Busy IT Month

Well it’s been a busy month for me at home and work.  I migrated my Sager NP8690 to Ubuntu 10.04 and created three virtual machines; Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.  To my surprise Windows Vista SP2 is extremely stable as a VM.  I disabled UAC because I don’t like being asked “are you sure you want to do this” from my PC.  Both Windows 7 and Windows XP SP3 ran well also.  Over all I was pleased with the performance from each VM.  Of course that changed when I tried to run two VMs at the same time,  I was running out of RAM.  I think if I had 8GB installed, running two VMs would have worked fine.

However, I was never able to get get Blu-Ray running in any VMs or in Ubuntu.  This bummed me out since I wanted I watch Star Trek.  Maybe I’ll ask Santa to bring a Blu-Ray player for Christmas.  Then I was informed by my wife that she needed Windows in order to work from home.  Plus she was not too thrilled that I didn’t create a account in Ubuntu for her.  Oops!

So I backed up everything (again) and reinstalled the image I took before wiping out my hard drive.  Since I am dual booting between Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04, I deiced to leave Windows with a larger partition and keep all my videos there.  I can access then easily enough from Ubuntu without much hassle.  I still need to install a few application in Ubuntu (Thunderbird, Filezilla) but for the most part I am finished.

Instead of trying to use Gwibber a buddy of mine said I should look into TweetDeck.  TweetDeck requires Adobe Air to install and run.  Being Adobe has issues with x64, there were no .deb files for my OS.  I downloaded the .bin file and from a Terminal window I typed ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin.  Now I can install TweetDeck and have access to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz accounts.

At work, I was asked to test a kickstart install script for RHEL 5.3 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) client install on a test PC.  I used a Dell Precision 370 which has a Intel P4 3.4 GHz  single core, 2GB of RAM, 80GB Sata drive, Nvidia Quadro FX 1400 card, and a DVD drive.  Installation took about 30 minutes.  I test several applications, accessing network shares, and printing to several network printers.  I still prefer Ubuntu or Linux Mint over RHEL, but it was fun to be part of a Linux project.

I also help with installing a new Dell server this week.  The job required us to install a keyboard/mouse tray, move an existing server and tape library up, install a new IP console KVM, and install the new ESX server.  Due to space limitations, we placed a LCD monitor on the side of the rack.  Because I hurt my back several day earlier I was asked not to lift anything.  So for me it was more of a learning experience.  Hopefully I will be asked to assist with other data room projects.

Right now I’m downloading openSuse 11.3 x64 on DVD.  Maybe this weekend I’ll try it out on a VM to see some of the new improvements I’ve read about.

Google Chrome 5 on my Ubuntu PC

A while ago I wrote about Google Chrome on my Windows 7 on my work and home PCs.  This week I installed Google Chrome 5 on all my PCs.  What made me install Chrome?  A full supported version for Linux.  Just download and install the .deb file.  The even have a x64 version too.

I decided to make Google Chrome my default browser on my Ubuntu 10.04 x64 notebook.  I had to modify Thunderbird 3.04 to run Google Chrome.  I will admit it’s fast.  Faster than Firefox on my computer.  Still there is the issue with unlimited cache files on my computer.  I guess i can remember to clean it out once in a while.   Maybe I can find a script to clean out the files every 30 days.

Setting up New Notebook Computer with Windows 7 I mean Ubuntu I mean Windows 7

Well I finally received my new notebook on Tuesday January 26.  I wanted to use my bootable BartPE USB jump drive to image the HDD before starting the first boot into Windows 7.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the correct drivers in the BartPE image for the NIC or the AHCI controller.  Even with this small issue, I enjoyed the nice color contrast on the 15.6″ widescreen at 1920×1080 with the glossy display.  I’ve seen displays exactly like mine at retail stores. Usually the displays are all gunked up with fingerprints and grime from shoppers.

I like the simple look of the case – flat black all around except for the small silver Sager logo centered on the lid.  There are only 2 stickers by the keyboard (HDMI and Intel Corei7) which does not give the computer a junked up look.  The chiclet keyboard, which has a number pad on the right) took no time to get use to.  Also there is little give in the center with normal pressure.

I booted into Windows 7 Ultimate and completed the mini setup wizard.  I am happy to report no bloatware installed.  Just the following applications:

  • Microsoft Office 2007 Standard 25 day trial (removed since I already own a copy of Office 2007 Professional)
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Blue-Ray player

Windows 7 recognized my wireless network and I installed the 64bit drivers for my HP 2605dn Color Laserjet network printer.  Test pages printed without problems so now it was time to customize the screen by installing the Star Wars and Pittsburgh Steelers Desktop Themes I made awhile ago.

On Wednesday I installed Ubuntu 9.10 64bit – removing Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit.  Ubuntu recognized everything except for the Nvidia card, but the Hardware Detection manager found the correct drivers for me and suggested which one to install.  Desktop effects and Compiz were enabled and finally have the cool 3D spinning cube, wobble windows, and all the special effects I could want on my notebook.  To finish up I installed the latest codecs for my multimedia files, Flash for Firefox and Virtualbox OSE.  But soon I started to have some problems.

VirtualBox OSE installed correctly.  I created a vm, installed Windows 7 and rebooted the vm as needed.  The performance was extremely slow.  WHAT??  This is a Core i7 with 6GB of 1333MHz RAM and a high-end Nvidia card with 1GB of dedicated RAM.  After shutting down the vm I verified I had my settings correct and tried agin.  Booting into the vm was extremely painful.  I do not have this issue at work on my Intel P4 3.4GHz with 2GB of RAM.  Since it was late I went to sleep to figure out what to do tomorrow.  When I got home from work the next day I booted the system and logged into Facebook to catch up with some friends.  While I was playing Farmville the session rebooted.  That was strange.  So I logged in again and went back to Facebook and the session rebooted again.  After logging in a third time I googled for a reason Ubuntu 9.10 64bit would randomly reboot the session.  Within three minutes it rebooted my session again.

Now I am extreamly upset with the system.  I fired off an e-mail to a buddy of mine, reinstalled my Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit CD and rebooted.  I spent the next several hours rebulding my PC.  Windows 7 installed within 20 minutes, spent the next 30 minutes running the drivers CD (the user interface was awesome – good job to the folks who designed it), and the rest of the time spent installing Office 2007 Professional, Thunderbird 3 (with all the addons I like), Firefox 3.6, Filezilla 3.3.1, Quicktime, VLC, Google Earth, Picasa, Skype, Trillian 4.1, and a few other applications.

I really wanted to run Ubuntu on my new notebook, but the 64bit seems too unstable.  Maybe I should have installed the 32bit version instead.  Either way, I am happy now with Windows 7.  I might at a later date install Ubuntu 10.04 or Linux Mint 9 on a second partition and have a dual-boot system.

I purchased Star Trek on Blu-Ray over the weekend and enjoyed watching the movie.  The picture looked great but the sound from the computer speakers was difficult to hear with the fans running.  I was able to connect the computer to my HDMI input for the TV, but the audio was not available.  I might be missing a setting for HDMI.

I have two issues with this notebook – battery and bluetooth.  For the battery you will get one hour out of it.  You will not be playing games, watching a movie, or reading at the local coffee shop unless you have p power outlet near by.  A two-hour battery should be the bare minimum for any notebook in my opinion.  Everytime the computer sleeps or reboots the bluetooth is off.  There is no option to leave it on in the Phoenix BIOS.  I don’t think any notebook PC I’ve ever used from HP, IBM, or Dell had bluetooth off with each boot.

I also purchased a Swiss Gear IBEX backpack to carry the computer and other stuff.  The bag is made of good materials and holds everything well.  I did read about a few people having problems with the zippers.  Out of the two bags at the store, only one had zippers that moved easily.

Besides these few issues with the hardware (battery life and bluetooth), I really like this computer.  It is fast, Windows 7 works great, Ubuntu 9.10 64bit worked well the first day (maybe a different distro for me in the future), cool options available, and a sweet screen as well.

Sager NP8690
Screen raised
Chiclet keyboard
DVI, e-sata, USB, audio input/output and express card
Power, HDMI, GB NIC, 2 USB, lock
DVD / Blu-Ray, card reader, 1394 firewire, USB, and modem
Screen closed with power supply

Thunderbird 3

Like many out there, I migrated from Thunderbird 2.23 or whatever version came with Ubuntu 9.10 to Thunderbird 3 the day it was released.  The upgrade went painlessly for the most part.  I also installed Thunderbird on my Linux Mint 8 USB jump drive.  I really enjoy this new version, and must say it’s about time for an update.

Since the initial migration from Evolution to Thunderbird, I’ve never considered moving back.  Thunderbird 3 is solid, reliable, multi-platform (Mac, Linux, and Windows), easy to use, and has a clean interface.  I’ve installed the following add-ons: Quicktext 0.9.10, Silvermel 1.3 (theme), Lightning 1.0 pre, and Provider for Google 0.6 pre (both had to be download from Mozilla FTP site).  Everything installed with no problems, and since I already had Quicktext installed before, all my signatures imported easily.

I think my only gripe, like almost everyone, Lightning should be included by default with Thunderbird. Why have an e-mail client without a calendar plugin?

Moved from Evolution to Thunderbird

About 2 weeks ago I migrated all my e-mail from Evolution to Mozilla Thunderbird. The process itself was not difficult. I made the switch because Evolution is too slow for my PC. I also like the option to change the themes in Thurderbird just like Firefox. The current theme I am running for Thurderbird (and Firefox) is Silvermel 1.1.2.

I configured Thunderbird for 2 e-mail accounts as I had with Evolution. My Gmail account is set as default. One thing when setting up multiple accounts from two different servers, be sure to specify your SMTP server for each individual account. For example, after setting up Gmail, I added the second ISP account using the Wizard. When I went back into the ISP account, I noticed my outgoing SMTP server was configured for Gmail. You can check your setting for each account under the menu bar Edit, Account Settings.

So now my accounts are ready, but now I want to migrate my e-mails, contacts, and calendar entries to Thunderbird. I found at Make Tech Easier by Damien.

I install Lightning 0.9 Calendar add-on.  This add-on will give you a PIM system which allows you to manage you daily schedule.  It nice and works well, but I use Google Calendar.  So I installed Provider for Google Calendar 0.5.2.  This add-on allows you to read and write to your Google Calendar.  please note, the Lightning add-on is required.  You will need your Private ICAL address from Google to make this add-on work.  Since I also like to have the US Holidays too, I created a separate Google calendar in Thurnderbird called US Holidays and used the Google public address http://www.google.com/calendar/ical/usa__en%40holiday.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics.

One thing that I could not get from Evolution for some reason was my list of birthdays and special dates.  This was one of those things that I never got around to importing into Google Calendar.  Since I still have Windows XP with Office 2007 on my other HDD, I rebooted into XP and exported my Outlook calendar to a csv file.  After importing the csv file into Google Calendar I opened Thunderbird and verified all my entries were available.  For one reason or another I had to reset the occurrence from “Does not Repeat” to “Yearly”.  More than likely I goofed the original entry way back when.

Everything looks great and is working correctly. But I like to sign my e-mails with signatures for different occasions. Some are funny (at least to me) and some have my personal information. To get this function I installed Quicktext. It’s easy to use and I created about 8 different signatures for my Gmail and ISP accounts. After you compose your message just click on the dropdown above the e-mail body field and choose your signature.

When I receive a message from one of my accounts, Thunderbird has its native popup, which works well but it doesn’t fall in-line with my Ubuntu popup notification. I found this cool addon (which is still under development) called Mozilla Notification Extensions 0.1.2. Be sure to read the “More about this add-on” section.  Once this is installed, turn off the Thunderbird popup notification and restart Thunderbird.

I left Evolution on my PC, but removed the Evolution Alarm Notifier and gmail cal I found several months ago (which allows Evolution to work better with Google Calendar) from Startup Applications.  So far I’ve been pleased with this migration. What I might want to look at is what would it take to migrate my Thunderbird setup to a USB to Windows XP or another Linux distro.

Outlook 2007 and the picture placeholder

Over the last few months, my wife was getting frustrated with Outlook 2007 (part of Microsoft Outlook 2007 with SP2.)   She subscribes to a few websites which offer coupons to print to help save on the grocery bills.  These e-mails are HTML enabled, and have lots of pretty pictures.  I know most of the smart people out there say “Yikes! Don’t view HTML enabled messages.”, but to be honest I like them myself.  And I know this isn’t the best security, but if you are not on my “safe-list”, then your HTML or rich text messages are set to plain text. or the HTML code is not displayed.

Now, back to her problem which became my problem.  None of the Rich Text or HTML messages were being displayed.  So I started searching the Internet and found several post regarding this issue.  Most of them suggested I run regedit and look for where Outlook was keeping the temp files and delete them.  Th reason is the temp directory is full.  Make sense to me;  how many times have you gone into a temp folder to see a ton of old Office documents that were never deleted after working on those documents.  Still the problem remained.

I figured, hey maybe Office got messed up and maybe I should repair it.  So then I logged into my account in Windows XP and checked my settings and found no problems.  I then said, to myself; “self, let’s check the registry settings on my account and compare them to  the Mrs.”  I could not find anything wrong or different when comparing the registry settings between the two accounts.  I even went as far as opening each message, clicking on the Microsoft logo in the upper left corner, click the editor button, scrolled down to Display e-mail content, and removing the check mark next to “Show Picture placeholder.” So after running through these tasks and from posts I found, nothing worked.

So after dealing with this problem, I decided to make it easy on myself by creating a new local account in Windows XP, migrating all documents, favorites, pictures, mp3, videos, and PST files.  Afterwards Outlook behaved correctly and all the messages were displayed the way the should be. Her old account is disabled so I can go back and look for what was causing this issue.  Because you know I will see this again from another family member or friend.

I know, some of you will say install Thunderbird, or say wipe out XP and give her an account in Linux.  But she is not ready for a major change.  Maybe when we replace the old family PC.  What I might do is setup and account for her so she can start to learn Ubuntu Linux and compare it to Windows 7 when it is released in late October.

Templates in Evolution – Update

Well it turns out Evolution does have a template feature in version 2.26.1.  Here are the steps to create the templates:

  1. Create a new e-mail.
  2. Give it a Subject (this is also the name of the template.)
  3. Modify the body of the e-mail, include and special signatures. fig 1
  4. From the menu bar, click File, Save As Template.  fig 2

In your folder lists located in the left windows panel, you will see the folder Templates.  That folder may have been there before, I’m not sure and I don’t remember.  fig 3 In the Templates folder you will see the template e-mail you created.  fig 4

Now you can right-click an e-mail and respond with a template you designed!  fig 5 You can double click the template from the Templates folder and send a new message without it removing the message from the Templates folder. fig 1

Templates in Evolution

I moved everything over from Windows XP to Ubuntu, and finished getting most of everything migrated from Outlook to Evolution.  I have to admit, I am still working out some personal issues with it, but that’s another topic.

When I used Outlook, I had several templates created.  One for jokes to everyone, another for jokes to others, and another for work I do on the side.  I tried to save a joke template in Evolution, but i can’t seem to figure out how to access that template when I want to send out a joke to my family.  the only thing I saw so far was from Scott Morris in an article called Message Templates in Evolution. It is a good idea, but i was really looking for something where i can save a file to my Desktop and double-click it to open in Evolution and have it ready to go.

I’ll keep searching the Internet, but maybe this is something I can research and build myself.