Category Archives: Ubuntu

Ubuntu 10.10 default wallpaper is here!

Here it is! :shock:

Yeah, you probably figured that one out really quick. That’s not the default wallpaper for Ubuntu 10.10. I lied.

I lied because for weeks now people have been wringing their hands over a particularly awful image that was supposedly on deck as the default. Cue the sad cowboy music.

I’m going to say it again, because no matter how many times I repeat myself, there’s this pitiful whining revolt that takes place, like clockwork, every six months:

The default desktop doesn’t matter. You’re going to change it only minutes after you install it. Get past it.

Don’t try to tell me that Linux newcomers will be put off by crappy wallpaper. If someone is considering using Linux but can’t be bothered to look past the wallpaper, then they don’t deserve to use Linux. We don’t want them on our team.

And the fact remains: No matter what you pick as “the most beautiful desktop in the world,” there is somebody else on the planet who hates it, viscerally, with every part of their soul, as if they were staring into the Abyss itself. …

So here’s my advice: Download Ubuntu, then install it, then change the squeaking wallpaper. And move on to something more important in your life. :evil:

FOX Desktop and some graphical apps

Not everything in the house is console-based, as you might have guessed from some of the screenshots around this site. And I do occasionally tinker with new graphical applications too.

Or even entire desktops, like the little-known ROX desktop from a while back. Before I show you another one like that, here are a few applications that are — and some that aren’t — inter-related.

This is qutim.

qutim looks, for most intents and purposes, to be a straightforward IM client with access to a goodly number of networks. Check the home page for the full list; of course the usefulness of any particular client lies with the networks it can access.

But if you’re after something that doesn’t stain your desktop theme with arbitrary icons and bizarre color schemes, you might like this QT-based one.

I haven’t exactly used it; I don’t IM with my blog address, but as you can see, it hooked up nicely to Jabber with my GMail account. Beyond that though, I haven’t really tested it. Give it a spin and see if it suits you.

Another independent project, and an image viewer this time: Viewnior.

I think I found Viewnior in the latest Slitaz, if I remember right. Considering that’s been out for quite a while, I’ve been sitting on this one for too long without mentioning it.

Nice and light (it wouldn’t be in Slitaz if it wasn’t :| ), speedy and clean, not too many flashy parts and a clean focus on image viewing. I sometimes still mispronounce it as if it was a film genre though — view-noir. :roll:

Moving on from that poor attempt at a joke, here’s barpanel.

barpanel reminds me slightly of my early days with fbpanel. I have a feeling it’s about as challenging to manage, since the only config I could find was an XML file.

But if you’re an Openbox fan, or just have no fear of the keyboard, that shouldn’t stop you. I adjusted the one in the photo slightly to fit the desktop better, but didn’t go beyond that.

If you want a lightweight panel to take over from some other, heavier applications, that might do the trick for you.

The next three are interlaced, and form the desktop I hinted at earlier. Take a peek at fxdesktop.

Most people know the Fox toolkit from Xfe, which is a great little file manager and something I use daily in my phony Windows XP Classic setups.

You get a lot more than just that when you install the Fox subsystem though. In that photo alone you can see a panel, a calculator, an editor and a control panel, and that wasn’t all that was available.

(Getting it started might be a tiny bit tricky: Try installing Openbox as well, starting the X environment with exec openbox in your .xinitrc file, then opening a terminal and entering export FOX_DESKTOP_WM="openbox" and then entering fxdesktop. That’s what did it for me.)

To highlight one or two, here’s adie, the editor, running solo as a downloaded binary from the Fox website.

It’s reminiscent of Beaver to me, but it’s obvious that this does quite a bit more and is meant to handle heavier coding chores. Likewise, here’s Shutterbug, a screen capture tool, performing independently of fxdesktop but included when Xfe was installed (I think … :roll: ).

No, the bug doesn’t show up in your captured images, and actually it’s a nice touch since you can push that around the screen to wherever is convenient, and snap screenshots with a single click.

There’s more there and it all runs very light and relatively speedy. Any one of these things alone might be worthwhile on an underpowered, decade-old machine that doesn’t deserve retirement.

And you don’t have to feel trapped and powerless at the command line to use them. :roll: As if that were even the case. … :twisted:

An Ubuntu social network

My free time is exceptionally scarce this week, so I don’t have much to write about today. I will, however, leave you with a link that you might find interesting or useful: My Ubuntu Network, which is a social networking site with Ubuntu as its locus.

I can’t vouch for it personally, but I know that it is managed by Ms_Angel_D, who is also a moderator on the Ubuntu Forums. So I am confident you are in good hands.

In the mean time I have a few real-life projects that are monopolizing my free time, so if you will excuse me. … :|

Time trackers for the console

It’s time for a few more console applications. I had hoped to post a few of these yesterday but real-life chores got in the way, so I had to wait a day.

I have four or five here that are all … I’m not sure what to call them, but I think “time trackers” or “time managers” might be accurate. They all have a time-punch function that can be terrifically useful for anyone who needs to watch time devoted between tasks.

Here’s the first one: worklog.

worklog is very straightforward, with an adjustable list of projects that you determine keystrokes for. Press a key to start timing a job and press it again to stop it.

You can increase or decrease time arbitrarily and enter descriptions as well. It’s probably not fair to say this, but worklog is probably what I use mentally, as the generic time tracker application.

There are a few things I don’t like about it; for one, some of the keystrokes you see — like the DEL key to quit — don’t seem to work. I have to quit by CTRL+C.

And the “projects” file has to have its details listed in reverse order, which strikes me as odd, in this day and age. Twenty-five years ago when I had to list things in reverse order on my C64 for it to look right, I just took it in stride. These days, that’s unusual. Maybe the problem is me. :|

Regardless, little points like that make me think worklog is a work-in-progress, and just needs a little more time to mellow.

The next is wtime.

A simple switch flag for turns on and off a counter, and another switches between projects. You have the choice of a running count for time spent, or a range of dates and total time accumulated.

It’s very simplistic when compared with some of these others, but programs like this are usually the groundwork for larger, more intricate interfaces.

It’s a little dated (last release in 2006), and it’s not real flashy, so it might not be practical unless you’re willing to incorporate it into a larger tool.

The next two are a pair of sorts. timebook and a derivative called timetrap.


As I understand it, timebook is python-based while timetrap is a ruby version, and they both have similar structures and functions.

From a strictly superficial standpoint, timetrap seems to have a few more options than its predecessor, but that might just be the benefit of working in the wake of another program.

Personally I see little difference between the two, so you might have to install one, try it out, then install the other and see how each one ranks.

(I notice that they share commands — they both scramble for the “t” command as their default application name — so you might have to unplug one before trying the other.)

For my money both python and ruby applications tend to bog down low-end hardware, and so if I have to make a life-and-death selection, I would probably go with timebook. To each his own though, and if you have a lot of processor power, it won’t matter.

Last but not least is punch, a/k/a punch-time-tracking on Google Code, which works atop of todo.txt, which is a list manager.

I don’t have a screenshot for that one, mostly because I had trouble getting the two to work together. For some reason there seemed to be a disagreement over what the configuration file should be called.

Judging by the examples on the home page though, it appears to work much like the others. If you already use todo.txt, this might be a natural choice for you.

And there you have it. The odd part of this little essay is that few of these are in the repositories for the two distros I usually check — Arch or Ubuntu.

worklog is in the Ubuntu repos for Dapper onward, and AUR has only timebook-hg to speak of. So in that sense, if you’re looking for some very, very easy projects to sponsor, here are a few.

Enjoy. :)

There are no ugly GUIs

I probably shouldn’t get involved in discussions like this one, because they’re usually the ones that make me wonder if my ideas are out of whack.

But any thread that asks why so many people choose ugly or text-based interfaces needs at least one dissenting opinion.

I won’t waste time repeating what I said there, except to underscore that without the freedom that Linux offers, the whole planet would have a grand number of two, maybe three choices for their GUI.

