Because I now have business dealings in Ireland, there is a need to add in the Euro currency symbol to emails even though I based in the U.K. and use U.K. keyboard settings. While there is the possibility to insert the symbol in Microsoft Office and other applications, using a simple keyboard shortcut is more efficient since it avoids multiple mouse clicks. For some reason, CTRL+SHFT+E got into my head as the key combination but that turns on the Track Changes facility in Word. Instead, CTRL+ALT+4 does the needful and that is what I will be keeping in mind for future usage.
During a recent upgrade from Linux Mint 18 to Linux Mint 18.1 on a secondary machine, I ran into bother with my Startech KVM (keyboard, video, mouse and audio sharing) switch. The PC failed to recognise the attachment of my keyboard and mouse so an internet search began.
Nothing promising came from it apart from resetting the KVM switch. In other words, the solution was to turn it off and back on again. That was something that I did try without success. What I had overlooked was that there USB connections to PC’s that fed the device with a certain amount of power and that was enough to keep it on.
Unplugging those USB cables as well as the power cable was needed to completely switch off the device. That provided the reset that I needed and all was well again. Otherwise, I would have been baffled enough to resort to buying a replacement KVM switch so the extra information avoided a purchase that could have cost in the region of £100. In other words, a little research had saved me money.
When I gave the beta version of the now finally released Fedora 15 a try, GNOME 3 left me thinking that it was even more dramatic and less desirable a change than Ubuntu’s Unity desktop interface. In fact, I was left with serious questions about its actual usability, even for someone like me. It all felt as if everything was one click further away from me and thoughts of what this could mean for anyone seriously afflicted by RSI started to surface in my mind, especially with big screens like my 24″ Iiyama being commonplace these days. Another missing item was somewhere on the desktop interface for shutting down or restarting a PC; it seemed to be case of first logging off and then shutting down from the login screen. This was yet another case of adding to the number of steps for doing something between GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 with its GNOME Shell.
After that less than positive experience with a Live CD, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d be giving the GNOME edition of Fedora 15 a wide berth with the LXDE one being chosen in its place. Another alternative approach would have been to turn off GNOME Shell altogether by forcing the fallback mode to run all the time. The way to do this is start up the System Settings application and click on the System Info icon. Once in there, click on Graphics and turn on the Forced Fallback Mode option. With that done, closing down the application, logging off and then back on again will gain you an environment not dissimilar to the GNOME 2 of Fedora 14 and its forbears.
Even after considering the above easy way to get away from and maybe even avoid the world of GNOME Shell, I still decided to give it another go to see if I could make it work in a way that was less alien to me. After looking at the handy quickstart guide, I ventured into the world of GNOME Shell extensions and very useful these have come to be too. The first of these that I added was the Alternate Status Menu and I ran the following command to do so:
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-alternative-status-menu
The result was that the “me” menu gained the ever useful “Power Off…” entry that I was seeking once I refreshed the desktop by running the command r in the command entry box produced by the ALT + F2 keyboard combination. Next up was the Place Menu and the command used to add that is:
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-place-menu
Again, refreshing the desktop as described for the Alternate Status Menu added the new menu to the (top) panel. Not having an application dock on screen all the time was the next irritation that was obliterated and it helps to get around the lack of a workspace switcher for now too. The GNOME Shell approach to virtual desktops is to have a dynamic number of workspaces with there always being one more than what you are using. It’s an interesting way of working that doesn’t perturb more pragmatic users like me but there are those accustomed to tying applications to particular workspaces aren’t so impressed by the change. The other change to workspace handling is that keyboard shortcuts have changed to CTRL-ALT-[Up Arrow] and CTRL-ALT-[Down Arrow] from CTRL-ALT-[Left Arrow] and CTRL-ALT-[Right Arrow].
To add that application dock, I issued the command below and refreshed the desktop to get it showing. Though it stops application windows becoming fully maximised on the screen, that’s not a problem with my widescreen monitor. In fact, it even helps to switch between workspaces using the keyboard because that doesn’t seem to be working when you have fully maximised windows.
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-dock
After adding the application dock, I stopped adding extensions though there are more available such as Alternate Tab Behaviour (restores the ALT-TAB behaviour of GNOME 2), Auto Move Windows, Drive Menu, Native Window Placement, Theme Selector and Window Navigator. Here are the YUM commands for each of these in turn:
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-alternate-tab
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-auto-move-windows
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-drive-menu
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-native-window-placement
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-theme-selector
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme
yum install gnome-shell-extensions-windowsNavigator
One hope that I will retain is that more of these extensions will appear over time but Ranjith Siji seems to have a good round up of what is available. Other than these, I also have added the DCONF Editor and GNOME Tweaks Tool with the latter restoring buttons for minimising and maximising windows to their title bars for me. As ever, YUM was called to add them using the following commands:
yum install dconf-editor
yum install gnome-tweaks-tool
There are other things that can be done with these but I haven’t to explore them yet. All YUM commands were run as root and the ones that I used certainly have helped me to make myself at home in what once was a very unfamiliar desktop environment for me. In fact, I am beginning to like what has be done with GNOME 3 though I have doubts as to how attractive it would be to a user coming to Linux from the world of Windows. While everything is solidly crafted, the fact that I needed to make some customisations of my own raises questions about how suitable the default GNOME set-up in Fedora is for a new user though Fedora probably isn’t intended for that user group anyway. Things get more interesting when you consider distros favouring new and less technical users, both of whom need to be served anyway.
Ubuntu has gone its own way with Unity and, having spent time with GNOME 3, I can see why they might have done that. Unity does put a lot more near at hand on the desktop than is the case with GNOME 3 where you find yourself going to the Activities window a lot, either by using your mouse or by keystrokes like the “super” (or Windows) key or ALT-F1. Even so, there are common touches like searching for an application like you would search a web page in Firefox. In retrospect, it is a pity to see the divergence when something from both camps might have helped for a better user experience. Nevertheless, I am reaching the conclusion that the Unity approach feels like a compromise and that GNOME feels that little bit more polished. Saying that, an extra extension or two put more items nearer to hand in GNOME Shell would be desirable. If I hadn’t found a haven like Linux Mint where big interface changes are going to be avoided, maybe going with the new GNOME desktop mightn’t have been a bad thing to do after all.
On popping Ubuntu 9.10 onto a newly built PC, I noticed that the button mappings weren’t as I had expected them to be. The button just below the wheel no longer acted like a right mouse button on a conventional mouse and it really was throwing me. The cause was found to be in a file name evoluent-verticalmouse3.fdi that is found either in /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/ or /etc/hal/fdi/policy/.
So, to get things back as I wanted, I changed the following line:
<merge key=”input.x11_options.ButtonMapping” type=”string”>1 2 2 4 5 6 7 3 8</merge>
<merge key=”input.x11_options.ButtonMapping” type=”string”>1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3 8</merge>
If there is no sign of the file on your system, then create one named evoluent-verticalmouse3.fdi in /etc/hal/fdi/policy/ with the following content and you should be away. All that’s need to set things to rights is to disconnect the mouse and reconnect it again in both cases.
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”ISO-8859-1″?>
<match key=”info.capabilities” contains=”input.mouse”>
<match key=”input.product” string=”Kingsis Peripherals Evoluent VerticalMouse 3″>
<merge key=”input.x11_driver” type=”string”>evdev</merge>
<merge key=”input.x11_options.Emulate3Buttons” type=”string”>no</merge>
<merge key=”input.x11_options.EmulateWheelButton” type=”string”>0</merge>
<merge key=”input.x11_options.ZAxisMapping” type=”string”>4 5</merge>
<merge key=”input.x11_options.ButtonMapping” type=”string”>1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3 8</merge>
While I may not have appreciated the sudden change, it does show how you remap buttons on these mice and that can be no bad thing. Saying that, hardware settings can be personal things so it’s best not to go changing defaults based one person’s preferences. It just goes to show how valuable discussions like that on Launchpad about this matter can be. For one, I am glad to know what happened and how to make things the way that I want them to be though I realise that it may not suit everyone; that makes me reticent about asking for such things to be made the standard settings.
Last night, something very stupid happened to me: I tripped up in my main PC’s cables and brought the behemoth crashing about the place. There was some resulting damage with the keyboard PS/2 socket being put out of action and a busted USB port and mouse. When this happens, thoughts take on the form of a runaway train and the prospect of acquiring a new motherboard and assorted expensive paraphernalia trot into your mind; there are other things that more need my cash. Of course, the last time to be making such big decisions on computer components is when a mental maelstrom has descended upon you.
Eventually, I got myself away from the brink and lateral thinking began to take over. What helped was that most of the system seems unaffected and I am using it right now to write this post. While a spare will work for now, a new ergonomic mouse is on order but cheaper alternatives to the keyboard conundrum have come into play. If PS/2 wasn’t an option, then USB remained one and that was the line of attack that was taken. It involved a visit to the nearest branch of PC World after work but I came away with a new USB hub and a USB-compatible keyboard for less than the price of a new AM2+ Gigabyte motherboard that would have served my needs. An otherwise functional Trust keyboard may have been retired but that was a less expensive option than a full PC rebuild, something that I may still need to do but it can be left for a whole lot longer than the immediacy that flashed before my eyes within the last 24 hours. In fact, acquiring some cable ties should be higher on the acquisition wish list so as to avoid cable-induced tumbles in the future. It really does pay to able to step back and see things from a wider perspective.