Blatherings

New Life to Rock Candy Gamepad for PS3 | Another Repair

I am not one to just toss something when it is broken. I want to give every piece of equipment a shot at another life whenever possible. Somethings do have to go to the big recycler in the sky but not without some kind of fight at my end.

I couple years back when I thrusted myself into the foray of “modern” gaming, I purchased two of these “Rock Candy” Gamepads from a local retailer. This was for my first Steam Game purchase, River City Ransom: Underground. They worked quite well but having kids with passion bubbles very near the surface, gamepads have a tendency to go flying or falling from time to time.

After some time of play, one had a fall too many and the plastic broke that held the batteries in place on one controller. Within a week, the other decided it would no longer turn on. Both controllers were put away into storage, until yesterday.

My oldest son asked if they could be fixed and I suggested that we could take the board from one and put it in the body of the other. He said he wanted to do it. I supplied some tools, provided just a bit of guidance and my 8 year old took the screw driver to task. I guided him on disassembly and used a magnetic bowl to hold the screws so didn’t roll away.

When he started to put it together, he asked how to do it, to which I gave the proper fatherly advice, “just like taking it apart, but in reverse!” Surprisingly, that was enough. I just made sure that the Left and Right Bumpers PCBs was correctly placed. He knew what screws went where and placed everything just right.

I double checked the screws to ensure that they were all snugged up properly, popped in some batteries and we were off to the races. There is only just a bit of confusion now as the blue controller now goes to the green dongle.

In another proud moment, my boy turned to a SNES emulator and played Super Mario All-Stars. Those old games are still fun to play today, even for the youth, which is a testament to the fun-gineering of yeaster-year

Final Thoughts

Technology is certainly a fun thing to play with but it is so much more fun to pass on the joy of owning your technology to your kids. The amount of confidence my boy has earned through this exercise is worth far more than the cost of both of the controllers. I am hoping this sparks a flame for a passion for technology, not just in using but in creating and imagining new ways to use technology. I am quite sure that his abilities that will far surpass my own.

Advertisements

Manjaro | Review from an openSUSE User

There are many flavors of Linux, we call them distributions but in a way, I think “flavor” is a good word for it as some some are a sweet and delightful experience while with others a lingering, foul taste remains. Manjaro has not left a foul taste in any way. In full disclosure, I am not a fan of Arch based Linux distributions. I appreciate the idea of this one-step-removed Gentoo and for those that really like to get into the nitty-gritty bits Arch is good for that. My problem with Arch is the lack of quality assurance. The official repository on Arch Wiki describes the process of how core packages need to be signed off by developers before they are allowed to move from staging into the official repositories. With the rate at which packages come in, it is almost an impossibility that through manual testing software will continue to work well with other software as some dependencies may change. Admittedly, I don’t use it daily, outside of VMs for testing nor do I have a lot of software installed so this is not going to be a problem I am likely to experience.

Manjaro, from my less than professional opinion, is a slightly slower rolling Arch that seems to do more testing and the process, from what I understand, is similar. Developers have to approve the packages before they are moved into the official repositories. I also understand that there isn’t any automated QA to perform any testing so this is all reliant on user or community testing, which, seemingly, Manjaro is doing a good job of it.

My dance with Manjaro is as part of a BigDaddyLinuxLive Community challenge, to give it a fair shake and share your experience.

This is my review of Manjaro with the Plasma Desktop. Bottom Line Up Front, this is quite possibly the safest and most stable route if you like the Arch model. In the time I ran it, I didn’t have any issues with it. The default Plasma Desktop is quite nice, and the default themes are also top notch. The graphical package manager works fantastically well and you do have Snap support right out of the gate. It’s truly a great experience. Was it good enough to push me from my precious openSUSE? No, but it has made for a contender and something about which to think.

Installation

The installation process was as smooth as room temperature butter and felt incredibly refined. The installation media greets with a very nicely themed boot loader to which the default option is to boot Manjaro. Very quickly you are brought into a live session where you can begin to do some exploration.

Since I was doing this in a VM, I did have some VM-isms, that made this look less than stellar, initially. Since I wanted to get to installation, straight away, I went right for that icon on the desktop. Nice to see that the icon was on the desktop, not hidden away giving you a scavenger hunt as your first objective for the installation. This is using the Calamares installer so it is incredibly straight forward and new-user approachable. You are initially asked for your language preference, then to set your location.

Your next objective in this installation is to select your keyboard layout. Then to set your partitions. My preference, for this installation was to Erase the disk and I didn’t add any Swap. Although, I recently learned that doing so is not the best idea for system stability.

You next step in this journey is to tell Majaro, who you are in the Users step. Here you will enter your name, your username, the name of your computer, set your user password and administrator password. Here you can set the system to log in automatically and to use the same password for the administrator account. The next step is a somewhat new entry into this process, as I’m told, but you can now select your Office Suite. The three options are: No Office Suite, LibreOffice, and FreeOffice.

I selected FreeOffice for two reasons, one, there was quite the hullabaloo about Manjaro offering it. I am personally quite happy with LibreOffice and I like my options there so this was the perfect opportunity to get some impressions of it.

Finally, you are presented the Installation Summary with a final Sanity Check before proceeding. I always appreciate the sanity check

Then the installation will commence, you can sit back or leave, whatever you want to do at this point. Alternatively, you can read the Manjaro propaganda and become acquainted with the world into which you are stepping.

Here is where I put the image that tells you to reboot… but… I didn’t take that snapshot.

First run and Impressions

Just like the live media version, the installed version of Plasma looks fantastic. Although, to be fair, it is a chore to make Plasma not look fantastic.

This time, however, I wanted to do some exploration of the Welcome and also leave it set to launch at start so that I can return to it on my next boot. My first stop was at the center column, bottom row, Applications.

This curious application, called Manjaro Application Maintenance was highly structured and very easy to get around and understand what is going on. For those that like the “minimal” installation. They can very easily go here and remove all the bits they don’t want.

Next on my agenda was to perform updates. In this case, they have a graphical tool so the graphical tool, I decided to use. Warnings are never a point of concern, really, as they are just that, warnings, a spot to slow down and read the situation.

Here there were some warnings about packages being installed before the dependency. It’s odd that the package manager wouldn’t just fix that and reorder how the packages are installed but perhaps it is some sort of circular dependency and this is the warning of that. The updates proceeded but with one slight hitch.

I was not able to do as instructed on here as when I did go to the virtual terminal, I was greeted with nothing, no prompt or anything of that nature. Not a big deal, I just waited until there was no activity from the virtual machine and I sent the power off signal to safely power the thing down.

Upon rebooting the VM with Manjaro, I was once again greeted with the splendidly polished Display Manger and a login prompt. I logged in and everything was as I expected it. I do want to say that having Yakuake installed by default is a fine addition to Plasma. A quick F12 presents a terminal drop down that just screams all kinds of nerdy wonderfulness.

I then wanted to see how the process of installing applications would go with Manjaro. Since I didn’t want to install anything that would pull down a lot of packages, I went for something small that I didn’t really need, KPatience, a Soliaire card game. After all, Windows 3.11 had something similar installed by default.

