77 thoughts on “My first maker recipe

  1. It’s my favorite pointing device as well, although I actually like the scroll wheel on later versions, at least until it stops working. I hate the wireless versions, which among other things are a little smaller. I’m no where near interested enough to try to fix

    As I understand it, they stopped making them because of a patent dispute, Gart vs Logitech.

  2. I’ve had problems with those PS/2 to USB convertors. The certainly need to be direct into a USB port and so a hub with local PSU on the desk does seem essential. But the TrackMan works fine on one of the single channel PS/2 to USB convertors even with an extra 6ft PS/2 extension. Again with the convertor plugged direct into the computer in this case. Active USB extensions seem to be must over passive ones?

    • >But the TrackMan works fine on one of the single channel PS/2 to USB convertors even with an extra 6ft PS/2 extension.

      What “single channel” converter are you referring to?

  3. I personally use and love a Logitech M570, but I can at least agree that the thumb-ball is the superior style of pointing device, especially for anyone who travels and uses a laptop a lot and thus doesn’t always have much flattish space for maneuvering a mouse. (Touchscreens are simply inferior for serious work no matter how hard Microsoft tries to push ’em, while trackpads and keyboard nubs are a nightmare best left in the past.)

    I agree about a scroll wheel being nice, but I use Auto Hot Key to rebind one of the back/forward buttons to serve as a middle mouse button instead of trying to click the wheel for most programs that need it.

  4. Since the second solution uses the entire wart, casing and all, is there any particular reason that this solution is superior to simply using the adapter as intended, with the DIN connector from the mouse plugged into the one from the adapter (maybe knotted together and/or wrapped in tape or heatshrink if you want a permanent connection)? Putting the board inside the mouse makes it nice aesthetically, but simply hardwiring the wart strikes me as a bit “too clever by half”.

    • > is there any particular reason that this solution is superior to simply using the adapter as intended.

      Only a weak one – fewer cable ends to dangle around (don’t forget tye keyboard connector) and fewere connectors to come unplugged.

      Remember that we had already modded the trackball; the second build was required to salvage the first.

      Also, I was having a low-risk, low-cost learning experience composing and troubleshooting the builds.

  5. My only suggestion is to ditch the electrical tape and get some silicone tape instead – it will last longer and stick to itself better.

    • Can’t order the Cablematic device – they require a VAT number which I of course don’t have.

      Any vendors in the U.S.?

  6. > My only suggestion is to ditch the electrical tape and get some silicone tape instead – it will last longer and stick to itself better.

    Or heat shrink.

  7. Greg Arnold on 2016-06-02 at 14:15:10 said:
    > Or heat shrink.

    I had a pair of glasses break about mid-day on Christmas Eve when I was 900 miles from home.

    “Fixed” them with a paperclip, a piece of scotch tape, two short sections of heat shrink and a lighter.

    Amazing what you can come up with when you spend 20 minutes walking around a Home Despot.

  8. Or a monster glob of silicone. I reckon he’ll be replacing the caps on the trackball long before the electric tape becomes an issue.

  9. Phlinn on 2016-06-02 at 11:05:08 said:
    > It’s my favorite pointing device as well, although I actually like the scroll wheel on
    > later versions, at least until it stops working.

    I have 2 of the USB versions, and one of the clones (Google Sanwa Supply MA-TB39BK). The clone is…not as good.

    > I hate the wireless versions, which among other things are a little smaller.
    > I’m no where near interested enough to try to fix

    I had one at a previous job, and it didn’t feel as nice as the USB versions (not as “solid” feeling), but it beat a mouse.

    > As I understand it, they stopped making them because of a patent dispute, Gart vs Logitech.

    Looks like that was overturned on appeal.

    They didn’t stop making the trackman, they just stopped making the USB version. I suspect it has more to do with marketing than anything else.

  10. Was this yak shaving on the way to get the Rasberry Pi Time Standard project underway?

    I also second the use of heat shrink tubing, places like Banggood sell multi-color / multi size assortment kits for < $10. You can always go for shrink wrap tape, but only if you are 100% sure you don't want to take it off the cable. So I would have done the broken cover fix with that process.

    • >Was this yak shaving on the way to get the Rasberry Pi Time Standard project underway?

      No, it was an unrelated thing I happened to be doing at the same time.

  11. I still prefer the Trackman Marble FX. I’m much better with my fingers than my thumb on using a trackball, and if you remap the top button to be the main button (instead of the thumb button on the bottom,) it’s a more natural way to hold the device.

  12. Hey Lester, I got curious and checked with a VPN and a freshly downloaded browser. It does NOT show up on a search of US amazon, and all the results from google and bing are mostly from cablematic.com or amazon.co.uk.

