Sean O'Donnells Weblog
The new Thinkpad arrived and I have been using it for over a month now.
The spec looks like this
This machine runs like a dream. Nothing slows it down. I installed half life 2 before removing the windows partition and it run with full detail on 1024*768 without a hitch. I have yet to find anything on Ubuntu which seems to strain in the slightest. The large display makes it a fantastic coding machine (along with the famous Thinkpad keyboard and trackpoint).
After installing Ubuntu breezy almost everything worked straight away. I cannot get network-manager to work, but I think that is down to the wifi drivers. Suspend resume takes a bit of tinkering to get working, and does not function with the proprietary ATI drivers only the GPL drivers (although I hear this problem is soon to be fixed).The fingerprint scanner takes a bit of installing , but being a very non standard piece of hardware I am willing to forgive that. It integrates into PAM and so far I have GDM, XScreensaver and sudo all functioning from it. The only catch is that gtksudo (used by Ubuntu to request a password when you launch any administrative tools) does work with it, but does not present a GUI, so when you launch something nothing happens at all on screen until you swipe your finger.
The Hard drive active protection system only has an early beta driver, and I am simply not willing to have potentially buggy software manically parking my hard drive on a whim, so I have not tried it yet. I will wait until its a touch more mature.
The machine has a few small shortcoming. First off, only 2 usb2 ports, and no firewire at all. I have a pcmcia firewire card so that didn't bother me too much. The second is that the built in modem requires a proprietary driver to function. Yet again this does not bother me, I have not needed to dial up by modem in years, and there is a free as in beer version of the driver that allows you to connect at up to 14.4kbps which will do me fine if I ever hit such an emergency.
If you are looking for a linux friendly laptop, I have to recommend the T43p highly.
Being a gnome user, the last few releases on Ubuntu have driven me batty by omitting the nautilus bluetooth integration. This very handy functionality allows you to right click on a few and send it via bluetooth.
For some odd reason it has yet to make it into any version of Ubuntu and using gnome-obex-send from the command line is more than a touch annoying.
However thanks to a fabulous Nautilus extension I have found a way to replicate the functionality
Now the official gnome-bluetooth extension should look like this
And here is what my replacement looks like
1. Selecting the file to send
2. Selecting the device to send to
3. Watching the progress of the file as it is sent
So if I am not using the nautilus-bluetooth extension what am I using? I found a fantastic Nautilus extension called Nautilus Actions. This allows you to quickly and easily define your own context menu items for everything in nautilus. Once you have it installed simply run nautilus-actions-config and create as many actions as you like. The configuration I used for the Bluetooth send option is shown below. Once you have installed it and added a rule, restart nautilus with nautilus -q and you are done. Why this is not a standard part of every gnome based distribution is beyond me.
(By the way, the resumption of posts does mean that my new T43p has arrived. Im still finishing up configuring ubuntu on it, but expect a full write up as soon as I am done)
My trusty old Thinkpad T21 died a while back so I finally bit the bullet and ordered a replacement. I got a nice deal on Ebay on a A31, but the shippers decided to play football with it and shattered the casing in several places (quite an achievement with a Thinkpad). I got a full refund from the seller , so once the tears had dried I had to come up with a plan B. Here it is
The IBM Thinkpad T43p, a thing of beauty. The only problem is that it was ordered two weeks ago and is due to arrive sometime this week. In a nice vague kind of way. I am having it delivered to the office , which may have been a mistake as I am giving myself whiplash from spinning round so fast every time I see someone carry a box past the office door. For the time being I have to content myself with reading the reviews and checking up Linux install tips on thinkwiki. And it looks like linux support for the fingerprint reader has arrived!
I purchased the Beta Book version of Pragmatic Ajax this morning and have been working my way through the Google Maps example they have. Unfortunately they provide the source for a small Java program to actually cut your big map image down into little tiles. I decided I could not be bothered to download and install a JVM , so I created my own little script in python using the PIL library to create the tile images required. With very little effort it could become a generic image splitter. The resulting images are saved in PNG format by default.
Heres the source
import Image import sys image = Image.open(sys.argv) tile_width = int(sys.argv) tile_height = int(sys.argv) zoom_level = sys.argv if image.size % tile_width == 0 and image.size % tile_height ==0 : currentx = 0 currenty = 0 while currenty < image.size: while currentx < image.size: print currentx,",",currenty tile = image.crop((currentx,currenty,currentx + tile_width, currenty + tile_height)) tile.save("x" + str(currentx) + "y" + str(currenty ) + "z" + zoom_level + ".png","PNG") currentx += tile_width currenty += tile_height currentx = 0 else: print ("sorry your image does not fit neatly into", tile_width,"*",tile_height,"tiles")
I spent yesterday at TechCamp and had a fabulous time. I have had a chest infection all week that has prevented me from getting much sleep, and had to take advantage of Saturday morning to get a few extra hours in , sadly missing the first few hours of the day as a result. The rest the the day was very worthwhile in its own right though.
Joe Drumgoole gave an interesting talk on setting up an R&D Organization. In particular he gave a nice overview of the kind of R&D operations different companies run, why deliberate R&D is always important, and how to sustain it once your company gets past the start up stage and has real customers and other demands on your time.
John Breslin of Boards.ie fame gave an great presentation on social software and the semantic web. In particular SIOC (Semantically Interlinked Online Communities) looks like it could be the next big thing on the web. The ability to follow threads of conversation across different blogs, wikis, forums and other online communities would be a n incredibly powerful tool. It makes trackbacks and pingbacks look woefully inadequate.
Eyal Oren, John Breslin's colleague from DERI then gave us a demonstration of SemperWiki, a Semantic personal desktop wiki for Gnome. Its a very promising app, but I'm not sure its ready for non technical users yet.
Darren Barefoot then proceeded to enlighten us on (Un)marketing and the Web 2.0 company. He had a lot of thought provoking ideas. His claim that "Good marketing, bad product beats bad marketing, good product" is no longer true" seems a bit too good to be true. I have seen to many small companies with a good product and a "build it and they will come" attitude go under to really believe this on a gut level. On the other hand it is certainly far more true than it used to be.
His points on building "word of mouse" (Online buzz) , traditional advertising no longer working for software companies and the need to hand control over to your customers all hit home soundly.
The day wrapped up with Gavin Byrne showing us Near Fm's podcasting setup (Gavin recorded podcasts of some of the Techcamp talks which should be available online at some point). They are using Loudblog to manage their podcasts and it seems to be a very slick piece of software.
He also gave us an overview of the Community Media Further Education project's mobile unit.
This impressive piece of hardware is capable of providing broadband access to any location with about 3-4km of their base. They simple drive up, use that massive antenna to connect back to base and then a shorter range wifi antenna to provide access. They have a cart loaded with laptops in the van which they then distribute to users on the day. The van regularly visits senior citizens in Sheltered housing projects in the area. Gavin was kind enough to have the van set up in the car park at TechCamp (it provided our wireless access all day) and to give us a close up look at the equipment.
Afterwards the attendees decamped to the Porterhouse in Dublin's Temple Bar to sample the German Beers available as part of their Ocktoberfest promotion. I found the massive steins of Dunkel to be particularly to my taste.
As to be expected at an event like this, the conversation only got better as the night went on and I am looking forward to the next TechCamp event. A big thank you to the organizers and to all those who attended.