Set default application using `xdg-mime`

You can use the xdg-mime utility to query the default mime-type associations and change them.

xdg-mime query default video/mp4

Will return the .desktop file associated with the default app to open mp4 files. To change the default association:

xdg-mime default vlc.desktop video/mp4

you need to specify the desktop file to open files of the specified mime type. To check the mime-type of a given file, use

file -ib filename

Gnome `Alt+Shift` and `Alt+Shift+Tab`

After installing Debian Jessie with Gnome 3.14, I noticed an annoying bug: When I tried to switch windows using Alt+Tab it worked as it should, but when I tried to switch in reverse order, using Alt+shit+Tab it did not work. I quickly figured out that the problem lies in the frequently used shortcut, Alt+Shift for switching keyboard layouts. Indeed, when I tried cycling through windows, I switched keyboard layouts instead.

The gist of the solution was found after some searching in Stack Exchange albeit it needs some adjustment for newer version of Gnome: Start the Gnome’s Tweak Tool and select Typing from the Tweaks menu. Under “Miscellaneous compatibility options” select “Shift cancels Caps Lock”.


This fixed the issue for me, without any side-effects. I don’t need to use Shift-Alt instead of Alt-Shift as suggested in the original solution and neither the Shift key cancels the Caps Lock as may be suggested by this option.

Creating Menu Entries for Calibre

I recently installed Calibre using their binary installer for linux, and found out that it doesn’t come with .desktop files, so Calibre doesn’t appear in the GNOME menu. To remedy this I installed the following desktop files in ~/.local/share/applications/ (modified from the Debian Sid package):

[Desktop Entry]
Name=E-Book Viewer
Comment=E-Book Viewer
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/ebook-viewer %F


[Desktop Entry]
GenericName=E-book library management
GenericName[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
Comment=E-book library management
Comment[es]=aplicación para la gestión de libros electrónicos
Comment[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/calibre %f

You may need to adjust the paths for TryExec, Exec and Icon to match where you installed Calibre.

Enabling Compose-Key in GNOME 3.4

For some reason I couldn’t easily find how to enable the compose-key in Gnome 3.4. All the references I’ve found did not match the actual menus and dialogs that I saw on my system. That is including the official GNOME help pages. So I’ve decided to document it here for my future reference.

  1. Go to System Settings->Keyboard Layout.
  2. Select the Layouts tab and click Options.
  3. Under Compose key position, select the key you want to use as the compose-key.

Wikipedia has a nice table summarizing the compose-key sequences.

Opening mobi and epub Files in Ubuntu

You can do it with Calibre and specifically with the ebook-viewer program that comes with it. However, for some reason the packagers didn’t ship a desktop file to accompany it, so you can’t just double-click on eBooks and have them opened correctly. This can be corrected by placing a ebook-viewer.desktop file in ~/.local/share/applications:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Ebook Viewer
Comment=Display .epub files and other e-books formats
Exec=ebook-viewer %f

GNOME_COMPILE_WARNINGS(maximum) – Syntax Error in configure

I’m still encountering migration issues from Gentoo to Ubuntu. Apperantly, Gentoo is much more user friendly than Ubuntu when it comes to compiling packages. In Gentoo you’ve got almost all the major dependencies you need. In Ubuntu, on the other hand, you need to hunt them down. It’s much easier with the main ones, as they are listed. But there are some small ones which are harder to track. I came across the following error while trying to compile gitg, a GUI for Git, today:

./configure: line 14447: syntax error near unexpected token `maximum'
./configure: line 14447: `GNOME_COMPILE_WARNINGS(maximum)'

After not so short investigation I found out I was missing gnome-common

sudo apt-get install gnome-common

Why can’t be one distribution which is user-friendly like Ubuntu and in the same time developer-friendly like Gentoo?

Importing CSV to Evolution

I’ve decided to try Gnome on a new machine that I’ve got, and as part of the move I’ve switched to Evolution (from Kontact). I had some contacts stored in a spreadsheet which I’ve tried to import as CSV to Evolution.

Apparently, unlike Kontact, Evolution won’t ask you what every column means. It would just assume that the CSV is in some weird scheme. If you try to import the CSV, it would force the scheme on you CSV even if it looks completely different. The result – a complete mess of the fields in each contact.

I didn’t find the reference for how Evolution expects its CSVs to look like, and I didn’t want to analyse that either. So finally, I’ve set up a virtual machine, loaded it with OpenSuse KDE live cd and imported the CSV into Kontact and exported it as VCard which I imported to Evolution.

I believe, that the current CSV import in Evolution, just causes user frustration, as it doesn’t act as expected.

Other weird problems I’ve encountered in Evolution which I didn’t solve yet:

  1. Evolution is that it gives me “Could not remove address book” when I try to to delete an existing address books. After restarting the program I’ve succeeded in deleting some of them but not all of them.
  2. When I imported the VCard from Kontact, the contacts appeared in every address book (except one) and also appeared magically in new address books I’ve created. The contacts in each of the address books seems to be linked together. When I’ve tried to delete them from one address book, they’ve disappeared from the rest as well.

If you know how to solve these issues I would really like to hear.