Wubi

If you’ve ever wanted to try out Linux and you’re a PC user. Now you can and you don’t even have to worry about destroying your Windows installation and the best part of it is that you don’t even have to set up a separate partition for it. There are no longer any excuses for not trying Linux out. Ubuntu Linux, that is.

Wubi is a very simple application. You run the application and you give it your preferred username and password. You can change advanced options such as where you want to have Ubuntu installed, which version of Ubuntu Linux you want to use (standard Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Ubuntu Studio). Once you complete the two step wizard the program will download the version you chose. You’ll then have to reboot and choose Ubuntu from the operating system list. Ubuntu will then be installed into a directory on your computer inside of your Windows installation. Once Ubuntu is installed you’ll reboot and choose Ubuntu from the list again, then login to your newly installed Ubuntu Linux desktop. Once you are finished using Ubuntu you can simply reboot your system and choose Windows from the list, which is selected by default. So remember when you reboot you have to choose Ubuntu from the list if you want to get back into it.

The great thing about Wubi installing Ubuntu Linux is the fact that it is a really good distribution, especially for people who are more familiar with Windows. With Ubuntu Linux you’ll still have access to the files on your computer by going to Places >> Computer and double clicking on the drive where your files are located.

Also, if you have a good graphics card in your system you can take advantage of it by going ahead and allowing the restricted drivers to be installed onto your system. Don’t worry, in this case restricted means that there are copyrights on some of the drivers and they can’t be used in some countries. Also, I don’t think Ubuntu will support these. However, by using the restricted drivers I was able to enable the desktop effects and put some really awesome eye candy onto my Ubuntu Linux desktop: wobbly windows, virtual desktops that spin on a cube, fancy menu effects, etc. If you’d like to see some of these effects, check out this video I found on YouTube.

If you get tired of having Ubuntu Linux installed you simply reboot into Windows and un-install it like any other application.

Although I think Ubuntu Linux is a great distribution, I still prefer Fedora because that is what I am most familiar with. I would like to see the Wubi project expand. Maybe they could offer an API for other Linux distribution vendor’s to create an installer for their specific Linux distribution.

A suggestion to the developers that I would make is instead of having users click on “Advanced Settings” to make advanced changes such as where you want Linux installed, make it a part of the wizard. My first time going through the wizard, I did not notice it.

Also, one thing that annoyed me was the fact that as Ubuntu Linux downloaded with the Wubi installer program, three pressed copies of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) were sitting right beside me. It would be good if you could choose to either download the ISO image, allow you to insert your disc into the drive and create an ISO image or to select an ISO image that you may have already downloaded. The only reason that I can think of as to why they would force you to download a copy of Ubuntu is that it is a custom version with a specific installer.

Like I said earlier, if you’ve been wanting to try out Linux, here is your extremely easy option for getting Linux up and running very quickly.

Wubi – The Easiest Way To Linux

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I have updated the screenshots for this article so that they look nice with the new TechButter theme. Unfortunately, I was unable to download the version of Wubi I wrote about in this article. The article talks about Wubi for Ubuntu 7.04 and the screenshots are for Wubi Ubuntu 8.04.

The software looks the same. The only difference is that there is no longer a wizard. All of the options are on one page. When you click “Next” wubi begins downloading the Ubuntu installer.

In looking for the original version of Wubi I found out that there is a project that is currently in the planning stages that will allow you to install any Linux distribution you choose. The project is called WubiX. Hopefully the project will be out of the planning stage and into production soon.

InnoTek VirtualBox

I only learned about this product a few weeks ago. This is the only virtualization product that is currently available for Windows, Linux and Mac hosts that is also free and open source. It’s developed by a very large community and is backed by InnoTek. Products like this tend to go very far because they have a large developer base who are willing to put their personal time into the product and make it an even better product. I’m very interested in seeing how well VirtualBox performs compared to the two others I have reviewed previously. It’s got big shoes to fill after the Parallels review. Let’s see if it’s up to the challenge.

Instead of installing Windows Vista and Fedora Core into VirtualBox like I did with the other two virtualization products. I decided that since I received my pressed copies of Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) in the mail today, I would install it as a VirtualBox guest operating system. I feel as though I can still judge the product by how well Ubuntu performs in it.

When you startup the application you are presented with a professional looking application. I like the fact that they don’t require you to go through a wizard before you even look at the software. I personally like to get my feet wet, have a look around and see what all I can do before I set up a virtual machine.

