Huawei E1550 in Ubuntu 10.04.1

Judging by my server logs, there are lots of people trying to use the Huawei E1550 with Ubuntu. I posted a howto around this time last year but have been getting a lot of mail on it recently so thought I’d look at it again. I was going to mention it in the system help, under troubleshooting but can’t remember if I pushed a patch or not. Continue reading Huawei E1550 in Ubuntu 10.04.1

Fleshing out an idea

Yesterday, I posted that perhaps we should encourage new users to spend more time in the live environment before they install. I suggested that we do this by means of a welcome application.

Generally, people seemed to like the idea of a welcome application – something to highlight Ubuntu’s abilities and to guide through common issues.

Here’s some mock ups that might show more of what I meant.

fleshing-out-an-idea-1

An introductory video is running [1] along with some short text explaining the application’s purpose [2]. Common tasks are listed [3]. What’s missing from this is two things – a close button and an install button. I’m not sure how to work this because I am trying to encourage it being run – I think a little install tab in the top right along with a small close button might work. I want to encourage not irritate.

fleshing-out-an-idea-2

The user is interested in getting online and has clicked on a link to get here. The application’s checked for available connections. In this case, there is a wireless connection available, so the context sensitive hyperlink [1] has linked a video/screencast [3] showing the user how to connect. With the failure to detect a wired connection, the context sensitive hyperlink links to a troubleshooting page. Successful connection has resulted in a notification [2] and triggered the “what now” box, guiding the user to what is now available.

I can see a number of issues:

  • Videos and screen-casts have been requested from the doc-team for inclusion in the past but translation and localisation is an issue. I don’t spend a lot of time with screen-cast technology so I don’t know how easy it is to localize. Recording a new video for each release might be relatively straightforward if the tool chain is correctly configured.
  • The feedback mechanism that would permit context sensitive hyper-links. I would like it to be as automated as possible.
  • What to check, what to suggest and how to decide what tasks are most important for inclusion.
  • Size – the Live CD is limited on space, video is large – how possible is this idea?

Of these, I think the size issue is the greatest. It might not be possible at all to have video or screen-casts but it should be possible to have room for images and text. It would also allow easier localisation.

Still – it’s just an idea. Oh and thanks to Pencil – rather impressive OSS mock up software.

Live environments

Update: Apologies if you tried to post a comment, I hadn’t realised there was a problem with the reCaptcha.

I might well be miles off the mark (I haven’t researched anything) but I’ve a feeling most of our new users don’t spend time in the live environment before installing. Looking around the Ubuntu Forums there are an awful lot of posts which talk about hardware that isn’t working after install. Surely, if time was spent in the live environment such issues would have been noticed.

Stick an Ubuntu disc in a machine, boot it and the most visible icon on the desktop is the install icon.

When we run a live CD, we’re curious. We are looking at a screen and thinking “what do I do now”? Currently the option that draws the eye is to install – what if we replace this with something that showcases Ubuntu’s abilities? Something more than the samples folder. Ubiquity has a slideshow, I wonder if something similar but more interactive should be initiated on first run. Perhaps leading the user to confirm what works out of the box – invite them to run, say Rhythmbox then plug in an iPod. Suggest a web link, highlighting if there is a connection issue. Work in some basic diagnostics, we can have more useful information to provide further assistance.

This wonder if it would also presents an opportunity for marketing. If a happy new user wants to show off their new Ubuntu system, they are likely to draw attention to the features that interest them. We can be blinded by our perception to the needs of others. For example, I might be fascinated by a desktop cube whereas my colleague might not know that Openoffice supports Microsoft formats – something he needs. It could be taken further, allowing OEM systems displaying Ubuntu’s abilities in shops (maybe).

Just a thought.

Maverick Meerkat – Simples

Watching TV earlier, it occurs to me that we really need to link the next release with the unbelievably popular Compare the Meerkat adverts. I can’t be the first person to have thought this – seriously this is not a trick to be missed – Sergei’s “computermabob” could be converted to Ubuntu.

I assume this advert is just in the UK, for those missing it – it’s for a company called “Compare the Market.com” and the meerkat proprietor of Compare the Meerkat is getting nothing but hits for the former. It’s pretty funny as these things go, especially here where ridiculous stuff like Crazy Frog take off. People are buying merchandise left and right and if I’ve heard the soundbites as ringtones on one phone, I’ve heard them on a dozen.

Advocacy by not advocating

We have Ubuntu installed on two of the machines at home and recently, after losing a Windows restore disc, I suggested installing Ubuntu 10.04 on her Dell 1545 after my suggestion.

As installations go, it was relatively painless – certainly better than reinstalling Windows. Don’t get me wrong, Dell is better than most in this respect as they gave us OEM install discs for Windows Vista, bundled software and the drivers.  As strait forward as this is with Dell’s resource CD (it mostly tells you what you need), it doesn’t know any more than what model you own. This is problematic with the wireless card for example as there are two revision states and the drivers are incompatible with each other – one crashes Windows.

Continue reading Advocacy by not advocating

Blogging platforms

Has anyone else noticed a large amount of ping backs to link farms from Planet Ubuntu feeds over the last few days? I’m getting a fair few. I’d give an example but if I link to a site that takes my posts from a syndicated site and creates posts that are syndicated on other sites I might create some sort of perpetual motion blog post and consume the Internet (it might seem far fetched but what if Robert Morris had stopped to think).

