Saturday, June 30, 2012


I like using Openbox, and I like Debian Stable and distros that use Debian Stable repos. Debian-based Crunchbang Linux (whose name is commonly abbreviated as simply "#!") uses Openbox by default. I've been meaning to take a look at it for a long time now, so I finally ran a Unetbootin live session of Crunchbang 10-20120207-i386, which includes Debian Squeeze repos in its /etc/apt/sources.list.

There's a new Crunchbang release in development, so I won't spend much time talking abot Crunchbang 10 (aka "Statler"). They give you Abiword and Gnumeric, but there's an entry in the menu for installing LibreOffice. The default web browser is Iceweasel, and Thunar's the default file manager. Geany is the default text editor -- cool, that's my favorite text editor! Like Semplice Linux, Crunchbang uses tint2 for the panel. If you want a GUI menu editor, they've got Obmenu.

Here's a look at the default desktop:

Hm. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but it's unique, and not all that bad once you get used to it. I've always said that a distro's default appearance doesn't matter much to me because I'm gonna change it anyway, and that as far as I'm concerned they could come with a black background and I'd be happy. Still, it's kind of a downer after seeing Sabayon's default appearance.

In this shot, I've got a few apps minimized on the two workspaces to show their icons on the tint2 panel, and the menu opened up to show the default office stuff:

Crunchbang has their own default Google homepage in Iceweasel:

I won't be adding Crunchbang here, at least not at this time. That's because I'm quite happy with straight Debian Stable, and I like Mepis and SalineOS, which are two other great alternatives when I want something else based on the current Stable.

No knock on Crunchbang, though It just happens that I came to those other distros first, and I see no reason to replace any of 'em with Crunchbang, and I don't think there's any reason to add #! to a lineup that already includes Debian, Mepis, and SalineOS. But it looks like a fine distro, and I'm really glad it's out there.

Friday, June 29, 2012

tweaking cinnamon

In Cinnamon, the dialog boxes are attached to the parent window. Whenever a dialog box is open, if you try to move it, its parent window will move along with it.

To disable this behavior, open up gconf-editor (you'll need to install it if you haven't already). Then:

desktop > windows > cinnamon > uncheck the box next to "attach_modal_dialogs"

Then Alt+F2. Then type r and press Enter. That'll restart the desktop, and the change will have taken effect.

A big "Thanks" to "bill," who mentioned this fix in this blog post at MPSHouse Blog.

There are still a few other things I'd liked to see in Cinnamon:

1. The ability to adjust the width of the panel; I've read that this is coming in the next version of Cinnamon.
2. Allow the Cinnamon Window List panel applet to show open windows from all desktops instead of only from the current desktop.
3. "Icons only" in the Window List instead of "Icons and Text." As I recall, this is something that I also couldn't change in GNOME 2.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

fluxbox in sabayon

Sabayon 9 comes with Fluxbox, so I decided to log into a session and have a look around.

By default, they went with the Nyz style, which fits nicely with the default Sabayon 9 wallpaper.

But I found the default Fluxbox menu quite lacking; there was no mention of Chromium or Dolphin, for example -- under Net > Browsers, I found Konqueror and Lynx, and under File utils, I again found Konqueror.

But Konqueror is a very useful application to start out with in Fluxbox when the menu isn't set up yet. After navigating to the Home directory, I could get to applications via Go > Applications; or, I could do much the same thing by navigating to Settings > Show Sidebar, then clicking on the Services button on the left side.

That allowed me to open up applications without using the command line, even if they weren't shown in the default Fluxbox menu. I've used Fluxbox many times before, so I have copies of old ~/.fluxbox/menu files to work refer to. I saved a copy of Sabayon's original ~/.fluxbox/menu file, then proceeded to create my own menu.

That's good enough for now.

One nice feature about Fluxbox is the ability to tab applications at the top of one window. I don't use this feature much because having a panel kinda makes it redundant, but it's useful sometimes when you have a lot going on.

I thought Sabayon should have done a better job of setting up the default Fluxbox menu to show some of the available applications, but it's kinda fun setting it up yourself, too. You can always run applications by opening up a terminal; and, the main menu has a "Run" entry, which opens the "Run Program" box:

As with KDE, Fluxbox in Sabayon 9 is fast and beautiful. Nice touch by the devs to include it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the new addition

After checking out the live session a little bit, I installed Sabayon 9 KDE in a multi-boot set-up with three other Linux distros, on my notebook. The installer seemed clear and sensible; the one thing that struck me as odd was the dig at Debian Stable in the slideshow that runs during the installation ("debian stable? pfft! OLD!!").

I spent some time looking over Sabayon's wiki, which has plenty of good and important information, especially for someone like me who is brand new to Sabayon. Its "Introduction" section includes installation instructions and info on what to do with a fresh installation, like how to get the system completely up-to-date using the Entropy package manager, with equo commands from the command line. A separate section of the wiki provides more info on Entropy. Here's a link to the Sabayon wiki.

Once I made sure the system was up-to-date, I customized things to my tastes:

It seemed like a good idea for me to get used to running the Entropy package manager from the command line, but I wanted to at least take a look at Rigo, Entropy's new GUI front-end. When you first start Rigo up, you see that they use it to send information notices, which strikes me as a very nice touch:

You can search for applications by name, or by category, and then install what you want.

There's a notification applet on the panel that tells you when updates become available. Now that my system is up-to-date, here's what it looks like when I right-click on the applet:

Clicking on "Use Packages web interface" opens up Chromium and takes you to where you can get more info about what's available. Looks good.

For now, I think I'll stick with using Entropy from the command line.

The distro looks like it's put together well. Its desktop strikes me as being perhaps the most beautiful one I've seen. The documentation seems good and the system seems stable.  Sabayon 9 KDE seems quite fast and responsive, although updating and installing packages seems to take a long time. I mentioned a few reviews of this release in my blog post yesterday, and those would provide more detailed info than I would, but I will say that Sabayon looks like a very pleasant Linux distribution, and one that I hope to be running here for a very long time.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I downloaded Sabayon 9 KDE today. I used UNetbootin to put it on a 4 GB flash drive, then booted into a live session on the Compaq Presario CQ56-219WM notebook.

My immediate impression? Best-looking default KDE desktop I've seen so far.

Sabayon 9 comes with KDE 4.8.3. LibreOffice, and Chromium (0).

I've been reading mostly good things about this Gentoo-based distro, but this is the first time I've taken a look at it. DistroWatch has a nice review on it this week, and you can find a couple of other reviews at LinuxUser and Muktware.

Looking forward to trying an installation!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I've had to re-do my PCLinuxOS KDE desktop a few times now due to upgrades that have come down the pipe. A hassle, but it actually turns out to be mostly a trivial exercise, and not much of a big deal.

I guess the bottom line is that I'm still using the same PCLOS installation that I first put in back in August, 2010. Not a bad "rolling release."


I pulled in updates in PCLinuxOS back on June 16th. Synaptic's history shows this change:

kde4-config (4.6.1-2pclos2011) to 4.6.1-3pclos2012

I was logged into E17 at the time; I logged into KDE today and found that my desktop now looks like this:

Wonderful. Now I have to get to work setting up my desktop all over again. Thanks a lot, guys.

Obviously, I could have avoided this hassle by backing up my system, or at least my configuration settings. I didn't notice anything at the PCLOS forums telling people that this upgrade would affect KDE like this, but perhaps I missed it; I don't visit those forums often.

Oh, well. Time to tweak.

unity - getting work done

Of the three GNOME 3 "shells" I've used (and, I'm not aware of more than three at this time), I like GNOME Shell the most for when I've got several windows open -- when I've got a lot going on and I'm trying to get things done. Unity and GNOME Shell don't have a "traditional" panel; Cinnamon has one, but it doesn't show running apps from all workspaces -- only the current one. When I've got several windows open, usually across multiple workspaces, I'll use GNOME Shell's Activities overview to quickly get around from one window to another. Likewise, in Cinnamon, Expo mode is often more helpful to me than the panel.

