Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trying GS Extensions

So far, I'm not much of a fan of GNOME Shell extensions. For the most part, I prefer the default set-up, and I have no problem getting around the desktop and getting work done.

Up until today, I had the following extensions installed in Fedora 16:

Alternative Status Menu: I like this one because it gives a Power Off option, which is something that should have been included in GNOME Shell from the beginning. I installed it from the Fedora repos, but it conflicted with GNOME Shell at first, until some subsequent updates apparently fixed it.

Icon-Manager: Don't use it, have it turned off.

Workspace Indicator: This is a pretty good extension for showing which workspace you're currently on, and provides an alternative way to quickly switch between workspaces. I have it running, but I rarely use it for switching workspaces.

Dock Extension: Don't use it, have it turned off.

User Themes: I have it turned on, but I've played with it only a couple of times.

Applications Menu: It's turned on, but I rarely use it.

Today, I added a couple more extensions: Panel-Docklet and Area Screenshot. Until now, I've only used extensions installed from the Fedora repos, but I pulled these two from the GNOME Shell Extensions site.

I use Google Chrome (or Chromium, depending on the distro I'm using at the moment). But the GNOME Shell Extensions site doesn't work with Chrome or Chromium; if you go there with one of those browsers, you'll see a mesage saying, "You do not appear to have an up to date version of GNOME3. You won't be able to install extensions from here."

You'll see this message even if your GNOME 3 version actually IS up-to-date.

So, I went to the site using Firefox.

Once you find an extension you want to install, you click on it's name and you're taken to that extension's page. There you'll find an on-off switch next to the name of the extension. Turn it on, and after a few seconds you're given the option to install the extension. I did this for Panel-Docklet, it installed, and I was taken through a settings manager. I was notified that I could later access the settings by right-clicking on Panel-Docklet.

While Panel-Docklet can be turn on/off via Advanced Settings, I see no way uninstall it other than going back to the extension site with Firefox and uninstalling it there.

One problem I'm noticing is that the icons sit too high on the panel, cutting off the top part of the icon. This screen shot gives you an idea:

With the mouse hovering over Panel-Docklet, you get a drop down list showing all open windows on each workspace, separated nicely by workspace.

If you right-click on one of the icons, you get a menu with the following items: Close Window, Minimize, New Window, Application, and the name of the active window. Under Application, there are options to Quit Application and Remove from Favorites.

If you right-click on one of the workspace numbers, you get a menu with the following items: Settings; and a menu of the same Favorites that you have in Dash (the dock) -- only, in reverse order! Hopefully this will be fixed.

It seems a bit buggy yet. I've lost control of the mouse at various times, particularly after trying to take a screen shot with GNOME's default screen shot app. Also I've noticed some times when the wrong workspace number was being displayed. Further, I'm not sure that I like having it up there in the panel any better than simply using the hot spot in the upper left corner to get a view of apps running on various workspaces, although it does seem useful for going directly to a particular running app quickly.

Next, I added the Area Screenshot Extension. As noted in the extension's homepage:

By default, this extension does nothing; you have to assign a keyboard shortcut to it. To do this, you can run the following command[s]:

gconftool-2 -s --type string "$key" 'Print'

After running those commands, I tried it out. The extension's homepage notes:

When you hit + Print now, you can select an area on your screen with your mouse. After releasing your mouse, a new screenshot will be saved in your local "Pictures" directory with the current timestamp. You can also take a screenshot of a single window by simply clicking on it.

When taking an area screenshot, you can set a timer to be able to open context menus and such, which can't usually be captured. To set the timer, simply press the numbers 1 to 9 on your keyboard to define the countdown. The timer will appear in the bottom left of your screen. After making your selection, it will count down to zero. Pressing 0 on your keyboard will deactivate the timer.

Well, things worked okay, except the timer didn't work at all here. I pressed numbers on the keyboard to define the countdown, but no timer ever appeared on my screen. I was able to select areas of the screen with the mouse, but the extension didn't work at all, for example, when I right-clicked on an icon in the Panel-Docklet extension to open up the menu.

So, I'm not sold on most of the GNOME Shell extensions I've tried so far. For now, I think I'm better off staying close to the default GNOME Shell, as designed by the GNOME developers. That set-up works fine for me; we'll see how things turn out in the future.

A few additional notes regarding the extensions from the GNOME Shell Extensions site (as opposed to the ones available in the Fedora repos):

- Right now, if you want to update extensions, you have to uninstall them manually and reinstall them. Gnome 3.4 is supposed to include features for automatic updates of these extensions.

- You can either go to the site to uninstall extensions, or you can remove the extension's directory which is stored in ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions, then restart the session.

I think I'll wait few weeks, then try uninstalling and re-installing some of the extensions from that site, and see how things have progressed.

f16 wallpaper fun

I managed to get an automatic wallpaper changer working in Fedora 16 in GNOME Shell, thanks to Ubuntu forum member "mareser." It's a script run by a cron job. mareser provides the script and a command to set up the cron job in this thread; anyone interested can pick them up from there.

Since I was trying this in Fedora 16 (not in Ubuntu), I did a few things differently. I dropped some wallpapers into a directory called ~/wallpapers, extracted the script to my home directory, and within the script edited the following line to read:


I edited his command for setting up the cron job, changing the time interval from "30" to "10," and replacing "$USER" with "steve" and "$HOME/edit/this/path/" with "/home/steve/" I used su - to get root access instead of sudo, so here's the command I used to set up the crontab:

# sh -c "echo \*/2 \* \* \* \* steve bash /home/steve/ >> /etc/crontab"

Well, it works, and it'll do for now until I find a really nice GUI automatic wallpaper changer for GNOME Shell that works in Fedora.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BCS :(

Boise State coach Chris Peterson made the point that when he's voting (in the USAToday coaches poll), "I'm trying to make the best case for Boise State to get in there ... I probably shouldn't be voting."

