Friday, 18 November 2016

KDE - Easily FIX tiny fonts in Synaptic Package Manager

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.

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...

Monday, 22 August 2016

ImageMagick collages

One of my pet projects is combining bash scripts with some graphic masks to create these using Imagemagick.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Linux Mint Ubuntu FB Messenger App

Sometimes all I need is an easier way to type in Facebook Messenger than to use my phone.  If I am on the computer I can open my Facebook page, but then I am distracted by all the stuff happening there.  And there doesn;t seem to be a decent Facebook Messenger App for the LINUX desktop that actually works.

The simple way around it is to open in a browser, then tear off the tab and move it to another desktop.  But I found another option that suits me better.

Most of us have a few browsers installed.  And I sometimes have a standalone browser that can be run from a folder.  Something light and quick.  Something like

What I did was downloaded palemoon, opened, logged in and set that to my home page.

Then as I am in Mint KDE, I resized the window and positioned it where I want it, then right clicked the Title Bar and chose  More Actions > Special Application Settings.

In there I checked the boxes for Position and Size and set both to 'Apply Initially'.
A few other tweaks in 'VIEW' got rid of the various tool bars and the status bar, making a nice clean Facebook Messenger App with very little effort.

And I should be able to just copy my PaleMoon folder to another computer and it 'Should' be ready to use there also.

Last, I dragged the    palemoon.bin file from the folder created when I extracted the Palemoon download file to my panel and changed the settings to show the FB Messenger Icon.

Somtething I noticed is that I am getting the message notification sounds even if this is on another work space.  So that's nice.

Now when I click the icon it already has my login details saved and is the size, shape and position I want.   And it does not interfere with my normal browsers!  Obviously I blurred the details.  But this is how it looks.

A little follow up.  The palemoon Messenger thing is working great.   It is the best way I have found to use FaceBook Messenger on a Linux desktop.  All notifications and stickers are working and it is actually better to use than using messenger on my phone or tables and far better than trying to use it inside my FB page.

I think I discovered the reason some of the FB Messenger Apps for Linux Desktop haven't been working.  I followed some basic python instructions to make a very simple App using Python 3 and Qt5.  And there was a package I needed that was not included in PyQt5 by default.

I ended up writing a simple browser to do the same thing as the PaleMoon idea above using PyQt5, and it worked more or less, but without sound notifications and every now and again it simply locked.  I couldn't find the missing libraries for this App either, which on my Mint 17 KDE simply hangs, 

So for now, the solution above is simple, works really well and seems pretty well bulletproof.

I will do a few simple tweaks and update.  I can't see any reason PaleMoon can't be used to provide an up to date Skype interface too.

I found another couple of advantages to using PaleMoon to run as as FaceBook Messenger App.
The most important one is that it is possible to use CTRL + and CTRL -  or CTRL and mousewheel to scroll the size of the messenger.  Not a big deal unless as I am right now, you are using the TV across the room as a computer monitor.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Slimjet Browser and Searching GOOGLE with No Personalized results

One of the problems with designing websites for people has always been getting their pages to rank well on search engines.  After 35 years of creating web sites I've mostly got that figured out.

But it is still necessary to test the pages we design to see how well they are listing.  And the most popular search engine is still Google.  And Google has a design feature which uses your past searches to optimize your current search.

Now, the easiest ways to stop this are probably to log out of Google  each time I want to test and search from there, or to go into Private Mode on my browser.

Another way is to add a new browser in settings and make sure the drop down box for search engines is enabled,  There's a neat little piece of code that can be added to the end of the URL to turn off Personalized Search Results.

Now, I use Flashpeak Slimjet as my default browser, and I make use of Speed Dial a lot in various browsers.
Simply entering the above URL in any Speed Dial in any browser will allow me to immediately open a Google Search page with the Personalized results turned OFF.

That means my results should be based on a 'clean' search with no bias towards my previous search history.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Mint KDE sequential desktop wallpaper

One of the nice things about KDE is that it has some neat functions built in, and one of the best is the ability to set a different image on each desktop and if you want, each activity.

Among the options is a desktop slideshow.  Not that is a nice touch, but the KDE developers hard coded the slideshow to show images form any selected folder only in RANDOM order.  And not all of us want a random slideshow.

Fortunately there is a way to get a sequential slideshow happening and the way to get around this is shown at:

NOTE !!!
This method is ONLY needed if you DO NOT want random images.
KDE Default Desktop Settings and choose 'Slideshow' works perfectly for random images.  No need to do all this stuff.

I take photos and often want to show a sequence of zoom shots, so I use the method below.

So the basics are Install variety:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:peterlevi/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install variety variety-slideshow

Then run variety and set your preferences.  I just added the folders I want to use and turned off a lot of background downloads I don't want.  And I set the timer on the slideshow.

I made sure I have it set to start variety when the computer starts.

Once that is done, open your 'Default Desktop Settings' and choose:
Wallpaper > Image
Then choose Add Folder, and browse to:
Pictures > variety-wallpaper

click on the image in that folder.  It will be called something like:
wallpaper-kde.jpg  but will have a number in it.

Click OPEN, then click OK

It 'should' be working now.

After that, to change the images shown, open variety and change the folder you are using there.

NOTE !!!
You can still use Default Desktop Settings to go back to a normal single image at any time.  To get back to your slideshow just open the wallpaper-kde-xxx.jpg again using the steps above.

Of course, this will leave variety running all the time even when you are not actually 'showing' the slideshow.

I'll have to look at how variety can be switched on and off at will and add that here.

Two things I discovered.
When I restart my computer KDE will default to a generic single image wallpaper.  I must restart variety and go through the image selection steps for each session.

Variety can be started and stopped using terminal commands:


Entered on its own will start it - then I select the image as described above.

killall variety

Will stop it, and should leave the last used image, but might return to a default wallpaper image.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Mouse Right Click context menu delay in browser in Mint 17.3 KDE

Recently I noticed that when I tried to right click on  something and use the pop up  menu some odd things were happening.

1 - The menu would not appear until I moved the mouse cursor into the area where the menu should appear.
2 - Once the menu did appear, some menu items did not show the hover selector as the mouse was moved over them
3 - If I held the Right mouse button and moved the mouse, a coloured line (green) was drawn a couple of inches away from the position of the cursor.

But it did not happen all the time.  There seemed to be a random element to it.

I tried a few Google searches using different combinations of words, but got all sorts of other things that were nothing to do with the problem.  Then I realised it was only happening in my Slimjet and some other Chrome based browsers  but not in Firefox or Cyberfox.

I looked at the settings in my computers and found that on one of them I had a setting configured in two browsers that was not configured in the other computer.

In my Slimjet browser I opened Settings then scrolled almost to the bottom and found System.
There are two 'Checkbox' items there.  The second one is 'Use hardware acceleration when available'.
It was not checked on the computer that was behaving well, but it was checked on the problem computer.
I unchecked it, restarted the browser and everything is now perfect.

I have no idea how or why I had enabled hardware acceleration in a browser - but I am writing it here so when I do something that dumb again I will find it easily using Google  :-)

Chromium was fixed more or less the same way and I suppose this should work for most Chrome based browsers.

It is nice to have a fully working context menu again with no lag.  It is possible turning on Hardware Acceleration on some graphics card setting could cause a similar problem, but this fixed the browser menu problem and the whole browser is responding better.