Ubuntu road warrior tips

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Don Marti from LinuxWorld asked me to write a bit about using Ubuntu on the road. The article appeared here, but I thought it would make a good blog post too. I’d love to hear from folks about tools you use with Ubuntu to make it rock harder on the road!

The original article is here.

I do use Ubuntu on my laptop, and travel a lot. My laptop is both my primary working environment and my primary development environment. I also have a desktop machine, which runs Kubuntu, and which I use for development at home over the weekends.

NetworkManager is (mostly) my friend. When it works on your hardware it’s a blessing, though every now and then it can get itself into a horrible jam. The primary missing feature for me, now, is the ability for it to recognise “locations” and configure printers accordingly.

I’m a Thunderbird fan and use that rather than Evolution. The best tip I can give anyone is to try the Quickfile extension for Thunderbird. It was developed in response to a bounty I put out some time ago, and has made my life much, much better in dealing with several thousand mail folders. In simple terms, it lets me file a mail to a folder by typing a hotkey and then a few letters from the folder name. This lets me drive Thunderbird almost entirely from the keyboard. Combined with the offline email function of Thunderbird I can be extremely productive with email in planes, trains and automobiles, which is where I get a lot of time these days.

One glitch in that routine is when people send me email with a URL in it. I am often offline when I get to the email, so it can be frustrating because I can’t then see the document they are pointing at. To work around this I use a combination of Firefox bookmarks and T-bird labels. I have a “Needs web access” label, which I use to flag emails that have this issue. And I have a “To read” folder on my firefox bookmarks toolbar. By right clicking on the URL in the email I can copy the URL, then I right click on the “To read” folder and create a new bookmark to that URL with a note about the context. Then, when I’m online, I can trivially get T-bird to show me all the mails that need online attention, and open all the relevant pages in tabs in a new Firefox window. The result is that I can immediately deal with everything that NEEDS me to be online. This is a huge win if, like me, you are traveling constantly and can only grab net access in short windows while parked outside a Starbucks or in an airport lounge.

30 comments:

  1. eMBee says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 12:05 am

    you should take a look at wwwoffle.
    an offline caching proxy.
    the nice feature that would help you a lot:

    when you request a link from your browser while wwwoffle is in offline mode, then will remember that link, and next time you go online, it will fetch all remembered links including images, automaticly, so that you do not have to remember to do that manually.

    wwwoffle is also very aggressive in chaching things so that it is very nice to use when offline to go back and read things up again.

    i am traveling a lot myself, and there wwwoffle is making my life a lot easier.

    greetings, eMBee.

  2. Steady as a rock » Blog Archive » Ubuntu on the road says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 1:04 am

    [...] Mark, [...]

  3. CPinto says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 8:33 am

    I’ve been gathering some ideas for a project named, you guessed it, Roadwarrior and that printer feature is a nice addition. If you have anymore ideas let me know. I’ve setup a wiki page for it, you can check it here: http://yimports.com/~cpinto/projects/gnome/roadwarrior

  4. Adam Glenn says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    I had an idea for one possible solution to your Emails with URLs problem while I was reading your post. I have looked into possibly writing a proof of concept for it but I’m no javascript guy and I’ve never done an extension for Thunderbird or Firefox before. Here’s the thought I had, If you had a way in Thunderbird, hot keys, some button embedded in the email, or other, that you could save a URL into some “magic container” somewhere. Then a sister extension in firefox that would let you call all the URLS from the “magic container” into tabs and then remove them from the container (there would need to be configurable options here no doubt) then you would have a way of saving them till you wanted to see them in Firefox. Now I say magic container because I had some ideas about this as well :). At first this could be a simple file based storage system but something like this could be grown into a social bookmark plugin where things would be tagged in del.icio.us, rawsugar, simpy, etc. as coming from a certain contact. It could also use tags as the way for marking which ones have been viewed already and which ones need to be viewed. Because of how long it would realistically take me to learn the necessary parts I was hoping you might know someone who could help you out with this if you think it would be an elegant solution for you.

  5. David Goodger says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I used to use Quick File, but I found a better (IMO) extension called Nostalgy, available here:
    http://www.eleves.ens.fr/home/frisch/soft_mozilla.html . It provides three hot keys: G to go (navigate) to a folder, S to save (move) the selected message(s) to a folder (the same functionality as Quick File), and C to copy messages.

    For example, to move a message, type S, then a portion of the folder name. A list appears to narrow down the choice. Either type until the folder you want is at the top, or use the arrow keys to navigate the list, then hit Enter. Works like a charm.

  6. SixDays says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the tip, and I have to try out David’s tip regarding Nostalgy as well.

