User Tools

Site Tools


Laptop Software Setup

The following are the steps used in Fall 2008 to set up the HP ze4540ca laptop.

Not steps, but main features.

Set up minimal Debian system, then added KDE components (which??) using apt-get install

Included konqueror, and then used the initialization file to use it as a file manager and point to the dances. Clicking on a file loads that file (music or text – latter for instructions). ?? Did I not want emelfm.

Caveats: Use Ctrl-Q or Alt-F4 to close the player and/or text files. Too many open will stop the next one from opening.

Dec 2009 Acer Laptop

On Dec 5, 2009, JN purchased an Acer model 5534 laptop on behalf of the OECDC. The main virtue of this machine (from Future Shop) was its $370 price. The machine has a single AMD 64 bit TF-20 processor, a 160GB rotating drive, and 2 GB Ram. It has 3 USB 2.0 ports, a card reader slot, a DVD writer and headphone and microphone jacks.

The disk turned out to be partitioned with a recovery partition (for Windows 7) of 12 GB, a 100 MB SYSTEM_RESERVED partition, and the rest of the drive (about 140GB) as the C: drive. All were NTFS partition types. I booted the machine with the Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04 i386 desktop CD (a liveCD), opened a terminal (Applications/Accessories/Terminal) and used

   sudo gparted

to shrink the high-end (largest) partition to about 50GB. Then I created and formatted an new ext3 type partition with the recovered space.

Nov 2012 Setup of Acer Laptop

Because of problems with the KDE Konqueror file manager, other possibilities were tried. It appears that the Thunar file manager is suitable in that it handles USB keys as well as regular directories. To keep the system very lightweight, the Linux version CrunchBang 10 Statler was chosen.

20121127 On dancing machine Acer Aspire 5534

Installed CrunchBang 10 statler to /dev/sda4 with dancing/music = username/pw

After install, needed to update-grub using live-USB (meant mounting sda4, on /mnt, also dev, proc and sys; then chroot into this, and then update-grub. (Possibly also grub install outside chroot). This is to get Windows 7 accessible.

As root

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
Install gnome-commander.  (sudo apt-get install (name of package)
Install mc

Copy back 00_dancing (and rename to 00dancing) and mp3 directory.

Automatic login

In /etc/gdm/gdm.conf add the lines

  AutomaticLoginEnable = true
  AutomaticLogin = dancing

Panel position

In main menu (Super+space) choose Settings | tint2 | edit config file

Find parameter panel_position and change to

 bottom center horizontal

Script to logoff

If /home/dancing/bin does not exist then (in a terminal)

  mkdir /home/dancing/bin


  cat >/home/dancing/bin/myoff
  chmod 755 myoff

Then edit the sudoers file by

  sudo visodo


  ALL   ALL=NOPASSWORD:/sbin/shutdown

Autostart in the 00dancing directory

   can autostart in #! by editing  
   (sleep 5 && (thunar ~/00dancing)) &

Also choose Detailed list view (Under View menu) and set this as the default to open all folders in Edit | Preferences for Thunar (the file manager).

Install alsaplayer

 sudo apt-get install alsaplayer

In thunar, right click an mp3 and choose Properties and set to open with alsaplayer. Note that it may be necessary to right click the speaker icon on the panel and open the mixer to set volume controls. It may also be necessary to click on the panel icon with gb in a square. It will become us to allow the North American character set to be used.

Font sizing

Add to, or create if it doesn't exist, the hidden file .gtkrc-2.0 in home directory with the contents:


  style "fonttweak"
     font_name = "Sans 16"
  widget_class "*Thunar*View*" style "fonttweak"

Change the value of font_name to be whatever font/size combination you want and save the file.

Logout and back in again to get the font sizing working.

Mouse setting

(to overcome touchpad problems)

  sudo apt-get install lxinput 
  lxinput # and then set the controls
  sudo apt-get install gpointing-device-settings
  ## Then set the tapping etc.

Special scripts

From backups, copy back bin/* files to get cd2mp3 script (see below). This allows the user to convert CD tracks to mp3 form for space saving on the computer.

The script uses lame and cdparanoia which may need to be installed.

Other setup steps

To provide keyboard shortcuts that

 launch the dance/music list  with **Super+d** 
 launch the cd2mp3 track rip code with **Super+c**
 kill all alsaplayer instances with **Super+k**
 (This saves memory that is needed to keep sound
 shut down the machine with **Super+o**

add the following lines to the rc.xml file (Main menu: Settings / OpenBox / Edit rc.xml)

  <keybind key="W-d">
    <action name="Execute">
      <command>thunar /home/dancing/00dancing</command>
  <keybind key="W-k">
    <action name="Execute">
      <command>killall alsaplayer</command>
  <keybind key="W-o">
    <action name="Execute">
  <keybind key="W-c">
    <action name="Execute">
      <command>terminator -x cd2mp3</command>

Documenting these keyboard shortcuts

On the main menu (Super+Space) choose Settings / Conky / Edit .conkyrc so that the file is

# conky configuration
# The list of variables has been removed from this file in favour
# of keeping the documentation more maintainable.
# Check for an up-to-date-list.
# For ideas about how to modify conky, please see:
# For help with conky, please see:
# Enjoy! :)
#  Settings
background yes
use_xft yes
xftfont sans:size=9
xftalpha 1
update_interval 1.0
total_run_times 0
own_window yes
own_window_transparent yes
own_window_type desktop
own_window_hints undecorated,below,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
double_buffer yes
minimum_size 200 200
maximum_width 240
draw_shades no
draw_outline no
draw_borders no
draw_graph_borders no
default_color d8d8d8
default_shade_color 000000
default_outline_color d9d7d6
alignment top_right
gap_x 12
gap_y 24
no_buffers yes
uppercase no
cpu_avg_samples 2
override_utf8_locale no
#  Output
S Y S T E M    I N F O
Swap usage:$alignr$swap/$swapmax
Disk usage:$alignr${fs_used /}/${fs_size /}
CPU usage:$alignr${cpu cpu0}%

S H O R T C U T    K E Y S
Alt+F2$alignr Run Dialog
Alt+F3$alignr Alt Menu
Super+Space$alignr Main Menu
Super+Tab$alignr Client Menu
Super+t$alignr Terminal
Super+f$alignr File Manager
Super+e$alignr Editor
Super+m$alignr Media Player
Super+w$alignr Web Browser
Super+l$alignr Lock Screen
Super+v$alignr Volume Control
Super+x$alignr Logout
PrtSc$alignr Screenshot
Ctrl+Alt+< or >$alignr Switch Desktop

=======$alignr ==========
Super+c$alignr Rip CD Track
Super+d$alignr Show Dance List
Super+k$alignr Kill players
Super+o$alignr Shutdown
=======$alignr ==========
Super key is WINDOWS key

Setup 2009-2012 (November)

Below are the details of the installation used for approximately 3 years. It was discovered that plugging in a USB key with dances and or instructions forced the interface to Nautilus, which then made it difficult to return to the default behaviour (KDE/Konqueror). This, plus the inevitable change in software over time, led to a different choice in November 2012.

OS Installation

I then clicked on the Install icon in Ubuntu and answered the questions. The user=music, pw=dancing. I put the boot loader in (hd0) (master boot sector of /dev/sda).

USB boot woes

Because there was an SD (in fact multi-format) card reader, I tried installing a minimal Debian install to the card reader. However, it would not boot properly afterwards. I later discovered I could not boot from any USB device. The boot sequence would start, then lock up apparently when trying to sort out the USB drivers. Furthermore, the BIOS will not let one exit without saving “changes”, even if no changes have been made. I suspect the very low price (about $100 less than comparable machines) is due to a late discovery of these BIOS bugs. They do not markedly affect the machine except for rather special uses like booting from USB. This would be important to me in general, but not for the use as a music controller. As of Dec 6, 2009, there are no BIOS updates posted or reported. Whether they will become available is an open question.

Avoiding start of unnecessary applications

Hiding applications menu items

Right clicking on Applications and selecting Edit Menus allows you to unclick most of the applications. They can be re-activated by putting the tick marks back using the same process. To make things a bit easier, I added a Terminal and a Text Editor item

gnome-control-center usage

The Startup Applications panel (Applications / Terminal, then type “gnome-control-center” (Enter) and look under Personal/Startup Applications) have been set to NOT start most services in Linux, including network manager.

Set ON are

  • GNOME Login Sound
  • GNOME Settings Daemon
  • GNOME Settings Daemon Helper
  • Indicator Applet
  • MAIN LIST (this is an ADDED item. Use +Add and provide the Name and the Command (konqueror).
  • Power Manager

All others were deselected (click on tick box to remove the tick).

The same process can be reversed to set the network manager to default to on via Applications / Terminal and the gnome-control-center.

I changed /etc/network/interfaces to add

   auto eth0
   iface eth0 inet dhcp

One can then use Applications / Terminal and type

   sudo ifup eth0

and Enter to arrange a wired network connection. (You will need to provide the password 'music'). Of course, you need a CAT5 cable connected to a live internet router to do this.

BIG icons

Icons in Gnome can be resized. The commands are Right click icon, Select “Stretch Icon” and resize.

Icon launchers can be created by right-click anywhere blank on the desktop, Create Launcher, then answer the Name and Command boxes. Comment is optional. For command-line applications, change the Application to Application in terminal. Click on the icon to select another icon. You may want to look for other icons under /usr/share/icons/ (I like the gnome scalable icons.)

On the desktop I created 6 big icons (these are repeated on the taskbar, but much smaller, except for volume control, which is a speaker on the taskbar and gives a slightly different display:

  • A large musical note (MAIN LIST) that launches konqueror (and hence the list of music and instructions)
  • A large brush icon (CLEANUP) that launches my own command script (in /usr/local/bin/cleanup). This issues the commands 'killall leafpad' and 'killall alsaplayer' to clear any open applications if users have forgotten.
  • A large CD icon (CD Player) to launch the CD player / extractor. I have given instructions on how to extract tracks below. Experience in January 2010 suggests that CDs sometimes play with clicks or gaps. Note that the CD drawer open button is at the
  • A large “Volume Control”
  • A large “HELP” in the form of a question mark to display the dancing music instructions
  • A large exit icon “CD-OUT” to force eject a CD. Sometimes the drawer button is disabled by software.

Desktop setup

  • Right Click on the task panel (the bar that normally runs along top, bottom or a side of display) and choose “bottom”
  • Set the number of desktops (Microsoft only every gives you one!) to 1 by right-click on the miniature desktops icon (bottom right) and set preference to 1 desktop
  • Right-click in the main area of the window (when all applications minimized or none active)
    • “Change Desktop Background”
    • Choose one of the backgrounds (preferably a solid colour)
    • Click on that colour beside the Colours control at the bottom of the panel
    • Choose an appropriate (light) colour
    • Click OK
    • Close panel (click Close) – colour should have changed

File manager

Linux has a lot of different file managers, each with different advantages and disadvantages. Some I have looked at follow, with comments on customizing for the dance music laptop.


Konqueror is the web browser for KDE, but also serves as a file manager. I installed this (in a terminal 'sudo apt-get install konqueror' if one is connected to the Internet). Then I set it up as follows:

General –> When Konqueror Starts: Show My Home Page; Home Page: /home/dancing/00_dancing;

Settings / File Management / Views / General –> Use common view properties … Settings / File Management / Views / Icons –> Font: Custom Font, Text width: Huge, Grid Spacing: Large Settings / File Management / Views / Details –> Font: Custom Font, Deja Vu Sans, Regular, 18 (CAUTION: Tries to default to 9 pt).

View / Adjust View Properties / View mode: Details; Sorting: Ascending, By Name; View / View mode –> Details


Nautilus is the default Gnome (and default Ubuntu) file manager. It is important to use some of the Nautilus preference setting when choosing default applications, even if Konqueror is used for the file manager, if Konqueror is installed under Gnome. I ha


On an Asus Eee 701 I found the simple file manager Emelfm worked very well. Due to changes in the underlying graphics libraries, this project has been re-worked (emelfm no longer installs on Ubuntu in recent versions) to Emelfm2. While this COULD be used,

Font sizes


The main font sizes are controlled by the System/Preferences/Appearance menu Fonts tab. You need to set several font sizes (sigh!): Application, Document, Desktop, Window, and Fixed width. I set these to approx. 16 point, except for Fixed point, for which I used 14 point.


Instructions display window

The dance instructions are displayed with Leafpad. I have increased the font here to about 14 pt using the options within Leafpad preferences. There is no ideal size – too big and the text gets broken across lines (or goes off the screen). Too small and it cannot be read.

Music play

Need for codecs

Files of type mp3 use technology which claims to be patented. (We will not go into reasons why software patents may be invalid in all cases, but the controversy means that the coder / decoders for mp3 files are not free/libre software at this time.) There


The current player we are using is Alsaplayer, using the Ubuntu package alsaplayer-alsa. This provides a nice simple interface that nonetheless has speedup/slowdown, some volume control, start, pause, stop (and return to start) all in keystrokes. The keys

??? Note: not well documented

   v    Stop
   x    Play (Some versions seem to quit when x is pressed)
   c    Pause
   b    Next Song
   z    Previous Song (will play current tune if only one is selected)
   g    Seek Forward
   a    Seek Backward
   f    Forward Play
   s    Reverse Play
   t    Speed Up one musical semitone. (handy for changing the key the song is played back in)
   q    Speed Down one musical semitone.
   h    Speed Up one comma. (handy to tune the song instead of the guitar when playing at the same time as listening)
   i    Speed Down one comma.
   r    Volume Up
   w    Volume Down
   l    Loop

Note that I avoid using the playlist features of alsaplayer for our dancing application.


This is a command-line player that has a rich set of keyboard controls. I am considering working on the source code to put the keyboard controls into a file. This would allow for easy changing of the set of controls, which could be very useful for remote

In a terminal, issuing

   mpg123 -C mymusic.mp3

will play the file mymusic.mp3. The -C (or –control) option enables keyboard control. The built-in choices (which I would like variable) are ’s’ to stop, ’p’ to pause, ’f’ to jump forward to the next song, ’b’ to jump back to the beginning of the song, ’,’ to rewind, ’.’ to fast forward, and ’q’ to quit. Type ’h’ for a full list of available controls.

To avoid having multiple players open, it is possible to “killall” mpg123 playing, and the script mympg123 is as follows:

   # mympg123
   # TUNE="Angels_Unawares-Bnbc8-08.mp3"
   echo "Tune: $TUNE"
   if [[|-e $TUNE ]]; then 
   echo "OK!"
   echo "BAD FILE"
   # read TMPSTR
   killall mpg123
   # echo "Still $TUNE"
   mpg123 -C $TUNE

Instructions Display

Instructions display is done in Leafpad, which is a text editor.

To avoid the possibility that clumsy users delete files, all files in the 00_dancing directory have been given read-only permissions by using the command

   chmod 755 00_dancing/*

from the 'dancing' home directory.

CD Track Ripper

NashJc 18:03, 19 February 2010 (EST) Over the past couple of months it appears that playing a CD sometimes gives “hiccups” in the sound. This may be due to buffering or possibly vibrations due to the dancers. To overcome this, use RipTrack on the desktop. This is simply an icon launcher for

   ## cd2mp3 -- rip a track from a CD and put in mp3 format
   # run this in a terminal!!
   echo "Please enter the track number you wish to capture:"
   read TNUM
   echo ""
   echo "Provide a name for the track. No spaces, dots or special characters:"
   read TNAME
   echo "Full name: $XNAME"
   cdparanoia $TNUM $XNAME
   echo "Convert to MP3"
   lame $XNAME $MNAME
   echo "Move to dancing directory"
   mv $MNAME ~/00dancing
   echo "removing wav file"
   rm $XNAME
laptop_sw_setup.txt · Last modified: 2014/07/15 21:52 (external edit)