Setting up new systems

In May, I bought a new laptop. In this article, I go through a few of the most essential tweaks I set up with the new laptop.

When possible, I like to customize my system to support my workflow and to make working faster. Once you have customized something and got used to it, there’s no going back. This means every time I set up a new system (or an old system again), I have to set up the custom configuration up as well.


I prefer my interface completely English, but apart from that, I want some locale related things to be set to the Finnish standards.

In ~/.pam_environment, I have the following:


Thunderbird configuration

I use Thunderbird for all of my mail and feed related activities. However, I don’t like the default set of shortcuts. The Keyconfig extension helps me set up my preferred shortcuts and disable shortcuts I don’t want to use at all. The most important shortcuts are as follows:

  • B for Address Book
  • C for Calendar
  • E for Edit As New Message
  • F for Forward
  • W for (Write) New Message

I use the Hide Local Folders and Manually sort folders for some fine-grained control over what is shown on my sidepane – and how. I also use some calendars with Thunderbird. The Lightning (integrated calendar), Lightbird (standalone calendar UI) and Provider for Google Calendar extensions let me sync my calendars easily.

Finally, I have customized the UI with an userChrome.css file, currently holding the following CSS:

/* do not color folders/servers with new messages blue */
#folderTree > treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(isServer-true, biffState-NewMail),
#folderTree > treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(folderNameCol, newMessages-true) {
color: inherit !important;

Display sizes for fonts

The laptop sports a 13.3″ screen with a full HD 1920×1080 resolution. This makes some of the text a bit too small and hard to read, and thus I’ve done some adjustments to DPI related stuff.

I’ve set the Xfce desktop DPI to 108.

For Firefox and Thunderbird, setting the value of layout.css.devPixelsPerPx to 1.1 both makes the UI a bit more spacy and the text a bit more readable. I usually like small text though, so you might want to increase the value even more.

Scratching the surface

Ultimately, these tweaks are just scratching the surface of the level of modidfications I have done already. Not to even talk about modifications and custom workflows I’m using on my desktop…

What kind of modifications do you use?

A WordPress theme for Ubuntu community teams

Quite some time ago I sat down with Timo Jyrinki, a Canonical employee but more importantly, a Ubuntu community member who is involved with the local community team here in Finland. During the time we spent at the café we talked about a need to refresh the website for the Finnish LoCo team.

Relatively shortly after that we landed a few quick patches for the website to fix the most obvious problems with Timo and Jiri Grönroos. After having done this, we all knew that the patches would only be more or less temporary, so I started working on a theme that the team could use.

While the original intention was to get a theme that would be a replacement for the current Finnish community teams website, it became apparent to me that other teams would likely prefer a new theme as well. Having figured this out, I kept flexibility and customizability in mind.

A few years after the first discussion about the theme, I’m happy to announce that the first public release of the Ubuntu community teams WordPress theme is out (for a while already).

What does it look like?

Well, it looks quite a bit like the Ubuntu website.

Ubuntu community teams WordPress theme

Of course, being a theme for a large community, you can customize it to look more to your liking, without having to worry about anything breaking.

Ubuntu community teams WordPress theme (customized)

Ready to go?

If your site is managed by the Canonical IS, ask them to enable the Ubuntu community WordPress theme for you – for clarity, you can link them to the Launchpad project ubuntu-community-wordpress-theme. They have agreed to maintain the theme centrally, so you will always get all updates and fixes to the theme as soon as they are released (and the changes have gone through their review).

If you manage your site yourself, you can get the code either from the Launchpad project mentioned above, or the source – Github repository ubuntu-community-wordpress-theme. The instructions on how to set up the theme can be found on the README.

Either way you will be using the theme, some pointers on getting the most out of the theme can be found on the README.

Any questions?

If you have any questions, feedback or even feature requests, be in touch. I will happily help you with setting up the theme and making the Ubuntu community sites more beautiful.

Clock applets in the Xfce panel in Xubuntu 15.10

Both Xfce and Xubuntu have had new releases relatively lately. In a way or another, this has resulted in an issue with Xubuntu 15.10 release: the Orage clock doesn’t show a transparent background even if it is set to show one. (Upstream bug in Xfce: 11915.)

Don’t be afraid! Instead of using the Orage applet, you can use the DateTime and Clock applets to get a transparent background – and while they itself do not allow for changing the color of the text in the applet, you can work around that with a .gtkrc-2.0 file in your home directory. Here’s how.

Set up the applets

To set up the applets, simply add the DateTime and/or Clock applets to your panel. You can control the format in which the time/date is shown in the applet via their preference dialogs found from their right-click context menus.

Bear in mind, if you wish to have two different clocks in the panel, we will be using the regular panel foreground (text) color for DateTime (white for Greybird) and modify the text color for the Clock applet in the steps below.

Modify the Clock applet color

To modify the Clock applet foreground color, we will need to make a modification in a theming file. The best way to do this is to use the per-user config file, found at ~/.gtkrc-2.0. If you don’t have this file, simply create one.

The code snippet to modify the Clock applest text color is the following:

style "panel-clock-custom"
fg[NORMAL]    = "#66CCCC"
fg[PRELIGHT]    = "#66CCCC"
fg[ACTIVE]    = "#66CCCC"
text[NORMAL]    = "#66CCCC"
text[PRELIGHT]    = "#66CCCC"
text[ACTIVE]    = "#66CCCC"
widget "Xfce*Panel*clock*"    style "panel-clock-custom"

In this snippet, we’re setting the foreground color for all the Clock applets to a certain turquoise – #66CCCC – which compliments the 15.10 wallpaper well.

You can substitute this hex color value with any other that fits your needs.

The end result

For me, the end result looks like this:

Xfce panel clock applets

Have fun modifying your own!