Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Installing Firefox 3.5 in Ubuntu & updating Google Gears for Firefox 3.5

Great news! Firefox 3.5 is now officially in Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty)'s repositories. However, you have to install it manually, i.e., it will not be automatically updated.

Installation is pretty simple and straightforward. Open Terminal and type the following:

sudo apt-get install firefox-3.5

You will get a separate blue globe icon labelled "Shiretoko" (the codename for Firefox 3.5). Firefox 3.0.11 remains installed.

Google Gears is now officially updated for Firefox 3.5. Visit Google Gears' homepage to download and install the latest version, or use Firefox's Add-ons manager (under Firefox's Tools submenu) to update Google Gears.

See my other blog postings on:

Installing & Running the Chromium Browser in Ubuntu

Ubuntu/Linux users who used to look enviously at Windows users of the Google Chrome browser can now take the alpha version of the open-source Chromium browser for Linux/Ubuntu for a spin. The latest build of Linux/Ubuntu Chromium now has support for Flash and extensions. If you haven't tried Chromium yet, now is a good time to try it. Note that this is an alpha build and isn't ready to be your sole browser. But with support Flash and extensions enabled, this browser is now far more usable and warrant greater attention being paid to it.

Here are the detailed instructions for installing Chromium in Ubuntu, as well as installing and enabling support for Flash and extensions.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Will Google Chrome OS Succeed?

The aftermath of Google's announcement Google Chrome OS continues to reverberate in the blogosphere, twitterverse and mainstream media. Pundits and experts have espoused a wide range of opinions on what exactly is Google up to. There are as many naysayers as fanboys of Google's OS project. I count myself as an interested observer, fascinated and intrigued by Google's announcement and wanting to see how it actually materialize. Why I am fascinated and intrigued?

Let me put it this way. Operating systems have traditionally been tethered to hardware. In other words, engineers design the hardware first. An operating system is typically designed around the hardware and end-users are expected to learn how to use the hardware and OS, to adapt to the hardware and OS. No wonder the ordinary folk complain about the increasing complexity of contemporary operating systems.

What Google has done is to take the user as the starting point, asking the fundamental question: "What do the average end-users use their computers for?" In other words, the starting point is not to build highly advanced hardware that necessitate a complicated OS to operate it. It appears that Google has concluded that most end-users use their computers to browse the web, check their e-mail, IM their friends, skype or twitter, check their Facebook or MySpace. Think about it. All the aforementioned activities are hardware and OS agnostic, i.e., they are accessed through the web browser in Windows, OS X and Linux systems. Hence, it makes sense for Google, as a company that derives its income from search ads, to zero in on the web usage experiences of typical end users, looking for ways to redefine and enhance their web usage experiences.

Will Google Chrome OS succeed as a paradigm shift, by moving the focus away from hardware to endusers' needs? Would it be a dumbed-down OS? Would it be so limited to be useless?

I am not a fortune teller and cannot read the future. Should an operating system be a Swiss Army knife, capable of doing everything from A to Z, resulting in bloat and complexity? Or should there be different operating systems for different needs? I use a bike or public transit for local commute, a car for long distance commute and rent a truck when I need to transport heavy stuff. Would I do the same for my computer needs? In other words, would users have more than one operating system for different needs?

Moreover, I would also argue that the Google Chrome OS should be compared, not against Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, but as something analogous to the paradigm shift that was caused by the invention of the original Mosaic browser that was developed by Marc Andressen and his team. At that time, the Internet was text driven and accessible through a bewildering range of text-based interfaces with acronyms such as ftp, gopher, usenet, etc. When Mosaic was first launched, there were hardly any fancy websites to visit. E-commerce did not exist. Neither did webmail or IM. It would be fair to say that nobody ever envisaged social networking, twittering or Facebook. This is the point I'm trying to make. Google Chrome OS could be a spectacular failure or a spectacular success. It could be a paradigm shift like Mosaic/Netscape, introducing us to new, hitherto unimagined new uses. Or it could be a dead end.

Which path would Google Chrome OS take? We'll have to wait and see.

See my other blog postings on Google Chrome OS.

Roundup: Wed Design, Programming & Publishing Resources #05

Today's roundup of web design, programming, and publishing resources:

See also my other blog postings on the following topics:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Tips & Tricks #02

This week's roundup of tips and tricks for Firefox 3.5:
  1. Workaround for Firefox 3.5 slow startups on Windows
    If you find yourself with very long startup times after upgrading to Firefox 3.5 (from say 10 seconds to the order of minutes), you may be experimenting a bug due to a change in how Firefox 3.5 gets the randomness it needs for security purposes on Windows. This page provides a workaround to speed up Firefox 3.5 startups in Windows.

