Project Zebra: Proud of machines that think, suspicious of people who try to ►

◄ Project Zebra: People ignore design that ignores people

2021-05-07 📌 Project Zebra: The finger power just wasn't there

Tags 🏷 All 🏷 Linux 🏷 Tech 🏷 Personal

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

Title reference: Diane Youdale (Jet from Gladiators) joining in with Dominik Diamond on the near-constant innuendoes in a kids' TV show.

It was late April and as a user of an Ubuntu flavour that meant it was time for sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo do-release-upgrade – then, since that didn't find the upgrade, sudo do-release-upgrade -d

It seemed to take longer to apply than last time, and on rebooting SDDM and most icons (and parts of the taskbar) once onto the desktop were rendering as black rectangles… this turned out to be a quick fix, possibly connected to using xrender for the compositor backend, although it's another good example of why I'm relatively less likely to prompt people towards Linux unless I could be around to help in situations like this and would concur with common advice that typical users stick to Long Term Support releases rather than six-monthly upgrades.

apt install --reinstall --allow-downgrades -y libqt5quick5

And restarting (I found it necessary to restart the machine, not just SDDM).

So anything interesting? Pleasantly few unwanted changes and reading flagged them up in advance. The memory usage tray widget I was using has been withdrawn from a standard Plasma install and it turns out it's System Load Monitor in the store (also after installing some updates and a few restarts it reappeared next to the new one I'd added). But for good measure I've bound KSysGuard to a keyboard shortcut (Meta+K for that, and Meta+H for htop). Some standard icons returned to the application menu, and got removed or hidden again. Apart from that the only noticeable change in my setup is that the overflow area for the system tray is now a grid rather than a list, which is the level of non-change you want in a desktop environment you've got set up the way you want it. Dolphin gains the ability to move the navigation bar into the toolbar; it's an adequate file manager even if the inability to elevate to root is a touch annoying, and I'd probably use it on a clean install. The integrated console is also a nice touch, but I still don't see a reason to pick it over my existing file manager.

Oh, had to install virtualbox-qt again which apparently got removed. VirtualBox usually needs upgrading or reinstalling with every full distro upgrade so that's not particularly surprising. All settings were retained.

Some people had problems with 21.04 and Canonical therefore waited to push it out widely, but I'm not using EFI (as far as I recall the mobo is set to legacy BIOS) so the issue doesn't affect me.

The last time I looked at graphics settings was a couple of years ago, under Xfce, and I ended up reverting to default Xorg config rather than using commonly recommended TearFree settings and turning off hardware acceleration in browsers and VLC. Watching 720p on YouTube in Chrome the processor usage is still minimal. Plasma's compositor is set to XRender as a backend, and Full screen repaints.

I had a read of an article which concludes with suggesting altering a range of settings and then the Arch wiki again which suggests that TearFree doesn't actually work with UXA. So I've just followed the wiki advice and added back the TearFree setting.


Section "Device"
Identifier "Intel Graphics"
Driver "intel"
Option "TearFree" "true"

And looking at as an example tearing test it does look better. I'm keeping acceleration off in applications, which as I say doesn't seem to add excessive processor usage (20% for 720p content in Chrome or 10% for VLC, which goes up in the latter to 30% for 1080p or resizing 2160p) and let's see if it remains happy.

There are some takeaways here... don't just kitchen sink settings that other people recommend without a bit of research, and onboard Intel graphics of this vintage (inxi says it's Intel Xeon E3-1200 v2/3rd Gen Core processor Graphics) don't really seem to offer much in the way of hardware acceleration that applications can take advantage of, and what they do seems to be buggy.

I've had people suggest avoiding XRender as well, but for my usage it makes little difference; I don't like desktop animations and prefer things to happen instantly, so the desktop environment doesn't add load.

Elsewhere in the Linux world, Sean Davis wrote on switching focus to Elementary OS after helping to introduce breaking changes to Xfce (including headerbars that don't support certain Xfwm4 functionality) to make it more like Elementary: "As for why I've started to transition away from the Xfce world, it's hard to summarize. Conversations about CSD, packaging formats, theming, feature sets... Everybody's got an opinion. Many of these opinions are important and move the Linux desktop forward, but more often than not the conversation goes sour. This is particularly relevant for Xfce, a classic desktop paradigm favored by users that don't like change. The experience I want to build and the technologies to build it are better aligned with the elementary project than Xfce."

I found a file wiping add-in for Nemo via the Mint forum and got the deb package from here. It does appear to require root, and doesn't prompt to elevate if run as a normal user. I'm also not sure if it renames files before wiping, but seems okay for giving old magnetic media drives a full wipe before reuse. Incidentally, the default location for trash seems to be ~/.local/share/Trash/files

Interesting article on Wayland and Xorg, with a nod to the way ChromeOS might make both irrelevant.

It turns out Opera comes with a ton of hidden crap, which came to light a while back when an upgrade prompted for additional permissions for an extension… and if you run the executable with --show-component-extension-options you can see them. Opera claim that it's nothing to worry about, but there's no reason a normal user needs functionality such as "Aliexpress observer", "Google Hangouts" or "Amazon promotion".

This is a neat trick with ffmpeg to combine two (or more videos) side by side;

ffmpeg -i left.mp4 -i right.mp4 -filter_complex hstack=inputs=2 output.mp4

Windows 10 is due to be able to run Linux GUI apps;

After finding some old school-era magazines I had thoughts about bulk scanning and clearing out some other things. Looking around, A3 scanners are a niche product and the budget options such as the Plustek OpticSlim 1180 run to between £260 and £335. I'm fairly sure it'd work with Linux and the quality wouldn't be a major issue; apparently it uses a CIS sensor rather than a more premium CCD and goes up to 1200dpi. 15 seconds is the claimed scan time at 300dpi and reviewers note some issues with reds and dark areas. I'm just not sure I'm that bothered about making copies of the stuff in question before disposal.

I've been watching/listening to Gamesmaster on Youtube after seeing Dominik Diamond on Richard Herring's RHLSTP – there was also a Kickstarter recently for a book about it; and I'd have pledged if there was an ebook, but can see why they've gone for a boutique hardcover first. Also, I'm pleasantly surprised to be reminded how encouraging a host DD was to kids and how many participants fell outside of stereotypes, although S2 has already introduced a roleplay "banished to the pit" shaming for particularly crap players. Maybe feedback wasn't good, since by halfway through the series I haven't noticed it as much.

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