Ventoy | Multi-ISO Bootable USB Drive Made Easy

From time to time, I like to try a new distribution of Linux, not because I am dissatisfied with openSUSE as that is NOT the case but like going to another town to visit and see what culinary options they have to offer. I like to try out another Plasma distribution or something that is quite different than what I am used to using. Part of the fun of Linux is all the options and therefore, I want to peruse the buffet from time to time. Also, as a non-card carrying member of the BDLL community, we do these weekly “challenges” and I like to participate from time to time in that.

The annoying part about testing distributions is that I have amassed a collection of USB flash drives with various distributions on it and I am often fumbling finding one that I don’t want to write over. The solution, Ventoy. This allows me to have multiple distributions on one USB drive and I also do not have to write the images to the device. I just have to drag and drop the ISO right onto. The system will scan the device recursively so I can still keep everything organized into folders.

This is now my solution for all ISOs. I am going to put them right onto this as opposed to having them litter my /home partition.

Download the tar.gz and take note as to where you chose to download Ventoy. You will have to extract that archive. Using something like the Dolphin file manager, that is only a right-click away.

Alternatively, you can use the tar command in the terminal

tar xvzf ventoy*.tar.gz

Using a terminal, navigate to that location in the folder with the Ventoy executable, it is important you do so else the command later won’t work for you.

Keep in mind, your version may vary as this does continue to tick away.

Installation

This is not an application you need to install to your system. It is a shell script that you can execute from the terminal and since the terminal is a happy place, you should enjoy this process.

First I checked to make sure I was getting the correct device. There are a couple ways you can go about doing that. Using the File Manger, like Dolphin, navigating to the drive to right-click and get the properties.

Or you can go the terminal route and type in:

lsblk

Just as a note, I used “grep sd” because the snap packages clutter things up.

I do want to emphasize that you really need to know your system and what drives you have already attached. I know that I have 3 separate devices so “a“, “b” and “c” will already be claimed by my root, home, and bay storage.

Once you have determined the drive, in my case, I have sdd so I would replace sdX with sdd in the statement below.

sudo sh ./Ventoy2Disk.sh -i /dev/sdX -s

Where “X” is the last digit of the drive.

In this case where -i is to install and -s is to enable secure boot support.

Using Ventoy

The only thing you have to do at this point is drag and drop an ISO of a Linux distribution that you would like to install on a machine. In my case, I would like to install openSUSE Leap 15.2, so that is what I have put on the USB drive.

That is all there is to it. Now you can take this USB drive and install to your hearts content on as many systems as you would like. It should be noted that not every ISO is compatible with Ventoy. I am going to make second note here and say that this is the only way to easily install Windows 10, not for me but doing tech support. So, Ventoy is a life saver.

Update

Lets assume you already have Ventoy installed, you can update the Ventoy USB drive very simply.

sudo sh ./Ventoy2Disk.sh -u /dev/sdX

Final Thoughts

Ventoy is a fantastic utility, especially if you are regularly or even semi-regularly installing operating systems on machines. Setting up Ventoy is not difficult, so long as you understand the The installation is not difficult, so long as you understand the particulars. Since this isn’t something I would do every day, this little blathering is another note to future me and hopefully it works well for present you.

References

https://www.ventoy.net/

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

I am not one to jump on any bandwagon or get excited over anything unless I have good reason. I don’t generally get too excited about browsers. I have found them frustrating, to say the least. In the beginning of the last decade, Google Chrome came onto the scene in spectacular fashion. It was light, fast and lean. It felt like a breath of browser fresh air. I loved it. Then the bloat came. To keep our definitions straight, I consider bloat to be anything that causes significant loss of system performance or makes using your system less enjoyable (not software installed you don’t use, that can be plucked out). Chrome became that in spades. For the last 4 years or so, it has been a slow, crashy, system-interfering browser, therefore, I have been using Firefox and Falkon as my go-to browsers. I only used Chrome for work and use it sparingly now.

My contentment with the browser scene has been rather low as of late. Firefox has been nice due to the privacy features and container tabs which is not yet (if ever) available on Edge. Since that is a required feature for for me on safe web-browsing, I don’t see Edge knocking Firefox off the top of my browser mountain.

Bottom Line Up Front, Edge is good, it’s real good. I am nothing short of impressed by how it performs. This browser may still be in the “Dev” channel, but it is shockingly good.

Installation

Installation is easy, assuming you are familiar with the process in openSUSE. Start off by downloading the RPM from here:

Microsoft Edge Download

The Beta is not yet available. What is available is the Dev Channel version of Microsoft Edge, in a nutshell, this is the weekly update of the application and is not yet considered “stable.” Knowing this, I will be forgiving of any little oddities.

Since I run openSUSE, that is the version I selected. with the little drop down arrow. Should you be running a different distribution, you will have to adjust the installation process accordingly.

Read through the license terms and if you agree, select “Accept and download”. Take note of where you download the RPM file. Personally, I have a folder ~/Downloads/rpms where I keep such loose-leaf packages.

If you would like to avoid the terminal (which I don’t understand why anybody would), the method of graphically installing it is to use YaST Software. This is easily done with a right-click on the RPM and selecting Open With > YaST Software.

It should be noted that once the process is complete, you will have a new repository labeled, “microsoft-edge-dev”. This under-development browser will be neatly placed in the correct category in your menu as well.

This was a very painless process and surprisingly short. So far, I would give this a thumbs up in the good experience department.

First Run and Impressions

I have mixed feelings about the initial run of Microsoft Edge. It is a clean first impression that lets you know immediately that you can customize it. In short, it looks modern and what you would expect from a newer application.

After you accept with the option of sending usage data or not, you are then given three options for how you would like the browser to start: Inspirational, Informational and Focused. This was a delightfully welcome surprise to have such start page options.

I went with Informational but I think I will likely switch it to Focused in the near future as I find some of the information… irritating… Every time you start a new Tab, you will be presented with one of these three screen layouts. This can be changed in the settings later if you so choose.

