Ubuntu Setup Guide Part VI. Customizing Gnome's Look & Feel

Posted in Guides, Linux, Lists, Ubuntu by aliencam | 3 Comments »

I don’t really like the way Ubuntu’s default Gnome setup looks. Primarily because I have my tablet, which has a small 12.1 inch screen. I also like to change the theme. Since I have such a small screen, I will do almost anything to increase how much information I can see at the same time (short of getting a laptop with a bigger screen, or an external monitor, of course.) So, many of these tips are inspired or taken from Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

To illustrate the changes I make, here are before and after screenshots of my computer’s look.

Original Final

First step is to install window picker applet: a window picker in your title bar that also has a window close button, and maximus: a program that removes the title bar (the bar with the maximize, minimize, and close buttons) or “un-decorates” maximized windows.

sudo apt-get install window-picker-applet maximus

now the default behavior of maximus is to force all window to be maximized, to change this, add the argument “-m” when running it. It automatically runs on boot, so to change this, go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications, find “Maximus Window Management” in the list, choose it, and click “edit”. Then, change the command to “maximus -m”.

Now, you need to add the window-picker-applet to your Gnome Panel in order to be able to close the open window easily. Right-click on the top middle part of the top Gnome Panel (the bar at the top of the screen), go to “Add To Panel” and add “Window Picker”.

Removing Useless Panel Things:
Remove the following panel applets by right-clicking on them and selecting “Remove From Panel”:

  • User Switcher Applet (top right corner) (also remove the seperator [line] to the left of it).
  • Menu Bar (top left corner, its the equivelent of the “start menu”
  • The three shortcuts next to the menu bar (Firefox, Mail, and Help)  (if you are using Gnome-do, you don’t need them)

Now, remove the ENTIRE BOTTOM PANEL by right-clicking in a blank area, and selecting “Delete this panel”

Add the following panel applets to the top panel in this order (left to right) If you don’t know what the applets you already have on the panel are called, then just remove all the applets and start from a blank top panel.

  1. Main Menu
  2. Drawer (optional: use this if you want some program shortcuts in the menu bar still.)
  3. Window Picker
  4. CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor (go to Preferences and set this to be the icon to take up less space)
  5. Notification Area
  6. Indicator Applet
  7. Volume Control
  8. Workplace Switcher
  9. Clock
  10. Trash
  11. Shut Down

You should configure the clock by adding your location (right-click > preferences > location) and removing the date so it is smaller.  This way you get the date on mouseover, and the weather to the left of the clock at all times.

You also may want to shrink or grow the panel size by a few pixels, the icons in window-picker are cut off a bit at the default 24 pixels, if that  bothers you increase it to 26,  but you can actually decrease it all the way to 23 px and it still be usable.

Now, to change Ubuntu to a darker colour theme (I don’t like my screen to burn my eyes), right-click on the desktop (get to the desktop by hitting crl-alt-d now), go to properties, and “change Desktop Bakcground”, then you can go to the “Themes” tab and select Dust.  I also go to the “Fonts” tab, and change the font rendering to “Best Contrast” instead of “subpixel smoothing”.

Removing Menu Items

When I installed all those programs, I also installed all of the suggested programs.  These ensure that more features of the programs will work, and more smoothly, but it also clutters up my programs menu with a bunch of stuff that I will never use, things like dolphin and konsole are unnecessary when you are using Gnome.

Unfortunately, editing the Gnome menu is not as easy as it is in Windows (this has to be one of the only things I think windows does wayy better)  You must use the slow and clunky and buggy Menu Editor program. (significantly improved from the last version, but still not great)

Click your new Menu Button (top left corner) go to System > Preferences > Main Menu.

Now you can go through, reorganize, and remove the icons you don’t want.

