Ubuntu Release Party Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad

On Saturday 8th May 2010, Ubuntu Pakistanis from three major cities of Pakistan gathered to celebrate the release of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. This was for the first time that we arranged a release party and we were very excited about that. However, our Loco Team administrator did not share our enthusiasm but that didn’t stop us.

In Karachi, Me and Haroon Idrees organized the event at arranged it McDonald’s Stadium Road, Karachi. The community’s response was great, the event was attended by students, IT professionals, bloggers, journalists and local IT companies that provided open source solutions to government and private organizations. Discussions revolved around creating awareness about free and open source software in general and promoting Ubuntu in particular.

We were really excited to meet Dr. Athar Mahboob. He is the president of IbnKhaldun Systems, and he is a legend in Pakistan for the work he has been doing since last three decades. Specially the work he has done on Linux, for example his company recently developed a network for EOBI – Pakistan, which has branches all over the country and all of them are connected using workstations and servers running a slightly modified version of Ubuntu Linux.

In Lahore, Mustufa took the responsibility of organizing the event. Mustufa is a young IT student and he is very energetic and talented. He single handedly organized the event, gave a small presentation and entertained the guests. Again there were students from universities and IT professionals and the event was also covered by a TV news channel.

In Islamabad Waqas and Babar Zahoor of Pakistan Open Source Foundation hosted the event. In Islamabad they discussed Ubuntu’s WUBI installer and open source alternatives to Microsoft applications.

Pictures:

For more images and details please visit and join our facebook group Ubuntu Pakistan User’s Group.

Ubuntu Release Party Karachi

Haroon Idrees answering a question raised by a new Ubuntu user

Ubuntu Release Party Karachi

Sir Syed University's Students Joined in

Ubuntu Release Party Lahore

Mustufa Sitting left in blue jeans and Ubuntu users from Lahore showing Free CDs

Ubuntu Release Party Lahore

Mustufa giving his introductory presentation

Google Chrome Operating System and Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx has arrived and it is getting rave reviews. It is quick and easy to install, boots faster and has a clutter free desktop. But, instead of writing a review for 10.04, which I am using for last whole week now, I decided to write a review of Google Chrome and how great it works with Ubuntu 10.04.

There are many issues with Firefox, it takes a lot of memory, it is slower and does not fit well into over-all desktop environment. On the other hand, Google Chrome fits well into Gnome since it has an option to use either default theme or the GTK Theme. Chrome’s GTK theme fits perfectly well and attempts to blend in beautifully. It is much faster and uses less memory than Firefox.

Chrome on Linux : Options

As you all know Google is working on releasing an Open Source operating system of its own which is currently called ChromeOS. A sneak preview of this operating system can be seen here. Those who want to try its very early alpha builds should follow these instructions.

ChromeOS is basically a browser based operating system that uses the web as its hard disk. It is focused around working on the web. Google already has many tools available that will be part of this operating system. Such as Gmail which will be used as the email client, Google Docs will be used as an office suite, Picassa as photo manager, gtalk as instant messaging client, and so on.

Screenshot: Google Chrome on Ubuntu Linux

This operating system will have linux at its core and the web browser, Chromium or Google Chrome. So may be this is the reason that Google Chrome performs better on Ubuntu Linux.

I have started feeling that may be I am using two operating systems at once. Google OS and Ubuntu Linux. I am using Google Chrome to access Gmail, Google Docs, Gamil Chat, Google Search, and keeping in touch with my social networks. I use Google’s Picassa photo manager. I ocassionally use Movie Player to watch movies, I use Empathy for voice chat with my gmail contacts. So basically I use Google OS components more than I use default desktop applications. So can I say that I am actually using Google Operating System on Ubuntu Linux platform?

Installing Urdu Support in Ubuntu

This is an update to the previous guide “Enabling Urdu Support in Ubuntu“. If you are using Ubuntu 9.04 or higher than you should follow the steps below to install Urdu read write support in your Ubuntu Linux Operating System. Ubuntu has the best support for Urdu Language, it renders Urdu fonts beautifully and using Open Office in Ubuntu you can create beautiful text documents, PDF files and presentations.

Step 1 – Installing Urdu Language Support

Go to System > Administration > Language Support

ubuntu language support

The language window will appear, now click on Install / Remove Languages… button:

Screenshot-Language

A new window will appear with a list of languages. Scrolldown to find Urdu and then mark it to be installed. Then press the Apply button.

install-languages

You will be then asked to provide your administrative password. Providing the password will the initiate the installation process which consists of downloading the necessary packages from the internet and installing them on your computer. After the installation you will be shown a message “Successfully applied changes”. Now we have completed the installation of Urdu support.

Step 2: Adding keyboard layout

Unlike other operating systems, Ubuntu comes with a variety of choices for Urdu Keyboard layouts installed on your machine. There are phonetic, Indian and Pakistani keyboard layouts. In my opinion the Pakistan keyboard layout is the most easy to use. It is phonetic which makes it easy for a newbie to understand where the keys are.

Right Click on an empty space anywhere on your top or bottom panel and select Add to Panel…

add-to-panel

This will show a list of applets that you can add to your panel. From this list select “Keyboard Layout Indicator” and press Add button.

panel-applets

You will see that a text icon “USA” will appear on your panel. This indicates that you are currently using the USA English keyboard layout. Right click on it and select Keyboard Preferences.

select-keyboard-preferences

The Keyboard Preferences windows will appear. Go to the Layout tab and press Add… button.

keyboard-preferences-add

Now you will see Choose the layout window with two tabs By Country or By Language. You can select either of these tabs to select your keyboard layout. Using By Country tab, in the Country menu you need to scroll down until you find Pakistan and select it. If you use By Language tab then in the Language menu you need to scroll down until you find Urdu.

Keyboard layouts come with different variants. Some are phonetic and some follow the Arabic keymap. In my opinion Phonetic keyboard layouts are the most easy to use. CRULP, Pakistan and NLA are phonetic keyboard layouts. I personally use Pakistan. So in the Variants menu you suggest your keyboard layout and finally you press the Add button.

choose-layout

Now you have added Urdu keyboard layout. But you need to know how to switch from US English keyboard layout to Pakistan Urdu. To do that we press the Layout Options button in Keyboard Preferences window. In the new Keyboard Layout Options window we go to the option Key(s) to Change Layout and from it’s submenu we select the key combination we would like to use for switching between our keyboard layouts. I personally use Alt + Switch as this is the same combination I used in MS windows.

layout-options

After that press the Close button in Keyboard Options window, and Close button on Keyboard Preferences window. Now to make sure that all these settings work as desired, you should restart your computer.

Below is a screenshot of Urdu on my Ubuntu. The font used here is Nafees Web Naskh which is installed on your computer when you install Language support.

Five Reasons to use Ubuntu 9.10

Ubuntu released it’s new version Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala nearly the same time when Microsoft’s highly anticipated Windows 7 came into the market. This post is not a comparison of the two operating systems (If you want here is an unbiased comparison). This post is a simple attempt to describe some important qualities of Ubuntu. Qualities that make it a better option, specially for home desktop users.

1. Fast

Ubuntu uses a new technology called Upstart which has significantly improved the bootup performance. Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala is fast. On start up it quickly boots up and takes you to your working space, the desktop. It comes with Firefox 3.5.4 web browser which is much faster than the previous versions of Firefox. Tuxradar posted an interesting video showing Microsoft’s Windows Vista, Windows 7, Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 9.10 booting up. Ubuntu 9.10 wins the race.

2. Good looking

Ubuntu 9.10 comes with many visual improvements. Animated boot splash, compiz visual effects, better font rendering, default theme improvements and improvements in Gnome’s user interface. All these changes give Ubuntu 9.10 a much sleeker and visually pleasing look of a modern Operating System.
Screenshot 1 (OpenOffice Writer):
ubuntu-910-screenshot

Screenshot 2 (Compiz visual effects):
ubuntu-910-compiz

3. Secure and Reliable

Ubuntu is a Linux based Operating System. It is generally considered to be much less vulnerable to security threats such as malware, adware, viruses and trojans. It comes with Firefox to make your browsing even more secure and better. Also Ubuntu offers free updates. These updates are not offered for the operating system alone. Ubuntu offers updates for each and every software installed on your machine. In Ubuntu’s default installation, update manager is configured to notify you when ever there are updates available for you to install. Using Ubuntu you can spend more time working without worrying about security problems.

Screenshot 3 (Update manager):
Screenshot-Update Manager

4. Amazing software

Ubuntu is an Open Source operating system and it comes with the greatest Open Source applications. Unlike other Operating Systems which come only with a limited default set of a few very basic applications. Ubuntu comes with Open Office suite, instant messaging, photo manager, media player and Gimp image editing program. It also comes with Ubuntu Software Center which is a great way to browse through the thousands of free software offered by Open Source community.

Screenshot 4 (Software Center):
ubuntu-software-center

5. All of this is free
All of this is free for you to download and install.

Migrate to Ubuntu

You must have heard from people that installing Linux is difficult. Yes they are right, But they forget to tell you that Linux based Operating Systems come in many flavors from many distributions. Ubuntu is a distribution that gives importance to ease of use. Hence, Downloading and Installing Ubuntu is a piece of cake. In fact Ubuntu’s installer is easier than MS Windows. In six easy, well designed, well described and well documented steps you can install Ubuntu with in 15 to 20 minutes. You can download and burn a CD image, then you can try Ubuntu with out making any changes to your current Operating System. Or you can try Ubuntu from with in your MS windows installation.

Trying Kubuntu Karmic Koala (Beta)

Two days ago I installed Kubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Beta on my Acer Travelmate 5730. I often try KDE based distros hoping that I will eventually find something that doesn’t crash often.

Kubuntu 9.10 Beta Karmic Koala is improved in many ways. The new installer Bling is beautiful yet simple. Installation went smooth and finished with in 10 or 15 minutes. After the installation I logged in to a beautiful desktop. This beautiful desktop is KDE 4.3.1 which has many improvements. Well it is improved since the last time I used KDE 4. First of all it uses a new theme “Air” by default instead of Oxygen. Air looks better because it matches the over all look of KDE 4.

Kubuntu boots faster but on my computer it switches to text from boot screen which looked a little ugly. Once logged in, Kubuntu acts like MS Windows it starts loading applications in the taskbar and plays the start up music when everything is loaded. On my computer this sound appears 10 seconds after login. I think that the start up music should be played as soon as the Desktop appears. Otherwise it is a little distracting when I have already started working.

There is this one particularly wonderful improvement that I loved; Dolphin file browser’s file and folder previews, moving the mouse to a file displays a preview of the file in the information bar on the right. There is a scroll bar at the bottom of Dolphin window for zooming in and out. The animations are fantastic.

There are some very useful widgets added with Plasma desktop. I was particularly happy to see the social web applications for microblogging and facebook. However I was unable to use microblogging widget because there appeared a Configure.. button right in the middle of the widget and I was unable to find a way to make it disappear. But I am glad that KDE desktop is thinking about future by bringing the web to the desktop. I personally think that this is a wonderful approach.

In Kubuntu Karmic, OpenOffice feels more like home and so do some other GTK+ applications. Also there are many improvements in KDE applications. Like Amarok is using the latest release candidate, there is DBpedia an application to look for reference. I don’t know why I would use an application instead of web browser to look up at Wikipedia?

Overall I am very impressed with Kubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Beta. But I would like to warn you that there are two very annoying bugs in this beta version. First of all the new package manager KPackageKit does not work. So you will have to use apt from command line to install updates. Secondly you can not log out and log back in. I am also having problems at start up. During the start up KDM would hang without asking for login details. I can easily restart KDM but its really annoying. Hopefully these issues will get resolved with the final release.

The conclusion is that Kubuntu Karmic Koala is worth trying, it is improved and hopefully it will get better. So if you are like me, a person who wants to try KDE but often failed due to one reason or another, now is the time. Give it a try and file bug reports if you find any.

Twitter Applications on Ubuntu Linux

I am using twitter a lot since last few days (Follow me) and naturally I looked around for applications that I can install on my Ubuntu Linux to make tweeting easier. I fired up Synaptic and found these two applications:

Twitux

A GTK+ Twitter client, using Twitux I can send messages to twitter without opening a new tab in browser. It can display notifications when a new message arrives. The interface is very simple, easy to understand and use.

gTwitter

Gtwitter is also a simple intutive Twitter client. What I loved about gTwitter is that it has a text box right there in the main window to send messages. In Twitux you need to open the new message text area from menu.

Both these applications are very similar in their interface but both of them has this problem that the links in messages are not clickable. You can read the messages but you can not click and open a URL. I also felt that there should be a button or something to reply individual messages quickly. Just like the tiny reply button that appears on messages in Twitter homepage.

Closing the synaptic I looked around the web for more Twitter applications on Linux and found Phil Wilson’s hack that allows you to post to twitter from deskbar widget. I also found Saad Hamid’s list of Twitter clients for Linux which lists some more applications that use Adobe AIR framework.

For now I think I will be using Twitux as it displays notifications when there is a new message in the timeline. I may not be using it for sending messages though and I think without clickable links it is not very useful for reading messages either.

Update Apr 1, 2009. 03:19 PM: In the comments below and on Twitter every one mentioned Gwibber and how cool it is. Thank you all for your suggestions. So I installed Gwibber and its wonderful. Gwibber makes it easier to reply, send and read messages not only from Twitter but also from facebook and identi.ca and it could also be used as a feed reader. The interface is simple and intuitive. Links are clickable and there is a reply button with each message in my timeline. It can also search messages and display results in a new tab. So Gwibber is now my Twitter Client on Ubuntu Linux. There is just this one little thing, since I am using Gnome Global Menu the menu bar for Gwibber does not show anything under the Accounts. But then again Both of these applications are not officially supported on Ubuntu 8.10. Gnome Global Menu does not even work with Firefox and other non-GTK+ applications.

Ubuntu Stories

Ubuntu Story is a new web site promoting Ubuntu by sharing the stories of people who use Ubuntu as their operating system. The web site has a beautiful design that highlights the key benefits of using Ubuntu Linux. These key benefits are:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Speed
  3. Simplicity
  4. Appearance
  5. Stability
  6. Freedom
  7. Security
  8. Community

Most user stories revolve around these benefits. They are the main reason for many people to switch from Windows/Mac/other Linux distros to Ubuntu Linux. I have talked many people about Ubuntu. I tried to convert my friends, family and neighbours to Ubuntu. I noticed that it is appearance, visual appeal and simplicity that impresses new users at first. Once they have used Ubuntu for a month they start loving it for security, stability and freedom.

Whats New in Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron (Beta)

Today I downloaded and installed Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron Beta version. There are several new things in this upcoming Ubuntu version. First of all it is a long term support version, which means that if you install it you will receive support and updates for up to three years and that will be totally free and no Genuine Advantage icon would ever bother you.

Ubuntu is not just free, it is better too. As I mentioned in my earlier post that Windows XP and Vista fail to detect my hardware during a default installation. Ubuntu detects and configures all my hardware in the default installation. With Ubuntu Feisty I wasn’t able to use amazing visual effects. I had to apply a hack to do that and even then the effects were not at all plea sent. But now, Ubuntu Hardy Heron takes full advantage of my hardware and compiz effects are enabled by default and they work fantastic.

Compiz Visual Effects in Ubuntu

This new version of Ubuntu has Firefox 3 Beta 4 installed as default web browser. This was my first time trying Firefox 3. I didn’t like the way it suggests URI’s as I type something in the address bar and I can not install Google’s browser sync plugin, I hope there is a work around to get it working. But for the first time Firefox looked like a well integrated part of Ubuntu.

There is a new tool called “Hardware Testing” accessible from Applications > System Tools. This little wizard attempts to detect your hardware, prepares a report and you can then send this report with your launchpad email address. I think it is a great way to collect information about user hardware and help them troubleshoot common problems.

Hardy Heron also has a new tool to manage “Passwords and Encryption Keys”. Which helps you create and manage your PGP and SSH keys, cache your pass phrases and encrypt/decrypt your clipboard content.

The Language support for Urdu remains like it was in previous version. I had to go through a well practised procedure to enable my computer for Urdu. It is quite easy for me to do that but for new Ubuntu users it is still difficult. I wish that Ubuntu makes ttf-Nafess (already available in the main repository) installed by default and the Urdu/Pakistan keyboard layout should be replaced by this one. The default Ubuntu Urdu/Pakistan keyboard layout has its keys placed differently and new users find it difficult to use and eventually they replace it with the one I mentioned above.

The release notes mentioned Inkscape, which made me and others believe that it would be installed by default. But it is not installed by default in this beta version. It may be available by default in the final release. The final stable version will be available in April 2008.

Overall I am very pleased with Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron Beta, I used Dapper for a very long time and I loved it. I hope that Hardy will be even better than the Dapper and will help me convert more people to freedom.

More screenshots:

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron Screenshot

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy World Time Applet