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◄ Project Zebra: Xfce marks the spot

2017-06-27 📌 Project Zebra: that which is far off and exceeding deep

Tags 🏷 All 🏷 Linux 🏷 Tech 🏷 Personal

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

Now that the dust has settled a little bit, here's an interesting article from last month on whether desktop Ubuntu itself is likely to get "relegated" to a community project –


– which it concludes wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and has worked well for Red Hat with Fedora. The article also notes that Mint takes a very non-combative route with its development.

Personally in the absence of Ubuntu I'd look to migrate to the Xfce spin of Fedora, although Mint could very well shift directly to Debian rather than Ubuntu and also offers an Xfce spin. But on the whole I prefer a more cutting edge distro that gets newer software releases fairly promptly, whereas Mint targets long-term-support releases.

What little I've done recently with my desktop environment is mainly ironing out little niggles such as graphical applications run as root not always having icons. For me this boiled down to running Thunar as root and copying gtk.css and settings.ini from ~/.config/gtk-3.0/ into /root/.config/gtk-3.0/ then copying the folder preferred icons are in (from ~/.local/share/icons/ or /usr/share/icons/ into /root/.icons/ in most cases) before renaming the folder to match the folder name of the set used by the currently selected user profile. So personally I decided to use the elementary-xfce set in its unaltered form, whereas as my normal user I've replaced some icons (mainly ones a file manager uses) with Faenza. That all just provides a bit of an extra reminder about running as root. I didn't really feel the need to copy files across from .themes since root under Xfce seems to use Raleigh for GTK2 apps and that's very close to the edited Saltlake I use normally.

Mentioning Thunar reminds me that I've replaced it since I wrote that last paragraph. It was prompted by finding that the application was hanging a lot, which seems to relate to a known bug and will hopefully be fixed in 17.10 – https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/thunar/+bug/1679488 – but was enough to send me back to looking at file managers again.

I've now tried PCManFM, Xfe, SpaceFM, Nemo, Dolphin and Nautilus, and I think my favourite of those would outright be Nemo if it didn't have such large toolbar/footer icons and you could make it show just the path in the titlebar rather than "folder – path". It has a clean design and the way it integrates search is nice, although not without the niggle of not respecting the icon size zoom setting, so I'm going to try it for a bit via Settings > Preferred Applications and my panel shortcut.

It also, like far too many Linux file managers, doesn't have an option to confirm sending files to trash, although you can switch the Delete/Shift-Delete keyboard shortcuts and set permanent deletion to the default action. It's not really that I use a recycle bin, I just don't want hitting the Delete key to do something incredibly stupid and inconvenient by moving files without me noticing, so this is fine.

To stop Thunar handling the desktop in Xfce, including the right-click menu, simply go to Settings > Desktop and on the Icons tab choose 'None' – but you can leave "Include applications menu on desktop right click" selected for just an apps menu if preferred.

Nemo is an import from Mint's Cinnamon DE, so to use the Xfce terminal with its toolbar, use

gsettings set org.cinnamon.desktop.default-applications.terminal exec xfce4-terminal

Also of interest is the fact that Nemo uses GTK3, and when I last updated Thunderbird I found it'd recently switched, so I'm now using more apps taking cues from the newer GTK. This continues to be an area of particular curiosity, as interface toolkits affect what you see, click and what you can theme. The scrollbar config I did last month is keeping things bearable, although I might want to add some styles for interaction when I get time. Plus with the simple styles I've got at the moment not all applications render the scrollbar arrows in raised 3D, but I'm sure that'll be fixable.

Of course, being open source, GTK2 is likely to pass to other developers, so it won't really reach EOL until no-one's prepared to do that to a reasonable standard – and the likelihood of it being carried on is high, since other people like it (or dislike certain things about GTK3 and other toolbits). It's a similar situation to projects such as MATE, Cinnamon, Gnome Flashback, etc. -- people generally don't like change for the sake of change.

Which makes it all the more puzzling to a layperson why GTK3 is seeing much adoption, really. It's understandable that most developers don't want to branch out into maintaining an interface toolkit themselves but I haven't found much info on why the newer product is seen as a fait accompli. Perhaps to an extent it's because any transition doesn't have to be handled badly, with Nemo demonstrating pretty well that action bars aren't mandatory and traditional title bars, menus and toolbars work fine.

In defence of GTK3 as a project, doing some digging around – eg https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1368632 – GTK2 has some issues with high DPI screens.

Here's another article about open source projects, which attracted comments about it not being actively developed; https://opensource.com/article/17/5/stir-bit-cream-make-vim-friendlier

So when is abandonware an issue (in the sense of not being actively added to) if an application is basically feature complete and getting the minimal maintenance necessary to work with current versions of interface toolkits, etc? Well, maybe there's a bit of an argument that applications that don't add features available in other software are likely to lose users and ultimately maintainers, but very often the "issue" translates as "the developer wouldn't listen to my idea".

Often I'd tend to sympathise with users, but it isn't necessarily an issue for a project as a whole. More of an issue is if a project actively dumbs down and remove features. There's a lovely quote in this article:

Simple things should be simple; complex things should be possible.


Anyway, back to practical bits and bobs. I decided to fine tune printscreen settings;

Print = xfce4-screenshooter -f -c
Ctrl+Print = xfce4-screenshooter -f -o xnview
Ctrl+Shift+Print xfce4-screenshooter -w -o xnview

Linux filenames are case-sensitive, which I'm not really in a mindset of. You can rename all of the files/folders in a folder to lowercase with a quick:

rename 'y/A-Z/a-z/' *

If you want to use workspaces in Xfce but without windows being allowed to be dragged from one to another, see Settings > Window Manager > Advanced > Wrap workspaces when reaching the screen edge

Uncheck "Show menu hierarchy" in Whisker Menu to sort all categories alphabetically.

In other software news whilst trying to do something I re-found https://www.squarefree.com/bookmarklets/pagelinks.html

Linked images (works in Firefox, not Chrome, which can't save the generated pages)

I'm also making a note here abut configuring VLC – to add to its cropping options and aspect ratios, or use a different default zoom (handy if you use a less than 1080p screen) head to Preferences > All > Video. To increase max volume see: Preferences > All > Interface > Qt

To convert Audible books (I got Alan Moore's Jerusalem as there's more chance of me listening to it than reading, although I've completely failed to start in either medium):


Get https://github.com/inAudible-NG/audible-activator/archive/master.zip and https://chromedriver.storage.googleapis.com/2.27/chromedriver_linux64.zip and unzip them, then hit up a terminal

pip install requests
pip install selenium

Then in the folder containing the activator script,

./audible-activator.py -l uk --username [email] --password [pw]

Then in the converter script folder,

./AAXtoMP3.sh [authcode] [aax-file]

And an Android rather than Linux one, but if you happen to have a Samsung Galaxy A3 or A5 circa 2015 and want to get rid of the Sfinder (annoying thing on the pull down menu):


0. install "ROM Toolbox Pro" and go to "root filemanager"
1. browse to root->system->build.prop
2. open "build.prop" with text-editor and edit the last three letters of this line:
"ro.product.name=" (example: "ro.product.name=trltexx" to "ro.product.name=trltvzw")
3. save and restart.

Next month I want to look at systemd timers as an alternative to cron, and catch up with various things I'm probably not actually going to.

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