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Elementary OS "Freya" Beta Released

benmhall Re:draws a lot of comparisons to Mac OS X (209 comments)

"... all contemporary smartphones look like Palm OS."

Fixed this for you :-)

That made me laugh! In many ways, I still find PamOS to be a more effecient OS than what's available today. Just think of how fast it was considering it was running on a CPU chunking away at 8-33MHz! That said, you really can't go back.


Nah, I'd rather have xfce with some tuning to clean stuff up.

I also love XFCE and still use it on any servers with X11 installed. (Though I miss the days of it looking like CDE.) The last time I tried it in earnest, it didn't handle multi-monitor support very well. Has that improved recently?

about 6 months ago

Elementary OS "Freya" Beta Released

benmhall Re:draws a lot of comparisons to Mac OS X (209 comments)

Drawing a comparison would suggest its different but comparable, and not inspired by. Straight up copying as it is I wouldn't even suggest saying it's drawing cues.

I'm not really sure why people think that Elementary OS is a copy of OS X. Sure, it's similar in the same way that all contemporary smartphones look like an iPhone, but beneath the theme (with a dock, like WindowMaker, XFCE, and countless other WMs have) it behaves very differently - distinctly. Workspaces, for instance, are quite different. There's no integrated top menu like there is in Mac OS or Unity, all apps behave very differently than they would on Mac OS X, etc.

Even the theme isn't really a Mac clone. It's "just" a grey theme (albeit a well designed one) with slight gradients and very little, very well created window chrome. Mac OS, Chrome OS, Elementary OS, Cinnamon/Linux Mint, and to a lesser extent Gnome, are all heading in a similar direction design-wise; they aren't really copying each other to get there, though.

Any similarities are skin deep. The Elementary OS team is making changes and design decisions from the default language to applications that result in a fast, coherent system that bears little resemblance to Mac OS (or Windows or Unity, for that matter.)

about 6 months ago

Elementary OS "Freya" Beta Released

benmhall Try it before passing judgement (209 comments)

I've been using Elementary OS Luna for about a year now. It's just lovely.

It has no grand plans of world-domination or a perfectly converged all-in-one interface to rule them all. It does give me the stability and packages of Ubuntu with excellent desktop usability and elegance.

It offers a consistent, well-thought out interface. It easily supports colour calibration, multiple workspaces and monitors, great keybindings, etc. After using it for a bit, it has become an effortless part of my workflow in a way that Unity failed to.

And that's the old version.

This is news. As someone using Desktop Linux daily, a new release of Elementary OS based on the latest LTS of Ubuntu is what will finally have me upgrading my machines. I have great respect and appreciation for what Cannonical has done for the Linux desktop. I use Ubuntu everywhere I can, but for day-to-day Linux desktop use, I use and recommend Elementary OS.

Try it. If you like simple and elegant interfaces, I think you'll like it.

about 6 months ago

Jono Bacon Leaves Canonical For XPRIZE

benmhall Best of luck. (62 comments)

Eight years is a long time in tech. Jono has done much for the Ubuntu community. As an open source supporter and Ubuntu user, I will miss his contributions and thank him for his excellent work. He's a great motivator and an interesting author with much to contribute. No doubt he will do well for XPRIZE.

about 8 months ago

Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

benmhall Re:What's the closest JEOS equivalent? (179 comments)

The Server Edition is pretty minimal. If you're looking for X anyway, I'd just start with Server and add what you need. Yes, it's bigger than JEOS, but it also has all of your bases covered. Removing packages is trivial anyway.

I typically start with Server, if it's a physical machine, and lubuntu-desktop. Sure, I waste a few hundred MB, but it saves me time and gives any other admin, even on ewith limited Linux experience, a pretty recognizable and usable environment without the bulk of things like an office suite.

about 9 months ago

Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

benmhall Congratulations to Ubuntu and Canonical! (179 comments)

I'll be upgrading all of our Ubuntu 12.04 machines (and many 10.04 servers) over the coming months, and I'm looking forward to the changes.

Canonical and Ubuntu have done more for desktop Linux than any other company I can think of. I look forward to their regular releases, strong committment to patches, and easy, reliable upgrades. As a sysadmin, they've made my life much easier on both server and desktop. Predictable releases and solid relationships with Dell, IBM, and HP mean that I can buy almost server or laptop and know that it will "just work."

Thank you to the developers, backers, hackers, and community.

about 9 months ago

Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support

benmhall Re:u wot m8 (575 comments)

Yes, you can get an update for the update of the update to the update.
But there are no longer updates for the update of the update.

You forgot to cite Lenovo's System Update as the source of that amazing sentence. ;-)

about 10 months ago

Jolla Announces Sailfish OS 1.0

benmhall Re:TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST AND NO ONE IS THERE !! (75 comments)

I'm ready to switch to a platform that isn't any better so long as it doesn't have the google hooks.

You should try a new BlackBerry. I've been using my Z10 for a year now and am very pleased with it. On top of being fast, efficient, and very productive for day-to-day tasks, the browser is the best on the market, the company has a proven track record of top-of-class security, and the hardware is very well made. It also has the best virtual keyboard I've ever used, and the latest version allows for direct installation of Android APKs, if you're in to a boatload of apps. (I've installed a couple, they work perfectly, but on balance, the core apps are simply top-notch and tend to be what I use day-to-day.)

Of course, it can work with Google Calendar, Contacts, etc, but you are in no what stuck with Google's hooks. It also works well with Microsoft/ActiveSync/whatever else you'd want.

All of that said, as an operating system junky, I'm very interested in try Sailfish. I have a Nokia 770 and N810 in a drawer. This is the continuation of that line and I'd love to see what the great engineers have come up with now that they're free of Nokia.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: Are We Witnessing the Decline of Ubuntu?

benmhall Hogwash. (631 comments)

Respectfully, this article is hogwash. Canonical has done more for Linux usability and the Linux desktop than any other company. I'm typing this on a Dell XPS 13 that shipped, in Canada, with Ubuntu 12.04. This is alone is a major accomplishment. Step outside of North America and you can find Ubuntu shipping on desktops and laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and many other manufacturers. This is because of the strength of the Ubuntu desktop, and Canonical as a backer.

I use Unity on devices with small screens, and with multi-monitor setups. It isn't perfect, but I haven't found anything more productive, and it's improving quickly. Canonical's other efforts, such as the Ubuntu font, and integrated colour management and optimized fonts, also make Ubuntu the first out-of-the-box Linux setup that I can use for print and design work. Yes, I often do this using VMs to run proprietary software, but I know I can count on decent colour calibration. Unity is still in development, but I can see how it could scale from phone to desktop better than any other environment.

At work, we use Ubuntu on server and desktop. Their predictable LTS release, as well as continuing improvements such as their HWE updates make this a relative dream when compared to any other distribution. When I deploy using Ubuntu, I barely have to stop to wonder if the software will work, whether I'm considering the latest laptops, or older, obscure servers. More than any other OS, Ubuntu just works. My small business also makes extensive use of Ubuntu for server deployment, turnkey systems, and virtualization. Of course, Ubuntu is also my main software platform on all of my computing devices.

Ubuntu is the most used cloud computing platform, and Canonical's efforts on creating devops tools are again leading the pack.

From what I see, Mr. Shuttleworth and Canonical are working harder than ever on trying to do something amazing with open source software that scales from phone to cloud. Some efforts like the Ubuntu TV project are not bearing fruit immediately, but this, Ubuntu Touch, their cloud efforts, and more, are building an open platform and ecosystem that is unparalleled in the open source world, and goes toe-to-toe with the ecosystems being developed by Apple, Google, and Amazon. And they're doing all of this on a relatively shoestring budget.

You could argue that they should work more closely with some upstream projects, but at the end of the day, they are showing strong leadership and need to be able to move in the direction that they think is best. They are doing all of this openly, and the code speaks for itself, for better or worse. Personally, I very much believe that it is for better.

I appreciate and will support their continuing efforts.

about a year ago

Microsoft's Surface RT Was Doomed From Day One

benmhall Re:Gatekeeper (442 comments)

"Also, you NEVER see the Apple App store unless you invoke it purposefully.."

Well, except when you run updates. New Macs won't let you pull down updates for apps like iPhoto that ship with the hardware unless you sign in with your Apple ID. You pretty much can't avoid having an Apple ID these days while running current versions of MacOS. (Well, you can, but the constant update messages are pretty annoying.)

Gatekeeper and the App Store, coupled with dropping built-in support for X11 and Java were enough to send me packing. I can see the writing on the wall. I'm not saying that these changes were bad for customers or wrong for Apple, just that they aren't for me. Thankfully, Ubuntu has easily caught up to where I want it to be for daily desktop use, and other hardware vendors are keeping up with Apple's beautiful hardware designs.

about a year and a half ago

BlackBerry Looking To Quench 'Insatiable Demand' For New Smartphones

benmhall Quality Slashdot reporting. (173 comments)

"With more devices due to be revealed in May, has the company ?""