  13. I’ve just ordered 10 direct from cablematic … at a tenth the price I paid for the two I already have. Not sure if they are coming from Spain or locally in UK as the ‘thank you’ was signed Cablematic UK so will see when they turn up. If you would like a couple esr drop me an address privately and I’ll forward when they arrive. FOC – not worth the cost of printing an invoice :)

  14. Kinda wishing those photos were clearer. Trials and tribulations of zooming in with a smartphone? …except that I don’t know why you’d have that problem, since you can get close, and my own phone tends to take sharper photos…

    • >except that I don’t know why you’d have that problem, since you can get close,

      Apparently my 1+1’s autofocus is pretty sucky. Sorry about that

  15. > Remember that we had already modded the trackball; the second build was required to salvage the first.

    For some reason I thought that you had two adapters, since the second build shows an apparently intact case.

    • >For some reason I thought that you had two adapters, since the second build shows an apparently intact case.

      We did. We sacrificed a second one to beat the low-power problem by relocating the wart. The things cost less than $2.

  16. @Lester Caine – I wouldn’t trust an “encapsulated unit” that small to actually do protocol conversion rather than relying on having a dual-protocol device plugged into it.

    The related items on that page show several cable-type adapters for me. Maybe you’ve got some cookie or geoip situation causing you to be incorrectly redirected to the UK site for some reason?

  17. Okay, I see the cable you’re talking about now. I don’t trust that to do protocol conversion, either. I see another similar cable on a different site that specifically says it is only to be used with a specific brand of KVM switch (which I assume acts as a multi-protocol host)

  18. I just found an ebay item of the mouse sold alongside a similar passive adapter cable: http://www.ebay.com/itm/172140790830

    So maybe the Trackman Marble was in fact one of the rare PS2-corded dual-protocol devices (in which case simply splicing a USB cable directly to the on-board connector, or to any length of the existing PS2 cord of an intact mouse with no adapter at all would work).

    • >So maybe the Trackman Marble was in fact one of the rare PS2-corded dual-protocol devices (in which case simply splicing a USB cable directly to the on-board connector, or to any length of the existing PS2 cord of an intact mouse with no adapter at all would work).d

      It isn’t.

      With those you can use a passive adapter – if the computer has a “Legacy USB support” option in the BIOS. That is now uncommon, but I had an older machine I could test on and a passive adapter and it failed.

  19. My KVM system here is all ps2 mouse and keyboard based and given the investment in cabling and switch modules I don’t plan on changing it. I was caught out on a couple of upgrades where I was expecting the new motherboards to still have ps2 sockets, but like the parallel port these did go through a phase of being completely eliminated. Nowadays I simply make sure that new boards have a ps2 socket and the latest purchase is an M5A78L-MUSB3 board which has a ps2 combo port as well as an on board parallel port header. I know from previous experience that the USB2 sockets combined with the ps2 port will NORMALLY run legacy USB and take the mouse feed from ps2 to USB passive adapter, while other USB ports don’t work. It’s not something that is ever actually documented these days but much we learned in the past is coming back. This is in my view the correct way forward since many data centers need to maintain ps2 KVM support and the use of the active ps2 to usb converters has always been somewhat hit and miss. Certainly I have had to give up on kit that was USB only via the KVM system and ‘recycle’ it via other jobs. But ps2 is certainty not dead yet so the use of nice legacy kit like the tracker balls need not be a problem.

    • I, on the other hand, am making a determined effort to get rid of all my PS/2 ports. I hate those damned fiddly mini-DIN connectors – always have – and the lack of hot-swap counts as a significant PITA.

      I’m nearly there – just two machines left with PS/2, one decommissioned (the tower mailserver recently replaced by a fanless brick) and the other (Cathy’s tower desktop) soon to be replaced by a similar fanless brick.

  20. @ esr

    > my 1+1

    So you’re using CyanogenMod rather than vanilla Android? :O

    Also: I haven’t read your maker recipe (I’m not into electronics), but its appearance suggests you’re still using AsciiDoc. Aren’t you worried that its development seems dormant?

    (And there are three typos in the OP; but it’s very short, so I’ll let you find them yourself. :-))

    • >Aren’t you worried that [asciidoc’s] development seems dormant?

      No. It’s semi-dormant because the developers of a workalike called asciidoctor took the ball, ran with it, and the originator of asciidoc is now cooperating with them.

      I’m guessing the reason for this is that the initialization sequence of asciidoc proper is a horrible mess (you probably wouldn’t believe how tangled the rules are for order of interpretation of macro sources) but the author dare not change them for fear of breaking backward compatibility. The asciidoctor people on the other hand have felt free to simplify a lot of that stuff (with his tacit approval).

      Annoyingly, one of the simplifications means I can’t use asciidoctor for the NTPsec website. I can’t complain too hard, as I think the feature I’m using is actually something of a botch.

  21. I loathe and detest rat wrestling, so I delegate as much to the keyboard as I can (thanks i3) and use the double whammy of a trackball and a Wacom tablet for pointing. (It’s still hard to draw with a trackball.) I got one of those “inferior” TrackMan models with the wheel and the USB connector; it really comes in handy when I fire up Brutal Doom to rip and tear. Those are scarcely available anymore; I think I picked mine up on clearance when Circuit City closed down and their inventory got dumped on a local MicroCenter. Like Amiga hardware it’s going to enter a new realm of rare, pricey obsolete tech.

    This is quite a bit of hackery-dackery just to get a comfortable 3-button trackball, and it may be overkill when the final nail is soon to be driven into the coffin of X and its bizarre clipboarding implementation.

  22. > if the computer has a “Legacy USB support” option in the BIOS.

    Huh? To my understanding, “Legacy USB support” has nothing to do with the USB protocol, just allows software running on a computer to read from a USB mouse/keyboard as if it were a PS/2 one.

    • >Huh? To my understanding, “Legacy USB support” has nothing to do with the USB protocol, just allows software running on a computer to read from a USB mouse/keyboard as if it were a PS/2 one.

      I know my “Legacy USB support” has existed. It’a quite possible yours has too. Something made those damned green-shell passive adapters work back in the day (they don’t now). Possibly I have the feature name wrong. Or you do.

      Ouch. My head hurts thinking about this.

  23. @esr (from the recipe):
    The M570’s ergonomics aren’t bad, except that a scrollwheel that tends to scrollwheel when you want to middle-button is a deal-killer

    Would saying that I can live without a middle mouse button but lack of a scroll wheel is a deal killer elicit the response “@$#& kids, get off my lawn!”?

    I suppose your scrollwheel-optional attitude does explain why a lot of documents on catb.org are broken up into multiple html files instead of each being one long file (combined with many of those documents possibly predating both the scrollwheel and broadband Internet). Us scrollwheel addicts find such layouts incredibly frustrating: it’s like running into a brick wall at the end of every section.

    “Kids these days”.

    • >Would saying that I can live without a middle mouse button but lack of a scroll wheel is a deal killer elicit the response “@$#& kids, get off my lawn!”?

      Yes. Yes, it would

      >I suppose your scrollwheel-optional attitude does explain why a lot of documents on catb.org are broken up into multiple html files

      No, not really; I always assume people will do what you do with a scroll wheel by dragging the scrollbar.

      You’re probably right about my habits being a legacy of times of slow download, though.

  24. Along with the ps2/usb connector fun, we have vga/dvi/hdmi/display port and none of these seem to have had input from a reliability point of view. Network connections are also a reliable source of problems! Quite regularly a problem is fixed simply by unplugging and replugging the bloody cable because of the lousy connector designs and even SCART connectors are just as bad due to the cheapest possible manufacturing process. Along with the ps2 network most of my graphics is still via VGA and on the whole reliable … until one introduces a CATx link in the chain. I’ve been fighting an intermittent problem on graphics here which I’ve finally tracked down to a poor contact on the ‘display port’ connection .. loosing the data link so that SUSE13.2 keeps reconfiguring ALL the graphics. Plug and play has a place, but equally if I WANT to unplug a monitor because the system is VNCing it remotely I don’t want the OS switching it off! Pigging M$ introduced that on Windows XP and now linux seems to insist that ‘it is the only way you should work’. I’ve got dongles on most channels now to sort the resolution problem, as long as the connection can actually read it, but loosing the video termination is still an irritation.
    So how about a campaign for more reliable connectors and get back ‘nomodeset’ so we can at least know why the hardware is not working :)

  25. Huh? To my understanding, “Legacy USB support” has nothing to do with the USB protocol, just allows software running on a computer to read from a USB mouse/keyboard as if it were a PS/2 one.

    Since the code to read a PS/2 mouse/keyboard was also in the BIOS, it also allowed a PS/2 keyboard/mouse plugged in ia USB via a passive adapter to work. These things didn’t actually speak USB, but the BIOS could read the USB pins as if they were PS/2 pins. Nowadays you’re supposed to have your shit in one sock and have upgraded everything to USB, so now they don’t support that anymore especially with UEFI firmware having supplanted BIOS.

  26. @esr:
    No, not really; I always assume people will do what you do with a scroll wheel by dragging the scrollbar.

    My point exactly. Using the scrollbar is fairly tedious compared to using a scrollwheel, (except for large jumps in a long page) so you’re assuming a greater cost to the operation of moving up and down the page than a scrollwheel user would, and so the cost of having to switch pages at every section break bothers you less.

  27. I use mouse with scrollwheel (have place for it), but if I don’t want to get my hands off keyboard I use PgDown or Space to scroll… and really hate it if for some goddamned JavaScripty reasons it scrolls more than page. I don’t mind if documentation is divided into pages (though option to choose between single-page and multi-page HTML would be nice), provided that there is always link to the next and previous section, even if it is last subsection in section.

    PS/2 is supposedly more reliable than USB HID, but the fact that mouse and keyboard use the same format, but inputs are incompatible… not always is possible to look and check if the plug color matches socket color.

  28. > Something made those damned green-shell passive adapters work back in the day (they don’t now).

    To my understanding, whether passive adapters work has always been (except in very rare cases) a property of the mouse/keyboard (which I did describe above as “dual-protocol device”, most typically a device with a USB cord attached but which is capable of speaking PS2 protocol over the wire), not the host.

    The “Legacy USB support” was for the BIOS to initialize the USB stack at boot and allow software that uses BIOS keyboard calls to read from an AT/PS2 keyboard/mouse to read from a USB keyboard/mouse.

  29. > Since the code to read a PS/2 mouse/keyboard was also in the BIOS, it also allowed a PS/2 keyboard/mouse plugged in ia USB via a passive adapter to work. These things didn’t actually speak USB, but the BIOS could read the USB pins as if they were PS/2 pins.

    That is utter nonsense. The BIOS doesn’t “read pins”, it talks to controller chips.

  30. > Something made those damned green-shell passive adapters work back in the day (they don’t now).

    That passive adapters (which were usually F-USB/M-PS2, though the opposite did exist) were sold alongside keyboards and mice supports my version of things – they were guaranteed to work with *that device* with *all computers*. If it were guaranteed for *that computer* and *all devices* the adapter would have come with the computer instead.

  31. @ Jeff Read

    > I loathe and detest rat wrestling, so I delegate as much to the keyboard as I can (thanks i3)

    I’m okay with the mouse, probably because I used Windows for most of my life. Tried i3 and other tiling WMs, but they’re not for me. Ubuntu’s Unity provides several convenient keybindings anyway; and while that shell still has minor flaws, I’ve found our host’s objections to be largely unfounded.

    @ esr

    May I attempt to refute your case against Unity? After all, the present thread is partly about computer interfaces.

    > the initialization sequence of asciidoc proper is a horrible mess … but the author dare not change them [sic] for fear of breaking backward compatibility.

    In general, do you approve of that policy?

    By the way, the opening post still contains one typo: “The major reason fot this…”

    • >May I attempt to refute your case against Unity?

      You can try, but any interface that doesn’t even allow me to manage two separate instances of a the termimnal emulator will still be full of horrible FAIL whatever you say.

      >In general, do you approve of that policy?

      What I would have done is designed a new sequence that doesn’t suck and kept the old one as an option.

  32. > You can try, but any interface that doesn’t even allow me to manage two separate instances of a the [sic] termimnal [sic] emulator will still be full of horrible FAIL whatever you say.

    That’s the main claim I wanted to challenge: just right-click on the terminal emulator’s icon in the dock, and it will let you choose. Of course there’s also Alt+Tab and – at least since Ubuntu 14.04 – Super+W. The latter even lets you text-search among your windows.

    Which leads me to your objection against having to “text-search [your] applications to call one up”. Well, isn’t that what you’re doing nowadays with dmenu under i3?

    Mind you, I’m not trying to persuade you into going back to Unity. If you’re satisfied with i3, good for you – it’s much more lightweight. But you might want to reconsider the following passage of “How to Become a Hacker”:

    Beware, though, of the hideous and nigh-unusable “Unity” desktop interface that Ubuntu introduced as a default a few years later; the Xubuntu or Kubuntu variants are better.

    I find Unity quite usable and fairly keyboard-friendly, if not yet perfect. Overall, there’s no reason to warn newbies against it. You may object that it’s bloated… but so is Kubuntu. I’d recommend vanilla Ubuntu or, to those with older computers, Lubuntu (which is reportedly more lightweight than Xubuntu).

    > What I would have done is designed a new sequence that doesn’t suck and kept the old one as an option.

    Good idea. Do you know of any programs that already offer this kind of choice between new and old ways? Just a couple of examples would suffice.

    • >That’s the main claim I wanted to challenge: just right-click on the terminal emulator’s icon in the dock, and it will let you choose.

      I never found that feature – because there wasn’t any path to discovering it. And just because it existed doesn’t mean the Button-1 behavior wasn’t perverse. Why bind the natural behavior that application icons used to have to an obscure Alt combination and put a new, largely useless behavior in its place? Still FAIL.

      >Which leads me to your objection against having to “text-search [your] applications to call one up”. Well, isn’t that what you’re doing nowadays with dmenu under i3?

      Yes, and it’s the one thing I rather dislike about iconless WMs. The difference is that i3 gives me something back – it completely abolishes purely visual, blingy wastage on my display. Unity surely doesn’t do that, with its visually thick look like a diseased Fisher-Price toy. Or maybe more like a colossal turd with day-glo icing.

      >Do you know of any programs that already offer this kind of choice between new and old ways?

      X video configuration files are a notable example that worked this way for a while while they were getting EDID autoconfiguration right. That was some time back, I don’t think i’ve had to actually touch one this decade.

      The really right way to do this is: (a) define an all-in-one config file with a new name, (b) interpret it only, if it exists, (c) otherwise fall back on the messy old initialization sequence, (d) eventually stop documenting the old config style, and (e) remove the logic to interpret old style a long time later.

  33. SPOT ON esr
    My EDID stuff is no longer stable BECAUSE it keeps trying to ‘improve’ the settings. I dropped KDE4 until they got classic KDE3 back but it still noes not behave as well as it used to across three r four screens. Apparently every screen has to be capable of being configured differently.
    And don’t get me started on the pigging scroll bar … having to remember if an application pages or jumps when you are trying to do a page down with the mouse … scroll is NOT what I want, just a jump and render the next page of text … especially with all the animation crap.
    We are having the same sort of debate on PHP … which apparently has to be strictly typed and anything related to dynamic typing eliminated for user safety. If you want a different way of working don’t FORCE it on everybody else?

  34. @Jorge:
    That’s the main claim I wanted to challenge: just right-click on the terminal emulator’s icon in the dock, and it will let you choose.

    And that’s an extra mouse move (to the appropriate item in the right click menu) and click from the behaviour in MATE, classic windows, or any other functional DE. Launching a program and bringing a window into focus are two separate operations, and should accordingly have their own separate buttons in a well-designed UI. Also, bringing window A into focus is a different operation than bringing window B into focus, thus they should each have their own button in the UI. Unity mashes all three into one button, and thus manages to take a 20+ year backwards leap in UI design.

    @esr:

    Why bind the natural behavior that application icons used to have to an obscure Alt combination and put a new, largely useless behavior in its place?

    Because:
    1) That’s how Apple does it.
    2) As all educated people know, it can be assumed as an axiom that Apple is on the bleeding edge of UI design.

    Never mind that the last time that today’s OSX UI would have qualified as cutting edge would have been about 1994. Never mind that Unity makes several mistakes that OSX doesn’t.

  35. Never mind that the last time that today’s OSX UI would have qualified as cutting edge would have been about 1994. Never mind that Unity makes several mistakes that OSX doesn’t.

    The reason this one icon for multiple windows idea works under OSX is because it is based from the ground up on here is an application, here are the windows it owns.

    The Unix stack is not based on this idea. And while the concept does have its uses, Unity’s attempt to squish the Unix and OSX concepts together results in getting all the problems of the OSX system, with none of the benefits.

  36. @ esr

    > I never found that feature – because there wasn’t any path to discovering it.

    I suppose the user is expected to know that right-clicking something usually opens a context menu. Besides, next to the dock icon you’ll see two little arrows instead of one, suggesting there’s some way to access either instance (see the previous sentence).

    > And just because it existed doesn’t mean the Button-1 behavior wasn’t perverse.

    As far as I can see, the only perverse thing about it is that, by default, you can’t minimize a visible window by clicking on its icon. Fortunately, that can be enabled via either the CompizConfig Settings Manager or the Unity Tweak Tool. But one’s got to be careful with those tools; the latter utterly broke Unity in my box just because I restored some settings to their default values! That’s one of my few gripes with Unity: it needs more stability. (I envy you for finding i3 pleasant; it’s probably very stable.)

    > Why bind the natural behavior that application icons used to have

    Be specific, please. What WM/DE do you have in mind? ’Cause I don’t recall GNOME Panel, Ubuntu’s previous default shell, behaving that way.

    > to an obscure Alt combination

    Surely, you can’t be serious. The cycling of windows via Alt+Tab is not obscure among Windows users (current or former), which are the majority whether you like that or not*; and it’s present in the major GUIs for Linux as well. Even standalone Openbox provides that functionality.

    > Yes, and it’s the one thing I rather dislike about iconless WMs.

    Alas, I don’t know how you could get an old-school, “taxonomical” menu under i3 (as opposed to GNOME Classic, MATE, or Cinnamon). As a partial solution, you could use 9menu or ratmenu; they won’t be useful without some configuration, though.

    > Unity surely doesn’t do that, with its visually thick look

    1. The dock and its icons can be made smaller, and you can even set the dock to autohide** (and that option is built-in, among the Appearance settings).

    2. The top panel is indeed thicker than i3bar, but that allows a reasonable size for both text and systray icons. My only complaints are that it (the panel) can’t be moved to the bottom and that I can’t have an applet for monitoring CPU temperature. But its size doesn’t bother me, and most people – including you – have displays bigger than mine anyway.

    > X video configuration files are a notable example

    Thanks.

    * I’m not mad at you, just experimenting with the kind of blunt man-to-man talk you told me about. Let me know if I’m overdoing it.

    ** Am I the only one bothered by the use of the prefix “auto-” to mean “automatic”, or of the suffix “-cide” to mean “suicide” (as in the stupid pseudo-words “sincericide” and “carbicide”)? Prefixes and suffixes shouldn’be used as abbreviations of certain words that happen to include them!

    @ Jon Brase

    > And that’s an extra mouse move (to the appropriate item in the right click menu) and click from the behaviour in MATE, classic windows, or any other functional DE.

    You have a point, except for a detail: there’s an extra (right) click, but not an extra mouse move; just a more difficult mouse move, as it’s easier to hit a big item in a taskbar than to hit a relatively small icon in a dock. Nevertheless, using the keyboard is generally faster, whether you’re using Unity or a desktop-metaphor-based interface. (For the record, I’m okay with the latter and even consider Cinnamon pretty good; but Unity gives me certain convenient keyboard shortcuts.)

    @ Jon Brase and FooQuuxman

    > Never mind that Unity makes several mistakes that OSX doesn’t.

    > Unity’s attempt … results in getting all the problems of the OSX system, with none of the benefits.

    What mistakes/problems?

    • >* I’m not mad at you, just experimenting with the kind of blunt man-to-man talk you told me about. Let me know if I’m overdoing it.

      You’re doing it right, but you’re doing it to invite me to an argument I don’t want to be in. I was appalled and disgusted by Unity and still am. No amount of “But Windows users do it that way and like it” is even relevant, let alone convincing.

  37. @esr:
    > No amount of “But Windows users do it that way and like it” is even relevant, let alone convincing.

    Well, he wasn’t *quite* saying that. He is quite right in saying that Alt-Tab is indeed *not* obscure.

    But it does have its limitations, and its presence in Unity does not make that environment suck less than a GE90 inlet at full takeoff thrust.

  38. Lester Caine,

    I’ve never had the problems with HDMI/DisplayPort that you had. DisplayPort drops once in a rare while but it doesn’t totally reconfigure my display layout based on that. But then again, I’m not running a DE; I start X with ‘startx’, and xinit hands control directly to i3. No session manager, no systemd user session, no daemons sniffing for display attach/detach events and triggering display reconfigurations accordingly.

    My setup is ugly, and it’s not how modern Linux rolls at all, but it’s straightforward and I can understand most of the pieces.

  39. @Jorge:
    You have a point, except for a detail: there’s an extra (right) click, but not an extra mouse move; just a more difficult mouse move, as it’s easier to hit a big item in a taskbar than to hit a relatively small icon in a dock.

    Unity, IIRC:
    1. Mouse to dock icon.
    2. Right click
    3. Mouse to item in right click menu
    4. Left click.

    MATE:
    1. Mouse to taskbar button.
    2. Left click.

  40. Jeff Read … My main problem is that the monitors are in the office or on the wall of the workshop, on the output end of the KVM system, so there is no physical monitor on the 8 computers in the rack. I USED to be able to run a ./startup.sh script that reconfigured everything and gave the real resolutions rather than at that time 1024×768. I still get that on some machines but the legacy scripts no longer work, so I’d love to get back to the ‘ugly’ setup *I* understood that! Rather than having screens swap place randomly when I want to hot plug an extra machine on the bench.

  41. @ esr

    > You’re doing it right,

    Thanks.

    > but you’re doing it to invite me to an argument I don’t want to be in.

    You said I could try. Besides, I’m not attempt to “convert” you; I just want to demonstrate that your objections weren’t as sound as you think (except for the one against the binary blob; but that, alas, is not specific to Unity and you cannot avoid it). Like I said, it’s good that i3 (mostly) suits you.

    > I was appalled and disgusted by Unity and still am [emphasis added].

    When was the last time you tried it? I didn’t like it at first either, but it’s gotten better since. And I just tested the default behavior of a dock icon for two console windows; click it a couple of times and you’ll get previews of both, allowing you to choose between them with either the mouse or the keyboard (arrow keys and Enter).

    > No amount of “But Windows users do it that way and like it” is even relevant, let alone convincing.

    I wasn’t saying that; Jon Brase called it right. Remember the following passage of my comment: “…and [Alt+Tab]’s present in the major GUIs for Linux as well. Even standalone Openbox provides that functionality.”

    @ Jon Brase

    Thanks for your support regarding Alt+Tab. :) I wonder why our host considers it obscure.

    > But [Alt+Tab] does have its limitations,

    Like when you’re playing a fullscreen game, right?

    > and its presence in Unity does not make that environment suck less…

    Unity can be quite comfortable if you use the Super-key-based shortcuts.

    > 3. Mouse to item in right click menu

    You’re right; I somehow failed to realize that. But it’s a rather short move.

  42. Not used Unity and I can’t see it in SUSE’s package system but things like how ‘alt+tab’ works are part of the annoyance created in the way both KDE and Gnome kept changing their operating sequences. My active desktop is three screens but as I have mentioned I have to set every screen individually so you can’t now load ‘a’ background image, it has to be sliced into screen size sections, and running something like Eclipse center screen expanded to put the left and right columns onto the side screen causes problems with other windows. Something that worked flawlessly years ago.
    The current ‘alt+tab’ only show five and a half active programs from all three screens which sort of works for toggling between the last few programs you used, but the ‘start bar’ which is top of the center screen on my setup is the only way to fast access other stuff, or switch between desktops … which I use less these days since I can leave discussions open on the third screen.
    I can understand the advantages of a single active desktop on a single screen much like Konqueror used to do with tabs for files, documents, messages and navigation down the side but I don’t think it’s practical to force that onto the whole desktop as seemed to be the target with KDE4.
    I still get caught out when I need ctrl+shift+C in place of ctrl+C, and switching operating modes for scroll bars is taxing, so keeping a ‘classic’ mode of operation which we can select a single style for each would be a much better use of ‘playtime’ than trying out yet more new styles of doing the same thing?

  43. @Jorge:
    > Like when you’re playing a fullscreen game, right?

    That is one of the situations where it is generally useful, though Linux has from time to time had trouble with it working properly (but it doesn’t seem to be an issue in my current setup).

    The limitation is that it cycles through a list of windows, whereas by going to the taskbar, if not in a fullscreen program that hides it, you can access any window directly (or “randomly”, in the sense of RAM).

  44. The limitation is that it cycles through a list of windows, whereas by going to the taskbar, if not in a fullscreen program that hides it, you can access any window directly (or “randomly”, in the sense of RAM).

    Protip: Press Alt+Tab, then while holding the Alt key, click on the window you want to switch to it. Works on Windows but I’m not sure which Linux desktops support it.

  45. Jeff,

    Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that. I’ve tested it, and it works with the compiz ring switcher, and it is random access so it will likely be helpful in switching away from fullscreen apps. Thanks.

    That said, like Alt-tab without mouse assistance, mousing directly to the task bar will still be faster if you’re not in a fullscreen window and not using a DE like Unity that lacks a working task bar.

  46. I still get that on some machines but the legacy scripts no longer work, so I’d love to get back to the ‘ugly’ setup *I* understood that! Rather than having screens swap place randomly when I want to hot plug an extra machine on the bench.

    I recommend using a non-blingy distro such as Slackware, Debian, Arch, or Void. (Avoid Debian or Arch if you Loathe and Detest systemd, as I do.) These distros can be tricked out if you like, but start off by dropping you to a console prompt and making you type ‘startx’ to get X going; .xinitrc, etc. all work.

    Also, familiarize yourself with the ‘xrandr’ program, its various options, and how it works. This is the default way in modern X to query display ports and set which ones are active, how they’re laid out, and what modes they’re using, as well as things like rotation and scaling.

    Not used Unity and I can’t see it in SUSE’s package system but things like how ‘alt+tab’ works are part of the annoyance created in the way both KDE and Gnome kept changing their operating sequences.

    Unity is a steaming hot mess inextricably tied to Ubuntu; it requires, for instance, patched versions of GTK and Qt in order to work right. You will not find Unity readily available on other distros; I heard the Arch folks got it working but you will need to install nonstandard libraries that conflict with the standard ones, and overall the distro maintainers don’t recommend it.

    The fact that Canonical has gone all in on this pile of pigshit is a major reason why Ubuntu is no longer considered a community distro.

    My active desktop is three screens but as I have mentioned I have to set every screen individually so you can’t now load ‘a’ background image, it has to be sliced into screen size sections, and running something like Eclipse center screen expanded to put the left and right columns onto the side screen causes problems with other windows. Something that worked flawlessly years ago.

    That’s funny. The root window always encompasses the entire display, stretching across however many screens you have. Must be a “feature”/quirk of whatever window manager the DE is using.

    Try using “display -window root ” and see if that doesn’t help matters. The DE may clobber the root window with whatever you picked; I’m not sure, I generally don’t arse about with DEs.

    If you ask me, all the major desktop environments need to be taken behind the barn and shot. Xfce or LXDE may be more to your liking. Failing those I recommend you try running a bare window manager, like fvwm, i3, or Window Maker. (i3 may not give you the Eclipse layout you desire.)

  47. I feel like the desktop background thing is something that there’s no real right answer to. Some people will want a single ultra-wide image (and object to having to slice it apart to set it to each screen individually), and some people will want separate images (and likewise object to having to stitch them together), to say nothing of people who have non-rectangular desktops (e.g. two monitors of different sizes, or three arranged in a triangle, etc) and have no good tools for stitching their desired background images together.

  48. Er, for Eclipse, why not split the “columns” off into their own floating windows in order to position them independently on the other desktop? Then the “center” can be actually maximized rather than just awkwardly positioned to coincide with a monitor.

  49. Random832 – I may be missing something … actually it turn’s out I have … having simply used ‘full screen’ for many years, the workbench simply filled the two screens and one adjusted the layout of windows on the workbench. The instructions for ‘detaching’ a window say ‘if maximized reduce size so you can drop onto the ‘desktop’, and now that ‘maximize’ only fills one of the screens as long as I detach within the one screen I can indeed then drag the secondary ones onto the adjacent monitors. I will have to give things a try now. In my defense, I had tried ‘new window’, but that looses the cross linking and just allows different projects to be open in their own windows.
    Thanks for the prompt!

  50. I wrote: “I’m not attempt [sic] to ‘convert’ you”. I meant “attempting”, of course.

    @ Jon Brase

    > [Playing a fullscreen game] is one of the situations where [Alt+Tab] is generally useful, though Linux has from time to time had trouble with it working properly (but it doesn’t seem to be an issue in my current setup).

    I cannot use Alt+Tab while running any of the following in fullscreen mode: DOSBox, The Battle for Wesnoth, or ZSNES. That’s why I brought that up.

    However, I can do it when watching videos in mpv full-screen. So maybe the problem lies in SDL, which is used by the other programs I just mentioned. I don’t worry much about it, though.

    > The limitation is that it cycles through a list of windows, whereas by going to the taskbar, if not in a fullscreen program that hides it, you can access any window directly

    Unity’s dock presents an advantage over taskbars: you can control it with the keyboard (Super+[number]).

    @ Jeff Read

    > Protip: Press Alt+Tab, then while holding the Alt key, click on the window you want to switch to it [sic]. Works on Windows but I’m not sure which Linux desktops support it.

    Thanks, I didn’t know that. As it turns out, Unity does support it. :-)

    > Unity is a steaming hot mess inextricably tied to Ubuntu; it requires, for instance, patched versions of GTK and Qt in order to work right. You will not find Unity readily available on other distros; I heard the Arch folks got it working but you will need to install nonstandard libraries that conflict with the standard ones, and overall the distro maintainers don’t recommend it.

    I like the interface Unity offers, but I wish it had been implemented in a more lightweight and stable way.

  51. @Jorge:
    > So maybe the problem lies in SDL, which is used by the other programs I just mentioned.

    A quick Google search reveals that SDL is indeed the culprit (though X is an accomplice, given that it lets SDL do that).

    Wow. *Screw* SDL. This has been an unfixed bug/misfeature in SDL for at least 7 years, which is basically the entire time I’ve been using Linux.

  52. Wow. *Screw* SDL. This has been an unfixed bug/misfeature in SDL for at least 7 years, which is basically the entire time I’ve been using Linux.

    It gets worse.

    Comes now news that the GNOME foundation is now making a Yao Ming “bitch, please” face at the idea of API backward compatibility in the Gtk 4.x series, at least for 18 months — only the latest in a long line of incidents where the GNOME Foundation actively screwed the user over. Adding to the trouble will be the fact that Ubuntu will probably get impatient, jump the gun and incorporate an unstable-API 4.x release in some future Unity version.

    It’s time to rethink whether a Linux system should be packaged as a “distribution”, or as a platform composed of parts specifically engineered to work well together in well-defined ways that don’t surprise or piss off the user. You know, kinna like Windows. Well, Windows XP and Windows 7 anyway.

    • >You know, kinna like Windows. Well, Windows XP and Windows 7 anyway.

      No, even the worst conceivable case of this would be unlike in one critically important respect: they wouldn’t a able to lock you in by jailing your data.

  53. I recall, in the early ’80s, a Tectronix strorage tube terminal with a trackball… on the right side of the keyboard. Tthe whole thing looked like a smallish arcade video game, with the display and keyboard on top of a cabinet (that I assumed was full of electronics).

  54. >Comes now news that the GNOME foundation is now making a Yao Ming “bitch, please” face at the idea of API backward compatibility in the Gtk 4.x series, at least for 18 months — only the latest in a long line of incidents where the GNOME Foundation actively screwed the user over. Adding to the trouble will be the fact that Ubuntu will probably get impatient, jump the gun and incorporate an unstable-API 4.x release in some future Unity version.

    That…. doesn’t sound that unreasonable. If they adhere to the promises implied, I understand it will be a VAST improvement over their past behavior. (You use a ‘dot’ release, we will break your shit with every new ‘dot’ release. You use the integer release, we promise to not break your shit, ever.)

  55. More like “You use an integer release, your shit will be broken. Wait till we get bored and bump the major version number, then the last release under the old major version number will have a stable API, because we’re not really maintaining it anymore.”

    Or “x.0 is the new beta”.

  56. OT: Hey ESR, it’s long past time for another political post! We’ve got Trump vs. Hillary, the Orlando massacre, the Brexit vote. Lots happening. Looking forward to what you have to say.

  57. @PapayaSF:

    I suspect the answer is, in the words of the philosopher Andrew Eldritch: “I’ve got nothing to say I ain’t said before.”

  58. Why do you all use such convoluted means to move the cursor/pointer. I just point at the monitor and use the IRRESISTABLE FORCE OF MY IRON WILL. The cursor knows it’s place and moves in capitulation.

    Kids these days….

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