Linux and the truth behind the ‘post-PC’ era

Apple introduced its highly anticipated iPhone 5 yesterday. And as is to be expected with the introduction of any new iDevice, all the tech news sites went into an absolute frenzy. The major news outlets even caught a healthy dose of Apple fever, especially here in the U.S. Even in the midst of a presidential campaign, a new iPhone will always be the day’s top headline.

What interested me most about this entire ordeal was not the new iPhone, nor was it the fact that a small gadget can induce such hysteria. Rather, it was something that Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the introduction ceremony. Cook cited the popularity of the iOS device as proof we have entered a “post-PC world.” You hear this phrase quite frequently in the tech media these days. In fact, Microsoft is supposedly redefining the term PC to mean “personalized computing.” With the advent of tablets and smartphones, the traditional personal computer is being left behind. Or so they say…

In reality, the idea of a post-PC world is bogus if you take it literally. As others on the web have pointed out, iPhones and iPads are actually still personal computers. The smartphone you hold in your hand has more processing power than most computers had just decades ago. Sure, they come in radically different forms and sizes, but when you get right down to it, they’re still PCs.

When people talk about a post-PC era, I think they mean something different—if, that is, they realize it. Rather than signaling an end to computers, the popularity of devices such as the iPhone signals an end to openness and freedom in personal computing. Read the rest of this entry

Beyond lightweight…

Tux no longer has to go on a diet for Launch into Linux. In the future, expect to see more posts about more heavyweight distros, starting with Ubuntu 12.04. (Image part of public domain)

Although this blog is titled “Launch into Linux,” I could probably call it “Launch into Lubuntu” given the amount of posts I’ve dedicated to the LXDE-based variant of Ubuntu. (See for yourself.) The reason I’ve focused on Lubuntu so much is because its lightweight nature makes it run much better on older hardware than vanilla Ubuntu would. Since many people come to Linux in an attempt to get some extra life out of older computers that can no longer run Windows, I figured that it would be best to introduce them to a distro that would make the best use of their aging hardware.

To be honest, though, the other reason I’ve focused more on the lightweight end of the spectrum was because my Linux test box was a 7 1/2 year old Dell Dimension desktop that ran on a Pentium 4 processor and had a less-than-stellar onboard graphics chip. That being the case, my options were quite limited as far as what it would run well. For instance, I could run Ubuntu 12.04 on the machine, but Lubuntu (with its lightweight desktop environment) ran far more smoothly. Since this “test box” was in reality a computer that was being used by my parents on a daily basis, I had to go with what worked best. Read the rest of this entry

How to replace Chromium with Firefox in Lubuntu 12.04

Chromium may be included by default in Lubuntu 12.04, but there’s nothing stopping you from swapping it out for Firefox if you’d like.

If you’ve recently installed Lubuntu 12.04, you’ll notice that the distro comes with a bunch of applications included by default—enough to cover all your basic web browsing, e-mail, media player and word processing needs. Chromium, an open-source version of the popular Google Chrome browser, is included as the default browser in 12.04. Chromium is fast, elegant, and feature-filled, and most users will probably find it perfectly suitable for them. (In fact, according to some reports, it has recently surpassed Internet Explorer as the most popular browser on the planet.)

However, if you want to use something besides Chromium, there are other options out there. My browser of choice for the past seven or eight years has been Firefox. Mozilla’s popular open-source browser is fast and has a ton of useful add-ons you can download and install. Plus, you don’t have to worry about Google tracking every move you make—a key feature for those of us who are concerned about privacy in the digital arena.

If you prefer to use Firefox, it’s very simple to replace Chromium with another browser. Read the rest of this entry

At a Glance: Lubuntu 12.04

So far, most of my posts on this site have introduced readers to Lubuntu, a lightweight variant of the popular Ubuntu distribution. I wrote guides to installing and using Lubuntu in the early months of 2012. At the time, the current version of the distro was 11.10. However, Ubuntu and its official variants are on a six-month release cycle, so by now, 11.10 is no longer the new kid on the block. That distinction now falls to Lubuntu 12.04, which was released on April 26.

12.04 doesn’t change much, so you should still be able to follow the previous installation and setup guides without a hitch—of course, you’ll need to use an updated version of the Lubuntu CD image, which you can download here. In the interests of keeping readers up-to-date, however, I’d like to cover some of the changes made in the latest and greatest version:

Lubuntu’s new login manager eliminates the need to type in one’s user name.

  • Lubuntu Software Center has been included in the default installation. The Software Center provides a sleek and easy-to-navigate interface for finding and installing new programs.
  • The login manager has been updated, providing a new look. I wasn’t all that fond of it at first, but I’ve grown to like the new login screen. User names are now displayed on screen, eliminating the need to manually type in the correct user name at each and every login.
  • As is typical for Lubuntu releases, a new theme has been created. Lubuntu still sports its trademark blue, but 12.04 gives the theme a much brighter spin.
  • Finally, although it’s probably dependent on your hardware, 12.04 shuts down much faster for me than 11.10, which tended to hang for about 5-10 seconds during the shutdown sequence.

Stay tuned in the future for some simple things you can do to get up and running with Lubuntu 12.04.

Six things to do after installing Lubuntu

If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve successfully installed Lubuntu onto your hard drive and have gotten to know the user interface. You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed from the installation experience, so the idea of doing even more fiddling around might not appeal to you at this moment. However, there are several helpful things any user should consider after making a fresh install of Lubuntu.

#1: Update

This is probably the most important thing you need to do. Fortunately, it’s also one of the simplest. Go to the menu, hover your mouse over System Tools, and select Update Manager. Update Manager will then check the Ubuntu repositories for updates. If you didn’t update during the install or if any updates have appeared since then, a list of programs will appear. Click “Update” at the bottom of the screen and your computer will do the rest.

By default, Lubuntu will check for updates automatically. If any are available, it will bug you about it, so you probably won’t have to manually update the software unless you want to. It’s good to know how to do it, however, and it’s especially critical to download updates after installing Lubuntu so any bugs can be fixed. Read the rest of this entry