Tag Archives: manjaro

LXQT 0.7 – Back to the Future

LXQT screenshot by lxqt.org

Recently LXQT published its first stable version 0.7, time to take a look at the project that is announced on its website as  “the next generation of the lightweight desktop environment” and “the upcoming version of LXDE”.

LXQT is the love child Razor QT and the QT division of LXDE. Except the Openbox window manager, all elements of the DE like panel, menu, application launcher, settings, (simple) power management etc. are based on QT but without all the clunky KDE dependencies. But why create yet another lightweight desktop environment at all and not just stick with the LXDE code base ? This is explained in a LXDE blog post, or, if you want the management summary, because GTK2 is deprecated and the author thinks future development will go more smoothly with QT instead of GTK3.

Manjaro or Arch users can install lxqt-desktop from the AUR or a binary repository (links for other distributions can be found on lxqt.org). If you include optional dependencies, you also get some neat QT- based tools like PCManFM file manager, LxImage viewer, QTerminal, Juffed text editor, Screengrab and a task manager called QPS. On top of this you might want to add Xscreensaver (required for locking the desktop), VLC media player, Peazip QT for archives and Compton for a little eye candy. More QT apps can be found in the Razor QT wiki or on qt-apps.org. You could also use KDE applications but most of these will introduce the couple of hundred MB KDE dependencies which LXQT is trying so hard to avoid.

Chances are that you will be using some GTK apps, too (Gimp, LibreOffice, …). Like in KDE, GTK apps always look a little out of place but this can be fixed by using the QtCurve theme. Just install QtCurve and the Oxygen icon theme and apply them in LXQT Appearance settings, then repeat the same for your GTK apps using Lxappearance. GTK3 apps should be covered by Lxappearance, for QT5 (e.g. Qupzilla, transmission-qt, …) it’s not so simple. You can modify the application’s .desktop file to start the application with -style qtcurve, or configure an environment  variable (e.g. QT_STYLE_OVERRID=GTK) but these are both pretty ugly workarounds and I would much prefer LXQT Appearance handle this automatically behind the scenes.

Otherwise I’m not really missing anything. OK, transparency for the panel would be nice, or an image preview when choosing a new wallpaper … or a simple locker that doesn’t look like a leftover from the 90s, but that’s something XFCE and LXDE are lacking, too.

Is LXQT a decent lightweight desktop environment ready for daily use ? Definitely yes. I’ve been using it every day for about 2 weeks and it works without problems.

Is LXQT really the next generation of the Lightweight Desktop ? Maybe not yet … right now it’s still more a trip back to an earlier LXDE or XFCE release, but thanks to the QT toolkit and the unheard of merge of two OpenSource communities (usually those guys are forking, not merging) it is definitely the one with most potential to evolve into something really great real soon. Some of the more adventurous distribution makers seem to be seeing this, too, there are already DEV ISOs available for Siduction and Manjaro and others will surely follow.

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How to replace Xscreensaver with i3lock in Manjaro XFCE

Manjaro, like any other XFCE- based distribution, relies on Xscreensaver for its screen locking / saving needs. Xscreensaver was created in 1992, and that’s exactly what it looks like, making every log on an unpleasant flashback to the dark ages of Fvwm and Gnome 1.0.

So I started looking for an alternative, and finally found i3lock, a simple but elegant screen locker that goes really well with Manjaro, especially if you set the background color to black.

To use i3lock for automatic locking with xfce4-power-manager, you have to trick XFCE first into supporting it. Theoretically you could modify the xflock4 script, but your changes might be overwritten with the next XFCE update, so I decided to mask i3lock as slock, an even more minimalistic locker which is supported by XFCE. All I had to do was to create an executable file called slock in /usr/bin and enter the following text:

#! /bin/bash
i3lock -c000000

From now on, typing ‘slock’ will trigger i3lock with black background. After uninstalling Xscreensaver, xflock4 will now fall back to slock, with “lock on lid close” and all other xfce4-power-manager settings still working.

What’s still missing now is a real screensaver option, i.e. running i3lock after some idle time. This can be achieved using xautolock. To lock your screen after 7 minutes, add the following command to Settings / Session and Startup / Application Autostart

xautolock -locker xflock4 -time 7 -corners 0-00

The “corners” option tells xautolock NOT to lock your screen when the mouse cursor is in the upper right corner of the screen, which is a good way to prevent locking while watching movies.

This little guide is for Manjaro Linux XFCE, but it should work pretty much the same with vanilla Arch + XFCE or any other XFCE based distro, like Xubuntu, Mint XFCE or LMDE. And you should be able to get it to work for LXDE or Cinnamon, too, if you use xfce4-power-manager.

Cinnamon 2

cinnamon2

Soon LinuxMint will release version 16 “Petra” including Cinnamon 2.0, which, unlike Cinnamon 1.x, doesn’t have any dependencies to Gnome. So the Mint- Team finally can stop caring whether a given Gnome version goes into the next Ubuntu release or not, or if there’s a different Gnome version in Debian.

For Arch and Manjaro users, the new Cinnamon has been available for a couple of weeks already, about time to try it out. Installation is simple, the “cinnamon” package from the Arch repos will install everything you need.

I created a new user profile for testing Cinnamon, so it would be easier to roll back to XFCE afterwards, but this shouldn’t be necessary. After the installation Cinnamon started without problems, the standard settings (Gnome icons and wallpaper) can be changed in the Settings Center, where you also can download new themes directly inside the widgets, same as in KDE (the screenshot shows the “dk-cinnamon” theme). Wallpapers, icons and GTK themes can be changed individually. When using the settings manager, you should definitely switch to “Advanced Mode”, simple mode hides a lot of useful settings like e.g. keyboard shortcuts.

Talking about keyboard shortcuts, Cinnamon shares the Gnome “Feature” of ignoring your .Xmodmap configuration, an absolute no go for owners of Lenovo laptops with their messed up keyboard layouts. Fortunately this can be fixed by a simple workaround, you only have to add a manual entry to the Session Startup:

sh -c "sleep 10;xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap"

All other configuration works as expected, moving panel widgets can be a bit tricky at times, but that’s something you usually do only once anyway. Compared to XFCE, Cinnamon offers more visual effects and configuration options (z.g. Alt+Tab or switching between virtual desktops), and a more modern start menu widget, that can even be opened by keyboard shortcut (on the other hand I prefer Whisker’s approach to favorites …). The Cinnamon lock screen looks much better than XFCE’s Xscreensaver, too, even if it doesn’t support classical screensaver animations, and Cinnamon power settings are a good replacement for  XFCE Power Manager. The “Nemo” file manager is not really my cup of tea (same as  Nautilus or Thunar), of course I know how to use them if I have to, but none of them will replace Double Commander as my default file manager any time soon. Panel applets can be downloaded directly, too. I didn’t try  Desklets but if you like a big analog clock and weather data on your desktop here’s your chance to achieve this without installing KDE.

Not that there was anything wrong with my XFCE setup, but overall Cinnamon 2 is really damn compelling. It has more eye candy and runs as fast and stable as XFCE  – so I think I’ll be staying in that new Cinnamon home directory for a little longer 😉

Pipelight – run Windows browser plugins on Linux

There is general agreement that browser plugins like Flash or Silverlight are a thing of the past. Ever since Apple refused to support Flash on the iPhone back in 2007, it is clear that the future is pure HTML5, and browser vendors are starting even now to disable plugins by default.

Reality, however, is a bit different. All legal (commercial) music and video streaming services depend on plugins, and so do most of the available web games. This is a constant annoyance, especially on Linux, where Flash (except in Google Chrome) is frozen on the sluggish 11.2 version and most other plugins like Silverlight, Quicktime or Shockwave are not supported at all.

This gap is closed by Pipelight, a project that aims to support Windows browser plugins by running them through a special, modified WINE version. In version 0.1 they supported Silverlight only (solving my long time Lovefilm on Linux problem), the new version 0.2 supports flash, too, and at least theoretically it should be possible to support any other Windows browser plugin in the future.

Installation is simple enough, at least on Manjaro or any other Arch- based system. You just type ‘yaourt pipelight’ in a terminal and after some minutes of building (the package depends on wine-browser-installer which takes a while to compile) you are done. When you next start up Firefox, a WINE initialization popup will appear and after that Silverlight should be working out of the box (if you still get those “your browser is not supported” errors, you might have to look into modifying the user agent, which can be done with an addon like UAControl).

If you want to enable flash, too, you have to run some more commands:

sudo pacman -R flashplugin
sudo pipelight-plugin --create-mozilla-plugins
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable flash
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight

The removal of ‘flashplugin’ is necessary because otherwise Firefox will for some reason still use the Linux plugin as long as it is available. Disabling it is not a option, because enabling / disabling always affects BOTH  plugins. After running “WINE Flash Install” on the next browser start the installation is complete.

Running on WINE doesn’t have any impact on performance, though, when running Flash Benchmark 08 on my Lenovo S400, Pipelight Flash 11.9 reaches 12 FPS on “Ultra” settings, exactly the same result as Chrome Pepper Flash. In comparison, the official Flash 11.2 already fails on “High” level with 21 FPS, which is A LOT slower and really makes a difference when playing high end Flash games or watching HD videos.

So if you are not happy with your Flash performance in browsers that are not Chrome (including Chromium, by the way), or need Silverlight on Linux, give Pipelight a try.

Manjaro – Arch for the rest of us

Manjaro aims at creating “a user-friendly Linux distribution based on the independently developed Arch operating system”. This approach has made Manjaro the first Arch- based distro to not only enter the Top 10, but actually outrank Arch on Distrowatch.

So, how does a user-friendly Archlinux feel, and how does it compare to other end user centric distributions like Linux Mint ?

The installation of Manjaro 0.8.7 XFCE was easy and intuitive, and all the hardware of my Lenovo S400 was correctly recognized (at least after I switched from Kernel 3.04 to 3.10, which has become the default in version 0.8.7.1). In a little over 1GB the ISO contains all necessary software, Firefox, Thunderbird, the Gimp, LibreOffice, VLC and lots of others. The XFCE Desktop is elegant and functional, and uses Whisker menu instead of the slightly dated XFCE default menu. Just like Ubuntu or Mint, Manjaro has a graphical Updater and package manager but I still prefer the “classic” command line tools. For Arch and Manjaro that means  pacman and yaourt (which is included by default for AUR access).

If you don’t like XFCE, there is also an Openbox version, and “Community Editions” for all common  desktop environments and even Enlightenment. Unlike Archbang or Bridge, the Manjaro team is maintaining separate repositories, but updates are frequent and changes are kept to a minimum, so that AUR compatibility is ensured.

Due to the rolling release nature of Arch, Updates are much more frequent than in Ubuntu- based distributions, and you never have to do a big “distribution upgrade” that breaks everything or even reinstall every few months (like in Mint). There can be a small delay before a new Arch package is moved on to the Manjaro repos, but that also means that the really bad bugs have usually been fixed.

Overall, Manjaro is a keeper. The perfect compromise between a user friendly every day distribution, and “bleeding edge” Arch appeal. Give it a try, you might like it 🙂