Wednesday, 30 May 2012

WE'VE MOVED

The new site is now up and running. This blog is no longer being maintained. Please head over to RefuGeeks.com for the newest updates.

Thanks for all your support whilst running Jingi Blog - I hope to get your continued support on RefuGeeks.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I'm Moving!

Well guys, I've been running this blog for a little over a year now and I'm starting to outgrow it unfortunately. So, I've started building a shiny new blog that is based on WordPress. The server is built and I have started work on it already. I am hoping to have the site live within the next Two weeks.

I'm also re-branding
The name 'Jingi Blog' is getting a bit tired I think, plus it's a bit naff :) so I will be completely re-branding the blog to an equally naff name. 'Refugeeks' - it will be a refuge for all geeks :D. Sad I know, but I like the sound of it.

Over to the right is the new logo, it's a very simple logo based loosely on the Ubuntu colours, although this is subject to change, I doubt the live version will change very much.

Over on the new blog I will have a lot more flexibility to add better, more in depth posts, so I will be blogging on there a hell of a lot more than I do on here...hopefully daily. This blog will stay alive, mainly as an archive and once the new site goes live, I will post a "We have moved" link. After a few months I might redirect blog.jingaling.co.uk and jingiblog.co.uk to the new site.

So if you like this blog and you want to keep reading what I write, then head on over to www.refugeeks.com. At the moment it's only got a countdown page up, but keep your eyes peeled - the new site will be live before you know it.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Blogger or Word Press?

Well gang, I've been running this blog on Blogger now for over a year now and it's served me well. The amount of hits I am getting to this blog is steadily growing so I have been thinking about moving the blog over to Word Press, hosted on my own server.

I was also going to take the opportunity to re-brand the blog as 'Jingi Blog' doesn't really sound all that cool to me. So I started playing around, registered a domain name (not going to say what it is yet), installed MYSQL and Word Press on the server and away I went.

I've so far spent around 12 hours solid on the new 'blog' and have absolutely nothing to show for it. I can't find any decent themes, customisation is a nightmare (it's very simple on Blogger) and doing the simplest thing like editing the home page is simply escaping me.

You see, I have 2 other 'sites', a wiki which I maintain and also my personal site. I was hoping to incorporate the whole lot under one nice tidy little package but I just can't for the life of me work out how to do it all.

What do you guys think? Have you used Word Press? Do you prefer one or the other? Please leave your thoughts in the comment field, I'd really love to hear them. :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin Review

Ok guys, after all the waiting Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin (12.04 for short) is here and I have to say, I'm loving it! I've deliberately waited a couple of weeks after the release to do my review as the Internet will be saturated with reviews, plus I wanted to spend some time with the OS before I actually wrote a review on it.

What's new?
Well, in short - A LOT! There have been a load of new additions to 12.04, some small, some not so small. With 12.04 being an LTS (Long Term Support) release, this means that this version will be supported by Ubuntu for longer so the emphasis for this release is on stability more than cosmetics.

However, they have got some great cosmetic additions in 12.04, some of these are:
  • The logon screen background changes to that of the users wallpapers when flicking between users.
  • The Ubuntu button, dash and notifications background change colour to the most commonly used colour within your wallpaper
  • The HUD (head up display) - more on that later.
  • More unity customisation by default - e.g. changing the launcher icon sizes.
  • Unity 2D looks a lot better.
Is it any good?
I've been using 12.04 since it's release in April and I have found it to be very stable, the only problem I have had so far is with the Bluetooth card on my laptop. I get an error every time I boot up, but apart from that, no problems. I don't use Bluetooth so this isn't a big deal for me.

12.04 seems to be a lot quicker than it's older brothers. I created a virtual machine with only 512MB RAM, no 3D acceleration and a single core CPU and 12.04 was perfectly usable. Although I did have to use Unity 2D because of the lack of 3D acceleration.

