Distracted by LeoCAD Once Again on openSUSE Linux

LeoCAD-01-Title

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

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

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

/usr/share/leocad/

The parts library can be found here.

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

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

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

Designing

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

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

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

Blacktron Combining Options

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

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

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

Invader Crane Mode-17-Module

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

https://www.leocad.org

LeoCAD Parts Library

LeoCAD | Free LEGO® CAD Software on openSUSE Linux

Rebrickable.com

CubicleNate MOCs

Blacktron on LEGO Fandom.com

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Sabayon Linux | Review From an openSUSE User

Sabayon review title.png

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

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

Installation

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

Sabayon-01-boot install

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabayon-20-Firewall

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

Sabayon Linux Home Page

BigDaddyLinux.com

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dolphin | My File Manager of Choice on openSUSE

Dolphin File Manager

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

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

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

Scope of this Blathering

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

Briefly About Dolphin

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

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

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

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

Top Five Fantastic Features

1. The Interface

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

Dolphin-01

2. Split Windows.

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

Dolphin-02-Split

3. Filter Bar

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

Dolphin-05-Filter

4. Search Function

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

Dolphin-04-Search

5. Terminal

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

Dolphin-03-Split with Terminal

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

More about Dolphin from KDE.org

BigDaddyLinux Show on File Managers

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

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

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

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

Installation

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

sudo zypper install -t pattern gnome

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

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

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

Scope of Evaluation

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

Overall Experience

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

Gnome-04-System Settings Notification

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

Gnome with Dolphin File Manager

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

BigDaddyLinux Live Show on Gnome

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dell Latitude E6440

Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE

Bitwarden Logo

Password managers are all the rage these days, I guess… I haven’t ever been compelled to try as the password manager I have been using, my shoddy memory, has been working alright for me. The reality is, I have a lot more passwords to remember now and for those passwords I don’t use as frequently, I have to guess at it a few times before I get it… and that is just not a good look.

I have heard rave reviews about several different password manager solutions, waited until I heard more about them and was scared off but recently the rumble of Bitwarden, an open source, free but with a premium paid option came to my awareness. The option to roll your own is a huge deal for me, even if I don’t actually ever roll my own server,

Installation

Bitwarden has several options for installation. I selected to download the AppImage. It should be noted that Your organization my vary but I have a designated AppImage folder for all my AppImages. Once you download it, make sure it is executable. Using Dolphin or your favorite file manager, access the properties and make it executable.

It should be noted that you can download Bitwarden for Windows and Mac OS as well. Not that those mater as much. There is are Deb, RPM and Snap options as well, if you so choose but it should be noted that Deb and RPM don’t have the ability to auto update.

I installed the Firefox Extension so that I could use Bitwarden in a more “seemless” fashion. If I could install Bitwarden on Falkon, I would but at this time, I am not sure how that would be accomplished. Supposedly there is some QML thing in the works but at this time, it is not obvious to me.

It should be noted that Firefox gives you a couple ways to use it. There is a side bar and a drop-down tool. I prefer the drop-down tool as the sidebar tool isn’t as easily turned on and off.

Features

The most commonly used method of using a password manager is automatically through a plugin on a browser. From the different sites I tested it out, it works well. I have tried it on a few sites and when I had input the password I was asked if I wanted Bitwarden to store the login information. Upon returning to that site it did indeed work as expected.

Bitwarden-02-Firefox Plugin.png

An interesting bonus is that you can add any number of notes to a saved password. You could perhaps put the other related notes about your password, or maybe not even have your password at all but a series of hints about your password if you are so paranoid.

Manual Password entry since I often use Falkon instead of Firefox or Chrome and there is not a Bitwarden browser extension available, I will use the Bitwarden in the stand alone mode and do a manual copy and paste into the browser. Although this takes a bit longer to use it’s better than nothing.

An interesting feature built into Bitwarden is a Password Generator. This allows you to generate a random password based on a few factors you set. I am not sure that I would use this feature as it would be me dependent on Bitwarden or some kind of index of passwords to keep things straight.

Bitwarden-02-Password Generator

An interesting feature I think I just may consider using is Identity Entry. I often have to go chasing around for my License or passport number for something but I could potentially put all this information here instead of just some text file on my drive.

Bitwarden-04-Identity.png

You can use Bitwarden for a a place to store all your credit card information. I suppose this could be a better way to store your credit card information as opposed to individual sites. You will have to ask yourself what you trust more, merchant’s web site or an encrypted vault. I think I know which one I trust more.

Another interesting feature in Bitwarden is Secure Notes. I am not exactly sure the intended purpose but I thought I would play around with it anyway. I don’t know if I would use it for my grocery list… not anything real secret about buying ground beef

Bitwarden-05-Secret Note.png

The last area I wanted to look at was not a feature but how much memory does the application use. I believe that the stand alone application is an electron based application and after a few tests of running it and shutting it down, the memory usage varied between 282 MiB and 334 MiB. Depending on how much you value your security will dictate if that amount of overhead is worth it to you. Personally, I think it is worth it on my primary system to have at the ready.

What I Like

The user interface is intuitive, you don’t have to spend any time going through manuals or researching how to instructions on utilizing Bitwarden. It is truly modern and straight forward.

It has a dark theme that integrates very nicely into my desktop’s Breeze Dark theme. It’s not exact, but close enough to not annoy me. It would be nice to have it match exactly but I am not going to be too picky.

A feature I didn’t know I would need but am glad is there is the ability to make folders for your different passwords or notes. The idea here is, you could keep a folder of all your financial passwords, your work password and different hobbies. A nice separation and it keeps things tidy.

Another great feature that I didn’t know I wanted is the ability to put notes with the password information. I can see me using this as such that there are some institutions I log into has additional bits of information outside of your password like your hobbies, your first car, etc. Those answers could very easily be added below in a notes section. This is a pretty fantastic feature, really as you can add all kinds of useful bits of information about the site in a convenient, “secure” container.

Updates seem to be automatic with the AppImage, I was surprised as can be about it too. First time I’ve ever seen an AppImage update itself.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t have a way to integrate Bitwarden into my primary browser of choice, but I really didn’t expect it. It does mean that if I am going to use Bitwarded, integrated into a browser, I will have to use Firefox or possibly Chrome / Chromium.

The memory usage does seem a bit on the high side but it is not a “strain” on my main system, it does make me think twice about using it on low specification systems.

Final Thoughts

After using this application for some time, I have decided that I am going to use this for managing my passwords. It is easy enough to use and the features I require are not that complex. I am also signing up for the Premium version, not because I need the premium features but because I want to support the project and feel good about using it.

Bitwarden works very well within openSUSE using the AppImage. That AppImage will also auto update which was a surprise to me. There is an RPM download for openSUSE from Bitwarden but does not have an Auto update ability… which does seem puzzling but whatever. It is also available for the other operating systems I don’t really care about.

There are many opinions about what is the best security practice, a mix of alphabetic characters with numbers and symbols or using a string of nonsensical words strung together with a smattering of numbers and symbols. Regardless of what your assessment is of “best practice” using Bitwarden is certainly a widely accepted method of storing and maintaining passwords and identities that has increased security yet remains accessible.

Further Reading

https://bitwarden.com/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

Salient OS | Review from an openSUSE User

SalientOS review title

Salient OS is the first Arch based distribution that I put any significant time into. Salient takes the heavy lifting out of Arch. The value of not building your own Arch system and using somebody else’s assembly can be debated but that is outside of the scope of this review. I am looking at this from my biased perspective as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user, another rolling release. Could I use Salient OS long term? Perhaps but what am I gaining? I am not sure.

This review was initiated as a BigDaddyLinux distro challenge. I am perfectly happy with my choice of openSUSE. I am just dabbling around to learn and experiment because, why not? Linux is a fun thing.

Installation

Installation of Salient OS is surprisingly easy. There isn’t an option to install it from boot but you can boot into a live media version of Salient and kick the tires before you commit to an installation.

SalientOS-01

My initial impression is, the desktop looks fantastic, it is themed just right and the wallpaper is pretty fantastic. I don’t know what it is from but it is visually quite interesting.

SalientOS-02-Desktop

Since I am not a fan of testing things out in the live media mode, I wanted to install it but there wasn’t an icon on the desktop to begin the installation so I searched for it in the menu. Which, by the way, it should be noted that the this is a great menu.

SalientOS-03-menu

Once I found the installer, by searching for “Installer”

Upon launching it, the welcome screen gave me a warning about my hardware, I paused for just a moment, but just continued anyway. It should be noted, I didn’t have any issues on my time with Salient OS. Next I set the location.

Next was the keyboard selection. It defaulted the proper keyboard which was welcoming. The partitioning, not my preference for the default but it seems to be more and more common, regardless of the benefits, I still prefer the default of a separate partition.

Next was setting the user information and finally a summary. Not a whole lot of options, perhaps a good thing since I am unfamiliar with Arch, this is likely a good thing.

The install process was pretty quick. There was a point at around 20% where it seemed like the installation stalled but the disk an CPU activity told me that it was indeed working hard.

Once the Installation was complete, I wanted to reboot immediately to see what I can do with this fresh installation.

First Run

The Grub bootloader is among the best I have ever seen. It sets the mood right from the beginning. This isn’t a bright, eye stabbing, desktop, this desktop respects light discipline.

SalientOS-13-Grub Boot

The login screen was a bit of a puzzle to me, not a big deal, no worse than having to press ctrl+alt+delete to log into Windows, in this case, I just had to click on the robot image for my user name to appear.

SalientOS-14-Login Screen.png

The desktop appeared just as it had before and I saw that there were updates. Having heard the horror stories of Arch updates, I wanted to see how it would go for me. I know that Arch does require a bit of vigilance on ensuring it stays up to date and this was a fresh install so there should be no problems.

SalientOS-16-Updates

Authentication for completing the update was required, probably a good idea with Arch updates.

SalientOS-17-Update Authentication

I appreciate how verbose the update process is. I can see not only what is being updated but what the version changes are. That is a very welcomed bit of information and appeals to my geek core.

SalientOS-18-Upgrade Process

I did get one warning but it didn’t see it as being anything significant.

SalientOS-19-Upgrade Notification

I closed the window after the transaction successfully finished and rebooted the system. Everything came back just as I would expect.

SalientOS-20-Upgrade Successful

This update didn’t fail, but if I let Arch go too long (which I will test) without upgrading, I am to understand that this could be a problem. I am going to put it through a similar test I put Tumbleweed through, just to see.

Interestingly, both Firefox and Chromium are installed by default. I am sure there are arguments against having multiple browsers initially installed but I have no problem with this and in a way, that is kind of a reoccurring theme in this distribution; Options.

SalientOS-21-Firefox

This is the first distribution I have seen that has OpenShot installed by default. I find that fascinating.

SalientOS-22-OpenShot

You are also given Kdenlive to play around with, keeping in line with this idea of Options with this distribution.

SalientOS-23-Kdenlive

Options don’t end there, either.

My impression of this distribution is that it looks like a work of high-energy art encapsulated in pleasant, modern, dark themed wrapper. The window decorations are almost electric in appearance with brilliant high contrast widgets in a pleasantly dark and slightly translucent frame. The desktop effects are clean and simple and it all just looks like it is absolutely not Xfce… but it is. It really gives me pause to think how wrong the notion is that Xfce is not a modern desktop when this clearly demonstrates that Xfce can in fact be morphed into something as modern looking as Plasma or Gnome.

This distribution is packed with all the gaming and gaming related applications of which I am aware. It has Steam and Lutris installed by default which essentially covers the entire gambit of gaming on Linux.

Salient OS is also packed with content creation software, Open Broadcaster Studio, SimpleScreenRecorder, Kdenlive and OpenShot for video related creation. Audacity and LMMS for Audio production. Graphic creation has Blender for 3D modeling, Darktable, Gimp and Inkscape.

For writing to a USB drive, SUSE Imagewriter is bundled by default, which is absolutely my favorite tool.

What I Like

Right out of the gate, this distribution has all the gaming applications, graphics editing, video editing and pretty much all the great, high profile applications are bundled in here. No searching or installing a long list of applications to get up and running.

The desktop is super nice looking. I am most accustomed to seeing a dark theme with green or blue accents but this one, instead has orange accents. It is a nice departure from the norm. It should also be noted that this is a very fine display of how Xfce can be configured to look slick and modern.

The settings panel in Salient is well done. It is pretty common now for the controls to be consolidated, which is appreciated, some are better than others and this one is pretty great.

What I Don’t Like

Due to my desktop layout bias, I prefer the desktop have the panel on the bottom. I can deal with it on the top or the side but you don’t get two sides. The desktop would be a lot more functional if you had the panel at the bottom with the quick launch icons embedded. Although the bottom panel is covered up on full screen, I just don’t understand the appeal. I know this is configurable and I am quite possibly just an old curmudgeon that likes my desktop a certain way.

The Firewall is installed but off by default. Not my preferred default behavior but probably the easiest for inexperienced users to have it get along with their home network… which seems in contrast to what an Arch distribution expects from its users.

