Computers Information Technology Linux

Notes on Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)

ubuntu-logo-jackalopeI went and installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) onto my test system as a dual boot with Windows 7 Release Candidate, and so far so good.  This was the same system I had installed OpenSUSE 11 on before and I went back and reviewed how I tweaked my desktop there and did very similar setup for the Ubuntu setup.

I installed Cairo-Dock, and included launchers for Firefox, Thunderbird, Terminal, BitTorrent, and OpenOffice Word Processor.  As part of installing Cairo-Dock, I eliminated the botton toolbar and merged its contents to the top toolbar. I also played around some with Gimp (v2.6 comes with this version of Ubuntu) – the Jackalope pic with the Ubuntu logo merged into it was the result.  I also installed Screenlets and setup clock, calendar, slideshow, weather, and system info screenlets to launch upon login.  As expected, Thunderbird was just as easy to setup for imap to my gmail account as it was in Windows.

So those are my first notes for this version of Ubuntu.  As I play with it more and find things noteworthy, I’ll post those.

Screenshot of my Ubuntu Desktop.


Computers Information Technology Linux

OpenSUSE 11 First Impressions

I decided to give OpenSUSE 11 a try on my dedicated Linux box. Since I’ve only installed it and made some adjustments within Gnome, I thought I would give what I can really only call some first impressions of it.  I’m writing this post from the OpenSUSE box.  The system I installed it on is my few years old Gateway GX7022E – a Pentium D processor (3.0Ghz) with 3GB RAM.

I took the defaults during installation, choosing Gnome as the WM.  I did briefly try both KDE 3.5 and 4.0 within VMs, but I am a bit more used to Gnome and tend to favor a more simple look (with some small creature comforts).  I would definitely say that installation time is much shorter over my experience in the past installing OpenSUSE 10 and 10.1 (both were installed a while back on this same box).  Call me old fashioned, but I also chose the more “traditional approach” of UNIX/Linux by not allowing automatic logins, or allowing the first user account created to be the administrator account (which does things using sudo in the background  – in the same way Ubuntu does).  This basically means that for any software I need to install, system changes, etc., I need to provide the root password (as opposed to my own, even though I am already logged into the system).

So now I’ve logged into Gnome and I’ve began my tweaks.  OpenSUSE 11 comes with the “Main Menu”, aka SLAB 0.9.10, which is a one button menu.  I ended up removing this in favor of the more typical menu bar (Applications, Places, System).  Perhaps I will give SLAB another chance at some point, but for me anyway, having to click on “More Application” and having it open up a window with the apps to click seemed a little bit too much “Windows 3.1/NT 3.51” to me.  I also changed themes to one I found on, Ubex2; and the desktop background to one of Boston from the Charles River that I found on  Both these sites are great for Gnome tweaks and backgrounds.

I installed Screenlets as a desktop widget/sidebar app, and Cairo-dock as an app launcher similar to Objectdock (by Stardock) for Windows, or the Mac OS launcher.  (As an aside, I’ve also been experimenting with setting my Windows system up similarly with the taskbar on top, and Objectdock on the bottom.)  I also adjusted the font resolution to 96 dots per inch, and set for LCD, and medium hinting.  This allows better font rendering in my opinion.

So first impressions are – fairly quick and easy install, but also an install that allows for more traditional approach to account logins, as well as some other options.  I hope Ubuntu – another great distro – includes that option, for those that want it, in a future release.  Then with some pretty easy customizations, I have a nice Gnome based environment to do my stuff in.  The first screenshot is the default OpenSUSE, found on, and the second is mine, customized as I mentioned above.  If you’re looking to try a different Linux distro, give this one a shot to see if it works for you.

Default OpenSUSE 11 Gnome Screenshot

My Customized OpenSUSE 11 Screenshot

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Logitech VX Nano Mouse

I know I’ve been very lax about science or tech posts of late, but as I’ve picked up a wireless mouse for my work laptop recently for use at home, I thought I would share some impressions of it.  This is the Logitech VX Nano mouse.  When it comes to mice, I tend to like them fairly simple – not the “buttons all over the place” types (i.e. like gaming mice).

