with 8 or 10 people present, there were students, experienced developers and about half of the group were experienced managers.

Group interaction

There is some online activity on the group blog at They also have a mail list at

About the meeting


Tony lead the round table discussions. He was one of the managers present. He was obviously prepared and provided leadership and control of the discussion. There was lots of discussion and interaction between those present. The students had questions about how to apply the groups experience to their projects, in class and out. The experienced managers traded stories and asked probing questions.


The group started at 6:30pm as expected. The chips and pop provided by the sponsor arrived soon after.

After the meeting gathering

There wasn’t one that I noticed, at this meeting.

Tagged: groups, review

February 28, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Review: Startup Drinks Feb 24

This is a specifically networking event, not a technical event like OCLUG and most of the others in my lists, which means the portion of my review about presenters will be extremely brief. :-) This is my first visit to this group.

About the meeting space

Getting there

I was able to find Patty Boland’s pub at 101 Clarence St. easily on Google, and on foot once I reached Clarence Ave. If you are walking from the Rideau bus terminal, it’s a nice walk for someone who walks a lot.

The area is busy with little parking, as anyone who has ever visited the Market will remember. However, there were some empty parking spaces on Clarence when I arrived at 6:15pm. I don’t think there is free parking in the area.

Bus service is the best there is in Ottawa, once you get to the transitway at Rideau.


The room is the second floor area, up a set of stairs. There is room for probably 30 people in the area. No other bar patrons were in that area, just people there for the Startup Drinks event.

Sound system, screen and presenters – not relevant. :-)

The seats are good bar seats, and the place felt comfortable. There are tables, but no one there seemed to feel the need to pull out a laptop

Cost of the space is just the expectation that patrons will purchase drinks and/or food.


I spent about $15 on a coffee and big bowl of chili. Service seemed OK to me: prompt and polite. The washrooms worked, but were not overly well cared for.


I found that the walk back to the Rideau seemed safe and comfortable. Most people I saw seemed to be patrons of bars moving to or from. I was not accosted by drunks or beggars.

About the group


The 15 or 20 people at this event included startup owners and technical people, mostly or all software developers. Probably some of the software developers had less than 5 years experience but some had more than 10, like myself.

Group interaction

People interested in Startups as a group may have online interaction, but not through, unless you think Twitter and RSS count as “interaction”. at least allows comments on their posts.

No sub-groups obviously visible. Find the next meeting by RSS or Twitter on

About the meeting


No presenters, just a short announcement and welcome at one point. I said my comments about the presenters would be ‘brief’. Done. :-)


No particular end time. People just left whenever.

After the meeting gathering?

The meeting ‘is’ the after-meeting.

Tagged: groups, review

» Review: Ruby Tuesday – Feb 23 meeting

This is a monthly meeting of Ottawa Group of Ruby Enthusiasts’ (OGRE). This group attracts a broad range of presentations and attendees, resulting in a very interesting evening.

About the meeting space

See: Review: Code Factory meeting space for info about the Code Factory space.

About the group


There were about 18 people, including three of us who arrived later than 6:30pm. When I arrived at 6:35 or so, it appeared that the meeting appeared had started on time. It looks like most people arrive for networking soon after 6:00pm.

There may have been a couple of company owners there from Ruby-centric companies like Shopify, but most people there were developers with experience ranging from a couple of years or less to about 20 years or more.

The OGRE group has an active mail list. The next meeting is announced on the list and there are technical discussions regularly.

About the meeting


There were two presentations. Don Kelly’s presentation on LLVM and Treetop was about the esoteric technical area of writing your own language using Ruby-based tools. Julie Hache spoke on updating Ruby on Rails from 2 to 3, why and how.

The presenters spoke clearly and enthusiastically about their topics. Their technical knowledge was obvious. In both cases, their presentations were accessible to someone with limited Ruby experience, as well as experienced Ruby developers. This was partly because they were both competent presenters.

There was a community announcement from someone working on the “Hobo” framework which extends Rails.


The meeting started on time and ended at a reasonaable time near 8:00pm.

After the meeting gathering?

About 8 people got together at Darcy Magee’s. It took a few minutes for them to arrange a space for the group, but I don’t think anyone had contacted them in advance. The cost was reasonable. The service was prompt and courteous.

