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

Title reference: another one from Capaldi era Doctor Who.

I haven't been using my own machine much since the work laptop is on, which means I've got a lot of projects to pick up again on at some point. At the moment of writing this, Ubuntu 20.10 is due in a couple of weeks and the following few paragraphs were written months ago, but it'll quickly switch over into dealing with upgrade issues.

A while back I did some slight KDE Plasma tweaking... specifically, not having the lock screen blur and fade because animations are pointless. gives a pointer to edit /usr/share/plasma/look-and-feel/org.kde.breeze.desktop/contents/components/WallpaperFader.qml as root, and change the properties under name: "off" to the same as those in the name: "on" section, apart from setting the PropertyChanges for wallpaperFader to factor: 0. The downside of editing files in /usr/ is they'll get overwritten by updates, but I didn't want to fork a lot of stuff to do with Breeze, so I'm thinking I'll re-apply it after upgrades.

For consistency I switched Chrome to use window manager decorations and forced them on for one or two other apps in system settings. The easiest way to get its colours to match is create a theme; eg with this extension and Breeze grey is #EFF0F1. You can also tweak the created theme files manually, which I did for a lighter inactive address bar, and the resulting tiny package is available here.

CrossOver mysteriously failed and had to be reinstalled, which set Office 2016 off… so, given that I haven't used it, I installed an old copy of 2007 instead. It'll probably still open files on the off-chance I need to and LibreOffice isn't doing well enough. I also removed a bunch of software, including Atril, Disks and Brasero as I figured it was time to look at Okular and other KDE apps a bit more.

If you're an Xfce user, don't like CSD but still want to consider upgrading to 4.16 when it's released in November and arrives in a future Xubuntu then you might like (a fork of a component that otherwise forces CSD on system windows) and/or you could replace the Xfwm4 window manager with Marco from MATE. Themes to work with Marco should support metacity and be coped into ~/.themes and you can switch themes by editing config directly with dconf-editor.

Fast-forward to October and the most public voice of KDE, Nate Graham, wrote a neat article about healthy project governance.

Late October also saw the next release of Ubuntu and its community flavours and it was time for another "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo do-release-upgrade". 20.10 brings LibreOffice 7.0 and a big jump in Thunderbird version to 78. Thunderbird is using symbolic icons for folders now which doesn't look great, but eh

It's good to see that the Mailbox Alert extension has been tweaked to work with it

Seeing a reference to development coming out of hibernation with Pinta, I installed that. DeaDBeeF has also been updated, but as I haven't noticed any of the bugs listed by I've downloaded the files but am holding off on touching a working setup.

I quickly encountered some fairly annoying breakages, in another reminder of why new Linux users are advised to stick to Long Term Support releases with Ubuntu and not hop onto every six-month release.

Firstly, the system tray volume control applet was gone and I had to reinstall the plasma-pa package. However, this didn't detect the built-in Intel sound card. I got a clue from that another process might be hijacking devices from pulseaudio, and running "sudo fuser -v /dev/snd/*" sure enough I noticed pipewire entries. AFAIK pipewire has been introduced to provide support for Wayland sessions, which isn't something I use, so I removed pipewire and restarted, and the system found the built-in audio device again. The upgrade also apparently turned notification sounds back on, so those are off again.

VLC crashing and closing on opening most files turned out to be a different issue. Trying an AppImage of (the same version) worked fine, and reinstalling didn't work, which suggested it was something to do with .config files (again). So I renamed vlcrc, keeping vlc-qt-interface.conf, and used a diff tool (Meld) on the recreated vlcrc file and mine. vlcrc contains settings like qt-max-volume=300, custom-crop-ratios=1:2,3:4, custom-aspect-ratios=1:2,3:4 and zoom=0.500000 which I reinstated, as well as turning off hardware acceleration (this Intel chipset has always been a little flaky with VLC for me under Windows as well as Linux).

A while back, my Chromium-based browsers seem to have stopped repainting windows when minimised and restored (ditto menu hover highlights) unless hardware acceleration is turned off. I'm guessing that's kernel related, as there was an update some time before the 20.10 release. Touch wood system hibernation still seems to be working.

VirtualBox stopped working, but that's consistently the case after upgrades since it ties into the OS at a low level. Installing the latest 61.1.16 failed, so I took a tip to use "sudo apt install --reinstall virtualbox-dkms && sudo apt install libelf-dev" which opts for the current version of virtualbox in the 20.10 repos. I'm not sure if the libelf package is strictly necessary. Once that's done the extension pack needs reinstalling as well.

Coming to use Youtube-dl (basically a Python script that fetches videos in a similar way to a browser, except to a file) I found the python command missing, so I followed another tip to use "sudo apt-get install python-is-python3" which just aliases 'python' as a command to 'python3' as far as I know. Youtube-dl as a project has been having other problems, being picked on by the RIAA and booted off Github. Since there's a lot of public domain content on YouTube as well as tons of copyright infringement, I assumed that'd shake itself out in due course – including outcry from journalists who use it to get fair use clips, and there was an election on, etc – and as of now t's back on Gtihub and the site has reviewed its takedown processes:

Memo to self from

youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 -o '%(playlist)s/%(playlist_index)s - %(title)s.%(ext)s'

Coming back to the subject of Wayland, Red Hat appears to be increasingly grudgingly contributing to maintenance, with the lead maintainer arguing, "I'm of the opinion that keeping xfree86 alive as a viable alternative since Wayland started getting real traction in 2010ish is part of the reason those are still issues, time and effort that could have gone into Wayland has been diverted into xfree86." So hopefully someone or someones take it off him, rather than letting one party push forced obsolescence. The rest of the world is mostly getting on okay with X.

Interesting read on KDE:

Speaking of which, there was an unusual bit of drama in the community a month or so ago, particularly in light the project governance article mentioned earlier, when someone (actually the same guy who wrote the article) merged a change to move the location bar in the Dolphin file manager. Unusual because maintainers are generally good at not breaking features and user config, which this did a lot of and drew a lot of complaints;

Just goes to show it's worth a) keeping a watch on dev blogs, and b) projects really would benefit from limited telemetry to establish how users are using software (although in this case it should have been obvious that with a highly configurable toolbar setup that people would use that functionality). Ironically, being able to optionally move the location bar is one of the things that would encourage me to use the default Plasma file manager more.

Also re: Dolphin, how to add custom right-click menu options like with Nemo;


[Desktop Entry]

[Desktop Action openXnViewMP]
Name=Open in XnViewMP
Exec=/home/admech/.myapps/XnView/ %F

And a parting tip: I finally got around to googling for a way to lock the fn function key on the Logitech K400r wireless keyboard I use, to avoid having to press fn to use the F keys. The solution under Linux is called Solaar and is available in the Ubuntu repos. It shows a fairly different percentage estimate of remaining battery life to Plasma, 70% versus 55%, and I suspect Plasma has the more accurate estimate given how long the (alkaline) batteries have been in it.