Gnome 2.14 preview.

February 22, 2006

Davyd Madeley gives us a preview of Gnome 2.14.

I’m a happy user of Gnome 2.12 at the moment, but what Davyd unveils for the next version is just terrific. In particular, speedups, better notifications and, above all, finally, full remote editing in gedit nearly make me salivate.

The last point is so important to me becasue I used to love KDE for its kioslaves (before I started drifting away from it because if its overall way too busy and messy look and feel). For quick editing of css or markup files on the web server, remote editing is invaluable. This has already been possible with (G)Vim, but the functionality isn’t as nicely integrated into Gnome.

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Software links.

February 13, 2006

My good old desktop got upgraded to Ubuntu Breezy last night. I  took the oportunity to review and edit the existing partitions and do a clean install from CD — a procedure that always comes with discoveries of new software. And sometimes a problem or two, but I have installed Ubuntu so many times on different computers that I’ve become good at figuring them out.

Gajim quite looks like the ultimate Jabber client for Linux, in particular the Gnome desktop. I’d been using Psi, which is nice, but doesn’t integrate so well, and the focus on the chat windows whenever a new message arrives annoyed me. Gajim is very happy with Google talk — no particular configuration required.

Two excellent short reference articles: on the easiest way to set up a simple home network (two computers, in my case) with internet connection sharing, and on configuring Samba, up to and including mounting Samba shares via smbfs, which is an extremely comfortable way to work on two computers at once.

I work with audio files and use several cross-platform tools like Transcriber and Audacity, which aren’t integrated into the modern desktop environments. Audacity’s Linux/Unix Support Forum is a great help for figuring out what you might have missed. The general conclusion I’ve drawn from fixing Linux (Ubuntu) sound: the error messages are frightening, but the fix is usually easier than you think at first. In my case:

  • switch the Multimedia Preferences to “ALSA”, and install the ALSA packages
  • make sure not to forget alsa-oss, which allows the old-style OSS applications to use ALSA
  • reboot once after having made profound changes to your sound setup
  • start the old-style apps with aoss [program]

That’s it. Ploum has written an excellent intro to sound on Ubuntu (in French).

At the same time, the laptop (an IBM Thinkpad T22, not recent, but a reliable workhorse) benefitted. I upgraded Firefox to version 1.5.1. This one isn’t in the repositories yet, but an excellent HOWTO exists on the Wiki. FF 1.5 is sweet. Very reactive. And some of the new extensions are impressive. I’m writing this via Performancing, which is a built-in wysiwyg blogging tool that rolls up over part of your screen. Very pleasant to use! (Let’s see if it posts okay, too.)

Oh, and the Milk theme for Gnome is just beautiful.

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Firefox extension: better tooltips.

January 9, 2006

Everyone has their own favourite Firefox extensions — that’s how the browser is designed. I just discovered a small one via idle browsing: Popup ALT Attribute. It was designed to show alt attributes in tooltip-style, but also enables multiline tooltips, usually from the title attribute. You can try it out by mousing over the two links above: the link titles aren’t truncated any longer.

For the record, my lonely-island Firefox extensions are Scrapbook, Tab Mix Plus, Spellbound, and the Web Developer toolbar.

CSS graphs.

December 9, 2005

A link via Mr Peer: Apples To Oranges has some very nice examples of how to do bar graphs in pure CSS. I find elegant methods like this one much preferable to stretching a 1px image file every which way.

GTK+ “open file” dialogue, a small but useful tip

December 8, 2005

Imagine you use Ubuntu Linux, or some similar Gnome (or XFCE) based Linux distro that comes with a useful and all in all well thought-out configuration. Imagine further that you’re a middle-of-the-road-user, someone who knows her way around the file system and masters some basic maintenance tasks. You know that many programs have configuration files in your home directory, with names like .[program-name]rc. Then you might have stumbled upon the same problem that took me weeks to solve, embarrassingly enough.

Say you want make a small modification to a configuration file, or you are switching from Thunderbird to another e-mail client and want to import your Thunderbird mail, which is somewhere in the /home/yourusername/.mozilla-thuderbird/ folder. So you fire up gedit or open the importation dialogue in the e-mail client, click on “open file” or “import mailbox” … and you can’t find the file or navigate to the Thunderbird folder because the dialogue doesn’t show hidden files or folders. Obviously, for editing, you can call your editor from the command line. But not for importing. And not if you want to open a second hidden file in an existing editor.

You might indeed have the opposite problem: your “open file” dialogue, if it points at your home directory, is polluted by loads and loads of files that start with a dot, and you have to scroll through this interminable list to get to your real data.

The solution for both problems is the same: right-click in the file listing inside the “open file” dialogue and choose “show hidden files”. If hidden files and directories (those that start with a dot) were hidden when you started out, a check mark will appear next to this menu entry, and your hidden files will miraculously appear. If you want to get rid of an over-abundance of hidden files, toggle the check mark off. That’s all.

Hello, World!

December 8, 2005

So I got myself a blog. This unnerves me a little, because I already have several blogs — the threat of blogiferation looms large. On the other hand, each blog has its own character, indeed, needs to have a strong personality to attract readers. This is something I learnt from my first and primary blog, serendipity: it started out as a blog without focus, but has since, almost automatically, undergone a narrowing to language and linguistics topics.

This first blog, and WordPress, have also taught me a lot. I had next to no programming experience, but soon started hacking WordPress and learning about the plugin API, to turn my site into a bilingual blog. I hacked WordPress some more and created the Eggcorn Database, which isn’t a blog but a lexical database. And I’ve played with other CMS, installed and customised WordPress, created themes, opened yet another, pseudonymous, blog for my personal thoughts — to give those people who are interested in them a place to go and at the same time keep the stuff some might find objectionable a few clicks away from a Google search for my real name.

Blogging has turned me into a bumbling (but improving!) writer, but also, to my surprise, somewhat of a geek. At the same time, and only loosely related to becoming a blogger, I’ve developed a keen interest in language and its reflection on the web and in computing: automatic text handling, encoding issues, typography, multilingual web design. In addition, I’ve made the total switch from Microsoft Windows to GNU/Linux, first Debian, then Ubuntu. All this has been possible because of the existence of free software. It has given me a lot, so maybe it is time to give something back.

Thus, Debutante Geek is my answer to this. I will post tips and tricks that are useful for the average competent blogger or free software user, point out sites or applications I find particularly useful, write up my thoughts about the technology that surrounds us. The blog is geared towards users like myself: not the über-geeks, but beginners in many respects, yet with a desire to master the tools that this confusing and alluring new technology-permeated worlds offers us.


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