Christmastime in the year 2020 | Holiday Blathering

What can I say about 2020 that someone else hasn’t already said? I can say it has been… a bit of a disappointment. Nothing has really gone to plan, it seems. I would say, tho, 2020 started out pretty great. Things were looking good for most people and evens occurred that really took the shine off of the year, to put it mildly. I don’t want to focus on the negative, I am going to focus on the positive things.

For starters, I and my family still have their health. We all recovered from whatever sickness was thrown at us this year and I call that a blessing. I may have lost my job this year, but I haven’t stopped working, I just happen to be working with my hands more and subject to the whims of Mother Nature as of late. As part of my layoff package, I got a new computer which has been fantastic and has made my ability to work mobile much more enjoyable.

There have been a lot of great developments in the open source world, it seems like software packages rolling down on openSUSE Tumbleweed have just been rock-solid. KDE Plasma 5.20 has been an incredible joy to have on all my machines. If you have a touch screen, the interface controls are top-notch. I learned of a replacement shell called FISH which may very well be the neatest terminal based tool I have ever used. I am truly thankful for all the hard work put in by so many people to make life on the computer more enjoyable and productive.

I have been able to continue to enjoy my time with the Destination Linux Network where I can make a positive contribution to the community on a regular basis. I have been able to meet some incredible people with such incredible knowledge and seemingly endless patience. I have been able to learn so many new and interesting things because of the interactions and I am forever grateful.

I have been afforded the opportunity to create new Christmas Light Shows on my expanded house display. It’s been fun and frustrating. It has also been incredibly educational and has exposed my cavernous knowledge gaps. Learning and making mistakes is something that helps us to grow individually. I may not be happy about the forced self-education but I end up better for it.

I have began my journey in learning Python which has also been a challenge. I have nothing to show for it, yet but that will come, hopefully fairly soon as works lows down due to the weather change. Which, makes me think. I am not working much in a cubicle these days, unless I am able to count my “SuperCubicle” in my home as one.

Most importantly, for the first time in many years, there is peace in my life as it relates to family. Something to always be grateful for is peace. No, things are in no way perfect but they are far better now than they were a year ago. I would like to count that as a victory.

The year isn’t done and we are still in the throes of adversity with all that is going on but we are also in the midst of Christmastime. A period were with think and hopefully act a bit more on good will and kindness to our fellow humans, no matter the “poo-sandwich” we have had to choke down. c

In an effort to celebrate, what should be a time of joyous family gatherings, I created a 2020 version of Christmas musical lighting sequences with my home’s Linux Powered festive lights. I had numerous headaches with expanding the system. What I thought would have been a straight forward add-on ended up being a painful event, banging my head against the wall at every stage. The positive is, I did add a large number of lights to my system and it is mostly stable but it certainly is a kind of “science experiment” and requires a lot of refinement at this point. Regardless, here are the three 2020 sequences I put together this year. I retooled two of my 2019, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, songs and a new song called “Frozen Memories” by CJ Simpson aka Perifractic. There was a fourth song I planned but ran out of time.

Final Thoughts

In the words of Doc Brown, “Your future is whatever you make of it, so make it a good one.” So is your life. Bad things will happen, adversity is a part of life. The question is, how are you responding to the stressors? Can you respond to them while keeping your dignity intact? It’s not easy and it takes work. 2020 has been a year of trials and incredible testing of ones resolve. Lets hope that 2021 will be better, but if it isn’t, let us all try to individually be better in 2021. Learn something new, be more compassionate, show more kindness. It won’t hurt!

References

HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed
FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE
CubicleNate YouTube Christmas Light Sequences
“Frozen Memories” by CJ Simpson aka Perifractic
Another Christmastime Blathering | Linux Powered Lighting

HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed

I was given an incredible gift by my former employer as a parting gift, an HP EliteBook 840 G7. I didn’t unpack it right away as I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into my mess of computer equipment. I have been very happy with my Dell Latitude E6440 and decided my next system was going to be a desktop system.

Bottom line up front, I am surprisingly pleased with this system. The HPs I have used in times past have been less than stellar and this machine is not at all anywhere close to the same experience. This machine is pretty great and far better than any HP I have ever used. openSUSE Tumbleweed runs fantastically well on this hardware. Setting it up was trivial and it has been a fantastic experience.

Specifications that Matter

This isn’t a loaded up unit and based on this site from HP, it is on the lower end of the spectrum. Comparing to what I am currently using as my main machine, it has half the RAM and 1/8th the storage space.

CPU

Intel Core i5-10310U Processor – This is not the fastest processor and there are faster options available for this machine. According to HP’s knowledge base on this machine, it can accept as much as a Intel Core i7-10810U. The actual difference between the two, according to CPUbenchmark.net, is about a 20% improvement. This is good news is, I can potentially make this laptop even more useful in the processing department… that is, assuming it isn’t soldered on.

Memory

8 GiB DDR4 with 7.5 GiB available for use. According to HP, this can take up to 64 GiB of RAM. I think that is incredibly spectacular. That definitely means I can grow into this machine over the long term. My reckless use of system resource causes me to chomp through the 7.5 GiB available pretty quickly. It’s a bit light for doing video editing and CAD work but still doable, so long as I don’t have a browser with 20+ tabs open.

Bottom line, this isn’t great now but could be very great for a rather small investment. Just by swapping out one of the SO-DIMMS with a 32 GiB module would make a huge difference.

Display

This laptop comes equipped with an anti-glare, non-touch, 1920×1080 display. I am not sure exactly the characteristics of this specific display as there are a lot of options according to this listing. Whichever version this machine has, I am very pleased with it.

Ports and Interfaces

This computer isn’t what I would consider heavy on interfaces. I might go as far to say it is a bit light but it does have the ports that truly count. I am a bit disappointed it is missing an SD Card reader but lets focus on what it does have, not what it is missing.

The front and back of the computer are void of any interfaces. This works well for the back due to how the screen pivots. I have seen alternative designs for hinges that allow for access to the back but from a usability perspective, accessing ports on the back is an exercise in fiddling around blindly unless you decide to crane your head around the backside of the computer. Ultimately, I don’t care one way or the other on this one.

The left side of the computer has four interfaces interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 port (1 charging). I have used both of the USB slots though one tends to have a Logitech wireless mouse dongle in it. I have no complaints in this department.

(1) Headphone/microphone combo jack, or sometimes called a “courage port” and although I tend to use Bluetooth for “quiet listening” I do think a headphone jack is necessary on a computer and to not have one is terrible.

SmartCard slot, it is a vital necessity to have a SmartCard reader for a computer. Without one, I would have to plug in a USB external and that is, frankly, a less than ideal situation.

The unnamed opening on the side is for that Kensington Security Slot. That is for the purpose of locking your computer to the desk… which makes it like a desktop.

Left Side

The right side of the computer contains five interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt support. I have tested this, running openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, the ports do recognize and enable dock stations as well as charge from them. I didn’t test the external display capability but that will come in the future.

(1) HDMI 1.4 port. This is standard fare for a laptop purchased in 2020. I am not sure if HDMI is preferred over DisplayPort but it is what I have.

(1) AC power input port. Since I am still quite uncertain as to the reliability of the USB-C port for the long term, I do appreciate having a barrel jack for power. I do think this will likely last longer than the USB-C port.

There is a blocked off SIM card slot on this computer, presumably due to the lack of WWAN. This is a factory install option, according to HP. That is unfortunate as that would have been a nice add on. I’m sure there is a way to hack it together, maybe.

Construction and Aesthetics

The laptop’s chassis is made of aluminum. According to the HP marketing information, it is made of machined-aluminum. I find that a bit hard to believe as I don’t see evidence of any machining marks and that seems incredibly cost prohibitive but I am not the expert here, nor have I seen the manufacturing plant. It very well could be true and this could be an incredibly well designed machine with spectacular manufacturing processes. It does look very nice. It has nice, sharp lines and just feels solid. The test a lot of tech enthusiasts give a machine is holding it by a corner with the screen lid open to see if it creaks or flexes. This computer does not do that.

The keyboard is claimed to be made of 50% recycled DVDs. The other 50% isn’t specified and why only DVDs and not CDs mentioned. They are both made from polycarbonate plastic. Perhaps people are done throwing out CDs? Also, who throws away DVDs? I have so many questions here. I absolutely prefer that all materials are recycled so I love seeing that HP is making it a point to utilize recycle materials in new machines.

