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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, 30 Aug 2012

When I try to arrange bookmarks in the Chromium or Google Chrome browsers in Debian Wheezy, the app crashes

Update: I only have this problem with the Chrome/Chromium menu while running the GNOME 3 desktop environment. In Xfce, everything is fine.

The original entry starts here:

I guess I should file a bug report against Chromium in Debian Wheezy about the following:

When I go into the menu in either Chromium or Google Chrome (yes, I have both) and try to edit the bookmarks, the browser crashes. So I can't re-arrange my bookmarks in these two browsers.

FYI, re-arranging bookmarks in Firefox/Iceweasel not only works but is extremely intuitive: You can drag/move bookmarks right in the bookmarks menu -- no need to go to a special bookmarks-editing screen to change the order of a bunch of bookmarks. Thanks, Mozilla!

In GNOME 3's Nautilus, where are my ftp bookmarks going?

All is not peaches, cream, furry kittens and puppies in GNOME 3. Why are the bookmarks I've created to FTP sites in Nautilus disappearing?

To write today's flurry of blog posts, I opted to use a bookmark in Xfce's Gigolo (yes, the app's name is extremely unfortunate) to access the server where these files live via sftp. At least Gigolo remembers where I've been. I'll try again with Nautilus.

You know you're all in with GNOME 3 when you go to the 'hot corner' in other desktop environments

Once you start mousing into the "hot corner" in Xfce, GNOME Classic, or plain old GNOME 2 -- all systems where there is no "hot corner," you pretty much know you've committed to GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell.

I'm not trying to be a GNOME Shell fanboy. It doesn't gain me any credibility not to hate on GNOME 3.

But I gave GNOME Shell a try (GNOME 3.4.2 in Debian Wheezy, to be exact), and despite having GNOME Classic, Xfce 4.8, even Fvwm and Fluxbox, on this machine, I'm using the Shell 98 percent of the time.

Once my muscle memory drags me over to the hot corner, it's nice for it to actually be there.

Getting Wine apps in the menu bar in GNOME 3 / Shell in Debian Wheezy

It's easy to get native Linux apps in the menu bar on the left side of the screen in GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell. They appear there when you run them from the Applications tab, and you can right-click on them in the bar and cause them to persist.

Not so with Wine apps. The only Wine app I'm really using right now is the photo editor/viewer IrfanView (p.s. I didn't need to add mfc42.dll to make it work!!), and when I run it from the Applications tab, I don't get an IrfanView icon in the GNOME menu bar. Instead I get a "windows loader" icon. And besides not persisting, that icon won't run IrfanView.

But this will work:

Go to the Applications tab (hot-corner or Super key), then click Applications, or just type the first few letters of your Wine application into the box.

At this point, don't start the app. Instead, drag the icon into the menu bar on the left side of the screen.

Now that icon will persist in the menu bar (is that what they call that thing on the left side of the screen, or is it the "application bar"? If you really know what's it's called, please let me know).

And the icon will launch the Wine app to which it's tied.

Problem solved -- for me, anyway (and hopefully for you).

How I got rid of multiple icons in the Applications tab of GNOME 3 ... temporarily anyway (but full solution is forthcoming)

Note: I figured it out!!! I will write up the solution to the multiple-application-icon problem tomorrow sometime in the near future.

Meanwhile, here's the entry I wrote earlier today:

I'm running GNOME Shell (aka GNOME 3) in Debian Wheezy, and when I go to the applications tab (mouse into the "hot corner," or hit the "super" key, then either click on Applications or just start typing the first letters of your desired app), I had been getting multiples of the same application, one version with a detailed icon, another with a fuzzy, bitmapped icon.

There are quite a few "recipes" on the Web for solving this problem, but most are from 2011, and with GNOME and the distribution in general undergoing a lot of changes, I wasn't optimistic that anything would work.

This easy fix did work for me, albeit temporarily; only in the current session. If you feel like trying it, it's easy enough. Basically open up a terminal and use your rootly powers (I use sudo for that purpose, but you can su to root if you wish) to do the following:

$ sudo update-menus

My multiple-icon problem was cleared up ... until I logged out. When I logged in again, I had multiple icons. I could run update-menus in a startup script, but that's not terribly elegant.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012

The Firefox ESR -- aka Extended Support Release -- is what CentOS (and most likely RHEL) is using

Firefox in CentOS (and by extension Stella) right now is version 10.0.x. I wondered why.

Well, it's because those very-long-term support distros are using the Extended Support Release of Firefox. Read more about ESR here, here and here, and if you want to try the ESR version of Firefox, start here.

File under 'disturbing': Debian Wheezy doesn't ship with the Synaptic Package Manager

My current Debian Wheezy installation is an upgrade from Squeeze, so I was unprepared for what just happened: I'm doing a bunch of installs in between my other work, and I just got around to a traditional Wheezy desktop installation with the GNOME desktop using netinstall image.

