Friday, 25 April 2008

Ubuntu Hardy Heron First Impressions

I have been using Hardy Heron for about 3 days now and I can't think of a single good thing to say about it. That's not strictly true, I really do like the new wallpaper. I think this release needs to go back to beta for about a month or so.

This is probably the least stable release I have tried so far. Even as I write this Firefox is freezing randomly so its taking a lot longer to write. I understand Firefox is still in beta and it has its own issues with flash and stuff, so I wont say much more about that.

The first thing I noticed about Hardy Heron is that its boot time was no better than Gutsy, in fact it felt quite a bit slower. A second or two longer boot time is not really an issue but the next problem is. For some unknown reason all of my desktop items and the desktop folder itself just disappeared. I had a lot of files on my desktop and have no way of getting them back. The first time this happened I simply restarted the computer and everything was back where its supposed to be but the second time the desktop disappeared no amount of rebooting made them re-appear again.

The other problem is media playback. This is another randomly occurring bug that stops me from playing any music or video files. I have all the required codecs and the files usually play fine most of the time. But now and again something would happen and non of the media players do anything. Even Firefox stops playing videos from youtube. Again rebooting or logging out then in again seems to solve the problem, for a while anyway.

I thought this was supposed to be a stable long term release but it feels like some early beta. I'm sure the problems will be sledgehammered out soon but I don't think it should have been released without solving these.

I'm really disappointed, I was looking forward to trying out the new features but the computer doesn't stay on long enough until I have to reboot again. I was going to write more about some other minor bugs but Firefox is really getting on my nerves so I'll just leave it for now. Hopefully I'll write another post soon about how all the problems are solved, till then its back to Gutsy.

Update: My desktop folder has finally reappeared but without any of the files that was in it. Unfortunately at almost the same time all my music has gone AWOL. Hopefully they'll find their way back soon. I've been meaning to submit a bug report but I don't really know what to put in it, it's like my os is possessed. I don't think it's my hardware, never had any problems like this before. Had a few screen resolution issues pre-Gutsy but that was all solved fairly quickly. Did a little search and it looks like I'm the only one experiencing this, maybe I'll do a clean install and try again, just as soon as my music returns.

Update 2: I decided to clear my hard drive and do a fresh install of Hardy. This obviously meant that I definitely lost all my music if I hadn't already lost it before. So far, I'm glad to say, everything is running smoothly. I haven't enabled compiz or installed the nvidia driver for my 8600 card. Firefox is also behaving itself, although I am using something called Swfdec instead of Adobe flash. The advantage of this seems to be stability but the downside is that it doesnt work with a lot of video sites, most importantly it cant play videos from bbc's iplayer. I may have to get rid of it and used Adobes one instead.

Since firefox is not freezing every two minutes I can now mention the other little annoyance I have with Hardy. GDesklet no longer includes the launcher/ dock that I have used with every other version of Ubuntu. Infact it barely has anything at all now. You can see the dock that I used to have here. That was such a useful little application for me, why would they get rid of it? It wasn't buggy and it's better than any other dock out now. I also hate that Mac os x like awn dock that takes a whole strip away from your screen.

Well, as you can tell, I am not very impressed with Hardy Heron. There are a lot of important updates and features behind the scenes but it's the little things that have been overlooked. It's not an OS that I can convince my non Linux friends to ditch their Windows for.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Virgin Media and Net Neutrality

I am disappointed with the news that Virgin Media may be planning to charge customers to access certain content faster and leave everyone else in the "Internet bus lane."

Neil Berkett, the recently appointed CEO of Virgin Media has said that he thinks Net Neutrality is "a load of bollocks". He said he plans to charge sites a premium to get fast access to their customers and if they don't pay they'll have the internet speed restricted. He said they are already in talks with some content providers about introducing the charges.

I have been a Virgin Media, previously Blueyonder, customer for a while now and I must say I have been happy with the service but if they start introducing extra charges or reducing my net speed then I'll just switch to a different provider. I'm not the only one who is a little p****d off about this, my friend who's also with Virgin has said he'll also switch. I hope they come to their senses and realise how unpopular this idea is, otherwise they are going to lose customers faster than their broadband speeds. Then we'll see if content providers are willing to pay a premium for a diminishing customer base.

Update: I sent an email to Virgin Media, from the response it seems as though they have backed off a little bit. Regardless of their stance on it now, I feel that Virgin have a monopoly on the cable sector and OFCOM needs to get or their arse and do something about it, otherwise I'm sure this won't be the last time Virgin tries something like this. Anyway here's the reply:

"With Virgin Media rolling out a 50Mb service later this year, we are
uniquely equipped to cope with the demand for new bandwidth-hungry
services. We strongly support the principle that the internet should
remain a space that is open to all and we have not called for content
providers to pay for distribution. However we recognise that as more
customers turn to the web for content, different providers will have
different needs and priorities and in the long term, it's legitimate to
question how this demand will be managed. We are not suggesting that
any content provider should be denied the ability to deliver web-based
content to our customers free of charge we welcome the growth in
exciting new on-line services and believe they have the potential to
transform the way we interact and entertain ourselves"

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Sunday, 6 April 2008

My Next Phone

I have recently sold my phone, the LG KU990, after having it for just over a month. I've been meaning to write a review for it but never had the time. My final year project has been keeping me busy. So I am now on the lookout for a new phone, but finding a decent phone has been trickier than I thought it would be.

