Tweaking Elementary OS


Niels - November 17, 2021

Elementary OS has been my favorite desktop distribution for the past 2 years or so. Its out-of-the-box experience is very close to my preferred setup. Nothing is perfect though. Below are the tweaks I apply when installing Elementary OS 6.

BTRFS

The default Elementary OS install uses an encrypted ext4 partition. If you want to use encrypted btrfs, you're out of luck. The Custom Install will let you use btrfs, but not encrypted btrfs. My work-around is very simple, if a bit tedious.

Default install

First run the default install like you would normally do. This erases your disk and sets you up with an encrypted ext4 partition.

Open Encryption

Boot the installer once more. This time, choose a Custom Install. Choose to manage your disks, which fires up gparted. Use gparted to Open Encryption on the encrypted partition. (You could do this on the command-line, but this is quick and easy.)

Convert to btrfs

Exit gparted and go backwards in the installer. Now choose to enter the Demo mode and open a Terminal.

Enter the following command to convert the ext4 root to btrfs:

sudo btrfs-convert /dev/mapper/data-root

This takes only a minute or so on a clean install.

Update /etc/fstab

Before rebooting, we'll need to update /etc/fstab. To access the file, we first mount our newly converted btrfs filesystem:

sudo mount /dev/mapper/data-root /mnt

We then determine the new blkid of the btrfs filesystem:

sudo blkid /dev/mapper/data-root

It will show you two ID's, you need the first one:

sudo blkid /dev/mapper/data-root 
[sudo] password for niels:         
/dev/mapper/data-root: UUID="dba6ca21-79e0-49c9-b889-c37d2ccb446a" UUID_SUB="27c5452a-7878-4357-8f95-596a08cab55b" TYPE="btrfs"

Now use your favorite text editor to update /etc/fstab:

PARTUUID=48e067c9-0a5e-4ad7-acb6-2313973188d6  /boot/efi  vfat  umask=0077  0  0
UUID=da66e7aa-9162-4550-b527-514a045759b0  /boot  ext4  noatime,errors=remount-ro  0  0
UUID=dba6ca21-79e0-49c9-b889-c37d2ccb446a  /  btrfs  defaults,noatime,autodefrag,compress  0  0
/dev/mapper/data-swap  none  swap  defaults  0  0

Two things have been updated:

  1. The UUID, as obtained with blkid.
  2. The options changed from noatime,errors=remount-ro to defaults,noatime,autodefrag,compress

Reboot

You should now be able to reboot into your Elementary OS install.

Minimize

I'm not sure where this trend to remove the minimize button comes from, but it's easily brought back.

Add the Pantheon Tweaks PPA and install it:

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:philip.scott/pantheon-tweaks
sudo apt install -y pantheon-tweaks

This adds a Tweaks icon in the System Settings.

All you need to do there is change the Window Controls Layout from elementary to the one you prefer. In my case the macOS one.

Task Switcher

The default Elementary OS task switcher is a bit overwhelming. Using Catts we get a more traditional and calmer task switcher.

Please see the Catts page for instructions. (4 simple commands, unless you want to compile from source.)

 

Magic Trackpad 2 with Xorg


Niels - November 11, 2021 - Updated: November 12, 2021

Not quite happy with the solution described in my original post, I took another look at the problem and found:

  1. Xorg defaults to the libinput driver (just like Wayland), not the synaptics driver.
  2. The libinput driver complained about a parse error in /usr/share/libinput/50-system-lenovo.quirks.

I ignored the parse error the first time around because I do not have any lenovo input devices on this computer and assumed the parse error would not affect other devices. However, a parse error in 1 quirks file, does cause all quirks files to be ignored.

Deleting the faulty quirks file resolved the issue. My Magic Trackpad 2 now functions properly with Xorg.

Original post

I've been using an Apple Magic Trackpad 2~~ with my Ubuntu desktop for the past two years or so. When using Wayland this works perfectly out-of-the-box.

Not so much with Xorg. It detects the trackpad and loads the driver, but the cursor won't move unless I press the trackpad at the same time.

Creating /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-touchpad.conf fixed this:

Section "InputClass"
    Option "FingerLow" "2"
    Option "FingerHigh" "2"
EndSection

If you have more - potentially conflicting - input devices you'll want to expand that to:

Section "InputClass"
    Identifier "Apple Magic Trackpad"
    MatchIsTouchpad "on"
    MatchUSBID "05ac:0265"
    Driver "synaptics"
    Option "FingerLow" "2"
    Option "FingerHigh" "2"
EndSection

Use lsusb to check that the USBID is correct for your trackpad:

❯ lsusb
...
Bus 001 Device 005: ID 05ac:0265 Apple, Inc. Magic Trackpad 2
...
 

Jigsaw


Niels - October 31, 2021

Whoops. I accidentally wiped the VM running my Wordpress blog.

Rather than restore the Wordpress blog I decided to go with Jigsaw this time. Jigsaw is one of many static site generators, or as the cool kids say, a way to use Jamstack.

Jamstack

What makes a Jamstack site more than just a regular static website is its use of Javascript and API services to add dynamic features to your website.

The JAM in Jamstack stands for Javascript, API and Markup

I'm not a fan of microservice architectures like Jamstack as it tends to add complexity, cost and a dependency on potentially unreliable 3rd-parties.

That said, I don't need much functionality on my blog. This is JAMstack with very little J and no A. I may add comments at some point, but only if I can self-host them.

Wordpress

The founding developer of Wordpress, Matt Mullenweg, has this to say about it:

JAMstack is a regression for the vast majority of the people adopting it

Matt is biased, of course, but I agree with his arguments. Read them in more detail at thenewstack.io.