Ambiance theme for Windows XP makes virtualization almost seamless

As a hostage of some ancient hardware I’m forced to keep a copy of Windows XP close to hand. If there’s one thing I hate more than the need to run virtualization software at all it’s the lack of harmony it creates in my daily workflow.

That’s why I use an Ambiance theme for Windows XP.

It’s not a perfect solution but, psychologically, losing the Crayola blue XP window theme and having an Ambiance-coloured Windows taskbar on my desktop makes a world of difference.
Ambiance theme for Windows
Windows XP running in seamless mode with Ubuntu

Ambiance theme for Windows XP

Download Ubuntu Light for Windows XP from DeviantArt. You’ll need to do this either in your VirtualBox machine or save the theme files to a folder shared with it.

Installing the theme

To use custom Windows themes such as this Ambiance theme you’ll need to use a patched uxtheme.dll file. A bevy of applications are available for doing this – UXtheme Multi Patcher is the one I use.

Left-handed controls

LeftSider is a small utility for moving Window controls to the left as per default Ubuntu. It doesn’t work on every application (mores the pity) but the idea is neat enough if you’re truly aiming to ape Ambiance.


As I run VirtualBox in seamless mode the Windows taskbar is displayed on my Ubuntu desktop. This can be set to ‘auto-hide’ to keep out of your way. I also hide the Windows clock from the taskbar – I’m more than happy with Indicator-Datetime ;) .


Follow this Customization Guide for a slick Ubuntu desktop

It was chosen as one of our top 5 readers desktops and  now it’s owner, Joakim Wahlgren, has put together a slick how-to letting you in on how to get the same slick look on your own desktop.

He writes:

“Thanks for choosing my desktop as one of top 5 in the contest hold at Facebook. I got alot of requests from people wanting me to write a guide on how to create the desktop configuration, so providing you with a document I wrote on how to do so.”

He also put together the following video demonstrating his desktop in action.


Feed Indicator update add a few new options

Everyone’s favourite panel-based RSS reader – Feed indicator – has been updated.

Feed Indicator in Ubuntu 10.10

New features and fixes added to the latest release include: -
  • Option to group each feed in a submenu
  • Notification bubbles can be enabled/disabled
  • Better error handling when feed fails to load
  • Autostart delay

Download can be found on the project page @  code.google.com/p/feedindicator

Once installed launch from the Applications > Internet sub-menu.

P.S. Don’t forget to add http://omgubuntu.co.uk/feed


Tell a joke, get OilRush!

One of the years big Linux game releases is coming, Unigine’s realtime strategy game Oil Rush.

Yesterday the preorders started and while only some 300 copies were sold (which I find respectable given the limited press it got), 90% of those were to Linux users. I think this is worth celebrating, so here is the deal.

I will, personally out of my own limited pocket, buy the author of the best joke (as judged by me) a copy of Oil Rush. So head to the comments and spread some joy.

======== + ========

After a record breaking 340 comments in a mere 24 hours, making this the single most commented upon article on OMG ever, countless smiles passed on, the deadline is upon us. Thus it is time to pick a single favorite amongst your many contributions, original as well as reused (open source, code reuse is encouraged so is joke reuse). As Anonymous would have put it, an unpresidented amounts of lulz were had, so much so that I decided that this will not be the last time I do a give away in this fashion.

Seeing as I am the son of an engineer, a former engineering student myself and the fiancee of an engineer, I feel honor bound to go with one of the many engineer jokes.

So here goes, the official OMG Ubuntu joke, as presented by your fellow OMG’er kazade:

A man is in a hot air balloon and he realizes he is lost. He spots a man in the field below him and calls down:

“Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I’d be somewhere half an hour ago but I’m completely lost. Can you tell me where I am?”

The man replies:
“You are about 30 feet above this field, you are between 40 and 42 degrees N. latitude, and between 58 and 60 W. longitude”

“You must be an engineer” says the balloonist.

“I am!” says the man, “How did you know?”

The balloonist laughs, “well, everything you’ve told me is correct, but I don’t understand what you are talking about and I’m still lost”

“Ah, you’re a manager” says the engineer

“Indeed I am!” replies the balloonist, “How could you possibly know that?”

“Well…” says the engineer, “you don’t know where you are and you don’t know where you are going. You’ve made a promise you can’t keep and you expect me to solve your problem. You are in exactly the same position as you were before we met, except now somehow it’s my fault!”

So kazade, send me a mail (gnomeuser at gmail dot com) and claim your prize. Finally thank you to everyone for playing along.


Ubuntu’s new Overlay scrollbars for Natty

Ubuntu 11.04 continues with the surprises as Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu design team unveil ‘overlay scrollbar’s.

When is a scrollbar not a scrollbar? When it’s in Ubuntu 11.04, it seems.

New ‘overlay’ scrollbars – minimal scrollbars with scrubbers that only appear on mouse-over – are set to land in Ubuntu 11.04. Although Mark does state he’s not sure just how ‘heavily’ the feature will be used by default.

Below is a video from Ubuntu Desktop Experience team’s Andrea “Cimi” Cimitan whose hard work has turned the feature from mock-up to GTK+ implementation.

“We took inspiration from mobile devices, and started exploring the idea of making scrollbars be more symbolic, and less physical.”

Head over to Mark Shuttleworth’s blog for more background on the feature and a further video from Ubuntu’s Christian Giordano.


As with most things in development Natty users can already try the scrollbars out using the ~ayatana-scrollbar-team PPA.

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Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 3 released

It’s here! Rejoice! The 3rd – and final – alpha release of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal has been released for your testing pleasure.

Significant changes are present from Alpha 2 – including a revamped Dash, indicator improvements and the usual round of application updates.

The first Beta release of Ubuntu 11.04 is pencilled in for the end of March with a second set to follow mid-April. As we recently reported on, there will be no official release candidate for Ubuntu 11.04.

New look Dash

Unity’s Dash, File Places and Application Places sport a redesigned look with better search filtering, the ability to go full screen and other visual improvements to the overall design.

Shortcut overlays

The Launch now sports some cool ‘Shortcut overlays’ to help you work quicker. Just hit the Super (Windows key) + relevant number/lettered key to zip through your work one-handed.

Panel theming

The top panel now adheres to your chosen GTK theme and can have translucency adjusted.

Launcher changes

Unity’s launcher has benefitted from a whole raft of changes and enhancements since the last Alpha release. Some of these new options include: -
  • Drag and drop of files onto launcher to open in app
  • Quicklist support
  • Launcher API for displaying progress dialogues and counters (see image)
  • Launcher hiding options
  • Launcher backlight options

Indicator Datetime

Everyone’s favourite indicator-clock adds appointment support and neat new stack of customization options.

Call requests

Incoming calls are no longer alerted to users via the Ubuntu Messaging Menu, instead they are displayed using IDO – 'Indicator Display Objects’. These look slick.

Yelp 3

It’s boring but now beautiful: Ubuntu’s built in help browser – Yelp – has had a long overdue speed upgrade. More information on that can be read here.

Application updates

  • Firefox 4 has been updated to the GTK-theme-loving twelfth beta
  • Ubiquity benefits from some new wording and layout
  • Ubuntu one control panel continues to refine and adjust its new look


Head over to ubuntu.com/testing/natty/alpha3 to grab a copy of the latest development release yourself.

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Debian or Ubuntu, which is the best place to contribute?

As a user it’s relatively easy to choose between Debian and Ubuntu. Everybody has their own personal preference and it doesn’t take much time to try both. But when it comes to contributing, the time investment is bigger and you might want to think twice about it. Where is your time better spent?

It’s a tough question and there is no right answer that fits everybody. It depends on what your motivation is to contribute.

Ubuntu, better for beginners?

On one hand, you probably started with Ubuntu because it was easier to use. Thus, you have a special relationship with this project and it looks like a good idea to give something back by contributing to Ubuntu. It most certainly is!

Furthermore if you’re not someone that likes to learn stuff (mostly) alone, Ubuntu is probably a better place to be (at least at the start). With the Ubuntu Developer Week and all the work put by the Ubuntu community managers, there is more guidance for the new contributors than what you could find on the Debian side.

Debian, better values?

On the other hand, once you become a regular contributor, you stay because of the community and the values that you share.

Lucas Nussbaum (who is both Ubuntu and Debian developer) has argued in a talk given at the Paris mini-debconf that Debian has better values because it’s a truly 100% volunteer-driven project whereas in Ubuntu there’s a significant influence of Canonical.

This was demonstrated again a few days ago with the story of Banshee and the associated Amazon affiliate revenues. I liked Mark Shuttleworth’s clarifications on the topic, but it’s still a proof that the power of the Ubuntu community has its limits.

Coming back to the topic, and on a more concrete level, in many cases Debian is the right place to contribute even when you really want to contribute to Ubuntu. Whenever you’re working on the 75% of the packages that come straight from Debian, it’s in the interest of Ubuntu to not add any divergence with Debian and thus any improvement or bugfix that you want to include should ideally be included in the official Debian package (or directly upstream).

And doing the work in Debian means that your work benefits more people, it reaches all users of all Debian derivatives (instead of only Ubuntu and its derivatives).

Why contribute?

Debian has a clear answer: the Debian Social Contract. If you contribute, it’s usually to pursue this goal of bringing an high-quality universal operating system to users.

On the Ubuntu side, I find that things are less clear. What’s the foundation document that ties people together? The bug #1 which says that Microsoft should not have a majority market share? Or the code of conduct?

Contribute to both

As a conclusion, I would like to point out the obvious. There’s no need for exclusivity. You can contribute to both, like many people do. Just contribute where it makes sense.

To Debian for deep infrastructural changes where divergence ought to be avoided, or when you plan to modify a package that was not yet modified by Ubuntu.

To Ubuntu when you work on packages that are already highly customized (or even forked) or when you work on new experimental projects that could not be made in Debian.

But be aware of the choice, and ask yourself the question whenever you plan to contribute something.

About the author: Raphaƫl Hertzog is a Debian developer, he works on the package manager (dpkg). He also runs a free monthly newsletter where he shares his analysis of the Debian/Ubuntu news.

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Making your own Unity Place

This is a guest post from Jorge O. Castro, External Developer Relations Liaison, who will be posting Unity updates over the coming weeks.

Unity is made up of different parts. I’m not going to go into all of them today, instead I’m going to concentrate on one element of Unity we call “Places”.

In 11.04 we include 2 places. The Files Place (keyboard shortcut Super-F) and the Applications Place (keyboard shortcut Super-A).

If you imagine your desktop as one entity, the Applications place is a focused place looking just for your applications, and the files place we look for your recently used files, downloads, and favorites. And Places give the user a method of filtering those results as seen the top right of the screenshot.

Okay so what’s the big deal about a fancy recent files thing and and app launcher? As it ends up we put Places together using Zeitgeist which means we can know things that other applications know, and about your data. And as of yesterday you can now write your own Places in Python. This means that people can write Places for just about anything.

What kinds of Places should we have? We’ve started writing down some ideas of things we’d like to see people experimenting with.

How about something to search Amazon and return books available, or just typing in “Keanu Reeves” and having an IMDB Place return all the movies he’s been in (with thumbnails!). Or just type “Keyboard shortcuts for Unity” in the search box and have it search Ask Ubuntu and return the results categorized right in your Dash.

Editor’s note: Or an OMG! Ubuntu! place!

Getting Started Making a Place

Now, as with all fresh things, we need people going through the process and figuring out what can be made smoother.

Mikkel will be working on refining search and Places for the rest of the cycle, so check out the code and play with the example place. Then figure out what kind of thing you want to build and Just Do It.

The first few pioneers will be giving the team the feedback we need to make it easier for you to make these. Then as you learn the technology we need a volunteer to make a Quickly template. This will allow people to easily just fire up quickly and make Places. If you’re interested in making the template join us on #quickly on freenode IRC.

As always, if you need help building things with Unity technology you can find the developers in #ayatana on freenode IRC, or just ask us on the ayatana-dev mailing list. And please let us know what you come up with!

Editor’s note: Totally serious, somebody should make an OMG! Ubuntu! place.


Handrawn-style Buuf icon theme updates

The popular ‘drawn’ style icon theme ‘Buuf’ has been updated with icon support for Ubuntu’s Me and Messaging Menus.

Amongst other changes a new icon for Ubuntu’s default photo management application ‘Shotwell’ is also included.

Download @ gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Buuf?content=81153

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