Tuesday, February 28, 2012

tint2 in semplice

Semplice Linux, which uses the Openbox window manager, comes with the tint2 panel, which I'd never used, so I had to dig around a bit to learn how to configure it. I referred to the following:

- The tint2 wiki at http://code.google.com/p/tint2/wiki/.

- The ArchLinux wiki page on tint2 at https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Tint2#Applications_Menu_in_OpenBox3

The tint2 version in Semplice (from Debian Sid) is currently 0.11+svn20111022-2. Note the "svn" part; as noted in the tint2 wiki, "Configuration marked as SVN ONLY are not yet supported and could change in the next stable release."

In Semplice, the tint2 configuration file is ~/.config/tint2/tint2rc.

I discovered that after making changes to ~/.config/tint2/tint2rc, the following command will reload the panel:

$ killall -SIGUSR1 tint2

That saved me from having to log out and back in each time I made changes to the config file.

There's no “traditional” pager. In the "Taskbar" section of tint2rc, "taskbar_mode = single_desktop" shows only one taskbar (current desktop). "taskbar_mode = multi_desktop" provides pager-like capability, showing taskbars for each desktop. Clicking on any taskbar takes you to the corresponding desktop.

I put a little space between each part of the panel (Launcher area, Taskbar area, System Tray area, and Clock area), as well as between each taskbar. Most of the tint2 panel configuration is fairly well explained in the tint2 wiki, so for the most part I simply followed that to configure my panel.

In tint2rc, I think that "wm_menu = 1" in the "Panel" section means that wm_menu is enabled, so you can right-click on tint2 to make the Openbox menu pop-up (same as right-clicking anywhere else on the desktop).

There are no launchers on the panel by default, but according to the wiki you're supposed to be able to add launchers in the SVN version. Here's how I did it:

First, in the "Panel" section of ~/.config/tint2/tint2rc, I added the following line right after the "panel_size" line:

panel_items = LTSBC

That sets the order of the items on the panel: Launcher, Taskbar, System Tray, Battery Status, Clock.

Then I added a "Launchers" section below the "Panel Autohide" section. It looks like this:

# Launchers
launcher_icon_theme = SempliceDusk
launcher_padding = 5 0 5
launcher_background_id = 1
launcher_icon_size = 85
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/chromium.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/roxterm.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/pcmanfm.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/synaptic.desktop

For "launcher_icon_theme," I went to ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml and used the theme that was identified there (SempliceDusk).

For "launcher_padding," the three numbers stand for horizontal_left_right_padding, vertical_padding, and horizontal_spacing.

For "launcher_background_id," the number 1 is for which background to use (the first background defined in tint2rc).

I used 85 for "launcher_icon_size" because that's the size I saw in the example in the ArchLinux wiki.

Then I pointed the "launcher_item_app" lines to the appropriate .desktop files.

The launcher for PCManFM worked for launching the app, but the icon didn't work on the tint2 panel. I took a look at /usr/share/applications/pcmanfm.desktop, and the icon was defined as “system-file-manager.” I changed it to “/usr/share/icons/gnome/32x32/apps/system-file-manager.png,” and that gave me a usable icon.

So, my resulting tint2 panel has a launcher area, a taskbar area with four taskbars (one for each desktop -- on desktop #1 I have Chromium running; on #2 I have the file manager, a terminal window, and the tint2rc text file; on #3 I have an untitled text file; and #4, the active desktop in the screenshot, indicated by the darkened taskbar, is empty), a system tray area, and a clock area:

Following is my current ~/.config/tint2/tint2rc:

# Tint2 config file

# For information on manually configuring tint2 see http://code.google.com/p/tint2/wiki/Configure

# (This file edited by Steve.)

# Background definitions
# ID 1
rounded = 0
border_width = 0
background_color = #000000 25
border_color = #FFFFFF 100

# ID 2
rounded = 0
border_width = 0
background_color = #000000 75
border_color = #FFFFFF 100

# Panel
panel_monitor = all
panel_position = bottom center horizontal
panel_size = 90% 24
panel_items = LTSBC
panel_margin = 0 0
panel_padding = 0 0 8
panel_dock = 0
wm_menu = 1
panel_layer = top
panel_background_id = 1

# Panel Autohide
autohide = 0
autohide_show_timeout = 0.5
autohide_hide_timeout = 4
autohide_height = 20
strut_policy = follow_size

# Launchers
launcher_icon_theme = SempliceDusk
launcher_padding = 5 0 5
launcher_background_id = 1
launcher_icon_size = 85
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/chromium.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/roxterm.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/pcmanfm.desktop
launcher_item_app = /usr/share/applications/synaptic.desktop

# Taskbar
taskbar_mode = multi_desktop
taskbar_padding = 0 0 0
taskbar_background_id = 1
taskbar_active_background_id = 2

# Tasks
urgent_nb_of_blink = 7
task_icon = 1
task_text = 1
task_centered = 0
task_maximum_size = 200 32
task_padding = 4 1
task_background_id = 0
task_active_background_id = 0
task_urgent_background_id = 1
task_iconified_background_id = 0

# Task Icons
task_icon_asb = 100 0 0
task_active_icon_asb = 100 0 0
task_urgent_icon_asb = 100 50 50
task_iconified_icon_asb = 100 0 -40

# Fonts
task_font = Droid Sans 10
task_font_color = #FFFFFF 100
task_active_font_color = #FFFFFF 100
task_urgent_font_color = #4D77AD 100
task_iconified_font_color = #FFFFFF 43
font_shadow = 0

# System Tray
systray = 1
systray_padding = 5 0 0
systray_sort = right2left
systray_background_id = 1
systray_icon_size = 22
systray_icon_asb = 100 0 0

# Clock
time1_format = %a %d %b  %H:%M
time1_font = Droid Sans Bold 12
clock_font_color = #FFFFFF 100
clock_tooltip = Right-click to open Time Admin.
clock_padding = 0 0
clock_background_id = 1
clock_rclick_command = time-admin
clock_lclick_command = gsimplecal

# Tooltips
tooltip = 1
tooltip_padding = 5 2
tooltip_show_timeout = 0.5
tooltip_hide_timeout = 0
tooltip_background_id = 1
tooltip_font = Droid Sans 10
tooltip_font_color = #FFFFFF 100

# Mouse
mouse_middle = shade
mouse_right = none
mouse_scroll_up = toggle
mouse_scroll_down = iconify

# Battery
battery = 0
battery_low_status = 20
battery_low_cmd = notify-send "battery low"
battery_hide = 90
bat1_font = Sans 12
bat2_font = Sans 12
battery_font_color = #FFFFFF 100
battery_padding = 0 0
battery_background_id = 0

# End of config

Monday, February 27, 2012

dw on saline

Nice review of SalineOS 1.6 at this week's DistroWatch.

The author writes:

"I previously tried SalineOS about a year ago and my impression then was that it wasn't doing badly for a young project, but it didn't appear to have its niche carved out yet. With the arrival of the new 1.6 release I tried SalineOS again in the hopes the project had found a clear focus."

However, I've felt all along that the focus and direction of SalineOS was quite clear, as stated at the SalineOS "About" page:

The primary goal of the SalineOS project is to deliver a fast, lightweight, clean, easy to use and well doccumented operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Anyway, as someone who's been using SalineOS for over a year now, I thought that most of the review was spot-on. I haven't experienced the bug that the author mentioned where the keyboard layout changes to French. I agreed with his point about Saline's AutoUpdate tool: "The update button in the system tray works well enough, but given SalineOS' friendly approach to most things, I think it makes sense to put a graphical update tool in its place."

No mention was made of the fact that the AutoUpdate script uses aptitude instead of apt-get, and the author seemed unaware of the plans to not include Synaptic in SalineOS 2.0.

Overall, a fair review considering that the reviewer has used the distro for only a bit over one week.

One comment at DistroWatch said:

You never seem to mention if these packages are there or not

usb-mode switch

please in future do Not everyone has hardline or wifi

Of those packages, I found all but networkmanager-openvpn, networkmanager-vpnc, and parcelite installed or available via Synaptic. Instead of usb-mode switch, I found usb-modeswitch, so I assume that space was a typo.

google chrome in pclos

OK, to start out, I'm running PCLinuxOS fully updated from the 2010.07 installation I did about a year and a half ago, so I think that technically I'm at the current PCLOS 2012.02.

Synaptic in PCLOS has the Chromium web browser, which I've been happily using, but since it seems to have fallen a bit behind  -- as shown in Chromium's "About" window, at version 16.0.912.63 (Developer Build 113337 Linux) -- I decided to try installing google-chrome-beta.

Here's one of the things that bugs me about the PCLOS forums: In every forum thread I found where a user asked how to install Google Chrome, most of the replies went on about how installing from "outside sources" is "not advised," blah, blah. Very little in the way of helping a person who wants to do it anyway. The developer, Texstar, to his credit, did mention that the lsb package would need to be installed via Synaptic, and one other poster provided the command which I ended up using (see below).

If you dig around a little bit, you can find the beta channels for Google Chrome (see http://www.chromium.org/getting-involved/dev-channel). I downloaded google-chrome-beta_current_i386.rpm, which is listed as the one for "32-bit Fedora/OpenSUSE." The download went into my ~/Downloads directory.

First, I went to Synaptic and installed lsb, which brought in the following packages:

ed (1.5-1pclos2010)
glibc_lsb (2.3.6-2pclos2007)
lsb (4.0-1pclos2010)
lsb-core (4.0-1pclos2010)
pax (3.4-3pclos2007)
perl-CGI (3.45-10pclos2009)

Next, I ran su to get get root access, then cd'd into the Downloads directory and ran the following command:

# rpm -Uvh google-chrome-beta_current_i386.rpm

This worked, and I now have Google Chrome 18.0.1025.39 beta running in PCLOS. I didn't bother going back to the PCLOS forums and posting this information, as I'm sure the forum regulars there would rip me a new one. But for anyone who is willing to run the risk of installing Google Chrome in PCLOS from "outside sources," this worked for me.

Sometimes I really hate being told that doing something "is not advised."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a teacher

"A teacher is someone who is willing to learn things all over again with someone else..."

-- Debian User Forum member "sossego"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

xfce in mepis 11

Finally got around to installing Xfce in Mepis 11. Had a lot of fun setting it up and tweaking it.

I added Desktopnova to handle timed, automatic wallpaper changing. When I sat down to the computer this morning, this was the view on my desktop:

That's a shot of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque during the Balloon Fiesta. Magnificent!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


My "experiment" with Semplice Linux has me looking a lot more closely at the whole Debian Unstable (Sid) concept. I'm learning some things, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep things running. As I've mentioned, Semplice uses the "Unstable" repos.

Check out this page: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianUnstable

That page could scare anyone away from using Debian Unstable. Right after reading it, I installed apt-listbugs and apt-listchanges in Semplice. I also visited the Debian Weather page.

Here's a good piece of info I found at the wiki page mentioned above:

How do I backport a sid package to testing or stable?

Install the Debian source (and the development tools, especially debhelper, devscripts, and build-essential), and then build the package.

Step by step:

add a deb-src line for sid to your sources.list
apt-get update
apt-get build-dep PACKAGE_NAME
apt-get -b source PACKAGE_NAME

The resulting debs should be in the current directory and can be installed with dpkg -i the.deb.

That'll probably come in handy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


While playing around with Semplice Linux, I got a chance to try its default image viewer, Mirage.  Nice. I'll probably install it in my other distros as well, if possible.

Here's the Mirage web site: http://mirageiv.berlios.de/

Billed as "a fast and simple GTK+ image viewer, Mirage comes with its fair share of features, including cropping, flipping, rotating, resizing, zooming, taking screenshots, and more. It's available in the Debian Squeeze, Wheezy, and Unstable repos, and in the Ubuntu Hardy, Lucid, Maverick, Natty, Oneiric, and Precise repos. Also, I found it in the Fedora 16 repos. It doesn't bring in much in the way of dependencies, either.

Here's a screenshot, with the thumbnail pane open:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

semplice menu

The menu in Openbox in Semplice Linux 2.0.1 ("emily") is not the default Openbox menu, although you can copy that menu from /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml to ~/.config/openbox, edit it if necessary, and use that instead. You'll want to make a copy of the menu.xml file that's already there, in case you want to go back to using the Semplice menu.

The default ~/.config/openbox/menu.xml calls the "alan-gentree" menu, which is located at ~/.config/alan/tree.conf. I wanted to do two things with this menu: Add the Debian menu, and add a few application entries to the menu. Semplice forum member Eugenio (aka "g7") helped me with this.

For the Debian menu, first you have to make sure that the Debian menu package is installed (it was). Next, I added the following to the extensions area, right after the "[ext:desktop]" section:

## debian-menu
ext = __menu__
name = Debian
id = /Debian
icon = distributor-logo

Then I edited the "extensions" line of the "[cat:one]" section to add a spacer and "debianmenu" to the menu:

## First part of the main category:
##   apps: provides an easy way to startup popular programs like the
##         Web Browser and the Terminal Emulator
##   xdgmenu: Applications menu
##   places: Places menu
##   desktop: Workspaces menu
extensions = apps - xdgmenu places - desktop - debianmenu

Next, I had to go to ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml and find this section:

<!-- You can specify more than one menu file in here and they are all loaded,
       just don't make menu ids clash or, well, it'll be kind of pointless -->
    <!-- default menu file (or custom one in $HOME/.config/openbox/) -->
    <!-- system menu files on Debian systems -->

I changed it to this:

<!-- You can specify more than one menu file in here and they are all loaded,
       just don't make menu ids clash or, well, it'll be kind of pointless -->
    <!-- default menu file (or custom one in $HOME/.config/openbox/) -->
    <!-- system menu files on Debian systems -->

Next, here's how I set up the "[ext:apps]" section of ~/.config/alan/tree.conf to add PCManFM, Mousepad, and Synaptic to the menu:

## Display a list of common apps (Terminal Emulator and Web Browser)
ext = __itemlist__
count = 5

icon1 = terminal
item1_ex = x-terminal-emulator

icon2 = web-browser
item2_ex = x-www-browser

icon3 = pcmanfm
item3 = PCManFM
item3_ex = pcmanfm

icon4 = mousepad
item4 = Mousepad Text Editor
item4_ex = mousepad

icon5 = synaptic
item5 = Synaptic Package Manager
item5_ex = gksudo synaptic

So, here's my current Semplice desktop, showing the new menu:

touchpad off in openbox

The touchpad on my notebook annoys me. I prefer to use a mouse. To keep it turned off in Openbox in Semplice Linux, I added the following to my ~/.config/openbox/autostart.sh, right before the last line of the script:

#turn touchpad off
synclient TouchpadOff=1

Alternatively, the following command turns it off during the Openbox session:

$ synclient TouchpadOff=1

And, of course, to turn it back on, change the "1" to a "0" in the above command.

For a list of synclient settings:

$ synclient -l

And, finally, for more info, there's always man synclient.

gnome shell extensions update

Yesterday, I brought in a GNOME Shell upgrade (to in Fedora 16, so I decided to take a look at the GNOME Shell extensions on my system -- to see which ones might have been rendered incompatible by the upgrade, and to see which other ones I still might want to keep.

All of the extensions that I installed from the Fedora repos still work fine, of course. These include:

- alternative-status-menu (turned on)
- apps-menu (turn on, but hardly ever used)
- dock (turned off)
- icon-manager (turned off)
- user-theme (turned on)
- workspace-indicator (turned on, but hardly ever used)

As for the extensions that I installed from the GNOME Shell Extensions web site, one of them, Panel-Docklet, is no longer compatible. I removed it. I also removed the Window List Extension. Neither one of those are extensions that I've been actually using, anyway.

I added one very nice extension from the website, called Quit Button. This extension replaces the user name and status icon with a "quit" button.

There's no way to easily uninstall the extensions that you've installed from the web site; to get rid of them, I had to delete them from ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions.

One pleasant surprise was that the web site now works with Google Chrome, which, in Fedora 16, I have updated to version 18.0.1025.11 beta. Before, I had to access the web site using Firefox.

I still feel that I'm better off without much in the way of GNOME Shell extensions. I like the way GNOME Shell is set up, and there are only a few extensions that are helpful to me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Well, today I installed a new distro, called Semplice Linux 2.0.1 ("emily"), on my notebook. It's based on Debian Unstable, and comes with the Openbox window manager. This one originates from Italy.

2.0.1 dates from only January 20th. There's a pre-release available at the download page for the 3.0 Alpha 1, but I decided not to go for that. I chose the 32-bit .iso, but there's a 64-bit available.

In all the time I've been using Debian and Debian-based distros, I've stayed away from the Testing and Unstable branches. I've also stayed away from distros from places where English isn't the native language, with forums and documentation in mind.

But, something about this one attracted me. Maybe it was because I like Openbox. Maybe because Semplice is practically a brand new distro. I took a look at the forums, and what little documentation was out there, and it looked like there's enough support for an English speaker, so I decided to download the .iso.

I burned it onto a CD instead of to a flash drive. I booted into it, and it worked fine with my notebook. So, I decided to go ahead with the installation. Had nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon (well, I did, but...).

The installer was all text, but it was really easy. It seemed like one of the easiest installations I've done, and one of the quickest. Proves that there's no reason a text installer has to be difficult.

Let's see. Semplice, by default, comes with the Chromium web browser, the PCManFM file manager, and Gnumeric and AbiWord instead of LibreOffice. Openbox doesn't come with a panel, so they included the tint2 panel. And it comes with Synaptic.

And, one thing I haven't seen outside of the Ubuntu world (which includes Linux Mint), they use sudo by default instead of su, so there's only one password and the root account is disabled by default, like in Ubuntu.

The default desktop is plain. You right-click on the desktop for the menu, but other than the panel, there's nothing there.

I'm cool with that. I don't like desktop icons or any other type of clutter on my desktop.

I checked out the default repos. In /etc/apt/sources.list:

http://ftp.debian.org/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free

And in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/semplice.list:

deb http://switch.dl.sourceforge.net/project/semplice-linux/archive/ emily main non-free

deb-src http://switch.dl.sourceforge.net/project/semplice-linux/archive/ emily main non-free

I disabled the deb-src repo, as I won't be needing that.

I went to Synaptic to get the upgrades, and found 240 of them. Not surprising. I brought 'em all in, rebooted, and got down to exploring the system a little bit.

The distro ships with a few Xfce packages, like mousepad, xfburn, xfce4-power-manager, and xfce4-screenshooter. There's no pager for switching workspaces, but I found three other ways to do that -- by scrolling with the mouse wheel; ctrl+alt+(left or right) arrow key; or, by getting to a different desktop via the main menu, under "Desktops." The default terminal emulator is ROXTerm 1.22.2; I also found UXTerm and XTerm. It came with Exaile and GNOME MPlayer.

I haven't used PCManFM much in the past, but it seems like a nice file manager. I'd like some split-screen capability, but it has tabs -- very helpful.

I was happy to see that root access to files and folders was nicely built-in; in PCManFM, there's an option under Tools to "Open Current Folder as Root," and there's a root terminal in Semplice's main menu under Applications > Accessories.

By no means am I intending for this to be a distro review; if I did reviews, I certainly wouldn't do them on the first day after doing an installation. And I won't take the time to go through and test the various apps and to look for hardware issues (for example, I don't even use wireless, and I haven't tried using a printer with this installation).

