Uniting the Tribes: Triple Booting Windows, BSD, and Linux

PC-BSD

Last Cyber Monday I fell for a deal from Dell: a Vostro 2520 15.6″ laptop with Intel i3 processors, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard disk and CD/DVD burner, plus WiFi, camera, USB ports, SD port, HDMI port, etc., with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled for $279 Cdn. It’s not a powerhouse, but was too good a deal to pass up. It’s a lot zippier than my old Dell Inspiron 1520. Two days ago it arrived, booting up perfectly with Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit and the unit even had a little Ubuntu sticker on the case instead of the usual Windows sticker.1

Because I’ve started preliminary work for a possible book on Unix and Unix-like operating systems, I needed a good lab computer — a unit to turn into a sandbox where I could play around with stuff and not worry about my critical data if something breaks. It’s a good thing too because, as you’ll see, I managed to trigger a superb messup along the way.

The reason I need Windows in the mix is to test out the capabilities of Cygwin, the project whose motto is “Get that Linux feeling — on Windows.” Cygwin provides a Unix-like environment running in Windows itself without the need to install a parallel operating system. I’ve used it once or twice in the past and liked it and can see how it could be a highly useful tool both in itself and as a vehicle to learn Unix concepts.

So, when creating a multi-boot environment, it’s always a good idea to start with Windows first because if you don’t, Windows will blow away any boot menu you’ve set up in the MBR (Master Boot Record) of your drive, claiming the space as its own. Windows does not play nice with other operating systems.

I installed Windows 7 into a 100GB partition. I thought of installing Windows 8, but I already had a Windows 7 license and I had enough new learning on my hands without experiencing the weird aggro of Windows 8. While partitioning my drive (blowing away the Dell installation) I used Windows to create an extra 80GB partition for PC-BSD. PC-BSD doesn’t care what kind of file system is there initially, but it has no partitioning tools at this time and requires a primary partition to be available to install into.

PC-BSD? I’ll admit this one sneaked up on me. I used to install FreeBSD servers in one of my IT jobs and I really liked BSD (another Unix-like operating system similar to, but different from, Linux). What PC-BSD is, is FreeBSD with desktop enhancements to make it attractive as a workstation computer as well as a server. I hadn’t heard of it until recently so I wanted to include it in my studies and tests. PC-BSD 9, 64-bit, installed cleanly from DVD and all was well until I tried to reboot after installation and the system went straight into Windows instead. Evidently PC-BSD’s boot menu routine wasn’t up to the task. Later, I thought. I’ll deal with the boot issue later, because I have one more operating system to go.

My third operating system on the Dell unit was Ubuntu Linux, but version 12.10 rather than the 11.04 Dell had installed. As always, Ubuntu behaved well for me and installed nicely, taking the rest of the available disk. I expect to spend most of my Unix time in Ubuntu (unless my time on my intrepid Mac counts as Unix time, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch, despite the Mac’s BSD underpinnings).

Gnu GRUB

The GRUBby details

I had rather hoped that Ubuntu would sniff out PC-BSD as well as Windows and add it to GRUB (GNU GRand Unified Bootloader), the current Linux boot manager. It didn’t. It certainly picked up Windows and I had a fine dual-boot computer working, with no apparent access to the BSD installation.

I figured I could fix GRUB manually so I did a little googling and found some recipes for booting PC-BSD. GRUB has changed substantially since I last used it and the /boot/grub/menu.lst file is no longer hand editable. I had to add the BSD stanza to /etc/grub.d/40_custom, which I did, finishing off with a $ sudo update-grub command to insert the new boot menu into the MBR.

When I rebooted there was an entry for PC-BSD, but it didn’t work. I chased a number of red herrings trying to get it working, including reinstalling the OS in case I’d done something wrong. During installation I thought, with an increasingly fatigued mind, that if I put the /boot partition in the MBR, it would solve the boot issue. It did. Boy did it! It booted beautifully, but took over the entire hard disk, wiping out both the Windows and the Ubuntu installations. It wouldn’t have been quite as painful if I hadn’t gone through the gruelling process of “first update” of Windows software: 139 slow, slow, slow updates. (It’s this sort of thing that turns me off Windows). But, the fault lay with me, so I had a good laugh and started over.

Last night I got everything installed again, with the same initial result. PC-BSD wouldn’t boot from GRUB. Somewhere along the line something I read niggled at my brain and I read more about GRUB, learning that between the last edition, which I’ve used, and this one, they changed disk numbering. Numbering of the first partition used to start at 0, second partition at 1, third partition at 2, etc., so for the BSD partition at partition 3, I was using 2. It’s been changed to simply 1, 2, 3, etc., without starting at 0. That was one I wouldn’t have anticipated.

When I fixed the number, changing it from a 2 to a 3, PC-BSD booted perfectly. For the record, this is the stanza that worked for me:


menuentry "PCBSD 9.0" {
set root=(hd0,3)
chainloader +1
}

Simple math, if you know the rules.

Now that the Cyber Monday special is up and running, I can compare and contrast the three OSes and the type and quality of Unix experience they provide.

More later.


1. Lest anyone think the acquisition was perfect, let me admit that the Dell Vostro 2520 has a crappy keyboard. It’s cheap and bounces easily resulting in multiple characters per keystroke. Worse it has the dreaded Canadian English-French keyboard layout that shrinks the left shift by putting an extra key in the way. Instead of shifting, you get a string of backslashes unless you type very carefully. I use a USB keyboard and mouse in place of the built-in stuff. [Jump back to footnote 1]

Ubuntu Linux on Nexus 7: First Look

Linux on Nexus 7

My OTG (“On the Go”) cable arrived after three weeks of languishing in the postal service so I finally had what I needed to plug a USB keyboard into the Nexus 7. The procedure looked fairly safe, and I was willing to gamble. I say gamble, because I’m not a serious hacker and if the instructions were to deep-six my system, I’d be screwed. But I figured there’d be some way to restore it, so, to pursue my abiding interest in things Linux, I took the plunge.

Unlocking the Nexus

The first step was completely new to me: Unlocking the Nexus 7. I’m guessing this is the equivalent of jailbreaking an iThing, but more up front. In fact, Google makes it easy to do. You simply power off the device, then power it back on while holding down the power button and the volume down button. What you get onscreen is cute little Android figure with the hood to its insides open and a big Start button on the top. If you press Start the unit boots back up normally. But when attached to another computer, the ROM can be flashed via the USB port. This state is called “fastboot mode.”

Courtesy: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Nexus7/Installation?action=AttachFile&do=get&target=bootloader.pngNexus bootloader mode

I used my Ubuntu Linux 12.04 laptop (Dell Inspiron 1520) to do the procedure, but I understand it can also be done from Windows or OS X. I had already installed ubuntu-nexus7-installer and was ready for the next step:

$ sudo fastboot oem unlock

I then followed the directions on the Nexus “Unlock Bootloader?” screen, restarted the unit, and it came back up, still in Android mode, but unlocked.

The next step was so easy it was liking riding in a robotic car. I returned the Nexus 7 to fastboot mode, located the graphical Ubuntu Nexus 7 installer program on my laptop, clicked on it, and waited for it to finish.

Courtesy: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Nexus7/Installation?action=AttachFile&do=get&target=dash3.png
Ubuntu LInux Nexus 7 Installer

Test Drive

When the installer finished, I was looking at Ubuntu’s Unity graphical interface and a virtual keyboard. At this point I should say that I wasn’t expecting it to be a finished product. In fact it’s a long way from alpha, much less beta. But I wanted to see how far the team had come in getting Linux onto a tablet, which is a remarkable feat. While Microsoft is spending millions getting full Windows 8 onto a tablet, here is a team of people on the Internet building the equivalent on their own dime, simply for the good of the community. These people have my profound respect, as well as thanks.

So, performance was about what I expected. I’d touch an icon, say for Gedit, a text editor, and there would be a several-seconds wait before it appeared. I touched the Terminal program icon and it, too, appeared in a few seconds. Not instantly as in Android or iOS. I typed a few commands in the terminal using the virtual keyboard, cd’ing around the sytems and ls’ing the directories to see what was around. The virtual keyboard got old fast. Because it’s such a full keyboard, without numeric and special symbols modes like an Android or iOS virtual keyboard, everything has to be on Ubuntu’s virtual keyboard. That makes for very tiny keys and circumspect typing.

Next I hooked up an external USB keyboard. I touched the text editor, exited the virtual keyboard, and tried typing. Worked like a charm! I typed at full speed and didn’t detect any lag onscreen. I tried it in the Terminal window too, and it was great. However, the pesky virtual keyboard kept popping up whenever I touched the screen. It got to be highly annoying. It would be a good idea if the virtual keyboard could be suppressed if the system detects an external keyboard.

Installing Linux on Nexus 7

Still amazed at how far the team had come, I looked for, and found, a Screen Capture program. It’s what I used to capture the image at the top of this blog posting. It too worked a treat, but I wondered how I could get the captured image out of the, I guess I can’t call it the Lexus 7, so I’ll say the Ubunexus 7. (Doesn’t have the same ring, does it?)

I removed the USB keyboard and attached an SD card reader with SD card inside. The folder viewing app detected it right away so I thought I’d just do a copy and paste using the app. Unfortunately, every time I started to get somewhere with it, the app would cause the system to freeze and I’d have to reboot. To reboot when you don’t have any control of the system, just push the power button on the Nexus 7 and the reboot/shutdown options appear. After a few rounds of this I gave up and went to the terminal window where I typed something like (I forgot to write down the exact command):

$ cp screenshot01.png /mnt/ubuntu/SDCARD01

What a delightful sight it was to see the green light blip on the card reader. If that hadn’t worked, I’d have tried rsync or something, but I had what I needed.

Aside: This simple copy to the SD card impressed me to no end because in Android 4.2 I CANNOT get the OS to see any card or memory stick I attach. All the tips I’ve seen on the Net simply say, attach with an OTG cable. Done that, been there, tried two different readers and two different cables. No joy. Yet Ubuntu Linux mounts it intelligently. Piece of cake.

Back to Android 4.2

Bottom line: I’m impressed with how far the team has come with the touchscreen interface, and the port to the ARM processor. Much work still needs to be done. For instance, you can’t yet use finger gestures to enlarge the screen, something that will make using the tiny icons and fonts more tolerable for pudgy fingers. And there will be, I’m sure, many bugs to be fixed. Great work!

As nice as it was to visit, however, it’s still under construction, not ready for occupancy. Eventually I’ll move in, but for now it was back to Android. The installation procedures also give instructions for downloading the current install image for Android 4.2. Once it’s fetched, gunzipped, and untar’d, you put the Nexus back in fastboot mode and type (depending on the image version)

$ cd nakasi-jro03d/
$ sudo ./flash-all.sh

At this point the Nexus 7 is returned to Android. All your customized settings are lost, of course, but if you’ve been autobacking your system to Google (recommended), Google restores all the apps you’ve loaded. You need to retweak the interface to your taste.

And if you wish to relock the OS, there’s one final step. Return the Nexus 7 to fastboot mode and type

$ sudo fastboot oem lock

I’ll leave mine unlocked so I can try out the distribution again when it reaches another plateau, without fussing with the Nexus lock. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to the next trial. This is great stuff. Cheers to the development team and all the testers!

Nexus 7 Has Arrived

Google Nexus 7

It arrived two days ago, all gleaming and ready to go with Jelly Bean,aka Android 4.1. The Google Nexus 7.

