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:
# xclipboard 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 try Glipper.
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:
Requirements 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:
Stable Release 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 no checking Carbon/Carbon.h usability... no checking Carbon/Carbon.h presence... no checking for Carbon/Carbon.h... no checking for CAIRO... no 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 configure: error: *** 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 react?
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 Joe Average.
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 accomplish that.
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.
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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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence
Technology is both a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is the paradox of our times which we're compelled to face (Frank Herbert).