Tag : gui

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How to run graphics-accelerated GUI apps in LXD containers on your Ubuntu desktop

In How to run Wine (graphics-accelerated) in an LXD container on Ubuntu we had a quick look into how to run GUI programs in an LXD (Lex-Dee) container, and have the output appear on the local X11 server (your Ubuntu desktop).

In this post, we are going to see how to

  1. generalize the instructions in order to run most GUI apps in a LXD container but appear on your desktop
  2. have accelerated graphics support and audio
  3. test with Firefox, Chromium and Chrome
  4. create shortcuts to easily launch those apps

The benefits in running GUI apps in a LXD container are

  • clear separation of the installation data and settings, from what we have on our desktop
  • ability to create a snapshot of this container, save, rollback, delete, recreate; all these in a few seconds or less
  • does not mess up your installed package list (for example, all those i386 packages for Wine, Google Earth)
  • ability to create an image of such a perfect container, publish, and have others launch in a few clicks

What we are doing today is similar to having a Virtualbox/VMWare VM and running a Linux distribution in it. Let’s compare,

  • It is similar to the Virtualbox Seamless Mode or the VMWare Unity mode
  • A VM virtualizes a whole machine and has to do a lot of work in order to provide somewhat good graphics acceleration
  • With a container, we directly reuse the graphics card and get graphics acceleration
  • The specific set up we show today, can potential allow a container app to interact with the desktop apps (TODO: show desktop isolation in future post)

Browsers have started having containers and specifically in-browser containers. It shows a trend towards containers in general, it is browser-specific and is dictated by usability (passwords, form and search data are shared between the containers).

In the following, our desktop computer will called the host, and the LXD container as the container.

Setting up LXD

LXD is supported in Ubuntu and derivatives, as well as other distributions. When you initially set up LXD, you select where to store the containers. See LXD 2.0: Installing and configuring LXD [2/12] about your options. Ideally, if you select to pre-allocate disk space or use a partition, select at least 15GB but preferably more.

If you plan to play games, increase the space by the size of that game. For best results, select ZFS as the storage backend, and place the space on an SSD disk. Also Trying out LXD containers on our Ubuntu may help.

Creating the LXD container

Let’s create the new container for LXD. We are going to call it guiapps, and install Ubuntu 16.04 in it. There are options for other Ubuntu versions, and even other distributions.

$ lxc launch ubuntu:x guiapps
Creating guiapps
Starting guiapps
$ lxc list
|     NAME      |  STATE  |        IPV4        |  IPV6  |    TYPE    | SNAPSHOTS |
| guiapps       | RUNNING | |        | PERSISTENT | 0         |

We created and started an Ubuntu 16.04 (ubuntu:x) container, called guiapps.

Let’s also install our initial testing applications. The first one is xclock, the simplest X11 GUI app. The second is glxinfo, that shows details about graphics acceleration. The third, glxgears, a minimal graphics-accelerated application. The fourth is speaker-test, to test for audio. We will know that our set up works, if all three xclock, glxinfo, glxgears and speaker-test work in the container!

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt update
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install x11-apps
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install mesa-utils
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install alsa-utils
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ exit $

We execute a login shell in the guiapps container as user ubuntu, the default non-root user account in all Ubuntu LXD images. Other distribution images probably have another default non-root user account.

Then, we run apt update in order to update the package list and be able to install the subsequent three packages that provide xclock, glxinfo and glxgears, and speaker-test (or aplay). Finally, we exit the container.

Mapping the user ID of the host to the container (PREREQUISITE)

In the following steps we will be sharing files from the host (our desktop) to the container. There is the issue of what user ID will appear in the container for those shared files.

First, we run on the host (only once) the following command (source),

$ echo "root:$UID:1" | sudo tee -a /etc/subuid /etc/subgid
[sudo] password for myusername: 

The command appends a new entry in both the /etc/subuid and /etc/subgid subordinate UID/GID files. It allows the LXD service (runs as root) to remap our user’s ID ($UID, from the host) as requested.

Then, we specify that we want this feature in our guiapps LXD container, and restart the container for the change to take effect.

$ lxc config set guiapps raw.idmap "both $UID 1000"
$ lxc restart guiapps

This “both $UID 1000” syntax is a shortcut that means to map the $UID/$GID of our username in the host, to the default non-root username in the container (which should be 1000 for Ubuntu images, at least).

Configuring graphics and graphics acceleration

For graphics acceleration, we are going to use the host graphics card and graphics acceleration. By default, the applications that run in a container do not have access to the host system and cannot start GUI apps.

We need two things; let the container to access the GPU devices of the host, and make sure that there are no restrictions because of different user-ids.

Let’s attempt to run xclock in the container.

