09 November 2016


I am utterly gutted from the results of the presidential election. It has me questioning so many things, about America, my place in it, my responsibility to it, and my responsibility to the rest of the world as someone in it.

I sense that the answer to all my questions is "more". But more what?

An evil that will rot the fiber of America has just been granted executive powers. Don't console yourselves that things won't be as bad as you fear. I've lived through this scenario elsewhere, and I know how it ends. It will get every bit as bad as you fear, and worse. One day, it will have gotten so bad that nothing will be able to fix it. Then you will look for someone to blame, and you'll try very hard to make that someone anyone but you.

No, the only sane choice for any sane American is to take the threat seriously and do more to make it stop NOW. Of course it's a cliché to intone Hitler, but yes, really. The parallels and precedents are too chillingly close, too chillingly clear. You need to actively shut down this burgeoning bullshit at every opportunity. Even when it costs you, when it's painful, when it's not fun.

So, more. But more what?

Up to now, I've tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to keep negative energy from dominating my discourse. I've also refrained from using my position of limited influence as an educator to actively influence others in ways that aren't directly related to what it is I am supposed to be influencing. However, the scope of the present threat is high enough that I'm thinking both of these practices need to change.

The threat to America has the tactical advantage of not having a moral compass. It has no constraint on what it's willing to do to reach its ends. Any expedient, any manipulation is acceptable. While I can't bring myself to abandon my belief that sustainable ends can really only be reached through means that are consistent with the values reflected in the ends, I am beginning to wonder whether in this current context a shitty unsustainability that keeps the patient alive isn't preferable to a dedication to higher principles that lets the patient die outright.

As a result, I'm thinking the responsible thing to do is to turn up the asshole knob several notches in relation to the love, peace, and understanding knob, and then turn the whole thing up to 11. This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. Apologies in advance.

The protagonist of Aldous Huxley's Island closes the novel with the same word he hears at the book's opening: "Attention." It took me a while to completely understand this. Today, I'm living it.


25 October 2016

Fixing PackageKit authentication in Debian sid under Xfce

Today after updating stuff, my pkexec commands (e.g., synaptic-pkexec) stopped working. I don't know whether this was caused by something I inadvertently did that borked things or whether it's a bug in Debian sid. I figured out that the root of the problem (no pun intended) is that a policy authentication agent was no longer loading on login -- in spite of policykit-1-gnome being installed and the entry for PolicyKit Authentication agent being checked in Xfce's Session and Startup autostarts.

Reinstalling stuff didn't help.

Further sleuthing revealed that the PolicyKit Authentication agent entry in Xfce's Session and Startup was pointing to a (now) nonexistent file: /usr/lib/policykit-1-gnome/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1. Further examination revealed that the file /etc/xdg/autostart/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1.desktop installed by policykit-1-gnome also was pointing to the same nonexistent file.

So here's what I did to kludge a fix:
  • Created a new directory /usr/lib/policykit-1-gnome
  • Added a link from /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1 to /usr/lib/policykit-1-gnome/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1.
After logging out and back in, things worked as expected.

I could have added a custom entry into my Xfce autostarts that pointed to the correct file, but that wouldn't have addressed the second issue of /etc/xdg/autostart/polkit-gnome-authentication-agent-1.desktop pointing to phantoms.

To undo the changes once/if the problem is better sorted, all I need to do is delete /usr/lib/policykit-1-gnome.

28 May 2016

Fixing virtual console resolution with nVidia driver

I tried a number of things to get a laptop with an nVidia GT218M [NVS 3100M] video card to provide decent resolution in virtual consoles. This particular unit needs to run the proprietary video drivers to behave well--the big exception being the big-and-fuzzy virtual terminal text.

What finally worked for me in /etc/default/grub was

# If you change this file, run 'update-grub' afterwards to update
# /boot/grub/grub.cfg.
# For full documentation of the options in this file, see:
#   info -f grub -n 'Simple configuration'

GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`

# Uncomment to enable BadRAM filtering, modify to suit your needs
# This works with Linux (no patch required) and with any kernel that obtains
# the memory map information from GRUB (GNU Mach, kernel of FreeBSD ...)

# Uncomment to disable graphical terminal (grub-pc only)

# The resolution used on graphical terminal
# note that you can use only modes which your graphic card supports via VBE
# you can see them in real GRUB with the command `vbeinfo'

# Uncomment if you don't want GRUB to pass "root=UUID=xxx" parameter to Linux

# Uncomment to disable generation of recovery mode menu entries

# Uncomment to get a beep at grub start
#GRUB_INIT_TUNE="480 440 1"
The important parts are the GRUB_GFXMODE=1600x900 and GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX=keep lines.

Don't forget to
$ update-grub
Credit goes to StackExchange.

01 May 2016

Adding "Run" options to Thunar

 Clicking on executable shell files no longer executes them in Thunar.

While there is a hidden option to revert to the old behavior, I decided in a new install to instead add right menu "Run" and "Run in terminal" custom actions. First create the custom actions from within Thunar to get valid unique-ids, and then open ~/.config/Thunar/uca.xml and edit the entries as needed:

    <command>exec ./&apos;%n&apos;</command>
    <description>Execute this file</description>
    <name>Run in terminal</name>
    <command>xterm -T &apos;%n&apos; -e &quot;./&apos;%n&apos;; echo &apos;&apos;; read -p &apos;Press &lt;Enter&gt; to close...&apos;&quot;</command>
    <description>Execute this file in a terminal</description>

26 April 2016

Concerns about Qt's increasing commercial focus

It's not just me. Phoronix is reporting on growing concerns in the Qt community about the project's increasing commercial focus and apparent deprecation of its open source core.

I have said many times in these pages and elsewhere that I really like Qt: it's the right tool for a lot of jobs. But increasingly I've been feeling that any contribution I make in educating users about Qt is benefiting a commercial enterprise and not a community tool. So much so that I am re-surveying other open source multi-platform libraries to use as an alternative to Qt.

If the community no longer has meaningful Qt ownership, a lot of users will no longer be interested.

25 April 2016

Fixing Debian sid touchpad with libinput

A recent sid update brought in Xorg's libinput package, which appears to make the old way of configuring touchpads (including synclient) obsolete.

One of the issues I had after the update was that my touchpad's tap-to-click stopped working. I fixed this using the info on this Stack Exchange post, namely I created a file
/usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-touchpad.conf containing:

Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "MyTouchpad"
        MatchIsTouchpad "on"
        Driver "libinput"
        Option "Tapping" "on"

Note the different location from the one in the post. I also disabled the old 50-synaptics.conf, 50-vmmouse.conf, and 51-synaptics-aptosid.conf files (the latter two present possibly only in aptosid).

Apparently, Petter Hutterer has a post that goes into detail regarding what you can do with libinput, but I've not yet had time to read it.

Update (later the same day): With the above changes, my touchpad still had behavioral problems. I'll return to this later, but for now I re-enabled 50-synaptics.conf, 50-vmmouse.conf, and 51-synaptics-aptosid.conf and purged xserver-xorg-input-libinput (which removed xserver-xorg-input-all).

10 April 2016

Qt "Demerger"

Phoronix reports that Qt will be "demerged" from parent company Digia soon.

It seems there has always been interesting dynamics around Qt, and this I suppose is the latest chapter. I'm hoping this is more of a good sign than a bad one.