Further Cool Discoveries in the Land of Ubuntu 7.04

24 hours, give or take, since installing Linux for the first time. Am I a deeply embittered man, gnashing his teeth in regret, beating his chest in agony, rueing the hour of his folly? Nay. Especially not "nay" since discovering that my favorite mail client, "Thunderbird", is available from the Synaptic Package Manager. So I set that up and removed "Evolution", which is the standard mail client that Ubuntu gives you. Wonderfully, I also have "The Gimp", the world's best graphics program (one of the four! graphics programs that comes with Ubuntu). Or, at least, one I can use for screen grabs, which is all I use graphics programs for.

Next, I discovered that while the procrastination options given by Windows consist of a paltry two games, Ubuntu is much more generous, and even has a very authoritative-looking tooltip, giving one a plausible excuse for playing many different solitaire games:

That is a big and not to be underestimated win. I also like how you can use the "Add to Panel" menu item on the toolbar to add a very wide range of features to it:

By the way, yesterday, when I mentioned that I didn't think that NetBeans IDE 6 looks so good under JDK 6 and JDK 7, I was referring to this:

So, the bottom of the tabs in the explorer windows does not have a clear line. And there's a weird purple separator between items in the right-click pop-up menus.

In addition, I still don't have the double-click thing worked out under Linux. Double-clicking seems harder here than on Windows. Plus, the icons for cursors seem different. Probably both these can be fixed somewhere. One massive improvement is the Search functionality. Under Windows, I always had a really frustrating time. I haven't explored this part of Ubuntu yet, but it can only be better than under Windows.

In general, my biggest surprise is how user-friendly everything is. I had expected that I'd need an advanced degree in computer science to get anywhere with Linux, while all I have is a beginner's degree in law. That's kind of the vibe it seems to exude. Seriously, despite the apparent bareness of the Ubuntu distribution (a statement which I base on some of the comments in my blog entry from yesterday), I have everything I need already, within 24 hours of setting up Linux. I reckon the only thing Windows has going for it is that people don't really understand what an operating system is, so that they don't realize that they have real and, even, better alternatives. That's why Linux and OpenSolaris are confined to programming communities. Firstly, because non-programmers don't realize there are alternatives; secondly, because non-programmers don't see the benefits of at least trying an alternative; thirdly, because non-programmers assume that they will risk destroying their data if they try one of the alternatives. Maybe Linux could make some serious headway in the non-programming world if they'd simply say: "We provide far more games than Windows, out of the box and for free!" But then they'd better include Hearts. Without Hearts, they can't compete with Windows, even though Windows has only two games.


Any reason you didn't try Nexenta (ubuntu + opensolaris)? Ubuntu is good but then again you don't get the awesome solaris stuff.

Posted by Mark on April 29, 2007 at 10:52 PM PDT #

you can search for hearts in Synaptic. :-) I've been running Ubuntu since 5.10. Great stuff. In fact, I've tweaked it to look almost like a Windows desktop. Mostly for my wife's sanity as I almost have her converted. She was attempting to continue in a Windows 98 environment. I'd recommend for anyone who doesn't want to buy a new computer and is still running a pre-winXP windows OS, to migrate to Ubuntu.

Posted by Chris on April 29, 2007 at 11:57 PM PDT #

To get the windows behaviour of the double-click you have to change the settings of Nautilus. Open your Home directory from the Places menu and Nautilus will start showing a new window with all files in that folder. From the Edit menu choose Settings/Preferences and then the behaviour tab. Choose the option "Double-Click to activate objects". This will give you a more windows-like fealing of your desktop. Welcome to the Ubuntu community. :)

Posted by Alex on April 29, 2007 at 11:58 PM PDT #

For the UI issues, I would suggest you to use the jgoodies LnF classes instead of the default GTK LnF.
The GTK LnF is still very buggy in my opinion.

Posted by gumnaam on April 30, 2007 at 12:02 AM PDT #

I recommend install Beryl (Custom GUI) in your Ubuntu and see how powerfull is. I want to say that beryl is 200% better than Winwows Vista in GUI Appareance, it has transparent windows border, effects, animation, the desktop is a cube, many nice themes its really powerful. The best thing is that beryl no requeries much hardware to work. You can install it from Synaptic, make sure to install also Emerald. http://www.beryl-project.org/

Posted by Mario on April 30, 2007 at 12:32 AM PDT #

Here's the solution to the double-click issue. You have to set the time (in milliseconds) in ~/.Xresources: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=221642

Posted by Andrew on April 30, 2007 at 01:56 AM PDT #

You are searching for the wrong games! Install "Open Arena" and "Nexuiz" from the Add/Remove programs (activate your NVidia or ATI drivers from Restricted drivers first) and then you can forget about coding for the next few days, while you are blasting enemies away with your chain gun. :-) And don't waste your time with Beryl, it's cool but still unstable, I've had lots of issues with it. Just stick with the regular window manager for now.

Posted by Jacek on April 30, 2007 at 03:30 AM PDT #

Next step of Linux craziness: I read Geertjan's blog and installed Ubuntu... on an Intel Mac! (Using a Parallels virtual machine.) Went smooth and was easy to install -- I just don't get it to share the host machine's network connection (including proxies etc) :-( Anybody tried that before?

Posted by Seapegasus on April 30, 2007 at 03:37 AM PDT #

One of THE more frustrating things in Ubuntu is the double click (or mouse driver). Mostly in Java Application "File Open" dialogs. Where in Windows a decent double click will open a folder in Linux / Linux Java Apps (Like IntelliJ, Eclipse, DBVisualizer, SQLDeveloper, and netbeans) I invariably wind up editing the folder name instead of opening it. You have to click exactly on the folder item and at warp speed, or you are in text editing. Maddening. I have tried various setting on the mouse control panel but the nothing seems to make much difference. Admittedly this could be Java UI specific. I agree though that Ubuntu is almost as good as Windows (and better at many things). With a decent remote desktop environment I could almost go Windows free. Also, what DO you all use for firewalls? Or is Linux 'good enough'. I am behind your typical DLINK router.

Posted by Jeff G on April 30, 2007 at 12:16 PM PDT #

Thanks all for the interesting comments. Specifically:

Mark: I hadn't heard of Nexenta, and needed to try my thing specifically on Ubuntu, but now that I know about Nexenta, I will have a look at it, especially if the installation procedure is as simple as that used for Ubuntu 7.04. Please confirm this...

Chris: Cool insights. I'm also inclined to want to tweak Ubuntu until it looks like Windows... not because of Windows per se, but because Windows is what I'm used to...

Alex: I followed your advice, I think, more or less, and now I just need to do a single click to activate stuff, which is much better for clicking folders when opening them in the file explorer in Ubuntu. Thanks for the pointer.

gumnaam: I don't know how to set up new look-and-feels under Ubuntu yet. Also, I'm hesitant to install new stuff, I'd prefer to use just the stuff that Ubuntu gives me out of the box, with as few exceptions (such as Thunderbird and I needed gawk, and several similar, for something relating to documentation I was working on) as possible.

Mario: Yes, I've heard a bit about Beryl, and I might think about installing that, despite my hesitation to install new stuff.

Andrew: I'm hoping I'll never need to set settings in files, but that I'll be able to use dialog boxes instead. The former is what I feared that Linux would force me to do, the latter is what I've found to be a possible approach thus far.

Jacek: Thanks for the tip about Beryl and the suggestions for new procrastination options.

Seapegasus: Don't know the answer, hope someone else does...

Jeff G: I haven't set up a firewall yet. For your double click woes... I feel your pain and will blog about what I did (described above in my response to Alex) soon in detail in a blog entry.

Posted by Geertjan on April 30, 2007 at 05:05 PM PDT #

The only way to use linux without internet is if you compile the program yourself. And as you normally need to get the dependencies you're \*\*\*\*\*\* anyway

Posted by paulo on April 30, 2007 at 09:51 PM PDT #

to install new look and feel you will be dealing with two or three standards/or specifications (but usually authors provide it as one tar.gz file) : gtk theme set ------------------- these define the appearance of the buttons, the sliders the radio buttons, the text entry fields the drop down menus, the status bars, everything that a program needs to implement its user interface....everything except the window. gtk theme fiels are known as .rc files (or i think : resource-config files) metacity xml file ----------------------- this defines the appearance of the window, it is written in XML and it is basically like writting a HTMl page, in that you can use some CSS type syntax and you can use PNG images as well. pretty much like how winamp is skinned. btw you can choose another window manager to render your windows-frames other than metacity. why? for peformance....try out openbox for example. basic but fast. gnome-desktop-icon-theme --------------------------------------- this isnt a file type, well the icons can be SVG(scalable vector graphic) or PNG(portable network graphic), The icons are handled by the nautilus file manager which also provides the desktop icon interface. So what this specification does is define a rigid set of 'icon names' like for example, to provide an icon for the desktop object that you can see in you home folder you would create an image of any size and name it 'user-desktop.png' or 'user-desktop.svg' (i could be wrong about the actual icon name but you get my point) now these three go together to create a 'gnome theme'. To install a complete theme or a partial icon/window/control-set theme ------------------------- 1 - download the desired theme/icon/window/control-set package from gnome-look to your desktop. 2- then goto : Preferences -> Theme 3 - drag the downloaded package onto the theme control window. 4 - if it was a properly packaged theme it should be installed by now, if not it will say an error occured. in which case you will need to unpack the file and search inside for the proper package. to use it ----------------- the theme controller will first present you a list of saved theme profiles. if your theme package installed good then it should have updated the list of theme/icon/window/control-set that you can pick from when you edit a theme profile.

Posted by airtonix on April 30, 2007 at 10:06 PM PDT #


Posted by good-date on May 01, 2007 at 03:56 PM PDT #

Geertjan: Yes, the Nexenta installation is very simple. Its (for the moment) text based. Have a look at http://www.gnusolaris.org/gswiki/Getting_Started.

Posted by Mark on May 01, 2007 at 05:43 PM PDT #

I have this blog post where I setup OpenSuSE 10.2. I really like it. I like KDE. There are some insane options for KDE. I like the multi-monitor support best I think. I like being able to configure as many task bars as I like or need. I suppose I have always been a fan of KDE more so than GNOME. It is a personal preference. Now, if we could just get a good KDE Java LNF which worked well with NB: http://wadechandler.blogspot.com/2007/05/opensuse-102-fedora-core-5-kubuntu.html

Posted by Wade Chandler on June 13, 2007 at 12:46 AM PDT #

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Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


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