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Introduction to the FLAC Format

The FLAC audio format is so awesome, I still can’t get my head around it! It is lossless, like WAV files, yet often less than half the size. For example, if you had an album at full-quality (320 kbps) in MP3 format (which is lossy, meaning some quality had to be sacrificed), it could well be around 140Mb. Raw, lossless audio in the form of .wav files would on the other hand take up around 1Gb, if not closer to 1.5Gb. The reason .flac files have become so popular is that while being lossless in quality like .wav files, that album would probably only take up about 450Mb – half the size or less, but the same lossless quality.

If you’re quite happy with MP3s and their much-smaller filesize, if you ever end up with an album in FLAC format, you can always convert the tracks down to MP3 with a program like Sound Converter. But what if you get the album as one, long, continuous .flac file? Well, as long as that file also came with a .cue file (which specifies the breaks between tracks), it’s really easy to split it via the command-line, as you’ll see.

How to Split a FLAC Album with CUE File

First off, you need to make sure you have the necessary packages installed, which you can do with the following command:

sudo apt-get install cuetools shntool flac

Once done, you can start splitting the album with a command like the following:

cuebreakpoints album.cue | shnsplit -o flac album.flac

… replacing the word “album” in each case with the correct name. If the 2 files have multiple words with spaces, you’ll have to enclose them in double-quotes, like in the following example:

cuebreakpoints “The Number Of The Beast.cue” | shnsplit -o flac “The Number Of The Beast.flac”

Once that’s done, all you’ll have to do is rename the tracks (unless it doesn’t worry you), and edit the tags (the info you see in your audio player) via Rhythmbox, or a dedicated tag editor.

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While there are ways to change the default web browser via a GUI, this command-line method is even quicker. Also, while your email program and other apps might know which browser to open URLs with, you might find that ApportUbuntu‘s bug reporting system – looks to another browser you have installed. This is especially true if the other browser was at one point the default, and most notably this happens with Opera, though could also happen with Chromium/Google Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser you’ve installed before.

While Apport generally carries on with the bug reporting silently once you’ve clicked to continue, occasionally it require you to log into Launchpad, and will fire up the wrong browser, quite often it being Opera.

But it’s easy to remedy this by entering the following into the terminal:

sudo update-alternatives --config gnome-www-browser

Change Default Browser in Ubuntu

As you’ll see, all you have to do is enter the number corresponding to the browser you want to be the default (in this case 2 for Firefox). To complete the process, enter this command:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

Change Default Browser in Ubuntu 2

… and do the same there. That’s it – you’ll no longer have Apport or any other app open the wrong browser again.

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If you’ve upgraded your Ubuntu system to 13.10 and found that you no longer have any sound, you may have noticed in your sound preferences you now only have an audio device called “Dummy Output“. And you can’t change the device to your actual sound card, as it is no longer there (in KDE’s sound preferences, it will probably be listed as a device, yet will be greyed out, meaning you can’t select it). The problem isn’t your sound card, or needing new drivers for it, but a problem with ALSA – and hopefully will be easily fixed with the info in this article.

First, you need to check that your sound card is recognised by running this command in a terminal:

sudo aplay -l

It will then list the devices it finds (in the case of the following output, it finds the built-in audio [which is disabled in the BIOS] as well as the actual sound card I use):

**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 0: ALC883 Analog [ALC883 Analog]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 1: ALC883 Digital [ALC883 Digital]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 0: emu10k1 [ADC Capture/Standard PCM Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 2: emu10k1 efx [Multichannel Capture/PT Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 3: emu10k1 [Multichannel Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 4: p16v [p16v]

If you see something like that, then all should be well, but if you want to make sure, copy and paste this rather lengthy command into the terminal:

echo "Sound cards recognized by the system:"; lspci -nn | grep --color=none '\[04[80][13]\]'; echo "Sound cards recognized by ALSA:"; lspci -nn | grep '\[04[80][13]\]' | while read line; do lspci -nnk | grep -A 3 '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep -e 'Kernel modules: ..*' -e '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep --color=none -F "$line"; done; echo "Sound cards recognized by ALSA, and activated:"; lspci -nn | grep '\[04[80][13]\]' | while read line; do lspci -nnk | grep -A 3 '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep -e 'Kernel drivers in use: ..*' -e '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep --color=none -F "$line"; done

The output should be something like:

Sound cards recognized by the system:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)
Sound cards recognized by ALSA:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)
Sound cards recognized by ALSA, and activated:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)

Once again, everything seems fine, other than the fact you can’t enable your sound card as an audio device. Hopefully, the following command will rectify the situation:

sudo alsa force-reload

You will probably see no change until you reboot, so do so and when you login again, your sound should be back. If it isn’t, you may need to go back into the sound preferences and make the sound card the default audio device, after which all should be well.

