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.