More Ubuntu Annoyances, Like Focus-Follows-Mouse… Foo

I don’t know how anybody can work with focus on click. It is just a waste of time and energy. So it is really annoying to me that focus on click is always the default. And Unity has the same lack of configuration option as Gnome. You can’t switch the mouse focus mode with the standard settings.

To help that problem they finally have a UI that you can install with this command:

apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

When you now search for the unity-tweak-tool it will start and gives you a lot of missing options and settings to improve your workflow on your desktop. Stuff like configuring the launcher, panels, desktop switcher, mouse behavior, shortcuts, theme settings, etc.

This tool is a life savior for me and makes Unity actually a little bit more usable.

But there might be some stuff that is not in the tweak tool yet. In that case you can install the gconf editor:

apt-get install gconf-editor

You start it with the command gconf-editor. If you like poking around in the MS Windows registry, then this is your friend. It looks very similar and is a powerful tool to apply settings for which Canonical thought you don’t need a UI for.

Now, there is of course another tool that is helping you setting up Compiz, the composite manager. Most settings should be in the gconf editor, but you never know. So lets install that one as well and play around:

apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

You invoke it with the command ccsm and have access to all the internal settings of Compiz.

And the CompizConfig settings manager,… wow, that is a mouthfull… That manager is the one that finally was able to resolve my issue with resizing windows. I like the quite common setting of using ALT+RightMouseButton to resize a window. and the Compiz settings manager is offering the setting.

In Window Management->Resize Window you can change exactly that behavior from the Ubuntu default middle mouse button to the right button. When you set it to the right mouse button (button 3) you might get a warning about a conflict with the Window Menu feature. I don’t need that one so I simply disabled it. And if I needed, then I can use the same tool to assign another key-mouse-button combination.

Now, why do you need next to the standard settings dialogs additional three tools to get just the basic setup going is something that most likely only some UI designers at Canonical know. But at least I have some tools to get to a usable workspace.

Getting Rid Of The Top Menu In Ubuntu

A fresh installation on one of my machines and I decided to give Ubuntu’s Unity another try. And the first that jumped out at me was the more than annoying global menu bar on top of the screen. Apple might be everybody’s darling when it comes to UI design but they do not understand how this disrupts the workflow. Especially when you are using focus-follows-mouse, it is like playing roulette when you try to get to the correct menu.

But it seems quite easy to get rid of that annoying function by simply uninstalling some packages. And here is what I found you have to do:

apt-get remove appmenu-gtk appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-qt

Well, but that is not working for the Saucy Salamander (13.10). Why should it, it is new and shiny. So here is what you have to remove in addition:

apt-get remove appmenu-qt5 indicator-appmenu

And before I forget it. In the older Ubuntu versions you also have to disable the “Global Menu Bar integration” plugin in Firefox.

In pre-saucy Ubuntu versions you can also use a less invasive way of disabling the menu:


echo "export UBUNTU_MENUPROXY=0" > /etc/X11/Xsession.d/81ubuntu-menu-proxy

Nonetheless there are some problems. Some programs, i.e. Rhythmbox, require the global menu. So I simply resorted to not using them. But if you rely on them and you don’t want to have a global menu, then you have a problem. But maybe this will be resolved with the new per-application configuration in 14.04.

Adobe Acrobat Reader in Ubuntu 13.10 Foo

I guess more or less every Linux user has noticed that the official Adobe Acrobat Reader version is out of date and that Adobe has no intention to update it. So you are stuck with version 9.5.5, which is mostly okay especially when you need some features that are only available in the official reader.

And as a logical consequence, Ubuntu is not providing a package anymore in its newer releases. Especially when there are so many alternatives to the simple Reader functionality. But fear not, you can still install the Adobe’s Reader and there is even a .deb package on Adobe’s download site.

Because the package does not come through the standard repository you have to resolve the dependencies on your own… well, I mean tell apt to resolve the dependencies.

First install the package using the following command (change the file name as needed):

dpkg -i AdbeRdr9.5.5-1_i386linux_enu.deb

If you see error messages about the wrong architecture, then you work on a 64 bit system and dpkg needs a little hint.

dpkg -i --force-architecture AdbeRdr9.5.5-1_i386linux_enu.deb

Afterwards you should see error messages about missing dependencies. And now we fix them:

apt-get -f install

This should pull all missing libraries, install them and then wrap up the installation of the Acrobat Reader.

It seems that these steps are not enough on some 64 bit Kubuntu systems. You might have to install two additional libraries:

apt-get install libxml2:i386 lib32stdc++6

And now happy PDF reading… wait… can it be that easy? At least not on my Kubuntu 13.10. Reading on the screen is fine but printing is messed up. Every print out from the Reader scales down the output to about two-third of the original size. To make things worse, it does a really crappy job at scaling. The output is basically unreadable.

PS3 Media Server made easy

After some struggles to get the PS3 Media Server to run on Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ozelot), somebody must heard my prayers (not that I prayed, but anywhoo). You can install PMS now using a PPA and there is even some official documentation from Ubuntu available here. And the official PMS forum thread can be found here.

This new repository makes it kinda foolproof to install PMS on Ubuntu and here everybody is happy to have their movies and music again.

Black Screen After Ubuntu 12.10 Installation Foo

We are a step further. I changed the partitioning so that the new and bigger core.img of GRUB fits on the disk. I manually selected the boot device because the drive enumeration changed with the new kernel. All is good. The system is installed and boots….

But all I got is a blank screen and a bunch of hard disk led’s that are working overtime. So I thought it might be a problem with the syncing of the newly created RAID. Time to take a nap…

After the nap and some other things, I returned and still all is black. But the keyboard reacts to Num Lock changes and it seems alive. Just no video. So the framebuffer hit me again. Why is that used by default anyways? Lets switch it off.

That sounds easy and it is. Just restart and in the GRUB menu screen hit e for edit the entry of Ubuntu. You get a nice EMACS style editor where you can remove the line that says:

gfxmode $linux_gfx_mode

After the change press F10 to boot the modified entry.

In my case I could see that one of my RAID’s was in degraded mode and the system was waiting for input. I really don’t understand why we are not in text mode here or why the framebuffer is not able to show this information. Anywhoo, I am now fixing my RAID and hope this information might help others.

Ubuntu 12.10 Upgrade, LVM and RAID Foo

And here we go again. It was about time to update my server to the latest Ubuntu. Everything seemed fine and the installation went its usual way. Beforehand I made sure that I new what partition will be what and what data on what partition is worth keeping.

The partitioning tool in manual mode did what it should do, the packages installed and then came the famous question if you want to install GRUB in the MBR. Of course I selected “yes” and all I got was an error.

Switching to the fourth console (I chose the server ISO) revealed the culprit. Obviously the size of the core.img increased again. Here an excerpt of the error message:

/usr/sbin/grub-bios-setup: warning: your core.img is unusally large. It won't fit in the empedding area.
/usr/sbin/grub-bios-setup: error: embedding is not possible, but this is required for RIAD and LVM install.

This turned out to be a little problem. The RAID partitions start too early for the new  GRUB 2.00 but I have some data on this RAID that I need to keep.

Luckily I had another RAID device with enough space so that I could backup all my data. And now I can start the installation again, but this time I have to wipe the the LVM and the RAID on the boot drives.