I think I am going to give Mediaportal another go, now that 1.1 final has been finally (after so much time and so many release candidates) released. I had been using Mediaportal as my media center software of choice since about 2007 (back in the 0.2.x days) but recently I had been lured away with some of the shinier features of Windows 7 Media Center.
Although overall I have enjoyed the user experience and polish of 7MC, the frustrations and limitations (lack of good plug-ins, local content, themes etc..) continue to mount. There are a lot of things 7MC is simply great at (series record, intelligently recording at another time to deal with timing clashes, Windows integration, four-foot configuration and so on..) but I think I am ready for a bit more freedom again from my media center.
Since the first mobile running on Google’s Android software platform was announced, I have been eagerly awaiting it’s release here in the UK. Well this week it finally happened, so yesterday I went into a T Mobile shop to have a play with one. Unfortunately it is a bit of a mixed bag, whilst looking quite stylish (it looked a bit ugly from the photos) there are a number of bad points about the G1 which unfortunately terminally let it down.
First off, the slide. I actually rather like this part, despite being highly dubious about overly elaborate mechanisms, the G1 screen slides up and to the right cleanly and locks into place with a fairly reassuring click. The problem is the G1 is not comfortable to hold in the horizontal position, and I found the keyboard buttons to be inadequate for any serious use. However the most serious problem with this was that the screen was not fully locked into place. Given that it is a touch screen the fact that the whole screen section flexes backwards and strains against the sliding mechanism, even the smallest amount of force is exerted against it, is very worrying.
The touchscreen itself worked quite well and Android has definitely incorporated several design elements that Apple initially came up with. However it feels like Google were as eager to incorporate finger swiping functions as they were not to look like they were copying Apple and as such there are two different ways of scrolling through icon menus like the ‘desktop’ and the application menu which just feels silly and inconsistent. The overall layout and design of the menus and functionality felt poor and counter intuitive. This was felt especially in the web-browser which, whilst working well ( and really showing how nice the screen was) felt clunky and unfriendly to navigate and use. There was also an issue with flash plugins but I am assuming that would be fixed by an update.
Overall, the G1 very much feels like the unfinished article. The black one looks surprisingly nice in the person, but an inconsistent GUI / navigation system lets it down as well as the quality of the screen sliding retention mechanism. Still, thankfully this is not the Android phone, but the first version running the software platform. I have high expectations of future phones and can only hope that meager sales will not put off other companies from adopting this platform.
Ubuntu 8.10 “Intrepid Ibex” will be released soon! If you can’t wait or want to help out, download the latest beta / release candidate from canonical and get an early preview. Be warned though that this is beta software and as such potentially requires more than the usual amount of patience to get running properly as I found out whilst tinkering with Kubuntu 8.10 beta KDE 4 remix. :) Although I am sure the problems I was having had as much to do with the poor hardware compatibility with Linux as with buggy beta software.
T Mobile launched the first mobile based on the open source Android platform earlier this month. Although from a design prospective I am less than impressed with the device, I am extremely excited that this hitherto academic project is starting to gain mass market traction. Open source projects all too commonly go the route of the GP2x, OpenPandora or OpenMoko- accruing a loyal fan base but never really breaking out into the main stream. (I highly recommend taking a look at some of those projects.)
The fact that there is now a mass market device running the Android software stack is very encouraging, however with an industry behemoth like Google behind it, there was no way this project was going to roll over and die quietly. So, until it launches here in the UK (and wherever you may be in the World) you can try out a emulated version on T-Mobile’s website.
.. and I’d like to think its as result of the angry email I sent to google as I uninstalled their new open source browser Chrome, based on the WebKit engine, two days ago. :) Back then, part of the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) explicitly stated that by using the browser, anything you type into it (i.e. search queries, comments and presumably blog posts) becomes the exclusive property of Google.
Old Section 11 of Chrome EULA
11. Content licence from you
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
More worryingly, section 11.4:
11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licence.
After The Register broke the news, many people just like me, promptly uninstalled Chrome. Google yesterday responded apologetically saying that they had never intended for the EULA to be interpreted in such a way, and issued an update.
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services.
This rapid turn around is welcome, but it does make me wonder… if Google had any intention of enforcing the content appropriation their initial EULA made way for, by simply updating the EULA and not issuing updated binaries is the purported functionality still present? I guess only in-dept analysis of the code will tell, it is an open source project after all.
- mac80211 now supports draft mesh networking (802.11s; thanks to the open80211s project
- mac80211 now supports more optional HT (802.11n) features
- mac80211′s monitor interfaces can now be configured more precisely, “cooked” monitors were added
- mac80211′s IBSS implementation now supports IBSS merging and received various bugfixes
- mac80211 now has an in-kernel documentation book, help welcome!
