Build and install Emacs24 on Debian squeeze

Hacking in Debian is so easy (one of the reasons I switched). Take, for instance, building Emacs. This is such a piece of cake compared to the weird hoops you have to go through to get all the build dependencies on other platforms. It’s something I never tried before, simply because it was too daunting trying to figure out all the packages I need to install. But apt-get has this awesome –build-deps switch…
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Implementing a caching-only DNS on openSUSE

Lately I’ve been noticing significant DNS latency when visiting certain sites. This is most obvious when my browser spends ages with “Looking up some.web.server.com…” in it’s status bar. It’s particularly bad at sites like wordpress.com where many pages make reference to sub-domains of wordpress.com and typically also to google.com for analytics or ads.

While my ISP’s DNS infrastructure is pretty good, there are a couple of things I can do to improve DNS look-up, which makes page loads a lot quicker.
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What happened to my Ctrl-+/- zoom in Xorg?

Older X.org and XFree86 used to have this neat feature where pressing Ctrl+<numpad +> and Ctrl+<numpad -> would cycle through the screen modes defined in your config file in the “Screen” section, effectively switching screen modes on the fly and letting you pan around the full virtual screen size with the mouse.

This was a really useful feature for zooming in on small details, or to blow up videos without incurring high CPU overhead.

But since about X.org 1.7 this feature seems to be missing.  I’ve been researching and discovered why it’s missing, and what to do about it.
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Awesome KDE, Java composite hacks

I’ve been experimenting with the awesome tiling window manager as a replacement to KDE’s kwin, and I’ve managed to hack together a recipe for getting them up an running. It’s surprisingly simple, although the learing curve was a little steep.

This post documents what I’ve done to get things working nicely with the basic awesome config. No customisations here, see the awesome wiki for some ideas.
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MS-Windows focus-follows-mouse Registry hacks

This post is also available at my personal web site: http://milosophical.me/blog/2010/03/10/ms-windows-focus-follows-mouse-registry-hacks.html


I like the “focus follows mouse” window-focussing model from X11, because

  • I don’t have to click on the window, just move the mouse and the window it’s over is focussed
  • I can focus a window without bringing it to the front, which is sometimes handy. If I want it in front, I can click it.

However MS-Windows follows the old-fashioned, Macintosh/Smalltalk style of having users click on a window to focus it for the keyboard. How do you make MS-Windows behave more like X11?

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Essentials to make Windows almost bareable

Okay, so I hate working in Windows, but on my employer’s equipment at least, I must live with it. After having had this machine replaced twice (faulty Dell hardware) and rebuilt more times than I can remember (Windows BSODs), for a total of at least 3 system migrations this past year, I thought I’d better keep a list of what free software to install on top of Windows, and what adjustments to make, so that at least I don’t feel like I’m wearing a straight jacket. Here goes:

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Remote desktop access on SuSE: Cygwin, X, XDMCP and SSH? Nope. FreeNX!

This post is also available at my personal web site: http://milosophical.me/blog/2007/03/22/remote-desktop-acces-suse-cygwin-x-and-xdmcp.html


MJL20080827 — Update:  I Just realised that this is one of my top-visited pages and it’s a totally disorganised and incongruent pile of… What’s worse is, I’ve never updated it since the promised update back in March 2007!

Let me clear things up (and save you wading through the whole article): If you want remote access to your openSUSE desktop from a networked thin client, then forget about X11, XDMCP, VNC or tunneling X through SSH. Use the NX protocol. You’ll need to do the following:

  1. Install FreeNX on your openSUSE host. Some (slightly outdated, but usable) instructions are in Chapter 9 of the openSUSE 10.2 Reference manual. If you’re using openSUSE 11.0 or newer, get the latest FreeNX package from the openSUSE Build Service (there are one-click install buttons)
  2. Install an NX client on your remote terminal(s). Nomachine has free NX clients for Linux, Mac, Windows and Solaris (even some experimental ones for PlayStation 2 and Zaurus!). If your remote terminal is running openSUSE, you could alternatively get an open-source NX client from the build service (or ask yourself: I’m running X locally, so why don’t I just use good ole SSH and X11?)
  3. Configure your NX client to connect to the openSUSE host, then log in and enjoy!

The upshot: I’ve done this with a FreeNX server and Nomachine’s NX client for Windows XP, and it all “just works”, except maybe for some font issues with older X clients like emacs (install extra font packages from nomachine to fix that), and some transparency effect issues I noticed in kwin4, probably to do with X11 extensions missing in the NX client. Not a big deal.

Read the rest of this article for the boring background and laughable false-starts in my quest for remote desktops in X… <blush/>

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