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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-20

  • dRonaldArendse Boxing day #
  • @Shuayb702 the weather here is ridiculous #
  • @RonaldArendse spending Christmas and birthday with my sister & her family #
  • Just arrived in Durban, the air is wet #
  • Future of education. R we having the right conversation? Ed. & social conditions are inseparable #
  • The Problem of Filters and Silos Big ideas lie @ the edge of our field, where we spend the least time #
  • Which Ideas Are the Good Ones? It may take time to recognise the value of innovating in the curriculum #
  • On my way to Durban for a week, let me know if u want to hang out #
  • Anyone got Cell C 3G USB modem running on Ubuntu 10.10? #
  • Playing around with #SlideRocket a bit. Very cool online presentation tool #
  • Being Understood Requires Context… When presenting, just giving the facts isn’t enough #
  • Been looking for an online project management tool. #Gantto seems pretty useful (still in beta) #
  • OER@UCT | Is the Lecture Dead? #
  • Are You Making These Dissertation Writing Mistakes? « To Do: Dissertation #
  • Just applied to participate in the Chrome OS netbook pilot program. B nice 2 c if online only, all the time is feasible #
  • Just confirmed my booking for camping at Monks Cowl next week, should be good times #
  • Having lunch at #Barrique fantastic food, beautiful setting, great service. I’m just saying… #
  • RT @roballen101: RT @whiteafrican – Shouldn’t these #ICTD conferences be held in emerging markets, not Europe and the US? #
  • RT @whiteafrican: Turns out there are very few ICT Research projects done by African institutions (9%), or by Africans at all. #ICTD2010 #
  • Thought Leader » Jennifer Thorpe » The medical mutilation of women’s rights via @mailandguardian #
  • Tech Leader » Wesley Lynch » E-books: Publishing on the eve of a revolution #
  • How 10 Year Olds Explain Cloud Computing – ReadWriteCloud “How big is it? How big do you want it to be?” #
  • Thought Leader » Christmas is sick! I have to agree with most of this. Comments are worth a read too #
  • Cellphones in the Classroom: Distraction or Tool? #
  • RT @wesleylynch: RT @spillly: When I see someone write a word like Twitterverse or Twitteriffic, I Twow up in my mouth a little #
  • Just voted for HootSuite for Best Social Media Management Tool #MashableAwards #
  • RT @newsfromtengrrl: Blind Students Demand Access to Online Course Materials – The Chronicle of Higher Education #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-24

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-10

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-04-05


Gnome-shell on Ubuntu

I’ve been playing around with Gnome-shell on Ubuntu over the past week or so and am still trying to decide if I like it. It’s going to replace Compiz in the next generation of the Gnome desktop and the idea is that it’s supposed to enhance productivity by creating an innovative user interface that more easily exposes the day-to-day tasks of the user. But besides some pretty cool transitions between virtual desktops, an “overview” of the running tasks, and some additional shortcuts in the Activities panel, I’m not sure what else it adds.

I know that it’s going to improve with time and I’m hoping the developers include more features that actually challenge the current desktop paradigm like KDE has done with their 4.x release. I do like my desktops shiny so I’m happy to see Gnome finally moving in that direction, which is why I’m not going to get all upset about the fact that the developers are breaking with tradition to try something new.

Check out this tour of Gnome-shell for details of the features and screenshots. If you like to play with bleeding edge tools, I’d recommend installing it and playing around for a while. It’s stable enough to get an idea of how it’s supposed to work and you might just like it enough to keep it.


Chromium browser and extensions

So the Linux build of Chromium (the open source browser than Google Chrome is based on) has been out for a while now and every now and again I’ve been upgrading to the latest developer release just to see how it’s coming along. Lately, the builds have been a lot more stable, font rendering hasn’t been a problem in a long time and small features are regularly being added. It seems (for my purposes anyway) that Chromium is starting to become a serious contender as my browser of choice.

The reason I haven’t been using Chromium as my default browser up until now has been the lack of extensions that make Firefox the best browser available. Recently though, that’s changed, although the public version still doesn’t have extensions enabled.

A few days ago I upgraded to (Ubuntu build 30813), using the Chromium daily build PPA enabled with Ubuntu-Tweak, and it’s simply blown me away. I estimated that the startup time of Chromium on my machine is about 4-5 times faster than Firefox (edit: I’m running Firefox 3.5.4 but it would be more fair to compare it to 3.7), and rendering of complex pages also seems to be faster (see this post that confirms the speed improvements).  That prompted me to have a look to see how the extension support is coming along and I like what I found, even though some of the extensions lack the polish of their Firefox equivalents (it is early days).  You can find a list of extensions at Chromium extensions, as well as follow some plugin development at Chrome Plugins.

It seems that the guidelines for extension development under Chromium is sensible and well thought-out (I’m not a developer, but it makes sense to me), and I’m pretty excited about what’s on the way. One of the nicest touches is that the browser doesn’t need to be restarted after installing (or uninstalling) an extension, and the installation process is less intrusive than Firefox’s.  It must be nice to come in after someone else has made the mistakes that you can then avoid.  Some of the more useful extensions I’ve come across so far are:

All in all, Chromium is looking more and more like it will replace Firefox as my default browser in the near future, especially if development continues at this pace.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to make the shift just yet (there are still some Firefox extensions that I can’t live without), but I’m starting to see a time when Chromium is faster, more intuitive and more elegant than Firefox.

Note: it’s not immediately apparent, but if you want to uninstall an extension go to chrome://extensions, find the one you want to uninstall, and press Uninstall.


Ubuntu Netbook Remix update

Here are the screenshots of my netbook running the Karmic version of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix (this link goes to the current stable release, which is Jaunty) that I promised in my previous post:

[nggallery id=23]

I’d recommend installing Ubuntu-Tweak, which exposes a few of the hidden features of Ubuntu and also allows you to easily add plenty of third party repositories to further enhance the OS.

I’ll say again that I’m so impressed with both the Samsung netbook and UNR (Karmic).  I’m getting 6+ hours of battery life (obviously depending on what I’m doing), the display is crisp and beautiful and the keyboard is only slightly smaller than normal, making typing very easy to adapt to.


Moblin, Ubuntu Moblin Remix and Ubuntu Netbook Remix

I’ve had my Samsung NC10 for almost 2 weeks now and am loving it.  I’ve been using it for taking notes at meetings and seminars, as well as at home for simple online tasks.  I thought I’d put up a few notes about the different operating systems I’ve tried so far, because I couldn’t find a whole lot when I was starting out.

The first OS I tried was Moblin, which I was very excited about initially.  I love the innovation of the UI and the fact that the developers are starting from scratch to really do something new with the netbook form factor.  I probably would’ve kept it if it had any sort of presentation software, which is important for me when I’m traveling and need to work on presentations.  There’ll probably be a port of OpenOffice Presenter in the Moblin Garage soon, but I just couldn’t wait.  So, even though I really, really, really wanted to use Moblin, I had to ditch it.

My next project was to try the Ubuntu Moblin Remix, an attempt to integrate the new Moblin UI on top of the development release of Ubuntu’s Karmic Koala, which has been getting decent reviews.  I thought this would be what I needed.  The stability of a Debian-based distribution with the cool new interface from Moblin (and it came with OpenOffice installed).  Unfortunately, I had issues with both Firefox and OpenOffice, the two main reasons that I decided to move from Moblin.  Far from the stability I was looking for, UMR was buggy to the point of being unusable, so unfortunately I had to move on (I did manage to get OpenOffice installed after changing the filesystem from ext4 to ext3, but it would freeze for up to 20 seconds at a time).

I finally tried the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and I have to say that it is beautiful.  I’m running the Karmic daily build, rather than the Jaunty release, so there are lots of usability / design improvements that go along with that.  Besides looking amazing (I’ll add some screenshots soon), everything just works straight out the box, from the webcam, to the sound, to the wireless.  At this early stage, I just can’t fault it on anything (Disclaimer: I’m a hopeless Ubuntu fanboy).


Open source alternatives to proprietary applications

I thought I’d take a moment to briefly mention a few open source alternatives to popular computer applications. The following programmes are all:
  • Open source – the source code is freely available, which usually means more stable and more secure.
  • Free – as in no cost and free from restriction.
  • Cross-platform – they run on multiple operating systems, including Linux and Windows.
  • As good as, if not better than, their proprietary counterparts.

So, here goes (by the way, this list is by no means complete):

Firefox – A very popular web browser that offers a more secure, more intuitive and faster alternative to Internet Explorer. – An entire office suite of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and drawing. It uses the OpenDocument format by default and as such, it’s use is encouraged, especially in academia and governments.

Thunderbird – An email client that is a fast, secure and stable replacement for Outlook and Outlook Express, especially if you just need something light to manage your email.

Pidgin – An single instant messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once, including IRC, MSN, Groupwise, AIM and ICQ.

Miro – An Internet TV application to subscribe to RSS feeds of free content from a host of providers, including TED, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program. A free alternative to Photoshop that, while lacking some high end, professional features, does more than enough for most of us.

Flock – Social web browser…if you use Facebook, Flickr, Digg, or any other social networking service, this is for you.

Ubuntu – Not a software application but an entire operating system, Ubuntu is a Linux distribution based on Debian. Click here for the Wikipedia article.

Another great application to run, although once it’s set up you’ll hardly ever notice it, is BOINC (click here for the Wikipedia article). After installing the software, register with various projects and join millions of other users who donate their computer’s idle time to solving complex medical, scientific and mathematical problems. I can suggest the World Community Grid to begin with.

And while I’m at it, here’s a link to a post that discusses some of the problems with using Microsoft Word. I personally don’t mind receiving Word documents and understand that many institutions don’t give their employees a choice, but the first step is realising that you actually have a choice.