Getting the lock screen to work properly when resuming from Suspend-to-RAM with multiple sessions in Lubuntu 17.10

Introduction

What is it with Linux and lock screens?! There are umpteen posts on the Web by Linux users having trouble with lock screens, particularly the LightDM session locker Light Locker. Well, here is my contribution.

Lubuntu 17.10 is installed on my family’s desktop PC (single seat, multiple users). Light Locker displays a lock screen when anyone wakes/resumes the PC from suspension by pressing a key on the USB keyboard, and users should then be able to log in by selecting their username from the pull-down list on the lock screen and entering their password. However, if only a single user session existed when the PC suspended automatically (i.e. by timeout), upon resuming from suspension a black screen with a white padlock icon and the following message in white text would appear:

This session is locked
You’ll be redirected to the unlock
dialog automatically in a few seconds

However, nothing happened. I could press Ctrl+Alt+F1, login on TTY1 and enter the command ‘loginctl unlock-sessions‘ to get back to the Desktop, but that is not something the rest of my family would know how to do or be comfortable doing. In any case, I have only given sudo rights to one other member of the family.

Another problem would occur if the PC was left to suspend automatically with more than one user still logged in (i.e. more than one session). Although Light Locker would display the lock screen upon resuming from suspension, and users could select their username from the pull-down list and enter their password, the lock screen would remain on display and it would no longer be possible to re-enter a password (although it was still possible to select users from the pull-down list of users). However, if users suspended the PC manually by selecting ‘Logout’ > ‘Lock Screen’ from the Lubuntu Menu, upon waking/resuming it was possible to enter their password on the lock screen to return to their Desktop.

Below I explain what I did to rectify the problem. By the way, note that hibernation is disabled by default in Lubuntu 17.10 so you would need to make further changes if you want to enable hibernation as well (see the article: How to Enable Hibernate in Ubuntu 17.10 for possible help).

Modifications

The package light-locker-settings was not installed in Lubuntu 17.10. Do not install it. If it happens to be installed do not use ‘Preferences’ > ‘Light Locker Settings’, as it makes the Exec entry in the user’s light-locker.desktop file just ‘Exec=‘ or ‘Exec=light-locker‘. In fact, having installed light-locker-settings manually to check what could be configured via its GUI, I un-installed it in order to stop anyone using it. (Under ‘Screensaver’, the Light Locker Settings GUI displays the following message: ‘Your screensaver settings are managed by Xfce Power Manager.’ and there is a button ‘Open’ to click on to launch the Xfce Power Manager settings GUI.) Presumably this was why it was not included when Lubuntu 17.10 was first installed to the HDD.

1.  I removed any light-locker.desktop files of individual users, leaving only the system-wide file:

$ sudo rm /home/*/.config/autostart/light-locker.desktop
$ sudo updatedb
$ locate light-locker.desktop
/etc/xdg/autostart/light-locker.desktop

2.  I edited the system-wide light-locker.desktop file to contain the following command to execute Light Locker:

$ grep Exec /etc/xdg/autostart/light-locker.desktop
Exec=light-locker --lock-after-screensaver=0 --lock-on-suspend --no-lock-on-lid --idle-hint

3.  I created the Bash script file /lib/systemd/system-sleep/hang-fix for systemd to run when suspending and resuming from suspension, with the permissions shown:

#!/bin/sh
case "$1" in
    pre|suspend|hibernate)
        date | tr -d '\n' >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        echo " going to sleep." >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        chvt 1
        loginctl unlock-sessions
    ;;
    post|resume|thaw)
        date | tr -d '\n' >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        echo " waking from sleep." >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        loginctl lock-sessions
        chvt 7
    ;;
    *)
        exit $NA
    ;;
esac
exit 0

$ sudo chmod 755 /lib/systemd/system-sleep/hang-fix
$ ls -la /lib/systemd/system-sleep/hang-fix
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 581 Apr 14 08:09 /lib/systemd/system-sleep/hang-fix

The above script is a hack to get around the problem of Light Locker resuming and apparently not knowing which session to unlock. I used the loginctl commands in this script rather than Light Locker options such as ‘--late-locking‘ because I found that the Light Locker options did not fix the problem.

4.  I created two files for Polkit (to cover all Polkit versions to date) with the permissions as shown below.

4.1  The file /etc/polkit-1/rules.d/85-suspend.rules with the following contents:

polkit.addRule(function(action, subject) {
    if (action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.suspend" ||
        action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.suspend-multiple-sessions" ||
        action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.hibernate" ||
        action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.hibernate-multiple-sessions")
    {
        return polkit.Result.YES;
    }
});

If you do not have a swap partition or swap file large enough to enable hibernation, or you do not want to allow the PC to hibernate, use the following instead of the above:

polkit.addRule(function(action, subject) {
    if (action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.suspend" ||
        action.id == "org.freedesktop.login1.suspend-multiple-sessions")
    {
        return polkit.Result.YES;
    }
});

$ sudo chmod 755 /etc/polkit-1/rules.d
$ sudo chmod 644 /etc/polkit-1/rules.d/85-suspend.rules
$ ls -la /etc/polkit-1/rules.d/85-suspend.rules
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 359 Apr 19 22:14 /etc/polkit-1/rules.d/85-suspend.rules

4.2  The file /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/50-enable-suspend-on-lockscreen.pkla with the following contents:

[Allow suspending in lock screen]
Identity=unix-user:*
Action=org.freedesktop.login1.suspend;org.freedesktop.login1.suspend-multiple-sessions;org.freedesktop.login1.hibernate;org.freedesktop.login1.hibernate-multiple-sessions
ResultAny=yes
ResultInactive=yes
ResultActive=yes

If you do not have a swap partition or swap file large enough to enable hibernation, or you do not want to allow the PC to hibernate, use the following instead of the above:

[Allow suspending in lock screen]
Identity=unix-user:*
Action=org.freedesktop.login1.suspend;org.freedesktop.login1.suspend-multiple-sessions
ResultAny=yes
ResultInactive=yes
ResultActive=yes

$ sudo chmod 644 /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/50-enable-suspend-on-lockscreen.pkla
$ sudo ls -la /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/50-enable-suspend-on-lockscreen.pkla
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 191 Apr 20 10:01 /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/50-enable-suspend-on-lockscreen.pkla

The above files are intended to get rid of the following error messages in a pop-up window and pop-up notification ballon, respectively, that prevent the OS from suspending automatically:

Authentication
Authentication is required for suspending
the system while other users are logged in.

Power Manager
GDBus.Error:org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoReply:
Method call timed out

By the way, the version of Polkit installed currently is 0.105:

$ pkaction --version
pkaction version 0.105

5.  I added all users to the users group (although I do not think this is essential):

$ sudo usermod -a -G users fitzcarraldo
$ sudo usermod -a -G users molly
$ sudo usermod -a -G users aquilino
$ sudo usermod -a -G users cholo
$ sudo usermod -a -G users paul

6.  I made sure the XScreenSaver settings for each user are as follows:

XScreenSaver (‘Preferences’ > ‘Screensaver’)

The ‘Display Modes’ tab has:

  • ‘Mode: Disable Screen Saver’

The ‘Advanced’ tab has everything unticked on it except for:

7.  I made sure the Xfce Power Manager settings for each user are as follows:

Xfce Power Manager (‘Preferences’ > ‘Power Manager’)

The ‘General’ tab has:
Buttons

  • When power button is pressed: Ask
  • When sleep button is pressed: Do nothing
  • When hibernate button is pressed: Do nothing

Appearance

  • Show notifications is ticked
  • Show system tray icon is ticked

The ‘System’ tab has:
System power saving

  • System sleep mode: Suspend
  • When inactive for 15 Minutes (You can make the number of minutes different for each user, if you want.)

The ‘Display’ tab has:
Display power management settings

  • ‘Handle display power management’ is ticked
  • Blank after: 5 Minutes
  • Put to sleep after: Never
  • Switch off after: Never

The ‘Security’ tab has:
Light Locker

  • Automatically lock the session: Never
  • Delay locking after screensaver for: ‘1 Seconds’ is greyed out
  • ‘Lock screen when system is going for sleep’ is ticked

8.  I made sure the ‘Default Applications for LXSession’ settings for each user are as follows:

Select ‘Preferences’ > ‘Default Applications for LXSession’, click on ‘Autostart’ and untick ‘XScreenSaver’ if it is ticked. ‘Power Manager’ and ‘Screen Locker’ should already be ticked, so tick them if they are not. I left ‘PolicyKit Handler’ and ‘PolicyKit Authentication Agent’ unticked (Lubuntu 17.10 uses Polkit, the successor to PolicyKit).

9.  Although Lubuntu 17.10 does not use GNOME, I found that gsettings is installed. I did the following just in case, although I believe it is irrelevant in this particular case:

$ gsettings --version
2.54.1
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver ubuntu-lock-on-suspend 'false'
$ gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.screensaver ubuntu-lock-on-suspend
false
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-enabled 'false'
$ gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-enabled
false

Conclusion

After doing all the above, upon resuming from Suspend-to-RAM it is now possible to select any username on the lock screen, enter that user’s password and successfully display the user’s Desktop. The lock screen no longer hangs/freezes.

When more than one user is logged in (i.e. there is more than one session), the PC will suspend automatically if there is no user activity in a particular session during the configured timeout period for that session. Pressing a key on the USB keyboard will then wake the PC and display the lock screen. The desired username can then be selected and the corresponding password entered. The following is an example of the sort of thing that can happen:

  • User fitzcarraldo (timeout configured as 30 minutes) logs in to his account at 09:00 and uses the PC until he locks his session manually (Ctrl+Alt+L) at 09:11.
  • User paul (timeout configured as 15 minutes) logs in to his account at 09:15 and uses the PC until he locks his session manually at 09:23.
  • User molly (timeout configured as 45 minutes) logs in to her account at 09:25 and uses the PC for several hours.
  • At 09:38, while user molly is using the PC, the PC automatically suspends to RAM (15 minutes after user paul stopped using his session). User molly has to wake the PC from suspension. Nothing is lost.
  • At 09:41, while user molly is using the PC, the PC automatically suspends to RAM (30 minutes after user fitzcarraldo stopped using his session). User molly has to wake the PC from suspension. Nothing is lost.

To avoid scenarios such as the above, if a user does not need the session any longer it is better to log out rather than leave the session in existence.

Apart from the above, in my particular case I added a few lines to the Bash script /lib/systemd/system-sleep/hang-fix to cater for a permanently-connected external HDD (an earlier post of mine refers), as a message ‘usb 2-1-port1: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?‘ would sometimes appear on TTY1 when resuming from suspension, and the output of the dmesg command appeared to indicate that the external USB mass storage device was the reason for the message, although I am not certain yet.

#!/bin/sh
case "$1" in
    pre|suspend|hibernate)
        # Make sure external USB HDD is not mounted:
        umount /media/usbhdd 2>/dev/null
        rm -rf /media/usbhdd/*
        umount /media/*/FREECOM\ HDD 2>/dev/null
        #
        date | tr -d '\n' >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        echo " going to sleep." >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        chvt 1
        loginctl unlock-sessions
    ;;
    post|resume|thaw)
        # Add a delay in case the message upon resuming
        # ('usb 2-1-port1: Cannot enable. Maybe USB cable is bad?')
        # is because the USB HDD takes time to spin up
        sleep 5
        #
        date | tr -d '\n' >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        echo " waking from sleep." >> /home/fitzcarraldo/sleep.log
        loginctl lock-sessions
        chvt 7
    ;;
    *)
        exit $NA
    ;;
esac
exit 0

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Sharing a folder between a Linux host and Sabayon Linux as the guest OS in a VirtualBox VM

You probably know that you need to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions in the guest OS in order share a folder between a host OS and a guest OS in a VirtualBox VM. However, of late I have found that shared folders do not work when the guest OS is any of the Sabayon Linux spins, even though I had installed the Entropy package app-emulation/virtualbox-guest-additions and ensured the user in the guest OS is a member of the vboxsf group. Fortunately, it is not difficult to fix this, and below is the procedure I use to get a Sabayon Linux guest to share folders with a Linux host.

Let us say that your username in the host OS is ‘brian‘ and you have created a directory named /home/brian/Shared-brian/ that you want to share with the guest OS (Sabayon Linux), and the username in the guest OS is ‘fitzcarraldo‘.

1. In the VM VirtualBox Manager window, select ‘Settings’ > ‘Shared Folders’ for the VM. Click on ‘Machine Folders’ in the Folders List and then on the ‘Add New Shared Folder’ icon. Specify the folder path /home/brian/Shared-brian, and tick ‘Auto-mount’ and ‘Make Permanent’.

2. Start the VM, login as user fitzcarraldo and open a terminal window. If /boot is on a separate partition, make sure it is mounted.

3. Use the usual Entropy package manager commands to bring the guest OS installation up to date and to install the latest Sabayon Linux kernel image (see one of my earlier posts), then reboot the VM. If /boot is on a separate partition, make sure it is mounted.

4. If the VirtualBox Guest Additions package from the Sabayon Linux Entropy repository is currently installed in the guest OS, uninstall it. If the package has not yet been installed, install it and then uninstall it.

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ sudo equo remove virtualbox-guest-additions

5. Check if you are in the ‘vboxsf’ and ‘vboxguest’ groups:

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ groups

If you are not, add the user to the two groups:

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf,vboxguest fitzcarraldo

6. Check if the latest GNU compiler collection and kernel sources have been installed. If not, install them:

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ sudo equo install sabayon-sources gcc

7. Check if the Linux kernel headers have been installed. If not, install that package too:

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ sudo install linux-headers

8. In the menu bar of the VM’s window, select ‘Devices’ > ‘Insert Guest Additions CD Image…’. If you are asked if you want to download the disk image file from the Internet, click on ‘Download’.

9. Use the guest OS’s File Manager to check that the Guest Additions virtual CD is mounted. If it is not, use the File Manager to mount it.

10. Install the VirtualBox Guest Additions from the virtual CD:

fitzcarraldo@sabayon ~ $ sudo /run/media/fitzcarraldo/VBOXADDITIONS_5.1.34_121010/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run

Ignore any warning message about the remnants of an existing version of the Guest Addtions still being installed. Answer ‘yes‘ to the prompt ‘Do you wish to continue [yes or no]‘. There should be no error messages in the terminal output if the GCC, kernel sources and linux kernel headers have already been installed (see the earlier steps above).

11. Reboot the VM and login.

12. In the directory /media/sf_Shared-brian/ in the guest OS you should now see the files that are in the shared folder /home/brian/Shared-brian/ in the host OS. VirtualBox automatically adds the ‘sf_‘ suffix to the directory name in the guest OS, and it stands for ‘shared folder’.

13. In file managers such as GNOME’s Nautilus, MATE’s Caja, LXDE/LXQt’s PCManFM and Xfce’s Thunar you should see the folder /media/sf_Shared-brian listed in the left panel. In KDE’s Dolphin you can right-click in the left panel and add an entry for /media/sf_Shared-brian or, optionally, right-click in the main window and select ‘Create New’ > ‘Basic link to file or directory…’ and create a link in your home directory to /media/sf_Shared-brian/.

I have used the above procedure with recent spins of Sabayon Linux (KDE, GNOME, MATE, Xfce and LXQt), and it works consistently.

Syncing browser bookmarks between browsers and machines in Linux

I use several computers and various browsers (predominantly Firefox, Chrome and Chromium) and was fed up with bookmarking a site on one machine and later not finding it on another machine. For quite some time I had therefore been looking for a simple way of synchronising browser bookmarks across all my machines and browsers, and I finally found one. Below I explain what I did.

I wanted to avoid storing my bookmarks on a third-party company’s server, so that ruled out tools such as Xmarks, EverSync, Google Bookmarks and the like. I wanted the bookmark database to reside on one of my own servers that is already accessible securely via the Internet. Apparently Xmarks optionally does enable you to use your own server providing you use only Firefox, but I use various browsers (Firefox is the default browser on my main laptop whereas Chrome is the default browser on my backup laptop, for example). Furthermore, I prefer to use open-source solutions whenever possible.

Although I was looking for a GUI solution, it turns out that the command-line bookmark manager Buku does a good job in a drop-down terminal such as Yakuake, Guake or Tilda. Buku is quite powerful, yet simple to use. It is certainly practical to use in a drop-down terminal (I’m currently using it with Yakuake in KDE, and with Tilda in LXDE). Not only can you click on links to open pages in the default browser, you can also easily configure your desktop environment to use a keyboard shortcut to bookmark directly from the browser window (see the instructions in the Buku Wiki for details).

Of course, if you only want to use Buku as a local bookmark manager on a machine, you can just install it and use it solely on that machine.

