Today is a big day, we find out tonight how well the Open University entry has done in the Boxee App Development challenge. A small team of us had been thinking about big screen (web experiences designed for interactive television to be viewed at about ten feet away) web sites and what an OU experience might be like in such a setting. When the challenge was announced it was a fantastic opportunity to quickly develop something to get ourselves started in this exciting area, so we decided to go for it and in about four weeks went from having nothing to having a fully working application, complete with full user interface and graphic design by Dave Winter, client and server side code by me and communications, testing and creative input by Stuart Brown and Matt Rawlinson. It was hard work which gobbled up a few evenings and weekends but it was worth it.
** UPDATE 7th January 2009 ***
See my new post for details on how to install the Boxee Beta and Ubuntu Karmic on the Revo:
How to install Ubuntu 9.10 and the Boxee Beta on an Acer Aspire Revo (including 64 bit option)
The details below are now out of date, but are still useful if you wish to install Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on a Revo.
The Revo is a very new piece of hardware and features some cutting edge technology so installing Ubuntu on it is not completely straightforward as not many people own these units and have had a chance to make them work out of the box with this very popular Linux distribution. However, it can be done and the unit makes a fantastic Ubuntu machine and if you add Boxee a great entertainment centre for your living room. The first thing to do is to put a copy of the Ubuntu 9.04 desktop live CD image on a USB memory stick. Do this by visiting:http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and selecting the 32 bit desktop edition. Once downloaded you copy it to a USB stick by using the USB Startup disk creator located under System → Administration. The task of installing centres around three areas: getting Ubuntu on the machine, getting the graphics to work (properly) and getting the sound to work (at all).
At long last after some delays I have finally received my new nettop and can now start properly experimenting with a device so quiet it can be used in the living room without the interruptions of noisy fans and overheating hardware. If you haven't heard of nettops then that might all be about to change. These are the desktop equivalent of netbooks.
Back in January I wrote about a piece of software that I think has a very bright future in Boxee makes your TV social. One of the great features of Boxee is that it will take standard podcast feeds and then allow you to enjoy these podcasts through the software and potentially on your TV.
Something I've been promising myself for a long time was to learn how to do packaging (the process of putting software into an Ubuntu supported installer format) properly and make use of the wonderful facilities provided by Launchpad that also include hosting and building package files for multiple architectures.
The recent release of Ubuntu 9.04 (a.k.a Jaunty) saw the release of the usual desktop and server editions but also a new edition: Netbook Remix. Confusingly we have all being talking about Netbook Remix for some time, meaning the distinctive interface that makes the most of the limited screen space on a netbook, but here we mean Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) in the sense of an installation image that contains the entire operating system, including the Netbook Remix interface so you can easily install it on your netbook. This was a gap that was filled by popular derivative distributions such as Easy Peasy and Eeebuntu. I've been trying it out on my Asus EEE PC 701.
Mobile broadband is becoming more popular now and many people are enjoying the convenience of being able to get broadband internet from a wide variety of locations. Both pre-pay and contract options are available on connections and the cost of using this service can be very reasonable. A lot of contracts are based on the idea of paying a certain rate for a set amount of data, for example £10 might buy you 1GB of data, but go over this allowance and the surfing could start getting a bit more expensive with each megabyte being charged separately at a high rate.
*** Please note this is not required for Ubuntu 10.04 onwards - extra software is only needed for versions of Ubuntu before this ***
Recently a good friend of mine, Georgina Parsons, was lucky enough to win a brand new mobile internet dongle courtesy of 3 UK. Like myself she is an Ubuntu user but sadly found that the unit she won, a ZTE MF627, isn't currently supported out of the box on Ubuntu, unlike the Huawei models. She did find a method to make it work though on the Ubuntu Forums at: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=6509188. The problem the unit had was similar to the Huawei E169G, when first plugged in it functions as a USB memory stick containing the driver software (for Windows) and has to be told to switch mode to being a modem. Using the workaround she got her modem working perfectly, but challenged me to make a package to install the files needed automatically.
Last night I had the pleasure of popping in to the Ubuntu Jaunty release party in London. The venue, despite being quite large, was utterly packed with people associated with the Ubuntu community either by working on it in some way or just being users. It is amazing to think that this was only one of a hundred release parties taking place worldwide for this latest release of Ubuntu, which has a six monthly release schedule. The excitement is justified, the latest release of Ubuntu, version 9.04 (or to use its development name Jaunty) is faster, slicker and has more cutting edge features than its predecessor, Ubuntu 8.10. The project has lived up to its slogan of “Linux for human beings” by producing an operating system that is simple to run and just works (mostly ;)).
Although we all have our favourite Linux distributions, and mine is most definitely Ubuntu, it is often the case that in the workplace we have to learn another distribution, and while that is still Linux is may operate in a way that is quite different to what we are used to. A common workplace Linux distribution is RedHat Enterprise Linux which is supplied complete with a support package. The problem here is that if you want to install it to just learn about it, the price tag might put you off (it currently starts at $349). There is a related free version called Fedora, but this has a slightly different focus, where RedHat goes for stability over features, Fedora is more cutting edge. The result is that the two may not be the same, and depending on what you want to do, Fedora might not provide you with the knowledge you need to work with the RedHat environment. Help is at hand though, RedHat provide the source code to their distribution, which, thanks to open source licensing can be reused.