May 16

I’m off on holiday to the west of Ireland once again in a couple of weeks time, hoping to keep in touch with the tech world using my trusty old Acer Aspire One netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Yes I know it’s old school – I don’t have a 3G smartphone yet so I have to go this route. I use Google Reader as my RSS reader but this only works when you have an internet connection as it’s an online reader. As I’ll be away from public WiFi most of the time, I need to be able to update the feeds when and where I can and then browse them at my leisure offline. When travelled there 2 years ago, Google Gears was still supported so I could use this to read my feeds in Google Reader offline.  But since then, Google has withdrawn Gears so I looked at the alternative they suggested in that post – Liferea (Linux Feed Reader), a desktop RSS aggregator for Linux.

No problems installing Liferea using

sudo apt-get install liferea

at the command line. To update Liferea with your Reader feeds, just click Subscriptions, New Source and select Google Reader from the dialog. Then enter your Google username and password. I have about 180 subscriptions in Reader and Liferea took about 20-30 minutes to read in all the feeds. And then I deleted the example feeds which weren’t of any use to me.

I’ve installed version 1.6.3 but I get the impression Liferea is very much work in progress or else it doesn’t play nicely with Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It doesn’t update feeds in alphabetical order although I note this had been added in later releases. Also there’s no indication when it has stopped updating, other than the hard drive LED stops flashing. But apart from that, it seems to present my latest unread posts clearly in offline mode so it’ll do the job I want on holiday. Doubtless I’ll learn much more on how it works ‘at the coal face’.


If you use WiFi, how do you browse your RSS feeds offline? Or is it time for me to get a smartphone? Or should I just switch off on holiday? Drop a comment below.

Apr 25

File management in the default setup of Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition is not intuitive, at least not to me. I recently had to copy files from a USB stick to my netbook hard disk and found this quite difficult as it seems impossible to pull up a two pane file manager directly and drag the files across – or at least I couldn’t find an obvious way to do it.

Here’s what’s involved:

1. Plug in USB stick. It appears on the Unity side bar and Nautilus opens a window on the desktop. I can see the folders and files on the stick but I can’t get to the home folder on the hard drive and drag the files across – at least not intuitively.


2. Open Files & Folders in the Unity sidebar. But this opens full screen and doesn’t show the pen drive so I still can’t drag the files from the USB stick.


3. Find the Documents folder, then click on the folder symbol at the top right of the screen, as shown above. Finally I have a Nautilus window of the Document folder alongside the Nautilus window of the USB drive.


4. Navigate to the file I want on the USB stick and drag it to the Documents folder on the hard disk.

Out with the old

Perhaps someone can tell me a quicker or easier way to manage files in Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition but this is the only way I could see to do it. And I’m not alone as Expert Reviews also found the whole process a little strange. If there is an easier way, it’s certainly not obvious or intuitive for a Ubuntu beginner.

I’m used to working with file managers. I’ve been using them since the late 1980s when I had PC Tools as my file manager in MS-DOS (before Windows). I’ve blogged about xplorer2, my current file manager of choice in Windows 7. For me, the file manager is a fundamental utility that I often use during the day and I just couldn’t put up with offering in Ubuntu Netbook Edition. I need a two column manager so I looked around for a decent replacement – one that showed a tree view of folders and drives in the left side and files on the right side and with the dual pane folder option. In the past, I had brief looks at a few including Thunar and Midnight Commander but I think I’ve now found the manager I want in Dolphin.

In with the new

Dolphin is a file manager for KDE (K desktop environment). I found that installation in Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition was a breeze and even the necessary KDE libraries installed without a problem. Initially Dolphin will open showing Places (Home, Network, Root, Trash) in the left panel. To get a tree view of folders, go to View, Panels and click Folders. If it opens on the right side of the screen, you can drag the folder window across to the left side if that’s where you want it. You may now see tabs at the bottom where you can select Places or Folders. You can remove Places altogether by going to View, Panels and deselecting Places – or use F9 to toggle Places.

To fine tune your set-up, go to Settings, Configure Dolphin and try out different things. For example, in Startup, set your start up folder. I would have liked the option for Dolphin to close and reopen in the folder I was last working in (as in xplorer2) but couldn’t find that option. Also, if you’ve come from Windows you’ll need to go to Navigation and make sure Double click to open files and folders is selected.

So now plugging in my USB stick, I can access it on the Places panel or more helpfully, on the Folders panel through the folder media. I can now open the folder I want and drag the files across to the hard drive much more easily. There’s also a button at the top to split the files panel if you find that easier.


I did have a problem opening a terminal window (Shift-F4). This should open at the bottom of the screen in the current folder. Just got an error Could not launch the terminal client. KDEInit could not launch konsole. Tried googling for a solution but got nowhere. I’ll just have to use Ctrl-Alt-t if I need the command line. Finally, I decided that I wanted to add Dolphin to the Unity launcher on the left side so I right clicked the icon and clicked on Keep in launcher. However, I found that it would only appear in the Launcher after a reboot.

So that’s my first taste of running a KDE app in Ubuntu and I’m impressed. I might just try Kubuntu on my netbook now.

Jul 1

Software and services collage

It’s possible to run a small office/home office (SOHO) set-up with a completely free operating system, software and internet services… but do you? Are there any commercial packages or paid online services you consider ‘must-haves’? I thought I’d quickly run through my paid/free stance and I’d love to hear your thoughts although I don’t think we need to get into a discussion on ‘acquiring’ commercial software for free.

Free operating system

If you run a Linux system, you’ll be familiar with free operating systems and open source software. I run Ubuntu Netbook Edition on my Acer Aspire netbook and I’m just about to try out Linux Mint on my second desktop. What holds me back from completely moving to Linux is my day job where I have to be able to work on Microsoft Word files. More on that later. I’m running Windows 7 on one desktop. Of course in the Windows world, once you’ve bought the OS, you can run a completely free set-up too.

Free software

I run a small office/home office (SOHO) set-up and work from home. Pretty much all the software I use is free or open source. However, I do some work in the publishing sector and they still rely very much on Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Many authors submit work in Word doc format (rarely docx I find) and authors and publishers usually expect work to be returned in doc format with Track Changes turned on. It’s a real shame that open source software hasn’t really caught on in the publishing field yet. So I have to use Microsoft Office to cope with clients who use commercial software. Yes, you could convert Word doc format to Open Office Writer odt format, turn on track changes in Open Office Writer then convert back to doc format but there’s always a worry that some formatting/changes will be lost in conversion. So for work, I have to use MS Word on my desktop running Windows 7. There’s a good recent discussion on office software, free and commercial, at How-To Geek.

The only other paid software I use on my Windows system is an old copy of Serif PagePlus for DTP and Serif PhotoPlus for photo editing. I haven’t upgraded these in years – the old copies I have are just fine. But a quick look on the AlternativeTo website shows that I could move to Scribus as a free alternative for DTP and there are lots of free alternatives (software and online services) for photo editing.

But for many working from home on a Windows system, I’m sure it’s possible to find all you need if you look at free software alternatives and online services. By the way, I don’t believe it’s necessary to pay for security software either. If you’re running a Window system, Microsoft Security Essentials is free for you and is probably all you need for real-time protection. If you’re running a Linux system, you probably don’t need any antimalware software.

Free services

Every online service I use is free…so far, although I don’t expect it to remain that way in the future. We’ve had it good so far. Like many of you I’m sure, I use a good spread of Google apps. Yes, they’re free but the downside is targeted ads, which I don’t mind, and the knowledge that they’re building up a fair old archive of information on you. So I try to use good alternatives to Google services when I can.

So over to you. Do you use a free OS? Is there any commercial software you must have on your Windows system? What about online services – anything you’re paying for? Drop a comment below.

Do you pay for software and online services is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.

May 13

Ubuntu Logo Cristal

Photo credit: k40s

Continuing the Useful Links series, here’s another post with links to post-installation tips for Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid. I did a similar post in June last year and here’s the link as most of the tips in that older post still apply.

