Blatherings

Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

I am generally behind the curve when it comes to the new hotness out there. Not sure what it is, maybe I am out of phase with the rest of the world, maybe just behind on my podcast listening or not really paying attention, so while everyone else has moved on to the next new hotness, I am hanging out in one-month-ago time and have enjoyed this thing called “Bashtop”

What is Bashtop and why do I care?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, than Bashtop is going to be an application you absolutely adore. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

Bashtop, at the time of writing, is not in the official repositories of openSUSE, but it is built by the Open Build Service and available from software.opensuse.org. Select the the appropriate version version of openSUSE for you and use the “one-click” installation button to get going.

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

Alternatively, check out this resource for other Linux Distributions:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bashtop

Features

Bashtop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, this is very similar to htop but in a more aesthetically pleasing presentation.

This gives you a quick snapshot of your CPU, Memory, Disks, Network activity and processes. Essentially, all the core bits of interesting information about what the computer is doing. In my case, I have a 4 core/8 thread CPU where I am given the CPU information, frequency and load per core as well as temperature.

The lower-left section shows you memory usage, disk usage and network activity. The graphs look great with the gradient coloring. Not sure how they pull this off but they pull it off well.

The processes table is great. should you need to filter the processes, just press “f” and start typing to find the application for which you are searching. It is that simple and easy to use.

Bashtop has a fantastic Menu of options and if you weren’t paying close attention, you might not realize that this is all in text mode. The way the larger font of “Options,” “Help,” and “Quit” look, you might be deceived into thinking that this is invoking some kind of fancy graphical mode.

Though I have left the options at default, you may wish to tweak some of the options. The default_black theme works well for me and the update interval is fine at 2800 ms. I would change the clock if my system default wasn’t 24hr, which, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t adopt 24hr.

The key take away here with the menu is that it is very user friendly, no squirrelly commands need to be typed in the terminal when launching Bashtop to get it just as you would like.

The “Help” menu item give you your key command list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. It’s nice to see that there are alternates as well.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, this can come in handy. Especially so when terminating processes that have gone rouge. The Help screen provides a great snapshot of capabilities right in this application to make system management a more satisfying task.

What I Like

Although it is a text display, it uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to give the impression of it being a graphical display. This really gives the impression of a very modern looking and feeling application that could be misconstrued as a graphic user interface.

The layout of the application is well done and a good usage of screen real estate. The CPU graph at the top is the right choice for the first thing your eyes pan down. The graph combined with the immediate state of the CPU is a nice touch. The rest of the information, Memory usage, Disk Usage, Network activity with graph and the process list fill out the bottom nicely.

The menu system in Bashtop is top notch. Once you have it tweaked out to your preferences, you probably won’t use it as much but the “help” screen is also very informative. I know that I can’t always remember what keystrokes do what so the help is great for a guy like me that doesn’t use it day in and day out.

What I Don’t Like

As compared to top or htop It is a bit heavier on resources than htop and top, though I think it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience. I can see the arguments as to why some don’t like to use bashtop but this isn’t something I keep running continually, just when I want to nerd out and see what’s going on.

This is not a big deal and it may change in the future, but Bashtop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repository. Setting it up is easy to do with the one-click installation process on software.openSUSE.org.

Final Thoughts

I have historically made htop my go-to terminal system monitoring application. I still think htop is good but I happen to enjoy the experience of Bashtop just a bit more. It feels more like a full fledged product as opposed to a terminal application. If you like such technical information, I highly recommend installing and trying bashtop. I believe you will really enjoy it.

I have been informed, today, that there is yet another system resource application to try in the terminal called bpytop. That means, more relishable application exploration is on the horizon! Linux and open source software is so much fun!

References

Bashtop from software.opensuse.org
Bashtop from Github

Outside The Cubicle | DeWalt 20v Max Cordless Router

After purchasing my core set of DeWalt 20v MAX cordless tools and selling off the previous platform I used, I “needed” to replace some of those capabilities. One such tool is a router. In fairness, I had a rotary tool I was using as a router. Although it did the job fairly well, it lacked a proper base. This DeWalt cordless router is a proper router with a nice sized base and therefore a substantial upgrade.

Bottom Line Up Front: For the projects I do, this is a necessary tool. The depth of cut adjustment system along with the speed selection dial and the concentration of thought in engineering the grips is not lost on me. I don’t know that I have my money’s worth out of it yet but I have certainly been able to fabri-cobble the things together as I have imagined because of this. I would call this a luxury tool, I could probably find another way to router corners, not as nicely, but it is certainly possible. I also have not a bit of buyers remorse for this purchase. I do keep it fairly busy.

