Friday, 29 October 2010

HAL - I can't let you do that

Linux users know what HAL is, or should.
It's what lets you plug something in and have it ready to go without breaking everything, or needing you to reboot a la Windows. recently had support added for Input Hotplugging by Udev, which makes HAL rather redundant.

Unfortunately, a great many things still rely on HAL, and for someone trying to make a HAL-less system like me, this is inconvenient.
Now, since re-writing the source code of every HAL-dependent package I wanted to use would take a long time, not to mention requiring experience on my part that I don't have, I opted for a different approach to it.
Arch Linux's system for creating packages makes this simple, so with a copy of the PKGBUILD for HAL, and a few alterations to it, fakehal was born.
It's an empty package, which is designed to replace the HAL package, but provide and depend on nothing.
This has probably produced a highly unstable result, and I wouldn't be surprised to find a great many HAL-dependent packages don't work without it - but finding them and finding out if things can work with a fake HAL installed is part of the experiment.

I've uploaded the package to the Arch User Repository by now, which I'm guessing is most likely how you ended up here. If you want to give it a shot, go ahead and install it. Comments, suggestions, etc, just leave them in the comments or drop me a mail. I think I left my email around here somewhere.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Open, Free - what's the difference?

Apparently a great deal, in the eyes of Oracle and the OpenOffice team.
It seems the OpenOffice team - now the LibreOffice team - have had some kind of falling out, and the resulting schism means that if you'd like to best of OpenOffice, you'll want to move to LibreOffice.

Most users can find a download for it at their download page:

Linux users won't always have their distro catered to, but this is a common occurance. In due time, it should be as widely available as the older OpenOffice was.
So we won't talk about that.

What we'll talk about is the differences, specifically in the naming.
Naturally, OpenOffice is now LibreOffice. This brings other side-effects though. The binary name is no longer soffice, but libreoffice - make note, those of you who use custom menus. You'll need to update them.
This also means that users of Cairo-Dock (and potentially other docks) will need to alter their launcher.
Now, for other docks you may have to do a little figuring out, but for Cairo-Dock, here's how to alter an OpenOffice Writer launcher to serve the same purpose with the new suite.

Grab your launcher settings, and set the command to launch to this:
libreoffice -writer
If you'd prefer it to launch without starting Writer, Calc or any other, simply remove '-writer', or change it to the part of your choice.

Now, while your Launcher will work in this state, if you open a document, you'll find that it won't use the launcher as it's Icon (if you have that option turned on). To fix this, open the 'Extra parameters' part of the launcher properties, and look for the part labelled 'Class of the program'. Change this to 'libreoffice' and watch as your documents all move to the launcher.

While this change may be small, it's an interesting one. I'm interested to see what's coming next for the newly rebranded LibreOffice.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Firefox Collections

Following on from my previous post, Yet Another Computer Blog now has it's own official collection, which you can find here.

This collection is so far made from my own list of addons, but in time will be influenced by readers and comments made about it.
I've made some more discoveries since the last post as well, in particular ones giving me a rather Chrome-like experience.

Now, for the hardcore, there's the Chromifox themes and extensions which bring the entire Chrome look to Firefox, but what if you like your Firefox theme or persona? Fear not, we have the answer.

Firstly, you'll need only two addons.
Tabs On Top - Does exactly what it says, moves the tab bar to the top of the window.
Hide Caption Titlebar Plus (Smart) - This lets you remove the window manager decorations, cutting it down to just Firefox, and adding it's own controls for minimize, maximise and close.

Optional extras:
Tab Wheel Scroll - This lets you change tabs with the mouse wheel just like Chrome.
App Tabs - More from ChromeOS than Chrome itself. Have a tab set aside for web-apps, like GMail.
Download Statusbar - Chrome pretty much has this built into it.
Locationbar^2 - Chrome highlights the domain name, and this replicates it.
Smart Stop/Reload - Combines the two into one intelligent button that shows the most appropriate one.

And that's pretty much it. Experiment with the configuration a bit, and you can get quite close to Chrome.
There are probably other addons that can make Firefox even more Chrome-like without sacrificing your theme/Persona, so if you find a working combo, please go ahead and suggest it!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hybrid - a horror or not?

It was remarked recently that I'm a bad Linuxer because I use a hybrid desktop - hybrid in this case meaning a mix of GTK (AKA Gnome/XFCE), QT (KDE3.5 and 4.x) and Windows (via Wine) applications.
To this I say: What's wrong with that?

Now, I understand that if you keep all things native to your current session, eg Gnome apps in a Gnome session, KDE ones in a KDE one and so on, then you'll likely have better overall performance and a uniform look.
But the downside of this is that some of the session specific options I don't like, and want what I want instead.
Even though this means having my GTK apps look different to my QT ones, I don't mind that. I could use the QT or Oxygen engines for GTK, I could use the GTK engine for QT, but I don't want to.

What this boils down to is that I like things my way, and I couldn't care less what widget set or session it was made for - if it runs with the ones I'm using, then I'll use it.

This is especially useful right now, since I've changed my desktop again. To what? Well, not Gnome, as I've fallen out with it again.
No, this time it's KDE, but not the monster of the KDE4.x series - Thanks to the Chakra project, based on Arch Linux - which conveniently, I use - I've dug out the kdemod-legacy repository, giving me the older KDE 3.5 desktop - and it beats even the 4.x series. Yes it's unsupported. Yes, 4.x has all those flashy bells and things. Yes, I still use some Gnome apps. But overall, KDE 3.5 is one of the better sessions I've had.

It's customized, naturally. The default panel was shrunk down to the K Menu and a CPU monitor, and is auto-hidden in a corner, appearing only when I need it. Everything else is taken over by the Avant Window Navigator at the bottom.
Compiz and Emerald replace Kwin as the window manager of choice. While this takes up a little extra resources, it provides a few things Kwin can't.
And that's actually where KDE stops, because most of the applications I use are actually GTK-based.
OpenOffice, while not strictly speaking a GTK app, pulls it's theming from the current GTK settings. Since KDE has a handy module for choosing the GTK theming while in a KDE session, this isn't a problem, even if I use a KDE colour scheme that normally upsets OpenOffice - which is often.
Pidgin has taken over from Emesene (MSN) and XChat (IRC), also taking support for Google Chat and Twitter, bundling them all neatly together into one GTK application. Pidgin's plugin framework makes it unparralelled for those who use lots of IM networks, let alone those who use IRC and more on it.
Transmission Bittorrent... well, actually I'm trialling the QT interface for it, which I previously hadn't known about. So far so good, except for one mysterious crash I can't seem to replicate, but if I find any real problems, it's back to the good old GTK one.
Lastly, Firefox.