Tips and tricks for Ubuntu after installation – Tech Support Alert

Top 5 changes you should make on a fresh Lucid install [Linux] – Make Use Of

Ubuntu 10.04 post-install guide: What to do and try after installing Lucid Lynx! – The Silent Number

10 Applications you must install on Ubuntu Lucid Lynx [Linux] – Make Use Of

What to install after installing Ubuntu Lucid? – Make Tech Easier

What 10 things do you do after a fresh Ubuntu install? – OMG! Ubuntu!

What to do after installing Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx? Run this script! – WebUpD8

Top things to do after installing Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx – Unixmen

Do you have any Ubuntu post-installation tips? Drop a comment below.

Useful links: Ubuntu 10.04 post-installation tips is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.

Apr 28

SnowLeopard Ubuntu plain logo windows 7 logo

With the latest version of any operating system, there’s often a lot of hype around its release with many eager to upgrade straightaway. Whether you’re running Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 10.04 or Windows 7, you’ll know all about this. But do we really need the latest OS?

I was reading the Lifehacker Editors’ Favorite Software and Hardware the other day and what really caught my attention was not so much the apps they used, but their operating systems. You would think these guys at the cutting edge of tech would demand the latest OS on their systems, but no. Here’s what they’re running:

Gina Trapani: Mac OS X and Windows XP and thinking about Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

Adam Pash: Mac OS X

Kevin Purdy: Windows Vista and Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

Jason Fitzpatrick: Windows XP, Mac OS X and Linux

Tamar Weinberg: Windows XP and Fedora 9

So no Windows 7, 6 months after its release. Not even Ubuntu 9.10.

Which just goes to show that maybe we just don’t need the latest version. I upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 recently, because I got a good pre-release price on the upgrade and my XP install was badly in need of a refresh. But I have to confess I did succumb to all the hype – the general consensus was that Windows 7 was awesome. But in all honesty, Windows XP was just fine. What can I do now in Windows 7 that I couldn’t do in Windows XP….let me think…nothing! I’m running just the same desktop software and web apps and services.

And I seem to recall a bit of disquiet over the Mac Snow Leopard release – some felt the upgrade from Leopard just wasn’t worthwhile. And I guess the interest in Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron rather than the latest release is because it was a Long Term Support version (LTS) with 3 years support on the Ubuntu Desktop.

So you might say there really is no need to upgrade your OS. They are becoming more mature and more stable with each release and software vendors are going to find it increasingly hard to get us to upgrade in future. If you’re system is performing well and doing what you want, that’s the main thing. But it’s probably worth reinstalling your OS every couple of years to blow away your old bloated registry (Windows users) and the apps you never use, and you’ll likely see an improvement in performance. Eventually however, you’ll find that new hardware and software won’t be supported on the very old OS versions and technical support will be withdrawn so you may have to upgrade then.

Do you run the latest OS? If you have upgraded, was it worth it? Drop a comment below.

Sep 29
Some Ubuntu resources for beginners
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Linux, ubuntu | icon4 September 29, 2009| icon33 Comments »

Ubuntu Logo Cristal

I’ve already done a post on Some Linux Resources for Beginners so I thought I’d round up some great resources specifically for those starting out with Ubuntu. I haven’t included many blogs here where posts are put up regularly, only if they’ve mentioned a good Ubuntu resource in a blog post. Mostly these are just Ubuntu reference/resource sites with tutorials, guides, how-tos, forums, etc.

General Ubuntu resources

Going Ubuntu: Getting Started

Ubuntu Guide

Ubuntu Documentation

Ubuntu Linux Resources

Hardware Support

UbuntuHCL: Ubuntu Hardware Compatibility List

Gnome-Look: Eye Candy for your GNOME desktop

Ubuntu Brainstorm: submit your ideas for inclusion in future Ubuntu versions

Ubuntu FAQ Guide

Ubuntu Installation Guide: One of the most comprehensive guides on installing Ubuntu I’ve seen

Ubuntu: search resources

Ubuntu Search Engine

Ubuntu Search

UbuntuWire Search

Ubuntu cheatsheets and shortcuts

Ubuntu Linux Cheatsheet

Useful Shortcut Keys in Ubuntu

Ubuntu ebooks

Download Ubuntu Installation Guide and Cheatsheet Now

Ubuntu Linux Bible

Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference

Ubuntu forums

Ubuntu Forums


Ubuntu how-tos and tutorials

Ubuntu Geek: quick tips and how-tos

Ubuntux: a community for beginners and experts

Ubuntu Linux Help

Useful Links for Ubuntu Beginners

Learning Ubuntu

Addictive Tips: Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu Tutorials


Useful links: Ubuntu post-installation tips

Ubuntu software



Ubuntu Software and Tweaks: The Best List Ever

Ubuntu magazines

Full Circle Magazine: free downloadable magazine

Ubuntu User: subscription magazine

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure I’ve missed many important Ubuntu resources here. Just drop a comment below with any you’ve come across that you find really useful and I’ll add them.