I was quite worried that the reporting standards on this site would change when it was last sold. It's good to see that they haven't.

about 2 years ago

Ubuntu For Tablets Announced

benmhall I think this is great! (148 comments)

As it happens, I'm writin this on an HP 2760p. A traditional tablet pc. It's currently running Ubuntu 12.10 and everything works reasonably well.

The reality is that we are in the midst of a very significant shift in computing, from desktop PCs to tablets and phones. Laptop and desktop sales are down, tablet sales are skyrocketing. Canonical is the only company focusing on Linux desktop computing. Unity is good and is getting better quickly. I honestly believe that they have the best approach to scaling the UI. Canonical is essentially pushing responsie design for the Linux desktop.

What other Linux distribution do you see pushing the end-user computing envelop? These guys are moving forward and should be celebrated and supported for doing so.

I look forward to Ubuntu for Tablets on my 2760p. Count me in!

about 2 years ago

Debian Changes Default Desktop From GNOME To XFCE

benmhall Great call! XFCE has been fantastic for years. (328 comments)

XFCE is a fantastic DE that is very flexible, customizable, easy-to-use, and mature. It runs great on old and new hardware. It runs better over NFS than Gnome ever has, it works great over NX or VNC.

I've used it on-and-off since the very beginning. It has always been a stable DE that has managed to evolve over time without every significantly alienating its user base.

Every year or two I upgrade or replace the Linux side of our Linux dual-boot lab machines at work. Since at least 2006 I've been defaulting to XFCE (early 4.0 and newer.)

Not once have the students complained about the desktop. True, it isn't super-flashy but it works like a charm.

(And, as an added bonus, I can still make it look like BeOS if I want to.)

more than 2 years ago

Can You Buy Tech With a Clean Conscience?

benmhall Buying tech with a clean conscience is possible (412 comments)

My BlackBerry was made in Mexico; RIM have factories in Canada, the US, and in Europe. My Panasonic camera was made in Japan, as was my wife's Panasonic Toughbook. Even better: Most of my tech equipment, much of which was made in China, came used from ebay. By buying used, I get fantastic deals on high-end equipment that I likely wouldn't otherwise be able or at least willing to buy, and most of what I use gets a new lease on life and a second chance. Moreover, I almost always either sell or give away the tech to friends and neighbours. Everybody wins.

My conscience is clean.

more than 2 years ago

Canadian Govt To Introduce Massive Internet Surveillance Law

benmhall C-30 is awful, RCMP have proven it unnecessary. (215 comments)

The proposed lawful access legislation that will give law enforcement sweeping new powers, put a tremendous strain on smaller ISPs, and put all Canadians at risk of inappropriate and unnecessary surveillance. This 1984-like legislation is something that has been in the works in one form or another since 1999. It seeks to add far more warrantless Internet surveillance options for law enforcement officers. While I very much respect and support our fine police men and women, the information that the proposed bill will grant, without warrant or or oversight, should concern all privacy-loving citizens. Ontario’s fantastic privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, outlines her concerns eloquently in an interview with Search Engine’s Jesse Brown:

Anyone interested, and we should all be interested, should read up on the details, listen to what others are saying, and let your MP know how you feel about this potential invasion of our privacy. If you feel strongly about this, you may also want to fill out the Open Media petition.


The Internet is what we make it. We should all be active participants.

more than 2 years ago

RIM's Playbook On Clearance

benmhall PlayBook great with BB, Android and native soon. (141 comments)

I've owned a PlayBook since it came out and haven't regretted the purchase, even at full price. The hardware and size are great, the speakers in particular are quite impressive. The screen even works very well outdoors, too. Moreover, I much prefer BlackBerry Bridge to native apps. I love being able to turn off the phone and not have to worry about alarms going off on the tablet. The Bridge integration is great. I wish that, rather than native apps, RIM would bring Bridge apps to iOS and Android phones.

I'm running OS 2 beta now. The Android player works as advertised. That said, I haven't added many Android apps, as there are now reasonable native apps for everything that I need but WordPress. (For which the Android version is working perfectly.)

