Stopping videos automatically playing in Opera

Though I am writing this in Firefox Developer Edition, I stuck it out with Firefox ESR while plugin developers caught up with the new extension model put in place for Firefox Quantum. Eventually, heavy memory consumption and sluggish rendering forced me to move along even if the addon bar continues to be missed.

During my time of sticking with Firefox ESR, I often turned to Opera when I needed something more speedy and it was then that I found videos playing automatically in loading web pages. Twitter was one offender as was YouTube though it is possible to turn off such things for the former by going to the Accessibility section of your user account settings.

In Opera, I wanted to have a more universal solution and found out where the Experiments section could be found. Though there is a need to realise that there may be changes in the future, entering the opera://flags in the address will get you there. Then, you need to look for Autoplay policy unless you have used the more direct address of opera://flags/#autoplay-policy. After that, you need to change the setting to Document user activation is required and that should sort things. If not, a browser restart will complete the task.

Upgrading avahi-dnsconfd on Ubuntu

This is how I got around problem that occurred when I was updating a virtualised Ubuntu 16.04 instance that I have. My usual way to do this is using apt-get or apt from the command line and the process halted because a pre-removal script for the upgrade of avahi-dnsconf failed. The cause was its not disabling the avahi daemon beforehand so I need to execute the following command before repeating the operation:

sudo systemctl disable avahi-daemon

Once the upgrade had completed, then it was time to re-enable the service using the following command:

sudo systemctl enable avahi-daemon

Ideally, this would completed without such manual intervention and there is a bug report for the unexpected behaviour. Hopefully, it will be sorted soon but these steps will fix things for now.

Rethinking photo editing

Photo editing has been something that I have been doing since my first ever photo scan in 1998 (I believe it was in June of that year but cannot be completely sure nearly twenty years later). Since then, I have using a variety of tools for the job and wondered how other photos can look better than my own. What cannot be excluded is my tendency for being active in the middle of the day when light is at its bluest as well as a penchant for using a higher ISO of 400. In other words, what I do when making photos affects how they look afterwards as much as the weather that I encountered.

My reason for mentioned the above aspects of photographic craft is that they affect what you can do in photo editing afterwards, even with the benefits of technological advancement. My tastes have changed over time so the appeal of re-editing old photos fades when you realise that you only are going around in circles and there always are new ones to share so that may be a better way to improve.

When I started, I was a user of Paint Shop Pro but have gone over to Adobe since then. First, it was Photoshop Elements but an offer in 2011 lured me into having Lightroom and the full version of Photoshop. Nowadays, I am a Creative Cloud photography plan subscriber so I get to see new developments much sooner than once was the case.

Even though I have had Lightroom for all that time, I never really made full use of it and preferred a Photoshop-based workflow. Lightroom was used to select photos for Photoshop editing, mainly using adjustment for such such things as tones, exposure, levels, hue and saturation. Removal of dust spots, resizing and sharpening were other parts of a still minimalist approach.

What changed all this was a day spent pottering about the 2018 Photography Show at the Birmingham NEC during a cold snap in March. That was followed by my checking out the Adobe YouTube Channel afterwards where there were videos of the talks featured every day of the four day event. Here are some shortcuts if you want to do some catching up yourself: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. Be warned though that these videos are long in that they feature the whole day and there are enough gaps that you may wish to fast forward through them. Even so, there is a quite of variety of things to see.

Of particular interest were the talks given by the landscape photographer David Noton who sensibly has a philosophy of doing as little to his images as possible. It helps that his starting points are so good that adjusting black and white points with a little tonal adjustment does most of what he needs. Vibrance, clarity and sharpening adjustments are kept to a minimum while some work with graduated filters evens out exposure differences between skies and landscapes. It helps that all this can be done in Lightroom so that set me thinking about trying it out for size and the trick of using the backslash (\) key to switch between raw and processed views is a bonus granted by non-destructive editing. Others may have demonstrated the creation of composite imagery but simplicity is more like my way of working.

Confusingly, we now have the cloud-based Lightroom CC while the previous desktop counterpart is known as Lightroom Classic CC. Though the former may allow for easy dust spot removal among other things, it is the latter that I prefer because the idea of wholesale image library upload does not appeal to me for now and I already have other places for offsite image backup like Google Drive and Dropbox. The mobile app does look interesting since it allows to capture images on a such a device in Adobe’s raw image format DNG. Still, my workflow is set to be more Lightroom-based than it once was and I quite fancy what new technology offers, especially since Adobe is progressing its Sensai artificial intelligence engine. The fact that it has access to many images on its systems due to Lightroom CC and its own stock library (Adobe Stock, formerly Fotolia) must mean that it has plenty of data for training this AI engine.

Making pages of new documents look right in LibreOffice Writer on wide screens

My recent move from Linux Mint 17.3 to Linux Mint 18.1 brought with it version of LibreOffice. What that brought was an oddity where the default blank document in a fresh LibreOffice Writer session had its only page displayed to the right within the application window. To me, this looks like a bug even if I have a 24″ computer screen.

After some searching, I found a solution that gets a single page displayed in the centre of the application window and not offset to the right as it was. The first step is to go to the Zoom entry within the View menu. Within the sub-menu that is spawned, you need to click on the Zoom… entry to get a dialogue box. That has two columns and the setting that needs changing is under the one named View Layout. For whatever reason, the Columns setting was highlighted with 2 being selected as the number of columns. Choosing the Single Page option instead sorted the problem on clicking the OK button to dismiss the dialogue and the one named Automatic also appears to work. Quite why such an odd default was selected in the first is beyond me though.

Trying out a new way to upgrade Linux Mint in situ while going from 17.3 to 18.1

There was a time when the only recommended way to upgrade Linux Mint from one version to another was to do a fresh installation with back-ups of data and a list of the installed applications created from a special tool.

Even so, it never stopped me doing my own style of in situ upgrade though some might see that as a risky option. More often than not, that actually worked without causing major problems in a time when Linux Mint releases were more tightly tied to Ubuntu’s own six-monthly cycle.

In recent years, Linux Mint’s releases have kept in line with Ubuntu’s Long Term Support (LTS) editions instead. That means that any major change comes only every two years with minor releases in between those. The latter are delivered through Linux Mint’s Update Manager so the process is a simple one to implement. Still, upgrades are not forced on you so it is left to your discretion as to when you need to upgrade since all main and interim versions get the same extended level of support. In fact, the recommendation is not to upgrade at all unless something is broken on your own installation.

For a number of reasons, I stuck with that advice by sticking on my main machine with Linux Mint 17.3 instead of upgrading to Linux Mint 18. The fact that I broke things on another machine using an older method of upgrading provided even more encouragement.

However, I subsequently discovered another means of upgrading between major versions of Linux Mint that had some endorsement from the project. There still are warnings about testing a live DVD version of Linux Mint on your PC first and backing up your data beforehand. Another task is ensuring that you are upgraded from a fully up to data Linux Mint 17.3 installation.

When you are ready, you can install mintupgrade using the following command:

sudo apt-get install mintupgrade

When that is installed, there is a sequence of tasks that you need to do. The first of these is to simulate an upgrade to test for the appearance of untoward messages and resolve them. Repeating any checking until all is well gets a recommendation. The command is as follows:

mintupgrade check

Once you are happy that the system is ready, the next step is to download the updated packages so they are on your machine ahead of their installation. Only then should you begin the upgrade process. The two commands that you need to execute are below:

mintupgrade download
mintupgrade upgrade

Once these have completed, you can restart your system. In my case the whole process worked well with only my PHP installation needing attention. A clash between different versions of the scripting interpretor was addressed by removing the older one since PHP 7 is best kept for sake of testing. Beyond that, a reinstallation of VMware Player and the move from version 18 to version 18.1, there hardly was anything more to do and there was next to no real disruption. That is just as well since I depend heavily on my main PC these days. The backup option of a full installation would have left me clearing up things for a few days afterwards since I use a bespoke selection of software.