Category Archives: Science

Palemoon browser

The Pale Moon browser was forked off the Mozilla Firefox codebase a couple of years ago, before Firefox switched to the Australis User Interface. Since then, the project has steadily been diverging from the Firefox codebase, optimizing its Gecko layout engine and rebranding that to ‘Goanna’ (which is the name of just another lizard). The community has a large vote in the direction the Pale Moon browser’s features are taking.

People are drawn to Pale Moon because it promises to be a browser that is leaner than the modern-day Firefox. Pale Moon has the look and feel of Firefox like it was years ago, which has a certain appeal. Firefox and Chrome are both plagued by code bloat. The Australis UI ruined Firefox for many people. Also, Pale Moon supports the old Mozilla Sync (Weave 1.x). You can easily setup your own private sync server at home.
Yet, Pale Moon promises to give you a contemporary user experience regardless.

On SlackBuilds.org (SBo) you will find two different scripts to create a Pale Moon package. One, called palemoon, will wrap the official binaries into a Slackware package. The other, called PaleMoon, is a build-from-source which attempts to stay close and true to the Pale Moon project’s official recommendations about the use of compilers (GCC 4.x but not newer) and optimizations (compiler flags are “-O2 -msse2 -mfpmath=sse”). The Pale Moon developers have decided that these conditions are necessary to compile their sources into a stable browser (i.e. one that is not prone to crashing all the time on sites that are heavy on media or JavaScript).

The lead developer of Pale Moon is also very strict about the use of his official branding by 3rd party source builds that are re-distributed as unofficial binaries. Builds that do not conform to these policies, must use unofficial branding (a monochrome logo, and the name “New Moon”). The scripts on slackbuilds.org do not re-distribute binaries so they are not affected by these policies.

I decided that I was curious enough to write a SlackBuild of my own, and see what I thought of Pale Moon. I took inspiration from Slackware’s mozilla-firefox.SlackBuild and then did two things crucially different from the official recommendations. I used the default gcc compiler of the Slackware release I built the package on (Slackware 14.2 has gcc-5.3.0 and -current had 5.4.0 at the time when I ran the compilation… of course, now -current has gcc-7.1.0). And the optimization I chose is “-Os”; a conservative optimization with a focus on smaller code size, instead of better speed.

The resulting package seems to be stable, and it is not crashing on web sites where other 3rd party builds seem to falter. See this LQ thread for more details about problematic web sites which my binary shows without issue. Also – judging from the forum posts – it appears that many crashes are triggered when running Pale Moon in KDE4 with the oxygen theme selected for your GTK+2 programs. I fixed that instability by applying a patch to oxygen-gtk2 that can be found in its code repository but was never included in an official release. That patched oxygen-gtk2-1.4.6.1 package is available in my SlackBuild repository, and is also included in my ‘ktown‘ repository for the Plasma 5 desktop environment. I urge you to upgrade your Slackware package to this version.

Moonchild, the lead developer, gave his approval to use official branding in a series of private conversations we had, but being a Windows person he wants his Linux developer to check my package out. I told him that I will have a Pale Moon package in my repository, or none at all – I will not use unofficial “New Moon” branding. My package should give you a stable browsing experience – if not, let me know and do not bother the Pale Moon developers. So, if you see the palemoon package disappear from my repository, you’ll know that I have fallen out with the project and am not agreeing to their requests.
So far so good of course – this is Slackware, and we offer a nice & stable OS to run this browser on. I hope that some of you will find your new favorite browser in Pale Moon.

KDE 5_15.04 for Slackware-current: back to work

qt-kde-620x350An update to my KDE 5 packages was overdue. Ever since the “big upgrade” in Slackware-current a week ago on 21 April 2015, there have been some stability issues in the Plasma 5 desktop. The instability was caused by the version bumps of various libraries that the KDE software is depending on – you can not dynamically link to a software library that’s no longer there because it has been replaced with a library bearing a new version number. I felt I had to recompile everything just to be sure there was no hidden “breakage” left, and so I took the opportunity to wait for the newest Plasna release and present you wilth all-new packages.

My April release of KDE 5_15.04 consists of Frameworks 5.9.0, Plasma 5.3.0 and Applications 15.04.0 plus the latest updates of the KDE 4 Long Term Support (LTS) packages kdelibs, kdepimlibs, kdepim, kdepim-runtime and kde-workplace. Also there’s been a bit of a shake-up in the “deps” directory containing the direct dependencies for this release.

