Linux for the Macbook?

           I have a Macbook Pro, which I enjoy using. Credit where credit is due, it is a good machine. I’m in two minds as to whether I’d get another, but this one ain’t broke so I don’t have to answer the question just yet! I also like OSX, mostly. There are some things I’m not keen on, but like my windows machine before, there are some things I cannot do on Linux, such as Logos Bible software.

On to the question of Linux for the Macbook. Which flavour to go for and why? I cut my teeth on Red Hat 7.1 (which I still have!) and moved to Debian via SimplyMepis. I have tried many others including Ubuntu. For those who are not sure about what I’m talking about there are some websites that go into more detail than I care to here, like Fedora was first on the list so I tried that. It worked well and Fedora 20 is a great improvement over previous versions as this time it felt spritely and the update and package manger were also improved (compared with Fedora 17). But then came “systemd”. This is the new init (basically boot up) system developed by some Red Hat developers to replace the existing aging init system. The problem with systemd is its mission creep. Its slowly becoming the “start” system for everything, and there are some things becoming dependant on it which (in my opinion) shouldn’t be. The Unix philosophy is for lots of small bits to do things exceptionally well, so if one bit falls over or fails it doesn’t take everything else with it. If any part of systemd falls over, it’ll take the whole OS with it. Not good for mission critical systems.

          Unfortunately most of the Linux distros are moving this way, which is a real shame. So if not fedora then what? Of the main Linux flavours it would appear that Debian and Ubuntu offer long term support versions which don’t have systemd, so I’ve gone for Xubuntu LTS (14.04). This will use upstart init system for its lifetime and hopefully by then the mess of systemd will be sorted and Ubuntu might see sense and open source upstart! Even with this I noticed there were “systemd” patches installed to allow apps dependant on systemd to work with upstart. Sort of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          Ubuntu and therefore Xubuntu installs easily along side OSX. The only thing to remember is OSX likes to have space between partitions and without these OSX wont upgrade, but it appears the Xubuntu install takes this into account – a nice touch. Once installed it just remains to reconfigure “refit” so Xubuntu can boot. Proprietary drivers are required for the Broadcom wireless connection and Nvidia for the graphics which Xubuntu has you covered – just install and go! Easy.

         And as far as the work I do on the Macbook is concerned, I use mainly Linux and then only OSX when I have too. Its good to have it around. I would love to go fully open source but some of the stuff just isn’t ready yet. I don’t think its too far away now.
Next: to configure Xubuntu for developing Android roms for the Asus TF201.

Freeing The Asus Transformer Prime

asus_prime-1-cropI have had the Asus Transformer Prime for a while now and considering its hardware specifications I am a little disappointed with its performance. Taking into account it had a quad core + one processor its multi-tasking abilities leave a little to be desired, in fact, my HTC DesireHD gives it a good run for its money and it has a single core processor (and far less memory). So, what is the problem and how to fix it? After some investigation it would appear that the stock kernel (the heart of the operating system) is at fault. And to fix? Free the TF201 by unlocking the bootloader and installing a “ROM” (modified operating system) that can take advantage of the hardware. This is how I did it.

Usual disclaimer etc

Running Jellybean

First to unlock the bootloader. This can only be done by Asus and fortunately they have provided a way. Asus say their unlocker will only work for the ICS bootloader, many (including me) have reported that it works with the Jelly Bean bootloader. Use this link Asus Boot Unlocker
Then install a custom recovery, I use TWRP – Clockwork recovery isn’t compatable.
Then to free the root – this is done with the installation of TWRP
And finally to install a new ROM!

I have tried out a few different ROMs to see what the’re like and how they perform.
First was Androwook, this is based on the Asus original but with a different kernel and the option to remove (install without) the Asus apps (bloat to some people). It is a speedy and stable ROM with no real complaints. And it is based on the original the Asus android version is 4.1.1
Next was Teakbean. This is a combination of Teambake and personal scripts by the developer of the ROM. This worked really well. Only complaint is its not being developed anymore. On a personal note, if I had the time I would jump at picking this up and developing it further but alas time and knowledge is in short supply. Based on 4.1.1
Blackbean: A good ROM based on Teambake again. In steady development. It is stable and quick (so far – it is all relative) and has a few quirks which hopefully will be ironed out.

After trying out several more I have decided to stay with the Energize ROM by NRGZ (developers “tag”). This is also based on the original ROM by Asus and has the option of installing with or without the Asus apps. Earlier this year NRGZ ported over the TF300 ROM to the TF201 which bring a smoother experience with the 4.2 added extras from Google. The Energize ROM also has a dark(ish) and blue theme with many HTC icons, leaving a pleasant overall look.

