KDE, Linux, OpenSuse, Uncategorized

Compiz works great with KDE 5

Compiz was pretty much “the thing” that got me started with Linux. Whenever it comes up on online forums, there are usually a few people who say the same thing. When KDE 5 and Gnome 3 made their own compositors and window managers a lot the Compiz functionality was replaced. Most people seem to be content with this and Compiz was regarded as a thing of the past. When KDE 5 and Gnome 3 first came out Compiz was completely incompatible. Now it is possible to get Compiz running on both.

I’ve always felt that Compiz offered a lot more and was generally more useful than the KDE effects. Today I found out, it really isn’t that hard to get Compiz working in KDE 5 with Plasma.

I’m using Open SUSE but you should be able to find these packages in whatever distribution you are using.

Compiz is the window manager, Emerald is the window decorator, Compizconfig Settings Manager is the configuration tool, and Fusion Icon sets everything up.

You’ll want to disable KDE’s desktop effects. Search “Compositor” in your application menu and disable “Enable compositor on startup”.

Search “Autostart” in your application menu. Add fusion-icon to run on startup. Run fusion-icon from a terminal or the applications menu, and you should be able to change your window manager to Compiz. Right click the Fusion icon and choose “Select Window Manager”. Once that is set, it will replace your window manager on startup. From the Fusion Icon, you can set your Emerald Theme and Compiz settings.

If you log back in and you don’t have a desktop, or your desktop is blank, this is easy to fix. The blank desktop issue seems to happen if Compiz loads too fast. Replacing the autostart fusion-icon command with a script with the contents sleep 5; fusion-icon seems to give KDE enough time to load the desktop before Compiz loads. Compiz still starts while KDE is loading, so you don’t see a hacky switch in window managers 5 seconds into your desktop session.

If you want to use the “Windows Previews” plugin in Compiz, you may see two window previews when you hover over your task manager if KDE’s window previews are turned on. To disable this, right click your task manager, click “Task Manager Settings” and uncheck “Show Previews”.

So why even use Compiz? One of the main features for me is, just by holding down shift while switching desktops, I can bring the window with me while moving to different sides of the cube. I’ve never been able to find a way to do this in KDE. There are also a lot more features, plugins, and themes.

A lot of it seems frozen in time. A lot of the Emerald themes I remember from 10 years ago. But they still work fine

I think Compiz was good for the Linux community. It got a lot of people talking about Linux and a lot of people using Linux. It is kind of unfortunate that it was shut out by the big two desktop environments. When Compiz was popular, I remember seeing new plugins in the Compiz settings manager every few weeks. It has been years since KDE 5 was released and there are hardly any plugins for it’s “Desktop Effects”.

I know a lot of Linux users dismiss Compiz as pointless “bling”. Even if this was true, people were sharing Compiz videos and people were trying Linux just for Compiz. I think it would of been better if Gnome and KDE didn’t shut Compiz out.

Whatever the issue was with KDE 5, it seems to be fixed. With Gnome, even though most online posts say it is impossible to run Compiz, it has been reported to work if you start Gnome in “fallback mode”.

Elementary OS, Linux, Uncategorized

Updates to Relay

I pushed out some updates to Relay. You can find the changes on Github or Launchpad. Relay is an elegant and sleek IRC client designed for Elementary OS but will work on any Linux OS.

Relay will try to switch to a theme that looks good. You can now disable this by passing the -t option.

I also added better Unicode support and fixed an issue that was causing it to close prematurely.

Here is what Relay looks like. Its one of the nicest looking IRC clients out there.

Screenshot from 2015-07-04 13:52:24

Elementary OS, Linux, Ubuntu

Create BTRFS Snapshots With Each apt-get Transaction

So I took it upon myself to fork apt-btrfs-snapshot. It is a program that takes BTRFS snapshots after each apt transaction. I wanted it to use Snapper because Snapper has a GUI. Snapper also abstracts all of the functionality of working with BTRFS snapshots.

Here are some of the things its provides:

  • Management via a GUI
  • Rollbacks without mounting anything
  • A list of what files were changed and their filesizes
  • Tracking of what packages were installed
  • Pre and post snapshots
  • Automatic clean up

You can check it out on github:

64bit .deb

Ubuntu 14.04 Ubuntu 14.10 Ubuntu 15.04
32bit .deb 32bit .deb 32bit .deb
64bit .deb 64bit .deb 64bit .deb

You can use a tool called gdebi to grab all the dependencies you need, which are only really Python and Ssnapper. If you want this done for you run
gdebi apt-btrfs-snapper_0.4.1_all.deb

Management Via a GUI

You can check out this post on installing Snapper GUI on Ubuntu. As you can see below you get a list of all your snapshots and in the bottom you can see what packages were installed. If you hold down control you can select two snapshots and open up the changes view to see what files were changed.

Snapper-GUI on Ubuntu
Snapper-GUI on Ubuntu


To rollback to a previous version you just type:
sudo apt-btrfs-snapper --restore .
Replace <ID> with the snapshot ID or the snapshot name. This will delete, create, and modify your files to get your machine back in the state that it was in when that snapshot was created. You can then roll forward in time just by using a newer ID. You don’t need to restart anything.


You can get a list of snapshots with:
sudo apt-btrfs-snapper list
You can then see what files were changed between two snapshots with:
sudo apt-btrfs-snapper diff

Here is a sample of that output:

c   391 B      /usr/share/doc/maya-calendar-plugin-caldav/changelog.gz
c   391 B      /usr/share/doc/maya-calendar-plugin-google/changelog.gz
c   391 B      /usr/share/doc/maya-calendar/changelog.gz
c   542 B      /usr/share/doc/pantheon-files/changelog.gz
c   246 B      /usr/share/doc/pantheon-photos-common/changelog.Debian.gz
c   246 B      /usr/share/doc/pantheon-photos/changelog.Debian.gz
c   854 B      /usr/share/doc/plank/changelog.Debian.gz 

You can use snapper itself to restore an individual file to a specific state.

Tracking of what packages were installed

apt-btrfs-snapper saves the names of all the packages that were installed in the user data of each snapshot. The best place to view this is in snapper-gui. It can be viewed in the snapper command line tools but it is hard to read. You can see this in the bottom pane in the screenshot above.

Pre and post snapshots

apt-btrfs-snapper takes a snapshot before and after each transaction. They are grouped together in snapper-gui. You can easily see what changes took place between the two snapshots.

Automatic clean up

One of the best parts about snapper are the clean up algorithms built into it. apt-btrfs-snapper simply uses the configuration settings set for the number cleanup algorithm which is part of snapper.

So check it out. Its stable, works great, and makes taking and manipulating BTRFS snapshots a lot easier.


Installing Snapper-GUI on Ubuntu: A GUI for BTRFS Snapshots

Snapper GUI is a great program and one you absolutely need if you are using Snapper on a desktop. Snapper is a program that helps manage snapshots on the btrfs filesystem. This quick guide will go over how to install it on Ubuntu.

Snapper-GUI on Ubuntu
Snapper-GUI on Ubuntu

Run the following in a terminal.

First install the packages you will need to run:
sudo apt-get install python3 libgtksourceview-3.0-1 python3 python3-dbus python3-setuptools git

Then clone the snapper-gui GIT repo somewhere:
git clone --depth=1 https://github.com/ricardomv/snapper-gui.git

cd into the snapper-gui folder GIT created and run:
sudo python3 setup.py install

Now run the program:

If you haven’t made a config with snapper first run:
snapper create-config /

Now that you have it installed you can use apt-btrfs-snapper to take a snapper snapshot every time you do an apt-get transaction.

Bash Scripts, Elementary OS, Linux

Updated Desktop Slideshow script for ElementaryOS

ElementaryOS logo A few days ago I released a desktop wallpaper slideshow script for ElementaryOS. A user pointed out that it wasn’t changing the login screen wallpaper. I added a fix and now your login screen will have a random background; the same one as the desktop slideshow. If there is a big demand for them to be independant of eachother I may make the desktop slideshow differ from the login screen.

You can still use the -bootonly flag to only set only one random wallpaper once when you log in to ElementaryOS. This will now also change your login screen’s wallpaper.

If you rather not change the login screen background from the default ElementaryOS one you can use the –nologin flag.

To change the login screen you will need qdbus. You can install it with apt-get install qdbus.

I added a bunch of logging which is useful if you give the desktop slideshow script a large number of files to work with. Occasionally you may see an x on your desktop indicating that an image couldn’t load. You can then check the logs with tail -f /var/log/syslog and see what image is giving you issues. Then you can delete it or move it. You must enable logging with the –log flag for this to work.

As always you can get the wallpaper slideshow script from Github. Check out the last post for more information on installing and running the Wallpaper Slideshow script. Let me know if you encounter any issues. Its always good to hear feedback.

Bash Scripts, Linux

Get the size of your BTRFS Snapshots

If you want to get the size of your BTRFS snapshots you would probably use btrfs qgroup show.  This only shows you a list of IDs and the sizes are in bytes. I wrote a script that will convert the sizes from bytes to kilobytes, megabytes or gigabytes. It will combine the IDs with the name of each snapshot or subvolume from btrfs subvolume list to make each row a lot more meaningful.

In the end instead of seeing a list like this:
Screenshot from 2015-05-26 15:47:24

You’ll see:

Detailed information of each BTRFS snapshot
Detailed information of each BTRFS snapshot

Instead of meaningless IDs you now have the name of your BTRFS subvolumes or snapshots. Instead of a hard to decipher string of bytes it converts each amount into the most appropriate unit of measurement. You can also see the total amount of data that is being used by the snapshots.

For this to work you first need to enable  quotas. Run this command to enable quotas if you haven’t done so already:

sudo btrfs quota enable /

You can clone the project from github by running:
git clone https://github.com/agronick/btrfs-size.git

Or you can just go a wget on the script:
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/agronick/btrfs-size/master/btrfs-size.sh

Set it to executable with:
chmod +x ./btrfs-size.sh

Now you can just run the script with: ./btrfs-size.sh

All the columns are pretty self explanatory. The Total column will tell you how much data is in that BTRFS subvolume. The Exclusive Data column is how much data is exclusive to that subvolume. Since BTRFS is a “copy on write” filesystem none of the data is replicated when you create a snapshot. It only needs to make a copy when something changes.

Leave your feedback here to let me know how it worked for you.


Debugging Vala programs in an IDE


Geany is an IDE the supports a number of languages including Vala. This tutorial will show you how to get the debugger plugin for Geany working with Vala code. At the time of this writing the plugin in the Ubuntu repositories happens to be broken. We’ll install it from source and configure it for Vala. If you don’t use Ubuntu or a derivative like Elementary OS this article should still be applicable. You just might need to change a few things.


You can install Geany with:
sudo apt-get install geany

There is a package called geany-plugin-debugger. You can try installing it. At the time of this writing its broken. It installs to the wrong location. If you copy the files to the right location it causes a segmentation fault as soon as you enable it. This was reported half a year ago: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/geany-plugins/+bug/1354747

Instead you can get all the plugins for Geany off Github. At the current time the version of Geany in the Ubuntu repos is 1.24. All we care about is the debugger but the other ones are nice to have. I removed the ones from the build script that won’t compile on 1.24 and forked it. You can get it using this command:
git clone https://github.com/agronick/geany-plugins.git

If you have Geany 1.25 grab the offical one:
git clone https://github.com/geany/geany-plugins.git

You need autotools to compile it. Just do sudo apt-get autotools 

Now to install it just do:
make -j PROCESSORS #Replace PROCESSORS with the number of processor cores your computer has or the number of jobs you want to spawn to compile
sudo make install

Hopefully this worked. If you get an dependency error install whatever dependency is missing.

Now open up Geany. If you go to Tools > Plugin Manager you should be able to enable the debugger. It wont work just yet though. There are a few more things you need to set up.


At this point you’ll want to create a new project. Now you’ll need to set the build parameters. Go to Build > Set Build Commands.

Set this under Vala Commands:

Label Command
Compile valac -c "%f"
Build valac -g --save-temps --pkg gtk+-3.0 "%f"

You can remove the –pkg gtk+-3.0 part if you don’t want to build GTK apps.

Now you will need to do the following:

  1. Insert a breakpoint in your Vala program
  2. Click the build icon
  3. Open the debugging view
  4. Browse for the executable it created
  5. Run your Vala program

Steps for debugging
 There you go. You now have a working Vala debugger. You can step through the code and look up variables at runtime right in your IDE. I hope this helps and is useful. I know I was looking for it for a few months. Its nice to finally have.

I also made this video on how to debug segmentation faults in a command line: