Saturday, May 24, 2008

How to change the default Ubuntu login screen - Update

Gno e login windows manager
Updated 5/24/08

The default Ubuntu login screen leaves something to be desired in the way of aesthetics (just my personal opinion, you may love it). But thankfully, like almost everything else in Ubuntu, it can be changed (welcome to the wonderful world of Linux). Here's how:

1. Click on System>Administration>Login Window
2. Enter your administrative password (your login password)
3. Click on the Local tab
4. Select one of the available themes (make sure the radio button is selected beside the theme you want - you may have to click twice for this)
5. Click the Close button
6. Log-out of Ubuntu, and you will be presented with the new themed login screen to log back in


Gnomelook.org

If you don't like any of the default themes, head over to art.gnome.org (look in the Login Manager category) or gnome-look.org (look under GDM Screens) for plenty more choices. You can drag-n-drop a downloaded GDM (Gnome Desktop Manager) login theme into the Login Manager. Just make sure it is selected after you drop it in.

Update 5/24/08

Gnome login window background color

After you change the login theme, you'll still be left with an ugly orange screen just before and just after you login. To change this, look on the Login Manager Local tab, just under the available themes list, for a small colored box labeled Background color. Click on the box, pick the color you want, and close the login manager.

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Thunderbird email/newsreader client for Ubuntu

Thunderbird email/news clientSeveral months ago, I started using the Thunderbird email/newsreader client from Mozilla on my Windows XP machine. You can see the full review in this post. Since Thunderbird still has one of the best spam filters on the planet, it was one of the first apps I installed in Ubuntu 8.04 when I made the switch. I'm not a big fan of Evolution - I'm not sure why, it just kind of "feels boxy". If you're not quite happy with Evolution, give Thunderbird a try - it's available right from Applications>Add/Remove>Internet> Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News. And although I haven't tried it yet, Mozilla (the same people that gave us the Firefox web browser) also produces Lightning, a calendar extension for Thunderbird. You'll have to use the Synaptic Package Manager to get it. Click on System> Administration>Synaptic Package Manager and then search for "lightning". The package you need will be called "lightning-extension" (English language).

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

30 days without Windows, and with Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron"



Well, it's been 30 days since I entered "Windows rehab", trying to go cold-turkey by taking large doses of Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron". And for the most part, I've been successful. Other than booting XP a few times to get personal info and to run one program that does not have a Linux replacement, I've done everything I used to do in Windows with Ubuntu for 30 days. As they say in my neck of the woods, I'm "tickled pink". Read on for a brief summary of my experience so far.

Installation and configuration

Ubuntu them manager

The Ubuntu installation to a dedicated partition went off without a hitch. I have a second hard drive, which I devoted entirely to Ubuntu. Everything, including video, sound, network, USB, internet, HP Deskjet D4160, came up working after the install. Ubuntu did not, however, have a driver for my second printer, a Lexmark Z730. I was advised in the Ubuntu forums to stick with an HP printer for the best support in Ubuntu.

Configuration took a little time, but no major problems were encountered. I've changed the desktop background, the default window theme, the login screen, set up "the cube" desktop using Compiz, configured the Gnome panels, and added Flash player to Firefox. The help given in the Ubuntu forums has been superb - Ubuntu has without a doubt the most helpful user community of any operating system out there.

Browsers, email and instant messaging

Ubuntu background browswer

The Firefox 3 Beta 5 browser has performed without a hitch since installation. As I mentioned earlier, Flash player had to be installed separately, but this went off without a hitch for me. I've had no problems with web pages, and Firefox is fast - faster even than it was when I tested it in Windows XP. And memory management is excellent - memory usage builds up over time, but I can restart the browser and recover all the extra memory.

My favourite browser, Opera, is another story. Opera 9.27, the latest released version, does not work with the Flash player plugin. Opera 9.50b, the latest beta, however, works with Flash player, but closes abruptly 2 or 3 times a day. You can have Opera, but if you want Flash with it you'll have to live with it disappearing unexpectedly from time to time.

I didn't care for the included Evolution email package, so I installed my personal favourite, Thunderbird from Mozilla (the same folks that brought us the Firefox browser). It's easily installed from Applications>Internet>Add/Remove>Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News. And I was able to integrate the Tracker search tool to index all of my Thunderbird emails as well (it currently only indexes the address and subject fields, the developers plan to include indexing of the body text as well).

Ubuntu's included Pidgin instant messaging client has worked with my Yahoo! IM account without a problem (I've only used text messaging, no voice). It does not support my AT&T 1 cent per minute long distance softphone, though. This was supported by Yahoo! Instant Messenger in XP. This has forced me to boot XP a couple of times, but I can certainly live with it. Hopefully either Pidgin or the included Ekiga Softphone will support this type of application in the future.

Other Applications

Gnome menu

I've been using Ubuntu for all of my work, which includes writing this blog. For screen captures, I'm using the included Gimp graphics program. This takes a few more steps than the Easy Capture software I was using in XP, but the results are excellent - and I can do a lot more with the captured image than I could with Easy Capture. For word processing, I've been using AbiWord, as I'm no great fan of Open Office - it's too bloated with features for my taste. It's just a few clicks away as well, by going to Applications>Add/Remove> AbiWord Word Processor.

I'm using Evolution for my calendar application with no problem, and have located and installed Task Coach as a to-do list (you can find it in the Synaptic package manager by searching for "taskcoach". I've added the weather, system monitor showing memory and cpu usage, and the Klipper clipboard utility to my top Gnome panel, and set the bottom panel to autohide. And I've been able to configure the panels so that the menu is in the same place as the Start menu in Windows - many years of Windows use have made this location second nature. I've even put the volume control in the lower right-hand corner, so I'm right at home.

The Bottom Line...

The best way to sum up my experience is to say I don't plan to go back to XP. I'll probably keep it around so I can use my long distance, and in case anything else pops up, but I'm glad to say that I could do without it right now if I have to. I'll not be buying a Vista upgrade, to say the least. I have had a few "anomalies" in Ubuntu (the right-click menu is sometimes a little spastic - I can probably cure this by playing with the dwell settings on the mouse - I just haven't gotten around to it, and I lost some text in AbiWord once for some reason), but overall I am just loving Ubuntu - and the price is impossible to beat.

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to adjust the auto-hide delay in Gnome panels

Gnome configuration editor - adjusting autohide delay for Gnome panels

You may have enabled the auto-hide feature in your Gnome panel(s), probably at least the bottom one if you are used to Windows. I did, but it takes too long to hide. Fortunately, like almost everything else in the Linux world, the auto hide and unhide delay can be adjusted. See my last post on the Gnome Configuration Editor for instructions.

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

Using Ubuntu's Gnome configuration editor

Gnome configuration editor

I posted recently about the fact that some of Ubuntu's installed applications are not available in the menus after a default install. One such useful application is the Gnome Configuration Editor. This utility allows you to change many of the settings that affect the various applications that come with Ubuntu. Here's how to enable it :

1. Click on System>Administration>Preferences>Main Menu
2. Click on the System Tools category.
3. Check the box beside Configuration Editor
4. Click on Close.
5. You can now run the Configuration Editor from Applications>System Tools>Configuration Editor.

WARNING - There's a reason this program wasn't enabled by default. You could do some serious damage to your Ubuntu or its applications by indiscriminately changing values in the Configuration Editor - so don't change something unless your pretty sure what the outcome is going to be. It might be a good idea to back up all of your configuration files before using this if you're not sure about something. You could do this by backing up your home/username/.gconfig directory (to see this directory, you'll have to click on View>Show Hidden Files) in the File Browser (Nautilus).

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

Gnome configuration editor

Changinng the auto hide and unhide delays value for Gnome panels

An example of something that can be changed using the Configuration Editor is the auto-hide delay for your Gnome panel(s). I have my bottom panel set to auto-hide, but leave the top panel visible all the time. Only thing is, it takes to long for the bottom panel to hide and unhide. To change this, run the Configuration Editor, navigate to apps>panel>toplevels> bottom_panel_screen0 (for the default screen). Now change the hide_delay and unhide_delay values to 100 or 250, or whatever suits you (value is in milliseconds). You can also un-check enable_animations if you want immediate response. Now, just close the editor, logout and log back in and the new value should be in effect.

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Installing Thunderbird email support for the Tracker Desktop Search Tool

Tracker email preferences
The Tracker Desktop Search Tool includes support for Thunderbird emails, as evidenced by a setting in its Preferences on the Email tab to Enable Thunderbird email indexing. This setting is greyed out - meaning you can't select it (a bug in the current Ubuntu version of Tracker) - but thankfully it is already selected.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I had been using Thunderbird, but that Tracker was not indexing my Thunderbird emails. So a visit to the Ubuntu support forum turned up the fact that Thunderbird requires a special plugin to enable Tracker support. Here''s how to use it (this is what I had to do to get it working - your mileage may vary on this) :


1. Download the tracker_922.xpi file found at this link , and save it to your hard drive.


Tracker Thunderbird addon



2. In Thunderbird, choose Tools>Add-ons>Extensions>Install and browse to the location of the tracker_922.xpi file.


3. Click on Open and the extension will be installed.


4. Right-click on the Tracker icon in the Notification Area and choose Indexer Preferences.


5. On the General tab, under Startup, make sure that the Index Delay is set to at least 45 seconds - this is the amount of time the indexer daemon waits after system startup before it starts indexing.


6. Close Thunderbird and any other open applications and restart Ubuntu.


7. As soon as Ubuntu comes back up, run Thunderbird and click on Tools in the top menu.


Tracker indexer settings



8. There is now a menu selection for Tracker indexing settings. Choose this.


9. Choose Privacy, click on Drop Everything, then click on Reset Status.


10. Leave Thunderbird running and by now, the Tracker daemon should have started indexing.


11. When Tracker finishes indexing, try a search on some text in the subject of one of your emails.


12. If everything is working, Tracker will find the email associated with the text you entered.


13. If not, go back to the Tools>Tracker indexing settings>Privacy section and click on Drop Everything and Reset Status again. Close Thunderbird and restart Ubuntu again.


14. When Ubuntu comes up, run Thunderbird again and wait for the indexing to finish.


15. It should be working now - for some reason Tracker does not want to pick up on the fact that there is new meta data to be indexed, hence the multiple restarts.


What next?

Problems? Questions? Post a comment, I'll be glad to help.

For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed, or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ubuntu Software - The Tracker desktop search tool

Tracker desktop search tool
Ubuntu comes with a built-in desktop search tool (similar to Google desktop search), but you may not know it's there (Applications >Accessories>Tracker Search Tool. But before it can find anything, you need to set it up to index the files on your hard disk. Here's how:

From the main menu, choose System>Preferences>Search and Indexing. This brings up the settings for the Tracker search tool. On the General tab, under Indexing Options, check Enable Indexing. Then on the Files tab, under Indexing, check Index File Contents - this tells Tracker to look inside of the file types that it is "aware of" - this includes your Evolution emails.


Also under Indexing, check Index mounted directories - this tells Tracker to re-index when you restart Ubuntu. Under Watch Directories, check Index and watch my home directory - this tells Tracker to not only index your home directory on startup, but also to "watch" it for any changes and add them to the index. You might also want to add additional directories under Crawled Directories - for example if your are dual-booting with Windows, you can add your NTFS partitions and they will be indexed on startup, but not watched.


Tracker Desktop search preferences


That should do it - once you close the dialogue, you are prompted to restart the Tracker daemon and Tracker will be off and running. Now, anytime you restart Ubuntu, Tracker will wait 45 seconds and then start re-indexing all the directories you've specified. This process will use quite a bit of CPU resources (you'll probably hear the fan speeding up), but for me it hasn't been enough to interfere with the operation of other programs. You'll have a Tracker icon in the Notification area (like the Windows task tray) - if you need to change the Tracker settings in the future just right-click on the icon and choose Preferences. To use the search function, choose Applications >Accessories>Tracker Search Tool.

I've been using this tool since I installed Hardy Heron, and it's pretty good at finding things. The only problem I've had so far is that it is not indexing my Thunderbird email - I don't care much for Evolution and installed Thunderbird right away - it's got the best spam filter I've ever used. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on this, as I've asked about it in the Ubuntu support forums.


What next?


Problems? Questions? Leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.


For more Ubuntu tips, tricks and software, subscribe to my feed. Or use the Bookmark button below to find your way back.

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