Thursday, October 30, 2014

My impression of Kubuntu 14.10

The Kubuntu 14.10 desktop

I've used Kubuntu for about a week already, so here's my impressions.

Overall, the experience has been positive. I like the smooth transition animations when doing things like minimising/maximising windows. The default software selection is pretty good, too. Akregator is my feed reader, Firefox is Firefox, LibreOffice is LibreOffice.

I also like how certain software stay resident without slowing down the system. When something interesting happens an icon appears in the notification area ready to interact with whenever you are. So far, I've noticed KTorrent and Akregator doing this. Amarok's icon is always present but that doesn't seem to affect system performance at all.

But, not everything is well polished. Dragon Player's time slider in full screen mode doesn't employ the smooth transitions evident in other parts of the desktop, for instance.

Also, almost every app in Kubuntu seems to be intent on making themselves as complicated as possible in terms of UI design. I've had to manually pare down those I use regularly as much as possible. Maybe this is why I've always preferred GNOME-based desktops. While I do find KDE's animations nice, I much prefer GNOME's simple UI designs. The fact that I think KDE's UI looks rather cartoonish may have helped sway my choice as well. I still do think it's overly bright but it's nothing to be overly concerned with.

Clicking a magnet link in Akregator brings up KTorrent if it's UI isn't open already. While that's not a problem if you have only the one magnet link, it quickly becomes a nuisance when there's multiple links to follow. I've yet to find a way to get KTorrent to remain in the notification area when new magnet links are added.

Kubuntu, in essence, is a good desktop. It simply needs a bit more spit and polish here and there to make it even better. I get that some people do like the rather cluttered looking software UI, so I'm not saying there's a requirement to change things there. But making things like desktop animations work across the board (that Dragon Player full screen mode, again) would make the experience more consistent.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of more examples but I'm sure there's little inconsistencies here and there needing addressing. Still, Kubuntu's good so far. I'll be staying for at least this cycle. Come 15.04 I may head back to Ubuntu if I really can't stand KDE. Or, maybe I'll try yet another flavor and see how that turns out.


Amarok search is simply insane. DeaDBeeF doesn't iconify into the notification area. Help! Looks like my search for a suitable music player continues...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ubuntu 14.10 is out; Why not try a flavor?

Kubuntu 14.10 desktop with Firefox open

I've followed Ubuntu since Warty Warthog. Unity was disorienting at first but now it's pretty good. Still, I've always wondered: What about the other flavors?

I've tried Kubuntu & Xubuntu in LiveCD before. They didn't leave good impressions on me. But maybe I just needed to give them some time like I did Unity to grow to like them.

So, this time I'm doing a clean install with Kubuntu instead of my usual Ubuntu.

As I'm writing this, the latest 64-bit ISO is burning onto DVD media. I've opted for the Plasma 4 release. Experimental features have never been a pleasant experience for me on Ubuntu so I'll not try out Plasma 5 just yet.

Moving to KDE means I'll essentially need to re-pick my favourite software for doing the basics. I'll be looking for new BitTorrent clients, RSS feed readers, DVD burning software, etc...

I hope it'll be a good experience.

Friday, October 10, 2014

DIY budget NAS build: Hardware side

I've been thinking of getting myself a NAS for some time now.

But off-the-shelf NAS look way too expensive than it's worth. Besides, building your own sounds like such a nice little personal project. That said, I don't have money to burn so I'll be going for a budget build that serves well without breaking the wallet (too much).

So here's the fruits of my "research" based on what's available.

Processor: AMD Sempron 2650
Motherboard: Asrock AM1B-ITX
Memory: AData 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3
Storage: 2 x 3TB WD Green, Silicon Power Touch 01 8GB
Power Supply: Cooler Master Elite Power 350W
Casing: BitFenix Prodigy

Basically, I've attempted to make a low-priced build while maintaining good performance. I'm trying to keep a small footprint while having the option of installing 3 or 4 storage drives for RAID5/6 hence the choice of casing. This being my first NAS build I don't really have an idea what the performance will be like but I'd think a NAS doesn't generally require a lot of compute power.

At the moment, I'm thinking of running Ubuntu Server on this build for the Btrfs support. That's why I only have 2 hard disks for this build. Btrfs RAID5/6 is still very very experimental so I'll be doing a simple RAID1 first and moving over to RAID5/6 later when Btrfs support improves or, as storage requirements dictates.

Any suggestions out there?


Based on feedback I've reduced memory to 4TB. I can always add it back later if it's needed.

Casing's been changed to a BitFenix casing which supports up to 5 3.5" hard disks but looks quite a bit larger than the Cooler Master I'd picked earlier.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Upgrading to Ubuntu 14.10

So far so good...

No thanks to some display troubles I've been having, I've somehow managed to mess up my Compiz settings (wallpaper with no Dash, no indicators, nothing). So... it's a bit early but I've upgraded to Ubuntu 14.10 after downloading and burning the latest daily image on my laptop which was, for better or for worse, running Windows 8.1.

Unfortunately, that didn't fix the problem of the missing Unity desktop even though the upgrade said only data would be left intact and settings would be removed. Or, maybe I've misunderstood the wording.

Anyway, I've luckily managed to get Unity back without needing a clean installation. So now I'm back to "normal".

The flickering's gone and so far no white/black/grey screens have appeared. We'll have to wait and see.

But things aren't all back to normal. My normal screen resolution (1366 x 768) has now shrunk to 1024 x 768. I also appear to be on Unity 2D mode. I'm guessing my GPU's about ready to retire.

And to think the Sapphire HD 7750 isn't that old a card. Oh well, time to get a replacement. I had hoped it'd last a few generations at least.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

AMD Radeon on Ubuntu 14.04 - It's not a pleasant experience

Hmmm... okaay...

I'm sure glad Ubuntu 14.10 will be out soon. I can't wait to upgrade already. And not because there's some killer feature in there that I'd like to get my hands on.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'd very much like to get away from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS ASAP due to the flickering that's driving me crazy. Every second or so the monitor display flickers when I use the open source drivers.

Here's a short video that illustrates the screen flickering I'm having.


I highly doubt it's the monitor since installing Catalyst makes it much less annoying (although it's still there).

On the other hand, Catalyst seems to have its own issues. The first boot of the day gives me a white/black screen. The only way to "fix" it is to press reset. Attempts to switch VTs have failed. Sometimes, it even happens when I play a game or video. I know Ubuntu is still running fine from the sounds coming from my speakers, but I can't do anything but reset since I can't see a thing.

So here's to hoping Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn will have a fix for me.

Update: Today is the first time I'm getting the white screen while using open source drivers. I'm starting to wonder if it's a hardware problem instead. I'd test it out but don't have a spare GPU laying around.