The Keyboardist’s Mini Toolkit

I’ve always loved the keyboard to get around my desktop rather than a mouse. For those of us who are not yet 100% consuming content via a touch screen (which has its place,don’t get me wrong) then the option to search and navigate by keyboard is a great boon to productivity I find.

My two current faves are synapse on my netbook (sorry open source systems only but there are plenty of  equivalents out there such as Alfred on Mac OS X and Launchy for almost all systems).

Synapse – a semantic launcher for Linux

I like Synapse because it makes use of the Zeitgeist engine  which logs and learns how you work together with common associations. Sounds geekier than it actually is. I find it a help anyway. Your own mileage may vary.

Gleebox web page navigation

The second software helper is a plugin for the Chrome /chromium browser or Chromebook/Chromium OS. It’s Gleebox. Once installed it enables a quick keyboard shortcut to activate an overlay that lets you navigate via the keyboard. It’s just as easy to type a url directly into gleebox, All in all it helps to move search and navigation to the keyboard rather than the mouse or trackpad.

I heartily recommend them both.

To add the Synapse ppa in linux just cut and paste these commands in the terminal window

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:synapse-core/ppa
  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install synapse

Ubuntu: Turn a keyboard shortcut into a desktop shortcut

I wanted to add a deskbar search icon to a Ubuntu desktop. Mostly because I could see that the users were very desktop icon orientated so despite me having placed a shortcut in the task bar I was still being asked where the search option was.Everybody learns a different route to intuitive use.

The solution was quick and painless.

Open the terminal and type

sudo apt-get install xdotool

Now create a desktop launcher (right click on the desktop-create launcher).

Where it asks for a command  use

xdotool key

followed by the combination of keyboard shortcuts

In this case the keyboard shortcuts for deskbar were Alt+F3
so I used:

xdotool key Alt+F3

Now all that needs to be done is to replace the default launcher icon with a deskbar search icon.


Flying into the Jolicloud

I have a netbook (ooh I know soooo last year) and have been very happy with Linux Mint on it but have recently returned to Jolicloud which now has an HTML5 based desktop, easy install of apps in a that increasingly familiar app store way and fast web browsing via Chromium though Firefox and Opera are also available to install.

For existing windows users there is a 15Mb download installer that installs within windows to give a dual boot netbook with automatic access to Windows side files when running Jolicloud.

There’s is also easy access to many popular on-line file storage services including dropbox.

I must admit I’m very impressed with version 1.0 of Jolicloud which yields a good hybrid of local apps and data and those in the cloud. Though aimed specifically at the netbook form factor this desktop would be great for re purposed computers in the community or as a fast booting second desktop option for any windows user.


A Minty LXDE desktop at last

Linux Mint have issued a release candidate of their popular open source operating system based on the ultra lightweight LXDE desktop environment which is ideal for use on lower specification computers and netbooks. A quick test even from the live CD shows that the desktop is still fully featured though in common with the Xfce desktop it may not be fully compatible with running Adobe’s air platform. Otherwise everything else works very well.

I easily added the required Nvidia graphic card drivers and was able to add shortcuts to the desktop though found a familiar minor irritation in the shape of a missing Firefox shortcut icon which I have encountered before (some jigging about in the icons folder will fix that but it is a known bug).

The final release will be well worth downloading for extending the use of older computers (recycled or reused), together with laptops and netbooks. Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE is a free download.

Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE RC1

PlayOnLinux-Another human face for wine


PlayOnLinux wizard install window-click to enlarge

A piece of software called Wine lets linux users run a small number of software applications that ordinarily require the Windows operating system.  PlayOnLinux is a free application that puts an easy to follow wizard style interface on top of wine and contains some pre-installed scripts to help load a number of compatible applications.

Since our Mac got fried by a lightning pulse I’ve returned to using Linux Mint full time but did want to access our saved iTunes library. PlayOn Linux has enabled me to easily install a working version of iTunes on linux. I’ve even managed to get a legacy music composition prog installed and working.

So if anyone’s using linux on the desktop or on their netbook like I am and would rather install a few choice  supported Windows applications for use directly within Linux rather than dual booting another OS or using virtualization technologies (the last two requiring a a legal installation OS disc and enough memory and hard space to accommodate the install) then I can heartily recommend looking to see if  PlayOnLinux would suit your own needs.

Other alternatives are Wine-doors (though in need of an update with regard to the available application install scripts) and the commercial (paid for) Crossover Office from Codeweavers.

Standing In The Light Of The MoonOS


I love the modular nature of linux desktops and distributions even if  the growth of the ‘if it’s linux then it must be Ubuntu’ fan-boyism can become annoying (I love Ubuntu but oranges, as they say, are not the only fruit). I’ve been getting close to modifying and customising a linux desktop myself  via remastering and was intrigued to find a desktop that had been built on top of Linux mint, itself a modified variant of Ubuntu.

MoonOS is a project started by Cambodian artist Chanrithy Thim and currently offers desktops based around the fast E17 and LXDE desktop window managers. Both are light enough to be used in virtualised environments with LXDE particularly suited to netbooks, thin client ,remote desktop solutions and low spec computers.It even runs on Google’s Android phone technology.

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Linux Mint 6 XFCE Community Edition RC1

A new release candidate for Linux Mint community edition has been released. Mint is based on Ubuntu but includes some free but closed source extras (codecs, adobe flash etc) in order to provide a better ‘out of the box’ computing experience (Mint does make ‘universal’ pure open source versions too).

I’m normally a Mac user but increasingly I’m using Linux Mint for sheer speed and customisation ability and even enjoy running Mint purely from CD on our Intel Mac.It can equally be installed on a USB drive or alongside an existing Windows or Mac operating system.

This new XFCE based linux desktop adds a user configurable firewall and Mint Nanny which lets people filter web sites by domain for a simple way to control where others (children for example) can roam on the Internet.

For the first time this version of Mint can be installed from within an existing windows desktop using Mint4win which is similar to Wubi used in Ubuntu.

More feature details are available on the Linux Mint site.

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