Category Archives: Linux

How to remove the title bar with compiz without losing 3 hours of your life.

On the Dell Mini and other netbooks running Ubuntu – screen real-estate is limited. Make the most of it by hiding the title bar at the top of the screen with this nice and easy Compiz hack.

compiz titlebar hide

Step 1. Install CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) if you don’t have it already. Open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

compiz blur brokeSee this Blur Window setting? Don’t click this. Don’t check it. Don’t look at the options for it. Matter of fact don’t touch anything else in CompizConfig Settings yet.

:mad: You clicked it didn’t you. Now the desktop on your Dell Mini looks like a big black splotch with a color border. You have a pointer and your machine appears to be responding, but you can’t see anything to change the setting back. Nice huh? Compiz settings won’t let you see your desktop, even after a restart. Here’s how to fix it.

I know you can’t see what your typing, so take it slow…
* Carefully hit Alt + F2 then type killall compiz and hit enter.
* One more time Alt + F2 then type killall compiz.real and hit enter.
* Go back into the settings and UN-CHECK Blur Windows – or better yet, revert all the Compiz settings back to default.

Okay – back to work!

Compiz window decoration
Step 2. Open the CompizConfig Settings Manager. It should be under System – Preferences. On the left, click on Effects and find Window Decoration.

Step 3. Look for the setting that says Decoration Window – Any. Change it to !state=maxvert This code means that any window that is NOT maximized will get a decoration window, or title. The effect is immediate, no logout or restart will be needed.

Final thoughts.
Compiz itself is a bit of a hack. It works great with the default settings 90% of the time, but when you peek behind the curtain with this config manager and start playing with the 3D cube window manager, etc, your settings can crash your unsupported video card quick. This is the price Ubuntu pays for having the cool wiggly windows features with Compiz. Cool when you can get it to work, and sad when you lock yourself out experimenting with a blur feature. Enjoy 50 more pixels of screen space!

I can not be a Gmail Ninja. :(

Google Video Chat NO Linux VersionSadly, It looks like I will be stuck as a ‘white belt’ when it comes to my Google Gmail Ninja status. Today a New! Email Tips link appeared in gmail and that is when I learned the harsh truth.

You see, Google hasn’t really bothered to make a video chat client for Linux and I REALLY want them to. This is on their list of ‘green belt’ items, early on the path to becoming a Gmail master. They said back in November of 2008 that they would be working on it… If you want to get on the beta test list, clicky this: Gmail voice and video – Linux. I think that this would not be too hard to pull off considering they have a Mac client already (read: X distro on x86 32-bit hardware) I don’t want a rush their genius, but I know it’s probably down low on a ‘shit Google has to do today‘ list. :p Maybe this post will rustle up some priorities. Skype works great on Ubuntu BTW.

Dell Mini 9 back in black as Vostro A90

Dell Mini 9 rebranded as Vostro A90For those who missed the Dell Mini 9 but wanted one – The Vostro A90 is a re-branded Dell Mini 9 (Inspiron 910). I almost like it better in black. It looks like the Ubuntu option is there as well as a standard 16GB SSD and 1GB of RAM (Things I had to option UP to with my Dell Mini 9.) Not bad for $294.

The only official ‘Dell Mini’ option is the Dell Mini 10v now – and is being hated upon for its un-possible to open and upgrade design. You need THREE videos to show you how to open it.

What? No more Dell Mini 9? Oh well…

Dell Mini 9 Inspiron 910 end of lifeI’m typing this post on the last of a great little netbook from Dell. Yep, the Dell Mini 9 is confirmed by Engadget to be end of life. And what a short production run it had. Replaced by a 160GB spinning mechanical disk crammed inside the ‘I just can’t go any smaller then ten inches of screen’ Dell Mini 10. I’m uber glad I optioned it up with the extras – extras that will be that much harder to find in the coming months.

Oh well – their loss. A silent – super portable – network engineers pal for the last two months, my Inspiron 910 has been great for setting up routers, ssl vpn’s, remote controlling servers worth 20 times its cost, and keeping my iGoogle feeds at the ready for when customer downtime occurs.

