Thursday, December 19, 2013

XFCE4 vs E17

All I can offer is some notes on this subject.

Enlightenment 17

Enlightenment 17 is more mature, and, on Fedora, it runs pretty well.   On every distro I have tried so far, it fails the first run, but, for now, seems swell.  Not as pretty as it once was, and I am lazy to install eye-candy.  But a couple of things are nice.

On my laptop, using full speed on the i3 core dual, 2.4GHz, E17 is spiffy.  At the slowest speed of 933 MHZ, not so much.

I notice a sheen of weirdness on a blank background, always have.  Something is different about E17 at the lowest levels of graphics.

I am pleased that the CPU Frequency widget is visually / functionally awesome: it looks nice; cpu frequency is directly configurable without any extra setup.  Nice!!!  

E18 is in the pipeline, I see.


I am using Fedora, and I have Gnome, XFCE4, E17 installed, that I have seriously attemped to use.  Gnome is too slow for this machine, and it's more cumbersome and enmiring to try to set it up the way I like.  I haven't found a CPU frequency monitor that works.  Jupiter is awesome, though, as a secular client for manipulating power/frequency settings.

I use Jupiter for XFCE4, because the xfce4 cpu frequency applet does not do it's job---or I don't understand something about it.  Jupiter is great, though.

XFCE4 is quick and light, and easy to use.  It's very simple to get nice effects, the panels are easy to set up.  Panels are what does it for me.  Unity drove me away from Gnome, and while I have been able to get somewhat used to Unity, XFCE4 has it all working the way I like, with little intervention.   KDE has more and fancier looking features that seem nice, but I cannot get through more than one or two sessions with KDE before turning away---usually for XFCE.

I have to install the orage clock to get a calendar that opens when clicking the clock.  

OpenBox, too is light, quick, and simple

I have almost gone over to OpenBox a couple of times.  With the cairo dock, it is useable, and quick.  



I would like to have more control over the window decorations of XFCE or E17, but they work ok.  I like the big red "X" button that apparently came from the darkness of Redmond.  I need the active window title bar to change color.

The frame in KDE4 that acts as a "desktop" to display a picture or a few icons would be welcome anywhere, on any window manager (or whatever you call them).

Why does every one of these desktop managers have to design their own File manager, and use some off the wall browser, etc.

Why is emacs not installed by default on most GNU/Linux distros?

What do you call the excellent file chooser in Dolphin and other KDE apps that scrolls the list across instead of down in one long list.  With this horizontal scrolling, I can read even the last file in a long list MUCH more quickly than the Nautilus-style (or whatever that is called).  Is there a way to compile in this kind of feature into other software of my own liking?   

My Defaults: My ways of doing stuff

  • File manager :: Dolphin (see above)
  • Editor :: Emacs is the first program I install anywhere.  
  • Music player :: Clementine works well; I'll try using VLC
  • Video player :: VLC is the best video player
  • Terminal  :: Terminator is good, but there are some wraparound issues when using nice prompts.
  • Top is great.  The very first time I started up a GNU/Linux system---slackware, I think---a terminal opened.  I  thought, what should I type?  FOr some odd reason, I typed "top" and magically, all running processes were shown in a cool format.  I still haven't learned all the byways and highways of using Top.  It has to be my totem though.  I will rename my blog after Top, maybe.
  • Independent panel :: The pomological lookalike "Cairo Dock is awesome"
  • Personal Magnet  :: Orgmode over emacs is amazing.  Outliner. miscellaneous agenda, capturing notes on the fly in various categories (I used to use Steno.el, on Emacs).
  • Email :: I just use emacs to write email when I think of it.  Love it.  Gmail on the browser isn't quite there, due to limitations of keybindings.  
  • Addressbook :: BBDB is great, over emacs.   I use a custom file to save the database, on a git-controlled work area that is replicatable from home directory to home directory, for my different experimental users.  Emacs mail picks up and completes addresses in this database.
  • PDF Viewer :: Okular (KDE) prints nicely.  Works find with editable PDFs.  Allows saving notes/annotations.
  • Photo Management :: Shotwell (uploads well) and Digikam (other stuff).  Neither of them is perfect. 
  • Photo Viewer :: gthumbs is the best for printing photos, from my experience.
  • Scanning :: gscan2pdf is good in most cases for generating a pdf directly.  In the "old days," tesseract made for good conversions from a scanned image to text.   Anymore, this program seems to prefer to just convert to text to underlay under a pdf page to enable searchable pdf files.  That's not my work flow.   "simplescan" works ok, not as configurable; fast to use.   Xsane is a great all around scanning tool
  • OCR  :: Tesseract works well, and used to do so with gscan2pdf.
  • Web Browsers: Firefox is the old workhorse; Chrome is great also; Dillo is the lightning fast browser good as a document reader (for XEphem, for example).
  • XEphem is a great ephemeris
  • Xtide works great
  • Plotting :: Gri is the best, nice when used with Emacs Gri-mode. Gnuplot is often useful.  There seem to be many new plotting graphing programs in recent years.
  • Underexploited toys: R
  • TeX :: TeXLive.  Fedora is up to date, as is Archlinux.  Ubuntu lagged behind.
  • LaTeX authoring ::  Auctex on Emacs 24.  For correspondence and a plethora of other documents. 
  • Processing text into a pdf file :: Org-mode and LaTeX
  • References :: cb2Bib; Emacs bibtex-mode; other little utilities.  Not to mention Google Scholar
  • Mixer :: Pulse audio has a good mixer.   Alsamixergui (sometimes under other names).
  • Audio :: Don't ask me.  I go with the flow. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fedora for now

Emacs "support" in various distros

How a GNU/Linux distribution handles Emacs is the most important criterion, from my perspective.  This has not always been the case, because ALL GNU/Linux distributions have historically handled Emacs ok.  Some distros stand out, each for its own reasons.  Often I have complied from scratch, especially for Ubuntu, when that was an important distro for me; I liked the "snapshots".  Gentoo worked well, though I cannot remember what I particularly liked about they way it handled Emacs; it did have multiple versions.  Arch Linux has the most up-to-date version all the time.

For a number of months, I have experienced odd crashes in Emacs, and I cannot say why.  In the end, I switched distros.  Sometimes, switching Desktops seemed to make a difference.  The issue was random crashes, with no easily discernable (by me) cause (like a particular keystroke, or mouse gesture.)

In the past year, I have installed Debian, several Ubuntus and Mints, Manjaro, Mageia, Bodhi, Slackware, Korora, Elive...

In the past month I have installed several distros, and tried them in earnest, including  two distros I have not used before, at least much: Fedora (which I had installed and been put off by); and openSUSE (toward which I nurtured a great aversion, as SUSE seemed soft on Micro$oft.)   I have been using ArchLinux for pretty much everything, except a few flirtations with other distros; I've been pretty happy with it.

Many of these excursions have focused on trying to find the best Emacs distro, and more and more, of late, this has been driven by a certain seeming incompatibility with the GUI.  Emacs would crash, as described above.  I needed to find a distro that supported Emacs absolutely well.

Who knows, maybe there is something wrong with my HP g6 Pavilion laptop?  But I have persisted in jumping from distro to distro, looking for the best platform.  I posted on an Emacs mailing list, and got a range of answers.  I have never gotten even close to an understanding of what the problem has been, perhaps because I am not much good at troubleshooting at that level.

Google Earth Compatibility issues on GNU/Linux

Recently, I had been contemplating a move to South Dakota.  I needed to do research.  Google Earth is the authoritative such software, and I've been having problems with Googlearth on most all distros I have tried.  I installed Korora, because it comes with GoogleEarth bundles in the install image.  But something about Korara didn't set right with me, I"m uncertain what.

The bottom line here: I recently posted how much I like Sabayon, because it was the first distro (outside of Korora) that has run GoogleEarth almost flawlessly; yet I am now using Fedora, because of an issue with Emacs. Since I am able to run GoogleEarth, after following instructions to edit the RPM somehow, and Emacs is running well, I am staying with Fedora for now.

I am certain I will not be running Fedora in a year, but this might not be the case.  It seems pretty solid.  I am learning to administer the system ok (yum and rpm).

Why?  While Fedora is far from perfect, it gives me longlasting peace with both GE and Emacs.   (if you consider a few days "long lasting" far, so good)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sabayon Linux: Awesome [MOSTLY: (REVISED)]

[Sabayon has since been abandoned, after a bad experience with EmacsEmacs choked on a file I have to be able to edit, apparently due to an issue of text  coding.  This only became apparent when I booted Fedora 20 to attempt to edit the same file---and a message appeared about the three characters involved.  Since then I have not had this problem.  I have also been able to configure GoogleEarth 7 to run almost 100% reliably on Fedora.  (By hook or by crook.)---December 11, AED]

I woke up on a recent morning with the revelation about my linux distro-hopping: Gentoo has been the best ever since I first tried it---except for a few points.  For one, the constant updating / upgrading cycle.  My laptop---an HP Pavilion g6, 2.4 GHz faux quad core Intel i3, with Intel graphics and a depressing keyboard---has been a pretty much faithful companion for 2-1/2 years.  If not a jackrabbit, it's speed is manageable if I don't try to bog it down with Gnome.  KDE is even almost tolerable.

I've been running Arch Linux,. which I like quite a lot, installed from Antergos.  Like the perfect seasoning, Antergos stays out of the way of the most important flavors---it is an amazing way to install Archlinux, which has been difficult, at least for me.  This may not be so much the case anymore.   Antergos is the (forgive the metaphor) the Knoppix of the Archlinux world.

However, my Archlinux laptop is not able to run Googleearth reliably.  I like Google Earth alot, and I want and need it now, as I explore a possible move to another part of the country.   Therefore, I have spent massive amounts of energy and time distro-hopping.  Every distro I have tried has had some deficiency that caused me to walk away, even if it ran Google Earch ok (Korara ran it fine, for example.  I don't know why I quit Korara).   I kept running back to Archlinux, perfect for me in many respects.

What drove to toward Archlinux is it's roots in Gentoo.

What drove me away from Gentoo was the long compile times of packages.  Probably if I were not installing a dozen desktops, and programs from every desktop manager library (gnome, qt, e17, etc.) I would not have so many recompiles at every update.  Recently Gentoo has been, in one respect, a shadow of its former self: the documentation was the pinnacle of GNU/Linux documentation of a time, about 5-6 years ago.  I am not the only one with this opinion.  Recently Gentoo Linux has suffered from political aspirations of some, as Danial Robbins, who made Gentoo at the beginning, and was the genius that kept it running well, ran away to M$, for unknown reasons.  He's back, with Funtoo, which is pretty stable, and I recently enjoyed running that setup.   But, once again, the long compile times on my measly system, and---as stable as Funtoo was---eventually my tendency to mix libraries seems to have gotten the best of me.  It starts with long compiles of libkde and qt, almost everytime.  And, let's face it, I am not the hacker that many users of Gentoo are, and while I can solve problems by a brute force reasoned approach, I have to cut and paste and google to keep things running.

My Revelation: Wasn't Sabayon a binary version of Gentoo?   Maybe I could run Sabayon Linux, and avoid the long compile times.  And get the goodness at the same time.  Maybe the fine points of Gentoo weren't for me, but it was always the most stable.  Absolutely.  Incontrovertably.  The best.

So, guess what!?  I downloaded the most recent Sabayon 64 bit DVD image, copied it by using dd to my Flash Drive, and booted it.  People talk about the beauty of Sabayon, and it's tru, it's really pretty.  But I am running the XFCE4 desktop, to keep the speed and mass to acceptable levels.

And Googleearth runs fine.  It's included in the repo.  As I type, I am copying over my important files from the home directory of my Arch/Antergos system.  Another positive about using a separate /home partition.  Mine is now almost 200GB, and has home directories for a dozen or 15 different installs.  I think I could use the same /home directory for all the different installs, but back in the early days of Ubuntu, when Goliath walked the Earth oblivious of the damage, I had lost large partitions and home directories due to Ubuntu's sloppy installation mechanism.  To be brief, at times when I tried to use the same user name on a second Ubuntu install, the data of the user, from the previous install, disappeared.

Anymore, that problem hasn't bothered me, because I use a different user name each time I install a new GNU/Linux setup, on the same, somewhat generous, /home partition.  Then, when I am "Joe" on my new system, I set my UserID number as 1010, so I have automatic access to all the home directories I have used this UID on.  Including my old /home/hawkeye directory.  It is short work to either cp or mv files to my new directory, or back again.

While I am at it, I should mention my ~/WORKBENCH subdirectory.  Almost all of my work, ongoing whatever, important files, is located in this directory.  I use git to clone copies of this directory to a flash drive.  If these are up to date, I don't even have to copy this directory to my new /home/Joe/WORKBENCH: I just use git and clone it from the flash drive.  Having the Same Group and User ID of 1010 makes it easy, from the standpoint of git.   It's time to weed out this directory, however, as it's gotten too big to clone.

Things seem to be moving in a good direction. Sabayon is stable enough that the googleearth 7 version from the repo works well (well, except panoramio images don't display, but this is a long standing problem for other distros as well); emacs is up to date and easy to install.

The huge collection of almost all available Free Software applications I need is a huge advantage for me. Most distros pick and choose.  Archlinux is missing some utilities I need.  Fedora likewise.  openSUSE is crazy, and not to my taste---not to mention I have been avoiding it since the Microsoft leaning tendencies of SUSE came to light a few years ago.   Hardly any distros seem to have cb2bib---Sabayon does.

Why don't most mainstream distros ship with Emacs installed?

Just asking.

4 December 2013
Oakland, CA



What was it said "everything has something"?   After a couple of days, I got stuck on Sabayon, and cleaned up the install of Fedora 20, catching it up (I think) with the Beta edition recently released.  I am not a Fedora guy, up to now.  One of the Parents at WIlliam's school has had good success with it.  I'll try it.  (I am also preparing to try gNewSense in the near future).

So here was the problem I couldn't fiture out how to recover from, and a few further notes about the experience with Sabayon.

After a few hours, I had already added various libraries and software, and made some tweaks.  By this time, I had some erratic behavior from GoogleEarth.   Once it is running, it seems to be solid.  But in about 3 out of 10 starts, it fails.   That's no biggie.  The next one *is*.

Emacs.  I started editing my tide graph programs.  Emacs choked on these files.  This has NEVER happened, and I edit these several times a week.  I think I finally have a clue, but I tried a lot of things:

  1. Reinstalled Sabayon.  No change.
  2. Reinstalled emacs twice.  No change.
  3. I tried to edit other files, no problem.  
Then, I tried Fedora.  It's a pretty smooth piece of work.  No problem, with the files in question.  But the file in question elicited a response from emacs in Fedora that was not in evidence in Sabayon: emacs posted a warning of sorts about three different characters in the file that were not recognized.

Now I'm not a font guru.  I do not get it about encoding, but can follow instructions.  I think this is a matter of a character being out of character.  I will check another time,  so maybe Sabayon can be saved.

I also did have to compile a couple of programs by hand.  That's no unusual, but more of them: xtide and gri in particular.   This seems to be evidence of an understandable lack of comprehensive coverage of software by a smaller team.

I also have a sneaky feeling that there is more handwork required in Sabayon, which is ok, if I have time.  

Linux Adventure: Manjaro, i3, and Ranger with notes on Arch linux

I have started running the i3 window manager on my Linux boxes.  I have installed Manjaro on both.  One of them is running Manjaro's i3 ...