Saturday, February 27, 2010

Naymz? No Thanks

I just received an invitation to join yet another social networking site, Naymz. I'm clearly facing a deadline here:
Please join my Professional Network on Naymz. Click here to view my invitation, which will expire in 30 days.

What is Naymz? Clearly a site run by people who can't spell. And they also have a weak grasp of English grammar. From their site:

Naymz is a powerful tool for any professional looking to advance their career to the next level. Our innovative professional networking platform allows people to find and discover new connections, opportunities, ideas, and information based on their backgrounds and reputations.

Since they don't even bother to make the description of their site grammatically-correct, I have to wonder how good their quality is throughout. Note for the puzzled: professional is singular; their is plural.

Admittedly I'm being a little hard on them, but is there anything the world needs less than a new social networking site?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vietnam-Era Heroes

I just saw the new film about Daniel Ellsberg and I'd have to rank him at the top among heroic figures of the Vietnam era. He did, perhaps, more than any other person to end the war. Other heroic figures, IMHO, would include the Catonsville Nine, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn.

Of course, any computer scientist could consider Chomsky a hero "simply" due to his contributions to linguistics. And perhaps I overrate the Catonsville Nine, having never heard of them before I moved to Catonsville. Or maybe I'm just too young.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's the Buzz? Tell Me What's A-Happening

It turns out I wasn't the only one to have a strong, negative reaction to having Buzz suddenly thrust upon me, following people and having followers with no volition or discretion involved. CNET has a recent article about just this.

This is the first Comcast/Verizon-like lack of respect for users that I've seen from Google, or at least the first blatant case.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Xfce Focus Stealing

I configure the window manager for "focus follows mouse" rather than the Windows-like "click to focus." If the mouse pointer indicates where my attention is, why force an extra click? Ok, the real reason is that this is what I'm used to from SunOS and Solaris in the late '80s through the mid '90s. What I say below may not apply to the click to focus crowd--I just don't know.

Under the focus tab in Xfce 4.6.1's Window Manager Tweaks is an undocumented checkbox labeled "Honor standard ICCCM focus hint." At, the most recent documentation is for version 4.2, and 4.2 did not have this "feature." The ICCCM is a large document, and perhaps by investing considerable time one could figure out what ICCCM focus hints are, but I don't have that time. What I have noticed is that if I select both that and "activate focus stealing prevention," applications steal focus willy-nilly. I think most users who do a lot of typing, like, say, programmers, people who create documents, people who send e-mail, etc., will not want Xfce to honor ICCCM focus hints.

The other thing I noticed recently, being new to Xfce, is that the desktop is very, very sluggish compared to Gnome. This alone was bad enough that I considered going back to Gnome. However, last week, being forced to stay at home because of the snow, I noticed another window manager option, "Delay before window receives focus." I set this to zero, or as close to zero as it would let me, and all of a sudden the performance was fairly snappy. So the Xfce default is to give the illusion of poor performance, but eliminating that delay is a huge improvement.

I like Xfce as a window manager, but the documentation is in such bad shape that I cannot recommend it to others.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Disabling Google Buzz

Those of us who use Gmail recently got a surprise with a new "feature" called Buzz, a Facebook wannabee. A Gmail user can disable Buzz by deleting his or her profile. Unfortunately, the Buzz button still clutters the Gmail interface, so it's necessary to also go into the Labels tab in Gmail settings and hide Buzz.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Removing a menu item in Xfce4.6.1

I recently uninstalled gnumeric, but the menu entry didn't go away. Looking through various menu items, settings, configuration options, etc., didn't yield anything. The online documentation for xfce 4.6 has the helpful statement that there is no documentation, and refers us to the xfce 4.2 documentation. I noticed in the same place that there was a link to 4.4 documentation, but no dice--that also refers us to the 4.2 docs. Clearly documentation has been a continuing issue in xfce. The 4.2 documentation led me to a page of misinformation (maybe it was accurate in 4.2), This page shows an image of an "Edit Desktop Menu" button in the desktop settings window. There is no such button in 4.6.

A little googling led me to a lot of people asking how to do it, some suggestions that didn't work, etc. This reminded me of trying to get OpenOffice to stop "helpfully" suggesting word completions and spreadsheet cell contents: many complaints about how stupid the default settings were, many complaints about how difficult it was to disable, but solutions were few and far between.

Finally, fed up with trying to figure out how to do it the right away, I removed /usr/share/applications/gnumeric.desktop (actually I moved it to a safe place just in case) and, voila, the gnumeric menu item was gone.

Xubuntu Glitch

This morning I opened an open office document by clicking on it in Thunar (xfce's file manager), and the formatting was all goofed up. Weird. I started to mess around with it, but quickly realized the save as menu was different as well, and then noticed I was in Abiword, not Open Office.

For some reason, Xubuntu, which is supposed to be stripped to mostly essentials, ships with Abiword, Gnumeric, and some other useless crap. I hadn't gotten around to uninstalling these, because the clutter they were adding to my Office menu was a minor inconvenience. But now they're gone, kind of.

Removing Gnumeric didn't remove it from the office menu, so I'll have to figure out how to remove it manually, which isn't an obviously simple task in xfce.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I recently upgraded my laptop to Ubuntu 9.10, and tonight I noticed a new tool, palimpsest. In addition to being a great name (though I had to look it up), it's an interesting tool. It's now a default on Ubuntu 9.10, but not in Xubuntu 9.10. Install gnome-disk-utility to get it. Click above or here for a brief description.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Remembering SCO

In the '90s, when an assistant professor at Hood College, I was visited by representatives of SCO trying to convince me that we should be running SCO UNIX in our labs. When I mentioned Linux (we had a couple slackware servers and a number of Ultrix machines at the time) to them, they looked at each other as if encountering a tremendously naive user. They then proceeded to belittle Linux. Later while still at Hood and then in industry I had occasions to talk with SCO representatives, and they consistently dealt with Linux with belittling rather than rational argument, similar to the way Microsoft now spreads FUD when discussing open source, so consistently that I couldn't help but suspect this was how they were told to deal with Linux.

SCO was a fine product at the time, and at the heart of a number of voice servers installed by Microlog in my time with that company, but the sales reps were incapable of delineating advantages or disadvantages of SCO vs. Linux.

Now I have trouble seeing someone who went with Linux rather than SCO in the '90s as viewing that as a mistake. SCO may not be dead, but they're no longer relevant.