Sunday, 5 November 2017

Downloading from MEGA can't find files

MEGA (http://mega.nz) is a cloud storage like DropBox but it gives users a huge 50 Gigglebites of storage with a FREE account.  Of course, the free account comes with a few limits on usage, and additional storage and relief of limits on bandwidth can be purchased at a reasonable cost.

However.  One big problem is that the desktop interface of MEGA does not allow users to set a download path.  Googling on this problem shows that a lot of people complain about this.  Apparently it is something to do with the encryption of data in transit.  Whatever the reason it is irritating to see the download happening, then not be able to find what could be several Gigs of files you have just downloaded.

Having just gone through this again I thought I might write a reminder for when I forget how to do it again next time.

1 - find the Parent folder you want to download in the Left hand pane of the 'CLOUD' section of MEGA.
2 - Either right click on That folder, or right click on one the child folders in the Right Pane

3 - Choose 'Get Link' and click the COPY button.
4 - Open a New Tab in your web browser and paste the link into the Address Bar (You can usually right click the Address Bar and choose 'Paste and Go'.
5 - Once your computer decrypts the files you should end up with your screen looking like this (obviously you will have different files)
6 - Click Download as zip at the top right, the progress bar will show on the left while MEGA zips your file.
7 - When prompted, choose your Download destination Folder.

This seems like a complicated way to do what should be a simple right click operation, and if you can simply right click what you want to download, and find it after the download completes - Then you really don't need to be here.

BUT !!!  If you are sick of wondering where your supposed downloads got to, the little bit of time spent doing it this way can save you from hours of fruitless searching of your drive and Googling for answers.  At today (5th Nov 2017) I have not seen ANYONE else with an answer that works.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Linux Lagging Keyboard when typing.

Recently a friend mentioned a problem when typing into his web browser, which was at that time, Firefox.  I suggested that I had come across the problem, but since using Flashpeak Slimjet for my browsing it was not happening.  That seemed to be right, but recently the problem returned, so I did some investigating.  I'm writing about it here, because the problem WILL come back, and I WILL forget about the solution.

I went through various fault finding routines, and thought I had found the answer when I replaced the cordless mouse and keyboard batteries with fresh ones.  So I checked with my mate and he confirmed that he uses wired mouse and keyboard.  So obviously that wasn't the problem.

What was happening varied, but as an example, sometimes if I typed womething like 'www.news.com.au' into a browser address bar, I might only get 'www.ne      ', then nothing else for ages and if I waited I might get 'ws.com.au' all in one go.  Other times I might get 'www.neeeews.coooom'  then nothing for a while.

And it wasn't just in browsers.  Trying to type in Blogger or in my word processor could also result in something similar.

Eventually I started looking at things that might be slowing the system, and realised I had a 500MB Internal hard drive spinning, but I also had FOUR 1TB USB external drives running.  Then I remembered that some years ago file indexing was causing performance problems on my computers.  Sometimes Linux just decided to index part of the file system because it thinks there is nothing exciting happening for a while.

So I unplugged all the external USB drives and for the last few hours the computer has been running like a brand new one.  At some point I will start plugging in all the 1TB drives again and see if that causes the problem again.  If it does, I will try removing one drive at a time to see if the problem is dependent on how hard the system is loaded up, whether the problem is a large quantity of files being indexed, or simply a hardware problem with too many drives or with one particular drive.

Anyway, it might not be the same cause as my mate's computer problem, but thus far it seems to be the cause of the same problem occurring on my system.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

August 2017 Living with PLASMA 5

I'm sorry it has been so long since I updated this blog.  At Easter I was rushed by air to a hospital a bit over 300 kilometres away, suffering from bleeding into my brain.  Previously I had anscesses in the brain, this time it was just blood.  However the blood was once again infected with Golden Staph, and once again it also got into my heart.  In the 2011 incident, my three of my heart valves were infected and my Aortic valve was replaced by a prosthetic tissue valve.  This time there was so much of my heart infected that the surgeons were not sure if they could successfully operate.  However, they eventually got down to replacing the entire Aortic Root, including another valve.

Ok, that's out of the way, and once again I am looking at several years of recovery, along with the possibility of it all happening again.  In the mean time, I am restricted again in things that I can do, so I have the opportunity to mess with Linux.

I tend to run low powered computers and my main computer is still the little Gigabyte BRIX running a Celeron processor at about 1.6GHz.  That is combined with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB internal hard drive.  Externally I have three USB 3.0 hard drives of 1TB, two USB 2.0 drives of 1TB and one USB 2.0 drive of 2TB.  These store stuff going back over many years, with some drives being the masters and some, backups.  The stuff I keep is not really valuable, but a lot is stuff I spent considerable time on, like programs and scripts I wrote for particular jobs.  Because everything has only been running on LINUX since 1998, all my programs and scripts will still operate even on the newest computers.

So Back we come to the topic of this post.  In March I had decided to learn to live with Mint KDE 18, which runs in the PLASMA 5 environment.  I had many of the same problems I had experienced before using PLASMA 5, and quite a few of the little annoyances.

One of the worst is that it is no longer possible to have different wallpapers on each virtual desktop.  Now, I know that having different wallpapers is sort of childish, but there are practical uses for it.  For a start, it gives me a quick visual guide to which desktop I am on before I open a program.

Some time ago the PLASMA 5 team announced that they would not bring back separate wallpapers on virtual desktops, and that we should use 'Activities' instead of virtual desktops anyway.  At the time, switching between Activities was a slow, clumsy process involving several mouse clicks.  This was eventually addressed when someone produced a 'pager' for the panel that works just like the virtual desktop pager.  The only thing that was not working was the ability to change activities by using the mouswheel and scrolling on the desktop itself.

That has been fixed, probably long ago, but it took me a while to find it.  First it is necessary to Right Click the Desktop and open 'Configure Desktop'.
 On the LEFT pane, open Mouse Actions and  where it says 'Vertical Scroll', change from Switch Desktop,

to Switch Activity.

PLASMA 5 is still not perfect.  There are glitches, but finding this setting gets rid of one annoyance.  The switch from one activity to another is not as instantaneous as it was using Virtual Desktops, but the scrolling takes care of the delay using those annoying mouse clicks.

You might notice that I have a panel at the right edge of the screen.  It has the Activity Pager that I was using to switch Activities before I decided to look further into using the mousewheel on the desktop.  I had been simply scrolling on the pager.  Above that pager are folders and a script.  The folders each contain an xwinwrap command and a video , but that will be for another blog post.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Living with Plasma 5 and Linux


The Plasma 5 on Mint 18.1 KDE experience continues.

Now that the major wrinkles, like the unwanted mouse trails, have been ironed out, the overall Plasma 5 experience is bearable.

The lack of separate wallpapers for workspaces, and the loss of a lot of the fun settings in desktop configuration is sad, but overall it is ok.

There is one exception to the 'Only one wallpaper across all workspaces'.  I can run one instance of a video wallpaper, say and mp4, on a single workspace, while the others are running the usual single image.

 The screen capture above and the one below are from a video running as my desktop wallpaper on one workspace in Plasma 5, while the other three workspaces are showing the wallpaper in the top picture.

At present the most annoying daily problem with Plasma 5 is that it takes almost an entire minute to boot.  I am used to KDE4 which is really quick to boot to the desktop, but with Plasma 5 it is just one black screen after another, with the occasional KDE gear logo or once in a while a mouse cursor.  The rest of the time, it is simply wait, wait and wait for the black screen to go away.

A few programs seem to crash regularly.  KODI is probably the worst offender.  I opened Dolphin the other day to find a while collection of KODI crash .log files.

Overall, once it is running, Plasma 5 is ok.  But it remains to be seen if the Plasma team ever bring it back to the nice polished experience of KDE4.  Here's hoping.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

KDE Plasma 5 - Dolphin Right Click Image Resize and other fixes.

One Step at a time, fixing the problems in Plasma 5.

Step 1.

This time it is resizing or rotating images using the right click context menu in Dolphin file manager.  In previous posts I pointed out that this handy function has been left out of KDE completely, but at least in KDE 4 it was possible by using a little tool called KDE Image Menu (KIM).


There is a simple method to install KIM into Plasma 5 here:
http://www.ubuntubuzz.com/2016/05/how-to-install-kim-kde-image-menu-in.html
But it didn't work.

So I unpacked KIM into my software folder, opened that folder in Dolphin, and opened the /src folder.  Then I opened a terminal in that folder and did:
sudo cp kim_*.desktop /usr/share/kservices5/ServiceMenus/

Next I opened the /bin folder and opened a Terminal there and did:
sudo cp kim* /usr/bin/

Now I can select some images and right click to get this..

