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Managing Scripts and Configurations on Github with a script

This post is a follow-up to Michael Smalley’s excellent post on how to manage your dotfiles.

Use Git and Github to Manage Your Dotfiles. I wanted a way to regularly have my configurations and scripts updated on Github that didn’t require me remembering how to do it :). So I created a script that would do it for me:

Works pretty good. Then I put these in my crontab to have them updated every week.

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Acer Aspire 5560G-7809 Laptop: A Gamble Worth Taking

Typically it hasn’t been recommended to buy an Acer, at least in my circles. From the surveys I’ve seen generally Acer rankings are last of the major computer manufacturers. Astonishingly they rank close to the top of units sold. When I saw this, I deduced that Acer likely made possibly shabby computers sold at basement-prices to a portion of the population that was virgin. So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought my Aspire laptop except, “If that’s true, thats a really good price; I have to have it.” I had been using a ten-year-old laptop up to now so this was by best shot to the moon orbit.

I heard about laptops that were “Desktop Replacements”. I was hoping to find something in that area: a powerful-ish core in a mobile unit (with a decent gaming card). I’m not sure the Aspire 5560G-7809 [1][2] would qualify as one officially but performance in Windows and Linux is good (at least as best as I can qualify from a 10-year-old laptop perspective). The basic specs:

Specifications
Processor AMD A6-3420M Quad-core 1.50 GHz
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066/PC3-8500
Hard Drive 320 GB SATA 5400rpm
Optical Disk DVD-RAM/±R/±RW-Writer
Screen 15.6″ 1366 x 768 Glossy LED
Graphic Card Dual-Graphic -/AMD Radeon HD 7670M

All this for $550 dollars from TigerDirect. The closest comparable model was from HP for $750. I was really recommended to change the RAM speed so this was the first thing I did. Along with the laptop I bought a two stick pack of PC106-1333 8GB memory from PNY for $41 dollars only to have it be non-compatible (or I guess it could have been busted [but passed memory test]). After that I got it from crucial because of their Guaranteed-compatible promise and the speedup is noticeable.

I admit that I got the 5560G because of the graphic card to be able to play games, it was extremely appealing to me. The Notebookcheck tests on it seemed to me to be real good for a mobile graphic card. I was able to get into Dungeon and Dragons Online and the playability was good with the auto-detected medium-high graphic settings. Been thinking about SWTOR, hmm.

I’ll probably one day get a Solid state Drive down the road for it, the 5400 hard drive speed is definitely hard to miss at times. The one from crucial sounds pretty appealing, at $170 dollars though ughh, and I’m not sure I can live with 125GB.

The screen is nice and bright and seems to have good color replication though it does have a limited-gamut and viewing angle (a typical 1366 x 768 these days I’m told). It uses an LED which is nice; glossy, not so. Having it be so reflective worried me at first I was real surprised though when I turned it on how it made that shiny virtually indistinguishable.

Keyboard and touchpad feel good. The keyboard is full-size and key pushes offer an easy, uniform resistance. I really like the touchpad. The surface provides a nice bit of friction for feedback and the size fits really well. Wish manufacturers would get away from touchpad tapping on as default however (be nice if even there was a hardware way to turn it off).

The look and balance is nice as well (if you can’t tell the look from the photos). Doesn’t weigh too much and doesn’t feel off-kilter like other laptops I’ve experienced. The hinge is sturdy and pivots nicely.

Pluses and Minuses

  • + Price
  • + Graphic Card
  • - 5400rpm Hard Drive
  • - RAM Speed
  • - USB 2.0
  • ? USB port in front of DVD-writer

Linux

Site note first: I can’t believe I am saying it but I like Windows7. It’s well put together and has good help. Out of the box everything worked pretty well. What can I say though, I like hacking; plus I love open-source.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky buying this but after installing Ubuntu everything just worked. The reason I haven’t been using Arch exclusively anymore was because no matter what I tried I could not get suspend to work. Because I came to have limited time and needed my laptop to be able to suspend, I had to give up Arch. After I install Ubuntu 12.04 I hope to be a able to install Arch again and put Ubuntu’s Unity on top of it.

Final Thoughts

Gnome 3 and hence Ubuntu’s Unity are new and have problems with the Radeon drivers (both the proprietary catalyst driver and the open-source version) and desktop effects are laggy. I had thought to buy a laptop with an Nvidia graphic card because I had good experience with it before but after reading this post Linux users should probably think twice about buying laptops with optimus technology. So the only question I have left is how will this laptop do over time? For now at least, I’m very very happy.

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Sudoers Permissions as a File

I learned that for granting root permissions to certain programs that it is easer and more constructive to use a separate file. sudo must be told to look in a separate directory in its configuration to be able to do so.

sudo visudo

Likely all distributions have this available and it will be listed at the end:

#includedir /etc/sudoers.d/  

The # is necessary. Also the trailing forward slash is likely necessary (I had to add it); when it wasn’t added, files in /etc/sudoers.d/ would not always get recognized.

Here’s my configuration built from an excellent tutorial in the Ubuntu forums. I usually build these per user naming them user_<USER>.

# Allowed root permissions of programs for user USER

# Aliases
Host_Alias HOST    = aspire
Cmnd_Alias G9LED   = /usr/bin/g9led
Cmnd_Alias IOTOP   = /usr/bin/iotop
Cmnd_Alias PACKER  = /usr/bin/packer
Cmnd_Alias PACMAN  = /usr/bin/pacman
Cmnd_Alias SANDFOX = /usr/bin/sandfox
Cmnd_Alias MYPROGS = G9LED, IOTOP, PACKER, PACMAN, SANDFOX

# Programs allowed for user or computer
todd HOST=(root) NOPASSWD:MYPROGS

The configuration will need to proper-permissions:

sudo chown root:root /etc/sudoers.d/user_<USER>
sudo chmod 0440      /etc/sudoers.d/user_<USER>
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Toggle Unity Desktop Effects

Not using desktop effects in Linux helps gaming a good deal, improving frames-per-second and smooth ability. Using Ubuntu’s Unity I’ve noticed gaming gets effected quite a bit. Here’s a script that can toggle them on and off (note that you have to login with desktop effects enabled for this to work). Thanks go to Mossroy and Scott Severance.

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Samsung Syncmaster SA350 Monitor: Thoughts and Settings

The Samsung Syncmaster SA350 monitor is a 21.5″ LED monitor with 1920×1080 resolution. I had always wanted an external monitor for my laptop and it has turned out to be really useful. This isn’t a review because I haven’t owned many monitors but I have seen enough monitors to say that this seems to be a pretty good one. I got this three months ago and I can honestly say that I keep appreciating it more over time: good color reproduction, nice brightness, good contrast. The movie high-definition resolution (1920×1080) I was hoping was enough to put applications down side by side and be able to view them and for my needs (basic text editing and internet-browsing) it works:

From my research Samsung is a real good brand to look into when looking at getting monitors. While I am not experienced in using a good different number of monitors, I can say that this monitor I’ve felt comfortable with. From previous experience of using other peoples monitors (schools, friends, and libraries) this by far has been the easiest on the eyes, very little eye-strain even when used for long times. One may comment that with a resolution of 1920×1080 on a 21.5″ monitor that it may not be the best dots-per-inch and they’d be right. It calculates as 102 DPI just above 96 DPI which is still oddly sort of a standard. That said fonts still read easy (take a look a above pic to see what I mean). For some unknown reason though, the Xorg server forced a 96 DPI on it when booting (haven’t been able to figure out why) that required me to find a rather lengthy work-around for.

Settings

As shipped the SamsungSyncmaster SA350’s LED monitor is very bright (almost stinging eyes bright) but isn’t calibrated at all. The settings need a massive adjusted as everything will appear washed out. Having been through photography classes and such I’ve developed a good sense in color balance. Once the settings are done right this LED feels really good (though I still have to get used to the the grey-bare tint LEDs give off). These are the settings:

Picture
Brightness 100
Contrast 24
Sharpness 60
Magic Bright Custom
Magic Angle Off
Coarse (set by auto-discover) 2200
Fine 35
Response Time Normal
HDMI Black Level Normal
Color
Magic Color Off
Red 0
Green 19
Blue 55
Color Tone Custom
Gamma Mode2
Size and Position (necessary to set when using VGA)
H-Position 54
V-Position 40
Image Size Wide

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Allotting iotop

Recently, iotop has been moved to being only allowable to be viewed as root. iotop is a great program for measuring disk throughput and I am unable to figure the logic of why it has been moved to root-only. To be able to run iotop as regular user again root permission must be given to the regular user for the program. A good way is to create a sudoers file per-user of allowable programs.

Then iotop can be invoked by (without need of a password):

sudo iotop

Resources

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Power Management from the Command Line

To be able to invoke commands like suspend and hibernate from the command line not so long ago required having root privileges or using the desktop environment built-in tools. Now to invoke suspend, hibernate, shutdown, or restart, D-Bus can be invoked as Regular user. I created a script called pwrman to ease the task (requires UPower to be installed).

(I got this idea from a person from the Arch Linux forums. I forgot who you are, so sorry, but thank you.)

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