How do I remove the "new activity" item from the desktop?

Duncan 1i5t5.duncan at
Tue May 31 06:18:53 BST 2011

Boyd Stephen Smith Jr. posted on Mon, 30 May 2011 10:49:17 -0500 as

> In <4DE3A208.2050107 at>, Felix Miata wrote:
>>On 2011/05/30 03:51 (GMT-0700) John Woodhouse composed:
>>> Frankly what it boils down to is I can't see the point in having a
>>> largely empty screen. Many many others can't either.
>>I can't see the point of having any icons on the desktop.
> Same here.  I use a tiling window manager, so I only see the desktop
> when I'm not already doing something.  Excepting how I've used widgets
> to partially replace all my Kicker applets, I really don't see a use for
> them.

I'd have probably replied under John W's sibling-to-yours reply, but as he 
posted "upside down", screwing up the context quoting (please use standard 
quote-context, reply-in-context, John, it drastically simplifies keeping 
track of quoting and context in long threads)...

Long post, rather rambling, but perhaps it'll be interesting to people...  
Among other things, there's some interesting info about X menus that might 
be new to some... a screenshot link... and a description of all the system 
monitors I run...  Go ahead and skip it if none of that nor extended 
ramblings on the thread at hand sound interesting...

On my desktop/workstation, I take the middle road.

I have dual 22" full-HD monitors, 1920x1080, stacked for
1920x2160.  Reduced 256-color 1/3 size Screenshot here:
(That was the "good" shot on a report of bad panel
placement, bug #271532 if anyone's interested.)

That's enough screen real-estate to not have to be /too/ worried about 
screen space (tho I'm hoping to upgrade to dual 42" monitors at some 
point, same resolution but nearly 4X the display area!), and I have the 
pseudo-xinerama options setup so apps maximize to only one monitor.

The bottom monitor is my "work" monitor, where I often run dual half-
maximized windows side-by-side (kwin's drag-to-side half-max is great for 
this!), for konsole or browsers or compose-windows for replies like this.  
Triple-pane apps such as my mail/news/rss clients (kmail/pan/akregator, 
respectively) get "almost-maximized" to full width but just title-bar-
short of full-height, using kwin's window rules.  This arrangement 
conveniently allows me to work with the almost-maxed window and 1-2 half-
maxed windows all accessible, clicking in say akregator to open a browser 
or pan to open a reply window, covering half the monitor, with the almost-
maxed window in the other half.  Or I can have two half-maxed windows with 
just the titlebars clickable behind the almost-maxed big window.  It's an 
arrangement that works very well on 1920-width monitors, since half-maxed 
is then 960 width, generally enough to browse or type/read in a terminal 
or reply window reasonably comfortably, with almost-maxed three-pane 
windows comfortably sized as well, while still allowing access to the half-
maxed apps via the titlebar.

Because the bottom monitor /is/ my working monitor, I keep it pretty bare, 
as I couldn't easily get to what's underneath it anyway.  As you can see 
in the screenshot, the only plasmoid on it is the comic strip plasmoid, 
and most of the comics only update once a day anyway, so access to that 
isn't as pressing.

I have one small auto-hide panel in the bottom left corner.  It contains 
two menu plasmoids, kickoff and the classic menu, set to bookmarks only, 
and is small enough that if it unhides accidentally it doesn't cover 
much.  That leaves the entire bottom monitor for "work" use.

My use of the top monitor is VERY much different, however.  It's my system-
monitor and auxiliary window monitor.  As can be seen in the screenshot, 
an always-on-top panel covers the top third of the monitor.  The systray 
and notifications are squeezed off to the left, with plenty of room for 
icons (and I have it configured to always show all of them).  The rest of 
the panel is a series of yasp-scripted (yet another system-monitor 
plasmoid, scripted, it's on kde-look) plasmoids, eight of them lined up 
side by side on the panel.  The first two monitor CPU activity, dual dual-
cores so four cores, each plotting user/system/nice/wait/total activity.  
#3 is memory
(app/buffer/cache/used) and load (1/5/15 minute).  #4 is temps, the four 
core temps on top (and I've added a fifth, the graphics temp, since the 
screenshot), the four drive (sata, md/kernel RAIDed) temps underneath.
#5 is more temps (cpu sockets #1 and 2, northbridge area, top/exhaust,
i/o) on top, fans (both sockets, top/exhaust, rear/exhaust) beneath.
#6 is net activity (four plotters each 8X the previous, so I can 
reasonably plot both full throttle and incidental activity).  #7 (the wide 
one) is the last 20-some syslog entries.  And #8 is time and top, with the 
time and date, last gentoo tree sync date, the boot date, the day and week 
of the year, unix time, and UTC, for times.  Under that is the the top 5 
CPU and memory users, followed finally by how much I'm into swap (normally 
0, with 6 gigs of RAM, until I go doing several package build jobs in 
parallel with their build dir in tmpfs).

The bottom 2/3 of the top monitor, under the system monitor panel, is 
"auxiliary" space.  It's HERE that I put the various desktop plasmoids I 
want reasonably easy access to, and HERE that overflow windows and 
auxiliary stuff like media player windows, go.  The single row of icons to 
the left is a folderview.  (Now that I'm looking at the screenshot again, 
I see this isn't quite normal, as it's up under the top panel, instead of 
between the panel and the bottom monitor, as it should be.  That's a minor 
side effect misplacement triggered by the bug that screenshot is 
associated with.)  The two starred folder icons inside-top, left and 
right, are quickaccess plasmoids (plasmoid from kde-look), with folder-
menu type behavior similar to that of a folderview placed on a panel, but 
allowing browsing of subdirs in flyout menus instead of directly opening 
the dirs in the filemanager as folderview normally does.  There's also yawp 
(yet another weather plasmoid, again from kde-look).

Just as the bottom left corner is a hot-corner bringing up the auto-hide 
panel with kickoff and the bookmark menu, so the top left corner is a hot-
corner triggering desktop-grid, with embedded present-windows of course.  
But scrolling on the desktop is set to switch virtual desktops and part of 
the top (sysmon/auxiliary) desktop is nearly always exposed, so that's 
what I use most frequently.

Notably I do *NOT* have a task manager plasmoid running at all.  I use alt-
tab (set to flip-switch effect) for occasional task-switching, but given 
the available screen realestate, the four virtual desktops I run, and the 
previously described half-max/almost-max setup I use so frequently on my 
bottom/working monitor, focus-follows-mouse with click-to-raise and 
scrolling on the desktop to change virtual desktops accomplishes most of 
my task switches.  The mentioned desktop grid is also available, but in 
practice, it probably activates accidentally due to hot-corner triggering 
more often than I actually use it.  I have middle-click on the desktop set 
to activate the switch-window menu, too, but rarely use it, either.  
However, if I want a list similar to what a traditional taskbar would give 
me, the desktop-middle-click switch-window-menu is the alternative I use.

Meanwhile, if you'll note, while I DO have some stuff on the (auxiliary) 
desktop and the workflow management methods described above assume direct 
desktop access for desktop switching in particular, as well as desktop 
plasmoid access, I don't **COVER** the desktop in plasmoids/icons.  I 
never have.  That has always seemed to me untidy and messy, and would 
drive me to distraction.

Rather, I depend very much on the symlinks technique John mentioned.  
Instead of placing a hundred (more?) files/icons on the desktop (or now in 
kde4, in folderview widgets on the desktop, etc), I only place a very few 
directly on the desktop (or the single desktop folderview), with most of 
those being either directories or symlinks to directories.

Actually, this is a technique I developed back on Windows 95 and refined 
with the folderview panels in Windows 98, before I upgraded to Linux when 
it became clear MS eXPrivacy was going some place I simply wasn't going to 
go.  (Ironically, I was quite active in the IE/OE4, 5, and 5.5 betas, and 
for a time considered targetting MSMVP.  But shortly after Windows 98 it 
became very clear that MS and I were headed different directions, and I 
began looking at alternatives including Linux.  While by 2000 or so I 
considered Linux superior, however, and would have preferred starting with 
it if I were just starting, however, I was hesitant to dump a decade of MS 
experience and may have never actually made the switch, had MS not 
actively pushed me, by introducing the eXPrivacy anti-features that I 
predicted would set a bad precedent, one that I was simply NOT going to 
get involved with.  It was that precedent Sony followed with its MS 
Windows rootkit -- after all, if MS can do it, why can't Sony?  They were 
both only defending their so-called "intellectual property", after all, 
using similar MS based technologies.  Anyway, it was the push MS gave me 
by making very clear that they were including those anti-features in the 
same release I had previously I had been looking forward to as the final 
switch to full 32-bit, that finally pushed me off the edge.  I jumped off 
the for me very clearly sinking MS ship, and after discovering the new-
found freedoms of freedomware, quickly became *VERY* happy I had done so.  
So ironically, in a very real way, I have MS to thank for finally pushing 
me to Linux! =:^)

The idea, at its simplest, is to create ONE directory, ONE icon on the 
desktop, and have everything else that would normally be on the desktop, 
in a 1-2 layer deep tree below that ONE desktop icon.

By late MS Windows 95, it was possible for advanced users to create 
"virtual" folders pointed at arbitrary directories elsewhere in the tree, 
using registry hacks, and there was at least one GUI tool that allowed 
users to do this.  These functioned within the MS Windows GUI at least 
(tho not at the command line) much like rather limited Unix style symlinks, 
or MS style shortcuts, to other directories (only, not to files).

I began using those to create "symlinks" (tho I didn't know them by that 
name, yet) to various places, C:\, various media directories, etc, in the 
single directory I had on my desktop.

With the IE4 ActiveDesktop update, later to become a native part of MS 
Windows 98, MS introduced the concept of multiple panels.  I don't recall 
all the available functionality, tho it was pretty limited compared to 
what I'd later find in KDE and Gnome on Linux, but one of the panel types 
was a folder view which could be pointed at any arbitrary directory.  
These panels could be configured as always on top or autohide, much like 
the original MS Windows 95 taskbar.  One of the neat features was that 
directories flew out as additional menus, so one could browse entire 
directory subtrees from the panel, finally selecting a file or directory 
to open in the associated application.  IIRC, similar to the Start menu by 
this time, they also allowed context-clicking on an entry to bring up the 
usual file-association context choices, plus copy-to/move-to/DOS-here, if 
you had the appropriate powertoys installed (as I did, naturally).  
Actually, this bit of context-menu-on-a-menu-item functionality is still 
pretty much non-existent on Linux today, I believe due to X menu window 
limitations (only one at once).  As a result, exceptions, where they 
appear, tend to be of the type found for example in kickoff, if you 
context-click on a favorite or an applications menu entry.  They are 
possible because the kickoff menu is NOT a traditional X menu, but rather, 
a non-menu window programmed to fake a menu.  Since kickoff itself is not 
a menu window, but rather, a more normal window implementing its own non-X-
menu menu, it's possible to context click on the "fake" menu and get a 
"real" X menu context-menu.  But I DO still miss MS Windows' ability to do 
a context menu on a real menu...

Anyway, between the two (the IE4/AD panels and the virtual filesystem 
"fakelinks" implemented thru registry entries), I had it setup so the 
folder view panel had several directories, real or vfs/fakelink, that when 
clicked, flew out submenus that allowed me to browse pretty much the 
entire filesystem with only about three flyout menu levels, and most of 
the stuff I accessed frequently at only one or at most two such menus 
deep.  As a result, I was able to clean up most of the few icons I did 
still have on the desktop, tho I believe I kept one.  (Very early on in 
MSW95, I had used the registry hacks around to make the desktop my 
computer entry a transparent icon and rename it a shorter "MC", and IIRC I 
removed the trash/recycle icon entirely, either then or as soon as a 
powertool/power-user-regedit trick became available to me to do so.  So 
the only icon long-term on the desktop was that single directory icon, tho 
I usually had 3-7 others on the desktop temporarily as well... until the 
flyout menu thing, at which time they disappeared too, leaving just the 

Naturally, when MS pushed and I finally did jump to Linux, full-time (I 
had tried it before that, but never was one to like rebooting, so until I 
was determined to switch, I never spent enough time on Linux to really get 
comfortable with it, thus, that boot choice tended to just sit there...), 
I was absolutely **THRILLED** to discover **REAL** symlinks!  To this day, 
a decade later this year, I find myself fascinated with the almost 
"magical" power and yet simplicity of Unix style symlinks.  (FWIW, bind-
mounts are similarly fascinating to me, particularly as individual files 
can be bind-mounted, with all the exec/noexec, suid/nosuid, dev/nodev, 
read-write/read-only, etc, mount options and the control they provide.  
bind-mount is at the admin level what a symlink is at the user level. =:^)

And I still use much the same icons-on-the-desktop techniques and policies 
I developed on MS -- put only a few icons on the desktop, but let them be 
directories full of fakelinks/symlinks to the various locations one 
normally stores stuff, and have a "working" directory or two as locations 
among the several others.

That's also why I searched for and installed as soon as I found the quick-
access plasmoid on kde-look, since it allows the same browse-by-menu 
technique that was working so well for me back a decade ago on MS.  Of 
course, on Linux, due to the one-menu-window-at-a-time restriction 
explained above, the implementation is as with kickoff, popup windows 
implementing their own in-place menus instead of X menus with flyouts as 
on MS back then, so a context-click can popup a real X-menu context menu 
when necessary.

So as I said, middle-of-the-road.  I keep my working monitor almost bare 
since it's covered under many circumstances anyway, and don't allow my aux 
monitor to get too cluttered with icons or plasmoids, either.  But I do 
have a few, and chose to put the ones I do allow on the desktop to good 

Then there's the netbook.  With a very limited 1024x800 screen and that 
quite small, it's pretty much the opposite of my dual-monitor workstation. 
There's no desktop real-estate to spare on it.  I have kwin setup to 
maximize even most dialog windows, and there's absolutely nothing but 
wallpaper on the desktop.  There's a small autohide menu to the bottom 
left, desktop-grid (which I use a LOT on the netbook, since nearly 
everything including dialog windows is full-screen so there's no desktop 
available to scroll-switch on!) at the top left, and the system monitors, 
etc, on the dashboard, which I have configured as a separate activity.

On both systems I use hotkey launching (with a special hotkey launcher 
script I wrote myself) for most frequently used apps, thus bypassing 
kickoff, and use krunner much of the rest of the time.  Kickoff is thus 
reserved for when I'm exploring apps I don't normally run enough to have 
found a place in my hotkey launcher, and further, don't even run enough to 
remember their names in ordered to krunner them.  Thus, "exploring" is the 
right word, since if I'm using kickoff, I'm either searching for an app I 
don't remember the name of, or looking at just what I /do/ have installed, 
when I'm looking for a new game, or something.

Duncan - List replies preferred.   No HTML msgs.
"Every nonfree program has a lord, a master --
and if you use the program, he is your master."  Richard Stallman

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