Here is a list of changes I made in no particular order:

  • move cellwriter from Universal Access to Acessories (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • In Accessories, uncheck kwrite
  • In graphics, uncheck Hugin Batch Stitcher (its a terminal app used by the panorama creator…)
  • Move Bluefish Editor from Programming to Office (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • Move Fusion-Icon from System Tools to Accessories (drag to copy, then uncheck in the original location)
  • In System Tools, uncheck Dolphin and Konsole
  • Uncheck everything in “Other” (this is all repeated in the Preferences menu)
  • In Preferences, Create the following new menus: “Display”, and “Input”.
  • Move “Appearance”, “Compiz Config Settings Manager”, “Main Menu”, “QT4 Settings”, “Screensaver”, and “Windows” from Preferences  into Preferences > Display  (you have to drag it to the display folder in the left sidebar, then uncheck the originals)
  • Move “Ketboard”, “Keyboard Shortcuts”, “Mouse”,  “On Board” and “On Board Settings (check these), and “SCIM Input Method Setup” from Preferences in to Preferences > Input. (you have to drag it to the display folder in the left sidebar, then uncheck the originals)

–aliencam

Ubuntu Setup Guide Part V. Installing Software

Posted in Guides, Linux, Lists, Ubuntu by aliencam | 2 Comments »

I install lots of software that I use nearly every day. Here is a list of what I am installing from the start:

(*) gnome-do
(*) crossover office (PAID SOFTWARE) [Microsoft Office 2008, Vector Magic]
(*) crossover games (PAID SOFTWARE)
gcolor2
gscan2pdf
hugin
inkscape
(*) dropbox
ktorrent
nicotine-plus
(*) opera
abiword
bluefish
(*) banshee
dvd::rip
(*) gpodder (needs python-gpod to work with iPods)
pulse audio volume control (pavu-control)
VLC
compiz fusion icon
(*) Mathematica 7
compiz control settings manager (ccsm)
powertop
gparted
ntfsprogs
hfsprogs
kerneloops
gthumb
subversion
bootchart
wacomtools
xflux (see my guide on installing this)
citrix (see my guide on installing this)

Those programs prefixed with (*) should NOT be installed from the Ubuntu repositories. Either they are not in the repos, or I don’t like the version in the repos.

In order to do this, some custom repositories (Launchpad PPAs) must be added. See the following section for how to install software from Launchpad PPAs.

If you want to install most of these at once, you can use the following command:
$ sudo apt-get install gcolor2 gscan2pdf hugin inkscape ktorrent nicotine bluefish dvdrip pavucontrol vlc fusion-icon compizconfig-settings-manager powertop gparted kerneloops gthumb subversion bootchart ntfsprogs hfsprogs wacom-tools xournal cellwriter

Installing Software from a Launchpad PPA.

In order to do this, open System > Administration > Software Sources > Third Party Software and “Add” the following lines:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/banshee-team/ppa/ubuntu jaunty main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/banshee-team/ppa/ubuntu jaunty main

Once you do this, click close, but not refresh (if you do refresh you will get an error, just ignore that until you complete the next step.)

Now for the tricky part of adding custom PPAs — adding the public keys. What you will need to do from the launchpad PPA page is follow these instructions:

On each Launchpad PPA Page will be a line of text similar to the following:
screenshot

“This repository is signed with 1024R/6E80C6B7 OpenPGP key. Follow these instructions for installing packages from this PPA. ”

To install the key, click the link that the numbers are linked, and then again click the “Key ID” link on the next page (another set of numbers). Now you will be at the public key page. From here, copy-paste everything from
“—–BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–” to “—–END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–”
into a new text document (make it on your desktop, it doesn’t matter where really). Then save this document with any name, close the text editor, then open back up System > Administration > Software Sources, go to the “Authentication” tab, click “import key file” then select the file you created. Once you do this you are okay to delete the file.

Now you are ready to install the program from synaptic, or apt-get.

Easy Batch Image Conversion in Ubuntu

Posted in Guides, Linux, Ubuntu by aliencam | No Comments »

I just had a stack of 25 .bmp files that I needed to convert to .jpg for a review I’m writing over at maximumcpu.net (Big C Digital Microscopes) so here is an easy way to to that. You can probably do this between just about any two standard image formats. Unfortunately, this does not preserve filenames when bulk converting.

