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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 26 May 2015

Trying to remove LXDE from Fedora 21 breaks Xfce, and why Fedora makes for a sturdy Citrix platform

I installed the LXDE desktop environment a while back. Part of me just wanted to check it out because it has been awhile. But I also was "auditioning" it as a potential working environment in Fedora because I'm now doing a lot more of my $dayjob work via Citrix Receiver in Linux instead of Windows.

As a current Xfce user, moving to LXDE isn't quite the culture shock as it would be going from, say GNOME or KDE to the LXDE environment.

Things I liked in LXDE included that it picked up on the Adiwata Dark theme I'm using in GNOME and had a lot more "darkness" to it than Xfce picks up when I choose Adiwata on that side and Adiwata Dark in GNOME. Doing the latter makes GTK3 apps show up with a dark theme, though all GTK2 apps are as white as the Xfce Adiwata theme makes them.

Things I didn't like included a lack of screen animation when clicking an application button in a panel (I never knew if I really clicked it or not) and (more crucially) no way to manage touchpad tap-to-click in a GUI.

Yeah, it came down to touchpad management. Xfce is good at it. LXDE is not.

So I stopped using LXDE, barely used GNOME 3 (too many issues with Citrix and too hard to configure the way I want/need it to be) and focused on Xfce as my go-to desktop environment.

I recently removed the desktop pager from my upper panel to keep myself from accidentally clicking into a second desktop and causing my Citrix apps to lose their connection to the server. It's barbaric. But I can accept it.

And now LXDE has been hanging around unused on my Fedora system for more than a little time.

I figured, why not remove it?

So I went into my favorite Fedora package manager, searched for LXDE and removed everything that came up.

Bad move.

There were things in that mass package removal that Xfce needs.

After that ill-fated software removal, Xfce lost its wallpaper. And its ability to pretty much work at all. Applications would launch, but they would no longer refresh on the screen. And I couldn't do much of anything.

How did I set things right?

I went into Yumex again -- yes, it did work -- and added back all of the LXDE items.

Now Xfce works once again. And I still have LXDE.

Thu, 02 Apr 2015

Printing in Linux with the HP LaserJet 1020: The 2015 edition

Printing in Linux with the HP LaserJet 1020 has been a battle since forever. It used to be easier.

Back in Fedora 19, it really did just work. Same with older versions of Debian. (Can you tell I've had this printer a long, long time? It was cheap. It is small. It still works.)

But since Fedora 20 (and into Fedora 21, and other Linux distributions, as a trip around the web will confirm), it's been hell to get this printer to work.

That's because HP cheaped out with the LaserJet 1020 and didn't put the necessary firmware on board. You have to load that firmware with every print.

Linux should be able to handle this. Hell, HP's own HPLIP utility should be able to handle it.

No and no.

The printer shows up as a USB device, but neither CUPS nor HPLIP acknowledges its existence.

Every few months or so, I try again. I re-Google and look for clues. I go back and try things again.

Today I came upon Mark911's How to install printer drivers for HP Laserjet 1020 in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64-bit without needing access to openprinting.org website and without using buggy hplip drivers. (That title is even longer than my titles ...)

It basically says, "Get rid of HPLIP, don't use the foo2zjs driver with your distro, and instead go to the source, compile it yourself, add the firmware and go to town.

So I did just that. I went to http://foo2zjs.rkkda.com/. First I used my favorite Fedora package manager, Yumex, to get rid of HPLIP and foo2zjs (the latter from RPM Fusion, if I'm correct).

During the process, I also had to get rid of system-config-printer-udev to get hot-plugging set up.

I downloaded the foo2zjs source from http://foo2zjs.rkkda.com/, followed the instructions for compiling it, getting the HP LaserJet 1020 firmware, configuring hotplugging and restarting the CUPS spooler.

Then I started Fedora's system-config-printer GUI (which you can start from the menu as Administration - Print Settings or at the console with system-config-printer, sent out a test page, which worked (!!!), and the proceeded to print a document out of gedit, which also worked.

The question now is, will this loveliness survive a reboot?

Later: This configuration does survive a reboot. And a suspend/resume.

SELinux trouble?: If SELinux throws an error when you plug in your USB printer, follow the utility's instructions for allowing an exception for your printer.

Wed, 01 Apr 2015

Reddit: Why do developers choose OS X over Linux?

If you're wondering why real-life developers (and I suppose primarily web developers) who happen to hang out on Reddit often choose OS X over Linux for their laptop/desktop operating system, read this lengthy Reddit thread, which Jim Lynch brought to my attention.

Especially due to the large number of comments, it provides a very interesting snapshot of why a given developer chooses one platform or another.

Since you can now embed Reddit comments in your HTML, I'll provide a few samples:

There are 500+ more comments over at Reddit, and the thread is well worth reading.

My $.02

  • I neither need nor can afford the Adobe Creative Suite. I use GIMP, Inkscape, Gthumb, Irfanview under Wine, OpenShot (and I hope to pick up KDEnlive).
  • If I needed Microsoft Office, I could run it under Wine or in a VM. (Now I do most things in Google Docs/Spreadsheets or LibreOffice, if not in a local text editor)
  • I am a Linux hobbyist, and meeting the little challenges required to set up a computer with Linux is something that I enjoy. Yes, I'm probably a glutton for punishment. And things are never as smooth as billed in the "other" OSes (Windows and OS X).
  • There will always be Linux distributions that will work on my hardware and have timely security and bug-fix support. Windows is OK at this, but Apple sucks hard by orphaning hardware with no regrets (on their part, anyway).
  • I love coherent, systemwide package management and vast software repositories.

But

  • If my work required an Adobe-type proprietary application or three, I'd have to run them on OS X or Windows. I would do that if I had to.
  • Even though, as I mention above, I'm a self-proclaimed Linux hobbyist, going months and months on hardware without checking off all of my "it works" boxes can be disheartening.

That said, my laptop price point is ~ $500, and that's well below anything Apple offers.

Wed, 14 Jan 2015

Answers from a Fedora Xfce developer

Fedora developer (and Red Hat employee) Kevin Fenzi answers questions that users have about the project's Xfce spin in a new blog post.

As a longtime user of Fedora's Xfce spin, naturally I'm interested.

He covers:

  • The reasons why Xfce 4.11 is not in Fedora Rawhide (because there is no 4.12 release imminent, and 4.11 in "stable" Fedora would be bad, but there is a COPR repo for those who want it)

  • Rumors that Xfce, the project, is dead (It's not -- fixes and small changes continue to be committed; there's just no timetable for a 4.12 release)

  • The Xfce spin leaving its 700MB CD size behind and now aiming at 1 GB USB flash drive size in Fedora 22

  • Xfce continuing to be available for RHEL/CentOS users in EPEL

  • Ways of making Xfce work better on HIDPI displays (but don't expect miracles until Xfce adopts gtk3)

Read the original post. It's well worth it.

I've been running the Fedora Xfce Spin since F18, and I think it's one of the best-kept secrets in the Xfce-running distro world. It comes well-configured out of the box, looks great, is as cutting-edge as you'd want and really does just work most of the time.

Fri, 19 Dec 2014

I'm running Fedora 21 with Wayland, and so far (almost) everything is working just fine

After saying I wouldn't jump into a Fedora 21 upgrade, I rather quickly had a change of heart and mind, ran a Fedup upgrade and am now running Fedora 21 on my go-to HP Pavilion g6 laptop.

With Wayland.

Yep, one of the new features of the GNOME 3.14-running Fedora 21 is a preview of the next-generation, post-X Window Wayland display manager, and you can choose "GNOME with Wayland" in the login/session manager.

I'm running Wayland right now. I've heard the caveat many times: Not all applications will work in Wayland. But so far, every application I've tried (Firefox, Gedit, Transmission, FileZilla, VLC, Files/Nautilus, Liferea, Yumex, Google Chrome, Geany, even apps in Wine) has run in Wayland with no trouble.

I've been running Fedora 21 for a few days now, spending most of my time in the non-Wayland world of Xfce and GNOME with X, and the system is as solid as ever. And by that I mean pretty damn solid.

The only glitch I've had with Wayland has been in suspend/resume, which is pretty touchy anyway with my hardware. (I've probably written 50 posts about it since I got this laptop.) When running Wayland, the laptop will suspend and then resume, but I'm seemingly "detached" from my session and have to log in again. At this point I'm logged in twice. This doesn't happen in X. If this is the only thing I can find wrong with Wayland, I'll still consider it pretty remarkable.

Just from a "look and feel" perspective, GNOME 3.14 is working better and faster than version 3.10 did in Fedora 20. I'm not saying I'm going to throw Xfce over for it, but the environment is more usable than ever. I moved to the Adiwata Dark theme while still in F20, and everything looks that much better in F21.

As I've said since I began running Fedora 18 on this laptop and upgrading via Fedup to each subsequent release, a system as forward-looking as Fedora shouldn't be anywhere near as stable as it is. It's a tribute to the developers for Fedora and the many upstream projects that go into the distribution.

Today marks only nine days since Fedora 21 went stable, and my system is running like a well-maintained watch.

So if you think of yourself as the adventurous type, someone who likes everything to be pretty new all the time but doesn't really want to deal with a lot of breakage and is curious about Wayland in the real world, give Fedora 21 a try.

Later: You know what got fixed in Fedora 21 that was broken in F20? Mounting of Apple iOS 8 devices.