Category Archives: Desktop

Choose the tab cycle behavior in Opera

Opera BrowserAs I mentioned previously I’ve move to Opera as my primary browser and like most the more you use something the more you learn about the tool you’ve chosen. In this case it’s the behavior when you use the key combination Control-Tab to cycle through your open tabs.

You can set this behavior from your preferences screen. You can get there from the Opera menu, under Settings -> Preferences or you can just hit Control-F12. Once on your Preferences screen select the Advanced tab and the first option is for tabs.

opera-tab-cycleThe first drop down box allows you to select the behavior you want Opera to have when you click the Control-Tab key combo. The first two options will give you a window that comes up in the center of your browser that will who a list of the tabs you have open – the order is determined by your choice (I prefer the highlighted option). The last one, cycle without a list, is the default behavior you’ll see in most of the other tabbed browsers. With that option you’ll simply cycle through the tabs from left to right.

Need help picking a Linux Distribution?

TuxWhether you’re new to Linux or have been using it for a while sometimes you just need a little help picking which one to run.

If you are looking for that help you can ask anyone who uses Linux and you’ll most likely get their favorite flavor or distribution along with while it’s the best one out there. You’ll also find that everyone has an opinion and they all feel it’s the best choice for you. There is an alternative.

The Linux Distribution Chooser.

The site hasn’t been updated in a while but the “quiz” still works and it takes into account how computer savy your are, whether you’ve run Linux before, and even tries to factor in the type of computer you’re going to install it on.

I found the result screen interesting as well. The site lists out the top contenders for you based on your results and then list those that don’t quite make the grade and why they didn’t (lack of GUI install, possible slow performance, etc.).

All in all it’s a good site and the results may give you some insight as to the version you should install – but the decision is always going to be a personal one.

Have you recently install Linux? Which distribution did you pick?

My desktop – just a void

This afternoon Lifehacker featured another desktop design submitted to their Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell Flickr group.

The premise is easy enough, take some of the better known desktop customization software like Rainmeter create some skins, set it against a unique looking background and maybe even put your todo.txt file on it. What you have is a fantastic desktop that looks cool and is the envy of all your geekdom friends.

Or, a complete waste of time – it depends on your perspective.

Here’s my desktop:


The void desktop

There’s no fancy background, not todo.txt file, not even an icon to be seen – just a black void with a script that shows the time and date (written by yours truly), a true picture of minimalism. In fact you typically won’t see the taskbar up on my screen as I love my application launcher – Launchy.

I will be honest though, I did take a look at geeking out my desktop at one point and I was also that guy in the office where you couldn’t see the picture of his kids through all the icons but a couple of years ago I decided that just black was fine with me.

Why the radical change at the time? There were two primary reasons and both in my mind were very practical.

1. Just couldn’t find anything

You do reach a point when the dumping ground that is your computer desktop is just too cluttered to find anything. If you’re desktop is littered with icons for programs, documents, bookmarks and so on, think back to the last time you had to find something – how long did it take? How long did you spend staring at the screen wondering where the item was? For me, there’s no looking for it – it’s filed with all the other items of a given project or topic. For those items that don’t fit into a project my good friend Launchy is set up to index all my main file folders and can usually pull it out.

Of course the setup I have has take a fair amount of discipline to maintain. Whenever I create a document, whatever the type, I need to be sure I store it properly up front, it’s not a time consuming act but one that requires you to develop the habit of doing and trust me I was a great “dump it to the desktop” guy.

2. I never see it

The other reason I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort is that I never see my desktop. All the cool trick outs in the world just aren’t any fun if you don’t see them. When I’m at my day job (blogging just doesn’t pay the bills yet) I can have upwards of two dozens application windows open at the same time and all I do is switch between them. When I’m working on a blog post (like right now) I’m in full screen mode (hit F11 in Chrome – a beautiful thing) – in both cases I just don’t see the desktop.

If you can’t enjoy it, why bother?

So while I enjoy the Lifehacker posts with all the cool desktops I’m happy with my black background, my clock script and no icons – my void of a desktop. As an aside, everyone that sees my desktop wonders how I can keep it so clean and when I start to explain it the response is along the lines of “it must be a geek thing.”

Work and Home – Pulling the two apart

It all sounds good until you can’t see the lines in the sand anymore.

If you’re like me, and lots of others, you have the ability to work from home or for that matter any place you can get a signal or Wi-Fi network and when you first embrace that it feels good. The short commute, more time with the family, no boss looking over your shoulder trying to figure out what you’re up too – but then it happens, you never stop working and everything else starts to suffer.

How do I know that? I’m living proof, the mobile worker who never stops working. The chirp of the phone when the email, text, or voice mail comes in. The need to answer everything within minutes, even on the weekends become almost an addiction and before you know it you’re a 24×7 workaholic who takes “vacations” complete with the family, email, phone and conference calls.

I decided this week enough was enough and it was time to separate the two from each other (at least as much as possible).

Looking back I realize that I had already started this transition when I installed Ubuntu via Wubi on my laptop and started the practice of only working in that environment. I’ve installed Chrome (dev version) and as most of the work I do is cloud based anyway the transition was relatively easy. I still have to pop over to Windows for a few items still but I should be able to eliminate even those items over the next few weeks. So work will be in Windows and Linux for home.

Continuing on the theme of creating separate environments and given that I just received an upgrade at work, my iPhone is now personal only and my new Droid is for work only. I now have to carry two phones but I can now have each adapted to how they should be focused. Of course an additional benefit is that I now get to play with applications from the Android marketplace as well.

At this point the next decision for me to make is task management. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a fan of reQall which is a web based solution. With it’s recent updates you can easily create lists for specific locations and tag for context which means I could use it to cover both personal and work items, which I have done in the past. Now being web based I could use it for either side of the house but since my workplace is Microsoft centric I’ve decided to move my task management for work over to Outlook which is also the application I use for work email and both, with the help of the Android application Touchdown by Nitrodesk, sync up nicely with my Droid. This leaves reQall for personal use.

So now the basic tools are in place and I can start to separate work from home. The biggest challenge now is changing the work habits I’ve developed over the years that caused such a blurring of the line.

Do you have a work/home balance issue? Did you have one and managed to overcome it? Take a minute and share in the comments.

Wubi is the way to go

So here’s the situation, you’re running a MS Windows based machine and you really want to work in Linux – maybe you just want to check out the environment, maybe you want to test software in Linux as well as Windows or maybe, like me, it gives you a clean break from you daytime work environment and allows you to keep your skills up.

So why Wubi? Here’s my reasoning, your mileage may vary.

1. Build a new machine and load Linux as the primary operating system

The ideal – a separate machine with Linux installed as the default operating system. Unfortunately for me that while I can definitely create this I don’t really have the room to set up a desktop machine for the minimum amount of time I would be using it. Yes, I could install it on a laptop but that would entail actually buying something and I prefer to use what I have on hand. So for now, this option is out.

2. Setup a second partition and dual boot

Another good option and like the one above one taken by many people. The issue I have is that the primary machine I’m using (a laptop) is owned by the company I work for during the day and they really discourage this type of “customization.” So while I could probably do this and have it working, should I need the support of the IT department and they may balk at supporting this configuration. So again, I have to pass.

3. Setup a virtual machine

Truth be told I have done this a number of times with the likes of VMWare, Virtual Box, as well as Portable Ubuntu and Cygwin. All of them are good options if you want to dabble with a Linux based system with minimal impact to the system you’re on. The drawback as I saw it, based on what I’m looking to do, is that you’re still in Windows. If you run into an issue you can just load up something you’re intimately familiar with and get the task done. So while a really solid option I’ll pass for this run.

4. Use Wubi to install Ubuntu

This is the option I finally settled on and so far (I’m only a few days into using it) I’m pleased with the decision. Wubi, for those of you who don’t know what it is, allows you to install Ubuntu in a manner that makes it appear as an application to Windows. This is a nice feature as it makes removal from the system a snap (just remove the program). Once you’ve installed it and rebooted your system you should see a menu screen allowing you to pick the operating system to boot to – pick Ubuntu (the default load for Wubi) and it boots into Ubuntu – slick.

There is one small snag – if you’re running XP you might not get the boot screen, an issue I ran into, but there is a simple fix.

1. Right click on your ‘My Computer’ icon on the desktop or Windows’ Start menu
2. Select ‘Properties’
3. Select the Advanced tab
4. Select Startup and Recovery (Edit settings)

On the screen that comes up there will be a button to click that will allow you to edit the boot.ini file which will look something like:

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOWS=”Windows XP Media Center Edition” /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
[boot loader]
timeout=5
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOW S

To which Wubi should add the line: c:wubildr.mbr=”Ubuntu”

The issue is that the line can’t be appended to the end and have it work, you need to insert that line before the [boot loader] line so that the system knows about the Ubuntu system. Put the line in the correct space and it works just fine.

So, I’m happy now, I can reboot my system when I get home and load up Ubuntu without issue. It’s a nice change of pace and keep my Linux skills up.

Do you dual boot? Virtual machine it? Could care less about the world beyond Windows? Why not share in the comments?

Oh yeah, I’m entering this post from a Firefox installation on my Wubi installed Ubuntu 10.04.