The murky future of Open Source software directories

A shift is occurring in the world of free and open source software (FOSS) directory sites.

410 Gone
CC-BY 2.0, by Tomomi ( ). Original:, in recent years rebranded to Freecode, seems to have been sunset. On almost the same day, Ohloh have suddenly rebranded as Black Duck Open Hub to better spruik the name of the parent company. Maybe they needed a cash injection to cope with some long term maintenance and scaling issues ? Also related, earlier this year the BerliOS project hosting service shutdown due to lack of support and funding, with all projects absorbed by Sourceforge. The more user-focused, one of my favorites, seem to be staying the course … and so they should since they do a lot of things right.

I’m not speculating on what it all means, but with Freshmeat no longer fresh, and Ohloh in flux, there could be opportunities emerging for entrepreneurial web devs interested in taking over from the old guard and showing them how it’s done in the “post-PC era”. Maybe the utility of the open source software directory as we know it has passed – certainly on Linux a decent repository browser with user reviews, like the Ubuntu Software Center, tends to fill the void for the average user. But maybe there is still a need for something to replace these directories on the open web, in some form … I wonder what that will be ?

For the search engines: Toshiba e-Studio 600 setup on Ubuntu 11.04 with Departmental Code

If you are reading this, chances are you are trying to print to a Toshiba e-Studio 600 printer/copier which uses a ‘departmental code’ from Ubuntu (9.04, 10.10, 11.04, or a Mint derivative).

Unfortunately the default PPD which Ubuntu (9.04 – 11.04) chooses when setting up a Toshiba e-Studio 600 doesn’t allow entry of a ‘departmental code’, which many workplaces use to audit usage of printers and photocopiers. If your workplace is one where such a code is required, you need to do this to print to the Toshiba e-Studio 600 from Ubuntu.

  • Install the printer as a Network printer by directly providing it’s IP (Network printer->Find printer, enter the IP, click Find).
  • (Alternatively, add it as an LPD printer by IP, choose the queue ‘lp’)
  • Press next/forward/whatever. When prompted, don’t use the PPD that Ubuntu offers to download for you, instead use the CUPS one for the 2500c / 3500c / 3510c, which is available here: (you’ll need to unzip it, then ungzip the file inside, save it somewhere and give it the extension .PPD)
  • Once installed, you can set the Departmental code under the printer Properties, “Printer Options”, “Printing Modes DC”. The code is entered digit by digit into the five dropdown boxes provided. Also ensure you check the box “Department Code” to enable it.
Worked for me !

Based on some (pdf) notes from

Move Ubuntu window close/maximize/minimize buttons to the left or right side: quick one-liners.

For Gnome2 with the metacity window manager (eg Ubuntu versions prior to 11.10):

Open a Terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal), or press Alt-F2 to bring up the Run Application dialog.

To put window buttons on the left-hand side, OSX-style, on a single line type:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string close,maximize,minimize:menu

For the right-hand side, Windows-style (& earlier Ubuntu releases):

gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string menu:minimize,maximize,close

Easy !

But why stop there .. why not experiment and push the boundries of user interface design ? By tweaking these commands, you can also put the close button on a different  side to minimize and maximize:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string menu,close:maximize,minimize

Sure, it will confuse your friends, but who knows, maybe you’ll find it suits you better. I’m trying this variation out for a few days, since my theory is that I’m less likely to accidentally close a window that I intended to minimize/maximize if the close button is kept well away from the others. Chances are I’ll retreat to a more conventional arrangement in a few days, but it’s fun to be able to experiment.

Update – minimize button for Gnome-Shell (12.04+):


sudo apt-get install dconf-tools
In the tree, navigate to: org -> gnome -> shell -> overrides
Change button-layout to minimize,close

Adding back some of the ‘missing’ buttons to the default Gnome-Shell probably breaks the design philosophy behind the new UI, but personally I really like having a minimize button.

Zero hassle auto-updates for Ubuntu

I recently discovered that a feature that I’ve always wanted in Ubuntu (and Debian) already exists, and has actually been available in past releases for years. By tweaking the settings in /etc/apt/apt-conf.d/10periodic and /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades, you can enable periodic auto-updates and auto-cleaning of downloaded package files. Essentially something equivalent to running sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get -y –force-yes upgrade; sudo apt-get autoclean in a cron job – except in a less hackish, more ‘distro official’ way. I’ve always felt this should be an Update Manager GUI option, maybe even default behavior.

It’s documented here on the Ubuntu wiki, but below is my regurgitation of that.

First, you need the unattended-upgrades package installed:

$ sudo apt-get install unattended-upgrades

Here’s the edits I made:

Continue reading

Using more than 3 Gb of RAM with 32-bit Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid)

Here’s a tip for those still running a 32-bit version of Ubuntu on machines with more than 3 Gb of RAM (like myself).

Earlier versions of the ‘generic’ linux kernel that shipped with Ubuntu had PAE (Physical Address Extension) enabled by default. This meant that on 32-bit installations, you had access to greater that 3 Gb of RAM. This seems to not be the case with the default Lucid (10.04) kernel – it’s not PAE enabled. I’m not sure exactly when the change was made (it could have also been the case with 9.10), but I noticed that after upgrading to Lucid, my 32-bit installation was only seeing ~3 Gb or RAM, when previously I had access to the full 4 Gb installed.

You can tell how much RAM is accessible by in a terminal typing:

free -m

For 4 Gb of RAM, the ‘total’ mem should be something like 4003.

To fix this, simply install the PAE-enabled kernel:

sudo apt-get install linux-generic-pae

This kernel should automatically become your default in GRUB. All going well, after a reboot, you should be able to type ‘free -m’ again and see that you are using 4 Gb of RAM.

3D acceleration with Virtualbox 3.0 : DirectX, OpenGl and a Windows guest

I recently managed to get 3D acceleration working with Virtualbox 3.0.x running a Windows guest.

I can’t lay claim to figuring this out myself, all credit goes to the guide at, “DirectX in VirtualBox 3.0.0 – Pure joy is here”.

In a nutshell:

  • Install a Windows guest under Virtualbox, as you normally would.
  • Shutdown the virtual machine, and under SettingsDisplay, click the checkbox to turn on 3D acceleration. I also pushed the slider up to 128 Mb of video memory.
  • Reboot the Windows guest into Safe Mode, by pressing F8 during bootup.
  • Install the Virtualbox Guest Additions while in Safe Mode. Ensure you select the optional component “Direct3D Support” during the installation.
  • Reboot the Windows guest. You should now have 3D acceleration for programs that use DirectX …

The “Safe Mode” trick was the key part I was missing when I first tried – the Guest Additions installer seems to give no indication that the Direct3d component will silently fail if it is not installed under “Safe Mode”.

One extra issue I experienced, in my case when running Unity3D, was that the mouse was ultra-sensitive, to the point of being unusable, when used in a window displaying 3D graphics. In VMware, this can be fixed by setting Preferences – Input – Optimized Mouse for Games – Always. Presently, I do not know how to fix this issue in Virtualbox.

Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on Dell Vostro 1500 laptop

I know, I know, this post might seem a little dated already, considering the release of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is imminent. My fault .. I sort of … um .. just forgot to press publish about four months ago … 😛

I’ve previously documented my experiences with installing Ubuntu 7.10, and then an upgrade to 8.04, on my Dell Vostro 1500 notebook computer. Now … a fresh install of Ubuntu 9.04. Here’s the lowdown.

What works, executive summary:

3D graphics (Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT) – yes (just turn on the proprietary driver in Administration->Hardware Drivers for better 3D performance)

Sound output (Intel 82801H HDA controller, ICH8 chipset) – yes (no config required)

Sound input (mic, line-in) –untested

Wired network –yes

Wireless network –yes – (including painless Ad-Hoc wireless connections !)

Firewire (IEEE1394) –yes, probably (well, actually untested in 9.04 but I assume it still works, with the text file config documented in previous posts)

SD card slot –yes

Integrated webcam (optional) –yes (works with “Cheese” in Gnome)

Touchpad pointing device –yes

External VGA (D-bus) video port – yes (just toggle with Fn-F8)

PCI Express slot –untested

Sound in – untested.

(unless explicitly stated, all the stuff with a ‘yes’ “just-worked”, without any need for text file editing or commandline kungfu)

The first version of Ubuntu I installed on the Dell Vostro 1500 was Ubuntu 7.10, back in late 2007 when this model was a brand spanking new on Dells product list. My experience with 7.10 was okay, but several configuration tweaks were required to get everything working properly. How things have changed in two years ! In Ubuntu 9.04, no sound config was required for audio playback. The Network Manager in 9.04 now supports Wireless Ad-Hoc mode without any commandline magic. The Nvidia proprietary graphics drivers can be enabled with two clicks of the mouse. Attaching an external screen works without a hitch. Ubuntu even prompts you to use the NVIDIA native screen resolution app, which will detect both screens. Both Suspend and Hibernate seem to be working without issue.

What can I say. Best. Ubuntu. Ever. 🙂

Ubuntu Laptop ACPI hard disk ‘clicking’ bugfix on the way

You may remember I had some issues on my Dell Vostro 1500 with a scary sounding periodic hard disk ‘click’, related to a bug in the pm-utils package. In brief: this bug effectively puts the disk into powersaving mode far too often, drastically reducing it’s working lifespan.

Well, good news … it looks like the hard disk ACPI bug has been fixed, and will make it’s way into the Ubuntu 9.04, 8.10 and 8.04 repositories soon.

Hooray happyday .. no more monkeypatching !

Hide the Desktop icons in Gnome for a clutter free Ubuntu

Quick tip … want to hide all the icons cluttering up your Gnome Desktop ?

Run gconf-editor (Alt-F2, type gconf-editor, Press “Run”) and navigate the tree to find /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop. Set the value to false (uncheck the checkbox), and your Desktop icons should disappear.

You can still access any files on the Desktop using the file manager (eg, under the “Places” menu), but they will no longer obscure the view of your snazzy desktop background.

(Via Tombuntu’s Ubuntu “Intrepid Ibex” 8.10 upgrade notes)

Asus Eee PC 4G (700) setup notes, links

Photo "Online Manga on Asus Eee PC" by Steve Keys, 2008, ( ), Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license ( )

I recently got an Asus Eee PC 4G so I could avoid lugging around a heavy notebook when traveling. The Xandros distro which came preinstalled was cute and booted very fast (~17 secs), but ultimately I felt I needed something a bit more versatile (oh, the stock Xandro also lacked WPA2 wireless support, which was something I need). I decided to install the soon-to-be-renamed Ubuntu Eee, an unofficial version of Ubuntu using features of the Netbook Remix, tailored to work nicely on the Eee PC.

What follows is not a HOWTO, but rather a set of links and notes on some things I tweaked. It’s mostly for my own personal reference, but if it helps someone else out, all the better. The Ubuntu Eee distro has already done most of the heavy customization required for smooth operation on an Eee PC … but I had fun doing a little tweaking of my own anyhow.

Continue reading