Monday 10 June 2024

How To Install Mkchromecast on Ubuntu and Ubuntu based Distros

Mkchromecast is a way to stream any sound from your desktop to your Chromecasts, which to me makes it a lot more useful than the Android app for streaming, particularly for streaming offline music to the no longer made Chromecast Audios. Just like Google Home, you can stream to just one or to a Home Group. As per my previous article, I was using Mkchromecast on Manjaro until recent updates killed it, so I switched that particular laptop to KDE Neon, which is my favourite distro. Anyway, here's how to install Mkchromecast: 

Firstly, install git, and then download Mkchromecast from git: 

    sudo apt install git

    git clone 

Then, switch to the mkchromecast directory and install the dependencies:

    cd mkchromecast

    pip install -r requirements.txt

Then install Mkchromecast

You can install from Discover or with apt (sudo apt install mkchromecast) and now it should work fine. I usually use mkchromecast -s to scan for devices and choose my Home group to stream all simultaneously. It's a shame Google discontinued the Chromecast Audio because it works pretty well, and is much cheaper than expensive streaming solutions like Sonus.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

From Manjaro to KDE Neon on My Dell Vostro 3300

So there was a huge update on Manjaro recently to KDE plasma 6 and it killed Mkchromecast again on my Dell Vostro, but this time I wasn't able to get it working again. However I worked out how to get it working in 'buntu based distros, so I decided to switch it to my preferred 'buntu-based distro, KDE Neon. Neon is based on the Kubuntu LTS but with the latest KDE installed. The installer was even easier and smoother than it used to be, so after backing up stuff I wanted to keep, I installed Neon in about 5 or so minutes. This machine has an old hard drive but it still feels fairly snappy to use. 

One of the first things I like to do with KDE now is turn off the stupid Offline updates setting. Seriously KDE devs, this isn't Windows, I don't want or need to have updates run on shutdown! Linux doesn't need to reboot for most updates! I also switched to Breeze Dark theme, and moved the panel to the top, disabling the new floating panel setting. That's what I like about KDE, everything is configurable, unlike Gnome where they have a like it or lump methodology. And the search feature in Settings works very well. Also I discovered that my Dell Vostro has a back-lit keyboard, I accidentally hit the Fn keyboard shortcut to turn it on! 

I also installed all the usual items such as GIMP, Audacious music player, FilezillaCantata (mpd front-end) Yakuake (a drop down terminal) and Kubuntu-restricted-extras. In general this fresh install has gone very smoothly compared to an upgrade, though I did have a slight issue with menus not popping up from the system tray, Switching from Wayland to X11 at the login screen sorted that out. Another little tweak I do is re-enabling the Leave option in the desktop right-click menu. So, other than that slight issue, this fresh install has gone very smoothly, and I'll likely keep KDE Neon on this laptop until the hardware dies whenever that might be, this Vostro is a tough old thing.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Upgrading to KDE Plasma 6.0 - a rocky start for KDE Neon User Edition

When I read about the first stable release of KDE Plasma 6, I thought I'd probably just wait awhile until I try it, but of course I forgot that KDE Neon User Edition would get it so soon.  Well, the update happened and the first thing I noticed, on my main desktop machine, was that for some reason the onscreen keyboard came up on the login screen, large and covering half the screen! To fix this I found a solution on a forum, which entails editing sddm.conf like so:

sudo nano /etc/sddm.conf

and then add 


Save and exit and the onscreen keyboard shouldn't appear again on the login screen. Also it's a rather basic login screen for some reason, no matter which theme I choose. Update - switching to the default Breeze login theme fixes this.

Then I noticed that Wayland was set as default again, after I tried to login and it wouldn't work. Nvidia is the reason for this, but thankfully X11 is still an option and that works. Then on the first few logins I noticed a lot of little errors I think some parts hadn't updated, so a quick trip to Discover, the package manager to make sure everything got updated was needed. And then a day or so after i updated, there was some major bug fixes, which has made things better but i am still getting the odd Plasma crash, usually after logging in and opening Chrome for the first time. Right now the desktop seems to have has settled down and actually feels a bit snappier than Plasma 5 was. I am still getting the occasional error and a few graphical glitches, black screens occasionally., 

KDE Activity manager constantly crashed with the "kactivitymanager closed unexpectedly" error.until I found a solution,  Navigate to ~/.local/share/kactivitymanagerd/resources and delete database, database-shm and database-wal. You will lose your favourites in the KDE menu but at least the annoying kactivitymanager won't keep crashing! Amother odd thing is that the Print Screen key does not open Spectacle anymore.   

Another minor issue is that since Plasma 6 is qt6 based, so Latte Dock no longer works, and will never be updated since it's been abandoned by the lead developer. A shame because it's been my favourite OSX-style dock for years. For now I have added another KDE panel, auto-hiding, and using the new floating panel feature. It's not exactly pretty, but it's functional. I shall miss the magnification effect from Latte, and I can't seem to get the panel to go translucent, even though I have set it to. Floating panels are default now, but to me they look odd on the normal panels so I have disabled them for those. Another minor niggle is that Dolphin always opens without the sidebar even though I closed it with it open. It used to remember my choice. 

On my main laptop, a T430s Thinkpad, the update installed more smoothly, there was no kactivitymanager errors but still have the same basic login screen and had to disable the onscreen keyboard like with my desktop machine. No graphical issues of course, because it's got Intel graphics. One thing I have noticed changed is that when I close the lid then open it again, the keyboard backlight now goes off instead of remembering which setting it was on. My laptop does not have the Dolphin sidebar issue though.

The KDE Neon developer blog has put up an apology for the number of issues with KDE Neon User Edition. Apparently the testing and unstable versions have been running more smoothly. Hopefully they'll send out more fixes soon.

You can read more about what's new in KDE Plasma 6 on the KDE website

Tuesday 19 September 2023

From KDE Neon to Manjaro KDE on my Acer Chromebook 14

So, I only had KDE Neon on my Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431 for a short time but there was no way round the performance issues with YouTube at 1080p. You can't really install another DE on Neon because the way it's built it would break it trying to install Lubuntu or other desktops. I decided to install Manjaro KDE, since it is running so well on my old Dell Vostro. Also, on Manjaro (and Arch) it has the most supported desktops, either unofficially or through the community, so if I need to choose a different desktop, that's lighter on resources, it's easy enough to switch between them...or so I thought... 

As with KDE Neon, I used my Dell Vostro laptop to put the Manjaro KDE ISO onto a USB stick using OpenSuse Image Writer.  Installing was a Breeze, just a USB boot and install from the live desktop as with Neon, since the tricky bit of replacing the bootloader on my Chromebook was already done as per my previous post. And, also as before, the first thing I did after install was set shortcuts for the Display brightness in KDE Settings, and set it to Breeze Dark theme so I wasn't half blinding myself on every boot! I also set all the other shortcuts again while I was there. And yet again re-adding the Leave option to the right-click desktop menu. I am not going to install too much, as it only has a 32GB onboard eMMC, and there's currently only about 8GB left. As with KDE Neon, all the hardware works fine, including sound, trackpad, suspend and resume, webcam, etc. Also one quick fix that needs doing on Manjaro is getting ssh enabled, since for some reason when you install the service it isn't enabled by default, and I found a fix here.

Then I installed Google Chrome using this tutorial (I used the second option of installing it using the AUR Helper, yay, which can be installed from the package manager if required) and made sure that YouTube played 1080p without stuttering or stopping completely, which it did just fine. Hurrah! I also installed any updates available through Manjaro's package manager. After a reboot for the kernel update, I then installed my favourite apps again, such as Audacious, GIMP, Filezilla, etc, though I didn't have to install VLC this time since it was already there. I have found that if I want to watch YouTube videos with as little jitter as possible, it's best to only have YouTube open, and absolutely no Facebook tabs! Facebook uses way too much memory and CPU. 

I also tried to install Lxqt desktop, just to see if I could save some resources, using these instructions, with no success, it does not load the whole desktop, just openbox itself, and caused a very slow boot too for some reason. I then tried Fluxbox desktop but the extra packages listed on that tutorial were unavailable to install and I couldn't get any apps to run. And on the reboot, it failed to boot. So very frustrating. So it turns out switching desktops on Manjaro is not as easy as I thought! I then had to reinstall and setup everything again.... It's a good job installing is so quick! So if you do want to try other desktops with Manjaro, it's best to just download the specific ISO for that desktop. 

So Manjaro is now running fine again. I could have used Google's ChromeOS Flex to extend the life of this Chromebook but I don't really want to go back to ChromeOS after the flexibility and freedom of running Linux on it.  It has a nicer screen for photo editing than my Thinkpad so that's what it will get used for, when not using my main desktop. The only slight downside is the lack of storage space, have to be careful not to use too much of the 15GB or so left on the drive. I have put a little USB stick in the side just in case I need it. I'll keep Manjaro KDE on it for as long as it continues to work well on it. Feel free to suggest any other distros that might suit it better. 

Sunday 17 September 2023

Installing a full Linux distro on my Acer Chromebook 14 CB-431

 So I was having trouble with my Chromebook. When editing photos with Google Photos it would slow down then freeze. After testing in another user account with no extensions or add-ons, it still had the same issue. I then went last resort and powerwashed it. This is simple and quick way of wiping back to factory settings....and then I decided to install a full Linux distro on it.... 

My Acer Chromebook 14 has been End of life for awhile now, (it was released in 2016) which means no more fixes for issues, and no new features. I'd already removed the hardware write protection screw inside the base in preparation for possibly putting Linux on it awhile ago, I had just put off doing it until now. Luckily there's very useful guides on the Arch Linux Wiki on how to put Linux on a Chromebook. I used the guide for my specific model, here.  It is a CB3-431, 4GB RAM, 1080P screen version (Acer also did a 2GB, 720p screen version). 

There's a couple of different options on the Arch Wiki, and I chose the Coreboot route. Linux only, no dual boot. After installing the custom bootloader, I went ahead with installing Linux as normal, wiping all the internal 32GB storage. I used my favourite distro, KDE Neon, which is basically Kubuntu LTS but with the latest version of KDE. I wrote the ISO to a USB stick using OpenSuse Image Writer, which worked perfectly, it's the first time I've ever used it. 

After a normal uneventful install, KDE Neon used just under half of the Acer's 32GB internal storage. It still boots pretty quickly. The main thing I noticed after logging in for the first time, was the display was on full brightness and of course in ChromeOS the Brightness keys are on what would be the normal F keys in Linux. You can use change shortcuts in KDE settings, and create custom ones. For Brightness Up and Down I used Ctrl + F6 and F7. For for the Volume keys I used Ctrl + Shift + F8 and F9  (which were the Volume keys in ChromeOS). The Fullscreen key is F4 so I added Ctrl and Shift for that too. There's a smaller number of F keys to standard so I had to choose another shortcut key for my favourite drop-down terminal emulator, Yakuake. As expected, the Google/Search key becomes the Super Key aka The "Windows key".  

Some of the fixes on the Arch wiki were not needed, such as those for the sound and touchpad. The trackpad seems to work fine, though right clicking only works with the default setting, clicking on the bottom right corner of the trackpad, instead of the two finger clicks that I am used to. Just a case of getting used to that, along with the new keyboard shortcuts. 

The sound works out the box and one advantage of running Linux on this Chromebook is you can increase the Volume beyond 100%, which you cannot do on ChromeOS, as the audio was far too quiet, in headphones or from the speakers on this machine. I used to have to use a Chrome extension called Volume Master to boost the volume on ChromeOS, but its downside was that YouTube couldn't run fullscreen while it was in use. Although having said that, sometimes after boosting the audio for some time, it sometimes goes to just playing a tone.  Another option I can now use is a USB audio interface, like my M-Audio M-Track Solo, which is something else I couldn't use with ChromeOS. 

After all the main tinkering, it was just a case of installing all my usual favourite apps, such as VLC, Audacious, Cantata, FIlezilla etc. And finally, bringing back the Leave option in the Desktop right click menu and removing the silly offline updates feature.  Performance is fairly snappy on first impression, considering it only has 4GB RAM. Lm-sensors reports the normal temperatures as 45 Deg C at idle, rising to just under 50 under heavier loads. Suspend and Resume work fine and battery life doesn't seem to be impacted. It does struggle with 1080P YouTube in Chrome, but it plays a little bit smoother in Firefox. I'm not using Latte Dock as I would usually, because that uses more resources than it should. KDE isn't as heavy as it used to be but I might have to install a distro with a lighter or minimal desktop environment.

 I've been impressed with the full 1080P screen on the Acer ever since I first got it, and KDE looks fantastic on it. I have always preferred to edit photos in Google Photos on the Chromebook instead of on the dull screen on my Thinkpad T430s, the colours are more accurate.  

So far, I am pleased with full Linux on my Acer 14, and I am not missing running ChromeOS yet. It can't run Android apps the same way as ChromeOS did, but that's something I rarely did. They often felt a bit awkward on the desktop. It boots pretty fast, getting to the logon screen not much slower than ChromeOS did. I only wish it had a backlit keyboard, but then at the price it was originally that was to be expected. Installing Linux has basically extended the life of this Chromebook and I'll keep using Linux on it until the device dies, which will probably be whenever the 32GB eMMC onboard storage is dies. It is soldered to the main board so it's not really upgradeable/replaceable. Until then, this Acer will get plenty of use, probably mostly YouTube and Google Photos when I am away from my main desktop. I just have to decide whether to stick with KDE Neon or switch to a lighter weight distro.  

