Two things that improve my bash productivity – stopping the cursor keys inserting characters in vim and history search in bash.

Edit ~/.vimrc or /etc/vim/vimrc (for system wide) and add turn off vi compatibility:

set nocompatible

The latter can be improved by editing ~/.inputrc (or /etc/inputrc for everyone). Pressing the up key scrolls through all the commands you’ve typed but by adding:


You can type the first letter or two and get the command you need, so if you typed “mysql -u root -p” last Tuesday but can’t remember the options, typing “my” and pressing the up key will find it.

Install web applications locally on Ubuntu

I was talking with someone yesterday who is hacking a WordPress theme together. If you work with web sites, being able to run a site locally allows testing, experimentation, developing new themes and even just checking that a software update isn’t going to break your site. You might want to keep a web application on a local network and away from the Internet – such as StatusNet, a Wiki or a project management application. All we need is to install a LAMP stack – Linux Apache MySQL and PHP. We’ve already got the “L”! So let’s walk through installing WordPress. Continue reading “Install web applications locally on Ubuntu”

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.


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.


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” 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”