Related posts

Great Ubuntu and Linux blogs for beginners

Photo credit: k40s

Jun 18

Ubuntu Logo Cristal

Photo credit: k40s

So you’ve installed Ubuntu and given it a quick test drive. What next?

For the first in our Useful Links series, I’ve chosen to gather together some recent ‘things to do after installing Ubuntu’ type posts which I’d bookmarked on Delicious. You’ll find there’s a bit of repetition in the tips probably because good ideas get passed on from post to post so that’s probably some kind of recommendation. And yes, it just goes to show how many of this type of post are floating around the net. Anyway, here’s the list:

10 tips for after you install or upgrade Ubuntu – Tombuntu

Top things to do after installing Ubuntu – Jam’s Ubuntu Linux Blog

9 things you need to do/install after installing Ubuntu 9.04 – Make Tech Easier

List of services you can shutdown for better system performance – Noobs on Ubuntu

5 things to do after installing Jaunty – Help for Linux

Ubuntu 9.04 post installation guide –

19 things to do after installing Ubuntu Linux – eackouye

10 things to do immediately after installing Jaunty – OMG! Ubuntu!

To do list after installing Ubuntu and Linux Alternatives Applications – The Indexer

Five things I do with every Ubuntu installation – Linux Fanatics

10 things to do after installing Ubuntu Linux – Ubuntu Linux Help

How to setup the perfect 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope desktop –

Hope you find them useful. Any good tips I’ve missed?

May 12

I’ve been playing with Ubuntu for a few months now and it’s running on my netbook and an old desktop PC. Many things are done a little differently in Linux compared with Windows so there’s a bit of a learning curve. I’ve been looking at Ubuntu blogs to try and get familiar with the way Ubuntu works, applications I should install and so on. I’ve already blogged about how I discover great new Linux and Ubuntu content online, and yesterday I came across a great blog for Linux beginners. NixTutor is a relatively new blog by Mark Sanborn – it’s being going since February and there are about 20 posts up at the moment. I went through a number of these yesterday and learned a lot about file naming conventions, directories, keyboard shortcuts and finding files. It’s well worth going through all these posts – they’re all written with beginners in mind.


So I thought I’d list the best of the Linux/Ubuntu/beginner blogs I’ve added to my RSS feed. I haven’t included Linux help sites and there’s a great list of these at Going Linux. I’ve just picked out the beginners’ blogs but I think some verge on intermediate skill. Anyway see what you think:

Ubuntu blogs:

Noobs on Ubuntu

I’ Been to Ubuntu

Jams Ubuntu Linux Blog

Learning Ubuntu

OMG! Ubuntu!


Ubuntu Linux Help

Ubuntu Linux Tips and Tricks

Works with U

Linux blogs:

Begin Linux Blog

From Windows to Linux for the Average Joe

gHacks (Linux tag)

Layman Linux


Linux on Desktop

New Linux User


Non-Geek’s Linux Handbook

The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide

Some of these blogs haven’t been updated in about a month but they do have a useful archive of posts so I’ve included them. If there are any good Ubuntu/Linux blogs you know of which I haven’t included please let me know in the Comments below and I’ll add them. I’ll try and keep the list up to date as a resource for beginners. Add the blogs you like to your RSS feed so you keep up with the latest posts.

Please tweet, Stumble, Digg this post to get the word out on these great Linux and Ubuntu blogs. Thanks.

I’m also trying to uncover good Linux and Ubuntu podcasts for beginners and hope to do a post on that in the future. If you can recommend any please drop a comment below.

` `