Karmic Koala – post install notes

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Installed Ubuntu 9.10 a few days ago. Everything seemed OK (very very nice actually) except for a little network performance glitch that may also bother you.√Ǭ† Canonical has once again taken Linux one step further away from the status of geek-challenge to a user friendly alternative to other OS’es.

One thing bothered me though – general network responsiveness seemed seriously degraded. Digging around i found that IPv6 had taken precedence to IPv4 in a few ways – one being DNS lookup sequence. Apparently all lookups was attempted through IPv6 first. My router and network is in no way configured for IPv6 and therefore every connection-attempt to uncached hosts would have to wait for the IPv6 timeout. Two things gave me responsiveness back.

  1. Disable IPv6 at the OS level
  2. Disable IPv6 in Firefox (should give more responsiveness for any OS not running on an IPv6 network)

Maybe you would think that the first step would be enough, but Firefox seems more responsive after step 2. Follow this step to disable IPv6 in Firefox.

Ubuntu 9.10 introduces the GRUB2 bootloader on clean installations only. The upgrade process from, say version 9.04, will not upgrade GRUB and will leave you with the previous version.

To disable IPv6 OS wide, i followed this sequence and voila – responsiveness returned to my netbook (and soon to my other Ubuntu installations).

2009-11-22 update: Had to downgrade to 9.04 again – No matter what I did, which forums I visited – I could not get my Huawei 3G Modem to connect.

IE7 content disappears

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This is not a complaint – it is the solution to an issue that has been puzzling me over the weekend.

IE8 has been out for a long time – which does not necessarily mean that corporations has implemented it yet. Some large corporations tend to make their business depend on current browser versions – not allowing them to upgrade the browsers on their pc’s without extensive testing and some time expensive application upgrades. I know of at least 5 danish companies who still doesn’t dare to take the plunge from IE6 (!)

I usually develop web-stuff having booted Ubuntu running Firefox – then once in a while boot Windows and test with the latest IE, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. I leave it to others to test on Mac’s. If I am unsure how something renders on other platforms, I can recommend browsershots.org – a cool service that renders a specific URL in any browser on any platform and allow you to see the screenshots after a while.

In this case the client is at IE7. The layout has a header, a content area and a footer – very simple stuff. It looks fine i all browsers – except for IE7. For this particular browser the content section wouldn’t display. Even IE7 displayed the area. The space was allocated but it was blank. This article on webmasterworld.com gave a few tips:

  1. add
    * { zoom: 1.0; }

    to the css (this did not make a difference for me)

  2. add
    position: relative;

    to the

    #wrapper

    in the css

Tip 2 made all the difference. #wrapper is a div that wraps around all the content on the page. Not knowing the inner workings of IE7, I can only guess why this fixed the issue – just hope Google finds this post for you if you run into the same problem.

Windows 7 – First learning points

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Installed Windows 7 RC2 for the first time yesterday.

In Virtual Machine

First installation in a VirtualBox – which worked fine except for the VirtualBox graphics adapter not being accelerated – which meant Solitaire ran extremely slow. Apart from that – no problems.

Dual/triple booting

Once the gut feeling was OK, i made room for Windows 7 on my laptop that already holds a Windows XP and an Ubuntu 9.04 partition. Installing Windows 7 leaves the existing OS’es alone, but the boot manager only supports Windows file-systems. My old GRUB bootloader would allow me to choose between booting Linux or Windows, but after the Windows 7 install, i could no longer boot Linux. The partition is still on the disk, but not in the MS bootloader. A bunch of hours later that was fixed – using the Ubuntu installer, GRUB was installed again – but I am still not quite satisfied; From GRUB i can boot into the MS bootloader. I now have two steps:

  1. Choose between booting Linux and Windows and (if choosing Windows)
  2. Choose between Windows XP and 7

I’ll try to fix this soon, but the priority of fixing this just dropped as I can now boot into all 3 OS’es.

