Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why I'm Not Using Cinnamon

I was using Cinnamon on my desktops, and went back to Gnome classic no effects. This with Linux Mint 12.

I installed Linux Mint 13 RC on my laptop, and switched to Mate.

Mate works fine on my laptop. Mate keyboard shortcuts for volume up/down and play/pause do not work on my desktops.

So, why is switching to Cinnamon a bad idea, IMHO?
  • Cinnamon has no no grouping of menu items on the panel.
  • Bumping a window being dragged against the top panel causes it to maximize--a most annoying bug.
  • Nautilus 3.2.1 under Cinnamon shows selected files as pink with no text, or perhaps pink text on a pink background. Sometimes I like to be able to see the name of and related info for a selected file. Really. This is with the list view, which is my preferred default.
  • Under Cinnamon, ImageMagick's pan icon is missing window controls (e.g., close) which should be in the upper right.
  • [ Added 2012-06-02: Cinnamon removes the ability to move the save file dialog within a web browser. ]
I do like the hot corner, but it doesn't outweigh just the lack of grouping of menu items let alone the other problems I'm seeing with Cinnamon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Linux Mint 13 and Mate on Old, Modest Hardware

I have a Dell Inspiron 630m bought around December 2005 with 2 MB RAM and a single 1.73 GHz CPU core. Ubuntu dropped support for 10.04 "LTS," so it was time to find a replacement. Linux Mint was a no-brainer, and going with Linux Mint 13, Maya, allows me to play around with the new release. For the UI, I started with Cinnamon, but decided to also see if maybe Mate is ready to use--the answer on that is yes, which I'll discuss soon.

My main question was performance, and I see no difference on that account between Mint and Ubuntu 10.04. And it works. Thumbs up to Linux Mint 13 with Mate 1.2.0.

Gmail Labs' "Send and Archive" vs. "Undo Send"

I've long found Gmail's Undo Send feature to be very useful. I often send without fully proofreading, and this gives me a chance to retract and correct a message before it really goes out. Nice.

Send and Archive is also a nice feature. When replying to an e-mail, rather than separately sending and archiving, one can send and archive with a single click.

The rub, however, is that send and archive doesn't have an undo control, and so now if I fail to proof a message, tough, it is gone. Ultimately, one has to decide which feature is more important, and I'd rather appear literate than save myself a click now and then (well, several times per day).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Google Drive Non-Op

Earlier this morning uploads of files (.tgz.cpt typically) to Google Drive from my home system failed consistently, for both my UMBC and my personal accounts. Now that I'm on campus, things seem to be working again, and I was able to mail all 19MB to myself via Gmail, so it was a survivable situation, but I need to check out dropbox.

I'm concerned the Drive might work more reliably with a client on my machine, which is not going to happen:

  1. Google as of recently had no Drive client for Linux, and
  2. I already installed Picasa on my machine once, and it immediately ransacked my hard drive, even before I was able to tell it where my pictures were. I suspect it was just looking for image files, but, not having a week to read the privacy policy, I killed it and uninstalled it right away. I wanted a program to ease uploads to Picasa and management of albums on Picasa, and clearly the Google client was much more than that. How can I trust a Drive client on my machine?
Time to checkout dropbox. Thumb drives and e-mailing oneself big attachments are fine, but I need a solid backup or replacement for Google Drive.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ubuntu LTS

Ubuntu has, as expected, dropped support for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. Thinking that 2 years is too short for something called "long-term support," I visited to see what the deal was. First, they erroneously claim the 10.04 Desktop will be supported through 2013. Sorry, my laptop says it's no longer supported, and when I do an apt-get update/upgrade it very clearly tells me I am no longer receiving security updates.

They also say they are going from 3 (they clearly mean 2) years to 5 for LTS, which is a good move, but came too late to avoid my blowing away yet another Ubuntu system for Linux Mint.

Added a dozen hours later, after reading some fine print regarding the Linux Mint 13 RC at, I thought I would point out yet another thing the Mint team is doing more intelligently than we've become accustomed to from the Ubuntu folks: Linux Mint 13 is also an LTS (Long Term Support) release and it will be supported until April 2017.

Fours years is good. Especially as compared to two.

Starting out in Cinnamon (w/Linux Mint 12)

[ Note added 2012-05-31: I no longer use Cinnamon. Here's why: ]

I've been using Linux Mint 12 for awhile, and 11 briefly before that, ever since I got fed up with Gnome's decision that the user interface is unimportant.

Thursday a grad student asked me if I'd tried Cinnamon, which apparently he has liked on a few different platforms. This left me with a choice: work on the finals I would be delivering, or mess with Cinnamon. I chose Cinnamon, though I now must admit that my IS 247 exam suffered from insufficient proofreading.

I like Cinnamon, and recommended it to a friend, who didn't see much difference between it and what he had been running (probably Gnome Classic or Mate) on a Mint system.  I responded with a summary of my experiences with Cinnamon to date:

First, switching to Cinnamon on my recommendation should be worth some placebo effect. If not:

The panels are configurable, and it's okay to have just one.

TFM: the wrench & screwdriver  in the main menu leads to a different place from System Tools|System Settings wrench & screwdriver. If you select Menu|Wrench & Screwdriver, one of the options is Hot Corner. Make it visible, place it in a corner not otherwise critically used (it's translucent) and play with it.

I was using Gnome Classic with no effects, because with effects keyboard shortcuts didn't work. With Mate my volume controls (alt-up, alt-down) didn't work. This does everything Mate does without breaking keyboard shortcuts (big deal) and also allowing effects (not a big deal).

I really like Hot Corner.

Cinnamon has more themes than Gnome Classic, but still not one I really like. A little googling, though, led me to a page on creating themes, and it does look simple, except I'll be editing CSS and am unclear regarding what some of the tags are. I'll either find docs or experiment.

What I really want are larger fonts in the panel and top bars on windows that change colors noticeably between selected and not selected.

There is one clear-cut bug that I've seen: Under Cinnamon, Gnome Terminal 3.0.1 doesn't consistently switch its cursor to solid block (from outline) when the window has focus. A minor aggravation.

I have an old (ca. 12/2005) Dell laptop running Ubuntu 10.4 LTS. Ubuntu's LTS is rather short, and has expired, so I think I'll blow that away in favor of the Mint13 RC, Cinnamon, and Mate. If Mate is less buggy in the Mint 13 environment than Mint 12 (they use the word mature to describe it, but I have yet to see evidence of that) it might be a good choice. Anyhow, the new Mint 13, Cinnamon, and Mate on modest hardware seems worth learning about.

XKCD & Klout [sic]

Yesterday's XKCD takes an anti-Klout stand: I wasn't sure how seriously to take this, whether it was free advertising for Klout, or even what Klout was, other than a misspelling.

So I visited the site. Klout is amazingly stupid. The effect the XKCD piece had on me was to add various Klout-related URLs to the /etc/hosts files on various of my PCs [ mapping them to ].

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Declining a Privacy Policy

I think this will have no effect, but I just declined a privacy policy.

My employer recently changed prescription drug benefit plans. The new cards have decals explaining that we should visit a web page to activate online benefits. There is no explanation of online benefits, why I would want them, etc., unless it was in the paper which I shredded and recycled.

So I went to the web site,, which right off the bat earned two raspberries:
  1. The site doesn't allow "special characters" in the password. Is there any conceivable justification for that, other than to lower password entropy, making passwords easier to crack?
  2. There was no explanation on the page that they were restricting the character set of the password, thus forcing me to go back and try again.
There were two separate privacy policies, each of which went on for pages and pages. And pages. It was clear that one thing they intend to do is to share my personal information for marketing purposes. There was a brief statement suggesting I could amend the agreement, but no information about how. After a couple minutes, it became clear that they did not have my best interests in mind both by the length and complication of the privacy policy and the fact that they want to make money from anything they learn about me.

So I declined the privacy policy. That took me to a page explaining that I had declined--I knew that--and giving me a choice of going back or logging out. I logged out. It would have been nice if they had allowed me a text area to explain why I had declined the onerous privacy policy, but alas, no. I guess they decided against having an extra customer service placebo.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chrome Cookie Management: Could be Better

I went into my Chrome settings this morning to delete unwanted cookies. Clearly I had waited too long, and should have simply deleted them all and then dealt with the consequences later. Instead, I went through many, many cookies individually and deleted the vast majority of them. Some thoughts:
  1. It would be nice to have a select-all control with the ability to then go through and uncheck a few.
  2. Why is the server address limited to such a narrow field? Even when I maximized the window, the server address field stayed narrow, and there was no adjustment gadget to make it wider. Thus many of the server names were not fully-visible.
  3. From now on I do more of my browsing in an in cognito window, or in Opera. I use Opera for various news-related sites and blogs that I visit daily, and my Opera settings are to delete all cookies on exit.

