15
Oct 14

Why I prefer Ubuntu and Unity and you suck balls for not liking it too

Since Ubuntu 11.04, the default shell for Ubuntu became the Unity desktop. This has been a widely criticized change by a lot of very vocal long-time Linux users. I don’t believe any of this criticism is valid, however, and I’m going to tell you exactly why it is wrong.

First of all, I am sorry that this post is so freaking long, but I promise it’ll be entertaining to have it explained to you just why you are wrong about Unity being bad, and why you should start sucking it’s dick and be asking for more instead.

I believe the core of what everybody hates about Unity is that it deals away with the trusty old Start Menu

Holy shit what an ugly piece of useful innovation.

Holy shit what an ugly piece of useful innovation.

The Start Menu was introduced by Microsoft in Windows 95. I was still used to double-clicking items on the desktop or in folders in explorer back then. I didn’t use it much, as it seemed like a cluttered mess of randomness to me. The categorization of applications didn’t make a lot of sense, since I had no real association list of Company -> App relations. Also, I was 10 years old. Slowly, I got used to this way of launching applications. However bad it was, it was better than a cluttered desktop full of applications you only used rarely. The Desktop was prime real estate, reserved only for top-tier apps and games. Everything else was nicely hidden away in the start menu.

Microsoft started heavily expanding on the idea of the start menu, making it a central point of doing anything on the computer. It was slowly becoming the starting point for doing most things on the computer. The desktop was and is still very popular, but the start menu is also there, for any app you don’t have on your desktop.

Linux Desktop Environents started copying the start menu. Yes, it was so good, that even open source zealots saw it’s use. They even evolved the start menu to be better! In the linux world, especially in the pre-2010’s, company names didn’t matter for the software you used. Most of it was developed by open source projects, by many hundreds or thousands of people all over the world, only united by the banner of Open Source and enthusiasm for a given project. A more pragmatic approach gave way to the useless “Start -> Programs -> Random Software Company Name -> Application Name -> Application Name Again” approach. It became “Start -> Category -> Application Name”.

Wow! What a small change, and how useful! Instead of hunting through a long list of meaningless words, you’re now only presented with choices that are relevant within the context of what you’re trying to accomplish. Want to watch a video? Launch something from the Media category. Want to do change settings? Launch something from the Tools section.

It’s still a start menu, it requires a bit of adaptation, and the change makes great sense to even the most dense user.

Now back to Microsoft. After over 10 years of the same start menu, they decided that it was time to shake things up a bit. The start menu has basically been the same throughout Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP. Here comes Vista. The bastard child that had very few apologists. Vista introduced the WINDOWS KEY + TYPE paradigm. Note this amazing innovation for future reference.

Holy shit this is amazeballs

Holy shit this is amazeballs

Now, instead of clicking through tedious menus or hunting through the All Programs menu, you could just type the name of the application you wanted, press enter, and BAM!

I never used Vista myself, for various reasons including the fact that Windows XP was still great and that I, as a long-time FreeBSD user on servers, was slowly migrating towards Ubuntu for my desktop at this point. It was finally getting there in terms of usability and just working-ness.

Not even knowing about this type-to-launch feature in Vista at the time, I had grown used to adding PuTTy to my PATH system variable in Windows XP, so I could just press WIN+R -> putty user@hostname -> [enter] to run putty. This is an approach I got used to from using the UNIX Terminal so much. It was just so easy. It really made sense to me. When I switched from XP to Ubuntu, it was one of the first things I found an app for and started using regularly. The apps didn’t really work very well, but they were effective enough to make this approach my default mode.

Just press the Win key and type what you want to launch.

This is such a simple and effective approach. So much, that when I installed Windows 7 for the first time and saw the Start Menu had a search box that was selected by default, it felt natural for me to type “fir[ENTER]” to launch firefox. Everything was launchable from your keyboard now!

Another thing to note: With Windows Vista/7, was also introduced the task bar that always had your favourite applications listed, grouped by application. It was just awful in Vista, but really perfected in Windows 7. This was copied from Mac OS, I think.

What a simple innovation. Brought into the mainstream by none other than Microsoft. Holy shit. I’m not used to saying good things about these guys. They really know how to introduce features slowly and letting people get used to the change, not really changing a lot at a time, and making sure all the conservative folks still get to use new fancy looking operating systems even though they’re stuck in archaic and out-dated use patterns. They fucked up that tradition of slowly building innovation with Windows 8, and I don’t know why, but I might speculate it was at least in part the fault of Unity.

Unity came and fucked everything up. It dealt away with the now perfectly polished gnome clone of the Windows 95 Start Menu, and introduced an interface that is exclusively oriented at the type to launch approach, with a small sliver of backwards-compatibility to the outdated start -> category -> browse for app approach. I say it’s a small sliver, because it’s so slow and bulky, and so discouraged in the interface, that it has pissed a lot of people off and made them swear off Unity forever. Yes, you. That’s where you come in. Your usage pattern is old and slow and ineffective. Unity has basically thrown it in your face how outdated this usage pattern is, and you still just don’t get it.

I have to admit, when I first saw this interface, I didn’t get it either. I was excited for Gnome 3, so I tried that. It was still in development, so it didn’t really work. I heard about Linux Mint, but by some freak accident it gave me both cinnamon and MATE on the same desktop, and neither of them were anything I really liked. It just felt slow and bulky to use. Begrudgingly, I turned back to Ubuntu and Unity.

Slowly, I started to understand how this interface was meant to be used. After complaining about the weird and fucked up way ALT+TAB worked now, a colleague showed me how to use it effectively. I’ve never alt-tabbed so well in my life before! I also discovered the small keyboard shortcuts user guide that appears when you hold the WIN key. They really added some nifty stuff there! The slow type-to-launch system Unity was based around, became faster, and without thinking about it, I also adopted it. It felt natural. It felt fast.

It felt like I was spending less time using the computer and more time getting things done.

Nowadays, using the mouse to launch applications is done using no more than one single click. Any application that is worth launching over and over again, is just pinned to the left side of the screen. It’s just not worth hunting through menus to find your application any more! They stole that idea from Windows 7 by the way.

Finally, the Start Menu that Windows 95 introduced, is being killed off.

Windows 8 tried to do this, but Microsoft had to secede to a more conservative approach in Windows 10, as it’s critics have a lot of money and power and very loud, whiny voices. Maybe they were just living in a small bubble where all of the Windows users understood how to use the interfaces effectively. Now they’re trying to get people used to the Start Menu really being the only place you need to use. Maybe in Windows 11 it’ll occupy half the screen, like the Unity menu does. Maybe they thought they had already killed the desktop in favor of type to launch and pinned apps.

Now for the final nail in the coffin.

If you have a recent installation of Ubuntu readily available, hit the Win key and type “Music”.

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Try this with “text” or “web” or “photo” or whichever thing you can come up with that makes sense.

Oh and by the way. These days, my desktop is only used for temporary files that I’ll want to delete and won’t bother keeping for long. Like all of the screenshots for this post.


19
Nov 12

A heart-felt goodbye

So, it finally happened. I had to throw out Ubuntu from a laptop and install Windows instead. My girlfriends laptop.

My girlfriend has a ASUS Zenbook ux32vd laptop. Don’t buy ASUS Zenbooks by the way: The marketing claims the laptop to be a top-of-the-line high-quality top-notch product but the reality is that it’s just what it looks like: a cheap knockoff product. The ASUS Zenbook is shitty both in build quality and Linux compatibility. This post will focus on the latter quality aspect of the zenbook.

At first, she really liked Ubuntu 12.04 even though she had to get used to it a bit first. Unity was pretty and usable. The quality, the usability, the user interface design wonder that is GNOME, was quickly appreciated. They’ve done it well on that front. Nobody beats GNOME’s user interfaces. They know their shit.

Everything’s FAST. Booting is fast, chromium is fast, Google Docs (sorry Libre/Open/ZealotsOffice, you suck too much) is fast, Chromium is fast. Everything’s so delicious-looking, responsive, and fast.

There’s no need for clunky virus protection, or getting harassed by “plz update me” popups from various apps, or fearing that she by accident installs some McAfee malware while installing Adobe Reader malware. Yes I say malware because those two really are malicious. The first is piggybacking on the second which allows other malware to further infect the machine.

But then the issues started. Whenever she’d turn on the laptop, there was an 80% chance that the screen was black. It’s a known issue but nobody knows whoever’s responsible and everybody who’s able to fix the problem is pointing at “THAT GUY” over there.

Chromium started crashing constantly. The fan just revved up to full RPM and never stopped (even though the laptop was idling). No solutions for both problems. She started being ashamed of her laptop, really regretting the expensive purchase, begging for a new one, envying all the lucky problem-free Mac users. Something had to be done.

Just like that, I backed up her home folder, wiped the entire disk, installed Windows 7. Even though the initial setup takes a little longer than Ubuntu (messing in command line to modify the system to use all hardware VS double-clicking ten installers to install drivers), the system works perfectly now. And it’s pretty. Too bad she lost out on the awesome GNOME UI.

Errata: It turned out that the cache SSD in the laptop was broken and unleashed all kinds of hell on the laptop. Yes, this little 24GB thing is what Ubuntu was installed on.


15
Nov 12

Printers

Fuck everything about printers. And printing.


26
Oct 12

Ubuntu 12.10 sucks horse cock

Ubuntu 12.10 is released. Acting like the happy big fucking idiot I am I decide to upgrade within a month after its release. I don’t know why I just have to ruin a perfectly fine system whose quirks I’ve finally learned to live with for an upgrade to newer Ubuntu, despite that it never fails to piss me off by being broken in dozens of quirky little ways, each a little different than last time.

Each of these many small problems is just a bit too small to warrant a post on it’s own but big enough that they end up being very distracting to me.

Binary nVidia Drivers

You can’t just install the drivers from a GUI anymore. They’ve removed that feature. You have to install the nvidia-current-updates package. But wait. If you do that, your Ubuntu machine is fucked. You have to first install the linux-headers-generic package. Because … I don’t know why and I don’t care why. It took me a good hour to figure this quirk out.

Update 06-11-12: Guess what happens when the Linux kernel version is bumped through an update? The driver stops working! Why? Because the linux-headers package is not updated together with the kernel. You see, they’re not listed as a dependency (even though it IS a dependency for the driver to work) so fuck you.

Also, completely by accident, I found out that there IS a GUI option to select proprietary drivers. I just wish somebody would have told me before.Screenshot of package source stuff selection thing

CompizConfig Settings Manager

I like to use the Compiz Put plugin. It’s a small plugin which can put a window to any place on the screen without resizing it. It’s feature is almost similar to the Grid plugin except I happen to think it’s nicer. I can press CTRL+ALT+ any key on my numpad to put a window to the corresponding placement on the screen. When I configure this in CCSM it turns out that not only does CTRL+ALT+NUM_5 center my currently selected window, but it also toggles maximization of that window.

Who the fuck uses CTRL+ALT+NUM_5 for maximizing a window? CCSM doesn’t inform me of the overlap in keybindings before I disabled then re-enabled the Put plugin in an effort to narrow down which fucking plugin caused this weird behavior. It turns out that was under General Options.

Once in a while, though, Compiz crashes and drops all my keybindings and customization. Just like that. Even after I’ve saved my settings, shut down the computer, booted it up again, it can decide to crash and drop my settings on a whim.

I tried making a backup of my compiz settings but when I search my home directory for anything compiz-related I get back a bunch of… everything other than what I’m looking for!

 

New Window

 

Each time I initiate a new application window, be it a browser, music player or terminal, the windows title bar is overlapped by the weird status/menu bar that Ubuntu has gotten since the change to the Unity interface. To move a window from there using the mouse I have to hit the hidden underneath window decoration that’s only four pixels visible. Since I’ve played a lot of shooters needing high-precision mouse aiming back in my day, it’s not so hard to hit it but I really have to concentrate to make it happen.

 

 

EDIT: Turns out this one was my own fault. I had disabled the Compiz “Place Window” plugin while trying to figure out which plugin was interfering with my above mentioned Put keyboard shortcuts.

Chromium Create Application Shortcuts…

… has stopped working, for some reason. I can see the .desktop files for my corporate webmail being created on the desktop but they are not clickable. On the odd chance out that a separate icon appears in the dash, it’s not usable and just blinks for a while then dies. What happened?

libMTP still outdated

I wrote a post not long ago about how libmtp for some odd reason could not help me doing the simple task of transferring files from my smartphone to my laptop using an USB cable. This was actually one of the reasons I wanted to upgrade: So that I didn’t get a fucking error every time I plugged in my insanely popular smartphone into a supposedly user-friendly operating system. Well the error’s still there and I still can’t copy a file from a phone to a laptop using a USB cable.

There’s probably more, but all this long ranting is proving to be therapeutic to my frustrations so this is all for now.


17
Oct 12

Ubuntu and MTP devices

The future is awesome, right?

Almost all USB-enabled devices nowadays use MTP to communicate with any computer device connected to their MicroUSB port. I like this. I really like this. It means that all my devices use the same cable for charging and transferring files. How awesome is that? I have MicroUSB cables laying around all over the house just in case I need to charge or transfer something right then&there.

This is the future kiddos. You won’t understand how awesome this shit is unless you personally have had to deal with the good old days where every company had a different charger and data transfer cable for each and every model of their phone.

Most phones didn’t have 3.5″ Jack plugs even! I still have a SonyEricsson phone from around 2008 that requires you to connect an ugly bulky.. thing.. to the phone before you can listen to music on it: Thereby making the device absolutely useless for that specific purpose.

Ugly SonyEricsson audio adapter

Is That A SonyEricsson Data/Charger-To-Audio-Jack Adapter In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Gone are the horrible days of incompatibility, gone are the pains of having to install special drivers from 150-megabyte install files from vendors slow support download websites just to transfer files! Say HELLO to a new age of Universal Serial Bus and the awesome connect-anything-anywhere AWESOMENESS!

NO WAIT! FUCK YOU

You can’t connect this device to your installed most recent version of Ubuntu! What the hell were you thinking? libmtp doesn’t recognize this specific devices Device ID and therefore there’s NO FUCKING CHANCE IN HELL you are allowed to mount it without downloading some fucking shady unproven code from some fucking repository and compiling it on your system and fucking up your software managements neat little arrangement here.

I’ve had this happen to me two times now. First with my Sansa ClipZip mp3 player and now with my Galaxy SIII phone. I require no fancy features from any of them, just simple file transfer.

Why can’t I have a simple fucking file transfer?

A strange sense of defeat washes over me as I … remember that it’s easier to send the files out to the fucking INTERNET and download them from there than to make a simple file transfer using a USB cable.

Welcome to the future!


14
May 12

Ubuntu 12.04 sucks donkey balls

I’ve installed Ubuntu 12.04 and have been running it on my awesome Thinkpad T520 laptop (Ubuntu Compatible even! A status I would revoke immediatly. Half of the hardware and features of the laptop are not supported in Ubuntu) since it was released. While I haven’t had any of the serious issues regarding the graphics card, Nvidia Optimus support in Ubuntu, or just general problems booting the damn thing from my SSD… I’ve been getting a lot of inconsistencies compared to the previous versions.

At first I opted to upgrade. I thought, everybody’s saying how well it works and whatnot. The upgrade process worked flawlessly, but I was missing a bunch of advertised features somehow. No privacy controls in the settings manager, my personal keyboard shortcuts meshed badly with the preinstalled ones, got crash reports all over the place. No big deal, I thought, my experience tells me anything short of a completely clean install will lead to disastrous results. I did a clean install, hoping it would give me a clean, neat, delicious LTS experience.

Oh how was I wrong. The first thing I do, is open the default Music Library/Multimedia Player app now changed for like the third time (seriously whats up with the flipflop guys? Just pick one and commit already!) which crashed. Then I got a bunch of crash reports. Then I tried to see what the crash was about. The crash reporter crashed. Crash crash crash.

It’s become better since I stopped trying out so many different things on my system. But at least once a day, I have to send a crash report to the Ubuntu dev team.

All flash videos have smurfs in them. I don’t remember when I last saw a Youtube video without smurfs in them. People on the net say something about Adobe stopping Linux flash development, but why the fuck did they push out a LAST version with a giant gaping bug in it?

If there’s a reason to dump proprietary shitty flash and replace it with open source alternatives, this is a perfect example of it! I really hope the world can get rid of Flash so we, on Ubuntu powered systems, won’t have to deal with the same shitty security flaws as the poor daily Windows users have had to put up with.

Did you know that at least half of infections on Windows happen because of unpatched Adobe software? I just pulled that number out of my ass, but I know it’s not too far from the truth.

Here’s for hoping the Ubuntu team pull their heads out of their asses and focus on the stability and reliability of Ubuntu instead of chasing after new features. At least this once.

PS. I won’t use Debian or Linux Mint or whatever. Ubuntu is, sadly, the least shitty Linux distribution out there. That’s why I keep using it even though I’m unhappy with some parts of it. In general, it’s a pretty good system which I like a lot, and I’m willing to put up with a lot of shit to keep using it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t serve shit back.


10
May 12

I fucking hate locales, fuck backwards compatibility, i want UTF-8 on everything *NOW*

If you’ve installed Debian or Ubuntu recently you’ve probably come accross this annoying error that spams every single fucking command you run:

perl: warning: Setting locale failed.
perl: warning: Please check that your locale settings:
LANGUAGE = (unset),
LC_ALL = (unset),
LC_PAPER = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_ADDRESS = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_MONETARY = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_NUMERIC = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_TELEPHONE = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_IDENTIFICATION = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_MEASUREMENT = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_TIME = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LC_NAME = "en_DK.UTF-8",
LANG = "en_US.UTF-8"
are supported and installed on your system.
perl: warning: Falling back to the standard locale ("C").

Googling for a fix, you get a lot of well-meaning people telling you to run dpkg-reconfigure locales or to install a bunch of packages (I want LESS shit to be annoyed at, not MORE), but none of the fixes really work. Except one. I’m writing this post because right now I’m working on a server and I can’t find the one fucking fix that worked for me.

This is a fucking bug and it’s annoying like fuck. It’s right up there with the blinking banner ad that tells you you’re the 1 millionth winner of some shit contest you never entered.


08
May 12

nginx and the auth_pam module

I got the task of adding ldap authentication to our puppet nginx module.

Oh shit.

After messing with the fucked up unintuitive package build system we have, to make it build nginx with the auth_pam module, I think I’m set and create an “nginx” auth file in pam.d and cross my fingers the shit is working… ITS NOT!

No problem I think as I head for my trusty nginx logs and access.log. Surely they will say something about why auth(.log)entication and nginx(.log) don’t work together? No! TOUGH FUCKING LUCK.

So I look at the nginx auth_pam module for clues. Turns out it does log some basic debugging through nginx debug log. Ah, i just have to enable debug logging in nginx. Easy peasy, we got that covered. NO! NOT THAT FUCKING EASY.

YOU HAVE TO RECOMPILE NGINX TO ENABLE DEBUG LOGGING

WHAT THE FUCK

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK


16
Mar 12

Got Outlook Web App Premium for Chromium/Chrome on Ubuntu working!

TL;DR: Skip the next few paragraphs until you see “The Fix”

What a shitty title, but you had to find my post somehow. At my work, we use Exchange for internal mail and calendar stuff, which is fine. In pastimes, I’d use IMAP clients like Evolution or Thunderbird to connect to our exchange server, and do mail like that… but as time went on I grew tired of how sloppy those mail clients are. I can’t pinpoint the exact grudge I have against them, except that it’s just multiple usability issues which ended up pissing me off and moving me to use Outlook Web Access, also known as OWA.

Being the techie guy that I am, I like to use bleeding-edge whatever of as much as possible. Chromium beta channel for Ubuntu, then. This fix works for any version of chromium/chrome on Ubuntu, so don’t worry. Anyway, the problem with this is that Microsoft only supports a heavily nerfed version of Outlook Web Access (they call it Lite) for Chromium on Ubuntu. For a long time I was OK with that: The bells and whistles of the Deluxe version were too much for me.. so I coped. But with time, it got to the point where that annoyed me as well.

The Outlook Web Access Lite client doesn’t make use of any kind of scripting or advanced features anywhere it matters! It’s all plain HTML for that client. You can’t select multiple mails at once (one click per email) or anything like that. EXCEPT: When someone sends you a file that Outlook recognizes. I’m specifically thinking about attached mail files sent from other Outlook clients. Then you’re in for a fucking treat. Web access suddenly FORGETS that it’s a dumb html web interface and employs advanced techniques intended to make it as fucking hard as possible for you to just get the plain file and let you view the message headers: No no no, that would be too much to expect. You’re supposed to view the file as an Email, in Outlook Web Access Lite. What fucking cuntface decided to make that mandatory? It is in no way possible to download the email file to your computer. Fuck that shit. If I’m forced to use fancy features anyhow, I’m gonna want to use them all at once. Which leads me to…

The Fix

Go to http://ip.nixy.dk?useragent and copy the second line to your favourite text editor. It shoud look something like this:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/535.11 (KHTML, like Gecko) Ubuntu/11.10 Chromium/17.0.963.79 Chrome/17.0.963.79 Safari/535.11

Now change the part that says (X11; Linux x86_64) to be (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64) and delete Ubuntu/11.10 (this could be different depending on what version of Ubuntu you’re running. Just delete it, for good measure)

Now go find yourself a User Agent Spoofer for your Chromium. I use this one, seing as it’s the first thing to come up in a google search. Go to the settings screen for the extension. Enter your custom User Agent in the list of Custom User Agents, and add your Outlook Web Access to the Permanent Spoof list.

You’re done! Go play with your fancy OWA. 🙂


15
Mar 12

nginx is actually quite good

I don’t know why, but I stumbled across an “nginx vs lighttpd” page … and remembered, oh yeah, i fucking love nginx. Meanwhile, lightly is alianating it’s users by some developer refusing to implement the most basic of features (separate error logging by vhost) because it’s “too hard” and refuses to do so for future versions, too.

Well, fuck lighttpd. nginx is awesomer.


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