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ xclock
Error: Can't open display: 
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ export DISPLAY=:0
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ xclock
Error: Can't open display: :0
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ exit

We run xclock in the container, and as expected it does not run because we did not indicate where to send the display. We set the DISPLAY environment variable to the default :0 (send to either a Unix socket or port 6000), which do not work either because we did not fully set them up yet. Let’s do that.

$ lxc config device add guiapps X0 disk path=/tmp/.X11-unix/X0 source=/tmp/.X11-unix/X0 
$ lxc config device add guiapps Xauthority disk path=${XAUTHORITY} source=/home/${USER}/.Xauthority

We give access to the Unix socket of the X server (/tmp/.X11-unix/X0) to the container, and make it available at the same exactly path inside the container. In this way, DISPLAY=:0 would allow the apps in the containers to access our host’s X server through the Unix socket.

Then, we repeat this task with the ~/.Xauthority file that resides in our home directory. This file is for access control, and simply makes our host X server to allow the access from applications inside that container. For the host, this file can be found in the variable $XAUTHORITY and should be either at ~/.Xauthority or /run/myusername/1000/gdm/Xauthority. Obviously, we can set correctly the path= part, however the distribution in the container needs to be able to find the .Xauthority in the given location.

How do we get hardware acceleration for the GPU to the container apps? There is a special device for that, and it’s gpu. The hardware acceleration for the graphics card is collectively enabled by running the following,

$ lxc config device add guiapps mygpu gpu
$ lxc config device set guiapps mygpu uid 1000
$ lxc config device set guiapps mygpu gid 1000

We add the gpu device, and we happen to name it mygpu (any name would suffice). In addition to gpu device, we also set the permissions accordingly so that the device is fully accessible in  the container. The gpu device has been introduced in LXD 2.7, therefore if it is not found, you may have to upgrade your LXD according to https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-lxc/+archive/ubuntu/lxd-stable Please leave a comment below if this was your case (mention what LXD version you have been running). Note that for Intel GPUs (my case), you may not need to add this device.

Let’s see what we got now.

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ export DISPLAY=:0
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ xclock

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ glxinfo -B
name of display: :0
display: :0  screen: 0
direct rendering: Yes
Extended renderer info (GLX_MESA_query_renderer):
    Vendor: Intel Open Source Technology Center (0x8086)
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ glxgears 

Running synchronized to the vertical refresh.  The framerate should be
approximately the same as the monitor refresh rate.
345 frames in 5.0 seconds = 68.783 FPS
309 frames in 5.0 seconds = 61.699 FPS
300 frames in 5.0 seconds = 60.000 FPS
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ echo "export DISPLAY=:0" >> ~/.profile 
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ exit

Looks good, we are good to go! Note that we edited the ~/.profile file in order to set the $DISPLAY variable automatically whenever we connect to the container.

Configuring audio

The audio server in Ubuntu desktop is Pulseaudio, and Pulseaudio has a feature to allow authenticated access over the network. Just like the X11 server and what we did earlier. Let’s do this.

We install the paprefs (PulseAudio Preferences) package on the host.

$ sudo apt install paprefs
$ paprefs

This is the only option we need to enable (by default all other options are not check and can remain unchecked).

That is, under the Network Server tab, we tick Enable network access to local sound devices.

Then, just like with the X11 configuration, we need to deal with two things; the access to the Pulseaudio server of the host (either through a Unix socket or an IP address), and some way to get authorization to access the Pulseaudio server. Regarding the Unix socket of the Pulseaudio server, it is a bit of hit and miss (could not figure out how to use reliably), so we are going to use the IP address of the host (lxdbr0 interface).

First, the IP address of the host (that has Pulseaudio) is the IP of the lxdbr0 interface, or the default gateway (ip link show). Second, the authorization is provided through the cookie in the host at /home/${USER}/.config/pulse/cookie Let’s connect these to files inside the container.

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ echo export PULSE_SERVER="tcp:`ip route show 0/0 | awk '{print $3}'`" >> ~/.profile

This command will automatically set the variable PULSE_SERVER to a value like tcp:, which is the IP address of the host, for the lxdbr0 interface. The next time we log in to the container, PULSE_SERVER will be configured properly.

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ mkdir -p ~/.config/pulse/
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ echo export PULSE_COOKIE=/home/ubuntu/.config/pulse/cookie >> ~/.profile
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ exit
$ lxc config device add guiapps PACookie disk path=/home/ubuntu/.config/pulse/cookie source=/home/${USER}/.config/pulse/cookie

Now, this is a tough cookie. By default, the Pulseaudio cookie is found at ~/.config/pulse/cookie. The directory tree ~/.config/pulse/ does not exist, and if we do not create it ourselves, then lxd config will autocreate it with the wrong ownership. So, we create it (mkdir -p), then add the correct PULSE_COOKIE line in the configuration file ~/.profile. Finally, we exit from the container and mount-bind the cookie from the host to the container. When we log in to the container again, the cookie variable will be correctly set!

Let’s test the audio!

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu
ubuntu@pulseaudio:~$ speaker-test -c6 -twav

speaker-test 1.1.0

Playback device is default
Stream parameters are 48000Hz, S16_LE, 6 channels
WAV file(s)
Rate set to 48000Hz (requested 48000Hz)
Buffer size range from 32 to 349525
Period size range from 10 to 116509
Using max buffer size 349524
Periods = 4
was set period_size = 87381
was set buffer_size = 349524
 0 - Front Left
 4 - Center
 1 - Front Right
 3 - Rear Right
 2 - Rear Left
 5 - LFE
Time per period = 8.687798 ^C

If you do not have 6-channel audio output, you will hear audio on some of the channels only.

Let’s also test with an MP3 file, like that one from https://archive.org/details/testmp3testfile

ubuntu@pulseaudio:~$ sudo apt install mpg123
ubuntu@pulseaudio:~$ wget https://archive.org/download/testmp3testfile/mpthreetest.mp3
ubuntu@pulseaudio:~$ mplayer mpthreetest.mp3 
MPlayer 1.2.1 (Debian), built with gcc-5.3.1 (C) 2000-2016 MPlayer Team
AO: [pulse] 44100Hz 2ch s16le (2 bytes per sample)
Video: no video
Starting playback...
A:   3.7 (03.7) of 12.0 (12.0)  0.2% 

Exiting... (Quit)

All nice and loud!

Troubleshooting sound issues

AO: [pulse] Init failed: Connection refused

An application tries to connect to a PulseAudio server, but no PulseAudio server is found (either none autodetected, or the one we specified is not really there).

AO: [pulse] Init failed: Access denied

We specified a PulseAudio server, but we do not have access to connect to it. We need a valid cookie.

AO: [pulse] Init failed: Protocol error

You were trying as well to make the Unix socket work, but something was wrong. If you can make it work, write a comment below.

Testing with Firefox

Let’s test with Firefox!

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install firefox
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ firefox 
Gtk-Message: Failed to load module "canberra-gtk-module"

We get a message that the GTK+ module is missing. Let’s close Firefox, install the module and start Firefox again.

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt-get install libcanberra-gtk3-module
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ firefox

Here we are playing a Youtube music video at 1080p. It works as expected. The Firefox session is separated from the host’s Firefox.

Note that the theming is not exactly what you get with Ubuntu. This is due to the container being so lightweight that it does not have any theming support.

The screenshot may look a bit grainy; this is due to some plugin I use in WordPress that does too much compression.

You may notice that no menubar is showing. Just like with Windows, simply press the Alt key for a second, and the menu bar will appear.

Testing with Chromium

Let’s test with Chromium!

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install chromium-browser
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ chromium-browser
Gtk-Message: Failed to load module "canberra-gtk-module"

So, chromium-browser also needs a libcanberra package, and it’s the GTK+ 2 package.

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install libcanberra-gtk-module
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ chromium-browser

There is no menubar and there is no easy way to get to it. The menu on the top-right is available though.

Testing with Chrome

Let’s download Chrome, install it and launch it.

ubuntu@guiapps:~$ wget https://dl.google.com/linux/direct/google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb
Errors were encountered while processing:
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install -f
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ google-chrome
[11180:11945:0503/222317.923975:ERROR:object_proxy.cc(583)] Failed to call method: org.freedesktop.UPower.GetDisplayDevice: object_path= /org/freedesktop/UPower: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.ServiceUnknown: The name org.freedesktop.UPower was not provided by any .service files
[11180:11945:0503/222317.924441:ERROR:object_proxy.cc(583)] Failed to call method: org.freedesktop.UPower.EnumerateDevices: object_path= /org/freedesktop/UPower: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.ServiceUnknown: The name org.freedesktop.UPower was not provided by any .service files
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ sudo apt install upower
ubuntu@guiapps:~$ google-chrome

There are these two errors regarding UPower and they go away when we install the upower package.

Creating shortcuts to the container apps

If we want to run Firefox from the container, we can simply run

$ lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu firefox

and that’s it.

To make a shortcut, we create the following file on the host,

$ cat > ~/.local/share/applications/lxd-firefox.desktop[Desktop Entry]
Name=Firefox in LXD
Comment=Access the Internet through an LXD container
Exec=/usr/bin/lxc exec guiapps -- sudo --login --user ubuntu firefox %U
$ chmod +x ~/.local/share/applications/lxd-firefox.desktop

We need to make it executable so that it gets picked up and we can then run it by double-clicking.

If it does not appear immediately in the Dash, use your File Manager to locate the directory ~/.local/share/applications/

This is how the icon looks like in a File Manager. The icon comes from the high-contrast set, which now I remember that it means just two colors 🙁

Here is the app on the Launcher. Simply drag from the File Manager and drop to the Launcher in order to get the app at your fingertips.

I hope the tutorial was useful. We explain the commands in detail. In a future tutorial, we are going to try to figure out how to automate these!

Workaround for bad fonts in Google Earth 5 (Linux)

Update Jan 2010: The following may not work anymore. Use with caution. See relevant discussions at http://forum.ubuntu-gr.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=15607 and especially http://kigka.blogspot.com/2010/11/google-6.html

Older post follows:

So you just installed Google Earth 5 and you can’t figure out what’s wrong with the fonts? If your language does not use the Latin script, you cannot see any text?

Here is the workaround. The basic info comes from this google earth forum post and the reply that suggests to mess with the QT libraries.

Google Earth 5 is based on the Qt library, and Google is using their own copies of the Qt libraries. This means that the customisation (including fonts) that you do with qtconfig-qt4 does not affect Google Earth. Here we use Ubuntu 8.10, and we simply installed the Qt libraries in order to use some Qt programs. You probably do not have qtconfig-qt4 installed, so you need to get it.

So, by following the advice in the post above and replacing key Qt libraries from Google Earth with the ones provided by our distro, solves (read: workaround) the problem. Here comes the science:

If you have a 32-bit version of Ubuntu,

cd /opt/google-earth/
sudo mv libQtCore.so.4 libQtCore.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtGui.so.4 libQtGui.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtNetwork.so.4 libQtNetwork.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtWebKit.so.4 libQtWebKit.so.4.bak
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/libQtCore.so.4.4.3  libQtCore.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/libQtGui.so.4.4.3  libQtGui.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/libQtNetwork.so.4.4.3  libQtNetwork.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/libQtWebKit.so.4.4.3  libQtWebKit.so.4

If you have the 64-bit version of Ubuntu, try

cd /opt/google-earth/

sudo getlibs googleearth-bin
sudo mv libQtCore.so.4 libQtCore.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtGui.so.4 libQtGui.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtNetwork.so.4 libQtNetwork.so.4.bak
sudo mv libQtWebKit.so.4 libQtWebKit.so.4.bak
sudo ln -s /usr/lib32/libQtCore.so.4.4.3  libQtCore.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib32/libQtGui.so.4.4.3  libQtGui.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib32/libQtNetwork.so.4.4.3  libQtNetwork.so.4
sudo ln -s /usr/lib32/libQtWebKit.so.4.4.3  libQtWebKit.so.4

Requires to have getlibs installed, and when prompted, install the 32-bit versions of the packages as instructed.

Now, with qtconfig-qt you can configure the font settings.

Playing with Git

Git is a version control system (VCS) software that is used for source code management (SCM). There are several examples of VCS software, such as CVS and SVN. What makes Git different is that it is a distributed VCS, that is, a DVCS.

Being a DVCS, when you use Git you create fully capable local repositories that can be used for offline work. When you get the files of a repository, you actually grab the full information (this makes the initial creation of local repositories out of a remote repository slower, and the repositories are bigger).

You can install git by installing the git package. You can test it by opening a terminal window, and running

git clone git://github.com/schacon/whygitisbetter.git

The files appear in a directory called whygitisbetter. In a subdirectory called .git/,git stores all the controlling information it requires to manage the local repository. When you enter the repository directory (whygitisbetter in our case), you can issue commands that will figure out what’s going on because of the info in .git/.

With git, we create local copies of repositories by cloning. If you have used CVS or SVN, this is somewhat equivalent to the checkout command. By cloning, you create a full local repository. When you checkout with CVS or SVN, you get the latest snapshot only of the source code.

What you downloaded above is the source code for the http://www.whygitisbetterthanx.com/ website. It describes the relative advantages of git compared to other VCS and DVCS systems.

Among the different sources of documentation for git, I think one of the easiest to read is the Git Community Book. It is consise and easy to follow, and it comes with video casting (videos that show different tasks, with audio guidance).

You can create local repositories on your system. If you want to have a remote repository, you can create an account at GitHub, an attractive start-up that offers 100MB free space for your git repository. Therefore, you can host your pet project on github quite easily.

GitHub combines source code management with social networking, no matter how strange that may look like. It comes with tools that allows to maintain your own copies of repositories (for example, from other github users), and helps with the communication. For example, if I create my own copy of the whygitisbetter repository and add something nice to the book, I can send a pull request (with the click of a button) to the maintainer to grab my changes!

If you have already used another SCM tool (non-distributed), it takes some time to get used to the new way of git. It is a good skill to have, and the effort should pay off quickly. There is a SVN to Git crash course available.

