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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
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.

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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Fri, 29 Jun 2012

I upgraded from Debian Squeeze to Wheezy today

Though my track record with in-place upgrades of Linux/Unix systems is far from positive, I decided to do just that with my long-running (since late 2010) Debian Squeeze laptop today.

It went surprisingly well -- and by that I mean I'm using a fully upgraded Debian Wheezy laptop to create this post in Nautilus via sftp.

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Thu, 21 Jun 2012

Reducing swappiness in Linux for better desktop performance

My Debian Squeeze system has been swapping a lot lately. I think web browsers -- mostly Google Chrome -- are to blame. I'm not sure switching entirely to Firefox will solve the problem. Web browsers eat resources.

To speed things up, I decided to reduce my "swappiness" to see how that affects system performance.

It's been a very long time since I've done it, so I Googled "swappiness in Debian," and came across my own entry from 2010 when I was running Ubuntu 10.04. I got my information from the Ubuntu community Swap FAQ, and you can too.

I followed the recipe on my Debian Squeeze system, changing swappiness from the default of 60 to 10 so the system will use swap less often.

So far, so good.

The next day: This is totally working. After six or so hours of my usual workload, I'm only using 1.2 MB of swap. Nice!

The next week: After a full day of computing, with lots of Google Chrome windows and tabs open all day (I barely used Firefox/Iceweasel today), doing some photo edits but no video editing, I'm using 1.4 GB of RAM and 24.8 MB of swap. I'd say the experiment in changing swappiness is a success.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012

Debian project leader Stefano Zacchiroli and the controversy over Debian Multimedia

I came across Debian project leader Stefano Zacchiroli's Bits from the DPL on Planet Debian -- the most recent bits also living on Stefano's blog and on a Debian mailing list.

The more interesting bits this month include a controversy over duplication between the Debian Multimedia archive and Debian proper.

Stefano suggests that what package belongs where be worked out, or that Debian Multimedia shed its Debian name and move on.

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Wed, 06 Jun 2012

Debian releases a diversity statement

It was nice to see Debian's new diversity statement bake in the oven, as it were, on the mailing list, and now it's here:

The diversity statement itself is refreshingly brief:

Diversity Statement

The Debian Project welcomes and encourages participation by everyone.

No matter how you identify yourself or how others perceive you: we welcome you. We welcome contributions from everyone as long as they interact constructively with our community.

While much of the work for our project is technical in nature, we value and encourage contributions from those with expertise in other areas, and welcome them into our community.