Review: Hacking Vim    Posted:


Introduction

Some of my faithful visitors may have noticed that I have a thing for Vim, one of the oldest and most powerful text editors in the world. In the past 15 or so years that I've been developing, I have spent quite a bit of time in several different text editors. It seemed like I was continually on the quest to find the fastest, most feature-packed editor out there, while still being cross-platform compatible and having it stay out of my way. Speed has always been very important to me.

I have been using Vi and Vim regularly since about 2000, when I began dabbling with Linux. I could certainly hold my ground in either of the two programs, but I was by no means proficient. The more appealing text editors for me offered syntax highlighting and code completion. At the time, I was under the impression that Vi/Vim didn't offer either of these two features. It wasn't until around the middle of last year, however, that I really started putting effort into learning and using Vim. After asking some of my Vim-savvy friends a lot of questions to get me kickstarted, I began to see the power that lies in Vim.

Before long, Vim had replaced all other text editors as my preferred editing environment. I learned that Vim could satisfy just able every single one of my personal qualifications for the perfect editor. I dumped all other editors in favor of Vim, and I even opted to use Vim over a several hundred dollar IDE at work.

Anyway. I received a review copy of Kim Schulz' "Hacking Vim: A cookbook to get the most out of the latest Vim editor" a couple of months ago and have been rummaging through it since then. I have learned a ton of fantastic tips from this little book! Being a cookbook, you're not expected to read the entire book start to finish. Rather, you can dig right into whatever section interests you and feel right at home.

Brief Overview

Packt Publishing printed this book back in 2007, but all of the tips are still very much up-to-date. The book starts off with the obligatory history lesson (which is actually quite interesting if you're a nerd like me), and the target audience is described as such:

New users join the Vim user community every day and want to use this editor in their daily work, and even though Vim sometimes can be complex to use, they still favor it above other editors. This is a book for these Vim users.

After the history lesson, chapter 2 of the book digs right into personalizing Vim to fit your own preferences. Topics covered include:

  • changing fonts
  • changing color schemes
  • personalizing highlighting
  • customizing the status line
  • toggling menus and toolbars in gvim
  • adding your own menu items and toolbar buttons
  • customizing your work area

Chapter 3 discusses better navigation techniques. Topics covered include:

  • faster navigation in a file
  • faster navigation in the Vim help system
  • faster navigation in multiple buffers
  • in-file searching
  • searching in multiple files or buffers
  • using marks and signs

Chapter 4, titled "Production Boosters" discusses the following:

  • templates using simple template file
  • templates using abbreviations
  • auto-completion using known words and tag lists
  • auto-completion using omni-completion
  • macros
  • sessions
  • registers and undo branches
  • folding
  • vimdiff
  • opening remote files using Netrw

Chapter 5 introduces some advanced formatting tips. You can learn how to put text into nicely-formatted paragraphs, aligning text, marking headlines, and creating lists. For code, this chapter discusses several different indentation options.

Vim scripting is the topic of chapter 6, and Schulz covers a wide variety of useful tips to get anyone started on scripting Vim to do their bidding. Tips include:

  • creating syntax-coloring scripts
  • how to install and use scripts
  • different types of scripts
  • basic syntax of Vim scripts
  • how to structure Vim scripts
  • debugging a Vim script
  • using other scripting languages (Perl, Python, Ruby)

Appendix A describes how Vim can be used for much more than just text editing. Several different games, including Tetris and a Rubik's Cube are briefly introduced, along with how to use Vim as a mail client or programmer's IDE. Appendix B suggests miscellaneous configuration script maintenance tips, such as how you can maintain the same configuration script across several different machines.

My Thoughts

I was very impressed with this book. I was afraid that, being published in 2007, it might be a little too out-of-date for my personal tastes. Since the book is about Vim, though, I wasn't overly concerned (the editor has been around for decades, and it doesn't change drastically from release to release anymore).

Just like the last book I reviewed, I found several typos in this book. A lot of the typos were in the first few pages of the actual content, and some were definitely more minor than others. This sort of thing doesn't really detract much from the material covered, but it sure does stand out as a distraction for people who pay attention to details.

Here are some of the things that I truly enjoyed reading and learning about (many of which actually made my jaw drop in awe of Vim)

  • Specifying multiple fonts for GVim, just in case your first choice isn't always available:

    :set guifont=Courier\ New\ 12, Arial\ 10
    
  • Specifying different font faces based on the extension of the file you're editing:

    :autocmd BufEnter *.txt set guifont=Arial\ 12
    
  • Highlighting the line your cursor is currently on, and the column the cursor is in:

    :set cursorline
    :set cursorcolumn
    
  • Limiting the number of suggestions that the spell checker offers:

    :set spellsuggest=5
    
  • Navigating to different words based on whitespace instead of "regular" word separators:

    • W to move to the beginning of the next word
    • B to move to the beginning of the previous word
    • E to move to the beginning of the previous word

    I knew about the lowercase variations of these commands, but not the uppercase.

  • Navigating up and down in the same long, wrapped line:

    gk
    gj
    
  • Opening a file that is referenced in the current buffer:

    gf
    

    I learned that this even works on Python imports! Just like the description says, it will work on the import module, not classes or other objects from inside the module. Not quite that intelligent!

  • Incremental searching:

    :set incsearch
    
  • Searching up/down in a buffer for any occurrence of the word under the cursor:

    g#
    g*
    

    I knew about the usual # and *, but those two will only match the same exact word. When they're prefixed with g, they will match any occurrence of the word, be it whole or part of another word. For example, hitting g* while the cursor is over the word foo would would match both food and foobar, while * would match neither.

  • Using markers to jump between specific points in different open buffers (mA through mZ)

  • Prepopulating empty files based on their extension:

    :autocmd BufNewFile * silent! 0r $VIMHOME/templates/%:e.tpl
    
  • Formatting a paragraph of text:

    gqap
    
  • Formatting all paragraphs of text in a file:

    1gqG
    
  • Smart indentation:

    :set smartindent
    
  • Enabling paste mode, so smartindent doesn't try to format code that you paste into your buffer:

    :set paste
    
  • Prettifying XML and HTML using Tidy:

    :autocmd FileType xml exe ":silent 1,$!tidy --input-xml true --indent yes -q"
    :autocmd FileType html,htm exe ":silent 1,$!tidy --indent yes -q"
    

Conclusion

All in all, this is a fantastic book. I will be keeping it near my workstation as a quick reference book when I want to do something crazy with Vim. I've already recommended the book to several of my friends and acquaintances, and I will make the same recommendation here. If you are mildly familiar with Vim and at all interested in getting more out of this fabulous editor, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.

