Thursday, January 24, 2013

DoctorMo: Give Jono a Break, Grow the Community

I just read Martin post about Jono and the community where he discusses the community's responsibilities to itself contrasted to Canonical's responsibilities. I think it is a though provoking commentary and definitely worth the read.

My take is that we should take more ownership of the community and rely less on Canonical.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ubuntu Phone: Meh?...or How it Might Change the World?

Caveat emptor - I'm pretty tired so I thought I'd write this blog post. Although there will probably be some logic gaps, I'm pretty sure it will make sense. And be a little whimsical.

I know, I know...."Ubuntu Phone " is all the rage on the interwebs in some quarters. Not to be left out, I wanted to share a few thoughts. 

Oh. This will be quick and too the point without grandiose language or arguments, so feel free to ignore anything I might say and maintain a strict adherence to current positions. I'm not assailing them, just sharing my views.

'M' is for Meh

I have a rather nice Android phone, several tablets (including a fab Nexus 7), and more laptops and desktops running Ubuntu (or Xubuntu or Ubuntu Studio) at which I could shake a lemur. Additionally, Google has already integrated my digital (and non-digital) life in a more meaningful way than perhaps Apple could have possibly dreamed.

I don't want a Ubuntu phone. Please don't hate me.

It's not that I don't think it would make a smart piece of kit, it just doesn't seem like a compelling product for me. But that is just me.

However, what I do see happening is this being a life changing event for perhaps millions of people in the world.

I See Trending People

First, see as I see:

Desktop sales are dropping. Android has shown that an operating system can pretty seamlessly span multiple devices. Phone hardware is reaching an inflection point exceeding most needs. Apple starts selling uninspiring products and Microsoft slowly dies. Oh, and water and wet.

Well, the last three points don't matter for this point, but the other ones make me think that waaaaay in the future, like three years from now, people will be using their phones as their computers. Shocking, I know. But these phones will most likely be the only computers for possibly a majority of people.

There. That is my point: three years in the future, an appreciable percentage of people will only have a cell phone as a computer and...this is the tricky part, it will be all okay.


'A' is for Awesome

Forget all the blogs, forget the tech pundits, and especially forget CNN. These are first world people, thinking first world thoughts. I'm not particularly thinking about Ubuntu Phone displacing Android or Apple in the U. S. market. Stop thinking about this.

Start thinking about more powerful cell phones becoming less expensive and people in developing countries.

How transformative would a phone running a full desktop operating system be for someone who can't afford a cell phone and a desktop/laptop computer? Carry your phone around all day, come home...BAM! stick it in the dock and rock it like the desktop that it is! I would say that is pretty damn transformative.

How empowering would it be if that same person also had access to the free applications already on that operating system via their phone? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over how awesome it is that I'm running a small business as an amazingly creative entrepreneur from my phone computer! Imagine an app developer creating and compiling code on her phone. Yeah, that sounds pretty empowering.

Is the future calling? Are they wanting their ideas back?

(Those were whimsically silly, rhetorical questions.)

In Summation

I would say that this sounds capital to me. A world phone. A compelling phone. A transformative, empowering phone. Yeah.

It's not Dick Tracy's wrist tv/radio thingie, but not one single tablet manufacturer listened to me and put a phone in a tablet. And the Galaxy Note doesn't count, they put a tablet around a phone (ewww).

If you made it this far...thank you for reading my tired ramblings. You earned a gold star. See me at UDS-S and I'll give it to you.

P.S.: Moar Power

I like how the Asus Transformer has an extra battery in the keyboard/dock thing. Canonical should do this for the Ubuntu Phone, except the dock should include an additional CPU for moar p0w3r!

P.P.S.: Carly on the (Ubuntu) Phone?

Mark, if you ever think about doing a Ubuntu tablet focusing on music production, I'd love to help. Call me maybe.

Rock on.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lunchtime Thoughts on Ubuntu Studio Team Structure

One could argue that the team structure for Ubuntu Studio has not been either well defined and/or maintained. I intend to improve this situation.

For what it is worth, here is a picture of my fifteen minutes of thinking/scribbling...

For those who can't see the image, you can click here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Audio Interfaces Protocols: An Opinion on the Future

The availability and acceptance of an audio interface (aka "sound cards", which is really a misnomer) is an appreciable facet of Ubuntu Studio with regards to audio performance and usage. The availability of Apple's Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 presents an interesting situtation when considering which device will become the prevelant interface, and therefore effect Ubuntu Studio's future development.

Historically Speaking

Apple's previous "high speed I/O technology", Firewire, has provided better I/O speeds than USB. Yes, USB 2.0 theoretically provided faster speeds than Firewire 400, but it did't seem to provide it in practice. Also, Firewire 800 trumped it by providing 800 Mbps vs. USB 2.0's (theoretical) 480 Mbps.

Firewire's acceptance on laptops was also a compelling feature for this audio interface. USB 2.0 has also been available on laptops as well.

The result is that both audio interfaces were used and Ubuntu Studio strove to support both "out of the box".

As a footnote, I should add that USB 1.0 devices' (incredibly) low price resulted in their commonplace usage for certain niches. The frustration resulting from their underwhelming 1.5 Mbps speeds was also commonplace.

Looking Forward

In some quarters, Firewire has been declared dead and the result seems to be a decreasing rate of available Firewire devices. I do not think that Firewire devices will be the "audio interface of tomorrow".

Thunderbolt offers monstrous performance but simply isn't readily available for PCs at this point. The available cables are equally monstrously prices. Furthermore, devices are not really available at this point either. It would be hard to suggest that Thunderbolt will be the "audio interface of tomorrow" either.

USB 3.0 is already prevalently in PC desktops and laptops. USB 3.0 cables do not seem prohibitively expensive. It seems that only a handful of USB 3.0 compatible devices, which actually use the 2.0 protocol, are available. In good faith, I would not posit that USB 3.0 will become the "audio interface of tomorrow" as well.

The Calculus of Change Itself

However, if we remove some variables I think we can logically predict where it might go, although I concede that acceptance isn't necessarily based on logic but rather timing or bias at times.

For the argument, let's accept that Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 are equally available on Mac and PC. Additionally, let's accept that Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 devices are equally available.

Removing these from consideration, we are left with price and performance.

Speculating on prices (since the devices are not prevalently available), I would suggest that Thunderbolt prices will be higher than USB 3.0 devices. Obviously I don't know how much, but I wouldn't be surprised if Thunderbolt devices were priced 150% compared to USB 3.0 devices. I accept that there is a high percentage that I am wrong on the exact percentage, but I would wager that I will be right in concept.

For performance, Thunderbolt provides 10 Gbps(!) speeds while USB 3.0 provides 5 Gbps. However, I believe USB 3.0's 5 Gbps will provide excessive throughput for most audio needs. This may be an inflection point where the technology available has eclipsed the need. I believe an analogous situation is occurring with desktop/laptop computer and phones.


Presuming that Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 can be used on any computer and both types of devices are available, I can see USB 3.0 devices becoming the "audio interface of tomorrow" for Ubuntu Studio and perhaps Linux based on price vs. performance.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Minecraft on Ubuntu: Part 1 - Installation and Setup

For quite a while I have been wanting to make a post about setting up and running Minecraft on Ubuntu, so here it is.

This first post will cover setting up Xubuntu, installing Minecraft, adjusting things to make it optimal, and finally enjoying Minecraft on an awesome, freedom loving, libre breathing operating system.

I Thought You Said...

Firstly, these instruction will be based on using Xubuntu in lieu of Ubuntu, although everything will basically work for Ubuntu as well.

I suggest Xubuntu as a base because:

  • I find Xubuntu elegant, attractive, and functional. Hat tip to the Xubuntu development team.
  • XFCE is a familiar desktop metaphor for people transitioning to Linux
  • I have experienced marked Minecraft performance improvements with Xubuntu compared to vanilla Ubuntu with Unity as the desktop environment

As Xubuntu can run well on modest hardware, I think it is an excellent choice if anyone has an under performing Windows machine and want to try something different. You can learn more at the Xubuntu website. Enough evangelizing, moving on.


Minecraft is written in Java and requires the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) to run the application. We will be installing the OpenJDK package, however, rather than the official Oracle JRE. There are reasons, but I shan’t go into them at the moment.

Using Software Center, search and install OpenJDK. Make sure openJDK 7 is installed and not OpenJDK 6. Enter password as necessary for installing the software.

Software Center and OpenJDK 7
Software Center and OpenJDK 7

Right. We are now prepared.

Installing Minecraft

On the Minecraft Download page, find the "Minecraft for Linux/Other" section and pick the "minecraft.jar" link to download it. Once downloaded, use your file manager (typically Thunar or Nautilus) to copy this file from your /Downloads directory to your Desktop. This is the first step to allow us to click the Desktop icon to start Minecraft.

 Open a terminal (I know....ewwww, but the terminal is quicker and rocks it like nothing else can) and type the following:
cd Desktop
chmod u+x minecraft.jar
Be sure to hit after each line. This will allow the new .jar file to be executed (i.e. run). PROTIP: when typing the second line you can use the Tab key to auto-complete "minecraft.jar". 

Using the Terminal
Using the Terminal

Don't freak out if the terminal doesn't say, "Congratulations!" or "I did your task without delay or errors, Captain!"...if things went well it won't say anything.

(In vanilla Ubuntu, you can also right click to set the .jar file as executable on the Permissions tab. If anyone knows how to change the execute bit without using the terminal in Xubuntu I would appreciate a comment.)

Also, right click the icon located on the Desktop. Pick the "Open with other Application..." option (picture to left).

OpenJDK and Use as Default
Rick Click and pick "Open With Other Application..."
Right Click and Open With Other Application

Make sure "Use as default..." is selected on the bottom, highlight "OpenJDK Java 7 Runtime", and finally pick the "Open" button (picture at right).

Impulse Power, Mr. Sulu

At this point you might be able to double click the Minecraft icon on the Desktop and have Minecraft start....but then again, you might not.

In some circumstances I have found that Minecraft will work just fine at this point, in others I have experienced that Minecraft will fail to start (hanging at either a white or a black screen) or keys will seem to "stick" (i.e. you take hands off the keyboard but you keep moving in the game).

If any of these issues are experienced, then you should probably update the Light Weight Java Game Library (LWJGL). Follow the instructions on this page which will instruct you to download the current LWJGL and replace several files.


You should now have a working install of Minecraft on one of the best libre operating systems at this time. Enjoy!

In the next post I will talk about installing a few mod packs like Tekkit or Feed the Beast.