Solaar: Logitech Device Manager for Linux

Solaar: Logitech Device Manager for Linux

 I am a long-term fan of Logitech keyboards and mouses. Their build quality is unbeatable. Currently, I own the ergonomic MX Vertical Wireless Mouse and ERGO K860 wireless keyboard. Even though the build quality is exceptional, Linux users are left behind in software support as usual. This article introduces Solaar: an open-source device manager for Logitech devices.

Solaar is an open-source tool developed by reverse engineering Logitech's connection protocols to provide some basic functionalities to Linux users. It can be used from pairing multiple devices to the same unified receiver to configuring your devices.

Since it is not an official tool, do not expect it to support all the bells and whistles packed in Logitech devices.


As of writing this article, Solaar has the following features for the supported devices:

  • Pairing and unpairing devices with the receiver
  • Displaying the current battery level and basic information about the device
  • Change some settings


To install the latest Solaar on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or any other derivatives, use the following command:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:solaar-unifying/stable
sudo apt update
sudo apt install solaar

 

Arch users can install the latest version from the AUR:

yay -S solaar


Fedora has the latest Solaar in its official software repository:

sudo dnf install solaar


For other Linux distributions, check the GitHub profile to see the pre-built packages.

After installing Solaar, you may have to unplug and plug the receivers to let them detected by Solaar. Any customization other than pairing may not be persisted by the device if turned off. Solaar remembers any such changes and apply them every time you start Solaar. Therefore, if you are using Solaar to change any device settings, make sure to start Solaar at the startup to keep the changes alive.

Linux and the Curse of Fragmentation

  Before jumping into the article, let me define myself. I'm a Linux user and I develop FOSS applications during my free time. I'm using Linux Mint but love all other distributions. I truly wish for the success of desktop Linux.  I love using my computer and it's more like my virtual home. I want everything in my system to play together to give a unified experience. This is why I try my best to install only the GTK apps packaged natively so that they all align with my system theme.

Let's come to the topic. With the recent libadwaita conflicts, the Budgie desktop team has announced to create a new Desktop environment with EFL. According to "The FACTS about GNOME’s plans for THEMES" video from Nick, Elementary OS supports this decision and stressed the idea of treating each distribution as a specific OS. The latest news is from System76 regarding their experiment on a new desktop environment from the ground. This article is not about System76's choice but about the idea of treating each distribution as a separate operating system with its app ecosystem. Already Elementary OS has built its own development SDK and there are plenty of applications built using their SDK. While it is easy for the distribution maintainer and the developer to target a specific distribution, those apps do not blend well in other distributions. It is completely fine and I accept it's the developer's choice on how he/she want to develop the application and who are the target audience. It also makes sense from a distribution perspective because the more users get vendor locked the more beneficial for the distribution.

However, from an end user's point of view, it creates more fragmentation. As a newbie, a Linux beginner has plenty of choices: Debian, Arch, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Elementary, Zorin, other derivatives, etc with GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, XFCE, LXQT, Mate, Deepin,  etc.

If Linus is confused with choosing a distribution to install, think about your grandma.

Choosing a desktop environment can be fallen into two main categories: whether you are using a Qt-based distribution or GTK based distribution. There aren't that many QT-based distributions other than KDE and LXQT. However, most other distributions are written using GTK. Therefore, for an app developer who wants to write software for all Linux users, there are two primary technologies to choose from: QT or GTK. I have chosen GTK because that will make my application native-looking in my system running Linux Mint. As of writing this article, my application looks good on all other distributions using GTK. In KDE though, it may not feel and look similar to other KDE apps. Developers using KDE may choose KDE dependencies that are not guaranteed to blend with other GTK apps in a GTK based distribution.

 What if every Linux distribution follows the path of Elementary OS? I mean they all have their SDK and the apps developed using those SDKs will look like aliens in other platforms. It will be easy for developers to develop for a specific distribution but it will further fragmentize the apps available for Linux. You will see apps developed for targetted distributions and Linux users have to choose the platform that has most of the apps they want; or else they can choose Windows or Mac where they can get every app they need already. Another question to answer is what will happen to the famous apps like LibreOffice and GIMP? I don't expect them to be ported to every distribution so I hope from the distribution side there will be some effort put in to make them look native.

I like to see GTK still being in place as it has been so far but GTK is developed and controlled by GNOME. If other distribution maintainers do not like the way GNOME takes, it is a no-brainer for other distributions to choose different frameworks. However, it would be great if all get together and fork GTK or choose a common framework (like QT) and maintain it without injecting their distribution-specific philosophies. If Linux kernel can be maintained without conflicting with all those stakeholders, maintaining a GUI framework is feasible too. However, in reality, coding is easier than coordinating with all other distribution maintainers on common ground.

Comming to System76's decision on writing a new distribution from the ground, I am all in for a new distribution. If we said "why another distribution?", we wouldn't have Budgie, Mate, Cinnamon, or any other amazing distributions. I'm glad System76 decided to go with GTK. I wish other distributions conflicting with the libadwaita issue also to share some core technology to avoid fragmenting Linux apps.

As a FOSS developer, I am already packaging my application for different distributions; please don't make me put more effort to make my application look native in all distributions. At the same time as a Linux user, I want all applications I am using to look the same in my system.

Easily Switch Audio Devices on Linux

Those working from home on a Linux machine might have already noticed the pain of switching between input and output audio devices. You may want to quickly switch from one headset to another or from the speaker to the headset and vice versa. Opening the settings dialog every time you want to change the sound device is not very productive. Some desktop distributions like Cinnamon provide out-of-the-box solutions to change the audio device with a couple of clicks. For Gnome, there is an extension that enables this feature. This article covers such options to switch between different audio devices with less effort.


Cinnamon

In the Cinnamon desktop environment, right-click on the Sound applet and choose the output device. You can individually select the output device and input device so that you can listen to the sound on one device while using a mic from another device.

Easily Switch Audio Devices on Cinnamon


The Input device selection will appear only if there is an application actively using a Mic. Otherwise, you will have the Output device selection only.


Gnome

Gnome doesn't provide a similar option as in Cinnamon. However, the "Sound Input & Output Device Chooser" Gnome extension fills the gap by enabling the exact shortcut in Gnome. All you need to do is, installing this extension and enable it from the GNOME Extensions app.

Easily Switch Audio Devices on Gnome

Use the following button to install the extension:


All Linux Distributions

Sound Switcher Indicator is a simple application to change the input and output audio from the tray icon. Unlike the first two options, this application is not limited to a particular distribution. If you don't like the long hardware names, the application also provides an option to rename any detected devices for your convenience.

Easily Switch Audio Devices on Linux

To install the "Sound Switcher Indicator" from PPA, run the following command:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:yktooo/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install indicator-sound-switcher

Arch users can use the following command to install the app:
yay -S indicator-sound-switcher


On any other distributions, you can either install it from the Snap or the source.

sudo snap install indicator-sound-switcher


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