Tagged: groups, review

» Review: Code Factory meeting space

I enjoy meetings at the Code Factory. Partly this is because it attracts interesting technical groups. Partly this is because the space is very welcoming, despite some small issues.

I am reviewing it separately from the meetings that are held there, to avoid repeating myself. I am using the same criteria that I apply to the “About the meeting space” sectioon in group reviews.

About the meeting space

Getting there

The address is easy to find on Google. However, when you get to Queen St, you would do well to remember that the Green Papaya restaurant is in the same building. There is a small sign visible coming from the east, but I found it less obvious coming from the west.

When you get to the building, the elevator and stairs are locked so that you must push the pager button for the Code Factory (2nd floor) and tell them you are there for “XXX” meeting and they will release the elevator for you.

There is paid parking in the area. I don’t think there is any free parking nearby.

Be aware: The building next door has underground parking, but they close at 9pm, so if you are late, you will have to leave your car until the next morning.

There is excellent bus access a two or three blocks away at the Transitway downtown stops. The nearest is Bank, but the Kent stop is also not far.


I have only been to meetings on the 2nd floor in their ‘Event Space’, so I can’t comment on their 4th floor ‘meeting space’ yet.

I said earlier that the space is welcoming. As you come in, there is a small waiting area. Some groups stop there to chat before the meeting. This is great for small groups or if someone is setting up and wants to avoid moving people while they are moving tables and chairs in the event space.

The event space itself has a very lived in living room quality to it, like a downtown coffee bar ins some ways. The seating is primarily a scattering of tables with chairs around them, plus some bar stools. There is a pop fridge and a coffee maker or cappuccino maker.

The washrooms are off the hall between the front desk and the event space. They are small but serviceable.

The room is advertised in some places as having room for 35. It might have if set up carefully, but the two columns cut off some areas at the back (south) from seeing the screen on the north wall. Normally, this is not a problem for under 20 people. For 25 people, there is some movement of chairs and leaning of heads. Putting ‘bar stool’ size chairs near the front also makes this worse, so you should move them if you see that they are becoming a problem.

The space is rented out to groups. Some groups have a sponsor who will pay for it, but if not, a contribution of $5 per person is requested.

There is food and coffee there, which is offered with the expectation that you will contribute some money. I think it’s 50 cents for coke, but I haven’t seen a sign for the coffee price. For environmental reasons, you could consider bringing your own mug.

The chairs are comfortable and generally are next to tables, which people in many groups use for laptops.

There is a projector and a white wall for presentations. A standard VGA cable is provided. On one occasion it was failing and had to be in absolutely the correct position to work. It was fine at the next meeting, so I think ian replaced it promptly. There is no sound system, but it is not needed.

About the meetings

Many of the evening meetings start at 6:00pm. If they say 6:30, it may mean there is a networking time from 6:00pm to 6:30pm (as for instance, Ruby Tuesday), or it may actually mean there is nothing happening until 6:30pm.

After the meeting gatherings

The Glue Pot is a block or two west on Queen. It has lots of room and experienced staff but is a bit loud for those of us with imperfect hearing. The kitchen was open when I was there.

There are several bars to the east, mostly on the Sparks Street pedestrian mall. On Monday to Wednesday or even Thursday, these are very quiet and their kitchen may close by 10pm or earlier. It’s best to phone first if you are organizing an event.

Tagged: groups, review

» Review: Ottawa-Carleton Unix User Group – Feb 17 meeting

This is a great group for talking about Unix and related or unrelated technical subjects. Nortel’s crash is a technical topic, right?

About the meeting space

Getting there

Just a warning – (don’t do what I do, do what I say, eh?) – you should actually check an address before you go there. I mis-remembered the location of Metcalfe, even though I worked next door on Elgin for two years. This resulted in an odyssey from Kent & Albert to Metcalfe and then down all the way past Somerset to Gilmour. That’s why I was late, at least that’s my story etc…

If you come by bus, go down Elgin on the 5/6/14, or down Bank on the 1/2/4/7. Parking should be possible in the area; there might even be some free spots on the street in the evening.

The Colonnade Pizza & Restaurant is at 280 Metcalfe. it has a typical/slightly eccentric small restaurant ambience in some ways. An arrow on the door directed me to go through the building lobby. This may be because the ‘mormal’ doorway doesn’t have a second-door airlock style entry, so opening the door will chill the patrons feet all the way to the back.


The guy at the front till didn’t know about a “Unix Group”, but the back of the restaurant has a somewhat more formal “wait to be seated” area. The maitre’d there pointed me to the right set of tables.

The washrooms are adequate. The food is reasonably priced. I think I spent $20 with tip, for a Guinness and a chicken salad. The service was unobtrusive and responsive.


There seemed to be no seedy characters in this part of downtown while I was there. Also, on the way to the restaurant, several people were walking south at the same time as me, making it less likely that such characters would be a problem. Of course I don’t know what they thought of me peering at the signs on all the cross streets as we went. Probably thought I was lost.

About the group

The 5 attendees were all technical people with probably more that 25 years experience in software or hardware or both. The conversation was lively and on topic, including Nortel stories. One insisted after every one of her stories (“And then I had to build CP/M for my computer myself”) that she is not a geek. And we all believe her implicitly, of course.

About the meeting

Presenters? Not at this meeting. However, a decent level of technical knowledge is expected of the audience.

Events seemed to have started on time, as everyone else’s order had been placed by the time I got there. End time is less critical with this type of group.

After meeting? Not needed. :-)

Tagged: groups, review

February 21, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Review: OCLUG meeting Feb 4

Let’s first talk about getting there. The OCLUG meetings since New Years have been in room B457 at Algonquin’s Woodroffe Campus. It is identified on the web site clearly, with a link to the map, which is a good start. However, Algonquin’s floor maps are not clear. They make it look like there are two parts to the 4th floor of building ‘B’. At the January meeting, one group reached the 4th floor but did not realize that there was more of it and that it could be reached from where they were. They went back down and asked for directions from security and arrived late.

Better directions would be useful for meetings at Algonquin. To get to B457, I start at the cafeteria on the ground floor of Building B, and go up the stairs on the north-east corner of the room to the third floor. From there I go north and then west to the elevators or stairs that reach the fourth floor. Presumably that elevator is accessible on the ground floor if stairs are a problem for you.

There is lots of parking on the far (east) end of the Algonquin campus, and lots of it is free after about 5:30pm, but its a long walk to B457, not so bad for T117 where we like to meet. Bus access is great with the Base Line Station so close.

Once you get to the room it is quite good. The screen projector works well, even if it takes a couple of minutes to set up. Everyone can see the screen and the presenter, although not quite as well for people at the back.

OCLUG gets the room for free through the “School of Advanced Technology”. A hat is passed during the meeting so that people can donate to the club if they want to. Donations

The classroom seating is great for up to about 50 or 60 people, and there were probably 40 there, so there was comfortable room for all. This crowd bring their own laptops, extension cords and power bars, so the tables are welcome and much used. The chairs are good quality classroom seats, and the room is a comfortable temperature.

The attendees include students, high tech employees, retirees, professors, experienced Gnu Linux users and people who are new to Gnu Linux.

The speakers were knowledgeable and aticulate. This month’s speakers presented talks on Embedded Linux. They brought hardware with them to show off, and so did other attendees. The audience interacted a lot with the speakers, during the talk and in a 10 minute Q&A at the end.

There are washrooms in the area, with no distracting quality problems. You can pick up food and drink on the way to the meeting in the cafeteria on the ground floor.

The OCLUG group has a good online presence, including an extensive web site with notes and sometimes slides from previous meetings. The “linux” mail list is quite active, and I understand the IRC channel is fairly active. There is a new mail list for people interested in using Gnu Linux for photography and video.

After the meeting, members went to the “Chances R” restaurant, a short walk away in the College Square mall. There was a table set up for our group that seated about 20 and some people generally go to separate tables nearby.

Tagged: groups, review

October 9, 2009

» First Look at Kubuntu 9.10, “Karmic Koala”

I just installed a copy of the titular distro last night and have been playing with it a bit. So far it’s been less trouble than I would have expected from a first beta, and runs well. Get Kubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala beta 1 here. A word to the wise, this is beta software and not yet ready for prime time.

I installed it on my laptop, I use it for a lot of things but the data is always expendable. I had installed it in a VM a few days previously but that was not as satisfying as trying it in the real world as opposed to the idealized world of the VM.