When you select to install an application you are prompted for you password. This is not the administrator password but the user password. Whether or not that is more or less secure than the root password, I don’t know, but I thought that was worth noting. I also appreciate the “Transaction Summary” given. How that is different than an Installation Summary, I am not sure. Maybe this is a better word for it as you can install and remove applications and those actions combined are “transactions.” Something to think about.

I did have to change the Application Launcher to the Application Menu because… I just happen to find the Menu more appealing.

That is very easily done, as in any Plasma desktop, by right-clicking on the menu icon and selecting, Show Alternatives.

Another noteworthy feature of Manjaro is the Kernel Notifications. I don’t completely know what all this means, what is an “unsupported kernel” and to only notify if running an unsupported kernel but I do understand notifying of a new LTS Kernel. If I were going to take my flag in this distribution, I would recommend becoming well acquainted with this too. I imagine this could very much be the difference between a reboot and run and a reboot and flop.

I also want to congratulate the Manjaro team on a job well done with the Dark Breath theme. Although, when I say it, I feel like I’m saying “Breeze” with a lisp, the Dark Breath theme is so nicely done that I could reach out and give an e-high-five on how it looks. Different then the Breeze but equally as nice.

The desktop and Manjaro specific tools all feel well orchestrated. Aside from my upgrade hiccup, which I want to stress is a hiccup, I was able to keep flying along. I do want to note that the only other time I have seen that screen was when updating a system with proprietary Nvidia drivers on a previous main driver. It was almost a welcome back to see that little notice.

FreeOffice

Since I had to try FreeOffice out… though, without any office tasks to perform, I wanted to see how it looked and felt. Just on the surface because this is not a review of FreeOffice, just an impression. I was immediately impressed by the ease of picking your theme. Not only did you have the choice in dark or light themes, you also had a choice in the annoying ribbon layout or traditional and much more useful classic menus and toolbars.

The first application to click-around in this office suite was the word-processor called TextMaker. I really liked the presentation of it as it immediately gave me happy feelings. The ribbon layout was what you would expect but the part I didn’t care for was the additional menu bar of new, open, save, undo, redo, etc. I prefer the LibreOffice execution of that as it moves that inline with the File, Home, Insert, Layout etc… tabs. Not a big deal. I didn’t dig into it but I am sure that it is customizable to some degree.

The next application in this sweet suite of office tools is the spreadsheet application called PlanMaker. It has a similar feel as TextMaker and had the basic functions for which I would be using. I did find the ribbon a bit excessive on the screen real-estate but again, this is just an impression. I could very easily go back to the more efficient layout.

The last application in this suite is called simply Presentations and it also is about what I would expect. I didn’t create any presentations with it but the impressions by clicking about did give me the impression that I would be able to bore anybody with an unnecessary slide show.

The only thing I hadn’t checked yet was the file dialog. I must say, I did not like this. It was the only thing I didn’t like about FreeOffice on my tour of impressions. It was very 2002 in appearance and although I’m sure it is quite functional, it is not what I would consider modern. Although, the GTK dialog isn’t any better, so if we are comparing it to that I guess it’s fine. I would have preferred some sort of Plasma integration here so that it used the Plasma File Dialog.

Really, all applications and desktop environments should really use the Plasma file dialog, anything but that is a sore disappointment in user interface.

Overall, FreeOffice is nice, certainly very usable and has a nice polish to it. I don’t think I would replace LibreOffice with it as I do use the Draw and Math functions of that and I haven’t run into a compatibility issue in a long time. I am glad that Manjaro gave me the opportunity to kick the tires on it.

What I Like

I like the fact that Manjaro give the option, right out of the gate, to pick your office suite. I would haven’t ever tried anything other than LibreOffice had I not had the option. Although I have decided to continue to use LibreOffice, I appreciate being presented an alternative.

Pamac-CLI is a kind of shim to make Pacman not ridiculous. It converts all the nonsense commands of pacman into something that is human readable and intuitive. For example, to install a software package:

pamac install [options]

Which makes a lot more sense than

pacman -S [option]

For more information about pamac: https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/

Breath Dark theme is well done. It give Manjaro Plasma edition a unique feel but just every so subtly. Also, green is a great color to go with if you are going to set a highlight color.

Default software selection is very satisfactory, so much so that I had to find some oddball thing to install just to go through the process. I still prefer to have VLC over other media players and Firefox over other web browsers. I like that they chose to include Konversation for IRC and Steam for games.

A nice surprise was to see that SUSE Imagewriter was included on the Manjaro installation for writing images to Removable media. Interestingly, not even openSUSE includes that by default.

What I Don’t Like

It fundamentally still uses Arch as the base and although pamac-cli is a nice shim to offset the nonsense that is pacman. I do prefer having sensible and intuitive terminal commands. There are too many to remember, I don’t have the patience to faff with the game of scrabble in command options.

The Plasma screen locker crash did bother me a bit as and I’m not sure where the blame is to be had for that. I don’t have an nvidia driver so maybe the issue was with the package resolver (ahem, Pacman) that didn’t order things properly. I don’t know.

Manjaro used Ext4 for the file system. That means, I don’t know how I would roll back a bad update. I think running a rolling distribution without that safeguard is asking for trouble. For this alone, I am much relieved that I have BTRFS on my root file system for snapshots. Should anything go wrong, rolling back is trivial.

Final Thoughts

Manjaro is a fine distribution but it has the one glaring shortcoming that is, it is Arch based. Since I have had such a bad taste in my mouth for Arch, I just wouldn’t consider using this. Perhaps, if my first experience with Arch was Manjaro, things would be different. Had I not ever messed with Pacman maybe I wouldn’t be so obstinate about it. Although, fundamentally, I am not real confident in the QA process of Manjaro or any Arch based distribution. I would be more inclined to trust it if it was built on something like the Open Build Service with openQA automating the testing process to knock out most of the rough edges along with user testing.

For me, I will stick with my openSUSE Tumbleweed with my snapshot rollback system, should the automated and human testing allow something to slip through that takes my system down or I muck about, I can always undo it and keep sailing.

Just because I am over biased about Arch, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Manjaro a try. It is certainly well done and the developers have a fantastic passion for the project. That passion alone is almost enough to nullify all my reservations about the project.

References

https://manjaro.org/
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Official_repositories
https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/52787
https://discourse.bigdaddylinux.com/t/manjaro-18-1-oct-5-and-oct-12/389
Big Daddy Linux Live 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live European Edition 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live 05 Oct 2019
https://calamares.io/

Noodlings | Symphony, Power Tools and Storage

My 6th noodling might be my longest noodling yet. It started out a bit light but then after reading I just got a bit too excited. If you want to skip to the end where I do a little self-deprecation and ignore the meat of it, that is very understandable.

The 6th Noodling can be obtained here

Linux Symphony

I took my kids to the symphony this past Sunday. It was hugely beneficial to have the kids experience a symphonic performance. It made for a pretty decent lesson about the benefits of working together. When the orchestral members were warming up before they begin the performance there is a cacophony of sounds and although individually, the instruments sound nice, together it sounds like a mess. When the performance started and the conductor did his conducting, keeping everyone on pace and on the “same sheet of music” as it were, you could listen and imagine the story of events in the mind’s eye. Everything from serious and intense melodies to whimsical light hearted tones. Although my kids could only manage to sit through an hour of the performance, there were lots of lessons to be extracted about the benefits of working together.

How this can be applied to the Linux community is as such. When we work together, in harmony with one another, we can make for some amazing results. Whether it is the latest Ubuntu MATE, the newest release of Plasma or helping someone through a tech question, by working together in a kind and respectful tone we can achieve great things. I am of the belief that all Linux is good Linux and by making any one aspect better, we make it all better, regardless of the flavor of Linux or desktop you choose.

Let’s make some beautiful music

Dell Latitude E6440 Caddy Drive Bay

My primary machine that I am using I didn’t choose lightly, I wanted a lot of flexibility in a fairly small package. Since I like to test things in VM, I wanted to have the option of a third hard drive. What I discovered is that it doesn’t seem to matter how much storage I have available, I seem to fill it up. I am starting to think that maybe I have a problem.

I do clean out my drives from time to time but I find that the more space I have, the sloppier I am about cleaning up the cruft. I am preparing to build a system with a heck of a lot more storage and after making my hard drive purchases, I realized, I may have purchased too small of drives. If this is the case, I think I have a strategy to compensate for this.

I did create a YouTube video of the ease of using the drive bay for additional storage as I knew it would be a short thing and provide me an opportunity to edit something together. A consequence of the additional drive has resulted in me rarely poping in the optical drive. Perhaps my needs for optical media is fading?

Power Tools

I recently change over all my cordless power tools to the DeWalt 20V max line. I do spend a lot of time outside of the cubicle doing non-cubicle activities and I have recorded much of it and scripted some things out to share my findings and reasoning from the perspective of a Linux Geek. Although power tools are not strictly a nerdy activity, there is a lot of nerdiness to be had. My specific high points of what I find is that the price per tool combined with the watt-hour of use per charge and number of charges per battery made it the best bang for your buck. The other main factor is the variety of tools I have available to me with this one battery platform. In an effort to simplify my life, this is what I have chosen and so far, it has exceeded my expectations.

BDLL Follow up

One of the things I like about BigDaddyLinux Live is the discussion we have on there. Some of it, I don’t have much to contribute as it is either outside my area of expertise or maybe I am still forming my opinions. There were two topics that really engaged me last Saturday. The first being developing on Linux and the second on virtual memory or in Linux called Swap.

On development, there is a lot of negativity towards Electron applications from some in the Linux community. In short, an Electron application is a cross platform thing that allows a developer to make an application for Linux, MacOS and Windows. One of those things is really cool and the other two, not as much. The benefit is, it is an easy way to maintain a single codebase and maximize the number of platforms that can reached.

The draw backs are that Electron is quite inefficient. The storage space it takes up is fairly extensive and the RAM usage is also weighty. With newer computers, this is not an issue. If you have 16 or 32 GiB of RAM this isn’t an issue, if you have 2 or 4 GiB of RAM this can be an issue.

How-To Geek on Electron Applications

A discussion that start on the Discourse and made its way into the show was about using Swap in Linux when there is so much RAM available in modern systems. The question is to Swap or not to Swap and how much Swap and what kind of Swap. I recommend watching BDLL from 05 October 2019 for the extended discussion or going to the BDLL Discourse for opinions outside of mine.

Swap reminds me a lot of the bank switching that was common on 8-bit computers of old except instead of keeping the data in a switchable bank, this is putting it on a hard drive or SSD. The issue I find with Swap is if you are really taxing your system, you can end up with having a lot of disk thrashing that can really bring your system down to a crawl.

For my primary machine, I have set aside 17 GiB of Swap space, just in case. I have used it on more than one occasion… maybe due to Electron apps and it has come in handy when I haven’t paid attention to memory usage when using Google Chrome. Swap space on the two Acer AspireOne netbooks I set up for my kids gets used pretty regularly. Whenever using the a web browser they do dip into the swap space often.

Since I’ve been using Linux now for quite some time, I have the space to spare and I do take advantage of the hibernate to disk (or SSD) function from time to time, I set my system up with a Swap partition. It is an old fashion and inflexible approach and I am okay with that. The benefits of a swap file are probably greater but since openSUSE makes it very easy set up a Swap partition and I know what I am getting with it. That is what I will stick with, for now.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Leap to SLE

An often forgotten bit of openSUSE that makes is rather remarkable is how closely the Leap project is with the SLE project. One of my good E-friends, Mauro, who does the Linux thing as a profession, not a hobby and home-gamer like me was telling me how easy it is to move a client from an unsupported openSUSE Leap system to a SUSE Linux Enterprise support contract without disruption.

I know that this is not possible with CentOS and Red Hat but with Canonical’s Ubuntu it is essentially the same distribution. What I find interesting is the different executions of each of the distributions of integrating community based projects with commercial offerings. My preference here is the [open]SUSE model as it seems like a cleaner approach, though I see the benefits of the Canonical method too.

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190923 20190925 20190926 20190927

Many updates included gcc9 version 9.2.1, gcc8 version 8.3.1, gcc7 version 7.4.1, Plasma Framework 5.62.0, Plasma Workspace 5.16.5, Xorg-X11-server 1.20.5, Kernel 5.3.1 and several bug fixes around YaST and PulseAudio and a bug around not being able to duplex print with Okular.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20190923 a stable score of a 97; 20190925 a stable score of 98; 20190926 a stable score of 98; and 20190927 a moderate score of 83.

If you want to lock yourself on the latest Stable snapshot from the 26th of September:

tumbleweed switch --install 20190926

Project Name Change Vote

As of today, the polls are open for a name change on the project. I did cast my vote and after reading through the mailing list, there is a little bit if heat concerning the issue. Ultimately, the hope is that it is a clear in favor or not in favor of the name change. If it is closer to a 50-50 split, that can potentially be more problematic. I personally am hoping that we just keep the status quo. Although I do agree that some of the legal constraints with the relationship to SUSE can be problematic for end-user experience, things like codec installation and such. There are some benefits with the brand association, especially in respect to the SLE to Leap for those that are in the space of selling solutions.

Asia Summit 2019

The sixth openSUSE Asia Summit just concluded this past weekend. It took place at the Fakultas Teknik of the Universitas Udayana in Bali, Indonesia. There were a number of participants that traveled from 20 different nations around the world to join the students at the university. Students not only made their first contributions to open source technology but also volunteered with running the summit.

KDE and openSUSE

The Beta version of Plasma 5.17 was released with new features and improvements such as per-screen fractional scaling on Wayland and a new User Interface for configuring permissions of Thunderbolt devices and network statistics in KSysGuard. Due to increase in user privileges with this feature is being examined by the SUSE security team.

openQA found a few bugs with GIMP, some applications were mixing Kirigami and Qt Widgets that were breaking some keyboard shortcuts that were addressed and will be fixed in the final release of Plasma 5.17.

If you are interested in testing the 5.17 Beta of Plasma in either Leap or Tumbleweed installation, you can read how here: https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:KDE_repositories.

Leap 15.2 will see some major version upgrades of many components such as a new version of the Linux Kernel, Qt 5.12 LTS, Plasma 5.18 LTS and the latest KDE Frameworks and Applications. A full Wayland session that arrived in Tumbleweed a few weeks ago will be available in Leap 15.2. Testers are welcome to ensure the best user experience possible.