Firstly, I'll say why I got rid of the ku990. I had some pretty decent phones up until I bought the LG, I can honestly say it is one of the worst phones I have owned. The only decent thing I can say about this phone is the 5 megapixel camera. I'll make a quick list of some of the things I hate about this phone:
  • The phone is very slow, even when opening empty folders.
  • The user interface is inconsistent, feels like it's been bodged together. Navigating through it is a real pain.
  • There is only 3 official themes. People have had to hack it to install more themes.
  • Battery life is very poor and the battery indicator is not accurate.
  • Music capabilities is very basic and if you have a lot of songs, the player takes forever to load.
  • Typing messages is a little annoying, slow due to being able to press one letter at a time.
What annoyed me more than all of the above is LG the company itself. They don't give a s**t about their customers. Support for their phones and software is pretty much non-existent. Just go over to and read some of the complaints about LG and this phone. Their business model seems to be to throw as much s**t at the wall as they can and see what sticks, then move onto the next model. Having been a Sony Ericsson user for so long I now realise what I have been taking for granted. I can safely say that I wont be buying anything from LG again.

Anyway, that's all in the past and now on to the matter of my next phone. Here's what I'm looking for:
  • A large screen
  • Good user interface
  • It has been be fast and stable
  • A decent camera
  • Prefer touchscreen but could go without
  • Would like wifi, browsing over wap and 3G is just inadequate
  • Also prefer a smart phone
I've noticed that everything I've looked at I've compared it to the iphone, even though it is lacking in several ways as a phone there are things which it does better than anything else by a mile. The software and user interface for example is amazing, my friend recently bought an ipod touch, I've played around with it for a while and like the interface a lot. Up until the iphone came out manufacturers have paid very little attention to the user interface. There have been touchscreen phones long before the iphone but they all have been lacking in the usability department. In that sense I would say the iphone has been ground breaking. Also, the third party software available for the iphone is so much better quality than the java based crap that's been coming out for every other phone. The mini OS X and the new SDK makes everything else including Symbian look cheap and a little half-arsed. However despite all this the iphone has not been one of the phones I've been looking at, mainly due to the fact I am a Linux user and also because there is a lot of talk of the next version of the iphone coming out soon so it's a bit pointless buying one now.

I have been trying to avoid windows mobile phones but I cant ignore the fact that there are a lot of them out there and some have very nice features. My first encounter with a WinMob came a few years back when I bought a O2 XDA (I cant remember the exact model). The phone had an impressive specs sheet but using windows mobile felt very debilitating because there was so many restrictions placed on the phone. I didn't feel that I had full control of the phone. Also the software was very buggy. I have never touched a WinMob since. I'm sure things have changed a lot since then but I'm going to avoid it for now. Anything Microsoft just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I should also say that Symbian hasn't been doing too well either, I feel that there hasn't been a lot of innovation from them. They've been very slow until the iphone came out. Anything new that they have come up with isn't going to hit the market anytime soon.

Some new phones that have caught my eye are the new Sony Ericsson X1, G900 and G700. Unfortunately, no matter how cool the X1 looks inside it is Windows. Sony Ericsson must have been very desperate to come out with an iphone competitor, to have turned to Microsoft. Also all three wont be out until July or so and I cant wait that long.

My choice has been pretty limited, but here's two that have stood out.

Sony Ericsson P1i

Things I like:
  • Decent 3.2mpx camera
  • Runs pretty fast and is stable
  • WiFi
  • Fairly large touchscreen
  • It's a Sony Ericsson
  • Great battery life
  • Symbian
Things I don't like:
  • Getting old, has been out for over a year now
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b only, no 802.11g
  • user interface not as good as iphone
  • UIQ does not have as many third party software as the S60 for example

Sony Ericsson W960i

Pretty much the same as the P1i except for the different keypad and the 8Gb internal memory.

So far I've been leaning towards the P1i, mainly due to the slightly larger battery. The difference in memory is not an issue since I have a 2Gb card which is more than I need.

If anyone else has any other suggestions feel free to drop a comment.

Update: I have went ahead and bought the Sony Ericsson p1i. It's a pretty decent phone. The UI is fairly easy and straightforward to use, it's not as good as the iphones UI but then again nothing at the moment is. It's a fast and stable phone with an excellant battery life. The camera is ok, not as good as the k800i but miles better than the iphones. So, I am happy with my choice, the phone pretty much has everything I wanted. I only wish there was more decent applications and games for it. As I have said before I hate java applications for phones, they are ugly and don't work very well the the touchscreen.

As you probably have noticed there is alot of stories in the net about the next version of the iphone, most are just speculation about its features. If Apple manage to address the shortcoming of their first model then the next iphone is going to be absolutely amazing. Other manufacturers better have a decent answer for it, otherwise they are going to lose out big time.