I was unprepared for the only GUI package manager to be GNOME Package Kit. No Synaptic Package Manager. Not even the "Sofware Center" ported from Ubuntu that shipped in Squeeze.

Debian Developers, you think GNOME Package Kit is anywhere near as good as Synaptic? It's certainly RHEL-like, as Package Kit is the GUI package manager in RHEL/CentOS.

At least Debian is still shipping Aptitude, unlike Ubuntu.

But no Synaptic? In Debian? Are they kidding? Not counting these five paragraphs, I'm speechless.

Later: The Xfce install of Debian Wheezy DOES include Synaptic. So does the KDE install. I did another GNOME install and confirmed that Synaptic is NOT included. This is quite an omission. The LXDE install of Debian also does not include Synaptic, but that is very much expected.

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, Debian's default installs of Xfce and KDE include the Synaptic Package Manager, but the GNOME install does not. That is crazy.

Given the rumor that Debian is looking at Xfce as the default desktop environment for the Wheezy release, that Xfce seems more "complete" in regard to package management is, in a way, encouraging.

More Debian GNOME install weirdness: Debian has always included the full office suite in just about every default desktop installation. GNOME, Xfce and even LXDE installs have included OpenOffice and now LibreOffice.

What's strange about the current GNOME installation of Debian Wheezy is that it includes not only LibreOffice but also the Abiword word processor and Gnumeric spreadsheet. That's like a double office suite. It's strange to have both.

Debian with KDE: I've done quite a few installs in the last week, and while I'm not sure I could get used to KDE, the desktop in its default installation in Debian Wheezy is very nice. It works great, doesn't require 3D acceleration (like GNOME 3 does), and generally has a lot (a whole lot) of polish.

Tue, 14 Aug 2012

I'm back in GNOME 3 in Debian Wheezy and liking it

As much as hating GNOME 3/Shell would put me in good company, I find myself liking it just fine.

I installed Xfce 4.8 on this Wheezy laptop, and while I like that environment well enough, I've pretty much moved back to GNOME in the weeks since.

I'm OK with the hot corner, the virtual desktops that pop up (and go away) on demand and hitting the Windows/Super key to enter command/hot-corner mode.

I have the GNOME Tweak Tool, and I've installed a few GNOME 3 Extensions from the web site. But just a few. Most of the Extensions I've seen are fairly frivolous/unhelpful.

After I installed Wine (not as easy as it should be in 64-bit Debian) and then IrfanView, it took a little doing to get the photo viewing/editing application to show up in the GNOME 3 applications menu, and I still can't get it to show in the applications bar on the left (where it presents as a generic Wine launcher). No problems with that in Xfce, of course, but I can still "hot corner" my way to IrfanView whenever I want. I'm using Fotoxx half the time anyway, so that is less of a problem.

I still love Nautilus and Gedit, and while I continued using the GNOME text editor all of the time and Nautilus some of the time in Xfce, once I determined that the 3D effects in GNOME Shell take CPU when they're under way but give it back soon thereafter, I felt that the productivity boost was (and is) well worth it. Compared to what a Web browser sucks from CPU and memory (and often doesn't give back), GNOME Shell is thrifty.

I am in the process of looking into CentOS-derived Stella, which provides nearly all of the desktop packages and codecs I need day to day. But for my main production machine, I will be sticking with newer systems (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, or "other").

Sat, 11 Aug 2012

Chris Hall of FOSS Force: Occupy Diaspora

FOSS Force's Chris Hall has a nice post on how he returned to the open-source, not-for-profit (as far as I know) Diaspora social network to find it more populated than the last time he signed in. He's now actively using Diaspora and inviting his Facebook friends to the non-explotative alternative.

Did KDE get as much grief in the 4.x transition as GNOME is getting for 3.x?

It wasn't all that long ago that the KDE desktop environment made a major leap from version 3 to 4, leaving a lot of the old functionality behind without having the new polished enough to keep users happy.

And now GNOME has thrown out its own version 2 bathwater for a new GNOME 3/Shell desktop paradigm in which the window manager is radically different but the critical "furniture" of the environment in the form of applications such as Gedit, NetworkManager, GDM, etc., remain largely the same.

It's going to get worse before it gets better. GNOME is about to pour extra fuel on this particular fire as a very important piece of that furniture -- the Nautilus file manager -- is about to undergo a "dumbing down" to make it more touchscreen/mobile friendly, even though GNOME doesn't appear to run on any mobile or touchscreen devices at this particular point in time.

So do you think GNOME is taking an especially hard pounding for the changes in version 3? Do you think KDE was criticized as much, or more? Did KDE finally acquit itself with later versions in the 4.x series? (I know they never managed to get their office suite back on track.)

And will this all blow over for GNOME, or will the Linux community (and what's left of the BSD-running GNOME community) leave it for dead?

(There's irony; I'm writing this post directly to the web server over sftp entirely in GNOME 3 using Nautilus and Gedit. I've been running Xfce 4.8 quite a bit, but I'm getting more comfortable with GNOME Shell all the time.)