Posted in Debian, Open Source, System

Debian and beyond


It’s not new that I have Debian installed on a netbook that a friend of mine borrowed me.  You can read here  and  here,  if you want to know more.

So I installed it with XFCE, Mate and Cinnamon as desktops.  I used Mate but didn’t like it and quickly abandoned.  I used Cinnamon and although I like it better, I got tired of GTK3 themes looking alike and that it’s a bit slow for this machine.

My desktop today
Debian with Cinnamon

Feeling increasingly unhappy with my desktops I decided to give XFCE a go.  Last time I used it, I found it ugly and not really better than any other desktop, so I dropped it rather fast.  But now, I thought that after so much time they could well have improved appearance and usability, and selected it on LightDM.


XFCE is awesome!

screenshot xfce gtk appearance
XFCE showing Cairo Dock and GTK beauties

This desktop is exactly what I wanted.  It’s pretty and fast.  And if you add a docker it’s perfect.  It comes with a long list of themes by default, plus including whatever themes you have installed for other desktops.  It’s highly configurable, like Mate, but fancier.  I didn’t even needed to install anything extra, just chose from the default list and gave the panel some transparency.

The only point against it, is how to set a wallpaper. It forces you to choose from pre-selected folders and can’t choose a child directory.  But!  There’s a workaround for it.  Go to the folder where is the image you want as wallpaper, right-click on it and select  “Set as wallpaper”.  Voilá!  Your desktop has new background.


Beyond XFCE Debian

Screenshot xfce with Cairo Dock
XFCE with Cairo Dock resembling OSX dock

Cairo Dock has many themes and ways to enhance/refine its appearance, plus many options about its behaviour, apps, desklets, etc.  It’s very complete and useful and isn’t heavy at all.  I use it on a 1GB RAM machine and it doesn’t affect the overall performance.  To add programmes to the dock just grab them from menu and drop them in the docker.  You can also add customised shortcuts. Just right-click on the dock and a menu with options will show up.

The one downside I found is that even marking it to start at the session beginning it doesn’t, and it’s not listed in XFCE startup applications.  I have to manually start it which is kinda annoying.  Particularly for someone like me, absent minded.

Screenshot xfce with Plank
XFCE with Plank Dock

Plank Docker on the other side is much more simple but still pretty and configurable.  You have many options and you can change the icons appearance, add animations and install new themes if the default ones aren’t your cup of tea. It’s very light and start with session as one would expect a docker to do. To add new programmes to the dock you can open them, and once open you right-click on the docked icon and select  “Keep on dock”.  Alternatively, you can drag and drop programmes from desktop or menu.

The downside is that Preferences seems to be nowhere. No right-click will show it. What to do?  Type on a normal terminal :

plank --preferences

and the preferences window will show up instantly.  I couldn’t find any easier way to call Plank Settings. If anyone knows, please, post it on comments.


Oh, oh… KDE


Plasma 5 is compatible with all the docks available including two dock extensions (plasmoids).  In the screenshot we can see KDE Plasma with Cairo Dock.  Like in XFCE, it works nicely and it’s very configurable. It doesn’t start with session though, you will need to start it manually or select  “Start with session” from contextual menu. Planck also works nicely although you’ll need a bit more of work to get it themed properly. If you mark it to start with session, it should.

As a side note, the plasmoid Latte gives option to KDE native dock.  Sadly, it’s really bare what it offers and configuring it is complicated. Compared to other desktop agnostic dockers, has nothing to do.



Plank themes collection:

Cairo Dock:

Plank Settings (varies between distros):

Docky (abandoned):


Thanks for reading, hope this was helpful or at least interesting for you



Posted in Hardware, Open Source, Projects

The game is on!


“It is my business to know what other people don’t know”

After a whole week dealing with a netbook with OpenSuSe and almost a month without Fedora on my laptop, I finally got to install Fedora 25 Workstation on my laptop and Debian Testing on the netbook.  There is no much to say about Fedora, is the same I had but with a handful of updates.  But Debian….  it’s been years without using it so this is sort of interesting.  Is it still true that Debian runs smoothly on any machine even with limited resources? Is still a rather tricky distro to install and, perhaps, to use?  Is it Testing anything near to Fedora? Is it stable? What desktop would suit better?  Will I be able to do the same things as in Fedora?  What else I can do or try with this netbook?  What else I can learn?



Game afoot

I bought and prepared two USB sticks as install media, one for Debian and one for Fedora.  Oddily enough, there is no way to use Fedora Media Writer in Linux  (except, of course, Fedora)  but it is possible to use it in Windows.

I booted them both and oh, wonder of wonders!  Debian installation process was fast and simple.  I selected to install Cinnamon and Mate because I don’t like XFCE, and I wanted to try different configurations.  All in all, that’s this netbook all about.  For playing.

I booted Fedora and the install process was exactly the opposite to Debian’s:  slow and complicated.  Two, maybe three versions ago, Fedora was pretty simple and fast, even on my OLPC netbook  (RIP).  But now installing Fedora is neat untill you have to partition your disk.  Then it’s an utter mess.  And the trick I used back in Fedora 24 doesn’t work anymore.  So I had to install Fedora on a tiny partition  (20GB)  despite I had plenty of free space.  And install twice because the first time, for some mysterious reason, it made separated partitions for /boot and /var  (I didn’t ask for and I know nobody who does that)  but didn’t separated  /home  which is the usual  (and more sensible)  case.  In any case, I installed and now it’s running reasonably fine.  I even have Recipes working.



The Attic and the Lumber Room

Sherlock Holmes said:  “A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library where he can get it if he wants.”  and I say the same applies to systems and development.  Place together in a system what is necessary to have a fully functioning computer with graphic session and connect to internet, and no more.  Everything else can be taken from library in the lumber room, that is to say installed afterwards from the package manager  (Apper, Yumex, Synaptic, etc.).

And this is how Debian it’s built.  You have all what you need to start, everything else is up to you.  So you configure your system right in the way you want. Besides, this is vital in a netbook that has no spare resources to waste.

So I logged in  (Mate)  and installed some useful software.  Given I can’t do my design/artistic work here, I need way less books to take from the lumber room. In case anyone is interested to know, here is the list of programmes I installed in Debian:

  • Bleachbit
  • Evolution
  • Parcellite
  • Themes & Icons
  • Chrome
  • Telegram

As a side note, Debian Testing has kernel 4.9 which is pretty new. Fedora has kernel 4.10 so they’re almost the same.

I tried Cinnamon  (software rendering)  and Mate; I prefer Mate.  Maybe the looks isn’t that attractive and lacks of  “Favourites” menu  (or menu entrance)  but it works better on this netbook up to now.


Looking ahead

What is next

I plan to start using Recipes on Fedora with a new user as it’s rather tricky to claim an old user when you make a fresh OS install.  Also, I’m planning to install Recipes on Debian.  If I didn’t yet is because it’s not built for i386 architectures.  But once this is done, I’ll install and start using it to see how it goes.  Maybe we can make it available for Debian/Ubuntu too?  Surely will be a smoother process than trying on OpenSuSe.

I’ll try Cinnamon  (normal mode)  to see how it goes and if there is any difference between this and the software rendering mode, and compared to Mate Desktop.


And the game is off…  by now.  Thanks for reading!



Posted in Hardware, Open Source, OpenSuSe, Projects

One happy bunny


My friend Heinrich had abandoned an Acer Aspire One  (10.1″ screen, Atom N450, 1GB RAM) inside a box.  He has a better bigger computer with a huge screen where to watch movies and series at will.  I asked him if I could play with it and he gave me absolute freedom.  So I decided to start installing SuSe  (as it´s the only install media I have by now)  with the intention of turning it into Tumbleweed.  Unfortunately, I couldn´t as every time I tried  (spent a whole day on it)  either it failed or it left me without internet.  So I had to give up and stay with Leap.



What I can do so far

Given the small size and low resources, it´s pointless to use it on design and photography. But because of its small size and light weight is perfect for simple daily tasks like mail and writing as I can easily take it with me everywhere. I can do all the things I can do in the OpenSuSe I have installed in my laptop.

The main options, KDE & Gnome, are way too heavy to use them in a netbook so I installed the third option: XFCE.  But I don´t like it so I installed Mate Desktop and Cinnamon to try which one works best.  Definitely, Mate and Cinnamon, with Cinnamon desktop being the prettiest according to myself.

I have GDM as Display Manager but I´m researching the way to change it.

I´m planning to add more RAM but I need to open it and see if my RAM sticks are compatible.



What I cannot

As I already said, I can´t do any kind of arts or editing, it simply has no resources for that.  I can´t  write fast because it has a Deutsche QWERTZ  instead of QUERTY as keyboard.  I can´t use Recipes because it doesn´t work in any other distribution but Fedora.  I can install it and run it but it doesn´t work fine.  I can´t multitask because of its RAM and I must be careful with certain programmes like Yast and Firefox.  It often freezes or hangs, sometimes coming back to activity minutes later and sometimes not.  Sometimes it fails to start or hangs somewhere midway.  And it really gets very hot while using it.

And I didn´t get to use it with full charged battery.  No matter for how long I have it plugged, it never goes beyond 98%.



A funny bit

I already noticed that the touchpad seemed to be wore out and that it used to have some kind of instructions that were faded.  Also noticed that some angles had more signals of use than others.  Not to mention the netbook was very dirty and with its battery absolutely exhausted when I found it.  Actually Henry thought it was broken.  But the computer is actually in perfect shape and it´s obvious he cared about it.  It’s impeccable except a little mark on the lid and the touchpad.

Ah! The Touchpad! Its look and feel was weird because Henry never removed the protecting film from it.  When I told him he smiled but it was obvious he didn’t even know it had a film.  Definitely, computers aren´t his metier.

You can see the marks of the protecting film still on the touchpad after removing it, on the picture above.


And you can see in this other picture the protecting film already removed.

After cleaning the touchpad it became very clear why I was finding it so slow and weird.  Now it´s free from covers, it´s a very comfortable device.


Now I have this working…  The game is on!


Posted in Open Source, Philosophy, Projects, Science

NASA software catalogue

Do you love coding? Do you love sciences? Do you love testing stuff even if it’s unrelated to your work or daily life?  Here there’s something for you!

NASA has just released their software database including the source code from all their projects.  This means you’re free to use, test, read and modify the programmes.  Some of them have been release under Open Source licenses and some others have governamental licenses.  But not to worry, they’re all available and they’re all for free.

Of course, because of the nature of NASA’s work, most of this software is very specific and targeted, and might not have any use for the mere mortals.  Not to mention that when it comes down to data processing NASA needs (and uses) massive amounts of resource, therefore some of these programmes may not run properly in  “normal”  computers.

But…!  You can still request and try. Or at least, read the code if you can’t actually run the programme.


So… How does it works?

To get any of this, you can visit NASA Software Catalogue and download the pdf file with the complete lists or search by category in the said page.  Once you find something of interest, you request it. If you have no NASA account, you’ll be requested to create one. Note that to prevent abuse and unauthorised entries, they will monitor your activity including keystrokes.  If this is not a problem for you, just go ahead and create the account. It’s fast and simple. But requesting the software isn’t that simple.  You have to fill a form giving your personal and studying or business information.  It does look impressive but it contains no outrageous questions so it’s up to you to accept or not.

After sending this, you’ll get the license, the software and the code.  Depending on the kind of license is what you will be allowed to do or not.  Bear in mind that many of these programmes are governmental purpose only.


And now?

Now you have a NASA account you can do other interesting things and apply for other programmes as well.  Feel free to investigate.

If you want to know more:

Posted in Fedora, Open Source, Projects

One for cooks!

I love eating, like all normal human beings, but I also like cooking at times.  Not for me only, it’s more the problem than the pleasure but I love doing it when there are others to share with.  Sadly, I haven’t been able to cook in a whole year, maybe more.  But I still enjoy collecting and trying new recipes.  And I hope to be able to cook soon again.


For a geek, a computer scientist as I am, using the computer to organise my recipes is an obvious outcome.  Long ago I had notes books where I hand wrote my recipes and stuck photos and pieces from magazines.  But I lost them all.  My laptop and my last backups are still with me whatsoever.



The Software

In Linux we have three options:  KRecipes, Gourmet and Recipes. KRecipes and Gourmet has been around for quite a long time, been myself a big fan of Gourmet.  But when my friends Lesik and Pionen sent me links to a new program on this topic I had to try it.

You won’t find it in Fedora’s repositories because it’s made for Gnome 3.24 and we’re currently on Gnome 3.22.  But it’s possible to install it via command line.

Open a terminal and obtain root access.  Then type:

flatpak install --from

It will ask if you want to change to a different org.gnome and you have to type “yes” (or the equivalent in your language).  Then the installation begins.  It’s fairly quick so after this you only need to start the program to see it working.

To start the program you can click on the menu entry or type in a (normal) terminal  flatpak run



The Usage

The added value of Recipes is that it has a social side where you can share your recipes with other people using the same programme.  Also you can mark certain recipes as suitable for special cases like vegans or food allergies.  You can edit recipes, add your own, import and export.  Also you can mark some as favourites and make your own shopping lists.  The way you add steps to the cooking procedure is almost magic, if it’s already separated by numbers it will magically show them as consecutive separated steps.  No need of rewriting or copy&pasting one by one!

Recipes are classified by Cuisine, Seasons and Categories. There’s an Editor’s Picks and a Today section as well in case you can’t decide what would you like to cook.

The design is clean, pretty and handy.  Perfect to have it opened while you’re cooking!



Known bugs and nice to have

  1. Problems to import recipes as reported here have already a fix.
  2. Problems with added images in new recipes as reported here are already fixed.  It’s worth to mention that images aren’t stored in the database but linked to the original image.  This means that if you rename or move the original picture it will disappear from your recipe.
  3. Problems to add ingredients or amounts that aren’t listed or adding them but not showing up in the final recipe, are already reported here and here, and waiting for a solution.
  4. Shopping lists show ingredients and amounts exactly as they are in the recipe which can result in some outrageous output.  I mean, I don’t think is possible to buy 5 strawberries (to decorate a cake in example)….
  5. I miss an  “All recipes” list and a button to clear the shopping list if I changed my mind and I don’t want to buy. There’s a clean list button if you open the shopping list though.
  6. Adding new categories as a  “nice to have”  feature is reported here.



The road ahead

If you’re interested to contribute you can join the mailing list

Visit the GitHub site:

Or check Bugzilla Gnome:

Thank you very much!