Comments

OSX, Growl, And Subversion    Posted:


Today I found myself trying to figure out how to make a terminal window stay permanent on my desktop or dashboard on OSX, similar to what I've done in the past with Linux. I just wanted to have the terminal window monitoring things in the background for me. Actually, all I wanted to do was keep track of when my local working copy of our Subversion repository was out of sync. I wanted a solution that would keep out of my way, but I also wanted it to be easy.

My search for a solution seemed short-lived when a Google search suggested a dashboard widget for the Terminal application. The problem with it was that the download server was dead or simply blocked by my company's Internet filter. One way or another, it wasn't long before I went in search of another solution.

At that very instant, I received a Growl notification from some program. That's when it dawned on me--I could tell Growl to tell me when my working copy was out of sync. I had done stuff like that in the past, so I set out to write my solution. This is what I came up with:

#!/bin/bash
MY_BOX=[my IP address]
DEV_ROOT='/path/to/svn/working copy'
cd $DEV_ROOT

MY_REV=`svn log --limit 1 | awk '/^r/ {print $1}' | sed 's/[^0-9]//g'`
SVN_REV=`svn log --limit 1 -r HEAD | awk '/^r/ {print $1}' | sed 's/[^0-9]//g'`

if [[ $MY_REV != $SVN_REV ]]; then
    ssh username@$MY_BOX "growlnotify -s -d47111 -n 'iTerm' -t 'Out Of Sync' -m 'Your working copy is out of sync.  Repository is at revision $SVN_REV, and your working copy is at $MY_REV.'"
fi

Now, a little bit about my environment. As I've mentioned before, all of our development really takes place on Linux-powered virtual machines. We simply use our Macs as the system to interact with those virtual machines. That is why there's the ssh line in that script.

Basically, this script just checks the most recent revision in your local working copy. Then it checks the latest revision in the repository itself. It compares the two revision numbers, and if it finds a difference, it will SSH into my OSX box to send me a Growl notification. On the OSX side, I have Growl and growlnotify installed. Here's a summary of the options to growlnotify:

  • -s: make the notification sticky--don't hide the notification until the user specifically closes it.
  • -d47111: a unique identifier for the notification. This makes it so you can send the same message over and over and it would update any existing notifications with that ID instead of creating a new notification (unless one doesn't exist already).
  • -n 'iTerm': I believe this was supposed to be the "source" application. I don't remember right now.
  • -t 'Out Of Sync': The title for the notification.
  • -m 'Your working copy...': The message to send to my Mac.

This is a fabulous little reminder to me. I have it set up as a cronjob that runs every minute on my Linux-powered development virtual machine. Hopefully this will help others!

Comments

My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part III    Posted:


Alrighty folks. Good night's rest? Check. Need to get work done? Check. Today's adventure will be about getting my computer set up for the regular development tasks that I need to do every day for my work and hobbies.

Getting Work Done

The first thing I noticed this morning when I turned on my computer was that it took exactly 1 minute from the time I hit the power button to the time I hit the enter key to log into my computer. Logging in took an additional 15-20 seconds. That was quite nice.

The next thing I noticed was that I was not connected to my network as I should be. Clicking the system tray menu item as I did last night did the trick, but I'm going to have to investigate how to make it connect automatically at boot.

Automatic Network Connectivity

It looks like I can have my Ethernet be activated automatically by right clicking on the network manager icon in my system tray, selecting "Edit Connections," selecting "System eth0," clicking the "Edit" button, and finally checking the "Connect automatically" option in the subsequent window. We'll see if this truly activates my connection next time I boot.

In an effort to get my wireless working, I poked around a little more in the "Edit Connections" screen, but I didn't see anything that seemed useful. I did find something that seemed a bit more interesting by selecting Applications > Administration > Network Configuration from the KDE menu. This utility suggested that my wireless adapter was actually wlan1 instead of the wlan0 that the tray icon seemed to think it was.

I tweaked a few settings about my wireless adapter, such as marking the "Activate device when computer starts" and "Allow all users to enable and disable the device." In the Hardware Device tab, I selected my actual Broadcom wireless adapter instead of the non-existant wlan0. I also hit the probe button next to the "Bind to MAC address" box.

My network manager tray icon still shows no wireless networks (of which there is no shortage around here), and running iwlist scan as root says "Network is down" next to wlan1. I think I will just mess with it later. Maybe it will "just work" when I reboot next time.

Installing/Configuring The Tools

As I previously mentioned, I prefer to use things that work well without getting in my way. When talking about text editors, VIM is just fine for me, and VIM 7.2.148 is already installed on my Fedora 11. One less thing to install.

Next up comes the installation of all of the goods for Firefox. It turns out that Fedora comes with Firefox 3.5 Beta 4--a bold move. I hope my extensions all work! The extensions I will be installing right now include:

  • AdBlock Plus: get rid of pesky ads that slow down my computer
  • Firebug: an amazing tool when debugging Web pages
  • Web Developer: has some niceties that Firebug doesn't come with
  • Screengrab: fantastic for taking screenshots of full Web pages
  • 2Zeus: my own little extension that allows me to quickly get short URLs a la tinyurl.com and is.gd

When I plugged in my external 1TB Seagate hard drive, I got a delicious Fatal Error message:

/images/fedora/p3/fatal_error.png

All appears to be in order, however, as I have access to all of the partitions on the external drive.

Next I want to install Opera. It appears that the place to look is Applications > System > Software Management in the KDE menu. Let's see what we have. Searching for Opera in the only obvious search box sent my computer into a crazy "let me do something without telling you" cycle. I have no idea what's really going on, but my processor has been maxed out for the past 3 minutes and my network has been working a little here and there. Can it really be that difficult to find a simple package? Oh! It finished! It took 6 minutes and 54 seconds to find nothing. Excellent. Let me look somewhere else.

Awesome. My computer is non-responsive. The hard drive is still working, but my GUI is doing nothing. I love it. Attempts to drop back to a trusty console using Control, Alt, and F1-F6 rendered no results. I wonder if I can SSH in from here... I sure can! Fantastic. Let's see what's happening.

It appears that X is taking up 90% of my processing power, but my computer is still not responding to any of my input. Dang it! Now my SSH session isn't working. Looks like the only option I have now is to do a hard reset. Joy of joys. Thank you for this opportunity, Fedora. Last time I did a hard reset, I was in Windows and it trashed my 1TB external.

So far rebooting seems to be going well. I wonder if my network will be setup properly still... Fantastic! It works! Wireless is still not available though. I can live without that for the time being.

Back in the Software Management utility, searching for Opera again proved to work much more quickly, but I didn't get any results. I suppose I'll just go download it from their site. The download for Opera 10 beta 1 is a mere 7.2MB, and it looks like it will open in the same Software Management utility that I've been dinking around in.

When I downloaded the Opera package, I asked it to open directly in the default program, KPackageKit. That doesn't seem to be working in the least, so I am going to try to just save it to my home directory and install it some other way. Sorry guys and gals, I ended up just dropping back to a terminal to run rpm -Uvh opera-10.00-b1.gcc4-shared-qt3.x86_64.rpm and that seemed to work fine. Opera appeared in my KDE menu, and it runs well now.

Next up is Pidgin. Pidgin 2.5.5 is installed by default, and getting it up and running was as trivial as ever.

Now to test Flash... YouTube, here I come!! Beh, Flash is not installed by default, and it's also not in the Software Management tool. What use is that thing?! Maybe if I apply all of the updates in the "Software Updates" section it will feel more useful... Here it goes.

Cool. System is unresponsive again. Let's see if I can reboot from here. Nope! Thank you, Fedora, for making me hard reset my system more in 2 hours than I have had to in YEARS. Yeah, thanks buddy.

10:50 AM So the software updates continue to not work. It appears that a ypbind package is the culprit which is causing everything to hang... I disabled it and tried to install the software updates again.

10:53 AM GUI is non-responsive again. Yay.

10:56 AM Third hard reset in 3 hours. Maybe I will have to modify my original parameters and try GNOME to see if that makes the computer usable for more than an hour at a time.

11:00 AM That's it! I'm getting rid of KDE 4... sorry folks, GNOME is my only hope of getting work done. Second clean shutdown out of 5 since the installation completed last night.

Comments

My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part I    Posted:


Today I decided that I would deliberately put myself outside of my comfort zone. No, not by intentionally putting myself on a telephone for more than 5 minutes this month... I will need a lot more preparation before I can attempt that one. No no, today's experiment has to do with Linux. If you're new around here, I am a very big fan of Linux. It has been my primary operating system for over 8 years (but I still use Windows and Mac occasionally, when I need to test my programs and the cross-platform behavior).

A Little Background On Yours Truly

There was a time when I was what you would call a distro-hopper. I would download any and every Linux distribution I could get my hands on. Most of them would hang around on my computer for a few days at best, but a select few actually impressed me enough to have them stick around for longer. Among those few are Slackware and Sidux. Many other distros are nice and pretty, but when it comes to me being productive on them, there always seems to be something lacking.

I am addicted to speed and reliability--two things that originally urged me to tinker with Linux all those years ago. I am more than willing to sacrifice looks and features for being able to just get something done quickly and efficiently. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this article in VIM, one of the most "light-weight" editors around these days. It allows me to do exactly what I want to do without getting in my way. That's how I like things.

That's probably the main reason I love Slackware. It won't do anything I don't tell it to do. No crazy background processes updating some package repository, slowing down my system. No pestering me about security updates that I will install in my own due time. Slackware only does what I want it to, and I have learned a ton about Linux because of it. If I decide I want something automated in the background, I have to tell the computer to do it. If one of my programs has been updated on the Internet, I download and install the package manually instead of using a "package manager." If one of my programs doesn't work because of a missing dependency, I am the one who finds and downloads the dependency. It's a lot of work initially, but I'm of the persuasion that this work is well worth it for my situation.

In today's day and age, that sort of setup seems to scare a lot of people off. People like to have things "just work." People like to not have to worry about keeping up to speed with what security threats are out there. People like having things to keep them entertained instead of getting things done. People like to see their desktop turn into a cube and spin around. People like to see things glow and wiggle on their computer. It's aesthetically pleasing. There's nothing wrong with that. Unless you want to get things done instead of just stare at your computer.

The Challenge

With that background in mind, you should be equipped to better understand the information and articles that follow. My challenge to myself is this: install Fedora 11 and use it for at least a week. To add to the the challenge, I'm installing the 64-bit version. In my past experience with 64-bit operating systems, there has been no real motivation or necessity for 64-bit computing. It just means more compatibility problems, which reduces productivity. This will be the first 64-bit operating system I actually plan to keep around beyond the exploratory period.

There are a few things about this that will bring me waaaay out of my comfort zone. They are (in no particular order):

  • Fedora
  • RPMs
  • KDE 4

I have a strong disregard for each of these items. There was a time when I considered Fedora to be a respectable platform--back when it was Fedora Core 2 or 3. Ever since then, I feel that it has gone down the tubes. RPMs have always seemed grossly lacking in the speed department to me, and it only got worse after I found out about Debian and Slackware. Finally, KDE 4 seems like one of the absolute worst window managers I have yet to encounter. I love KDE 3.5.x. I wish I could use it everywhere I go. But KDE 4 has yet to appeal to my desire for efficient productivity--it gets in my way almost as much as GNOME does.

Starting today, I plan to look all of these opinions (as biased as they may be) straight in the eye and take 'em head-on. I am going to work on learning to enjoy using Fedora. I'm going to work on learning how to appreciate RPMs. I am going to learn to be productive in the window manager "of the future."

And I will keep you all apprised of my progress.

Comments

AES Encryption in Python Using PyCrypto    Posted:


I spent a little bit of time last night and this morning trying to find some examples for AES encryption using Python and PyCrypto. To my surprise, I had quite a difficult time finding an example of how to do it! I posted a message on Twitter asking for any solid examples, but people mostly just responded with things I had seen before--the libraries that do the encryption, not examples for how to use the libraries.

