Posts Tagged ‘Gnome’

Inferiority Complex Considered Harmful

September 12th, 2012 subogero Comments off

Recently, I’ve upgraded the HP 874W power station to Linux Mint Maya, 64-bit, MATE edition.

It’s pretty stable, the performance is brutal, and it has very new packages out of the box, like VIM 7.3 (I’m looking at you Debian Squeeze). But the Gnome2-MATE conversion is still a work in progress. A few things are still broken, like the power button brings up the shut-down dialogue for exactly zero seconds and, unfortunately, Compiz does not work out of the box.

It took me two evenings to play with the Configuration Editor (gconf-editor), the Configuration Editor (mateconf-editor) and CCSM to reach a state, where Compiz places, decorates, wobbles and peeps through windows in the desired fashion, and the virtual desktops are spinning and exposing as in the old times. Except, there is no way to start the old hierarchical menu with Alt-F1. So I’m forced to use the chaotic MintMenu. By now my readers have figured out, correctly, that I’m a keyboard-guy.

So Ubuntu Lucid Lynx will stay on the ultra-portable ASUS UL20A for at least another year. This OS is the symbol of the golden era of the Linux desktop, 2010. Dark clouds were already gathering on the horizon, but here, down on Earth, everything looked rosy and happy. The Linux desktop was so good that Apple and Microsoft could not help copying it at an astonishing rate. Full screen for ALL apps for the first time in Mac OS X Lion, anyone?

But while we, proud users, were showing off semi-transparent rotating desktop cubes to the Apple fanboys in the neighbourhood, William Jon McCann had a feeling of terrible insecurity. He, as the lead designer of Gnome3, felt that the Linux desktop was crap and something new, more apple-ish was required. At the same time Miguel de Icaza, the founder of Gnome, had already been a closeted Mac OS X user, waiting for the great coming-out moment. Allegedly, his sound was not working and he could not play videos on Linux. I’m at a complete loss here…

But anyway, Gnome3 was born, Gnome2 was discontinued, Ubuntu defaulted to Unity, and everybody else got real angry. There is a silver lining in the clouds though, thanks to Linux Mint, but it’s still a long way. But what caused this mayhem?

It’s called inferiority complex.

It’s harmful.

No, the desktop is not going away, and no, OS X and Windows were not better than the Linux desktop, and no, goodness is not measured by market share. These gentlemen were hankering after the wrong things from the Apple world. They wanted to copy looks and features and gardens and walls. They should have noticed something else:


It’s the ability to notice that you’re good at something. The first Mac OS from 1984 and the present OS X basically look the same. They stuck with their interface even in the valley of the shadow of death. Their user interface is still the same, while they have changed the internals to Unix. The same is true for the Linux kernel. The external interfaces never change. Linus’ bash binary from 1991 still runs.

Miguel de Icaza thinks Linus Torvalds is an arrogant low-level kernel guy. But the fact that you’ve been a guilt-afflicted closeted Mac-fag, does not mean that someone else with a healthy dose of self-confidence is arrogant. In fact Linus Torvalds is an extremely humble person. He goes to great lengths to protect his users. Yes, on the surface you see the “shoot-yourself-before-you-reproduce” and the “you-are-full-of-BS”, but the comforting self-mockery is always there, and it’s all for the users’ sake.

On the Gnome side there is McCann’s polished and politically correct corporate lingo, which in fact is full of ignorance, insecurity and bullshit. And they could not care less for their existing users. But it’s Linus’ fault, of course.

Go to therapy, get rid of your inferiority complex and start using mplayer.

The g Page

August 7th, 2009 subogero Comments off
G’s goal

“g” is a general-purpose command-line launcher for Gnome/Linux, an extended “gnome-open” which can open URLs, files or even programs in a new window. A bit like Windows “start”, just better.

“g” will open a new terminal window.

“g <CLI program>” will open it in a new fully independent terminal window.

“g <GTK+ program>” will open it in a fully independent window.

“g <URL>” will open it with the preferred application.

By an “independent window” I mean two things:

The starting terminal is not blocked while the started app is running;

Closing the starting terminal does not kill the started app.

Bonus: start a Google search for “foo bar” in your preferred browser with

g -g foo bar

Download g.tar.gz and extract files in a new directory, preferably “g”.
Type “sudo make” for installation.

Lessons learned:

How to decide if an argument of a shell-script is a program?

which $1
#prints the location of the command, or nothing if not a command

How to check if a shell-script has no arguments at all?

if [ $# -eq 0 ]

How to check if the last command returned no error in its exit status?

if [ $? -eq 0 ]

The trickiest: how to tell if a command is a terminal- or a GTK+ application?

Search for “libgtk-x11″ in it if it’s a compiled program.
Search for the respective gtk dependency if it’s an interpreter-script:

import gtk # Python
use Gtk2   # Perl

“g” knows these two at the moment, but the list should be extended to all known interpreted languages and graphical toolkits. Actually it should work the other way around, detecting terminal-only applications. But for instance Gimp contains the strings “stdin”, “stdout”, “stderr” and “printf” so I gave up.

I’ve created my first ever very officially looking manual page for “g”, credit goes to Jens Schweikhardt’s very helpful LINUX MAN PAGE HOWTO.

Tao in g

There is more Tao in “g” than in Windows “start”:

Try to start a native Windows program from command line which DOES NOT become fully detached, but blocks your command-line until it closes and returns an exit-status. Hmmm? On Linux, just omit “g”.

On Windows, the commands are scattered around in thousand folders, not listed in the PATH variable. On Linux, on the other hand, all commands are on the PATH, as there are only a few standard places to store them: /bin:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin. So “g” can access them all.

View the manual page?

man g

Finally, how do you edit the “g” script itself?

g gedit g

There is Tao in Windows start

August 7th, 2009 subogero Comments off

We all remember from the Tao of Programming when the master programmer avoided an embarrassing question about the presence of Tao in DOS. The good news is there is definitely Tao in Windows (but not too much).

It’s called “start“.

It’s not the Start Menu, but a command-line keyword, obviously. I’ve come to appreciate its beauty only after having spent some weeks with Ubuntu. I kept looking for something similar on the internet, and all I found was the “gnome-open” command. Still, the blog-post has ecstatic comments.

I tried “gnome-open”. It opened any file or URL with the associated program as an independent process. So far so good. Until I tried to start a program with “gnome-open”. No way. This was the moment I discovered Tao in Windows’ “start”. Let’s see:

“start” without arguments will open a new terminal window.

“start” with a CLI program as an argument will open it in a new fully independent terminal window.

“start” with a Windows program as an argument will open just that in a fully independent window.

“start” with a file or URL as an argument will open it with the preferred application.

“gnome-open” can do the latter, but not the first three options. So I decided to write my Linux-version of “start” called “go”. Please go to the page.

Back to Windows. The famous “start” has a significant drawback. As in Windows nearly none of the applications are on the PATH, start’s capabilities are just a tiny bit limited. Not so with “go”.

Installation Day, or Rather Night

August 4th, 2009 subogero Comments off

It’s no use to babble about reading books and writing Windows programs.
I still have not seen a real Unix.

After having taken some advice from an Ubuntu-fan in the office, I set out to download and write the Ubuntu-CD and install it. It was 8 o’clock in the evening.

First shot: run Ubuntu from the live CD. Not that scary. And looks bloody good, actually.

Second shot: the installation. The most heart stopping moment is when you’ve tried to set it up to shrink your Windows partition and install Ubuntu alongside with a boot-menu, and you  click OK. In the next 10 minutes you just keep your fingers crossed while Ubuntu is messing with all your precious data.

But it worked. After reboot I just double-checked Windows and, after a checkdisk, it ran perfectly, as much as possible for Windows.

Move on to Ubuntu. First impression: Gnome looks very good. Second impression: it’s extremely wasteful with my screen with the default settings. Third impression: the immediate-effect settings of Gnome are a Very Good Idea.

I went to bed at 2 in the morning with much smaller fonts, just one panel at the top with a few panel launchers (terminal, mc, firefox), a single-icon main-menu and the weather shown.

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