As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I posted about my efforts to revive aging laptop hardware. While there is still a bit of work to be done, the bulk of the project is complete, and the rest is simply detail work and optimization for our particular work environment.
Upon reading responses to my previous post, I decided to put some of the community’s suggestions to the test and examine some of the other options out there. Of the suggestions given, I primarily focused my attention on Debian (Lenny), Damn Small Linux and the wattOS beta. All the distros had relative advantages and disadvantages, and this provided me with an opportunity to look at some distros I otherwise might not have.
At my office, we have a pair of old laptops purchased back in 2003 or 2004, which are terribly slow, woefully underpowered and horribly outdated, but which we still use periodically. In other words, they made a perfect target for an OS makeover.
Anyone who has run Windows XP on a P4 with 256MB of RAM should be able to appreciate just how sluggish these machines are. So with my boss’s blessing, I gathered the two machines and tried to breathe some new life into them.
I know I have several times added it to my “Mental List Of Apps To Try”, but somewhere along the way I forgot about it. Last weekend Jered was over at my house for dinner and he brought it up again, and this time I installed it.
To make a long story short: I should have been playing with Synergy a long time ago!
For those who like to read a little bit more than that, continue, because I have a writeup.
Continuing with my attempt to document the problems I’ve run into running Fluxbox on top of Ubuntu 9.04 and their solutions, I figured I’d present two more things I’ve encountered and resolved since the other day’s rather annoying touchpad fiasco.
These two were both relatively little things, but they’re the kind of things that tend to drive me nuts. The first was a problem with the screen automatically locking (using Xscreensaver‘s built-in lock function — even though I had all such functions disabled), and the second was an issue with sound being muted and the master volume being set to 0% every single time I rebooted — necessitating my manually unmuting it and raising the volume if I wanted sound every day.
As I had mentioned in yesterday’s post about configuring Fluxbox on Ubuntu 9.04 on my old Toshiba laptop, I had one nagging issue I couldn’t figure out, namely the rather simple fact that the touchpad wouldn’t stay disabled.
I know this isn’t a big deal for most people, but for me it’s a rather vexing one, and it bothered me that I had to manually do so every single time I logged in.
So this afternoon I took a deep breath, did some more Google searching on the subject, and arrived at an overly-complex (but doable) solution.
I’m running into some weirdness with that even, however, which may color my opinion of Ubuntu as a result… things that I’m not accustomed to fighting with when using Fluxbox.
In the wars between GNOME and KDE (which now has even split between the two factions warring over KDE4 and KDE3.5), some of the other environments get lost in the shuffle and are often forgotten about.
One which I think is underappreciated is Fluxbox. Based on the original Blackbox 0.61.1 code, Fluxbox is a blindingly fast, simplistic approach to providing a graphical user environment while staying out of one’s way. Easy to use, easy on resources, and easy on the eyes, Fluxbox is an elegant choice that is often overlooked when the options are weighed between other graphical environments on Linux machines.
I started using Fluxbox when I was on some extremely quarrelsome hardware and needed something with a lot less going on than GNOME or KDE so that I could more effectively troubleshoot it. What I found out was that Fluxbox had an extremely tweakable interface… and I like things I can tweak and customize. I also discovered that it ran extremely fast on the limited hardware I had at the time, something else that KDE and GNOME didn’t have.
Intrigued, I stuck with it for a while and over time I learned a few good hacks that I thought I would share with the three or four readers I’ve acquired here.
Just another quick blurb. I’ve uploaded a screenshot of my laptop as it appears now that I’ve tweaked my Ubuntu installation to the way I like it.
I’m more of a KDE 3.5 kind of guy, so I rearrange GNOME to have the main stuff (panels/toolbars whathaveyou) a bit more like I’m used to, but I still like the way this looks so far.
I’m still learning where things are in Ubuntu (well, GNOME, mostly, since that’s the main thing that’s different for me here), but one thing that has struck me is how impressive the speed is. Remember, before this, I was running Slackware 12.0 on this exact same laptop, and I was using Fluxbox as my window manager — not exactly a visually heavy system.
So for me to say that Ubuntu runs pretty snappy on this laptop is saying a lot, and I’m not much of a fan of the bloat in GNOME, so I think that’s significant.
To be fair, I think what this says is how well the Canonical people have their act together at optimizing GNOME for their project. Nice job, guys. Coming from a Slackware guy, I’m here saying that I’m not only impressed with the setup process, but I’m impressed with the performance so far too.
Just a really quick blurb on my experience with the latest version of Ubuntu last night.
I managed to, over time, break Slackware on my old Toshiba laptop, and since it needed a reload and I just burned an Ubuntu 9.04 disc the other night, I figured I’d install it on my laptop last night.
I’ll write more regarding this process, but I have to say, while I’m much more of a Slackware guy, the installation went really well, and even though the default interface for Ubuntu is GNOME (which I have never liked much), the folks at Canonical have put together a nice package.
I’ll be giving this a try for a little while to see how it goes, but so far, so good.