Friday, November 30, 2012

Software Spotlight - Guake Terminal

I'm hoping this is the first of a series, to be honest.  It's an idea that popped into my head this morning and I just went with it.  But, without further ado, let's talk Guake.

Guake is a command terminal for Linux, much like the standard terminal you can find in Linux Mint.  What makes this one so special is that it's unobtrusive - the standard terminal will always be present in some form, whether that's on-screen or minimized to your taskbar, or on another workspace.  Guake is also always present once launched, but the difference is that Guake will hide in the notification area, and only come out when you call it with the (default) F12 key.  It also has workspace immunity, so it will appear on your screen regardless of which workspace you are currently using.
You can see it here in action on my second monitor**, currently running a python-script for automated GPU temperature monitoring and fan-speed control (script by lfrisken on

And like the standard Terminal, you have the option of having several different Tabs running different processes - Guake, however, displays these on the bottom.

The other nice thing about Guake is that it is very customizable.  In the Appearance settings alone, you can set transparency - I have mine around 20-25% - and background colour, font colour, set up a background image, change font types and sizes, as well as pre-defined palettes, which I haven't yet tried.
On top of which, keyboard short-cuts are also customizable.  For instance when Guake starts for the first time you can summon it using the F12 key, set it to full-screen with F11, and so on.  However since Blender also uses the F12 key for rendering images (therefore a pretty important key) I've changed this to the "~" key, between "Esc" and "Tab".  I find this more intuitive, but you really can set it up with whatever key combination you like.

There are also several other options, most of which are more technical so I haven't yet figured out what they do.  Putting all that aside, however, I can definitely recommend Guake to any fellow Linux users.  It's quick, unobtrusive, and quite customizable.  I thought I liked the standard Terminal quite a bit, but Guake has overtaken it :)

** The only slight issue with Guake at the moment is that you can't choose which monitor it appears on.  It simply sets itself up on what it considers the primary monitor, which in my case is, oddly enough, my second screen.  If I remember correctly this is something in development and should be available some time in the future.  It doesn't really affect it negatively in my opinion.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A fight to the death - MeshWeaver VS Dust & Thermal Paste

So it's finally time for me to talk about a side-project I've been working on for a couple of months.

I'll kick it off with a comment concerning thermal paste and what it's for.  Of course, if you're already familiar with it, then feel free to skip ahead.
Thermal paste (also called Thermal Grease) is, obviously, a material used on various pieces of computer hardware and electronics such as processors - both central (ex. quad-core Intel i5-2320) and graphics-dedicated (ex. nVidia GTX560 Ti) - and it is usually applied between said processors and their heat sinks to improve heat dissipation through conductive materials like silver, aluminium, and other metals.  The Wikipedia article lists the different types as well as the general usage of thermal paste - for instance too much can increase the risk of over-heating, while too little won't help heat-dissipation as much as it should.
Thermal paste can also be relatively expensive considering the size of the tubes - over at you can see that they have three pages-worth of different brands and types, and they go for up to ~40.00$ CDN.

As I just mentioned above it's usually found between heat sinks and processors to help conduct heat generated by the processor over to the heat sink, which then usually air-cools and any excess heat is pushed out the back of your PC by the casing fan(s).

Dust, of course, needs no explanation - it's just really, really annoying to deal with.

And now on to the project - I mentioned it my last blog post but the only hint I gave was installing drivers for a nVidia GeForce 6200.  Well, time to let the cat out of the bag - I've been working on restoring a roughly 8 year old computer to working order.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Open-source penguins, food mixers, and anime - Long post ahead!

Yep, I'm still around, still geeky, still stuck on my Audi project.

I've been slowly chipping away at the interior models, but it's proving to be rather difficult - not to mention I seem to be going through a creativity drought, and my life's been a bit hectic over the last few weeks.
As a heads-up, I also have a post about a recently completed project coming up, so keep your eyes peeled.

Anyway, on to those open-source penguins.  In other words, Linux.  I've now spent the better part of today configuring my desktop's Linux Mint 13 installation, which I had been putting off for several weeks.  In case you're wondering (or if you're forgetful, since I've posted about this before), my desktop is a Gateway with a quad-core Intel i5-2320 at 3.0GHz, 6GB of RAM, and a EVGA nVidia GeForce GTX 560TI SC GPU.
The fun part when installing Linux is that most of the time it can't use the GPU in your system when still "out-of-the-box".  You have to install the drivers for it, since Linux doesn't generally seem to be as plug-and-play as Windows 7 (which I love), which is both a pro and a con in my opinion.  The problem then becomes actually getting to the desktop interface, which is made tricky by the afore-mentioned lack of display drivers.

That of course means that even the LiveDVD versions have trouble booting up properly, which is always fun.  So in order to get around that, you have to first get to the Grub loader screen and modify the parameters for the Linux booting process.  For nVidia GPUs, there's a specific change that needs to be made which, unless you edit the grub.cfg file itself, is temporary and resets itself when you reboot.  I have no idea if this works with most common Linux distros like Ubuntu and so on, so if you're having trouble booting a Linux LiveCD/DVD or getting a newly-installed GPU working I'd recommend finding the right set of instructions for your Linux distro :)

My process, however, is as follows: when you get to the grub loader, press E over the desired option, which then brings up details concerning that particular boot process' instructions.  You should see a long line of instructions about two-thirds of the way down, which should end in the words "quiet splash", or at least have those words near the end of the string.  For an nVidia GPU (whether that's a GeForce 6200, which I had to deal with a few days ago, or a GTX560Ti, which is in my desktop) you have to change that "quiet splash" to "noacpi noapic nomodeset", which basically tells Linux to boot up without all the fancy GPU processes that require drivers.