Configuring Synaptics Touchpad on a Macbook Under Linux

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything up but today I’ve got a couple of little touchpad tips.

My current everyday machine is an old Macbook 2,1 that I’ve had for quite a long time, just over 4 years if memory serves me correctly. Now most of the time I really enjoy the Apple hardware in this machine, if not the software. There is, however, the more than occasional time that I need to make the hardware play nice with the software I choose to use. Most of the time it’s not a case of a piece of hardware not working at all but – because it is Apple after all – it working in a way I don’t want, or mostly working but not just not perfectly. The Synaptics touchpad is one of these devices.

Today, after finally getting the shits with accidentally getting somewhat near the touchpad with my palm and again finding myself editing the wrong damn sentence of my PhD thesis, I got my google fu out to find a solution.

And what a solution I found. So good, in fact, that I need do nothing but direct you towards it as all I did was to pretty much take the configuration provided and drop it in the correct place. Job done.

However! Before you all get too carried away with Synaptics goodness lets just really quickly solve a problem I’ve found under Linux Mint once or twice. Namely, how does one configure touchpad options that Gnome Shell/Linux Mint does not reveal in the GUI? Shame this nice little solution will be well and truly superseded by what follows. Oh well.

Problem: In Linux Mint 12 with Gnome Shell, the GUI installed by default provides access to only a few of the settings that the Synaptics touchpad supports.

Solution: Installing the package  gpointing-device-settings installs ‘Pointing Devices‘ settings GUI.

Procedure:
$ sudo aptitude install gpointing-device-settings

Right, now that’s out of the way, if you came here to really configure your Synaptics touchpad you’re going to want to get to many more settings than are revealed through gpointing-device-settings, and for that you’ll need a commandline and synclient. What you really want to do, however, is head over to the useless use of cat blog and read the excellent post on ‘Tuning the Macbook touchpad in Linux’.

Shotwell – unable to upgrade library.

Yesterday I wrote a post about a permissions error I came across when when trying to move items to the trash in Linux Mint. Today I’d like to do a follow-up post on a very similar issue I came across when I fired up Shotwell the other day.

As the last post was fairly involved I’ll keep this one brief, however, do check that post if you need a little more detail as it covers very similar ground.

Problem: When attempting to start Shotwell the application gives the following error:

“Shotwell was unable to upgrade your photo library from version 0.9.3 (schema 12) to 0.11.6 (schema 14). “

Solution: Ensure that the user has read/write permissions to Shotwell’s configuration directory.

Procedure:

Open a terminal, and check the permissions to ~/.shotwell

ls -al ~/.shotwell

If you find, like I did, that Shotwell’s data and thumbs directories are owned by root rather than your user then:

sudo chown -R $USER:$USER .shotwell/

It may also be a permissions error where your user doesn’t have the correct permissions to read/write to these directories. In this case then the following should fix it:

sudo chmod -R 755 .shotwell/

Fire up Shotwell and all should be dandy.

Disabling Bluetooth as Default in Debian Based Distros

In the wonderful world of modern linux desktops many distros will detect and configure the majority of your hardware out of the box. This is a great feature and in this area linux is often ahead of its counterparts.

Sometimes, however, there is a piece of hardware that you either don’t need, or don’t want handled automatically for you. One such thing for me is bluetooth.

Although my laptop is equipped with bluetooth, I just don’t use it very often. This is fine except that I’d rather not waste the battery power on something I’m unlikely to to use anytime soon. Unfortunately in Ubuntu based distros if you turn bluetooth off from within the desktop it is re-enabled upon a reboot.

Problem: Bluetooth remains on by default at boot even when turned off in bluetooth manager during last use.

Solution: A simple way to ensure bluetooth is turned off by default but still available to switch on via whichever bluetooth manager applet is provided by your particular desktop environment is to kill it upon boot with rfkill. This is done by adding a line to /etc/rc.local which is a file run by Debian based systems near the end of the boot cycle.

Procedure:
In a terminal enter the following command to edit rc.local

gksudo gedit /etc/rc.local

Add the following line between the comments and the line ‘exit 0’

rfkill block bluetooth

Save & Exit

Reboot

Edit: After recently installing Linux Mint Debian Edition I’ve noted that it does not come with the package rfkill installed by default as does Ubuntu or regular Linux Mint. This package can be installed as below.

sudo apt-get install rfkill

Adding a printer to Linux Mint 12 or Ubuntu 11.10 with GnomeShell

After installing Linux Mint 12 the other day, today I set about reinstalling my printer which is usually a process of a few clicks of the mouse. Unfortunately GnomeShell that ships with Mint 12 (and, I believe, Ubuntu 11.10 if Unity is not your bag) ships with a broken printer configuration tool that, believe it or not, doesn’t let you install a printer.

On the upside, there is an easy solution to the problem, read on.

Problem: Mint 12/Ubuntu 11.10 has a bug in the printing configuration tool that inhibits installation of new printers and displays the following error.

“FirewallD is not running. Network printer detection needs services mdns, ipp, ipp-client and samba-client enabled on firewall.”

Problem is, FirewallD is a Fedora specific daemon and no matter how long we wait, it’s not about to start under Mint, Ubuntu or Debian.

Solution: In Ubuntu/Debian/Mint printers can be installed using the traditional printer dialog which can be accessed from the command line with using the following command:

system-config-printer

Solution2: Printers can also be installed by using the CUPS web interface which can be accessed by pointing your browser at http://localhost:631/

Note: The CUPS web interface is available from any distro that has CUPS installed. You will, however, need to know the root password for those distros that utilse a root shell rather than sudo.

Many thanks to the good people (especially altair4) over the Linux Mint forums from where this solution was sourced.