Murrine – now with transparency

December 14, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Posted in programs, xubuntu | 4 Comments
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Ryan Paul reports that Andrea Cimitan, developer of GTK theme engine Murrine, has added support for transparent widgets. Yep. This means that themes using this engine can now be partly transparent.

If you want to see what it looks like, go and see Cimi’s blogpost. Yes, it does look beautiful.

The Murrine engine is used by Xubuntu since 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon”, for the MurrinaStormCloud theme. This probably means that, in future versions, Xubuntu, too, can enjoy transparency. “But what if your computer does not support it?”, I hear you asking. Well, no worries there:

The translucency effects obviously require a compositing window manager, but the theme engine is designed so that the widgets will simply be rendered without transparency when no compositing window manager is present.

And if that wasn’t enough, in a last note, Cimi points out:

And yes, it is FAST!

I can’t wait 🙂


How the MPAA’s University Toolkit got taken down

December 9, 2007 at 7:24 pm | Posted in xubuntu | 1 Comment
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It all started with an article on the Washington Post blog on a new software “toolkit” by the Motion Picture Association of America. According to the article, the MPAA was urging some of the nation’s largest universities to deploy custom software designed to pinpoint students who may be using the schools’ networks to illegally download pirated movies.

One word in a paragraph in that article raised some eyebrows in #xubuntu-devel (an IRC channel) though:

First, an explanation of what the toolkit is and how it works. The University Toolkit is essentially an operating system (xubuntu) that you can boot up from a CD-ROM.

Wait. Xubuntu? The screenshots showed the Xubuntu boot screen. Furthermore, apparently the MPAA had modified some of the source code without providing it anywhere, even though most software in Xubuntu requires that programs of which the source has been modified and which are distributed also provide access to those modified sources. If this was not complied to, it is considered a violation of copyright law. Additionally, since Canonical owns the trademarks for Xubuntu the inclusion of Xubuntu’s logo would also have been a trademark violation, since it could harm the reputation of Xubuntu.

Anyway, the article got submitted to with a description of the suspicions, where it received a lot of votes and made the front page, which is a guarantee that it’ll be viewed by a lot of people. Apparently Mathew Garret, an Ubuntu developer, noticed it too (I don’t know whether it was because of the Digg link, but he noticed) and contacted the MPAA. Upon not receiving a reply, he contacted their Internet Service Provider with a takedown request. And even though he did not receive a meaningful reply, there you have it: the University Toolkit’s homepage no longer provides a download link! (Though according to the MPAA, they removed the link themselves without the ISP being involved)

That, in turn, got picked up by news site Slashdot (tags: haha, gnu, pwned, mafiaa, tasteyourownmedicine – don’t you love them 🙂 ) which again got picked up by several other sites – and again on the frontpage of Digg.

And with that, the circle is closed: Xubuntu continues to do its thing and look pretty and the MPAA can continue suing people without misusing open source code. Justice has prevailed!

Or not? The MPAA is planning on fixing the license violations and then make the software available again. However, would they also solve the trademark violations? We shall see…

Howto: Set a background image for your panel

October 12, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Posted in tips and tricks, xubuntu | 18 Comments
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Just like in GNOME! …With a little bit more effort, of course.

So, why would somebody want a background image for their panel? Well, for one, a nice gradient image on the panel can really complete the feel of your desktop. For another, using a section of your wallpaper for a panel background can make your desktop feel more integrated.

For instance, here’s one of my panels with a background image the same as my wallpaper, to make it feel more like a dock:

My panel

One image I recommend using is the OSX menubar image. Scroll down and choose the image for your desktop resolution.

Sounds good? Let’s get started!

1) Rename the image that you want to background.ext (ext being the file extension. ex: png, jpg, etc.). Put the image in your home folder. (actually, you can name it whatever you want, but for consistency, we’ll leave it as background.ext. Make sure it’s in your home folder though!)

2) Open up the terminal (Xfce Menu > Accessories > Terminal), and create and edit a GTK configuration file:

touch ~/.gtkrc-2.0
mousepad ~/.gtkrc-2.0

3) Copy and paste in it the following:

style "panel"
bg_pixmap[NORMAL] = "background.ext"

widget_class "*Panel*" style "panel"
widget "*Panel*" style "panel"
class "*Panel*" style "panel"

(Again, .ext, of course, being the file extension).

4) Save the file and exit. You’ll have to log out and in again for the changes to take effect. If you don’t want to do that, run the following in the terminal:

killall xfce4-panel
xfce4-panel &

to complete the changes.

Have fun with your panel!

(Special thanks to crimesaucer at for this tip!)

Xubuntu in *urgent* need of testers

October 9, 2007 at 12:15 pm | Posted in xubuntu | 8 Comments

As mentioned on, the Xubuntu development team is in a great need for testers of the latest version of Xubuntu, 7.10 (the Gutsy Gibbon). Being the good Xubuntu citizen that I am, I intend to spread this message you any potential testers (you) so the Xubuntu team is not flooded with bug reports after the final version is released.

Bugs, if any, are most likely to be small bugs anyway, so if you intend to upgrade to Gutsy once it is released, it might be a better idea to do so now in order to improve the quality of your favourite Linux distribution.

Convinced? Go and download the latest build, burn it onto a CD and install it (or try running it into a virtual machine if you don’t want to take a risk) and report your bugs on Launchpad!

The Xubuntu developers are counting on you 🙂

Mythbuntu has seen the light!

September 27, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Posted in xubuntu | Leave a comment
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Today the xubuntu-devel mailinglist received this message from Mario Limonciello from Mythbuntu:

Hi guys,

I’m leading the Mythbuntu effort, and for our next alpha we are
switching over to Xfce for our base. We were previously doing an
openbox/feh/idesk method, but Xfce is much prettier.

So in our migration over, there were a few items that I wanted to iron
out the proper way to do things.


This is great news, not only for Mythbuntu users (which now get to enjoy the finesse of Xfce), but also for Xubuntu because, as Jani Monoses put it:

it’s nice to see getting more users, testers and devs for
xubuntu even if indirectly 🙂

Mythbuntu seems to be a good citizen, which means Xubuntu will be even more polished:

The Mythbuntu team works closely with all of the relevant package maintainers in Ubuntu to make sure that our changes, customizations, and enhancements are included within Ubuntu for other users, teams, and projects to take advantage of. Also, all scripts used for our build process are GPL licensed and available to anyone interested on our launchpad bzr branch at mythbuntu/mythbuntu/mythbuntu

What is Mythbuntu you ask? Well, according to their website:

Mythbuntu is an Ubuntu derivative focused upon setting up a standalone MythTV system similar to Knoppmyth or Mythdora. At the time, it is not a Canonical sanctioned project because of the licensing on several of the MythTV dependencies. Mainly, it can be seen as a preconfigured Ubuntu install for mythtv usage. All unnecessary applications such as OpenOffice, Evolution, and a full Gnome desktop are not installed for a Mythbuntu installation. At any time, a user may choose to install ubuntu-desktop, kubuntu-desktop, or xubuntu-desktop and add a full desktop onto their installation.

Then of course you also need to know what MythTV is. Well, Wikipedia answers that question:

MythTV is a Linux application that turns a computer with the necessary hardware into a digital video recorder, a digital multimedia home entertainment system, or Home Theater Personal Computer. MythTV is free software licensed under the GPL. It can be considered as an alternative to Windows Media Center, although MythTV predates Windows Media Center.

Congrats Mythbuntu community, and welcome to the team!

September 17, 2007 at 8:44 am | Posted in xubuntu | 5 Comments

As of yesterday, has a new owner. And guess what: it’s another blog! 🙂

Of course, here’s the catch: it’s Italian. If there are any Italian readers here, be sure to check it out.

Another Xubuntu convert!

September 17, 2007 at 8:36 am | Posted in reviews, xubuntu | 13 Comments

Over the past week I helped my sister switch over from Ubuntu to Xubuntu. (Maybe I was a little biased about Xubuntu as she was making the switch, but c’mon…I write a blog about it, I might as well be! :P)

She had reasons for doing so: she wanted something faster, preferred Thunar over Nautilus, and just wanted it looking nicer.

Point by point, here’s what impressed her the most:

1) It’s simple.

Q: How do I run Thunar to open my home folder?
A: Thunar.
Q: What’s the command for the terminal?
A: Terminal.

Now that’s semantic! Things in Xfce are logical, simple, and obvious (Or, as she put it, “I type in what I want and I get it”).

2) Thunar.

I’ve already covered some of this, but she prefers Thunar over Nautilus for two main reasons:

a) You can easily switch the address bar from pathbar to toolbar style. I like to type. For me (and my sister) it’s quicker to type than to click through each and every folder. And it also has a similar feel to the terminal: it even has auto-complete.
b) Restore from trash. I find it hard to believe that Nautilus still doesn’t have this. As my sister put it, “now I don’t have to constantly remember where to reput my files.”

So really, it doesn’t matter if one file manager has network support or support for backgrounds. In the end, people just want the basics.

3) It just looks nice.
She REALLY likes the compositor in xfwm4. (I previously had her set up with Compiz-Fusion, but all the wobbling windows bothered her.) So now her computer has nice, stable shadow and transparency effects. She especially likes being able to see through the windows.

It’s also surprising to see how good the desktop can look using just the default icons and themes. As my blog partner Vincent put it:

Yesterday I returned back home from holiday. In my holiday, I have not touched a decent bike for quite a few weeks. True, I’ve used a mountain bike, but the saddle was very hard and the big tires cause you to cycle slowly while still using a lot of force. The result was that when I used my own, decent bicycle this morning, it was a very pleasant feeling.

Now what does this have to do with Xubuntu? Well, my holiday also meant: two weeks without touching a computer, two weeks without seeing the slightest bit of Xubuntu. So when I then turned on my computer, I realized, once again, how pretty Xubuntu is. And it was a pleasant ride 😀

4) Docks.

She likes docks. Not necessarily a Mac-like dock, but just a row of icons to click on. Because see, she doesn’t like digging through menus. She likes icons. (See folks, when I had mentioned that in my joke topic at Ubuntu Forums, I was only half-kidding!)

I tried setting her up with cairo-dock, but that just confused her. You see, in the newest version you have to add launchers from /usr/share/app-install, and neither me or my sister’s system have anything in /usr/share/app-install. Then something screwed up her workspaces (which she doesn’t even use) and turned her entire background grey.

Needless to say, I got her off of that and set her up with a size-48 panel with her icons, the trash applet, and a weather report. She has it on the left side of her screen, which I don’t understand but, it’s her system.

So, now she has a system that does exactly what she wants and how she wants it…with Xfce.

If you’re an Ubuntu user who’s interested in Xubuntu…why not give it a whirl? If you’d like, just open up a terminal and run sudo aptitude install xubuntu-desktop (or, if you’re a point-and-click kind of person like my sister, you can do it from Synaptic or Adept, depending on your system.)

If it still doesn’t satisfy, just use sudo aptitude remove xubuntu-desktop to take it off. If it does, however, you can take it one step further and follow aysiu’s guide on having a system with only Xfce (this is what my sister did, albeit without removing OpenOffice).

Nothing’s stopping you…it’s free. 🙂

Where are we going?

September 5, 2007 at 8:11 am | Posted in xubuntu | 12 Comments published the results of their yearly enquiry on Linux on the desktop. (Admittedly, I’m a bit late, but I was on holiday.) There were some remarkable things among the results – de enquiry was taken by twice as much people compared to last year, SUSE grown a lot, Fedora shrunk a lot – but according to me, most remarkable were the results concern the use of desktop environments. And then I don’t even mean the fact that Gnome – for the first time – was ahead of KDE.
No, what struck me most was, obviously, that Xfce was users by 8 percent of those who filled in the enquiry. Now, nobody will deny that, since version 4.4 was released, the number of users of Xfce grew, but 8 percent is a number to take into account (almost one in ten!). And when you then realize that 20% (one out of five!) uses neither Gnome nor KDE, it doesn’t seem too weird to wonder whether there is room for another, third big desktop environment. Heck, it’s already remarkable Xfce isn’t mentioned among “Others”!

Of course, as Xfce added more features its speed deteriorated a bit, and for some this will have been reason to switch to even lighter DE’s like Fluxbox or IceWM (can you even call those DE’s?). On the other hand, Xfce still is a lot faster than Gnome and KDE, and old computers of today are more powerful than old computers of a couple of years ago 😉 And the combination of features and speed (even on less old computers) is a very attractive one for some. Gnome - 45%, KDE - 35%, Xfce - 8%, Anders - 12%

Of course, KDE’s new version, version 4, will attract many new users towards KDE, but I suspect that most of those people will come from the Gnome world (making KDE nr. 1 again). The difference between the two will decrease again, and if Xfce’s user base keeps growing, the three will be quite even indeed.

However, at the moment Xfce has far less developers as Gnome and KDE have, which can slow down growth quite a lot. That’s why, among Xubuntu’s developer, there is currently a discussion ongoing about whether Xubuntu should ship with more Gnome software. The reason for this is that, currently, Xubuntu ships with a few programs of less quality, with Xfburn, the CD-burning software, being the worst of all. In fact: if no alternative software can be found, probably no burning software will be shipped at all! Shipping Gnome software would raise Xubuntu’s quality feature-wise, and also brings the certainty that they are still in development and will continue to improve.

Unfortunately, there are also a few downsides to shipping Gnome applications. Some people are afraid that Xubuntu’s identify will be lost, that Xubuntu will just become “Ubuntu with another desktop environment”. Others fear that Xubuntu’s speed will deteriorate enormously.

Altogether, it comes down to the question of what is more important: speed or features? And this raises the question on Xubuntu’s target. For example, Ubuntu aims at being user-friendly, Edubuntu on use in classrooms, etc. Do we want a lightning-fast distribution, or a distro with a good balance between user-friendlyness and customizability? A question that should not be answered by the developers, but by the users of Xubuntu. You.

This article was previously published in Dutch on


September 3, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Posted in xubuntu | 1 Comment

Here’s a list of the top 25 Ubuntu Blogs.

Take a look at number 19!

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