- b43 now has support for PCMCIA devices and QoS/WME
The following have been removed.
- the bcm43xx driver
- the old ieee80211softmac code
A while ago I discussed the deprecation of the bcm43xx driver so I welcome its official removal from the kernel as this means less time wasted disabling this legacy kernel module prior to installing / activating b43 on every new install. The mesh networking (draft specification designated 802.11s) support is largly thanks to the open80211s project however it is only in the fairly early stages. Support is not consistent across all the Linux wifi drivers but full support is progressing. I do wonder whether mesh networking will take off, it is however, an exciting concept. Imagine the following scenarios:
1. A dense build up urban area, where multiple nodes (flats / homes etc) could connect via one or two Internet connected nodes.
2. A neighbourhood which contained a lot of like minded PC users each connecting as a node in a local mesh network to create an ‘instant’ LAN/WAN or gaming network. Imagine being about to connect Xbox 360s / PS3 / PSP or even PC gamers wirelessly to your neighbours without using the Internet services.
3. A sparse, less developed environment where multiple nodes are greatly spread out and Internet access is rare.
The possibilities are endless, however with all such technologies, a lot of people need to jump on the bandwagon, particularly with ad-hoc technologies such as these.
Just a brief note to say that I have updated my original post on the MD5 hases of all the *buntu (ubuntu, kubuntu kde3 and kde4, edubuntu xubuntu) builds to include the ‘revision 1′ 8.04.1 cd images. Everything should now be up to date again. :)
After using Hardy Heron for about twelve hours now (at least eight of those tweaking and fiddling) I must say I am impressed although, it sometimes feels a bit more clunky than previous releases. This release builds greatly on the previous release 7.10 and feels more feature complete and compatible as well. This is largely due to native inclusion of the b43 driver over the depreciated bcm43xx driver for the wireless as well as an improved restricted driver manager.
Here is an overview of how things work with my Fujitsu Siemens A1650 Amilo laptop:
CPU: Works perfectly (including frequency scaling and power management)
WiFi (Broadcom 4318 ) : Works *! (After the install of Acer_acpi tools and a bit of tweaking)
Graphics (Ati x200m) : Works perfectly! (With Ati Non-Free driver)
Flash (in Firefox) : Works perfectly (I had lots of problems with this in 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon.)
Memory Card Reader : Not tested.
PCMCIA : Works perfectly (tested with IDE > CF converter and tried a CF memory card)
Hot Keys : Can be made to work, but I have not got around to this yet.
* Although it picks up and connects to wireless networks, I need to do a bit of testing before I am 100% sure all the problems have been sorted. Bloody Broadcom….
I had do install a few extra packages to get it all working however and I am going to detail this now.
To get the wireless working we need to install the firmware (not shipped with Ubuntu) via the new firmware cutter b43-fwcutter. In a terminal window, type:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bc43-fwcutter
Once that is done, follow these instructions to obtain and load the correct firmware module.
Now we need to install the Acer_acpi packages. Do not follow the instructions on the project website relating to acer_acpi as you will end up trying to install the depreciated version of b43 (bcm43xx.)
We need to add the following line to the package manager to enable the repository containing the acer_acpi code:
deb http://www.mumblyworld.info/ubuntu gutsy main
Once that is done, open a console window.
wget http://www.mumblyworld.info/ubuntu/depot.key -O- | sudo apt-key add -
apt-get install aceracpi-source
m-a a-i aceracpi-source
This first downloads the repository public signing key and then gets the acer_acpi source package. In the process you will likely be asked to install other dependancies, agree to this as these will be required during the compiling process. Once the above commands have completed, you will need to activate the module:
The wireless light on the A1650 will now light up showing the wireless module has been activated. For future reference, it can be activated and deactivated with the following commands:
echo 1 > /proc/acpi/acer/wireless (to activate)
echo 0 > /proc/acpi/acer/wireless (to deactivate)
Restart and your wireless should be operational :) For reference, I followed parts of the guide found here. I would not recommend you do the same, as you will end up trying to install the depreciate version of the b43 driver, bcm43xx.
Another thing which I installed was the Compiz manager as well as emerald. Compiz has a lot of options, but window decoration is still one I prefer to use Emerald for. These are installed in much the same way as they were in 7.10 with a few key exceptions.
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra compiz-gnome compiz-plugins libcompizconfig-backend-gconf libcompizconfig0
Then install emerald:
sudo apt-get install emerald
Once these packages (and their dependancies) have installed, you will find two new options under System > Preferences gnome menu. One will give you complete control over the effects Compiz uses and the other will let you load/tweak and create Emerald themes. However, as per default metacity is the window decorator. In the Compiz “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings” find the window decoration option and replace the command field with “Emerald –replace”
Save and restart if required.