The bezel of the computer is very thin, much thinner than I am used to seeing on a laptop. I am sure there are smaller but my biggest concern is, how do I take this apart without cracking it? The screen is visually of great quality and has a kind of indescribable clarity that I really appreciate.

Serviceability

I am incredibly impressed that HP made this computer so easy to access the innards. The bottom is held in place by five screws. There are clips towards the front of the case so it needs to be swung open towards the front of the machine.

Very surprisingly, they used captive screws so you don’t have to set them in a magnetic bowl or end up brushing them off your workbench and spend hours looking on your cluttered floor to find them.

Inside reveals easy access to the memory, SSD or in this case NVME. I didn’t take the CPU fan and heat piping out to see if the CPU was easily replaced like my Latitudes. Another time, perhaps. I think the big take away here is, this thing is easily serviceable and upgraded. With very little effort, I can swap out the storage and add RAM to this thing, truly making this a machine that I can use for many years.

binary comment

I will be interested in seeing how long the battery on this thing lasts. It is only rated at 53Watt/hours but it does appear to be adequate at this time, based on how I have been using it.

Installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed

I gave Windows 10 a try on this machine. I got through the installation procedure, registered the computer with HP, read through the rather frightening EULA and was presented with a fairly standard Windows 10 desktop albeit with a few extra HP sprinklings. This computer had none of the “bloatware” that is common on PCs… at least… has once been common. After about 45 seconds, I decided i was done playing with Windows and it was time for openSUSE.

I have installed openSUSE on a few other new computers and there have been hangups or difficulties to work through, mostly with Nvidia. I was expecting for there to be a bit of a battle but because I have chosen Tumbleweed, I know that I will have the latest available hardware drivers and judging by the mailing list feed. I was glad to know that this Comet Lake Intel architecture is supported.

In order to boot from the USB, I had to change the boot order. For my own personal future reference, here are what the different F-keys do on POST:

F1 – System Information
F2 – System Diagnostics
F3 – 3rd Party Option ROM
F9 – Boot menu
F10 – BIOS Menu
F11 – System Restore
F12 – Network PXE Boot

In this case, you really only have to make the change in the boot menu to boot from USB. Since openSUSE is Secure Boot capable, there are no problems there. If you are like me, you want to dig into the BIOS menu and see what goodies are accessible within. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty standard stuff.

For the installation process itself, I didn’t do anything custom. I just let the installer do what it wanted and it very nicely read my mind to just wipe and install openSUSE with a single BTRFS partition. The only tweaks I made was to activate the SSH Service and open the port in the firewall. The rest was left as is. Thanks openSUSE! The installation process took all of 9 minutes and it was complete. For details on my installation process you can take a trip here.

Upon booting up the system for the first time, the only issue I had was a lack of sound. Going into YaST, I selected the sound module which informed me that the kernel module for snd-sof-pci had not been loaded.

This wasn’t an extra step I wanted to do, but I am grateful that the YaST sound module was able to walk me through correcting the issue. The positive takeaway here is, I haven’t ever actually messed with this before since it hasn’t ever come up, but now that I see how this module works, further play is necessary. Not for this machine but something that I am building.

Just three packages needed to be installed and the sound automatically configured itself properly and hasn’t been an issue since. What I find interesting here is that Plasma now has devices like HDMI left in an inactive state so you have to how the inactive devices when you don’t have something plugged in. This really clears up a lot of the previous irritation with how Plasma / PulseAudio handled the sound devices. The changes here are fantastic.

After using this machine for a few days, I decided that I really loved it. I’m impressed by how solid yet light the chassis feels. That meant, I had to make this computer my own. I, of course, started by using my openSUSE Breeze Dark theme then I replaced the default system notifications with my preferred Star Trek: The Next Generation variety that I have cut up and mixed. It feels better that way.

My only issue that I have not yet worked out is that my brightness control for the screen just seems to trigger the mute toggle. My understanding is that there is a firmware fix from HP on this and this problem is not exclusive to Linux. More on this in the future.

The installation and first run of openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma has been simply fantastic. It has been over 10 years since I purchased brand new hardware to run Linux and have since stayed just a bit behind to reduce my frustrations. There are no serious frustrations with this machine, sure, a little issue with the brightness control and I had to take an extra step to get the sound working, but that is it. The battery life on this machine is extraordinary. I don’t have to think about having a power supply handy. I just take this laptop and go places. I can’t say I have ever experience such laptop computing freedom before. Truly, a tremendous openSUSE Tumbleweed laptop experience.

What I Like

The touchpad on this particular computer has a glass surface. I love how it feels and how easy it is to clean. Why is it that in 2020 I first experience this? Why hasn’t this been the standard in touchpads? It isn’t a full mouse replacement as it doesn’t have physical buttons at the bottom of the touchpad but if you press down on it, there is an audible click. By pressing in the standard respective locations, you do have all three mouse buttons.

The keyboard does have a TrackPoint where the G, H and B keys meet. This is something I have grown very accustomed to using my Dell Latitudes. I really don’t like being without but the downside is, with out that third button, I am not able to scroll like I do on my Dell Latitude E6440 so the usability of this component isn’t as useful as I would like. I am quite sure I can figure a workaround on this shortcoming.

Very importantly, the keyboard is of very good quality, I have written this entire post on this EliteBook and I am very happy with how the keyboard feels. This is nothing like the Zbook I have previously used where you had to hammer down on the keys to get the letters to type. These keys require just enough pressure to activate and since the chassis that it sits in is as rigid as it is, there is not a bit of flex in the keyboard.

On the incredibly rare occasion I tax this system, I am impressed by how quite the fan runs. There are two impressive aspects here. One, how little the fan actually runs and when it does run, how quite it is and how short it ends up running as it seemed to spin down when the CPU usage dropped down as well.

This computer has USB-C with Thunderbolt. I have nothing that takes advantage of this capability but now that I do, I just may look at getting something for that purpose. I do appreciate the fact that I can charge my computer from the USB-C port. This opens up a lot of power options for this computer. More on that at another time. It should also be noted that the Thunderbolt module in the Plasma Settings is very informative and I am sure that I will use this as my peripherals start to go towards this Thunderbolt interface.

Something that is incredibly important to me on a laptop is how easy it is to service the thing and what my options are when I open the thing up. The innards are incredibly easy to access so memory and storage upgrades are easy. There isn’t any memory soldered on to the board and since I have the option to stuff 64 GiB of RAM in this thing, that makes this laptop very forward leaning.

Amazingly, this computer has a built in SmartCard reader. This is huge for me as I need one regularly and using a USB device is not convenient. There weren’t any issues getting the device drivers and middleware set up in openSUSE. The wiki on that subject is well written and results are easily repeatable.

What I Don’t Like

The arrow keys on the keyboard are a little crammed. I am sure I’ll get used to it but I would say this is the weak point of the keyboard. I don’t have a suggestion as how to correct this whilst also maintaining the clean aesthetic. I think the layout of the keyboard is more about aesthetics than it is about functionality but it is in balance.

There is a little bit of squirrelly behavior of the Fn key for display brightness controls. After a little research this is not exclusively a Linux issue but is more common in Linux. There is a BIOS update to fix this problem, I just have to take the time to work through that solution with a non-Windows system.

As far as slots and ports go on this machine, there is a sore lacking of and SD Card slot. I do wonder why this feature was omitted from the design, especially over having a SIM Card slot that I can’t use without serious modification to the computer.

There is no Ethernet port on this computer. I guess they took a queue from Apple and omitted this too. This is one of those issues that can be easily fixed with a dongle or dock station. Thinking about it. I rarely use an Ethernet port on a laptop unless I am docked. I just happen to like having an Ethernet port and expect them on computers. I call this a nice to have, not a requirement.

Peculiar position for the Power button and airplane mode. I suspect this is to support the overall design aesthetic of the keyboard, having the nice clean lines and deck around the keyboard. The irritation with the airplane mode is that being on F11, I have triggered the airplane mode more often than I would like to admit. The media function keys utilize the F-row and by default are active. The only media keys I use often are the volume up and down keys so I have to determine if it is more important to have the F-keys, which I use very frequently, or the media keys as the default press.

Final Thoughts

Overall, very happy with this machine. It was a parting gift from my previous employer and about the time I completely forgot they were going to send it, the system arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I see myself using this machine for many years. Regardless of the lacking of SD Card reader, it does have the more important SmartCard reader. The arrow keys are a bit crunched but that seems to be a lot more common these days, which is incredibly unfortunate and the media keys are currently a bit squirrelly but there should be a fix for that in the near future. I really can’t complain at all as this is a fine machine and a very welcome gift.

Going forward, I plan to make this my on-the-go machine and will probably leave my Latitude at home more. This means, I will have to do some upgrades to this machine if I plan to make it my main, mobile machine. The 237 GiB drive is a bit small for all that I do with a computer and the 8 GiB of RAM seems to get filled up very quickly with my poor browser habits.

The HP EliteBook 840 G7 is a fantastic Linux machine. If this were offered with Linux pre-installed, I would consider this to be a prime, flagship, Linux experience. I haven’t tested any other distributions but I imagine they would be much the same. I really appreciate the work HP has done on this machine and the seeming forethought they had with ensuring Linux compatibility.

References

Dell Latitude E6440
HP EliteBook 840 G7 Specifications
HP EliteBook 840 G7 on NewEgg.com
Ubuntu on HP Elitebook 840 G7 Notebook PC

My Platform for the 2020 openSUSE Board Election

Introduction and Biography

I began my Linux journey in 2003 back when you could go into nearly any local software store and buy a boxed set of SUSE, Redhat or Mandrake. After a few months of trying to start out the easy way, I went with Mandrake, and stuck with it as it became Mandriva. It was about 2005, I gave openSUSE my first spin due to better hardware support with dial up modems and sharing the blazing 56 kbaud speed with the other computers on the network. I found it had all these fantastic additional tools to make life easier and I ultimately shifted to openSUSE full time in 2011. Even after some distro hopping I just happened to enjoy the structure and layout of the openSUSE project as a whole. It just made sense as compared to the other available offerings.

I started contributing to openSUSE in 2013 when I had a need to document the process to set up using the smart card system for openSUSE Linux. I compiled the works from several sources to make an easy to follow, repeatable process to properly set up the smart card. I enjoyed it so much, I started to update and contribute to as many instructions that I could write to with some level of knowledge. I discovered at that point I started to really enjoy documenting the processes of getting things working or adjusting things to work for specific use cases and rather than just keep my instructions for myself only, I used the fantastic openSUSE wiki to share my knowledge.

My career has been largely focused on Computer Aided Design and with some recent changes, I have been given the great privileged of using Linux exclusively for such activities. openSUSE is now my preferred platform to do everything from CAD, 3D Printing, Video Editing, creating Christmas Light shows to music to just everyday word-processing and data management.

As far as hobbies go, beyond playing with anything Linux, I enjoy retro tech; especially the Commodore 64, well, pretty much anything Commodore but the 64 was my first computer. Beyond playing games, I have been able to get my Commodore 64 online and chatting in IRC rooms to enforce that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it is obsolete.

Another hobby of mine that openSUSE makes incredibly more enjoyable is baking. Using an all-in-one Desktop with openSUSE Leap, GNOME Recipes and Firefox, I am able to access my local repository of cookies, cakes, pies and pastries as well as readily have access to a whole world of new recipes. Thanks to openSUSE and its many tools, it has made my kitchen life much more fun and efficient.

Why I am running for the openSUSE Board

In my incredibly biased opinion, I think openSUSE is the best distribution of Linux but not just for Leap and Tumbleweed, for everything else that goes along with it: the Open Build Service, openQA, Kiwi and YaST. There is an incredible story to be told about what makes openSUSE great. Over the years, I have developed what I consider an almost unhealthy obsession with the project. It just does so much effortlessly. I make a point to spread the good news of what openSUSE has to offer. I make it a point to tell this story and share it with whomever is interested. I would like to continue the tell and further refine that story whether or not I am elected to the board.

The impact I would like to make as a member of the openSUSE Board

As an official member of the board, it will be my mission to be an ambassador of the project to as many communities of which I am able and share what makes openSUSE great. For reasons that don’t make sense, openSUSE is often not in the broader conversation and it needs to be there. All the fantastic innovations and refinements to Linux and the related open source software need to be told.

My second mission is to do my best to network within the community to the best of my ability to continue to improve and refine the openSUSE documentation through wiki to make openSUSE even more accessible for anyone interested. It is my ambition to assist in understanding how to work with openSUSE as clear as possible. I want to make the learning process of the openSUSE project as enjoyable as possible. openSUSE should have the best, clearest, easiest to understand and approachable wiki out there.

My third mission is a selfish one. It is to make openSUSE the go-to distribution for all things in the engineering and manufacturing industry. Linux has been creeping into the industry more and more and it only makes sense that openSUSE should be the distribution of choice for the home hobbiest, small and large businesses alike. Not only are Leap and Tumbleweed technically very sound distributions but the additional components, OBS, openQA and the Wiki make it the ideal ecosystem to deploy a targeted spin of the distribution or series of meta packages to bolt onto Leap or Tumbleweed to serve the industry.

Why should openSUSE members vote for me

I will be open and accessible to openSUSE members and the community. I will remain positive and highlight all the good in the project and the people within it. I will make a concerted effort to improve training and empowering users to learn, grow and own their hardware through openSUSE and it’s tools. As a board member, I will do my best to network with the right individuals to bring about further improvements to the project. I will make it a point to uplift and edify the many contributors and make sure they know how grateful I am, along with the community for their time and talents. I want to ensure that openSUSE is the open, welcoming and grateful community of which to be a part.

Whether I am elected to the board or not, this entire process is a win for me. I am thrusting myself in front of the openSUSE community and in this process, I hope to get to know as many of the wonderful contributors as possible. My hope is that I become more known so that I may better contribute to documentation and make working with openSUSE even more enjoyable and individually empowering for all.

One thing people would find interesting about me that is not well known

I have not made it a secret that I am a fan of old tech and especially Commodore. As a teenager, I made a game for the Amiga in the 1990s called Gator Mania. It is a 2D platform side scrolling game. I spent well over a year programming in AMOS Professional where I had to create my own method of displaying the screen tiles with the limited graphics memory, created my own file format for the game levels, and wrote a level builder. I did the pixel art (with the help of an artist friend), character animation and for the time, created the best (in my opinion) character physics for what I believe to be very good playability. The only area I didn’t improve enough was the frame rate. I wanted to do more with the game but the Amiga, thanks to Commodore’s mismanagement and perhaps some other things, fizzled out on me and I sort of moved away from the platform.

Contact information

email

me@CubicleNate

futureboy@opensuse.org

IRC

CubicleNate on Freenode or irc.geekshed.net

Telegram

https://t.me/CubicleNate

Webpage

CubicleNate.com

Twitter

CubicleNate on Twitter

Also accessible on Discord and Matrix @CubicleNate

Further Reading

https://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Board_election
User Page on openSUSE Wiki with Contributions

Logitech K400+ Keyboard Water Spill Repair

One of the big life enhancements I have had in the last few years was mounting a computer in the Kitchen above the sink. I realized that there is an inherent hazard in mixing electronics and kitchen activities but I maintain a strong belief that this can also be a very beneficial mix. Having openSUSE available to me, with all its application and reliability goodness has been a life-enhancer for the kitchen.

The Accident

Whilst cleaning dishes in the kitchen one day, I was overcome with excitement about something I had seen on the computer and without thinking transitioned my wet, dishwater-soapy hands right from the sink to the keyboard and thoroughly saturated the K400+. Realizing what I had done I grabbed a towel and to no success, I tried to dry the thing off. I let the keyboard dry for a few days, having it placed in front of a fan for a portion of that and there was still no improvement. I did try it again a few weeks later, same problem of multiple keys being sensed when one key was pressed. This would not do.

Instead of fixing it right away, sort of considering it a lost cause, put it on my pile of broken things to get to it at another time. In the intermediary time, I decided to use this old full sized Apple keyboard. This was from the iMac G5 era of machines, Clear base that acts like a tray to collect all kinds of debris. Really, a terrible design but was cool back in the day, I suppose. The short USB Cable on the keyboard was causing a continual increase in frustration. That combined with the keys are a lot heavier to push than the broken Logitech keyboard was so when typing, I would often not properly press a key completely and have to fix my error.

I continued using this keyboard, though its function had been as an emergency or special project keyboard. They kitchen computer was in no way a special project but I had been using it in an emergency fashion for far too long. I missed the wireless capability a lot and the handy touch pad was also not there for me to quickly scroll and click to something.

After recording an episode of DLN Xtend, I decided it was time to disassemble the thing and see if I could fix it. I have seen many retro computer keyboard repairs on YouTube where the keyboards would have been considered a lost cause by most and they were successful, what is really the difference, outside of them being experts with success and me being one to more often break things then actually fix with success.

Disassembly

Despite my misuse and abuse of this keyboard, id still did (and does) look good and I did miss the feel of that rubber-dome, laptop-style keyboard.

I brought the keyboard to my workbench and gathered my tools. Not much was needed a screwdriver and a triangular plastic case opening tool as this keyboard was likely to have many snaps that are just waiting to be broken.

The screws that hold this together are on the bottom with a total of nine screws that keep this together. Three of the nine screws are hidden. Two under the rubber feet at the backside of the keyboard and one under a sticker with the serial number. There are numerous ways to remove the foot pads, tweezers, flat-head screw driver, fingernails if they are long enough, just be careful not to get the sticky side dirty.

Using the plastic case separator tool, I pried keyboard apart, fully expecting the keys to explode all over the place. Surprisingly, they are nicely retained in the top half of the case. Below the keys sits a silicon like rubber pad. Below the rubber pad is what looks like mylar with a lot of traces or circuits somehow etched, perhaps printed in the surface.

Using isopropyl alcohol cleaned the top of it and I could test the keys by pressing on the circles upon which the keys would normally push down through the rubber domes. I was still getting odd results. Pressing the “J” key would print “je” on the screen and so forth. I cleaned several times, getting slightly more aggressive with no success at each subsequent test.

I could see a reddish-brown discoloration on the mylar and the isopropyl was seemingly not successful in removing it. I was about ready to give up when I made a closer observation of the mylar and noticed there were layers. There were, in fact, three layers which then made it evident as to how this keyboard works.

This answered my question on how this particular keyboard works. When the key presses the top layer of mylar, closes the gap and makes contact with the bottom layer of mylar.

I was also able to easily clean what discoloration remained. I very carefully, with a synthetic towel and isopropyl, cleaned the layers of mylar taking great care in not wrinkling anything or rub too hard. When complete, I held the bits apart to allow the solvent to dry before testing once again.

Still leaving the silicon rubber dome layer off, I tested the key presses with success. Next I set the silicon rubber layer down, and tested the key presses, again with success. At this point, I am feeling pretty excited and took the top half of the keyboard case, pressed it down firmly to allow the snaps to engage and gave the keyboard a full test. Surprisingly, all the keys worked as expected. It was a successful repair!

Final Thoughts

Many of my repairs do not go well. I would say I have about a 40% success rate of first time go with things. That actually might be a bit generous, as sometimes, I have to fix things a few times before it sticks. This is something I should have fixed months ago. My fingers are so relieved to not to have to hammer down on that old Apple keyboard and also to not have to keep it on top of the coffee maker to use. I have freedom to roam about my small kitchen once again. I must, however, be more careful as to not mix dirty, soapy dishwater and the keyboard again. I don’t want to have to perform this fix again.

Reference

Logitech K400+ Keyboard
openSUSE.org Home
Linux in the Kitchen | Life Enhancement Blathering

Bpytop on openSUSE | Terminal

I recently published an article about how great Bashtop is on openSUSE, and when I was nearly done with it, I was told about Bpytop. Since I was going through the final edit, I didn’t just want to dump what I did before but rather, follow it up with Bpytop. I am not sure how far behind the curve I am now and maybe there is something even cooler out there but before anyone tells me what the latest hotness is in terminal, system monitoring applications, I am feverishly writing about this

What is so great about Bpytop?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, and you have previously enjoyed Bashtop, Bpytop is going to send tingles of joy down your finger tips. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

At the time of writing, the two ways you can go about installing bpytop is installing the snap or directly installing the application using PyPi. I opted for the PyPi method this time. Within the terminal enter this to install or upgrade.

pip3 install bpytop --upgrade

Once installed, a simple entering of bpytop in the terminal will start the application in all it’s splendor.

This should work for all distributions of Linux but there are other installation options here:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bpytop

Features

For starters, there are three viewing modes, for your pleasure, with Bpytop. Full, the only option in Bashtop, Proc, shows CPU and process table, and Stat, which just shows graphs and current statistics of the CPUs, Memory, Disks and network.

Much of what you expect from bashtop is here but there are a few additions and changes have been made that are very welcome enhancements. For starters the remaining battery indicator.

