If you have recently tried to mount a filesystem in Ubuntu Lucid or Ubuntu Maverick from the command line in a Gnome friendly way you have probably run into some trouble. The pre-Lucid methods involved the use of gnome-mount or pmount, but both of these utilities rely on HAL (the Hardware Abstraction Layer) which has been deprecated in favor of new functionality in udev, the Linux kernel, and gvfs.
You might ask why someone wouldn’t just want to use plain old mount and fstab to handle mounting. Mount and fstab work great for behind the scenes filesystems you never need to unplug (such as external hard drives for automatic backups), but if you like to eject/safely remove/unmount your devices from the graphical interface in Ubuntu you will be out of luck. Also, the mount command requires superuser privileges while the graphical methods in Ubuntu do not.
The solution is apparently the new gvfs-mount command, available through the gvfs-bin package. While documentation on this utility is scant (no manpage!), devices can be mounted by executing:
gvfs-mount -d /dev/<devicename>
Note: When I execute this command from a terminal, I am greeted by 4 “Critical” warnings about various failures. Surprisingly, this does not mean the command didn’t work. Check your Desktop or /mount for your device.
This command can be executed by non-root users, and the mounting appears to be handled in exactly the same manner as the graphical method (desktop shortcut, mounting as /mount/<disk label or UUID>). Filesystems mounted with this command can be unmounted with a right-click from the Desktop or though the side pane in Nautilus.
Unmounting from the command line can be accomplished with this command:
gvfs-mount -u /media/<disk label or UUID>
For some reason, the -d switch with the /dev/<devicename> path does not appear to work.
Hopefully you have found this helpful. If you found this useful, or if you have some tips on using gvfs-mount, or if you have a better way of doing this, please leave me a comment!
July 20, 2009
Just today, Microsoft has contributed 20,000 lines of code to Linux, licensed under the GPLv2. This is the first time Microsoft has chosen to use the GPL to license it’s own code. The software they’ve released today helps to make Linux work better when running in a virtual machine on top of Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor.
Microsoft’s announcement was a big surprise coming from the same company who argued that the “[GPL] debases the currency of the ideas and labor that transform great ideas into great products” and have compared it to a virus.
While this is the first time Microsoft has released code under the GPL, it isn’t the first contribution Microsoft has made to Free Software. For example, in January of this year, Microsoft made it’s first contribution to the Apache project. Microsoft’s Bing search engine includes some open source code. Microsoft also has it’s own Free Software license called the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) which is recognized as such by the Free Software Foundation.
Microsoft has also been showing support for Mono with promises not to sue Mono users for patent violations. I was also surprised to notice that Microsoft’s video website, which requires the Silverlight plugin, redirects Linux users to Mono’s Moonlight plugin page.
So, what’s next? Perhaps Windows 8 will run on the Linux kernel.
I just read an interesting, albeit admittedly unscientific, post by Starry Hope on the popularity of Ubuntu. Here are the two graphs from the post which I found to be the most interesting.
If you think Google search volume is a fair indicator of popularity, than it’s pretty clear that Ubuntu is more popular than all the rest of the Linux distributions put together.
While I think there is good reason for Ubuntu to be so far out in front, I hope that we in the Ubuntu Community don’t let that reality go to our heads, but continue to be good citizens in the greater Linux Community. While Ubuntu may be the most popular distrubution, Canonical (Ubuntu’s source of paid development) isn’t very profitable (yet?) and depends on the development efforts paid for by the makers of competing distrubutions like Red Hat and Novell to produce much of the software which makes Ubuntu complete.
March 16, 2009
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been of the opinion that Dvorak didn’t give Linux enough of a chance. Even so, I was shocked by his glowing review of Ubuntu 8.10.
Ubuntu made such a good impression on him that Dvorak went from this:
Though the Linux community does not want to admit this, Linux has become a pale imitation of the evil OS it intends to replace. On some levels, Linux is better, but from most perspectives it is summarized as “not quite as good but a lot cheaper.”
…I seriously like the Ubuntu 8.10 implementation and will now install it permanently on my latest machines. It’s a winner…It’s so good that I’m a little annoyed with myself for not getting to it sooner.
I cannot wean myself off Windows altogether because, well, I write about Windows. But for ancillary machines that I put together where I need reliability and low price, I’m always going to see whether Ubuntu works. And if it does, that’s what gets installed.
If I had a small or mid-size company, I’d probably use only Linux and open-source software…
It’s about time.
For the full text of Dvorak’s post about switching to Ubuntu, just click here. If you are considering trying Ubuntu but still need a little more convincing, here are the reasons I think you should be running Ubuntu: A few good reasons to switch to Ubuntu.
A few highlights:
The good distributors would say, ‘This is ad-supported software.” Not-so-good distributors actually did distribute through Windows exploits. Also, some adware distributors would sell access. In their licensing terms, the EULA people agree to, they would say “in addition, we get to install any other software we feel like putting
on.” Of course, nobody reads EULAs, so a lot of people agreed to that. If they had, say, 4 million machines, which was a pretty good sized adware network, they would just go up to every other adware distributor and say “Hey! I’ve got 4 million machines. Do you want to pay 20 cents a machine? I’ll put you on all of them.” At the time there was basically no law around this. EULAs were recognized as contracts and all, so that’s pretty much how distribution happened.
Most adware targets Internet Explorer (IE) users because obviously they’re the biggest share of the market. In addition, they tend to be the less-savvy chunk of the market. If you’re using IE, then either you don’t care or you don’t know about all the vulnerabilities that IE has.
Sherri: In your professional opinion, how can people avoid adware?
Matt: Um, run UNIX.
Matt: We did actually get the ad client working under Wine on Linux.
Sherri: That seems like a bit of a stretch!
Matt: That was a pretty limited market, I’d say.
Matt also goes into a lot of detail describing the different methods he employed to ensure that it was close to impossible to deactivate the adware once it was running. Read all about it in the original article. Thanks to Aaron Toponce and Bruce Schneier for pointing out this great interview.
November 18, 2008
Here’s a list of a few of the reasons I think you might want to take a look at Ubuntu. Thanks to the Ubuntu UK Podcast episode 10 for originally inspiring this post.
- Cost – Ubuntu and all the software Ubuntu makes available costs $0. If you are comparing this to the cost of Windows, don’t forget the costs of your Office Suite, any other software you need to purchase, plus the annual subscription to your Antivirus and Firewall vendor of choice. If you want to upgrade to Vista, you’ll also need to buy a new computer. In contrast, Canonical (the for profit company that funds much of the development of Ubuntu) will even pay the postage to mail you an Ubuntu installation CD if you ask for one. If you are a business considering deploying Ubuntu on the Desktop or on the Server, you don’t need to work out a licensing deal before trying the system, or deploying it fully. Paid support is available, but not required.
- Wide Range of Support Options – You get your pick. The easiest way to get a question answered is by doing a quick Google search (I use Uboontu). Alternatively, you can read up on the Official Ubuntu Documentation, post to the Ubuntu Forums, ask a question on Launchpad, chat in #ubuntu on irc.freenode.net, send an email to an Ubuntu Support Mailing List, contact someone in your local Ubuntu LoCo Group, or get paid support directly from Canonical.
- Live CDs – You can use a Live CD to test drive Ubuntu on your computer before actually going through the installation process. I’d recommend running the Live CD to make sure all your hardware works, including things like printers and other peripheral devices. NB: The performance of your system while you use a Live CD is dependent on the amount of RAM your computer has – I’d recommend 512 MB RAM for a good experience. A fully installed system will certainly have better performance.
- Ease of Installation – Ubuntu is quite easy to install, particularly compared to Windows. There are no tricky questions, and all the user interaction occurs at the beginning of the installation, so once it gets going you can walk away. If you are currently using Windows, I’d highly recommend using Wubi to install the system. Wubi makes installing Ubuntu ridiculously easy. Ubuntu is installed just like any other Windows application, and can be removed from Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel. The entire system is installed inside a single file, with no impact on the rest of your Windows installation. An entry is added to the Windows boot loader, giving you the option of starting either Windows, or Ubuntu each time you start your PC. Wubi also comes on the Ubuntu Live CD, so if you insert the CD while running Windows, it will give you the option of installing Ubuntu with Wubi without requiring the additional download of the Ubuntu installation files.
- Less Post-Installation Work – Ubuntu comes with software for everything you need to do on a typical desktop system, pre-loaded. After a Windows installation is finished, you need to find and install drivers for every piece of hardware in your computer. Afterward, you get to install all the different software applications you need, one at a time, meticulously typing in all the CD Keys, or hunting for the installation file on the internet. If you’ve done this before, you can probably appreciate the Out of the Box completeness of an Ubuntu installation.
- A New Version Every 6 Months, or 2 Years – Ubuntu has a 6 month release cycle, bringing you a new version of Ubuntu, along with new features and new versions of each piece of software you have installed. If you’d prefer not to upgrade every 6 months, there is also a Long Term Support release, every two years. The LTS release has a longer support lifetime (3 years, compared to 18 months for Desktop support), if you are purchasing support from Canonical.