I was greeted with a Microsoft Edge Dev Channel page. This was quite interesting, really, as it gave some insight as to how to get involved while making it clear that they are listening to users.

Edge Browser 08 Welcome to MS Edge LinuxI do like seeing a specific column, welcoming Microsoft edge users for Linux. They give you a list of known issues with the browser too. I like this very open approach that Microsoft is doing with the development of the Edge browser. This is almost strange and foreign to me. It is very welcoming but I can’t help but wonder. Has Microsoft truly turned over a new leaf and they do indeed ♥️ Linux or are they really a creepy old guy telling you he has ice cream in his basement? 

Regardless of my presupposition and admittedly tainted attitude due to my historical dealings with Microsoft, I like what I am reading, nay, I ♥️ what I am reading, how they are presenting the software and the project to the open source. Is there going to be telemetry? Probably, but how much is acceptable? I don’t have an answer to that nor am I exploring that immediately. I am of the belief that I should have the option of giving or not giving usage data. 9 times out of 10, I will give the organization or company usage statistics to help improve the software. I just happen to be annoyed if I am not given the option. 

On a side note, my almost unhealthy obsession with the openSUSE project is a bit annoyed with how they cased “openSUSE”. I’ll let you look and see why.

The next stop on my Browser Journey was to look at my system settings and see what options are presented. My immediate and well deserved reaction was to be pleased with the layout. I find this to be far more welcoming than the Chrome default.

The difference here is that your menu is persistent on the side. It made it very clear as to where to go to make the adjustments. I will give Edge a nice underscore and highlight on promotion of customization. No options were hidden. I also want to give someone a nice pat on the back for the dark theme. Very nicely done. Although, I would have preferred a theme that took more from the desktop for better visual integration, as is what is offered by Chrome, but this is acceptable.

I appreciate that they have a focus on family safety. I don’t actually know how they implement this and it seems as though the options are tied in with the Bing search engine. I am pleased to see that Microsoft is putting such emphasis on the safety of kids and even if it is not the best available, it is at least a covered effort and I whole heatedly approve.

I am happy to see that when calling up the computer’s proxy settings, it pulled up the KDE Plasma module. Not that I do much with proxy configurations anymore but I do know that this is necessary for some people. 

The next part of my Browser Journey was to try out some websites that I frequent. Now was the time to serve this browser a “hot supper” of sites and observe. My list was everything from multimedia heavy sites, to forums, social media and the like.

Very importantly, the site “CubicleNate.com” seems to render just fine. I didn’t notice any unwelcome behavior with it. For all half a dozen or so people that actually visit the site will be please to know that the Edge Browser works fantastically well.

I went to see how to change the default search engine for the browser and I noticed that “CubicleNate” has an entry and I am not sure how that happened. Perhaps the browser picked up on the search function within my site. More exploration on this is necessary.

I left the provider at Bing for the time being. Changing it to CubicleNate would be pretty useless though, kind of cool… I suppose. I am wondering how it was added to the list, how the browser was able to parse the website and add it without any user effort.

A real neat feature of the Edge Browser is this “collections” system. It looks to me like a modified implementation of the bookmarks but that is a bit more friendly looking and easier to decipher what each website is as it has a thumbnail of the thing adjacent the site name.

The setup has a nice walk-through when you start using it. I am not super crazy about the Pintrest integration but I know a lot of people that would be very much into it. The collection system seems to have a lot of potential for making the organization of a lot of information more efficient. I don’t know that I would use this as it is locked into the Edge Browser system and I am not one to be locked into anything. Regardless, I see the value in this very much.

I have a concern about how it would perform, long term. I wonder if it would bog down significantly as you use load it up with data. I might be making foolish assumptions but it is something to note.

It was time to try out the collections system. Adding to the collection is as intuitive as adding a bookmark with any other browser. It just happens to have a more friendly feel to it. I like this rethinking of the bookmarks and adding additional features and functionality to it.

I have created a category called “Awesome Websites” which is actually pretty meaningless but I just wanted to give it a spin and get some impressions about this Edge Browser exclusive feature.

Performance

The performance of this browser is surprisingly peppy. It is as though they super charged Chrome. I am not one to tout the performance of a browser. I have become underwhelmed in my browser experiences and therefore lukewarm on any browser.

I don’t know what Edge uses internally for multimedia. I don’t know if the codecs are baked in our of it uses system libraries but I can say with incredible confidence is that everything I tried works and there isn’t any hint of screen tearing when watching videos. Seeing that it looks great is important.

Memory Usage

Not a very scientific test, I ran Edge for a few hours and opened up 28 tabs. I had YouTube, Facebook, Instagram open as I know they are incredible offenders of chomping up copious amounts of precious RAM. The result of having it open and taking it for a spin for several hours, the browser only took up about 800 MiB. I am not sure why it is so much less than Chrome but I was very impressed. This is not what I was expecting at all. I need to do more testing in this regard but so far, I am very happy with it.

What I Like

The installation process and package manager integration couldn’t be any better. I have already received updates to the browser and Zypper didn’t have a single issue with it. I certainly wasn’t expecting issues but you never know. The bottom line is, topenSUSE is a “first-class” Microsoft Edge citizen!

The Edge Browser is a high performance application. It is shockingly lean and fast. If I had to choose between Chrome and Edge, I would choose Edge. The performance and memory usage is not insignificant. I need more time on the browser to give a better performance evaluation and do some side by side tests against my current Firefox preference. Since Microsoft has made openSUSE a first-class citizen means that I am going to do my part to give them a hand in usage reports and the like.

The settings interface may be my favorite I have seen. It is laid out as such that it makes sense to navigate. There isn’t any digging to get to what you want to customize. This does support the claim that it is an easily customizable browser. I say, well done! 

What I Don’t Like

Although you are given a very nice dark theme, it is not my favorite. Also, since I am into the green highlights, I would prefer the theme integrates better into the desktop. This is the only spot that Chrome has an slightly higher mark.

