Blatherings

More openSUSE Tumbleweed Awesomeness

cubiclenate-opensuse board campaign-2019

If you haven’t tried openSUSE Tumbleweed in a while, I highly recommend you take it for a spin. I am not using Tumbleweed on the majority of my computers. I have openSUSE Leap on a few but since my experience with Tumbleweed has been so positive it has taken over most of my machines. I will recognize that there can be problems with a rolling model, especially if you have some mission critical requirements with specific pieces of software that are less friendly to the rolling model.

These are features I have known about for a while but I have decided that it should be highlighted again because it is Pure Linux Awesomeness.

Some Cool Things

For the uninitiated on how openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots work, check out this video. It is less than 2 minutes of information goodness.

 

Before you do a distribution update and are very concerned about the status of the current snapshot you can review it here:

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

At the time of writing, the current snapshot, 20190621, has a bending review percentage of 91. You can review the current or older snapshots to see the score status. You know, just for fun.

Another Really Cool Thing

I have been using Tumbleweed for over two years and this is a feature that I haven’t used but wish I would have sooner. I learned on this page that there is a nifty command line tool for examining the Snapshot status and pinning your Tumbleweed system to a specific snapshot. In effect you can dictate when you allow your Tumbleweed to roll to the next snapshot.

To start out, install Tumbleweed CLI

sudo zypper in tumbleweed-cli

Once installed you have to initialize it.

sudo tumbleweed init

To see what your system’s snapshot status

tumbleweed status

This will output

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190621

Or similar based on the date you do this.

Although it seems self evident, I want to explain what this truly means.

Latest – What is the latest snapshot available

Target – If you have switched to a particular target, it would be listed there.

Installed – What you have currently installed.

Lets say you updated and are having problems with a regression in, oh, lets say VirtualBox and you really need VirtualBox to work. Since you are directly managing your snapshot status, you can very easily target the last snapshot which had it working but lets say you don’t remember what that snapshot was because you just… well… don’t remember.

tumbleweed list

This will give you a list of what is available. Keep in mind that due to storage limitations, only 20 or so are listed and presumably available.

20190621
20190617
20190614
20190612
20190607
20190606
20190605
20190604
20190603
20190601
20190529
20190527
20190525
20190524
20190521
20190520
20190517
20190516
20190514
20190512

Lets say you remember that you knew that the 20190603 snapshot was the last one that worked exactly to your needs. After your roll your system snapshot back to that date or approximately that date, you can lock your system on that particular snapshot

sudo tumbleweed switch 20190603

Now if you look at your status,

tumbleweed status

You will get something like this:

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190603
installed: 20190601

Now you can upgrade to that snapshot

sudo zypper dup

File a bug on whatever is giving you problems

https://bugzilla.opensuse.org/

When you are ready to update to the latest snapshot

sudo tumbleweed switch

That will switch to the latest snapshot. To verify:

tumbleweed status

and get this output (or similar)

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190603

Update to the latest snapshot

sudo zypper dup

Check the status once again

tumbleweed status

Should get you this:

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190621

Should you decide that this method doesn’t work for you, you can revert back to the standard Tumbleweed rolling model.

sudo tumbleweed uninit

Like it never even happened.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE Tumbleweed with full (mostly) control of your snapshots is pretty amazing and adds a whole new depth of control to your computer. This truly is like the best of both worlds between Leap and standard Tumbleweed. It does require a little more work than Leap, and perhaps a bit more work than the standard model but this truly is a fantastic feature that makes openSUSE Tumbleweed the best operating system out there.

Of course… that is my opinion. Your opinions may vary.

References

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

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

http://release-tools.opensuse.org/2017/11/22/Tumbleweed-Snapshots.html

https://bugzilla.opensuse.org/

Advertisements

KDE Plasma 5.16 on openSUSE Tumbleweed | Pretty Great

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Info Center

Recently, the fine folks of the KDE Plasma team have released version 5.16. You can check out the announcement here and see all the work that has gone into it. This update rolled down to openSUSE Tumbleweed in the last few days and it was fantastic enough of an update, I had to blather about it. I am just going to highlight what I think are the really cool aspects.

I want to note that 5.16.1 is officially out with some bug fixes but that hasn’t hit openSUSE Tumbleweed at the time of writing. I am sure that is going to roll down soon. The purpose of this is just to highlight some of the features of which I think are most noteworthy.

Do Not Disturb

There is now a button on the notifications fly out for “Do Not Disturb”. Under most circumstances, this is not something I would use very often but if I were to do some recording or live streaming, that little feature becomes very, very important. No one needs to see that my latest ebay shipment has been delivered or a Telegram notification.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notification

Better Notification Configuration

I may have missed some of these improvements previously but the obvious change to the notification appearance had me curious and I wanted to see the notification settings dialog.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notificaiton Configuration

Not only has version 5.16 given you control of your notification… notifications… you can customize per application the notification behavior. This is very clever and I don’t know how they pulled this one off but just having this kind of flexibility is pretty fantastic. It also gives you a quick and easy spring board to customize the notification sounds.

 

Notification Popup Flexibility

Another neat feature is that you can customize the location of the popup, if you don’t want the popup to show near the location of the system tray widget, you can select any another location that better suits you.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notification 4

I don’t see a need to change it as I like it in the default position but it is still a nice feature to have to tweak it best for you and what you would like. I can see Center-Top having some appeal… maybe.

Microphone Indicator Icon

Better described by Eric Adams in this video, there is an icon that that is displayed when the microphone is in use. It will report what application is using the microphone, you can mute and adjust the volume.

Final Thoughts

KDE Plasma is having a regular cadence of refinements and improvements. Plasma is by far the most flexible, memory and resource respectful desktop environment available on any platform. Sure there are some desktops that use less memory but none that additionally have this fantastic level of customization.

I appreciate Plasma because I know that every new release is going to be an improvement. Each release has further refinements, more features or enhancements to existing features to make the desktop experience even better. It’s nice to see that new releases aren’t met with criticism or complaints of loss of features. Instead, they are happily greeted by users and and the biggest complaint anyone can make is that they don’t like the defaults. The fantastic reality is, KDE Plasma can be shaped and molded to whatever you want.

References

KDE Plasma

Plasma 5.16.0 announcement

Plasma 5.15.5-5.16.0 Change Log

openSUSE Tumbleweed

KDE Plasma Microphone Icon Interaction on YouTube by Eric Adams

 

 

openSUSE Leap 15.1 | Upgrade and Fresh Install Successes

openSUSE review titleEvery review I do is from a biased lens as an openSUSE user and this will be no different. I will be taking a biased look openSUSE Leap 15.1. I’d like to say this will be completely objective… but it won’t. openSUSE is the operating system of choice for nearly every aspect of my life for its technical merits as well as the awesome community that supports it.

This is my experience installing and upgrading openSUSE Leap 15.1 on physical hardware and a Virtual Machine. The applications on each machine vary based on their purpose so feel free to look at specific machines I have set up with openSUSE here.

Fresh Installation

I performed one fresh install of openSUSE Leap just to see if the installer has had any noticeable changes. The biggest and most welcome difference I could spot was the side bar installation step. This is something I have seen on many other installation tools and I am quite pleased to see it with openSUSE. It takes the mystery out of where you are in the process.

For a full, step-by-step walk through on installing openSUSE here.

I want to make one other note about a positive, remarkable change in the installer that I appreciated. Before committing to the installation, there is an option to adjust the CPU mitigations based on your needs. I left it at “Auto” to let the smart folks at SUSE and openSUSE determine what is needed for me.

Offline Upgrade

The first and recommended method of performing an upgrade to an existing system. I performed the upgrade on three systems so far without any issue. All of these were upgrading from 15.0 to 15.1. A wonderful trait openSUSE has is that the upgrade process is very straight forward.

On the boot screen, select Upgrade instead of Installation.

openSUSE Leap 15.1 Upgrade 0.png

Upon starting up the installation, you are greeted with the License agreement. Should you agree to it, next will begin the process of System Probing

Next, unless you have a tremendously complex system setup, you will be presented a location to perform the update. The installer will parse through the previously used repositories and give you the option to edit and or toggle the status for the upgrade.

The easy thing to do would be to let it automatically remove the old repositories and start fresh. For one two of the upgrades, I decided to go in there and change out any references in some of the repositories from 15.0 to 15.1 and toggle the repository active.  I had to resolve one set of conflicts that required a change from the Packman repository to the openSUSE official repository. Just reading the prompt will easily guide you through it. It should also be noted, even if you make the “wrong decision” it can easily be fixed at a later time.

If the installer recognizes an active network connection, you will be asked if you want to add online software repositories. No is an option but if you say yes, you will be given a list of suggestion online repositories.

After you select Next you are given a final installation summary with the option to make some tweaks and adjustments and a final opportunity to bail out.

Very nicely, this installer is the most verbose and wonderful output I have ever seen. It gives a fantastic, current status of what exactly is going on and how many packages with an estimated time left broken down by source.

After a reboot all three systems were functioning without a single glitch. It was simply fantastic.

Online Upgrades

I have one machine that I neglected to update to 15.0. It wasn’t a machine that was heavily used. Mostly just for my kids’ education activities that don’t require Internet access. A summer went by and I didn’t really think much about that old laptop. When I turned it on and realized it was still on 42.3 and had NOT been updated, I thought I would do an Online Upgrade. Since I really had nothing to lose and only smiles to gain. I went into the YaST module to manage the Software Repositories to change out any repository references that had “42.3” to “15.1”. Then, I ran the command in terminal

sudo zypper dup

After some time, this crusty 13 year old Dell Latitude D830 completed the Distribution UPdate, I rebooted the computer and it was, without a single glitch. I was rather impressed that it worked so well. I mean, of course it worked well, this is openSUSE but to be without a glitch or having to “faff” with it at all was quite surprising.

What I Like

The sheer durability of Zypper as a package manager and how it handles all the packages is absolutely astounding. I will concede, that APT, DNF or EOPKG may be just as good but that hasn’t been my experience with APT and I haven’t tested DNF or EOPKG as thoroughly. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that Zypper can do pretty amazing things when it comes to system package management. The interactive nature of it allows me to make the best decision upon any conflicts that may arise. Zypper is simply fantastic and has, as of recent become one my favorite applications.

Going from openSUSE Leap 15.0 go 15.1 was nothing special our outstanding. They both look the same, outside of some performance improvements. Visually, it’s the same, it functions the same.

When performing a fresh installation, I appreciate that you can choose your CPU mitigations depending on what you see as your threats. This is of course an expert function and for shlubs like myself, “Auto” is probably the best choice.

What I Don’t Like

Setting up the network with the openSUSE installer for wireless is a bit of a challenge. Not an issue for me because I prefer to plug into a proper Ethernet port. It is becoming more common to buy laptops that do NOT have a proper port due to whatever silly reason like cost reduction. Oh, sure, Ethernet on consumer grade machines is probably a complete waste for most but I am very much a fan of a “hard line” so perhaps I am the minority. I would prefer a more automatic process or something that presents itself for the user more approachable. This would eliminate some complaints I have heard about the installer.

The partitioning tool would be improved if the summary gave you a graphical representation of what was going on along with the written summary and perhaps some sort of easy buttons for new users. It should also be noticed that this is quite possibly the best tool for setting up a more complex arrangement of partitions just not the best for new users.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE 15.1 is an incredibly boring and unremarkable update to 15.1 or even 42.3 for that matter… which is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. True to form of openSUSE, nothing radical happens from version to version, just steady improvements to the underpinnings of the operating system.

The overall experience with installation and upgrades and using openSUSE, in general, is very positive and thanks to the Open Build Service along with the openQA, the experience of installing and upgrading openSUSE uninterestingly consistent. With this fantastically predictable behavior, openSUSE is most certainly where I want to stay. The operating system remains a reliable partner in your computing experience allowing you to do more interesting things on top of it. openSUSE frees you up to make, produce or develop to your hearts content.

References

openSUSE 15.1 Release Notes

Download openSUSE Leap

openSUSE Open Build Service

openQA

 

Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed

One of the beauties of a rolling distribution is that sometimes you are forced to use a new piece of software… My regular Virtual Machine application, VirtualBox was non-functional for a few days due to a kernel update and some sort of mismatch with the kernel driver or something… The positive is, I got to know a new Virtual Machine Application, Libvirt with QEMU/KVM. Quite honestly, I am not even sure what to call the application stack. The application is virt-manager which is libvirt and the application title bar is Virtual Machine Manager so maybe it goes by them all or I can’t make heads or tails out of the name.

Installation

I found I had to install a few things to make this work.

sudo zypper install libvirt qemu virt-manager libvirt-daemon-driver-qemu

Setup

Set up my first virtual machine. After doing a little reading and digging to figure out what was the best solution for me in my use case, which is, on a desktop testing other distributions or software in a virtual machine. This is how I set it up.

Initially, you have to Add a connection. Depending on how your system is out of the gate, or if you canceled this operation. Here is how you get back to it.

File > Add Connection…

Virt-Manager-01-Add Connection

For my purposes, I am using the QEMU/KVM user session as the Hypervisor. I also selected the Autoconnect tick box to ensure that when I started Virt-Manager, it would make this connection.

Next step is to create a new virtual machine. Since I am installing from an ISO, I selected the first option. If you are running a 32 bit version of Linux, you can select that architecture instead. Although I have not played with this as much, my understanding is you can use other CPU architectures here as well.

Virt-Manager-02-New VM

Unless you have already selected the media, it is at this point you can Browse to select the ISO you have downloaded.

Virt-Manager-03-New VM

Select the Brows Local button at the bottom of this window to search your file system for the ISO of choice.

Virt-Manager-04-ISO

The application will generally automatically detect the distribution, if it is not detecting it you can manually search or find a “similar” upstream project.

Virt-Manager-05-ISO

Next step is to set the memory and CPU. I elected to use two CPU cores.

Virt-Manager-06-Memory and CPU

The next step is to either select or create a disk image. In this case, I am using the default Create a disk image for the virtual machine of 32 GiB. It should be noted. Unlike VirtualBox, these disk images are static allocations for the size you set. They do not dynamically size based on the amount of used space on the virtual disk.

Virt-Manager-07-Storage Volume

The final step you are ready to begin the installation. Modify the name, customize the configuration and change the network selection if you see fit. I just use the Usermode networking. For my purposes this works fine.

Virt-Manager-08-Summary

Upon selecting finish, a new window will open and the ISO you selected should boot up. Since openSUSE booted just fine, any good operating system will work similarly.

Virt-Manager-08-GRUB Boot

Configuration

When you open but not begin running a Virtual Machine you have the ability to make modifications to the Virtual Machine Hardware. As compared to VirtualBox, it feels like you have a lot more control and also a lot more ways to have the VM misconfigured and not behave as you would like. Your mileage my vary.

 

Should you want to make changes to the number of CPUs, Memory or any of the graphics and network settings can be adjusted to suit your needs. I did not alter much of anything here. In order to make the video adjust as I would like in Plasma, I set the Display Spice type to Spice server and Video model should be set to QXL.

 

This will allow me to take full advantage of whatever screen real estate I have available.

Virt-Manager-16-Adjusting Plasma for monitor.png

This is also the part of the post you can point and laugh at my old, non-high-DPI screens to which I will respond, “my old hardware still works, thank you very much.”

What I Like

Qemu with Libvirt just feels much faster than Virtualbox. It has a kind of raw, running on “bare metal” feel as opposed to that slightly sluggish virtualized feel to which I am more accustomed. I do appreciate this performance enhancement. I do have to preface that this is not the experience I get from all desktop environments but Plasma does run quite well.

The interface, although initially a bit overwhelming, is pretty great. I am not going to go into detail on all the features as most of the time, the defaults work well for my use cases.

I don’t have any issues with any updates that roll down breaking this utility. I am not completely sure of the technical reasons as to why but it seems as though this project is less affected by updates to the Linux Kernel.

What I Don’t Like

Virtual Manager is a GTK application so it is not as nice looking as the Virtualbox Qt, although at the time of writing this, I see there is a project on Github called qt-virt-manager.

There isn’t an option to have a dynamically resizing disk so I have to be more careful with the number of disk images I keep on my primary drive in my /home directory. Thankfully a little bit of symbolic linking to a 3rd, removable, drive and all the qcow2 files are available. It is a bit of extra work but worth it for the reliability and increased performance Virtual Machine Manger provides.

The name of this application stack is a bit confusing. I don’t really know what to call it. I learned of it as Libvirt, libvirt is the name of the directory that houses my virtual machine drives (~/.local/share/libvirt). Just knowing Libvirt didn’t answer how to get it going as it wasn’t called that in the repositories so a bit of searching and reading documentation I was able to get it all together in my head and take some notes. So, I think the confusing name and the barrier to entry did make it a bit challenging but I appreciated the journey to get me to this point.

Final Thoughts

Virtual Machine Manager is a great, reliable tool that appears unaffected by changes of the affects of a rolling distribution. It is, in some ways, a bit more difficult to set up, but once you understand that the “Add Connection” portion and set up the QEMU/KVM user session, the simplest Hypervisor. You are good to go. There is so much more you can do with Libvirt and it’s components. I am only barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Although the disk allocation is not as convenient in Virtual Machine Manager, it is easy enough to manage using additional storage and it also keeps me from allowing too many unused machines from littering my computer.

Ultimately, this won’t keep me from using Virtualbox but it does give me another tool to play around with and try stuff out. I am very appreciative of everyone involved in making this tool reliable and easily used for the average Linux user. I am especially grateful that this application stack is more tolerant to the rolling release model that is Tumbleweed.

Reference

Virt-Manager on openSUSE Software

Qt Virt-Manager on Github

KVM/QEMU hypervisor driver

Feren OS | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS review title

I haven’t been able to do one of these in a while but it is always fun to try out other distributions and experience another example of how to answer that user experience question. As part of the BigDaddyLinux community. I have given Feren OS a spin to see how it goes for me, the biased, well entrenched openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation is done by what looks to my poorly trained eye to be the Calamares Installation Tool. This is, in my opinion, one of the most user approachable installation tools I have used. Clean, not clumsy and but yet not so basic that you can’t configure it to your liking.

Feren gives you one option when it starts. Live Media mode. You can play around with it or go right into the installation.

The installation is straight forward and works quite well. When the installation tool starts up you get an animated wheel while it “warms up” or whatever, presumably detecting bits about your system and starts you off to select your language.

Next you need to select your location and keyboard layout. This auto detected my location and keyboard layout.

For the partitions I used to erase the entire disk because for this purpose, erasing the disk works fine. Next, I entered my user information. There isn’t an option to add multiple users and I am unsure if you were to do an upgrade if you would be able to pull in previous user information or not.

The installation process provides an installation summary that includes everything you just selected, Location, Keyboard Layout and partition layout. After you select “Install” it will give you one final opportunity to bail out.

During the installation you aren’t given a slideshow of distribution propaganda, just one image to stare at. I would have liked to have had details fly by the screen during this process. Not that most people would care about that sort of information but I happen to like it. When the installation is complete, selecting “Done” will have the system reboot.

First Run

I really meant to nab the Plasma version of Feren OS but instead seem to have snagged the Cinnamon version and in keeping true to my form… I just went with it. Cinnamon is a fantastic desktop environment and since I haven’t played around with it during my last Linux Mint journey, this was a good refresher.

My overall impression of this spin of Feren OS is that it is a kind of re-imagining of the Cinnamon desktop, set aside the technical shortcomings of Cinnamon as it is based off of Gnome Shell and is encumbered with the single thread process limitation, it just looks fantastic. The Cinnamon developers have done a great job of mashing up the visual capabilities of Gnome into a more familiar desktop paradigm with which many are familiar. No one can argue that that Cinnamon (or Gnome for that matter) don’t have a kind of pleasant, well polished smoothness to it with the right level of desktop effects as to not distract you but also give you that plush Corinthian leather interior feel.

The package selection of Feren OS is undoubtedly satisfactory. There will always be the debate as to what should be default as part of the installation but I am not going to belabor this point. It has all that you need to do the basic computing tasks, a browser and LibreOffice.

Theme switching is much like you would expect in Cinnamon but with Feren OS you get a nice dark spin on that GTK theme that is much needed. I still wonder why light themes exist…

An interesting feature is this very user friendly browser selector application. If you are not satisfied with having only Vivaldi or Firefox, you can try another by selecting the install button

FerenOS-14-Web Browser Manager

What I Like

Feren OS is a good looking desktop. Cinnamon seems to work very well and I like the theme customization options provided. The key selling point to Feren OS is the theme configuration settings. It is truly effortless and

The Browser Manager is a great tool that gives you a great tool to select additional browsers as you desire. I like the ease of which you can install and uninstall them. Well done!

The installation process is seemingly painless and I appreciate any installation that is painless. I can’t say that any of my hardware is odd enough to cause issues with any any distribution I have tried as of late.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t dig into it enough to find things I didn’t like about it. Aside from the default choice being Cinnamon which is GTK and Gnome Shell 3 based and my personal preference is to shy away from GTK and Gnome, it is quite nice. I did have some issues with Cinnamon launching and going into a “fallback mode” but this is in a beta stage and from my understanding, a known issue.

Since this is based in Linux Mint, it does use APT for the package manager which is not my preference. That is a nitpick issue but also saying, I would like to see a Feren OS with an openSUSE base, specifically on Tumbleweed.

Final Thoughts

In testing these various distributions of Linux. I have come to a loose conclusion that what makes a distribution for me, at least initially, that what makes it appealing is not so much the default theme and appearance but rather, how quickly I can modify the theme and tweak the interface to my liking. Cinnamon, especially the Feren OS Cinnamon is very close to my liking and with a few clicks, I can modify the theme to not trigger a headache.

Feren OS is easy to install and the provided applications make it easy to get along very quickly. It looks nice and the defaults appear to be sane. The only thing in which I struggle a bit is trying to understand the the unique selling point and ultimate goal of Feren OS but I can certainly see that the theme chooser is probably it’s greatest selling point. After seeing how the “classic” version of Feren OS is set up. I will be checking out the Plasma version in the coming months. If the developer can make GTK sing a Qt version will be even better.

In the end, would I leave my beloved openSUSE for Feren OS? No, I would not. I did enjoy my time in Feren OS, I enjoyed the way the desktop is customized. I do hope that this one-man show keeps going with it. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop his distribution.

Further Reading

Feren OS Home

Calamares Installation Tool

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux.com Community

Power Outage Corrupted XFS Filesystem | How I Fixed It

Dell Inspiron 20 3048-07-Calendar

This past Monday, 27 May 2019, there was a somewhat severe storm that rolled through Southwestern Michigan that had a disruption on power. I have numerous computers in the house, most of which run some variation of openSUSE. Most of the computers are also battery backed in some form except for one, my Kitchen Command Center. In many ways, I think it is rather crazy computers don’t now have battery backups by default. Since I didn’t take the time and care to have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) on this computer, it lost power and so my troubles began.

Post Storm

After the storm was cleared from the skies and the likelihood of another power outage had diminished I felt it was safe to power my devices back on. Upon doing so, the machine booted up like it normally would but logging in and all the applications were dreadfully slow. I must emphasis dreadfully in the slowness of the system, I could see that the disk was thrashing but the RAM was hardly being used. Looking at the System Monitor, my I/O was taking up all the CPU bandwidth. This was most certainly not the normal behavior of this machine and I was becoming a sad “Geeko.” RAM usage was less than 2 GiB and Plasma Desktop kept hanging, a behavior with which I am most certainly not familiar. I was starting to worry that there may have been hardware damage.

After doing a little digging, I was able to determine that it was related to a corrupted file system and in my usage of the computer, my estimation was that it was the /home directory partition and not the root directory. When I looked at the System Activity, whatever application I was trying to use had “disk sleep” next to it in the table. My first course of action was to do a file system repair.

The Fix

I rebooted the machine and instead of logging in to the desktop environment, I dropped down to a terminal (Ctrl + Alt + F2), logged in as root.

I unmounted /home, which, in my case is located at /dev/sda4

umount /dev/sda4

Since the terminal didn’t give me any confirmation the drive was unmounted, I checked

df -h

Looking through the list (You can omit the -h). I saw that there was indeed nothing mounted at /home so I was able to conduct the repair.

xfs_repair /dev/sda4

After several minutes. The process completed and seemingly completed without any errors. I rebooted the system and crossed my fingers.

Post Repair

Seemingly everything is back to normal. Whatever was causing the “Disk Sleep” is not happening anymore. I performed another update on the machine,

sudo zypper dup

rebooted it and it is continuing to function just as it had before. I have not lost any data on the computer and I am using like it all never even happened. I don’t know the exact cause and depth of the corruption but I am just glad to be back to normal.

Final Thoughts

I have had to forcibly shut down systems with XFS before and this is the first time I have had to do a file system repair. I could see that someone without technical expertise could just think their computer was broken and take more intrusive actions. I am also not sure if there was some sort of file system integrity verification that didn’t happen that should have automatically checked and repaired the file system that has normally done so. Regardless, the fix was relatively straight forward and the computer is back to normal. Furthermore, it might also behoove me to gift the machine with a UPS.

After losing a few hours of use out of the computer, I was able to learn another tool in my open source / Linux toolbox. The storm, although inconvenient, has given me further confidence in the technology I have chosen.

Further Reading

https://linux.die.net/man/8/xfs_repair
Dell Inspiron 20 3048 All-In-One Desktop

Distracted by LeoCAD Once Again on openSUSE Linux

LeoCAD-01-Title

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

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

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

/usr/share/leocad/

The parts library can be found here.

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

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

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

Designing

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

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

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

Blacktron Combining Options

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

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

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

Invader Crane Mode-17-Module

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

https://www.leocad.org

LeoCAD Parts Library

LeoCAD | Free LEGO® CAD Software on openSUSE Linux

Rebrickable.com

CubicleNate MOCs

Blacktron on LEGO Fandom.com

Sabayon Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Sabayon review title.png

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

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

Installation

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

Sabayon-01-boot install

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabayon-20-Firewall

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

Sabayon Linux Home Page

BigDaddyLinux.com

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dolphin | My File Manager of Choice on openSUSE

Dolphin File Manager

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

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

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

Scope of this Blathering

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

Briefly About Dolphin

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

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

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

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

Top Five Fantastic Features

1. The Interface

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

Dolphin-01

2. Split Windows.

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

Dolphin-02-Split

3. Filter Bar

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

Dolphin-05-Filter

4. Search Function

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

Dolphin-04-Search

5. Terminal

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

Dolphin-03-Split with Terminal

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

More about Dolphin from KDE.org

BigDaddyLinux Show on File Managers

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

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

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

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

Installation

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

sudo zypper install -t pattern gnome

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

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

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

Scope of Evaluation

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

Overall Experience

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

Gnome-04-System Settings Notification

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

Gnome with Dolphin File Manager

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

BigDaddyLinux Live Show on Gnome

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dell Latitude E6440