Plasma 5 Notifications In Wrong Locations

I use a version of Linux on the one of my computers named ‘Plato’, that has Debian / Stretch as its base, but which also has Plasma 5 as its desktop manager. This was a system which I created from a Kanotix Live DVD, from before Kanotix had an official Debian / Stretch release. According to that Live Disk, the desktop manager was LXDE !  LXDE stands for “Lightweight X Desktop Environment”, while Plasma 5 is the successor to KDE 4, and is a powerful, CPU-consuming desktop manager. In the meantime, Kanotix has created two official ‘Stretch’ releases, one with LXDE and one with Plasma 5, both named ‘Kanotix Steelfire’.

What I felt I needed to do with Plato, was to install Plasma 5 via the package manager, even though the Kanotix developers had not yet done so. This customized Plasma 5 environment has been running fine for some time.

But only recently, after my email client – Thunderbird – received an update to version 60.x, I did notice that some of my desktop notifications seemed a little odd. Instead of appearing as official Plasma / KDE notifications, they appeared either as stylized bubbles, or as more-boring drop-down lists from the center, of the top, of my screen. And so this can lead to some confusion, or to some doubt in whether the system is still stable. In fact, I’ve read some other complaints from the Web, of people who ran in to the same behavior exactly. What seemed to irk them as well as me most, was that although we can use our KDE / Plasma Notification settings to designate, where we want notifications to appear, these apparently rogue notifications seem to disregard this setting.

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“Weather Widget” for Plasma 5 -based, Linux Computers

One of the observations which I’ve made about the practical use of Linux, is that in recent years and weeks, the number of weather widgets which we can use to decorate our desktops, and which provide some semblance of forecasting, has become more meager.

I suppose that one important reason may be the fact, that companies cannot extract revenues from operating servers, which simply respond to URL-requests, and which hand out weather information on that basis, for the client software to process as client wishes. Companies will only make profits these days, if they can force their clients to view advertisements.

And so recently I installed a widget, to my Debian / Stretch, Plasma 5 -based desktop computer named ‘Plato’, which is named ‘Weather Widget’, and which has the following display available:

screenshot_20180831_105340

This widget has as option to display information from ‘openweathermap.org‘, which has as intention to remain open and available.

There was a detail in how to get this widget running, that wasted some of my time yesterday, for which reason I’d like to share my experience with the reader. First of all, the preferred way to install this widget is, to right-click on the desktop, and then to left-click on “Add Widgets…”. If the desktop widgets are locked, the command must be given to unlock them first. Then, in the side-bar that appears, we click on “Get new Widgets” (at the very bottom), and then on “Download New Plasma Widgets”. In the window that appears, there’s a search field. In it, type ‘Weather’, and the widget in question should appear as available.

One great plus to adding widgets in this way, is the fact that we can do so, in user space, that is, without requiring root. However, here comes the catch: This widget will only display correctly, under Debian / Stretch, if the following two packages are installed:

  • ‘qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects’
  • ‘qml-module-qtquick-xmllistmodel’

Under other Plasma 5 -capable distributions, the same features may be provided by packages, which are named slightly differently.

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Why the Linux guest-system, on my Linux-tablet, is only a shell.

According to some of my own postings, I possess an old Android-based tablet, which is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S, first generation, onto which I installed a Linux guest-system, using the Android apps “GNURoot (Debian)” and “XSDL”, both available from Google Play. The latter of these apps emulates a simple X-server, which Linux-programs running under the first app can make use of.

The desktop-manager which I chose to use for my Linux guest-system is LXDE, precisely because that desktop-manager does not strictly require that Linux-based daemons be running.

But there are certain standard, LXDE-features which will not even work on that setup:

  • The Trash Bin
  • The LXDE-Settings Panel
  • (etc.)

The LXDE Trash Bin requires the package ‘gvfs’, and the Settings Panel requires the package ‘lxde-settings-daemon’. Both these dependencies launch daemons – i.e., programs that run in the background, and that make up part of a real Linux-session.

The ability to run daemons, essentially, requires that the user have a rooted tablet. Because I never rooted my tablet, I am without any daemons, that would normally belong to any Linux guest-system.

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“Help! No Volume Mute under Plasma 5!”

One of the subjects I blog about, is a computer I named ‘Plato’, which is running Debian / Stretch (Debian 9), and the desktop manager of which is Plasma 5, which is the successor to KDE 4.x .

One of the features which KDE 4 definitely had, was an icon in the notification-tray, from which we could control our volume levels easily, as well as to mute the sound temporarily, eventually to be unmuted again, at which point the earlier, unmuted settings should be remembered. At first glance it would seem that Plasma 5 has done away with this capability. Trying to solve this can cause people to spend hours searching the Internet, changing their Plasma 5 preferences, and maybe even forgetting their Plasma 5 preferences, because they disabled all their System Sounds from there.

Recently, I was on a fact-finding mission about this, and am willing to share my solutions.

Under Plasma 5, we really only need to have 2 packages installed, in order to control our volume-levels, etc., assuming that we have gotten our hardware recognized first. Those packages would be:

  1. ‘plasma-pa’
  2. ‘pavucontrol’

The first of these packages integrates with Plasma, and is also responsible for the icon in the notification tray. The second package gives us more control, over our sound-levels specifically, since Plasma 5 uses the Pulse Audio sound-server by default.

If we can see the icon in the notification tray, then a detail which we may overlook after we left-click on that icon, is a tiny little loudspeaker-symbol, on the left end of one of the volume sliders:

screenshot_20180423_150952_c

Left-clicking on this little symbol will cause the volume-bar to the right of it to become slightly pale, which will mean, that the device in question has been muted. I’m saying that ‘we’ could overlook that we even have this feature, because earlier, ‘I’ did not know that I have this feature.

But, this is only what the ‘plasma-pa’ package can show us. The ‘pavucontrol’ package gives us the ability to fine-tune our sound-levels as shown below:

screenshot_20180423_151117

Now, there’s an aspect to how this setup now works, which is slightly more complicated than how KDE 4 used to handle it. The Pulse Audio server attempts to adjust playback as well as recording levels, on a per-application basis. Thus, the view above is almost empty, because there were no applications playing back any sounds, at the moment I recorded this screen-shot.

A frustrating fact which can exist with this, is that some applications will only play a sound for 2 seconds, during which an additional volume-bar appears in the GUI, and after which that volume-bar disappears again, even if we did not have enough time to adjust one volume level. This happens to result from the design-decision, that volume-control should exist at the per-application level. Hence, even if we use media-control keys on our keyboard, those keys will only affect the one main application which happens to be playing, at any given moment. They won’t affect System Sounds.

But this description might sound like I have to say, ‘There is no problem,’ when in fact, under Debian / Stretch, There Is a problem. That problem, as I see it, lies in the fact that by default, the one volume-bar which the GUI has shown above, for all System Sounds, may not even work.

(Updated 04/26/2018 … )

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