Whether or not it’s ugly or out of date or text-based or pointer-based or driven by the electrodes taped to your skull … I could care less. Do what you like to your interface, because it’s yours.

The only person who has to suffer through it, is you. ;)

And before some wag shouts it out, yes, I know, pretty is a feature. And there is nothing to be inferred in my preference for a text interface. Your way is the right way.

P.S.: You can link to an awful CDE desktop or Windows BOB if you want, but I can guarantee someone out there on the planet thinks those are quite attractive. Humans are weird that way. :roll:

Lookalike Windows XP Classic

Why in the world anyone would want Linux to look like Windows is beyond me. Particularly Windows Classic — that staid old theme that came bundled with Windows XP and attempted to look like the old Windows 2000 desktop.

And yet, thanks to the backend (credit where credit is due :roll: ), I can tell you with half shock and half embarrassment that the screenshots that get the most traffic are ones of a Windows Classic theme knockoff I created about a year ago. And still fine-tune now and again.

It’s ugly, it’s boring, it’s dull and it’s hackneyed. But it’s also amazingly fast, light as air and easy to set up, given you have a few configurations and about an hour of your time.

I’ve put this on everything from Pentium Classics to dual core Intel machines and without fail, it runs quick and light and never disappoints. I even had a friend over to my house about a week ago, and I was asked when I had started using Windows again.

So it must be a little convincing, at least. I’ve built this in Arch Linux, Crux Linux, Ubuntu, Debian … and if there are others out there with the same software available, I’m sure it can be done on them too.

Linux is beautiful and clean and fast and creative — just about everything Windows isn’t. So try it if you must — it’s not that great and it’ll probably be disappointing, but so was Windows. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. ;)

P.S.: I do not suggest using this as a trick to push someone into using Linux. Convert through desire, not through subterfuge, friends. … :D

VICE keybindings and Berzerk Redux

I have been using VICE as an emulator for nigh on a decade now, and in spite of that, I found out something new about it the other day.

One “shortcoming” that I always regretted in the application was its lack of configurable keystrokes for joysticks, in the xaw-interface. The version built with Gnome dependencies is able to assign new keys to joystick actions, which is important on laptops because the default keys are knucklebusters, what with the NumLk and Fn-keys and triple-pressing and so forth.

What I didn’t realize was that yes, those configuration menus are only available if VICE is built with the Gnome interface, but VICE doesn’t need those dependencies to run.

In other words, if you build VICE with the Gnome UI, you can install it in systems that don’t use Gnome, and still access those menus. To wit:

Well I’ll be darned. All this time I was kicking the wall wishing I could easily assign different keys to VICE, and the net effect was only my banged-up toes.

That alone isn’t worth mentioning in a post, so here’s further proof that the C64 is the immortal computer system: Berzerk Redux, in the 1.10 release.


Yes, Berzerk is nothing new, and so mentioning a version released as recently as last month doesn’t do much to shake up the world of computer gaming. But if you liked the original stand-up arcade game you’ll probably like this one too. It’s tight to the original, with similar shapes and game play but with much improved sound effects and speech.

I don’t remember playing Berzerk on the C64 as much as the Atari 2600, but this is a good diversion for half an hour or so. And the beauty of it is, now you can manage your keybindings, even if you don’t have Gnome in place. :roll:

P.S.: Before you Ubuntu users try installing this out of the repositories, take a look at this.

How to use teapot like a pro

I like to make a big deal out of console applications that really are applications — that actually have a workable “GUI” beyond just a command and a few switches. It’s part of my quest in life: To dispel the irrational repulsion many people brag (yes, brag) about when they discuss using the console with Linux. :roll:

It’s been a while since I really walked neatly through a program though, and I feel I should do that with teapot. teapot is a very useful, very lightweight spreadsheet that I like a lot. I don’t need it very often though, and so each time I pick it up I have to relearn it again.

But on top of that, I have mentioned Oleo in the past, which is a very good console spreadsheet. But it’s not the only one out there, isn’t really to my liking, and there are things about teapot that are worth looking at.