I find these objectionable though – they appear to be WordPress and I guess are using a plugin to pull feeds in and publish as articles. They’re not as bad as flat out plagiarism – which I’ve experienced. Mind you even that isn’t the worst, I once wrote a howto which was CC licensed and I realised it had been ripped off when someone posted a comment on it suggesting (quite strongly) that I had taken it from the thief!

So it occurs to me that maybe this is a WordPress thing. Then again maybe not. Like so many of us I get stuck in my ways and WordPress is like a pair of comfy shoes. Maybe I should try a new platform, so I wondered what was popular out there in Ubuntu-land.

I’ve tried Drupal (I don’t like it, sorry Emma), Serendipity and Pixie (I quite liked that but baulked at the theming system). Mind you I also have quite a lot of time to myself over the next four months, maybe I should roll my own, I’ve hacked around in PHP but have never developed a large project using it.

So let me know, suggestions on a postcard. Maybe just a comment here will suffice.

Ubuntu spot the difference

After writing documentation for many years, once in a while I come across a post on the Internet that makes me wonder why I bother. So I thought we could turn it into a game.

Basically it’s like spot the difference, see how many things you can spot that are wrong with it and post them here.

Here is the post in question and it is a cracker. I can think of several things that are wrong with it but see what you can come up with. Here’s a starting hint – man visudo.

Samsung NC10 – a pleasant Ubuntu experience

It’s another year and I’m deploying next week. One of the few perks that entails is VAT exemption at PC World. I had decided some time ago to retire my Acer Aspire One A110L, this seems a sensible opportunity. I need the following:

  • Very good battery life
  • No solid state disk (SSD) – they’re too small and were a bottleneck on the Aspire One
  • Under £300
  • Must have a microphone, web-cam and reasonable speakers – Skype is an essential

Continue reading Samsung NC10 – a pleasant Ubuntu experience

Vim

I’ve been away from Ubuntu for a while and just installed Xubuntu 9.10 on an Acer Aspire One.  While editing some of the files, I remembered that pressing the cursor keys in insert mode inserts characters.

This is because of vi compatible mode and is easily redressed by adding “set nocompatible” in “~/.vimrc”.  I understood from this page that this was the default but I might be misreading.  It seems to be a peculiarity of Ubuntu, I didn’t notice this in RHEL, Arch or Fedora (three distributions I use fairly regularly).

Is this an indicator that vim is not perhaps as popular in Ubuntu?  I notice that most times I see a guide online it will suggest using gedit, even if invoked from the terminal.  Perhaps, as I’m not au fait with Debian, our lineage prefers the compatible mode.

I’m sure its not important and we all have our preferences for editors but I do like vim and wish that this behavior was default.  One of the paradoxes with OSS, GNU/Linux in particular, is the freedom afforded allowing us to configure our environments in whatever fashion we prefer creates a diversity that is difficult to train new users, especially between distributions.

Exploring Psychology

The course material for DSE 212 just arrived. Once I’d got over the weight of the package, I opened it to discover that it consists of a number of large text books, a couple of DVD, CDs, software and the usual assorted paraphernalia – part threes, course updates and errata. Looking over the course material, it seems well structured and nicely presented. The study calendar would suggest that this is going to be intensive, with the first TMA due on the 11th November.

If you’re still reading – you might wonder what this has to do with Ubuntu. Well it comes down to the course software – a large part of the course is centred around the data mining software SPSS. Now of course you might well suggest free alternatives such as R or PSPP, indeed PSPP is intended as a replacement and is very similar. It’s not the same however and the big difference is that the course material is geared to step by step work in SPSS version 14.

The version is important, from what I can ascertain – SPSS version 17 is available for Linux. IBM has acquired the company so this may well continue. That said, version 14 is what has been supplied. This is not uncommon with the OU – MST121 for example uses Mathcad 2000.

Now, how about running in Wine you might say – the software has a little license validation applet that doesn’t seem to agree with Wine but I might be doing it wrong. However, for many studying is already expensive – why should it also involve complicating installation?

It has been suggested the Open University is not at all open to open source software. I don’t know if this is a policy or not but I do know that the Windows based software they supply is outdated. I can understand that this is probably for the same reason that Linux is not supported – that it would mean making substantial changes to the course material.

Course tutors I have spoken to have been extremely favourable to the idea of packaging software for Ubuntu and distributing it with course material. There are issues here, licensing and maintaining spring to mind – no to mention support. There is no way the OU Computing Helpdesk are going to support Ubuntu so that leaves the community.

Where does one draw the line between the desire to use open source software and the ease of using a provided solution? Am I putting myself at a disadvantage to my peers? Although I am confident with statistics, I’m effectively learning two systems as the course teaches one and I apply it to another system. Even if this entails five minutes an assessment, it’s five minutes that Windows users are excused. Moreover I’ve paid for it through course fees, can I get that refunded?

What surprises me is that the OU is about accessibility – anyone can study with them, except it would seem those who choose not to use Windows. Shouldn’t the Open University be Open?