  2. How to disable the splash screen of Firefox Portable 3.5
    It was easy to disable the splash screen of old versions of Firefox portable: just start Firefoxportable.exe with the "- nosplashscreen" argument. Well, that does not work with Firefox portable 3.5. This page teaches you how to remove the splash screen on new versions of Firefox portable.

  3. Get Google Gears Up and Running in Firefox 3.5
    So you decide to upgrade to Firefox 3.5. But you discover that Google Gears isn't working in Windows, Mac or Linux. While waiting for the official fix, this page teaches you how you can take matters into your own hands.

  4. Ultimate List of Firefox 3.5 Tips and Tricks
    If you're still looking for more tips and tricks for your Firefox 3.5, head over to this page.
See also my other blog postings in the Firefox 3.5 Tips & Tricks series.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Google Chrome OS: A Paradigm Shift? Why Google Chrome OS Makes Sense

What is Google thinking of, when it decided to create the Google Chrome OS? Doubters and naysayers are abound in the blogosphere and twitterverse, questioning the viability of the Google Chrome OS.

We're missing the point if we were to compare Google Chrome OS to Windows or OS X. Rather than looking at Google Chrome OS as yet another standard OS, I would like to argue that Google Chrome OS is better understood, in Thomas Kuhn's words, as a paradigm shift, a game-changer, a disruptive technology. How so?

Let me use an analogy to explain what I mean. Traditional OSes, e.g., Windows, OS X and Linux are akin to your typical heavy-duty truck or SUV. Think of these OSes as the Chevy Silverado or Suburban of the OS world, designed to do everything under the sun from A to Z, hauling heavy stuff, transporting people, offroading, etc. Does your typical suburbanite ever use a heavy duty truck or SUV for offroading and hauling heavy stuff 365 days a year? Chances are, that suburbanite's daily use would be commuting to job, the local supermarket to pick up groceries and the mall. Think of the number of times you see a lone individual driving a huge SUV from home to work on the freeway. Perhaps a compact or subcompact car like a Mini or a Honda Fit would be more appropriate -- they are fun to drive, zippy, have excellent handling, and are great for daily commuting to work or the store.

In other words, Google Chrome OS is that Mini or Honda Fit of the OS world, great for the usual webcentric tasks, e.g., browsing web, checking e-mail, tweeting, IM, etc. Don't believe me? Here's what Chris Dawson recently wrote in his blog posting entitled Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu:
I described how I’d installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate on my son’s computer for his take on the OS after living with Ubuntu 9.04 (and 8.10 before that) for a few months. It’s summer break, so he basically spends every waking moment when he’s not actually interacting face-to-face with friends on the computer. No better time to have a kid do some serious testing, right?

I asked him last night about his initial impressions of Windows 7 and, in typical teenage fashion, as he was bouncing between Meebo windows and browser tabs, he said it was “nice.” I managed to extract from him that his favorite feature was that he was able to use his Zune with it, something that had never worked terribly well with Ubuntu. Otherwise, he said, “Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu; there just really isn’t anything different about them.”

Of course there isn’t. He lives in a web browser. The underlying OS is irrelevant. He has no need for Office 2007 and I expect his next portable music player will be platform independent (emphasis added).

In other words, Google Chrome OS will not replace the OS on enterprise machines requiring heavy firepower to run corporate software. Neither would they replace the OS on machines for gamers. Those specialized machines are like SUVs and trucks that are designed for specific heavy duty tasks. For Chris Dawson's son and millions like him, the OS is immaterial. What matters is the ability to get to, and interact with various web apps. And that is what the Google is designing its Chrome OS to do: ease of web access, speed, and simplicity.

Will Google succeed? I don't know but I'm eagerly awaiting the actual launch of Google Chrome OS. I won't be surprised that we will see dual-boot machines with Google Chrome OS for daily web tasks and Microsoft Windows 7 for heavy duty tasks. Or Live USB drives with Google Chrome OS. I suspect that Google Chrome OS will usher in things we never imagined the way that Apple iPhone has done to the smartphone.


See my other blog postings on Google Chrome OS.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Announcing the Google Chrome OS: Google Fires Latest Salvo At Microsoft

Link: Introducing the Google Chrome OS (source: Official Google Blog)

Google drops a bombshell within the past hour when it publicly announces what everyone has been whispering about for months: the existence of Google Chrome OS. Taking a clear aim at Microsoft, Google throws down the gauntlet:
However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
So what exactly is this new Google Chrome OS? For starters, it is a different and separate project from Android:
Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.
We also know that it will be an open source and webcentric OS, targeted primarily at netbooks and based on a Linux kernel. More tantalizing though is the announcement that netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be released in the second half of 2010:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
Taking a clear potshot at Microsoft, Google outlines what a good OS ought to be:
We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.
Microsoft clearly has a serious challenger to its plan to introduce Windows 7 for netbooks. If Google is able to achieve all or most of the benchmarks that it sets out in its press release, then Google Chrome OS would clearly run rings around Microsoft Windows 7 for netbooks.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
By entering into the fray at this stage, Google is making clear its intention to challenge Microsoft head-on in Microsoft's turf, i.e., the OS. Microsoft is clearly in serious trouble. Its clumsy and cumbersome Windows Mobile for smartphones is no match for the iPhone's simplicity and elegance or the versatility of Google's own Android OS for smartphones. Clearly, Google hopes to do for netbook OS what both it and Apple have done for the smartphone OS.

