Saturday, January 29, 2011


The more things change, the more things stay the same.

In the Linux world, it seems there's always been a very vocal segment expressing dislike or even hatred of particular desktop environments or distros. GNOME folks hated KDE. KDE folks hated GNOME. Debian folks hated Ubuntu. Criticism and insults constantly flew back and forth, aimed at users, developers, and the DEs or distros themselves.

Kind of sad, really. And, sadly, it continues with the emergence of KDE4. A good number of users can't stand it. KDE4 and its users and developers are barraged with criticism and insults.

It's the Linux way.

Often, upon closer inspection, things are not as good as they once seemed, and not as bad as they once seemed. Formerly quite KDE-centric, I eventually found that I actually liked GNOME; it wasn't the awful DE that so many people were describing it as. I began to see why many people preferred GNOME over KDE, even though at one time it seemed obvious to me that KDE was vastly superior to GNOME.

While some former KDE 3.5 users can't stand KDE4, I've come to enjoy using it more than any other DE; the venom being hurled at KDE4 looks, to me, like a twist on an old theme. Instead of hating everything GNOME, many former KDE 3.5 users now hate everything KDE4.

In the end, as always, you have to go by what you see in front of you. I have KDE 3.5, KDE4, GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, and more installed on various distros on my system; I regularly go back and forth, from one DE or WM to the next. When I log into KDE4, I see a DE that looks great, works great, and is very enjoyable to use.

In the end, just as it didn't matter what GNOME-haters said, it doesn't matter what KDE4-haters say. What matters is what happens when I sit down to my computer -- how I feel, what I experience, what I see. Just because someone else doesn't like something doesn't mean that I won't, either.

Some say Linux is all about choice; but with all that choice comes a lot of rabid infighting. Perhaps the bickering spurs eventual improvement in the development of desktop environments and distros, but it continues to be, in my mind as well as in the minds of others, an ugly and unfortunate aspect of Linux -- but one that never goes away.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

ubuntu ppa for xfce 4.8

If you use Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid) or Mint 9 (Isadora) and are interested in trying the new Xfce 4.8, there's a PPA for it:

more on screen edges

A follow-up to my "screen edges" entry from 1-14-11:

The "screen edges" feature is one of those things in KDE4 that I use quite often.  I understand that it's also a feature in Compiz, but I don't know anything about Compiz.  I've also read about a window manager called pekwm that supposed to have customizable screen edges actions.  I understand GNOME 3 also has "screen edges."

I found an article that mentions Brightside.  That might be something good for me to try in GNOME, in Squeeze and/or Ubuntu.  I've read that Brightside also works in Xfce and possibly in Openbox.  Brightside actually looks better than what KDE4 has because in KDE4 you have to choose from a list of actions for your screen edges.  Looks like Brightside allows you to make custom actions.

There's another screen edge action in KDE4 that I haven't seen elsewhere but that comes in very handy here, where you "grab" a maximized window at the top edge, which changes it to a smaller, re-sizable window that you can drag around the screen or over to an adjacent desktop.  You can maximize a window by dragging it back up to the top edge.

Edit:  I tried Brightside in Debian Squeeze, in GNOME, installed via Synaptic.  It works fine; my only complaint is that there's no Linux manual page for it.  To set it up, run brightside-properties from the command line; that opens up a settings GUI.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Yesterday was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  A couple of nice finds from out there in internet land:

An NPR piece about Clarence Jones, who helped draft the "I Have a Dream" speech.  The piece includes excerpts from Jones' book, Behind the Dream.  I want that book!

- Alex Haley's 1965 Playboy interview with King.

Xmarks acquired by LastPass

Some notes under "Support" at the XmarksForChrome page:

Xmarks 1.0.3 [released 1/16/2011]
- Some users saw an error in Compare in their bookmark syncing with 1.0.1, we believe this to be resolved in 1.0.3.
Xmarks 1.0.1 [released 1/16/2011]
- Xmarks is under new management -- LastPass acquires Xmarks
- LastPass' password sync is now preferred LastPass Password Manager
- If download of profile fails, revert to previous profile.
- A number of missing labels on radio dialogs fixed.
- Invalid username/password error is now properly shown instead of a generic error message.

Looks like Xmarks itself will still be free to use in Linux.  I have no use for a web-based password manager, so LastPass Password Manager is out of the question.

From the announcement about the acquisition:

Xmarks is transitioning to a "freemium" business model, the same model that allowed us to grow into a thriving, profitable business. The browser add-on and the vast majority of what users have enjoyed will remain free. Users can then opt to purchase Xmarks Premium for $12 per year, which includes new enhanced features like Android and iPhone mobile phone apps, priority support, and more. The Xmarks and LastPass Premium offerings are also available bundled together at a reduced subscription rate of $20 per year. For current LastPass Premium users, this means you can upgrade today for only $8 more per year.

cleaning up my gmail

I got kinda tired of my messy Gmail.  I had tons of messages in my inbox, tons of labels, just seemed like I had stuff all over the place.

I went to Settings > Labs and installed a few tools.  Here's how Gmail describes them:

Hide read labels - The visible labels in the navigation bar will be hidden under the 'more' menu when they don't contain any unread conversations.

Nested Labels - Manage your email by sorting it into a hierarchy of labels. Add slashes (/) to label names to express inheritance. For example, if you want a Home label with two child labels named Kids and Shopping, create the three following labels: Home, Home/Kids and Home/Shopping.

Then, I spent some time cleaning out my inbox, creating some nested labels and switching things around.  I adjusted some things on the main page, like collapsing the "Invite a Friend" section and the Chat section.

This looks better (too bad I didn't take a "before" shot!):

Here's a list of the other Gmail Labs stuff that I have enabled; again, the descriptions are provided by Gmail:

Create a Document - Allows you to create a Google Document from an email conversation or a new blank document if your keyboard shortcuts are enabled by hitting 'g' then 'w'.

Default Text Styling - Would you prefer Times New Roman to Arial, or perhaps large text to small text, in the e-mails you send out? Enable this lab, head over to the 'General' tab on the 'Settings' page, and change the default text styling to better suit your preferences.

Sender Time Zone - Should I reply to this mail or just call the guy? Ooops… it's 1 am. Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb…

Undo Send - Oops, hit "Send" too soon? Stop messages from being sent for a few seconds after hitting the send button.

Monday, January 17, 2011

more facebook concerns

If you put stuff like your address and phone number in Facebook, you might want to take a look at New privacy concerns for Facebook over phone numbers, addresses.

Or just delete your Facebook account.

broadway jets

Of the teams left in the NFL playoffs, I'm more of a Steelers fan than any other, but I like how the Jets are adding to the fun of the playoffs.  They aren't trying to be politically correct, that's for sure.  You either want someone to shut their mouths or you're enjoying watching to see if anyone can shut their mouths!

I don't really like trash-talking in sports, but in this case it does takes gall (and some balls) to get up there talk smack when you're about to face Tom Brady and the Patriots, and then go out and actually beat 'em.  Joe Namath would be proud.


This one seems a bit odd to me:, a minimalist "online writing workspace," as they call it.

The idea is that the navigation bar at the top of most editors is distracting for writers; QuietWrite gets rid of the navigation bar and gives you what they call a "peaceful online editor."  Here are some links to some recent reviews:

The interface lets you "publish" your writings, like a blog, or upload your writing to, or you can just keep your writing stored but unpublished.  But you can also use the interface without even logging in -- just click on the "Start Writing" button.

If you're interested, be sure to check out the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy to make sure you're comfortable with the app.

I've never felt that any editor's interface was particularly distracting, and I have a hard time understanding the need or usefulness of this application.  Normally, when I need to do some writing and have it available online, I just put it in a Gmail draft or use Google Docs (when I'm not writing directly to this blog).

In either case, I'm not comfortable with putting any real personal stuff out there in "the cloud," and I don't feel any differently about using QuietWrite.

But I can see where some people might like it; I can see where it could come handy for some folks.  And the interface does seem soothing and calming.  Maybe there's something to it!

Yet, isn't all that stuff at the top of the browser window also distracting?

¡dos años!

In a couple of weeks, it will have been two years since I started my blog!

298 posts.  An average of about 12 posts per month.

I'll never be up there with my pal ComputerBob.  He makes sure to post something at his site every day!

And I don't know how many people read the stuff I write, but I know that links to my pages show up in Google searches, so people who are searching on topics that I've written about might stumble upon my blog.

I basically started it as an outlet, so that I wouldn't bore my friends so much with emails about Linux, sports, etc.  I still bore them with that stuff just as much as ever, I'm afraid.

