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August 31, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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Is secure boot becoming mandatory?

The gift that keeps on… is now making it difficult for me to install Linux on it.

Back in the good old days you used to be able to install a boot loader to the MBR of the first hard drive and away you go. Apparently this doesn’t work anymore. I installed KaOS on it and while it seemed to install fine the darn thing won’t boot.

Want to add an EFI source? Now it seems you have to enable secure boot to add a “trusted” source. Any every USB key is trusted, right?

Grr… I’ll figure something out.

July 31, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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Delta Chat bridges chat and email

Delta Chat in action.

I found this great little app on the F-Droid store that allows you to bring some sanity to chat.

Delta Chat is essentially an email client that form-factors the text to be a chat message. People can chat as they would using any other chat app with all messages sent to an inbox as well. You can “chat email” anyone.

There is no central server (just your email server) and messages can be encrypted.

June 30, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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Vivid pic

I took this great photo of a light dinosaur at Sydney’s recent Vivid festival. A lucky touch indeed.

Illuminated dinosaur at Vivid.

Illuminated dinosaur at Vivid.

I’ve worked with photographers all my career, but I’m still very much an amateur. And here’s one from a rooftop bar…

A vivid rooftop…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 31, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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Korora’s on ice

I have one system with the Fedora-based Korora installed on it. This month the maintainers decided to take a break from developing the distro.

This leaves me in a bit of a pickle as I need to reinstall something else. At this stage I’m thinking of KaOS as it seems to have everything I need.

It’s a shame about Korora. The core maintainers are Australian and there is certainly space in the market for a distro like it.

Perhaps they were taking on too much by supporting five desktop environments? I recommend just picking one desktop and running with it. There is still a lot of integration work to be done between the desktop, apps and system. And doing that for multiple desktops is no mean feat.

April 30, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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New Ubuntu release, old PC donated

I scratched together a working desktop from old components lying around the house. With the release of Kubuntu 18.04 she’s as good as new.

Old PC

Well, the USB Wi-Fi dongle and the keyboard and mouse are new, but everything else is pre-loved.

I donated it to the local homeless shelter today where I trust it will be put to good use.

My office is less cluttered and someone will experience Linux for the first (probably) time. Okay, we’re not counting Android.

I encourage others to do the same – much more rewarding than selling old tech online for a grand total of $20!

 

March 31, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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USB headset usability

Hot on the heels of my last post about USB key usability I have another one to share, this time about headsets.

Nate Graham’s usability series is going full steam ahead and we have a lot to look forward to in upcoming releases.

For now let’s focus USB headsets. I use a USB headset for Skype and Linphone calls and KDE has good support for this peripheral device. In fact, the KDE team was thinking well ahead of its time when years ago it provisioned for a number of use cases with audio devices. An audio stream can be directed to a type of audio device WHEN it was most appropriate (or, to meet a use case). For example, a “communication” use case can priorotise a headet over the computer’s loud speakers. Conversely, a system notification can be directed to use the computer’s speakers instead of a headset.

The Phonon AV framework abstracts the devices from the applications so audio or video can be added to any app, such as a file manager, without having to code it from scratch.

KDE multimedia (Phonon) system settings.

The only challenge for a polished end-user experience is third-party applications must take advantage of this flexibility, and KDE must respond accordingly. Take USB headsets. When you plug one in ,you get:

Plug in USB headset -> No device notification -> No backend change -> The user has to manually promote the headset to be the preferred device for audio playback

No notification when a USB headset is plugged in

Quick question: If one plugs in a USB headset is it not a reasonable assumption the person actually wants to use it?

So we have two possible scenarios to improve usability:

  1. Plug in a USB headset and the system sets that as the default (not unreasonable),
  2. Or, plug in the USB headset and the notification system ASKS the user to select that device as the default for audio playback and capture or not (most refined option). This is similar to how the notification system asks the user how to respond when a USB key is inserted.

At present the user is left to her or his own devices (yes pun) to manually select the headset for audio playback and “recording” (should this be changed to “input”?).

Once you set the default audio playback and recording device to the USB headset VoIP apps work fine.

February 28, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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USB key usability

It’s been interesting following Nathaniel Graham’s blog about usability and productivity developments in KDE. It shows how much the devs really care about user experience, and how quickly things can be changed!

Here’s one for you Nate: what should Plasma and Dolphin do when a USB stick is inserted and removed from the computer?

Insert USB key

  1. The device notifier appears
  2. Sometimes there are options show, most of the time not
  3. Click on the device to reveal the options. Should they always show?
  4. Clicking on the taskbar icon raises the device notifier, but it’s now out of alignment compared to when it automatically pops up

Selecting the file manager

  1. Clicking on “Open with File Manager” launches Dolphin

Remove USB key

  1. You are left with an empty Dolphin window still inside a directory that no longer exists (not a polished option, IMHO)

UI options

  1. Always display the device options (the same amount of screen space is used anyway)
  2. Have the same alignment in the notifier, regardless of whether it was automatically shown or clicked from the taskbar
  3. When the stick is removed, return Dolphin to your home directory
  4. Or, if files were copied somewhere, return Dolphin to the destination directory
  5. Or, destroy the file manager window (Windows does this)

USB device shown when the taskbar icon is clicked

Device notifier options for this type of device

Shown without options (same amount of screen space as with options)

Dolphin displaying the contents of the USB key

The empty folder which no longer exists when the key is removed

January 31, 2018
by Rodney Gedda
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Education sell off amid house of cards

I came across this post by Matt Barrie the other day. The post is not new (Nov 2017) but it did seem timely given my review of investments in education in this country.

From his lengthy, thought-provoking article:

“Since taking power, the NSW Government has sold 384 Department of Education properties. That is despite leaked Department of Education documents that report NSW is facing an influx of 15,000 school students a year, and will require $10.8 billion in funding for 7,500 new classrooms and buildings over just 15 years.”

Perhaps the demolition of Gosford Primary School was just one in 384. Any citation?

Then again, perhaps pop-up schools are the way of the future…