The first attempt at testing the long awaited and somewhat hyped new 13.04 version of Ubuntu, one of the most visible and probably best free Linux distributions, did not go so well. The result was pretty dismal, actually.

Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail loaded in test mode from DVD on my MacBook Pro Retina, but did not support the mouse and the WiFi, so I quickly decided not to install it at all. It is known to also be energy inefficient on the MBPr (20% or so lower battery time than when running OS X), it runs hotter (more fan noise), has problems with the (standard nVidia & Intel) graphics card, and isn’t any faster than OS X. So that’s really a no-go: Very little point in installing it. But if you still want to or you need to install it for some reason, Christopher Berner and Alex Victor Chan have good descriptions of how to do it.

Installing on my 2012 Intel i-7 VAIO S laptop running Windows 7 with UEFI and SecureBoot was no success either. It was rather “Uffda Ubuntu” – bad all around. The system crashed, never managed to boot, and for a while it looked like Ubuntu had bricked my laptop.

Install Ubuntu 13.04 again – second try

Ubuntu knows about these problems – there are tons of posts in their forums about problems like this one – they just don’t seem to care. So much for being customer oriented.

As it turns out, that was because I used the wrong version of the installer. I followed the instructions on the Ubuntu download page (see the first image).Install Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

The download page clearly states that:

If you have a PC with the Windows 8 logo or UEFI firmware, choose the 64-bit download.

Raring Ringtail AMD versionI did that. That made me download a file called “ubuntu-13.04-desktop-amd64.iso”. And, as you will know if you read my previous post, using this file leads to disaster if you have a UEFI/SecureBoot system! It simply is the wrong file. (Now, at this point you could argue that the installation process should have been ‘smart’ enough – sensing the installation parameters – so that different versions should have been unnecessary, and I agree, but let’s just simply conclude that the installation isn’t that smart.)

As it turns out, finding the right file on the Ubuntu site is very hard unless you know exactly what to look for. There are two links on the download page for the 13.04: One takes you to a pages full of info that seems to want you to download 12.04 (not what you want), the other link describes the installation process, but without mentioning the little detail that you are about to try to install the wrong file! I actually found out on another site that I needed an x86-version of the iso image – AFTER I had wasted time and nearly bricked my PC.

To find the right file to download on the Ubuntu site, you need to navigate to the 13.04 Raring Ringtail page. There are hardly any internal links to it – the best is to use Google or an external site to find it. But once you get there, you soon see that the x86 iso image is the one you want.

Installing Ubuntu 13.04 with the right image

13.04 Raring Ringtail installed!!I am not going to write much about it, simply say that getting Raring Ringtail up and running from the DVD was as eventless and easy as it should be once I got the right file.

I didn’t actually install it, I just tested it, but everything worked just fine. I installed a couple of programs, played a game of Freecell, and enjoyed. The only thing I noticed was that it used more battery and more sound from the fan. Those are big things, however, and Canonical – the corporation behind Ubuntu – really ought to do something about that.

Conclusion: All well? Oh no!!

Perhaps you feel all that ends well, is well? I don’t feel that way. Canonical, Ubuntu and the Linux community in general have been saying for a while now that they are ready to “Let the Good Times Roll” – ready to be used by the masses, by anybody using computers and similar devices on whatever platform. Ready to challenge Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X. As a fan of Linux and Ubuntu, I would like that to happen. But i am forced to conclude that they aren’t.

Linux and Ubuntu are good enough along some dimensions, but not all. Not supporting a number of devices from the boot up, but requiring users to install drivers, is not good enough. Bad energy consumption and short battery time is not good enough. More fan noise is not good enough.

Perhaps most of all, the Linux world is not ready because it simply is not user friendly enough. For Ubuntu and Canonical to write an installer that doesn’t sense that it is installing in the wrong environment is bad. To give such poor and misleading information on the download pages is a disaster customer-wise. The failure to jump when customers cry “Wolf” on Ubuntu’s own forum pages, post huge and visible apologies, and immediately post updated and correct information, is a clear sign of lacking maturity. It is a monument crying to the customers: “Stay away! We may want you (they seemingly do), but we do not care about you!”

This is not how you make “The Good Times Roll”! So good luck with that, Canonical.

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The revolution in computing has revolutionized statistics. I can still remember my nights at the computer center, running SPSS, SAS and BMDP on the huge mainframes. Many of us preferred to run the larger jobs at night when the mainframes were less busy: if you were lucky, you could have your job run with a huge memory slice, like 16K or 32K! Much faster, of course, than when you submitted jobs during daytime.

Then later, I was elated when I could get SAS and SPSS on my desktop. It was expensive but worth every penny, in my opinion. After all, now I could clean data, recode, and run my analyses whenever I wanted, without running to the computer center.

The R Book - CrawleyAnd now, with internet and powerful computers everywhere, we have R. And as professor Crawley says in this interview, I am very enthusiastic about it: R is here to stay! R is one of the many successes of open source – an incredibly powerful statistical software package that is excellently supported, extensively used, available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and completely free! Go to http://www.r-project.org/, find the version for your computer, download and get going.

The R language is today acknowledged as one of the most powerful and flexible statistical software packages, enabling users to apply a variety of sophisticated statistical techniques. The system has grown tremendously over a decade and a half, is huge, and full of smart and useful options. While it is possible to just start using it and googling when you’re stuck, I don’t recommend it. I know we are all different, but at least I – and I think many others – have found that having some basic navigational tools available speeds up the learning. So, just as I would use navigational maps on a new stretch of ocean, I use The R Book when working with R. It makes the learning smoother.

The R Book is a 1050 page book, very concise, well organized and with a good index. It first covers all the basics of the R language – data input and manipulation, graphics, tables, tests and statistical modeling. Then it delves into the more advanced subjects: basic and advanced methods for analysis of discrete and continuous outcomes, linear and non-linear analyses, as well as analyses of time and spatial dependences. Survival analysis and simulation modeling are covered as well. At the end of the book, Crawley demonstrates how to use R for graphics. While this part is much better than in the previous edition, it is still perhaps the weakest part of the book.

Overall, The R Book (Second Edition) is a great guide to the vastly powerful and constantly evolving software that is R. It is very close to a complete reference-the coverage is excellent. For most users of R, having this book as guide will make life with R much easier, and learning to master it much faster.

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The introduction of UEFI and SecureBoot on new PCs has created enormous problems for people trying to install Linux on new PCs, laptops and ultrabooks with these new technologies installed. Perhaps, some say, as Microsoft intended. I don’t know.

I probably need to say that “Uffda” in Scandinavian for something sad, something like “of my, that was sad” or “.., that was bad”. So now you know: Bad and sad, Ubuntu!

UEFI and SecureBoot

Anyway, the argument from the Linux side seems to be more or less along the lines that many Linux distributions (“distros”, as they are usually called) have now developed to a point where they are as easy to use and as good as (if not better) than Windows and OS X. So that Microsoft now has introduced UEFI and SecureBoot to make it hard for Linux to compete.

I don’t know why Microsoft is pushing UEFI and SecureBoot. These are technologies that are indepedent of one another, and the arguments for and against each are different. Proponents argue that UEFI is overdue and needed to support bigger hard drives, while SecureBoot is needed to make OS booting secure by means of a trusted key. UEFI (Universal EFI) replaces BIOS as bootloader and supports a lot of new features, among them SecureBoot.

I am not able to say which side is right in the Microsoft/Linux controversy. I simply don’t know enough about the technologies involved.

Testing Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

However, what I do know is that it really seems Linux may not be quite ready to compete with Microsoft and Apple. Today I have tried to install the long awaited Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail”. Raring Ringtail has been hailed as a distro that has solved the problems created by UEFI and SecureBoot, and overall is viewed as one of the most advanced Linux distros. However, I have to say that to me, it has so far been a major disappointment.

Test on a MacBook Pro Retina OS X mid 2012

Ubuntu 13.04 DisappointsFirst I booted the new Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail image on DVD in my 2012 MacBook Pro Retina running OS X 10.8.3. It booted fine, and I got into Ubuntu and chose to test it rather than install it directly. Which was good.

First of all, my mouse didn’t work. I am using the Mac MagicMouse. OK. So I tried the manual install via the Bluetooth preferences menu, as recommended. It found the mouse, said it installed it. Still not working. The next recommendation I found was to download and install a patch. When did you last have to install a mouse manually like this in Windows, by the way?

Anyway. Patch is not good news. To download you need a network. And Ubuntu doesn’t support the WiFi in the MBP Retina. So no network. And therefore no patch. That Ubuntu doesn’t support the Broadcomm wireless out of the box is just odd. The problem has been known for a long time, and some Ubuntu-related folks published the solution online a long time ago.

So that was that attempt. No mouse. No network. I just closed down. My conclusion is that Ubuntu doesn’t want Ubuntu on MBR Retina. But we knew that.

Testing Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail on VAIO S mid-2012 Windows 7 laptop

Ubuntu Frozen MenuSecond try. This time on my Sony VAIO S from Summer 2012 running Windows 7 using UEFI and possibly but most likely no SecureBoot (Sony’s documentation doesn’t say, the BIOS indicates not as there is no option for it). OK. Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail in the DVD, boot up. After a while a small text pops up in the upper left corner of the screen, saying “secureboot not enabled”. Then a menu (Gnu Grub version 2.00-13ubuntu3, the menu in the image), where I choose to test Ubuntu. Now “error reading sector” flashes in front of me briefly. Then a new message – now doom strikes in the form of a kernel panic:

“1.362350 Kernel Panic: not syncing: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block (0,0).”

I didn’t want to take no (read:panic) for an answer, and tried again. Six times I tried. Twice I got to the kernel panic, four times I just got to the menu with a frozen image and not a key on the keyboard working. So that was it.

Only that wasn’t it. When I removed the DVD the VAIO still continued to boot into the same menu where it previously had frozen. Over and over. So having read reports of machines getting bricked by Linux (apparently not the case, but that’s what the headlines said), I got scared.

New try. Boot and press F2 frenetically. I get into the BIOS. I choose “Reset default values”, save and shut down. Press the “Power”-button again. It works. Now I was happy to see Windows 7 boot up. That’s rare!

Conclusion: Uff, uff Ubuntu!

And there it is. Using a highly regarded Linux distro I tested on 2 machines and failed twice. I could possibly have made it work on my Mac after a lot of effort, but that’s not how ordinary PC users should meet or expect to meet Ubuntu or Linux.

The VAIO experiment was even worse. Perhaps my machine doesn’t have secure boot: But that shouldn’t be a problem? That’s how it used to be. Or perhaps it has it? I don’t know. But the point is: I shouldn’t be required to know. The install procedure should sense the settings and adapt. And it shouldn’t freeze and it should not produce something that for a while looked a lot like a brick!

So, even though I am a great fan of open source and hate to bring bad news, my conclusion is clearly: Uffda Ubuntu. I don’t think you are ready for the consumer market quite yet! “Kernel panic” will not make people love Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail.

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In the previous posts in this series on setting up and tweaking a WordPress blog, we have discussed why setting up a self-hosted blog on an owned domain may be the best choice, and software that is useful for setting up and running a self-hosted WordPress blog. So now we are ready to go!

There are two different ways to go about installing a new WordPress blog. The first, and easiest, is to use an install script. The second is to do a manual install. But first of all:

Make a keywords file

Setting up a blog involves several new accounts and passwords. Do yourself a favor and create a file to keep all the new logins and passwords in. Before you are up and running, you will have created new logins and passwords to use with your domain registrar, your web hosting service, your MySQL database, your WordPress blog, and most likely one or two more!

From a security point of view, using different logins and passwords for each, and storing them in a file, is a much better alternative than using the same login and password again and again. Whether you use a Mac, Windows or Linux you can easily save your password file in an encrypted format.

Installing by script: The Easy button

Install WordPress by scriptMany of the popular Web hosting providers, for instance Bluehost, Dreamhost, GoDaddy, Media Temple, and others, provide installation scripts for WordPress and other popular software. (The image is from Bluehost.) These scripts are like easy buttons: One click, give some information; et voila – your blog is ready!

If that option is available, I can see no reason for not using it. Indeed, I have used buttons like those myself! Before I started to host my blogs on my own virtual servers, I often used this option. It is easy and fast, and it usually works very well.

The scripts may vary a little from one hosting service to another, but generally you will usually be asked a few questions about the name of the blog, and your user name and password after you press the button for the script installer. You just need to write down the information you give, as you will need it to log into the blog later.

If you are asked for information you don’t have, just take it easy, open a new browser window, get hold of the information, and provide it. Also, if something goes wrong during the installation (it doesn’t usually – the scripts are very good), don’t despair, you can usually just delete the install and start over again.

Manual install of WordPress: Step by step

Install WordPress manuallyYou can skip the first step if you have received the name of a datrabase – for instance in an email – from your web hosting service, or if you have already set up a database.

  1. If you haven’t received it from your web hosting service, find out from your web host the name of your MySQL database, the user name you should use to connect to the MySQL database and the password for the database. You may have to create a MySQL database: your hosting service will have instructions for how to do this.
  2. Go to the download site for the newest version and download WordPress
  3. Unzip the files to your HD
  4. Use your FTP program (Filezilla) to upload the unzipped files to your server. If you want the blog to be in the root (http://yourblog.com), just upload the files inside the WordPress directory (not the directory itself) to the root of your server. If you want the blog in a subdirectory (http://yourblog.com/blog/), create the subdirectory and move the files there.
  5. Go to the WordPress site and follow the detailed instructions there. They have excellent instructions for the install itself!

Follow the steps there – the instructions are easy to follow. If you have problems, you can get in touch with me and I can assist you.

Conclusion

That’s it for this time. Now you have a WordPress blog, and the fun of installing themes and plugins and tweaking the settings, modifying the way it looks, and perhaps even making some changes to the code itself, can now begin!

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Master Your Mac, by Matt Cone

It is interesting how the choices one makes affect interests and preferences. Take me, for example. A few months ago I bought my first Mac. A delicious new Macbook Pro Retina. Before I bought it, I cannot remember having been interested in how-to books where the subject to be mastered was the Mac. Now, I […]

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Setting up a WordPress blog – What you need

In the previous post in this series about setting up a WordPress blog, I discussed why to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog. This time I will assume you have acquired a domain name. So now, in this post, we look at what more you need before you can set up the blog. Web Site […]

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Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 Bible, by Joseph Lowery

Adobe’s Dreamweaver is a wonderful tool for people involved in web design and building web pages and web sites. I have used it for a more than half a dozen years. Even though I also use other HTML and CSS editors, Dreamweaver is my favorite and the one I use the most. I like the […]

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Set up a WordPress blog – First things first

This is the second post in the series about installing and tweaking WordPress. In this post I discuss things to consider before you even start installing your new blog! Hosted or self-hosted? The first question that needs answering is whether to have a self-hosted blog or a hosted blog. While it is possible to get […]

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