Saturday, July 28, 2012

it was about injustice

The Olympics, Mexico City, 1968.

Peter Norman, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith.

An interview with John Carlos:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

so much for that bet

Back on August 24, 2011, an Ubuntu forum member offered a bet that in 18 months, Unity would be "history."

My reply: "I think you'd lose that bet."

We "symbolically" shook hands on a bet over "a few symbolic beers."

Sadly, in October 2011 the guy's forum account was disabled (at his request) over a dispute with the forum administrators.

And I won't be able to "collect" on my bet, which was looking more and more like a sure thing -- especially with today's news at OMG! Ubuntu!:

Unity Desktop Available for Fedora

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GNOME3 "shells"

One of the cool things about GNOME 3 is how different distros are creating their own customized shells for it. GNOME Shell, of course, is the default. Ubuntu has Unity, Linux Mint has Cinnamon, and the new SolusOS release (still in "alpha") will have its own shell, which I think is still unnamed. has a preview of Pear Linux 5, an Ubuntu-based distro that comes with another GNOME shell:

Pear Linux 5 Desktop

And Linux Deepin 12.06, another Ubuntu-based distro, has been released, with yet another spin on things:

Linux Deepin 12.06 Desktop

Interestingly, the LinuxBSDos preview of Deepin 12.06 has this to say:

Linux Deepin is one of the very few distributions that use the GNOME 3 desktop that I will gladly recommend to anybody, even first time users of Linux. It is probably the best Ubuntu-based distribution, and in many respects, it is even better than its parent distribution.

Nice compliment, there. But Deepin is made in China, so I'm wondering about the English-language support. Also, these days I'd rather just run Ubuntu and stay away from any of the many Ubuntu spin-offs.

So far, I'm happy to stick with GNOME Shell and Unity in GNOME 3, although I've also got Cinnamon installed here, in Fedora 16. I can't say that I'm real excited about the shells I've seen so far that try to make GNOME 3 look and behave like GNOME 2, which was never a favorite of mine to begin with. But as things continue to evolve, the situation can only get better and better for Linux users, and perhaps folks will end up thanking the GNOME devs for ever putting GNOME 3 out there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

unity - showing windows

Here's a shot of a kinda messy workspace in Ubuntu 12.04's Unity, with four windows opened up:

I've got three Nautilus windows open and one Geany window open. So, on the left edge, on the launcher, there are three ticks to left of the Nautilus icon, and one tick to the left of the Geany icon. You'll note that there are no icons on the top panel showing open application windows, which is a common complaint about Unity, but you can tell by the ticks on the launcher's icons which apps have open windows running.

But what happens if you open up one of the Nautilus windows full-screen?

Great. Now how are you supposed to get back to one of the other windows?

Well, you can click on the Geany icon on the launcher, and that'll bring the Geany window back up. You can also use Ubuntu Tweak to set up a screen edge action to show the windows from the current workspace:

Here, I've moved my cursor to the bottom left corner:

But here's something I didn't know until today: If there are multiple windows of one app running, clicking on its launcher icon will show all the windows of that app:

So even if one window is at full-screen, there are still a few different easy ways to get at the windows hidden behind it.

Another way, of course, is good old Alt+Tab:

If you keep holding the Alt button down, you can press Tab to move over the Nautilus icon. Then, still holding the Alt button down, you can Tab over to the Nautilus window you want to go to:

Not that any of this will make the Unity-haters happy, but ya can't please everyone!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

kexec makes boot bypass grub

In my two Debian Squeeze Xfce installations, if I rebooted the computer in either of the following three ways, the grub menu was being skipped and I was taken directly to Squeeze's log-in screen:

- Doing a "Restart" from within an Xfce session.
- Restarting from the log-in screen.
- Issuing shutdown -r now from the command line.

Both of those installations were done with Debian Live via a Unetbootin flash drive. It appears that Debian Live installs the package kexec-tools. A look at man kexec explains the situation:

kexec is a system call that enables you to load and boot into another kernel from the currently running kernel. kexec performs the function of the boot loader from within the kernel. The primary difference between a standard system boot and a kexec boot is that the hardware initialization normally performed by the BIOS or firmware (depending on architecture) is not performed during a kexec boot. This has the effect of reducing the time required for a reboot.

I can see where that would be a nice tool to have, but for my multi-boot set-ups, I need to get back to the grub menu unless I'm wanting to boot back into the same system I started out in. I was having to completely shut the computer down, then boot it back up again. Uncool.

kexec-tools can be removed with the following command:

# apt-get remove kexec-tools

In my case, I went to Synaptic, found the package, marked it for "complete removal," and got rid of it that way.

Optionally, kexec can be disabled by editing the file /etc/default/kexec, changing the value of LOAD_KEXEC from true to false.

I also found the following comment at this web page:

kexec-tools 2.0.2-1 and newer also include a command /sbin/coldreboot which performs the regular cold reboot going all the way into BIOS. If you have installed kexec-tools and use the kexec functionality, you can use coldreboot for the times when you want the machine to go all the way down to BIOS and GRUB.

Here in Debian Squeeze, it was kexec-tools version 2.0.1-4, so that didn't apply anyway.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

my kde installations

I'm running KDE in five different distros here: Mepis, PCLinuxOS, openSUSE, Fedora, and Sabayon. Each distro is excellent.

Mepis ships with only KDE.

According to DistroWatch, openSUSE's default desktop is KDE, Sabayon's is "GNOME/KDE," and Fedora's is GNOME; but all three of those distros have other spins.

In Mepis 11, I'm using KDE 4.5.3. The Mepis Community has stepped forward with ways to upgrade to newer KDE versions, but I've stayed with the "old" one in Mepis because it works fine, and because I have newer versions running in other distros here. The Mepis 12 "alpha" is about to be released, and I think that might be coming with KDE 4.8.4, which is in the Debian Testing repos.

PCLinuxOS 2012.02 (fully upgraded here from the original 2010.07 installation) is at KDE 4.6.5. The next "quarterly" release (right now, they're working on the 2012.06 "trial release") will have KDE 4.8.3. Users who do not wish to do a fresh installation will be able to upgrade KDE from 4.6.5 to 4.8.3 by running a script that will be provided.

openSUSE 12.1 has KDE 4.7.2.

Fedora 17 and Sabayon 9 ship with KDE 4.8.3, but last weekend I pulled in an update to 4.8.4 in Sabayon, so that's the most up-to-date distro here as far as KDE is concerned.

openSUSE and Fedora have shorter release cycles than the other three distros (approximately 8 and 6 months, respectively), and I don't expect to see newer KDE versions in either openSUSE 12.1 or Fedora 17.

Sabayon and PCLinuxOS are rolling-release distros; usually, all you have to do is keep your system updated and you'll be "current." But Sabayon is currently more of a "cutting-edge" distro than PCLinuxOS.

At the end of a Mepis release cycle, a fresh installation is recommended (if not required) to move to the next version. Fedora provides an upgrade path (called "Preupgrade" -- I hear it's good, but I haven't tried it), as does openSUSE.

All of these different distros have done well with their respective KDE implementations, and all are quite pleasant to use, but each one might appeal to different types of users. Folks who love Mepis don't care about having the "latest and greatest" stuff; stability is the priority. Fedora and Sabayon users might want to be closer to the cutting edge. openSUSE and Fedora users might not be keen on using a "one-man distro."

But each of these distros has many happy users in its camp, and I'm sure that any one of the five would be quite suitable for anyone who wants to stick with only one distro over a long period of time.

openSUSE release lifetime

Previously, I've mentioned that openSUSE releases come every 8 months, and that each release is supported for 18 months. But their wiki's "Lifetime" page explains things this way:

openSUSE releases have a lifetime of 2 releases + 2 months overlap. With a release cycle of 8 months this makes it 18 months.

The release cycle isn't always set in stone, which you can tell by looking at the release dates shown at DistroWatch's openSUSE page. And, the next openSUSE release (12.2) has been delayed, so the lifetimes of the two latest releases, 11.4 and 12.1, will shift from the original EOLs of September 15th, 2012 and May 15th, 2013, respectively.

In any case, 18 months is a pretty good support cycle. No complaints from here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

turning off modal dialogs

In my June 29th post "tweaking cinnamon," I mentioned a tip I found at MPHouse Blog about disabling the "attach_modal_dialogs" setting in Cinnamon. They've got another post about doing the same thing for GNOME Shell; this time, the setting is at dconf-editor > org > gnome > shell > overrides > attach_modal_dialogs. Just remove the check from the box there.

I noticed that this is not an issue in GNOME 3.2 in Fedora 16 -- there, in fact, dconf-editor doesn't even have anything called "overrides" under org > gnome > shell -- but the tweak is applicable in GNOME 3.4 in Ubuntu 12.04.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

the heat

NOAA image of the United States from July 3rd to July 7th. Dull orange is 100 degree heat; the brightest orange is 109:

Folks will argue about whether the current heat wave is a sign of global warming, but here's one cartoonist's take:

packages history

Both Synaptic and Ubuntu Software Center have useful tools for viewing the changes you've made to your system -- the packages you've installed, updated, and removed.

Here's what Synaptic looks like when you navigate to File > History:

And, Ubuntu Software Center:

One advantage of Ubuntu Software Center is that you can get a separate breakdown of installed, updated, or removed packages:

However, note that Ubuntu Software Center doesn't show the linux-image removal that I did, while Synaptic does:

And, it's easy to paste history from Synaptic into a text file, which I can't do from Ubuntu Software Center:

Ubuntu Software Center looks great, and it appears that they've done a great job with it. But for Debian-based distros (including Ubuntu), and for my purposes, Synaptic is still the best all-around GUI front-end for apt-get. It's still one of the first things I add when I install Ubuntu, and for now I'll continue to use it instead of Ubuntu Software Center.

the res

Madeleine Kruhly's recent post at The Atlantic, "What America Looked Like: The Struggles of the Navajo Nation in 1972," is the most recent in a series of "What America Looked Like" articles. The article includes several photos taken 40 years ago from one of Arizona's Navajo reservations by photographer Terry Eiler, including these:

The author notes that at the time of Eiler's visit, "the unemployment rate in the Navajo Nation was around 32 percent," but that things aren't much better now. She says:

A 2011 statement from the Navajo Division of Natural Resources reported the Nation's poverty rate at 37 percent with incomes well below federal guidelines. Almost half of the Navajo population is unemployed [...] Still, 38 percent of households lack electricity and running water; 86 percent do not have natural gas service. And in addition to these alarming figures, the Nation is experiencing an educational drought: high school students are dropping out in large numbers.

Kruhly concludes:

What's unfortunate is that few people seem to pursue these problems, and even less are aware of their existence. The Navajos have beautiful and unique traditions to offer -- not to mention a history that's longer than the rest of the country. But their community is endangered, and barely anyone is paying attention.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

new pclos trial release

New PCLinuxOS KDE and KDE-MiniME Trial Releases (labeled "2012.06") are available -- check the mirrors at the bottom of the PCLOS KDE page.

Looks like this will be the first time the main PCLOS version will be available as a DVD-sized .iso -- they've been CD-sized in the past. It'll come with KDE 4.8.3; PCLOS has been holding steady for quite some time at 4.6.5. For those who don't want to do a fresh installation, there will be a script to upgrade systems from the existing KDE 4.6.5 to 4.8.3.

For more information, be sure to check out the "PCLinuxOS General News and Announcements" section at the PCLOS forums.

12.04 manual

Getting Started with Ubuntu 12.04 is called a "comprehensive beginners guide for the Ubuntu operating system," but may also be "suitable for all levels of experience" -- looking through it, I've already picked up a few tidbits that I didn't know before.

The manual includes installation instructions, tips on using "the Ubuntu desktop" (Unity), info on software management and troubleshooting, a "Ubuntu for advanced users" section, and more. You can download it in .pdf form from the Ubuntu Manual Project site, and either save it for future reference or view it in your web browser.