This makes a lot of my graphic work easy as well as being able to really quickly resize anything from a single file to a whole folder of images.  It will also let me convert from jpg to png and many other formats as well as rotating and other operations.

Step 2

Those pesky mouse trails.  In Plasma 5, I would be working on something and move the mouse from one window to another or just move it while something was loading, and the mouse would leave annoying trails of its cursor all over the place.  It seems to be a well known problem with on-board Intel graphics.
Eventually I found that playing with the display settings fixed it.

System Settings > Display and Monitor
The choose Compositor in the left pane.

I changed the settings to look like this.

KDE has had a wonderful screen shot program for a very long time, called Ksnapshot.  For some reason that was not installed in my Mint 18.1 KDE, and I suspect it is because I had already been playing with XFCE and Cinnamon after I discovered all the things I didn't like about Plasma 5.

So I ended up installing ksnapshot using Synaptic.
Ksnapshot lets you choose a name for your screen shot.  The default Gnome screen capture program uses a default name and date format.  With Ksnapshot, firstly, it remembers whether you chose to capture the entire screen or just a region or a window, and the next time it will have that as the default.  Secondly, it remembers the name you gave the last snapshot, and increments it by a number each time.  If there is already a number in the name it uses that.  But the smart thing to do is simply append a two digit number to the image name.
You can also just change the extension from the default .png, to .jpg or .pdf and so on.

I wrote in a previous post that I found how to turn on desktop scrolling through my work spaces.  I still can't have a separate wallpaper for each desktop, but I can now scroll the mouse wheel on an uncovered part of the desktop, or on the workspace switcher in the panel.  To make this easier I add either a short vertical panel to the right edge of the desktop, or something like Docky.  This reserves a strip of desktop that is not covered by full screen windows, and this can be used to scroll the mouse on.

I generally run three or four 'Activities' as well.  These do give me the option for different wallpaper on each activity, so I can tell at a glance which one I am on.  Once you learn what they are and how to use them, Activities are a powerful tool in KDE/Plasma.

It is possible to set an activity up for a special task with particular windows and programs open on different workspaces.  Do you can have a 'Study' Activity which, when you open it, has all the progams and folders you use for study, open and ready for action.

Everything else so far is still being sorted.  There is a bug in Plasma somewhere that kills KODI for example, so for now if I want to run KODI I can either log out and log back in Cinnamon or XFCE,  or reboot into Mint 17.3 KDE.

Overall though, I dislike the style and themes of Plasma 5, while I like some of the other practical aspects.  I will continue exploring Plasma 5 on Mint 18.1 because once Mint 17.3 reaches its end of life I will not have much option.  Cinnamon and XFCE feel horrible after using KDE for so long, and the Mate desktop is just plain awful from my point of view.

KDE - PLASMA has lost the plot - STILL

I have been using Linux in one form or another for many years and in 1998 I changed all our business computers over to Red Hat Linux, except for a few that were maintained as Windows machines so that we could continue our tech support business.

The bulk of our repeat business has always come from Windows.  Various Unix systems we supported including Xenix and Posix, always just worked, so repeat business there was usually a new installation or upgrade of software, or installing and configuring some new hardware.

As we gradually converted our bigger 'ordinary' customers across to Linux for their server and networking needs, we got less work there as well.  But luckily the desktop was still dominated by Windows, so we still had plenty of software work.

Since Injuries and our rather inept governments forced me out of my businesses, I have had quite a few years now to devote to computing as an interest rather than as a job.  And this has allowed me to try many Linux distributions and desktops.  I was lucky enough to be involved int he early work, mostly testing,  of some of the distributions and my name still pops up all over the place on the net.

Which brings me to today's topic.  I Love KDE.  It had some glitches in its early days and it was slow and klunky for a while, but it has so many neat features that are simply not available in the other distributions, that is leaves everything including Windows and Mac, for dead.

But I do not understand the development team.  For example.  I am still using KDE 4.  I also have the new Plasma 5 desktop running on Linux Mint 18.1, but for my daily work I rely on KDE 4.13.12 running on Mint 17.3 with a Linux 4.8 kernel.

