Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spending the weekend with Kubuntu

We're in Philadelphia this weekend. I'm working on a story for NPR on the Philadelphia mayor's race, and I wanted to record the first televised debate between the 5 democratic candidates, which was taped this morning.

I got to play with all my new equipment. I had my Zoom H-4 plugged into the mult box to record audio while I took notes on my new Toshiba notebook. I expect to use some of the tape in a feature that'll run next month, but I'm also turning around a short story for WHYY for Monday. So I have all of the equipment I need to produce a radio piece and file it on the go. Pretty exciting.

But since I wasn't on too tight a deadline, when the debate was over, I went back to our friends' house, put the computer down, and planned to go run some errands with Farrah.

On our way to the car, the phone rang. NPR wants an update on Governor John Corzine's automobile accident. On Thursday evening he was on his way to meet with Don Imus and the women of the Rutgers basketball team. His SUV was struck by a white pickup truck and the governor wound up in the hospital. He broke a dozen ribs and his femur. This morning he'd undergone surgery.

Turns out the white pickup truck that had hit Corzine's SUV was swerving to avoid a red pickup truck. The driver of that truck had driven away from the scene. Today, police tracked him down and he says the reason he drove away is because he hadn't realized he was involved in the accident.

It took a while to get anyone from the New Jersey state police to call me back today, because it's a Saturday when their public information office isn't fully staffed, and because everybody was calling today. But once I got the information, I figured I was good to go. I could call NPR back, file the story, and get back to running errands.

But here's the thing. A bit earlier in the day I had decided to try out my Kubuntu 7.04 installation on this laptop. One of the first things I did was check for the latest versions of all the software installed and hit the update button. Wow, that was amazingly easy.

I also love how simple it is to install most programs. Want Firefox? Just fire up Adept Manager, search for Firefox, and there it is. No browsing to a website, downloading a file to your PC, installing it, hoping you have all the prerequisites to run it. Most things you could ever want are sitting right there in a repository.

Of course, once you start looking for things that aren't on that list, it gets complicated.

And while I grew up using DOS, I've kind of gotten out of the habit of using the command line. A few years ago I dabbled with Linux for a few days and taught myself a few commands and how to use vi text editor. But there's an awful lot I don't know about using Linux. So while Kubuntu is great as an operating system with a convenient GUI, I'm still a bit wary on the underlying file system.

So anyway, back to the narrative. I had managed to get all the information I needed to write up my spots about the police finding the driver of the red pickup truck. And I had done it while using Kubuntu and Firefox. I even installed Audacity, so I could edit my voicetrack in Linux if I really wanted to. But my FTP client with information for NPR's FTP site was on my Vista installation.

So I hit reset, figuring I'd boot back into Windows and finish up there. I'd written all of my notes using Google Docs, so there would be no trouble trying to move files back and forth between operating systems. They were all online.

Just one problem. When I rebooted, GRUB popped up. And there was no option for Vista. I booted back into Kubuntu.

Okay, no problem, I thought. When I'd first installed Kubuntu, GRUB had recognized Vista, but had placed it at the bottom of the list. Since I still figure I'll use being using Windows more than Linux for a while, I had figured out how to move it up. I found a tutorial for installing a dual boot system that mentioned how to add Vista to GRUB, and used the instructions as a guideline for moving Vista from the bottom of the list to the top.

But I had looked that article up using my web browser on my desktop at home. And I couldn't for the life of me remember where I had found it or what search terms I had used. So it took a while before I found it again.

And once I did, it turned out that it was useless. For some reason, the first time I had edited GRUB, I'd had no problems. This time, I was told that the file was read-only. Okay, I knew I had to edit the permissions. But I couldn't remember how to do that.

Back to Google. I spent a fair amount of time searching for information about permissions in Linux generally, or in Ubuntu/Kubuntu specifically. But most of the tutorials are too broad, too specific, or just too hard to understand for someone that's new to Linux.

Finally, after about 45 minutes, I found a tip that saved my day. Rather than messing around with vi, or logging out of my user account and logging in as root, I could open a window with root privileges, edit a file, and be done with it.

All you have to do is press Alt-F2, and type "kdesu konqueror." Now you have root privileges in that window until you close it. If you're using Ubuntu, you hit Alt-F2 and type "gksudo nautilus," and if you're using Xubuntu, you type "gksudo thunar."

Finally, I was able to restore Vista to GRUB, boot back into it, write, edit, and file my stories via FTP. The thing is, I really like Kubuntu. But the learning curve is a little bit steeper than that for Vista, because I've been using Windows for the last 12 years or so. It's too early to say whether I'll make Vista or Kubuntu, or some other distribution my primary operating system. But I'm definitely not ready to use Kubunu full-time just yet.

By the way, this is my first blog post written using Kubuntu.


Syahid Ali said...

love ubuntu. prefer xubuntu instead. love the fast interface.

Syahid Ali said...

love ubuntu. prefer xubuntu instead. love the fast interface.

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