I’m going to show you how to fix a problem that’s driven me crazy literally for years. If you’re using KRDC to remotely access a computer with VNC, the Scale button, by default, does nothing. It’s actually a super easy and kind of silly fix. If you prefer video, see my YouTube video on this embedded at the bottom.
If you look at the KRDC config file you can see that scaling defaults to 100.
For some reason, this causes the scaling button to do nothing. To fix this, you could hand edit the krdc config file every time you have a new connection, or, you can just add the Scaling Factor action to the toolbar.
Go Settings then Configure Toolbars
Scroll down and select Scaling Factor Click the right arrow to add it to the toolbar Click the up arrow to put it next to Scale Click OK
If you click Scale, still nothing happens. Turn Scale on and then drag the slider and scaling will start working!
At this point you won’t have to drag the slider anymore. Once scale is off of its default value, the scale button works as expected. Simply do this for every new VNC client you connect to.
One of my favorite things about running KDE’s own distro, KDE Neon, is how it defaults to using the KDE file UI in Firefox. I’m not sure why Kubuntu and Fedora KDE don’t know this, but it’s easy enough to configure.
The magic behind this is Firefox’s ability to use an XDG desktop portal. You probably already have the KDE XDG desktop portal installed, but if not, simply run:
sudo dnf -y install xdg-desktop-portal-kde
sudo apt install xdg-desktop-portal-kde
Configuring Your Shell
Next, we tell GTK apps, like Firefox, to use the KDE file dialogs if they’re able. We do that by setting in a variable in either our ZSH or BASH configuration (whichever your default shell is).
echo export GTK_USE_PORTAL=1 >> .zprofile
echo export GTK_USE_PORTAL=1 >> .profile
Now just log out and back in and you get should native KDE file dialogs when saving or opening files with Firefox!
One of the reasons I switched to Fedora recently was it’s support for Flatpaks. Sure they’ll work anywhere, but having them be such a big part of Fedora (check out Fedora Kinoite) really intrigued me. I love the idea of having the same version of apps across distros that’s also the latest (or nearly) version of the app.
I also like when every app looks like it’s part of the same ecosystem. The KDE and Gnome devs have done an awesome job of that by making themes that work in both GTK and Qt (KDE) apps. Unfortunately, Flatpak apps using GTK on KDE don’t automatically use the theme you’ve set in System Settings.
To fix that, I’ll show you how you can use the Flatseal app to set the GTK them for Flatpak apps. You can do this through the shell for individual apps and universally, but I prefer this way to give myself flexibility.
I’m assuming you’re using Breeze or Breeze-Dark here. Otherwise, substitute with the theme you are using. If the theme you are using is not in flathub, you might need to choose one that is.
Or, can a man fall in love with KDE, 20 years later
KDE has never been able to capture my heart. I remember trying KDE 1.1 or so on Madrake Linux 6 in the late 90s. It just never clicked for me. I opted instead for Enlightenment. Ever since then, I’ve tried it every year or so to see if I could understand peoples’ love for it. I didn’t fall for KDE 3.5 that so many people remember fondly, or KDE 4, which people recall much less fondly. I’ve peeked in on KDE Plamsa 5 during it’s development, but it never was able to bring me in. But here I am, in 2019, about 20 years since I started using Linux, and I’ve giving KDE Plasma 5.16.4 a go!
So, why now? Well, as I said, I try KDE every now and then. Something about it always draws me in, before turning me off again. I recently ended up down an internet rabbit hole following articles on Plasma mobile, Qt Python bindings and even Qt C# bindings for .Net Core (and I love me some C#). I wondered: “Could Plasma, Plasma Mobile, Qt, and C# be the epic combo of my dreams?” Let’s find out!
I’m running KDE Plasma 5.16.4 on KDE Neon Linux. Neon is based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS using KDE’s own, and constantly updated, repos for Plasma itself. I figured as long as I’m giving a fair shake, I ought to go right to the source. (As I’ve written this article, I’ve upgraded across a few versions of 5.x Plasma)
I’m running it on my trusty desktop with a Core i7 920, AMD Radeon RX 560, 12 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and a HiDPI monitor at 3840×2160. It’s my daily driver at home for general computing, gaming, and game development.
I’m also running the X11 version of Plasma, rather than Wayland. I did some testing and Wayland seems to be particularly fluky with AMD graphics, though remarkably stable on the Intel-graphics based laptop I tested on. Your mileage may vary.
At work I use a Mac, so having the close, minimize and maximize icons on the left just keeps my flow going. I really thought this was going to be one of those “sorry, can’t do with Plasma” things. Oh, how wrong I was! In face, Plasma lets you customize all the icons on title bar.
I was able to connect a Bluetooth Microsoft Arc Mouse and my Apple AirPods without any difficulty whatsoever. Major bonus in my book!
One of things I love about Plasma is the decimal-based resolution scaling. Wheres the GTK-based desktops I’ve used require scaling at 1x, 2x, 3x, etc., Plasma allows you too choose, for example, 1.5x. This is a huge improvement for HiDPI displays.
The caveat is, you’re probably not going to be running all Qt apps. Invariably, you’ll also run some GTK apps as well. These will ignore your scaling. This was the case for me with Unity Editor.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix!
Find the app you need to scale
Prefix the command with: GDK_SCALE=2 GDK_DPI_SCALE=0.5
While this isn’t an issue for me on my main computer, I did want to see how Plasma handled multiple monitors in case I’m able to get a 2nd display at home someday. Using a test laptop with Intel-based graphics I had no problem at all running Plasma with two 4K monitors daisy chained with DisplayPort.
One of the things that drives me crazy about Nautilus is that it doesn’t support the preview of PSD files out of the box. Perhaps there’s a plugin or setting somewhere, but not that I could find. I was thrilled to open a folder with a whole slew of PSD files and see previews of them working by default.
If you’re a lover of docks like I am, I can’t recommend Latte Dock highly enough! Latte Dock is integrated beautifully into the Plasma ecosystem, with all the fun stuff like pinning and app actions. For example, the Spotify app will give you playback options right from the dock icon.
Media over SMB
Dolphin (KDE’s file manager) does fantastic job of browsing SMB shares. It’s handy to be able to view shares without actually mounting them, but there’s quite a few drawbacks. Most frustrating was getting media to play when double clicking the file. I was eventually able to get it to work with VLC by using the snap version and dragging/dropping the file into the VLC window, but this still required me putting in my username and password for each video. My recommendation: mount the share, and everything works fine. I found smb4k recommended in a forum for this, and it does a fantastic job. Just make sure to exclude it’s default mount point, ~/smb4k, from your backup jobs.
Discover is Plasma’s app installation and system update tool. It’s gotten much better over the years (and even since I began writing this article), but can still be finicky.
[Update: the awesome Nate Graham fixed what was apparently an issue with how kmenuedit comes up in search results. Thanks so much! https://invent.kde.org/plasma/kmenuedit/-/merge_requests/5] For example: if I search for ‘kmenu,’ I get nothing. It’s not until I search for ‘kmenuedit’ that I get a search result. I just seems by now that I should be able to do a partial search and good results.
I will say this about Discovery: it’s ability to handle both apt and snap versions of packages is very convenient!
KRDC is a Qt-based remote desktop app for Plasma. It works great on a regular-resolution displays, but has some strange scaling issues for me on a HiDPI display and AMD graphics. I like to have a bunch of remote desktop sessions open at once, so I’ll typically have the remote desktop display be the current size of the client window. This works great in Remmina (the GTK equivalent of KRDC), but with KRDC I can never get it working quite right. (See below)
I’m sold! I started this article about four months ago wondering when I’d switch from Plasma back to Budgie. Now, I can say without a doubt that Plasma will remain my desktop of choice for the foreseeable future. Great job Plasma team!
For anyone who’s installed Ubuntu Server before, there’s not much here for you. I’m putting this here for anyone starting out with Ubuntu and for the sake of completeness.
Also, my 1st warning: this is the setup I think will serve me best for my particular situation. It may not be the best for you, and, while it’s somewhat redundant, it certainly isn’t “enterprise-grade.” You were warned ?
In the steps below, anytime you see something in brackets, replace it with the correct value for your system, without the brackets. For example, if you see: ssh [username]@[ip address] You should really enter something like: ssh email@example.com
All the major Linux distros are awesome. You really can’t go wrong! For servers, I’ve typically gone with Centos in the past (and on this Ubuntu server will be many Centos virtual machines). However, there is one reason I’ve decided to go with Ubuntu in this instance: ZFS. Ubuntu has ZFS baked in, whereas Centos and Fedora require recompilation of kernel modules after major OS upgrades. Since I want this box to be as turnkey as possible (if it goes down, my internet will go down as well), Ubuntu it is!
First, download the Ubuntu Server iso from Ubuntu. I’ll be using the 18.04 LTS release, since I prefer to stick to LTS releases for critical infrastructure.
Next, either burn the iso to a DVD or image it to a flash drive. If you use the flash drive method, I recommend Fedora Media Writer. It’s available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, and will image pretty much any Linux distro to USB.
Once you’ve got a bootable DVD or flash drive, boot from it. Most servers and workstations will tell you which key to press on the keyboard to get to your BIOS/UEFI boot menu.
After booting, choose *Install Ubuntu Server.
Choose your language.
Choose your keyboard layout.
Choose Install Ubuntu.
I’m going to use DHCP for now and set static IP later when I configure the virtualization networks for KVM. If you need to configure a static IP, you can do so here.
If you use an internet proxy, set it here.
Choose the default Ubuntu mirror.
I prefer to use LVM in case I need to resize partitions in the future.
I’ll be using one SSD as a boot volume. Choose whichever drive you’ll be booting from. I’ll be using all of the rest of the drives for ZFS, so I’ll leave them as they are for now.
By default, Ubuntu will only use 4GB of your drive for the root partition. Since all of my other data will live my ZFS volumes, I’ll expand the volume to use the whole 1TB.
To change the size of the root volume, use the down arrow to chose “ubuntu-lv,” press Enter, then choose “Edit.”
Ubuntu will helpfully tell you the max size you can set the partition to. Enter that number and choose “Save.”
Let Ubuntu know your name, your computer’s name, the username you’d like to use, and the password you’d like to use.
You now have the option of installing a secure shell server. This will allow you to log in remotely. I’ll be installing this.
You also have the option of installing some other services. You can always install these later. I’ll be skipping them and just choosing “Done.”
When the installation has finished, choose “Reboot Now.”
Remove the bootable DVD or flash drive and press Enter.
Once the server has rebooted, you can log in to the server itself or via SSH (if you installed SSH).
If you need to find out your server’s IP address for SSH, log in via the console and run the following:
Then on the computer you are using to SSH into the server run:
ssh [username]@[ip address]
Before anything else, let’s make sure everything is up-to-date.
sudo apt upgrade
Once that has completed, you may need to reboot.
KDE On a Server?
Let’s get right to it: it’s not considered security-wise to install a GUI on a server. However, I’ll be using things like Handbrake and Virtual Machine Manager, so I’ll be putting on KDE. To add a bit of security and save memory, I’ll manually start KDE when I need it.
To install just the very minimum of KDE (you can always add the other bits later), run:
I’m also going to install a couple other KDE apps to make my life easier. KDE’s Konsole terminal and the dolphin file manager:
sudo apt install konsole dolphin
If you want all of KDE, and have it start be default, you can simply run this instead:
sudo apt install kubuntu-desktop
If GNOME is more your thing, you can install it with:
sudo apt install ubuntu-gnome-desktop
If you install just the minimum KDE, your server will still boot in console mode. To start KDE, simply log in and run:
Since I’ll often want to use the UI remotely, I’m also going to install a package called xrdp. This will serve a desktop over the RDP protocol so I can get a desktop remotely:
sudo apt install xrdp
This will install xrdp, configure the service to start automatically, and start the service. Once it’s finished, you can connect to your server’s IP address via any remote desktop app and use the same username and password you use to log in locally.