My favorite Gnome Extensions

Gnome has been my favourite Window Manager for ages, to me it feels like a cosy blanket meaning that I’ve arrived at home 🙂

Part of that feeling is because of the awesome extensions that so many enthusiasts have made over the years. If you don’t know, the extensions add so much productivity and possibilities to an already great window manager.

I’ve put my favourite extensions in the list below. This list is part so that I can remember myself but also to explain why some of these extensions are so cool to use (to me at least)

Click the Extension name in the table below to go to the extensions web page on extensions.gnome.org

ExtensionAwesome index
(1-5)
Why it is so awesome
Activities Configurator3Allows you to customize the Activities logo and fine tune the menu bar

Caffeine2Disable the screensaver and auto suspend, great for watching video’s or extreme prolonged pondering of diagrams

Clipboard Indicator5Clipboard manager for Gnome. I ALWAYS use a clipboard manager, doesn’t matter if I’m working on a Windows, Linux of OSx machine, it is one of the first things I install. Such a productivity booster.
Clipboard indicator is one of a few clipboard managers in the extensions repository, I like the simplicity.

Dash to Dock5A dock for the Gnome Shell. One of the most popular extensions because it turns the dash into a dock! (What’s in a name) Makes switching and launching of applications easier.
Desktop Icons NG (DING)2Adds icons to the desktop (for the ~/Desktop folder)
Draw On You Screen3This extension allows me to draw on the screen when making screencasts.
You can toggle the drawing on/off with a keyboard shortcut.
gTile5Makes it easy to order your windows in a grid. Very nice productivity tool.
I mostly use the 5×4 grid, with browsers having a size of 2×4 and terminals sized 1×4.
You can switch on the fly between three (configurable) grid presets

Internet Radio4Small widget which streams internet radio. I most often listen to Pinguin Radio and some of the local Dutch radio stations.
Note: Does not listen to the keyboard media keys
Favourite radio stations:
Pinguin Radio: http://streams.pinguinradio.com/PinguinRadio192.mp3
Radio 538: http://22353.live.streamtheworld.com/RADIO538AAC.aac
Radio Veronica: https://20873.live.streamtheworld.com/VERONICA.mp3
Radio 3FM: http://icecast.omroep.nl/3fm-bb-mp3
Quick Close in Overview5Very simple yet effective: Middle mouse button in Overview (Win-key) closes the application
Sound Input & Output Device Chooser4Shows all the input and output devices. I love this since I have several audio in- and outputs (USB amp / headphones / HDMI output via monitor) for different purposes.
This extension gives me the current selected in- and output as well as letting me choose quickly.

System Monitor5One of the simplest and cleanest looking system monitors (CPU, Mem, Storage, Network, Load)
It takes minimal space in the bar, yet gives me exactly the information I want on a glance. The extension works with colors (Shades of yellow, orange, red) to show how busy a resource is.
For me this is very convenient if I want to know IF my CPU is being used heavily. One click on the pane and you see the top 5 of each category in a handy overview.

VirtualBox applet3Shows a list of running VirtualBox machines. I use this widget mostly to check if there is any running Vagrant stuff I forgot after a day of work
Workspace Scroll3Allows me to scroll anywhere in the top panel to change the workspace.
Very convenient when working with multiple workspaces.
Wallpaper Changer4Changes the wallpaper based on several providers, I have it set to pick a picture from a folder every 30 minutes.
It also serves a little like a pomodoro timer that way.
Table with my favorite extensions

Summary

I feel these extensions help a lot with increasing productivity and are a massive part of why I love working on Linux with the Gnome Window Manager.

Screencasts on Ubuntu

For a colleague I just made a screencast of a problem we were discussing. I was trying to use the minimum amount of tools in Gnome/Ubuntu and wanted to share the proces with you all.

Goal: Create a screencast recording of my desktop with narrated (recorded) audio at the same time.

If you are very curious and want to see the result immediately, look at the video below:

“Apache Kafka files store data without encryption”

I use Pop!_OS 21.04, which is based of Ubuntu. In Pop!_OS I use Gnome with Wayland.
All the instructions below will work with Ubuntu and any Ubuntu based distribution as well.

This howto is divided in several sections:

  • Desktop (Video) recording
  • Audio recording
  • Putting the video and audio recording together

Additional tools used in the video:

  • Show the webcam (guvcview)
  • Written annotation on a page (xournal++)
  • Written annotation on screen (Draw On You Screen)

Video recording:

Since I want to use the most simple method, my approach is to use the built-in screen cast ability in Gnome.

Press Ctrl+Alt+R to start the screen cast recording.

When the recording is in progress, you see a red filled circle in your notification area:

When you press Ctrl+Alt+R again, the circle disappears and the recording is saved to the Videos folder in your home folder:

Note: This video file is without audio.

Audio recording

As the most simple solution I used the builtin Sound Recorder in Gnome:

Press “Record” to start your recording and click “Done” when you would like to end your recording. You can see me pressing the buttons in the recorded screen cast.

Important: You need to press the screencast start keyboard command Ctrl+Alt+R and the Record button at the same time, or your video and audio will be out of sync.

When you stop the recording, the Ogg Vorbis file will be saved in the default location in your home folder, which is: ~/Recordings.

Combine the video and audio

Right now you have two separate files, not really useful when they are not combined.

To combine them, I used the following command:

ffmpeg -y -i Videos/Screencast\ from\ 05-12-2021\ 02:51:06\ PM.webm -i Recordings/Clip\ 5 -map 0:v -map 1:a -c copy file.webm

Explanation of the command:

ffmpeg
 this is the command itself
-y
 overwrite output files without asking
-i {file location}
 input file + file location
 Note that there are two input files (video & audio)
-map
 Designate one or more input streams as a source for the output file. The number is the first (0) or second (1) input file. The map itself shows what we are using in the output. In this case it is 0:v to use the video for the first input file and 1:a to use the audio of the second input file
-c copy file.webm
 Specify the output file, in this case it will be copied to file.webm in the same directory as where you run the command.

The result is what happens here:

GIF recording of putting the video and audio together (Recorded with Peek GIF Recorder)

This is the minimum necessary to create a screencast!

For example, you can send this webm video output file to people over email / file share / whatever you’d like. You can also upload it to Youtube, which can process the output file and you are done to spread some knowledge!

Add some extra spice to your screencast

To add some engagement with whoever will view your screencast, you can show your own webcam in the screen. You can use the built in program Cheese

Another option is to use guvcview, which has a cleaner interface (no buttons on the webcam output window)

Install with sudo apt install guvcview , start the program with guvcview.

Then select your video input device. You can minimize the settings pane so that you’re left with only the video of your webcam for the introduction/conclusion of your video.

Annotation

For annotation I use Xournalpp (xournal++) which helps me in drawing with my XP-Pen drawing tablet. I think it makes the screen cast a bit more entertaining compared to showing plain text but you can decide for yourself.

You can also use a Gnome Extension called Draw on You Screen by Abakkk, with this extension you can do annotations directly on the screen and thus show your thoughts / comments / pointers on screen directly.

Note: I don’t use this extension in my example video though.

Conclusion

I hope this blog post helps you in creating screen casts with the simplest possible tools. Good luck and hope to see your videos around on the web!

Create a Java path entry for all users

I install Java on all my machines and used to add the java path and home variables to the user (or my user) bash profile but every time I added another user this is a manual step.

Until I found this small trick. Add a system wide profile path setting by creating a file in:

/etc/profile.d/filename

All files in profile.d are added to every users login. Much cleaner than adding it to every user’s profile.

This is the contents of my file:

/etc/profile.d/java-path.sh

export JAVA_HOME="/opt/java"
export PATH=$JAVA_HOME/bin:$PATH

These variables are set next time you log in with any user on that system.

Pretty print XML on Linux Command Line BASH

It’s quite handy to indent XML when you need to read it with the human eye, but on a terminal it’s often not as easily readible.
Fortunatly there’s a command which’ll indent it so you can actually read it;
xmllint –format file.xml
This will show you how ugly it could be:
 

Screenshot Unformatted XML on terminal
Screenshot Unformatted XML on terminal

 
And behold the indented beauty of this little gem:
Screenshot indented XML on terminal
Screenshot indented XML on terminal