Lest anyone be confused, I’m not turning away from Apple products. I love my iPad 3 and use up its battery charge nearly every day. No, this purchase was made for a different reason entirely: Linux.

In an exciting development, Canonical Ubuntu Linux has released a distribution for the Nexus 7 as its target tablet to further develop this ARM implementation of Linux. I expect it to be very rough around the edges and only moderately useable but I’m excited to test it out. It’s a worthy dream to have a full Linux operating system on a tablet for portable use. Rather like what Microsoft is trying to do with full Windows 8 tablets.

In the meantime I’m trying out the Nexus 7 with Android, an operating system I’ve not before used and I must say, it’s very slick. The App store at Google may not be as well stocked as the iPad App store, but I was able to pick up most of the extras I need, such as a basic text editor for writing and a file manager to move files around. By the time I added a few extras the Nexus had most of the apps I use frequently on the iPad, including Chrome, Kindle, Netflix, Overdrive,DropBox, Adobe Reader, and a decent epub reader. What I haven’t found yet is a text editor that is the rough equivalent of WriteRoom.

My only regret about the Nexus 7 is that Google/Asus didn’t include a MicroSD slot. There is, however, a micro-USB connector and I have a coverter cable on order that will allow me to attach standard USB devices, such as an SD card reader or USB memory stick.

To be honest, it’s going to be painful to give all this up in order to install a partly working operating system that is in its early development and doesn’t yet do too many practical things.

So, would I give up my iPad for, say, the 10″ Google Nexus expected in a few weeks? Not really. Although I’m not an Apple fanboy, I really like the iPad and have owned two of them. Other than their being set in a protected, “walled garden” I have no complaints. However, for anyone looking for a less expensive option to a 7.8″ iPad, I think the Nexus 7 is a great buy.

Ubuntu Linux 12.04.1 on a Dell Inspiron 1520 Laptop

Ubuntu

We finally retired wife’s Dell Inspiron 1520 15″ laptop with built in DVD drive from Windows duty and that, as always, provided me with an opportunity to press it into service as a Linux computer. Linux laptops with WiFi are a special treat because I can relocate them to spots where I can access them directly when needed, or ssh into them from my Macbook Air.

I normally use Ubuntu Canonical as my go-to distribution because I’ve found it stable, easy to install, and helpful in terms of third-party drivers, but in this case I thought perhaps I’d experiment with Debian. I burned the latest Debian stable release to CD, inserted it into the Dell, and installed. The installation was straightforward but, as I feared, the WiFi adapter was not attended to and, worse, I realized that the software base was so old it was still using OpenOffice rather than LibreOffice. It was only then that I recalled that the Debian stable release is very conservative. You use the beta release if you want the latest versions.

I might have downloaded the beta and reinstalled, but I thought about the driver I needed for the Dell’s Broadcom Wi-Fi adapter. I was in unfamiliar territory. I wasn’t certain where to find the necessary driver or how to get it installed and working even if I did. I knew I could spend hours searching for the info with Google searches, working up the driver by hand, but I’ve been spoiled by Ubuntu. It makes the job so much easier.

So instead of downloading the Debian Beta release, I downloaded the current LTS version of Ubuntu: 12.04.1. I remembered using Ubuntu once before on an earlier model Dell laptop and being able to pick up the driver during updates when I jacked it into an RJ45 hardwired port. I decided since it was comfortable to do the installation in my dining room that I’d install unconnected to the Net and pick up the BroadCom driver after the fact.

Ubuntu installs are a piece of cake, especially since I was able to allow it to use the entire hard disk for its own use with no sharing or dual booting. The only surprise I got was a good one. When it arrived at the point of wanting to know if I wanted the installation to update software at the same time, via the Internet, it provided me with the necessary Broadcom Wi-Fi adapter. I chose it, typed in the network password, and Ubuntu did the rest. That’s plain classy.

When I booted up for business, after the installation, I was pleased with the selection of software Ubuntu had chosen, including LibreOffice and Firefox. I planned to add my specialized preferences, such as LyX and LaTeX, myself.

The new Unity interface was interesting — a kind of cross between Windows and Mac. It was easy to navigate and use, but it took me awhile to find my way to a terminal. You’d think that any version of Linux would set up an obvious terminal emulator by default. Worse, though was the performance. Rather than being better than Windows, I felt I was clicking through treacle. What was going on?

I did some Googling and discovered that, by default, Unity tries to use 3D graphics and works best with a graphics accelerator. I don’t know if the old Dell has an accelerated graphics chip or not, but if it does, it wasn’t working very well. So I logged off and on logging back on chose Unity 2D. After that everything speeded up to normal. All was almost well.

Except. I don’t know quite how to put this without offending the fine people at Ubuntu, whom I respect tremendously, but I really don’t like Unity. It’s a grandma’s interface. Something for the novice who never has plans to be anything else. Surely there must be a better way.

Here’s where my memory fails me. I can’t recall if Gnome Shell was an option on the relog screen or whether I went to the command line and typed $ sudo apt-get install gnome-shell. It was certainly an option after that.

So finally I rebooted into the traditional Gnome Shell and found an interface I could live with. I’ve used it before and found it plenty serviceable. The first program I stuck onto the top bar was Gnome Terminal. Now I was back in the Linux business. Next came Firefox and GEdit. TeX and LaTeX loaded up nicely, and I installed Handbrake because I have a DVD ripping project on the go.

Although I intend to do some modest development work on the Dell 1520, I’m first using it to rip the many Teaching Company “Great Courses” we own to MP4 format. As a friend remarked, I’m digitizing my university. Nowadays I purchase Teaching Company courses in download format from the get-go, but I have years of DVD courses I’d like to be able to study and review on my iPad or put on a memory stick to plug into my Blu Ray player.

All in all, it’s been another fine exercise in installing and using Linux. So far I haven’t found any trouble spots with the Dell 1520. I might, after finishing my ripping project, reinstall with Linux Mint, just to have a first look at it, but for now I’m happy with Ubuntu.

Tracking Science

I’ve been a science buff since grade school so it’s natural I want to follow recent developments in science. The trouble is, it’s an impossible task. Not even scientists can keep up, even within their specialty.

So the best I can do is track some of the highlights of science, technology, and medicine that make it into the news. The task is made easier through the use of Twitter, by adding science and technology Twitter feeds to my account. I’m currently following 45 sci-tech feeds and receiving up to 100 tweets a day. I expect the number of feeds to increase as I discover more of them.

Although Twitter is a great help in keeping up to date on things sci-tech, it’s a burden to read through the daily feeds. I spend a lot (too much) time on the Internet as it is but there are more feeds than I can easily track. As a consequence I was missing a lot of interesting stories.

What I needed was an easier way to track the stories. I found a good compromise solution by using Paper.li, a nifty service that allows you to create a daily online newspaper from your Twitter feeds. Paper.li lets you set up your newspaper on a once-a-day or twice-a-day publishing schedule, and you can set the times of publication.

Using this service I’ve created Gene’s Sci-Tech Daily, a twice-a-day paper and it’s proven a helpful way to track news items. It keeps me up to date on the hunt for the Higg’s Boson, the voyage of Curiosity to Mars, the potential cloning of wooly mammoths, reviews of new tech items such as the Kindle Fire, and the latest in the Apple-Samsung lawsuits. The paper misses some stories, of course, but on the whole it seems to vacuum up the main items.

Feel free to bookmark this newsletter and use it if you want a pleasant way to track science and technology news. Drop me a line if you find it useful.

Adventures in DXing

Sangean ATS909X Multiband Receiver

Shortwave, long wave, medium wave, and FM — bands of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be tuned in with my new Sangean ATS-909X multiband receiver. I’ve decided to give radio monitoring a go.

The receiver arrived yesterday from Durham Radio in Whitby, Ontario. I chose the Sangean for its reputation as a decent, mid-level receiver with the enough features to satisfy the demands of multiband listening, and especially DXing.

The abbreviation DX stands for “distance” in radio circles and DXing is the activity of trying to log distant radio signals. This can be done on the medium wave, or AM, band on any home radio. A receiver with good sensitivity and selectivity make it a little easier. DXing is also done on shortwave and FM frequencies.

So far I’ve discovered two things: that shortwave reception is rather poor in my house and that I picked the worst time of year to begin this hobby. I’d already guessed shortwave reception could be dodgy. The house is surrounded by trees and there are tall apartments to the south that block signals. What I overlooked is the time of year. DXing takes place mostly after sunset when radio signals skip great distances by bouncing off the ionosphere. As we approach summer solstice, I have to stay up quite late to do any monitoring. Winter is the ideal DXing season.

Those things aside, I fiddled around with medium wave (AM) DXing last night and with a little help from the Internet to help identify stations, I logged stations in Buffalo (no surprise), Almherst, New York City, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Nashville. Not bad for the first night ever.

Fibe 25 or Fib 25

fibe25

The debate over user-based billing (UBB) has become a news drama with one side, represented primarily by Bell and Rogers in Ontario, lobbying the CRTC to charge users on a pay-as-you-go basis. Or offering packages with lower caps with penalties for exceeding them. The other side, users, are crying “Foul!”

In between are the debates. Is an information utility really like a gas utility, as the CRTC claims, or is this further obfuscation of the real situation. Should the Internet be as close as possible to a free resource, within limits, in order to meet the expectations of a digital age with streaming audio and video, or is this a naive point of view?

What is obvious is that the CRTC decision in favor of the bandwidth utilities has angered tens of thousands of users and created so much heat that the Prime Minister’s office say they’ll rescind the change and ask the CRTC to go back to the drawing board.

The trouble with the debates is lack of information. The utilities haven’t provided a set of real costs involved for providing the services. And even if they did, there’s no one able to verify whether the costs are as stated, or are inflated for the purpose of wringing additional profits out of their services

Both the utilities and the CRTC claim that it’s essentially “bad” people who use the most bandwidth, people pirating movies and the like. I’ve not seen any figures to back this up. It sounds like a straw man argument.

With no audited costs put forward, and no verifiable arguments put forward, I think the CRTC was foolish to take the utilities at their word. I have no quarrel with the concept of user based billing, provided it’s fair to consumers. There is currently no way to gauge the fairness.

For example. Not long ago I purchased a Fibe 25 plan from Bell. Great speed, and they gave me a 300GB per month cap, with a penalty if I ran over. Presumably they wouldn’t have offered me this plan if it weren’t profitable for them.

Now, at the time of the CRTC decision, my online usage shows that I’ve been reduced to a 75GB cap with a bit more for insurance, which comes to less than half my previous cap.

So, why do I get the idea I’ve been gouged. And promised something that was taken away after I’d already started using it.

If anyone asks, I’m forced to say I have Fib 25 from Bell as my service. More Fib than Fibe.

To Facebook or Not To Facebook

Facebook

That has been the question for awhile. I just deactivated my Facebook account for the third time, which means I’ve given it three tries. Enough, I think, to say that Facebook isn’t for me. I get it, but the “it” doesn’t hold much for me.

The problem with social media is the “social.” I’ve never been good at small talk, and that’s primarily what Facebook and Twitter are about. My primary interest in the Internet is information. For personal communication there is email. I like email. It’s private, personal, and efficient. Social media encourage people to post what they had for dinner, what they’re watching on TV, what new movie they’ve seen. All perfectly innocent things, but they take time to read and I’m at a loss what to reply, if anything.

I maintain my Twitter account, but I don’t tweet. I use it as a clipping service for breaking science and technology stories.

I think I’m either too old for Facebook, or too introverted. Take your pick. But for Facebook and me it’s strike three and you’re out.

Getting a PVR

PVR

Slow to catch up with television technology, we just rented our first PVR. I drove the old basic non-HD converter to Rogers at Clarkson Crossing and after very long wait in line while customers either worried about or argued over their cellphone charges, my converter was swapped out for a Cisco Explorer 8642HD that can record up to 20 hours of TV.

I drove home and hooked it up. HDMI, good. Goes to Input 5 on the Sharp LCD TV. Power cord into outlet, yes, power cord, power cord. I wasn’t given a power cord. Nice.

I drive back to Clarkson Landing and have another wait while a customer worries about her cell-phone plan then mention to the lad serving me that he forgot to give me a power cord. “Oh, my fault,” he says with no remorse at all reflected in his face and he goes into the storeroom and brings me a cable, ending with the inevitable “Have a nice day.”

Back home. Power cord into outlet. Bingo.

The HD channels come in crisp and clear making me glad already that I moved up to HD from Standard. Enough for one day. We try out the recording part by setting the unit to record the movie True Grit, the John Wayne classic, showing on one of the movie channels.

The next day I tried hooking the unit to play through my VCR/DVD-RW unit to see if I could record a recorded show in case I wanted to see it again after removing it from the PVR’s hard disk. I cabled it correctly, but all I got on Line 1 and 2 was a blue screen, no image. The only way I could get the image to play through was on the co-ax, which degrades the image. Not a big deal, but irritating in a technology kind of way.

Last night we watched True Grit, fast forwarding through the commercials. It showed remarkably well for a movie made in 1969. Everything seemed to work fine. We set up a Poirot and a movie called Red: Werewolf Hunter with Felicia Day for recording and we’ll likely watch them this evening.

I don’t know why I resisted getting a PVR, but I’m glad I finally decided to give it a go. It’s quickly going to become one of those technologies that you can’t live without.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

Having sold my fine Dell Mini 10v Hackintosh and given my iPad to my wife, I was ready and primed to order an 11-inch MacBook Air computer. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for: a Mac netbook. I ordered one from the Apple Store.

It arrived late afternoon, New Year’s Eve, and I spent the evening customizing the setup and adding programs. I loaded OpenOffice, MacTeX, LyX, X Code, TextWrangler, and WriteRoom. As on all my systems, I loaded Firefox and used Xmarks to sync all my bookmarks and logins.

On a whim I downloaded Google Chrome to try. It ended up staying on the system. It’s so quick and perky I find I’m enjoying it after the decidedly pedestrian speeds of Firefox. Why not use Safari? I just can’t work up any love for Safari. I don’t know why, but I never get a good vibe from it when I’m using it. Probably something in my genes.

So, how do I like the Air? All I can say is, WOW!!

Well, that’s not really all I could say or I wouldn’t still be writing. I like the size and weight, the screen is excellent, and my fingers love the keyboard. It’s a writer’s machine if there ever was one.

The past week I’ve put it through its paces doing some heavy editing on the minibook I’m nearly ready to self publish. For this project I had to add Office 2008 for Mac so I could have access to Word. It’s a requirement at Smashwords. My fingers were flying over the keyboard all week, busy with this project, writing in my journal, and sending emails to friends.

The more I use the MacBook Air, the better I like it, and I liked it right out of the box. So far I can’t find anything to fault. Other than when using finger gestures on the touchpad there’s a slight lag between when I push it to increase the size of fonts and when the fonts show up resized. Other computers should have this problem.

I’ve been using laptop writing devices since picking up my first Tandy Radio Shack Model 100 in 1983 (and which cost more, at the time, than my MacBook Air) and this is easily the best one I’ve yet acquired.

Salut, Apple!