Ill :( but I bear good news also!

So I took most of yesterday off with a general health complaint, which seems to have continued into today (I speak in general terms to avoid grossing out my readers), so I am off again today.  Forgive me if the article seems a bit disjointed, you can imagine why my keyboard availability won’t be 100% today.

On a far less disgusting topic, I found a brilliant little niche business yesterday which I am extremely glad to pledge a large portion of my recent paycheque to in return for nothing less than -exactly- what I wanted.  I’ve yet to receive the netbook, but based on the description and reviews I am confident that I will be singing its praises once it arrives.  Even if I’m not, though, they have a 30 day money-back policy which would see an almost 100% refund (they charge a nominal restocking fee).  I can’t see myself returning it; let’s go over the spec together:

  • 2GB of RAM, which is more than my desktop so quite extraordinarily healthy
  • choice of black or mocha (ubuntu coloured) case, I chose black
  • Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor
  • 10.2″ 1024×600 screen.  For those who don’t know this is towards the top end of netbook screen sizes, which are normally between 7 and 11 inches.
  • Draft-N WiFi, which is good because I don’t plan to get a mobile broadband connection for it.
  • 3 USB ports, unbelievably, that’s more than I’ve seen on most laptops!  I don’t know what netbooks are like for USB support but I thought it’d only be 1 or maybe 2 tops; well, there’s no CD drive so I suppose they have to make up for that but still…
  • 640×480 webcam (not the best in the market but definitely good enough as far as I’m concerned)
  • 3.5 hours battery life

And by far the best bit, the “windows” key (technically the Super Key, but everyone calls it the Windows key) has an option of either the Ubuntu or Tux (Linux penguin) logo emblazoned for all to see!  And the attention to detail doesn’t end there!  The Made For Windows sticker has been replaced by a Ubuntu sticker, and according to one review they replaced the Windows Product Key with a Ubuntu Product Key.  Note that Ubuntu does not need a Product Key like Windows does, and will not nag you to activate your copy of Ubuntu within 30 days after you’ve already put in the damn key 15 times (and that was on XP, not their newer, more bug-ridden versions of Windows!).

Apparently, the warranty is an Open Hardware Warranty as well, which basically means rather than “DO NOT OPEN THIS CASE” the warranty actually states (paraphrased) “PLEASE OPEN THIS CASE!”, which is brilliant because it means I can tinker without losing peace of mind.  I ordered it with a 16GB SSD with a view to upgrading the SSD when the prices for SSD come down, and that hardware warranty will make that job a darnsight easier.  Not just the warranty being far more flexible but the fact that the manufacturer has created it with tinkering in mind.

I’m sure you’re all dying to know just where you can find a linux laptop/desktop/netbook/server with all this and a techsupport email address which replied to my first query within 10 minutes, so with no further ado let me disappoint you by revealing the catch:

The company, ZaReason is based in Berkeley, California.  I’ve had to import the netbook which will put delays and extra price considerations into the deal.  However, I have had the idea that I shall get the first netbook, test it, trial it, make sure it’s worthy and then invest some money in importing a joblot for sale in the UK.  In other words, I may start reselling ZaReason gear from a UK outlet (if I can raise the funds necessary).  I shall enter into negotiations with ZaReason regarding this in the coming months.  They do ship to the UK and they will ship with UK power cords if you ask them to, but in the interests of faster build-to-reception times, I would like to stock some in the UK on behalf of ZaReason and sell them on for price of unit + shipping + import, with maybe a shred of profit for prospective growth of ZaReasonUK.  Let’s see how I like my netbook first, though, and leave the international trade negotiations for my next blog post! 😉

Oh, and before I forget, they helpfully answered my question about a/v chat with an exciting piece of news which I think I heard drifting around the net a few months back but which now has been more or less confirmed (Alpha 5 of Karmic’s release notes include this gem).

Ubuntu Karmic Alpha 5 includes the latest GNOME 2.27.91 development release.

Empathy has replaced Pidgin as the default instant messaging client, introducing the Telepathy framework.

The gdm 2.27.91 login manager is a complete rewrite compared to the version in earlier Ubuntu releases.

Exciting or what, eh?  And no, I’m not talking about the version number of Gnome being an americanised 27th of February 1991, because that is a rather insignificant date to me.  I refer to Empathy, which supports webcam!  Unlike Pidgin, who has lacked this support since it changed its name from GAIM (and yes, I am just about old enough to remember that).  The other thing to note is the new login manager, which according to the plans I read back when 9.04 had just been released (that’s April this year), should prove to be far more fun and exciting than the current login manager.  And yes, I am mostly excited because I will be talking to people using Telepathy and that just sounds too cool to pass up.

Ttfn, people, and watch this space closely for updates!



I started my new job about three weeks ago.  The pay isn’t great but the work is hard…

In all seriousness, it is possibly the dullest, most frustrating, most tedious job I’ve ever had.  My job is to:

  1. receive an email
  2. save the Excel (or occasionally .pdf) attachments
  3. open up an access database whose frontend has been coded by the three worst UI designers on the face of the planet (and I’m comparing them to whoever came up with the original Xbox dashboard! [note to younger readers: that’s the -original- xbox, not the original xbox 360 dashboard])
  4. copy/paste and in some cases re-type the information in the attachment into the database

Considering I could (and may well do just to prove this point) design a system that does the same job in a quarter of the time with a quarter of the clunkiness and umpteen times the user-friendliness; I’m really quite frustrated!

So my job sucks, but whose doesn’t these days?  I guess I’ll have to live with it for the time being, but there’s not much chance I’ll take a permanent in that place unless…

I had this idea the other day, that could prove to be quite ingenius (or could just become yet another abandoned idea); basically, I want to head up a new bespoke IT unit called the Alternative Operating Systems Unit, whose remit would be to:

  • Promote and support the use of non-Microsoft operating systems within the civil service
  • Provide services for the more technical users, such as IRC servers, forums, internal blogging, etc. [optional]
  • Create and maintain bespoke software designed to integrate alternative operating systems into the (currently primarily if not wholly Microsoft) network
  • Offer training to all users of computer systems for technical challenges such as basic programming, scripting and system administration.

I haven’t worked out figures yet, but since a hell of a lot of it would actually be simpler to manage than standard FLITS work, I don’t imagine it would cost money (in fact it may well save a lot of money in licensing fees and so on).

I shall post more on this topic later, including a link to a website that I shall start work on soon.  Watch this space!

[EDIT: I didn’t finish that sentence about figures… oops!]