Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Automatic update notifications in Debian Testing

Automatic update notifications alert you to security and other updates that can be installed- and it's good to be made aware that these updates are available.

As I have pointed out before, automatic update notifications were broken in Debian Jessie, they apparently were fixed, but didn't work for a lot of people including me, they were fixed in Debian Testing, but didn't work for me after a recent update to Testing (Stretch) on this laptop.

I have now discovered that automatic update notifications are working in Testing- I just needed to enable show-upgrade-prerelease in dconf-editor.
After doing that, I started to see notifications.
As I wrote about previously, updates are now done offline in Gnome.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Things that are broken in Debian Stretch- file transfer from Android phone with Bluetooth

File transfer via Bluetooth from an Android phone is currently not working in Stretch. However, I was able to transfer a file today using a workaround.
The solution is to manually start obex and re-pair the phone with the computer. The command is systemctl --user start obex. (Found on

It seems obex isn't auto-started properly. (There's a bug report at Red Hat Bugzilla.)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Things that are broken in Debian Jessie - Update

I pointed out in May 2016 that automatic updates were broken in Debian Jessie.

I came across a post on Ximions blog yesterday explaining the reason why.

A subsequent post claims that the issue was fixed at some point, but also mentions that many people using Jessie have never received automatic updates- which was true for me: running Jessie until last week, I never saw an automatic update notification.

The update also states that automatic updates are working in Debian Stretch.

A while back I posted about how I'd seen automatic update notifications in Debian Testing (Stretch) on my old laptop, and how updates are now carried out offline.

Last week I updated my current laptop to Stretch- but I haven't seen any update notifications yet.

Important to note that Stretch is still in Testing, but I do hope automatic updates are going to work in Stretch.

I've also blogged about how Bluetooth file transfer from an Android phone to Debian Jessie was broken.

Despite having seen this work previously in Testing, I've had no luck getting this to work in Debian Stretch recently- either on the computer it originally worked on, or my laptop recently updated to Stretch.

Another disappointment.

I will keep an eye on these issues as updates arrive to Stretch and report if I see these features start to work.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Shrink title bar and remove border in Gnome 3.22

I mentioned in my previous post that I don't especially like the border line under the title bar in Gnome 3.22 and think it's a waste of space, and posted a screenshot of how it looks in Firefox.
If you want to shrink the title bar and remove the border underneath, create a file gtk.css in ~/.congif/gtk-3.0 and add the following text:
window.ssd headerbar.titlebar {
    min-height: 0;

window.ssd headerbar.titlebar button.titlebutton {
    padding-top: 0px;
    padding-bottom: 0px;
    min-height: 0;

window.ssd headerbar.titlebar {
  border: none;
  background-image: linear-gradient(to bottom,
  shade(@theme_bg_color, 1.05),
  shade(@theme_bg_color, 1.00));
  box-shadow: inset 0 1px shade(@theme_bg_color, 1.4);
Restart Gnome Shell or log out and log in and Firefox now looks like this:
The code above was collated and edited by me from various sources: stackexchange, stackexchange and reddit.

It's also possible to add a line to reduce text height:

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Debian Stretch preview

Debian Stretch has entered the first stage of freeze. Life is boring, so I decided to update. (Proviso: do not try this at home unless you understand that Stretch is still in Testing and can break. If it breaks, you get to keep the pieces.)

And so, here it is:
I should point out that Stretch artwork has not being finalised yet: the background is just one of several candidates- it's just my favourite.

The update was pleasantly painless with no issues.

I did soon find one bug- the mouse pointer will disappear after the screen blanks out and is reawakened.

However, Gnome now works with Wayland, and using Wayland, this bug is not an issue, so I'll be trying out Wayland for the time being. An issue with Wayland is that Synaptic does not start. I expect that may be true of other applications.

(See why I cautioned about using testing?)

Otherwise, everything seems to work well.

I will mention a few things that I have noticed.

