Saturday, February 16, 2013

One Week Linux Challenge - Day 3

Day 3

     It's another disgusting morning here on the Delaware River in New Jersey. A UFO smashed into a tiny town in Russia, and NPR is buzzing with talk about the upcoming sequester, but my mind is focused on one thing; Linux.
      I had set up my Netbook with SSH a couple of days ago, and since then it's been idle. I needed to find a better way to use the single-core first generation Intel Atom processor. At first, my mind steered me toward running a small public Minecraft server. The set-up was simple enough and within 20 minutes I had one running, but any more than 3 people caused horrible 'lag' like issues where you would be rubberbanded around the map spasmodically. So that ended up being a no-go.
      After doing a little searching online, I learned about FTP. A simple, straightforward service that would allow me to turn my EEE-PC into a place to store backups, Music, and Videos on my local network, and luckily there's nothing you can't learn how to do with a little googling. So within a few minutes I had installed 'vsftpd'. I had some experience with setting up SAMBA before in a Linux class I took in Community College, so I didn't know what to expect with FTP, whether I had a front end to deal with, where to configure it, or how to access it from other computers. Turns out, there's a .conf file in /etc with everything I needed. I forwarded a few ports, enabled local user log-in, and installed Filezilla on my machine. Voila. It's amazing, simply and utterly amazing how well it works. I put an installation of Filezilla on my persistent Ubuntu USB, and now I'll never have to worry about forgetting important things like papers for class. Not to mention I uploaded and now have access to my raw .mp3 music collection to share with my friends as I please. 
PT. 2
Getting used to the Unity Interface
     A big gripe I had against Ubuntu was Unity. As my grandfather once said; "Everyone's taste is in their mouth", so it's be expected that the various Desktop Environments available in Linux aren't going to please everyone. I decided, for the time being that I at least wanted to give Unity a shot. 
     For starters, there's no 'start'. There is a little Ubuntu insignia in the top right of your screen that, when clicked, gives you a searchable screen of all your installed applications. This is a very jarring change. No longer are your programs sorted into any type of 'applications' or 'programs' folder. Once you realize it, you can go to tiny little icons at the bottom of the screen which say; Home, Applications, Files & Folders, and Videos. Once clicked, there is a barely visible bar that says 'View all installed', that will then display all of the icons of programs you've installed. While I agree searching for them can be faster, it's so sensitive to spelling that one letter throws off the whole engine.   
     If you're a user of Windows 7, and you've come to love the 'pin to taskbar' option, the whole GUI is built around that. And someone like me, who does word processing, programming, listens to podcasts, music, uses a calculator, and has shortcuts to both Mozilla and Thunderbird; you can imagine how crowded that bar gets. I have to scroll down my applications bar on the right to find things I want, which seems hilarious and misplaced in an Operating System's GUI.
     My only other big complaint is the 'delay' between clicking the application on the bar, and it's launch. It seems like an inordinate amount of time between the two. It just doesn't feel snappy. 
     This whole interface goes against what I have been doing so far; Using simple applications that work great.
     But, I don't know what Unity was like in it's early stages of testing, so I cannot properly gauge how far it has come, and therefore I won't impart the sever judgement of saying 'Unity is terrible', just that it still needs a lot of work. Perhaps I just haven't gotten used to it yet.
     A few things I really like; Any applications that run in a 'background' mode have some sort of docking system so that they play nice with the Unity bar up top. This means when I get a message on  Skype, receive a new e-mail, or if my battery goes low my OS it's all displayed in a Uniform box at the top left. Now I know Windows does basically the same thing...but not really. The fact that these alerts are displayed in Ubuntu's Unity wrapper, not directly from the application itself, gives the system a really nice centric feel. You don't feel like you've got 5 programs running on top of Ubuntu, you feel like you've enabled five features within the system. This applies to pretty much anything with this 'Unity bar compatibility', it just feels like you're adding new features to your system. This is almost a 180 degree turn from Windows.
     Overall, Unity isn't bad or good, it's just...very different. I would say that as the excitement around switching Operating Systems fades away, and I really look for ways to utilize Linux, I will become a little more picky about which I use. 
     Maybe I'll experiment with other Desktop Environments later this week, I played around with XFCE and LXDE on my netbook, and I don't see why they wouldn't work great on my desktop.

     Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about the new channels by which I have to acquire music and other forms of entertainment, as well as what it's like to write Java and Arduino code on Linux.   


  1. Hi,

    congratulation on your Blog, it's a really interesting idea to document your transition to ubuntu/linux.

    Just FYI, you can place your frequently used applications on the launcher, just like on the windows task bar. Just drag and drop them from the hub or after launching right-klick the icon; there should be the option to pin them...(i'm not sure how you call it in English, since I'm using unity in German).

    Looking forward to your future blog entries.

  2. I use LXDE as my desktop computer, as well as my Netbook. It really makes the desktop scream, even more so since this is my "gaming" pc.

  3. What SoullsTheAnswer said. I'm KDE fanboy (folder views especially are awesome - great innovation!), but I like Unity too.

    Protip. For Unity, if you click 'Filter' on the top right you get the types of programs and that will narrow down the list.

  4. Unity is mostly designed with keyboarding in mind. Hold down the "Windows" key and you will get a list of shortcuts as well as numbers to launch your pinned apps. I always keep my most used in Win-1 to Win-3. Also learn about HUD. Pressing ALT allows you to search your app menus. Want to open a JS console in Chrome? "Alt-jav" should be enough to surface that option.

  5. You really didn't need to enable FTP on the server. Since it already had SSH you could just navigate to sftp://user@server/directory or something like that in your file browser.

  6. if you don't like unity, just install gnome.

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install gnome-shell