Microsoft is clearly under seige. Outside its fortress are newcomers seeking to challenge its hitherto unchallenged dominance in OS in netbooks: Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin Linux, LXDE, and now Google Chrome OS.

Today the netbook. Tomorrow, the notebook and desktop PC?

Let the OS wars begin!

See my other blog postings on Google Chrome OS.

Link: Introducing the Google Chrome OS (source: Official Google Blog)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Tips & Tricks #01

This week's roundup of tips and tricks for Firefox 3.5 for Ubuntu/Linux users:
  1. Canonical is not planning to update Firefox to version 3.5 for Jaunty or any previous version of Ubuntu. It will only be available for Karmic Koala (Ubuntu 9.10) and beyond. If you can't wait for October 2009 and/or don't want to upgrade to Karmic, here's how you can upgrade Firefox to version 3.5 in Jaunty (Ubuntu 9.04): Installing Firefox 3.5 the right way in Ubuntu Jaunty

  2. You decide to play it safe and keep Firefox 3.0.11 in your Ubuntu installation. However, it is slow and sluggish. You can actually speed Firefox 3.0.11 (or earlier) up considerably in Ubuntu: Ubuntu: Speed Up Firefox By ~ 45%

  3. So you decide to upgrade to Firefox 3.5. But you discover that Google Gears isn't working. While waiting for the official fix, here's how you can take matters into your own hands: Get Google Gears Up and Running in Firefox 3.5

  4. If you're still looking for more tips and tricks for your Firefox 3.5, head over to: Ultimate List of Firefox 3.5 Tips and Tricks.
See also my other blog postings in the Firefox 3.5 Tips & Tricks series.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Roundup: Wed Design, Programming & Publishing Resources #04

Today's roundup of web design, programming, and publishing resources:
  • 25 Stylish Examples of Headers in Web Design
    "A website’s header is one of the first things a user sees when opening your website so it’s important to get it right; if a user doesn’t like your header design, they may just leave your website before even looking at what content you have to offer. There are many different types of headers, and in this collection, we’ll show you 25 beautiful header designs."
  • 12 Essential Rules to Follow When Designing a Logo
    "The logo is the face of any brand — the very first impression — so its design is extremely important. This page discusses 12 essential rules to follow in order to design an effective logo."
  • 25 Websites With Creative and Unique Layouts
    "If you’re looking for a way to break out of the box with a design, creating a unique layout is one way to accomplish this. In this post we’ll look at 25 sites that make use of a creative and unique layout."
  • 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires

    Designing websites can be a long and complicated process. Checklists can make your life a whole lot easier. Here are 45 checklists covering multiple areas from content to usability to accessibility to standards, you’re a lot less likely to overlook important parts of a site.

See also my other blog postings on the following topics:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Resources for Customizing Your Ubuntu Desktop Effects

Like Mac OSX, Windows Vista and Windows 7, Ubuntu comes with its own eye candy -- fancy 3D spinning cubes and other great looking desktop effects. Newbies who install Ubuntu find that these effects are not enabled by default. Below are resources to guide newbies on how to install and configure Compiz Fusion (to get the famous spinning 3D cube in Ubuntu), Emerald Themes, etc.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Resources for Mastering the Linux Command Line

Today's roundup of resources for mastering the Linux command line:
  • The 10 Most Useful Linux Commands (TechRepublic)
    "Maybe the command line isn’t your favorite place to hang out, but to be an effective Linux admin, you need to be able to wield a few essential commands. Jack Wallen says these 10 are guaranteed to simplify your Linux admin life — and he explains why."
  • 20 great Linux/Unix terminal commands (command line) (Web Upd8)

  • Top 20 Most Used Linux Commands (yonitg.com)

  • Top 50 Linux Command Line Tools (SearchEnterpriseLinux.com)
    "There are so many Linux commands it would be difficult to know which ones you should focus on to start with. To help you get a little more comfortable with the jargon of the Linux CL, and concepts behind it, we asked Ken Milberg to give us a list of the most useful Linux utilities and programs that can be executed from the command line. This list is not meant to include each and every command under the sun, so we've provided a sidebar of links to guide you to more exhaustive resources."