But it's been a relaxing venture, and a fun one.  It doesn't matter to me how many people read it, even though I do hope that a few people enjoy it or find something helpful or useful in it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

nfl playoffs

The NFL, where they play the games on the field, not on paper.

Check out this BCS-style NFL scenario:  Since New England finished 14-2 and Atlanta finished 13-3 in the regular season, easily the best in their respective conferences, they would play each other for the mythical NFL championship.

Oops...  both of them got put out?  You mean #1 and #2 in the regular season don't get a free ticket to the Super Bowl?  Novel concept, this playoff thing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

chromium in fedora 14

Commands I used to install Chromium web browser in Fedora 14:

$ su
# cd /etc/yum.repos.d/
# wget
# cd
# yum install chromium

I found those instructions at:

You can also accomplish the same thing by going to, clicking on "fedora-14," and pasting the contents of the next page into a new text file at /etc/yum.repos.d/fedora-chromium.repo.  Then install Chromium with yum or Yumex.

Friday, January 14, 2011

screen edges

I like to take advantage of KDE4's screen edges settings.  In PCLinuxOS, I access the configuration tools from the main menu:

System Settings > Workspace Appearance and Behavior > Window Behavior > Screen Edges


Configure Your Desktop > Workspace Appearance and Behavior > Window Behavior > Screen Edges

In the Screen Edges module, in the Active Screen Edges section, I set the behavior of the screen when the cursor hits the corners of the screen.

Upper left and Lower left (as shown above):  Present Windows - All Desktops

With this setting, moving the cursor to either of the corners on the left side gives me a spiral tile view of each of the apps I have open:

Upper right:  Show Dashboard

This brings up my widget dashboard:

Lower right:  Show Desktop

That one, of course, toggles between minimizing/maximizing all windows.

I left the Window Management section at the defaults.  In the Other Settings section, I use the "Only When Moving Windows" setting for "Switch desktop on edge."  That's nice for dragging windows to other destkops.

Monday, January 3, 2011

fedora 14

Prior to last week, the only .rpm distro I'd installed and used was PCLinuxOS, but I've had my eye on Fedora, Mandriva, and openSUSE for a long time.

I finally downloaded the Fedora 14 KDE live CD.  It ran fine on my hardware, so I decided to install it, adding it to my multi-boot set-up.

Fedora 14 looks great!  Most of my experience with package managers has come with apt-get (and Synaptic), so I'm still learning my way around yum and its front-ends, KPackageKit and Yumex.  And I had to do a fair amount of tweaking to get everything in my multi-boot set-up working smoothly.

But the system was just about ready to go out of the box.  They didn't include OpenOffice on the live CD, so I installed OOo Writer and OOo Calc.  I wasn't crazy about the default appearance, but I tweaked KDE4 to make things look more comfortable.

I enabled the rpmfusion free and non-free repos and then installed codecs so I could play .mp3 files.

KDE4 desktop effects didn't work out of the box on my hardware.  I checked the name of my graphics drive:

$ lspci | grep -i vga
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation NV41.1 [GeForce 6800] (rev a2)

Then, I made sure I had the latest kernel:

# yum update kernel*

Then I ran this:
# yum install kmod-nvidia xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-libs

Then I rebooted, and after that I was able to enable desktop effects.

I don't know how important SELinux is, but I found the pop-up messages to be annoying, so I disabled SELinux by editing /etc/selinux/config:


The default web browser was Konqueror.  Uncool.  Google Chrome and Chromium were not in the repos.  Also not cool.  So I went to the Google site and downloaded Chrome.

On the panel, I replaced the Task Manager widget with the Smooth Task widget, which I prefer.  Another little tweak was to install the Glassified theme (Workspace Appearance > Desktop Theme > “Get New Themes...”) so I could use the Glassified Analog Clock (Workspace Appearance > Desktop Theme > Details tab > change the analog clock to the Glassified Analog Clock theme).  The Glassified analog clock looks better than some of the other themes' clocks that I've tried.

My main concerns have to do with how things will look over the long term.  I want to see how well yum handles things and how well I come to like yum, KPackageKet, and Yumex in comparison to Synaptic.  And, since Fedora releases a new version about every six months, and the current version is supported only a month after the second version down the line is released (F14 will receive support until a month after F16 is released), I'm interested in seeing how I like Fedora after one or two new versions.

But they've put together a nice release.  I haven't been seeing any flaws or bugginess.

My Fedora 14 desktop:

My widget desktop: