On 23rd of April 2015, Mihai Șucan passed away due to metastatic
cancer caused by RDEB.
My name is Mihai and I work on the Firefox developer tools.
When it comes to web development, I like both server-side and
client-side work. I am mainly interested in web browsers, web
standards and related technologies.
5 November 2008, 20:38
One of the most common issues on Linux is font rendering. Usually
the Arial font renders really badly, especially if you use Gnome and you try KDE/Qt
applications (for example Opera).
Gnome and KDE use fontconfig to render fonts, but both use
different settings. As such, if you pick your Gnome-based distro, you usually have
problems with KDE/Qt, and vice-versa.
The Appearance properties (gnome-appearance-properties) allows you
to nicely change the font rendering options. You can also manually
adjust these settings using the gconf-edit tool, just go to the
/desktop/gnome/font_rendering preference keys.
KDE has it's own appearance properties, but usually Gnome users
don't know which one it is, and they don't want to install the
entire KDE package.
To adjust the font rendering options for KDE/Qt applications,
here's what you need to know. You can create a per-user
~/.fonts.conf file, or you can set system-wide settings by editing
/etc/fonts/fonts.conf (and/or /etc/fonts/conf.d).
Download my .fonts.conf
file. Just save this in your home folder and restart your
KDE/Qt applications. I use the same settings in Gnome.
I do not recommend you to edit the /etc/fonts/fonts.conf file.
However, you can still adjust global settings by changing the
symbolic links in /etc/fonts/conf.d. I did that myself.
man fonts.conf for more details.
Note: you might not like my font rendering configuration, because
it also depends on your monitor and screen resolution. Please
adjust the settings as needed.
5 November 2008, 19:44
Sunday I upgraded my Ubuntu
installation to the new version: Ubuntu 8.10. Almost three years
ago I switched to using Linux exclusively. I haven't reinstalled
Ubuntu since then. I always upgrade my system every 6 months, and
then I spend a few days fixing post-upgrade issues. It's a
I am working on a new painting Web application. The greatest
surprise to me was that the new Konqueror 4 implements
<canvas>, and it does this theoretically better
than Opera. I will make my Web
application public and you will see this. Amazing and very quick
work done by the Konqueror developers. Congratulations, guys!
Note: I initially thought that the Konqueror
implementation of Canvas is just a copy of the code from Webkit, but it's not. They wrote their own
code, which is great.
On a related note, I have published a new page with some of
9 February 2008, 15:23
Recently I had the chance to observe how someone learns to use a
computer, without having any prior experience. She doesn't even
have experience with using mobile phones or any technology - except
TV remote controls.
Since she has no experience with computers I gave her a Linux-based
system to learn with: Ubuntu
7.10. This is a vanilla installation, in Romanian language (she
knows only Romanian). The Web browser of choice is Opera with an unofficial Romanian
For experienced computer users the whole WIMP metaphor of
today's GUIs might seem very easy, but it's not for newcomers. For
example, the windows concept is too abstract: she doesn't know when
a window has focus. That's even after explaining to her when a
window is focused and when not, several times. She once believed
the window is the title bar itself.
Focusing windows, text fields and various interface elements is not
intuitive at all. It's hard to know where the text you type will
show - in which field, in which window. Generally, she moved the
pointer on top of the field she wanted to write to - without caring
if the window was active, or if the field was active. Moving the
pointer on top the field was her intuitive solution to the problem:
"I want to write here". She quickly forgot that a field is focused
if she sees a blinking cursor in the given field. As such, when she
remembers about the field focus, she always clicks the field, just
to be sure it's focused.
Her attention span is very problematic. If a dialog or a
notification pops-up, she won't notice it at all. If you tell her
something new showed-up on screen, she believes it was always
there, or ... she asks "when did it show up?". Computers, and
technology in general, make us multi-task a lot, they force us to
be always alert to any change on screen. When you use computers,
you can't focus on one issue at a time as good as people normally
do. Not to mention the fact she didn't have automatic system
updates poping up, antivirus updates, dreadful Java updates and
tons of annoying Windows-only crap. That would make computers a lot
harder to use.
I did not yet explain her the differences between lots of interface
widgets and concepts. It's too hard to keep up with the tons of
concepts and interface widgets, how each work. She eventually needs
to learn the difference between combo-boxes, radio buttons, menus,
icons, buttons, task bar buttons (and the association with the
"windows" concept), notification tray and the associated icons of
running applications, tab bars, scroll bars, and multiple desktops
A special note about workspaces: among the first things she did,
was to switch to a different workspace without knowing what
happened. She was very confused: "where did my windows go? I closed
them all?". I immediately disabled workspaces.
The whole mouse concept is also hard. She doesn't know when to
click, double-click, triple-click, middle click, right click and
drag. It's confusing to be required to hold the button down for
longer or shorter periods of time. She believes all three buttons
do the same thing. I believe mice have too many buttons. This is
one reason I agree with Apple's one-button mouse. There's something
she learned really quick: the mouse wheel is easy and intuitive -
just spin the wheel to scroll the Web page.
The keyboard is generally intuitive, but she always keeps the
buttons pressed for a longer time than necessary (thus she gets
duplicated keys). I could configure keyboard delays to be longer,
so she would not be affected by the issue, but still, the defaults
should probably more suited to beginners. Additionally, the concept
of modifier keys, like Control, Alternate, Logo, Caps Lock,
Shift, Scroll Lock and Number Lock are, again,
counter-intuitive. I haven't yet explained her keyboard shortcuts.
About scroll bars I can say people see a photo, and they want to
move it to the left. To do so, they press the left key to
scroll/move the image to the left. Actually, with scroll bars you
have to press the right key to the see right side of the image.
While I understand both expectations, I do believe computer user
interfaces should follow the "default thinking". Why not reverse
scroll bars? They would work as people expect naturally. I saw this
is expected by other people as well, people who don't use
computers, not only her.
Menus are annoying because they show up out of "nowhere" and they
disappear too soon. She's always confused when using menus. People
do not expect, intuitively, that things change on screen based on
the mouse position. Another issue with menus, but more with
linguistics is best explained by an example: in Opera, I told her
"go to Bookmarks menu" which she did, "then Bookmark page". Her
reply was: "how to bookmark the page?". This linguistic issue is
amusing: she just had to click the menu item "bookmark page" -
easy, but it wasn't obvious. This problem happens quite often.
Context-based hovers pose an important problem. It's not intuitive
to move your mouse on top of something, for context information.
This even disturbs her usual computer usage. She doesn't care where
she leaves the mouse. For example, in Opera she sometimes leaves
the mouse on top of a tab title. After a second or two, the tab
thumbnail shows up, which begs the question "what happened?". She
is no longer able to read the Web page. The problem with hovers is
even greater when they provide options, like Web-based hover menus.
I know our Web site exhibits this very issue, but ... we have to
live with that decision for now. :)
Tool tips for context-based information are more like a hack for
forcing the user to read/see what the author wanted. Newcomers
don't expect to get any help by moving the mouse on top of an
option, nor do they want it. I believe users would benefit a lot
more from a general approach, easy to use, for getting help in any
moment - something like
man on Unix systems (in
Having accounts for Web mail, instant messaging, and for every
service is quite confusing. She would expect she has only one
account which allows her to boot the system, and get every service
I would add that the whole concept of having different applications
for different purposes started manually, is not very intuitive.
Finding a good and intuitive reason for a newcomer as to
why you must start Pidgin for instant messaging, or Opera for Web
browsing, is not really easy. Users expect the computer "does" the
things they want - not applications running in an OS. When she clicks on the Opera icon she
doesn't see the Opera window instantly, as such she clicks it
several times more. This can seem amusing, but ... actually, why
does everything have to startup? It would be interesting if we
could have a reachitectured OS which would provide every
application/functionality instantly. People like the fact their TV
doesn't have to boot, it doesn't have to prebuffer streaming data,
nothing. They just work.™ Having more than one media player, more
than one Web browser, and in general more applications for the same
purpose, complicates everything a lot more. While I believe choice
is good, I also believe choice should be available to those
informed, not forced onto everybody, from day one. This is where I
agree with Ubuntu, Mac OS X and
Windows: they do not initially provide tons of options - you just
go ahead and use the system. Unfortunately, Microsoft and Apple try
to limit the choices for experts, unlike Ubuntu.
From the perspective of a newcomer, the separation between Web
applications and software applications is confusing, again. Even
computer users who are not experts today, mistake Meebo as being a software application.
In the minds of average Joe computer users, the two concepts are
fuzzy. People don't know Web sites/applications do not have the
same priviledges as, say, Pidgin. A new system which would allow a
complete merger between software and Web applications would help
newcomers. Fortunately, this is already happening.
I was very tempted to teach the newcomer how to use computers in
Ubuntu's virtual terminal, only with the command line. She wouldn't
have to learn so many things. She wouldn't have to focus on so many
things which do not matter. She would be able to play music,
videos, chat and browse the Web with greater ease once she learns
the commands. This is what I like about the CLI: the system is
multi-tasking, yet it does allow you focus on one application at a
time. You always know where your text shows up when you type.
People like to know where to look, to focus, all the time. GUIs are
too dynamic with respect to "where should I look now?". In CLI
mode, you just follow the "dialog" with the machine.
There's one thing I didn't expect: she was able to navigate Web
pages a lot easier than she could use the OS. She didn't need any
training, apart from "you click on links, on images, on texts which
are underlined, usually they are blue". Yet, things got worse once
she stumbled on Web sites with menus, or with "complex" actions.
Web pages which use the anchor target=_blank attribute value break
the back button - which is very annoying actually.
The OLPC project aims to improve user
interfaces, among other things. I like about this project that the
Sugar interface is
about activities, not applications. Automatic updates and
installations are a lot simpler. The user focuses only on one
application/activity at a time, with no overlapping windows.
Newer interface concepts like Sugar and the
ZUI want to give focus to a single application, a single
activity, without giving up any multi-tasking capabilities. The
user should be given the power to be uninterrupted, to focus on any
One idea I have for an user interface would be to present the user
all windows full screen, no toolbars, no menus, no desktop. Imagine
your word processor showing only the rulers, scroll bars and your
document. The OS provides only a command line, always visible at
the bottom of the screen when you press a certain key to toggle it
on/off. When it's on, you always write a command you want, with
automatic complete, as good as possible. The command line would
allow for system commands (such as switch to another window, "play
song", "do whatever", "set whatever", etc), and
application-specific commands. Say you are in a word processor, you
can use the command "save". With this approach, the command line
could become internationalized, available in multiple languages -
making it a lot easier for newcomers. APIs would allow any
developer to build software and Web applications which hook into
the command line.
This system would allow the user to do as much as possible in a
single way. Multiple ways to do the same should be allowed for
those interested, for "experts". Newcomers should be able to learn
something as simple and intuitive as the keyboard and a simpler
pointing device than the mouse. Let the user be able type "play
song song-name", "open www.google.com", "search ...". Something
like an universal command line which is context aware in GUIs as
well. A command line which allows users to build better habits,
without any notifications, without any task bar, without multiple
windows. Allow the user to manually check for notifications from
the command line, allow the user to switch to other tasks instantly
- don't require application startup. Users don't have to start
Opera to open a page. Just "open www.google.com". Allow users to
define which application is associated. Users would focus much
better on their work.
The Enso Launcher is a
promising free product which tries to be an universal command line,
bridging GUIs with CLI. I would wish such efforts would be brought
onto Linux, in a unified desktop environment. Currently, Enso
Launcher and similar applications are awesome "toys" - however they
are not yet The System itself.
The new Microsoft Office 2007 package is a bold release by
Microsoft - I was glad to see such big changes. While some people
blame the GUI choices, and others blame the changes are too
drastic, I like it - they did something. They gave up
stagnation, to try new things. Based on my experience with
Word I can say I like to use it a lot more than previous versions,
and yes, I discover new features a lot quicker.
In spite of all the efforts of the Office team I was disappointed
by only one major flaw: they did not add a quick
search field in Word, always visible, at the top of window (maybe
on the right would be best). This "quick search" field would be
brilliant if they would allow users to: search for all the help,
and apply any of the available commands. For
example allow me to type "help file formats", "save", "save as
new.docx", "open old.docx", "insert image", "bold", "go to page
10", "insert equation" and a lot more. No matter what, no matter
how brilliant people are, they will not be able to squeeze tons of
options into an easy-to-use GUI, and easy-to-learn GUI. You are
always thrown back to the command-line, or to a perfect Voice
recognition system (which doesn't exist yet).
Some say Vim is too hard to use
compared to any other editor. I dare to say it's easier to use
compared to today's modern IDEs, simply because
you do not have to learn tons of concepts which are completely
unrelated to the given task: file editing. If you take a complete
computer beginner, I'm certain he would learn how to use Vim
faster, when compared to any IDE. Before you can teach anyone how
to use the modern editor itself, you have to teach the person all
the GUI concepts. In Vim you can just go ahead and explain how to
do basic editing, then allow him/her to discover new capabilities.
Vim has tons of options and features - the same goes for IDEs, but
Vim looks very simple.
It's like with kids: parents don't explain to kids
everything on the first day they ask something. Who in
his/her right mind would explain in details why the sky is blue?
Or... the usual question: where do kids come from? :) You allow
them to evolve, to grow up, to understand, to find the answers
With this being said, I look forward to new interface metaphors,
new ways to interact with computers and technology in general.
6 October 2007, 17:01
Given the fact I'm constantly checking new Opera builds, I repeat
lots of things. I decided to write my own BASH script which does the
To better understand how the script works, and what it needs to do
for me, here's an explanation of my usual testing setup.
First, I run Ubuntu Linux. I
always keep and use the latest official stable release of Opera. I don't use the Debian
package, because I want to upgrade more often than the repos. As
such, I use the official tar.gz/tar.bz2 packages: I unpack them
myself and I upgrade the files manually.
My stable Opera installation is self-contained within a single
folder: ~/bin/opera. My profile is self-contained as well, within
~/bin/opera/usersettings (the default profile folder). I don't risk
using ~/.opera. This way, I can make sure I always backup my entire
Opera nicely - just the usersettings folder. That's where I keep
all the Opera files, including plugins and emails.
I keep the weeklies in a completely separate folder:
~/opera-dev/linux. Here I manually unpack tar.gz/tar.bz2 archives.
The nice thing about the Opera archives is you can immediately run
them, since they create their own profile subfolders. This way I
can have as many Opera "installations" running simultaneously
without any problems.
By now, you can tell I have to manually move the archives I
download to a predefined location where I store them. Also, if I
want to test an experimental build with my stable profile, I
generally don't have time to do it. That's because I would have to
manually modify the INI files to point to the location of the
experimental build, after I copy the entire stable profile folder.
That's boring. :)
As such, here's how to use the Opera2 script:
This removes the profile of your latest Opera build. You can
configure where experimental builds are located using the
The same as above, but Opera will be started afterwards.
opera2 unpack opera-*.tar.bz2/gz
This unpacks the Opera build you want designated by the second
argument. The build must be provided as a tar.gz or tar.bz2 file -
as the official ones are. The package will moved to the configured
DIR_OP_PACK, and the content of the archive will be
extracted to your DIR_OP_DEV.
opera2 unpack-run opera-*.tar.bz2/gz
The same as above, but the script will also start Opera from the
opera2 upgrade opera-*
This will "upgrade" the Opera build you want designated by the
second argument - a folder name starting with "opera-" followed by
the major and minor version (this is the default naming of Opera
builds). If the second argument is not specified, the current
working directory will be used.
The script will copy files from your stable profile folder (defined
by DIR_OP_STABLE) to the profile of the build you
specified. The script will also make some changes to several copied
files (will replace all paths pointing to the stable Opera
installation folder to the new build).
Warning: Doing this will DELETE the profile of the target Opera
build. The script does NOT try to detect if the destination folder
is REALLY an experimental build. Do NOT run this on your Opera
stable installation folder.
opera2 any thing else (or no arguments)
This will start the latest Opera build from the configured
DIR_OP_DEV with the provided arguments. You can
configure other applications to automatically open links with this
script - the latest Opera build.
You should check the script source ... to be sure it will not break
your stable installation. :) Always check the result of running
this script before starting Opera.
As you can see, the script is tailored to my needs. Care should be
taken when using the script. I am sure it does not work if your
stable installation is configured with "exotic" file paths. The
script was only tested with Opera 9.x builds, on Ubuntu 7.04.
Download the Opera2
1 July 2007, 09:26
Since I started using Vim 7 I
created my configuration file. I upload it to any remote server
where I have vim installed. Here it is for anyone who likes vim:
Highlights of the file:
- Enabled maximum memory usage for better performance when you
have lots of RAM (1
- Enabled the use of ~/.viminfo which remembers
data across restarts of vim (open buffers, marks, history and
- Automatic complete.
- Automatic Indentation.
- Syntax highlighting.
- Code folding enabled.
- Line numbering enabled.
- Automatic file backup, on save.
- Custom status line and ruler.
- For code indentation tabs are used instead of spaces. Tab width
is set to 4 spaces.
- Word wrapping is enabled, but no automatic formatting is done
in the actual file. Just like in Notepad (and other simple editors)
you see the document wrapped on screen.
- Changed the keyboard mapping such that when you press
" you get the second ". Same goes for when
you open a parenthesis (, vim automatically closes the
paranthesis with ).
- Added two new functions:
Fullscreen disables line numbers, code folding column
and also disables the status line. You only get a view very similar
to the view of more (or less). At the bottom of the screen, on the
right side you have a small ruler which tells the buffer number,
file type, line number, and column number. I use this function when
I edit text documents - very nice to have a "simple" editor.
Eretidy is specifically tailored for me. This function
just opens the ReTidy
files. I use this quite often when cleaning documents.
For readability, I didn't use short notations in the file. For
example, I use
set autoindent instead of
I will update the file from time to time.
12 November 2006, 15:49
Some time ago I upgraded to Ubuntu Edgy. Due to many complaints
about failed upgrades, I've decided to upgrade as safely as
My definition of safe upgrade meant doing it "sandboxed" once, and
if there no serious problems, I do it on my live/real system.
Therefore, I copied all my current system to a secondary HDD, I
created a new virtual machine in VMWare Server which
uses the physical HDD to boot. Once the system booted I ran the
normal upgrade procedure. Doing this I've learned that the same
Linux installation can boot on completely different machines
(different drives/hardware, same architecture).
Of course this didn't work as easy & quick as wanted.
I used the Damn Small
Linux distribution (LiveDistro) to
install GRUB within
the virtual machine. I didn't use Ubuntu itself as a LiveDistro -
too graphical for administration purposes, and rather slow in VM.
I used tar to create a big uncompressed file of the entire root.
From /home I excluded some big files & folders
Before booting the snapshot of my system in VMWare I had to edit
/boot/grub/menu.lst to manually remap the mount
The system booted properly without any problems. I just had to run
sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg because VMWare
has a different video card. Then xorg also worked. It's really
interesting to see your entire system running sandboxed, in the
same system. :)
As a measure of protection I edited /etc/hostname
and /etc/hosts. In the first file I changed the
host name of the virtual machine, to avoid conflicts with mine. In
the second file I made the host name of the host system to point to
localhost (127.0.0.1). I didn't need network access to the host
from the guest. Also, this change still allowed me to access the
host, by IP.
I mounted the alternate CD image of Ubuntu 6.10 and I started the
upgrade. I had very bad luck since for no specific reasons xorg
crashed in the host OS, taking VMWare down. That was my first xorg
crash :). I rebooted the host, I rebooted the guest and resumed the
upgrade. Xorg crashed again. And again. And again. After several
restarts, after several crashes upgrade finished. WOW.:)
I edited the /boot/grub/menu.lst on the host
system, and I edited /etc/fstab on the guest
system for the purpose of booting the newly upgraded system
natively. It worked properly - after reconfiguring xorg, of course.
Due to the crashes keyboard layouts were completely damaged (almost
unusable keyboard in Xorg). Other than this and several small
issues, not worth reminding, everything was "fine".
I was pretty much surprised Xorg crashed due to VMWare. I have used
VMWare with Windows in my Ubuntu installation for quite long. I had
no problems. I noticed my xorg crashes when I start xorg in the
I have tested Beryl+XGL. Quite nice, but slow :). I couldn't
install compiz (problems with their packages in that day), neither
AIXGL (my Nvidia Geforce 4 is too old).
Being glad the upgrade went "smooth" overall, given Xorg crashes, I
decided to upgrade my real system.
So I did. No crashes. Everything went rather well. No keyboard
layout problems, maybe because I did switch my system back to
english, english keyboard, before I started, so the upgrade tool
won't be confused. I also did set LC_ALL environment variable
manually (in VMware dpkg complained about missing LC_ALL for many
First thing I didn't like about Edgy was the boot splash. It looks
good, but it hides all information - quite annoying. The solution
was to uninstall usplash, and remove "quiet" from the kernel
arguments list in my GRUB menu.lst.
Another problem I had was Firefox 2: no extension wanted to
install. The solution was to remove my profile folder, eh. Then the
DOM Inspector disappeared :). I had to manually add the extension
to some INI files.
Another thing I disliked is that GRUB menu.lst now uses UUIDs
instead of the human-readable /dev/hd*. Why?...
I don't know why, but Xorg in Ubuntu Edgy is less stable. I got
several crashes - I didn't notice what's causing them.
Quanta doesn't want to start in French. It's always English, and I
have all the French language support packages. I've been told I
should have quanta.mo somewhere in my root - I don't. Yet, I have
kdewebdev.mo which contains the Quanta French language strings.
The new apt-index-watcher package used 100% of my CPU every 10
seconds, until I removed it. :)
Was the upgrade worth it? The answer is almost no. I don't like
they don't include the latest gaim 2 beta. There's beta 5 now and
they still have beta 3.1 (you can't convince me beta 3.1 is somehow
better than beta 5).
Maybe I'll do a clean install next time. Debian...
25 October 2006, 16:52
Doing web development under Linux requires to no longer use
Internet Explorer. For web site testing the only available
solutions are dual-boot, virtualization or WINE.
I have the feeling that picking to use dual-boot is like not
actually switching to Linux. That's because you'd code everything
in Windows, test everything in Windows, with all Windows browser:
IE, Firefox and Opera. Not a true switch. You can't code everything
in Linux then do a quick boot in Windows to see if the cool CSS
layout renders properly in IE 6. You still need to have all your
web development tools (your IDE, your FTP/SSH client, etc) in
Virtualization is a nicer solution: you can do all coding and
testing in Linux. Once you've booted Windows in VMWare Server
(insert your favourite virtualization software) you can simply load
the page and refresh it when you need to test something. Quite
nice. I use this for "complex web applications" and for final
testing of any web site. You only need a clean install of Windows.
For occasional and quick web development testing I mostly like
WINE. Yes, installing IE 6 in WINE is (very) annoying.
However, there's IEs4Linux - a script
which automatically installs IE 6, IE 5.5 and IE 5. It's very easy
to use and quick to install.
Also, very recently there's beta support for IE 7 installation -
which is quite awesome.
Why is this better than virtualization *and* dual-boot? You can
have a context menu item in Opera which opens your page in IE 6 and
IE 7 in just a few seconds after clicking (I do, hehe). Nothing to
boot, and it's faster than virtualization.
I even use WINE with Opera 9 + Voice enabled for web development.
Installing Opera 9 in WINE is only a matter of running the
installer in WINE - easy.
Bottom line is: are you a web developer who would like to switch to
Linux but believes he can no longer test his web sites with IE? The
complete answer is: you can test your sites in IE, quick and easy.
There's no long answer. You do not have to drop compatibility with
IE. You can make the switch™. :)
6 September 2006, 18:54
One of the first steps, and most likely the easiest, in making KDE
and GNOME seem consistent is getting both of them have the same
I simply don't understand (somebody explain to me please) why is
Kubuntu required to have a completely different theme than Ubuntu?
Seriously, guys, if you really want that, then no problem: Kubuntu
blue and Ubuntu orange. BUT at least take the time and provide both
of the themes so we can select the one we want in the theme
managers of both DEs.
I personally favour Ubuntu's theme. I can't get get KDE apps to
look exactly as those in GNOME. I switched to polyester, I applied
my own color theme (the Ubuntu colors available on kde-look suck, and that's nicely said -
I had to make mine). The biggest problem is changing the icons. I
believed this should be easy: in kcontrol I find the icon set named
Human. Yes, it changes most of the icons, but the most obvious ones
are still the blue KDE Crystal: file icons - and some others :).
Again, KDE-Look provides amateurish Human iconsets for KDE which
don't even properly work.
Oh and for those wondering: somebody cannot live in a GNOME-only
box, or KDE-only box. It's not going to happen, not today, not
Hint: this is not a "job" that needs to be done by
neither of the DE teams. It's the "job" of the distro guys.
Making the orange theme the default in Kubuntu would be awesome,
not because of the theme itself - I'd say the same if Ubuntu would
use by default the Kubuntu theme.
Bonus suggestion: while they are at it, they
should configure the default behaviour of KDE to match the one of
GNOME (or vice-versa).
Summary of the post: get the GNOME theme on KDE,
and get the KDE theme on GNOME. It's easy, it's doable, both DEs
are capable of it.
P.S. I don't like the purple theme in Kubuntu Edgy Eft.
22 June 2006, 07:51
This is the Linux
and open-source article I previously wrote in english. I
translated it to Romanian, on request.
Când eşti un utilizator al Windowsului, fiecare din prietenii tăi
care folosesc Linux îţi sugerează să treci la Linux: "nu mai fi
sclavul Microsoftului" sau alte formule.
Alegerea unei distribuţii de Linux este un pas greu de sine
stătător. Acest pas este greu chiar şi pentru "experţii" Windows.
După ce în sfârşit ai ales şi instalat distribuţia, urmează o etapă
pe care eu o consider amuzantă: prietenii tăi care folosesc o altă
distribuţie încep să glumească pe seama alegerii făcute. Asta se
întâmplă indiferent dacă ai avut sau nu cunoştinţele necesare să
alegi exact distribuţia de care ai nevoie (deobicei nu ai). Dacă
întâmpini probleme şi le ceri ajutor răspunsurile pot fi de genul
"ha, asta nu păţeşti cu distribuţia X".
După ce eu mi-am instalat Ubuntu, un utilizator de Gentoo mi-a spus
în glumă "ah, Ubuntu e aproape Linux, dar bine că ai trecut pe
Linux". Asta e încurajare! Alt utilizator de Fedora Core 4 mi-a
spus foarte simplu "Ubuntu merge prea bine, e prea grafic".
Interesant, deoarece lui nu-i place că unele distribuţii Linux
ajung la un nivel la care utilizatorul poate să treacă direct la
Linux, fără să întâmpine problemele foarte cunoscute: linia de
comandă şi editarea manuală a fişierelor de configurare. El a spus
acest lucru deoarece a văzut că am avut Samba funcţionând perfect
şi v4l (Video for Linux) era deja funcţional (el a avut aceste două
probleme pe FC 4). Cauza acestor probleme poate fi dată de faptul
că FC este o distribuţie ce introduce pachete de ultimă oră, fără
foarte multă testare.
Trebuie specificat că nu doresc să las impresia că distribuţia
Ubuntu este cea mai bună. Nici pe departe. Am întâmpinat şi eu tot
felul de "bucurii", dar multe din ele sunt foarte uşor de rezolvat.
Contrar părerilor unora, eu nu am trecut la Linux doar pentru a fi
în pas cu moda (aş fi putut face acest lucru ani în urmă). Trecerea
mea la Linux a fost datorată necesităţilor în domeniul programării
web: am nevoie să experimentez cu tehnologii mai noi care în mod
"natural" sunt făcute pentru Linux.
Nereuşita Linuxului de a creşte în popularitate pe desktopuri este
cauzată de lipsa acordului între membrii comunităţilor de
programatori Linux şi utilizatorii Linux, diversitatea fiind foarte
mare. Comunitatea Linux este probabil prea diversă prin definiţia
open-source-ului. Foarte bine (din punctul meu de vedere) este că
acum se mobilizează tot mai multe grupuri de utilizatori şi
dezvoltatori pentru a face Linuxul pentru desktopuri mai bun şi mai
uşor pentru începători.
După ce te obişnuieşti cu Linux, poţi ajunge să-ţi chiar place
puterea oferită de scripturile Perl/Python sau orice altceva din
consolă. Acestea-ţi oferă într-adevăr libertatea de care ai nevoie
după ce foloseşti mult timp abordarea WIMP pentru a
interacţiona cu calculatorul. Window, Icon, Menu, Pointing device
(fereastră, iconiţă, meniu, dispozitiv de indicare) sunt metaforele
cele mai bine cunoscute în interfeţele actuale ale programelor de
calculator (pe Windows, Mac OS X, Gnome şi KDE). Pe Windows aceste
capabilităţi lipsesc. Distribuţiile de Linux destinate
utilizatorilori începători nu dezactivează accesul la consolă, ci
doar adaugă capabilităţile necesare în modul grafic. Asta este
foarte bine, deoarece după un timp ţi se permite să experimentezi,
să înveţi şi altceva.
Nu ar trebui să existe "războiul distribuţiilor" Linux. Fiecare
distribuţie este bună în felul ei. Trebuie să o foloseşti cea
care-ţi place, cea care-i pe gustul tău. Nu vei ştii care-i până nu
le încerci pe fiecare. Când ai găsit una care-ţi place, nu o mai
În legătură cu diferenţele între distribuţii: Claudio Santambrogio
a punctat foarte bine spunând că Ubuntu este doar o simplă
distribuţie, nefiind specială, şi mi-a dat o legătură spre un
articol scris de el despre laptopul de
$100, din care citez:
Pentru un începător Linux este confuz să înveţe că există mai multe
aplicaţii care fac acelaşi lucru. Răspunsul la cea mai evidentă
întrebare («care program să-l folosesc?») este de multe ori,
îndrâznesc să spun, o problemă cvasi-religioasă decât ceva raţional
ce poate fi înţeles de începători.
Exact aceeaşi problemă este reflectată şi în alegerea unei
Am instalat KDE pe Ubuntu doar să-l încerc. Acum am mii de pachete
care nu le folosesc niciodată şi nici nu ştiu cu ce se ocupă toate.
Am vreo 10 vizualizatoare de imagini, câteva navigatoare web,
managere de fişiere, managere de pachete, playere video/audio,
joculeţe, şi multe altele.
În general, distribuţiile foarte cunoscute (Fedora Core, Ubuntu,
Debian, SUSE, etc) sunt şi foarte bune, chiar mai bune decât
Windows. Asta se datorează stabilităţi, a vitezei şi a programelor
disponibile. Cea mai serioasă problemă este că programe importante
pentru Windows (gen Photoshop sau Flash) nu există pentru Linux şi
nici multe drivere pentru imprimante, scannere şi alte accesorii la
calculator. Parcă nu ar fi de ajuns, librăriile necesare pentru
vizionarea filmelor şi ascultarea muzicii nu sunt permise în
distribuţii Linux open-source (este ilegală integrarea acestora).
Pentru un simplu utilizator asta este ceva foarte neplăcut,
făcându-l să refuze Linuxul şi să nu mai vadă părţile bune.
Din unele puncte de vedere KDE şi Gnome sunt mai bune decât
Windows. Ceea ce afectează KDE-ul este incorecta organizare a
meniurilor, a interfeţei din fiecare pachet ce îl are. Gnome
urmează standarde mai stricte şi din acest motiv îl folosesc.
Proiectele open-source sunt exemple extraodinare de lucru voluntar
şi de organizare, fiind produse realizate de programatori
începători pasionaţi şi de experţi angajaţi la diferite firme.
Trei dintre cele mai populare proiecte open-source (OpenOffice,
Firefox şi Wikipedia), au tot felul de "probleme". Nu trece o
săptămână să nu apară un articol negativ despre Wikipedia în care
se arată proasta calitate a unor articole. Cu toate că exemplele
oferite în aceste articole "bine intenţionate" sunt reale, nu se
poate spune că Wikipedia este un proiect nereuşit. Wikipedia este,
în general, o sursă bună de informare. Însă nu trebuie să crezi tot
ce citeşti pe orice site. Avantajul pe Wikipedia este că ştii
înainte că informaţiile ce le citeşti sunt probabil greşite. Dacă e
ceva important întotdeauna trebuie verificat. La fel trebuie făcut
şi cu orice alt site. Oricine doreşte să se documenteze la modul
serios despre ceva nu trebuie să-şi bazeze cunoaşterea pe un singur
OpenOffice este un pachet foarte mare care probabil are scopul să
ajungă la fel de greoi ca Microsoft Office. La ora actuală este bun
şi-l folosesc, dar ar trebui să fie mai rapid, mai bun şi mai mic.
Personal nu sunt prea mulţumit de el, deşi îl recomand în locul lui
Firefox este un produs realizat într-un mod inteligent. Corporaţia
Mozilla este mult mai bine organizată şi se menţine pe o linie
dreaptă. Nu e bine că Gecko (motorul din Firefox) introduce
tehnologii proprietare, care nu sunt bine departajate de celelalte.
Mă refer la adăugarea de proprietăţi noi în DOM care sunt specifice
Gecko. Aceeaşi metodă este folosită de Microsoft, în Internet
Explorer. Probabil cei de la Mozilla vor să obţină un Firefox
similar cu Internet Explorer-ul actual (nu numai să domine piaţa
navigatoarelor). Să sperăm că asta nu se va întâmpla şi că Gecko nu
va rămâne în urmă la suportul standardelor web.
Pachetele Linux nu ar trebui să încerce să copieze programe
Windows. Acum este nevoie de abordări diferite, de îmbunătăţiri pe
desktop care să conecteze calculatorul la web (noua tendinţă).
Mulţi ar trece la Linux dacă ar oferi ceva cu mult mai bun, uşor de
utilizat, uşor de învăţat. La ora actuală pe Linux găseşti
aproximativ aceleaşi lucruri, dar unele nu sunt la fel de bune. De
ce să treci? Doar pentru a fi altfel? Există acele lucruri care
chiar lipsesc pe Windows, gen opţiuni pentru customizare,
stabilitate, viteză, control mai bun asupra sistemului, şi
bineînţeles manager de pachete/programe, dar nimic nu sare în ochi.
Nu e necesară revoluţia, deoarece asta sperie un utilizator fiind
vorba de schimbări prea mari. E vorba doar de evoluţie.
Foarte interesant e dacă va fi cândva o distribuţie Linux care
încearcă să fie "mama" tuturor. Una care poate fi recomandată
începătorilor de către toţi utilizatorii actuali Linux (indiferent
de experienţă). O singură distribuţie care să aibă baza de date de
pachete întotdeauna cu ultima versiune, unde găseşti aproape orice
doreşti, cu drivere, cu instalare semi-automată de librării pentru
ascultarea muzicii şi vizionarea filmelor, etc. Această distribuţie
trebuie să fie stabilă dar nici veche precum Debian Stable.
O asemenea distribuţie, cu interoperabilitate între KDE şi Gnome,
cu WINE preconfigurat foarte bine, ar aduce mulţi utilizatori pe
Linux. WINE este un pachet ce poate rula aplicaţii Windows pe Linux
la o viteză aproape nativă, dacă-l ştii configura. Acesta poate fi
bine integrat în sistem. Nu trebuie uitat că este necesar să poţi
să rulezi programele Windows, pentru că multe nu sunt disponibile
pe Linux, sau la multe nu se doreşte renunţarea (de exemplu, a
plătit mult pentru Adobe Photoshop).
Discuţiile generale despre Linux ar trebui să fie despre
17 June 2006, 15:56
Yet another blog post about KDE and Gnome. You've all been waiting
for this one. :)
First of all, I use Gnome 2.14 and I have some parts of KDE 3.5.3
installed too. Why? Gnome seems to be better glued together and
more professional, feels less bloated and it also feels faster. I
say it only feels so, because I haven't done any real tests.
KDE got some real goodies like Quanta Plus which is probably the
best web programmers editor I've used. Given it's free ... I'd say
it's amazing. I've seen loads of shareware editors that have far
less features (for Windows of course).
KDE TV was also my favourite TV application since it's really good
for all my TV viewing needs (it does have the deinterlace filter :)
). However, since then I switched to tvtime, because I find it
faster and better in some ways (too bad I can't configure it too
much, it's very minimalistic).
I was pleasantly surprised by Konqueror (as a web browser). I've
never knew it's so powerful. Much better than IE. Too bad it's very
little known. I am aware it's not a browser as capable as Opera or
Firefox, but it's very good (it can properly render all the CSS
layout sites I have).
Nicest surprise to KDE was KTTS. Nice stuff guys. Just one
suggestion: add a global shortcut for reading the clipboard.
KolourPaint is my choice for simple image editing (GIMP is too
advanced/different for me ... even if I am used to Photoshop).
Kig and Kseg are two educational packages worth the time spent by
their respective authors on development. Meaning Kseg is a very
cool dynamic geometry software, but it's not as complete as Kig.
Kig, IMHO, will become my primary tool for dynamic geometry. It's
very, very good and advanced. Yet, I still need to learn some of
its capabilities. :)
Amarok is the music player. Much better than
Winamp and all others. I've tested Rythmbox, Banshee, juK and other
music players. None comes close to Amarok, which is feature packed
and nonetheless it's fast enough. Don't expect it to be as fast as
XMMS, but it's faster than Banshee and Rythmbox which are the two
music players receiving most attention. Amarok has a very good
collection, tagging with online database, automatic scoring of
songs you listen most, it also picks similar songs recommended by
Last.fm. You can automatically search for lyrics, for artist
information, similar artists, etc. The context browser is very
nice, because it automatically shows songs you are most likely to
be interested of (favourites, new additions, songs from the same
album, same artist, etc). Other goodies includes are cover
management (automatically finds the cover online), Python
extensions (web control and more), nice customizable OSD and lots
more. Simply put, amarok is the best player. It doesn't crash, it
got a very fast collection search and analizer. Rythmbox and
Banshee both crashed when scanning my songs, LOL.
The funniest part in KDE is ... guess what? Image viewers. Amusing,
huh? Most KDE image viewers suck big time. They are even worse than
the worst image viewer I've ever seen on Windows. There you go,
I've said it. Shocking statement? I'd say it's a shocking fact on
my Ubuntu 6.06 install (and Ubuntu 5.10): just loading an image of
lets say 800x600 in Kview (or KuickShow, whatever) and zooming to
400% sends the system to hell :). Memory usage increases a lot and
the virtual memory is required, so the HDD activity raises like I'm
copying several files on the network at once (it even slows down
mouse movements). I suppose it's because the 400% zoomed image is
way too big to hold it all in the memory :). Veeery efficient code.
If this caused by the Ubuntu distro, then ... this is the worst
thing Ubuntu has.
Worth noting is the problem doesn't apply to KolourPaint, which
most likely uses a different library.
Here comes the irony: KDE image viewers have better support for
image formats. I wasn't able to view some BMP images with any of
the Gnome image viewer (GQView, Gthumb and EOG). Also, I wasn't
able to see any PSD image, only KDE supports them. :)
So, my default image viewer is Gthumb and besides it I also have
Kview. I removed all the other image viewers.
The latest Kopete seems to be a very attractive alternative to
Gaim. I simply enjoyed "hacking" into the XSLT files to change the
display of the conversation. I also like it has notifications, and
more options. What made me not to use Kopete: it's
underdeveloped. Anyway, Kopete is still in its infancy.
Both desktop environments are not professional and fast enough.
They should also follow stricter guidelines, making them look more
I like the panels, the applets, menus editing, the multiple
desktops/workspaces environment, the keyboard configuration
(accessibility, layouts and variants). These are things Windows
should get too, just like it should get proper permissions per file
and symbolic links. Windows is actually a very weak desktop
environment compared to KDE and Gnome.
Gnome 2.14 has noticeable speed improvements. As far as I know,
it's going to get more speed improvements for version 2.16. I like
that. KDE 4 is going to be interesting, but I have a "hunch": it's
going to be buggy, since they make big changes.
I like the idea of KDE: having a single keyboard shortcuts editor
in all applications, a single toolbar editor, menu editor, etc. I
also seem to like the idea of KNotify with it's integration with
As for customization, KDE is the clear "winner". I like I can
easily customize the themes and everything I want in a single
place: KDE Control Center. Yes, I know it's hatable, but it's also
good. The themes in KDE seems to be more flexible than the ones in
What I dislike when I am in Gnome, if I start KDE applications, I'm
seeing KDE, not Gnome. I know it's normal, because they depend upon
the KDE packages, but there should be more interoperability. Why
not use the Gnome keyboard shortcuts editor when in Gnome? Why not
use the Gnome widgets (and more stuff)? Same goes for when I am in
KDE: I see Gnome stuff.
It's all about consistency. Is that too much to ask for? :)
Projects like Tango Desktop
Project, LSB and Portland are
very good because they help with consistency. I'm glad the latest
Ubuntu uses the Tango icons.
KDE and Gnome also play the "catch-up with Windows" game Windows
functionality, just like OpenOffice seems to do with Microsoft
Office. Microsoft will always be one step ahead, because they are
currently modifying the rules of the game with Microsoft Office,
Windows Vista and more.
Why not be a bit different? Why not bring something new and better?
Thanks to Microsoft, alternative web browsers (Opera, Firefox,
Safari, Konqueror) had enough time to go miles ahead of Internet
KDE and Gnome had the same amount of time... and the heads of these
desktop environments decided upon using the allocated time to
catch-up with Windows. They almost did. :)
KDE 4 received some good press, mostly hype currently (IMHO), about
bringing new stuff to the table, about innovation (Plasma,
whatever). That's nice. I'd be glad if they'll succeed.
Another thing I do not like, specially in regards to KDE: they
include a huge amount of packages. Come on, keep the desktop
environment only. Gnome is sticking to Epiphany, which is, with all
due respect, yet-another Gecko browser. Seriously, why would I
switch to Epiphany? Both desktop environments should be bare bones.
The other packages should only be optional, just like
Konqueror, as a file manager this time, is more feature packed than
Nautilius. However, I'm in favour for the simplicity offered by
The overall conclusion is both desktop environments are powerful,
each having its own strengths and weaknesses. I am very well aware
most of the ideas have already been expressed before by others, yet
I think the more people voice their opinions the closer we'll get
to this happening (consistency, blah, blah). Those in charge of the
development of these two great desktop environments will take into
consideration what the majority says.
16 June 2006, 12:19
How many like the terminal/console in Linux?
I myself like it, even if I do not use it too much. I use much of
the X-based "bling bling": Gnome, Opera, Gaim, Xchat, Quanta, XMMS,
etc. However, I particularly enjoy the power the console gives you:
the one who says you're somehow limited in the terminal is very
wrong. That's because you do almost everything you
want: you can play music, you can play browse the web, use any
Internet protocol (ftp, bittorent, pop3/imap/smtp mail, etc), you
can do programming (of course), etc.
Simply forget about the MS-DOS console you know. That's limited
(flame bait). Linux console, even if it looks the same, it's not
the same. :)
One thing missing in the GUI approach (KDE, Gnome, Windows, Mac OS
X, etc) is consistency. The terminal is always consistent, it's the
same on Linux, on Windows and Macs. The commands differ between
operating systems, but the basics are the same.
I did four things to customize my terminals on Ubuntu Linux:
1. Console font. I picked a font which includes
the most-used non-english characters in the documents I usually
view (romanian and french).
To do this after you booted use:
consolechars -f /usr/share/consolefonts/font-file-name
This is handy for testing because the changes will be lost after
you restart, plus the changes are applied only to the current
You shall pick the font-file-name you want. Just
take a look at the console fonts you have installed. The ones I
have are named based on the character set they can display: iso01,
iso02, latin1, koi, etc. I use iso-8859-2 (for Central European).
To make the change permanent just edit
SCREEN_FONT value to the font file name you found
2. Keyboard layout. I changed the keyboard layout
to a custom keyboard layout I made, based upon the romanian
programmers keyboard layout provided by default in Ubuntu, plus the
American international keyboard layout with dead keys. Last, but
not least, I also looked into the French keyboard layouts :). My
purpose was to have a normal english keyboard layout, but greatly
enhanced for Level 3 (activated with the Right Alt key).
To make your own custom keyboard just go to
/etc/X11/xkb/symbols and pick the keyboard
language you want to start from. Edit it, look into other files to
learn what needs to be changed, have fun. :)
Things to know about those files: they contain the symbols
associated to each key on the layout. Therefore, they are not
exactly keyboard layouts. The files are named based on the country
code, and they contain all the keyboard variants belonging to the
country. You should be able to add your own, but you need to learn
how to do that (you need to edit other files aswell). My file does
not add a new variant for two simple reasons: lack of knowledge
(caused by lack of spare time to learn how), lack of motivation
(caused by the fact I don't want to backup another file). I just
modified the basic variant.
XKB is very advanced and complex: you can change the geometry, the
rules, the symbols, everything. You can make a single key do
wonderful things. Yet, don't ask me how LOL (I am still learning
myself). All I know is enough to make my own nice keyboard layout
To learn more:
It is important to note all changes also apply to the X server. You
can use the keyboard layout in Gnome, KDE and what else you wish.
To change the keyboard layout in the terminal just run
sudo dpkg-reconfigure console-data
In Gnome you must know how to do it, same goes for KDE.
Download my keyboard configuration: xkbd-ro.
If you are a romanian, you'll most likely want this layout :). Save
the file as /etc/X11/xkb/symbols/ro (overwrite!).
For maximum fun I edited my xorg.conf to use the
custom keyboard layout.
