A few audit testing scripts ►

◄ Project Zebra 2017: it's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

2017-09-10Project Zebra 2017: blood and iron and penguins

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This entry is part of my Project Zebra series covering migration to Linux for personal computing use.

Another fairy cursory entry about tweaks, I'm afraid, but a cheerful one that despite the title (I've been re-watching Hellboy animated stuff) warrants a happy penguin.

First of all, as the documentation suggests people do, I've got Kdocker bound to Win+Z for ad hoc minimise to tray needs using 'kdocker -fq' and this works well in conjunction with Foobar running in Wine, pushing Software Updater out of the way, a LibreWriter window to type notes into, etc. So the workspace switcher has gone from the panel. If I have more open than fits comfortably on it then that's a reminder to focus. The only things Kdocker generally doesn't get icons for are those that do their own thing such as the group of browser derivatives Chromium, Chrome and Opera.

Related to this, Window Manager > Keyboard is where you can assign or change shortcuts to all sorts of window actions, such as changing Show Desktop from Ctrl-Alt+D to Win+D. Note that pressing it again to toggle windows visible won't restore items consequently minimised with Kdocker because by that point they've been removed from the panel, but you might prefer that behaviour.

So making things feel a bit less sparse into the bargain I've put the Thunar desktop back (i.e. re-enabled icons) sans the custom actions, and added a couple of scripts for monitor control:

You see, Lightdm was still waking up my second monitor even when it was disabled at the point xflock4 was run, which is a perfectly fair default if the monitor is connected and switched on. When back on the desktop the monitor didn't recognise it wasn't receiving output (this seems to be due to the monitor itself rather than the machine it's plugged into). And the Display setting tool didn't recognise the monitor as on, since it wasn't getting output, which meant it was necessary to enable and then re-disable to ensure it was off.

So doing an xrandr revealed that when on but not showing output the display reports as VGA1 connected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) rather than VGA1 connected 1366x768+0+1050 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 450mm x 340mm

And with some help from https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/203339/light-locker-run-script-on-screen-lock-unlock I'm running this script at session startup, in which dbus-monitor facilitates checking for an unlock:

i.e. If the monitor reports as connected, whether being treated as the primary or not, but doesn't have a resolution, force it off. The sleep command gives xrandr a couple of seconds to see the devices it's supposed to be controlling, otherwise it throws a cryptic "Configure crtc 1 failed” error. Presumably this is a default fallback when it can't see any monitors.

Following up on the Intel graphics setting changes I made last month, explicitly choosing the "VA-API video decoder via X11" option in VLC under Input & Codecs > Hardware-accelerated decoding rather than Automatic results in lower CPU usage on my system, which is a nice plus.

A minor tip for muxing together video and audio tracks after you've extracted audio and edited it with Audacity: use MP4Box which is in the gpac package – but note the case of the command. It's easy to forget when using NTFS drives and most commands are lowercase that they aren't always.

MP4Box -add audio.aac -add video.mp4 output.mp4

I've switched my profile backup to being the first step of my daily FreeFileSynx script, since Deja Dup wasn't very configurable for targeting multiple locations and the weekly routine apparently hadn't been working properly since the last major OS upgrade. It would be more normal to give /home/ a specific partition, I know, but I've got my /home/ directory on the OS partition and only keep settings and caches in it, with a sym-linked folder to an NTFS partition "inside" that. I might look at this again if I ever clean reinstall for any reason, but for now it works.

In the process of tidying up I was reminded of PortableApps and came across QDirStats, a neat used space visualiser – https://launchpad.net/~nathan-renniewaldock/+archive/ubuntu/qdirstat/+packages – installing which is easy with gdebi and at some point I might consider switching some other things currently coming from PPAs to use of static packages, if I can get together an updated list of software and sources so that I remember to keep track of stuff, as I'm not 100% comfortable with using unofficial repositories.

I've been reading a lot of paper magazines in snatched minutes, including a few old ones out of nostalgia – for instance, Maximum Linux magazine is very reminiscent of Dragon Magazine and other hobbyist type publications (i.e. anything not a technical journal) circa 2000. I picked up a copy of issue 2 on eBay and it's fascinating as now-irrelevant ephemera. Also acquired some back issue job lots on eBay and the Autumn 2015 Ubuntu User includes a longer article on Xfce 4.12 (still the current version) which was then new after three years of project inactivity at the time. Nothing revolutionary in terms of coverage but it's nice to see the DE getting love.

Ubuntu User has actually just ceased and folded into Linux (Pro) Magazine, like Linux Voice did. With Canonical jettisoning Unity and lots of people using different DEs with it anyway, there wasn't much to differentiate it other than being a slightly overpriced quarterly magazine. So as far as I know this is still a current list of the main published mags: https://itsfoss.com/top-linux-magazines/

I've got a few other articles part-started, including an anniversary one to mark the year I've been using Linux on the desktop, but that might be it for this month. I'll leave you with a neat short article on what things were like 25 before that: https://opensource.com/article/17/8/linux-anniversary


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