Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bodhi Linux Get Software Page Goes Live

What good is an operating system if the end user is unable to use it? Not very useful really. A large of part of being able to use your operating system is having the right application for whatever task you are trying to accomplish. I have had a number of users ask me since I released Bodhi Linux if I plan to make the operating system more "user friendly" for those who do not know their way around Synaptic and/or apt-get.

I was a little bit torn as to what exactly I wanted to do. I like Bodhi being minimalistic, so including everything and the kitchen sink in an attempt to increase user friendliness was not an option. I also kicked around the idea of simply including the Ubuntu Software Center, but I don't care for the way it sorts the software (or lack of sorting). Most users I think get lost in all the software it lists, some of which doesn't exactly exemplify the best FOSS has to offer. I wanted something that was easy to sort through and at the same time would be familiar to most users.

Many people are comfortable navigating the web, so I feel a web interface for installing applications would be something most people would find easy to navigate. The "Get Software" link on the Bodhi Linux home page has been a place holder for the last month and a half now. This evening the Bodhi Team and I launched our Joomla! powered, online software center:

Our software page will allow users to either choose by application function or search for what they are looking for (based on application name or functionality). Once a user has found the application they are looking, they can begin installing the program with a single click or download a pre-packaged installer (handy for taking to systems without an internet connection).

The website uses apturl for the one click install (modeled after how GetDeb works) and the download-able installers are a combination of shell script and a package archive. The Joomla! template is still a little bit rough, but it is functional and that is the most important part. There are currently only a handful of applications listed, but more will be added in the coming weeks until we have the perfect Linux application listed for every task you can think of. See here for a full list of applications we currently plan to list.

Have any questions, want to suggest an application I should add to the page, or if you have any trouble installing things, feel free to drop a comment here or make a post on the Bodhi Forums.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten Linux Distros that use Enlightenment

In case you haven't noticed I've had a bit of an obsession with the Enlightenment desktop of the late. Even though this desktop is fantastic there are currently not very many distributions that utilize it. Today I would like to take the time to mention those that offer a version with my favorite desktop.


The biggest name distribution to (currently) offer an "official" Enlightenment variation is PCLinuxOS. PCLOS is an RPM based distribution that uses apt-get for it's package manager. As this is an official PCLinuxOS variation it is fully compatible with and uses the standard PCLinuxOS repositories. PCLinuxOS E17 currently has the beta 3 EFL packages in its repositories and stays regularly up to date.


Sabayon is a derivative of Gentoo that is fully backwards compatible. They recently released an "experimental" spin that utilizes the Enlightenment desktop. This spin is based on the latest version of Sabayon. You can find more information on it here.

Bodhi Linux:

Bodhi Linux is an Ubuntu derivative that uses 10.04 as a base, but back ports newer software from Maverick and even Natty repositories. It receives regular Enlightenment updates and currently features the EFL beta 3 libraries. It is fully backwards compatible with Ubuntu 10.04 packages.


Macpup is a distro based on Puppy Linux. Macpup's latest release is based on "Lucid Puppy" a version of Puppy that is compatible with binaries made for Ubuntu 10.04. Macpup ships with ELF beta 1 version of the Enlightenment files compiled from SVN revision 52995. Something worth noting is that Macpup feels a bit incomplete as certain Enlightenment features do not work (such as shutting down). Finally I'd like to note that if you want to update Enlightenment under Macpup you will need to compile and install the updates yourself from source.


Unite17 is the first derivative built on top of Unity Linux, which in turn is a derivative of Mandriva. Unite17 is a Hungarian Enlightenment distribution that has a large default application set. Unite17 was formly known as PCe17OS.


Elive is based on Debian stable (5.0), over time it has become what I believe to be kind of the defacto standard of Enlightenment distributions. While it does work well and is more than elegant all of it's packages are fairly old. Even it's Enlightenment packages are dated at this point, it's last release was over nine months ago.


Pentoo gets it's name from it's Gentoo base and it's function for network penetration testing. It utilizes Enlightenment more so for it's speed than for it's elegance. It is backwards compatible with Gentoo, but it's last release is over a year old at this point.


MoonOS is an Ubuntu derivative whose last release used 9.04 as a base. It is important to note that MoonOS no longer receives updates as 9.04's life span has run out. Still, it is nice looking and if you are willing to compile your own Enlightenment updates it can work just fine as an OS (after upgrading Ubuntu versions). This 9.04 version is the last copy of MoonOS to use the Enlightenment desktop, an announcement was posted that future versions will be using the Gnome desktop.


Yellow Dog is an Enlightenment distro that works on PowerPC and Cell processor architectures. It is designed for home use (on the PS3/PPCs Macs) and server use/cluster computing. It is built on top of the community version of Redhat Linux known as CentOS and is maintained by the company Fixstars.


OpenGEU is another Ubuntu derivative (there are always lots of those) whose most recent version is built on 8.10. It has been a long while since we saw any new releases from the OpenGEU team, but they promise us a Debian based release at some point in the future.

I think I covered most all the Enlightenment based Linux distributions - really shows how few there are that I can list them all like this in one post! If I missed anything please drop a comment below to let me know.