Regulars will know that Iron and Firefox regularly clash over my favour. However, through now fault of it's own, Iron has finally lost out for good.
The main reason is XMarks. If you don't know what it is (or possibly was) it's a cross-browser and platform bookmark sync tool. It's kept my Firefox and Iron bookmarks up to date and synchronized so that no matter which one I added a bookmark in, both had it.
However, they're discontinuing their service, and there doesn't seem to be any alternative that works for both Chrome and Mozilla based browsers.
So once more, I've tweaked out Firefox with a ton of extensions, with Firefox Sync supplanting Xmarks.

One further note on Firefox though, specifically the TACO extension.
There's a little controversy going on over TACO since TACO 3.0.
TACO 2.0 (Which lives on as Beef TACO) was an invaluable tool for blocking and opting-out of a lot of unwanted things. I'll let you read up in more detail on the Beef TACO page here:
TACO 3.0 'with Abine' sees a massive increase in the size of the extension, and adds this Abine thing. This appears to be some kind of iTunes store like extra where you can purchase extra functionality, at the cost of some massive reduction in performance, with it nagging you pretty much constantly.
The same results TACO 3.0 offers, without this and without the massive footprint, can be achievevd through several smaller extensions. Beef TACO, of course, replaces this. Add in the BetterPrivacy and NoScript extensions, and you're set to go. Adblock is an optional extra. Alternatively, if you don't like the way NoScript handles it, set up Adblock and Flashblock instead. Flashblock conveniently handles Silverlight as well, making it more useful.
Stop Autoplay is another optional addition, removing yet another web annoyance.
OptimizeGoogle is useful for removing a lot of junk from Google's search and other tools.
Greasemonkey, and by extension Greasefire, is also useful. Pull in user scripts that work on pages and you can enhance things yet further - not to mention some scripts are also capable of handling some parts of what TACO 3.0 tries to do.

Basically, there are better ways to handle it than TACO 3.0 - and all of them, regardless of what these Abine people think, are better than TACO 3.0

In similar Firefox news, since I tweaked it out, I found some interesting new extensions. I won't go on about them here, instead I'll just list them. You can look them up yourselves.
If there's interest though, I might turn it into a collection if people want to see just what I use and why.
So here's the official YACB interesting new extensions list:
All-in-One Sidebar
App Tabs
Hide Caption Titlebar Plus
Liquid Tabs
Tab Progress Bar
Tab Wheel Scroll
Unread Gmail Favicon

That's all for now.
Until next time, keep rocking.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Long time, No post

It's been some time since I last remembered I have a blog. I guess I'm not the kind to do these things often.

A lot's happened though. I got a new laptop, which came with Windows Vista. And like many a good Linux user, I removed it, right?

I've been trying to put up with it, and I found that but for a few small issues, and that I keep getting lost in the control panel, it doesn't live up to the bad press - you just have to stick with it.
However, since it developed a mysterious and unfixable issue connecting to networks by wireless, I told it to budge up and make room for Arch Linux, which is now the dominant system. I keep Vista around only for the things that Wine can't handle.

Now, I've remarked on my liking for Arch Linux before, and if I haven't, I should have. It's nice, simple, and I like it's way of installing the essentials, then waiting for whatever you want next.

I chose to give KDE4 a try again.
KDE and I have a bad relationship. I've tried it time after time, and sometimes it's managed to keep me interested for a while, but inevitably loses out. On this laptop, more powerful than the last, it went through yet another stage like that. I just cannot get along with it. It's far too heavy for me.
Next was XFCE. XFCE, with it's similarity to Gnome, lasted a lot longer. Unfortunately for it, I found a few issues which got in the way of my normal use, and once again, I come back to Gnome.

I like Gnome. With Metacity's compositing enabled in place of the somewhat heavy Compiz, I can do everything I want with relative ease.
Though the most recent Xorg says you no longer need HAL, Gnome didn't listen and still needs it. However, this means that mounting and unmounting of partitions and removable disks is a breeze.
The default Gnome menus aren't so nice, however. I've replaced them with MintMenu from the AUR, and find it quite adept at handling it.
Docks, now docks are a sticking point with me. I like to arrange all my applets on one panel at the top (a la Mac OSX, but without the Global Menu) and have a dock at the bottom.
There are five ways I choose to handle this.
1: DockbarX. This is the most simple. Create a panel that expands and add DockbarX to it. I like DockbarX. Try it yourself if you're a Gnome user.
2: AWN (AKA Avant Window Navigator). With DockbarX installed, it can take it as an applet, but it can hold it's own without it. It's collection of addons and plugins are unparalleled, but it's the heaviest of the options.
3: Cairo Dock. This, and it's similar counterpart GLX-Dock (Built in) is a nice one for those who don't want to activate Compiz. It doesn't have such a selection of additions, and doesn't take up as much as AWN. It also offers to activate Metacity's compositing feature if it's not active, which is useful since I've yet to track it down without it.
4: Gnome Do. In ordinary circimstances, I wouldn't even consider this and the next option because of it's dependency on Mono. Mono is a reimplementation of Microsoft's .Net framework, and if you examine something that runs on Mono, you'll see, yes, a .exe program and lots of .dll files. However, that said, running in Docky mode it's not bad at it's job.
5: Docky. This is, essentially, Gnome Do in Docky mode, without the Do part. Like Gnome Do, it's a Mono application but it too is good at it's job. It's also the lightest with the exception of the first option, provided you don't activate the window preview function of DockbarX.

Now, many people dislike Mono. I too don't really like it. However, I've granted it a chance to do the same as Vista - prove itself better than the bad press. So far, Docky is managing to do just that.
So far.

Other things of note are certain choices in other applications.
Tweetdeck, for example. Despite it's dependency on Adobe Air, which being an Adobe product and like Mono I would never let on my system, Tweetdeck manages to redeem it insofar as there appear to be no decent GTK based Twitter clients.
Liferea has proved itself to be better than my Windows based FeedDemon. It's a neat and tidy application that does exactly what it's meant to do, without any extras.
GNote for notes. It's the C++ (AKA Mono independant) version of Tomboy notes. Unlike Docky, Tomboy has given me nothing but trouble. GNote, despite what I've heard about it being unstable, is actually very stable. True, I only use it for a ToDo list on the desktop, but it's better than Tomboy's refusal to stay where I want it, when I want it to, or to load the correct note.
Finally, the Iron web browser has managed to completely supplant Firefox but for one site.