Running this on my Plasma desktop it is not a critical addition under normal use but I can think of several other situations where this would be valuable to have in the terminal. It’s a nice addition.

The CPU view was mostly the same, no real changes here. The biggest change is Core being replaced by “C” for each core. Presumably to reduce wasted space. Personally, I am fine with either notation. I still think this is the best use of the top of the display layout. The interesting bits of information concerning the CPU like frequency, load average, and load per core as well as temperature.

The disk display is improved with having disk activity indicators by partition. At a glance, that makes this section far more useful. There is a lot of value in this for numerous reasons. This is a splendid addition to this system monitor and I must say, my favorite change from Bashtop.

I am on the fence about the change to the memory graph look. By simply pressing “g”, you can change from graph to to bars quite nicely.

The Swap memory / partition is by default in the disks section but by pressing “s”, Swap will appear with the rest of the memory section. I prefer it with memory but I see the logic in having it with the rest of the disk space.

The network section of Bpytop has some fantastic enhancements. The most exciting feature here is the network adapter selection. Pressing “b” and “n” will cycle through the different interfaces on the system.

The process table has a few additional features. Like before you can filter the process list by pressing “f” but now you can look at process by core, or in a tree of processes. There is certainly a lot of utility in that capability.

Just as before you can interact with the processes by killing them and what not.

Bpytop has a menu much like Bashtop pressing “M” will bring to to it. The coloring is a bit different but the menu is largely the same with the fancy lettering and such. Also, note: “m” changes the display mode”

There are a lot more options than before. So many, in fact that it has to be broken up into multiple pages. Many of these options are able to be triggered in the view mode, such as Swap preferences. If you do not like the Color theme, for whatever reason, there are options there too. Three viewing modes are available in Bpytop. Full is my preference but if you just want processes, or stats, that is also available.

I have taken some note on system resource usage and it appears that Bashtop uses less memory but Bpytop uses fewer CPU resources. I do want to make sure I make it clear that I am not using a very thorough analysis process to determine this.

The “Help” menu item give you a list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. There are a lot more commands in Bpytop than there were in Bashtop. The new toggles are identified in this list which is helpful for those new to this application.

Overall Bpytop has very similar visual characteristics to Bashtop. There is a bit more polish to Bpytop and the interface is more responsive. The fading of process list is very slick which again makes the application feel a lot more like a graphical utility than a terminal based one. Like Bashtop, Bpytop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, that is more aesthetically pleasing and the interaction significantly improved.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, Bpytop is super handy and may even be considered, super FUN. The interactions with your system through this application are notably enhanced. The layout modes, memory graphs and disk activity are phenomenal features that, if nothing else, are fun to watch.

What I Like

Bpytop cleverly uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to almost suspend the idea that you are in a text only terminal. It certainly gives the impression the possibility that it is a grpahically driven tool. Bpytop is a very modern looking and incredibly useful application that has a high level of refinement to it.

The multiple display modes of this application is done very well which has likely been established through a user feedback mechanism. The three modes of Full, Proc and Stat adjust the panes for the purpose that best suits your requirements. Though I prefer the full, filling the terminal window with just the system statistics looks pretty great.

The menu system in Bpytop, like Bashtop, is superb. There is so much to adjust and dig into on this application. The “help” screen is also very informative and necessary until you get used to what each keystroke does. Having it tied to “h” and “F1” makes accessing it intuitive as well.

What I Don’t Like

Bpytop is not as light on resources as top or htop but I truly believe that it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience and value of information. I respect the argument for just using top to get a quick terminal snapshot but the user interface of Bpytop is much more intuitive and accessible.

This is not a big deal as one quick terminal command and it is installed but Bpytop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repositories. I think this should be standard fair on openSUSE because of how awesome it is.

Final Thoughts

Not long after becoming aware of Bashtop, I was presented with Bpytop and before all this fancy new terminal goodness came to me, was happy enough using htop. My terminal world has changed. The bar has been raised and the terminal has become even more fun. Where were applications like this just a few short years ago? I am very thankful for the creative expression in the terminal applications of today. Bpytop is a fantastic application, terminal or not and I highly recommend anyone give this is a try and tell me what they think of it. This again underscores that Linux and open source software is simply brilliant!

References

Bpytop from Github
Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal