Updating Flatpack applications on Linux Mint 19

Since upgrading to Linux Mint 19, I have installed some software from Flatpack. The cause for my curiosity was that you could have the latest versions of applications like GIMP or Libreoffice without having to depend on a third-party PPA. Installation is straightforward given the support built into Linux Mint. You just need to download the relevant package from the Flatpack website and running the file through the GUI installer. Because the packages come with extras to ensure cross-compatibility, more disk space is used but there is no added system overhead beyond that from what I have seen. Updating should be as easy as running the following single command too:

flatpack update

However, I needed to do a little extra work before this was possible. The first step was to update the configuration file at ~/.local/share/flatpak/repo/config to add the following lines:

[remote "flathub"]
gpg-verify=true
gpg-verify-summary=true
url=https://flathub.org/repo/
xa.title=Flathub

Once that was completed, I ran the following commands to import the required GPG key:

wget https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.gpg
flatpak --user remote-modify --gpg-import=flathub.gpg flathub

With this complete, I was able to run the update process and update any applications as necessary. After that first run, it has been integrated in to my normal processes by adding the command to the relevant alias definition.

Installing Firefox Developer Edition in Linux Mint

Having moved beyond the slow response and larger memory footprint of Firefox ESR, I am using Firefox Developer Edition in its place even if it means living without a status bar at the bottom of the window. Hopefully, someone will create an equivalent of the old add-on bar extensions that worked before the release of Firefox Quantum.

Firefox Developer Edition may be pre-release software with some extras for web developers like being able to to drill into an HTML element and see its properties but I am finding it stable enough for everyday use. It is speedy too, which helps, and it has its own profile so it can co-exist on the same machine as regular releases of Firefox like its ESR and Quantum variants.

Installation takes a little added effort though and there are various options available. My chosen method involved Ubuntu Make. Installing this involves setting up a new PPA as the first step and the following commands added the software to my system:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-desktop/ubuntu-make
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-make

With the above completed, it was simple to install Firefox Developer edition using the following command:

umake web firefox-dev

Where things got a bit more complicated was getting entries added to the Cinnamon Menu and Docky. The former was sorted using the cinnamon-menu-editor command but the latter needed some tinkering with my firefox-developer.desktop file found in .local/share/applications/ within my user area to get the right icon shown. Discovering this took me into .gconf/apps/docky-2/Docky/Interface/DockPreferences/%gconf.xml where I found the location of the firefox-developer.desktop that needed changing. Once this was completed, there was nothing else to do from the operating system side.

Within Firefox itself, I opted to turn off warnings about password logins on non-https websites by going to about:config using the address bar, then looking for security.insecure_field_warning.contextual.enabled and changing its value from True to False. Some may decry this but there are some local websites on my machine that need attention at times. Otherwise, Firefox is installed with user access so I can update it as if it were a Windows or MacOS application and that is useful given that there are frequent new releases. All is going as I want it so far.

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.

A look at Google’s Pixel C

Since my last thoughts on trips away without a laptop, I have come by Google’s Pixel C. It is a 10″ tablet so it may not raise hackles on an aircraft like the 12.9″ screen of the large Apple iPad Pro might. The one that I have tried comes with 64 GB of storage space and its companion keyboard cover (there is a folio version). Together, they can be bought for £448, a saving of £150 on the full price.

Google Pixel C

The Pixel C keyboard cover uses strong magnets to hold the tablet onto it and that does mean some extra effort when changing between the various modes. These include covering the tablet screen as well as piggy backing onto it with the screen side showing or attached in such a way that allows typing. The latter usefully allows you to vary the screen angle as you see fit instead of having to stick with whatever is selected for you by a manufacturer. Unlike the physical connection offered by an iPad Pro, Bluetooth is the means offered by the Pixel C and it works just as well from my experiences so far. Because of the smaller size, it feels a little cramped in comparison with a full size keyboard or even that with a 12.9″ iPad Pro. They also are of the scrabble variety though they work well otherwise.

The tablet itself is impressively fast compared to a HTC One A9 phone or even a Google Nexus 9 and that became very clear when it came to installing or updating apps. The speed is just as well since an upgrade to Android 7 (Nougat) was needed on the one that I tried. You can turn on adaptive brightness too, which is a bonus. Audio quality is nowhere near as good as a 12.9″ iPad Pro but that of the screen easily is good enough for assessing photos stored on a WD My Passport Wireless portable hard drive using the WD My Cloud app.

All in all, it may offer that bit more flexibility for overseas trips compared to the bigger iPad Pro so I am tempted to bring one with me instead. The possibility of seeing newly captured photos in slideshow mode is a big selling point since it does functions well for tasks like writing emails or blog posts, like this one since it started life on there. Otherwise, this is a well made device.

Using PowerShell to reinstall Windows Apps

Recently, I managed to use 10AppsManager to remove most of the in-built apps from a Windows 10 virtual machine that I have for testing development versions in case anything ugly were to appear in a production update. Curiosity is my excuse for letting the tool do what it did and some could do with restoration. Out of the lot, Windows Store is the main one that I have sorted so far.

The first step of the process was to start up PowerShell in administrator mode. On my system, this is as simple as clicking on the relevant item in the menu popped up by right clicking on the Start Menu button and clicking on the Yes button in the dialogue box that appears afterwards. In your case, it might be a case of right clicking on the appropriate Start Menu programs entry, selecting the administrator option and going from there.

With this PowerShell session open, the first command to issue is the following:

Get-Appxpackage -Allusers > c:\temp\appxpackage.txt

This creates a listing of Windows app information and pops it into a text file in your choice of directory. Opening the text file in Notepad allows you to search it more easily and there is an entry for Windows Store:

Name                   : Microsoft.WindowsStore
Publisher              : CN=Microsoft Corporation, O=Microsoft Corporation, L=Redmond, S=Washington, C=US
Architecture           : X64
ResourceId             :
Version                : 11607.1001.32.0
PackageFullName        : Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
InstallLocation        : C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
IsFramework            : False
PackageFamilyName      : Microsoft.WindowsStore_8wekyb3d8bbwe
PublisherId            : 8wekyb3d8bbwe
PackageUserInformation : {S-1-5-21-3224249330-198124288-2558179248-1001
IsResourcePackage      : False
IsBundle               : False
IsDevelopmentMode      : False
Dependencies           : {Microsoft.VCLibs.140.00_14.0.24123.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Framework.1.3_1.3.24201.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Runtime.1.3_1.3.23901.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_neutral_split.scale-100_8wekyb3d8bbwe}

Using the information from the InstallLocation field, the following command can be built and executed (here, it has gone over several lines so you need to get your version onto a single one):

Add-AppxPackage -register “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe\AppxManifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode

Once the above has completed, the app was installed and ready to use again. As the mood took me, I installed other apps from the Windows Store as I saw fit.