It wasn't long after that when I just decided to tackle the problem myself. My solution ended up being pretty simple (which is probably why there weren't any solid examples for me to find). However, out of respect for those out there who might still be looking for a solid example, here is my solution:

#!/usr/bin/env python

from Crypto.Cipher import AES
import base64
import os

# the block size for the cipher object; must be 16, 24, or 32 for AES
BLOCK_SIZE = 32

# the character used for padding--with a block cipher such as AES, the value
# you encrypt must be a multiple of BLOCK_SIZE in length.  This character is
# used to ensure that your value is always a multiple of BLOCK_SIZE
PADDING = '{'

# one-liner to sufficiently pad the text to be encrypted
pad = lambda s: s + (BLOCK_SIZE - len(s) % BLOCK_SIZE) * PADDING

# one-liners to encrypt/encode and decrypt/decode a string
# encrypt with AES, encode with base64
EncodeAES = lambda c, s: base64.b64encode(c.encrypt(pad(s)))
DecodeAES = lambda c, e: c.decrypt(base64.b64decode(e)).rstrip(PADDING)

# generate a random secret key
secret = os.urandom(BLOCK_SIZE)

# create a cipher object using the random secret
cipher = AES.new(secret)

# encode a string
encoded = EncodeAES(cipher, 'password')
print 'Encrypted string:', encoded

# decode the encoded string
decoded = DecodeAES(cipher, encoded)
print 'Decrypted string:', decoded

Edit: thanks to John and Kaso for their suggestions, though John's didn't seem to work for me (?)

If you plan to use this script, you'll need to have PyCrypto installed on your computer. I have had a difficult time finding this for Windows in the past, so I will mirror the installer that I found over here: http://jintoreedwine.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/python-25-and-encryption-pycrypto-under-windows/. I haven't tried it on Mac OS X yet, but it should be fairly simple to install it. Same goes for Linux.

The output of the script should always change with each execution thanks to the random secret key. Here's some sample output:

$ python aes_encryption.py
Encrypted string: aPCQ8v9WzLM/JusrJPS19K8uUA/34Xiu/ZR+arzl1oM=
Decrypted string: password

$ python aes_encryption.py
Encrypted string: F0cp4hMk8RXjcww270leHnigH++yqysIyPy8Em/qEbI=
Decrypted string: password

$ python aes_encryption.py
Encrypted string: 7gH2QCIPOxXVBjTXrMmdgU2l7Iku5Lch5jpG9OScGZw=
Decrypted string: password

$ python aes_encryption.py
Encrypted string: oJUq0/XHdmYgC3ILgFgF6Tpuo8ZhoEHN9wmnuYvV58Y=
Decrypted string: password

If the comments in the script aren't explanatory enough, please comment and ask for clarification. I will offer any that I am capable of, and I invite others to do the same.

Comments

Installing Python 3.0 Alongside an Existing Python    Posted:


With the recent release of Python 3.0 final, I've had a crazy itch that needed to be scratched. That itch, my friends, was to do a write-up of how to install Python 3.0 alongside my existing Python 2.5.2 installation without borking things up. The reason I thought it would be useful is that I'm running a Debian-based distribution of Linux called sidux right now, and neither Python 2.6 nor Python 3.0 are in the package repositories. I assume that Ubuntu and other Debian-based distributions might be the same way, and that there are others like me who would like to tinker with these new releases.

Just before attempting to install Python 3.0 on my computer, I started getting ready to write this article. Before I knew it, Python 3.0 was installed on my system, and I had no notes to share with you! That is how stinkin easy it is to install Python 3.0 without interfering with an existing install. I mentioned to a good friend that I wasn't sure the process was worth writing an article because it was so simple, but he encouraged me to carry on. Thanks bro.

So, without any further ado, here is what I did to install Python 3.0 from source alongside my Python 2.5 installation:

Note: If you're using a Mac or Windows, you should be able to simply install the packages for your platform to accomplish this same feat. Once the packages are in the repositories it will be just as easy for Linux.

$ wget http://python.org/ftp/python/3.0/Python-3.0.tar.bz2
  • Unpack the archive:
$ tar jxf Python-3.0.tar.bz2
  • Descend into the newly extracted Python-3.0 directory:
$ cd Python-3.0
  • Install libreadline-dev. This step is necessary for the arrow keys to work, as pointed out by jazevec below in the comments. If you are on a Debian-based system, you can execute a command such as this:
  $ sudo apt-get install libreadline-dev

Other distributions may have different package names, such as ``readline-dev``.  If neither one of those package names work for your distribution, try searching your package manager for ``readline`` and install the development files.  Alternatively, you should be able to manually install what you need by installing `readline itself <http://directory.fsf.org/project/readline/>`_.
  • Configure Python 3.0 for your computer:
$ ./configure
  • Compile Python 3.0:
  $ make


**UPDATE** (9 Dec): Depending on your setup, you may or may not see a message such as this after executing the ``make`` command (thanks again to ``jazevec`` for pointing out that this can happen)::

  Failed to find the necessary bits to build these modules:
  _dbm               _gdbm              _hashlib
  _sqlite3           _ssl               _tkinter
  bz2                zlib
  To find the necessary bits, look in setup.py in detect_modules() for the module's name.

If you need any of those capabilities, you should install the appropriate development files for the missing module(s).  For example, above, we installed the ``libreadline-dev`` package.  To resolve the missing module problem for each one listed above (except ``_dbm`` because it's apparently borked on Debian right now... possibly other distros too), install these packages:

  * ``tk-dev`` to satisfy ``_tkinter``
  * ``libsqlite3-dev`` to satisfy ``_sqlite3``
  * ``libbz2-dev`` to satisfy ``bz2``
  * ``zlib1g-dev`` to satisfy ``zlib``
  * ``libssl-dev`` to satisfy ``_ssl`` and ``_hashlib``
  * ``libgdbm-dev`` to satisfy ``_gdbm``
  • Install Python 3.0:
  $ sudo make install

or:
# make install
  • Test Python 3.0:
$ python3.0
Python 3.0 (r30:67503, Dec  5 2008, 11:05:45)
[GCC 4.3.2] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> print 'Hi'
File "<stdin>", line 1
    print 'Hi'
            ^
SyntaxError: invalid syntax
>>> print('Hi')
Hi
>>>
  • Make sure that your old version of Python is still around:
$ python
Python 2.5.2 (r252:60911, Sep 29 2008, 21:15:13)
[GCC 4.3.2] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> print 'Hi'
Hi
>>>
  • Rejoice

That's about it folks! Extremely simple and fast, compared to what it could have been.

If you find yourself in a situation where you don't have access to sudo or straight root-level access, you can install Python 3.0 locally by doing something like this:

  • Configure Python 3.0 for your computer:
$ ./configure --prefix=$HOME/local/
  • Compile Python 3.0:
$ make
  • Install Python 3.0:
  $ make install

Not that I omitted the ``sudo`` part of the command here.
  • Symlink to Python 3.0, assuming you have a bin/ directory in your home directory (i.e. /home/[yourusername]/bin), and that said bin directory is on your PATH:
$ ln -s ~/local/bin/python3.0 ~/bin
  • Test your locally installed Python 3.0:
  $ python3.0

or, if your local ``bin`` directory isn't on your ``PATH``:
$ ~/bin/python3.0
  • Do the dance.