Qt 5.14 branch is still in early stages but the development teams have been busy integrating it into openSUSE builds. Bugs have been identified and most of them fixed so it is possible to build projects against Qt 5.14. One of the most user visible features is the implementation for scaling for HiDPI displays that was mostly rewritten and hardware acceleration for Qt Quick using a new abstraction layer. It can also take advantage of the Vulcan API.

Three Drives on my Dell Latitude E6440 | Cuz Two Isn’t Enough

This laptop of mine that I purchased just over two years ago has the ability to have 3 storage devices. I have previously described what I’ve done in it with an mSATA and the 2.5″ SSD. Between the two, I have 995 GiB of storage, 101 GiB for root using the mSATA and 894 GiB on the 2.5″ drive. That was fine and all for normal things, but VMs do require a lot of space and so a lot of space I needed. Although I do often use my optical drive, it’s not as often as I use VMs so I decided to get a caddy and install a third drive in this 14″ chassis laptop.

Here is a short video on how simple the process is… and another reason to play around with Kdenlive. In short, adding a hard drive is as simple as:

  • Insert the drive into the caddy
  • Secure the drive using the set-screws but be careful to not over tighten
  • remove optical drive from the computer and insert hard drive (SSD) caddy into bay
  • Bob’s your uncle

Really… why?

The main reason is, I need more space for virtual machines. I’m sure for normal people the two drives is more than adequate but I have to play. Most people would probably just clear out the old virtual machines after they were done but I am guilty of data hording and probably need to get that under control. I also don’t have much interest in wiping or possibly interfering with how my laptop is running as openSUSE Tumbleweed works so fantastically well on it.

My process is, I try out the Linux distribution virtually to obtain some general impressions, test out a few things, check the memory usage and so forth. If I find it exceptionally interesting or want to test a use case, I take it to the next level and put it on some hardware. I find it a more efficient use of my time to do my first round of testing virtually before I meddle with the metal.

It also doesn’t help that I am more likely to use Virt Manager with Qemu which uses Qcow2 drive images and they take up more space than VDI images from VirtualBox. Since I tend to get a better feel for the distribution using Virt Manager, especially with Gnome based desktops, I am more likely able to give them a fair shake. Consequently, I need more storage space.

The drives are all still too full which might mean no matter the amount of storage, I will use it up.

Final Thoughts

Despite the fact this laptop is older, I can’t seem to find another comparable 14″ machine that has the drive flexibility that the Dell Latitude E6440 has. I do wish it had some kind of refresh to allow for a faster CPU with lower power utilization but that is just not the demands of typical users these days. For now, I will continue to use this laptop as I have intended. If I do another modification to this system, it will likely be to upgrade the CPU to the highest performing 35W TDP processor that is available.

References

Hardware Thing Video on YouTube
Dell Latitude E6440 Running openSUSE Tumblewee

Noodlings | Building and Converting

This is my fifth noodling and I did cut a few things. I will be playing with the length but this is about 13 minutes of my nonsense to chip tunes.

The 5th noodling installment can be found here

Commodore 64 IRC Success

I was able to get my Commodore 64 under its own power to access the IRC chat rooms, specifically the BigDaddyLinuxLive room where I was able to chat with such folks as Bill, Popey, Chris and another Allen. It is very satisfying experience. More on that here:

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

Tech in the Courtroom

I recently had jury duty and the courthouse in my small-ish community, Windows 7 which is near end of life. For each bit of evidence, they used CDs and DVDs to store each individual item as evidence.

Building a Computer

I am building a computer for the first time in a very long time. I want to do it on a budget. I received some components at no cost to me, the case and motherboard so that drove the purchasing of the rest of the products.

Motherboard MSI 970A-G43

AMD FX-9590 CPU

Memory, 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz

Video Card RX570

Storage 6x 2-TiB drives

1000 Watt Power Supply

Rather large case

All for about $350.00

More on this in the future.

Acer AspireOne Netbooks

Recently Set up two AspireOne Notebooks with openSUSE Tumbleweed using the Xfce environment. Initially one had had 1 GiB of RAM but an SSD, the other with 2 GiB of RAM and a slightly faster CPU but with a traditional hard drive.

https://cubiclenate.com/2019/09/29/acer-aspireone-d255-with-opensuse-tumbleweed-xfce/

Making Meringue from Egg Whites

Told after the fact two points of advice, whip the egg whites before you add the sugar, contrary to the directions and questioning whether or not there was any amount of egg yolk.

BDLL Follow Up

Manjaro is the current Distro Challenge… It’s Arch based so…

Eric Adams talked about how people can get “bug apathy” when they experience a problem on Linux or other open source software. know that I am guilty of that.

Bug reporting is something we Linux or free and open source software users should do. The vast majority of the software I don’t pay for, it’s open source and I believe that I have a social contract with these developers and maintainers to either help with the project or donate to it.

BigDaddyLinuxLive | 28 Sep 2019

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190918 20190920 20190921

PulseAudio 13.0 arrived which improved initial card profile selection for ALSA and improved 5.1 surround audio when set up.

LibreOffice 6.3.2.2 package received some stability tweaks and addressed two CVEs

Bash has been updated from 5.0 to 5.0.11 wich includes a minor update to bash to change POSIX mode behavior.

The Mesa 3D graphics library was updated to 19.1.7 wich fixed a Kwin compositor crash as well as cleaned up a few other bugs

The Python development tool Swig 4.0.1 added Python 3.8 support and fixed some regressions that were introduced in the 4.0.0 major release.

Plymouth added a time delay of 8 seconds to fit an AMD graphics card for graphical boot animation.

Mozilla Thunderbird was updated to 68.1.0 which eliminated some bugs, one of which is a CVE-2019-11739 that allowed for a Covert Content Attack on S/MIME encryption.

The file searching utility, Catfish 1.4.10, added some new features and cosmetically improved the application menu to make better use of space, padding and margins.

The snapshot reviewer gives a score for 20190918 of 90 for moderately stable; 20190920 a score of a stable 95 and 20190921 a stable 97.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020

LibreOffice and openSUSE communities are having a joint conference next year in Nuremburg, German. For this special conference, they are having a logo competition. A logo is believed essential for the conference and they want to visualize both communities during this co-conference. LibreOffice will celebrate its 10-year anniversary and openSUSE will celebrate its 15-year anniversary during the conference.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020 Post

Election Committee Set to Open Vote on Project Name

There have been discussions about the “openSUSE Project logo & name change” that started in June 2019 on the openSUSE Project mailing list. The Election Committee received a request from the Board to conduct a vote whereby openSUSE members can indicate whether they are for or against the project name change.

The voting will start on Oct. 10 and end on Oct. 31, which will provide three weeks for members to vote. The result will be announced on Nov. 1.

The voting exercise is limited to openSUSE members only.

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and as such, now holds a special place in my heart and probably forever more, or at least until I lose my mind completely. In all the years I had a C64, I never visited a BBS as I didn’t get that bit of tech until I got my Commodore Amiga 600. Due to the wonders of the Internet, and a global effort to keep these old machines relevant from guys like The 8-Bit Guy, Perifractic Retro Recipes, Retro Man Cave, Dan Wood, LGR and so many others, I was inspired to take the time to make my Commodore 64 more than just a stroll down vintage lane for me. I have seen others make use of it for writing and developing new games and such for it but how could I incorporate it into my life was the question. That answer, IRC, it must do IRC.

So, lets use the “scientific method” on this as I make my kids do it, so why not force myself to do the same.

Purpose

Make use of my beloved Commodore 64, my first computer, in some practical way. I am going to use “practical” fast an loose for this. I have seen many examples of using the Commodore 64 in some sort of networked fashion but I wanted to see if I could have it serve a specific purpose. Chat on IRC, Connected through the Ethernet into my home network using it’s own power and capability.

Hypothesis

I think I am able to get the Commodore 64 to access the IRC function on the Internet without having to telnet into another server as a bridge to make it happen. I also think this is going to be a bit of a headache and everything is going to fight me along the way.

Materials

Here is my list of “materials” in order to conduct this experiment.

Commodore 64

This computer has a whopping 64K of memory to which, in it’s time was an extraordinary amount of memory, generally about 16 times that of its contemporaries at the time. If you know anything about the Commodore 64, nothing I am going to tell you here will be new. If you don’t know much about the commodore 64, this is a great video on YouTube with a great breakdown of the chip design.

SD2IEC drive

Purchased from The Future Was 8-Bit, this is a fantastic device that came included with an 8 GiB SD Card filled with all kinds of goodness. It is a joy to use and makes for reliving the Commodore 64 history so much more enjoyable. Although, you don’t get to enjoy the warm purring the 1541 5¼” Floppy Drive, this is a more practical and sustainable solution. If you purchase newer software for the C64, they usually build it to be compatible with this device. It was a great deal and allowed me to be able to use the .d81 image Contiki OS image that will be described below.

RR-Net MK3

This is a 10Mbit network card from icomp.de that comes form a rather long line of similarly designed devices. This is said to work with Contiki, Codenet and WarpCopy. The nice feature of this card is that it can be used as a stand alone or on a Carrier Card so that you can add this “feature” to another device like the MMC Replay or Chameleon. This will not work with a C128, SX-64 and very old C64 main boards. I don’t have a “very old” main board (just really old), so this works fine with my computer.

Wired Ethernet line

There really isn’t much to report here. I just made a cable and strung it from my router over to the Commodore 64. It is neat to see the flashing activity light when it’s running and doing it’s network activity.

CRT display

Why a CRT? To be more genuine to the period in which it came from? No, it is because it is what I have and it should also be noted that this is an old SVGA, CAD monitor that I once used for such activities. Now it serves are more noble function as my “retro corner” display. I have a ViewSonic that converts the S-Video and Composite signals to SVGA.

Contiki OS

Software package that is accessible from here on GitHub that comes in a few different builds. I used the .d81 image as that would eliminate the need to swap disks, or at least the risk of me screwing up the process of disk swapping should that become necessary.

Procedure

Assemble the components, plug the computer into a working Ethernet line and attempt to get online to chat in an IRC room. The intent here is to use the Commodore 64 as the client, not to use any other machine as a spring board.

Results

The results are mixed but I am going to break it down a bit so that you can replicate it and adjust the process to fit your situation.

Since I have the SD2IEC, I used the .d81 image and put it on the root directory of my SD Card that is in my SD2IEC. Why the root directory? Just to make it quicker to access it.

With the RR-Net MK3 installed in the cartridge port, the start screen is quite different, displaying information about the card. With the SD2IEC connected and the SD Card inserted, I loaded the drive management software which is a simple interface for navigating the contents of the drive. After all, it is 8 GiB of storage so the traditional methods are a bit cumbersome in this regard.

There are two applications that you have to run before you can begin doing the IRC you have to set up what is the “Ethernet device” and set the IP Addresses.

I am not sure if it is critical to do them in any particular order but I started with ETHCONFIG to set the Ethernet device.

Once it is set, all you can do is power cycle the machine to perform the next step. That means, enjoying the lackadaisical loading times of the Commodore 64. Even with an SD Card… not real fast.

Next was to run IPCONFIG to define the IP addresses of the Contiki OS. To navigate up and down in the fields, use the F5 and F7 keys. ENTER to select Save & Close

After this ready prompt, you will have to power cycle the machine once again to load the IRC application. The first run of this, I went for just IRC as opposed to IRC80 as that 80 means column and I like the C64 font.

When the application completes loading from the SD Card, you are the prompted for the IRC server and nickname. Using F5 and F7 to navigate up and down will take you to each of the fields and RETURN to Connect. I want to note here that you must write your IRC nickname in all lowercase and numbers. If you use any uppercase numbers, the IRC server will not be able to recognize the characters.

It will take just a bit but you will see the typical IRC “chatter” fly past on the screen.

Well… I wouldn’t say “fly past” for this. More like trot steadily through. To join a channel enter

/join #<room name here>

In my case, I decided to join the #bigdaddylinuxlive room because, why not? I know the people there, they are friendly and I knew that someone would get a kick out of it.

I made some observations that whatever you type into the prompt, whatever case it is, will be displayed as all uppercase.

I further compared it against what I see in comparison between the Qt based IRC application Konversation. How would it be displayed to “normal” or I guess, “modern” clients.

I was able to see that the Commodore 64 client could only send all lowercase characters, display it locally as Uppercase characters but be able to receive a mix of characters. I thought it all to be quite interesting.

I did test the 80 column mode of the IRC client. It did indeed work and was readable but but I have had it crash on me a few times. I can’t say as to why so I have decided to stick with the 40 column mode for now.

It should also be noted that the screen scrolling is quite a bit slower in this mode. Not terrible, just quite noticeable. The

Conclusion

The Commodore 64 is very much able to, under it’s own, power, unmodified with the additional components is able to access the Internet and perform communication in IRC chat rooms. It does work better in 40 column mode than it does 80 column but is very usable.

Getting online with the Commodore 64 to hang out in IRC chatrooms is really quite a satisfying experience. The fact that it is a computer from an age before the internet and when BBS systems were in their early stages, having the ability to plug an Ethernet line into it and with a little configuration was able to get onto the World Wide Web… of sorts, at least a part of it.

Final Thoughts

I am impressed that I am able to do this much with an unmodified Commodore 64. I am quite impressed that with 64 KiB of RAM, it is still a productive and usable tool. It is quite single purpose but absolutely useful.

I want to note that the web browser does work in this Contiki OS but not with HTTPS so that is out. It does make requests as you would expect and I think I just may revisit the rest of this on another blathering at some point in time.

Future plans, I really want to be able to telnet into a Linux machine with the Commodore 64, I have some other hardware and software I want to try out with this machine to see what other greatness can become of it.

References

Contiki OS for 6502 based computers from GitHub
25c3: The Ultimate Commodore 64 Talk
RR-Net MK3 from icomp.de
The Future Was 8-Bit SD2IEC Drive

Acer AspireOne D255 with openSUSE Tumbleweed Xfce

Anytime someone wants to give me a piece of hardware, it’s hard for me to say, “no.” I received this Acer AspireOne D255 as payment for installing openSUSE Leap on an HP Laptop. This little netbook was a bit slower than my other Acer AspireOne and with only 1 GiB of RAM and a dead battery. I tried to see if I could install anything but the hard drive was at it’s end of life. So, thing sat in a drawer for about a year or so. I found that there are some education open source programs that are quite educational and since I would rather my kids not play games on phones and tablets, now was the time for me to act.

I purchased a new battery and a charger for this computer which cost me all of $21. I ordered a 2 GiB stick of DDR3 memory so that whenever it did arrive, I could upgrade that as well.

