New Addition to the Family

We have been blessed with a baby boy, ours first, in Feb. We couldn’t get any family from India on time, so we have to manage everything on our own. A decision, not very well-thought out from first-time to-be-parents. As most parents must be knowing, it is exhausting, yet a rewarding experience. Happy parenting.

Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition?


Nah, I will wait for the much talked about convergence to be ready.

I was waiting to buy a really good Ubuntu phone and Meizu MX4 was definitely a phone I was looking forward to when Ubuntu’s first two phones were announced. In fact I was hoping it will be MX4 Pro when its Android variant came out. Apparently it was not. I am not one of those who keep buying new phones once in a while. MX4’s specifications are modest, although far better than the BQ phones that came out. The major limitations are the lack of removable battery and external SD card support. I tried my luck on the Origami puzzle and got an invite, but I am not going for this. I will wait wee bit longer to get a better hardware and a phone that is not another android phone with Ubuntu on it.

Firefox SSL Error

I am currently running Firefox 38.0.5 on my Archlinux. After a recent update I started getting an SSL error on some https websites as below.

Secure Connection Failed

An error occurred during a connection to SSL received a weak ephemeral Diffie-Hellman key in Server Key Exchange handshake message. (Error code: ssl_error_weak_server_ephemeral_dh_key)

The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.
Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

This is because Firefox now requires 1024bit keys to avoid Logjam vulnerability. I saw a bug report in redhat bugzilla and a discussion in mozillazine on this. There is also a discussion on the Manjaro forum, which also says there is no problem in current windows installations. In short words, the server has a weak key which should be replaced with a stronger one. This is going to be like this from Firefox 39 onwards.

Temperory workarounds include install the Disable DHE extension from mozilla and downgrading openssl and nss on Archlinux. The extension seems to be the better solution at the moment to avoid other possible vulnerabilities by using older openssl. However this is not a safe option in long run. I expect the extension to stop working in FF39 or pretty soon after that.

PhD Thesis Submitted

Finally, my PhD research is completed with the submission of the hardbound copies of the thesis after addressing the comments in the thesis defense. On 4th Feb I collected the hard-bound copies of the PhD thesis and submitted them to the research office at Coleraine. It turned out to be a long day, but I could have managed better if I properly checked the train and bus timings.  Anyway, it was a big relief to get it over with after all these years.

thesis_cover thesis_front_page

More details of my PhD research is available here.

Resetting Default File Manager in Gnome

Ever since I updated to GNOME 3.14, I was facing some problems with the default application for folders. I am using more or less vanilla GNOME, so the default application for folders should be Nautilus. Whenever I open a folder from Nautilus, there are no problems. However, when I open a folder location from another application, say Skype after receiving a file from a friend or from file-roller (Archive Manager) after extracting files, it was getting opened in some other applications (e.g. Anjuta, Audacious etc). This is partly because these applications set themselves capable of opening a folder, I guess, for importing files. You might be able to get rid of this feature for each of these applications, but this was not an ideal solution.

As far as I know, there are two standard options to set default applications in GNOME.

  1. When you browse using Nautilus, right click on a file and go to properties. In the properties dialog window, select the tab “Open With”. In the list of applications shown there select the application you want to use and click on “Set as default”. In future the file (and other files of the same type) will be opened with the new default application.
  2. Open the Settings application and select “Details”. In that you have the option to set “Default Applications” on the left hand side list. When this is selected on the right hand side pane, you can set the default applications for a few generic types (Web, Mail, Calendar, Music, Video and Photos).

Both the above methods cannot be used to set the default application for a directory. Although one may think that it should work in the first option, you don’t get the tab “Open With”, when you access the properties of a directory. So no luck here.

Finally I managed to do this by editing “~/.config/mimeapps.list”. Open this file in your favourite text editor and add/edit the which sets “inode/directory”. To set Nautilus as the default application to for a directory, in the “[Default Applications]” category, add


and in the “[Added Associations]” category, add


An alternate approach is by entering the following in terminal. When you do this, behind the scene, the above steps will be carried out. (source: Arch Wiki)

xdg-mime default org.gnome.Nautilus.desktop inode/directory

PhD Viva Successfully Completed

My PhD viva has been successfully completed on 4th Nov, with minor corrections to be made and submit the corrected thesis in three months. The examiners were Prof. Jeremy L. Wyatt (University of Birmingham) and Prof. Liam McGuire (Ulster University). As expected the viva was a tough one. Nearly three hours discussion on original chapters!!! Many thanks to Prof. Wyatt to read through the whole thesis and having an interesting discussion on it. Hoping to complete the corrections and submit the final version in Jan 2015.

Gnome 3.10 in ArchLinux

Gnome 3.10 has been moved to Extra repository and whoever updated the system recently must have it running. I had done a custom install of the gnome group application the previous time. So I guess I don’t have any technology preview releases of applications like maps, music, photos, notes, weather and clocks. I don’t use boxes and documents either.    The update was done using usual pacman -Syu after disabling all gnome-shell extensions. It went on without any troubles, thanks to the extensive testing done by Arch gnome packagers and users. This time I wanted to help the testing, and I did start a virtual machine for that purpose. Anyway, Virtualbox had many bugs in the meantime and I couldn’t join in the staging/testing stage.

The most noticeable change is in the system status area. The individual controls for volume, power off, networking and bluetooth have been clubbed together and clicking on the top-right corner gives you something like this. I still don’t like it. Far too less system status are available.


Probably because of the application grouping I did when upgraded to 3.8, the dashboard apps are grouped into different categories. It can be the default behaviour as well. I am not sure of that at this stage as this was a direct update from 3.8, thanks to Arch’s rolling release model.


Along with the background, now you have option to change the lock screen image as well.

The window controls in the title bars are moved to the toolbar. So most of those apps have a close button at the top right in the toolbar, whether the window is maximised or not. There is some space savings too. I like it.



Other than these other changes seem to be under the hood modifications stabilising the wobbly parts and technology previews introduced in 3.8.

IP Blocklist

There has been widespread attacks on wordpress based blogs recently, which made me think about the security of my wordpress websites. Since I do not use the standard administrator usernames – admin, administrator, adminadmin, I was on the safer side. These usernames were used by botnets to access the wordpress blogs, probably by brute forcing.  I had some extra security measures in place, and after hearing about these attacks I started to log the attacks. Later I checked in internet and found big list of IPs being blocked either for spamming or for botnet attack. Anyway I added the ones I logged to these IPs and started blocking all these IPs. The download link to the list of IPs is available below the post. I would recommend other webmaster, whether they use wordpress or not have an eye on these IPs. If owners of any of these IPs think you are added to the list without any reason, please make valid claims to remove you from the list.


ArchLinux: mkinitcpio and Warnings about Missing Firmware Modules

While updating Arch Linux today, I got a couple of warnings during mkinitcpio of linux-lts package.

 -> Running build hook: [block]
==> WARNING: Possibly missing firmware for module: aic94xx
==> WARNING: Possibly missing firmware for module: bfa

After going through the forum thread and the mailing list, I found that there is nothing to worry, as this is because of a feature change in mkinitcpio 0.14 which checks all firmware modules and outs a warning, if any is missing. If any of those warnings you get is about any module, you are using, you have to worry. Otherwise you can simply ignore these warnings.

Enabling Categories in GNOME 3.8 Shell Application Menu

Update (2014-04-29): I have updated to GNOME 3.12 in Arch, and this method does not work for it. gnome-software is required to group things from GNOME 3.12 onwards. As of now, gnome-software does not exist for Arch, because of pending work required for libalpm.

Update (2014-03-27): GNOME 3.12 is released officially and there is support for adding custom categories in it. This can be done through “Software” – GNOME’s default app management application. As per GNOME 3.12 release notes, go to Software->Installed, select few applications and create a new category to put them in.

Libreoffice-Math (Equation-Editor) icon goes to both “Office” and “Education” in ArchLinux 3.10.

Update (2014-03-18): According to a comment below (by Poulin) you can add ‘chrome-apps’ to the category list to group chrome apps.  I do not use chrome, so cannot test this. However, I found this blog post, which might help you to integrate chrome apps to gnome desktop.

Update (2013-11-29): Two more categories (Universal Access and Education (thanks to Daniel)) added based on user comments.

More categories (wine-wine (thanks to Pillenski), Crossover, Crossover Games (thanks to Enio), Science (thanks to Regs)) added based on user comments.

Update (2013-11-23): One reader (Pillenski) has commented that by using “wine-wine” in the list can enable grouping of wine icons. I have not tried this as I stopped using wine and started using virtual machines.

Update (2013-05-27): More categories added. There is no stray (ungrouped) app icons now. The above change is managed by adding a new category called Others. In 3.8, even though we add a category and the program access icon is added to that list, another copy is still active in the old place. All these are moved to the Others, just to make to look it neat. 😉

Original post

Categories in the gnome-shell dashboard are removed in GNOME 3.8. All application icons are there and you need to know the name of the application to search for the icon in the shell dashboard. This is a half-cooked feature change. The ultimate aim is to provide a custom grouping facility for the user to group applications together, instead of gnome-developers or the application-developers decide which exactly is the category of the application. But the customisation options are missing in GNOME 3.8 and is expected only in GNOME 3.10, which is expected to be released in September 2013. Gnome 3.10 also does not categorise the applications. So the instructions below work for 3.10 as well. The customised categories are expected in GNOME 3.12 to be released in March/April 2014. However, for many users who uses periodic releases (as in Ubuntu/Fedora etc) may stuck with either of theses two versions for some time for sure.

Steps to enable application categories in GNOME-3.8/3.10 Dashboard

I read about enabling these categories in here. There might be more information available on some other website, but the way I brought some categories back is below.

1. You need to add a few entries using the dconf editor from the shell.

gnome-3.8-dconf  2. In the dconf editor, navigate to as shown in the figure below.


3. On the right side edit the app-folder-categories. The default is [‘Utilities’, ‘Sundry’]. Edit this line by double clicking it and replace it with this [‘Utilities’, ‘Games’, ‘Sundry’, ‘Office’, ‘Network’, ‘Internet’, ‘Graphics’, ‘Multimedia’, ‘System’, ‘Development’, ‘Accessories’, ‘System Settings’, ‘wine-wine’, ‘Crossover’, ‘Crossover Games’, ‘Science’, ‘Education’, ‘Universal Access’, ‘chrome-apps’, ‘Other’]. Earlier I had posted a smaller list, thanks to all who commented on this post, now you can categorise almost all programs. New screenshots of my gnome-shell with some app-categories are below. All programs now in a category or another. 🙂

gnome-3.8-dashboard gnome-3.8-games-apps gnome-3.8-graphics-apps gnome-3.8-internet-apps