Tag Archives: debian

Experimenting with Workspaces

Screenshot from 2015-05-08 09:42:22

Linux has workspaces, yes. No big news, but then I got to wondering how I could use them. I recalled that when I used to work as a support professional, I used to have a two screen setup. One screen for the support tool we used and the second for all the work we did. So, that still got me wondering if I could be a bit more productive with with workspaces. After some searching, I found this page with a ton of responses. What it came down to was the following:

  • Workspaces are an excellent way to separate different piles of work and manage the pile of open apps on your desktop
  • To use workspaces you need to be able to separate your work into different piles
  • Common piles are, “Communications”, “Browsing”, “Work” – which could include writing a document or coding.

Loving Cinnamon and Debian 8

I hated Kubuntu. I realize that now, because where I used to hate the Kubuntu feel, I now absolutely adore Cinnamon’s desktop. It just looks awesome. The fonts are good. The look feels a lot more relaxed compared to what I had configured for Kubuntu.

Screenshot from 2015-05-08 09:29:03

The visual look and feel defined a large part of the experience of working on the desktop, which is why perhaps I felt so comfortable on Windows 7.

All that I’m missing now is a blogging client. I really should set myself to that task. I think it’d be learning experience.

Debian Jessie on Dell Latitude 6220

I guess I should’ve read my own posts comparing Linux and Windows, before raving on about Windows last time. The updates on Win7 were a nightmare, with me having to boot and reboot every other hour for a day or two until the download floodgate was shut, almost. I don’t think I’m done. I see that sign next to “Shut Down” where I’m being warned of another upcoming update.

Debian 8That aside, I did want to get my Latitude E6220 on Linux. This time, I’ve chosen to go with Debian, and since I couldn’t choose, I went for both Cinnamon and Mate desktops. Mate gives me the creeps just from the look of the Menu. Cinnamon feels more comfy that way. Next step was to get the drivers all sorted. Frankly, that was a bit easier than getting it done on Windows! You could download the drivers from http://support.dell.com but it wasn’t a clean one-time thing.  I noticed two issues on Linux from the get go:

  • WLAN not working
  • Reboots left the computer hanging

Mercifully, the Ethernet worked right away on Linux – which it did not on Windows on first install. I had to download the Ethernet drivers from Dell’s support site via another PC. So Linux scores better here! A short bit of searching brought me to this resource on the reboot issue. I went into the nearest Latitude on that list and it did mention the reboot issue. The solution was simple:

To solve the reboot issue you’ve to pass the kernel reboot=pci. You can achieve this by adding reboot=pci to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="" in /etc/default/grub.

And after updating that file, I ran update-grub and suffered my final hang.

The WLAN issue was a bit less straightforward. Reading through the WiFi wiki, I identified the adaptor as BCM43228. And I’d have saved myself some time if I’d just scrolled to the end of the PCI section. The wl section covered what I needed. Chased that with a now working reboot and ta da, laptop configured. Since Linux is friendly with Windows, grub handles my dual-boot and I seem to have no issues on that front. I guess I might have issues with the clock as I did previously, but thankfully I do have my old post to help me out.

Sound on Linux

And I stumbled down the rabbit-hole of Linux’s sound maze. And then I think how did I get here? Oh yes, it started with KDE. I really liked this aspect of KDE, which was the amazing ability to define the hierarchy of sound output devices. If you’re going "huh!?", I mean that with KDE, when I was listening to music, I could configure it so that sound would normally play from the audio speakers, and when I connected my USB headset, then it would play from there instead. And upon unplugging it would revert to playing from my speakers. No KDE means no such feature, unless I decide to install Kmix – which would mean blah blah bloated install.

Qualia of Sound

So, yes I’m in this maze. To understand what was going on, I decided to understand what lay underneath. And it is a maze.

Here’s some of what I’ve read:

http://insanecoding.blogspot.in/2009/06/state-of-sound-in-linux-not-so-sorry.html

http://tuxradar.com/content/how-it-works-linux-audio-explained

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PulseAudio

So, basically what it comes down to is the following structure:

Sound Hardware <== ALSA (kernel) <== PulseAudio <== Gstreamer | AlsaMixer

This is what it appears to be on my Debian 7 machine. Now, what I’d like to do is possibly get rid of the middle Pulse Audio layer. And replace it with Jack.

Gstreamer has a plugin that allows it to interface with ALSA. And it’s possible to reroute PulseAudio through Jack too.

So, I could do this:

Sound Hardware <== ALSA (kernel) <== Jack <== Gstreamer | AlsaMixer | PulseAudio

or

Sound Hardware <== ALSA (kernel) <== Jack <== PulseAudio <== Gstreamer | AlsaMixer

Dunno when I’ll actually get that done. But it’s in the works.

Debian on my laptop

So, after installing a dual boot Linux on my machine, I decided to give KDE a try. And so far I rate it as pretty good, but still raw. I guess that’s what I think of Linux for non-techie users.

So, what do I like in KDE?

  • The KDM (login screen) is awesome. Really cool graphics and look
  • The core apps like Kontact and Kmail are pretty good too
  • App previews on the panel

What I don’t like:

  • I found the default panel a bit boring and poorly organized
  • Konqueror is not my favorite. Perhaps it’s the debian bits, but the browser did not work with gmail so I switched to IceWeasel and that’s awesome
  • Touchpad options were missing. I installed kde-config-touchpad and that worked amazingly well

With Debian, all my hardware appears to be working pretty well, except for the wifi card. For that I just had to follow the wiki instructions and that was done in a jiffy. So, frankly, it was a zero-pain install for me!

To blog, I decided to download Blogilo – it’s not as good as Windows Live Writer, but it does have the fundamentals – a visual editor, html editor, post preview, categories and tags to organize my posts, post lister. I’ve not looked, but I’m sure there must be some interesting plug-ins for this app too.

This far my notes pretty superficial, but I’ll post my findings as I go.

Update – 02-Jun

  • Added libav for tools like avconv, which is absolutely fantastic for converting multimedia files easily
  • Learnt how to access gmail via Konqueror – identify browser as Opera 9.0
  • Konqueror – access the location bar using ALT+O or CTRL+L – they’re slightly different