Switching from Launchy to Gnome-Do

As a first attempt at creating a cross-plattform application, Launchy for Linux has a lot going for it: it is small, fast and elegant, and has a nice selection of plugins and skins. But for the past couple of weeks, two major bugs have become really annoying: Launchy opens all application scripts in a text editor, which means that half of my applications fail to run, and for some reason several of my most important directories are never indexed.

There doesn’t seem to be a fix in the pipeline, and as a result I installed Gnome-Do instead. It seems just as snappy as Launchy, and although I haven’t been able to find a configuration menu the default installation runs all applications and opens most directories as it should. I qualify my statement, as there seems to be a problem with Gnome’s standard directories. Rather than opening /home/eirik/Documents, say, Gnome-Do opens /home/eirik instead. By default in version 0.4.* directories are opened with the “Reveal” option, and you have to tab to the Options window and type Open to get Gnome-do to truly open the directory. I upgraded to the latest version, and now directories are opened directly by default.

The Awful Truth: power history of a T61 with Ubuntu 8.04

The screendump above shows a pretty typical power history of my T61 for the two hours and fifteen minutes a full charge lasts. The variation is due to a mixture of writing, watching a an episode of a TV show (that’s the peak around 42 minutes) and talking to a fellow passenger (that’s the trough near the two hour mark). The screen brightness was between the minimum setting and 50 %. Both radio transmitters were switched off, which saves about 3 W. I am also running Powertop and CPU Scaling.

Powertop saves a couple of watts on my machine, while CPU Scaling has no discernable effect. All of which goes to show how bad things still are compared to XP, which gives me three and a half hours with the same kind of usage. This is not limited to Ubuntu or Thinkpad, of course. The one big downside to the success of the Asus Eee, is that it really showcases the Linux battery life problem. This is 2008 – we shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of thing…

Dude, where’s my battery life?

Seriously. I’ve been running Ubuntu 8.04 on my Lenovo Thinkpad T61 for some weeks now, and it really is the best release so far. But the battery life is making it harder to use Ubuntu without a power cable, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a laptop. I didn’t think I would say this, but whenever I travel I am really glad I kept my XP partition.

Case in point: a couple of days ago, I had a three hour wait at an airport. Of course there were no power outlets in sight, so I had to depend on the (brand new) battery. Running XP, I watched a movie for two of those hours, worked for an hour and boarded the plane with power to spare. With Ubuntu, I knew I would have been lucky to get two hours max, even with Powertop running.

ThinkWiki (indispensable for all Thinkpad users) has crunched the numbers, which show the stark contrast: Ubuntu consumes about 35 % more power with the same settings. I opted for an Nvidia graphics setup which is known to be power-hungry, and with everything but the radios turned to a minimum, my T61 still uses more than 20 Watts. Harder on the internal fan and the environment, as well as on my patience.

It didn’t use to be like this. On my previous Thinkpad T40, Ubuntu was as efficient as XP, which meant that it had a battery life of four hours. Even though my graphics card consumes more energy, the processor is much more efficient and the battery a great deal larger (it now sticks out on the back). Now, if I could only get the build quality of my Thinkpad with the power consumption of my XO… ;-)