Monthly Archives: August 2007

Some Thoughts About Our Tenure and Education’s Future

The Sunday New York Times for 6 May 2007 has a farewell column from its public editor, Byran Calame, about his tenure, Final Thoughts About My Tenure and The Times’s Future, that is interesting in its own right. I also find it interesting to apply some of his observations about the state of journalism today to the state of education. For example:

How The Times deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the news readers get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face most other newspapers, are lagging advertising revenue and the transition to the Web.

which can be recast as

How public education deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the education students get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face other educational institutions, are lagging revenue and the transition to the Web.

For the Times the transition to the web is a business issue: how to adapt the base mode of print journalism to survive and thrive with the increasing reliance on the Web to deliver news in a more timely fashion. For education the transition to the Web is two-fold. Most important is how to educate today’s students to be able to compete more effectively in an economy that is growing ever more dependent on knowledge-based jobs. But to do that we need to make the appropriate transition to the effective use of the Web and its associated technologies in our classrooms.

The article continues:

Generating the revenue to pay for the news staff needed to maintain The Times’s high quality is the most serious challenge. With advertising revenue from the print paper weakening in recent years, the hope was that growing revenue from advertising on the Web site would pick up the slack. Unfortunately, as The Times reported April 20, the paper has “decided to reduce its 2007 guidance for Internet revenue growth, suggesting that the transition from a print advertising model may be a long time coming.”

which can be recast as:

Generating the revenue needed to attract and maintain high quality teachers is the most serious challenge. With revenue weakening in recent years, one hope was that growing reliance n Web-based technologies would help pick up the slack. Unfortunately, experience to date suggests that the transition from the current model of delivering education to one much more strongly based on web technologies may be a long time coming.

For an example on some of the problems of technology based innovation in education see the recent Times article, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops. The lesson to be drawn here is not that the technology holds no promise but that we must be deliberate in deploying it and try to avoid making claims that are too bold, as it is to easy to for those familar with a new technology to underestimate how difficult it can be to deploy it.

Next:

The transition of the newsroom’s center of gravity to the Web, crucial to the future of The Times, is making notable progress. But the steady push to completely integrate its print and online news operations to support the rapidly expanding Web site raises questions about what will constitute top-quality journalism in the online world of deadlines every minute. A pilot project under way in the business section seeks to truly integrate the print and online operations on a 24/7 basis. In a vital step forward and a distinct plus for Web readers, the pilot tests the idea of making the editor of a core news department of the print paper responsible for the coverage online as well.

This is a reminder that to adapt your business, whether it be journalism of education or something else, to a technology as different and difficult as the web will involve more than adaptation. It will require cultural change and innovation, all of which must be done while delivering the core product each and every day during that transition.

Flatline: Problems teaching reading in a flat world

I recently came across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It’s about reading, and the challenges we face in teaching our students how to read. In brief, progress teaching reading is Flatline.

The NAEP Long-Term Reading Assessment defines reading “levels” as follows:

Level 150 – readers can follow brief written directions, select words, phrases, or sentences to describe a simple picture, and interpret simple written clues to identify a common object.

Level 200 – readers can locate and identify facts from simple informational paragraphs, stories, and news articles.

Level 250 – readers can search for, locate, and organize the information they find in relatively lengthy passages and recognize paraphrases of what they have read.

Level 300 – readers can understand complicated literary and informational passages, including material about topics they study at school.

Level 350 – readers can extend and restructure the ideas presented in specialized and complex texts.

The average reading score of 9 year olds was:

* 212 in 1999,
* 212 in 1996,
* 211 in 1994, and
* 211 in 1992.

The 1999 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term reading assessment found that:

* 93% of 9 year olds were at or above performance reading level 150,
* 64% were at or above reading level 200, and
* 16% were at or above reading level 250.

In 1999, the average reading score of:

* White students age 9 was 221,
* Black students age 9 was 186, and
* Hispanic students age 9 was 193.

The ability to read and understand complicated information is important to success in college and, increasingly in the workplace. An analysis of the NAEP long-term trend reading assessments reveals that only half of all White 17 year olds, less than one-quarter of Latino 17 year olds, and less than one-fifth of African American 17 year olds can read at this level.

By age 17, only about 1 in seventeen 17 year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:

* 1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
* 1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
* 1 in 100 African American 17 year olds.

* (Campbell, p46, Figure 2.10)

NAEP National Assessment Reading Achievement Levels

When reading text appropriate for fourth-graders at the:
Basic level (up to 208) – readers should demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read.

Proficient level (209-238) – readers should demonstrate an overall understanding of the text, providing inferential as well as literal information.

Advanced level (239-268) – readers should be able to generalize about topics in the reading selection and demonstrate an awareness of how authors compose and use literary devices.

Reading Scores

In the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) 2000 national assessment of fourth-graders’ reading ability:

* 37% were below the reading achievement Basic level,
* 31% were within the Basic level,
* 24% were within the Proficient level, and
* 8% were within the Advanced level

It’s clear we are not doing a good job teaching our youngsters how to read — progress is in the “flat line” state. In not doing so we are making it harder for them to survive in the “flat world” in which they will have to compete.

Live documents

Why are living Web documents such as wiki’s, blog entries, blog comments, and such **so** much more interesting than PDF’s, Microsoft Word, etc.

The former are dynamic, the latter static. Document formats are evolving.

Documents are more interesting if you can interact with them. The more you can, the more compelling they become.

Vista set for 2008 servicing? Ubuntu is serving you now.

I noticed several articles on the web today about Microsoft’s first service pack for Vista. It’s due sometime in 2008. See for example Vista set for 2008 servicing.

2008! Vista was released earlier this year, and the first major update is months away.

Things are much simpler in Ubuntu-land. You get service that — like the battery bunny in the commercials we know so well — just goes, and goes, and … goes.

Ubuntu 6.06, “Dapper Drake,” came out in June 2006.

Ubuntu 6.10, “Edgy Eft,” followed in October 2006.

The current stable Ubuntu release is 7.04, “Feisty Fawn.” It was served up in April 2007.

I’ve seen several articles lately about the next release, 7.10, “Gutsy Gibbon due out in October 2007 (just a few weeks from now.)

And I know that in April 2008 we’ll see another major Ubuntu release, about the same time as the first major update to Vista.

I don’t know what the Ubuntu folks plan to call it, though I know it will be two words each starting with “H.”

I’m hoping it is “Ho-ho, Hippopotamus.”

How do you access, read, write, or mount a USB flash drive in Ubuntu 7.04?

Update: 30 August 2012

It’s been five years since I first wrote on this topic. As it happens, it remains one of my most popular posts, which suggests that lots of folks are still having problems using flash drives on Ubuntu, and possibly other Linux distributions as well. [1]

A lot has changed in the last five years, so here’s an update on how I currently access flash drives on my Ubuntu 12.04 desktop.

When you first put a flash drive into the computer all you will see is the light on the flash drive come on, if it has one.

If you do

$ ls /media

you won’t see any sign of the drive.

So what you do next is to open File Manager. It’s right there near the top of the main menu. It should show the flash drive. All the drives I have come with a built-in id, and File Manager will display it near the top of its page. Look for text that begins with /media/.

For example, I just plugged in a drive while writing this. It has the id 054A-FDA0.

Leave File Manager running, while you access the drive

If you again do

$ ls /media

you should see the drive. For example, I just did and found the file /media/054A-FDA0.

You can now do things like

$ cp /media/054A-FDA0/work.tar .

and so on.

It is good form to close the drive when you are done using it. This is not really needed if you are just reading the drive, but is important if you have written data to it. You want to know all the data has been written.

There are two ways to what in Linux is called “unmounting” the flash drive.

One is

umount /media/054A-FDA0

Note the command is “umount” and not “unmount”. This is one case where Unix terseness, in this case saving a single letter, did more harm than good.

Another is to go back to File Manager, find the symbol for the drive in the left column, and right click your mouse on it. You will get a list of options, one of which is Eject Removable Medium. Then pick that, and remove the drive

Either will work. You make the call.

By the way, whenever you are typing a command that includes the flash drive id, as soon as you have typed the first letter or so, you should hit the Tab key. The shell will then complete the rest of the name for you.

(This is true whenever you are entering a file name. It’s one of the very nice features of Linux: thoughtful people have worked hard to make your work easier.)

Notes:

1. This post has been among my five most popular for several years now. The only one consistently more popular has been A Brief History of Pperating Systems, based on a couple of days of writing while I was at IBM. Steve Mills, then and now head of IBM’s Software Group, felt that his salesmen didn’t know enough about this topic, and asked that someone put something together. The request landed on my desk, and not having anyone else I could kick it down the road to, I had to do it myself. [2]

2. One of the sagest observations I have ever heard came from Ralph Griswold in a conversation almost forty years ago:

I wish I had done it myself. In the long run I always do.

