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.

Dynamic Colour Changes in Conky

Conky is a popular system monitor that I have blogged about before. Its advantages are that it can be whatever you want it to be. You decide what is displayed and the format and so much more.
I’ve got a couple of Conkys on my regular desktop. The main one displays system info and is the one I’m updating today. The other one displays the Now Playing details. It works with both Amarok and Clementine as I switch between them all the time. It only appears when either is in use.
The main Conky includes battery information for both the batteries in my Thinkpad. The information includes the current charge level of each battery, the time remaining on the battery that is currently being used and the status of the batteries i.e. if they are discharging or charging. There is an additional line that shows whether the AC Adapter is attached or not, actually whether it is supplying power or not.
It all has worked well for a while but I wanted the battery information to change colour dependent on the current charge level. A search gave me a number of similar methods of achieving this.
Conky battery status

All these methods had one thing in common, they used Conky’s battery_percent variable but I prefer and use the battery variable. The reason they use the battery_percent variable is simple, battery_percent has a numeric output and therefore the if_match command is easy to use to match the battery charge level. I prefer the battery variable as it outputs status as well as the charge level.
After some experimenting I found a simple solution. I use the battery_percent variable in the if_match statement but use the battery variable for the output. The line from my conkyrc is below. It is all one line in the conkyrc and the second line is the same with BAT) set to BAT1.

$font${color1}Battery 1: $color${if_match ${battery_percent BAT0}<=15}${color7}${blink ${battery BAT0}}${color}${else}${if_match ${battery_percent BAT0}<=25}${color8}${battery BAT0}${else}${if_match ${battery_percent BAT0}>25}${color}${battery BAT0}${endif}${endif}${endif}, ${battery_time BAT0}${color}

The if_match variable looks for 3 different battery charge levels. Above 25% it shows in the regular text colour I use through most of the display. When it reaches 25% the line changes to gold text. A third check looks for a charge of less than 15%. At that point the line of text turns red and starts to blink.

Conky Manager

Conky Manager is a simple way for those who aren’t familiar with Conky to start using it. I’ve mentioned before that I like Conky and have occasionally mentioned how powerful it can be. However making the first steps is the hardest part. It has a very steep learning curve so anything that gets you started is a good idea. That’s where Conky Manager comes in.

Cm-Korora

Conky Manager comes with a number of preformatted Conkys and a search of the internet will locate several more packs that can easily be added to Conky Manager.

The screen shows a list of the installed configurations and below a preview of most. There is an option to recreate the previews. This is handy if you edit any of the designs as I did in the displayed example.

 

Once you’ve selected the design you want there are some options that you can set. These depend on the design but commonly let you choose the screen location and correct network interface and similar personalisations that are unique to your system. You can then start the Conky, set it to autostart whenever you restart the computer. If you want to customise it further you can open it in a text editor.

Conky Manager is available in the repos of most manager distros including Korora and Fedora. You can install it in Korora easily with sudo yum install conky-manager.

If you have ever been curious about Conky and wanted to try it there is no easier way than with Conky Manager, give it a go.

Desktops, Drivers and Other Stuff

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time switching back and forward between Xfce (my preferred Desktop Environment) and KDE. I once ran KDE almost exclusively but for various reasons I’ve been using Xfce for the last couple of years.

One of the reasons was the frequency of KDE to lock up. It would just stop running. I have long suspected it was a graphics problem but had no proof. I have  a nVidia GT240 video card and had been using the open source nouveau driver. After a recent lock up I was forcing a shutdown when the screen filled with nouveau errors. Although I prefer to use open source drivers where possible I decided to install the nvidia drivers from RPMFusion using Korora’s PharLap application.

All went well with the installation and it did solve the lock up problems. Doing a bit of research I found an old bug which has been kept current. As far as I can see there has been no action on it. Anyhow problem solved and now I have working Xfce and KDE desktops and can and do switch between them as I feel like it.

Speaking of old bugs a long time I reported a problem with landscape printing and after much investigation by many people it was narrowed down to cups-filters and an update provided which fixed the problem. Now some months later those packages were updated and the problem returned. I commented on the bug and straight away another update was provided along with an apology. Well done Jiri Popelka. I tested and provided karma to the update so hopefully it is making its way through the update system now.

I’ve been testing installations on a uefi system the last couple of days. I was surprised how simple it was with Korora and so also with Fedora. More details later but if you want a linux system on an uefi computer either as a single installation or a dual boot Korora is the way to go.