New (sorta) laptop

My fiancée recently bought a shiny, new iBook because her laptop broke. So I inherited the old one, a P3-500 with a whopping 64 megabytes of RAM. After replacing the wireless card with mine from my broken laptops, the “new” laptop works great!

I’m putting Gentoo on it, but I’d enjoy suggestions for apps for common tasks that are full-featured and won’t take up all my memory. Here’s my ideas:

  • Web: Firefox — This one I’m a bit concerned about. Opera? But I like open source.
  • E-mail: Thunderbird first, Sylpheed-claws if T-Bird’s too much
  • RSS reading: Blam?
  • Blogging: Drivel?
  • Window manager: Fluxbox
  • Terminal: rxvt-unicode
  • IM client: gaim? I rarely use one.
  • Music: xmms? rhythmbox? muine? Or something console, like mpg321?

I may have to move to CLI versions of a number of the above apps, depending on how the memory use works out.

Incidentally, it’s got a Neomagic graphics chip. That should be fun.

Gettys’ points still relevant today

I just tripped across an essay by Jim Gettys from nearly seven years ago called, “The Two Edged Sword.” It was linked from ESR’s The Art of UNIX Programming, which I just started.

He talks a bit about the GUI wars. But back then, it wasn’t GNOME and KDE; it was OpenLook and Motif.

As a result, I believe that any toolkit that does not allow full customization or cannot be customized to look like the other toolkit’s default style should be considered broken. The sooner people accept the premise that all toolkits should be configurable to closely match other styles (and future styles) as a minimum of all future X toolkit development, the better, and that the less grief we will all have.

Many of his other points also remain equally relevant today. Take a look at it, particularly if you’re involved with X, toolkits, WM’s, DE’s or anything along those lines.

One thing that pisses me off about Thunderbird

It’s hard to imagine how annoying this thing is. I don’t understand why it makes me so angry, because it doesn’t take that much time to work around. But it makes me want to throw my monitor through the window.

When I’m reading e-mail, I repeatedly hit the space bar to scroll down to the bottom, then move on to the next e-mail. When I’m reading an e-mail, I often hit the delete key when I’m done to trash it. But Thunderbird must’ve missed a usability exercise for this case, because when it jumps to e-mail in another folder, it highlights the folder rather than the e-mail. Thus, when I hit delete, it pops up this stupid dialog asking, Do you really want to delete this folder?

Of course I don’t want to delete the folder, you stupid piece of crap. If I wanted to delete a folder, I would’ve explicitly clicked on a folder. I want to delete the e-mail I’m reading.

So what are the usability problems here? There’s consistency — when I’m reading e-mail, always respond to the delete key in the same way. There’s expectation — a usable program acts how the user expects it to act. And then there’s the idea that the common tasks should be made easy, and the uncommon tasks should be more work.

Obviously, deleting a folder is a less common task than deleting e-mail.

Anyway, just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening, world.

[Gentoo] Readahead cancels itself out

As a followup to my previous post, the readahead doesn’t help at all. I spent a fair bit of time optimizing which files got read with some grep+ldd shell scripting, but no clear improvement.

Apparently whatever time it spends doing the readahead is about the same amount of time saved by doing it. Conclusion? I guess my disk I/O is not the rate-limiting step.

[Gentoo] Back to X “boot” speedup

Remember that craze a couple of months ago about speeding up boot times, that bootchart program, etc?

Well, I finally started hobbling along in the bandwagon’s dust. Dropped my time to GDM login from 1:07 to 0:42 after hitting Enter on the GRUB screen, a 37% reduction, with the help of a few patches. Most of them are integrated into the latest baselayout alpha’s, and I’ll commit the XDM change soon if I hear success reports from other *dm’s.

Policy briefings: lost in the Grokster shuffle?

Everyone else seems to be focusing on Grokster today, so I wanted to mention something else of note. A group called the Center for Democracy and Technology has made public copies of short briefs on current political issues (Washington Post story). Usually, only members of Congress have access to them.

“Taxpayers pay $100 million a year for this resource, yet they don’t have ready access to it,” said CDT spokesman David McGuire. “We don’t think they should have to pay twice to get their hands on it.”

Some basic certifications

I was at Borders the other day looking for some interesting books, and I happened upon the certification preps for Security+ etc from Sybex. I started reading that one and it was so good that I bought it and a couple others from Sybex.

Frankly I have no clue whether these certifications have any meaning in the real world, but I think they’ll be kinda fun to get.