It does look like a nice distro, though. I'd prefer to find something like this based on Debian Stable, but it'll be good for me to see how things go with something based on Sid. Should be interesting.

The Semplice home page: http://semplice-linux.org/

looking it up

Does anyone use an actual dictionary anymore? I opened one up about a week ago, only because I didn't have access to the internet at that moment.

If you want to look up a word these days, you can simply open up Google (or you favorite web browser) and type define: followed by the word you want to look up. With Google, you'll get something like this:

Couldn't be easier.

I can't imagine not having a nice dictionary in the home. That would seem like... almost a sin. But, do we really need them anymore? I don't know.

While there's something comforting to me about having a nice dictionary sitting on my bookshelf, these days that's about all it's doing -- sitting there.

There are tons of online dictionaries out there. Some popular ones:

- Mirriam-Webster
- Dictionary.com
- The Free Dictionary
- Cambridge Dictionaries Online
- Oxford Dictionaries

Wictionary looks like an interesting one. From Wikipedia:

Wiktionary (from the words wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in 158 languages. Unlike standard dictionaries, it is written collaboratively by volunteers, dubbed "Wiktionarians", using wiki software, allowing articles to be changed by almost anyone with access to the website.

Like its sister project Wikipedia, Wiktionary is run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Because Wiktionary is not limited by print space considerations, most of Wiktionary's language editions provide definitions and translations of words from many languages, and some editions offer additional information typically found in thesauri and lexicons. Additionally, the English Wiktionary includes Wikisaurus, a category that serves as a thesaurus, including lists of slang words, and the Simple English Wiktionary, compiled using the Basic English subset of the English language.

The goal of Wiktionary is to eventually define "all words in all languages."

Some other interesting web sites and pages:

- A list of common abbreviations at aresearchguide.com: http://www.aresearchguide.com/comabb.html
- The Urban Dictionary
- Logos

Cool stuff. Everything's there at our fingertips these days -- all anyone needs is an internet connection. Makes me wonder how all of this is affecting print dictionaries. Found this Telegraph article: Oxford English Dictionary 'will not be printed again':

The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the world’s most definitive work on the language, will never be printed because of the impact of the internet on book sales.

Sales of the third edition of the vast tome have fallen due to the increasing popularity of online alternatives, according to its publisher...

OUP [Oxford University Press] said it would continue to print the more familiar Oxford Dictionary of English, the single-volume version sold in bookshops...

Oh, well. Welcome to the Internet Age.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Keep an eye on New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin. This 6'3" guard, of Taiwanese descent, hails from Palo Alto, CA, where he helped Palo Alto H.S. to a 32-1 record and the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state title.

No heavy recruitment followed, so he ended up at Harvard (they don't offer athletic scholarships, by the way), where he made the All-Ivy League First Team two times.

Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft. He joined the Dallas Mavericks for their mini-camp and for Summer League games. The Golden State Warriors signed him for the 2010-11 season. While with the Warriors, Lin had three stints with the Warriors' D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. Each time, the Warriors called him back up.

The Warriors waived him on the first day of training camp following the 2011 NBA Lockout. The Houston Rockets claimed him off waivers, and waived him a few days later. Then the Knicks picked him up.

Through the first part of the season, Lin saw little playing time. Then, on February 4th against the New Jersey Nets, he was on the court for over 35 minutes, producing 25 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds -- all career highs. The Knicks won, 99-92.

On February 6th, against the Utah Jazz, Lin got the start in a 99-88 Knicks victory: 28 points, 8 assists. At the Washington Wizards two days later, he scored 23 points to go along with 10 assists.

A star was born. But the best was yet to come.

Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers came to town. Lakers' star Kobe Bryant made headlines by asking, "Who is this kid?" and saying "Well, he's got to deal with me now."


The Knicks beat the Lakers, 92-85. Lin scored (get this) 38 points and dished out 7 assists. He scored 20 points in the second half, and 11 in the 4th quarter.

And Kobe scored 34 points on 11 for 29 shooting. He had 10 rebounds, but only 1 assist.

Kobe Bryant now knows who Jeremy Lin is. “A great story,” Bryant said, later. “It’s a testament to perseverance and hard work. A good example for kids everywhere.”

Check out Adrian Wojnarowski's Yahoo Sports article, "Jeremy Lin: Even Kobe bows to his star power."

widen awesomewm menu

Looking at the Debian menu section of my AwesomeWM menu (in Debian Squeeze), you can see that some of the labels are cut off:

Even the first label in the main part of the menu (the one for "google-chrome") barely fits. Not really a big deal, and something that I've been simply ignoring for a long time. I was making sure to keep the labels in the main part of the menu short, though.

Well, someone at the Debian User Forums asked about this, so I decided to look into it. Turns out you can widen the menu. Mine now looks like this:

To do this, my first step was to check ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua to see which theme I was using. I found:

-- {{{ Variable definitions
-- Themes define colours, icons, and wallpapers (edited to look from the theme in ~/.config).

So, I opened ~/.config/awesome/themes/default/theme.lua and changed theme.menu_width from "100" to "175":

-- Variables set for theming the menu:
-- menu_[bg|fg]_[normal|focus]
-- menu_[border_color|border_width]
theme.menu_submenu_icon = "/usr/share/awesome/themes/default/submenu.png"
theme.menu_height = "15"
theme.menu_width  = "175"

Of course, a "restart" was necessary for the changes to take effect (menu > awesome > restart).

Mission accomplished.

fedora/rhel relationship

New Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron explains the relationship between Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux:

The Fedora Project is a global partnership of free software community members. The Fedora Project is sponsored by Red Hat, which invests in our infrastructure and resources to encourage collaboration and incubate innovative new technologies. Some of these technologies may later be integrated into Red Hat products. They are developed in Fedora and produced under a free and open source license from inception, so other free software communities and projects are free to study, adopt, and modify them.

Check out the Muktware interview with Bergeron: Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron: Fedora Is More Than Just Software.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

xmarks in chromium/chrome

I use the Chromium and Google Chrome web browsers across various Linux distros. Sometimes I use Firefox, too, but not so much anymore. I've been using Xmarks to synchronize my bookmarks in the different browsers, and in the different distros. Chromium, Chrome, and Firefox all have easy-to-install extensions (or add-ons) for Xmarks.

In Google Chrome, there's an Xmarks icon sitting at the top of the browser:

Right-click on it, and you have the following options:

Here are the four tabs in the Xmarks interface:

The bookmarks can also be exported to an HTML file. In Google Chrome, click on the "Customize" button, then navigate to Bookmarks > Bookmark Manager. In the Bookmark Manager, Organize > Export Bookmarks to HTML file. This is especially useful if you want to copy your bookmarks into a browser that have an Xmarks extension.

mr. big shot

L.A. Clippers guard Chauncy Billups has never gotten the recognition he deserves. Since he came into the NBA in '97, he's played for 7 different teams, including two stints with the Nuggets. For his career, his per game averages: 15.5 points, 5.5 assists, 1.0 steals. He's shot 41.6% from the field, 38.9% from three-point range, and 89.4% from the line.

Not jaw-dropping stats. But there's a reason why they call the guy "Mr. Big Shot." There's a reason why he's a 5-time all-star. There's a reason why teams end up mourning the day when they let Chauncy Billups go.

How did that work out for ya, Detroit, when you gave up Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson?

How much did Denver miss their home-town kid after they sent him to the Knicks?

Where are the Knicks now after letting Billups go? Think they've been enjoying watching Billups lead the Pacific Division-leading Clippers?

Unfortunately, none of us will get to see Billups with the Clippers for the rest of this season. Billups suffered a torn Achilles' tendon and he's out for the season.

The 35 year-old Billups vows to return from this injury, but this is a tough one. If he ever plays significant minutes in the NBA again, or even if he ever makes a roster again, it would be a remarkable come-back, to say the least.

Billups was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP with the Pistons, and since he left, they've never been the same. One of the best guards to ever play the game.

Nice haircut, too.

synaptic or usc?

Ubuntu no longer ships the Synaptic package manager by default, as of Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric), although Synaptic is still available in the repos. Instead, they include Ubuntu Software Center, which I have yet to try out.

The author of this article points out some differences between the two. He says that while Synaptic doesn't support purchasing paid software from the Ubuntu repos, it can do these things that Ubuntu Software Center can't:

- Fix Broken Packages
- Lock Package Versions (there might be a few packages that you don't ever want to upgrade, e.g. Grub in case of Wubi installs)
- Custom Filters for different kinds of packages
- Package Upgrades (both online and offline)
- Package Reinstallations
- Sort Packages by Status (e.g. automatically installed, manually installed, residual config, etc.)

The author continues, "Even the Section (category) wise sorting of packages in Synaptic is far better than Ubuntu Software Center, even though that is the main thing USC has been focusing on."

I have no interest in using Ubuntu Software Center, so when I install Ubuntu 12.04, one of the first things I'll do is install Synaptic.

Of course, Ubuntu users are still free to use apt-get from the command line. See the Ubuntu Community Documentation AptGetHowto page for details.

Monday, February 6, 2012

how it should be

The New York Giants secured a wild-card spot after finishing the regular season with a 10-6 record in 2007. They went on to beat the New England Partriots in the Super Bowl, 17-14.

The Arizona Cardinals finished the 2008 regular season at 9-7, and were only the second team to make it to the Super Bowl with only 9 regular season wins. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-23.

The Green Bay Packers finished the 2010 regular season at 10-6, and became only the second #6-seeded team to reach the Super Bowl, where they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25.

The Giants went 9-7 in the 2011 regular season, but beat the Patriots, 21-17 in the Super Bowl.

The NFL Playoffs is everything that the bowl system in college football is not. All of these were close games, but none of these match-ups would have happened under a BCS-style system. In the pros, a great regular season gets you into the playoffs, and can give you home-field advantage. But you still have to win in the playoffs to earn a spot in the Super Bowl. Upsets abound. The team that everyone thinks is the best team is not always a team that makes it to the Super Bowl -- or wins it.

In the NFL, every playoff game matters.

In college, only one post-season game matters. There is no true champion; there's only a "paper champion," because the particpants in the title game are decided on paper, not on the field.

This season, I enjoyed following college football during the regular season. And the conference championship games were interesting. But once that was over and the bowl season started, I completely lost interest in college football.

On the flip side, the NFL became more and more interesting as the regular season went on, then became more and more interesting during the playoffs, culminating in an intriguing match-up for the championship and a game that went down to the final play.

That's how championships should be decided. Isn't it?


I'm reading a very interesting book: The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. It's about the redwood trees on the West Coast, and the folks who climb them. Those trees are said to be the oldest living things on the planet.

The folks who climb them are driven by wanting to find the tallest one (they're difficult to measure), by studying the life in the canopies in the redwood forests, and by their love for these majestic trees.

Turns out there's a lot of stuff living up there, like in the canopies of rain forests. Plants, trees, etc., growing right out of the redwood trees' branches, way up high. Bizarre. There are areas up there between trunks growing out of the trees where soil has somehow collected, and stuff grows up there. The trees growing up there in those redwoods are mostly bonzai-type trees -- stunted, but living. At the time the book was written (it was published in 2007), it was like an unexplored world. Also, there are creatures up there that spend their entire lifetimes up there.

Some parts of the book are sad, because climbing big trees is dangerous, and folks fall. Talking about a fall of over 300 feet.

There used to be redwood forests throughout of the world, but most of 'em are gone; the remnants in California and Oregon are all that's left, and even those were hit hard by the logging industry.

The oldest ones are over two thousand years old. Before the time of Jesus Christ. The oldest Sequoia Redwood tree is said to be 3500 years old. In other words, as old as recorded human history; apparently, the earliest significant writing by humans dates from around that time.

I saw something saying that the tallest tree is "Hyperion," in California, at about 379 feet. But trees, of course, grow, and I'm not sure that people know which is the tallest at any given time. And it seems that climate change may be accelerating the growth, but hopefully pollution won't kill them.

This book is an example of how much we really don't know about the natural world. It's only been a short number of years since the ecosystems in those redwood canopies were discovered, and much of them is still not understood. And even though over 90% of the redwood forest are gone, some parts of the tiny remnants left along the West Coast are so vast and hard to reach that large portions remained undiscovered and not studied as recently as the date this book was published.

Another great book found at the thrift store. :)

one-man distro

Not sure what these will ultimately mean for PCLinuxOS, but its developer, the incredibly talented and hard-working Bill Reynolds (aka "Texstar") is taking a break for health reasons. I just found out about this post at the PCLOS forums, from January 25th:

Making some changes around here. The Dr. says no more PCLinuxOS for me for a while cuz I've been doing way too much and ran out of gogo juice. Sooo I'm turning over lots of duties to others. Neal and Old-Polack will be taking care of business and others in the community will be stepping up to handle packaging, ISO's and other goodies. Please be patient until everyone can get up to speed on things ok?

I'll continue dropping in on the forum from time to time, and helping the team if they have questions or need advise, but for now I'll be leaving the day to day management of PCLinuxOS to Neal, Old-Polack, and the rest of the team. Please treat them all with the kindness and respect you've always shown me. I'd appreciate it.

Thanks a lot!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

pclos documentation portal

PCLinuxOS KDE 2012.02 was recently released. Folks (like me) who already have the distro installed (going back, at least, to 2010.07), and who have been regularly updating, don't have to re-install or anything. Here's the release announcement.

One of the new things in 2012.02 is the PCLinuxOS Documentation Portal. If you're updating from a previous installation, you can get it by going to Synaptic and installing pclos-docuportal.

Once installed, it shows up in the main menu under Documentation > PCLinuxOS Documentation Portal and under Internet > PCLinuxOS Documentation Portal.

Starting it up runs a script that gives you a list of web sites where you can find PCLOS and Linux information. The script is located at /usr/bin/pclos-docuportal. When you select a web site and click the "OK" button, the web site opens up in Firefox (or your default web browser).

Here's what it looks like when you start pclos-docuportal:

These web sites could easily be bookmarked in your web browser, but I guess it's a nice touch to have them all collected in one easy-to-access spot. Looks like a very helpful thing for people who are new to PCLOS and/or Linux.

I found it interesting that a link to online man pages was included. It takes you to linuxmanpages.com. I personally prefer to use the man pages that are included with most Linux systems by default, but sometimes it's good to find man pages online; and, Texstar, the PCLOS developer, is not fond of man pages. As I recall, most (if any) man pages are not included in a default PCLOS installation, and you need to install the coreutils-doc package, and maybe the man-pages package.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

old GNOME 2

After spending some time with Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 (on my laptop) and GNOME Shell in Fedora 16, I've been saying that I won't miss GNOME 2 at all when I switch from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 and from Debian Squeeze to Debian Wheezy.

But, I've never met a DE or WM that I didn't like, especially after getting used to it, and the same applies to old GNOME 2. I'm finding that I still enjoy using it in 10.04 and in Squeeze, and I have to admit that there are a few things about it that I like better than in GNOME 3.

Only a few things, though.

One thing is that there's a lot to be said for the "traditional" panel set-up. I can't say that I miss gnome-panel in GNOME Shell, but I do wish that the GNOME Shell's top panel had some good configuration options.

And I'm not so thrilled with the new-look Nautilus file manager in GNOME 3. Well, I guess it's basically the same as the old Nautilus, but in trying to create a cleaner, more streamlined, more refined look, they got rid of the the toolbar that contains some useful buttons -- most importantly to me, the "up" for moving to the parent directory. But I guess that's minor stuff, in the end.

Here's Nautilus in Debian Squeeze, in GNOME 2:

And here's Nautilus in Fedora 16, in GNOME 3:

One thing I've decided after playing around with different file managers -- Dolphin in KDE, Thunar in Xfce, and Nautilus, Konqueror, emelFM2, among others -- is that there is no "best" file manager. It's all subjective, of course; it depends on what you like. I kinda prefer Dolphin; the toolbar is great, it has tabs (which are useful at times), and the Information panel on the right side is very helpful. Dolphin is still my favorite file manager.

But I've gained a new appreciation for Thunar, thanks to Anthony Nordquist, the SalineOS developer, and my ol' pal ComputerBob. Nordquist provided a script for adding several useful Thunar custom actions, and ComputerBob gave me some additional Thunar tips. Then I went back to Nautilus in both GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 and sorta rediscovered some things I could do with that file manager. So I guess it doesn't really matter which one I use; each one has some things (and is missing some things) that you won't (or will) find in another one.

So, maybe I will miss the old GNOME 2 a little bit, after all. It has served me well; I remember back when I first started with Linux, and I only liked KDE. It took me a while to get used to GNOME, but I finally became comfortable with it, and I really don't have much bad to say about it. Still, it's time to move on. I use GNOME Shell without trying to make it look like the old GNOME, and I have no interest in things like the Linux Mint projects, MATE and Cinnamon.

And, I love Xfce, which really isn't too much unlike GNOME 2, anyway. So if I do end up missing the old GNOME 2, I certainly won't be missing it much.

getting it for free

I've been going without cable or satellite tv for years, but I usually don't watch much tv, so no big deal. Up until now I I've been using a cheap, rabbit ears antenna. One of the ears is half broken off. The reception is okay but I have to get up and adjust the antenna a lot for certain channels, and a lot of times the whole thing ain't so cool.

Well, I looked into an antenna that Caitlyn Martin wrote about, the Clearstream2. At Amazon, people can get it new from around $60 to $90 bucks. Here's a link to to the page that shows it at Amazon.

I read through a bunch of the reviews there, and it sounds really cool. But in the end, I went down to Walmart and bought a RCA digital flat antenna, multi-directional, amplified. Walmart shows only the model ANT-1500 online, for about $50, but the only one I saw in the store was an older model, the ANT-1450, which I got for about $30. Here's a link to the page that shows it at Amazon.

So, neither one of those models is a top-of-the-line antenna, but I figured what the heck, try it and see what happens. I figured I could always take it back and get something else online, or maybe at Radio Shack or something.

Turned out pretty good, so far. In North-Central New Mexico, there isn't gonna be much on the air to choose from. It's just Albuquerque and no other major population centers anywhere nearby. Kinda isolated.

But hooking this thing up, inside the apartment, without mounting it or anything, and not even near a window, I ran the re-programming set-up and got 25 digital channels and 2 analog channels. There's 3 religious channels that are breaking up pretty bad; all the rest are coming in great (except for the two analog channels -- they're coming in fine but the picture looks like, well, analog) (I don't know where those 2 analog stations are broadcasting from, but the programming doesn't look the least bit interesting, so whatever). Maybe I can get more channels by mounting it up high and/or near a window, but I don't think I'll bother doing that because I'm getting all the channels I want just fine already.

So, I guess the main factors are:

- How good is the antenna? Those rabbit-ear ones for $9.99 will work, but not that great, and you have to adjust them all the time.
- House or apartment? If you can mount it outdoors, it's a lot better.
- Where do you live? Population-density makes a difference. Reading user comments about that Clearstream2 antenna, users were reporting anywhere between 15 to 100+ channels, depending on where they live. Dude living about 35 miles from the Dallas/Ft. Worth antenna farm, for example, said he gets 66 (42 digital) with it mounted on his roof. Caitlyn Martin wrote that she was getting about 40 channels with it in Raleigh, NC, mounted inside. So I figure I'm doing okay with my cheaper antenna, connected inside, over here in NM.

Bottom line, if you can live without ESPN, etc., free over-the-air tv is at least an option. At first I wasn't too happy when all the stations moved to digital, but with a half-way decent antenna, it's quite a bit better than it used to be in the analog days.