I have written before that Plasma 5 was pretty well useless for my day to day work, and I have now found a solution to most of the problems like the mouse leaving 'trails' all over the screen, something that deserves a short post of its own soon.

But the real problems are still there.  Plasma 5 is simply too primitive.  Let's look at a the most idiotic problems with Plasma 5, which either don't exist in Plasma 4, or can be fixed simply.

First, the lack of personalisation for the work spaces (desktops).
There is a good reason why a lot of us use different wallpaper on each desktop.  Apart form being pretty, we can see at a glance, which desktop we are on.  It is not terribly important in some ways, but from a productivity point of view, it can save tie and stress.

In KDE 4, each workspace can have its own wallpaper, and if you particularly want to, that can be extended further by choosing perhaps a slideshow on one, an image on another, a solid colour on the next.  You get the idea.  And it goes even further.  KDE 4 and Plasma 5 have something called 'Activities'.  These can also be configuired individually and each have separate workspaces that each have different wallpapers (including slideshows etc.)

But in Plasma 5, only the Activities can have their individual desktop wallpaper configured differently.  Once a wallpaper (or slideshow etc.) is applied to an Activity, it is locked across all work spaces (Desktops) linked to that particular Activity.
It is annoying and even frustrating.  And the Plasma team has decided it will never be fixed, because it is not a bug, it is a design feature.

And on to the next great failure.  This applies to KDE4 as well as Plasma 5, but in KDE 4, it can be remedied.

In Nautilus file manager in GNOME, there is a function that allows us to right click on an image, or images, and convert them in various ways, or resize them.  But it is not possible in Dolphin file manager!

Now, some bright spark many years ago wrote a little program called 'K Image Manager' that integrates a set of similar functions into the Dolphin context menu.  I saved a copy of it and have installed it ever since.

But, and this amazes me - It was NEVER built into Dolphin.  And even in this latest version of Dolphin that is in Plasma 5, there is no image handling built into the context menu.  Crazy, people.  Or just lazy.  It is almost as if the KDE project was handed to a group of kindergarten kids, along with some big crayons, hammers and scissors.

They have taken KDE 4, which is a perfectly good desktop, and screwed it so badly it might never work properly again.  And the worst thing is that KDE 4 is no longer being maintained.  In about two years time it will probably be dropped from all Linux distributions, and there is NOTHING to take its place..




Sunday, 5 March 2017

Atomic Coffee Maker Adventures Part 2

I mentioned that I considered Andrew and I were lucky to acquire our Atomic coffee makers for $250 plus postage and $178 plus post.  In both cases the postage from Interstate came to $30.  Here is what they are selling for on ebay.



By the time the postage is added even the cheap one is over $400 and the others are just under and just over $600.




Following my initial cleaning of the old Atomic coffee maker, I managed to get some pretty nice looking coffee out of it.  But even after a number of shots it still tasted a bit off.

As a matter of interest, when my son Andrew got his at Christmas, I designed a water level gauge that allows us to consistently fill the Atomic with the right amount of water, so that the stream stops and sputters just as the level reaches an ounce.

We also solved the problem of Atomic coffee tasting burnt by simply placing a glass in the aluminium bowl.  The glass is marked so we can always be sure if we get one or two actual shots.  We can of course vary the amount to taste.

In the last post I wrote about freeing up the filler knob without damaging it, but I still could not get the 'shower screen' loose to clean behind it, so I back flushed.  I was pretty sure there would be a little residual gunk up behind it, because there had been in Andrew's Atomic.  Today I finally managed to get the aluminium screen free, although one of the screws broke in the process.  It isn't a big problem, as the screen is held in place in the head by a silicone gasket.


Above is what it looked like up in the head, behind the screen.  You can just see the broken screw at the top, and the hole at the bottom where one came out ok.  You can also see where I scraped some of the scale and dead coffee grounds off the water pipe.
I spent ages scraping with a screwdriver and then using various Dremel tools in there cleaning it up, but it ended up pretty clean.


And this is what was behind the screen.  No wonder the coffee had a hard time getting through and only came out in drips.  And also probably the reason it tasted really bad.

The filler knob is also the safety pressure valve.  It had been venting too easily, so while I was messing with things I took that apart and cleaned the seat where it seals, cleaned the rust off the shaft of the screw with a Dremel wire wheel, and cleaned the actual hard rubber seal material.  I also gave the spring a clean and cleaned the threads, then put the whole thing back together.  I'm almost sorry I ordered a new one, because it now works perfectly despite the main filler neck seal being hard as a rock.

So where are we now?
For a start, I have it on good authority that the Atomic coffee maker does not produce proper espresso because it operates at too low a pressure.  That's ok.  It makes a delicious short black that tastes very, very close to the real espresso I get if I order one from The Coffee Club or Gloria Jeans.  So I am happy enough with that.  
And that makes a rather nice Atomic Cappuccino!

I also have it on good authority that the Atomic coffee maker cannot make a shot of whatever we call it (if we are not going to call it 'Espresso') with crema.  Now, it is true, you don't get the foamy crema mixed through the shot and settling to the top after the shot is put aside.  But you do get a layer of fine gold a few millimetres thick across the top. 

As for foaming milk.  I like fine microfoam and the Atomic has two holes in the nozzle that point downwards and outwards at an angle.  That makes it almost impossible to get a swirl going in the jug.  It is designed to make froth rather than fine foam and it is excellent at that - if you like a 'meringue peak' on your coffee.
But it isn't all bad and I'm slowly discovering some tricks that make a fairly fine foam.

It will take a while to get a brew that is close to the Krups 871 sweet syrupy and really strong coffee from the same amount of ground beans, and I'll be working on adapting to the milk technique for a while.  But for now, it is working nicely and the coffee is pretty close to what I get in a cafe.  Except I do NOT do Latte Art.

As a matter of interest, here's the bowl with one of the water gauges in place.  We fill the bowl until the water just reaches the flat turned in piece on the aluminium strip  That way we get the same amount of water every time.  
As mentioned earlier, by using a glass in the bowl, the coffee doesn't get burnt.  If I am making a 'long black' style using more water, so I can just have an ordinary black coffee or a coffee with milk, I can skip using the gauge and just have the coffee flow into the bowl. To do that, I just pour a full bowl of water into the Atomic.

Above is the cappuccino from the coffee in the previous photo.  The foam is not perfect, but it is about as fine as I can get out of the Atomic so far, and getting close to the texture I get from the Krups 871, finer than I get out of the Breville pump machines.

The coffee tastes better than either of the Brevilles, but still not as perfect as the Krups, either as an espresso style or as a cappuccino, but that's probably because I mastered the Krups over many years.  

Something else that is handy to know.  Because of the bulk of the Atomic's aluminium body it takes forever to heat that, then heat the water in it.  
Water will boil much more quickly in an ordinary kettle or pot, so to save gas, we usually boil a small amount of water and pour that into the Atomic.  That pre-heats the Atomic and once it is on the stove it takes a fraction of the time it normally would to make a coffee.

Conversely, once the Atomic is hot, pouring in sufficient water for a second coffee takes little time because the Atomic is already hot.

There's a trick to this too.  If you empty residual water in the Atomic into the bowl, you only need to top it up to the level you want in the bowl and pour it back in.  That way you get the exact amount you are after.

BUT !!!!!   

NEVER touch the Atomic body, steam wand or any other parts with your bare hands until it is cold or cool.

If you need to empty it to refill it, use a wet towel to hold it.

You will probably only grab a hot part of an Atomic once.  The lesson is very sudden and very painful...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Coffee O'clock? Atomic Coffee Maker Adventures

I've been posting about Linux stuff for so long that I sometimes forget this blog is also about The Whitsundays and Me!

So here's my first coffee post in probably 2 or 3 years.  :-)

A friend introduced me to the Atomic coffee maker many years ago, and before that I rarely drank coffee because I hate instant coffee.  He and his wife gave me the first coffee maker I ever owned, an electric model that works on the same principle as the Atomic.


You put water in the coffee maker, put ground coffee in a filter basket, put the basket in the holder and put the holder in the top part of the coffee maker.

The water boils, the steam pressure forces some of the water up to the top of the machine where it is forced through the ground coffee under pressure.  Then the residual steam is used to foam milk if you want a cappuccino or latte.

I have had several of these electric boiler/steam machines since then, but never had the urge to spend an exorbitant amount of money for an Atomic.  Second hand 40 to 50 year old ones are going for over $500 and even crappy looking ones with some broken bits are going for $300 plus.

