my summer with Ubuntu + small window of FOSS in Nepal

Every year, as our sun resumes to shine brightest on northern hemisphere, I begin my annual open source software testing marathon. To the known, Open Source Software is already a viable candidate,  and to unknown like me its a wait for the day when one can finally put majority of my computational work through it.

A disclaimer necessitate me to congratulate WordPress.com for being one of the few open source project that I have been using constantly for about a year now.  Congratulation for being Ten years old. Happy Birthday WordPress.

Last two weeks of May 2013 made me a  delinquent for trying to burn my laptop to the point of exhaustion. It all began with a desire to toy around with something I do not completely understand. Ubuntu Linux 13.04. But before I dwell into my disastrous learning experience, I’d like to put some information about GNU/Linux (or OSS) in Nepal.

Part I – Nepal and GNU/Linux 

What is Linux scenario in Nepal? (All Websites mentioned –  Accessed on May 28, 2013)

Nepalinux is more like a “dud’ project” now. The last release, Nepalinux Version 3 was on July 2008. I presume things have not gone well. The website looks out dated, with last voted polls showing out of proportion results of a 2005 questions. I sincerely hope to see it revive soon. #well-wishing. There is also a January, 2006 Wave Magazine article I stumbled upon here. At least the LTSP version should have been updated. It did make a huge news back in the day. read more here.

What amazes me more is the maker/compiler of Nepalinux – Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya. At present they have a new website, and they fail to acknowledge the Nepalinux, even on their download page (here). Instead they relinquish this to a newly formed body of Language Technology Kendra (website) which hosts the Nepalinux download. Other silent partners of Nepalinux (Kathmandu University being one of them) have really done nothing in the last five years since it was released.

Five years, and still no update. what gives?

I also did a little Google Groups search – and the results were pleasantly surprising. Very few Google Group communities related to computer in Nepal (say 35 of them only) Handful among these are active. Some are mentioned below.

  1. FOSS Nepal – weblink – although not an exclusive Linux dedicated group, is active and mature. Its not just one Group, but has number of regional sub-groups (separate Google Groups though). One word that comes in mind – #respect
  2. Linux Nepal – weblink – last post updated – May 2008
  3. Nepalese Linux Forum – #disgraceful condition (will not delve into details)
  4. LibNepal – weblink – I think its related to Open Source, but not sure.
  5. OLPC Nepal  – weblink – still somewhere – last updated – December, 2008.
  6. नेपाली विकि – weblink – This is not a software platform discussion Google Group as per say, but I loved it enough to mention it here. Its active – which I think is the first sign of its usability.  The content however, might be a totally different story (haven’t looked it).
  7. GDG Kathmandu – weblink – A closed group – didn’t let me access.

 

Canonical (the parent company of Ubuntu Linux) had teamed up with Nepal Telecom (NTC.net.np) to provide a local repository for us Nepali cohort since early 2012. This is where I got the latest ISO image for my review below. Its great, and fast. for more – read below – part II of this article. There is also a dedicated wiki page – here.

Internet Search for “Linux community Nepal” – reveals a surprisingly new distro based community. Linux Mint – apparently has its own website community sprang up first in Google Search (here)

Final on my search was Linux Nepal which claims to be “The only Linux site for Nepal”. The site is probably based on Joomla CMS, and the last update it had was on November 2011.

Obviously there are other site also, but I am looking for a dedicated website for FOSS in Nepal. These were among the few that popped up on my internet search, and one among them, is something I’ve been following for years not. I admire and respect, whatever small community of FOSS Nepal and other Open Source community in Nepal.

Part II – My summer vacation with Ubuntu

download

Canonical (the parent company of Ubuntu Linux) had teamed up with Nepal Telecom (NTC.net.np) to provide a local repository for us Nepali cohort since early 2012. The 700+ MB iso file to Ubuntu took me about 2 hours to download, at a speed that averaged 105 Kbps. My internet provider being NTC, with ADSL @ 256 Kbbs speed connection. You can download it here. I burned up a DVD as an installation media.

Could Ubuntu be viable alternate? or was I to wait for one more year?

A year ago, I’d spend about two months with Ubuntu 12.04 (dual boot with Windows 7). The experience was worthwhile, as I learned its strength and weakness, before removing the Wubi installation on October 2012. This time I was certain that I could finally make the transition to a viable alternative that made me learn.

installation

Nothing major has changed since 12.04, at least on the installation part. It took me two hours to back up my Windows 8 and my documents on an external hard drive. Installation was pretty simple, but online update Ubuntu offered me was out of question, even with the local repository. First Installation was a complete wreck as always, I’d put in too many passwords and stuffs. Second Installation was me completely wiping out my hard drive structure, and clean boot with no Microsoft EFI intrusion. I then made my flash drive as installation media and then tried for the third time. Took me roughly 45 minutes for each.

I have an Intel i3 Sandy-bridge, 4Gb RAM on my Lenovo Ideapad U400 (March 2012) with ATI/AMD switchable graphics (I think its ATI Raedon 6400M). After the installation, It took me two full hours to upgrade that switchable graphics, and all its dependent drivers. The installation wasn’t difficult, it was the download speed of 15 Kbbs that bothered my sleep will 3am.

UI and applications

One word – Evolution. Unity is improving at a rapid pace, and I love it. Plus, Its easy. Unity searches are more snappier, and the UI is more responsive. Nepali UI needs few improvement, and its way better than in Windows or OSX. As always, typing in Terminal is a learning experience which I admire and honestly find it very useful.

CTRL+ALT+T – something I use more than my touch pad.

LightGDM  as a login manager is just the right amount. The online feature to link Gmail, Twitter and Flickr proved indispensable.  Skype 4.2 could be installed this time (12.04 had painful experience) and Chrome 27 got released the next day. Geary is wonderful email client with lots of potential. I miss Gwibber, but the new app Friends, has an equally impressive resume. Firefox kept hanging on me for no good reason, and I seriously doubt the capability of Thunderbird. Yes, I had two email clients for two different email – home and work.

One feature I sorely miss was address book and calendar sync. I had to get Evolution to make it work, and it worked only when I was online. Windows 8 has a better management than this. May be, I didn’t read enough, but none gave me a true satisfying experience of Mail+Calendar+Contacts like in Apple OS X or even Windows 8 (metro) app. Ubuntu One had address book sync feature – but alas, its crippled now. Ubuntu One is something I didn’t use for the same crippling reason.

Offline Apps

No Linux is complete without Wine and Virtual box. Can’t deny how important the Microsoft ecosystem still is in this part of the world.  Am not proud of it, but a decade old Windows XP loaded on virtual machine was very important in running few classic applications like SPSS 11, EP Info 7, and Age of Empire 2.

Yes, call me prehistoric, but I love AoE

The next four days went by learning and installing small applications to better my Linux experience. Most are something I am using in Windows and Mac system. (CP – Cross Platform version available for Windows and/or Mac)

  1. Gloobus – a preview app which resembles quick view of OS X. (built in unto OS X)
  2. Dropbox – ’nuff said. (CP)
  3. Caffeine – An app to keep the system awake (both Mac and Windows version available)
  4. Filezilla – FTP Client (CP)
  5. LibreOffice – MS Office 2013 replacement. (CP)
  6. Mendeley – Free reference manager (CP)
  7. Audacity – Another best Open Source Software (for me) (CP)

Two apps missing here were – Nitro and Steam. While both were free, they’d ask me to provide my credit card information when tried downloading. The small problem being that in Nepal, we don’t have Credit Culture – and none of our Debit/Credit Card system are internationally recognized.

for testing purpose

Few of the mentioned application below were installed because they were free and I’d always wanted to get to know them. Here is my first thought.

  1. GIMP – It should seriously have one window interface, something like Pixelmator for OS X. Its great, and very powerful.
  2. Incubus – Hard learning curve
  3. Scribus – Too many jargons
  4. R –  SPSS 11 seems much more easier, even though its like 10+ years old. R is like, big, huge, awesomely colossal.
  5. Stellarium – I have a Windows version also, Its always nice to know your stars
  6. QT Creator – I don’t do programming, but I hope someday soon I can use this. I’d love to learn more of QT/QML (from my love of Maemo/Nokia N9/Jolla)

what went wrong?

Alas !! the Ubuntu experience was wonderful for five best days. Then I got greedy. I wanted to test GNOME 3.8. They’d warn me, of this being beautiful and evolving. I’d been following GNOME 3 from its inception and also disagreed to what LiFather (father of Linux) had to say (read here). Well, I wanted to finally give it a try – meant four hours of download and another night spend in front of laptop. Finally it was up late last Saturday.

Sunday was miserable.

The next day was not something I’d hope. While GNOME 3.8 is in the direction of greatness, today its a crap. I still believe in it, and loved the interface and its design mantras, but it crippled my system, and even Unity got bugged. I could no longer smoothly control my system with a Terminal (mostly due to my limited knowledge) or my Touch Pad.

GNOME 3 Shell is very good. A wise decision which I think has very good future. Much like KDE Plasma, and KDE 3 (or was it 4) when it came out, GNOME right now is a death trap. I’d need three or four good review before I try it again.

After this, nothing remained same. I had to re install the entire system again five times, before I realized that Linux for this summer was over for me. One of my major disappointment was with the ATI Graphics driver. I’d installed it correctly the first three times, and failed to install (at any cost) the last five times.

ATI Raedon 6400M driver for linux was the culprit that shut off my summer Linux transition.

Reluctantly,  when this driver could not be installed, I had to abandon. WIth no proper proprietary driver installed, my system would heat up on normal use, and finish its battery within one hour. I live in Nepal, with eight hours of electricity cuts, so it be quite impossible for me to move on. And then, I came back to Windows 8 Pro once again. I am not saying I don’t like Microsoft.  I am just saying I’d like to learn something fresh.

Conclusion

Well yeah, this post is not everything you need to know. There are lot of thing out there yet to be known. If you find it, do let me know. Tweet me @momobites about any new Linux Development in Nepal – or may be something which is left out in this post. Thats it, I am sleepy now, its 11.20pm NST- and I need my nap.

PS – As with most of my posts, this too is one time written. No correction or re-reads done. If there is a problem understanding please let me know. If I have made a mistake that you think is important, please let me know.

Good night.