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. Alizée – 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:

San

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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.

Sander