Saturday, November 19, 2011

A couple of notes regarding Unity vs. Gnome2.x


Tried 11.04 and 11.10.

In a nutshell, : DISLIKE. 

It's the Desktop Environment that I dislike.  With gnome 2.x you could customize pretty much everything, including the panels. With Unity, the customization is severerly limited, and until they include the customizability I want, I'll be staying with gnome 2.x.  I also tried Gnome 3.0, and had the same problems.  I want my computer displayed HOW I WANT IT with stuff WHERE I WANT IT.  Both Unity and Gnome3 cause problems with that and don't offer "out of the box" solutions.  So I'm waiting until they give Unity the customizability that gnome2.x had before I upgrade.  And yes, I know about booting into GDM 2.x, but I'd rather just have that as my default DM. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quick firefox tip

So I found out a neat thing about firefox. 

If you install via the repositories in synaptic, you get an older version of firefox.  If you go to the mozilla site ( you can download the newest version (6.0) which has some useful features (right click context menu is better organized, you can copy a web address and right click in the address bar and instead of clicking "paste" and then clicking the little green triangle, you can click "paste and go" which is a real nice time saver).  Only drawback I found is that when it prompts you if you want to update, it may break some of your add-ons (reloadevery, which I use on a daily basis, broke when I updated one of my computer's firefox, so be careful when you update because you may break your add-ons.  Also since it just gives you a binary file when you download it you'll want to put the entire firefox folder that you extract somewhere like usr/bin or somewhere where you keep your programs (I just made a folder inside my home folder called programs), then to open it you just run firefox by clicking on the firefox file (and you can drag it to a panel to create a panel shortcut and I'm pretty sure if you wanted to you could add it to the main context menu). 

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Tutorial on Compiz Config Settings Manager

This post I'm going to be talking about Compiz Config Settings Manager, or CCSM (not to be confused with SCCM).  I'm going to describe the configuration that I've got set up, and how you can customise yours to look similar.

This is going to assume that you already have desktop effects enabled and working properly.  If not there is a script called compiz check that you can find online somewhere that will tell you most likely what the problem is. 

First of all, you need to install CCSM (for some reason even though compiz is installed by default, the ability to adjust it's settings is not).  Open up synaptic (alt-F2 and then type in "gksu synaptic" and put in your password, or it's under system -> administration -> Synaptic Package Manager) and search for "compiz".  You'll want to install 2 things: compizconfig-settings-manager and compiz-fusion-plugins-extra.

Ok so mark those 2, click apply, then once it's done installing them close synaptic.

Next you're going to want to open CCSM.  I personally alt-F2 everything so alt-F2 and type in "ccsm" and hit enter.  Once opened, you'll see a screen that looks similar to this one:

Ok so now that you've got it open, you can see there are a lot of different options that you can customise.  Starting at the top and moving down, I'll go through the ones that I use and how to use them.

Under General:
"Commands" and "Gnome Compatibility" are checked by default, I don't bother to mess with these and it's probably a good idea to leave them checked.

Under Accessibility:
Enhanced Zoom Desktop: I find this one to be very useful, and I use it multiple times a day.  If it's not checked by default, check it, and then click on it to go into the settings.  You can see that there's different places to select which buttons for mouse activation and keyboard activation.  I don't use the keyboard activation since the zoom follows the mouse, so I have mine set up as super + scroll up zooms in and super + scroll down zooms out.  scroll up is technically mouse button 4 and scroll down is mouse button 5.  If you dig that kind of a set up, you can just mimic my settings below:

That's all I do for Enhanced Zoom Desktop.  You do have the option to go in and customise it further with changing the mouse behaviour, specific zoom, zoom area movement, focus tracking, and animation, but I find the default settings to be just fine.

I don't use negative, so I turned it off while writing this tutorial.

Opacity, Brightness and Saturation: Something about this effect is just really cool, and it's very customisable, so if you like this sort of thing I'll tell you how to achieve it.  Mark the Opacity, Brightness and Saturation check box.  Then click on it to get into the settings.  I have my increments in steps of 5, and the opacity of any window set to 93.  To do this, under the opacity tab click "New", then BEFORE YOU PUT "any", MOVE THE SLIDER TO SOMETHING LIKE AT LEAST 50.  The reason you want to move the slider first is that if you type in any and hit tab, CCSM will become 0% opaque, or 100% transparent (same difference, kind of a glass half full/glass half empty kind of thing) and it will be REALLY HARD to find that slider to move it to anything besides 0.  Trust me, I've made this mistake before.  Anyhow, so you set the slider to your liking for your opacity, mine is 93 because you can still read everything on your current window as well as see things behind it if you want.  Furthermore, you probably want to set a mouse action to change the opacity, I use alt-button4 for increase (alt-scroll up) and alt-button5 (alt-scroll down) for decrease.  This will increase or decrease in increments of 5.  Useful for if you're watching something online and don't want the window to be transparent, or if you want to put something "always on top" but don't want it to be very visible.