In Ubuntu 12.04, Unity's Launcher shows running applications from all workspaces. A running app is indicated by an arrow on the left side of a Launcher icon. If it's a "solid" arrow (really a triangle), the app is running on the current workspace; if it's a "chevron," the app is running on another workspace. Two triangles means you've got two windows from the same app running on the current workspace.

An arrow on the right side of a Launcher icon indicates the active application -- the one you're working in at the moment.

I find it frustrating that the Unity Launcher can't be moved around. I've had a hard time getting used to it being on the left side of the screen. Sometimes I wish it was like a "traditional" panel, at the bottom of the screen, or something that I can freely drag around, like the Xfce panel.

I've tended to set it to "auto-hide" (System Settings > Appearance > Behavior tab > "Auto-hide the Launcher"), but I'm finding that this mode hinders me when I've got lots of apps running -- I can't see which apps are running at a quick glance, and I have move the cursor to the left edge of the screen to un-hide the Launcher so I can get around to different windows quickly. I finally realized that it's better for me to have "Auto-hide" turned off so that I can fully take advantage of the Launcher, especially when I've got a lot going on.

Supplemental to the Launcher, I use a few other tools to get around the Unity desktop. One of these is the Workspace Switcher:

Another is to "Present All Windows" (from the current workspace):

Then there's good old Alt + Tab to get to running apps in the current workspace:

The Workspace Switcher can be brought up by clicking on its icon on the Launcher, or by using the Super + s ("Windows" key + s) keyboard shortcut. You can Present All Windows (from the current workspace) with the Super + w keyboad combo.

With the Ubuntu Tweak tool installed, you can set screen edge actions to bring up those two things. I have the upper-left corner set to bring up the Workspace Switcher; moving the cursor to the lower-right corner will Present All Windows (from the current workspace).

Often, I find it helpful to hold down the Super key to bring up a list of keyboard shortcuts:

Of course, you can also find lists of Unity keyboard and mouse shortcuts on the internet; for example, at this page.

So, those are the main tools and approaches I use for "getting work done" when I'm using Ubuntu's Unity. In addition, I take advantage of a couple of useful things I've written about earlier: The "quicklists" on the Launcher icons, and the desktop right-click menu (customized using Nautilus-Actions).

Ubuntu's Unity is a different animal, and it requires a different mindset. It takes awhile to get used to, and to figure out how to do things. In the end, I've become just as comfortable working in Unity as in any other desktop. I also think it's quite beautiful.

As always, YMMV. :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

workspaces on demand

The "dynamic workspaces" feature is one of the main reasons I enjoy using GNOME Shell. It makes GNOME Shell the only environment where, instead of a set number of workspaces, you have, in effect, "workspaces on demand." You have only the number of workspaces that are actually being used, plus one additional, empty workspace.

Other environments make is easy enough to add workspaces (or desktops, as they're called in KDE), but I find that in those environments I tend to work within the confines of the set number of workspaces -- which is fine. It's just that in GNOME Shell, I never even think about how many workspaces are available, so I feel less restricted.

The Cinnamon desktop makes it almost as easy as GNOME Shell to add workspaces when I need them -- it seems to take advantage of this "dynamic workspaces" feature, being another type of shell for GNOME 3. All I have to do is click on the "add" button in Expo mode.

But in GNOME Shell, I don't have add anything, and when I close the last app in any particular workspace, the number of workspaces automatically decreases by one.

So, even without a panel or dock to show all open application windows, I find it very easy to get around to different windows in GNOME Shell via the Activities overview. A click on any workspace shows me all of the open windows, all spread out.

Not everyone's cup of tea; and, a lot of people really hate it, and prefer getting around to different open windows using other approaches. But I've grown completely comfortable with GNOME Shell's dynamic workspaces set-up, and I find that I really miss it when I'm using other environments.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

how soon they forget

I don't quite understand the attachment so many people have to old GNOME 2.

