Customising Nautilus (or Files) in Ubuntu GNOME 13.04

The changes made to Nautilus, otherwise known as Files, in GNOME Shell 3.6 were contentious and the response of the Linux Mint was to create their own variant called Nemo from the previous version of the application. On the Cinnamon or MATE desktop environments, the then latest version of GNOME’s file manager would have looked like a fish out of water without its application menu in the top panel on the GNOME Shell desktop. It is possible to make a few modifications that help Nautilus to look more at home on those Linux Mint desktops and I have collected them here because they are useful for GNOME Shell users too. Here they are in turn.

Adding Application Menu entries to Location Options Menu

The Location Options menu is what you get on clicking the button with the a cog icon on the right hand side of the application’s location bar. Using Gsettings, it is possible to make that menu include the sort of entries that are in the application menu in the GNOME Shell panel at the top of the screen. These include an entry for closing the while application as well as setting its preferences (or options). Running the following command does just that (if it does not work as it should, try changing the single and double quotes to those understood by a command shell):

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings overrides ‘@a{sv} {“Gtk/ShellShowsAppMenu”: <int32 0>}’

Adding in the Remove App Menu GNOME Shell extension will clean up the GNOME Shell a little by removing the application menu altogether. If for some reason you wish to restore the default behaviour, then the following command does the required reset:

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings overrides ‘@a{sv} {}’

Stopping Hiding of the Application Title Bar When Maximised

By default, GNOME Shell can hide the application title bars of GNOME applications such as Nautilus on window maximisation and this is Nautilus now works by default. Changing the behaviour so that the title bar is kept on maximised windows can be as simple as adding in the ignore_request_hide_titlebar extension. The trouble with GNOME Shell extensions is that they can stop working when a new version of GNOME Shell is used so there’s another option: editing metacity-theme-3.xml but /usr/share/themes/Adwaita/metacity-1. The file can be opened using superuser privileges using the following command:

gksudo gedit /usr/share/themes/Adwaita/metacity-1/metacity-theme-3.xml

With the file open, it is a matter of replacing instances of ‘ has_title=”false” ‘ with ‘ has_title=”true” ‘, saving it and reloading GNOME Shell. This may persevere across different versions of GNOME Shell should the extension not do so.

Disabling Recursive Search

This discovery is what led me to bundle these customisations in an entry on here in the first place. In Nemo and older versions of Nautilus, just typing with the application open would lead you down a list towards the file that you wanted. This behaviour was replaced by an automatic recursive search from GNOME Shell 3.6 where the search functionality was extended beyond the folder that was open in the file manager to its subdirectories. To change that to subsetting within the open folder or directory, you need to install a patch version of Nautilus using the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:dr3mro/personal
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

The first of these adds a new repository with the patched version of Nautilus while the second combination installs the patched version. With that done, it is time to issue the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences enable-recursive-search false

That sets the new enable-recursive-search option to false to search within an open directory. It also can be found using Dconf-Editor in the following hierarchy: org > gnome > nautilus > preferences. The obsession of the GNOME project team with minimalism is robbing user of some options and this would be a good one to have by default too. Maybe the others should be treated in the same way even if you need to use Gsettings or Dconf-Editor to change them so as to avoid clutter. Having GNOME Tweak Tool able to set them all would be even better.

Getting an Epson Pefection 4490 Photo scanner going with Ubuntu GNOME Remix 12.10

My Epson¬†Perfection 4490 Photo scanner has been in my possession for a while now and its impossible to justify any replacement given that it both works well and digital photography has taken over from its film predecessor for me. Every time I go installing an operating system afresh, I need to reinstate it again and last year’s installation of Ubuntu GNOME Remix 12.04 only saw me do the deed recently. When I did so, it was brought back to me that I’d never gone and documented on here how this was done. Given that I sometimes use this place as a repository of stuff to which I need to refer again in the future, it seemed remiss of me so here it is for you all.

Though I had XSane and SimpleScan already installed on the system, Sane wasn’t on there so I went and added it and a few other extras using the following command:

sudo apt-get install sane sane-utils libsane-extras

Then, it was onto the Epson website for their Perfection 4490 Photo Linux drivers since Sane’s support for this scanner seemingly remains incomplete even though it pre-dates my move to Linux in 2007. Three files were needed and the following commands install them (depending on when you do this, the file names may be different so just change them to whatever they are for you; it can be done with a single command too but there is not enough girth for that here):

sudo dpkg -i iscan-data_1.22.0-1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i iscan_2.29.1-5~usb0.1.ltdl7_i386.deb
sudo dpkg -i iscan-plugin-gt-x750_2.1.2-1_i386.deb

With those in place, there was one other task that needed doing so that scanning could be done without resorting to running scanning software using sudo privileges. To free up the access to a normal user account, I needed a HAL device information file. These normally are in /usr/share/hal/fdi/ but they change every time an installation so any modifications that you may make are going to be lost. Therefore, there is no point modifying either /usr/share/hal/fdi/preprobe/10osvendor/20-libsane.fdi or /usr/share/hal/fdi/preprobe/10osvendor/20-libsane-extras.fdi where scanner information usually is to be found.

The first task in creating an fdi file was to issue the lsusb command and look for a line corresponding to my scanner. This is the one that I got:

Bus 001 Device 004: ID 04b8:0119 Seiko Epson Corp. Perfection 4490 Photo

From this, I gleaned the manufacturer ID and model ID as 04b8 and 0119, respectively. These are needed later on. Next I needed to create the hal/fdi/preprobe/ folder structure under /etc since it was there. Then, I created epson4490photo.fdi in the bottom folder of the tree (/etc/hal/fdi/preprobe/epson4490photo.fdi) as follows:

cd /etc/hal/fdi/preprobe/ && sudo touch epson4490photo.fdi

Then, I edited the new file using the following command:

gksu gedit epson4490photo.fdi &

When open, I added in the following text:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<deviceinfo version=”0.2″>
<device>
<match key=”info.subsystem” string=”usb”>
<!-- Epson Perfection 4490 Photo -->
<match key=”usb.vendor_id” int=”0x04b8″>
<match key=”usb.product_id” int=”0x0119″>
<append key=”info.capabilities” type=”strlist”>scanner</append>
<merge key=”scanner.access_method” type=”string”>proprietary</merge>
</match>
</match>
</match>
</device>
</deviceinfo>

It’s all in XML so the place to look is immediately beneath the scanner name comment. The int attributes of the two match elements immediately following the comment line are populated using the information from the lsusb command output with 0x prefixing both the manufacturer and model identifiers. The element with a key attribute of usb.vendor_id is the former and that with a key attribute of usb.product_id is the latter. With epson4490photo.fdi saved, I rebooted the machine to restart HAL and all was as I wanted it to be apart maybe from XSane making complaints that seemed not to be of any actual consequence. With Epson’s Image Scan! and Simple Scan on the PC, there’s no need to be bothered with those messages. Choice is good when you have it, especially when you have expended some effort to get that far.

Suffering from neglect?

There have been several recorded instances of Google acquiring something and then not developing it to its full potential. FeedBurner is yet another acquisition where this sort of thing has been suspected. Changeovers by monolithic edict and lack of responsiveness from support fora are the sorts of things that breed resentment in some that share opinions on the web. Within the last month, I found that my FeedBurner feeds were not being updated as they should have been and it would not accept a new blog feed when I tried adding it. The result of both these was that I got to deactivating the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin to take FeedBurner out of the way for my feed subscribers; those regulars on my hillwalking blog were greeted by a splurge of activity following something of a hiatus. There are alternatives such as RapidFeed and Pheedo but I will stay away from the likes of these for a little while and take advantage of the newly added FeedStats plugin to keep tabs on how many come to see the feeds. The downside to this is that IE6 users will see the pure XML rather than a version with a more friendly formatting.

