Teething Problems Mostly Solved.

On my work desk I have two computers.  I probably don’t absolutely have to have two, but I think that being a computer officer I can probably justify it!

One is a 27″ iMac. It is huge, and the display is lovely.  I have issues with it that I will probably document somewhere one day.  But it is a thing of beauty, and it is so large that it certainly gets the attention.

Next to it is a pretty standard PC. I bought it with Windows 7 installed and it still has the ability to run Windows if you select it from the startup menu, but by default it boots up in to my preferred Linux distribution.

Nowadays that preference lies with Crunchbang.  This is a relatively recent choice, and may change again one day in the not too distant future.  For a long time I was a devotee of Gentoo, but I had problems with Gentoo (once again, I will write about that one day) and Crunchbang got my notice and my devotion!

Based on Debian, and using Openbox as its window manager, Crunchbang is pretty light (especially when compared to Windows) and positively flies on the i3 processor that this PC has.

However, while I have been running Crunchbang on my laptop for a while, the initial installation on the desktop PC still lead to some head scratching.

By default Openbox relies on a pop-up menu appearing when you right click the desktop.  This works well (though the menu has to be edited manually via a text file when adding new entries). But I am afraid that I like to have a start/task bar at the foot of the screen.  I know that relying on it is a bit Windows centric of me, but it is what I find myself most comfortable with!  The good news is that the packages for this are all available easily within the Synaptic package manager, and a quick visit to add in Xfce4 packages and I have a working taskbar.

Another useful system is the Conky monitor.  This is an infinitely customisable widget that can be embedded in the desktop and can display whatever information you select.  In the first instance I chose to use the configuration file that I had for my laptop.  This displays system information (hostname, date and time, uptime), Processor information (system load on the individual cores), Network speeds (upload and download rates as graphs), Top processes (the first five entries in Top), Memory (memory usage), Disc usage (root, home and tmp), Last.fm (last 5 tracks, but this is only up to date if I use a Last.fm aware music player or sync my iPod) and Disc in/out.

I also have a conditional section that only displays when the MPD player is active!

I did a bit of tweaking of the interface when I copied the configuration file across to my desktop. The main ones initially were to do with colour. On my laptop a lot of the backgrounds are light, so I use dark text, on the desktop the opposite is true.

However, there was one problem that persisted.  The conky window that displayed was ‘on top’ of all other windows.  That meant that a full screen program would be ‘under’ the conky display, effectively hiding the minimize/maximize/close buttons.

The problem was eventually fixed by changing the line:

own_window_type override


own_window_type desktop
And restarting conky.

There is no escape from Stalag 33

We have a rabbit. It would be most accurate to say that he is Lizzie’s rabbit, but I actually look after him most of the time. I let him out of his hutch in the morning, feed him, make sure he has water and that his litter tray is in the corner of his run where he tends to use it, and in the evening I coax him back into his hutch for the night.

Last weekend, out of the blue he suddenly started burrowing.  And, unsurprisingly, he is good at it, and pretty soon there was a large hole under his hutch, and he looked headed for freedom.  Lizzie was worried because she didn’t want him eaten by a fox, I was worried because I didn’t want to come home and find that he had disappeared, and I would have been left dealing with a very upset five year old!

Consulting with the man in the pet shop (we had gone to stock up on food)  the advice was to line the bottom of the run with chicken wire. Luckily I still had a whole roll of the stuff left over from making the run in the first place!

So today we coaxed Buddy (the bunny) back in to his hutch so that we could remove his run, flip it over and add the chicken wire.  I have to say, I didn’t like doing it. I worry that it might be uncomfortable on his feet, and it feels a bit prisoner of war, but it is definitely preferable to a heartbroken little girl.

Buddy and Lizzie when Lizzie first arrived.
Buddy and Lizzie in the garden.

It Could Be Worse.

Following a link on Facebook I found out about this organisation:


(warning, when the page loads it starts playing music, like it is still about 1998. The player is on the right hand side, and can be paused).

Yep, it is what it says. An NGO that provides homoepathic medicine to Africans with HIV. Fortunately, they don’t suggest that homeopathy should replace proper drugs, as this statement on the site makes clear:

The results of homoeopathic treatment are outstanding.  It works in an integrative way with AIDS patients who are taking anti-retroviral drugs. With health and energy they can return to work, care for and school their children and contribute to their community.

The people who run the organisation are clearly intent on helping, and for that they should be applauded. But handing out placebos alongside real drugs and then claiming that they are helping seems dodgy to me.