======== End of update of 30 August 2012 ========

======== The text below was originally posted on 30 August 2007 ========

If you want to access a USB flash drive in Ubuntu then just plug it into a working USB slot on your machine. On your desktop you should then see a window with a title of the form “label – File Browser,” where “label” is the label the manufacturer used when the drive was formatted.

You should also see an icon containing the drive label near the top of the window and also within a list of devices on the left side of the window. Or, If you want to access the drive from a command line in a terminal window, you can type

$ ls /media

and you should see an entry with the drive’s label. For example, I’m using a Kingston DataTraveler I 2GB Flash Drive (USB2.0 Portable) Model DTI/2GB – Retail that I recently purchased from newegg. It has the label “KINGSTON,” so I can list the files on it with

$ ls /media/KINGSTON

If you just want to read files from the drive then you can just pull the drive from the slot when you are done. If you want to write files to the drive you need to unmount the drive when you are done. You can do this either by right-clicking on the drive’s icon in the list on the left side of the window and selecting “Unmount,” or you can use the command line; for example,

$ sudo umount /media/KINGSTON

This is of course very straightforward, and I expect you’re asking, “Why blog about this? Duh!”

Thing is, nothing happened the first time I tried this by just plugging the drive into a USB slot. After a little investigation, I decided to see what happened if I just plugged the drive into a USB slot on one of my other Ubuntu machines, and found that it worked.

Which is why I just inserted the word “working” into the first sentence of this post.

Which means I can give you an answer to another question about Ubuntu:

Question: How do you tell if a USB port is working on your Ubuntu machine?

Answer: Plug a USB flash drive into a USB slot. If nothing happens the slot is broken or isn’t connected.

In my case, it’s more likely — since I built this machine –that I didn’t properly connect the wires from the front USB slots to the motherboard.

Back to the drawing mother board…

Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter – Selected links from Jan-Aug 2007

The Ubuntu folks publish the UbuntuWeeklyNewsletter. It’s one of the many resources they provide that have made Ubuntu my favorite Linux distribution.

A page linking to all the issues so far published can be found at UbuntuWeeklyNewsletter/Archive

Starting around February of 2007 they began compiling a list of articles about Ubuntu as well as blogs posts about Ubuntu.

I have just gone through all the issues published so far this year, and posted in today’s “links” my own picks from those lists.

On Buying and Building Hardware: Break a Leg with Newegg

Ever heard the phrase, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg?” It means you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new. If you need some
new hardware components, or want to become a do-it-yourselfer and build your own computer, I advise that “You can’t make a computer without visiting newegg.”

I’ve been a customer of Newegg.com since early 2004. I had moved to a much smaller office with a smaller desk that barely had room for a large CRT display, so I decided to buy my own LCD display just to get some desk space. I learned of Newegg while browsing the web, and eventually bought a ViewSonic VG910B Black 19″ 25ms DVI LCD Monitor – Retail for $659. (Here and elsewhere I’ll use the product descriptions and URL’s as given in my invoice or as currently available on the web site.)

Six hundred and fifty-nine dollars for for a 19″ LCD display! Well, that was back in 2004. One of pleasures in using Newegg is that they keep all your invoices online and reviewing them is yet another demonstration of the onward march of technology. For example, I bought Hanns·G JC-199DPB Black 19″ 8ms DVI LCD Monitor – Retail, for $185 last December, for less than one-third the price. As I write this I’m using another LCD display, SAMSUNG 204B-BK Black 20.1″ 5ms DVI LCD Monitor, that cost me $346 in November 2006, and see Newegg currently has a special on essentially the same display today. Listed for $280 but with with a rebate and additional discount, it can be had for $215; see SAMSUNG 204BW Black 20″ 6ms DVI Widescreen LCD Monitor with Height Adjustments 300 cd/m2 700:1 – Retail. This is but one example of the frequent specials available. If you are looking for a particular component and are in no rush you can track the site for a while to get a sense of about how much you should pay and then look
for interesting deals.

I have placed over 50 orders to newegg since early 2004, both for computer hardware and consumer items. I’ve never had a problem except in one case where UPS left a package containing a scanner face-down in front of my garage door. I destroyed it when I drove over it; I couldn’t see it because our driveway is on a hill. UPS and Newegg worked it out and we got another one at no additional cost.

Newegg offers a number of services to help you decide. For example, look at motherboards, then see if you can limit the displayed items to
AMD with AM2 sockets.

You can use the “Advanced Search” to learn about the profile of available hardware. For example, under AMD motherboards, “Advanced Search” on “CPU Socket Type” shows the most, 144, for “Socket AM2,” and only 3 for “Socket A.” I built a machine using Socket A back in May 2004. That technology is now out-of-date and AM2 is currently the leader.

Each product has its own page, with tabbed subsections: “Overview,” “Customer Reviews,” “Specifications” and “Product Tour.” Usually in the “Specifications” and/or “Product Tour” you’ll see an entry “Manufacturer Contact Info.” It often has a link to the manufacturer’s web site for the prouduct. “Product Tour” and “Overview” often contain photos of the product that can prove helpful, especially in seeing what cables and other miscellaneous parts come with the product.

For the real nitty gritty you want to read the “Customer Reviews” section. It has the reports by folks who bought the product and then took the time to report on their experiences with it. Reviews consist of a numeric rating, some overall impressions, as well as the good part — the “Pros” — and the bad part — the “Cons.”

The “Customer Reviews” are the key source of useful information.

Each reviewer assigns a numeric rating, ranging from from 5 (best) to 1 (worst). These are also described as “Excellent,” 5; “Good,” 4; “Average,” 3; “Poor,” 2; and “Very Poor,” 1.

Newegg lets you determine the order in which products are listed. Look for a box labeled “Search Within” followed by a pull-down list of options: “Best Rating,” “Lowest Price,” “Highest Price,” “Most Reviews” and “Best Match.” “Best Rating” is a rough guide. I focus on “Lowest Price” and “Most Reviews.” I seek the lowest-priced choice for which there are enough reviews to make a reasonable judgment. I dismiss products with only a handful of reviews if there are comparable products with many reviews.

I have found the ratio (“Excellent+”Good”)/(“Poor”+”Very Poor”) useful. Call it the “good/bad,” or G/B ratio. You want it to be high, indicating there are many more above-average than below-average ratings. For example, as I write this, the Customer Reviews for SAMSUNG 204B-BK Black 20.1″ 5ms DVI LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 800:1 – Retail show Excellent, 379; Good, 93; Average, 29, Poor, 24; Very Poor, 15; giving a G/B ratio of (379+93) / (24+15), about (470 / 40), or around 12. A rating of twelve is good in my book.

At the other extreme, look at PC CHIPS M848A (V5.0) Socket A (Socket 462) SiS 746FX ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail. This has 196 reviews, rated from best to worst as 65, 50, 18, 18, and 45. This results in a G/B ratio of (65+50)/(18+45), or (115/63), which is just about two. This is bad, so much so that I would immediately dismiss the product from further consideration.

The cost of shipping can matter so you need to understand how Newegg handles it. Each product has a price and a shipping cost. If you can hold the product in your hand then the shipping cost is about $5. The shipping cost for heavier items such as displays and cases is about $15. Since many components such as disk drives, cables, fans, and motherboards cost $50 or less, the shipping cost can represent about ten percent of the total cost to you.

Newegg associates a shipping cost with each thing you buy. So if you buy three keyboards each costing $15, you will pay $5 in shipping for each, for a total of $60. You don’t get a break if they all fit in the same box. Buying three at once costs as much as buying each separately.

As an example of importance of shipping costs, when I built my first computer back in 2004 I ordered the processor and the motherboard separately. Each cost about $50, so I paid $10 to ship them both. When I went to assemble the computer I realized I had forgotten to order a fan. So I had to order a fan for about $20, with an additional $5 for shipping. Then I learned I needed some thermal compound to mount the processor on the motherboard. That only cost about $5, but there was an additional $5 to ship it to me.

Even worse, I recently needed a few drops of thermal compound to re-mount a processor after I replaced a failed motherboard. Unable to find the thermal compound I had previously purchased I was then forced to buy some more. So I had to pay $10 to get a few drops of the needed compound.

