Returning to Ubuntu, Maverick Meerkat

After using Windows 7 for a long while, I got bored and wanted to give Ubuntu another go-around. For the uninitiated, Ubuntu is an operating system that is free for you to use and tinker with. It’s a GNU/Linux distribution and development is spearheaded by a for-profit company called Canonical (which is run by a South African billionaire, Mark Shuttleworth). Major updates to the operating system are pushed out every six month thus guaranteeing that things are always going to be kept fresh/updated. I went with Ubuntu primarily because I like how it looks out of the box. By accounts, Canonical/Ubuntu has done a lot to ensure that their Linux distribution is user friendly which has made Ubuntu, the recommended distro of choice for newbies. This post will talk about my experience with installing Ubuntu and applications that have made my transition from Windows to Ubuntu less jarring & worth the move.

Preliminary Steps:

If you’ve decided to make the switch, please make sure sure you have backups. I like to talk about backups because not having them is devastating when you need them. Here is a small rehash review of things to think of backing up:

  1. Browser bookmarks: If you use Chrome, you should’ve enabled the Google “Backup” feature baked into Chrome. In Firefox, export your bookmarks by going to “Bookmarks” and selecting “Organize bookmarks”.
  2. Address book and/or Calendar appointments: Outlook can backup your calendar & addressbook in comma or tab separated values or in the proprietary .pst format. Pick your poison; Just make sure the email program you intend on using in Ubuntu can support import of the backed up file. To be on the safe side, I never use Post Office Protocol (POP) for accessing my emails through my email client; IMAP is the way to go. That way, you don’t have to worry about keeping your emails on disk.
  3. Music files (pay particular attention to backing up your Amazon MP3 files because you can only download them once or twice!), painstakingly handcrafted music playlists, important photographs or screencaptures, downloaded video files, free/paid downloaded programs, etc
  4. Above all, make sure those important items are on an external hard drive and not on the disk that you are about to wipe! Once you’ve done this step, it wouldn’t hurt to have a full disk backup which you can do via Windows 7’s built-in Backup Program or using Acronis True Image.

The Ubuntu Installation Process

  1. As of 02/27/2011, the current version of Ubuntu is 10.10 dubbed “Maverick Meerkat”. Make sure you have the right architecture type i.e. if your notebook is a 64-bit computer, download the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. Burn the .iso file to a DVD file using ImgBurn on Windows 7. Label this disk with the date and Ubuntu version. Insert the Ubuntu disk into your notebook’s CD/DVD tray and restart your computer. On HP notebooks, you may have to tell the computer to boot up from the CD/DVD drive. You can do that by pressing “Esc” (on the dv7-3080us notebook) once you see the HP logo appear about 1-2 seconds after the computer starts back up. If pressing the “Esc” key doesn’t work for you, make sure you know what that key is by closely observing any text that you see the next time your computer boots up. On my notebook, I have to press “F9” to navigate to the BIOS boot up options and tell the computer to look in my CD/DVD drive. Once you’ve done that, the computer restarts and boots up from the disk in your CD/DVD drive.
  2. The last version of Ubuntu I used was 9.04 so I noticed that the Ubuntu installer got tweaked and made the process of partitioning or wiping my hard disk easier. At some point, I do want to know more about my system, but this time, I was content with letting the Ubuntu installer be the smart one. In my case, I chose to wipe my entire hard disk. If you are interested in running both Ubuntu and Windows off the same disk, I’ve read that it’s best to install Windows first before installing whatever distro you have next.
  3. While the new installer is running, you’ll have to enter details like your first and last name, username for logging in, and whether or not you want to encrypt your home folder. I opted to encrypt my home folder to ensure my data would remain unreadable if someone decided to pop my hard disk out to read in a different computer.

After The Installation

  1. One of the first things that happened on the reboot was: Update manager popped up with almost 300 mb of updates. Whatever you do, it’s always a good thing to run Update Manager (or Windows Updates) after a fresh install first. While my updates were downloading, I took the opportunity to start copying my files from the external hard disk over to my /home folder. I tried to avoid doing any customization until I restarted the computer after this first set of updates.
  2. My notebook has an Nvidia graphics card and there is a proprietary driver available for it. Thankfully, Ubuntu detected this and I was able to download and install this as well. If you’re big on gaming, you’ll want to install this driver as it enabled 3D acceleration and unlocks some more functionality.