Once you do decide to set up a virtual machine. Everything is fairly simple. The only points in the wizard that might concern some people are that you have to manually set up the virtual hard disk drive and it asks you which kernel the Linux distribution you are installing uses. Setting up the virtual drive is pretty simple with the “New Virtual Disk Wizard.” The Linux kernel can usually be found on the Linux distribution vendor’s website or by simply googling around. For Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, the kernel is 2.6 (I think and hope, that’s what I’m going to use at least!). Also, the wizard asks you to choose whether you want a dynamically expanding image or a fixed-size image. Dynamically expanding means that you give the virtual drive a size that it is allowed to reach, but, you won’t take up that much space on your host’s hard drive unless you actually do fill up the virtual hard drive. The fixed-size image pre-allocates the space you want for the virtual machine on the host machine. This option was available with the two other products I have reviewed previously but it wasn’t as apparent. The default in those applications was to use a dynamically expanding image.

After setting up the guest machine I noticed in the details panel for the guest machine that a CD/DVD-ROM device was not mounted. In the previous products the host’s drive was mounted automatically. This isn’t necessarily a problem. In fact I guess it’s a good thing that you have to choose in case that drive is already in use.

The way the latest versions of Ubuntu Linux work is that to install the operating system you now have to do it after you have started up the Live CD. For a Live CD running in a virtual machine, I think it ran pretty well. Let’s see how well it does after installing it directly into the virtual machine.

Getting use to the way you unfocus your host’s keyboard and mouse is a lot different than all the virtual machine products I have ever used. With VirtualBox you have to press the down arrow and then press the right option key. You can’t do it quickly and you can’t do it very long either or it won’t take effect and release control back to the host. I’m not crazy about that, but I’ll get use to it.

Once I got Ubuntu Linux installed into the virtual machine, which installed without any problems, the performance was really good. The menus and windows didn’t flicker when you opened or moved them. Applications opened pretty quickly. OpenOffice.org opened quickly, which is pretty impressive for OpenOffice, especially since it’s in a virtual machine. Usually I get extremely poor performance from OpenOffice in virtual machines which is why I normally install AbiWord into my Linux virtual machines.

VirtualBox has their equivalent of VMware’s “VMware Tools” and Parallel’s “Parallels Tools.” Theirs is called “Guest Additions.” Unfortunately I was unable to install this set tools to gauge how much better the performance would get. However if you were able to install these additions you would get the added benefit of having shared folders and probably better video performance.

Another cool feature that is available in VirtualBox is the ability to connect to your virtual machine remotely and control it. The feature is really nice because you can connect to the virtual machine from any machine on the network using RDP. VMware Server (for the PC) has a somewhat similar feature where you can install the VMware Server Client onto any machine on the network and connect to a virtual machine and work with it just as if you were at the console the virtual machine is running on. The VirtualBox feature is really nice because you can simply connect via an RDP client.

I was disappointed with the screen resolution selection that was available to me in my guest machine. The highest resolution in Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) was 1024×768. When you make the guest machine full screen, it doesn’t actually go full screen, it doesn’t stretch out. It’s simply a 1024×768 window on a black background, which was annoying.

VirtualBox has a way to backup your virtual machine’s current state and restore it at a later time. VirtualBox calls this Snapshots, as do VMware products. The only thing that sets Fusion and VirtualBox’s snapshot feature apart is that in VirtualBox you have the ability to give a description of the snapshot.

Overall I am impressed with the performance and features of InnoTek Virtual Box. The performance wasn’t as impressive as it was with Parallel’s desktop but it was better than the performance I got with VMware Fusion. If you can’t afford the $79 price tag of Parallels then I highly recommend InnoTek VirtualBox. With the fact that they are releasing updates fairly frequently I believe the product will continue to get better.

InnoTek VirtualBox

Article update: Wednesday, October 8, 2008: – I have been re-doing screen shots for all the articles on TechButter as you may have noticed. When I re-did the screen shots for this post I was unable to install Ubuntu into a virtual machine due to time constraints.

VirtualBox has been acquired by Sun Microsystems. They have released several versions since the review above. Looking at the reviews around the net it looks as though the application is continuing to get even better.

Parallels Desktop

You’re probably asking yourself: “Is he really reviewing another virtualization product?” Yeah, I am. I guess it’s a virtualization review special on TechButter. Like I mentioned in the previous article I am reviewing these products because I am unable to run them on my iBook due to it’s limited resources. I realize there is a PC version of Parallels but I want to see how well the Mac version performs since I get the opportunity to play with a brand new Intel iMac for a week.

When you first launch the application you are presented with a wizard which gives you three choices. The first choice is “Windows Express.” The description for that option says “Install Windows XP or Windows Vista in fully automatic mode.” This option presumably is just like the option we found in Fusion when we installed Windows Vista. The other options are for “Typical” and “Custom” virtual machine configurations. Just like the other review, I will be installing Fedora Core 6 as well as Windows Vista. I want to compare the performance of the two products. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the performance of Windows Vista using Parallels virtualization and that is what we are going to start with, Windows Vista.