There is a way to reduce the shipping costs. Each description lists the shipping cost and some items are provided with free shipping. Also, when you search for items, Newegg provides options in “Useful Links” that show the best sellers, the items with a discount, those with a rebat, and those with free shipping. I recently built a computer just from components that were currently offered with free shipping, in effect saving ten percent of the net cost to me. I think of it as my “free shipping” box and I’ll be writing more about it in a future post.

Newegg also offers “combo deals” in which you get a discount if you buy two or more related components at the same time. For example, when picking out the part for the “free shipping” computer” it happened there was a “combo deal” on the motherboard and processor that saved me an additional $10.

Most product descriptions end with the word “Retail.” This usually doesn’t matter, but it does in some cases you should know about.

When I built my first computer I noted some processors were “Retail” while others were “OEM.” I noted that “OEM” processors were cheaper, and so ordered one of them, not fully understanding what was meant by “Retail.” After, wasn’t a chip a chip?

When I went to assemble the computer I learned the difference the hard way. For processor, “OEM” means just the processor chip, while “Retail” means the chip, the fan to cool it, and the thermal compound to mount the fan on the chip after you have mounted the chip on the motherboard. So, as noted in the notes about shipping costs above, I had to order a fan and thermal compound separately, paying $5 to ship each.

The “OEM” and “Retail” distinction also matters for disk drives. With “OEM” you just get the drive. With “Retail” you also get a cable.

By the way, if you ever have to replace a fan, buy a cable, or get some new thermal compound, I recently learned that my local Radio Shack stocks some of these items. This came about when I bought a SATA disk drive as “OEM” without realizing I also needed a cable.

Though it hasn’t mattered to me since I’m only interested in running Linux these days, the OEM/Retail distinction matters if you want to buy a copy of one of Microsoft’s operating sytems. “OEM” means you have to buy some hardware when you buy the software and the operating system can only be installed on one computer. With “Retail” you have more flexibility.

The most valuable information is to be found in the “Customer Reviews” section. To access it you select the “Customer Reviews” tab and then the link “Read all … Reviews.” Above the first review you will see a pull-down list with the options “Sort by lowest rating,” “Sort by date posted,” “Sort by helpfulness” and “Sort by highest rating.”

I first look at the “Sort by lowest rating” list. If the G/B ratio is high there won’t be many of them. This will contain entries for components that were DOA, or “Dead on Arrival,” as well as reports on missing features that one tends to assume are available but weren’t for this particular product,
such as the absence of a particular connector.

When reading reviews you want to display as many on one page as you can. You can do this by looking to the right above the first review and selecting the largest value from “Per page,” usually it will be 100. This simplifies the use of the browser search function.

For example, I’m interested in buying hardware to run Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, so I search each page of the reviews for the strings “Linux” and “Ubuntu.” In some cases you will find that no entries match either string. This can be because it doesn’t really matter; for example, a keyboard works equally well under Windows or Linux. Or it can be a sign that Linux is still a small piece of the market. And, especially for Newegg, perhaps it is because most of Newegger’s want to run games, or are “overclockers” who seek maximum performance, or both. Since almost all the serious games are to be found on Windows you won’t find gamers reviewing how products run on Linux since it doesn’t matter to them.

The “overclockers,” many of whom are also gamers, seek maximum performance, mainly by tweaking the motherboard and BIOS to alter the default settings and run chips at higher speeds. While an interesting topic to many, it’s of no interest to me, and to those like me who just want to run a basic desktop or server — the default performance of today’s components is more than adequate for this task.

When reading reviews I attach more importance to Ubuntu in that it is currently my favorite Linux distribution (or “distro”). Thus a report of successful use on Ubuntu carries great weight with me. If a component works on Fedora then it may work on Ubuntu, or it may not.

I think it important to carefully read each review that mentions “Linux” or “Ubuntu,” especially to see if there are any inconsistencies. For example, if one reviewer reports the product worked on Linux while another reported that it didn’t.

However, this is easier said than done, as in the rush to find a component that will work it is tempting to say, “Well, if it worked on Linux for one reviewer then it will work for me.”

I recently purchased the following motherboard for the “free shipping” computer, ECS GeForce6100SM-M (1.0) Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100S Micro ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail. It currently has 174 reviews. The following mention “Linux” or “Ubuntu.”


I like it. Pros: Good price and it didn’t take a lot of tweaking to get it to work properly with the DVD/SATA/IDE drives. Seems most on-board hardware is supported by Ubuntu 7.04 by default. Cons: Is not supported on SuSE Linux 10.2 out of the box. The kernel version is too old in SuSE, so you’ll have to install your own kernel and figure out how to config the hardware using it. I’ve so far only been able to get Ubuntu to support 1024x768x65k video mode without trying to find an nVidia driver. Other Thoughts: I bought this for software development and general tinkering. It will work fine for development on at least Ubuntu, so mission accomplished there. I would just rather have my 1280×1024 true color display to use. It seems pretty solid overall. It is a fairly small board, so the mid-tower case I got to put it in was a bit of overkill.

Works well with Linux. Pros: I paired this with an Athlon 64 X2 3600+ and 2 GB Transcend DDR2 800. Running with Linux kernel 2.6.20 and Kubuntu 7 for amd64. Everything works perfectly. A fine choice for a low-cost Linux workstation. Cons: * nVidia 405 chipset seems needlessly limited * minimal overclocking features.

Rockin’ Along. Pros: Running Ubuntu on this thing, with an X2 3600+ and a 1 gig stick of OCS Gold DDR2 800. Seems quick and solid. May add more memory to enable dual channel. Cons: No money hidden in the box? Other Thoughts: I was a little apprehensive. I’ve always used MSI MBs, but this ECS product seems solid for a basic board.

Impressive AM2 MB. Pros: I have two of these ECS motherboards and both of them are running a Linux Distro. The 64-bit version of SimplyMepis 6.05.02 installs out of the box with the exception of Realtek ALC660 on-board sound… Installing a e-cycled SoundBlaster was an rapid & easy fix. I am running a 65 watt Brisbane 3600 & 4400 in these motherboards… Cons: None – These have been reliable motherboard since December 2006… Other Thoughts: I am running the pre-beta Mepis 7 in the motherboard with a Brisbane 1.9 AMD x2 CPU installed. On-board sound is recognized in the test version, but the Realtek ALC660 does not have the fidelity of the e-cycled older SoundBlaster CT5803 I was using.

Works fine. Pros: Works fine. Had no issues with Linux drivers or other problems. Cons: Would like more SATA plugs and 1Gb ether, but oh well. Other Thoughts: For a grunt board, this one turned out fine.

Like it……Alot!!! Pros: Bought this as a combo with the 1.9GHz X2 Brisbane. Excellent price. No install problems at all. XP runs like a top. The onboard graphics are quite sufficient to run the gaming I do (CFS1, CFS2). This was my first build ans I’m very happy with this board and how easy it all went. Cons: Now I can’t fix a cup of coffee in the time it takes to boot up. Other Thoughts: Mine didn’t come with the 4 pin to sata power connector, but I didn’t need it anyways. Runs Slax linux also.

Good little board. Pros: Cheap, Works, SATA2 supports fast processors works in linux* onboard graphics are fine for most people even light gaming. Cons: PCI-E 8x but unless you are buying a super high end card not a big deal doesnot work with older linux kernels Other Thoughts: I would run at least 2.6.20 on this. Ubuntu Feisty runs linux kernel 2.6.20 which has correct drivers for this. Ubuntu Edgy runs kernel 2.6.17 which does not have drives for the NIC, sound, and the parallel port does not work properly. I have not noticed any other things that don’t work in 2.6.17. I don’t know how 2.6.18 or 2.6.19 work though.Works I bought this in a combo with an X2 3600+ and have not tried over clocking yet so can’t say on it’s over clocking ability’s.

Good “Value” Board. Pros: Great price for the features. Non-tech friendly. Very Linux friendly. Cons: BIOS is not very well provisioned on any ECS motherboard. If you need to change BIOS settings, get an ASUS MOBO. Like any electronics, documentation is limited to basics. Linux does not like the Intel Northbridge, so stick with AMD/nVidia if you use Linux Other Thoughts: ECS motherboards are known for being picky with RAM. I use Corsiar Ballistix and it works fine. I have bought about 15 ECS boards and have only had one bad one.

Perfect. Pros: Good layout, easy to setup with what I needed it for and a perfect price. Cons: The I/O shield is pretty flimsy but that’s expected Other Thoughts: I wanted a quality and inexpensive mobo to build my first computer. I’m glad I got this bundled with the Sempron 3000+. I have it running Ubuntu 7.04 with Beryl! I just needed to install the Nvidia drivers to get Beryl to run but so far everything has been stable, I’m extremely satisfied with what I got

Working great. Pros: Have been running Ubuntu 7.04 on this board for several months now without any problems. Integrated graphics works surprisingly well. Cons: Aux fan connector (which I needed for a case fan) not stuffed. Other Thoughts: SATA-II did not work reliably with a Maxtor 500GB drive. Had to jumper the drive for SATA-I to get reliable transfers.