- Easy to Install Additional Software – Need something that didn’t come with a default installation of Ubuntu? Just go to Applications > Add/Remove, and after the list populates itself, you can browse through thousands of available applications, grouped by category. These include games, desktop publishing applications, alternate office suites, audio/video remastering software, and just about every other type of software you can think of. Installation is as easy as checking the boxes next to your chosen applications, clicking Apply Changes, and clicking Apply again on the confirmation box. That’s it. All the software is automatically downloaded and installed, with icons placed in the appropriate places in your menu. No more clicking next, next, next, next, finish, ad nauseum, and no need to keep those precious software installation CD’s you bought from getting damaged while you aren’t needing them.
- Better Language Support – Gnome, and therefore Ubuntu, has 45 languages having at least 80 percent of the system translated with some support for over 100 languages, including Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali (India), Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (China), Chinese (Hong Kong), Chinese (Taiwan), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Dzongkha, English (US, British, Canadian), Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian Bokmål, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian (Cyrillic and Latin), Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
- No More Worrying About Viruses – Ubuntu users don’t need to worry about viruses, as viruses are programs which exploit holes in Windows security. This means that you also don’t need any Anti-Virus software, which saves you money and system resources. This extends to spyware and adware, and other malicious programs lurking about on the Internet.
- More Secure – Linux, and therefore Ubuntu, is more secure than Windows, particularly on the desktop. Windows comes with all kinds of ports open waiting for connections, and Ubuntu does not. This is why you are foolish not to run a firewall on a Windows desktop computer, as the firewall is intended to fix the open ports problem. On Ubuntu, installing a software package which requires a port, opens that port. If your Ubuntu system is directly connected to the Internet, I’d recommend you set up some kind of firewall anyway. In Ubuntu 8.10, check out the new graphical front end to ufw (Uncomplicated Firewall), gufw. Also, the filesystem used by Linux is more secure, and more tunable to exactly what kind of security you need for a given file or folder, in contrast to the ON or OFF file access provided by Windows XP.
- No Vendor Lock In – Proprietary software vendors often take advantage of their customers, by locking them into the system they purchase, by making it hard or impossible to migrate to a different system. Apparently, they think that doing this will keep their customers coming back, year after year. They’re usually correct, no matter how unethical it is. I, for one, will not buy anything that traps me into using a particular product, given the choice. Ubuntu, and FOSS (Free Open Source Software) in general, support open standards, and are providing your software at no cost.
- Designed to Last Forever – Free Software is often developed by people who wanted something for themselves, and after creating it, chose to give it away to everyone else. So, the software is designed to serve the user. It isn’t designed with Marketing in mind, nor is it designed to become obsolete so you need to buy the new version. Not to mention, the software is open source, so even if the guy that originally wrote it gets hit by a bus or something, anyone else can continue to improve the product, if they want to.
- Learn How it Works – If you like to tinker, and want to learn, the sky is the limit. There is excellent documentation available in the Help menus of most of the software that comes with the system. If you want to learn how to use free software for the production of art, video, or sound, there is free educational material available, and the tools are free. If you want to get more technical, you can go as far as viewing the source code for even the most arcane parts of the Linux Kernel. And again, all the tools are free.
- Change the Appearance – It’s really easy to dramatically change the look and feel of Ubuntu. Don’t like brown? Go to System > Preferences > Appearance for a number of different themes. Check out www.gnome-look.org or art.gnome.org for a wealth of additional themes and icon sets. If you are using Ubuntu for your business, you can even rebrand the Operating System with your own logos and themes, if you want to. Of course, anyone can do this on their Desktop at home, too.
- Change the Software – You can take any Free Software and modify the code to make it suit your needs perfectly. If you redistribute it, or if you are just feeling charitable, make the code changes available to everyone else.
- Help Make Ubuntu Better – It isn’t hard to join the community and work to make Ubuntu better for yourself, and for everyone else that uses the system. You can help by submitting bugs, suggesting ideas, translating documentation into another language, testing the system, supporting others with problems, contributing artwork, writing documentation, or contributing code.
- Real Ownership – With Ubuntu, you actually have ownership of your entire computer. If you are using Windows, you don’t own the software – you only paid for a license to use the software in a specific way. Ownership means you can change it, and do whatever you want with it including having redistribution rights and including the ability to making money off of it. Your ownership is unrestricted, and you don’t need to worry about someone trying to sue you for what you do with it (the only exception would be relating to the use of trademarks, such as the Ubuntu and Firefox logos, if you change the software). Of course, real ownership also means that if it breaks, it’s up to you to fix it. But you aren’t alone. The entire community owns it jointly, and many people are helping to provide you with support, fix the problems on your system, and make improvements to your software.
