I’ve never tried that but it’s an interesting idea. Let me know if you’re able to make it work.
A nice tour of Natty. I plan to try out Gmusicbrowser. It’s very cool that this runs Xfce 4.8. But I don’t think I’ll update from 10.04 yet.
Unity is getting a lot of attention, but this looks like a fairly impressive Xubuntu release, too. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Mint Xfce, but this looks much more sophisticated.
Posted for those of us who are a bit burnt out on GNOME 3 and Unity talk.
A nice post on Mint Debian. I’m watching my virtual Xfce Mint Debian box very carefully for breakage, but so far, it’s been a real tiger.
This is another post that’s not exclusively Linux related.
It’s about capturing academic articles across different machines and OSs.
I did a roundup of some citation management tools a few weeks back. Ultimately, I decided to use CiteULike.
Since then, I’ve been using it to keep track of articles and it’s been working pretty well for me.
CiteULike is a bookmarking tool for academic articles. Rather than just capturing URLs, though, it also captures article metadata, allowing you to export your articles into a citation format, like Chicago or MLA. The citations usually need to still be cleaned up, but it’s easier than starting from scratch.
CiteULike also represents a way to organize your articles, allowing users to tag them.
I’ve mostly been using CiteULike for its citation functionality, but it’s also been very helpful in keeping my work organized.
Despite the sick amount of time I spend online, or perhaps because of it, I have trouble reading PDFs on the screen, and most academic articles are PDFs. So my workflow is to skim an article and then, if it seems like it might be useful for what I’m working on, I print it and then capture it in CiteULike. So I have the hard copy to work from and mark up, but the citation online. Plus, if I lose or misplace a printed article, it’s not too hard to find again.
What’s nice about this workflow, though, is that I can grab stuff whenever I’m near a computer, but even if I’m not near a printer. For example, I can find some articles, tag them with “printthis” or something like that, and then, the next time I’m near a printer, I just let them go and re-tag them with something more useful.
And it really pays off when it’s time to export citations. Even though the citations aren’t perfect, they’re easy enough to fix up and work with, saving me time and mental energy.
CiteULike isn’t great about pulling in metadata, so about half of the time, I export citations out of a subscription service as BibTex, a markup language, and then import the BibTex into CiteULike. It’s not as convenient as using a browser button, but it’s easier than crafting a citation by hand. But CiteULike also lets you search other people’s holdings, assuming they’ve made them public, so if someone else already has the metadata imported, you can just copy their work with the click of a button.
CiteULike also lets you upload files to attach to your records, which is a nice way to make sure you don’t lose hard-to-find material if your local computer crashes (although I’m not as conscientious about this as I should be).
CiteULike is very convenient, and because it’s browser-based, I can use it across OSs. There are actually a few cross-platform citation management clients (and quite a few Linux-only ones), but those are only helpful on computers where I have installation privileges. The convenience of CiteULike is that it’s something I have full access to no matter where I’m working.
If you find yourself doing academic research fairly regularly, try CiteULike for your next project. You’ll be shocked how convenient it is having everything in one place. Manila folders full of articles are nice, but virtual folders have their uses, also.
A final note: CiteULike has some recommendation functionality based on articles you capture. I’ve never used it but I do glance at the recommendations from time to time. It seems like a good idea in theory, but it hasn’t been great for me in practice. Maybe it will improve as my database gets bigger.
Wow. This looks really great. I need to find some people to collaborate with!
I’ve been following the conversations around Unity, the new front-end for Ubuntu 11.04.
Ubuntu is really trying to rethink the desktop concept, with an eye toward keyboard-free computing. It’s a bold step, so it’s bound to alienate some people.
I haven’t played with Unity yet, but I have to admit that I am curious. I love Xfce but it’s very much rooted in the “traditional” desktop paradigm. What I like about it, is that it’s very much menu driven, so I can do a lot of selecting, without a lot of clicking and mouse work. It’s almost more of a very powerful file manager than a desktop.
From what I can tell, Unity takes that model a step further. In a lot of ways, it seems like Canonical has crafted an iOS experience for the desktop.
But it’s made me appreciative of the thought Canonical puts into their products. Obviously, not everyone likes the direction they’re going in with GNOME and Unity, but in general, Canonical makes decisions based on what they think is best for the user.
Less and less users grew up with traditional desktops as their only means of computing. There are people who only use desktops for very specific purposes, like typing a paper. Or even just printing one. I actually once witnessed a student come into a computer lab, open up a word processor, and transcribe a paper off of her phone. I’m not sure why she didn’t email it to herself, but I was fascinated that she would compose a paper on a phone before moving to a desktop/laptop.
Canonical seems to be making an effort to make an OS that makes sense to those types of users.
But at the same time, Canonical seems very respectful of the users using the Canonical variants. I’ve been playing with Debian Testing and Mint Xfce and while both are good, neither feels as composed as Xubuntu. Xubuntu does more than just work. It creates a curated Xfce experience, with a lot of thought put into software selection. Debian is a little too hands-off in its software selection for Xfce, allowing the user to choose everthing himself. Mint is basically trying to cram GNOME into Xfce. Both OSs can be fixed by the user, but I like that Xubuntu doesn’t really need to be.