Please comment with any problems you find with this process, or any additional advice you can offer to newbies!

Comments

Using Django to Design Your Database Schema    Posted:


Last night I had a buddy of mine ask me how I would approach a particular database design problem. I get similar questions quite often from my peers--suggests there is something important lacking from the database classes out there. Instead of answering him directly, I decided to come up with this tutorial for using Django to design your database schema.

For those of you new to Django, this article might seem a bit advanced. In time I will have more introductory-level Django tutorials, but I hope this one is easy enough.

Create a Django Project

The first step is to create a Django project. If you already have a project that you can play with, you can skip this step. To create a project, go to a place where you want to keep your code (like C:\projects or /home/me/projects) in a command prompt/terminal and run the following command:

django-admin.py startproject myproject

This will create a new directory in your current location called myproject (you can replace myproject with whatever you'd like so long as you're consistent). This new directory will contain a few files:

  • __init__.py
  • manage.py
  • settings.py
  • urls.py

If you get an error message when running the above command, you might not have Django installed properly. See Step-by-Step: Installing Django for details on installing Django.

Create An Application

Once you have a Django project setup, you should create a new application.

Note: If you're using Windows, you will probably need to omit the ./ on the ./manage.py commands. I will include them here for everyone else who's using Linux or a Mac.

cd myproject
./manage.py startapp specialapp

This will create a new directory in your myproject directory. This new directory will contain three files: __init__.py, models.py, and views.py. We are only concerned with the models.py file in this article.

Create Your Models

Models are usually a direct representation of what your database will be. Django makes creating these models extremely easy, and Python's syntax makes them quite readable. The Django framework asks for models to be defined in the models.py file that was created in the last step. Here's an example (for my buddy who prompted the creation of this article):

 1 from django.db import models
 2 
 3 class Component(models.Model):
 4     item_number = models.CharField(max_length=20)
 5     name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
 6     size = models.CharField(max_length=10)
 7     quantity = models.IntegerField(default=1)
 8     price = models.DecimalField(max_digits=8, decimal_places=2)
 9 
10 class Project(models.Model):
11     name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
12     components = models.ManyToManyField(Component)
13     instructions = models.TextField()

(for more information about models, see the Django Model API Reference)

I don't know about you, but that code seems pretty straightforward to me. I'll spare you all the details about what's going on (that can be a future article).

Install Your New Application

Once you have your models setup, we need to add our specialapp to our list of INSTALLED_APPS in order for Django to register these models. To do that, open up settings.py in your myproject directory, go to the bottom of the file, until you see something like

1 INSTALLED_APPS = (
2     'django.contrib.auth',
3     'django.contrib.contenttypes',
4     'django.contrib.sessions',
5     'django.contrib.sites',
6 )

When you find that, add your specialapp to the list

1 INSTALLED_APPS = (
2     'django.contrib.auth',
3     'django.contrib.contenttypes',
4     'django.contrib.sessions',
5     'django.contrib.sites',
6     'specialapp'
7 )

Setup Your Database

Now you need to let Django know what kind of database you're using. Django currently supports MySQL, SQLite3, PostgreSQL, and Oracle natively, but you can get third-party tools that allow you to use other database (like SQL Server).

Still in your settings.py, go to the top until you see DATABASE_ENGINE and DATABASE_NAME. Set that to whatever type of database you are using:

1 DATABASE_ENGINE = 'sqlite3'
2 DATABASE_NAME = 'myproject.db'

Save your settings.py and go back to your command prompt/terminal.

Get Django's Opinion For Your Schema

Make sure you're in your myproject directory and run the following command:

./manage.py sqlall specialapp

This command will examine the models that we created previously and will generate the appropriate SQL to create the tables for your particular database. For SQLite, we get something like this for output:

 1 BEGIN;
 2 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_component" (
 3       "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
 4       "item_number" varchar(20) NOT NULL,
 5       "name" varchar(50) NOT NULL,
 6       "size" varchar(10) NOT NULL,
 7       "quantity" integer NOT NULL,
 8       "price" decimal NOT NULL
 9 )
10 ;
11 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_project" (
12       "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
13       "name" varchar(50) NOT NULL,
14       "instructions" text NOT NULL
15 )
16 ;
17 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_project_components" (
18       "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
19       "project_id" integer NOT NULL REFERENCES "specialapp_project" ("id"),
20       "component_id" integer NOT NULL REFERENCES "specialapp_component" ("id"),
21       UNIQUE ("project_id", "component_id")
22 )
23 ;
24 COMMIT;

Notice how Django does all sorts of nifty things, like wrapping the table creation queries in a transaction, setting up indexes, unique keys, and defining relationships between tables. The output also offers a solution to the original problem my buddy had: an intermediate table that just keeps track of relationships between projects and components (the specialapp_project_components table).

Notice that the SQL above may not work with database servers other than SQLite.

Enhancing The Intermediate Table

After my buddy reviewed this article, he asked a very interesting and valid question: What if a project needs 3 of one component? In response, I offer the following models (this requires a modern version of Django--it doesn't work on Django 0.96.1 or earlier):

 1 from django.db import models
 2 
 3 class Component(models.Model):
 4     item_number = models.CharField(max_length=20)
 5     name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
 6     size = models.CharField(max_length=10)
 7     quantity = models.IntegerField(default=1)
 8     price = models.DecimalField(max_digits=8, decimal_places=2)
 9 
10 class Project(models.Model):
11     name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
12     components = models.ManyToManyField(Component, through='ProjectComponent')
13     instructions = models.TextField()
14 
15 class ProjectComponent(models.Model):
16     project = models.ForeignKey(Project)
17     component = models.ForeignKey(Component)
18     quantity = models.PositiveIntegerField()
19 
20     class Meta:
21         unique_together = ['project', 'component']

Running ./manage.py sqlall specialapp now generates the following SQL:

 1 BEGIN;
 2 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_component" (
 3     "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
 4     "item_number" varchar(20) NOT NULL,
 5     "name" varchar(50) NOT NULL,
 6     "size" varchar(10) NOT NULL,
 7     "quantity" integer NOT NULL,
 8     "price" decimal NOT NULL
 9 )
10 ;
11 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_project" (
12     "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
13     "name" varchar(50) NOT NULL,
14     "instructions" text NOT NULL
15 )
16 ;
17 CREATE TABLE "specialapp_projectcomponent" (
18     "id" integer NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
19     "project_id" integer NOT NULL REFERENCES "specialapp_project" ("id"),
20     "component_id" integer NOT NULL REFERENCES "specialapp_component" ("id"),
21     "quantity" integer unsigned NOT NULL,
22     UNIQUE ("project_id", "component_id")
23 )
24 ;
25 CREATE INDEX "specialapp_projectcomponent_project_id" ON "specialapp_projectcomponent" ("project_id");
26 CREATE INDEX "specialapp_projectcomponent_component_id" ON "specialapp_projectcomponent" ("component_id");
27 COMMIT;

As you can see, most of the SQL is the same. The main difference is that the specialapp_project_components table has become specialapp_projectcomponent and it now has a quantity column. This can be used to keep track of the quantity of each component that a project requires. You can add however many fields you want to this new intermediate table's model.

