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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.

Fri, 25 Jan 2013

Tweaking my Ode body type settings

I've been changing my Ode body type settings over the past few days. I've switched fonts, sizes and line height.

I did take some inspiration from Rob Reed's Ode blog, especially on the line-height property in the css.

While I liked the Carme font I pulled from Google, it looked better on some devices (newer iPod Touch, systems running Linux) than others (older iPad, systems running Windows), and I wasn't crazy about the noticeable delay in text showing up on the screen while the client device pulled the font from Google.

So I went with Helvetica Neue, though I also like Arial and Verdana. Even plain sans-serif looks good. I might keep switching things up.

I still haven't yanked the Droid Sans Mono font I pulled from Google for code blocks. Since the rest of the type shows up on the page without delay, I don't think a late-blooming code font is much of a distraction. And I really like Droid Sans Mono.

The body type font size has been changing day to day. I went from 14px to 12px and now 13px.

I bumped the post headline font up six pixels to 22px. I could go bigger. I could go bold. Not just yet.

Fri, 18 Jan 2013

Fedora 18 with Xfce: My first impressions from live media

Fedora 18 has finally appeared in its final form after many delays. Largely responsible: a new Anaconda installer that has seen much criticism, mostly from users who like complicated manual partitioning. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I've always liked Ananconda. As far as I know, it's the only installer that can create any number of encrypted partitions -- in or out of LVM (logical volume management) -- and allow me to unlock them with a single passphrase typed once during boot. It also appears to be the only installer that can create a fully encrypted LVM installation while allowing another operating system -- like Windows -- to remain on the same disk.

What I'm trying to say is if the Debian installer would do these two things, I'd be a happy, happy camper.

Back to Fedora 18, aka "Spherical Cow." (I do like funny distro names more than serious Fedora names or stupid Ubuntu animal ones.) F18 offers a whole bunch of desktop environments in relatively (to very) new versions: GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, KDE and now MATE and Cinnamon. No Unity. A pity, perhaps. Or not.

I downloaded the network-install ISO, from which I could theoretically install any one of these environments.

I also downloaded a live image of Fedora 18 with Xfce 4.10. For the past many months, I've been using Xfce 4.8 rather heavily in Debian Wheezy. Debian Wheezy is never, ever going to get Xfce 4.10, even via Backports, as far as I know. Not that there's all that much difference between 4.8 and 4.10.

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Thu, 17 Jan 2013

Discovering jquery's load function

I've been playing with the load function in jquery. It works quite well. I'm going to be using it in a project very soon.

Ode really *is* simple

I spent much of yesterday fighting with WordPress to make it do what I want. Not having unfettered (or any) FTP access to the server didn't help.

Today I had a problem (caused by a previous experimental change) with my Ode site's RSS and fixed it in about two minutes. Before I started, I forked the theme by copying and re-dating its directory so I had a full backup. Then I removed the problematic line of code, and everything was as it should be.

Understanding how it works makes it easier to fix, modify, experiment and not lose your data in the process.

I'm not saying WordPress isn't a great system, but the simplicity of Ode is one of its strongest assets. Anything you know about HTML, CSS and Linux/Unix will help you. And Ode can help you learn about those things. Then you can apply that newfound knowledge directly to the rest of your work.

Wed, 16 Jan 2013

Is your screen blanking in Xfce despite your xscreensaver settings? I have the fix -- and this time it's for real

Some readers might have seen this post appear and disappear, appear and disappear again. That's because my first "fix" for this annonying Xfce problem didn't really work.

Neither did my second attempt. Nor my third.

Screw proverbs. The third fourth time now seems to be "the charm." That finally fortunate circumstance allows me to resurrect this entry yet again with my now-new onetwo-line script to keep the screen from blanking on its own -- without xscreensaver's help -- with a fix that has worked for me over the past couple of days. And this time I'm sure of it:

Here's a quick fix for Xfce users whose screens are blanking even though they have a much-longer screen-saving interval set in xscreensaver. This includes me.

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Sun, 13 Jan 2013

Benjamin Mako Hill moves from PyBlosxom to WordPress

Big-time free-software personality and developer Benjamin Mako Hill has moved his blog from PyBlosxom, the Python-coded Blosxom-style blogging system, to WordPress. He details his reasons in this post.

Sat, 12 Jan 2013

I just added the Axe Menu GNOME Shell Extension

The title says it all: I just added the Axe Menu GNOME Shell Extension to my Debian Wheezy system.

After complaining a bit about the lack of a menu in GNOME 3/Shell and not liking the last GNOME Shell Extension I tried to get a menu back, I decided to go to the GNOME Shell Extensions web site again. There I found the Axe Menu. Liking it so far.

Fri, 11 Jan 2013

Xfce vs. GNOME 3: Where I stand, today anyway

It's been awhile since the last "My Xfce desktop" post, and it's time for an update.

I've been tweaking things slowly since that previous post appeared. If I could definitively solve my screen-blanking problem, that would be nice. I keep thinking I've got it nailed, and then it returns.

One thing you might notice in the above image (click it, or here for a full-sized version) is that I'm back to Debian Squeeze's SpaceFun wallpaper. It's the best Debian theme design ever and is definitely not outclassed by what got picked for Debian Wheezy (in a process that, to me, appeared very, very broken).

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Thu, 03 Jan 2013

My Hostgator e-mail setup: Roundcube webmail plus filtering in cPanel

While I continue to use Gmail for my work e-mail -- a decision enforced by my employer's move to Google Apps for Business, I've been seeking solutions for my personal e-mail that include less back-end effort and more flexibility on my part -- plus no spying/marketing in exchange for the service.

My chief concerns:

  • I don't want to manage a full mail-server system
  • I don't want Google/Yahoo/other spying on me and marketing to me on the basis of my e-mail's content
  • I do want webmail -- I'm tired of client applications on the desktop

The third point in this list means that while I maintain a Mozilla Thunderbird (or in my case the Debian-rebranded Icedove) mail client on my Linux desktop, I'd much rather use webmail day to day and only use a desktop client application for occasional archiving.

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Wed, 02 Jan 2013

'Kindergarten is the best garden, the best kind of garden for me'

Blog posts by programmers don't often get me feeling sentimental. This one did:

When our daughter was in kindergarten, her class put on a show at the end of the year. It was during the school day, so I couldn’t go, but my wife videotaped it.

The highlight was the final song. As a slide show ran photos of the kids on the first day of school and doing activities during the year, they sang:

    Kindergarten’s the best kind of garden,
    The best kind of garden for me.

In the background of the video’s soundtrack, you can hear the muffled sobs of all the moms in the audience. The last day of kindergarten, like the first day, is a big deal—one of those milestones that children typically can’t remember and parents can never forget.

It reminds me to cherish our daughter, to remember the good times and to make many more of them.

(Thanks, Dr. Drang, for sharing this.)