sábado, 23 de mayo de 2015

Five Years Ago...

Today, I started teaching for the new term and a surprise was awaiting me.  A student enrolled in another course came to greet me.  I recognized him: he was the very first person who told me about Linux.  It was at least ten years ago; he was my student in a totally different course back then.

"You can use the full operating system; it runs off the disk.  You don't need to install anything..."

"He must be exaggerating", I said to myself.  "It's impossible to have anything like that.  How will a full OS, applications included, run from a CD without the need to install?"

Of course, my mentality was "if Windows can't do it, it cannot be done."

Silly me.  How many years did Windows take to finally run off a USB device?

That encounter reminded me of something: My blog's anniversary!
Birthday cake sent by Mandriva Chronicles :)

This humble blog was born on May 21st, 2010.  Little I knew back then that I'd carry on for writing about my Linux-related experiences for five years.  I wasn't even sure I'd keep using Linux for so much time.  During those I double booted Windows XP, which was my main OS, and used Linux (MEPIS 8.0) as a "just in case" system.

But the situation changed.

Soon enough, I found myself booting Linux more often, but went to XP whenever I needed to print documents for my Canon printer did not work on MEPIS.

Then, I learned how to make my printer work on Linux.

That changed everything.  I had no reason to boot XP and its partition has become a digital storeroom.

What has changed since then?

1- I learned to multi-boot different distros.  Although I still use MEPIS 8 on my desktop, I have a ZaReason laptop that boots MEPIS 12, Pardus, Pisi, MiniNo, PicarOS, antiX, and MX Linux.

2- I replaced my Toshiba NB-100 netbook with a Chromebook.  It's not the most powerful in the market, but with Crouton and Ubuntu it does beat my netbook, whose hardware is progressively reaching the end of its functional life.

3-  I dropped my "Linux should be more like Windows" mentality.  It actually amuses me a lot to see that now it is Windows the one that is looking more and more like Linux (except in terms of security and freedom, of course).

4-  I became a terminal guru.

Wait, that's not true.  My knowledge of the terminal is pretty much the same of those times.  People who claim that for using Linux you need to know a lot about the terminal (because you will be using it everyday) are simply delusional.   

Five years have passed.  Five years of many experiences with Linux...most of them pleasant.  Meanwhile, I hear the woes and worries of those around me who still use Microsoft's OSes and are subject to the atrocities of that company.

So far, it has been a great ride, Tux!

jueves, 14 de mayo de 2015

How to Make a Script to Get an Enlightened Cow Teach You Buddhist Sayings

I've been working too much lately, as anyone may guess by reading the title of this post  :P

When one works nonstop, it is necessary to find inner peace.  That will help getting the work done, too.

Thus, I came up with a crazy idea.  What if I could get the funny cow living in the terminal come out to my desktop and teach me something whenever I activated it?

Most seasoned Linux users are familiar with the cowsay and fortune commands.  The former displays a funny ASCII cow saying whatever you type for it to say.  The latter will randomly display a fortune, saying, or funny quote (depending on how you configure it.)

Also, Linux users who know about the terminal know very well how to pipeline commands, how to manage permissions, and how to make scripts.

Well, my knowledge about that is almost null...

Still, I managed to find a way to put all that knowledge together to make something fun (and useful for these hectic times).  The result?  A funny cow that pops into my desktop to recite me a Buddhist saying

Instead of cowsay, I installed xcowsay because the latter, when activated, will make a drawing of a cow literally appear on your desktop.

After that, I downloaded and installed display-dhammapada, which randomly displays a Buddhist saying on your terminal.

I thought I could pipeline the two commands to have an enlightened cow!  The command to type in the terminal would be:

display-dhammapada | xcowsay

Then it hit me.  Could I make a simple script to activate the cow with a mouseclick instead of typing the command?

I opened a text editor and typed this:

display-dhammapada | xcowsay

I saved the script as "cow", but  it didn't run until I changed the permissions (right click on the file, properties, permissions, and setting "owner and group" for the field "execute.")

That's how I got an enlightened cow to rescue me from going crazy by teaching me Buddhist wisdom!

Perhaps it's already too late...

viernes, 24 de abril de 2015

Do You Like Different Wallpapers and Widgets on each Desktop? Plasma 5 Does NOT!

KDE 4 has evolved to Plasma 5 and people talk about the multiple improvements that Plasma 5 has brought: cleaner looks, increased stability, better organization...

With such great news, which KDE 4 user wouldn't want to move on to the new environment?

Those who view Bug 343246 as a relevant issue, of course.

This bug basically describes Plasma 5's inability to set different wallpapers on each virtual desktop.  The same goes for widgets.

In other words, if you liked to have a "work" desktop with, say, a calculator, a ruler, monitoring tools, and easily identifiable because of the serious, work-related image you set as its wallpaper...all that opposed to your "fun" desktop with a colorful wallpaper and little games, now you can't have that.

An easy "solution" is what KDE people know as "activities."

Of course, you may set different wallpapers for different activities.  The problem is that activities are linked to all virtual desktops.  That means that, if you have 4 virtual desktops with wallpaper A and create an activity with wallpaper B, you will have 4 more virtual desktops with that wallpaper.  Creating a new activity with wallpaper C will give you 4 more virtual desktops with that wallpaper...and the widgets you set on each activity will be present in all desktops of the same activity.

Not the best approach in that specific context, right?  KDE 4's flexibility worked better. But why did they take that feature away?

To reply to the person who filed the bug, someone said this:

"it was a very problematic feature that cause a lot of bugs. it was removed as an explicit choice (and due to architectural changes can't really get back) for this behavior, there are activities."

It's interesting that, while XFCE now added the choice of multiple wallpapers for each desktop, KDE, the champion of customization, took it away.

Fortunately, in spite of the flat look of Plasma 5, the desktop cube and the 3D effects are still there.  Hopefully, KDE devs won't take them away because the feature of hovering windows also has an old bug that they have not yet corrected:
A window that hovers over two different workspaces gets shown only partially.

sábado, 18 de abril de 2015

Meme-Ninja: A Tool for Procrastinators

I've always wanted a Linux-based tool to make memes but it seems that Linux developers are far too serious (some people still believe that Linux is unfriendly to gamers!)

Still, I managed to find Meme-Ninja.  This is a .deb package so it may run well on most Debian-based systems.  But please remember that this is an alpha, so expect some unpolished elements and crashes.

First, you must make sure you install the dependencies.  Gambas3 is the biggest one: about 30 Mb. (So much to make memes? I know, I know!)

Other small dependencies you must install:


Once you're done with that, you must go here to grab the .deb file:


To install it, type this on a terminal as root:

     dpkg -i MemeNinja-Alpha.deb

That's it!  Now, to make memes!
You can export your creations, of course.  To add custom meme images, paste them to: /usr/share/meme-ninja/Characters
To add new frames, paste them to: /usr/share/meme-ninja/Frames
To add new effects, paste them to: /usr/share/meme-ninja/Text Styles

This might not be the most productive way to use your resources, but I still thank the developer of this application.  Also, I thank Geekster at LinuxG.net for letting me know about this.

Computing is not just about work, you know?   

martes, 24 de marzo de 2015

Happy Birthday, MX Linux!

Today, MX Linux is celebrating its first birthday!  Wow, time flies indeed.  Interestingly, I have adopted this distro until pretty recently, even though I've been more involved in its work than in MEPIS, antiX, or Pisi.

Just a couple of days ago, the devs released MX-14.4.  Great way to celebrate!

I wish the very best to all those involved in making MX what it is.  Keep up the good work, you all!

jueves, 5 de marzo de 2015

Will MEPIS Come Back to Life Again?

The development of MEPIS, my favorite distro, has been in a long hiatus.  While I have MEPIS 12 Beta installed and it works very well, I wonder if I'll ever be able to see a new release.

I'm not the only one.  Many at the MEPIS forum have waited and waited...and waited.  Some have shifted to a different distro, some have stayed.

In the past, other distros I like have been shaken, too.  Mandriva, for example, seemed to become extinct.  But the turmoil produced two great distros instead: Mageia and OpenMandriva.

Pardus was another one.  When they decided to drop their unique PiSi packaging to go to a Debian base, such idea actually made a group of tenacious members to create the Anka Team, and their effort paid off when their project, Pardus-Anka, became Pisi Linux.

In the MEPIS tents, something similar is happening. The lack of news about MEPIS development lead several members of the community to join antiX, and together they put together a very interesting project:  MX Linux.

MX-14.3 is pretty robust and the developers constantly add new interesting features.  It has inherited the stability of MEPIS and the power and flexibility of antiX; I couldn't complain!

Still, whenever I boot into any of my MEPIS systems, I ask myself if a new MEPIS will ever see the light...

martes, 24 de febrero de 2015

MX-14: Playing with Snapshots

At last I ventured into the land of snapshots on my MX-14.3 install, thanks to its MX-Snapshot tool.  This one is so user-friendly that I was able to actually produce a live copy of my system the first time I tried.

The good part is that the snapshot is also installable.  You can make one with your accounts preserved (this one keeps all your configuration) or one with the default accounts (if you want to give copies of the snapshot to other people)

Thus, I decided to experiment a little.  Since XFCE is not precisely my favorite DE, I installed KDE.  After all, a little eye candy won't kill me!

I also installed LXDE.  Pushing my luck a bit more, I installed Compiz and configured it on that DE...

MX's native XFCE gave me more trouble to run Compiz, but I finally got it working...
(And then I realized that I could configure Compiz to use Kwin on XFCE!)  :P

Anyway, I was able to have a copy of my entire system, fully configured, running on a USB thumb drive that I can also use to store data. 

Let's see what else I can learn...