Archive for the ‘Desktop’ Category
I recently set up the solarized color theme for my terminal emulator. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but procrastinated. However, I finally got really frustrated with the colors I get from “ls” sometimes — I use a dark terminal with light fonts, and the directory listings in particular can become invisible, with dark blue on black.
Solarized is much improved. All of the colors work well together and are easy on the eyes. What a relief! Recommended for programmers and system administrators. There are plugins or configuration files for a huge variety of programming environments and programs, including Vim of course.
I use XFCE’s terminal, and I found that there was no terminal configuration file for it in the download. But I found a workaround: just append the colors listed in this file to the end of $HOME/.config/Terminal/terminalrc.
tl;dr version: I like XFCE better than Gnome 3.
I wrote previously about trying out Gnome 3. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it’s time for me to make a decision about whether to keep using it or revert to Gnome 2. I’m actually on vacation, which ends soon. I need to do this before vacation ends, so I can be fully productive at work.
My ultimate impression of Gnome 3 is that it’s very slick, and makes significant improvements in some ways, but it’s not very usable for my purposes, and has too many self-contradictions. I still have the complaints I listed in my earlier blog post, such as the identity crisis between keyboard and mouse use. It is geared to keyboard control in some ways, but not enough to really work, and at the same time it’s hard to use it with the mouse. For example, it wastes space on items such as huge thick titlebars (what is that for, if not for the mouse to grab?). Yet window borders are only 1 pixel thick, which is very hard to grab with the mouse when I want to resize, and there are no minimize buttons by default. And there is a big black bar across the top of my screen, which contains a lot of useless items I normally hide. At the same time, this bar isn’t configurable and I can’t put the things I actually want onto it, so it simply sits there making part of my screen unusable.
After using Gnome 3 for a while, and trying to customize it to my liking, I gave up a couple of days ago. There are simply too many things that were either designed in a way I don’t like, or don’t work as designed (bugs). At this point, I revisited my reasons for using Gnome. I used to use XFCE, and Fluxbox before that, but I ultimately decided to use Gnome because it was the default, and I want to avoid customizing my environment as much as possible. Gnome had gotten to the point where it was about as good as anything else, for my purposes.
So instead of reverting to Gnome 2, since I’m going to customize my environment anyway, I decided to go back to XFCE instead. And now I’m happy again. It’s simple, usable, functional, attractive, and fast. It’s easy to customize slightly to my taste (e.g. moving the taskbar to the bottom of the screen, Windows style). And Alt-TAB works sanely. And, I get back some of the things I always missed, such as one-click ways to maximize windows vertically or horizontally.
When Fedora 16 comes out I’ll revisit Gnome 3 and see if it has improved, but for now I’m done with my evaluation. I also just set up a new computer for my dad, who’s a Windows user, and installed Fedora 14 with Gnome 2, instead of Fedora 15. I hope the Gnome developers are able to collect and integrate enough feedback to make a groundbreaking Gnome 3 interface that still does what people expect and works the way they work, because that is the key to getting more adoption.
Thanks to a comment on a recent blog post where I lamented the lack of an easy-to-use password manager, I’ve switched from Revelation to… Vim.
I already use Vim for my note-keeping system. I simply add a modeline to the top of the file,
# vim: set ic hlsearch:
This makes searches case-insensitive, so I can just open the file and start typing a search, and it highlights it and moves to the first match as I type. It’s a great way to find something in a file. I have used this simple technique for many years to build a topical index over thousands of interesting email threads, code snippets, posts from bloggers, and customer issues. To use a buzzword, it scales as large as I need it to, and I can quickly find just about anything on any topic I’ve cared about in the past.
The remaining question is how to encrypt the file full of passwords. That’s what Sergio showed me in his comment. There’s a GPG plugin for Vim that detects that I’m opening a GPG-encrypted file and decrypts the buffer for me. This makes it incredibly easy to open, search, edit, and save the file. Much easier than Revelation. I found that the plugin didn’t properly encrypt the file (or I’m doing something wrong), so I first created the file as plain-text and manually encrypted it with GPG, and subsequently the plugin seems to work great.
I still might follow up on Sergio’s suggestions for building something on top of this. I’d really like integration with the desktop: press a key, start typing and seeing matches auto-complete, press TAB when I have the one I want, and copy the password. Maybe I will actually do this. Or maybe a hot-key to simply open Vim with the password file in a terminal is all I need.