jump to navigation

On normal people using Linux, part 2 August 25, 2014

Posted by tumaix in planetkde-tomazcanabrava.

This is the story of a girl named Elisa, and Elisa liked to do girlish things like hang out with her friends, sunbath at the beach, go to riots and protests against the world cup, support the feminism movement and study. Regarding study, she does Psicology class in the Fluminense Federal University ( UFF ) in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. I’v met Elisa by a friend of a friend that wanted to introduce us beause of our common ideals:
One day she was laying around, half on the couch, half on the coffe table, half on the floor – just like a cat, while we were talking about Musicals and this history went as such:

“So, you understand a bit about computers, right?”
“My computer is so, so slow. Do you know what it can be?”
“Well, Windows. but it’s the new one, Windows 7”
“No, tomaz, I’ll not put linux, I’m not a programmer.”
“hm hm…”
“No, and don’t insist.”

A week later she was crying in despair and asked my help to dual-boot her windows installation with a linux of my choice, for her windows install was taking more than 5 minutes to be usable, and each program . I’v started talking about her about how many linuxes there are, her eyes were like ._. ,Then I started talking about what are desktop managers and related programs, and her eyes were like ._o, then I started talking about her about some assumptions that she needed to make before installing ( primary system? use cases? games? ) and her eyes were like o_o, finally I settled down for OpenSUSE because she liked the gecko. I’v installed and helped her thru the configuration, things were faster than windows and she was happy, but not as much – Netflix didn’t really worked out of the box and some black magic should be done for it, and also evernote didn’t had an official linux client and the one that existed was a java based application ( seriously guys, java’s bad for the health. )
One day she calls me

“Linux doesn’t boot”
“my Linux is broken”
“I didn’t do anything, it now freezes at the gray screen with the clock”
– I had no idea what was the gray screen with the clock
“What clock? Gray? Gray clock? Grayjoy ironborn?”

With a bit of explanation I understood: KDM was not being shown, a bare X window with the clock-shaped mouse pointer was all that she got. What could be the issue? I’v searched, checked, searched, nothing that I could came up with. I removed her SUSE ( because this was not the first problem that occoured with her, and since I don’t use suse myself I had to study every time she had questions ) and changed to my distribution, the one that takes almost a day to install – “Here, take this, it’s pretty, it’s faster than suse, and if anything happens I most probably already have dealed with that so it will be easier to fix your issue”, she was afraid at first because on arch linux you must go to the terminal from now and then, but overall, happy.

“Your linux is slow as hell.”
“Seriously, why did you removed suse?”
“it takes ages to open a tab on firefox”
“something called pipelight is eating all my cpu”
“er… Dear, did you try to install something to watch netflix?”
“Yes. I’v followed up Arch’s Wiki”
“Well, it seems that it’s that that’s letting your computer slow, please remove that, will ya?”
“No netflix for me then? I hate you.”
“Sorry, but you can try the new version of Chrome, It’s not ‘free software’ in the ‘opensource vision’ but it plays Netflix using the HTML5 stuff, on linux’
“Oh, really?”
“… worked, things are fast. love you again.”

And I tougth things were going fine, ok and nice, when suddenly:

“Linux doesn’t boot”
“my Linux is broken”
“I didn’t do anything, it now freezes at the gray screen with the clock”
– I had no idea what was the gray screen with the clock
“What clock? Gray? Gray clock? Grayjoy ironborn?”

What should I do? This was my linux choice, I have never got this problem, she got this problem twice with two different distros. Could be the Stars Alignment? Could it be my breath? Could it be the promess of a brand new day in a clear blue sky? I started to search for answers for the question “What can make KDM halt like that?” And I found out “font-cache can be an issue”

“Dear, can you run on the terminal the command fc-cache?”
“What’s a terminal?”
” the ‘DOS’, just hit Ctrl + Alt + F1″ ( now, I *know* that’s not a dos, but normal people don’t care about the differences about dos, bash, command.com or anything like that – enter code on a black screen in the mind of a windows user for his whole life? DOS. )
“ok, I’m here”
“write fc-cache -fv”

“How long this should take?”
“not much, why?”
“It’s running for about 20 minutes.”

Something was deep wrong with the font-cache. what could be the issue?

“Dear, what did you tried to do with in regard about fonts? did you installed anything?”
“Well, I’v tried to use the windows fonts because they are prettier.”
“why would you do that?”
“Because they are prettier. And because my university asks the ‘Times New Roman’ font on the texts”
“Can you remove the windows fonts from the system? if you followed Arch Linux wiki, should be something similar to unlink /directory/where/fonts/are/windows_fonts”
“can you run the fc-cache again?”
“reboot” ( I could have told her to use systemctl to try to reestart KDM, but then I’d need to explain what was systemctl and a restart was faster. )
“worked. yey!”
“I assume that you did an windows update, right?”
“Yes, I didn’t know it was going to kill my linux”
“Me neither, I need two aspirins, it’s too much for me today. windows fonts on a windows install breaking linux… AAAAHHHHHHH”

Now, This was most likely the *same* problem that she had with her OpenSuse, and again if she didn’t had a tech friend this would be a *real* pain to fix.


1. believemewhenisay - August 25, 2014

I hope the holy-grail Wayland will fix all these ’80s X11 reminescenses. Sure, Wayland compositors will crash too, but hopefully not for the fonts breaking!

2. CheeseBurg - August 25, 2014

Why not just give her a standard Ubuntu install? It has a software center and can give Windows fonts in a few clicks.

tumaix - August 25, 2014

Because friends dont let friends use Ubuntu. My post before this one about the same subject was about lots of issues that a Ubuntu user, no tech oriented, hit and was diving her mad.

Philip Barry - August 25, 2014

Oh yay, Distro bashing.. clap, clap.
If I didn’t learn on Ubuntu I would never have been able to move to Arch. Using Arch with out a solid understanding of
the linux O.S.. what a great friend indeed.

..sigh.. She’ll end up using windows again out of frustration, no doubt about it.

tumaix - August 25, 2014

Well, of you only knew the amazing amount of shit that I had to deal with terrible datalosses on Ubuntu based distros…

3. Kyriakos Brastianos - August 25, 2014

That’s an awesome post as i also witness things like that all the time. Thanks for sharing your experience Tomaz. It Made Me Giggle. 🙂

4. Karl García Gestido - August 25, 2014


I use opensource fonts, but in my first times I used MS fonts and worked fine for me. I installed the package from the (openSUSE) official repo of my distribution.


There are other fonts with binary compatibility, like a few developed by Google.

The issues: http://en.opensuse.org/SDB:TrueType#From_Microsoft_products
You can search for Liberation, Tinos, Arimo and cousine.

5. Dainius “GreatEmerald” Masiliūnas - August 25, 2014

Hmm, got to say, she’s pretty good at all that. The regular people I deal with when trying to explain them how to use Linux have issues with things like accidentally closing a toolbar and not knowing how to open it again. Installing anything and especially reading the wiki is way out of spec for them.

6. joncr - August 25, 2014

The grey clock sounds a lot like TWM. I guess it must be there in every Linux install that includes X. Who knew.

The fonts she needs to keep the school happy are almost certainly in the mscorefonts package (or whatever it’s called on Opensuse).

7. silverycorgan - August 25, 2014

Why didn’t you install Kubuntu? Seriously this thing really works well.

tumaix - August 25, 2014

Only because of one thing: I dont use it so if she have any issue uograding or configurado I will not be able to help the way I can with arch Linux. I would have to learn the kubuntu way to help.

Silvery-Corgan - August 25, 2014

That’s reasonable. But about that bug with the Windows fonts … do you have more details (like a link)? I didn’t quite understand whether the issue was with the fonts in KDE or with the fonts in Windows somehow affecting the KDE installation.

tumaix - August 25, 2014

Im on the cellphone now, so I dont have the link, but I can post it tomorrow. The issue was a broken font setup or something like that on the Windows side, and fc-cache was exterior on an infinite loop for some reason, and kdm doesn’t starts with a broken cache. Só suse, kubuntu, fedora, anything that used kdm would fácil. ( gdm too, as I tried it to see if it would work.)

Sys - August 27, 2014

> Why didn’t you install Kubuntu? Seriously this thing really works well.

I use Kubuntu and when I installed the “kubuntu-restricted-extras” official package it automatically installed the Microsoft fonts (like Times New Roman), for example.

8. BHt3 - August 26, 2014

Hahahaha love your posts! I have a friend like this, but my friend is using windows and I’m trying to get my friend to use linux mint instead because of all the windows issues my friend always seems to get stuck at. However the transition to Mint have been anything than easy. I hope there will be a part 3 and 4 etc to this story!

9. Kjetil Kilhavn - August 26, 2014

Quick fix: No dual boot 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: