Performance tip for Feisty and Edgy

I found this tip on the Ubuntu Forums and think it’s worth sharing.

Open up the file /etc/hosts with root privileges, e.g. by typing

sudo gedit /etc/hosts

The file will look like this (instead of hostname it will include your host name): localhost hostname

Now add you host name to the first line after ‘localhost’.

So if your host name is ubuntu, the file should look like this: localhost ubuntu ubuntu

You should now notice faster startup times of your applications.

Thanks for this tip goes to psyke83 who posted it in this thread on the Ubuntu Forums.

How to prettify the Firefox widgets

One thing about Firefox that always bothered me was the look of the default widgets.

Fortunately there is an easy way to exchange them, and that is by following these steps:

  1. Download firefox-widgets-10.tar.bz2 and unzip it.
  2. Open a terminal and enter the newly appeared directory
  3. Execute the install script (by typing ./install), enter 1 to choose the install option and if asked, enter your password
  4. Restart Firefox and enjoy

Here is a screenshot to show the difference:

Proprietary drivers in Feisty: not by default but easy to activate

The use of proprietary drivers is quite controversial in the Linux community. Some argue that they have to be included to make Linux competetive, others warn that they compromise what Linux as free software stands for in the first place.

Some popular distributions, for example Fedora and openSUSE decided to boycott proprietary drivers by not shipping them at all.

Starting with Feisty, Ubuntu trys to strive a middle way between the merits to the user and free software ethics by excluding propietary drivers by default but providing an easy way to enable them.

As of today, the Ubuntu development branch includes a tool called “Proprietary Drivers manager” that trys to accomplish this task.

Once started, the software presents a list of available proprietary drivers:

Drivers can then easily be enabled by checking the box or selecting the desired hardware and clicking ‘Enable’ and is then presented by this dialog:

After the confirmation the particular driver is enabled and as in my case I can enjoy the Desktop Effects without any command line voodoo.

Please note that this is by no means final software and it will probably look different when feisty is released.

Manage your software packages offline with APTonCD

Most Ubuntu users will value package management as one of the top features of their OS. Installing and updating software with APT/dpkg and their respective graphical user interfaces (i.e. Synaptic, Update manager and gdebi) is a breeze once you are accustomed to it.

However, the ease of use is dependent on the internet connection. If no connection is available, package management can become a pain.

Luckily there’s a new project called APTonCD to solve this problem and open up new possibilities.

The software allows you to create backups of all the packages available on your system. It will automatically scan your computer and present a list with all found packages. This list can be easily customized by deselecting entries or by adding more packages, which can be seen in this screenshot:

Once a disc is created it can be used to restore your computer after a reinstall or to install the software on another computer without the need of an internet connection.

The restore options look like this:

The software is not ground-breaking because there are ways to achieve the functionality with command line tools, but it is nice to see that Ubuntu offers more and more tools that allow even non-technical users to master advanced tasks with graphical tools.

APTonCD is in Ubuntu Feisty right now to test it. For more information, visit the APTonCD website.

Install rpm packages by converting them to deb

Once in a while you might want to install software that is neither in a repository nor available as a standalone deb package.

If you’re in this situation, there is another option for you, converting an rpm file and installing the so created deb.

So if you do have an rpm file and want to install it, follow these steps:

  1. Install the packages alien and fakeroot. This is easily done with the following command:

    sudo apt-get install alien fakeroot

  2. Download the rpm file and open a terminal in the directory the rpm is in.
  3. Run the following command to start the conversion:

    fakeroot alien NameOfThe.rpm

  4. After a few seconds there will be a deb file that you can install like this:

    sudo dpkg -i NameOfThe.deb

Play Half-Life and other Steam games with Wine

Wine is a compatability layer for running Windows software on Linux. Of course, reimplimenting the whole Windows API is a very ambitious task and Wine is not able to run every software perfectly, if at all.

A good example of software that does run reasonably well is Steam and the Half-Life series with their expansions and the famous Counter-Strike modification.

To play those games, go to the Steam Website, download the installer and open it with wine.

The installer should be self explanatory and after the installation there should even be a Steam launcher on the desktop. You can run Steam from there and everything should work like it would using Windows.

Games I can confirm to work are Half-Life and the expansion packs Blue Shift and Opposing Force, but Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike (original and Source versions) are said to work, too.

Here is a screenshot of my Steam installation after I entered the serial number of my Half-Life Platinum Pack:

If Steam works fine but it freezes after starting a game you probably have to switch from the ALSA to the OSS driver in your Wine configuration. This can easily be done with the ‘winecfg’ utility. It should work fine if the Audio setup looks like this:

If you have any problems feel free to ask in the forums or post a comment.

Otherwise, Have fun gaming

Update on the new Gnome volume control

The Gnome volume control widget has changed again in the current Gnome development version.

It now uses an icon from the current theme (Tango in my case) and features subtle changes in the general appearance.

In short: It doesn’t look like the one from Mac OS anymore.

Of course I prepared a little preview again:

And another one with the volume muted:

PowerPC support to become unofficial with Feisty

The Ubuntu Technical Board announced that the PowerPC architecture will be reclassified as unofficial with Ubuntu Feisty.

The cause for this decision is obviously the declining number of PowerPC based computer systems after Apple switched to Intel processors.

Older releases will still be supported within their whole life cycle, which ends as late as 2011 in the case of Ubuntu Dapper.

Read the full reasoning in this announcment.

Proprietary video drivers not default in Feisty

The Techincal Board of Ubuntu announced that Ubuntu Feisty won’t come with proprietary video drivers by default. However, there will be an easy (graphical) way for the user to enable them if he wishes to do so.

This decision has been made since Feisty won’t include either Compiz or Beryl by default and therefore the drivers aren’t necessary.

Practically this means that the reasoning is not ideological but pragmatic and proprietary drivers are probably integrated into future releases.

Read more in the initial announcement and a clarifying blog entry from Mark Shuttleworth.