~Jeff Hoogland

More Enlightenment FAQ

While the Enlightenment desktop is fantastic, there is no doubting that in all it's grace and glory it is a bit different from other desktop environments. While I know there are some people (such as myself) that like to just muck their way through things on their own, I also know that others like a bit of a guide to follow along with. A couple of months ago I made a post detailing the answers to some common questions those new to the Enlightenment desktop have. Today I would like to address a few more such questions and give a few tips I have picked up over the years.

Your Desktop is a Menu:
Because most Enlightenment distributions have a "main menu" button on one of their shelves, I think many miss (or forget) the fact that the entire desktop acts as a menu. Left clicking on any open space on the Enlightenment desktop brings up the main menu:

Right clicking on open space on the desktop brings you directly to your "favorites" menu:

Run Everything (without Do!):
One application you often see recommended for Linux desktops is Gnome Do, a quick launcher that allows you to quickly find and launch applications that are installed on your Linux desktop. There is no need to install Gnome Do under Enlightenment so long as you have the Everything Applications module loaded. You can launch Run Everything from either the main menu or by hot key (alt+escape or super+space). Once it is launched simply start typing the name of the application you are looking for and then press enter once it is highlighted.

You can also navigate the listed applications with the arrow keys. The launcher also remembers which applications you use - so after a day you can find your applications even more quickly!

Key Bindings:
There are a lot of useful (non-standard) key binding setup under Enlightenment by default. It is worth searching through them to see what is there. One of these I would like to mention is that alt+fX will change to your desktop X (Through 12 of course).

Enlightenment Crashes:

Something I sometimes forget is that the Enlightenment desktop is still in an alpha state, because of this it does have hiccups now and then. If you have been using the Enlightenment desktop for some time then you may have seen this message before:

Once you get past how intimidating this message looks - take a deep breath - and press F1. Your screen will flicker for a moment and then everything should return to normal. Enlightenment is the only desktop that can crash and still save the state of all the applications you have open. It is important to note what you where doing when the crash happened and then report it to your distro creator (or right to the Enlightenment folks if you are compiling from SVN).

If you think of any other Enlightenment questions I haven't covered thus far - please feel free to drop a comment below asking.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mugen Power Extended Battery N900 - Hands on Review

A few months back I wrote a post mentioning that I had ordered a Mugen Power battery for my N900. If you have been by my blog here before then you may know that while I love my N900 the battery life isn't all that amazing (like most smart phones). If I am using the N900 to it's fullest extent I am able to drain the stock battery in just over two hours.

The stock battery weighs in at 1320 mAh. The Mugen Power extended battery is nearly twice this size (2400 mAh).

Look and Feel:
The N900 is a bulky hand held by default and the Mugen Power doesn't exactly help this figure.

The extended battery makes the N900 around 30% thicker, as a comparison base this isn't much larger than the Otter Box makes the N900.

The Mugen Power comes with a replacement back panel for the N900 (see the above image). This back panel is of a quality make and clips firmly to N900. Unlike the default panel, this Mugen Power panel does not contain a shutter over the camera lenses. For those that use the camera lenses opening to trigger applications launching on their N900 (I know I do), don't worry because there is an up/down switch on the Mugen Power panel that performs the same function as the old shutter. Another important thing to note is that while this back does make the N900 a bit thicker it doesn't obstruct the camera lenses at all.

Also, since I mentioned the Otter Box - it is worth noting is that you cannot use the Mugen Power with the Otter Box case.

Duration and Usage:
In my couple of weeks of testing I found the Mugen Power to over twice as long as the stock battery during my every day use. I went from having to find an outlet (or a powered USB port) by 2pm - too being able to get through my entire day on a single charge. Before I would connect to 3g only when using it to conserve battery, with the Mugen Power I could now leave my mobile Internet connected the entire day without a second thought.

When you first get the Mugen Power, as with any lithium ion battery, you will want to fully charge and then fully discharge the battery several times to maximize it's capacity. I found that even with my 3g connected all day I had trouble fully draining the battery to an empty state in just a twelve hour period.

Why the Delay:
The final thing I would like to mention about the Mugen Power is one of reasons why it has taken me five months since placing the order to write this summary. About two weeks after receiving my Mugen Power battery (right after it was finally broken in of course) my N900 took a tumble off of my kitchen table to the hardwood floor. I am not sure if it was just a fluke with the battery I had received, but this less than three foot tumble to the floor was enough to render the battery completely useless.

The battery refused to charge and after contacting Mugen Power they advised me against using the battery any further. Mugen was very understanding, all I had to do was pay to ship the broken battery back over seas and Mugen then sent me a replacement free of charge.

The Cost:
The extended battery does come with a bit of a hefty price tag, just under 100 USD. If you are someone that doesn't like having to remember to charge their N900 halfway through the day (or doesn't want to) then the Mugen Power battery is a quality piece of hardware worth the price.

Do you think you are going to pick up an extended battery for your N900? What other accessories do you have for your N900 that make it a more enjoyable hand held to use?

~Jeff Hoogland

Linux Gamers will Buy

"There is no money in making games of Linux"

They said.

"There is only a negligible market share for Linux"

They said.