Using This SQL

There are several ways you can use the SQL generated by Django. If you want to make your life really easy, you can have Django create the tables for you directly. Assuming that you have specified all of the appropriate database information in your settings.py file, you can simply run the following command:

./manage.py syncdb

This will execute the queries generated earlier directly on your database, creating the tables (if they don't already exist). Please note that this command currently will not update your schema if the table exists but is missing a column or two. You must either do that manually or drop the table in question and then execute the syncdb command.

Another option, if you want to keep your DDL(Data Definition Language) in a separate script (maybe if you want to keep it in some sort of version control) is something like:

./manage.py sqlall specialapp > specialapp-ddl-080813.sql

This just puts the output of the sqlall command into a file called specialapp-ddl-080813.sql for later use.

Benefits of Using Django To Create Your Schema

  • Simple: I personally find the syntax of Django models to be very simple and direct. There is a comprehensive API that explains and demonstrates what Django models are capable of.
  • Fast: Being that the syntax is so simple, I find that it makes designing and defining your schema much faster than trying to do it with raw SQL or using a database administration GUI.
  • Understandable: Looking at the model code in Django is not nearly as intimidating as similar solutions in other frameworks (think about Java Persistence API models).
  • Intelligent: Using the same model code, Django can generate proper Data Definition Language SQL for several popular database servers. It handles indexes, keys, relationships, transactions, etc. and can tell the difference between server types.

Downfalls of Using Django To Create Your Schema

  • The Table Prefix: Notice how all of the tables in the SQL above were prefixed with specialapp_. That's Django's safe way of making sure models from different applications in the same Django project do not interfere with each other. However, if you don't plan on using Django for your end project, the prefix could be a major annoyance. There are a couple solutions:
    • A simple "search and replace" before executing the SQL in your database
    • Define the db_table option in your models
  • Another Technology: Django (or even Python) may or may not be in your organization's current development stack. If it's not, using the methods described in this article would just become one more thing to support.

Other Thoughts

I first thought about doing the things mentioned in this application when I was working on a personal Java application. I like to use JPA when developing database-backed applications in Java because it abstracts away a lot of the database operations. However, I don't like coming up with the model classes directly, so I usually reverse engineer them from existing database tables.

Before thinking about the things discussed in this article, I created the tables by hand, making several modifications to the schema before I was satisfied with my JPA models. This proved to be quite bothersome and time-consuming.

After using Django to develop my tables, the JPA models turned out to be a lot more reliable, and they were usually designed properly from the get-go. I haven't created tables manually ever since.

If you find yourself designing database schemas often, and you find that you have to make several changes to your tables before you/the project requirements are satisfied, you might consider using Django to do the grunt work. It's worked for me, and I'm sure it will work for you too.

Good luck!

Comments

Step-by-Step: Installing Django    Posted:


Being the Django and Python zealot that I am, I often find myself trying to convert those around me to this awesome development paradigm. Once I break them, these people often ask me a lot of questions about Django. Over the past few months I've noticed that one of the biggest sticking points for people who are new to Django is actually getting it up and running to begin with. In response, this is the first in a series of articles dedicated to getting Django up and running.

What is Django?

The Django Web site describes Django as "a high-level Python Web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design." Basically, Django is just about the most amazing thing for Web development. I have tinkered with several different Web technologies, but nothing seems to even come close to what Django can do for me.

What is Python?

Python is a programming language used in numerous aspects of computing these days. It has a very simple yet powerful syntax. It's an easy language for beginners to pick up, but it provides adequate levels of power for the more experienced developers out there. If you have never programmed anything before, or you have dabbled with something like BASIC, Python should be fairly straightforward. If you are a programming veteran, but have only worked with languages like C, C++, Java, etc, you might struggle a bit with the syntax of the language. It's not difficult to overcome the differences in a couple hours of hands-on development.

Let's get started.

Installing Python...

Having Python installed is critical--Django does not work without Python. I'm guessing that you're relatively familiar with the procedures for installing software packages on your particular operating system. However, I will share a few notes to point you in the proper direction if you're lost. If nothing else, just head over to the Python download page to download anything you need to install Python. I whole-heartedly recommend using the latest stable version of Python for Django, but you should be able to get by with as early a version as 2.3.

...On Windows

Simply grab the latest version of the Python installer. It is currently version 2.5.2. Once the installer has downloaded successfully, just run through the installation wizard like any other setup program.

...On Mac OS X

Recent Mac OS X computers come with Python pre-installed. To determine whether or not you actually have it, launch the Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and type python -c "import sys; print sys.version". If Python is already installed, you will see the version you have installed. If you have a version that is less than 2.3, you should download the newest version. If you don't have Python installed, you will get a "command not found" error. If you're in this boat, just download the latest version of the Python Universal installer and install it.

...On Linux

Most Linux distributions also have Python pre-installed. Just like with Mac OS X, you can check to see by opening up a terminal/konsole session and running the command python -c "import sys; print sys.version". If you have Python installed, you will see its version. If you get an error message when running that command, or you have a version earlier than 2.3, you need to download and install the latest version of Python.

If you're running a Debian-based distribution (like Ubuntu, sidux, MEPIS, KNOPPIX, etc), you can probably use sudo apt-get install python to get Python. If you're running an RPM-based Distribution, you can probably use something like Yum or YaST to install Python.

A sure-fire way to install Python on any Linux system, however, is to install from source. If you need to do this, you simply:

  1. download the source for the latest version of Python
  2. extract it: tar jxf Python-2.5.2.tar.bz2
  3. go into the newly-extracted directory: cd python-2.5.2
  4. configure it: ./configure
  5. compile it: make
  6. install it: make install

(I've only installed Python from source one time, so I might be wrong)

Setting Up Your PYTHONPATH...

