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.

Install Gnome 3 in Ubuntu 11.04

If you have Ubuntu 11.04, by now, you have messed around with Unity, the default desktop environment. Maybe, you like it or maybe you don’t. If you’re curious about how Gnome 3 looks like in Ubuntu 11.04, you can install it without much effort. All you need to do is fire up 4 quick commands in your Terminal to get you going.

Install Gnome 3

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

You need to log out of Unity, choose Gnome when logging back in, for the changes to take effect. By the way, Gnome 3 will break Unity. But, don’t fret. You can restore it easily. Just use the command below to get Unity back in your life.

Restore Unity

sudo ppa-purge ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3

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.

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron Ending on May 12

Ubuntu will stop supporting Ubuntu 8.04 aka Hardy Heron on May 12th. That means no software updates and no security fixes for this old favorite. Hardy Heron was one of my favorite Ubuntu releases ever. I was with Hardy Heron for more than a year, mainly because it was very stable and had long term support. I continued to use Hardy even when 8.10 and 9.04 were out. I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS now. Like they say, all good things come to an end. We will miss you, Hardy. Ok, now to Ubuntu 11.04. What’s up with this Unity interface?

Ubuntu 11.04 Will Be Drastically Different

The next Ubuntu release, version 11.04, code name Natty Narwhal, will be so drastically different than any Ubuntu release, that you may not recognize it at first glance. The changes are going to be so dramatic. First of all, the Gnome Shell we are all accustomed to seeing, will be replaced by the Unity interface, which is already the standard in Ubuntu Netbook releases. Here’s a sneak peek of the Unity interface.

The Unity interface’s main strength is having easy access to applications. The familiar Gnome pull down menu taskbar at top of the screen will go away, to be replaced with Unity’s icons on the left side of the screen. The Unity interface comes with social media in mind. Unity users will be able to access Twitter and Facebook straight from their desktop.

In terms of office suite, LibreOffice will replace Open Office as announced earlier by Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu releases. In addition, Firefox 4 will be the default browser, along with Banshee, which will replace the Rythmbox Music Player.

Finally, here’s a sneak video of Ubuntu running the Unity interface.