Category Archives: Ubuntu Forums

Those interviews, years later

A 14-hour work day kept me from making a note yesterday, so here’s the link I wanted to post, just a little bit late.

It’s nice to think that the community interviews idea I borrowed from aysiu almost four years ago is still rolling. And it’s also nice to see new and unusual faces in the lineup.

And the questions are more or less the same too. I guess good ideas can take on a life of their own. 🙂


Ubuntu 10.10 default wallpaper is here!

Here it is! 😯

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. 👿

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Whether or not it’s ugly or out of date or text-based or pointer-based or driven by the electrodes taped to your skull … I could care less.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. 🙄

Antique computer collections

I wish I had more pictures to show of rehab projects for out-of-date hardware. The last one, the 286 machine Remy was restoring, was a lot of fun. Occasionally I pick up a new-old machine and clean it, but it’s more interesting to see other people fix them up.

In the mean time there is a fun thread in the Ubuntu Forums showing a lot of obsolete computers in clusters or collections. I added my oldest machine — the one I type on right now — but that seems to be where the discussion sputtered. If you have a snapshot you can share, I am sure it would be appreciated. 😉

The Code Monkey script project

Tom Swartz is heading up a small project called Code Monkey, which collects useful scripts into a package. As it stands there are about 10 small scripts in Code Monkey, ranging from bash one-liners, to python scripts that inject Google Reader subscriptions into conky, to a world sunlight map wallpaper fetcher.

The scripts aren’t necessarily intended for command-line only use, although one or two, like the rsync backup script, could run either in a terminal emulator or completely free of a graphical environment.

Tom is looking for suggestions or ideas, and if you have one you’d like to submit (or if you just want to see what he has collected already), you could contact him through the Launchpad page for Code Monkey, or probably catch his eye with a post to this thread in the Ubuntu Forums.

Words to live by

I only have a few minutes this evening, so rather than share something of my own creation, I shall borrow the words of BoneKracker, who had this to say when discussing a preference for the command line over a file manager.

(File managers) just get in the way and slow you down. It’s like having somebody holding a map in front of your face when you’re trying to drive.

Oh, how I wish I had written that. 😀

The 1.2Kb python browser script

It’s time for another round of name-that-browser.

You can comfortably ignore the blue box in the upper left hand corner. This was meant to be a dual-purpose screenshot, showing the mystery browser on the right, along with mplayer playing a conventional DVD rip in Musca on a 300Mhz Celeron. Unfortunately, for reasons unbeknownst to mortal man, I got a blue box there rather than an action shot from the movie, which defeated half the purpose. 😦

But there are no tricks or gimmicks at work here, except to say that the browser is all of about 1.5Kb on disk, written in python and has webkit as its core. No toolbars, controls, address bar or menus, save the right-click menu that appears with some very primitive options in it.

And the answer is … I don’t know.

juancarlospaco posted it in reply to a question about lightweight browsers, and considering it’s just a 42-line python script, it’s probably a contender for lightweight champion, graphical division.

The name, however, remains a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s a well-known python exercise, or just a sample code snippet. In any case, you’re looking at it in Arch, with nothing more than gtk2 and the pywebkitgtk package from community installed. It’ll get 100/100 on the Acid3 test, renders images and fonts precisely and beautifully, and as you can see in that picture, can run at 300Mhz alongside Xorg, mplayer, alsaequal, alsamixer and Musca … and everything is hovering around 64Mb of memory total. Impressive.

But what’s the use in that? What good is a control-less browser window that needs to be fed a URL from the command line, a la python ?

Well, if you’re one of those half-and-half tiling desktop users who prefers a console-only arrangement against X (like Awesome or xmonad or dwm) it should be fairly obvious. Here’s a worthy replacement for heavyweight graphical browsers that won’t encumber a running system and still give you a graphical page display.

So if you’re torn between elinks and Firefox, this might serve as a decent middle-ground. It’s guiltless: None of the lard that comes with Firefox, and yet you still get accurate and faithful page displays.

I could also see where this might be useful for page designers or web coders, who need something that can jack up a page quickly, then drop out of sight. Instant page view, so to speak. I’m sure there are other possibilities here that I haven’t thought of, that you could offer.

Now if only I knew the name. … 😐

P.S.: Just for the record, because I have a feeling I’m going to be looking for the code in the future. …

#!/usr/bin/env python
import sys
import gtk
import webkit
DEFAULT_URL = '' # Change this as you Wish
class SimpleBrowser: # needs GTK, Python, Webkit-GTK
    def __init__(self):
        self.window = gtk.Window(gtk.WINDOW_TOPLEVEL)
        self.window.connect('delete_event', self.close_application)
        self.window.set_default_size(350, 20)
        vbox = gtk.VBox(spacing=5)
        self.txt_url = gtk.Entry()
        self.txt_url.connect('activate', self._txt_url_activate)
        self.scrolled_window = gtk.ScrolledWindow()
        self.webview = webkit.WebView()
        vbox.pack_start(self.scrolled_window, fill=True, expand=True)
    def _txt_url_activate(self, entry):
    def _load(self, url):
    def open(self, url):
        self.window.set_title('%s' % url)
    def show(self):
    def close_application(self, widget, event, data=None):
if __name__ == '__main__':
    if len(sys.argv) > 1:
        url = sys.argv[1]
        url = DEFAULT_URL
    browser = SimpleBrowser()

P.P.S.: The title of this post has a typo in it; that should say 1.5Kb, like it does everywhere else. 😳

Peppermint: Just like any other Lubuntu, only more so

These days you only get about 15 minutes of originality before someone grabs your idea, swirls it around into a slightly different shape, and then rereleases it as their own. That’s a good thing really. But it does mean that mentioning Peppermint Linux immediately after mentioning Lubuntu is the appropriate thing to do, considering it came hot on the heels of Lubuntu’s imprimatur.

I have to admit up front that I am not a netbook owner, a Linux Mint fan nor a proponent of cloud-based computing. If anything, I find it amazing that (for example) in the midst of so much negativity over Facebook’s supposedly obtuse privacy policies, people are still interested in foisting all their computer habits out into the wild.

But it’s always possible that you are one, two or even all three of those things. In that case, a Mint rendition of Lubuntu is probably quite attractive. The system profile is almost indistinguishable from its progenitor — roughly 100Mb on cold start. And the framework is obviously still Lubuntu, with the addition of Mint’s flair — things like preinstalled Flash, or the Mint software upgrader.

But Peppermint subtracts almost all the standalone software that I mentioned yesterday, and in its place are shortcuts to web-based alternatives. You can see some of them in the screenshot — things like Pandora, pixlr, the Google suite, Facebook, Hulu and so forth. Almost everything is wired to run through Prism, which I don’t really know as much more than a stripped out version of Firefox, intended to reclaim screen space for web-based applications.

Maybe that’s the underlying principle here — tear out the generally accepted tools to make “space” for remote substitutes. I’m not sure I follow the logic, but if that’s conventional wisdom, I won’t fight it.

And I also wonder why there is such a press for lightweight systems among netbook users, when even some of the most basic models appear to have speedy processors and gigabytes of memory. Why squabble over the difference between a bland Ubuntu Gnome installation and a Lubuntu-based cloud-computing system when you have hardware that can probably handle either one?

Ultimately it all falls to preference, and we’re back to the most important idea: Freedom to change and choose. So if Peppermint appeals to you because you believe you’re sparing your netbook the effort of thrashing through the Gnome desktop, and at the same time undercutting the system requirements of Lubuntu … well, you are always welcome to use it.

But the clock is ticking, and there are only a few minutes left before someone carves up Peppermint, and rereleases it as something new. Move fast. 😉

Carving up the corpse of Fluxbuntu

I’ve never been a big Fluxbox fan; my allegiance fell to the side of Openbox, and even today that’s where I find myself most at home. On the other hand, a thread on the Ubuntu forums the other day brought Fluxbuntu back to mind, which reminded me of the only Fluxbox desktop I ever really cared for, aesthetically speaking.


To me, that’s a rather pleasant Fluxbox arrangement, if for no other reason than it doesn’t look like an exploding star. Sometimes it seems like every Fluxbox fan is trying to out-sci-fi the others.

Those are the original styles and icon themes from the Fluxbuntu 7.10 alternate ISO, which is still available from the site’s home page. If you want to carve those out of the ISO, mount it to your system like this:

mount -t iso9660 -o loop fluxbuntu-7.10-installer-i386.iso /mnt

From there, you can dredge out the original deb packages in /mnt/pool/main/, with the bulk of the cool stuff in the /f/ sub-folder. Look for fluxbuntu-artwork, fluxbuntu-default-settings and fluxbuntu-meta, and probably fluxconf can’t hurt. In the /g/ folder copy out gtk2-engines-salsa, and from /s/ the salsa-icon-theme folder.

If you’re running Ubuntu you can probably just install Fluxbox and then force dpkg to install those deb files and start it up. If you’re using Arch, grab the deb2targz tool out of the repositories, transmogrify each one of those debs into tar.gz files, then extract them to your root directory — the file structure will drop them perfectly into place. Probably most other distros could follow that same route, and get these same results.

I didn’t put the desktop icons on my system, mostly because it’s more work than it’s worth for me. And you’ll still have to manage the right-click menu to put the programs you want in your system. I like looking at PCManFM if I am going to have that green theme going, but you’re free to experiment.

To close, it’s a bit of a shame that the Fluxbuntu project sputtered and died. It had a quick, short run and was becoming quite popular before it melted away into dust. Kind of like an exploding star. 😉

P.S.: Bonus! If you check out the Launchpad pages for fluxbuntu-design, you’ll find a wallpaper there that approaches the same theme, but is slightly different. Unreleased mystery wallpaper? Who knows. Worth a look, either way. …

VICE 2.2 for Ubuntu 10.04

datenraffzahn has suggested a quick one-step edit to keep the VICE Commodore Emulator from crashing when it compiles under Ubuntu 10.04. In essence, you replace one word with the number “1” and everything finishes fine.


So the four-year-old howto is still working, for both the xaw and Gnome UI versions. Thanks to datenraffzahn for posting that; you may now continue in your conquest of Bruce Lee. 😉