Test Specs

  • Compaq EVO n610c
  • Mobile Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 – M CPU 2.40GHz
  • TEAC DW-224E-A 24x/24x writer cd/rw
  • Fujitsu MHT2040A 5400RPM drive
  • 512MB DDR
  • D-Link DWL-G630 802.11g Atheros AR2413
  • ATI Radeon Mobility M7 LW [Radeon Mobility 7500]

The Install

From the get-go there was trouble. The install CD would not boot past the initial menu where I had selected the install option. It just stopped and presented no error messages. I tried the alternate CD with the same result. Thanks to the alternate CD I was able to boot with the ‘noapic’ options which fixed the issue.

Install after that went smoothly. The install has been slick for the last several releases, and this one is no different. The partition tool has been updated and now support creating LVM and software raid in the menu (It may have been there in previous versions, but I never noticed it). I decided to use ext4, which is the default now, as I had not trusted it in 9.04 and wanted to give it a spin. I also said yes to using ecryptfs for my home directory (more on that in another post).

The alternate CD is a sloooow way to install. It’s all text based but seems to take much longer when the file copies are going. Maybe I was too excited and impatient. A new distro is always a bit like Christmas morning.

Desktop Problems

The first boot happened as planned. It seemed to be a fast boot but this laptop is not the best test for speed. I logged in and bam!, I hit my first roadblock. My desktop came up fine, but my panel was not rendered correctly. Not only that, the menu came up unreadable and the window dressings on each of my windows was similarly garbled.

I tried to connect to my wireless, but with network-manager running configuring it using command line tools was not working. I hooked up a wire and updated the system. After an ‘apt-get update’ followed by an ‘apt-get upgrade’ installed a massive 302MB of updates. Some were held back, so I also had to do an ‘apt-get dist-upgrade’ to get another 52MB of updates. This did not fix my display problem as I had hoped.

I did some digging through /var/log/Xorg.0.log and everything looked right, it was correctly detecting my video card and using the open source ati driver (this poor sad little card is not supported by fglrx). Playing with the KDE system settings did not yield any results. I was able to get a working desktop using the vesa driver, but that was not satisfying.

The fix was to force xorg to use a different acceleration method. Here’s how you do it. Create a custom xorg.conf file. Kubuntu 9.10 uses xorg 1.6.3 which does not need a config file by default. The xorg.conf can be used to override some settings.

Edit the file using sudo, as the /etc/X11 is owned by root.

sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Add this into the file.

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "vga"
        Driver          "ati"
        Option          "AccelMethod"   "EXA"

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier      "Configured Monitor"

Section "Screen"
        Identifier "Default Screen"
        Device          "vga"
        Monitor         "Configured Monitor"

Log out and restart your X server, or reboot if you prefer.

The key here is the option specifying the AccelMethod as EXA. For some reason xorg was trying to use XAA by default, which is an older method which was replaced by EXA in 2005. Doing the above tells xorg to use EXA by default instead. Once this was done I had a nicely working desktop.

The desktop runs faster than I expected in the low power, low memory conditions. I have managed to set up most of my apps to my liking and got the essentials installed.

Essential Apps

While on the subject, here are a few of my immediate installs after a build. All apps below are referenced by package name, so just do an sudo apt-get install [packagename] to install them.

  • vim-full – ubuntu comes installed with an annoyingly pared down version of vim. Get this one to do stuff like navigating with arrow keys while in insert mode. If you know what I mean, then this is for you.
  • vpnc – A vpn client for linux which is great for connecting to Cisco VPNs.
  • Firefox – I have no idea why this is not installed by default, likely to do with licensing. The K->Applications->Internet menu has an item called “Firefox Installer”, which does not seem to work.
  • mplayer – The most incredibly awesome movie player for linux.
  • pidgin – Multiprotocol chat client. kubuntu installs kopete as the default, but I always prefer pidgin.
  • konversation – A great little IRC program for KDE. While Pidgin does IRC I find the old ways are best for IRC.
  • pan – The only news reader for Linux you’ll ever need.
  • Thunderbird – Another that should be installed by default, but a great mail client. Kontact/KMail is very good too and is included by default.
  • Gimp – The Gimp. Not quite Photoshop still, but excellent in its own right.
  • build-essential – This is a meta package, meaning that it installs a bunch of other packages. These are what you need if you ever want to compile anything. A must have if you compile from source like I do quite often.

I’ll post more as I have more time to play with Karmic. If I find anything of interest, I’ll let you know.