Give Fluxbox A Try

Are you getting tired of running Unity, Gnome or KDE on your Ubuntu desktop? Try Fluxbox, a windows manager that is light on resources. Fluxbox is based on Blackbox. It’s extremely easy to use. If you are looking for an alternative to Unity, Gnome or KDE, then you should give Fluxbox a try.

How To Install Fluxbox

To install Fluxbox, you can access the Ubuntu Software Center and search for Fluxbox, and then Click Install. If you prefer the Terminal, you simply type the following command:

sudo apt-get install fluxbox

Start Fluxbox

To start Fluxbox, you will need to log out of your current windows manager. There is no need to reboot your computer. You will be taken to the Ubuntu Login screen instead. You can choose Fluxbox instead of your default windows manager. Mine was originally set to Gnome.

Right Click

Once inside Fluxbox, you can access everything using the left click of your mouse. Fluxbox has a simple menu that is accessible anywhere on the screen. Just right click and select any application that you want.

Adding to the Menu

Not everything is on the menu. You may have to add a few things. It’s easy. The file is located in ~/.fluxbox/menu. You may want to edit it and add your own entries.

vi ~/.fluxbox/menu

It uses the following format:

[exec] (Gimp) {/usr/bin/gimp}

Change Background Image

You can change background by typing this command on the Terminal:

fbsetbg -f path/to/file/image.jpg

In addition, you can also change themes. Just right click and select Styles. Choose one from about 25 different themes. I happen to like bora_black.

Give Fluxbox a try. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to your default windows manager. If you like it, you might want to stick around for a while. Enjoy the fast response of Fluxbox.

Linux Mint 12

Linux Mint was officially released on November 12, for almost a week now. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. For those not familiar with the Mint distro, Linux Mint is based on the latest release of Ubuntu, but with a few wrinkles. For starters, it works out of the box with full multimedia support.

So, no more hassles in trying to get your DVD movies and other multimedia formats to work, which is a common problem for people starting out with Ubuntu. You also get a Windows-like menu system. Hey, anything helps to smooth out the transition when switching from Windows to Linux.

Of course, not everyone in the Ubuntu community particularly likes Unity. Some, like myself, have reverted back to the old-style Gnome. I’m using Gnome Classic, albeit on Gnome 3. By the way, Mint 12 has Gnome 2-like features that’s definitely worth checking.

White Screen of Death

Remember the good old days when Windows had problems with the “Blue Screen of Death.” Years later, XBox followed with its “Red Ring of Death.” Now, it’s Ubuntu turn, what others are coining as the “White Screen of Death.”

Yesterday, I upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. Prior to the upgrade, I was using Ubuntu 11.04 and the Gnome desktop (not Unity). Somehow, for some reason, when I upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10, it wiped out my Gnome default environment and switched me back to Unity. Argh!

To make matters worse, I was getting a blank white screen every time I switch to full screen mode. Outside of the full screen, everything seemed ok. I’ve only had a few hours to test the system. But, I think the problem is stemming from the video drivers that were introduced in Ubuntu 11.10.

What’s the workaround for now? After several hours, I ended up using Ubuntu 2D as my desktop environment instead of the default Ubuntu 3D. I should switch back to Gnome and get rid of Unity all together. But, like a good supporter, I’m trying hard to like Unity. I should give it one more chance.

Update: It turned out to be the NVidia video driver. I rolled it back to version 173 and it seems to work fine.

Change Gnome Keyring Password

If you are like me, you probably just changed your Ubuntu password. Everything worked fine, but the problem is, every once in a while  you’ll  get an annoying message to enter your Gnome keyring password, which is still set to your old password. To fix this issue, you will need to delete the default keyring. You can do so using the following command from the Ubuntu Terminal.

rm ~/.gnome2/keyrings/default.keyring

The command above will delete your keyring password. You will be asked to set a new gnome keyring password the next time you visit a site or need to authorize something. You can then set your new keyring password to match your current Linux password.

If you want to disable the keyring password altogether, you can do so by reading this article by noob2geek.

My First Impressions of Unity

The neat thing about Linux is you can test certain features of the distribution before they become part of an official release. Unity is such a case. You can install and play around with it before it hits the store. So to speak. Unity is the future default desktop environment for Ubuntu starting with Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. It will replace the the steady and unflappable Gnome 3.

