A Brief History of My Life on Linux: Part I

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="265" caption="I love Tux, he's so cuddly! Where's your cute and cuddly mascot Microsoft? Please don't tell me it's a paper clip! "]Tux, as originally drawn by Larry Ewing[/caption]


This is the first story in a short series about my experiences with Linux.


I just realized today while wandering around the website archives that I have never really written a summary of my experience on Linux. The whole story is there in my archives but who really is going to read through all that?


So here it goes... this is my story:


Sometime in 2005 I discovered a set of Mandrake CDs in my (now ex) boyfriend's stuff. Curious, I inquired about this Mandrake program was. My boyfriend told me it was Linux, explained that Linux was a kernel bundled with a bunch of FOSS, and also mentioned he wanted to learn it but was unable to figure out how to install it. Well after reading up some on Mandrake online I got thoroughly interested, especially when several of my geekster friends mentioned that I would probably love the freedom of customization in it (I was known for tearing my Windows XP install apart just so I could find new ways to configure it). So I popped the disc in and started trying to figure out how to install it. With a stroke of luck and a little background knowledge of partitioning from Windows XP, I managed to successfully install Mandrake.


I thought my boyfriend at the time would be enthralled I finally figured out the install but no, he was pretty mad. That's another story for another time, though. ;)


It was a very, very painful learning curve. Mandrake was more user friendly than most distributions but I think Linux as a whole was still in the early days of developing GUI based configuration tools. I remember one of the hardest times I had was figuring out how repositories worked and getting the repositories I needed to update my software. I also remember I had a lot of difficulty understanding that a missing GUI didn't mean I had to reinstall the entire system. It was quite easy to break a Linux distribution back then and I admit I did it A LOT in the early days.


Something that I am grateful to this very day for doing is downloading and printing a cheat sheet of Linux commands and taping them up on the wall behind my desk. In fact, to this very day you will find a command cheat sheet taped up somewhere in my house, though I don't use it nearly as often as I did back then. I studied the cheat sheet at first, and even went through phases where I would force myself to do everything from the command line just so the commands would stick in my memory.


Someone commented on another post that I must like pain. Well believe me nothing seems as painful as those early days I spent on Linux. That's why I'm so determined to keep my memory fresh - I quite simply don't want to stick myself in that predicament again.


Yeah, yeah, I could have reinstalled Windows. But I wanted to learn Linux and I knew that would never happen if I kept using Windows as a crutch. Plus I quite simply didn't know how to dual boot back then. :D


The next story in this series will cover my move from Mandrake to Ubuntu. Stay tuned! :)


Maximize Your Screen Real Estate in Fedora 15

By default, Gnome 3 in Fedora 15 doesn't leave you with much screen real estate with its huge title bar and persistent menu bar. These settings certainly don't like the tiny 10 inch screen of my netbook. But with a little tweaking, you can remove the title bar and auto hide the menu bar, maximizing your screen real estate like my screenshot below (yes, that is my WHOLE screen):


[caption id="attachment_1794" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="When you remove the title bar and auto hide the menu bar in Fedora 15 you really maximize your screen real estate"]Screenshot: Removed Title Bar and Autohiding Menu Bar in Fedora 15[/caption]


Now, I could tell you how to edit the configuration file and what extension you need to do this, but I decided to make it even easier. :) So I wrote a shell script to do all the work for you. Mind you this is my first script and it's only been tested on one machine... so proceed with caution and backup the metacity-theme-3.xml file in /usr/share/themes/Adawaita/metacity-1 before proceeding (although the script is designed to do this for you, it's better to be safe than sorry).


Ok, now that the warning is out of the way, click here to download max_screen.tar.gz.


Untar the file to your home directory. Then open up terminal and issue the following commands:

cd ./max_screen/

sh max_screen.sh


Type in your user password when prompted.


The script is designed to automatically download and install the auto hide top bar extension from Gnome Shell Extensions, backup the metacity-theme-3.xml file at /backup/, and replace the existing metacity-theme-3.xml file with the newly tweaked version.