A minor (but annoying) font artefact that appeared in Jessie does not seem to be present in Stretch- which is good. This is probably only something that affects my graphics card, so other users may not have noticed it.

Stretch comes with Gnome 3.22 (I don't think there will be another update before the final freeze). The most noticeable differences (for me) are that notifications are now at the top of the screen (similar to Android) and the pop-up notification tray at the bottom of the screen has gone. A big improvement, if you ask me- when other people were using Libre Office on my computer, they occasionally caused the notification tray to pop up, and didn't know how to get rid of it.

The Gnome music player can be controlled from the notification drop-down screen.
The Gnome file manager has been updated and the buttons simplified. The new buttons are far more intuitive- I could never find the option I wanted with the old buttons. One changes from icon to list view and the other gives you tab, zoom, sort and revel hidden files options- much easier to use and remember, and more in accord with the Gnome philosophy of intuitive minimalism.
There are of course many new features and improvements in Gnome 3.22, which you can find out about at

One striking visual change is that the title bar is now separated by a line from an application window- which doesn't look especially good in Firefox.
The title bar is a waste of space in Firefox anyway- pity there isn't a way for Gnome to get rid of it (you can with an extension in Firefox).

I've been using Debian Sid for a while on another computer, and have commented before on a number of things that were broken in Jessie, but seemed to have been fixed in subsequent updates. I will try to confirm that update notifications and Bluetooth file transfers from a phone are working in Stretch and post some screenshots in later posts.

Overall, Stretch seems like it's going to be a big improvement over Jessie for me.

It seems like something I could live with quite happily for the next two years, whereas with Jessie I thought, do I have to live with this for two years?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

BBC ditching Flash for news video content

The BBC has started using an HTML player for some news clips on its web site. Good news for those of us who have removed Flash from our computers.
Other clips still try to use Flash.
Note that the second clip is actually the more recent. Older content is still Flash media.

The reason for this change is of course that Flash is outdated technology, and a security nightmare. (As a BBC story itself explains.)

However, this doesn't stop BBC software engineers moaning about how difficult the change is and how wonderful Flash was. BBC Internet Blog.

Stretch artwork

A new version of Debian is on the horizon, and the proposed artwork is on view, to be voted on, tomorrow according to the Wiki. Debian swirls feature strongly. My favourite is softWaves by Juliette Taka Belin.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

There is no public key available for the following key IDs: 1397BC53640DB551

Seeing the above warning? Then you're probably using Google Chrome in Linux, and you need to update the public key:
# wget -q -O - | apt-key add -
(NB: Modified for Debian systems- the version in links below uses Sudo.)

Ubuntu Forums, Reddit,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Free backup in the cloud

I was looking for a backup solution for my documents and came across the excellent Déjà Dup.

Now backup in the cloud would obviously be a good idea because things that could cause me to lose my computer (fire or burglary, for example) could also cause me to lose my external HD.

There are many cloud storage provides, but some are intended for users with  huge amounts of data and are paid, and some don't allow direct backup and restore to the cloud.

I came across an article at maketecheasier which describes how to use with Déjà Dup, but try as I might, I couldn't get it to work.

Debian User Forums and bester69 to the rescue!

The setup details in the 2012 article seem to be out of date.

These are the settings that worked for me: provides 10GB of storage for free: enough for my 1GB of backup, but more storage is available for a fee.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gnome introduces offline updates

I'm running Debian Testing (Stretch) on my old laptop and I noticed that updates are now done offline. The reasoning, according to the Gnome Blog,is that it's safer and updates are applied immediately, rather than waiting till the next reboot.

Here are some screenshots to illustrate the process:

In distros which use a boot splash, like Fedora, users will see a message like this:
Just as long as offline updates doesn't resemble Microsoft updates...
Just talking care of a few more things
Almost ready
Won't be long now
Have you read War and Peace? Now might be a good opportunity

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Iceweasel now Firefox in Debian Jessie Backports

If you have the release version of Iceweasel installed from Debian Backports, you will notice an error message when updating:

Failed to fetch Unable to find expected entry 'iceweasel-release...

This is because Iceweasel is no more and Firefox has taken its place, as I described in my previous post.

Changing the sources.list file to the entry given by the Debian Mozilla team now installs Firefox, as the above screenshot shows.

Now I just have to try to uninstall Iceweasel without uninstalling the whole of Gnome...

Update: "Debian stable will receive Firefox ESR after Iceweasel/Firefox ESR38 is end-of-lifed, in about 3 months." Glandium.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Son of Firefox returns to Debian

Over five years ago I wrote that Iceweasel was going to be renamed Firefox in Debian.

Well, now it finally seems to be happening, according to

Scanning the bug report, the change might happen in June in Debian Jessie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Things that are fixed in Debian Stretch - File transfer from mobile phone

I wrote a while ago (checks... over a year ago) about some things that were (and still are) broken in Debian Jessie. Like the ability to transfer files via Bluetooth from a mobile phone.

I am happy to report that file transfer from a mobile phone is fixed in Debian Stretch- from which I am now posting.

What? No proof without pictures? Go on then:
Debian Stable users will be able to access this basic functionality (again- it worked in Wheezy) about a year later when Stretch becomes stable.

Not sure why Bluez5 not accepting file transfers from a mobile phone wasn't a blocker bug, but hey ho.

Update Notifications are also fixed in Stretch: I will blog about this when I grab a screenshot.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Video thumbnails in BunsenLabs

I'm trying out BunsenLabs Linux on my old laptop. I came across the same problem I encountered in its predecessor CrunchBang Linux, namely I didn't get a thumbnail preview of video files in Thunar.

The solution I found at the time (see my review of CrunchBang), which was to install ffmpegthumbnailer, didn't work.

The solution this time was to install tumbler-plugins-extra.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

How to transfer files from Android phone to Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3 via Bluetooth

I'm trying out Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3 on my old laptop. One thing I noticed is that Mint uses Bluz4 rather than Bluez5 in Debian Squeeze (I suppose because Mint is based on a LTS vesion of Ubuntu and is therefore fairly conservative in packages like this providing basic functionality).

As a result, file transfer from an Android phone works in Mint whereas it doesn't in Debian Jessie with Gnome. At least, it doesn't on my newer laptop. It did on my old laptop when I had Jessie installed, but not consistently.

However, I couldn't enable Mint to receive files until I installed


I'd been searching for quite a while before I found this information. Maybe there's a guide I missed, but if you're searching for how to receive files in Mint via Bluetooth, that's what you need.

VPN in Gnome on Debian

I was wondering recently if the IP locations given for posters on some internet forums could be faked: could somebody appear to be in one place and actually be in another?

I'd read something about VPN and looked into using it in Debian.It seems the required packages aren't installed by default. (They are in Linux Mint, which I'm trying out on my old laptop.)

Google suggested that PPTP was a good option for getting a free IP address in the US, and these are the packages required in Debian Gnome:


You can then go to network settings and create a new VPN connection (I've already created one here).
Click on the plus sign and choose VPN.
I didn't install Open VPN so the only option is PPTP.
Fill in the details from a VPN provider. Gateway is the provider's server name and NT Domain can be left blank. (This is not something I knew- it took me a while to find the information via a web search. I can't remember where I found it exactly, but no credit to me and thanks to whoever it was that put the information up somewhere.)
Hit "Advanced" and untick everything except MSCHAPv2, and enable Point-to-Point encryption MPPE. At least, this worked for me, again based on skimming through various pages of setup advice.
Now test your connection.

The settings given by the first provider I tried didn't work. I tried another provider's details and got a connection straight away. A search for "free American IP address VPN" brings up many providers.

The answer to my question is don't trust an IP location: with VPN a forum poster can appear to be somewhere they are not.