GIMP (Linux) One Window

GIMP in Xnest

GIMP in Xnest

Well I like GIMP for image editing, but the mutliple windows kind of bugs me. I had a plug in that sweeps up the windows into one master window. But I found it only works for Windows! Since I’m now 99.9% Linux, I wanted to find a similar solution.

Well, the answer turns out to be pretty simple. You need:

Xnest – the nested X server
A simple window manager such as xfwm4 or twm.

I used twm but only because I happen to already have it installed. But you might prefer xfwm4.

Then you can make the following shell script (I named it gimp1):

exec Xnest :1 -ac -name GIMP -geometry 1200×1000 & twm -display :1 & gimp –display :1

That’s it! Set the geometry to suit yourself of course. And this assumes that display :1 is already free. But you get the idea. Enjoy!

Oh, and for the record, yes that is my car. I love it (SLK230)!

UPDATE: Ugh. Xnest doesn’t appear to exchange the clipboard with the “real” X server 🙁 So that makes this a little less useful than you’d think unless you aren’t worried about using the clipboard (for example, using a screen shot from the clipboard).

The Best Linux and Windows Combo I've Tried Yet

I like Linux. I really do. The problem is I have those pesky few pieces of hardware and software that just have to run on Windows. Dual boot is OK, but it is hardly handy. I have two monitors and a dual CPU — it should be easier.

In the past, I tried running Linux under Windows or vice versa, but with mixed results. Topologilinux is ideal — it lets you run Linux under Windows OR boot the very same copy of Linux. But it is not maintained very rapidly and it is based on Slackware, which I don’t find as nice as some of the newer distributions. I’ve also used VirtualPC and Parallels to run Linux inside Windows, but it was never very seamless.

The other day my Parallels installation croaked beyond repair, so I decided to try something new. I had noticed that was now open source. This is similar to Paralells, VirtualPC, VMWare, etc. But two things have combined to make this a winning choice: First, VirtualBox has drivers you can install on supported operating systems (including Linux) that do a few neat tricks. In particular, it makes the mouse operate transparently! With most virtualizers, the mouse gets “captured” inside Linux (or whatever you are running) and you have to do a funny keystroke to escape to the regular OS. With VirtualBox you just click inside Linux or click inside Windows — its all the same.

So one way to use this is to just put VirtualBox running Linux (I’m using kubuntu which is very nice) full screen on one monitor and let Windows have the other monitor. Works great.

The second thing I’ve been using to assist this, though is a piece of shareware called . This is a piece of software that lets you have a bunch of virtual windows (there are others out there, but this one is very powerful and integrates well with the ultra-cool Windows shell called Aston from the same company). AltDesk can start programs automatically when you switch to a desktop for the first time, so you can make a virtual Linux desktop and switch between them at will. I keep the AltDesk bar at the bottom of my 2nd monitor (like a task bar) and use it to switch between desktops.

Performance is good although I’ll confess that 2GB of RAM and a dual core clocked at about 2.2GHz probably doesn’t hurt.

More great open source!

4 Steps to Home/Work Internet Nirvana

If you use a bunch of computers (or maybe a computer at home and a computer at work) you know how hard it is to keep everything in sync. But I think I’ve found a pretty workable solution in 4 parts:

  1. Use Firefox
  2. Store your bookmarks at (see my bookmarks at
  3. Install the Delicious Firefox extension (
  4. Install Google Browser Sync ( — this syncs your history, cookies, passwords, etc.)

You might wonder why use if the Google tool will sync bookmarks. First, think of it as a fallback. If I have to use IE somewhere I can still find my bookmarks. Second, lets me find lots of other interesting links by searching other people’s links, using the inbox, or using the network.

Top Thunderbird Tricks

Ok, not hardware related, but you have to keep up your geek reputation, right? So here’s some Thunderbird tricks you can teach your friends:

  • Stacked View Extension – Lets you have a nice stacked view like other mail readers.
  • Create a template folder if you don’t have one already. You can make “boilerplate” e-mails and save them in the template folder. When you want to create a new e-mail, right click on the template you want to use and select “Edit as New”. (Note: Look in Tools | Account Settings | Copies and Folders to see the name of the Template folder or to change it).
  • In Tools | Account Settings | Composition and Addressing and select HTML editor. Even if you don’t want to send HTML, you can still use the editor which is nicer and understands URLs. Change to text by using Options | Format or by programming text-only domains in Tools | Options | Send Options.
  • Tired of a white background? Use Format | Page Colors and Backgrounds to set a color or picture. Save it as a template!
  • If you keep a lot of mail in your Inbox look at the bottom of the list. Spam! Try selecting the folder and select View | Sort By | Order Received and click Descending. This will show you mail in the order it arrives regardless of the date in the e-mail (which may be ahead or behind your clock, especially for Spam).
  • Another good extension: QuoteCollapse. This handy applet collapses long quoted messages to a single line that you can expand.
  • Learn to use Smart Folders (save searches as virtual folders).
  • Lots of advanced customizations at

What’s your favorite Thunderbird tip? It seems like there aren’t as many extensions for Thunderbird. What are your essential extensions?

3 Must Haves for Road Warriors

If you travel at all, here’s a few tools to make life on the road more livable:

  • Orb – I just discovered this. It is essentially a personal Web server that lets you access your files, audio, video, and even TV as streaming data. So last week in Los Angeles, I watched Battlestar Gallatica from my hotel room. If you have a MPEG in hardware TV card, this thing will work like a remote control TiVo — you can record your shows on your PC while you are at any Web Browser and then watch the shows from anywhere — including many mobile phones, PDAs, etc. You could set up your own streaming server, of course, but this is point and click and works great. Oh, and it is free!
  • Thinkfree Office Online – I’ve written about this before. Still my favorite online text editor, presentation maker, and spreadsheet. Very Office compatible and it is great to always have the latest version of a document at your fingertips online. Also free.
  • UltraVNC – My favorite of the VNC programs let you access your desktop computer from anywhere. Unlike many VNC derivities, this one makes it simple to use high security and transfer files. It also uses a video driver for good performance on screen updates.

Orb is hard to explain but priceless once you’ve used it for about 10 minutes. But with these tools you can get to all of your data and applications with a minimum of fuss as long as you have an internet connection.