From Chromebooks to Mint

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Lord Smedley
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From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Lord Smedley » Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:02 pm

Hi all,

I've been wanting a Linux PC since the late 1990s, but last week I finally had occasion to pull the trigger. I heard Mint was the most refined distribution so that's what I went with. Thought I'd say hi and introduce myself.

After more Macs and Windows PCs than I could count I shifted to Chromebooks a few years ago when I decided that I was sick of the overhead of dealing with complicated operating systems, and that Google's office suite plus a couple webapps were really all I needed to be productive. It was a great decision and I've never looked back.

Unfortunately, a couple days before a six month trip around the world my beautiful Dell Chromebook 13 broke down so I needed to take my four year old HP Chromebook 14 with me. Last week it too died, and much to my chagrin I learned that Chromebooks aren't for sale in Vietnam. So I went to one of the best laptop stores in town and purchased a beautiful Acer Swift 1 with Windows 10 preinstalled. Because it has only 64 GB of storage I couldn't do dual boot, and I don't want to run Windows anyway, so I wiped the whole disk and installed Mint 19 Tara.

All in all, I'm blown away by how slick and refined the experience is. Really the only downside to Mint is that it takes an extra 30 seconds to boot compared to a Chromebook.

The main hassle I've had so far is that Chrome was crashing every hour or two at first. I did a bunch of digging and went into Chrome's settings and turned off hardware acceleration and Mint hasn't crashed since.

Apart from that I have a couple disappointments. My mouse wheel is set a little too slowly for my liking and it's a drag that there's no setting for this on the Mouse preference panel. I know there are workarounds involving the command line but that's too much effort for me.

Also when I hook up a TV via HDMI the sound plays on the laptop rather than on the TV. That's a drag and there doesn't seem to be an easy fix.

I'm a writer and one thing I adored about Macs, and really missed on my Chromebook, was OS X's wonderful dictionary app. If there's something even half as good on Linux I'd love to know about it. Oh, and speaking of writing, it drives me CRAZY that on Chromebooks and in Linux there's no convenient set of keystrokes for em dashes and ellipsis. You have to hold down ALT and type a four-digit number. I really wish Linux would follow OS X's lead and enable these glyphs with a CTRL-ALT-Keystroke combination. Any serious writer needs them all the time, so it's a joke to expect people to memorize these four digit codes to make a basic typography character.

But apart from that I'm just loving everything about Mint. Given that I can reclaim some of my privacy by firing up Firefox, Tor, and DuckDuckGo, it seems like a worthwhile tradeoff for the extra boot time, the little bit of extra system administration, and the loss of a clean and simple second display solution via HDMI.

I've looked over the forums and I'm excited that there's a great community here. I'll try to help out by posting responses to people who are even more newbie to Mint than I am.

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Pierre
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Pierre » Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:07 pm

Hi Lord Smedley,

welcome to our forum.
:D

Do Take the Time to Read the LinuxMint Users Guide, that came with the installation.
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Please edit your original post title to include [SOLVED] - when your problem is solved!
and DO LOOK at those Unanswered Topics - - you may be able to answer some!.

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jimallyn
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by jimallyn » Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:26 am

Welcome aboard, Lord Smedley!
Lord Smedley wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:02 pm
it drives me CRAZY that on Chromebooks and in Linux there's no convenient set of keystrokes for em dashes and ellipsis.
You mean like … and – and — ? I use the Compose Key method. How to set it up may depend upon which desktop environment you use. If these links don't help, let us know which desktop environment you are using. Cinnamon? MATE? XFCE?

https://fsymbols.com/keyboard/linux/compose/

https://tuttle.github.io/python-useful/ ... sheet.html

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ComposeKey
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“If the government were coming for your TVs and cars, then you'd be upset. But, as it is, they're only coming for your sons.” - Daniel Berrigan

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kc1di
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by kc1di » Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:28 am

Hello Lord Smedley,
Welcome to the Linux Mint Forums.
Enjoy!
Easy tips : https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/
Linux Mint Installation Guide: http://linuxmint-installation-guide.rea ... en/latest/
Registered Linux User #462608

Lord Smedley
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Lord Smedley » Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:39 pm

jimallyn wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:26 am

You mean like … and – and — ? I use the Compose Key method. How to set it up may depend upon which desktop environment you use. If these links don't help, let us know which desktop environment you are using. Cinnamon? MATE? XFCE?
Yes, jimallyn, I'm just looking for an easy way to type the ellipsis and em dash glyphs in a browser window. Interestingly, the Google Docs developers recognize its importance to writers so they'll automatically convert to these glyphs if you type three dashes or periods in a row. But when I'm writing an email or a forum post and need either of those characters I'm hosed.

I'm using the latest Cinnamon/Tara. I visited the links you provided but was unable to make any headway in setting up a shortcut.

I'll be happy if I can find a way to get this working, but on a deeper level I think this is something nobody should ever have to go out of their way to set up. These two characters are widely used in writing, and it's strange to me that in 2018 you've still either gotta hold down ALT and type a four digit unicode, or you've got to use some obscure utility to set up a key binding. I think it's fair to say that the current requirements to get this working are too involved for many newbs, especially since the way to assign these key bindings differs from one flavor of Linux to the next.

Maybe the best way to scratch this itch is to find the proper developer channel in Ubuntu to make a request to define a simple keystroke combination that renders these glyphs? That'll eventually propagate to Mint and other distributions and spare end users who need to regularly type these characters significant hassle.

Any thoughts on where I could go to have this request seen by developers who can implement it?
Last edited by Lord Smedley on Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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smurphos
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by smurphos » Sat Oct 06, 2018 2:05 am

It should be set up by default in Cinnamon with the default compose key combo being Shift/AltGr. To check the compose key and optionally set a more convenient alternative open the Keyboard app > Layouts > Options > Position of Compose Key.

E.g. on my UK English keyboard layout

Shift/AltGr > release > ^ > release > a gives me â

Shift/AltGr > release > . > release > . gives me …

Shift/AltGr > release > - > release > - > release > - gives me —

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compose_key & https://cgit.freedesktop.org/xorg/lib/l ... ompose.pre

Lord Smedley
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Lord Smedley » Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:36 am

smurphos wrote:
Sat Oct 06, 2018 2:05 am
It should be set up by default in Cinnamon with the default compose key combo being Shift/AltGr. To check the compose key and optionally set a more convenient alternative open the Keyboard app > Layouts > Options > Position of Compose Key.
Thanks, smurphos, for the advice. Boy this is frustrating that something so simple is so hard to set up. I navigated:

Preferences > Keyboard app > Layouts >

Then I highlighted my only installed keyboard "English (US)" and chose:

Options >

There was no compose key already set up. Shift wasn't listed as a potential option, so I set up Alt GR and then tried your method for generating ellipsis and em dashes. At first it wouldn't work at all but with persistence I found it would work maybe one in six times. I figured there must be a conflict with using Alt GR as the compose key so I tried other bindings, sometimes with a single key and sometimes with a key pairing, but the behavior requiring multiple attempts to obtain the desired character persisted.

I've lost a good hour to trying to get this working. I'd be happy to file a bug report if someone can point me in the right direction, but I'd much rather file a feature request with the appropriate distribution since, as my previous response pointed out, I think being able to generate em dashes and ellipsis glyphs ought to be an out of the box behavior.

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smurphos
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by smurphos » Sun Oct 07, 2018 2:36 am

Hi, the default is the awkward Shift/AltGr (nothing set the the keyboard app). Sorry I'd forgotten that the default isn't listed

if you set an alternative compose key in the keyboard app (assuming you don't use one of the third level options) it's just a tap on that key followed by the character combo. If you hold the compose key for too long it doesn't work. Once you get used it it's quick and easy.

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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Lord Smedley » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:28 am

I appreciate the continued dialog, smurphos.

On my Cinnamon/Tara installation that I did on my Swift 1, there is no default keybinding shown in the keyboard options, and I was unable to get the emdash/ellipsis glyph to work when I tried RIGHT shift/AltGr. I now see that it must be LEFT shift, plus AltGR. But that doesn't resolve my main problem here, which is that the em dash and the ellipsis generates unreliably.

So, let' say I want to generate an em dash using your method. Here's how it works on my system.

I hold down left-shift/AltGR, then I release it. Then I hit the period. Nothing happens. So I hit period again. if I'm lucky an ellipsis generates. But sometimes I just get a period or nothing at all.

I'm pretty sure that there's an exact time, say 700 milliseconds, in which striking period after holding down the left-shift/AltGR keys will generate the ellipsis. I generally miss that exact timing. And for some reason generating an em dash is MUCH more unreliable than generating an ellipsis.

I'm able to go into keyboard options to modify the compose key combo, and I've successfully generated em dash and ellpsis glyphs doing this, but the same unreliability described above applies to the non-default compose key settings.

It's unreliable enough that I don't think I'll ever use this feature since the last thing I have time for when writing is interrupting my flow to get frustrated over why the glyph isn't being generated. I'd love to file a bug report here, but even more I'd love to make a feature request as described in my previous posts if somebody can point me in the appropriate direction. Thanks!

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smurphos
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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by smurphos » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:36 am

The feature itself is provided by the xorg/x server - https://gitlab.freedesktop.org/groups/xorg/-/issues for bug reports.

Persevere with it though. I always struggled with the default compose key combo, but changing it to a single key press for the compose key works 100% for me. As far as I know there is no timeout between pressing the compose key and starting the key combination. I think there is a timeout between the 2nd and subsequent keystrokes for those combos that require 3 keys or more after the compose key. As I mentioned a common mistake is to hold the compose key down for too long. A single tap is all that is needed.

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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by Lord Smedley » Sun Oct 07, 2018 6:35 am

Thanks, smurphos, for your ongoing and patient help with this. Thanks to you, I've finally turned a corner!

I just remapped the compose key to exclusively be the Alt-GR key (no shift or other keys held in tandem.) Things now work consistently, although the behavior is wonky. Let me tell you how.

Now, when I hit and release Alt-GR I have to wait a half second or so, and then when I hit the period or the dash:

<drumroll>

nothing happens.

But if I hit the period or dash again, half the time nothing happens, and the other half of the time the correct glyph appears.

For those times when nothing has yet happened, hitting the period or dash a third or maybe a fourth time will produce the correct glyph. The interval of time can be a good two seconds between hitting Alt-GR and the time that the proper glyph appears. Oddly, the ellipsis glyph usually forms on the second period strike whereas the emdash usually requires 3-4 strikes of the minus key.

I can certainly be happy with things as they are now, even if the behavior clearly deviates from what is supposed to be happening. If I'm going to file a bug report, do you suppose this behavior is indicative of an xorg/x server bug or that it's something attributable to Mint/Cinnamon/Tara? I don't want to bother the wrong people with this report, but given that I've invested two hours into sorting this mess out (successfully, thanks to your help), I think it would be worth trying to get this matter fixed so it doesn't inconvenience other newcomers.

And I still think this em dash/ellipsis glyph functionality is important enough that it should be baked into Mint without requiring special setup. If anyone can direct me to where I can propose this, I'd really appreciate it!

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Re: From Chromebooks to Mint

Post by WharfRat » Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:41 am

Hello Lord Smedley Image

Welcome to Linux Mint and the Linux Mint forum :)
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