Blatherings

Tuning Snapper | BTRFS Snapshot Management on openSUSE

BTRFS on openSUSE.png

Throughout my time helping users with openSUSE, one reoccurring issue that I have heard or read from some users has been the issue of system snapshots by Snapper filling up the root file system. Users have complained that their root file system fills up which ultimately locks up their system. This is often caused by setting up the root partition with an insufficient size, less than 40 GiB. Some users may not want to allocate that much space so a common course of action is to either use BTRFS without snapshots, use XFS or ext4.

There is this misguided impression that BTRFS is not a file system to be trusted but I can, with great assurance tell you that I have yet to have an issue with the file system. If you disagree with this than your perception is based on either a non-openSUSE implementation or if you had problems on openSUSE you did not satisfy its recommendation.

BTRFS with snapshots is a good option for newer machines but your disk partition size may be less than the recommended 40GiB for root, here is what you can do to adjust Snapper. As root open the following file in your editor of choice:

/etc/snapper/configs/root

Scan down the configuration file and look for the line #limit for number cleanup section. To limit the total number of snapshots, adjust the NUMBER_LIMIT and NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT lines.

I changed mine to the following:

# limit for number cleanup
NUMBER_MIN_AGE=”1800″
NUMBER_LIMIT=”2-6″
NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT=”4-6″

After this adjustment, I have no more than 6 total file system snapshots and it reduced the space taken up by snapshots by about 10 GiB. It should be understood that your mileage may vary depending on how much you fiddle with your system and how much software you have installed.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE is such a stable distribution, even the rolling release, Tumbleweed, that snapshots are almost not necessary. I personally look at snapshots as a kind of insurance policy but the fact is, as long as I have a working internet connection and a working terminal, entering sudo zypper dup (in Tumbleweed) will likely fix any issues I may have caused. As far as Leap is concerned, I haven’t seen an update that brok a system which would require a rollback. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t slip past openQA that may affect your system, I just haven’t seen it.

Also note, I have such confidence in openSUSE Tumbleweed with BTRFS, it is what is on my home server. In over a year, not one update has broken any of the servers or messed with any configurations. It should also be noted that I run older and generally Linux friendly hardware so my chance at issues is much less.

Further Reading

SUSE.com Snapper Cleanup

Advertisements

Rambox | Chat Message Unification Application for openSUSE

Rambox on openSUSE

Not long ago, I started using Franz, a chat messaging unification application and I had a good experience with it. I had talked to a few e-friends about it and some advised me that I should also try Rambox. Since I had just installed Franz, I wasn’t about to try something else, not yet anyway. After some time of very happily using Franz, something had happened and it wouldn’t start. Since I was using a community repository and I could have very well chosen another community repository and kept going but it was time to try this Rambox all the kids have been talking about. So I did.

Installation

Like anything else in openSUSE, the installation is easy, just search and install. Since I did that part, you can just check here:

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

Once the installation is complete. A menu entry will appear under the “Internet” category. Click there or whatever method you see fit.

How It Runs

The application runs well and it is as intuitive as one would expect. The difference that I noticed, as compared to Franz, is that having an account with an external service is optional. Franz requires you to sign into their service in order to use their software and in doing so, synchronizes all your systems that are running Franz. This is quite handy. Rambox too as this option but it is not compulsory.

Rambox-01-Start Screen

Rambox has many built in options for services for you to configure. In fact it has more service options than Franz does, most notably, Mastodon. If there is a particular service you want and it is not available, you have the option to add a custom service. This was particularly handy as Rambox does not have a Google Calendar service.

Rambox has several customization features to it. Notably, there is application behavior for notifications, a hardware acceleration feature and start automatically on system startup.

Rambox-02-Settings.png

The customization feature I do appreciate is the service bar location. I put the bar along the left, as opposed to the top… no speculation on that location necessary.

Adding a service is incredibly straight forward. Select the service you want and fill in all the necessary bits. After you add the new service to the application, it will appear on the service bar.

Rambox-03-Add service

The order of applications can be reordered to your hearts content and services eliminated if they are no longer desired in this application. It is incredibly flexible. In this manner.

Overall, this This application works very well and I intend on using it a bit longer and do some more comparisons to determine if I will continue using it or go back to Franz.

There are cases that a service doesn’t start or restart when network access is lost and reestablished. There is an option to Reload offending service or reload all of Rambox. Under the View menu.

What I Like

When comparing it to Franz, the feature that I appreciate the most is the ability to enter a custom service. In my case, I added the Google Calendar account related to my employer.

Like Franz, this is a fantastic message unification application. that has a lower memory footprint than using a browser. Rambox uses just under 1.8 GiB for 12 services which shakes out to about 150 MiB per service. I still think this is far too much for what they are doing but not being an expert in this area, I couldn’t tell you why.

Having one application that has all my messaging applications consolidated is very handy. It has a nice notification applet that lets you know when you have a new message on any of your services and mute the notifications if necessary. It should be noted, if you mute your notifications, you won’t hear anything within each service, like an inline video.

Lastly, the option to Synchronize your configuration or not is a handy feature. You can push or pull your configuration as you see fit for each machine. I didn’t try pushing two different configurations to see how that might affect each client.

What I Don’t Like

There is a lack of Dark Theme. I would much prefer that service bar have a dark background to fit the rest of my desktop theme but that is a small potatoes item.

The user interface on the application for the settings or adding another service just do not seem to have that nice modern look as you’d see on Plasma. When loading or saving, the application brings up the GTK File Dialog of which I am not particularly fond.

The biggest sore spot for Rambox is that it does not have a spell check. This is the one area where Franz excels. It is also the only area where Rambox falls short. Outside of that, it is a pretty fantastic application.

Final Thoughts

Rambox is a fine application that I enjoy using. It works well and is more convenient than using a web browser. It also seems to use less memory than a browser so that is also a plus. I don’t know or understand the mechanics as to why but even at approximately 150 MiB per application does seem a bit steep for something that just sends text messages.

If Rambox is an application that works well for you consider supporting the project or if it improves your work flow, try out the Rambox Pro. The application may be free but it isn’t free to make.

For the time being, I am going to continue to use Rambox on my primary machine and Franz on another machine just to see how it shakes out over time. If you are running multiple chat clients and don’t want to authenticate with a third party service, Rambox just might be the application for you.

Further Reading

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

Get Rambox Pro

Rambox App on Github

Coherent Color Scheme Creation for Qt and GTK on openSUSE

I might be pushing it just a bit by saying I “created” a scheme as I just took two color schemes, Breese Dark and openSUSEdarkalternate, and created one [subjectively] better theme based on those two. I happen to like the green accents in the openSUSE Workspace Theme and the Breeze Dark Theme looks pretty good but the mix of blue and green accents makes me less happy. I have been using the openSUSEdarkalternate theme for quite some time until I discovered an issue with one application.

Why take the time?

A couple reasons. For starters, the Breeze Dark GTK theme has been using blue highlights, which has been fine. The tipping point was when I was trying my hand in doing video editing with Kdenlive, I sort of bumped into a problem. The dark color scheme, openSUSEdarkalternate, did not play well so I had to switch it with the built in Breeze Dark scheme in order to be able to see all the icons and things. As nice as the stock Breeze Dark theme is, I really want those openSUSE green highlights and now more of my desktop was a mixture of themes. I was now compelled to unify the appearance of my desktop, especially after noodling around with ElementaryOS and seeing how much emphasis was put on its appearance. I wanted my choice of desktop to have a more unified but not exactly vanilla Plasma look to it. I wanted a unified openSUSE Theme.

The Solution

First was to ensure that all my KDE Plasma applications had a unified look. My first step was to take screenshots of the different green RGB color-values used in the openSUSEdarkalternate scheme. The green in that theme is just the hue and vibrance that is subtle and pleasant so it was imperative that I used the same colors. The absolutely fantastic feature of KDE Plasma as well as the related desktops preceding it is the ability to customize it to your hearts content. The tools are already there and ready for you to tweak. A testament to what makes Plasma great.

To start, open the KDE Plasma SystemSettings, then the Colors module under the Appearance section.

KDE Plasma SystemSettings

The Application Color Scheme tool has several schemes from which to choose. My first step was to open the openSUSEdarkalternate theme and take note of the RGB values of the different green colors used. I cheated and used the screenshot utility Spectacle to accomplish this. There were a total of four different green colors used.

I then opened the Breeze Dark theme and started changed all the relevant blue colors to the equivalent green colors.

KDE Plsama Color Scheme Customize.png

I only had to adjust the Common Colors section. It seems that any of the other sections are using the same Color Identifications. When I was complete, I saved this scheme as openSUSE Breeze Dark and applied the changes.

It looked good, but then I was still left with the GTK theme to change. I planned to do similar in Plasma as I did for GTK. Unfortunately, customizing color schemes in GTK is not baked in like it is Plasma so it was time to do some searching and I came upon this application called Oomox. There is no official openSUSE package but the fantastic openSUSE community maintains the package and it can be installed from here:

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

Choose whichever community member maintained package you wish. Oomox does require one other package in order to run: gdk-pixbuf-devel

sudo zypper in gdk-pixbuf-devel

I was not able to import the Breeze Dark GTK theme so I just had to create what I wanted manually. It should be noted that such a feature has been requested. Good bad or otherwise, GTK color schemes are easier to create from scratch because there are fewer color in a theme.

Oomox Color Theme Customizer

Not pictured but there is a Roundness theme option so I modified that to match about what the Breeze theme is and set that parameter to 3. I thought that was an interesting setting to have and I quite enjoyed playing with it. Ommox is a very interesting piece of software and I recommend you to play around with it, just for fun.

It took four iterations of playing with the theme to get it right. I tested using Gnome-Recipes and Firefox to see that the scheme looked correct to my untrained eye.

Gnome-Recipes openSUSE Breeze Dark

My only criticism at this point is the GTK2 Theme is a bit blocky looking. I am not sure why, exactly. It just looks somewhat out of place against the Qt and GTK3 widget. I don’t think it’s a big deal but if anyone has any suggestions on that, I am open to anything you can offer.

Since I am happy with the theme and added to my openSUSE Linux page to download. I will eventually create a package hosted on OBS when I can take the time to do that properly.

Final Thoughts

Having exact color schemes hasn’t really been a thing for me, so long as it was close enough. Due to playing around with Elementary OS and seeing how everything is so well thought out, I started looking a bit more closely my desktop and thought, how can I make things look more deliberate? I am exceptionally pleased with the results and I think I may have also decided to go all in on Breeze Dark + openSUSE green. I even retired the Oxygen Window Decorations in favor of the Breeze Theme so that it better matches the GTK widgets. Everything seems nicely coherent. This is the most satisfied I have ever been with a desktop environment, ever.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux | CubicleNate notes

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

Parrot Security OS | Review from an openSUSE User

ParrotOS review title.png

As part of a BigDaddyLinux Community challenge Parrot Security OS was selected to install and give it a test drive around the block. Parrot OS can be compared partially to Kali Linux in such that they are both Debian Based distributions that are targeted to those in the security and digital forensics profession. The difference with Parrot OS is that it is also has a “Home Edition” build for the casual user but keeps Security and privacy in mind. Unlike Kali, you can run Parrot as a daily driver.

This is a review of Parrot Security OS from the eyes of a biased openSUSE User. I am very happy where I am doing my “Linux-ing” but I like to explore and see how other developers, designers and artists scratch their “Linux itch.”

Installation

From the beginning, Parrot OS gives you  more options than I have seen when setting it up. I had to pause and really look at them all before I continued.

I decided to go for the more classic Debian Installer, one that just brings happiness to my heart. Not to digress here… but I’m going to… years ago I enjoyed playing with Linux on HP-Unix systems some years go… HP PARISC, that was fun…

I wouldn’t consider the Debian installer not a “user friendly” interface. It is a bit “Old School” looking but everything is very clearly spelled out. Just pause to read and you are tip-top.

Next you’ll configure the keyboard and wait for it to load additional components.

Your root password is requested and confirmed on two different “screens”.

This is followed by your Name and Username on two different screens.

On the two following screens you will input your user password one initial and the second to confirm.

Personally, I think this could be done more efficiently if all the User information was done on the same screen. This isn’t a big deal but just as a point of improvement to the installer process.

The timezone selection is based on the language you select previously.

ParrotOS-13-Timezone

The next portion of the installer is setting up your disk partitions. I really appreciate the options here. Although I didn’t have anything previously on this virtual drive, I appreciate that it will guide you through and the process is clearly communicated.

I selected to use a separate /home partition because…. that is the only way to set up a drive if you care about your data…

I appreciate the partitioning overview before finishing the process. If you have a more complex disk setup, here is where you could make further adjustments. Simply fantastic.

You have one last shot at bailing out of the installation here. Once you hit yes, you will be prompted to install the bootloader to disk.

When you select to install the bootloader, you can specify the drive or partition, then the installation is complete.

Although it consists of many pages of of steps, the Debian installer is fantastic. It gives you the flexibility to shape your system exactly how you need it.

First Run

Right out of the gate, Parrot OS feels fast and the theme they have applied to MATE is fantastic. No complaints on the presentation whatsoever. The generally dark theme makes this a winner for me.

I do like the wallpaper they use for the login screen and would almost prefer that for the default wallpaper of the MATE desktop environment but that abstract parrot on the background is, visually, very interesting and has a pleasant contrast to the desktop color scheme.

Once the system settles you are asked to set your keyboard layout. This is a bit of a first for me to see in the Desktop Environment initial run. I would think that would be set in the installation process. Not a problem, just curious that it would be asked. The system will also prompt you if you would like to check for updates.

Once it has completed checking, a terminal will pop up that you will have to confirm the actions and the updates will commence.

Curiously, I had to specify again where Grub was to live on the disks after the update. After the reboot, there were no issues so I don’t see this as a problem.

I was a bit impatient with the updates, at no fault of the servers or Parrot OS. It was a “me” problem and I jumped back to the terminal to see how many packages were yet to install. I was expecting something like Zypper where you are explicitly told the package number out of the total number of packages.

openSUSE Leap Zypper Update
Zypper display of status during updates

I am unsure why they have a menu at the top and at the bottom. Feels like a decision made by the “Department of Redundancy Department” I couldn’t tell which one I liked better. I used them both, so maybe the idea is to give the user time to figure out what they prefer and remove the unnecessary bits.

ParrotOS-33-Top Menu

I do appreciate that the Tor Browser was included and didn’t require any fiddling to set up. I did go through the configuration portion but it didn’t really have to do anything because I don’t live in a country where Tor is censored.

I browsed around a bit and frankly I don’t know much about the technical aspects of Tor, I can’t really speak to this. I know it is a web browser that prevents people from learning your location or browsing habits by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays. To my understanding it will make it harder to be tracked but exactly how it uses relays to accomplish this, I do not know.

If Tor isn’t your thing, there is Firefox which comes equipped with Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin add-ons installed and enabled by default.

ParrotOS-32-Firefox

I am a fan of the Control Center on ParretOS. I played with a few of the tools but the tool I really wanted to mess with was the MATE Tweaks. I could fix the button location and I also saw that it had the ability to change the panel to Gnome2 or Fedora. Once I switched it to Fedora, the Gnome2 didn’t return it to what it was previously. The second menu on the bottom disappeared. A reboot didn’t bring it back either.

I didn’t test everything but the things I did test all seemed to work out well. Since the “Home Edition” seemed pretty decent, I am now interested in trying the Security Edition and see how that goes for me. Maybe I can learn a thing or three.

What I Like

Overall Theme is nice, the interface is crisp and has a kind of raw, efficient feel to it. That is often the impression I get form using any MATE desktop. A tribute to the work of all the developers involved in MATE.

I like the fact that Parrot OS includes the Tor Browser by default. This is the first distribution I have tried that has it ready to use by default.

The default application selection is perfectly fine with me. It seems like there are a few extra things there but I am pretty indifferent when it comes to the base installation set if it is something I am going to tailor to my needs anyway. It is pretty obvious that Parrot OS is not targeted at the new-to-Linux crowd so I expect a list of applications accordingly.

What I don’t Like

Using MATE tweaks, I changed from Gnome2 to Fedora. I couldn’t get the layout back to the Default Parrot OS look. Not a big deal as the Fedora layout was what I prefer anyway. I just don’t like that I can’t go back to the default. This is a minor issue.

This is not a Parrot OS specific issue, but I have decided, when using Parrot, that I prefer APT much less than Zypper. This is not saying APT isn’t good, it is just saying that I prefer the output I get from Zypper from doing installations or upgrades vs how APT does it.

Below are side by side comparisons. This is just preference, but I prefer how Zypper tells you what package out of how many it is working on in such a way that it is clear to understand at a glance where it is at in the process. ParrotOS on the Left, openSUSE on the Right.

Final Thoughts

If I were to do “data forensics” as a kind of a “side hustle” I would begin that journey using Parrot Security OS as the testing platform. Although I didn’t download the “Security Edition” I appreciate how they took the time to tailor a desktop for security which I am quite certain has been tested by the security edition tools. Just based on the level of thought and polish in the Home Edition, I am indeed going to be playing with Parrot OS further to conduct tests on my own personal network and learn the tools.

In the end, I had a pretty good time with Parrot OS, aside for a few papercut issues with the interface which I am sure I could smooth out understanding how to tweak the MATE desktop better, so that’s on me. I am going to play with the “Security Edition” and see if I can find areas of concern on my home network, you know, for fun.

Further Reading

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

https://www.debian.org/ports/hppa/

https://www.torproject.org/

https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

openSUSE Tumbleweed Community Challenge

SUSE Plush

Anytime I see openSUSE-news in the non-openSUSE channels, I am immediately interested. Good or bad, I am going to read it. It often seems as though openSUSE doesn’t get its fair shake of time in the public, open-source discourse. It befuddles me because openSUSE is a technically very sound distribution, not only in the static release, Leap but also the rolling distribution, Tumbleweed which is what I use quite happily and [mostly] problem free on my primary machine that is my daily driver.

e6440-01-sm

Jason Evangelho a contributor writer for Forbes.com has begun his 2nd Linux Community Challenge, to run openSUSE Tumbleweed. Previously, he conducted an Elementary OS challenge which, to my understanding, went fantastically well. I had watched from a little bit of a distance but I did kick the tires on ElementaryOS a bit but not the full two weeks.

opensuseAlthough I don’t consider using openSUSE for two weeks to be a challenge, I was intrigued by this and wanted to do what I could to be a positive engaging ambassador of the openSUSE community to this Linux Community Challenge. As I have been playing with a variety of Linux distributions lately, I am starting to understand more what could be the rub of going from an Ubuntu base distribution to openSUSE. Having had great experiences on many distros, I know that I could help “translate” some of the different “features” new users might have.

icon-packageOne such feature is the software management tool, zypper. It does things a bit different than DNF, YUM or APT and since I am familiar with all of them, I know that I can help with any command line questions there.

A very cool thing that has also happened is that the openSUSE community created a #challenge channel on their Discord server which is bridged to a Matrix channel that is bridged to this Telegram channel Jason Evangelho has set up. I had hoped that a few of the good folks of the openSUSE community would pop into the Telegram group but instead they brought the openSUSE community into the Telegram group through some clever bridging.

Final Thoughts

I am quite excited to offer my limited knowledge in helping others out with trying openSUSE. I very much believe that openSUSE is the perfect blend of “Done” and “Modify it to your liking” distribution of Linux and I hope that through this challenge more people will see the value, use and ultimately contribute back to this fine distribution.

I am quite interested in compiling what issues or difficulties people have with running a rolling distribution and the various tools. I am of the (possibly misguided) belief that if you have a basic understanding of what an operating system requires, you can run any version of Linux, some just take a bit longer to get it going, depending on how much time the developers have put toward hand-holding the user. openSUSE is somewhere in the middle of the pack, take your time and it is easy enough to get going on your Linux journey and yet the inner workings are well documented, accessible and you are encouraged to really dig into it, tweak it and make it your own.

Further Reading

About Jason Evangelho

Challenge Telegram Channel

Introducing The Linux Community Challenge #2: openSUSE Tumbleweed on Forbes.com

Get openSUSE Tumbleweed

DitchWindows.com

Elementary OS Community Challenge

openSUSE.org Portal:Zypper

ElementaryOS Home

Garmin Vivofit 2 Battery Replacement

A short time ago, my step tracker and watch went dead. It is a Vivofit 2 that is very plain and ordinary with no bells or whistles, as compared to other trackers. All this tracker does is time, date, steps, estimate of distance and calories burned. No heart rate or altimeter to tell you how many steps you’ve climbed, that said, this is also the first “smart” wearable that has lasted longer than 6 months. As far as watches go, this thing has lasted longer than any other.

garmin vivofit2-01-dead

This device, of which is primarily my watch, was supposed to last one year on two Lithium button cell batteries. It ended up lasting over two years which makes me start to believe that these button cell run times are all underestimated.

