Menu on wrong side of the screen in Vivaldi


In recent versions of Vivaldi, the menu has started appearing on the right side of the window.

Vivaldi in Xubuntu  with menu on right side of screen

I am a stickler for usability, and so I want a menu showing. I also follow the original human interface design guidelines of trying to have window controls on the upper-left corner of windows/screens.

Any insights into how to fix this display bug in order to get the menu back on the left side of the window?

This bug is showing up on all my computers. Here are the basics:

Kernel: 5.17.5-76051705-generic x86_64 bits: 64 
Desktop: Xfce 4.14.2 Distro: Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS (Focal Fossa) 

Not all is hunky dory with Linux, but it is doing as well as others



Dedoimedo has an excellent commentary of the state of the Linux desktop.

He notes that usability has plateaued in many ways. I agree. The basic functionality and speed I had with Xubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) was stellar. Now running Xubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa) on both newer and faster desktop and laptop computers, I have had problems with graphics cards, samba networking is a bust that I work around, and connecting my iPhone for file transfers is hit or miss.

Yes, the world is not standing still. Linux systems like Xubuntu are actually undergoing massive changes through updates to the xfce window manager while still trying to retain the same general look and functionality. That kind of work is much harder that simply creating something new (like restoring an old house with good bones than building a new house on an empty lot). But, that hard work does not mean longstanding defects should remain. A remodeling job for a house is still incomplete if the electrical wiring is exposed or the finish carpentry is not in place.

Note: In contrast to Dedoimeda’s review of Xubuntu 20.04, the limitations with the current version are not a problem for how I have set up my computers. And, I value the hardware control and compatibility I get with this version of Xubuntu. For instance, whereas Kubuntu has no obvious method for adjusting sound inputs and hardware, I have obvious access through Xubuntu’s PulseAudio plugin on my panel.

The splintering that occurs in Linux systems with new distributions and spin offs popping up all over the place — a major factor in Dedoimeda’s criticism — is surely an important reason for why the edges are more frayed today than they were a few years ago. Some self-discipline and focus is needed in the world of Linux, just as self-discipline and focus is needed in most of life.

An example of this concentrated focus and so deserving of praise is LibreOffice. On my setup without the ribbon but with traditional menus and one toolbar customized with the formatting tools I use, LibreOffice has been a joy to use with the newer versions (currently running v.

LibreOffice word processor

Finally, it should also be pointed out that usability has seemingly plateaued on other operating systems as well.

I still have a Mac for the family computer, and more and more software is broken on the current version — Catalina/10.15 — without much if any additional benefit. Snow Leopard/10.6 was a model of stability and design, and in general the Mac has yet to repeat that performance.

My daughters want to game, and so they both now have Windows 10 desktops. Certainly more software is available on Windows 10 than either MacOS or Linux systems. But, Windows 10 remains a complete kludge in many ways, with both new and old (aka Windows 7) design elements remaining throughout. For instance, there are Settings but also many vital settings still must be set via the Control Panel. Why? How can these dual settings systems still exist?

Issues with the new Insync3


Insync has undergone a major re-write of the underlying sync frameworks from version 1.5.x to 3.0.x.

Integration with file managers like thunar is a work-in-progress with this new version. More troubling is a major change in sync behavior with the series 3 version. While the new version has many more syncing options, there is a significant change that is NOT adequately explained.

Previously, all files in the sync folder were synced across google drive and the computers connected via Insync UNLESS you selected parts of the folder/directory for a manual or no sync.

With an upgrade to version 3, however, all files on a computer are synced with google drive, but new files created on one computer are no longer added to other computers connected to google drive via Insync. As a result, folders across computers will get out of sync with each other, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of syncing software for most folks.

Here is what you will see when examining an un-synced folder from within Insync:

Un-synced folder contents

In this Employee folder, there are numerous files that are NOT synced on the particular computer on which Insync is running. These files were added on another computer and synced to google drive. But, the files are NOT synced automatically to other computers unless I now tell Insync that I want these files synced with this computer.

To fix this problem, on each computer you need to go to that folder from within Insync and then select the cloud selective sync option:

Selecting the selective sync option

You then need to select the folder (or file) you want to sync on that computer:

Folder to sync selected

Then, click on the green Sync button, and the contents of that folder and all sub-folders will be synced on that specific computer:

Folders synced

This process needs to be done on each computer and for every folder that needs to be synced across those computers.

Update (16 Sept. 2020): The security key for the Insync PPA expired this month. The Insync forums have the solution:

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys ACCAF35C

Updates and upgrades should proceed normally after entering this terminal command.

Geekbench scores


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Here are some comparative geekbench scores between a 2011 MacBook Pro, a thinkcentre desktop, and a 2018 Galago Pro from System76:

Single-Core scores
MacBook Pro  desktop  Galago Pro
2935         2186     4209

Multiple-Core scores
MacBook Pro  desktop  Galago Pro
6282         3493     11636

The MacBook Pro is a 13-inch Early 2011 model with 8 MB of memory and an Intel Core i7-2620M running at 2.7 GHz and an SSD replacing the original hard drive.

The desktop is a Lenovo 7373BC7 (aka a thinkcentre m58-7373) with 4 MB of memory and an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 running at 3.0 GHz, a basic Nvidia graphics card, and an SSD for the boot drive.

The Galago Pro (previously reviewed here) has 8 MB of memory, an Intel Core i5-8250U running at 3.40 GHz, and a fast SSD for the boot drive.

shrinkpdf: making PDF files smaller


Ghostscript is the open source command-line access to everything postscript and PDF. Because ghostscript can do nearly everything with these files, however, it is not the easiest to use. The options can and are overwhelming to casual users who may need ghostscript for occasional and very specific purposes.

Luckily, a host of utilities have been created around ghostscript. For example:

$ ps2
ps2ascii ps2epsi ps2pdf12 ps2pdf14 ps2pk ps2ps2
ps2eps ps2pdf ps2pdf13 ps2pdfwr ps2ps ps2txt

$ pdf
pdf2djvu pdfatfi pdffonts pdfopen pdftops
pdf2dsc pdfclose pdfimages pdfseparate pdftocairo pdftosrc
pdf2ps pdfdetach pdfinfo pdfsig pdftohtml pdftotext
pdf2svg pdfetex pdflatex pdftex pdftoppm pdfunite

One utility missing from this list is the ability to make a PDF smaller in file size. Scanned full-color images can often run several megabytes in size per page.

Luckily, Alfred Klomp has created a bash script for getting smaller file sizes with PDFs via ghostscript: shrinkpdf.

To create a script/command-line application available in Ubuntu’s various flavors at any time/location from within the terminal, copy the downloaded file/script to the .local/bin/ directory in your home directory.

Then in this directory, run the command chmod 777 to make the file executable.

You now have a terminal command, shrinkpdf, available to you from any directory/folder location within the terminal.

A fix for the DropBox file system warning



Because I have an encrypted home folder on an ext4 formatted volume, Dropbox stopped working.

DropBox warning message

Luckily, Alan Pope has a solution at his popey blog.

He essentially has created a shell script for you to download and run (after shutting down DropBox on your computer and backing up all of the files).

After downloading the script (I simply copied and pasted it inside a text editor and then saved it as a file called, make sure to edit it to adjust the size of your DropBox folder. For instance, I only need 10G for my DropBox files, so I changed the reference in the shell script from 20G down to 10G.

Then, you need to make the script executable with this command:

$ sudo chmod 777

To run the script, type the following command:

$ sudo ./

The shell script will take 5-10 minutes to run (more or less), depending on your computer CPU, the speed of your hard drive, and the size of the dropbox image file that is being created.

To test the result, I logged out and then back in. Sure enough, I now have a new disk image file called Dropbox mounted on startup. But, DropBox threw up a warning about file permissions. It appeared that the files inside the new DropBox image were connected to the root user, not me.

The following command fixed that error:

$ sudo chown -R username:username /home/username/Dropbox

Note: make sure to substitute username with your actual username on your computer. This command makes me, not root, the owner of all files and folders of Dropbox. It looks like the last two commands in the shell script did not work for me, and this command fixes that error.

So, when I typed dropbox start, everything worked, and DropBox is now running and synced again.

Note: Hat tip to for rebosting Alan’s DropBox fix. My thanks to both.

UPDATE (27 Dec. 2018): Rebooting the computer led to an ultra serious error that prevented the computer from completing the boot process. Yikes. The error concerned a failure to mount a volume, and I tracked down the error to the new fstab entry for mounting my new DropBox volume. The solution was to comment out the new fstab entry by putting a # in front of it.

Now, the computer boots without a hitch. But, DropBox does not start (as the volume where all the files are located does not exist at startup). The solution is to run the following command:

$ sudo mount -o loop .dropbox.img /home/username/Dropbox

I then run dropbox start, and DropBox runs without a hitch. Ideally, I need an automated solution, so I need to get the fstab entry working. I am short on time, however, so this solution works for now. After all, this computer only gets rebooted around every blue moon. That’s the nice thing about Xubuntu (and Linux in general): flexibility.

Fix for ImageMagick convert errors with pdf files



All of a sudden on 18.04 of Xubuntu, my ability to convert image files to PDF has stopped working.

Normally, I could do the following at the terminal:

$ convert image*.jpg NEW.pdf

to convert a series of image files into one PDF file. Now I get an error. For instance:

$ convert MarsSunset.jpg new.pdf
convert-im6.q16: not authorized 'new.pdf' @ error/constitute.c/WriteImage/1037.

After a few weeks of these errors (and resorting to GIMP to convert the image files by opening and then exporting them to PDF format), I found the following posts on the twitter.

Ross Campbell III @rosscampbell Oct 5

If you update Ubuntu and your web app’s PDF generation breaks, it’s because the latest Ubuntu ImageMagick packages DISABLE generation of .ps, .eps, .pdf, and .xps files !!! You can fix this by editing /etc/ImageMagick*/policy.xml and deleting the ‘disabled’ lines.

Hee-Woong Lim @heewlim Oct 5

Due to recent security vulnerability of ImageMagick, some file format has been disabled. If you wanna convert those file format (such as pdf -> png), you need to modify /etc/ImageMagick/policy.xml

If you click on the security notice, you will see the following:

Due to a large number of issues discovered in GhostScript that prevent it from being used by ImageMagick safely, this update includes a default policy change that disables support for the Postscript and PDF formats in ImageMagick. This policy can be overridden if necessary by using an alternate ImageMagick policy configuration.

That policy change, as noted by Ross Campbell, is disabling PS, EPS, PDF, and XPS files for use with convert. Yeesch.

So, there is a security problem with PDF files. PDF files on Linux systems are usually handled by ghostscript (via the terminal command gs). And, ImageMagick (done through the terminal convert command) uses ghostscript for reading and writing PDF files. Because the security problems are serious and numerous, ImageMagick’s access to PDF files is then cut off.

Granted, through these security flaws in PDF someone could craft a malicious image file that, when converted by ImageMagick into a PDF, will then do very nasty things to your computer.

But, ghostscript has since been updated once and once again with security fixes. How about a fix for ImageMagick to get PDF functionality back? Or, at least an explanation of progress towards fixing this issue?

In the meantime, you can install img2pdf:

$ sudo apt-get install img2pdf

The terminal command to run will be in this format:

$ img2pdf --output NEWFILE.pdf IMAGEFILE.png

Or, as noted by Ross Campbell, you can ignore the security problems and delete the policy restrictions. Sigh.

Encryption on the go


VeraCrypt has replaced TrueCrypt as the all-around, essential encryption software everyone should be using.

For instance, any password info for your computer, financial info (account and social security numbers), personal/private encryption keys, and pics of essential documents can be kept in an encrypted volume on a USB stick that you take with you at a moment’s notice but which no one — we all hope — can unlock.

Dedoimedo has a quick run-down on how to use VeraCrypt. The official documentation has more detail than you probably want to know.

Review: Galago Pro from System 76 and Xubuntu 18.04 — Bionic Beaver


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Unix systems have been around for more than half a century. But, with Linux and Mac OS X, Unix systems have now achieved wide-spread success. Mac OS X is extremely well designed, but Apple does not play well when you attempt to step outside its ecosystem. Even an older iPhone or computer can be left behind and unsupported by Apple (until recently, Apple still supported Windows XP for various products such as iPhone syncing, but Apple offered no similar support for many of its own prior operating systems, such as 10.6, even though that operating system was not nearly as old as Windows XP).

Linux has been around longer than Mac OS X, but Linux failed to gain much popularity until Mark Shuttleworth started Canonical) and its Ubuntu project) of creating a desktop for the masses that would be updated twice annually on a regular schedule (each April and October, hence the naming conventions for Ubuntu versions featuring the year and month of the release along with an alliterative name — 14.04 aka Trusty Tahr, for instance).

NOTE: I understand that Linux’s popularity is relative. Though US readers should note that Linux and various derivatives receive much more attention and desktop use outside of the United States.

As with all things Linux, various flavors of Ubuntu have emerged over the years (Ubuntu itself is based on Debian). The main distinction between these flavors of Ubuntu has been the desktop environment on which they are based: Gnome or Unity for Ubuntu, KDE for Kubuntu, Gnome 2-something for MATE, and xfce for Xubuntu. Except for Ubuntu proper, most of these other flavors are volunteer-supported projects.

NOTE: On the problem of Linux fragmentation, see this post.

In 2009 and after trying Ubuntu out, I opted for Xubuntu because my computer at the time was limited in both memory and horsepower. Xubuntu also presented the opportunity for a great deal of customization — customization that I have honed over the years and thoroughly enjoy even when I had in 2011 a powerful MacBook Pro to use.

Now in 2018, the MacBook Pro has been replaced with Galago Pro from System76. Here is a review of that new laptop along with the 18.04 version of Xubuntu — Bionic Beaver.

The new laptop

As noted on the official setup page, I use two computers for my work: a desktop (originally a Dell GX620 Pentium 4 at 3.2 Ghz with 2 GB of RAM replaced with a Lenovo thinkcentre m58 at 3.0 MHz and 4 GB of RAM) and a laptop. Originally, the laptop was a 2011 13″ MacBook Pro running a Core i7 at 2.7 MHz with 8 GB of RAM. That laptop has now been replaced with a Galago Pro 14″ from System76 that is running a Quad core Intel Core i5-8250U at 3.4 MHz max, 8 GB of RAM, and a very fast 500 GB SSD along with a 1,000 GB second drive that has a flash cache.

Here are the order details:

  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (64-bit)
  • 13″ 3200×1800 HiDPI Display
  • Intel® UHD Graphics 620
  • 3.4 GHz i5-8250U (up to 3.40 GHz – 6MB Cache — 4 Cores — 8 Threads)
  • 8 GB DDR4 at 2400 MHz (1 x 8 GB)
  • 500 GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD $265.00
  • 1 TB 2.5″ Solid State Hybrid Drive
  • United States Keyboard
  • WiFi up to 433 Mbps + Bluetooth
  • 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty
  • Normal Assembly Service

As noted in this list, the Galago Pro originally came with Ubuntu 18.04 as the default operating system. I immediately ran sudo apt-get install xubuntu to get the 18.04 version of Xubuntu, my preferred Ubuntu install. This switch to Xubuntu also required a switch in the initial X display manager that handles the initial boot and login from GDM (Gnome Display Manager) to LightDM.

Basic hardware information is available via the inxi command.

$ inxi 
CPU~Quad core Intel Core i5-8250U (-MT-MCP-) 
speed/max~800/3400 MHz Kernel~4.15.0-29-generic x86_64 
Up~1 day Mem~3588.8/7854.8MB HDD~1500.3GB(5.2% used) 
Procs~270 Client~Shell inxi~2.3.56

NOTE: inxi is amazingly useful. See inxi -h for all the options. For example:

$ inxi -C
CPU: Quad core Intel Core i5-8250U (-MT-MCP-) cache: 6144 KB clock speeds: max: 3400 MHz 1: 800 MHz 2: 800 MHz 3: 800 MHz 4: 800 MHz 5: 800 MHz 6: 800 MHz 7: 800 MHz 8: 800 MHz

$ inxi -B
Battery BAT0: charge: 35.7 Wh 100.0% condition: 35.7/36.5 Wh (98%)

$ inxi -G
Graphics: Card: Intel UHD Graphics 620 Display Server: x11 (X.Org 1.19.6 ) drivers: modesetting (unloaded: fbdev,vesa) Resolution: 1600×900@59.99hz OpenGL: renderer: Mesa DRI Intel UHD Graphics 620 (Kabylake GT2) version: 4.5 Mesa 18.0.5

For comparison, here are some pics of the Galago Pro, the Dell XPS 13, and my original 13″ MacBook Pro.

`Dell XPS 13, Galago Pro, and 2011 MacBook Pro 13

Side view of Dell XPS 13, Galago Pro, and 2011 MacBook Pro 13

Galago Pro and Dell XPS 13

Galago Pro and MacBook Pro 13

Finally, note that Apple released a MacBook Pro with this 8th generation of CPU in July 2018. The CPU on this new MacBook Pro is slightly faster, and the Intel Iris Graphics are also faster on the MacBook Pro — Iris Pro 655 vs. 620 on the Galago Pro.


The big advantage of Xubuntu is having a modern and sleek operating system running on modest hardware. As noted above, my original desktop was a Pentium 4 from 2006 with only two gigabytes of memory (the maximum available for this computer).

On that original desktop, a host of native apps were running at boot, including several cloud computing apps below — such as AeroFS, DropBox, and InSync at various times and combinations with each other — along with the file search app Recoll. None of these apps were running on the guest systems in Parallels or Virtual Box on the MacBook Pro. But, both guest systems also end up with slightly less memory that initially allotted to the system. Here is the memory usage for each after boot when all three were running 14.04:

  • Desktop: 925 MB out of 2012 MB
  • Parallels: 641 MB out of 1998 MB
  • Virtual Box: 632 MB out of 2001 MB

Anyone on Mac OS will probably be amazed by these numbers. Indeed, later versions of Mac OS fill up 4 MB all too quickly, and 8 MB seems to be the minimal now needed.

As with all “progress,” memory usage on Xubuntu has climbed slightly since the days of 14.04. Under 18.04, here are the numbers for my current desktop (with the 4 MB of RAM) and the Galago Pro that has 8 MB:

  • Desktop: 1680 MB out of 3627 MB
  • Galago Pro: 1032 MB out of 7855 MB

The desktop number is high because I am also running the anti-virus daemon clamd:

apps running on desktop

Both computers are running insync, DropBox, and recoll when started (more on these apps below).

Keep in mind that the work being done is focused on e-mail, word processing, and web searching of numerous kinds. So, 8 MB is probably all I will ever need. If I needed more memory, however, I already have an empty slot available for more. The Galago Pro does NOT have soldered memory, and the 8 MB that is installed is on one stick/one slot.

$ sudo inxi -m
Memory:    Used/Total: 1031.9/7854.8MB
       Array-1 capacity: 32 GB devices: 2 EC: None
       Device-1: ChannelA-DIMM0 size: 8 GB speed: 2400 MT/s type: DDR4
       Device-2: ChannelB-DIMM0 size: No Module Installed type: N/A

So, the second slot is vacant and ready for an addition at my convenience. Kudos to System76 for this kind of memory install.


I have a 13″ Hi-Def 3200×1800 display, what Apple calls a retina display. Xubuntu’s support for these kind of displays is limited, especially when additional themes are used.

System76’s new OS — Pop OS — is an effort, in part, to address these kind of problems. See, for instance, this blog post about System76’s efforts with its own HiDPI daemon.

And, there are solutions with Ubuntu as well that allow for picking traditional desktop resolutions and setting the magnification of the Hi-Res display via a slider scale.

Xubuntu lacks those options. Instead, you simply pick an available resolution.

Display options

You will have selected a “proper” display option (one that doubles the pixel density) when the refresh rate for that resolution is 120 Hz.

Hi-Def screens have received much hype since Apple’s introduction of its retina screens. For the most part, it seemed that there was not much substance to this hype. Now, with such a screen before me, I have gone from a 1440×810 display to a 1600×900 display. Even with my older eyes, I find no problems with smaller text on this screen.

No doubt, this clear text owes something to how Xubuntu and xfce handle fonts from out of the box. Apple has been way ahead on this front for decades, and even Microsoft has made substantial gains the past decade or so. See Fonts, don’t come easy to me (15 Sept. 2015), Make Fedora Fonts Better (28 Jan. 2017), and Fedora fonts: The Font Strikes Back (8 July 2017) for details about Linux’s ongoing problems with fonts and possible fixes. Here are the default Settings Manager | Appearance | Fonts settings in Xubuntu.

Font appearance

The only issue I have seen at all with fonts is that Liberation Serif no longer displays well in LibreOffice when single-spaced.

Liberation Serif, single-spaced, in LibreOffice 6

The line-spacing is off — a little less leading is being used for some unknown reason. My guess is that the problem is connected to LibreOffice 6.0, but I have not had the time to track it down.

Note (10 May 2019): This display problem was connected to an older version of the liberation font family. Once I removed the 1+ version (while keeping the 2+ version, the display problem went away. Strangely, the Vivaldi browser requires the 1+ version of the Liberation font family, so that version was reinstalled with an update to Vivaldi at some point. The display problem with Liberation has not recurred, however.

My only other complaint is that light-locker — the Xubuntu default for handling display power use and shutting the display off — does not get along with gnome screen saver that come with Ubuntu. My solution: remove both and install XScreenSaver. XScreenSaver includes gl-matrix — a matrix-movie style display. I have it set to start the screensaver after three minutes and under the advanced settings to dim the display after 15 minutes.

XScreenSaver advanced options

Settings Manager | Screensaver | Advanced

With these screen saver settings, the Settings Manager | Power Manager | Display tab is switched off.

My only problem so far has been an occasional hang when waking the computer from sleep. When the lid is open when the laptop has fallen asleep (i.e., suspend state), holding the power button wakes the computer but not the display. I need to press the power button again to get the XScreenSaver unlock dialog, but the keyboard and mouse do not function whatsoever. The only way out of this problem is a hard reset by holding down the power button for five seconds and shutting down the computer.

I am also quite pleased with the matte finish of the display. The glossy finish of the MacBook Pro display always seemed to capture to many reflections. The matte finish of the Galago Pro, on the other hand, makes this laptop that much easier to use in bright settings, include sunny, outside settings.

Disk drives

Here are some quick charts regarding the read and access speed of the SSD main drive, the traditional disk second drive (which has a flash cache), and a traditional drive connected via USB 2 to a USB 3.1 port.

Main SSD drive

Second traditional drive with cache

Traditional drive connected in USB2 enclosure

As you can see, the SSD is blazing fast.


The Galago Pro keyboard does not quite have the quickness and ease of the 2011 keyboard. The keys are stiff and seem to require more of a push. Still, the keyboard is pretty close to the 2011 MacBook Pro keyboard, which is probably now considered one of the best laptop keyboards ever made. Moreover, the Galago Pro keyboard is miles ahead of the current laptop keyboards Apple is putting out. There is still a physical esc key and fn keys along with a Del and set of Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End keys (though the right side of the keyboard is somewhat crowded and takes some getting used to for those new to the placement of those keys on the right side of the keyboard).

The keyboard is missing an indicator for the CapsLock, however. It has not been a problem yet for me, but I can imagine many getting frustrated by a lack of indicator.

Another problem is that keyboard lighting is uneven. As this pic shows, the four keys in the upper-right corner bleed additional light from underneath.

Keyboard lighting


Apple’s track-pads are the best available. I kept my 2011 MacBook Pro as long as I did in large part because of its track-pad and the fact that performance was on par with current laptop offerings for my purposes. Everything about the Apple track-pad was well nigh perfect: cursor movement, two-finger scrolling, clicking, and even the occasional fancy gesture (like a swipe up or down to trigger some special feature or shortcut).

So, it is not surprising that the Galago Pro track-pad does not measure up to what Apple’s laptops offer. The small size of the track-pad means there is limited real estate in which to move around compared to what I had before.

Galago Pro and MacBook Pro 13

The physical button or click-bar at the bottom of the track-pad has been especially difficult to get used to. In place of a simple click anywhere for a left-button click and hold down the Ctrl key when clicking for a right-button click, I now have to click on one-half of the click-bar for a left-button click and stretch to the other half of the click-bar for a right-button click.

And, I still have not figured out an easier way to get a middle-button click (which Parallels provided to me on my Mac via a Ctrl-Shift-Click shortcut). Pressing both left and right buttons emulates a middle-button click, but a successful middle-click via this technique requires stopping my work, intentionally placing both hands on the track-pad buttons, and then pressing both simultaneously — not a simple task to do all that often (luckily, middle-clicks are not needed all that often — in my usage, mostly for spelling corrections in emacs).

Here is how I have set my track-pad so far:

Trackpad Settings

NOTE: You can see all the track-pad’s details with this terminal command: synclient -l. The following command, sudo synclient EmulateMidButtonTime=100 drastically improved the responsiveness of the left-right click emulation process for me (the default setting was 75).

Still, the Galago Pro track-pad is pretty easy to use, and is getting easier as my hands gain familiarity with it. Unlike many track-pads on windows machines that are basically unusable out of the box and never become usable because of jumpiness, this track-pad is more than functional and is getting to be quite normal for me after a couple of months of use. So, while this track-pad is not at the level of Apple’s track-pads, it is certainly in the same room as them and is much improved from what typically accompanies most mainstream laptops. I would even rank it slightly better than the track-pad that accompanies Dell’s XPS 13 laptops.

Ports, connectivity, and repair

The Galago Pro comes with ports on both sides of the laptop. On the left, there is a power port (4 X 1.7 mm), a type-A USB port, the on/off switch, and separate microphone and headphone ports. On the right, there is a lock, an Ethernet jack, a port for an SD card, an HDMI port and mini-Displayport, another type-A USB port, and a combination USB type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

NOTE: The type-A USB ports are full speed 3.1 USB ports with traditional type-A connectors. So, they are the same speed as the USB-C port: 10 Gbit/s (1250 MB/s).

The Thunderbolt 3 port does not charge the laptop. But, this port does connect to my Thunderbolt 2 dock via an Apple Thunderbolt 3<->2 adapter without any hitches. Hard drives mount (including FireWire drives).

NOTE: The Thunderbolt 2 dock has been hit and miss so far. One attempt at display connections did not work, and a recent plugin of the dock produced no connection whatsoever. More investigation of this port and the dock is needed.

The mini-Displayport works with my Apple mini-Displayport adapters.

There are four lights for indicating various status or activities.

Galago Pro lights

The left-most indicates power (on) or sleep (blinking). The second is for the battery (green when fully charged, orange when charging, off when unplugged), the third is for airport mode (WiFi and Bluetooth off by pressing Fn-F11), and the fourth blinks when there is hard drive activity).

Finally, this laptop is fully repairable (ifixit should do a tear down as a comparison to offerings from other manufacturers), as seen in this video. Memory, hard drives, and battery can be easily replaced or upgraded (and the keyboard CAN remain in place for those repairs as well). And, all of this access is available in an ultra-thin and ultra-light computer. Well done.


Hints and techniques for fine-tuning of the battery are available from System76.

The charger is unique — 19 volts, 2.1 Amps, and 40 watts — and has a 4×1.7 mm barrel plug. I certainly miss the simplicity and, yes, sheer beauty of Apple’s chargers and mag-safe connectors.

As I need the laptop for work, I have yet to set it aside in order to run some specific battery tests on it. But, I am generally losing 5% of the charge in around 40 minutes. With those numbers, I should have about 3 hours and 20 minutes of use, and my experience so far is that actual battery usage should probably last around four hours or more (I have already used the laptop three plus hours without charging and still had 10-20% of the battery remaining).

System76 has deliberately chosen a smaller battery for the sake of repairs and expansion. For me, four hours of battery is more than enough.

Customizing the desktop

Xubuntu and xfce allow for a great deal of customization. The windows on my computers, for instance, are modified from the default. The close, minimize, and maximize buttons are moved to the left corner of the window title bar via Settings Manager | Window Manager | Style as shown:

Window Manager Style on laptop

I have been with Macs for several decades, and so my muscle memory is deeply ingrained with moving to the left corner of windows for these buttons. The great thing about Xubuntu and xfce is that these kinds of changes are allowed.

You should also see that I have a different theme from the default GreyBird. In Xubuntu, themes and icons are set in two places: Settings Manager | Appearance and Settings Manager | Window Manager. In the former — Appearance — I have GreyBird selected as my Style and xfce elementary darker as my icon set. In the latter — Window Manager — I have “Ambiance-Flat-Pink” selected as the style from the Ambiance & Radiance FLAT theme available from RAVEfinity. Directions for adding the PPA for this theme are available here as well as direct links for the DEB packages (more on software updating and installing below).

For those looking for identical buttons to what Mac OS X offers, try the macbird theme for displaying the red, yellow, and green dots for these buttons. Here are the settings from my Settings Manager | Window Manager | Style from my desktop in 2015:

window layout

I have also gone to one panel (the xfce version of Windows Start Bar or the Mac OS X dock) on all my systems.

Single panel on display

Previously, I had two panels: one across the top where windows, indicators, and notifications along with basic info such as the clock and action — aka logout — buttons were. I now have all this information in one panel. Here are the Settings Manager | Panel windows for obtaining this single panel.

Panel Display

Panel Appearance

Panel Items

Additional information about customizing your desktop is available from Xubuntu.

Updating and installing apps

Software is always being updated on Ubuntu systems. In general, these updates occur automatically, as seen in these settings.

Software update settings

When there is software to update, you will see a dialog box similar to the following:

Software to be updated

New software There is a Software app for finding new apps to use.

Software App

Personally, I prefer Synaptic.


With Synaptic, you can right-click on a package to see the recommended and dependent software that will be installed along with the selected application.

The easiest way to get Synaptic is the following terminal command: sudo apt-get install synaptic. There will be many additional apps and recommended apps to install.

Another GUI way to install software is with the gdebi app.


Gdebi is especially useful when downloading standalone apps, like Master PDF (discussed below).

You can use Synpatic to install gdebi or this terminal command: sudo apt-get install debi.

Finally, Ubuntu has introduced a new format for apps — snap — that houses all the dependencies of that application in one installation bundle. Snap is still mostly focused on the command line. Here are the snaps currently installed on my system.

$ snap list
Name                  Version             Rev   Tracking  Developer  Notes
canonical-livepatch   8.0.2               41    stable    canonical  -
core                  16-2.33.1           4917  stable    canonical  core
gnome-3-26-1604       3.26.0              70    stable/…  canonical  -
gnome-calculator      3.28.2              180   stable/…  canonical  -
gnome-characters      3.28.2              103   stable/…  canonical  -
gnome-logs            3.28.2              37    stable/…  canonical  -
gnome-system-monitor  3.28.2              51    stable/…  canonical  -
gtk-common-themes     0.1                 319   stable    canonical  -
vlc                   3.0.3-1-3-gf09fd0d  365   stable    videolan   -

These snaps are connected to the regular software update process, and so are updated accordingly. Information about how to use snaps are available with either the snap --help or man snap terminal commands.

Apps: what there is to like

Firefox, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice are part of the standard Xubuntu package.

With FireFox, I have a title bar and a menu bar enabled, and my add-ons are minimal.


With Thunderbird, I originally used gContactSync to sync contacts in Thunderbird and a gmail account. I now use CardBook.

I have customized toolbars and menus in LibreOffice, created specific paragraph styles and templates, and connected various macros to specific keystrokes. As a lawyer, for instance, I often need to use ¶ or § characters. Here is one such macro:

sub ParagraphMarkInsert
rem ----------------------------------------------------------------------
rem define variables
dim document   as object
dim dispatcher as object
rem ----------------------------------------------------------------------
rem get access to the document
document   = ThisComponent.CurrentController.Frame
dispatcher = createUnoService("")

rem ----------------------------------------------------------------------
dim args1(1) as new
args1(0).Name = "Symbols"
args1(0).Value = "¶"

dispatcher.executeDispatch(document, ".uno:InsertSymbol","", 0,args1())

end sub

NOTE: It is easy to get a macro like the above through the Tools | Macros | Record macro menu command, which records keystrokes and menu selections to create a macro.

Through Tools | Customize | Keyboard, selecting the key combination Alt-7, and then selecting the ParagraphMarkInsert macro for LibreOffice Macros | My Macros | Standard | Module1, this macro can then be connected to the specific keystroke.

I have used Synaptic to add Emacs, org-mode/elpa-org, ispell, emacs-goodies-el, and elpa-markdown-mode along with markdown itself. As a long-time user of Emacs, I find it immensely useful and easy to get the Emacs additions I need through Synaptic.

I have also added Recoll to allow me to search the content of my files for phrases. Recoll is set to index my files on the fly. It occasionally crashes, but it works for finding specific content across thousands of files.

Recoll results

Catfish is another file-search tool — a GUI for the terminal find and locate commands. If I know a file name or a part of a file name, catfish provides an incredibly fast way to find a file, and I probably use it now as much as I use recoll, if not more so.


Just plain works. Xubuntu has excellent documentation on this issue.

The only problem you might have is with the drivers needed for your printer, as Linux systems are still step children for most printer manufacturers. I use a Brother all-in-one printer/scanner, so the installation required downloading and installing multiple files (both CUPS and LPR drivers are needed, and LPR drivers should be installed first).


XSane, another app I have added to supplement Simple Scan that comes with Xubuntu, is fantastic. Make sure to adjust settings as needed, such as paper size — Window | Show Advanced Options. The scan dialog pops up and is ready to go once I select the number of pages to scan.


pdftk is a command-line app that I find immensely useful. It not only combines and splits up pdf documents, but it also provides a way to add a Bates stamp (i.e., page numbering).


In this example, the pagenumber_doc is a 200 pp. pdf file that only has page numbers in a pre-set location and style.

NOTE: pdftk is no longer included with 18.04, but as noted here there are several ways of getting it installed despite this problem.

Master PDF Editor lets me edit pdf docs and now includes redacting tools. The OCR is excellent, and an immensely useful tool is its ability to reduce the size of pdf files via its File | Save optimized as . . . command (clients too often send me B&W pages as scanned full-color images).

One thing I wish would happen is that settings would remain set when a new version is installed after an upgrade.


Wifi works without a hitch.


Samba and ssh are available options via thunar.

Thunar network connections

As demonstrated here, thunar presents a traditional file management interface. Shortcuts are available on the right. Menu commands provide numerous options, and the contextual (right-click) menu provides options for opening a terminal window or a catfish search window at the specific location. I much prefer this display and the menu options from what comes with nautilus and the standard Ubuntu install.


Cloud computing

As noted in other posts on this blog, I use both insync and DropBox. See these posts for details.

iPhone connectivity

For connecting an iPhone to Linux, start with Dedoimedo’s most recent how-to. Keep in mind that the key to iPhone connectivity is usbmuxd.

Getting usbmuxd to run automatically via a sudo systemctl command produced errors on my desktop. So, another option is to simply manually run sudo usbmuxd after every reboot (as once run, this daemon continues to run in the background until a reboot or log off).

And so . . .

The Galago Pro is getting better and better the more I use it. After a couple of months now, my fingers are moving along the keyboard and the track-pad just like they used to with my MacBook Pro.

And, Xubuntu 18.04 on this device has been stellar. Many of the problems that had cropped up in prior versions have now been fixed. The system is also still lean and quick. I may not have the cutting edge of OS design, but I am avoiding the gimmicks that seem to pop up with those new designs and the resulting problems and kludges that come with those changes.


UPDATE (23 July 2018): Set featured image — desktop screen grab — for post.
UPDATE (10 May 2019): Added a note about a fix to the Liberation font display bug I had been seeing.