Generally speaking, if you didn't have Python installed before starting this tutorial, you will need to setup your PYTHONPATH environment variable. This is a variable that lets Python know where to find useful things (like Django).

...On Windows

  • Open up your System Properties (Win+Break or right click on "My Computer" on your desktop and select Properties)
  • Go to the "Advanced" tab
  • Click the "Environment Variables" button
  • If you have permission to change system variables, click the "New" button in the bottom pane. Otherwise, create the PYTHONPATH variable for your user account using the "New" button in the top (User variables for [username]) pane.
  • Set the variable name to PYTHONPATH
  • Set the variable value to C:\Python25\Lib\site-packages (replace C:\Python25\ with whatever it is on your system if needed)
  • Save it

You may also need to add the python executable to your PATH. If you can successfully run python from a command prompt window, you don't need to worry about it.

If you can't run python from a command prompt, follow the procedure above, but use the PATH variable instead of PYTHONPATH. PATH most likely already exists, so you just need to append/prepend the existing value with something like C:\Python25\ (again, this might need to change depending on where you installed Python)

...On Mac OS X

Your PYTHONPATH should already be setup for you.

...On Linux

Usually you just need to edit your ~/.bash_rc script to setup your PYTHONPATH environment variable. Go ahead and open that up in your preferred text editor and make sure there's something in it like:

export PYTHONPATH=/usr/lib/python2.5/site-packages:$PYTHONPATH

Save any changes necessary and run the following command:

source ~/.bash_rc

This will take care of updating your current session with any changes you made to your ~/.bash_rc.

Installing Django

Once you have Python and have verified that you have version 2.3 or later, you are ready to install Django. Currently, the latest stable release is 0.96.1, but this is grossly out-dated. Django 1.0 will be released on September 2nd 2008, so the "unstable" copy of Django is pretty close to what 1.0 will have to offer. There are some incredibly useful improvements in the unstable version that I don't think I could do without anymore, so that's what I'll talk about installing here.

First, you need to have a subversion client. On Windows, the most popular one is called TortoiseSVN. On Mac OS X, I have played with a few, but I think Versions is a pretty decent one. Linux also has several to choose from, but if you're using Linux, you're probably going to use the command line anyway (right?).

For brevity, I will just use the subversion commands necessary to accomplish this task (instead of discussing all GUI interfaces to subversion).

The exact location that Django should be installed differs from system to system, but here are some guidelines for typical setups:

  • Windows: C:\Python25\Lib\site-packages
  • Linux: /usr/lib/python2.5/site-packages
  • Mac OS X: /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.5/lib/python2.5/site-packages

If you want a definite location, run the following command:

python -c "from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print get_python_lib()"

Once you know that location, go there in your command prompt or terminal session. Then execute this command svn co http://code.djangoproject.com/svn/django/trunk/django django. You will see loads of output, showing all of the files that you are downloading as you install Django.

As soon as that process completes, you should run python -c "import django" to make sure everything worked properly. If the command doesn't display an ImportError, you're good. Otherwise, you need to try again.

Getting Access to Django Scripts...

Once you can successfully import django, you might want to make sure you can run the django-admin.py script that comes with Django.

...On Windows

This process is very similar to what we did with the PYTHONPATH environment variable earlier.

  • Open your System Properties again
  • Go to the Advanced tab
  • Click the Environment Variables button
  • Find your PATH environment variable (either for your user or system-wide)
  • Make sure that the variable value contains something like C:\Python25\Lib\site-packages\django\bin
  • Save any changes
  • Open a fresh command prompt
  • Try to run django-admin.py. If you're successful, you're ready to get started with Django. Otherwise, you need to fix your path to django/bin or just call the django-admin.py script using an absolute path when needed.

...On Mac OS X

You can run a command similar to this:

sudo ln -s /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.5/lib/python2.5/site-packages/django/bin/django-admin.py /usr/local/bin

...On Linux

If you have "root" privileges on your Linux system, you can execute a command like:

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/python2.5/site-packages/django/bin/django-admin.py /usr/local/bin

If you don't have "root" privileges, you can setup your own /usr/local/bin:

mkdir ~/bin

Make sure your ~/.bash_rc contains something like:

export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH

Then update your current session with any changes you made to ~/.bash_rc by running this command:

source ~/.bash_rc

And that should do it! Now you should be ready to get started with Django.

Feel free to leave a comment if you're having problems installing Django. Good luck!

Check out Installing Django on Shared Hosting.

Comments

Make Your Own iPod-Compatible Audio Books Using Linux    Posted:


I like music a lot. I think I always have, and I probably always will. I like to be able to listen to good music wherever I go whenever I want. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we have a myriad of portable media devices to choose from. I personally chose an iPod nano. It's a wonderful little toy.

Anyway, as much as I like music, sometimes I feel that my time could be better used doing things more productive than just listening to music. Once I realized I felt this way, I began looking into ways to get my audio books onto my iPod. At first I simply transfered over the MP3s that came straight from the CDs. But I soon realized that this wasn't the most effective use of the iPod's audio book capabilities. So the hunt was on for some good Windows software to convert my MP3 audio books into M4B format for the iPod.

Now, I'm a pretty cheap guy when it comes to paying for software (which is probably one of the main reasons I started using Linux way back when). I found a bunch of different "free" tools that claimed to be able to convert my MP3's, but few of them actually worked well enough for me to stand using them. Eventually, I found a (very round-about) routine that allowed me to turn everything into something my iPod could understand as an audio book. I followed this routine to convert several audio books and transfer them to my iPod. I never actually finished listening to any of them completely.

Last night I started fooling around with converting my DVDs into a format my iPod could understand. When I finally got The Bourne Identity converted properly, I tried to throw it onto my iPod from my wife's Mac. It told me that I would have to erase everything (because I used my own PC to transfer my files before), and I said it was ok. I didn't have any of my original .m4b files around anymore, and so I began looking for ways of creating those audio books (in Linux this time).

It wasn't long before I stumbled upon a particularly interesting post on this exact topic. It requires the use of mp3wrap, mplayer, and faac. Pretty simple, really. Here's what you do:

# mp3wrap outputfilename *.mp3
# mplayer -vc null -vo null -ao pcm:nowaveheader:fast:file=outputfilename.pcm outputfilename_MP3WRAP.mp3
# faac -R 44100 -B 16 -C 2 -X -w -q 80 --artist "author" --album "title" --title "title" --track "1" --genre "Spoken Word" --year "year" -o outputfilename.m4b outputfilename.pcm

Nice and easy, huh? Now to decipher it all.