When we talk about Linux distros, we talk about stability and reliability and hardware integration. And those are all important things. But as those factors improve across distributions, user experience becomes more important. I can run any number of Xfce-based distributions and have similar reliability, but I’ll probably stick with Xubuntu because of their software selection. The maintainers think about how Xubuntu users might use the desktop manager and select programs to create a cohesive experience. Obviously, I could choose another distro and simply mimic the Xubuntu defaults, but why add in an extra step if it’s not necessary?
It’s safe to say that Linux now works easily in most (your mileage may vary) situations. So now, the next battle is creating distributions that create a certain kind of user experience. Unity is an attempt to do that. It’ll be interesting to see how non-Linux-inclined people respond to it.
Cool post on the challenges of finding the right MP3 player. I’m partial to the Sansa Fuze.
Also, in terms of the price issue, I like to get minor electronics from Overstock, where you get a slight discount for refurbished and/or older devices.
I don’t quite know why, but I really like the idea of a rolling distribution.
Rolling distributions are constantly being updated, so you never have to go from a version X to version X.1. Instead, everything is being updated constantly.
A while back, I used Arch Linux, which is a bleeding-edge rolling distribution, and I really loved it, but eventually an update broke my system and I didn’t have the time or the skills to repair it.
But despite that experience, I like knowing I can hold onto an OS for as long as I want. Because right now I’m running Xubuntu 10.04, which is a long term support release. But that just means I get three years of updates instead of 18 months. We’re about a year into that LTS release. If I get a new computer in the next year, I’ll have to upgrade to a new LTS about a year or so later. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a little bit of a hassle I think about from time to time.
To start thinking ahead, I looked into Debian Testing. Testing is the pre-release form of whatever the next Debian stable release will be and as such, it’s a rolling release that’s constantly being updated. I spoke to some people who use it and even though it’s technically not considered stable, just about everyone said they see very little breakage (with the caveat that Testing is much more stable toward the end of a development cycle than at the beginning of one).
I’ve been playing with Debian Testing (of course, with Xfce) in a virtual box for a few weeks and so far it’s pretty good (details are here). There have been no real issues. The look and feel isn’t as polished as Xubuntu, but some of that could be because it’s running in a virtual environment. Finding software in testing is sometimes a challenge. I had to wait a few days for Chromium because of a package holdup. But that was resolved.
One thing that surprised me about Xfce Debian Testing is how little software bloat there is. There’s no graphical package manager. There’s no update manager. It’s pretty bare-bones. Obviously, one can easily install these things if one wants them, but I opted to just run update and upgrade from the command line, whenever I happened to remember. Testing doesn’t get a lot of updates, or at least it hasn’t up until now.
Right around the time I was playing with testing, Mint announced the release of Linux Mint Xfce, which is the Mint take on Debian Testing with an Xfce desktop.
I decided to try that in a virtual machine, too. In terms of software, it seems like Mint just moved over a lot of GNOME-y stuff. There’s pure GNOME stuff, like the GNOME system monitor instead of the Xfce task manager. Mint opts for LibreOffice instead of lighter office programs, like AbiWord. Mint also chose Rhythmbox over Exaile. I wish the software selection was a little more Xfce curated, like Xubuntu’s software selection increasingly is, but I think Mint is positioning its Xfce Testing as an alternative for people who don’t want to move to GNOME 3, so they want to include as much GNOME software as possible.
I was shocked at how ugly the default Mint icons are. I usually can’t be bothered to change icons in a virtual machine, but it was one of the first things I did. Mint ships with an impressive array of icon options, though.
But in terms of performing very simple tasks, I didn’t feel much difference between Mint and Debian Testing. Neither rendered fonts very well. Both seem to lose application focus on open (but that could just be a Chromium bug), and neither could run Grooveshark in Chromium.
Flash worked right out of the box for Mint but needed to be massaged with Debian, which one would probably expect, given Debian’s stance on free software.
Other than that, it’s hard to say which was better. Because I was in a virtual machine, I can’t speak to how they handle wifi and printing, which are kind of huge things in an OS.
Debian Testing is lean and mean, but it requires more work to get everything configured. It starts you with a very basic system and it’s up to the user to enhance it. I’m a bit concerned about software availability, since Debian is sometimes a bit sluggish with updates. But from what I’ve read, you can often access more cutting edge software in some of the other Debian repositories (although with Volatile gone, I’m not sure what those might be).
Mint makes more assumptions and choices for its users. The GNOME focus isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t take much to remove the GNOME stuff you don’t like and add in the Xfce stuff you do. Plus, I imagine there are less media issues with Mint, since they’re less concerned about free and open software.
If I had to reinstall an OS today, I’m still not sure if I would go Mint, Debian, or Xubuntu. Xubuntu is probably the nicest product, but the update cycle can be a pain. I want to keep an eye on Mint and Debian and see if either breaks or if one emerges with better software selection.
But for now, it’s nice to see some interesting rolling release options for Xfce lovers.
I’m very psyched to take this for a spin. It’s Debian Testing Xfce with bling. And Debian Xfce really needs bling.