In preparation for this repair, I pulled out my card of CR2032 batteries thinking I could just pop in the batteries on hand. Once apart, however, an unpleasant surprise greated me beneath its dirty shell. I didn’t have the proper battery, the Vivofit 2 takes CR1632 batteries which are far more expensive. When I looked on the shelf of the store they turned out to be the most expensive batteries on the shelf at $4.99 each.

garmin vivofit2-02-opengarmin vivofit2-03-batteries

Before doing another thing with it, I cleaned the gasket and housing with rubbing alcohol because it was two years sitting on my arm and looked terribly gross. Popping out the batteries was easily accomplished with a flat-head screwdriver. Inserting the batteries, only required a bit of pressure to seat them properly. Four screws hold the body together. Upon putting the thing back together, the device immediately reactivated.

garmin vivofit2-04-fixed

I let it do its thing of synchronizing with my mobile and that was it, the job was done and I have my watch back.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what voltage the old batteries were to know how much voltage was not enough voltage to power this wearable.

garmin vivofit2-05-old button cell voltage

5.327 volts was the magic number. Instead of just tossing the batteries into the recycling, I decided to hang onto them. Who knows when I might come up with a use.

Final Thoughts

The batteries were a bit more than I wanted to spend but replacing the batteries was still cheaper than a new tracker or even a decent watch. Since the thing is mostly a watch and I don’t need anything fancy, this will do just fine for now. The total cost of this repair was $10.58. Still far less expensive than $109 for a replacement from Garmin.

Truly, I think trackers are kind of dumb but I like the metrics it gives me and there is something fun with the dumbness… like the competitions with friends on steps. This thing is a fine watch and I don’t care about status symbols so until this thing has some catastrophic failure, I’m not likely to upgrade.

Oh, one last thing, I have also created a short video on this repair and edited it with Kdenlive. My first foray into doing video with Kdenlive and so far, I like it very much… once I figured out what I was doing. The machine I used, Dell Latitude E6440 running openSUSE Tumbleweed. I didn’t have a single crash or lockup of the software.

If you happen to like this, great, if you don’t, that’s great too. It was a fine learning experience that I enjoyed.

Further Reading

Vivofit 2 from Garmin.com

Garmin Vivofit 2 Battery Replacement on YouTube

Dell Latitude E6440

 

Network Diagramming with LibreOffice Draw on openSUSE

So, the title could be “Network Diagramming with LibreOffice Draw on whatever operating system” but since I use openSUSE primarily, there you go. I know it works on openSUSE, I can’t say for sure if it will work for you. Chances are it will.

The Problem

I spent some time last week making improvements to the network at my church this isn’t my first project there that is computer related. I also recently set up a Dell Inspiron as a Low Budget Multimedia Machine with openSUSE Leap and a RaspberryPi for slideshow announcements. The big irritation with doing any tech projects has been the network. It has been a smattering of routers in an ad-hoc manor. In fixing this, I needed a way to document it properly.

I looked at few pieces of software but didn’t like either the price or the operating system selection. Then I thought… LibreOffice Draw… I know that I can make boxes and connecting lines. Maybe there are some images I can find?

The Solution

The goal here is to make me less important in this project and try to get others on board so that, should I get hit by the proverbial bus, someone else is going to have to take control and need to know what is where and how to access it.

Searching around the World Wide Web, I found this shape gallery from VRT.com that has the images I need to put together a basic network diagram to show how things are laid out. At the bottom of the page, I selected VRTnetworkequipment_1.2.0-oo.oxt LibreOffice. Your version may vary, especially if you aren’t using openSUSE.

Installing this gallery of images is trivial, locate the download and open it with LibreOffice.

VRT Network Equipment OXT.png

The filetype should already be associated. Select okay to confirm installation and you are done.

I made a simple diagram to communicate the layout of the network, it is a rough drawing and I don’t really know what I am doing but it is a simple visual that is a “good start”.

LMCC Network Diagram-01.png

I at lest now have a basic visual as a frame of reference, and in the Lean Product Development, world a visual reference helps to identify Knowledge Gaps.

What I like

I didn’t have to go out and buy new software. I simply had to download an add-on to existing software, LibreOffice Draw. Adding the graphic components to LibreOffice was simple, download and run to install.

Using LibreOffice Draw is intuitive. It’s all drag and drop. You find the image you want that is now installed, click and drag it onto the

What I Don’t Like

There isn’t a text box immediately below or beside that is tied to the image for description of the component. It’s not a big deal as click-dragging to create a selection box around the objects to move them multiple items around works just as well. This is just being picky, really.

How It’s Working Out

I was able to create a “Phase 1” of the network plan and begin a course of action for the “Phase 2” of the network upgrades. Using Draw helps me to be able to communicate with the real network professional, my brother-in-law, so that we are aligned on where network is at, and where it needs to go. The next phases are almost entirely over my head but I will gladly help document what is done using this tool and others.

Final Thoughts

I spent a lot of time looking for software solutions, played with one other but realized that LibreOffice Draw can do the job quite nicely at the price I can afford. It is a testament to the LibreOffice Project and all the work that has gone into it. It reminds me that I should donate to the project to do my part to help keep it going.

Further Reading

openSUSE.org Site

LibreOffice Site

LibreOffice Network Gallary Images from VRT.com

Using Kwin on LXQt with openSUSE

lxqt-a-new-light-desktop-environment

KDE Plasma is a lot lighter on your system resource than it used to be. There are options out there that are even lighter. As of late, I have been acquainted with many light weight distributios, BunsenLabs, MX, antiX, PeppermintOS and more that are even lighter than a basic KDE Plasma. They are all fantastic distributions and have great implementations of XFCE, LXDE or mixtures of the two and use OpenBox or some other window manger. The default window manager in LXQt on openSUSE is OpenBox and it is a fine window manager but has a dated appearance to it and the beauty of Linux is to be able to mix and match components to your hearts content.

Why

I like the features of Kwin, and the window decorations it brings along with some other usability features I have come to expect on my Desktop Environments. OpenBox is satisfactory and great for what it is but Kwin matches my preferences better.

How

These instructions are assuming you have installed openSUSE without KDE Plasma as the default desktop. If you have previously installed KDE Plasma and you are just switching the window manager, jump to the Switch Window Manager section.

Install packages

In terminal:

sudo zypper install kwin5 oxygen5 systemsettings5

Since you are installing a bunch of the KDE Plasma components you are going to pull down all the related dependencies. The oxygen5 package is completely optional but since that is still my favorite Window Decoration, I have included it. Feel free to punch in your favorite dressing there or remove that flavor all together.

Switch Window Manager

After the necessary Plasma components are installed, the next step is to switch out OpenBox with Kwin

In the system menu select: Preferences > LXQt Settings > LXQt Configuration Center

lxqt configuration center-01

Select Session Settings

lxqt configuration center-02

In the LXQt Session Settings window, Select Basic Settings and under Window Manager, select Kwin_x11.

Select Close, log out and log back in for the changes to take affect.

Customizing

Upon logging back in, you should immediately notice the system menu looks so much smoother. Should you decide to further tweak your window settings. That can be done under Preferences > KDE System Settings.

This will bring up the familiar and fantastic System Settings from the Plasma Desktop Environment. This will allow you to make further visually pleasing changes to your desktop.

Final Thoughts

KDE Plasma is by far my favorite desktop environment and it is pretty light weight (relatively speaking) these days under openSUSE. It will run pretty decent on older or limited hardware. However, when memory is limited, say, 1 or 2 GiB of RAM, an extra 100 or so MiB of RAM is kind of a big deal. LXQt is a real nice desktop environment and when compared to some of the other low resource desktops like XFCE, often doesn’t feel as mature, especially when compared to MX Linux or PeppermintOS. Making this little Window Manager switch makes, in my estimation, improves the user experience.

I run this setup on my netbooks and low end laptops. Kwin does use an addition 34 MiB of RAM as compared to OpenBox but I am willing to make that trade-off for the improved interface features. I think a larger smile when using my hardware is worth 34 MiB.

Further Reading

https://en.opensuse.org/Portal:LXQt

Manjaro Wiki on LXQt with Kwin

ROSA Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

ROSA Linux review title.png

ROSA Linux is an RPM based Linux distribution that was forked from Mandriva Linux. ROSA is a Russian company that is developing a multiple Linux-based solutions of which ROSA Desktop is its flagship product. For their latest version ROSA Fresh R10, they offer Plasma 5, LXQt and curiously, Plasma 4. It is also this weeks challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live Show.

My first Linux distribution I put any time into was Mandrake Linux, initially in 2002 and it became my full time desktop by late 2003. There were some features about Mandrake that were uniquely Mandrake. Those features made Linux in 2002 / 2003 very approachable and made it easy to set things up and be operational. As time went on, some of those tools became somewhat dated and some did get refreshed from time to time.

This is my incredibly biased view of ROSA Linux from an openSUSE User’s perspective. Although I don’t believe any Linux distribution is perfect, I currently believe openSUSE is perfect for me. I will be objectively biased in this review but keep in mind that these are my opinions as a reasonably technical user.

Installation

I can’t say that in the last several years I have come across a terrible installer in Linux. Now, I haven’t tried a lot of distributions and what constitutes as “terrible” from my perspective would be different than others. ROSA Fresh R10, not terrible. I like it very much. Even from the Grub bootloader screen. I was happy about it.

rosa r10-01-grub

There is something delightfully early 2000s about this bootloader screen. Thankfully, it has the option to install ROSA directly but still gives you the option to just kick the tires. It is also worth noting, if you do nothing and let the loader time out, it will just boot whatever is on your local drive.

The steps on the installer are pretty straight forward, Language selection first, then you have to agree with their terms. It’s a short read and nothing stuck out as being bothersome.

Next your keyboard and Timezone selection

Here you specify how you want the hardware clock set and if you go into the advanced tab, the NTP (Network Time Protocol) Server preferences, if at all.

This is where it got weird; I specified to use the free space, which was all of the drive and it forced me to reboot before it could continue the installation but I had to repeat all the previous steps.

I don’t recall such a bump back on the Mandrake / Mandriva days but perhaps there was a technical reason for this. Another note: When installing on hardware that I used existing partitions, I didn’t have to do this. I only specified to format the root (/) partition.

When I got back to the partition screen, I selected to use the existing partitions. Then I had to specify what was root and /home. 

Presumably it could figure out Swap on its own.

It doesn’t take long to install ROSA, you get a typical corporate feeling set of commercials, then you set your bootloader options.

I am sure this would be a lot more handy for multi boot systems but for me, the default was just fine.

Seemingly the opposite of other installers, in ROSA you set the root password first, then the User Information.

If you go to the advanced settings, you are given the opportunity to set User and Group ID numbers. I wish this was a more common feature among Linux Distributions.

The last steps before you reboot into your Freshly installed ROSA Fresh R10, you are prompted for the Hostname and what services you would like to activate upon startup.

That is it for the installation. Very straight forward, outside of that odd partitioning reboot.

First Run

The initial Grub screen is the typical layout with the expected options. No complaints there. What I found rather remarkable was how quickly I went from the Grub screen to the login screen.

rosa r10-23-installed grub

The login screen appeared so quickly I had to take a double-take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I did also note that this was the older style login but it really isn’t a big deal fro my perspective. KDE Plasma booted up quite quickly as well; no complaints there either.

The desktop is very Mandrake feeling. The Home icon in particular. The desktop just feels very 2007 to me (I guess that would be Mandriva time not Mandrake).

It should be noted that immediately after installation, you have KDE Plasma version 5.10.5 but after performing the many updates, you have an even more fresh KDE Plasma 5.14.4, effectively the latest version of Plasma 5 and after initial boot and settling, uses 439MiBytes of RAM.

rosa r10-28-menu

The default menu itself is just the standard “Application Menu with cascading popup menus, the traditional style of which I prefer.

If you are not happy with that style of menu, there is also the Application Launcher that breaks the applications down into sections or the Application Dashboard that I don’t care for at all because it takes over the entire screen, akin to Windows 8.1 or perhaps Gnome if my memory serves me correctly. Either way, the menu that takes over the screen doesn’t work well for me at all, so the default, which I’m sure is too, “old-man-river” is absolutely perfect for me.

I am not terribly fond of the default theme of ROSA. I also didn’t want to switch to the “Breeze Dark” and just make it a generic KDE Plasma desktop, so I decided to change up the color scheme and make it more to my liking.

Immediately, I was not tickled with the window buttons but since I don’t plan on staying here, I decided to just leave it there.

Interstingly, ROSA comes preinstalled with Firefox and Chromium. I don’t recall if I have seen more than one browser as default on any other install before but that is not a big deal. The icon theme in ROSA, also very Mandrake feeling. I still find it appealing.

Curiously, the panel has LibreOffice Writer as one of the applications pinned to it. I am curious as to why that as one of the items as opposed to Konsole, the default Plasma terminal emulator. I would think that to be preferred. Since it was there, I decided to open it up and see how it looked with the dark theme I selected activated. It too required a tweak in the options to use the Breeze Dark Icon style.

After tweaking the icons, it got me thinking. The current trend in icons is almost monochromatic and clean looking which in a way clashes with the Mandrake high-color shaded icons. It’s clear that overall aesthetic isn’t a driving force in the design of ROSA, a large contrast to what you see with Pop!_OS or ElementaryOS in their emphasis of visuals.

When the notification popped up in the corner that there are updates, I decided to install them and go through that experience. On a positive note, I didn’t have to enter my credentials to begin the updates unlike all the Debian based distributions I have tried. Not that one is better, really, I just happen to prefer to not enter my user credentials for a user level task.

The experience from there was very Mandrake like which brought back fantastic memories. It is also worth noting that the icon sets haven’t been changed since at least 2008.

After the first round of installations, it required another round of installations. I didn’t dig into why but but after 1436 more packages, it upgraded nearly everything, as noted earlier, all of KDE Plasma was upgraded.

I didn’t go through all the applications but I found this gem a little interesting to see installed by default. I haven’t used a modem in Linux for well over a decade. I was almost inspired to try it out but I don’t have a land line to test it on.

rosa r10-43-kppp

None the less, I thought it was pretty interesting to see this installed. Perhaps there are old GSM modems that are still being in use in Eastern Europe or Russia.

Since this is a fork of Mandrake I was expecting some spin on the Mandrake Control Center but alas, there was no such thing. All the System Administrator tools are in the KDE System settings… which is fine, I was just hopping to see that old friend MCC that I used so many years back.

rosa r10-44-system administration settings

 

What I Like

ROSA does have surprisingly fast boot times. Although, I would say that most distributions today have fast boot times, thanks to SystemD.

The legacy Mandrake tools was a blast from my Linux past with which I enjoyed working so many years ago. The “Drake” tools are easy to use but the drawback has been that they are very “Wizard Like” which makes editing settings a bit cumbersome. Those tools got me using powerful tools in Linux more than 16 years ago which made it easier for me to understand how to manipulate the settings of those powerful tools in terminal when I had to tweak them further.

The default Application Menu choice is by far my favorite. I do like the cascading popups for the application categories. That has been my favorite, I’ve seen and used others but I am just not a fan.

What I Don’t Like

The installer was great until the partition option for using the entire disk was selected. The fact I had to reboot and go back through the installer made my head hurt just a bit. It seems like that could be cleaned up a bit.

The general theme of the KDE Plasma version of ROSA was disjointed. I can be forgiving of this mostly but it doesn’t seem like the designers even made an attempt to make it a consistent experience.

