Shallow Thoughts : : Apr

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 27 Apr 2007

Gnome Knows Best

"Would you take a look at this?" my husband asked. I glanced over -- he was on the Gnome desktop on his newly-installed Debian Etch system, viewing some of his system icons with pho. Specifically, an xchat icon, an X with some text across it.

"So?" I shrugged.

He pointed to his panel. "But it's really using that icon." A little yellow happy-face-with-blob thing.

He right-clicked on the panel icon and brought up a dialog. "See, it should be using /usr/share/pixmaps/xchat.png. Now, I run pho /usr/share/pixmaps/xchat.png ..." And sure enough, the image it said it was using wasn't the image it was actually putting in the panel.

That jogged a memory. "That happened to me once back when I used Gnome. Try a locate xchat | grep png. I think it was using an icon from somewhere else -- that might find it for you."

Sure enough, there were several xchat png images on his system. I suggested going one step further, and actually viewing all of them:

pho `locate xchat | grep png`

We stepped through the images, and sure enough, we found the icon he was seeing. It was at /usr/share/icons/gnome/32x32/apps/xchat.png (with a larger sibling at /usr/share/icons/gnome/48x48/apps/xchat.png).

Good of Gnome to pretend let the user customize the icon location, even though it actually doesn't bother to use the icon specified there! At least you get a nice feeling of empowerment from pretending to choose the icon.

Later in the day, continuing to fiddle with the desktop settings, Dave burst out laughing. "You've got to see this. It's so Gnome." When I saw it, I had to laugh too. You may think you know what you want, but Gnome knows better! If you've ever tried to customize Gnome, you'll laugh, too, when you see the short video we took of it: Gnome knows best (764K).

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[ 19:21 Apr 27, 2007    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 12 Apr 2007

Desktop Suspend!

My laptop has always been able to sleep (suspend to RAM), one way or another, but I had never managed it on a desktop machine. Every time I tried running something like apm -s, apm -S, echo 3 >/sys/power/state, or Ubuntu's /etc/acpi/, the machine would sleep nicely, then when I resumed it would come up partway then hang, or would simply boot rather than resuming.

Dave was annoyed by it too: his Mac G4 sleeps just fine, but none of his Linux desktops could. And finally he got annoyed enough to spend half a day playing with different options. With what he learned, both he and I now have desktops that can suspend to RAM (his under Debian Sarge, mine under Ubuntu Edgy).

One step was to install hibernate (available as a deb package in both Sarge and Edgy, but distros which don't offer it can probably get it from somewhere on The hibernate program suspends to disk by default (which is what its parent project, suspend2, is all about) but it can also suspend to RAM, with the following set of arcane arguments:

hibernate -v 4 -F /etc/hibernate/ram.conf
(the -v 4 adds a lot of debugging output; remove it once you have things working).

Though actually, in retrospect I suspect I didn't need to install hibernate at all, and Ubuntu's /etc/acpi/ script would have done just as well, once I'd finished the other step:

Fiddle with BIOS options. Most BIOSes have a submenu named something like "Power Management Options", and they're almost always set wrong by default (if you want suspend to work). Which ones are wrong depends on your BIOS, of course. On Dave's old PIII system, the key was to change "Sleep States" to include S3 (S3 is the ACPI suspend-to-RAM state). He also enabled APM sleep, which was disabled by default but which works better with the older Linux kernels he uses under Sarge.

On my much newer AMD64 system, the key was an option to "Run VGABIOS if S3 Resume", which was turned off by default. So I guess it wasn't re-enabling the video when I resumed. (You might think this would mean the machine comes up but doesn't have video, but it's never as simple as that -- the machine came up with its disk light solid red and no network access, so it wasn't just the screen that was futzed.)

Such a simple fix! I should have fiddled with BIOS settings long ago. It's lovely to be able to suspend my machine when I go away for a while. Power consumption as measured on the Kill-a-Watt goes down to 5 watts, versus 3 when the machine is "off" (desktop machines never actually power off, they're always sitting there on standby waiting for you to press the power button) and about 75 watts when the machine is up and running.

Now I just have to tweak the suspend scripts so that it gives me a new desktop background when I resume, since I've been having so much fun with my random wallpaper script.

Later update: Alas, I was too optimistic. Turns out it actually only works about one time out of three. The other two times, it hangs after X comes up, or else it initially reboots instead of resuming. Bummer!

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[ 11:07 Apr 12, 2007    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 06 Apr 2007

Palominos, Punctuation and Bull Berries

Dave and I just got back from another road trip. We saw some fabulous stuff, but today's entry is on ways to amuse yourself during long hours on the road.

[Puma, by Palomino] One way to start is to make fun of the grandiose names on RVs, as well as the mandatory swoopy graphics (we saw only one swoopless RV on the whole trip -- it had plain straight stripes on the side).

RVs almost always have several names, and there are so many different models you can get through a whole road trip without ever seeing a repeat. One of our favorites from this trip was "Puma, by Palomino", a rather odd combination. I wouldn't expect a puma and a palomino to get along very well or have much in common. I guess they're both sort of golden in color (which the RV in question was not). The graphic was of a puma, not a palomino.

[HOLE N"THE ROCK] Small-town roadside signs can be fun, too. Of course, they tend to be riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, which is half the fun. We couldn't figure out what they were aiming at with the punctuation on the sign for HOLE N"THE ROCK, a few miles south of Moab. Why a double quote rather than an apostrophe? Or is it supposed to be two apostrophes together? And what is it doing there after the N? An apostrophe before the N could stand for the letter I, but after it ... it's hard to tell what it's standing for, except the missing space before the next word, THE. We spent a while trying to come up with three-letter words beginning with N which would make sense between HOLE and THE ROCK, but then some more amazing Moab scenery appeared and we lost interest in the punctuation game.

But small towns can have a lot to offer, too. Sometimes you can learn all sorts of things that might not be available in the big city. We saw a sign on a roadside church in Bakersfield advertising their upcoming Creation Seminar. Wow! I didn't know mere mortals could learn how to do that stuff too! I wish I'd had time to stick around for the seminar.

Other times small towns are just scary. The Bullberry Inn Bed & Breakfast in Tropic, UT has a sign out front proclaiming that it's the "Home of Granny's Bullberry Jelly". I've heard of horse apples, but I'm not sure I want to know what a bull berry is, let alone spread it on my toast. We opted to stay in one of the other hotels instead.

[ 22:40 Apr 06, 2007    More travel | permalink to this entry | ]