The settings wizard is a lot like every other virtualization product I have ever used. I suppose by now all of them are fairly standard in the configuration options. There was a neat effect when I started up the virtual machine, the screen flipped the settings window around and started up the virtual machine, as if the virtual machine were on the back side of that window.

Just like with VMware’s Fusion, the installation of Vista in Parallels Desktop was successful without any problems and I didn’t have to answer any questions until I got to the Windows Vista desktop, where there was a dialog box saying that once Parallel Tools is installed, Vista will need to be rebooted.

A good touch that the developers added to Parallels Desktop is that on the OS X dock there is a thumbnail of what is currently going on in the virtual machine. It’s not a major feature but it is definitely a nice touch.

Once Parallel Tools was installed I noticed something that I did not notice when I installed Vista into VMware Fusion, when the system shutdown and rebooted the shutdown sound played and when the system restarted, the startup sound played as well. To me, this makes me think that the performance of Vista is going to be substantially better in Parallels than it was in Fusion. It most certainly appears that way.

I decided to look at the settings for the virtual machine and noticed that you can adjust the virtual machine’s video memory. The maximum recommended amount of memory is 16 MB but you can take it up to 32 MB of RAM. Unfortunately 32 MB of RAM is not enough to use the Aero Glass feature of Windows Vista.

Parallels has a cool feature called Coherence. When you activate Coherence the background and desktop icons in the virtual machine disappear, so do the Parallels application windows. The Windows Start Menu is then displayed on your OS X Desktop. You can launch applications in your Windows virtual machine by using the start menu on your OS X desktop instead of opening the virtual machine window and launching the application. The application still has Windows borders, but, if you need Windows applications but also need access to your Mac applications at the same time, this is a great feature.

I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the performance of Windows Vista in Parallels over VMware Fusion. Although there are a lot of things that are sluggish, like starting a slideshow or using Windows Media Player, the operating system itself is actually pretty usable. When I had Vista installed into VMware Fusion I was unable to play with the Windows Media Center feature. I am able to in this installation in Parallels.

Another great feature of Parallels Desktop is that they have bundled Kaspersky Internet Security into their product. If you install a Windows virtual machine this will allow you to be keep your Windows virtual machine protected from outside threats, that is, if you get online with your Windows virtual machine.

Unlike VMware Fusion you also have the ability to take screen shots of the running virtual machine. However, there is no video recording option available. However, like VMware Fusion you have the option to share files and folders between your virtual machine and your OS X host machine.

If your virtual machine is growing in gigabytes you can use the Parallels Compressor to decrease the size of your virtual machines disk image. This runs disk cleanup and disk defragment utilities. Supposedly this can reduce the size of your virtual machine by 50%. A cool thing about Compressor is that it works with VMware Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC and of course Parallels Desktop (both Mac and PC versions). Using this feature of Parallels Desktop my installation of Vista was reduced by several gigabytes.

If you have the BootCamp drivers, you can install all of the integrated hardware of your Mac into your virtual machine, such as the built in iSight camera which comes standard on almost all of Apple’s new computers.

After I had got tired of playing with Windows Vista I decided to install Fedora Core 6 into a virtual machine with Parallels. I immediately appreciated the fact that the Parallel’s developers felt as though Fedora was worth listing in their list of OS choices. Like I said in the VMware Fusion review, I know they can’t list them all, but, I believe Fedora is popular enough that it should be listed.

When I got into the Fedora Core installation I was impressed that the Fedora Core installer detected the hard drive. If you remember from the VMware Fusion article and if you’ve read any of my tutorials in the past, you’ll know that I have always had to make sure to change the virtual machine’s hard drive from SCSI to IDE when using VMware products. Since Fedora Core was one of the options, I am absolutely certain that the Parallels developers made sure that everything would work.

Once I had got Fedora installed I had problems with the display resolution. It worked immediately after installation but when I would reboot I would only come to a text based login screen. I made some changes to the XORG configuration file and finally got into the GUI. However, when I would reboot again I would only come back to the text based login so I had to modify the XORG configuration file every single time to get into the GUI. I re-installed Fedora three times and got this every time. I won’t blame Parallels nor will I blame Fedora since I honestly don’t know who is at fault.

Even though I had problems getting into a graphical interface, the resolution that I was able to use was much higher than what I was able to use when I had Fedora installed into VMware Fusion. In Fusion the resolution would go no higher than 800×600, but in Parallels I was able to take the virtual machine into full screen mode using 1440×900, out of full screen mode the resolution would go well beyond that.

The performance of Fedora in Parallels was amazing compared to the performance I got in Fusion. Menus and applications opened without stuttering and seemed to perform a whole lot better as well. When you would move a window around on the screen it was actually a clean move and without flickering.

