Suppressing Update Notifier messages in Ubuntu GNOME 14.04

Though I use only the command line to do system updates, I still got system restart messages every time a new kernel version was installed. While they can be helpful, I actually prefer to be left to my own devices when it comes to restarting a system and I may have a something running at the time that I do not wish to interrupt.

In Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 and before, there was no sign of these messages so I decided to see if I could go nag free again. The responsible application is called Update Notifier and I tried seeing if I could remove it but that act has a major impact of the system so it was not a useful way to go.

As it happens, it is an application that starts up automatically at computer boot time but there was no sign of an entry for it in the Startup Applications Preferences screen (started using from the command line using gnome-session-properties). The for this is that there is flag called NoDisplay in the relevant autostart shortcut in /etc/xdg/autostart/ that stops it appearing in the aforementioned settings screen when set to true. The trick then is to set it to false and the following command (broken over two lines for sake of display and quotes could need replacing when you issue the command too) does the trick for all such hidden start-up applications:

sudo sed -i ‘s/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g’
/etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop

What the above does is that sed goes into every file and changes NoDisplay=true to NoDisplay=false in each file with the desktop extension. When that has completed, there are more entries in Startup Applications Preferences and Update Notifier can be deselected in order to stop it starting. Removing the relevant .desktop file would be a more permanent change but this one will do me, especially since no more of those pesky restart messages appear anymore. My regularity when it came to system updates meant that the update messages never appeared anyway and I tend to shut down my system at the end of every day so the updates will be picked up too so all should be well.

ERROR: Can’t find the archive-keyring

When I recently did my usual system update for the stable version Ubuntu GNOME, there were some updates pertaining to apt and the process failed when I executed the following command:

sudo apt-get upgrade

Usefully, some messages were issued and here’s a flavour:

Setting up apt (0.9.9.1~ubuntu3.1) …
ERROR: Can’t find the archive-keyring
Is the ubuntu-keyring package installed?
dpkg: error processing apt (--configure):
subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
Errors were encountered while processing:
apt
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Some searching on the web revealed that the problem was that there were no files in /usr/share/keyring when there should have been and I had not removed them myself so I have no idea how they disappeared. Various remedies were tried and any that needed software installed were non-starters because apt was disabled by the lack of keyring files. The workaround that restored things for me was to take a copy of the files in /usr/share/keyring from an Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 installation in a VirtualBox VM and copy them in to the same location in its Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 host. For those without such resources, I have packaged them in a zip file below. Other remedies like Y PPA also were suggested where I was reading but that software package needed installing beforehand so it was little use to me when the likes of Synaptic were disabled. If there are other remedies that do not involve an operating system re-installation, I would like to know about them too as well as possible causes for the file loss in the first place and how to avoid these.

Ubuntu Keyrings

Sorting out a system update failure for FreeBSD

With my tendency to apply Linux updates using the command, I was happy to see that something similar was possible in FreeBSD too. The first step is to fire up a terminal session and drop into root using the su command. That needs the root superuser password in order to continue and the next step is to update the local repositories using the following command:

pkg update

After that, it is time download updated packages and install these by issuing this command:

pkg upgrade

Most of the time, that is sufficient but I discovered that there are times when the above fails and additional interventions are needed. What I had uncovered were dependency error messages and I set to looking around the web for remedies to this. One forum question that was similar to what I had met with the suggestion of consulting the file called UPDATING in /usr/ports/. An answer like that looks unhelpful but for the inclusion of advice where extra actions were needed. Also, there is a useful article on updating FreeBSD ports that gives more in the way of background knowledge so you understand the more about what needs doing.

Following both that and the UPDATING  file resulted in my taking the following sequence of steps. The first act was to download and initialise the Ports Collection, a set of build instructions.

portsnap fetch extract

The above is a one time only action so future updates are done as follows:

portsnap fetch update

With an up to date Ports Collection in place, it was time to install portman:

pkg install portman

A look through /usr/ports/UPDTAING revealed the commands I needed for updating Python and Perl to address the dependency problem that I was having:

portmaster -o devel/py-setuptools27 devel/py-setuptools
portmaster -r py\*setuptools

With those completed, I re-ran pkg update again and all was well. The extra actions needed to get that result will not get forgotten and I am sharing them on here so I know where they are. If anyone else has use for them, that would be even better.

A look at Ubuntu GNOME 13.10

With its final release being near at hand, I decided to have a look at the beta release of Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 to get a sense of what might be coming. A misstep along the way had me inadvertently download and install the 64-bit edition of 13.04 into a VirtualBox virtual machine. The intention to update that to its soon to be released successor was scuppered by instability so I never did get to try out an in situ upgrade to 13.10. What I had in mind was to issue the following command:

gksu update-manager -d

However, I found another one when considering how Ubuntu Server might be upgraded without the GUI application that is the Update Manager. To update to a development version, the following command is what you need:

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

To upgrade to a final release of of a new version of Ubuntu, drop the -d switch from the above to use the following:

sudo do-release-upgrade

There is one further option that isn’t recommended for moving between Ubuntu versions but I use it to get updates such as new kernel subversions that are released:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Rather than trying out the above, I downloaded the latest ISO image for the beta release of Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 and installed onto a VM that instead. Though it is the 32 bit version of the distro that is installed on my main home PC, it has been the 64 bit version that I have been trying. So far, that seems to be behaving itself even if it feels a little sluggish but that could be down to the four year old PC that hosts the virtual machine. For a while, I have been playing with the possibility of an upgrade involving an Intel Core i5 4670K CPU and 16 GB of RAM (useful for running multiple virtual machines at a time) along with any motherboard that supports those so looking at a 64 bit operating system has its uses.

The Linux kernel may be 3.11 but that is not my biggest concern. Neither is the fact that LibreOffice 4.1.2.3 was included and GIMP wasn’t, especially when that could be added easily anyway and it is version 2.8.6 that you get. The move to GNOME Shell 3.8 was what drew me to seeing what was coming because I have been depending on a number extensions. As with WordPress and plugins, GNOME Shell seems to have a tempestuous relationship with some of its extensions and I wanted to see which ones still worked. There also has been a change to the backstage application view in that you either get all installed applications displayed when you browse them or you have to start typing the name of the one you want to select it. Losing the categorical view that has been there until GNOME Shell 3.6 is a step backwards and I hope that version 3.10 has seen some sort of a reinstatement. There is a way to add these categories and the result is not as it once was either; also, it shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to dive into a systems innards to address things like this. With all the constant change, it is little wonder that Cinnamon has become a standalone entity with the release of its version 2.0 and that Debian’s toyed with not going with GNOME for its latest version (7.1 at the time of writing and it picked a good GNOME Shell version in 3.4).

Having had a look at other distribution that already have GNOME Shell 3.8, I knew that a few of my extensions worked with it. The list includes Frippery Bottom Panel, Frippery Move Clock, Places Status Indicator, Removable Drive Menu, Remove Rounded Corners (not really needed with the GNOME Shell theme that I use, Elementary Luna 3.4, but I retain it anyway), Show Desktop Button, User Themes and Ignore_Request_Hide_Titlebar. Because of the changes to the backstage view, I added Frippery Applications Menu in preference to Applications Menu because I have found that to be unstable. Useful new discoveries have included Curtains Up and GNOME Shell Open Terminal while Shell Restart User Menu Entry has made a return and found a use this time around too.

There have been some extensions that were not updated to work with GNOME Shell 3.8 that I have got working. In some cases, it was as simple as updating the metadata.json file for an extension with new version numbers of 3.8 and 3.84 to the list associated with the shell version property. All extensions are to be found in the .local/share/gnome-shell/extensions location in your home directory and each has a dedicated file containing the aforementioned file.

With others, it was a matter of looking in the Looking Glass (execute lg in the box that ALT + F2 brings up on your screen to access this) and seeing what error messages were to be found in there before attempting to correct these in either the extensions’ extension.js files or whatever JavaScript (*.js) file was causing the problem. With either or both of these remedies, I managed to port the four extensions below to GNOME Shell 3.8. In fact, you can download these zip files and install them yourself to see how you get on with them.

Advanced Settings in User Menu

Antisocial Menu

Remove App Menu

Restart Shell Entry

There is a Remove Panel App Menu that works with GNOME Shell 3.8 but I found that it got rid of the Places menu instead of the panel’s App Menu so I tried porting the older extension to see if it behaved itself and it does. With these in place, I have bent Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 to my will ahead of its final release next week and that includes customising Nautilus too. Other than a new version of GNOME Shell, it looks as if it will come with less in the way of drama and a breather like that is no bad thing given that personal computing continues to remain in a state of flux these days.

A look at Windows 8.1

Last week, Microsoft released a preview of Windows 8.1 and some hailed the return of the Start button but the reality is not as simple as that. Being a Linux user, I am left wondering if ideas have been borrowed from GNOME Shell instead of putting back the Start Menu like it was in Windows 7. What we have got is a smoothing of the interface that is there for those who like to tweak settings and not available be default. GNOME Shell has been controversial too so borrowing from it is not an uncontentious move even if there are people like me who are at home in that kind of interface.

What you get now is more configuration options to go with the new Start button. Right clicking on the latter does get you a menu but this is no Start Menu like we had before. Instead, we get a settings menu with a “Shut down” entry. That’s better than before, which might be saying something about what was done in Windows 8, and it produces a sub-menu with options of shutting down or restarting your PC as well as putting it to sleep. Otherwise, it is place for accessing system configuration items and not your more usual software, not a bad thing but it’s best to be clear about these things. Holding down the Windows key and pressing X will pop up the same menu if you prefer keyboard shortcuts and I have a soft spot for them too.

New Windows 8.1 Options

The real power is to be discovered when you right click on the task bar and select the Properties entry from the pop-up menu. Within the dialogue box box that appears, there is the Navigation tab that contains a whole plethora of interesting options. Corner navigation can be scaled back to remove the options of switching between applications at the upper left corner or getting the charms menu from the upper right corner. Things are interesting in the Start Screen section. This where you tell Windows to boot to the desktop instead of the Start Screen and adjust what the Start button gives you. For instance, you can make it use your desktop background and display the Start Screen Apps View. Both of these make the new Start interface less intrusive and make the Apps View feel not unlike the way GNOME Shell overlays your screen when you hit the Activities button or hover over the upper left corner of the desktop.

It all seems rather more like a series of little concessions and not the restoration that some (many?) would prefer. Classic Shell still works for all those seeking an actual Start Menu and even replaces the restored Microsoft Start button too. So, if the new improvements aren’t enough for you, you still can take matters into your own hands until you start to take advantage of what’s new in 8.1.

Apart from the refusal to give us back a Windows 7 style desktop experience, we now have a touchscreen keyboard button added to the taskbar.So far, it always appears there even when I try turning it off. For me, that’s a bug and it’s something that I’d like to see fixed before the final release.

All in all, Windows 8.1 feels more polished than Windows 8 was and will be a free update when the production version is released. My explorations have taken place within a separate VMware virtual machine because updating a Windows 8 installation to the 8.1 preview is forcing a complete re-installation on yourself later on. There are talks about Windows 9 now but I am left wondering if going for point releases like 8.2, 8.3, etc. might be a better strategy for Microsoft. It still looks as if Windows 8 could do with continual polishing before it gets more acceptable to users. 8.1 is a step forward and more like it may be needed yet.