But when my son wanted one to use in Japan, because the electric appliances there are a pain in the neck, we began looking around.  We got what we thought was the buy of the year.  An Atomic in pretty good condition and nice looking for $250.  With delivery it was $280.  A nice deal.  And he has been learning how to drive it since.

But I was interested in a cheap one if it ever came up to take to Isla Verde, where we don't have a reliable source of power for electric appliances.  the resort runs on a couple of small solar panels, some batteries runing a small inverter, and a generator for more or less emergency use.  So when one of us saw one that had been advertised on ebay for some time and had only a few bids, we got interested.  It looked horrible.  There were a few made with an enamel paint over them.  Orange, red and brown seem to be the colours and not all that many were made.

This one had obviously been used in camp fires and was horribly burnt.  Also, the steam wand looked all corroded and so did the screen and screws up inside the top.  The advert said the filler knob was seized too.  So I placed a low bid, knowing they always go crazy in the last half hour.

This one did, and I won it by about a dollar!  And when it arrived it looked just as bad as it had in the description.  But it was ridiculously cheap even if I had to spend the planned $100 or so for a new knob and some seals.  When the filler knob becomes seized in the neck, it is almost always broken by the person trying to free it.  All the advice I found on Google and videos on Youtube had people using various kinds of multi grip pliers on their knob or putting their knob in a vise.

I thought abo tit for a while.  The knob gets seized in the hole because people leave it in the hole after they finish.  The aluminium body of the Atomic gets really, really hot, but the bakelite knob stays cool.  So when the aluminium cools down, the hole is dry and your knob can get stuck in the hole.

I wondered whether anybody had ever tried reversing the process.  So I heated the Atomic in boiling water.  Then I was about to look for some decent multi-grips when I had one of those sideways thoughts I am infamous for.  I wanted to put steady, gentle pressure and grip on a round fragile surface.

So instead fo pliers I grabbed a webbing oil filter wrench and a socket ratchet handle.  And nothing happened.  So I got a half inch breaker bar instead.  And my knob moved.  A little bit more pressure and my knob was free of the evil hole.


The threads were in good condition and the knob was undamaged.  But when I turned the Atomic over some grains of sand textured whitish powder fell out.  I hit it with the palm of my hand and got more, so I went around it with a hammer.  This is part of the result!

There was more, but I had washed it away before I realised I should be documenting the experience.  Once I had loosened and emptied as much as I could I washed the inside out with vinegar over and over, then with soap and boiling water to try to wash out any residual acid (vinegar) because I have no idea what leaving that stuff in there would do to the aluminium.

The screws in the top still can;t be removed, so I reverse flushed that part and got lots more horrible gunk out.


 Then I stuck it on the gas stove with enough water to make a single shot of coffee.


It tasted horrible with the residual taste of WD40 (I forgot to mention trying to loosed those screws) and vinegar and soap, but it was definitely coffee and about the right strength.

So on my $178 Atomic, everything works like new.  Next post I will have put a few lots of coffee and water through the thing so after I get one really good tasting coffee, I'll post the steps for my next brew.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Gigabyte BRiX BACE-3150 OS Choice PLUS Micro SD is working in Mint 17.3 and 18.1

Wow!  it has been an interesting week with the BRiX BACE-3150.

I changed operating systems several times and came to the conclusion that in Mint 18.1,  Plasma 5.x is useless on the BRiX, XFCE is not much better and Cinnamon works well, but without my 'different wallpapers on each workspace'.



The best performer in Mint 18.1 was defintely Cinnamon although once I found and enabled an extension to allow me to change workspaces by scrolling the mousewheel on the desktop, I started to get the off mouse cursor artefact left on the screen for a few bried moments.

Because I always have two root partitions on my drive, I am able to install a new Linux distribution without using VirtualBox and without messing up my original distro.

(Mint 17.3 KDE with kernel 4.8)

That meant it was easy to drop back into Mint 17.3 and look seriously at any advantages I saw in Mint 18.1, and honestly, there was only one.

The BRiX has a built in Micro SD card reader that didn;t work in Mint 17.1 or 17.3, but it was working in Mint 18.1.  So I checked the Kernel.


So just out of curiosity I installed a later kernel in Mint 17.3 using the following commands in Terminal.


cd /tmp; wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.8/linux-headers-4.8.0-040800_4.8.0-040800.201610022031_all.deb http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.8/linux-headers-4.8.0-040800-generic_4.8.0-040800.201610022031_amd64.deb http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.8/linux-image-4.8.0-040800-generic_4.8.0-040800.201610022031_amd64.deb; sudo dpkg -i *.deb
sudo update-grub
After a reboot, this is the kernel I now have in Mint 17.3 KDE.
And a quick check of Dolphin shows the Micro SD card mounting, opening and unmounting perfectly
The next task, once it was tested was to use Grub Customizer to rearrange the menu entries.
The last to steps are to Save, and then Write the image to
the Master Boot Record, in my case on /dev/sda
So these few days have achieved something. I know not to waste my time
on Mint 18.1 KDE or indeed any KDE with the New Plasma 5.x.
I found that XFCE has serious screen tearing issues, but only with text.
I found a workable alternative in Mint 18.1 Cinnamon although it still leaves
a lot to be desired.
My overall decision is that the best Linux to run on a Gigabyte BRiX BACE-3150
is Mint 17.3 KDE with the 4.8 kernel, which works great (so far) with the BRiX built in hardware.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

BRiX BACE-3150, Mint 18.1 XFCE and Screen Tearing




I have written about this problem of horizontal tearing in text in several of the last few posts and it deserves a section on its own where I can mess with ideas.  This is the problem I am talking about.


At Feb 28 2017 this is where I am,

While trying various settings I found 'Synchronise drawing to the vertical blank'.  Now I'm not sure what this means and I will need to do some searching, but there seems to be some improvement.  Below is a screen shot.  It is in Settings, Window Manager Tweaks, and is the third item in the dialog below.


There is still some tearing in text initially, but seems to be disappearing on its own after half a second without my having to move the mouse.

One more setting to play with is under System Settings > Appearance.

There are a few things here like Subpixel Rendering that can improve the display of fonts on LCD displays.



UDDATE a couple of days later.  My Mint 18.1 XFCE is now Mint 18.1 Cinnamon for the moment.

Installing Cinnamon into XFCE and logging into Cinnamon, there is so far none of the text tearing that was plaguing XFCE, so it might just be a window manger problem or something to do with compositing, since as far as I know Cinnamon won;t work with Compiz or Compton.

I'm adding this update logged into Cinnamon and the text is still fine.  However, that doesn't solve all my problems.  I'm back to:

*     No mouswheel scrolling to change workspaces
*     No separate wallpaper for each desktop

So a little hunting around for something else and I found a setting that adds a desktop scroll area to the left and right edges of the screen.  I had just installed Docky so I could use its workspace swithcer applet, but now I can use the green area on the left and right.

That green shaded marker area can be adjusted for width or hidden.  It also works even if a window is under it, which means Docky will be staying in place to reserve space.  That way the scroll bar will still be accessible in a full screen window.


It lives in   System Settings > Extensions



And here's where you set it up.  There will be a warning about it not being compatible with Cinnamon.  I suppose now I will have to copy this into a new post about the Gigabyte BRiX and Mint 18.1 Cinnamon.








Mint 18.1 XFCE Single Click to open desktop icons

One of my last little annoyances about Mint with XFCE has been solved.

I like to use a single click to open files or activate icons.  In most Linux distributions this function is enabled and disabled in the file manager, and because the primary file manager also controls the desktop, changing to single click to open files in the file manager, makes that available on the desktop.

But not in XFCE.  So I was messing around planning to change the default icons that are displayed on the desktop.

I right clicked the desktop, chose the Desktop Settings Option, then Icons -  and there it was staring at me.

[]   Single click to activate items.

So now I have one more little thing sorted out.  Searching the net suggested that double clicking to open a folder or file on the desktop is just something we just have to learn to live with.  but it is not - now I know where to find it.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Gigabyte BRiX BACE-3150 Revisited Micro SD now works



NOTE !!  UPDATED  2017 March 2nd
Micro SD is now also working in Mint 17.3  See special post.

In July 2016 I wrote about the little Gigabyte BRiX  BACE-3150.  At the time it was brand new to me and I was running Linux Mint 17.3 KDE.  Yesterday I wrote about changing the operating system to Mint 18.1 and how I had to give up KDE because the latest version of KDE is loaded with flaws.


Today I would like to go over a few of my likes and dislikes about living with the BRiX because several people have asked me whether such a low powered computer is able to do any 'real' work.

So, first things first.  The BRiX BACE-3150 is really only a higher end intel Atom processor.  A Celeron.  But it happens to have a quad core and 64 bit architecture.  Considering that my 'desktop' computer experience goes back to Z80 processors running cp/m, and I remember just how much work we could do with those, I'm pretty impressed with the BRiX for general purpose computing.

What I am not impressed with is the lack of graphics support in Linux.  But the CPU?  With Mint 18.1 offering an intel microcode driver, the BRiX does most work really well.  I do a lot of work with graphics and a fair bit of video work.  It handles video editing nicely, although it could be faster.  But of course, if you want more power in a small package, there are other BRiX models with full blown i7 or AMD processors.

The graphics problem is rather petty.  It has to do with screen redraw when scrolling a page.  And it did not happen in Mint 17.3.  I first noticed it when I tested Mint 18.1 KDE and now it is in Mint 18.1 XFCE.



For example in Blogger as I type this, every now and then a line of text has little horizontal lines through it.  But the moment I scroll at all, it is crystal clear again.  I couldn't even take a screen shot of the problem because that also clears it,so here's a photo from my phone.   You can see on the line where it says BRiX.  As soon as the mouse takes focus or if I do anything that involves the screen - it goes away.  Again, this is only in Mint 18.1, it doesn't happen in 17.3.

UPDATE:
I'm not sure if this fixes the problem above, but so far it seems to reduce it.

While trying various settings I found 'Synchronise drawing to the vertical blank'.  Now I'm not sure what this means and I will need to do some searching, but there seems to be some improvement.  Below is a screen shot.  It is in Settings, Window Manager Tweaks, and is the third item in the dialog below.



As far as playing video goes, there's no problem.  No tearing, nothing.  It is just screen redraws and it doesn't matter if compositing is on or off, or if it is using Compiz or Compton, it works fine except for the little horizontal lines in the page.  It appears it could also be something to do with rendering for mouse focus and I'm still playing with settings.

Booting back into the Mint 17.3 partition, and that problem is gone.  But there are other reasons to put up with the graphics glitch that outweigh the small annoyance.

I am beginning to wonder if it is related to my use of HDMI output.  This model BRiX has only HDMI and VGA, where later models seem to have HDMI and Mini DP.

So, back in Mint 18.1 XFCE and the biggest change is that the BRiX Micro SD reader which had not worked before now works great.  That, along with the 4 USB 3.0 ports gave the BRiX the lead over every other PC I looked at when I needed a replacement work horse.  A trip to Harvey Norman and JB HiFi recently showed almost every computer and notebook still only had one USB 3.0 and the rest USB 2.0.

With cheap Micro SD cards up to 128GB and also 2TB USB hard drives under $100, the Brix is open to lots of storage and fast file transfers.  So the huge number of USB 3.0 ports and the fast Micro Sd are handy, but what is WRONG with the BRiX?

The fan is noisy.  I have heard that and it is partly true if you live in a hot climate as I do.  I set the fan to its high setting because the temperature in the room where the BRiX operates is over 30 degrees Celsius and I work it hard.  But it is far less intrusive than the other computers I use.

It sometimes goes to a weird greenish yellow screen for no apparent reason when running the HDMI output and refuses to come back to the desktop.

I found that plugging in the VGA cable (connected to the same monitor or TV) then switching to that display would let me log out.  And sometimes it wouldn't.  It was more noticeable when coming back to HDMI after using the TV/Monitor as a TV for a while.  Often the only way to get it working again was to kill the power and boot from scratch.

Since moving to Mint 18.1 I find a CTRL ALT DEL will bring up the log in screen and I can simply log in again.  I just realised that at present I have the VGA and HDMI cables both plugged into the BRiX, so I have to test the idea without the VGA plugged in tomorrow.

There's really not much else to complain about.  Just that funny lines thing on some screens / pages and the losing output on HDMI.

I get more work done in the BRiX than on any of my other devices and I am probably happier with it than with any single computer I remember buying, bearing in mind that I always buy simple low end computers with a view to working them hard then replacing them after three years.

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 change 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.

UDDATE:
I have discovered that I can in fact double click on the title bar to shade a window.  So while I can't change opacity of the window with the mousewheel, I have two methods to shade/roll up a window to see or access what is behind it.