Unplug Your Charger

An article at RecycleBank suggests that we unplug our chargers when not in use.

Think of it this way:
  • Your portable device uses energy. Since recharging batteries is not 100% efficient (among other things, heat is a byproduct), it takes a bit more power than an otherwise equivalent non-battery-powered device does.
  • That charger may give off perceptible heat even when nothing is plugged into it. In the summer, this may represent a double-use of electricity, once to generate the heat, and once to remove it via air conditioning.
My NiMH chargers are on strips that are usually turned off. The little charger that Amazon sent with my Kindle (A00810-01) stays warm when plugged in even with no device plugged into it, so it clearly uses power when not in use. thus I keep that unplugged except when needed.

As an aside, I like the little Kindle charger as a generally-useful tool:
  • Its output is 4.9V at 850mA. My USB Sanyo NiMH charger NC-MDU01 specs say it draws 500mA at 5V. I can charge NiMH with this plugged into the Kindle charger.
  • It's 100-240V 50-60 Hz which makes it suitable for international travel.
On a related note, I have a Nomad7 solar charger that is sufficient for keeping my cell phone and my Kindle keyboard charged, sort of. The problem is that I'm in the habit of sending NYT articles to the Kindle, and am not too conscientious about keeping the Kindle's wireless turned off, which runs down the battery much more quickly. So I often end up using the plug-in charger for the Kindle.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This is a good site, entirely (so far as I've seen so far) based upon interactive videos. It walks the user through dealing with a person who has suffered sudden cardiac arrest in a mall, and at various points allows the user to make decisions. One of the choices was "freak out," which gave calming advice intended to get the user through the process. Recommended.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NTP in Linux Mint 12

It appears my Mint system is using NTP, but the reason I'm even thinking of this is that my system clock seems to be drifting.

The Mint User's Guide (still Mint 11 at the main site) has no mention of NTP, nor of "Network Time," the vague label used in the Date and Time settings. Dumbing down the interface by labeling what I suspect is NTP as "Network Time" is not helpful, especially if it's not documented. Someone who understands networking is left wondering if this is NTP. Someone who doesn't understand networking will have no clue what the "Network Time" switch is for:

Now I have to dig into the configuration files if it turns out I care enough.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Packers Decide to Develop Wetland; Bass Pro Shops says No; Cabela's Says Drain that Stinking Wetland

I took a moment to thank Bass Pro Shops through a form at their web site, and will make a point of not visiting Cabela's the next time I'm in the Wheeling, WV or Green Bay areas. Furthermore, I will be doing my Father's Day shopping at Bass Pro Shops.

So now we know Cabela's is an outdoor store hostile to the outdoors.

Bass Pro Shops says no: "...talks with an initial candidate for the development - Bass Pro Shops - collapsed after the retailer said it wouldn't be involved in a project that resulted in the destruction of a wetland."

Cabela's says drain, drain, drain.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gaming Amazon Gaming Me

Amazon and I are gaming each other. Several days ago I got interested in a video, checked Amazon, and decided to add it to my cart. My total was under $25 (the free-shipping minimum), so I went away until there was something else to add to the cart.

Then I decided I need more NiMH AAs, and so added them to my cart. The total went over $25, so it would have been time to order, except the video price had gone up slightly to top $10. I have a rule that I will not pay $10 for a video; less than that, maybe. So I moved the video into the save for later category and wandered away without placing the order.

The next day, not surprisingly, the video price had dropped back to $9.99, so I moved it back into my cart, and placed the order. The danger here is that Amazon may pin my behavior down too precisely and boost the price of any DVD I place in my cart up to $9.99 if I don't place the order that day.

With Apologies to Pink Floyd

There is no pain.
The semester is receding,
a distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
Students only come in waves;
their lips move but I can't hear what they say.
I can't explain; this is not how I am.
I have become really sleepy.

Maybe I have to work on that last line.

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