About Plasma 5

Slackware-current will stick with KDE 4.14.3 plus the latest LTS updates. KDE 5, or Plasma 5 as many people like to call it, is not yet fit for the average user. It is fairly stable, has some nice new concepts but if you are not the curious or tinkering kind, you will be better off with Slackware’s KDE 4.14.3.

If you are curious and like to tinker, and don’t care if some functionality is temporarily missing from Plasma 5 that you were used to in KDE 4, then my Plasma 5 packages will be a nice and interesting update for your Slackware-current computer (32-bit or 64-bit). The KDE 5 matures with every release of its components. In particular, the new Plasma 5.3.0 is a “new features” release working its way towards full Wayland support (no, we do not use that yet, and X.Org is also fully supported). And the April ’15 release of the KDE Applications brings the number of applications that have been ported to KF5 (KDE Frameworks 5) to a grand total of 72.

New to the Applications starting with 15.04 is KDE Telepathy (an Instant Messaging & Voice Over IP client on top of the telepathy communications framework) and Kdenlive, the non-linear video editor. BOth are filling a void in the KDE desktop that has existed for many years. I have to tell you that I have not yet built packages for them, but I will look at them for a future iteration. It would only have delayed the release of my packages at this moment.

Remember, there is no choosing between KDE 4 and Plasma 5 – KDE 4 will be mostly replaced (I say “mostly” because there are still a lot of KDE 4 applications in this release).

What’s new in KDE 5_15.04?

The highlights of this 5_15.04 March release are:

  • KDE Frameworks have been updated to 5.9.0 (includes a new Framework: ModemManagerQt which is the former libmm-qt5 which has been promoted from Plasma to Frameworks and renamed)
  • KDE Plasma has been updated to 5.3.0 (new features release)
  • KDE Applications have been updated to 15.04.0 (increasing the number of KF5 ports to 72)
  • KDE Extragear has been emptied: all the extragear packages are now available in slackware-current itself. Report any breakage that you encounter!!
  • The “deps” directory for this release contains updates to stock Slackware packages: PyQt, eigen2, phonon, phonon-gstreamer, sip, xapian-core, and there’s three new “deps” packages as well since my previous release: PyQt5, cfitsio and grantlee-qt5. You’ll notice that several other “deps” packages have been upgraded or at least rebuilt.
  • Gone from the “deps” because they are now part of Slackware-current:  LibRaw, akonadi, attica, cmake, eigen3, exiv2, grantlee, harfbuzz, libfakekey, libodfgen, librevenge, libssh, libwpd, orc, poppler, qt, shared-desktop-ontologies, soprano, strigi.

Installing or upgrading Frameworks 5, Plasma 5 and Applications

The recent mass-update in Slackware-current will make this upgrade to KDE 5_15.04 particularly difficult. Remember: “don’t drink and drive“!

As always, the accompanying README file contains full installation & upgrade instructions. Note that the packages are available in several subdirectories below “kde”, instead of directly in “kde”. This makes it easier for me to do partial updates of packages. The subdirectories are “kde4”, “kde4-extragear”, “frameworks” “plasma”, “plasma-extra” and “applications”.

Upgrading to this KDE 5 is non-trivial. You will have to remove old KDE packages manually. If you do not have KDE installed at all, you will have to install some of Slackware’s own KDE 4 packages manually. I can not guarantee that there will be no deal-breakers for you (missing functionality or persistent crashes).

Note:

If you are using slackpkg+, have already moved to KDE 5_15.01 or newer and are adventurous, you can try upgrading using the following set of commands. This should work but feel free to send me improved instructions if needed (assuming in this example that you tagged my KDE 5 repository “ktown_testing”):
# slackpkg update
# slackpkg install ktown_testing (to get the newly added packages from my repo)
# slackpkg install-new (to get the new official Slackware packages that were part of my deps previously)
# slackpkg upgrade ktown_testing (upgrade all existing packages to their latest versions)
# slackpkg upgrade-all (upgrade the remaining dependencies that were part of my repo previously)
# removepkg sddm-theme-breeze (gone after KDE 5_15.01)
# removepkg libmm-qt5 (gone after KDE 5_15.03)

My observations after upgrading

There were a couple of things I had to go through to get the Plasma 5 desktop into an OK state:

  • At first start, the screen remained black even though I could see the “wmsystemtray” was visible and the mouse pointer was definitely a KDE pointer. I killed the X server (Ctrl-Alt-BackSpace) and started again. This time the desktop came up as anticipated.
  • I had added Konsole  to the Favourites menu earlier. Both Konsole and Systemsettings icons in the Favourites were non-functional and missing their icons. I had to remove and re-add them.
  • KDEConnect was added to my system tray earlier. After the upgrade to KDE 5_15.04 I could see an empty square where I assume KDEConnect wanted to dock – but it did not respond to clicking. I had to right-click on the system tray and disable KDEConnect from being shown, click Apply, and then make the KDEConnect widget show again.
  • The default desktop background and the start/lock screen are quite a bit flashier. I like the changes in the theming.
  • Still no suspend/hibernate buttons. And the shutdown/reboot options will only appear if you edit the “/usr/bin/startkde” script – removing the call to “kwrapper” as explained here.

Where to get the new packages for Plasma 5

Download locations are listed below (you will find the sources in ./source/5/ and packages in /current/5/ subdirectories). If you are interested in the development of KDE 5 for Slackware, you can peek at my git repository too.

Using a mirror is preferred because you get more bandwidth from a mirror and it’s friendlier to the owners of the master server!

Have fun! Eric

Steam for Linux Beta opens to everyone

 

The Steam for Linux beta program has just opened its doors to the general public.

When I looked, there were 48 games in the Steam catalogue, paid-for ans well as free-to-play. Part of opening up the Steam for Linux beta is moving their bug tracker to Github, which allows for a better interface than the old bugtracker which was used during the closed-beta phase.

Here is the official announcement:

An Early Holiday Gift!
added by Frank @ 01:13AM on December 20, 2012

The Steam for Linux beta program is now open to the public! In order to participate in the beta, you must download the latest Steam Linux client (found here) or upgrade your existing Steam for Linux client to the latest version. In addition, we will now track Steam for Linux client bugs using GitHub. This provides a better interface for tracking bugs than the forums used in the closed beta. The Steam for Linux repository (currently empty) is public, allowing anyone with a free GitHub account to create a new issue and edit or track it and search the existing bug database. The repository contains a readme file (README.md) detailing how to create a new issue (it describes the same format used in the closed beta). The team will continue working through existing issues in the forum but it is strongly recommended that any new issues be entered using GitHub’s issue tracking interface. The sub forums will remain open so that people can join/continue existing discussions about the Steam for Linux client. And last but not least, we now have a steam installer package repository. There is a mailing list for announcing updates to the steam installer package. To subscribe, use the public mailman page located here: https://list.valvesoftware.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/steamrepo. Here’s the change list for this release:

  • The Steam for Linux client closed beta transitioned to an open beta.
  • Linux – Fixed excessive CPU usage by the Steam client when running Team Fortress 2
  • Linux – Fixed overlay crash when starting Cubemen
  • Big Picture – Improved back navigation behavior throughout user interface
  • Big Picture – Added discount timers and other user interface to store

Remember, my Steam Client package for Slackware can be found here: http://www.slackware.com/~alien/slackbuilds/steamclient/ . I will have to look into the new installer repository to see if I have to update the download link for my own package but that may have to wait until the weekend.

This LinuxQuestions.org thread is still being used for discussions and bug reporting.

Cheers, Eric

Celestial phenomenon in Norway

An interesting celestial phenomenon early this morning above northern part of Norway – witnessed by thousands of people all over Norway:

tandberg_spiral_phenomenon

Foto: Svein-Egil Haugen

A fireball with a huge blue tail dominated the skies over Norway in the early dawn. The spectacle lasted for two minutes and ended in a spiral of light. A possible explanation is that this was a missile gone out of control, but the Russians deny (of course) that they fired a missile. Chief scientist Erik Tandberg at the norwegian Space Center speculates that this could be an entirely new natural event, although the light show lasted too long to be easily explained as an astronomical phenomenon.

The Sun (UK paper) has some coverage and a load of pretty pics. Another article can be read (if you understand norwegian at least) at the norsk site http://www.nrk.no/ and interestingly it hosts some film footage of the event online, a compilation of several amateur short videos.

I love mysteries!

Eric