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Archive for November, 2010

HP Pavilion with Ubuntu 10.10

November 28, 2010 6 comments

I’ve been asked for an update of my experiences with my HP Pavilion dv6 3042TX – in particular with Ubuntu. A reader has found that this notebook can now be purchased here in Australia for $1,299. That is a fine price indeed! At that price, I would have considered “self insuring” and not spending the addition $200 or so on an extended warranty. However, I must say that I sometimes have regrets about not getting a Mac. Here are some of my experiences and advice:

The good

  • Aesthetics are good. Quite a good looking laptop. Not as nice as the MacBook Pro.
  • Quad-core. 8G RAM. 1G graphics.
  • The keyboard is fine (our reader had heard otherwise). Compared with MBP it even has PgUp and PgDn keys 🙂
  • Touchpad is fine (again, not sure why our reader would have heard otherwise). Not quite as nice as the MacBook Pro touchpad though – particularly for scrolling.
  • Some ports that MacBooks don’t have: HDMI out, eSATA out, fingerprint reader, blu-ray.
  • Running GeekBench on Ubuntu 10.10 can yeld up to 6300 so I assume that it is more performant than Windows 7 (which gets about 5600).

The bad

  • Battery life is only 1.5hr – just for light web-browsing tasks
  • When running Ubuntu 64-bit you will run into the 100% CPU problem caused by the npviewer.bin. AFAIK it’s a program that helps interoperate with the 32-bit Adobe Flash plugin because there’s no 64-bit one for Linux yet…
  • The fingerprint reader isn’t used for authentication out-of-the-box on Ubuntu 10.10 although I haven’t searched for any solution (pain threshold too low).

The ugly

  • It runs hot. Even when doing little cpu-intensive work the fans turns on and it sounds like it’s going to take off! I’ve had one or two blue-screens of death which I imagine are related to the heat. Lately I’ve been using FlashBlock which seems to have improved things somewhat.
  • With Ubuntu 10.10 after resuming from hibernate I get odd graphics flickering “effects” which is particularly bad when dragging or playing video. Basically you will end up rebooting. I have found no solution for this.
  • With Ubuntu 10.10 the touchpad will not work well. Dragging sends the pointer crazy and right click does not work at all. I found a solution https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/maverick/+source/linux/+bug/582809/comments/94 but unfortunately now the pointer moves too slowly and increasing the sensitivity does not work.

Advice

Stick with Ubuntu 10.04

The touchpad problems didn’t happen with Ubuntu 10.04 and I’m fairly certain that the screen flickering following a resume didn’t occur either. So if you’re going to install Ubuntu, I’d currently recommend 10.04.

Run Windows 7 (with Ubuntu 10.10 in a box)

This is the option I’ve currently adopted. This way I have no problems with Google Chrome and the npviewer.bin because there’s a 64-bit version of flash. It also has other good effects such as being able to run the latest version of Skype, have my fingerprint reader work for logging in (this is quite a time saver because I tend to use strong passwords). Of course, to get software development done I installed Ubuntu 10.10 with VirtualBox. In this way I have no problems with the touchpad. Running the operating system that the manufacturer intended has certainly caused less headaches (and time wasters). Using VirtualBox seems quite performant and I’m not stuck with a compromise such as Cygwin.

Plea to Canoncial and manufacturers

Perhaps it’s just that 10.10 is a disaster (at least running native/raw on HP hardware) but I can’t help but think that it’s imperative that Canonical find a way to have manufacturers buy into Ubuntu and test/preinstall it on their hardware. There was a time when Dell were doing this at least in the US and EU (but even then only on a small subset of their range). I used to enjoy the days of searching for solutions for hardware problems, diving into configuration files and configuring X etc. I learnt a lot through those experiences. However, now that I’m older I suppose, I value my time more. I hear this argument from Apple fan boys all the time. Unfortunately it’s true. I do think that Linux and Ubuntu in particular is a better software development platform. The weath of software available using APT is a big part of that. Also that APT uses binary packages. Easy software installations isn’t so important if you don’t experiment with new programming languages and libraries etc that often.

Buy a Mac 🙂

The other option is, of course, to buy a MacBook. Since I already have an iMac in case I need more power, I’ve been thinking about purchasing a 11″ MacBook Air next year. I’ve tested one in-store an it seems quite nimble for such a little beast and the screen resolution is the same as my current laptop – 1366×768. I’d certainly have no more need for my 11.6″ netbook (which won’t run Ubuntu Unity btw because of gma500/poulbo graphics driver issues – sigh!). Perhaps the 11″ wouldn’t cut it for Java development though. I haven’t tried IntelliJ on it in-store yet. A fine but more expensive option is the 13″ MacBook Air. The same resolution as a 15″ MacBook Pro. Currently the 13″ MacBook Air will set up back $2,078.00 including 4G RAM and 3 year warranty. If I had to choose again right now, I’d be picking between 11 and 13 inch MacBook Airs.

Since I won’t be purchasing a new notebook until next year, I am hoping that the rumoured April MacBook Pro update will make the decision easier. Hoping for higher resolution displays like MacBook Air, cheaper flash/ssd storage option, quad-cores, Mac OS X Lion and cheaper 8G RAM option. Hopefully a combination of Apple and a rising AUD can deliver. It’s quite possible that the AUD could come crashing down before then though :(.

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Agile is the status quo

November 24, 2010 1 comment

Robert C. Martin (aka Uncle Bob) has written a provocative article, What Killed Waterfall Could Kill Agile. Besides its main trust, it also contains some interesting historical tidbits in the history of the agile movement.

Here’ my 2c. Disclaimer/background: programming since age 11, interested in “big” methods in the 90s, XP since 1999 and became a CSM 2 years ago.

The problem isn’t certification per se. The CSM after all is just a 2 day training course! It’s hard to argue that education is detrimental. There certainly is a problem with what Bob calls “elitism” or (better) authority without responsibility. Perhaps there’s also a problem with how organisations are perceiving the CSM and role of Scrum Master. I haven’t experienced it myself. In my case, I have noted serious scepticism about the usefulness of the CSM. As long as it is merely considered a 2 two day training program then I don’t think it does any harm (it merely does what a 2 day training course can do). No doubt it was marketing genius to make attending a course “qualify” someone for a certificate :). I took the course when I was flush with cash from working in the UK. I attended in order to show my interest in Scrum/XP to potential clients and team mates. I did also hope to learn something at the course :). I did note that the course was full project-management types… to the degree that I felt somewhat out of place – so I think I know where Bob is coming from.

Agile has become a meaningless term. Agile is dying. Everyone is doing agile. The “agile” label is slapped on everything. Once slapped on, it tends to provide a force fields against criticism. Often this is an attempt to get something for nothing (“but you said it would be faster if we had 100% test coverage”) or just simply popularism. One of the worst things about Agile is the unquestioning, unthinking fanboyism that abounds. Agile has become the status quo.

As a young programmer in the 90s I was entranced by “object-oriented analysis and design” and the glittering lights of the 3 amigos – their respective methodologies and their (Rational) Unified Process. However, by the late 90s, it was the fight against bureaucracy that drew me to XP and the little white book. It was the questioning of the status-quo of the “big” methodologies. Giving working code the respect it deserves.

What’s not important is that we overemphasise a word, “agile”, that has already become synonymous with software development or software engineering. What is important is the following:

  1. Work as productively and economically as we know how
  2. Continuously learn in order to hone and master our skills. Yes, you will have to learn new programming languages :). I recommend Haskell, OCaml and Erlang.
  3. As always, keep a sceptical eye out and do not to fall prey to dogma.

Most people fail on that last point. Don’t.