Sunday, 26 February 2017

Linux Mint 18.1 XFCE and Gigabyte BRIX BACE-3150

Well, after discovering that Linux running KDE Plasma 5 is definitely and apparently permanently crippled, even on my more powerful systems, I decided that I will have to move the little Celeron powered BRIX away from KDE if I want to begin using mint 18.x.  So here I am back in Linux Mint XFCE after many years.  Because  the BACE-3150 is really not much more than a later version of a notebook Atom, it seemed like a good idea.

XFCE used to be good.  It was fast, clean and although it limited me in some things I wanted to do, it worked.  These days it works even better.  But it still limits some of the little things I like and simply doesn't have some of the polish of KDE.  but it also doesn't have the things I dislike about Gnome, Mate, Cinnamon etc.  And, typical of Clem and his dilligent hard working team - it is very stable.  Which reminds me - it is time for another donation.

Over the years when I have changed my computers to a new operating system, and once I establish that it is working nicely, I donate to support the effort.  It is no different than paying the licence fee for Windows or Mac when you buy a computer with those operating systems on it anyway.  I have also donated to the developers of the software I use most on these computers.

So I spent a few days messing with XFCE and I still can't get past the file manager limitations.  I tweaked Thunar but that was no good, so I installed Nautilus, PCFM, Double commander.  Now as I type this I have Dolphin installing so at least I might get my KIM system back again.  

Ok, Installing Dolphin was a lost cause.  So I am still left without a decent File Manager.  So far there's nothing I can do about that, but there are other things I really do love about XFCE that almost make up for the lousy file managers.  Honestly, Dolphin once it it tweaked with KIM is the main reason I use KDE.

One of my favourite XFCE things is that I can still customise the panel and menus easily.  Another is being able to scroll through my desktops using the mousewheel (mentioned in a previous post), and of course it is easier to see what desktop I am on since I can have a different wallpaper on each desktop.

Now, something I never used for a long time in KDE, and consequently never thought I would miss, is 'Activities.  But it will not be too hard to get used to doing without them again.  My short time trying to use Plasma 5 forced me to use Activities INSTEAD of work spaces, so I suppose I'm not giving up much.

Another interesting thing is that after I loaded the intel CPU driver microcode that showed up as an option in the repositories I suddenly had even better performance.  Unfortunately there's still no onboard graphics driver fix, but the CPU stuff flies.

And I'm not sure if it was just in the Mint 18.1 kernel, or if it was something to do with the microcode also, but the BRIX micro SD card reader now works.  Yet another good reason to upgrade from Mint 17.3 KDE.

I do miss some of the little tweaks I had made to KDE.  I am used to double clicking the tittie bar to roll up or roll down the window, and scrolling the mousewheel on the title bar to change the opacity of a window.

In XFCE, I have the scroll on the title bar rolling the window up or down instead.  And the reality is, while it was 'cute' to be able to chgange the opacity of a window, I rarely used it.  I do however roll windows up and down (sometimes called shade/unshade) frequently if I wad to tidy up a desktop or access an open file manager window.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

LibreOffice suddenly very slow in Linux Mint 17 and 18

I have been having serious problems with LibreOffice taking forever to scroll pages and move or resize graphics recently.  I checked Google and found other people have been having this problem for a long time.

Suggestions to fix it range from making sure Hardware Acceleration is ENABLED or DISABLED, Enabling or Disabling GL, messing with memory and anti-aliasing.

None of that worked for me.  So I wondered if it was something to do with the version.  Had some update messed with things?

I downloaded the last version 4.x.x  but when I checked in Synaptic to remove version 5.3, I saw another version 1:5.1.4-0ubuntu1.  So once I removed version 5.3 I simply installed the other version in the repository.

Problem solved for now.  Everything is running smoothly again.  Now, I'm running what is apparently version 1:5.1.4-0ubuntu1, but help calls it Version:
Build ID: 1:5.1.4-0ubuntu1

Whatever it is, it seems to be working fine.  So there must be some sort of drama with Libre 5.3.

Now I have ot fixed in Mint 18.1 XFCE the next step will be to see if the same thing works in my old faithful Mint 17.3  KDE.

Mint 18 XFCE change desktops with mouse scroll wheel

Recently Mint 18.1 was released, so I decided it might be time to try KDE with Plasma 5 again.

