Lubuntu 18.04 ‘Gave up waiting for suspend/resume device’

Software Updater in Lubuntu 17.10 recently prompted me to upgrade the OS to 18.04 LTS, and I clicked on ‘Yes, Upgrade Now’. The upgrade was performed and I was able to boot the PC into 18.04, login and access the Desktop as usual. However, I noticed a new message ‘Gave up waiting for suspend/resume device‘ was displayed on TTY1.

Now, I recalled that the Lubuntu 17.10 Installer had created a swap file rather than a swap partition when I installed Lubuntu, as confirmed in the output listed below:

user $ sudo blkid
[sudo] password for fitzcarraldo: 
/dev/sda1: UUID="3602-BD57" TYPE="vfat" PARTLABEL="EFI System Partition" PARTUUID="72b3693e-b81f-7299-84fb-bf3781bef43d"
/dev/sda2: UUID="afe17116-26fa-4169-b2d9-fb6ac8afc63c" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="738fed17-293d-832f-c7a4-e83471fe8ca6"
user $ swapon
NAME      TYPE SIZE USED PRIO
/swapfile file   2G   0B   -2
user $ ls /swapfile 
/swapfile

The initramfs installed by upgrading to Lubuntu 18.04 expects a swap partition in order to resume from hibernation:

user $ lsinitramfs /initrd.img | grep resume
scripts/local-premount/resume
bin/resume
conf/conf.d/resume

And, when I regenerated the initramfs files for the three kernel images in the /boot directory, I could see from the terminal output that the update-initramfs tool was expecting a swap partition:

user $ sudo update-initramfs -u -k all
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.15.0-23-generic
W: initramfs-tools configuration sets RESUME=UUID=7b4cb3c5-4c17-42ae-be3c-cc35d31fe287
W: but no matching swap device is available.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.15.0-22-generic
W: initramfs-tools configuration sets RESUME=UUID=7b4cb3c5-4c17-42ae-be3c-cc35d31fe287
W: but no matching swap device is available.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.13.0-43-generic
W: initramfs-tools configuration sets RESUME=UUID=7b4cb3c5-4c17-42ae-be3c-cc35d31fe287
W: but no matching swap device is available.

I had a look in the file /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume and found that it had indeed been configured to expect a swap partition, although I have no idea where that UUID came from, as it was not for any of the partitions on this PC:

user $ cat /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume
RESUME=UUID=7b4cb3c5-4c17-42ae-be3c-cc35d31fe287

So I edited the contents of the configuration file to point to the swap file /swapfile instead of a non-existent partition:

user $ cat /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume
#RESUME=UUID=7b4cb3c5-4c17-42ae-be3c-cc35d31fe287
RESUME=/swapfile

Then I regenerated the initramfs files for the three kernel images currently in /boot on the PC:

user $ sudo update-initramfs -u -k all
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.15.0-23-generic
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.15.0-22-generic
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-4.13.0-43-generic

As you can see above, there were no longer any messages that ‘no matching swap device is available‘. And, when I rebooted the PC, the message ‘Gave up waiting for suspend/resume device‘ was no longer displayed on TTY1. All good again, although it’s a pity the Lubuntu Installer did not create a swap partition so that the installation could be put into hibernation. With a swap file, hibernation is not possible.

Update (14 July 2018): Actually, it is possible to hibernate if the installation has a swap file instead of a swap partition – see my latest post: Configuring Lubuntu 18.04 to enable hibernation using a swap file.

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Trouble again with PulseAudio and Thunderbird sound notifications

In an earlier post I described how I fixed a scratchy-sounding sound file which the Thunderbird e-mail client plays when a new message arrives. Well, the problem started again recently, but this time the contents of /etc/pulse/daemon.conf looked OK to me. Furthermore, the sound file sounds fine when played using following commands:

aplay ~/Music/wav/E-mail_notifications/halmsg.wav
paplay ~/Music/wav/E-mail_notifications/halmsg.wav
mplayer ~/Music/wav/E-mail_notifications/halmsg.wav
cvlc ~/Music/wav/E-mail_notifications/halmsg.wav

Now, Thunderbird uses libcanberra to play sounds, so I began to wonder if the problem lay with libcanberra. As it happens, libcanberra is maintained by the same person who invented PulseAudio. However, I notice from the libcanberra Git repository that its source code has not been changed since 2012.

My Gentoo Linux installation had libcanberra installed with support for both ALSA and PulseAudio:

root # eix -I libcanberra
[I] media-libs/libcanberra
     Available versions:  0.30-r5 {alsa gnome gstreamer +gtk +gtk3 oss pulseaudio +sound tdb udev ABI_MIPS="n32 n64 o32" ABI_PPC="32 64" ABI_S390="32 64" ABI_X86="32 64 x32"}
     Installed versions:  0.30-r5(08:27:41 18/05/18)(alsa gtk gtk3 pulseaudio sound udev -gnome -gstreamer -oss -tdb ABI_MIPS="-n32 -n64 -o32" ABI_PPC="-32 -64" ABI_S390="-32 -64" ABI_X86="32 64 -x32")
     Homepage:            http://git.0pointer.net/libcanberra.git/
     Description:         Portable sound event library

So, even though my installation uses PulseAudio, I decided to try and re-install libcanberra without PulseAudio support, only ALSA support:

root # USE="-pulseaudio" emerge -1v libcanberra
root # eix -I libcanberra
[I] media-libs/libcanberra
     Available versions:  0.30-r5 {alsa gnome gstreamer +gtk +gtk3 oss pulseaudio +sound tdb udev ABI_MIPS="n32 n64 o32" ABI_PPC="32 64" ABI_S390="32 64" ABI_X86="32 64 x32"}
     Installed versions:  0.30-r5(15:47:14 26/05/18)(alsa gtk gtk3 sound udev -gnome -gstreamer -oss -pulseaudio -tdb ABI_MIPS="-n32 -n64 -o32" ABI_PPC="-32 -64" ABI_S390="-32 -64" ABI_X86="32 64 -x32")
     Homepage:            http://git.0pointer.net/libcanberra.git/
     Description:         Portable sound event library

Lo and behold, Thunderbird (libcanberra) plays the sound file correctly now. So I have added the following line to my file /etc/portage/package.use/thunderbird in order to make the change permanent:

media-libs/libcanberra -pulseaudio

PulseAudio ūüôĄ

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). Lubuntu 17.10 uses systemd-logind, LightDM, Light Locker and Xfce Power Manager, and they do not work properly holistically in my experience. To confuse matters further, Lubuntu 17.10 also has XScreenSaver installed, which also has lock-screen capabilities.

In Lubuntu 17.10 on my family’s desktop PC, Light Locker displays the LightDM GTK+ Greeter 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 LightDM GTK+ Greeter 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/grey text from light-locker would appear:

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

But then nothing else happened; the above-mentioned message remained on display. 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 LightDM GTK+ Greeter screen upon resuming from suspension, and users could select their username from the pull-down list and enter their password, the LightDM GTK+ Greeter 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, and to select ‘Suspend’, ‘Restart…’ and ‘Shutdown…’ from the pull-down power menu). 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 LightDM GTK+ Greeter screen to return to their Desktop.

In this article I explain what I did to try and rectify these problems.

By the way, note that hibernation is disabled by default in Lubuntu 17.10 and you may need to make further changes if you want to enable hibernation as well. For example, does the PC have a swap partition, and is it large enough to enable hibernation? Also 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 uninstalled 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 --no-lock-on-suspend --no-lock-on-lid --no-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 the Xfce Power Manager suspend options and Light Locker options such as ‘--late-locking‘ and ‘--lock-on-suspend‘ because I found that the Light Locker options and the Xfce Power Manager 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 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 with 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 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 with 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 not 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 on most, but not all, occasions it is now possible to select any username on the LightDM GTK+ Greeter screen, enter that user’s password and successfully display the user’s Desktop. The LightDM GTK+ Greeter screen no longer hangs/freezes every time.

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 LightDM GTK+ Greeter 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.

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. Kak√° e M√°rio Monteiro s√£o 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  Vers√£o Ac√ļstica - 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 display 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 display 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 display 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 Display 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 (‚ŹŹ) 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 display 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.

Update (Monday, 9 July 2018): Since I wrote the above post I upgraded Lubuntu to 18.04 and I recently noticed the following problems resulting from the above-mentioned modifications:

A. The following error message in the LightDM log file /var/log/lightdm/lightdm.log:

[SeatDefaults] is now called [Seat:*], please update this configuration

So I changed the contents of the file /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/10_lubuntu.conf from:

[SeatDefaults]
session-cleanup-script=/etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh

to:

[Seat:*]
session-cleanup-script=/etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh

B. The following error message in the LightDM log file /var/log/lightdm/lightdm.log when the USB external HDD happened to not be mounted at the time:

DEBUG: Launching process 8569: /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh
DEBUG: Process 8569 terminated with signal 11

So I changed the contents of my Bash script /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/unmount_FREECOM_HDD.sh from:

#!/bin/bash
udisksctl unmount --block-device /dev/disk/by-uuid/C6576A087368B015

to:

#!/bin/bash
STATUS=`mount | grep $(readlink -f /dev/disk/by-uuid/C6576A087368B015 )`
if [[ ! -z $STATUS ]]; then
    udisksctl unmount --block-device /dev/disk/by-uuid/C6576A087368B015
fi
exit 0

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.

By the way, I also tried using systemd-inhibit in this case, and it did not work. Looking at the manual page for systemd-inhibit, it could be used to execute a program (the example given is ‘systemd-inhibit wodim foobar.iso‘), however I found that systemd-inhibit did not prevent systemd from shutting down the machine before the backup Bash script had run to completion.

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 /media/<username>/FREECOM¬†HDD¬†¬†(e.g. ‘/media/fitzcarraldo/FREECOM HDD‘ when I log in, ‘/media/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 ‚Üí /etc/systemd/system/backup-to-usb-hdd.service.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/shutdown.target.wants/backup-to-usb-hdd.service ‚Üí /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). I also tried using systemd-inhibit in this case, and it did not work. Looking at the manual page for systemd-inhibit, it could be used to execute a program (the example given is ‘systemd-inhibit wodim foobar.iso‘), however I found that systemd-inhibit did not prevent systemd from shutting down the machine before a Bash script to backup a single-seat, multi-user installation had run to completion.

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)