My first impressions were not good. Although navigation and the overall feel of Unity were very positive, I had one big issue. Opening any of the new browsers (Firefox or Chrome) in full screen mode, resulted in a blank white screen. Minimizing the browser seem to work.

So, I abandoned Unity, swearing it still needed a lot of work. After all, Unity is still under development, just to be fair. A few weeks later, I came back to Unity. The full screen browser mode seems to be fixed. Now, I can really test this new desktop/netbook environment.

Working with Unity is like driving a new car, and driving on the left side of the road at the same time. It takes a whole lot to getting used to. One major impression I got with Unity is, it really is geared towards netbooks. Every application seem to start in full screen mode. This is fine if you own a netbook.

If you have a desktop, applications tend to be stretched out. I have a desktop with lots of screen real estate. I don’t need every application to start in full screen mode? And where is the minimize button when you need one?

It’s going to take a while to get use to Unity. It has its advantages. Switching applications seems to be easier. The icons of every active application are laid out on top of the bar. Clicking on any of the icons switches the user to that application. Clicking the Ubuntu icon clears the screen and displays the Unity menu.

After a few hours with Unity, I miss Gnome badly. I’m lost at times, and that happens in a new environment. I will test it for a few days, perhaps two weeks before coming down with a final verdict.

Open Gnome Nautilus As Root

Nautilus is the file manager for the Gnome desktop, the default desktop environment for Ubuntu and countless other distributions. I run a local web server on my desktop with the default webroot located in /var/www.

If I copy files to /var/www or any of its subdirectories, I will need root access. Ever wonder how to open the Nautilus file manager as root?

To open Nautilus as root, open the Terminal from Applications -> Accessories menu.

Type the following command:

gksudo nautilus

Using Nautilus can really speed up and make work easier. You can use common mouse movements such as drag and drop, as well as keyboard shortcuts such as cutting and pasting.

If you want to take another step further, you can add this superuser shortcut to your menubar.

Move a Gnome Window with the Alt Key

Remember the days when you were running Windows, when a window would go off the screen. You lost control of it. You can’t move it. You can’t minimize or maximize it. All because the title bar is off the screen. Well, this happened to me today in Gnome. In Gnome! Can you believe it! Well, it’s a simple fix really.

Just hold down the Alt key and use the mouse to grab/move any part of the window!

Linux Is Bloated and Scary

Linus Torvalds called Linux bloated and scary. Did he really mean this and this? Kidding aside, it’s only natural that an OS that’s maturing will get fat with age. Hundreds of lines of code are being added each day. Linux now has over 2.7 million lines of code. Does Linux really need to go on a diet? Maybe. Maybe not.

I think the biggest misconception is that most people think Linux is the Gnome Desktop. It’s really not. In fact, you can run Linux using an entirely different graphical desktop environment like KDE, Xfce, Fluxbox, Icewm, Windowmaker and many, many others . So, it’s a bit deceiving, because users only see the graphical desktop environments and not the kernel.

It’s a good bet that Linus Torvalds was talking about the kernel and the kernel only.

PGP Key With Seahorse

Are you worried about your email being read? Emails are sent electronically in plain text. To secure your messages, you’ll need encryption. Jack Wallen of ghacks.net details on how to encrypt your email using Seahorse, the default key ring manager for the Gnome desktop. The article walks you through the installation, the creation of your PGP key, and the publishing and synching of your key. Read the article.

How GNOME and KDE Spend Their Money

From Linux Magazine.

GNOME lists an income of just over $102,000 for the quarter covered by its report. This income includes $65,000 from the Desktop Summit, $20,000 from “advisory board fees” (which I interpret mainly as donations from corporate sponsors), and $12,400 collected by the Friends of GNOME, a promotional and fund-raising project.

By contrast, KDE’s income for the quarter covered by its report totaled just over $111,000 (if you convert the figures from Euros to approximate American dollars). This is actually an increase from the incomes of $93,000 and $102,000 in the fourth and second quarter of 2008. In other words, despite GNOME’s wooing of corporate support, KDE appears to have roughly twice the budget of GNOME in each quarter. And, just as importantly, KDE does not seem to have been affected by the recession.

Read the article.