Monday, 25 January 2016

Elementary OS Freya, Resizing Windows, keyboard shortcuts and other annoying stuff

One of the most frustrating things about Elementary OS Freya is that it 'native' application windows cannot be easily resized by dragging on a side or corner. With most Linux distributions you can simply hover the mouse over an edge or a corner, click and drag to resize.  With Elementary OS there is just nothing there to grab.

Most windows have the traditional window border and the usual method works, but not the native Elementary programs.  And in certain other programs, like the GUI designer 'glade' shown below.  As it opens I cannot use the interface to add widgets etc to a GUI design.

It can be done however!   By holding down the 'Windows key' (the one between the left side CTRL and ALT keys) and holding down the right mouse button on the edge or corner of the window.

Freya has a lot of annoying little quirks.  But so far it has been the most stable, forgiving and almost crash proof 'modern' Linux distribution I have ever used.  But many of the functions we have come to expect to be easily available are hidden away and some only seem to be accessible as keyboard shortcuts.

Here is a list of common keyboard shortcuts in Elementary OS Freya.

⌘+Space  App Launcher
Alt+Tab  Window Switcher
⇧+Alt+Tab  Switch Windows Backwards
⌘+W  Window Overview
⌘+A  Window Overview (Across All Workspaces)
⌘+Left/Right  Switch Workspace
⌘+S  Workspace Overview
⌘+0  New Workspace
⇧+⌘+Left/Right  Move Window with Workspace
Ctrl+⌘+Left/Right  Snap Window to Half of Workspace
Ctrl+⌘+Up/Down  Maximize/Unmaximize Window
⌘+L  Lock Screen
⌘+Click+Drag    Move Window
⌘+Secondary (Right mouse button) click+Drag  Resize Window

 = Super (Windows or Command key),
 = Shift

Friday, 22 January 2016

Raspberry Humble Pi

In my previous post I wrote about my experience with the raspberry Pi 2B not playing the same HD and UHD videos as the old Pi model B.

A little experimenting with USB chargers (power supplies), three of them 2 Amp brand name (Samsung) and two generic 2 Amp, confirmed that the problem was definitely not in the power supply.  And the Pi was playing up with all of them.

On an impulse I acquired a Laser brand  USB charger/power supply with twin 2.4 Volt outputs.  The Pi 2B is at last playing most - but still not all of my very large file size, very high resolution videos.

My conclusion has to be that I received a slightly faulty raspberry Pi 2B.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Media Centre Raspberry Pi B - PcDuino 3B - Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3B - My experience.

Since the Christmas Season and the receiving of gifts, I've had the chance to compare the PCDuino v3b with the old Raspberry Pi B (the one with only 2 USB ports - not the B+) and also with the Raspberry Pi 2 B.  The results were interesting.

The PC Duino 3B played all HD mp4 Video, even 4k files of 3GB in size perferctly with the exception that the audio was almost always out of sync.  Which is not ideal in a multimedia centre for example.

When I was given the Raspberry Pi, the model B I had no intention of using it as a computer, so I installed OpenElec and checked it as a Multimedia Centre.  It worked perfectly!  Did everything I could want in multimedia without a glitch,

The Raspberry Pi 2B on the other hand was completely incapable of playing the same 3GB file in KODI,  So I tried installing SMplayer and VLC, which also failed.  Not only that, but they failed to allow Analogue Audio,  I installed OpenElec (the special Pi 2 version) and had similar problems.  The file would play for a while, then stop and start, then play a while and so on until after a while it simply locked solid. I was beginning to think the mp4 file might be corrupt, but I checked it on a couple of other devices and it was fine.

Back to the old model Raspberry Pi with the same video, and again it played perfectly.

So as a Media Centre, both the PCDuino 3B and the Raspberry Pi 2B have serious limits.
And as a Media Centre, the old Raspberry Pi B works beautifully.

I through the extra CPU power and memory of the PCDuino would make it great for the job, but it appears the lack of suitable media CODECS is its downfall.

And the QUAD core processor of the Raspberry Pi with double the RAM of the older Pi B should have put it head and shoulders above the rest - but it failed miserably.

So the Old Pi model B, which seems to be no longer available is back to performing my Media tasks.  There is however a Pi model B+ available that seems to have the same specs, but with the addition of an extra two USB ports.  With any luck the 4 port model should perform just as smoothly as the 2 port model.

Somebody emailed a question about whether the SD cards were different and could be affecting the playback performance.
ALL the SD cards were Sandisk ULTRA microSD 16GB.  On the Pi B  the card was in the supplied standard size adapter.

All systems were initially tested with the OS and the players, including KODI or XBMC (on the PCDuino) at their standard settings with the exception that Audio was swapped to Analogue output.

Only the Pi B played the 3GB HD mp4 at standard settings.
Even tweaking settings including scripts for Mplayer failed to fix the other systems.


The Raspberry Pi 3B does everything the Pi 2 did, but a hell of a lot faster.  Benchmarks aside, real world programs are running on the Pi 3B at about the same speeds as my AMD E-350 Dual Core Compaq, and some things are actually happening faster in side by side speed tests.

I even used the Raspberry Pi 3B and OpenShot to add 3 mp3 files and some effects to an AVI video, then convert it to an mp4.  It took 12 minutes to process a 3.5 minute video.  Not much different from the AMD desktop.  However, with only 1GB RAM and no swap file, I can't see myself using the Pi for too many really big video editing jobs.  It was just interesting to time it compare with my 4yo desktop computer that I use for the same work.

We browsing is much faster on the Raspberry Pi 3 than on the Desktop computer, bu that is the result of using kweb as the browser on the Pi.  kweb also streams YouTube video smoothly, where the AMD desktop computer is always stopping and starting the video stream.

On the desktop I have to download a YouTube video and watch it in a media player.  On the Raspberry Pi I simply open YouTube in kweb, and watch it on a 50 inch TV.  The Raspberry Pi 3B has to be the cheapest way ever to get a really smart, smart TV!