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Comment: Re:What's the closest JEOS equivalent? (Score 1) 179

by benmhall (#46786317) Attached to: Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

The Server Edition is pretty minimal. If you're looking for X anyway, I'd just start with Server and add what you need. Yes, it's bigger than JEOS, but it also has all of your bases covered. Removing packages is trivial anyway.

I typically start with Server, if it's a physical machine, and lubuntu-desktop. Sure, I waste a few hundred MB, but it saves me time and gives any other admin, even on ewith limited Linux experience, a pretty recognizable and usable environment without the bulk of things like an office suite.

Comment: Congratulations to Ubuntu and Canonical! (Score 5, Insightful) 179

by benmhall (#46781807) Attached to: Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

I'll be upgrading all of our Ubuntu 12.04 machines (and many 10.04 servers) over the coming months, and I'm looking forward to the changes.

Canonical and Ubuntu have done more for desktop Linux than any other company I can think of. I look forward to their regular releases, strong committment to patches, and easy, reliable upgrades. As a sysadmin, they've made my life much easier on both server and desktop. Predictable releases and solid relationships with Dell, IBM, and HP mean that I can buy almost server or laptop and know that it will "just work."

Thank you to the developers, backers, hackers, and community.


by benmhall (#46306895) Attached to: Jolla Announces Sailfish OS 1.0

I'm ready to switch to a platform that isn't any better so long as it doesn't have the google hooks.

You should try a new BlackBerry. I've been using my Z10 for a year now and am very pleased with it. On top of being fast, efficient, and very productive for day-to-day tasks, the browser is the best on the market, the company has a proven track record of top-of-class security, and the hardware is very well made. It also has the best virtual keyboard I've ever used, and the latest version allows for direct installation of Android APKs, if you're in to a boatload of apps. (I've installed a couple, they work perfectly, but on balance, the core apps are simply top-notch and tend to be what I use day-to-day.)

Of course, it can work with Google Calendar, Contacts, etc, but you are in no what stuck with Google's hooks. It also works well with Microsoft/ActiveSync/whatever else you'd want.

All of that said, as an operating system junky, I'm very interested in try Sailfish. I have a Nokia 770 and N810 in a drawer. This is the continuation of that line and I'd love to see what the great engineers have come up with now that they're free of Nokia.

Comment: Hogwash. (Score 0) 631

by benmhall (#44947431) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are We Witnessing the Decline of Ubuntu?

Respectfully, this article is hogwash. Canonical has done more for Linux usability and the Linux desktop than any other company. I'm typing this on a Dell XPS 13 that shipped, in Canada, with Ubuntu 12.04. This is alone is a major accomplishment. Step outside of North America and you can find Ubuntu shipping on desktops and laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and many other manufacturers. This is because of the strength of the Ubuntu desktop, and Canonical as a backer.

I use Unity on devices with small screens, and with multi-monitor setups. It isn't perfect, but I haven't found anything more productive, and it's improving quickly. Canonical's other efforts, such as the Ubuntu font, and integrated colour management and optimized fonts, also make Ubuntu the first out-of-the-box Linux setup that I can use for print and design work. Yes, I often do this using VMs to run proprietary software, but I know I can count on decent colour calibration. Unity is still in development, but I can see how it could scale from phone to desktop better than any other environment.

At work, we use Ubuntu on server and desktop. Their predictable LTS release, as well as continuing improvements such as their HWE updates make this a relative dream when compared to any other distribution. When I deploy using Ubuntu, I barely have to stop to wonder if the software will work, whether I'm considering the latest laptops, or older, obscure servers. More than any other OS, Ubuntu just works. My small business also makes extensive use of Ubuntu for server deployment, turnkey systems, and virtualization. Of course, Ubuntu is also my main software platform on all of my computing devices.

Ubuntu is the most used cloud computing platform, and Canonical's efforts on creating devops tools are again leading the pack.

From what I see, Mr. Shuttleworth and Canonical are working harder than ever on trying to do something amazing with open source software that scales from phone to cloud. Some efforts like the Ubuntu TV project are not bearing fruit immediately, but this, Ubuntu Touch, their cloud efforts, and more, are building an open platform and ecosystem that is unparalleled in the open source world, and goes toe-to-toe with the ecosystems being developed by Apple, Google, and Amazon. And they're doing all of this on a relatively shoestring budget.

You could argue that they should work more closely with some upstream projects, but at the end of the day, they are showing strong leadership and need to be able to move in the direction that they think is best. They are doing all of this openly, and the code speaks for itself, for better or worse. Personally, I very much believe that it is for better.

I appreciate and will support their continuing efforts.

Comment: Re:Gatekeeper (Score 1) 442

by benmhall (#44336159) Attached to: Microsoft's Surface RT Was Doomed From Day One

"Also, you NEVER see the Apple App store unless you invoke it purposefully.."

Well, except when you run updates. New Macs won't let you pull down updates for apps like iPhoto that ship with the hardware unless you sign in with your Apple ID. You pretty much can't avoid having an Apple ID these days while running current versions of MacOS. (Well, you can, but the constant update messages are pretty annoying.)

Gatekeeper and the App Store, coupled with dropping built-in support for X11 and Java were enough to send me packing. I can see the writing on the wall. I'm not saying that these changes were bad for customers or wrong for Apple, just that they aren't for me. Thankfully, Ubuntu has easily caught up to where I want it to be for daily desktop use, and other hardware vendors are keeping up with Apple's beautiful hardware designs.

Comment: I think this is great! (Score 3, Interesting) 148

by benmhall (#42949265) Attached to: Ubuntu For Tablets Announced

As it happens, I'm writin this on an HP 2760p. A traditional tablet pc. It's currently running Ubuntu 12.10 and everything works reasonably well.

The reality is that we are in the midst of a very significant shift in computing, from desktop PCs to tablets and phones. Laptop and desktop sales are down, tablet sales are skyrocketing. Canonical is the only company focusing on Linux desktop computing. Unity is good and is getting better quickly. I honestly believe that they have the best approach to scaling the UI. Canonical is essentially pushing responsie design for the Linux desktop.

What other Linux distribution do you see pushing the end-user computing envelop? These guys are moving forward and should be celebrated and supported for doing so.

I look forward to Ubuntu for Tablets on my 2760p. Count me in!

Comment: Great call! XFCE has been fantastic for years. (Score 3, Informative) 328

by benmhall (#40923349) Attached to: Debian Changes Default Desktop From GNOME To XFCE

XFCE is a fantastic DE that is very flexible, customizable, easy-to-use, and mature. It runs great on old and new hardware. It runs better over NFS than Gnome ever has, it works great over NX or VNC.

I've used it on-and-off since the very beginning. It has always been a stable DE that has managed to evolve over time without every significantly alienating its user base.

Every year or two I upgrade or replace the Linux side of our Linux dual-boot lab machines at work. Since at least 2006 I've been defaulting to XFCE (early 4.0 and newer.)

Not once have the students complained about the desktop. True, it isn't super-flashy but it works like a charm.

(And, as an added bonus, I can still make it look like BeOS if I want to.)

Comment: Buying tech with a clean conscience is possible (Score 1) 412

by benmhall (#40134355) Attached to: Can You Buy Tech With a Clean Conscience?

My BlackBerry was made in Mexico; RIM have factories in Canada, the US, and in Europe. My Panasonic camera was made in Japan, as was my wife's Panasonic Toughbook. Even better: Most of my tech equipment, much of which was made in China, came used from ebay. By buying used, I get fantastic deals on high-end equipment that I likely wouldn't otherwise be able or at least willing to buy, and most of what I use gets a new lease on life and a second chance. Moreover, I almost always either sell or give away the tech to friends and neighbours. Everybody wins.

My conscience is clean.

Comment: C-30 is awful, RCMP have proven it unnecessary. (Score 3, Informative) 215

by benmhall (#39023183) Attached to: Canadian Govt To Introduce Massive Internet Surveillance Law

The proposed lawful access legislation that will give law enforcement sweeping new powers, put a tremendous strain on smaller ISPs, and put all Canadians at risk of inappropriate and unnecessary surveillance. This 1984-like legislation is something that has been in the works in one form or another since 1999. It seeks to add far more warrantless Internet surveillance options for law enforcement officers. While I very much respect and support our fine police men and women, the information that the proposed bill will grant, without warrant or or oversight, should concern all privacy-loving citizens. Ontario’s fantastic privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, outlines her concerns eloquently in an interview with Search Engine’s Jesse Brown:

Anyone interested, and we should all be interested, should read up on the details, listen to what others are saying, and let your MP know how you feel about this potential invasion of our privacy. If you feel strongly about this, you may also want to fill out the Open Media petition.

The Internet is what we make it. We should all be active participants.

Comment: PlayBook great with BB, Android and native soon. (Score 1) 141

by benmhall (#38573384) Attached to: RIM's Playbook On Clearance

I've owned a PlayBook since it came out and haven't regretted the purchase, even at full price. The hardware and size are great, the speakers in particular are quite impressive. The screen even works very well outdoors, too. Moreover, I much prefer BlackBerry Bridge to native apps. I love being able to turn off the phone and not have to worry about alarms going off on the tablet. The Bridge integration is great. I wish that, rather than native apps, RIM would bring Bridge apps to iOS and Android phones.

I'm running OS 2 beta now. The Android player works as advertised. That said, I haven't added many Android apps, as there are now reasonable native apps for everything that I need but WordPress. (For which the Android version is working perfectly.)

I know it's cool to dump on RIM these days, but I just bought a Torch 9810 and prefer it to any Android phone, and I love the OS that the PlayBook runs. It works so much like webOS and is such a quality device. Apps at launch were pretty terrible but I now have a few great games, an SSH client, a reasonable epub reader etc. Docs To Go works well, and the browser is the best tablet browser I've used.

If I didn't already own a PlayBook I would absolutely snap one of these up. RIM is still profitable and I think they're in this for the long-haul. There's no doubt that 2012 will be a critical year for them but they aren't done yet. (Of course, this is coming from someone who just recently gave up on webOS.)

Comment: My picks: HP EliteBooks, ThinkPad T|X, ToughBook (Score 1) 708

by benmhall (#37829274) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: GNU/Linux Laptops?

I buy many laptops for people in the Computer Science department at Queen's University in Kingston. Of course, things vary by the model but in general I stick to HP's EliteBook line of business laptops, Lenovo's ThinkPad T and X series, Panasonic Toughbooks, or Apple MacBook Pro/Airs.

Personally, I own a mix of the above, almost all of which I purchased used. Ebay can be a brilliant resource if you know what you want.

My current favourite laptops are:
- 11" MacBook Air. 2lbs, silent, solid, awesome. - $999
- 12" HP EliteBook 2710p with SSD. Silent, 3.6lbs, fabulous screen, great build quality, ThinkPad-like light, perfect Linux compatibility - ~$300 on eBay
- 14" Panasonic ToughBook CF-Y5. less than 3 lbs, 1400x1050 screen, incredibly light for the size. Perfect Linux compatibility - ~$400 on eBay
- 17" HP EliteBook 8710w. 7lb 17" 1900x1200 display. FAST Core2duo with good worsktation-grade card, decent battery life, a screamer. - ~$500 on eBay

As you can seem, I have a laptop for pretty much any size and need, all of which combined cost about the same as a well configured new machine. Two of the eBay machines had a 3 year warranty, so I ended out with about as much warranty left as if I had purchased a new low-end machine.

Honestly, unless you have a very specific need, I'd buy used. I love what System76 is doing, but having seen one of there machines, they aren't brilliantly made. Certainly as a Canadian it doesn't make sense for me to buy one and ship across the border. Stick to high-end business machines. New if you have money to burn, used otherwise.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp