Tag Archives: ubuntu

Ubuntu Developer Talks Down Impact Of 32-Bit Changes For Ubuntu 19.10


Following Valve saying they won’t be officially supporting Ubuntu 19.10 and Wine developers questioning their Ubuntu 32-bit builds following the announcement this week of not providing new 32-bit packages for new Ubuntu releases, longtime Ubuntu developer and Canonical employee Steve Langasek is trying to provide some clarity into the situation.

Steve “vorlon” Langasek commented overnight on the Ubuntu Discourse:

I’m sorry that we’ve given anyone the impression that we are “dropping support for i386 applications”. That’s simply not the case. What we are dropping is updates to the i386 libraries, which will be frozen at the 18.04 LTS versions. But there is every intention to ensure that there is a clear story for how i386 applications (including games) can be run on versions of Ubuntu later than 19.10.

In a follow-up post, he says the 32-bit Mesa will be available and is what is found in the Ubuntu 18.04 archive — similar to what they’ve been talking of the possibilities of using 32-bit libraries moving forward from the 18.04 LTS archive. While Ubuntu 18.04 LTS does get new hardware enablement stacks, this will generally be months behind what is normally found in the newest Ubuntu releases.

Steve also commented that 32-bit only packages like PCSX2 would be available just in the Ubuntu 18.04 repository and bound to their current versions. But is suggesting such 32-bit applications consider moving to the Snap packaging format.

There was also a question about 32-bit printer drivers to which Steve responded they are exploring options for how to support the most popular of these printers.

Those wanting to follow the latest Ubuntu 32-bit discussions can jump on this thread.

With Regolith, i3 Tiling Window Management Is Awesome, Strange and Easy | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jun 20, 2019 10:33 AM PT

With Regolith, i3 Tiling Window Management Is Awesome, Strange and Easy

Regolith Linux brings together three unusual computing components that make traipsing into the i3 tiling window manager world out-of-the-box easy.

Much of the focus and attraction — as well as confusion — for newcomers to the Linux OS is the variety of desktop environments available. Some Linux distributions offer a range of desktop types. Others come only with a choice of one desktop.

i3 provides yet another option, but it is a much different choice that offers an entirely new approach to how you interact with the operating system.

Window managers usually are integrated into a full-fledged desktop system. Window managers control the appearance and placement of windows within the operating system’s screen display. A tiling window manager goes one step further. It organizes the screen display into non-overlapping frames rather than stacking overlapping windows.

The i3 tiling window manager in Regolith Linux serves as what essentially becomes a standalone pseudo desktop. It automatically arranges windows so they occupy the whole screen without overlapping.

Regolith Linux desktop

An otherwise barren desktop quickly gets crowded with equal-sized tiled windows. Here we see the Firefox Web browser on the left, Control Panel in the center, and a LibreOffice document on the right.

– click image to enlarge –

Regolith Linux brings together three computing elements not found anywhere else. It is part Ubuntu’s ubiquity, part i3-wm’s efficient and productive interface, and part GNOME’s system configuration features.

Different Strokes

Regolith Linux is designed for people who prefer a spartan interface with polished and consistent system management. You will not find many distros using the i3 tiling window manager.

The few distros that offer i3 as a sort of desktop option are built into Arch-based distros. The i3 wm components usually need elaborate installation and detailed configuration steps. That becomes a deterrent to trying the tiling window manager.

Regolith Linux changes all that. Developer Ken Gilmore stuffed the i3 tiling window manager into Ubuntu for stability and easy access. If you download the live CD version, you get a ready-to-go Regolith distro with all the Ubuntu software infrastructure.

Another option is to add the Regolith Ubuntu PPA to an existing Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic) or 19.04 (Disco) system and swap out the Ubuntu desktop with Regolith’s tweaked i3 tiling window manager replacement.

Release 1.0 is based on Ubuntu 18.04; release 1.1 is based on Ubuntu 19.04. Either version will update to the latest files.

“All Regolith packages work fine on Ubuntu 18.04 and 19.04. Essentially the goal is to create something simple, polished and productive,” Gilmore told LinuxInsider.

New Approach

Regolith Linux is very new. Gilmore released the first edition of the Ubuntu installer with the Regolith distro on April 19. The PPA installation on an existing Ubuntu instance is about one year older, first appearing around March 2018.

“There are still many rough edges to be addressed, of course, but overall I feel the interface is particularly compelling to those that would like to work efficiently,” said Gilmore.

Almost all of the developmental work goes into little things that most people do not notice, he added. He sees that work as 90 percent polish.

His plans for continued development include keeping the 1.x development focused on the strategy of using existing open source projects and customizing them as needed to provide the best possible user experience with i3. However, he does not plan to get into actually changing any upstream code.

“I plan on releasing a 2.x development track which is more ambitious in that I plan to modify several UI (user interface) components that Regolith relies on (i3bar, Rofi, gnome-flashback) to further simplify and polish the user workflow. This is a longer-term goal, and I don’t really have specifics yet,” he explained, apart from lots of ideas.

Those UI improvements involve reducing the bar to only a few pixels deep and pushing a lot of the ambient information such as date/time and workspace map to a full-screen modal similar to the way Rofi (a window switcher) is rendered for program launching (Super-space).

More Work Ahead

Since the i3 window manager is largely a keyboard-driven interface, very little in the way of a graphical user display exists in Regolith Linux. The control panel is accessed with the keyboard shortcut Super key + c, for example. Once the control panel launches, you can arrow down a list of settings or use the mouse.

The default key bindings are kept in a .config file that is edited using the gEdit text editor. Gilmore plans to make UI changes more aggressively in the 2.x development. He passes along all developmental changes directly as rolling release updates.

Regolith Linux File Manager

The left window shows the File Manager in the .config folder. The right window displays the Regolith.config file in a text editor.

– click image to enlarge –

The developer issues updates to two PPAs: regolith-unstable for testing and regolith-stable. Once package updates have been pushed to regolith-stable, both PPA users, as well as distro users, get the updates via Ubuntu’s package update mechanism.

“I will add more ISO versions if needed but do not have a specific schedule or plan for global versioning. In fact, that Regolith is a distribution at all is simply because that is the best way for a lot of users to get the software,” noted Gilmore. “Users are familiar with the ISO approach, whereas PPA installations may be too technical.”

Keen on User Focus

Ultimately, Gilmore said it is not his goal to “capture” users or empire-build. In fact, he has documentation on
regolith-linux.org for users who wish to build their own thing or revert back to stock Ubuntu.

Regolith makes no attempt to hide the fact that it’s just Ubuntu with a different desktop environment, according to the developer. From my view, he would be perfectly justified in establishing Regolith Linux as a distro in its own right.

Familiarity with GNOME and Ubuntu help more experienced users settle into using the i3 window manager as a desktop environment, although the tweaking and integration Gilmore devised brings a whole new look and feel. If you are new to Linux or do not know Ubuntu, Regolith Linux *IS* a unique distro experience.

Gilmore plans to utilize configuration strategies that make it easier for neophytes to play around and share bits of configuration. He wants to make it easy to roll back changes when something goes wrong.

“And I would like to incorporate some of the subtle transitional animation elements we have come to expect with mobile UIs.,” Gilmore said. “Additionally, a lot of work remains for documentation. I want to provide a much more inclusive first-time user experience which gives a new user the ‘big picture’ and walks them through the UI, how to do things, etc., rather than just dropping them to a desktop with a cheat-sheet window.”

On the website, Gilmore wants to provide a full how-to section for people to build their own Regolith-like projects. Debian packaging was really hard for him to learn relative to the complexity of what the process involves. His goal is to help others if he can.

Common Ground Draws Users to Linux

Computer users do not have to be spoon fed what the megacorps want customers to use, according to Gilmore. Regular people often produce far more beautiful and creative environments than those from large software companies, regardless of how talented their designers are.

“How we interact with our computers is our choice to make,” said Gilmore.

When asked to describe the typical person interested in his new distro, his response underscored what makes Linux so inviting: “I think of myself around 2017 when I came to the realization that the Mac platform was a dead-end for professional developers. I had no idea what I should use next, as long as it wasn’t any of the ‘stock’ desktops (windows/mac/ubuntu).”

Not that anything is wrong with Ubuntu by default, Gilmore clarified, noting that it is designed for people who prefer the traditional Windows/Mac UI metaphors.

“For me, Windows was out by default and so that left Ubuntu, as my employer only allows that version of Linux due to IT management and security concerns,” he said.

Taking a Test Drive

Regolith is visually spartan by design so it is not a distraction. It has no icons, docks, panels, menus or widgets taking up screen space.

A small bar at the bottom of the screen shows information such as workspaces on the left end and system status indicators on the right end.

That is the extent of any similarity to an Ubuntu desktop of any variety — or any other Linux distro interface for that matter. The window header does display the expected icons to minimize/maximize, resize, or open window menus. However, they are just a throwback to their GNOME Ubuntu roots. The only window icon that actually works is the X to close the window.

If you are comfortable with terminal boxes and their commands, you can do absolutely anything you want without the missing GUI, right-click on the mouse, icons on the desktop or cascading menus. All it takes to open a terminal window is to use the default keyboard shortcut Super Key+Enter key.

Otherwise, press the Super Key+Space bar to get a scrollable list of installed applications. Just use the up/down arrows on the keyboard. You can point to a title on the center of the screen.

Regolith Linux Super+space keys

The Super+space keys launch the applications list in the center of the screen, leaving the keyboard shortcut list shaded but visible on the right.

– click image to enlarge –

Just do not click on it. Nothing happens. Instead, press the enter key to launch the program. You can close the menu list with the escape key.

Navigating the Desktop

One of the most glaring interface hurdles for me was adjusting to the workspace landscape. i3 has no workplace switcher applet on the bottom panel.

Key mappings are already configured. Press the Super key and a number to jump to that workspace instantly. By default, Regolith has 19 workspaces waiting for you.

Each new workspace you open has its own small colored box that sits with its number in the left end of the bottom of the screen. You rotate among the workspaces with the Super key+number keyboard shortcut.

In any workspace, you can open as many applications as you want or need. The first one opens full screen. The second one changes the screen display to two equal shares. The third one automatically divides the screen into three windows of equal size.

Everything stays in view so there is no need for the Alt-Tab window switching feature. You have no scale or expo animation displays either

Bottom Line

Overall, i3’s minimal visual design does not prevent you from using a modern system with file management features. They are all available, but you must access them differently.

Every workplace screen shows a vertical Konky-style panel with a list of the most commonly used keyboard shortcuts. You can change the default keyboard bindings or add new ones by going into the File Manager, selecting the Show Hidden Files option, and opening the Regolith.config file in the text editor.

Regolith Linux Activated workspaces

Each workspace screen shows the keyboard binding Konky display, a vacant desktop, and bare minimum details on the bottom bar. Activated workspaces are shown as different-colored squares on the left end of the bar.

– click image to enlarge –

Study the syntax pattern from what is already there. Then add your own comment line and the new mapping or edit an existing one. Remember to save the file.

If you decide to tackle this awesome but strange i3 tiling window manager environment, be sure to read through the developer’s
Getting Started guide.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Optane SSD RAID Performance With ZFS On Linux, EXT4, XFS, Btrfs, F2FS

This round of benchmarking fun consisted of packing two Intel Optane 900p high-performance NVMe solid-state drives into a system for a fresh round of RAID Linux benchmarking atop the in-development Linux 5.2 kernel plus providing a fresh look at the ZFS On Linux 0.8.1 performance.

Two Intel Optane 900p 280GB SSDPED1D280GA PCIe SSDs were the focus of this round of Linux file-system benchmarking. EXT4, XFS, Btrfs, and F2FS were tested both on a single Optane SSD and then in RAID0 and RAID1 with two of these high performance drives. Additionally, ZFS On Linux 0.8.1 was tested on this system both with a single drive and in RAIDZ. For putting the Optane SSD performance in reference, there is also a standalone result provided of a Samsung 970 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD with EXT4. In case you missed out earlier Optane 900P benchmarks on Linux from 2017, see them here for this still very competitive SSD. While there are now the 905P SSDs, the 900P models remain available and cheaper hence why going for those when picking up two of them for this round of Linux RAID testing. All of the file-systems were tested using the Linux 5.2 Git kernel and running with their stock/default mount options. The EXT4/XFS/F2FS RAID was tested using Linux MD RAID while the Btrfs and ZFS RAID were using their file-system’s native RAID capabilities.

These two Intel Optane 900p 280GB SSDs were installed within the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX test system on the ASUS ROG ZENITH EXTREME motherboard, 4 x 8GB DDR4-3200 Corsair memory, Radeon RX Vega 64, and running Ubuntu 19.04 with the manual upgrade to Linux 5.2 Git.

All of these Linux storage benchmarks were carried out using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software. For those curious, next week are also some fresh Bcachefs benchmarks.

Enso OS Makes Xfce Elementary | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jun 14, 2019 12:13 PM PT

Sometimes new Linux distros still in beta-only status can offer pleasant surprises with a key feature not available elsewhere. Check out
Enso OS for a prime example.

Enso OS is a relatively new Linux distribution that debuted a couple of years ago. It is a custom build of Xubuntu 18.04 and features the Xfce desktop (hence the Xubuntu base) combined with
Gala, a Mutter-based window/compositing manager designed for use in Elementary OS and its Pantheon Shell.

Enso OS features the Panther application launcher and a modified Plank dock. It also comes with a full-feature panel bar.

I have worked with Elementary OS, another newcomer to the ranks of Linux OS land, and watched its development. Elementary OS is a nice alternative to the GNOME way of doing things, but I found that it lacked the configuration options and interface features I wanted for regular use.

Enso OS just might provide that missing link. Combining Xfce with Gala could be the developer’s stroke of genius.

Enso OS settings tools

Enso OS comes with a battery of tools to make personalizing the desktop easy and productive.

– click image to enlarge –

Gala is far from new. It was introduced in 2011 when Elementary OS made its debut. What is new is pairing it with Xfce. Making it part of the classic Xfce/Xubuntu desktop offers a fresh look and simplicity, making traditional Xfce a bit more modern. Much of the smooth animations in this Xfce integration are the result of embedded Gala.

The Enso OS project’s version 0.3.1 is a beta edition released on June 7. Despite its youth, “Dancing Daisy” impressed me with its good performance. The release includes all the latest security and system packages from the main Ubuntu developer branch, which will be supported by Ubuntu for the next three years.

Look and Feel

The Xfce desktop long has been one of my computing staples. Its lightweight nature makes it a great fit for almost any hardware collection. It is fast, very convenient and feature-rich.

Directly out of the box, Xfce is bland when used with most distros. It comes with a gaggle of configuration tools and a slew of system settings options, but it takes some time to dig through all of those settings to get Xfce to look and work your way.

The tweaked integration in Enso OS puts a new spin on that. Out of the box, the desktop looks awesome. Gala’s added contributions almost make fiddling with the controls unnecessary. There is nothing stock about this Xfce installation.

Of course, some Linux users are prone to fiddle. In my case, adjusting the desktop to my own specifications is a labor of Linux love that has a lot less purpose in this distro. Out of the box, Enso OS is almost too pretty in its own right to apply too many changes.

You won’t find the standard Xfce themes within Enso OS. The UK developer, Nick Wilkins, completely re-themed the desktop.

I particularly like the wallpaper collection. Remember, this is an early beta effort, but it is impressive that Wilkins does not resort to stock stuff. The collection in this release has a dozen background images. This release replaced most of the previous views with a set of nine new background images.

It is definitely an attractive selection of artwork you will not see elsewhere. Let your mind wander as you scan over this list of new background titles:

  • Calm Water Beside Sand
  • Wooden Footbridge on Lake
  • Forest in Fog
  • Snowy Mountain
  • Overhead Shot of Beach
  • Blades of Grass
  • Rolling Sea Shore
  • Daylight Forest
  • Scenic Rice Paddies

Enso Highlights

Granted, this is a minor release. Yes, it is a beta version. However, Enso OS delivers better performance and has more polish than many of the more mature distros that come and go on my hard drives.

The most notable changes are within the application management too, a fork of the Elementary project’s AppCenter. Dubbed “AppHive” in Enso OS, it has native
Snap support. The category selector (a list view on the left-hand side) displays nice colors, and there is an added Games category.

Enso OS AppCenter AppHive

In Enso OS the retooled Elementary OS AppCenter, dubbed ‘AppHive,’ supports Snapcraft packages.

– click image to enlarge –

The Xfce panel switch tool, introduced in Xubuntu 15.10, makes it quick and simple to manage panel layouts. The default configuration for the top panel bar is devoid of a menu bar.

Instead, the left end shows categories suggestive of a file manager: Files, Documents, Music, Pictures, Video. Click on them to access dropdown menus of those items. The right end has the usual notification icons for date/time, power, Internet and speaker.

Run the switch tool from the main menu, select the panel style you want, and click the apply gear button. Whatever style you choose, a fully functional panel bar sits along the top of the screen. The center section has room for a library of choices for panel applets. Right-click on the bar to access bar properties and other settings.

You can further personalize the desktop appearance with the Appearance setting tool. This lets you click on seven window treatment styles under the Style tab and 10 icon styles under the Icons tab. You can make rendering and other choices under the Fonts tab, and address toolbar style, menu and button choices, event sounds and window scaling under the Settings tab.

Desktop Walk-Through

The Enso OS improves on both functionality and appearance with the borrowed and tweaked Xfce and Gala components. The desktop sports a clean and modern look as a result.

Enso OS desktop

Enso OS has a pristine desktop with modifications to the top panel and the Plank-powered dock and other elements borrowed from Elementary OS.

– click image to enlarge –

The Xfce design prevents putting application icons on the desktop screen, but you can pin apps to a favorites list (called “starring”) on the main menu. You also can pin them to the Plank.

Unless you have one or more application windows covering portions of the desktop, all you look at is the background image. Nothing else is visible. Right-click anywhere on the desktop image to get a small popup screen with four choices: Show Desktop, Workspace View, Settings, and Change Desktop Background.

The Plank provides a panel-like fixture that works more like a second specialized panel bar than a quick launcher tool found in other plank-containing distros. The Plank, borrowed from Elementary OS, is retooled in Enso OS to incorporate the forked Elementary OS Slingshot launcher called “Panther” in Enso OS and the Multitasking view button. It stretches to the bottom right edge of the screen rather than being centered and is primarily used as a quick app launcher. You can pin apps and windows to the Dock.

The Plank is a handy vehicle to switch between applications as well. An indicator mark under icons on the dock distinguishes open windows from pinned (but not running) app launchers. Click on the docked icon to switch instantly to the running application without having to Alt-Tab through all running items or go through the multitasking view.

Picture a hybrid desktop interface that combines some of the best features of Elementary OS and Xubuntu. That is was Enso OS provides.

Better Use of Multitasking

I am a bit of a fussbudget when it comes to using virtual desktops or work spaces. Classic Xfce uses a workspace switcher applet on the bottom panel. This tool provides a button for each workspace. Simply click the one you want and go there. I also have keyboard shortcuts programmed so that I can move around the virtual desktops with an Alt+Number combination.

Enso OS multitasking feature

The multitasking feature inEnso OS takes on a GNOME-esque appearance.

– click image to enlarge –

I can use the keyboard shortcut method in Enso OS, but this Xfce plus Gala combination uses the multitasking view approach popular in GNOME 3. Enso OS executes the process a bit better, however.

The standard GNOME approach is to click on an Activities View button or hot spot usually located in the upper corner of the screen. That slides out a mini view of the work spaces as a panel from the right edge of the screen. Click the one you want and the panel slides away.

In Enso OS that activating button sits next to the main menu button on the Dock. Clicking it presents what is essentially an Expo thumbnail view pinched to the center of the screen. A sliver of the next workspace slides out from the left and right screen edge. Click the sliver to have that work space fill the full screen. Each work space also is represented by a square button across the bottom of the screen. Click the square to jump instantly to that work space.

I have used the traditional work spacer switcher for too long to really like the GNOME-based method, but the approach taken in Enso OS is at least more accessible for me. The work spaces phenomenon is probably one of the most controversial features that sets attitudes toward particular multitasking functionalities.

What’s Inside

The developer’s website makes absolutely no mention of this distro’s technical specs, so I can not quote specifically the technical aspects of the Enso OS Dancing Daisy release. However, since version 0.3.1 is based on Xubuntu 18.04, the minimum hardware requirements should be fairly similar. In that case, here is a guide to what your computer needs inside to run this distro:

  • 512 MiB of system memory (RAM)
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 800×600 resolution
  • 700 MHz Processor

Something else that is not mentioned — at least, it’s not included in the sparse documentation — is the password to the lock screen.

The lock screen kicks in by default after a brief period of inactivity when running the live session ISO. Before I got to the installation part of my testing procedure, I had set up a variety of setting changes. I swiveled around my semi-circle of machines to take notes for the review and then return to play around some more with this distro.

During one of my longer writing intervals, the lock screen kicked in. I had forgotten to disable that setting in Power Management. I had no choice but to reboot and do an installation before getting overly involved again and turning my back on the test computer.

After all the years I have been reviewing Linux distros, I still can not figure out why developers insist on an active lock screen in live session environments. It is a raging pet peeve of mine, especially when no password is provided somewhere in the documentation.

Plan on spending some time adding software to this beta release. The best-stocked category with included applications is the Accessories section. The new Game category offers only Sudoku and Mines. Graphics include only Ristretto Image Viewer and Simple Scan. The Internet category includes Firefox Quantum Web browser, Thunderbird Mail, Transmission Bit Torrent Client and Web Browser.

The Office category is particularly disappointing. It lacks even the skimpiest of lightweight writing apps such as AbiWord. The included meager list of applications here is nothing more than accessories: Atril document viewer, Calendar, a dictionary and Orange Globaltime. The Sound and Video category has a music app, Parole Media Player, Pulse Audio control and Xburn.

Bottom Line

The most impressive aspect of Enso OS is the tweaked desktop that combines a somewhat modified Xfce environment with key elements from Elementary OS. The result could be a better alternative to Xubuntu, depending on your computing preferences.

For an early beta release of a relatively new Linux distribution, Enso OS has much going for it. This distro also has numerous areas where the developer must grow the infrastructure.

Enso OS is clearly a distro that bears watching over the next few releases.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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How to Sync Google Drive on Linux | Software

By Jack M. Germain

Jun 12, 2019 12:16 PM PT

Two of the more commonly used cloud storage services for personal use are
Google Drive and
Dropbox. Both cloud services are simple to set up and use reliably. Either one can be a suitable choice for storing personal files using free or paid plans.

How to Sync Google Drive on Linux

That said, Google Drive, despite long-festering promises by Google to provide a non-browser-based file client for Linux users, requires a manual overhead to manage files through its Web browser-only interface.

Coming to the rescue are a variety of free and low-cost commercial solutions for Linux users to sync files between computers, mobile devices and Google Drive cloud storage automatically. No doubt Google has not made good on its promise to release a Linux syncing client because the private sector already provides that missing feature.

Google provides a client for Windows and macOS users to automate file access and synchronize files.

Dropbox provides a very workable client for all three platforms. However, Dropbox recently limited to three the number of linked devices for its free basic storage plan. If you need to link more than three devices, Dropbox now requires upgrading to a paid plan starting at US$9.99/month that includes larger storage capacity and unlimited device linking.

If you need to link your files to a combination of no more than three desktop and laptop computers, or tablets and mobile smartphone, Dropbox remains an adequate choice. The accompanying syncing software for Linux is effortless and reliable. It might even be worth the steeper price to upgrade your storage plan to get unlimited device linking.

By comparison, Google provides 15 GB of storage for free. Since Linux users can access their files only via a Web browser, there is no limit to the number of devices you can use. Nor is there a limit for linking Windows and macOS computers. You can jump up to 100 GB of storage for $1.99/month or get even more storage for an additional cost.

Quest for the Best

For years I have used both Google Drive and Dropbox for cloud storage. The lack of a syncing client for Google Drive was less important as my Android devices automatically back up to Drive, and the bulk storage of photos and hordes of personal documents needed only occasional access. Viewing them through a Web browser and downloading them to a specific device as needed was a workable tradeoff.

I spend lots of time using multiple computers running Linux OSes and Microsoft Windows to research writing topics and conduct product reviews. So I used Dropbox as a dedicated storage center for current and archived files related to my work assignments. The syncing client integrates into the Windows and Linux file managers for seamless and instant file access.

Thankfully, Dropbox allowed current users with more than three connected devices to maintain that collection of linked devices with no required pricing plan upgrade. Any additional connections would kick the new pricing plan into play. That policy was fine for my standard set of computers and mobile gear, but any changes incurred with testing new devices and Linux distros posed an inconvenience that required manual management of access to needed Dropbox files through a Web browser.

As a result, I spent several weeks on a quest to find an ideal solution for a Google Drive client for Linux to sync all my files with better pricing. To my surprise, I found numerous options to view and download files to my computers without manually visiting my Google Drive account via a Web browser.

I found free offerings with limitations. These were mostly open source packages and Linux options that worked only with a command line interface (CLI). Using them didn’t offer the convenience I needed as I moved among various computers. I also found a few Linux products that used a graphical user interface (GUI), but they were clunky and lacked most of the features I needed.

Winning Solutions

I found at least a dozen paid and free Google Drive clients in my pursuit of a better way to handle my cloud storage and syncing needs among multiple computers. I tried to stay partial to open source applications, but getting the job done hassle-free held considerable weight when it came to choosing my ultimate Google Drive syncing solution.

I am no stranger to using command line tools. However, the convenience of a graphical interface was more compelling.

Overall cost was part of my consideration. My goal was to find an ideal solution rather than limit my syncing chain capabilities or spend more than I had to.

I trimmed my list of suitable Google Drive syncing tools for Linux to three products. All three are available for free download and brief trial periods. All three have premium options. The license for all three allows unlimited use on any combination of computers.

Insync – The Unofficial Google Drive Client for Linux

Insync, developed by a company based in Singapore, is feature-rich and flexible. You can configure it to synchronize specific files or your entire archive within the Linux app user interface. It has a 15-day free trial period. Cost: $29.99

Insync Google Drive contents

Clicking on the Insync icon in the notifications area of the panel bar provides direct access to the entire Google Drivecontents without opening a Web browser tab.

Insync lets you synchronize files either automatically or on demand. You can open and edit files within the app or through the Insync folder integrated in your system’s file manager window. You can back up and share files without using Web browser tabs.

InSync and the next solution, overGrive, are very similar in both appearance and function. overGrive is a newer product, however. Both offer free trials.

One of the most powerful and useful features of Insync is the ability to click on any document and open it with whatever preferred application is enabled on your local computer.

You can modify files, create files, and save updated files in the local Insync folder and have them automatically synced back on Google Drive without having to first convert the file format. You can not do that by opening a file via the Web browser.

Insync runs on distros based on Ubuntu 16.04 and later, Linux Mint 18.x and later, Debian Stretch 9 and later, and Fedora 27 and later. It integrates with these file managers: Caja, Dolphin/Konqueror, Nautilus, Nemo and Thunar.

  • InSync Installation

    Before you install Insync, use your Web browser to visit your Google Drive account. The easiest way to sync specific files and folders is to create a new Google Drive folder and name it something you will identify as the Insync archive.

    Then drag or move all the folders and individual files that you want to synchronize automatically. This is the folder you will indicate as the target Drive folder when you set up the Insync client.

    Follow these steps to install the Insync Google Drive client:

    1. Download the installer from the Insync link above.
    2. Click on the downloaded installer to install the Insync client.
    3. The installer will prompt you to select your Google Account. Click on the account you want to use for syncing. Then grant permission for Insync to access this Google Drive account.
    4. Close the login window. Go to the Insync app window to continue the installation process.
    5. A new window will open asking for permission to integrate Insync into your file manager. You must grant permission.
    6. Click on the Insync file name in the main application menu to start the program. It places an icon on the system’s notification area of the panel bar.

    A two-arrow circle on the Insync icon in the notifications tray indicates that the folder you designated is synchronizing on that computer.

  • Using the Insync App

    You now have two avenues of access to your Google Drive without using your Web browser. The first access method is to open the file manager. The second access method is via the Insync icon in the notification area on the panel bar.

    Go to the file manager. The list of folders and files will include a blue-colored folder showing the Insync insignia. Click on the Insync folder to display all of your synchronized folders and unfoldered files.

    You can not see your other Google Drive content items within this file manager access, but anything you place into the Insync folder on Google Drive will become available in the Insync folder within the file manager display.

    Using the Insync icon in the notification area gives you broader access to all of your Google Drive content.

    Left-click on the Insync icon to open the Insync client app. The three blue dots in the top left corner open the Preferences window, provide a help message center, and let you exit the app. Click the Preferences option to turn on/off the three options.

    Clicking the Insync button on the left edge of the second row of the app window displays the events screen. Hover the mouse pointer over each of the symbols in the left vertical panel to see their function. Click on the symbol to change the information display in the main display area of the app.

  • More Insync App Functions

    Hover the mouse pointer on Your Google Drive photo to see a pop-up list of four Google Drive actions: Files (presents a list of all your Google Drive folders; click to open each item); Account Settings; Go to Folder (opens your Insync folder in a new file manager instance); Go to Drive Web (launches Google Drive in Web browser tab).

    The Account Settings button displays a new panel where you can manage an Ignore List; tell Insync if you want to convert Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings to desktop format; convert to Microsoft Office; or convert to OpenDocument formats.

    The Stats button in the Accounts Settings panel shows a pie graph of used and remaining storage space for your Google Drive account.

    Other buttons in the app display screen let you modify folder settings and create file sharing with authorized users. You also can pause syncing.

    Right-click on the Insync icon in the notification area of the panel lets you bypass the various app functions detailed above. Use it to directly open the app window, pause syncing, open your synced folder, or quit the client app.

overGrive Drives Google Files

overGrive is a product of the Fan Club, a Web design and development company based in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a complete Google Drive desktop client solution for Linux.

This is a very functional client app with an easy-to-use interface and an impressive list of features. It has a 15-day free trial period. Cost: $4.99

overGrive Google Drivesynched files

The overGrive client puts direct access to synced Google Drive files in its own folder in the desktop’s file manager application.

– click image to enlarge –

This is a more recent entry in the overlapping inventory of Google Drive clients. It replaces two previous products that now are outdated or abandoned. An open source command-line tool named “Grive” became useless when Google changed the Google Drive API. A graphical syncing app called “Grive Tools” no longer is supported.

The developers instead released an updated commercial replacement called “overGrive” and are selling it for $5. It comes with a 14-day free trial.

With overGrive you can access most of the features of Google Drive except for those based on symlink support. It is supported in all major Linux distributions.

Installation downloads and installation instructions are
available here. Packages are available as a free download for DEB (Debian, Ubuntu and Mint), for RPM (Fedora and openSuse), and for XZ (Arch and Manjaro).

  • More About overGrive

    overGrive supports these Linux distributions: Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, Raspbian, Elementary, CentOS, Fedora, openSuse, Arch and Manjaro. You can use it with these Linux desktops in the supported distributions: Gnome, KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, Pantheon and LXDE.

    Only one license is needed per Google Drive Account. You can use the license on any Linux version. You can use the same license to install overGrive on multiple computers.

    Similar to the feature set with Insync, overGrive is very functional. You can convert Google Docs to Office files for offline editing using Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint, Open Document and Open Spreadsheet formats.

    overGrive auto syncs Google Drive to your computer and backs up local files to Google Drive. The client app lets you select Google Drive folders to sync.

  • How to Install overGrive

    Much of the installation process and setup routine for overGrive is the same pattern, but the sequencing of the steps varies slightly. Here are the steps:

    1. Download the installer from the overGrive link above.
    2. Click on the downloaded installer to install the overGrive client.
    3. Select your Google account when prompted.
    4. Paste your Google authorization code sent via email into the account entry box provided. Then click the validate button to validate the code.
    5. Grant permission for overGrive to access this Google Drive account. A browser window will open for you to sign in to your Google account.
    6. Click Connect account. Sync options will be available after connecting your account.
    7. Click on the overGrive file name in the main application menu to start the program. It places an icon on the system’s notification area of the panel bar.
    8. When you have completed setting your preferences, click the Start Sync button. Animation on the overGrive icon in the notifications tray indicates that the folders you designated on Google Drive are synchronizing on that computer.
  • Getting the overGrive License

    When the trial period ends, the overGrive app will not start. Instead, a window appears over the app interface asking you to activate the license.

    Click the Get License link to complete the purchase. Then check your email for the activation code.

    Return to the overGrive app window and enter the activation code in the license activation dialog box. Then click the Activate button.

  • How overGrive Syncs

    Before syncing for the first time, clear all Trash files from your Google Drive online. Then start syncing. But make sure that overGrive finishes the first sync completely before closing the client app or turning off the computer.

    If the first sync does not complete it will open the overGrive setup screen again on restart. You can simply select Start Sync again to complete the synchronization process.

    overGrive synchronizes files from your Google Drive online to the Google Drive folder on your computer automatically. Files in your Shared with Me folder will be synced only if you drag them to My Drive on Google Drive online. Only files and folders in your My Drive will be synced.

  • Using the overGrive App

    The overGrive client app is not as multipurpose as the Insync app. overGrive has a much simpler interface.

    There is no difference in the app functions whether you left-click or right-click the overGrive icon in the notification area of the panel bar. Doing either action pops up a list of options.

    The available actions are Sync; Open Google Drive folder (in a new file manager instance); Visit Google Drive on the Web (in a browser tab); Preferences (opens a settings panel of options to apply in handling Google Drive functions); Help; About; and Quit.

    The file manager shows all of the computers files content along with the Google Drive folder. Click the folder to open it. The folder contains all of the synced Google Drive files.

    overGrive lets you open and edit files in the Google Drive synced folder in native apps depending on which applications are installed on your computer. For example, a .docx file opens in LibreOffice Writer. A .gdoc file will open in the Web browser using a Google Docs Web tool.

ODrive: The Appless Wonder Client

ODrive sometimes is referred to as “OpenDrive,” but do not confuse that unofficial name with another commercial cloud service. ODrive is a free open source application to sync or back up files to and from Google Drive. The free version is a very basic option with absolutely no frills or options, but it works effortlessly without fault.

Signing up or registering when you download ODrive gets you full access to premium features for seven days. After that trial period ends, you revert to the no-frills functionality unless you purchase a premium version subscription starting at $8.25/month.

ODrive Settings screenshot

OpenDrive uses a scaled down setup process that is simpler and quicker than most other Google Drive client options.

For non-enterprise or heavy business uses, the free basic version will deliver all that you need to sync and view your Google Drive files with any number of computers. You do not need to open browser tabs or use terminal-based tools.

ODrive integrates a Google File folder within the file manager application. An ODrive icon sits in the notification area on the panel bar, but it has no functions other than to display basic Google Drive connection and file syncing status. You also can check/uncheck a Launch on Startup option and exit the client.

ODrive is available in .deb, Snap and appimage formats. it is also available for macOS and Windows. Its files are housed on GitHub.
Get it here.

  • How-to Setup ODrive Integration

    OpenDrive’s all-or-nothing simplicity makes installing the Google Drive Linux client a shortcut variety of what is the standard process detailed for the above two applications. All that is required is responding to the prompts in a series of dialogue windows.

    1. Download the installation file from the above GitHub link.
    2. Click on the downloaded file. Click the NEXT button in the first dialogue setup box.
    3. In the next dialogue window, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the dialogue box to select your Google Account.
    4. In that same dialogue box, go to the middle of the window to select where on your computer you want to store the Google Drive files.
    5. Click the Synchronize button at the bottom of the same window to advance to the next setup window.
    6. Sign into ODrive by entering your email address and press the NEXT button.
    7. Enter your Google password and press the NEXT button.
    8. At the bottom of the new window, click the ALLOW button to authorize ODrive to access your Google Drive account.
    9. Click the AUTHORIZE button to start the downloading of your Google Drive files.
  • Using OpenDrive

    ODrive has no extra options or app settings to select. The application has no sync controls or integration to enable.

    If you have only a few GBs of content parked on your Google Drive, ODrive is a quick and easy solution. If you have a huge stash of archives, like me, ODrive may not be a suitable choice.

    In my case, I use ODrive in combination with Insync. I don’t need constant access and updating to 90 percent of the archives that I keep on Google Drive, so my Insync folder is all I need to access and sync regularly.

    I use ODrive’s complete mirror of my Google Drive to conveniently view other archives and be able to edit them instantly. That is far more convenient than traipsing through a Web browser all the time.

    ODrive for Linux is available for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and other Linux distributions, as well as macOS and Windows.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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