It didn't take long to discover that this latest Plasma workspace is still almost useless on Linux with certain hardware.  It leaves mouse trails all over the screen when certain programs are open, especially the Dolphin file manager, and has a number of other annoyances.  As mentioned in a previous post, I like to use different wallpapers on my workspaces and this is still absent from the latest Plasma.  So while I was being frustrated I decided to visit an old friend.

XFCE has been around for a long time, and I used to use it on things like low powered computer and netbooks.  Since the current multimedia computer is a Gigabyte BRiX BACE3150, I thought I might have a look at Mint 18.1 XFCE edition, just for fun.

Now the BRiX has some shortcomings, and one of them is the Intel HD Graphics on board.  I'm not impressed that in some operations in one of my most frequently used programs, Libreoffice Draw, I cannot work with graphics.  Almost every other program works fine.  GIMP and Darktable, even Openshot for video editing.  But LibreOffice cannot resize a simple 150kb PNG logo.

So now we come to the subject of this post.  With XFCE I can have my different wallpaper on each desktop.  But with that I am so used to simply scrolling my mouse wheel on a blank area of the desktop to switch desktops.

Now installing a pager in the panel allows mousewheel switching, but that doesn;t solve the problem.

Luckily there is something called 'Window Manager Tweaks' built into Mint 18.1 XFCE.

And under the 'Workspaces' tab, right at the top is what we are looking for.

Now something else I discovered years ago is that I hate having to change the size of an open window to give myself a spot to scroll on.  That sort of defeats the purpose.

So I got into the habit of creating a little panel on the right (if you are left handed you'd probably do it on the other side) and when a window is maximized, it leaves a little strip down that side for me to scroll on.

When I am in KDE I have a few odd launchers on that panel, but this install of XFCE only has the bare panel.  Here's how it looks.  The small vertical grey rectangle to the right of 'bookmarks'.

Before I found the 'Tweak' settings I had a Workplace Switcher'  in that little side panel, and had the panel positioned about half way down the right hands side where I could conveniently scroll on it with the mouse.
That would still work for anyone with a desktop that doesn'e allow desktop scrolling to change workspaces.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Fix GTK fonts in KDE - A Better Way

Recently I managed to setup KDE to make fonts in a few of my non-KDE programs at least readable.  But it was a hit and miss approach.  Since then I have found a much cleaner solution that is in the Linux Mint repository and might be in most other repos.  Unlike my previous effort, this method is pretty consistent across my various GTK programs.

If you are running KDE4.x Plasma, either search in Synaptic for kde-gtk-config, and install it, or open a terminal and:

sudo apt-get install kde-gtk-config

System Settings > Application Appearance.

In the left pane choose GTK.

Among other things you can adjust the font.
Mine was some weird Ubutu font with a size of 14.  Changing it to the font and same size I use in my KDE-qt Programs worked perfectly and seems to stick across things like Synaptic, Chrome, GIMP  and Geeqie among others.

If you modified things according to my previous post you might also have to go to Fonts while you are in System Settings and drop Force Fonts DPI back to 96 or turn it off.

If you did sudo systemsettings and made the changes as root you will have to go back there and turn off Force fonts DPI or at least reduce it to the default (96).

Friday, 16 December 2016

no public key available for the following key IDs: 1397BC53640DB551 Mint 17.3 2016 December 16

 I have had a problem trying to refresh Mint Update and finally some searching has shown that apparently it was caused by some stupidity by Google.  Stupidity seems to be a regular feature of both Google and Facebook these days, but luckily people manage to find ways to fix their stuff ups from time to time.

In this case the refresh was throwing up an error message:
no public key available for the following key IDs:

The fix appears to be to open a terminal and run the following command:

wget -qO- | sudo apt-key add -

Then do a refresh.

Friday, 18 November 2016

KDE - Easily FIX tiny fonts in Synaptic Package Manager

NOTE  This post has been updated with a better method on 11th January 2017.  The new method will work with KDE4.x, but requires installing a package that might not be in your repositories.  If it is, it makes life much simpler.

KDE is a lovely desktop to work with.  Correction, KDE 4.x is a lovely desktop to work with.  Plasma 5.x is so screwed up that all we can hope for is that someone decides to fork Plasma 4.x and maintain it.

In the mean time, for users of Mint 17.x KDE, one frustration is that as soon as we go into a non KDE program we end up with tiny little fonts on the screen.  In the image above, Synaptic Package Manager is showing with a Font Size of 9, and no amount of fiddling with font settings in KDE System Settigns, > Application Settings > Appearance > Fonts, will fix it.  Likewise, changing the settings in preferences in Synaptic makes no difference at all.

There are lots of posts from frustrated KDE users wanting a way to get Synaptic to have fonts consistent with the rest of their KDE desktop.  And despite all the weird and wonderful config file suggestions and deleting and reinstalling components, on my system one thing worked perfectly.  changing the fonts as ROOT.

Open a Terminal and use the command:     kdesudo  systemsettings

That will open the settings dialog.  In my case, as ROOT, the fonts were all Size 9.  My normal system fonts are about size 14 or 16 on my large LED monitors.

Find 'Fonts' in the left pane and choose Adjust All Fonts, and select a suitable size.  I chose Size 16 to be compatible with the screen I am using.

Choose Apply, and check the difference in Synaptic.
If Synaptic displays lines overlapping each other vertically, go back and put a tick in 'Force Fonts DPI', then Apply and restart Synaptic.  That should fix it.

Here's the Before and After - Font Size 9 as default, and Font Size 16 after.  Much nicer to work with.

Since posting this I have found a partial solution to some font problems in a few other non-KDE programs.

if you have a hidden file in yoiur home folder called        .gtkrc-2.0      you can edit it.  If it is not there. create it and make sure the settings below are in it.  Adjust the font size from 12 to whatever works for you.  Reboot the system then open some non KDE programs and see if it works.

# Configs for GTK2 programs

include "/usr/share/themes/oxygen-gtk/gtk-2.0/gtkrc"
style "user-font"
        font_name="Ubuntu Regular"
widget_class "*" style "user-font"
gtk-font-name="Ubuntu Regular 12"


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Linux Mint KDE is Dead. Plasma 5 killed it.

One of the things I have enjoyed about Linux since I got my first copy on 3.5 inch Floppy Disk is that it can be configured to suit almost anybody's taste.  And my favourite desktop environment is KDE because it has always allowed me a wonderful flexibility in configuring my desktop to suit my work habits.

One of the greatest features of Linux has been the ability to have multiple work spaces (desktops), something that is beginning to find its way into Windows after about 20 years.  It is like having a collection of monitors on a single computer, so it is easy to have different desktops for separate tasks.   Something the KDE 'Plasma' desktop management has allowed us to do is have a different desktop wallpaper on each work space.  Not only that, but on different work spaces on different monitors.

That might sound a little like overkill, but having different wallpapers means I can tell at a glance which work space I am on by simply looking at the wallpaper.  Or I could until today!

I installed the latest Mint 18 KDE which uses Plasma 5.  And discovered that it is broken.  Not only is Plasma 5 broken, but the development team do not plan to fix the most important problem.  This is not a Mint team problem, it is a KDE Plasma problem.  So many things were wrong with Plasma 5 when I booted after the installation that I was shocked.  For a start, the interface is ugly.  Secondly it didn't work properly on my two monitor system.  And it will not allow me to set a separate work space wallpaper.  The drop down menu would not allow me to resize it, something that is simple to do in KDE 4.x.

A little hunting around on Google shows that people have been pleading with the team developing Plasma 5 to fix this issue and that the team has put it in the too hard basket.  They have simply broken something that worked perfectly and given us junk.  And not only junk.  It is ugly junk!

So if you currently use Mint 17.x KDE and are thinking about the move to Mint 18 KDE, all I can suggest is DON'T.

Download the Mint 18 Sarah KDE ISO, make a bootable USB and run it from there while you check out all the horrible new failures.  Try simple things like making a separate wallpaper on each desktop.  Check the ghastly things it can do to your fonts and menu system.  And look at the ugly window decorations.  If you use Activities, try switching activities on the activity pager and see if your monitors flicker like crazy.

If you are very lucky and the basics work, you'l just be missing the nice useful things like different wallpapers.  Despite the Plasma team saying they will not fix the broken wallpaper problem, there's a possibility they might eventually.  If they don;t - well - it simply means KDE as we know it, it dead...