"They" were wrong. Twice in fact they have been wrong. The folks who seven months ago brought us the first Humble Bundle have, just in time for the holiday, season brought us yet another chance to donate to some good causes and get some quality video games at the same time. For the next three days you can donate any amount you wish and receive each of the following DRM free, cross platform games:
  • Braid
  • Cortex Command
  • Machinarium
  • Osmos
  • Revenge of the Titans
The cost of buying each of these games separately would be around 85$.

What does all of this have to do with Linux Gamers being willing to purchase their video games? Well, lets look at the statistics this time around for who is donating what to the Humble Bundle:

Once again users donating for the Linux platform have surpassed both Windows and OSX users for the average donation amount. In addition to that, our "negligible" market share has made up nearly 25% of the total donations. To all my fellow Linux gamers out there - please help us continue proving all of "them" wrong. If you haven't already made a donation for the second Humble Bundle I encourage you to go do so now! Even the small sum of 15$ is enough to continue to raise the Linux average donation amount - an amount that is more than fair for these great games!

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Distro Watch Wait Listing

If you have been exploring the world of Linux for any amount of time then odds are you have come across the website Distro Watch at some point or another.

Distro Watch performs a great service for the FOS operating system community. They document releases, package lists, and a host of other information about Linux, BSD, and other FOS operating systems. It is the one stop shop to helping you find the perfect FOS operating system for you. A person can loose days (weeks, months) sorting through all the choices there.

My own project, Bodhi Linux, is really up and rolling now. My small team and I have a website setup, forums, our own debian repository and torrent tracker. As such I have been asked by a number of people as to why the distribution still isn't listed on Distro Watch. For those who are unaware, Distro Watch has a waiting list for new distributions. They currently receive between two and four distributions per week - the waiting list allows them sort out which distributions are going to last and which will simply fade away quickly. A distribution must sit on the waiting list for a year or until someone someone purchases a 200$ ad for it.

Bodhi was added to the waiting list on 11/18/10, so unless I find a spare 200$ laying around in my sock drawer there are only eleven more months before Bodhi finds itself listed. While there are exceptions to every rule - I'm not holding my breath that Bodhi will be one of them. Really a shame considering there are only a handful of distributions listed that use the Enlightenment desktop.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 18, 2010

User Familiarity != Software Superiority

Most anyone that has really used Linux, on the desktop, in the last few years knows that it is ready for the average user. The same is true for a number of other open source projects. Many FOSS projects are on-par with (or better than) their closed source counter parts when it comes to the number of features and functionality. Why is it then that FOS softwares are (typically) less commonly used by the general public? Simple:

User Familiarity

It is the sad fact that in our current society (mostly) only closed source softwares are used (and taught) in schools - at least in the US. This fact, combined with the resistance to change that is inherit to most people, means people are more inclined to click on that big blue E when going to surf the Internet as opposed to my favorite fox. Many users simply use the software that comes pre-installed on their computer or what is recommended by the sale's person. For example Microsoft Office.

In many FOSS vs Closed Source project comparisons I have seen to date this "user familiarity" is often referenced as a point of "software superiority". Not only is this a flawed form of logic, but it is really borderline FUD. The familiarity the users have with a given piece software is not something that they where born with (or was even developed over night). It is something they learned over an (often extended) period of time.

Do you think a time will ever come when users will realize that just because you know how to use a piece of software doesn't automatically make it the best software for completing the task at hand?

~Jeff Hoogland

Netflix and FOSS Hypocrites

Perhaps you saw a couple weeks ago Netflix's post touting their advocacy of open source software. They provide a hefty list of projects they utilize and contribute back to:

Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, and Cassandra

It's a shame there aren't any video streaming programs on that list. If you use Linux and are familiar with Netflix then odds are you are aware of (what at this point feels like an age old argument) the issue of getting Netflix's instant stream functional on your Linux system. In case you are not aware of this dilemma, in short:

It does not work

You see, even with all of the FOSS projects Netflix supports they choose to use the DRM ridden Silverlight plugin to stream video over the Internet. This prevents the streaming service from functioning on FOS operating systems (Linux, BSD, ect.) at this current point in time. Why the lack of support? Some will say Linux has a small market share so is not worth the extra time it takes to support the platform.

Personally, I find it a bit absurd that they can find the time to support Windows, OSX, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, and now even the Linux based Android and still not provide a general streaming solution that would work across all PC platforms. As Netflix themselves stated, it is often cheaper to employ an FOSS solution to remedy software needs - so why they do not use an FOSS medium to stream their media is beyond me (or heck even a closed sourced solution such as flash that is cross platform).

In my opinion, Netflix loves FOSS just about as much as Microsoft does. They see it as something that can help their bottom line and nothing more. Don't get me wrong, I understand companies need to make money - but in my opinion if you are only utilizing FOSS to turn a larger profit, then you are falling far short of realizing the true reason this type of software exists.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bodhi 0.1.3 Released

Two nights ago after many complaints, complements, bug reports, and themes myself and the Bodhi Linux Team pushed out our forth alpha release of the minimalistic, enlightenment using distribution. This release includes a few bug fixes, ELF Beta 3 packages, Firefox 4.0 B7, and a good deal of "polish around the edges" previous versions of the distro had lacked. For a full change log see here.

Some images of the new system:

As our development team is small we still only have a 32 bit disc available. This 0.1.3 release is a bit larger than previous versions, coming in at 385 megs (still under our 400 meg goal). You can get Bodhi 0.1.3 via high speed torrent download here or via a bit slower direct download (via source forge) here.

If you know of anywhere that would be interested in doing a review of the distro please feel free to contact me via JeffHoogland at Linux dot com (I would post one myself but I think that would be a bit tacky). Thanks for using Bodhi and please report bugs as always!

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 4, 2010

HOWTO: Enable Compiz under Bodhi (Enlightenment)

One of the reasons I gave for giving the Enlightenment desktop a try was its elegance. While it is true that Enlightenment has a good number of built-in effects that run on a wide range of systems, those with a more powerful system might crave something more. If you are coming to Enlightenment from a previous Linux desktop odds are you are aware of Compiz Fusion (a compositing window manager known for it's many different effects). Thanks to the Ecomorph module for Enlightenment, you can enable many of your favorite Compiz effects on the Enlightenment desktop.

First things first: installing Ecomorph. If you are using Bodhi Linux you can simply apt-get the needed packages with the command:

sudo apt-get install ecomorph*

On other Enlightenment distributions the install command and package names will vary. You can also always compile it from source. Once you have Ecomorph installed, load the module (Settings->Modules->System). It is also necessary to disable the Dropshadow (and built in compositing if it is enabled) module under Look (it conflicts with Ecomorph's built-in shadow).

Next, using your preferred text editor, as root, create a .desktop file for launching Ecomorph. For example, run the following in terminal:

sudo gedit /usr/share/applications/ecomorph.desktop

For the contents of the desktop file, paste in this. Save the file. Then, if you want to always start compositing on login add our newly created menu entry to your startup applications.

Finally, log out and from your session list select E17 - Ecomorph instead of Enlightenment when you log back in. Please note: if you did not add Ecomorph to your startup applications you will have to manually launch the desktop entry for compositing to become active.

Once Ecomorph is running, you can customize your desktop effects under Settings->Ecomorph

Ecomorph also adds a list of actions you can bind to your preferred key-sets (such as toggling expo). Configure these under Settings->Settings Panel->Input->Key Bindings. Enjoy your tricked-out Enlightenment!

Have any questions or if issues arise while installing/configuring Ecomorph feel free to drop a comment below.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, November 26, 2010

T-Mobile "4g" Failure

"4g" is very hot-button advertising term with mobile Internet providers in the United States right now. Sprint, Clear, and now T-Mobile are all advertising various forms of "4g" networks. What exactly qualifies as "4g" you ask? According to the ITU Radio Communication Sector the definition of "4g" is as follows:

"A 4G system is expected to provide a comprehensive and secure all-IP based solution where facilities such as ultra-broadband (giga-bit speed such as 100+ MiB/s) Internet access, IP telephony, gaming services, and streamed multimedia may be provided to users."

By this definition, none of the before mentioned companies actually have a "4g" network. Sprint and Clear offer "WiMax" networks and T-Mobile really has "HSPA+". Both of these types of networks current max out around 10MiB/s - falling far short of the denoted 100+MiB/s required of a true "4g" network.

Currently advertised on the front page of T-Mobile's website is

That small text at the bottom you ask? It states the network is really HPSA+, also known previously as "3.5g". Between October and November of this year (2010) T-Mobile rolled out HSPA+ in a good number of new towns around the United States. So while their network isn't really "4g" this faster "3g" connection is now more readily available than before.

Something T-Mobile hasn't advertised quite as much as their larger, faster network is that, without notifying any of their customers, in October they cut the amount of data each user is allowed per-month from 10gb down to 5gb. In case you didn't know your "unlimited" data plan from T-Mobile has a limit to how much data you are allowed at "4g/3g" speeds each month. Once you go beyond this limit the service to your hand held is cut down to "2g" for the remainder of the month. So while T-Mobile's HSPA+ is on par speed wise with Sprint's WiMax network, with Sprint you will enjoy your fast mobile internet as much as you want - while with T-Mobile you are decently limited.

At any rate, even though I love my N900 I think it is time I start looking into "4g" hand-helds with Sprint.

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wayland VS X - Some Perspectives

The Linux world has been very talkative for the last few weeks with the news that Ubuntu plans on switching from the classic X server to Wayland for it's graphics environment. For those who are still unclear as to what exactly Wayland is, here is a quote from their homepage:

"Wayland is a protocol for a compositor to talk to its clients as well as a C library implementation of that protocol. The compositor can be a standalone display server running on Linux kernel modesetting and evdev input devices, an X application, or a wayland client itself. The clients can be traditional applications, X servers (rootless or fullscreen) or other display servers."

For those still unclear as to what Wayland is supposed to be doing after reading the above quote - essentially Wayland helps a compositor, such as Compiz or KWin, work with applications running on a computer. It can run on top of an existing display server, such as X, or act as the display server itself (and run X inside of itself similar to how OSX does).

My first and foremost question to the change to Wayland is why? Well according to Mark the "why" is the following:

"we don’t believe X is setup to deliver the user experience we want, with super-smooth graphics and effects

To each their own. The wonderful thing about FOSS is choice - my question this: If desktops such as Enlightenment can achieve an elegant, fluid desktop while using X, why can't Unity? My next concern about using the Wayland project is if it is ever going to actually fully get rid of X. Mark states that they plan to keep backwards compatibility with all X applications. While backwards compatibility of this sort is something that is very necessary, I some how doubt this going to be accomplished with out keeping parts (if not all) of X around. If this is the case - what is the point of adding Wayland into your graphics layer in the first place?

The last part of Wayland that is a large cause for concern is lack of closed source video driver support. As a free software advocate I know FOSS drivers are ideal (and they are advancing rapidly) but as of yet they do not offer anywhere near the performance of their closed source counter parts. In fact as of today the only open source graphics drivers that support any form of decent 3D acceleration are for Intel chip sets. While I recommend taking anything you read on Phoronix with a grain of salt - their claim that nVidia has no plans to support Wayland in their closed source driver sounds about accurate. As for ATI? Their Linux driver support has historically been worse than nVidia - so I wouldn't hold my breath here either.

As with most things only time will tell if Ubuntu's (and Fedora's) transition to Wayland will be a success (or a death sentence) for the respective distros. In the mean time want to give Wayland a try? Well, currently it is barely functional and only works on a limited amount of hardware. That means, in addition to all the concerns above, a good deal of time, funding, and man power is going to have to be invested in Wayland just to make the project functional for a desktop operating system such as Ubuntu.

Personally, I think this announcement is premature and we won't have a functional "Wayland only" display server on a main stream distro for several years at least. What is your take in the situation? Do you think the change was necessary and how soon will it come?

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Announcing Bodhi Linux

You may have noticed the blog has been rather quiet the last couple of weeks, this is because I have been working on a project. Last month I posted details about an E17 LiveDVD I was working on that was modeled after PinguyOS. It weighed in at a 1.4 gig download that was jam packed with every application you might ever use. It was also slightly crude in some aspects (such as the Enlightenment desktop it contained was compiled and installed from source).

What this DVD accomplished was teaching me the ins and outs of working with Enlightenment on Ubuntu and building a remastered disc. The result? Today I would like to announce a project I have been working on with the help of a small team:

Bodhi is a minimalistic, Linux distro that uses the Enlightenment desktop. By minimalistic I mean Bodhi comes as a 350~meg download and only includes the following pieces of software by default:
  • Enlightenment
  • Firefox
  • LXTerminal
  • Elementary Nautilus
  • Synaptic
  • RemasterSYS
The Bodhi is built from an Ubuntu 10.04 minimal disc, but you will notice it does contain some Ubuntu 10.10 features. Backported via the Bodhi Repository, are the 2.6.35 kernel and the newer Ubiquity installer. Also enabled by default are the Ubuntu partner repository, Medibuntu, and GetDeb.

This is the first release of Bodhi and it is of alpha quality. This is a work in progress and I am looking for feedback on what is done so far (so if you are expecting something perfect go elsewhere). As I am the only one developing the disc itself there is currently only a 32 bit version built and you can get it as a download from our downloads page. If you would like more information on the project check out our about page or stop by #bodhi on Freenode IRC.

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, November 15, 2010

Silence is greater than Misinformation

A little bit information is a dangerous thing.

This is one of my favorite quotes. Odds are you have all met someone to whom this statement could apply. That person who just started using Linux and thinks it is the be all, end all to all the problems in the (computing) world. Or that friend who just built their first computer from scratch and suddenly knows everything there is to know about putting hardware together.

Countless times I have gone seeking help on various message boards or chat rooms and more times than I care to count I received down right bad or misinformed answers. Now to date none of the "help" I have found was intentionally viscous, but a few times I realized the information I was being given was not relevant (or was hurtful) to the goal I was trying to accomplish. I am not trying to say that you need to be an expert to help someone with a problem they are having. Just please, if you are not 100% sure of the information you are providing - let the person know this! At least this way if the information turns out to be faulty the person was warned instead of being caught by surprise.

Anyone else ever experience an issue such as this when trying to find technical help on the web?

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HOWTO: Manually set GDM Background and GTK Theme

My search for a new display manager ended me back at GDM after several long hours of searching. I was a bit tired of GDM's bland default brown background and the Clearlooks GTK theme so I deiced to change these. After much searching around I only found links describing how to change these options through GUI tools. I did not want to install an application to accomplish these two simple configuration changes - luckily I didn't have to and neither do you.

To change these keys we will not be editing configuration files in a text editor, instead we will simply use the gconftool-2 to set the values we want. To set the GDM background run the following command in terminal:

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 -t str -s /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename /path/to/pic

For example, if the background I want is one of my shared backgrounds called "background.png" I would set it as such:

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 -t str -s /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename /usr/share/backgrounds/background.png

The GTK theme your GDM uses is set in a similar manner:

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 -t str -s /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_theme ThemeName

You can see what GTK themes are install on your system by looking in your /usr/share/themes directory. For example to set your GDM to use the Crux GTK theme you would run the following:

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 -t str -s /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_theme Crux

Enjoy your new GDM background and GTK theme!

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fusion Linux 14 - Distro Review

Fedora is one of those Linux distros I have always wanted to love. It is sponsored by one of the top FOSS supporting companies in the world, it has strong principals in free standards, and yet somehow every time I get around to installing a new Fedora release it is just enough of a hassle that I end up removing it from my computer and reinstalling some form of Ubuntu. This is why Fusion Linux sparked my interest. Fusion Linux aims to to for Fedora what distros such as Linux Mint, PinguyOS, and Zorin did for Ubuntu. It aims to alleviate much of the messy setup work that is required to get a fully functional desktop operating system out of Fedora. It does this by preinstalling useful applications and codecs, including Adobe Flash and Sun's Java. It does all this while remaining 100% backwards compatible with Fedora.

For this review I will be using the latest release of Fusion Linux, which is their beta release based on Fedora 14. This version comes in a hefty 1.6gigabyte download, a bit large compared to the 700megabyte CD sized distros such as Linux Mint, but not too much larger than Pinguy and Zorin. The first thing you will notice when booting up Fusion (and I did a double take when I first saw it) is that their icon is a hotdog with legs...
According to the Fusion Blog this logo is really more of a funny place holder and they are looking for a graphics designer to create a real icon for the final release of Fusion 14, personally I think it gives the disc some unique personality.

Upon booting the operating system you are presented with a gnome desktop that largely resembles Linux Mint:

This isn't a bad thing though, for those coming from a Windows environment this setup will feel familiar. In fact, the menu you see in the lower left hand corner is the Linux Mint menu! Right next to this menu there are launcher icons on DockXBar for Chromium and terminal.

Also present on the desktop is the wonderfully useful "autoten" script. The autoten script allows for easy installation of extra packages on Fedora, you can see that many of the applications from this script come preinstalled on the system:

The reason Fusion has such a large download size is evident when you take a look at it's default software selection. It is a sizable list:

  • Calculator
  • gedit
  • Geany
  • Gnome Do
  • Gnote
  • Parcellite
  • Take Screenshot
  • Tracker Search Tool
  • Abe
  • Alien Blaster
  • Blob Wars: Metal Blod Solid
  • Chromium BSU
  • FooBillard
  • Frozen Bubble
  • Glaxium
  • PySol Fan Club Edition
  • Teeworlds

  • Blender
  • F-Spot
  • Fotowall
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • PhotoPrint
  • Picasa
  • Scribus
  • Simple Scan

  • airsnort
  • aLinkCreator
  • aMuleGUI
  • Chromium Browser
  • Empathy
  • Firefox 4
  • Net Activity Viewer
  • Thunderbird
  • Transmission
  • wxCAS

  • Writer
  • Calc
  • Impress
  • Draw
  • Project Management
  • PyRoom

Sound and Video
  • Audacious
  • Audacity
  • Audio CD Extractor
  • Brasero
  • Cheese
  • Gnome MPlayer
  • gtk-record My Desktop
  • K3B
  • Miro Internet TV
  • Movie Player
  • Pitivi Video Editor
  • Rhythmbox
  • VLC

System Tools
  • autoten
  • Fusion Icon
  • Gparted
  • LiveUSB Creator
  • System Monitor
  • Terminal
I only have a few comments about the selections Fusion Linux makes. First, is that there are two applications installed for several tasks including Brasero and K3B for burning CDs and Firefox and Chromium from webrowsing. While I am on the topic of Firefox, I would like to mention that Fusion ships with the beta 6 version of Firefox 4. This is a good thing, the beta is fairly solid and much better than firefox 3.x. I personally have been using it for several months now without issue. The installer for the live disc is the same one Fedora itself uses, so while it is not as friendly as Ubuntu's installer it is more than functional.

Also present is a wonderful selection of FOSS games that should keep most children (and some adults) entertained for a good long while. What is lacking from this application list you may notice is that there is no IRC client installed by default. The only issue I had with the software was that upon installation the system already had broken packages. Running yum update with the --skip-broken argument allowed the system to upgrade just fine though.

To finish on a good note I would like to mention I used my T101MT Asus tablet as my test computer and 100% of the hardware was functional with out any extra configuration! This is fantastic compared to the amount of work it takes to get the tablet to function under Ubuntu 10.04 (it has gotten better under Ubuntu 10.10, but it is still not 100% functional OOTB)

Overall Fusion Linux is a fantastic distro and for any beginner (or someone that doesn't want to deal with setting up Fedora) I would highly recommend Fusion Linux.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I am a Linux Geek (and Proud of it!)

I came to a realization this morning:

I am a Linux Geek.

What finally brought me to this realization? Well, it all started last night. You see I was looking for a new display manager to use on my netbook, GDM has been getting bloated and I was looking for something a bit more trim. I came across SLiM in my various searches, but after giving it a try I decided it was not for me. It was late, so after uninstalling SLiM I went off to bed leaving my display manager search for another day.

As I was running out the door this morning I quickly shutdown my netbook down and threw it into my backpack, playing with display managers was one of the last things on my mind - it was a busy day! When I got to lunch I pulled out my netbook to check my email quickly only to discover the system was hanging at the Pinguy E17 boot splash. This was odd, I hadn't had my system randomly deiced to stop booting since I started using Linux. First things first, I did a cold shut off and waited for it to power back up again - after five minutes at the boot splash (that I normally see for 10 seconds, fast SSD) I concluded the system was not about to boot up.

