Friday, 4 November 2011

Who Said You Can't Customise Unity?

Hi Guys,

I've been using Ubuntu for around 2 years now but I have mostly used Pinguy OS, an Ubuntu derivative. My girlfriend has been using Unity on her Laptop since the Natty release so I have used it a little when I have been on her laptop. This time around I decided to give Ubuntu a whirl on it's own.

Like most people who use Linux, I like to customise my desktop to make it my own. There have been a lot of people saying that Unity is very difficult to customise unlike Gnome 2 but after some playing around I think I have made my desktop my own. I love the colour blue as you can see from my desktop :)

For those that don't know I've added a screen shot of what the original Ubuntu 11.10 desktop looks like.

Original Desktop:

My Desktop:

As you can see, my desktop is personalised quite a lot and pretty unique I think. I personally love it. For those who want to know I am using the AwOken icon theme, Blubird GTK theme and I have my panels completely transparent & reduced the panel icon size by using the CCSM Unity tools...very simple but very effective.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Google+ Is Finally Available For Google Apps Users

Hi guys,

If any of you are like me then you use Google Apps, those of you that aren't on it then let me give you a bit on information about Google Apps. Google Apps comes in 2 versions, standard and premium this is basically a customised gmail environment that allows you to have your own domain (e.g. The company I work for actually use google apps for their business and it's very good.

The standard version allows you to have up to 10 mailboxes for free with 8GB of storage each and the paid for premium version gives you 25GB of storage per mailbox and is not limited to the number of users you can have. This costs $33 per year per mailbox. You also get a tool that allows you to sync you mail contacts and calendars seamlessly to outlook with the premium version so it works like exchange. You can also share contacts and calendars etc...

You can find out more at

Anyway, I am sure you are all aware of Google+. This is basically Googles version of Facebook. It's still in its infancy but has over 50 million users worldwide. Unfortunately, until today, none of those users where google apps user but now this feature can be turned on in google apps. To do this first of all log on to your google apps control panel and go to Organisation & Users then click on the services button. From there scroll down until you see the Google+ icon which should be set to off by default. Turn it to on and hey presto! You have Google+ for your domain. You can log in to google plus by going to

I hope you enjoy Google+ and Google Apps :)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ubuntu One Has Come to Windows

For those of you that don't know, Ubuntu One is a tool that syncs your files and folders to the Ubuntu Cloud so they can by seamlessly synced between computers & mobile devices. I'm sure you've all heard of Dropbox, well, this is basically Ubuntu's take on Dropbox.

Ubuntu One seamlessly integrates with Ubuntu but now a Windows version of the application has been released that will allow Windows users to take advantage of the 5GB of free space that Ubuntu offer with every One account. You can also by extra storage in 20GB increments.

The beta version of the Windows application has been about for a while now, I used to use Ubuntu One but I have since switched to Dropbox. Too see why take a look at my blog post HERE.

If you want to know more or even register for a free Ubuntu One account and claim your 5GB of storage then head on over to

Ubuntu One or Dropbox?

Ubuntu One, Dropbox, Sugarsync, Windows Live Mesh, Wuala ect etc etc. The list of cloud storage providers is extensive but by far the 2 biggest names in the Linux world for cloud file syncing are Dropbox & Ubuntu One. In this article I will explain the advantages and disadvantages to each of these services and explain some of the reasons why I use one over the other. So then, let's get started...

When I first started using Ubuntu around 2 years ago, I was a dropbox user. I had a free 2GB account and used it to sync all my work files between multiple computers (my personal files tend to be on Google Docs). So finding out that Dropbox also had a Linux version was brilliant for me!

Being the geek that I am, I started playing around with Ubuntu a lot and soon found this thing called 'Ubuntu One'. It worked brilliantly with Ubuntu and means I could sync any file from any location on my hard drive using the Ubuntu One (UO) integrated application. Unfortunately Dropbox (DB) didn't have this functionality, I could only sync the specific DB folder. So, I moved over.

One day I accidentally deleted an important folder from my Documents folder in Ubuntu. I thought to myself, "no worries, Ill just hop on the the UO site and recover my folder". BIG MISTAKE! DB offers the functionality of being both a file sync and backup tool. So if you delete a folder or make a change to it that you didn't want, you can go onto the DB website and recover previous versions of files or restore deleted ones...UO doesn't have this functionality! Lucky for me I always keep a local backup as well, just in case so I was able to get my folder back.

Straight after this I moved back to DB and I now have a 50GB paid for account and sync all of my music, pictures & documents to it (whilst still keeping my local backup of course). Ok then, what actually are the advantages and disadvantages of UO & DB? Let's find out...

I've used both services so I think I am in a good position to blog about them.....

As you can see, both have there good and bad points, the main ones being that UO is cheaper but DB offers backup functionality. In my opinion, the extra money is a very small price to pay for the extra protection of the backup system on DB so that's why I use DB over UO. Many people use and love UO and if they ever implement backup tools then I will definitely consider switching back but for the time being, for me, it has to be dropbox.

EDIT - 13th May 2012
It's been a while since I wrote this article and in that time other alternatives have popped up (Google Drive for instance), Ubuntu One has also matured - a lot. So I wanted to update you guys with my more current opinion as it has changed.

With Ubuntu One (U1) maturing in the way that it has, both on Windows and on Ubuntu, coupled with the fact that it is cheaper and integrates with both Windows and Ubuntu better than Dropbox does (you can sync any folder in U1, whereas you can only sync the 'Dropbox' folder in Dropbox) I have actually migrated over to U1 and have been a very happy user for around 3 months now.

The 25GB (you get 5GB for free) of storage I get with U1 is enough for me as I actually only sync around 70% of that. I also upgraded my account to the music streaming account, with this you get 20GB of storage and the ability to stream all of the music in your account from their website or on your mobile device so you can have your music collection anywhere...all for $39.99/year (or $3.99/month).

There is one caveat to using U1 over Dropbox though - there are NO backups. U1 will of course sync all of your files between computers and if you delete a file/folder off computer A, it won't completely remove it of computer B, it will put any deleted items in the recycle bin once the sync finishes. So accidentally deleted files can easily be recovered. With the lack of a backup system this also means that there is no versioning so you can't revert your files back to earlier versions. If you do want to use U1, I would recommend a secondary, manual backup every now and then. I personally do this once a week to a 1TB USB hard drive.

So in summary, for me, U1 is cheaper, better integrated and provides more services than Dropbox, the lack of versioning and ability to restore files in the same way as Dropbox is a small price to pay. For me, it's U1 every single time. Thanks guys :)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

How To Have A Microsoft Office Equivalent For FREE!

For those of you that have bought Microsoft Office in the past you will know that it doesn't come cheap. The cheapest version being Home & Student, costing around £90...and it doesn't even come with Outlook (the email program)! The most expensive version being Professional Plus and costing over £300! In this article I will tell you how you can have an office suite like Microsoft Office, that does everything Microsoft Office can do and it's fully compatible for FREE! Yes, thats right - it won't cost you a single sausage.
There will be Two programs that you will need, LibreOffice & Thunderbird. LibreOffice is an Open Source office suite which includes Writer (MS Word equivalent), Calc (MS Excel equivalent), Base (MS Access equivalent), Impress (MS PowerPoint equivalent) and finally Draw (MS Publisher
equivalent). Thunderbird is the email client that will MS Outlook.
Both LibreOffice & Thunderbird are compatible with Windows, Mac OSX & Linux and on all 3 operating systems the programs are completely free and at the end of this post you can find download links for both LibreOffice and Thunderbird. Thunderbird is made by the same company as Firefox (Mozilla) and just like Firefox you can install addons. This means you can install things like calendar applications (the most common of which is an addin called lightning). You can also install addins which makes Thunderbird sync your google contact and calendar (Google Apps is also supported). The tools I use for this are gContact Sync and Google Calendar Tab. Thunderbird also support both IMAP & POP (it also supports exchange apparantly with the use of addons but I have never tested it. Here are a few screen shots of LibreOffice and Thunderbird in action (these where taken on my linux machine):

As you can see from the screen shots this is a pretty comprehensive office suite and could save you literally hundreds of pound, dollars or what ever you local currency is. I work in IT and I use this office suite on a day to day basis for over 50 hours per week. I send and receive around 500 emails per week so I have certainly put them through their paces.
So if you're on the hunt for an office suite but can't afford the crazy money that MS Office costs then why not give LibreOffice and Thunderbird a whirl...after all, what do you have to lose?
Download Links:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Windows Migrants Quick Guide to Linux

Picture the scene, you have some interest in IT and you have heard about this Linux thing that people are talking about. So you start to think, 'I want to know more about this. Can it really be free and as good as Windows?' Well people, I can tell you that the answer to both is yes! Linux is fast becoming an excellent Operating System that many Windows users can have literally hundreds of pounds on and do all the things you are used to, so, because of this, I thought I would right a quick guide to Linux for anyone who is thinking about moving over from Windows...or even a Mac.

Just in case any of you don't know and you have stumbled upon this article by accident, Linux Operating Systems are Open Source. This means that the creators of Linux have released the code that makes to software to the world. This means that instead of the hundreds or even thousands of Windows developers that maintain Windows on a daily basis, Linux has millions. This means that Linux is more stable and more actively developed than Windows...a good thing I'm sure you will agree.

Linux also doesn't require any Anti-Virus software. Virus' are written for Windows, not Linux because it is far more secure that Windows and therefore harder to infect. So on top of our hundreds of pounds for Windows, we have just saved another £30 or so pound per year (not to mention any costs incurred in putting your virus infected computer into the local computer guy to clean)....this Linux 'thingy' is starting to look good isn't it!

So, you now have the background on Linux and understand a little more what it's about. Let start looking at moving over to Linux...

Unlike Windows (and Mac), Linux comes in literally hundreds of different versions. These versions are called distributions, each having their own advantages and dis-advantages and also their own look and feel. As a Windows convert, you should be looking at something that isn't too different from what you are used too. The best of these are PinguyOS or Linux Mint (PinguyOS being my top choice). There are many other popular distributions out there, they are very different from Windows but if you are feeling brave why not check them out. Here are a list of some of the more popular ones:

Community Support
As I said at the start of this post, Linux is managed by a huge online community and a positive bi-product of this is that you always have someone on hand to help you. Each one of the distributions above have a forum where you can get help any pretty much any problem you are having - from changing your wallpaper to re-installing and updating. This is a great thing for new Linux users because it means you can get help and return the favour to new users as you become more proficient. I recommended PinguyOS above, I am actually a moderator on the PinguyOS forums, if you decide to give PinguyOS a try then why not come to the forums to say hi!

How Do I Know If I Will Like It?
Linux has many advantages over Windows, one huge one is a thing called LiveCD's. With most Linux distributions (all of the above included) can be burnt to a CD and you can then boot from the CD and try the actual Operating System exactly how it will be when it is installed (albeit a little slower because it is on a CD) so you can have a play around, surf the internet, send some emails etc without touching your hard drive.

Once you have played around with a few distro's and you find one you like, you can then install it either on it's own or side by side with Windows. If you do the latter, when you turn your computer on you will be asked if you want to boot to your chosen Linux Distro or Windows...pretty clever hey!

NOTE: Please ensure that you backup your machine before installing anything. I cannot be held responsible for any loss of data from installing a fresh Operating System.

I Now Have Linux, What Next?
You needs some apps! Before you had Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer etc etc etc....the former 3 all costing a lot of money (around £150-250 depending on the version). You guessed it, in Linux, it's all free! In Windows you have MS Office, in Linux you have LibreOffice (also available in Windows). In Windows you have Internet Explorer, in Linux you have Firefox or Chrome (these are also available in Windows). In Windows you have Outlook or Live Mail, in Linux you have Thunderbird (again, available in Windows for free) get the point.

A lot off the applications in Linux have different names that what you are used to but they will do the same or even a better job that their Windows counterparts. To find Linux alternative to Windows software, check out the alternatives to project.

So there you go people, this was a quick look at Linux and what you can expect to get from it. To re-cap, some of things are, saving money, stability, regular updates and a virus free life :). Why not come on board and join our fantastic Linux community, we're a friendly bunch.

Oh, one final thing. Some people may tell you that they have tried linux and it was a hard to use and ugly environment to work in. Just to prove them wrong, here are some screenshots of my desktop (like all good geeks I have more than one computer, hence the different looks):

If this post inspires just one person to try Linux then I will be a happy camper. Thanks for reading :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

How To Have Your Own Email Address

Hi Guys,

Do any of you still have the email address you setup back when you where in school? Some thing like or these kind of email addresses are outdated and look really unprofessional on your CV - not to mention the embarrasment of having to spell them out to people when you give out your address.

Have you thought about creating a new address with Gmail but is taken. Well, I'm going to show you how you can have your own email address, like yet have it go through google for free. This guide will take you through registering your own domain and setting up the email address so it goes through the Gmail servers so that it has all the Google spam filtering and features (like contacts and calendars) but it won't cost you a penny.

Step One - Register A Domain
The first step (and possibly the most important) is to register a domain name. For the purposes of this article we will be using as our host (they are very good and very cheap) and our domain will be

So, head over to and enter the domain you want to register and click the continue button.


Now, you should see that the domain is available - sometimes the domain will be registered, especially if you have a common name like John Smith. Of course you don't need to register the domain as your name. You could register or etc this way you could have and also setup accounts for your friends in the same way! At the time of writing this post is actually available if anyone wants it :)

So, 1&1 now tells us that our domain is available (beware - some domains like .com, .net & .eu cost more than others like & If your domain isn't available 1&1 will recommend some domains that have a similar name and are available. If none of the recommended ones float your boat then click the back button on your browser and try to search for something else. Once you've picked a domain, select it by putting a tick in the box and click continue.

Next, select 1&1 Instant Domain package (£0 per month - this way you will only pay for your domain) by clicking the Sign Up button. Now 1&1 will usually offer you some more domains of a similar name. Make sure you de-select them and click Continue. Check your basket for the charged involved. For a domain its £2.99 per year, you will need to pay for 2 years initially after which you will only pay £2.99 per year (.com are £8.99 and all prices are correct at the time of this article being published). If everything is correct, click continue...again.

Enter all of your personal details, then your payment details and click finish. Make sure you make a note of the password you have chosen (you will need this to manage you email addresses). Once you have ordered the domain, it takes around 24 hours for the order to complete so whilst your waiting, register for a free Gmail account (by going to and clicking the Create Account button). This address can be anything you want as it won't get used except for logging in to your gmail account.

Step Two - Setup Google Mail
Ok, so we now have our new domain and free gmail account. We need to login to 1&1 admin to create an email forward. An email forward is an email address that seamlessly forwards from one email address to another. Here will forward to Go to and log in to your 1&1 account using your domain name and password.

Click on the arrow next to the start button and select email administration:


Once in, click on the New button and select forward. You then need to fill in the email address and forwarding address as below:

That is our new forward setup, so anytime anyone emails I will get it into my free gmail inbox. What we need to do now is set it up so that we can send from in gmail. So head over to and log in with your free gmail account settings (you will always need to log in with these details). Once in, click on the cog in the very top right hand corner then click mail settings.

Now click on the Accounts and Import button and click on the Send mail from another address button. Now fill in your name and email address and click next step.

Next you will need to select Send through SMTP server (or whatever your domain is called) Then set the settings EXACTLY the same as below, replacing the username with your free gmail account details and the password with your account password. Then click finish.

Finally you will need to authorise the account. Gmail will send you a verification code, because of your forward, this will come into your gmail inbox. Copy the code and paste it into the verification window. Now you will see your address listed in your send from addresses. To the right of your new address, click on the make default link - this will make this address the address all new mail is set from.

That's it! You now have you very own, customised email account that benefits from all the spam filtering and tools that Google have. As I said earlier, you can even set emails up for your friends. Here is my new account in action:

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 Orneic Ocelot Development Update

Hi Guys,

The Alpha 3 version of the new Ubuntu cycle (11.10) has been released and the beta is due on 01st September. I thought I would write a quick article on how the Ubuntu team are getting along and what they have changed so far from the Natty (11.04) release. Please bear in mind that 11.10 is still under heavy development by the Ubuntu team so although these changes are currently in the daily builds, some or all of these features may not make it to the final release.

So then, what's changed? Well, a lot by the looks of things! The very first thing you notice when booting the OS up is that it seems to run quicker than 11.04. I am running the 11.10 Alpha in a Virtual Machine and I have given it 512MB RAM. Even with this small amount of RAM the machine boots quickly and is very responsive - it will be interesting to see how the OS performs on a 'full powered' machine (I'd wait for at least the Beta before doing that though). The boot process (from power up to logon screen) is around 15 seconds in my Virtual Machine.

Speaking of the logon screen, the guys at Ubuntu have done wonders with this. The old Gnome logon screen is looking dated now so they have replaced it with a shiney new LightDM logon screen - it looks really cool and modern. Here is the logon screen from my VM:


New 11.10 Logon Screen

Once I entered my password, it took about another 10 seconds for me to have a working desktop - so thats around 25 seconds from turning on to having a workable desktop. Thats pretty impressive considering it is a modern OS with all the eye candy and only running on 512MB RAM. Now that I have my desktop there are some more changes that I have noticed. First and foremost, the Ubuntu button 'thingy' has gone from the top panel and has been replaced with a pretty cool looking Dash button on the left panel.

New Ubuntu Dock Button11.10 Desktop

The next change on the list so far are the lenses. Again, the Ubuntu guys have been working really hard to make this a more intuitive desktop environment. Unity in 11.04 felt kind of thrown together and not finished (in my humble opinion anyway) they are now starting to fix this. Anyway, back to lenses. When you click on the new Dash button, you are confronted with a new Lense, most of it still looks the same except for the 4 little icons at the bottom. The applications and files icons from the Unity panel in 11.04 have been removed and have been replaced with 'Shortcuts' in the main lense - great idea is you ask me. You have Home, Applications, Files & Folder and Music - in eaqch lense the search bar changes to search for the file types for the lense you are in. For example, if you're in the Application lense then Unity will search for Applications, in Music, it will search for MP3's etc. Here is a look at the new Lense:

11.10 Lense

Those with a keener eye amongst you will also notice that there is a link for Thunderbird to check emails. I didn't install that - the only thing I have done to this OS is to install Virtualbox Guest Additions. So that means, yes your right, Evolution has been replaced by Thunderbird as the default mail application for Ubuntu. Again, I think this is a great move by the guys at Ubuntu, Evolutions development cycle has all but stopped whereas Mozilla are still going strong and actively developing Thunderbird (amongst other things) and this can only spur them on to develop more for us Linux users. For those of you that still love Evolution though, don't worry, it's still available in the software centre.

For now, I think thats enough, if you want to download a daily release yourself and have a play around you can get it from HERE. Please be careful though - as I said earlier 11.10 is still under heavy development so no one can guarantee if this development release will work with your machine. Bottom line is that it could compeltely mess us your system so I would recommend using a VM like I did.

Overall, Ubuntu are going in the right direction with this build. Will it mean I change to Ubuntu 11.10 from my current OS (Pinguy OS and Xubuntu), I seriously doubt it as I prefer the old gnome 2  type interface - althought I may run it on my laptop as the main OS. Will other people grow to love this interface and maybe even get a few Windows, Mac converts - I really hope so. Well done Canonical!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Hunt For The Perfect Netbook OS Continues...This Time, Xubuntu

Hi Guys,

As some of you will know, I have been hunting high and low all over the internet for the perfect Operating System for my netbook. I REALLY want a Chromebook but can't justify spending £350 when I have a perfectly good netbook (even though I'm still struggling to find the right OS).

So far I've tried quite a few, Meego, Peppermint, Joli OS, Ping Eee, Ubuntu 11.04, Elementary OS, even Windows 7! The next OS in my rather long list is Xubuntu, for me, the perfect netbook OS will be light, which means a fast machine even on the low powered hardware of a netbook - but I still want some eye candy. My netbook is my work horse, so I don't want to be looking at a machine all day that looks like something from the Windows 3.11 era!

So far, about the best I've tried are Joli OS and Ping Eee, Joli is great, but not enough customisation for me. Ping Eee is a little too heavy and my netbook slows down after a while (although it looks amazing, if I have a dual core atom CPU then this would be my choice). Peppermint is based on LXDE, it's lightning fast but looks like crap.

So, I've been hunting for somthing in the middle...along came Xubuntu.

I've been running Xubuntu now on my netbook for around a week or so and I'm pretty impressed. It boots quickly and has just enough eye candy too keep me interested. It can run most of the same themes as Gnome but the more advanced gubbins like desktop cube etc aren't possible (which is fine). I boot up in around 15 seconds (thats from turning on to having a usable desktop). There is very little lag when opening apps. I am currently creating this post in Chrome, I have dropbox syncing away and some music playing via Clementime and using only 11% of my 2GB RAM is quite impressive (oh and shutter is running in the background as well).

After some tweaking and playing around, here is a look at my desktop, with a panel acting as a dock and some other bits and bobs:

My Xubuntu Desktop

A window and my dock

As you can see, it looks a lot like Gnome, only faster. So far so good with Xubuntu I think I might be sticking with this for the time being. Is it the perfect Netbook OS? No, but it's very close. The only thing I don't like at the moment is the Menu, it's too basic. I know there is a way to install the Mint Menu in XFCE so I'm looking into that at the moment. According to the guys at Mint, adding th Mint Menu will add an extra 30MB of RAM to your usage - this isn't a problem as I currently have loads of RAM in reserve.

If any of you guys have been using Xubuntu (or any XFCE based OS) then let me know what you think as I would love to hear from you. On the other hand, if you are in a similar position to me, why not try downloading Xubuntu from HERE too see what you think.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Are Your Emails Backed Up?

Have you ever deleted an email from your mailbox and thought "damn, I wish I hadn't done that...I actually need that email". A lot of people use free email systems like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo. In this post I will show you how to backup all of your emails for free!

For this to work you will need the following:

  1. An email account with POP access (you may need to know the POP server for your email supplier)
  2. Register for a free Gmail account
  3. 10 minutes of free time

This is how I back up my emails and it works a treat, so I thought I would share it with you all!

Step One - Register for a free Gmail account

To do this you need to go to and click on the 'Create an account' button to the right of the screen. Pick an email that is descriptive, something like (this way you won't confuse it with your main email account) and fill in all of the registration form.

Step Two - Setup Your Back Up Account

Right then, we now have our free Gmail account, sign into it. Click on the cog icon in the top right hand corner of the screen and click on 'Mail Settings'. In here you will need to setup a couple of labels (one for inbox and one for sent items), some filters and POP collection from your actual mailbox.

Ok, lets start by setting up the POP collection from another account. In the settings window, click on the Accounts button. Then you are looking for 'Get Mail From Other Accounts' and click 'Add a mail account you own'. You will now be asked for your email address - enter your mail email address. For the purposes of this example we will use

Click 'Next Step' and change your user name to your email address and enter your password (this is the password you use to check your emails). Finally click no when it asks you if you want to send from this address and click finish.

Right, that's the hard bit done. We now need to setup our labels and filters. Back in our settings screen, click on to the labels tab and create 2 new labels. One called something like 'Inbox Backup' and the other 'Sent Items Backup' (these labels can be anything you want to be, this is what I call mine).

Now click on the filters tab, again, we need to create 2 filters. One for our inbox and one for sent items. Click 'Create New Filter' and put your main email address in the To field and click 'Next Step'.

Now select to following settings, Skip Inbox, Mark as Read & Apply the Following Label (select the inbox label you just made). Finally click, Create Label

Now create another filter in the exact same way apart from 2 differences. Firstly, instead of putting your main email address in the to field, this time put it in the from field. Click next step and select all the same settings again but pick your Sent Backup label as the target (see below).

THAT'S IT! Your done, the only thing left to do now is test it. Send yourself an email and see it replicated to your backup email account. Note: In my experience the sent items tend to delay by around 10 minutes before they come through. Don't worry though, they will come in.

You can even set this up to backup multiple email accounts to one place, just add another account you own then create another set of labels and filters.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Review: Ping-Eee Netbook OS

Hey guys, today I'm going to be reviewing the new Pinguy OS derivative, Ping-Eee. This is a version of the very popular Pinguy OS that is optimised for small netbook screens. I am actually writing this post on my Compaq Mini 110 Netbook which is running Ping-Eee.

Ping-Eee OS review
Default Ping-Eee Desktop

Above is the default desktop for Ping-Eee, as you can see it looks a lot like the default PinguyOS desktop - pretty slick! The big difference between this and the big brother desktop version is that there are A LOT less applications on this version. VBox isn't present, Rhythmbox has been replaced by Clementine and all the usual candidates like the MintMenu and Mint Updater are present :)

This distro is based on Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal isn't running the Unity desktop but Gnome 2.32.1.

My netbook has a couple of upgrades. I upped the RAM from 1GB to 2GB and I replaced the stock 5400RPM SATA HDD for a 16GB SSD. All in all, performance is good, very good. My system boots in around 8-10 seconds and has very little lag indeed - extremely workable for me as my work horse. Currently running 5 tabs in Chrome I am using a little less than 600MB RAM. I have a Windows XP VM that I use from time to time - this runs from an 8GB SD card and the system RAM hits around 1GB with this VM running.

The basic install is around 4.5GB, with my docs etc all synced via dropbox I have around 50% of my SSD in reserve should I need it. With it only being 4.5GB for a fresh install, those users with an 8GB SSD should have no problems and some space left over.

I have tried many different Operating Systems on my netbook including Elementary OS, Ubuntu 11.04, Meego, Jolicloud even Windows 7! Trying to find the right balance of performance versus stability versus size - Ping-Eee ticks all boxes for me.

After some customisation and and little bit of playing around here is my netbook desktop:

If you want to give Ping-Eee a try then why not download it and give it a go, link below:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

How To Use Google+ AND Google Apps

Hey All,

Welcome back to my Jing's Things! Like me you have heard about Google+ and want to play around with it, BUT, you are using google apps and can't setup a Google+ profile. Well people, I have found a work around that will let you setup a Google+ account (with an address) and be able to simultaneously sign in to your google apps webmail. There are actually a few ways of doing this, each I have explained below:

Stop Using Webmail
Instead of using webmail for your google apps account (or gmail for that matter) you could setup your emails with an email client like Thunderbird then set it up using IMAP - this way all your mail will remain on google servers as a backup. See the instruction guide here on how to setup IMAP with google apps.

Doing this will mean that you won't have to be signed in to your google apps account and you can then stay logged in to your Gmail account. You can also get addons for Thunderbird that allow you to sync your google contacts and calendar.

Use Different Browsers
Having more than one browser on your computer is a good idea anyway if you ask me. Having 2 browsers on your machine means that you can use one browser for Google+ and the other for all of your Google Apps stuff. If you want to do this, I would recommend using Google Chrome (download it here) and Firefox (download it here). I personally use Chrome as my default browser.

My Workaround - Enable Multiple Sign In
This is what I do. You can enable dual sign in for your Gmail & Google Apps accounts. This can be done by following the instructions below:

If you use multiple sign-in, the first account you use to sign in during that browser session will be your default account for the rest of that session. If you visit other Google products that don't support multiple accounts after you've signed in, you will automatically sign in to your default account for that product. If you sign out of any Google product while signed in to any account, you will be signed out of all your Google Accounts at once.

To enable multiple sign-in:

Warning: Enabling multiple sign-in will disable Offline products like Offline Gmail and Offline Calendar, as well as any browser bookmarks you've set to link to your accounts. If you use Offline Gmail, make sure to sync your offline mail before enabling multiple sign-in so you don't lose any messages in your outbox. If you would like to continue using Offline Gmail, Offline Calendar, and browser bookmarks linked to your accounts, do not enable the multiple sign-in option. If you have already enabled multiple sign-in, you may disable it.

  1. Go to the multiple sign-in settings page. new window
  2. Sign in to your account.
  3. Select On to enable the multiple sign-in feature and select the checkboxes to confirm that you understand how to use multiple sign-in. Read more about what you need to understand before using multiple sign-in.
  4. Click Save changes.

You can check whether multiple sign-in is enabled, or disable the option for your account at any time, by visiting your multiple sign-in settings page. new window Also, if you have multiple sign-in enabled, you will be able to see your additional accounts by clicking on your name or email address at the top of the page.

To enable multiple sign-in on additional accounts:

Once you've enabled multiple sign-in for one of your Google Accounts, follow the steps below to enable multiple sign-in for additional accounts you would like to sign in to:

  1. Sign in to a product that supports multiple sign-in, using an account that has multiple sign-in enabled.
  2. Click your name or email address at the top of the page.
  3. Select Sign in to another account from the drop-down menu.
  4. On the page that opens, enter the email address and password for another account you wish to access, and click Sign in.

Features of Gmail that depend on other Google products won't work with any additional accounts you sign in to. For example, the Calendar Gadget in Gmail labs won't work with additional accounts because the Calendar Gadget does not yet support multiple accounts.

When using multiple accounts, you will have to sign in to these accounts using the multiple sign-in feature. You can not use shortcuts in a new window such as new window to access additional accounts.

You can find more information HERE.

At the moment Google+ is by invitation only, if you don't have a Google+ invite then email me at with your Gmail address and I will send you an invite.
Addresses will NOT be passed on to anyone and will NEVER be used to spam.

Friday, 1 July 2011

How I Made My Own Chromebook For Less Than £50!

Hey Guys!

As you probably know, Google are soon to release their new Chromebook Netbooks that will be running the swanky new Chrome OS. Me being the geek that I am, coupled with the fact that I love all things Google, I REALLY want one of these. Soon after having a look at these things online, like a good partner, I discussed it with my girlfriend...who, as all girlfriends do, soon brought me back down to earth "you have 2 phones, a tablet, a netbook, 2 laptops & a PC. Do you really need to waste £250 on one of these?". So this got me thinking, what can I do to make my own Chromebook without the big price on.

So, I already have a netbook, it's a standard Compaq Mini 110 with a RAM upgrade to 2GB and is running Elementary OS. It runs well, but I do use the cloud a lot. All of my docs are in Google Docs, I use Google Apps for my emails, calendar & contacts and my pics and music are in Dropbox. I am already half way there to running a cloud OS.

After some research online, I came across a great Open Source OS called Jolicloud. For those of you that don't know, Jolicloud is a HTML 5 front end that sits on top of an Ubuntu based linux distro - much like Chrome OS. So I started playing around with it, got all of my web apps setup to go to my google apps pages and away I went. It even syncs your 'desktop' to the jolicloud cloud so you can access you webapps by going to
My Jolicloud OS 'Desktop'

So as you can see above, I have my 'desktop' with my webapps but those with a keener eye amongst you will be saying "hang on, I didn't know you can get Pidgin as a web app!"....well my friends, that's because you can't and this is where Jolicloud (IMHO) is superior to Chrome OS - you can install local apps. Currently the only apps I have installed locally are the OS itself, which comes with Chromium pre-installed, Firefox 5 and Pidgin. Now I could use a web based app like eBuddy for my IM but I love Pidgin - so why not use it if I can install it. So, if you want, you can have a hybrid of cloud computing and a conventional desktop.

So, I now have my Cloud OS and my web apps all setup but there is still one thing missing, the performance. The new Chromebooks come with a 16GB SSD instead of a conventional SATA Hard Drive. So I went online, bought myself a 16GB SSD for around £45.00 (I'm in the UK) and away I went. I am creating this post now within Jolicloud, running my new 16GB SSD (and I currently have 11.2GB free on it!!) it boots up in around 5-10 seconds and the performance is great!

Oh, did I also mention that Jolicloud had plugins that allow you to browse, create & edit your Dropbox and Google Docs accounts natively without storing them locally - now that's impressive!
My Dropbox account all online but usable in Jolicloud

All in all Jolicloud is a great OS that has been around for a while now. So if you have a netbook, £45 spare and an hour on your hands - why not make your own 'Jolibook'. Please bear in mind that I will more than likely still get a Chromebook. :)


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Cloud Computing. Is it really the future?


Most of you have probably heard the term 'in the cloud' or 'cloud computing', but what does it all actually mean and how will effect you as an end user? Let's investigate. The term 'cloud' comes from IT diagrams where the Internet is always depicted as a cloud, 'cloud' basically means to store something on the internet.

The biggest name in cloud computing is google. They have some big ideas for the near future to implement their vision to get everyone 'in the cloud'. Google have already adapted their Chrome internet browser to become a cloud Operating System (for those of you that don't know, an Operating System is the piece of software that runs your computer such as Windows XP or Windows 7). But merely creating a Google Operating System (OS) isn't enough, from mid July 2011 Google will begin to sell their new Chromebook laptops. These are basically netbooks that are running the Chrome OS.


Googles Chrome OS

So what actually do they mean by 'the cloud'? Well, as I touched upon before, it basically means to store all of your data on the internet. So, google would expect you to keep all of your emails in Gmail instead of outlook. Your documents and spreadsheets in google docs instead of Word or Excel, your pictures in Picasa and your music in the new google music service (at the time of writing this article, the Google Music service was only available in the Unites States).

The idea behind it is that you don't store anything on your actual computer, but all of your files and settings are stored on the internet, with google (or any other cloud based service). So, if User A and User B both have Chromebooks, let's say User A's Chromebook breaks and has to send it away for repair then User A can borrow User B's Chromebook, sign in with his username and password and instantly all of his emails, files, music & pictures are available for him, setup on the exact same way as they where on his own Chromebook. This is the whole idea about cloud based computing, you are not tied to one computer. You can log on to any machine, anywhere in the world and have access to everything in the exact same way as if you where sitting on your computer at home.

So all of this sounds great, right? In theory, yes, it's a brilliant system and would mean you can have all of your data, everywhere, on your phone, your tablet, anywhere. BUT, what if your Internet goes down? BT are having a problem and all of the Internet is off in your street, BT have said it's not going to be fixed for another week. Before, this wouldn't have been a problem, sure you can't send emails but you can still work on that spreadsheet for work, or that Powerpoint presentation for your meeting in a couple of day. But now, all of your files are on the Internet, so, without an Internet connection your shiny new Chromebook is rendered as useless as a paperweight, well for the next week at least.

This, for me at least is a deal breaker. I like to have total control of all my files and data. Do you actually read all of the small print when you agree to terms and conditions? I don't – so do we actually know what Google can or maybe even will be doing with all of our data? Don't get me wrong, I love the internet and all of the technologies it uses. For example, I use a service called Dropbox that both backs up all of my important data to the internet and also syncs my files across my multiple computers. This is a great service, but ultimately I still have my files stored on my computer. If I where to go to 'the cloud' then this wouldn't be possible.

Cloud computing is a great theory, but for me, it won't be the future for as long as I have a say in the matter. But, once again, this is just my humble opinion.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Tablet or Netbook?

Hi Guys, welcome back. As all of you know, tablets are all over the news at the moment within the IT world, whether it be an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Asus Eee Pad or anything in between - you have to admit, they are popular at the moment. Basically most of them are just mobile phones on steroids, they give a larger, higher resolution screen which makes things like composing emails and surfing the web much easier. Plus they are portable, very portable. But there is another contender for the portability crown that the Tablet currently holds...the netbook.

For those of you that don't know, a netbook is basically a small laptop, they usually have a 10.1" screen instead of the standard 15.4" screen on a laptop. They run a normal computer operating system like Windows 7 which means they can do everything your laptop or PC can do, but are they better than a Tablet, let's discuss...

