Friday, June 12, 2015

Error Starting Ubuntu Desktop on Chromebook After Upgrade

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm very pleased with the Toshiba Chromebook I picked up last year. Like many Chromebook users, I decided to install Crouton and have access to a full install of Ubuntu Linux. I followed the instructions in the article How to Easily Install Ubuntu on Chromebook with Crouton and all went smoothly. Switching between Chrome O/S and Ubuntu is as easy as a key combination--you just have to remember those keys: ctrl+shift+alt+forward (or backward).

Unfortunately, the version of Ubuntu installed was 12. As fun and nostalgic as that was, I immediately set about upgrading to the latest stable build. Running the upgrade was simple enough.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install update-manager-core
sudo do-release-upgrade

Everything worked at first, I even went through the process of installing some applications such as Gnome Terminal, Gimp and Git (Crouton installs the minimal release--so barely any applications). However, I ran into a snag when I rebooted. The sudo startunity command would fail with a nasty message.

[   727.514] (WW) The directory "/usr/share/fonts/X11/75dpi" does not exist.
[   727.514] Entry deleted from font path.
[   727.514] (==) FontPath set to:
727.526] (EE) Segmentation fault at address 0x0
[   727.526] (EE) 
Fatal server error:
[   727.526] (EE) Caught signal 11 (Segmentation fault). Server aborting
[   727.526] (EE) Please also check the log file at "/tmp/Xorg.crouton.1.log" for additional information.
[   727.527] (EE) 

I prefer the Unity desktop, so that's the one I had originally installed. To work around the error, I reinstalled Unity using the same command in the original setup article:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity.

To be clear, this simply reinstalls the desktop. I still had the latest version of Ubuntu and the applications I had installed after running the Crouton install. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Secret Sabbatical

My uncle, Dr. David Cawood has writing a fascinating book. It's called The Secret Sabbatical: The Revolutionary Approach to Recover Your Imagination and Discover Your Destiny for the Rest of Your Life and it's unlike any 'business book' you've ever read.

With extensive use of examples from the humanities, the book discusses the "loss of imagination" that is currently rampant in most organizations... and more people's lives.

From the website:

"This is the Book with the secrets of The Secret Sabbatical. Up to now this material was only available in one-on-one Course sessions for those asking “What Should I Do With the Rest of my Life?”

Developed over 10 years the Course has been fine-tuned for executives, surgeons, architects, research scientists and other professionals. Now you can read the notes from that Course, which are arranged in a clear sequence that covers how to find your own answer in the needed depth."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

5 Tips to Make SharePoint Easier for Non-SharePoint People

Here are some quick SharePoint document library tips to help people who aren’t familiar with SharePoint have an easier time.

#1 Simplify Versioning

A quick and easy way to help your users avoid pitfalls is to simplify the version settings for their document libraries. You may have some complicated process in mind that requires specific settings, but if that process is confusing your users, you should consider simplifying the version options. For example, if you don't need versioning, just turn it off completely. If you don't need minor versions, turn them off. People new to SharePoint usually don't know that there minor versions are only visible to them by default.
geeklit sharepoint versioning
One easy way to prevent conflicting changes is to enforce check out before documents are edited. This is a simple radio button in the version settings.
geeklit sharepoint versioning

You would use this if you’re worried about your users making conflicting edits. Requiring that they check out documents before editing will eliminate the problem of conflicting changes, but you’ll need to educate them on checking in the docs when they’re done.

To add the column, go to the doc lib's settings page and find the "Columns" section. From there, choose the "Add from existing site columns" link and then select the "Checked Out To" column from the list.

#2 Add the “checked out to” Column

Since I just mentioned enforcing check-out before editing, the next tip has to be one of my favourites—adding the “Checked Out To” column to the default view. This simple change can make life so much easier for people new to SharePoint.


If you add this column to the default view, it's obvious to everyone which documents are checked out and who has them checked out.

#3 Show draft documents by default

Another option that is related to simplifying versioning is to show draft documents by default. This way you can allow people to see draft documents before they have been checked in. If a user sees a draft, he or she can talk to the person working on the document before making changes that would potentially conflict with the existing draft.

This saves lots of hassle because it's common for users to forget to check in new docs, or simply not understand why it has to be done before other people can see that a file has been added.


#4 Keep the permission model simple and manageable

This one is straightforward. If you want to save yourself some hassle. Use an inherited permissions model that uses groups instead of individual users and is flexible enough for everyone to do their job without going to the SharePoint admin regularly to extend their credentials. 

#5 Show your users how to sync their document libraries to their local folders

Note: You may need to install the install the SharePoint 2013 OneDrive Pro client to get this to work.

Many users feel more comfortable working in the Windows file system. They can do this with their SharePoint document libraries by choosing the "Sync" options or the "Open with Explorer" link. Once you have the SharePoint library syncing to a local folder, you can easily do things like paste files into the doc lib to upload them to SharePoint.


#6 Bonus Tip For Admins and Power Users

If you go to the library settings, you can use the "Managed checked out files" option to see all the checked out files and from there, you can even take ownership of them by choosing the "Take Ownership of Selection" option.

This is great when a document isn't showing because it only has a draft version and you're not sure who has it checked out.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RabbitTxt Text Messages is My First App

I’ve been working with a friend of mine on a simple iOS app called RabbitTxt—you can grab it for free right now from the Apple iOS App Store. The idea is to enable quick, one handed, pre-canned text messages to people or groups. Basically, tap, tap, send. Or if you’re sending the same thing to the same person, just… tap.


The app will remember the last person (or group) you sent a message to and also which message you sent, so you don’t have to select them again.

Unfortunately, my grand idea of the fastest text/SMS messages possible ran into an iOS restriction. Once you tap “Send Text” in RabbitTxt, you’ll need to press send again when the iOS messenger app opens. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do about that. The fastest possible text message interface on iOS is… tap… tap… Shrug.

It was Pat’s idea to add the “Jazzify” feature and it’s pretty snazzy. This feature converts your text message into a flashing image. Perfect to get someone’s attention.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fairchild TV Interview about the Vancouver Tech Scene

I was recently interviewed by Fairchild TV (a national Chinese language station) for a segment about the Vancouver tech scene.


If you’re interested in the story, here are links to the video. Note that it’s a Cantonese language station.

(You can download the video if you find it's playing too slowly on the site.)
Part 1:
Part 2:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Interview for Elements Academy of Martial Arts

I was recently interviewed for this blog post about the Elements Academy of Martial Arts Brazilian Jiu-jitsu program: Martial Arts in Your 40s and Why Jiu-Jitsu is Right for You








We train with instructor Todd Smith, who is the only black belt under Royce Gracie in Canada. Great club, great people. Check it out. Gracie Jiu-jitsu is amazing--even for us old folks :)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Chromebook 2 Feedback and Review

Now that I've had my Chromebook 2 for a reasonable amount of time, I thought I'd post some more details about my experience.

In general, I'm still thrilled with the machine. It's an inexpensive computer with a full laptop typing experience. The audio and video are good, the battery life and charge times are fantastic, and so much is available via web apps these days that I can almost use it for everything. I also like that the operating system is simpler than a traditional desktop O/S. For all the reasons I mentioned in my previous post (Why I Just Bought a Chromebook), I think it's a fantastic device and I'm recommending it to people.

My issues pretty much stem from the fact that Chrome OS has a tiny web app store at this point. There are two ways to fix these issues, either more web apps in the Chrome Web Store or enabling Android (Google Play) apps on Chromebooks. There are rumours of Google Play capability coming to Chromebooks, but I'm not optimistic that will happen on my Chromebook 2. However, I sincerely hope my pessimism is poorly placed.

Here are the main issues I've encountered:

1. GoToMeeting doesn't work (even the web version only allows you to listen--you can't share your video or talk). This is a deal breaker for using my Chromebook as my only computer. Whether it's GoToMeeting or WebEx, I have to be able to participate in meeting using the technology that my employer and customers are using. Yes, Google Hangouts and Sqwiggle work--that's great--but it doesn't solve the problem. (As I pointed out in my last post, I'm not trying to replace my phone with my laptop and I can actually use WebEx or GoToMeeting on my phone, so that mitigates this problem.)

2. Skype doesn't work. This isn't a work problem for me, so I'm putting it in a different point. I use Skype with family, so I want it on my laptop. (Again, I can use this on my phone.)

3. Torrent files. I'm working on this one, but I have yet to find a good solution for downloading files via torrents. There are apps in the Chrome Web Store, but I tried one and it just didn't work. I'll have to try another. There's one that costs a few dollars--I might have to resort to actually paying for an app.

4. Heat. I'm not actually using a thermometer, but the Chromebook feels hot to me when I'm using it on my lap. By comparison, my wife's MacBook Air doesn't seem to get as warm, but my old Acer laptop is actually hotter than the Chromebook.

5. Google Cloud Print. I was pleased to learn about the Google Cloud Print option. It allows me to print to a printer connected to another machine (because you can't install print drivers on Chrome OS). However, it simply doesn't work very well. My printer isn't that old (it's wireless), but printing with Google Cloud Print results in such bad results that it's almost useless. For example, it's common for my documents to print with the last few characters of every line cut off.

6. SD Card. This is a minor annoyance, but every time I open my Chromebook, I'm told to safely remove my SD card--not on reboot mind you, but literally every time I login. I don't want to remove the card and I shouldn't get that error all the time. I just ignore it, but I'm not the only one seeing this issue and I hope it gets resolved in an update.