Sunday, June 29, 2008

iGoogle and Google Desktop

I cannot understand why anyone would want Google Desktop if he can have iGoogle. I must be missing something. Google Desktop has to be installed and personalized on your computer, whereas iGoogle is akin to having your own personalized login webpage. Both give you the same ability to install or remove the Google gadgets, so what gives? With my iGoogle set up, I can go to any computer, log in to my account, and see all the apps I have installed, including Gmail, Calendar, Google docs, weather, Pick of the Day pictures, news feeds, etc.

If you have not tried either, I suggest you give iGoogle a go. You'll be surprised what you have missed out. While you are at it, switch to Firefox browser. Oh yeah, sign up for the Foxmarks bookmark synchronizer too. Download OpenOffice as well. Er.... maybe you can now drop Microsoft a note to say you won't need them anymore. Yes, if you do all of the above, you may be ready to switch to Linux and not feel any great loss.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What would a bloke blog 'bout?

My son says I am too prejudiced to write fairly on a given debatable topic. But that's what a blog is for, isn't it? I mean, my blog is where I put my own thoughts and opinion down in writing. What good would it be to write about what others think? Or to give a balanced and politically correct view? Nah... I think I'll stick to doing it My Way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ubuntu, u wud too, or wudn't u tu?

I often wondered what would it take for Linux to completely win over Windows aficionados. I admit I have not fully immersed myself into Linux yet, but reading ahead on the experience of others I can imagine Ubuntu is on par with Windows as far as the average user's experience is concerned. Yes, there are still concerns about open-source support reliability and security, real or imagined. That aside, what would it take for a typical home user to switch OS?

I believe the most important deciding factor for a would-be convert is SPEED. Of course stability is important, but that has come to be expected of any new software. Speed is what will make people go through the psychological barrier of adopting a different OS. I want reduced boot up time. I want fast browsing speed (without upgrading my PC). I want nifty click actions. The battle between Windows and other OS's will not be whether there are more software developers for Windows than there are for Linux. After all, Linux offers all the usual applications with the ease-of-use that is expected of everyone: browser, email, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, media player, audio, video, and picture editing, etc. More development of the same applications would not make much difference to an average user; a FASTER application would. (Watch how Asus is set to conquer market share with their instant-on "Splashtop" stripped down version of Linux built into the motherboard)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ubuntu 8.04

Now I am forced to install Ubuntu 8.04, which I aborted in my first installation (see earlier blog). After reformatting the unused partition of the hard drive that was installed with Ubuntu 7.04, I was not able to run or reinstall 7.04 again. Fortunately I came across "Wubi" which can automatically install Ubuntu directly from the internet for me. Install it did! Just only small click, enter the drive to install, name, password... and bang! The whole 700MB of Ubuntu 8.04 downloaded and installed itself, and allowing me to select XP or Ubuntu at boot up time. At the end of it, I could click on Firefox and surf the net rightaway. That was the best OS installation experience I have ever had.

Now I am ready for Ubuntu again. My experience with using the 8.04 is very good so far. It feels a lot more like what I have come to expect from XP. My goal is to see if Ubuntu can totally replace Windows for "all" my computing needs. (Caveat: of course I will still need one working computer on Windows to run Photoshop and video editing)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On the learning curve with Ubuntu

Using Firefox, I managed to install all my bookmarks from the Foxmarks automatic bookmark synchonizer. After a few uses, I sometimes forget I am even on Ubuntu and not XP. I did my emails and read all the RSS feeds just as I used to do before.

Next, I tried Youtube. It prompted me to download Adobe Flash Player, which I did. Then Youtube works fine. Next I tried MP3. It didn't work at first. I read the tips from about Linux restricted formats that had to be dealt with. Did that and Mp3 works fine, even when I played directly from files stored in my XP drive.

Minor hiccup:
When I installed Ubuntu, I first partitioned the second drive on my computer. Booting back from XP, I could not "see" this drive, so I decided to reformat it while in XP. That resulted in my computer not being able to boot up. It gave a Grub Loader error. That's when I learned a bit more about Grub Loader from the internet. Simply put, the Ubuntu installer also installs the Grub Loader into the MBR (Master Boot Record) of my hard disk to enable booting from multiple OS's. I have to restore the MBR to prior state. Fortunately, I got it from the internet. Here's how: Boot from XP installation disk. When the choices come up, press R to get into Recovery Console. Type "1" to select primary installation. Then type "fixmbr". That's all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My experience with Ubuntu 7.04

I often wondered what it would be like to use Linux. 'Often marveled at the tenacity of those who strive at it for free, to bring about a better deal for people who not only want an alternative to Microsoft's OS but believe in fair play.

So what is it like to run Ubuntu, one of the latest packaging of Linux? I have had no prior experience with anything Linux. Yesterday I decided to download Ubuntu 8.04, the latest version to-date. Burned the image file into a DVD, and installed it on a free drive in my computer. Booted up from the DVD and waited for about 15 minutes for the software to install itself. It was very simple. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason the network connection failed to install automatically. Otherwise, the installation proceeded to completion.

Next, I took out an older version of Ubuntu; ver 7.04. Burned the image file into a CD-ROM. I was pleasantly surprised that I could boot up from the CD itself without installing anything. It worked flawlessly and booted up without a fuss. Even the network connection worked. With renewed confidence in Ubuntu, I decided to install a copy on my hard drive. Now I can boot up from either my old XP or with the new Ubuntu. Happily, my previously installed XP still works, and so does the newly installed Ubuntu.

Stay tuned as I explore what Ubuntu can or cannot do...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why not a corded phone?

Why would one place multiple wired telephone points in the home? Isn't it obvious that cordless phones have made that obsolete? Yet I did it (added new phone points). I have a phone point in the bedroom, one in the kitchen, one in the study and one in the rumpus room. There are merits to the good old corded phone: it does not require an additional power supply with its ubiquitous stepdown transformer running from the power socket to the charger; and when you get an incoming call, you don't have to look for a stray cordless phone that isn't where you thought it was; and it never runs out of battery when you are in the middle of a long conversation.

Yes, a good old corded telephone sits quietly where it should be and where it has always been. It never breaks down and it never fails you in terms of voice quality. It holds its place as a humble and faithful servant in the house. When you call someone on his corded phone, you can picture where he is and you know you have his full attention; that is, he is not multitasking his time while you have to keep repeating what you've just said. Finally, a working antique phone even doubles up as a decorative item, much like a vintage car that you would collect if you have cash to spare.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The computer belongs to the kitchen

After moving my second computer around various spots in the house, I believe the kitchen is one of the best places for it. My kitchen computer hums quietly in one corner of the room. It is fully and immediately accessible to everyone in the family. I use it to play the internet radio, when I need some background music to liven up my day. When I need to check out the news or my email, I just hop on and get off without wasting much time. When I need to look up a word in the dictionary, or get some directions from the map, I go to this computer. It is so convenient that I begin to see it as an appliance in the house. The kitchen is a great place for a computer because modern life revolves around the computer.... or shall we say, the internet?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

HDD media player - why it's cool

I'm talking about those HDD enclosures that double up as a player that reads various picture, audio, or video formats . I've had mine for half a year now and I am fully convinced that this is one of the best entertainment gadgets one can get for the home. My media player sits next to my big screen TV. It is now connected to all my computers through a wired home LAN. I can download any media from the internet onto any of my computers, and then play it on my AV system through the media player. There is no need to transfer any file to the player. Lag time is very short (it needs a few seconds to read a large video file). Video quality is excellent, and so is the sound quality.
The best part of such an arrangement is that I can do video editing on my computer, and immediately do a test run on the big screen without moving files around. My children can use the media player without messing up my player's hard drive, which I like to keep organized. In case you are wondering, my player is MVIX 760HD (cost AUD$280, without the hard drive).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Internet radio stations

Yesterday I "discovered" the fastest way to access internet radio stations. Simply download iTunes on to your PC. When you run iTunes, you will see a library of radio stations grouped by genre. When you open any of the groupings, a long list of radio stations appear. Click on any one and you'll instantly get to enjoy music just like on a radio.

The reason I am so excited about this is because prior to this I have tried using some of the radio station guides that appear on a google search. Those guides often lead you on a long chase and you end up opening pages of advertisements before you get to listen to a radio (if you are lucky). iTunes is simpy marvellous if you are interested to "channel surf" the internet radio and enjoy music everywhere.

How to install iTunes:
Simply go to Apple Computer's website: , download iTunes, and then doubleclick the downloaded file to install. The file is very big (current version 57.1MB).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to be totally mobile

Sometimes a system crash can be a good thing. About a week or two ago my system crashed after I tried to install a file conversion software (nrg-to-iso). Somehow I couldn't boot up again except with a boot CD. I did not lose any data but I faced the uninspiring task of re-installing all my software and settings again. That's when I decided to switch from Outlook to reading my emails directly from the internet, which started a series of changes that has a happy ending, Read on.....

I ended up installing iGoogle, and some other iGoogle applets - calendar, weather, news, photo, etc. Next, I also switched my browser from IE to Mozilla, and discovered a neat little applet (Foxmarks) that allows me to sync my bookmarks automatically between different computers. As a result, I can move between different computers in my house, see the same screen that displays my gmail, my schedules, and my bookmarks - all perfectly synchronized. I can access my iGoogle anywhere in the world. I feel that I am now truly mobile, and have no dependency on any one computer!

....still feeling very excited about iGoogle, which I know is not a new thing, but it is new "toy" for me.....