This is a mixed opinion, but I wish there was more in the Edge browser extension repository. You are essentially directed to the Chrome store for things where Edge is lacking. The upshot is, you have access to all the Chrome extensions. Edge is based on the same Blink web engine as Chromium / Chrome in effect, reducing the technical burden on development and opening up a world of extensions. My biggest concern is that the market seems to be drifting to a single browser engine and doesn’t look good for the future of Firefox.

I am not currently able to log into my Microsoft account, which was a known issue. It would be nice if that was working but I am willing to bet that this will be fixed. When this is fixed, I am certainly going to see how well all the associated services work.

This is a nitpick, but the letter casing on “openSUSE” was wrong on the documentation… yeah, I’m certainly grasping at straws to come up with a fourth thing I didn’t like about Edge.

Final Thoughts

I will keep Edge on my system and expand my testing of it. I want to see how it performs on lesser capable machines next. My experience on my Dell Latitude E6440 running openSUSE Tumbleweed has been spectacular. It far exceeded my expectations and will be watching this further develop. The fact that Microsoft is now building Edge for Linux is great and I am also extremely pleased to see that they have made openSUSE a first-class citizen.

Regardless of any apprehension one may have with using a browser built by Microsoft, I highly recommend giving it a spin. At the very worst, you won’t like it and remove it from your system. I think you will be impressed with the performance and resource usage. this is not the Internet Explorer of days past. I truly believe that Microsoft has done a great job on this and they are certainly raising the standards for browsers on Linux.

References

Microsoft Edge Download
openSUSE.org
Firefox browser
Falkon browser

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

BASH has been good to me and I have enjoyed my time with BASH very much. I have learned so much about the inner workings of Linux through the terminal and BASH has been there my whole experience. “Tab” completion has been a marvelous gift to the terminal user experience. I have never had a complaint about BASH and therefore never looked elsewhere.

On the episode of BDL from 17 Oct 2020, I was told to try FISH as it would change my terminal life. I didn’t really believe it but proceeded to install it anyway. I also wasn’t ready to commit to it so I modified a profile in Konsole to use Fish instead of Bash. Typing in one solitary command and I was sold.

Installation

The installation of FISH takes but one step. In the terminal type:

sudo zypper install fish

If you just want to try it, you can just run fish from the terminal and you are immediately in it.

Difference

Fish helps you along, give you hints, pressing tab gives you options and defines the options which removes the ambiguity in the commands. On the surface, this doesn’t look any different, that is, until you do what you would normally do in the terminal and see the difference. This may not be the greatest example but it essentially shows the improvements in the interaction.

As you start typing fish predicts the command based on your executed command history. In a sense, it learns and predicts your inputs which is very handy. Think about all the different things you do in the terminal. How many times have you reviewed your history to remember the exact syntax of a command you previously ran. This will make that process so much more enjoyable.

What is absolutely fantastic about FISH is how easy it is to configure. Simply run:

fish_config

and you are presented with the ability to easily configure your options graphically. At the same time, you are able to view the config file and manually input changes as well.

Switch to Fish | Bash is out

Lets say you are running Konsole for you terminal emulator. Changing it to use FISH instead of BASH is as simple as going into Settings > Configure Konsole

Under Profiles, select the default profile and “Edit” it.

The command should be changed to /usr/bin/fish

If you would like to check before hand to see if that is indeed the installed location of the FISH executable, run this in terminal to be sure:

which fish

Switch to Fish on openSUSE

To make the changes system wide, that is also an easy process. As root run the following command

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish

Additionally, you can change your user account default shell in this way, where in this case “cubiclenate” would be your user name.

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish cubiclenate

Keep in mind that user accounts may still be using BASH depending on how they were set up. Since the terminal should be a personal choice, it is totally understandable that the user accounts could vary.

Final Thoughts

I have been totally fine with using Bash, I started on csh in the HP Unix days, when I went to Linux, I was introduced to Bash and I thought it was pretty great. What I appreciated was the tab-completion on commands. I had heard about Zsh and Fish but since I didn’t have a problem with Bash, I had no desire to change my shell. The interactive nature of FISH makes using anything in the terminal so much better and dare I say, “fun”. Maybe instead of “Friendly” the F in FISH should stand for “Fun”. I really enjoy the terminal a lot more and I believe that making this the default shell for not just openSUSE but all distributions would also make the terminal far less scary for more people to use.

Reference

OSTechnix – Install Fish
fish on software.opensuse.org
3 Ways to change a user default shell

Noodlings | Inspiration Is Around You

21st Noodling of jam packed excitement… not really.

This is the 21st hot-pocket-sized podcast that won’t scorch roof of your mouth.

I have a small collection of vintage or near vintage gaming consoles. I lean mostly in the Nintendo party as I think they have a great grasp on what is fun. I don’t always agree with many of their business practices but the entertainment they have provided is multi-generationally successful. In order to lower the wasted time of hooking these systems up to enjoy and better organize their presentation, I built a Gaming Rack that was inspired by watching a YouTube channel called Retro Recipes. Seeing how nicely laid out and easily enjoyed they were set up, I made the decision that I must adapt this idea to my little world.

I’ll address this in greater length in the future but suffice to say, the creation of this Gaming Rack has made coexisting with lots of tech in the common areas of my house so much better. The big win was a place to keep all the tablets, handhelds and mobile devices so that they don’t linger in the kitchen or on the dining room table. They have a place to sit and charge and it is pretty fantastic.

The primary item of note here is, you can find inspiration all around you. The final result of my gaming rack, largely, isn’t anything like what I saw on the Retro Recipes channel but the purpose and intent is very much the same. I appreciate inspiration from wherever it materializes.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to a mug of hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

I have had an affinity for all things terminal in my old… or middle age. Not that I have ever spent all that much time in the terminal back in the 80s and 90s but as I transitioned into the Linux world, I started to enjoy the terminal and wanted to learn it.

What I am most interested in by this is the quick and efficient retrieval of the weather forecast. Since this is a terminal application, the actual limitations are few of what can access this information. The Commodore 64 with a text only web browser should be able to view this and certainly any other computer that came after it. In effect, this makes nearly any computer built, still quite relevant for modern tasks, or at least, it certainly helps keep computers useful.

