Ubuntu 10.10 Looking Spiffy on our Acer Aspire One

I’ve upgraded our household netbook to GNU/Linux Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat (10.10, from 9.04), and the latter is now the default boot-time option instead of Windows XP.

Twenty of the drive’s 160GB are dedicated to Linux, as ext4. The rest is divided between the legacy NTFS partition for Windows, and another partition (~5GB) with Acer’s eRecovery tool, so I can reset the machine to factory defaults if ever needed. Since I was able to resize the partition dynamically right in the installer, I didn’t even need to move the files we had under Windows. The NTFS partition mounts in full read/write mode, so why bother for now?

Teagan (11) has been using it for a few days now, with Chromium/Chrome as his default browser and VLC as his default media player. The latter two being the apps he spends 99.9% of his time in.

For the record, I did try Ubuntu Netbook Edition, but I couldn’t get used to the dashboard-type UX, being a long-time Gnome user… The rest of the family would have probably been fine with it, but I figured I’d stick with the original for now. We can install the netbook remix interface on top later anyway.

Shell is King and ServerMattic Rules

While working on the systems team at Automattic, I became closely acquainted with our  server deployment toolkit, an in-house yet GPL’d software named ServerMattic.

I find it to be not only elegant in its simplicity, but also brilliant when it come to learning curve and flexibility. Why? Simple: all in all, it’s just a set of clever shell scripts, backed by SVN, running more shell scripts. This means that anyone familiar with even the basics of Linux/Unix systems administration can wrap their brain around it in no time. On the other hand, it’s also powerful enough to maintain over a thousand servers with ease and sanity.

See http://code.trac.wordpress.org for more non-WordPress open source software by Automattic.

Making Ubuntu Server Work in Sun's VirtualBox

Here’s a quick fix if you’re interested in installing a VM running Ubuntu Server in Sun‘s OSS virtualization tool, VirtualBox.

After installing the 32bit version of Ubuntu Server 8.10 in VirtualBox 2.0.4 on my MacBook Pro (OSX), I was faced with the following error message when starting the VM, which I found also happens on other platforms:

This kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU: pae

From Wikipedia:

Physical Address Extension (PAE) refers to a feature of x86 and x86-64 processors that allows more than 4 gigabytes (GB) of physical memory to be used in 32-bit systems, given appropriate operating system support.

Fortunately, the fix was as easy as pie:

  • Once VirtualBox is up and running, select your Ubuntu Server VM.
  • Go to the “General” configuration screen and select the “Advanced” tab.
  • Check the “Enable PAE/NX” option.

Here’s a screenshot:

Ubuntu Server in VirtualBox: PAE/NX option selection

Try starting your VM again, and all should go as planned. It did for me.