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2020-05-20Project Zebra: Every hundred years a bird comes and sharpens its beak

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

Title reference: one of Peter Capaldi's finest moments as Doctor Who, riffing off imagery in much older works.

Very occasionally I use wallpaper. The version of Plasma I'm using (5.16.5) hardcodes white text labels for desktop items with a shadow, which doesn't look great on relatively light wallpaper images such as the nice high-resolution stock photograph used as a background on https://penguinprestige.com/ (that's not where I noticed it, this is a smaller version).

Since the desktop is a plasmoid, just like the application menu and other widgets, the instructions on https://forum.kde.org/viewtopic.php?f=289&t=131951 give enough pointers to edit the qml configuration file – specifically to make icon text look more like it did in older versions of Plasma, with a background rectangle behind the text for extra clarity.

It's simply a case of copying the /usr/share/plasma/plasmoids/org.kde.desktopcontainment/ to ~/.local/share/plasma/plasmoids/org.kde.desktopcontainment/ and editing the contents/ui/FolderItemDelegate.qml file.

To remove the shadow, change color: "black" in this section to "transparent" (or you can use a hex value such as "#606060" for a more subtle shadow).

                Component {
                    id: textShadowComponent

If you want to change the text colour, you can change #fff in this section:

                    color: (frameLoader.textShadow && frameLoader.textShadow.visible
                        ? "#fff" : PlasmaCore.ColorScope.textColor)

And lastly, to add a background to the text, before

                Component {
                    id: textShadowComponent

add

                Rectangle {
                    id: textBackground

                    visible: true

                    anchors {
                        left: label.left
                        leftMargin: -units.smallSpacing
                        top: label.top
                        topMargin: -units.smallSpacing
                        right: label.right
                        rightMargin: -units.smallSpacing
                        bottom: label.bottom
                        bottomMargin: -units.smallSpacing
                    }

                    color: "black"
                    radius: units.smallSpacing
                    opacity: 0.4
                }

Then restart the shell with "kquitapp5 plasmashell && plasmashell &".

It looks quite nice as well as being functional, and is one of the few good uses for transparency I can think of.

In other minor tweaks, I renamed the view-refresh icons in my theme to disable them so that they fall back to a theme with a higher resolution icon, because Discover uses it for an animation when checking for updates and that's been bugging me for a while.

And on a previous issue, that the transparency of the panel and widgets isn't configurable in the default Breeze theme, there's been some developer discussion on the topic – yay! – https://phabricator.kde.org/D28627

The DE round-up in Linux Format 262 (20th anniversary issue) is another slightly odd one... Gnome, KDE, Cinnamon and tiling/minimalist entries Awesome and Regolith. It stops short of trying to push the two lesser-known more specialised environments very much. On the other hand, as a DE traditionalist, it's nice to get a bit of information that isn't just about usual suspects.

It's a decent issue in general including a group interview with ex-editors, a tutorial about setting up Debian installs I have no intention of following but is interesting (you can tell who has their head screwed on by whether they agree with you about software picks…) and more to go back to. I've also taken advantage of the "five issues for a fiver" Spring offer, mostly to dip into the PDF archive although I'm sure the new issues will have some stuff of interest and I'll probably stick with the subscription for a while when it goes to full price.

The end of April saw the release of Ubuntu (and Kubuntu) 20.04 so it was time to jump on the bandwagon;

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade && sudo apt dist-upgrade
sudo apt autoremove
sudo do-release-upgrade -d

That involved about 2GB of files, and the video I was watching kept playing in Chrome and only went audio-only about three quarters of the way into the upgrade. My notes about outcomes post-reboot are very short;

* A script I have to open Truecrypt drives with Veracrypt wasn't working, which I tracked down to the names of devices in /dev/disk/by-id having changed format, so where IDs started with "usb-WD_My_Book_Duo_" they now start with "ata-WDC_"
* I've updated Veracrypt as well.
* The odd one or two Gnome CSD apps I have installed (i.e. Disks) now get a shadow, other apps like Chrome still don't.
* There don't seem to be any breaking changes to the Plasmoids I'd modified in Kubuntu 19.10
* The upgrade either reverted Kdocker to the 5.0 repository version or (more likely) I'd still got it installed before I compiled and installed 5.2 – so I removed the repo version, tried to recompile 5.2, got a fatal compilation error about X11/Xlib-xcb.h, installed libx11-xcb-dev, found there was a 5.3 source version noting it's aimed at a more recent version of Qt, and compiled and installed that. After another reboot it worked fine.
* I checked VirtualBox was still working, as it often needs updating after significant upgrades, but it seems fine.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is stuffing Candy Crush and adverts directly into Windows; https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/17/14956540/microsoft-windows-10-ads-taskbar-file-explorer

Bigger news… someone's just pointed out a way of vertically-maximising CSD windows in Xfce. Not with the GUI (clicks on window borders don't reach the window manager, as far as I know) but the window manager does allow keyboard shortcuts to be assigned to actions such as horizontal and vertical maximise. That's a perfectly acceptable workaround as far as I'm concerned. People who want to be able to shade/roll-up windows or continue to use Xfwm4 themes are still out of luck though.

Can I be bothered to switch my daily driver PC back from Plasma to Xfce? Probably not. For one thing, I'd rather wait and see what other potentially unwelcome developments 4.16 may bring. For another overall I generally prefer KWin's implementation of window management. But having options if Plasma changes direction itself is very welcome.