Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Comcast and Verizon in Competition Again

I understand that Comcast and Verizon have opened restaurants across the street from one another, that their prices are identical, that each wait staff is apathetic, and, though each serves a full menu, every diner is forced to order everything. Also, prospective customers find menus in their junk mail and left at their homes daily.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

About that Rant

So at http://martesmartes.blogspot.com/2013/05/killall-plymouth.html I ranted. How about something positive: XFCE.  I blew away MATE, LXDE, etc., on my office 32b LUBUNTU 12.10 system and replaced it with XFCE. Now I'm running 64b Xubuntu 13.04 at home (at boot it still thinks it's Lubuntu): uninstall Mate, uninstall LXDE, install Xubuntu, and do an in-place upgrade to 13.04.

LXDE was pretty solid, not annoying little bug after annoying little bug like Mate or Cinnamon. However, it was very primitive, and customization took effort, effort takes time, and I don't have much time for this stuff (so why am I writing this?).

XFCE also seems pretty solid, and customization is pretty straightforward. Often there is not a menu choice to make the change I want to make, but a little time in RTFM mode and things become straightforward. I'm going to stick with this for awhile.

In a sense being a Windows user is easier: the environment is terrible, Microsoft and other Windows application vendors bleed customers by 1000 cuts, but people put up with it because they don't know any better. Are the user environments any better on the Linux side? Maybe, maybe not. There has long been a strong "make it like windows" ethic among Linux developers, and Ubuntu has decided to make your desktop UI no better than a tablet. But at least there are choices, and XFCE and LXDE are sufficiently different from Gnome 3 and even from Mate that the choices are significant.

killall plymouth

[ The below was written spring 2012, but somehow never got posted. It still captures my sentiments, so I thought I'd post it now. I've abandoned Mint for now and am using Xubuntu. ]

Yet again I find myself debugging Linux Mint 13. There's a tool, plymouth, that is supposed to provide splash screens on boot--who the heck cares about that? Well, I care, since well after boot plymouthd is still running, holding RAM, and eating CPU.

Googling reveals that others have had problems

<rant>
The whole Ubuntu OS family is annoyingly buggy, and yet people are wasting time with things like splash screens and other useless bells and whistles rather than just fixing the crappy software base
  • Last night I plugged in my Kindle, and Mate tells my I've plugged in a music player. WTF? I want it mounted as a thumb drive so I can use standard Unix tools.
  • Recently I've had to wrestle with cameras on Mint insisting on being opened with special, clumsy apps rather than just being mounted as thumb drives--which is effectively what they are. Even if I can get a file browser in there, it has crippled functionality. And what the hell is the path of the mount point? Nope, I either have to waste time figuring this useless crap out, use the crappy, logically useless, camera software, or just copy my pictures to a Windows machine, and then copy them to my real computer.
  • A friend used to have trouble with sound on Ubuntu. I just shrugged--computers have done sound for a couple decades. Now with my 64b Linux Mint 13 system, sound worked, then it stuttered continuously, and then it worked, and now it's completely dead. I don't have time to fritter away on this tripe.
</rant>

Amusement in Advertising from Google

Web access seemed sluggish this morning, so I hopped over to http://www.speedtest.net/ to look at the results. They were okay:


However, this was with Firefox, and the ad suggested results would be faster with Chrome. Really? I have Chrome, and use it often. Here are my Chrome results:


Faster? My throughput with Chrome was just a little slower but the ping times suggest a lower RTT with Chrome, which could possibly suggest a faster scripting implementation. However, this was from two different servers, one reportedly in Frederick and the other in DC, and just one shot each. Perhaps a more detailed study is warranted, but not now.

Friday, May 17, 2013

HTTPS Everywhere Rule Set for userpages.umbc.edu

Many of the servers at  UMBC do not support HTTPS, but userpages.umbc.edu, the server(s) for user home pages, does. However, probably few people access it securely. For those using HTTPS Everywhere, I wrote an extension for HTTPS Everywhere:

<ruleset name="userpages-UMBC">
  <target host="userpages.umbc.edu" />

  <rule from="^http://userpages\.umbc\.edu/" to="https://userpages.umbc.edu/"/>
</ruleset>

I haven't figured out how to install this in my Chrome profile, but it works fine with Firefox HTTPS Everywhere. Tips would be appreciated.

First, HTTPS Everywhere must be installed. Most people should install it anyway. The EFF is doing great things for the public, which is why I donate annually.

Second, the file must be installed "in the HTTPSEverywhereUserRules/ subdirectory in your Firefox profile directory" (see the EFF page). Then restart Firefox. On my Xubuntu system, this directory was
~/.mozilla/firefox/xxxxxxxx.default/HTTPSEverywhereUserRules. The penultimate part of that path will vary from system-to-system.

[ Originally omitted; added 2013-06-09 ]:
Third, the file name must match the domain name, userpages.umbc.edu in this case.

Get HTTPS Everywhere from the EFF here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Screenshots in LXDE, Mate, etc.

LXDE does not have a native screen shot feature and imagemagick does a mediocre job of it under Mate (often capturing a region under the window being selected from), and only provides black rectangles under LXDE, so I needed something better. Google quickly led me to scrot, http://pwet.fr/man/linux/commandes/scrot, which works well. Here's my script to capture regions on the screen:

#! /bin/sh
# Time-stamp: <2013-05-13 12:16:50 jdm>
#
# $1 is the directory in which to 
dump the screenshot. Empty 
indicates /tmp.

umask 077

if test -z $1 ; then
  cd /tmp
else
  cd $1
fi

/usr/bin/scrot -s

The above works well, and is much less time-consuming than the menu-driven approach in Mate.

 This post replaces an older one.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How to Destroy the Internet

Hyperbole? Worth a look from Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5912383/how-to-destroy-the-internet

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

LibreOffice Alternatives?

I've been growing increasingly frustrated with LibreOffice's brain-dead behavior regarding current working directory. 
  • When I save something, and then want to open something else, it starts over in my home directory rather than remembering the context I'm working in. If I just saved something in a directory, isn't it likely that the next thing I open will be nearby?
  • If in the midst of a save-as, if I decide to change the file type, e.g., CSV or XLS to ODS, suddenly it makes me start over from square one choosing the directory to save in.
Yes, this is only two things (okay, here's three: if I have a region selected in the spreadsheet, enter won't take me out of the area--it's necessary to move to the mouse or arrow keys). My impression is that their UI designers are idiots or simply don't care.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Caja 1.6.1 on Mate 1.6.0 Broken

Broken is a bit of an exaggeration, but Caja ignores locales.

I have LC_COLLATE set to C, but look at this directory listing in Caja 1.6.1:


Under ASCII ordering, 15 should appear first since '1' is before '2'. This is a bug. See also https://martesmartes.blogspot.com/2013/05/locales-and-sort-order.html.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Locales and Sort Order

I've been annoyed by Linux behavior regarding sort order for a long while, but today hit my gag reflex when I was editing the wrong file because emacs sorted the directory listing incorrectly. I had changed to the local directory listing, hit down arrow and enter, and was puzzled when the file looked wrong. The file was fine, but it was the wrong file. Who was telling emacs to ignore dots in file name sort order? Annoying.

I need an intuitive sort order, and that is the one given by the ASCII collating sequence. It was interesting, because some applications were getting it right, and some were providing goofy results:
  • Dot should be before letter or digits.
  • Upper case should precede lower case. They should not be intermingled.
  • Digits should be treated as digits, not as numbers. E.g., 10 should appear before 5, since '1' appears before '5' in the collating sequence. The problem here is that someone is trying to predetermine how I name files or interpret file names.
The fix is easy. My /etc/default/locale was just one line. I added the second, logged out, and logged back in:

LANG="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_COLLATE="C"


[  Added 2013-05-02:

  I've got a 64b Lubuntu 12.10/Mate 1.6.0 box that seems to sort files okay with this setting:

  LC_COLLATE="en_US.UTF-8"

  However Caja 1.6.1 still doesn't sort file names correctly.

]