ISO was pretty far out of date which required a lot of updates. Not a huge issue if it was not for the slow rate the updates came down. Thankfully the updates came down without any problems, a tribute to the URPMI underpinnings.

Final Thoughts

ROSA Linux is a decent distribution. It works well but has a few theme issues. The system tools that originated on Mandrake so many years ago has not had any artwork updates. Although it was nice to see that old artwork, I do think it would have been better for a cohesive experience had the artwork all been updated to the same general appearance.

Would I give up openSUSE for ROSA? No, I would not. I think ROSA is good for someone but it is not the best choice for me and what I want out of a Linux Distribution.

Further Reading

ROSA Linux Downloads

Pop!_OS | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux Live Show

Intellivision | A New, Family Friendly, Console

intellivision 2020

I grew up with the Atari, Intellivision and Commdore 64, I still have them and they still get some play time. Anytime I see some sort of related retro tech, I am immediately interested in knowing more. Recently, I stumbled upon a new Commodore 64 main board, now I have stumbled up on this, a new console from Intellivision. It is scheduled to launch  on 10 October 2020 at the price of US $149 – $179.

I am very intrigued in this as for me personally, the game I enjoyed the most was “B-17 Bomber” with the voice synthesis module and secondarily, “Burger Time.” I have many, many logged hours on this console.

intellivision-01-sm

Interesting Facts About the Intellivision

This sparked me to do some reading about the original system. Until recently, I was unaware of several things. It was the first 16-bit console. The CPU was a General Instrument CP1600 clocking in at about 2 Mhz. It had a 3-channel sound chip with a noise generator which was essentially “borrowed” from arcade machines of the time.

The Intellivision was the very first game console to offer “downlodable content” through their PlayCable service. The adapter connected into the Intellivision cartridge port which added the capability of downloading games through a cable TV subscription.

Intellivision-02-Cartridge Port-sm.png

The Intellivision also kicked off the first “Console War” against its rival, the Atari. I think they are all friends now. Not sure if there is still a war going on between the modern consoles or if they all get along. I’m a bit disconnected there and I don’t care to research it.

In a sense, the Intellivision started us down a path that makes me generally dislike so much about the industry, downloadable content… console wars… irritating commercials… But I still have much admiration and a warm place in my heart for the Intellivision.

New Console Specifications That Caught my Eye

Not surprisingly, All games are targeted and rated for E as in Everyone. They are going to resurrect the PlayCable of sorts as games are downloadable at the price of $2.99 to $7.00. Instead of a cartridge, they are including WiFi and Ethernet Connectivity. The launch will include several build-in reimagined Intellivision classics and at least 20 more games through the Intellivision Online Store.

It comes with 2 Bluetooth controllers with wireless onboard charging but the system is capable of up to 8 players. Each controller has a 3.5 in, 2:3 aspect ratio, color touchscreen, speaker and microphone. There will be a free downloadable application which will enable mobile phone usage as additional controllers.

This system will have an “Expansion Interface” and the ability to purchase additional software, presumably to include 3rd party. Although, not explicitly written the authors of the additional software, I am sure there will be an SDK released at some point. There isn’t any mention of the specifications of the Expansion Interface but I do hope it is something that is industry standard.

Why I am interested

My initial interest stems from the fact that it is a nod to the technology I grew up with. The creators of this machine are not only taking cues from the original but are taking modern technology and concepts that are interesting. On one side, the controllers for the Intellivision were great because of the matrix of buttons and interactions with games, on the other side, they were also kind of clunky and you had to look down at them a lot, even after you got used to them because you couldn’t feel were specific buttons were unless you didn’t have the game-specific overlay on the controller. This touch screen enabled controller, although wireless, might be just as great and useless and regardless, I think it will be fun to play. Including your mobile device as additional controllers could make for some very interesting game play too. I am very interested in how they accomplish this.

Wii No Longer SupportedSince there is software that can be downloaded, what I am really hoping, although have no reason to believe it to be available, is a video streaming box as well. Currently, I still use my Wii to watch Netflix until the end of the month and will have to replace it at some point.

The Nintendo Wii was, in my estimation, the best gaming console ever produced with the Wii U being a very close second. Perhaps a slightly different execution of the Gamepad could have made the Wii U brilliant. This new Intellivision could potentially have something like 8 Gamepads with none of them being the required primary controller. This could be the direction the Wii should have gone.

I really want this to be a media streaming device with some kind if similar interaction I have between my Android phone with KDE Connect to the Plasma Desktop. The specific feature is using the mobile phone as an input device to the computer. Something like that would be pretty fantastic and handy. This would also make the Intellivision the most compelling new gaming console I have yet seen.

Final Thoughts

I am a fan of pretty much any kind of retro tech. The particular systems that interest me most are those that were influential in my youth. The Intellivision was not as influential as the Commodore 64 but it is a system that brings a giant smile to my face.

I am going to be watching this project with great interest. I am hoping that it will develop into the product with the feature sets I desire enough to spring that $149 – $179 for the machine. I am very interested in seeing how they can make it old and new in the same stroke. So far, they are saying what I want to hear and I am excited.

Further Reading

Intellivision Entertainment

General Instrument CP1600 at Wikipedia

Ultimate 64 | A New Commodore 64 main board

KDE Connect – Mobile and Desktop Convergence

Nintendo is Suspending Netflix Service to the Wii

KDE Connect Remote Keyboard