I went looking for Linux clipboard manager utilities and found
plenty to choose from. The trick is figuring out what to
Google for: "Linux clipboard manager" and "Linux clipboard viewer"
seem to do the trick.
I started with a simple "apropos clip" on a Centos 5 system. That
returned "xclipboard". Great, I don't have to go find anything. Let's
give it a whirl:
Error: another clipboard is already running
Huh? I'm not sure why that would matter anyway, but:
# ps -ef | grep -i clip
root 2501 2481 0 03:16 pts/1 00:00:00 grep -i clip
Naww, nothing is running. It turns out that xclipboard doesn't work
with Gnome. Kind of a stupid error message and you'd think that the
man page might have mentioned that, but hey, maybe it used to and just needs
an update. Is there an update? Let's fire up the package manager
and see. Strangely, a search for "xclipboard" said that no matching
software could be found. So it's installed, but the package manager
knows nothing about it. OK, moving on..
I tried "clip" in the package search and that returned "xfce4-clipman-plugin". Hmm, what's that? Something for another desktop, xfce. Well, I'm not running xfce and am not
going to start it up just to see this. The most common
recommendations seem to be Klipper (KDE) and Glipper (Gnome) anyway. Let's
I tried finding Glipper for Centos - no binary, no rpm, "yum install"
claims no knowledge of it.. OK, I'll compile
it. The first try failed looking for a newer version of "intltool". That
was easy enough to update through the Centos Package Manager, so
I tried again. This time the compile ran longer, but ultimately failed
complaining about these:
No package 'gtk+-2.0' found
No package 'pygtk-2.0' found
No package 'pygobject-2.0' found
Consider adjusting the PKG_CONFIG_PATH environment variable
if you installed software in a non-standard prefix.
Alternatively, you may set the environment variables
GLIPPER_CFLAGS and GLIPPER_LIBS to avoid the need to
call pkg-config. See the pkg-config man page for more details.
Arrgh. Is the problem that Centos 5 uses gtk2, not gtk? Whatever,
I'm done with this. I am not going to spend my day chasing down
dependencies. Let's try something else. Another commonly
recommended clipboard utility is "parcellite".
Unfortunately, that has the same problem as Glipper:
checking for GTK+ - version >= 2.10.0... no
*** Could not run GTK+ test program, checking why...
*** The test program failed to compile or link. See the file
*** config.log for theexact error that occured. This usually
*** means GTK+ is incorrectly installed.
configure: error: Requirement not met: gtk >= 2.10.0
This MIGHT be simple to fix. I MIGHT be giving up too easily. I looked
for "gtk" in the package manager and found that I could install that.
Unfortunately, it only seems to have gtk+ version 1.2.10 and both
Parcellite and Glipper want 2.0 or better. I can see where this is
going: I'll go find gtk+ 2.whatever, and then it will need some other
obscure library.. no thanks, I'll try something else.
What about "gcm"? I had a little trouble finding the source but it
didn't matter - this too wanted a newer gtk. Damn.. OK, I'll
try finding that.. grumble, grumble..
The "Requirements" page for GTK+ made me grumble more:
You will need to get the GLib, Pango and GTK+ packages to build GTK+.
You may also need some of the external dependencies that are also
linked for each version listed below.
Oh, goodie: I love chasing rabbits.
Then there was this:
To build GTK+ 2.14 you may find the user guide helpful. For additional
help, the FAQ is a good starting point.
So I need a user guide? Joy of joys: it's so refreshing to find
something that might need more than "./configure && make", isn't
it? I don't know about you, but I find stuff that compiles easily sooo boring..
I read the guide. It wasn't that bad. I figured I'd just press my
luck and try it. I started with the Glib, and that was a long, long
process (so many output lines that the "make install" alone
was more than 2,400 lines!) , but it did seem to have gone well. Feeling that someday I
might actually be able to use one of these clipboard managers on Centos 5,
I pressed on to compile Pango.:
checking for some Win32 platform... no
checking for perl5... no
checking for perl... perl
checking for X... no
configure: WARNING: X development libraries not found
checking for pkg-config... /usr/bin/pkg-config
checking pkg-config is at least version 0.9.0... yes
checking for FONTCONFIG... no
checking Carbon/Carbon.h usability... no
checking Carbon/Carbon.h presence... no
checking for Carbon/Carbon.h... no
checking for CAIRO... no
configure: error: *** Could not enable any of FreeType, X11, Cairo,
or Win32 backends.
*** Must have at least one backend to build Pango.
OK.. isn't Gnome X11? And what's with the "perl5... no"?
# perl -v
This is perl, v5.8.8 built for i386-linux-thread-multi
Well, it's probably the X11-development. Back to the package manager
to install that, and then another run at Pango:.
checking for GLIB... no
*** Glib 2.14.0 or better is required. The latest version of
*** Glib is always available from ftp://ftp.gtk.org/.
Dammit, I just installed Glib 2.18! Or so I thought - looking back at
the output files, it seems to have written everything into a glib-2.0
directory. So what the heck does that mean? It's all very frustrating
and has gone far beyond my patience level.
Linux Desktop folk: I WANT Linux to succeed. Really. But this
kind of stuff is exactly why I never recommend Linux to ordinary
people. You run into this kind of thing constantly and that's why I
tell them to buy a Mac.
Yes, I know: if I had used some other release or some other desktop,
things might have gone differently. But that's MIGHT, and if this
particular rabbit was easily bagged on another system, some other hare
would have led me through the fields for hours just like this and
I would have ended up with nothing in my bag.
Had I no other choice for a Unix OS, I'd put up with it. I'd fight
my way through all the dependencies and other lapses and eventually
get something to work. I'd certainly do that before I'd put up with
Windows. But I do have another choice: Mac OS X.
Yeah, I know, it's not fair. OS X is one version, one desktop,
and that makes it very easy for developers. Yeah, I get it. But
I don't care: I don't want to spend half a day chasing programs and
libraries just to look at some utility to see if I like it.
If I don't want to put up with this, how can you expect any
ordinary user to suffer like this? I'm not a super-geek, but I'm
far more geekish and forgiving than Joe User. If I get frustrated
and annoyed, can you possibly imagine how a more typical user would
These are the clipboard manager programs I found:
Perhaps someday when I have more hours to waste I'll actually get one of
them working. Or better yet, I might find an RPM - though so far that's
turned up empty.
Thinking more about this, if developers simply noted something like
"This version was tested on Ubuntu release x.x and may be difficult to
compile anywhere else", that would help a lot.
This post got noticed by LinuxToday and attracted a lot of complaints.
Those complaining were focusing on the specific issue and ignoring the larger problem.
It's not about whether or not you can find a clipboard manager for
Gnome on Centos. It's not about whether or not you should run Slackware
or Ubuntu or Kubuntu, Gnome, KDE are anything else - though
those never ending arguments do make Linux more confusing for
It's not that you can get into a mess trying to find a clipboard manager for Gnome - you can step in it trying to do almost anything with anything.
Linux isn't ready for Joe. In absolute fairness, Windows really isn't either but defects don't matter at all because of Microsoft's default position of dominance.
Of course most of these things have solutions - some easy, some requiring more work. But Joe Average has low patience when it isn't Windows. He could have the same sort of problems on XP or Vista and I guarantee he'd blame anyone but Microsoft. It would be a virus, his old hardware, even his own lack of
computer knowledge - but he probably won't complain about Windows.
Unfortunately, the things that we love about Linux contribute to
its difficulties. If we didn't have a choice of window managers, we'd
lose all that confusion. If we didn't have distro choices, we would lose
another stack of conflicts. Maybe "Linux" per se never can be ready
for our boy Joe - maybe only a specific packaging will ever hope to
Of course, for those who just want a Unixish machine, Mac OS X
has done that packaging. No choice of distros, no choice of window
managers (unless you install X11). I can recommend that to Joe
simply because he'll have fewer problems.
But I don't like that solution. Yeah, I run OS X, but I feel
guilty about it.
I believe there are political and social benefits to open
source dominance - if we can ever get there. Large monopolies
like Microsoft are dangerous beasts and I have no illusions that
Apple wouldn't be just as dangerous if they became dominant. We
NEED open source. We need Joe to run it.
Linux clipboard for Ubuntu leads to same frustration and defeat.
There's more related followup at Tear me a new one and Stupid is as stupid does and I've done plenty of stupid.
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© 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence