Epiphany kicks ass, but…

The default browser for Gnome, Epiphany, is a really good web browser. It’s more lightweight than Firefox and it integrates much better in to the Gnome desktop. It has a lot of useful extensions such as a very good Adblock, but my gripe is not being able to use my favorite FF extensions such as Web Developer or del.icio.us. I’ll probably end up going back to Firefox. 🙁

Feisty upgrade

I upgraded my fiancée’s laptop a couple of days ago from Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft) to 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). At first, update-manager didn’t offer the upgrade at all, and I had to delete the .update-manager -folder for it to work. Apparently this might be intentional, since quite a few people have had trouble with the upgrade. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and try it anyway. Soon after starting the upgrade process, I got an error message about some repositories. Only after disabling some of the repos in the ‘package sources’ list did it continue smoothly. The rest of the update went just fine, but I do have some gripes about it. For starters, the download looked like it would take too long to wait around, so I went outside, thinking the install would be ready by the time I was back.

Not so fast: when I came back, I found the update was waiting for my permission to restart ssh. Argh. Never mind, but this was not all: As I mentioned in a previous post, progress bars can be useless and annoying, if they give false information. When the update resumed, it happily told me there was “1 day, 3 hours and 4 minutes” left. In reality the rest of the upgrade took about 2 hours, but at no point did the progress bar estimate reflect reality except at the last minute or two. What’s the point? Estimates like this only serve to build mistrust in Ubuntu/Linux and computers in general. Even the progress bar without the estimate would be better.

Apart from the aforementioned silliness though, Ubuntu 7.04 is a very fine OS for everyday desktop use!

Progress bars

Progress bars rarely work. A bar displaying a percentage of completed tasks gives the user an often false idea of how much time is left. Unfortunately, as is pointed out in the comments of silentk’s blog post on the subject, the percentage of tasks completed does not tell how processor-intensive the remainder of the tasks is going to be. It’s certainly important to give some sort of indication that stuff is happening, but a progress bar which gets stuck at 99% for half an hour can easily be misinterpreted as a crash, and the user might decide to give up.

Google Maps for mobiles – very nice!

At Google they seem to know how to make good mobile applications. After getting a hint from a friend via email, I installed Google’s latest mobile map software on my Nokia 6233 phone. Initially I ran into some trouble — for some strange reason the UI was all in German! Perhaps they thought that wouldn’t matter, since Finland is so close to Germany. 🙂 Well, unfortunately it seems the only way to change the language is to switch the whole phone’s language from Finnish to English. I hope Google fixes this in the future…

Anyway, once I got the language issue out of the way, the app started by showing a general view of Finland. It’s easy to zoom in by clicking once on the main navi button, or type in a location via the menu on the left. You can have up to 9 favorite locations by adding a ‘star’ on the map.

Google maps on my Nokia 6233

For drivers who don’t need a full gps-based navigation system, Google’s offering seems really useful. It’s easy to get driving instructions simply by entering the starting and ending point. I’m also really impressed with how fast and responsive using the map is, even here in the middle of the Finnish countryside using regular GPRS. Point your mobile phone browser at http://www.google.com/gmm.

Compiz goodness

I’m really pleasantly suprised how well the desktop effects in Ubuntu Feisty work. They’re supposedly still pretty experimental, but the default compiz effects run just fine on my 4-year-old HP laptop with Mobile Radeon 9000 w/32 MB VRAM. And I’m using the open source ‘radeon’ driver. Obviously I’d get seriously better performance on a more powerful machine, but even on this old dog I’m enjoying a more pleasant experience with added depth on the desktop — the same reason OS X was and continues to be so cool. In addition to just simple 3D-depth, placing virtual desktops on the sides of cube considerably boosts their usability. It is now far easier to remember where something is when it has a physical place in space.

By default Ubuntu does not include a settings manager for the Desktop Effects, so I recommend installing gnome-compiz-manager (available in the Universe repository) or compiz-settings. The latter is less mature and more messy, although it doesn’t come close to the mess the Beryl settings manager is. I recommend the latter only if you want to try the compiz-extra plugins.

Forking out

In the last two years, I’ve been writing in both English and Finnish on my personal website, Hopeapuu. The vast majority of posts have been in Finnish, however, and most of them not tech-related. Lately I’ve been writing a lot about Ubuntu and usability related stuff, and decided it was time to start a separate blog for all that. I also thought it’s maybe not such a good idea to mix two languages in the same blog. There are already “a few” tech-related blogs in the world, but at least this will serve as my English website. Let’s see how this goes.