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Author Topic: HOWTO: Tweaking VL 5.8 SOHO and KDE  (Read 6078 times)


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HOWTO: Tweaking VL 5.8 SOHO and KDE
« on: June 04, 2007, 11:57:08 am »

The purpose of this HOWTO is to provide a location for various improvements, hacks, tweaks, suggestions and annoyance fixes for VectorLinux v 5.8 SOHO Final and its KDE desktop environment. These are compiled from many forum members' posts and other locations, so I acknowledge all their good work. They are in no order other than alphabetic. If you have something to add please add to this thread, but remember, do not ask questions on this forum. I may edit this document to add or correct items, so you may want to check back here once in a while! There is a similar howto for VL5.8 STANDARD here: .

anacron : the cron system runs jobs in the background. However, unless your computer is on 24/7 the jobs are only run at very specific times. To enable the cron system to run pre-scheduled jobs which you missed when your computer was off you need to install anacron. Do this as root in a terminal:
Code: [Select]
installpkg anacron-2.3.0-i686-1darek.tgz

Beeps disable at boot and shutdown: ifplugd which connects networks automatically is set to beep when it starts up or shuts down. This annoys some. To fix this read the second post of this thread:

Bluetooth : to get Bluetooth devices working with VL read this thread and its pointers:

Console Greeting Hack : whenever you launch a console terminal such as Konsole or mrxvt you get a 6-line greeting about frequently used programs. You can remove this if you wish. To do so: edit the file /etc/profile.d/ and comment out (with #) line numbers 35-65.

Desktop Settings Wizard : don't use this. If you do you will loose all the Vector desktop settings such as the Vector/KDE launch screen, the Vector start button, the VL Icons, the VL backdrop, etc. To get them back you will have to run VASM, SKEL and enable just the KDE and config buttons. It is better to change themes, backdrops, fonts, etc, using the KDE Control Center, Appearance and Themes.

Firefox scrolling problem : If you scroll too fast at the bottom of the page Firefox will move back or forward, not what you intend. For a fix read this thread: .

Home Directory Backup : there are many ways to do this. This is an easy one-liner, run from a terminal:

Code: [Select]
cd ~ && /bin/tar-1.13-pkgtools cvYf myhomebackup.tlz . && k3b --datadvd myhomebackup.tlz
This procedure backs up every file in your home directory. It also assumes you have a DVD burner with a blank DVD platter inside and that the resultant .tlz backup file is not greater than 4.38 GB. If it is greater than that number you will have to have a larger media (eg external hard drive) to transfer your backup file to, and therefore edit the last portion of the above command accordingly. If your backup file is < 700MB in size you can use a normal CD burner and change "--datadvd" to "--datacd" (note that the lzma compression used above compresses extremely well but is quite slow - you need to be patient, this command can take many minutes to complete). For a more robust backup solution use Google to search for simple bash backup scripts.

KDE allow reboot to other OS : the Logout (End Session) screen of KDE does not by default allow one to boot into another OS on the system. To enable that feature edit the file /opt/kde/share/config/kdm/kdmrc . In the "Core" stanza add this line: "ShowBootOptions=true", then add another stanza like this anywhere in the file:
BootManager=Lilo  (or Grub, if you are using Grub)

KDE Forum : very specific help with the KDE environment is probably best obtained from experts at the KDE Forum:

KDE Sound System : sometimes it blocks other sound applications from accessing your sound card. If you have this problem go to KDE Control Center, Sound & Multimedia, Sound System, Auto Suspend and change the value to 2 seconds.

lilo : by default the timeout for lilo is set to 2 minutes. To reduce this edit /etc/lilo.conf and change the line "timeout = 1200" to whatever you prefer (the values are in 1/10 seconds, e.g. 50 means 5 seconds). To improve lilo boot speed add the line "compact" before the "prompt" line. ANY change to /etc/lilo.conf must be followed by running the command "lilo -v" as root, or the boot map file will not actually be changed.

Multimedia Keyboards : to get the fancy special keys at the top of your multimedia keyboard working you need to: 1) KDE Control Center, Regional & Accessibility, Keyboard Layout, Enable Keyboard Layouts, choose appropriate Keyboard Model at top right and apply, then 2) KDE Control Center, Regional & Accessiblity, Keyboard Shortcuts and set the shortcuts you want there. It is difficult however, to set special keys to control media players. Instead you might want to use lineakd ( ).

No Sound : 90% of sound problems with Linux are simply due to incorrect mixer settings for your soundcard. The easiest solution is to pop in a music CD into your CDROM drive, open KsCD, press the play button, turn on your speakers, open KMix and adjust the mixer settings until you get sound.

Opera : still has problems with the mplayer plugin. For a fix see this: .

Package Repositories : The default package repositories available for use by slapt-get and gslapt are "packages" and "extra". There are more untested packages available in the "testing" repository, but you install these at your own risk. To enable "testing" you can edit the file "/etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc" and add a new source line with the appropriate ftp address, or use gslapt, edit, preferences, sources, then enable the testing repository.

Printer Setup : use System, Administration, Manage Printing in preference to KDE Control Center, Peripherals, Printers - it is a more comprehensive method to setup your printer.

Seamonkey extensions : some Firefox extensions are not compatible with SeaMonkey and will create a blank area at the bottom of the SeaMonkey window. To avoid this only install SeaMonkey extensions recommended here: .

System Backups : there is an automatic system backup facility available. This procedure backs up all relevant system configuration files and puts them in the directory: /home/backupsys. It is run once at install time. You can have this set to run daily by running VASM, FILESYSTEM, BACKUPSYS or you can run it explicitly at any time by either of these commands, as root, in a terminal: vbackupsys or backupsys. If you hose your system config. files somehow you can restore them to previous by extracting the tar.bz2 file - do so by running "mc" in a terminal, navigate to /home/backupsys and press F2. This facility does not backup files in your home directory.

System Requirements : VL SOHO 5.8 requires at least 3.2GB to install the system, and then you need more space (~512MB) for swap and whatever space you might think you need for your own data (/home). To boot into a clean KDE system without anything other than the default applications loaded requires ~250MB of RAM (or a combination of RAM and swap). Some of that memory is immediately cached and available for applications, so memory actually in use and not available is ~70 MB. This information tells you that the bare minimum to run KDE effectively in SOHO 5.8 is 256MB of RAM. With only 256MB of RAM loading a number of large applications such as Firefox, OpenOffice, The Gimp, etc. will require the use of swap space so your computer will then begin slow down considerbly. To be happy with 5.8 SOHO and have a number of applications open at once you really should have a minimum of 384MB of RAM. Owners of older computers with 192MB or RAM or less should consider using VL 5.8 Standard Gold instead.

Themes : other KDE themes, wallpaper, icons, etc. are available at:

Upgrading : VectorLinux 5.8 is built upon the rock-solid and stable Slackware 11.0 base. Furthermore, VL is personal workstation based and has very few ports and services open to the outside world. Hence security within VL is top notch. Upgrading for the sake of upgrading (which appears to be endemic in the Windows, Red Hat and Ubuntu world) is actually discouraged in the VL world. There is little advantage to minor upgrades and a significant disadvantage to major upgrades (many users experience breakage doing this in many operating systems). Upgrading is really only necessary when a major security hole has been posted (see the VL Forum: Security Advisories) or when there is an absolutely must-have new feature in a software upgrade. Therefore we recommend against doing a "gslapt-mark all upgrades-execute" or a "slapt-get --upgrade".

USB Memory Devices : an icon should appear on the desktop whenever you insert a USB memory device. You should "unmount" the device before removing it from the USB port. You do that by right clicking on the desktop icon and choosing "unmount". If you don't do that the system might get confused and leave the icon on the desktop and you will get an error if you try clicking it again - or you will get two icons on the desktop if you re-insert the device.

Wireless: if you have wireless issues please read the wonderful wireless HOWTO ( ) by "easuter" before asking a question on the forum. The answer is undoubtedly in there...
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Re: HOWTO: Tweaking VL 5.8 SOHO and KDE
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2007, 12:22:13 pm »

Package Repositories : You shouldn't really need the "packages" repo unless you wish to downgrade to the default. The important ones for most users are "patches" and "extra". There is also a "testing" repo with untested packages (doesn't mean the app itself is untested) , and the "unstable" repo for tested packages of unstable apps.

USB Memory Devices : In the latest versions of vl-hot, an orphan icon should not happen, as it will delete the desktop icon when the device is unplugged even without unmounting. However, I have managed to do it a few times and I believe the cause is related to konqueror having the .desktop file open with exclusive access when vl-hot tries to delete it. This reluctance of konqueror to release files has given me problems in several other areas as well and it is the reason behind the additional unmount options of the vl-hot desktop icon.

« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 12:25:04 pm by Joe1962 »
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Tweaking VL 5.8 SOHO and KDE for older hardware
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2007, 03:09:51 pm »

KDE Sound System (arts): You don't need this thing at all AFAIK. aRts hasn't really been developed for 2,5 years now and is just sitting there wasting resources.

I thought arts was necessary to play those "system sounds", but it turns out it isn't needed for that either

To turn off artsd, open the control center, go to "Sound and Multimedia" and click "Sound System". Unselect the "Enable the sound sytem" option and apply the changes.

Memory usage and other speed issues
Quote from: lagagnon
To boot into a clean KDE system without anything other than the default applications loaded requires ~250MB of RAM (or a combination of RAM and swap). Some of that memory is immediately cached and available for applications, so memory actually in use and not available is ~70 MB.
This is probably true, however, with some tweaking these values can be decreased. Here's what "free" tells me right after logging in:

                               total          used          free      shared    buffers     cached
Mem:                      316428     149772     166656          0      10604      97388
-/+ buffers/cache:                    41780      274648
Swap:                                      369452          0      369452

I did quite some tweaks to my vl install to make sure less unnecessary stuff is loaded on boot (can't guarantee this is all I did or that it will work for you):
- disabled artsd in the control center
- disabled cups in vasm ( I have no printer connected to this computer )
- disabled samba in vasm ( I don't network my computers )                   
- disabled animations in kde's control center (they looked crappy anyways on this old box)
- disabled klipper by closing it and telling it I didn't want it to load when kde starts.
- use just one background/wallpaper instead of a different one for each desktop

Removing unneeded parts of KDE
Remember: the kde in SOHO might be called 'clean' by lagagnon , but you can also consider it bloated ;). All it really takes for KDE to function is kdebase and it's dependencies. The rest are just extra programs. You don't need kdetoys, kdegames, kdeedu, kdepim, kdenetwork, they all contain apps that you might want. I don't want the apps in them so I removed them. Heck, the only reason I keep kdegraphics around is because of kpdf, not all the other trash in there, I'd rather get rid of those too.

In general, you might want to read what apps are in those packages and then decide if you want to keep them around. in gslapt you can read what apps are in a kde* package in it's description.

That's it for today, I might add other "tricks" I use later.

ps. This thread was a great idea lagagnon, I was thinking of writing some sort of HOWTO / MyWay on KDE for older hardware, but I might not have done it if it weren't for your HOWTO. It has a lot of good info, and it's alphabetized!
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 01:08:31 am by The Headacher »
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