Posts Tagged ‘natty’

In this post , I assume that you use Ubuntu (with English) and want to use it to read or write Tamil stuff. Hence , I discuss steps to view Tamil web pages and also edit files in Tamil. This post will not tell you how to get a localized Tamil version of Ubuntu.

Reading Web Pages in Tamil

This is the most common requirement. You have Ubuntu and you want to visit and read , say, Tamil newspapers or blog posts. To do that install the following packages :

sudo apt-get install language-support-fonts-ta ttf-tamil-fonts ttf-indic-fonts-core

These three packages should solve the problem of Tamil fonts from multiple websites. ttf-indic-fonts-core  adds some popular Tamil fonts (in addition to other fonts for Indian languages) and ttf-tamil-fonts adds some more additional Tamil fonts.

Writing in Tamil

Writing in Tamil is done by adding Tamil keyboard layout to Ubuntu. If you are in a version before Natty (11.04), then use “System -> Preferences –> Keyboard” . If you are using Natty, then click on the power icon on the right hand top of the screen and select “System Settings”. In the settings dialog, choose Hardware tab and then select Keyboard. This will open up keyboard preferences menu.

Select the “Layouts” tab and click on Add . In the “Choose a Layout” dialog, go to the Language tab and select Tamil as the language. Choose your preferred variant . I have chosen “India Tamil Unicode”.  Click “Add” to add the language.

If you notice, the top panel will automatically get the keyboard layout indicator which highlights the currently selected language. This selection is application specific . For eg, if you selected Tamil when typing in gedit and then went to say LibreOffice, you will be typing in your default language in LibreOffice. Initially this behavior is a bit confusing, but usually makes lot of sense in practice.

In the Layouts tab, click on Options and set an appropriate key combination in the entry “Key(s) to change layout”.  I use “Shift+Caps Lock”. This is useful as otherwise , you need to key toggling in the keyboard indicator. If you are keyboard person, this is the best way to switch over all the languages in your layout. If there are multiple, then pressing “Shift+Caps Lock” cycles through your choices. The keyboard applet/indicator will change appropriately.

Unfortunately, most Tamil keyboard layouts are not mnemonic based and it takes quite a while to get used to. But once it starts working, it’s a great liberating feeling to type in another languages.

Using Tamil

Since Linux has a great internationalization support, you can use Tamil for other purposes also. For eg, I use Tamil to name folders ! Or sometimes even write some personal stuff 🙂 . Most applications including Nautilus has multilingual support and things should seamlessly !


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    I installed Natty Narwhal when the beta1 came few days ago. I wanted to write a blog post with the instructions to upgrade to Natty but kept postponing it due to Unity issues I was facing. Now that the system is working as I prefer, I thought I will put out a brief post on upgrading with a few tid-bits on using Unity. I am collecting some useful tips on Unity for the power users and will put out a post about it sometime soon.

    There has been lot of confusion about installing Natty. Most of the initial beta1 reviews were very critical with some calling it as the worst Ubuntu beta ever. I also had a horrible experience initially. During my initial install, Ubuntu Unity failed to work and the screen will have black patches wherever my mouse points. I tried lot of different configurations like installing Nvidia drivers or using Nouveau drivers and so on and nothing worked for almost a week. I was pretty disappointed. But after a week and few updates later, Unity started working like a charm. As of now , I do not have any issues in Natty so I can confidently advise people to upgrade it from Maverick.

To Upgrade or not to upgrade ?

    This is probably the first question you must decide – For me the answer is simple : If you are running some production server or anything sensitive , don’t install it. Just wait for two more weeks. The final version goes out on Apr 28th.  If it is your personal laptop, you are Linux geek and wanted to earn some karma, then what are you waiting for ? Start the upgrade ! Of course, there might be minor hitches and potential instability as it is still in beta – But if my experience is any guide, it is very stable now. The things you gain by installing outweighs the minor annoyances.

Upgrading to Natty from Maverick

    The conventional method that is specified in the Ubuntu website is to type the following in the terminal (or by pressing Alt+F2 and typing it in the Run dialog)

    update-manager -d

The other equivalent command is of course :

    update-manager –devel-release

Most of the time , I assume that this should do the job. Your update manager will open up, show that Natty (11.04) is available for download. All you need to do is click on "Upgrade" , sit back and relax !

For some reason, this upgrade took a huge amount of time. I had a reasonably fast internet but still the installation took almost 2 hours. Of course, your mileage will vary. The upgrade by itself was quite straightforward and no surprises.

What if you cannot see the upgrade option to Natty

1. Go to System -> Administration -> Software sources.
2. Click on the "Updates" tab and check "Pre-released updates".
3. Click on "Close" button. This will refresh the package list and most likely will open up the package manager that will show a huge list of packages to upgrade. Hopefully, it will also show "Natty Narwhal (11.04)" upgrade option.
4. Now close the update manager and open the Software sources again (same  as step 1). Now undo what you did in Step 2 – Un check the “Pre-released updates” option.
5. Click on "Close" button and the package list will be refreshed again. Now you should see the upgrade option to Natty saying : "New distribution release ‘11.04’ is available". You can alternatively run "update-manager -d" command to get this option !

Some Random Stuff

1. In case, Unity does not work for you , you can fall back to Ubuntu Classic. In the login screen, select your username and press enter. The control will go to the password textbox. Now, at the bottom of the screen, you will see a session selector. Select "Ubuntu Classic". This will allow you to have the classic GNOME-ish desktop.

2. One of my favorite Linux utilities – hamster-applet is not working in Natty due to the whole Unity and common menu thing. I need to figure out a way to make it work. There is a launchpad bug[https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity/+bug/686062 ] which discusses the alternatives. Subscribe if you are interested.

3. The transition to Unity was very hard for me. This is especially true because I was a keyboard heavy user with lot of custom key bindings. Suddenly, all of them were useless. Even more annoying was the fact that GNOME-Do was not getting invoked when I pressed Super+Space as Unity gobble the keystroke. Unity did have a "gnome-do’-ish dash but it was a bit awkward to me. It was quite annoying when I have to remember that I need to press Alt-F2(Super-A) for searching applications and Super-F for files and folders. GNOME-Do has a more unified interface which is also more customizable as of now.

4. The fact that Unity uses the Super (Windows) key wrecked havoc on my keyboard shortcuts. In addition to GNOME-Do, I had other shortcuts like Windows-G for gedit, Windows-C for Chrome etc. So I searched a lot to find how to change the Unity’s default activation key. Most of the results were crap. The best result is given by this gem : http://askubuntu.com/questions/29553/how-can-i-configure-unity . Basically, you need to install ‘CompizConfig Settings Manager’. Invoke it and search for Unity. Click on ‘Ubuntu Unity Plugin’ and in the behavior tab, change the setting for the entry ‘Key to show the launcher’.

5. Some excellent links that details keyboard shortcuts for Unity are : http://askubuntu.com/questions/28086/unity-keyboard-mouse-shortcuts and http://www.multimediaboom.com/ubuntu-11-04-unity-keyboard-shortcuts-key/ .


Hope you have fun with Natty. I will put out a post soon on customizing Unity for power users.

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