The first trick might be getting it installed, since it isn’t in every distro — Ubuntu, for example, draws a blank if you ask the package search pages about it. AUR has it, with the caveat that it’s for “mathy” people, which I don’t dispute. It’s a spreadsheet, so you can expect to see some numbers. I know some people for whom that would be enough to be called “mathy.” ;)

If you decide to build it from scratch, you can take comfort in the thought that teapot only needs ncurses to get going. So I’m guessing with 99 percent certainty that (a), you can build it without too much hassle, and (b), it’s as light as a feather when in action. And that last part is a fact confirmed by htop.

Getting started is easy enough. Enter teapot at the prompt, and you should get something that looks like this.

Fair enough, it looks like a spreadsheet. We were expecting that much.

Except … hold on: The columns aren’t labeled with letters. We have numbers across and numbers down. That’s a little unusual.

Yes, that alone is probably enough to either intrigue you or dismay you — teapot breaks convention by using numbers in both directions. Now the un-“mathy” people in the crowd are probably already considering panicking, but the “mathy” ones might suddenly be interested.

Because it means that there is an x-y coordinate for each cell — and in fact, most of teapot’s instructions and formulas rely on that to work. And best of all for the “mathy” types, there is an unseen z dimension at work here, so the layers beneath this page are also addressable.

You know, maybe that “mathy” label was right.

No matter. Let’s get started. I’m going to make a spreadsheet for this example that shows how much of my lowly paycheck went into my X60s, in the form of memory and a new hard drive. First, I’m going to put the make and model of my hard drive in the upper left block. Type “SATA3G hard drive”, starting and finishing with quotes.


My god, it’s full of stars. … Well, we’ve already run into our first problem. It seems that the title is too long for the width of the cell. teapot tells us that by showing those stars, and signaling to us that we should probably widen that column a little.

No problem. Press F10.

teapot has a menu system — I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned GUIs in console programs. Select W)idth, and set the column width to 24.

That’s better. You can see in the bottom line there that the coordinates for the cell — 0,0,0 — contain the quote-enclosed text we entered. Now a little navigation: Use the cursor keys to skip through the spreadsheet, and move down a row. Then enter the next item, “PC2-5300 memory”.

If you make a mistake after you enter data, just press return on that cell again to edit it. If you make a mistake and need to back out of the menu, press CTRL+c.

I bought two sticks of memory in different sizes, so it would be nice to just copy that text into the row below. teapot uses block marking, a lot like old-style pre-graphical word processors. You mark a block and then tell teapot what you want done with it.

In this case, press the period (“dot” or .) key twice. This marks the cell as the first corner of the block and the last corner of the block. If you move the selection highlight after that, you can see that the block (or cell, in this case) remains lit.

Now that we have a selection, we can tell teapot to copy it to a new location. Put the selector on the row beneath the memory text, and press F10. Choose B)lock, then C)opy, and confirm it.

That did the trick. One small problem though: We still have the original cell marked. How do we un-mark it? Press period (“dot” or .) again, and it will disappear.

Next, add the text for the last thing on the list, the “SATA enclosure”. At this point, the spreadsheet should look like this.

The problem at this point is that I forgot a header row. It’s not really necessary, but as long as I am going to make this, I might as well make it clear what I am talking about. Let’s insert a row above the whole business.

Navigate back to the top of the page, or just press the less-than key (<). Press F10, then B)lock, I)nsert, R)ow, and then W)hole line.

We used the block menu even though we didn’t have a block defined, and it worked fine this time. And notice that after you’ve inserted the row, you’re still in the menu dialog; press CTRL+c to leave that. I’ll add some headers to this table.

I like a quantity, cost each and total cost for each line. Nothing fancy, just the kind of things you’d expect on an invoice or an order form.

For the quantity column, I can enter 1 for each, since I only bought one each. For the currency I can use the cost in yen for each one, so the table ends up looking something like this.

And I see I made one mistake again: I bought memory of two different sizes but didn’t leave a column for the size. I can insert a column for “Gb” quickly, and add the information where it’s appropriate.

Of course, those headers are skewed off to the left while their information is on the right. Let’s align the headers to the right so they look nice. Mark a block with only the numeric headers highlighted: Press period at the “Gb” column, then skip to the right with the cursor keys until the “Total cost” column is highlighted as well, and then press period again.

If you move away from the marked block, you can see that the entire area is now inverted. Press F10, then A)ttributes, R)epresentation, and R)ight.

So long as you have a block marked, the attributes and representations will be applied to the block. Press CTRL+c to leave the menu dialog, then press period again to unselect the marked block.

Let’s get some totals in here. Obviously, the quantity times the cost will give me the total cost for each line. teapot is flexible enough that there are several different ways to do that, but to avoid being too “mathy,” I’ll take the easiest way.

Go to the first item in the list, to the total cost cell, and we’ll give it a formula to calculate. Enter @(2,1,0)*@(3,1,0) in that box, and the total is shown for that line.

One small problem though, created mostly because human beings are innately lazy: I’d rather not retype that three times over. I can fill the contents of that cell through the cells below it, but then the formula always points back to that first row of numbers.

So instead of specifying the exact x-y-z location for the formula, I’m just going to give it the x location. If teapot doesn’t find a y or z in the location of the cell, it takes the one where it is at the moment. So instead of the multiplication operation above, edit the cell to show @(3)*@(2) — the x locations only of the data I want to multiply.

Then mark the block for that one cell, move down one cell and use F10, B)lock, F)ill. For the number of column-wise repetitions say 1 — the column we’re in. For row-wise, say 3 — the current cell plus the two below it. For depth-wise say 1 — the layer we’re in.

And voila.

Adjusting the quantity or the price will change the values across the sheet, like all good spreadsheets should.

Just for fun, let’s sort a few columns. Select all of the data rows (but not the grand total), and then hit F10, B)lock, S)ort, R)ow. For the “X position of key vector,” and “Z position of key vector,” enter 0. The A)scending and S)ort region.

We sorted the list alphabetically, by the name of the item (X key vector 0) over one level of “sheets” (Z key vector 0). This could be useful if you need to keep day-to-day spreadsheets of the same information, since it means you can sort vertically over a “date” cell.

Changing it back is simply reversing the same process, but using the X key vector for the “Cost each” column — 3. And don’t forget to use “descending.” :)

There’s one more thing that teapot will do that is worth looking at, because it changes how you can use the entire spreadsheet — or the entire idea behind a spreadsheet, really. Try this: Go to the top of the total cost column, press F10 then A)ttributes then L)abel. Now call this “first”.

The status line near the bottom changed, with the label included. Now go to the last in that column, and give that the label “last”.

Now skip down one more line and enter this for the grand total of that column: sum(first,last).

“Okay, great,” you say. “It knows how to sum things, and it can use those labels to do it. So what?”

Well the “so what” part is principle, not action this time. It essentially means you can label, refer to and connect from any cell over the three dimensions of the spreadsheet, and not need coordinates to do it.

You can skew a column of numbers, sum them over a series of cells, insert wide gaping holes in pages, but the labels are what determines how numbers are calculated. teapot takes its labels seriously and allows you to do some cool things with them, and the results are about what you need.

It also means that those text labels we put on the left, or the column headers on the right are completely superfluous now. They’re only there for uninitiated humans to find there way around the page. We could just as easily label cells as “quantity1″, “quantity2″ and so forth. Then call the cost cells “cost1″, “cost2″ and so on, and just sum the opposite corners of a range.

It’s not a mind-blowing or life-altering idea, but it does mean that formulas and number-crunching become easier to think about, and don’t require you to second-guess because a cell shifted to allow for more data. So long as the labels stay the same, the calculations work the same.

The next obvious question is, “Where can I go with my spreadsheet?” To which, I can say that teapot saves in XDR natively for mathematical precision, and exports to at least four or maybe five others. I see that two of those — CSV and HTML — are something Google documents can open, albeit as word processor pages.

