My new baby, Azusa

Ever since Asus’ announcement of the Eee PC, I was interested to buy one, since I really need a replacement notebook for my display-dead Compaq Presario v2000, which is now on desktop mode connected to a much cheaper (PHP 10,000) external Samsung 19″ wide-screen LCD than a replacement (PHP 13,000~20,000) 14″ built-in one.

I actually bought one the moment an 8G galaxy black model came out on the US. That was early April this year, but my aunt who lives there had filled up the box meant to be sent here just about the end of May. Anyway, I’m just glad I’ve finally gotten a hold of my new baby I named Azusa the 23rd of July. That was almost 4 months of waiting. The Eee PC 90x is already out in some parts of the world. T_T

Final set up

She was so named from being an Asus laptop and a certain fictional high school teacher from a 1998 Japanese television drama played by the beautiful Nanako Matsushima.

I was planning to experiment which operating system I could use to replace its custom Xandros-based Linux distro that I find a little bit restrictive. I’m thinking Ubuntu Eee, but suggestions are very welcome.

Right now, I’m making this entry from Azusa herself. I hope, now that I’m confirmed as a camper for the upcoming WordCamp Philippines 2008, there would be free Internet access that I may enjoy on-site blogging.

I guess I’d review my Eee PC experience during the past 3 ½ days:

I was actually surprised how well it receives Wi-Fi signals from my router about 15 meters away from our living room, even my uncle is having a hard time with Wi-Fi on his Toshiba Satellite.

It is actually not so hard to type on this little keyboard, I just hope I could find a way to convert the input method to Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout (one thing that makes me want to get rid of its custom Xandros-based Linux). It just bothers me with the lack of independent Home, End, PgUp and PgDn buttons, which are mapped to Fn+, Fn+, Fn+ and Fn+, respectively.

I couldn’t actually feel I’m on a sub-GHz Celeron processor right now—it boots up really quickly. Probably, if I’ve loaded this with a Microsoft OS, it would be a bit more sluggish.

Certain applications are somehow hidden from normal view, I wish I could create shortcuts for the text editor, terminal/console app, and a lot more customizations and settings.

Well, that’s it for now. More reviews later when I finally have time to experiment and do more stuff with my first ever product of blogging for money. Next stop? A digital single-lens reflex camera. 🙂

Firefox Phishing Exploit

Firefox has a built-in phishing filter that checks whether a site is blacklisted, and warns the user of the potential fraud and information theft a phishing site could do. It uses Google’s database or a downloaded list of sites according to the user’s preference.

What follows is a quote from The irc.mozilla.org QDB, which caught my attention. Not only because I understood it, but also because I’ve already done it. It talks about a certain exploit to Firefox’s phishing protection/filter system.

Someone nicknamed Hixie[1] stated:

woah

i think i just found a semi-serious issue with the phishing protection in firefox

i went to a site that triggered the warning

and my immediate reaction (without really thinking) was “oh i wonder why that is blocked, let’s have a look” and i immediately opened it _in IE_.

possibly the worst thing i could have done.

I just realized the gravity of the situation when I remembered doing the same mistake he just said a lot of times before. But, it came to me that there is just no workaround to curiosity.

Oh, wel— … Hmmm …

… But then again, there’s Linux.

Footnote:

  1. ^ I guess this is Ian Hickson, but I’m not so sure.

Fix Blurry Icons in Ubuntu

If you’ve recently tweaked the appearance of your Ubuntu installation, and selected anything other than the default Human theme, chances are that you may find some of your icons blurry. This is because the Human theme uses 24×24 icons and (probably) all others use 22×22. Therefore, choosing anything other than Human theme would compress all remaining icons on the main menu that has no corresponding icon from the newly selected theme, making them blurry.

For example, the following image has been taken after choosing the Glossy theme:

Blurry Icons
Note the icons for Keyring Manager and Network (highlighted)

If you don’t like the Human theme, but would like to preserve the crisp icons, you have to create a GTK+ 2 settings file. Do the following steps on a per-user basis:

  1. Open your favorite text editor, and create a text file ~/.gtkrc-2.0.[1]
  2. Place the line, gtk-icon-sizes = "panel-menu=24,24".
  3. Save and exit.
  4. Log off and re-log onto your account.

But, you may want to share the crisp icons for other users, too. So, you might as well hack into the theme file. The following steps would tell you how:

  1. Open a terminal application.[2]
  2. Type in, sudo <text editor command> /usr/share/themes/<theme directory>/gtk-2.0/gtkrc.[3]
  3. Type in your password for superuser status.
  4. Place the line, gtk-icon-sizes = "panel-menu=24,24" on any line outside any brackets.
  5. Save and exit.
  6. Log off and re-log onto your account.

The menus would then use 24×24-pixel icons that retains the original crisp.

Crisp Icons
Note the icons for Keyring Manager and Network (highlighted)

I’ve used more than a couple searches and mailing list pages to figure this out, but the most unambiguous workaround source surprisingly comes from the OpenOffice.org section on the Ubuntu bug tracker on Launchpad.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ where ~ points to your home directory
  2. ^ click on: Main Menu » Applications » Accessories » Terminal
  3. ^ for example: sudo nano /usr/share/themes/Glossy/gtk-2.0/gtkrc to edit the Glossy theme on nano

P.S.:

I haven’t actually tried the per-user setting file, but the system-wide theme hack worked for me, definitely. I just included it according to the instructions I’ve read for those who cannot acquire a superuser status on their systems, thus, the permission to edit the theme files.

Show Off Your Desktop

Lexie had me tag myself for showing off her simple, albeit funny, desktop. I really want to do the meme, though I had a little difficulty picking which one out of four systems (or maybe every one) I use I should show, and from which systems I’d pick five of my favorite applications. I eventually decided to go exclusively for the best one (system).

The meme goes like this: Post a screen shot of your desktop, and list five of your favorite applications.

And, so, here’s my desktop:

My Ubuntu Desktop

The top five applications I currently can’t live without include:

  1. Mozilla Firefox: the best and most extensible Web browser there is. It even runs fast on Linux. Though Linux has inherent security features, the security Firefox gave me when I was still on Windows gave me more peace of mind while browsing the Web.

    Addons: ColorZilla, Download Statusbar, Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer, FxIF, Organize Status Bar, Screen grab!, SearchStatus, ShowIP, Web Developer

  2. GNOME Terminal: a command line interface for Ubuntu, which I use for almost anything not readily available on a GUI.

    Separate apps I run on terminal: SVN, GNU nano

  3. Rhythmbox: Ubuntu’s default music player. This app isn’t really full-featured, IMO. It lacks an equalizer and configurable global hotkeys,[1] among others. But, its readily available plugins that include a very good iPod support, and Last.fm scrobbling makes up for everything. Notably, iPods’ music content could be read and played without syncing.[2] And, it has LIRC support I am hoping to try someday.

    Plugins: Last.fm, iPod, Cover art

  4. Gaim (now Pidgin): a multi-protocol instant messenger. I usually like official IM clients more, but since I use the Yahoo! Messenger service the most often, and the official YM client for UN*X systems became abandonware,[3] and I use Google Talk as well, I opted for the default IM client on Ubuntu. Besides, Psychic Mode is bloody cool.

    Plugins: Buddy State Notification, Message Notification, Message Timestamp Formats, Psychic Mode

  5. µTorrent (with WebUI beta): OK, I cheated as this application runs on my Windows desktop. But, thanks to µTorrent’s very innovative WebUI, I could control it from my Ubuntu notebook as well. I could have used Wine (hat tip to my classmate Luis), but my high-capacity disk is on my desktop anyway.

Now, there’s some link love you don’t see here everyday. I tag everyone reading this who has a knack for showing off something. 😛

Footnotes:

  1. ^ for non-multimedia keyboards; Good thing I have multimedia playback keys on my notebook.
  2. ^ I sync with the official iTunes client on my Windows with the big hard drive, and I haven’t tried syncing on Ubuntu yet—or tried checking if it is at least possible.
  3. ^ Latest release for UN*X systems is version 1.0.4 dated September 2003, while the latest Windows release is version 8.1.0.419 dated 29 August 2007.

No Windows, No QWERTY

After more than a decade of computing experience, and being stuck with Microsoft Windows along with the QWERTY keyboard layout, my non-conforming self just wanted to be different.

I’ve learned about Linux[1] years ago (ca. late 1990s), but, even though I was interested to see one running, I was hesitant to try because I was neither a programmer, nor a techie back then. So, open-source applications you compile before you execute, command line interfaces, and gzipped tarballs, among others, were still some things I fear to tinker with.

Now that easy-to-use Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, have been available, nothing could stop me anymore. Besides, with a more secure system, a much cooler desktop environment, and a free[2] license, who could ask for more?

The transition to Ubuntu was painless, except for the loss of my favorite text editor, EditPlus, which probably is the only software besides Mozilla Firefox I’d die without. But, I’m trying to learn GNU Emacs anyway. Hopefully, I’d feel more geeky using it. I’ve also tried command line installation of some software,[3] but I must admit Synaptic Package Manager is easier even compared to Windows installers.

On the other hand, I couldn’t remember when I’ve learned about the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout since I love reading about a wide range of information almost anytime I am not busy with anything. I didn’t care much about it back then, because I thought I did not have the proper hardware. After reading much about health, world records, language, and technological history, as well as software developers (all those topics are related, btw), I became interested with the DSK.

When I said those topics are related, I meant it. On the subject of health and RSIs, DSK has been said to minimize, if not eliminate, hand discomfort by incorporating a layout designed to lessen hand/wrist movements, which I hopefully experience once I get used to it. World records show that the fastest typing speed of 212 wpm is being held by Barbara Blackburn on a DSK. I’ve measured my peak on a QWERTY at 59 wpm,[4] and I aim to reach higher speeds. Dr. August Dvorak, the inventor, researched letter frequency on the English language to make a more efficient keyboard layout. History proved the (almost) one and a half century old typing layout, QWERTY, difficult to displace, but two famous software developers, Matt Mullenweg and Bram Cohen, whose products I use and love,[5] use DSK.

So, I made mine DSK, as well. And, it’s hunt-and-peck all over again! Oh, I so love challenging myself.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ And, Tux, its cute penguin mascot.
  2. ^ As in freedom.
  3. ^ Just for experience, and the fun of it.
  4. ^ Measured using Typeonline Speed test without mistakes.
  5. ^ WordPress and the BitTorrent protocol, respectively.

P.S.:

I actually tried to remember my own history with computers as I write this blog entry. Though it remains unclear, I still remember using the Norton Commander text user interface to play DOS-based games probably even before I’ve been to Windows 3.1x—and that was a long, long time ago. I typed this entry using DSK within the span of 48 hours. Tedious, but I’m starting to forget QWERTY, which I don’t know whether it is a good or a bad thing. Heh.