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If the problem still persists, you can try the following command which has worked for some (replace “yourusername” with your actual username):

sudo usermod -aG audio,video,pulse,pulse-access yourusername

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If you’ve upgraded your Ubuntu system only to find you don’t have permission to do pretty much anything, as I did after upgrading to 13.10, it can be pretty annoying even for an advanced user, and downright scary for a novice. The symptoms are pretty obvious, as when you go to install updates, all you get is an error message saying “This operation cannot continue since proper authorization was not provided“. And using the Shutdown button seems to do nothing, and even using a terminal command to power off might see the shutdown process halt half-way through, forcing you to use the PC’s power button.

On top of that, even mounting removable drives (or other partitions on your internal drive) ends in being told you can’t, and even trying to play a DVD ends with “Unable to access “DVDVIDEO”. Not authorized to perform operation.

While there are ways around all of these situations for more advanced users, those less experienced with Ubuntu/Linux would find it all quite daunting, and pretty much look at their system as unusable. And one shouldn’t have to go through the bother of manually mounting drives through the terminal, or invoking the Software Updater as superuser, or any other thing we usually take for granted.

Luckily, the fix – which involves PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) – is actually quite simple, and should have everything back to normal in no time.

In a terminal, enter the following command to edit the PAM authentication file for the LightDM display manager:

gksu gedit /etc/pam.d/lightdm

Under the first line “#%PAM-1.0” paste the following 2 lines:

session required pam_loginuid.so
session required pam_systemd.so

Save and exit the file, then log out and back in again, and all should now be fine (you shouldn’t need to reboot).

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Another method, which fixed the problem for some (but not in my case, and many others) is to run:

sudo pam-auth-update --force

This opens PAM‘s config within the terminal, at which you either check or uncheck items, or just hit Tab to go to OK, and hit Enter.

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If need be, like you have GDM installed and it is interfering with LightDM, run dpkg-reconfigure gdm and select lightdm (you may need to reboot).

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A couple of years or so ago, Ubuntu‘s file manager, Nautilus, gave you the ability to “Safely Remove Drive” when right-clicking an attached USB hard drive (or flash drive), rather than just simply “Unmount” it. The difference between the two is that when you simply unmount a drive, it is still listed as attached (but not mounted) in Nautilus‘s left-pane. For many, seeing the drive completely removed was reassuring, since it could then be unplugged safe in the knowledge there would be no data loss, or physical damage to the device.

However, in the Ubuntu 12.10 upgrade, we lost this option, and now only have “Unmount” and “Eject” (which is exactly the same as “Unmount“, except in the case of CD/DVD drives where it will eject the disc tray).

Device Context-Menu

While “Safely Remove Drive” may yet make a return (it has caused a flood of complaints about this backward move), for now you can do it via the command-line if you really prefer this to simply unmounting.

First, if you’re unsure what the drive’s address is, run the following in the terminal:

mount|grep ^'/dev'

If you only have one internal hard drive, and no other storage devices attached, it should be something like /dev/sdb. To safely unmount and totally remove the drive, enter the following command, replacing /dev/sdb with your own drive’s designation if need be:

udisks --unmount /dev/sdb1 && udisks --detach /dev/sdb

You should now see your drive disappear from the file manager’s left-pane.

Note that in the unlikely event you have a partition other than the first partition on the drive mounting, you will need to change the “1” (ie: sdb1) in the command to reflect that.

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If you’ve installed a program for working with specific file types, you might find that Ubuntu‘s file manager Nautilus has no idea about it when you right-click a file and go to Open With, where a list of alternative programs to the default are presented. While in most cases that new app will be found when you choose Other Application… from the context menu, sometimes this isn’t the case.

Back in Gnome 2.x, if the program wasn’t listed, you could choose to add a custom application, which let you specify the command manually. However, this is no longer the case, but there should be another way to rectify this (see also the command-line interface method at the bottom).

In this example, we’ll look at getting Nautilus to recognise PDF Editor (pdfedit) as a viable program when right-clicking PDF documents, since the file manager doesn’t know it exists, and one can no longer just specify pdfedit as a custom command (at least via the GUI).

While you could be forgiven for thinking you’d need to hack a list of applications (for example, ~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list), the answer in fact lies in editing the .desktop file of the newly-installed program, and simply inserting three characters into it. Basically, this will allow Nautilus to add it to its context menu (actually, it specifies that the application can be passed a filename, which is what is missing).

All you need is the actual command that runs the program (e.g. pdfedit for PDF Editor), and you should be able to guess the .desktop file’s name (e.g. pdfedit.desktop), and open it for editing with the following command (replacing pdfedit with the appropriate name in your case):

gksudo gedit /usr/share/applications/pdfedit.desktop

(Note that the .desktop files should be in /usr/share/applications, but if not will be in ~/.local/share/applications, so change the path accordingly if you need to. Also, if you cannot correctly guess the .desktop file’s name, you can get the correct name by going to the folder and browsing for it).

[Desktop Entry]
Name=PDF Editor
Comment=PDF Editor
Exec=pdfedit
Icon=/usr/share/pdfedit/icon/pdfedit_logo.png
Type=Application
StartupNotify=false
Terminal=false
Categories=TextTools;Viewer;Graphics;Qt;

Find the Exec= line and you will see the command listed after it. Simply go to the end of the line, hit the spacebar, and add %f, so the line looks like:

Exec=pdfedit %f

(Once again, substitute your command’s name for pdfedit).

Simply save the file when exiting, and you shouldn’t even need to restart Nautilus, let alone log out or totally reboot. You should immediately see the desired program in the list of apps presented in Other Application…, and once you open a file with it, the app should be easily accessible in the list of secondary programs found in Open With.

If you want to make that program the new default for opening the particular filetype, you can now right-click one, choose Properties, go to the Open With tab, click on the app under Recommended Applications, and click the Set as default button.

CLI Method to Change Application & Set Default:

You can easily open a file with another application using the mimeopen command in the terminal. However, if the program isn’t already in the list of recommended applications, you’ll need to make it the default for that filetype first. Simply open a terminal in the folder where the file is and run a command like the following (substituting Recipes.pdf with the appropriate filename and filetype):

mimeopen -d Recipes.pdf

Please choose a default application for files of type application/pdf

1) GIMP Image Editor (gimp)
2) Adobe Reader 9 (AdobeReader)
3) Document Viewer (evince)
4) Other…

use application #4
use command: pdfedit

Simply choose the number that corresponds to Other… (in this case it’s 4), then type the command of the program after use command: (you probably won’t need to specify the path, but if it doesn’t work without it, it should be something like /usr/bin/pdfedit).

After that, you can switch default applications quite easily with the above command, or use the --ask option to just open the file in the desired app without changing the default (note there is no option to choose Other…, which is why you have to use the -d switch first):

mimeopen --ask Recipes.pdf

Please choose an application

1) pdfedit (pdfedit-usercreated-2)
2) GIMP Image Editor (gimp)
3) Adobe Reader 9 (AdobeReader)
4) Document Viewer (evince)

use application #

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That’s it – hopefully with either of the methods you’re not cursing Nautilus any more, and have more control of your filetypes than your file manager currently provides.

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If you’ve attached an external hard drive for backing up your files, or created a new partition for storage, only to find you don’t have the permissions to use it, you’d be understandably frustrated. But it’s actually quite easy to remedy by simply running a command in the terminal in the form of:

sudo chown -R username:username /partition/mount-point

Note that the above isn’t the actual command you’ll be using, as you’ll need to replace each instance of username with your actual username, and also determine your mount-point, which is not the device name (eg: /dev/sdb1).

To find the mount-point, run mount in the terminal, and locate the line that corresponds to the drive or partition in question. If you have never named (or set the label for) it, it will probably look something like:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820

If you have set the label with something descriptive, it should like similar to:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/1Tb Pocket Drive

As you can see, your mount-point will look something like /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820 or /media/1Tb Pocket Drive, so all you need to do now is run a command like one of the following, replacing the relevant info with what is appropriate to you:

sudo chown -R billgates:billgates /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820

sudo chown -R billgates:billgates '/media/1Tb Pocket Drive'

Note that if your custom label contains spaces (e.g. 1Tb Pocket Drive) , you will need to enclose the entire mount-point path in single quotes, but won’t need them if it’s a single word or multiple words joined by hyphens or underscores.

That’s it – you should now be able to do whatever you want with the drive or partition in question, as you’re now the owner.

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PDF (Portable Document Format) documents are a handy way to present text and images to others knowing they’ll look the same no matter what word processor or operating system they use. Basically, they’re a snapshot of a document, so saving images from them can be a hassle, even if your viewer lets you right-click them and save them as files. There are a few programs around that can do this for you, but it’s actually much easier and faster doing this from the command-line.

The pdfimages command is part of poppler-utils, which should already be installed on your system (sudo apt-get install poppler-utils in the terminal if it isn’t). To extract the images from a PDF, just open a terminal in the folder with the document, and run a command like the following:

pdfimages -j Cool-Pix-of-2011.pdf cool2011

Note that when extracting from files with spaces in the name, you will need to enclose the filename in single quotes. Eg:

pdfimages -j 'Cool Pix of 2011.pdf' cool2011

The text at the end of the command is what each extracted image will begin with, so the resulting filenames will be cool2011-000.jpg onwards (note that numbering starts at 000, not 001). Once again, if you’d prefer to have spaces in the target names, for example to mirror the name of the original PDF, then enclose that in single quotes too (eg: 'Cool Pix of 2011 ' – note the space at the end, just to provide a bit more separation between '2011' and the hyphen preceding the automatic numbering; this is of course optional, and you can pretty much do what you want). Eg:

pdfimages -j 'Cool Pix of 2011.pdf' 'Cool Pix of 2011 '

Your pictures will now be extracted into the folder with names starting with Cool Pix of 2011 -000.jpg.

Also, the -j option is to save the images in the .jpg format, otherwise they will be saved in .ppm (Portable Pixmap) format, with each file being over a megabyte. This can mean, for example, that an 18Mb document with 120 images can extract to 154Mb of files, whereas exporting them as .jpg ends up with a total of 18Mb, just like the original document. Of course, if you’d prefer to save them as .ppm images, simply leave out the -j option.

If you would like to include the page numbering in the file names, add the -p option. Eg:

pdfimages -j -p 'Cool Pix of 2011.pdf' 'Cool Pix of 2011 '

Lastly, don’t worry if you see the following in the terminal for each image being extracted:

Error (18468081): Missing ‘endstream’
Error: Unknown operator ‘endstream’
Error: Unknown operator ‘endobj’

You shouldn’t see that with every PDF you try to extract from, but even when you do you should find the target images have been created without issue.

Extra Notes:

For more options for this command, run pdfimages -?. For example, you can specify a start and end page, but personally I find it easier to just extract the whole document and delete any images I don’t want afterwards. But if you need to specify a password, you will find the option here.

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Ubuntu has moved on to “Unity“, and Gnome has evolved to version 3‘s “Gnome Shell“, but many people (like myself) still prefer to use the old “Classic” desktop – be it the old Gnome 2 version, or the “Fallback Mode” of Gnome 3 (users of 11.10 upwards have no choice but to use the Gnome 3 version).

While the 2 versions of the “Classic” interface do have some differences – no “System” menu in Gnome 3 (read this if this is your only concern), and having to hold Alt while right-clicking it to access options – both have panels that are much more customisable (and infinitely more useful) than what “Unity” and “Gnome Shell” currently offer.

But things can go awry, like after doing some tweaking, or installing a program, or having to do a hard reboot, and you can find your panel altered (particularly minus the menus), or even completely missing. So we’ll look at a few different scenarios, and how to rectify them, including how to force Gnome to reset your menus back to their defaults (which is probably the quickest and easiest method). Also, because I’ve seen a lot of newbies in forums say “My Applications menu is missing!” when they should be saying “My top panel has totally vanished!”, we’ll look at how to get your panel back as well.

Finally, because some will need to take a harder approach (or just prefer an easier one), we’ll look at how to totally reset your panels back to their defaults. This is by far the most drastic measure, but it’s quick and easy, and for most people there are no customisations to worry about losing. Besides, if your panel has totally died or vanished, and nothing else you’ve tried has worked, then it’s the only option left.

Try A Quick Panel Restart:

First off, it might be enough to simply refresh the panel by forcing it to close then re-open, which can be done by a reboot, or logging out, or simply entering the following command into the terminal or via Alt+F2:

killall gnome-panel

It pays to do that first, in case that’s all that’s really needed, but chances are you’ve already tried logging out or rebooting, so check out the following tips.

Restore Missing Menus to Panel:

If just your main menu (the “Applications” and “Places” menus, and the “System” menu in Gnome 2) is missing, then perhaps all you need to do is add the menu back to your panel. Right-click an empty area of your panel (holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choose “Add to Panel…“, then scroll down till you find “Menu Bar” (ignore “Main Menu“, as that is a small icon version), and drag it to the left area of your panel.

If it’s conceivable that you perhaps accidentally right-clicked the menu and hit “Remove From Panel“, then it might pay to do this, especially if you have panel customisations you don’t want to lose.

Force Reset of Main Menus:

If you can’t add the menus back to your panel, for example you can’t invoke “Add to Panel…” with a right-click, it’s time to reset the menus to their defaults, which is done by deleting some configuration files. Actually, technically you’re not deleting anything, as the 2 files in question are simply renamed with .bak extensions [so they’re still there if you really need them later], forcing Gnome to recreate those files with default values.

To force Gnome to rewrite its panel menus with default values, enter the following command into a terminal:

mv ~/.config/menus/applications.menu ~/.config/menus/applications.menu.bak && mv ~/.config/menus/settings.menu ~/.config/menus/settings.menu.bak

(That should work with either Gnome 2 or 3, though the settings menu part of it probably won’t do anything in Gnome 3).

All you have to do now is log out, then once you log back in again, your panel should be back with all its menus. Or you can simply enter killall gnome-panel into the terminal and it should successfully refresh your panels without having to log out.

Make a New Top Panel if Missing:

If your panel is absent, you could have even accidentally deleted it yourself, if you unwittingly right-clicked the panel and chose “Delete This Panel” (in Gnome 2 – in Gnome 3 that is harder to do, since you need to be holding Alt while right-clicking the panel). But don’t immediately blame yourself, as all sorts of mishaps can result in a missing panel.

Whatever the case, you should be able to recreate your top panel simply by right-clicking the bottom panel (while holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choosing “New Panel“. You’d then move it to the top, then right-click it (holding Alt in Gnome 3) and choose “Add to Panel…” to add back all the various bits and pieces you had before (the “default” panel is actually a blank panel with a bunch of plugins added).

Obviously, this would be the most time-consuming method, but if you plan to customise your panel anyway, you may as well start from scratch. However, the easiest method would be to totally reset your panels, so keep reading.

Force A Complete Panel Reset:

When all else fails, it’s time to force Gnome to completely reset your panels, which is done by deleting the configuration files. That might sound drastic, and in reality this really is the last resort, but if your panel is totally messed up, chances are your old settings are useless anyway, or rather that having to stick some launchers back on a clean panel will be a welcome alternative to having no panel, or one that is buggy, or missing the “Applications” menu or whatever.

To force Gnome to recreate its panels with default values, enter the following commands into a terminal:

gconftool --recursive-unset /apps/panel (This wipes the panel’s settings)

rm -rf ~/.gconf/apps/panel (This deletes the panel’s folders and files)

killall gnome-panel (This forces the panel to close and restart)

Your panel should now be back with all its menus (but of course minus any customisations). If for some reason they don’t appear immediately, a reboot should fix it.

Alternative Commands for Panel Reset:

ΔΔΔ Some guides have gconftool-2 --shutdown as the first command (this shuts down the current user’s gconfd), though gconftool --recursive-unset /apps/panel should work perfectly fine without it. However, if you aren’t having success, then run it first.

ΔΔΔ If you’re running the commands via the Alt+F2 Run Application box, chances are it won’t like the tilde (~) in the second command, so use rm -rf $HOME/.gconf/apps/panel instead.

ΔΔΔ Instead of killall gnome-panel, you can use pkill gnome-panel (which is basically the same thing), or nohup gnome-panel --replace &, or nohup gnome-panel --replace </dev/null &>/dev/null & (note that nohup specifies the command not halt when the terminal is closed, so is not needed if using Alt+F2).

ΔΔΔ If you’d rather make a backup of the panel’s files before deleting them, run mv ~/.gconf/apps/panel ~/Settings/PanelBackup (note the second path can be whatever you want; in this case, it’s a folder called PanelBackup inside a Settings folder within my home folder I have for storing various config files and settings backup). It actually moves the whole folder to a new location, which is basically the same as deleting it, so you shouldn’t need to run the second command (since there is nothing left there to delete, anyway).

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