It is not difficult to set up a centralised Buku database that is then synchronised with any machine on which Buku is installed. If you do not have your own Cloud server (ownCloud or Nextcloud, for example), you could use Dropbox instead. The instructions are given in the Buku Wiki. Basically, I did the following to configure several machines to use Buku via the Cloud:

1. Use each browser’s bookmark manager to export the bookmarks to a file.

2. Install Buku on each machine (see ‘Installation‘ on the package’s GitHub repository page if your Linux distribution’s package manager does not offer Buku).

3. Launch Buku once on each machine to create the local database:

$ buku -p
DB file is being created at /home/fitzcarraldo/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db.
You should encrypt it.
[ERROR] 0 records

4. On one machine, move the Buku database file (~/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db) to a folder on the machine that is already being synced with the Cloud, then set up a symlink to it. For example:

fitzcarraldo@clevow230ss ~ $ ls -la ~/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 51 Mar 21 13:17 /home/fitzcarraldo/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db -> /media/NTFS/Windows/ownCloud/Bookmarks/bookmarks.db

5. Allow the Cloud client on the other machines to download the bookmarks.db file into their local Cloud sync folder, then delete the local Buku database on each machine (~/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db) and create a symlink to the Cloud-synchronised database file. For example, in addition to the symlink shown above on the machine clevow230ss, I have the following symlinks on two other machines:

fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ ls -la ~/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 42 Mar 21 16:05 /home/fitzcarraldo/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db -> /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/bookmarks.db
fitzcarraldo@meshedgedx ~ $ ls -la /home/fitzcarraldo/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo users 42 Mar 26 19:15 /home/fitzcarraldo/.local/share/buku/bookmarks.db -> /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/bookmarks.db

6. Use Buku on each machine to import the browser bookmark files that you created in Step 1. See the Buku documentation for the command. You can find documentation and a demo video on the above-mentioned GitHub page. The commands ‘man buku‘ and ‘buku --help‘ also list the commands. The man(ual) page also contains several examples to help you.

7. Use Buku as normal on each machine. You will be able to search the synchronised database, add bookmarks and edit them (title, URL, comment and tags), delete bookmarks, print bookmarks, click on links to view the pages in the default browser, and so on.

Looking through a flat list of bookmarks in a terminal window to find something is not as fast as in a GUI but, overall, Buku is a decent bookmark manager and its options are easy to learn and use. Buku’s comprehensive search options of course help to find bookmarks, but it is still not quite as ergonomic as a GUI bookmark manager in my opinion. The ability to have multiple tags in Buku does help, as you can search for either any or all tags. In a browser’s bookmark manager I would copy the same bookmark into different folders if the Web page covers multiple topics.

In summary, Buku is a viable bookmark manager and I like it. It is extremely easy to configure for use with a Cloud server, and I have set it up to synchronise bookmarks on all my machines. I have already imported into Buku the 1,300+ bookmarks from the various browsers on my machines, and deleted the bookmarks in those browsers, so I am using Buku in earnest. I just kept a few of the most-used bookmarks on the browser’s Bookmarks Toolbar, but I’m using Buku on my machines for all the other bookmarks.

If I do have to use a third-party machine running Windows or Linux without Buku installed, I would not be able to access my bookmarks from my Cloud server. To partially get around that, I created a cron job for my user account on each of my machines to periodically run Buku and print the bookmarks to a text file synced on my Cloud server. That way I can at least search through the text file remotely via the Cloud’s Web browser interface (or via WebDAV or via OpenVPN) if I cannot find the Web page I want in a search engine on the third-party machine.

fitzcarraldo@clevow230ss ~ $ crontab -l | grep -v \#
6,26,46 * * * * rm /media/NTFS/Windows/ownCloud/Bookmarks/*.txt && sleep 30s && /usr/bin/buku -p --nc > /media/NTFS/Windows/ownCloud/Bookmarks/Buku_bookmarks_backup.txt
fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ crontab -l | grep -v \#
1,21,41 * * * * rm /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/*.txt && sleep 30s && /usr/local/bin/buku -p --nc > /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/Buku_bookmarks_backup.txt
fitzcarraldo@meshedgedx ~ $ crontab -l | grep -v \#
11,31,51 * * * * rm /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/*.txt && sleep 30s && /usr/bin/buku -p --nc > /home/fitzcarraldo/ownCloud/Bookmarks/Buku_bookmarks_backup.txt

Below is a small taste of searching the bookmark database using Buku on any of my machines. Output is colour-coded (user-configurable), and links are clickable in a terminal window. You can search for any keyword(s), all keywords, sub-strings, just a tag or tags, regular expression matches, and so on. You can make titles immutable (read-only) if you want, or allow Buku to update them with the title from the Web site page. There is even a command that will check and list broken links. I will leave you to study the Buku documentation.

fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ buku -S Brazil samba
1. Kaká e Mário Monteiro são os novos carnavalescos da Imperatriz Leopoldinense [159]
   > http://www.sidneyrezende.com/editoria/carnaval
   +  Notícias sobre Carnaval 2016, escolas de samba, desfiles do Grupo Especial, Série A, ensaios técnicos, enredos, carnavalescos, bateria, mestre-sala, porta-bandeira, samba. Mangueira, Unidos da Tijuca, Vila Isabel, Beija-Flor, Grande Rio, Imperatriz, Mocidade, Portela, Salgueiro, União da Ilha, Viradouro, São Clemente, Porto da Pedra, Império da Tijuca, Império Serrano, Estácio de Sá, Caprichosos de Pilares, Tradição, Cubango, Em Cima da Hora, Inocentes de Belford Roxo, Alegria da Zona Sul, Unidos de Padre Miguel, Unidos de Bangu, Renascer de Jacarepaguá, Acadêmicos da Rocinha, Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz, Paraíso de Tuiuti, União de Jacarepaguá, União do Parque Curicica.
        
   # brazil,carnaval

2. Samba do Tuiuti 2018  Versão Acústica - YouTube [1270]
   > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUxfwAzHOeY
   # brazil,carnaval,music,samba,video

buku (? for help) q

In this post I have only scratched the surface of what Buku can do. For example, a simple Buku command will encrypt (AES256) the bookmark database so you can prevent others viewing your bookmarks after you have finished searching the database, should you decide to store the database on a third-party Cloud server such as Dropbox. The search and editing tools are comprehensive yet straightforward, and you will quickly learn how to use them. I take my hat off to its developer, Arun Prakash Jana from Bangalore, India. He and the other contributors to Buku have done a great job, and I recommend you give Buku a try.

Gentoo Linux: A work-around to be able to Resume from Suspend to RAM when using the NVIDIA closed-source driver

My Clevo W230SS laptop has NVIDIA Optimus graphics hardware (NVIDIA GPU plus Intel IGP). I do not use Bumblebee, preferring to switch between the Intel video driver and the NVIDIA closed-source driver myself (see Switching between Intel and NVIDIA graphics processors on a laptop with NVIDIA Optimus hardware running Gentoo Linux). The laptop can suspend to RAM and resume perfectly when using the Intel video driver (but see Stopping my laptop spontaneously resuming immediately after Suspend to RAM, which is applicable whatever the GPU or IGP).

In order to be able to resume properly from Suspend-to-RAM when using the NVIDIA driver, the laptop needs to disable compositing before suspending, then re-enable compositing after resuming. For how I achieve that, see under Problem 2 in the third link above. If this is not done, the graphics on the Desktop are corrupted after resuming.

However, recently when using the NVIDIA driver and KDE Plasma 5 (I am currently using nvidia-drivers-387.22 and plasma-meta-5.11.5), when resuming from suspension the monitor would briefly display the LightDM wallpaper (I use different wallpapers for the desktop manager and the lock screen, so I know it was not the KDE lock screen) followed by a blank screen with a mouse pointer (which I could move normally). More recently, in between displaying the desktop manager’s wallpaper and the blank screen, the monitor would briefly display an earlier image of the Desktop just before the laptop suspended.

Now, I could simply leave the laptop configured to use the Intel driver. However, sometimes I need to use a CAD application and the performance is better when using the NVIDIA GPU.

There are umpteen posts on the Web about this problem, and the root cause seems to be the closed-source NVIDIA driver. I have seen the KDE lock screen mentioned in some posts as the culprit, so I disabled the lock screen (‘System Settings’ > ‘Desktop Behaviour’ > ‘Screen Locking’) but that did not solve the problem.

