linux n00b

Motherboard Transplants, Debian, Fluxbox and Auto Starting Applications

Posted in Distributions, Window Managers by downforce on July 2, 2007

I’ve recently decided that it’s time to stop letting Mark Shuttleworth hold my hand in my Linux experience and start getting my hands more dirty!

As a result, I’ve decided to start installing Debian on my machines as and when required.

Yesterday, after 5 hours of PC transplant surgery, transposing 4 motherboards in 3 PC’s, what is my HTPC decided it didn’t like the transplant. Very strangely, I changed from this C 2.4GHz 478/533FSB MB to a P4 287.GHz 478/800FSB and it handled it fine. Changing the board back again and X-Windows didn’t want to start, kept crashing out after logging in with GDM.

My HTPC was running Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy w/ E17. Now I realise I could have spent some time fixing it, but I couldn’t be bothered as I didn’t want to run E17 as my HTPC environment anymore anyway, mainly due to conflicting keybindings when using MythBrowser.

So I took the plunge and stuck Debian 4.0 Etch on it via a Net Install. Thanks to using a Debian Etch VM not so long ago, my proxy server had cached a fair bit so the install was pretty quick. I selected Standard System only, not Desktop System. After installing the base system, I installed FluxBox, GDM, MythTV Frontend, nVidia Legacy driver from for my MX4000 PCI and Alsa.

All installed fine (subject to installing some dependencies), however as of today, still haven’t got the sound working correctly. TBH this is driving me nuts and sound in Linux has always been my Achilles heel.

Anyway, one of the crucial elements is having MythTV automatically load at startup. Using my Googlefu I discovered 3 methods, involving editing .xinitrc or .fluxbox/startup. Neither was working!

Turned out that to get these to run, need to start FluxBox with /usr/bin/startfluxbox, not /usr/bin/fluxbox, which Debain does by default!

The solution is to change the alternatives!
update-alternatives --install fluxbox x-window-manager /usr/bin/startfluxbox 100
update-alternatives --config x-window-manager

Next time you login, you’re apps will run! I’ve dumped FluxBox 3 times because of this problem. I might install it on my main PC when it get’s rebuilt!

Now just to figure out how to get my Creative SB Live! Value working!


Get more Gnome Themes

Posted in Howto, Window Managers by downforce on April 27, 2007

When I ran Windows I was never a theme person. Windows themes just took too much of a hit on system performance. Under Linux, it seems that the impact is far less. As such I decided to look for more GNOME themes, bored with the selection offered by the standard Ubuntu installation.

The best site I’ve found so far is! Head on over to their Gnome theme sub-category.

There is even a page on how to install them, although I think it’s slightly out-of-date (2002).

To install them in Ubuntu do this:

  • System -> Preferences -> Themes
  • Click on Install
  • Browse to the .tar.gz file and import

Now I hit a little snag. Some of them said Installed correctly and sometimes I got a message to choose between Revert theme or Switch to new theme.

  • When I saw Installed correctly, it appears in theme list.
  • When I saw Switch to new theme, I had to say “Yes” then below the Install button is Save. I then saved the theme so it appeared in the list for later.
  • Now you can have a pretty new desktop. I’ll post back with more Gnome themes sites I find.

    What went wrong GNOMEs?

    Posted in General, Window Managers by downforce on April 5, 2007

    I’ve made a few shortcuts to apps on my taskbar. Being the compulsive ‘fiddler’ that I am, I’ve broken those links in various ways.

    One of the things that’s driving me batty is there is no visual error catching of these problems. The apps just doesn’t load and it disappears in the virtual ether.

    Each time I’ve had to load up a terminal and type the command to see what went wrong. I first noticed how much this frustrated me when Opera broke.

    Now I don’t know if I’m missing some feature or if it just doesn’t exist but having some way of visual relaying these messages I see would be beneficial. Whether it’s even possible, I don’t know, but it would make for a nice feature anyway.

    Something so simple? A solution!

    Posted in Howto, Window Managers by downforce on March 30, 2007

    I was … whinging … about a feature I missed in E17 that I hadn’t found in gnome.

    Except last night during my playing I found a work-a-around. It’s not what E17 did, but in some ways might be better.

    Right-clicking on the title bar and there were 2 options “Always show on visible workspace” and “Always on top”. Now this is great for myth, in fact it’s probably a better solution than the way E17 works in that I run MythTV in a window at 1024×768 so on each workspace I get the 1280×1024 for one monitor and I get the other 256×256 for other things … like a terminal! “Always visible” I’d use all the time, ‘On top’ when I really want to watch the whole show.

    Notch another win for the garden accessory!

    Wobbly windows?? Wobble this!

    Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 29, 2007

    I was having a play and tried the ‘Desktop Enhancement’ which I assume is the compiz 3d desktop.

    WOW, how annoying!! By default it turned off borders, so I needed to lalt-click to drag them around. I also couldn’t figure out how to use the cube for 3d desktop swapping. Clicking the maps down the bottom didn’t do the cube and lalt-f1/1/n and a variety of other keys didn’t work either.

    The worst part is the gui visibly slowed down. Now I definitely don’t have a bleeding edge PC, but I wouldn’t say I have a POS either. When I did buy it 2+ years ago, it was the dogs bollocks, AMD64 3000+, 2GB of dual channel Crucial Ballistix and a 6600GT AGP (:() 128MB – I bought it pretty much exactly 1 month before PCIe boards became available.

    Wobbly windows lasted about 15min, next gimmick?

    Something so simple?

    Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 29, 2007

    When using both Fluxbox and Gnome there is a feature in E17 that stands out when going to the alternatives on a TwinView setup:

    Unlink screen desktops

    Actually, I’m not sure what it’s actually called so let me explain.

    I usually run 3 or 4 virtual desktops. In Gnome or Fluxbox these equate to 2560×1024 (2 lots of 1280×1024) so when you switch from 1 to 2 the contents of both monitors change.

    When I was running E17 each screen effectively became 1280×1024 so I had 8 desktops, 4 on each monitor. It wasn’t that I was running two X-sessions, I could move windows between both of them with ease.

    I found this most useful with mythtv, I’d have mythtv running on my CRT screen (to the left) and I could switch between desktop 1 to 4 on my LCD whilst keeping myth there the whole time. Now if there was a app on a different desktop to myth, I could change it (e.g. I ran Thunderbird on Desktop 4 – alt-f4), do what I want then switch back to Desktop 1, which the LCD screen stayed on say Desktop 2.

    Whilst using it I thought it was nifty, but it wasn’t until I switch to Gnome/FB that I noticed just how good it was.

    If anyone actually reads this and knows 1. what this is called and 2. how to get the same functionality in gnome, please let me know.

    I have to say it’s not in my xorg.conf as I am using exactly the same xorg.conf I was running under E17.

    Flux today, Gnome tomorrow.

    Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 28, 2007

    The urge continues ….

    I liked Fluxbox, it was clean, smooth and customisable. The killer? The last one. At the moment I don’t have the time to re-setup the machine from scratch using Ubuntu 6.10 alternative from console.

    Fluxbox starts very minimal and everything needs to be additionally installed. I installed bbrun (the command line tool) and fbdesk (for desktop icons) but couldn’t get them to load on startup. I found two articles, one mentioned about ~/.fluxbox/init and the other … err I’ve forgotten (not at the PC at the moment!) but got neither to work. The other annoyance was the automatic menu generation didn’t pick up every item in /usr/share/applications/. Manually adding additional items required the console, which isn’t a a problem, just really time consuming!

    So with that, I’ve decided to ‘become mainstream’ and go for the full blown Ubuntu again, with the garden accessories (gnome) and everything that comes with it – 7.04 Feisty (Beta).

    TBH, I really wanted to give the new Ubuntu a go and seeing it was recently released as beta, I thought why not. Not only that, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was low with Fluxbox, there weren’t nice desktop icons, nor easy to access menus etc and having opera and gaim not load on startup was starting to annoy her.

    I think my previous experiences with Gnome must not have been as successful as I wished as this is actually running quite nicely, none of the ‘sluggishness’ I noticed last time. I’m running it out of the box with one exception, I’ve installed the nvidia binary driver. I’m beginning to think my previous problems may have been driver related. As I left home, I had Synaptic downloading additional apps, like wine, xmms and all the 105mb of updates.

    After using it for 2minutes though there is one feature I miss that’s in both Fluxbox and E17, the mouse-driven menus. TBH I’m not sure what it’s actually called, but you know the one where you click the desktop and get the system menu? Anyone knows how to get this under gnome I’d be appreciative. I will look, but got to get everything else working first!

    It’s time to go play .. err I mean use it.