miércoles, 30 de julio de 2014

My Life with Firefox OS

Let me say it plainly:  I do not like mobile phones.  What's more, I hate them more than I hate regular phones.  However, when I decided to buy a mobile phone, I knew I wanted one with Firefox OS.

The problem was that they do not sell any Firefox OS phones in my country, so I had to go to Amazon and got a ZTE Open.

It is not the best smartphone in the market, I know.  In fact, I read lots of reviews before buying this phone.  The most interesting point was that it was labeled a "developer" device, not an end-user phone.  Even with its many "flaws," I made up my mind and bought this smart thingie because it has everything I want on a cellphone: Firefox OS ;-)

I had used an Android phone before and the difference between that one and the ZTE Open was enormous.  The Android phone, despite being old and partially damaged, was a tamed dog: it did everything it was commanded to, the apps were consistent and responded promptly, and the services were all orchestrated by Google, the master conductor.   On the other hand, the ZTE, thanks to its Firefox OS 1.0, was a true smartphone with a mind of its own: apps would occasionally install, but not launch, or they would open and close by themselves, and the sound would go mute showing the free will of the phone.  To sum up, it was like a herd of cats... er, foxes!

I thought that I had to live dangerously and decided to upgrade the OS to Firefox OS 1.1.  After all, if I bricked the device, it had been cheap.

After I followed this great tutorial here, my ZTE Open had Firefox OS 1.1.  With the new version, the rebelliousness of the phone went away and the device now behaves like a regular cellphone should, that is, predictably... So much that even my almost-four-year-old daughter loves playing with it.

Main screen (Yes, Nihilumbra!)
Main apps

My installed apps
Blogs screen :-)

I also use it more often because the apps that I like now work.  I check my email, browse the Web, keep track of my jogging (Run Recorder), manage my projects (Projector), study languages (Cabra Flashcards), and even chat in WhatsApp (via ConnectA2). 

But I make almost no calls.

Yes, I still hate phones :-P

viernes, 25 de julio de 2014

On LibreOffice and the Challenge to Install Linux to the New Office Computer

The University where I work declared the use of .odt as an institutional interest in 2011 but, unfortunately, the migration took a long time to reach my faculty.

However, the presence of LibreOffice is becoming more visible this year:
1.  At the School meetings, you see that the computers now run LibreOffice.
2.  LibreOffice substituded MS Office in all lab computers. 
3.  The School acquired new computers, which where placed in the professors' offices.  I was not hoping those machines to run on Linux, but it was good to see that they come with Windows 7 (not the 8 disaster) and it was great to see that LibreOffice was included.
4.  Yesterday, at a meeting, the speaking professor delivered her presentation using LibreOffice Impress, not PowerPoint.
5.  Occasionally, one .odt document hits my institutional email mailbox.

So, there is hope :)

Now, regarding the new office computer... It has Windows 7 professional and UEFI.  My brother Megatotoro activated legacy boot so that we could run Linux distros on that machine and yesterday, he presented me with a challenge:  to install a Linux distro.

I was hesitant because I only had an OpenMandriva Lx USB and I had never installed it as a dual boot with Windows 7.  I remember having installed Mageia to a Win7 UEFI desktop as a dual boot, but I was not sure this was going to work.

Anyway, I took the leap of faith and proceeded with the installation.  OpenMandriva Lx worked like a charm: it took care of the partitioning (interestingly, it said "Moondrake" instead of "OpenMandriva" :D) and installed itself in less than 10 minutes.  When we booted the machine (expecting a catastrophe, if I must be honest), none of our visions of doom panned out.  GRUB2 picked up Windows 7, that OS was fully operational, and OpenMandriva also launched (desktop effects included, yay!).

So, my brother pimped it up with the Ghost desktop theme and window decorations, we updated the distro, installed some packages, and got ready to enjoy Linux on that office machine.

Yes, I am feeling happy ;-)

jueves, 12 de junio de 2014

The LibreOffice Migration Finally Reached My Workplace :)

The University where I worked determined that it was in the best interests of the institution (and the students) to migrate to LibreOffice.  This happened in 2011, but the process was slow.

In the school where I work, the migration stalled, mainly because of the resistance of professors.

An email from the direction of the school made my day today.  It read that the migration was in process and that all computers in the labs (and the laptops) had been migrated to LibreOffice.

I cannot be happier.

sábado, 31 de mayo de 2014

Weekend fun

I braced myself for a weekend marked by work.  So, I turned on my ZaReason Strata laptop and left the room to get a cup of hot tea.

When I returned, I found Lara, my cat, playing with the keyboard.

This is the only "cyber-attack" that I have suffered since I migrated to Linux... And I have to admit that it is, by far, the cutest!

sábado, 10 de mayo de 2014

From .flv to mp3 with Firefox add ons

Sometimes I need to get the audio from a video in YouTube, which I download using Download Helper, the convenient Firefox add-on.

Normally, I prefer to do the process myself: that is, I extract the audio with a program (VLC) and then use Audacity to convert the file to whatever audio format I  like.  The advantage of this approach is that I stand on my own feet and can get my .mp3 file all the time and the way I like it.  The downside is that, depending on the distro I am using, I might not have the tools available.

If you do not know how to use those tools (or ignore how to use the Linux terminal to achieve that purpose easily), you can always take a point-and-click approach to convert .flv videos to .mp3 files thanks to a Firefox add-on called BestVideoDownloader 2 (you can get it here).  This add-on relies on a transcoding Web service called converttomp3.net.

Once you have installed BestVideoDownloader 2,  go to your desired YouTube video, play it and scroll down to look under the title.  Right next to the like/dislike buttons, you will see the downloading icon of BestVideoDownloader 2.
 Click on it and a drop-down menu with format options will appear.  Select the one you prefer.  I used MP3 192 Kbps:
Once you select the format, you will see a button indicating that you can proceed to the download service:

You will be taken to converttomp3.net service, which will indicate that the conversion of the file is in progress:

The conversion will finish and the service will ask you to specify the .mp3 file tags.  Simply click on "CONTINUE": 

This will take you (finally!) to the download page.  Notice that the service will only store your .mp3 for two hours.

This process is certainly convenient, but it has a main drawback: you depend on the service to be up and running for your conversion to work.   Another potential problem can be that, depending on the version of Firefox that you use (or if you update the browser in the future), the add-on might stop working until it catches up with the browser version.

jueves, 8 de mayo de 2014

OpenMandriva Lx 2014 and iBus, Success Still Eludes Me

The quest to make iBus work with OpenMandriva has been a difficult one.  I first tried to see if I had all the required dependencies according to this page:

    GConf2 [*]
    ibus [>= 1.2.0]
    python(abi) [== 2.7]

I discovered that I missed a couple.  Most of them are already installed.  However, even having all of them, iBus refused to launch. 

I followed the instructions on this page to activate iBus:

$ pkill -9 ibus
$ ps -ef | grep ibus
$ /usr/bin/ibus-daemon --xim &

The last command activated iBus, but it did not remember the IME selection (Japanese, Anthy).  

The page also said this, which I did not understand:

After ibus-daemon is invoked, Run ibus-setup to set the preference, enable input methods, also start ibus daemon.
 $ ps -ef | grep ibus
foo 15735 15518  0 11:30 pts/3    00:00:17 /usr/bin/ibus-daemon --xim
foo 20037 15735  0 12:58 pts/3    00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-gconf
foo 20039 15735  0 12:58 pts/3    00:00:06 python /usr/share/ibus/ui/gtk/main.py
foo 20041     1  0 12:58 pts/3    00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-x11 --kill-daemon
foo 20042 15735  0 12:58 pts/3    00:00:01 python /usr/share/ibus-anthy/engine/main.py --ibus
So, that's as far as I have gotten now...

Want to Install OpenMandriva Lx 2014? Some Things You Need to Know

OpenMandriva Lx 2014 was recently released.  I had three installs of OpenMandriva Lx 2013 and, to be honest, I was not convinced to upgrade the systems (one desktop and two laptops).  After all, the previous released did pretty much what I needed and I did not want to ditch SimpleWelcome and use Homerun, the new default in OpenMandriva 2014.

When I learned that it is possible to change Homerun, I decided to install the distro.  Interestingly, not using Homerun proved to be a smart move for me.

The Partition Problem

This is how my OpenMandriva Lx 2014 desktop looks right now.  I placed the ROSA Rocket bar panel on top and as auto-hide.  I also added Cairo Dock at the bottom:
OpenMandriva 2014 running on my ZaReason Strata Laptop: workspace 1
As expected, when you click on the ROSA SimpleWelcome, you get this:

ROSA SimpleWelcome on OpenMandriva Lx 2014

The Timeline on OpenMandriva Lx 2014
Now, here's the interesting part.  When I installed the distro, I first tested Homerun.  I discovered that, if you have a multi-boot system, Homerun acknowledges the presence of your other partitions, but refuses to open them. 

For example, when I tried to access my home partition in Mageia, this is what I got.

The path indicated is correct, but the contents displayed correspond to what I have in my freshly installed OpenMandriva Lx 2014 /home.

I tried it once again, this time with my home partition in PCLinuxOS:

As you can see, the path indicates that you are in home_PCLOS (the tag of my /home in PCLOS), but the contents you see are exactly the same that Homerun displayed for the home partition in Mageia...that is, the contents of /home in OpenMandriva Lx 2014.   This happened in both laptops and the desktop.

I then switched the interface to KDE launch to see if it was a generalized problem with the desktop environment.

KDE launch uses Dolphin to open up the contents of your other partitions.  There was no problem whatsoever accessing my files with Dolphin from the KDE launch interface.

The ROSA SimpleWelcome interface does not show the strange behavior displayed by Homerun, either.

The Repository Problem

The other interesting problem I discovered had to do with the repositories.  After I finished my installations, the first thing I did was to update the system.  OpenMandriva Lx set the repos, so I just ran the control center and clicked on update.  There were several packages found, so I installed them.

Once I did this, I tried to install Steam and Skype.  All I got was a message telling me that a fatal error had occurred and that the mirrors were not available.  I set then some FTP mirrors manually (the main32 repo was absent) and tried to install Steam and Skype again.  The answer this time was also negative, but because of missing dependencies. 

The solution was to re-install the OS to all three machines.  Right after completion, without updating, I could successfully install Skype and Steam.

Other Problems: Wi-fi, Printer, Japanese IME

On my HP Pavilion laptop, OpenMandriva picked up the Wi-fi out of the box.  The story was different on my ZaReason Strata.  I had to use a cabled connection to get to the repos and downoad the appropriate package, which did the trick.

Regardless of my many attempts, I could never get my Epson Stylus TX 200 to print.  I mean OpenMandriva 2014 configures the scanner out of the box, but the printer is simply missing.  I installed the driver manually and, even so, nothing has happened.  UPDATE:  I finally made the printer respond.  It turns out that OpenMandriva Lx 2014 does not like the Stylus TX200 drivers I use in Mageia.  So, I downloaded the printer driver (epson-inkjet-printer-escpr-1.4.0-1lsb3.2.x86_64.rpm) from here and that made the printer work.

Last and sadly, success has eluded me trying to get iBus to work on OpenMandriva Lx 2014 so far.  This was not new; the same was true of the previous OpenMandriva release.


I guess that the main question is: after seeing those problems, do I intend to keep OpenMandriva Lx 2014?

The answer is yes.  I find the distro responsive, beautiful, and functional for pretty much all I need (except printing or typing in Japanese so far :-P ).

Those, however, are very specific problems that other users should not expect to find, I suppose, and I can live with them.

OpenMandriva Lx is a very nice distro.  You can read a good review by Prashanth here.