friday, 22 march 2019

a random collection of code fragments used to solve various *nix installation problems encountered over time, after upgrades, etc.

I have been meaning to keep a journal of little fixes but, up until now, never have had the discipline to do so. That’s because most of these little fixes are that: little. Either a quick command line action or an enhancement to a script. They seem trivial at the time of resolution but often required pulling up a manpage or a little digging to resolve.

My analogue memory is porous, as is evidenced by the fact that I am certain there are plenty of anecdotal gems but can remember naught. So, without further adieu, time to start recording these maintenance forays as I (re)stumble across them..


when the Archlinux repository databases do not match the actual packages residing on the servers, pacman errors out with..

error: failed retrieving file '<package>.pkg.tar.xz' from <url> : The requested URL returned error: 404

This can result from having a stale dated pacman database installed which can be updated with..

pacman -Syy

While infrequent, it is also not uncommon for..

pacman -Syu

to fail because, while the database may be up to date, the packages themselves have not yet finished being updated on the servers. Patience is a virtue. Try again later.


allows you to pull down the URL content of a website which is useful for scraping information. If nothing appears to be downloaded, most likely, the webpage has been relocated. This can be verified with..

curl -silent -v http://..

which will list the message “.. Moved Permanently”.

To have curl follow the link to the webpage’s new location..

curl -silent -L http://..


shell is my scripting shell of choice. I used to write bash and zsh scripts for their syntactical richness but now script in dash because of that. Without all of the syntactical shortcuts, dash runs circles around bash and zsh. Its usage for window management was the reason for switching back to this streamlined shell.

Aside from the POSIX language restrictions, using eval to simulate the occasional array, printf for enhanced echo commands, and enclosing variables within double quotes for tests (to handle embedded Spaces) are the most common differences. As an added benefit, POSIX conformity ensures platform portability and keeps your shell scripting skills honed.


does not inherit the DISPLAY environment on window manager startup. This will cause daemon notifications such as that issued from udiskie to fail. For Arch Linux, in .xinitrc source..

. /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/


shell is a non-POSIX interactive shell which has been my daily terminal driver despite the fact that I code all shell scripts for POSIX compliant dash. A benign startup test index error message occurred after a recent update which curiously affected only one computer! This was ultimately caused by a file which had an errant keybind function reference whose cause remains unknown. It’s recurrence was cleared by..

rm $HOME/.config/fish/fishd.(hostname)


to approximate infinality like font rendering, enable the following configurations..

sudo ln -s /etc/fonts/conf.avail/10-sub-pixel-rgb.conf /etc/fonts/conf.d sudo ln -s /etc/fonts/conf.avail/11-lcdfilter-default.conf /etc/fonts/conf.d


clears the statusline by default for a distraction free presentation of the page. Even if you set the statusline in an call to your own initialization function..

autocmd User GoyoEnter nested call <SID>GoyoEnter()

To prevent Goyo from overwriting your attempts to set a minimal statusline (why would you be using Goyo otherwise!), edit the plugin autoload/goyo.vim file..

function! s:hide_statusline() let &l:statusline = &statusline endfunction

group and passwd

systemd boot message: “Failed to start Verify integrity of password and group files”.

A package removal can orphan group and passwd file settings. Check and correct with..

sudo grpck sudo pwck


freetype2 is slowly integrating the subpixel hinting of the infinality patches bringing it closer to the rendering provided by infinality. Switching back and forth between these font rendering packages, depending on the platform, can result in the replacement of an installed video card specific mesa library with the generic xorg mesa-libgl. This can cause the X desktop environment to appear broken with infinality – with conky graphics not displaying, fonts not appearing, text input not registering, etc.

The solution is to reinstall the necessary video card specific mesa library, such as nvidia-libgl. The caveat is to always pay attention to what libraries are replaced when switching back and forth between packages.

Note: deprecated, no longer supported in favour of freetype2.

inotify watches

if inotify watches become exhausted, applications such as pulseaudio can fail to load completely and Xorg can appear stalled (while waiting for subprocesses which are hampered by inotify resources). Messages in related logs and the systemd journal will identify that the inotify resources are exhausted.

To verify the current maximum number of inotify watches and set a new session limit..

cat /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches sudo sysctl fs.inotify.max_user_watches=32768

To increase the value to a suitably large number..

echo fs.inotify.max_user_watches=32768 | sudo tee /etc/sysctl.d/99-sysctl.conf

on Archlinux..

echo fs.inotify.max_user_watches=32768 | sudo tee /usr/lib/sysctl.d/90-override.conf


has useful colour schemes matching available vim color theme plugins, such as solarized. To get a bit more contrast with the light solarized theme command mode field, edit the plugin colorsheme/solarized_light.vim file..

let s:p.normal.left = [ [ s:base02, s:blue ], [ s:base3, s:base01 ] ] let s:p.insert.left = [ [ s:base02, s:green ], [ s:base3, s:base01 ] ] let s:p.replace.left = [ [ s:base02, s:red ], [ s:base3, s:base01 ] ] let s:p.visual.left = [ [ s:base02, s:magenta ], [ s:base3, s:base01 ] ]


a recent openssl update (version 1.1.1) may cause subsequent SSL errors connecting to due to SNI (Server Name Indication) and certificate authentication failure with TLS 1.3. Add to .offlineimaprc to force TLS 1.2..

ssl_version = tls1_2


the latest major upgrade to pacman 5.0 broke package-query which is a dependency of many Arch Linux package management utilities. The option for my package management workflow was to either wait for upstream to correct the problem or rebuild the packages to use the new libalpm library..

pacaur -S --rebuild cower pacaur -S --rebuild yaourt package-query

On rare occasions, a keyring update can hang on a deadly embrace with itself. This can be rectified with..

pacman -S archlinux-keyring

or failing that..

pacman-key --populate

before continuing with the remaining package updates.


can be fooled into thinking a development git-latest package needs updating even though the –devel flag is not enabled. It is actually a cower related issue which can be identified with..

cower -u

There is not much that can be done with the offending package other than –ignore’ing it until a new github release of the package is available.


major ruby 2.x language updates will break the nginx passenger application – namely, this website. Updating the ruby environment requires updating the ruby gems, including passenger, and rebuilding the nginx server and passenger client with..

gem update $[HOME/.gem/ruby/2.x.0/gems/passenger-x.x.x/bin/passenger-config]( compile-agent $HOME/.gem/ruby/2.x.0/gems/passenger-x.x.x/bin/passenger-install-nginx-module

Update the nginx.conf passenger root reference with..

passenger_root ~/.gem/ruby/2.x.0/gems/passenger-x.x.x;


themes are defined in the .config/Trolltech.conf file. If this file is removed, QT will regenerate it.

However, if the file is regenerated, the QT application Amphetype will not recognized any Gtk theme changes. Restoring the original file from backups solves the problem. So..

Do not delete this file, unless you are running a QT desktop environment(?) – possibly a limitation of window manager environments.

raspberry pi

media playback can suffer from audio stuttering over NFS. To solve this, adjust the buffering in /etc/fstab..

luna:/net /net nfs4 rw,noatime,rsize=32768,wsize=32768,nolock,_netdev 0 0


allows modifying file content with the –in-place flag. However, if the file referenced is symlinked, the symbolic link will be broken and a file by that name created. To update the linked file instead..

sed -i --follow-symlinks ..


some plugins and colorscheme themes alter the statusline fillchars resulting in the expected Space characters of the statusline being filled with a non-blank character such as a Caret or Period. Yuck!

To set spaces on the statusline, add to the fillchars..

set fillchars+=stl:\ ,stlnc:\ "

Note: a Space character follows each Backslash character. The DoubleQuote is simply a comment insertion to highlight the trailing blank.

A more reliable method, in case multiple specifications are defined in the string for the same character, is to explicitly redefine (reset) the fillchars with..

set fillchars=stl:\ ,stlnc:\ "

or remove the conflicting specification with (for example)..

set fillchars-=stl:.


in order to be able to use the Tab key for snipmate expansion, remap vimwiki’s use of the key for tables in the plugin ftplugin/vimwiki.vim file..

if g:vimwiki_table_mappings inoremap vimwiki#tbl#kbd_tab()\ inoremap vimwiki#tbl#kbd_shift_tab()\ endif


the message upon exiting a X11 session (stopping X)..

X server lost bad font path element.. Directory does not exist or has wrong permissions

is a benign warning and most likely results from user fonts in $HOME/.fonts. This warning can be corrected with..

cd $HOME mkfontdir mkfontscale

Similarly, the message..

couldn't access control socket: /run/user/1000/keyring/control: No such file or directory

is a benign gnome-keyring-daemon warning and can be corrected with..

sudo sed -i '$asession optional auto_start \ auth optional' /etd/pam.d/login sudo sed -i '$apassword optional' /etc/pam.d/passwd

After making these changes, restart the X server.

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