java.net.MalformedURLException: unknown protocol: j

I know that that there better things to call a blog post than to use part of an error message that I got from Saxonica‘s Saxon while I was converting XML files into PHP equivalents for the visitor information section of my main website. I use the open source Saxon-B rather than the commercial Saxon-SA and it fulfils all of my needs and version 8 and later (it has now reached 9.0.0.2) handle the XSLT 2.0 features that I need to make the transformations really clever. Also, because Saxon is available as a jar file, it is cross platform so long as you have Java on board. There are, however, some slight differences in behaviour. I now run thte thing in Linux and any Windows-style file locations are not recognised. I had the file path in a DTD declaration starting with "J:\" and that was thought to be a protocol like file, http, https, ftp and so on because of the colon. There’s no j protocol so Java gets confused and, voilà!, you get the rather obscure error that titles this post. Otherwise, the migration of the Perl script that creates XSLT files and fires off the required XML to PHP transformations was a fairly straightforward exercise once file locations and shebang line were set right.

Exploring AJAX

When I first started it, my online photo gallery started out simply as a set of interlinked HTML pages. Over time, I discovered frames (yes, them!) and started to make use of JavaScript to make the slideshows slicker. In those days, I was working off free webspace provided by my ISP and client-side scripting was the only tool that I had for enhancing functionality. Having tired of the vagaries of client-side scripting -- the browser wars were in full swing and incompatibilities reigned supreme, I went with paid hosting in order to get access to tools like Perl and PHP for server-side processing; their flexibility compared to JavaScript was a breath of fresh air to me and I am still a fan of the server-side approach.

The journey that I have just described is one that I now know was followed by a lot of website builders around the same time. Nevertheless, I have still held onto JavaScript for some things, particularly for updating the DOM as part of making the pages more responsive to user interaction. In the last few years, a hybrid approach has been gaining currency: AJAX. This offers the ability to modify parts of a page without needing to reload the whole thing and that has generated a considerable amount of interest among web application developers.

The world of AJAX is evidently a complex one though the underlying principle can be explained in simple terms. The essential idea is that you use JavaScript to call a server-side script, PHP is as good an example as any, that returns either text or XML that can be used to update part of a web page in situ without the need to reload it as per the traditional way of working. It has opened up so many possibilities from the interface design point of view that AJAX became a hot topic that still receives much attention today. One bugbear is efficiency because I have seem an AJAX application lock up a PC with a little help from IE6. There will always remain times where server-side processing is the best route and that needs to balanced against the client-side and vice versa.

Like its forbear DHTML, AJAX is really a development approach using a number of different technologies in combination. The DHTML elements such as (X)HTML, CSS, DOM and JavaScript are very much part of the AJAX world but server-side elements such as HTTP, PHP, MySQL and XML are also very much part of the fabric of the landscape. In fact, while AJAX can use plain text as the transfer format, XML is the one implied by the AJAX acronym and XSLT is used to transform XML in HTML. However, AJAX is not limited to the aforementioned technologies; for instance, I cannot see why Perl cannot play a role in place of PHP and ASP can be used for the same things.

Even in these standards-compliant days, browser support for AJAX remains diverse, to say the least, and it is akin to having MSIE in one corner and the rest in the other. Mind you, Microsoft did introduce the tools in the first place but they used ActiveX and Mozilla created a new object type rather than continue this method of operation. Given that ActiveX is a Windows-only technology, I can see why Mozilla did what they did and it is a sensible decision. In fact, IE7 appears to have picked up the Mozilla way of doing things.

Even with the apparent convergence, there will continue to be a need for the AJAX JavaScript libraries that are currently out there. Incidentally, Adobe has included one called Spry with Dreamweaver CS3. Nevertheless, I still like to find out how things work at the basic level and feel somewhat obstructed when I cannot do this. I remember perusing Wrox’s Professional AJAX and found the constant references to the associated function library rather grating; the writing style didn’t help either.

My taking a more granular approach has got me reading SAMS Teach Yourself AJAX in 10 Minutes as a means for getting my foot in the door. As with their Teach Yourself … in 24 Hours series, the title is a little misleading since there are 22 lessons of 10 minutes in duration (the 24 Hours moniker refers to there being 24 lessons, each of one hour in length). Anything composed of 10 minute lessons, even 22 of them, is never going to be comprehensive but, as a means for getting started, I have to say that the approach seems effective on the basis of this volume. It has certainly whet my appetite for giving AJAX a go and it’ll be interesting to see how things progress from here.