Monday, September 13, 2010

Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat Beta 10.10 Review

As promised, the new open-source operating system Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat is set to wow. I took the newly released beta version for a test-drive today. Screenshots below.


After some fidgeting with the USB installer, installation was a breeze. It takes a matter of minutes, and then you're already online and back to work! An advanced partition manager allows you to keep your prior installation of whatever you have intact, including with all of your old files. It automatically detected all of the hardware on my machine, although it didn't even prompt me to. It simply works.


The somewhat reworked user interface is great. The music player is neatly integrated into the taskbar. In fact, everything that I use on a daily basis is integrated into the taskbar: all of my IM accounts seamlessly managed through the new client Empathy, a multi-time zone date and time display (Windows does not have this), the current weather for the city I'm in, all social networking and email in one stop, and a music control panel. This is the best interface I've seem, ever!

Social Networking

You've got one control panel for your Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Buzz, and many more.

Look and Feel

Not only is the interface the most practical on the market, it is a work of art. The default color scheme hardly needs changed. The terminal has a translucent purple background. The system just looks good and is a pleasure to work on.


No Turning Back

With this new release, there will be no reason to work on Windows anymore. Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat does everything, and better.

Solution: Persistent Enabled Issue for Maverick Meerkat 10.10

Fixing the persistent enabled (USB) issue when installing the new Ubuntu release from a USB stick.

The Problem

Maverick Meerkat Beta requires a non-persisent USB drive to install from. This means that when creating the disk, we must select "Discarded on Shutdown, unless you save the elsewhere", instead of "stored in reserved extra space" at the bottom of the window of the Make Startup Disk application. However, the former option is greyed out when we try to do this:

To remedy this,

  1. run Startup disk creator from the System/Administration Menu.
  2. close Startup disk creator.
  3. find the CD image file (probably in your downloads folder). Move it somewhere else (say the desktop):
  4. d) Now, open the "Make Startup Disk Creator". Select disk with free space as the disk to use (usually the second one). Click the "other" button and select your downloaded iso disk file from the desktop. Make sure that "discarded on shutdown" is selected. Click "Make Startup Disk".
  5. The problem is now solved, and you can restart your computer an continue on to install Ubuntu Linux Maverick Meerkat Beta.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't own a scanner, printer, or fax machine

One piece of furniture a lot of people tend to invest in unnecessarily is the home scanner or printer. It is often cheaper and more cost effective to jaunt down to the local print shop and have your materials printed or scanned there. As a rule, these places have higher quality printers and scanners than you could ever afford at home. Many have batch feeders that can handle hundreds of documents per hour as you digitalize your life.

A hidden cost of owning a home printer is the cost of ink. Replacing ink in a home printer can often cost more than the printer was worth. This is a form of loss-leader marketing.

Another problem with home printers and scanners is portability. I have yet to see a decent, portable home printer or scanner. Meanwhile, such tools may come on the market in the near future. However, the cellphone has already made the portable scanner obsolete.

The built-in cellphone camera can already replace the scanner. Presumably, a photograph of a document taken with a powerful-enough cellphone camera equipped with flash could replace the home scanner, in addition to not having to be lugged around as it's inbuilt into the phone.

When the need comes to print something - and you should be printing as little as possible anyway in order to save money - just go somewhere that has a printer. Save the documents onto your USB stick, or the flash memory on your cellphone.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you feel home printers or scanners are cost effective? Why or why not?
  2. Are you aware of any decent portable scanners or printers?
  3. Can you recommend a cellphone with a flash-equipped camera that is powerful enough to replace the portable scanner?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Use Your Cellphone as a Handheld Scanner

One of the revolutionary features of modern cell phones is their ability to, among dozens of other things, replace scanners. This is done by using the digital camera feature that comes standard on most cellphones. However, until now a puny cellphone camera couldn't replace a scanner due to several factors, mainly:

  •  lack of effective flash
  •  low resolution

With 5-megapixel models coming onto the market, in addition to xenon flash, the scanner is history. The long awaited hand-held scanner is no longer a necessity. Just snap a picture of the document in question using the cellphone camera, and add it to your digital archive.

It goes without saying that stopping by the photocopier machine is also no longer a necessity, pages from a book or stack of documents that need to be revisited can simply be digitally photographed using a cellphone.

Scraps of paper with notes on them can also be simply photographed and uploaded.

Of course, you can always review the scraps of paper using the generous display on your high-end but affordable cellphone.

The only issue remaining is battery-power - using flash and leafing through pictures on your phone is going to be a serious drain.

This is a great tool for a digital nomad, and reduces the amount of paperwork that she or he must carry around to a minimum.

Questions for discussion

  1. Which phones offer great resolution and adequate flash for your document scanning needs?
  2. How can adequate battery power and life be ensured?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Replace an Office with a Cellphone

Cellphones continue to wow in terms of the ways in which they lighten our lives. They now pack as many features as used to fit into pounds of expensive electronic equipment. Our question for now is how many pieces of equipment they have replaced, as well as how many pieces of equipment that they will be able to replace in the future.

Let's start with how many pieces of equipment they have replaced so far:

  • the wristwatch
  • the landline
  • alarm clock
  • the internet terminal
  • the telephone handset
  • the pocket calculator
  • the address book
  • the pocket notepad
  • the pen
  • the notepad
  • the e-mail terminal
  • the mp3 player (which in turn replaced the walkman)
  • the USB stick (inasmuch as the flashcard memory allows)
  • the calendar
  • stopwatch
  • the camera
  • the camcorder

Meanwhile, I'm interested in what other things a cellphone could replace in the future, especially:

  • the fax machine?
  • the digital scanner?
  • the handheld radio?

It goes without mentioning that the mere fact of fitting all of the other above functions in one device is revolutionary, it's like fitting all of the functionality of a 1980s office (costing thousands of dollars) into one device!

Questions for discussion

  1. Can the cellphone already replace the fax machine?
  2. Can the cellphone already replace the digital scanner?
  3. What other devices can the cellphone as it now is replace?
  4. What other devices can we expect the cellphone to replace in the future?