Which, of course, is what every coach would be doing.

And, how many coaches really know all that much about teams outside of their own conferences? These guys don't have time to watch many other teams play, other than their own upcoming opponents, or the teams they've played against, so what do they really know?

Why should the coaches poll carry so much weight, then?

As Peterson also said, the polls lack credibility when teams ranked in the top ten can't even get into a BCS bowl game. This year: Boise, Arkansas, Kansas State, and South Carolina, all ranked in the top ten in the AP poll, the USAToday, and the BCS standings, all left out of BCS bowl games. Instead: Michigan, Clemson, Virginia Tech, West Virgina -- none of them ranked in the top ten by anybody, all of them playing in BCS bowl games.

Maybe Peterson is gonna come across as a "whiner," but he makes some points that are pretty hard to argue with:

I think everybody is tired of the BCS ... Everybody's frustrated. Nobody really knows what to do anymore. It doesn't make sense to anybody. … I don't think anybody's happy anywhere.

...The whole thing needs to be changed, no question about it...

...Why are we voting at all if it doesn't really mean anything?...

...I haven't heard anyone saying, 'Hey, this is really good.' Nobody likes it. Nobody understands it. Everyone says it needs to be tweaked. Hopefully it will be.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

dumbed down?

They say GNOME Shell is lacking for configuration options, but check out what Ubuntu forum member VinDSL has done with it, apparently in the Ubuntu 12.04 pre-alpha:

Ubuntu forum member Harry33 comments:

Today the newest gnome-themes-standard package update (3.2.2+git20111125) brought a change to the default background.

It is now Adwaita-timed, which will change by time:
bright-day => good-night => morning => bright-day ...

This is available from the Ricotz Gnome-shell Testing PPA.
Really a great PPA. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

debian and ubuntu

From an interview with Mark Shuttleworth ("People Behind Debian: Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder"):

So Ubuntu is the second half of a complete Debian-Ubuntu ecosystem. Debian’s strengths complement Ubuntu’s, Ubuntu can achieve things that Debian cannot (not because its members are not capable, but because the institution has chosen other priorities) and conversely, Debian delivers things which Ubuntu cannot, not because its members are not capable, but because it chooses other priorities as an institution.

Many people are starting to understand this: Ubuntu is Debian’s arrow, Debian is Ubuntu’s bow. Neither instrument is particularly useful on its own, except in a museum of anthropology.

So the worst and most frustrating attitude comes from those who think Debian and Ubuntu compete. If you care about Debian, and want it to compete on every level with Ubuntu, you are going to be rather miserable; you will want Debian to lose some of its best qualities and change some of its most important practices. However, if you see the Ubuntu-Debian ecosystem as a coherent whole, you will celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of both, and more importantly, work to make Debian a better Debian and Ubuntu a better Ubuntu, as opposed to wishing Ubuntu was more like Debian and vice versa.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

GNOME Shell Cheat Sheet

If you're new to GNOME Shell and you feel that it's a less productive environment than so-called "traditional" desktop environments, you might find that learning the ins and outs of the shell will change your point of view.

Or, maybe not. :)

Anyway, here's a link to a very helpful cheat sheet page for folks using GNOME Shell, from

Below, I'll list some of what I thought were key tips from the page -- in case the web page is not available (happened here a couple of times) (Note: I've left some things out, so see the page linked above for more info):

On the desktop

Alt+Tab switches between applications. Window previews of the applications with multiple windows are available as you cycle through. The previews show up after a short delay, but you can get them immediately by pressing the Down arrow key. You can move between the preview windows with the Right and Left arrow keys or with the mouse pointer. Previews of applications with a single window are only available when the Down arrow is explicitly hit. It is possible to switch to any window by moving to it with the mouse and clicking.

Alt+Shift+Tab cycles through applications in reverse direction.

Alt+[key above Tab] (eg, Alt+` on a US keyboard) switches between windows within an application. This can be used from within the Alt+Tab switcher, or from outside it (to open the switcher with the window previews for the current application already selected).

Window maximizing and tiling: You can maximize a window by dragging it to the top edge of the screen. Alternatively, you can double-click the window title. To unmaximize, pull it down again. By dragging windows to the left and right edges of the screen you can tile them side by side.

The panel

The Power Off... menu entry is hidden by default. You can make it visible by pressing the Alt key in the user menu.

Switching to and from the overview

System (Windows) key or Alt+F1 - these key combinations will take you to the overview or back to the desktop.

In the overview

Clicking on the application icon will launch it if it is not running, and will open the last used window of that application if it is already running.

Middle clicking on the application icon will launch it on a new workspace.

Right clicking on the application icon for a running application will display a menu with window titles for selecting one of the windows. This menu also provides options to open a new window for that application and to remove or add that application to favorites depending on its current status.

Ctrl+Clicking on the application icon for a running application will open a new window of that application in the current workspace.

Dragging an application icon to a particular workspace will open a new window for that application on that workspace. Unlike launching by clicking which results in leaving the overview mode and switching to the application immediately, launching by dragging does not leave the overview mode.

Using a vertical scroll over a particular window zooms in on it by bringing it forward.


Hitting Esc key escapes Alt+F2.


Typing 'r' or 'restart' in the Alt+F2 prompt will restart GNOME Shell. This is useful when you are make changes to the GNOME Shell code while working within the GNOME Shell. You don't need to compile anything if you only changed JavaScript code, but you need to run compilation as you would normally do for C code before restarting.

Typing 'rt' in the Alt+F2 prompt will reload the GNOME Shell theme. This is useful when you are a theme designer and want to test changes in your theme without restarting the whole shell. The theme file isshare/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css.


Most keybindings can be viewed under the User Menu -> System Settings -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts

f16 nautilus location bar

In Fedora 16, I wanted to set Nautilus to always set the location bar to use text input, instead of the default behavior, which looks like this:

To do it temporarily, you can click Go > Location, or press ctrl+L. To make the change permanent, the following command works:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences always-use-location-entry true

This can also be accomplished via dconf-editor, but that app seems kinda buggy in Fedora 16. When I open dconf-editor from the menu, then go to org>gnome>nautilus>preferences, the keys aren't visible:

I had to click on the windows's min/max button to get the keys to show up:

 Then I'm able to select "always-use-location-entry." Here's the resulting view in Nautilus:

Note: These instructions are for Nautilus in GNOME 3. If you're using GNOME 2.30 (in Ubuntu 10.04, for example), you can do the same thing by opening to gconf-editor and navigating to apps > nautilus > preferences and selecting "always_use_location_entry."

Friday, November 11, 2011

GNOME Shell in F16

Very pleased with what I'm seeing so far in Fedora 16's GNOME Shell. I've really only just gotten started with it, but I like the looks and feel and the things that I've found that I can do with it.

The Activities area can be opened up by clicking on "Activities" on the panel, by moving the cursor to the "hot spot" at the upper left corner, or by pressing the Super (aka Windows) key.

The icons on the Dash launcher are easy to work with. They become smaller (and less obnoxious) if you have more of them there. To add an icon to the launcher, all you have to do is right-click on an icon in the Applications area and click on "Add to Favorites." You can remove an icon from the launcher by simply right-clicking on it and clicking "Remove from Favorites." You can drag the icons to different positions on the launcher.

The Workspace list is the vertical bar over on the right side of the Activities area. In GNOME 3, you get only as many workspaces as you need, instead of a set number of workspaces. If you open an application into an empty workspace, another empty workspace will be available. To switch between workspaces, simply click on one in the Workspace list.

I added the Workspace Indicator Extension for an alternative way to switch between workspaces.

Many people don't like the menu set-up in the Activities area, but I have no problem with it. It's very easy to find an application using the search area at the upper right, and the categories along the right side are also very helpful.

But I added the Applications Menu Extension for a more traditional drop-down menu.

In Fedora 16, to take advantage of available extensions, you'll want to first add gnome-tweak-tool and gnome-shell-extension-common. The gnome-tweak-tool GUI shows up under the name "Advanced Settings," and there you'll find your installed extensions.

One common complaint is that there's no "shut down" button in GNOME 3, but I found that if you click on the the username button on the left side of the panel, then press the Alt key, the "Suspend" option changes to a "Power Off..." option.

And, Windows-style, the Alt+Tab combination works for switching between open applications.

Desktop configuration seems a bit limited, from what I've seen so far. For example, as with the old GNOME 2, there's no nice automatic wallpaper changer included by default. But why pick nits? The available tools make it very easy to get work done in GNOME 3. Folks complain that it's a departure from "traditional" desktops, and that users are being "forced" to learn a new way of doing things, but I can already see that I won't be missing GNOME 2 at all. I'm looking forward to Ubuntu 12.04, which will have both Unity (which I also like) and GNOME Shell. I'm sold.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

fedora 16

Fedora 16 was released a couple of days ago, so I replaced Fedora 14 in my line-up with the main (GNOME) version of Fedora 16. That's somewhat of a departure for me, because my F14 and F15 installations were the KDE spins. This will also be my first real hands-on experience with GNOME Shell.

Here's a look at the default desktop that I was presented with, post-install:

Firefox 7.0.1 was included by default. The desktop itself, although I'm not at all used to GNOME Shell, seems easy enough to navigate. Fedora 16 ships with grub2 instead of grub-legacy, unlike earlier releases. Not much else to say other than that, since I'm barely getting started with this release; more later.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

saguaro vs. chaparral

Last night in Scottsdale, Arizona, two #1 high school teams faced off.

Scottsdale Chaparral, the #1 team in Division II, came in with a 9-1 record. Cross-town rival Scottsdale Saguaro, the #1 team in Division III, came in at 8-1. It was a nationally televised game, and the first time since 2008 that the teams had met.

It was being touted as the game of the year.

So, what happened? Saguaro rested their starters -- for the playoffs. Chaparral won in a blow-out, 65-0.

A complete embarrassment for Arizona high school football. And, to make matters worse, Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle even had the nerve to go for two-point conversions with his team up by almost 50 points.

Nobody won in this one. Poor sportsmanship on each side. Nobody comes out of this with bragging rights. Just a pitiful example of how stupid decisions by adults can ruin a good thing for kids and fans.

A couple of articles about this fiasco, here and here. Be sure to check out the comments following the articles.

the whining

Linux users have hundreds of distributions to choose from, distros that, somewhere out there, some talented people have put together. The operating systems are free for us to download and use.

When I download a distro and get it installed on my computer, I'm not expecting it to be set up exactly like I want it to be set up "out-of-the-box."  But it's Linux; I expect to be able to tweak and configure it and turn it into something that I'll be happy using for maybe the next couple of years. And that's generally how it goes, no matter what distro I choose.

So, why all the constant whining about Ubuntu, Unity, GNOME 3, KDE 4, and so forth? Have Linux users become soft? Why should I care what desktop a distro comes with by default? I'm gonna change it, anyway. I'm probably gonna go straight to the repos and add some other desktop environment or window manager, so that I can use that one whenever I feel like it. All that's required of me is that I learn how to take whatever is put out there and turn it into something that I can use. All I hope for from the devs is that they keep putting something out there that I can work with.

And, they keep doing exactly that. Whether it's Debian, Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, whatever, I feel like I can choose just about any distro, download it, install it, spend a little time tweakig and configuring it, and I'm set.

You don't like Unity? Use something else. GNOME 3 isn't your cup of tea? So what? You can install Xfce or Openbox. You want to drop this distro for that one? Go right ahead, nobody cares.

But quit your whining, folks. You're sounding like nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats. It's Linux, it's free, you can do what you want with it. Be happy that it's out there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

using ubuntu

I've been running Ubuntu here since 2006, along with, at times, Kubuntu and the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint. I see Ubuntu as a great distro, but it helps to pay attention to what the distro is all about.

Ubuntu is gonna push the envelope; they're gonna try different things, and the user might not like many of those things.

Although I have an Ubuntu 11.04 installation running here on one of my machines, I generally avoid the non-LTS versions. I see no point in keeping up with the 6-month release cycle. I have the most recent LTS version, 10.04, installed on my main pc, and I'll stick with that until the next LTS version comes out next year.

Even with the 6-month release cycle, one thing to keep in mind is that those releases are actually supported for 18 months -- not 6 months, as many people assume. If you have a non-LTS version running, and if everything's fine, there's really no reason to jump to the next version right away, unless you simply want to try it out for whatever reason.

If I was running only Ubuntu here, what I'd do is go with the latest LTS version as my primary system, and dual-boot with the latest non-LTS version, just to keep an eye on where things are going, and to play around with whatever new things they've come up with. But it seems to me that most people who have problems with Ubuntu are folks who are constantly trying to keep up with the 6-month release cycle, and who almost blindly move on to the next release without either keeping a back-up of the old release or keeping the old release running on (a) separate partition(s).

Dual- or mulit-booting Linux distros isn't all that difficult, and comes with many advantages; one of the biggest advantages is when it comes to distros like Ubuntu, where the stability and quality of the next release isn't guaranteed. Keep the old version running while you thoroughly check out the new one; save yourself from some headaches.

fedora fan

I first installed Fedora 14 late last year, and I've been really impressed with the distro. I added Fedora 15 back in June.

I decided to take an approach similar to what I do with Mepis -- install the latest version, but keep a previous version on another set of partitions. This way, I can check out the new version while still having the old one to fall back on.

Fedora 16 will be released soon, and I think I'll stick with the same approach; I'll install F16 over F14, but keep F15.

I went with the KDE spins with both F14 and F15, and I think I'll do the same with F16. I figure I can always add another DE or WM later, but I think that the KDE spins are the best ones for me to start out with.

Even though Fedora is considered the "testing grounds" for Red Hat, and it's considered a "cutting-edge" distro, with some inconsistency between releases, I'm finding it to be a quality distro, dependable, and quite nice to use. Looks like I'll be running Fedora here for years to come.

Sos 1.5

SalineOS 1.5 is out. Here's a link to the distro's main page. For more info on 1.5, see this forum post.

I've been running Saline here since January 2011. This distro's still running under the radar, but it's a nice Xfce distro, based on Debian Squeeze. To me, it looks just as good as my Squeeze installation (I have GNOME and AwesomeWM installed there), but it was a lot quicker and easier to install and set up. Looks like a good alternative to Mepis and other Debian-based distros, especially for folks who like Xfce.

customized searching

Some customized Google search engines, found in a Linux Mint forums post:

Linux Beginner Search

Ubuntu Search


Thursday, October 6, 2011


How does the name for Ubuntu 12.04, the next LTS version, grab you? "Precise Pangolin."

These names get worse and worse, don't they?

I never cared for the names for Debian 6 ("Squeeze") or the current Debian Testing ("Wheezy"), either. I'm okay with the Linux Mint names, which are always female names ending with the letter "a" ("Helena," "Isadora," "Julia," "Katya," etc.), I guess. With Fedora, we have "Goddard," "Laughlin," "Lovelock," and so on.

I don't know. I prefer version numbers, but I guess in the end, it's all in fun, and maybe it adds some color to the Linux world. It would probably be too boring if everybody stuck with only version numbers.

But, ugh, Precise Pangolin? Dang.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

locked out

Does anyone care if the the entire NBA seasons gets cancelled? I don't.

No sympathy here for either side. The regular season's too long, ticket prices are too high, there are only a few players (like Kevin Durant) who I was looking forward to watching, and too many cities have teams that probably won't realistically compete for a championship over the next decaade.

I mean, really: New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Toronto, Indiana, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, New Orleans, Memphis, Houston, Denver, Portland, Utah, Minnesota, Phoenix, Golden State, the Clippers, and Sacramento. Count 'em: That's 22 of the NBA's 30 teams, and none of them are considered to have a serious shot at even making their respective conference finals next year. Come the year 2020, almost none of them will have made it to as far as the conference finals. Maybe the Knicks, but they're still a long way off.

As far as I'm concerned, most NBA fans around the country are already locked out!

Why should I care who gets the bigger slice of the pie between the billionaire owners and the multi-millionaire players?

If the the season gets shortened and they end up working out a deal, that's fine with me. It's not like I can afford to go to any of the games anyway, and the season's boring until the last few months as it is.

Let the players lose some paychecks. Let the owners take some losses. And let the fans find other things to do with their time and money. What a joke.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


My good friend Rick hipped me to a great article on the 1987 Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvelous Marvin Hagler fight.

Classic bout between two of the greatest fighters of all time! I thought Hagler won; Rick saw it for Leonard. I've got to respect Rick's take, as he's a former boxer and knows a lot more about "the sweet science" than I'll ever know.

After reading that article, I'm even more convinced that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. would beat Manny Pacquiao if they ever get it on. It's a little different because Mayweather isn't the glory boy like Leonard was, but Mayweather is smart and fast like Leonard. Leonard got in Hagler's head, and he played the fight just right, he played the judges just right. 15 or 30 seconds of going all out at the most crucial times, leaving that impression on the judges. Mayweather can do that, too.

Dang, Hagler went 11 years without a loss! Very impressive. And you have to wonder what would have happened if Leonard and Hagler had fought a few years earlier, like before the Mugabi fight.

I also watched some of the video from this page, including the last round of the Leonard-Hagler fight, the whole fight between Leonard and Mayweather, Sr., and the Hagler-Hearns fight.

I thought the last round of the Leonard-Hagler fight was a draw, and that Leonard wouldn't have had anything left after that round. Amazing flurries by Leonard.

Leonard-Mayweather was interesting. Leonard dominated the fight and had him in trouble numerous times, but Mayweather was game, and very crafty.  Good defensive fighter, but not as good as his son. Still, he hung in there well and seemed to frustrate Leonard a bit. Leonard finally got to him in the last round, though. Looked like Mayweather never hurt Leonard at all.

Hagler-Hearns: Probably the greatest few rounds of boxing I've ever seen. I had forgotten how good Hearns was, kinda, but that fight reminded me. Maybe Hearns wins that fight if he stands back and boxes a little more instead of mixing it up and going all out. Hearns landed some big shots on Hagler but Hagler shook it off and kept coming.

d'backs clinch!

Alright! Time to get it on! Been a long time coming, but Arizona is finally back in it. Don't know if they can get to the Series (Philly is very tough) but at least they've got a chance. Anything can happen. As always, hoping to see D'Backs-Tigers in the Series, as improbable as that seems.

A year ago, the D'Backs went 65-97. They'd also lost 90-something games the year before. Kudos to Kirk Gibson and to the players! Worst to first!

The Diamondbacks might not go far in the playoffs, but what a great year anyway! This is the cool thing about MLB, every now and then a team can completely turn it around.

Rooting hard for the Tigers as well. Can't wait for the playoffs to start!

And there's them dang Yankees, still standing in the way! That team is always up there! Everybody's gotta be expecting Phillies vs. Yankees in the World Series. And Philly might have the pitching to take 'em. But I wouldn't count anybody out. It's a whole new ballgame once the playoffs start; anybody can get hot. Who knows, the Brewers might even come through!

By the way, I think the Tigers' Verlander deserves the AL MVP as well as the Cy Young that he's certain to get.

Friday, September 23, 2011

enjoying unity

Well, almost three months since I installed Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty), with Unity, on my notebook.

I don't know if Unity will work on my main pc. It doesn't work when I run the live CD on it, and I haven't looked into it because I won't be installing the next LTS until next year sometime.

That release will also come with GNOME Shell. So I figure I'll try to get both Unity and GNOME Shell working, and go from there. In the end, I'll probably add Openbox anyway, though.

Anyway, I'm completely comfortable using Unity in Ubuntu 11.04. I don't feel like it hinders my workflow at all. It looks great, it feels great. I think it's a wonderful environment, and I don't quite understand all the "Unity is crap!" stuff.

Okay, so here's what I'd like to see: More configurability.

Having the Unity launcher over on the left side is fine; it seems like the best place for it. But you should still be able to move it somewhere else, if you want.

And I feel like I can't make enough changes to the panel along the top. I feel like if I really wanted to do more things, I'd have to add gnome-panel, or maybe something like AWN (Avant Window Navigator).

But Unity in 11.04 is a fairly early version. By the time 12.04 comes out, I'm sure that Unity will look a little better. Regardless, if it works with my hardware, I don't see myself having any problem using Unity, or even GNOME Shell. To me, neither of those are more trouble than using E17 or AwesomeWM or whatever. Once I see how things are done, it's all just Linux.

But whether I'm using Unity or GNOME Shell or anything, I'll still add Dolphin from KDE! :) It's still my favorite file manager, by far.

tough stretch

Tough loss for the Michigan State Spartans against Notre Dame last week, and a tough stretch coming up.

After hosting Central Michigan today, they play at Ohio State. They get a bye week before hosting Michigan, then they host Wisconsin, then at Nebraska.

Nebraska might have a slightly tougher Big Ten schedule than MSU since the Huskers also face Penn State; but Nebraska doesn't face Illinois, and the Illini might turn out to be better than Penn State this year.

But I don't think anybody has a tougher four-game stretch in the conference than what the Spartans will face. Ohio State was ranked, and probably will be again once they get all their players back, and the other three are all ranked teams. Those four games will make or break the Spartans' season.

Heck, the UofM and Ohio State games will make or break the Spartans' season! Losing to Notre Dame was bad enough, but lose to UofM and it's back to being little sister; lose to Ohio State, and it's back to being irrelevant. MSU needs to win those two games in the worst way.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


"The best Linux distro of 2011!"

OK, that's an interesting article, and the comments that follow are interesting as well, but...

The title misleads since they're only comparing six distros: Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, Arch, and OpenSUSE.

And, "best" is so... subjective. Who can say which is "best" for a given individual? Except for "Performance," where they showed a chart of boot times at startup, folks will argue about every comparison they made in the article; and even the boot times at startup depend on different things, like which desktop you've installed and so forth. They found openSUSE (with KDE) to be the fastest, but I wondered if it would really boot faster than Debian with Xfce, for example. And boot times would certainly vary depending on the amount of RAM you have, right?

Some of the things they said in the article were inaccurate, incomplete, or simply wrong. But the article is sure to spark a lot of debate in the Linux community, where the "best" Linux distro is usually "the one I'm using right now."

With six distros running here, and a couple of different releases of three of those distros, and with some long-term experience with a few others, my opinion is that there is no "best" Linux distro. Each one has its pros and cons; sometimes I feel like I could list a bunch of distros on a wall, blindly throw a dart at it to pick a distro, do a little tweaking, and walk away happy.

Besides, they didn't even mention Mepis or PCLinuxOS. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

water on mars

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Something cool from -- The Planetarium:

I guess this is supposed to be for Firefox, but here I've got it running in Google Chrome. A screen shot from AwesomeWM in Debian Squeeze:

No Pluto, though. :(

You click on a planet to get some info:

more awesome stuff

Of the DEs/WMs I use, AwesomeWM is easily the most difficult to configure -- I still don't understand everything that's going on in the config file, ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua -- but once it's set up it might be the best for doing a lot of work with several application windows open.

I really haven't been using Awesome enough to have acquired a good understanding of all of the things I can do with it. I log into an Awesome session perhaps once every two weeks or so.

It's the only "tiling window manager" I've had much experience with. There are like 9 different layouts to choose from, but I've edited my config file to use only 5 of them -- max, floating, tile, spiral, and magnifier -- and I use the first one, max, almost all the time. Maybe that defeats the purpose of using a tiling window manager, but I'm a rookie, so that's my excuse.

The max layout simply maximizes each application window. The floating layout is more like what folks are used to from other DEs/WMs in that you can move the windows around. I like the tile and spiral layouts because I can get a good look at each open window, and it's nice how the magnifier layout brings the active window (okay, "client" in Awesome talk) to the forefront.

The icon at the top right shows which layout you're using, if you know which layout each icon image represents.

A nice thing about is AwesomeWM is that, like Fluxbox, you can tab application windows. Another feature is that an application window (client) can have more than one tag (sorta like virtual desktops), kinda like having the same window open on desktop #3 as well as on desktop #1. Useful sometimes.

Further, different tags can have different layouts, so I can be using the max layout on tag (desktop) 1, and the magnifier layout on tag 3, for example.

I'm sure that in my comments here I'm getting some of the terminology messed up, but that's okay, I'll get better at it. For now, here's the order of my layouts, from the ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua file (left-clicking on the layout button at the upper right changes the layout in Awesome; right-clicking on it takes you backwards through the layouts):

layouts =

And here are some screen shots showing some of the different layouts I've been using, in the same order as above (note the layout icon in the upper right corner):

"max" -- my default layout:

"floating," with the gedit window dragged over to the side a bit:

"tile," with a view of all open windows:

"spiral" -- kinda messy:

"magnifier" -- here, the active window (client) is brought to the forefront:

And, finally, another view of the open desktop, for your viewing pleasure:

Not bad for a neophyte, right? :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

when fsck runs at boot

Sometimes when you boot into Linux,  fsck runs and checks this or that filesystem (partition). This is a good thing, even though sometimes you wish it wouldn't because you're in a hurry!  You can see which filesystems will be checked at boot time by looking at the file /etc/fstab.

Partition info is shown in /etc/fstab under these columns: file system, mount point, type, options, dump, pass. According to man fstab, the numbers under the last column (pass) determine the order in which filesystem checks are done at boot time.

The entry for the root filesystem should have a "1" under the "pass" column. Other filesystems will have a "2" under this column; man fstab says, "Filesystems within a drive will be checked  sequentially,  but  filesystems  on  different drives  will  be checked at the same time to utilize parallelism available in the hardware."

If there's a "0" under the "pass" column, or if there's nothing present there, then fsck assumes that the filesystem does not need to be checked.

fsck will run at boot time after the filesystem has been mounted a set number of times, or if that number hasn't been reached, after a set time interval. For ext2, ext3, and ext4 partitions, you can find a bunch of info about a filesystem, including last mount time, mount count, maximum mount count (before fsck runs), last time checked, check interval, and next scheduled check (according to the check interval) by using the tune2fs and/or dumpe2fs commands.

The following two commands output mostly the same info (see man tune2fs and man dumpe2fs) -- I can use either of them for getting info about the partition at sda7 in Debian Squeeze (run as root):

#  tune2fs -l /dev/sda7

#  dumpe2fs -h /dev/sda7

Piping either of these commands into grep, with the -i flag (to ignore case), gives me the output relating only to the info I'm looking for in this situation:

#  tune2fs -l /dev/sda7 | grep -i 'mount count'
Mount count:              5
Maximum mount count:      24

#  tune2fs -l /dev/sda7 | grep -i 'check'
Last checked:             Fri Jul 29 21:52:37 2011
Check interval:           15552000 (6 months)
Next check after:         Wed Jan 25 20:52:37 2012

Or I can use egrep to get the above info all from one command:

#  tune2fs -l /dev/sda7 | egrep -i 'mount count|check'
Mount count:              5
Maximum mount count:      24
Last checked:             Fri Jul 29 21:52:37 2011
Check interval:           15552000 (6 months)
Next check after:         Wed Jan 25 20:52:37 2012


#  dumpe2fs -h /dev/sda7 | egrep -i 'mount count|check'
dumpe2fs 1.41.12 (17-May-2010)
Mount count:              5
Maximum mount count:      24
Last checked:             Fri Jul 29 21:52:37 2011
Check interval:           15552000 (6 months)
Next check after:         Wed Jan 25 20:52:37 2012

Monday, August 1, 2011

pipe menus

Thanks to this article, I recently found out about Openbox pipe menus.

For more info, see these Openbox wiki articles:

I like the SysInfo pipe menu:

To add the “SysInfo” pipe menu in Openbox in Ubuntu Lucid, I downloaded from (see the System Information section). I created the directory ~/.config/openbox/scripts and moved into it. Going by the notes in the scritpt, I edited ~/.config/openbox/menu.xml, adding the following line:

<menu execute="~/.config/openbox/scripts/" id="sysinfo-menu" label="SysInfo"/>

I placed that line in the menu between the obmenu and entries. Then I edited the script as follows to reflect Lucid's partitions:

MountPoint1=$(echo /dev/sdb5)
MountPoint2=$(echo /dev/sdb6)

Made the script executable, then did a restart from the Openbox menu, and the pipe menu worked.

I haven't yet found any other pipe menus that I'd like to add, but there are many of them that other people have created, and of course you can create your own. Here's a post about them at the PCLinuxOS forums, by forum member "menotu."


It's funny, no matter how much I enjoy KDE4 or Unity, it doesn't take anything away from how I feel when I log into an Openbox or Xfce session. I can go either way; I enjoy using Openbox as much as anything else. Even if I successfully install Ubuntu 12.04 next year and I'm able to run Unity on my main pc, I'm sure I'll be adding Openbox; and I'll certainly be running Xfce in other distros. There simply isn't any one Linux DE or WM that I like better than all others, so I'm glad that I don't have to stick with just one.

Openbox in Ubuntu Lucid (using xfce4-panel):

Thursday, July 28, 2011


This one's been posted already at a lot of different blog sites, but it's worth repeating:

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

-- George R. R. Martin, spoken by one of his characters in A Dance With Dragons.

For a short review on A Dance With Dragons, see:,,20509545,00.html

present windows - all desktops

In Mepis 11, I have KDE4's screen edges set so that I can move the cursor to the bottom right corner to bring up the desktop grid. This is quite useful for taking a look at what's on each virtual desktop and moving quick to a different desktop.

But I have the top left corner set to "Present Windows - All Desktops." This one gives me a look at all open application windows, and of course I can click on any one of them to go to that window.

That's just a tool to use in addition to the desktop grid and the panel's Task Manager. Here's the Screen Edges GUI used to set it up (System Settings > Window Behavior > Screen Edges):

USB flash drive synonyms

Some terms that folks use to refer to a USB flash drive:

- jump drive
- memory stick
- USB memory key
- thumb drive
- pen drive
- USB stick
- pocket drive
- disk on key
- USB key
- data stick
- finger stick
- keychain drive
- key drive
- memory key

f15 (gnome3) from flash drive

After spending some time using Unity in Ubuntu Natty, I wanted to take a look at GNOME 3 in Fedora 15. I downloaded the Fedora-15-i686-Live-Desktop.iso and verified the sha256sum, and then used a couple of different methods to create bootable flash drives.

First, I used MultiSystem, which I already have installed in Ubuntu Lucid. Very easy to use, and the live session booted up fine.

Next, I installed unetbootin in Mepis 11, and used that to create the flash drive. unetbootin was also surprisingly easy. Fedora 15 is not listed as one of the Fedora versions supported by unetbootin, but everything worked fine.

I think that in either case, the flash drive needs to be formatted to FAT32. The Linux dd command is also mentioned as an easy way to create bootable flash drives, but I haven't tried that one yet.

Now, for some screen shots of Fedora 15's GNOME 3 version (which is the main version), from the unetbootin live session.

Here's the desktop with a wallpaper that's very close to the default wallpaper, except with some decoration in the lower right:

Clicking on "Activities" in the upper left corner brings up the menu. Here's the System Tools menu:

Looks like you can't do much desktop configuration without installing some things like gnome-tweak-tool, but you can do some basic things from the live session.

Here's a shot of some kind of bug that I've seen a few times in the live sessions:

I haven't bothered to research that yet.

I'm not crazy about the way GNOME 3 does workspaces; it's different, but it works for getting around. You have to go to "Activities" for the workspaces to show up along the right side of the screen, or to even change workspaces using the mouse. They call them "dynamic workspaces." The desktop starts out with one workspace; if you start an application, you get the workspace that the application starts in plus one empty workspace. Each time you start an application in an empty workspace, you end up with another emply workspace. The dock along the left side starts out with big, juicy icons, but they become smaller when you have more applications running.

I felt that the workspace grid in Unity and desktop grid in KDE4 are better ways to deal with workspaces than how things are done in GNOME 3, but maybe "dynamic workspaces" just takes some getting used to.

Here's a shot of the desktop with a wallpaper chosen from Fedora 15's default collection:

The crash in the gvfs-1.8.1-1.fc15 package occurred again and again during my live sessions, so that's a concern. Another problem was that I was unable to change the time on the clock at the top and make it stick. Those and the fact that configuration options were limited might not be issues in a hard drive installation.

The system felt fast and responsive; the menu was fairly easy to get around, but I didn't like the fact that you had to go to "Activities" to do just about anything with the mouse, including opening up applications. The search tool that shows up in the upper right in "Activities" is nice, but using it to find and open up apps requires using the keyboard.

Fedora 15 came with Firefox 4.0.1, which is already old (!). There was no office suite with the live CD .iso.

The lack of minimize/maximize buttons for applications struck me as odd, but double-clicking at the top of an application window toggles between the two modes, and right-clicking in the same place brings up more options. You can drag windows from one workspace to another using the workspaces thing along the right side when in "Activities."

My initial impression is that GNOME 3 is not as easy for getting things done as Unity, but other folks feel differently, and perhaps my opinion will change over time. Also, I think that Unity looks better -- less childish, more attractive. But that's a matter of opinion, too.

I'm in no hurry to use GNOME 3, and what I've seen from these live sessions doesn't inspire me to do a hard drive installation of Fedora 15's main version (I already have the KDE spin installed), but I figure that GNOME 3 will improve and that a lot of people will be happy with it and that I'll be fine using it whenever I get around to installing it.

u3 -- gone!

In Ubuntu Lucid, I installed u3-tool and used it to remove the U3 stuff from a Memorex TravelDrive flash drive. Check man u3-tool for more info. u3-tool is also available from the Debian repos.

I inserted the flash drive. Then, I checked System > Administration > Disk Utility. The drive was shown at /dev/sdc and the volume at /dev/sdc1.

I ran the following commands, which basically just gave me a look at things:

steve[~]$  sudo u3-tool -i /dev/sdc1 
Total device size:   1.88 GB (2017984512 bytes) 
CD size:             4.09 MB (4292608 bytes) 
Data partition size: 1.88 GB (2013691904 bytes) 
steve[~]$  sudo u3-tool -h

u3-tool 0.3 - U3 USB stick manager 

Usage: u3-tool [options]  

-c                Change password 
-d                Disable device security 
-D                Dump all raw info(for debug) 
-e                Enable device security 
-h                Print this help message 
-i                Display device info 
-l     Load CD image into device 
-p      Repartition device 
-R                Reset device security, destroying private data 
-u                Unlock device 
-v                Use verbose output 
-V                Print version information 

For the device name use: 
  '/dev/sda0', '/dev/sg3' 

According to some tips I found in an Ubuntu forums thread, the output at the end of that second command shows the devices names that should be used.

