Well, you know what they say: “Tim’s Eee Desktop features are like buses—you wait for ages, then two come along at the same time” 😉
Well, OK, maybe not exactly the same time, but I didn’t feel I could wait until next month to show you what changes I’m in the process of making to the GNOME desktop on my Eee 701. So, here’s a glance at where it’s at…
If you compare this new screenshot with the last one or two, you may notice a few “points of evolution”. The first one is the wallpaper, which Web Upd8 extracted from the Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat beta, and which I resized for the Eee 701’s display.
The main area of change I am experimenting with, is that I would like to do away with the top GNOME panel (the one with the “Applications” menu, etc.), and replace its functions with the AWN “dock” at the bottom of the screen. I have found AWN “applets” which perform almost all the same tasks as the current GNOME panel, and am gradually removing items from the latter and replacing them with AWN applets. If I can complete this process, I’ll delete the GNOME panel.
This aim is partly for cosmetic reasons—I’d like to try and concoct a GNOME desktop without its most iconic feature (i.e. the top “panel”), and also, AWN scores on the “eye-candy” front!—but also practical ones. As the Eee 701 has a low-resolution display (WVGA, or 800×480), every pixel of screen counts, and the AWN dock can auto-hide without leaving a “stub” (as GNOME panels do), meaning that I could use the entire 480 pixels of height for application windows.
Unfortunately, the version of AWN in Eeebuntu 3 is a little behind the latest one, therefore certain features (support for certain themes, and multiple instances (i.e. to have more than one dock on-screen)) are missing. Whilst this means that really cool AWN-powered desktops like this one are a bit beyond my reach at present, at least I can get used to AWN on my Eee whilst I wait for Aurora (and hopefully more up-to-date apps 🙂 ).
One further fly in the ointment is that I haven’t figured out how to reduce the distance between icons on the AWN dock, which means that unless I shrink their size to nigh-on unreadable, the dock could expand off the edges of the screen if I open more than a couple of apps. Again, I’m sure there is a way around this; it has occurred to me that I could try adding a PPA (i.e. an app-specific repository) for AWN to try and get the latest version, though the risks of “contaminating” my system setup with incompatible app versions may put me off going down that route.
However, this leads me onto the other change in the desktop: Conky is now working properly 😀 Conky is the app which produces the system stats display, that you can see on the right-hand side of the desktop. It’s great fun to tinker with the configuration file (if you like that sort of thing), and over time I’ve crafted my .conkyrc file with a few neat options, including automatic hiding/displaying of removable drives and network interfaces (i.e. they only appear if they’re present/active).
Trouble is, the version in the repositories (v1.7.1) has an annoying bug, in that when a removable drive or network interface changed status, all the text onscreen just vanished, meaning I had to restart Conky every time. In the end, with no repo upgrade in sight, I installed a Conky PPA and upgraded to the current version (v1.80): everything now works as it should!
I also added into my .conkyrc a section for the Conky Hardcore PPA‘s “now playing in Rhythmbox” script (Rhythmbox being my music player/manager app of choice), so you can see that in action in the screenshot.
Phew—that’s plenty to tell you about, and I hope that by the time I post my next desktop screenshot (in October?), there will be even more changes to show off…