In a terminal:

sudo apt-get install imagemagick

cd ./Desktop/pictures (change this to whatever you need to)

convert ./*.bmp .jpg

there, simple. it pumps out all the files with the filenames just being numbers in order.

–aliencam

Ubuntu Setup Guide Part IV. Middle Mouse Scrolling

Posted in Guides, Life in General, Linux, Lists, Ubuntu by aliencam | 1 Comment »

==Thinkpad/IBM Mouse only==

Jaunty uses the same evdev system that Intrepid used, that I had some troubles with. However, the solution should be the same, and I just hope it works correctly this time.

Here are the original settings, before middle mouse scrolling works:
$ xinput -list-props "TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint"
Device 'TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint':
Device Enabled (109): 1
Evdev Axis Inversion (251): 0, 0
Evdev Reopen Attempts (242): 10
Evdev Axis Calibration (243):
Evdev Axes Swap (244): 0
Evdev Middle Button Emulation (252): 2
Evdev Middle Button Timeout (253): 50
Evdev Wheel Emulation (254): 0
Evdev Wheel Emulation Axes (255): 0, 0, 4, 5
Evdev Wheel Emulation Inertia (256): 10
Evdev Wheel Emulation Timeout (257): 200
Evdev Wheel Emulation Button (258): 4
Evdev Drag Lock Buttons (259): 0

Now, to get this working, you need to create “/etc/hal/fdi/policy/mouse-wheel.fdi”. Easiest way to do this is to open up a terminal, and enter:
sudo gedit /etc/hal/fdi/policy/mouse-wheel.fdi

Now, paste in the following content and remove the extra space in each line (between “< " and "merge"
< match key="info.product" string="TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint">
< merge key="input.x11_options.EmulateWheel" type="string">true
< merge key="input.x11_options.EmulateWheelButton" type="string">2
< merge key="input.x11_options.ZAxsisMapping" type="string">4 5
< merge key="input.x11_options.XAxisMapping" type="string">6 7
< merge key="input.x11_options.Emulate3Buttons" type="string">true
< merge key="input.x11_options.EmulateWheelTimeout" type="string">200

The 2nd to last line in there (200) is optional. This line prevents the middle mouse button from exhibiting the annoying paste function that an unconfigured button does. I need to set this option because as I’m scrolling through a document, I hate random sections being pasted where they don’t belong.

Save, exit, and restart X server by restarting the computer (the guide will cover re-enabling ctrl-alt-backspace to restart X later).

If you want an explanation of the other lines, in my post on this with the last version of Ubuntu, I wrote the following:

EmulateWheel should be pretty obvious, you don’t actually have a wheel with a trackpoint, so it emulates one

EmulateWheelButton: which button pretends to be a wheel? the mouse buttons are numbered 1 2 3 in order, so “2? is the middle one

YAxisMapping: which directions should the y-axis go? (4 is up, 5 is down)

XAxisMapping: which directions should the x-axis go? (6 is left 7 is right)

Emulate3Buttons: actually I’m not sure what this does in conjunction with emulatewheel. It probably allows you to use middle-click still (like to close firefox tabs, or whatever else middle click does)

EmulateWheelTimeout: if the button is held for longer than the ammount of time, it switches off the middle mouse click. Essentially, this is what turns off “middle mouse paste” when you are trying to scroll.

With these settings, my middle mouse scrolling vertically and horizontally works even after suspending.

–aliencam

UPDATE: oops, I realized that I forgot some code tags around the most important part of this post! (the mouse-wheel.fdi code) I fixed that now.

Ubuntu Setup Guide Part III. Firefox Tweaks.

Posted in Guides, Linux, Lists, Ubuntu by aliencam | No Comments »

Now, I’m putting Firefox as the first item on this list of things to do because Firefox is definitely where I spend most of my time.

Flash:
go to a site that requires flash (youtube doesn’t work anymore, try google videos) and click the “install missing plugins” button that pops up at the top right corner of the website. Choose the “Adobe Flash Player” and click “next,” click “install” and enter your password.
Once you finish, you need to restart firefox to get it to work.

