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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012

My new Xfce 4.8 desktop in Debian Wheezy -- screenshot, tweaks and Xfce vs. GNOME 3

(Click the image above for a full-sized screenshot of my Debian Wheezy Xfce 4.8 desktop)

After a few weeks in GNOME 3, which I actually like, I decided to give Xfce 4.8 a try as the desktop environment on my recently upgraded Debian Wheezy laptop.

Above is a screenshot of the bare desktop. I've made a number of tweaks to the default Xfce configuration. Xfce in Debian generally requires a bit more configuration than distributions for which Xfce is the primary desktop environment such as Xubuntu, Linux Mint Debian, etc.

The changes I've made so far include:

  • Changed desktop wallpaper to the blue, traditional Aquarius.svg image (I'm not terribly fond of the new Debian Wheezy desktop theme; the Squeeze SpaceFun theme was my favorite of all time, and the new Wheezy theme just doesn't measure up)

  • Added two extra desktops to the Workplace Switcher for a total of six

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Tue, 17 Jul 2012

Giving Xfce a try in Debian Wheezy

I'm not saying that GNOME 3 is driving me to it, because there's a lot I like about the GNOME Shell environment and still a lot I like about GNOME applications like the Nautilus file manager, Gedit text editor and others.

And while the system on this laptop, which began life as a post-freeze, then-Testing Debian Squeeze in late November 2010, has never run Xfce but instead stock GNOME (then version 2) and Fvwm, the latter of which I never used much.

Due to its reliance on 3D acceleration, the stock GNOME 3 environment is necessarily heavier on resources than GNOME 2 or Xfce (version 4.8 is what's in Wheezy; 4.10 is in Experimental at this point). And yes, I'm aware of the GNOME Classic mode in GNOME 3, which I've used (and may in fact go back to if I stick with Wheezy). That GNOME is doing away with GNOME Classic is something I'm not happy about. Absent GNOME Classic, I don't know the status of GNOME 3 without 3D.

I just installed the xfce4 package, and right now I'm rolling in xfce4-goodies to get all the extra bits.

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Sat, 14 Jul 2012

Watch all the videos from DebConf12 in Managua, Nicaragua

I'm here downloading a bunch of videos from DebConf12, held this month in Managua, Nicaragua.

Phoronix has done a great job of summing up the sessions -- Michael Larabel was there.

But I'm anxious to see the presentations myself. There are plenty of .ogv files there -- Spanish on top, English below that.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012

I changed my Debian mirror -- no big deal

Just a quick note that I changed my /etc/apt/sources.list to pull updates for Debian Wheezy from a more local "secondary" mirror rather than the primary Debian mirror for the U.S.

I'm not sure whether or not this site at the closer-than-not University of Southern California will be faster than Debian's primary U.S. mirror, but I'd like to think I'm taking just that much pressure off of Debian's primary infrastructure by using this secondary mirror.

So how did I find the new mirror? They're all right here.

Here's my sources.list before:

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free

And after:

deb http://mirrors.usc.edu/pub/linux/distributions/debian/ wheezy main contrib non-free
deb-src http://mirrors.usc.edu/pub/linux/distributions/debian/ wheezy main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free

No big deal.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012

Starting applications with the 'type to search' box in GNOME 3

Though I'm very much a fan of the "traditional" menu, I had an inkling that I'd enjoy using the "type to search" box to start applications in GNOME 3 (or, more specifically, GNOME 3.4 in the just-frozen, still-Testing Debian Wheezy).

You see, even though I really like the "discoverability" of a traditional desktop menu system, when I know what I want, it's easier to either click an icon (like the long row of them I had on my upper panel in GNOME 2, or the many I now have in the GNOME 3 icon area on the left side of the screen) or start typing in what you want, getting it as soon as what you type is unique enough to give it to you.

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Epiphany, aka 'Web,' is fast and light in GNOME 3

Despite not being able to render Flash content without excessive (too much so for me) tweaking, the Epiphany browser (which the GNOME people are half-heartedly trying to brand not as Epiphany but as Web) has gained some speed in execution (or "feel") but remains light on the CPU.

It's a nice way to skitter around the web a bit more simply. It starts quickly, responds quickly, and seems to work as well as Chrome (or Chromium). Since both (or all three, if you want to separate Chrome and Chromium, though I do not) use Webkit as the rendering engine, this isn't surprising.

While still unsure overall about GNOME 3/Shell, I endorse Epiphany/Web as a light, alternative browser when you're tired of Firefox and Chrome, or just don't need all that full-featured firepower.

Sun, 01 Jul 2012

Could the 'leap second' have caused my CPU loading problem in Debian Wheezy?

Debian developer Ingo Juergensmann reports that addition of a 'leap second' to clocks made apps that include Firefox consume all the CPU on the system.

That sounds like as good an explanation as any for my troubles yesterday with both Iceweasel/Firefox and Google Chrome both pegging my two CPU cores at various times, especially since I didn't reboot the system, which was in suspend overnight.

Debian Wheezy with GNOME 3: Day 3 -- Troublesome browser-related CPU loads, plus GNOME Classic

I'm on my second day of intense use of my Debian Wheezy (aka Testing) system, which I upgraded from Squeeze (aka Stable) on Friday.

While I'm getting the hang of GNOME Shell, with its "hot corner" mousing technique, creation of virtual desktops as needed, plus the overall newness of transitioning from GNOME 2.30 to 3.4.2, today I decided to work in the GNOME Classic desktop as opposed to the full GNOME Shell.

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