- Pwn your Friends – Ubuntu has a number of great, free First Person Shooters available in the repositories including Tremulous, Nexuiz, OpenArena, and Sauerbraten. Other cool games are available, like Kobo Deluxe or Battle for Wesnoth. Running Windows games in Wine is also an option. See the Wine App db for how well your favorite Windows game runs in Wine. For example World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Homeworld, Warcraft III, Starcraft, EVE Online, Command and Conquer 3, Call of Duty 4, Everquest 1 and 2, and Counter-Strike all run very well in Ubuntu with Wine.
- The Power of UNIX, thanks to Gnu’s tools – If you really want to make your system work for you, you’ll be learning how to make good use of the command line. The Terminal is scary at first, but that’s only because it’s unfamiliar and you don’t know how to use it. Once you have some command line experience under your belt, you’ll find that you can do what you want to do much faster than you could using your mouse in the graphical environment. (If you find yourself using the Terminal a lot, I’d recommend checking out tilda. You can install tilda from the command line with ‘sudo aptitude install tilda’.) A few tips for beginners:
- ~ represents your home directory, where all your files live.
- cd changes directories, cd .. takes you up a level, and cd – takes you back to the previous directory.
- ls displays the contents of a directory.
- Autocomplete commands by pressing tab, or pressing it twice for suggestions.
- After finding the name of a command, type “man COMMAND” for the manual.
- Use the nano command to edit a text file.
Here are some challenges associated with switching to Ubuntu:
- Unfamiliarity – It might sound like I’m stating the obvious, but the system will be new to you. Using Ubuntu may appear to be more difficult than it really is, just because of this fact. After you get over the initial shock, I think you’ll find that Ubuntu is actually easier to use than Windows.
- Terminology – When you are new to the FOSS world, it’s really hard to know what everyone is talking about, since you don’t understand the terminology. How are you supposed to know the difference between a desktop environment and a window manager? Not to mention, the names of different projects that are interchangeable, like Gnome, KDE, and XFCE or Metacity and Compiz. Every software project has come up with it’s own name, and the name never seems to have anything to do with what the software actually does. The good news, is that the Ubuntu Community has provided a Glossary.
- Vendor Support – Many hardware and software vendors don’t provide much support for Linux. The good news is that the Linux Kernel hackers have managed to backwards engineer hardware drivers for just about everything. 3d Graphics card drivers, and some Wifi cards require the use of an Ubuntu tool called Jockey which will install proprietary drivers for you. Software that isn’t designed to work on Linux might run if you try using Wine, and there are Free Software alternatives for just about every type of computer program. Some of the most popular Windows applications actually run great, and possibly faster in Ubuntu using Wine, such as MS Office and World of Warcraft. If you really need Windows XP, you can easily install it inside Ubuntu with Virtualbox. Also, if you call your ISP and tell them you are running Ubuntu, they will probably freak out for no good reason. At least, they’ve heard of Firefox, by now.
- Some Hardware Might Not Work Out of the Box – Hardware that doesn’t work is uncommon, but it’s possible. Less popular hardware is less likely to work. Try the LiveCD, and test your hardware. Some people have problems getting Suspend and Hibernate to work. If it doesn’t work, check the forums or do a Uboontu search for help in getting it working. In the future, it’s a good idea to check the forums to see if a piece of hardware is supported, before you buy it. I haven’t found this to be a big problem when I’ve helped people switch to Ubuntu.
- Migrating your stuff from Windows to Ubuntu – The Ubuntu Community has compiled a good list of stuff to consider when you are going to make the switch, available here. I’d again recommend using Wubi, as you can take your time migrating everything as Wubi installs Ubuntu on your computer with no more impact on Windows than installing any other application.
- Restricted Media Formats – Many media formats, such as mp3 and aac music formats don’t come pre-installed in Ubuntu, due to legal restrictions on distributing the software required because of patent issues. I’d recommend you start ripping your CD’s into Ogg Vorbis format. It’s better, and it’s free. DVD support doesn’t come pre-installed, also for legal restrictions on decrypting DVD’s without paying for it. Flash video, required for YouTube and other websites, doesn’t come pre-loaded either, because of restrictions imposed by Adobe. Also, Microsoft’s fonts don’t come installed, also due to legal restrictions, irregardless of whether or not you own a copy of Windows. Ubuntu costs nothing, after all, and the people that hold patents require compensation for using their technology. If you want to make all of this work in one shot, no questions asked, you can install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package. For more on the topic, see the Ubuntu Community documentation available here. If you want to buy software that allows Ubuntu to play these formats, Canonical has started making this available in the Canonical Store.
Let me know if I missed anything important. NB: Many of the advantages of using Ubuntu listed above are shared by other Linux Distributions, and are the result of the hard work of Gnu and a lot of other Free Software projects.
November 1, 2008
So, now that the Intrepid Ibex has officially arrived, I thought I’d present some of my impressions on this release of Ubuntu. Most of the new features have been described elsewhere, so I’ll leave the obvious out of this post.
Improved Wireless Internet Access
Improved Wireless Internet Access is the most important new feature of this release, and the improvements are the results of the inclusion of Network Manager 0.7, and all the hard work that has been put into improving Ubuntu’s support for 3G cellular modems. My Ubuntu wireless experience has improved significantly since I upgraded. I do most of my work on a Dell Inspiron 1300 Laptop, which uses an internal 802.11G Broadcom wireless card. As you might imagine, it’s been a rough road, thanks to Broadcom’s lack of Linux support. Around the time I upgraded to Hardy, I started having a terrible time connecting to my wireless router. I was to the point of considering purchasing a new wireless card with better Linux support, or perhaps a new laptop entirely. Well, I decided to test out Intrepid Alpha 4, to see what didn’t work, and to my surprise all of my connectivity issues vanished. I decided to stick with Intrepid for the duration, and in spite of some other issues, it was a very good decision. Also, Ubuntu’s default wifi solution via the Hardware Drivers tool (a.k.a. Jockey, p.k.a the Restricted Driver Manager) seems to work just as well as ndiswrapper, from what I can tell.
So, if you are having any wireless issues at all, I’d highly recommend giving the Intrepid Ibex a try.
One feature that has gotten a lot of attention is the new Fast User Switcher Applet (FUSA), which lives in the top right corner of the Desktop, replacing the Ubuntu shutdown applet.
I think it’s a nice utility, as it consolidates a number of different functions into one small panel applet, including user switching, setting your IM status, and all the functions of Ubuntu’s old shutdown button. What you may not know, is that right clicking the applet also gives you quick access to the About Me, Users and Groups, and Login Window system settings.
So, the applet does give you quick access to a lot of User and Login related stuff, and I like quick access. As for how intuitive the functions of the applet are, I’m not so sure. If you are using an IM client, it displays a graphic representing your presence, which duplicates the panel icon of your IM client, and hides the fact that it is a shutdown button. I’d like it if you could opt to have it continue to display the shutdown graphic while using an IM client, or perhaps to display both icons. Replacing the panel icon for your IM client entirely is a consideration, but the FUSA is intentionally a simple interface, and will never fully replace your IM client.
I have heard some people express frustration at how much more space the new applet takes up when comparing it to the old shutdown icon, as it displays the full name of the current user. Displaying the full name is handy if you make good use of the user switching capabilities of the applet. However, if your system has only one user, it might be an annoyance for you. If you fall into the second category, you can easily ask the applet to hide your name – just access the FUSA Properties menu by right-clicking the applet, and you can swap your name for a small graphic.
If you are interested, Mark Shuttleworth just posted on the design of the Fast User Switcher Applet, which is an interesting read.
In this version of Ubuntu, you can install a selection of very nice desktop backgrounds, in case you get tired of the default. Just install the package gnome-backgrounds with synaptic, or type “sudo apt-get install gnome-backgrounds” in a terminal. The addition of new backgrounds is a welcome change.
A few bugs…
There are a few bugs bugging me in this release. First, I get some annoying flickering on the bottom quarter of the screen now and then when I’m launching applications, or when Gnome first starts. From what I understand, it should only be affecting people with certain Intel graphics cards. Click here for the bug report.
Another bug I’ve noticed is that Sound Recorder is broken. When you try to record some audio, the capture level gets automatically muted, and the recording time runs very fast. Expect this bug to be fixed in Intrepid, shortly. For more on this bug, and a working patch, click here. Fixed!
Also, due to the inclusion of webcam drivers into the Linux Kernel, Skype’s webcam support is broken in Ubuntu (and all other Linux variants using the new 2.6.27 kernel) until Skype updates their code. You can track and vote for this bug here.
To upgrade, or not to upgrade
So, should you upgrade to this shiny new Ubuntu 8.10 version from your only slightly less shiny Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS version? That’s up to you. I’d say, if all you do is browse the Internet, and do some basic word processing now and then, you are probably safe sticking with the quite stable Hardy Heron for another 18 months. Sticking with the LTS version can be a good move for people that don’t see the appeal of running a major upgrade twice a year. Otherwise, go ahead and upgrade – particularly if you use Ubuntu on your laptop. The Intrepid Ibex is a great release!