Desert Colour Scheme for NetBeans

Eyeball a white screen whilst programming for too long and your eyes are going to hurt, so a sympathetic colour scheme is essential. My favourite scheme, or at least the one I became used to when I used gedit a fair bit, is called Desert (no longer available, so here’s my copy), which is based on the Desert scheme for vim. Lately I’ve been using Geany to take advantage of a few more features, so here are of the relevant files from my “~/.config/geany/filedefs” directory which I modified to implement the same colours.

However, this Christmas I intend to read Programming Clojure, a book I bought just over a year ago! And since I haven’t been able to cope with emacs or vim, I was forced to once and for all put in the time to implement the Desert colour scheme in NetBeans. The process was quite laborious, so hopefully this will be useful to those who find the default offerings a little meagre.

Here’s a sample of the colour scheme, showing defpackage.clj from the clojure examples in the book. I have also configured these same colours for other file formats I use often, such as PHP, HTML, JS, CSS, SQL, and knocked up the others as best I could in the time available. NetBeans sure doesn’t make this easy, but you gets what you pays for :-)

(picture: preview showing desert colour scheme

Download: Desert Colour Scheme for NetBeans 59.3 KB (created with 6.9.1)

To install, open NetBeans, go to Tools > Options, then click on Fonts & Colors, then click the Import button at the bottom and browse to the file downloaded above. Enjoy!

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Two years using Linux and I’m in computing heaven

This morning I wanted to scan an image, so I fired up Simple Scan in Ubuntu and clicked the scan button (by the way, using my cheap CanoScan LiDE 20 for which there was no 64-bit Windows 7 support for quite some time – now supported with a 10 MB driver/software download – but which Ubuntu supports out-of-the-box with no effort on my part). As soon as I see the picture on screen I decide to see if I can just stop it there and save what I want. Lo and behold, it doesn’t complain, I crop the image and click save, and it just saves without having to scan the image again like most dumb-ass commercial scanning packages. Very impressed.

I then decide that the image is a little too big, and not wanting to fire up The GIMP like I have been doing until now, I decide to search for a better way. A short Google search later and I find the nautilus-image-converter add-on to Ubuntu’s file manager. A mere 30 KB download using the Synaptic Package Manager (Add/Remove Programs on steroids for you Windows slaves) and a re-login later and I’m resizing images with ease.

If you search for “free image resizer windows 7” you get quite a lot and the only link I could safely say is free of viruses and spyware is Google Picasa, but since it appears in the Ads section, anybody with half a brain should be wary these days (except Google in this case). Search for any Windows software and you’re more likely to get spyware than not. Being a Linux user I don’t have that problem because my software only comes from a trusted source, and not the likes of or

I started using Linux seriously exactly two years ago when I happily took the buggy Windows Vista off my media centre PC and installed Mythbuntu 8.10. At the time I had to tinker a little to get my remote control working and a few other things but since installing 10.10 last weekend, I found it was an absolute cinch! By default it installed Samba and configured the same shares I did two years ago, there was an option for my remote control, and it looks more polished than before. The only thing I did as before was enable low noise amplification on my TV card. And since the transmitted digital TV guide in Australia is pretty decent now, I don’t even need to install Shepherd, which has served me very well. The new version of MythTV even comes with a Python script that automatically downloads matching artwork for my favourite TV recordings such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. My brother has been complaining about his unstable Windows 7 Media Center install (six months old). I might have to burn him an ISO of Mythbuntu. So, I wouldn’t even go back to Windows Media Center now if Microsoft paid me!

In the past I have said some very unpleasant things about PHP but now it’s all I use. It’s true that its function names are all over the place and everything is in the global namespace, but it’s just so darn convenient and widespread. Much like VB was looked down upon in the Windows world as a toy language, it didn’t change the fact that it made people’s lives easy and therefore became very popular. As far as languages go I’d really like to find the time to read the dead-tree edition of Programming Clojure that I bought (under the influence of the proselytisation of a better programmer than myself), but at the end of the day it’s all about results, and with PHP I’m more productive. Now I’m mixing PHP on the server with Ext JS on the client thanks to another good book, Learning Ext JS. I can’t see me installing a Windows Server at home any time soon.

If an operating system requires me to install anti-virus software then I’m going somewhere else. Using a virus scanner gives you a false sense of security and doesn’t do much except drastically slow down your computer. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on why Windows sucks big time is The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security. Windows commits most of the sins mentioned and even with things like User Account Control I still wouldn’t use Windows 7 at home. You would have to pry Linux from my cold, dead, hands if anybody wanted me to stop using it :-)

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Another year another operating system (openSUSE defeats Mandriva)

About this time last year I decided that Linux simply wasn’t good enough and returned to Windows XP. A week later I discovered that Mandriva was actually up to scratch, and so I ditched Windows and moved completely across to Linux. Since then I’ve upgraded from Mandriva 2008.0 to 2008.1 which worked rather smoothly, and when 2009.0 came out I actually made the switch to the 64-bit version without too much fuss as well. So, 2008 really was the year of Linux on the desktop for me.

However, recently I’ve actually started to do more with Mandriva than just replacing a day-to-day operating system. I’ve decided to start learning MySQL and PHP to actually get some first-hand knowledge of what I have long regarded as bug-ridden ghettos. And this is where my problems with Mandriva started to well up. I went looking for a decent editor but Quanta (or kdewebdev) seemed not to be in Mandriva’s repository. The kdewebdev4 package contained no files but depended on various and sundry utility programs. It turns out there is no qt4 version of Quanta and you have to install the qt3 version, which complains about an unsatisfied dependency (which is actually there, you just have to select it yourself). On the server-side of package mismanagement, Apache doesn’t depend on a Multi Processing Module (MPM) in drakconf (a trick for newcomers: installing Apache on Mandriva doesn’t actually give you a working web server unless you have prior knowledge and know that you also need to choose an MPM).

To top it off I think Mandriva probably made KDE 4 their default KDE version too soon. Not being able to use one’s desktop like a folder was very annoying, and creating icons manually that showed an ugly strip of buttons on mouse hover also irritated me. KMess also crashed rather too frequently (it was 2.0.0 I guess, but still… if it was buggy it should have been held back) and little things were just getting to me. It wasn’t so bad that I could have switched back to Windows (XP or Vista) but it was enough for me to want something better. Given that Mandriva fired one of their most valuable employees recently, I think the writing is on the wall for that distro, sadly.

Having said some rather unpleasant things about openSUSE 10.3 it doesn’t sound likely that I’d be checking it out again, but openSUSE seems to have a larger community and when the chips are down, having more people on IRC to help out counts for something. There’s also my cute SUSE plush gecko with fridge magnets for feet (given to me by a colleague several years ago) beckoning me to try it again. So, here’s a summary of my experiences with openSUSE 11.1 so far:

The good

  • The installer was very impressive. Given that I didn’t want to trash my former home partition I was pleased to see that openSUSE selected it by default and opted not to format it.
  • KDE uses Plain Desktop by default but that’s easily fixed with Folder View (which openSUSE have backported from the still-in-progress development version of KDE 4.2). Mandriva will “feel” much when they get this functionality.
  • I was initially let down to see that KMess isn’t provided by openSUSE but when I found that Pidgin 2.5.1 now supports the MSN “status message” feature, I was able to cope (not seeing the silly slogans of one’s friends can be isolating).
  • The desktop effects in KDE 4 seem to be better integrated with openSUSE than in Mandriva and worked with my bog-standard ATI x300 video card (albeit not dazzlingly fast). I miss the Compiz shortcut of Ctrl Alt MouseMove to spin the desktop cube around, however I leave this turned off anyway, and only turn it on to show off the power of Linux to somebody.
  • The YaST Control Center seems nicer than the Mandriva Control Center, though not by any order of magnitude. I will say that the Hardware > Mouse Model section is apparently for show only.
  • The KDE wallet is not as annoying in openSUSE compared to Mandriva. Wallet-aware applications obey my wishes to store passwords in plain text, whereas Mandriva’s wallet would not shut up about it, and was most insistent.

The not-so-good

  • The back and forward buttons on my mouse only work with Firefox and do nothing in Dolphin. I’ve read far and wide on the topic and got nowhere using evdev in xorg.conf, and only managed to disable these buttons in Firefox or maintain the status quo using xmodmap. I may have to bite the bullet and compile imwheel myself (since there’s no package for it, grrr!) but for now I just don’t have the time or the patience. I can’t believe that in 2009 and with version 11.1 of an operating system that mouse support is still so pathetic! This is one area where Mandriva was better.
  • IP details are configurable by default in the Network Manager applet in the panel, but since I logged on as a test user first, and configured my IP there, then logged in as the username I intended to keep, I was puzzled when the network seemed to go down. It seems that IP addressing is user-specific, which is quite bizarre. Going into YaST > Network Devices > Network Settings allows you to use global settings thankfully, but this section of YaST is a tad disorganised in my humble opinion and could be tidied up.
  • VLC is not available in the standard openSUSE repositories. I found this quite surprising since VLC is an exemplary open source project, but apparently there are some patent issues, and configuring the Packman repository got me this (as well as Audacious – even this is now apparently an enemy of open source. Amazing.)
  • The obligatory sound problems surfaced when trying the Packman-packaged version of Songbird 1.0.0 – it simply showed some stream error message and couldn’t play a thing. Weirdly enough, the version I downloaded myself from Mandriva in a tarball works fine. A packaged-for-openSUSE program can’t even play sound, but a harmless tarball-version works perfectly.
  • K3b said it couldn’t detect my burner, and I found that running a “chmod o+rw on /dev/sr0” meant that K3b could both detect it and burn a DVD successfully. A forum post later reveals that I have to add my user account to the “disk” group, which is just plain silly as far as I’m concerned. An ordinary user is going to expect to be able to use their burner as burner, and any arguments that could support such stupidity will not be entered into :-) I’ll assume this just slipped under the radar and will be fixed eventually.
  • There seems to be two places for configuring monitor power management in the KDE 4 System Settings: 1) in General > Display > Power Control and 2) in Advanced > Power Management. No matter what I choose in either of these areas (even customising the “Performance” profile in the advanced section), my common-enough Dell 2407WFP never goes to sleep, so I have to turn it off if I’m going to be away from the screen for any length of time.
  • There is no package for gkrellm themes. No biggie, really, but Mandriva has them :-)

Even though I cited one more not-so-good aspect to openSUSE than good, I am very impressed with it. It seems much more polished than Mandriva, thanks to the Folder View support in KDE 4 as well as the installer and YaST overall. If openSUSE could find some way to improve mouse support then I’ll even pay for my next version or donate or whatever is the done thing to show one’s appreciation. Like most distros, it’s always the video, sound, and peripherals that are still the major issues, so I hope for some improvement in this area overall (particularly getting rid of all those sound systems). But I’m not going to back to Windows. No way!

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Mandriva 2008: The perfect distro for KDE + Compiz

My attempts at switching to Linux since Christmas have been finicky and largely unsuccessful… until today when I installed the x86_64 free DVD version of Mandriva 2008. The things this distro configures perfectly and without effort, all out of the box, are endless. If you prefer KDE and want a bit of eye-candy with Compiz, look no further than Mandriva.

What worked out of the box:

  • It detected my ATI Radeon X300 video card which proved to be a right pain in the you-know-what with virtually ever other distro except PCLinuxOS (which is based on Mandriva anyway, so it’s no wonder);
  • My 21″ IBM CRT monitor was correctly identified and a decent refresh rate was automatically chosen;
  • The back and forward buttons on both of my Evoluent vertical mice worked without me having to tinker with xorg.conf (which I just couldn’t get working in any other distro, even after reading the various HOWTOs available on the subject);
  • Double-clicking in the top-left icon of the title-bar (the “control menu box” in Windows-speak) was configured to close the window by default – I didn’t have to go fiddling to get that working (I don’t even know where the option is, so this was a nice touch);
  • Getting Compiz to work was as simple as ticking the box, allowing it to install a few packages, logging off and logging on again – far easier than the likes of Linux Mint or the dreaded openSUSE in that regard;
  • Mandriva must install some pretty decent fonts by default because everything is looking nice and crisp and legible – no need for msttcorefonts;
  • The language and dictionary was set correctly to English (UK) in Open Office, which is as it should be since that’s the language I chose during the install (I can’t say the same for Kubuntu where I had to install myspell-en-au and myself).

What didn’t work out of the box:

  • To be fair, I have to report that it wouldn’t allow me to write to my NTFS partitions by default, however, given that previous Linux evaluations have taught me the “ntfs-3g” package is required, I won’t be having any trouble now;
  • It would be nice to have English (Australian) as a language but English (UK) is the mother-tongue, after all, and is more compatible with Australian English than American with all it’s freaky spellings, so I’m not too peeved about that.

So, in short, if you prefer KDE but want wobbly windows, a rotating 3D cube of virtual desktops, and other eye-candy, you can’t beat the Mandriva 2008 free DVD. Given that I couldn’t get the Mandriva 2008 KDE One CD to even load X, I assumed that this free DVD probably wouldn’t let me have any eyecandy, but I couldn’t be more wrong. It seems that by sticking to 100% free software as configured by Mandriva results in the perfect combination of KDE customisability and Compiz droolworthyness :-) It doesn’t get any easier than this and, being 64-bits, it’s as fast as lightning on my Q6600, too!

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Distro hopping all the way back to Windows XP

This past week I have evaluated five Linux distributions to see if any of them would make suitable replacements for Windows XP so that I could avoid Vista. Sadly, Linux proved to be far more finicky and troublesome than I expected. Take it from me, if Windows XP is behaving itself, then don’t try to fix what ain’t broken; stick with what works!

It all started out on Boxing Day when I installed Kubuntu 7.10, which I chose because I prefer KDE, but also because of name recognition; I’ve heard good things about Ubuntu so Kubuntu must be good, too. Right? Wrong! Kubuntu is maintained by the community which means that it doesn’t get the proper care enjoyed by its progenitor. Here, then, is a run down of each distribution and why ultimately I’m sticking to Windows XP:

Kubuntu 7.10

Apart from the general impression that it’s Ubuntu’s unwanted step-child, Kubuntu (from what I can now remember; it was a week ago, afterall) had all sorts of issues (full write-up here):

  • The screen saver was broken and wouldn’t activate automatically (but previews were OK)
  • The back and forward buttons on my mouse in Konqueror actually scrolled left and right, instead of going back and forward in my history
  • Compiz was a bitch to get working (though, to Kubuntu’s credit, nowhere near as horrid as openSUSE 10.3 – see below). To change the theme in Emerald I had to send emerald a -SIGUSR1 switch in a terminal every time. The default themes were set so that inactive titlebars on windows were almost completely transparent, and trying to adjust the dozens of sliders in the Emerald theme manager to correct this was tedious.
  • The version of Kontact in Kubuntu wouldn’t respect the system-wide colour scheme – the default being far to bright with a very light off-white.
  • Adjusting the master sound volume had no effect on programs playing audio, not even if I selected the right channels. Perhaps this is due to the fact that sound systems in Linux are a dime a dozen so I guess KMix can’t control them all?
  • Since Kubuntu 7.10’s release I guess most developers are concentrating on KDE4 for Kubuntu 8.04. Speaking of which, I downloaded the KDE Four Live CD to check it out. In short: awful. The screen capture on that page shows enough, really. The taskbar is way to chunky and you can’t configure it (in this preview, anyway) and the only other major change is the addition of widgets to the desktop, which don’t excite me at all. KDE4 worries me in that a good desktop environment may end up becoming even worse than GNOME!

PCLinuxOS 2007

Probably the best of a bad bunch, but it has begun to let me down and after my experiences with other distros, my willingness to tolerate the finickyness of Linux has deteriorated considerably:

  • PCLOS, as it’s abbreviated, was one of the distros recommended in the comments to my Boxing Day linux post. Hearing that it’s a good KDE distro and after my brother’s interest was piqued by Compiz in Kubuntu, he downloaded an ISO.
  • We first installed it on my brother’s machine which uses a NVidia 8800GT video card. At first we couldn’t get the driver to work but with some help from the #pclinuxos-support IRC channel, we had eye-candy in no time.
  • Getting it to work with my ATI Radeon X300 video card was just as hassle-free. I was impressed.
  • It wouldn’t allow us to write to our NTFS partitions by default, though, and getting it to work wasn’t a walk in the park. It turns out that we had to install the ntfs-3g and ntfs-config packages (like a new user would have known that!). I don’t understand why read/write support to a user’s existing NTFS partitions isn’t enabled by default (like it was in Kubuntu; I don’t remember doing anything to get it working in that distro).
  • My PCLOS experience came to a crashing halt when I installed a few video players (not liking the ones on offer). I can’t remember which one I marked for removal but I discovered that Synaptic had completely fucked things up on my next reboot. All I got was a message box saying “Could not start kdeinit. Check your installation” and an emtpy X session where I could still spin my Beryl cube around. Eye-candy is nice and all but without any applications, what’s the point?
  • After three hours of brushing up my console survival skills (by installing lynx and irssi, the IRC client; I used to use bitchx or ircii many years ago, and it took a while to find even the name “irssi” because typing “sudo apt-get install ircii/bitchx” did nothing so I was scratching my head for a while). Anyway, the nice folks in the #kde channel eventually put it down to a missing libart_lgpl2 package, which I installed, and got X working again.
  • After this fiasco, I began to doubt PCLOS. An old friend always used to say that the RPM packaging system was evil and that DEB was better. Maybe he’s right because simply marking a few video players for uninstallation shouldn’t completely break your system like that.
  • (added on 11-Jan-2008) It seems that breaking kdeinit is an easy thing to do on PCLinuxOS: they even have an article at PCLinuxOS Magazine called Howto Repair kdeinit Problems for when you install a few too many programs and break your system. I don’t know about you but this whole dependency thing in Linux is supposed to prevent such breakages. If one thing requires an update, then everything depending on that update gets upgraded, and if one package doesn’t like that dependency, you’re supposed to be informed about it (much like openSUSE’s YaST will bitch constantly about dependency problems when installing ATI video drivers).

openSUSE 10.3

I decided to check out the latest release of openSUSE having tried 9.0 and 10.2 before (but not with a serious intention to use it as my main OS).

  • The installer offered to downloaded latest updates during the install, so I thought “why not?” and let it fetch the updates. After 10 minutes on my 1.5mb connection of seeing a hundred or more *.gz files download, I began to get the impression that maybe it was downloading the whole lot from the server again? I had just downloaded the ISO from my ISP’s mirror so I didn’t want it chewing up all my monthly quota.
  • So I rebooted and opted not to download the updates. When openSUSE finally installed I went in to the control center to add some repositories. Since my ISP mirrored them I added the local OSS and Non-OSS repositories, which turned out to be a huge mistake, evidently, because this caused me no end of grief in trying to get my ATI driver working for Compiz (opinion in the #suse IRC channel was that my ISP’s mirror was broken; very handy!). Another couple of hours troubleshooting on IRC wasted so I decided to re-install it again and let it do everything the way it wanted.
  • The openSUSE installer took forever! Well, maybe not forever but three hours, which seems like forever compared to the zippy installers for Kubuntu and PCLOS.
  • Into openSUSE for the second time and I decided to follow the instructions to the letter. Default repositories all round and a reading of the official instructions would be in order. I decided to read the page aptly named ATI. Good? Apparently not, as an argument ensued on the #suse channel as to which was the best method to install an ATI video driver (apart from the fact that ATI cards sucked and that I should have bought a NVidia card).
  • Somebody else suggested I follow these instructions by downloading an “ati.ymp” file that would take care of everything for me. This simply resulted in a big window full of dependency warnings.
  • Then somebody pipes in saying: See — i suggest NOT using ati-config and instead use SaX2 -r -m 0=fglrx
  • I then suggested downloading and installing the driver direct from ATI’s web site but this met with a great deal of scorn so I just gave up on openSUSE in the end. No operating system on the planet is worth this much of a headache!

Mandriva 2008

Mandriva was also recommended to me in the comments to my last post, so I downloaded the Mandriva Linux 2008 One KDE cd from my ISP’s mirror.

  • It refused to start X from the CD (either for live-cd perusal or to facilitate a complete installation). Not even with various combinations of acpi=off, noapic, nolapic, or vesa as kernel parameters would get X to work. I couldn’t Ctrl Alt Backspace out of X to run XFdrake to re-configure the video card, and neither could I Ctrl Alt F3 out to a TTY. I thought the disc was corrupt.
  • I decided to boot it off my home theater box connected to my plasma TV in the lounge room. It manages to boot successfully, detects the NVidia card, and allows me to enable Compiz with full eye-candy even more easily than PCLOS. It wouldn’t size the screen properly, but then again, it is a Samsung 42″ plasma with horizontal pixels and a native resolution of 1024×768, so I guess Mandriva could be cut a little slack on this issue.
  • The same CD boots fine off my sister-in-law’s PC which has an ATI Radeon X1300 video card, so I guess Mandriva 2008 just doesn’t like Radeon X300s. I should probably get a NVidia card, but Mandriva is out of the question for now, which is a pity because it looked good, and is the distro on which PCLOS is based, so it should be decent. I also hear from a lot of KDE fans that it’s a good choice if you like KDE.

Linux Mint 4.0

I was browsing through and came across a guy reviewing loads more distros than myself (full list of reviews at Adventures in Open Source). He rated Linux Mint very highly so my brother downloaded an ISO and dropped off a copy this morning.

  • The Live CD booted easily and the desktop loaded into what looked like a very polished GUI indeed. It was GNOME, so it was complete rubbish, but the work Linux Mint have done on the presentation and graphics side of things far outpaces anything Ubuntu are doing (brown is not a nice colour, and neither is orange!).
  • The install goes without hitch and a balloon appears near the bottom of the screen on first boot telling me that it is using a proprietary driver. Good, I say to myself. Compiz is going to be a walk in the park. Wrong.
  • I open the control center and take my time finding just where to configure the video card. There are lots of control center icons in Linux Mint and I think they could have halved the number and made each one have a few more tabs to group things better. Anyway, it says I’m using an ATI driver that lists mach, rage, etc. Clearly, it doesn’t look like a Radeon driver. I’ll choose Radeon instead. The applet wouldn’t let me choose Radeon for both (it’s a dual-head card so there’s a drop-down for each one; it doesn’t say which is the one I’m currently using). The other combo lists “fglrx” but no matter which option I choose, I end up with a very crappy resolution in X.
  • Clearly, the so-called “proprietary” driver offered by Linux Mint is crap, so I do the unthinkable. In my frustration, I download “” from ATI’s web site.
  • Given that Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and is completely compatible with the Ubuntu repositories, I decide to look at the unofficial wiki linked from ATI’s web site to see how to install it properly. The instructions for installing it the Ubuntu way look about as useless as any other method that uses an official repository, so I’ll try installing it manually, which looks about as nightmarish as the dreaded openSUSE instructions.
  • I finally decide I’ll just chmod 755 the installer and run it as root (which is basically what ATI recommend anyway, none of this re-packaging and editing config files nonsense!).
  • Lo and behold, and after asking #linuxmint how to enable Compiz, I have full eye-candy support. Beats the shit of any so-called “proprietary” driver offered through the usual repositories. Why re-invent the wheel and make things needlessly complicated when the driver offered by the video card manufacturer beats the pants of any rubbish offered by the distros themselves?
  • In the end, though, Linux Mint does use GNOME, which is far too Mac-like with it’s philosophy of hiding most configurable options from the user and forcing everybody into one mould. Even the default Xchat client, xchat-gnome, is a rebadging of Xchat but with many preference options stripped out, such that you can’t have channels as tabs along the bottom by default. Even if Linux Mint is nice in every other way, it uses GNOME, and their KDE version isn’t quite up-to-scratch, I believe.

SimplyMEPIS 7.0 (added on 7-Jan-2008)

With recommendations from bobber (comment #42) and Tom G (comment #46) saying that MEPIS is the perfect distro for people wanting a Debian-based distro and KDE, I decided to download the 64-bit version from my ISP’s extensive mirror to install on my Intel Q6600-based system:

  • The MEPIS docs say “Download all compiz packages from the Mepis repo via Synaptic. (Do a search on compiz)” so I mark everything matching “compiz” for installation. I then install python-ctypes like a good boy, then open the specified web page to download compizconfig-python. There are i386 and amd64 versions of that package so I ask #mepis and am advised: “do not use the amd 64 it differs to the intel 64” so I download the i386 version. When I try to install the i386 version it says “…package architecture (i386) does not match system (amd64)”. So, even though I install the “release 64” version of MEPIS, it’s really the AMD 64-bit version but which also works on Intel 64? How about just naming the packages “64” without AMD or Intel in the name? Wouldn’t that be less confusing?
  • I then try to install the amd64 version of the package and see, among other things, this message: “considering removing python-compizconfig in favour of compizconfig-python …” and “conflicting packages – not installing compizconfig-python”. It seems that when I was earlier directed to search for “compiz” and install all of those packages, I installed python-compizconfig without noticing, but the same instructions say I should install compizconfig-python, which seems to be one and the same thing. This is another thing that bugs the hell out of me about Linux distros: they’re forever renaming packages for no good reason, such that any online documentation becomes out of date thereby leading the user on a wild goose chase sorting out these unecessary problems.
  • I then have to install “ccsm” but Synaptic can’t find a package matching this name. Now I’m sure this really means compizconfig-settings-manager, so yet another bum-steer for new users. Nice going, MEPIS. There is no “fusion-icon” package in Synaptic so I download the amd64 package from the above URL. Trying to install it reveals this collection of lovely of errors:
      dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of fusion-icon:
       fusion-icon depends on compizconfig-python; however:
        Package compizconfig-python is not installed.
       fusion-icon depends on ccsm; however:
        Package ccsm is not installed.
  • So, I can only assume that some lunatic decided it would be nice to rename compizconfig-python to python-compizconfig such that further package installations now won’t work. Welcome to dependency hell. DLL hell in Windows is largely a thing of the past but dependency issues are about as annoying as I remember them even from last century!
  • An interesting observation: installing any package via Synaptic using the default, out-of-the-box, repositories, says “WARNING. You are about to install software that can’t be authenticated! Doing this could allow a malicious individual to damage or take control of your system”. So MEPIS doesn’t even trust it’s own maintainers?
  • Anyway, I decide to try clicking on the compiz fusion icon on the K menu just to see what happens and lost my window manager with the following error: “The application KWD (kde-window-decorator) crashed and caused the signal 11 (SIGSEGV)”. Not surprising, really, given the unresolvable package dependency nightmare above.
  • After rebooting I was, surprisingly, able to spin the Compiz cube around but opening any applications resulted in mostly-grey and partially-drawn windows that I couldn’t move around. So, I had a cube and not much else.
  • MEPIS is also fond of forcing me to use a resolution of 2048×1536 with a refresh rate of 60Hz on my IBM 6652 21″ CRT monitor, which not only means that I can’t read anything but that I will also get a headache due to the excessive screen flicker. If I change it to 1280×1024 in KDesktop, with a refresh rate of 85Hz (even though it can go above 100Hz) it will stay that way for the current X session, but reboot or log off and on again, and it’s back to 2048×1536. By specifying the correct model number in MEPIS’s X Window Assistant, I can see that it has the vertical and horizontal frequencies setup correctly, but KDesktop just won’t use high enough refresh rates or remember my resolution.
  • So, in short, MEPIS is no better or worse than any other distro I’ve tried.


If Windows XP ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t install Vista. Just stick with what you already have. Even if XP’s recovery CD is a tad dumb, dealing with that little problem is nothing compared to the nightmare of finicky linux distributions and all the software that does things their own way, like disagreeing on sound libraries, or having a choice of new windows opening cascaded, centered, or “smart” (meaning centered, top left, top right, etc until it runs out of places to put them), instead of just where you last left them (that’d be asking too much!). If you’re easily annoyed by inconsistency and the need to tinker with things to get them working, you aren’t going to like Linux one little bit.

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