Another feature that I like in Parallels is the ability to clone an operating system. A similar feature is available in VMware Fusion and other VMware products called “Snapshots” which allow you to capture a guest machine in it’s current state and revert back to it at a later time. It’s basically the same thing in Parallels but I personally prefer the way Parallels has done it. During the cloning wizard you get to choose what to backup and where to back it up to.

One of the only feature requests that I would make is that they integrate a way to make video screen recordings. This should be a standard feature, especially if you are paying for the product.

If you can’t already tell, I am extremely impressed with the quality of Parallels over VMware’s Fusion. I really do like VMware’s products, but seriously, Parallels has got them beat on performance. Although Parallels is $79 (for the Mac version) and VMware Fusion is free (for the moment), if you can spring for Parallels I would do it. They’ve put a lot of hard work into the application and it shows.

Parallels Desktop for Mac

Article update: Wednesday, October 11, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version of this product. Please note that in the article I talk about installing Windows Vista but you are now seeing screen shots of a virtual machine running with Ubuntu 7.04 and only a Windows Vista login. I’ve been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that they look great with the new, wide theme.

There is still no video recording option in Parallels. For an $80 application I think this is something that should be standard.

As of writing this article update I have to say that I would recommend Parallels Desktop over VMware Fusion and VirtualBox. I think it works better and has a better feature set.

VMware Fusion

NOTE: Please see the end of this entry for updated information about this product and what has changed in this article since the original posting.

I finally have the opportunity to try out VMware Fusion. I am staying at a house this week for a family member who just purchased a new iMac. While they’re gone on vacation I’m going to try out a lot of Mac software that I’ve been looking forward to playing with. First up is Fusion from VMware.

When you first launch the application you are presented with the options of either creating a new virtual machine or downloading one. This reminds me a lot of “Q” (a free, open source virtualization project) which presents you with similar options. With VMware Fusion you will find a lot more options because of their growing Virtual Appliance Marketplace which is growing every single day with new virtual machines. VMware’s Virtual Appliance Marketplace gives users the ability to try out software before they install it or have to commit hardware to an application.

For the review of VMware Fusion I am simply going to install a copy of Fedora Core 6 and I may also try Windows Vista Release Candidate 1; which I received several months ago before Vista was released in January of this year (2007). It’s outdated, but it will give me an idea of how VMware Fusion and this iMac performs.

When you get to the point in the wizard where you tell VMware which operating system you are going to be installing; there is still no option for Fedora, which, really annoys me. It’s not listed in VMware Server for the PC either. You simply have to select “Linux” and then “Other Linux”. I can understand that they cannot list every single distribution but it seems as though Fedora has a large enough user base to be added to the list. Though, I’m sure users of every distribution would say that.

There isn’t a whole lot of difference in the wizard on the PC and the Mac versions of VMware products. Easy. Simple. Wording is the same. When you have finished setting up the virtual machine you are presented with the settings for that virtual machine, just like you are with their PC virtualization products. The windows of course look different since VMware Fusion is for the Mac. All of the default settings are the same as well, such as memory is at it’s standard 256 MB.

There is an option to accelerate graphics. Unfortunately, it says that it is only available to Windows XP Service Pack 2 guest virtual machines.

Another interesting option which at the moment I do not recall being on the PC version is the ability to pass battery status to the virtual machine. This would be useful if you were in full screen mode a lot and were using a laptop.

When you start up a virtual machine it tells you that the software is running in debugging mode. I read a few days ago that you can disable this to increase the performance of the virtual machine. For now, I am going to leave it enabled and see if I notice any side effects.

Unfortunately when I got to the point in the Fedora Core installation I had to shutdown and remove the hard drive and re-add one, this time making sure the option was IDE. I have this same problem with Fedora on VMware Server for the PC.

NOTE: Please see article update at the bottom of this post regarding the new screen shots for this post.

Once I got Fedora Core 6 installed, the performance wasn’t all that great. I decided since the iMac I am running this on has 1GB of RAM, I would increase the virtual machine’s memory to 512 MB and disable the debugging code. The performance did increase somewhat however it would have been a lot better if I were on a faster Internet connection so I could install the required software from the YUM repositories to install VMware Tools.

One thing that I did not like is that in the PC versions of VMware’s products there is an “Inventory View” which shows you all of your virtual machines. Using the Inventory View allows you to easily delete un-wanted virtual machines. In VMware Fusion however, there is not an easy way to delete the virtual machine in the application, that I know of. You can’t drag it off into the trash, right click on it and delete, none of the menu options allow you to delete any of them. I simply deleted the virtual disk from the hard drive to free up the disk space. By doing this, the virtual machine is no longer listed in the Virtual Machine Library list that appears when you start the application.

Once I shut down the Fedora Core installation I decided to throw caution to the wind and install Windows Vista, the Release Candidate I received several months ago. I say throw caution to the wind but the beauty of virtual machines is that the actual computer is protected from being corrupted.

An interesting feature that is available to Windows virtual machines is the ability to use the “Windows Easy Install.” I decided to try this option just to see how well it would work and exactly what it would do. Using this option you give a username, password and your product key before the virtual machine is even started and the operating system installation is underway. It also gives you the option to have your OS X home folder accessible to the virtual machine by default so you can pass files easily between virtual and host machines.

Windows Vista installed without any problems. I didn’t have to answer any questions during the installation. Fortunately, for those who are installing Vista on real hardware they can get this same feature by using vLite. The performance of Vista was decent, much better than it was in a virtual machine on my PC and it was even better than it was when it was installed directly onto my PC.

Two features that VMware Fusion is missing is the ability to take a screen shot or video of the virtual machine that is currently running. These are great features for writing tutorials or showing someone how to do something. I assume that these features will make it into future editions, once they start charging for the product. Video recordings of a virtual machine are only options you can get with VMware Workstation, which is not free. However, capturing screen shots is available in the free VMware Server.

Overall I am very impressed with VMware Fusion. I think VMware has done a great job of creating a virtualization product for the Mac. I’m very happy to see that VMware is going after the virtualization marketplace on the Mac because they have always been my favorite vendor in the PC virtualization marketplace. In a way I am upset to see that VMware Fusion is only available for the newer Intel based Macs, but, with that said, the performance of the new Intel based Macs combined with VMware Fusion comes together for a great virtual computing experience.

VMware Fusion

Article update: Wednesday, October 11, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version of this product. Please note that in the article I talk about installing Fedora Core 6 but you are now seeing screen shots of a virtual machine running with Ubuntu 7.04. I’ve been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that they look great with the new, wide theme.

A few things to tell you about the updated product. First of all, the default memory. In the article above I mention that the default memory is 256 MB for virtual machines. They have bumped this to 512 MB as the default.

A neat feature of VMware Fusion that is either new or a feature that I missed when I wrote the original article is OS detection. If you have an operating system disc in the drive when you are creating a virtual machine and VMware Fusion recognizes it, you can use it’s custom settings for that operating system. I used Ubuntu 7.04 which is an outdated version of Ubuntu and was surprised to see that it recognized it.

The fact that there are pre-defined settings for various distributions of Linux and the various operating systems is a really great feature. It allows the developers to make the virtual machine work a lot better. Sound files played without having to install any additional software, which usually, you have to do when you’re working with Linux virtual machines.

The performance of running virtual machines in VMware Fusion has been increased. I don’t think it’s just the fact they changed the default memory from 256 MB of RAM to 512 MB. I think the actual coding of Fusion has been improved to allow a better performance.

I mention above that deleting virtual machines was difficult to find. Deleting virtual machines in the most current version isn’t obvious, but maybe that’s a good thing. It is in the menus, though.

I really hate that I cannot remember whether or not the version I originally reviewed had the “Unity” feature or not. However, the latest version does. Here is the description of “Unity” from VMware’s website:

Run Windows applications like Mac applications, quickly switching between Mac and Windows applications, minimizing Windows applications to your Dock, and even store Windows applications in your Dock to launch at a moment’s notice.

Unity works pretty much the same way Parallel’s “Coherence” mode works. I think all the Mac virtualization product vendors are making sure to implement that as a standard feature.

Unfortunately, there is still not an easy way to quickly capture screen shots or video from VMware Fusion. You would think that VMware would implement this feature since Fusion is their virtualization product for the Mac.

There are a ton of other features. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface due to time constraints. Learn more about VMware Fusion’s features.

As of writing this article update I have to say that I would recommend Parallels Desktop over VMware Fusion and VirtualBox. I think it works better and has a better feature set.

OLPC Live CD Distribution

I was on the OLPC Wiki and realized that I could download a Live CD of the latest version of the OLPC operating system. The OLPC is based on the RedHat operating system (not Fedora). I downloaded it and ran it in a virtual machine. Here are my initial reactions.

When you first start up the system it starts up pretty quickly. I gave the virtual machine I put the Live CD into 256 MB of RAM. The PC I am using has a 1.5 GHz AMD processor. Live CD’s are usually always slower since everything has to load into the system’s memory to be able to run. However, it started up pretty quickly.

Once you get to the login screen. You type in your name and you choose a color. You have to click several times on the human icon to choose a color. Personally, I would have found a drop down menu or color wheel much more handy. Also, the cursor icon is huge. Once you login the color you chose is the color of the icon in the middle of your desktop.

