Enough Already, Firefox!

The fancier and “better” Firefox (Mozilla’s popular web browser) and Thunderbird (the e-mail client) get, the better I like Seamonkey! Since my upgrade to Xubuntu 14.04, Firefox crashes randomly, doesn’t communicate properly with Thunderbird, and until I figured out how to fix it, it looked like this:

All of the text in the Address bar disappeared under these blankets of solid color. Fixing it was a matter of installing a new theme in Firefox called FXChrome. But come on, man. Wasn’t this discovered a month or two ago? According to Google it was, so it could have been fixed or patched or at least mentioned in the release notes, but noooooooo.

Remember the old Netscape Suite? Great, simple, reliable browser fully integrated with a fantastic built-in e-mail client. Netscape Communicator, Netscape Composer, all that cool stuff – well it’s still alive and well, under Mozilla’s umbrella, but separate – thank goodness – from Firefox and Thunderbird. Now called Seamonkey, it’s a bit more nimble than Firefox, can use many of the same add-ons, and is free of the bugaboos that have showed up in their flagship browser and email client. It also has good ol’ fashioned clickable buttons instead of search-and-destroy menus all under some unfamiliar-looking icon. I’m writing this post using Composer.

But getting Seamonkey was a whole ‘nother frustrating effort. I don’t do the “tarball” thing in Xubuntu, even though the process is now simpler than ever. I went to the Ubuntuzilla web site (on Sourceforge) to find the repository, and that’s a vicious circle! The web site directs visitors to download the instructions, and the instructions – two sentences long – direct readers to the web site. That’s just stupid. If not for Google I would have just grabbed the tarball from Seamonkey’s web site, but I found instructions for adding the respository to Xubuntu: Open a terminal and input these two commands:

To set up the key:

sudo apt-key adv –recv-keys –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com C1289A29

And then add the repository:

echo -e “ndeb http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/ubuntuzilla/mozilla/apt all main” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list > /dev/null

Then open Synaptic, reload it, and Seamonkey now appears among the available packages listed. Because it’s a repository, it will update along with everything else using the Update Manager.

I offer this just because I bet I’m not the only one a little bit frustrated with “improvements” that complicate, slow down, or outright break my most-used applications. If you prefer free, open-source software, Seamonkey is a better choice than Opera, which is proprietary. Think of Netscape and how easy it was and fun to use – and rediscover it under it’s new name.

Trusty Tahr – The Hard Way

I waited a while to try Linux Mint 17 Xfce, and it looks like it may be quite a while longer – or never – before I do. After a full day of seeding the torrent (because I try to upload at least double whatever I download, to be nice, y’know), multiple kernel panics prevented me from installing it – and left my old Xubuntu 12.04 unable to boot up! Rawr!

Not a big deal, I did a full backup before trying it anyway, and I still have my tried-and-true Xubu Precise CD, so in it went, a fresh install of my old favorite. Just for lulz, I decided to try the upgrade process to the newest LTS, Xubuntu 14.04. I’m glad I did!

A fresh install from their DVD would have been much easier and faster, but I’ve never even tried the LTS-to-LTS upgrade process before, so I updated Precise and waited for the “a new LTS release is available” banner to appear in the Update Manager, but to my surprise, there was none! It usually appears after the first point-release, usually in July of the year it is released. But this time, nothing. But sly little sidekick that I am, I resorted to Linux’s Great Secret Weapon – the dreaded Terminal (cue the screeching violins)!

sudo update-manager -d

One little command. Bingo! Up pops the Update Manager with the new banner offering an upgrade to the newest Long-Term-Support release. One single click on the Upgrade button and the magic happens – albeit slowly and tediously even on a fast Internet connection. The whole process presented only one little bugaboo: A warning that two applications needed to be disabled in order for their newer counterparts to function in the upgraded OS: Screensaver (which I don’t use anyway), and one I had never heard of called xlockmore. So I clicked to disable the screensaver and used the terminal to kill xlockmore, whatever that is:

pkill xlockmore

and the rest went without a hitch, but took about an hour. I had formatted my /home partition along with everything else, so there were no special settings or preferences to guess which might apply in the new-and-improved Xfce 4.12 desktop, and not much to clean up after the upgrade. Reboot, done. And wow.

It’s a liiiiiiiitle bit slower than Precise so far. Most users with computers newer that 12 or 15 years probably wouldn’t even notice any difference. I applied my usual changes – replacing Abiword and Gnumeric with LibreOffice, but Xubu has most of my favorite applications already installed. Great minds think alike, what can I say? Being a college boy I need the heavy duty office suite now. Then I tossed in my little note-taking app (Xournal), multimedia codecs, and the fancy new Ubuntu icon set. I turned off startup stuff that I don’t use (power manager, screensaver, bluetooth) to speed things up a bit. I hate the Software Center, so away with that bloated monstrosity and in goes Synaptic Package Manager in it’s place. Standard Robin adaptations to a newly installed Xubu. Wanna see? I knoooooooow you can’t wait, so here:

That’s one of the spiffy new wallpapers that ships with Xubuntu 14.04. I got my nifty neato li’l desktop weather applet, a calculator, and a few of my most-often used applications on a sweet-looking bottom panel. The top panel is just the way I like it – nearly identical to the default settings that Xubuntu ships with. I got bragging rights now I guess, since I’ve never upgraded “the hard way” before. Not that this was hard or anything for goodnessakes. What, two terminal commands and a few mouse clicks is hard? Not for this delighted li’l sidekick.

Heartfelt thanks to Canonical and the Xubuntu development team for this wonderful, long-term-support edition of the best desktop Linux distro ever!