Monthly Archives: April 2009

WordPress-MU 2.7.1 Released

WordPress-MU 2.7.1 was released last week.  The release included a number of tweaks to the back end – including the removal of the admin bar, and some changes to the Plugins system.

The ability to activate plugins on a sitewide basis is nice, but I won’t be getting rid of Plugin Commander just yet.

There are some other back-end tweaks to set the dashboard for users who don’t have blogs, and to make things easier for users who have multiple blogs.

I upgraded SlayerCafe using the upgrade link in the admin panel, and things went fairly smoothly, although I did have some problems with plugins in the mu-plugins folder.  I’m not sure if that’s something to do with my configuration, or with WordPress-MU itself, so if you’re thinking of updating, it’s a good idea to make a backup first!

Single Parent Dad Reader Competition – Win a Wii

Single Parent Dad is offering readers a Wii thanks to a competition they’re running in partnership with

Ciao is a review site which pays members to post reviews of various products.  If you’re thinking of making a big purchase – be it a new TV, games console, or oven, checking out the reviews over there will help you get the best value for your money.

To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is create a login on and post a link to a product you have reviewed. Your review must contain 120 words and can be in text or video form. Once you have done at least one full product review, post your Ciao user name and a link to your review in the comments section on the Single Parent Dad page about the competition.    While you’re there, check out the rest of Ian’s blog.

The race to installation – From Kubuntu to Xubuntu.

This is part two of the XP vs Ubuntu setup time test.

The test turned out to be less scientific than I had first thought.  The machine that was due to get Kubuntu installed on it was a former Windows 2000 machine.  I hadn’t checked the specs with the friend that I ‘rescued’ the machine from, and hadn’t even booted the machine up – I’d just assumed that it would be powerful enough to run Kubuntu with all its eye candy.

The machine turned out to be a 900Mhz Intel with 256MB RAM, a very slow, small hard drive, and a Riva TNT 16MB AGP graphics card.

Interestingly enough, the actual install of Kubuntu was 12 minutes faster than the XP installation on a faster, newer machine.  After installation, the machine booted to an 800×600 desktop, but it did have internet access.

Unfortunately, the NVidia Legacy drivers didn’t want to work with Kubuntu 8.10.  The machine also ran appallingly slowly.

I have plenty of spare bits lying around so put some more memory in the machine, and upgraded the graphics card to a Geforce 3.  I decided that Xubuntu would be a better choice performance wise, since the KDE desktop eye candy wasn’t really needed anyway.

Xubuntu installed nice and quickly, but the desktop was still in 800×600.  Installing the NVidia 86 drivers didn’t help – in fact after enabling the restricted drivers the desktop shrank to 640×480!  It took a couple of hours of messing around with Xorg.conf (and the X recovery tool) to persuade it to boot in 1024×768.  Once that was set up, however, everything else worked perfectly.  Installing the available updates and restricted packages required to be able to watch videos, etc, was a semi-unattended task which took about 3 hours – mostly because our net connection has been crawling for the past few days.

Getting Xubuntu up and running was fast and easy, except for the issue with the desktop resolution.  I did try using EnvyNG, but in the end dropping down to the command line turned out to be the solution. It’s impressive that Xubuntu installs so quickly, but I could imagine many ‘normal users’ giving up if faced with similar graphics problems.

Now that the Xubuntu box is up and running, I plan to use it for C++ and Python work (freeing up my Windows setup for gaming!), but I must admit, I’m falling in love with Kontact and K-Mail.

Ubuntu vs XP Home – Race to Setup

The VPS which hosts  The SlayerCafe and will soon host Myth Games, as well as a bunch of other sites, runs Ubuntu.  I’ve been very impressed with the speed and stability of the server, so I’ve decided to try a desktop setup with Kubuntu.

There’s a discussion on UbuntuForums about the readiness of Ubuntu for the desktop, and one recurring theme is how long different OSes take to set up, so I decided to do a little test.

My niece got a laptop for Christmas.  It’s a good machine, way more powerful than what she needs – Dual Core, 2Gig RAM, big hard drive.  The only thing ‘weak’ about it is the graphics card (shared graphics memory and outdated shaders), but since she isn’t really a gamer it’s fine.

Her desktop machine is slightly older, but has a Shader Model 3.0 capable Geforce 7600.  She stopped using the desktop as soon as she got the laptop.  We all assumed it was because she liked having a webcam built in to the laptop, plus she could use the laptop to IM friends while watching TV.

It turns out, though, that the desktop has been broken for quite a few months.  It kept blue screening on bootup.  We arranged to take the machine back to ‘the lab’, and check it out properly.  We tried all the usual stuff – check drivers, change out graphics card, change out memory, virus and spyware scan, but nothing obvious worked.  The machine wasn’t used for anything important, so we decided that rather than spend ages trying to salvage a Windows XP Home install that could have been abused in any number of ways, a reinstall was the best bet.

So I’ve decided to do a test.  XP Home install time vs Kubuntu.  For the purposes of the test, ‘Installed’ is classed as booting to desktop, drivers installed, and internet access working, with the ability to watch YouTube videos and play Runescape.  No customization, no office apps, just a working base PC and the bare basics needed for web browsing.

It took 53 minutes to get XP Home booting, but then another two hours to get the Wireless card to see the network (most of that was spent on Windows Updates + some annoying driver issues), plus 30 minutes to download and install Java and Flash.  After all that, my niece decided she didn’t want the desktop machine back because she prefers her laptop.  That machine has had the graphics card replaced with an older one, and will now be used to run a webcam to watch over the back yard.

The Kubuntu desktop is installing right now.  I’ll keep track of the time and post once it reaches ‘ready’ stage.

The test isn’t all that scientific – the Kubuntu machine is a lot slower than the Windows one – it’s even installing from a slower CD drive, but I’m still curious which one is ‘faster’ to set up.

Speed of setup doesn’t mean much long term – in theory you should only be installing an OS when you do a major hardware upgrade or there’s a new release.  I know I don’t rebuild very often, even on Windows, but the discussion intrigues me, so here goes.