Unboxing

I purchased, the bare tool, on eBay at a bit lower than retail, because, I am pretty cheap. I didn’t open it up right away because I didn’t have an immediate job for it but I did have in the queue. I do appreciate how they packaged this. Simply done and well protected.

This box included, router, basic fixed base, collet, wrench and a very nice manual. This includes all the basic features, component definitions and obligatory warnings.

If this is your first time using a router and you are unfamiliar with its operation, this is a good manual to dig into. There really isn’t much. The key features of this are the power switch, speed adjustment, depth adjustment, and so forth.

Tool Use

The main purpose for the purchase of this tool is to router the edges of things when I am building furniture, stairs, railing, Lego tables, etc. This is not one of those “must have” tools for getting tasks done, this is more of a “last 10%” type of a tool. Is it necessary I router the edges of my Lego Table or hand railing? No, but it really makes a difference as to the quality of the final product. With the recent bit of shelving I built, I didn’t need it but the hand railing on some stairs I put together, very much necessary.

The argument for going corded vs cordless is the added battery weight. The battery does add some weight to the top of the tool but since the industry move to Lithium Ion chemistry the weight is a non-issue. I am using the larger 10 cell batteries but you could very easily use a smaller 2 Ah, 5 cell battery pack or the somewhere-in-between, 3 Ah, 5 cell pack.

For the simple radius edges I have put on the various things, it has never been clumsy to handle and not having a power cord get in my way to maneuver around has been a significant benefit. The more I use cordless tools, especially those from DeWalt only further inspires my desire to grow the collection of compatible cordless tools.

Battery Life

There is a valid argument for why not just get the corded variety and you don’t have to worry about battery life. That is a good argument if you only work in the confines of a shop or garage. The nature of much of the work I do with hand tools is often outside of the confines of a shop and often away from an outlet. More often than not I am working out of the back of my truck with the tailgate as my workbench. That said, I haven’t actually used up a 4 Ah battery for any given project, every time the battery was moved to another tool with a lot of life left on it. I should also not, using my tools as often as I do, a 4 or 5 Ah battery will typically last me hours for most tasks.

What I Like

For starters, the size of this is router is perfect for the tasks I do. It is just the right diameter to comfortably hold and guide along the edge of a project. Also, it very easily fits nice and neatly into my tool bag along with my jig saw, circular saw and reciprocating saw.

The fit and finish of this router feels great. It is the right mass which gives the impression it is well built. Adjusting the depth of cut is a smooth action which further feeds into the impression of a highly refined, quality product.

The speed control dial and switch are conveniently at the top of the tool by the battery, away from your fingers as you grip the router, so accidentally adjusting the speed or shutting it off while in use is not very likely. The component choices for the switch and dial were well made. It will be interesting to see how they hold up long term but for the time being they feel and function exceptionally well.

Lastly, and most importantly, the fact the router is cordless is my favorite feature. I am quite pleased with the freedom from wires when maneuvering this router. Not having a crisscross of extension cords to trip over is worth the extra expense of the battery powered model.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t like that I don’t have the larger plunge base with the two knobby handles. Although everything I have made so far can be done with the more compact base, the larger base would make it easier and more secure to handle, especially when additional control is needed. This can very easily be purchased and will likely be an upgrade at a later time. Outside of having two hands to control the path of the router, the ability to plunge and retract the cutter has great benefits.

Plunge Base for Compact Router

I realize, there isn’t an actual criticism for the router itself. I truly do not have one. It’s a fantastic piece of kit.

Final Thoughts

Although I am quite happy with this tool, I am not sure I have used it enough to say it was worth the $160 expense. At the same time, there are a number of things I have done that would not have been possible otherwise so I am not at all unhappy with the purchase. The router feels and operates like a well built machine.

At some point, I need to purchase the plunge base. There have been a few instances where the additional control would have made my life easier but this is a further luxury for an already luxury tool. I could also use more router bits for this router. I have one bit that I have used for everything. It is time to add to this collection and get some kind of variety pack.

I don’t recommend that everyone needs a router in their toolkit. However, if you have any inclination to do more detailed wood working, build table tops and the like, this a very welcome tool to have.

References

DeWalt 20v Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router
DeWalt 20v Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router Manual
DeWalt compact plung base

Gaming Rack Design and Construction

I have collected a number of gaming systems throughout my life and there is little point in having them if they sit in a box or using them takes an annoying level of set-up time, making it fun prohibitive. I was then inspired by Perifractic Retro Recipes video where the computer museum has everything so nicely laid out. I looked at my mess and decided that I had to do something about it because my arrangement just isn’t presentable.

The Search

Started my search online and did not find anything that met my needs. I went to a few local stores, websites and found nothing that met my specifications. They were all made of particle board and not deep enough to house the consoles appropriately. Additionally, they all had closed backs which would have a negative effect on thermal ventilation of the various machines. I also didn’t like the price point on most of my options. I also didn’t want buyer’s remorse in any of this. To spend anything and be less than satisfied with it is not acceptable.

Design

I set out to design the Gaming Rack, initially on paper, then using Fusion 360, installed on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine. I initially set out to have it exactly 24 inches wide on each shelf and about 12 inches between each shelf. With this width, I would be able to put all the machines designated on this custom piece of furniture.

I decided that the machines I wanted to house in this was my Linux Media computer, Original Xbox that was “modded” by YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer, Playstation 3, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Game Cube. Another machine that is on order that will occupy this shelf is a “The C64 Maxi” which is a modern release of the system. More information about it can be gained from The 8-bit Guy’s YouTube video on it.

My next step was to use a spreadsheet application, LibreOffice Calc, to create a BOM or Bill Of Material so I knew my material costs. This is where I discovered a flaw in the design and set out to change a few dimensions. Firstly, making each shelf 24 inches wide would mean that the top and bottom would have to be approximately 25-½ inches wide which means, I would either have to reduce the number of shelves or have additional waste. I also have to keep in mind the kerf of the blade or the width of cut produced by the blade. Each pass through a board will cut into dust about 1/8″ or about 3.2mm. Stain grade planks are not as cheap as construction lumber so in order to control costs, I reduced the width of the shelf by 1-½ inches which had no affect on usability. I also updated the CAD accordingly as that was going to be my source of truth for the construction. I also updated my bill of material accordingly.

I thought about how I wanted to use this Gaming Rack. I made it my intention to be able to easily switch between each of the game systems. I decided that the best way forward was to use HDMI switching which also meant I had to get some adapters to output HDMI for the GameCube and Nintendo 64. I found these online and ordered them.  Next I had to determine how I was going to wire this all up. The easy one was the Linux Box as I could take advantage of the SVGA input as it has been that way, the Xbox will get an “AV Input” and the rest will be on HDMI which means I needed a 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box.

I also wanted to have an auxiliary monitor so that I would have the option of utilizing two different machines at once. This can be done by getting 1-in/2-out HDMI splitters and having a 2nd 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box. What could go wrong?

Construction

I purchased the materials and got right to work. I set up my laptop, using Fusion 360 to be my source of design truth. I would create a drawing from the model but the unfortunate reality to using Fusion 360 on Linux is the inability to use the drawing module, at this time. Hopefully, one day, it will be fixed.

After cutting the planks I realized I had enough wood for an extra shelf and decided to revise the design, originally I anticipated that I would mess up and needed the “insurance policy” of extra wood. This prompted me to rework the design by adding one more shelf. Instead of all shelves being fixed, I then decided to leave one fixed near the center and make the rest adjustable by drilling blind holes, using shelf support pegs for 5 out of the 7 shelves (the bottom shelf is still a shelf).

Adjusted the lower three levels to be smaller but large enough to easily accommodate DVD sized cases so games can be stored. The bottom shelf was made to be large enough to easily house the tablets, phones and mobile gaming devices.

Laid out and drilled the blind holes in the 72″ long vertical boards to accommodate the shelf support pegs in groupings of three. Where ever the shelf was measured out, I added a set of holes above and below by 1 inch (25.4mm), to give me the option of moving a shelf up or down as needed.

I fastened together the top, bottom and middle fixed boards. Initially using finishing nails to pin the parts together and using construction screws to hold it together. All holes were pre-drilled to reduce the possibility of splitting the wood.

Once together, I test fit the assembly and placed the system on it to see if I needed to make any changes in spacing of the shelves. Discovered the bottom adjustable shelf was made with an error.

My initial thought was not to stain or polyurethane it and just put it in its place and start using it. Then I stained it thinking that I am not going to seal it. Decided, since I had the polyurethane, I would just do one coat and that’s it. After my second coat, I decided I would sand and apply a third. I let it dry for 24 hours, as the instructions recommended on the back of the can.

Employment

After moving aside the “entertainment cabinet” over by 2 feet, I placed the systems and ran the HDMI cabling, to include the 1 to 2 splitters. I used cable ties to keep things as neat I could with the level of patience I had available. The power cables were routed on the opposite side of the shelf to reduce the potential for interference with video signals. It is probably not an issue but it doesn’t hurt either.

When operating the Nintendo Switch I discovered it doesn’t seem to like having its video output split and seems to have a bit of an issue with the 5-in/1-out switch.

