Tag Archives: Linux

Geek Shorts

A few miscellaneous short geek items:

  • I’ve been looking at Arch Linux lately as a possible distro to try for a bit, and took the plunge last night on an older Dell Latitude laptop. I’m still partway through the installation even as I write this (in the middle of installing the GNOME desktop, actually). The basic OS install went smoothly, but I got stuck for a bit trying to get the nVidia video drivers configured; got past that hump and it’s plugging away at this point. More to come on that… if it looks like it will be worth hanging on to. It’s a bleeding edge rolling release distribution, meaning they don’t release new versions every x months with no updates to new versions of the applications (generally only minor patches and security updates are made available) between releases; their model feeds updates to apps as they become available, as as long as one periodically updates stuff, they are always current and there’s no need to re-install a version of the OS every six months or so. Maybe better, maybe not, but different. Part of what has impressed me is the level of polish on the documentation available for the distro, particularly for someone looking at it as a potential new user (see their beginner’s guide as a good example).
  • Being restricted to the touchpad on a laptop is slow and painful; my mouse is dangling off the back of the in-progress Arch box at the moment. Note to self: buy a second USB mouse to have hanging around for times like these.
  • Speaking of Linux, Wednesday’s xkcd Web comic strip struck a chord with me, having watched Ian over the past few years. See for yourself.
  • Speaking of Ian and geek stuff, today marks his 16th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ian!
  • I finished re-reading William Gibson’s Count Zero a week or so ago and I’m part way through Neuromancer right now; I keep forgetting how much I like his writing. And having gone back and started rereading these two classics of the cyberpunk genre, I am amazed at how often I find references to things from them.

Linux Mint 5 Released

Late yesterday, the latest release of my favorite Linux distro was made public. As much as I’ve liked having Ubuntu’s 8.04 release on my laptop, I’ll be ditching it within the next few days to give Linux Mint 5 a hard look. Mint has been my distro of choice for better than a year now, and based on that history, what I’ve read about the changes, and my positive experience with Ubuntu 8.04 (upon which this release of Mint is based), I don’t believe I will be disappointed.

I will follow up with more on this after the first of my re-builds.

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.

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.