Monday, 8 September 2014

How to add Gmusicbrowser to the Media Menu in Cinnamon/Gnome desktops

My favourite music player for a long time has been Gmusicbrowser as it's lightweight and can handle extremely large music collections with ease, taking only a short time to scan my 50,000+ track collection. However for awhile now, it's tray icon never shows in Cinnamon or Gnome desktops, which has it's own Media Menu with playback buttons and volume controls. Without a fix it usually just shows only 'Gmusicbrowser' clickable that just opens the player, and no controls. I found a work around sometime back that I just rediscovered after a reinstall of Mint 17 Cinnamon on my main desktop.

Essentially you need to use your favourite text editor to add 'cinnamon' to the list of players in  /usr/share/cinnamon/applets/ in the "compatible_players variable" section, save the file, then restart Cinnamon (Ctrl+F2 then enter a single letter 'r' and press enter) or just logout and log in. Now start Gmusicbrowser and it should now have a proper entry in the Media Menu with playback controls and we're done. I've also rediscovered Gmusicbrowser's built in desktop widgets.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Revitalizing a Sony VAIO with Xubuntu 14.04 (Part 2)

Back in June of this year, I rescued a 2008 Sony VAIO VGN-N31S/W from a fate worse than being recycled, a life with Windows Vista. It had a dodgy power cable,  dead battery and a missing letter 'O' on the keyboard. I have bought a new PSU, upgraded the RAM from 1GB to 3GB and have just replaced the missing key.

When I first got the VAIO, I replaced the broken Windows Vista installation with Xubuntu 14.04 32bit, but I now wish I had installed the 64bit version. I wanted to reinstall but could not get it to boot from USB or DVD, which is odd because I managed it before. And I check every time that the boot settings are correct in the BIOS. I would also like to replace the dead battery but I am wary about spending more money it. I have recently switched from the Xubuntu desktop to Cinnamon desktop using the PPA and the how-to detailed in this article and it runs very well on the VAIO with it's 3GB RAM.

Having used the VAIO for about 2 months now I now know it's strengths and weaknesses and faults. Although it weighs 6.6lbs, it does not feel heavy when sat on my lap, but it does feel back-breaking when carrying it in my rucksack! I am not usually a fan of glossy screens but I love the VAIO's beautiful 15.4" screen that gives a 1280 x 800 (16:10) resolution. My family always remark how good it looks when I am showing them photos on it. I can also store plenty of photos on the 320GB hard drive, which is handy when away from the Internet. It also suspends and resumes perfectly and is very quiet in use, it's cooling fans can barely be heard. It's also the only laptop I have with an Express card slot.

On the downside, the keyboard is not as comfortable as most of my other laptops. I don't know whether this is because of age or dirt or it was built that way. I often find i get more typos than I do with my other laptops. The trackpad buttons aren't very responsive either, you have to hit them in just the right place for response. the trackpad itself is just fine though. It also would be nice if Sony had put Gigabit onboard rather than just 10/100 Ethernet.

Overall it does feel more of a consumer grade laptop than a corporate one, but I am fairly happy with the Sony VAIO, especially considering it has not cost me much to obtain and repair so for now I shall keep it running until it dies. I find it very useful for showing photos and videos to my folks, mainly because of that fantastic screen. I used to use my Samsung N145 netbook for this but the screen is tiny and not very bright, so despite it's weight, the power and screen of the VAIO makes it better suited to the job.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Linux Music Players for Large Music Libraries

Back in 2009 I wrote a blogpost on Linux music players, about finding a Linux equivalent to Foobar or Winamp, and I've just recently been trying other music players again after a very long time of using Gmusicbrowser

Friday, 20 June 2014

Living With KDE on Kubuntu 14.04 - part 2.

Some observations I have made while using Kubuntu 14.04. Part 1 is here.


For some reason, my networked HP Laserjet 2600n printer installs without me having to choose the driver in Xubuntu and Mint Cinnamon, but not in Kubuntu, where the driver appears to be missing. I solved this problem by installing hplip-gui (the graphical tool for HP Lip) which downloads and installs the correct driver.

The correct driver missing by default

HP Lip Gui

Copy and Dropbox cloud storage

The Copy app started OK but the interface is quite sluggish and at one point got confused when I set it to only download certain files on this machine, it then went on to download the whole lot, greater than the size of the HDD on this laptop, not a good idea! Deleting the Copy folder and Copy itself and running it again seemed to fix it.

Dropbox works OK apart from it does not integrate into Dolphin, the KDE file manager, so there's nothing to show what's happening in the file manger.

KDE IM Contacts

This is KDE's default IM client, also known as Telepathy, it works OK but I find it annoying that KDE Wallet always asks me for my password, and it's the only app so far that does this. I remember having this problem on KDE3 but only when I had autologin enabled, if I recall correctly. Also I am really not keen on that Indicator/tray icon!


One thing that I am quite impressed with is the progress of Gwenview image viewer. I have not used it for years, probably since KDE3, and I have to say it has become a very decent photo viewer, good for quick crops and other edits, better than Gnome's default viewer.

KDE Connect

Usually I use either LinConnect or PushBullet to show notifications from my Galaxy S3 (which runs CM11) on my desktop, but KDE has KDE Connect which is easy to install from the default repositories, just install the kdeconnect package. It has a nice configuration tool too, found in KDE's System Settings and was very easy to setup. It does seem to be more reliable (and easier to setup) than LinConnect and it does not need a browser like PushBullet.


I used to love Amarok back in the KDE 3 days, then it went through an overhaul and took ages for it's third party add-ons to catch-up, and I really wasn't keen on the versions I tried a year or so ago. However in Kubuntu 14.04 it does seem to have improved a lot, it runs quite smoothly on my low end laptop. Having said that, I have not tested it elsewhere with my large collection of mp3s. Unlike a lot of other players that work fine in many different desktops, Amarok works best in it's native KDE.

I am surprised how much I have got used to Kubuntu, and it is a reasonably usable desktop, apart from the time it takes to get it setup how I want it, and a few little niggles. I shall keep it on this laptop for now, but I don't think I'll use it on my main desktop yet, unless Cinnamon becomes completely unusable.  

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Living With KDE on Kubuntu 14.04

First a little background. Most of the first Linux distros I ever used had a KDE 3 desktop or had it as an option, and I preferred it to Gnome 2 at the time,  regularly used Mepis, Vector, Fedora, Slax amongst others. I was a regular distro hopper back then, but I stuck with KDE 3 until just before KDE 4.x then I switched to Gnome 2 on Ubuntu 7.10 (on my desktop) and XFCE on Xubuntu (on my laptop). Late KDE 3 got a bit buggy for me and once i started using Gnome 2 regularly, I started to prefer it, and I used it right up until Ubuntu switched to using Unity by default. I did briefly try Gnome Classic but it was never the same, so I switched to Xubuntu on desktops and laptops, and then recently Mint Cinnamon (desktop and 2 laptops) and Xubuntu (lower end laptops).
So I have not really thoroughly tried Kubuntu or any KDE desktop for a while and every time I did I found it a little annoying to use, and the default themes distros generally use do not help either, especially Kubuntu. Even the default KDE theme on Fedora isn't very nice and besides I always end up going back to *buntu or Debian based distros as that is what I am used to and know how to use and tweak. Just recently though, since 14.04 came out, I decided to try using Kubuntu on one of my laptops and really try to use it every day, to see if I could get it the way I want it. Here's how Kubuntu looks by default:

First thing I had to do, was change that hideous default look somehow and remove that shiny folder thing! KDE has lots of settings to customize the entire desktop environment. At first KDE was also quite sluggish on this Dell Latitude D520 which has a 1.6ghz Core Duo CPU integrated Intel graphics and 4GB of RAM. It ran much better once I had disabled all the snazzy desktop effects. This actually makes KDE more bearable for me as I cannot stand the horrible shiny bling and great big drop shadows under windows, always reminds me of Ja Ja Binks in the Robot Chicken Star Wars special, by default KDE is all "Me-sa all sparkly glowy!" - and equally annoying!

Me-sa  all sparkly glowy!

I tried various themes and icons and finally settled on Moka icon theme, Chrome Dark window decorations, and Opaquity Desktop theme. I also set the Splash Screen to Minimalistic and also set the desktop wallpaper and Login screen to the same image.  I've also tweaked the colours too.

Layout-wise, I have moved the main panel to the top, made it smaller to give me more desktop space, and I think it also looks much nicer. Instead of a lower panel I always like to have a dock. My favourite is Cairo Dock but it merely crashed out in KDE on this laptop, so I installed Plank (aka Docky) instead and gave it permanent shortcuts for all my most used apps. I found this little list of stuff to do after installing Kubuntu quite handy. I stuck with Firefox as my default browser, though I might install Chrome too at some point. I also installed Yakuake drop-down Quake-style terminal, similar to Guake that I usually use.

One thing that I found a little annoying is KDE uses an "Activities" thing that I don't really like, and I found it took a bit of digging to work out how to add another workspace and set the default shortcuts for switching between them using Ctrl + Alt + left/right cursor, which is default in pretty much every major DE I have used.

KDE is pretty much a tinkerers paradise and although I used to enjoy that part, these days I prefer to actually use my desktop after no more than 30 minutes or so of configuration. I have spent a lot more time than that just trying to get KDE to look and work how I like it. With my main desktop I use Mint Cinnamon and all I usually do, appearance-wise, on that is move the panel, install Cairo Dock and change the icons, that's all I need to do. KDE needs a lot more tinkering to get it how I want it. Here's how my KDE desktop now looks after I login, as you can see I like a nice clean desktop with no icons or clutter, just a panel and dock. I shall keep using Kubuntu on this laptop for awhile and see how things go.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Upgrading Linux Mint Cinnamon from version 16 to 17.

Linux Mint 17 was recently released and so I had one laptop and my main desktop to upgrade from Mint 16 to 17, both of which I use the Cinnamon desktop on. Since Mint have decided to base the next few releases on the 14.04 LTS version of Ubuntu, it will make the next few upgrades much simpler, and should mean less reinstalls. I prefer to upgrade in place as I'm not keen on reinstalling as it can take a lot of time to configure and reinstall apps, etc.

Ubuntu has a proper way to upgrade between releases and you can upgrade from LTS to LTS with the update manager. With Mint, there is no official upgrade method, but you can just 'cheat' and change the source lists to the new release. it's not guaranteed to work but I upgraded from Mint 15 to 16 with this method and I just upgraded to 17 using this how-to.

First I upgraded my main desktop, a Dell Precision 390, it took a long time to download all the updates but it went fairly well. For some reason the English (UK) settings seemed to be missing after the upgrade, so my keyboard was set to English (US). Pretty easy to sort out in the Settings Manager. One thing that's slightly annoying is that Gmusicbrowser's icon will not show up in the Notification area anymore, despite that setting being enabled. There are also some spurious errors on boot but they do not hold up the boot process or cause any problems. The settings manager has been improved, Nemo file manager seems to have some refinements, and the system as a whole does feel a little quicker. There's a full list of new features on the Linux Mint website.

My HP nc6320 laptop upgrade went well too without any problems what-so-ever and, unlike on my desktop, the keyboard settings remained as English (UK). As you can see from the screenshots, my preferred configuration on laptops and desktops is to have a top panel and a dock instead of a lower panel, with Conky for system info to one side of the desktop.


Saturday, 7 June 2014

CyanogenMod on Samsung Galaxy S3 - 4.4.3

Just a little update on my Galaxy S3, as of the CM11-20140606 Nightly, my phone has been running 4.4.3 version of Android, even as my 2012 Nexus 7 has yet to receive it's 4.4.3 update! And I have just installed today's Nightly with no problems so far. It's stable enough to be a "daily driver" and I like the new Contacts screen, looks and works better than before. Apparently the default camera can now save to the SD card but I'm still using a flashed Google Camera so I can't test that. I look forward to the next Nightlies to see what they bring.