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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 18 Oct 2016

Back to Xfce after a week in GNOME 3 ... again

My latest GNOME 3 experiment lasted about a week.

And I fully recognize that I pretty much wrote this same post last month.

I'm back again. GNOME wasn't really offering me anything I don't get in Xfce, and when I had to dip into my Citrix apps yesterday, GNOME was giving me trouble.

Between Xfce's Whisker menu, Catfish file finder and the fact that I can run the Nautilus or Dolphin file managers whenever I feel the need (which won't be very often), the comfort, consistency, performance and usability of Xfce drew me back.

Just like the last time.

I didn't feel more productive in GNOME. At times I felt less productive. So why keep going with it?

Wed, 12 Oct 2016

Don't hate me because I'm back in GNOME 3

After saying in a recent post how GNOME 3 wasn't working for me, here I am. Back in GNOME 3.

My use cases are changing, and GNOME 3 has its charms.

Briefly (and not all particularly relevant):

  • I will no longer need Citrix in a few months (or so I'm told)
  • Nautilus is nice
  • I'm considering a "clean" installation of Fedora Workstation (still love Fedora)
  • Shutter has improved my screenshot situation
  • GNOME 3 looks so nice
  • GNOME 3 seems stable
  • I now watch video on my TV with a Roku (though GNOME 3 works fine when I have the laptop plugged in via HDMI), meaning my laptop "experience" is more production and development and less video entertainment

I have way too many desktop environments on this laptop. Recently I tried LXQT, which is a nightmare (on my Fedora 24 machine, anyway), LXDE (meh) and KDE/Plasma 5 (I liked it better than I thought I would, but not enough to move to it).

Might as well try GNOME 3 again.

As I say above, I'm contemplating a fresh Fedora installation, and that would be Fedora Workstation from the get-go. If i did that, maybe GNOME Screenshot would work as advertised ...

Tue, 27 Sep 2016

Back to Xfce after screwing around with KDE/Plasma and GNOME 3

After a couple of weeks trying to make GNOME 3 and then KDE/Plasma 5 work for me, I'm back in Xfce 4.12 full time.

GNOME for sure doesn't work for me, and while I really liked KDE's Plasma desktop, it created more problems than it solved.

So I'm back to Xfce, which works like a champ and doesn't get in the way.

In terms of GNOME apps, I've been using Gedit less and less since Geany is so good and allows me to compile code that needs it and run all code without leaving the editor (and without jumping through any hoops at all to make it happen).

One thing I picked up from KDE was that I can still tap the Dolphin file manager when I need it (which won't be very often, but the split-screen mode is something that every file manager should have).

I also revisited digiKam, the photo organizing/editing software from KDE. It is much better than the last time I used it, and I am thinking about continuing to use the app even though I'm not in KDE.

Otherwise GNOME is still a problem for me. I am required to jump through a lot of configuration hoops just to get the desktop I want.

KDE is better. I like the animations (which are minimal). I like the "KDE menu." But it's just not all that stable. And KDE Wallet was continually screwing with my Google Chrome cookies and saved passwords. I didn't need that headache to continue. I mostly used Firefox just to keep from wrecking my Chrome setup more.

One problem I had with KDE: It wasn't all that stable. I killed it more than a few times. However, I love the attention to detail when it comes to configuration.

I had problems with screen-grabbing in both GNOME and KDE. It was worse in GNOME. I couldn't get the print-screen key to actually do the screen-grab. I had to settle for mapping alt-P. And then I couldn't get the format I wanted (JPG, not PNG) or the proper location. If I called the screen-capture utility from a terminal, it would work like it was supposed to. But with alt-P, it didn't.

In KDE, kscreenshot was pretty good, though it also didn't work with the print-screen. I had to call it from the menu and leave it running.

The fact that the Xfce screen-shot utility just works -- and well -- is huge for me.

And as I say above, Xfce stays out of the way and runs like a champ.

So I'm back.

Thu, 15 Sep 2016

I'm using the KDE Plasma desktop - and liking it

Though I'm a longtime Xfce user on the Linux desktop (and a longtime user of Fedora as my distribution), I'm open to other things.

As I've written many times, I want to like GNOME 3. Fedora Workstation is based on it. But it just doesn't work for me. I don't want to say GNOME 3 is unpolished, but it's just too stripped down until you start shoving GNOME Shell Extensions onto your system.

Plus, GNOME 3 doesn't play well at all with the Citrix applications that I've been using for the past couple of years and will continue using for maybe the next six months.

And GNOME 3 just doesn't "feel right." And "feel" is something I don't want to ignore.

On what I suppose is a bit of a whim (or maybe I did it by accident, I can't remember), I logged in to the Plasma desktop. I don't know if calling their desktop "Plasma" short-changes the KDE brand, or if that matters at all, but I had a poor grasp of what Plasma is in relation to KDE.

It turns out I like Plasma (or KDE, or whatever it's called).

The desktop works well, is faster than you'd think and has quite a bit of polish. There are lots of configuration options, and they are all built in. It's not like the comparative tragedy of the GNOME Tweak Tool and gconf.

And I am growing very dependent on the Dolphin file manager.

Things I like about Dolphin:

  • Split mode. Nautilus used to have it. Thunar never did. It's like having windows in a car that actually open. That's a bad analogy, but the ability to easily transfer files from one directory to another without opening two file manager windows is so fundamental that I wonder why every file manager doesn't have it.

  • Faster transfer to USB flash drives. Is it my imagination, or is Dolphin configured to speed up the copying of files to USB flash drives. Those operations are notoriously slow when done on my Fedora system in other file managers. I know there are ways to speed up those transfers, but I'm too lazy to figure them out. I'm happy to have Dolphin do that for me. I'm pretty sure I got this wrong. The file transfers go at the same speed in pretty much all the file managers.

  • Configuration, configuration, configuration. KDE has always been about configuration of all the things. And GNOME has been not-so-slowly offering a stripped-down, hard-to-configure experience that is low on included tools. Xfce is very configurable, KDE/Plasma even more so. The file manager is such an important part of any system, it's vital that you are able to do what you want with it.

From the "feel" perspective, as I say above, KDE's Plasma desktop is much faster than billed. The animations don't distract. It seems relatively easy on the CPU. I installed the overly complicated digiKam, which I have used in the past because it's one of a very few Linux applications that allows editing of the IPTC metadata in JPG images that the media industry uses pretty much universally. While still complicated as hell, digiKam passes the IPTC test.

I have had problems with the KDE Wallet system "eating" my Google Chrome browser cookies, and that's something I'm not terribly happy with. I lost all of my stored passwords at one point. Firefox definitely "plays" better with KDE/Plasma.

And right now I'm having issues configuring the touchpad with the KDE-supplied utility, though that's today. It worked a few days ago. GNOME is really bad at this -- as is LXDE, one of the many DEs I've sampled in the past couple of weeks.

I can't say that I will move from Xfce to KDE/Plasma because I probably won't. But I can certainly see using the Plasma Desktop as my part-time environment, with Xfce still doing the heavy lifting for my media production and software development needs.

But you never know.

Tue, 24 May 2016

Xfce's Thunar file manager is updated to fix crashes

The lovely people at Xfce and downstream at Fedora moved a new version of the Thunar file manager to fix a bug causing crashes when files are cut from one folder and pasted into another -- something I tend to do quite often.

The crash didn't happen every time but did often enough to be a little annoying.

Thanks to all who were involved, from reporting the bug to making the fix and then pushing new code.

Sat, 23 Jan 2016

I'm enjoying GNOME 3 today. That is all.

Today I'm enjoying GNOME 3 in Fedora 23.

The GNOME desktop, at this stage in the 3.x series, is definitely in the iteration stage after a long time in the "sorry about the lack of functionality but not sorry" stage.

If my Citrix apps didn't suffer a bit more in GNOME than in Xfce (mainly because Citrix doesn't care all that much and my apps' developers don't care at all), I could see myself in this environment more of the time.

The dark theming helps. I do the same in Xfce, and in some ways dark theming (aka Adiwata Dark) is maybe a little bit further along in GNOME because it meets with the project's minimalist goals.

Or that's how I'd like to think about it.

In related dark-theming news, Fedora did fix yumex-dnf to work with dark themes (no more dark blue type on black). Now it has to fix the trouble with kernel updates (in which old kernels are NOT deleted, while they are in regular ol' console dnf).

One unfortunate thing: The Eclipse IDE looks like HELL with dark theming. Eclipse developers, you wound me.

Wed, 05 Aug 2015

Running GNOME 3.16 in Fedora 22

Since my home Internet connection has been so bad, I haven't been using my Fedora 22 laptop as my main production machine for Citrix apps, and that means I can run GNOME 3 on it without trouble.

Instead, I use the laptop for writing, web browsing, development and watching media.

And instead of my usual Xfce, I've been using GNOME 3.16 as the desktop environment.

I have few complaints. GNOME 3 is getting better and better with each release, and even between releases there have been little improvements here and there.

Right now my only complaint with GNOME 3 is with file management in Nautilus. When you drag a file into a folder, if you linger too long over the folder, you end up in it. That should be something you can configure not to happen.

To avoid this problem, I've been using Nautilus' move to feature. It's clean.

My problems with the upper panel (I'm using the TopIcons GNOME Extension) are pretty much gone. Everything shows like it's supposed to.

I like the notifications system.

GNOME Software's notion that you want to reboot for every update is absurd. I use the Yum Extender for DNF to update, and that doesn't require any rebooting. The new Yum Extender fails about 25 percent of the time. I'm confident that the Fedora team will continue polishing the application. In the meantime, dnf in the terminal works without fail.

I'm having a PulseAudio issue that presents itself in both GNOME and Xfce: When I switch audio to HDMI via PulseAudio Volume Control (aka pavu), there is no audio over that connection unless I log out and log back in. I can switch back to local audio and hear it on the laptop speakers, but going back to HDMI requires another logout/login. This fairly recent issue is not a deal-breaker but is annoying.

Otherwise, my 2-year-old HP Pavilion g6 laptop is running better than ever under Linux.

Notes:

  • While I said I was going to stop obsessing about Linux, I reserve the right to talk/write about software I'm using. Tools are still interesting. And important. My focus remains on programming. And the rest of life. (Or so I tell myself.)

  • I am getting ready to pull the trigger on 100Mb/s Time Warner Cable broadband to replace my sub-1Mb/s DSL Extreme "broadband." That would mean I could work at home more, and I would probably swing back to Xfce for production because it plays so much better with the unwieldy Citrix apps I must use.

Sat, 30 May 2015

Getting rid of workspaces in GNOME 3

It's not that I don't like virtual desktops (aka workspaces) in Linux.

On the contrary, I love them.

But when I'm using the horrible Citrix-delivered applications my company provides, switching to another workspace (or virtual desktop) causes those apps to lose their connection to the server.

So I have to be disciplined in order not to switch to another workspace.

In Xfce I removed the desktop pager from my panel.

And just now in GNOME 3, I was searching for an Extension that would do this for me. I found an out-of-date Extension that included a very good workaround in the comments:

This extension didn't work for me on Fedora 20/GNOME 3.10. Instead I used GNOME Tweak Tool and set the 'Workspace Creation'=Static and only 'Number of Workspaces'=1.

I already have GNOME Tweak Tool, since you really can't run GNOME 3 (successfully anyway) without it. I went into the Workspaces portion of the utility and made the changes.

Now my Workspaces are gone, as is the ability to even go to them with ctrl-alt up/down-arrow, and I should be safer than ever to use GNOME Shell for my Citrix work ... unless minimizing apps, or switching between them, kills the connection.

Update: Switching between applications, including my Citrix-delivered ones, and minimizing them with the Super (aka Windows) key or mousing into the hot corner does NOT cause the Citrix apps to lose their connection to the server.

So we can call this a win. I'll know for sure when I try to do a full day of production in GNOME 3 on Monday.

Tue, 03 Mar 2015

Xfce 4.12 Copr repos available for Fedora 20 and 21

Thunar in Xfce 4.12

Copr repos are to Fedora what PPAs are to Ubuntu. And there are Copr repos for the new Xfce 4.12 that work on Fedora 20 and 21.

So what's new in the long-awaited Xfce 4.12? The Xfce news post details the changes, and an online tour provides a more graphical look at the new release.

I'm running Xfce 4.10 in Fedora 21, and there's nothing in 4.12 I can't wait for, so I'll probably be sticking with what I've got until the next Fedora (or other) release I upgrade to or install.

But it's nice to see development continuing for Xfce, which had quite a dry spell between 4.10 and 4.12.

A nice note at the bottom of the Xfce.org tour:

A note on Xfce's portability

All but one of those screenshots were taken on machines running OpenBSD -current, a good proof that Xfce is still portable and friendly to all Unix systems.

Wed, 25 Feb 2015

How to turn on tap-to-click in LXDE on Fedora 21

Almost all the tutorials on tap-to-click for LXDE are on how to turn it off, mostly in Lubuntu.

I've just started experimenting with LXDE in Fedora 21 and was surprised to find out that I can toggle tap-to-click in the configuration of Xfce but not in LXDE, where there is no tap-to-click out of the box.

I repeat: There is seemingly no GUI way to toggle tap-to-click in LXDE. I'd love to be wrong, but I fear I am not.

There is more than one way to turn tap-to-click on with scripts, or modifying xorg.conf or files in xorg.conf.d.

I just wanted something simple. I turned to the synclient utility (using it in the terminal).

First of all you can use synclient to check your setup:

$ synclient -l

And to turn on tap-to-click:

$ synclient TapButton1=1

Like I say above, there are ways to do this via Xorg, and probably other ways, too.

I'm not sure whether or not there is a GUI in LXDE to autostart scripts, but I notice that one of the choices in LXDE's Desktop Session Settings is Xfsettingsd, the Xfce Settings Daemon. Could that bring some of my Xfce settings into LXDE? It's probably worth a try.

But for now, just running synclient TapButton1=1 in the terminal gets me where I want to be.