Being able to access weather data quickly in the terminal is far preferred over using a web page as this is much quicker and does not gobble up internet bandwidth and cast a net of trackers at you.

I was made aware or rather re-aware of this information by some of the folks over at The Otherside Podcast Network.

Rickroll in the Terminal

When I was watching a YouTube channel “Adrian’s Digital Basement“, I noticed a dancing dude on some kind of small device in the background, on his wall of interesting things.

You know, I am seeing a pattern of me snooping on YouTubers…

I took me a bit of searching to realize that this was the “Rickroll” and out of curiosity, I had to see if it was available as a terminal command. Sure enough, this absolutely is a thing in the terminal and I had to Rickroll myself!

I found the project on Github, ran the commands and got an incredible laugh out of it. In an effort to not lose this again, I made a quick blathering about it on CubicleNate.com

There is nothing of any real value on this at all.

BDLL Followup

Talk on application preferences. What I got out of this was the push to use fish instead of bash for my shell. Fish stands for “Friendly Interactive SHell” So, calling it fish shell is a like ATM Machine.

In short this truly revolutionizes the terminal interface. This takes the terminal from good to awesome. The bottom line of what makes this awesome, and I will create a blathering post about this later, is that it holds your hand in using commands in the shell. It has parsed the man pages so when you start entering a command and press the tab key, it does more than just display what command you may be entering, it gives you the options and descriptions of what it is, continue to press tab and you will cycle through the similar commands. It’s

openSUSE Corner

Introducing the Open Build Service Connector

Open Build Service Connector is built around bookmarks of packages. Individual packages or whole projects can be checked out directly from within Visual Studio Code, similar as to how you would with osc.

This works well with the openSUSE project philosophy of collaboration which is at the heart of all things openSUSE and fundamentally built into the Open Build Service.

Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa Update in Tumbleweed

Some of the major package updates in the last week of snapshots include newer versions of the Linux Kernel, Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa, Apparmor, ImageMagick, AutoYaST and many others. Several CVEs and bug fixes have been addressed and the Mesa graphics library updates to support Intel Rocket Lake platform

Tumbleweed Roundup

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Speech Synthesis (1984)

I think we often take for granted about how well speech-to-text and text-to-speech works these days on rather small hand held devices. I know that I have become unreasonably upset with my mobile when it didn’t translate anything or translated what I said poorly. I have to stop and look back in time at the history of speech synthesis and compare it to the size and limitations of the machines in 1984 at the commencement of commercially available solutions for speech synthesis.

Although not covered in this episode of Computer Chronicles, there was an application called “SAM” which means, Software Automatic Mouth, published in 1982 by “Don’t Ask Software”. I played with it a lot on the Commodore 64 and what I found out more recently was that this really taxed the little 64kib machine which is why it had to blank the screen when speaking.

SAM on the Web

The applications for speech synthesis in 1984 were a bit of a stretch in some ways. I’m not sure if it was the large awkward microphone or the obvious shoehorning of it’s usage for checking your stock portfolio but it did seem a bit clunky. Other uses, like the speak and spell, I thought was good but a camera or my car speaking to me is not really something I would appreciate today.

Could you imagine your camera telling you that you need to use a flash when taking a picture at a wedding?

The Speak and Spell is, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of a fantastically well executed consumer product. Though I don’t enjoy my Speak and Spell much as an adult, it is fun to pull it out from time to time and see how poorly my spelling still is after so many decades on this planet.

If speech synthesis is of any interest to you, I recommend watching this and seeing formative years of computer speech synthesis to gain a bit of appreciation on where we are today. Maybe you totally appreciate it but I know that my attitude falters from time-to-time and it’s good to look back and see how far we have journeyed.

Final Thoughts

Inspiration is all around you, it is just a matter of you taking the time to pause for a moment and look for it. There are truly creative minds out there, freely sharing ideas that you can apply in your life to make things just a bit better. Pause and appreciate the bits of inspiration throughout computing history that have made our tech lives so very interesting and fun. For a nerd, this is truly the best time to be alive.

Rickroll in the Terminal

This is a mostly useless blathering but since I got a good laugh out of it, I wanted to index this bit of fun and share it because that is what you do, right? Share nonsense on the Internet? Isn’t that why they invented the thing?

I was watching “Adrian’s Digital Basement” on YouTube and caught site of a device that had a repeating Rickroll animation. At first, I couldn’t remember what it was called and nearly hurt my thinking muscle in trying to remember it. After a bit of searching, I found a YouTube video of the actual music video of the “RickRoll”. So then I thought, I wonder if someone made this to run in the terminal. Sure enough, that is a thing.

I found this GitHub page here:

https://github.com/keroserene/rickrollrc/

I was incredibly amused.

Here is my warning and disclaimer, don’t ever copy some random text from the internet into a terminal and just run it. That is not in any way a good idea. Since I do lots of things that aren’t good ideas, I have done this and from what I can tell, it hasn’t destroyed my system.

To view a pixelated Rickroll in the terminal run this command:

curl -s -L https://raw.githubusercontent.com/keroserene/rickrollrc/master/roll.sh | bash

If you would like to share this with a friend and don’t want to give away what it is and surreptitiously get this person to run it in there terminal, use this command:

curl -s -L http://bit.ly/10hA8iC | bash

The obfuscation of the URL will aid in the process of “Rickrolling” your buddy… in the terminal.

As the GitHub site suggests, you could turn it into a script and further hide your true intentions when helping someone else out. Oh the fun that could be hand by wearing out a joke that was never that funny to begin with.

Final Thoughts

I totally realize that the “funny” of the Rickroll has long since passed on but this still gives me a chuckle and someday, someday, you can use it again on an unsuspecting technological enthusiast. I can think of all kinds of ways to shoe horn it in to the next time I give someone some advice.

