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Google Chrome Takes the Lead

Well, it's been quite some time since my last post. I've been busy and it seems Google has been busy too.

I recently upgraded to the latest version of Chromium (aka Google Chrome) and noticed that the folks at Google have decided to drop the http:// prefix from the "omnibox":

CNet reported this back when the feature first appeared in the developer beta's but I must say I'm surprised at the results I found in the following article:

Really?  You'd prefer to see the http:// stay?

In my opinion, dropping it is one of the best damn things they have ever done because in this day and age, it's no longer necessary. It just doesn't matter anymore because the web is all about http:// now. It's implicit and the UI should mirror this - people don't need to know about it. I recall what my good friend anto once said...

This is just one of the things which makes Chrome stand out from all the others, Jeff Atwood recently wrote that

Chrome was a completely respectable browser in V1 and V2. The entire project has moved forward so fast that it now is, at least in my humble opinion, the best browser on the planet. Google went from nothing, no web browser at all, to best-of-breed in under two years.

HOWTO: Compile PDFlib for PHP on Linux

Here's a small script which you can use to compile PDFlib support for PHP on Linux. This should work on any Debian based Linux distribution.

# Download the PDFLib Lite Linux source from here first:
# http://www.pdflib.com/download/pdflib-family/pdflib-lite-7/
# put the download in the same location as this script
# NOTE: you will be prompted by the pecl installation at the end
# of the process for a path - you'll need to enter /usr/local/ here
# Author: jbw
# DateCreated: Mon, 22 Mar 2010

# We need root privileges ..
if [ "$USER" != "root" ]; then
  chmod +x "$0"
  gksudo "$0"

dpkg -l | grep -q build-essential || \
  apt-get install build-essential

tar zxvf PDFlib-Lite-7*.tar.gz && \
  cd PDFlib-Lite-7*/ && \
  ./configure && \
  make && \
  make install

dpkg -l | grep -q php-pear || \
  apt-get install php-pear

dpkg -l | grep -q php5-dev || \
  apt-get install php5-dev

pecl install pdflib

If you don't plan on using the dl() method to load this module dynamically then you may need to modify the php configuration so it autoloads the pdf.so extension.

Delaying/Ignoring Touchpad Taps While You're Typing on Linux

Okay, so it may mean my typing posture is out of line but even so, it can be incredibly annoying if your thumb just happens to hit the touchpad on your laptop while you're typing.

I'm using a Lenovo Thinkpad T400 which has a synaptics based touchpad. This fix only works if you're using a synaptics based touchpad! If you're not using a synaptic touchpad then this fix probably won't work for you.

First off, we need to edit our xorg.conf at /etc/X11/xorg.conf. I appended the following to my file since I had not Mouse based input device section:

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier  "Touchpad"
Driver "synaptics"
Option "Device" "/dev/psaux"
Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
Option "SHMConfig" "on"

if you have an input device section then you'll need to ensure it features the same Option and Driver lines as above.

Once you've made these changes you'll need to restart the X server. You can do this using

/etc/init.d/gdm restart

or alternatively kill the X server using ctrl+alt+backspace and let gdm bring it back up. BEFORE we restart the X server, let's setup a tapping delay. I created a xinitrc file at ~/.xinitrc and put the following in it:

pgrep syndaemon > /dev/null && killall syndaemon
syndaemon -i 0.5 -d

You can experiment with different delays once you've restarted your X server by executing the two lines above from within your .xinitrc (or simply re-execute ~/.xinitrc). Half a second turned out to be the perfect delay for me but it's entirely down to your own preferences.

Have fun!

How to Completely Remove Pulseaudio Server From Karmic Koala

I don't think I'll ever understand why Ubuntu is becoming increasingly attached to Pulseaudio. While I appreciate the neat things you can do with it, I've had NOTHING but problems when using it in conjunction with voip/sip applications such as Ekiga (or zoiper). Don't get me wrong, I have tried to make friends with it. I once wasted the best part of half a day trying to come up with some form of a pulseaudio configuration that produced even semi-decent results with voip applications. It was all in vein and so it had to go - I removed Pulseaudio and everything worked, perfectly. That was in Juanty, but things were different now since I'd just upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10 aka Karmic Koala. Having upgraded, I quickly went to remove my arch enemy, otherwise known as Pulseaudio. Things unfortunately didn't work out to well, since it seems a portion of the sound applications and applets are now dependant on Pulseaudio. So I tried yet again to make friends and still conclude Pulseaudio is an epic failure.

What happens if you remove Pulseaudio on Karmic Koala?

Removing Pulseaudio in Karmic means you lose some sound related gnome goodness. You lose the volume control applet (aka speaker icon) and the hardware keyboard volume control keys stop working too. The OSD that normally displays when you volume up/down/mute also disappears. Really, I didn't care about this loss, since I never use the graphical mixer anyway - that's kinda the point of having the hardware volume keys, isn't it ? The OSD is just bling, and I could live without it as long as I could just get the hardware keys working.

Instructions for removing Pulseaudio from Karmic Koala

And so here's what I ended up with - hardware keys work and the increment/decrement of the up/down buttons is now configurable. I don't have an OSD and I don't have gnome sound volume control applet anymore. If like me, you want to remove Pulseaudio no matter what, then follow these very gratifying steps:

Step 1.Uninstall PulseAudio

Use Synaptic via System » Administration » Synaptic Package Manager or sudo apt-get remove --purge pulseaudio from the shell

Step 2. Disable the gnome keyboard volume related shortcuts

Disable the gnome keyboard volume related shortcuts since they are pulseaudio dependent and will no longer work. Go to System »Preferences » Keyboard Shortcuts and disable the three volume shortcuts (up, down and mute). You can disable a shortcut by clicking on the line and then pressing the backspace key (i.e. backspace, NOT the key on your keyboard labeled 'delete')

Step 3. Configure your own keybindings to control the hardware volume keys.

I use compiz, so I opted to setup custom commands with custom keyboard bindings using the compizconfig settings manager. If you don't use compiz, then you'll need to configure the keybindings in whatever you use. If you are using compiz go to System » Preferences » CompizConfig Settings Manager. Then go to Commands and setup your keybindings like this:

Keep in mind you can easily attach these commands to edge or button bindings too. Keyboard bindings is all I wanted thou:

The jbw-mute-audio is a small shell script which uses amixer to check whether the audio is muted or not and then mutes/unmutes accordingly:

# Mute or unmute
# jbw Mon, 08 Feb 2010
(amixer sget Master  | grep '\[off\]'  && amixer sset Master unmute) \
    || amixer sset Master mute

Save the above script and customize it accordingly (man amixer). Don't forget to chmod the script so it's executable.

That's it! Enjoy life without Pulseaudio woes!

Meteor Is Working Once Again

Okay.. it took awhile, but Meteor support in TextBuddy is back once again! If you have the latest version of the software it'll just start working automatically.

Have fun!

MyMeteor Is Down!

I'm not sure how long it's been this way but it's damn annoying. MyMeteor's been down all weekend due to "maintenance" and when I checked just now it's still down!

What kind of maintenance lasts 96 hours anyway? Couldn't they leave the old site in place until they're ready to launch the updated version? It bamboozles me how companies of this size can get away with this kind of thing.

My Desktop Evolves..

Over the last few weeks I've plunged head first in to using Linux as my primary desktop OS.  Since then, my desktop has evolved from the standard Debian Gnome configuration to my configuration. With this new desktop, things are approached a little differently when compared with my old Windows setup.  The avant-window-manager (dock) replaces the Windows taskbar. The Windows Start Menu and Quick Launch toolbar are replaced by the main Gnome panel, which sits at the top of the screen. I have added a bunch of applets to this panel, such as Terminal Services Client launcher, force quit a troublesome X process, user switcher, workspace switcher, some erm, eyes, local weather, show desktop and a volume control.  I have a whole bunch of screenlets running too, they provide the opaque desktop widgets that you see in the screenshot.

Having used this configuration for the last few weeks, things have now evolved a little further.  The folder layout on *nix machine "feels right" compared with Windows. All of "your stuff" is stored in your home directory -- which means that there's less emphasis on "the desktop", giving me the opportunity to easily keep it organised.  Grouping all current desktop icons into logical groups (directories), I arranged them around my screenlets. I figured this is the best approach since all the useful bits (screenlets and icons) are all in one place. I disabled the nautilus (using gconf -> apps > nautilus > desktop preferences) desktop trash icon since I have a screenlet taking its place instead.

My only regret now is that when I built this machine I went with an ATI graphics card. ATI's Linux support sucks, the official proprietary drivers (the dreaded ``fglrx'') suck and the opensource radeon/radeonhd drivers aren't much better.  Video performance is now the only major bottleneck on this machine and to "solve it" I decided I'd live with some high quality albeit closed-source drivers from nVidia -- an nVidia GTS 250 is on its way to me as I type.

Textbuddy v1.1.42 Has Been Released! Get It While It's Hot!

This is probably the most major release of TextBuddy in quite sometime.

Many things have changed under the hood, in addition, it handles larger multiline texts much more gracefully, and also remembers the last window size and position. I discovered that Vodafone support was broken for quite sometime (as a result of a recent vodafone.ie update) this is now working again.

Get it while it's hot - you can download it here.

How to Resolve - Error: Shared Library "Svn_client-1" Does Not Exist

While attempting to upgrade to the latest version of Trac from the FreeBSD ports you may encounter the above error.  Finding a solution for this problem isn't as easy as it may seem and so I decided I'd put it here to help out a few lost souls.

If you receive this error then it's most likely that you've built subversion with the STATIC make option. Building a static version means that no shared libraries will be built and this is the reason you get the svn_client-1 does not exist error. The solution is to:

cd /usr/ports/devel/subversion && make config

Ensure you untick the STATIC option then rebuild and reinstall the subversion port. Once you've done this you can return to your trac build and live in happiness once again.