12 January 2018

Fixing Skype for Linux scaling

After a long hiatus from (actually a deliberate avoidance of) Skype, I need to install it again -- at least temporarily. And the latest version of Skype for Linux is appears to be Electron app, which means its scaling on my non-standard 118 dpi screen is seriously wonky.

The typical fix for this with Chrome/Chromium and Electron apps is to pass the --force-device-scale-factor option to the executable. Don't ask me why it works; all I know is it does. Applying this option to Skype works as well, but you need to dig a bit to find where to add it. I ended up modifying /usr/bin/skypeforlinux so the last line reads:

nnohup "$SKYPE_PATH" --force-device-scale-factor --executed-from="$(pwd)" --pid=$$ "$@" > "$SKYPE_LOGS/skype-startup.log" 2>&1 &

23 January 2017

Fixing Chromium remote extension loading in Debian sid

The newest Chromium in Debian sid disables remote extension loading by default. This has the effect of disabling extensions en masse. I'm not sure what the reasoning is, but it's damn inconvenient.

It's claimed that one way to get the old behavior back is to add


to the list of flags in /etc/chromium.d/default-flags. This will affect all users on the system, and the file could be overwritten by an upgrade. In addition, until I know better what's behind the change, I'd really like to apply the change only to my account, not to all users.

I did this by adding:
# fix latest Debian Chromium disabling remote extensions
export CHROMIUM_FLAGS=$CHROMIUM_FLAGS" --enable-remote-extensions"
to my ~/.profile. Be sure to log out and back in to experience the change.

09 November 2016


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

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

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

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

So, more. But more what?

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

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

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

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


25 October 2016

Fixing PackageKit authentication in Debian sid under Xfce

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

Reinstalling stuff didn't help.

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

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

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

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

28 May 2016

Fixing virtual console resolution with nVidia driver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# Uncomment to disable generation of recovery mode menu entries

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

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