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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 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.

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.

Fri, 12 Dec 2014

Fedora 20 confession: Now that F21 is out, I'm enjoying the quiet

So I haven't upgraded my daily-drive Fedora 20 system to Fedora 21, which was released two short days ago.

From what I can see, the RPM Fusion repositories are ready for F21. Google Chrome might break, but a quick removal and reinstall should fix that.

In F21, there will be many changes in the GNOME desktop environment and applications.

But for my go-to desktop environment, Xfce, it's going to be pretty much the same. (Yes, Xfce is moving glacially slow, and I've heard talk of people turning to the GNOME 2-inspired Mate desktop because it's under heavy development.)

My web browsers (Firefox and Chrome) won't fall behind. I get the latest versions from Fedora and Google, respectively.

I'm dabbling in Ruby, and F20 has version 2.0. F21 has 2.1, but at the level I'm at, it doesn't matter.

And now that all the heat is on F21, it's been relatively quiet, update-wise for F20. It's a bit closer to running Debian Stable. After awhile you get a few security patches here and there, but updates are quiet and quick.

Even an old (but still supported) Fedora release gets more updates than a current Debian Stable, but for the moment, I'm enjoying the ritual of staring Yumex and seeing either only a few or, better yet, no updates waiting to be installed.

Sure I'll move to F21. It could be tomorrow (probably not) or next month (you're getting warm). But what's the hurry?

Wed, 03 Dec 2014

So I did a Fedora 21 install, and the Anaconda installer was efficient and super quick

I needed to do a bare-metal install of Fedora 21 today, and I used the beta image for the live Xfce Spin.

I didn’t do anything special. The whole disk was devoted to Fedora. I encrypted everything.

It was probably the quickest Linux install I’ve ever done — even quicker than OpenBSD’s excellent text-based installer, where if you go with the defaults you have a working system within minutes.

Sure Ananconda isn’t “linear” like other installers, but once you get used to its “hub and spoke” logic, you can bring up a Fedora system very, very quickly.

As much as I love Debian, whenever I try to do anything complicated with disk partitioning, I run into trouble. Ubuntu’s Ubiquity installer is pretty good, too. But considering the bad press that Fedora/RHEL’s Anaconda installer has gotten over the past few years, once you get to know it, you can do installs very quickly and efficiently.

Tue, 14 Oct 2014

Dietrich T. Schmitz of Linux Advocates likes Fedora 21 Workstation

The reviews are starting to roll in for the now-alpha Fedora 21 Workstation, and Dietrich T. Schmitz of Linux Advocates likes what he sees so far:

It's a good sign when I find myself smiling, which is what happened after installing Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation. As I write, and after a week of poking around Fedora Workstation Alpha, I am thinking: "This is Alpha? It's more production-ready than other general releases I have seen". Seriously Folks, it's that stable. The most obvious change? Visual. Fedora Workstation gets the proverbial face lift with GNOME 3.14. And that is what keeps me smiling.

Go to Dietrich's review for more on F21 Workstation, including screenshots.

Wed, 24 Sep 2014

Hammering hard on Xfce 4.10 in Fedora 20

So I'm working from home today and doing the full breaking-news production routine (anything that nine websites throws at me plus other assorted sundries) in Fedora 20 with Xfce 4.10. When I'm at the office, I usually split the load between a monster ThinkCentre machine (8 GB RAM, AMD CPU with 4 cores) running Windows 7 and this less powerful laptop with Fedora/Xfce (3 GB RAM, AMD APU with 2 cores).

But today I only have the laptop.

First, my latest software change: It's been getting more and more difficult to run the AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora. For the past month and then some, running Google Chrome would crash X if I didn't start it with just the right command switch. Then Firefox started crashing X if I opened up certain web sites in a new tab. File that under "time to ditch Catalyst."

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Mon, 15 Sep 2014

I started my personal Fedora Wiki page

With inspiration from Paul Mellors, I decided to start my personal Fedora Wiki page. Yes, I am a Fedora member, though I haven't yet blossomed into an active one. At this point I try to answer questions on Ask Fedora, and I'd like to start contributing to the Fedora Magazine.

So I'm mostly just a user of Fedora. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be a Fedora member, or have a wiki page. So I am. And I do.

Thu, 21 Aug 2014

Another great experience in Fedora bug reporting: Wine font fix solves my web-browsing problem

Fedora's motto is "Freedom. Friends. Features. First." I'm here to tell you Fedora lives up to that billing. Why do I say this now? I've just had another positive experience with Fedora, this time in finding a bug in my system, adding my information to an existing bug report and now seeing updated packages pushed to the Fedora 20 stable repositories and onto my system, where the problem has been fixed.

This all started a few weeks ago. After an update of the wine software that allows Linux users to run many Windows programs, many of the fonts in both the Firefox and Chrome web browsers started to look horrible. I narrowed it down to anything resembling Arial and Helvetica.

After searching for information, I found a command that would tell me what the system was using when asked to display a certain font:

$ fc-match -v arial | grep file

Now that the problem has been fixed, the output is different, but at the time it clearly showed that a wine-installed Arial font had been installed in my system's decidedly non-wine (aka "normal") font path.

And that font was hideous.

Many web sites, including the Fedora Forum and Gmail, looked like hell with that horrible Arial font. When Gmail looks horrible, you know there's a problem.

I began searching for other Fedora users who might have this same problem and came across this bug report on wine-courier-fonts overriding the system Courier font. In that bug report was this Aug. 9, 2014 comment by Arun Raghavan:

This also seems to apply to the arial font which makes things in Firefox look weird as well.

I saw this on Aug. 13, and immediately got into the thread because I'm a Fedora member and already have a Bugzilla account:

I am seeing this same issue with Arial. The fonts look terrible in both Firefox and Google Chrome. I think this happened during the last Wine update.

Hours later, Peter Oliver confirmed the problem:

Indeed, wine-fonts-arial was first included in 1.7.22-2, pulled in automatically by wine-fonts.

http://pkgs.fedoraproject.org/cgit/wine.git/commit/?h=f20&id=a401ea3e98ebe63b2654e2680e2a166b80aefc9a.

I know there's disagreement about whether Wine fonts should be made available as system fonts, but, irrespective of that, this affects the existing user experience, so ideally shouldn't have been included in a stable update.

The next day Michael Cronenworth wrote that he was pushing an update to wine that would take the fonts out of the system path:

The Font SIG has allowed us to remove Wine fonts from the system path. I'll be pushing a 1.7.24 update shortly to address this.

https://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/fonts/2014-August/001736.html

A few days after that, the update was available in the testing repository. I waited for it to make its way into Fedora 20 Stable, which it did today. In the course of today's Yum (in my case the GUI Yumex) update, new wine packages were installed on my system, and now everything looks great again in Firefox and Chrome.

As asked in the bug report, I did add karma after installing the update.

Things do break in Fedora every once in a while, but not as often as you might think.

Pretty much every time something like happens on my system, even with the kernel, I've been able to either start a new bug report or chime in on an existing one. Soon thereafter, the wonderful developers who build packages for Fedora have addressed my problems and provided fixes that made those problems go away.

Chalk it up as another great experience with Fedora, both the Linux operating system and the community behind it.

Fri, 18 Jul 2014

One year, two months with Fedora this time around

I looked back in the archives and found out that I've been running Fedora on this particular laptop (HP Pavilion g6-2210us) for a year and two months.

Since this el-cheapo, about- AMD laptop is NOT a top-of-the-line Intel-running Thinkpad, it hasn't gotten anywhere near the same level of love from the Linux kernel and driver developers.

But things have gotten better and better over time. And excepting the relentlessly rolling Arch Linux, things improve more quickly in Fedora than anywhere else. New kernels, drivers and applications, for the most part, fly onto Fedora systems via regular updates.

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