Touchscreen laptops with Ubuntu

System76 sent me a message about their new Darter UltraThin laptop, which runs Ubuntu and has a touchscreen.

The device intrigues me, although more in wondering if I would use it. I like holding my tablets in my hand, even when sitting at a table, and I am not sure I would get used to reaching up away from my keyboard. On the other hand, I suspect there are cool new workflows to be had with such an interface.

Hopefully ZaReason comes out with something similar. I will probably be in the market for a new laptop in about 6 months. System76 isn’t getting any money from me, and not just from their past treatment of me: they are making bad decisions in their new ventures, and I won’t support a company that takes steps backwards after I personally warned them.

Setting the hostname in Fedora 18

I didn’t get to install the OS on my new laptop… oh yeah, I got a new laptop! It is awesome, and I will write about it somewhere.

Anyhow, I opted for Fedora 18, and the ZaReason folks installed it for me. It is nice having it ready to go, although it was funny to see some wierd name at the login…

I don’t have complex hard drive setups, so the only thing that I needed to set correctly was the hostname for this new machine. A bit harder than normal, since there were changes to how it works from Fedora 17. However, it is pretty easy to fix with a tool called hostnamectl.

Checking the status shows what the hostnames are set as:

[bash light=”true”]
[maiki@localhost ~]$ hostnamectl status
Static hostname: localhost.localdomain
Pretty hostname: n/a
Icon name: computer-laptop
Chassis: laptop
Machine ID: 69d27b356a94476da859461d3a3bc6fd
Boot ID: 1da3adf2786146f681afd9f9983c9f8d
Operating System: Fedora 18 (Spherical Cow)
CPE OS Name: cpe:/o:fedoraproject:fedora:18
Kernel: Linux 3.7.9-205.fc18.x86_64
Architecture: x86_64
[/bash]

My laptop designation is orenji, so I use:

[bash light=”true”]
[maiki@localhost ~]$ hostnamectl set-hostname orenji
[/bash]

Then another status shows:

[bash light=”true”]
[maiki@localhost ~]$ hostnamectl status
Static hostname: orenji
Pretty hostname: orenji
Icon name: computer-laptop
Chassis: laptop
Machine ID: 69d27b356a94476da859461d3a3bc6fd
Boot ID: 1da3adf2786146f681afd9f9983c9f8d
Operating System: Fedora 18 (Spherical Cow)
CPE OS Name: cpe:/o:fedoraproject:fedora:18
Kernel: Linux 3.7.9-205.fc18.x86_64
Architecture: x86_64
[/bash]

And of course if you open a new terminal, you will see your new hostname in the default prompt:

[bash light=”true”]
[maiki@orenji ~]$
[/bash]

Tablet conundrum

I am having a problem with tablets, and by that I mean the form factor of computing devices that are touch screen and keyboard-less, like the Galaxy Tab. My problem is that after using one for a couple months, I don’t want to use anything else.

It is a problem because while I really enjoy the form and the way I’ve changed my workflow, tablets are the new front for hardware freedom.

When I found ZaReason a couple of years ago I was thrilled. When I visited their office and saw the workbenches set up like in so many shops, I knew that the production methods for laptops had caught up to desktop machines. ZaReason famously includes a screwdriver with their computers, even their laptops, which is a testament to how much of a commodity the parts are.

I, like many others, had waited for many years for laptop hardware to reach this point, having to deal with hackish alternatives to Windows, or just keeping it the de facto OS until some big company created their pet GNU/Linux program to cater to us. MacOS X and Intel Macbooks were a godsend five years ago, since it was POSIX-ish, and they were okay machines, if a tad more expensive.

I learned my lesson with Apple though, and fortunately commodity hardware caught up during my foray into using a laptop as my primary computer. So, will I be doing this all over again, with tablets instead? Will I wait until somehow, in a sea of patent law suits, capcitive screens become common enough to be swappable and cheap enough to order in low quantity?

Thus, my conundrum.

My MacBook Pro, for all the problems its had in the past, seems to be working fine, albeit with a closed OS (running non-MacOS X overheats it, and I don’t actually want to kill the hardware). Most of the time I am working I use Susan’s iMac, which also seems to be in on the long haul despite being close to five years old.

If my laptop goes, I will probably replace it with a Hoverboard, this has been my plan for a while. And if the desktop goes I am going to either get one of ZaReason’s desktops, or build it myself (shudder).

And in the meantime I will keep track of projects that make tablets more free, like Replicant and FDroid. But the hardware is creating a mental wall for me. I don’t want to get caught in this trap. Is there anyone out there in the hardware world working to open up their tablet?

Zareason

I stopped by ZaReason to check out their laptops. Cool people.

Susan and I stopped by ZaReason today. Turns out they are just down the street from us. I am looking forward to dumping my laptop, I have been for some time. I’d heard of ZaReason through BerkeleyLUG, so I called them up to see if I could come by and play with some of their laptops.

The folks who work there are really interesting, and we hung out for close to half an hour, I think. They are definitely folks that I want to be in the computer business. As for the laptops themselves, I totally dig the Hoverboard. It was slick looking, a very nice display, full size keyboard (sans keypad) and was really, really light. As in 3.1 pounds. I want it!

There was a couple of caveats, though. The current model, which comes with a Celeron processor, is sold out. The new one will have something else, so that is cool. I will wait to see what it is, so that may be taken care of. The other thing is that the touchpad isn’t multitouch. This sounds just as silly to me as it does to you, but that really is a deal breaker for me. I am just really accustomed to using it as an interface, and the thought of having to do anything besides swiping two fingers to scroll makes me cringe. However, I am going to do a little research, because I bet I could either find one to install myself, or get it to them to install as a custom job. Even if the laptop weren’t already really cheap, I think it would be worth it.

I never thought I would be able to “buy local” when it comes to laptops, but being this close to down-to-earth cool people, I don’t think I could do otherwise. ^_^