A late “advance” sighting?

Somewhat infuriatingly, Google released its own browser, Chrome, into the wild near the end of last year but only for Windows. My experiences with it on that platform are that it works smoothly, albeit without many of the bells and whistles that can be got for Firefox. While an unofficial partial port was achieved using Crossover Chromium and there is the Chromium project with all its warnings and the possibility to add a repository for its wares to Ubuntu’s software sources, we have been tantalised rather than served so far. However, that was recently bettered by the release of early access versions. In reality, these can be said to be alpha versions so not everything works but it’s still Chrome and without the need for Windows or WINE. The rendering engine most importantly seems to be the equal of what you get on Windows while ancillary functions like bookmark handling seem incomplete. In summary, the currently available deb packages are a work in progress but that’s better than not having having anything at all.

Things that I like about VirtualBox OSE

Now that VirtualBox 2.0 is out with its 64 bit operating system support among other things, the version included in Ubuntu 8.04, OSE 1.56, is looking that bit older. Nevertheless, there remains a lot to like about the version that I have been using.

Screenshot: Windows XP running on VirtualBox OSE

Windows XP running on VirtualBox OSE

For one thing, its shared folders functionality doesn’t trip up Photoshop Elements like VMware does. VMware so hobbled Photoshop’s ability to save back to the Linux file system that it had me looking at the WINE route and I got to using GIMP for a while. VirtualBox brought me back into the Photoshop fold and I seem to like the results that I can get with Elements better than those from GIMP.

Another nicety is the way that guest OS desktops can be resized to fit in a maximised VM window. For this to work, you need VirtualBox Guest Additions in place in the virtual machine but it works very well when all is in place; my experience is with Windows XP. Full screen is on tap too once you use the Host+F combination; the right hand control key is usually the Host key by default. If there is any criticism at all, it might be that seamless application windows are not available in OSE 1.5.6.

Linux kernel changes can upset things but drivers don’t take too long to appear and you can always take matters into your own hands anyway. It’s a far cry from the blithe indifference of VMware and the need to resort to vmware-any-any patching to get things under way again.

All in all, VirtualBox OSE treats me very well. Guest operating systems may seem sluggish at times but it’s never enough to annoy or seriously impede usage. It’ll be interesting to see if a newer version of VirtualBox makes it into Ubuntu 8.10.

Running Internet Explorer on Linux

MSIE 6 running on Ubuntu

On first sight, this probably sounds daft given how good Firefox is but you cannot ignore those surf the web using the ever pervasive Internet Explorer when doing some web development. Using virtualisation is a solution to the need but it can mean that you need to set up a web server with Perl, PHP, MySQL and the like in a virtual machine, all for a little offline testing and then there’s the potential for a lot of file copying too. Otherwise, you are trying to sneak things online and catch the glitches before anyone else does, never a good plan.

Therefore, having the ability to run IE to test your offline LAMPP set up is a boon and IES4Linux allows you to do what’s really needed. Naturally, WINE is involved so some flakiness may be experienced, even after the ever useful API library’s reaching version 1. Otherwise, all usually runs well once you work you way through the very helpful instructions on the IES4Linux website. I did get a misplaced message about the version of WINE that I was using and Python errors made a worrying appearance but neither compromised the end result: a working IE6 installation on my main Ubuntu box.

IE5 and IE5.5 are also on offer if you’re interested but, after looking at my visitor statistics, I think that I can discount these. IE7 and the work-in-progress IE8 make no appearance on the availability list. The absence of IE7 is not a big problem as it might appear because coding for IE6 sufficiently suffices for IE7, even now; IE8 may not be the same in this regard but we shall see. Even so, a later browser release does mean a more secure version and I reckon that including IE7 should be next on the project’s to do list. Saying that, what we have now is far better than nothing at all.

Killing those runaway processes that refuse to die

I must admit that there have been times when I logged off from my main Ubuntu box at home to dispatch a runaway process that I couldn’t kill and then log back in again. The standard signal being sent to the process by the very useful kill command just wasn’t sending the nefarious CPU-eating nuisance the right kind of signal. Thankfully, there is a way to control the signal being sent and there is one that does what’s needed:

kill -9 [ID of nuisance process]

For Linux users, there seems to be another option for terminating process that doesn’t need the ps and grep command combination: it’s killall. Generally, killall terminates all processes and its own has no immunity to its quest. Hence, it’s an administrator only tool with a very definite and perhaps rarely required use. The Linux variant is more useful because it also will terminate all instances of a named process at a stroke and has the same signal control as the kill command. It is used as follows:

killall -9 nuisanceprocess

I’ll certainly be continuing to use both of the above; it seems that Wine needs termination like this at times and VMware Workstation lapsed into the same sort of antisocial behaviour while running a VM running a development version of Ubuntu’s Intrepid Ibex (or 8.10, if you prefer). Anything that keeps you from constantly needing to restart Linux sessions on your PC has to be good.

A reasonable requirement of an IDE

I have been having a play with NetBeans IDE Early Access for PHP and, while it has a lot to offer, one impression remains uppermost in my mind: it is so slow. I might have a project with a lot of files in it but start-up takes an age because of project checking. Other functionality such as text searching is far from speedy either. The sluggishness probably arises from this release being very early in its life cycle and it reminds me of how slow older versions of the Java IDE were, even if this is slower. For PHP development, I’ll be giving NetBeans a while to mature before taking another look at it.

On a similar note, I recently dispatched Quanta Plus from my system for sluggish start-ups and will not return to it because other alternatives such as Bluefish and Eclipse PDT fit my needs much better. I like my editors to be slick and responsive and Quanta has been around long enough for any slowness to be knocked out of it. However, I get the feeling that the extras have added bloat while I expect any additional functionality that I never use not to get in my way. It is for the latter reason that I was always able to get on with Dreamweaver and even run it on Ubuntu using the WINE library. If I really wanted a stripped out yet functional editor, Gedit would do most of what I need -- it colour codes syntax for a variety of languages for a start -- but it’s always handy to have a file system explorer window incorporated and I value any syntax checking and auto-completion as well. So, it looks as if Eclipse and Bluefish could be serving my needs for a while to come alongside so use Dreamweaver for online editing of website files.