Archive for December, 2005

New Scientist 13 things that do not make sense

There’s an awesome article on New Scientist (posted in April) titled 13 things that do not make sense. There are some very interesting tidbits in this article, including:

THIS is a tale of two spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

That’s because something has been pulling – or pushing – on them, causing them to speed up. The resulting acceleration is tiny, less than a nanometre per second per second. That’s equivalent to just one ten-billionth of the gravity at Earth’s surface, but it is enough to have shifted Pioneer 10 some 400,000 kilometres off track. NASA lost touch with Pioneer 11 in 1995, but up to that point it was experiencing exactly the same deviation as its sister probe. So what is causing it?

apt-get install xcompmgr transset

It took me absolutely forever, but I finally decided to install xcompmgr and transset on my Ubuntu machine. That’s right: true transparency for windows, drop shadows and much, much more!

I decided to follow a HOWTO instead of trying to do all of this myself. I ended up using a post about transparency and compositing off of the Ubuntu Forums. That made it nice and easy:

This is just an extra little command. If you want to set certain windows as transparent, then run the command “transset” in the console. Your mouse will turn into a crosshair; simply click on the window you want to set as transparent. The transparency value can be anywhere from 0 (completely transparent) to 1 (opaque.) It defaults to .75, and back to 1 if the window is already transparent.

For example, if you want to make a window half-transparent:

transset 0.5

I’ll post a screenshot of my desktop sometime soon. But you’ll just have to trust me: XFCE with transparent rxvt and Gaim looks very, very nice! Don’t listen to the LUGRadio fellas: eye candy is most definitely Hype.

a bunch of useful aliases

Keith Winston has a friggin’ awesome article on with a bunch of great bash aliases. I am loving the “CLI Magic” weekly column more and more every week, but this week’s entry blows all of the others away!

If you spend any time working at the shell, you probably use many GNU utilities. One thing that distinguishes the GNU versions from the classic Unix versions is that the GNU programs are rife with additional options. Some of these options are so useful you may want to create an alias so you can use them all the time without needing to do all the extra typing.

A shell alias is a simple way to create your own custom command. To make your aliases available every time you open a bash shell, add them to your $HOME/.bashrc file. For other shells, place them in the associated run control file. Many distributions include a basic set of aliases for all users. When I start working on a new system or get a new account, I immediately add my favorite aliases to my .bashrc.

Two example aliases:

List the most recently modified files and directories

alias lt=’ls -alt | head -20′

Once it’s loaded, typing lt lists the most recently modified contents of the current directory. The -a and -l options show all files including hidden files in a long listing format. Since I am usually interested in a file I have just changed, I limit the output to 20 lines by piping the output from ls -alt to the head command. This example also demonstrates that an alias may be a series of commands, rather than just a short name for a single utility and its options.

List only subdirectories
This alias shows only subdirectories of the current directory by using egrep to limit the listing to entries with the d (directory) attribute.

I’m going through and adding most of the aliases that Winston listed to my .bashrc file, most with only moderate changes (for example, I cut the number of modified files to 10, and left out directories completely).

Profile picI am a 40-ish uber-geek, Daoist and family man. Blessed to have one incredible wife and three wonderful kiddos. Dao has been kind to me.

December 2005
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