References

Adrian’s Digital Basement YouTube Video with Rickroll in the background
Rickroll in it’s full Standard Definition Glory
Rickrollrc on GitHub

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

In the spirit of using this site as my public facing notebook. I sharing with you and future me, what might be, the most beautiful terminal based weather forecast application wttr.in. Rather than babble endlessly about all my reasons for my love for the terminal, I am going to link you here to my Tmux blathering.

There is nothing to install, unless you don’t have curl but that is pretty standard fare on a modern Linux distribution. If you do not have curl, please consult your distribution instructions on getting it installed as with openSUSE it is there automatically.

I also want to note, most people, normal people, will just glance at their phone and be done with it. I, however, am not most normal people as the mobile form factor is not my favorite place to do anything.

How to Use It

Since there is nothing to install, this is a down and dirty on how you use it. You can get all the details by going to the project GitHub site and learn much more about its extended features, extensive options, and details of its inner workings.

The easiest way to view this weather information can be done just by navigating to the the website which will display the information in your browser. This is not personally interesting to me but possibly the best options available for viewing the weather.

http://wttr.in/

The more fun way to view the weather is right there in the terminal. Open you favorite terminal emulator or drop down into a TTY and it works.

This is all you have to do and it will just give you weather information.

curl wttr.in

It will use your IP to get the weather near you. For most people, this will probably be good enough.

For those that use a VPN may find that this doesn’t work for them. In this case you will have to specify the specific location where you want the weather forecast. Spectacularly, you can use the city name or the postal code. For example

curl wttr.in/kalamazoo

works just as well as

curl wttr.in/49001

Something of note, cities in the USA or across the world are not exactly unique. If I wanted the weather of Portage, MI and just typed

curl wttr.in/portage

I would get Portage, Indiana, presumably because it may be geographically closer to my location than Portage, Michigan. To be more specific, the appropriate syntax is this:

curl wttr.in/portage+michigan

Display Units

WTTR.in is set to default to your regional unit format but this can be over ridden. This can be done with adding ?u for USCS used in the United States or ?m for the rest of the world. An example of how that would be used to get metric in the United States.

curl wttr.in/kalamazoo?m

Final Thoughts

What is very cool about this, up to date weather information is readily available to any computer with a terminal, internet connection and curl which is what makes this very interesting and useful to me. It is a service that does not limit or wall off anything. It is there to be used.

I am only scratching the very surface of this incredibly versatile terminal weather application. It should be noted that because it is a terminal application and is extensible, you can very much make it more than just a basic text-based output. For my purposes, today, this is all I want but with a little imagination, marvelous things can be done with it.

This small blathering is very much for me, as I do recall this application from years back but have since forgotten the details about it. In my not so recent searching for terminal weather applications didn’t present this information so this is my gift to you and future me.

References

WTTR.in Project GitHub Page
Tmux Desktop on openSUSE Linux
Terminal Weather in the Browser

Noodlings | No Linux for 10 Days

20th Noodling, just like the previous, delivered inconsistently!

The 20th cookie sized podcast, but not one of those oatmeal raisin type of cookies, more like something with chocolate chips.

Chinese food containers are a feat of clever engineering. Most people just toss them in the bin once they are done with them but if you stop to look at how they are folded together from wax coated paper, you have to smile and marvel at the ingenuity of this clever, nesting box.

Element | Matrix Chat Client

The Element client makes using Matrix quite enjoyable. Previously, using Matrix was a bit of a lack-luster, almost a science experiment kind of feel to it. Sure, it worked but it didn’t have the polish and great user experience I have using Telegram. I can say, with much confidence, using Element feels like a real product. It feels just as good as any other messaging client. It is still early days for me so it’s still all new and exciting.

Send and Receive Text Messages SMS with Element

Amiga Fast File System Return to Linux Kernel

A component of the Linux kernel for the Amiga Fast File system had been broken that deals with the basic permission bits, protection bits in Amiga OS. The Linux Kernel would only set bits but never delete them.

Max Staudt is the developer that noted this issue and submitted a fix “for good” such that this won’t be an issue in the Linux Kernel any more. He said, “…Linux a nd classic AmigaOS can coexist in the most peaceful manner.”

Linus Torvalds appears to have agreed and the code made it into rc4 of version 5.9 which is slated to be release this month, October 2020.

This is great news for those of us that are vintage tech enthusiasts.

VisualBoy Advance

I was in a situation where I was away from home for an extended period of time. As a result I was separated from my old tech which means authentic hardware to do the more retro style of gaming that I enjoy. While away, I had a hankering for some GameBoy fun to unwind at the end of the day. The application I found, which I ultimately installed from the Snap Store was VisualBoy Advance. The big take away on why this is a great application for playing GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games is the ease of use and how highly configurable it is.

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 Black Screen Repair

Power outage left me with a computer where the LED on the side would show activity but there wasn’t even a flicker on the screen itself. It was out, completely black, no light whatsoever.

Ultimately the issue came to a faulty power supply which tells me that I need to take the time to put in some sort of UPS to protect it in the future. This isn’t the first time I have had issues with this computer as a result of power fluctuations.

No Linux for 10 Days

In my time away from my normal life, I was in a situation where I was without Linux for almost two weeks. I hear of people that consider time away from tech as being “refreshing”. I wouldn’t consider that the case at all but it was enlightening. Using “analog” methods for recording information is super inefficient but it did force me to work on my hand writing as it is atrocious.

Secondly, having to use Windows 10 to do “digital work” was so frustrating, I will say, the points of frustration were not all the fault of Windows 10 but it did make me greatly despise using tech. It confirmed that if Linux went away and I was forced to use Windows 10, I just wouldn’t.

BDLL Followup

There was a discussion about the perfect distribution that dominated the majority of the the conversation. I can easily say that openSUSE fits as the perfect distribution. There isn’t much I would change about it. The only thing I can think is a little polish in Tumbleweed as such that it becomes real easy to do distribution updates, preferably, using Zypper.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE + LibreOffice Conference

Going on now is the openSUSE + LibreOffice virtual conference. There is one day left but you have to register before participating as to keep out spammers. There are two virtual rooms where talks are given and a workshop room to hack on LibreOffice. Thinking about this, there is an element missing from the event. There isn’t a virtual hall way to get lost in and have random conversations about of topic subjects. Maybe Next time?

It’s nice to see that virtual conferences are still happening. Just because the world has hit a rather large bump, not all the wheels have fallen of of the wagon.

Join our team and help us improve the openSUSE learning experience!

openSUSE is a project that has many parts to it and with the very lively and thriving community, some things can become untidy. The project has multiple distributions, although Leap and Tumbleweed get more of the mind share, things can become a bit overwhelming for someone new to start poking around the openSUSE spaces.

This is why a group of volunteers have taken up the task of improving the learning experience for users regardless of their experience level. We want to make sure that new users can best identify solutions for their requirements and experienced users have the detailed documentation that is easy to access and update.

Any help is welcome for writing, editing, peer-reviewing, video production and testing.

Tumbleweed Roundup

  • 20201008 moderate 90
    • MozillaFirefox (80.0 -> 81.0.1)
    • inkscape
    • kdeconnect-kde
    • libzypp (17.25.1 -> 17.25.2)

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Super Computers (1984)

Oldest computing machine is the abacus

Massive Parallel architectures was the key feature of these massive super computers. It is interesting to see that the super computer technology of this time is essentially the architecture that would later be adopted by the average home computer, to include your mobile device.

These computers were rated at over 100 million calculations per second. I wanted to get some kind of a baseline comparison to a modern Threadripper but getting actual “calculations per second” isn’t a thing with modern benchmarks. I would be interested in see how one of the old Cray super computers of the mid-1980s would compare to the average gaming desktop computer of today. It’s worth a wonder.

Parallel processing was a big thing with these super computers but the rate of improvement had slowed down and the discussion boiled down to the next breakthrough coming in changing the way things are done and different algorithms to take advantage of greater speed increases.

It was initially by government grants that breakthroughs in super computers came about and once better understanding and more applications were developed for the super computer did the commercial applications jump on board to better simulate a 3D world for testing such as the automotive and oil industry. Ultimately, making the process of being profitable much quicker.

Barriers at the time is building better algorithms to map on a computer’s architecture while at the same time, modifying the architectures to work with the algorithms. There was such a massive number of changes and experimentation in this time. The US and Japanese manufacturers were competing against each other at the super computer level. Both governments investing in the private sector to help with R&D costs. Really a spectacular time in the history of computing.

Final Thoughts

Take some time to appreciate some of the marvels around you. Even something as ubiquitous as a to-go container has an incredible story behind it. Someone or many someones spent many hours engineering the shape and the design of the thing as well as the many hours or perhaps years it took to perfect the manufacturing process. We often take for granted the wonderful luxuries we have.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

Of sorts.

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

Although, today, I do keep a real Commodore 64 running and use it from time to time, often wish there was a modernized version of that bread-bin shell so that I could enjoy a flavor of computer goodness performing “modern” computational work loads. It almost came to pass, some years back as there was a project from Commodore USA where you could buy a computer that ran a modified version of Linux to look and feel a bit like the Commodore 64. I searched far and wide to get one of these cases to build myself a modern computer in the style of the Commodore 64. Why? Mostly… just because of the smiles that the computer brought me and the smiles I would like to continue to have, day in and day out.

As it goes, a few days ago Matt, one of my co-hosts on DLN Xtend send me this link where I was greeted with what what I assumed would remain unobtainable and I nearly fell out of my chair in excitement. It appears that an industrious entrepreneur from the UK managed to acquire the website, molds and some stock from the now defunct CommodoreUSA and is offering the sale of Commodore 64 styled enclosures.

The long term plan for My Retro Computer is to sell complete systems but the short term is to sell cases, presumably to build up some capital and take the next step. The Commodore OS that was developed by CommodoreUSA is available for download. I am not really interested in this as my it is now pretty far out of date and I much prefer to shoe-horn openSUSE on all my computer things.

Key Features

I am not going to make this an exhaustive list of every feature of this retro case. I want to keep this short and not an endless blathering of my excitement. There are three key features of this machine, as I see it:

Number 1

The retro styled case. I can see this as being the natural progression of the original Commodore 64 bread-bin case. The same basic shape but taking into account modern hardware and in this case, taking a mini-ITX motherboard, a slot for optical media on the left side and the right side having a multi-format SD card reader.

Number 2

It comes with the keyboard that is a low noise, USB, mechanical, Cherry Switch keyboard. Just based on the description, this isn’t an inexpensive keyboard. Cherry Switches are well known by the keyboard enthusiasts and although I am not a keyboard snob, I do like a quality, modern keyboard and mechanical switches are known to last longer than many other variants. The fact that they took modern components and arranged them in such a fashion that removes the annoyance of the cursor keys and gives you a full 12 Function keys along the top is very welcoming.

Number 3

Prominently displayed on the key features section on the MyRetroComputer.com site, it boasts Linux compatibility (with other things that are far less cool). Although this goes without saying, since it is nothing more than a case with accommodations for standard components, what it does mean is that this computer is “future proof.” That means, I can build it, and rebuilt it again as the component standards are essentially used in perpetuity. Standards may not be fun on the surface, but they can make for so much fun in other aspects in the sense of unleashing creativity.

What I would Do With It

I have thought a lot about setting up a workstation that would generally stay put in my “SuperCubicle.” separate from my AMD system I recently assembled. This would be a fairly low cost build and I would use the monitor I already have in place. I envision this machine to be more of a production machine that would be set up for recording, graphic design, etc. That would free up my laptop to do more mobile tasks. I would call it my “anchor system” as it were and it would fit my enthusiasm for vintage tech and my almost unhealthy obsession with openSUSE Linux all in the same package.

That Windows machine isn’t there anymore, nothing is there currently, perfect spot for this machine.

Pricing It Out

Obviously, there are cheaper ways to accomplish this that are probably more pragmatic but the joys in life are not all pragmatic at all. For instance, my Linux powered festive lights is not really practical at all from a certain perspective but it brings me a lot of joy, all year. In a similar fashion, this would bring daily fun to my desktop experience. It wouldn’t be the exact childhood experience with all the same warm sounds but it would be some of the feel along with the modern conveniences. I decided to do some digging and estimate what it would cost me to build my ultimate retro-modern computer.

Case

The case is about $250. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a good deal but when put into perspective, it’s not so bad. A Cherry switch keyboard can range from $40 to $200 depending on the grade of switches. This is also a very custom layout with only the switches themselves being off the shelf. The rest of this is very custom. Even if we are going mid-grade here, but taking into account the very custom nature of this layout, lets say this is an $100 keyboard. Maybe it is a little on the low side, I don’t really know for sure. Take that into account that would make the case about $150 and that, to me, is reasonable, considering the niche nature of it.

Motherboard

Doing some searching, and I haven’t actually decided on a board yet. Just some quick searching, there are some gaming mother boards that are not so expensive, even some kits out there but I don’t see how I would be able to add a graphics card to this setup, so I would certainly get an AMD motherboard to take advantage of the power of the Ryzen processors with . between $60 and $80 that would fit the bill quite nicely and give me a lot of use out of it.

CPU

Since I am going with an AMD based system, so long as there is the room for a decent cooler, I am currently interested in a Ryzen 5 3400G with the RX Vega 11 integrated graphics. It should be at least 50% faster than my Dell Latitude E6440 with the i7-4900MQ. Practically speaking even better considering the cooling limitations of the laptop form factor. I am looking at about a $160 price point here.

Memory

I wouldn’t go with, at a minimum 32 GiB of RAM and I am estimating about $120 for two 16 GiB sticks of SDRAM. I would probably just get 2 sticks and leave the other two open to double the memory down the road.

Cooling

I would get a 40mm case fan and some kind which would cost around $6. The CPU cooler would have to be low profile enough to fit in this case and the options I have seen are in the price range of about $50, depending on the design.

Power Supply

Here is where I am uncertain the implementation of the power supply. Looking at the case, it almost appears that the power supply is expected to be external. The cost for internal power supplies are around $50 but here I need to do a little more research.

Operating System

This is kind of a no-brainer as I will of course use openSUSE Tumbleweed running the Plasma Desktop. There really isn’t another choice. I would have access to all my retro system emulators and productivity software so it would just, frankly be perfect for my use case. The reality is, just about any Linux distribution would be great

Final Thoughts

This Commodore 64 retro computer case plus openSUSE Linux with a little mix of DIY is a perfect mixture of Linux and vintage tech enthusiasm with a dash of my almost unhealthy obsession of openSUSE Linux. It just all comes together here.

I have often heard from some people that standards aren’t fun or standards restrict too much. I think this idea is rather absurd as it is the “restriction” of standards that give us the framework to support the freedom to create new and interesting things. Everything from this “Modern” Commodore 64 case to house standard components is cost effective because of the standard interfaces. I think we can see evidence of this everywhere. This can be everything from programming languages to graphical widget toolkits. Not to say that standards need to be static but having a solid foundation from which to build allows for wonderful and interesting creations. The Commodore 64 Retro Case is just one example of it.

References

MyRetroComputer.com Home
Commodore USA OS
https://www.xtremegaminerd.com/ryzen-cpus-with-integrated-graphics/


Dell Inspiron 20 3048 Black Screen

System failures are not always what you think they might be and had I known what the failure was, I would have saved a lot of time of fiddling around. This is a memo to future me and perhaps a cautionary tale for your future technology adventures. In short, I could have saved a lot of time had I known that my black screen failure was caused by a faulty power supply.

The Rest of the Story

Computer problems are rather rare for me these days. Sure, things go out like Hard Drives but I use monitoring tools catch that before it happens. I am not a fan of reactive fixes. Waking up one morning observing clocks reset and a computer not turning on, I thought this was going to be a tedious process where I ultimately will end up replacing the whole computer because that is how it generally goes.

Doing some research online informed me that possible causes were bad RAM, Corrupted BIOS where the fix would be removal of CMOS battery and a failed hard drive. That meant, it was time to take the computer off of the VESA mount, which is always a chore because it should be a two person job and there isn’t another person in my house to help me with such things. Using my trusty DeWalt drill driver and supporting the bottom of the computer with my shoulder, I removed the four screws, managing to not drop any down the drain.

I placed the computer, screen down, on a towel and carefully pried the back panel off, which is held on with several clips. Once the back cover was removed removed the metal door that hid away the memory and one of the modules. Historically, computer failures have been as a result of bad RAM so this is typically an easy, albeit a bit on the expensive side, fix.

I removed the first SODIMM module and since I was too lazy to climb up and retrieve the power supply, I used one of my 120 Watt power supplies that isn’t often used, generally on some kind of reserve duty. Upon plugging it in, to my surprise, the computer came to life. Screen and everything. I was given a warning about the change in RAM so I shut it down, and thought I would try replacing the module. Sure enough, it came right back to life.

As it turned out, it looks like the power supply was the culprit of the black screen. I find it somewhat puzzling as the indicator and fans spun up with the bad power supply, just no monitor. It was a serendipitous accident that I discovered the power supply to be at fault. There is probably a lesson in there someplace.

I put everything back together and performed the necessary acrobatics to get the computer back on the VESA mount. I am grateful, in my moment of triumph, that I didn’t drop the computer in the sink fastening the mount to the back of the computer. It is unfortunate that VESA capable All-in-one computers are not very common. I see a lot of utility in such things but perhaps that application is less common and therefore the current designs reflect that fact.

After about an or so of dorking around with this machine. I was able to enjoy my openSUSE creature comfort in my kitchen once again. Linux belongs in the kitchen and openSUSE makes Linux a great experience.

