Midori, Flash, and Unity Linux 2010

I just took a look at how Unity Linux 2010.1 shapes up and found that the flashplayer plugin doesn’t work with the default browser which is Midori.  Here’s a quick fix for getting flash to work with Midori on Unity 2010.  First, install the flash-player-plugin (as root in terminal or use the gui):

smart install flash-player-plugin

Next, we need to create a directory under your profile to house the flashplayer plugin and then copy it there.  I’m sure we might be able to get by with a symbolic link but I didn’t try that out…

mkdir -p ~/.mozilla/plugins && cp /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so ~/.mozilla/plugins/

That’s it, it should work now.  I’ve done this on 32bit Unity Linux 2010.1 on a Gateway M250.  Hopefully this helps out someone out there :)

Finding Files with locate

Many Linux users use the ‘find’ utility when searching for files using the command line on their system. They’ll do a simple:

find / -name 'pattern'

Really though, the power of find isn’t just in finding names of files but rather specific details about those files. For example, if you wanted to find files which are writable by both their owner and their group:

find / -perm -444 -perm /222 ! -perm /111

or perhaps find any file that’s been altered in your Download directory in the past 24 hours:

find /home/user/Downloads/ -mtime 0

As you can see, the find command is very versatile and can be used to find an array of different attributes of files.  There are times though where I’m just looking for something and I don’t want to have to wait for the command to scan the entire directory tree in order to track it down.  That’s where locate comes in with quick and simple results.

Using the Locate Command

Using the locate command can only be accomplished if you install the mlocate package.  Most major distributions have this available.  If not, head over to the mlocate homepage and install manually.  Once that is accomplished, you’ll need to manually run a command to index your filesystem with it…otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the command to run automatically as it registers with cron to do so on a system level.  Open an terminal and change to your root user, then execute the following:

updatedb &

This updates the mlocate database that indexes your files and forks it to the background (the ‘&’ forks it to the background).  You can now logout of the terminal as root and the process will quietly work in the background.

After the command completes, using mlocate is as easy as using the locate command:

locate firefox | less

The command above will look for all files with firefox in the name and pipe the command through less so you can use the spacebar or enter key to scroll the file buffer.  Of course, the reason we pipe it through less is because any file that resides in the ‘firefox’ directory will be reported in the output.  While this tool isn’t as granular as the find command, it is a quick way to track down paths, directories, and files you know should exist.  Since the data is indexed using the updatedb command (by cron) the results are very quick and the command does not have to scan through the filesystem to return the results.

There are plenty more advanced options via flags (such as following symbolic links, making search term case sensitive, and even using regexp).  See the man page for details on how each of these options work.  Play around with locate and see what you can do!  It’s a powerful and quick search command!

Installing Openbox on Foresight Linux

My friend Og Maciel originally introduced me to Openbox a while back and I’ve been using it ever since. I love the lightweight feel, the ability to customize and the center around having NO icons on my desktop.  I don’t feel cluttered when I work! Today, we’re going to go over installing Openbox with some added tools.  This tutorial is tailored for Foresight Linux but the guide may very well serve other distros as well.

What is Openbox?

From the Openbox homepage, “Openbox is a minimalistic, highly configurable, next generation window manager with extensive standards support.”  From using it, I often think of it as fluxbox-like with the benefits of being able to dip into Gnome or KDE for the items that I want to use.  Your desktop will then run with speed and simplicity using only the elements you want to use with it.

So…Let’s get Started…

This How-To will assume that you’re running Foresight Linux, you’re logged into Gnome and that you’re familiar with conary, the package manager for Foresight.  First and foremost, install openbox:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ sudo conary update openbox obmenu obconf

This installs the needed components to run Openbox on your system. Openbox is minimal by default though so if you login to the environment now for the first time, there will be no taskbars, nothing…just a large blank area for you to work with. We will need to install some extra components to give a bit more functionality. If you’d like a panel menu, I recommend using tint2. I used to use pypanel which is a small panel written in python but this panel is no longer developed.

There are other panels that are packaged with openbox in mind for Foresight; fbpanel is available, which is a very fast and functional menu bar. I like lxpanel also, which is fbpanel with some easier configuration options. For a full list, please see openbox documentation. For our purposes here, we will install tint2:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ sudo conary update tint2

Now we need to copy the default configuration file for tint2 so we can build our panel to our liking.  You’ll have to create the default path for the tint2rc configuration file.  To do this and copy the config file:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ mkdir -p ~/.config/tint2/
[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ cp /etc/xdg/tint2/tint2rc ~/.config/tint2/

Now tint2 has a configuration file in place and is ready for Openbox to start.

Let the Configuration Begin!

The hard part (install) is now out of the way thanks to the conary package manager. Now we need to configure Openbox so that it’s ready for us when we log out of Gnome. The configuration files will need to be copied to /home/user/.config/openbox.  Of course, this path doesn’t exist yet so we’ll need to create it like this:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox/

Visiting there now will show that there aren’t any files in this directory.  The file we’ll absolutely need to place there is autostart.sh. Other files that will be in here are rc.xml which is for obconf (openbox configuration) and menu.xml (openbox menu system).  We’ll copy menu.xml from a default copy there later.  The other file should auto-create when loading for the first time (rc.xml)

The autostart.sh file is what starts all of our services and our tint2 panel we just installed as well as setup our wallpaper and other items.  Instead of going through the options you can place in here, I’m going to share my autostart.sh to get you up and running quickly.  Please note that if you chose not to install fbpanel and use the gnome-panel or other panel instead, you’ll need to comment the pypanel line below and uncomment what you’ll be using:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$  cat autostart.sh
# This shell script is run before Openbox launches.
# Environment variables set here are passed to the Openbox session.
##############################################################
# Panel Section
##############################################################
# pypanel, my favorite panel for openbox
#(sleep 3 && pypanel) &
# Use the wbar Launcher if you would like.  Don't forget to install it before uncommenting
# wbar &
(sleep 3 && tint2) &

#############################################################
# Gnome Integration Section
#############################################################
# This section let's Gnome give us some of its desktopiness
gnome-power-manager &
nm-applet --sm-disable &
/usr/libexec/gnome-settings-daemon &
gnome-volume-manager --sm-disable &
gnome-keyring-daemon &

###########################################################
# Other Add-on's for Openbox
###########################################################
# Make your wallpaper restore to last setting using Nitrogen.
nitrogen --restore &
parcellite &
volumeicon &
################################# End ###################

Download my autostart.sh

To create the menu system file for openbox, we’ll copy from the default installation to our .config/openbox directory (so we can use obmenu…otherwise, that command will give us an error) so use the following command in a terminal:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml ~/.config/openbox/

Now you’re ready to login and reap what you have sown :) Logout of Gnome and change sessions in GDM to Openbox.  Notice that your tint2 panel starts up and has the gnome applications we recorded in the autostart.sh file above running and docked! You can add more options to your autostart.sh file and you can also edit tint2rc (in your /home/user/.config/tint2 directory) to store settings for your panel.

I’ve Installed and am Running, Now What?

Now you get to customize the Openbox menu with your favorite applications. Menus are activated by right clicking anywhere on the desktop. There are a few default applications…I choose obconf right away so that I can choose a theme I like and increase the text size since I’m using a high resolution. After that is done, I right click for the menu again and go to applications >> xterm. When the terminal pops up, I type obmenu. From there, I’ll be able to edit my right click menu.

Now instead of entering obmenu in a terminal each time, let’s add it to our right click options. In the obmenu window that you opened in the last paragraph, expand the Openbox 3 option. Find obconf and highlight it. Click ‘new item’ and add obmenu for a label, execute for action, and obmenu for Execute. This will add obmenu to your right click options so you don’t have to open a terminal each time to do things. You can also customize any of the items you find in applications…I put a few things I normally need such as thunderbird, firefox, gnome-terminal, etc. Feel free to add whatever you need…you can have many submenu’s . It’s setup is pretty straightforward.

Nitrogen, the wallpaper manager, requires a small tweak as well to get working. What I did was create a /home/username/Photos/Wallpaper directory and then loaded it up with my favorite desktop wallpaper. Good places to go for cool wallpapers are desktopography.com and vladstudio.com.  Next, install Nitrogen:

[devnet@lostlap Desktop]$ sudo conary update Nitrogen

After your first login, you’ll need to add a menu entry using obmenu to call the nitrogen browser. So create the menu entry and the action you call is:

nitrogen /home/username/Photos/wallpaper

Of course, replace ‘username’ with your users name.  This will allow you to open up all the wallpaper photos inside of that directory.

So What Have we Done?

Today, we’ve installed Openbox on Foresight Linux. We’ve given it a tint2 panel so we have a place to dock applications and we’ve customized the Openbox right click menu and added a wallpaper program called Nitrogen. Hopefully, this shows you the customizable features of Openbox and also shows you the speed that Openbox operates at. It’s a very minimalistic environment, yet one that can be very powerful.

Installation Notes of Interest

tint2

Tint2 is my newly crowned favorite panel for openbox.  It’s lightweight and is able to be configured in so many ways.  I added the sleep command inside my autostart.sh to make sure that the desktop is loaded before the tint2 panel tries to load…mostly, this is due to network manager wanting to animate while the panel loads.  This isn’t as much problem with tint2 as it is with pypanel (see below).

pypanel

Some things I’ve noticed when running openbox…network manager has problems with pypanel. I added the sleep command inside my autostart.sh and this is much better now…but there may be similar problems with network manager. It’s really NM searching for a network and it causes the panel to flicker a bit. Not a real show stopper.

Gnome-panel

Gnome-panel running inside openbox causes a few errors to pop up when I login. This could be due to the fact that I’ve started things in my autostart.sh out of order…I’m also not all together sure what is causing these errors. The problem seems to be with the docking area of gnome-panel as when I minimize programs they are not docked. Easily fixable, but annoying nonetheless.

Alternative Panels

There are quite a few alternative panels out there.  Fbpanel is one.  Perlpanel is another.  Fbpanel and lxpanel are available in the Foresight repositories. You can also add other launchers like wbar if you so desire.

Screenshot

Openbox on Foresight
Openbox on Foresight

Backup Directories and Subdirectories Preserving File Structure

I needed a quick way to backup my small music collection on my laptop and preserve the complete file structure and permissions.  There are a few ways to do this of course…for example, you can just copy the files using whatever file manager you happen to be using in your Linux distribution.  In some cases though, you might want your backup to take up less space than the full monty.  Especially true if you are backing up to thumb drives!

You can use the tar command to make this a snap.

Tar combines multiple files into an archive and you can use it to preserve permissions and file structure and then you can compress the archive to save space.

tar -c --recursion -p --file=backup.tar directory

The -c flag creates an archive for us.  –recursion goes through all subdirectories.  The -p flag preserves permissions on all the files.  This is handy if you have certain folders or files that you need to sticky with individual users or groups.  The –file flag is the option for outputting to a file name.  You can also add multiple directories that you’re zipping up like the following:

tar -c --recursion -p --file=backup.tar directory1 directory2 directory3

After you have the file output as backup.tar it’s time to compress it.  The most standard way to do this is to use the gzip command:

gzip backup.tar

This command will output backup.tar.gz to the current directory which will take up less space than that of a standard 1-to-1 copy.  There are many other flags and options that you can use with the tar command.  For an in depth look at those flags and options, check the tar man page by typing ‘man tar’ in a terminal or view it online here.

UPDATE:

Commenter ‘jack’ has offered a few extra flags to combine the archiving and zipping into one command:

tar -c -z --recursion -p --file=backup.tar directory1 directory2 directory3

The -z flag will gzip the archive after you’ve used tar to create it.  Substituting -j in for -z above will bzip the archive.  Thanks for the tips jack!

Convert PNG to GIF via Command Line

I installed a bare bones Arch Linux system today and took a screenshot.  With no graphics utilities installed, I needed a way to convert a PNG to a GIF for a Simple Machines forum template thumbnail.  I figured I’d use a command line utility to help me and ImageMagick is installed by default on most distributions.  A quick read through the ImageMagick manpage and I found the convert command and thought I’d share it with everyone.  Use convert in the following fashion:  convert [input-options] input-file [output-options] output-file

convert SMFPress.png -channel Alpha -threshold 80% -resize 120x120 thumbnail.gif

This did a quick, same-size conversion with little loss for me to display the thumbnail online.  For more information on the options I used and other options that I didn’t use, take a peek at the ImageMagick Online Help Page for convert.

Adding Color to Bash List Command Part II

I previously blogged about how to add color to the ‘ls’ command utilizing an config file and alias.  I then stumbled across a nugget of wisdom from a Foresight Linux user on the developers mailing list who gave a handy command that remedies some problems with missing color in a terminal.

On some distributions, the system-wide /etc/DIR_COLORS* files are removed or not present.  This results in no colors being given inside of a terminal when looking for color directories and filenames.  If you find yourself in this boat, try the following command to re-populate this setting:

devnet-> cd ~/
devnet-> dircolors -p >.dircolors

This should create a default profile for colors for your session if it hasn’t been done or was accidentally removed.  For more information on the dircolors command try ‘man dircolors’.  Please also note that dircolors command uses the environmental variable LS_COLORS to set your session.

For more information on LS_COLORS and how it pertains to the terminal/shell/cli/prompt, there are a few blog posts that do an excellent job explaining here, here and here.