Taking apart the AspireOne is not that difficult, at all, you just have to know how to get to the screws to drop the back panel. Annoyingly, you have to remove the keyboard by essentially pushing back little detents to pop the thing out. It isn’t exactly work made for large hands.

Under the keyboard the screws that require removal are all marked with arrows and the last bit is to push the panel off using a screwdriver. That will expose the goodness that this machine keeps hidden away.

The hard drive sits in in a caddy and the memory is held in place with the usual spring clip arrangement. After replacing the failed Hard Drive with an SSD, it was time to do the installation.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how it would go to have my eight year old boy install openSUSE Tumbleweed with Xfce. I expected to direct a couple steps, of which would be how I want the partitions to be laid out, the username and password as well as the root password. I also instructed him to turn off the CPU vulnerability mitigations as well. I saw no need for this computer to need those.

I wanted to see if he could do the rest without my help. Amazingly, but really not so amazingly, he was able to do it. This made me think and smile and reinforce the fact that the YaST installer is actually quite easy to use. I mean, if an eight year old can do it…

My boy recognized Windows 7 wasn’t on it any longer and corrected the mislabeling.

After playing with Xfce on openSUSE in the virtual machine, I really wanted to see how it felt on some 10 year old netbooks, or more specifically, this under powered unit with only 1 GiB of RAM.

Surprisingly, the system runs quite well and doesn’t seem too terribly encumbered by the lack of RAM. Granted, most of what is being done at this time are simple programs geared for educating my kids but getting on the web didn’t prove to be a problem either. It was able to YouTube without any irritating stutter.

After booting to a settled system. The AspireOne was using about 380 MiB of RAM. I could probably force it lower by removing some things but I don’t see it as necessary at this time. Instead, I will pop in that 2 GiB DDR3 SODIMM and leave quite a bit of headroom for some of the other educational things to come.

The “new” battery for this machine did have one drawback. It is a little thicker than the original one and now it sits at a bit of an angle when set down. It does make it a bit harder to slip into a neoprene case but the flip side is that it won’t suffocate if left running on the couch

The applications I installed for the time being to make using them a bit better are:

  • Syncthing-Gtk – I have a series of files in written as well as audio and video form that are for memory work. For them to have read-only access to it from their machines is a huge plus when they are not home.
  • Gcompris – This is a great educational application with lots of games and such to help teach the basic foundational things like numbers, letters and learning the sounds. It is also a great tool to teach the kids to learn to use a mouse or touchpad as well.
  • Tux Paint – it is a fine little application to teach the basics of creating images in on a computer.
  • qsynergy – this is more for my convenience so that I can more easily “help” them fro my computer. I do want to note, that I did purchase a license key for this applicaiton.
  • Crossover Linux – I have an older version of Rosetta Stone that is packed with many languages. I specifically want them to take time to learn Latin and German. This will reduce the irritation of having only a single machine for the kids to share. One little note. There was an issue with sound. The PulseAudio module was not available in the Wine Configurator. The solution was to install libpulse0-32bit

What I Like

I really like that I am able to install a “heavy weight” distribution like openSUSE onto a rather under powered an really quite anemic machine. I was incredibly surprised how Xfce looked and felt on this machine. Although, much to my chagrin, my daughter made hers all pink and bright instead of my preference of dark and green of which I initially set. I guess, without any instruction at all, she too sees the importance of making it personal.

This machines gets crazy long battery life. For a machine as “long in the tooth” as this is. I am shocked that it can run all day on battery. I will place a lot of that credit to openSUSE’s default use of TLP as well as the fact Xfce is very resource conscious.

This is going to certainly enhance the quality of the my supplied education to my kids. Inexpensive laptops running a resource conscious operating system with all the underpinning bells and whistles provided by openSUSE.

What I Don’t Like

For whatever reason the libpulse0-32bit module didn’t install with Crossover Linux. I don’t think that is a fault of openSUSE, maybe Crossover but that was an irritation that required a few extra steps.

The machine itself is too small for my fingers. The keyboard is okay but it is just slightly smaller than what I like. It isn’t easy to do extended typing on it. The touchpad, also a bit undersized and the “mouse buttons” although separate from the touchpad, are not great. This is part of the reason I like having Synergy to use my main system to use as an input device. I suppose I could plug in a mouse and keyboard…

Final Thoughts

I will never take for granted how great Linux can keep older hardware highly functional. In this case, using openSUSE Tumbleweed with Xfce is absolutely enhancing the use experience on this old, under-powered machine. Consequently, I am able to better enhance the quality of education for my kids.

I have a new love for these end of life netbooks. Just a few short days ago, they were sitting stacked on top of one another collecting dust. Now they are sources of furthering my children’s education and they enjoy using them. I have developed an aversion to my kids being on mobile devices like phones and tablets. I want them to learn and know to use a keyboard and mouse or touchpad. I am hoping, as time progresses, I can further their education on the use and eventually administration of Linux, especially openSUSE or MX Linux.

For 9 year old Amazed on how performant this AspireOne D255 is. The Atom N550 is able to do a lot more than I expected and it looks like I will get a significant amount of time out of it. I must say, once again, how grateful I am to everyone that has anything to do with any of the tools that make this possible. From the kernel and applications, to the package maintainers and the folks in the server room delivers each of those Tumbleweed snapshots, and everyone in between or have some ancillary relation to any project, thank you.

References

openSUSE Tumbleweed Download
Atom N550 CPU Benchmark
Syncthing-Gtk
Gcompris
Tux Paint
qsynergy
Crossover Linux

Kim | KDE Plasma Graphics Service Menu

There comes a time when I realize I want to be lazy about something and one of those things is converting images. Sure, I could be a super nerd and do a batch conversion of images in the terminal but today was not that day. I wanted Dolphin, the Plasma default file manager to do the work for me. I remembered in a kind of vague, dream like haziness remember Dolphin or Konqueror doing this long ago. So, it was time to do some Web-Search-Foo and figure things out. After a bit of time, I came upon something called Kim. It is described as, “A very useful images KDE service menu”. That was worded kind of funny… so I would describe it, “A very useful service menu for basic manipulation of images.”

Installation

Installation on openSUSE is very straight forward. Probably very similar on other distributions.

sudo zypper install kim

According to the package details, Kim is a KDE service menu which allows to resize, convert and rotate your images without to use a graphical application like Gimp! This service menu can be considered as a front-end of ImageMagick.

Main features of Kim: Compress and resize

  • Compress to 70%, 80%, 90% or other
  • Resize to 300 x 225, 600 x 450, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1200 x 900 or Other
  • Resize and compress for the web
  • Convert in JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF or other,
  • Rotate images.

Treatment and publication

  • Rename images
  • Convert in gray-scale
  • Add a white or black border
  • Watermark images
  • Send by mail resized images.

After installing it, I restarted Dolphin and to my surprise (not really) I had some new options!

The “Service Menu” in Dolphin had three new items on its root menu:

  • Kim – Compress and Resize
  • Kim – Convert and Rotate
  • Kim – Treatment and publication

All the functions are rather self explanatory and can make for quick work in the file manager on making things happen with your image files. To save on some time and because it’s more fun to have some self-discovery than see what some bloke does with it. Here is a preview of the options:

The options that I used to get my work done today was to convert the collection of PNG images into JPG or the system would not accept the package of files. I will likely use this

What I Like

The additional menu items only show up when I am selecting an image so it is not hanging out in the service menu, cluttering things up when manipulating other files. I appreciate that consideration.

