Thursday, May 31, 2012


Forget about the Boston's so-called Big Three.

The Celtics have one legitimate superstar these days.

Rajon Rondo's incredible line in Wednesday night's 115-111 (OT) loss to the Miami Heat:

44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 turnovers, 16-24 FGs, 2-2 3PT, 10-12 FTs.

e17 desktop menus

Here's what comes up when I click on my Enlightenment (E17) desktop in PCLinuxOS. When I left-click on the desktop, I get the main menu:

A middle-click brings up the Windows menu:

And a right-click brings up my Favorites list:

A desktop right-click menu is one of my favorite tools. I set it up in E17 by going to the main menu > Settings > All > Apps > Favorite Applications, bringing up this window:

Here, under the Selection tab, I just click on an app, then click "Add."

Then I click on the "Order" tab to arrange the entries.

Unfortunately, every time I try to arrange my entries this way, the configuration doesn't take. I kept going back to that "Order" tab to try move my new entries into place where I wanted them, but it didn't work.


But, I found that I could do it manually by opening up ~/.e/e/applications/menu/ I edited this file by moving each app's entry (in both the "Layout" and "Include" section) to where I wanted it, then saved the file. That did the trick, and now the entries in my desktop right-click are correctly in place:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


 It never ceases to amaze me that so many Linux folks go on and on and on about all the things they hate about Ubuntu, about Unity, about GNOME Shell, about... Here's an idea: If you don't like it, don't use it. Problem solved.


For the most part, the GNOME Shell Extensions concept seems like a good idea, especially for folks who feel that they need to add tools to make GNOME Shell more like a "traditional" desktop. Still, I prefer to stick pretty close to the default set-up in GNOME Shell, and have no problems with using that to get around the desktop and get my work done. The only extensions I use are Alternative Status Menu and Quit Button.

If you go to the GNOME Shell Extensions site, currently you'll find 12 pages of extensions. The site could use a little organization; you can sort the extensions by popularity, name, recent additions, or downloads (I'm assuming that the difference between "downloads" and "popularity" is that the latter represents how many people actually have a particular extension turned on, but I'm not sure about that). It would be helpful if the extensions were categorized in some way.

I've tried out a handful of the extensions; usually, I end up feeling like they just add clutter to my desktop and don't really make things any easier for me. Seems like a lot of them are buggy.

Some of them come close to being something I'd want without being exactly what I'd want. For example, I'd like to have the Panel-Docklet extension simply show me icons for each running application. Nothing else. I messed around with the extension's settings for a long time, but couldn't find a way to get it to do just that. It gives me an icon for the running apps on the current workspace; I can set it to show running apps from other workspaces when the mouse cursor is hovering over the extension, but that isn't what I want.

Seems like it would be better to just add xfce4-panel with only the icon box on the panel, set to show icons from all workspaces. But with GNOME Shell's Activities overview, I feel like I don't need to bother with adding something like that. Keep it clean, use it like it was designed, I'm fine.


Fedora 17 was released today. I currently have F15 (KDE) and F16 (GNOME) installed; I'll be replacing the former with F17 (KDE). I like having both of the two most recent Fedora releases running here, and I've been happy with what they do with both KDE and GNOME, so I'll just continue going with KDE for the odd-numbered releases and GNOME for the even-numbered ones.


I use SalineOS, which comes with Xfce; one of my Debian Stable installations is the Xfce version; and, I've added Xfce to Mepis 11 to use sometimes as an alternative to the default KDE.

There's plenty to love about Xfce. I often wonder why folks who hate the never environments (KDE4, GNOME Shell, Unity) don't simply switch to it and get on with their lives.

I add a few things to Xfce to make things more pleasant for me: Dolphin and KSnapshot from KDE (better than Thunar and Screenshot), the Geany text editor (better than Mousepad), and Desktopnova for automatic wallpaper changing.

When using Xfce, the only things I can think of that I miss: Some kind of screen edges/hot corners action; a desktop/workspace grid; and a nice, simple menu editor.

But Xfce is so light and easy to configure that it's no surprise that many people don't want or need any other DE. For my money, it has the best panel in the business (it's my panel of choice for Openbox, by the way). Seems like there's no need to worry about any dramatic changes coming in the future. Kinda seems like the ideal default DE.


The distros installed here include Mepis, SalineOS, PCLinuxOS, and Semplice Linux. All of these are either based on or spun from "larger," more established distros. All of them fall under the "one-man distro" category. And all of them are nice distros.

I played around with the idea of dropping all of them and just sticking with the "big boys" that I run -- Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, and openSUSE -- but I finally decided that I enjoy using those spin-offs and following the projects over time, enough that I'll probably keep them all (not sure about Semplice -- Debian Sid or anything based on it is too much of a hassle for my tastes). But going forward, I don't think I'll be adding any more of those types of distros to my lineup.

Overall, I think "major" distros are a lot better. Their documentation is better; and, they're more likey to be around five years from now, pretty much sticking with the same philosophies. On balance, I feel that the "spin-offs" don't offer that much in the way of advantages over the "major" distros, while the idiosyncrasies of the spin-off distros and their (lone or few) devs can be quite irritating at times.

So, even though I'm reading all kinds of wonderful things about Linux Mint 13, Crunchbang, and SolusOS, among others, I think I'll pass.


Boston's Kevin Garnett, doing what he does: Talking smack, trying to be intimidating. And Miami's LeBron James, just laughing at him.

Final score: Miami 93, Boston 79. The Heat lead the Eastern Conference Finals, 1-0.

Wojnarowski's article:;_ylt=Al29c3Af9UeJHOMboccMI_28vLYF

Friday, May 18, 2012

keep 'em separate

My first Linux installations were dual-boot set-ups with Windows XP, which is a common thing to do for folks new to Linux. There's tons of info out there on how to dual-boot Linux and Windows (for example, see How to dual-boot Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 7).

For me, the Linux/Windows dual-boot set-up worked out reasonably well, but after awhile I found that I was booting into Windows for only a few reasons: To use MS Access, which I needed for work at the time, and to use one other application, for my Sony mini-disks; for the kids to play their Windows-based games; and, to pull in updates and do system maintenance (like defragging).

So, I decided to keep things separate -- a Linux-only computer, and Windows XP on a separate computer, in the back room. At this point, I had changed jobs and didn't need Access anymore, so my Windows sessions became even less frequent.

I finally gave away my Windows machine back around 2008. Haven't missed it at all.

I think having Linux and Windows on separate computers, if possible, is a much better way to go than a dual-boot set-up with both on the same machine. For one thing, dual- or multi-booting only Linux systems is easier without Windows in the equation; plus, Linux takes up a lot less space on the hard drive than Windows does.

If you can take this approach, things might turn out as they did here, and maybe you'll end up finding that you don't need your Windows computer at all.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

old school

Even though I'm quite pleased with KDE4, GNOME Shell, and Unity, I still find myself enjoying the more "traditional" environments (although I'm okay with letting GNOME 2 fade off into the sunset!).

I use Xfce in SalineOS, and about half the time in Mepis 11; and the other day I decided to see how an installation would go from a Debian Live session, so I chose debian-live-6.0.4-i386-xfce-desktop.iso for it (it went well; I think that going forward, I'll use Debian Live and run a live session to look things over before installing). To me, it kinda seems like Xfce is the best environment to run in Debian and Debian-based distros. In fact, I'll never quite understand why Linux Mint didn't go with Xfce as the default DE instead of going to all that trouble of coming up with Cinnamon and Mate...

Anyway, here's a look at it in Debian Squeeze, on my notebook:

As you can see, I'm using Desktopnova for automatic wallpaper changing, which works nicely in Xfce. (Be sure to install the desktopnova-module-xfce package along with the main desktopnova package.)

Today, I added Openbox to Ubuntu 12.04. Openbox installs with no panel, so I added xfce4-panel to use with it. Spent a little time tweaking the menus and panels, added feh and a script for automatically changing the wallpapers, that sort of thing. Ended up with a fairly basic desktop; here are a couple shots from my main pc, the first one showing the Openbox desktop right-click menu, and the second one showing the Xfce panel's menu -- both of which I've customized to my tastes:

Sometimes, you're just in the mood for something simple and light.

The thing I really miss the most when I'm using a "traditional" environment is "hot spots," or "screen edges," whatever you wanna call 'em. I make good use of those in KDE4, GNOME Shell, and Unity. The workspace grids are convenient, too; and a lot of times it's nice to be able to open up GNOME Shell's Activities Overview, for example, and start typing in the name of an app to quickly get to it. Also, GNOME Shell's "dynamic workspaces" feature is a big hit with me.

But I'm just as comfortable going "old school with Xfce or Openbox.

There's a lot of Openbox info out there, but a good place to check out is the ArchLinux Openbox page (and I don't even use Arch!). In my case, I'm glad I looked there, because Openbox in Ubuntu Precise is at version 3.5, and I didn't see any info on that version at the "official" Openbox site. I guess they're working on it. Some changes mentioned at the Arch page for Openbox 3.5:

- There is a new config file called environment that you should copy from /etc/xdg/openbox to ~/.config/openbox.
- The config file previously called is now just called autostart. You should rename yours to remove the .sh from the end of the name.
- Some of the configuration grammar in rc.xml has changed. While Openbox appears to understand the old options, it would be wise to compare your configuration to the one in /etc/xdg/openbox and look for changes that affect you.

A couple of final notes:

Here's a link to Dedoimedo's review of Xubuntu 12.04:

Looks like he was impressed.

And, staying with the "old school" theme, a link to Duskfire's review of Crunchbang Statler (nice-looking blog, by the way):

I keep telling myself I'm gonna check that distro out, but still haven't gotten around to it.

Friday, May 11, 2012


A fantastic resource for Debian users, The Debian Administrator's Handbook is available for purchase, but is also freely available for viewing online or for downloading as an ebook. The book is written for Debian 6.0 (Squeeze), which is the current Debian Stable. If you're interested in installing Debian, have a look!

The project's home page:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

two custom tools

I added a couple of tools to my Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise) desktop that help make it a bit easier to open up some of my frequently-used applications.

For Unity, I added a "quicklist" that contains entries for several applications. I wrote about this in my "shaping up" post on May 5th. The instructions are basically the same as what I used for Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty) (see  "unity quicklists").

Next, I installed nautilus-actions and used it to add some entries to my desktop right-click menu. This works for Unity as well as for GNOME Shell. I first posted about this back on May 25, 2011 (see "GNOME desktop right-click menu"); since then, a newer version of nautilus-actions has been released, so the instructions are slightly different.

I ran nautilus-actions-config-tool. Here's how the GUI looks now:

They've added a few more tabs than they had before.

On the Action tab, I selected the selection and location boxes and gave the context label a name. I tried to add icons as well, but the icons didn't show up in the resulting desktop right-click menu, so maybe that part doesn't work.

On the Command tab, I gave it a label and a command. On the Schemes tab, I created a new scheme called “x-nautilus-desktop,” selected “Must match one of,” and deleted the default scheme that was there. 

Sometimes, changes take affect right away, but I think most of the time it's necessary to start a new session.

The new menu entries show up in the desktop right-click menu under the sub-menu “Nautilus-Actions actions.” Here's a screenshot:

Setting up these tools gives me an alternative to using Unity's Dash (and, in the case of the desktop right-click menu, an alternative to GNOME Shell's Activities Overview as well) to open up my favorite applications. Takes a little bit of work to set them up, but I think it's time well spent.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

startup in precise

In Unity in Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise), if you go to the upper-right corner and click on the Session Menu icon, you'll see "Startup Applications..." in the drop-down menu:

By default, Startup Applications only shows the applications that you've added here. The other apps that are set to autostart don't appear in the list, which is kinda silly.

You can get most of the other autostart apps to show up in the list by running the following commands:

$ cd /etc/xdg/autostart/
$ sudo sed --in-place 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' *.desktop

To go back to the default, you'd run:

$ cd /etc/xdg/autostart/
$ sudo sed --in-place 's/NoDisplay=false/NoDisplay=true/g' *.desktop

Note that you definitely want to make sure you're in the /etc/xdg/autostart directory before running those sed commands.

Some of the apps in /etc/xdg/autostart will still not show up in Startup Applications in Unity. Looking in that directory, a comparison of, for example, bluetooth-applet-unity.desktop and bluetooth-applet.desktop shows why; the former has the line “OnlyShowIn=Unity;” and the latter has:


You can make an individual app show up in Startup Applications by going to /etc/xdg/autostart and editing the app's .desktop file to change "NoDisplay=true" to "NoDisplay=false." You can stop the app from autostarting by removing its .desktop file, but that might not be a good idea.

If you use Startup Applications to add an autostart app, there'll be a .desktop file placed in ~/.config/autostart.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

hot corners

I've gotten so used to GNOME Shell's upper-left hot corner for bringing up the Overview that I find myself moving the cursor up there in Ubuntu 12.04's Unity. I used the ubuntu-tweak configuration tool to create hot corners in Unity. I downloaded it from the Ubuntu Tweak website, but you can get it by adding the PPA (

I ran ubuntu-tweak, navigated to Tweaks tab > Workspace, and set it up like this:

When I move the cursor to the upper-left hot corner to show the workspaces:

When I move the cursor to the lower-left hot corner to show running windows in the current workspace (workspace #2):

shaping up

My Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise) desktop, showing the Utilities quicklist I created so that my launcher wouldn't be so cluttered with icons:

The contents of the Utilities quicklist and the icons on the launcher show some of the apps I've added to the default installation. Others include Wally (wallpaper changer), dconf-tools (for donf-editor), and Dolphin (still my favorite file manager). I did have to spend a lot of time tweaking things, but it was worth it because I plan to have Precise running here for at least two years (this LTS release is actually supported for 5 years!).