Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Get to know Xubuntu!

Before I start diving into this subject, let me explain what Xubuntu is.

Xubuntu is Ubuntu (a Linux based operating system), but with XFCE, a much faster and rock solid desktop environment than Unity (In my opinion), which is the default Ubuntu desktop environment.

Over the years I have played with many distributions of Linux, and the many ways available to render the desktop.

KDE, Gnome 3, Gnome 2, Unity, XFCE and LXDE for starters.

I have even used Blackbox, Openbox, and a plethora of other available "window managers".

After Unity became the standard for Ubuntu, I started shopping around for another desktop environment.

I don't hate Unity, especially now that it has grown up a bit. It just does not fit, it is a round peg, and I am a square hole, if you will.

I decided to retry XFCE. I wasn't a fan in the past of the look, but the Xubuntu team has gone a long way towards making XFCE look more rounded off and polished.

Older versions of Xubuntu had fairly normal XFCE. XFCE has a plethora of settings options, which in my opinion is just one of the reasons why it is head and shoulders above LXDE, and above the window managers like Openbox.

Here is a screenshot from

And here is a screenshot from my desktop configuration:

Click the photo to enlarge it
XFCE responds much quicker than KDE, Unity or Gnome 3. It also responds quicker than Gnome classic "no thrills" edition.

I have yet to see a speed difference between XFCE and Openbox, which I have used extensively.

These are just a few of the reasons why I suggest you give XFCE, or better yet, Xubuntu, a try.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Your Ubuntu Tweaks

It seems that tweaking Ubuntu is a popular past time. Something I hadn't realized until just now.

The fact that I tweak Ubuntu myself should have been a clue.

So I am going to talk about my personal Ubuntu experience.

The first thing I do once Ubuntu has been installed is run a script I made some time ago. This script gets my most used apps installed, along with Wine, Flash, and a lot of codecs for my audio.

Here is my script:

sudo apt-get install mc moc irssi links htop ubuntu-restricted-extras wine mplayer cheese gftp synaptic unetbootin terminator ubuntu-restricted-addons audacity lame stellarium kompozer gimp gftp cheese alacarte cowsay leafpad openbox obmenu tint2 feh gmrun thunar lxappearance gkrellm gkrellweather xfce4-panel

Breaking down my script, this is what it does for me:

First it installs my CLI (Command Line Interface) applications. mc is a file manager, moc is my default music player, irssi is a irc client, links is a web browser, htop is a process viewer/terminator, and mplayer is another media player I use for watching videos and also for playing shoutcast audio streams.

Next is Wine, because there is a few apps that specifically need it, and I need them. (I.E., the Watchtower Library).

Then I install flash and codecs with the ubuntu-restricted-extras and ubuntu-restricted-addons packages.

Following that I install synaptic because i find it to be much better than the Ubuntu Software Center.

Cheese is a webcam picture taker.
Gimp is an image editor.
GFtp is a ftp client.

Stellarium is a very nice "view from earth" planetarium program. (Don't forget to set the location, unless you do live in Paris, France.)

Kompozer is the best html editor for Ubuntu, in my opinion.
Leafpad is my favorite text editor, very simple and quick to load.

Cowsay is a goofy, fun program I use to entertain my nephews with. It prints to screen a ascii cow with a talk bubble, with your message in it.

Alacarte lets me make changes to the unity and gnome based menus (which i use for xfce4-panel)

Terminator is the best terminal emulator on the planet.

Audacity and lame together give me the opportunity to cut audio how I see fit, and then turn that audio into open mp3's.

UNetBootIn allows me to put Linux based distros on usb key drives. (Very useful!)

Then there is my favorite window manager, Openbox, and the software I like to run with Openbox.

Openbox is what I use instead of Unity. obmenu is a menu editor for openbox.

Tint2 is a very handy task bar, with clock and a place for indicator applets like nm-applet.

Feh changes my background for me at start up (without feh, and a properly set up openbox autostart file, you will only have a grey blank desktop with openbox).

Gmrun is my favorite "run box" or "run dialogue box" program.

Thunar is my preferred file manager, minimalistic footprint and fast but yet full featured.

LXappearance is needed with openbox sometimes because you will have no icons in programs like thunar without it.

Gkrellm with Gkrellweather I use for the current weather conditions and to check my gmail.

Xfce4-panel I use because I forget the names of applications from time to time, and/or because I forget the proper cli command to launch them.

Then I copy over my backed up Openbox files, and then I switch to Openbox.

My openbox files have terminator tied to control alt t, and gmrun tied to alt-f2.

If you are interested in my Openbox set up, I have a more detailed article here:

Here is a look at my setup:

Click to enlarge picture
Ok, so you have now heard me go on and on about my setup, lets hear about your setup/tweaks to Ubuntu!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Duck Duck Go!

I talked about 2 years ago on this blog. Back then it was something I stumbled upon on some now forgotten Ubuntu forum or blog.

Since then I have used it on and off.

It was a little too simple for me back then.

It has done a lot of growing up though in 2 years.

In many ways DDG is a lot like the open source community at large. It's not being developed only by those on the payroll, which is good because there is only one person on that payroll,  Gabriel Weinberg.

It is being developed by a large community of individuals, much like the open source projects running today.

Not only has Weinberg and his helpful voluntary staff accomplished a lot, but there is a lot still on there To Do list.

To check out the growing DDG community, go to

Just like all the search engines today, DDG is continuously changing, but with the intent still on anonymity for the user, which is one of the big reasons I was drawn to it in the first place.

DDG doesn't track you. They also don't filter bubble you.

There's a video on this page that explains this better than I can:

My 2 favorite reasons for using DDG as my homepage are,

1: Quick Loading. On a slow broadband connection, Google is so massively entangled in it's own "services a plenty" that it can be quite slow to load.

2: I don't get the strange, useless ads I get on Google. If you where to search for feces on Google, you will get search results like "buy feces here!" or "buy feces now!"

I am not a Google hater. Google has many services I love. Gmail, Google Calendars, this blog, Google Image search, just to name a few.

And that brings me to my next point. The DDG crew know they can't duplicate all the wonderful services Google and Bing offer. So instead of recreating the wheel, DDG lets you directly use those services though DDG, like Google Image search.

Try out today, I think you will be pleasantly suprised.

P.S. Here is a list of all the DDG Goodies. It will probably do a much better job of explaining the awesome uses for DuckDuckGo then I can.