On my laptop (dual core AMD, 6GB RAM, 120GB SDD) it absolutely flies. I have run numerous OS's on this laptop and I can catagorically say that 12.04 is by far the most responsive I have used. Obviously I haven't compared this to deliberately light weight distro's like Xubuntu or Bhodi as these are not comparable OS's in my opinion. Although, I really don't think 12.04 will be far behind them in the speed stakes.

My Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop
Is it easy to use?
This is an easy one to answer, YES! Here's an example...Being the go-to-geek for all my family and friends I put Pinguy OS on my parents computer as my Mum kept infecting Windows (she's very gullible when it comes to emails). The machine they have isn't very powerful (AMD Athlon x2, 1GB RAM) and it is now pretty slow after a year of running Pinguy OS 10.04. So, I explained that I was upgrading her to Ubuntu 12.04 and that it would look different.

I used her as my Guinea pig and only showed her how to logon, shutdown and where the window management buttons are on a maximised windows (all of 5 minutes tuition). That was 2 weeks ago. I went up to visit at the weekend and asked how she is getting on, her response was "Why couldn't I have had this a year ago? Everything is really easy, I just press the 'swirly button', type what I want and press enter. Even your Step Dad can do it!" By 'swirly button' she means the Ubuntu dash button...old people and their technical terms. :)

So if my parents can use 12.04 with literally only 5 minutes tuition then I think anyone will be able to use it.

The HUD
This is a fantastic addition for basic and power users alike. Personally, as a 'power user' I prefer to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible as it's quicker and I don't have to break concentration. The HUD really helps with this. All you need to do is hit the alt button and you are able to search the menus for the application you are in. Use the arrows, hit enter on the correct command and it's executed.

So, for example, if I'm in LibreOffice drafting a blog post and I want to save progress, I hit alt start typing 'save'. In the HUD menu I should see File > Save. Use the arrows to select that and hit enter. Ta-da! My document is saved. Before anyone says, I am aware that I can just hit ctrl+s - it's just an example. :) I can personally see this replacing the global menu that is currently on the panel. I'm sure time will tell if I'm correct or not.

Unity HUD in action


Conclusion
This is a simple one...Download and install Ubuntu 12.04 and your earliest opportunity. It's a fantastic Operating System that will only get better and better. With things like Ubuntu TV & Ubuntu for Android on the horizon I really don't think it will be long before Ubuntu is a household name...even amongst non-geeks. :)

Links
Download Ubuntu
Hints & Tips on customising Ubuntu/Unity

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Google Drive Review (Windows)

So, the long awaited Google Drive has finally been released but unfortunately Google have decided not to release a Linux client yet. They do hint that a Linux client is in the making and will be along soon but with Google being such Linux advocates and using their own version of Ubuntu internally, I would have thought the Linux client would have been available on release.

On a positive note though, I used Google Apps for my emails and usually us Google Apps users have to wait a while longer to get new Google features but it's great to see that Google Drive is available for Google Apps users from the start.

So because there is no Linux client, I've powered up my Windows 7 install (for the first time in months) and after some time of running Windows updates etc I now have Google Drive installed and working on my Windows 7 box.

What is Google Drive?
Well, Google Drive is basically Googles answer to Dropbox or Ubuntu One (U1) - it syncs files and folders to the cloud and between machines and mobile devices. 

Is it any good?
Well that's a tough question to answer, in my opinion it's nothing special, it syncs your Google Docs to your machine but when you click on a Google Doc icon it still opens it in your browser as usual. To me this isn't very good. At the very least I would have liked to have seen the document open in a cut down browser window so that it looks like a separate application. With it just opening in your browser as a normal Google Doc then I really don't see the point in syncing them to your computer.

Other documents are a different matter though, Google Drive will sync them between machines but when you try to open them in the wen interface all you see is a preview, you cannot edit the document from your browser. So, if you are away from your computer you can't edit documents without downloading them, changing them and then uploading them again....just like Ubuntu One and Dropbox - poor show there Google!

Google are clearly trying to promote Google Docs with this tool and using Google Docs will mean that you can edit your docs anywhere but my question still stands - If you do this then what's the point n Google Drive? As you could always do this in Google Docs.

Google Drive does have dome advantages over Ubuntu One and Dropbox, you get 5GB free storage (the same as U1 and 3GB more than Dropbox), you have a revision history on all files (U1 doesn't offer this) and it is cheaper than Dropbox and offers better storage increments 20GB - $2.49/month, 100GB - $4.99/month & 200GB - $9.99/month. Also, if you upgrade your plan to a paid one Google will give you 25GB of storage in Gmail instead of 10GB. To find out more about Google Price Plans then check THIS LINK. 

Should I move to Google Drive?
Well I can't tell you what to do, you need to make that decision yourself but I personally use U1 and I won't be moving away from that anytime soon. If you use Google Docs for your documents or if you have a Chromebook then I think Google Drive will serve you very well but at the moment I personally don't see any clear advantages to moving away from U1 - but, I will be keeping an eye on Google Drive as Google will no doubt and more and more features over time as they do with all of their products.

Are you using Google Drive? Why not comment on how you are finding it.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Some New Ubuntu Wallpapers

Hey guys,

I recently saw a post on OMG! Ubuntu about creating custom wallpapers for Unity that make it look a little cooler. Basically you set you panel and launcher to 100% opacity and then create a wallpaper with a 'banner' on the top and left hand side that colour in the launcher and panel. This simple design has a really nice effect.

Anyway, I also dabble in artwork (very basic stuff) and decided to have a try at making my own version of one of these wallpapers. Seeing a lot of 'Keep calm & carry on' type artwork around, I thought I would create a wallpaper that is like this. So I created one that says 'Keep Calm and run Ubuntu'. I have created the wallpaper in varying colours (all official Ubuntu colours), varying sizes and some 'normal' wallpapers that don't have the panel and launcher fills on them. I've already posted them on my Google+ page to which they are receiving a lot of love so I thought I would post them here so you guys can take a look. If you like them please feel free too leave a comment. Here is a preview and the download link:

These wallpapers assume that your launcher size is 38px

Saturday, 14 April 2012

How To Secure Your PC FOR FREE! [Windows]

So I recently got a call of a friend, of a friend, of a friend who told me that they had a virus and asked if I could have a look at it for them. Being the local geek for all of my friends and family a agreed and popped round to see him one evening after work. 'Might have a virus' was possibly the biggest understatement I have ever heard, this thing was riddled with virus's, malware, bots and pretty much anything else you can think off. In the end the machine was so badly infected I decided to back up all the files and completely re-install the Operating System (Windows 7) but before doing so I had to ask him how it got so bad. His reply, "I dunno, it just started happening a few months ago and it keeps getting worse". I noticed that he had no anti-virus on the machine so no wonder the machine was so badly infected!

So anyway, I fixed the machine and I shared some pearls of wisdom with him in order to make sure he doesn't have a repeat performance and I thought I would then share this with you guys. So here are my top 4 tips for helping to reduce infections that come your way.

1. Get Some Anti-Virus Software

This is probably the most important thing you will need. Anti-Virus Software (AV for short) pro-actively scans your computer and checks new files that are being added/downloaded automatically. It will then warn you if it thinks a file is an infection. You can also run scans on demand and scan particular files before opening them. There are many different types of AV out there, some free, some you have to pay for. Personally, I've always used free AV and I have NEVER had a virus.

The best of the free AV in my opinion (and it's the one I use on all my machines running Windows) is Avast! free edition, it can be downloaded from HERE. It will do everything I have said above and more. I would suggest disabling the sound from the settings menu as they can be annoying. Also, make sure that your AV is ALWAYS kept up to date. If you don't then you are more vulnerable to infection.

2. Get Some Anti-Malware Software

Malware is short for Malicious Software. It is like a virus but generally they have different signatures (pieces of code that AV and AM use to find infections) and they tend to be more of an annoyance than something that can do damage to your machine. Generally malware will do things like change your home page and re-direct you to different pages on the internet automatically. Not all Malware is this 'mild' though, some Malware infections can be extremely damaging.

This is where Anti-Malware software (AM for short) comes in. As I said above, Malware infections tend to have different signatures from Viruses so some AV will not pick Malware up. Not to worry, there is a brilliant free tool call MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM for short) that will hunt down and remove Malware infections. You can download it for free from HERE. As with Avast! you can setup MBAM to run regular scans automatically on your machine. Again, it is VERY IMPORTANT to ALWAYS keep your AM and AV up to date so that they can find the newest infections.

3. Don't Open Emails From People You Don't Know

This is really obvious but most people don't follow it. It's simple, if you receive an email that you aren't expecting and it's from someone you don't know then delete it. The chances are it is at the very least it's spam and worst case a virus/malware. A common email infection that I have seen going around is an email from a 'delivery company' about 'your package' these can be a pretty malicious piece of malware embedded that disassociates all .exe files on your computer. This basically means that you can't run any applications, bad! So please be cautious.

Another little tip on email is to have 2 email addresses. Your main address (john.smith@gmail.com for example) and a secondary anonymous address (mymail3445@gmail.com for example). Then, if you ever find yourself having to fill out forms online that require an email address (which is extremely common) then you can use your generic address. This enables you to vet the company, so, once you know that they aren't going to spam you or that they are legitimate then you can log on to your account and simply change your email address with them. This is what I do and I get very little (around 2-3 mails) spam in my main mailbox. Whereas my secondary address get a tonne of spam daily. There are also free anti-spam tools that you can download and install into outlook to help it find and remove spam more efficiently. The best one I have use is SpamBayes, you can fine out more about SpamBayes HERE.

4. Keep Windows Up To Date

Windows updates are extremely important but a lot of people just see them as an annoyance that delays their computer from shutting down. When a vulnerability is found in the code for Windows either through an infection or by users reporting via crash reports, Microsoft gets to work on 'patching' the hole. These 'patches' are then released as Windows Updates. So you see, if you don't keep Windows up to date you are leaving your machine much more vulnerable than a fully 'patched' computer.

Once turned on, Windows updates will run on your computer automatically on a regular basis. You can turn them on by going to Start > Control Panel > Windows Updates > Check Settings.

As I said earlier on in this post, I have never had a virus in all the years I have been computing and all I do is follow these very simple guidelines. I hope this information is useful and if it helps just one person save some time and some money by not getting infected then it's all worth it. :)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Looking for a replacement for Internet Explorer? Look no further.

Ok, so I work for a small company called Hewlett Packard, some of you may have heard of it. Our ticket logging system requires Internet Explorer (IE) in order for it to work correctly (or at all in fact). My browser of choice tends to be Firefox, mainly because of it's extensions and customisability, both of which IE is severely lacking in.

The problem is that all browsers have an engine that runs underneath the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and this engine is used to decipher the code that is sent to your computer from the internet and display it in a nice human form. There are different types of engines that run on different browsers, IE uses Trident, Firefox uses Gecko and Chrome uses WebKit. All render web pages in slightly different ways. There is a really good site called browsershots.org that will compare your site on different browsers and give you a screen shot of what it will look like. HERE is a look to what this blog looks like across all the different browser types.

Anyway, I digress. Our ticketing systems will only run on the Trident engine which means I can't use Ubuntu in work as Trident only runs on Windows (sucks I know). So I'm on my Windows 7 work laptop and I find myself using IE quite a lot as our ticketing system is used extensively by all the engineers. As I said, I loath IE so I started hunting around for other Trident based web browsers. I had a look at a few other browsers that are Trident based like Maxthon, MenuBox and SlimBrowser but none of these had the level of functionality I was looking for - apart from Maxthon which had too much going on and the GUI was far to busy for my liking.

So, a little more time and research went by and I came across Lunascape. It can be installed with all 3 of the engines I mentioned above and you can quickly and easily flip between them. I was only interested in Trident though as I use Firefox for everything else. The GUI is really slick looking and the pages seem to load a lot better in Lunascape than they do in IE (for me anyway). I've been using Lunascape for around a week now and I haven't had any problems with it at all.

I've had to edit the screenshot to remove some information (specifically the tab bar). This is why some parts of it may look strange.

All in all I've found Lunascape to be an excellent alternative to IE, it's no replacement for Firefox or Chrome in my opinion but is far better than IE. So if you have a system that requires IE compatibility or if you just want to try out a new browser - why not give Lunascape a try.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ubuntu 11.10 Vs Windows 7 - Clash Of The Titans!

As most people who read my blog will know, Ubuntu vs Windows and which is better is widely debated within the community. In this post I will add my point of view as to which is better in my opinion. I must stress at this point that I am not a Linux or Windows 'fanboy' I used both Windows and Ubuntu on a regular basis and I think both Win 7 and Bun2 11.10 are excellent operating systems for very different reasons.

So what sparked this post? Well, I recently bought myself a new laptop (a HP Pavilion DM1-425ea 11.6", 6GB RAM, 320GB HDD, AMD Dual Core, Radeon HD Graphics). So, I got the laptop home and the first thing I did was was take a full image of the laptop, as it was before even booting it up. This means that I have a factory image no matter what happens. I then preceded to delete all the partitions on the Hard Drive and then installed Windows 7 Home Premium x64 and Ubuntu 11.10 x64 side-by-side on the Hard Drive. Re-installing Windows meant that I got rid of all the HP 'bloatware' that came on the machine.

Ok, so I've now got two completely vanilla operating systems that I haven't done anything with...I haven't even booted them up to check compatibility or run updates (bear in mind that my laptop brandishes the certified Windows 7 hardware sticker on it). I start off by configuring Windows as this is usually the most time consuming. I boot to Windows only to find that the only device driver that Windows 7 has picked up is my speakers (beats audio ones), no LAN, no Wireless, 800x600 resolution...nothing. So, I can't do anything on this OS yet as I have no internet, so, off to Ubuntu land we go...

I've now rebooted to Ubuntu; low and behold absolutely all my hardware works straight out of the box - I don't seem to remember seeing a certified Ubuntu hardware sticker on my laptop...how ironic. So I download all my Windows drivers from HP and bang them on to my NTFS partition for Windows to pick up. I then run some updates (around 300MB), configure Ubuntu One to download all my data, change my theme and wallpaper and finally install a handful of apps from the software centre. The whole process took around 30 minutes (with absolutely no terminal work) and I have a fully working and functional operating systems. So, back to Windows land we go...

Ok, I'm now back in Windows 7 and I have my drivers all ready and waiting for me. I install them all and re-boot and I now have a lovely looking desktop with a resolution of 1366x768...so much better :). I activate Windows (I had to phone Microsoft for this as Internet activation failed) and then install 208MB of updates, re-boot and install more updates, re-boot again and install a third set of updates...2.5 hours (and a lot of Xbox) later and Windows is now up to date. Oh crap, I don't have an office package (in my case Libre), AV (Avast Free), PDF reader (Foxit), DVD burner (CD Burner XP), IM client (Digsby) and a handful of other programs that I need on a daily basis (most of which are installed by default in Ubuntu). So I spend another hour downloading and installing various programs and now, nearly 4 hours later I have Windows running how I need it to run...I need by bed by this point!

Conclusion
When people see my desktop running Ubuntu they often say to me, "wow, what's that?" I then explain that it is Ubuntu and it's free etc etc etc and they soon want a download link. Other people ask if it's easy to install and run. The simple answer and the evidence above prove that Ubuntu is easier to install and configure than Windows and provided you are not using your computer for anything really advanced like programming and that you have no pre-conceived ideas that Ubuntu will work just like Windows then you will get on with it just fine (after all, how hard is it to hit the Windows/Super key, search for what you want and hit enter to open it up?).

In short, if you want familiarity and guaranteed compatibility then go for Windows. If you want a computer that is quick, stable, virus free and something different then download Ubuntu. Windows 7 is a fantastic OS, as is Ubuntu but during my experience recently of setting both operating systems up at the same time (which I haven't done for ages) then Ubuntu is the way forward.

By the way, here is that "wow, what is that?" desktop I was talking about:


I hope you enjoyed this article and you all continue to love Ubuntu, Windows and more importantly, this blog :).



Wednesday, 28 March 2012

I've got a new Wiki - CHECK IT OUT!

Hey Guys,

Over the last week or so I've been working on a new wiki. It's based on Ubuntu and will give a lot of useful hints and tips on how to manage and customise Ubuntu. Please feel free to head on over and check it out, here is the address:

Jingi Wiki - www.jingiwiki.co.uk


I will be adding regular updates to the Wiki so why don't you bookmark it :)

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Windows 8 Customer Preview REVIEW

Well, I've been playing with Windows 8 since the customer preview was released around 3 days ago and I thought I would share my experience so far with you lot so you can get an insight to what Windows 8 is like and what my personal opinions are about the OS.

First Impressions
Well after booting it up I was confronted with the new Metro interface (pictured below) and I have to say it's different, VERY different. I can see where Microsoft are going with the single User Interface (UI) across all of their applications but I just can't see it taking off on their PCs.


Usability
Well, as you can see above, the Metro UI does look pretty cool but (and it's a big but) I can't find my way around things. I am a certified Windows professional and it took me around 5 minutes to work out how to shut the machine down (you click on your name then select sign out, then drag the lock screen up and press the power button....convoluted or what!).

The UI does look a lot less cluttered and is customisable by right clicking on the blue background and selecting 'all apps'. But I just can't see this interface taking off, on a home computer or tablet then yes but not on a business or enterprise level machine it looks to 'toys r us' for my liking.

As you can see from the screen shot above, I have installed Firefox on this machine as the version of Internet Explorer (IE) that comes on Windows 8 is horrendous to use! The whole process is counter intuitive for a 'normal' desktop (i.e. keyboard & mouse) and doing simple things like opening a new tab is a few clicks away and pretty hidden behind a right click (which brings up the menu's) and I can't for the life of me work out how to do simple things like saving images from web pages or setting a new home page. Here are a couple of screen shots of IE:

No menu's at all on the 'normal' screen



Right Click menu in IE

Because of the poor mouse & keyboard integration and clear design for touch screen devices, I had to install Firefox to have a normal browser again. EDIT: I've since found out that you can run IE in a normal mode by running it from the desktop. I can't even work out how to close applications in Windows 8 so I have a feeling that system memory would fill up fast when multi-tasking because of all the applications running in the background.

Now it's not all doom and gloom, there is the desktop feature on Windows 8 which give a more traditional desktop environment, one which I find myself in most of the time. Unfortunately there is no start menu in the traditional environment and if you press the Windows key on the keyboard then it shows the Metro interface. Here is the default desktop on Windows 8:


A really good feature that Microsoft have implemented is the ribbon interfaces in Windows Explorer. I think this is a great idea as it ties in brilliantly with Microsoft Office and gives users a very fluid feel throughout the operating system. Here are some screen shots:


 

Conclusion
Well unfortunately it's a big thumbs down for me. I loath the Metro interface, I think that Microsoft have catered for the touch screen interfaces rather than the traditional desktop (screen, mouse & keyboard). It's very difficult to navigate around, very different and I think that a lot of users who are used to Windows will get lost at first. I really hope that Microsoft decide to put some kind of 'traditional' mode that users can log into to have a traditional desktop. I think this will be even more prevalent for business customers.

I'd like to stress that this is only my personal opinion, I think Windows 7 is an excellent Operating System and I really hope that Microsoft make some changes for the final release in order to keep the vast majority of their user base (traditional desktops) happy.

If you want to try the Windows 8 Customer Preview for yourself then take a look at the link below (you will need silverlight installed):