Not really. I've been pretty busy lately and I haven't really had the time to blog about anything. So here it is, a huge update post on what I would have blogged about this past month.Ubuntu Dapper
I think the most notable update is that I have upgraded to Ubuntu Dapper Drake (6.04) and I have to say, it's really nice. Gnome 2.14 is noticeably faster and there is a new Ubuntu "Human" theme. Booting takes about 30 seconds to get to the login screen, which is about half the time of Breezy.
So far, I have only had one problem with Dapper: my wireless card. When I was first installing it, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had detected my Broadcom-based wireless card and offered to configure it, although this didn't work. I told it not to configure the network and went on with the install.
Dapper comes with kernel 2.6.15, which includes the new and unstable bcm43xx
driver for broadcom wireless cards. In order for this driver to work, you need to obtain a bcmwl5.sys file (the windows driver) and use a utility called fwcutter to extract firmware for it. However, due to licensing issues, Ubuntu is not allowed to ship the sys files or any firmware files and because of this, my wireless card did not work. Although, I got the fwcutter program and cut out my firmware and it still didn't work, since this driver is still so new.
No problem, just go back to ndiswrapper, right? More problems. I installed the ndiswrapper-utils package (which, luckily, is on the CD) and correctly loaded the driver, and that didn't work, either. Later, I figured out that this didn't work because the bcm43xx driver was already in charge of my wireless card. So, I did a 'sudo rmmod bcm43xx' to unload the driver and then a 'sudo modprobe ndiswrapper'. This worked, although it still detected my wireless card as "eth0", when it should be "wlan0". Dmesg revealed that it also should be "wlan0", although ifconfig said it was eth0. The experts on the Ubuntu IRC were stumped. I could have left it like that, but the wireless card does not get started on boot and I cannot access my local apache server (yes, http://localhost did not work)
I know there is some way I could have fixed that issue, but I didn't want to waste any more time. I took the wireless card out and did a reinstall of Ubuntu and when it first booted up, I blacklisted the bcm43xx module, shut it off, put the card back in, and booted up again. That time, ndiswrapper worked perfectly and I have not encountered any more problems.
After the wireless issue, everything has been working flawlessly. I even got into some cool remote administration, but I'll get to that later in the post.Web Blazing
There's web surfing, and then there's web blazing
. I happen to live in a lucky area where Verizon is unrolling FiOS internet service. Since 1999, I've had RoadRunner and it's been fine (5 Mbps down, 386 Kbps up). But now, I get 15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up for the same price. I even got a nice D-Link router (108 MB/s) for free.
And yes, it really is fast. I just downloaded MacBreak
off of Libsyn at 1.5 MB/s, and my average net speed is between 1 and 3 MB/s. Everyone is complaining about how the quality in SkypeOut sucks; it was for me too, but now it is perfect. If you happen to live in an area where they offer it, I suggest you get it. It really is that good. (and, as if that was not enough, my real phone sounds better because it too uses the fiber)Remote Administration
For a while now, I've been using VNC and the VNC Java web applet for remote administration. It's worked OK, although it was fairly sluggish and anyone who turned my monitor on could see what I was doing. However, I have been using FreeNX (all the GPL components of the NoMachine NX server) for the past week, and it is much, much better. The mouse moves as if I was sitting at the real computer and whole windows move with minimal lag (and I don't think that's entirely to do with my faster internet connection).
I avoided NX for a while because there was no Java applet, but I checked their site and there it was... a perfectly good Java client. It has been working flawlessly since I started using it. On top of that, NX uses SSH, so there is strong encryption built in (VNC's encryption is so poor, the password can be cracked in a matter of seconds). Also, instead of simply sending the current X output over the internet, NX actually sets up a separate X server running on the machine which can only be viewed and controlled from the client over the network, which means no one can come by and turn the monitor on to see what I'm doing.Gizmo
I have a neutral opinion about Skype. I'm glad they make a Linux version, although they have neglected the Linux version for a while and they're still using OSS, which means that nothing else can use the soundcard while Skype is being used. On top of that, they still haven't released video support on Linux (or OS X).
Luckily for me, Gizmo is here and works much better. On top of that, there is a new version that supports ALSA. Finally! I've been asking this since the first time I used Gizmo, and it's finally here. On top of that, it works very well. Sound quality is great, as always.
I've also been able to get Ekiga to connect to SIPphone (the SIP service that Gizmo uses). Since Gizmo is completely based on open standards, innovation like this is possible (take that
On another note, Gizmo not only has free voicemail, but now lets you record your own greeting for free. If you're using Gizmo, call 'record' to record your custom greeting.Skype
In other Skype news, I've finally figured out how to get Skype working well on Ubuntu. Skype has this annoying problem of not closing the sound device once it has used it. This results in only being able to make one call before getting an error and needing to restart Skype. On the Skype forums
, someone found a configuration that allows you to run Skype with the aoss wrapper, which enables you to play sound from multiple applications while Skype is on a call. I can report that it works quite well and completely eliminates all of my skype problems. Now I can use up the rest of my SkypeOut credit before transitioning over to Gizmo.
That's about it for now. Stay tuned.