We've got MATE and Cinnamon in Linux Mint. The former is apparently nothing but GNOME 2 revisited. The latter is a shell for GNOME 3, but tries to look somewhat like GNOME 2.

And now we've got SolusOS. SolusOS 2, still in alpha, is built on top of GNOME 3.4, but it's "heavily tweaked to behave and look the same as Gnome 2."

Well, I'm all for people using what they're most comfortable with. I actually like Cinnamon (I have it installed in Fedora 16), although I don't prefer it over GNOME Shell. And SolusOS appears to be shaping up as a great distro -- might turn out to be better than Mint, if it isn't already.

But with all the negativity being heaped on "the new GNOME" lately, especially in regards to Unity and GNOME Shell, an ironic flashback to 2005 is in order:

I personally just encourage people to switch to KDE. This "users are idiots, and are confused by functionality" mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do. Please, just tell people to use KDE.

Yeah, that was Linus Torvalds, the "Father of Linux," back in 2005, talking about GNOME 2. LOL!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I was a LeBron James hater, but not any more.

Watching him play this season changed everything. Best all-around player in the game. He plays a lot like Magic Johnson -- not as good of a floor leader, but stronger taking it to the rack, and really a better shooter and scorer.

Kevin Durant's still my favorite, because of the sweet shot. But Durant doesn't have the better all-around game. LeBron can drop dimes with the best of them, and he's a great defender, too.

My opinion is that all the LeBron-haters ought to just step back and enjoy what this guy brings to the game, what he does out there on the court. What has he done that's so awful? From the Detroit Free Press, Drew Sharp: LeBron James took easy path? Dream on:

The personal hate for the guy is downright childish.

As we've learned through the Tiger Woods' charade, image and reality can stand at polar opposites. I'll couch this by adding "as far as we know," there have been no public episodes of belligerence involving LeBron. No obsessions with porn stars and diner waitresses. No nightclub soirees with a loaded, unlocked automatic pistol slipping out of his underwear. No DUIs. No drug busts. He got engaged to the mother of his children.

LeBron's just a baller, plain and simple. People who love the game should respect that, and quit all the hatin' and just kick back and watch. Dude's a great one.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

chromium from the repos

Chromium is my preferred web browser, but you can't get an up-to-date version of it in every distro's repos. For those distros, I use Google Chrome. Either way, I change the startup page to the DuckDuckGo homepage, make DuckDuckGo the default search engine, and adjust the privacy settings -- for example, in Chrome I turn off the option to "Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google."

Debian Stable has chromium-browser in the repos, but it never gets updated to anything close to the latest version. Right now in the Squeeze repos, I see chromium-browser 6.0.472.63; but, the Wheezy (testing) branch has 18.0.1025.151, and in Sid (unstable) it's at 20.0.1132.21.

Mepis relies on the Debian Stable repos, so its Chromium version is out-dated. They have chromium-browser in their Community Repos, backported from Debian Sid, but they don't update it very often in the Community Repos. From what I gather from the Mepis forums, the last "bump" from Sid was to 13.x -- back in September 2011 (!).

SalineOS also uses the Stable repos.

In my fully-updated PCLinuxOS installation, I see chromium-browser at 16.0.912.63; not bad, but still lagging behind. I added Google Chrome Beta to PCLOS, but in their system I don't know how to get updates for it, so I simply reinstall it every month or so.

At this time, Fedora doesn't include Chromium in the official repository, but users can add a repo for it -- see In earlier Fedora versions, I felt that Chromium from the unofficial repos lagged behind a bit, so in Fedora 17 I installed Google Chrome and decided to leave it at that (for now).

Ubuntu does a great job with chromium-browser. In all of the releases from 10.04 (Lucid) to 12.04 (Precise), Ubuntu Package Search curently shows chromium-browser at 18.0.1025.151. I saw regular updates coming into Lucid all the way up until I switched to Precise shortly after that release came out.

Of the distros installed here, openSUSE 12.1 has the most up-to-date build, at 21.0.1145.0.

Users can, of course, go outside of the repos to install the Chromium web browser (a web search will produce links to further details), but doing that seems to be a bit of a hassle, and I don't think you can update it via the package managers; and, maybe I'm just lazy. In any case, I'd rather just install Chrome instead of bothering with all that.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

fedora 17

I downloaded the Fedora 17 (KDE) live CD .iso (Fedora-17-i686-Live-KDE.iso), used UNetbootin to put it on a flash drive, took a look at a live session, then did a hard drive installation. The default desktop, post-installation, looked like this:

And after some tweaking:

In Fedora 17, KDE is at version 4.8.3. Konqueror is the default web browser; I installed Google Chrome Stable. The default front-end for yum is Apper; I installed Yumex.

I added Geany to use instead of KWrite for text editing.

Under the "Office" sub-menu, I found Calligra Words, Calligra Words, Calligra Sheets, and Calligra Stage (word processor, spreadsheets, presentation). Calligra has replaced KOffice, I guess. I haven't used those apps yet, so I installed LibreOffice Writer and LibreOffice Calc.

Looks like in KDE 4.8.3 there's no longer a Smooth Tasks widget, which I preferred to use on my panel in earlier versions instead of the Task Manager widget. Instead, there's the Icon-Only Task Manager widget, which I'm using instead of the default Task Manager widget. Perhaps Icon-Only Task Manager is simply Smooth Tasks under a new name.

I set up my screen edges to show the desktop grid when the cursor hits the upper-left corner, and to present all windows from all workspaces when the cursor hits the lower-left corner.

Desktop grid:

Present all windows:

Looks like another quality release from Fedora! Everything looks great so far.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

cinnamon in f16

A short screenshot tour of my Cinnamon desktop in Fedora 16.

The desktop, showing a few running applications from the current workspace:

I'd like to be able to do the following things: have the panel not be full-length across the screen; show icons-only for running applications; show running apps from all workspaces; and have two rows for the workspace pager instead of just one.

Here's the desktop with the main menu open:

My Favorites are in a column along the left side. The menu's fairly easy to navigate, and the search feature works great for finding an app by name.

The Expo overview with three workspaces enabled:

In Expo mode, if you move the cursor over one of the workspaces, the running windows separate and you can click on any one window to go directly to that app:

The Cinnamon settings window:

The Hot Corner settings window:

Desktop effects:

Panel settings:

The full screen with the desktop right-click menu opened, showing entries I added with Nautilus-Actions:

I prefer using GNOME Shell instead of Cinnamon, but I'm trying to keep an open mind and give Cinnamon a fair shot. It's definitely a nice desktop -- looks good, easy enough to get around.


Ever heard of Gladwell's "10,000 hours rule" idea? You give yourself 4 or 5 years of doing something, 40+ hours per week, a job or anything else, and you're gonna get real good at it. There's a "tipping point" in there someplace where you go from being okay at something to really gettin' down with it. The idea struck a chord with me because of being able to look back at a few different jobs I've had. I knew I had the job down after a few months or a year or whatever, but 4 or 5 years of doing it takes things to a whole 'nuther level. Your cocky co-worker who's been there a whole year and half? Still a rookie, and he doesn't even realize it.

I think the same general thing applies to using Linux or shooting a basketball or writing or working on cars or anything else. Maybe it's why that degree takes four years to earn. Reminds me of this old Prince song, "Joy in Repetition," or John Wooden's book The Wizard of Westwood -- as I recall, the title of the first chapter was "Practice, practice, practice." Or, John Handy's jazz classic, "Hard Work." I tell M.A.L. that this is the old dude's secret that he wishes he understood when he was young. 

When I was around 18, I had dropped out of college and I was working on a Building & Grounds crew and the crew leader was this old, toothless dude from Oklahoma, way past retirement age, they called him "Robby." I asked him why he was still out there, driving those trucks and tractors and all that, bustin' his butt. Cat was the hardest worker of all of us. 

"Work is pleasure," he answered. Dang. Took a lot of years for the truth of that to really sink in.