So, I ran the following command:

steve[~]$  sudo u3-tool -p 0 /dev/sg3 

WARNING: Loading a new cd image causes the whole device to be whiped. This INCLUDES 
 the data partition. 

Are you sure you want to continue? [yn] y 

So, I opened GParted and saw that all that was left was a FAT16 partition (1.88 GB) and about 4 MB unallocated. I unmounted the FAT16 partition and then resized it to take up the rest of the drive.

Next, I took a look at things again with this command:

steve[~]$  sudo u3-tool -i /dev/sdc1 
Total device size:   1.88 GB (2017984512 bytes) 
CD size:             0.00B (0 bytes) 
Data partition size: 1.88 GB (2017984512 bytes)

So, u3-tool worked and the U3 part is gone -- yay!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

changing workspaces in unity

One of the big complaints about Ubuntu's Unity is that there's no workspace pager on the panel to quickly switch workspaces. There's the Workspace Switcher on the Unity launcher, but a common complaint about it is that using it to change workspaces requires too many clicks -- for example, a click on the Workspace Switcher item to bring up the workspace grid, and then a double-click on the workspace you want to move to.

However, in Unity there are a few different ways of moving to different workspaces:

- Using the Workspace Switcher alone, I've found that once the grid is showing, a right-click instead of a double-click is an easier way to move to the workspace you want to go to.

- I installed the Workspace Indicator applet (found out about it at With this applet, two clicks takes you to the workspace you want to go to; or, you can use the mouse wheel to change workspaces.

- The ctrl+alt+arrowkeys combo works nicely for moving to different workspaces.

- You can set up the mouse wheel to take you to different workspaces (if the desktop is visible and the application window is not maximized). I did this by going to CompizConfig Settings Manager > Desktop section > Viewport Switcher > Desktop-based Viewport Switching and setting "Move Next" to Button5 and "Move Previous" to Button4.

- The Super+s keystroke also brings up the Workspace Switcher. Convenient in certain situations.

- Finally, I set up a desktop edge to bring up the Workspace Switcher by going to CompizConfig Settings Manager > Desktop section > Expo > Bindings tab. "Expo edge" is disabled by default, but if you click on the "Engage wall expo mode edge binding" button (the button will be marked "Disabled" but you can see what it's called when the cursor is hovering over it) you can set the binding to whatever edge you choose. With this set, changing workspaces requires only moving the cursor to your set edge and right-clicking on the desktop you want to move to.

Even all these options won't make some people happy. Some folks simply want a workspace pager. In Ubuntu Natty, those folks could always go to Control Center > Startup Applications, create an entry for gnome-panel to start at the beginning of a session, and simply add the Workspace Switcher to the panel. Installing something like xfce4-panel or AWN (Avant Window Navigator) should also work fine -- once installed, just add a workspace pager to one of those, if one isn't present by default.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

unity quicklists

You can create quicklists for Unity's launcher buttons to make it easier to get to certain tasks and applications. To get an idea of the kinds of things that can be done, visit this web page at or do a web search using the search terms unity quicklist.

In Ubuntu Natty, I created a couple of launcher buttons that when I right-click on them show some of my favorite applications. The first thing I had to do was create the directory ~/.local/share/applications.

I'll show how I created a Graphics button containing a couple of applications, KSnapshot and Geeqie. To begin, I created the graphics.desktop file using the following command:

$ gedit ~/.local/share/applications/graphics.desktop

The contents of that file:

[Desktop Entry]

[KSnapShot Shortcut Group]

[Geeqie Shortcut Group]

The order of the list of shortcuts on the "X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=" line determines the order that they'll appear when you right-click on the button. If you have other "shortcut groups" defined below that line, only the ones in the "X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=" line will appear when you right-click on the button.

Once I created the file, I simply drag-and-dropped the file from Dolphin onto the launcher.

If you make changes to the .desktop file, you'll have to log out and log back into your Unity session.

A couple of shots to show how it turned out:

Here's the entire desktop, showing my "Utilities" button with its quicklist opened up:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

great, if it works

"The mammoth 800-plus meter (2625 ft) tall tower will instantly become one of the world's tallest buildings [...] The Arizona tower will be a staggering 800 metres or so tall - just 30 meters shorter than the colossal Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest man-made structure. To put that in context - it will stand more than double the height of the Empire State building in New York City, and it'll be as much as 130 meters in diameter at the top."

Sounds good! Let's hope it works out.

EnviroMission plans massive solar tower for Arizona

"The sun beats down on a large covered greenhouse area at the bottom, warming the air underneath it. Hot air wants to rise, so there's a central point for it to rush towards and escape; the tower in the middle. And there's a bunch of turbines at the base of the tower that generate electricity from that natural updraft."

More from the article:

    The advantages of this kind of power source are clear:
  • Because it works on temperature differential, not absolute temperature, it works in any weather;
  • Because the heat of the day warms the ground up so much, it continues working at night;
  • Because you want large tracts of hot, dry land for best results, you can build it on more or less useless land in the desert;
  • It requires virtually no maintenance - apart from a bit of turbine servicing now and then, the tower "just works" once it's going, and lasts as long as its structure stays standing;
  • It uses no 'feed stock' - no coal, no uranium, nothing but air and sunlight;
  • It emits absolutely no pollution - the only emission is warm air at the top of the tower. In fact, because you're creating a greenhouse underneath, it actually turns out to be remarkably good for growing vegetation under there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

more unity screen shots

Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty), after a little bit of tweaking: