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 OpenOffice.org 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.

Looking Both Ways…

It’s the end of the year, and I’m sitting here thinking about this past year as well as looking toward the coming year and what lies ahead for us in 2008…

In retrospect, I wish I’d written more as this past year went by. (And that’s something that perhaps I can address as this next year passes.) Lots there to reflect on:

  • Work was way too busy, between new projects and what felt like a never-ceasing string of reorganizations. The most recent appears (finally) to have stuck and — as opposed to the others during the year — seems to bode well for my team, at least in terms of leadership for our organization. Time will tell.
  • On the geek front, Linux Mint 4 is now my distro of choice with Fedora 8 a close second. I’ve had some version of Mint running on my primary system at home now for almost a year and I don’t have any plans to change — which is the first time I’ve felt that way since switching to Linux. Deb is now using Linux almost exclusively, as well, so the stability of sticking with a single distro gets more important.
  • Soccer was kind of a mixed bag, based more on stuff off the field than on. Politics are never fun, and they surfaced in a most unpleasant and unexpected manner this past summer. That said, however, we had a good spring season on the competitive front, had a blast coaching the junior high team this fall, and Ian had a really good season with the IFHS JV team (and played enough with the varsity to earn his first letter).
  • We’re finally close to having the project of finishing several rooms in the basement finished, although it looks like that particular project won’t be wrapped up by the end of the year as we had hoped. But it’s close.
  • Our vacation — a week-long camping trip in central Idaho — was one of the highlights for me for this year. We spent a week there doing as close to nothing as possible. Sleeping late, hiking, mountain biking, and eating well from the Dutch oven. Deb was admittedly dubious about the idea of a whole week camping, but it was a wonderful week. I really needed the time away from pretty much everything.

Looking ahead, there are some big changes ahead…

  • The largest of the changes coming for us will be the addition of a little girl to our family. For almost three years, we’ve been in the process of adopting a girl from China. We started in February 2005, and got our paperwork into the mill just as the whole process ground to a glacial pace on the Chinese side of things. At this point, it looks like we should finally be matched with our girl in early January. That would most likely put us in China in late February or early March.
  • Spring soccer will be a little different for us (and Ian) this year, as we have primarily a new team to work with (after having basically the same core group of players together for the past five years). Our focus early will be primarily on getting the group to play together as a unit.
  • Work is likely to hold some changes and challenges for us, too. The workload and the reorganization will no doubt necessitate some tuning and reshaping of our team. We’ll end up updating our CF servers to run CF8 at some point early in the year, and jQuery is playing a bigger and bigger part in the client side of how we develop.

I’m not big on resolutions, but I am going to try to write more as we go through the year on both the geek side of life and on the personal front, too. There will be lots to share as we wrap up the adoption process and begin what will feel, at times, like a new life with a new child.

LinuxMint 3.1

I haven’t posted much of late on my Linux dabblings, but have been running various versions of LinuxMint 3 for the past few months. I just (as in yesterday) moved two of my boxes over to the newly-released version 3.1 and it went flawlessly. I’ve been running the past couple of betas for a month or so without any trouble, so I really didn’t expect any issues when 3.1 was announced.

As has become my practice, the first things I typically did after installing was to switch to stock installations of Firefox (Gran Paradiso aka Firefox 3 alpha 8, in this case) and OpenOffice, rather than the versions installed from the distro’s repositories.