Anyhow, That's that for the opacity part.  I don't use brightness or saturation because I have no need for them, but you can set them up in a similar fashion (just don't forget to use unique button/mouse combinations to trigger these actions, or you'll have multiple things happening at once which is......sloppy). 

Under Desktop:

I have enabled "Desktop Wall" and "Expo".  Desktop wall was enabled by default and I haven't messed with it, so yours should be fine how it is (unless you want to do something else with it, in which case have at).  Expo and Viewport Switcher are also enabled by default, and I haven't messed with either of them because I don't use multiple desktops or...switch viewports.

Under Effects:

Check "Animations Add-On" (this is part of the compiz-fusion-plugins-extra package we installed earlier).  No need to go into the settings of it, it just needs to be checked.  Then click on "Animations".  You are greeted with a lot of different settings and tabs.  Basically what you're looking at is at the top you've got your different actions (the tabs), then the table (which effect, how long, what windows), and last your random effects.  What I've found to be fun is to enable all of the random effects (lots of clicking check boxes, or just use the keyboard and space bar to check them all), then setting the effect to "random", duration for the first one 200 milliseconds, then 100 for the next 2 (essentially the first is the large windows, while the latter 2 are small things like dialogue boxes and right click menus and tooltips.  open, close, and minimize all follow this convention).  Do this for open, close, and minimize (adjusting the times to whatever your preference is if it's different).  Then go to the "shade" tab, and check all 3 options on the bottom, set the effect to random, and the duration to something like 300.  It's a good idea to have a nautilus window open in the background so you can try things like opening, closing, minimizing, to see how the time is and how the animations look.  If you want to leave one of them out of the random pool simply uncheck it.  Lastly the focus animation, which some people really hate.  I got mine set on fade, duration 150.  Dodge is sort of obtrusive, and so is wave.  Or you can have no effect and it'll just blink forward.

That's it for the animations tab.  Next is Wobbly Windows.  I left mine default, and just checked it.  You can adjust the wobble in the settings, I stuck with the default.  I don't care that much about HOW my windows wobble, I just want them to do it.

Window Decoration: I chose to remove the shadow on my panels so they would be completely transparent.  To do this, where it says "shadow windows", click the little plus next to there, then click "invert", and click "grab", then click your panel.  Then click "ok".  If it worked, your panel should have no shadow beneath it now.  The weird thing that I've encountered while doing this is that the string where you specify which windows to shadow will look like this: "(any) & !(class=)" and not have "gnome-panel" specified after class (but it works), but if you type in "(any) & !(class=gnome-panel)" it won't work.  So I guess that's a bug.

That's all you gotta do for window decoration.

Under the Extras section I have nothing checked.

Under the Image Loading section I have everything checked, with default settings.

Under Utility, I have all the default items checked with default settings.

Under Window Management, I have the following checked:

Extra WM Actions
Move Window
Place Windows
Resize Window
Ring Switcher

Move, Place, and Resize are all with default settings.

Ring Switcher I changed to "alt-tab" to initiate, and also I deselected "static application switcher" beforehand to avoid conflicts.

Scale, I assigned the Bottom Right corner of the screen to initiate.  You can use whatever area seems right for you.  This will bring all your windows onto the screen at once ala mac osx and let you choose the one you want to bring to the front.  Like so:

Alright, that's all the compiz customisations I use, I hope you all found this helpful or useful or maybe interesting.  Leave me a comment if you did, link me to a screenshot of what you do with your desktops!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Best Of:

My personal favorite Linux applications for everyday use:

Internet Browser: Firefox
I use firefox primarily, but still keep chromium around in case the one problem I still have with chrome gets resolved.  For some reason I can open a million tabs in firefox and have no noticeable impact on my processor.  Conversely chromium starts really weighing down my processor after opening just a couple tabs.  I dunno why, but if they fix it in the future I'll consider using chromium rather than firefox. 

Oh, and on that here's a tip that I've found incredibly useful.  When you have more than one browser installed and you open up your non-default browser, it will usually ask you if you want to make it your default.  Check the box that says "don't ask again" or however it's phrased, and then don't make it your default.  Do that with all your browsers and then whether you open up firefox or chromium neither will nag you about not being default.  Huzzah. 

For media player, I've got a couple standby Linux players that I usually go to.  For watching video, VLC is in my opinion far better than the others.  It can play just about any type of video, has nifty filter effects (if you're so inclined), can up the volume of the source to 400%, has the ability to make playlists, shuffle, repeat, blah blah blah.  Basically it's just pretty great. 

As far as music goes, it sort of depends on the size of your library.  I used to have more than 20,000 songs and trying to use Banshee or Exaile was just obnoxious.  Banshee would be very slow to respond when scrolling through the entire library playlist, or when scrolling through large (>5000 songs) playlists, or when changing songs.  Basically in many different aspects it was slow.  Also it had a tendency to duplicate songs, and then duplicate the duplicates, and so on and so on and so on until 20,000 songs is more like 24,000 when you include all the duplicates.  And it's just not easy to get rid of them all.  Exaile had a similar problem with lagging, and with randomly closing when trying to import everything.  So basically unless you've got a pretty small music library those don't work too hot. 

I ended up deleting everything and just starting a new music library, so I suppose I could go back to using Banshee or Exaile, but I'd rather not. 
Instead I prefer organising my music by hand (music folder, artist folder, album folder) and adding whatever I want to audacious.  The default skin for audacious is really ugly but if you liked Winamp on Windows XP then you'll dig it because Audacious can use any Winamp 2.x skin (of which there are some very cool ones). 

To manage a large library, there's still not really a good FOSS solution but you can use Foobar2000 and Wine, and it works just fine. 

I think empathy works just fine for instant messaging; the fact that you can be on facebook chat while not actually being on facebook tends to be mind-blowing to non-technical but still facebook-using people. 

For a wallpaper changer, I recommend desktopnova, it's got a really low footprint, you can change in intervals and it's pretty easy to use.  Doesn't get all snarled up when it's source folder has hundreds of images (unlike wally, which while being a very versatile program tends to use a lot of processor power and freeze things momentarily when switching wallpapers). 

My favorite bittorrent client is Deluge, for it's relative simplicity, it's customisability, speed, and just general ease of use.  Also you can send yourself an email when a torrent finishes downloading so if you're away from your computer you can still check your email to see if torrents have finished.  Cool. 

To enable corner actions I use Brightside, which I do not know any other similar programs.  You can set the action to start screensaver, prevent screensaver from starting, lock screen, or a custom action like gnome-terminal or update-manager (the terminal command is pretty awesome actually). 

More to come another day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Foobar2000 on Ubuntu through WINE

Just a quick post regarding Foobar2000 on Ubuntu:

I've been pretty disappointed with the selection of music players on Ubuntu.  Banshee was good, but then for some reason started duplicating a lot of my tracks, then triplicating and quadruplicating, to the point where it was just unmanageable.  Audacious is good, but the audioscrobbler for some reason doesn't want to work.  I had heard good things about Foobar2000, but it's only a windows application.  Well I'm here to say basically 2 things. 

The installer runs fine on WINE (when choosing version, I believe, which leaves the registry alone).  The program itself runs fast with little to no lag.

Secondly, the plugin works perfectly.  You just download it, unzip the .dll, place it in the foobar2000 folder, go to preferences, and through the preferences window you can install it.  It requires that the app restart, but then once it does you configure it with your username and password, and that's it.  Works fine.

check it check it check it

Friday, May 27, 2011

HOWTO: Add transparency to dialogue and modal dialogue boxes

There are a few things you will need before being able to enable transparency for your dialog boxes and modal dialog boxes is compiz-fusion, which can be found in the repositories.  Install it in a terminal with

"sudo apt-get install compiz"

*(without the quotes).

Then, install compiz-config-settings-manager with the command

sudo apt-get install compiz-config-settings-manager

If you want to be fancy and do it all in one command it would look like this:

sudo apt-get install compiz ; sudo apt-get install compiz-config-settings-manager

If all goes well, and your graphics card and drivers and memory are all able to handle desktop effects, compiz and compiz config settings manager should be installed.
Right click on the desktop and click "change desktop background".
Click the tab "desktop effects" and if it's not already marked, mark "normal".

The program should search for drivers and then enable desktop effects (if all is well with your graphics card capabilities).

Now to enable transparency for your dialog boxes and modal dialog boxes:

Click on the main Gnome menu -> system -> preferences ->compizconfig settings manager

This will open up the settings manager for Compiz (wow big surprise there).  Scroll down to "opacity, brightness and saturation" and mark the box next to it to enable it.  Then click the actual button to enter the opacity, brightness and transparency options.

Under "Window Specific Settings" click "new"
When the dialog box comes up, change the opacity to something other then 0 before entering in the criteria for which components you want to make transparent.  It can be a pain if you somehow type "ccsm" into the windows field with it still set to 0, then try to somehow find the little slider thing to change it to something visible.  Anyhow best practice in my opinion is to change it to something like 80% and then choose your windows.

So to choose the windows we're going to be listing them according to their window type.

After clicking "new" to enable transparency for dialogs, modal dialogs, popup menus and drop down meus  you would enter

"type=Menu | PopupMenu | DropdownMenu | Dialog | ModalDialog" *(again, do not include the quotes).

I have mine set at 70, choose whatever you prefer.  You can use this same process and add another entry with "type=any" set to 90 or 95%, which is usually visually pleasing.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, have questions or comments feel free to let fly

Keep it pimpin' out there...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things to customize after a fresh install

One of the biggest strengths of Ubuntu is the degree to which it can be customized.  Most people leave things approximately where they are, however with the correct know-how and dedicated time you can customize your desktop to a high degree and make it operate EXACTLY how you want. 

In the newest release, Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, a new desktop environment was chosen over Gnome called Unity.  I personally don't like Unity because of how locked down it seems.  You can still upgrade to 11.04 and choose "Ubuntu Classic" when you log in, but it seems like Ubuntu 10.10 is a perfectly fine release and I see no reason to upgrade unnecessarily (if it ain't broke, don't fix it). 

For that reason, this guide/tutorial is going to be written for Ubuntu 10.10 and earlier, or for that matter any Gnome 2.x distribution. 

So then, to get started:  when you first install and log in, you should see a screen like this: (with the exception that mine is running in Virtualbox)

In a word, BORING. 

I'll explain how to go from that to this:

The things that I'm gonna be changing are mainly dealing with the look of the OS, not the functionality, as that would be an entire different post. 

I'll cover how to change the background, the theme, the cursor theme, the screensaver, the panels, the icon themes, how to add panel applets and a few other useful things. 

First off you want to get yourself some new themes.  Check out and look under "gtk2.x" for a theme you like.  Once you find one (mine is called divinorum revisited or something like that) download it and save it somewhere (a folder in your home folder called "themes" is suitable.  Then right click on your desktop background, and click change desktop background.  open the "theme" tab, and click "install".  navigate to your newly downloaded theme (should be .tar or .tar.bz2), double click, and it should install.  Depending on the theme it will ask you if you wish to apply it.  A trick is that themes can be somewhat mixed and matched.  You can use the controls of one theme, the window border of a different theme, the icons of a different theme, and a cursor of a different theme, all of which are installed in the same way.  To customize those aspects, click on any specific theme, then click "customize" and you will have all the options to customize the theme.  Some will let you customize the colors of the windows, some won't. 

Now about the panels:

You can leave the panels as they are, but they're pretty ugly.  I would always choose to make them transparent by right clicking on them, going to properties, then background, then choose solid color and make it all the way transparent.  If you wish to get rid of the shadow on them open up compizconfig-settings-manager (sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager if you don't have it already), go to "window decoration", go to "shadow windows" section and click the little "+".  click "invert", then click grab and click on your panel.  It should then exclude the panel from the shadow window decoration. 

Things I find to be very useful on the panel are the system monitor, set to a width of 100 pixels and update interval of 200 milliseconds, a main menu (not the custom one with the "applications places system" menus separate), the weather applet, the notification area, the volume/mail applet, the date/time, and the user control (log out/shutdown thing).  Using just these, and no bottom panel I have no problem switching between windows using the scale function and alt-tab (ring switcher FTW), and have a beautiful and uncluttered desktop. 

In addition, I would highly recommend installing desktopnova (you can find it in the repositories), and finding a bunch of good wallpapers for it to cycle through at regular intervals.  More information to come, ask some questions if you want to know more about which themes I used and how to do what and whatnot. 

Keep it real.