Monday, May 18, 2015

cinnamon added

In my Debian Jessie GNOME installation, I added the Cinnamon desktop by going to Synaptic and installing the cinnamon package (version 2.2.16-5). This brought in the following additional packages:

cinnamon-common (2.2.16-5)
cinnamon-control-center (2.2.11-4)
cinnamon-control-center-data (2.2.11-4)
cinnamon-desktop-data (2.2.3-3)
cinnamon-l10n (2.2.4-1)
cinnamon-screensaver (2.2.4-6)
cinnamon-session (2.2.2-5)
cinnamon-session-common (2.2.2-5)
cinnamon-settings-daemon (2.2.4.repack-7)
cjs (2.2.2-2)
gir1.2-cinnamondesktop-3.0 (2.2.3-3)
gir1.2-cmenu-3.0 (2.2.0-3)
gir1.2-gconf-2.0 (3.2.6-3)
gir1.2-meta-muffin-0.0 (2.2.6-4)
gnome-power-manager (3.14.1-1)
libcinnamon-control-center1 (2.2.11-4)
libcinnamon-desktop4 (2.2.3-3)
libcinnamon-menu-3-0 (2.2.0-3)
libcjs0 (2.2.2-2)
libmozjs185-1.0 (1.8.5-1.0.0+dfsg-4.3)
libmuffin0 (2.2.6-4)
libnemo-extension1 (2.2.4-2)
muffin-common (2.2.6-4)
nemo (2.2.4-2)
nemo-data (2.2.4-2)
nemo-fileroller (1.8.0-1)
python-pam (0.4.2-13.1)
python-pyinotify (0.9.4-1)

I set up Cinnamon with the panel at the top instead of the more traditional (and default) bottom placement. I added, removed, and/or moved some panel items, so the shots below show a somewhat personalized desktop:

Cinnamon's Expo provides a nice workspace overview:

Cinnamon's default file manager is Nemo, which I prefer over Nautilus. I'm very comfortable using GNOME Shell, but many people are not. Cinnamon seems to be very nicely done in Debian Jessie, giving users yet another excellent desktop option. Note: Jessie Cinnamon ISOs (there's a live one, too) are available at, so you don't have to add Cinnamon to an existing installation like I did.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

debian live

The Debian Live project used to be a kinda separate project, and the images would come out some time after the Stable release. Now, for the first time, the live images are made available at debian dot org "as a new alternative to the standard images."  A nice step forward for Debian, in my opinion.

I used the GNOME live image to install Jessie over my Wheezy GNOME installation (that was the last remaining Wheezy installation here). I like to use Unetbootin to get the .iso onto a flash drive, but sometimes that doesn't work out -- I've had problems trying to use it with Jessie images. Better to use dd; in this case, I ran:

#  dd if=/home/steve/Downloads/debian-live-8.0.0-i386-gnome-desktop.iso of=/dev/sdb

The live session looks good, but I couldn't find an "Install" icon or menu entry; looks like you have to reboot and then choose one of the installation options from the boot menu. Then it's just a straight Debian installation.

There's a curious entry in the menu (in the GNOME Shell Activities overview): "Install Debian sid." Interesting.

Also, the live session doesn't ship with GParted. However, it does ship with Synaptic, so GParted could be easily added for the live session, if there's an internet connection. They ship  the GNOME Disk Utility, which shows up in the menu as "Disks":

Looks fine for obtaining the same type of info I'd get from GParted, but I don't know if I'd actually use it for partitioning.

Overall, it's a pretty good live session. Very snappy if run from a flash drive, of course. I'd add an "Install" button and GParted, that's about it. Recently, I've spent some time with the latest MX release's live session and with live sessions from Linux Mint Debian. MX is kinda nice because it can give you root and/or home persistence, but for the most part any one of those distros' live sessions is about as good as the other, so I'd just as soon use the one that comes straight from Debian.

The installed Jessie GNOME (it's GNOME 3.14) looks great; I haven't found a need to add any GNOME Shell extensions. Remember to edit the sources.list file and comment out the line for the CD if you don't need it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

a man, a coach

A book about one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time: Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer, by Milton S. Katz.

McLendon was mentored by the inventor of the game of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, at the University of Kansas, even though he wasn't even allowed to play for the Jayhawks. This was the 1930s, and there would be no black players on the KU varsity team until 1951.

In 1937, McLendon became an assistant coach at North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University), and was named the head basketball coach there in 1940. He went on to coach at the Hampton Institute, Tennessee A&I University (now Tennessee State University), Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University), and Cleveland State University. His Tennessee A&I teams won three consecutive NAIA championships (1957, 1958, 1959). At Cleveland State, he became the first black coach at a predominantly white college. He later became the first black coach of an integrated professional sports team (the ABL's Cleveland Pipers),

Always conducting himself with class and quiet dignity, battling segregation and discrimination every step of the way, McLendon pioneered a fast-breaking style of basketball; as well, as Katz notes in Breaking Through, when McLendon passed away in 1999:

The first floral arrangements to reach his home came from North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who expressed gratitude to McLendon for teaching him the four-corners offense.

What impressed me most, however, was that McLendon spoke about basketball and athletics as being secondary to the greater goal: "Athletics is a vehicle to assist in scholastic objectives and education... A man should want to go to school and participate in athletics, not just be an athlete."

I like to say that sports should be about having fun and staying in shape. These days, it often seems to be more of an entertainment industry than anything else.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

coming along nicely

MX Linux has turned out to be a unique and special distro (even as DistroWatch continues to leave it off their list of distros!).

Here's a link to the DistroWatch announcement about the latest release (note that MX is called a "special edition" of antiX).

This MEPIS/MX Community page has interesting info about the current release:

MX-14.4 is based on Debian Wheezy, but it's rockin' Xfce 4.12, and it comes with many features you won't find elsewhere. I'm running it live here, from a flash drive, with home persistence.

Here's how MX-14.4 is set up by default, with the Whisker menu showing:

Right-clicking on the desktop gives you access to the more traditional-looking Applications menu, along with lots of desktop tools:

MX doesn't do so hot in the "looks" department, but it's Xfce, you can do lots of things to it. Xfce 4.12 lets you have different backgrounds for different workspaces, and you get two MX-14 wallpapers to choose from! :)

The RemasterCC tool, where you can set up persistence and so forth. If you click on the Help button, the appropriate section of the MX Linux Users Manual opens up in mx-viewer.

I set up home persistence and changed things around. G'bye, Whisker menu.

I decided to use the darker default wallpaper on workspace #2. Look at all those tools under the System submenu!

I've never done a hard drive installation of MX Linux, but it's great for live sessions from flash drives, and the MX-14.4 release looks like the best one so far. It's obvious that the community has put a lot of work into it. Nice job!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

lubuntu 14.04

I run Ubuntu, but I mostly stay away from Ubuntu spin-offs/derivatives, although I do like Kubuntu. I thought that Lubuntu might be a good choice for one of my spare computers, so I downloaded lubuntu-14.04.1-desktop-i386.iso (Lubuntu 14.04.2 is available for download as of February 22). Here's what the default desktop looks like from the live session, from a flash drive created with Unetbootin:

Lubuntu 14.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release. That means a 3-year support window, unlike Ubuntu 14.04 and (I think) Kubuntu 14.04, which will be supported for five years after being released. So my Lubuntu installation should be good for a couple more years.

Lubuntu ships with the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (more commonly known as LXDE), which runs on top of the Openbox window manager. They include a nice selection of apps: Firefox, PCManFM, Abiword, Gnumeric, Leafpad, Audacious, GNOME MPlayer, and more. Lubuntu uses the Ubuntu repos, of course, so all of that software is available as well.

Installation was so easy that for once I didn't even bother to type up installation notes. I added a handful of my favorite apps, including Chromium, SpaceFM, and Geany.

The default menu set-up was good, but I tweaked things to give myself an Openbox desktop right-click menu for quick access to a few frequently used apps. The panel, called LXPanel, seems easy enough to work with. One nice touch is that LXDE allows for different wallpapers on different desktops.

Overall, Lubuntu provides a simple, light-weight, "traditional" environment to operate in. LXDE has developed into a nice alternative to Xfce. Here are a couple more screenshots, taken after I got things installed and set up:

For more info, see:

LXDE fans might also want to take a look at LXLE, which some folks say is better than Lubuntu (LXLE is, however, based on Lubuntu):

Sunday, February 15, 2015

openbox shutdown

There are a few different approaches to take for rebooting or shutting down the computer when you're running Openbox. In the past, I've simply exited the window manager and then rebooted or shut down from the login screen. CrunchBang uses the Python script cb-exit; I decided to take a different approach in Debian Jessie.

First, I installed gxmessage from the Debian repos. Then I ran visudo (as root) and edited the /etc/sudoers file, adding the following lines to the end of the file:

# Cmnd alias specification
Cmnd_Alias      SHUTDOWN = /sbin/shutdown

# User privilege specification

Tested that with:

$ sudo shutdown -k now

Created ~/shutdown-script:


gmessage "Shut down the computer?" -center -title "Take action" -font "Sans bold 10" -default "Cancel" -buttons "_Cancel":1,"_Log Out":2,"_Reboot":3,"_Shut Down":4 >/dev/null 

case $? in
echo "Exit";;
openbox --exit;;
sudo shutdown -r now;;
sudo shutdown -h now;;

Made that executable. Added a Shut Down option to the Openbox menu that uses the command /home/steve/shutdown-script. Done.

See: Giving ordinary users root privileges, selectively at and the "Allow users to shutdown computer from a window manager" thread at

Also see: and

Saturday, February 14, 2015

plan b

Here, I'm running Debian, Arch, openSUSE, and Ubuntu (and I use GParted Live for partitioning). I don't think I'll ever cut that list down to only one distro, even though I mostly lean on Debian. Even if I did, I'd still have at least two installations of that one distro, with different DE/WM setups. Being able to do something like this is one of the benefits or being a Linux user.

I'm kinda staying away from distros with small dev teams, or one-man distros. I'm glad they're out there; they help to keep the Linux world fresh and new, and there are many times when one is really the best tool for the job. But you just can't count on 'em to be around over the long term, or to keep a fairly consistent focus over the years. If you use one, it's good to have some other distro to fall back on, for sure.

CrunchBang is only the latest of these types of distros to die out. It happens.

Ken Starks, in "When Linux Distros Are Abandoned":

"If you are going to rely upon a Linux distro, you would probably do yourself a favor by having a plan B yourself...

"We’ve learned that it’s prudent to build our house on rock and not sand..."

I agree with that approach. That's why Debian's my main distro, why I prefer well-documented distros that have been around for a long time, and why I keep using various distros, not just one.