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Posted 2006.10.31 1.00 in Spiritual by Stephanie

It’s October 31st…Samhain…day of the dead…new year’s eve for some pagans, the night when the veil is thinnest between this world and the next.

Have a happy, safe, and scary Samhain everyone!


Why Waste Time on the Libretto Anyways?

Posted 2006.10.30 1.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

The question comes up now and then. I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy on my Libretto. Even spent a bit of money, on some new hardware. Mostly though, a lot of time has gone into it, to find the right Linux, get it installed, configured, get things working just the way I like them.

But why?

I have a perfectly good laptop already. I have an Apple Powerbook G4, with a big 15″ screen, 60GB hard drive, dvd drive, a gig of RAM, and a fast, beautiful operating system. So why spend so much effort on an eight year old laptop with a tiny screen and limited functionality?

Because to me, the single most important feature of a portable computer is…portability!

The 15″ Powerbook is a beautiful, powerful computer. But it weighs over 5 pounds, and 15″ is huge! If I want a big powerful computer, I sit at my desk. My dual-head iMac system is the best most powerful system I’ve ever used, hands down, bar none. It’s impossible to reproduce that kind of functionality in a laptop, so why try? These laptops with the 15″ screens, the 17″ widescreens, I can’t understand. Ok I could understand if you used the laptop as your desktop system.

When I switched to Macintosh, I tried linux on the Libretto for a while, but in those days, Linux wasn’t as advanced as it is now, and there were too many sacrifices. When I first retired the Libretto, I switched to an iBook with a 12″ screen (the curvy green plastic clamshell one.) Then I sold that and got a G4 iBook, another 12″ because that’s the smallest they had. Then when I sold that and upgraded to the Powerbook, the smallest one that had the features I wanted, was the 15″.

I’ve had it for less than a year…Bought it in February or March I think. And it’s just too big and too heavy. When the Libretto got freed of its lame little DOS task at the office a couple weeks ago, I brought it home, stared at it for a few minutes, and then got to work at it. It’s still not 100% where I want it, but it’s doing the job. In another week or two, when some hardware I ordered comes in, I think the Libretto will be my ‘new’ laptop all over again.

In the meantime, I haven’t turned on the Powerbook in over a week. And at this rate, the next time I turn it on, it will only be to transfer some files off of it, before shelving it – or preparing it for resale.

Why, oh why, won’t Apple make a sub-mini Macbook? Sure it’s niche, but for those of us who value portability, it would fill a definite void in the Macintosh line.

Libretto sitting on 15-inch Powerbook
Libretto sitting on 15-inch Powerbook

My Three Lasers

Posted 2006.10.29 0.00 in Lasers by Stephanie

For no reason at all, here’s a picture of the three red lasers I made out of computer DVD burner drives.

Three Red Lasers

Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – iv

Posted 2006.10.29 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

In part iii, I learned about the fluxbox window manager, and got partway through customizing my GUI. This time, I’ll finish customizing the GUI and share some of the various files.

The torsmo thing seemed quite interesting and has some good possibilities. I gave the .torsmorc file a thorough read, and then proceeded to edit the default file to give me exactly what I wanted: Clock on top, then battery and temperature info, then CPU load and number of processes, then memory usage and swap usage, then file system usage. The swap and filesystem stuff isn’t too important, but the time, cpu load, and memory status is good to know. And if running on batteries, the time remaining is also pretty important.

After getting rid of the extraneous junk that was cluttering up my screen, I wanted to customize the rest of it to give it a look and feel that I could really enjoy. The default fluxbox style Hat was ok, but I didn’t like the big graphic of Tux cluttering up the screen. The graduated screen effect was nice, but brown isn’t really my colour. So I copied the file /usr/share/fluxbox/styles/Hat over to ~/.fluxbox/styles/Steph and started editing. I changed things up, changed brown into blue, replaced Tux with another background image, and got the taskbar thing at the bottom to auto-hide. This left me with a desktop that I think is relatively clean, uncluttered, and with a colour scheme that I enjoy.

Here’s a screenshot of my Libretto desktop:
My Screenshot
Click for full-size view

You can see in the upper left corner, the five icons for fast access to my five most-used applications. Terminal and Firefox being the top two by a long, long margin. And in the upper right corner, there’s the torsmo output of system information. The image in the lower left corner is based on an Xubuntu wallpaper image at the XFCE-Look site; it was created by xxxatarixxx. I clipped it and resized it to fit the smaller screen of the Libretto, changed the colours slightly, and then changed its background to transparent so it would fit onto the fluxbox graduated background. If you’re interested, you can download a tar of these various init and config files, by clicking here: my-configs.tar

Next time, we’ll look into some exciting hardware stuff that’s ideal for small size, small overhead, small linux applications.

Boo-ble Bath

Posted 2006.10.28 0.00 in Spiritual by Stephanie

Something about being in the bathroom, lends an extra sense of defencelessness. I mean, if something were to “go down” while you’re in the bathroom, odds are you’re going to be unprepared for immediate action. As the saying goes, “caught with one’s pants down.” Or worse, being in the bath, caught naked and dripping wet.

Of course, one is only as unprepared as one lets ones’ self get. The boy scouts’ motto is be prepared. In Bushido, it is Yuden Nashi: never off-guard. In Japanese legend, the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi was once attacked by several of his enemies while he was in the bath. The fiends built up the fire under the bath, and then lit the bathhouse on fire, so Musashi had to choose between boiling to death, burning to death, or running naked and wet out of the bathhouse and into the trap of their swords. Of couse, Musashi was never off-guard and had taken his swords into the bath-house with him, so although he may have been naked and wet, he was not unprepared, and he was able to swiftly eliminate his foes.

But I digress.

Back to the bathroom, and indeed the bath. Enjoying a quiet calm afternoon soak, to be completely specific.

So as I lay there, relaxed, at ease, I hear footsteps. Footsteps in my hall! Not kitty footsteps. Not fourlegs footsteps, but twolegs footsteps. There’s nobody home but me.

I’ve never heard the footsteps before. My former roommate had, once. After she moved out, she was visiting and spent the night, and she heard the footsteps in the hall outside her bedroom. That was at night. Now it’s like just after noon, and I’m home alone, in the tub(!) and there’s footsteps.

So after the initial surprise has faded, I think to myself, “Well, that’s creepy.” and at that point, I realize there’s nothing to do but carry on with my bath.

Nothing’s been disturbed, nothing’s amis, the cats were both sleeping when I eventually emerged from the tub.

Nothing to do but shrug and chalk it up to the fun of living alone in a 140-year old house.

rubber ducky - armed

Gone A Year, Never Forgotten

Posted 2006.10.27 0.00 in Cats by Stephanie

A year ago today I said goodbye to my Sylvie Dots.

Of all the cats I have known, he was the smartest, most patient, and the most joyful.

A year later and he is still sorely missed.

Sylvie Dots

Sylvie Dots

Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – iii

Posted 2006.10.26 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Last time, I got Damn Small Linux installed, broke a bunch of it, repaired the damage my own way, and got linux working almost exactly the way I wanted it.

My Damn Small Linux installation is no longer Damn Small. It’s pretty small though. My / filesystem is 500MB in size, of which 215MB are currently in use. That’s a fair bit bigger than the 50MB limit to Damn Small Linux’s live CD size. Most of those increases came after I installed the dpkg and apt-get functionality, and then installed the complete perl and perl-modules system. My /home filesystem is still almost empty – 11.3MB used out of 96MB – and almost all of that is junk stored in my Firefox web browser’s history / cache.

The important thing though is, my Libretto 100CT is running about as fast as can be expected, for a 166MHz Pentium with 64MB of RAM. Not just fast – but looking good, too!

Damn Small Linux defaults to the fluxbox window manager. I’d never heard of it before, but then my favorite application is terminal so I don’t think much about GUIs as long as they work. Anyhow, I started learning about fluxbox and finding out how to make it work better. By better, I mean, how to make it work the way I wanted it to.

Here’s a primer on fluxbox – I just found it now, after making all my changes, but it looks good so I’ll give it a read later and see what else I can learn about it: Using the Fluxbox Window Manager

An important note about the Toshiba Libretto: It is tiny, and has a tiny screen. 7 inches diagonal. SVGA, but a non-standard layout. 800 pixels wide, 480 pixels high. What I’m saying is, there’s very little screen real-estate. So what little there is, I don’t want it covered with crap floating around that I can’t get rid of. This was my first mission: Clean up the GUI and get rid of the crap I didn’t need or want.

First two things to go, were the workspace boxes in the lower left, and the whatever the heck thing was floating in the lower right. I’m sorry I can’t describe it, I don’t know what it was or what it did. Anyhow, here’s what I did: In your home directory, there’s a file called .xinitrc and in that file, are three lines I deleted:
dillo /usr/share/doc/dsl/getting_started.html & > /dev/null &
fluxter & > /dev/null &
wmswallow -geometery 70×80 docked docked lua &

The first line got rid of the ‘getting started’ thing that kept popping up. The second and third lines got rid of the workspace boxes and the thing in the right-hand corner. I don’t even know which was which.

Next was cleaning up all the icons in the upper-left corner. I only kept five of them: Aterminal, Emelfm, Firefox, Sylpheed, and Xzgv. To delete the others, from the home directory, go into .xtdesktop and in there, delete all the *.lnk and *.png or *.gif files you don’t need. When you restart X, whatever isn’t deleted will be in the upper left corner.

Finally, I really liked the system information in the upper right corner, but there was way too much and the font was too big. This stuff is all controlled by the .torsmorc file in your home directory. I changed mine to be smaller, focus only on what I wanted, and with a smaller font.

Check back again for part iv, for continued info on customizing the GUI. I’ll try and get a screenshot, as well as upload some of the key files and my style / wallpaper.