Update: I have now migrated to BB8 (BakedBean8) by Team Baked, with a custom kernel and over clocking. Now runs smooth with minimal lag.

Fedora 15 beta – Looking promising!

I first found GNU/Linux on the front cover of a magazine way back in 2000 I think. It was a product called Red Hat 7.1. I proptly installed it onto my then one and only laptop, a Toshiba Satellite 3 with a P3 700MHz and 192M RAM. I wiped off Windows ME and took 3 days to get Red Hat up and running. This took all of 1.5G of a 10G disk!
Fedora 15 takes over 3G of disk and I doubt that it could run on a P3 with 192 M RAM. One of the main reasons I liked Linux and still do is its lightness compared to MS Windows, or even OSX. But it is increasingly getting bigger (more bloat) as hardware becomes more powerful. The problem I have is that like with windows before, if I wanted to upgrade my software, I had to upgrade my hardware first, and now this is becoming more so with Linux. There are not many distros that will run happily on a P3 and 192M RAM, which is a shame, not even the Ubuntu!
So, back to fedora 15 beta. The first one I tried was the live CD to see how it looked and performed. As I like light weight stuff I opted for the LXDE version.

RedNotebook on OSX – how to

This is a short how-to for using RedNotebook on OSX Snow Leopard.
Firstly, some notes: I am not an expert on doing these things. Below is just a guide and following them is done at your own risk, just because it works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. For getting RedNotebook to run was a bit of trail and error and as I haven’t worked out all the reasons for doing this way and not streamlining it, it is a little long winded. And so onward…

What is RedNotebook and why use it? I have been using it for some time for my journal and notes for my blogs. It runs great on GNU/Linux and has a Windows installer, but I don’t use Windows very much and I do have an Apple machine. And to quote the RedNotebook home page “RedNotebook is a graphical diary and journal helping you keep track of notes and thoughts. It includes a calendar navigation, customizable templates, export functionality and word clouds. You can also format, tag and search your entries.”

I didn’t work out how to run it on OSX for my self completely, I used a few guides, tried each and it worked. In theory, you just be able to follow the instructions at Softpedia which is laid out (along with the other) below so all I did is in one place.

RedNotebookis needs python, gtk and PyYaml to run. It would also be useful to have the Developer Tools (XCode) 2.3 or newer; 2.5 or 3.x is recommended (availble from Apple (requires id) for free). So here is what I did.

Downloaded RedNotebook and unpacked it.
Downloaded PyYaml formhere and unpacked it.

I have MacPorts installed so I first installed what I thought was needed (in terminal):-

$: sudo port install python_select python26 py26-gtk py26-webkitgtk gnome-python26-extras py26-yaml

Then cd’d in rednotebook directory and did the same

$: sudo python install


$ rednotebook

To see if it would work or give me pointers as to what is missing.

As this didn’t work fully I did PyYAML directly.
Then cd’d in to PyYAML directory
the in terminal:

$: python build
$: sudo python install

Some of the packages are not recognised as being installed so next on to installing GTK and Py-GTK using jhbuild. The problem is that jhbuild will fail if macports or fink is on the system, so two choices exist, remove macports/fink or create another user with admin rights, log out and log into new account. I did the latter Then:
I downloaded and installed git (from here because I needed for GTK-OSX
Once git was installed I then
Downloaded to my home directory and ran it with

$ sh

This installs jhbuild in ~/.local/bin/jhbuild. It will also install ~/.jhbuildrc and ~/.jhbuildrc-custom and will copy the current gtk-osx modules into ~/Source/jhbuild/modulesets.
(If you’re running Tiger see here as some of Tiger’s software need upgrading)
As jhbiuld is installed in ~/.local/bin you must either add that path to your path, alias jhbuild, or call jhbuild with that path, eg.

$ ~/.local/bin/jhbuild shell

I chose to type in terminal:

$ echo ‘export PATH=~/.local/bin/jhbuild:$PATH’ >> ~/.profile

Closed terminal and then opened again.

$ jhbuild bootstrap
$ jhbuild build meta-gtk-osx-bootstrap
$ jhbuild build meta-gtk-osx-core

The boostrap was successful but the other two weren’t. When a module fails you are presented with a menu. I always tried number 1 first and went down the list in order to see what each did. On most occasions the module was skipped and jhbuild moved on to the next until it could go no further. I did this for osx-bootstrap and osx-core. Once done I logged out and logged back into my original account and fired up the terminal.
I then cd’d into PyYAML and ran the command:

$: sudo python install


$ rednotebook

And it worked,

The pywebkit installed with macports is for some new features. It is available here which you can download and compile the usual way (read install notes that comes with the package)

I hope this helps someone to enjoy the very useful RedNotebook on OSX Snow Leopard.

Today’s economy

I have been looking and watching the economy for many years and I did see this recession coming from the early ninety’s. As far I could see, it was inevitable. When capitalism is allowed to take such a hold because regulations are relaxed ‘to allow freedom to make more money’, then saturation of the market and the never ending pressure to make more and more profit each and every day, month and year by the share holders, and when that doesn’t happen, confidence falls, shares are sold and companies falls. It is possible, and this nearly happened in the UK, that a company whose shares are on the stock exchange, can employ thousands of people, have a turnover of thousand or millions, have a capital base of thousands, and for all intents and purposes a buoyant and stable company. But if the shareholders loose confidence in the company and sell their shares, the company can go bust. Extraordinary! I ask, is this the right structure for businesses to run under?

Looking from the UK to the UK and world economies, I see various ways of doing the same thing, making money at the expense of society. Now that the world recession is happening because of the credit crunch, what is the best way for a country to deal with it? Is it to plough loads of money into the financial market and hope, which is akin to trying blowing up a burst balloon? The financial bubble has burst. No matter what people think, the financial situation has now changed and different ways of doing business must be found.

A change in the banking business is first. Split the business into two businesses as it was a couple of decades ago, where there was the “High Street” bank serving the local businesses and individuals, and the “Merchant” bank which does the investing in big business and foreign exchange and takes the larger risks. This would allow the merchant bank to go bust without effecting the guy in the street. Invest in local businesses to encourage the country to be more self sufficient so the effect of the world would have a lesser effect on guy in the street. Don’t put all our eggs in one basket, as my grandmother used to tell me.

History shows some scary situations. Recently in Japan they were just coming out of a recession when the world recession hit them. It took 10-15 years for them to come through this. They managed to do this by investing in the financial system, lowering interest rates which didn’t help because if there is no money to lend, then it doesn’t matter how low or high the interest rate is, lending will not happen. Is this the right thing for Australia to do? I hope you know the answer!

In the States, during a downturn a few decades ago, the government there thought that investing in infrastructure would “kick-start” the economy. It didn’t. Millions of dollars were spent and nothing happened except for a few good roads and bridges and some workmen were employed for a while but the economy stayed where it was.

So, what’s the answer?

The economy is all about the movement of money. Keep interest rates at a reasonable level, don’t drop it like a stone. The idea behind this is that in a recession people tend not spend, but to save. If you encourage people to save, they will have enough money , after a while, to feel confident to spend some. Also with reasonable interest rates there will be investment in the economy because money can be made. At the end of the day, it’s the customers in the street who keep businesses going not the government. Without customers, there is no business. You have to encourage the customer to spend, if they don’t have the money to spend, how can they? In a recession, brought about by excessive lending/borrowing, who in their right mind will borrow more? By reducing taxes across the board and I mean direct taxes like income tax and business tax, a reduction of the burden of tax will put more money in the pocket to spend in the local economy.

If the financial industry is going to have to re-structure then shouldn’t the government also have a look at how it gathers taxes? The government needs money to function, and this it gets through the tax system. In times or recession, people will have less money, worry about whether they will have a job next week, spend less, and obviously, want to pay less tax. If there are less people employed then there will be less money being spent in the street and less tax to be collected, meaning there will be a shortfall in the Government coffers.

Attitudes need to change. The idea that money and more money is all that matters is a fallacy. The pre-occupation with growth leads to market saturation then stagnation followed by crash and the house of cards come tumbling down. An American Indian once said, when will they understand that when all the fish have gone from the river and the trees gone from the woods, that you can not eat the dollar? Money helps but is not the be-all and end-all.

I do think that the governments around the world have got it wrong because they are looking at business, not at people. If the government gave the money to the people (tax cuts etc.) the people would either put it into the banks, thereby increasing the banks funds, or spend it in the high street so the local business can put it into the banks. Both ways, the banks get the money! By putting the money straight into the banks, no-one gets the money because the banks need it as a capital asset, so it goes no where and helps no-one, no movement of cash.

Only time will tell, but I’m doing what I can to make sure I have enough funds spread so my losses will be minimal when the big crash comes.

Trying new editor

I thought I’d try a new blog editor as as much as I like the plugin allowing posting to blogs, I do find it low on features such as multiple categories and images in posts. So today and for the next week or so I’ll be using Scribefire to see what it can do.
Scribefire basically a multi-featured text editor that sits within Firefox and as such will run on any platform that Firefox runs on. I’m using Linux. At first glace it appears well laid out an intuitive.
Now to see if this will post….