Bring Pidgin’s window into front focus when there’s an inbound IM

I was talking to a co-worker about Pidgin not coming into focus when there’s a new, inbound IM. The Pidgin window used to come into focus, front and center, when I was running Ubuntu/Gnome and when running OpenSUSE/KDE, but when I upgraded my office desktop to Ubuntu/Unity it stopped behaving this way. My co-worker noticed the same behavior with Fedora17/Gnome. A new IM would come in, but the Pidgin IM window would remain in the background, hidden, unseen and unread.

I thought “There has to be a setting that controls this,” and there is…

  • Bring up Pidgin’s Buddy List
  • Click Tools > Plugins
  • Locate the Message Notification plugin and highlight it
  • At the bottom of the Plugins window is a Configure Plugin button. Click it
  • Under Notification Methods check both Raise conversation window and Present conversation window
  • Click Close

That’s it. The next time someone IM’s you, your Pidgin Conversation will pop up in the center of your screen, in front of all of your other windows.

Hope you find this useful.

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Getting rid of self-resizing windows in Ubuntu Linux 12.04

I’ve been using a pre-release “daily build” installation of Ubuntu 12.04 “Precise Pangolin” and noticed that current default for Gnome is for windows to resize themselves when you get close to the edge of the screen. I have two 22″ widescreen monitors and if I moved a window near the top edge it would maximize and fill the screen. If I moved a window to any edge Gnome would decide for me that what I “really” wanted was to enlarge the window to fill half the screen or do something else equally annoying. This might work well on a 10″ netbook screen, but on dual 22″ monitors it’s annoying as hell.

I tracked the problem down to a setting in Compiz, the screen compositing tool used by many Linux desktop environments, so if you’re using KDE or Unity with Compiz and you’re finding self-resizing windows irritating this fix should work for you as well.

To fix the problem you need to install the CompizConfig Settings Manager, so fire up Synaptic Package Manager and search for “compizconfig-settings-manager” and install it.

Once installed, if you’re using Gnome go to Applications > System Tools > Preferences and click “CompizConfig Settings Manager” to start the tool.

Scroll down to “Window Management.”

Uncheck “Place Windows”.

Leave “Grid” checked, but click the word “Grid” to get the Grid settings, then go to the Edges tab and change all Resize Actions to “None”.

Click Back.

Now your desktop will do what you tell it to do, rather than second-guessing you and doing something that you do not want.

One thing that you can now do (that you probably really don’t want) is to have the title bar (and it’s controls) move off-screen, which means you can’t move or resize the window unless you Alt-right-click on it. To fix that issue:

Check the “Put” plugin.

Click the word “Put” to bring up more options, go to the “Misc Options” tab, check “Avoid Offscreen”, click Back, then Close Window.

Hope you find this useful.

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Work-around for a locked-up Gnome 3 screen saver in Ubuntu 11.10

Gnome 3 has a screen saver (or more accurately a screen blanker — there are no pretty pictures) which is turned on by default and which password-protects (locks) your desktop by default when it activates. Unfortunately it’s been known to be buggy since it was released as part of Gnome 2, often refusing to unlock your screen and forcing you to reboot your system.

Users of the Gnome 3 desktop shell are reporting that for some video card and monitor combinations the Gnome 3 screen saver, after getting a key press / mouse movement that should prompt you for your password to unlock the screen:

  • Won’t unlock the screen at all.
  • Will display a mouse pointer but no password prompt.
  • Will display your original screen and all open documents (without prompting for a password) but will not allow you to click on anything, basically appearing as a locked-up desktop.

My setup reliably produces situation #3.

To unlock a locked-up desktop:

  • Ctrl-Alt-F1 will give you a text-based terminal login.
  • Log in with your user name and password.
  • Type: “killall gnome-screensaver”
  • Ctrl-Alt-F7 to get back to the (now unlocked) Gnome 3 desktop.

To replace the Gnome 3 screen saver with something less buggy:

  • Activities > Applications > Other > Synaptic Package Manager
  • Quick filter: xscreensaver
  • Right click ‘xscreensaver’ and select ‘Mark for Installation’
  • Click ‘Apply’ to install
  • Activities > Applications > System Tools  > System Settings > Screen
  • Set “Turn off after” to ‘Never’ and “Lock” to ‘OFF’. This disables gnome-screensaver.
  • Activities > Applications > All > Screensaver
  • Follow the prompts to activate xscreensaver

If you try to uninstall gnome-screensaver Synaptic Package Manager will also want to uninstall gnome and gnome-core, which is a bad idea if you want to run Gnome. Gnome will always start gnome-screensaver even if you have it disabled, and xscreensaver won’t run if gnome-screensaver is running. So you basically need to kill gnome-screensaver after Gnome has started and then start xscreensaver. You can do this by adding a startup program:

  • Activities > Applications > Other > Startup Programs > Add
  • Name: “Screen Saver”
  • Command: “sleep 30; killall gnome-screensaver; sleep 5; xscreensaver”
  • Comment: “Kill gnome-screensaver, start xscreensaver”
  • Click “Add”

Hope you find this useful.

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