Installing Applications

With Windows 7, I had 2 apps that I would *always* reinstall whenever I reformatted my notebook:

  1. Camtasia Studio: Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio always made the list because it made creating videos, of whatever I was doing on my computer, ridiculously easy.
  2. SnagIt: Another TechSmith production and a must-have because it made creating screen captures painless and annotating those screen captures even easier.

Thus far, I’ve found a worthy alternative to SnagIt, no real Camtasia Studio alternatives *AND* discovered a new application that has made my life easier!

  1. Shutter: Shutter is written in Perl and stands heads-and-shoulders above the other screen capture contenders in the Ubuntu Software Center. Created by, Shutter makes screen captures in Ubuntu as painless as SnagIt is. To be fair, Shutter is not as snappy as SnagIt, but for a free product, I was blown away. Check out my gallery of the options available with Shutter or look at this animated image (created in GIMP! :P)showing all the options available in Shutter.
  2. is a photo-sharing site that I found out via HackerNews. Since my switch to Ubuntu, my use of the service has soared and allowed me to see just how useful this website is. You see, I didn’t realize that my method of sharing my files was archaic & painful until I used the desktop tool.Previously, TwitPic was the photosharing site I used and uploading pictures to the TwitPic service looked like this:
    1. Visit the TwitPic website
    2. Login with their horrendous Twitter authorization system; Caveat: If you’re logged into, you’ll automatically get logged into TwitPic. If not, you have to suffer through this image every.time.
    3. Click the link that takes me to the “File Upload” page
    4. Upload my file, have to annotate it right away. Also, remember to uncheck the “broadcast to Twitter” box; bad TwitPic.
    5. Highlight and copy the url for sharing.

    In fact, it was *better* for me to use Tweetdeck to upload images to my TwitPic account!

    Anyway, I needed a better means of dragging-and-dropping to share my screenshots from Ubuntu and has a very simple solution; On Ubuntu, download the .deb file and install it (which should bring up the Ubuntu Software Center).

    With, your photo-sharing steps are reduced to this:

    1. Go to the website
    2. Drag and drop your file on to the webpage
    3. One-click sharing of the screenshot to: Twitter, Reddit, Digg, Facebook, StumbleUpon or good old-fashioned E-mail. Or copy the conveniently provided URL to your clipboard for sharing in IM chats or blog posts like this one. 🙂
    4. Visit the TwitPic website.
    5. Login with their horrendous Twitter authorization system; Caveat: If you’re logged into, you’ll automatically get logged into TwitPic. If not, you have to suffer through this image every.time.
    6. Click the link that takes me to the “File Upload” page
    7. Upload my file, have to annotate it right away
    8. Highlight and copy the url for sharing.

    The developers are connected to their growing base of user via the @mindotus twitter account, the Facebook page and the feedback forum. In my experience, they have been very responsive to issues I’ve had such as the problem installing the desktop tool on my 64-bit Ubuntu system. When installing the desktop tool on x64 Ubuntu, you will get this message:

    Don’t panic. I contacted the devs at via Facebook (and Twitter) to let them know of the problem and within 24 hours, I got a response detailing how to work around the issue.

    Here’s the solution to the “wrong architecture” message I got when installing the minusubuntu.deb file for v. 1.1. For the “TL;DR” version: see my Pastebin of the results.

    1. Fire up the terminal and type “sudo dpkg -i –force-architecture /path/to/minusubuntu.deb“. You’ll be prompted for your password; Enter it.
    2. You’ll get this warning:

      dpkg: warning: overriding problem because –force enabled: package architecture (i386) does not match system (amd64)

      and be alerted to more potential dependency problems:

      Selecting previously deselected package minus-desktop-tool.
      (Reading database … 164082 files and directories currently installed.)
      Unpacking minus-desktop-tool (from …/jane/Downloads/minusubuntu.deb) …
      dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of minus-desktop-tool:
      minus-desktop-tool depends on libqt4-gui (>= 4.7); however:
      Package libqt4-gui is not installed.
      minus-desktop-tool depends on libqt4-core (>= 4.7); however:
      Package libqt4-core is not installed.
      dpkg: error processing minus-desktop-tool (–install):
      dependency problems – leaving unconfigured
      Processing triggers for desktop-file-utils …
      Processing triggers for python-gmenu …
      Rebuilding /usr/share/applications/desktop.en_US.utf8.cache…
      Processing triggers for python-support …
      Errors were encountered while processing:

    3. The key takeaway from that glob of text is that: you need to install the following packages: libqt4-gui and libqt4-core. Do this by typing:
      apt-get install libqt4-gui libqt4-core” which should spit out this message:

      The following extra packages will be installed: libqt4-designer libqt4-opengl libqt4-script libqt4-svg libqt4-test

      The following NEW packages will be installed: libqt4-core libqt4-designer libqt4-gui libqt4-opengl libqt4-script libqt4-svg libqt4-test

    4. As for Camtasia Studio alternatives, I’ve currently working with Pitivi Video Editor (reviewed on LWN) and recently released OpenShot Video Editor. So far, I’m cautiously optimistic about OpenShot which was featured on

    If you’ve enjoyed this article, follow me (@janetalkstech) on Twitter for more and subscribe to the blog’s feed!

Gaming and Apps on the Nokia N8

I’ve been an Android user (running Cyanogenmod, a custom Android software solution) using the G1 since July 2010. The G1 is pretty old in internet-years (Fall of 2008) and seems under-powered as compared with smartphones of 2010. As I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of “Doing More” with my cellphone and as I try to transition to carrying less devices with me, I have grown tired of the G1 and its weak hardware underpinnings; It’s so bad that Angry Birds won’t even run on the G1. 🙂

As my post about choosing the Nokia N8 details, I did my research and pulled the plug on getting a Nokia N8. Even as I still have reservations about (i)Whether Nokia will decide to release an different N-series model instead of fixing current software problems with the Nokia N8 and the future of “Symbian” and where Nokia is going with Symbian/Meego, I still think the Nokia N8 shines when it comes to games and apps made specifically for it! My smartphone experience has been sadly limited to underpowered devices like the ATT Tilt running a custom Windows Mobile ROM and the Google G1 running a custom mod. So, in comparison to those devices, the N8 feels like a speed demon.

Without rehashing the reasons for picking the N8, this post will attempt to give:

  1. an overview of games I like on the N8
  2. what apps that developers should be looking to port or create as Nokia plows on with Symbian.
  3. and apps that make sticking with the N8 worth my while.

Gaming on the Nokia N8

In the few days I’ve had my Nokia N8, I purchased 4 games for it. There are several games in the Ovi Store, but the only ones worth mentioning are mostly the Racing apps, Angry Birds and most games by Gameloft. The others “look” shoddy*. Thankfully, the few games I’ve paid for have left me thoroughly impressed with how the Nokia N8 handles the games and multi-tasking. After a temporary return to my antique G1, I’ve come to miss my N8 quite badly. Below are the games I purchased and some commentary about them.

  1. Hero of Sparta HD: I particularly like this game because there’s lots of slashing and jumping to be done. The on-screen controls feel like you’re handling a joystick (sez a less-than-parttime gamer) and the graphics are gorgeous on the N8’s screen. I haven’t even gotten past the first level, but I would definitely recommend this as a must-have gaming app and cheap at $2.99. Buy.
  2. James Cameron’s Avatar HD: I haven’t even seen the Avatar movie, but I decided to take a leap of faith by buying this game. I didn’t get past the first level because I was disappointed with the graphics which were frankly disappointing. However, this review on TalkAndroid talks about the “amazing 3D graphics”. The game looks like one of those 2D side-scrolling games on the Nokia N8 and the controls aren’t precise. I would request a refund, but for $2.99, not worth the time. For now, Don’t buy.
  3. Angry Birds: iOS device owners pretty much made this game a mega-monster hit. So much so that there’s apparently a line of “Angry Birds”- based plush toys in the works! So, when I got it, I had some high expectations. Turns out it’s a deceptively simple game and quite addictive. It’s definitely one of the must-have gaming apps and it’s hours of idle fun. 🙂 A hearty Buy.
  4. GT Racing: Motor Academy HD: I suck at driving in real life. This hasn’t changed with the game. Easily hours of fun and a must-have gaming app. Of course, the N8 handles the game like a champ, but the download is hefty at ~ 150mbs. I particularly like this game because for a cellphone game, it’s ridiculously packed with options. Read this review on AllAboutSymbian and the reviewer goes into nitpicky detail about the tracks & modeling. 🙂 It’s also made by Gameloft which is a company I trust to make great games. I’ve bought several games from them before when I had an old (and still kicking) Nokia 6 phone so I am partial to games by Gameloft. In a nutshell, Buy.

Apps for the N8 – Wishlist

At this point, I don’t think the Nokia N8 has any “signature apps” for it yet which is a shame.
by Jane@janetalkstech

In the US, a plausible explanation for lack of these so-called “killer apps” is Nokia’s mobile Operating Systems are perceived as second-class citizens when it comes to smartphones. Accordingly, the rate of Symbian adoption (by developers) is relatively slower than the current rush of developers to Android or iOS. Handwringing aside, here are a few Android apps I miss & accordingly, would love to see ported for the Symbian ^3 ecosystem. Please note that for some apps, I am specifically referring to Symbian ^3 because there are quite a few apps for the older Symbian devices so this list isn’t a knock on the entire Symbian environment. For older Symbian apps, look no further than my Nokia E71x tags.)

  1. Catch notes (nee 3banana Notes):- In one of my posts about my frequently used Android apps, Catch notes was at the top of my list. The beautiful user interface coupled with the fact that I would simply re-use my Google account to sync created notes and easy-peasy tagging interface make this app a pleasure to use. I might have to start a letter-writing campaign to implore the developers behind to consider Qt, which is one of the platforms for creating apps for Symbian devices.
  2. E-book reader:- The Nokia N8 comes with Adobe Reader LE 2.5 (courtesy of QuickOffice), but it’s quite uncomfortable to use in reading an entire to use it to read an entire book. There are a *lot* of ebook readers on the Android Market which are well-done. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the Ovi Store. One service (Wattpad) cropped up during my online search but the app was practically useless on the N8. So, if FBreader, which was my e-book reader of choice on Android, is available for the Nokia N8 (or Symbian ^3 devices), I’ll be one happy gal. 🙂 Sidenote: FBreader is available for a certain class of Maemo devices.
  3. Screen Capture on Symbian: On my Android phone, I wasn’t a fan of any of the screen capture apps so I resorted to an alternative i.e. using the Android SDK. So far, the only real contender for screen capture on the Nokia N8 is “Best Screen Snap“; I’m not a huge fan. It doesn’t help that there are few physical buttons on the N8 that I can assign as my screen snap button. For instance, my N8’s camera button is taken i.e. 1 press starts up the camera app and a long press focuses. Pressing the “menu” button takes you to the home screen and a ‘long’ press brings up running applications. That said, the solution I came up with was to delay the screen capture by 10 seconds while I brought up the application that needed the screen captured. The other option I’ve tried is the Remote Professional app by I got turned off by the UI and it felt sluggish so I didn’t want to plunk down $34.95 for something that I didn’t like. So, my next assignment is to figure out how to create screenshots using the development tools for Symbian. Wish me luck! 🙂
  4. Medical software: Having a background in Biology means I’ve got a soft spot for reading about chemicals and biology. In the Android/iPhone/Windows Mobile ecosystem, there’s no shortage of these kinds of apps. These apps (actually useful ones) are noticeably absent from the Ovi Store and particularly in these early days of Symbian ^3 devices. I’d like to see an app like Epocrates (which I used on my Android phone) or even any of Skyscape‘s offerings on the Nokia N8.
  5. Google Voice integration: Often, I make calls internationally with Google Voice. With Android, calling internationally is as simple as installing the Google Voice app and setting it to ask me whether or not I wanted to use Google Voice to place calls. With the N8, there isn’t an official app for that yet and I have to do the old fashioned “call-a-number-enter-pin-and-dial-a-number” dance. Update: If you’re using an older S60 device, you might be in luck! There’s an experimental Google Voice for S60 app by BDC software!
  6. Barcode Scanning Apps: I’d love to see either ShopSavvy or Barcode Scanner on the Ovi Store. The only comparable barcode scanner app in the Ovi Store is that by UpCode and after 1 day, I uninstalled it. Basically, it hasn’t had any UI improvements to it since I used it on the Nokia E71x.

The Highlights of Apps Available for the N8

There are some bright spots in the selection of apps available/useful on the N8 in spite of the glaring absence of the apps listed above. While it’s telling that most of the “apps” I write of are built in to the Nokia N8 device, I suspect Nokia chose to be pragmatic about the availability of these apps by developers or 3rd parties and hoping for a developer to pick up the slack. In my opinion, this inclusion of these Nokia-brewed apps helped get the Nokia N8 to a strong start and hopefully, raise the bar for apps in the Ovi Store. Another school of thought has it that the Symbian framework required programming in the lower level languages which sucked royally for developers. So with the promotion of the Qt framework, Nokia hopes to attract fresh blood i.e. more developers for Symbian. Finally, the applications below are biased towards tools that can be used without a data plan as I still don’t care to get gouged by getting a data plan.

