Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Ubuntu Challenges Faced and Conquered

I've been enjoying my experiments with Ubuntu and so far I've been able to do most of what I want to without much trouble. I've been particularly pleased with the similarity of some helpful little touches to Mac OS X, but the most recently discovered trick I would have preferred not to have had to use.

When the new 3.5 version of Firefox was released I downloaded it later that same day on my OS X machine by using the "Check for Updates" menu command. I was distressed to see that option grayed out in my Ubuntu Firefox, and even more so when I did some research and found that it was not expected that the new FF would be available in an officially sanctioned form until October's release of Karmic Koala. Almost immediately there were workarounds posted but most were quite intimidating. Fortunately, there are apparently a number of ways to go about it and I ended up using the instructions here, following the easy (fairly easy, anyway) instructions provided by Pritam P. Hans. They worked flawlessly and now the default browser is Firefox 3.5.

The other challenge was more esoteric. Although I'm the only person using this computer, I was curious to see if I could install a new font at the system level, as I do with my OS X computer. Junicode has just come out in a new version and since that's the font I'm using in my on-again off-again Hyginus Fabulae book and I'm hoping to be able to work on it on this computer too, keeping the file synchronized across machines thanks to Dropbox, I need to have the font here locally for XeTeX (actually XeLaTeX) to use. With OS X it's a simple matter of dropping the unzipped fonts into /Library/Fonts, but when I tried that with Ubuntu I was informed I didn't have permission. I ended up using Terminal and sudo mv, and it was here I made my happy discovery of an OS X trick: it's possible to drag an icon into Terminal and have it turn into a path. In fact, I was able to drag all 4 fonts into Terminal and making their destination (as I discovered) /usr/share/fonts/truetype. I was amused with myself because the first time I tried I used mov, which understandably puzzled Terminal since the command doesn't exist, and the second time I forgot sudo and so permission was denied. sudo is the computer's "Simon says," I realized.

In retrospect I realize that it's actually A Good Thing that the system is trying to protect itself by requiring a password before putting anything above the User level and I wonder why OS X doesn't, even for fonts? But I still don't understand why something as basic and desirable as Firefox 3.5 wasn't available to Ubuntu systems via the FF "Check for Updates" feature.

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