Once you login and get to the desktop everything is pretty simple. There are a few icons on the bottom of the desktop. An interesting thing to note is that there is an option to use Classic Gnome. I decided to click on this and switch over to it. However, it appeared as though Gnome had been stripped down. There was no Application, Places or System menu. On the desktop you could access a file manager, developer information as well as a terminal.

After not being able to quickly get back to the Sugar interface I rebooted the LiveCD and started playing around with some of the other applications. The applications are designed for school children, none of the functionality you would expect is there. It’s also not very easy to figure out how to get back to your desktop once you have an application open. Now, this might be something they are going to correct with a button on the actual OLPC. I just found it extremely annoying to get back and forth between open applications or get out of applications. When you hover over an icon you don’t get a tooltip to explain what it means.

Whenever you open the web browser and open a website, you get a zoomed in view of the website. This, too, may be a feature they are going to allow you to control with hardware based controls.

Overall, I have to say that I am not very impressed with the OLPC operating system development. It really bothers me that the interface has been dumbed down. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that due to the limited resources of the OLPC they had to make some sacrifices somewhere. It still bothers me though. I feel as though the OLPC project is overly simplifying the operating system and not giving the children in the countries where the OLPC will go a chance to learn how to use a real operating system. Or at the very least, an operating system that resembles others.

Also, the fact may be that I am simply overly privileged to have a good computer and the children/families/people who are recipients of these machines will probably be more than happy with them.

With all the above said, I have to say that I think the project is a great idea. I think more people need to be able to gain access to computers for research and school projects. Personally, I wish they’d sell more to the United States. Some people in this country still cannot afford a decent computer.

Download the OLPC Live CD

Move from TypePad to WordPress

Over the weekend I had a great opportunity to help someone move from TypePad to WordPress running on their web hosting account. The reason the person wanted to do this is because they were no longer going to continue paying for their TyePad account. Understandable considering the fact that the person was paying for TypePad on top of their web hosting account.

Moving the Posts

Fortunately, getting the TypePad blog entries backed up and imported into WordPress was one of the simplest tasks to take care of. The first step is to login to your TypePad account and click on the Edit Posts link. Then you click on Import/Export. Once TypePad makes a backup of all your entries, which it will do in one file, you can right click on that file and save it to your computer.

The next step is also very easy to do. That is getting the posts you just exported into WordPress. All you have to do is go to your WordPress installation, login to the administration area, click on Manage, then Import. On the import page select “Movable Type and TypePad”. On the next page, click the browse button and find the file that you exported from TypePad (the file I downloaded from TypePad was an HTML file). Once you find the file click on “Upload file and import” and WordPress will import your posts into it’s database.

Moving Images from TypePad to WordPress

TypePad like any good blogging service allows it’s users to upload images to their servers so that images can be placed into blog posts. Although that’s a really great feature to offer the problem is what happens if you need a backup or want to move your images elsewhere? The solution that TypePad suggests and the one that I followed worked quite well. That is to use a program called Getleft. If you’re on a Mac you can use SiteSucker. These two programs download all of the files from a website as long as they are linked. Open the program, plug in the URLs and start the download process. When I did this I had to let it run for several hours before it got all the data. Once the software has downloaded the files you’ll want to upload the backup to your web hosting account. A great place to put these files is in your uploads folder (root directory/wp-content/uploads/).

Once you’ve got the files into the uploads folder the next thing that you’ll want to do is get the images re-linked. You could go through every single post and re-link the images by hand OR you could download the Search and Replace plugin. Download the plugin, extract it and upload it to your plugins directory (root directory/wp-content/plugins). Once it is on the server, go back to the WordPress administration area, go to Plugins and click on Activate for Search and Replace.

After the plugin has been installed, in your WordPress administration area click on “Manage” and then “Search and Replace.” The next step is a bit tricky. You need to find out the old URL and the new URL. You can get an idea of what I used from the screen shot below.

You can then click on “Replace!”. Once the process has completed go back to your blog and make sure that the images have been re-linked properly. Go back through your archives and see that images on old posts are linked properly as well.

Creating an authors list

The person that I did this for had a blog where several people contributed and they wanted to have a list of the authors on the sidebar. The idea is when you click on the author’s name you’ll get a page with all that author’s posts. I’ve inserted a screen shot below. From this you can tell how I integrated the required code into the sidebar of the theme this person chose.

Scratching the surface

I’m sure there are more features that could be ported over from TypePad to WordPress and I am sure a lot of them have been. What I have mentioned above is simply what I did on this particular project. If you’ve got other suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments section.

One last piece of advice. Before you start blogging you’ll want to set up Akismet and a backup schedule for your new WordPress blog along with other plugins that you might want to use.

MarsEdit

I was telling a friend about my experience with offline blogging software. He pointed me to MarsEdit. I hadn’t heard of it before, it wasn’t a free application. I usually don’t download anything but free software. This time I did download it and after using MarsEdit for a couple of weeks I decided to buy it. I have been using it ever since. I like it a lot and want to talk about what I like and some of the things that I would like to see in the application.

Why do I need this type of software?

You may be wondering what the point is in having offline blogging software. The main reason is because when I want to write a blog entry I hate having to open the browser, go to the blog, login and make a new entry. I’ve had bad experiences with writing blog posts and emails in the browser window. I am scared to death while I write my post the browser is going to crash! I know a lot of blogging software such as WordPress saves your post while you’re working on it. In my experience though, it’s never enough!

Another reason for offline blogging software is if you are like me and you have multiple blogs, it is really nice to be able to update them all from a convenient location. Currently, I have 4 blogs plugged into MarsEdit. Whenever I need to make a post on one of them I can simply open the application and make the post. Also, if I see a mistake that I have made in my entry it’s so much easier to open MarsEdit, make the change and re-submit instead of having to go to the browser, to the blog, re-login, etc. I can blog much more easily and more often!

What I like about MarsEdit

First of all I have to say I absolutely love the MarsEdit icon! I know I don’t talk about the icons of applications a lot but this is one of my absolute favorite icons. It’s very sexy on my dock!

There are a lot of great features in MarsEdit but there are not a ton of icons cluttering up the application. It’s very simple and clean and I really like that. Instead of having an icon for every little thing there is a drop down menu with a lot of options for inserting HTML or custom tags. I also love the fact that there are keyboard shortcuts for a lot of these, especially the command to paste a link (Option + Command + A).

For each blog you have, you can set up different options. You can choose what warnings you want to receive before your entry is posted; such as warning you if you’ve not set a category or entered a title for your post. You can also choose which services you would like to ping to let the blogging world know that you’ve just made a new entry on your blog.

I also really like the simplicity of the “Save as Draft” button. You click the button as many times as you’d like while you are working on your entry. If you exit the application you can come back and work on it at a later time. But what I really like about it is the fact that whenever I finish the post and I post it to my blog it is no longer in my drafts folder. In my opinion it’s a much better option than using the typical “Save” or “Save As.”

What I’d like to see in MarsEdit

The first change to the application that I would like to see is whenever you are uploading images to your post that the application know which blog you are working on and upload to the appropriate folder.

Using MarsEdit you can choose whether people can leave comments & TrackBacks for your entries. However, you cannot make a password protected post, change the slug, or many of the other things you can do with a WordPress blog.

Although I really love this application and am glad that I made the purchase of it; there is one more thing that I would really like to see added into this application. That is the ability to make new categories. You can select from already created categories but you can’t make new ones (to my knowledge). I have to post the entry and then go to the website and add the proper categories. Granted, I’d have to go to the website anyways to make sure the entry was posted correctly. It would just be really nice not to have to log back in if everything else is correct just to add a category.

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading those two paragraphs above and I’m going to address it right now. Since this application is a cross platform (supports many content management systems) blogging tool; it would be extremely difficult to get every single option that all the blogging platforms offer into the application. I don’t think it would be impossible but it would be difficult because there are always new features to all of these blogging platforms. Also, I am sure there are some limits as to what developers can implement with some blogging systems due to the fact that some systems are closed source.

Do I recommend this application to others?

Yes, I most certainly do recommend it. Since purchasing the application I have blogged a whole lot more because of it. It’s so nice just to be able to open up an application and start blogging. I realize there are other applications out there, even free alternatives. In my opinion none of them can compare to the ease of use of MarsEdit or how fast it works (the others took FOREVER to launch and were very clumsy). MarsEdit offers a LOT of features, I barely scratched the surface! I feel as though my $24.95 was well spent!

MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software

Article update: Wednesday, October 1, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version. I also updated the grammar, at least, I tried to. I have been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that the pages look uniform with the new theme.

The image uploading tool has been improved. You can now specify which blog you are uploading to. When you do open the image uploading tool it connects to the blog you are currently working on. You can now choose from previously uploaded images or images in your catalog. Also, you can connect MarsEdit to Flickr and use images in your account.

The ability to make new categories has been added. Also, you can now change the post slug (what the URL of the post will be). You can also edit the post excerpt and the tags. To my knowledge there is no way to password protect a post using MarsEdit.

I have to be honest with you. Although I really love MarsEdit and have paid for the updated version, I don’t use it as much as I use to. If I were on my Mac more often I probably would. Since getting a new monitor for my PC I’ve been using my Windows machine as my primary workstation again and I post entries to my blog using my web browser. I do think MarsEdit is a great application and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for that type of functionality.

