How to change the boot splash in Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE)

This is more of a note to myself than anything else, but as always such things can come in handy for anyone trying to figure something out.

With the last Update Pack for LMDE I managed to screw something up and the boot splash (the slick little Linux Mint logo that displays on boot) stopped displaying on boot.

This isn’t a big deal… it’s not like it affects the functionality of the machine. But it was an annoyance, particularly since it was a visible indicator of how I screwed something up, every single time I powered on this laptop. :)

Nothing I did seemed to make any difference — GRUB looked fine, everything was set correctly, but something had obviously broken in the update process.

Here is how I fixed it. I installed the Plymouth boot splash application, the Plymouth Direct Rendering Manager (Plymouth DRM) and the Mint theme pack for it. Then I used the command to set the theme I wanted and updated the initramfs, like so:

sudo apt-get install startupmanager plymouth plymouth-drm plymouth-themes-mint

sudo /usr/sbin/plymouth-set-default-theme mint-logo

sudo update-initramfs -u

Then, after a quick reboot, the Linux Mint boot splash appears!

Pianobar: Command line Pandora client HOWTO

In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself installing and configuring Pianobar a lot. It’s an open source command line client for the popular Internet music streaming service, Pandora. In rebuilding a couple of machines recently, I have found myself installing and configuring it a few times, and I keep stumbling over it, because it’s broken in the Ubuntu and Debian repositories, so in order to get this really great application to work, it takes a few more steps than a quick apt-get install command.

This little writeup is at least in part for my own benefit, since I’m sick of the stumbling and trying to remember, wait, what did I do to get this to work again? So if it helps any of my readers out, even better!

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How to downgrade Firefox to the last sane version (3.6)

So I keep ranting about Firefox here, and for good reason: the Mozilla team is going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to driving users to other browsers.

However, try as I might, I simply encounter too many dealbreakers in Chromium.

When I think about it, the last version of Firefox that didn’t drive me crazy with crashing, incompatible add-ons, and stupid UI changes and features removed, it would have to be Firefox 3.6.

I keep forgetting how to do this, so I’m posting this here as much for my own reference as for anyone else’s. This is how to downgrade newer versions of Firefox to 3.6 and keep it that way, at least until things settle down a little, or until another browser comes along that can actually be a viable replacement for it — unlike newer versions of Firefox, sadly. This works with Mint 11, which means it will also work with Ubuntu 11.04.

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My Firefox 4 setup process

For the last year and some change, I’ve gone from using Opera as my primary browser to using Mozilla Firefox. I have a variety of reasons for this switch, and it was a somewhat gradual one, but as I detailed in a recent post, despite it being my browser of choice, I still feel that it has a lot of shortcomings, and as such, it needs a lot of tweaking out-of-the-box before I find it usable.

So this is a writeup of the things I do to Firefox — in this particular case Firefox 4 — immediately after I install it. It used to be a much shorter list, but these days it’s getting more and more involved, so this writeup is as much for my own purposes, as a checklist of sorts, as it is to share my thoughts with others on how to tweak Firefox 4.

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How to make Peppermint OS even faster with Openbox

A few weeks ago I posted a very early review of the new web-friendly Peppermint OS. In that review, I lauded the Peppermint team for achieving what I think might be the fastest graphical Linux distro I’ve ever tried, on any hardware.

The only things that get in my way of enjoying Peppermint are, unfortunately, the limitations imposed by the still-under-heavy-development LXDE desktop environment, which, while I’m still pretty excited about it, provides a few stumbling blocks to someone like me who likes to have more control over his user interfaces.

Well, for those of you out there who agree, I thought I’d do a quick writeup on getting the most out of Peppermint OS without having to resort to installing another desktop or window manager. Instead, we can make do with something that’s already integrated into Peppermint: the Openbox window manager!

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Anatomy of a .desktop File

One of the beautiful things about Linux is that developers tend to be conscientious about the use of technical standards. Freedesktop.org maintains a wide series of standards for X Window System desktops, which apply to Gnome, KDE, LXDE and XFCE (I’m not sure whether Fluxbox implements these standards.) The standard for “desktop entries” is still technically a draft, but is generally accepted by the larger X community.

The .desktop file fills two primary functions: first, it informs the desktop environment how the file is to be handled by the desktop environment with regard to menu placement, display, environmental variables, and similar. In this function, it resides globally in /usr/share/applications/ and for specific users in $HOME/.local/applications. The second function is the direct shortcut on the desktop itself. In this function, it resides in $HOME/Desktop. The same file fills both functions, so if you want to have an application both in the menu and on your desktop, you’ll need to put the .desktop file in two places. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
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Up Close and Personal with LXDE

Regular visitors to this site will know that Fluxbox is Trent’s and Patrick’s preferred window manager. I, too, am impressed with its speed and customizability, and its low overhead. Fluxbox’s biggest drawbacks are that customization is somewhat less intuitive and significantly more labor-intensive than the full-featured environments’, and that the interface as a whole is foreign and unintuitive to those whose only other computer experience has been Windows.
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