Life with Ubuntu

First, Happy new year to you and your family 🙂

I have been using Linux on a daily basis for several months now and so far life is quite comfortable. For the first time I can simply forget what people have been telling me  since day one –  “you always need antivirus protection”. Heh, how the hell viruses is gonna infect my computer when even I myself can’t modify the system files! Yes, it’s true that if enough people use it there will be some folks spend time to carve into each input box in the whole operating system to find exploits but considering the rate of Firefox adoption over IE, I’d say it may took decades before Linux can take over. This world is resistant to changes, even if it’s good.

Though the default Ubuntu distribution works out of the box and satisfy the needs of most user, it’s oriented to the naive, who doesn’t have the need for more complex configurations, say – multilingual inputs. That’s when Google comes in handy but it may take a while and some searching skills to find what you need. There’s many question and answer in the Ubuntu forums but they are not always anwered satisfactorily.

Below is a collection of what I have to Google for the past months.

Japanese input

I posted about Japanese on Windows back from last year but I don’t really need Japanese for Linux until now – when my HDD is somewhere in the middle of snowstorms in America and I’m working on a little USB flash drive. It kinda feels like a netbook except it’s faster 😛

Windows doesn’t differentiate between input language and keyboard layout –  it combines both into the IME environment. The result is hideous registry settings to configure what should be readily available. It’s a different thing on Kubuntu: the keyboard layout you can configure in System Settings > Regional & Language > Keyboard Layout is for your physical keyboard only, which means if tells the operating system if there’s something special about your keyboard, like is it laid out in Dvorak, does it have extra function keys, does it have the Japanese switch button etc. To input languages you have to use the input method (IME) which is what translates what you type on the keyboard to something else according to configuration. For example, the Vietnamese input method translates Tie61ng Viet65 into “Tiếng Việt” and the Japanese input method translate katakana into “カタカナ”. All this happens within an input framework. To put it simple, an input framework is a tool that let you switch between languages (This is not technically correct but you’ll know better when you have become familiar with it). Being an operating system of choices, there’s three framework for you to choose on Linux: UIM, SCIM and iBus with iBus being the future.

To install iBus, first add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ibus-dev/ibus-1.2-karmic/ubuntu karmic main #IBus 1.2 for Karmic

Then run

sudo apt-get install ibus ibus-gtk

Once iBus has been installed, you can install input languages, say Vietnamese and Japanese:

sudo apt-get install ibus-unikey ibus-anthy

You can activate iBus with

im-switch -s ibus

It requires a restart and then you are good to go! 🙂 Note that instead of using the command line apt-get, you can type “ibus” into the software installer to find the packages and install them.

You can see the language you want to type is not bound to any specific keyboard layout here – at the start of this post you can have Qwerty, Dvorak or Colemak – that doesn’t matter, you can use it to input the language you have installed!

References: ibus @ ubuntu vn, ibus project

Multilingual input with Opera 10

Opera is a great browser, many of the functionality that defines the modern browser is from opera – say tabbed browsing, integrated search function, modular design and many others. Should Opera be free from the start it could have overthrown IE as the most popular browser. Well, what’s history is history already 🙂

I use Opera on linux for the sake of simplicity – it provides all the functions I need without the need to install any fancy plugin (I’m talking about you, Firefox). It’s a surprise that I can’t use iBus to type Vietnamese in Opera when I first installed it :(.

I found out why: the default version you can download from Opera’s homepage is compiled with the Qt3 library while iBus works with Qt4 only. Luckily Opera is also compiled with Qt4 but you’ll need to cruise around some FTP servers to get it.  Click here to get version 10.10 for ubuntu/x86, which is the latest at the time of writing.

When 128MB isn’t enough or how to expand your Ubuntu installation on a USB stick

Kubuntu 9.10 comes with a new feature: make a USB stick bootable and persists your changes between sessions. At first you may think the default storage space of 128 MB could be enough but after some themes, customizations and application s (namely Firefox); 128MB is used up in no time.

Your Linux home is stored within an image file in the root of the drive – casper-rw. You can allow Linux to use a bigger share of your stick by expanding the file then imposes ext3 formatting on it with the following steps:

# dd if=/dev/zero bs=1M count=1024 >> casper-rw
# e2fsck -f casper-rw
# resize2fs -f casper-rw
# e2fsck -f casper-rw

1024 means 1024MB, change this to whatever size you want. Note that this capacity is added to your existing quota, so if you have 128MB already then after this command you have 1153MB for storage.

File managing – Norton Commander style

While Kubuntu have dolphin as a pretty good file manager, iallowsng you to split windows and drag the navigation dock around, it’s still get nowhere close the original NC feel (say tabbing, F3, F4 and F5). Of course Midnight Commander have been around since Linux was still stuck in the server rooms but what? A text mode program on the all cute KDE Oxygen? Does not sound right to me.

Good thing that there’s Krusader. It’s a bit old but seems to work fine. The menu bar, button bar and command line stays true to the tradition – I feel like home 🙂