  1. GPS: Free offline maps and free turn-by-turn navigation by Ovi Maps is incredibly helpful for people like me who don’t have data plans. The maps aren’t preloaded, but all you need to do is fire up Ovi Suite and install the maps and/or voices you need. There’s no need for Google maps, in my estimation on the N8. For runners or physical fitness enthusiasts, there’s the excellent Endomondo app on the Ovi Store. Also, the awesome GPSed app is available for the N8! All you need to do to get the GPSed app is:
    • visit on your N8’s mobile browser.
    • Download and install the .jar file on your phone.
    • Run after installation.
    • Caution: There are some formatting issues when you enter GPSed’s “options” menu.

    I look forward to more useful apps tapping into the N8’s GPS capabilities like the Compass app from (*hint* *hint*) which I used quite often on my G1.

  2. Photo Editing: The built-in photo editor on the Nokia N8 is pretty awesome. It completely removes the need for Picsay Pro which I used on Android. Granted, the photo editor for the N8 isn’t the most user friendly, but I got what I needed done with it! Seriously, check out this video about the photo editor’s features!
  3. Dictionary: I’ve always had a dictionary app installed on phones I’ve had. With Android, I used the great ColorDict app. Thankfully, with the N8, it comes preinstalled with a dictionary! One annoyance with this built-in dictionary app for the N8 is how it nags you to download dictionaries in other languages. I eventually caved in and got dictionaries for other languages. The process for getting these other dictionaries is pretty painless as the mobile dictionary app takes you directly to the download website which is on Nokia’s website. So, the next time you search for a word’s meaning, you’ll get a translation of that word in the language of your choice! Pretty neat!
  4. Video Editor for Nokia N8: Most of the video I make are created on the computer, but the Nokia N8 has seriously encouraged to consider making more videos. Besides the high quality of the videos, there is an included video editor which, for symbian veterans, is pretty easy to use. After a slightly learning hump, I couldn’t wait to start making short videos. Again, my point with this feature is that you could easily spend more money for an extra app, but Nokia’s wisely provided this neat capability for free and it does serve to help differentiate the N8 from the current crop of devices.
  5. File Manager: With the N8, I find the included file manager quite adequate. With the E71x, ATT preloaded the poor phone that nearly every gadget site recommended owners of the E71x to de-crapify their phone using a file manager called X-plore. This time, I purchased an unlocked N8 phone which pretty much means the N8 is free of carrier cruft. I have no need to go messing with the operating system files, but if there is a need for that, I’ve found that the X-plore app (which I’ve used for the Nokia E71x) is now available for the N8! Be warned: X-plore still as unpretty as ever, but it does the job. 🙂 I would, however, gladly pay for a port of Astro File Manager Pro which was heaven to my fat fingers. 🙂
  6. Swype: After failing to get Swype installed on my G1, using Swype on the N8 was pretty mindblowing. If you aren’t familiar with the hype, Swype is a method of text-entry on keyboards which lets you enter text ‘swiping’ from letter to letter and it smartly inputs what you had in mind! With the N8, it only works in Landscape Orientation, but it’s pretty magical in action.

On that note, I’m looking forward to getting my N8 back! I started having power management problems that Nokia currently acknowledges and requested an exchange from Amazon. The process was requesting an exchange was seamless and Amazon is sending the gadget via UPS and 2-day air! Speaking of shipping, I was quite peeved that Amazon sent the first Nokia N8 via USPS. Why?

  1. I got home to this over pricey device sitting outside the gates to my apartment. Clearly, the package was larger than the standard mailbox size for an apartment which Amazon knows I live in.
  2. Surely, it’s not too much to ask to be warned that my order “with standard shipping, my order might not fit into the mailbox and there’s a risk of being left outside.” Phrased that way, I think I would willing “upgrade” to shipping via UPS (edit: maybe I shouldn’t rejoice just yet) or something else! Amazon should be able to tell if there’s a risk that one’s order won’t fit into the regwhich packages in orders will fit into publicly available mailbox sizes for housing categories like apartments. I’m just thankful my neighborhood is relatively safe, but I would’ve been pissed if I’d had to eat the cost of a stolen shipment.

If you’ve made it this far, congrats! Feel free to draw any grammatical or logical errors to my attention. I’m trying to become better at this blogging ‘thing’ so bear with me. 🙂

* – My first visceral reaction to seeing screenshots of the games, reading reviews and just overall explanations of what the games do. I like a little more meat to my games, but for disclosure, I admit to not having downloaded/used these apps.