One other thing: 3G USB modem

The last thing I needed was to the my 3 – 3G Huawei modem to work. In short: It didn’t – and it may not be because of Windows 7. Apparently the modem needs some Adobe Flash stuff and the drivers on the modems flashmemory are not Flash 10-compatible. 3 in Denmark knows and offers a download to fix the issue – It did the trick for me.

This post is my first written in Windows 7. Will post further findings..

Oh – and the wallpapers are beeeee-aaaaa-utiful!

Offtopic: The future of the gas station

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This is not about the usual geekyness – it is about a change I am sure is about to happen. Once the benefits are clear – I am quite sure everybody will want an electric car instead of their gas/diesel-one. The concept of having an energy-buffer, in the shape of the cars in a region, to collect surplus energy in low usage periods for use in high usage periods are so compelling. Windmills are cool, but still inefficient in comparison with other sources if the surplus energy isn’t stored. This is in a broad perspective what Better Place wants to do.

I passed a long line of gas stations the other day – What will happen to them? I know the change will not happen overnight – if at all. But how would we prepare for the future if we had a gas station? Better Place says they will prepare the stations for the transition of becoming a battery station, but as I see it – many people will not need them anymore. Why? Because many commuters drive less than 160km per day. According to Better Place, that will be the range of one battery charge – and a key part of the new model is that drivers charge their car at home when the energy is cheap/green – also offering the battery in their car to the common energy buffer.

So – in Denmark anyway – if the gas stations will no longer sell gas and only (let’s guess – unable to find numbers) 10% of the current customer base (those driving more than 160km a day) will need to recharge their cars/switch batteries at the old gas station – can the gas station survive merely as a 7-Eleven store only closed at night?

My guess is that they are looking at a pretty big change in their business model – and I think they can if they embrace the change. If they fight the change they only have to look at the news papers to see how that works out..

What they need to do? Dunno – but one thing that has bothered me for ages now is the inability to find stuff for my car in the shops. If i want chewing gum, porn or soda – the gas station is where to get it. But light bulbs, fuses, polish is hidden away in the far corner of the shops. I think that stuff needs to move up ahead in the shop, so the mindset of the customers in five to ten years won’t be: “The gas station? Ahh – you mean the 7-Eleven that is closed at night!”

Javascript performance on current browsers

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Found this little test which gives an indicator as to Javascript performance in your browser.

On my system (Windows XP on two year old Lenovo T60p laptop) i tried to run it ten times on my browsers with all plugins disabled (lower is better):

Google Chrome: 297,7
Firefox 3.5 beta 4: 340
Firefox 3.0.10: 408,9
Internet Explorer 8: 631,3

As the score is time, lower is better. This is interesing because sites uses Javascript more and more, and as we work more and more online with more applications in the cloud, the Javascript engine has a lot to say about our perception of overall performance.

I got a bit disappointed about my Atom-based netbook – specifically Ubuntu 9.04 on that machine. It never went below 1800 (Firefox 3.0.10) and on the same hardware, the Windows-browsers gives me minimums of 1500 and 2800 for Firefox 3.0.10 and IE8 respectively. Gotta find some tweaks there.

Tip: Cool Firefox WYSIWYG blogging plug-in

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Actually there is no good reason for this tool not to be an independent piece of software – it doesn’t really need to be part of Firefox. But..

Somehow it just works for apparent reasons. Bloggers do two things a lot: Read blogs and write blogs and that is why ScribeFire is so cool – it’s right in the context where you want it. In Firefox:

  1. Go to the Tools-menu
  2. Choose Add-ons
  3. Choose Get Add-ons
  4. Type scribefire in the search box and search
  5. Install the add-on

Once installed, Scribefire is running all the time but display/hiding is switched with F8. It works especially well with WordPress blogs (such as this one) and configuration of one blog is done by entering the address of the blog + username and password.

If you feel inspired, click F8 and start typing. Something else came up, or the phone rang.. tap F8 and continue what you did before – and F8 it again to continue. So far it seems awfully nice.

