Interesting weekend (cont)

* If you don’t know who or what something is, check the Glossary page.

Ubuntu Studio

I don’t blame you; it’s easy to get confused watching HIM do his thing. Understand that HE’s NOT approaching Ubuntu Studio as a Linux distribution for newcomers. That means that if something doesn’t work as expected…it’s irritating, but it’s okay. HE’ll tinker with it until he figures a way around the problem. For the awhile, we’re committed to this Linux distribution. We’re into content creation, and there are just too many goodies in Ubuntu Studio. We’re going to stick with it for awhile…and frankly, it’s working pretty well.

Back to Defiant

Okay, so you know that HE loaded PCLinuxOS onto Defiant so that we could finish our movie. Now that we’re out of newbie-mode, we’re really curious about the whole *buntu problem with maintaining a wireless connection. If we can’t keep a reliable wireless connection, that would be a serious no-go for running Ubuntu Studio on Defiant. We’d probably continue using Ubuntu Studio on Whitestar, but move back to Arch Linux for Defiant. Just between you, me, and the fence post, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we look at Ubuntu Studio long enough to decide which programs we like the best and then move, with those programs, back to Arch Linux. Arch is still our favorite Linux distribution and, as  you’ll see, whenever we’re in doubt, we immediately go back to it.

HE installed PCLinuxOS so that we could get through our movie, but now it was time to see what we could do with Defiant and Ubuntu Studio. HE started the morning with a new install of Ubuntu Studio onto Defiant. Once again, there was no problem with the install, but we had to do something about the internet connection. One of our favorite Einstein quotes is “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.” We hope that we’re not quite ready for the loony-bin, so we’re going to try something different…even if it’s wrong. (Since we believe in the power of failure, we look forward to being wrong.)

Once Ubuntu Studio was installed onto Defiant, we used the package manager (Synaptic) to load wicd, then removed networkmanager. An interesting aside: We use networkmanager to manage the network connections with Arch Linux and we’ve never had a problem. With Arch Linux, the wireless connection is rock-solid. That, however, has not been our experience with the *buntu’s. We went through the setup of wicd and had a solid Internet connection. We reloaded all of the software that we use that’s not included with Ubuntu Studio. Understand that this is all done about six feet away from our wireless router.  We’ve never had a problem in RoboFrog’s lair. Now…it’s time to add a little distance.

We took Defiant to MsRoboFrog’s library. It’s one floor up. In the library, Defiant is about twenty feet from the router. Everything worked well initially…and then it hit the fan!

Defiant started making a sound like she was grinding corn. RoboFrog thought it sounded like the fan bearings had gone out. I’ve never heard a computer make such an ugly grinding sound. It was frightening…for me. HE, however, said “Wow, that’s really cool!” I wanted to strangle HIM. “Really cool?” In what universe?

I turned around and there HE was on another machine running Google searches. Finally, HE turned back to me and said,  “This is cool. Here are instructions for how to get into a ThinkPad T43 case. Let’s see if we can get her fan out.” I was incredulous. Defiant was our only working (or used to be), current laptop. HE’d never been in her innards before, but now, HE wanted to take her apart. I thought I’d just scream. Too late! HE’d already flipped her over on her back and was removing screws, while I was trying to figure out where we could get another laptop that we could afford.

HE got Defiant’s case open (A surprise to me. It almost looked like HE knew what HE was doing.) and removed her fan. Wow! I was impressed. Then, HE pushed her power switch. There was that sickening grinding sound again.

HIS brow knitted and HE said, “It’s not the fan.”

That was obvious even to me. HE turned Defiant off and removed her DVD drive and pressed the power switch. Again, that awful grinding sound.

“It’s the hard drive,” he said. “I’ve never heard a hard drive make that kind of sound.” (Me either!)

I looked at Defiant. Her innards were scattered all over the table. I thought “She’ll never work again.” HE came back from the basement with a drive in HIS hands.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.

“From an old machine, ” he said. “It’s not big enough for what we’re trying to do, but it’ll allow us to verify that the hard drive is the problem.”

It’s at times like this that I really rise to the occasion. I said, “Oh…”

I was amazed! In about fifteen minutes, RoboFrog had collected all of Defiant’s pieces and stuffed them back into her case. He looks at me and said, “That should do it.”

“That should do what?”

“That should let us get Defiant working again,” he said simply.

“Oh…” (I told you; I’m really good in a crisis.)

HE grabed a USB stick and started loading Arch Linux.

“I thought we were going to run Ubuntu Studio.”

“You’d never get Studio onto this drive. Not enough room, but this will confirm that the drive is the problem.”

Well, HE did confirm that the drive was the problem. Amazingly, HE took Defiant apart, figured out what was wrong with her, and put her back together with a “new” hard drive. HE loaded Arch Linux and as far as I could tell, she worked the same as always. We ordered a new drive for Defiant. HE was right. There wasn’t nearly enough room to load Ubuntu Studio, but we could listen to Pandora, watch stuff on Hulu, and stream movies while we waited for her new drive. That should take five or six days. Then, we’ll return to Ubuntu Studio, Defiant, and the wireless problem.

Interesting weekend

* If you don’t know who or what these are, check the Glossary page.

Linux stuff

We’ve had an interesting few days trying to get Ubuntu Studio working. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that HE* ran into trouble. Let me make a quick point about Linux distributions in general and Ubuntu Studio in particular.

HE usually tries to look at new Linux distributions from the perspective of a naive user. By naive user, I mean someone who is probably familiar with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) system like Windows™ or MacOS™, but isn’t familiar with CLI (Command-Line Interface)… in fact, may not even know what CLI is. Our position at The Robotic Frog is that if a distribution claims to be for naive users  then that user should have a reasonable chance of getting it working on any mainstream, non-exotic hardware (HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc). The distribution must achieve four things: 1) The installer must be reasonably understandable and work without the need of special-knowledge intervention, 2) The software updater must work properly, 3) The recommended software / package manager must work, 4) The system must operate properly (no video or sound problems, keyboard and mouse work as expected, wireless works properly, etc). Sadly, there’s only one Linux distribution that we’ve tried that meets these criteria…and it’s not Ubuntu Studio.

Before someone decides to lynch me, let me be clear that we love Linux here at The Robotic Frog. It’s our operating system of choice and we would only grudgingly use something else. Windows™ and MacOS™ are terrific systems, but Linux continues to suit our needs best. We highly recommend it for those who have some computer experience and enjoy learning new things and tinkering. For a naive user, we recommend Linux only if they have a techno-dweeb on hand to help get things going the first time.

Ubuntu Studio

Whitestar*

Screenshot of the login screen of Ubuntu studi...

When we loaded Ubuntu Studio onto Whitestar and were impressed…only for the wrong reason. Based on the information at the Ubuntu Studio web site, we expected something that looked like this. I’m pretty sure that in a perfect world, it would have looked like that. This isn’t a perfect world, though. We’re using Ubuntu Studio 11.10. Ubuntu Studio apparently used Gnome2 as their GUI prior to 11.10. They are in transition from Gnome2 to Xfce as their GUI environment.

We were greeted with a screen that looked something this…which made us pretty happy. We didn’t expect Xfce, so we were surprised at first. Once we confirmed that we’d installed the correct distribution, we were in love. Xfce is our GUI of choice. This had to be a good sign. So far, we’re extremely happy with Ubuntu Studio on Whitestar. It’s running very well and has a treasure trove of creative software. All of the other applications that we consider critical are in the repositories. We had one minor glitch.

We like to listen to music with Pandora while working on almost anything else. We had Pandora playing on Whitestar as we began loading Ubuntu Studio onto Defiant*. Suddenly, the music stopped. We looked up to see what had happened. The picture of our screensaver was on the screen, but was frozen. We’ve had trouble with screensavers from time to time, so we immediately suspected it as the culprit. We tried keyboard and mouse with no response. No problem, we’ll open a terminal window and shut it down from the command-line…or maybe not. I can’t remember the last time this happened with a Linux system. The whole machine was locked up. The only way we could correct the problem was to power the machine off and reboot. (brings back memories of the ‘blue screen of death’) Once it came back up, we disabled the screensaver and haven’t had a problem since.

Defiant*

Getting Ubuntu Studio installed on Defiant was no problem. We were impressed. As we said in our previous post, we were concerned about a *buntu being able to maintain a wireless Internet connection due to our experience with Xubuntu. We went upstairs to the point on the LilyPad farthest from our wireless router. There, for two hours, we worked on our previous post. Ubuntu Studio maintained a rock-solid connection. We thought we were home-free.

We stream movies from Amazon.com. In fact, we stream almost all of our audio and video entertainment. It has become a rarity that RoboFrog and I watch television or DVD movies. We stream movies from Amazon.com, music from Pandora, and television from Hulu. MsRoboFrog watches some television, but if it were up to RoboFrog and myself, we’d maintain our Internet and drop the cable television altogether. (That’s also why it’s important that we have a reliable wireless connection.)

Okay, so RoboFrog and I decided to watch a movie. Guess what? Half way through the movie, we lost the Internet connection. Just as with Xubuntu, the only way we were able to reestablish our wireless connection was to reboot.

MsRoboFrog doesn’t always fully appreciate the dweebish techno-creative genius at work on the LilyPad. RoboFrog and I were trying to get the wireless working again when MsRobofrog walked by, stopped, and looked at us with that look. You know the one, right? Looking at us with slightly squinted eyes, HER head cocked almost imperceptably, SHE says, “What are you doing with all of those DVD’s?”

There must have been six of them spread across HER coffee table. “Trying new Linux distributions,” says I. SHE shook her head, gave us that other look…and without another word, went to bed.  Now, I tell you this micro-story so you’ll understand the setting. There are five or six different Linux installation DVD’s on the table next to us. I’m watching MsRoboFrog as SHE walks away toward the bedroom wondering if I’m in trouble for something I forgot to do, making a mess on HER coffee table…or maybe it was simply random curiosity. HE, however, is unperturbed. HE grabs the PCLinuxOS installation DVD and says, “Hey, we know this works really well up here. Let’s load it up and finish the movie.” …and off HE goes.

Before I finish this story, let me say that we really like PCLinuxOS. It’s the only distribution we’ve tried that meets all four of our newbie criteria. The only thing that keeps us from using it is that our hardware is old and slow. It runs really well on all of our machines, but is a bit sluggish. For someone new to Linux, this would be a terrific one to try.

PCLinuxOS loaded without a hitch; we finished our movie (no problem, here, maintaining an Internet connection); and…went to bed.

There’s more to this story. I really am coming back to Ubuntu Studio…and what made the weekend so interesting. Next time…

Sharpening our focus

* If you don’t know who or what one of these are, check the Glossary page.

We’re back. We’ve been away from the pond on a special project for the past two weeks. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often. It’s nice to be back on the LilyPad. The time away gave us a chance to think about what we’re working on and the tools were using.

We’re focusing on learning how to do various kinds of content creation here on the LilyPad. A significant reason that RoboFrog tries so many different Linux distributions is that, as our tech guy, HE’s* the one we depend upon to figure out which system and software will best suit our needs. HE thinks HE’s had a breakthrough. If HE’s right, it will both simplify our lives and sharpen our focus.

Ubuntu Studio

HE’s been looking at all kinds of open-source software for editing audio and video. We haven’t talked about those things yet, but eventually, we’ll get there. One of the exciting things about the open-source world is the number of software  choices you have for almost anything you want to do. You can load a piece of software and experiment with it at no cost. If it does what you want, you can use it…again, at no cost…and if not, try something else. There’s almost always more than one choice. The downside is…there are a lot of choices.

If you’re using Linux, there’s another downside. Every piece of software isn’t available in the repositories (the place software is stored) of every flavor of Linux. That’s why we stick to Linux distributions that have large repositories.

While RoboFrog was searching for audio and video editing software, HE ran across Ubuntu Studio. This is one of the *buntu’s (Linux distribution based on Ubuntu). We’ve always thought that a *buntu should be the favorite distribution  here on the LilyPad. Until recently, Debian was our favorite Linux distribution. Ubuntu is derived from Debian. We can’t explain it, but Ubuntu and it’s derivatives have always been our second favorite. We liked Ubuntu, but liked Debian better. We liked Ubuntu, but preferred Fedora 14. We liked Ubuntu, but we liked Arch Linux more. We thought Xubuntu (see previous post) was finally going to be the *buntu that became a favorite, but Xubuntu was unable to maintain a wireless Internet connection with Defiant*. You can understand my skepticism when HE decided that we needed to try Ubuntu Studio 11.10.

This is what caught HIS* attention: (from the Ubuntu Studio web site):

Let Your Creativity Fly

Ubuntu Studio. A multimedia creation flavor of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Studio is aimed at the GNU/Linux audio, video and graphic enthusiast as well as professional.

We provide a suite of the best open-source applications available for multimedia creation. Completely free to use, modify and redistribute. Your only limitation is your imagination”

Here, apparently, was a Linux distribution tailor-made for us by people doing the same things that we want to learn to do. Even better, they’ve sifted through the open-source software and chosen the best stuff available. Even if we don’t agree 100% with their choices, using the tools included in this distribution would save us a lot of time. I understood why HE was so interested in Ubuntu Studio.

I think we’re in love!

HE loaded Ubuntu Studio onto Whitestar*. No problem with the installation. It was a little more difficult than regular Ubuntu, but not much. When we booted after installation, we were stunned. Ubuntu Studio presented us with a vanilla Xfce GUI (Graphical User Interface). If you’ve read previous posts, you know that Xfce is our preferred GUI at The Robotic Frog. We weren’t prepared, though. The interface was so unlike what was described at the Ubuntu Studio web site that we feared that we’d installed the wrong distribution. We returned to the Ubuntu Studio web site and found that they are transitioning from Gnome2 to Xfce. We are delighted!

We encountered one minor (as it turned out) problem. When we booted the first time, we had no sound. That could be a big problem for a multimedia distribution. As it turned out, the audio output was muted. Once we unmuted the output, everything was fine. [Applications Menu -> Multimedia -> PulseAudio Volume Control -> Output Devices, click on the little speaker]

This was almost too good to be true. All of the software we use was in the repositories and Ubuntu Studio was working…perfectly…on Whitestar. (Whitestar is our most troublesome machine with new Linux distributions.) Now, we needed to see if we could get it to work on Defiant*.

We loaded Ubuntu Studio onto Defiant the first time without a wired Internet connection. Everything seemed to go well, but we found that it was unable to establish a wireless connection. After our experience with Xubuntu, we feared that this would be the deal-breaker. We fiddled with it for awhile and could almost get the wireless to work. Every time we rebooted, though, it was gone again.

We decided to reinstall with Defiant hard-wired to the Internet. Amazingly, everything worked just fine. When we rebooted after the second installation, the wireless worked perfectly. We’re not sure why this made a difference, but it did. It was time to test the wireless connection and see if Ubuntu Studio could maintain it.

We’re writing this post on Defiant, upstairs, at the point farthest away from our router. We’ve been listening to Pandora on the headphones and working on this post for about two hours and haven’t lost the Internet a single time. Not so much as a skip or hiccup. What a relief.

Here’s our sharper focus: We’re going to use Ubuntu Studio 11.10. We’ll continue to focus on content creation, but also Ubuntu Studio and the media creation tools that it provides.

Next time…