Android: Wink Hub and Sprint’s Data Optimizer

I reformatted my Android phone (LG G3 with Android 5.0.1, software version LS990ZVG) the other day to address a problem I was having.  After reformatting, I reinstalled all of my apps and everything seemed to be working fine until I tried to log into the Wink Hub app to adjust the settings for some of the lights in my house.  When I tried to log in, I got the following error:

looks like we encountered an error on the server; please try again later

I figured that Wink’s servers might be down, so I gave it a little bit of time and tried again.  An hour later, I got the same message.  Thinking it might be a real outage, I googled to see if Wink was reporting anything and didn’t see anything, though it did happen to coincide with Amazon’s AWS service going down, so I thought it might be related.  The light situation wasn’t that urgent, so I didn’t think much of it until the next day when I had the same light issue and wanted to adjust the settings of the Wink Hub on my phone again.  I tried to log in and got the same error, again.  This time I figured something must be wrong.  I tried a few things before I found out the real problem.

First, I tried clicking on “I forgot my password” to have my password reset, but I got the same error.  That meant I couldn’t reset my password and there was definitely something wrong.

I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the Wink Hub app, but got the same error after reinstalling the app.

Then I started googling.  In one forum buried deep in the recesses of the internet, I found a hint at what might be the problem.  And, not surprisingly, it’s the same piece of software that has plagued me for years: Sprint’s stupid Data Optimizer app.  I’ve had issues with this app in the past as it slowed and killed my data connection.  I routinely turn it off immediately after I reformat my phone because it is so worthless.  As it turns out, it was the culprit with this problem as well since I had forgotten to turn it off.

You can find the app in your list of apps under Optimize & Protect (see the screenshot):

Sprint Data Optimizer

When you open the app, you’ll see the following two options:

Sprint Data Optimizer

Click on Data Optimizer and you’ll see this screen:

Sprint Data Optimizer

Turn the Data Optimizer off and you can now log into the Wink Hub app.

I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but I’m guessing it has to do with how the Sprint Data Optimizer manages data.  It likely is compressing it and the Wink Hub app may not allow login credentials to be sent that way to the server.  Regardless of the problem, as soon as I turned this terrible piece of software off, I was able to log into the Wink Hub app and adjust my lighting settings.

Linux: Installing Redshift

There is a growing body of research suggesting that blue light before bedtime can be associated with sleep problems.  I’ve known about this for a while, but have just recently started having sleep problems.  I decided to try some of the programs that make changes to the color of your monitors to see if it helps.  On Android, I installed Twilight.  On Linux, I went with Redshift.  There was a minor complication in installing Redshift, so I figured I’d detail how to install the software and get it working on here for anyone else who wants to give it a try.

First, there are two software packages you need to install: redshift and geoclue-2.0.  If you don’t install geoclue-2.0, redshift won’t know your location and won’t be able to adjust your screen relative to the amount of light outside and to sunrise and sunset.  I originally tried launching Redshift without geoclue-2.0 installed and it gave me an error.  Make sure you install it.  If you want to have redshift as a widget in KDE, you can also install: plasma-widget-redshift and plasma-applet-redshift-control.  And for a GUI: redshift-gtk.

From the commandline:

sudo apt-get install redshift geoclue-2.0 plasma-widget-redshift plasma-applet-redshift-control redshift gtk

Or in Synaptic:

Screenshots for Redshift Tutorial

Screenshots for Redshift Tutorial

Once you’ve installed these packages, you can launch Redshift from the application launcher.

Screenshots for Redshift Tutorial

With the GTK option, you’ll get this little icon in your System Tray:

Screenshots for Redshift Tutorial

The System Tray icon allows you to turn Redshift on and off (right-click).  It also provides some information about current settings.

Once it’s installed, Redshift gets right to work, adjusting the color of your monitor and slowly shifting the color throughout the day.

If you’d like Redshift to start automatically when you boot the computer, make sure that you enable it in the Autostart options in System Settings:

Redshift autostart

If you need to adjust any settings, you can do so by using the command line and a configuration file, detailed here.

Kubuntu: How to Map Windows Network Share

My workplace is largely a Windows based institution.  Due to a collaborative project, I was recently asked to access some documents on a Windows Network Drive.  I was sent directions for how to add that drive in Windows.  Those directions were not that helpful as I, of course, run Linux.  As perhaps the only Linux user on my campus, this meant that I had to figure out how to map the Windows Network share to my computer on my own.  No problem.  I got this.

After a little googling, I figured out I needed to do the following:

(1) Install the packages “samba” and “cifs-util.”  You can do this using synaptic or from the command line (sudo apt-get install samba cifs-util).

(Installing the software from synaptic.)
(Installing the software from synaptic.)

(2) Once those packages are installed, it’s a good idea to restart your computer.

(3) Now, create a directory where you want to mount the mapped network drive.  I put the network drive on my desktop just to test this.  I may change that later.

(4) Open a command prompt (e.g., Konsole) and now it’s time to mount the drive to the newly created folder.  Here’s the command:

sudo mount -t cifs -o username=[your.username] //[name.of.network.drive]/[name.of.specific.folder] /home/[your.username]/Desktop/[folder.where.you.want.the.drive.mounted]

networkdrive2

(5) After you hit enter, you’ll be asked for your password for the network drive.  Assuming you didn’t have any typos, you should now have the Windows Network Drive mounted to the folder you created and should have access to all the files inside.

networkdrive3

(6) NOTE: This is a temporary mapping of the Windows Network Share.  Since I only need to access this Windows Network Share Drive occasionally, I don’t want to set up my computer to map it every time I boot it up.  There is a different process for mapping the drive permanently.

(I found the most helpful directions for this here.)

(NOTE: On LinuxMint 18.0, I was unable to get this to work.  Every time I tried to map the drive using the command above I would get the error: “mount error: could not resolve address for [network.drive.name]: Unknown error”.  It turns out, for some reason Linux doesn’t play well with Windows share names.  However, when I swapped out the name of the drive for the IP address, everything worked great.  Try using the IP address instead of the name of the Windows share if you get this error.)

(SECOND NOTE: A way around the above error (kind of) is to associate the Windows share name with the IP address in your /etc/hosts file.  Using a console, type: sudo nano /etc/hosts.  When the file comes up, add the IP address followed by the share name (e.g., 192.168.1.1   [share_name]).  That will associate the IP address with the share name and you’ll then be able to mount the Windows share with the name and not the IP address.)

KDE – Adjusting the Look and Feel of the Desktop and Application Windows

I love how configurable KDE is as a desktop.  However, adjusting the look of the desktop is something of a nightmare.  There are five different options to adjust different aspects of the desktop and application windows, each of which does different things, but the labels given to these don’t always reflect what the customizations will be.  Here’s my best attempt to explain what each of these does.

When you open “System Settings,” at the very top is a set of five icons under the label “Appearance.”  These icons are titled: “Workspace Theme,” “Color,” “Font,” “Icons,” and “Application Style.”

look1

Workspace Theme

If you click on “Workspace Theme,” you’ll get the following options: “Look And Feel,” “Desktop Theme,” “Cursor Theme,” and “Splash Screen.”  Here’s what each of these settings adjusts.

Look and Feel

Up until Kubuntu 16.04 (my preferred Linux distribution at the moment), there was always just one option in here – the default “Breeze” option.  However, the latest version ships with two options: Breeze and Breeze Dark.  Basically, Look and Feel is kind of a one-click change to the entire theme of your desktop.  From this color scheme in Breeze:

look2

To this color scheme in Breeze Dark:

look3

This one-click option for changing the color scheme is nice for simplicity, but it doesn’t allow for detailed customizations of the various aspects of your desktop environment.  There also isn’t a way to add new options here, which is kind of disappointing as it would be nice to have additional one-click options for changing the entire look and feel of the desktop environment.  For now, we’re stuck with two options.

Desktop Theme

Here’s what you’ll see when you first click on “Desktop Theme”:

look4

The options in here primarily just change the KDE panel color scheme and look.  The panel with the default theme, Breeze, applied, looks like this:

look5

Clicking one of the alternatives here, like “Oxygen” leads to this look:

look6

Basically, this allows you to customize the panels and the KDE windows as well as the quick start window (Alt-F2).  There is the option to “Get New Themes,” which is nice here as there are many to choose from.  But keep in mind that this is basically just for adjusting themes on the desktop (the panel and those items attached to the panel), but this will not change the color schemes of the applications windows (e.g., Dolphin, or the various other programs).

Cursor Theme

This is actually an option that is pretty clear – you can adjust your cursor options here.  I’m not very particular with my cursor, so I don’t usually mess with the default options.  But Kubuntu 16.04 ships with three options as you can see on this screenshot:

look7

You also have the option of downloading additional cursor themes.

Splash Screen

The last option within Workspace Theme settings is the Splash Screen.  At present, you can either have the Breeze theme or None.

look8

Not a lot of options and no way to add additional ones at this point.  Granted, this is something you look at while your OS boots, and if your OS boots quickly, what’s the point?  But it would be nice to have more than one option here and the ability to add other options.

Color

Scheme

Scheme is where you can change the colors of the application windows (at least those that use the Plasma desktop environment settings, which isn’t all the programs that you might run).  Here’s what you’ll see when you open these system settings:

look10

The default Scheme is “Breeze” again, which looks like this with Dolphin:

look9

Here’s how it changes when you apply the Obsidian Coast theme:

look11
(Icky!)

There are a number of themes available and more can be downloaded.  But the important thing to remember here is that the themes in this system setting only affect application windows that utilize the Plasma desktop environment.  Some applications, like Google Chrome, don’t change at all with these settings. Other applications that use the Plasma desktop environment will, like Kate, Konsole, and even LibreOffice 5, as seen here:

look12
Kate with the Breeze application window theme.
Kate with the Obsidian Coast theme.
Kate with the Obsidian Coast theme.

There are three other tabs under the Application Color Scheme: Options, Colors, and Disabled.  These allow for more fine tuning of the application windows.

Font

Font is also pretty self-explanatory – here is where you can adjust your fonts.

Fonts

The Fonts set of options are where you adjust your system wide set of fonts – those that appear at the top of windows, in menus, etc.  Again, this isn’t something that matters all that much to me, but it is nice to have these options:

look14

Font Management

In Font Management you can add and delete the available fonts on your system.  I do occasionally adjust this when I’m editing images and need specific fonts (’cause everyone should have a Star Wars font installed on their system).  But, again, this is pretty self-explanatory:

look15

Icons

The next set of system options for adjusting the appearance of your desktop environment are for icons and emoticons.

Icons

There are a number of options in the Icons window that ship with the stock version of Kubuntu, as you can see here:

look18

Here is how the Breeze icons look in Dolphin:

look16

And here is how the Oxygen icons look in Dolphin:

look17

There is the option of installing additional themes for icons as well.  These settings change the icons in Dolphin and in the KDE panel.

Emoticons

The emoticons are used for the built in chat software that ships with KDE.  Since I don’t use it, I won’t spend much time on this.  Basically, you can adjust the default emoticons and install new ones:

look19

Application Style

The final set of options, Application Style, have a somewhat confusing title.  If you recall, to adjust the color of application windows, you do that by going to Color->Scheme (not at all intuitive).  In Application Style, you don’t adjust the color of application windows, you adjust the shapes, angles, transparency, etc.  Here’s what you see when you first open this option:

look20

Widget Style

Under Widget Style, you adjust the overall “look” of application windows by adjusting lines, radio buttons, boxes, etc.  There are a number of pre-installed “Widget styles”.  Here’s what application windows look like with the default style, Breeze, applied (again, using Dolphin to demonstrate):

look21

And here is what Dolphin looks like with MS Windows 9x applied:

look22
(FWIW, what an awful Widget style. So glad it’s not 1998 anymore.)

Window Decorations

In Window Decorations, you can adjust the coloring of active and inactive windows as well as the maximize, minimize, and close buttons for application windows.  Here’s how Dolphin looks with the default Theme, Breeze, installed:

look21

And here is how it looks with the Plastik theme applied:

look23

This is another system setting where you can download a whole bunch of additional themes.  Also, on the second tab, “Buttons,” you can customize the buttons that appear on each application window.  One that I like adding is “Keep above,” as I use that regularly.

GNOME Application Style

The last appearance option you can adjust is the GNOME Application Style menu.  Basically, this determines the styling for GNOME desktop environment applications that do not utilize the Plasma desktop environment.  I don’t use a lot of GNOME applications, but one I like is gprename, a batch renamer that comes from the GNOME desktop environment.  Here’s how it looks with the default style, Breeze, applied:

look24

And here is how it looks with the Breeze-Dark theme applied:

look25

This is another setting that includes the option of downloading additional themes.

Summary

The reason why I put this list together was primarily because there are (1) so many options for customizing your workspace in KDE and (2) the names of the various options aren’t always that intuitive.  Hopefully these descriptions will make it easier for you to customize your workspace how you want it in the future.  For me, I prefer a darker themed desktop environment as it seems to be a little friendlier on the eyes.  The rest of the options are less important to me.  But one of the great advantages of running KDE (and some other Linux desktop environments) is the amazing amount of customizability that is included right out of the box.  Have fun modding!

Linux – Kubuntu 16.04 with Plasma 5.5.5 – unable to change file associations

I just upgraded my laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad T540P) to the latest version of Kubuntu – 16.04 with Plasma 5.5.5.  Everything was running great until I had an issue with Ark, the archiving program that comes with KDE.  It was having an issue unzipping an archive.  It seemed to unzip the archive, but the resulting file should have been a directory and instead was being recognized by the operating system as a PDF file.  In the process of trying to get the extracted zip file open, I set Ark as an option for opening PDF files using the standard approach: right-click on file, select Properties, click on File Type Options, and then add the new option – Ark.

ark1
Step 1 – right-click a PDF file
ark2
Step 2: click on File Type Options
ark3
Step 3: adjust the Application Preference Order or add/remove applications

This didn’t solve my archive problem, but did introduce a new problem with Kubuntu 16.04.  Ark became the default program for opening PDF files, which is absolutely not what I want both because Ark can’t open PDFs and because I prefer Okular for this.  I tried a dozen times or so to change the file association using the same method I had used to add it above (right-click on a PDF, select Properties, click on File Type Options, etc.) and then deleting Ark as an option or moving it down so it isn’t the default option.  Every time I would try this, Ark would re-appear as soon as I hit “Apply” or “OK.”

Since this didn’t work when I was using the quick and easy method of right-clicking, I tried changing the file associations in System Settings.  Open up System Settings and click on “Applications”:

ark4Then click on “File Associations” and add PDF in the search bar:

ark5

I tried doing the same thing here – delete Ark as an option or moving it down in the preferred order list, and it would just reappear when I hit “Apply.”  This is definitely a bug in the new Plasma/Kubuntu version.

I knew there was another location to change these default settings – a txt file that could be edited using something like “kate,” the built in KDE text editor.  From a terminal/Konsole, type:

sudo kate /home/[user]/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list

Once you open that file, you can see some default settings as well as my attempt to remove Ark as a program for opening PDFs:

ark6

The information in my mimeapps.list file was correct, but it was still having the same problem of Ark being called as the default program to open PDF files.

After a little searching on the internet, I found a different solution that actually worked (again, suggesting this is a bug in KDE/Plasma/Kubuntu).  Apparently, the mimeapps.list in that location is user-specific.  There is another mimeapps.list in a different location that is universal for the operating system and not user specific that is located here:

/home/[user]/.config/mimeapps.list

I opened this file using kate:

sudo kate/home/[user]/.config/mimeapps.list

And removed the Ark connection with PDF files by deleting it so the current version looks like this:

ark7

After I did this, the system settings took effect and Ark was no longer the default app called when I tried to open PDF files.  This seems like a serious bug in Plasma/Kubuntu that the developers need to fix.  It seems as though the operating system wide options are over-riding the user-specific options for the mimeapps.list, which means you cannot change the default file associations in KDE using Kubuntu 16.04.

If you run into this problem, please report it to the Kubuntu/KDE/Plasma developers.