Distracted by LeoCAD Once Again on openSUSE Linux

LeoCAD-01-Title

LeoCAD is an application that I use somewhat frequently. It is available for Linux, Windows and even Mac but I don’t have a Windows or Mac machine of which to compare to Linux. I have written about the joys of using LeoCAD before if you are interested in that blathering and at that time I used the AppImage to run the application. Now am using the openSUSE community repository instead and I installed it from here:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/leocad

The downside of using this source is, you do have to manually install the parts library to a location on root.

/usr/share/leocad/

The parts library can be found here.

I did have some issue getting LeoCAD to find my library but but naming it library.bin and placing it in the aforementioned location made the parts available.

What I particularly enjoyed about using it from the openSUSE repositories is that LeoCAD now respects my dark desktop theme which is much easier on my eyes and more enjoyable in which to “work.” Okay, I realize, I am “playing” and not “working” but it is also a fantastic teaching tool.

The version of LeoCAD I am using at the time of writing is 18.02. It works very smooth, has yet to crash and is a joy to use.

Designing

Designing my be a stretch, actually, more like modification of existing designs. A little back story, 8 year old me was incredibly enamored with this LEGO space theme called Blacktron. I didn’t like that LEGO considered them the “bad guys” and that idea has perpetuated with, for what I can tell, no variation on that meme. So, I have decided that I wanted to introduce that idea, that they are not still the “bad guys.” I did this by making a couple Rebrickable.com submissions with a different idea, here.

One of my first “designs” was just making this first Blacktron LEGO set the way I wanted it as a kid. It included reversing the connections and modernizing it with the newer small parts to add more interesting detail that is now available.

One of the features of this and the Blacktron vehicle sets was this modularity that was advertised on the back of the instruction manual. I didn’t like that the Invader connectors were “backwards” from the other vehicles so reversing it was a must which also made for some space to add some other details below the wings.

Blacktron Combining Options

In changing the direction of the Technic connectors, I was able to make the interaction with the other models more to my liking. The original intent was fine but I just happen to like my revision better.

Since there is this modularity as part of the design with the Invader it essentially giving you two options of play with this set: with the cargo module and without, a “scout mode,”  I thought, “what if the Invader was a multi-purpose, multi-role craft?”

So, I took another existing design from another space theme and incorporated the elements into the Invader as a module. Another theme I enjoyed as a child was this M:Tron theme. They had all these cool magnet features that I think was far more popular than what the Blacktron Theme had ever been. The process I used to build this was to cobble together the idea with the parts I had than take the design to the CAD to optimize the design and order more appropriate parts.

Invader Crane Mode-17-Module

Upon receiving the parts, I made the adjustments and the final test was giving it to my 4 year old to see how long it would stay together. The good news is, it appears to be a success and brought a lot of smiles to my kids. The Crane portion does seem to get ripped off a bit more than I would like but no more than the original model, perhaps a little less than the original model but not my much.

I have other “designs” that have been inspired by Star Wars but those will have to wait another day. This blathering about playing with children’s toys has gone on long enough.

Final Thoughts

Using LeoCAD and the real thing allows me to teach my kids the product design process but in a much shorter cycle and in a more fun way, with LEGO. We will build an idea, take it to LeoCAD and go back and forth between real LEGO to the CAD and back to the LEGO again to test and refine the design. I can demonstrate what it is like going through a product development cycle but with a much, much shorter design validation cycle. That design validation is, will it hold up long enough in the hands of a 4, 6 or 8 year old.

Further Reading

https://www.leocad.org

LeoCAD Parts Library

LeoCAD | Free LEGO® CAD Software on openSUSE Linux

Rebrickable.com

CubicleNate MOCs

Blacktron on LEGO Fandom.com

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Sabayon Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Sabayon review title.png

In my quest to further cement that openSUSE is the greatest Linux distribution ever, I have kicked the tires of yet another Linux Distribution, Sabayon. What Surprised me about this distribution was that it was Gentoo based yet installed very quickly, performed its updates quickly and was configured pretty decently out of the box. I could use this just about as easily as any other distribution.

This was as part of a “Distro Hopping Challenge” with the BigDaddyLinux Community.  Here is my somewhat heavily biased review of Sabayon Linux from a deeply entrenched openSUSE Tumbleweed User.

Installation

Right from the beginning I was happy to see that you could install Sabayon from the initial boot. I find it to be an irritating extra step to go into a live session before starting an installation. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Sabayon-01-boot install

The installation of Sabayon was surprisingly easy. Not at all what I expected. I believe it is the same installer that GeckoLinux as well as several others use which is quick and easy to use. Not my favorite installer but quite possibly my #2 in all the installers I have used.

After a nice little greeting, you are asked for your location. Nothing complex here but I did wonder if it is picking up on my actual time zone or if it is just defaulted to “New York”. If someone knows, feel free to leave a comment.

The default keyboard selection was also correct for me and I chose to use the entire disk for partitioning. More on the default partition later.

Here you enter your username, password and machine name, which I must say, I do like how easy it is to name the machine, it’s not buried in some other layers of options, it’s easy and accessible. You are also given the option to have a different password for the “administrator account”. I would call it “root account” but that’s me.

You are given a nice brief (maybe too brief?) summary of your installation. This is your last chance at bailing out.

The installation was not nearly as slow as I was expecting for something Gentoo. That leads me to believe that it was not compiled on the fly but had already been pre-compiled for your convenience. That makes me think… what makes this flavor of Gentoo unique compared to just running Arch or openSUSE Tumbleweed.

First Run

From Grub to Login screen was incredibly fast. I wasn’t paying close attention to how long it took but it was within the time it took me to restore my Kontact window and check my calendar. So, pretty darn fast.

The default wallpaper is not really my preference. It’s too… warm but it isn’t unpleasant by any means. I would likely find an alternative wallpaper if I were to stay on Sabayon.

The Greeting Window to welcome you to Sabayon was pretty fantastic. I think this should be the standard in all distributions. This will get you where you need to go in short order for getting help or helping the project. Well done.

I did find that I needed to change the style of the application menu. The default Application Launcher is acceptable but not my favorite. I find the alternative Application Menu a better alternative and if I were in charge of the project, I would make it my default. I think it makes for a better Plasma experience.

Speaking of defaults, I would also make the default theme Breeze Dark. Default Breeze is just not cool looking. I suppose if you like the light colored theme, fly that flag and go with it but the dark just looks way better and does a better job of exemplifying the slick nature of Plasma.

I looked at the Tomahawk media player to see if it respected the dark theme but it did not. That would be a deal breaker if I couldn’t tweak this. I didn’t dig into as I wasn’t interested in adding media to this machine. It is a nice looking interface… outside of that bright white thing it has going on.

Another “attaboy” goes to the developers in enabling the firewall by default. I think it is such a poor decision to not have a firewall enabled by default. Sadly, every Ubuntu distribution leaves it disabled by default. If you are only using your computer behind your home router, maybe it is not a big deal but security in layers is never bad. Also, I do use my computer outside of my home and I would venture to guess so do many others. Sabayon does its users a great service in not only enabling a firewall by default but also providing an easy to use firewall for the unfamiliar.

Sabayon-20-Firewall

I wish more distributions had a distribution specific menu to encourage you to get involved in the project. The developers at Sabayon have a menu item, “Report Bugs” which is nothing more than a link to their Bugzilla page but still a nice feature.

The update tool was pretty fantastic. It actually might be my favorite update tool I have ever seen. Nothing against any other distribution but this should be the standard. I enjoy the light-hearted interactions.

“Repositories updated Successfully” with a single response of “Ok, thanks”

“There are 89 updates, What to do?” with a response of “Update”, “Show”, “Ignore”, “Srsly, ignore!” not sure the difference between “Ignore” and “Srsly, ignore!” but it did make me smile.

“There are 4 notices from repositories.” with the options, “Let me see”, “Stop annoying me” and “Close”.

I do like the embedded terminal display in the update utility. Much like the MX Linux update tool. This is a very welcomed feature that other distribution GUI update tools should have by default.

What I Like

Number one, the firewall is enabled by default. That is a huge win in my book. Since most of my systems are mobile, I do expose my computer to the scary internet on public wifi services. No software is perfect and that extra layer of protection should be enabled by default on all machines.

Having a Sabayon sub-menu to get access help features and bug reporting and getting involved is another fine tweak to the distribution. Since Sabayon is not like many other distributions, having those resources readily available is fantastic.

The fast boot time is great to see. Not that there are distributions that are painfully slow anymore but it is nice to see that this distribution is fast, crisp and very usable.

Maybe my favorite feature of Sabayon is the verbose Update Tool. It is a bit tongue-and-cheek, which reminds me of Linux of old and made my time using it with a perpetual grin.

What I Don’t Like

I started to get multiple welcome screen windows upon rebooting the machine. Nothing terrible just slightly annoying. I think it had to do with not closing the Welcome screen when I logged out / rebooted. Not a huge deal or worth a bug report.

Not a fan of the single partition for root and /home. This is very common and I wasn’t given a default, multi-partition option on the installer. I could have partitioned it manually so that is on me. No matter the arguments I hear form anyone, multiple partitions will always be the safer and more flexible option.

Final Thoughts

Sabayon is a well done distribution, no matter the underlying technology. In this case, Gentoo but the implementation of Plasma was done so well, I may not have even noticed it was Gentoo. If I were not so entrenched with openSUSE, this would be a serious contender for a daily driver.

If you want to try Gentoo but don’t want spend time compiling it, this would be a great way to go. It is very well done and worth giving a spin.

Further Reading

Sabayon Linux Home Page

BigDaddyLinux.com

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dolphin | My File Manager of Choice on openSUSE

Dolphin File Manager

Managing files is nothing new for me. Since my days on the Amiga Workbench of the early 90s, I have developed a preference for how I like to manage my files. My first real exposure to what I think is a fantastic file manager was “Midnight Commander” to which a mode of that was available using Konqueror in the KDE 3 days. It might have been there in KDE 4, I can’t recall because it was about that time KDE introduced the best file manager I have ever used. Dolphin.

This is my rather biased view on why I think Dolphin is the best file manager available. To give you an opportunity to bail out of this blathering here, I’ll sum it up in saying, this, Dolphin is the best file manager based on its flexibility, speed and KIO plugin functionality that allows me to manage files on remote machines with little effort. It just does its job in a fantastically reliable, smooth and intuitive manner that I really appreciate. It only lacks one function that does require me to go back to Konqueror from time to time.

I had originally planned to be a part of the discussion concerning File Managers on the BigDaddyLinux Live Show but was not able to participate. You can watch the discussion here.

Scope of this Blathering

I am not going to compare Dolphin to another file manager. This is not a persuasion to use Dolphin in any way. It is merely highlighting the features I use regularly and greatly appreciate. Ultimately, I believe you have to use what works best for you and your situation.

Briefly About Dolphin

Dolphin is the default file manager in KDE Plasma. It is simple and easy to use for basic functions that any user with even a limited understanding in file management can understand. The file manager’s left-side pane gives you quick access to places you visit, either local or remote at a click away. It contains, search functions using Baloo File Indexer that allows for very rapid locating of files. Another great feature is the ability to easily find recently saved items as well.

The main portion of the interface is where you interact with the files themselves with some useful hot-spots for selecting multiple files for those that prefer the single-click to open files and folders.

On the right, there is an optional panel that gives you details about the current folder you are in or whatever file(s) you have selected with even the option to add comments to things. If you want to preview some media, selecting the file and pressing play will in that pane provides that feature as well.

Everything in Dolphin can be customized to match your particular preference. There are limitations, of course but I don’t seem to bump into those too much.

Top Five Fantastic Features

1. The Interface

The look of Dolphin, especially with the Dark Theme I have chosen just looks good. It is clean and feels polished. It gives me everything I need to navigate quickly to whatever location I need to go to get what I want. As briefly described. The Places and Information side panes on either side can be easily turned on and off by pressing F9 or F11, respectively. F10 to create a new folder and several others I use. Function Keys are well utilized with this file manager and that makes for a pleasant and efficient user experience. Dolphin has tabs, tabs are just fantastic and when I was first exposed to Tabs in Konqueror in 2003, there was no going back to separate windows for each file location. It is such a fantastically clean way to keep your fingers on multiple locations.

Dolphin-01

2. Split Windows.

With a Simple strike of the F3 key, you cRather than open another Dolphin Window, there is an option to split the view into two views. This makes for easy comparison of files and folders within different directories and moving them around accordingly. I often have a Tab or two open that has the window split for easy management of files. This is a bit of a callback to the Midnight Commander days of old.

Dolphin-02-Split

3. Filter Bar

This is a feature I use often when I have those directories that have a lot of files in it and reading through each of them would take too long. To activate this feature, Alt+I or Control > Tools > Show Filter bar if you would prefer to click your way there. One such way I use this is to search through my media folders for specific artists of songs or movie title. I also use this to sort though my camera files for specific dates. This feature has spoiled me and I can no longer consider any file manager that doesn’t have this feature.