Beyond that, I am not up-to-snuff on what is the file format du jour for spreadsheet programs. I am guessing a modern one can probably handle something teapot exports to.

teapot does a lot of other things; the list of formulas available to you, and the way you can access cells or run counts is very impressive. The source package includes a teapot-driven variation on Conway’s game of life too, so it’s not all serious stuff.

Of course there are quite a lot of things teapot doesn’t do, like export in Excel format or draw exploding pie charts in three dimensions and 64,000 colors. For things like that you will probably want to investigate, bigger, bulkier and slower spreadsheets, built by other people.

But if you want something that will run in a slice of memory thinner than a piece of paper, this is a good choice. It’s fast, light, sensible and flexible and comes with a very good documentation file (check the source package for the doc folder). And while there’s a degree of “mathy-ness” that you can’t get away from, it’s certainly nothing to be afraid of. ;)

Still more LXDE desktops

I keep running into LXDE derivatives. Not physically of course, but it could be an unintended side effect of being on the lookout for distros to try on the Mebius.

For example, I mentioned the Lubuntu spinoff Peppermint about a few months ago, adding my own warning that little time would elapse before it too morphed into something else. I was right (of course); here is Peppermint Ice.

Peppermint rips out a lot of what Lubuntu throws in by default; if you can imagine, Peppermint Ice seems to go a step further by ripping out more of what was in Peppermint, leaving an almost-purely Internet-reliant operating system.

Naturally there are stipulations to be made with that, but it’s more-or-less true: Short of a calculator, file manager or terminal emulator, almost everything here will require a solid, speedy Internet connection to use.

In that sense it might be a completely online desktop system. Whether or not you like that is going to depend on your personal proclivities; myself, I’m not a huge fan of the cloud, so Peppermint Ice does not entice. (Ha! I made a kind of pun! :roll: )

My prediction: The next step in the Peppermint evolution is of course Peppermint Icicle, which will boot directly from the Internet, no on-disk system at all. It can be done.

So is it faster? is it lighter than its progenitor? You tell me.

Here’s Linux Mint LXDE, which is another LXDE adventure.

Green and black is good. Mint fans seem to love the fact that they get codecs, etc., from the word go, so this is about what I expected. Applications are the standard LXDE-driven fare, which I don’t begrudge anyone at all.

And it’s quite a bit “fuller” than its Peppermint cousins Tools and programs you might prefer, as a regular user of a desktop Linux, are on hand in Mint LXDE and I see almost no Web-only applications.

So is it lighter? is it faster than its competition? You tell me.

Masonux is something I looked at a long time ago, then felt sorry I never mentioned because the developer called it quits. For old time’s sake, here is what it looked like (notice the past tense) in the 9.04 version.

Masonux’s call to glory — or claim to fame — may have been its early adoption of the LXDE tool set; before it was cool to have an LXDE spinoff, Masonux had dedicated itself to That Ideal. earthpigg said himself (herself?) a few months ago that the niche no longer existed, and perhaps he was right.

In any case, since it’s Ubuntu-driven there’s nothing stopping you from installing the last version and updating manually. As you can see, it’s functional and clean — and exceptionally slim. The ISO was only +/- 325Mb, and your choice of software on startup is quite thin. And that’s a good, because it gives you a solid starting point. Build up from there.

So is it faster? is it lighter than the newcomers? You tell me.

WattOS is something I have a hard time putting in a box mentally. I see that it’s supposed to be somehow more power-conscious, which in turn probably suggests it is more energy-efficient, which in turn is somehow better for the planet.

For what I’ve seen though, there is only one tool in particular that really sets it apart from any other distro: an amalgamated power control panel. I read somewhere that it’s not accessible until you install the system, but I am a sneaky person so I managed to get it on screen from the live environment.

I understand WattOS’s goal — even fawns over it for its power-conscientiousness. As far as I can tell though, by skimming through dpkg -l and poking around elsewhere, it seems to be using a standard Ubuntu kernel, standard applications (Abiword, Gnumeric, et al.) and quite a few Gnome underpinnings. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

No matter. You gotta have a gimmick these days, if you want to stick out in the crowd. An original power monitor is enough to draw a few eyes.

So is it lighter? is it faster? Is it more energy-efficient? You tell me.

I could go on and list quite a few more. Ubuntu seems to be the grandfather of most of these (and Debian the great-grandfather), and there are in-house versions of LXDE desktops in almost every major distro. And where there isn’t, you can usually put together your own rendition.

It’s a good thing. LXDE reinforces the idea that you don’t need a quad-core with 12Gb of memory to run a Linux desktop, no matter what the Gnome or KDE camps tell you. It also, in a roundabout way, reminds people that older machines are still viable.

Of course, everything I’ve shown you here still requires far more muscle and power than the Mebius has on hand. It might be that they are all better solutions for older machines … just not really, really old ones.

So in that sense, are they lighter? are they faster? Are they better than full-blown desktop environments? You tell me. :mrgreen:

Reports from the home counties

I am not the only person I know who uses Linux, speaking of my immediate sphere of relationships (in other words aside from you, humble reader). I have mentioned some of them in the past, and they’re probably worth an update, since some have Linux resumes that date back as long as mine. Some longer.

For example, about two and a half years ago I put Ubuntu on two laptops for friends — one was an Asus W3J, and the other was a Toshiba Centrino machine.

Both were, at the time, quirky in their own way, but at latest correspondence (those two both live in the United States now) they had both purchased new laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled. And to the best of my knowledge, they’re still using it today.

In the “cautious adoption” department, my brother has tapdanced around Linux for years — even longer than I have, and can even claim firsthand experience with System V on an Intergraph CLIX machine.

These days he seems to be slowly encroaching on a full-time Linux installation, and even sent this photo a day or two ago, showing a Dell Optiplex 745 with 9.10 on it.

That particular machine is a Celeron D, with 1Gb of memory, the Radeon X1300 and about 160Gb of storage space. The aforementioned dv7 has had both Ubuntu and Windows on it in comparable amounts, but the rumor mill says it will be showing up on eBay sometime soon.

My mother has a time-in-service with Ubuntu that rivals mine, and actually exceeds it if my general desertion for lighter distributions is taken into account.

She started with 5.10 and hasn’t looked back. The same Inspiron 600m that ran Dapper was traded in for a preinstalled Dell dual-core machine, and that has been in service on a daily basis for years now. Two or three self-managed upgrades and there is no sign of it quitting, from a software or hardware point. Which is how it should be.

Locally I have had one machine prove to be a little more cumbersome than others — my neighbor’s Celeron. It’s a nice machine and works great; the problem is now and has been that Ubuntu has bloated to such a point as to make it nigh-unusable.

As mentioned a while ago, putting a little more memory in the computer helped quite a bit, but the system was still sluggish and crept along at times.

An obligatory (and pointless) downshift to Xubuntu was only a tiny bit better, and as a result it now runs Arch Linux. Arch is leaps and bounds faster, as anyone will tell you, and runs the full Gnome suite on (literally) a fragment of the memory that Ubuntu requires.

The difference is night and day, with the only “downside” being that the Gnome version of Arch holds your hand less than the Ubuntu version. I’ve had to add two or three things manually, to include things like a certain music player, or VLC.

I’ve also been looking for a graphical front-end to pacman — gtkpacman seems okay — if only for my neighbor’s general peace of mind. Humans require the illusion of control, but some don’t take well to the CLI. That is nature.

On the other hand, putting together a system with the same array of software as what was used in Ubuntu is easier, really. Not only does pacman take a fragment of the time of aptitude, but for some reason the rolling-release system is proving more trustworthy, if you can believe that.

Twice now the Radeon-based graphics card in the machine has gone to an unrecoverable “safe graphics” mode. Once it was fixable with a system update, but the second time was the last straw. Slow performance, repeated video failures and my own advice that Ubuntu was not the only (or best) solution, and we have another Archer on our hands.

That too is nature. ;)