  7. Simone Brunozzi says: (permalink)
    September 15th, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Hi there!
    Nice article; one important aspect to mention is also that you are always looking for a connection here and there, and if you plan to stay for few weeks in a place, it could be useful to rent a umts or gprs or gsm pcmcia modem that can allow you to surf internet even without wifi hot spots. In Italy, the place in which I live, it is rare to find hot spots, and pcmcia modems could be very useful.

  8. Step says: (permalink)
    September 17th, 2006 at 1:45 am

    That last paragraph sounds like an extension BEGGING to be written! I can see lots of road warriors (myself included) that could really use that. Heck, even when I’m online it’d be more productive sometimes to turn that feature on, then review all the weblinks together at the right time. :)

    Maybe I should get to coding…. ? (Yeah right, I’m so overtasked right now already).

  9. La muerte del Dios says: (permalink)
    September 18th, 2006 at 12:56 am

    Greetings from a mexican Ubuntu user, great article…

  10. Tobias says: (permalink)
    September 18th, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Have a look at http://packages.debian.org/stable/admin/laptop-net , it’s not perfect but it has the ability to recognize differente environments and configure printers accodingly etc. I even had a “take-any-DHCP” fall-back configuration ;-)

  11. Doug LaRue says: (permalink)
    September 18th, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    Mark,

    I think this concept would do the trick for those URLs in the emails:
    1) A Thunderbird extension which recognizes URLs in the email text
    2) It places a button next to the URL
    3) When the icon is clicked, it queues up the URL for a URL to PDF download/conversion on the next email send or upload( ie network connection ).
    4) A successful conversion then removes the URL from the action queue and triggers an additional icon next to the email URL( or an icon change) which links to the PDF file.

    Email msg cleanup would have to also remove the associated PDF file. I could also see a special Thunderbird folder being created to hold all the PDFs incase you want to batch view the PDFs like you currently batchview them in Firefox.

    Obviously, caching the HTML pages, insead of converting to PDF, would be far more efficient so maybe just loading squid on the laptop and having the Thunderbird extention queue the URL for background loading/caching for later offline viewing would do the trick. Using a URL icon notification mechanism as mentioned above would still be advantageous.

    BTW, glad to see you’re eating your own ‘dog food’ as they say. :-)

    Doug

  12. Fafek says: (permalink)
    September 22nd, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    I don’t like Ubuntu’s network-admin. It lacks key features. It should have better Wifi for example. You know, detecting hotspots, making lists of favourite networks and so on.

    I know there is a Wifiradar, but such tool should be integrated into system. And hey, before I can download it, I need a working internet connection!

  13. QuickFile Thunderbird Extension - Thanks Mark ! « Luis’ Bits and Pieces says: (permalink)
    September 25th, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    [...] Wow, I immediately installed the Thunderbird QuickFile extension and it is very quickly becoming indispensable !  I have a somewhat detailed folder structure with different folders for accounts, suppliers, events, r&d, etc…  and until QuickFile I spent some time doing fairly repetitive mouse actions to file messages in the right place.  Thanks to Mark Shuttle’s blog entry, I was incited to try it out and I am quite happy with it, even though it takes a while to get used to the Alt-Q shortcut. [...]

  14. Christian T says: (permalink)
    October 4th, 2006 at 3:23 am

    I remember using “Wififofum” on PocketPC. This is a super cool little app that allows you to not only detect networks and their signal strenghts, but also has a graphical wifi “radar” that really works as… a wifi radar!… showing you the distance and approximate location of the source of any signal on a circular radius for a few hundred metres, as well as giving detailed info on each network (WEP encryption, SSID, etc). Using this on a PocketPC in a urban area makes you feel like an über-geek! ;) Anyways, it might be possible to obtain the source code for that app and develop something that’s debian-friendly with it.

    The PocketPC community is often left unnoticed in the mobile computing world, but it is packed with developers commited to “software libre” with fascinating fresh ideas for the needs of the roadwarrior, so I’d really recommend to Ubuntu developpers to keep an eye on what’s going on.

  15. Netboy says: (permalink)
    October 5th, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    yes. thinking about it right now, the network-administration-tool in dapper drake is bit odd…also it does a little bit of conflict with my network-manager, having to comment out what the admin-tool just wrote into the /etc/network/interfaces…but network-manager IS a blessing, and i don’t need to say anything about ubuntu.

  16. Ian Murdock’s Weblog » Blog Archive » “Work Offline”: What’s the point? says: (permalink)
    October 30th, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    [...] The Blackberry browser has a similar option too, though I haven’t used it much (most of my offline time tends to be on airplanes, and I’d much rather view the web on my laptop). The Blackberry does have a neat feature IE doesn’t have though, which is if you try to load a page that isn’t available offline, it’ll offer to queue up the request and download it once you’re online again. As with everything on the Blackberry, the page will show up in the universal inbox along with email, SMS, missed calls, etc. No more trying to remember what pages you wanted to load when you were offline or resorting to tricks only a hacker could love. Imagining a feature like this integrated with a Gmail/Google Reader combo that supports offline operation makes my mouth water. [...]

  17. jose hevia says: (permalink)
    November 1st, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    You are here. But there are two problems here, one is the user perspective that you point, but another is developer perspective. Developers for Linux needs to know:
    gentoo packages, debian, rpms, autopackage (all completely different)
    so he has to do 4 times the work if there were only one, but it won’t be.
    In Windows there is Installshield that makes it easy for him to make a install package.It’s very easy and graphical!. So if Linux want to compete needs a graphic tool for dummies that can do:
    -All the install hard work so programmers can focus on programs.
    -Generate some STANDARD intermediary project code.
    -Gererate different package output automatically via Plugins.

    This way programmers only have to work once. Thanks to LSB this is a real possibility. My 0.02

  18. minikperi says: (permalink)
    April 9th, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for the tip, and I have to try out David’s tip regarding Nostalgy as well.

  19. sohbet says: (permalink)
    May 15th, 2007 at 9:36 am

    thinking about it right now, the network-administration-tool in dapper drake is bit odd. thnxxx

  20. çet says: (permalink)
    July 29th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    yes. thinking about it right now, the network-administration-tool in dapper drake is bit odd…also it does a little bit of conflict with my network-manager, having to comment out what the admin-tool just wrote into the /etc/network/interfaces…but network-manager IS a blessing, and i don’t need to say anything about ubuntu.

  21. evden eve nakliyat says: (permalink)
    October 3rd, 2007 at 9:01 am

    hi ..
    I remember using “Wififofum” on PocketPC. This is a super cool little app that allows you to not only detect networks and their signal strenghts, but also has a graphical wifi “radar” that really works as… a wifi radar!… showing you the distance and approximate location of the source of any signal on a circular radius for a few hundred metres, as well as giving detailed info on each network (WEP encryption, SSID, etc). Using this on a PocketPC in a urban area makes you feel like an über-geek! Anyways, it might be possible to obtain the source code for that app and develop something that’s debian-friendly with it.

  22. evden eve nakliyat says: (permalink)
    October 3rd, 2007 at 9:02 am

    I don’t like Ubuntu’s network-admin. It lacks key features. It should have better Wifi for example. You know, detecting hotspots, making lists of favourite networks and so on.

    I know there is a Wifiradar, but such tool should be integrated into system. And hey, before I can download it, I need a working internet connection!
    thanss

  23. Cet says: (permalink)
    October 21st, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    For example, to move a message, type S, then a portion of the folder name. A list appears to narrow down the choice. Either type until the folder you want is at the top, or use the arrow keys to navigate the list, then hit Enter. Works like a charm.

  24. chat says: (permalink)
    November 4th, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    You are here. But there are two problems here, one is the user perspective that you point, but another is developer perspective. Developers for Linux needs to know:
    gentoo packages, debian, rpms, autopackage (all completely different)
    so he has to do 4 times the work if there were only one, but it won’t be.
    In Windows there is Installshield that makes it easy for him to make a install package.It’s very easy and graphical!. So if Linux want to compete needs a graphic tool for dummies that can do:
    -All the install hard work so programmers can focus on programs.
    -Generate some STANDARD intermediary project code.
    -Gererate different package output automatically via Plugins.

    This way programmers only have to work once. Thanks to LSB this is a real possibility.
    thanksss

  25. sohbet says: (permalink)
    November 4th, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I’ve been gathering some ideas for a project named, you guessed it, Roadwarrior and that printer feature is a nice addition. If you have anymore ideas let me know. I’ve setup a wiki page for it, you can check it here: http://yimports.com/~cpinto/projects/gnome/roadwarrior

  26. Sohbet says: (permalink)
    November 24th, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for the tip, and I have to try out David’s tip regarding Nostalgy as well.

  27. cilt bakımı says: (permalink)
    January 20th, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Hi thanks for the tip, and I have to try out David’s tip regarding Nostalgy as well.

  28. cilt bakımı says: (permalink)
    February 1st, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    thanks

  29. Sohbet says: (permalink)
    March 26th, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    hello
    I remember using “Wififofum” on PocketPC. This is a super cool little app that allows you to not only detect networks and their signal strenghts, but also has a graphical wifi “radar” that really works as… a wifi radar!… showing you the distance and approximate location of the source of any signal on a circular radius for a few hundred metres, as well as giving detailed info on each network (WEP encryption, SSID, etc). Using this on a PocketPC in a urban area makes you feel like an über-geek! Anyways, it might be possible to obtain the source code for that app and develop something that’s debian-friendly with it.thnks

  30. Soyuz, think you're a road warrior like sabdfl? | Ubuntu News says: (permalink)
    October 11th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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