Sunday, 26 February 2017

Linux Mint 18.1 XFCE and Gigabyte BRIX BACE-3150

Well, after discovering that Linux running KDE Plasma 5 is definitely and apparently permanently crippled, even on my more powerful systems, I decided that I will have to move the little Celeron powered BRIX away from KDE if I want to begin using mint 18.x.  So here I am back in Linux Mint XFCE after many years.  Because  the BACE-3150 is really not much more than a later version of a notebook Atom, it seemed like a good idea.

XFCE used to be good.  It was fast, clean and although it limited me in some things I wanted to do, it worked.  These days it works even better.  But it still limits some of the little things I like and simply doesn't have some of the polish of KDE.  but it also doesn't have the things I dislike about Gnome, Mate, Cinnamon etc.  And, typical of Clem and his dilligent hard working team - it is very stable.  Which reminds me - it is time for another donation.

Over the years when I have changed my computers to a new operating system, and once I establish that it is working nicely, I donate to support the effort.  It is no different than paying the licence fee for Windows or Mac when you buy a computer with those operating systems on it anyway.  I have also donated to the developers of the software I use most on these computers.

So I spent a few days messing with XFCE and I still can't get past the file manager limitations.  I tweaked Thunar but that was no good, so I installed Nautilus, PCFM, Double commander.  Now as I type this I have Dolphin installing so at least I might get my KIM system back again.  

Ok, Installing Dolphin was a lost cause.  So I am still left without a decent File Manager.  So far there's nothing I can do about that, but there are other things I really do love about XFCE that almost make up for the lousy file managers.  Honestly, Dolphin once it it tweaked with KIM is the main reason I use KDE.

One of my favourite XFCE things is that I can still customise the panel and menus easily.  Another is being able to scroll through my desktops using the mousewheel (mentioned in a previous post), and of course it is easier to see what desktop I am on since I can have a different wallpaper on each desktop.

Now, something I never used for a long time in KDE, and consequently never thought I would miss, is 'Activities.  But it will not be too hard to get used to doing without them again.  My short time trying to use Plasma 5 forced me to use Activities INSTEAD of work spaces, so I suppose I'm not giving up much.

Another interesting thing is that after I loaded the intel CPU driver microcode that showed up as an option in the repositories I suddenly had even better performance.  Unfortunately there's still no onboard graphics driver fix, but the CPU stuff flies.

And I'm not sure if it was just in the Mint 18.1 kernel, or if it was something to do with the microcode also, but the BRIX micro SD card reader now works.  Yet another good reason to upgrade from Mint 17.3 KDE.

I do miss some of the little tweaks I had made to KDE.  I am used to double clicking the tittie bar to roll up or roll down the window, and scrolling the mousewheel on the title bar to change the opacity of a window.

In XFCE, I have the scroll on the title bar rolling the window up or down instead.  And the reality is, while it was 'cute' to be able to change the opacity of a window, I rarely used it.  I do however roll windows up and down (sometimes called shade/unshade) frequently if I wad to tidy up a desktop or access an open file manager window.

I have discovered that I can in fact double click on the title bar to shade a window.  So while I can't change opacity of the window with the mousewheel, I have two methods to shade/roll up a window to see or access what is behind it.

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