Observations, on how to insert Unicode and Emojis into text, using a KDE 4 / Plasma 5.8 -based Linux computer.

One of the earliest ‘inventions’ on the Internet, were ‘Smilies’, which were just typed in to emails, and which, when viewed as text, evoked the perception of whichever face they represented. But, graphical user interfaces – GUIs – replaced simple text even in the 1990s, and the first, natural thing which developers coded-in to email clients was, the ability to convert typed, text-based smilies, into actual images, flowed with the text. Also, simple colon-parenthesis sequences were replaced with other, more varied sequences, which could be converted by some email clients into fancier images, than simply, smiling faces.

Actually, the evolution of the early Internet was slightly more complex than that, and I have even forgotten some of the real terms that were used to describe that History.

But there is an even more recent shift in the language of the Internet, which creates a distinction between Smilies, and ‘Emojis’. In this context, even many ‘Emoticons’ were really just smilies. Emojis distinguish themselves, in that these pictograms are represented as part of text in the form of Unicode values, of which there is such a large supply, that some Unicode values represent these pictograms, instead of always representing characters of the Earth’s many languages, including Chinese, Korean, Cyrillic, etc. What some readers might ask next could be, ‘Traditionally, text was encoded as 7-bit or 8-bit ASCII, how can 16-bit or 32-bit Unicode characters simply be inserted into that?’ And the short answer is, through either UTF-8 or UTF-16 Encoding. Hence, in a body of text that mainly consists of 8-bit codes, half of which are not normally used, sequences of bytes can be encoded, which can be recognized as special, because their 8-bit values do not correspond to valid ASCII characters, and their sequences complete a Unicode character.

One fact which is good to know about these Emojis is, that they are often proprietary, which means that they are often either the intellectual property of an IT company, or part of an Open-Source project. But the actual aspect of that which can be proprietary is, the way in which Unicode values are rendered to images.

What that means is that, for example, I can put the following code into my blog: 🤐 . That is also referred to as Unicode character ‘U+1F910′. Its length extends beyond 16 bits by 1 bit, and the next 4, most-significant bits are all 1’s, as expressed by the hexadecimal digit ‘F’. It’s supposed to be a pictogram of a deceased entity, as if that were stated correctly by a head which has had certain features crossed out. But for my blog, the use of such a code can be a hazard, because it will not display equally on Android devices, as it displays on iOS devices. And, on certain Linux computers, it might not be rendered at all, instead just resulting in a famous rectangle that seems to have dots or numbers inside it. This latter result will form, when the client-program could not find the correct Font, to convert this code into an image. (:3)

Those fonts are what’s proprietary. And, they also provide some consistency in style, between Android devices, OR between iOS devices, OR between Windows devices, etc.

Well, I began this posting by musing about the early days of the Internet. During those days, some users – myself included 😊  – did some things which were truly foolish, and which included, to put background images into our HTML-composed emails, and, to decorate documents with (8-bit) dingbat fonts, just because it was fun to pass certain fancier documents around, than POT. I don’t think there is really anything wrong with potential readers, who still put background images into their emails. What I mean is that many of my contacts today, prefer emails which are not even HTML.

This earlier practice, of using dingbat fonts etc., tended to play favourably into the hands of the tech giants, because the resulting documents could only be viewed by certain applications. And so today, I needed to ask myself the question, of how often the use of Emojis can actually result in a document, which the recipient cannot read. And my conclusion is that today, such an indecipherable outcome is actually rare. So, how I would put a long story short is to say, that Commercialism is back, riding on the desire of younger people to put more-interesting content into their messages, and perhaps, without some of the younger people being aware that when they put Emojis, they are including themselves as the software-disciples of one larger group or another. But that larger group mainly seems to be drawing its profits, from the ability of certain software to insert the images, rather than, the ability of only certain software to render them at the receiving end (at all). Everybody knows that, even though the input methods on our smart-phones don’t lead to massively good prose, they almost always offer a rich supply of Smilies, plus Emojis, all displayed to the sender using his or her own font, but later displayed to the recipient, using a potentially different font.

The way Linux computers can be given such fonts, is through the installation of packages such as ‘fonts-symbola’ and ‘ttf-ancient-fonts’, or of ‘fonts-noto‘… The main drawback of the open-source ‘Symbola’ font, for example, is simply, that it often gives a more boring depiction of the same Unicode character, than the depiction which the true Colour Noto Font from Google would give.

One interesting way in which Linux users are already in on the party is, in the fact that actual Web-browsers are usually set to download fonts as they are needed, even under Linux, for the display of Web-pages. Yet, email clients do not fall into that category of applications, and whether they render Emojis depends on whether these font packages are installed.

Hence, if the ability to send Emojis from a Linux computer is where it’s at, then this is going to be the subject of the rest of my posting. I can put two and two together, you know…

(Updated 7/31/2020, 15h10… )

Continue reading Observations, on how to insert Unicode and Emojis into text, using a KDE 4 / Plasma 5.8 -based Linux computer.

Latte-Dock 0.6.0 Tested

One of the facts about Linux that may not be very popular with some computing enthusiasts is that the mainstream Desktop Managers – ‘KDE’, ‘Plasma’, ‘Unity’, ‘GNOME’, ‘LXDE’, etc., are different from each other, are sometimes similar to a Windows-layout – especially KDE / Plasma – but are not very similar to a MacIntosh, OS/X layout. Yet, efforts have existed to create OS/X -like desktop managers for Linux, and one of the more recent projects is “Latte-Dock“.

What makes Latte-Dock different from otherwise similar projects such as “Cairo-Dock”, is that Latte-Dock assumes that we have Plasma installed, which must be of at least version 5.8, and does not conflict with the fact that we do. And the fact that my Debian / Stretch computer, which I name ‘Phosphene’, is not even a Ubuntu computer, did not prevent me from installing Latte-Dock 0.6.0. Latte-Dock does not start unless the user starts it, and the way I go about testing such software is, that I create additional users on the computer in question, as if I was going to allow a guest to share my computer, so that in the user-space of the additional accounts, personal settings can activate Latte-Dock.

One of the ways in which Debian, Plasma 5 -based computers are strong, is in allowing the user to create more than one graphical log-in, to more than one virtual session, between which we can switch by clicking <Ctrl>+<Alt>+<F8>, or, back to the first virtual session, with <Ctrl>+<Alt>+<F7>… So my auxiliary user-identity is installed with this desktop manager, that’s designed to be similar to OS/X, at least in its appearance.

Screenshot_20190324_134908

I think that this is nice software, with two major flaws:

  1. On ‘Phosphene’, if I select the settings either to Preview Windows (of open applications, as the mouse passes over the dock-icons), or to Highlight those windows, these settings cause the Dock to die. This is not tragic, because when running Latte-Dock, we still have at least one Plasma-Panel active, along the top of the screen, from which we can still choose applications to run, or from which we can drag application-icons to the Dock. (:1)  This means that when the Dock has in fact crashed, I can simply have a Favourite Application -icon ready, to restart it. But the down-side with this could be, that it makes the application look bad, when in fact the culprit just seems to be, the fact that my graphics card is not strong enough to display these previewed or highlighted windows. And Latte-Dock is extremely GPU-intensive.
  2. With Plasma 5.8 as the limiting factor, there appears to be no way to get a Global Application Menu working. Such applets do exist as software-projects for higher versions of Plasma than 5.8, but it cannot seem to be achieved for version 5.8 . So the OS/X experience is not 100% complete.

But if I respect these two limitations, that may not even be the fault of the Devs, I find this to be an interesting and stable piece of software.

(Updated 3/27/2019, 21h35 … )

Continue reading Latte-Dock 0.6.0 Tested

Re-Establishing the Use of my Wacom Tablet, After the Reinstall.

One of the subjects which I had posted about before was, that on the computer I was naming ‘Plato’, with Debian / Stretch and Plasma 5.8 installed, I was able to configure a Wacom (sketching) Tablet, using a specialized shell-script, but also using the ‘xsetwacom’ command because Wacom Tablets are especially Linux-friendly, enough so to have their own packages in the repositories.

The real status of that project was, that earlier Linux builds had used an input library in connection with their X-server, that is being replaced with a newer input library, and that the availability of settings in the Plasma 5 Settings Panel was lacking because a new module required re-coding. Hence, ‘Plato’ had no relevant settings module, for which reason I needed to use my own script to configure the tablet.

What has happened in the meantime is, that I’ve had to reinstall the O/S on that computer, after which it is now named ‘Phosphene’, and that I’m reestablishing capabilities which I had already established earlier, including eventually to use my Wacom Tablet again. And as I clicked on my custom script, I found that I was no longer able to disable “Finger Touch” because such a sub-device is no longer registered with the ‘xsetwacom’ command.

Continue reading Re-Establishing the Use of my Wacom Tablet, After the Reinstall.