If you have never used an SCM, it is cool to go for git. There is nothing to unlearn, and you will get a new skill.

Git is used for the developement of the Linux kernel, the Perl language, Ruby On Rails, and others.

The Keyboard Layout Editor

Update Dec 2010: Get the latest version of the Keyboard Layout Editor from https://github.com/simos/keyboardlayouteditor

(this entry is a repost, the original was lost in a database mishap.)

As part of the 2008 GSoC program, I worked on a Keyboard Layout Editor for the X.Org Foundation.

The Keyboard Layout Editor (KLE) is an application that allows you to create keyboard layouts for the X.Org server, commonly found in the Linux, OpenSolaris, *BSD, etc Desktops.

My mentor was Sergey Udaltsov, maintainer of xkeyboard-config, the Keyboard Indicator applet in GNOME, supporting libraries for keyboard layouts and much more. I had great help and Sergey was very supportive. Highly recommended mentor for your GSoC’09 project.

The Keyboard Layout Editor showing a layout

The Keyboard Layout Editor showing a layout

The screenshot above shows the main window of the program; a keyboard with blank layout (keys are empty), a section Add to layout with items that can be used to populate the layout, and a section for the description of the layout (Layout details).

There are typically two workflows; first you start off with a blank layout and you add Unicode characters, dead keys, include files, then you save.

The other workflow is to start with an appropriate existing layout as a base, then add more characters, make changes, etc.

It might be strange to talk about different workflows, but in terms of usability it’s important provide assistance for such cases. For example, having tooltips is important when a person starts off with a new layout.

Using the Keyboard Layout Editor

Using the Keyboard Layout Editor

Here we started with a blank layout; we click on Start Character Map, then locate the characters you need, and drag and drop them to the appropriate keys. Each key is composed of four parts, and we number these from 1 to 4. The way we count is quite peculiar,

  1. bottom left, when you press the key as is (key)
  2. top left, when you press the key with Shift (Shift + key)
  3. bottom right, when you press the key with AltGr (AltGr + key)
  4. top right, when you press the key with Shilft+AltGr (Shift + AltGr + key)
Analysis of a key

Analysis of a key

This is my entry to the most engineered diagram competition.

The dead keys relate to diacritic marks such as grave and acute. Since they are too small to see, we present them next to a D letter (D for Dead key). In some cases I could not find a character equivalent to the diacritic mark, so I put ?, therefore it looks like D?. If you put the mouse pointer over the key, you can see the full details in the tooltip.

Including files

Including files

In many cases, there exist layouts/variants that contain most of the characters you want to add. In this case, you add and enable in the Include files section. You can then override any of those characters by dragging and dropping to the layout.

At this stage in the blog post, it is important to clarify the notions of a layout and a variant. The two are quite similar and the distinction is messy when trying to explain to the end-user. The French layout file is fr, which contains several variants (distinct groups of mappings of physical keys to Unicode characters). When you are actually talking about a French keyboard layout, you are actually referring to the default variant of the «fr» file. Oftentimes people refer to the «fr» file as a whole as the French layout. You can also pick a non-default variant of the layout file, and call it your layout.

The way I would like to define layout and variant is this: a layout refers to the default variant of the layout file. This is consistent to the fact that distributions pick the default variant in the settings so it’s what get the most visibility, or when users select a new layout, they are presented with the default setting first. Regarding layouts in general, it is important for different languages/scripts to make effort that the default layout is updated and includes extra useful and relevant characters.

The new Greek keyboard layout

The new Greek keyboard layout

This is the updated Greek keyboard layout, and is the near-final version that we are planning to submit to xkeyboard-config. It adds Greek Polytonic to the existing Greek layout.  It does not make changes to the previous default layout, so users will not be unpleasantly surprised. It also adds all sort of characters that are found in the Greek Unicode block.

In this post I simplified some of the terms/description. If I went a bit too far, please correct me and I’ll update in-place.

Update 8th Sep 08: What are the plans for further development of the layout editor;

  • Increase the user base and get more people trying out the editor. This requires some more cleanup of the code, more instructions on how to run it youselves, and get people to provide feedback. An open-source project without users is not a successful project.
  • Make it easier for developers to contribute on the project. If you use Eclipse, you can install pydev, antlr3ide, mylyn, subclipse, and you can do the full development from within the cozy Eclipse environment. These need documentation.
  • The Issues page at the project has about ten items. This list needs to be reduced.
  • The natural place for users of the layout editor is the http://listserv.bat.ru/xkb/List.html mailing list. We need to promote the editor there, and get examples of users actually using it to maintain layouts.
  • An issue that plagues some users is when they need compose sequences to generate characters that no pre-composed forms exist. If users really need this (mainly Latin and Cyrillic scripts, complex scripts), it can be adapted to the UI.
  • It is technically easy to adapt the editor so that it produces XML layouts. Considering the state of XKB-atkins, this may not be a top priority at the moment. libxml2 comes with the MIT license, so in license terms it would be OK. Not sure if it is OK to link libxml2 to the X.org server. It might actually solve the slow parsing of the configurations files and the issues of xkbcomp.
  • At the moment the default geometry is a somewhat generic keyboard. In addition, I deactivated several keys (such as the function keys), in order not to confuse users (you can activate with a small change in the code). The keyboard can be expanded to a full 105-keys style. A related project would be to figure out an efficient way to edit those geometry files, and make the keyboard customised. If people start creating layouts with the editor, they will certainly love to edit geometry files!

Today you’ll make history with Firefox

Today you’ll make history with Firefox

Are you ready to make history? Are you ready to set a World Record? Today is Download Day. To become part of the official Guinness World Record you must download Firefox 3 by 17:00 18:15 UTC on June 18, 2008, or roughly 24 hours from now.

Download page with live download statistics

The sender of this email is Mozilla Corporation, 1981 Landings Drive, Bldg. K, Mountain View, CA 94043-0801.

Did you receive your notification for your pledge?

The Firefox Download Day has just started. We are already counting 1 and a half hours in the download day. See download countdown which shown until when your downloads count for the record attempt.

Mozilla.com is currently very slow due to the repeated attempts to download. I hope the issue is resolved soon.

Update +2 hours: Now it works; when you visit the download page, it now shows correctly that Firefox 3.0 is available for download.

Update +16 hours: The download count reached 5,400,000 downloads. It is good to drive it higher. You can get your national download total, and ask your friends and family to help increase it.

Update +20 hours: The download count is over 6,000,000 downloads. Due to the technical issues at the start of the record attempt, the deadline for downloads has been extended by one hour and 15 minutes.

Update +24 hours: The download count is nearing 8,000,000 downloads. We have a bit more than an hour to go (due to the technical issue that delayed the start of the downloads). Can we make it to 8 million?

Update +25 hours: We did it! 8 million downloads in 24 hours! World record!

Update +30 hours: The world record attempt has been completed. Still, the Firefox 3 downloads continue. At the moment we surpassed 9.4 million downloads and counting.

Keyboard Layout Editor GSOC project

I got accepted for a GSOC project with the X.Org Foundation. My mentor is Sergey Udaltsov and I look forward working with him.

The project is about creating a Keyboard Layout Editor, that can be used to edit XKB files with a nice GUI.

I will be blogging about these from here (fdo category at this blog).

One-line hardware support (USB Wireless Adapter)

I got recently a USB Wireless Adaptor, produced by Aztech. It was a good buy for several reasons:

  • It advertised Linux support
  • It was affordable
  • It had good quality casing; you can step on it and it won’t break
  • It had the Penguin on the box and was really really cheap

When I plugged it in on my Linux system, it did not work out of the box. The kernel acknowledged that a USB device was inserted (two lines in /var/log/messages) but no driver claimed the device.

With the package came a CD which had drivers for several operating systems, including Linux. Apparently one would need to install the specific driver. I think the driver was available in both source code and as a binary package (for some kernel version).

The kernel module on the CD was called zd1211, so I checked whether my kernel had such a module installed. To my surprise, there was such a kernel module, called zd1211rw. I hope you have better chance with the URL because now the website appears to be down (Error 500).

Therefore, what was wrong with my zd1211rw kernel module? Reading the documentation of project website, I figured out that you have to report the ID (called the USB ID) of your adapter  so that it is included in the kernel module, and when you plug in your device, it will be automatically detected.

You can find the USB ID by running the command lsusb. Then, it is a one-line patch for the zd1211rw driver to add support for the device,

— zd1211rw.linux2.6.20/zd_usb.c      2007-09-25 14:48:06.000000000
+++ zd1211rw/zd_usb.c    2007-09-28 11:35:51.000000000 +0300
@@ -64,6 +64,7 @@
{ USB_DEVICE(0x13b1, 0x0024), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0586, 0x340f), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0baf, 0x0121), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
+       { USB_DEVICE(0x0cde, 0x001a), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
/* “Driverless” devices that need ejecting */
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0ace, 0x2011), .driver_info = DEVICE_INSTALLER },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0ace, 0x20ff), .driver_info = DEVICE_INSTALLER },

What Aztech should have done is to submit the USB ID to the developers of the zd1211rw driver. In this way, any Linux distribution that comes out with the updated kernel will have support for the device.

It is very important to get the manufacturers to change mentality. From offering a CD with “drivers”, for free and open-source software they should also work upstream with the device driver developers of the Linux kernel. The effort is small and the customer benefits huge.


