Thursday, March 27, 2014

Welcome to GNOME 3.12

Gnome 3.12 is out. You can try it out here. Somebody has already done so and posted a video (with a great soundtrack) here. I'll be doing so myself soon.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

XFCE annoyances

XFCE is a great Linux desktop and ideal for replacing Windows XP on older computers (security updates are of course gong to end for XP next year, so there's no time like the present for trying Linux on XP machines). I've been using it for about six months on this 2005 laptop, as well as on a 2003 laptop. XFCE is noticeably less taxing on the more modern laptop than Gnome 3.10, which I tried recently in the Fedora 20 beta, especially when switching quickly between different applications.

XFCE shares the same desktop paradigm as Windows XP (panel, menus, window buttons etc), so it's an easy switch to make, except for a few annoyances which may put off new users. I'm going to detail theses annoyances and how to get round them here.

Problem panels

After installing XFCE and logging in to your account, you are prompted to set up a panel. However, if you don't save the session after logging off, the next time you log on, you will not see any panels. You can get them back by right clicking on the desktop and going to Applications>Settings>Panel. However, you may see a popup window with the following error message as described on the Arch Linux forum:
The panel cannot be edited while running in kiosk mode.
Solution: Drop out of XFCE with Ctrl + Alt + F1, navigated to ~/.cache/sessions/ and delete the contents with the following command:
rm -rf *
Restart, log in to XFCE, set up panels as required and save the session on exit to see your panels appear at next log on.

Unwanted saved sessions

Having saved your session to save your panels, you may decide that you don't want to have every application you had open at shutdown reappear when you next log on. The solution to this is to close all applications, log off saving the minimal session, log back on and disable saved sessions.

However, you may be puzzled to find that applications are still reopening at logon.

Solution: be aware that only the logout GUI respects the preference to not save sessions. (See this post on the XFCE forum.) The Action Buttons panel plugin seems to use a shutdown method that does not respect session preferences, so if you're wondering why applications autostart when you've chosen not to autosave sessions, Action Buttons may be the culprit.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Debian Sources List Generator

Ever wondered what your sources should be in Debian? Debian Sources List Generator will generate a sources list for you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Firefox's new look

Firefox's new look (the Australis GUI) can now be seen in the Firefox Nightly build. Without more ado, here it is, on Debian XFCE:

A lot of negative opinion on the internet, but quite like it myself, no objections certainly, and tabs definitely look nicer.

Firefox Nightly can be unpacked to the home directory and run from there. However, it's probably a good idea to use a separate profile, to avoid the risk of making changes to an existing profile that are not compatible with the existing version of Firefox (or Iceweasel, in my case).

Debian Bits And Snips explains how to do this. I ran into a problem in that when I'd closed Firefox Nightly and launched Iceweasel again, it was using the new profile. I had to use Profile Manager again to switch Iceweasel back to the default profile, but after that I used the launch command given and Firefox Nightly used its own profile and left Iceweasel using the default profile.
/home/username/firefox/firefox -P "new profile" -no-remote
no-remote means Firefox uses the new profile independently of the profile set for Iceweasel and without changing the profile set for Iceweasel- indeed it can run at the same time as Iceweasel with this command.

Profile manager can be launched with the following terminal command in Linux, if Iceweasel is using the wrong profile:
firefox --ProfileManager

Open magnet links in Transmission

One way to do this is to copy the link and open it as an URL in Transmission, but I recently came across some instructions for making magnet links clickable and open in Transmission.

Instructions are at

After that, make sure Transmission is set to handle magnet links in the Iceweasel Content type menu, as described on the Crunchbang forum.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Browse files on Android from Thunar

If you try to browse an Android device from Thunar in XFCE over Bluetooth, it will try to launch Nautilus, which of course isn't installed in XFCE.

The Arch Linux Wiki has a useful script to allow Thunar to browse files on Android over Bluetooth. The script uses obexftp, which must be installed.

obexftp must also be installed in Android. I've read that some Android devices have the service running, but mine didn't.

Bluetooth File Transfer and ES File Explorer File Manager both install the service.

To be honest, I didn't have much success browsing files. In particular, image files from the phone's camera took a long time to browse, and half way through the folder, Thunar would give the same thumbnail to every file.

But I thought I'd document what I did in case I need to come back to it, or in case somebody else finds it useful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

SD card reader not working in Linux

One thing I've not been able to get working in Linux is the SD card reader on my laptop. The Ubuntu manual sdhci driver page hints at why:
Many of existing SD controller chips have some nonstandard requirements, proprietary registers and hardware bugs, requiring additional handling. 
lspci reveals the name of the SD card reader:
SD Host controller: O2 Micro, Inc. Integrated MMC/SD Controller (rev 01)
dmesg that there's a problem:
mmc0: Unknown controller version (16). You may experience problems.
This is a message I've noticed while the computer is booting, I think for as long as I've used Linux, and in many different distributions.

There are several bug reports for this issue, but I haven't found any "additional handling". To read and write to SD cards, I use a USB card reader from PoundWorld.

One post I came across suggested there might be a fix coming in kernel 3.5, but I'm using 3.10 from Wheezy backports.

In the end I came across a way to disable the SD card driver so that the error message doesn't appear. Add:
blacklist sdhci-pci 
blacklist sdhci 
blacklist mmc_core 
to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf.

This didn't take effect until I ran:
update-initramfs -u 
Debian forum.