Lots and lots of very useful options that are easily accessible. Although I didn’t use the GIF feature, that is something that might be fun to do with a series of pictures. Quick access to resizing and compressing images is quite useful too.

Another great feature is, if you select multiple images and invoke an action, it will modify them all. Converting to a different file format will leave the existing file and add new files with the respective extension. What is very nice is that if you are compressing or resizing it, you are prompted on whether or not you want to replace the existing file.

Incredibly polite!

What I Don’t Like

The entries all start with “Kim -” and not just what the function is. I would prefer just the function alone. I think it would visually be better. It doesn’t take away from the functionality of the application, it is just a preference.

Final Thoughts

Kim is a great addition to the KDE Plasma servicemenu that enhances and extends the function of my desktop. This did save me some time today in converting images and it is likely I will use something like this again in the near future.

Yet another reason why KDE Plasma is a fantastic desktop to use and makes my life just a little bit easier on my day to day tasks.

References

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

Noodlings | MX Linux, Pine64, BDLL openSUSE News

This noodling is brought to you by poor spelling and bad math. Maybe a little more time as a kid watching Sesame Street instead of Transformers would have done me well.

The 4th Installment of my Noodlings can be found here

MX Linux 19 Beta

I have installed MX Linux on several machines. December of 2018 was my first experience with it and I really enjoyed how it worked, quite literally everything about it. I was thinking a lot about WHY I like MX Linux and I think these are my top reasons:

Simplicity of the desktop. Although my primary machine runs Plasma as my desktop of choice and it does what I want it to do, it feels snappy and is tuned to my preferences, Xfce accomplishes all of that but differently. It has the right look, it IS rather easy to customize although not quite to the same accessibly easy level and is most certainly quite snappy.

The changes in MX 19 are not “earth shattering” and headline popping but they are all quite welcome. The High DPI support is of no benefit to me but for those with those fancy 4k monitors there is. A visual update to MX 19 that is partially related to Xfce 4.14 but is also due to general visual updates that MX has been given over time.

The opacity of the main panel, by default, is subtle yet noticeable and you don’t get any impression that what you are using is dated or stale at all. The default wallpaper has a new freshness feel to it, especially juxtaposed to the desktop panel, widgets and floating windows. The whole package just feels right and it feels like it is all being orchestrated by developers with vision and craftsmanship.

I am an openSUSE guy but there is something about MX Linux that makes me feel comfortable. Using a house analogy, openSUSE is the house where I do most of my living, working and learning but MX Linux is like that vacation cabin on the lake that doesn’t have all the amenities I am used to but still lets me unwind and have a good time with a welcome change of scene.

Pine64 ARM Based Hardware

My technical knowledge is about modern hardware is fairly limited. I can understand 6502 era machines like the Commodore 64 pretty well as it is quite straight forward. Modern x86 architecture computers are easy to assemble and get running as they are just giant Lego bricks but it seems like the world of ARM based computers has me befuddled a bit. I am not sure if it is all messy or just still to early to put any real weight behind but I think Pine64 seems to really have a pretty unified platform to target.

Since I am barely ARM-literate, I couldn’t help but think, what a great way to learn more about the hardware than to invest time and effort into making openSUSE work better on the hardware. It’s not like the other options are not as good, they are all fine choices, but there is almost an ineffable quality to openSUSE Tumbleweed that I can only somewhat articulate, I just don’t get that same level of excitement from most other distributions.

I am very much enamored with the idea of having openSUSE Tumbleweed on a PineTab and PinePhone, all connected to the PineTime watch that is soon to start shipping out developer kits. None of these devices are particularly powerful but the battery life you would get on the laptop, tablet and phone tuned just right could make for a spectacular user experience.

Today, I have too many knowledge gaps in the wonderful tooling of openSUSE to be effective with a piece of Pine64 hardware. As much as having a Pinebook Pro with openSUSE would be, at this time, I need to put that on the back burner until I get some other things mastered.

BDLL Follow Up

AMD has been known as of recent of shipping hardware before it “fully baked” as it were. Driver updates do come down later and fix issues and improve performance but is this creating a kind of behavior out of consumers to weight to buy something? Does it hurt or benefit a company to push things out sooner rather than waiting until it is ready.

Video cards in the late 90s and early 2000s suffered this same irritation trying to play Descent³.

Seems like it is common practice to push things out on a deadline before they are ready. I personally think it is not a good idea but I understand the pushing from business teams and sometimes, in all fairness, the engineering teams need some urgency to really hammer a design out so that it isn’t continually improved and the company doesn’t end up making money.

Sometimes, I think an 80% solution and acting immediately is better than a 100% solution that never arrives.

openSUSE Corner

The last week was a little bit light on news but not light on importance of package software updates.

Snapshots 20190916 and 20190917

Linux Kernel 5.2.14 Ceph buffers and Advanced Linux Sound Architecture

KDE Applications 19.08.1, Krita 4.2.6 many bug fixes like lags in Move Tool when using a tablet device (bug:410532), Make the settings dialog fit in low-res screens (bug:410793), low res in this instance is 1366 x 768. Fix a deadlock when using broken Wacom drivers on Linux (bug:410797). The new feature for this version of Krita is to add a new layer from an existing layer.

Intel’s Graphine package received an update to 1.10.0 that now uses an ancillary library called µTest for it’s test suite to allow you to build and run the suite without depending on Glib.

Mozilla Firefox 69.0 was bundled with Enhanced Tracking Protection as they are putting an emphasis on stronger privacy protections and added support for multiple video codecs to make it easier for WebRTC conferencing services.

Icecream received a delicious update to 1.3. This is the first I’ve heard of “Icecream” so I had to look it up. It is based on distcc which takes compile jobs from a build and distributes it among remote machines allowing for a parallel build. Unlike distcc, Icecream uses a central server that dynamically schedules the compile jobs to the fastest free server. This pays off when there are multiple users on a shared pool of computers. This update improved the speed of creating compiler tarballs.

Libvirt 5.7.0, a C toolkit used to interact with the virtualization capabilities of Linux, added AppArmor-abstractions as a required package for the libvirt-daemon.

Some other honorable mentions are updates to glib2, gtk3, flatpak-builder and VirtualBox rolled through

Snapshot 20190916 score of a moderate 72, Snapshot 20190917 scored a moderate 85.

https://news.opensuse.org/2019/09/19/firefox-graphene-krita-update-in-tumbleweed/
Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer

Fun Little openSUSE Tool

Depending on how long you have spent within openSUSE you may or may not be aware of a fun little tool that lets you know the status of the various openSUSE systems. You can view the real time status at:

https://status.opensuse.org/

Everything from Wiki pages, Software repositories to the home page, forums and the Build Service, can be monitored in the comfort of your very own cubicle. This is yet another example of the transparency of the openSUSE Project.

Reasons why openSUSE is Fantabulous in 2019

Not long ago, I was in the openSUSE Discord off topic chat room… or channel… whatever the terminology is, and the reasons for using openSUSE came up because someone needed a reminder. It was probably more tongue and cheek than anything but it is good, from time to time, to reflect on your decisions and ask yourself whether or not those decisions are still correct.

After doing a little reflection as to why I use openSUSE, what is its unique selling feature, I would say there are multiple and those reasons likely change in rank based on your particular use case. For me it is the combination of the tools plus a few herbs and spices that provide to me a reliable and stable base upon which I can rely which enables me to learn, experiment and potentially break it with multiple fail safe features to easily restore it to a pre-fiddling stage. I get freedom to fiddle with openSUSE without the catastrophic consequences of breaking it. It is quite literally everything I want out of a computer operating system.

Here are some of the features I think make it “Fantabulous”, today, in 2019.

BTRFS done Right

Although it seems like it gets a lot of flack on in the Linux world, BTRFS is a very reliable file system when implemented by [open]SUSE. There were other distributions that didn’t implement it well and a meme was born, riddled with falsehoods that it was not a reliable file system to use. Several tech media pundits still continue this meme… maybe they should use a distribution that knows how to harness the power properly. Keep in mind, not everyone can drive a submarine properly.

So what makes BTRFS great is that it is a copy-on-write file system supported properly by the Linux Kernel. The way openSUSE implements it makes for a fantastic snapshot system that allows me to effortlessly roll back the system should there be any issues with an update or if I decide to muck about on the system, I can roll the thing back to the last working state of the machine. Super handy and it has gotten me out of a bind more than once. It is as simple as booting into the last known working snapshot and running sudo snapper rollback... like it never even happened.

Open Build Service for All

The Open Build Service is a fantastic feature of the openSUSE Project. This is not only the place that builds all the software for openSUSE it is also a place where community members can build and share software from their own home projects as well as help out with experimental and potentially the official repositories. If you have experience in building your own RPMs or any software packages for that matter, OBS not only alows you to do so but it does all the hard work of checking for dependencies while giving you the opportunity to share your hard work with the community of users.

One step cooler, you can also use the Open Build Service to target other distributions too. It supports Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Arch to name a few. It also supports several processor platforms too beyond 64bit x86 that is most common. There is a fully supported (on Tumbleweed) 32 bit x86 as well as the likes of ARM and several different PowerPC platforms.

Interestingly, you can even target an AppImage with the Open Build Service which is a nice additional feature. It makes me think, if more projects used the Open Build Service, it would be a lot easier to keep AppImages of your project up to date.

YaST – Yet another System Tool

In all my computer-life experience, there has been no other system control panel that is anywhere as good and comprehensive as YaST. To just call it a “system control panel” does not do it justice as it is so much more.

You can, quite literally, do just about every bit of system configuration from here. Every tool here is not only exceptionally useful but works quite well. The user and group manager is top notch for managing such things. Recently, the Boot Loader module has become even more useful as of late by allowing you to select your CPU Mitigation posture.

Since there are so many tools, it makes for a rather lengthy, albeit well organized, list of modules. If you don’t want to browse through the list, there is the search option that will filter down the options as you type. You really couldn’t make something so complex as managing your system any easier and this is such a well done suite. This is essentially the same system tool that manages the installation of openSUSE so it is highly improbable that this tool will ever get neglected. Whether you run a Qt, GTK or Terminal only based system, you can access the same tool with all the same powerful features. From bow to stern, YaST is clearly a well designed, well engineered, flexible tool that does not get the credit it deserves. It is another reason that openSUSE absolutely Fantabulous!

Zypper

By far this is the best package manager I have ever used. This is the package manager that is like an agent that works for your success. If you are coming from the Debian world, you can use APT just as you would and there are aliases already built in to direct you to the equivalent Zypper action but with the Zypper refinements.

When doing an installation or upgrade, the clarity of your interactions with the system is the best I have used. I use Tumbleweed primarily and when you are pulling down updates it is very useful to know what is being installed, upgraded, removed and additional notifications about actions post install, like requiring a reboot to take advantage of a new kernel. Zypper provides a very comprehensive summary of any actions and if there are any conflicts you are presented with a list of options where you direct Zypper how to proceed.

If you are tinkerer and you mess with your system to the point that you break something, not only do you have the integration with the BTRFS snapshot system that allows you to roll back but also, if you are running Tumbleweed, invoking sudo zypper dup in the terminal and the way Zypper analyzes your system, it will essentially re-baseline your packages to the latest set and assuming you didn’t destroy your configuration files too badly, you will be back up and running.

Note: this is not a 100% solution but I would say, with great confidence, that will solve the problems you create by sticking your “nose-pickers” where they don’t belong 99% of the time.

The Wiki

I find it almost shocking that some distributions haven’t taken the time to put together a wiki for their distribution. openSUSE has one of the best wikis out there. Like any wiki, sometimes the information does need a new coat of polish and when I come across something, I do try to take the time to fix it. I have used the wiki a lot and because I have gained so much value in the wiki, I have felt compelled to continue to add what little I know into it as I know that when I need that information again, I and many others can refer to it.

It is great to see that openSUSE has made it a point to make knowledge management an priority. It is most certainly an important for users to get answers and guidance for a variety situations.

That Green Chameleon

It is often stated that marketing in Linux isn’t great. Say what you will, but by far the coolest of the Linux distribution’s mascot is the openSUSE Chameleon who’s name is Geeko. The logo and everything around logo is a welcoming friendliness that is unmatched. I can’t see any other Linux distro’s logo dancing in a music video or in computer animated shorts. When you see that logo, it is unmistakably [open]SUSE, it is not at any risk in being confused with anything else. I even appreciate merchandising of that logo into plush toys to begin the introduction of openSUSE to my children at a young age. The closest thing to a lovable distribution mascot is PuppyLinux but last I checked, there aren’t any plush representations of that mascot.

Whenever I have had a less than stellar day, a glimpse of that logo brings just a bit of a smile to my face and I think, “…can’t stop the SUSE…”

Community

The openSUSE community is an extremely helpful and friendly group of people. Sure, like any community that is as big as it is, you are going to have a character or two that is going to require “extra grace” but that is going to happen anywhere there are large groups of people.

I have had numerous instances where people in the community have helped me solve problems, even built software packages so that I could get a thing working. Should you have to report a bug, the community members work with you to get the problems resolved. Even if you don’t really know what you are doing and are willing to answer the questions asked, you can create a useful bug report. You will not only help the project but will also learn something in the process.

The official openSUSE forums is a great place to go for help and the openSUSE Sub-Reddit has a lot of the same people there helping out as well. I have received so much help from the forums over the years and I do try to help others out there as much as my skill level can provide. In the 8 years I have been using openSUSE as my regular distribution, I have never received the “RTFM” on a question. Every time, they have helped me discover the problem to a greater depth and find the true solution.

The openSUSE Discord server is a good time. Not only can you get technical help but you can interact with other openSUSE contributors, developers, members and a full range of enthusiasts. It is a great way to see how the sausage is made, as it were, and flavor it the way you like.

Final Thoughts

There are several more reasons that I believe openSUSE to be so fantabulous but for the sake of not turning this into novel about my near unhealthy obsession over openSUSE, I will leave it here. Going down this thought bunny trail of Linux distribution reflection, I have further cemented my personal reasons that I have chosen openSUSE as my primary distribution of choice.

References

Open Build Service
SUSE Geeko Montage
Can’t Stop the SUSE
openSUSE Build Service Supported Targets