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2018-02-28Project Zebra: Hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose


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

We're about as far from holiday disco right now as it's possible to be. Anyway, this year I'm aiming for an entry roughly every couple of months, as relatively speaking there's likely to be less tinkering than in the first year I was getting used to Linux.

A minor point is that copying ffmpeg.so from Chromium to Opera stopped working, so following a suggestion on the latter's forum https://solus-project.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1004&start=10 I got a copy from https://github.com/iteufel/nwjs-ffmpeg-prebuilt/releases/tag/0.20.3 and replaced /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/opera/libffmpeg.so

LibreOffice is getting export as EPUB, which might be useful for some things I keep meaning to do http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2018/01/libreoffice-6-0-release-download #Eugenesis #GatheringDaisies

Most of this entry is going to be distro/desktop love-in, plus I've recently discovered that I've been pronouncing Xubuntu wrong; it's zoo-boon-too. https://twitter.com/omgubuntu/status/727155285144539136

This was occasioned by rummaging around a bit and finding out what devs have to say, with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw9tzPPCNAk and https://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/interview-xfce.html

Anyway, going by https://blog.xfce.org/ Xfce 4.14 is gently percolating (with https://twitter.com/bluesabredavis/status/931670163224702976 suggesting a few Gnome-originated apps will be replaced with Mate equivalents) and Xubuntu 18.04 (which will be a Long Term Support release) is likewise:

https://open.knome.fi/2017/10/24/preparing-xubuntu-18-04/ https://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2377524

What Xfce consists of is basically the desktop environment plus Thunar as a file manager – https://xfce.org/about/releasemodel / https://xfce.org/projects – so I'd probably describe my setup as Xubuntu with Nemo, as Ubuntu + Xfce + Nemo doesn't capture the polishing the Xubuntu folk undertake, and it's not just equivalent to installing base Ubuntu yourself and adding the other bits.

In passing, as Ubuntu 18.04 is a long term support release it's back to X.org by default rather than Wayland; http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2018/01/xorg-will-default-display-server-ubuntu-18-04-lts and I'm hearing more and more mixed views on Wayland, chiefly that it gives applications more control over window redrawing. I'll come back to that later with some discussion of the Gnome DE.

Basically, as I've said before, I like that Xfce doesn't get in the way. Every other desktop environment I've tried I've generally run into something that they didn't do or was far more work to do than seemed reasonable. Other long-standing users are more eloquent or bullish;

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/09/06/ubuntu_17_10_flavours/ "Xfce's development pace is just about right in my view, with updates typically bringing a slew of minor fixes, the occasional major improvement but never a complete rewrite of anything. Xfce isn't going to try to "revolutionise" your desktop."

https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/4lbt4v/why_do_people_who_use_xfce_swear_by_it/ "the most complete no-bullshit desktop environment out there"

Several people in the comment section above commented that they replaced/supplemented Xfwm with another compositor, either Compiz or Compton, but the also-mentioned tip of using the tearfree setting with X.org sorted out redraw for me when I applied it some time back. It's a rare example of lack-of-polish, ditto the comments that Thunar isn't particularly stable, which I definitely found when I tried it whilst first migrating. Hopefully it'll get the attention it deserves in 4.14 because being integrated into the DE (and with a default no-prompt-to-send-to-trash issue I touched on in my first migration post) does take a bit of the shine off Xfce. I greatly prefer Cinnamon's Nemo as fileman, although Thunar/xdesktop still handles the desktop and the tips given by https://forum.xfce.org/viewtopic.php?id=9850 didn't seem to address this.

Just found this tip, too…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemo_(file_manager)#/media/File:X-gvfs-show.png "Whether Nemo shows a mount or not, is determined by the option x-gvfs-show"

On the topic of getting-in-the-way, with a slight tie-in with LibreOffice, Gnome developers are still determined to make work for or mess things up for others:


Peering past the red haze and visceral "leave title bars alone, stop treating desktops like tablets, you've already fucked up gedit and any number of other applications"… there are two separate points being conflated in https://blogs.gnome.org/tbernard/2018/01/26/csd-initiative/

1) Should applications respect desktop environment settings for title bars? – Yes, where practical. Consistency of user interface is important.

2) Should applications implement support for header bars if it impacts on environments or applications that use title bars? – No.

As another reminder this is isn't a hypothetical; Gnome devs have form in trying to get application developers to drop features such as tray icons;

http://users.geany.narkive.com/RrHaeLsz/geany-users-geany-plugins-please-consider-adding-gtk3-support-for-your-plugin-s https://igurublog.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/gnome-et-al-rotting-in-threes/

But back to title bars… it's the job of the desktop environment and window manager to handle window furniture, not individual applications. That makes windows stay responsive if apps hang, allows users to set as thin a title bar for windows as they like (or hide them if they prefer) and keeps interfaces consistent.

Since moving toolbar and menu elements into header bars requires, at the very least, doubling up on some interface code, I do rather hope the https://wiki.gnome.org/Initiatives/CSD dies on its arse with developers for the major applications listed not diverting resources to it.

There's a lovely and succinct defence of the title bar here:


"The classic title bar performs several functions of varying utility. Let me count them.

1. As the title suggests, the title bar displays the title of the window. This typically includes the name of the application and the name of document currently opened, and can easily take half the space available or even more.

2. It lights up when the window is active, and dims down when inactive, helping the user maintain focus with a busy desktop.

3. It provides an intuitive, discoverable way of dragging the window. (For experienced users, Alt+dragging is more usable, although less discoverable.)

4. It is a big target for (un)maximization via double click.

5. It is a big target for opening the window control menu via right button click.

6. It houses the window manager controls.

7. Last but not the least, the title bar is provided by the window manager in a manner consistent across the desktop. If every application toolkit starts doing its own header bars, we lose this consistency."

Incidentally, alt-dragging is also the reason a lot of people don't consider it a big deal that window borders in most themes are too thin to click on with precision – you can alt+right click and drag to resize windows in a lot of window managers. I just don't see why I should need to reach for the keyboard to perform a frequent mouse-oriented tasks, which is why I like the thick borders in 4deb;


I haven't posted my desktop recently, so here it is;

And a new year seemed like a good point to take stock of what I've got installed, just in case there was anything manually added that really needed updating;

* = 3P PPA, ** = manually installed, () = kept but rarely if ever use, [] = emulated

Audacity – audio editor
Avidemux* – video editor
BleachBit – secure file deletion
Bless() – hex editor
Brasero – CD/DVD burning
Calibre – eBook management
Cheese() – webcam software
Chrome* – web browser
Chromium* – web browser
ClamTk() – virus scanner
Comix – comics reader
CrossOver – emulation
DevedeNG() – DVD creation
Disks – disk management
DragonDisk**() – AWS browser
Dropbox**() – remote storage
Dvd95**() – DVD downsizing
FileZilla – FTP client
Firefox – web browser
Foobar[] – audio player
FreeFileSync* – folder sync
Gparted – partition management
Gdebi Package Installer – installer
Geany – text ediitor
Gnome Schedule** – task scheduler
Grub Customizer* – boot menu editor
Gshutdown – timed shutdown
Handbrake() – video encoder
Hugin() – panorama editor
Kdocker 5.0** – window management
Kindle[] – eBook downloader
LibreOffice – office suite
Nemo – file manager
Office 2007[] – office suite
Office 2013[] – office suite
Opera*() – web browser
PeaZip() – archive management
Pinta – image editor
PlayOnLinux/Wine – emulation
Power Manager 1.6.0** – power management
QdirStat** – free space management
SMPlayer() – video player
Synaptic Package Manager – package management
Thunderbird – email client
TrueCrypt** – secure storage
VLC – video player
Video4Linux() – webcam software
VirtualBox – emulation
XNViewMP** – image browser
Xscreensaver – screensaver
freac** – audio ripper
get_iplayer* – video ripper
qbittorrent() – torrent client
qpdfview – PDF viewer
qt4ct*/qt5ct** – window management
xfburn – CD/DVD burning

That definitely misses out packages, such as gpac (MP4Box), xfce-goodies, etc… and I'm not aware of any way of checking what isn't part of the "base" Xubuntu install. apt-mark showmanual seems to give an indication of stuff that isn't part of base Ubuntu, but is a full package list. Synaptic has an "Installed (local or obsolete)" filter, and also an Installed filter that can apparently be sorted by whether they're Ubuntu base, probably working on the same basis as apt-mark showmanual.

Removing k3b and a few other things in the process of taking stock cleared about a gig and a half of packages, most of which appeared to be KDE-related. I also hadn't realised Furius ISO Mount pulled in Nautilus as a dependency, and since Nemo's mount option usually works okay I've opted to remove both. Someone else had similar concerns and asked about options for Thunar;


I'm not sure if the qt4|5ct stuff is still relevant any more, and am far enough in that if I had to reinstall for any reason I'd build things back only as the need arose, but at least by now with a lot more confidence in doing so. I've made a few tweaks to icon sets and themes, but nothing really too involved and that was part of the reason I started keeping these blog entries as a record.


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