Changing the Launcher on Oppo R17

I recently bought a new Android phone, an Oppo R17 Pro. I chose the Oppo as the brand has rated well, actually top, in Canstar satisfaction reviews. It is a good looking phone, well finished and a quality feel. The last point is particularly noticeable when compared to my recently deceased Nexus 5X.

As good as the phone hardware is Oppo have for some unknown reason included their own and poorly developed version of Android called ColourOS. The launcher in particular has no improvements over the standard Android experience and feels slow and clunky. Previously I used the Nova launcher and decided to go back to it. It ran well and I was able to configure it how I like. It made a vast improvement to the whole experience.

However there was one problem. When unlocking the phone I would see the default launcher but then Nova would replace it. I had set Nova as the default so this was confusing. The answer was in ColourOS’s aggressive battery saving settings. By default ColourOS stops all apps running in the background. So when the phone is unlocked Nova isn’t running. The fix then was simple, if well hidden.

In settings – App Management select Nova launcher and in its App info select Power Saver and set it to run in the background. This solved it for me. ColourOS will giving a warning that one app is consuming power but that can be ignored.

This change is needed for any app that needs to run all the time. Data usage monitors are a good example. Despite the warning I find that the Oppo R17 has excellent battery life, certainly better than any other Android phone I’ve owned.


A Chrome Password Problem

I found a strange issue with Google Chrome and its saved password list. Chrome will save passwords and you can view the list of passwords that have been saved. If you change a password it will remember the new password and use it to log you into the site. However I found that if you view the password list it shows the previous password not the updated password.

To explain that a little more clearly, say you set up an account at a site with your username and a password of “abc123”. Then you realise that that isn’t a good password and so change it to “xyz321”. You can log out of the site and next time you try to log in, Chrome will autofill the username and password boxes with the current password. However if you look at Chrome’s settings – advanced – manage passwords, it will still show the original value of “abc123” in the password field.

I tried a few things, including resetting the Chrome profile, which is the Chrome help site’s fallback fix for everything, but they didn’t work. The only thing that did work was to delete all the displayed passwords for that site from Chrome’s settings screen. Then log in to the site again, Chrome still remembered the login credentials even though I had deleted everything that was displayed. Then the saved password list was updated and I could view the current password.

A rather strange issue I know. I should mention that I use the beta version of Chrome so that maybe part of the problem but hopefully this will help someone else.

A Fix for Korora Xfce in KVM

There has been an issue where Korora Xfce running in a VM using KVM was pausing for a short time. It seems I wasn’t the only one experiencing this issue. During a discussion on the Korora IRC channel I was experimenting with different settings and suggested a possible fix. It worked for me and others too. This may work for other distros too particularly Fedora and other Fedora remixes.

Thanks to bgstack15 for testing and documenting it, see his article here. But the short answer is to disable “Sync Drawing to the vertical blank”.

Downloading Photos in Linux

Getting the images you have taken from the camera and on to the computer in an orderly and efficient manner is historically more difficult than it should be particularly on Linux. I’ve tried a number of applications and none of them have done the job as well as I expected. I had been using Digikam but it only seems to work well under KDE Plasma and as I’m using Xfce that was an issue.

Recently I tried Rapid Photo Downloader. First I installed it from the Fedora repos. That was the older version and it was a failure. It didn’t recognise either of the cameras I regularly use. I looked at the website for Rapid Photo Downloader and found there was a new version in a beta release. As I couldn’t find anything better I decided to try it.

The instructions on the site worked well except for one update but when I reported that there was an immediate response and the installer was updated. It was an issue with the installer not recognising Korora as a Fedora based distro. That was fixed and been fine ever since.

More importantly the beta version worked beautifully. It recognised my cameras and downloaded the images where I wanted and renamed them as I intended. The first beta I tried was a little light on features but subsequent betas fixed that.

A couple of days ago version 0.9.0 officially left beta and was released as a stable version. I’m using that version now and it is great. So congratulations to Damon on the release of the new version. If you need a reliable and efficient photo downloader for Linux and what photographer doesn’t, I can’t recommend Rapid Photo Downloader highly enough. See here for the release announcement and notes.

A Junk Box Digital Radio Server

In the modelling world you occasionally hear of a junk box creation. It is when you take parts left over from old projects and other items that are no longer used and create a new masterpiece. Well I don’t claim this is a masterpiece but it fits the description in every other way. I took various components I had laying around and solved a problem I had.

The Problem

I live just outside a major city in an area where television and radio reception is poor. Although I can pick up major city FM stations they can be poor in quality.
Another issue is that the more interesting, at least to me, programs were often on the digital back channels. The only way to receive them is with a digital radio, if it worked in my area, or by streaming. The internet here isn’t very great either. Technically it is ADSL2 but performance isn’t great. However it can handle streaming a radio broadcast, well most of the time. I tested that on my laptop.

The Solution

Somehow it is easy to accumulate various pieces of hardware that are no longer used. What was once the latest toy that was proudly set up on the main system but is now laying in a cupboard unused, almost forgotten.
There are 3 main items I used for this project. First is my netbook. This still runs well even if the battery life is a little less than it used to be. However it is only 32 bit and feels quite slow even when doing something basic.
Next was a Creative Sound Blaster LX USB audio card. This was never state of the art but worked well for its original application. From memory that was to restore sound on an old pc where the audio output didn’t work.
Last was an old stereo receiver amp. It is probably 40 years old but still runs well. It does its best to receive the FM signals that do find their way this far out. But importantly for this project it has plenty of audio inputs on the back. Actually it is the centrepiece of a retro audio setup complete with cassette deck and vinyl turntable.

Putting It All Together

Okay this was the easy part. The netbook was running Korora 23 Xfce when first set up. Even though recent versions of Korora are only 64 bit it is still possible to upgrade existing 32 bit Korora installations to 24 or 25. However initially I didn’t worry about that. First I wanted make sure it all worked.
The only software involved was Audacious and Pulseaudio Volume Control. The later was only needed to tell the system to output sound on the usb sound card.
After getting the streaming urls from the websites of the stations these were saved in Audacious. The analog output was plugged into a spare input on the receiver. Actually this did give me my only problem. I don’t think these inputs had ever been used and maybe they were dirty or oxidised or something as I needed to unplug and replug a couple of times before they started to work.
Only changes I made to Korora was to disable the screensaver. As I was running off AC I also disabled power saving. The netbook has a hotkey to turn the display on and off so that was useful.

The Result

For zero cash outlay, I also had all the cables I needed, I have a working digital streaming radio system. It works well and consumes very little data. I’m pleased with the result. I did upgrade the Korora system to 25 which worked without an issue.
It isn’t perfect there are occasional minor dropouts, some stations are more prone to dropouts than others. I have considered trying other applications to see if that will help.

The Future

Now I’m looking into X2Go so I can control it all from this computer when I’m working. But maybe I need the exercise to get up and walk across the room so I’m not in a hurry to do it.

Korora’s Latest Release

The Korora Project has released version 25 (codename “Gurgle”) which is now available for download. There are quite a few changes with 25 and the release notice highlights many of them.

Korora Xfce 25 is still 4.12 but includes the latest release of many applications including Notifications and the Terminal. Notifications now includes a “Do Not Disturb” option as well as per application settings.

Korora 25 also adds Redshift for those who prefer to work late at night and 3D printing capability.

Give it a try.

Source: Korora Project

Using the Super Key in Xfce

Update: Ksuperkey is in the Korora repo now and included in Korora Xfce 24.

One of the restrictions in Xfce is that you can’t use a key as both a shortcut key and a key modifier. I have often seen questions about this particularly as regards the Super (aka Win) key. It is often set to open the menu whether the default menu or WhiskerMenu is used. If it is also used as a modifier, i.e. in a combination with another key as a shortcut, the menu will be opened as well as the action called by the shortcut.

A question from another Korora team member reminded me of Ksuperkey and looking at the Github page for the project I noted a comment that while it was written for KDE it should work in other Desktop Environments including Xfce. That sounded like it was worth checking out.

Unfortunately Ksuperkey is no longer packed for Fedora 23 so can’t just be installed in Korora. However it is simple to build. I followed this guide, replacing yum with dnf, and it worked without any issues.

If used without any options Ksuperkey calls alt + F1 which in Korora opens the menu by default. I removed that shortcut as I use whiskermenu. In Korora the Super key is used to open WhiskerMenu so in Settings – Keyboard – Shortcuts I edited that to use Alt + F1. Next I ran ksuperkey from alt + F2 and tested. I had previously configured some shortcuts to open applications using Super + other keys so I could easily test. The applications opened and the menu didn’t appear. When used by itself the super key opened WhiskerMenu. Exactly what I hoped to achieve and what was promised.

Lastly I added ksuperkey to Settings – Sessions and Startup – Application Autostart so I didn’t need to run it manually each session.

Ksuperkey adds useful and needed functionality to Xfce and probably other Desktops and is a worthy addition. It has a number of options that can tailor its operation to different situations, see the Usage section on the project page. Don’t be misled by the name, Ksuperkey doesn’t have a bunch, or even any, KDE dependencies that will be added to your system. Its name merely reflects it’s heritage.