Saturday, 19 September 2009


Not ducks, though if you're using the same font I do on my laptop, you'd be forgiven for thinking it said that.

Docks. Mac's great gift to all systems, and something that lately, I'm happy they did.
There are lots of docks out there. Mac users need not look, I believe they get theirs pre-installed. Windows users, I know of only the Rocket Dock.
Linux has many, the ones I know of are the (Recently discovered to me) Avant Window Navigator and Cairo-Dock. I know there's more out there though.

Cairo-Dock was good, but somewhat limited, and put me off docks. AWN has won me irrevocably back to them, however, with a simple combination of being able to replace 90% of all things on my GNOME panels, a theme that means it takes up little space, and a whole hoard of applets. When i used the ever-useful Ubuntu Tweak to enable the testing version, it had me.

My AWN Dock is as follows:
MiiMenu - Replaces the standard Ubuntu "Applications/Places/System" menus found normally on the top panel.
Volume Control - Speaks for itself
File Browser Launcher - useful for going directly to where I need
Notification Area - this used to take up a nice chunk of the GNOME panel, now it's nice and neat and far less space.
Cairo-Clock - Well, it helps to know the time. Especially when you have no sense of it.
Show Desktop - Another self-explanatory one. I don't actually use it often.
Trash Applet - Ditto.
And of course, the AWN settings launcher, followed by running programs.

I did consider adding the launchers for some programs I use often, but even using my new theme for it, awn-shiki-brave, found on Gnome-Look (Under other Gnome stuff, they really need an AWN section) this all takes up just under half the lower part of the screen.
So, the ex-main panel at the top now holds my launchers, the desktop switcher, and the menu for logout, shutdown, etc. And a handy little tweak found in the panel properties means it takes up only a small amount of space, rather than the whole of the top, and is on auto hide.

This setup only loses me a small amount of screen real-estate, but provides far more in other ways. AWN's got me hooked.

So thanks to AWN's developers, the maker of each of the applets I use, the creator of the awn-shiki-brave theme for it, but mostly, and most unusually for me, to the Mac - for putting the Dock into the computer.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

How does your desktop look?

Pre-Linux time, I never used to worry much about how my desktop looked. Mostly, this was because XP was, and still is, very limited, without 3rd party programs.
Linux, on the other hand, has unparalleled choice.
Originally, I used XFCE, which of course uses practically the same things as GNOME, which I later used.
Both of these, in comparison to XP, held that much choice, and I changed how it looked often.
At the time, I used one tool - Art Manager. It's a Ubuntu (And probably Debian too) package which you can get GTK, Metacity and more themes.
KDE I experimented with, but as I've said before, I don't like it as much as I do GNOME.
Since discovering the useful site gnome-look, I've found even more choice, and I've since moved from the Metacity window decorater to using Emerald, or Beryl Emerald, to be exact, because it has many interesting styles that I like.
Some people seem to have trouble getting Emerald to work, so, thanks to many people online, and many hours of searching and investigating, here is how to do it.
Firstly, you need to install the Emerald Theme Manager and it's dependencies. Also, Compiz-Fusion should be installed too. Finally, look for the package compiz-fusion-icon (or something similar).
The Fusion Icon is invaluable, as it sits in your notification area, and you can launch both Emerald and Compiz settings managers, change your window manager and window decorator... very useful.
(A Caveat - While running the dev version of compiz fusion, changing the window manager while logged in causes the X session to become unresponsive. I'm not sure if this is my computer, the dev version of compiz, or just me fouling up, so be aware it may happen to you too)
Second thing to do. Launch the Compiz Icon. You'll find it (In GNOME) under Applications -> System Tools -> Compiz Fusion Icon.

Right click on the icon that appears in the notification area, and select Emerald Theme manager. Choose your theme, set any option. Note that at this point you will NOT see any change. This is normal.
Close the Emerald Theme Manager

Right click on the Compiz Fusion Icon again, this time go down to Select Window Decorator, and in the submenu that appears, select Emerald.
Et voila! Give your computer a few moments (or nano-moments if you've got a blindingly fast box) and Emerald should be working normally.

If, for some reason, it isn't, then you need to do a little more.
Go into System -> Preferances -> Startup Applications (Or Sessions, on older Ubuntu versions)
Add an entry, give it the name 'theme' and make the command 'emerald --replace' both without quotes (Copy and paste from here if you want to be sure)
Reboot, or log out and back in, and that should have fixed it.

Now enjoy your Emerald themes. Hope this helps!

Oh, and as a last note, completely unrelated... I now strongly reccommend you miss a bus than run for it - tripping and sliding along the pavement, or sidewalk, or whatever you call it, is not only painful, it leaves you with a lovely arrangement of grazes, bruises, and in my case, also a split lip. Not fun.
Rock on people.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Ever wondered why there are so many empty PPAs on Launchpad?
It's because it's bloody difficult to figure out.
I finally decided to try maintaining a repository where people could get the latest nightly build of OpenTTD, as I said I would.

Oh, boy did I make a mistake.
It quite happily walks you through setting up a GPG key, the signing of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct and setting up a PPA. Then it gets useless.
See, the page which tells you (supposedly) how to upload a packages makes very little sense.
By trying to follow it's instructions to try to upload my package, I get errors every time. And my package, at this rate, will never get there.
It has a 'helpful' list of common errors. Which doesn't explain anything for my issue.
It sits there and tells you how you're *meant* to upload, and my computer sits there and says, it's wrong.

So now, I have an empty PPA on Launchpad for OpenTTD nightly builds that will never be there, doing nothing, because Launchpad's package upload help is... crap.


(If you think you can help, I invite you to do so before I lose any more of my sanity.)

Friday, 11 September 2009

M&M Update

A little update from the previous post - aMSN has found it's voice again.
One little line change in Preferences->other, and it's solved.
For anyone else having the same issue, simply look for the thread '[Solved] Sound Issues' in the Linux part of the aMSN forums.

Messages and Messengers

My gods. Another of my infrequent posts? Believe it.
Of course, if I knew that I had any readers, I might actually post more often. Possibly. Habits are hard to break.

For anyone interested (probably no one) I signed up on Twitter. I followed one... channel? is that what they are if they're not for a person? Anyway, I followed the thing, 'cause they had an update recently and I was bored, so I decided to follow them to find out when it came back up again.
Typically, it was right after I started following them.
As yet, my Twitter account has been looked at once, and isn't linked to anything... although there's a distinct possibility that I might have linked this blog to it. I'm not sure yet. To be honest, I'll probably almost never use it, I prefer the MSN messenger for talking to people.

Which is, incidentally my next topic.
Now, I can understand Microsoft's reasoning behind not providing a Mac/Linux messenger - it'd give more people another reason to leave their gift-from-god (at least in their eyes) OS, Windows.
However, times have changed and all kinds of people have made workarounds. Of course, their messenger service doesn't 'officially' support them, but I have no doubt a few people up there play around with these messengers too.
MSN was the first program I set about replacing when I started using Ubuntu. And I quickly found several replacements, my favourite at the time was Emesene.
Emesene's good, lightweight, but was hard to get used to, and didn't have the same look and feel as the MSN, or the WL (Windows Live, and also hated) messengers. This was a downside, as even now, I still prefer the look from them. Some things I prefer the Windows way, so I'll admit they do periodically have a flash of good sense.
I moved on from Emesene to aMSN. And I still use it. I've had a few issues, such as recently, as I understand it a misplaced Ubuntu Karmic dependency on the Ubuntu Jaunty aMSN daily build, since resolved, and my current issue of no sound. I'm hoping the aMSN forums will shortly be able to help with this one. Seeing a general lack of activity on there however, I might be in for a wait.
So while I'm waiting, I'm writing this.

I've experimented with other messengers that support MSN from time to time, I've heard good things about Pidgin, and indeed, it's ability to link all IM accounts to one simple clean interface is nice, but like Emesene, it lacks a few things from MSN that I like. I'm a stickler for things like that.
I've tried Galaxium, and the testing version (Thanks to Ubuntu-Tweak for giving me access to that - the 3rd party repositories they turn up are VERY useful). Galaxium is actually quite good, to me, if a little unstable, but it was the testing version. I'm periodically trying it again to check on it. It may be possible I'll change to it sometime, but only if it can manage to fully supplant aMSN for me.
There are others, but I won't list them here. Gods know there's too many if I started on that.

I did, however, at one point experiment with getting ye aulde Windows MSN and WL messengers working through Wine.
Here's my advice for you: Don't bother for WL, not without a lot of patience and experimenting, and MSN... well, I guess if you're really desperate and don't like the alternatives...

In other news... I once again attempted to like KDE. KDE once again failed. There are some interesting features... but GNOME still wins out.
I've fixed an issue with Firefox - must remember to be more careful when using Nightly Tester Tools to enable incompatible addons - and it's managed to win me back from Chromium... however, Chromium still has it's place when I need really quick browsing.
I also joined, as mentioned earlier. Actually, I joined some time ago, but I didn't bother to tell anyone. If you're not easilly offended, maybe have a look. WARNING: Mature content alert on that site. I take no responsibility. You look at your own peril.

Finally, I've started (again) to play OpenTTD, one of my old favourites that I keep coming back to.
As usual, it's a patched build, with my own selection of them. One more, the newGRF GUI window replacement, I'm waiting on an update for, then it'll join the others.
Where I've been installing these using checkinstall to create a .deb package, two thoughts occured to me.
Firstly, was that maybe I should start a patchpack. However, since my choice in patches varies widely, and I'm expected to keep it up to date - not something I like the idea of - this isn't exactly appealing.
Secondly, was that maybe I should figure out how to maintain a PPA (Personal Package Archive, if you don't know) on Launchpad, and make nightly builds available via that. This option's more interesting, as it means people can simply add my PPA Repository and get an upgrade to a new nightly relatively quickly, and since I recently figured out dependencies for checkinstall, it'll ensure they have all the requirements they need.
The only downside is the same as the Patchpack, however, since all I'd need to do is keep a separate folder for a clean trunk from SVN, and once a day, update, compile, run checkinstall to generate the .deb, then upload, it shouldn't be more than a couple of days out from the current nightly at any time really.

Comment with your thoughts on any matter here... not that I'm expecting any, but it'd be a nice surprise.
Rock on people.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Jaunty and Wireless

So, after a fairly long time, this ancient, ailing, and still slowly dieing laptop has finally been upgraded from Ubuntu Intrepid to Ubuntu Jaunty.
My huge list of 3rd party sources gave a few worries, but since the upgrade helpfully disables them and replaces all instances of 'intrepid' to 'jaunty' so it's looking for the right version's packages, there was only one major issue.
My aMSN messenger package ended up with broken dependancies, and a little investigatory work on their forums revealed that they're linking to a package for Karmic, not Jaunty. I have no problem with this - not any more, at least - but it'd be nice of they checked these things.
So instead, I downloaded and compiled the source tarball, and new have a spanking new version that's even further ahead than the old one, and works better.

That aside, my long overdue impressions of Jaunty are this: It's better. The sound works better, but for a few sounds that still play the default instead of my custom ones, performance is greatly increased - something my desktop conky system monitor reminds me of - the boot time is impressive, since it used to take about a minute to get to the gdm login, let alone have a useable desktop.

I still have a few issues though. Firstly, something odd's happened to my NetworkManager. I don't like WicD,  some people might like it, but I don't. There's such a thing as too much choice. Anyway, NM has decided not to enable on login, I have to open a terminal, start it manually, and leave the terminal open. This has actually carried over from Intrepid, not only before I upgraded, but before I added the PPA on Launchpad with more recent builds of NM. I partially solved it with the Guake Terminal, which takes it's name from Quake's drop down command line interface. It's a godsend for a terminal in a pinch. I used to just open a new terminal in that, and leave it alone.
I've gone one better - sort of - and solved it further by adding a line in the startup applications which starts it. Unfortunatly it requires root or sudo, so I prefixed it with gksu, and all I do is enter my password again after the normal login. It's a minor inconvenience for having my wireless work normally.

The second issue is a long-known one - wireless.
Now, I've been tracking the bug thread for it on Launchpad, and it claims to be fixed in Karmic, by using a new NetworkManager. The same one, incidentally, I happen to be using right now on Jaunty. Guess what? It still can't connect to any secure network. Karmic may have fixed it, but NetworkManager didn't.

The final issue isn't exactly Ubuntu at all, it's the laptop. When I first decided to put Ubuntu on it, everyone told me it was impossible, I'd be left with an expensive paperweight, and I was an idiot. Even Jay, who knows almost as much as I do, said it wouldn't work.
It was difficult, but not impossible. The first issue is that this laptop has no CD drive, I had to use a USB one. Even then, the laptop wouldn't boot from it. Windows XP, which was on here when I got it, could read it normally, of course. I had to make the Windows autoplay that comes up from a LiveCD create a boot option.
When I finally got it to go to the LiveCD boot, I had to tell it to install using ACPI workarounds - whatever that means - because it couldn't boot the LiveCD Ubuntu, and the normal install gave a kernel panic and stopped. I have absolutely no idea why that happened to this day.

At any rate, I finally installed Xubuntu 8.04 on it, and the issue I had right from then, was graphics. Not bad ones. The lack of memery periodically caused odd errors, text artifacts appearing over pictures and toolbars, text going blocky and unreadable.
I moved from Xubuntu to normal Ubuntu - XFce to GNOME, if you prefer - and it fixed most of that, with a slight downturn in performance, but I expected that. I toyed with KDE, but since my experiment with it on here led to waiting ten minutes before it was useable ruled it out.
The upgrade from Hardy, 8.04, to Intrepid, 8.10 didn't seem to change much on that.
However, on going to Jaunty, the text problems returned, worse. I fixed *most* of that by using Ubuntu Tweak's 3rd party repository for Ubuntu X - the experimental upgrades for the drivers and such. After applying that, it worked, and still does work, mostly normally again.

Okay, so you didn't really need to know all that. But it helps. I still have periodic issues with odd text artifacts, and text on image's but it's far reduced, even from Intrepid and Hardy. If anyone knows how to fix it entirely - without buying upgrades - do let me know.

And on a completely unrelated note, post a comment if you actually read this - I'm interested to see if anyone ever does.