Summer thunderstorm and Ubuntu Linux

2006-07-22

in Geek stuff, Internet matters

Today’s thunderstorm was good news for the parched lawns of Oxford: deprived in past weeks as the consequence of a watering ban. I’ve always been an appreciator of thunderstorms. I like the drama. I like the sense of immersion in nature. Naturally, it is most poignant when you are out on the middle of the lake with a canoe. Not the most pleasant or safe way to experience one, but something that everyone should try at least once.

Another aspect of thunderstorms that I appreciate is how they psychologically empower me to hunker down and feel absolutely no guilt about doing so. They are a kind of free pass from all but the most pressing of obligations. Naturally, there isn’t a lot of appeal to going outside under such conditions, so I spent the time cooking and fiddling with some computer stuff I had set aside earlier.

Warning: computer jargon ahead

Along with working on the fish paper today, I downloaded and played around a bit with the PPC LiveCD build of Ubuntu Linux. My motivation is partly related to some friends of mine who are having trouble with WEP encrypted wireless networks. Unfortunately, the newest build of KisMAC (the OS X version of the Linux tool Kismet) that supports Panter (Mac OS 10.3) does not have support for running an Airport Extreme wireless card in passive mode. As such, it is useful for little more than detecting the presence and nature of nearby wireless networks.

Ubuntu, by contrast, includes airsnort, Kismet, and aircrack. Unfortunately, because there are no appropriate drivers for Airport Extreme cards, the combination is no more useful than KisMAC. Once again, the major limitations of Linux related to driver availability manifest themselves. It’s not the Linux community’s fault that there are so many closed standards out there, but until we reach the point where you can easily do in Linux most anything that can be done under Windows XP or Mac OS X, it seems unlikely that widespread adoption will occur.

Having an effective implementation for exploiting weaknesses in the key scheduling algorithm of RC4 could be quite helpful to me, though it might limit how effective a study environment Starbucks is. The place is saturated with a number of WEP encrypted networks.

When I have a bit time to play around with Ubuntu comprehensively, I will write about it more. From what I’ve been reading online, it is definitely the distro to watch at the moment. I am fairly skeptical about whether any distro has the potential to exceed OS X as a stable, elegant, and usable OS. That said, there is always some value in having a LiveCD or two lying around, whether for recovery purposes, general experimentation, or sheer novelty value.

On OS X

Issues like KisMAC and WriteRoom incompatibility with Panther have convinced me that the time has come to upgrade to Tiger. That, plus replacing one of the 256 meg sticks of RAM in the iBook with a 1GB stick, should achieve a reasonable boost in performance for a fairly modest price. A lot better than shelling out for a MacBook, at least. At the very least, it should reduce the horrible hard drive churning sounds that begin as soon as I launch iPhoto (see prior post).

eBay having been less useful than anticipated, I am going to start dropping in on computer shops around Oxford, looking for 1 GB stick of 200pin PC2700 DDR SDRAM. Any suggestions for unusually good computer shops in Oxford?

[Update] If anyone in Oxford running a PowerPC based Mac (any that doesn’t use an Intel chip) wants to try Ubuntu 6.06, I can be of help. I burned three copies of the disc before I realized that the booting problem was with my BIOS, not with the discs I had burned previously. People anywhere can download Ubuntu for free (for Windows or Mac computers) and even request having CDs sent to you for free from the Ubuntu website.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

AnonymousNerd July 22, 2006 at 7:25 pm

Ubuntu is an excellent distro, but you really need to try and installed copy to understand.

LiveCDs are fundamentally limited and, while they have come a really long way, they don’t stack up against an HD install.

B July 22, 2006 at 9:50 pm

“Having an effective implementation for exploiting weaknesses in the key scheduling algorithm of RC4 could be quite helpful to me”

Tsk Tsk

And I thought you were so respectable…

Milan July 22, 2006 at 10:39 pm

R.K.

It’s the fonts and icons that make the biggest difference. Both are rendered beautifully in OSX – the best in any OS.

Ubuntu definitely looks ugly by comparison, at least in the default configuration.

R.K. July 22, 2006 at 8:35 pm

Only after using a different OS can you come back and realize how beautiful Mac OS is.

Anonymous August 9, 2006 at 7:16 pm

With a computer as common as the G4 iBook, the hardware should all work with Ubuntu by default. The real hell with Linux is trying to get it to work properly with weird hardware configurations.

Anon September 4, 2006 at 12:30 am

Did you ever do any more experimenting with Ubuntu, or did you decide on a final basis that OSX has more to offer?

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