Tonight’s project is to get DVD video ‘converted’ to a portable media format I can watch on the upcoming summer air trips. 3.5 hours of battery is enough time to watch a movie or two…

My Linux Ubuntu Score Card

What worked great?

1. Printing. Ubuntu found my HP 920c and made it my default printer right out of the box. It was a mere checkbox to get it shared on the network. My Windows XP machine had no issues with it. “Holy Shit!” was all I said when it took 10 seconds to get printing set. The .pdf maker support that comes with Ubuntu was especially helpful when publishing documents for our rally.

2. Firefox.
Still loving that decision after 8 years.

3. VirtualBox.
I knew I would miss XP a little. *tear. It is a good stable OS that MS will force all of us to move away from because they need money for the next “new” thing. I setup VirtualBox and it works great. I am running XP SP2 (inside VBox) with only a handful of small issues. When I updated, I had to rebuild VBox following this fix. I take snapshots before installing any major software or changes and that has saved my ass twice. The apps I can’t live without right now are running great: Photoshop, Macromedia Flash. I also run MS Office. (Still trying to get used to OpenOffice.)

4. Wine + USB to Serial. This was the unbelievable success I spoke of, let me set the scene. I have a year old USB to Serial converter that I bought for $20. No manual, no drivers, it’s made in China and I have NO idea what the chipset is. Will it run in Linux? Doubt it. I didn’t want to bog down the Mini with VirtualBox, so I loaded Wine. Wine is a windows emulator for individual programs. The application I want to run is an APRS tracker programmer with no linux version. To recap: Emulated windows application running inside Ubuntu Linux with Wine – connected to a USB to serial converter made in China – hooked to a serial device powered by a robot battery. :eek: I created a sym link called COM1 that pointed to /dev/ttyUSB0 in the Wine directory. Started it up – reset the Tracker and “WoAH!” I actually jumped out of my chair because it just works.

What kinda worked?

1. MP3 players. Finally settled on XMMS. I tried ‘Listen’ (on my Xubuntu Desktop) and ‘Rhythmbox’ (on my Dell Mini 9). Listen is pretty good, the controls and layout are good, the internet radio station setup was a little too complex. Its biggest problem really is that it’s called ‘Listen’. It’s practically impossible to search for help on a music player using the search string ‘Listen’. Rhythmbox seems to do all right, it does seem to do a little too much disk IO and was a total CPU hog on the Mini. I tried Amarok, which I heard was good, but it had issues with my desktop sound card. I could do without all the fancy indexing and lyric and album cover features. I am NOT an iTunes person. I’m used to a plain-jane ‘winamp’. Installing XMMS was fairly easy for me. Editing your sources.list and updating apt-get seems to be standard Linux stuff to me now, so Your Mileage May Vary.

2. Bluetooth. I got the option with the Mini and ran out and picked up an expensive Bluetooth Mouse which worked great – until I restarted. The mouse seems to work about 70% of the time. The other % I spend 2 minutes muttering while I re-acquire the device by deleting it and re-adding it. The script to get it to auto connect is in progress at: Ubuntu Forum Bluetooth Mouse Thread

3. Dual monitor support. I originally chose Xubuntu (with Xfce) for the desktop, but got Ubuntu working with dual monitors. The Mini saw an external monitor only after a log-off log-on and the ‘monitor key’ on the Dell does zero. Well it does make the external display flicker like it totally was going to do something…

What was a pain?

1. Networking. First, the absolute bullshit update for the Mini: Ubuntu 8.10 Kernel Update Has Broken Wired Connection. Seriously? You just broke my ethernet connection with a kernel update? This is no good Ubuntu… This is not making open source OS’s shine. “Oops – at least you still have wireless.” On the desktop I had a little issue with a NAT connection on my VirtualBox. Make sure VBox gets its own IP from the router. You’ll avoid weird Windows Networking issues when both your Linux machine and the VBox machine are connected to the same share. Figuring that out was certainly a pain.

2. Updates. Did you see that coming? I did… One of the biggest pet peeves I have with MicroSquash is: “Important Security Update – This update fixes a problem where an attacker can take over your machine.” I’d certainly believe that if not every single update from MS said this. Seriously? Your OS is so vulnerable to attack you need 20+ security patches every month? Nope, I don’t believe it. So my standard practice now is to stop the Automatic Update and Security Center services after loading SP2. Go to services.msc and disable them – forever… XP is “end of life” anyway. Plus they like to slip in “Genuine Software Checks” in those automatic updates. I have seen 2 of my customers PC’s rendered useless, even though they were running an valid XP key.

Ubuntu UpdateSorry about the MS rant, let’s get back to Ubuntu. The update manager is also pretty pervasive in Ubuntu. I found the following settings to be a good safe bet. There is more information on updates and kernel updates, but you still need to watch this like a hawk and presume that after an update your machine may have issues. I also discovered that a full shutdown and restart solved problems on my Dell Mini after an update.

What is still brox0red? What have I yet to try?

1. CD / DVD Burning. I am embarrassed to say that as of right now, I can’t burn a CD in my home. I guess I can buy Nero for Linux… At least I will get pay-for support. I get an IO error in the logs and a Power something Check FAILED. I’ve tried Brasero and K3B – no dice. I can’t play DVD’s on my system, so I think it may be time to retire my old Sony drive for more Linux friendly hardware.

2. Video Editing. I have downloaded about 3 non-linear video editing apps, and I’m in the process of getting them to work. If Ubuntu can do this for me – there will be no going back to Microsoft.

The wrap: Ubuntu is running steady on my desktop and my Dell Mini. The occasional bumps in the road are probably no worse then if I went over to Vista. I have since upgraded the Mini to Jaunty 9.04 and have had better success with bluetooth, the system seems to boot faster, and my wired ethernet works again! I have been getting back into the swing of linux and Ubuntu has made it great!

Dell Mini 9 exploits: Ubuntu Linux

I’m going to split this post up a bit. I’m going to contain my excitement for my netbook in this post, and then go into my Ubuntu Score Card. I’ve been running the OS for 3 months now and I’ve had everything from unbelievable success to unrivaled failure. :)

Last week my my Dell Mini 9 arrived ten days before schedule. I optioned it up with 1GB of RAM, 16GB SSD, bluetooth, and a web cam. It was cheaper then you think.
Dell Mini 9 UbuntuIt’s sexy, I know. First thing was to ditch the included Dell Ubuntu and load the real deal. 8.10 Intrepid Ibex Ubuntu. A great walk-through on can be found here.

I do like, but be careful though as the “sudo” command gets thrown around a lot – and if you don’t read the fine print you could find yourself with a useless OS quick. I pretty much stuck to pHreaksYcle and redDEAD’s course of action. Turned of indexing, setup Firefox, etc. Check out

I had major issues with desktop switching and the netbook re-mix stuff. What I learned was that I really don’t mind a small screen windowed environment. I use 3 apps – why do I need a manager for them. This also allows me to show of my conky setup. :p Here’s a link to my Dell Mini’s .conky file.

Dell Mini 9 Conky SetupExperience so far: I bought this little guy for a couple reasons. I am often in data centers and server rooms. Quickly troubleshooting problems is the name of the game and so far having a 2.5lb terminal that I can stick on top of a shelf has been nice. Not having to drag another PC in to look for drivers for a dead server is a plus.

90% of the computing I do at home is just surfing the web. Looking up a walkthrough for Final Fantasy IV on the DS (the wife’s game) or a strategy to beat the next mission on Liberty City Stories for the PS2 (my game) is easy chilling on the couch with the Mini. Why get the 4CPU monster machine out to check facebook?

The portability of the Mini has been working out. We’re going to be flying to a wedding in Texas and making other trips this summer, so the Mini will see a lot of flight time. The battery life seems quite good – but I haven’t ‘run it into the ground’ yet. If I’m near power, it’s plugged in. I picked up a 16GB SD card to permanently serve as storage space for mp3’s. Music has also been nice in the server room. :)

There has been some functionality frustrations – but so far so good. I made a linux category here on planetkris and that could mean more updates.