Category Archives: ubuntu

Another convert to Sublime Text 2

As someone who has used vim for a long time, I’ve been won over by Sublime Text 2.

Some of the things I cared about:

  • Looks good with small fonts, and uses screen estate sparsely – it looks beautiful.
  • It is written with a custom UI toolkit, and has excellent font and colour selections, which allows great customisation of how things look. I know this first hand via Trelby, which also has custom UI controls.
  • It is fast on my netbook, and seems to use no more memory.
  • Multi-platform – no more dropping into cygwin/vim or notepad++ when I work to Windows.
  • Large, growing repository of plugins, that is integrated into the editor. no more fiddling with tarballs and dotfiles.
  • The “Goto Anything” system is awesome, specially when dealing with large files, and you need to hunt down a particular piece of code.
  • Selecting something also highlights all other instances of it.

Here’s a couple of screenshots on a tiny screen (click to view full size):

Plenty of room to edit code.

Getting OpenChronos building on Ubuntu 11.04

The Chronos kit

“.. and how to avoid the pain”

TI was running a deal, and I snagged myself a Chronos ez430. It’s an excellent low power dev. platform, and you can program your watch! How cool is that?

However, my enthusiasm was constantly battling the dismal state of information online on building OpenChronos (a fork of the official Chronos firmware, so you don’t have to use the restrictive and proprietary TI compilers, and stick with good ol’ gcc!).

mspgcc4, not mspgcc

These are two different projects. mspgcc4 is what you use to build OpenChronos. mspgcc will NOT work (unless you port the codebase. Update: done. see below!). mspgcc4 is also deprecated and no longer maintained. There are no official packages on Ubuntu. The source will not build on Ubuntu 11.04. There is no binary tarball (that i could find) anywhere. Long story short.. you really tear your hair trying to figure out a way to get OpenChronos to build.

I reached out to a bunch of folks who have forked OpenChronos on github,to see if any of them are on Ubuntu, and if they could share their compiler set. rdmiller3 responded, and I now have the pleasure of sharing this binary build widely.

Download msp430-gcc-4.4.5_gdb_7.2.tar.bz2 [mirror] for Ubuntu 11.04 -x86.

Building OpenChronos

It’s as simply as grabing the copy from github, make config, and make!

I have some ideas on how I want to change the firmware. I’ll hopefully get time to work on it.

Centralizing the Information

I’ve been considering throwing up a wiki to organize all the information there is on the platform, in one accessible place. If you are a Chronos developer what do you think?

[update] : dobfek successfully got mspgcc4 to build on Ubuntu 11.04, and sent across these instructions.

[update 2] : not 24 hours have passed, and i found out work was afoot to port to mspgcc. I’ve merged these changes into my github fork. Thanks to Angelo Arrifano. You can install the mspgcc package from this repository on Ubuntu 11.04.

[update 3] : All of us OpenChronos devs are rallying around at the google group. It’s the place to get answers or collaborate on Chronos development.The current effort is to make the code structure more modular, so you don’t have to edit a bunch of files to get your app in there. It’s shaping up well!

sshlist – an appindicator/unity replacement for sshmenu

sshlist in action
sshlist in action

[Note: SSHlist has been deprecated,in favor of SSHplus. SSHlist will no longer be developed, but is still made available]

Since moving to Ubuntu Natty, I’ve missed the sshmenu applet a lot.

So I spent an hour to writeup a functionally equivalent appindicator menu. And so sshlist was born.

Using sshlist is simple. From the instructions:

  • Copy file (this file) to /usr/local/bin
  • Edit file .sshlist in home directory to add ssh host (one per line)
  • You can if you wish add additional ssh options. The line is appended to the ssh command
  • Launch
  • Or better yet, add it to gnome startup programs list so it’s run on login.

Of course, much of that could be automated, patched and/or packaged. For now simply head to the repository, click on “” and grab the raw file, and follow the above instructions.

Patches welcome.

Update: Benjamin Heil extended sshlish for simplestarter, which allows launch of multiple applications with various arguments. It might suit your needs.

Update 2: SSHplus is better! This version will no longer be maintained.

My experience with Ubuntu Natty so far

In two words: Pretty good!

Continuing the series on customizing and reviewing Ubuntu releases (Lucid here, Maverick here), below are my random thoughts on the latest release.

  • All the vertical space saved by default! The various hacks you needed to pull (mentioned in previous articles) to get more vertical space on netbook are no longer needed. And the dedicated effort towards it shows.
  • Menu bar, Titlebar, and panel have been combined to one. The menubar/title bar changes on hovering in the panel.
  • Try to treat this setup as normal gnome desktop, with docky on the left side, and you’ll feel right at home. Because that is exactly what Unity is. Having used it for a week or so, I dont see what the big brouhaha was about the move from Gnome 2 classic desktop to Unity. It is not a revolution, just simple evolution. And it looks good.
  • This release continues the Canonical/Mark Shuttleworth push to focus on polish. The font is looking more integrated than ever.
  • You do need to set a g-conf value to have classical taskbar status icons. You’ll almost always require this if you want to use anything from gnote to audacious to others that have not yet implemented app-indicator support. The command you need to run in terminal is:
  • gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist “[‘all’]”
  • Chrome seems noticeably faster than firefox on my netbook. Of course, the 15 different addons I have installed might have something to do with that.
  • Reduce the font size by 2 points to get more on the screen. The values in my Appearance Preferences > Fonts read 8.5, 8.5, 8.5, 9, 8.5
  • Start following OMG!Ubuntu. It’s the best Ubuntu blog around now. By some margin.

There are tiny bugs in Unity, but none that come in the way of a power user working on the setup. I recommend an upgrade to this release for all, specially on your non-tech uncle’s PC.

Ubuntu and Asus EEEpc: Optimizing your netbook experience

Asus EEE

I recently became the owner of an Asus 1005HA netbook. It’s a nice lightweight little machine, that runs spiffy, and looks good.

It came installed with Windows XP by default, and I replaced that with Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Well (EasyPeasy, actually.. but it’s just UNR + some additional apps). Below are various mods I made to make the netbook interface much better, and more useful.

  • The gnome-panel in the Netbook interface is locked.. so you cannot add additional items, nor remove unnecessary ones. To fix this follow the instructions on this page.
  • The applet I wanted to add was sshmenu. As a lot of my work is on multiple remote machines, this applet is a must have. apt-get install sshmenu-gnome should install this applet.
  • A Thinkpad T61 being my other machine, I missed the dedicated middle-click a lot on the Eee. Follow the instructions here to map the useless menu button to middle click (Need to add a script to startup applications).
  • Multitouch. Though the Eee has a multitouch capable touchpad, it is not enabled by default. Just append the following to the startup script you wrote in the previous step:

# Now setup multitouch
sleep 2
xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Two-Finger Scrolling” 8 1
xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Synaptics Two-Finger Scrolling” 8 1 1
xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Synaptics Two-Finger Pressure” 32 10
xinput set-int-prop “SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad” “Synaptics Two-Finger Width” 32 8

  • Install sshfs, and pysshfs for remote access to filesystems.
  • Uninstall Tomboy notes. Install Gnotes.. much faster.
  • Mic wont work with Skype. There’s 2 mics on the Eee.. and apparently the fix is to zero volume on one. This and this post helped me get it working.
  • Grab the Lucida/Mac fonts from the net and set your Appearance settings to use these at Size 9. Looks good.
  • Install games for when you have a few minutes to kill. I setup some online multiplayer games like Frozen-bubble, Teeworlds, Gtetrinet. There’s a whole bunch of games out there.
  • Install Pidgin, tsclient, vnc if you are an IRC user, and work remotely.
  • Firefox default eats up some screen estate. Install the addons AutoHideStatusbar, AdBlock Plus, Hide Menubar, Download StatusBar. These will free up space. Also get rid of the bookmarks bar (View > Toolbars > Uncheck Bookmarks)
  • Install gnome-do. All your actions are now Win + Spacebar away. (apt-get install gnome-do)
  • Install Audacious as the music player : apt-get install audacious.
  • Install VLC and mplayer from Medibuntu.
  • Disable unnecessary items from Preferences > Startup applications. In my case these were Bluetooth, Check for New Hardware, Ubuntu One, Update Notifier, Visual Assistance.

With these changes, your netbook is a meaner, more efficient version of itself. If there’s some other things you’ve done to customize your Eee, leave a comment.

Nexenta Core Platform 2 released!

I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties, but I’m back on track. Lots of things have happened in the recent times, but the big news today is the release of the Nexenta Core Platform 2. This release has been a year in the making, and took a lot of hard work.

We’ve also produced a short comic, with our very own hero, Nexentaman, to walk you through NCP. Click below to read the comic.

The Adventures of Nexentaman
The Adventures of Nexentaman


Nexenta homepage:

Artwork and Wallpapers:

IRC : #nexenta on freenode

Go ahead, test drive Nexenta, and spread the word

Hackathon, 3rd Edition

The third edition of the Nexenta Hackathon starts today.

We’ve made incredible progress over the past two months, and the community activities have increased. The IRC channel audience has grown considerably. Starting today, we’ll be working on some of the final tasks, before we release NCP2, the final version.


This hackathon also features a bounty for various tasks, sponsored by Nexenta Systems. There are small awards for some of the high priority tasks, including porting efforts, documentation, and creating Nexenta spinoffs.

The task list from the announcement.

Package porting:  Most of the packages in the repository are now automatically built. There are a few crucial packages that need to be built manually, and allow the builder to pick up on the rest.

Documentaiton: Not everyone knows how easy some tasks are on Nexenta. Help us write documentation, so new users find migrating much easier.

Distributions: NCP has now evolved to a tested core platform. Use the existing packages and window managers in the repository to build your own distribution using our distribution builder; tune Nexenta for a particular appliance and help us enhance our installer.

Significant contributions will be featured on the Nexenta project Homepage.

Further Information:
IRC web interface:

Gnome on NCP2

I mentioned in a previous post that GUI related packages were being populated into the NCP2 repository. Since pictures are a thousand words:

Gnome, GIMP and Irssi running on NCP2
Gnome, GIMP and Irssi running on NCP2 (not to mention the Heron)

Huge thanks to dtbartle, who has actively been porting Gnome into the package repository. Why not hop into #nexenta and say thanks.

Theres also other window managers being populated at the moment. Small ones like Enlightenment (e16) and 9wm are fully in.

PS: Also another round of hackthon is in the plans. Stay tuned for more.

Autobuilder Update

The last time I mentioned the Nexenta autobuilder, it was just opened and not fully completed. That changed recently.

The autobuilder is now in the works and since the beinning of the week has been chugging away tirelessly, working on Ubuntu Hardy’s 8.04 repository. The result.. over 2500 packages now reside in Nexenta’s contrib repsoitory. Going at this rate, we should have triple this amount by the end of next week.

The autobuilder is built to scale, and all of the work is shared between 2 nodes. The pace of package porting will increase with more packages. Do you have a machine free for the autobuilder to use (and have the bandwidth to spare)? Drop in on #nexenta or the devel mailing list, and we’ll help you setup. Look for Tim Spriggs (aka rootard). We’re still a good while away from Ubuntu’s 20000 packages.

The autobuilder will however not work for packages that need to be ported to Opensolaris/Nexenta. These should be few and far in between. It does fishily sound like another hackathon.

Nexenta Core Platform 2 Beta1 Released

The first beta release of NCP2 was released yesterday. This release was bug fix release with a big leap in the opensolaris build (from the previous b85+ to b104+).

Also, most of the common server applications now have SMF support. The latest version of devzones is also included. For the full announcement and release highlights, see here.

* OpenSolaris build 104+ based with critical patches.
* Over 6000 packages in the repository, and autobuilder.
* Based on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) repository
* This includes latest dpkg/apt, gcc, binutils, coreutils,
perl, python, ruby, Qt libs, GTK libs, etc
* SMF support added for server applications like apache, mysql, postgresql, exim4, etc.
* 100% native Debian environment, easy to upgrade, easy to use
* Includes Vim and screen by default
* Addition of latest devzone version to the CD.
* Includes apt-clone which brings zfs power to apt-get.

So get your copy hot off the presses now. Links below


Beta Download:

For comments/solutions and queries goto the #nexenta IRC room at freenode.