Old Computer? No Problem! Linux Saves The Day.

Want to know what utilizes 54.3 MB of RAM idle at 1% CPU utilization on a Gateway M250 laptopCrunchBang Linux, that’s what!

It’s always a breath of fresh air when you are able to resurrect older hardware that most people would throw right into the trash with a dash of Linux.

Granted, this M250 laptop isn’t in its default config…I’ve updated it from 512MB of RAM to 2GB of RAM…which puts it at the maximum it can recognize.  It is running a Pentium M 740 Processor that runs at 1.73 Ghz and was part of the Centrino line from Intel.  It’s not breaking any land speed records but it hums along nicely.  I can upgrade it still to a Pentium M 760 and then that too will be maxed out.  For now, this laptop would run Windows XP normally and probably not do a fantastic job at it with a bunch of apps installed.

With Linux, I can load it up with just about anything I want and things just work.  If you haven’t taken a look at CrunchBang Linux in a while, you should do so immediately.  It’s like straight up octane fuel for your older computers.  I’m pleased that CrunchBang uses Debian for its base so that I am not in want of obscure packages and it uses Openbox, one of my favorite window managers, for its default desktop.

During the writing of this article using Firefox…er Iceweasel 8.0…it’s humming nicely at 175MB of RAM being used and about 15% CPU.  Very pleased thus far.  I’ll include a screenshot below and I’ll do a more in depth review of CrunchBang soon.

Remember, don’t throw out your old computers/laptops.  Resurrect them with Linux…particularly a VERY well put together and nice distribution like CrunchBang Linux!


CrunchBang Linux
CrunchBang Linux

How-To Choose the Right Distribution of Linux

Linux Choices
so many choices
Courtesy of evelynishere

Which distribution is the RIGHT distribution?  Is there such a thing?  When you start your journey with Linux you might here something like this:

– Ubuntu is the best distribution for the desktop
– Linux Mint is the best distribution for a home user and the desktop
– Debian is the best way to go because of its stability and solid base
– Mandriva isn’t as good as Mageia
– Mageia isn’t as good as Mandriva
– Red Hat is for servers only
– Distribution X is better than distribution Y!

Here’s the thing…statements like these are all BLATANTLY FALSE.  Why?  Because they’re opinions..everyone has one and they are all just that…opinions.

When you start your journey with Linux, don’t let someone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t use.  Go out and find what fits you like a glove and use that.  It doesn’t matter how large of community the distribution has (unless that is what you’re specifically looking for) or how often it updates or how many hits it has on the Distrowatch tracker.  Use what is best FOR YOU.  Only you can decide what distribution scratches whatever itch you have.

If you choose the right one, chances are you’ll be a part of that distribution for a long time.  But don’t worry, it isn’t like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and if you pick the wrong distribution you won’t turn into a dusty exploding skeleton.  In this situation, the RIGHT distribution of Linux is ANY distribution of Linux.  As long as you’re making a conscious effort to choose free software and use Linux, you win.

I’ve been in, around and even leading Linux communities since the late 1990’s and there is one thing I’ve found it is this:  Every single distribution has a place in this world.  Every single distribution has it’s own niche users.  Every single distribution of Linux is important. I’m sure many of you have heard or have said that Linux just needs to simplify more and have only a handful of distributions so we can concentrate on just that handful and make it be fantastic.  Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work very well and would stifle creativity.  To prove my point…what if we didn’t have small distributions at all?  That wouldn’t have a large effect on Linux as a whole right? Let’s take a look at that hypothesis…

If Small Distributions Never Were…

As an example:  Symphony OS.  It used FVWM and Mezzo for the desktop experience and it REVOLUTIONIZED the way we see and interact with files.  If you use Gnome 3, Ubuntu Unity, or KDE 4.X, you’re using concepts that Symphony OS was the first to put onto a Linux desktop.  Symphony never had a huge user base.  It never shot up the charts at Distrowatch.  It did however, push the envelope of what a desktop distribution can and can’t do.  It did push the boundaries of design.  It did push simplicity and usability to a new level.  It also did web apps before webapps were cool.  Somehow it never caught on…but I it influenced people and challenged people to push the envelope of what was possible and impossible with desktop Linux.

Small, Niche Distributions Perform a Function

Often times I have found Linux users looking for a distribution that fills a specific function.  “I just want a file sharing distribution” they’ll say, or perhaps “I just want a nice and simple desktop”, or maybe even “I just want a tight firewall”.  The beauty of open source software and Linux is that you’ll find small, niche distributions that fit the bill for all of those needs and when you use these distributions, you’ll continue to learn about Linux…and perhaps you’ll push the envelope of what is possible and not possible just like Symphony OS did.

Regardless if you choose small or large distributions, you win.  The fact is you CHOSE and weren’t force fed something by system installers and companies who think they know what is best for you.

We CAN All Get Along

Many times when we pick the flavor of Linux we like, we identify with its goals…the direction its heading…maybe even the direction the community champions.  There isn’t anything wrong with this.  The next time you experience passionate supporters of Linux, keep in mind that neither you nor they are the enemy.  If you both use Linux and open source, you both win.  Small, large,  and niche distributions of Linux operate harmoniously together and build off one another…it’s one of the unseen benefits of Linux and open source.  Beauty and power in simplicity through collaboration.  Congratulate yourself every single day for choosing Linux!

Conky Always on Top Fix in Openbox

openbox and conky

I hit a snag recently when installing Openbox on the newest Alpha2 for Unity Linux.  I initiated Conky in my autostart.sh and it was always on top…of everything on my desktop.  That’s not a good thing when you’re trying to browse the web with your Conky layout on top of your browser.  After thinking about some of the settings, I thought maybe that own_window setting might be good to play around with in conky settings…however, after a few tries, that didn’t pan out and fix this problem.

I recalled something similar with wbar in Openbox…it would draw itself on top only and have a large black box around it.  No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to not display the bar nor get it to stop displaying on top.  I eventually would have to kill the PID and restart the program; then I tried something…on accident actually…pypanel, my previous panel, displayed so fast I had to make it sleep to avoid problems.  So I just replaced pypanel with wbar and let it go.  Wouldn’t you know it, Wbar displayed fine and in all it’s glory after that.

I tried the same with Conky and I am happy to report it works just fine to solve the “always on top” issue.  To make a task sleep before running in your autostart.sh, alter it as follows:

(sleep 6 && program) &

Where 6 is the number of seconds you want things to sleep and program is the program you wish to run.  Hopefully this helps a few people out…it threw me for a loop for a while before I was able to solve it.  Gratuitous and obligatory screenshot is below:

openbox and conky
openbox, conky & tint2

Mozilla Firefox, From Darling to Enemy in One Release


FirefoxWhat is wrong with everyone in Linux land bagging on Mozilla Firefox and their 5.0 release?

Complaints pretty much have one thing in common:  They claim there isn’t enough ‘new and shiny’ things inside FF5 to warrant a major version.  This is illogical thinking because major version means NOTHING when it comes to usability of software.  I’ve noticed that I can browse and use FF5 just as easily as I could FF4 and FF3 before it…I still type in URL’s and websites display.  My plugins all still work.  It starts up a bit faster and websites seem to load just a bit faster…which is good.  So why all the whining and complaining?

The silliest thing about this is that the same people complaining about Firefox 5 say that Chrome and IE are going to overtake it and that this is the beginning of the end for Mozilla and Firefox.  Poppycock!  Chrome and Chromium have been using Agile programming and the SAME EXACT METHODOLOGY BEHIND releases and version numbers that Firefox is doing now.  So where was the flack for Google and Chromium when they released often and incremented all the way up to version 10 and then version 12??

It is my opinion that the people shouting from the rooftops that Mozilla and Firefox are a sinking ship doomed to fail while using Chrome/Chromium in the background have no clue what Agile Programming (or in Google’s case, Agile-like programming) is or what it sets out to accomplish…and they’re showing how hypocritical they are.  If you’re one of these people, where were you when Chrome and Chromium was ratcheting up their version numbers without noticeable improvements and features?

Sad that Firefox and Mozilla, who championed one of the first fantastic browsers on Linux, has went from Linux Darling to Public Enemy Number One in a single release in some peoples eyes.  Hopefully, people will realize how silly it is and stop complaining?  Well, one can dream right?

Let’s look at the quality of the software when levelling complaints instead of being upset that the version number doesn’t jive with what we think it should.  Thus far, my experience with FF5 has been pretty darn fantastic.  Thanks go out to Mozilla…you’ve done a great iteration of software yet again.

Some Random Helpful Hints

I’ve been slowly collecting a few commands that are useful to me for various things while using Linux.  I figured that I would share some of these handy commands.  In no particular order, they are:

To copy, preserving permissions AND structure AND recursively, from a remote system to your local system:

rsync -r -a -v -e ssh server1.address.com:/dir/youwant/to/copy/ /local/location/for/directory/

Please note that the code above assumes that you are using key based authentication and not password.  For password based authentication, it would look more like this:

rsync -r -a -v -e ssh remoteuser@server1.address.com:/dir/youwant/to/copy/ /local/location/for/directory/

To remove all files matching a certain extension (xml in my example) in a directory:

find . -type f -name "*.xml" -exec rm -f {} \;

To go into a location, find all files that match a certain extension (jpg in my example) and move them to a different directory:

find . -name "*.jpg" | xargs -i mv '{}' /location/to/move/them/to/ 

To recursively remove empty directory from the directory you are currently in (your pwd):

find -depth -type d -empty -exec rmdir {} \;

These are a few of the commands that I’ve found useful in the past few weeks.  I hope you find them useful as well.  I’ll be test driving quite a few different distributions and reporting back what I find as well as experimenting with various different commands…I really like find because it is so powerful so look for some more posts with uses of the find command.  Thanks for reading and sorry for my lapse in posting this past month!

Radio Tray – A Radio Player That Fits In System Tray

Radio Tray is a very simple application that plays your favourite radio stations and it does so from the system tray, meaning any station you want to listen to is only two clicks away. Naturally you’ll need to add your favorite streams to this program before it will actually be useful. Most websites offering streaming will give you access to a “.pls” file. Copy the link to this file and you can add it to Radio Tray. It supports most media formats as well as PLS, M3U, ASX, WAX and WVX playlist format. You can even bookmark the stations you really like for easy access, which is pretty nice too. To install Radio Tray in Ubuntu Linux, launch Ubuntu Software Center from Applications menu (at the top) and search for “Radio Tray”. From the results, select “Install” and you are all set to use this amazing piece of software.


Radio Tray can be launched from “Sound & Video” menu under “Applications”. It will appear in the system tray area. This is the beauty of this software that as it runs in system tray so it does not consumes much system resources as it does not require any browser window or any other heavy application to function. Radio Tray will launch in system tray and will not automatically play any station. To play the radio station, click on the Radio Tray (tray) icon and select the station from drop down list (you may require extra plugins for proper functioning of the application e.g gstream libraries).


Perhaps the pre-configured radio stations may not interest you. You can not only add your favourite channels but even Remove or Edit any existing channel. To Add/Remove channel(s) in Radio Tray, Right Click on the tray icon and Select “Configure radios…”. A dialogue box will appear. Here you can Add new channels, Remove or Edit existing channels and Move the Channels UP or Down in the list. Lets, now add a radio station to Radio Tray. Go to: http://www.shoutcast.com/ and search for some radio station (say, rock). From the results, just copy the link of any radio station. Now come back to “Configure Radios” and Click on “Add” Button. In the “Radio name” box enter any friendly name (say Soft Rock) of the radio station while in the “URL” paste the link of the radio station.


Your new radio station is now added into the channel lists of Radio Tray and you can listen to it just by selecting it from the drop down list of Radio Tray.


If your favorite station doesn’t have a standard M3U or PLS playlist posted on their web site, you can always find the stream’s URL by other means. Radio Tray isn’t incredibly feature-filled, but on those occasions you just need a simple unitasker, it’s perfect for getting the job done and staying out of your way. Its a perfect substitute for proprietary radio softwares and not only available in .deb format but also in source format.