Some about:config tweaks:


open a new tab and go to about:config. Here you will be able to adjust many very advanced options in Firefox, some of which could mess up your browser, so be careful and don’t change random things.

In the “Filter:” bar, search for “browser.search.openintab” It should read “false” by default, double-click, or right-click and change it to “true.” This will make it so that every time you use the search bar (top right corner of the browser,) it automatically opens in a new tab.

now search for “middlemouse.paste” and change that value to “false.” Now every time you use the middle-mouse button to scroll, it won’t also paste randomly.

next, go to layout.spellcheckDefault and change the value to “2” This allows spellcheck to work in every field, instead of just large text entry boxes.

Installing Firefox Extensions


One might say that I love my firefox extensions. I would not argue with them at all. All or most of these can be installed by searching for them on the Firefox extension website, then clicking “install.” If they aren’t on that site, google the name and they might be hosted on the author’s site. Here is a list of Firefox Extensions by importance:

Absolutely Essential:

  • Adblock Plus (blocks ads, see configuration steps below)
  • Tabs Open Relative (new tabs open next to the current one)
  • Xmarks (syncs bookmarks and passwords)

Pretty Much Essential:

  • Wise Stamp (awesome custom email signatures)
  • Read It Later (saves pages for you to read later)
  • Twitterbar (post to twitter from the address bar)
  • Down Them All! (download embedded media and multiple files)
  • FireFTP (FTP client in Firefox)

Useful:

  • Better Amazon
  • Better Gcal
  • Better Gmail 2
  • Better Greader
  • Customize Google
  • FasterFox (some tweaks for broadband connections. you can do these manually in about:config)
  • Firebug (useful for web development)
  • Google Gears (! If using 64 but see later, installing this is different. enables offline stuff)
  • Greasemonkey (allows website tweaking. I keep disabled except during a woot off)
  • Hide Find Bar (auto hides the find bar when you aren’t using it)
  • LongURL Mobile Expander (expands tinyurls and other on mouseover. Also available as aGreasemonkey script)
  • Menu Editor (necessary for customization section next)
  • TinyURL Creator (creates tiny URLs)
  • User Agent Switcher (lets you pretend to be IE or another browser to trick websites)

Not Really Necessary At All

  • Alexa- Sparky (helps the Alexa ratings of websites you visit, kind of like spyware)
  • Fission (moves the loading bar to the address bar, like Safari)
  • Mr. Uptime (tells you when a website is back up)
  • Novell Moonlight (lets you use Microsoft Silverlight in Linux/Unix)
  • Retail Me Not (alerts you to coupons on websites using retailmenot.com)
  • ScreenGrab (allows fullscreen screenshots of websites since print to pdf doesnt work well)
  • Stealther (locally disables cache and history and stuff temporarily)
  • Stylish (allows you to tweak websites or firefox with userstyles.org scripts)
  • URL Fixer (fixes .cmo to .com and stuff)

Now once you install all of these your firefox window will be covered in buttons and icons for all these extensions. Most of these are useless and just waste space/time, so I get rid of almost all of them. See “Customization” section below.

Google Gears


Google gears is an extremely useful extension for offline browsing (particularly it lets you use Gmail and Google reader offline), and for speeding up websites like wordpress. Unfortunately, Google does not release a 64 bit version of it, but since it is open source, users have been able to recompile it to work with 64bit versions of Firefox. Strangely, enough, not much actually has to be changed, so I don’t understand why Google won’t release a 64 bit version… anyway, the quickest method I have found is to google “Gears 64 linux” and many people will have compiled and posted a version on their blogs. I have not done this because I don’t have the time right now, and last time I tried, I did something wrong.

Currently, the most recent version available is on Niel’s Blog. Go to that site, download the updated binary (at the moment it is gears-linux-opt-05180.xpi), and to install in Firefox, go to “File > Open” then select the .xpi file you just downloaded.

One problem with this method is that periodically you will get a message saying “Gears cannot be updated because it is not compatible with your architecture” Just ignore these messages, and when you are prompted to “update” firefox extensions, just uncheck google gears so the other extensions update. When this happens, wait a few days then do a google search to see if anyone has posted an updated version of the extension.