# mp3wrap outputfilename *.mp3

This command will stitch a bunch of MP3 files into a single MP3. This makes it easier to have a "real" audio book on your iPod.

# mplayer -vc null -vo null -ao pcm:nowaveheader:fast:file=outputfilename.pcm outputfilename_MP3WRAP.mp3

This command converts that one big MP3 file to PCM (uncompressed) format. Somewhere in the output of this command, you will see something like AO: [alsa] 44100Hz 2ch s16le (2 bytes per sample) which comes in handy for the next command:

# faac -R 44100 -B 16 -C 2 -X -w -q 80 --artist "author" --album "title" --title "title" --track "1" --genre "Spoken Word" --year "year" -o outputfilename.m4b outputfilename.pcm

Finally, this command turns the PCM file into an audio book (m4b) file. The 44100, 16, and 2 right after faac all come from that special line in the output of the mplayer command.

As much as I like the command line, I don't like having to remember all of those parameters and options. So I decided to create a utility script (written in Python, of course) to wrap all of these commands into one simple one:

# mp3s2m4b.py BookName mp3s_directory [--quality=0..100] [--artist="artist"] [--album="album"] [--title="title"] [--genre="genre"] [--year=year] [--track=number]

While this might still seem too complex for pleasure, it does reduce a lot of the typing involved with the other three commands. All of the thingies in square brackets (like [--quality=0..100]) are optional. My script runs the commands mentioned previously in order, and suppresses all of the scary output.

I've used my script 4 or 5 different times so far, and it seems to work great. You may download it here.

Comments

First Impressions: openSUSE 11.0    Posted:


Those of you who have ever held any sort of conversation with me have probably heard or have personal experience with my bigotry concerning Linux. I absolutely love Linux, and I make all sorts of excuses for the things it doesn't to as well as Windows and Mac OS to convince people to use Linux. It's just the way I am.

I've been using Linux as my main operating system ever since about 2000, though I did dabble with it a few times before that. I started out with RedHat Linux way back when, and then moved on to Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux. As time passed, I found out about this particular distribution called "SuSE Linux," which claimed to be able to detect hardware even better than the others I had tried. It even looked really pretty. I began to really want to use this distribution. It got to the point where I almost spent $80 on it, just so I could play around.

Eventually, I got my hands on a free copy by downloading all of the packages from their FTP server or something. I managed to get this installed, and I was even more impressed than I had anticipated. SuSE Linux was amazing. But by this time, I had already become addicted to downloading and trying out any distribution I could get my hands on. That meant that SuSE spent a few days or weeks on my computer before I replaced it with something else.

As I tried more and more distributions of Linux, I began to form opinions about them. I observed what certain distributions did well, and made hard mental notes about what each distribution didn't do so well. It wasn't long before I noticed that basically all of the RPM-based distributions I had tried suffered from two major problems: bloated installation packages and severe system slow-downs as time went on. It seemed that RPM-based distributions always slowed down just as bad as Windows machines. Other types of Linux, such as Slackware, Gentoo, and Debian, didn't seem to suffer from this nearly as bad.

With these opinions in mind, I carefully chose which distributions I elected to actually install with plans for keeping around a long time. It seemed like I would always download the RPM-based distributions, but I would do it "just in case" someone else wanted the CD or DVD. Sometimes I would download the distributions and never even bother to burn the CD image to disc. I would just stuff the image away for future reference.

However, despite my opinions of RPM-based distributions, I did end up installing SUSE Enterprise Linux Desktop/Server and openSUSE a few years ago. Part of it was for a class I had; another part was to find a distribution that would suit the needs of one of my buddies. I noticed several improvements in the distributions as the years passed, but those lingering problems with bloated packages and system slow-downs still plagued each distribution.

Last week, openSUSE 11.0 was finally released. Just like always, I downloaded the CD and DVD images with no plans of actually installing openSUSE anywhere. As the downloads were going, I read some reviews posted by other people. It sounded like this particular release of openSUSE actually addressed the issues of bloat and system slow-downs (finally!!), so that made me happy, but I still didn't quite consider installing it on any of my computers. I did use one of the live CD's at work for a day, though, and it treated me well.

This morning I got the itch to change the distribution I had installed on my main computer. I was going through the list of recent downloads that I had, and it occurred to me that the most recent version I had was openSUSE 11.0. It also occurred to me that it had been at least two years since I had seriously considered installing openSUSE or SLED/SLES on my computer. So I decided that maybe everything I had read was worth looking into on my own and possibly revisiting my biased opinion of RPM-based distributions.

I started the installation early this morning while I took notes and worked from another machine. The installation went very smoothly. Everything was logical and clean. It really was a good experience. The packages really did seem to install considerably faster than any release in the past, so I had high hopes for how the system would perform after installation. After everything was said and done, my computer rebooted into the freshly installed KDE 4.0 desktop of openSUSE 11.0. It looked nice, and it was actually functional--which I cannot honestly say about any other distributions that have a KDE 4.0 remix.

Since up to this morning I hadn't been able to use KDE 4 long enough to figure out what's changed, that's where I started. I explored the new menu, which I have to admit is quite funky, but I guess that's how the industry likes things nowadays. I played around with some of the personal settings that it offers. Things seemed logical enough, but it is quite a change from KDE 3.5, which I've been using for quite a while.

After a couple minutes of tinkering, I noticed a little bubble in the corner that said something about installing some system updates. I clicked it and ran through some sort of wizard, but I guess there were no updates to install. Or maybe I just have super-slow Internet and it was taking forever to download the changes. Whatever the case, I kept on tinkering with some settings while the updater did its thing.

Next thing I know, my screen goes black and flashes a few times. Then all I can see is a white mouse on a black background. That's it. Nothing else. I'm really not sure what the problem was. The settings I was playing with seemed fairly innocent, as I modify those sorts of settings all the time on KDE 3.5. After a few minutes of white-mouse-on-black-screen fun, I decided a reboot might solve the problem.

A couple minutes later, I was presented with my loading screen, followed by the black screen and white mouse. That's it. Nothing else.

Needless to say, despite all of the improvements that I did notice in this release of openSUSE, it left a rather bitter taste in my mouth in other areas. openSUSE is no longer on my computer--it's long been replaced with yet another distribution.

Maybe it's user error. Maybe it's my computer's hardware. Or maybe openSUSE really does suck. Whatever the case, it wouldn't surprise me if I wait another year or two to try out another RPM-based distribution.

Comments