I put up with this for several weeks in the hope that the next release of the NVIDIA driver would fix the problem. If I suspended to RAM while the laptop was using the NVIDIA driver, I was able to resume and get to a working Desktop – albeit without the open windows and applications that had been running before suspending – by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1 to get to TTY1, logging in as the root user and entering the command ‘/etc/init.d/xdm restart‘. However, the final straw was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago when I wanted to resume the laptop and show a worksheet to someone. The laptop monitor of course displayed a blank screen with a mouse pointer, and it took me a couple of minutes to restart the desktop manager, login to KDE Plasma 5 and open the spreadsheet again. So this week I decided to look into the problem to see if I could at least find a work-around that would enable the laptop to resume without needing to restart X Windows and login to Plasma 5 each time.

I created a Bash script in /etc/pm/sleep.d/ to unload the NVIDIA modules before suspending to RAM and to re-load them when resuming, but that did not solve the problem either.

I switched the rendering background from OpenGL 2.0 to OpenGL 3.1 (‘System Settings’ > ‘Display and Monitor’ > ‘Compositor’), but that did not work either. I switched the rendering backend to XRender, and that did enable the laptop to resume from suspend successfully with the NVIDIA driver, but I do not want to use that work-around. Firstly, with software rendering there is a performance hit, and, secondly, there was no KDE Desktop Cube when using XRender instead of OpenGL. I use the Desktop Cube when working, as I often have a lot of windows open on each virtual desktop (cube side), and I find it easier to use the cube than a flat UI.

Eventually I found that, after resuming, if I pressed Ctrl+Alt+F1 to get to a virtual console, logged into my user account, entered the command ‘DISPLAY=:0 /usr/bin/kwin_x11 --resume‘ and then pressed Ctrl+Alt+F7 to get back to TTY7, my Desktop would appear on TTY7. Even so, I noticed on TTY1 that the following error messages were displayed when I ran that command:

kwin_core: OpenGL 2 compositing setup failed
kwin_core: Failed to initialize compositing, compositing disabled

Anyway, the Plasma 5 Desktop was displayed on TTY7, and with the windows that were open when I suspended the laptop, so restarting KWin would at least be a viable work-around until NVIDIA fix their video driver.

I incoporated the command in my script /etc/pm/sleep.d/02-toggle-compositing like so:

#!/bin/sh
#
# Turn off compositing on hibernate or suspend
# Turn on compositing on thaw or resume

username=fitzcarraldo
userhome=/home/$username
export XAUTHORITY="$userhome/.Xauthority"
export DISPLAY=":0"

case "$1" in
     suspend|hibernate)
          su $username -c "qdbus org.kde.KWin /Compositor suspend" &
     ;;
     resume|thaw)
          su $username -c "qdbus org.kde.KWin /Compositor resume" &
          su $username -c "/usr/bin/kwin_x11 --replace" &
     ;;
     *)
          exit $NA
     ;;
esac

It is an ugly hack, but at least now the laptop can resume properly from Suspend-to-RAM while the NVIDIA driver is being used.

Perhaps Linus Torvalds was correct. I will try to avoid NVIDIA hardware when I replace my current laptop.

How to display a user’s avatar instead of the generic avatar on the LightDM GTK Greeter screen in Lubuntu 17.10

I recently installed Lubuntu 17.10 on my family’s PC (single-seat, multi-user). The default avatar was displayed for each user on the LightDM greeter screen, rather than each user’s individual avatar. I have experienced this problem in more than one Linux distribution (Gentoo, Sabayon and now Lubuntu 17.10), more than one Desktop Environment (KDE, GNOME and now LXDE), and more than one Desktop Manager (LightDM and SDDM), so my suspicion is that the problem lies with AccountsService rather than the DE or DM. Anyway, here is how I fixed the problem in Lubuntu 17.10. The example below is for user fitzcarraldo, and I used the same procedure for each username in the installation.

1. Create a 96×96 PNG avatar /home/fitzcarraldo/Pictures/fitzcarraldo.png

2. Edit the file /var/lib/AccountsService/users/fitzcarraldo to contain the following:

[User]
XSession=Lubuntu
SystemAccount=false
Icon=/var/lib/AccountsService/icons/fitzcarraldo	

3. Make sure that the file has 644 permissions:

$ ls -la /var/lib/AccountsService/users/fitzcarraldo
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 85 Jan  1 02:53 /var/lib/AccountsService/users/fitzcarraldo

4. Copy the avatar to the relevant directory and make sure it has 644 permissions:

$ sudo cp /home/fitzcarraldo/Pictures/fitzcarraldo.png /var/lib/AccountsService/icons/fitzcarraldo
$ ls -la /var/lib/AccountsService/icons/fitzcarraldo
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 14860 Jan  1 02:54 /var/lib/AccountsService/icons/fitzcarraldo

After rebooting, the desired avatar should be displayed on LightDM’s GTK Greeter screen.

Background reading

  1. KDE Bug Report No. 336994 – User Manager does not show one particular user in the list unless I login as that user
  2. Gentoo Forums – user-manager in plasma desktop not populating users
  3. Gentoo Forums – LightDM greeter username in list stuck and can’t add others

Prevent Lubuntu 17.10 from leaving an external HDD mounted incorrectly for other users

My family’s PC running Lubuntu 17.10 has an external USB HDD connected permanently. There are several user accounts on this machine, i.e. it is a single-seat, multi-user installation. If a user does not unmount this external HDD before logging out, it is still mounted with the privileges of the previous user when another user logs in. If the current user clicks on the media unmount symbol (⏏) in the PCManFM File Manager, LXDE prompts the user to enter the previous user’s password. So I wanted to configure the OS to unmount the external HDD when each user logs out or when another user selects ‘Switch User’. The way I did that was to use the LightDM desktop manager to unmount the external drive at the end of a session, as explained below. Then the Udisks daemon will mount the drive correctly for any user who either logs in or switches back to his/her session.

Lubuntu 17.10 as installed has an empty directory /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/ so I created two files in that directory:

$ ls -la /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/
total 16
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Jan  1 06:18 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Jan  1 05:11 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   89 Jan  1 06:18 10_lubuntu.conf
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root   80 Jan  1 05:55 unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh
$ cat /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/10_lubuntu.conf
[SeatDefaults]
session-cleanup-script=/etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh
$ cat /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh 
#!/bin/bash
udisksctl unmount --block-device /dev/disk/by-uuid/C6576A087368B015

where ‘C6576A087368B015‘ is the UUID of the external USB HDD as found from the blkid command:

$ sudo blkid | grep "FREECOM HDD"
/dev/sdb1: LABEL="FREECOM HDD" UUID="C6576A087368B015" TYPE="ntfs" PARTUUID="0024db7f-32"

Don’t forget to make the Bash script executable. Then reboot to enable the functionality. From now on the external HDD will be correctly mounted for each user who logs in to his/her account.

Backing up users’ home directories in a Linux installation that uses systemd

This is to explain how I configured Lubuntu 17.10 on my family’s PC (single seat; multiple user accounts) to backup all users’ files to a permanently-connected external USB HDD. I wanted a basic solution that would backup automatically every user’s home directory at shutdown but not when rebooting, and would do this whichever user happens to be using the PC. We have no need to archive older versions of the same file, so overwriting a file on the external USB HDD with a newer version of that file from the PC’s HDD is fine. However, we do not want files on the external USB HDD to be deleted if the corresponding files have been deleted from the PC’s HDD. Additionally, I want a time-stamped record of the backup process to be logged to a file in my home directory so I can check periodically what has been happening. As explained in my previous post, two files are used to achieve all these things:

  • a Bash script to a) determine whether the system is being rebooted, b) remount the external USB HDD on a suitable mount point, c) copy the files to the external USB HDD, and d) write to the log file;
  • a systemd unit file to launch the Bash script.

The two files are described below.

Bash script

I created a file /usr/local/sbin/backup_home_directories.sh owned by the root user, with the following permissions and contents:

fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ ls -la /usr/local/sbin/backup_home_directories.sh
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 2570 Jan  8 20:37 /usr/local/sbin/backup_home_directories.sh
#!/bin/bash

# This script backs up to an external USB HDD (NTFS) labelled "FREECOM HDD" the contents of the home directories
# of the users of this Lubuntu 17.10 installation if the system is shutting down but not rebooting.
# It is launched by a systemd service /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service.

# Find out if the system is rebooting (as opposed to being shut down):
REBOOT=$( systemctl list-jobs | egrep -q 'reboot.target.*start' && echo "rebooting" || echo "not_rebooting" )
if [ $REBOOT = "not_rebooting" ]; then
# Only execute the following steps if the system is shutting down but not rebooting:
    # Clean up if the backup did not complete last time:
    umount /media/usbhdd 2>/dev/null # Make sure you enter this line correctly.
    rm -rf /media/usbhdd/* # Make sure you enter this line correctly.
    # Unmount the external USB HDD if mounted by udisks2 with the logged-in username in the path:
    umount /media/*/FREECOM\ HDD 2>/dev/null
    # Find out the USB HDD device:
    DEVICE=$( blkid | grep "FREECOM\ HDD" | cut -d ":" -f1 )
    # Create a suitable mount point if it does not already exist, and mount the device on it: 
    mkdir /media/usbhdd 2>/dev/null
    mount -t ntfs-3g $DEVICE /media/usbhdd 2>/dev/null
    # Create the backup directory on the USB HDD if it does not already exist:
    mkdir /media/usbhdd/Lubuntu_home_folders_backup 2>/dev/null
    # Backup recursively all the home directories of all the users, and add a time-stamped summary to the log file: 
    echo "********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********" >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    date >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    # Log username of user shutting down the PC (may not be this user if Switch User was used):
    echo -ne "User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): " >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    last | cut -d " " -f1 | head -1 >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    sleep 2s
    # To backup the directories and files I prefer to use the following cp command rather than rsync:
    cp --recursive --update --preserve=all --no-dereference --force /home/ /media/usbhdd/Lubuntu_home_folders_backup 2>> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    echo "Copying completed" >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    date >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    echo "********** Backup completed **********" >> /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log
    cp /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log /media/usbhdd/Lubuntu_home_folders_backup/home/fitzcarraldo/
    # Unmount the USB HDD so that udisks2 can subsequently re-mount it with the user's username in the path:  
    umount /media/usbhdd
fi
exit 0

The Bash script unmounts the external USB HDD and mounts it to /media/usbhdd before performing a backup. This is done because the Udisks daemon (udisksd) automounts the HDD at login to a mountpoint /home/<username>/<label>  (e.g. ‘/home/fitzcarraldo/FREECOM HDD‘ when I log in, ‘/home/claudia/FREECOM HDD‘ when user claudia logs in, and so on).

systemd unit file

I created a file /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service owned by the root user, with the following permissions and contents:

fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ ls -la /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service 
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 274 Jan  8 17:51 /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service
[Unit]
Description=Backup home directories of all users to USB HDD
DefaultDependencies=no
Before=shutdown.target halt.target
RequiresMountsFor=/home

[Service]
Type=oneshot
ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/backup_home_directories.sh

[Install]
WantedBy=halt.target shutdown.target

Then I enabled the unit file as follows:

fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$ sudo systemctl enable backup-to-usb-hdd.service
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/halt.target.wants/backup-to-usb-hdd.service → /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/shutdown.target.wants/backup-to-usb-hdd.service → /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service.
fitzcarraldo@aspirexc600:~$

Reboot (or shutdown and restart) to launch it.

The log file

The log file /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log looked like the following after shutting down a couple of times:

********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:05 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:32 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:31 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:48 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********

Whenever the system is rebooted by any user, nothing is appended to the log file. As desired, entries are only appended to the log file when the system is shutdown by any user.

Manually initiated backups

An added benefit is that any user in the sudo group can run the Bash script from the command line at any time to backup without having to shutdown the PC, as illustrated below:

claudia@aspirexc600:~$ cat /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log 
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:05 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:32 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:31 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:48 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
claudia@aspirexc600:~$ date && sudo backup_home_directories.sh
Tue  9 Jan 01:57:50 GMT 2018
[sudo] password for claudia:
claudia@aspirexc600:~$ cat /home/fitzcarraldo/backup.log 
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:05 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:07:32 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:31 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): fitzcarraldo
Copying completed
Mon  8 Jan 21:15:48 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
********** Backing up Acer Aspire XC600 users' home directories **********
Tue  9 Jan 01:57:54 GMT 2018
User who shutdown PC (may not be this user if Switch User has been used): claudia
Copying completed
Tue  9 Jan 01:58:10 GMT 2018
********** Backup completed **********
claudia@aspirexc600:~$

Running a shell script at shutdown only (not at reboot) – a comparison between OpenRC and systemd

Gentoo Linux on my laptops uses OpenRC with SysVinit, whereas Lubuntu 17.10 on my family’s PC uses systemd. I have had to configure both Linux distributions to run a backup job at shutdown, so I thought it would be interesting to summarise the two approaches.

OpenRC

Create a Bash script /etc/local.d/10-run_on_shutdown.stop with the following contents:

#!/bin/bash
if [ `who -r | awk '{print $2}'` = "0" ]; then
    ########################################################################
    # Put Bash commands here to be executed on shutdown but not on reboot. #
    # For example, backup home directories to an external USB HDD.         #
    ########################################################################
fi

From now on the script will run to completion when you shutdown the machine, but not when you reboot it.

systemd

1. Create a Bash script /usr/local/sbin/run_on_shutdown.sh with the following contents:

#!/bin/bash
REBOOT=$( systemctl list-jobs | egrep -q 'reboot.target.*start' && echo "rebooting" || echo "not_rebooting" )
if [ $REBOOT = "not_rebooting" ]; then
    ########################################################################
    # Put Bash commands here to be executed on shutdown but not on reboot. #
    # For example, backup home directories to an external USB HDD.         #
    ########################################################################
fi

2. Create a unit file /etc/systemd/system/run_on_shutdown.service with the following contents:

[Unit]
Description=Run a Bash script at shutdown
DefaultDependencies=no
Before=shutdown.target halt.target
# If your script requires any mounted directories, add them below: 
RequiresMountsFor=/home

[Service]
Type=oneshot
ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/run_on_shutdown.sh

[Install]
WantedBy=halt.target shutdown.target

I have assumed the Bash script is to backup /home, so change the directory list in ‘RequiresMountsFor=‘ if the script necessitates that other directories are still mounted – see ‘man systemd.unit‘ for details.

3. Enable the unit file and start the service as follows:

user $ sudo systemctl enable run_on_shutdown.service
user $ sudo reboot

From now on, the script will run to completion when you shutdown the machine, but not when you reboot it.

Notes on the systemd solution:

There are plenty of posts on the Web suggesting how to run a script at shutdown in installations that use systemd, but the approaches either do not work in my case or they do not discriminate between shutting down and rebooting. For example, if you are wondering why I do not use ‘Conflicts=reboot.target‘ in the unit file, I found it does not prevent the Bash script from being launched when the system is rebooted (see the entry for ‘Conflicts=‘ in ‘man systemd.unit‘ for the functionality). If you are wondering why I do not simply place a script in /lib/systemd/system-shutdown/, it is because scripts in that directory are launched late in the shutdown process, after file systems have been mounted read-only. And if you are wondering why the Bash script tests if the system is rebooting (as distinct from shutting down) rather than the unit file being configured to do that, it is because the systemd shutdown target is active in any type of system termination, be it rebooting or halting, and it therefore does not help in discriminating between the termination types (see ‘man systemd.special‘). I tried several approaches in the unit file to see if it could be made to launch a Bash script when shutting down but not when rebooting, but the only solution that works for me in the Lubuntu 17.10 installation on my family’s PC uses the two files listed above working in conjunction with each other.

Furthermore, of all the unit files I found on the Web that actually make systemd launch a Bash script when a user initiates shutdown, only one of them prevents systemd from shutting down the machine before a time-consuming script has run to completion (for example a script to backup to an external HDD).

Some background reading

  1. Easy Systemd Startup and Shutdown Scripts for Ubuntu 16.04 and Mint 18
  2. Stack Exchange Super User : How do I run a script before everything else on shutdown with systemd?
  3. Stack Overflow : how can a systemd controlled service distinguish between shutdown and reboot?
  4. Unix & Linux Stack Exchange : Systemd : How to execute script at shutdown only (not at reboot)

Bye bye Windows 10, and good riddance

Up until a couple of days ago my family’s PC, an Acer Aspire XC600 tower purchased in early 2014, had Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) installed. Because of a problem updating Windows 10 which finally rendered the PC unbootable and the OS unrecoverable, I installed Lubuntu 17.10 (64-bit). It is performing very well and my family are finding it easy to use. Although I had no intention of installing Linux on this machine before the problem updating Windows arose, I’m now glad to be rid of Windows on this machine, as Windows has been a pain to use and maintain.

The Windows update saga

When I bought the Aspire XC600 in February 2014 it came with Windows 8 pre-installed, and I immediately upgraded it to Windows 8.1. I say ‘immediately’, but it actually took me three days to get Windows Update to install it properly; the first attempts resulted in what looked like Windows 8.1 but turned out to be incomplete installations, and several times I had to roll back to a Restore Point and try to update again.

I upgraded the machine to Windows 10 Home when Microsoft offered it free-of-charge to current users of Windows 8.1 and Windows Update informed me the update was available to install. The early Windows 10 Home was buggy, but various updates by Microsoft eventually got it to a reasonably stable state by the time the so-called ‘Anniversary Update’ (Windows 10 Version 1607) was released in 2016. I again had to struggle for several days before I managed to update Windows 10 Home to Version 1607.

In April 2017 Microsoft released the ‘Creators Update’, and in October 2017 the ‘Fall Creators Update’. However, no matter what I did it was simply impossible to upgrade Window 10 Home Version 1607 on the Aspire XC600 to either of those 2017 updates. There are hundreds if not thousands of posts on the Web regarding problems installing these updates on various PC models from various manufacturers, with similar or even identical symptoms to those I was seeing. In my case the update process froze at 33%, 75% and 83%, despite Microsoft’s update utility informing me that the CPU, RAM size and HDD free space were valid for these updates. Furthermore, I only tried to update once Windows Update had informed me the updates were available to install. I should also point out that I regularly made sure the OS had all other updates installed.

I lost count of the number of times and hours spent trying to update to the Creators Update and the Fall Creators Update. Each time I had a go at updating, after two consecutive attempts Windows 10 Home would give up and, when I eventually cycled the mains power in order to exit the frozen state, would roll back to Version 1607. However, during my latest attempt a couple of days ago, Windows 10 Home would no longer complete booting, instead popping up a window informing me the machine needed to be rebooted to complete the installation process. Every time I clicked ‘OK’ in the window, the machine would reboot and the same window popped up again. So I dug out the Windows 10 Home Recovery Disk (actually a USB pendrive) I had carefully created as soon as I had upgraded the installation from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 in November 2016. (That pendrive had previously been the Windows 8.1 Recovery Disk that I created as soon as I upgraded the installation to Windows 8.1 in February 2014.) But, no matter what I did, the Recovery Disk would only re-install Windows 8, even though the time-date stamp of the files on the pendrive corresponded to the date on which I created the Windows 10 Recovery Disk. And, strangely, there were three so-called Recovery Partitions on the HDD.

Several attempts to re-install using the Recovery Disk had the same outcome, so I decided to install a couple of Linux binary distributions in succession, both of which worked fine and definitely removed all traces of Windows from the HDD, including the three Recovery Partitions (I checked using GParted to make sure). Then I tried again to re-install Windows 10 Home from the Recovery Disk, but it still created three Recovery Partitions and still installed Windows 8.

Clearly it was not going to be possible to re-install Windows 10 Home using the Recovery Disk, so I instead used Windows Update in Windows 8 to update the installation to Windows 8.1, a process that took several hours and reboots. Once Windows 8.1 was installed, I tried to upgrade to Window 10, first using Windows Update and, when that told me there were no updates, by using the Recovery Disk. Neither approach was successful, so I was stuck with a working, fully-updated Windows 8.1. The trouble was, Windows 8.1 is no longer supported by Microsoft (‘Mainstream Support End Date’ is 9 January 2018). Not to mention that Windows 8.1 is even worse than Windows 10.

The move to Linux

At this point I’d had more than enough of Microsoft Windows. Therefore I used my laptop to download the ISO for Lubuntu 17.10 and create a LivePendrive, and I installed Lubuntu on the Aspire XC600. Although I use a source-based Linux distribution on two laptops, for ease and speed of installation and maintenance I opted to install a binary-based distribution on the family PC. I chose Lubuntu specifically because it uses the LXDE desktop environment, which is closer in look and feel to classic Windows than e.g. the Unity or GNOME desktop environments in Ubuntu, and is not as ‘CPU-hungry’ as KDE. I found that Lubuntu worked extremely well out-of-the-box, including scanning and printing using my Canon MP510 MFP. I used the GUI Software utility (‘System Tools’ > ‘Software’ from the LXDE application menu) to uninstall AbiWord and Gnumeric and install the LibreOffice suite. I added user accounts for the members of my family (‘System Tools’ > ‘Users and Groups’). Since the machines on my home network use SMB to share files, I installed samba and sambaclient and edited the smb.conf file via the command line, and browsing SMB shares worked first time. We have a decent family PC again.

There was not much more for me to do to make the installation behave exactly how I wanted it to:

  • I configured the installation so that each user’s avatar appears on the login screen (LightDM GTK Greeter).
  • I have an external USB HDD permanently connected to the PC so that users’ files can be backed up. I configured the installation to unmount automatically this external USB HDD when any user logs out. The USB HDD is automatically mounted anyway when another user logs in, and, by unmounting it automatically at logout, the next user can access the USB HDD properly via the GUI File Manager (the USB drive is mounted as /media/<username>/FREECOM HDD).
  • I installed Language Support so that I can switch to some other languages I use, and I configured LXDE so I can click on an icon on the panel (or use a keyboard shortcut) to switch between the associated keyboard layouts.
  • I installed the anti-virus utility ClamAV, the ClamAV daemon and the ClamTk GUI front-end, and configured the installation to scan automatically any files downloaded to each user’s ~/Downloads directory, and to quarantine infected files and notify the user via a pop-up window and log file.
  • I configured the installation to create a network route when I log in, so that I can access in a Web browser the GoAccess dashboard for database reports produced by my network server.
  • I configured the installation to backup the files in each user’s ~/home directory to an external USB HDD at shutdown (impossible in Windows 10 Home — see my comments further on).
  • I installed Skype Preview for Linux, which worked out-of-the-box with a GUCEE HD92 HD 720p USB Webcam with built-in microphone.

I intend to explain in future posts how I implemented each of the above.

Backing up users’ files at shutdown

Windows XP and Vista on my family’s previous PCs were able to run a batch file (BACKUP.BAT) automatically at shutdown to backup the users’ files to an external USB HDD (and, crucially, to wait until the batch job was completed before powering down the PC). To achieve this I used the utility Xecutor by Xpertdesign Software, which enabled users to use the normal Windows method of shutting down yet allowed the batch file to run to completion. However, such utilities do not work in Windows 8 and onwards. A kludge that is often suggested is to add an extra button on the Desktop or Taskbar to run the backup commands then shutdown the machine afterwards, but I did not want to do that because there is no guarantee my family would click on it rather than shutting down Windows the normal way.

Another method of configuring Windows to run a batch file at shutdown is to use the GPE (Group Policy Editor) a.k.a. GPOE (Group Policy Object Editor) to configure the Registry. However, Windows 10 Home does not include the GPE, so I was unable to use the GPE to configure Windows 10 Home to run a batch file to backup users’ files to an external USB HDD at shutdown. (Actually, as Windows 8/8.1/10 makes it almost impossible to interrupt the shutdown process once the user has initiated shutdown, I wonder if a backup batch file would actually run to completion if the GPE were used in an edition of Windows that provides it, such as Windows 10 Enterprise.) It is possible to configure the Task Scheduler in Windows 10 Home to run a batch file at shutdown, but it is impossible to pause the shutdown process to allow the backup batch file to run to completion. Believe me, I tried everything, and it is impossible to backup automatically all users’ files for multiple user accounts at shutdown with Windows 10 Home (even though it was possible in Windows XP). So I had to resort to a kludge recommended by Microsoft, which is to configure the Task Scheduler to run the batch file at startup instead of shutdown. Clearly this is less safe than backing up before shutting down the PC.

Actually, it is possible to install/enable the GPE in Windows 10 Home — there are many Web sites explaining how to do this — but Microsoft has restricted many GPOs (Group Policy Objects) in Windows 10 Home, and therefore adding a GPO using the GPE or by editing the Registry directly in Windows 10 Home will have no effect. Even if you enable the GPE in Windows 10 Home, the policies will not work until you buy a licence for the Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise editions. In summary, in Windows 10 Home it is a waste of time either installing/enabling the GPE or editing the Registry directly.

However, now that Lubuntu 17.10 is installed I was able to configure it to run a Bash script automatically to backup all the users’ files before the machine actually actually shuts down or reboots. In a future post I’ll explain how I achieved that.

Summary

In my opinion Microsoft jumped the shark a long time ago. I had plenty of trouble with Windows Vista (to the extent I had to ditch it in the end), but Windows 7 was not bad (although on a couple of occasions I had a big scare with ‘Windows Backup and Restore’ that necessitated restoring the MBR via the command line). Windows 8 and 8.1 were awful, and Windows 10 is not much better in my opinion. Furthermore, I think it is very bad form for Microsoft to release updates to Windows 10 that cannot be installed on a machine that is only four years old and still has a reasonable specification: 64-bit Intel Pentium G2030 @ 3.00GHz, 4GB DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 8GB), Intel HD Graphics (Xeon E3-1200 v2/3rd Gen), and 1TB 7200RPM HDD. I’m now glad Windows 10 is history on this PC and I’m typing this in a Linux installation.

Moving to the slotted WINE package system in Gentoo Linux

Earlier this year the Gentoo Linux developers responsible for maintaining the package app-emulation/wine decided to split it and slot it so that different versions of WINE can be installed and co-exist simultaneously:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect news read 34
2017-04-10-split-and-slotted-wine
  Title                     app-emulation/wine split and slotting
  Author                    NP-Hardass 
  Posted                    2017-04-10
  Revision                  1

Starting with Wine 2.0, Wine in Gentoo is transitioning away from its
traditional packaging and toward a new, split and slotted, Wine.

As many Wine users know, there are often regressions or an application
works better on one version of wine than another.  Going forward, 
packaging in Gentoo will allow simultaneous installation of multiple
versions of Wine.

Additionally, to expedite vanilla releases as well as permit multiple
configurations for each Wine installation, the major patchsets have
been split out into separate packages.

Going forward, app-emulation/wine will transition to:
app-emulation/wine-vanilla: upstream Wine with no external patchsets
             (like if the old packaging forced USE="-staging -d3d9")
app-emulation/wine-staging: Wine with Wine-Staging's patchset
             (like if the old packaging forced USE="+staging -d3d9")
app-emulation/wine-d3d9: Wine with Ixit's Gallium Nine patchset
             (like if the old packaging forced USE="-staging +d3d9")
app-emulation/wine-any: Wine with any of the patchsets or flags
             (exactly like the old packaging regarding USE flags)

wine-any exists to allow the user to build any combination that they'd
like (like the old packaging).  This means the user could use wine-any
to use both Wine-Staging and Gallium Nine.  Alternatively, the user
could use wine-any to try out another configuration from other
packages.  For example, the user could build wine-vanilla without
PulseAudio, and could build wine-any with PulseAudio.  The sky is the
limit on how a user may choose to use app-emulation/wine-any.

Users may opt for any specific package, or may emerge virtual/wine,
which is provided for dependency resolution.
Maintainers: Please note, app-emulation/wine will be dropped, so
please use virtual/wine going forward.

Users may call each version specifically, or may call a symlink based
on their installed patchset, for example wine-2.1, wine-staging-2.2,
or wine-d3d9.

Symlinks for wine are managed with app-eselect/eselect-wine.
# eselect wine set wine-vanilla-2.0
/usr/bin/wine -> /usr/bin/wine-vanilla-2.0
# eselect wine set --staging wine-staging-2.4
/usr/bin/wine-staging -> /usr/bin/wine-staging-2.4

Earlier this year the Gentoo Linux Forums thread ‘wine: questions on recent changes‘ discussed the new system and how to use it. Several users, myself included, posted questions in that thread asking how to go about the change. I received differing advice and remained uncertain about what to do. At the time, the slotted packages for the new system had not yet been unmasked, so I left my installation as it was and decided to put off making the change for as long as possible. Today when I synchronised my installation with the Portage tree there was a Gentoo Linux news item ‘2017-11-21 Old Wine versions moving to wine-overlay’. So the time had come for me to make the switch from app-emulation/wine-2.3 to the new slotted WINE package system. Here is what I did…

Previous situation

I had been using WINE Staging:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eix -I wine
[?] app-emulation/wine
     Available versions:  [M]2.0^t [M](~)2.1^t [M](~)2.2^t [M](~)2.3^t [M]**9999^t {+X +alsa capi cups custom-cflags d3d9 dos +fontconfig +gecko gphoto2 gsm gstreamer +jpeg +lcms ldap +mono mp3 ncurses netapi nls odbc openal opencl +opengl osmesa oss pcap +perl pipelight +png prelink pulseaudio +realtime +run-exes s3tc samba scanner selinux +ssl staging test themes +threads +truetype udev +udisks v4l vaapi +xcomposite xinerama +xml ABI_MIPS="n32 n64 o32" ABI_PPC="32 64" ABI_S390="32 64" ABI_X86="(+)32 (+)64 x32" ELIBC="glibc" KERNEL="FreeBSD" LINGUAS="ar bg ca cs da de el en en_US eo es fa fi fr he hi hr hu it ja ko lt ml nb_NO nl or pa pl pt_BR pt_PT rm ro ru sk sl sr_RS@cyrillic sr_RS@latin sv te th tr uk wa zh_CN zh_TW"}
     Installed versions:  2.3^t(19:16:31 20/05/17)(X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl staging threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -d3d9 -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba -selinux -test -themes -vaapi -xinerama ABI_MIPS="-n32 -n64 -o32" ABI_PPC="-32 -64" ABI_S390="-32 -64" ABI_X86="32 64 -x32" ELIBC="glibc" KERNEL="-FreeBSD" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW")
     Homepage:            https://www.winehq.org/
     Description:         Free implementation of Windows(tm) on Unix

[I] app-emulation/winetricks
     Available versions:  20170823^t **99999999^t {gtk kde rar}
     Installed versions:  20170823^t(02:50:56 06/09/17)(gtk kde -rar)
     Homepage:            https://github.com/Winetricks/winetricks https://wiki.winehq.org/Winetricks
     Description:         Easy way to install DLLs needed to work around problems in Wine

Found 2 matches

The file /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords/wine in my installation included the following line:

app-emulation/wine ~amd64

The file /etc/portage/package.use/wine in my installation included the following line:

app-emulation/wine -ldap -pipelight staging abi_x86_32

New situation

The file /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords/wine in my installation now includes the lines listed below. The reason why I had to include app-emulation/wine-vanilla is explained further on.

virtual/wine ~amd64
app-emulation/wine-staging ~amd64
app-emulation/wine-vanilla ~amd64

The file /etc/portage/package.use/wine in my installation now includes the lines listed below. The reason why I had to include app-emulation/wine-vanilla is explained further on.

virtual/wine -d3d9 staging abi_x86_32
app-emulation/wine-staging X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl staging threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -d3d9 -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba -selinux -test -themes -vaapi -xinerama abi_x86_32
app-emulation/wine-vanilla X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl staging threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -d3d9 -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba -selinux -test -themes -vaapi -xinerama abi_x86_32

(Note that e.g. the pipelight USE flag does not actually exist in the package app-emulation/wine-vanilla, but it does no harm to include “-pipelight” in the line for app-emulation/wine-vanilla in the file package.use.)

After adding the above-mentioned lines to the two files, I then had to uninstall the masked package app-emulation/wine-2.3 and the package app-emulation/winetricks-20170823 that depended on it:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -aC app-emulation/wine app-emulation/winetricks

Then I had to install the package virtual/wine, which pulled in the package app-emulation/wine-staging as I wanted, but also pulled in the package app-emulation/vanilla:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -a virtual/wine

Then I had to select wine-staging:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine list
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine set

Finally, I had to install winetricks, which would now use the selected slotted package:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge winetricks

How I arrived at the contents of package.accept_keywords and package.use

Note that, before I added the line for app-emulation/wine-vanilla to /etc/portage/package.use/wine and /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords/wine, this is what Portage wanted to install:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -p virtual/wine

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1  ABI_X86="32 (64)" 
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204 
[ebuild  N     ] app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2 
[ebuild   R    ] net-nds/openldap-2.4.44  ABI_X86="32*" 
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.0.2  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms ldap mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -prelink -samba (-selinux) {-test} -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl (staging) threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba (-selinux) {-test} -themes -vaapi -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] virtual/wine-0-r6  USE="staging -d3d9" ABI_X86="32 64" 

The following USE changes are necessary to proceed:
 (see "package.use" in the portage(5) man page for more details)
# required by app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.0.2::gentoo[ldap]
# required by virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
# required by virtual/wine (argument)
>=net-nds/openldap-2.4.44 abi_x86_32
# required by app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.0.2::gentoo[gecko]
# required by virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
# required by virtual/wine (argument)
>=app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1 abi_x86_32

!!! The following installed packages are masked:
- dev-qt/qtwebkit-4.8.7::gentoo (masked by: package.mask)
/usr/portage/profiles/package.mask:
# Andreas Sturmlechner  (16 Nov 2017)
# Qt4WebKit is ancient and full of security holes.
# Masked for removal in 30 days. Bug #620684

For more information, see the MASKED PACKAGES section in the emerge
man page or refer to the Gentoo Handbook.

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo #

After I added a line for app-emulation/wine-vanilla to /etc/portage/package.use/wine and /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords/wine, this is what Portage wanted to do:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -p virtual/wine                        

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1  ABI_X86="32 (64)" 
[ebuild  N     ] app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2 
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -kerberos -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -prelink -samba (-selinux) {-test} -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl (staging) threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba (-selinux) {-test} -themes -vaapi -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] virtual/wine-0-r6  USE="staging -d3d9" ABI_X86="32 64" 

The following USE changes are necessary to proceed:
 (see "package.use" in the portage(5) man page for more details)
# required by app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20::gentoo[gecko]
# required by virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
# required by virtual/wine (argument)
>=app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1 abi_x86_32
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo #

So I added the above-mentioned USE change for app-emulation/wine-gecko to /etc/portage/package.use/wine, and then Portage wanted to do the following:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -p virtual/wine

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1  ABI_X86="32 (64)" 
[ebuild  N     ] app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2 
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -kerberos -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -prelink -samba (-selinux) {-test} -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl (staging) threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba (-selinux) {-test} -themes -vaapi -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] virtual/wine-0-r6  USE="staging -d3d9" ABI_X86="32 64" 
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo #

I was happy with that, so I went ahead without the --pretend option:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -a virtual/wine

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1  ABI_X86="32 (64)" 
[ebuild  N     ] app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2 
[ebuild  N     ] app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -kerberos -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -prelink -samba (-selinux) {-test} -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19  USE="X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl (staging) threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba (-selinux) {-test} -themes -vaapi -xinerama" ABI_X86="32 64 (-x32)" LINGUAS="en pt_BR -ar -bg -ca -cs -da -de -el -en_US -eo -es -fa -fi -fr -he -hi -hr -hu -it -ja -ko -lt -ml -nb_NO -nl -or -pa -pl -pt_PT -rm -ro -ru -sk -sl -sr_RS@cyrillic -sr_RS@latin -sv -te -th -tr -uk -wa -zh_CN -zh_TW" 
[ebuild  N    ~] virtual/wine-0-r6  USE="staging -d3d9" ABI_X86="32 64" 

Would you like to merge these packages? [Yes/No] Yes
>>> Verifying ebuild manifests
>>> Running pre-merge checks for app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20
>>> Running pre-merge checks for app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19
>>> Emerging (1 of 6) app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1::gentoo
>>> Emerging (2 of 6) app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2::gentoo
>>> Installing (1 of 6) app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1::gentoo
>>> Installing (2 of 6) app-eselect/eselect-wine-1.2.2::gentoo
>>> Emerging (3 of 6) app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204::gentoo
>>> Installing (3 of 6) app-emulation/wine-desktop-common-20150204::gentoo
>>> Emerging (4 of 6) app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20::gentoo
>>> Emerging (5 of 6) app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19::gentoo
>>> Installing (4 of 6) app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20::gentoo
>>> Installing (5 of 6) app-emulation/wine-staging-2.19::gentoo
>>> Emerging (6 of 6) virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
>>> Installing (6 of 6) virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
>>> Recording virtual/wine in "world" favorites file...
>>> Jobs: 6 of 6 complete                           Load avg: 6.80, 7.34, 7.06
>>> Auto-cleaning packages...

>>> No outdated packages were found on your system.

 * GNU info directory index is up-to-date.
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine list
Available wine versions:
  [1]   wine-staging-2.19
  [2]   wine-vanilla-2.20 *
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine set 1
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine list
Available wine versions:
  [1]   wine-staging-2.19 *
  [2]   wine-vanilla-2.20
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge app-emulation/winetricks
Calculating dependencies... done!
>>> Verifying ebuild manifests
>>> Emerging (1 of 1) app-emulation/winetricks-20170823::gentoo
>>> Installing (1 of 1) app-emulation/winetricks-20170823::gentoo
>>> Recording app-emulation/winetricks in "world" favorites file...
>>> Jobs: 1 of 1 complete                           Load avg: 0.51, 2.78, 5.09
>>> Auto-cleaning packages...

>>> No outdated packages were found on your system.

 * GNU info directory index is up-to-date.
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo #

Summary

So, in summary, this is what I did in order to install and use app-emulation/wine-staging:

1. Add the following lines to /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords/wine:

virtual/wine ~amd64
app-emulation/wine-staging ~amd64
app-emulation/wine-vanilla ~amd64

2. Add the following lines to /etc/portage/package.use/wine:

virtual/wine -d3d9 staging abi_x86_32
app-emulation/wine-staging X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl staging threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -d3d9 -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba -selinux -test -themes -vaapi -xinerama abi_x86_32
app-emulation/wine-vanilla X alsa cups fontconfig gecko gphoto2 gsm jpeg lcms mp3 ncurses nls openal opengl perl png pulseaudio realtime run-exes scanner ssl staging threads truetype udev udisks v4l xcomposite xml -capi -custom-cflags -d3d9 -dos -gstreamer -ldap -mono -netapi -odbc -opencl -osmesa -oss -pcap -pipelight -prelink -s3tc -samba -selinux -test -themes -vaapi -xinerama abi_x86_32
# required by app-emulation/wine-vanilla-2.20::gentoo[gecko]
# required by virtual/wine-0-r6::gentoo
>=app-emulation/wine-gecko-2.47-r1 abi_x86_32

3. Uninstall the old, un-slotted WINE packages:

root # emerge -aC app-emulation/wine app-emulation/winetricks

4. Merge the new virtual WINE package:

root # emerge -a virtual/wine

5. Select the slotted WINE package I wish to use (WINE Staging):

root # eselect wine list
root # eselect wine set wine-staging-2.19

6. Merge the winetricks package, which will now recognise the slotted WINE package selected:

root # emerge app-emulation/winetricks

After completing the above process, I was still able to launch as before the various Microsoft Windows applications installed on my laptop under WINE.

UPDATE (December 1, 2017): As explained by user Chiltoo in a new post in the Gentoo Linux Forums thread mentioned earlier in the above post, a bug in Portage Version 2.3.13-r1 results in app-emulation/wine-vanilla being installed unnecessarily, as borne out in my post above.

The work-around he proposed does indeed work for me. Below are the commands I have just used for the work-around (I have left the new entries I made in package.accept_keywords and package.use in those files):

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -aC app-emulation/wine-vanilla app-emulation/wine-staging virtual/wine app-emulation/wine-desktop-common app-emulation/wine-gecko app-eselect/eselect-wine app-emulation/winetricks
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # emerge -1 app-emulation/wine-staging && emerge virtual/wine && emerge winetricks

The outcome of the above two commands in my case is:

clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eix --installed --compact wine
[I] app-emulation/wine-desktop-common (20150204@01/12/17): Various desktop menu items and icons for wine
[I] app-emulation/wine-gecko (2.47-r1(2.47)@01/12/17): A Mozilla Gecko based version of Internet Explorer for Wine
[I] app-emulation/wine-staging (2.19(2.19)@01/12/17): Free implementation of Windows(tm) on Unix, with Wine-Staging patchset
[I] app-emulation/winetricks (20170823@01/12/17): Easy way to install DLLs needed to work around problems in Wine
[I] app-eselect/eselect-wine (1.2.2@01/12/17): Manage active wine version
[I] virtual/wine (0-r6@01/12/17): Virtual for Wine that supports multiple variants and slotting
Found 6 matches
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # eselect wine list
Available wine versions:
  [1]   wine-staging-2.19 *
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo #

The superfluous app-emulation/wine-vanilla is no longer installed, which is a cleaner outcome.