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2019-12-28Project Zebra: We twa hae paidl'd in the burn, frae morning sun till dine;

Tags All Personal Fiction

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

Title reference: Robbie Burns, his inestimable "old long since" (Auld Lang Syne).

As it's been five years since I got this box, I figured it was time for a check-in on PC hardware. In 2014, a Lenovo ThinkCentre M92p Tiny (2.9GHz i5, 4Gb, 128Gb SSD) was £250, and another 4Gb RAM £20. These days the same spec with double the SSD goes for £150 to £160. M92p and M93p models are still common on eBay, or for a bit more (around £220 all in) you can get the M900 Tiny with i5 and 16Gb options. So nothing much has changed, you just get a bit more for the money. It reflects the fact that unless you're into high-end gaming, video-editing, rendering or something similarly intensive, computers have been Good Enough for about a decade now, the things worth paying for are build quality, quietness and small form factor, and those don't cost much either.

I spent a bit of time playing with live sessions of Mint 19.3 and its specialty desktop environments, Cinnamon and MATE. Both are better than I remember, the Mint-Y theme now being more than a preview and much better unified than Mint-X, although the themes are available in the Xfce version as well and that's what's staying on the laptop. The panel, menu and window buttons don't seem to be as configurable as Xfce but are very functional, particularly with a more comfortably neutral #3B6EA5 background. Certainly nicer than Mint's Gnome-fondling parent distro, Ubuntu.

(The recent insistence Mint has developed that you must set up Timeshift for snapshot backups in order to do major upgrades is kind of off-putting on a daily driver PC though – let more experienced users decide for themselves would be my take on things).

On a more a retro theme, just as MATE https://mate-desktop.org/ picks up where Gnome 2 left off, Trinity https://www.trinitydesktop.org/ picks up where KDE 3 (2002 to 2008) left off. They have LiveCDs to try and it's like stepping back in time to the 95/98/Me/2000/XP era, particularly with the mascot, background textures in applications and games included; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Desktop_Environment_3

Finally chucked some old hardware, which leaves the Shuttle XS35GT, Yoga 300-11IBY, a 4Tb (IIRC) ShareCenter and a couple of monitors as spares current enough to be worth keeping.

Moving on to actual useful stuff...

Unlike Thunar, Nemo doesn't always seem to automatically add plugged in MTP devices (phones, etc) to the tree. Per https://askubuntu.com/questions/342319/where-are-mtp-mounted-devices-located-in-the-filesystem for the default user, the mount points are in /run/user/1000/gvfs so adding that as a bookmark is fine for me.

Update: this isn't the full story, though. The mount points aren't automatically created, making that bookmark of limited use. I've now worked out how to get Nemo to handle MTP devices: first, I turned off auto-handling of removeable devices in Thunar, just in case, to avoid possible clashes. The gotcha is that the device (an A5 retail demo unit; i.e. phone body without SIM hardware) shows up in the Places sidebar but not the tree, until either the Card or Phone storage areas are mounted. Once one is, the device will show up in the normal Tree sidebar. I'm using Nemo 4.0.6 and think that might be a bug. I'd report it, but the current stable version of Nemo has had lots of releases and jumped to 4.4.x over the last twelve months so hopefully that might make it into the April release of Ubuntu, and if the behaviour's the same I'll try to remember to mention it to someone.

And speaking of Thunar, its bulk rename utility isn't a separate executable, the command is "thunar –bulk-rename" to launch it and as https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?t=279848 mentions, you can set this as the bulk rename command in Nemo under Preferences > Behaviour. I normally use XnViewMP but for simple mass search-and-replace stuff it's very handy.

Mailbox Alert has been updated for Thunderbird 68! https://tjeb.nl/Projects/Mailbox_Alert/

So I'm back to the script I was using before to create a persistent notification icon;

#!/bin/bash
if ! pgrep -f yad.*mail-mark-unread.*thunderbird &> /dev/null 2>&1; then
        yad --notification --image="mail-mark-unread" --listen --command="sh -c 'thunderbird ; pkill -f yad.*mail-mark-unread.*thunderbird'" &
fi

I've been following a couple of discussions about persistent mail notifications at https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1482674 and https://github.com/user-none/KDocker/issues/36 and Linux does seem to get the short straw a bit in terms of Thunderbird development, which is ironic given its open source origins.

Also surprising is the lack of a maintained application for end users to administrate Samba packages and SMB shared folders. A lot of guidance refers to older software that's no longer available and in some cases takes over and screws up existing configuration. Current received wisdom is to avoid Gadmin-Samba and system-config-samba.

So, perhaps slightly rashly, I did "sudo apt-get purge samba samba-common" and deleted the contents of /etc/samba before reinstalling samba, plus installing smbclient (the latter for double-checking things are available, but its main purpose is talking to other servers).

This was per a combination of https://askubuntu.com/questions/21553/how-do-i-completely-reset-samba-to-the-shipped-defaults and https://www.grizzly-hills.com/2019/11/01/ubuntu-19-10-installing-samba/ and it's possible just copying /usr/share/samba/smb.conf into /etc/samba would have been an option, but I wasn't sure what else had been messed up by other utilities having been installed. The filenames I'd got suggested I'd tried Gadmin previously but not kept it installed. This is my fault for not keeping better notes, and a good example of the need to exercise caution with old tutorials.

This time I kept it simple, using my existing username and setting a long Samba password to go with it, then (probably unnecessarily) making sure that user was enabled for Samba.

sudo smbpasswd -a username
sudo smbpasswd -e username

Share details get added to the bottom of /etc/samba/smb.conf and are kept read-only and requiring a username/password.

[myshare]
   comment = testing
   browseable = yes
   path = /path/to/folder
   guest ok = no
   read only = yes

Then we restart the service and check what shares are available with testparm and from the point of view of smbclient.

sudo systemctl restart smbd.service nmbd.service

testparm -s
smbclient -L //servername

After that there's a fairly specific gotcha to be avoided due to some folders I intended to share containing symlinks, needing some additional settings in the smb.conf file per https://access.redhat.com/solutions/54407

[global]
    follow symlinks = yes
    unix extensions = no
    wide links = yes

A major caveat is that this is a single-user machine and I know what symlinks exist within the folders shared. It's definitely a good idea to read the relevant parts of the Samba documentation; https://www.samba.org/samba/docs/current/man-html/smb.conf.5.html

Lastly, users of Samba should ensure they're running an up-to-date and fully patched distro; https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2017/05/26/samba-exploit-not-quite-wannacry-for-linux-but-patch-anyway/

You might also be a user of Samba if you're sharing media directly from the OS of a NAS device; https://www.pcworld.com/article/3199106/the-sambacry-scare-gives-linux-users-a-taste-of-wannacry-petya-problems.html