Living with a Droid

It has been almost two months since my last post and a lot has happened on the Tech Front. My laptop, Synapse was given away to my brother, my Xperia Z cellphone was retired and I bought a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X the 32 GB, 3 RAM version, which I named Helix. For my use (everything but games) is the best phone I ever owned, beautiful display, huge battery, great design.

As with everything technological I own, I tweaked it up to the point that going further I needed root permissions, which I am too lazy to bother obtaining… The Note 4X comes preinstalled with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the Xiaomi’s own desktop, MIUI 8.

Now MIUI is (for me) an iOS clone desktop, meaning no app drawer which I don’t like at all. But I must say the theme shop has some rather nice themes to change the default style. Aside the aesthetic of the OS, the only thing that bugged me is that I cannot disable some of the core applications, like the File Manager, Calendar etc – which of course I bypassed using this little application called Activity Launcher.

I mostly like to use as little resources, both CPU/GPU-wise and Disk Space-wise, so I keep a very small application list, considering people who have 3-4 pages full of applications.

My application list including the apps that came preinstalled and I use, consists of :

  • Activity Launcher (App Disabler)
  • Black Player EX (Music Player – paid)
  • Evernote (Note App)
  • FX File Explorer (File Manager – paid)
  • Firefox (I’m torn between Firefox and Chrome for now)
  • Folio (Facebook / Twitter / Google+ all-in-one app, currently free but I’m planning to buy the pro version)
  • Gboard (Google keyboard)
  • Chrome (Google’s browser)
  • GMail (I’m using it with my own domain)
  • Google (Which has now upgraded to Assistant, and I am not too happy about it)
  • Google Drive
  • Google Photos (I have disabled Xiaomi’s Gallery, because it is too intrusive to use Mi Sync)
  • Maps
  • Messenger (Facebook’s Messenger)
  • Mi Remote
  • Nova Launcher Prime (The absolute best launcher for Android and the reason why I don’t care which launcher my next Android Phone has – paid)
  • Omoro Icon Pack (Dark and beautiful icon pack – paid)
  • Proshot (Way better than the stock camera software – paid)
  • Shazam Encore (Music identifier – paid)
  • VLC (Free and awesome as it’s desktop counterpart)
  • YouTube

And some pictures of the overall “feeling” of the desktop :

Synapse Tweaking (March ’17 edition)

Today sees the day of GNOME 3.24 release! So this is my final tweaking of GNOME 3.22, a great Desktop Environment, only getting better with each release.

On Synapse now, I have finally removed all software that is not either part of GNOME’s core apps or heavily affiliated with it (like GNOME To-Do). The best feature I got to use is GNOME-Web’s, Web Applications, which make using online services and sites as easy as having a desktop application.

From GNOME’s site :

This is desktop integration

If you use a particular website as if it were an application, make it one! Web allows you to make any website a first-class citizen of your GNOME desktop

The system boots in 6.5″

And the whole OS takes 4.3Gb of space for the root partition :

Finally a “feeling” of the whole desktop experience, and all the installed applications :

HAPPY GNOME RELEASE to everyone!!!


On Synapse, I am perfectly happy with Antergos GNOME (so much that I have uninstalled every non-GNOME application like Firefox, Kodi etc and trying to work natively). But on Spectre (family desktop machine), I am not the only user and when the need to use proprietary software (iTunes – Photoshop) or some programs that my wife has learned to use, that don’t have a viable equivalent, like MS Paint (I know, but to tell the truth it gets the job done), became apparent, it gave me two options.

A) Either install Windows 10.

B) Try to install Windows applications through Wine.

I haven’t decided yet though… but given the broken toe, which should keep kind of immobile for a while, I have time to decide and try both ways.

On using Epiphany

I am a user who besides usability, like visual consistency on my desktop. When I learned that Firefox will drop XUL support for WebExtensions making most – if not all – of the Firefox UI modification addons, I decided to try Epiphany, GNOME’s WebKit browser.

Epiphany is part of GNOME’s core apps, so it integrates in the desktop, both visually and giving you the option to search the Web from the Overview.

Epiphany integrated on GNOME search feature

It is also lightweight, it requires approximately 10Mb (!!!) – while firefox requires ~90Mb – boots really fast and it does not bloat system resources. A great feature is that you can turn every web page to an active application (Web App) through it, making it searchable, pinnable to the dock and foremost visually integrated on the desktop unlike Chrome’s Apps.

On the downside, Epiphany doesn’t have many – if any – extensions, except the ad-blocker and the pop-up blocker. Personally I can’t say that these lack of addons bugs me much, I’m just a casual user. What really really bugs me, averting me from using it full time, removing Firefox and keeping just one browser (I am also a minimalist…one app for a job – or better one app for multiple jobs), are those 3 major (for me) issues :

  • On Google Apps :
    • Google Docs does not work as expected (changing writing language, letters are not typed (!), etc )
    • Google+ notifications do not load
  • Ebanking site does not login (user / pass ok, reloads login page), for this I have already filed a bug report.
  • Some videos on YouTube and Facebook (probably other sites too) don’t load, while on Firefox they work perfectly.

I am really into using Epiphany and will actively try to help making it better (though I don’t know where to start). Hopefully these kinks will get sorted out at one point, but I will not complain because it is an open source project, maintained and upgraded by volunteers.

GNOMify Firefox

GNOME uses the so-called Client Side Decorations (CSDs), meaning that there is no titlebar and the headerbar has useful functions, as you can see in GNOME-Web (Epiphany) or Files (Nautilus)

I am trying to use a heavily integrated desktop, so the only non-GNOME CSD that is installed is Firefox – mostly due to GNOME-Web not performing to my standards. At first I tried to tweak Firefox using this tutorial, but it is now regretfully redundant.

The following tutorial was tested ONLY with the Arc Themes, with some tweaking it could work with any GTK theme.

  • First of all we need to download the Arc Theme (whichever of the three you want). Firefox default would look like this now :

Arc :

Arc Darker :

Arc Dark :

  • The must have Extensions we need are :
  • On Classic Theme Restorer we need to change the following settings :
    • Set “Tabs” page set the position to Tabs not on top (v1) – [tabsnotontop=false] attribute (page 1)
    • Change the Tab Height to 32px and the width to : min200px / max 300px
    • On the “Tabs” page, enable the “Hide tabs toolbar with only one visible tab (page 2)
    • Disable the Firefox button
    • On the “General UI”, enable the Movable status panel, Stop & reload: combine buttons on toolbar and Movable window controls for full screen mode
    • Hide the Menu button separator
    • On the “Location Bar”, enable the Hide ‘stop & reload’ buttons and Hide ‘go’ button (page 1)
    • On the “Location Bar”, enable the Hide labels (page 3)

You can also customize elements of the User Interface through the default customization of Firefox. You can add / remove / rearrange virtually every aspect of it.

  • One of the most important aspects of the Classic Theme Restorer extension is that you can insert custom css code. In order to achieve uniformity on the coloring of Firefox between the Headerbar and the Tab toolbar, I inserted the following (only for Arc Dark and Arc Darker):
#urlbar-wrapper {
  height: 36px !important; 
  margin-bottom: -1px !important;
#urlbar {
  margin-top: 5px !important;
  margin-bottom: 5px !important;
  background: #404552 !important;
.tabbrowser-tabs  {
background: #2f343f !important;
toolbar {
background: #2f343f !important;
  • On the Hide Caption Titlebar Plus extension we need to
    • Set the “Show Custom TitleBar” to Never
    • Set the “Enable Customizable Buttons” to No (Fx. default)
    • Set the “Custom Controls” (at top-right corner) to Auto. Current theme’s skin (legacy position)
    • Disable the Firefox custom “Home” application button
    • Set the ” Show Firefox’s Main Menu (Panel) button” to Always (Fx default)
    • Use the “alternative hide-titlebar feature” – which takes the place of the discontinued HTitle extension

Finally there are three more optional addons to finalize tweaking Firefox :

  • GNotifier (Integrates Firefox/Thunderbird’s notifications with the native notification system)
  • Page Title in URL Bar (Matches GNOME-Web’s style), with the following addon’s settings :

The final Firefox theme will look like this :

* I would like to thank all the developers for their hard work, especially horst3180 for the excellent Arc Theme (I “borrowed” the themed Firefoxes from the github page), please give praise were it’s due! *

PS. As in any tutorial, I cannot guarantee that any of these settings could end uo crippling your system, so tweak at your own risk!

Spectre Tweaking (January ’17 edition)

It has been at least 3 years since I had a desktop PC (not hooked up on a TV as a media center), so these Christmas I bought a monitor and placed the tower we had as a media center, in the office room. And yes, we now have a fully functional office desktop PC, called Spectre!

Spectre‘s specs are :

  • Motherboard : Memphis2-S ( uATX – 24.4×24.4 cm | Chipset : Intel H87 | Socket type : LGA 1150 Socket-H3 )
  • CPU : Intel Core i3 4160
  • GPU : Intel® HD Graphics 4400
  • Memory : 6GB DDR3-1600
  • HDD : SanDisk SSD Plus 120GB
  • Sound / Audio : ALC659-CG
  • LAN : Realtek RTL8151GH-CG ( Data Transfer Rates : 10/100/1000 Mb/s )

As I will not be the only one using it, I needed the interface to be as straightforward and Windows-like as it could be. But I also wanted to use GNOME as a Desktop Environment. This extension helped me setup GNOME to feel like a traditional desktop, so it was Antergos GNOME once again!

The installation was once more a breeze, and the only extra applications I installed were Firefox, LibreOffice, Kodi and Steam (Linux Gaming baby!!!)

From the default screen :

To the final, tweaked GNOME :

Apart from Dash-To-Panel extension, I also used Alternate Tab, Applications Menu (invaluable, but I am waiting for this to be published as I love the Arc theme), OSD Panel, Arch Linux Update Indicator, No Left Hot Corner, OpenWeather and the Removable Drive Menu extensions.

The system boots in under 10 seconds and with everything installed it uses less than 8Gb of space. That begs the question, Why are people still struggling with proprietary and bloated Operating Systems?

Finishing up with a little slideshow of the overall system :

Synapse Tweaking (January ’17 edition)

Yes! Synapse is alive (once more), under Antergos GNOME 3.22.2, using Wayland Display Server. I mostly stayed GNOME-oriented in regards to applications with the exception of Firefox – I tried Epiphany but the bugs on sites I commonly use made it really difficult to use on a daily basis.

A small list of what was removed :


And what was installed :

Papirus Icons (wget -qO- | sh)
youtube-dl (for the lollypop search features)

The system starts in under 7 seconds as you can see in the systemd-analyze screen

Most of the customization work, went to Firefox, as all the non GNOME apps where already using Client Side Decorations. From the default Firefox theme, the first and most important change is the use of the Arc Theme (for me is the Arc Dark), afterwards I installed the following Addons :

  • Classic Theme Restorer – a lot of customization options like tabs on the bottom can be found here
  • GNOME Theme Tweak – Not used a lot anymore, just for some fine tuning like Bold Tabs
  • GNotifier – great for integrating Firefox notifications in GNOME
  • Hide Sync In Menu
  • Htitle – Removes the title bar, it is now unmaintaned but it works on Firefox 50
  • Page Title in URL Bar – Hides the sites url under the name of the page (as in Epiphany)
    and finally
  • Stylish – Changes pages, or the browser itself through .css files, two of the most important styles I used are GNOME style menu list view and minimal floating scrollbars

The final look is this :

My only “bug” is that I can’t switch the coloring of the URL Bar and the Tab Bar so that they will be the same as on all GNOME apps. If anyone has an idea, be free to send me an email pointing me in the right direction.

Finally a small media gallery of the whole system :



Incorporated takes place in a dystopian Milwaukee in the year 2074, where many countries have gone bankrupt due to a number of crises and climate change. In the absence of effective government, powerful multinational corporations have become de facto governments, controlling areas called Green Zones. The remaining territories are called Red Zones, where governance is weak or non-existent.

The series follows Ben Larson, a manager at Spiga Biotech, the largest corporation in the world. He works for Elizabeth, the estranged mother of his wife, Laura. In reality, he is a climate refugee from the Red Zone outside Milwaukee whose real name is Aaron. Aaron has infiltrated the Green Zone, assuming the identity of Ben Larson to search for his childhood love Elena, who through a series of unfortunate circumstances has become an executive club companion—a high-end, indentured prostitute who works at a Spiga “executive club” called Arcadia.

On a personal note, Incorporated is an excellent TV Series, truly capturing the reality our world is heading, “High Tech, Low Life“. Plus, Executive Producers are Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (+1 geek point).

Winter Cleaning

It’s 2017!

Christmas has come and gone! I sincerely hope that everyone had a good time with their family and friends!

On the tech front, a friend helped me open and clean my laptop. Nowadays laptops are really a hassle to open, clean and upgrade, the unibody design and the non-removable batteries, make them lighter and thinner but don’t provide the easiness of upgrading your hardware. After the cleaning process (Thank you Dimitris!), noise levels are now between 24db and 38db when playing a 4k video on YouTube, which is GREAT!

I want to comment that Lenovo’s build quality on the U510 model is great, sturdy yet not full of screws etc. The only shortcoming I found on it’s interior design, is that the CPU is part of the motherboard, thus cannot be changed (at least without the – high – possibility of something going wrong).