Linux on Notebook, Take 2, Mini-Buntu

Game, Linux, Personal, Programming

My notebook it not new. I bought the Yoga 2 Pro almost 4 years ago. Two years back, I got annoyed with Windows so I decided to install Linux in it. I was scared because on the contrary of most my PCs that I assembled myself, the Lenovo had a warranty and possibly custom hardware.

As I told, the attempt failed. It was giving me too much headaches. Also I generally use my notebook to also program and develop games. And because the Unity Editor was not available (not at least in a reasonable version), I was kinda forced to migrate back to Windows10.


About 3 months ago, I decided to give it a second shot. In case I was not clear, I use Linux in the desktop, in a dual boot, for about 15 years. I saw Ubuntu entering the market. But since I start to systematically be involved on making games, the necessity of Windows started too. Back to the experiment. It was a requirement for me that the general performance had to be great. Not good, great. I would prefer to keep on the Debian-like distro because I’m familiar to. Ubuntu family if possible. So I selected both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for a ride.

Kubuntu was the one that I tested before. I like KDE since version 2 but again failed in deliver a blazing fast experience. In the notebook, the boot time was several minutes. Even Windows 10 was couple of seconds. I decided then to format and install Lubuntu.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu derivative using the LXDE desktop environment. Super light. Man! Boot was fast and when ready it consumed a fraction of RAM of both Windows and Kubuntu. However, during my 4 weeks test I was giving too much little problems. So I decided to make another switch.

Xubuntu, in a similar vain, is a light variation. And I know can say that I am really satisfied with my notebook. I is a bit more robust and complete, but that makes a lot of difference. I had to downgrade the screen resolution to FullHD (the notebook allows the at-the-time stunning QHD+ 3200×1800 ), which is fine in a 13 inches monitor. Then came to the software selection. Lubuntu was super short on preinstalled stuff, which i like because I generally don’t use them anyway, but Xubuntu came with some. The good news is that the selection does not consume much of the the drive space and are light enough in case I really want to use them.

I had to install Steam and it works nice. Unfortunately, GOG’s Galaxy does not have currently a Linux version, so the games have to be installed manually one by one. Also your play time will be not computed nor you will be alerted about updates. A second negative point is that most GOG’s games do not use the new cloud save feature, so playing a bit in the notebook and a bit in the desktop is only for games that progress do not matter. Fingers crossed for the future.

 

Finally I was looking for a game engine that works on Linux. Unreal, as I found, works, but you have to compile it yourself. GREAT ūüôĀ I did it. It took hours and the result was too many crashes and too big suite to work in a notebook. I was once again looking for a lightweight engine. I tested Godot and liked. But it is still lacking.

Then I found out that Unity is in fact releasing in a alternative channel (thru forums) the update engine for Linux. I installed it too. crashes a log but it works. I`ve being playing the game developer in the note book ever since. With the excellent Visual Studio Code editor, it makes my days fun.


After 2 months and half working most of the time on this notebook, I can be happier man but in general I am already one. It is fast, close environment that I face when I deal with cloud Internet stuff and free. I plan to migrate to a newer machine in the next year, mostly to get a better amount of RAM memory and battery life. Currently, it lasts 3 hours, which is by any means a shame for a mobile device.

This is currenly my desktop

Linux on Notebook Experiment Failed (for now)

Linux, Personal

I could not make it last. Farewell Ubuntu. I tried to convert to Linux my Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 laptop. Mostly because I was not using any particular Windows software and I have a particular pro-FLOSS interest. The lack of drivers and weird behaviors was taking too much of my time. I had to switch back to Windows 10 in order to make it a bearable experience. It is a major step back in my personal goal to make my life fully libre and grátis software world.

Drawbacks

Among the problems I faced:

  • Sound drivers were lacking functionality:
    • The max volume were super low to the point it was impossible to watch a movie in the notebook.
  • KDE¬†with poor HDPI support. Well, it was not perfect in Windows either, but in Linux most¬†programs, texts and interface were very distorted. I had eventually to reduce the resolution to something more normal, missing one of the major selling points of this machine.
  • Lenovo has as proprietary energy manager¬†software. If you¬†mostly use the computer plugged, it caps the battery maximum level to 60%, the optimal level for preservation. The software is Windows-only, so¬†I could not revert it to normal mode; consequently,¬†during¬†commute the notebook died quite soon.
  • Due a hardware problem, the yellow color is displayed wrongly on the display. It is only corrected using the infamous proprietary energy manager.

Pros

steambox (2)

But there was not only drawbacks. There were some nice points to highlight:

  • Steam worked nicely. All games I have installed worked nicely. The¬†only concern was the huge resolution from the notebook (native 3200 x 1900)
  • The (K)Ubuntu desktop ecosystem is getting even more complete and versatile. The old odd software are now finely maturing.
    • I tried used regular Ubuntu, but the Unity¬†UI is horrible for me.

Of course the drawbacks surpassed the pros for me. But I thing that it could change in a future, with newer Linux/KDE versions and better hardware vendor support.

Linux on Notebook

Linux

I like my notebook a lot. Lenovo did a great job assembling this piece of hardware, the Yoga 2 Pro, bought almost 2 years ago. Light, fast, portable, durable. It came with the weird Windows 8 and the last month it upgraded to Windows 10. It was really appreciated, because Win10 is definitively better and faster but also it is definitively the most invasive of privacy. I was getting more and more annoyed about Microsoft approach on Windows.

In fact, I’m currently in a vibe of doing things by myself¬†to preserve privacy and enhance my¬†general experience, personalizing things.

The main reason that I have to use Windows is mostly games: both playing and making them. But the current investment of Valve to bring it’s Steam gaming platform to Linux and Unity¬†finally building a Linux editor, I was getting much more comfortable testing new things…

At the same time, I started to read very good comments about the new line of KDE kits. KDE, the one desktop environment that I like the most, is reinventing itself again, it major focus on performance. Performance enough to aim into mobile space, they say. It grabbed my attention.

In a leap of faith, I removed the Windows license and installed a brand new Kubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf, currently in beta, to check this out.
kubuntu 15 10 2

What a cool experience! I’m still rediscovering it, but it is going well so far. KDE is really much faster and more responsive. The app selection is more robust and solves most of the problems out of the box. It lacks a better online app store that the ordinary and very unappealing repos tough.

I’m not going to, for now, give a final impression, because it is a beta phase for Kubuntu and me too. There are too mane quirks to ignore, but It can be just matter of getting used to. Maybe after a month I will close an opinion about it.

Motorola Defy

Linux, Review

Before coming to Rio de Janeiro, I used to have a small and simple cell phone. In fact, I always defended the position that the mobile phone should exactly and only this: a phone. Make and receive calls. Everything else is geekry.
But then I discovered that my old phone wouldn’t work, simply that, in Rio due a difference of band used in the state. In fact, only S√£o Paulo state uses a different band range and only one provider operates in this range.
So i had to buy another phone. I don’t have a notebook, so i decided to buy a phone with a typical internet functionality. Therefore a smartphone is a reasonable choice. The best phone available at the store was a Motorola Defy. I, my mistake i confess, haven’t made a single research to see which model is good which ones are bad, so I kinda had to accept that phone.
For my surprise, That is a great model. I love it.
The phone is small, light and very fast. The Android version was 2.2, but I soon decided to abandon the product warranty in order to install a newer version from the independent developers called CyanogenMod. This distro is really good, mostly because it doesn’t not have a full selection of bloated apps.
I’m now a bit addicted about cell phones. An entire selection of websites about phones and phone apps, reviews and whatever now catches my attention, even if displayed in a glimpse of second. But even with a very nearest-to-the-hand-possible tool to post stuff, i still don’t enter in the Twitter world nicely. In fact, I‚Äôm planning to remove the automatic Twitter posts from the site. Useless since I don‚Äôt use it.
There are several design choices that Motorola took that I really like. USB cable that transform into a power cable is one of the most loved ones. Its practical and reasonable to have only one cable. I don’t use Bluetooth, but it would be nice to use it also.
Now Motorola is owned by Google, I expect to get even better support for Android.

Flash on Linux finally fast

Linux

I don’t like much Adobe, but their commitment to Linux is above average. Flash for Linux never was great, but at least was close to their pairs on Windows.
The problem was with Flash videos, which is now the vast majority of its usage. The problem relies on pure CPU processing. The Linux version does not use the video card to decode the highly compressed videos used today. The result was a slow computer when seeing videos. The situation was really dire when you attempt to see more than one. The crash is almost certain.
But finally my days of browsing Youtube or porn sites only on Windows (which is a quite risky) are over! The new beta version of Flash (10.3) finally uses the GPU and is several times more stable. On KUbuntu, i added the repository ppa:sevenmachines/flash and installed the flashplugin64-nonfree package.
Hallelujah

ePAD

Entrepreneurship, Linux, Review

I just bought a Zenithink ePAD tablet. It’s a generic iPad¬†tablet made in China that runs Android as the OS. Please, consider from now on that it costs less than half of the price of the original.

epad_content

I must say that despite the whole “generic” label, its quite a nice piece of machine. It has a 10 inches screen with resistive touch sensor, which is great to navigate thru internet and reader ebooks and pdf. The processor and memory¬†don’t¬†rival Apple but i¬†don’t¬†feel it is big lack, except, of course, games.

epad_content_0

The Android used is the 2.1, which is good one. With Google Market fully enabled, its possible to transform it into a quite comprehensive computer. Zenithink US, the american distributor are releasing often versions of its firmware, so its possible that 2.2 “Froyo”or even 2.3 “Gingerbread”.

epad_content

The only two things that i was disappointed (which i should not be because i knew about them before buying) are the short battery life (4 hours if WiFi is off) and the ridiculous short range of its internal WiFi. If the tablet is not less then 2 meters, it simply not work! Its better to connect the net cable at this distance! There are several minor things here and there, but hey, as i said at the very beginning: it cost me less then half of the iPad price*.
I really believe that tablets are going to be the next world desired toy. Apple is in grand advantage, but this time their advantage for being the first in the market is not to last long. Chinese companies are going to flood the market with generic inexpensive hardware until they acquire experience, scale and courage to face these big guys. That is what takes in trying to create simple and copyable products with a premium status. Apple woke the dragon.

Settings API

Linux, Programming, Web

After creating several sites using several CMSes, one single thing still annoys me: the lack of a proper export settings feature. Puting a local testing site in the official online server is always a nightmare, since we have basically try one of the options:

  • Copy the whole database: it also copy several testing data we used.
  • Step-by-step replication: After 3 days, you will still discovery several options that were not copyed
  • Manually select DB table-by-table to copy: unless you really know of are you doing, its quite crazy

In Drupal world, one of my most admired companies, Development Seed, created both Features and Strong Arm that try to address this, but the lack of broad and ubiquitous support we still feel that we will miss something.

settings_api_content_2095

There are 3 types of data that a computer program might have:

  • External: the spreadsheet for Excel, html to a browser, the image for Photoshop… its the reason why the program exists.
  • Internal: the data that makes the program works. It’s the settings.
  • Temporary: stuff that the program creates in order to gain performance. It, by definition, dont need to be backed up because the program can recreate everything

Every program that is a platform should provide a Settings API. It would help on 4 big scenarios

Local / Production

There are several situations that we need to maintain a testing site for development new features without testing in the really production site. But time to time, we are satisfied with the test results and we and to apply the modification into the production site. For some business, like 3rd party site development, its the daily job, so its a must to make this workflow faster and painless.

Debug

After installing several plugins, its each to get a very unstable site, because they are changing same data. It would be much easier to monitor modifications and find solutions. A settings comparison tool would be great, so we could see what were overwritten.

Distribution / Template

Platforms, by definition, allow us to build stuff over it. But quite often projects are similar. So why not create a template for other people to use it? For a site builder like Drupal, we could create eCommerce, Blog, Forum templates for a easy deployment. Its an extraordinary feature for new comers.

settings_api_content_2096

Stack

If the program is settings aware, a good extra feature is to apply in a stack. Its a similar concept of CSS, cascading settings based on specific variables. Imagine, for example, a site about football teams. While the site has a main theme, each team’s page can have one and the users can have a personal one. We could enabled this cascaded settings for each settings.

Multi dimensional settings

If we have different content types in a site (ex: static pages, forum pages and news pages), we could have a page to change all settings related to each content type and have a page to change a specific settings of all content types.
As we can see, settings is a very important part in a program. We have to think it with more care to leverage its potentials.