Identifier "Generic Keyboard"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc104"
Option "XkbLayout" "ro"
Option "XkbVariant" "basic"
For an unknown reason, the keyboard layout does not work exactly in
the same way as in X. In the console, the keyboard map is a bit
"screwed" and dead keys are out of the discussion, since they are
not supported by the font. I'll probably have to make a new variant
specialized for the console. Based on what I learned, the
difference might be caused by the fact I do not have the same
XkbdRules as xorg. I'll see. :)
Suggestion by csant: To
edit the keyboard layout, you can also use a GUI-based tool:
sudo apt-get install xkeycaps
3. Sticky keys. I use sticky keys in X, so I
wanted to use them in the terminal aswell. The above two guides
also provide tips in regards to how to enable sticky keys. Based on
other tutorials, there are several ways one can achieve this goal.
I picked the "loadkeys method".
The file is:
keycode 29 = SCtrl
keycode 42 = SShift
keycode 56 = SAlt
keycode 54 = SShift
keycode 97 = SCtrl
Keymaps differ from a configuration to another. So, you need to
learn which ones are on your system:
dumpkeys | head -1
Save the above file, after you update it and execute:
sudo loadkeys your-file
Warning: Providing a wrong keymap can render your
keyboard unusable (I actually needed to do a forced reset :) ).
Warning 2: Your system might use different
keycodes for the same keys. If this is the case, use
showkey. Generally, if you have a PC which is
"mainstream" (like mine), this should be safe.
If you take a close look at the above, you'll notice the missing
second SAlt. That's because the second one (Right Alt = keycode
100) does provide access to level 3, used for inputting special
chars. Making it sticky, loses the "special" attribute. I don't
know currently how to make the it a sticky without losing the
capability of switching to level 3.
The behavior is: you press Shift then a = A. Pressing again a = a.
This means that pressing shift will not lock it.
For locking-type of sticky keys, read the above two guides.
To make the change permanent, just add the call to
loadkeys into your /etc/rc.local.
4. Higher resolution. To do this edit
/boot/grub/menu.lst by adding
vga=792 to the kernel you use. Something like
title Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.15-25-386
kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.15-25-386 root=/dev/hda3 ro quiet splash vga=792
Tips and tricks:
1. VNC for the console. If you like VNC, you can also share your
console :). Install the linuxvnc package (use
Yet, it's recommended that you use the screen
package, which is better. VNC is generally meant for graphical
2. To capture the screen of your terminal, as a text file, use:
sudo setterm -dump
What I want to do next is enable beep for sticky keys, same as in
X. Also, I'd add the "locking-type" of sticky keys, exactly as in
X: press Shift twice to lock it.
13 June 2006, 17:20
I have upgraded to the latest Ubuntu version about a week ago. I
have chosen the "alternate" upgrade method: I downloaded the
ubuntu-6.06-alternate-i386.iso and mounted the image. I also added
the CDROM, as pointed by the Ubuntu Dapper upgrade
guide on their wiki. Of course, I also downloaded all the
upgrades which are not available on the CD, so I won't have any
- Logout procedure crashed: gnome-session had some problems.
- After reboot Xorg failed to start. I found out GLcore module
was removed. To my surprise, no nvidia-glx either. Reason:
nvidia-xconfig and nvidia-settings were previously installed. In
the new Ubuntu Dapper you are not allowed to install those two
packages alongside nvidia-glx. So, the automatic upgrade procedure
picked the "best" option: no nvidia driver at all. LOL. I
reinstalled the nvidia-glx package and removed nvidia-settings and
nvidia-xconfig. Back in business.
- Keyboard preferences were lost. It also lost which keyboard
layouts I have, which accessiblity features I have enabled. Not a
- VMWare Workstation 5.5 fails to start with some errors
regarding libcairo, libpng and libbonobo. Problem not yet solved.
Anyone has some suggestions? I of course recompiled the module for
the new kernel. I even tried complete VMware reinstall.
- Because of the first problem, it also removed the
ubuntu-desktop metapackage, therefore I missed a few new packages
(funny). Problem solved.
For unexperienced users these kinds of problems are a real turn
off. This has been said before.
Overall, the upgrade was worth it. Congrats guys! I like the
updated interface for Gnome, the speed improvements (now I'm back
to Gedit instead of Mousepad, hehe), etc.
The new Deskbar applet is very cool, I like it much. However it's
unusable due to the fact each time I type an address of a site
starting with www. then continuing to .whatever ... the deskbar
popup. That's silly and annoying. I've disabled the "web" plugin in
the deskbar preferences. I still can't type www.google.com.
Therefore, I won't use the deskbar applet. Otherwise I would've
liked using it.
That's about all.
Update 2006-06-16: Ubuntu team updated the kernel
and many other packages in the repositories. After applying all
updates, VMWare works again! Plus the deskbar does no longer show
when writing web address. Kudos to the Ubuntu team. :)
5 February 2006, 17:47
This post is about what I think in general about Linux (not
strictly about Ubuntu) and open-source.
When you are a Windows user you are bothered by friends who use
Linux, each of them suggesting you to switch to Linux: "stop being
a Microsoft slave" or whatever.
Picking a distro is a "daunting" task for a Linux newbie, even if
he's an expert or "expert" in the Windows world.
When you finally decide upon which distro to install, and you
install it, the funny part comes: your friends who are using a
different distro mock you for picking another one, no matter how
experienced you are. If you need help when you run into a problem,
answers can be along the line "ha, that doesn't happen in my
After I got Ubuntu, one Gentoo guy said to me "ah, Ubuntu, uhm
that's almost Linux, nonetheless good you made the switch". That's
encouraging! Some guy from Fedora Core 4 simply said: "Ubuntu works
too good, it's too graphical". Interesting, since he seems to
dislike the fact some Linux distros are reaching a level which
allows the user to simply just use Linux, without the problems most
Windows fear of: going to CLI, and manually editing configuration
files. He said that because he was a bit amazed by the fact I got
Samba perfectly working very easily and v4l was already working (he
had these two specific problems with FC 4). That's probably because
FC is a more of a "cutting-edge" distro than a working/stable
Worth noting Ubuntu isn't a perfect distro either. I did have some
problems with it too. However, many of the solutions were very
Contrary to what some might think... I haven't switched to Linux
just to be hip & cool (I could've done so long time ago). I
switched because there's a real need ... me being a web developer,
also requires experimenting and developing with a lot of
technologies - most of all being available only for Linux (or
working better and faster on Linux).
The failure of Linux still being a niche desktop OS is caused by
the simple fact that the entire community doesn't agree on the
purposes, being too diverse. Gladly (from my perspective), groups
of users and developers who want an easy-to-use Linux desktop are
mobilizing to build very good distros.
Once you get used to Linux, you really like the power of scripts,
the power of CLI and whatever. These really give you the kind of
freedom you need after spending all day using the WIMP approach for
computer interaction. The CLI stuff would be quite a big
improvement to Windows, if they'll ever decide to actually make it
useful. The graphical Linux distros don't "disable" access to the
CLI, they just make it unnecessary for general configuration
purposes. That's very good.
There shouldn't be this "distro war". Each distro is good in it's
own way. Use the one that suits your taste. If you haven't yet
found one, keep on trying. When you find a distro you like, don't
change it just for the sake of change.
Regarding the differences between distros: Claudio Santambrogio
made a very good point saying Ubuntu is yet another distro and
offered me a link to one of his blog posts about the $100 laptop.
It is one of the more confusing points for a Linux beginner to have
to learn that there are several applications for one and the same
job, and answering the most obvious question ("so - which one
should I use?") is often more an issue of, shall I dare saying,
quasi-religious belief than anything the new user could grasp
It's exactly the same problem as picking a distro.
I found myself installing KDE on my Ubuntu just to give it a try.
Now I have a gazillion of packages that I never use, nor I know
what they do :). I have about 10 image viewers, several web
browsers, file managers, package managers, video/audio players, TV
applications and what-not.
In general the most popular Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Fedora
Core, SUSE, Debian, etc.) are very good, even better than Windows.
This is because they are stable, fast, and provide good packages. A
big "downer" for a new Linux user are missing hardware support
(drivers), missing capabilities for audio/video playback
(patents...) and missing Windows-only software (like Photoshop,
Flash, etc.). These are problems which are not caused directly by
any distro, yet they make new comers forget about the good things
in the Linux world.
In some way KDE and Gnome are better desktoper environments than
Windows is. The organization of the menus, of the GUI in each
package from KDE is problematic. The reason I am using Gnome is
it's better organized, following stricter guidelines.
Open source projects are both an amazing example of volunteer work
and organization, products built by begginers with passion and
experts working for big companies, and an example of diversity.
Three of the best open-source projects (OpenOffice, Firefox and
Wikipedia) have varying levels of "problems". Wikipedia is having
quite a big
share of articles
to show readers the bad quality of some articles from Wikipedia
(bad/vandalised articles full of lies). While the examples provided
by these well-intended writers from very well-intended news
agencies are right, it's still not entirely true. Wikipedia is
quite a very good source information. It's affected by the "too
open-source" factor. I am not saying Wikipedia is perfect and
everything you read there shall be trusted. Yet, the same fact
applies to any other site. The good thing on Wikipedia is you know
before there might be trouble ahead. Anybody who's serious about
documenting him/herself about something won't base all his/her
opinions and knowledge on just one site or two. He/she must do some
research and make-up his/her own impressions and opinions on the
OpenOffice is a huge package which probably has the purpose of
becoming as bloated as Microsoft Office 11. It's currently in a
good state, I use it myself, but it should be better.
Firefox is intelligently made. Mozilla Corporation heads seem to be
better organized and focused on what they want. It's not good they
add proprietary extensions (no, not those extensions). I mean DOM
extensions that have no vendor specific prefix like non-standard
CSS properties have. There are some DOM
stuff in Gecko which are available only on
Gecko, yet there's no indication they are proprietary. That's the
same problem IE has. Maybe Mozilla Corp. wants Firefox to be the
next IE (in every aspect, not just market share domination). Or
shall I say the next Netscape 4? From one perspective, this might
be very unlikely, because (I hope) Gecko won't fall behind on
implementing cutting-edge web standards.
Linux packages shouldn't try to just copy Windows counter-parts.
This goes specially to KDE, Gnome and OpenOffice. Microsoft Office
12 might be quite good because it changed the user interface quite
a lot (or so
they say, we'll have to see when it's released). There's the
need of new and better approaches. If desktop environments on Linux
would really bring users something amazingly good with a great
usability factor, ease-of-use, ease-of-learning, I am sure many
users would try Linux and make the switch. Why? Because currently
they see on Linux only the same old stuff they got used to on
Windows, but worse in some ways (not professional, a bit bloated,
lost compatibility with Windows executables, etc). Why really
switch to Linux? Just to be hip? What do Linux distros provide
users truely amazing the instant they boot the CD? Yes, I know
there are many cool stuff (package management, stability, speed,
better control over the system, etc), but nothing truely amazing.
I am not talking about something revolutionary, because that's not
what users want, even if it might be better. They won't want to
learn anything too different. I am only talking about evolution.
I am interested if there will ever be a distro that actually tries
to be the "mother" of all of them. One that any Linux user can
suggest to any Windows user (be it an expert or a newbie). A single
distro supported by all distros, where the repository is always
up-to-date, where you can find almost all packages you'll ever
need. A distro that offers the almost perfect balance between
cutting-edge and stability (this is what Ubuntu comes close to,
One such distro, with a very good interoperability between KDE
applications and Gnome applications (yes, they should unite their
forces), with a very well configured WINE could be a big booster to
Linux. WINE is quite good if you have the knowledge of properly
configuring it. It can also be seamlessly integrated into the
desktop environment. Any Windows user wants to be able to run its
own Windows applications for which s/he doesn't have counter-parts
(like Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, etc). Sometimes users want
to run their Windows applications (like Microsoft Office) just
because they like them more or they got used to them, or simply put
they paid a truck-load of money for them and ... switching to Linux
would make those payments worthless :). WINE is
the package for this (quite a good one too).
General talk about Linux should actually be about
Article updated on 2006-06-22, making it similar to the
newly published Romanian
4 February 2006, 17:33
I decided to try the latest Ubuntu
I have previously tried Fedora Core 2 and before that I had some
very old Red Hat, but that's all very long time ago and ... I
always switched back to Windows for various reasons, such as, but
not limited to: networking with Windows (Samba-fun), TV tuner
configuration (I never got this close to "working"), slow Internet
connection (couldn't download a gazillion of packages), getting
video/audio playback and what-not. With FC 2 there were some really
cool advancements: easier to configure, better package management
and seriously stable Gnome (compared to what I tested on the very
old Red Hat).
Installing Ubuntu was easy, but I have to say it took more time
than Windows XP Professional installation (don't flame me, it's
true on my system).
I had the pleasure of finding the local area connection
almost working properly. I was able to access
shared folders from other Windows machines in just a few minutes.
Configuration wasn't a hassle at all. I said it worked almost
perfect because I still had to manually edit a file, so I can share
my own files on the Windows network.
Ubuntu Wiki is a great
resource of information and documentation. Very easy to follow
I haven't had big problems with Ubuntu. Everything seems to work
just fine. I have removed my Windows installation and now I got
only Ubuntu (one month ago). I am actually writing this blog post
in Gedit :)- it's safer to have a local file.
I've got everything working properly without too much hassle
(actually very little ... if I read Ubuntu Wiki, which I don't
always do, because I sometimes forget :) ).
TV tuner configuration was uhm ... lets say a piece of cake. Yet, I
got my TV tuner working on Ubuntu after a few weeks :P. Why? I was
busy configuring other more important stuff and ... TV tuner
configuration was a bit "hard": I had to search on Yahoo for some
documentation about bttv. The problem: I had v4l and v4l2 working
perfectly from the start, but no TV application was able to search
for the channels. Why? The driver didn't detect the exact tuner
type/card I have (Mentor TV). Solving the problem was a piece of
cake: modprobe bttv card=78.
On Windows I was using DScaler for viewing the TV (I have no
need for PVR software). It was quite a CPU intensive application
(100% constantly), because it has some very good deinterlacing
filters. Gladly, the Linux counter-part is much better :). I use
KDE TV 3.5. It's faster than Dscaler, features-packed and very
The minor annoyances that affected Ubuntu a bit were:
- I had to install gcc-3.4 to be able to install kernel modules.
- Firefox 1.5 was not available in the repositories: manual
install is required (not a big hassle once you read the wiki).
- Ubuntu boots slower than Windows XP. Why? Even after I removed
all the unnecessary boot services. Guess what? The slow part is not
the graphical boot (actually gdm and gnome start-up faster than the
graphical system of Windows). The loading section until gdm starts
takes the most time.
- Opera wasn't available in the repositories. :P
Movie and audio playback wasn't hard to install at all. Movie
playback is actually much faster than on Windows using Mplayer with
XV output. Very fast player and good one. I use VLC only for heavy
duty stuff. :)
The part that I liked the most was installing PHP 5, MySQL 4.1,
PHPMyAdmin and Apache 2. Much faster and easier than on Windows (of
Unexpected goodies of Linux: WINE, accessiblity support (magnifier,
TTS, on-screen keyboard display and screen readers) and more I'm
I've switched to Linux. Nothing more to add.
P.S. I like the Human theme. :D