Adblock-Plus Configuration


When you install Adblock Plus and restart firefox, the first thing that happens is that it asks you which blocklist you want to subscribe to. Select EasyList (USA). Ever since they have implimented this feature, it is recommended (by the authors of adblock) that you DO NOT install Adblock-Plus Filter Uploader.

Once you have Easylist chosen, adblock will block almost all ads out there. Which, for me, and much of the internet, is actually a problem. Many websites rely on ads to survive, but unfortunately they choose annoying flashing, moving pictures, and similar ads. This is why we use adblock. On the other hand, tasteful and relevant text ads are not only not annoying, but often helpful in finding related websites. As such, I like to allow the Google text-only ads (like the ones I have on this site). There are two adblock-plus filters you can add to allow Google Text-Only ads.

Click the arrow on the “ABP Stop Sign”, and select “Preferences” (in the top right corner if you just installed adblock, otherwise Tools > Add-Ons > Extensions > Adblock > Preferences. ) and click “Add Filter…” Then enter the following two lines as new filters:

@@/pagead2.googlesyndication.com/*ads
@@/pagead2.googlesyndication.com/*$script,subdocument

The first one enables the ad, and the second the “Google” text and rounded corners around some of the text ads.

****NOTE: I’m not actually sure those filters work anymore… I’ll have to look into this more, definitely added to my todo list… dang. leave a comment if it does or doesn’t work***

Firefox GUI Customization/Condensing


NOTE: this section is near unintelligible, I wrote this right when I woke up. I will change it to a list format or comprehensible sentences later.

My screen is very small (12.1″) so I need to save every pixel possible so I can see more content. I also don’t want annoying things bugging me while I’m using Firefox. First thing I do is remove all of the icons from extensions. Top right corner and bottom right corner are covered with these. Most of these can be disabled by right-clicking on them, going to options, and changing some option in the extension itself.

Now, right-click on the menu bar and uncheck “Bookmarks Toolbar,” then select “Customize”. Drag off any items you don’t need (home, the “throbber” and the separator line in the top right) , and drag everything else to the top bar. Then check “Use Small Icons.” Now right-click and uncheck “Navigation Toolbar” as well.

Now there are still a few more changes that need to be made, and these are a bit more advanced. I like to get rid of the magnifying glass icon in the “search” bar, and I would like to combine the stop and reload buttons (you can only use one at a time anyway!), don’t show the forward or back buttons if there is nothing to go forward or back to, auto-hide status bar, and italicize unread tabs.

you can do this all with stylish scripts, guide on Lifehacker, userstyles.org but I would prefer to do it without the extension (this way I can keep stylish disabled except when I really need it).

First step is to make a UserChrome.css file. In Ubuntu Linux, go to /home/$USERNAME/.mozilla/firefox/***profile***/chrome ($USERNAME is your username and ***profile*** will be random letters and numbers). In Windows this will be at “C:\Documents and Settings\$USERNAME\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\***profile***\chrome\”

Make a copy of userChrome-example.css, and rename it “userChrome.css” . Now open this new file, and paste the following section into the bottom (or right below the @namespace line, it doesn’t mater).

/* This removes the Search Bar Magnifying Glass */
.search-go-button-stack { display: none !important; }

/* Combine Stop and Reload buttons*/

#stop-button[disabled] { display: none;}

#stop-button:not([disabled]) + #reload-button {
display: none;
}

/* Remove Back button when there's nothing to go Back to */
#back-button[disabled="true"] { display: none; }

/* Remove Forward button when there's nothing to go Forward to */
#forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none; }

/* Auto Hide Status Bar Unless Mouseover */
#status-bar:not(:hover) {margin-bottom:-20px;}
#statusbar-display[label*="."], #statusbar-display[label*="."] ~ * {margin-bottom:20px;}

/*This makes unread tabs appear in italics*/

#content tab:not([selected]) {
font-style: italic !important;
}

These were taken from various places; userstyles.org, lifehacker.com, and some other blogs.

now save and close the userChrome.css then restart firefox.

