Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Things to look at when LXD container does not get IPv4 network address

Sometimes you create a LXD container by the book and it does not receive an IPv4 address and / or does not have internet access. This has bitten me a few times already, and I always end up searching for a solution online.

So this time around I decided to write a short post and add a link to save me some hand wringing. Or I could just ask ChatGTP, next time if I forget about this post.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Fonts not Showing in Snap Packaged Software


You've installed the latest snap package of an application you've been dying to try and are happy to see it published in the Snap Store. But when you launch it, it only shows big hollow squares where it should be showing text. Also the icon spacing might be all wrong.


Open a terminal and type:
$ fc-cache -r
This regenerates the font cache.


No more hollow rectangles for text in your shiny new snap apps.

Thanks to this post on the Manjaro Forum for the answer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Subsonic 6.1.4 Released! Snap updated.

For the first time in just over a year there has been a new release of the Subsonic media server.

An updated snap package is available from the Snap Store, or by clicking on the button on the right.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Printing documents from Ubuntu Touch

Early previews of Ubuntu Touch 16.04 OTA-4 came with a settings panel for configuring printers. But the dual concerns of a root image that was growing too large, and the unfinished feature being deemed expendable conspired to make it so that the feature was dropped in subsequent previews. It has not made a reappearance in the recently released OTA-5 either. I expect it will be revisited when space is made available in the root image by removing some deprecated libraries.

Need To Print

But what if I want to be able to print the attachment of an email from the convenience of my mobile device? Going up the stairs, turning on the desktop, waiting for it to boot, logging in, opening my email, then printing the attachment, takes up so much time! Accessing the correct email is so much faster on my phone. So I would want to be able to print from it too.

I got to thinking that it should be possible to set up printing in a Libertine container. And turns out it is! Let's walk through the steps. I will assume that you already have a running Libertine container. Lets call ours xenial. I will also assume that you have a network printer that is accessible in a browser under http://<address of printer server>:631. In other words, that you have a CUPS server running somewhere on your local network. For the purposes of this walk-through let us assume the IP address of the server is

The Setup

Fire up the Terminal app in Ubuntu Touch and install the CUPS client package in the xenial container:
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial -p cups-client
We only want the client package since we will not be running a CUPS server locally in the container. This would not have been possible even if we wanted to, because daemons cannot be started inside Libertine containers.

Next enter the container shell:
$ libertine-container-manager exec -i xenial -c /bin/bash
You will now be in a root shell inside the xenial container. What we need to do here is tell the CUPS client where to look for a CUPS server. The default location is localhost. But we wouldn't be running a CUPS server on the device itself. So we need to point it to our server. Remember that ours is running at address
# mkdir -p /etc/cups
# touch /etc/cups/client.conf
# echo "ServerName" >> /etc/cups/client.conf
Now you should be able to print from any other application installed in the container. Just install your favorite editor and viewers alongside. In my setup I have installed firefox, libreoffice and evince.

Notice that if you have more than one container on your device and you want to be able to print from within that container also, you would have to repeat the above steps for that container also. So it might be worth it to take a moment to consider how you want to distribute your applications among the different containers.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Migrating from ElementaryOS 0.4 to Ubuntu 16.04 without reinstalling

The Good

ElementaryOS is one handsome Linux distribution. It is elegant in the execution and I would recommend it to any Apple refugees who're not tied to any exclusively MacOS applications, along with any newcomer to Linux in general.

It had been my distribution of choice on a netbook at home for a while to my great satisfaction. So when it came time to replace my development workstation I thought, "Why not give Elementary a go in the work environment?"

The Bad

The Elementary team deservedly pride themselves in delivering a coherent experience. The project has its own UI and UX guidelines, its own toolkit, its own libraries, its own utilities and applications like the desktop and terminal app to name just two. This is understandable, because it helps give the user a consistent interface and experience.

But the applications I use in my work environment make assumptions about the environment they are running on, and try to integrate with that environment. For example: at my job we use Subversion as our revision control solution. We also use C# as the main development language. So RabbitVCS and MonoDevelop are an important part of my everyday workflow. But RabbitVCS integrates with Gnome's Files (nautilus) but not with Elementary's Files (pantheon-files). Similarly MonoDevelop fails to launch a console application for debugging if Gnome's Terminal application (gnome-terminal) is not installed, thereby completely ignoring the availability of Elementary's Terminal application (pantheon-terminal).

I also needed to run DBeaver, Thunderbird and Virtual Machine Manager, to name a few of the other applications that are outside of the Elementary ecosystem. Granted, it is easy enough to install these applications. But having them living on my desktop destroyed the aesthetic harmony that was the main reason to run this distribution in the first place.

So after some internal deliberation I decided that I might just as well migrate my machine to Ubuntu, as that would be more in line to what the applications I use expect to be running on.

And The Ugly

Being that Elementary is based on Ubuntu I wanted to perform the migration without requiring a reinstall. But what packages would I need to install and uninstall to leave my machine running as if I had installed Ubuntu on it in the first place?

I decided to fire up a VM on my laptop to investigate. I first installed ElementaryOS 0.4.1 Loki (the current stable, and the one I run on my workstation) on it. Then I went about installing the ubuntu-desktop meta packages, which pulled in and installed all the dependencies:
$ sudo apt install sudo apt install ubuntu-desktop
Next I removed every package that I could find that was obviously related to ElementaryOS and the pantheon distribution:
$ sudo apt --purge autoremove elementary-desktop elementary-standard \
  elementary-minimal plymouth-theme-elementary* \
  elementary-icon-theme elementary-theme libgranite-common \
  pantheon-terminal libwingpanel-2.0-0 elementary-dpms-helper \
  libreoffice-style-elementary libswitchboard-2.0-0 
Lastly I disabled the ElementaryOS specific repositories under Software-Updates:
After a reboot, I had me an Ubuntu 16.04 with Unity 7 that looked like it was what I had installed in the first place.

Now it probably is not completely like a fresh Ubuntu 16.04 install, as I suspect a few of the Ubuntu packages that were patched by the Elementary project still linger on. At some time in the future I might dive in and weed these out. The responsible thing would be to do this sooner rather than later, since by disabling the repositories these packages came from I also blocked off the route to security updates on them. But that might be the subject of a future blogpost.

Running Firefox in a 16.04 Libertine Container

The latest Ubuntu Touch image comes with the possibility of creating a Libertine container in which to install and run 'legacy' X11 apps. This feature is not new, since the last image of the mobile OS released by Canonical also had this functionality. What is new however is that with the upgrade to 16.04 the containers that are created are also based on an Ubuntu 16.04 chroot.

In the previous post I detailed how to install command-line utilities in such a container. In this post I will focus on installing a graphical application, namely Firefox.


@TartanSpartan on Telegram has brought to my attention a github repo that contains recent builds of Firefox (65 at the time of this writing) for armhf achitecture that have the mentioned bugs patched. The releases can be found at Scroll down for the installation instructions.

Update 2:

Since version 69 the bugs that caused Firefox to crash have been resolved. The package of the latest version available in the repos can be intsalled instead of following the steps in this post.


One of the first graphical applications many (including me) want to install in a container is the Firefox browser. I mean, imagine having the power of a fully featured browser, including any extensions or plugins that would run on ARM, on your mobile device. Do I hear echos of convergence?
Once the container is created, (for instructions on how to do that, see the previous post) it should be trivial to install firefox:
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial -p firefox
Let it finish installing, head over to the Libertine scope and tap on the Firefox icon... And it crashes...  😞

It turns out that there is an unspecified bug that causes all versions of Firefox newer than at least 45 to crash on certain architectures. To date, crashes on i386 and armhf have been reborted. Luckily there is a version 45 of Firefox still available in de Ubuntu repositories for 16.04. So we can try that one. First we remove the current firefox:
$ libertine-container-manager remove-package -i xenial -p firefox
then we install the version we want:
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial \
 -p firefox=45.0.2+build1-0ubuntu1
Once the installation finishes we can try again, and this time Firefox does launch. There are still a few issues to tackle to enhance the user experience though.


Because the dpi of the devices is high and the screens are small, the text and icons are minuscule. This is an issue with most X11 applications running in a libertine container, and there are  workarounds, for the text at least, but none of them are ideal, and I will not reproduce them here.

However, in the specific case of Firefox, there is an in app setting that will increase the rendering size of the UI. In the address bar enter: about:config. You might get a warning page about voiding your warranty. Click on "I accept the risk!" and proceed. In the search bar at the top of the resulting page type: devPix. You should now see the configuration setting: layout.css.devPixelsPerPx. Edit the value to something between 1.5 and 2. I have it set to 1.75 on my tablet. This give a nice increase in size, without taking up too much extra  space and causing items inside pages to overlap.

Now that the controls are big enough for us to be able to tap on them, we need to tackle the annoying behavior that causes every menu or popup screen to open in its own window. Actually, it is more than just annoying, it makes the applications unusable. Good thing this is Linux, so all that is needed is to tweak a config text file somewhere.

The information to do this came from this post on the UBports forum. But I will recapitulate the instructions below.
First off, make the root filesystem writeable:
$ sudo mount -o remount,rw /
then edit the file at /usr/bin/libertine-xmir using sudo by changing the line
Xmir -rootless $@
Xmir -rootless -flatten $@
exit and save the file. Remember to remount the filesystem read-only returning things to the way we found them:
$ sudo mount -o remount,ro /

Lastly, since we installed an older version of the Firefox package, if and when we update all the packages from the container, Firefox will also be updated to the latest version. To stop this from happening we need to tell the package manager that we want to pin Firefox to the version we have installed. First we need to gain root access to our container. This is achieved with:
$ libertine-container-manager exec -i xenial -c /bin/bash
Some errors will be printed, but these can safely be ignored, and we will be landed in a root shell in the container. Once there type:
# apt-mark hold firefox
and our Firefox package will not be updated. It will not even be able to be removed!

If we should tire of Firefox, or we wnat to delete it to reclaim storage space on the device we can do:
# apt-mark unhold firefox
then exit the container shell. The package can now be removed.

Caveat emptor

Running Firefox on a touch device does not automagically convert it into a touch aware application. Especially scrolling provides a very poor user experience. It should also not be forgotten that we are running a very old version of Firefox in our Libertine container. This could be a security risk, but it is a risk I am willing to accept. I intend to use Firefox for the few websites that refuse to play well with the native browser on the device. Also if the container should be compromised in any way, I could easily delete it and start again with a fresh one, sans any loss of data on the device.

Installing newer versions of Firefox

@TartanSpartan on Telegram brought to my attention a repo containing recent builds of Firefox that do run on armhf. I have had inconsistent results with these builds, so YMMV.

To install any of these deb files do the following:
  • Navigate to on your UTouch device.
  • Download the version of your choice. Just make sure it is compiled to run on 16.04. I clicked on firefox_65.0+build2-0ubuntu0.16.04.1_armhf.deb as that was the lastest build at the time of this writing.
  • Navigate to the Downloads folder in the File Manager app and copy the name of the downloaded file to the clipboard. You really don't want to be typing it out in the next step.
  • Next go to the Libertine Manager in the Systems Settings app.
    Click on the container you would like to install Firefox in and then click on the + icon in the upper right corner.
    Select Enter package name of Debian file. In the edit box type the complete path to the downloaded deb file. In my case that was /home/phablet/Downloads/firefox_65.0+build2-0ubuntu0.16.04.1_armhf.deb. Hit enter or click on OK and the package, including any dependencies, will be installed.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Running additional command line tools on Ubuntu Touch

On April 5th, 2017 Mark Shuttleworth founder of the Ubuntu project and of Canonical, the company that sponsors the project, dropped, what many in the Ubuntu community would consider, a bombshell. He announced that the company would be ending their investment in Unity8, the phone and development of a convergent experience for the user across multiple devices and form factors

The news left me reeling. I felt left out in the cold, not to say betrayed, by Canonical. I had wholeheartedly embraced the vision Mark had pitched. And when the first Ubuntu Phone came out, severely underspecc'd and under-powered (even then) I bought it, partly to support the effort, partly to experience the journey first hand. I did the same when the first (and only) tablet came out. To me the fledgling mobile OS was much better suited as a tablet OS than a phone OS, as I didn't use WhatsApp on tablets, so I didn't miss it on one either.

But the very next day Marius Gripsgård, founder of the UBports project, posted a message to his G+ page that the UBports team would continue development of Ubuntu Touch, and Unity 8. I think I became aware of this initiative a few days later, and even then I had more of a wait and see attitude.

Fast forward to today and Ubuntu Touch is very much alive. A community has formed around the project, the likes of which Canonical had envisioned, but never managed to garner. The UBports team have released four  OTA's since April 2017, the last of which, OTA-4, was released on August 26, 2018. This is an important milestone for the project, because it brings the base of the OS from 15.04 to 16.04, which will be supported till April 2021, and frees up the team to focus on features instead of having to backport security patches and work around ancient versions of libraries and other software components.

Needless to say, all my original devices are running Ubuntu Touch powered by UBports, and I even managed to source a Meizu Pro 5 from, as that was a device that would eventually support Anbox (or at least it was, back then ...). I am currently running the release candidate of 16.04 on my BQ Aquaris M10 FHD tablet. And part of the charm of running a regular(-ish) Linux OS on the tablet is that I can open a terminal and poke around at stuff, and even do most of the things I would do on a laptop or a desktop computer.

One main difference between a regular PC install and the device image is that the root filesystem on the device is read-only. This is means that additional packages cannot be installed from the repositories out of the box. Of course this being Linux, you could remount the root file system as writable and sudo apt install to your hearts content, but there are drawbacks to that path.

  • Firstly it would put your device in a state that is undefined, and that could cause the regular update mechanism to fail the next time an update of the system image is made available for the device. I have personally never seen the mechanism fail even after modifying the root system, but it is something to be aware of. 
  • Secondly, in case the system does update correctly, which it always has for me, then any packages you installed would have to be reinstalled after applying the update. As far as I understand the process, the system's root image is overwritten by the update, undoing any changes applied by the user. 
  • Lastly, and this is what led me to search for alternatives, the current system image for the M10 hardly has any free space for installing additional packages in the first place.

So what could I do if I wanted additional command-line tools available on my tablet, like htop, nmap and screenfetch? The answer, as in so many other instances these days, would be: containers! No, I am not talking Docker or LXD here, but Libertine containers. This is the technology that makes it possible to install desktop applications like Firefox and LibreOffice on your Ubuntu Touch device. It does not magically make them usable on a 4.5" to 10" high dpi screen, though. 

Starting with 16.04 there is a fancy section in the system settings where you can create and administer Libertine containers. But I will focus on how to do it from the command line because that is where I have had the most consistent success.

First you create your container. I am calling mine Xerus and giving it the id xenial:
$ libertine-container-manager create-container -i xenial -n "Xerus"
This might take a while to complete. Next install the command line tools we want to use in the newly created container.
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial -p htop
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial -p nmap
$ libertine-container-manager install-package -i xenial -p screenfetch

To invoke the tools use libertine-launch. I will illustrate with screenfetch:

$ libertine-launch -i xenial screenfetch
: DISPLAY environment variable not set!
[[ ! ]] awk: fatal: cannot open file `/sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/
cpufreq/scaling_max_freq' for reading (Permission denied)
                          ./+o+-       phablet@android
                  yyyyy- -yyyyyy+      OS: Ubuntu 16.04 xenial
               ://+//////-yyyyyyo      Kernel: aarch64 Linux 3.10.93+
           .++ .:/++++++/-.+sss/`      Uptime: 2m
         .:++o:  /++++++++/:--:/-      Packages: 679
        o:+o+:++.`..```.-/oo+++++/     Shell: 21829
       .:+o:+o/.          `+sssoo+/    CPU: MT8163
  .++/+:+oo+o:`             /sssooo.   RAM: 1324MiB / 1962MiB
 /+++//+:`oo+o               /::--:.  
 \+/+o+++`o++o               ++////.  
  .++.o+++oo+:`             /dddhhh.  
       .+.o+oo:.          `oddhhhh+   
         `:o+++ `ohhhhhhhhyo++os:     
                   ````` +oo+++o\:    
OK, so it's not perfect, as every command you run in this way will always give that : DISPLAY environment variable not set! warning. But this a command line tool, so that doesn't bother me. The fatal error in awk is more serious. It only happens with the screenfetch command, but that undoubtedly has to do with the command running from inside a container, so I ignore that as well.

However, typing libertine-launch -i xenial <program name> every time I want to run one of the tools gets very tedious very quickly. But this being essentially a fully capable Linux OS running on a mobile device, a trick from the desktop transfers seamlessly to the device. Just edit (or create) the .bash_aliases file in the $HOME folder
$ nano .bash_aliases
And add the following lines
alias htop='libertine-launch -i xenial htop'
alias nmap='libertine-launch -i xenial nmap'
alias screenfetch='libertine-launch -i xenial screenfetch'
Log out, log in and then you can use the short form like so:
$ htop

Having a fully functional terminal in the palm of my hand never ceases to amaze me. And with this neat trick I can extend the toolset available to me and tailor it to my specific needs.