Eee 701 Planetoid


Snippets: lxrandr, PDFs in Chromium, and a VERY old friend…

Filed under: Software — Tags: , — Tim @ 12:50

GUI tool for display settings

(Please bear in mind during the following, that my Eee is not running any desktop environment (DE—i.e.GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc…)

For some time, I’ve been looking for a non-fiddly (and preferably GUI) way of switching display modes on my Eee, especially if an external VGA monitor is connected. The basic tool for controlling displays, xrandr, is powerful and flexible, but also quite difficult to use if one is not gifted with a particularly good memory for complicated command-line strings (especially if more than one display is involved).

Screenshot of lxrandr


There are a number of graphical front-ends for xrandr, but I found all the ones that I tried, were either clunky, buggy, partially or entirely ineffective, or a combination of these. However, the other day (and I can’t remember where), I read a suggestion that Linux users not employing a DE, could try lxrandr, the display settings GUI used in the LXDE desktop environment.

Installing lxrandr isn’t difficult, as it can be found in the main Arch repositories—a simple sudo pacman -S lxrandr should be sufficient. As you can see from the screenshot, the program makes it very easy to activate, deactivate and configure displays; I have used it to control the output from my Eee to a VGA monitor, and as long as xrandr can detect display modes and the like, then I imagine lxrandr should be able to do so too.

In short: if you’re after a simple but effective GUI for a Linux system without a DE, then you could do far worse than try out lxrandr.

Enabling “native” PDF viewing in Chromium

The default Web browser I use on the Eee is Chromium (basically, the open-sourced relative of Google Chrome without the Google branding and other “hooks”). In most respects, the Chromium in the Arch Linux repositories is more or less identical to Chrome in functionality, but one missing feature—which you may or may not miss—is Chrome’s built-in PDF-viewing functionality.

If you do miss it, the Arch wiki reveals a few options for PDF-enabling Chromium; my preferred option, which I’ve used on the Eee, is to install chromium-stable-libpdf from the AUR. This seems to work without a blip, and Chromium auto-updates from then onwards without losing the PDF feature, so it’s worth a try if you want this (and/or are looking for an alternative to Adobe Reader, Evince, xpdf and their ilk…).

And the “old friend”…

Screenshot of the NCSA Mosaic Web browser

NCSA Mosaic on my Eee, "displaying" the Google home page...

Time to show my age: the first Web browser I ever saw, was NCSA Mosaic, running on Windows 3.1x in the autumn of 1994. It was soon overtaken by Netscape, and I didn’t think much about Mosaic until recently, when I learned someone has been modifying the X11 Mosaic source code, so it will compile and run on modern Linux systems. Moreover, as I suspected would happen, someone has added a Mosaic package to the AUR, so I just couldn’t resist finding out if I could get the ancient browser going on my 701…

And here is a screenshot to prove it: NCSA Mosaic running on my Eee under Arch Linux (the screenshot was taken from a 1280×1024 external display, in case you wondered why it looks larger than 800×480)!

There’s probably a whole blog post to be written about how well Mosaic copes (a) on a modern Linux system, and (b) on the Web after fifteen years of leaving Mosaic behind, but suffice it to say, the screenshot on the right is supposed to be the Google home page. You may draw what conclusions you like from this… 🙂

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