Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

14 Aug 2006

I'm trying out ubuntu today. The reasons are pretty arbitrary; I sat down to work on the family finances last night, but I wasn't really in the mood, so I revisited the ubuntu installation on the PC I built with my son back in Feb 2005.

I like the focus on common tasks such as playing music, video editing, etc. And I like the fact that they invite support requests, not just bug reports (though launchpad is Yet Another Password that I would rather manage with OpenID). So here are the tasks I tried:

Reading Mail

Evolution seems to get my mail over IMAP+SSL pretty straightforwardly, though the password prompt reminded me that I'm not sure how secure that "remember my password" option is.

Writing Mail

I found the "bcc me on everything I send" option easily enough; the last thing I want the computer to do is to record my knowledge and then lose it, after all.

I realized I'm addicated to tab-completion of addressees, and I don't know where evolution stores the addressbook. The question that remains is whether to invest in figuring out how evolution works or to invest more in my RFC822/RDF stuff and maybe set up an LDAP proxy.

Also... how do I copy my signatures from one machine to another?

I wonder if it's using gconf; that thing feels too much like the windows registry for my tastes. Centralized, hard to manage and backup.

Chatting with colleagues via IRC

At W3C, we do a lot of teleconferences with supplemental IRC channels. You can do a lot of work asynchronously via email and the web, but getting together real-time once a week seems pretty important.

I started up xchat-gnome and I was pretty happy until I realized it wasn't logging all the notes I was taking. (integrity is job one). Automatic logging of conversations is fixed as of 2006-07-27, but the latest release is 0.13 of July 19th, 2006, but I'm running 0.11 from dapper. I tried to build from source but quickly found myself in automake hell ( ***Error***: You must have automake >= 1.9 installed)

gaim is also installed (did it come out of the box with Ubuntu? I can't remember; it is in the list of supported apps, in any case). I tried it a while ago but I use normal punctuation for direct address (i.e. "joenick, what do you think?" not "joenick: what do you think?") and gaim doesn't grok an equivalent of /set completion_char , .

So with an apt-get install xchat, I'm back to what I was using under debian.

Posting to a weblog/journal

The gnome Applications menu is not reliable enough for me to look there first as a habit; I did a google search for blog clients; I found gnome-blog in the wordpress clients list. apt told me it was already installed... oh... there it is... Applications/Internet/Blog entry poster.

real-time spell-check... do I like that? I'm not sure. I don't see a way to do excerpting, and I don't see a way to edit the source directly. Making a link was pretty painless; but... ew... I can't follow it, nor select the address. bzzt. might as well switch to emacs and nxml-mode; I don't know if gnome-blog knows that integrity is job one, after all, and I think I'm not in the mood to test it just now.

I guess I'm already doing email the Ubuntu way under debian. For the other tasks, the Ubuntu way didn't meet my needs and I had to drop back to the geek/wizard tools that I'm using under debian. My one foray into development landed in automake hell, but I'm not going to fault Ubunutu for that.

I still hesitate to invest heavily in Ubuntu given things like Joey's ubuntu gripes. I heard various bits of ubuntu/debian coordination from debconf6; I wonder how many of Joey's gripes are still outstanding.