Fine software projects, news and thoughts from the Linux world.

Debian changes default desktop environment from GNOME to Xfce

Almost in silence, Debian oldtimer Joey Hess made a commit that will switch default desktop task from GNOME to Xfce in Debian's forthcoming 7.0 Wheezy release. And that was an excellent choice, if I may add!

Xfce is full featured, but lightweight desktop environment whose best days are yet to come. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly. And those are all good reasons for Joey to make it the default, so a desktop environment can fit on Debian installer's CD#1, which GNOME currently does not.

It's a shame that once very popular GNOME desktop environment has grown so big and bloated, and at the same time lost so many good features that made it popular in the first place. The very reason why I decided to jump ship after a decade of using GNOME and switch to Xfce. The good thing is, I'm actually happier with Xfce than I was with GNOME 2.

Configuring Firefox to use Transmission-Daemon for Magnet links

Create a shell script /usr/local/bin/magnet containing:

/usr/bin/transmission-remote --add "$1"

chmod +x /usr/local/bin/magnet

In Firefox go to about:config

Right-click on any link and select "New->Boolean".

Boolean name: network.protocol-handler.expose.magnet
Boolean value: false

Right-click on any link and select "New->Boolean"

Boolean name: network.protocol-handler.handler.external.magnet
Boolean value: true

Restart Firefox

VMware Workstation 8.0.1 vs Linux Kernel 3.2.0

The patch attached to this blog post is needed to successfully run VMware Workstation 8.0.1 on the current Linux kernel 3.2.0-rc2. So, it will be needed for the final 3.2 release, too. If you need instructions how to apply the patch please consult my other blog entries. Have fun!

VMware Workstation 8.0.0 vs Linux Kernel 3.1.0

VMware Workstation 8.0.0 won't work on Linux Kernel 3.1.0 out of the box. But, some clever guy coded a very neat script that you can use to patch the workstation in a few easy steps:

$ cd /tmp
$ wget
$ chmod +x
$ su
# ./

That should patch the modules source, recompile it and start the vmware services. I've also attached the courtesy copy of the script to this article, in case the remote location becomes unavailable.

Have fun!

VMware Workstation 7.1.4 vs Linux Kernel 2.6.39

VMware Workstation 7.1.4 worked correctly on kernel 2.6.38, e.g. the modules built without problems.

Unfortunately, it's not working correctly anymore, after you upgrade to the latest linux kernel 2.6.39.

Thanks to Weltall, we now have a patch that brings Workstation (and probably Player, too) up-to-date with the newest kernel. Here's the original article: Running VMware Workstation / Player on linux 2.6.39 - UPDATED

I've also attached the patch to this article, because Weltall's blog is quite slow and sometimes even unreachable. If you need help applying the patch, follow the instructions on this page: VMware Workstation 7.1.3 runs great on Linux kernel 2.6.37.

How to shut up Python deprecation warnings

I don't know why Python applications are so verbose with deprecation warnings. Either the apps should be fixed, or the system should be configured to not emit those pesky warnings in production. Since the former is not happening, I found a way to do the latter. So, if you are sick and tired of warnings like this:

/usr/lib/pymodules/python2.6/rdiff_backup/ DeprecationWarning: os.popen2 is deprecated. Use the subprocess module.
stdin, stdout = os.popen2(remote_cmd)

edit your /etc/python2.6/ file and append these two lines at the very end of the file:

import warnings
warnings.simplefilter("ignore", DeprecationWarning)

Of course, look for elsewhere if it's not in the same directory as on my system (check /etc/pythonX.Y, /usr/lib/pythonX.Y and /usr/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages directories). The correct location obviously depends on the Python version.

Debian wheezy: Perl 5.12, X Server 1.10, Nvidia 270.41.06, Java 6.25, Glibc 2.13

This past week has been quite turbulent for Debian wheezy. Mostly because of the great Perl upgrade from 5.10 to 5.12. This included rebuilding of hundreds of Perl modules to play well with new version of Perl. Most of the time I had all this stuff put on hold, and only yesterday have I found guts to digest all 300 of new packages. For one day I was without trusty pidgin, but today even that popular messenger has been recompiled to work with Perl 5.12. There's still a small number of perl modules (like libembperl-perl, libgimp-perl, libgstreamer-perl, libjifty-perl, etc...) not yet adapted, but I'm sure we won't wait long until each and every perl module has been upgraded to fit Perl 5.12.

X server is now brand new 1.10, and also Nvidia blob set of packages have been upgraded to work with the new server (from 260.19.44-1 to 270.41.06-1). This Debian packaging of Nvidia driver has been working exceptionaly well.

Firefox 4 about:memory

You blame Firefox 4 to be a memory hog? Check it out first by typing about:memory in the address bar. You'll get a nice detailed report of your browsers memory usage. While it's not guaranteed you'll understand every statistic available in the report, you can at least peek at the overall memory use, and see how much it's fragmented by comparing "memory mapped" and "memory in use" numbers.

I definitely see memory usage of my browser only go up during regular use, but it's not really problematic, considering there are gobs of RAM in today's computers. And there has also been a steady improvement in memory usage efficiency, 3.0 has been the biggest hog for me, 3.5 was quite an improvement, and now 4.0 is absolutely the best of them all. Alive and kicking (though, much of the responsiveness improvement comes from better javascript engine, I suspect). It's good to know that Mozilla plans even more improvements on that front with Firefox 5, 6, 7... which they advertise will be released this year!

Debian wheezy: GCC 4.6 now default

GCC 4.6 is now the default compiler in wheezy. This is what gcc --version says:

% gcc --version
gcc (Debian 4.6.0-6) 4.6.1 20110428 (prerelease)

To celebrate the occasion, I did a quick (non-scientific!) benchmark, comparing old 4.5.2 and new 4.6.0 when compiling 2.6.38 kernel. Test compiles were run on a dual core CPU (make -j2). The old compiler took 1:58.48 to finish (real time), where the new one needed 2:02.47. So, the new one is only a bit (3.4%) slower. I also compared the resulting kernel size (vmlinux.bin) and it was almost the same 2122360 vs 2119448, meaning the new kernel produces a whopping 0.14% more tight code! I'm just kidding, of course. This was just a quick check. To learn more about the new compiler and where it's improvements are, you'd need to browse it's Changelog.

Debian wheezy: lots of fixes, new stuff

This last week has been fun. Lots of stuff has been fixed. Let's start with the packaging system...

The packaging system

dpkg/dselect is now at version 1.16.0. Except the ability to show new packages (which is still missing), it has been working very well. Apt has also been fixed and it now doesn't pull all package files all the time. One other thing started to really bother me, those pesky "Hash Sum Mismatch" errors. From what I understand, it happens if the mirror site uses old software to sync stuff. So I decided to switch mirrors, and configured back the good old Now it works well, although slightly slower than before, but I can live with that.

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