Archives for posts with tag: computers

You may have heard of Linux, an operating system for geeks, nerds, dweebs, etc. But rather than argue about that classification (which is unfair, but understandable based on some of the visible user base), I’m here to inform you that it no longer applies! I recently installed the newest release of Ubuntu version 11.04, a full-fledged operating system running on top of the Linux kernel (software for talking to your computer’s machine parts).

Not only is Ubuntu 11.04, nick-named Natty Narwhal, user-friendly–I’ve had to invent a new term here–it’s User-Lovely! Ubuntu is not perfect by any means–but neither is Windows or your favorite flavor of operating system. I encourage you to keep an open mind and remember that all your experiences with computers have shaped how you use them today. You have been trained to think in certain patterns and when something seems like it does not work correctly, it may just be different. In fact, you may like it the other way, or there might be reasons to know how to do both.

Before I get into more of the details, let me just say right now, if you are getting a new computer (laptop or desktop) there’s no reason you should think twice about installing Ubuntu right away. And if you have an old computer that runs poorly or needs a refreshing re-install (take for example the fact that Windows gets bogged down over time), you should consider Ubuntu as well. The best part is–you can keep your original operating system, and access it easily every time you turn on your computer!* Ubuntu’s installation procedure makes this “dual-booting” effortless.

Besides the new installation process, the other aspect of Natty Narwhal (11.04) that bowled me over and convinced me to write this post is the new Unity graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced “gooey”). A GUI is software that allows you to use, visualize and manipulate your computer’s software graphically. The ability to run a browser in a window, switch to your desktop, and browse a list of applications in a menu are all possible through a GUI. You are probably an experience GUI user, but you don’t even know it! Ubuntu used to run a GUI named Gnome, but Canonical decided to develop its own instead, to surprising success. (Canonical runs the Ubuntu project and is a company offering large (enterprise) scale services, but keeps Ubuntu available as a free / open source software for all!)

Ubuntu has become an operating system for the everyday user who just wants to get their work done. But on top of all that it’s run by Canonical, as well as supported by a large community of users who all want to help contribute to the project and help new users out! Additionally, Ubuntu has a new release every six months, so upgrading really means something, and you can count on it.

To get the most out of the Unity GUI, you should try these shortcuts out.

Essential process to run Ubuntu on a new computer running Windows:

  1. Research online: are there any issues with my computer [BRAND] [MAKE] [MODEL] and Ubuntu linux?
    http://ubuntuforums.org/
    http://www.linux.com/news/hardware/drivers/8203-is-my-hardware-linux-compatible-find-out-here
  2. Download Ubuntu disc image file (ISO image) or follow the instructions for a thumb / flash drive
    http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download
  3. Burn disc image to a CD (no DVD required) or a thumb / flash drive. Insert in your drive or in a USB slot on your computer.
  4. Restart your computer, and press F2 or F8 or whatever it tells you in order to enter the setup/BIOS menu.
  5. In this menu, find where you can change the “boot order” or which drives (storage devices) are used first to start up your computer. Put either the CD drive or USB drive at the top, depending on which one you chose.
  6. Save your settings and restart your computer again.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to a a User-Lovely operating system!

*Note: This does not mean you can access the filesystem from either at any time–in fact, the systems remain separate so you have to move documents over using another computer, hard drive, or flash/thumb drive. There is a seamless configuration, but it takes some more technical work (which means more time).

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Craigslist, the simple (often too simple) online listings service. Some claim it has single-handedly annihilated the American newspaper business model. But in so many ways, it has innovated and built on that old model of newspaper listings.

Take for example the Rideshare listings, found under the “community” section. For anybody who’s picked up Kerouac’s On The Road, whether you love it or hate it, you could see ride-sharing services existed even in the 50’s. However, they had the disadvantage of being analog (maybe telephonic), rather than digital and available over a big, big network of computers and mobile devices.

On a rideshare I took from Los Angeles to the Bay Area this week, the driver mentioned he had been giving and taking rides for five years. After I scratched my head and counted a few fingers, I figured out I too had been doing rides on Craigslist for five years! What a nice chunk of time. We published a story  by Evan Winchester about the rideshare experience a few years ago in a magazine I co-founded called The Gutenberg. Evan has taken many rides between the Bay Area and Sacramento, and more than having a few stories, he has the wit and thoughtfulness to try to make sense of the whole experience, in a way that is introspective and true.

My most recent ride includes our driver, Mauricio, a front-seat passenger Zach, and my fellow back-seater Francois. Mauricio’s van is packed full of stuff–he tells me he’s moving up North after I step in from a Jack in the Box parking lot in Canoga Park, close the door and take a seat. He failed to mention this, along with the state of his van (running well, but visually suspect) as we talked and texted on the phone, coordinating pick-up and travel plans a few days prior. But I’m not upset, and I like Mauricio very much. He studied mathematics in school, like me, and now designs sustainable fixtures (solar, water, etc) for low-income families through a Bay Area non-profit. Zach is visiting his girlfriend in San Francisco, though he works in LA doing mobile app development for museums and the like. Francois goes to UC Berkeley and was visiting family in LA, though he’s from Maryland, and is now returning to Berkeley for summer school.

The San Juaquin Valley brings on a swelter. We sleep, chat about this and that, adjust our bodies, joke around, and swap ridesharing stories. Mauricio has given tons of rides, the only bad one was picking up a kid getting out of Humboldt back to Berkeley who lied about not having money and forced Mauricio to drive the kid to two different friends’ houses just to get the gas money he owed. Every other ride was fine, including one extraordinary ride in which Mauricio and several of his friends slept on a giant mattress in the back of a converted school bus. At one point, the driver had to make a detour to Ventura or somewhere and got in an argument with a Storage Facility Security Guard trying to hide a book in a bush for somebody else to pick up later, all while wearing nothing but a tiny, tight pair of tie-die underwear.

But most rides were pretty normal for Mauricio, including this one. Zach mentions a time a passenger smoked out the car (driver excluded), which was by far the most comfortable 6-hour drive he’s taken. Zach also described a far-out story where he, his friend, and his friend’s father got into an argument with a German submarine as their 20′ boat tried to pass through secured waters on their way to a German port, on a long boating trip. The submarine surfaced right in front of them, but after much threatening and American Military talk from Zach’s friend’s father, they were let through, and went to port.

Francois does not have too many exciting travel stories, especially since this is only his second rideshare–the first being his ride from Berkeley to LA for the very visit he is now concluding. The ride down, he says, was insane. The driver barreled down the 5 and made dangerous lane-changes. Francois was left disconcerted; he thought there was no such need to hurry. He brings up that many of his friends think he’s nuts for taking this ride. I echo the sentiments of my mother and her twin sister–recollections of their high school classmate who was killed while hitchhiking. Zach also knows more than a handful of skeptics. We all stretch, smile, and lean back. We feel comfortable, like part of a club, the members of which made a brief leap and landed softly, or at least softly enough to be here, in a van, on the highway, in the heat, heading North.