Oct 082009

I’m thankful to work in one of the most Linux dominated fields in the industry. But the rest of the world still uses Windows all over the place, so I do have to use it as part of my job. I recently made my life much better by installing Windows under Ubuntu Linux using VMware. Now the couple Windows apps I have to use are relegated to one virtual desktop on my Linux box.

The setup was mostly painless, but I did run across some very frustrating behavior with a couple of the Windows applications.

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Oct 062009

There are a lot of user interface inefficiencies that we’ve all been forced to get used to. Moving and resizing windows is definitely one of them, as you have to carefully position the mouse cursor over a tiny section of a window.

However, there’s no need for Linux users to do this. X-Windows supports moving and resizing windows by clicking and dragging on any portion of a window – the mouse cursor can be over any portion of the window, no matter what’s underneath.

Here’s how:

  • To move: Hold down ALT while clicking and dragging with the left mouse button
  • To resize: Hold down ALT while clicking and dragging with the right mouse button

You’ll find that even though it’s a small tip, your work will be just a little more efficient.

Sep 242009

I’ve had to use VNC many times to bridge the gap between Windows and Linux systems. It’s not always the prettiest or most efficient way to get things done, but it can be quicker and less complex than virtualization or X11 through Cygwin. One stumbling block in my workflow has been the clipboard – you become so accustomed to moving data from one application to another that you really miss it when the functionality is missing.

Fortunately, there are VNC clients that will take care of this for you. I typically choose TightVNC, as it offers very good performance (including some accelerated Windows drivers) and is available for a variety of platforms. The details below may be specific to TightVNC.

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Jan 112006

I recently began work on a C++ project which I intend to be widely distributed (maybe even ported to other operating systems). Instead of writing my own customized Makefiles which probably wouldn’t even build cleanly on another Linux system, I used GNU AutoConfig and AutoMake. I’ve read complaints about both automated build systems and custom Makefiles, but in my experience it’s the custom Makefiles that break most frequently.

Unfortunately, even with the vast amounts of documentation available on the web, there are some parts of automated build systems that you simply can’t get to work. In my case, I was building a single executable from a deep source tree. While there is plenty of documentation of separate executables and libraries in separate directories, I couldn’t find a single working example of a source tree being compiled into a single executable. I had to piece everything together by trial and error.

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May 172004

The arrangement of keys on a keyboard traditionally follows the QWERTY layout (named for the first 5 keys on the left hand: q, w, e, r, t, y). The QWERTY layout was designed before computers existed, and was used as the layout on Remington typewriters. However, the layout has survived for more than a century with very few, if any, improvements. It is the layout that almost everyone uses, but is it really the best choice?

Another keyboard layout, DVORAK (named after the inventor), was patented in 1932, but has never been widely adopted. Many typists who have tried this layout have been adamant that DVORAK is more efficient than QWERTY, but others have claimed that DVORAK is not really much of an improvement. Additionally, switching to a new layout would be quite an inconvenience for most typists. Is a DVORAK layout more efficient, and is it worth making the transition from QWERTY?

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