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I don’t really get how there are a bunch of different passwords in Ubuntu so when I decided to change my password to something a little less arduous to type, I ran into some problems because I ended up changing my password for some things but not for others and my computer started acting weird (e.g. demanding a password to get a wireless connection). Here are two links that will help you if you are in the same predicament.

I meant to write up lots of things about using Ubuntu after I installed in on my laptop. Unfortunately (well, fortunately for me), everything worked fine, so I didn’t have anything to write about!

I just upgraded to 9.04 and have had some problems with my computer seeming slow sometimes. I am not sure how to fix the problem. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes when I am typing, the computer won’t keep up with me. I am thinking about increasing my RAM, but I don’t think that the RAM is the main problem. If I figure out what the problem is, or how to fix it, I will try to report back here.

What I would like to report on today is how to prevent the delayed shutdown that has been introduced in 9.04 (codename Jaunty Jackalope). I guess some people like to have a second chance to decide whether or not they want to turn their computer off, but I kind of like to just say “turn off” and have it do my bidding immediately. I’m a bit of a tyrant that way.

If you, too, want your computer to start shutting down immediately after you issue the command, right click the icon in the top right corner of your screen (where you would usually left click to shut your computer down) and choose “Preferences”. Then, uncheck “Show confirm dialogs for logout, restart, and shutdown”.

Et voila.

I am a complete newbie in the Unix/Linux world. I used some Unix workstations at university, but I never really had a very clear understanding of how they worked, so I think I can safely downgrade myself to “absolute beginner”.

I have decided to jump into the world of Linux by installing Ubuntu 8.10 on an external USB drive and seeing where that takes me. I was able to install the OS on the external drive, but I am currently stuck at the point of trying to connect to the internet. My network card was fried during an electrical storm and I have been using a USB network adapter. Ubuntu seems to know that the USB network adapter is there, but doesn’t know what to do with it. I am stuck at that point. (I found the driver for the adapter, but I don’t know enough about Linux to be able to install it yet.)

Since people often ask me how I learn how to do stuff on my computer, I thought I would try to document the path towards my own personal computing enlightenment. I guess it involves quite a bit of reading (websites, magazines, anything I can get my hands on) and a huge amount of trial and error.

In the spirit of friendly documentation, here are three things that I have learned so far.

1. Get a friend to help you through your first installation so you don’t give up before you even get started. I had a friend help me with a basic dual boot installation on a desktop and then I did the USB HD installation by myself (with some online encouragement from a friend in Finland who has been acting as my Linux mentor).

2. If you want to install Ubuntu 8.10 on an external USB drive, follow these instructions.

It says that you can skip steps 8 to 11 (I did), and I also skipped steps 12 to 14 without any ill effects (that I know of). There are other sites with instructions for this task, but this one seems to offer the most simple procedure.

3. Read This.

Basic Introduction to UNIX/linux by Claude Cantin

The figures seem to be missing, but it is written in a way that even a complete beginner can absorb. I think it is important to have an understanding of Unix/Linux to get the most out of your new system. Well, that is what I think after two days of playing in the Linux world. I could be wrong, but it seems fairly self-evident.

It is going to take me a while to read Mr. Cantin’s tome, so I will leave this post for now and write more when I have learned more!

This weekend, I was sitting at my computer reading an email that had just come in from a friend when all, of a sudden, that email and the 50 other emails that were in my inbox started deleting themselves one by one — permanently. They were not in my trash folder, nor in my spam folder. They were gone.

I had heard of people having problems with Yahoo’s customer service, so I was skeptical that I would ever see those emails again. I was a bit despondent because my Yahoo account is my primary account for personal correspondence (I have different accounts for mailing lists and dealing with businesses) and I use my inbox as a kind of to-do list, so I had basically just lost a list of 50 things that people — friends — had asked me to do (and, more importantly, that I intended to do). Since the emails were gone without a trace, there was no way for me to remember all 50 things. I foresaw some unhappy friends in my future.

I decided to contact Yahoo customer service to ask for help with this matter. To be honest, I didn’t expect to receive a reply. However, not only did I get a reply, but it was fast (within 24 hours) and it offered me an acceptable solution (reverting my inbox to the state that it was in before the emails got deleted). The solution would involve deleting any emails that arrived afterwards, because they could only restore my entire account, not individual folders, but I could handle those consequences because that would just involve making a copy of any mails that came in from that point on. So, I informed them that I would like them to restore my inbox to its previous state, and within 24 hours, I had my wish.

Ideally, it would have been better to have my cake and eat it too — i.e. have some way to restore my inbox and keep the messages that came after — but I am really just happy to have those 50 “to-do” items back where they should be so I don’t have to spend the next four months apologizing for forgetting to do stuff that I had already agreed to do.

I have implemented a new “no email in the inbox” policy to, hopefully, prevent this sort of thing from happening again in the future. I have created a subfolder called “Process” and all incoming email gets shunted over there until I have dealt with it. I think that inboxes are one of the most vulnerable parts of email accounts, so I am hoping that this will keep me safe. (I could be wrong in this regard.)

I would also like to have some way of automatically backing up my email myself so I don’t have to bother the Yahoo people if something like this ever happens again, but I have not come up with an elegant solution for that yet. Yahoo doesn’t allow users to forward email and keep a copy on the Yahoo server, so I might try to re-route my mail through a backup Gmail account and then have it forwarded back to Yahoo or something like that. I am not 100% satisfied with that solution, though, so I need to think about it some more.

In any case, kudos to the people at Yahoo (Canada) customer service for a job well done. It would have been better if my emails didn’t disappear in the first place, but no company can control all the things that happen to their servers in a day. And since that is the first time something like this has happened to me in many years of using Yahoo, I am willing to forgive the blip, especially because of the excellent level of service I received after the blip occurred.

Here is a short, but sweet, bit of computer advice. If you hear a thunderstorm on the horizon, unplug your computer AND unplug the cable that connects your computer to the internet. In fact, if you live in a place that gets a lot of thunderstorms (in my city we seem to be having one per day this summer — climate change??), you might want to consider leaving your computer and internet connection unplugged whenever you are not using them, at least during the storm season.

The reason I am writing this is because we had a thunderstorm yesterday while I was out and my computer and internet modem (ADSL) seem to have been hit. They are both going to need replacing as a result.

This has not happened to me before in over twenty years of owning a computer, so perhaps if you don’t think it will happen to you, then just stick with unplugging your computer when you are at home and a thunderstorm develops. If you have a good (and new, and not previously damaged by a thunderstorm) surge protector, you might not have to unplug your computer, but you still may want to consider doing something about your internet connection.

If it’s not plugged in, it can’t be fried.

I really like this guy’s sound and technique.

I would have bought his album (which is available here), but I don’t like the other music on top of his playing. I hope he releases an album of just himself.