Xfce is a generally nice looking desktop but GTK just doesn’t look as good as Qt, at least, GTK does a much poorer job of integrating Qt apps in a GTK environment than the other way around. There are configuration controls included in Salient OS but it just doesn’t have that level of integration that you see from Plasma.

Final Thoughts

SalientOS is a distribution that is truly built for gaming enthusiasts. It looks fantastic, works well and basically has all the necessary applications for gamers and content creators baked in and ready to be used. I have heard this argument against having too many applications included and getting the term “bloated” thrown around. I actually think that is kind of a silly argument. If there is something you don’t want, it is easy to just remove the application and if you want to go more minimal and build up from there, just go with Arch proper. Salient rolls everything up and gets you from zero to operational in short order with no fiddling around.

If you want to try out Arch but are a bit intimidated with the technical expertise required to get it going, this is a fine choice and I don’t see how you could be wrong in trying it. Personally, I don’t see the benefits of Arch outweigh the benefits I have in openSUSE Tumbleweed, but the fine compilation of software and sensible defaults of Salient OS certainly nips at the heels of openSUSE.

Further Reading

https://bigdaddylinux.com/

Salient OS on SourceForge

pfSense Box Setup for Home or Small Office

A piece of hardware that is often overlooked in many homes and businesses is the the “edge device” or often just called a router. Many Internet providers will supply their own edge device. This is the first line of defense from those that would do you harm from the Internet to your home or business. I look at it as your first line of security to protect yet give you access to the machines or devices on your network.

I have two reasons for setting up a pfSense box. Since I have heard great things about it, I wanted to try it for myself on my own network to give me confidence to set it up for use in a small office setting. Nothing too large, just a moderate size.

Hardware

I had to start with an adequate piece of hardware to run pfSense. Since it requires a 64 bit system, I am using one of my newly inherited Dell Optiplex 745 machines. As far as specifications go, it is at the bottom end of the recommended specifications to run pfSense but the plan for this isn’t anything real intense.

Specs That Matter

  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 6300 @ 1.86Ghz
  • 2.0 GB of DDR2 SDRAM
  • 160 GiB HDD

 

Since this machine only comes equipped with a single Ethernet port, I had to purchase a half-height Gigabit Ethernet adapter to put in the one available PCI slot in this machine. The slot will only accept a PCI or PCI-X card which was actually more difficult to find than I originally anticipated. Full height, easy, half height, not so much.

ethernet card 1 gb

This particular unit came with two plate options. Changing out the plate consisted of removing two screw, separating the plate from the card and replacing it with the other plate. There wasn’t a bit of complexity to it.

 

The machine has one PCI slot in it but there was a card with a COM port and PS/2 port on a card attached via ribbon cable to the main board that had to be removed first. I inserted the card, started it up and jumped in the BIOS to make sure it was recognized.

ethernet registered in pci slot

Since it was recognized, I was ready to move on to the software portion of this little tech adventure.

There really wasn’t much to do in configuring the hardware. The only major change I made to the configuration, outside of adding the second Ethernet card was to ensure that the machine would boot upon being powered. This is assuming that should the machine loses power due to power failure, it will boot upon power being restored.

Downloading the Software

From the pfSense download page I chose the AMD64 memstick version to put on a Dell Optiplex 745. It should be noted that the memstick version cannot be written using SUSE Studio Imagewriter. For more information on writing images:

https://www.netgate.com/docs/pfsense/hardware/writing-disk-images.html

Conduct Checksum on the Downloaded Image

Since the the time of installation, the version I downloaded to install was: pfSense-CE-memstick-2.4.4-RELEASE-p1-amd64.img.gz. The key point here is it is the amd64 version to correspond with my hardware.

Next I downloaded the corresponding sha256 file from here so that I could do the appropriate checksum action and ensure that it is a good download. I have noticed on most sites, it seems as though that is just an expected understanding without much explanation, outside of the openSUSE download page, that is.

I Put the downloads in the same folder and ran this:

sha246sum -c  pfSense-CE-memstick-2.4.4-RELEASE-p1-amd64.img.gz.sha256

The response was:

pfSense-CE-memstick-2.4.4-RELEASE-p1-amd64.img.gz: OK

Which means that it was good to go. I haven’t seen anything other than OK so I couldn’t tell you what it’s like to not have an OK. Then either your image or the sha256 is not right and need to be downloaded again.

Writing to USB Drive

The instructions recommended erasing the disk partition table before writing. I haven’t done this step before writing to a flash drive but who am I to argue with the developers?

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX bs=1M count=1

In my case, the drive is sdd, be very, VERY careful to not wipe out any of your other drives so pay close attention to what you are doing. To find out what the device name is of your USB drive, insert the drive into a USB port and run in terminal

dmesg

Look for the latest entry corresponding to the USB device you just plugged in. It should read /dev/sdb or something of that nature. If you are unsure, ask somebody. There are plenty of helpful folks out there. Feel free to contact me directly and I’ll do my best to help you out.

The next thing to do is to install the image onto the USB drive.

sudo gzip -dc ./pfSense-CE-memstick-2.4.4-RELEASE-p1-amd64.img.gz | sudo dd of=/dev/sdX bs=1M

Replace /dev/sdX with the appropriate drive identification. Also note the version of pfSense is a moving target, so an exact copy from above is probably not going to be valid for long.

Installation

The installation is very straight forward on pfSense. Just like any Linux distribution, once you have it on the USB media, and the machine boots from the drive, follow the directions. In this case, I am getting a warning about my system battery voltage which I will address later. Once it boots into a nice ASCII art menu, select 1 to Boot Multi User, which is default.

On a kind of funny note, the legal notice, pfSense is a federally registered trademark of Electric Sheep Fencing LLC.” I’d like the background story on that LLC name. After you accept you are given 3 options. Install being the key option here.

Next you will set the keymap and you will be asked how you would like to partition your disk. I chose to use the Guided Disk Setup because it’s my first time and this is a reasonable course of action.

Since I have no reason to use the disk for anything but pfSense, it was reasonable to select to use the entire disk. Graciously, you are warned that this will erase the disk and wants a confirmation to proceed.

Next you are asked for the partition scheme of which I chose MBR as this is “Bootable on most x86 systems. You are then given another opportunity to review the disk setup and make any modificaitons. Since I have no experience with pfSense and altering any preferences. I left the defaults be.

Once you select Finish you are given one final warning to Commit with a clear warning of your actions.

The installation will proceed, first, “fetching” the distribution files than extracting them.

After the installation is complete you are asked if you want to make any further changes, the selection defaulted to No so I just proceeded from there and rebooted.

I was again reminded about my low voltage system battery before the boot screen to which the default works perfectly.

The boot process is much like what I am used to seeing in Linux so it was interesting to watch and see the slightly different syntax.

On the initial boot, you are given a series of questions to define the interfaces. One which faces the scary internet (WAN), and the other that faces the internal network (LAN). The first question is to set up VLANs, I have no need for such a thing so I entered, N.

Next I selected the interface I wanted to be the WAN. Since I know the hardware I installed, I selected the appropriate NIC. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter on this setup. If I had more than one NIC for the LAN, that would change things.

Next, I set up the LAN and confirmed the configuration.

When that is complete, it will write the configuration to disk.

When the configuration was completed, I decided I wanted to change the LAN side IP address. This can be done by selecting 2. You are then asked which interface you want to configure, in my case, the LAN is option 2.

I set the IP address then the subnet mask per my network preference.

I didn’t set an IPv6 address because… why? Then the DHCP Range. In my case 192.168.10.51 to 192.168.10.200. 150 DHCP addresses is more than enough for my purposes… for now.

pfSense will ask if you want to reroute the webConfigurator protocol, which YES to that seems like the most reasonable answer. Then you will be dumped back into the main menu.

I reset the Admin password for the webConfigurator, mostly because I didn’t remember setting it to begin with and wanted to get into it.

pfSense-37-Reset webConfigurator Password

My first order of business when logging in to the web configuration utility was to change the theme to a dark theme. I just don’t care for how light the default theme is. Of course, this is just my personal preference.

pfSense-41-Dark Theme

That’s it, you now have a functional pfSense box, but there was one more bit if business in order to be satisfied with the system. Local DNS name resolution.

Configuring DNS

A feature that is absolutely required for me is the ability to have local hostname resolution within my network. All my machines are named something I can remember so I can easily access them ussing SSH for remote access or file transfer. It is not quite as straight forward to do in pfSense as it is with DD-WRT but here are the resources I used to figure it out:

https://www.netgate.com/docs/pfsense/dns/dns-forwarder.html

https://www.netgate.com/docs/pfsense/dns/unbound-dns-resolver.html

There was some fiddling to get it to go but here are the take aways:

pfSense-40-Disable DNS Forwarder

On the General Setup page, you have to Uncheck Disable DNS Forwarder. Save your changes. Then navigate to Services > DNS Forwarder.

pfSense-39-DNS Forwarder

There you need to Enable DNS forwarder and Register DHCP leases in DNS Forwarder. Be sure to save the changes. If not you will have to repeat your steps.

I was able to test that the local DNS name resolution worked as I would expect and was thrilled that something I touched actually worked and without banging my head against the wall.

pfSense-38-Testing Network

Adding a Wireless Access Point

A working edge device is great but who wires anything up these days? I had to put in a wireless access point. I took the previous edge device my Linksys E2000 and set the device to DHCP Forward to the IP address of the pfSense box. I plugged the ethernet port from the switch into one of the LAN (not the WAN) port of the E2000 and it worked as expected. You can turn the WAN port to be on the same VLAN within the Linksys E2000 but that is a discussion for another blathering or you can search that one out yourself.

Final Thoughts

pfSense is a really quite easy to set up and use. I will say,the hardest part of the project is writing the installation media. I have power cycled and added other users as administrators and it all works fantastically well. This truly is a fine BSD based operating system distribution.

If you have home or office networking requirements that a consumer grade edge device cannot handle, this is a low cost way of implementing one. I didn’t end up using this device for my house. After using it, I saw a greater need for this to be at my church and I ended up using IPFire for home, which is also quite good but I think in many ways, pfSense is a more polished and professional product and possibly better suited for a larger environment. I am not a network professional so take that opinion for what it’s worth.

This project has spurred on a few other future projects for the network in which it sits. More to come on that.

Further Reading

https://www.netgate.com/docs/pfsense/hardware/writing-disk-images.html

https://files.pfsense.org/hashes/

https://www.pfsense.org/download/

Flashing Linksys E2000 Router with DD-WRT

IPFire | Open Source, Linux based, Firewall, Install and Configuration

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the news about the first stable release of Plasma in 2019, version 5.15.0, released on 12 February 2019. It came to openSUSE Tumbleweed a few days later and a few days after that, I started updating my various systems running Tumbleweed. I am not going to cover all the changes and improvements, there is plenty of that available to read. Instead, this is my experience with the upgrade process on the first three Tumbleweed machines.

My primary machine isn’t generally first to get the latest updates, because I am using it nearly all the time so I will begin the updates on other machines, incidentally, all of which are Dell. The first machine that I performed the updates is a Dell Latitude E6440. There isn’t a whole lot of software on this one as it’s primary focus is for educational related activities. There aren’t any community repositories on this machine so the update required no intervention at all. The next machine, a Dell Inspiron 20 3048, does do a lot for me but doesn’t have too many community maintained repositories. It too went without incident. Lastly, my primary machine, also a Dell Latitude E6440 but with more memory, storage and a dedicated AMD GPU.

This machine has quite a bit of software on it. I do try things out but I don’t always remove the applications or community maintained repositories. It took it as an opportunity to start trimming out some additional repositories, thankfully, zypper makes that process easy. My primary machine was trimmed down to 36 repositories. Then I performed the update.

sudo zypper dup

Zypper ran through, did its thing, asked me about a couple python packages an one package I installed that I already knew was “broken” by not having a dependency. After Zypper calculated everything out and I agreed to the update. Just as every other Tumbleweed update goes, this one proceeded without incident.

All three machines had but only one small issue. They didn’t want to leave Plasma to reboot, specifically, selecting “reboot” or “halt” and even “logout” did not actually perform those actions, Instead, I ran in terminal:

sudo systemctl reboot

There may be a better way of doing a reboot, if you are aware of such, please let me know. A few moments later, the machine started up without incident and what I may be most excited about is that, everything still, just works.

KDE Plasma Upgrade 5.15.0 KInfoCenter

I did receive one pleasant surprise, my Bluetooth keyboard, for the first time communicated that it was low on power instead of just going unresponsive. I was able to see a “10% Warning” pop up notification. I thought that was pretty slick. I have been enjoying the status and warnings with wireless Logitech devices for years but this was the first for Bluetooth. Very well done.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is ever perfect but my experience with using openSUSE Tumbleweed has been pretty fantastic for the last two years. I don’t have to worry about an update breaking my system or crossing my fingers when the operating system base iterates to a new version. Not a single piece of software has broken or had any regressions. The two applications I check for issues, Kdenlive and the Open Broadcaster Studio, continue to work just the same. I experienced zero appreciable downtime with this update which is another tribute to all those involved with openSUSE, KDE Plasma and ever other application so many graciously pour their energy into and permitting me the use of this finely engineered, fantastic distribution of Linux.

Further Reading

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 Announcement

Tumbleweed Snapshots News Announcement for 21 February 2019

Makulu Linux 15 | Review from an openSUSE User

MakuluLinux review title

The latest in the BigDaddyLinux Community challenge is Makulu Linux. This distribution is very different from anything else I have used. It does use XFCE as the desktop but it is very customized. It some ways, it reminds me of Pantheon but without the top bar and less Mac OS-like.

Makulu Linux seems to have a lot going for it. Without having to fiddle around with the system, you can install from a large array of software from the Debian repositories, Flatpak and Snaps. As I used it, it is rather apparent that their target audience is not me and that is perfectly fine as this is my rather biased review as an openSUSE user.

Installation

As is common with a lot of distributions, Makulu boots to a live media session of the operating system. It’s a good way to “dip your toes” and see if your hardware is going to work well enough with the distribution.

MakuluLinux-01-ISO boot

While the system is booting up, I did notice, as the torrent of text is flying by the screen, a change in font. I think I’ve seen such a thing before, it just happened to catch my attention this time.

You are initially prompted to select your theme which is a first and quite appreciated. It only changes the window decoration style and color but still, very welcome. More on that later.

After I selected to install the operating system, I was prompted to select the kind of installation as well as a a few other options. I didn’t explore much here but one item on the list seemed just a bit out of place: Set Your Download Server Location (recommended). Everything else selected the type of install and it may have made more sense to put that option on another page of the setup. Also note, I didn’t actually do that. It only said “recommended” so…

I selected the Home Environment. I don’t have a slow internet connection so there was no concern in that area. Unfortunately, I was stuck for quite some time on the Home Environment Notice window. There weren’t any buttons to press so I waited… a long time. I had other things to do while setting up the install and since I like to multiplex my time I did so and let the system just sit. I was told to be patient so I decided to be patient.

After a while, I just gave up and closed the screen where the installer started. I felt a little stupid but I think for users that do actually read these dialogs, it would nice to either have a Next button or some sort of instruction to close that window.

Makulu Linux defaults to British English as opposed to American English. I would agree that British English is quite possibly more proper than American English but I still went with my native English version.

In a very familiar presentation, you are asked to set your Location and Keyboard. Just as a note, this is the first Distro where I had to set it to my timezone. Not a big deal as it was easy to do–point and click.

I selected to use the entire disk and have a Swap space with Hibernate. Not that I was going to use the feature, I just wanted to select it as it is also the first time I’ve seen that as an option. Usually, I calculate that in my head so bravo development team on that.

The User input is what you would expect. Nothing difficult here. It’s very nicely straight forward for pretty much anyone.

After you are given a very nice summary of changes. The installation will commence. There wasn’t a details option that I could nerd-out watching so I watched the obligatory distribution commercial slideshow instead.

After the installation was completed, I selected to reboot but it got hung up on the process of doing so. That could be as a result of how I set up Qemu. Let’s blame that one on me. Ultimately, I had to force the Virtual Machine off and start it again.

First Run

I really enjoyed the bootsplash screen of Makulu. It has a neat spinning effect and I would have included a screenshot of it but I just didn’t like how it turned out. You’ll just have to install it yourself to earn that smile.

Upon the first login, you are given a quick introduction to MakuluLinux and you will once again select your window boarder style and color. The first time was just a practice run, it seems.

In my time of clicking around and exploring, I was presented with these Web applets. Similar to what I experience on PeppermintOS except instead of being in the menu like a typical application, this is like a quick access toolbar on the top of the screen. It was nice and all until I opened up the browser, which happened to be Opera.

I of course had to visit one of my favorite web sites, certainly not my favorite but just a bit self-serving. After messing with the Web Applet bar for a while, seeing how you can easily set up other quick links, as it were, I ultimately turned it off because of how it covered up much of the screen.

The application menu on MakuluLinux is activated with a Right-Click on the mouse and a middle-click activates the Workspace selection. A nice feature of Makulu is the ability to dynamically add another virtual desktop.

I wanted to see if Makulu was using SystemD or not and it is so that is another plus. I started installing software to see how that experience went and that was also quite a seemless experience. You are given a few options on how you want to install software, which is fine, I guess, but I think I would stick with just the Synaptic Software Manager or Gnome Software. Personal preference would be Synaptic because I think that is just a better system over all but obviously less user friendly than Gnome Software.

The only real “issue” I ran into with Makulu was the this error I would get when the screen blanked out.

MakuluLinux-22-Screensaver error

I don’t have anything Nvidia on this computer so I am not sure where this came from. Not a big deal, really, I am sure I could have tracked down the problem and at least made it not show up if I took the time.

Overall, MakuluLinux is a fine piece of engineering and I enjoyed the short time I worked with it.

What I Like

The desktop does look polished, not exactly the polish I like but does look very nice. It appears that it was well thought out and once I got used to the work flow, I could navigate my way around just fine.

The desktop appears to be snappy and the slight translucency of the boarder looks good. The desktop Conky is also a great edition to the background and the date format was also correct putting the date in the order day, month, year and using the 24 hour clock by default.

Snap and Flatpak applications install and work out of the box without having to fiddle with anything which is much appreciated. I do prefer pulling software right from the repositories but the option to use one of the universal packages is fantastic.

I liked this subdued right-side bar that is much like a system tray stacked on its head. It looked good and was very “modern” looking.

A booted and settled system with 4 GiB of RAM it used less than 600 MiB of RAM, which was great.

What I Don’t Like

There isn’t a virtual desktop pager on the bottom bar or on the side. Call me old fashioned but I prefer that over the middle-click interaction. I like seeing, just by a glance what desktop I am on and where my windows are cluttered.

There isn’t really a task manager, exactly. I could see all the applications by a middle click and on what virtual desktop they lived but this is not my preferred method.

The web Applets crowd the top of the desktop. I like the idea of web applets but this wasn’t my favorite way to execute it. Because it was distractingly at the top, I just shut them off which is unfortunate because I could see me using such a feature if it was perhaps in a pop up menu from a panel of some kind, much like I use on Plasma.

When trying to resize windows, it was challenging to grab the corners to resize the window. Maybe there is a better MakuluLinux way of dynamically changing the window sizes but it was evident to me.

When I thought I started the installation process, I didn’t get any active feedback or any kind of instruction to close the a window to get it started. I ended up sitting there for about 2 hours before “giving up” I closed the window to get the installer going. Some sort of instruction to close that window or a Next button would be good for numpties like myself.

Final Thoughts

MakuluLinux is a fine distribution of Linux that looks good, has a lot of unique features but also clearly not targeted towards me. I much prefer the work flow that is provided by KDE Plasma but I can see where the workflow here works for many. The desktop looks great, I don’t fully understand the gestures but it is something I could get used to if I took the time.

If you are jumping around Linux distributions I highly recommend you give this one a spin. The work flow and the unique features may be right for you. It looks good and feels real crisp. It’s just not the Linux distribution for me.

Further Reading

https://www.makululinux.com/wp/core/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

PeppermintOS | Review from an openSUSE User

KDE Popup Launcher can replace Google Chrome App Launcher

Right-to-Left Script in LibreOffice using KDE Plasma on openSUSE

Text Icon

In case you have to mix right-to-left text into your documents and you aren’t sure how to make it happen, it is super easy to do with LibreOffice when running in concert with openSUSE with KDE Plasma as the desktop environment. You’ll have to check with your Desktop Environment for how to add additional keymaps and how to switch between them.

Instructions in Short Form

On KDE Plasma, open SystemSettings, select the Input Devices Module. Under the Keyboard sub-module, select the Layouts tab. In the Layouts Indicator, activate Show layout indicator and take note of Shortcut(s) for Switching Layout. In my case, it is Ctrl+Alt+K

Toggle the Configure layouts, then +Add the desired layout. From there, open the text editor of your choice, like LibreOffice and start typing away. Switch the layouts through either the indicator or the keyboard shortcut. You’ll be happily amazed by how well it works across multiple applications.

A Little Video to Demonstrate

Mostly as an excuse to play with Kdenlive and SimpleScreenRecorder, I made a video of how to do switch your layouts on the fly and write. Unfortunately, I don’t have the physical character layout on my keyboard and I was too lazy to figure it out and demonstrate a proper Arabic sentence.

Final Thoughts

One of the features I have enjoyed for many years working with the Linux and KDE [Plasma] has been the absolutely fantastic flexibility to allow me to get whatever work done that is required of me. I have had to use the switching keymaps on numerous occasions and the dynamic switching to those keymaps is absolutely a must. It’s just another way that Linux has made my life easier.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux

KDE Plasma

LibreOffice