Category Archives: Technology

Forget “Easy Peasy”, Eeebuntu is far superior

So I finally gave up on “Easy Peasy”, the stupidly named Ubuntu distro for the Asus Eee PC.  The new version is poorly put together, poorly documented, and just plain sloppy.

Instead I tried Eeebuntu, and I’m sorry I didn’t try it earlier.  Finally, an Ubuntu distro that actually seems to be put together by people that know what they are doing.  Installation was a breeze, its an equally recent version of Ubuntu to “Easy Peasy”, and it seems far more polished.

For anyone considering installing Ubuntu on their Eee PC, I recommend Eeebuntu over Easy Peasy any day.

Update (27th Mar 09): A few people have requested more detail in the comments, for this please refer to this previous post.

New version of Ubuntu for the Eee PC released

The Asus Eee is a small, cheap PC (around $350ish) that comes with Windows XP or Linux by default.  Unfortunately the version of Linux that comes with it, Xandros, isn’t very good, but fortunately it can be replaced.  “Ubuntu” is a much better version of Linux, and a team of guys have put together a version of Ubuntu customised for the Eee.

So the team behind this Ubuntu Eee Linux flavor have released a new version, renaming it to Easy Peasy 1.0.  Boy do I hate that name, but I’m sure I can change any branding once its installed.  Someone should create a fork of this just to change the dumb name.

Anyway, their website looks friendly on the surface, but they make it rather difficult to figure out how you actually install the software.  There is a prominent download link for an ISO (a good start), but once you’ve got the ISO, it requires quite a bit of poking around in their wiki and on forums to figure out what you do next.  It certainly wasn’t “easy peasy”.

Well, I figured it out.  You can either burn it to a DVD (the latest release is too big for a CD), but then you need an external DVD drive for the Eee as they don’t have them built in.  Alternatively, you can create a bootable USB stick from Windows or Linux (but not Mac) using these instructions.

I opted for the latter option, but found that the Eee refused to boot from the USB stick I’d just created (an 8GB Cruzer Micro).  Luckily after some digging I discovered the solution.  Hopefully some poor souls searching Google for “easy peasy cruzer usb boot” or something like that will stumble on this.

So I was originally trying to boot from the USB stick by making it the first boot option in the bios, this didn’t work.  I found that if I hit “Esc” on startup I was given the option of booting from the USB stick, and this worked fine.  Not sure if its specific to the Cruzer USB stick, but whatever it is looks like it is something to do with the Eee PC’s bios – not Linux itself.

Once you’ve got it booting it will actually start up Ubuntu, but it will be running directly off the USB stick.  You must then install it using the very simple installation wizard that pops up (its far easier than installing Windows in my experience).

I’ve installed it and initial impressions aren’t good.  The “Easy Peasy” logo looks horribly pixelated, and per some reports it launches the installation tool after its already been installed.  Both issues are trivially rectified, but it is definitely indicitive of a very rushed release.

On the positive side, the wifi seems to be more reliable than the previous version.  More observations to follow…

The free-market, more accurate than polls?

HubDub is a great company based in Edinburgh (where I used to live), who apply the principles of the free market to predicting the outcomes of news stories. I’ve had a good chat with them, and they say that their market tends to be spookily accurate. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that when this type of market is applied to predicting when internal projects will be completed within Microsoft, they were universally more pessimistic, and more accurate, than the project manager’s estimates.

Here is the current prediction for who will win the US Presidential election, right now it has Obama winning (phew!). It will be interesting to look back and see how accurate it was in retrospect:

Google’s Chrome on OSX

Feeling left out of the fuss over Google’s new Chrome web browser because you use a Mac or Linux?  Well, I’m using a Mac and writing this blog post in Chrome thanks to this unofficial port of Chrome to OSX by Codeweavers as a demonstration of their tech for making it easier to port apps between operating systems.

Its not perfect, scrolling and dragging the window are a little wobbly, but its a good way to get a feel for the new browser.  Unfortunately word has it that it will be quite a while before there is an official port to OSX :-(

Twitter clone Yammer wins TC50

Am I the only one to be a little surprised by the fact that the winner of the TechCrunch 50 competition, basically “American Idol” for tech startups, was a spectacularly unimaginative Twitter clone? I mean, even the idea to build a Twitter clone has been done to death (*cough* Pownce *cough*)!

Silicon Valley is starting to remind me of Hollywood, increasingly devoid of fresh ideas, money is being pumped into “Its like the Care Bares Movie meets Robocop!”-style unimaginative combinations of well-worn ideas.

If I had a dollar for every “Its like X, but for the enterprise!” business plan, I could probably start a VC fund myself.

OtherInbox has launched (and I’ve got free invites for you!)

My good friend Josh Baer launched OtherInbox on Monday. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a beta tester for the last few months, and I can honestly say that it is one of a very small number of web tools that I use every single day (along with Reddit, and Google Calendar).

Josh gave an amazing talk at TechCrunch 50 describing OtherInbox, unfortunately WordPress.com won’t let me embed the video (grrr!) – so you’ll need to go here and check it out.

But don’t forget to come back here afterwards because the first 25 people to click this link will get a free invite!

Oh, one last thing, be sure to go and vote for OtherInbox here, they are currently winning but have some stiff competition!

Apple misses an opportunity with Genius sidebar

When I heard about Apple’s new Genius tool, which claims to review your music library, and make music recommendations, I had high hopes.

Having installed the new version of iTunes I’m very disappointed, they should really have called it “Dunce”.  It seems that they’ve gone with an item-based collaborative filter, all it does is let you select a song, and then it gives you a list of songs that other people who liked that song also liked.

There are several problems with this.  Because of human nature, it tends to just recommend a bunch of other songs by the same artist, something I really don’t need a “genius” to do for me since this functionality has been in iTunes for ages.  The input to Genius about what interests me is just a single song – come on Apple, we had smarter collaborative filters than that a decade ago!

The real missed opportunity here is that it could so-easily have been a proper user-based collaborative filter.  A system that looked at everything I liked and didn’t like, and tried to build an accurate picture of my musical tastes, and then use this to make intelligent recommendations.

I don’t need them to use SenseArray (although it would be great if they did!), but the least they could do is make Genius a semi-respectable collaborative filter – something they’ve failed to do.

:-(

Amazing video manipulation

This video shows a new series of techniques for enhancing and modifying video, with much the same flexibility that Photoshop has to enhance and modify photographs. These techniques include using several high-quality photographs of a scene to improve a low-quality video of the same scene.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PktKqyRXIE&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999]

Here is a higher-quality version on Vimeo (damn WordPress won’t embed Vimeo video), with additional information.

Defcon talk highlights

Talks at Defcon are sometimes very entertaining (especially if Dan Kaminsky is involved), and sometimes rather dull. I decided I’d try to ensure that my talk fell into the former category. Hopefully I succeeded, I found at least one good review, which is gratifying. Update: Found another one (scroll down).

One of the techniques I use in SenseArray is called gradient descent, and I wanted a fun way to illustrate how powerful it is.

I found a really cool video online which shows a humanoid figure “evolving” using a Genetic Algorithm (a flavor of gradient descent) to jump higher and higher. It was missing one thing though – the right soundtrack, so I added one. It got more than a few laughs when I showed it during my talk, but judge for yourself: