Month: September 2012

Third Time is the Charm

I’ve never had the best of luck with Ubuntu on laptops. Several years ago I loaded a version onto an old Compaq laptop I had lying around, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get the wireless networking to behave. Or, in fact, to work at all. I gave up with that particular struggle and left it for a while, thinking I would come back to it when a few more versions of Ubuntu had come and gone. A little more recently I thought it was time to try again with a recent version of Ubuntu. But age had not been kind to the Compaq, there are bad sectors on the hard disk and so Ubuntu won’t install. It detects the bad sectors, complains and drops out of the install. So I abandoned that idea and decided to wait until I can get my hands on a donor (read: free) hard disk for it.

Then I remembered that my wife has a new desktop PC, a Nexus 7 tablet and a new work laptop into the bargain. Her personal laptop was lying around gathering dust. One quick period of negotiation later and I had permission to throw Ubuntu 12.04 onto it.

This went on like a dream and to my surprise, joy and (let’s be honest) relief Ubuntu found and worked with all of the hitherto tricky bits that sometimes blight the Ubuntu and laptops experience.

Ubuntu 12.04 found and correctly configured the networking, both the wired and the wireless. It correctly set up the touchpad, the roller-wheel volume control and the scroll up/down swipe pad at the edge of the touchpad. It also works with the inbuilt graphics card just fine. Unity works in a fast and slick fashion and all of the compiz eye-candy like wobbly windows works, first time, with no no manual intervention required.

As laptops go it is fairly modest (in all things apart from weight and size). It is a Toshiba something of a certain age (it originally came with Vista). It has a 1280×800 screen, and is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7250 @ 2.00GHz. It boasts a meagre 1 GB of RAM and an 85 GB hard disk. Nevertheless it runs just fine. It isn’t blazingly fast but it works fast enough that you don’t feel limited by it. But for me the best part of this whole experiment is that everything worked, right off the bat. If I close the lid it goes into hibernation. If I press the menu key beside the Alt Gr key I get a right-click context menu. Small things all of them, when counted on their own, but it does show just how far Ubuntu has come.

Forgive me Ubuntu for my lack of faith. I should have known better – it was just a matter of time.

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Transparent Terminal Windows

I saw an Ubuntu desktop recently with semi-transparent terminal windows. I’m not a great one for UI tweaks and themes but this looked good to me, and I was intrigued about how it was achieved. My Unity UI is more or less standard. I’ve changed the wallpaper, reduced the size of the icons within the launcher and have Conky running. Apart from that it is basically your standard Unity.

I didn’t want to have to install new themes or UI tweaking applications just to achieve transparent terminal windows which, let’s face it, are nothing more than eye-candy, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out it is controlled by a setting that is built right into the standard terminal window.

Open a terminal window and from the main menu select:
Edit, Profile Preferences, Background Tab and then select the Transparent background option. You can use the slider to set the degree of transparency.

Desktop with transparent terminal windows
Desktop with transparent terminal windows
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