Tweaking Ubuntu 10.04

July 21st, 2010 by donnek Leave a reply »

When I came back from Gregynog, the motherboard on my main PC decided to bite the dust (and to be fair, there was quite a lot of it in the case). So, cue one week of building, installing, transferring data, and (not least) tweaking things so that they are the way they should be. I got a bundle from Overclockers, choosing an Intel processor for the first time in a decade. Not sure if that was a good idea, since it doesn’t seem to play well with the nVidia proprietary drivers. So it may be a while before I can get my wobbly windows back ….

I usually install the stock Ubuntu, and then upgrade to Kubuntu via Synaptic. GNOME is getting better, though it seems to have gone on a bit of a Mac OS X trip lately. KDE 4.4 is just about useable now – it’s got about 90% of what KDE 3 had. There are some weird things about it, though. For instance, in the 4.4.5 version of KMail, it seems you have to put together your own recipe for quoting emails you’re replying to. Maybe it was always like that, and the people at openSUSE put in a sensible default so I never noticed it before, but it’s a strange thing to have to start experimenting with the format of your email replies. Then of course I need to install all the stuff I like, including TexLive and R, which are both big-budget downloads. Unfortunately, the Kile install pulls in over 250Mb of documentation, including the docs for LilyPond! I just can’t get to like the new Amarok, with that big slab in the middle – it just seems to use space badly. (Indeed, that’s something I think applies to all of KDE 4 – everything seems to be surrounded by fat widgets, instead of being a bit less in-your-face.) So I’m pleased to say that there is a fork of the old Amarok – Clementine – which works really well. There are a couple of things that aren’t in it yet (like the popup when you mouse over the tray icon, telling you which track is playing), but it’s light and neat – really much better than the current Amarok..

Talking of sound, PulseAudio may be a great idea, but I have never got any sound on my cards until I rip it out as follows:
sudo apt-get purge pulseaudio gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get install alsa-base alsa-tools alsa-tools-gui alsa-utils   alsa-oss linux-sound-base
gstreamer-properties # to set the default to ALSA

With ALSA, everything works fine. Unfortunately, GNOME apps seem to just do their own thing once PulseAudio disappears, and things like Zim give weird pops and drumrolls when you click on things. To get rid of that:
nano ~/.gtkrc-2.0-kde4

and append the following lines to the end:

You need to log out and back in again for it to take effect.

Synaptic looks quite yucky, since it uses the GUI for the root user. To fix that, install qtcurve, and then run:
sudo cp .gtkrc-2.0-kde4 /root/.gtkrc-2.0

I took advantage of having to transfer my data to rationalise it a bit. I usually have multiple copies of things now, ever since the Great Hard-Disk Crash of 2005 laid waste nearly 2 years of records, and I’m trying to put all the web-apps I’ve done into some sort of order. Some will just go in a museum somewhere online (eg Kartouche, Kyfieithu), but others will be updated – Eurfa is going to get about 30,000 extra words, an embedded Konjugator, and citations, and Klebran needs to be finished properly (the old site just disappeared one day last year – my ISP was brazen enough to say that I must have deleted it!).

Talking of which, I’ve just discovered a backup app that appears on first acquaintance to be excellent – SpiderOak. This is cross-platform, allows you to select directories and files to upload to a web repository, does incremental uploads of changed files only (à la rsync), offers syncing and sharing, and (best of all) does on-the-fly encryption of what you backup – the lack of this is a big hole in the Ubuntu One service. You get 2 Gb of storage for free, and you can buy more. Well worth looking at – it’s best to have as many backup locations as you can. Mind you, I now have two 1Tb drives in this machine, so that gives plenty of room for manoeuvre.

I’m now keeping my fingers crossed that this mobo doesn’t decide to go down the Swannee …

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