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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 31 Jul 2012

GNOME -- emotions are running high

Here are two blog posts to read about the current uneasy feeling(s) over the GNOME Project:

More from me when I get some time ...

Sat, 28 Jul 2012

Read 'An opinion on the future of GNOME' at Fewt.com, including the comments

It's no secret that full reimagining of desktop environments in Linux/Unix can make people unhappy. It happened with KDE 4, and it's happening with GNOME 3, too. I wasn't around, but I've been told that the transition from GNOME 1 to 2 wasn't without its bumps and lumps.

Read 'An opinion on the future of GNOME' at Fewt.com, and don't skip the comments. It'll give you a bit of an idea about what users think.

As for what I'm doing about GNOME 3, I'm still in the evaluating it, not committed yet stage. I recently upgrade my Debian Squeeze laptop (with GNOME 2.3x as the only desktop environment) to Wheezy, the current (yet frozen) Testing branch. It upgraded to GNOME 3.4.x, and I added Xfce 4.8.

I'm switching between the two environments -- GNOME and Xfce -- and I haven't decided to stick with one or the other. I've run both for years on various systems, and it's been nice to seen the improvements in Xfce over that time.

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Fri, 27 Jul 2012

I'm starting to use the GIMP more and more

I don't know if it's because the new GIMP 2.8.0 is in Debian Wheezy, or because I'm working on more multi-layered images, or because I'm less happy with my go-to image-editing application gThumb, but I'm using the GIMP -- the GNU Image Manipulation Program more and more.

I'm working in the GIMP's native .xcf format and exporting as .jpg or .png when my image is ready. To get better at using the GIMP, I really should get No Starch Press' The Artist's Guide to GIMP, Second Edition: Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists, and Designers by Michael J. Hammel. No Starch has another GIMP book coming out in October: The Book of GIMP.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012

Ode project leader Rob Reed on Perl and Python

Rob Reed, who created the Ode blogging system in Perl, writes about how he's looking into Python but still finds a whole lot to like about Perl in his entry titled I Like Perl:

Like many other people who work or play at web design and development, I've spent a considerable amount of time learning new (to me) languages in recent years. Now I'm starting to take a good look at Python. Why? First, because there seems to be a lot of promising activity around Python. But more importantly, I suppose it's because Python, like Perl, is readily usable beyond the web.

Keep in mind that I'm an IT guy more than I am a developer. That tends to be the way I look at things. Perl is a fantastic language for accomplishing all sorts of programming tasks (virtually anything you're likely to want to do that doesn't require a dedicated team of developers). Python is the same sort of language. By comparison PHP, Ruby, and others are not so much (which is not to suggest that they aren't perfectly fine languages for what they're used for).

The interesting thing is, the more I learn about these languages, the more I appreciate just how sensible Perl is. It makes me appreciate Perl all the more.

There's a lot more to this thoughtful entry, and I highly suggest you read the whole thing.

Device sync returns to the gPodder podcast-catching client

For quite some time now, the newest version of the gPodder podcast-catching client has not included the ability to sync podcasts with devices such as an iPod or non-Apple audio/video player.

Kind of a stopper in upgrading from the 2.x to 3.x version of gPodder, which I've been using throughout my tenure with Debian Squeeze and Wheezy, the latter of which is still shipping gPodder 2.20.1.

In a bit of very positive news for fans of the application (of which I am most definitely one), gPodder 3.2.0 has been released, and device sync has returned to the application.

Hopefully this means that Linux distributions will begin pushing the new version of gPodder into their repositories. Debian has 3.2.0 in Sid, but due to the Wheezy freeze I don't know if the update will make its way into the current Testing (and future Stable) distribution.

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A new version of LibreOffice dropped into Debian Wheezy today

If you're running LibreOffice in Debian Wheezy, you've probably already seen the approximately 30 updates associated with the office suite present themselves on your system.

It's not a major version update, just a newer version of 3.5.4.2 (3.5.4-6 in Debian's package-numbering scheme).

Just moving from Squeeze to Wheezy (and from the squeeze-backports version of LibreOffice to the Wheezy version) fixed my problem with the libreoffice-pdfimport not working. Prior to Wheezy I needed to uninstall that package and manually download the pdfimport extension from an OpenOffice site.

Now Debian's libreoffice-pdfimport package works perfectly and allows me to open and edit PDFs in LibreOffice Draw application.

Not that I understand it, but here is the changelog for this particular update of LibreOffice:

  • debian/patches/CVE-2012-2334-clip-max-entries.diff: add additional fix for CVE-2012-2334 from Florian Weimer which we missed to apply so far..

  • debian/templates/soffice-template.desktop.in: fix Icon= (remove obsolete 3), thanks Miros◈aw Zalewski (closes: #678313)

  • debian/control.in: make -filter-mobiledev Break libreoffice-core (<< 1:3.5~) (closes: #633929)
  • debian/control.mediawiki.in: add missing epoch to -core dependency
  • debian/rules: re-enable -gcj
Mon, 23 Jul 2012

I booted into my 1999-era Compaq laptop running Debian Squeeze

I'd like to report that I fired up the 1999 Compaq Armada 7770dmt with its 233 MHz Pentium II MMX processor, 144 MB of RAM and 3 GB original hard drive. The laptop is running Debian Squeeze, to which I upgraded from a Lenny installation some time after Squeeze went stable.

It's been 240 days since the machine last booted. I updated the installation, and here I am in Xfce writing this quick and painless blog post (using Mousepad and gFTP).

P.S. The SpaceFun theme of Debian Squeeze is so much better than Wheezy's Joy theme, it's hard to overstate.

P.P.S. You can run Xfce on a 13-year-old laptop.

Fri, 20 Jul 2012

I thought SpiderOak could replace Dropbox, but that didn't work for me

I was prepared to embrace SpiderOak as a more secure, better-suited-to-me backup/syncing service than Dropbox. I thought I'd like the ability to sync any directory/folder, and not just items under /dropbox.

I've been using Dropbox for a few years now, and I recently installed and ran SpiderOak on my Debian Squeeze desktop.

While the SpiderOak software seems to be undergoing fairly consistent improvement, I found it hard to configure and use, and when I unknowingly exceeded my 2 GB file limit, the service basically broke and I couldn't seem to either pay for more space or get access to bring the amount of data I had on the service under the 2 GB limit. And yes, I did contact SpiderOak for help.

Dropbox is extremely enthusiastic about supporting Linux, the /dropbox "limitation" makes it easy for me to regulate what I do and don't store with the service (though I'd like the option of selective syncing across the filesystem like SpiderOak).

In the end, it was a combination of service, reliability and software -- I really like the way it works -- that keeps me using Dropbox. I suppose you can throw in familiarity.

Had my SpiderOak experience gone better, I'd probably feel differently (or indifferently).

And now that Dropbox has doubled the amount of data you can store (or halved its prices, depending on how you look at it), the service is more attractive than ever.

It certainly makes my work across multiple computers a lot smoother and trouble-free.

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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