What I like about this mouse is that while it is marketed as a notebook mouse, it is not too small.  It is only slightly smaller than a standard mouse.  Its shape and size still make for a comfortable mouse for me at least.  The shape should also allow for left handed users to be comfortable with it as well I think.  Larger hands may find it a tad small – my hands are more medium sized with longer fingers.  The USB transceiver is really nice in that it is small enough to plug into the laptop USB port and can leave in there without much worry of breaking it.  The portion that sticks out is just a hair under 1/4″, and the mouse itself fits into an included pouch which helps protect in in a bag.  It also has an on/off switch underneath to help save battery life when not in use.  Again while I don’t do much with the extra buttons, this mouse includes web browsing “forward” and “back” buttons next to the left mouse button.  There is also a button behind the scroll wheel that sort of acts as a replacement for Alt-Tab in Windows, giving a menu to select any open window.  Of course, these button functions are customizable through the Logitech software.  The scroll wheel has both horizontal and standard vertical scrolls.  One of the nicest features, for my use at least, is the that the scroll wheel has two vertical scroll modes.  One is the standard scroll of 3 or so lines at a time with some tactile feedback.  If you click the wheel as a button though, it goes into what I call “free wheelin’ ” mode.  This mode freely scrolls many lines. It’s very useful in a long web page, large spreadsheet, or in what I find really handy, while at work I have the ability to scroll through about 20,000-30,000 lines of text in large log files.  I find the section I am concentrating on, for instance an error dump section, then one flick brings me to the most recent events at the bottom of the section.

So, if you’re in the market for a nice cordless mouse for your system, check out the VX Nano from Logitech.  I like it enough that I now keep it in my bag and use it at work as well as when working from home.

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Creating Good Passwords

Most companies and universities have password policies in place that enforce complexity requirements. But do you have a good policy you use for your personal accounts? You should create good strong passwords for any accounts you access – your email, eBay, online merchants, your personal finance file on your system, etc.

When creating your password, it should:

  • Be at least 8 characters long, but be easy to remember (more on this in a second).
  • Contain at least one capital letter, a digit, and a special character along with the lower case letters. Some web sites may not allow special characters (shame on them!!), so be creative with more digits (preferably) or capital letters.
  • Not be built from a dictionary word or any name – including character substitution!! For example, password is obviously a BAD password, but P@ssw0rd is also a bad password. Hacking utilities would have this figured out in very little time.
  • Not contain sequences, patterns, or repeated characters, for example 123, 111, qwerty, etc.

So I mentioned making your password at least 8 characters. I tend to like to make them 8 characters exactly. Perhaps this is because of my past experience using UNIX systems, where the first 8 characters only were significant (standard UNIX would ignore anything after 8 characters), but I also think 8 characters would be easier for most to remember. What you don’t want is to have to write the password down; it should be something you can commit to memory.

So given the rules, how to actually create a good password? Think of a phrase seven to eight words long, and then use the beginning of each word to make into your password, mixing up the capitals, symbols, and digits. If you use seven words, you can use punctuation as the last character. If you can easily remember a longer phrase and the password you create from it, certainly go for it. Some examples (don’t use these for yourself, though):

Phrase: I found the Science Attic really useful today
Password: Ift5@ruT

Phrase: My dog Fido is the best dog!
Password: MdF1tBd!

Phrase: Firefox is a great internet browser to use
Password: F1@giB2u

So you get the idea. And you can get really creative with this. 🙂 So have a little fun with it, while keeping your accounts that much more secure.

Computers Information Technology Linux

Linux Mint 3.1

linux_mint.pngI know it’s been a long time since my last post, and I did mention in a previous post that I would be trying Linux as my main OS. Here is the result of that latest attempt – Linux Mint. It is a distro that is based on Ubunutu, but provides more “out of the box”. (Funny that term sticks when there is no box.) It provides the ability to play DVDs and other media. But I also find it’s a bit more than Ubuntu + codecs. This distro has some tweaks to the Gnome UI that make it more uniquely theirs. Upon first login, you will see one instead of the more traditional two Gnome toolbars, and they have included a Linux Mint Menu, which is a bit more streamlined. It has Places and System on the left, and to the right are the Applications, sorted by category.

I chose to dual boot this with Windows XP. If Linux is to be my main OS on this box, then really the only thing I would use Windows for is a handful of games I like to play occasionally. So a VM would not work well in this situation. When installing Linux Mint into the spare room on my hard drive (I had installed Windows into a partition a little less than half the size of the total 300GB), it found Windows without issue and added it as a menu entry into Grub. Another nice thing Linux Mint has is a graphical based Grub by default.

Once the install was complete, the first boot of Mint had a quick first time configuration utility. It allowed for the enabling of the root account (disabled by default in Ubuntu), for those that like the more traditional *nix approach. Although even if root is enabled, when you do any administrative tasks, it still does so by sudo, so the password it prompts for will be your user account’s password. The enabling of root will allow for login as root, or to change to root in terminal (su –). Of course, the same thing can be accomplished in Ubuntu by doing a sudo passwd root in the terminal. Also in the utility, you can turn off Mint’s “fortune cookie” like sayings that will appear when opening a terminal, similar to a motd. Some will draw a chuckle, but I find them a bit gimmicky, so I have disabled them.

Like any linux I have used, the GUI (whether it be Gnome or KDE) is customizable. I like the Linux Mint Menu, but prefer a more traditional two bar approach when I use Gnome. So I added the second bar, and added the desktop pager, and icons to launch apps, etc. Beryl is included and I had no issues getting it to work properly (the system has an Nvidia 6200 video card). You’ll notice the Linux Mint Menu is labeled “Celena”. All of the Linux Mint releases have a name associated with it. You can easily change this by right clicking on the menu and choose Preferences. This will launch the Gnome config editor to the proper key to change. Change “applet_text” to whatever you wish it to be. In my case, I changed it to “Eintein”, the name of the system (which you specify in the setup).

This is a good looking disto, and so far I have had no issues to speak of. If you have an opportunity to install this on a VM or test box, I would definitely give it a look. If you like it, and it works well on your system, perhaps it could be your Linux of choice.

Linux Mint Desktop After Some Personalization


Linux Mint Menu


Computers Information Technology Linux

PCLinuxOS 2007 Install Notes


If you have taken a look at the popularity rankings on Distrowatch, you’ll see that the top 10 have really mixed themselves around a bit in the last couple of months. If you select past 3 months or more recent in their rankings list, you’ll find that PCLinuxOS 2007 has surpassed Ubuntu and is in the number one spot. So long story short – download and install!

It looks good, especially since I’ve enabled Beryl on the system (a clone system with 2.66GHz Celeron and 1 GB of RAM). I won’t go into further detail on its looks, since plenty of others have already done so. I will bring up a couple of things though I think folks should take note of.

When I did my first go around with installing, I had booted the live CD to obtain an IP address from DHCP. After install, as expected, it was configured to obtain an IP by DHCP. By the way, the install – other than having to reboot once to the live CD again to finalize the partitions, was a very simple (almost to a fault) “next, next, done” exercise. This particular box I like to have configured for a static IP, so I went into the Control Center and did so… and I lost name resolution. So I reconfigured to use DHCP and tested with nslookup. This is where I discovered that nslookup is not installed by default. Odd, but a little quick research revealed to install bind-utils to get your nslookup. Simply use Synaptic, or from a terminal as root, execute apt-get install bind-utils. I don’t know why they would not have it installed by default, but there it is – a quick fix.

I then remembered that the install did not ask about the network config, something I usually have to do when installing Linux. However, it did ask me when the live CD booted up. So I rebooted again to the live CD, and configured my settings as I wanted for a static IP, DNS servers, etc. Lo and behold, when this install completed, the system was configured for the static IP, etc. I had configured for the live CD. Pretty slick, despite that it does take a bit getting used to. Usually one thinks of the live CD environment isolated from what the installed environment will be.

So to sum up, I am pretty impressed with this distribution. I tweaked the desktop some from the default (see screenshots below). This post is actually being written from this box using Writer 2.2. Most folks would be installing this distro as a desktop system obtaining its IP from DHCP, so there would be no need to go through the reboot of the live CD like I did. This distro’s goal is to be a Windows replacement, so the average user would also not likely notice the absence of the nslookup, but I still feel it should be there by default, as it is in Windows, Mac OS, and other Linux distros – just in case you get that call from your friend or relative saying they can’t get to the internet.



Computers Fun New Technology Technology

The Table IS The Comptuer

Now don’t get me wrong. I think this multitouch technology is really cool stuff. I can see it being utilized by the military or other government applications, corporations, etc., but when I envision it being a coffee table in the home…

  • Multiple instances of “Get your feet off of that table!”.
  • Will the table really recognize your toddler’s toys, or for that matter, their coloring that finds its way off the paper, or licking, or some other mess from who knows where that they decide to deposit on its surface. But I guess the rounded corners means it’s child friendly, so it’s all good.
  • Ah yes, the new medium for the old fashioned slide show. Instead of having one’s friends and family over to yawn at the slide show on the white screen of the vacation to where the heck was that anyway, now they can have them gather ‘round the coffee table. On a similar note as before though, how will the table recognize that particular person’s head that is now asleep, drooling on the table?
  • I can see a boom for chiropractors everywhere. All that looking down working with photos, maps and whatnot on the table can only mean neck adjustments galore.
  • The video mentions the table being used as a remote control for your TV. Guess we won’t have to worry about lost remotes.
  • Where do you put your coffee table books, anyway?
  • Speaking of books, if it can recognize different objects, could I put a book on it and it will read it to me (ahhh, memories of childhood)? Or better yet, could I put my head down on the table too and absorb the book’s material in an osmosis-like process? Perhaps there would be a market for a MS Surface pillow?

Well, I guess the possibilities are endless…

Oh yeah, and it’s $10,000.

Another video touting its “capabilities”…