August 24, 2009

Migrating from Mac to Linux

I'm configuring an Ubuntu install on my new desktop machine at work, and as I figure out issues that were not easily findable on the web, I'll be posting them here, in hopes that someone else might benefit. Some of it will be most useful to Mac users trying to replicate Mac-ness; others to more general new-to- or returned-to-Linux geeks.

One random little tidbit that took me a while to figure out was how to configure the icons on my Launcher bar (the one that by default runs along the top of the screen but can be put on the side to resemble a Dock)---in particular, how to use my own custom ones. I'd discovered as a source of icons, and had a nice SVG mailbox that I wanted to use, which I copied to /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/, and when I browsed to it from the Launcher Properties dialog, it showed up in the browser, but after I selected it, the image was blank in the Launcher Properties dialog and some default image over in the Launcher. The solution? Make sure it's owned by root. Not sure why this matters, but after I chowned it to root, it worked just fine.

Another item: An awful lot of pages out there claim that there just isn't any good replacement for good old xv; certainly most of the ones that think there is point you either to a program that has no GUI at all, or to one that is a photo manager a la iPhoto, or else perhaps to the GIMP, which is way more power than I'm looking for when I fire up xv. However, one page, the "Grumpy Editor's guide to image viewers", itself already five years old, pointed me at a nice little package called gthumb, which is pretty darn close. There are a few minor issues, but it does: load up individual files (fast!), crop, resize, rotate multiples of 90, and convert between the major raster formats. It also does some extremely basic color editing. I do wish that it had single-key shortcuts for things like "shrink by half", "grow by 10%", and "quit", but the newfound ability to resize to a precise pixel size, or select a crop on an 800% fatbits view, will make up for this.

And: I very much liked the Mac's screensaver that prowls through a directory of images and does a random pan-and-zoom on them, but I was having a hard time replicating this. First, one of the screensavers (slideshow) doesn't do the pan-and-zoom; but then I looked harder and found GLSlideshow, which does, although super-fast and with the whole image on the screen at once (with black bars alongside). Still couldn't configure it, though. At last I found a helpful blog post that gives the details. First, point it at your directory of pictures by creating a .xscreensaver file in your directory with the line "imageDirectory: /home/dblaheta/screensaver-pix" or whatever your directory is. Then, as root, edit the file /usr/share/applications/screensavers/glslideshow.desktop, modifying the line that says "Exec: glslideshow -root" by appending the additional options " -duration 15 -pan 15 -fade 5 -clip". This makes it more closely match the look of Mac's version (although you can further tweak these options---see the manpage for glslideshow).

To hyperconfigure my computer interactions, I've also discovered gizmod, which captures events (e.g. a keypress or mouse movement) and can translate these into other events; my initial motivation was to replicate the CursorMove functionality of fvwm, which I had been looking forward to in my return to Linux, in compiz which for various reasons I'm using instead. I hope it will also be useful in doing some per-application key remapping. I'm having some trouble configuring it, though....

More later as it develops.

"How about social conservatives make their argument without bringing God into it? By all means, let faith inform one's values, but let reason inform one's public arguments." --Kathleen Parker

Posted by blahedo at 6:56pm on 24 Aug 2009
Hey, if you like Ubuntu try LinuxMint. It is a derivative of Ubuntu but comes with more (non-free) stuff out of the box to make a more complete system. Posted by Chris Johnson at 7:24pm on 24 Aug 2009
Take a look at and You can have xv on Ubuntu. Posted by Greg at 4:25pm on 22 Sep 2009
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