The inevitable announcement of a hiatus

October 29, 2010

The more observant amongst you probably noticed a lack of new content here…apparently, I can’t bring myself to post about my “linux adventures anymore”. As far as I can see, there are three reasons for that.

The most important reason is that I’m just no longer in that place where I have to try and test everything. Used to be I tried every distribution there was, with every possible window manager. Somehow, it’s not as fun as it used to be, but also, I think I have tried them all, and there not much news under the sun. GNOME is gently pushing forward to 3..0, but it’s not here yet, KDE seems to have found it’s groove, XFCE is moving, but at glacial pace as always, and I’m really not sure if anything’s happening with the other window managers. It does feel like there nothing much left to try, at least for a while. I’ve used Linux Mint 9 for a long while, and recently installed Ubuntu 10.10 to try it out…I’m hugely impressed how good and easy this is, and I’m not tinkering with it at all. Even the wallpaper is one of the standard slideshows.

Secondly, Windows playing a bigger part in my life again. Not so much by choice, but I am using it at work and I’m trying to get an MS certificate, so I spend a lot of time in Windows 7. When I take a break studying, I play some Starcraft 2. My PC barely manages it in Windows, and it lags horribly in wine, so using linux there is out too.

And thirdly, I’m getting a bit tired of the open source community. In fact, I’m getting a bit tired of any vocal community on the net. There are so many whiners around, it’s unbelievable. Seems like half of the articles linked on tuxmachines explain why Ubuntu sucks, another quarter explains why everything else sucks too, and the final quarter just bitches that the year of the linux desktop will never come. The few comments my old posts here get are all in the same vein. Like I said, this isn’t restricted to this community…the net has indeed given everyone a voice, and sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing 🙂

Anyway, this will be the last post for a while. If I suddenly start tinkering again, the results will be posted here. Peace out.


Dolphin in KDE 4.5

September 2, 2010

KDE 4.5 has been good to me so far, except the monstrosity that is Dolphin. I was already irked by the slowness and the crazy sorting behaviour, now it hangs 10 t 15 seconds when I try to do CPU-heavy tasks like no file manager was ever meant to do, oh, I don’t know, move a file. Or maybe copy one. Opening a directory. Stuff like that.

But in KDE it’s always been easy to switch file manager. Most people in this case would use Konqueror instead, but I don’t like that one either. Thunar is my application of choice here, but up until now the Oxygen theme and Thunar didn’t play along, resulting in horrible default folder icons.

Up until now:

Thunar in KDE

Thunar in KDE

So now I’m using a file manager which is lighter, (much) faster, and has an incredible batch renamer. The only thing I miss is using tabs, and Thunar will probably never support that.

But yay! Thunar!


Oh Windows 7, you tease

August 17, 2010

Anyone who has read this blog lately probably knows that I’m a bit dissatisfied with my Linux installs lately. Arch + GNOME boots much too slowly. Arch + XFCE ran fine until Banshee didn’t want to boot anymore. Arch + KDE…can’t remember at the moment. Some small niggling thing that bugged me disproportionally. In Ubuntu and Mint Banshee didn’t detect all of my music collection and Rhythmbox showed import errors. OpenSuse ran fine until I tried to upgrade it to KDE 4.5. After that it didn’t run at all.

There was always something. It irritated me so much I contemplated the impossible: switching back to Windows.

I have to use XP at work and I don’t like it at all, but it doesn’t bug me as much as it used to. I also follow a course in configuring Windows 7, and 7 is also installed on my girlfriend’s LT. I like it a lot. It’s beautiful, fast, and it works.
Then, I bought Starcraft 2, and instead of trying to play it in Wine I installed Windows 7 on a separate partition and used that. Needless to say, I absolutely love it, so another chance for Windows to shine.
Finally, my favourite Twitter client, Tweetdeck, refused to work in Arch, runs very slow in Ubuntu + derivates and runs just fine in Windows. Wasn’t it time for me to end this silly crusade and simply switch back to what’s easy?

Of course, then I noticed I couldn’t add the network printer, no matter what I tried. Not that I can try much, mind you. Endlessly clicking “Rescan” doesn’t need much intelligence, nor does it yield much results. The same problem was solved on my girlfriend’s LT. by installing the 130MB (!!) driver from HP, but it didn’t work on my PC.

And then my CD-DVD drive disappeared after a Windows Update, never to return. I Googled it, Troubleshooted it, Device Managered it, Registried it, and in the end, Shouted at it. Nothing works.

What was I thinking?


Arch + XFCE: The perfect Desktop (for now)

July 24, 2010

In the past week I’ve used Ubuntu 10.04, Mint 9, and Arch + GNOME, but Arch + XFCE seems to beat all of those.

While Ubuntu and Mint are both excellent, and very user-friendly, they both had a problem with Rhythmbox import errors. Basically every song with a strange character in the name (e.g. AlizĂ©e – A quoi rève une jeune fille) gave an import error, even though it was imported correctly. Switching to Banshee didn’t help much: it only found 214 songs out of close to 7000. Mint, being Ubuntu based, did the exact same thing.

Banshee in Arch found my collection just fine, but with GNOME startup took way too long. There’s still some kind of issue there, because I’ve had the same problem since 2.26. Arch with XFCE proved to be the winner though, being fast, functional and beautiful, all at the same time. Some things take a bit more time to configure, like multimedia keyboard button shortcuts, which should have worked out of the box with banshee, but didn’t, things like that. Nothing major.

Pacman has had a recent upgrade, and now seems to be even faster, and there are some improvements when you want to install a local package. Definitely still the best package manager out there. Chromium, Banshee, Emelfm2, Comix, Audacious, Transmission and Brasero were quickly installed, which only left a good twitter client. I enjoyed using Gwibber in Ubuntu, but in Arch it isn’t available in the official repositories. It’s in the AUR, but required a 100+MB download and…left me with a blank screen. I enjoy using Tweetdeck in Windows, but while it worked fine in Ubuntu, it doesn’t in Arch. Again, it’s only available via the AUR, and for me, it simply didn’t work. Pino came to the rescue, but again, it’s not available in the official repositories. All in all, I don’t get the impression that the Arch devs and packagers are big twitter fans 🙂

I’ve also grown fond of Docky lately. For some reason, I always resisted using a dock, probably because my few experiences with Mac OSX weren’t that positive. However, I realised that what I like about Windows 7’s taskbar are it’s dock-like abilities, so I tried out Docky. Now I don’t know how to live without it. It does require compositing to be on (not a problem these days, easily switched on in XFCE, GNOME and KDE), in order to have some eye candy, but things remain discreet and tasteful. On IntelliHide it provides a bit more screen estate, which is nice.

Configuring GDM’s layout and background isn’t that easy these days, and the Arch Wiki article didn’t work for me, so I switched it for LXDM. I read on the forums it may be unstable, but it has been working like a dream on my Lubuntu netbook, so I wasn’t nervous about giving it a try here. Big plus: the configuration file is plain text, so changing the background and GTK theme was very easy.

It’s in my nature to keep changing my desktop, because I get bored easily and can’t resist shiny new software. But I’m very happy with this. For now.

Obligatory screenshots:


A day at the Opera, part two

July 13, 2010

I’ve blogged about Opera before, and at the time (version 9.5), I didn’t like it at all. It felt too clunky and too difficult to configure to keep it around, and at the time I switched back to Firefox. I semi-regularly kept trying the new versions, and each time came to the same conclusions.

Now, I have switched browsers in the meantime. Firefox became a bit too slow, too outdated for me, and for a while, there was a GTK issue which meant scrolling Google Reader was very cumbersome and slow. That meant I switched to Chrome on Windows XP (at work), Chromium on Linux.

Now however, there is a new version, 10.60, and it’s just so much better. I already like the layout before, but it’s even better now. Tabs are on top, just like Chrome and the new Firefox Beta (but unlike Firefox, the tabs are also on top in the XP version), and the Menu button means there’s even more space for the actual web page. Firefox, again, borrowed this design for the upcoming 4.0 release, but again, not in the XP version. The default skin/colour scheme is modern and unobtrusive without being boring. It’s all good.

It’s fast too, as fast as Chrome, maybe even faster. The only reference I have is how it feels, and if there’s a difference, it’s not very big. It’s definitely faster than Safari and Firefox on the same machine though (a Thinkpad T42).

The only thing that could improve is the download manager. One, it’s displayed in a separate tab. Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer the Chrome way of displaying the downloads at the bottom, with the possibility of opening a download manager in a new tab, but only if you want to. Secondly, I wanted it to store cbr and cbz files automatically in the downloads folder, which has always worked in any browser I used. Opera however keeps asking what to do with the file, and where to store it. I only need to hit Enter twice each time, so it’s not like it’s much extra work, but it’s annoying nonetheless.  Funnily enough, I don’t seem to have the same problem in the Linux version, which I installed on Ubuntu 10.04 yesterday.

In any case, where I couldn’t recommend Opera before, I really think it’s as good as Chrome and Firefox now. Try it out.


Why I’m using Ubuntu now

June 23, 2010

Well, the main reason is because trying out different Linux distributions is so much fun, isn’t it? There was nothing really wrong with Fedora, in fact it did a lot of things right, but I wanted to configure my file server with a lightweight environment and then leave it alone. I’ve spent too much time on that thing already.

Firstly, I replaced Ubuntu with Arch and LXDE, to see if I could get it working with anything else than Ubuntu. I’ve installed Arch probably 50 times before, but this time I couldn’t get the keyboard layout right in X. Hal should take care of that, and yet it didn’t. Also, the screen resolution was way off, and I couldn’t get the nouveau drivers configured, while the chipset was too old for the regular nvidia driver. Exit Arch.

I remembered I had that Fedorea XFCE spin lying around, and I tried that along with Chris Smart’s tips. I got the thunar shares plugin configured, but the share didn’t show up. Using the Samba tool both Windows 7 and my Fedora desktop could SEE the share, but failed to mount it. Both gave an error that the share didn’t seem to exist.

Finally, I slapped regular Ubuntu on the server, and shared both a folder and the printer, which worked immediately. Again, I don’t know how Ubuntu does it, but it does it right. Afterwards I uninstalled things I didn’t need like OpenOffice etc, installed Lubuntu-desktop, and finally got a compromise I’m reasonably happy with. I’d still prefer it if I knew what was actually happening there, but for the moment things work so I’ll leave them alone.

Now, because my (L)Ubuntu cross-breed worked well on the server, because Fedora had one or two niggling problems (it saw two shared printers, but only printed to one and cups crashed if I tried to use the other, and Nautilus and the panels apparently had crashed the day before), and mainly because I hadn’t installed the final version of Ubuntu yet, I installed it on my main desktop.

As always, installing and using Ubuntu is a very agreeable experience. As with Fedora, all hardware worked out of the box, and installing extra codecs and suchlike was a bit easier. It doesn’t look as sleek as Fedora, but it doesn’t look bad either. A bit heavy for a theme called “Light”, but otherwise okay. I do think the focus on looks is a good thing, and I must admit that picture of a PC that runs Ubuntu looks very good.

There was a bit of confusion the first time I had to use the Close-Minimise-Maximise buttons the the top left corner, but it’s something you soon get used to, so I left them there. I didn’t enable the nvidia drivers…I don’t care for desktop effects anyway.

I know I said Ubuntu wasn’t for me a couple of months ago, but I also said things change rapidly…and in fact, there’s still an Arch + LXDE partition on my hard drive, where I have Virtualbox installed so I can study for those Window7 exams…


How does Ubuntu do it?

June 15, 2010

I have an old PC that serves as a file and print server (see what I did there?). It holds a 120 GB disk drive, divided in an NTFS partion, and two others for root and swap.

It used to run Ubuntu 9.04. I had tried to install Arch and a lightweight DE (my boy sometimes likes to use the PC for games), but I couldn’t figure out the Samba settings back then, so I just slapped Ubuntu on it, mounted the ntfs partition, rightclick, share, be advised that a change to smb.conf is needed (in the [global] section), adjusting smb.conf, done. It worked very well, but the OS was aging a bit, and of course a full GNOME desktop was overkill for something that essentially just needed Samba, a browser and some games.

Because of my recent infatuation with Fedora, I tried using that, with XFCE. The experience was frustrating, to say the least. Installing Samba is no problem. Neither is adding a share via the Samba config tool. Nor opening the firewall to allow Samba traffic. However, although the share could be seen on the client PCs (one Fedora, one Windows 7), it could not be mounted. It failed in Nautilus, using the fstab, mounting it manually…nothing worked. The error was something along the lines of “share doesn’t exist”. Trying to edit smb.conf manually didn’t work. Using Ubuntu’s smb.conf, which I had backed up, didn’t work.

Sharing the printer worked beautifully though.

Trying Fedora GNOME didn’t do it either. Then I tried Ubuntu server, and installed ubuntu-desktop on top of it.

Which is an insane thing to do if you just need a file server.

I’m again stuck with a full-blown Ubuntu desktop, full of goodies I don’t need and running much slower than I could make it run. But here’s the maddening part, it works. Right-click folder, share, adjusting smb.conf, done. Even worse, I can’t find any reference to my share in smb.conf ! If I knew where the right config is saved, I could simply copy/paste it to a leaner system, but now I can’t.

Curse you Ubuntu! Curse you for making my life so easy and so difficult at the same time!


PS: Obviously, any help would be appreciated…