Ubuntu's HUD

I am on the road this week (shout out to Boise) and it is the first trip I’ve taken where I’m spending almost all of my time on my Macbook Air since upgrading it to run Linux.

I’ve been pretty happy with it. Wireless works fine, and while I sometimes struggle with nvidia-settings when trying to run an external monitor, I haven’t hit anything where I had to boot back into OS X, at least for very long.

As someone who has decided to run Linux on the Desktop, I am very eager for news on the future direction of such things. I noticed today on Mark Shuttleworth’s blog that he was announcing a new feature in Ubuntu called the “Heads Up Display” (HUD).

The idea is simple – instead of a hierarchical menu have an intelligent search box that learns what you use the most, and can use “fuzzy matching” to help you get to what you want fast. Once it is considered ready for prime time, I’ll probably check it out.

However, there were a couple of things about his post that bothered me. First, he wants to add voice recognition. While that is all well and good, I must be the only person on the planet who doesn’t want to talk at his electronics. Sure, I love being able to dial my mobile phone by voice when driving, but I don’t want to have to speak “Find Nekkid Pictures of Scarlett Johansson” into my browser. I experience so many people on cellphones creating noise pollution that I don’t want to have to deal with it in other aspects of technology. While this probably won’t be the default for most devices, I am still not as excited about it as Mark seems to be.

Second, nowhere in his post did he mention Gnome 3 as an inspiration. I’ve been using the much maligned desktop for awhile now and I love it. When I need to run a program I simply drag my mouse into the upper left corner of the screen and type in the name of what I am looking for in the “Type to search” box. Now it isn’t smart or fuzzy, but it gets the job done and seems to me to be very similar to HUD.

I especially liked Mark’s comment “Instead of cluttering up the interface ALL the time, let’s clear out the chrome, and show users just what they want, when they want it.” which is very similar to what I wrote about Gnome 3: “It gets me to where I need to be, and then it gets the hell out of the way.”

As someone who doesn’t plan to leave the linux desktop, I am excited when improvements like HUD are being implemented. In the ecosystem that is open source, the great ideas will propagate, and if HUD takes off I would expect to see something similar in other offerings.

Evolution Mail and SOGo Address Book

Just a tip for anyone using Evolution mail with the SOGo Carddav address book. Sometimes I launch Evolution (usually after a reboot) and I notice that there are no contacts in my Webdav calendar, Nothing I can do in configuration seems to help, and I get an error if I try to delete the address book to re-add it.

I figured out that if I stop Evolution, open a terminal and kill the:


process, my contacts will reload properly. Might be some sort of race condition but I figured I’d mention it here in case someone else hits the same problem.

Oh, this is on an up to date Debian Wheezy install running Gnome 3.

Welcome Ireland (Country 25)

Yesterday we received a PO from Ireland, which is the 25th country in which we have commercial customers.

It’s pretty exciting, although being a huge fan of Guinness I am upset that I don’t get to go.

The other countries are, in no particular order:

Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Israel, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Trinidad, Malta, India, Honduras, Chile, Sweden, the UAE and the US.

Using ddclient for DynDNS Updating

Just a quick note on my #noapple efforts. I am now running Debian wheezy with Gnome 3 on all three of my main machines.

Since I have a dynamic IP address at the house, I use DynDNS to maintain a DNS record that changes when my IP does. In order to update that automatically I used to use a tool downloaded from their website, but I found that ddclient does the job on Debian.

I tried ez-ipupdate as well but it seemed to want to monitor the physical address of an interface on the machine itself, and I have a router between my home network and the Internet. ddclient was able to pick that up automatically.

Some Thoughts on SOPA/PIPA

It is doubtful that anyone who actively uses the Internet missed yesterday’s protest of the SOPA/PIPA bills now before congress (well, at least PIPA, I do believe SOPA has been stalled in the House but not killed outright).

I am, of course, against this legislation, but more due to the fact that I doubt the US Government would understand the Internet enough to correctly enforce it versus wanting to support piracy. Last year saw a US congressman lose his seat because he was clueless when it came to understanding how information on the network is made available, and my belief is that he was probably one of the better informed politicians. SOPA and PIPA go much farther than, say, legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and there have been several notable abuses of that law (such as its use against Dmitry Sklyarov) that one can only imagine the horrors that would be unleashed.

I read a number of commentaries about these bills, including the one by Scott Adams and the one by Wil Wheaton, who both produce creative content and are against SOPA/PIPA (although for different reasons).

My take on the whole thing is that it is not a effort to protect the content industry from piracy, but instead it is an effort to protect a dying business model. Promoting entertainment, in the forms of music, video, books, software, etc., is both very profitable and controlled by a small group of people. It used to be necessary to have a studio, record company or publishing house manufacture and promote an artist’s work, but with the advent of the Internet both the cost and need of these industries has diminished. They used to be a necessary evil, and it appears that in the interest of greed they often screwed over the people who actually created the content (see Hollywood Accounting on Wikipedia). Now that they are becoming unnecessary, they are scared, and since we are talking about billions of dollars here, it is doubtful that they are going to go gently into that good night. They want to lock down and control distribution again, and one way to do that is to create legislation that lets them go after any site that displeases them, preferably with as vague and nebulous rules as it is possible to create.

Most people hate change (I think I am one glaring exception) as it tends to cause some friction and stress. In every great transition: from the telegraph to the telephone, from the horse and buggy to the automobile, from radio to television, even from closed to open source, there are those that want to hold on to the old way. But no matter how long it is delayed, change is inevitable, and it is often better to adopt early then to fight it.

That is why I always applaud when I see artists attempt new models. Bands like Radiohead sell directly to their fans (the biggest fear of the record companies) and performers like Louis CK are able to produce and distribute their own films. Those are examples of how the Internet changes distribution, but what really gets me excited is when business models change. Randall Monroe makes a free web comic, and he is able to make a living at it (it does help when the work is brilliant). Likewise, the band Phish makes money touring (even inviting fans to record and distribute their performances) in addition to record sales, and acts like Jonathan Coulton offer certain bonus “bundles” in addition to the music itself.

In the case of SOPA and PIPA, we’re lucky that it impacts a number of companies with as deep pockets as the media industry. The next time we might not be as lucky. The price of our freedom is constant vigilance.