Monthly Archives: October 2006

I will not use GNOME until…

This is about as complex as GNOME gets

Update 10.20.2006: Regarding the display driver / kernel problems I’ve been having, it seems the only viable option at this point is to downgrade my system. Kernel 2.6.17 seems to run fine, so I’ve manually searched out the RPMs at the web site and installed them myself. Everything is fine now, though this sort of thing is particularly treacherous, as a newbie user interested in installing 3D support for his PC will be unwittingly forced to upgrade his kernel as well—a move that affects all aspects of an OS.It’s funny: On the Fedora forums, the general mantra is to not upgrade one’s kernel unless there’s a specific problem you’d like to resolve. However, just to get the basic necessity of 3D acceleration going, a kernel upgrade is required (Fedora’s default kernel disallows non-GPL modules to be loaded)…so, the foreseeable future for Linux is going to be a bitch indeed. *sigh*

I had some time over the weekend to indulge my Linux tooth. As Ubuntu won’t even boot on my new Compaq system, this time around I tried Fedora Core 5, which did boot—but which insisted on garbling my screen during the Anaconda setup. After a little Q&A on various Fedora forums, I tried this at boot time:

linux vesa

It worked. (A nice, cheap solution too, as the majority of the advice I was getting from the Linux camp was to go out and buy a new monitor / video card—even though I’d used my monitor on countless previous Linux distributions without trouble.)

On the display side of things, for the first time in a long while, I was able to get 3D acceleration going for my ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset by using the RPMs. Quake 3 was bitchin’. However, the video drivers only worked on my trial installation. On Monday, when I went for a second, more permanent install, I discovered that the maintainers had updated their files, and that all ATI drivers suddenly required upgrading to the 2.6.18 kernel—which my system didn’t like. So, I ended up having to revert to 2.6.17 and no 3D. The solution remains pending.

KDE was just gross. The screenshots on the KDE web site are misleading—that’s what KDE looks like in its pristine form, before a distributor has had their way with it. The problem there is that while you can compile the desktop yourself, the KDE team recommends acquiring KDE through your favorite vendor’s distribution. This invariably leads to a whole lot of heartache. Each vender seems hellbent on tweaking and altering KDE to their preference; in the case of Fedora, KDE is mottled considerably in a suspicious attempt to make the default GNOME desktop look all the better. Now, I know Fedora is a GNOME-based distro, and as such GNOME is given preferential treatment over KDE—but still…if you’re going to include a second (or third) desktop option, give it equal treatment, or at the very least, leave it alone. Better yet, don’t include it at all.

GNOME: Ubuntu was a heavy influence in my coming to prefer GNOME as my desktop of choice. GNOME is simple, quick, and, since the vast majority of my favorite Linux programs are GTK-based, visually consistent.

GNOME is also an exercise in psychotic minimalism, sometimes to the point of inefficiency. Features I had taken for granted in earlier releases have now been eradicated or hidden in some cryptic configuration file. I asked the Fedora camp for advice on how to do this or that, and on every occasion I was confronted: No menu editor? Oh, that’s because the GNOME mime types have been changed. Windows not maximized properly? Oh, that’s not GNOME’s fault, it’s Metacity’s. Basically, I was given the ol’ political point-of-finger, “not my problem” response, and I never really found any feasible solutions.

I understand that GNOME, like Linux, is a work-in-progress that has to endure the quirks of thousands of programmers from around the world. While I prefer the overall desktop experience of GNOME over that of Windows XP, there are eight sticking points that must be ironed out before I will switch over permanently.

I will not use GNOME until:

  • The window manager (Metacity or otherwise) can figure out how to properly, truly maximize windows (and not just stretch them to the edge of the screen)
  • The file selector dialog agrees to pop open at a reasonable size / screen position, and not tucked way down into the bottom-right corner of the screen so that I have to drag it up and over every time I want to open or save a file
  • The automount feature in Nautilus(?) agrees to stop interfering with CD / DVD burning
  • I can add / update / change mime types and file type icons using a handy dialog box, ala KDE or Windows
  • I can adjust scrollbar width (at a screen resolution of 1280×1024, the standard-sized scrollbars are just microscopic, and very difficult to grab onto)
  • Screensaver options are once again available
  • GnomeBaker starts burning data CDs using Mode 1 (and not Mode 2/XA, which is strictly for VCDs and other file types that have error correction built in)
  • A proper menu editor is included (Alacarte and smeg are nice as downloadable add-ons, but both crash or freeze for a variety of inconclusive reasons)

Of course, any Linux enthusiast will point out that I can “easily” do all of the above right now simply by editing a few configuration files or working in a console exclusively.

Yeah, and I can spread butter on my toast using my finger instead of a knife.

In true naive fashion, I await Fedora Core 6 with fingers crossed.

Saturday the 14th

I’ve received a lot of e-mail concerning the site’s continued sluggishness, and all I can say in response is, “I know.” I tried scaling back a lot of the PHP scripts I use, but that doesn’t seem to be having much effect, if any at all. Not that I was fudging, but damn…this is yet another reason to hurry up and get with another host. My current guys tell me it’s simply a matter of Vertigo Alley being a big site that gets a lot of monthly hits—but, to be honest, I’ve been watching the stats, and there hasn’t been that much of an increase in traffic since the start of the year. Everything was working pretty darned well back then, before this summer’s server “upgrade.” After, well, you’ve seen, you know. That’s why I pulled some in-betweeners this week and finally managed to get a lot of the foundation work out of the way so that when it comes time for the move, I’ll only have to worry about copying and pasting files (and not making sure said files are ready to begin with). What does that do for us in the meantime? Absolutely nothing, I’m afraid.

If it’s any consolation, some site enhancements slipped out during my tinkering. I’ve added a “open site in new window” button at the top-right of each page so that those of you with huge monitors / screen resolutions of 1280×1024 and higher can view the site in a more appropriately-sized browser window. (You need to have JavaScript enabled for this to work, though.) There’s also a shiny new RSS feed, and several CSS tweaks to make the site look a little better in legacy browsers such as Internet Explorer.

Now you can open the site in a new window...hoorah

Monotonous book news: My latest novel, Stories from the Steel Garden, is still on sale for only $10, so grab your copy before the deal runs out! Reviewers, e-mail me for a special deal.

In closing (just because), here’s a prime example of body-snatcher coincidence in which Sal is not only himself, but the gelfling Jen and 80s actor Doug Toby as well:

Salvador con quesoJen PeralesSal the Mystic Warrior

And that’s not counting Claude as Fyvush Finkel, Suzy as Dominique Moceanu, and Joey as Billy Bob Thornton in Badder Santa.