So I started thinking "What did I change to cause this?" - and that is when it hit me. The system wasn't "randomly freezing" I had caused it to start freezing! After I uninstalled SLiM - I never set GDM to be the default display manager again. Not a problem, the flash drive I keep on my key chain is boot-able. I loaded the live environment, mounted my internal drive, and then ran dpkg-reconfigure gdm in a chroot environment and set GDM to be the display manager again. I restarted the system and this time around I saw my boot splash for a few seconds as normal and my system was starting up as it should.

Something that at one point would have taken me hours to figure out (and odds are would have required a few forum posts) I had resolved in minutes. I may not look like what we often type cast as a Unix Geek

But then, I don't think many of us do. It is 2011, Linux users come in all shapes and sizes today. If anyone asks me I will tell them:

I am a Linux Geek - and I am proud of it!

Have you ever come to this same realization about yourself? If so, what caused it?

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Lion has Lost the Magic

For a long time Apple has been known as a company that creates new and innovative products. Now if you have stopped by my blog before you will know that while I am not a fan of Apple hardware, I don't mind using the OSX operating system. That is why it makes me slightly sad that the up coming Apple OS 10.7 (Lion) is going to follow in the steps of the iPad and be less than innovative in the area of new features .

The first on the list of new features is the "Mac App Store":

While this is a good idea, it is far from being a new idea. Even if you ignore the fact that our mobile computers have had application stores for years, Linux was the first to create a centralized, graphical application for easily installing software on your computer with a single click. Beyond simple applications such as gnome-app-install, the Ubuntu Software Center was released over a year ago:

Ubuntu 10.10 also brings with it an integrated software store. So it appears those behind FOSS have beaten Jobs to this punch.

Most he rest of the "new features" listed for Lion only go down hill from here. Next is Apple's "Launchpad":

Not only are these essentially desktop icons, but Lauchpad may very well be an infringement of Canonical's intellectual property on the name. Also, what is the point of the dock if all the application launchers are splayed out all over your desktop? This next one is unfortunately not a joke. Listed on the page for OS 10.7 is "full screen applications". Forgot a feature like the software store that has been around for over a year - we have had full screen applications for over a decade.

Finally the feature sneak peak closes out with "Mac command central":

What this does is allow you to see all of your opened applications on the screen in front of you. This way you can switch between applications and see what is open. While this is a much more interesting addition than desktop icons and full screen applications, it is still something that FOS desktop environments such as Gnome and KDE have been doing for years.

Unless Lion is going to pack some other awesome features that just have yet to be announced it appears it could very well be a "meh" release that would really only be worth upgrading to if it was free (or if you are die hard Apple fan and like throwing money at Jobs).

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, October 21, 2010

HOWTO: Easily Install 2.6.35 (Maverick) Kernel on Ubuntu 10.04

Ubuntu 10.10 just released and it utilizes the 2.6.35 kernel, this is a good bit newer than the 2.6.32 kernel Ubuntu 10.04 uses. While there are a number of reasons to upgrade your kernel, the primary reason for doing so is typically for improved hardware support. Newer kernels contain more (and sometimes better) drivers than older kernels. This can cause older hardware that either didn't work (or required lots of hacking to work) to start "just working". Some of the highlights from the .33, .34, and .35 kernel releases include:
  • brtfs file system support
  • Improved FOSS graphics drivers (Intel, nVidia, and ATI)
  • Trim support (For SSDs)
  • Support for a number of new touch panels
  • Much, much more
As with all Ubuntu releases, 10.04 will "play it safe" and stick with the 2.6.32 kernel. When I searched around for how to install the 2.6.35 kernel on 10.04 I found lots of guides on compiling it from source, but nothing on easily installing it. If you just want a generic 2.6.35 kernel on your 10.04 system there is no reason to go through all that headache. Before you follow my next few steps please be warned that upgrading your kernel does have the off chance of breaking things! Also know though, that your older kernel will still be installed should 2.6.35 have some problem with your hardware setup. To easily install a generic 2.6.35 kernel on Ubuntu 10.04 run the following in a terminal while you have an internet connection:

All Architectures:
mkdir ~/KernelDebs
cd ~/KernelDebs
sudo dpkg -i

32 Bit:
sudo dpkg -i
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-2.6.35-22-generic_2.6.35-22.35_i386.deb

64 Bit:
sudo dpkg -i
sudo dpkg -i

It is just that easy! Reboot and select your new kernel (which should be the default option) from your grub menu. Enjoy.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

E17 Basics - An FAQ

I just recently did a post detailing why you should give the E17 desktop a try. If you made the plunge and are now using E17 on your unix based system you might be slightly at a loss on exactly how it all works. The following are some helpful tips and tricks for when you are first getting started with E17.

Where is the main menu? I think a better question is where isn't the main menu. In E17 any open workspace on your desktop can be clicked upon to open the main menu. Right clicking on any open space will also jump right to your "favorites" application list.

How do I add an application to the favorites menu? This is quite easy, while the application you would like to add is loaded, right click on the window decoration at the top and mouse over Add Application and select To Favorites Menu.