Still waiting on my The C64 Maxi so 4 of the 5 slots are taken and am just a bit unsure where I am going to set the system as one of the shelves is acting as a place to keep the extra USB cables and such.

Evaluation

In order to make an objective evaluation of this project, I will draw from another occupation I have and use this idea that I can evaluate this on my measures of performance, or how well I made it and measures of effectiveness, how well it actually does its job.

On the Measures of Performance, I would say I am mostly happy with it. It looks nice enough and I am glad I stained and sealed it. Does it look as nice as Perifractic’s retro museum? No, not even close. something about how his machines are presented looks far better. To evaluate my other silly furniture building, like my stand up desk, this looks much nicer and not something thrown together by a scrapper or scavenger.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this, I would say it met or exceeded expectations. It is the best setup I have seen first hand that allows for easy switching between devices. I would say, it maximizes my fun and reduces wasted time of plugging in and switching things on the TV for a little bit of entertainment.

What would I change

As far as the construction of the cabinet, I think I might have added some metal brackets to stiffen the cabinet a bit. It’s not bad but could be more ridged. Where it is positioned, it is not an issue but if it were not in a corner, it could be.

After having used this a new piece of furniture for a short while, the changes I would make would be to add another shelf, which could still be done and some sort of lighting, which also could yet be added.

I would really have liked not making the the mistake with the hole placement on the bottom adjustable shelf. It doesn’t affect my usage, it just annoys me that I made such a bone-headed mistake. I guess it makes it unique but that is a poor excuse.

Final Thoughts

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. I’m not yet sure how I am going to place The C64 Maxi when it arrives, perhaps adding one more shelf would just above the location of the Xbox would be the best location.

I have provided the CAD data and bill of material for you to use as it suits you.

I’m not going to pretend for a moment that this particular layout is universally a good design. It is 72 inches or 6 feet tall… 1830 mm tall for the rest of the world. I needed an open back design which may not be universally visually appealing.

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. It adds a little order to my chaos and gives a home to some consoles and other devices. The benefit of giving things a place does help to keep things a bit more tidy. Hopefully this inspires you to make improvements in your world.

References

Perifractic Retro Recipes YouTube Channel
The 8-Bit Guy’s YouTube Video on The C64 Maxi
8-bit Show and Tell on The C64 Maxi
Modern Vintage Gamer
https://retrogames.biz/

Raspberry Pi 400 | Blathering

I am not one of those individuals who gets the new fancy hardware because I am an Internet nobody and that is just fine by me (as I sulk, rocking back and forth in the corner). That doesn’t mean I am not without my opinions.

Raspberry Pi 400 Kit

I watched a video early in the morning about the Pi 400 on Retro Recipes from the perspective of using it as a kind of retro machine, like an ultimate emulation machine in a compact size. The marketing on the box says it is a “complete personal computer built into a compact keyboard” which interestingly like the Commodore 64 of years past.

Granted, that is a much larger keyboard in comparison but for the time, it was rather compact when compared to its contemporaries of similar performance. The back of the Pi 400 has all the typical ports exposed on a standard Pi 4 so you have available all that was previously available but in a different form factor.

Specifications

This isn’t, by any stretch, an amazingly high performing computer but it is also no slouch. It features a Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, wireless networking, dual-display output through 2 micro HDMI ports for 4K video playback, MicroSD Card slot for whatever operating system you plan to run, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 2.0 port USB-C for power a Gigabit Ethernet port and finally a 40-pin GPIO header so all the fun of the Raspberry Pi is exposed.

It is claimed to have an operating temperature from 0°C to +50°C ambient. I am quite sure that going above 50°C would likely cause some kind of thermal throttling.

Essentially, this is a Pi 4 in a different package with the intent to be manufactured until 2026. That is an incredible length of time.

Design

This machine has the footprint of 286 mm × 122 mm × 23 mm. If you are metric shy, that is 11-¼” x 4-⅜” x ⅞” That makes this machine quite small and indeed compact. According to Perifractic Retro Recipes. The design is solid with just a bit of sponginess on the Enter key, “5% from perfect” was the claim

Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video

It is quite obvious with the internals, that this is a completely different design than the standard Pi 4.

Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video
Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video

I am pleasantly surprised to see this elegantly simple designed board on the interior, not just a Pi 4 with connector wires to the back. It does look like reliability was a factor in the design and manufacturing of this equipment.

I am not sure how many times one would plan on getting to the internals of this computer, as everything for which you need access is on the back, I am concerned about cooling. The CPU is heat taped to the metal shield so that should help with thermal dissipation. I know that some early Pi 4s did have serious issues with getting too hot. That makes me a bit concerned and therefore, I would be interested in seeing what some stress testing would yield on this machine.

Possible Uses

If you have any interest in developing things on single board computers, this is absolutely a great way to work on something to rapidly test it out. Since there isn’t the mess of parts and pieces as you would more likely have with a standard Raspberry Pi, here you plug in the power, the monitor, and whatever you are working on to the back of the Pi4. Admittedly, unless you are developing to deploy this on the Pi 4, some of the specifics may not work on early versions of the Pi. I can’t say for sure but I do know that there are different images for different Pis.

I see a strong propensity for this device to become the “Ultimate Retro Arch machine” that you keep in your living room or video game den. With the keyboard, sturdy case and available USB ports on the back, it would be cost effectively simple to play all the games of yester-year on this without putting at risk of damage, the real hardware. Specifically, I am thinking for those times I do play retro-games with my kids, I do worry just a bit for the safety of my machines.

Although I think there is a better argument for an old netbook, I do think that this would be a great choice for a child’s first computer. It would, perhaps be better, to have them sit properly at a desk and do their typing tutor there or a nice little work station to learn and explore, taking advantage of the GPIO on the back, making wonderful electronics creations which leads me to my last point.

As an inspiration education tool for children or adults. Lets be fair here, this is a toy for an adult, just as much as it is for a child. This is a super cool kit that is more than just an educational tool for youngest of populations. This is a great tool for any age to learn and dig into it that has the vulnerable bits protected. This frees up any apprehension of getting all the right pieces and not having some collection of things that looks like a science experiment, dominating a desktop or workbench. The GPIO pins on this device are shielded from an accidental drop or scoot that might short something out. This is a much safer way to conduct reckless mad-scientist like electronics experimentation

What I Like

The kit looks like the way to go. It has a retail of $100 (though I can’t find anyone selling it at this time) which comes with an official power supply, mouse, HDMI cable and perhaps, most importantly, a beautiful manual that is loaded with pages of all kinds of informative educational excitement. This is essentially an educational tool that comes with a real manual like the days of old. For me, the manual is key. Thumbing through the pages documentation, running my fingers down the inner spine of the book encourage it to stay open and explore all that it has to offer. There is something about that smell of a freshly bound book that makes an experience real and memorable (I realize, I am dreaming here).

The build quality looks more than adequate. I would absolutely gauge my expectations around the $100 mark and wouldn’t try to compare this with a modern Dell Latitude in fit, function and performance. That would be completely ridiculous. Based on other reviews, they keyboard looks to be just 5% from perfect which is more than adequate for me and especially more than adequate as an educational tool.

All the connections are on the back, like in good all-in-one Commodore 64 fashion and is nicely shrouded to protect against accidental shorting of pins or parts on the board. It doesn’t protect against everything but would protect against most accidental clumsiness.

Perhaps most important of all, this is spearhead into he inspiration of future generations to develop and create solutions. It is that first computer you can feel good about giving a child that he or she can take the time to learn and create. This is the beginning of something that is far better than having them plunk away on a phone or tablet being entertained like mindless automatons. This can be used to just just consume but to create and give to the world in which we live.

What I Don’t Like

The case uses clips to hold it together as opposed to screws. I am aware that screws do cause significant increases in manufacturing cost, so I understand the decision to forego case screws. That just happens to be my preference.

There are some incompatibilities between the Pi 400 and the Pi 4. Though I believe it has largely been worked out and since it is Linux that is running on top of the hardware, I am quite certain, through the magic of configuration files, kernel modules can be turned on and off based on the underlying hardware platform.

Since this is an ARM based system, anything that is built to run on top of it is likely to be unique for this specific ARM platform. ARM tends to lack standards across the architecture, which I believe is holding back the wide spread adoption of ARM (among other things). It is at least one reason I don’t just run out and by ARM devices.

Worst of all, I can’t seem to find any place that has them for sale. It looks like it’s sold out! So, all I can do at this point is kick my feat up, dream and wonder about all the fun I could be having with this… until my goldfish-like attention span drifts me off to another intellectual curiosity.

Final Thoughts

This is a great little piece of kit that is essentially a STEM course in a box. The design, the look and from what I can tell by other reviews, build quality are top notch, especially at this price point of $100 for the kit and $70 for the computer/keyboard itself.

I don’t have an immediate use for such a device but I can say that I would love to get my hands on one and play with it. Test it out and see what it can do. I do think it would make for a great Retro Arch machine. Even better would be to run openSUSE on this with all the Retro goodness and even for some productivity.

I think the best use of this particular machine is in education. The cost is low enough that you could buy for a whole classroom without breaking the bank and inspire future generations to develop and create wonderful solutions for the next generation of challenges.

Lastly, why 400? Should I have been making parallels to the Atari 400 as opposed to the Commodore 64? The keyboard on the Atari 400 was awful…

References

Retro Recipes Pi 400 Video
https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-400/
Raspberry Pi 400 Specifications
http://www.retroarch.com/
https://www.opensuse.org/

Noodlings 22 | On the Edge

Click here for the 22nd single serving sized podcast episode

Computers are a tool, it’s a wrench or hammer, maybe more like a drill as it is a kind of power tool. It is there to serve you in whatever the task is. Whether it is organizing and storing information, one of the core functions of computers; entertainment, home security or designing and building something to improve your “foxhole”, it is a tool. Computers can just be fun to tinker around with too. It’s for people who like to mess around with computers and learn how they work as well. It’s for all types. Linux along with the free and open source applications on top of it just happens to be the best solution for me.

Would open source software be the best and most ideal solution? Of course it would, but that is just not the case much of the time. What I do believe is best is that the core and base layers of the operating system are free and open. Having projects like KDE Plasma, Gnome and Xfce which are completely open source Desktop Environments is the key. Should you need some proprietary applications to run on top of it, sure, it is less ideal but much preferred to the whole stack being closed and proprietary.

I run Fusion 360 on my machine as well as FreeCAD, I support the FreeCAD project but I still have some trouble with it. I do think it is getting better but for the time being Fusion 360 is my go-to CAD application because of what it can do so effortlessly. Does that make my system, as a whole compromised? I don’t believe so. Would running only free and open source software be better? Absolutely but that is not where things are today and rather than get upset, I would rather get projects done.

Consider this, if your living was dependent on designing and building widgets and you needed to collaborate with other designers, what would be the best tool for the job? I can’t say for certain what your case may be, but if I were working on a project and collaborating with a team, as a small business owner, Fusion 360 has those tools baked into it. If it reduces the time-to-market enough to offset the costs, it is worth it. If it shortens the development time enough to offset the cost of software, than it is indeed worth it.

On the contrary, if you have developed a method for product life-cycle management while using FreeCAD, and you are able to do all that is required, to include the machining process, just as well. Than go with that application. The bottom line is, you MUST use the tool that works best for you and you shouldn’t receive grief by anybody for it.

Personal computers should be just that, personal, use what is best for you. Should someone choose something different or go down a different path to get to their ultimate solution, even if it is a winding path, that personal discovery is extremely valuable. The best ideas will surface and suppressing the journey is of no benefit to anyone.

Give people space to discover and grow at their own pace. Allow them to figure out their world, show them kindness and grace as they learn and ask questions. Technology is but one vehicle to make our world a better place, positive and supportive attitudes are another. Stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do and have that honest conversation with yourself.

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

I have recently installed and started using Microsoft Edge Browser. It still in the “Development” channel and it is pretty fantastic. The browser works so well, even though it is in development yet. I have received a couple updates on it now. Though I haven’t noticed any differences as of yet, I do appreciate the work being done on it.

I have been one of those individuals that have been the opposite of a Microsoft fan… for many years. I do have to give them credit where credit is due. We can start with Microsoft Basic that was essentially the common thread between the computer in the 8-bit era. Commodore BASIC was licensed from Microsoft and between the different computers of the time, it was very similar with the variations being in how you control graphics, sound and I/O. Fast forward to the 90s Microsoft began down a road of dominance which lead to congressional hearings on monopolistic business practices and later with Steve Balmer telling the world that Linux was a cancer. We are also reminded about their historic practice of “embrace, extend, extinguish” and the numerous law suits that kept Linux and open source software from growing at a greater speed.

Despite all their flaws, when you remove the emotional context and look at their contributions to the technology industry, you will see that there are countless contributions they have made in pushing the boundaries and making technology more accessible. Sure, they made mistakes, we all make mistakes, we are flawed humans running flawed organizations making flawed decisions but that doesn’t mean we should negate the positives because of the negatives. Lets look at today, lets look and see what they are doing today. Should we be weary, sure, perhaps, I prefer the “trust but verify” approach.

Today, Microsoft has been saying that they “heart” Linux. Cynically, you can say, yeah, they heart the money they get from developing and licensing technology for Linux. That is what business does. Now they are building a browser, Microsoft Edge, for Linux. It is based on Chromium and therefore reducing some of the technical liabilities associated with using their own web engine. Would I have preferred they used Firefox’s Gecko engine? Sure, that would have possibly been better but I can’t really say. I think, no matter what Microsoft did, it would cause backlash in the community.

The bottom Line is, Edge is good, it’s real good. I am nothing short of impressed by how it performs. This browser may still be in the “Dev” channel, but it is shockingly good. If I had to choose between Edge and Chrome for my corporate sponsored web browser, I would choose Edge as it does not chomp system resources up like Chrome.

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

I highly recommend giving Edge a try. If you don’t like Microsoft and refuse to use any of its products, then don’t use it. At the same time, if someone else likes it, let them like it. It’s not your computer anyway.

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

I can’t help but to be so super excited about using FISH for my terminal. It makes the terminal alive and interactive. The “F” in FISH should really be “fun” because of how it helps guide you through commands as well as it does. FISH is able to parse the man pages and help you build a proper command to accomplish whatever terminal task you are doing. The Tab key become so much more powerful opening up a menu of options that are easily understandable. It is truly an amazing improvement and if I had my way, this would be the default shell in openSUSE.

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

Branded vs Unbranded Laptop Batteries

I have often been cheap on many of my decisions. Since I do have a bit of an addiction to all things tech, I try to do it as least cost prohibitive as possible. That has also gone for batteries for my laptop. I purchased a replacement battery on eBay that was unbranded from my Dell Latitude E6440 to save a few bucks. Not only did it arrive broken, as well as the replacement, the computer didn’t like it. This is like the last unbranded battery I purchased. It would have an affect on the computer performance. The result would often be forcing the CPU to be capped at around 800Mhz. Popping the battery out or using a real Dell Battery and the CPU performance is back to where it should be. The battery also was only at an estimated 94% of life left in the first week, after a week or so, 88% and three weeks later, 78%. Also, these knock off batteries don’t seem to hold up for very long. I had a similar issue with my Latitude D630 as well. The battery would only hold up for three to four months, tops. There is a common thread so I changed my ways.

I purchased a genuine Dell battery this time. A real battery that has the Dell name imprinted on it. The battery health is 100% and there isn’t any crazy CPU governing. It may have taken me 10 years, but I finally learned my lesson. Sometimes, genuine is the better way to go.

Halloween Festive Lights

For the benefit of the towns folk and the trick or treaters, using my Linux-powered Festive Lights, I did a sequence to Ghostbusters with which I was ultimately not pleased. The main reason being, I ran out of time in getting some additional pixel lights mounted and the purple string of LEDs did not flash in time with the musical sequence as I had expected. Any of the effects that were directed towards the pixel LEDs did just as they were supposed to do so that worked out.

One passer-byer asked me how I did it and since I didn’t want to have to give him a full explanation, I just said, as a matter of fact, “Linux”. He accepted that answer and carried on. Maybe he will become curious and look into it but chances are, he will completely dismiss what I said and go on to consume the more traditional forms of entertainment more easily digested.

I am getting ready for the big dance now, this year. I will be adding a lot by means of pixel bulbs on my house. It will likely be a good show and I look forward to what I will be able to share.

BDLL Followup

The bulk of the conversation on BDLL was discussion Utilities and what people use. Rocco was absent so Dan ran the show. The discussion is always intersting, at least, it is for my nerd brain and what I found most interesting how sour some people watching became when we talked positively of the Microsoft Edge Browser. BDLL got its largest number of down-votes I have ever seen and I can’t help but wonder, why?

There were a few visceral comments in the dislike for Canonical as well which I find incredibly disappointing. Canonical has done so much for the Linux Desktop in pushing the design, concepts and emphasizing the need for polish. They have greatly improved application accessibility to many Linux distributions though Snap and do a lot to encourage development on Linux. Do I agree with everything they do? Nope, but I agree with their mission and you have to look at their character as a company, not focus on one or few decisions with which I do not agree.

Microsoft is putting time, people and resources into the Linux desktop. They have given us Microsoft Teams and Visual Studio Code to name a couple. Now they are building a browser, Edge, for Linux as well. Am I a fan of telemetry, no or rather, it depends. If I can give them information to improve my personal experience, yes. I also like it that they are going up against the likes of Chrome as well. Although, they both use the Blink web engine, there is some significant variation in the user experience that is quite welcome.

I am a little disconcerted by the amount of dislike for any company putting resources into the Linux desktop. I understand the lack of trust but to out right show contempt for it is just not beneficial to anyone.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Community to Have Kickoff Session for Leap 15.3

The openSUSE community is inviting all stakeholder to join the kickoff for Leap 15.3 on November 4th of this year. This is an invitation to package maintainers, contributors, and open source developers to join the community with a virtual meeting at:

https://meet.opensuse.org/LeapKickoff.

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Computer Entrepreneurs (1984)

The computer industry has brought wealth to many people at various levels. Some starting companies that go on to be enormously successful like Apple. Some were able to make great livings and gain historic notoriety many others have fallen into the relative obscurity as time has marched on. The 1970s gave rise to the computer entrepreneurs, mostly wearing, at the time whatever they wanted and just looking to create the best product possible for themselves, as in the case of Steve Wozniak. He was free to define the project as he saw fit so was able to explore and learn. Changes in the early 1980s shifted the industry to become a lot more professional.

The computer industry went from garage bound to billions of dollars in an incredibly short time. Wosniak was very humble about his beginnings and the foolishness of corporations looking down on upstarts, though, largely software upstarts at this time.

It was in the first 10 years or so of the fledgling industry that anyone with the knowledge and a few hundred dollars could start building hardware devices and people would have enough interest to commit dollars to it. The technically creative expressions were wide and varied, also largely incompatible with one another. Very few technically creative products being produced in the world by 1984 and things had already, largely, become commoditized. The computer was becoming more like and appliance similar to a refrigerator or washer where economies of scale were necessary to have a successful business model.

In 1984, it was not believed likely that there could be any new garage or hobby manufacturers but belief in software upstarts were absolutely possible due to the lower economic threshold requiring an application go to market as opposed to a new computer.

Adam Osborn, formerly of Osborn computers, made the statement that there isn’t room for new manufacturers, that business was locked up by and the computer is no longer “high tech” where price and reliability was the driving factor. He also stated that there will never be an IBM in software because you are dealing with $50 products and because of human nature, people will want something very different from one another.

Osborn went on to say that the computers collecting dust and no longer being used were ZX80 and ZX81 but largely served their purpose in the curiosity of getting people interested in the computer revolution. The Commodore 64 was collecting dust for reliability reasons and people just buying new machines because they were so inexpensive. Another guest stated that the IBM clone companies won’t make it because they are not delivering anything new.

It is interesting, looking at this from a historical perspective as IBM is no longer in the PC business and sold it all off because they were not able to hang. There was a software “IBM” called Microsoft or maybe now it is Google, perhaps it is Apple that is, in a way, the giant of today.

Today people are saying things like there is no room for another mobile platform or another desktop environment or another search provider or another social media platform. People are continually making these faulty assumptions and they are largely believed until they are no longer true.

Atari used to be the defacto video game standard until Nintendo and Sega battled it out, only for Sony and Microsoft to gobble up much of the gaming industry and crushing the likes of the Amiga CD32 and Sega Dreamcast.

Think about it, Yahoo and AOL once ruled the Internet and Microsoft was the only seriuos, game in town for office products. The industry is always changing. Linux is now dominant on many areas of technology and Microsoft has pivoted, in many ways, from the desktop and office applications to server or cloud based offerings. IBM purchased Red Hat and pushes open source solutions.

The bottom line is, no one knows what the future holds, just because a company holds the lead in any area, doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. This industry is always changing, growing, contracting, morphing and technology is finding new ways to solve problems and waste time. Hang on, enjoy it, stay flexible and like what you like.

Final Thoughts

Not everything in the world is going to be exactly what you want. In fact, it may very well be that what you want does not align with the majority of people. Does that mean you are wrong or they are wrong? No, it means you are a different person. You must find a way to show kindness to everyone, no matter what they prioritize. I believe you have to have faith in people. Short term, things might look bleak but long term, the good ideas will come to the surface. Discern was is good from what is not good and make decisions that you can live with, long term. Be a good neighbor in the digital world as well as the real world. A combination of kindness, patience and grace will ultimately win in every situation.

Ventoy | Multi-ISO Bootable USB Drive Made Easy

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

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

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

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

Alternatively, you can use the tar command in the terminal

tar xvzf ventoy*.tar.gz

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

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

Installation

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

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

Or you can go the terminal route and type in:

lsblk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Ventoy

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

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

Update

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

References

https://www.ventoy.net/

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

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

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

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

Installation

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

Microsoft Edge Download

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Run and Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Performance

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

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

Memory Usage

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

Microsoft Edge Download
openSUSE.org
Firefox browser
Falkon browser

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

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

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

Installation

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

sudo zypper install fish

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

Difference

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

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

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

fish_config

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

Switch to Fish | Bash is out

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

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

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

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

which fish

Switch to Fish on openSUSE

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

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish

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

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish cubiclenate

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

Final Thoughts

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

Reference

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

Noodlings | Inspiration Is Around You

21st Noodling of jam packed excitement… not really.

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

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

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

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

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

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

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

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

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

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

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

Rickroll in the Terminal

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

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

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

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

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

BDLL Followup

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

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

openSUSE Corner

Introducing the Open Build Service Connector

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

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

Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa Update in Tumbleweed

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

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Speech Synthesis (1984)

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

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

SAM on the Web

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Rickroll in the Terminal

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

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

I found this GitHub page here:

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

I was incredibly amused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

References

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