Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to install vim plugins

I have long been an Emacs user, but find myself using Vim more frequently when editing from the command line. One day I went to edit a Clojure source file and found that indentation rules and syntax highlighting were not installed. Using the VimClojure plugin I am now able to edit Clojure files properly, but it was a pain for me (a noob when it comes to vim) to get it working. Here is how it is done:

Command Line

Download the file

Move the file to /usr/share/vim/vimfiles/
sudo mv /usr/share/vim/vimfiles/

Extract the file

sudo unzip

For tar.gz:
sudo tar -xvwzf plugin.tar.gz

If this ends up creating a directory instead of extracting the files, do the following steps.

cd into the folder
cd created-folder

Move its contents
sudo mv ./ ..

You can now start using the plugin. But beware, for many plugins you are also required to edit the vim configuration file at /etc/vim/vimconfig

My Clojure plugin needed syntax highlighting and and filetype plugin indent on. Your README file (if there is one) should tell you what to do.


 Download the plugin
  Run a file manager as root.

 Copy the zip file from wherever you downloaded it.
Plop it into /usr/share/vim/vimfiles/ and extract it.
If the README file specifies it, edit the vimrc file found in /etc/vim/vimrc/

This is usually just a matter of uncommenting a few lines. I had to uncomment syntax highlighting and file auto indent.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Opensuse 12.2 Review

Opensuse is an enterprise operating system produced by Novell. It is free (in both senses), fast, and standards-compliant with most of the Standard Linux Base's demands (including .rpm as the package format). I have found that Opensuse is widely applicable and should be better praised, because it works in such a different way than any distro I have used to date. Here is the review.

A whole new world of efficiency
12.2 is fast. And that isn't just a buzzword, it really is fast. Everything from boot to actually using the operating system is just faster than it would be on Ubuntu with a similar setup. One of the reasons for this is the leaving out of certain modules and programs (indexing) that take a big toll on the speed of the system. Also, since it is mostly used for servers Novell cannot afford to have a performance issue, so they trimmed the fat.

Another thing I noticed was incredibly low memory usage. On KDE with Firefox it uses around 500 MiB of RAM. That is extremely small considering that KDE is a beast that is notable for using >1GiB when it feels like it. I'm sure that in an environment like the awesome window manager that number would fall even further.

Repositories and Packages

This is the only area where I was disappointed. In the past small repositories have been a dealbreaker for me, and Opensuse came close. Its repositories aren't nearly as extensive as Ubuntu's or Debian's, or even Sabayon's. For instance, for an edX course a program named Scratch  was needed. It was not in the repositories and it was not available as an Opensuse-compatible .rpm, so I have to compile it from the source. That is a large inconvenience. And it has happened before, too. The Awesome window manager isn't even in the repositories, and there is no .rpm package with  satisfiable dependencies. That's why I am stuck with KDE for the time being.

The package manager is nice, though. As is the command line version. .rpm grouping (shown above) and pattern searching (command line) are helpful tools to install packages. In fact, pattern searching reduces the needs of pesky meta packages that have been known to cause breakages in systems past.

Opensuse even comes with a program called apper that can install .rpm files, which is much alike what Fedora and Ubuntu do with their respective formats (with software installer and gdebi or the software center)
 If you are researching Opensuse, you have probably heard about YaST. Yast is the configuration tool that comes with Opensuse, and it has features far outside the range of normal configuration tools. Some interesting features are the ability to replace your bootloader from a combo box, install and browse software, configure kernel options, and even set up a mail server. If you can think of something you need to do, it can be done via YaST.

Opensuse is enterprise. That's all there is to it. If you want a reliable, fast, easily configurable system it is the operating system for you. On the other hand, for a purely desktop-oriented experience it may be a bit too official of a stab at Linux. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Review and information - Verizon High Speed Internet (DSL)

For the longest time our city has been limited to satellite internet and dial-up. Just recently there was a community-wide dispute with Verizon that prompted them to install DSL in our village. Being one of the few geeks in the area, I have been testing its limitations and greatnesses and I am here to review some of it. Before it was installed searches did not reveal the true statistics of the "High Speed" internet from Verizon, so here is the scoop.

Verizon DSL speed and caps
The speed averages out at about 300 KB/s, which is considered 3 Mb/s. Upload speeds have reached up to 150 KB/s, which is equivalent to the download speed of the best satellite internet providers. The best advantage is that there are no bandwidth caps, so you could theoretically upload and download constantly. However, running a server is against the Terms of Use. The only condition that would void these terms is heavy server usage, so for a small home fileserver or ssh tunnel it is no issue.

Verizon Software and Hardware
Verizon installs superfluous hard / software on the existing computer infrastructure. From what I have seen it serves no purpose other than providing links to and its subpages.

The router that was shipped is also the modem. This saves some room, but makes custom firmware tricky and it also means that to bring the wireless network offline the ethernet connection may also go dark for that period of time. Of course, a second router can be attached to it via ethernet cable.

Verizon technician
The technician was new to the company and made several mistakes, and at one point had a bout of paranoia that he would be fired upon returning to the Verizon headquarters. Also, the technician refused to run the necessary cables anywhere but on the front of the house, meaning that you could be in for some manual labor when you purchase this package. Lastly, the technician left the old networking equipment plugged into the desktop computer, which would be irremovable bloat for a non-tech-savy person.

Verizon has a monopoly of the phone market in my area. With a bundle, we are saving more monthly than we used to pay for our old service. It's like we're being payed to use the internet connection. The price, when bundled, is $35 for both phone and internet.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ubuntu 12.10 final beta REVIEW

This is a review on a beta package as of October 4th, 2012. This information will be deprecated quickly as updates are released in a fast manor as the 12.10 deadline approaches.

11.10 blew Ubuntu users away when compared to 11.04, with the immature version of Unity in a long-term support release that drove many of its users away. Hoping that 12.10 would bring further maturity to what Unity has already evolved into I installed it, and have had mixed emotions since then. Here are some of my discoveries, complaints, and criticisms on the new Ubuntu operating system.

Upgrade Process
The update process couldn't have been easier. A matter of running update-manager -d from the terminal and a few hours of installing updates later, the reboot prompt appeared and 12.10 was booted. Note that if you are using the openssh-server package there will be a boot-time error message regarding an incorrect compilation flag, as well as a mandatory filesystem check since upgrading an operating system is such a dramatic overhaul.

The boot process will take longer than usual if you upgraded from 12.04. This is why it is commonly recommended that the Operating system be installed over the existing one, rather than throwing patches on top of an existing framework.

On first boot
  Unity hasn't changed much. Aside from the controversial shopping lens, unnecessary glossy buttons on the launcher, and file previews it is just like a faster version of what came before. Which isn't much to complain about. In fact, it's nice having a snappy interface. Of course, snappiness only applies to those with a higher-end internet connection (> 256 KiB/s) since file indexing and Amazon searches are the norm within Unity now. Of course, this can be opted-out of with sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping.

Little Differences
There were seemingly small but interesting design choices in this release. The full name of the user is no longer displayed on the top right of the screen, and a new printer applet is the default. Also, "Software Updater" is the new Update Manager, and it updates upon boot. So there will be no more tiered updating.

Also, in Unity's Expo-like workspace switcher, clicking on a window will move you to that workspace rather than highlighting it within the interface.

A weird design choice was to include two applications that are pinned to the launcher that open in the firefox web browser. It seemed pretty out-of-character for Ubuntu.

Possible bugs
The only bug I have noticed is the inability to minimize a window using the Unity launcher, which is a pretty big deal. Aside from this inconvenience the Beta release is seemingly stable. However, little issues seem to crop up in Beta releases, so I could never recommend this for a production machine.

Although not a serious functionality issue, sometimes Unity previews mix their text together, creating an unreadable mess. Also, as shown in the picture, the previews for Albums are supposed to play individual tracks. This does not work, but I am not sure if it is implied to. The sideways triangle IS the Universal sign for "Start", though.

Other Goodies
Ubuntu 12.10 comes with a signed bootloader, meaning that it can run with UEFI secure-boot that Windows 8 OEM computers will be coming with. This caused quite a big stir in the open source world, and Ubuntu was about to employ questionable tactics to get around it, but with a signed version of Grub  everything remains the same.

All of the outdated packages are updated and a most up-to-date repository is out there. Gimp 2.8 is among the collection. No more third party repos!

Here is a little demo video showing some of the features discussed in this article:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sublime Text 2 review - Is it worth the money?

In my Common Lisp days I was a die-hard Emacs fan. Emacs is technically infinitely extensible thanks to Emacs Lisp, but it has a few annoying Emacsy quirks that can make it offputting to some. And when I learned that it did not support Clojure out of the box, it was a definite move to a better, more talked about text editor: Sublime Text 2.

This is commercial, closed-source software so I do feel obligated to state that I do not have anything to do with its development. It is hosted here:
and maintained by one developer, which is an enormous undertaking for making what I feel is the best multi-language editor around.

Let's jump into some screenshots and a run-down of the features.

This is one of Sublime Text's many color schemes. It is the beautiful default of light gray with many different colors for different reasons. Yellow literals, pink functions, blue symbols, etc. The most noticeable feature for most newcomers to the editor (I know it was one of mine) is the scrolling text column on the side that allows you to jump in between places in the file while giving you an overview of how large your file is getting.

Although that feature is small compared to the other features that Sublime Text has to offer.

There is a command pallet that contains a wide variety of features in the editor. Here you can see the impressive collection of inferior modes that it has to offer (inferior mode being syntax highlighting with some grammar rules, such as the highlighted ',' in Clojure). Some other talked-about features are multiple selection and goto anything. Multiple selection is very useful for when you need to turn a list of text into syntacticly-adhering code, or for massively changing a file in a short amount of time.

Splitting the editing pane, although a common feature in many editors, can also help increase the amount of work that can be done. Splitting can even work on the same file (different parts), making copying over code or memorizing some escape character a very easy task.

The selling point for me was the inclusion of Lisp, Clojure, Scala, and Java highlighting out of the box. No other editor I have encountered has done this in as friendly of a manor as Sublime Text has.

Is it worth the money?
You will see that my version of Sublime Text is unregistered. It is common in the community to pirate or keep an unregistered version while disregarding the "Nag screens" that show up. The developer was nice enough to not limit what this application can do (like LispWorks) does before a license is purchased, so many users do not even purchase it. I thought I would be one of them until I started uncovering the deeper features that the editor has, and now as soon as I scrounge up the money from my incredibly low wage job I will put fourth the $60 for the license. The developer has done a fantastic job, and deserves compensation for his work in my opinion. Also, the money secures the chance for future updates and maybe even a Sublime Text 3. 

Cinnamon 1.6.1 review

Using a third-party repository, it is possible to install Cinnamon 1.6.1 on Ubuntu 12.04 / .10. This is what I have done, and I have some criticisms regarding this release. The overarching theme is: the cinnamon team listened to Linus's advice of "If it compiles, it ships".

There is no doubt that cinnamon is a beautiful desktop environment. It has most of the features that Unity does with semantic searching and consumes less RAM than Gnome 3 or Unity. However, like the other versions, Cinnamon consumes slightly more CPU cycles than other popular desktop environments. If your processor is the weakest part of your computer, then this could result in the dreaded bottleneck.

Another advantage is the maturity of the Cinnamon API. There is an increasing number of extensions and third-party support available for it. Extensions can be read about in more depth here: 

These are not as required as they were for Gnome 3, since Gnome was quite a screw-up compared to previous versions.

 Expo, as expected, is just as good as it always was. Now there is a new feature that allows you to rename windows and even destroy them directly from the Expo dash.

But there is another disturbing bit of information that goes along with Cinnamon. One developer has been working on porting the Gnome keyboard shortcut option interface over to Cinnamon, and got stuck in the middle of his work when the release date hit. Whoops!

This means that custom keyboard shortcuts are a thing of the past. Until the developer finishes his work (hopefully before 1.6.2 launches) the default keyboard shortcuts will have to suffice. Yes, this does mean  closing windows with the awkward Alt+f4 combination, or moving them with alt+click.

To make matters even worse, programs that work as a graphical buffer between the configuration file and the input have all been broken by this impending migration, leaving the ability to make your own keyboard shortcuts COMPLETELY broken.

In lighter, better news for Cinnamon their new file manager, Nemo, has been finished and shipped with 1.6.1. Nemo is based on an earlier version of Gnome's Nautilus file manager, since the Gnome developers have been busy stripping features from their latest file browser. Also, Cinnamon no longer has memory issues. It tends to idle in the hundreds, where before it was not uncommon to have Cinnamon reach massive memory humps up to 800 MiB. And although Cinnamon does tend to consume more CPU Cycles than other desktop environments, the 17% CPU bug associated with opening the cinnamon menu has been fixed, meaning that searching can begin as soon as <Mod4> is pressed.