Netbooks – the necessary new design test-tool

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Writing this on my Lenovo S10e netbook, I am furious. It’s before mid-day and yet I have had two experiences of software designs that did not consider netbooks a platform – or at least the new low screen resolution these computers imply. And before you call me a whiner (besides the fact that you’d be somewhat right), this is just a description of the changes I will make to include netbook users as an audience of software and website in the future.

Whine #1: Twice I’ve been cripled by software that saw the low screen resolution as a handicap – one of them on purpose. First I installed Pidgin – the cool cross-platform/cross-protocol IM and IRC client. I like it a lot, but on Windows some dialogs are too big and will not allow me to navigate to the OK/Cancel buttons at the bottomof the settings dialog. Fortunately this is Open Source stuff, so I can just participate and actively fix this myself.

Whine #2: I had to install a printer driver for my HP Photosmart 2575 printer – the install took over one hour because of some “ingenious” package system. That obviously poor user experience decision aside – the minimum requirement for the printer driver is a screen resolution of 800×600 pixels. My S10e runs at 1024 x 576. The consequence – I cannot print from my netbook in Windows because the printer driver won’t finish installing, as it has an irrelevant requirement. Fortunately I am dual-booting with Ubuntu, which has excellent support for my printer (without the requirement)

I’ve read somewhere that 20% of all computers that will be sold in 2009 will be netbooks. Some producers (including Asus) will stop production of 8.9″ -screen netbooks. The 10-inchers seems to dominate right now, and probably for the rest of the year (note: my guess only). Every company designing software will have to take this into account before they ship the next version of any product with a user interface.

I’ve worked on so many web projects with art directors saying: “Nobody runs 640×480 or 800×600 anymore”. Hey we know – but do you know how many users run with their browser maximized because a designer thought up a design that required it? Web designers don’t own the real estate of the users screen resolution – they can only hope to own the area the browser is sized to – and you have to count on users having at least one open history/bookmarks sidebar and/or plug-in and/or Google/MSN/Web developer toolbar enabled.

My point should be rather obvious: It is vital to include netbooks as testplatforms for serious UI-designers or your product will no longer be compatible with the equipment of the customers you want. The rules have changed – live with it.

You may argue that netbook users are asking for it, but if the competing website or software support the netbooks and you don’t – the users is no longer making the decision of leaving you.

Testing: WP Super Cache

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Seems like a very cool plugin to enhance the userexperience – performance wise, plus it seems to prepare WordPress blogs for high traffic spikes.

Bug found: Links to posts from archives seems to cache PHP-code – not the resulting HTML. There’s gotta be a simple fix. Was a bit quick there. The bug is in my theme – not in WP Super Cache.

Edit: Also – the issues may have to do with my host who seems to mess with their user database right now..

Netbooks growing up

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ideapad s10_red

This post is written on my new netbook – a Lenovo ideapad s10e. Actually I had given up on netbooks. My first one was an Asus EEE PC 900 with SSD and that machine was a serious disappointment. I have always liked Asus hardware, mainly because it is extremly well updated with software. That was also the case with the eee 900, but in order to make it cheap enough a cut was made on the CPU and on the keyboard. Actually I think I could live with the somewhat slow Dothan CPU (Celeron’ish), but combined with the poor keyboard the experience was like:

I don’t know if the machine refuses to react on my keypress because the stroke wasn’t registered on the keyboard or because I am waiting for the CPU.

That is of course not acceptable. So the too-cheap netbook has been gathering dust for a while now.

Some colleagues also purchased netbooks. One of them a Medion Akoya (looks very much like the MSI Wind – which 95% of the hardware probably is). It had an Intel Atom processor, which seems to do A LOT for these small laptops. The price did get an extra nudge compared to the Asus eee PC 900, but that can actually mean the difference between a usable and an unusable netbook.

The Lenovo machine is Atom-based, responsive and so far a really really nice piece of machinery. I dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu Linux on it and have yet to encounter missing drivers or missing responsiveness from the keyboard.

As with anything, you get what you pay for and you actually don’t have to pay that much more for a netbook that actually behaves as you would expect.