What are gadgets and how do I add/change them? In E17 a "gadget" is anything you see on the desktop. Virtual desktop switcher, clock, system tray, ect. In order to add/remove gadgets go to Settings->Gadgets and you will find a helpful menu for adding/remove gadgets.

I love gadgets! How do I get more of them? What gadgets you have available to add is determined by what modules you have loaded. To load/unload modules go to Settings->Modules.

The default theme is alright but - where can I find others? and are fantastic sources for enlightenment additions such as themes.

I really want to try this theme, but it keeps telling me the file isn't valid. This means the theme was created before E17 changed how the default layout of themes are suppose to be. It is an easy fix however, when you downloaded the theme you should have gotten a file ending in .edj To convert this file to the new format, open a terminal and navigate to the directory the theme file resides in. Once you are there run the command edje_convert mytheme.edj and your theme file will be updated automatically to the new format (note replace "myfile.edj" with the name of your theme file).

I like most of this theme, but there are just a couple modules I don't like how it skins (or doesn't work with). Not a problem - you can have E17 change the theme on a single module. Go to Settings->Theme and then click on Advanced, you should then see this screen:

In the left hand column, select the module you would like to change the theme of. Then in the right column select the theme you would like to assign to it. Press Assign and then Apply and you are good to go.

What are shelves and how do I manage them? If you are coming from gnome, think of shelves as a more versatile version of a gnome panel. Shelves can house your gadgets if you do not like having them on your desktop.

To manage how many shelves you have go to Settings->Shelves. Once you have a shelf added you can right click on it and select "settings". From here you can manage it's size, what desktop it shows on, whether or not it auto-hides, what it looks like, and it's position on the screen. To assign (or remove) a gadget to a shelf, right click on the gadget and mouse over Move To and select either desktop or the shelf you would like that gadget to be moved to.

I covered all the different things I recall struggling to find when I first started using E17. If there are any other questions you have or something you would like to see added to the list please let me know. Also keep in mind I only list here a small portion of the edits you can make to your E17 desktop - explore the different menus to see what else you can tweak!

~Jeff Hoogland

Eight Reasons to give E17 a Try

If you are new to Linux you may never have tried any desktop environments beyond Gnome and KDE. If you have been in the Linux world for awhile odds are you are aware of the fact that several other desktop environments exists. During the three and a half years I have spent using Linux I have tried every different type of desktop under the sun and of them all Enlightenment's E17 is my personal favorite. The following are a few reasons why it may be worth breaking out of your Gnome/KDE comfort zone to give E17 a try:

1.) - Low Resource Consumption

The suggested minimum for running E17 on is 16megs of RAM and a 200mhz ARM processor for embedded devices. The recommend RAM is 64megs (and a stripped down version of E17 can be happy running on 8 megs of RAM). From personal experience E17 utilizes around 100megs of RAM on a fully loaded desktop install. Meaning if you have at least 128megs of system memory in your computer E17 will function fantastically. Because of this E17 makes for a great choice on older computers.

2.) - It is Fast

This is one of the reasons many use Linux in the first place, because it is quicker than some other operating system. With E17 your Linux desktop will be running faster than ever. E17's low system requirements leave more power for the rest of your applications to utilize.

3.) - Desktop Effects on All Systems

Don't ask me how it is done, but E17 provides elegant window effects and desktop transitions regardless of your hardware and driver setup. Intel, nVidia, or ATI chipset - closed source or open source driver, they will all give you a sleek looking desktop with E17. Through the itask-ng module E17 can also provide a dock launcher that has a sleek look without a need for a compositing window manager to be enabled.

4.) - It is Elegant

If configured properly E17 can be so much more than just a desktop environment. In fact many consider it to be a work of art. E17 is designed to be pretty and to this end it does a fantastic job.

5.) - It is 100% Modular

Not using some of the features E17 has and don't want them taking up unnecessary resources? Not a problem! E17 allows you to easily load and unload each and every part (module) of the desktop through the configuration menu. This way, only the parts of the system you are using are loaded at start-up.

6.) - It is 100% Configurable

Should you want to, you can easily spend days tinkering with your E17 configuration. You can adjust anything and everything. Most notably appearance wise, E17 allows you to easily theme each individual module with a different theme (should you want to).

7.) - Core ELF are now Beta

For many years now, people have been saying that they will not use Enlightenment because it is "unstable". At the start of this month, October 3rd, the Enlightenment foundation finally released a "beta" version of their libraries. To quote the Enlightenment homepage:

"There may be some minor bugs, but most if not all are gone."

I have been using the beta packages for nearly three weeks now and I can attest that the above statement is true.

8.) - You Don't have to Compile It Anymore

Just like many pieces of open source applications these days, there are a couple different pre-compiled Linux distros that use E17 as their default Window manager. These include:
  • Elive - Full Desktop built on Debian Stable
  • Unite17 - Desktop Distro
  • MacPup - Minimal CD built on Puppy Linux
  • Bodhi - Minimalistic Ubuntu 10.04 based
Finally, in case you didn't check out any of the links I provided above, my current E17 desktop appears as such:

Pretty isn't it? If I persuaded you to give E17 a try, let me know what you think about it. Also, if you are looking to chat in real time about Enlightenment - drop by #e over on Freenode

~Jeff Hoogland