The Tablet
As an IT professional and general geek I have both a tablet and a netbook, so I think I am in a good position to comment on the pro's and con's of both of these devices. I personally have a Samsung Galaxy Tab (shown on the right above), it has a 7" HD touch screen, 256MB RAM, a 1GHz processor and it runs Googles Andoid Operating System. All in all this is a great device that I use a lot, it's great for composing emails on the run or even just googling something that I think is interesting with having to boot one of my computers up.The battery on my Tablet will last around 3-4 days or around 7-8 hours on heavy use (like watching movies), so this is a definite pro over the netbook. Internet pretty much anywhere, most tablets have 3G or HSDPA connectivity (the same Internet connection as your phone) which means you can surf the net anywhere as long as you have a mobile signal. You can use your tablet as a phone! This is only applicable to some tablets though. It's fast and looks pretty cool, I think that is where the advantages over a netbook end.

Now on to the con's...They're expensive, my tablet costs around £400. Tablets don't really work well at multi-tasking, as I said earlier, they are basically a big mobile phone so if you want to compose a spreadsheet, check your emails and surf the net, all at the same time then I would go for the netbook. Whilst a tablet will do all of the above, it isn't an easy process swapping between applications often and it will slow you down. Typing, you can buy blue-tooth keyboards or docking stations for most popular tablets but as standard you have to use the touch screen. This is ok when composing shorter emails, maybe a paragraph or two but if I had to create this blog post for example then I would be pretty frustrated by now using my touch screen (incidentally, I am using my netbook to create this post).

The Netbook
As previously mentioned, the netbook is basically a mini laptop. Personally, my netbook is running a Linux variant called Elementary OS (but that's just because I am weird). Most popular netbooks (like the one shown above) come with Windows 7 or Windows 7 Starter (a stripped down version of Windows 7 for lower spec computers). Because the netbook runs Windows (or Linux in my case) you can have all of the applications you are used to in the office or at home, like Internet Explorer, Firefox, MSN, Word, Excel, Outlook etc, this means that you can pretty much do anything you need to do on the machine. The battery life on most netbook is designed to last longer (on average around 5-7 hours) so that you can use the netbook whilst on the run for the whole day. Some netbooks even come with 3G connectivity, so, like the Tablet you can have the Internet anywhere.

Netbooks tend to be a lot cheaper than tablets (around £200-300), but whilst being more portable than a laptop, the tablets wins on portability hands down. I can pull my tablet out of my bag at anytime and be on-line straight away. On the netbook, I need to get it out, boot it up and have a Wi-Fi network to connect to (mine doesn't have 3G) - this isn't really feasible when I truely am on the move.

Both netbooks and Tablets have distinct advantages and disadvantages over each other, they both have their place in the world, but which would I rather have? For me it's the Netbook, it's not quite as portable but the trade off is that I can do a whole lot more than on the tablet. I tend to use my netbook for work and serious computing and my tablet tends to be a bit of fun, I don't really see it as a viable business tool - although some may disagree, this is my humble opinion.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

First Look: PinguyOS 11.04 Mini

Hey guys, welcome back! Today I'm going to show you the brand new mini version of the ever popular PinguyOS series. For those of you that don't know, PinguyOS is basically Mint on steroids. Most people describe Mint as a more user friendly, better looking version of Ubuntu. PinguyOS takes this one step further. It looks great and have brilliant apps for everything you would every want or need to do in Windows and more! Critics of PinguyOS have said in the past that it has too much, so Pinguy has answered these called by creating this 'Mini' version. As most of you know, PinguyOS is my distro of choice, I love it, it looks good, works well (I spend around 50-60 hours per week at a PinguyOS computer - I work in IT) and needs very little configuration right out of the box.I will try to keep this first look as fair as possible but I can't guarantee anything :)

Mini vs Normal
So what actually is the difference between the normal version and Mini version of the OS? Well, looks wise - nothing. It has, MintMenu, docky, conky, themes, icons and wallpaper all present and correct. The main things that are different are the amount of apps included, some have been changed for lighter ones (Rhythmbox for Gnome MPlayer is a good example). LibreOffice also isn't included. Which I personally think is a mistake, but Pinguy wanted to keep the space down to under 700MB yet still wanted to keep the looks, plus, LibreOffice is installed simply from the software centre - so not all that bad.

I am running PinguyOS Mini as a virtual machine inside my laptop, I have given it 1GB RAM, a single core CPU, 8GB HDD and enabled 3D effects. All in all the distro runs really well on this Virtual Machine. Idling, the machine is using around 290MB RAM and 5% of the CPU. Program response is good, taking only a couple of seconds for Firfefox to load. With Firefox open, RAM usage has increased up to somewhere in the region of 400MB - still pretty good for such a modern looking and well working distro. Look at it this way, if you had PinguyOS Mini running on a low spec machine with 512MB RAM, you could surf the net and still have over 100MB of RAM spare! You don't get that in Windows :)

All in all PinguyOS Mini is a great little distro that will work like a charm if you are running on a lower powered machine. I am personally thinking about putting this version on to my main machine as it doesn't have the best system resources in the world. More information can be found using the links below:

Download PinuyOS 11.04 Mini 32 bit
Download PinuyOS 11.04 Mini 64 bit
PinguyOS Web Site
PinguyOS Forums