In Edit > Preferences > Content, I change the default font size to 15 instead of 16, to make everything just a little bit smaller.

in “Privacy” I set Firefox to keep only 30 days of history (even 30 days is a lot of data).

Then, using the preferences option in the “Menu Editor” plugin that I installed earlier, follow the following steps.

Open Preferences for Menu Editor (Tools > Add-Ons > Extensions > Menu Editor > Preferences)
Enable “Advanced Mode”.
Uncheck “visible” for “Edit”, “History”, and “Help”
Then, in the right column, change the dropdown menu to “Edit” and in the left, go to “Tools”
Drag the “Preferences” menu item from the right into “Tools” on the left.
Apply, and click “OK.”

Here are some Screenshots of before and after this customization for Firefox.

screenshotscreenshot-1

UPDATE:

I have now added the Wolfram Alpha search plugin to the firefox search bar. click here to install it.

Ubuntu Setup Guide II. Update and Repository Setup

Posted in Guides, Linux, Lists, Ubuntu by aliencam | No Comments »

Enabling Repositories


Before updating or installing any programs, you should enable more repositories. By default, you will only get security updates, recommended updates, and updates of proprietary drivers / nonfree software in the repositories. With this it is most likely that an update will not break anything new, but you will have older versions of everything.

In order to do this, go to System > Administration > Software Sources, then enter your password and go to the “Updates” tab.

Check both the “Pre-Released Updates” and the “Unsupported Updates” boxes. Pre-released updates means updates that will go into the next 6-month ubuntu release, but did not make the cut for this one, and unsupported updates are updates that are not widely tested for stability yet. Neither are necessary, but I like both of them.

Now, go to the “Third-Party Software” tab and enable both of the repositories there. These “partner repositories” enable the use of non-free software, like flash, mp3 codecs, dvd codecs, and similar. I would say these are necessary unless you want to keep your computer 100% open source (in which case I applaud you for being much more intense than I could stand to be right now).

Then, go to the “statistics” tab, and choose whether or not you want to submit statistical data to Ubuntu. I like to do this because it lets them know how many people are updating, and installing which programs from the repositories. Essentially it helps programs you like to use in the popularity contest of “default” programs.

Another optional step is to choose a different server. This can sometimes get your updates much faster, because you won’t be downloading from the same server as everyone else in the world. To do this, go back to the “Ubuntu Software” tab, and on the “Download From:” dropdown menu, choose “other” and then click “choose best server.” It will now run a series of tests to choose which server you are able to connect to and get the fastest speeds. When it finishes, it will automatically select the best choice, click “choose server,” then “close” and “close” again (the update button never works for me).

Now open up a terminal (Applications> Accessories > Terminal) and type sudo apt-get update, then sudo apt-get upgrade.

Fixing Update-Manager Behavior


I don’t like how update-manager behaves in this new version. What happens now is that once per day the update-manager window will open completely, but if you close it, you won’t see it until a week later unless you restart the computer. I prefer it to show an icon in the taskbar telling me that I need to update, and never pop up the update window.

Here are the steps to get back the old update-manager behavior (from the Release Notes):

Open a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and enter the following:


gconftool -s --type bool /apps/update-notifier/auto_launch false

Now you will have an icon in the taskbar if you have available updates.

Restricted Extras


By default, Ubuntu can’t have certain things installed like MP3 codecs, flash player, MS fonts, and Java. You probably will want to install all of these, and thankfully if you have enabled the repositories above, there are two packages that handle most of this.
open a terminal and enter:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras linux-restricted-modules

enter “y” when it asks you if you want to install all the packages, then let it run.

During installation you should be prompted (in the terminal window) to setup Java, When this happens, scroll down to the bottom with either page-down or the down arrow key, then arrow to the right to get to “ok”. Hit enter, then move the selection left to “Yes” and hit enter again.

You now should be able to do these things.

Ubuntu Setup Guide Part I. Installation

Posted in Guides, Linux, Ubuntu by aliencam | No Comments »

This is the first in my updated “aliencam’s Customized Ubuntu Setup Guide” for Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty. The previous guide is for Ubuntu 8.04, and is now mostly out of date.

Before you install or upgrade to 9.04, I would suggest reading the release notes so you can see if there are any specific problems with your hardware and what the fixes are, or if fixes will be released in updates later. With my laptop, I see that there is a problem with some Intel video cards, and there are 3 options to fix that. (I will include those steps in this guide if the problem comes up)

I am installing Ubuntu 9.04 x64 Desktop on my Lenovo Thinkpad x61 tablet. I plan to do whatever I can to get ubuntu working as I like it, and to enable all of this laptop’s features. Some of what I will do is just for personal taste, and almost none of it is necessary. Here is what works on the x61t without any customization:

Trackpoint (mouse)
wifi
ethernet
audio
volume keys
USB devices
bluetooth
fn key adjustments (brightness, radio switch, battery, suspend, lock, etc)
“back” and “forward” buttons (next to arrow keys on keyboard)
tablet stylus (regular click works, but the eraser is only seen as regular click, and the right-click button does not work)
tablet “touch” (this is miscalibrated, where you poke is not where it reads)

settings I installed with: I install from a USB stick, use US International Keyboard with dead keys, a 154 GB EXT4 partition as root, and a 6 GB Swap partition. Timezone is set to “Phoenix” and I do not prefer to log in automatically.

This is just the introduction and once a few parts are completed I will start to compile them into a single post. I would do more than one segment tonight, but I have a final in MSE tomorrow morning, so I’m going to sleep instead.

–aliencam.

f.lux in Linux

Posted in Linux by aliencam | 2 Comments »

At the ASULUG Installfest last week, Natalie suggested to me a cross-platform program called “F.lux”  What this program does is adjust the colour temperature of your screen throught the day, adjusting it based on your geographical location.  It does this to make the screen warmer at night, meaning that it saves your eyes in the long term, gets rid of the annoying blue glow, and if you wake up in the middle of the night and need to look at your computer real quick, the light won’t burn your eyes.  As a result of this, it also will help you keep your sleep schedule, because blue light, like the kind from a normal computer screen, sets your circadian rythym to be awake (seriously, even NASA uses this http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/080729-st-mars-time.html and think about it, what colour is the sky?)   So by avoiding blue light before you go to bed, you will be able to sleep better and more easily.

anyway, the link to the program is here:

http://stereopsis.com/flux/

and it took me awhile to get it set up correctly because I didn’t think it was working at first.  My suggestion is to do the following setup setps while it is dark outside in order to be able to see immediate results.

1. Download xflux for Linux
2. Extract the file, and change permissions by right-clicking on it, go to properties > permissions, and make sure it is executable.

3. copy it to the /usr/bin/ folder using the following command:

sudo cp /home/USERNAME/Desktop/xflux /usr/bin/
4. Now test it to make sure your zip code is in the database by entering the following in the terminal, and replacing “ZIPCODE” with your US Zip Code:

xflux -z ZIPCODE

(for me it is xflux -z 85280  because 85281 didn’t work)

(if you are not in the US, use  “xflux -l latitude, longitude” )

if this works (your screen should change colours if it is dark outside. it will change to a pink/yellow/brownish colour, don’t immediately shut it off please, try it for a day or two and you will probably end up liking it) then you need to set up either a CRON job, or set the program to run at startup.  Startup is easier for me because I never know when my laptop will be on, so here is what I did:

open the Sessions menu (System > Preferences > Sessions) and add an item.  For the command, use the command you just tested (probably xflux -z ZIPCODE)  add a title and a description if you want, and click add.

that’s it!

–aliencam.

OpenSolaris (2008.05) on the Lenovo X61Tablet

Posted in Linux, Review by aliencam | 5 Comments »

I just installed OpenSolaris version 2008.05 (not the newest, the cd was given out at the ASULUG Installfest by an OpenSolaris rep) because I wanted to see how I like it. I am looking for another, lighter opperating system to supplement Ubuntu, and this is one of the first ones I have tried (SimplyMEPIS was my first test, but the newest version didn’t agree with me). Anyway, here is my first impression:

again, this is OpenSolaris 2008.05, NOT the newest version, 2008.11. I did not realize this was the old one until I had started installing it already.

I like Gnome, this is an improvement from that java desktop environment that I tried awhile back. I really did not like Solaris 10 when I tried that, mostly because of the desktop environment.

On the thinkpad x61t out of the box:

wifi works
the the trackpoint (mouse) works fine (no middle-mouse scroll, but not even ubuntu has that down OOTB)
sound DOES NOT work
tablet DOES NOT work.

the dock, with the CD drive, does work.
brightness adjustment does not work
none of the FN keys work (brightness, hibernate, sleep, lock, wireless radio)
bluetooth and wifi are stuck on (I don’t want Bluetooth on but I do want wifi…)
anything using the videocard seems to crash it.

I am currently updating the current version before I go through the upgrade process to 2008.11 version. Upgrading is not straightforward in this version, but it will be in the next version.

here are my problems with the OS itself:

device driver manager doesn’t open (I think that means there aren’t any device drivers found)
changing the visual effects settings to normal or high crashes the computer.
and I would also like to point out that the download for the updates is extremely slow, and it’s not on my end. (on ASU’s network I regularly get download speeds of 2MB/s and higher.)
random things take forever to open, or never open at all. (maybe this is due to the
hard resets, or because I’m running updates, or the hard resets during the update downloads).
Choosing a screensaver also just crashed the computer (it looks like anything that uses the videocard crashes this thing)
and when I brought the computer back up from crashing AGAIN, I couldn’t get wifi to work without toggling the wireless radio power switch on the laptop. (there aren’t any network managers that can do anything while the automagic network selector is running, and I don’t have any clue how to do anything with that)

Anyway, I’m going to bed and letting the update run overnight, hopefully I’ll wake up to a better functioning operating system. (OOTB version 2008.05 is unusable in my opinion.)

UPDATE: unfortunately, when I was playing around with the screensavers that crashed my computer, I somehow enabled one, and since that screensaver crashes my computer, I can’t open the screensaver selection menu to change/remove it, and none of the updates installed. This is just a mess, I’m going to try to download the 2008.11 version and install that.

Some [Linux] Housekeeping

Posted in Guides, Linux, Ubuntu by aliencam | 4 Comments »

hRecent updates have broken functionality of both the fingerprint reader and screen brightness adjustment on my laptop  (Thinkpad X61 Tablet with Ubuntu 8.10).

Fingerprint Reader:


The problem with the fingerprint was that a recent security update had overwritten the /etc/pam.d/*-auth  files (it allerted me to this beforehand, but to prevent issues with the update I allowed it to totally overwrite my files).  If this happened to you, all you need to do is run the script to edit the /etc/pam.d/common-auth file to allow the fingerprint reader to be a method of authentication.

run the following command:

sudo '/usr/lib/pam-thinkfinger/pam-thinkfinger-enable'

nothing should return, but when you restart the authentication daemon (I don’t remember the command offhand, so I just restarted the computer) the fingerprint reader should work again.

Fixing ACPI Brightness Adjustment


After updating to the 2.6.27-11 kernel, brightness controls would not work for me or any of my friends with the Thinkpad X61 laptop.  There is not an update released yet to fix this, and it has been marked as  “low priority”. The low priority kind of makes me upset since sometimes I can’t even see my laptop screen because of it’s low screen brightness, and other times I get half of the battery life I’m used to since the brightness is all the way up.

Anyway, the fix I found for this was on the issue’s bug report.

In order to do this, you need to edit the /etc/modprobe.d/options file and add the line “options thinkpad_acpi brightness_enable=1”. There are many ways to do this, but my preferred is the following:

in a terminal, type:
sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/options

then arrow down to the bottom, and then type:
# set to get brightness controlls working in 2.6.27.11 kernel
options thinkpad_acpi brightness_enable=1

exit by pressing ctrl-x then enter to save and overwrite the file. Now you can reboot and the brightness control should work just fine.

If you have any questions or the problems are not fixed by these then leave a comment.

–aliencam

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