Using KWrite to find and replace a character with a CRLF (Carriage Return/Line Feed)

Occasionally I need to edit a long string and replace the space character with a CRLF and some text. Even though I was sure the KDE editor KWrite could do that, I had never bothered to find out how. Today I finally bit the bullet. It’s not difficult, of course. To show you how it is done, I’ll give an actual example…

I wanted to edit in KWrite the single line of text shown below. (Not that it’s relevant to the subject of this post, but the line was a command to the Gentoo package manager to install a long list of packages, and I wanted to split it into separate commands in order to install each package individually.)

emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 media-video/dvdrip:0 dev-vcs/git:0 dev-vcs/subversion:0 net-print/foomatic-db-engine:0 app-antivirus/clamtk:0 dev-perl/XML-SAX:0 dev-perl/X11-Protocol:0 dev-perl/Goo-Canvas:0 dev-perl/Readonly:0 dev-perl/File-Find-Rule:0 dev-perl/Net-SSLeay:0 dev-perl/XML-LibXML:0 dev-perl/HTTP-Message:0 dev-perl/Digest-SHA1:0 dev-perl/XML-XPath:0 dev-perl/File-Which:0 dev-perl/Authen-SASL:0 dev-perl/glib-perl:0 dev-perl/prefork:0 dev-perl/IO-Socket-SSL:0 dev-perl/Exception-Class:0 dev-perl/Proc-Simple:0 dev-perl/WWW-Mechanize:0 dev-perl/gnome2-canvas:0 dev-perl/gnome2-vfs-perl:0 dev-perl/IO-String:0 dev-perl/HTML-Tagset:0 dev-perl/Carp-Clan:0 dev-perl/Pod-Spell:0 dev-perl/Sane:0 dev-perl/TermReadKey:0 dev-perl/HTTP-Date:0 dev-perl/Encode-Locale:0 dev-perl/Event-RPC:0 dev-perl/File-HomeDir:0 dev-perl/Bit-Vector:0 dev-perl/gnome2-wnck:0 dev-perl/File-Copy-Recursive:0 dev-perl/Text-Unidecode:0 dev-perl/Unicode-EastAsianWidth:0 dev-perl/extutils-pkgconfig:0 dev-perl/Clone:0 dev-perl/Event-ExecFlow:0 dev-perl/B-Keywords:0 dev-perl/PDF-API2:0 dev-perl/HTTP-Negotiate:0 dev-perl/HTML-Form:0 dev-perl/extutils-depends:0 dev-perl/PlRPC:0 dev-perl/libwww-perl:0 dev-perl/gtk2-perl:0 dev-perl/File-MimeInfo:0 dev-perl/Font-TTF:0 dev-perl/libintl-perl:0 dev-perl/List-MoreUtils:0 dev-perl/Log-Log4perl:0 dev-perl/XML-DOM:0 dev-perl/HTML-Parser:0 dev-perl/Try-Tiny:0 dev-perl/XML-Twig:0 dev-perl/Gtk2-Ex-Simple-List:0 dev-perl/LWP-MediaTypes:0 dev-perl/LWP-Protocol-https:0 dev-perl/XML-Simple:0 dev-perl/Pango:0 dev-perl/set-scalar:0 dev-perl/Gtk2-Unique:0 dev-perl/Params-Util:0 dev-perl/Net-Daemon:0 dev-perl/GSSAPI:0 dev-perl/XML-NamespaceSupport:0 dev-perl/PPI:0 dev-perl/Proc-ProcessTable:0 dev-perl/String-Format:0 dev-perl/Date-Calc:0 dev-perl/XML-Parser:0 dev-perl/Email-Address:0 dev-perl/Class-Data-Inheritable:0 dev-perl/Email-Simple:0 dev-perl/JSON:0 dev-perl/gnome2-perl:0 dev-perl/XML-SAX-Base:0 dev-perl/Net-SMTP-SSL:0 dev-perl/Gtk2-ImageView:0 dev-perl/IO-HTML:0 dev-perl/WWW-RobotRules:0 dev-perl/Digest-HMAC:0 dev-perl/HTTP-Cookies:0 dev-perl/DBI:0 dev-perl/URI:0 dev-perl/Text-Iconv:0 dev-perl/gtk2-ex-formfactory:0 dev-perl/Email-Date-Format:0 dev-perl/libxml-perl:0 dev-perl/XML-SAX-Writer:0 dev-perl/XML-Filter-BufferText:0 dev-perl/Number-Compare:0 dev-perl/XML-RegExp:0 dev-perl/Email-LocalDelivery:0 dev-perl/config-general:0 dev-perl/HTTP-Daemon:0 dev-perl/File-Listing:0 dev-perl/Devel-StackTrace:0 dev-perl/Set-IntSpan:0 dev-perl/Cairo:0 dev-perl/Email-FolderType:0 dev-perl/XML-Handler-YAWriter:0 dev-perl/Archive-Zip:0 dev-perl/Net-DBus:0 dev-perl/DBD-mysql:0 dev-perl/AnyEvent:0 dev-perl/perltidy:0 dev-perl/Locale-gettext:0 dev-perl/Sort-Naturally:0 dev-perl/Net-HTTP:0 dev-perl/Perl-Critic:0 media-gfx/gscan2pdf:0 media-libs/exiftool:0 perl-core/CPAN-Meta-Requirements:0 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta-Requirements:0 perl-core/IPC-Cmd:0 virtual/perl-IPC-Cmd:0 perl-core/Storable:0 virtual/perl-Storable:0 perl-core/File-Spec:0 virtual/perl-File-Spec:0 perl-core/CPAN-Meta:0 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta:0 perl-core/Getopt-Long:0 virtual/perl-Getopt-Long:0 perl-core/Locale-Maketext-Simple:0 virtual/perl-Locale-Maketext-Simple:0 perl-core/ExtUtils-Manifest:0 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-Manifest:0 perl-core/Pod-Simple:0 virtual/perl-Pod-Simple:0 perl-core/CPAN-Meta-YAML:0 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta-YAML:0 perl-core/Encode:0 virtual/perl-Encode:0 perl-core/Compress-Raw-Bzip2:0 virtual/perl-Compress-Raw-Bzip2:0 perl-core/Module-Load:0 virtual/perl-Module-Load:0 perl-core/Archive-Tar:0 virtual/perl-Archive-Tar:0 perl-core/Scalar-List-Utils:0 virtual/perl-Scalar-List-Utils:0 perl-core/ExtUtils-CBuilder:0 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-CBuilder:0 perl-core/Parse-CPAN-Meta:0 virtual/perl-Parse-CPAN-Meta:0 perl-core/version:0 virtual/perl-version:0 perl-core/Digest-SHA:0 virtual/perl-Digest-SHA:0 perl-core/Module-Load-Conditional:0 virtual/perl-Module-Load-Conditional:0 perl-core/Compress-Raw-Zlib:0 virtual/perl-Compress-Raw-Zlib:0 perl-core/ExtUtils-Install:0 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-Install:0 perl-core/IO:0 virtual/perl-IO:0 perl-core/Time-Local:0 virtual/perl-Time-Local:0 perl-core/Module-CoreList:0 virtual/perl-Module-CoreList:0 perl-core/Digest-MD5:0 virtual/perl-Digest-MD5:0 perl-core/JSON-PP:0 virtual/perl-JSON-PP:0 perl-core/ExtUtils-ParseXS:0 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-ParseXS:0 perl-core/File-Temp:0 virtual/perl-File-Temp:0 perl-core/Params-Check:0 virtual/perl-Params-Check:0 perl-core/Module-Metadata:0 virtual/perl-Module-Metadata:0 perl-core/Sys-Syslog:0 virtual/perl-Sys-Syslog:0 perl-core/IO-Compress:0 virtual/perl-IO-Compress:0 perl-core/Test-Harness:0 virtual/perl-Test-Harness:0

With the above line of text in a KWrite window, I did the following:

1. I selected Edit > Replace… from the KWrite menu.

2. At the bottom of the KWrite window, I changed the Mode from ‘Plain text’ to ‘Regular expression’.

3. I clicked in the ‘Find’ box and pressed the Space bar to enter a space character.

4. I clicked in the ‘Replace’ box and entered the following text (note that there is ‘\n’ at the beginning and a space at the end):

\nemerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 

The ‘\n‘ represents a CRLF (Carriage Return plus Line Feed).

5. I ticked ‘Selection only’.

6. With the mouse I selected the text in which I wanted to make the replacement, i.e. I selected from (and including) the space following the first package (media-video/dvdrip:0) all the way to the end of the line.

7. I clicked on ‘Replace All’.

The result looked like this:

emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 media-video/dvdrip:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-vcs/git:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-vcs/subversion:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 net-print/foomatic-db-engine:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 app-antivirus/clamtk:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-SAX:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/X11-Protocol:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Goo-Canvas:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Readonly:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-Find-Rule:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Net-SSLeay:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-LibXML:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTTP-Message:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Digest-SHA1:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-XPath:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-Which:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Authen-SASL:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/glib-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/prefork:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/IO-Socket-SSL:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Exception-Class:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Proc-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/WWW-Mechanize:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gnome2-canvas:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gnome2-vfs-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/IO-String:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTML-Tagset:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Carp-Clan:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Pod-Spell:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Sane:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/TermReadKey:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTTP-Date:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Encode-Locale:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Event-RPC:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-HomeDir:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Bit-Vector:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gnome2-wnck:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-Copy-Recursive:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Text-Unidecode:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Unicode-EastAsianWidth:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/extutils-pkgconfig:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Clone:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Event-ExecFlow:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/B-Keywords:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/PDF-API2:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTTP-Negotiate:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTML-Form:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/extutils-depends:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/PlRPC:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/libwww-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gtk2-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-MimeInfo:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Font-TTF:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/libintl-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/List-MoreUtils:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Log-Log4perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-DOM:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTML-Parser:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Try-Tiny:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-Twig:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Gtk2-Ex-Simple-List:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/LWP-MediaTypes:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/LWP-Protocol-https:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Pango:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/set-scalar:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Gtk2-Unique:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Params-Util:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Net-Daemon:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/GSSAPI:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-NamespaceSupport:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/PPI:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Proc-ProcessTable:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/String-Format:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Date-Calc:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-Parser:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Email-Address:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Class-Data-Inheritable:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Email-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/JSON:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gnome2-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-SAX-Base:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Net-SMTP-SSL:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Gtk2-ImageView:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/IO-HTML:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/WWW-RobotRules:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Digest-HMAC:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTTP-Cookies:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/DBI:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/URI:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Text-Iconv:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/gtk2-ex-formfactory:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Email-Date-Format:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/libxml-perl:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-SAX-Writer:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-Filter-BufferText:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Number-Compare:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-RegExp:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Email-LocalDelivery:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/config-general:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/HTTP-Daemon:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/File-Listing:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Devel-StackTrace:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Set-IntSpan:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Cairo:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Email-FolderType:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/XML-Handler-YAWriter:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Archive-Zip:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Net-DBus:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/DBD-mysql:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/AnyEvent:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/perltidy:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Locale-gettext:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Sort-Naturally:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Net-HTTP:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 dev-perl/Perl-Critic:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 media-gfx/gscan2pdf:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 media-libs/exiftool:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/CPAN-Meta-Requirements:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta-Requirements:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/IPC-Cmd:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-IPC-Cmd:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Storable:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Storable:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/File-Spec:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-File-Spec:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/CPAN-Meta:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Getopt-Long:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Getopt-Long:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Locale-Maketext-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Locale-Maketext-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/ExtUtils-Manifest:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-Manifest:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Pod-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Pod-Simple:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/CPAN-Meta-YAML:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-CPAN-Meta-YAML:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Encode:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Encode:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Compress-Raw-Bzip2:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Compress-Raw-Bzip2:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Module-Load:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Module-Load:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Archive-Tar:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Archive-Tar:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Scalar-List-Utils:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Scalar-List-Utils:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/ExtUtils-CBuilder:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-CBuilder:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Parse-CPAN-Meta:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Parse-CPAN-Meta:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/version:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-version:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Digest-SHA:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Digest-SHA:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Module-Load-Conditional:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Module-Load-Conditional:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Compress-Raw-Zlib:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Compress-Raw-Zlib:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/ExtUtils-Install:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-Install:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/IO:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-IO:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Time-Local:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Time-Local:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Module-CoreList:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Module-CoreList:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Digest-MD5:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Digest-MD5:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/JSON-PP:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-JSON-PP:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/ExtUtils-ParseXS:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-ExtUtils-ParseXS:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/File-Temp:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-File-Temp:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Params-Check:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Params-Check:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Module-Metadata:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Module-Metadata:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Sys-Syslog:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Sys-Syslog:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/IO-Compress:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-IO-Compress:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 perl-core/Test-Harness:0
emerge -vD1 --backtrack=30 virtual/perl-Test-Harness:0

That’s all there is to it. :-)

Can Linux cope with 24 Hours of Happy?

I enjoyed Pharrell Williams’ feel-good songs in ‘Despicable Me‘ and its sequel, ‘Despicable Me 2‘. ‘Happy‘, a very catchy ditty he wrote for the sequel, also features in the World’s first 24-hour-long music video, ‘24 Hours of Happy‘, shot in and around Los Angeles and released on 21 November last year. The song is played a total of 360 times over the duration of the video, each 4-minute take featuring a different person or persons dancing (improvised) along streets, in petrol stations, through Union Station, in a church, around a school, in a moving school bus, around a supermarket, in a bowling alley, and so on. Each 4-minute performance was filmed in one take using Steadicam, and the location at the end of each take segues into the next take. You see the sun rise; you see the bright sunlight of the morning and the warm sunlight of the afternoon; you see the sun set; you see the twinkling city lights at night. The concept is simple yet brilliant.

Clips from some of the takes were used to create the 4-minute official music video for ‘Happy’, so you can watch that on YouTube to get a flavour of the takes, although it does not do justice to the full video.

Williams appears in a different take every hour on the hour, and a few other takes have celebrity cameos, but the vast majority of the participants are unknown extras of all ages, races, shapes, sizes and looks. To quote Williams talking to the Los Angeles Times: “We wanted all humanity in there, not just the model-types you might expect.” Some are good dancers, others not so good. But they all have one thing in common: they’re having fun, so they look good. The joy is infectious, and I found myself watching far longer than I would have expected, having to return to the site again and again. Half the fun is watching the bystanders.

When you open the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site, the take that was in progress at the current time of day starts playing from the beginning. However, you can drag the pointer around the clock dial and watch any take from the 24-hour period. There are also buttons you can click on to jump between takes or to jump to each take featuring Williams. The yellow on-screen controls can be made to disappear by not moving the mouse pointer for 5 seconds.

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

The Web site is well-designed and fun to use, so I was not surprised it was voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year Users’ Choice‘ by AWWWARDS, and voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year‘ by TheFWA.

It’s impossible to list them all, but a few of my favourite takes are:

01:36  Very perky woman with ponytail.
05:28  Jogger who has to keep pulling his shorts up!
08:24  Woman on roller skates.
09:52  Very cute little girl.
09:56  Woman with some groovy moves.
10:40  Woman in Union Station. Some of the bystanders are particularly amusing.
11:16  Man with cast on foot.
11:20  Boy with an Afro.
11:36  Three groovy old ladies.
11:44  Chubby guy with style.
12:36  Woman with some groovy moves.
13:32  Dancing couple in pink.
14:20  Two cool guys in dinner jackets inside and outside Union Station.
15:00  Pharrell Williams in a church with a gospel choir.
19:04  Woman with a lizard puppet. The lizard does the lip-synching!
19:36  Guy on stilts.
23:40  Woman with LED hula hoop (love it!).

If you want to start viewing a take made at a specific time of day, you can append the time to the URL, like so:

http://24hoursofhappy.com/09h53am

Obviously I think ’24 Hours of Happy’ is fabulous, but why am I discussing it in a blog predominantly about Linux? Because Firefox 27.0.1 (32-bit) running in Windows 8.1 (64-bit) on my new Acer Aspire XC-600 micro-tower PC (dual-core Intel Pentium G2030 @ 3 GHz & 3 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM) handles ’24 Hours of Happy’ at 720p with ease, but the story is very different on my main laptop running 64-bit Gentoo Linux with KDE (quad-core Intel Core i7 720QM @ 933 MHz & 6 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM). Both machines are on my home network, connected to the Internet via high-bandwidth broadband (FTTC).

On my laptop, the latest available versions of Firefox (27.0) and Opera (12.16_p1860-r1) for Gentoo, both 64-bit, do not even complete loading the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site: the black progress bar at the bottom of the home page stops about 7/8th of the way across the page and the KDE Network Monitor widget shows there is no network activity. Clearing Firefox’s Web content cache or increasing the cache’s size to 1 GB make no difference. Konqueror 4.12.2 (configured to use the WebKit browser engine rather than the KHTML engine) loads the site and plays it quite well at 720p to start with, but eventually video becomes choppy and I notice a lot of spawned kio_http processes. The KDE Network Monitor widget shows a continuous 3600 Kib/s data stream, which does not stop when I exit Konqueror. Numerous kio_http processes are spawned and remain after I exit Konqueror, and the 3600 KiB/s activity on the network only ceases when I kill all the kio_http processes. The number of spawned kio_http processes increases if I drag the pointer around the clock to select different takes, and the page just displays ‘LOADING’ ad infinitum if I do this several times. To be fair, if I do this a lot in Firefox running in Windows 8.1, I can get Firefox to stall too. I thought I’d try a lightweight browser and installed NetSurf (3.0-r1), but that couldn’t even render the title on the home page, let alone begin to load the video.

So, does ’24 Hours of Happy’ play nicely in your Linux installation? If it does, what hardware, distribution, desktop environment, browser and quality (360p, 480p, 720p or 1080p) are you using?

KDE Connect – Link your Android device to your KDE desktop

KDE Connect app icon on my Samsung Galaxy Note II

KDE Connect app icon on my Samsung Galaxy Note II

KDE Connect is a nice tool that links your Android phone or tablet seamlessly via WiFi to KDE on your PC (the latter can be connected via WiFi or cable to the network). It allows your KDE desktop to receive notifications, files and media player commands from your Android device. The available KDE Connect plug-ins are:

Battery report
Periodically report battery status

Clipboard sync
Share the clipboard content

Multimedia remote controls
Control audio/video from your phone
(pause; first track; previous track; next track; last track; change volume)

Notification sync
Access your notification from other devices

Ping
Send and receive pings

Telephony notifier
Send notifications from SMS and calls

You will need to install the Android KDE Connect application on your Android device, and the Linux KDE Connect application on your PC.

Install the KDE Connect app on your Android device from the Google Play Store. You will then see the KDE Connect icon on the apps screen of your Android device.

For Gentoo users an ebuild for KDE Connect is available in the Gentoo KDE team’s testing overlay, so here are the instructions on how to install KDE Connect on your PC from there.

Firstly, mask the KDE overlay so that none of the packages in it interferes with the KDE software you installed from the main Portage tree:

# echo "*/*::kde" >> /etc/portage/package.mask

Then unmask the KDE Connect package in the KDE overlay:

# echo "kde-misc/kdeconnect" >> /etc/portage/package.unmask

N.B. If /etc/portage/package.mask is a directory rather than a file (either is possible) in your installation, and if /etc/portage/package.unmask is a directory rather than a file (either is possible) in your installation, use the following commands instead of the above two commands:

# echo "*/*::kde" > /etc/portage/package.mask/kde_overlay
# echo "kde-misc/kdeconnect" > /etc/portage/package.unmask/kdeconnect

Now add the KDE overlay and merge the package:

# layman -a kde
# emerge kdeconnect

If a firewall is running on your PC, you will need to configure it to allow tcp and udp traffic via a specific range of ports (1714 to 1764). I have UFW running on my main laptop, so in my case I used the following commands:

# ufw allow proto tcp to any port 1714:1764
# ufw allow proto udp to any port 1714:1764

The rules should look like this:

# ufw status verbose | grep 1714
1714:1764/tcp ALLOW IN Anywhere
1714:1764/udp ALLOW IN Anywhere
1714:1764/tcp ALLOW IN Anywhere (v6)
1714:1764/udp ALLOW IN Anywhere (v6)

If you have the KConfig Module kcm_ufw installed on your PC then you can instead use System Settings > Firewall to add the UFW rules via the KDE GUI.

By the way, to check which KConfig modules are installed on your PC you can use the following command under your user account:

$ kcmshell4 --list

Using KDE Connect is not difficult, so I will leave you to play with it. Obviously make sure WiFi is enabled on your Android device, and that it and your PC are connected to the same network. Tap on the KDE Connect icon on your Android device to launch the app, and you should see your PC’s name listed under CONNECTED DEVICES. Tap on the PC name and you should see the following screen:

KDE Connect screen

KDE Connect screen

If you tap on ‘Send ping’, the KDE Notification widget on the KDE System Tray should pop up a notification.

You can see what KDE Connect plug-ins are available, and select/deselect them:

KDE Connect plugins

KDE Connect plugins

KDE Connect also enables you to use your Android device as a remote control for media players running on your PC. When you launch a media player in KDE its name will appear in a list of selectable players in KDE Connect, and the name of the track currently playing will also be displayed:

KDE Connect - Remote control

KDE Connect - Remote control

When you select a file on your Android device and tap the Share icon, KDE Connect will be one of the options displayed on the ‘Share via’ menu. This is a handy way to send files from your Android device to your PC. The KDE Notification widget on your PC will notify you when the file has been transferred to ~/Desktop/ on your PC:

KDE on your PC notifies you when a file has been sent via KDE Connect

KDE on your PC notifies you a file has been sent via KDE Connect

You should also get notifications on your KDE desktop when someone phones or sends you an SMS.

Kudos and many thanks to the people responsible for KDE Connect. KDE is already a superb desktop environment, and with the addition of KDE Connect it is better still.

Dropbox revisited

In a previous post I explained how I installed Kfilebox, an unofficial KDE front-end for Dropbox. However, development of Kfilebox appears to have stopped, as the original author posted the following recently on a blog:

“I have stopped working on kfilebox after some updates in dropbox. Shortly: there is no way to get recent changed files, no more access to config options, cant configure it.”

Nevertheless I continued using Kfilebox. However, after a few days the Kfilebox icon stopped appearing in the KDE System Tray, and clicking on ‘Show hidden icons’ > ‘Kfilebox’ on the Panel displayed “The Dropbox daemon isn’t running” in the pop-up menu. Also, if I clicked on the hidden Kfilebox icon and selected ‘Preferences…’ the Dropbox folder field was empty and I had to keep re-entering the location of the Dropbox folder. So I decided to uninstall Kfilebox and try using Dropbox directly with KDE. I performed the steps listed below.

  1. Uninstall Kfilebox:

    # emerge -C kfilebox

  2. Remove any associated directories and files that might be left over:

    # rm -rf /home/fitzcarraldo/.dropbox
    # rm -rf /home/fitzcarraldo/.dropbox-dist
    # rm /home/fitzcarraldo/.kde4/share/config/kfileboxrc

  3. Install Dropbox:

    # emerge dropbox

  4. Do not edit /etc/conf.d/dropbox and do not configure Gentoo to launch the Dropbox daemon at start-up (i.e. do not add /etc/init.d/dropbox to the default runlevel). Instead configure KDE to launch the daemon when logging-in to KDE:
    1. Kickoff > System Settings > Startup and Shutdown
    2. Click on ‘Autostart’ in the left pane.
    3. Click on the ‘Add Script…’ button on the right side of the window.
    4. Enter the location of the Dropbox daemon in the box in the pop-up window. I entered “/opt/dropbox/dropboxd” (without the quotes) in the box and clicked ‘OK’.
  5. Run Dropbox for the first time and configure the local installation:
    1. Open a Dolphin window and browse to the directory containing the daemon (/opt/dropbox/) and double-click on dropboxd to launch the daemon.
    2. The Dropbox set-up window will pop-up and it should be obvious what to do from there onwards. As I already had a Dropbox account I selected ‘I already have a Dropbox account’ and clicked ‘Next’, I then entered my e-mail address, my Dropbox password and my computer’s name in the boxes and clicked ‘Next’. I left the default free 2 GB option selected and clicked ‘Next’. I left the default set-up ‘Typical’ selected and clicked ‘Install’. I read the introductory information displayed in the next couple of windows and clicked ‘Next’. I clicked ‘Finish’ in the final ‘That’s it!’ window.
  6. A Dropbox icon then appears in the System Tray on the Panel and synchronises with the Dropbox directory on the remote Dropbox server.

Now if I click on the Dropbox icon in the System Tray, the Dropbox directory window pops up. If I right-click on the icon in the System Tray, a menu pops-up with the expected Dropbox options.

So there was no need to use Kfilebox after all, as using the Dropbox daemon directly is just as user-friendly.

Installing Dropbox in Gentoo running KDE

kfilebox
I had never used Dropbox before and had no intention of doing so, but today a work colleague sent me some large files via Dropbox so I was forced to sign up. I tried to install Dropbox on my main laptop running Gentoo Linux and KDE but, for a well-known application, I had a surprising amount of trouble, hence this blog post.

To begin with, I found the following Dropbox-related packages:

# eix dropbox
* gnome-extra/nautilus-dropbox
Available versions: (~)0.6.9 (~)0.7.0 0.7.1 (~)1.4.0 {debug}
Homepage: http://www.dropbox.com/
Description: Store, Sync and Share Files Online
.
* net-misc/dropbox
Available versions: 1.2.48-r1^ms (~)1.2.51-r2^ms (~)1.4.3-r1^ms (~)1.4.7-r1^ms (~)1.4.7-r2^ms (~)1.4.17^ms (~)1.4.23^ms (~)1.6.16^ms {X +librsync-bundled}
Homepage: http://dropbox.com/
Description: Dropbox daemon (pretends to be GUI-less)
.
* net-misc/dropbox-cli
Available versions: 1 1-r1 {PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_6 python2_7"}
Homepage: http://www.dropbox.com/
Description: Cli interface for dropbox daemon (python)
.
* xfce-extra/thunar-dropbox [1]
Available versions: [m](~)0.2.0
Homepage: http://www.softwarebakery.com/maato/thunar-dropbox.html
Description: Plugin for Thunar that adds context-menu items for Dropbox
.
[1] "sabayon" /var/lib/layman/sabayon
.
Found 4 matches.

But I don’t have GNOME or Xfce installed on my main laptop, so the first and last packages were of no interest. A quick search on the Web turned up Kfilebox, which seemed to be exactly what I needed. I was pleased to find that the package is in the main Portage tree:

# eix kfilebox
* kde-misc/kfilebox
Available versions: (4) (~)0.4.8 (~)0.4.9
{LINGUAS="ar br cs de el es fr gl it lt nl pl pt ru si tr zh zh_CN"}
Homepage: http://kdropbox.deuteros.es/
Description: KDE dropbox client

So I installed kfilebox, dropbox and dropbox-cli, thinking I would need them all. Then, before doing anything else, I surfed to the Dropbox Web site and signed up for an account.

I launched Konsole and entered the command kfilebox. A window popped-up telling me that the Dropbox Daemon was being downloaded, then another window popped up offering me two options/buttons: ‘Run gtk based installer’ and ‘Or simply link account’. I clicked on the latter, thinking that was all I needed to do as I had already signed up for an account via the Dropbox Web site. But a Dropbox icon did not appear in the Panel, nor did Dolphin show a Dropbox folder icon in my home directory, and the KDE Notifications widget kept popping up notification after notification from Kfilebox to “Please visit url to link to this machine”. The trouble was that clicking on the apparent link in the notifications did nothing.

The directories .dropbox and .dropbox-dist existed in my home directory, and the contents of /home/fitzcarraldo/.kde4/share/config/kfileboxrc were as follows:

[General]
AutoStart=true
Browser=rekonq
DropboxDir=/home/fitzcarraldo/.dropbox-dist/
FileManager=dolphin
GtkUiDisabled=true
IconSet=default
ShowNotifications=true
StartDaemon=true

As the rekonq Web browser is not installed on this laptop, I edited the file and changed Browser=rekonq to Browser=firefox then rebooted, but it made no difference.

So I uninstalled everything:

# emerge -C kfilebox dropbox dropbox-cli
# rm -rf /home/fitzcarraldo/.dropbox
# rm -rf /home/fitzcarraldo/.dropbox-dist
# rm /home/fitzcarraldo/.kde4/share/config/kfileboxrc

then rebooted and reinstalled only Kfilebox:

# emerge kfilebox

I then launched Konsole and entered the command kfilebox. The pop-up window appeared notifying me that the Dropbox Daemon was being downloaded, followed by the pop-up window offering me the choice of running the gtk-based installer or simply linking the account. This time I chose the option to run the gtk-based installer and just followed the intuitive instructions in the various pop-up windows that followed, one of which offered to create a new Dropbox account or to link to an existing Dropbox account. As I wanted to do the latter I entered my e-mail address and Dropbox password, a Dropbox icon then appeared on the Panel and a Dropbox folder icon is now visible in Dolphin.

I checked the contents of ~/.kde4/share/config/kfileboxrc and they were the same as listed above, so I edited the file to replace rekonq with firefox, although I’m not sure yet what (if anything) that does, as Dropbox is new to me and I’m still learning. Anyway, the important thing is that I could now click on the ‘View folder’ button in an e-mail sent to me by a colleague and the files uploaded by my colleague were automatically downloaded into the ~/Dropbox directory.

EDIT May 30, 2013: Kfilebox is no longer in development and has started playing up. However, I found out how to install Dropbox directly and use it with KDE, and it’s just as user-friendly as Kfilebox. See my post Dropbox revisited for how to install Dropbox directly.

Switching the display quickly between a laptop monitor and an external monitor or projector in Linux

laptop_with_external_monitor_and_keyboardI connect my laptop to an external keyboard and an external monitor or projector in various offices and at home, and each of the monitors has a different resolution. Fn-F3 on my laptop keyboard allows me to toggle between monitors, but I want more control (including the ability to specify the resolution of the external display). Now, I find the GPU manufacturer’s application and the Desktop Environment’s GUI for switching monitors and changing screen resolution rather cumbersome, so I wanted an icon on the Desktop that I could double-click to switch monitors without having to enter the root user’s password and fiddle around too much. So I decided to create some simple Bash scripts and associated Desktop Config files with nice-looking icons on the desktop, which I can launch easily and quickly by double-clicking. Obviously the resolutions are limited to the range of resolutions supported by the GPU and external monitor.

The suite of Desktop Config files I created have self-explanatory names:

$ cd ~/Desktop
$ ls -1 Switch*
Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected
Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto
Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_switch_off_external_monitor
$ ls -1 Toggle*
Toggle_display

The difference between Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected and Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto is that the former prompts for the resolution of the external monitor whereas the latter tries to find the resolution automatically. I have both because I have found that, for some external display devices (e.g. projectors), it is handy to have the ability to specify the resolution manually.

Switch off the laptop monitor if an external monitor is connected (find resolution automatically)

The Desktop Config file I double-click the most is ~/Desktop/Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto, and it contains the following text:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected auto
Comment=switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected auto
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected auto
GenericName=Switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected auto
Icon=/home/fitzcarraldo/Pictures/Icons/display.png
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto
Name=Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=false
TerminalOptions=
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

The Bash script it launches, ~/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto.sh, contains the following code:

#!/bin/bash
if xrandr -q | grep "CRT1 connected"; then
  xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output CRT1 --auto
else
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1920x1080
# 1920x1080 is the native resolution of my laptop monitor
fi

Don’t forget to make them executable:

$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto
$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected_auto.sh

If you’re wondering how I knew I had to specify ‘CRT1′ and ‘LVDS’ in the Bash script, I used the xrandr command to find out what names the GPU gives the monitors:

$ xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1920 x 1080, maximum 1920 x 1920
LVDS connected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
1920x1080 60.0 +
1680x1050 60.0
1400x1050 60.0
1600x900 60.0
1280x1024 60.0
1440x900 60.0
1280x960 60.0
1280x768 60.0
1280x720 60.0
1024x768 60.0
1024x600 60.0
800x600 60.0
800x480 60.0
640x480 60.0
DFP1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
CRT1 connected 1920x1080+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 476mm x 268mm
1920x1080 60.0*+
1280x1024 75.0 60.0
1280x960 60.0
1280x800 59.8
1152x864 75.0
1280x720 60.0
1024x768 75.0 70.1 60.0
800x600 72.2 75.0 60.3 56.2
640x480 75.0 72.8 67.0 59.9

Switch off the laptop monitor if an external monitor is connected (enter resolution)

The Desktop Config file I double-click is ~/Desktop/Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected, and it contains the following text:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected
Comment=switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/System_Administration/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected
GenericName=Switch off laptop monitor if external monitor is connected
Icon=/home/fitzcarraldo/Pictures/Icons/display.png
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected
Name=Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=true
TerminalOptions=
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

The Bash script it launches, ~/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected.sh, contains the following code:

#!/bin/bash
if xrandr -q | grep "CRT1 connected"; then
echo -n "Enter resolution width of external monitor (hint 1920 Doha, 1440 home): "
read EXTERNAL_WIDTH
echo -n "Enter resoluton height of external monitor (hint 1080 Doha, 900 home): "
read EXTERNAL_HEIGHT
  xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output CRT1 --mode $EXTERNAL_WIDTH"x"$EXTERNAL_HEIGHT
else
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1920x1080
# 1920x1080 is the native resolution of my laptop monitor
fi

Don’t forget to make them executable:

$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Switch_OFF_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected
$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_off_laptop_monitor_if_external_monitor_is_connected.sh

Switch on the laptop monitor and external monitor simultaneously

I don’t need to use this one much, only when I am using an external monitor but suddenly want to use the laptop’s built-in Webcam and so have to open fully the laptop’s lid. The file ~/Desktop/Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor contains the following text:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Comment=switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
GenericName=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Icon=/home/fitzcarraldo/Pictures/Icons/display.png
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Name=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=true
TerminalOptions=
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

and the Bash script it calls, ~/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor.sh, contains the following code:

#!/bin/bash
if xrandr -q | grep "CRT1 connected"; then
  echo "Note that the resolution specified must be the same for both monitors, and must be achievable on both monitors."
  echo -n "Enter resolution width of external monitor (hint 1920 office, 1440 home): "
  read EXTERNAL_WIDTH
  echo -n "Enter resoluton height of external monitor (hint 1080 office, 900 home): "
  read EXTERNAL_HEIGHT
  #xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --mode $EXTERNAL_WIDTH"x"$EXTERNAL_HEIGHT
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output CRT1 --mode $EXTERNAL_WIDTH"x"$EXTERNAL_HEIGHT
else
  xrandr --output CRT1 --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --off
  xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1920x1080
# 1920x1080 is the native resolution of my laptop monitor
fi

Don’t forget to make them executable:

$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor
$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor.sh

Switch on the laptop monitor and switch off an external monitor

I don’t need to use this one much either, given that the display mode reverts to the laptop monitor after I reboot or shutdown/power-up the laptop. The file ~/Desktop/Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor contains the following text:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=switch on laptop monitor and switch off external monitor
Comment=switch on laptop monitor and switch off external monitor
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_switch_off_external_monitor.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Switch on laptop monitor and switch off external monitor
GenericName=Switch on laptop monitor and switch off external monitor
Icon=computer-laptop
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_switch_off_external_monitor
Name=Switch_ON_laptop_monitor_and_switch_off_external_monitor
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=false
TerminalOptions=
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

The Bash script it launches, ~/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_switch_off_external_monitor.sh, contains the following code:

#!/bin/bash
xrandr --output CRT1 --off
xrandr --output LVDS --auto
xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1920x1080
# 1920x1080 is the native resolution of my laptop monitor

I did also create a fifth Desktop Config file and associated Bash script, to toggle between the three modes (laptop monitor only > both monitors > external monitor only) rather than having to double-click three different icons. But, to be honest, it’s quicker and easier to have the three icons and double-click on the one I want rather than toggling through three display modes. Anyway, in case you are interested, the Desktop Config file ~/Desktop/Toggle_Display contains the follow text:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=Toggle between laptop monitor, external monitor and both
Comment=Toggle between laptop monitor, external monitor and both
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/toggle_display.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Toggle between laptop monitor, external monitor and both
GenericName=Toggle between laptop monitor, external monitor and both
Icon=video-display
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Toggle_display
Name=Toggle_display
Path=
StartupNotify=false
Terminal=false
TerminalOptions=
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

and the Bash script it launches, ~/switch_on_laptop_monitor_and_external_monitor.sh, contains the following code:

#!/bin/sh

# Using the xrandr command I found that the two video outputs from my laptop are named LVDS
# (the internal display) and CRT1 (the external display driven by the laptop's VGA socket).
# My external monitor at home has a resolution of 1440x900.

CONNECTED=`xrandr | grep -i ' connected' | grep LVDS | awk '{print $1}'`
CONNECTED="${CONNECTED} `xrandr | grep -i ' connected' | grep CRT | awk '{print $1}'`"

ENABLED=`awk '{print;exit}' ~/displays_enabled 2>/dev/null`

if [ "$CONNECTED" = "LVDS" -o "$CONNECTED" = "LVDS " -o "$CONNECTED" = " LVDS" ]; then
        # Only the internal display is connected, so don't do anything.
        echo "LVDS" > ~/displays_enabled
        ENABLED="LVDS"
        xrandr --output CRT1 --off
        xrandr --output LVDS --off
        xrandr --output LVDS --auto
        exit 0
elif [ "$CONNECTED" = "LVDS CRT1" ]; then
        # Both the internal and external displays are connected, so let's toggle
        # LVDS > LVDS,CRT1 > CRT1

        EXTERNALRES=`xrandr | awk 'c&&c--;/ connected/{c=1}' | awk '{print $1}' | grep 1440x900`
        if [ "$ENABLED" = "LVDS" ]; then
        # Switching on both displays.
                xrandr --output LVDS --off
                if [ "$EXTERNALRES" = "1440x900" ]; then
                         xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1440x900
                         xrandr --output CRT1 --off
                         xrandr --output CRT1 --auto
                else
                         xrandr --output LVDS --auto
                         xrandr --output CRT1 --off
                         xrandr --output CRT1 --auto
                fi
                ENABLED="LVDS CRT1"
                echo "LVDS CRT1" > ~/displays_enabled
        elif [ "$ENABLED" = "LVDS CRT1" ]; then
        # Switching on only external display.
                xrandr --output LVDS --off
                xrandr --output CRT1 --off
                xrandr --output CRT1 --auto
                ENABLED="CRT1"
                echo "CRT1" > ~/displays_enabled
        else
        # Switching on only internal display.
                xrandr --output CRT1 --off
                xrandr --output LVDS --off
                xrandr --output LVDS --auto
                ENABLED="LVDS"
                echo "LVDS" > ~/displays_enabled
        fi
fi

As I use KDE, I also used System Settings > Shortcuts and Gestures | Custom Shortcuts to create a keyboard shortcut which I named ‘Toggle display’, with Meta+P as Trigger and sh ~/toggle_display.sh as Action, but I tend to use the mouse rather than the keyboard in any case.

By the way, you might think some of the xrandr commands in the above Bash scripts are redundant. You would be correct in thinking that, but in practice I found that the displays did not switch if I didn’t include the additional commands shown (due to a bug in xrandr, perhaps?). Even then, when I switch to an external monitor, occasionally the screen resolution is slightly too big or too small, so I placed the icons at the top left of the desktop so that they are always accessible and I can just double-click on the same icon again if necessary. As I’m using KDE, I placed a Folder View Plasmoid for ~/Desktop/ at the top left of the desktop, as you can see in the screenshot.

Desktop showing icons for switching between monitors

Footnote

I’ve been using the above method of switching between displays for a couple of years now with an AMD ATI GPU. It works nicely and suits my needs perfectly. AMD has supported xrandr since 2008 (see Ref. 1), whereas NVIDIA only began to support xrandr last year (see Ref. 2) so I’m not sure how well these scripts would work with NVIDIA GPUs.

Ref. 1: AMD Catalyst 8.9 Gets WINE Fix, RandR 1.2 Support, September 18, 2008
Ref. 2: NVIDIA’s 302 Linux Driver Finally Has RandR 1.2/1.3, May 2, 2012

Setting the wireless regulatory domain in Linux on your laptop

I travel internationally and want to make sure that my laptop uses the legal wireless networking frequencies in the country I am visiting. In Linux, CRDA (Central Regulatory Domain Agent) is the udev helper used to communicate between userspace and the kernel, and it enables you to view and alter the wireless regulatory domain your kernel uses. For more information see the Regulatory page on the Linux Wireless Wiki site.

CFG80211 is the Linux wireless LAN (802.11) configuration API. The kernel on my main laptop has the following configuration settings relating to CFG80211:

# cat /usr/src/linux/.config | grep CFG80211
CONFIG_CFG80211=m
# CONFIG_CFG80211_DEVELOPER_WARNINGS is not set
# CONFIG_CFG80211_REG_DEBUG is not set
CONFIG_CFG80211_DEFAULT_PS=y
# CONFIG_CFG80211_DEBUGFS is not set
# CONFIG_CFG80211_INTERNAL_REGDB is not set
CONFIG_CFG80211_WEXT=y

and the cfg80211 module is loaded:

# lsmod | grep cfg80211
cfg80211 145747 3 iwlwifi,mac80211,iwldvm

I have the package crda installed, and I have the following udev rule file /etc/udev/rules.d/regulatory.rules to allow the kernel to communicate with userspace:

KERNEL=="regulatory*", ACTION=="change", SUBSYSTEM=="platform", RUN+="/sbin/crda"

So, how do you check which wireless regulatory domain your kernel is currently using, and switch to another domain if necessary? These tasks are performed using the iw command. You’ll need to install the package iw if it is not already installed.

To see the regulatory domain your laptop is using now, enter the following command as root user:

iw reg get

When I use the above command on my laptop after start-up, I normally see the following:

# iw reg get
country 00:
(2402 - 2472 @ 40), (3, 20)
(2457 - 2482 @ 20), (3, 20), PASSIVE-SCAN, NO-IBSS
(2474 - 2494 @ 20), (3, 20), NO-OFDM, PASSIVE-SCAN, NO-IBSS
(5170 - 5250 @ 40), (3, 20), PASSIVE-SCAN, NO-IBSS
(5735 - 5835 @ 40), (3, 20), PASSIVE-SCAN, NO-IBSS

The country code 00 is not the code of the country I am in at present. To tell the kernel which wireless regulatory domain you wish to use, enter the following command as root user:

iw reg set ISO_3166-1_alpha-2

where ISO_3166-1_alpha-2 is the 2-character code for the country you are in. You can find the list of ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes on the Wikipedia page ISO 3166-1 alpha-2.

For example, if I were in the UK then I would enter the following command:

# iw reg set GB

and the regulatory domain would then be reported like this:

# iw reg get
country GB:
(2402 - 2482 @ 40), (N/A, 20)
(5170 - 5250 @ 40), (N/A, 20)
(5250 - 5330 @ 40), (N/A, 20), DFS
(5490 - 5710 @ 40), (N/A, 27), DFS

It is not a big deal to use the command line, but I wanted to make it even easier. I’m using KDE on my main laptop, so I created a Desktop Configuration File /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Set_wireless_regulatory_domain containing the following:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=
Comment=
Exec=/home/fitzcarraldo/iw_reg.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Set wireless regulatory domain
GenericName=Set wireless regulatory domain
Icon=/home/fitzcarraldo/national-flags-icon.png
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=Set_wireless_regulatory_domain
Name=Set_wireless_regulatory_domain
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=true
TerminalOptions=\s--noclose
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=

and gave it the following file permissions:

# chmod 744 /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Set_wireless_regulatory_domain
# ls -la /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Set_wireless_regulatory_domain
-rwxr--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 496 Jan 15 21:53 /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Set_wireless_regulatory_domain

I used a search engine to find a nice PNG icon consisting of several overlapping national flags, and saved it with the file name name national-flags-icon.png in my home directory.

I created a Bash shell script /home/fitzcarraldo/iw_reg.sh containing the following:

#!/bin/bash
echo "First you need to enter the password of your user account..."
sudo echo ""
echo "The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes are listed on Web page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2"
echo ""
echo "The current wireless regulatory domain is set as: "
echo ""
sudo iw reg get
echo ""
echo -n "Enter the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code (upper case) for the country you are in now, and press ENTER: "
read REGULATORYDOMAIN
sudo iw reg set $REGULATORYDOMAIN
echo ""
echo "The current wireless regulatory domain is now set as: "
echo ""
sudo iw reg get
echo ""
echo "All done. You can close this window."

and gave it the following file permissions:

# chmod 744 /home/fitzcarraldo/iw_reg.sh
# ls -la /home/fitzcarraldo/iw_reg.sh
-rwxr--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 632 Jan 15 21:33 /home/fitzcarraldo/iw_reg.sh

Now, if I double-click on the icon for Set_wireless_regulatory_domain on my desktop, a Konsole window pops up with a prompt for me to enter my user account password. When I enter my password the window displays the current wireless regulatory domain the kernel is using and prompts me to enter the 2-character code for the regulatory domain I wish to use instead. When I enter the country code the window displays the new regulatory domain, as shown in the sample below.


First you need to enter the password of your user account...
Password:

The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes are listed on Web page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2

The current wireless regulatory domain is set as:

country SA:
(2402 - 2482 @ 40), (N/A, 20)
(5170 - 5250 @ 20), (3, 23)
(5250 - 5330 @ 20), (3, 23), DFS
(5735 - 5835 @ 20), (3, 30)

Enter the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code (upper case) for the country you are in now, and press ENTER: GB

The current wireless regulatory domain is now set as:

country GB:
(2402 - 2482 @ 40), (N/A, 20)
(5170 - 5250 @ 40), (N/A, 20)
(5250 - 5330 @ 40), (N/A, 20), DFS
(5490 - 5710 @ 40), (N/A, 27), DFS

All done. You can close this window.

The task of viewing and changing the regulatory domain after start-up is now very easy for me. The only thing that would be easier than this would be if Linux could detect automatically which country I’m in and set the regulatory domain automatically.

Converting ape music files to mp3 in Linux

I had a file in the lossless ape (Monkey’s Audio) file format, and wanted to convert it to a .mp3 file so that I could play it on my portable mp3 player. As is usual in Linux, several alternative solutions exist, and I thought I’d try three of them for fun: shntool, ffmpeg and KDE’s Konvertible (Konvertible is a GUI for ffmpeg).

I already had ffmpeg and Konvertible installed, but not shntool. So first I installed shntool and the Monkey’s Audio codecs it uses:

# emerge media-sound/mac
# emerge media-sound/shntool

Here are the details of these two installed packages:

# eix -I shntool
[I] media-sound/shntool
Available versions: 3.0.10-r1 {alac flac mac shorten sox wavpack}
Installed versions: 3.0.10-r1(08:11:30 19/12/12)(flac -alac -mac -shorten -sox -wavpack)
Homepage: http://www.etree.org/shnutils/shntool/
Description: A multi-purpose WAVE data processing and reporting utility

# eix -I media-sound/mac
[I] media-sound/mac
Available versions: 3.99.4.5.7-r1^m {mmx static-libs}
Installed versions: 3.99.4.5.7-r1^m(07:52:12 19/12/12)(mmx -static-libs)
Homepage: http://etree.org/shnutils/shntool/
Description: Monkey's Audio Codecs

Then I used the following command to convert the file My Band 1971 CoolSounds.ape to mp3:

$ shntool conv -i ape -o 'cust ext=mp3 lame - %f' My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.ape
Converting [My Band 1971 CoolSounds.ape] (59:15.39) --> [My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3] : 100% OK
$

The KDE utility Konvertible was also able to convert it. I double-clicked on the file My Band 1971 CoolSounds.ape in Dolphin to launch Konvertible, selected libmp3lame in the ‘Codec:’ drop-down picklist, 192.00 kbits/s in the ‘Bitrate:’ drop-down picklist, clicked on the folder icon and selected /home/fitzcarraldo as the destination directory, and finally clicked ‘Convert’.

The mp3 files created by shntool and Konvertible were of different sizes:

File created by Konvertible:

$ file My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3: Audio file with ID3 version 2.4.0, contains: MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 192 kbps, 44.1 kHz, Stereo
$ ls -la My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 85334024 Dec 19 08:11 My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3
$

File created by shntool:

$ file My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3: MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 128 kbps, 44.1 kHz, JntStereo
$ ls -la My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 56889259 Dec 19 08:29 My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3
$

So I added the bitrate to the shntool command:

$ shntool conv -i ape -o 'cust ext=mp3 lame -b 192 - %f' My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.ape
Converting [My Band 1971 CoolSounds.ape] (59:15.39) --> [My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3] : 100% OK
$

and this time the mp3 file created by shntool is comparable to the mp3 file created by Konvertible:

$ file My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3: MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 192 kbps, 44.1 kHz, JntStereo
$ ls -la My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 85333889 Dec 19 08:56 My Band 1971 CoolSounds.mp3
$

The ffmpeg command to do the same thing is:

$ ffmpeg -i My\ Band\ 1971\ CoolSounds.ape -ar 44100 -ab 192000 out.mp3
ffmpeg version 0.10.6 Copyright (c) 2000-2012 the FFmpeg developers
built on Nov 26 2012 07:06:40 with gcc 4.6.3
configuration: --prefix=/usr --libdir=/usr/lib64 --shlibdir=/usr/lib64 --mandir=/usr/share/man --enable-shared --cc=x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-gcc --cxx=x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-g++ --ar=x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-ar --optflags='-O2 -march=native -pipe' --extra-cflags='-O2 -march=native -pipe' --extra-cxxflags='-O2 -march=native -pipe' --disable-static --enable-gpl --enable-version3 --enable-postproc --enable-avfilter --disable-stripping --disable-debug --disable-doc --disable-vaapi --disable-vdpau --enable-runtime-cpudetect --enable-gnutls --enable-libmp3lame --enable-libvo-aacenc --enable-libtheora --enable-libvorbis --enable-libx264 --enable-libxvid --enable-libfaac --enable-nonfree --enable-libdc1394 --enable-openal --disable-indev=v4l --disable-indev=oss --enable-x11grab --enable-libpulse --disable-outdev=oss --enable-libfreetype --enable-pthreads --enable-libgsm --enable-libspeex --disable-amd3dnow --disable-amd3dnowext --disable-altivec --disable-avx --disable-mmx2 --disable-ssse3 --disable-vis --disable-neon --cpu=ho
libavutil 51. 35.100 / 51. 35.100
libavcodec 53. 61.100 / 53. 61.100
libavformat 53. 32.100 / 53. 32.100
libavdevice 53. 4.100 / 53. 4.100
libavfilter 2. 61.100 / 2. 61.100
libswscale 2. 1.100 / 2. 1.100
libswresample 0. 6.100 / 0. 6.100
libpostproc 52. 0.100 / 52. 0.100
Input #0, ape, from 'My Band 1971 CoolSounds.ape':
Metadata:
Album : CoolSounds
Title : C:\1\My Band 1971 CoolSounds
Comment : Exact Audio Copy
Duration: 00:59:15.47, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 829 kb/s
Stream #0:0: Audio: ape (APE / 0x20455041), 44100 Hz, stereo, s16
Output #0, mp3, to 'out.mp3':
Metadata:
TALB : CoolSounds
TIT2 : C:\1\My Band 1971 CoolSounds
Comment : Exact Audio Copy
TSSE : Lavf53.32.100
Stream #0:0: Audio: mp3, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16, 192 kb/s
Stream mapping:
Stream #0:0 -> #0:0 (ape -> libmp3lame)
Press [q] to stop, [?] for help
size= 83334kB time=00:59:15.55 bitrate= 192.0kbits/s
video:0kB audio:83333kB global headers:0kB muxing overhead 0.000892%
$

and, as you can see below, the resulting mp3 file is the same size as the mp3 file created using Konvertible (not surprising, since Konvertible is a GUI front-end for ffmpeg) and virtually the same as the mp3 file created by shntool.

$ file out.mp3
out.mp3: Audio file with ID3 version 2.4.0, contains: MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 192 kbps, 44.1 kHz, Stereo
$ ls -la out.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 1 fitzcarraldo users 85334024 Dec 20 18:14 out.mp3
$

So, there you have it: GUI or command line; take your pick!

Let’s hear it for Konqueror

My browser of choice on the desktop has been Firefox for many years. Firefox uses the Gecko rendering engine. As a backup Web browser I use Konqueror but configured to use WebKit, rather than KHTML, as the rendering engine. I’ve tried Chromium, Opera, Midori, rekonq, SeaMonkey and a bunch of others, but always found them lacking in some way in comparison to Firefox (I find Opera Mobile better than Firefox for Android on my mobile phone, though).

However, Firefox sometimes lets me down. For example, some months ago I wanted to book tickets online for a concert but Firefox would not display the seat map correctly, stopping me from being able to select seats. Konqueror saved the day. And, recently, Firefox no longer displays the video component of trailers on Rotten Tomatoes; only audio works. Firefox correctly plays videos from virtually all other sites I visit (YouTube, IMDb, iTunes Trailers, Vimeo, eTelegraph etc.) so why the sudden inability to display Rotten Tomatoes trailers? Today Firefox wouldn’t play a product video on an Amazon page either. So I launched Konqueror and it can play Rotten Tomatoes trailers and the Amazon video. What gives? They are both running on the same laptop in the same OS (Gentoo Linux) and desktop environment (KDE), using the same version of Flash, the same video driver etc. The only thing I can think of is that the Firefox rendering engine Gecko is the culprit. I assume WebKit in Konqueror is more capable than Gecko, although I don’t know enough to be certain that Gecko is the cause of the problem.

Anyway, if you want to configure Konqueror to use the WebKit rendering engine instead of the KHTML rendering engine, click on ‘Settings’ on the Konqueror menu bar, select ‘Configure Konqueror…’ and click on ‘General’. You’ll see ‘Default web browser engine’ in the right pane. Select WebKit and click ‘OK’. You’ll also need to have WebKit itself installed, of course. I have the packages qt-webkit (the WebKit module for the Qt toolkit) and kwebkitpart (a WebKit KPart for Konqueror) installed.

A guided tour of my KDE 4.8.4 desktop (Part 2)

In A guided tour of my KDE 4.8.4 desktop (Part 1) I gave a brief overview of the KDE desktop on my main laptop. This time I’m going to cover some applications, KDE and non-KDE, that I use. Just to prove that I don’t look at KDE through rose-tinted spectacles, I’ll also mention a few problems too.

I don’t use a desktop PC. This laptop is my main PC and I use it for all my professional and personal tasks. I travel frequently and have to connect to public and private networks (wired, wireless and broadband modems) and to many different network printers, so a reliable desktop environment and reliable network management software are essential. KDE satisfies the first requirement. The desktop environment-independent NetworkManager and its KDE front-end, the Plasma widget NetworkManagement, satisfy the second requirement. I also use my laptop for the usual leisure activities such as watching DVDs, video files and TV programmes; listening to music files, Audio CDs and Internet radio; messaging/telephony (PC-to-PC and PC-to-landline/mobile internationally); browsing the Web, blogging and so on.

So this is very much a mission-critical machine for me. The fact that I’m using KDE successfully for all these tasks is a testament to the power of KDE (and Linux, of course). I should also point out that, for a mission-critical machine, I’m living a little dangerously as I use the testing branch (a.k.a. unstable branch), rather than the stable branch, of Gentoo Linux. I’ve been using the unstable branch for several years on this laptop and its predecessor, with only a few hiccups, although I do have to keep an eye on the Gentoo forums in case someone reports a problem.

Office suites

Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Calc

Snapshot 1 - Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Calc

I use both LibreOffice and Microsoft Office 2007, the latter under WINE (see WINE tips: Giving each Windows application its own environment). Office 2007 guarantees me 100 per cent compatibility at work but I also find it easier and more reliable than LibreOffice with the large, complex documents and spreadsheets I create. That said, I also have many Word 97 documents and Excel 97 spreadsheets that I still need to access, and LibreOffice opens some of them that Office 2007 cannot. I prefer to use Writer rather than Word for simple tasks such as typing a letter, as I dislike the Ribbon Interface. And I’m happy to use Calc rather than Excel in the majority of cases.

Once I got Office 2007 running under WINE I did not have to boot into Windows any more, although recently that changed for one very specific task on one work project: checking out (downloading) a Microsoft Word file from a Microsoft SharePoint repository, editing it locally and checking it back in (uploading it). Using Firefox in Linux I can upload a Word file to the SharePoint repository initially, but I have to boot into Windows and use Internet Explorer and Word to check-out, edit and check-in the revised document. I’ve used third-party document management and collaboration software in the past that does not require the use of Internet Explorer and Word. I can see how Microsoft lock you into their product line, and I don’t like that.

For schematic diagrams and flowcharts I usually use an old version of Visio (5 Professional) I bought in 1999, again under WINE. I find Visio easier and faster to use than Dia, a GNOME application I also use sometimes for simple diagrams.

E-mail client

I use Thunderbird to access several POP3 e-mail accounts and, via the excellent DavMail, a couple of Microsoft Exchange OWA (Outlook Web Access) accounts at different companies. DavMail is a life-saver. Having to access those two accounts via a Web browser was a hassle and inefficient. A single e-mail client which can be used to access and manage all my e-mail accounts is a godsend. I still have work e-mails from more than ten years ago, and Thunderbird enables me to find information in them with ease. For professional use by ‘power users’, WebMail cannot hold a candle to a good e-mail client such as Thunderbird. I use a number of Thunderbird extensions which I find essential: Lightning (calendar); Provider for Google Calendar (bidirectional access to Google Calendar); Timezone definitions for Mozilla Calendar; Change quote and reply format (why isn’t this functionality built-in to Thunderbird?); ConfigDate (ditto); Enigmail (encyption/decryption of e-mails); ImportExportTools (conversion tools for different e-mail formats); Dictionaries for several languages.

One of the reasons I chose Thunderbird was because it is available for both Linux and Windows. As I can dual boot this laptop, I put Thunderbird’s data files on the Windows NTFS partition (Windows cannot access Linux file systems), and Thunderbird in either OS accesses the same data files. I virtually never boot into Windows, but it is good to know that I can access my e-mail accounts from either operating system using the same application.

Scanning

I occasionally use SANE scanner interface software and its GUI front-end XSane for scanning images and documents to create image files. But I am much more likely to use the GUI front-end gscan2pdf, as I often need to create PDF files for work. gscan2pdf is another application I find indispensable.

Web browsing

Browsers and Google Earth

Snapshot 2 - Browsers and Google Earth

I use Firefox and the KDE browser/file manager/universal viewer Konqueror. I configured Konqueror to use the WebKit rendering engine instead of KHTML (Install the package kwebkitpart then launch Konqueror, select Settings > ‘Configure Konqueror…’ and select ‘WebKit’ as the ‘Default web browser engine’ on the General tab). There have been a few times when Firefox has not been able to display a Web page properly or at all, and Konqueror came to the rescue. The KIO Slaves I mentioned in Part 1 also add to Konqueror’s versatility.

I use the Oxygen KDE Firefox extension (see Snapshot 2), a theme for Firefox that makes it look like a native KDE application. Very nice indeed.

Google Earth needs no introduction. It runs well in KDE on my laptop, and I find it useful both in my work and for personal use.

I have the KDE blogging client Blogilo installed and it was easy to configure it to synchronise with my blog. In fact I started preparing this article in Blogilo but had to abandon it as Blogilo would not save reliably my incomplete work to my hard disk. After losing changes several times I gave up and turned to my tried and tested KWrite to draft the article offline first. Shame, really, as Blogilo looks really handy for preparing blog posts offline and then uploading them. Hopefully the next release will work for me.

For Web site creation and editing I use KompoZer. It’s not as sophisticated as Dreamweaver, but is easy to use and does a good job for my purposes.

Messaging and telephony

I use Skype for Linux for PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone communication domestically and internationally. There is simply no alternative if I want to communicate with my Windows-using friends, family and work colleagues: they are not going to switch to anything else. Actually, I find Skype for Linux perfectly usable (unlike Skype for Android on my Motorola Xoom tablet, which has a fiddly and rather annoying user interface). In some countries the state-owned telecom provider blocks Skype for commercial reasons, but I have been able to circumvent this using Tor (see How to install and use Tor for anonymous browsing or to access country-restricted content from another country). Furthermore, some office networks I use also block Skype, to enforce the use of another product or to stop personal communication, but Tor has helped me out there too.

Graphics

I use the GIMP quite a lot, mostly for photo editing/retouching for work purposes but sometimes to edit/retouch personal photos. I have only used the vector graphics application Inkscape a few times at work and at home. I enjoyed using it to produce the graphics for a laptop ‘Powered by’ sticker.

Gwenview

Snapshot 3 - Gwenview

Apart from the excellent KDE image viewer Gwenview, which gets better with every release of KDE, I use GQView. GQview has been around for many years and its UI looks rather dated, but it has some powerful features which I find useful at work (and at home). GQview makes it easy for me to assign keywords to image files and to search on keywords; to examine EXIF data; to print thumbnail proof sheets; to view multiple image files and page through directories of image files, and so on. This application has often been of help to me at work.

Okular and Adobe Reader

Snapshot 4 - Okular and Adobe Reader

KDE’s Okular document viewer and Adobe Reader are in frequent use on my laptop. I use them both but resort to Adobe Reader for the huge PDF files I sometimes have to view at work, as they load quicker in Adobe Reader. Also, Okular has had a rather irritating habit of printing Landscape pages in Portrait, and vice versa. This problem seems to come and go with different releases of Okular.

CAD

I hardly ever need to use CAD applications, but occasionally I do need to view some old AutoCAD files. For this I use an old version (2009-en-1.06-1) of VariCAD Viewer which opens those old files although it can’t open newer AutoCAD files. I tried unsuccessfully to install newer versions of VariCAD Viewer in the past, but have not tried again recently.

E-books

I only recently began reading e-books. The EPUBReader Firefox extension is an excellent and easy-to-use e-book reader, library manager and shop window for both free and commercical e-books in ePub format. The display of book pages when using the extension as a reader is better than many of the dedicated e-book applications I have seen.

Calibre is an excellent dedicated e-book reader and format converter that I discovered by accident when reading a review of the Amazon Kindle. If you are looking for an application that can handle all the various e-book formats, convert between them, manage your e-book library, upload and download e-books, and act as a reader, look no further. Even the application’s Web site oozes class.

Multimedia

SMPlayer multimedia player, and YouTube in Firefox

Snapshot 5 - SMPlayer multimedia player, and YouTube in Firefox

I have far too many multimedia players installed, but I like to alternate between them. In any case it’s useful to have several players installed because sometimes one of them is able to play a certain file that another cannot.

SMPlayer, VLC and Xine play DVDs, CDs, music files, video files, Internet radio, and digital TV (DVB). I like all three.

Miro is a music and video player, torrent downloader, Internet TV and podcast viewer, and more. Another very polished application I enjoy using.

Dragon Player is a KDE player for CDs, DVDs, audio and video files. It plays DVDs, audio and video files well on my laptop, but cannot play Audio CDs for some reason. It is not as versatile or as polished as the multimedia players mentioned above, so I rarely use it.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, Dragon Player can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

Clementine music player

Snapshot 6 - Clementine music player

The music players I have installed are Audacious, Clementine and Amarok. These three applications focus on playing and managing collections of music files, Audio CDs and streaming Internet radio.

In the days of KDE 3 I used exclusively Amarok 1.4, which was darn near a perfect music player. But new releases of Amarok were buggy in early releases of KDE 4, and today Amarok still does not work as well for me as the KDE 3 version did. Some of the album covers disappear randomly from the album cover manager, and it is irritating to have to restore covers. Clementine, on the other hand, has no trouble managing album covers and I find it is more polished than Amarok and nicer to use all round. I cannot get Amarok to play Audio CDs with the KDE GStreamer Phonon backend, only with the KDE VLC Phonon backend. Even then the optical drive in my laptop spins very fast and produces a loud noise, making listening to Audio CDs painful. Audacious, on the other hand, plays Audio CDs quietly and perfectly on my laptop. Although Clementine is superb in other respects, for some reason it cannot play Audio CDs on my laptop, whichever KDE Phonon backend is selected. All three players can stream Internet radio without problem, although the long pre-configured list of radio stations in Clementine is simply excellent. If Clementine could play Audio CDs on my laptop, it would be my favourite music player.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, Clementine can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

MIDI players and Karaoke

I have four different MIDI players installed. PyKaraoke (see HOWTO: PyKaraoke) and KDE’s own KMid can both play MIDI files with and without embedded karaoke lyrics. TiMidity++ is a MIDI file player, as well as an ALSA sequencer which can be used by the other MIDI player applications here. Drumstick has three applications: a MIDI player, a drumkit sequencer and a virtual piano keyboard. I enter the following command once before launching any of them:

modprobe snd_seq && timidity -iA -Os

Actually, I have put the above command in a Desktop Configuration File with a nice icon in my Desktop directory, so I just double-click on it. I could have instead loaded the snd_seq module automatically at startup by specifying it in the file /etc/conf.d/modules.

Audio CDs

KsCD is a simple KDE application with a sole purpose: to play Audio CDs. For me it fails miserably in this task, and has done in several releases of KDE. The last time I remember it working for sure was in KDE 4.3.3, and here we are today with KDE 4.8.4. The KDE Bug Tracking System has quite a few bug reports regarding KsCD. I don’t know if the application itself has a bug, or if the KDE Phonon backends are buggy, or if KDE has a bug, or if there is a problem with udev, or a combination. Anyway, whatever the reason, in my case KsCD is useless. Come to that, for Audio CDs Amarok is next to useless. Luckily for me, Audacious, SMPlayer, VLC and Xine can play Audio CDs perfectly on my laptop.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, KsCD can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

YouTube

I should mention the excellent command line tool youtube-dl (‘YouTube download’) which is great for downloading videos from YouTube. You can specify the resolution, extract the audio, and various other tricks. Well worth adding to your set of mutlimedia tools. Or, if you prefer a GUI, Minitube is a cracking application for watching and streaming YouTube videos without using a Web browser, and also enables you to download them.

Backing up CDs/DVDs or ripping audio and video

K3b is a superb KDE application. It’s a one-stop shop for making back-ups of CDs and DVDs, creating data CDs and DVDs, and ripping CDs and DVDs. I use K3b to rip my Audio CDs to mp3 files.

Another well-known KDE application is the excellent K9Copy DVD ripper. Unfortunately the developer stopped working on it in July 2011. I hope someone else picks it up, as K9Copy has an intuitive GUI and I have used it on a number of occasions to rip my DVDs to my hard disk so that I could watch them when travelling.

dvd::rip does just what the name suggests, and I’ve used this excellent application too. The GUI is intuitive and the online documentation is very good.

Winki the Ripper is a good application for ripping DVDs to MKV files (it can also rip to AVI files). I have used it but noticed recently that the Web site is up for sale, so I hope the application is still being developed.

WINE

WINE menu in Lancelot Launcher

Snapshot 7 - WINE menu in Lancelot Launcher

I have mentioned Office 2007 already, but I have a few other Windows applications installed under WINE, such as IE7 (so that I can see how a Web site looks in a Windows browser), IrfanView, Lotus ScreenCam Player (so that it is still possible to view some videos of a specialist application running in Windows 95 many years ago), Notepad, Pinball and a few applications and utilities I need that are not available in Linux. WINE is not perfect, but it is wonderful software that also makes it possible to run some older Windows applications that are probably not able to run in Windows Vista and 7.

Utilities

Some utilities

Snapshot 8 - Some utilities

I used to use the brilliant command line utility ImageMagick to scale image files, but have not had to resort to the command line since the GUI front-end Converseen was released (see Converseen, a GUI batch image converter and resizer using Qt4 and ImageMagick).

I encrypt and decrypt some of my sensitive files using GnuPG GUI front-ends KGpg and Kleopatra. Kleopatra is slightly easier to use than KGpg, but they’re much of a muchness. The Enigmail extension I use in Thunderbird also uses GnuPG.

KAlarm is a handy KDE utility to produce sounds or pop-up reminder messages, or issue commands, at specific times or time intervals. The GUI is easy to use and KAlarm can be used in many cases as an alternative to setting up a cronjob. It was simple to configure it as a talking clock (see Setting up a talking clock easily in Linux).

AutoKey is a macro utility I use frequently. It can be used in a number of ways, but I use it to insert text in documents and e-mails. For example, I have configured AutoKey to insert the output of the Linux date command where my cursor is in an open document or e-mail if I press Ctrl-Alt-D: Sun Jul 22 14:41:25 BST 2012. For another example, I have configured AutoKey to enter my full postal address when I type “adr” and press the Space key (but puts it back to “adr” if I press the Backspace key). It is a very handy utility and can be configured to execute simple or complex scripts.

Easystroke is the mouse equivalent of AutoKey. For example, I have configured Easystroke to type “———- Original Message ———-” when I press the mouse scroll wheel and move the mouse pointer diagonally from left to right on the screen. As another example, I have configured it to launch an instance of DavMail to access a specific company’s OWA Exchange Server when I trace the first letter of the company’s name on the screen with the mouse cursor. It’s a clever utility!

BasKet Note Pads is a KDE application for recording and reading notes. The notes can be simple text or complex with embedded pictures, hyperlinks and so on. I switched to BasKet from Tomboy as the latter is a GNOME application and requires some GNOME-specific packages that I didn’t want cluttering up my hard disk. However, I can’t say I like BasKet: I miss the simplicity and easy-to-use UI of Tomboy which was a pleasure to use. I think I may have to try another KDE application (KJots) instead of BasKet, as it may fit my needs better.

KRename is a batch file renamer for KDE that has come in handy both at work and at home.

Filelight is a KDE utility that shows you graphically how much of each partition is occupied and how much is free. I like it because it makes it easy for me to see at a glance how much disk space I have left.

JDiskReport is another utility for showing you disk occupancy graphically. You can select pie carts, segment charts or bar charts. It is freeware but not open-source, but is nevertheless a nice utility to have in your set of tools.

Antivirus software

BitDefender Antivirus for Unices

Snapshot 9 - BitDefender Antivirus for Unices

As I run some Windows applications under WINE, and as I dual boot with Windows 7, I use both BitDefender Antivirus Scanner for Unices and ClamTk, the GUI front-end to ClamAV. That way I can scan my Windows directories from Linux. My work colleagues sometimes pass work files to me on USB pen drives, and I use these two anti virus utilities to scan the pen drives just to be a bit safer. Yes, it has flagged the occasional malware in Windows files.

Games

Games

Snapshot 10 - Games

I hardly ever play games, but still installed the entire KDE Games suite (you never know, after all!). Of the KDE games, I play KPatience, KCheckers, KBlocks (a Tetris clone), KBreakOut (takes me back to playing BreakOut written in Applesoft BASIC on an Apple II+!) and KMahjongg, a solitaire game using beautifully rendered Mahjong tiles.

I have also installed a few non-KDE arcade games such as Missile Command and Pacman Arena (nicely done in 3D). I loved Pac-Mania on my Acorn Archimedes in the early 1990s, so I also use SDLMame and its GUI front-end GMameUI to play Pac-Mania and a few other old favourites such as Frogger.

As far as chess is concerned, I installed the 3D DreamChess, as well as the older but perfectly decent XBoard and eboard.

Scrabble and Boggle are popular games in my family, so I installed XScrabble and GBoggle, the latter being one of only a handful of the packages mentioned in this article that I had to install outside the Portage package manager because there is no ebuild (another being the commercial game Machinarium, which is available for Linux, beautiful and I recommend highly).

I occasionally play TORCS, which is not bad for a car racing game.

There are a lot more Linux games to discover, if you’re that way inclined.

Summary

I’ve just scratched the surface, but hopefully have given you a taste of how I use KDE (and Linux). Of course my needs and uses are different from everyone else’s, but I hope this and the previous article have shown you the breadth of KDE and Linux applications, and that they are completely viable on the desktop. If you have not tried KDE yet, I hope this has tempted you. And, if you’re new to Linux, I hope this has tempted you to try Linux too.

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