Final Thoughts

Something that I often don’t think about and I don’t know the reason why, is that power supplies fail. The results of their failures can manifest in different ways. I have had laptop power supplies start whining but still work for a period of time, some power supplies stop reporting to the computer how much power can be drawn and the computer will stop using it (annoying). This time, the computer turned partially on, omitting the activation of the screen. I now wonder if this failure is the typical failure these types of power supplies have as this All-In-One uses the same power supply as many Dell Laptops to include my E6440. I now want to investigate this failure mode…

It is quite possible that there was just enough of a power surge in the power outage that killed an already compromised power supply. There is no way to know for sure. Ultimately, it would be nice to have a UPS or perhaps a battery back up on that circuit. Neither options are inexpensive. One step further, I do see utility, more and more, in whole home power backup solutions.

References

Dell Community Forum concerning black screen
Linux in the Kitchen | Life Enhancement Blathering
Outside the Cubicle | DeWALT 20v Max Cordless Tool Platform

VisualBoy Advance | Gameboy Emulation on Linux

I came upon a situation where I was not able to play any of my Gameboy games when away from home. I stumbled upon a rather fantastic solution that really needs to be shared with the Linux world. An emulator called VisualBoy Advanced.

Installation

Since I lean towards my Linux distribution preference of openSUSE, I will give you the best option that I discovered for me on this. You can clone the git repository to run it all from your user account quite easily. That works but little things like menu entry and theme integration doesn’t happen. What works better is to install the Snap Package from the Snap Store.

In case you haven’t set up Snaps for openSUSE, there is a great step-by-step on the SnapCraft.io site.

The next step will be to install it, which can be done quite easily using the terminal. One caveat, it looks like application is still in the beta and edge channels only at the time of writing. Should you come upon this article months down the road, try this first.

sudo snap install visualboyadvance-m

If you would prefer to “live on the edge” give this a spin to use the “edge channel”

sudo snap install --edge visualboyadvance-m

After a few moments, the installation is complete and there is a brand new entry in your menu and you are off to the races. The one unfortunate bit of the application is that there isn’t a splash screen or background element showing off the retro goodness of this application.

Perhaps that is coming later. Regardless, it is not like you are going to stare at the black screen in disappointment as you didn’t install this application for the splash screen, you installed this to play your games on Linux.

My immediate reaction is, this application is well laid out, intuitive and straight forward to use. It required almost no configuration for me to use this and that makes me incredibly happy. Aside from setting my input and one other preference, I was ready to play some nearly 30 year old games.

Set Up

Since my situation was that I didn’t have access to any game pads, I had to set this up for my keyboard. It took a bit of thinking as to how I wanted to make this work so that my hands could rest in a natural location so I thought about it and decided I wanted to use the arrow keys for direction and my left hand on the home row for the button input. Since the game I chose to play is Start and Select Heavy, I put those on the home row too. To set up the input, it is as easy as navigating to…

Options > Input > Configure…

I haven’t played with any of the multiple player inputs and will likely explore and review those functions as well as I can see some interesting game play, perhaps. I did no other configuration modifications as the defaults worked perfectly for my system.

The only other tweak I made was to not pause the game when the window was inactive. I see the utility in that being the default but I didn’t want to roll that way. To make the change, I selected the radio button here:

Emulation > Pause When Inactive

The main reason for this is that it annoyed me when it would pause as I responded to a Telegram message or browse a “hint” site for what to do next… some might call that cheating.

Games Played

I haven’t played a whole lot of games. There were just a few that I played with my kids and since Pokémon is the popular thing in my house, Pokémon Red was the game played the most. There is quite literally no glitching.

What is quite neat about this emulator is the options for how you consume your Gameboy content. My preference is the Super Game Boy that has the boarder decoration you would enjoy when playing the game on your Super Nintendo.

What is real nice is that the display will scale up to whatever size you make the window. It probably makes more sense to get rid of the boarder so you can really see the giant pixels in full HD on your modern screen.

This can be done by going into Options > Game Boy > Configure…

Select the Drop down next to Display borders and select Never to make them disappear.

Some games that I did enjoy playing in my short time was “Super Mario Land” and “Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening.”

The issue I did have with VisualBoyAdvance was using game pads. I would think that it should work without issue but that doesn’t seem to be the case. My work around was to set up AntiMicro to send keyboard commands to it which was a fine work around. I also want to note that the issue with the game pad issue doesn’t work if you build it yourself.

Something that is fun, mostly just for novelty sake, is playing with the colors. I am going to go ahead and say, this is to tickle your particular flavor of nostalgia. My preference is the Real ‘GB on GBASP’ Colors. I think this is the most enjoyable color pallet.

If you prefer the Original green LCD look. That is an option as well.

And if you would like to choose your personal pallet, that is an option as well.

I didn’t fuss much with these color options much as I prefer the Super Game Boy look and feel. That tends to tickle my nostalgia the most.

What I Like

This is a straight forward emulator for playing Game Boy games. There are really only a hand full of games that I truly enjoyed and I mostly play them on actual hardware but there are times when it just isn’t practical.

The display scaling with the window makes playing the games quite nice. There have been some emulators in my years past that do not scale the display and makes for a lack-luster experience.

Installing via Snap is rather nice. A quick command or click if you prefer that, and you are off to the races. It just feels like a solid experience from top to bottom.

What I Don’t Like

Nothing, there is absolutely nothing I don’t like about it. It is, quite literally a perfect emulator to play the old classics on a modern day Linux machine.

I would suggest some improvements to decrease the angle of that learning curve. Not a huge deal for those that have been playing around with emulators, but a start screen that guides you would be nice.

Final Thoughts

VisualBoy Advance is a pretty fantastic emulator. If you have an itch for some Gameboy fun and need to scratch it, this is absolutely my preference. Though, I must say, using actual hardware is probably more fun it can be less pragmatic. VisualBoy Advance is a next best method for playing these games and, bonus, on a larger screen!

References

https://snapcraft.io/install/snapd/opensuse
https://snapcraft.io/visualboyadvance-m
https://www.addictivetips.com/ubuntu-linux-tips/play-nintendo-gameboy-games-on-linux/
https://github.com/visualboyadvance-m/visualboyadvance-m