Desktop Compositing on ‘Klystron’

Since I installed ‘Kanotix / Spitfire’ on my Hewlett-Packard laptop, which I now name ‘Klystron’, I have enabled OpenGL 3.1 Desktop Compositing as part of its Desktop Effects. Kanotix has generally been based on KDE, which is a high-powered desktop manager under Debian / Linux, and has always bundled this as a build with the standard ‘KWin’ desktop manager.

I know that as an alternative to KWin, it would be possible to have a Debian system that has ‘Compiz’. But Compiz really breaks things. Compiz is also the Desktop Compositor that offers windows which flame when they are closed, and many effects that are much fancier than what I currently have.

But if the user selects OpenGL 3.1 Desktop Compositing with KWin and KDE, we generally obtain the “Wayland Compositor”, and one effect which is already offered, is that of 4 virtual desktops forming the faces of a virtual, 3D cube that rotates, with the windows on each virtual desktop potentially standing out in front of each cube face, and offering translucency, as the user specifies.

I have always wanted to have that, while I feel that fancy effects for closing windows represent distractions instead. So the rotating desktop-cube seems just fine for me.

The windows which explode when closed are an effect that works fine on my machine, and that I believe also uses a Geometry Shader.

And then, the fact that this configuration is stable, presents me with another reason, to stay with the graphics drivers that I currently have selected. Because if I was to switch to the ‘fglrx’ drivers, conversely, I might make unstable, what was stable.

Dirk

 

Stabilizing my Realtek rtl8723be WiFi card under Linux.

The laptop of mine onto which I newly installed Kanotix / Spitfire, and that is named ‘Klystron’, happens to have a Realtek rtl8723be WiFi chip-set, which is known to have stability issues under Linux. I found that recently my own experience also ran into these issues.

If you feel that you are also having these issues, it is important that you first check, whether in fact you have the WiFi card in question. This can be done via an ‘lspci‘ command, or with


lsmod | grep rtl8723

I felt that I needed to apply a two-prong solution to my own problem.

The first thing which I did, was to create a file named


/etc/modprobe.d/rtl8723be.conf

The only content of which was the line


options rtl8723be fwlps=0 swlps=0

This solution may solve the problem, of the WiFi dropping the connection, after periods of idle time.

There is something to watch out for. There are some sources on the Web, which state that we should try  the configuration line


options rtl8723be fwlps=N swlps=N

The problem with this method is, that for certain uses in programming, in particular in the language C, which is used for kernel modules, a numeric value may be expected in place of a Boolean value, and if in this case the module sees an ‘N’, this value will not be equal to zero, because the ASCII code for ‘N’ is not zero, and any other value than zero is taken to be True! So to make sure that the kernel module registers False, we need to put a ‘0’.

But I found that a second issue was affecting me, which was the fact that this WiFi setup has IPv6 enabled, but that my router does not tolerate IPv6. This may have been causing my laptop to get dropped from the WiFi, even as I was downloading software. In my dhcp configuration, I have added the DNS Server 8.8.8.8, which is the free Google DNS server, in addition to the auto-detected server. But 8.8.8.8 will offer the system an IPv6 resolution of a domain name along with an IPv4 resolution, and in the case of WiFi, apparently Linux will use the IPv6, without detecting that this ability was not assigned by the Access Point.

And so I felt that I also needed to disable IPv6 system-wide on this laptop. The way to do that was to add the following lines to the file ‘/etc/sysctl.conf‘:


net.ipv6.conf.all.disable_ipv6 = 1
net.ipv6.conf.default.disable_ipv6 = 1
net.ipv6.conf.lo.disable_ipv6 = 1

And then ‘sysctl -p‘. After that, I also did


update-initramfs -u

This is a very sticky issue, in which different users have reported, that some of these solutions either do or do not work for them. One reason may be, that users are in fact reporting different issues without knowing it. I cannot be sure that this solution will remain 100% effective for myself, let alone for the reader. I just wanted to share my own experience with this. So far, my WiFi chipset is stable again.

(Edit 04/12/2016 : ) Just to prove to you, how uncertain the state of that WiFi chip-set is, even though I did change the parameters fed into this kernel module, it still happens that when I leave that laptop idling overnight, its WiFi goes into suspend mode. This happens in a way which the applications usually do not see, so that those applications still think they’re connected. However, my ‘Pidgin’ IRC Client gets disconnected.

And then, when I resume my session, ‘Pidgin’, which uses a ping timeout, did realize it was disconnected, and just reconnects seamlessly. And this latter part seems to happen, directly after I unlock my screen-saver, which seems to suggest that this is not being introduced by the Kernel Module, but rather by KDE, etc. I suppose it might introduce some level of confusion into the software, if the Kernel Module was to provide the same function again.

So who knows, which of my problems – if any – I may really have fixed?

Just checking my package manager, I see that ‘Pidgin’ has an available ‘Away-On-Lock’ plugin, which was not installed. Just this evening I installed and activated that, just to see whether I can override a behavior, which might have been set erroneously to ‘Offline-On-Lock’, while the plugin was not installed… By tomorrow, I should know.

Dirk

 

I have managed to make OpenShot more stable under Linux.

In a previous blog posting, I had reported that OpenShot was dangerously unstable, and even unstable under its native Linux. I’m basing this on OpenShot 1.4.3, installed from the package manager under Debian / Jessie, with a KDE 4.14 desktop.

This Was The Posting.

It turns out that there can be ways to overcome this instability.

Firstly, I have changed the Output Mode, with which this application renders its previews, from “sdl” to “sdl_preview“.

More importantly there seems to be a detail in its practical use, which I was unaware of before. Earlier, I had imported a captured .OGG / .OGV file into its video clip resources. In itself this presents a problem, in that certain .OGV Theora files, especially ones produced by screen capture, are known to give this program problems. This can be anticipated, by the video clips in question having blank thumbnails.

On the first try, I told OpenShot to play the video clip anyway in its preview window. The progress bar went from the beginning to the end at the correct speed, but once it reached the end, the application became unresponsive and KDE had to shut it down forcibly. This was with the Output Mode still set to “sdl“.

Apparently, once OpenShot has crashed, it has saved corrupted information into the folder ‘~/.openshot‘ . Had I known this, I could have deleted that folder completely before trying out the application again. But instead I tried to use OpenShot again right away, sometimes telling it to play the .MP4 version of the same video or other clips.

That was when my desktop froze. The X-server did not crash, but no movement or mouse input could be given anywhere on the desktop. The actual mouse pointer was still moving in response to the mouse however, and it was also changing from the usual pointer, to the special pointer when hovering over the preview panel. I needed to use <Ctrl>+<Alt>+F1 in order to open a Virtual Terminal in text mode, and then to ‘kill -9‘ the actual application pinning the other virtual terminal.

My setups typically allow for multiple sessions to be logged in at once, and Virtual Terminals 1-6 are text-based, while the graphical ones start from Virtual Terminal 7. So once the offending processes were killed, I was able to <Ctrl>+<Alt>+F7 back into the graphical session, which was not corrupted.

But the way I finally broke this spell with OpenShot, was to delete the directory ‘~/.openshot‘ and its corrupted contents. After that, the application was able to play the .MP4 video clips fine, which also had thumbnails that corresponded to their content.

Also, if I decide that a user-space configuration is needed to ensure the stability of the system, I copy the contents of the configuration folder for one application, into ‘/etc/skel‘, from where a skeleton of starting files is copied, every time the home directory of a new user is set up. That way, any newly-installed user will inherit my recommended settings.

In order to do that, after I deleted the config folder once, I only launch the application briefly, and make my configuration settings, before exiting the application again immediately. At that point I feel that the config folder is in its correct state, to be copied to ‘/etc/skel‘ .

There are certain purposes, which OpenShot may be better able to suit than alternatives, simply because OpenShot has more features.

Dirk

 

Possible Solution to ‘Dropbox Missing Systray Icon’ under KDE

Just yesterday I installed the proprietary version of “Dropbox” on my ‘Debian / Jessie’ computer named ‘Phoenix’. I had the extra HD space to spare, and also had an existing Dropbox account to link to. But what I soon noticed, was the fact that I was suffering from the same problem many other users of ‘KDE 4′ were having with the newest Dropbox for Linux.

It seems that the Linux versions of Dropbox are tuned to work best under ‘Ubuntu’, not ‘Debian’. And in General, Ubuntu uses either ‘GNOME’ or ‘Unity’ as its desktop manager, which leaves many KDE users having to use the official Command Line Interface for Dropbox.

Mind you, this CLI is not bad as those go, but missing the System Tray Icon was annoying me. I had to install ‘libappindicator…’ as well as ‘python-appindicator’ from the package manager, and even after having done that, and after having restarted Dropbox using the CLI, the systray icon did not appear for me, because in recent Dropbox versions, only the ‘Nautilus’ support is included. Nautilus is the Ubuntu / GNOME counterpart, for what ‘Dolphin’ does under KDE. Luckily, there is an open-source Dolphin plugins package named

‘kdesdk-dolphin-plugins’

But that package assumes we already have Dropbox installed, and does not affect the system tray.

Further, I was disappointed by the fact that most of the other complaints I could Google involved KDE 5, while I needed to solve this problem with KDE 4.

And so after doing some more reading, I wrote the following script:

(Edit 03/31/2016 : ) I would like to thank Darwin Silva, who suggested a solution below, which works better for me, than the solution which I had first posted. Specifically, the solution by Mr. Silva allows Dropbox to animate the icon correctly, to show its status. I apologize for taking so long to test Mr. Silva’s solution, but often have limited time to go after all the things I should be doing on my own computers:

 


#!/bin/bash
# "Restart Dropbox.sh"

# Allow Dropbox 3.14.7 to show a system-tray icon.
# Works under KDE 4.14...
# Only drawback: Icon has generic page as image.
# Systray Icon Context Menu fully functional.

#DROPBOX_USE_LIBAPPINDICATOR=1
#XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP=Unity

dropbox stop

sleep 30

dbus-launch dropbox start

This seems to have done the trick for me. But be warned: This will serve us at best, Until the Next Reboot. Possibly, this script may need to be run more often. There is a workaround which fully automates that problem, but that workaround was not worth my while.

It may be possible to edit

~/.config/autostart/dropbox.desktop

But doing so is pointless, because Dropbox will overwrite that file, every time it updates itself…

Dirk