I know it's cool to dump on RIM these days, but I just bought a Torch 9810 and prefer it to any Android phone, and I love the OS that the PlayBook runs. It works so much like webOS and is such a quality device. Apps at launch were pretty terrible but I now have a few great games, an SSH client, a reasonable epub reader etc. Docs To Go works well, and the browser is the best tablet browser I've used.

If I didn't already own a PlayBook I would absolutely snap one of these up. RIM is still profitable and I think they're in this for the long-haul. There's no doubt that 2012 will be a critical year for them but they aren't done yet. (Of course, this is coming from someone who just recently gave up on webOS.)

about 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: GNU/Linux Laptops?

benmhall My picks: HP EliteBooks, ThinkPad T|X, ToughBook (708 comments)

I buy many laptops for people in the Computer Science department at Queen's University in Kingston. Of course, things vary by the model but in general I stick to HP's EliteBook line of business laptops, Lenovo's ThinkPad T and X series, Panasonic Toughbooks, or Apple MacBook Pro/Airs.

Personally, I own a mix of the above, almost all of which I purchased used. Ebay can be a brilliant resource if you know what you want.

My current favourite laptops are:
- 11" MacBook Air. 2lbs, silent, solid, awesome. - $999
- 12" HP EliteBook 2710p with SSD. Silent, 3.6lbs, fabulous screen, great build quality, ThinkPad-like light, perfect Linux compatibility - ~$300 on eBay
- 14" Panasonic ToughBook CF-Y5. less than 3 lbs, 1400x1050 screen, incredibly light for the size. Perfect Linux compatibility - ~$400 on eBay
- 17" HP EliteBook 8710w. 7lb 17" 1900x1200 display. FAST Core2duo with good worsktation-grade card, decent battery life, a screamer. - ~$500 on eBay

As you can seem, I have a laptop for pretty much any size and need, all of which combined cost about the same as a well configured new machine. Two of the eBay machines had a 3 year warranty, so I ended out with about as much warranty left as if I had purchased a new low-end machine.

Honestly, unless you have a very specific need, I'd buy used. I love what System76 is doing, but having seen one of there machines, they aren't brilliantly made. Certainly as a Canadian it doesn't make sense for me to buy one and ship across the border. Stick to high-end business machines. New if you have money to burn, used otherwise.

more than 3 years ago

Hands-on Face-off: IPad 2 V Motorola Xoom

benmhall Re:I want a tablet. - HP TouchPad (375 comments)

Maybe you'll like the upcoming HP TouchPad.

WebOS is a fantastic operating system, Linux underneath, apps in HTML/CSS/JS, C++ for those who want 3D and high-performance. The browser is brilliant, multi-tasking is fantastic, development is a snap and is very open. True, the OS isn't fully Open Source, but Palm have a great development platform and a very open approach to development. The hardware looks great too!

more than 3 years ago

GOG.com Not Really Gone

benmhall Annoying but gog.com is still a cool business. (276 comments)

I've been a gog.com customer since their early access beta in September 2008. While I am certainly annoyed by this blatant publicity stunt, I'm far more relieved to know that gog.com is still in business.

This stunt aside, the folks at gog.com are very cool. Not only do they release affordable and fantastic games - most of which I'd never heard of; but they are clearly doing this as a labour of love.

I host an annual LAN Party for the Computing students where I work. I contacted gog.com before going on a shopping spree there to see if they had any objections to me using a single paid copy of each of their games for the one-day event on the entire lab full of machines. Of course, there was no technical problem with this, I just wanted to check that they had no objections with this.

Far from objecting, they very quickly and enthusiastically gave me the OK and asked that I take pictures of the event to share with them. They were completely professional and reasonable to deal with.

So, for about $100 I was able to legally fill a lab full of machines with great games, some of which were new to the students. What a deal.

(I should also mention that Valve has been equally generous with Steam licenses, though they typically work for 24 hours only, which doesn't give me much prep time. Valve the company has also been much more difficult to communicate with.)

Anyway, back to the thread at hand: Welcome back GOG.com. You got me fair and square. Now DON'T EVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS AGAIN.

Now please excuse me while I rush off to buy the copies of Syberia and Another World that I'd been meaning to pick up...

more than 4 years ago


benmhall hasn't submitted any stories.




benmhall benmhall writes  |  more than 10 years ago

I hadn't updated this in almost three years. What's new? Done school, engaged, new city, working for a year, new website.


Blah Blah Blah..

benmhall benmhall writes  |  more than 13 years ago


Slashdot has journals now. So, this is my first lame entry.

I've got (slightly) more interesting stuff going on at my website.


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