Vi/Vim Goodness

My recent fail whale of an upgrade from Jaunty to Karmic made me realised that I have forgotten to note down a couple of stuff here. This girl geek cannot live without her vi/vim but the stock install of vim-tiny in Ubuntu is woefully inadequate for the CLI text-editing ninja. Please upgrade to vim (full) from the Synaptic Package Manager or using:

sudo apt-get install vim

For starters, this will allow you to use the cursor keys (up/down/left/right) properly in insert mode and you will be able to use custom colour schemes for syntax colouring. My favourite scheme so far is the wombat.

Vim Coloured Goodness

There are probably much better editors available if you do a lot of coding. I use Eclipse when I need a full IDE, but for my dabble-ish codes on the laptop, vim is usually quite sufficient.

Karma needed for Karmic

Karmic Upgrade

Karmic Koala popped out of the oven recently, and I decided to do my first upgrade. My gut told me that it was not a great idea to jump on Karmic so early, but my itchy fingers got ahead of me.

It was a Bad Idea™.

I should have done a trial run with the Live CD, but against my better judgement, I decided to do a direct upgrade. Unfortunately, the upgrade through the Update Manager did not work for some reason (some silly reason I cannot remember). I then downloaded a copy of the alternate installer and upgraded from the mounted iso.

Perhaps it was the tweaking on Jaunty that did me in, but the new 2.6.31-14 kernel just wouldn’t go beyond the loading screen, not even in Recovery mode. I was able to get further with the original 2.6.28 kernel but had strange problems like the screen occasionally blanking out on me after logging in. Hibernate also stopped working completely. No amount of tweaking helped.

Sigh, not good. My only option was to do a fresh install; but will it be Jaunty or Karmic?

Being a sucker for punishment, I grit my teeth, backed up my home folder and started with Karmic from scratch. With a little hindsight from my previous Jaunty install, I set aside a swap partition this time to save myself a little heartburn and it seemed to have worked. Hibernate/sleep worked perfectly this time. I had to install configure-trackpoint again to fix the sluggish trackpoint but a major consolation was that settings stayed this time! No more lost settings after waking up from hibernate. Yay!

Lots of little stuff here and there I had to tweak again.

There’s probably more to do over the next couple of days, but I am grateful for the little improvements I’ve noticed in Karmic over Jaunty:

  • Boot up / hibernate / wake seems a little faster After a couple of reboots later, no it was not really faster. If anything, it actually felt slower. And there’s still a weird momentary flicker now and then
  • Intel graphics worked better – no hack needed so far
  • Windows key worked OOTB
  • No more irritating beeps!

I am slightly bummed that there’s no option to customise the login screen anymore in Karmic, and I am not too comfortable with having the username displayed by default.

Overall, Karmic does feel a little improved over Jaunty, probably due in no small part to the Hundred Paper Cuts project (I love this definition of a paper cut). I really wished the upgrade wasn’t such a disaster personally, but I did know better than to jump in so early.

Fortunately, this was my personal laptop and didn’t really have that much data or software installed. So a wipeout upgrade was more annoying than painful for me. Still, I can’t recommend that if any “Joe Schmoe” do this without some technical assistance on standby.

In the meantime, if you intend to upgrade to Karmic, earn some karma points first and go read the release notes will ya?

Backing up your Nokia Phone Contacts on Gmail

If you own a Nokia N-series or E-series phone,  you can use your phone’s support for SyncML to do just that.

All you need to do is to setup a sync profile with these simple steps and it’s good to go. You have to manually trigger the sync though, but that’s just fine by me since the battery life for my E66 is average at best.

A quick note, contacts synchronised through this method will show up in the “My Contacts” group in your Gmail contacts. If you want to add a contact to your phone, it has to also go into the same “My Contacts” group.

What I love most about this setup is that it allows me to easily edit or add contacts through my Gmail account. Way faster than fiddling around with the phone.

This method works only for Contacts. If you need to sync up your calendar as well, there is a somewhat more involved method documented here.

Kernel Cleaning

So after a couple of rounds of kernel updates on my Ubuntu install, a little housekeeping was in order. To remove the older kernel versions, uninstall linux-image-x.x.xx (just “removal”) from Synaptic Package Manager. Probably a good idea to keep the last version before the current one.

If you’re multibooting, you may need to tweak Grub / System > Administrator > StartUp-Manager (tutorial).

As a side effect of the kernel cleaning, I had to rebuild the tp_smapi / hdaps modules for the updated kernel. Good tutorial here worked for my X60. I took the chance to also install the gnome-hdaps-applet (instructions) to get a visual indicator of the APS in action. Yay!

Wave in Chrome

Google Wave in Google Chrome

I got a Google Wave Sandbox account a little while back and started a small side project (which, as too many others did, fell wayside). Admittedly, it was rather confusing at the start and you really need to have a real-life network on the same platform for it to deliver on the value it promises.

If you haven’t lived under a rock in the last week, you would have heard about the opening up of Google Wave for limited preview. Those already on the Sandbox got invites, and I decided to pop in for a look. The preview instance feels definitely more stable compared to Sandbox. However, being logged on to both instances at the same time on Firefox 3.5, for some reason really slowed things down.

The word is that Wave runs best on Chrome, so I took the chance to check out Google Chrome on Ubuntu. Chrome is currently officially supported on Windows only but an early access version is available for Ubuntu (32/64-bit) and Debian (32-bit only). This version (my current installed build: 4.0.220.1) is a wee bit rough around the edges but generally worked well for me so far.

Wave, both Sandbox and Preview, felt snappier and more stable on Chrome. If not for the relative lack of extensions for Chrome (compared to Firefox), I would seriously consider switching browsers permanently. This is a seriously speedy browser.

Back to the Wave, if you want to give it spin and prepared for a little beta chaos, request for an invitation here.

Update: Found this nice short video on why you might want to use Wave.