Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fixing volume control in XFCE4

Volume control in XFCE4 worked fine with the volume control in the indicator-applet, but failed to work with the hotkeys on the keyboard, namely:
  • lowering the volume to minimum wouldn't mute
  • muting was possible with the keyboard, unmuting was not
Turns out the problem is caused by xfce4-volumed accessing my sound card directly, while the indicator-applet is using pulse audio. Pulseaudio mirrors the controls of the soundcard, but only partially so for some reason. Proper fix for me: Tell xfce4-volumed to use Pulseaudio, but there either isn't a GUI config for that or it's really well hidden. But there is luckily a command line workaround, use:

xfconf-query -c xfce4-mixer -l

to get a list of soundcards and then tell xfce4-mixer to use that

xfconf-query -c xfce4-mixer -p /active-card -s PlaybackInternalAudioAnalogStereoPulseAudioMixer

Now the volume controls seem to work proper.

Edit: A killall xfce4-volumed might be needed, as otherwise the setting will be instantly reverted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pingus 0.7.5 - Halloween 2011

Pingus 0.7.5 is out, changes include among some fixes, 10 brand new Halloween levels. Linux and Windows versions are provided. No Mac version at this point, it might fallow later on.
  • fixed memory leak in OpenGL renderer
  • added support for Win32 cross-compilation with mingw32
  • added gamespeed adjustments via KPPlus, KPMinus, KPEnter
  • added single-stepping the game with 'S'
  • added better application icon
  • added access to all levelsets in developer-mode (Ctrl-m)
  • added 10 new Halloween levels

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back to Ubuntu: Xubuntu

That short trip to Linux Mint Debian wasn't all to successful, as Debian unstable doesn't feature Gnome2 either and thus a dist-upgrade wreaked that install. Which of course also rules out Debian as alternative to Ubuntu. So what next? Back to Ubuntu, but this time a fresh install of Xubuntu, to work around any trouble that might have been caused by years old config files floating around on my old install. So impressions so far:
  • the installation looks rather unpolished and takes a bit longer then Mint
  • installation doesn't allow you to not install a boot manager, it will overwrite whatever you have
  • the install offers btrfs for root even so btrfs doesn't play nice with grub (error: sparse file not allowed)
  • once installed, Xubuntu looks good, extremely similar to Gnome2
  • most problems I had previously, like the broken volume applet are gone
  • amdcccle, the ATI control center, does not work in Xubuntu, it segfaults for some reason when trying to apply the config, the driver itself however works, so it helps having a finished config around
  • default greybird theme looks good, but misses the scroll-up/down buttons on the scrollbar and theme editing is currently not possible with XFCE
  • there doesn't seem to be a way to move the bluetooth applet that's actually the notification area and there is a pixel or two to grab it at the side
  • trouble with graphics tablet in Gimp are a known bug, can apparently be fixed with packages from ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa, however that is risky, with xorg-edgers quiting Gimp kills my xserver
  • Gtk3 looks kind of crap, as it's not theme compatible with Gtk2 and I haven't yet found a Clearlooks equivalent
  • eog is broken, displays everything with a completely wrong gamma, i.e. makes everything pretty much a white page
  • Rhythmbox didn't detect MP3 player, needed to "apt-get install gnome" to fix that, not sure which component exactly did the trick
  • I can mute, but not unmute via keyboard, have to click unmute from the menu
Overall, so far so good, when nothing unexpected pops up, I'll probably stick with Xubuntu for now.

Linux Mint (Debian Edition) Impressions

With Ubuntu kind of going downhill with no quick fix in sight I decided to try another distribution. Linux Mint looked like a decent choice, so here a few quick impressions:
  • Mint comes in three different versions, two of which are based on Ubuntu I guess and the other on Debian, as always, the differences and incompatibilites between these versions are never properly explained, so as a user one ends up rather confused
  • Mint Debian is, as the name suggested, a Debian plus some additional tweaks, it is based on testing and thus like testing gets regular updates
  • as usual for Debian testing packages break all the time, currently Blender isn't installable and there is no Wine in the testing repositories, also you will see a lot more useless questions on dist-upgrade then you see on Ubuntu, stuff like this was why I moved away from Debian in the first place many years ago and it doesn't seem to have improved
  • Mint Debian still has good old Gnome2 it works as expected and feels so much better then the incomplete garbage that is the gnome-fallback in the current Ubuntu
  • Mint Debian doesn't support installing on an LVM root, so better have a free regular partition handy, sad to see that LVM is still a niche oddity, not a standard feature of the Linux toolbox
  • Mint can be installed from a live system and the install is very fast, essentially just six clicks and you are done in 15min, tweaking it to your liking will of course take a lot longer then that
  • /etc/defaults/rcS has UTC=yes, this messes up the hardware clock as my Ubuntu is UTC=no
  • can't use my Rhythmbox database, as the Rhythmbox version on Mint is apperently older then the one on Ubuntu, looks like Ubuntu is running straight from the Git repo, as even the latest source release is to old
  • ATI driver performance with linux-image-3.0.0-686-pae is completely horrible, makes the system essentially unusable, linux-image-3.0.0-486 on the other side is fine for some reason
  • added now Debian unstable to sources.list, lets see how much that breaks, Blender and Wine seem installable with that
  • Debian unstable lead to the installation of Gnome3 and destruction of Gnome2, guess I am back at square one
Overall my impressions of Mint so far are quite good. It's nothing revolutionary and the brokeness of testing is annoying, but it provides a simple Gnome2 desktop that just works and that's really all I need. One remaining question of course is: Why Mint and not just Debian Testing directly? The changes so far seem all to be rather minimal.

Friday, October 14, 2011

XFCE4 Impressions

  • looks very similar to Gnome2
  • doesn't seem to have a proper volume control applet
  • xfce4-mixer lets me mute, but not unmute
  • using keyboard shortcuts for lowering volume doesn't mute it at 0
  • no easy way to configure colors of window borders and GUI elements
  • launcher applet as trouble with custom icons, doesn't accept them, seems to be caused by reusing old .desktop files
  • there is a cpugraph applet, but no netgraph applet
  • GUI styles don't apply properly, some apps seems to get them, others not - caused by Gnome3, Gnome2 apps seem fine
  • problems with windows not maximizing on double-click where caused by to low doubleclick threshold
  • no easy way to lock the screen, one has to use command line tool xflock4 which in turn uses xscreensaver
  • installing xubuntu-desktop and using xubuntu session instead of just plain xfce4 might be a good idea, this fixes some issues with volume controls, among other things
Overall, I kind of like XFCE4, it however feels rather rough and buggy in some , so for the time being I switched back to the gnome-fallback, as it doesn't seem to have the problems with Gtk themes that XFCE4 has. If gnome-fallback will disappear I guess I'll switch to XFCE.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 impressions

Quick impressions on Ubuntu 11.10, updates as it goes:
  • no more Gnome2, so if you are using Gnome2 right and have uninstalled Unity the upgrade will render your system kind of unusable
  • even manually installing ubuntu-desktop doesn't fix Unity not starting properly
  • manually installing Gnome3 works, but Gnome3 is junk
  • there is still a gnome-panel that can be manually installed and sort of looks like the old Gnome2 one, but it is rather crippled and under featured compared to what was in Gnome2 (no way to position icons, no applet support as far as I can tell, ...)
  • that fallback gnome-panel is not quite as crippled as it first looks, Alt-rightclick instead of regular rightclick is needed to get to the Add-to-Panel menu, still no way to move icons around properly
  • under the fallback gnome-panel, there hides a Nautilus menu, what a mess
  • XFCE4 looks quite nice, it looks more like Gnome2 then current Gnome
  • old panel icons can be found in $HOME/.gnome2/panel2.d/default/launchers
  • something wrong with Gtk+ themes, some apps like Rhythmbox and gnome-terminal don't take them, gnome-tweak-tool doesn't seem to help
  • Gnome3 doesn't even start on my other computer
  • the new lightdm login manager can no longer be configured for autologin via the GUI
  • gphoto gvfs stuff is preventing Sansa Clip+ from being properly recognized again, deleting all gphoto related stuff in gvfs-backends should fix this
  • Rhythmbox is completley broken, for some reason it kills the Sansa Clip+ mount point and makes dmesg reports filesystem problems, even so the player mounts fine, fscks fine and can be access with command line tools without any issues, weird -> fixed by disabling the MTP player plugin
  • Rhythmbox has forgotten where to store music files, it's now trashing my $HOME -> location can be changed in the preferences, podcast has a separate location from the music library
  • Sansa Clip+ write speed is down to 300 kB/S, used to be around 7MB/s or something like that
  • in gnome-fallback the notify stuff currently goes crazy, using 100% CPU
  • halt no longer shuts the computer down?!
  • Firefox now crashes a lot
  • GDM doesn't start any more
  • notifications show up on the wrong screen
  • display of volume control doesn't work, wrong screen, wrong size, doesn't update as volume change
  • the Windows list applet crashes a lot on startup
  • Gimp now crashes, creates garbled lines with graphic tablet
  • file is broken, can't detect mp3 files
  • Rhythmbox converts MP3s to OGG when drag&dropping onto the player, even so it doesn't need to
  • ...
So first impression so far: Stay the hell away from Ubuntu 11.10, if you have a usable Gnome2 desktop right now, Ubuntu 11.10 will trash it and won't give you any easy way to restore it. gnome-session-fallback allows to retain most of the Gnome2-look in Ubuntu 11.10 aside from a minor issue, but it requires a complete reconfiguration, at it won't take over any of the Gnome2 settings.

I am now on my way to install the Debian edition of Mint and see how that goes, at least the liveCD so far looked pretty good, containing good old Gnome2.

I might be able to warm up to Gnome3 if there is a way to get additional panels and a quickstart icons, but so far I haven't found one. No minimize button in Gnome3, seriously?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pingus 0.7.4

At long last, Pingus 0.7.4 is out. This release does not yet continue the main story, but it contains all the little improvements and bug fixes that have been allocated over the last few years. As a bonus however this release contains two new levelsets with 27 new levels. This release is source only at the moment and will compile in Linux. Windows and MacOSX versions might follow at a later point. Some more things that have changed in this release are:
  • fixed game not starting when no soundcard is present
  • all halloween and tutorial levels have been converted to a minimum size of 1920x1200 so they can be played in fullscreen without letterboxing
  • new --userdir command line switch to set the directory where savegames are saved
  • menu getting confused by fast succedding clicks fixed
  • level-demo recording and playback are back (files not compatible between x86 and x86-64)
  • window resize support throughout the whole game
  • dirty-rectangles drawing for improved performance with software rendering
  • OpenGL rendering
  • new blackboard graphic
  • Unicode support
  • two new levelsets, "Desert" and "Factory Campaign", with 27 new levels
  • added a man-page
  • deadly fall height has been increased
  • support for prefab objects and groups in the editor
  • cleaned up digger, miner and basher paths
  • added an option menu
  • lots of minor bug fixes
  • bitmap fonts have been generated with anti-aliasing