Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tweaking Gnome

I gave Gnome themes a whirl, but ultimately decided that I like the default Gnome 3 desktop. Except for one thing: all windows are grey. The active window is grey with black text as the title, and inactive windows are a slightly different shade of grey with dark grey text as the title.

That's great and everything, but I do miss the blue title bars from Gnome 2.

Fortunately, there's a very straightforward way to change the title bars, or tweak other settings in Gnome: the appropriately-named Gnome Tweak Tool. If you don't have it already, it's easy enough to install via the usual method, or search for it as gnome-tweak-tool. It will show up in your Applications menu as "Tweak Advanced Settings".

Here's what is included in Gnome Tweak Tool:

  • Install and switch gnome-shell themes
  • Switch gtk/icon/cursor themes
  • Switch window manager themes
  • Change
    • The user-interface and titlebar fonts
    • Icons in menus and buttons
    • Behavior on laptop lid close
    • Shell font size
    • File manager desktop icons
    • Titlebar click action
    • Shell clock to show date
    • Font hinting and antialiasing

I was most interested in changing the window manager theme, so I clicked on "Windows". The default window theme is Adwaita, where everything is shades of grey. After a little experimenting, I decided on the "Glossy" theme, which gives me a nice blue title bar:

And that's it! I'm very happy to have blue title bars again, that seems to be all I needed as a visual reminder for which is my "active" window. Completely swapping out the Gnome theme is great, but I guess I only needed minor tweaks to what I already had.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dual-boot joy

I complained in my last post that ever since we converted Windows 7 to use BitLocker, my laptop has had problems in dual-booting. It seems clear that BitLocker and TPM require that every step in the boot process is controlled. Generally, that's a good idea for security. But in practice, it's a pain.

If something changes (say, the MBR gets updated by GRUB?) then TPM shuts off, and I need to enter a very long BitLocker key just to boot Windows. That wasn't going to work for me. I guess Windows doesn't like to play nice with other systems. I don't boot Windows very often, but I'd rather not have to type in that long key every time.

I asked you for help, and got several helpful suggestions. Thanks! I liked one in particular: put GRUB on a USB fob drive. The simplest solutions are usually best. And I happen to have a small 32MB USB fob drive that I'm not using.

So, a little fiddling around, and I now have a bootable "GRUB" fob drive. When I want to boot Linux on my laptop, I just use the USB fob drive when I boot (I can take it out once Linux has started booting.) Easy! When I want to boot into Windows, I take the fob drive out of my computer, and boot from the hard drive.

But the most important part: I haven't had any problems in the last month, since I did this. If you want to do this on your multi-boot system, you can google the steps needed to set up GRUB on a USB fob drive. But of course, it's far easier to just do this at install-time. At least with Fedora Linux, there's an option when you install to select where to write the boot loader.