Iron, for those who don't know, is Chrome (And by extension Chromium) but without any tracking extras. It's perfect for the paranoid like me. And I don't care what Google's Eric Schmidt (Sorry if that's not spelled right. It serves him right for having a strange name) says about 'If you've got something to hide, you shouldn't be doing it' talk. If people want to know my browsing habits, they can bloody well ask me for them.

That's all for now.
Rock on people.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Web 2.0 madness

Web 2.0, the all singing, all dancing, way to throw your personal life around the internet.
Oh gods.

Now call me weird, but I don't like this. I don't like, or want to be convinced to like it. It's impersonal, among other things.
I admit to having used Facebook once. Just once. And now I'm gone from there, after digging around for a permanently and completely delete my account option. I found it, by the way, thanks to a blog around the interwebs. If only I could find it again...

I'm going to pick on Facebook because it annoys me the most, was the single biggest source of blatent spam ever to (dis)grace my inboxes, and gets the most attention.

Here's a short list of why I detest it:
-No, I do not want to know about every thing every one who I ever knew is doing right down to every single stupid little badly made and worse looking web app game. Farmville, I'm looking at you, ever since my own mother signed up to the website. That was the final straw for me.
-No, I do NOT want you to tell every website that even has a single bit linking to Facebook everything my 'friends' think of it. I'm web savvy. I know what a blatent threat is when most people think it's legit. I don't care to have people tell me what to think about it. I get to decide that, no one else.
-No, I DO NOT want you to plaster every single bit of information over the web for me. Google Buzz, I'm looking at you as well here - both the implementation of Buzz and the so called 'privacy' reform that showed everyone's everything to the entire world were badly thought out, stupid, brainless and full of sheer wrongheaded idiocy.
-And finally no, I DO NOT WANT to have to put up with potential employers stalking through my profile, and picking out some message I put there years ago, citing it as a reason not to employ me. I have enough trouble as it is without people stalking me.

That's just a few reasons. My main reason for refusing to use FB or sites like it, making an exception in the case of Twitter, to which I tweet very rarely, and use it more like I do RSS feeds (More on that in a bit) just to keep up with things, my main reason is the impersonality of it. If you want to get to know me, don't get to know who I am online. Come and find me, ask me if I can spare a few minutes, and do it in person, damn you. And not over the phone. If people try that, they'll be in for a surprise, because as far as I'm concerned, a phone call is just like saying, 'I don't want to meet you, just talk to you'

/end rant.

In COMPLETELY unrelated computer news now...

Farewell Ubuntu. Goodbye to your arbitrary decisions without consulting your users, to your dreadful Ubuntu One that Dropbox beats hands down, to your iTunes like plugin for Rhythmbox, and many others things. I grant that it's not a bad distro for those new. But what I get out of my Arch Linux install is unparraled except by Gentoo, and as said before I don't have the patience for that.
Arch doesn't modify applications or set them up with what was somehow decided as 'the best defaults that are better than the package maintainer's ones' like Ubuntu does. I can choose everything. True, it's a bit more work, and I still have the odd problem like getting Samba to work, but I like that. I can see everything, I can learn a lot more.

Have you gathered that I now dislike Ubuntu and like Arch? I thought you might have.

RSS feeds aren't something new, but they're something I've never really bothered with until recently. I used to have a long list of websites I visited regularly, and most of them didn't have updates.
A lot of them had the orange RSS subscribe icon though, so I gave in, installed Lifera (The unstable version, naturally) and subscribed to all the regulars that had them, found a few more interesting feeds, stuck it on an hourly update, and lo and behold, updates. So much easier.
It's cut a huge chunk out of how long it takes to run through regular stuff. If you haven't tried RSS feeds yet, and like me you keep watch on a lot of things, see how many of them have an feed you can subscribe to, and find out just how much time you can save. Believe me, it's one thing you'll wonder how you did without afterwards if you're anything like me.

Well, that's all from now. There's other news, but it's not computer related, and it's more personal stuff, which as I said, you want to know, become real life friends.
So rock on people.
/me out.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Here goes again

Distributions always seem to be something I can't settle on. While I always seem to gravitate back to Ubuntu from time to time, I still try to find a better one for me. And in that seemingly never-ending quest, I've gone through a lot of distributions. I have a folder of CDs and DVDs that now encompasses five BSDs, an OpenSolaris snapshot, four development releases, and currently twenty different Linux distributions.
So, once in a while, when Ubuntu's obsessive user-coddling gets to me, I run through once more, and give another one a try.
Slackware, one of my favourites, has actually fallen from graces for a change. While I admit I've learned more about Linux with it than I have on any other distribution, I found myself doing a lot of './configure, make, make install' just to get some software up to date, so it could open documents I've been working on in the Ubuntu environment. I'm not always patient enough to handle this, which is the main reason Gentoo always slips right past me, so after a lot of issues, complaints and annoyances, I chose to give it up, and go on to another.
In this case, Arch. I don't recall if I've ever mentioned it before, and I'm feeling too lazy to go look because I've been unwell recently, so bear with me.
Arch and Gentoo are very similar, they both ask you to use the online handbook to install the system, they both only install the core, and they both then reboot and say 'OK boss, what now?'

This is a useful thing, for me. Ubuntu always suffers immense amounts of tinkering in places normal users don't go before I can call it adequate, and it never works as well as it should.
Arch, on the other hand, doesn't have anything to tinker with, beyond what it's built-in installer gets you to do. I can install what I want, pick and choose, and just get what I want, without the fluff. I don't have to install a complete Gnome desktop just to have to remove it and put Openbox on, I can just have Openbox out of the proverbial box. It's perfect for those people who want specifics, and don't want to be coddled with unnecessary extras that they don't want (A big culprit of that being Adobe - if you don't agree, see the website
The installer's also well made as it is - it's not quite as simple and self-explanatory as Slackware's, and it doesn't offer quite so much choice as Gentoo when following the handbook, but if you know what your partitions are, and what you're going to do, you don't even need the guide on the ArchWiki, you can just power through and have a working system within two hours on a good internet connection, or less than an hour if you install packages from the CD.

The only caveat I've discovered is audio - the ArchWiki guide says to install ALSA. You'd think that would work, right? Nuh-uh. Look at any full-featured distribution, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and such. Look in the listings, and while you'll find ALSA installed, you'll also find PulseAudio installed.
As I understand it, without PulseAudio, only one process can hold the audio channel at any one time. Install it, and you get the same level of audio capabilities as the mainstream distributions do. People new to, or considering going to Arch, take note of that, and when it tells you to install ALSA, also call up the ArchWiki page on PulseAudio, and install that too.
(Note: If you want to be safe though, leave it until after you've finished going through the guide.)

What else do I like about Arch? Pacman. No, not the little yellow ghost-eater, the package manager. I admit to being fond of Apt, with Yum coming a close second, and I can use either with a fair degree of proficiency, skill and speed. Pacman I can't do the same with still, but it's simple, no-nonsense approach to it is well thought out, and doesn't leave much to worry about. Like most advanced package managing tools, it resolves dependencies, and provides a very apt-like output telling you what it's going to do, and asking for confirmation. Even during the package install step of installing Arch, it gives you an idea of what you'll see and get, and even allows you to scroll through the output once it's done to check up on it.

All in all? Arch is one of the better distributions I've come across. For someone who has patience enough to tweak and install what they want, install of what the distributor decides, but not enough patience to sit and watch Gentoo compile everything on the go, this is perfect. For those who want more than is available in the Arch repository and it's testing repository, there's AUR - the Arch User Repository. Unlike other equivalents, such as Ubuntu's PPAs, it's not a repository you pass to Pacman - it's just a collection of scripts that you can download. You execute them, and they create a Pacman-usable package, thus giving you the flexibility to examne, refine and edit the script, with all the benefits of the package manager. It's like being able to 'make, make install' then have your manager install it alongside all the other packages.

If you want more customisability, give Arch a go. I guarantee that if you've enough patience and time enough to do a little work, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Reaching Enlightenment

It's been a long time since I first started using Linux, and even longer since Gnome caught me in it's clutches. In that time, I've used Gnome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, BlackBox, FluxBox, OpenBox, FVWM, JWM, IceWM and even WindowMaker. All of them had their good and bad points, but for the first time since Gnome, I've found something I like more.

E. AKA E17, or Enlightenment.
Enlightenment isn't included in Ubuntu Karmic by default, or if it is, I never noticed it before.
The useful tools of Ubuntu-Tweak and the sources generator at also don't have it listed (Although between them they cover sources for an immense amount of repositories for nearly everything).
Ubuntu Tweak's website, however, does include it. Why it doesn't show up in the app's sources centre, I don't know.

Now, Enlightenment's website does give a list of repositories for it's packages, but it's conspicuously missing Karmic. So I'll give you the instructions here to make it simple.
First you'll need the repository key, of course. Open your favourite terminal (Guake, in my case) and enter the following command:
sudo wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
(Note that the space on the end appears to be necessary)
Next, open /etc/apt/sources.list in your favourite text editor, and add the following line:
deb karmic main extras
Run a complete update, and as a good practice, I always apply any upgrades before continuing, but that's just me.

Now, to install the core of Enlightenment, just install the package 'E17'
If you're used to the flashy effects of Compiz Fusion, you can get the Enlightenment port of it by installing the package 'ecomorph-core' - note that if you do, when you choose your session at GDM, KDM or whatever you choose as your login manager, you'll need to choose the Ecomorph option, not the one for Enlightenment. Also, there aren't many Compiz plugins available, and some aren't quite the same. Try Wobbly Windows for an example.
If you want to add more functionality, have a look at the emodule pacakges. There is a dummy packages 'emodules-all' that pulls in them all, but be warned, it also pulls in the Enlightenment Network Manager, which may insist on removing your current one. If you like the network manager you already have, or aren't sure, pick and choose your emodules by hand.

There's a few other packages of note with it. Empower is like gksu, though I've never actually got it to work. emprint, and it's corresponding emodule is the screenshot tool. There's more to, of course.

It's fairly easy to customize too, with an entire section of the OpenDesktop site to itself, namely, - though there isn't much there in comparison to Gnome-Look and the like, it's enough to get started.
With that, I've found that Enlightenment without EcoMorph is a very good desktop for older computers, while including it provides a nice balance between usability and special effects.
Overall? E17 is an impressive desktop environment, and if you're not certain what Window Manager or Desktop Environment to use, give it a shot, and give it a fair trial. It takes a little getting used to, and it also takes some customising to get it how you'll like it, but it's definitely worth a good trial.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Identifying a 64-bit CPU - the one step easy guide

This old computer I've had for a while, I've always run 32-bit systems on. A couple days ago, I happened across something that I wish I'd known before - it's 64-bit capability.
So, here's the simple way to identify whether your CPU is 64-bit capable. Note this only works on Linux, but then, why would you want to run anything else? (BSD might also work, but I don't know for sure. Can anyone confirm?)

You'll need a terminal. Enter the following command:
cat /proc/cpuinfo

Read the output, and look for the section on Flags. For my CPU, it looks like this. The bolded part is the one to look for.

processor : 0
vendor_id : AuthenticAMD
cpu family : 15
model : 44
model name : AMD Sempron(tm) Processor 3000+
stepping : 2
cpu MHz : 1000.000
cache size : 128 KB
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 1
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt lm 3dnowext 3dnow up rep_good pni lahf_lm
bogomips : 1999.70
TLB size : 1024 4K pages
clflush size : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes : 40 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts fid vid ttp tm stc

Notice in that the list of flags, there's 'lm'?
If you see that in your CPU's list of flags, you have a 64-bit capable CPU.

Simple, innit?
And all this time I've been running a 32-bit system on it. To think I never knew.
To be fair, switching from 32-bit Ubuntu Karmic to 64-bit Ubuntu Karmic hasn't been entirely smooth. I've yet to manage to get Skype to work, and a few of my other applications don't seem to have amd64 packages, only i386 ones. This is inconvenient, but on the other hand, gets me experimenting with alternatives I don't normally consider, thus allowing me to learn more.

So next time you're sat wondering if you can run a 64-bit system... fire up a terminal (Or if you're not on Linux, grab a Linux LiveCD and use that instead) and run that command, and lo and behold, definite proof.
Rock on.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Desktop Environments and Window Managers

It seems like I revisit this all too often. But for those of you interested in Gnome Topaz aka Gnome Shell, you might find parts of this interesting. And if you like Gnome Shell, be ready for some unpleasentness.

Go back a few days. I'd finally decided to see what all the fuss was about, and use Ubuntu Tweak's Gnome Shell testing repository, and install it.
No problems there.
Everything advised me to shut down Compiz, and revert to basic Gnome/Metacity, before opening a terminal to enter the command 'gnome-shell --replace'
This is the first big glaring mistake.
When you run any window manager with the --replace operative, the current one is remembered and shut down. Remembered, because if the new window manager is killed, it'll be reloaded.
So you don't, it seems, need to shut down Compiz - it'll do it for you.
Now, that aside, I let it spend a few minutes starting up. I admit my computer isn't recent, but it's fairly robust, and can handle KDE with only a few problems, but more on that later.
Gnome Shell, however, brought it to slower than a snail's pace. As I'd lost the CPU applet on my Gnome panel,I couldn't tell how much of that it was hogging, but evidently the hard drive wasn't doing anything.
Then finally, things started to appear. The new bar (It's not a panel until it can support Gnome panel applets) my normal Gnome desktop, and the Avant Window Navigator that I keep running.
Then after a few more minutes, the terminal reappeared. Slowly.
I figured it was now ready to use. Boy was I wrong.
The mouse is perfectly fine, but to actually interact with anything, you have to mouse over, and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.
I tried to launch Firefox from AWN. I tried to write this post. I gave up after 30 minutes, summoned back the terminal (Eventually) and killed Gnome Shell with Ctrl-C.
I will not be using Gnome Shell again until it runs far better than this. If this is what the so called future of Gnome is going to be, then expect to lose your users, Gnome. Gnome Shell is worse than Windows. Any incarnation of Windows. Even Vista.
Fix it. Oh, and while you're at it, since we can't use Compiz with the Gnome Shell, at the very least, offer your own implementation of it, so you're not cutting out chunks of things that people actually want.

With that bitter taste left, I decided I didn't want to run Gnome any longer, and went off to look at other things.
Of course, for a start, there's the other two Desktop Environments, KDE and XFCE, both familiar to me.
KDE came first, and though as said my system isn't exactly good, it performed respectably. I couldn't have many desktop plasmoids, but I don't really mind that.
What's a big let down in KDE, however, is the high resource requirements. I can't run Firefox in KDE at all. Everything slows right down, though it's far faster than Gnome Shell.
So KDE disqualified itself, after trying to run other Window Managers with it caused it to crash and reset my session.
XFCE lasted a little longer, it's XFApplet (The one that allows you to import Gnome panel applets) making up for a lot of missing things that I have in Gnome, and it performed relatively well.
What was wrong with XFCE? Several things.
There's no way to edit the menu. Gnome has Alacarte, KDE has it's own too, but nothing for XFCE.
Compiz doesn't play nice with it. It's usable, but not ideal. This isn't a necessity, but I prefer it.
No GlobalMenu. The Gnome GlobalMenu mimic's Mac OSX's universal menu bar for all apps, though some (Firefox, Openoffice, aMSN) don't work with this, and continue to use their own.
There is an XFCE applet for it, but it didn't work, and using the XFApplet to import it didn't work any better. Again, it's not a necessity - but it'd be nice.
Long login time. Now, I have several apps I like to start with login, Qwit for monitoring Twitter, my journal app, AWN, and the Guake terminal. But even KDE handled these small requests fine. XFCE, even with the options to launch Gnome and KDE services disabled, slowed right down and took a long while to get to usable.

This leaves me looking for alternatives.
Openbox has long been a friend of mine, and I did, for a time, have an Openbox session on this currently Karmic box - however, Dropbox refused to launch, and as I make use of it a lot, this is a major downside.
Blackbox and Fluxbox are in the same boat as Openbox here, though each acts differently. Still neither could launch Dropbox.
IceWM is nice, but doesn't have the right feel or touch to me. Same goes for JWM.
There are others, of course, some of them I've even tried, but none of them measure up.
So, I'm back with Gnome again. I don't want the Gnome Shell, and if they don't give users the choice between current Gnome and the Shell... well, it looks like I'll be moving to a distro that doesn't have it - and I'll keep having to do that until there isn't a distro left without it.
Then, I'll probably save up and buy a Mac. Despite everything bad about them, in my books, they still beat Windows, and it'll be a better option than running a Desktop I don't want, just to keep Gnome around.

In summary? Gnome Shell needs tons of work.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Statement

It's very rare that anyone will ever hear me so much as comment on political or even legal matters. Some might say it's because I don't care, don't know, or don't have an interest. I simply choose not to comment.

This, however, is different.
I honestly admit I have used BitTorrent. Who hasn't these days? There are some Linux distros you can only get through it these days, and it's generally more reliable.
But now, if I understand things correctly, the RIAA, MPAA, and others, or whatever their names are, are trying to change copyright laws through courtroom judgements, and make it illegal to share anything.

What the fuck?

Not sharing didn't get us this far. Who knows how much less advanced the world would be if people never shared?

Here's an related observation I made recently.
Look at Windows. Any Windows. Compare it to a Linux distribution at the time. Assume you know how to use both equally, and have no bias (Impossible, I know, but it's a hypothetical situation).
To my point of view, I have Windows, closed source, with a great deal of applications being developed for it, but an unstable and difficult system.
On the other side, Linux, open source, also with a great deal of applications being developed - a good number because there's a need for them where there otherwise only exists an alternative in Windows. Linux is far more stable.
Which would you choose, sensibly? Linux, I have little doubt.
Now think about this. Why does Linux excel? It does so because anyone can look at the source, examine it, and submit ideas, patches, or even a re-written source file to improve it. Linux lets people do this to all parts of it.
Windows doesn't. People complain. Nothing happens.
But wait! Here come the RIAA! You're not allowed to share things like this. Linux is illegal. It looks like Windows, therefore it's not legal. I'm sure many of you have heard of the case where a misinformed teacher thought it was illegal for a student to be handing out CDs of Linux.

What is the world coming to?
At this rate, one where we pay to do as we are told.
If you're writing code for anything at all, regardless of who it's for, where it'll be used... put it under a creative commons or GNU license, and make the world a better place for us all.
Down with the recording industries misinformed and pointless fight to make everything theirs and to make us pay to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.
Down with them. Out with them. The Pirate Bay has the right idea. Fight them. Bring common sense back to them, and make them see why they are wrong.

/end statement. And now a disclaimer. The views expressed above are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of anyone or anything else. Somewhere out in the deepest depths of space there might be a many-tentacled green slime oozing bloblike life form that shares these views, but he/she/it will have to make it's own statement. This one's mine.
And if any of you people from the RIAA and Co read this - go find yourselves a brain. You clearly don't have one.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Distros and End Of Life

Now, call me weird, but last time I checked, when a distribution reached End of (supported) Life, the repositories and such for it didn't just vanish, right?

Unfortunately, that's what's gotten into some people's heads locally. For example, on my home network, there's three PC's running Ubuntu Jaunty, and everyone's telling me they MUST be upgraded come April (Which might be when Lucid is released, but I've never really paid attention to that) or they'll cease to work, or you'll never get updates, and other such doomsday prophecies.

The truth is, I couldn't care less.
Let's examine my network as it stands:
There are four laptops. One for each of us. The parents are running Vista and 7, because they came with the laptops. I've given up trying to suggest Linux might be worth trying on either laptop.
My own laptop and my brothers, both ancient Dell Latitude C400s, are both running Ubuntu Jaunty alone. While mine is ailing and dying (Though *still* hasn't died yet - it's persistant), his is still happily plugging away.
Then there's the two desktop PCs.
One dual boots Jaunty with Windows XP, because unfortunately we still find need for it from time to time. It seldom gets much use.
The other, this one, has Fedora 12 on it alone. This has the interesting effect that no one else will use it. At all.

Now, Fedora 12, despite some time ago cursing it off as the worst thing I ever saw, I've learned a bit more about, and it's not quite the big bad ogre I once thought it was, and truth be told, I'm considering upgrading to Fedora 13 as soon as the stable is out.
Ubuntu Jaunty, is, in my opinion, the last good Ubuntu there ever was. Some say Intrepid, some (mistakenly to my mind) say Karmic, but I say Jaunty. Karmic it far too buggy and unstable to be considered, and Lucid... I won't even go there.
So what am I to do, with three Ubuntu Jaunty installs that everyone thinks I'm going to have mayhem with come April?
There's all kinds of possibilities.

I like Jaunty. I might decide to stick with it. Given that the truth is that it'll still be perfectly fine, with only security updates and anything 3rd party repositories provide, I don't really see much wrong with it. But if I have to change it, there's only a few options.
I've gone off Debian and Ubuntu based systems. the DEB package format isn't bad, but Debian and Ubuntu, along with most of their derivatives, seem to make things too easy.

There's the possibility of going into Gentoo, Source Mage, Sourcer or Lunar, all of which are source-based distros. That's nice, but I'd like to have a graphic desktop now, rather than compile it myself, which is where Sabayon comes to the rescue.
Sabayon is based on, and maintains compatibility with, Gentoo, which as you may know, is an ongoing fascination of mine. (Incidentally, I remember seeing someplace that you can add Portage to other distros. I've no idea of the consequences, but for the adventurous among you, see what a search turns up.)
Sabayon provides binary packages, which is perfect for those in a hurry, but who also don't mind going back to good 'ol Gentoo's compiling. It gives you a KDE environment, and like most distros, a small suite of applications, then leaves it all up to you.

Alright, so what's the more flexible possibility?
Arch I've never got along with before. 'The Arch Way' is something that used to give me no end of trouble.
But then, that was before I realised that like Gentoo suggests reading the handbook as you install, so does Arch suggest reading the wiki, and I learned more.
Arch is nice in that it gives you the core system, and a command line, then essentially says 'Ok boss, what now?'
I can choose literally everything. No more installing and finding applications that I'll never know the purpose of or never use, because 99% of them will be ones I selected.

What other options are there, you ask?
Without going into much detail, Fedora, as mentioned, has my attention (The Yum package manager beats the pants of APT, and I really wish someone would port it to DEB)
Also in favour at the moment are Wolvix and Slackware. While I have had a few issues with Slack and Slack based systems, I'll grant I mananged to milk a great deal more out of my systems than on most other distros - something I hope to rival with Arch someday.
There's a pair of BSDs that have garnered my interest as well, GNOBSD, the only one I know of that provides Gnome on BSD out of the box, and PC-BSD, one of the few with a graphic installer - something useful for those who don't get the BSD naming schema.

As usual, there's a lot of choice. But since everyone's complaining I shouldn't be keeping Jaunty around, and I refuse to let Karmic on my network, it's looking likely that I'll just branch out my knowledge a bit.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The adventures of Slackware

As previously mentioned Slackware's finally grasped my undivided attention. Which makes a change, since prior to that, Debian or Ubuntu always seemed to be the one I kept coming back to.

It's provided me with no end of interesting challenges, and more than a few headaches, but on the other hand, I can also say I have a system that works my way - more so than I did for the very brief time I had a GNOME Gentoo desktop.

Slackware 13, installed from a DVD is what I have.
Now, I'm known (probably) for being a bit of a GNOME junkie - I prefer it, if at all possible. Slackware, on the other hand, has eschewed it entirely, which is a bit of an inconvenience for me.
So one of the first things added was the GSB (Gnome Slack Build) which provided me with... well, a mostly working Gnome environment, GDM, etc.
On the other hand, it also has the slight problem that possibly because of the missing GNOME dependencies in certain Slackware packages, some things don't quite work. USB devices won't mount, it admits DVDs are there, but pretends they're not, and all kinds of apps complain loudly if you run them via a terminal.

But, it works, and it gave me the parts of GNOME I still like. I've since worked around most of the issues I had with it simply by returning to the default KDE desktop, and starting to bring GNOME to it.
The KDE panel had it's notification area and task switcher removed, windows were allowed to cover it, and it now resides in the top left corner. On login, two additional commands are executed - 'gnome-settings-daemon' imports, as it's name suggests, my GNOME settings, and saves them on logout. 'gnome-panel' again does exactly what it says it does; launch my gnome-panel.
Which is laid out along the bottom, with a number of handy applets that I can't seem to find any KDE equivalent of.
First is Gnomenu. The KDE Kicker menu is nice, but I often get lost in it. True, I often do in Gnomenu as well, but I know it better.
Second is cpufire-applet, which displays the cpu usage as a neat little fire. The higher the flames lick, the more it's being used.
Third is the default network monitor. I like to keep tabs on what's doing what on my network. Call me possessive, but when it really is MY network, I don't like the idea of having something go wrong with it, and I try not to let it happen.
Fourth is Topshelf. My god, I have not found anything more useful than this. It happily sits there, one small little icon, which I can click on to bring up a window with any document I've added to it. It's one-click access to all my current works, which since I like to write a lot, is my list of stories.
The rest, of course, is simple - the task manager, notification area and clock.