When it's finished, restart Gnome Shell by pressing Alt+F2, typing r, and pressing enter. Now when you maximize windows the title bar should disappear. To hide the menu bar just click on it. :)


***UPDATE*** This script has been updated. Click here to go to its new page.



Fedora 15 Configuration Series: A Review Of Ailurus

This is the first article in a series I'm going to be writing about the different configuration tools available in Fedora 15.


Ailurus is a great little program to add on to a fresh installation of Fedora 15. I would compare it to something along the lines of Ubuntu Tweak, in which the user is presented with a set of clean up tasks, system information, a package manager, and even a good solid set of repositories to choose from. I only wish I had found it a little earlier than I did as it would have made adding the initial repositories a breeze when I first installed Fedora 15.


[caption id="attachment_1782" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A full list of system information can be found on the Ailurus Information screen"]Screenshot of Ailurus Information Screen[/caption]

Screenshot of the Ailurus Information screen


The Ailurus Information screen gives you various information about your hardware and Linux installation. It is also capable of printing all the information or copying it to clipboard. I found the list to be pretty complete. I would post it here but it would make this review unnecessarily long. :)



[caption id="attachment_1784" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Ailurus System Settings screen allows you to tweak Firefox, the host name, and the tendency of swapping memory to disk"]Screenshot of Ailurus System Settings screen[/caption]



The Ailurus System Settings screen features a few pretty handy tools. There's the ability to tweak quite a few Firefox settings from the user.js file, the ability to change the host name of your machine, and the quite handy ability to change the tendency of swapping memory to disk.



[caption id="attachment_1785" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ailurus also features an install-able list of commonly used software in the Install Software screen"]Screenshot of the Ailurus Install Software screen[/caption]



In the Install Software screen, Ailurus presents you with the option of installing your pick from a large list of commonly used software. A bunch of popular games are listed here, as well as Compiz tools, media editors, media players, image tools, and more. Unfortunately I did not find much of this software very useful, as it consisted of things already installed (such as Gnome 3) or things I just wouldn't need (such as Midori, EasyTag and Keepassx). However I found the game list to be a great representation of how many different types of games are available on Linux. Battle for Wesnoth, FreeDOOM, and Frozen Bubble are just a sampling of all the games this software installer has to offer.



[caption id="attachment_1786" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Repositories screen in Ailurus gives you easy access to a good full set of repositories"]Screenshot of the Ailurus Repositories screen[/caption]



Now we're on to one of my favorite parts of Ailurus. It comes with a full list of repositories, both free and non-free, that you can enable and disable. These consist of the ever popular RPM Fusion repositories along with Firefox 5, Livna, and many more. This screen also allows you to edit your repository configuration files.



[caption id="attachment_1787" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="In the Ailurus Recover RPM Screen, you can create system snapshots to revert back to in the case of a bad package installation"]Screenshot of the Ailurus Recover RPM screen[/caption]



The Ailurus Recover RPM screen is kind of like System Restore in Windows. It takes a snapshot of what packages you have installed on your system so in the case of an emergency you can revert back to the old installation. The only thing I find lacking here is that you have no idea where the snapshot file saves so you can restore from the snapshot via the CLI if necessary.



[caption id="attachment_1788" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Ailurus Clean Up screen features the ability to clean up Nautilus thumbnail images, recent documents, and the RPM cache"]Screenshot of the Ailurus Clean Up screen[/caption]



While I find the Ailurus Clean Up screen handy, I don't find it quite as thorough as BleachBit, which I will be reviewing later. It features a button to clean up Nautilus' thumbnail images, recent documents list, and the RPM cache.



[caption id="attachment_1789" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Ailurus Computer Doctor screen makes suggestions for system configuration settings"]Screenshot of the Ailurus Computer Doctor screen[/caption]



The Computer Doctor screen in Ailurus is probably one of its neatest and most unique features. This makes suggestions on configuration changes you can make to remove various errors and increase the safety of your system. For example, mine suggested I add a missing application shortcut to the application menu, apply a script in bash that would prevent spaces in file names from destroying the wrong files, and add colors to lists in bash so they would be easier to read.


Ailurus additionally features the option to learn Linux via a script that runs at user login that displays various commands and a short explanation of what they do. This tool is great not only for people wanting to learn Linux commands but also those that may want to keep themselves reminded of/refreshed on what commands are available.  Along with this comes the option to run a "PreUpgrade" application to upgrade Fedora (untested by me since there is no Fedora 16 yet).


While Ailurus is not a complete solution to configuration options in Fedora, it makes a nice addition to the configuration tools you may already have. Its ability to add on repositories in one click and provide a central place for basic administration tasks make it one of my favorite configuration tools in Fedora 15.


If you're interested in using Ailurus, you can download it here:

Ailurus 10.10.3 rpm


Hardware Information
Motherboard name:
Motherboard vendor:
BIOS vendor:
American Megatrends Inc.
BIOS version:
BIOS release date:
CPU 1 name:
Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N270  @ 1.60GHz
CPU 1 level 1 cache size:
24K Data cache. 32K Instruction cache.
CPU 1 level 2 cache size:
512K Unified cache.
CPU 1 Mips:
CPU 2 name:
Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N270  @ 1.60GHz
CPU 2 level 1 cache size:
24K Data cache. 32K Instruction cache.
CPU 2 level 2 cache size:
512K Unified cache.
CPU 2 Mips:
64 bit CPU?
Total memory:
2.0 GB
Total swap:
4096 MBytes
Display card:
Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME, 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 03)
Ethernet card:
Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller (rev 02)
Ethernet card:
Atheros Communications Inc. AR5001 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)
Linux Information
Host name:
Current user:
jonquil (UID: 500, GID: 500)
2 days 14 hours 3 minutes
Kernel version:
Kernel arch:
Default shell:
X server version:
X.Org X Server 1.10.2
OpenGL direct rendering:
OpenGL vendor:
Tungsten Graphics, Inc
OpenGL renderer:
Mesa DRI Intel(R) 945GME
OpenGL version:
1.4 Mesa 7.11-devel
GCC version:
Java version:
Python version:
GTK version:
PyGTK version:
Firefox version:
Mozilla Firefox 5.0
fedora version:


Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot Alpha 2 Has Been Released

Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot is here and it's brought improvements! A couple of improvements worth noting is that it now comes with Thunderbird as its default email client and Deja Dup has bee integrated with Ubuntu One. A lot of changes have been made to Unity as well, and we can only hope that Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot gets a much better reception from the Linux community than 11.04 Natty did.


Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot Alpha 2 Has Been Released [Screenshots And Video] ~ Web Upd8: Ubuntu / Linux blog.


Project Planning & Finances on Linux

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="It turns out Linux is pretty friendly to project management and financing software."]Tux, the Linux penguin[/caption]

Today I was not so pleasantly surprised to find I had lost my copy of Microsoft Project. With little hope of getting a new copy any time soon, I set out to find some good free project planning software on Linux.


There is a lot of free project planning software on Linux. However,  I did not have time to try it all so I narrowed myself down to three choices:


  • OpenProj - OpenProj claims to be competition for Microsoft Project, which caught my attention because I was hoping it would like OpenOffice is to Microsoft Office.

  • Planner - This is one piece of software that came up in the Fedora Linux repositories and promised to be very easy and intuitive to use. I figured I would see about that...

  • Gnotime - Interestingly enough this was a project planner that claimed the ability to create invoices as well. Intrigued, I wanted to see what this was all about since I was in need of some invoicing software as well.


I was really, really intrigued by Gnotime so I decided to install that first. Unfortunately that's about as far as I made it. In the repositories it had an unmet dependency on a newer version of libgtkhtml than the repositories had to offer. When I tried compiling it, it refused to accept my all too new version of gtkhtml3.


Next I tried Planner, which turned out to mostly be a waste of time. It was so simplistic as to barely be what I would call functional.


OpenProj really impressed me though and it is now my project management program of choice under Linux. It is almost exactly like Microsoft Project, not only in functionality but in the GUI as well, so it's very easy to navigate for someone that is accustomed to using Microsoft Project. I still needed an invoice system, however, and the system offered by OpenProj was just the bare essentials (hours, cost, notes, etc.).


I found that invoicing system in GNUCash, which aims to compete with Quicken's financial software. GNUCash carries a very customizable and complete invoice database system along with a customizable invoice printing system that made it quite easy for me (being a novice to financial software and invoice software in general) to create an invoicing system that matched my needs.


So it was a pretty good day. I got to try out some new software and find some new favorites. Oh, BTW, OpenProj and GnuCash are not just for Linux - they both have Microsoft Windows installers available as well. :)


"Indestructible" Virus Found in the Wild

Security researchers at Kapersky Labs have discovered botnet software that uses a range of techniques to remain undetected, making it "practically indestructible".

Computers infected by the software, called TDL-4, fall under control of the botnet's criminal owners and can be used to pump out spam or commit other online attacks. Communication with the botnet's command and control servers takes place over a public peer-to-peer file-sharing network and is protected by a custom encryption algorithm, making it very hard to track down the botmasters in charge and shut them down.




This is kind of scary stuff. I want to say I'm safe on Linux but the article doesn't even say what operating systems are being targeted or how they're being targeted. I guess that's even more reason to watch what you do online... no matter what OS you are running...


It's almost like the technological version of the boogie man.




Umm... WHAT???

As a writer, sometimes I can't help but get a good chuckle at the expense of the Linux community in terms of some of the very crazy grammatical errors I come across while reading responses to various questions (if you may have not noticed, I'm very dedicated to assisting with support for what ever distribution I happen to be using at the time). This one has got to be the best yet, however. After a long, eloquent speech, a Linux user came up with this:

"When I switched from -- MS-DOS to Linux (I learned Windows and X-Windows at the same time after learning the Mac Finder which I never especially liked) my expectations about what an OS is changed, and maybe I am spoiled but I definitely see my own preference as subjective, not objective and wish others would to."

Noun: The subjective case.
Adjective: Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

Noun: A thing aimed at or sought; a goal.
Adjective: (of a person or their judgment) Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.


I don't know about you but I would rather be objective than subjective...




How to Change the Login Screen in Fedora 15

In Fedora 15 it's actually quite simple to change the login screen. You just have to sign in as root and open up the GDM control center, then select Background and select the background you want for your login screen.


This is how you do it:


-u gdm dbus-launch gnome-control-center


If that gives you errors try this first:

xhost +


You should get the Gnome System Settings menu up. Just click on Background, then select the background image you want to use on the login screen, then close out of System Settings.


How to Improve Ubuntu 11.04 Natty System Performance

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ubuntu could use some improvements in system performance... it seems each new release gets more bloated."]Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace ...[/caption]

In my opinion, one area where successive Ubuntu releases continuously under-performed is on the overall system performance front. Every new Ubuntu release feels more and more bloated, especially so with latest Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. I was quite taken aback by fact that, even the so called Ubuntu "derivatives" like Pinguy OS and Elementary OS were a lot slicker than the original Ubuntu. Having said that, Unity is still very young and I believe it will become vastly improved by the time of next Ubuntu LTS release. But what all can we do to significantly improve overall performance of Ubuntu Unity right now? Lets explore.


Tech Drive-In


How to Share Files Using Samba/SMB in Fedora 15

Configuring Samba is always a pain for me, and I remember oh so well how much worse it was when I was starting out on Linux. Here is a simple to follow guide on how to configure Samba in Fedora 15 to allow browsing of the network and sharing files with other computers.


Knowledge this requires: Basic networking knowledge (workgroup name, network IP address range, etc.)


Install Samba and system-config-samba via the repositories:

sudo yum install samba system-config-samba

Next, edit smb.conf:

sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf

First try just changing the workgroup name to match the workgroup name on the other computer and change hosts allow to include the default prefix for the IP addresses on your network (for example, all the computers in my network have IP addresses that start with 192.168.1.).


Next restart the SMB service:

sudo service smb stop

sudo service smb start


Now make sure you can browse to your workgroup on the network in Nautilus. If you can't try this default smb.conf file instead of the one that comes with Samba and make the same changes to it you did before:




... and restart the SMB service just like before. Make sure you can browse to the workgroup on your network now. Once you've ensured you can browse to your workgroup, start Samba in the Application Menu or start it from terminal:



From here you can set up what folders you want to share and what users can access them.