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Rant: Google Has Ruined Google Photos On The Desktop

 It's not often I complain about free services, but Google Photos used to be good, other than the occasional glitch it was very useful. That is until very recently when Google made the web app more like the mobile app, including making the image Aspect tool more like the Android app, which is mildly annoying to use with a mouse. And with every single image I have to choose the aspect ratio, otherwise it stays on Free! It used to stick to whichever aspect was used last. 

Oh and putting every quick edit tool behind a Google One paywall is annoying too, particularly when those same tools are available in the mobile app for nothing. The Enhance button usually makes photos far too cool by lowering the Warmth level for some silly reason.

But no, that is not the most egregious change. No, that prize goes to the removal of Copy and Paste between images. You used to be able to edit one image to how you wanted it, CTRL+C the changes, then move left or right, without clicking Done, to the next image and then CTRL+V those image settings. I could get through dozens of images in no time at all with this method, with maybe a slight alteration to the settings throughout. But no, now you cannot move to the next image without clicking Save. So that's one hurdle to productivity, and you cannot copy and paste, so that slows me down even more! Just why were these removed? Does Google even use their own software? This is just the worst change to Google Photos I have ever encountered! And they still have not fixed odl bugs like after archiving an image, the web app refuses to move to the direction of the next image, so i have to go back out to all images and in again. I shall now continue editing today's photos, which will take about 4 times longer than it did before!  

/Rant endeth

Update 14/10/2023:

Copy and paste of edits is back, but you still can't move form image to image without exiting edit mode.

Thursday 13 July 2023

Linuxiversary... Three Years With LinuxMint.

Today is my third ‘linuxaversary’, that’s three years using Linux full time, leaving a twenty year relationship with Apple behind in 2020 and what a journey it has been.

I wrote an article on the first anniversary and on the second anniversary and I have to say this year has been a lot better.

While I had played with Linux while still in the Mac world, jumping in to it full time for all my computing needs was a daunting task. I had to make sure it was capable of doing everything I needed – and I was fairly up to speed with it - with as little down time as possible. I’d already been using a lot of cross platform open source apps on my Mac so it was mainly the OS swap I had to cope with.

The first year was a steep learning curve. While Mac and Linux are quite similar, there was still a lot to learn and a handful of times I did question whether I had done the right thing. I get very frustrated when I can’t do something or work something out. The second year was a lot smoother, I had settled in quite well, with only a few minor issues which were easily fixed. This last year has been a breeze, an absolute joy to use and now I cannot see myself using anything else.

Linux Mint Cinnamon is my distro of choice and is fantastic. I have run it on a few different laptops over the last few years but currently (and for quite a while now) I am using it on a Dell Latitude E7250 – a rather modest fifth gen i5 machine, maxed with an mSATA drive and 16GB of RAM. It more than copes with my daily life – which consists of web browsing and video editing.

Linux and the choice of desktop environments have come a long way in the last ten years. Very rarely would the average user need to dip in to terminal and a lot more software is cross platform and if not there are software managers – like App Stores – where even a non-technically mind person can browse and install what they need. I certainly think in terms of Linux Mint and Ubuntu they are easier, less complicated, less intrusive and far more stable than running Windows.

That is the beauty of Linux. There are distros suited for everyone – new users, pro users and those with specific needs. And while Mac and Windows really need modern hardware to function fully, Linux can be tailored to run on modern hardware as well as less capable hardware and even very low end kit – depend on which distro and desktop environment you choose – making it fantastic for just about everyone.

So I am happy. I won’t be writing an anniversary article next year. I have reached that point from initially switching where I had minor hiccups and learning new Linux related things daily, to just being able to use my laptop for what I need without anything getting in the way. After all, I just want to get done what I need to. But if I need to I can comfortably install new software, dip in to Terminal and fix any issues – although finger crossed I haven’t had any in the last year – without it eating up an entire afternoon.

On a small side note, for anyone who relies on Windows software – there is always the option to run some of these inside Linux. I do a lot of gaming on portable devices and I like to mod them or run hacked games which need specific small piece of software or patching tools, which are generally developed for Windows only and I have had great success running these using WINE – which is a great tool (available for Mac as well as Linux) which adds a compatibility layer and emulates the Windows environment (although it does stand for Wine Is Not an Emulator) allowing a lot of Windows only software to run.

So I am going to finish this article (and mini series) with one piece of advice. If you are fed up with the constant chase of new hardware with Apple, or hate the intrusiveness and downright awkwardness of Windows, you should give Linux a serious thought. There is a distro and a desktop environment to suit everyone's needs and while it might be a little more complicated initially – if you don’t rely on Mac or Windows only software – then I highly recommend giving Linux some consideration.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at