Sunday, January 31, 2016

hammerin' it into shape

Fixed a few things in openSUSE 42.1. I managed to disable KWallet (which was coming on, for example, whenever I went into Chromium's settings) by doing the following: KMenu > KWalletManager > Settings > Configure Wallet... > Wallet Preferences tab > uncheck "Enable the KDE wallet subsystem. After I did this, I could no longer get the KWalletManager app from the KMenu to work properly (it kept freezing up), but KWallet appears to be disabled.

I finally got Mirage installed, via 1-Click Install, here:

I had been unable to play .wma music files, but then I found the following note about multimedia codecs (at

In addition to adding the PackMan repositories, they must be prioritized over the default openSUSE repositories to prevent a change in package version during updates to those in the default openSUSE repositories. This is important for packages like vlc and vlc-codecs where the PackMan versions, besides being ususally newer, support proprietary codecs and the openSUSE ones don't.

It is also important to be aware of the concept of vendor in openSUSE. If software available from the openSUSE repository has been installed, then the PackMan repository is added, already installed packages can be changed to the versions in the PackMan repositories. This can be done in the YaST Software Management module by viewing packages by repositorym, selecting the PackMan repository, then clicking "Switch System Packages to Versions in this Repository".


I followed those steps (this installed/updated a lot of multimedia packages), then logged out of KDE and logged back in. After that, I was able to play .wma, .ogg, and .mp3 files.

There are a few other little things I'd like to get fixed up, but "Leap" 42.1 is shaping up nicely. Always seems to take a bit of post-installation work to get an openSUSE installation set up like I want it; well worth it, in the end.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

simply gnome shell

I run GNOME Shell (version 3.14) in Debian Jessie. I don't use any GNOME Shell extensions. I kinda bought into what the devs were selling back when I first tried GNOME Shell in Fedora a few years back, and I find it as comfortable to use and get around in as any other Linux desktop out there.

It's really simple. Clicking on "Activities" on the panel, or moving the corner to the upper-left hot-spot, or pressing the Windows (or, "Super") key on the keyboard, any of those will open the Activities overview.

Along the left, a handful of icons I've set up for my favorite apps. The icons of currently running apps have little highlights on them. The workspaces are shown on the right, and windows of running apps for each workspace are nicely displayed.

Click on the "Show Applications" button and you can choose between "Frequent" and "All" views.

I have five "pages" of apps, as the five indicators along the right show.

If it isn't too much trouble, the user can always simply start typing the name of an app while in the Activities overview. Three characters is usually enough to bring up the desired icon.

Good 'ol Alt+Tab is available for switching between windows:

See "Useful keyboard shortcuts," here:

I run a number of different types of desktop in Linux, but none are more pleasant to log into than GNOME Shell. It might not be the most "configurable" desktop around -- can't do much with that panel, for example -- but it's nice and easy to use for getting things done.

a gem of a distro

Downloaded MX-15 "Fusion" (MX-15_x64.iso, about 985 MB). I used Unetbootin in Debian Jessie KDE to put it on a flash drive (note: Unetbootin is no longer available in the Stable repos; I'd added it back when Jessie was still in Testing).

Even if you never install MX-15 to the hard drive, it's definitely worth having around for live sessions. Here's a shot of what you'll see when you first boot into the live session:

Looks like a lot of work went into MX-15's documentation. Not bad. That "MX Welcome" window can be brought up at any time from the main menu.

MX-15 is based on antiX and Debian, as shown in the lines that are uncommented by default in the files in the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ directory:

deb jessie main

deb jessie main contrib non-free
deb jessie/updates main contrib non-free

deb mx15 main non-free

MX-15 shipped with Firefox 43.0.1, Xfce 4.12, Thunar as the default file manager, and a ton of other apps and tools. For an overview of the release, see this page:

Some shots of MX-15's main menu, below.


A few games:





Screenshots of the Settings and System menus would certainly be overkill here -- there's just too much in there (!) -- but here's a shot of the Settings Manager:

I don't think I'll be installing MX-15, but I'll go back later and set up persistence on the flash drive. I spent just enough time with the live session to explore the system a bit, and to create this blog post, and I came away very impressed. Officially called "a special version of antiX" and without its own listing in the DistroWatch page hit rankings, MX might be the best-kept secret of the Linux world. Excellent community effort... Kudos!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

42.1 with plasma 5

I wiped out my openSUSE 13.2 installation and replaced it with openSUSE Leap 42.1. The main installation image weighs in at a whopping 4.7GB, so I decided to try the network installation approach and downloaded openSUSE-Leap-42.1-NET-x86_64.iso, only about 85 MB. I went "Old School" and burned the image to a CD using K3b in Debian Jessie, rather than putting the image onto a flash drive like I do to prepare for Linux installations most of the time these days.

I used gparted-live-0.23.0-1-i586.iso from a flash drive to repartition my hard drive, leaving Jessie GNOME as the booting distro and creating new (ext4) partitions for the Leap 42.1 installation.

The Leap 42.1 installer was fairly straightforward. I chose to go with the KDE Plasma desktop. I would have preferred to not have to install GRUB at all, but I couldn't figure out how to proceed with the installation without installing GRUB (same thing happened back when I installed 13.2), so I put GRUB on what would be Leap 42.1's / partition . Took me about two hours to get all the packages downloaded and to get the system installed. Then I booted into a live session (I used MX 14.4 from a flash drive) to fix up fstab and a custom grub entry in Jessie GNOME. Finally, I booted into Leap 42.1's Plasma 5 desktop. The default desktop looked like this:

Not bad, but look at the distorted shape of the lightbulb. I fiddled around with the desktop settings to fix that; undistorted, the wallpaper image is supposed to look something like this:

Anyway, who sticks with the default background? Not me.

I've explored and tweaked the installation over the past couple of days, encountering various crashes and error messages. The system itself doesn't entirely crash or totally freeze up; just looks like some Plasma 5 issues that need to be smoothed out. The system's usable, at least for my purposes.

I've installed a few packages, like multimedia codecs, the SpaceFM file manager, Geany text editor, Geeqie image viewer, and VLC media player.

Not everything has gone smoothly. I haven't been able to play .wma files, but .mp3 and .ogg play fine. There are a few apps that I'd like that I've been unable to install (I'll probably be able to get them later, though).

I'd been running (I think) KDE 4.14.x in openSUSE 13.2, and I still have KDE 4.14.2 in Debian Jessie; going from KDE4 to Plasma 5 (version 5.4.2 in Leap) requires a bit of a mind-set adjustment, as the KDE devs have changed quite a few things and removed some features. For example, here's a shot of the System Settings window, first in KDE4 in Jessie, then in Plasma 5 in Leap 42.1:

Completely reorganized, and in some cases not for the better, in my opinion.

In Plasma 5, users can no longer have different wallpapers for different virtual desktops (first time I've been unable to do that in KDE since I started using Linux!) because there's no longer a "Different widgets for each desktop" option in the Virtual Desktops module. Thumbs down on that decision. While other DEs (Xfce and LXDE, for example) have recently added separate-wallpapers-for-separate-workspaces features (hooray!), the KDE devs decided that the feature wasn't important enough to keep. What's up with that? Pfft.

They took away the Quicklaunch widget for the panel. In KDE4 in Jessie, my Quicklaunch widget conveniently holds eight application launchers in two columns (using a vertical panel):

Can't do that type of things with Plasma 5. The panel can still hold application launchers, but I wasn't able to nicely arrange a bunch of application launchers on my panel without Quicklaunch, so I've gone with a different approach. I got rid of the launchers I'd put on the panel and I set up a desktop right-click Application Launcher menu, with a personalized "apps" submenu:

The default Application Menu ("K" icon on the panel) presents the same menu and submenu, along with a place along the left side for a few "Favorite" application launchers:

Nicely done, actually. So I have a couple of nice ways to launch applications without having the launchers on the panel. As with any other Linux environment, there are, as well, several other ways for users to launch apps, so while I do miss the Quicklaunch widget, it turns out to be not such a big deal.

An app called Spectacle replaces KSnapShot in Plasma 5. Spectacle works pretty well for taking screenshots, but sometimes when using "Save As..." the app doesn't attach the ".png" extension, resulting in error messages like this:

Looks like the workaround is to manually add the ".png" extension when necessary.

I added the Chromium browser, but I find that when I go into Chromium's settings, KWallet starts up:

There's probably a way to completely disable KWallet in Plasma 5, but I haven't found it yet.

openSUSE Leap 42.1 with KDE Plasma 5 isn't perfect, but I can work with it. I've noticed a few other things that I don't like, but also a few things that make me stop and say, "Nice!" The release could use some polishing up, and I'd say that it doesn't meet openSUSE's normal standards, but it's usable; and, openSUSE installations typically improve with age, in my experience. Plasma 5 and Leap 42.1 are still fairly new (will folks accept that as an excuse?). I do wish that there was a live image for users to try out before installing, but the openSUSE devs did away with live images, unfortunately. Life goes on.

Here are links to a couple of fairly detailed reviews of openSUSE 42.1:

And here's one from Dedoimedo, who was less than pleased with the release: "OpenSUSE Leap 42.1 - Leap? More of a plunge."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

quicklist in 15.10

I found that I was able to set up a quicklist for the Unity launcher in Ubuntu 15.10 using the same type of approach that I've used in the past in Ubuntu 11.04 (see "unity quicklists"), Ubuntu 12.04 (see "shaping up") and Ubuntu 14.04 (see "trusty screenshots").

First, I created ~/.local/share/applications/utilities.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]

[Chromium Shortcut Group]

[Nautilus Shortcut Group]

[GNOMECalculator Shortcut Group]

[Characters Shortcut Group]

[Screenshot Shortcut Group]
Exec=gnome-screenshot -i

[Geeqie Shortcut Group]

[Mirage Shortcut Group]

[UnityTweak Shortcut Group]

[SystemSettings Shortcut Group]

[Synaptic Shortcut Group]

Then I found the Utilities icon in the Dash and dragged it to the Unity launcher. Changes to the utilities.desktop file take effect immediately upon saving the file. Screenshot: