Ubuntu’s Audience Defined

I read the impressive growth and traffic details for WordPress.com at Matt’s Blog. WordPress has always been very dear to me, and it makes me happy to note that the WordPress team grows from strength to strength, without compromising on values, and while keeping things open, almost entirely so.

However, the stat freak in me got another tool, and the results are surprising!

I did not have any clue that the number of 45-65 year olds that visit my site are above the average numbers for the internet by around 25-45%. Also, most of my visitors are as poor as I am, with an income of less than $30K a year. That is surprising when you realize that college graduates outnumber any other kind of visitor, based on education. Finally, the male-female disparity is not too high – I get 25% less female visitors, and 25% more male visitors than the average site. Here’s my quantcast report.

Now, like me, you must be thinking, what about ubuntu.com?
Maybe Canonical should sign up for the quantcast setup like WordPress.com and then we could start fixing the problem where, right now, my blog seems to get more visitors than ubuntu.com. Clearly, quantcast is orders-of-magnitude off with the numbers. Let’s hope the percentages are right when it comes to the demographics. If they are, then then, again, Ubuntu seems to attract a middle-aged, may I say “mature” crowd. Ubuntu.com attracts more Asian, Hispanics and “Others” than the average website out there. Also, “linux drivers” seems to be leading the charge of visitors to Ubuntu.com. It would be good to put something related to drivers – perhaps an article with links peppered throughout to the various compatibility resources and hardware profiling tools somewhere on the front page of help.ubuntu.com which seems to be quite a popular destination. Of course, if I had a say in how Ubuntu’s websites worked, I would first ensure that the help pages show up where they belong on Google searches. Somehow, I can’t seem to end up at the Ubuntu help wiki after a web search. I suspect the wiki software’s intricacies, and the “https://” (now why does a help wiki have to be served over https?), are partly responsible for that issue. You get the idea that shipit must be doing something right, since it seems to be quite a popular destination. Also, OpenSuse, FreeSpire and Damn Small Linux seem to the other Linux distributions that are popular among those that visit the Ubuntu website. Scanning the quantcast results might help lots of folks involved with planning, developing and marketing Ubuntu – whether it is deciding what/who to focus on, or finding out how meta-plans are working out.

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SSH Menu – Save and Open SSH Connections from the Panel

I was looking for a replacement for SecureCRT in Ubuntu. Something that would let me save all my SSH connections and make it possible to open a connection with the least effort.

As is often the case, I found something better than SecureCRT – a panel applet for GNOME that gives me a drop-down list of SSH connections. SSHMenu is cool, way too cool.
SSH Menu

Above, you can see my list of ssh accounts in all their glory. A connection is just a click away.

When you set up the connections, you can specify the geometry – ie, where on your desktop you want the gnome-terminal window to pop up, as well as a “profile” for the gnome-terminal instance – very handy if you want to have different color schemes for different ssh accounts to be able to distinguish between them better.
SSH Menu Options

What’s even better is, in the “Hostname (etc)” field, you can prepend ssh options to the hostname. The figure below shows my port forwarding setup for IRC at school, since I can’t chat using port 6667 at school.
SSHMenu Account Options

There’s a Debian/Ubuntu repository for SSHMenu, and of course, nothing stops you from downloading the .deb packages and installing them if you don’t wish to add another repository to you list of repositories. I wonder how long before SSHMenu finds itself into the Ubuntu repositories :)

Once you get SSHMenu installed, you can add it to your panel by right-clicking on your GNOME panel, and selecting “Add to Panel”. SSHMenu should be listed as “SSH Menu Applet” under the “Utilities” section. Then all you have to do is use the tool to add accounts that pops-up when you install the applet, or add the accounts later by clicking on the “SSH” in your panel. However, this still doesn’t take us to “one-click” login, since you will be prompted for your password by the server you are trying to connect to.

To make the connections truly one-click (or two-click), you might want to setup password-less logins using ssh-keygen and ssh-copy-id. A quick overview of that process follows:
On your local computer, type:
$ssh-keygen -t rsa
When prompted for a password, you may want to enter none. If you enter a password there, you will have to enter it everytime you try to use the “passwordless” login, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Enter a password here. Then when you try to connect to the accounts using SSHMenu, you will asked for the password only once, the very first time. (Thanks to Grant, SSHMenu’s author for the explanation in the comments).

Once your RSA key-pair is generated, you need to add the public key to your server’s ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file. You can do this very easily by typing (on your local computer):
$ssh-copy-id ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub username@example.com
This will copy your public key for the just-generated RSA keypair to the example.com ssh account, where your username is “username”.
Of course, for this passwordless login to work, the server needs to accept this method of authentication. There’s an old article at the Debian Administration blog that describes the process in a little more detail, and countless others have written about this, so you won’t have trouble finding info.

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Thoughts that make me go hmmm!

This thought just struck me: the GNOME “save file” icon is still an image of a floppy (or it is at least in Gnumeric). How many people still remember what a floppy looks like?

Should the save icon be replaced by something else (a picture of a cd/usb drive)? Or should floppy discs be “icon”ized forever?
Somehow, all these days, the above thought never occurred to me. That icon with a floppy drive in it meant “Save” and to be honest, I have failed to think “floppy” when I have seen the icon before.

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Alright you drooling idiots!

Jem Matzan thinks we technical writers treat you as stupid drooling idiots.

Do I? I can honestly say I don’t. I write for the competent computer user who has switched to Ubuntu. Anything that 90-95% of the people who formerly used Windows or Macs, and are competent enough to help others won’t be published here. Guaranteed. I can say that since I have a target audience of one – myself before I knew what I wrote here. I write so that, some day in the future, when I search for a solution to a problem, I get the pleasure that only a goojà vu (google + déjà vu :) ) can provide – finding something you wrote as the result of a Google search is priceless.

There are some authors of blogs that write tutorials and guides that cover all and sundry. The installation of some software that should be pretty straightforward to install, and so on, ad nauseum. I understand that the pleasure of earning a check through Google’s adsense can be great, and I wish these authors good luck. There are also the book equivalent of these sites that really do treat Ubuntu users as dunces.

But Jem, what’s the problem with any of that? The world needed a “Linux for Dummies” – something that is inanely simple to install, setup, use and maintain – and that is exactly what Ubuntu is. Power users don’t need to fear it since it does not take away anything in doing that. So there you are – a Linux-based OS that is simple enough for the stupid and as (if not more) flexible and powerful than the best OSes out there. It’s not like there aren’t books out there that don’t address the intricacies of subjects that are technically complex. The wiki and the Official Ubuntu Book, not to mention all the documentation and books out there for Debian all address the power users’ documentation needs.

I was happy to read that article, especially the parallels drawn with how Mac users were once perceived the way the author perceives Ubuntu users now. I was happy because it is a sign that we are moving in the right direction – towards a “Linux for Human Beings” (regardless of IQ).

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