Firefox 3 RC 1

… is out, and it looks like they’ve finally fixed the long-standing bug with the handling of the dynamic address list in Gmail. Woo hoo! Read more about this new release candidate here. Rock solid so far on Linux, but I haven’t tried it on any of my other boxes.

A Blue Heron

Not to be confused with a red herring…

Although I didn’t start out with this particular destination in mind, I have a new and different distribution of Linux running on my laptop as of late Friday. With previews available of upcoming releases of both Fedora and openSUSE, I had intended to try one of those two distros for a bit while I await the next release of Linux Mint (which is currently my distro of choice). Having pulled down images for those two previews, I got started early Friday morning trying to get both of them running — and failed. Bad installation image for Fedora 9’s preview (despite the checksum on the download being correct) and openSUSE’s 11 beta 1 just doesn’t work on my laptop well enough to keep there. So what to do, having dropped my installed Linux Mint?

Ubuntu 8.04, codenamed “Hardy Heron”, was released on Thursday, so I figured I had nothing to lose at this point in pulling down a copy and trying it. I’ve used Ubuntu in the past, so I knew what to expect. Installation and support for the hardware on this particular box has always been quite good in Ubuntu and this version didn’t break that string.

Blue version of Ubuntu 8.04

I’ve never been crazy about Ubuntu’s orange/brown color scheme, however, so the first thing after installation was to start tweaking and prodding to get it to look like something I can use. Installation of the “blubuntu-*” packages via synaptic, some image assistance from Ian to get a blue version of the default heron desktop image, and some tweaking of my .conkyrc to fit from a color perspective… and I think this will work for now. I still need to get most of my local stuff installed and working again (apache, MySQL, Komodo, etc.) but I don’t anticipate any problems there based on past experience. I’m sure I will take a hard look at the next version of Linux Mint when it comes out — particularly for our main box here at home — but I’m OK with this on my laptop for now.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 is Out

I’ve been watching for it off and on all day, having seen an article about it late yesterday (and Ars Technica now has a “first look” article, as well). When I checked a few minutes ago, I saw that it had been released to the download servers late today. I running it right now on one of my Linux boxes and have seen no problems so far. Seems a bit faster than 3b2 and the UI has gotten a bit of attention, even on the Linux platform which saw a major overhaul with b2.

[Edit 8:35pm] OK, I spoke too soon. There’s a bit of wierdness with some of the dynamic stuff like address completion in Gmail. It will be interesting to see how soon that gets ironed out.

Squeezing Scrollbars in a GNOME theme

I like the looks of the Clearlooks controls, but It has always seemed like most of the control sets in GNOME themes have scrollbars that are just a skosh too wide. Based on a comment I found in response to a blog entry on a related topic, it’s pretty easy to squeeze them. Locate the “gtkrc” file for the theme (most of the Debian-based distros will have the stock themes installed in “/usr/share/themes/”) and tweak the size settings for

GtkRange     ::slider-width = 15
GtkRange     ::stepper-size = 15

Clearlooks has those at 15 by default. The slider-width setting is the width of the scrollbar itself; the stepper-size setting is the height of the “stepper” at each end of the scrollbar. I bumped both of those down to 13, and they feel like they are closer to the right size for me. Small change, but it feels better visually.

Zenwalk 5 Beta

I’ve run Zenwalk on some or all of my various Intel-based boxes at various times in the past, initially out of curiosity, and have even used it for several weeks on my primary system here at home as the primary OS. I have always been impressed, in general, with this distro so when a beta for Zenwalk 5 was announced late in December, I thought I would give it a try. Bottom line: I’m not at all disappointed.

The release announcement touches on some fairly significant changes in the basic components comprising the distro, including the latest Xorg 7.3 and HAL. The distro also includes for the first time two components that I view as very positive inclusions: wicd now replaces the older wifi-radar for wireless network connection/configuration and the Intel wireless driver firmware is included as part of the distro’s ISO rather than being something we have to download and install after the fact. I stumbled across wicd earlier this year while briefly trying the XFCE edition of Mint Linux and was impressed, so I was glad to hear that it was now part of this distro. Having the firmware included as part of the installation process is a great convenience, eliminating one step that I always had to take care of myself.

I’m running the beta on a Dell Latitude D600 laptop with 1G of RAM, dual-booting it with WinXP. The installation process is largely unchanged from previous versions, with the exception that the process now provides opportunities to read and accept the license agreements for several packages (including the Intel firmware drivers). Although the installation is text-based, I have always found it to be quite straightforward and fast (less than 10 minutes from start to finish on this box!). Zenwalk has been dinged in the past for it’s installation process being text-based in various reviews, with the biggest complaint being that it can be intimidating for people new to Linux, but I’ve never found it to be problematic or obscure in the least.

Once installed, the system is quick to boot (less than 35 seconds from power-on to sign-in screen), and very responsive. It runs the latest XFCE by default. The first things I have always added are stock Mozilla Firefox (I’m running 3 beta 2) along with Abobe’s Flashplayer plugin and Sun’s Java JRE and plugin. In addition, I always pull in the suite (version 2.3.1 is available in the distro’s repos), along with the Liberation font family. Codecs for playing DVDs are available in a separate repo, as well. Within an hour of that first boot, I was finished with adding additional software, including Apache, MySQL, the Railo CFML engine, and Aquafold’s Aqua Data Studio, giving me a platform for local Web development. Sound, video, and removable media all just work. So far, it has been rock solid and stable.

The verdict: Zenwalk has again put together a nice evolution of their distro. It is quick to boot, quite responsive, stable (even accounting for it being a beta), supports all of my hardware without any major tweaking, includes a great cross-section of the software I want (and the rest of what I want is either available in the repos or easily downloaded and installed). The developers continue to push this distro in positive directions with their changes to the underlying architecture and their selections of software tools that fit within their general philosophy of including one tool for each task. The forums continue to be active; both users and developers within the Zenwalk community are quick to respond to questions, suggestions, and requests for help.