February 24, 2007

Hide and show panels with a keyboard shortcut in Ubuntu

I usually keep the default top and bottom panels in gnome, but especially on my laptop, place great value on the screen estate that I can get by hiding them. The usual way I do this is by using autohide and then setting the hidden size to 0 or 1. Mostly I dont need the panels because I can launch applications with Alt-F2 or with shortcuts. But when I need to access something from the panel, I have to mouse over the hidden panel to bring it up. The other minor irritation is that the panel may spring out when you dont really want it if your mouse wanders close to it.

In a recent post in the Ubuntu forums, it was suggested that it would be nice to set up a keyboard shortcut to show the panels when needed. Since it is easy to access the gconf-editor from the command line, it was easy to write a script to toggle the hide status of the panel. Here is a short how-to if someone is interested.

Copy this script and save it as "toggle.sh". A good location to keep it would be /home/<username>/.toggle.sh.  Make the file executable :

chmod  +x  ~/.toggle.sh


#find the current state of the panels

state=`gconftool-2 --get "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/auto_hide"`

#if autohide on, turn it off

if [ $state = "true" ]; then

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/auto_hide" --type bool "false"

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel_screen0/auto_hide" --type bool "false"


#if autohide off, turn it on

if [ $state = "false" ]; then

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/auto_hide" --type bool "true"

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel_screen0/auto_hide" --type bool "false"


Open gconf-editor now, and in /apps/metacity/keybinding_commands, change the value of command_1 (or any other command which is unused) to /home/<username>/.toggle.sh.


Then go to /apps/metacity/global_keybindings and change the value of run_command_1 (if you mapped the script to command_1) to <Control>F12 or any other key combination you choose. Close gconf-editor and try it out ! I tested this with both metacity and beryl and it works perfectly.

February 17, 2007

Keeping up with literature is now easy. Just read the feed !

Everyone in medicine knows very well the difficulty of keeping up with current literature. More than 6 million articles are published each year and even the fraction of these that an individual physician has to read can be overwhelming. Of course, today I don't need to go down to the library to scan through the recently published articles. But even looking at each journal's website for the abstract of the latest articles can be a daunting task. In this article I will show you how I use RSS today to keep up with the journals I am interested in.

Step 1: Pick an RSS reader to use. While I use Google reader and therefore use it in my examples, there are a wealth of RSS readers for you to choose from.

Step 2: Subscribe to RSS feeds from the website for journals that offer RSS feeds. For example this shows the RSS link from Heart Online. All you have to do is copy the link and add it as a subscription in google reader.

Step 3: For the many journals that still do not provide RSS, you can set up an RSS fees of their contents from pubmed. Set up a search using limits set to the journal of your interest. Then select 'send to RSS' from the dropdown menu to get the link.

Now Google reader (or any other reader you choose to use) becomes a central location for you to review the titles and abstracts of the latest publications in the journals you have chosen. Note how I have organize the journals under one folder in Google reader. I also mark items I want to read in detail later with a star. Using Google reader and RSS has given me an immense advantage in keeping abreast of the latest literature in my field of interest. Try it out and let me know how you find it!

More Info:
Creating RSS for a feedless journal
RSS from pubmed search