Between this gnome-panel setup and KDE's working perfectly - a rarity for me - I actually have a system I can use.
I would prefer Nautilus to work slightly better, since it seems to have more functionality than both Dolphin and Konqueror combined, but yakuake (since guake doesn't work) has started to make up for that. If only I could remember which options do what which when using tar.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Slacking off

No, not literally.
Slackware has finally garnered my attention for long enough that it's beeen installed on one of my PCs already.

Now, those of you who read this blog will know by now that I've tried this before, using the Install CD (CD1, in case you were wondering) which invariably gave a Kernel Panic.
It turns out, that while the image I used was perfectly fine, the disk burner did something to it that caused that.
So I spent last night downloading a Slackware 13.0 DVD image. From a mirror, via because the main Slackware site is down. Again.

This time, it's booted perfectly fine, leaving me ready to try to install. At the moment it's formatting what is due to be the / partition.

I'll grant, I prefer graphic over text installers, but that's a preference. Slackware's installer is a text mode, but it isn't bad at all - it explains nicely. However, I don't think it's friendly for those newbies who might be better off using Ubuntu for a bit longer.

You might be asking what finally got me to give Slackware a second chance. The answer is Wolvix.
Wolvix is based on Slackware 12.2, and is intended to be a LiveCD only distro. It does have a HD install available though, and since that's what I use most, I gave it a shot. It does warn it may not be bug free, but it worked fine for me - a nice, clean interface, a button to launch GParted if needed, it's all there, nice and simple.
Wolvix also shows off the best of XFCE, a desktop environment I normally avoid in favour of GNOME. After learning that Slackware seems to have dropped GNOME entirely, however, I was willing to give it a go.
The LiveCD boots slowly, but it has a wide array of hardware compatibility. Nothing was left undetected at all.
As with many LiveCDs, you log into a root-user session. Manually, though that's little trouble through it's SLiM login, which tells you to use 'root' 'toor' to log in.
It's responsiveness while in LiveCD mode was sluggish, but that's to be expected. It's not running from the HD, which was the next. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be an option, but the Wolvix Control Panel is where its hiding, along with options for a Frugal and USB install.
Post-Install, Wolvix was much more responsive, and felt more like a desktop distro. The first thing to do, as with any system, was to check for and add updates.
This presented a minor problem, as the slapt-get package manager, and it's graphic fronted gslapt required an update before practically anything else could be updated. Trying to update GSlapt from the command line with slapt-get tried to pull in libpng, which gave the same problem of 'incomplete download'
A breif search on their documentation however revealed that to solve this, you first use slapt-get to update slapt-get, and then upgrade GSlapt, finally allowing you to upgrade the rest of the system. It's all due to some change in slapt-get that handles authentication, I believe.
That hurdle aside, I set about finding regular packages I use.
As slapt-get is based, obviously, on apt-get, so GSlapt would appear to be on Synaptic. Having used Synaptic a gread deal, this made for an easier time.
GSlapt also marks dependencies without telling you - unless there's an error handling them. I don't mind this, but I like to know all the same. The dependencies, although it does make the disclaimer that it's only as good as the person making the package, were handled near perfectly.
One thing I did note is that several packages are marked on an 'exclude' rule, preventing modification. Packages such as udev and the kernel. This may or may not be overly important, so I left them be. Probably safest.
I did note at this point there was very little to do with GNOME at all - it seemed like it had just been lifted out. Slackware came to the rescue there explaining that for some reason in the past they'd been removed.
So I added a few 3rd party repositories to GSlapt. This isn't recommended by any means, but since Wolvix is slightly outdated on some software, it was going to be a necessity in order to bring it up to date.
However, again, I ran into issues. Dependency problems plagued me from there. Which is what finally prompted me to Slackware 13.

Which so far has done a grand job of winning me over. True, I'm still getting to grips with it, but it definately lives up to the adage that 'If you use Slackware, you'll learn Linux' and no doubt about it.
I'm still working on it though, so you'll have news of my Slackware Adventures later.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Distributions (yet) again

I know some people who use Linux, who have a massive collection of Live and Install media which goes back a long ways. If I keep up at this rate, I'll be one of those people before long.

See, this started a few days ago when Mum decided she didn't like OpenSUSE, and wanted something new. Her computer isn't exactly robust, however, so we always try out potential candidates before they touch her computer.

We went through, and settled on Mandriva. I've heard a lot of good things about it, and I'm sure in other circumstances, I might even have seen a few of them.
Mandriva, to me, is a pest. I used the GNOME Live CD, because her computer doesn't have a DVD drive, nor does it support booting via USB. A bit of a pain.
It booted on another computer perfectly, and apparently it 'looks perfect' according to her.
It working, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.
On first boot after install, it started downloading files without any explanation of what they were. After examining what scant details were available, I concluded it was adding repositories and checking for updates.
So, when I finally got to a useable desktop environment - two hours after starting the install because of it's immense slowness - nothing seemed to be different, so I told it to check for updates. It said there weren't any.
So I went hunting for packages that she wants. To my surprise, there are no packages uninstalled!
It hadn't added repositories at all, and it took me the better part of half an hour to finally track down why, and get it to add some. Even then, a good half of them told me it couldn't download some file, and therefore couldn't be enabled.
But, it provided updates and some of the missing software, so I accepted what it let me have, and turned to RPMDrake.
And turned away from RPMDrake.
While RPMDrake is good in the sense that it allows you to mark actions easily, it is, in comparison to urpmi - the backend, like apt-get - dreadful.
DistroWatch's page on package management came to the rescue, allowing me to finally upgrade from the command line.
With that finally done, I decided not to trust RPMDrake, and merely made lists of the package names I'd need to install, passing them directly to urpmi. Most of them worked. Some of them, like K3B, downloaded a dependency and then complained loudly that it didn't exist.
But it just downloaded the package it's telling me doesn't exist? (And yes, I did check. Several times, in fact.)
While sorting this out, I thought I'd go and start up rhythmbox, and put on some of my music to ease my mood - joy for being able to keep /home separate.
However, even this complained about half my media, forcing me to retreat back to RPMDrake to find missing gstreamer plugins, which, you guessed it, downloaded dependencies and then told me they didn't exist again.
Mandrake may have it's good points, but I saw almost none of them before I gave up at that point.

I've since gone through my growing collection of media, and tried some others.
Slackware invariably gives a Kernel panic, regardless of the computer I try to install it on, or what's in that computer.
OpenSuSE has a window manager that doesn't work.
Debian Lenny is old.
Ubuntu Karmic... well, speaks for itself. I've yet to hear one good thing about Karmic that Jaunty can't do with an extra repository, or a compile-it-yourself source archive.
BSD had another small look in, and a look out again after I remembered that I understand absolutely nothing about it.
Linux Mint had a Nautilus that segfaulted almost immediately.
Fedora has SELinux. 'nough said. See my earlier rants about Fedora.

All in all, not very useful.
So now I'm trying to try (yes, you read that right) Ark Linux.
The problem now is that the computer being used to test this on, when using the graphic installer (I prefer them over text based, but if the text based explains what it's doing, why, and what I'm meant to do clearly, I don't mind them either. An example is Gentoo with the Handbook) the mouse isn't detected. Meaning I can't set up partitions correctly.
I'm seriously considering breaking out an old Windows XP install here. And coming from me, who tries to avoid Windows at all costs, that's saying something.
Buck up, Linux. You need to do better than this.

Rock on, people.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Linux and 'the best'

Some of you may well agree with what I'll say next. Many won't.
There is no such thing, especially within Linux, as 'the best'.
That doesn't seem to stop people from trying to identify it.

Take the Linux Questions forum - now, I have no objection to their polls for the best this or that of the year. I've even voted there myself, and made a few posts. But as far as I'm concerned, it's just a measure of how many people share the same opinion.

See, for me, my 'best' setup is like this:
Openbox/Gnome session, with Guake terminal and aMSN on autostart, the topshelf applet on the top Gnome panel for quick access alongside a CPU and network monitor. Using Firefox as the web browser of choice, and as the Office suit of choice.

Openbox because it lightens up almost anything. For a time, even KDE managed to run near flawlessly using it on my old laptop.
Gnome because in my opinion, there is no desktop environment more customisable.
Guake - I've been told it's dated, obsolete and old. I've been told to use Terminator. That doesn't change the fact that Terminator doesn't do what I want. Guake is a one button drop down terminal. I use the terminal that often, having Guake there on F12 whenever I want it is perfect.
aMSN. Personal choice. Emesene is good in a pinch, but aMSN is my preference. XChat handles IRC, and that's all the rest I've ever needed.
TopShelf. A damned useful Gnome Panel applet if I ever saw one. You feed it your files, and it sits around pretty much as an instant link to them. For example, I'm writing two stories at the moment - they're both in there, and it's invaluable when I suddenly have an idea (Usually at 3 am...) and have to write it down before I forget. (Also thanks to the quick start up time. You'd never think a laptop this old could start up so damn quick)
For the CPU monitor, I use CPUFire. I like watching the fire. The normal system monitor applet handles network traffic, with the colours changed so blue is local, red is up and yellow is down. Instantly able to tell what the traffic is like.

Now then.
Much as I keep trying to find other browsers, Firefox has a firm hold on me. Chromium/Google Chrome are useful short term or speed browsing alternatives, but Firefox, despite it's being slighty overweight in memory and CPU usage, simply cannot be replaced. I've even got to the point where I refuse to use Debian's rebranded Iceweasel because I wanted true Firefox, and installed it to /opt/Firefox though that was mostly to figure out what /opt was actually for.
As to well, there's plenty of solutions out of there, but I find it's perfect. Even more so with the Gnome package enabled, providing Gnome integration.

So, some of you have probably read that and thought, Hey, that's not the best one, why don't you use this instead? (You are of course welcome to say such things in the comments! I welcome new ideas.)
As I said before though - this is what I currently find is my 'the best'
Before though, I've had a 'best' that was pure Openbox. And another that was KDE/Konqueror/KOffice. My Gnome setup on desktop PC's is totally different from this setup for my laptop.

So as you can see... it's difficult to tell where the 'best' really is. Statistics and polls can only tell you what popular opinion says.

And now, for a shameless self plug. You might have noticed I mentioned something about writing stories. Yes, I write. Not much, and currently I'm unpublished (And unpublishable, until I rewrite a lot of words) but there are some stories online you can see.
They're fanfictions, and they're sparked off ideas I've had while watching my little brother. Don't ask. He's more crazy than I am.
But if you want to see my stories as I upload them, point your web browser to to find me, and at the bottom of the page you'll find my stories.

Now I'm off to go write some more to one of them before I forget what I was going to write. Where's that topshelf applet...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Giving a Squeeze

Guess what? Yup, it's that time again, when I bore you with one of my infrequent and random update posts.
Remember how I said I was using Debian Lenny?

I went off it. Lenny is missing too much, and is too far outdated to be usable - at least, that's my opinion, now I've upgraded to Squeeze.
Debian Squeeze, for those who don't know, is the testing branch - not the unstable one, sid.
Squeeze is happily plugging away perfectly, and curing so many of the problems I had with Debian.
I experimented a bit with KDE again. Now, knowing my ancient laptop, you might think that would be suicide for it, but did you know, you can remove a lot of the heavyness of KDE by using an Openbox/KDE session? At least, it worked for me.
I also take back negative things I've said about it. Once you get the hang of it, it's not actually as bad as I thought.
That was, however, the current KDE backported to Lenny - on Squeeze, it mysteriously slowed down.
So I've gone back to good old GNOME.
My only issue so far, has been with Frostwire. It needed something that wasn't in the repository, but after a helpful chappy on the Debian IRC channel referred me to the Debian Multimedia repository, all was solved.

In short? If you're thinking of using Debian, I'd say go for Squeeze. Lenny is uber-stable, but also full of old material. Squeeze is also stable - at least, I've had no stability issues - if anything, it's fewer.
Also, a useful point for people. If you change your Debian sources.list file (Note: not all 3rd party repositories support doing this, if you get 404 errors, change it back to lenny/squeeze) so that wherever lenny appears, it's replaced with stable, and for Squeeze, testing, then when Squeeze becomes stable, you'll automatically get the updates for it - and the same for when Sid becomes testing, and something else takes the place of Sid as unstable.

Another interest of mine lately is Longene, the Unified Kernel project. While I've not tried it, it's remained something of an intrigue to me.
It aims to be Wine and a bit more. Firstly you add a package that adds a kernel entry. This kernel supports both Windows and Linux calls, as I understand it, which improves handling of Windows programs.
Secondly, you add a second package, which patches Wine, so it understands what to do.
Apparently, this increases compatibility considerably.
Some people may find this useful, but be warned, as the first package is actually a kernel module, you may find that it's incompatible with other kernel modules, such as the proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers for one.
If you do decide to use it, be aware of that, and of course - BACKUP.
(Which you should do anyway)

That's all from me for now. Keep on enjoying the new year.
Rock on.