Dolphin-05-Filter

4. Search Function

This is heavily tied into the KDE Plasma file indexing agent and I don’t actually know if it works without it activated but the splendid feature is a great way to look for anything sitting in your file system. I have used this to locate old records of a specific title successfully countless times. I can’t say enough good things about file searching in Dolphin coupled with Plasma.

Dolphin-04-Search

5. Terminal

Last, but certainly not least is the ability to open up a terminal with a quick reach to F4 at the same file location of which you are working. To exemplify this feature, if I am in my CubicleNate directory the terminal opens to ~/Documents/CubicleNate and I can do whatever functions, in the terminal from my working directory. Also note, if I jump to another tab or the adjacent split window. The terminal jumps to that directory. It is hugely useful and a welcome feature. It makes the terminal even more accessible and another tool readily available to aid you in making your work more efficient.

Dolphin-03-Split with Terminal

Final Thoughts

Dolphin is a great file manager that works so well, I am not sure where they can go from here… except for one small feature that keeps me going back to Konqueror, File Size View. It is a graphical view of the working directory that visually shows the size of each file or folder recursively. This is a great way to visually see what is consuming your file system (I almost wrote hard drive). This is not a daily usage feature but it is something I go to from time to time to lean out some of my project directories. I can easily find backups or repeats of large backups of projects that can be weeded out.

I am not sure how well Dolphin would work on a GTK based system or if there are features in parity to what is available in Dolphin but I can say that Dolphin is my “killer app” when it comes to what drives my Desktop Choice. It is the best looking, feature rich file manager I have ever used. I wholeheartedly believe it should be the standard for which all file managers strive to propel Desktop Linux forward.

Further Reading

More about Dolphin from KDE.org

BigDaddyLinux Show on File Managers

A Week on Gnome for a KDE Plasma User with openSUSE Tumbleweed

My virtual Linux Users Group, as it were is the BDLL community. As part of a community challenge we were to live a week in Gnome. In full disclosure, I didn’t quite make it a full week on Gnome. Even though I was told I had to really give it a chance, really get used to the work flow to appreciate it, I tried, I read the documentation and I just could not find it an enjoyable experience for me. So, thanks for stopping by, if that is all you wanted to know, that is the bottom line up front.

Just because my experience in Gnome was not enjoyable, that doesn’t mean yours will be the same. It may work splendidly for you and you may find the work flow a perfect fit for your personal computer usage. I highly recommend that you do give it a try, regardless of my biased opinion.

This test was done on my primary machine, my Dell Latitude E6440. This machine had no trouble with Gnome. I didn’t see any performance issues there were occasional glitches but nothing distracting.

Installation

The beauty of openSUSE is the package management but beyond the package manager, the organization and simplicity of installing software. In this case, to install an entire Desktop Environment, Gnome in this case can be done by running this simple command in the terminal:

sudo zypper install -t pattern gnome

In summary, this is what the result of installing the Gnome Desktop from the openSUSE defined pattern.

432 new packages to install.
Overall download size: 177.7 MiB. Already cached: 0 B. After the operation, additional 660.9 MiB will be used.

Truly, not much more storage space was required only 660.9 MiB for the “standard” installation of Gnome.

Scope of Evaluation

For the purpose of this evaluation, I am going to ignore any little hiccups from the Desktop Environment. I am not going to be critical about any little glitches or bugs. I will ignore any rough edges of it, largely because I know this is the openSUSE, somewhat vanilla presentation of Gnome. In order to keep this Gnome experience similar to my time using Fedora with Gnome, I will not install any extensions. I am going to use it the way the developers and architects intend.

Overall Experience

After installation, I rebooted my machine. I wanted to be sure I was starting my Gnome experience from a freshly updated and rebooted system. The familiar SDDM (Default Plasma Display Manager) interface appeared with the familiar menu of options. I initially chose Gnome with Wayland but since I wanted my tools that require X11, I did switch to X for the majority of my time on Gnome.

Gnome felt stable to me. I didn’t have any strange behavior or crashes. It all worked as I expected. The interface is clean and tidy and has the familiar openSUSE look about it. I did notice that the settings I used to configure GTK apps look and appearance within Plasma carried over to Gnome. For that I was grateful as my preference has the right dark theme. Gnome is very smooth and the simple desktop animations look fantastic. From my perspective, Gnome didn’t feel heavy. I would go so far as to say that it didn’t feel any heavier than any other desktop environment.

What I Like

I started to get used to the Super Key (Windows Key) as an application switcher. It was a bit of a muscle memory alteration from how I have Plasma configured but it did seem reasonably efficient. Could I make Plasma do the same thing, yes, but the method I have set up to do the same thing in plasma is just to move the mouse in the upper-left corner of the screen and I will have all the applications display themselves in a similar fashion.

A rather neat feature is the very intuitive color calibration per device settings. Although I don’t have a need to color calibrate my screens, as they are all Dell monitors and seem to have the same general feel to it, I can see where this would be very, very valuable.

Notification settings configuration is quite nice and intuitive. The fact that I can shut of notifications, very easily to one or two applications or all of them is fantastic.

Gnome-04-System Settings Notification

When you scroll down a menu and reach the end there is a slight ambient glow. It is just a really nice user experience touch that I appreciate. That same effect is in GTK apps on Plasma but it is specifically a GTK (3… I think) thing.

The hardware information was organized in such a way that is a very user friendly, easily digestible manner. How much a user will dig into that, I am not sure but it appeals to my inner geek.

What I Don’t Like

Gnome Tweaks is required to make Gnome a non-terrible experience. The positive is, openSUSE installs it by default. That is not so with some other Gnome versions I have used. Having Tweaks installed by default is really the only way to use Gnome.

The bar at the top is unwelcome. The “minimize” button which generally points down has an animation that goes to the upper-left corner of the screen

Gnome is not nearly as friendly to Qt applications as Plasma is to GTK applications. GTK applications look great on Gnome. Qt feels like an afterthought. The highlights are a mismatch and although blue and green look fine, it is just a lack of visual consistency within a single Qt application.

Gnome with Dolphin File Manager

Configuring Gnome is quite literally the most confusing process. If you can’t find it in the Gnome Settings, you have to look in the Gnome Tweaks to find it. It would be nice if Gnome Settings folded in the features of Gnome Tweaks. Take this to another level, if you didn’t know about Gnome Tweaks, and it wasn’t built into the distribution making Gnome your own would essentially not be possible. This makes the Plasma System Settings far, far less confusing than Gnome’s offerings.

The default sound applet is basically useless, especially when compared to the built in Plasma applet. You have to have Pulse Volume Control open to do anything meaningful with your sound, especially if you have multiple input and output devices.

There is a lack of desktop icons, not even an option. You have this unusable workspace for which you can do nothing but stare at a wallpaper. I like to have shortcuts to specific places from my desktop and Plasma gives me the option to have different folder views on the desktop as well.

There is no system tray for things like Syncthing-GTK, Teamviewer, Variety and so forth. They are running but if I close the window. I can’t access them again. Supposedly there is an extension for that but I am not about to go hunting the internet for extensions that will likely break at the next Gnome upgrade.

Final Thoughts

Without Gnome Tweaks, Gnome is rubbish as far as usability is concerned. I am not going to learn all the shortcuts in my first week with Gnome so to expect a new user, without any kind of guide is absurd. Distributions like BunsenLabs Linux have a Conkey on the background to show you what you need to do to interact efficiently with the Desktop. Sure, that layout isn’t my favorite either but the desktop is way more user friendly.

Gnome culture is to use the computer their way, change your ways and thought process to match the designers. Plasma Culture feels more like a recommendation but feel free to change whatever you want. This is the culture I prefer.

Another issue I found, Qt applications feel like a second class citizen. They just don’t look right or at least they look out of place. If you try to tell me there is an extension to fix it, please don’t bother as I have no desire to play extension roulette next time Gnome updates. It communicates to me that the intention of Gnome is to only run GTK based applications, specifically, GTK3.

At the end of my Gnome journey, it really further cemented my preference for Plasma. Gnome itself is a very nice looking desktop, that is undeniable. If you like the prescribed Gnome workflow and don’t use Qt applications, it just may work fine for you. Ultimately, you need to use what works best for you.

This is my opinion and you may not agree… and that is okay. I really don’t expect you to agree.

Further Reading

BigDaddyLinux Live Show on Gnome

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dell Latitude E6440