Category Archives: Ubuntu

An unlikely hero: Xubuntu

Part of that unfortunate rant from a day ago came about after spending a day or two in Xubuntu, after spending an equal amount of time in Kubuntu.

Originally my foray back into the *buntus was meant to give fair time to alternative renditions of Ubuntu, and avoiding tainting the entire set with tirades against the flagship.

On the one hand, it was important to do that. And it has been a while since I’ve used some of these versions, even if I still feel a tinge of disappointment when I try them.


I’m not going to dwell long on my failed relationship with Xubuntu, mostly because it’s ancient history. I stopped using it, that’s about all.

It appears to be working in a lighter direction though, so I will give it that. The default desktop, unless I am mistaken, is more “traditional” than straight Ubuntu 11.04, and relies only the native XFCE compositor for shadow effects.

It may just be that the desktop “style” is a cycle or two behind what vanilla Gnome does though. Like I suggested, I don’t follow the outlying desktops so I don’t know the plan.

It has a few peculiarities though. The pop-up notification boxes for networking or volume control don’t seem to vanish automatically for me, which means they completely block anything underneath, until it’s explicitly closed. Perhaps I just don’t wait long enough.

The pop-up launcher bar at the bottom of the screen is vaguely clever, in that it uses the standard XFCE panel and adjusts its settings to behave like wbar or AWN.

Speedwise, I can’t tell you if it’s necessarily an improvement over any *buntu, or even a past version of itself. The computer I tried it on is really too fast to make a comparison.

Granted, it’s a carrying a lot of Gnome already. But that just means the way it works and behaves is a little more conventional.

I can tell you that adjusting it to a little more traditional XFCE arrangement, like you see above, did make me more comfortable and make the desktop a little easier to manage.

Which means that ultimately — and it’s strange to say this — if the new Ubuntu desktop proves too cumbersome or counterintuitive for you, like it did for me, Xubuntu might be an answer.

Xubuntu to the rescue. Who would’ve thought? 🙄


Quick interlude: AssaultCube

Just a brief note right now: I’ve had a quick run at AssaultCube, and found it worthy.

I like that the original Cube/Sauerbraten game has gotten a makeover and gotten a little more … focused. It retains its speed and playability, and adopts a much more … focused … theme.

Give it a try. 🙂

Kubuntu, for better or worse

My two days with the Kubuntu 11.04 beta have been a mixed bag, with some trivialities that needed addressed, but mostly positive experiences.

I can honestly say that after about 48 hours of learning what equates to what in k-series software, there’s quite a bit I like, and some things I don’t.

For one thing, I feel a preference for KPackageKit over the obtuse Add/Remove software tool in Gnome Ubuntu, although I don’t really know if they equate or not.

KPackageKit seemed to be better prepared to find and install things, while the Gnome add-remove tool used to be vaguely useful, but took a giant step backward a year or two ago. Nowadays I just go straight to Synaptic.

Rekonq, if that’s the right name, almost supplanted Firefox for me, except that I had problems with its ad blocking system, and I unfortunately prefer an ad-less Internet.

I did, for a short while, use them side-by-side though, and didn’t find either one to be tangibly superior.

On the other hand, I had major problems with the screensaver in Kubuntu. Enabling any screensaver would behave as normal until I moved the mouse or otherwise tried to waken the desktop.

At that point the machine would fall back to a tty screen, flicker twice, then return to the login screen — killing everything that was running in the background, as well as the network connection.

After the first or second stunt, I just disabled the screensaver altogether.

Every desktop comes with its eccentricities though, and my homemade ones are no exception. And years of experience have taught me that 90 percent of these weirdnesses come at my own hand.

I still think, as I have long thought, that anything KDE comes up with is heads and shoulders above Gnome in terms of attractiveness and flexibility.

And so long as the Gnome philosophy says I can’t be trusted, then I’ll probably continue to avoid it. That, and its unnecessary weight, are the least attractive points about it.

So Kubuntu wins points this time around. Next, I’m going to revisit an old acquaintance.

I am cringing, even as I type.

The other *buntus

Guilty as charged, I generalize too much. I sling mud at Ubuntu without taking care not to splatter the other Ubuntus in the process. So I’m going to amend that over the next few days.

Some will call me a glutton for punishment for starting off with Kubuntu. Others will slap themselves soundly on the forehead and mutter, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire.”

And both will be right; straight Ubuntu might swallow a mighty chunk of memory just to get off the ground, but Kubuntu 11.04 gobbles it greedily.

But I won’t harass Kubuntu as much as Ubuntu for being a memory hog … even though my system is consuming as much as 290Mb on cold boot. 😯

(That’s on the core duo, of course. I dare not run it on anything else. 🙄 )

No, I’m not prejudiced, I just always seem to remember KDE eating up more. So I expected it. It’s not delightful, but it wasn’t a surprise either.

But I’m going to go back and really rub vanilla Ubuntu users’ noses in it, and repeat what I said years ago:

It’s already got all the effects, the gloss, the shimmer, the bling and the splash. It came prepackaged with everything you see above … and more.

So if you’re working hard to prettify Gnome — either as a developer or as an end user — why are you fighting it? What you really want is KDE.

Next stop is the purported lightweight of the family. 😈

Sam and me

Yes, I’ve seen the article by Sam Varghese about the Ubuntu 11.04 beta. Thanks to the two or three folks who sent the link.

It’s not a particularly ringing endorsement. But neither is it particularly precise in its criticisms. It seems Sam has two or three gripes about the beta, and lumped them all together in one muddy package.

I’ll probably do the same, albeit with different gripes.

Right now it’s time for me to admit I’m not an Ubuntu user. I gave it many years of my early Linux life, but my goals and its path diverged, and I seek a different direction now. So be it.

But I’m not wholly in Sam’s camp either. I did use 10.10 for three or four days this week, in order to try out Azulejo. Ten-ten didn’t irritate me to any degree, although it does seem a little too automated at times. 😉

I’ve tried the 11.04 beta in its live version, but haven’t installed it. I really didn’t care for it — with the “strongly dislike” inflection — and probably won’t be visiting Ubuntu for a while to come.

I can agree with Sam that it feels like a cellphone interface but more than that, it’s just unintuitive for me. I don’t want my computer to behave like a cellphone, I want it to behave like a computer.

And as I’ve mentioned before, Ubuntu is pushing to carve out a niche as the Facebookendsterwitterspace operating system, which I find disappointing.

All of those things are swirling about and making Ubuntu’s direction less and less appealing. So perhaps Sam and I have that in common.

Ultimately I have to come to the same conclusion as he does — that someone out there will find this to be the greatest thing since sliced cheese, and cleave to it instantly.

I applaud that, even if I don’t join the group hug. Ubuntu’s gone far off the course it introduced to me, five years ago, but that’s no surprise. It will appeal to some, and their way is the right way. Selah.

Azulejo: Quick window tiles

It’s an odd coincidence, but I got an e-mail a day ago asking about making the leap from Gnome to a tiling window manager.

Late last week there was a thread on the Ubuntu Forums mentioning Azulejo, a little utility that allows you to tile windows in Gnome or other desktop environments.

It works much better than the old tile package, which isn’t really around any more, it seems.

Basically there are four or five main window arrangements, and you can bounce between them at the press of a key … or two, if you’re willing to count the Super_* key.

You also have the option to stretch and expand windows, and rotate them through the arrangement. In a small way it sort of reminds me of dvtm, or maybe Awesome.

It’s not a true-blue tiling window manager by any stretch of the imagination, but it does give you a taste. And it comes at a very light cost, in terms of dependencies.

Of course, if you’re running this up against Gnome, the dependencies probably won’t bother you. 🙄

EasyTag 1, Apple 0

A short note today, to mention that EasyTag, the audio file renamer tool, won another fan recently — this time, an iPod owner.

I have to say up front that I know next to nothing about iPods, and I intend to keep it that way. There is no joy like being able to deflect iPod questions, by virtue of not knowing anything about them. 🙄

In any case, the iPod owner, who is also an Ubuntu user, wanted to move the entire collection off the iPod without having to rely on the iTunes utility.

Something about the utility arbitrarily deleting music files in the process of “synchronizing” with the owner’s list of approved titles. Again, I don’t know how those things work.

Apparently Ubuntu would mount the device and the files could be pulled off, but the file names were scrambled — renamed to a number sequence, and out of the original folder structure.

How inconvenient. Steve Jobs strikes again.

In any case, that’s where I suggested EasyTag as a mass renamer, using the tag information embedded in the files to restore them to their original state.

And apparently, after a little experimentation, everything is back to the way it was. EasyTag to the rescue.

I suppose I should close with brief tirade against proprietary music players and any machine that transfers control of your product to some corporation … but that would be overkill, now wouldn’t it?

Let’s just leave that last part unsaid. Suffice to say, I never had that problem with this player. 😈

A gold smiley for EasyTag: 😀