(see http://www.guadec.org/schedule/warmup)

At the first presentation, Quim Gil talked about GNOME marketing, what have been done, what is the goal of marketing. He showed a focused mind on important marketing tasks; it is easy to get carried away and not be effective, a mistake that happens in several projects.

The next session was by Tomas Frydrych (Open Hand – I have their sticker on my laptop!) on memory use in GNOME applications. Many people complain that XYZ is bloated. However, this does not convey what exactly happens; pretty useless. In addition, the common tools that show memory use do not show the proper picture because of the memory management techniques. That is, due to shared libraries, the total memory occupied by an application appears very big. A tool examined is exmap. This tool uses a kernel module that shows memory use of applications by reading in /proc. It takes a snapshot of memory use; it’s not real-time info. It comes with a GTK+ front-end (gexmap) that requires a big screen (oops, PDAs). However, it is not suitable for internet tablets and other low-spec devices. Therefore, they came up with exmap-console which addresses the shortcommings. It has a console interface based on the readline library.

Here are the rest of my notes. Hope they make sense to you.

. exmap –interactive
. ?: help
. Head: quite useful (dynamic allocation)
. Mapped:
. Sole use: memory that app is using on its own (rss?)
. “sort vm”
. “print” or “p”
. “add nautilus”
. “clear”
. “detail file” (what executables/libs loaded and how much consume)
. “detail none”

Sole use
. valgrind, to analyse Sole Use memory?
. “detail ????”

Lots of small libraries: overhead

Looking ahead
. Pagemap: by Matt Macall
. http://projects.o-hand.com/exmap-console/

. Sole use: ~18MB ;-(

Tomas was apparently running Ubuntu with the English UK locale. The English UK translation team is doing an amazing job at the translation stats. Actually, most messages are copied, however with a script one can pick up words such as organization and change to organisation. The problem here is that, for example, the GAIM mo file is 215KB (?), however for the British English translation the actual changes should be less than 2-3KB. Messages that are missing from a translation mean that the original US English messages will be used. I’ll have to find how to use msgfilter to make messages untranslated if msgid == msgstr. Where is Danilo?

After lunch time (did not go for lunch), I went to the Accerciser session. Pretty cool tool, something I have been look for. Accerciser uses the accessibility framework of GNOME in order to inspect the windows of running applications and see into the properties. A good use is to identify if elements such as text boxes come with description labels; they are important to be there for accessibility purposes (screen reader), as a person that depends on software to read (text to speech) the contents of windows.

The next session was GNOME accessibility for blind people. Jan Buchal gave an excellent presentation.

My notes,

. is from Chech republic, is blind himself. has been using computers for 20+ years

. from user perspective
. users, regular and irregular 😉
. software
. firefox 3.0beta – ok for accessibility other versions no
. gaim messenger ok
. openoffice.org ok but did not try
. orca screenreader ^^^ works ok.
. generally ready for prime time
. ubuntu guy for accessibility was there
. made joke about not having/needing display slides ;-]
. synthesizer: festival, espeak, etc – can choose
. availability of voices
. javascript: not good for accessibility
. links/w3m: just fine!
. firefox3 makes accessibility now possible.
. web designer education, things like title=””, alt=”” for images.
. OOo, not installed but should work, ooo-gnome
. “braillcom” company name
. “speech dispatcher”
. logical events
. have short sound event instead of “button”, “input form”
. another special sound for emacs prompt, etc.
. uses emacs
. have all events spoken, such as application crashing.
. problems of accessibility
. not money main factor, but still exists.
. standard developers do not use accessibility functions
. “accessor” talk, can help
. small developer group on accessiblity, may not cooperate well
. non-regular users (such as blind musician)
. musicians
. project “singing computer”
. gtk, did not have good infrastructure
. used lilypond (music typesetter, good but not simple to use)
. singing mode in festival
. use emacs with special mode to write music scores (?)
. write music score and have the computer sing it (this is not “caruso”)
. gnome interface for lilypond would be interesting
. chemistry for blind
. gtk+
. considering it
. must also work, unfortunately, on windows
. gtk+ for windows, not so good for accessibility
. conclusion: free accessibility
. need users so that applications can be improved
. have festival synthesizer, not perfect but usable
. many languages, hindi, finnish, afrikaans
. endinburgh project, to reimplement festival better
. proprietary software is a disadvantage
. q: how do you learn to use new software?
. a: has been a computer user for 20+ years, is not good candidate to say
. a: if you are dedicated, you can bypass hardles, old lady emacs/festival/lilypond
. brrlcom, not for end-users(?)
. developer problem?
. generally there is lack of documentation; easy to teach what a developer needs to know
. so that the application is accessible
. HIG Human Interface Guidelines, accessible to the developers
. “speakup” project
. Willy, from Sun microsystems, working on accessibility for +20 years, Lead of Orca.
. developers: feel accessibility is a hindrance to development
. in practice the gap is not huge
. get tools (glade) and gtk+ to come with accessibility on by default
. accessibility
. is not only for people with disabilities
. can do amazing things like 3d interfaces something

These summaries are an important example of the rule that during presentation, participants tend to remember only about 8% of the material. In some examples, even less is being recollected.

What’s wrong with health care systems?

It is generally quite easy to create a blog using one of those online services such as Blogspot. In fact many people create a blog and after a couple of posts they lose interest and neglect to update it. There is a blog I would like to draw your attention to, http://fakellaki.blogspot.com/. This blog was last updated on 3rd May 2007, one month ago. Quite sadly, it will not get updated again because the blogger has just passed away.
Amalia, the blogger, has been a victim of malpractice of the health service (both national and private) who failed her. For Amalia At the age of 8 she was complaining that there was pain at her leg. The doctors failed to diagnose a case of schwannoma (a type of benign tumour). Seventeen years latter and after many visits, the tumour became malign and she developed cancer. A further five years of fight against cancer and she passed away in May 2007.
At the time of writing, her final blog post has over 1500 comments.
In the US there is no national healthcare system which leaves tens of millions of people without basic healthcare. For the rest, who have private healthcare, it appears there is a varying degree of satisfaction. Michael Moore, in his latest documentary Sicko, talks about the trend in the US private healthcare system to actively look for technicalities so that they do not cover the medical expenses.
What is wrong with the health care system? Is health care inherently expensive so that quality naturally drops? Are the examples depicted above the norm or are they just mere exceptions? What’s the true cause of the problem?

Convert your legacy font to Unicode

There exist quite a few legacy fonts, from the time that 8-bit-style encodings was the norm. Nowdays, most (if not all) spoken and ancient scripts have been added to the Unicode standard.
Therefore, if you have a legacy font, you can convert to Unicode using a guide by William J Poser. The guide uses Linear B as an example.

The program mentioned in the guide is pfaedit, which is now known as FontForge. FontForge is available in your Ubuntu distribution; simply search using the package manager.

Once you have a Unicode font, the next step is to prepare an input method so that you can write in this script. But that’s another blog post.

Open Font License (OFL) 1.1 Released

Dear OFL friends and reviewers,

We’re pleased to finally announce the completion of the SIL Open Font
License version 1.1. This free and open license has been updated to improve
clarity, remove potential ambiguities, and make it easier to use for both
authors and users.

Visit the OFL web site for more information:


A detailed list of changes can be found on the review page:


The only notable change in usage is that authors must now explicitly list
any names that should be Reserved Font Names. The original name of the font
is no longer reserved by default.

Thanks to all of you who have helped us refine this license and make it even
easier to use and understand.

Victor Gaultney & Nicolas Spalinger

Source: http://openlists.sil.org/archives/ofl-discuss/2007-February/000160.html

The OFL is a free and open-source license specifically designed for the licensing of fonts.

Video playback problems (black) after installing Beryl (or Compiz)

Note: Here we describe a workaround. The proper solution is to fix the graphics drivers and the X.Org X server. Such work is taking place, and for several cases you do not need this workaround. Especially with newer versions of Linux.

You just installed your 3D Linux desktop and you are really enthusiastic about it. But when you try to play some videos, you get a strange black output. What’s going on?
The common software video players that come with the Linux desktop are able to display the video stream to several types of output devices. This includes several types of output for the graphical interface, and also obscure output devices such as text mode, using ASCII characters.
The default output device is XVideo (or Xv) for players such as those based on GStreamer (totem) and VLC.
As you guessed, there is a bug with XVideo when using Beryl/Compiz. Therefore, to fix, you need to switch to another output device that works.
For GStreamer players (such as totem, the default movie player in GNOME, Ubuntu and so on), you need to run from the command line the command
(with older distributions such as Ubuntu 6.06 there is an option in System/Preferences for this).
and pick
Video, then for Default Video Plugin choose X Window System (No Xv). Click on test to verify that it actually works. Click Close and you are set.
VLC is not installed by default in Ubuntu 6.10. You need to install manually using the Synaptic Package Manager (under System/Administration), once you have activated the Universe repository in Repositories.
Start VLC and click on Settings, then Preferences. Expand Video and then expand Output modules. You will notice several options for output device. How do we actually choose which one should be the active output device? Well, it appears it’s a bit tricky. Select the item Output modules, and notice the checkbox at the bottom right that says Advanced options. Check the box, and now you have the option to select a different output device. Pick X11 video output, click on Save and you are set!

Update (17 Jun 2007): Added section at UbuntuGuide.org, How do I fix black windows during video playback.