Witch

When I first got my Mac there was a productivity plunge. I knew it would just take me a while to build up speed with OS X but this application helped me out a lot. On Windows whenever you Alt + Tab you get a list of the open windows. Whenever you Command + Tab on a Mac you get a list of the running applications. I prefer the Windows way because I like to quickly get to the window I am needing access to.

Whenever you are simply switching between running applications you have to take a couple of steps, you have to switch to the application and then you have to select with your mouse which window in that application you are wanting to focus in on. The less I have to take my hands off of my keyboard the more productive I am.

I have my old Windows keyboard connected to my Mac through my KVM switch. This allows me to be even more productive, at least on my setup. I can use the Alt + Tab command on my Windows keyboard and it will bring up the Witch task manager. I can quickly go to the window I need access to. This is really great for instant messaging because I can quickly get to the IM window and then back to the application I was previously working in.

Installation is fairly simple. Double click and it installs into System Preferences. You have to go to “Universal Access” and check a box beside “Enable access for assistive devices.” Once you do that, Witch will work.

Witch has a lot of customization options. You can choose the key commands, animation options, applications to ignore, etc. If you’re coming from Windows to Mac OS X you’ll probably greatly benefit from this application the most.

Witch Homepage

MAMP Web Server

When I am designing a theme for WordPress I always install a copy of WordPress onto my local server. I have my server set up in a virtual machine. It’s aggravating because I have to wait on that virtual machine to start up before I can do anything. I have been thinking about installing Apache, MySQL, PHP and phpMyAdmin onto my Mac so I can just leave it running and have a copy of WordPress running locally for whenever I need to test something. I just haven’t had the time to do this yet.

On my Linux virtual machine I have a copy of XAMPP running. I got to looking around and there is a version of XAMPP for the Mac but it only runs on Intel Macs. The iBook that I have has a PowerPC G3 processor, so that won’t work. Fortunately there is an alternative called MAMP. It’s got the basics of XAMPP and works pretty well. I downloaded it this morning, extracted and installed it.

I guess I should say what XAMPP and MAMP are. They include Apache, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin and a few other things all in one package. They’re usually meant for developers on a network to test out projects and usually not meant for deploying websites publicly. You usually just install a package and you have a web server.

In under 20 minutes I was able to have WordPress up and running. It would have been quicker had I not run into a database connection issue. Also, the download was quite large, over 100 megabytes so I had to wait on that. The database problems that I ran into was that you can’t simply use ‘localhost’ as the MySQL server address, you have to use a port. I tried to use ‘localhost:8889’ but that did not work either. I then used the IP address of the machine ‘192.168.1.44:8889’ and that worked.

This is a great option for testing websites. I haven’t looked into it yet but if MAMP can be secured then I think it would be a good option for someone wanting to play with hosting their own websites or blogs. If you use XAMPP on Linux then you’ll know that you can easily secure XAMPP by running a simple command from the command line and answering a few questions. However, if MAMP can’t be secured then I think it’s still a good option for testing websites locally.

Other than making sure XAMPP is secure you’ll want to install an FTP server. There is an FTPd daemon already included in OS X. You can use PureFTPd Manager for Mac OS X to manage it.

If you’re not on a Mac I would recommend Uniserver or XAMPP.

MAMP

Unsanity ShadowKiller

Since I got my iBook G3 I have been searching for ways to increase it’s performance. Last night I was doing a search and started reading through an article that I saw a while back that I didn’t read before because it was quite long. In the article I saw a link to an application that would disable the shadows around window borders and speed up your system. The application’s website said that it would significantly improve performance on older G3 Macs.

I downloaded, installed and ran the application. I was immediately blown away. The application disabled the shadows and my system was much more responsive. The mouse felt much more responsive and windows opened and closed much faster. I opened up iTunes and could even use cover art. I’m not sure if this is because of the latest iTunes update or because of ShadowKiller. I do know that before I upgraded to the latest release of iTunes that I could not use the cover art browser.

When I first ran this application I was very pleased with the added performance that I gained from disabling the shadows. I had to reboot my system last night and when I logged back in the shadows were back so I had to disable them again. I can simply add the application to startup items to solve that problem. After I had rebooted and disabled the shadows I was not as blown away with the speed increase. I’m not sure why this is and would welcome feedback on that. Maybe my system was just needing to be rebooted. I’ll continue to use the application because it does speed up the system somewhat, just not as much as it did when I first killed the shadows.

It takes a little bit of getting use to not having the shadows. As I was typing this entry I had the window in front of another window with a white background and could not tell that the window I was typing in was shorter than the other window (I hope that made sense).

Unsanity ShadowKiller