Occidental Distro Setup

I’ve wanted to play around with Adafruit’s Occidental distro since it was announced. The whole gist of the release is that it better caters to the hack-y types…they have taken Wheezy and built in some utilities. Especially cool is Bonjour, which *should* allow ssh access from my other networked machines. Still getting to that point, but I have installed the thing for experimentation.

Thus far I have been poking around…my small assistant did some stress testing…

raspberry pie occidental distro

keyboard smacking

I have some battery packs in the mail, and I need to configure my WiFi dongle. The idea is to let the machine run headless, and see what I can stand up with Python. I need to play around with the pinouts a bit and come up with some ideas. I could bring Clocky back from the dead…we’ll see what shakes out.

Ubuntu Natty Narwhal Features

I’ve had some time to poke around under the hood of Ubuntu 11.04, a.k.a. Natty Narwhal. I still am struggling to spell ‘narwhal’ for the record, but I’ll share some of my first thoughts. After all, sharing is caring. Write that down.

I’ll put the most obvious thing on the table first…they Apple-ed the crap out of this distro. Take a look at this screen shot, and tell me it doesn’t look an awful lot like OSX, with the bottom ‘stuff’ dumped on the left-hand side: (click to enlarge)

natty narwhal

thanks mr. narhwal

The good news is that like Leopard, Narwhal is usable. The same cannot be said for Ubuntu’s first foray into this new territory with Unity. Their last attempt was in 10.10 Netbook Edition, which was horrible to say the least. The UI was attempting to mix desktop features with mobile phone-like buttons, and it was a joke. Pretty much junk…I reverted my Mini 9 to the 10.10 Desktop Edition, and jumped back on the Gnome bandwagon. Well, to their credit, Ubuntu has polished the thing up.

From what I can gather, Unity sits over Compiz…sort of like a plugin. I snagged the Compiz configuration tool via a CLI and messed around with the settings. The snap-to-side function that came stock with this was a pain in my ass, so I reverted it to my beloved ‘wobble windows’ It was sort of odd to have the options bar integrated with the top bar at first, but when I change gears and use multiple windows, I am liking the move.

The window switcher function pans out and shows you four workspaces…see below (click to enlarge)

window switcher ubuntu

window switcher is switchy

So basically, I am writing this post in one area, have Eclipse up in another, and have two CLI sessions live in their own spots. With the integrated file bar, the Gimp is far less cluttered…which is awesome. The taskbar slider function is a bit spotty still. I have taken Compiz down running my Arduino IDE (trying to set a temp file up as a taskbar item…it puked) but now have it configured and snappy. I would chalk that up to a training issue, rather than a show stopper.

At the end of the day, I give it a surprisingly positive review. I was very satisfied with the last few long term support versions of Ubuntu, and hesitant to make the switch after the whole fiasco with Unity last time. You can switch back to Gnome, but I have no plans on doing so.

Pros:
* Linux distro. Give me terminal or give me death.
* Firefox 4. Much improved.
* Update manager. Keeps me current without much hassle.
* Interesting UI. Make sure you download the Compiz manager to tweak things.
* Free.99. Can’t beat the price

Cons:
* Ubuntu’s slant. Not bad, but they are steering us toward their cloud services and apps.
* Not Linux-y. Feels like a Win7/OSX hybrid at times.
* Rushed to market. Unity is in need of some refinement.

At the end of the day, I am sticking with this distro. It will only improve. When the new Gnome drops, I’ll make the call as where to head, but this is it for the time being.