[Technology] GNOME and default programs that just don't work

I love GNOME.  It is my full intent to invest thousands of hours into it after I leave school.  In general, it works great for me.  However, I still can't recommend it to any friends or normal humans, because so much basic functionality in its apps Just Doesn't Work.

A recurring theme for me is trying to use a feature that's been released but doesn't seem to ever work for me.  An old example would be Tracker.  It took half-a-decade before I could run it on a machine of mine without it being utterly crippled in performance.  Now, it seems to work perfectly.

I know part of the answer is: submit a patch.  And I will, when I'm out of school and not working all the time to pay for it. :D  In the meantime, I'll highlight a couple issues.

A few current examples include:

  • GNOME Boxes

  • GNOME Web (epiphany)

  • Bluetooth and files

  • PiTiVi

  • GNOME Music

  • GNOME Photos

Bluetooth: I have yet to have a Linux installation on any machine ever reliably work with Bluetooth for moving files.  Indeed, most peripherals mysteriously just fail.

GNOME Boxes: I try it out once a release to see how far I can get.  I tried version 3.20.2 today, on an image of Fedora 25 Beta.  It managed to boot and log in to the Live user.  However, a weird 'flickering' kept stealing focus away from the Shell's Activity overview, and after a minute or so, it just froze and became unresponsive altogether.  Compare that to VirtualBox which worked.

GNOME Web: Facebook is one of the most popular sites that I use, and consequently its Messenger is also the one where almost all my friends are.  However, whenever I try to type a message starting with a capital letter, that character repeats! https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=764653. I want to use Web at least for it's cool Web App container system, for Messenger (messenger.com), but it's infuriating having to delete the extra character each time.  I will have to wait about 7 months before the fix becomes available to Fedora users.

PiTiVi: I love the design, but I have yet to edit a single video with it.  (Well, maybe I succeeded once a long time ago?)  Last week, I recorded a video of my desktop using GNOME Shell (so cool!).  I then wanted to simply export it to a format I could share it with (mp4).  It was listed as an option, but PiTiVi inexplicably just stalled and did nothing.  There's probably an error message on the console explaining that, but when I'm trying to do something so basic, and it fails, it deters me.  I remember how happy I was when OpenShot finally reached a functional maturity.  However, when I then tried to use it, it looked really bizarre, and didn't work any more.  That's weird: I was just using it regularly a few years ago and it worked great!  I looked it up and ... they changed their toolkit.  That explains why it went from working great to not working any more. 

GNOME Music: it actually has content!  Like, when I open it, I'm not
greeted by a bizarre, empty window, without any hint as to what to do
next. Instead, it has a stylish "Hey DJ" with a cool music note.  It
says that it will show files from my Music folder, too.  It doesn't give
me a way to set that Music folder, but ah well.  I thought GNOME Files
might give me an option to, but apparently not.  It probably wants me to
have a ~/Music folder, though that conflicts with my standard file
organisation.  There's probably a config file I can edit, but - wait, I
already did that.  Oh! That explains a few things; Tracker isn't doing
anything, none of its miners are running.  I wonder when they last ran? 
I definitely have some files indexed.  Hmm, "tracker daemon -s" might
get them going now.  Good, now we have some music indexed, let's try
GNOME Music again and ...

ERROR:grl-net-wc.c:730:get_url_cb: assertion failed: (c == d)
Aborted (Speicherabzug geschrieben)

Neat-o!  Back to Rhythmbox.

Photos: Yay, it found my photos.  Interesting, right-clicking on an
album selects it and ... let's me add it to an Album?  Trying that, I
define an Album name, click add and ... nothing?  The new album doesn't
exist, and the selected album hasn't moved?  Huh.  There's apparently a
"favouriting" mechanism (a star), but when I select something, it
doesn't seem to really do anything, except toggle the state of the star
at the bottom?  There's a Favourites tab, but nothing shows up there? 
Hmm.  One thing I need a photo manager is to help me share and upload my
photos, which GNOME Photos does not seem to do.  Back to Shotwell.

Here are some things that work, though:

GNOME Maps: it finally renders tiles, can find my hometown, and location services now work!  It even gives good directions!

Basically, I love using GNOME because of its clean design and how it helps me focus on my work.  However, that's only part of GNOME.  To actually get work done, I generally need to use other apps: Rhythmbox, Shotwell, GNOME Terminal (to do things that the apps cannot), Firefox, VirtualBox.  Even my beloved GNOME Videos (Totem?) gets bumped for VLC for caption support.

One of the obstacles is the lack of contextual information in a lot of the newer apps.  GNOME Documents, GNOME Photos, GNOME Music, and GNOME Videos, as far as their library functionality goes, are inadequate for daily use.   They're also hard to use, because they show a bunch of unorganised information without sufficient context to know which files is which.

I'm excited to finish school next year and be able to contribute my time and love for GNOME to help ensure things work and that the user experience is both clean and productive.


[Technology] Getting my Lenovo Twist s230u to actually go to sleep

I use a Lenovo Twist s230u.  I run Fedora Linux.  It has trouble going to sleep.  It just keeps waking up.  I try to sing it lullabies to no avail. 

After suffering for too long, I sought answers, and found these Launchpad bugs helpful:

For a while, I was just doing the suboptimal:

  • # for i in EHC1 EHC2 XHC; do echo "$i" > /proc/acpi/wakeup; done

after restarting.

I got bored with the 5 seconds it took to run that each time I rarely restarted, so I looked into boot scripts for systemd:

So, now I have:

  • /etc/systemd/system/toggle-wakeup-devices.service

Which contains:




 And I have

  •  /usr/local/bin/toggle-wakeup-devices.sh

Which contains:


for i in EHC1 EHC2 XHC; do
      echo "$i" > /proc/acpi/wakeup;

This still isn't quite optimal.  (Would be nice to work out an appropriate patch to fix this behaviour for all users and submit it, rather than a workaround.)  But I have a Masters to finish, and this is sufficient for me for now. :)


Trying to use vala-mode in emacs:

c-get-lang-constant: Invalid function: "\\s *#\\s *"

I looked for my vala-mode.el and found I was using a local copy I had set up last year,


It was from 2015-05-27, however, that seemed to be the latest copy.  I replaced it anyway, (despite diff showing no differences) and "magically" it resumed working.  Hmm.  Maybe it was also just me restarting my emacs daemon. :D


[Technology] Spending all of my disk space

I used to save a lot of content to my computer that I thought was cool.  I, however, almost never access any of it.  Consequently, I'm trying to stop being such a collector.  Good bye decade old wallpaper collection. (* HA!  I'm not actually going to DELETE it.  I'm just going to risk having it stored on an external hard drive. :P)

Another recent problem is that my system uses GNOME Software and PackageKit to manage packages and updates. However, for correctness, it wants to only update packages during a restart.  (https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/OfflineSystemUpdates)  Of course, I almost never restart my computer, and end up just using dnf ("Dandified Yum" (yum: Yellowdog Updater, Modified (replaced yup: Yellowdog Updater, which was the update manager for Yellow Dog Linux, which focussed on PowerPCs, GPUs, and high performance computing).  So, GNOME Software uses PackageKit to pre-download updates, which wait to be applied during the next update.  However, I end up installing them separately before that using dnf.  Then, GNOME Software and PackageKit by default just leave them there in the cache, FOREVER.  Over 4 months, that consumed 5GB of space.  If I had to pay for all that data, that would be a huge redundant waste.  So much effort with delta RPMs to conserve data used in updating, only to waste it like that, by having double-downloads?  That's a bug: https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=80053

Replacing libraries and files while the OS is running can cause
problems ranging from application crashes to inconsistent system states
where processes are using different versions of a library at the same
time. By installing system updates 'outside' the normal system
operation, we avoid these problems.
- https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/OfflineSystemUpdates

One of the commentators on the FreeDesktop bug report uses a cron job for the command:

pkcon refresh force -c -1

I haven't done much with cron for a while, so I used Arch Linux's great documentation on cron and the man pages, before deciding that I'd actually give the Future (er, present) a try with systemd timers.  A combination of the documentation, Arch Linux's page on it, and this random blog post by Jason Graham, I ended up adding a pretty minimal .service and .timer pair of files.

Yay, problem worked around.

Proper solution?

This probably would have entailed trying to write and submit a patch that would have done one of the following:

  • cause packagekit to discard superseded packages in its cache, or

  • cause GNOME Software to let you choose to do risky, online updates, or

  • cause dnf aware of packagekit's cache so we don't have to re-download and waste data (seems kind of dumb), or

  • cause multiple solutions to share the same package cache directory, or

  • use something like ostree to make 'online' updates safe

 Who knows.


Firefox for Android

Firefox for Android on my Nexus 6 is so sluggish, and has brought my whole phone to a crawl twice today, requiring restarts (memory issues?), yet they boldly describe it as "fast". What brave marketing.

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