Note the many mentions of Ubuntu and lack of mentions of problems. I bought this board, and it worked like a charm when I first booted up the machine.

On the other hand, I had many problems with another motherboard. I recently had a hardware failure on the computer I built in 2004. Seeking to upgrade, I bought a BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail. This has almost 250 reviews. There’s a wealth of information in the reviews that mention “Ubuntu” or “Linux.” I bought this board, and then ran into problems, doing many installs of Suse and Ubuntu before I realized I had missed a key suggestion in one of the posts. I noticed it when I reread the reviews, and when I took the appropriate action the board worked like a champ. I plan to write of this in a future post. In the interim, can you discover what I missed?

Though that experience was frustrating, it was educational. Yet another reminder that working with open-source — even when you’re just trying to put together hardware to run it — can be an experience that is rewarding, fun, and educational to boot.

So if you want to buy some hardware or build a machine, you won’t go wrong with Newegg. I’ve had good luck with them and I’m sure you will too.

Try Newegg

Break a leg!

Ubuntu Forums Re: How to build a PC that is 100% compatible with Ubuntu

[Update 09/10/2007: I have just posted a longer report on my experiences building this machine. See Building your own Linux Ubuntu computer using the ECS GeForce 6100SM-M motherboard]

A few minutes ago I came across a post in the Ubuntu Forums from someone interested in building their own machine just to run Ubuntu, in the thread How to build a PC that is 100% compatible with Ubuntu.

As it happens I recently built a machine for just that purpose, and have been planning to write about it soon in this blog. But then I realized that I had information at hand of value to the person who asked that question — a list of components of reasonable cost that I knew could be assembled to run Ubuntu — and so why wait to share that information?

Either I should write the blog post or provide something immediately to the thread, so I wrote up a quick note with the essential points and posted it. I’m also copying it at the end of this note.

This is an example of one of the key ideas behind open-source: release early, and release often. It is better to share sooner than to labor away in isolation. You don’t have to wait until a work is “done” or “perfect.” It can be better to release it in pieces or in multiple versions.

If may also make sense to release it to multiple audiences in different places. For example, I have put part of this experience in the Ubuntu thread, do plan to write it up later, and also should at some point add the appropriate parts to the “User Comments” section at newegg for some of the components mentioned.


On building your own machine to run Ubuntu:

My experience is that the motherboard does matter. For example, I recently upgraded one of my boxes to use the BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD . It was a disaster, and I wasted lots of hours until I figured out I needed to install a BIOS update. Then it proved to be a champ running Ubuntu.

The motherboard determines which processor and memory you must use, as well as the available kinds of connections for external devices.

I built a machine from scratch a couple of weeks ago. I was aiming for low cost, with adequate performance for a desktop, aiming to spend about $50-$60 for each of the key parts (I had display, cd/dvd drive, mouse and keyboard at hand). I built the machine with parts from http://newegg.com. Read the user comments to find mention of “Linux” or “Ubuntu,” and pay particular attention to *negative* comments.

I used the following:

Rosewill R604TSB-N 120mm Fan ATX Mid Tower Computer Case+450W Power Supply. I picked this because it came with power supply.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M (1.0) Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100S Micro ATX AMD Motherboard. This motherboard has the advantage of builtin graphics that is adequate for 1280×1024 resolution, so you don’t need to buy a separate video card if you are just doing basic text processing.

AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Orleans 1.8GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADA3000CNBOX – Retail. The “retail” part is important. It means that it comes with a fan. If you buy “OEM” then you will have to buy a fan separately.

Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive

I was able to install Ubuntu 7.04 the first time I booted up the system.

Note that many recent motherboards have only one IDE connector and so can support at most two IDE devices. The supplied cable may not allow connecting both a cdrom/dvd drive and a hard disk drive. For example, when I upgraded another box to use a a new motherboard, I found it necessary to buy a SATA cdrom drive so I could use an IDE-type hard disk. If you are starting from scratch then I would recommend using SATA technology.

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